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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Margo Martindale

Rocket Science (2007)

Think of it as the younger-son of The King’s Speech. Minus all of the royalty.

Reece Thompson plays Hal Hefner, a 15-year-old high-school student with a minor yet socially alienating (and painful) disability: He stutters uncontrollably. He soon finds a light at the end of the tunnel with his disability when a brainy female classmate (Anna Kendrick) cons him into being apart of the debate-team. Hal accepts, but finds problems when these two actually hook-up and start to question that maybe there’s something more between them, or maybe not. It’s all confusion in a high-school setting.

Oh, teenagers.

Take with it what you will, I was actually apart of the Debate Club when I was in high-school for a good year or so. Then, I switched schools, and ultimately lost my love and passion of debating. I still do it from time-to-time when people want to have arguments like, “Avatar or Hurt Locker?“, “Social Network or King’s Speech?”, or my favorite, “Artist or not the Artist?” Yep, that’s about the only type of arguments/debates I seem to have nowadays, but I don’t think even mentioning this slice of my life has anything to do with this review or this movie, because this movie is as much about being part of the Debate Club as much as this blog is about food.

Although I do make some references here and there.

Most indies that play out in the same vein like this, all try too hard. They have a certain bit of quirks that they are way too pleased with, love to show off, and never stop reminding us of. It can get quite annoying after awhile and that’s what has usually come to plague such directors like Jared Hess, Wes Anderson, and even Quentin Tarantino so much in the years. The last subject I never have a problem with, but for those first two? Eh, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the context of the story and what it brings to the table. That’s the problem that writer/director Jeffrey Blitz has here.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Blitz apparently took a lot of the material for this flick, from his own adolescence and it shows, because the movie rings very true to what the high school life is really all about. Granted, this isn’t really a movie that takes place in high school and shows you all of the cliques, relationships, friendships, clubs, teachers, lunch ladies, so on and so forth, but just shows the type of kids that go to it and what they think about, whether they are in class or not. Blitz nails down what it’s like to start growing-up, starting to realize that there is a world out there, larger than you even imagined, and start to question everything that you’ve believed in, prior to your next chapter in life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s the type of idea that Blitz captures well.

However, where this movie loses itself in is trying way, way too hard to win you over with it’s crazy and wacky quirks. That’s bad because nobody likes when a person tries to show-off what they can do, how many times, and how well they can do it, but what’s even worse is that this movie was really winning me over. It’s not like I went into this movie, was totally taken aback by all of the quirky-humor and automatically made up my mind that this was going to be shit, but it was the exact opposite. I ultimately fell for it’s quirks and even realized that maybe I could get past it all with a sweet story, and an attention to character. But nope.

The film wanted to have it the other way.

Sometimes it’s clever, sometimes it’s not. But overall, it’s just bothersome to see in a movie like this, especially when you know the movie has so much more promise then what it’s actually giving us. Maybe a bit more drama would have narrowed things down for us, or maybe a teeny, tiny-bit more attention to the plot would have helped, but with a film like this that is so pleased with what it has to say or do, you kind of lose the point. And you can totally tell that this movie was trying to tell an important-fact of stuttering and how a person can get through it with time, patience, and determination, but they even sort of make that a joke by the end. It’s still sweet, but does make fun of the wrong things if you think about it. Okay, enough of this.

Back to the goods, baby.

Evil woman.

The determined eyes of a monster.

Newcomer Reece Thompson is really good as Hal Hefner, and does a magnificent job at keeping up his stutter the whole time. That may sound like a terrible thing to say about a character who has a real problem, that real people have to deal with, but it’s the truth: Keeping a consistent stutter must be a pretty hard job. That’s why it’s so great to see this kid pull it off with flying colors, but he’s not all about losing his train of thought, he’s actually more than that. Hal Hefner is a good character because he reminds all of us, a little bit ourselves. He’s young, rebellious, trying to make sense of the world, falling in-love for the first-time, and will stop at nothing to keep that feeling of love and tranquility in place.

Anna Kendrick is just about a household name by now, but people don’t remember when she was just a young, small girl, in a little indie where she got to not only show off her charm, but her comedic-timing as well. Kendrick is awesome at being able to show us how smart and perky a character like hers can be, but also how sinister underneath it all. You never know whether or not to trust this character and all of the hope that she gives to sweet, little old Hal, but you feel Kendrick’s a presence on-screen, and she keeps you watching the whole time.

Makes sense why she’s the star she is now.

Consensus: Rocket Science is maybe way too pleased with itself at times, but also benefits from smart, funny insights into growing up and high-school life.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Oh yeah, and he’s a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

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Proof of Life (2000)

Americans, stay home.

Alice and Peter Bowman (Meg Ryan and David Morse), are a loving couple who are now stationed in a nice little house somewhere in South America. Why? Well, because where Peter’s energy company is overseeing construction of a dam, something that is obviously benefiting them, but no one else who actually lives there and has to put up with all of the destruction, construction and rampage. While Peter is out and about doing his job, Alice is at home, getting more and more frustrated and unhappy about their marriage, what she wants to do with her life, and wondering whether or not she actually wants to start a family with Peter, or leave him altogether. Well, Alice is in for a shock when she finds out that Peter has been taken hostage by a bunch of terrorists, looking for more money from Alice and seeing how long they can keep her on the hook, while he’s still alive. Alice, without a clue in the world of what to do, decides that the best way to handle this situation is call up a professional: Enter Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), a professional negotiator who has a strict moral code when it comes to hot and heavy situations like these, and won’t put up with any silly shenanigans, especially since he’s kind of becoming a little attracted to Alice and her plight, all things considered.

"Yeah, let's go yell and shoot things."

“Yeah, let’s go yell and shoot things.”

Most of the heat surrounding Proof of Life around the time of its release wasn’t how “good”, or “bad” it actually was, but because of how both co-stars, Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan, got together, shacked-up and inevitably, ended the later’s years-long marriage to Dennis Quiad. Does any of that really matter? No, not really, but it definitely does help to make sure that a movie, whether it’s bad or not, is talked about in the mouths of many people who probably have no reason to see it in the first place.

They just want the gossip and that’s about it.

That said, Proof of Life is a better movie than the controversy surrounding it, mostly because it’s about something slightly more than you’d expect with thrillers of these natures. Director Taylor Hackford is definitely hit-or-miss, but what he does well here, is that he does find smart, interesting ways to keep the tension moving, even when it seems obviously and abundantly clear just where the story is going, at almost every moment. Writer Tony Gilroy also deserves some credit for trying to make this ordinary thriller about more than just a husband being kidnapped, and more about the issues of big, corporate America coming in and taking over foreign countries for land, oil and money, but a part of me feels like there was a far more detailed script, that went into this a whole lot more and more.

Instead, Proof of Life mostly concerns itself with the fact that Morse’s character may have been up to no good and probably deserves some bad stuff to happen to him, but to die for it all? Well, probably not. And that’s fine; Hackford and Gilroy do come together enough in a way that makes us care about Morse’s character while he’s on this seemingly never ending journey to nowhere, as well as making us care about the characters at home, sitting around, waiting for something, hell, anything to happen. In fact, there’s more character stuff going on here than I see with most other thrillers of the same kind, making it worthy of getting invested in.

Wait, which one's David Morse?

Wait, which one’s David Morse?

And yes, that does mean that Crowe and Ryan are good, however, both seeming to be in different movies.

Proof of Life is by no means whatsoever, a smart, sophisticated film made for the far more prestige-crowd out there, but at the same time, it’s no silly, slam-bang action-thriller, either. It’s just serious enough to be dark, but also fast-paced enough not to be slow. That’s why it’s odd by how cartoonish Crowe is here, showing up into every scene, only to drop some witty line, kick somebody’s ass, or stare long and hard at Meg Ryan. Don’t get me wrong, Crowe is fine with that and can be fun to watch, but when you take into consideration the rest of the movie surrounding him, it seems a little off. Same goes for David Caruso, who is so loud, obnoxious and foul-mouthed, you wonder if he was expecting this to be some sort of Die Hard spin-off.

But on the other hand, Morse and Ryan are both quite great here, showing that this kind of material can work, so long as you underplay as much as you can. Sure, often times, Morse laps into the loud craziness that contains both of Crowe’s and Caruso’s performance, but there’s also these small, human moments that make his character tick a whole lot more and it’s interesting to see what sort of lessons he learns and how he handles said situation. Ryan’s good as his wife, because her character’s also a little complicated, too; she’s the wife who actually got into a dispute with her hubby, didn’t know whether or not she wanted to stay with him and now, all of a sudden, has to really care about him and his well-being, all of a sudden. It’s a difficult role to make sympathetic, but Ryan does and it’s a shame that she never seemed to get enough credit for her against-type roles, because she truly did challenge herself, when push came to shove.

Unfortunately, not so much anymore, but here’s to hoping for a possible return of Meg Ryan.

Even as unrecognizable as she may be.

Consensus: While definitely an odd mixture between being too serious and sometimes silly, Proof of Life is an interesting thriller that tries to be about something, but overall, just ends up being a tense thriller.

6 / 10

"Come with me, Meg. Marriage is so silly, anyway."

“Come with me, Meg. Marriage is so silly, anyway.”

Photos Courtesy of: Rave Pad, Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB

Ride with the Devil (1999)

Ridin’s better than runnin’, right?

In 1861, two best buddies from the South, Jake and Jack (Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich), are forced to join up with the guerrillas in order to get revenge for the slayings of their families. At first, they seem to be really inspired to be rebellious and start killing whomever they think is on the other side and against them, however, they begin to think otherwise once they realize that they have a future ahead of themselves. For instance, Jack gets together with a widow (Jewel) who’s watching over them for short while, while Jake starts to think differently about the cause that these rebels are fighting for, and what it even matters in the end. Obviously not everybody thinks the same way these two folks do, so they land themselves in hot water, not knowing whether they’re going to die on the battlefield, or behind enemy lines.

"I swear, on my heart, not to pass on the Spider-Man role."

“I swear, on my heart, not to pass on the Spider-Man role.”

Ride with the Devil is an interesting flick in that it starts out as being something very ordinary and conventional, yet, changes around halfway through. Something very tragic happens and rather than getting ourselves a slam-bang Western full of action, guns, broads, whiskey, saloons, and pianos, we get something of a down-to-earth, mellowed-out character-drama that’s concerned more with its acting, than its pure spectacle or anything like that. And coming from Ang Lee, you can’t totally expect much different. The guy has made a living by taking a simple premise, and somehow being able to turn it on its side, giving us something that we didn’t expect to see, or didn’t really want to.

Which normally works for Ang Lee, but is still a bit messy here in Ride with the Devil.

For instance, it mostly all comes down to its plot. At one point, the movie’s about these two buddies who go into the war, not knowing what to expect, and somehow get thrown into the middle of it all. Then at the next point, somehow, the movie becomes a racial-drama, showing us all sorts of hatred and remorse African Americans had to face before they were made free. At one point, the movie becomes something of a war epic that’s made to get us up in the air, with our feet giving out right from beneath us. But then, at the next point, it suddenly becomes something of a romantic-drama, mixed with little bits and pieces of comedy. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, the movie does seem like it’s trying to make a point about the rebels and they’re hypocritical way of going about their business in order to make a point, which was probably the most interesting point the movie had to make yet, sacrificed it for a rivalry-angle between two characters that comes out of nowhere, and yet, they continue to milk it for all that they got.

Always follow Jewel.

Always follow Jewel. Except if your name is Kurt Loder.

So yeah, there’s a lot going on here and Lee, with all of his best intentions, does what he can to make it interesting. And for the most part, he does; this harsh and unforgiving view of the Wild West, that also paints it as an unpredictable hellhole, where any wrong decision can have you shot dead in the dirt, is a refreshing one and shows that Lee never backs down from a challenge, whether visually or structurally. However, the movie does have so much going on, with so much to say and do, that it seems as if Lee himself is having a hard time keeping up with, or better yet, even track of where he’s going next.

Unfortunately, that also keeps the movie away from having the sort of emotional and powerful effect it should most definitely have.

But thankfully, his cast is so good that they really do help it out. Tobey Maguire fits perfectly well as the sweet and quiet Jake; Jewel is actually a nice fit as the fiery, yet somewhat seductive widow who Jake falls for and starts something of a relationship with; Skeet Ulrich is actually a lot of fun to watch as the brash and charming Jack, showing that there was more to him than just his boyish good-looks; Jeffrey Wright, in one of the performances that put him on the map, does a great job as Daniel Holt, a former slave dealing with racism in these terrible and violent times, sometimes, hardly even having to say something to get his point across; and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, despite playing what is, essentially, the conventional villain of the movie, does a good job with it, making us feel like he’s more tortured than just evil, as if the pains and terror of war may never leave him, no matter how many years go by, or how long he stays away from guns and murder.

There’s a whole lot more to this cast that really help Ride with the Devil, but it’s always Lee’s show, first and foremost.

Consensus: With so much going on, Ride with the Devil still works as an interesting and well-acted, if somewhat messy, Western epic.

7 / 10

The West is about to get a whole lot more wild now.

The West is about to get a whole lot more wild now.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert, Memorable TV, Duke Wayne.com

The Hollars (2016)

Family’s suck. No matter how colorful.

John Hollar (John Krasinski) is having a bit of a rough time in his life. He’s struggling to make something of his career as a graphic designer, so he now works in retail, hoping to make something from nothing, and now, impregnated his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick), and doesn’t seem to know if he’s ready for that or not. Either way, John’s going to have to grow up real soon as he finds out that his mom (Margo Martindale) has brain cancer. Feeling as if it’s finally time for him to go home and see the family he left behind so many years ago, John has to put up with a lot – despite his mom actually being all fine and dandy, all things considering, everyone else in his family seems to be crumbling. John’s brother (Sharlto Copley) is still reeling over his divorce and estrangement from his kids, while his father (Richard Jenkins), is about to lose his company and file for bankruptcy. Not to mention that one of his mom’s nurses, also happens to be an old foe from high school (Charlie Day), who’s now married to his high school girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). So yeah, it’s an odd time for John, but he’s going to do whatever he can to make out as humanly sane as possible.

To read the full review, head on over to Riot-Nerd and check it out. It’s a new gig that I’ll be showing up on every so often, so yeah, check it out and let them know what you think!

The Human Stain (2003)

Cleaning-ladies love them some Hannibal.

For one second, Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins) seems to have it all: A fancy job as Dean of Faculty of a liberal arts college, the respect of his peers, and a loving-wife by his side. However, another second later, he loses it all: The job, the respect, hell, even the wife. Once Silk’s life practically falls apart in front of his own, very eyes, he decides to run away and retreat to a cabin in the Connecticut woods where writer, Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise), is searching for inspiration for his next book. Silk then finds himself happy, reborn, and back-to-speed with his life, and decides to start up a relationship with the local college janitor, Faunia (Nicole Kidman), who’s a lot younger and illiterate than he is. Zuckerman sees this as the perfect moment to let his inspiration run wild, but what he doesn’t know is that underneath Silk’s whole look and facade, there lies something very painful and mysterious.

Philip Roth is perhaps one of the best writers the world has ever been graced with. That’s why, I constantly wonder: Why aren’t there all that many adaptations of his work? Better yet, why are the ones that do get made, not all that great?

And unfortunately, the Human Stain is just another perfect example of the great Roth just not getting the right treatment.

Showing that tat off? She's just asking for the "d" now.

No man can resist that tat.

Where the movie really finds its biggest issue with itself is with the character of Coleman Silk, and the fact that, even by the end of it, we still never get to actually know him even if we totally should. The only real snippets we get to see into his soul and character is through the flashbacks of him as a young adult, which I must say, were far more interesting than anything going on in his present life. Without spoiling what the real mystery behind Silk’s personality and what makes him tick the way he does, all I will say is that the flashbacks are handled with enough emotion, delicacy, and heart, to where you actually feel as if the movie cares for this character and his side of the story.

It should also be noted that Wentworth Miller does a nice job at portraying the younger version of Silk, as well as Jacinda Barrett as his young sweetheart who gets a first taste of who Silk really is and what he’s all about. Together, they form a realistic and heartfelt chemistry that may just get you all weak in the knees and warm inside because they may remind you of what young love was all about. No further discussion about that aspect of the story, because once I get going, I might not be able to stop and I’ll be in a risk of losing my Critic’s License (doesn’t exist, but I like to feel as if it does).

But still, it almost doesn’t matter because the rest of the movie just never flows perfectly together.

In fact, what’s supposed to be important and emotional in this movie, actually isn’t. I guess that Silk’s later-life’s transformation to a crotchety, old man to a happy, free-willing dude was supposed to really connect, but it just doesn’t. Hopkins is great, as he usually is, because he’s able to get us to believe that this old man would find out more about himself as he got older and a tad wiser about “the real world”. However, actually feeling for this dude was a bit harder than I expected, because he doesn’t really seem to have anything about him that’s worth caring about.

It sounds harsh and all, but there was just something about Coleman Silk that doesn’t really jump out off of the screen. Sure, he’s sad and sure, he’s banging a younger gal that definitely has a shady-past coming along with her for the ride (figuratively and literally), but is there really anything else to the guy? Oh, yeah, he does have that mysterious fact about him that’s insightful into who his character really is, but it can only go so far to interest a person, especially one who has seen it all with film (points to self).

So happy, yet, so random.

Why so happy? Uh, I don’t know. Life?

Even Kidman’s character gets the short end of the stick, as it also seems like she has nothing really going for her in terms of character development. Kidman is surprisingly good at playing the town skank that has a checkered-past with ex’s and family, but it doesn’t seem to go any deeper than that. She’s pretty much the whore with a heart of gold-type of character, without the license or occupation of actually being a whore. She just bangs to get over any type of pain or problems she has had in her life. It doesn’t really work when you put her character and Silk together, try to make us feel for them both, and understand where they are both coming from. Instead, it just seems shallow, as if they both took each other to bed, because, well, who else was there really?

Well, I can definitely say that Ed Harris’ character was definitely not there. Harris plays Faunia’s ex-husband who is a disabled war vet, obviously suffering from an extreme case of PTSD, which makes him come off as the bad guy in the story who’s there to just fuck everything up for the happy, loving-people in the story. However, there’s more to him than just that and Harris makes this character work in a chilling way, rather than having him be some one-dimensional prick. Well, he definitely is a prick, but at least he’s a sympathetic one at that.

At least.

Consensus: For a drama full of context and emotion like the Human Stain to work, you need complexity, heart, and understanding, which is something that neither this flick, nor the cast seems to have, no matter how hard anybody tries. And trust me, they try very, very hard.

5 / 10

Gotta love that exciting sport of fly-fishing!

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

The Boss (2016)

Where’s Bruce?

Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) had it pretty rough as a kid. While she was cared for in an orphanage, she never stayed with any family and one day, decided to up and leave, and see what she could do next with her life. Eventually, it all lead her to becoming a multi-millionaire CEO, who is praised and adored for always getting her way, no matter what. However, that all changes when she gets busted for insider trading, not only taking her to prison, but also ensuring that her public and professional name will never have the same respect it once had. That’s why, as soon as she gets out of the clink, Michelle hooks back up with whoever will have her; no one, unfortunately, really sticks close to her, what without her millions and whatnot. Well, all except one woman: Darnell’s former assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell), who she was quite terrible to on a frequent basis. Claire opens her doors for Darnell and together, the two embark on Darnell’s latter-part of her career: Selling and manufacturing Claire’s home-made brownies. They become a hit, but they also bring out the worst again in Darnell.

"All you need to do is star in Paul Feig movies."

“All you need to do is star in Paul Feig movies.”

Melissa McCarthy is possibly one of the most gifted comedians we have in the business today. She’s hilarious, sweet, endearing and most importantly, has shown that, when she has to put all of the jokes aside and stop ad-libbing, well, she can actually act pretty damn well. So, in all honesty, why is that her movies don’t really measure up to her talent? Is it because nobody, with the exception of Paul Feig, knows how to direct her just yet? Or, is it because McCarthy is clearly too good for others to get going with?

I don’t know the answer to either question, but it definitely deserves to be brought up because the Boss, like almost all of McCarthy’s other movies, doesn’t really do much.

Sure, it allows for McCarthy to be all sorts of mean, cruel, crass and nasty whenever she wants, along with being funny, but really, that’s all there is to her. The movie does try to give Darnell some sort of emotional shading that makes us feel bad for this character as well as sympathize with her when she learns the error of her ways, but none of it feels ever earned. If anything, it just feels like another movie in which McCarthy will play someone who is awful to almost everyone around her, yet, somewhere near the end, will have a revelation about herself, begin to cry, and will want everyone to feel bad for her. Sure, you could say that this is how most movie formulas tend to be and play-out, but then again, that doesn’t make it an exciting one that I want to see, time and time again, with the same people no less.

That’s why, for all of the funny moments it has, the Boss can sometimes feel straining. Even at barely 100 minutes, the movie already feels overlong; too many jokes or gags where it seems like McCarthy herself is just running wild with her improvisation skills either fall flat, or get old as soon as they reach the two-minute mark. And while you could definitely chalk this up to being another problem that people tend to have with McCarthy and her movies, it should be noted that the person who co-wrote this movie with her and directed her, is none other than her husband, Ben Falcone.

AKA, the same guy who directed her in Tammy.

Does K-Bell really need help on a date?

Does K-Bell really need help for a date?

Now, the Boss is better than Tammy, but the bar is set pretty low. Whereas that movie seemed to have no idea what its plot was, or what it wanted to do with itself, the Boss at least feels like there’s some sort of plot/point to be working with. Sure, girl scouts vs. brownie girls is a bit silly, but the movie does have a plot here that it can fall back on, even when it seems like it’s losing any sight of where it wants to go. And yes, in a comedy, that matters a whole, because if you don’t have anything driving it along, the movie itself can start to feel like a slodge and, as a result, the comedy can sometimes suffer.

For instance, there’s a brawl between the two opposing forces and while it garnered a few laughs or so out of me, it bothered me to realize that it wasn’t the only plot to work with. Apparently, the movie also wanted to involve Peter Dinklage’s rival-CEO character in it, give the movie a villain, and have it appear as if we really needed it, which isn’t the case at all. If anything, it gives a talented actor like Dinklage, nothing to work with, and just adds way more time to this movie than is needed.

While I’m definitely not all about the age old idea that every comedy should be under 90 minutes, a movie like the Boss is a perfect example of why they should be less than that, and nothing more. The Boss seems to go on and on, throwing some funny bits and pieces here and there, but overall, feels like another wasted opportunity on McCarthy. Yes, she’s funny, and so is Bell, and the two work quite well together, but the movie doesn’t always seem to excite them, or us for that matter, either.

Oh well. At least the new Ghostbusters reunites Feig and McCarthy, which isn’t all that bad, right?

Consensus: McCarthy herself brings out some funny moments, but the Boss is just an overlong, sometimes tedious comedy that, once again, wastes the talents of its star.

5 / 10

Better order those Thin Mints, everyone.

Better order those Thin Mints, everyone.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Mother’s Day (2016)

It’s the universal day where you honor the woman who has literally done everything for you.

Mother’s Day is by far one of the more unappreciated holidays and around this time of the year, a few select women, as well as men, are going to experience all of the highs and lows that come with being a parent, or better yet, a mother. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is a divorcee who, when she’s not trying to raise her kids, now has to worry about her ex (Timothy Olyphant)’s new wife, who happens to be many, many years younger than he, or she is. Jesse (Kate Hudson) has a lovely kid and husband (Aasif Mandvi), although she hides them from her parents in fear of being judged and poked at, causing more issues and strife between them. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is basically taking over the mom role of his two daughters, now that his wife died in the war. Zack (Jack Whitehall) and Kristin (Britt Robertson) both have a baby, despite not being married and Zack’s issues with that. And a TV host (Julia Roberts), who sells mood-necklaces to women, also has a bit of a secret that may or may not ruin her career.

Jen can't stop laughing at the hair.

Jen can’t stop laughing at the hair.

What the hell did I just watch? Seriously. Something is very clearly wrong with Mother’s Day in that it’s a comedy that’s not funny, a drama that’s not emotional, a feel-good family flick that’s neither pleasant, nor for the whole family, and a star-studded affair, in which nobody is able to do anything worthy of their time or talents.

In other words, Mother’s Day is a complete waste of time.

And that’s a bit of a shame, too, because for all the crap that director Garry Marshall gets for movies like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, there’s still something pleasant enough about them to where it’s fine that there’s a huge list of acclaimed names doing work way beyond their respect. Call them as bad as you want, I don’t leave those movies mad, annoyed, or confused as to what I just saw; they’re silly, but okay rom-coms that don’t change the movie world, but do what they need to do, and that’s entertain people.

This is why a movie like Mother’s Day is such a bad watch. It’s the kind of movie that wants to be fun for everyone involved, but is so lazy, so poorly put-together, and so boring, that you’ll wonder why Marshall or any of the cast-members even bothered. Did they not read the script? Or did they just see Marshall’s name, see the paycheck, and automatically assume that it’d just be a paycheck gig and they’d leave it at that?

I’m going to assume the latter, honestly.

And yes, a “paycheck gig” is exactly what Mother’s Day for the whole cast, but for some reason, it feels like this is by far the worst, most pathetic one they could find. Which isn’t to say that the cast doesn’t try here, because they do. Aniston, Hudson, and Sudeikis can’t help but be as entertaining and charming as possible, even if they’re working with some of the worst lines uttered I’ve heard in the longest time, but mostly everybody else falls apart with the straining dialogue.

Julia Roberts plays someone along the lines of Anna Wintour, cause she not only acts like her, but looks like her with that terrible wig, and it’s just a terrible performance. Roberts isn’t self-aware enough to pull off that kind of “ultra bitch” role perfectly, and she’s not all that funny enough to make some of her lines actually click with the audience. Basically, it just seems like her and Marshall have worked together so much now that they’re pals and will do everything together from now on, so why wouldn’t she show up here?

And yes, before you even ask, yes, Hector Elizondo does show up here and yes, he’s the brightest spot of the whole movie.

Now, neither can Kate!

Now, neither can Kate!

That said, something is just clearly up with this movie that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. The editing feels as if it was done by an actual blind person, where scenes start and end at the drop of a hat, and random people are focused on in shots that are supposed to be on the main characters. Though I’ve never worked in Hollywood, I bet you donuts to dollars that if they gave me the chance to edit this, I would have done a way better job than what ends up coming out here.

But then again, who knows how much of the editing played a role in the final product. After all, the script is so bad, with hardly any plots that are the least bit interesting, that there’s really nothing to hold it together. There’s a story of a comedian that’s terrible because the comedian himself is god awful and the movie acts as if he’s the next best thing since Steve Martin; there’s a story with Kate Hudson’s racist parents that are just so over-the-top and redneck-y that it makes me wonder how Hudson’s character even got out of the trailer park she apparently came from; and then, if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a story in which Jennifer Aniston’s character can’t stop yelling and freaking out in public over her husband’s new wife. Yes, these plots may all sound relatable to real life, but honestly, watching them play out here makes it seem like the furthest thing.

Oh and it’s not even funny. Did I mention that already, though?

Consensus: Garry Marshall strikes again with a star-studded affair with Mother’s Day, but this time, the results are even worse than expected with a terrible script and pace that goes nowhere in its two-hour run-time.

2 / 10

And hell, look at it! Julia's laughing at it, too! It's so terrible!

And hell, look at it! Julia’s laughing at it, too! It’s so awful!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

August: Osage County (2013)

A family reunion at Orange County probably would have cooled everyone off just a tad bit.

After her dear hubby, Beverly (Sam Shepard), turns up dead at the bottom of a lake, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) is left alone, confused, upset and pissed-off at just why the hell the man she’s been married to for half of her damn life would leave her in such a horrific, unexpected way. And since the body has been found and claimed, that can only mean one thing: Funeral arrangements! Actually, better yet, that also means another thing: Family reunion! Violet’s three daughters come up for the funeral and, presumably, haven’t seen one another for quite some time, either due to the fact that they don’t like one another, or got too much already going on in their respective lives that they don’t really have much time to chat-it-up every once and awhile. The oldest, Barbara (Julie Roberts), is going through her own crisis of sorts with her failing marriage to college professor Bill Fordham (Ewan McGregor), and the fact that she can’t seem to connect with her 14-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) any longer; Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the middle-child and practically the only one who decided to stay back and watch over mom, dad and the house, but also has a bit of a crisis on her own that just so happens to be more controversial than anything else going on here; and the baby of three girls, Karen (Juliette Lewis), is a bit of a gold digger that’s had plenty of flings in the past, but is now with a man (Dermot Mulroney) who is ten years older than her and may not be a perfect fit. There’s also plenty more where that came from, so just enjoy the show! Or play, whatever you want to call it!

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so much more.

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so badly.

Though I’ve never seen the play, from what I hear, it’s a stunning piece-of-work that yes, is long, but yes, is also worth seeing. And after being a witness to its film-adaptation, I think I might just have to. Which is very strange considering that this was actually adapted from the man who created the original play himself, Tracy Letts, and in case you couldn’t tell with Letts, the guy definitely has an ear for dialogue. Especially those of some pretty messed-up, dysfunctional people that you may not always like, but you can always watch, even in their most questionable moments.

That’s why after seeing two other film-adaptations of his plays (Bug and Killer Joe) I feel like the standard has been set for what a stage-to-film-adaptation can be, let alone one those of Letts’ own creation. Which is why when I saw the huge ensemble director John Wells put together here, I felt like I just could not miss out on this, not even for the world. And for the most part, I wasn’t wrong, because while plenty in this flick doesn’t necessarily work to the best of its ability, the cast consistently puts in great work, which is definitely something to commend, especially considering that they’re given dialogue to work with that is in and of itself a bit too taut and awkward for their own good.

Actually, the same could be said about the direction from Wells also, as this feels more like a forced-job than anything else. See, the complaints that I heard with both Killer Joe and Bug (moreso Joe, than Bug), was that too much of it felt “stagey”. Which is, in essence, exactly what it’s supposed to be, but not done so in a way that makes it feel like you’ve shelled-out money to just see a bunch of people do the same things that you could have seen them do on a big, ole’ stage. It’s quite tricky for a director to maneuver an adaptation around so much so that you don’t have too many scenes where a person will walk into a room, talk about god knows what for ten minutes, go into another room, talk about god knows what for ten more minutes, and then continue to do so until another person decides to take the throne, go into a room, and talk about god knows what for ten minutes. It all just gets to the point of where it’s been so rinsed-out and recycled, that you feel as if you’re on “dialogue-overload”, but not in the fun way you’d hear with a Tarantino, or Scorsese flick. Rather, you’re just hearing a bunch of people rant, rave on and ramble on about crap you don’t really care for, but sort of have to because it’s right in front of your face, and will continue to be so for the next hour or two, and you can’t do a single thing about it.

Hence why that feeling of being crammed-into a place you don’t really want to be at, with a bunch of people you don’t really care for, should have worked absolute wonders for this movie. However, Wells seems like he’s bit too much of a polished film-maker where everything is all nice, clean, frothy and pretty to look-at. Which may be fine for a movie about a family who gets along, rarely ever get into any sort of scuffles with one another and find a way to look on the bright side of any dark day. But this is not a movie about that type of family. This is a movie about a bunch of mean, twisted, dark, angry and sometimes sinister people that see each other as family, but don’t necessarily treat each other as such. Instead, they treat each other as punching-bags when they feel defenseless and have nobody else to poke-fun at or pick a fight with. And when the going gets good and one gets offended, then they bring everybody else into the fight, allowing there to be more and more victims in line for the slaughter.

That’s what I saw with this family, but it was pretty clear that Wells didn’t see that and instead, makes this more of a “commercialized flick” that has plenty of arguments that dive into some pretty dark places, but end on a goofy-notes that you’d see in a feel-good, “crazy family” movie. Even the poster I decided against using promises that there will be a cat-fight by at least some of the characters here, and it gives you the impression that this is going to be a light and happy-going movie, that still has a couple of lessons about life to bestow upon us. It certainly does too, but not the kind that make you feel like you want to hug your mommy, daddy or nearest family-member. But Wells didn’t seem to get that notion and the movie feels a bit disjointed as a result.

But that disjointed feel doesn’t just begin and end with Wells’ direction, it actually can be said the same for this very talented, very entertaining cast, which is a damn shame too, considering almost everybody involved puts in some great work. The main culprit who I think probably runs the highest-risk of getting caught in the cross-fire of this movie’s production is Meryl Streep who, once again, may be putting in an amazing performance here as Violet, still feels like she’s just going for the big, over-exposed sense of acting that we usually see her do from time-to-time, but don’t have much of a gripe with because, well, it’s Meryl Streep for lord’s sakes. That doesn’t mean she isn’t good or anything, she totally is, it’s just that every scene Streep is given to act her ass-off as Violet, she doesn’t hold-back and after awhile, you start to wish that she would just tone it down a bit. I get that she’s a bitch in the play and that’s probably how she was written in the first place, but Meryl’s a talented-enough actress to know that a character/performance can be adapted into many different ways, using many different styles of acting.

Same can be said for Julia Roberts as Barbara who, is definitely relishing her time in a role that we don’t usually see her do, seems like she’s going for the big, the loud and the over-exposed, rather than just taking it down a notch here and there. Roberts is still great and shows us why she doesn’t just have the looks, but the talents as well, but the problem remained that whenever her and Streep were on the same screen together, it seemed like they were both trying too hard to steal the spot-light from the other. It does make the slightest bit of sense when you take into consideration the fact that their characters are supposed to be constantly at-battle with one another, but most of the time, they just end-up in screaming bouts that only seem to go on and on and on, without much entertainment involved whatsoever. You’re just watching two of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses go up against one another and, for lack of a better word, do shop.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

Some of it may be fun to watch, but after awhile, the act begins to get a bit old and you begin to wonder why one of them doesn’t just leave the other one’s sight for the rest of eternity. And don’t feed me that “family is everything” bullshit either.

While Streep and Roberts are more than likely going to be the sole-performances here that get plenty of the awards-attention (and in some cases, rightfully so as they definitely do put in some great work), I can’t help but feel like there are some far better, more in-tuned performances left out on the side, looking in while these two wild ladies go at it. Margo Martindale has been putting in great work practically everywhere she shows up, and does a fantastic job as Aunt Mattie, playing-up both sides of her act that we see many times. She can be either very, very sweet, with just a slight sense of sarcasm, or terribly mean and cruel to those around her. She’s great here and in ways, feels like she would have been a better casting-decision for the role of Violet than Streep. In ways. Chris Cooper is also great as her very calm, very peaceful hubby that you can tell doesn’t take much of crap from anyone, but surely isn’t the one to keep a fight going on once it’s already begun.

But somehow, the real stand-out among this whole cast is Julianne Nicholson who gets by on playing it soft, sweet and rather subdued, which is a shock considering all of the havoc going on around her. Maybe it was just that she was granted a better role than the others in this movie, but she was the one I resonated with the most and actually felt bad for, whereas everybody else seemed like just a bunch of mean a-holes that I didn’t want to spend another second with. Loved listen to them bicker and bat with one another, but if this was my own family, I think I would have to move away to a whole other state, let alone country.

Consensus: There seems to be a bit of a disjoint in the way in which August: Osage County is supposed to tell its story, which causes plenty of problems with its tone and overall message at the end, but watching all of these talented actors just do work with one another, whether it be small and subtle, or loud and over-bearing, is always worth watching, especially if some of those said “talented actors” just so happen to be Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Chris Cooper, just to name a few.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Cheer up, girls! It's not like two of you won't get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark....

Cheer up, girls! It’s not like two of you won’t get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Rocky Balboa’s only real competition: a woman!

In the wake of a painful estrangement from his daughter, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time. That all changes when Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym, but also walks into his life. Maggie wants to box, but Frankie ain’t about teaching girls to box since it’s considered a joke around the league and his buds that have respected him forever. However, Frankie sees something in her and realizes that maybe there’s more than just a woman underneath it all; there may even be a true fighter. And I’m not just talking about in the ring either, folks.

You have to really give it to Mr. Clint Eastwood; the guy just never stops. Most 82 year olds out there, wake up at 7 a.m., have a nice piece of toast for breakfast, watch golf, sit on the porch, read the paper, talk about the good old days with whoever’s present (sometimes nobody), watch the news, go to sleep at 9, and do the same thing all over again the next day after that and so on and so forth. However, that’s not how Eastwood rolls, nor is it how he likes to spend his latter-years, and even though the guy has had some stinkers in the past, you still have to see that this guy has some real talent left in him and he shows no signs of stopping.

What I liked most about Eastwood’s direction here is that he takes your ordinary story about a trailer-trash girl who has high hopes of one day being the next big thing for boxing, and turns that cliché into something heartfelt and real. No matter what form of advertisement you saw of this film, everybody had it being planned-out as the “female Rocky“, but that really couldn’t be any further from the truth. You feel like all of these character’s motivations are understood, realistic, and best off all, believable to where you can hold everything closer to heart. It’s also a sure thing of beauty to see the relationship between Frankie and Maggie build over time, almost to where he becomes a father-figure for her and she becomes a daughter-figure for him. It all sounds so predictable, mushy, and ham-fisted but it’s surprisingly not, which is mostly because of how much of this rings true to not only these characters minds, but also their souls. You can tell that each and every character starts to wear their hearts on the sleeve by the end, and for that: I think I decided to join along in the heart-wearing festivities.

"Hit the fucking thing! Harder!"

“Hit that fucking thing! Harder!”

I haven’t gotten choked-up at a film in quite some time, so by the end, when I started to tear up just a bit, not only did it make me feel good but it also made me realize how great of a director Eastwood can be if he just plays it light and assured. So many films from Eastwood, especially lately, have all been about him trying too hard to get in the way of the story and because of that, he makes some big mistakes in the process. Some of which, actually cause him to lose control of his whole movie, then that’s where he leaves his actors to pick up the pieces. That is different here as you can tell that Eastwood is not all about getting pigeonholed into another genre flick; instead, he’s more about telling the story from his heart and that’s evident through this compelling, but always-subtle direction.

Even though this film did work for me so well in so many ways, there were other problems I had with this flick that made me take away from my final grade. One of the main elements of this film that bothered me was Maggie’s, trailer-trash family that was so one-dimensional that every time they were on-screen, I couldn’t help but laugh, which was something I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to do in the first place. I get it, they’re a bad bunch of siblings that only care for themselves rather than the down-and-out daughter that’s doing everything she can for them, but every time they showed up (which was usually the most emotional scenes out of the whole film) I couldn’t help but think that the only way to get rid of these stereotypical characters in a good way was to have Eastwood take out a .44 Magnum and blow ’em all away. Obviously, he didn’t feel like doing that this time around but it would have been the best solution to getting rid of these characters and their annoying ways of speaking and acting. Seriously, what a bunch of grateful asses.

Another big element of this film that I couldn’t take in for certain was the champion boxer Maggie ends up facing. Not only is this chick as one-dimensional as Maggie’s familia, but she is also unbelievably ruthless and cruel, to the point of where I don’t really think she would even be allowed to fight in the ring again, let alone, hold the crown for a big bout. Both of these elements may not mean much now, but in hindsight, when they are placed in some real, dramatic scenes, you can’t help but feel like you’re being cheated just a teeny, weeny bit. Hey, I didn’t say Clint was always perfect.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, this guy is pretty stellar (no surprise there) as the notoriously cranky boxing trainer, Frankie Dunn. Eastwood starts the role off with his usual grumpy, old fart character that we usually see him pull-off so well, but by the end, he starts to reveal some dramatic-layers within his acting that I didn’t even know really existed and even though I did, I still haven’t had the privilege to see them in awhile. Of course, we’ve all seen Eastwood pull out some of his dramatic chops every once and awhile, but not as much as we see here and it’s something of total beauty to see because you feel for his old man, mostly cause you know that this guy is a good man. He’s an old fart that yells, cranks, and pisses on everybody, but he’s still a person none the less and should be treated as one for that. Throughout the whole movie, you can tell that he is trying to forgive himself for all of the time he has spent away from his daughter and more on in the ring, but you realize that Maggie is the one last hope of forgiveness for him and for that, you root him on as much as you do for Maggie.

"When you get in there, fuck her shit up."

“When you get in there, mess her shit up.”

And as for Maggie, the gal that’s playing her, Hilary Swank, gives yet again, another top-notch performance of hers as the trailer-trash boxer, but this time; with more layers to a character that could have easily been deemed as “conventional”, “obvious”, and “not worth spending more than 2 hours of your time with”. Maggie is a character that annoyed me at first, considering she seemed like she was just too damn happy and optimistic to be in the boxing atmosphere, to be training, to be getting into shape, and to be trying to make a living off of punching the hell out of people in the face, therefore, made her too much for me at first. But then I thought to myself: who cares!?!? Give me more! Well, that’s what I got and I have to give a lot of credit to Swank for pulling this role off perfectly because not only do we see her for the bad-ass that she can be whenever she’s in the ring, but we also see her as a very sad, lonely, and hopeless little girl that just can’t make right with her family, or her life. Pretty sad stuff, but Swank makes it hopeful with her performance and it was a good choice for Best Actress that year.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention already, but Morgan Freeman is here as Eddie, the washed-up boxer who works/lives at Frankie’s gym. Freeman narrates this movie, and of course, it’s as classy and stylish as ever, but his voice is only used to enhance the story-telling, his performance is a whole, ‘nother thing completely  Freeman is always a solid actor and always gives it his all no matter what the shit-pile may be, but his performance as Eddie is as rich and emotionally-powerful as it’s gotten for him, recently at least. Eddie is a bit of a smarty-pants that may not have the best past for a human-being, ever, but he still is somebody that you love and feel for just because you know that underneath it all, this guy is hurting from the life that he could have had in the ring and for some reason; just never did. Freeman has this one, special scene where he talks about his last match and it’s not only a great scene, but one of the best in Freeman’s career. Underneath all of that narrating he does, it’s still nice to see him pull his acting-chops out every once and awhile and amaze us, as we all know he can do. These three are amazing and keep this film grounded in emotional honesty, and brilliance.

Consensus: This may look like your normal, predictable sports drama that we have all come to know, see, and sometimes love/hate from this genre, but Million Dollar Baby is different than that category most movies get sucked into. With a steady and sturdy direction from Eastwood, characters to care for, emotional-truths behind people we want to hear speak, and a trio of solid performances, it’s better than those types of movies and one that you won’t soon forget, long after you’ve seen it for all that it is.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Didn't know God used to fuck people up in his past.

Didn’t know God used to fuck people up in his past.

Win Win (2011)

If only Giamatti was coaching WWE-style wrestling, rather than that soft/real crap.

Paul Giamatti is a stressed out and frustrated attorney, father, and high school wrestling coach named Mike. He agrees to be a guardian to this old dude who is starting to suffer from dementia just to get some money. His grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), shows up after running away from his mother that he hates. So Mike lets him live in his house with his family and he soon learns that he is also a badass wrestler that could save his shitty wrestling team.

Written/directed by a dude named Thomas McCarthy who I still need to check out more of considering that he’s only made two other films and I have heard nothing but lovely things for them both. Also, considering that he wrote for the near-perfect flick, ‘Up’, this is definitely a guy who is able to get the Kleenex out.

The story is pretty simple but the way that McCarthy writes and directs everything here, makes it all seem new and refreshing in its own little, non-original way. Everything here simply feels like real-life with real people, real situations, and real dialogue. McCarthy makes everything that happens in this story not seem like something before (even though that is the case) by just giving us the problems that these characters face but after spending so much time with them, we can empathize with them and root them on no matter what.

McCarthy does a great job with balancing out comedy and drama very well here also. The comedy aspect works out perfectly because in about the first 45 minutes, I was peeing my pants in just how damn funny this dialogue was especially since there are a whole bunch of running gags that have to do with the older guys and the fact that their wrestling team sucked, and they bring it up basically every time the film goes towards the wrestling mat, but it’s very funny and never seems over-used. It seems like everybody in this film had me laughing my ass off at one point but when it came to the dramatic side of this flick, that’s where the film really started to surprise me.

There’s a moment where this film really starts to kick in to some very dramatic material but it never gets too schmaltzy or annoying, instead it stays real which is a true testament to McCarthy’s job as a screen-writer. The film never seems to be trying too hard to make us tear-up or even get us to feel something for these situations, it just sort of happens because we spend so much time with all of these characters and we get to love them. The whole dynamic between Mike and Kyle is very odd but great because it shows just how these two obviously different people need each other in their lives for solace and comfort. It’s great to see how McCarthy puts in this flick as things start to get pretty dark by the end of the flick, but he still doesn’t lose his charm when it comes to writing and I still found myself laughing, even though I never teared up once. Yeah I know that it’s dumb to judge how much I liked a film by the fact if I cried or not but honestly, I was a baby during ‘Up’, so I was almost expecting the same thing here as well.

The problem for me with this film was the fact that by the end everything started to get very predictable and instead of me not knowing just what was going to happen next, I knew exactly what was going to occur and happen to these characters. Did I like this element in a way? Yes. Did I not like this in another way though too? Yes as well. The reason I didn’t like this element as much is because the fact that it was predictable just showed me that it didn’t seem like McCarthy was able to really go for the gutso with this script and try to really tug at our heart-strings but instead give us a satisfying, if predictable fall-out. This is good if you are trying to satisfy everybody who watches the flick but when it comes to people who really want to feel something when they are watching a comedy-drama, you shouldn’t make it feel like a cop-out and almost as if you were scared to really try anything else other than just staying light and happy. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the script was awesome but the last act for me was pretty disappointing considering how much the whole film made me feel.

What McCarthy does do perfectly here though is give us an ensemble cast that gives everyone here a chance to shine. Paul Giamatti is always great in everything he does, and continues to do so with his performance here as Mike. Giamatti is such a lovable dude that no matter how many bad things the characters that he’s playing does, we always somehow like him because it’s Paul Giamatti. He’s great at what he does and when it comes to playing the every-day daddy role, he handles it perfectly. Also, for his first role ever, Alex Shaffer does a pretty bang-up job as Kyle. Kyle is just a really simple kid that isn’t a bad seed by any chance other than the fact that he’s troubled but also very charming. Shaffer handles the charming and the troubled side of Kyle very well and seems like a mature kid right from the get-go that may not look like a kid I could leave the house key with, but by day 4, I’m practically telling him that I keep it under the rug when I’m not home.

Bobby Cannavale is a dude I have seen before but regardless he’s great here as Mike’s assistant-coach, Terry and made me laugh just about every damn time he opened up his mouth; Jeffrey Tambor is also a lot of fun as Vigman, Mike’s other assistant-coach because come on people, the guy is always funny; and it’s also great to see Burt Young actually working again because to be honest, after doing my ‘Rocky’ review I actually started to wonder if this dude was still alive. Terrible thought I know, but a thought none the less.

Amy Ryan is perfect as Mike’s wife, Jackie, who has that perfect balance of drama and comedy to the point of where she feels like a couple of moms that live right around me. At first, she seemed like she was going to be this highly annoying and strict mom who was very weird about having this kid come into the house, but after awhile you get to see her for who she really is and she’s just really cool and down-to-earth, which I was not expecting one bit. Great to know that she isn’t the crackhead mom in this flick though.

Consensus: Even though it gets very predictable by the end, Win Win is still well-written with rich characters, amazing performances by this ensemble cast, and a simple look and feel that seems like a genuine story.

8/10=Matinee!!