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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Marcia Gay Harden

Into the Wild (2007)

Run away. Far, far away. And piss off everyone you ever knew.

After graduating as a top student at Emory, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decides to, essentially, throw any idea of a career away. His very wealthy parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) cannot believe this, but they don’t have enough time to digest it all, what with Christopher literally being out on the road the next day, on his way to the Alaskan wilderness. Christopher doesn’t bring much with him, as he leaves mostly everything back in his house, with the exception of money, his backpack, and oh yeah, most importantly, his notebook. While on the road, Chris meets all sorts of wacky and wonderful characters, all of whom make some sort of a difference on Chris’s life, showing that he may truly have something to live for and above all else, may want to get back into society once he has completed his self-fulfilling mission. But, that may not happen for Chris, as he’s already risking life and death in the first place, while everyone back at home clamors wondering just when he’s going to come home, if ever again.

Be one with birds.

Into the Wild is probably the best film Sean Penn has, or ever will, make in his career. It’s the kind of movie that you don’t expect to work, especially not from an actor-turned-writer/director who has something of a shoddy, relatively fine filmography in the first place. There’s a certain bro-y attitude to Penn, the person, that makes him perfect for this material, but also not; to approach McCandless’ the right way, you sort of have to keep an objective view, never letting your own thoughts or opinions, as a storyteller, shine through.

And of course, it helps that the man himself wrote everything down while he was on this never ending trip of his, therefore, it appears as if we are literally watching him go from one adventure, to another. There’s no clear sign that Penn is trying to say how great it is that he got the chance to just let it all go and soak up the scenery, nor is there a clear sign in him saying that it was a terrible decision for the man to make in the first place, for all of those involved who weren’t him; in a way, Penn leaves it all up to us to decide, while he shows us both sides of the argument. Sure, it was great that he got to see the world and really couldn’t have given a crap about material things in life that waited for him back at home, but at the same time, he really did just get up and leave one day, without ever really telling anyone of where he was headed, when he’d be back, or what his reasons were.

In other words, he’s a bit of an a-hole.

But Into the Wild does work because it doesn’t always portray him as such, or if at all, during certain times. Mostly, McCandless remains something of a blank slate that has enough personality to matter to this story, but it’s really all about those that he meets on this wild and crazy adventure, mostly all of whom are exciting and charming to watch, bringing a little something extra to this journey. Vince Vaughn gets a chance to shed some dramatic-muscles as Wayne, a dude who gives Chris a job for a short time and may have something tricky up his sleeve; Catherine Keener is sweet as an older-gal who’s finding it hard to connect with her husband; Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt, despite playing types, also show some more heart and emotion to said types; Jena Malone plays the sister back at-home who knows and trusts her brother enough to take on this situation with a smile on her face; Kristen Stewart shows up late in the game as a possible love-interest for Chris and shows him that there truly is something beautiful to life; and Hal Hollbrook, in what has to be the most heartbreaking performance I’ve ever seen, plays an older fella who picks up Chris, instantly takes a liking to him, and surprisingly enough, sheds all for him, as well as us. It’s a rich, raw and surprisingly gritty performance from someone who, honestly, we didn’t think needed to prove anything more to us, but here he is, essentially, stealing the show.

Be one with the sky.

Which isn’t to say that all of these people steal the show from Hirsch, either. He’s quite good here, showing that there’s more to this character than just a wannabe-hippy who can’t deal, man. In a way, he’s a lot like most kids who are fresh out of school and desperately need something to do, somewhere to go, and some sort of option/goal in life to have them continue on to live and be happy. Could his decision have gone down better and more thought-out? Sure thing, but it still shows that there’s a reason for what he did, and not just because he wanted to.

Man.

Anyway, Penn deserves the most credit here, taking a very ambitious, long and sprawling tale of one dude discovering himself, as well as the world around him, and never making it seem like it’s wheels are spinning. It’s constantly moving, always touching on interesting characters and points, never harping on any of them too much, and overall, just making us feel closer to this guy and more invested in his journey. We know where he goes, we know how it ends up, and we know how his story ends, but for two-and-a-half hours, Penn allows for us to forget about this all and just revel in the scenery, the people, the vibes, and yeah, of course, the sweet, soulful tunes of Eddie Vedder, in what has to be one of the better soundtracks from a movie in the past decade.

Consensus: While it may not have been easy to take this tale and give it the deserving film treatment, Sean Penn is somehow able to do so with Into the Wild, showing a certain skill for storytelling and character detail that makes this journey all the more compelling and interesting, even if we know just how it all ends up.

9 / 10

And definitely be one with your impeding and foolish death.

Photos Courtesy of: The Mind Reels, Linkedin

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The Hoax (2006)

It’s always best to get in the fake company of known-crazies.

Author Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) is finding it hard to stay afloat. His latest book was just passed-on, making him feel as if he’s nothing and probably going to be forgotten about some time soon. However, when he catches wind that famed billionaire Howard Hughes is as crazy as can be and barely anyone knows anything about him, well, Clifford concocts the perfect book. In it, he’ll be interviewing Hughes about his life, his business expenditures and most importantly, get all of the latest dish on his deepest, darkest and dirtiest secrets. Clifford feels like he can really get down to the bottom of what makes Hughes clicks and why he is the way he is, something that the publishers absolutely love and go haywire for. The only issue is that Clifford has never met Hughes and probably never will; the security is so air-tight on that man, that not even his closest, best friends can get anywhere near him. But that’s not going to keep Clifford away from getting the book he wants, he’ll just have to talk to everyone but Howard and try to do what he can to get the best story out of imaginable. Even if, you know, there are some lines to be blurred between “fact” and “fiction”.

"Look at me, Hope. Could you hate this face?"

“Look at me, Hope. Could you hate this face?”

It’s hard to do a bad, uninteresting movie about con-men. Whether the tales themselves are real, or fake, it doesn’t quite matter; it’s so entertaining to watch a bunch of sly, smart people act their ways through life, with all the right lies and moves. There’s something truly exciting about watching this, because deep down inside each and everyone of us, there’s that feeling that we wish we were that smart, that brave, and that damn slimy to do the same as they are, get away with it, and walk away from it all with a smile on our faces.

And that’s why the Hoax, despite seeming like it can border on the verge of ringing false, is still entertaining to watch.

Even though it is, oddly enough, directed by Lasse Hallström, of all people. However, what Hallström does best here is that he doesn’t get in the way of the material, or try to force anything down our throats; regardless of what the true stories behind most of these situations may have been, the movie moves at such a quick, efficient pace that it’s hard to really pin point the issues with the facts. The movie may seem ridiculous at points, but at the same time, it’s hard not to have a little fun, watching as this little weasel of a man tries his best to wig and worm his way out of every tense situation possible.

But beneath all of the facades, gags, lies, deception, and most of all, cons, there’s something to be learned here. There’s this idea running throughout the Hoax that is interesting, because it tries to make sense out of this whole situation in the first place. The fact that someone like Irving was so easily capable of fooling just about everyone around him, for so very long, for all of the wrong reasons, really makes you think – is there such a problem with his lies? After all, the lies and deceptions he was making, were all to really just get himself some money and a little bit of fame – he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, start any wars, and he sure as hell wasn’t hurting Hughes’ feelings.

Wait, who's Leonardo DiCaprio?

Wait, who’s Leonardo DiCaprio?

There are bits and pieces of the Hoax that show that maybe, just maybe, Irving’s little escapades had more of an effect than he, or anyone else had ever expected, but mostly, the movie realizes that this is best left to our interpretation. The movie doesn’t make us think that Irving is a great man for getting away with everything that he was able to get away with (although, he’s definitely ballsy, for sure), but show that even someone like him, can get away with so very much. And when all is said and done, for what reasons?

Well, fame and fortune and for most, anything can happen.

As Irving, the man, the myth, the legend, so to speak, Richard Gere does a solid job because he’s playing very much against-type. Sure, he’s still charming, handsome and yes, the ladies love him, but there’s also something more dastardly about him that makes his performance here the more bearable than some of his others, where we’re literally begged to fall in love with him and adore his beautiful, well-constructed face, chin and hair. Even though Irving isn’t made out to be a perfect human being here, there’s still something sympathetic about him that makes you hope he gets away with all of his lies, even though, yeah, it probably won’t happen.

While Gere’s Irving is mostly front-and-center for a good portion of the movie, there’s others who all show up on the side and remind us why they deserve to be noticed. Alfred Molina plays Irving’s sidekick, so to speak, and has some truly great moments, never letting you know exactly when the man is going to crack under all of the pressure; Marcia Gay Harden plays Irving’s wife, and despite an odd Swedish accent, she’s still charming; Stanley Tucci has a few great scenes that make you wish he was in the whole thing, as is the case with Hope Davis and Julie Delpy. They all add a little bit of fun and excitement to a story that certainly didn’t need their help, but hey, at least they were here to add something.

Consensus: While a good portion of it seems made-up (wouldn’t that be great?), the Hoax still gets by on the charm of its cast, and quick, swift and exciting pace.

7 / 10

Yuck it up, fellas!

Yuck it up, fellas! No seriously, please do. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Photos Courtesy of: PopMatters

Grandma (2015)

Sometimes, the oldest people are the coolest.

Sage (Julia Garner) just had sex with her boyfriend (Nat Wolff) and, well, wouldn’t you know it? Turns out that she’s pregnant. So, rather than keeping it around and having to deal with all of that in her young life, she decides that she wants to get rid of it and have an abortion. Issue is, she doesn’t have the money. And even though her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) has plenty of it, she doesn’t want to bother her with the situation. So, that’s when she turns to her hip, cool grandmother, famed poet Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), who is going through some issues of her own. One, she just broke up with her girlfriend (Judy Greer), and secondly, she doesn’t really have any money. So this means that the two will have to band together and search for money anywhere they can. For Sage, this mostly means going to the father of the unborn child and that’s it, but for Elle? Well, this means that she’s got to go way back in time to all of her friends and confidantes over the past many years, hit them up for money, and promise them favors she doesn’t really seem to keen on holding up.

I'd take the ride if she was offering it.

I’d take the ride if she was offering it.

A typical Grandma, you see?

Grandma is the type of vehicle that someone of Lily Tomlin’s talents deserves. Though people have loved seeing Tomlin show up every so often in random films, some good, some bad, it seems like she’s never been given that extra time to show and remind the world why she kicks so much ass. Heck, even Grace & Frankie, a show that’s purpoted as “Lily Tomlin’s”, really seems to be wasting her on tired, old hippie clichés.

Something that Lily Tomlin herself is much better than.

That’s why Grandma works as well as it does; not only does it give Tomlin the chance to shine and show the world the true talents that have been lying within her for so very long, but it also presents a solid character worthy of our attention, care and, possibly, love. Because as Elle Reid, Tomlin plays the typical stereotype of an aging lesbian who does what she wants, says what she wants, kicks whoever she wants to in the nuts, doesn’t give a flyin’ hoot about whatever anybody else says, and bangs whomever she oh so pleases. Are there people out there like this? Of course! But is this a bit of a bore to see?

Oh definitely!

However, that’s why Tomlin is so good here, as she not only transcends that stereotype, but shows that there’s a reason behind the way she acts. Not only is she still heartbroken and destroyed over the death of her long-time girlfriend, but she also’s coming to terms with her own mortality, as a whole. That’s why, on this little road trip Elle and Sage take, we start to learn more and find out about Elle herself – not just through what people tell us about her, but how they act towards her, even after all of these years. It’s this kind of story-telling and character-development that isn’t just smart, but engaging, as we don’t really know just what Elle’s life has been, but we get a good idea through the constant interactions she has with those around her.

And every step of the way, Tomlin is there to make it work. A lot of the “funny” dialogue that she has to work with can occasionally come off as cloying, and sometimes, annoying, but that’s only because the movie feels as if it has to present Elle as a wise-cracking granny. Having her just be a no-bullcrap woman is fine as is, all the added-on punch-lines and jokes at other’s expense, don’t really matter or work. There’s one painful scene with Nat Wolff, where he ends up getting kicked in the nuts and it’s played for laughs, in a shocking. almost outrageous way, but it never works and feels like a scene thrown in there because Wolff himself decided that he had a day or two to film his scene.

Who wouldn't want the kid from Paper Towns, who also bares a striking resemblance to Adam Goldberg, as their baby daddy?

Who wouldn’t want the kid from Paper Towns, who also bares a striking resemblance to Adam Goldberg, as their baby daddy?

There are a few other weird scenes that play-out just like that, but it’s always Tomlin who keeps these moments, as well as these characters, grounded in some sort of reality that makes sense and can be, at the very least, relateable.

Aside from Tomlin, the rest of Grandma is pretty stacked with some heavy-hitters, all of whom are game for Paul Weitz’s script, adding in their own two cents whenever necessary. Julia Garner doesn’t really need to do much as Sage, instead just sit there and let Tomlin do all of the work, but she’s fine as is; Judy Greer gets a few solid scenes as Elle’s former-lover; Marcia Gay Harden is funny and exciting as Sage’s mom, which makes me wish that this probably was a movie about Sage, Elle and her character, all hangin’ around one another and getting into the occasional squabble; and there’s a few nice appearances from Colleen Camp, Laverne Cox, John Cho, and the late, great Elizabeth Peña.

But the real star of the supporters is Sam Elliott, playing one of Elle’s former lovers, as well as ex-husband, and gives perhaps one of his most “human” performances since Thank You For Smoking. This isn’t to say that all of Elliott’s little pop-ups in random pieces haven’t been unwelcome or bad – it’s more that it seems like he’s playing that same kind of character he’s been known for all along and rather than upending that appearance, he’s been fine with just staying the same, adding the grizzle whenever he feels necessary. Nothing wrong with that, but watching his performance here, it makes you wish that he was more demanding with his own roles, as he’s not only a bright spark of liveliness this movie needed, but gives us everything and anything we need to know about Elle and the sort of affect she had on those people in her life. We get the basic idea of what happened between them both, but really, we don’t know everything and that’s fine.

Grandma isn’t about knowing everything. It’s about the little details that can sometimes make people’s lives the most interesting.

Consensus: With a solid, but rare leading role from Lily Tomlin, Grandma works because of its gentle, tender care and attention to its characters and heartfelt themes, without overdoing it, even if the comedy doesn’t always work.

7.5 / 10

Daughters become grandmothers, but turn to mothers. Why am I quoting John Mayer?

Daughters become grandmothers, but turn to mothers. Why am I quoting John Mayer?0

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Ties definitely have a lot more use than just making one look professional.

Young and ambitious English Lit. major Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) fills in for her roommate to conduct an interview with the young, brash and handsome millionaire that is Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman). The two have their interview and, believe it or not, hit it off quite well; so well, that Grey begins to start asking Anastasia out on dates that she can’t believe to be true. However, seeing as Christian’s a nice guy who means well, Ana decides that going out on a date with him wouldn’t be so bad. Then, she gets the idea to spend the night over his place and possibly even lose her virginity. That’s not so bad, either. But then, the tides begin to change when Ana realizes that there’s something creepy, even mysterious behind Christian’s persona; which, as a result, has something to do with the way they make love and whether or not Ana is willing to go through some of the more extreme prices she has to pay for Christian Grey’s price. But is it all worth it?

There’s something about Fifty Shades of Grey that seems a tad edgy, even by today’s movie’s standards. It’s an R-rated, mainstream flick that’s adapting some of the naughtiest, grimiest material that most house-wives read and fantasized about day in and day out. I’ve never read the original source material, but from what I’ve heard, I probably wouldn’t like it. Like, at all.

Hot.

Hot.

However, I’m not the target-audience for this movie, which is why it won’t just hit the top of the box-office by the end of the weekend, but might break all sorts of records in the process. Women from all over the world will be flocking to any movie theater they can find that’s playing this movie, which calls into question: Is any of it worth it? Well, like I said before about it being slightly edgy, especially so for a mainstream flick, there’s plenty of sex here. It’s an R-rated movie in that we see plenty of boobs, butt, bush, S&M, and plenty of spanking. But is it enough to warrant somebody’s undivided attention for nearly two hours? Especially when the main reason everybody is coming to see this for in the first place, only takes up about 20 minutes of screen-time?

Well, people, there’s such a thing as “hard R”, and then there’s such a thing as “soft R”.

And sadly, this adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey leans more towards the later.

However, don’t get me wrong, even though this material clearly isn’t made precisely for me, I went into it expecting anything to happen, both good and bad. Which, for the first half-hour or so, there was surprisingly more good than bad. Some of this, I feel, has to do with the fact that the powers that be behind this movie insistence on getting an unconventional choice of a director like Sam Taylor-Johnson to take over the reigns for this story.

Though Taylor-Johnson has only one film to her name (Nowhere Boy, which is pretty solid), there’s something here about what she does with this material that makes it seem like she actually cares how it looks and feels. There’s a certain airy-breath to this film that fits well with the Seattle setting and makes some of these scenes seem as hot and sweaty as they should be feeling right from the start. There’s one scene in particular where Ana and Christian are going over the paperwork for their upcoming escapades, and while this scene could have been as conventional as they come, Taylor-Johnson films it in a dark, somewhat eerie view that adds a certain layer of promiscuity to a movie that clearly is going for that as is.

Also, not to mention that Taylor-Johnson focuses long and hard enough on these two characters that we at least get some semblance of who they are as human beings, and exactly what they are when they are together. Maybe less so with Christian Grey (more on that guy in a minute), but it’s definitely the case for Anastasia Steele, who is probably made a lot better by the fact that she has the lovely, charming and vivacious Dakota Johnson portraying her. In case some of you out there didn’t know by now, Johnson is the daughter of both Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and while she may not totally look like her dad (thank heavens), it’s easy to see the similarities in terms of looks and the way she handles herself on screen, with her mommy.

But it should be noted that Johnson is clearly her own force of nature that seems like she could be as famous, if not more so, than her famous mom, because not only does she have the face a movie camera could love, but she’s able to make us, the audience, believe in every piece of sappy writing she’s forced to deliver here. On paper, Anastasia Steele is another boring, female character that falls for the hot, young, and rich dude that opens up her eyes to pretty houses, pretty cars, pretty parties, and most of all, pretty sex. And the fact that Anastasia is a virgin, makes it all the more nauseating to even type. But somehow, Johnson is a capable enough actress who is able to bring some semblance of humanity, or believability to this character that not only allows for us to sympathize with her every step of the way, but even wish she would just make the right decisions in life.

Once again, this role shouldn’t work, but she actually does, which probably has to do with Johnson’s well-done performance.

Hot.

Hot.

Now, as for the role in this movie that doesn’t work, it’s Jamie Dorman as Christian Grey, every girl’s favorite slap-happy millionaire. There’s a part of me that felt bad watching Dorman here; for starters, he wasn’t even the initial choice for this role, so already, my heart kind of goes out to the day. Second of all, he’s forced to work with an American-accent that he’s clearly not at all comfortable enough with. But then, the real problem is just that this role is way too dull; too much so for even someone like Dorman to take over and make better. Which, once again, makes me feel bad for the guy, because he’s definitely trying to bring out any shred of humanity to be found within this guy, but he’s as plain as a piece of plank.

Not to mention, the guy hardly gets naked. Like, at all. And while this may not be a problem for other heterosexual men out there, it is for this heterosexual man. No, it’s not because I want to see man-junk whenever the opportunity possibly arises itself, and no, it’s surely not because this past episode of Looking seemed to disappoint me. No, it’s more that when you have your female character getting spanked, licked, banged and kissed, and have her be full-on naked throughout pretty much all of it, and hardly ever dress-down her male counterpart, except to maybe show us his bum, or an ever so sudden bush shot, it goes from being hot, to downright distasteful. If one person is going to get fully naked in a movie about sex, then so should the other! Not this jeans-wearing crap!

But that’s just a little problem that only I may have, and if that’s the case, then so be it.

However, that’s not where the problems for this movie end, because as the story progresses and we’re supposed to feel all messed-up and emotional over what’s happening to our two lovers, it becomes obviously clear that maybe Taylor-Johnson herself got discouraged and just gave up altogether. The movie’s nudity isn’t necessarily safe, as much as it just becomes tiresome and boring, whereas it should be sizzling, hot and spicy, just about every time we see a body-part in all its naked-glory. The story also goes into some strange areas where it’s clear that they want to discuss what a hot-and-heavy relationship like this can do to one person who isn’t totally used to it, but all sorts of food-for-thought points the movie tried to make, go right out the window once we’re left with the same abrupt ending that Mockingjay: Part 1 gave us. And guess what? Just like that movie, we’re definitely getting a sequel, if not a few more.

Except that, this time, I’m not really looking forward to what’s coming next.

Consensus: Not as titillating, as much as it’s just boring, Fifty Shades of Grey shows early promise of being better than you’d expect it to be, but then turns for the worst once it becomes clear that this movie’s all about the thrusting, and less about the emotions. Sort of like how sex with me is.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Wow. Too hot.

Wow. Too hot.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

Imagine the film-version of Coldplay’s “Magic”, except less depressing and no Gwyneth Paltrow. Thankfully.

Stanley (Colin Firth) is a British illusionist who disguises himself as Wei Ling Soo, but when it comes to being off the stage and believing in anything like “magic”, or “tricks”, he can’t help but scoff at the idea of them actually being real. That’s why when an old confidante of his (Simon McBurney) asks him to come out to a friend’s land to expose a certain kind of “fortune teller”, he doesn’t hesitate to make his move. That’s why when Stanley shows up and realizes that this fortune teller of sorts is a young, bright little thing by the name of Sophie (Emma Stone) he chooses to not be swayed by his attraction to her, and keep his eyes on the prize: Showing the world that Sophie is indeed a phony. However, exactly what Stanley didn’t want to happen, happens when he finds himself not only falling for Sophie as a person, but also believing that she could be in contact with these dead spirits she goes on and on about/with. But, is Stanley not paying attention to what really lies in front of him because of the idea of love being present, or is Sophie really who she says she is?

“Another year, another Woody Allen movie” seems to be a constant statement whenever we come around to this time of the year and for the past decade or so, it’s a statement that’s usually been said with a slight groan following. That’s not to say that every Woody Allen movie lately has been considered “bad”, it’s just obvious that when a creator begins to lose his craft just a tad bit. But then one also has to think: If you’re constantly putting out a movie once, or in some cases, twice a year, does it really matter how amazing each one is in their own right? Or, can an auteur just be commended for his ability to constantly have something new cooking up, each and every year, no matter how old that person may be getting?

"I sense that sometime, quite possibly in the nearest future of all, I'll be working with the same guy standing behind that camera."

“I sense that sometime, quite possibly in the nearest future of all, I’ll be working with the same guy standing behind that camera.”

Personally, I believe that it’s all about the craft and if Woody Allen wants to keep making movies every year for the rest of his life, then I’m fine with that. Just as long as they are more like this and nowhere near being that piece of crap known as To Rome with Love. Or Cassandra’s Dream. Or You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Or Whatever Works. Or Anything Else. Or Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

But okay! I think you get where I’m going with this now – not every Woody Allen movie is going to be perfect. But that doesn’t mean they have to be crap either; they can just be extremely mediocre. Which is exactly what Magic in the Moonlight is, except a hell of a lot more breezy. Most of that has to do with the fact that this takes place in a lovely countryside of France, as well as kind of having something to do with the late summer release-date this has, but most of it, I’d like to think, can be attributed to the fact that Woody Allen has found himself a lovely pair of leads in the forms of Colin Firth and Emma Stone.

Yeah, I myself would have never ever thought that I’d see the day where Mr. Darcy was paired with Gwen Stacy, in a film directed by Woody Allen nonetheless, but such is the case we have here and it’s very interesting in that aspect. Not because Allen plays to both of their strengths very well (even though he does), but because these two actually have a nice bit of chemistry that is able to get us out of thinking that he’s way too much older than her to begin with. In fact, the 28-year age-gap sort of makes sense in a movie like this; Sophie’s rather mature and honest for her age, whereas Stanley himself is such a down-beat nonbeliever in anything happy, he borderlines on “immaturity”. And somehow, with these differences in character-description, the two are able to craft a lovely, yet believable chemistry that sometimes pushes its way into being “too cutesy” at times. But not enough to where it gave me that sick taste in my mouth, nor that creepy feeling in my head of him being way older than she is.

Then again though, it is a Woody Allen movie and with Woody Allen movies you have to expect an older guy to be foaming at the mouth for them younger ladies. Such is a fact in both his movies, as well as his own personal life.

But anyway, I digress. Stone and Firth are lovely together and in their own rights, show that they are more than capable of creating interesting, compelling characters for the time being. That’s why it’s such a shame that the rest of the cast are either, second-thoughts, or thinly-written. The only real member of this cast that I can think about who gets to do a little something more is Eileen Atkins as Stanley’s Aunt; everybody else is sort of just there in the background, occasionally given a chance to say or do something that doesn’t make it seem like a total waste of their talents. Like, I don’t know, say when all you have for Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden to do is stand around her character’s daughter and be a tad feisty, there is a shred of disappointment that can’t help but be felt.

Oh yeah, total resemblance.

Oh yeah, total resemblance.

That said though, Woody himself is fine with just moving the story along at a sweet, pleasant pace. There’s plenty of darkness to be found here, as there is with most of his movies, and most of that comes from the fact that Stanley just doesn’t believe in real magic ever being a thing in our world. He believes that people want to believe what makes them feel a whole lot happier and safer about their lives, much rather than the actual, sometimes stinging truth itself. That’s pretty much exactly how every Woody Allen-character, Woody Allen has ever played, is, except with Colin Firth around, it feels more genuine, if that was even possible in the first place. However, it’s still Woody Allen himself talking, which is where this movie gets a bit more interesting in how Woody explores the idea of love and how, it doesn’t matter what else bad stuff is happening to you, that if you have love in your life, it all mostly goes away and can sometimes, blur-up ones judgment. That’s not to say that love is bad, really, but it’s just a fact of life that one needs to have. Regardless of how painful it may be at certain points.

Now where have I heard that before?

Consensus: While not being anything deeper than just a late-summer rom-com, Magic in the Moonlight is another charmingly breezy hour-and-a-half that can sweet and soundly be added to Woody Allen’s list of mediocre movies.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"You mean to tell me that while I was performing Shakespeare to sell-out crowds, you were just a cell?"

“You mean to tell me that while I was performing Shakespeare to sell-out crowds, you were just a cell?”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Can we please bring the word “rumpus” back to the mainstream?

Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand-man of Leo (Albert Finney), the Irish kingpin of the 1930’s. Whatever Leo has to say, Tom helps him out with it, by any means possible, and vice versa. However, that partnership seems to go South once Tom starts sleeping with Leo’s dame (Marcia Gay Harden), and finds himself embedded with a new group of mobsters, this time, lead by the ruthless Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito). Once the two gangs go head-to-head in a battle over territory, brawn, respect and money, Tom gets thrown right in the middle of all of it, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever.

I’m going to be honest with you all out there, this is not the first time I have ever seen this flick. No, actually far from. This right here marks my third time seeing this flick and now that I’ve not only grown older as a human-being, but as a movie-geek, I have finally come to terms with this movie’s awesomeness. Okay, maybe it’s not awesome but it comes pretty damn close, especially if you know how the Coens roll. And brother, do they roll with style!

What threw me off the first couple times upon seeing this movie was not knowing just what the hell I was getting myself into, and apparently, from reading what other peeps had to say about this flick as well, I wasn’t very far off. The Coens start this flick very traditionally where they barely give you any back-story, rarely lay down any groundwork for whom these characters are, what are their names, and/or just what the hell type of situation we have found them in. It gets even worse once you realize that everything and everybody they’re talking about, are things or people that we have never met or have yet to see, and probably will never see or meet. And lord almighty, this is about 30 minutes into the damn movie already! So therefore, upon being twisted and turned every which way but loose, you can already assume that this movie doesn’t start off on the right foot, that is, if you don’t know what to expect. However, being my third time upon seeing this, as I said before, I realized what I was getting myself into and found myself a whole lot more intrigued by everything and everyone in this movie. That’s all thanks to the Coens and everything they are able to do as writers and directors.

Typical Irishman: always rolling-up the sleeves.

Typical Irishman: Always rolling-up the sleeves.

The Coens, as we all know, have a certain sense of style that they abide by and if you aren’t down for it, then you might as well just get the hell out! However, if you are down for it, then get ready for a wild ride with this one! This movie is chock-full of witty one-liners that never get old, are always hilarious, witty, and are spoken at a mile-a-minute that you may just have to put the subtitles on, just so you can see what the hell it is these peeps are all talking about. But no matter how talky or goofy this movie can get, it’s always interesting and very enjoyable to watch, especially when you don’t really know exactly where this flick could go, at any which second. That’s what we have all come to know, hail and praise coming from the Coens and this movie and their craft-work here is no slight exception. It’s painted in Coen blood, from start-to-finish. And if you don’t like that, then take the high road, Jack.

That’s my attempt at trying to sound like one of these gangsters. But I’ll stop now.

The plot does get a little over-zealous at times and yet, I still have no idea just how the hell everything went down in the end, but that’s the fun with these types of movies, especially when they’re done by the Coens. There’s always something new or cool to pick out from the haystack here and whether or not it all adds up to the bigger picture, is solely on you and how much you pay attention. Does that mean that this flick doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme things? Of course not! Heck, I’d probably say that the movie makes more sense, but to me, some things just didn’t add up to their fullest extent. I don’t know if that’s the Coen’s, me, or just something about with the cosmos in the sky; but either way, something didn’t mesh as well as I had planned, but I still remained thrilled and constantly entertained by this movie, even if I did have to do a little head-scratching at times.

That’s when you know that you have masters at-work here, when you can get a flick that’s all about being crazy, loopy, and wild with where it wants to go and how, but yet, rarely ever seems to make sense, and still have it work. These guys are geniuses at making movies like this because no matter how many times you may scratch your head or have to press “the rewind button”, you always know that you’re in for a treat when it’s the Coens at play, and that’s always a joy to watch. I don’t care who you are in the world, watching the Coens have an absolute ball with fun material is fine entertainment for me. Whether or not that’s your type of cake, is fine with you. But it’s all me, baby, and that is what I like.

You my boys, Joel and Ethan. You my boys.

Let me also not forget to mention the amazing cast that’s on display here, that keep up with the Coens, every step of their goofy ways. Gabriel Byrne has never really lit-up the screen for me as an actor, but here, he’s pretty damn solid as Tom Regan, the type of guy you wouldn’t expect in a movie like this, yet, totally works. It’s sort a strange predicament that this guy is in because he’s always smart, lippy, and a step ahead of the curve, but yet, somehow always finds himself getting his ass kicked, a couple of black-eyes to show off and his head in his hands. It’s strange to see a type of guy like this that’s so intelligent and so on-the-top of his game, get stumped almost every step of the way, but not only do the Coens pull it off with no remorse, but Byrne does so as well. Byrne’s very good here and shows that you can give a character a minor ounce of heart, even if he goes on with the same smirk and remarks the whole time. Also, the guy’s gotta pretty kick-ass Irish accent that I’m pretty sure isn’t even a put-on. Irishmen unite!

Somebody get this man a towel.

Somebody get this man a towel.

Another fella who almost (ALMOST) does a better Irish accent is Albert Finney as Leo, Tom’s boss/buddy. Finney is great as Leo because he’s got the brass, he’s got the old-time appeal, and he’s also got enough stew in his bowl to where he can knock somebody’s teeth out and shoot some mofo’s up if he has to. That’s exactly what he does at one point here, and it’s great to see when an older man like Finney can still get up, shake off his legs and show these youngsters a thing or two about being tough and rugged, the old-school way. The problem with Finney, or I should say his character, Leo, is that he does disappear for a good majority of the movie, which sucks because we do begin to miss him after quite some time. That is, until he came back to the screen and somehow made everything all better with the weather.

However, much of that screen-time was actually given up for one person, Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar. Polito’s character seems like one of these dunces that doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s doing, why he’s doing it or what the hell he’s going to do next as back-up plan, but what he does know, is that he’s in it for the money. That’s probably how most gangsters were like back in the golden days, but what makes Polito stand-out the most is that he’s a bit of an a-hole, and yet, still a sympathetic guy because he isn’t a mean or a sadistic son-of-a-bitch. He just wants to go about his business in a kind, pleasant way where nobody has to get hurt and sticking to his “ethics”. Yeah, if somebody has to get pinched every once and awhile, well, then that’s just the way it is. It’s strictly business.

Last, but sure as freakin’ hell not least is John Turturro as Bernie, one of the main dudes in this story that has to keep it moving. Turturro plays Bernie like a wise-cracking, sneaky bastard that scams people all for the good of his own wallet, but yet, has this one scene where he absolutely breaks down and throws out all of his cards. Everybody knows the scene and if you don’t, just look up-top. It’s the one scene where Turturro lets loose and has you wonder, “Should he kill this guy or not? And if not, for what reason?” Once you start bringing morality into a flick like this, then you know you got a keeper, but when you have Turturro doing his thing and making the rest of the movie seem like his own, personal play-land; then it’s more than just a keeper. It’s a freakin’ winner, that’s what it is!

Consensus: Not everything adds up or makes perfect sense by the end of Miller’s Crossing, but like most Coen flicks, it is always fun, entertaining, enlightening, tense, funny, bloody, and most of all, able to give you something new to pick out from among the rest of the crowd, everytime you give it a view.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Cool guys do walk away from explosions.

Cool guys do walk away from explosions.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Parkland (2013)

We got Bobby, but now, here’s Johnny! Sort of.

When JFK was assassinated in Texas, the whole nation was left in a widespread panic of not knowing what to do next, how to pick themselves up from such tragedy and what would be the best way to move on. But before any picking up and moving on could be done, there had to be some simple procedures done, like finding out who killed JFK, who that killer’s family was, who the person filming the incidence was, how they can keep it away from the media, an so on and so forth. Basically, this is a look inside the various lives that were affected after JFK’s murder, and how most of them coped with the disaster in many different ways, sometimes some were more positive than others. But the ones who were negative, they really were hit hard, as you’ll soon see.

The JFK assassination is something that no matter what type of person you are, history buff or not, will always interest you. All controversies about whom did it, why and whom with, there are still some very interesting facts about it that many of us have yet to even know about, while some are still being unearthed. It’s strange to think that even 50 years after the fact that we’re still getting bits and pieces of info about what really happened, who was behind it and possibly just if it was all a ruse or not, is really surprising. However, one must remember that it’s the U.S. government we’re dealing with here, folks. They can’t always be trusted.

About to have themselves a bloody good time. What? Too soon?

About to have themselves a bloody good time…….. What? Too soon?

Anyway, those said interesting little facts about this well-known assassination is probably what does this flick some good in the first place. For starters, it gives us a glimpse inside the lives of a bunch of people we’d never expect to see get a movie made about and it actually allows them to have their story shown. Some get better than treatment than others, but overall, everybody here has a story to tell, and they are all somewhat worth watching and paying attention to, even if the direction doesn’t quite follow suit with that the whole way through.

Some have been having problems with this movie because it’s considered “overstuffed” and “jammed”, and I can’t say I disagree. With a movie that runs just about under an-hour-and-a-half, showing all of these stories, with all of these different, familiar-faces, definitely does come across as “too much to take in”, especially when you pretty much know that the material would benefit a lot more from something like a miniseries or hell, even a longer movie. The stories that are interesting get the most attention here, but the others that don’t, still feel like they have something that we would want to see or take notice of, yet, they aren’t really given much time of the day.

For instance, there’s this one story the movie focuses on that features Ron Livingston playing an FBI agent that knows all about what’s happening with the president, who killed him and where they can nab him, but we never actually see him go out onto the field, actually gathering info, clues, hints, or anything else that would probably help him get a clearer view of the case. This subplot also leaves more questions than actual answers as it becomes clearly evident that the movie, in some way, shape or form, is suggesting that Oswald didn’t act alone and had to have some outside-help in order to kill the president. Personally, I agree with this sentiment, but I feel like when you have a movie that’s dedicating its legacy to an event, as well as to a public, iconic figure no less, that it may not be right to choose sides. Then again, I’m always down for when things get shaken around a bit, so who the hell am I to even talk, you know?

Other than Livingston’s character’s story, there are plenty of other ones to that get the light of day, most are a lot more interesting than the one I just mentioned, and some far more deserving of their own movie or hell, one-hour running-time. The one story I’m mainly talking about is the one in which James Badge Dale plays Oswald’s brother that somehow gets wrapped up into all of this, all because he shares the same last name as the man who killed the president. The movie paints a nice picture of this conflicted man who knows what his brother did was wrong, and yet, still can’t bring himself away from totally abandoning him and leaving him out to dry. Because honestly, let’s face it: Family is family, no matter what.

Dale is not only great in this role, as he is in all of the 50 movies he’s shown up in in the past two years, and really gives you the sense that this is a good-natured citizen who knows what’s right, and what’s wrong, and yet, still can’t help but get thrown under the bus all because of who his brother is and the dirty act he committed. While Dale’s performance is very nuanced and subtle for this type of material, Jacki Weaver, playing Oswald’s crazed attention-whore-of-a-mother, is a little more nutty and over-the-top, but is still worth watching because if you watch any of the interviews with the real-life figure, you’ll see that she more than just hits the nail on the head. She absolutely bangs it in with utter force.

The rest of this studded-ensemble is a bit of a mix-bag, which is less of their fault, and more of the film’s because it doesn’t quite utilize their skills as well as it should have, which is a damn shame, considering the type of true talent we have on-deck here. Colin Hanks, Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden all play the nurses and doctors that examine both JFK one day, and Oswald the other, which gives us a nice contrast between the two, even though the characters themselves are never fully sketched-out to be more than scared fellas and gals. They all try, but their characters are thin. Billy Bob Thornton gets a chance to show up on screen and do his bit for a short while as the FBI agent assigned to figuring out what happened here and how they can fix it all up in a neat and tidy bow. Nice to see Thornton do something where he isn’t either a total and complete a-hole, or for that matter, a total and complete dirtball that has no sense of normal hygiene or normalcy.

"Make way! We got a guy trying to pretend he's dead!!"

“Make way! We got a guy trying to pretend he’s dead!!”

The one who I was most surprised by, not because he was bad or anything, but by how uninteresting his story actually was, was Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder who, if you don’t know by now, was the poor individual who had the displeasure (or pleasure, in some crazy mofo’s minds) of not only filming the assassination, but to be the one the media and FBI came to first, throwing away any price he would deem desirable. Giamatti is great in this role, as usual, giving us a distraught, scared old man that doesn’t quite know what to do with himself for the time being, but definitely doesn’t want to wake up and smell all of the real harsh realities that the world brings. While I felt these sad, emotional connections coming from Giamatti’s performance, I never quite felt that for his story, which actually felt like it could have been given its own movie, and maybe even be up for some Oscars along the way as well. However, we may never get to see that happen. And if we do, it won’t be with Giamatti. Poor guy. He so deserves better.

And don’t even get me started on Jackie Earle Haley as the priest who gives his final blessing to JFK’s corpse. It’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it roles, and is by far one of the strangest aspects of this whole cast. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say the movie as well.

Consensus: The approach Parkland brings to its infamous event, surely is one of the far more interesting aspects going for it, but can’t help but feel disappointing once you realize how under-cooked, short and jammed-up it is, and even worse, it didn’t need to be either.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

How he didn't recieve an Oscar for Best Documentary short that year is totally beyond me......What?!?! Once again, too soon!??!

How he didn’t receive an Oscar for Best Documentary short that year is totally beyond me……What?!?! Once again, too soon!??!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mystic River (2003)

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

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

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

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

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

"Fucking Southies, man. Fucking Southies."

“Fucking Southies, man. Fucking Southies.”

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

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

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

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

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

Jeez Louise. Somebody really needed an Oscar.

Jeez Louise. Somebody really wanted an Oscar.

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

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

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

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

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

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

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

Detachment (2012)

Maybe I was wrong when I said in the ’21 Jump Street’ review that high school sucks. Maybe I meant to say “public” high schools suck.

The film stars Adrien Brody as a disillusioned substitute teacher named Henry Barthes, who seems to have just as many problems as his apathetic students. When he inadvertently becomes a role model for the student body, he finds that he is not the only lost soul struggling to find meaning in this world.

It’s been a long, long time since director Tony Kaye has graced us with his presence and every time I watch ‘American History X’, which is a lot I may add, I can’t stop thinking to myself, “where the hell has this guy gone?”. Now, I know the answer and it’s simple: making great movies that are set in high school.

Former teacher, Carl Lund, wrote this story and from what I see here, this guy had a lot of hard shit to go through. I mean I don’t know what Lund had to go through as a teacher but from what I see here is that being a teacher is hard. Lund brings up a lot of questions about the public high school system but he never points any fingers or condemns anyone, he just shows that being a teacher is hard mainly because you try, you try, and you try to help out a student and in the end, they either don’t care enough or don’t care at all. This wouldn’t be so bad but the fact that these kids don’t care, eventually gets sprung out onto the teachers and then you basically have 40-45 minutes worth of class-time where neither anybody cares about anything and all your time in this world is wasted.

Since I go to a Catholic high school, I’m not too sure of what it means to have such problems like this but I can easily say that a lot of the public schools around me have started to fall apart just because of school districts that just want high grades from these students with no return and teachers continue to demand more and more money. Hell, actually, that’s happened at my school earlier in the year so it’s not just the public schools either, it’s all schools. This script is a pretty big wake-up call because it not only shows the struggles that teachers go through on a daily basis, but also the struggles schools have in general and just how bad everything really can get behind closed doors. It’s a pretty good look at high school, and it’s also a look that I haven’t seen before considering these types of films usually end with all of the slacker kids getting A+’s on their final exams.

Lund definitely found the right director for this material with Tony Kaye because he brings so much energy to this otherwise simple story. Kaye is a veteran of music videos and commercials and a lot of that skills show through is way of bringing so much flair and style to this material that at times, it may get a little over-bearing, but at other times you also have to realize that he’s making this film more tense and provocative. The film has a narrative that jumps around to all of Henry’s sub-plots (and trust me, there are plenty) and the way Kaye is able to show this sometimes through a documentary feel or either through having Brody speak to the camera indirectly by letting all of his frustration out. It definitely creates a lot of tension with this flick and it shows how well Kaye is able at stirring the pot but is also great at taking us out of that as well with a couple of amusing animated shots of what’s going through a lot of these teachers’ heads. They are all pretty funny to watch but they are also brutally honest in the way they show just how it must really feel to put up with all of the shit that they do sometimes. Still though, I’m not always behind teacher’s backs. Trust me on that.

The problem with this flick is that it won’t be for everybody considering there is so much sadness going on and around this flick that it almost is contagious. I didn’t really go into this flick expecting a light and happy-filled flick about how a teacher brings the spirits back to his students, but it can get a little too dark for me and even when the comedy does come around every once and a blue moon, it’s a totally huge surprise.

Another problem I had with this flick was that I think they somewhat over-do the whole “problems between teachers and students” thing a little too much. There are some moments that are genuine as hell and feel like they were taken right out of the classroom, but then there are other moments where somebody starts crying or acting outlandish a way that would probably get out a lot of emotion from the audience, but they sometimes don’t feel that genuine. There’s one scene in particular where Lucy Liu is this school counselor that is so fed up with her job that she just starts balling her eyes out while hooting and hollering at this one student and it seemed totally dumb, unbelievable, melodramatic, and pretty much poorly-acted from Liu herself. There aren’t many moments like this in the flick but when they did happen, I couldn’t help but think that they were a little too over-dramatic.

In recent time, Adrien Brody has taken apart of some questionable material ever since he won his Oscar in 2002 but this is probably his best performance ever since that win. Brody gives a likable performance that makes it easy for us to stand behind him as his life starts to unfold and he’s able to express so many emotions from happiness, to anger, to sadness, and he does it all by the use of his eyes which makes it all believable and real. It’s a great performance from Brody and one that reminded me just why he did win that Oscar in the first place.

As for the rest of the ensemble, they are all pretty good with the limited amounts of time each one is given. James Caan is amusing as the pill-popping teacher who finds a dark way of enjoying his days in school; Marcia Gay Harden feels real as the watered-down principal that is expecting to be fired soon; but the two kids out of this cast are probably the best with Sami Gayle and Betty Kaye both giving compassionate and realistic performances and every time each one of them is on-screen with Brody, the film always seem to light up.

Consensus: Detachment may have some over-dramatic moments, but with Kaye’s inspired direction, great acting by its huge ensemble (especially Brody in the lead), and a real examination at the public high school system, makes it a powerful and dramatic flick that will and definitely should serve as a wake-up call to teachers and students alike.

8/10=Matinee!!

Space Cowboys (2000)

Grumpy Old Astronauts.

When one of the satellites launched in the 1960s malfunctions, threatening the earth with disaster if it crashes, an astronaut in his sixties (Clint Eastwood) is asked to go up to fix it, as he’s the only one familiar enough with the old technology.  He agrees under one condition that three of his pilot buddies from the old days (Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner) who were overlooked by the astronaut training program get to come along for this one last flight.

Right from the beginning, this film already had problems showing with its terrible black-and-white opening prologue in which four young men all speak with these old actor’s voices, that are apparently so obvious. So as you can see, a man who is in a very peak physical condition sounds like a 70-year old who’s been dipping, chewing, and smoking his whole life. However, it got better after this.

Clint Eastwood does a good job here of keeping this film moving at a slow enough pace to have us actually see all of the obstacles you have to go through for such a high-profile mission like this one, and also enough time to have us build characters to where we can actually feel something for these dudes. It’s a relatively slow film, but coming from Eastwood, I’ve seen a lot worse.

Let me also not to forget about how beautiful and amazing the special effects look as well. Thinking that this is an Eastwood film, who is very old at this time and doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to go for a sci-fi film with great special effects, but somehow he ends up making this film look like these guys are actually in space after all. From the stars, to the moon, to the other planets, and even to the spaceship itself, everything looks real and beautiful and makes space this piece of art that you always imagine about but barely ever see in most films.

The problem with this film though is the fact that it’s script is pretty lame. Everything that happens here is all pretty cliche and you know exactly how its going to pan-out, even with the last act. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, as long as the film makes you enjoy yourself and take you away from the cliches, but here, too much of my enjoyment was centered on whether or not I could tell what was going to happen next and judging by the way this film was going, I knew exactly what was to happen. I couldn’t get into this film too much especially the last act where the whole film relies on the suspense element, even though we all know how it’s going to end anyway.

I also feel like the film never knew how to play with this silly plot. The twist of the premise here is that these guys are all old cooks, which could be a lot of fun in a not-so serious way, but the film can’t decide whether or not it wants to take this path or just play the plot straight. The gags were pretty funny but none of it ever seemed like it was genuine enough for the plot, and just used as a way to show us how cooky and goofy these old dudes actually were.

As for Eastwood the actor, he’s pretty good here as Frank Corvin; Tommy Lee Jones is also great at his usual miserable-like character, Hawk Hawkins (what a name); James Garner and Donald Sutherland are both very fun to watch as the other two old dudes as well. The performances aren’t bad and you can tell that they’re all having a lot of fun with these roles but Sutherland and Garner never really get that much attention when it comes to character development, which kind of bothered me. I would have liked to see all of these characters for who they are, so that when it came to a life-or-death situation, I could really root for them except just the two.

Consensus: Space Cowboys has some beautiful special effects, and a cast that looks like their obviously having a whole lot of fun, but there are moments where this film sort of just falls apart due to the predictable plot, and the way the film doesn’t know how to actually approach this plot.

5/10=Rental!!

Whip It (2009)

Roller Derby looks like it frickin’ kills. Especially if your a chick, cause then your nails are always breaking.

Escaping her smothering mother’s (Marcia Gay Harden) beauty pageant plans for her, small-town Texas teen Bliss (Ellen Page) joins an all-girl roller derby team in Austin and begins living a thrilling double life as Babe Ruthless — a life that might catch up with her.

So this is Drew Barrymore‘s directorial debut, and you can tell. The film is much like her, not too creative, but very cute, I could just see her behind the scenes going in her little voice: “Yeah we’re going to skate”. She’s alright with her first film, but she doesn’t know how to set a tone, or pace all that well.

There would be moments in this film, that would move pretty fast, but then it would just get dreadfully slow, and your starting to actually hope they would just go to the roller derby scenes. But the sad thing is, they aren’t even that fun to watch. They are so poorly choreographed, and the camera work is pretty cool, you can’t help but think that you should be feeling so much more excitement when your watching chicks, on skates, beating the hell out of each other.

The screenplay, I thought could have been a little bit better. I will not lie, some parts did have me laugh, but other than that, I found this story nothing new. I’ve seen it all before, and the problem is that the film doesn’t do much else to take my mind away from that. It’s heart is in the right place, and the scenes with Bliss and her mother, work very well, because of how true they are, but it almost seems wasted in a film about chicks on skates.

Ellen Page may get on most people’s nerves, but she’s actually very good in here, and less annoying than you would expect her. Marcia Gay Harden does an even better job playing her mother that just can’t accept her passion, and the scenes these tow have are great together, as noted above. I also liked seeing Daniel Stern, back in action. Juliette Lewis plays that mean, snobby, bitch we all know and love/hate her for, and she doesn’t shy away from that act at all here, and well it’s still good. The guy who plays the coach, Andrew Wilson, just reminded me of bearded Owen Wilson, when in reality, that’s Wilson’s brother. He does a good job here, and I think he should try to pursue more small, comedic roles, but he needs to get a new shtick, so he doesn’t get annoyed about his brother. There are also nice other supporting roles from Eve, Kristen Wiig, Alia Shawkat, and Jimmy Fallon, doing what he does best, acting like a total nut ball.

Consensus: It’s an overly familiar story, that is showered down by a pace, and tone that may annoy some, but it’s heart is in the right place, and the performances bring a lot to the table.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Mist (2007)

I hope I’m stuck in a supermarket when a mysterious mist comes to me. I could have all the food I wanted.

After a brutal thunderstorm pounds a small town, the residents (Thomas Jane, Toby Jones, Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, and more) discover a malevolent mist hangs over their homes, killing anyone who remains outside. Now, trapped in a grocery store, a band of survivors must make a stand against the deadly fog.

Frank Darabont is known for directing Stephen King novel adaptations (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Majestic). All are good films, but are dramatic pieces, this is not so much like any of them, but in a surprisingly good way.

The Mist is one of those B-movie thrillers that is very campy, but used so well, to the point of where you almost forget what your watching. Darabont does a great job of using a tense atmosphere to convey enough emotions for when the real action comes, you are on the edge of your seat. There is barely any score music at all, and it works well, because this is just a prime example that silence sometimes can be the scariest thing of all. The film also never really jumps into the action, or “The Mist” right away, it just calmly goes step by step, and you still can feel the suspense of what’s going to happen.

Darabont’s script works very well cause it shows how real human beings, if put in a situation like this, would react or the choices they would make to come out alive. He does a lot of religious bashing with the majority of the people forming a band together, and answer God’s call.

I did have a problems with this film that actually got in the way more than I thought. This film is a B-movie in a way, and the special effects in this are really cheesy. When they first pop-out at you, I started to chuckle cause it reminded me that I was watching something from the Sci-Fi channel. The screenplay is good, but these people are just so stupid sometimes that I couldn’t just want some of them to die. There is one instance where they are trying to convince this one dude that there’s a monster outside, and they have tentacle from it, but he keeps on thinking it’s just a joke, and their trying to make him look stupid. I’m just sitting there thinking, too late my friend, you already do look stupid. There are plenty of other instances, but I can’t give them all away.

And shall we not forget that ending!!! Or should I say………THE ENDING!!!!!! Right before I watched this my friend Bill told me after I see the ending I will say, “what the fuck”, but he didn’t tell me in what kind of emotion. The ending is kind of a let-down, but its also pretty depressing, and since it’s different from the original source material, I didn’t quite know what the whole point of it was. For some, it will piss people off, or just be an OK ending. Me, I’m still trying to decide.

The cast is alright to say the least, and they do good jobs with their material. Thomas Jane, is good here as David Drayton, the one man that seems to have the brains, as well as the strength to do almost everything smart in this movie. Toby Jones is the man in this movie, he plays the geeky brave dude really well here, and he is instantly a likable character. Marcia Gay Harden does the best job, playing a character that is so unstable, crazy, and just so unlikable, that you really do just want her dead. She does a great job with ll of her speeches, about God, and religion, but she makes this totally unlikable character, that somehow you just want her to shut her face.

Consensus: The Mist is well-acted, tensely written and directed by Frank Darabont, but is a let-down with its ending, some plot holes in the script, and the unintentionally hilarious special effects.

7.5/10=Rental!!!

Welcome to Mooseport (2004)

People are going to kill me for this, but I actually liked this one.

A former U.S. president (Gene Hackman) who plans to retire in a small northeastern coastal town has his hands full when he tries to fill an empty mayoral seat. The unlikely opposition comes from an unassuming hardware store owner (Ray Romano) who quickly proves to be a bona fide man of the people — and wildly popular.

The one reason I liked this film was because although it wasn’t hilarious or totally laugh-out-loud material, it still wasn’t an offensive film, with some dirty jokes. It sweet and kind, and some of the jokes work some of them don’t but I didn’t mind it when they didn’t hit the mark.

The story is quite thin however and we get these little add-ins that don’t seem needed at all. The love story between Romano and Maura Tierney didn’t seem real since they are a bit too old to be playing boyfriend and girlfriend, that can’t commit to one another. Also, we get a lot of golf. Mostly consisting of a total of 10 minutes just of them two playing a game of golf, all for Tierney. This film includes major “butt” nudity in the opening scene which actually plays no part in the plot or any of the rest of the film. Just seemed to be added for shock value and to change the rating.

The one reason I’m mostly recommending this is because of the performances from the cast. Romano’s little awkward act doesn’t work so well here, but for the most part at many times during the movie, it does and he creates a likable character. But the best here is Gene Hackman. He honestly does look like he is having a lot fun here as this zany and quirky politician, that seems so nice on the outside, but if you look real closely can be a total dick. The scenes with him and Marcia Gay Harden playing off one another are some very funny and actually good scenes surprisingly.

I’m not recommending this film over any film like Godfather or anything like that, but if its comes on the TV or your bored one night and need a movie to watch with the family, I can assure you, your going to have a good time.

Consensus: Welcome To Mooseport does have a plot that meanders with jokes that don’t connect real well, but is an inoffensive and well-acted comedy about politicians and the edges they will go to, to be on top.

5/10=Rental!!!

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

The place where it all goes down, in the forest.

Trusted adviser to 1920s Irish crime boss Lee O’Bannon, Tom Reagan’s loyalty is tested when he takes up with O’Bannon’s gal pal, Verna Bernbaum. Meanwhile,rivals Johnny Caspar and Eddie Dane threaten O’Bannon’s racket.

Miller’s Crossing is directed by the highly original Joel Cohen, and it’s pretty easy to tell, as there are many numerous look a likes in this film to countless others of The Coen Brothers.

In this film, there are many very good scenes that are just about being visually and emotionally captivating. Coen makes this film touch you but not with words or actions, but by the look of the film, and how you feel you’re in this torn-down 1920’s era of where gangsters and crime rule the town, and where everything is deceptive.

If you’re looking fora good mafia film then look no farther. Many stereotypes in mobster films don’t quite happen in here. We have always seen these tommy-guns blazing, but not with the kind of style this film gives us. The script is not like many other mafia films, as it is very realistic but also very challenging and complicated.

The reason it’s very complicating is because it starts off on the wrong foot talking about characters we do not know, and have no clue about. Probably about 45 minutes into the actual film is when we finally find out who all the players are. Many events in this film also happen, without us even knowing ourselves. I liked the little John Tuturro scene at first and felt that was good, but then it starts to over-play itself and just turned out to be a little too annoying.

The movie does have some pretty interesting scenes with some great violence and great visuals, but moves at a snail’s pace. There were way too many scenes that just featured these people talking, drinking, smoking, or anything else about gangsters. I felt like this film at points got boring, and does not do very well trying to pull it’s viewers in.

Miller’s Crossing features a lot of big names that are recognizable, but aren’t in this film as much as you would think. Gabriel Byrne does a very good job at playing this lead and doesn’t act tough throughout the whole movie, and actually does show some weaknesses within. Albert Finney, John Tuturro, and Marcia Gay Harden all are in this film and show up but are not used as well, and don?t seem to powerful for a film that bases it all on the power of a look and feel.

Consensus: Though not one of Coen’s best, Miller’s Crossing is a small mobster gem that is visually spectacular and features a real-life look at the world of the Mafia.

7/10=Rentall!!!

Mystic River (2003)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.5/10=Matinee!!!