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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Mark Duplass

True Adolescents (2009)

Grow up, or don’t. Just don’t stop listening to indie.

Sam Bryant (Mark Duplass), for lack of a better term, a bit of a loser. He’s jobless, homeless, and oh yeah, his hopes and dreams of one day breaking it in the music-business seem to be dwindling more and more each day, but for some reason, he just doesn’t seem to know, or understand that just yet. And now that he’s getting up there in his 30’s, it’s time for him to do a bit of growing up, even if he’s too stubborn to ever figure out how. Which is why when he ends up staying at his aunt Sharon (Melissa Leo)’s place, he thinks he’s got it made. He tries to get a job, he tries to clean up after himself, and oh yeah, his younger cousin, Oliver (Brett Loehr), he gets along with quite well, even if there is a bit of an age-barrier and different understanding between what’s “cool”, and what isn’t. Then, they head out on a small hiking trip along with Oliver’s friend Jake (Carr Thompson), who seems to be really close with Oliver, and Sam doesn’t want to get in the way. Until, well, he feels that he has to.

Always stick with the hipster bands.

The “man-child” subgenre of movies, or better yet, indie movies, is a bit old and slowly, but somewhat surely, beginning to die. There is, of course, every few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, it seems like watching a tale about a mid-30 dude not holding down a job, having a place to sleep, and just never allowing himself to grow up is, well, a tad bit boring. That’s not to say that it isn’t true and isn’t definitely the case with most dudes out there, but as far as indie-movies go, yeah, they can tend to be a bit repetitive.

But True Adolescents is a small and somewhat rare exception to that rule, if only because it seems to have a tad bit more something to say about these man-children; instead of getting down on these people and showing why they’re losers, writer/director Craig Johnson does realize that there’s more to these kinds of people than we initially expect. For one, they’re not all terrible people – immature, sure, but definitely not immoral, evil human beings who have no clear mind about the law, or how to exist in a governing society. If anything, they’re just sort of babies, the kinds that need to be coddled and cared for, as opposed to kicked out and thrown onto the streets.

And in a way, this makes Sam Bryant a tad bit more sympathetic, than we’d normally expect.

It does help that Mark Duplass is great in this role and can practically play this character in his sleep, but it’s interesting to watch someone like Sam develop over time, as we begin to realize more and more that he’s just a total tool, and less of an actual baby. Okay, maybe he’s a huge mixture of both, but still, Duplass never makes him unlikable – he’s always someone we enjoy watching and want to see more over time, whether he’s learning a thing or two about the world, being nicer to those around him, or even getting a job. No matter what this character does, or says, Duplass is always there to pick up the pieces and remind us that, oh yeah, he’s one of the most likable presences on the screen today.

Coolest aunt ever? Probs.

In a pre-Oscar role, Melissa Leo is also quite charming as the smart, understanding, and stern Aunt Sharon who doesn’t really take much of Sam’s crap, but also knows to listen to him more and not judge him for who he is, or what it is that he represents. Even the two kids, played by Brett Loehr and Carr Thompson, are good, too, but their characters is where the movie starts to confuse itself and get a little odd. Without saying too much, there’s a small revelation made about halfway through that doesn’t necessarily come out of nowhere, but also doesn’t seem pertinent to the story and what we’re going for, either. Johnson seems to start True Adolescents out in a familiar way, then puts more of a focus and attention on the characters and their relationships, only to then, halfway through, make it about something else completely.

Which is hard for me to say, without spoiling a whole lot about this movie.

It just seems that Johnson was fond of throwing us for a loop, did just that, but also as a result, forgot to keep his story cohesive. It becomes a whole entirely different beast in general and honestly, lost me a bit, almost as much as it seems to lose itself. That said, a solid first and middle half are fine enough, so whatever.

Consensus: True Adolescents loses itself after the halfway-mark, but still keeps itself interesting with good performances and a smart approach to the whole nauseating “man-child” subgenre of indie flicks.

7 / 10

I’d hike for days with Mark Duplass. Maybe not Jay.

Photos Courtesy of: Now Very Bad…., Filmwax Radio

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Creep (2015)

Yes, he’s definitely a weirdo.

Small-time film-maker Aaron (Patrick Brice) is willing to do whatever sort of work for whatever amount of money; he’s like most young, aspiring directors out there who are just trying to survive on anything that comes their way. Whether it’s weird or not, at least Aaron is getting a paying gig and to him, it’s the most exciting day of his life, where all sorts of possibilities are up in there. All of the excitement goes away, however, when Aaron meets his subject – a man by the name of Josef (Mark Duplass) who claims to have a malignant tumor, for which he was given about two-to-three months left to live. Not to mention, Josef also has a wife and new baby on the way, which is why he wants Aaron to follow him for this whole day, filming his each and every move, so that one day, his child can see just what kind of guy its daddy was. And while things start off a bit oddly between the two, it eventually escalates into something that Aaron was not at all expecting and doesn’t know how to deal with it.

How can you say "get outta here" to a face like that? Even as deranged as it may seem to be?

How can you say “get outta here” to a face like that? Even as deranged as it may seem to be?

Though some may already see the word “found-footage” being used an awful lot in sentences about Creep, have no fear, because the movie’s a whole lot better than the genre it plays around in. Which isn’t all that of a surprise considering we know that neither Patrick Brice (the Overnight), nor especially Mark Duplass (every indie dramedy that you’ve ever loved) wouldn’t ever align themselves with something as plain and as generic as the found-footage genre and do nothing with it. That isn’t to say Creep doesn’t fall for the occasional, manipulative jump-scare to put us back into our seats whenever we get too comfy and cozy thinking this is going to be some sort of character-drama, but it’s done so in such a way that the scariness of the material isn’t the actual “boo”, it’s more of what lies behind the said boo.

Make any sense? If not, please do let me explain.

What Brice seems to be saying with Creep is that the way we humans in society connect with one another nowadays, is strictly through technology/internet. Sure, Catfish practically said the same message many years ago in an effective manner (even if the message has gotten blurred over the years), but Brice and Duplass both deliver the message in such a way that makes it feel all the more effective; while Josef is easily a character we could dismiss as nothing more than a plain and simple weirdo, the movie also shows that maybe he’s a weirdo because that’s the way the world has manufactured him as. He lives for that connection with somebody, and when he doesn’t get it, he overreacts like a spoiled child would – that’s if the spoiled child had some homicidal ideas floating around in his head. But either way, this character of Josef is most definitely a product of this generation, where there’s hardly any room whatsoever for privacy, or general human connection.

It’s all, as they say, “up in the cloud”.

And as Josef, Duplass, as expected, is terrific. Because Josef isn’t just a crazed dude who clearly has huge problems, Duplass gets a chance to show-off different skills we haven’t seen him utilize before. Josef’s nature is so unpredictable and off-putting, that you never quite know where he’s going to go next, what he’s going to say, or even where he’s going to show up to scare Aaron. His overly touchy feely manner is definitely strange at first, but then it starts to turn deadly soon later, and this is where Duplass really excels at showing a character we have no full clue about and we sort of want to know more of. That’s not to say that we ever get to liking this character, but just like how Aaron feels, there’s something intricately sad and vulnerable about Josef that’s hard to resist and dismiss as “evil”.

Although Brice may not be the best actor out there and doesn’t always handle this material well when he definitely should, he does a fine enough job of sitting off to the side so that Duplass can steal the movie away from him. Because as we learn early on, this whole movie is meant to be about Josef and Josef only, everything else that comes with it, is just the final product of what getting to know and be around Josef is like. In other words, it’s absolutely dangerous and terrifying, but because Aaron seems like a relatively smart dude who isn’t always fooled easily, it’s safe to follow behind him. He makes some dumb decisions along the way, but honestly, what horror movie-protagonist doesn’t?

Someone find me that mask for Halloween. Gotta be a dollar store around here somewhere.

Someone find me that mask for Halloween. Gotta be a dollar store around somewhere.

Sidney Prescott doesn’t count!

But what ultimately puts Creep a step above most of the found-footage horror bull-crap we seen thrown at us just about every other month, is that it seems to understand why a genre like this can still work. At times, it’s easy to see where this plot is going and it makes you wonder if it was or wasn’t intentional in the first place, but there are a few nice twists and turns that not only keep this movie smart, but quite fun. Though the first hour is full of all sorts of talking and odd moments that come out of nowhere, after such is when there’s some thrills and chills to be had.

However, that’s not to say that they’re manipulative in any sort of way. Brice takes his time with allowing for his tension to build up and up and up, so that when the final one-two punch does eventually come around and hit us square in the face, it leaves a lasting impression. That’s what we need more with our horror movies – lasting impressions. Sure, some horror movies like to go out on a bang, but how many times do you feel as if you’ve been tortured and toyed around with in a good way that makes you think about what it is that you just went through long after? I can’t think of many, which is probably why Creep is definitely deserving of a watch.

Consensus: While it may seem to go down some predictable routes, Creep still gets the job done with the smart chills, twists, and message about the way our world works, even if it may get lost over some people’s head when all is said and done.

8 / 10

Always need a loving embrace before the deadly weapons come out.

Always need a loving embrace before the deadly weapons come out.

Photos Courtesy of: Logan Bushey

The Lazarus Effect (2015)

Keep the dead, dead. Just a token of advice.

After much time, dedication, and money handed to them through the university they work in, a group of scientists have discovered a serum that brings the dead back to life. At first, they perform it on a blind dog named Rocky who, once he wakes up and comes back to life, can see. However, he’s acting a bit strange. More so than any other normal dog would. But before they can ever do anything to fix Rocky and figure out just what’s going on, the university decides to shut the project down, leaving all of the scientists without hardly any evidence to make up for their thesis and, possibly, even get their experiment taken away from them. Though, they realize that it’s not time to give up, so late one night, they all decide to sneak back into the university and finish their study, once and for all. That is, until tragedy strikes one of the scientists and leaves them dead. Thinking quickly, they try to bring the person back with the serum, seeing as how well it worked for Rocky, until it becomes apparently clear that the serum has some extreme, rather deadly side effects.

Sci-fi horror films like the Lazarus Effect have been around since the early days of film and it’s no shock to anyone that, after awhile, they can get repetitive, forgettable, and downright boring. However, the one interesting element surrounding the Lazarus Effect is that it’s actually stacked with an interesting; a cast who, may I add, don’t seem like the typical chumps to take up material as cheesy and as underwhelming as this.

The look of someone who just DOES. NOT. CARE.

The look of someone who just DOES. NOT. CARE.

For instance, you have Mark Duplass, playing our main protagonist, Frank. Duplass is a joy to watch in anything he shows up in, whether it be from random spots on television, movies, or in actual, real-life interviews. The guy just seems like a class-act who was, like you or I, a normal dude who dreamed of one day making movies for everyone to see and love, and wouldn’t you know it? His dream came true.

That said, it’s utterly confusing as to why he would bother to show up in something like this. His performance is a bit on the bland side, but honestly, a part of me wants to believe that’s just because the material is so thin and poorly-written for him, that even someone as talented and as likable as Duplass, find it a near impossibility to bring some sort of fun or charm to this whole piece. Same goes for the rest of the cast who are, sadly, thrown into a movie that doesn’t seem to utilize their talents well enough, except to have them deliver lame, exposition, or, occasionally, show some sort of personality that only works because of the convention their character is.

Another example of this cast gone to waste is Evan Peters, who mostly everyone and their mothers loved as Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, who is basically given the role of “the stoner”. This means that, yes, he does smoke an awful lot of weed (through a vape, I may add), eat a lot of snack-foods (munchies, bro), and, seemingly out of nowhere at times, prove to the rest of his confidantes that he is a smart science guy who knows a thing or two. All we’re supposed to do with this character in this film is laugh at him and hope that he comes around to deliver a punchline, whenever the film seems to need it the most to clear the air and stop everything from being so serious. Problem is, the movie never gives him anything funny.

Not to mention the fact that what serious proceedings he’s supposed to be breaking up with his lovely smile and grin, aren’t really all that exciting to begin with.

See? Scientists can be cool too, guys!

See? Scientists can be cool too, guys!

Like I’ve said before, everything in the Lazarus Effect has been done before, and while there can sometimes be some fun to be had in knowing what’s coming next and seeing how the characters react to it all, there’s something so dirty and ugly about this movie that makes all of the fun go right out of the window. For instance, the movie flirts with the idea of there being a spirituality vs. actuality battle going on between some of the characters and while the conversations they have can be interesting, the movie takes them to heart so much that when shit hits the fan, it is so extreme and insane, that it seems like there’s hardly anyway for any of the carnage to end. Basically, you just sit back and watch a bunch of people, some you care about, some you don’t, get killed in gruesome, horrific ways and it’s not fun – it’s just gratuitous.

It also feels lazy after awhile, too, because once you realize what’s causing all of these horrific happenings, it becomes clear that the movie doesn’t have anything interesting to do, say, or actually make you think about after leaving it. It’s just pure, unabashed blood, gore, and violence, and it’s rarely exciting to watch. Just dull as dull can be.

The only chances of some hope that the movie gets is whenever it allows for Olivia Wilde, a bright and bubbly screen-presence when she’s given the opportunity to be so, to camp it up. Wilde’s good as is, whenever she’s playing a normal person who wants to figure out a way to save lives and possibly even revive them, but when her character eventually starts to turn the other cheek and you realize that there’s something a tad bit dangerous to her, then that’s when she seems to actually be having fun. In a movie as lame as this, it would be incredibly hard for someone to even have the slightest bit of joy in their stomach while performing, but Wilde, for what it’s worth, seems like she’s giving it her all, even if the movie doesn’t always have her back in the end.

What a shame.

Consensus: Dull, dark, drab, and ugly, the Lazarus Effect takes an interesting concept, cast, and group of ideas, and goes nowhere with them you don’t see coming from a mile away and already don’t care for.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Eh. Still take her out on a date and meet my mom.

Eh. Still take her out on a date and meet my mom.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The One I Love (2014)

Every couple needs a little bit of a spicing up here and there. Just don’t over-do it.

Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are a couple who has come to a stand-still; they love each other, want to stay together and maybe even start a family, but they’re just too messy and broken right now to really feel like they can go any further. That’s why when their therapist (Ted Danson) recommends spending some time at this little retreat of his that he gives to all his patients, they can’t help but jump right right at the idea. After all, a little time alone and with nobody else is maybe all they actually need. So when they do get there and realize everything is exactly as promised, they have a whole bunch of fun: They cook, smoke pot, drink, eat, have sex, tell jokes and even get a bit sentimental towards one another. However, one day, while rummaging throughout the retreat’s guest-house, they realize that something strange is going on and it not only affects them now, at this moment in their lives, but for what could be the rest of their time as a couple. Or, at least what’s left of it, that is.

So yeah, I’m beating around the bush an awful ton with that synopsis there and that’s sort of the problem right away with reviewing, hell, even talking about this movie: You don’t want to spoil it for others. And usually, yeah, people say that and they either: 1) spoil the whole thing, all free-nilly, or 2) they spoil the most obvious plot-points of the whole movie like, it “all ends up being a dream”, or “Bruce Willis is actually a ghost”, or other stuff like that.

How I'd like to imagine Mark Duplass spends most of his days. While still being naturally charming as hell. Damn him.

How I’d like to imagine Mark Duplass spends most of his days. While still being naturally charming as hell. Damn him.

Either way, you catch my drift. But that’s why the One I Love is so different; not just in terms of the quality of the movie itself, but because you can’t really even hint at what this movie’s about, because it comes as such a shock.

Take me and my experience with this movie for instance; before hearing about this and deciding to give it a shot, I checked out the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis for this and it read something like, “A failing couple spends a week at a retreat to bring back the love into their relationship”. Again, that is not exactly word-for-word what the synopsis said and because this was quite some time ago when I checked it out/saw the movie, clearly, things have changed and more people are talking about this movie and even, as predicted, giving some small hints here and there away about what’s really up with this movie.

But to be honest, don’t even read any of those other reviews, no matter how talented or beloved the writer may be (except me of course, so stay put!); they’re only going to give you more impressions/expectations of what to expect, and it totally defeats the purpose of small, yet surprising movies such as this. We mostly hear about them through the grapevine, in which some cool, hip and rad person will say, “Hey, did you see that new indie with Mark Duplass, brah?”, presumably right after taking a swig of an ironic PBR. And while most people will probably either give a flat-out, “No.”, or just ignore this person and put them back in their corner, the fact is this: That person, as annoying as they may be in whatever normal discussions about life, love, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, still threw that idea into your head.

This may even get you to think, “Oh shit. There’s a new Mark Duplass movie out?”, and from then on, you will know that there’s a new movie with Mark Duplass out and you’ll want to possibly check it out, if the time in your hectic schedule ever clears up. That’s how, back in the day at least, most indies survived and were actually seen by people – nowadays, anybody can talk about a certain movie, no matter how small or obscure it may be, and it can reach millions, upon millions of people that may have the same interests in Mark Duplass movies as you (and yes, the only reason I’m saying Mark Duplass instead of the far-more well-known Elisabeth Moss is because referencing Mark Duplass in an everyday conversation just gives you the impression of how “small” a movie he’s involved with actually is).

And you, Ms. Moss. I can't even start.

And you, Ms. Moss. I can’t even start…..

And honestly, I have no problem with that – all films deserved to be known about, discussed, passed onto others, etc. That’s what film was invented for in the first place (not just for money, hookers, and coke, because Hollywood), and that’s how I’d like to imagine the rest of the movie world will continue to be like. However, there are certain instances in which there comes a point you need to stop talking about a movie, if only to not just spoil the fun for everyone else. This is that type of movie and as much as I may annoyingly be harping on it, please do not read other reviews of this.

Instead, just know that Duplass and Moss are great in this movie and show that they are able to stretch their acting-abilities further and further than what we originally see of them. Just know that the movie may not be the most perfect flick to take your significant other out to see, only because it will bring out the worst kinds of discussions between you two during the ride home. Just know that while the movie does have a few neat tricks here and there up its sleeves, it is not by any means, perfect and does get a bit messy when it tries to explain what it’s really supposed to be about. And lastly, just know that it’s good and that you should see it, if only because you want curiosity to murder that cat and give you some sort of relief that yes, you had finally seen that “new indie with Mark Duplass”.

Brah.

Consensus: Tricky and imperfect, the One I Love is a rather unique take on a story we’ve seen done a hundred times before that both brings up questions about relationships, and gives Duplass and Moss plenty to do and entertain us with.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Put 'em together, they're the perfect couple. But are they.......? Tune in next week!

Put ’em together, they’re the perfect couple! But are they…….? Tune in next week!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)

Write this down men: Twenty-something blondes who play the trumpet are bad news.

Recent college-grad Hannah (Greta Gerwig) is working as an intern at a production company and realizes that she needs to make a big change in her life if she wants to be happy at all. Therefore, she decides to break-up with her boyfriend Mike (Mark Duplass) and set her sights possibly on other men; even if those other men just so happen to be her co-workers, Matt (Kent Osborne) and Paul (Andrew Bujalski). Hannah begins one with the later, while the former sort of just sits around, does his work like he’s supposed to be doing and basically be all upset that he’s being left out of the mix. But Hannah’s the type of girl who can’t seem to stick to one thing, regardless of if her life depends on it or not, so you can never tell exactly what she’s going to do next, or with whom either.

It’s a short premise, but at an-hour-and-23-minutes, it’s a short movie, and there’s something inherently charming about all of that. See, writer/director Joe Swanberg likes these small, intimate and rather raw stories about people just living their lives, on a day-to-day basis without all of the schmaltzy, over-dramatic bullshit that we usually see in much-larger, more mainstream movies. Does he do this to save some money and actually be able to make his movies? Sure, you could definitely make that argument. However, there’s something nice and refreshing about a writer/director who likes to create real stories, about real people, doing, well, real things.

Even if one of those “real things” does consist of constantly being shacked-up with whomever is around you.

Oh, Gret.

Oh, Gret.

And yes, that is exactly what Hannah does here. To be honest, the hardest aspect to like about this movie is Hannah herself; she’s self-involved, yet, not overbearingly so. She clearly has a nice conscience and wants to do the right thing for herself and those around her, but when it comes right down to it most of the time, she takes matters into her own hands and doesn’t always fully think things through. Does that make her flawed? Of course it does! But does it also make her somewhat human? Oh, totally!

So with that said, it may be hard to at least accept Hannah as a person you want to watch a movie about, but this isn’t necessarily a movie that’s trying to test your patience. It’s trying to give you a story of a young, sometimes brash and difficult lady that doesn’t know what she wants with life, except just to be happy and feel like she’s working for, or towards, something. Hannah herself doesn’t want to be left behind by the wind and forgotten about – she wants to be remembered, loved, and most of all, happy. Though her ways of making sure that happens are a bit questionable, it’s still interesting to watch because there’s a feeling that this is a real woman we’re watching on screen, and not just figment of a dude’s imagination.

And if she was, she’d be a pretty depressing one, considering that there’s a lot of heartbreak and sadness here, all as a result of her own doing, mind you.

Also, another reason why Hannah is so enthralling to watch is because Greta Gerwig’s an on-screen presence worth paying attention to every second her lovely face is on screen. Which, in the case of this movie, is the whole, damn time. So, if you’re annoyed of Greta Gerwig’s bubbly, warm mug, then this is definitely not something you should bother with. Especially since Swanberg seems to really love focusing in on that mug and watching as each and every emotion she feels, is spelled out on her face. In a way, it can sometimes be annoying by how much zooming-in Swanberg does on not just Gerwig, but on everything else, but I felt like it was something you have to sort of expect with a mumblecore movie, and it’s easy to accept after awhile. Is it uncomfortable to sit around and watch sometimes? Yes, but it’s something that’s easy to get used to once the story actually gets going.

Gerwig does something quite exceptional here in how she’s able to make us see Hannah as a female, rather than a contrivance that Swanberg would have created. She’s more than just a gal who likes to kiss boys and try them out as if they were a new pair of shoes; she’s trying to work towards something. Of course Gerwig’s a lovely presence, but it’s in these spare, raw moments of emotional truth where you really get a sense for who she is, and you sort of feel sympathy for her. Even if she is making a lot of problems for herself, rather than solving them, but that’s who she is. She’s a complicated, confused gal and Gerwig’s great at displaying both sides of Hannah’s personality.

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

That’s not to say that the whole movie just ends up being Gerwig’s show from beginning to end – in fact, quite the opposite. Because this is a story about Hannah and the sorts of men she interacts with in this short time-span in her life, we get to view a different side to her, all depending on the guy she’s gunning for at the point in time. Though he’s displayed quite apparently on the poster, Mark Duplass isn’t in this film as much as you’d like to think and it’s a bit of a shame. The dude’s always a charming presence in anything he shows up in and here, he’s no different. But because the story needs him to be kaput early on, it’s only necessary that we get a small dosage of his charm, and get a chance to see it head-to-head with these two other dudes, Matt and Paul.

Both are pretty charming dudes, but in a nerdy kind of way. But they’re not totally nerdy in that they can’t ever hold a conversation with any normal human being; they’re just sort of the type of guys who have their own set of interests, in their own little circles. Bujalski and Osborne both display enough likability and realism to make it easy to see why they’d be both perfect, and not-so perfect for Hannah’s wants, needs and desires, and it makes you wonder who she’s going to end up with in the end.

Which, like it is in life, is incredibly unpredictable.

Consensus: The constraints in budget and scope may make Hannah Takes the Stairs feel a bit claustrophobic, but for those who can get past that, will realize it’s a heartfelt, emotional and sometimes funny drama about a gal just being herself, while trying to figure out who it is she wants as a mate in her life.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Me. Everyday of my life.

Me. Everyday of my life.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Tammy (2014)

Still feeling like crap, Rex Reed? Good.

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) isn’t having a very good day. First of all, she hit a deer with her car while she was searching for chap-stick. Then, she gets fired from her job because she constantly shows up late and can’t ever seem to get along with her boss (Ben Falcone). And to make matters even worse, she ends up coming home to her husband (Nat Faxon) being with another woman (Toni Collette), making Tammy leave and eventually live with her mother (Allison Janney) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon). However, that’s not how Tammy wants to roll, so when she brings up the idea of moving away from her hometown and starting anew, her grandmother jumps on the opportunity to go with her; better yet, her car and money will be the reason why Tammy wants to go in the first place. So begins this road trip of sorts with Tammy and her grams, where they go to bars, drink, have fun, meet cuties, get lost in National State Parks and even get to know more about eachother than they ever did, or ever wanted to, before.

If you saw either last year’s the Heat, or Identity Thief, then trust me, you’ve seen this movie. Yes, both are Melissa McCarthy-starring films and while the former may be better than the later, there’s still a certain trend/formula going on with both of them: They consist of Melissa McCarthy doing the same damn thing, each and every time the camera is put onto her.

Susie be like, "Get me da hell out of dis car, with dat gurl".

Susie be like, “Get me da hell out of dis car, with dat gurl”.

Both highlight McCarthy as a female master of improv, where she yells, runs, falls down, and says whatever raunchy thought comes to her mind first. Sure, both movies allowed her to continue this act in different ways, but it’s still the same thing we’ve seen done before and quite frankly, no matter how charming or talented McCarthy may actually be, it’s an act that can get very stale, very quick. And that’s the exact problem with Tammy: It’s just stale. It’s hardly ever funny and it always seems to exist, solely so McCarthy can find something to riff on for more than five minutes, all to show us how much of a clever gal she is, but somehow, only wasting our time and not adding anything to the “story” this flick is actually supposed to be working.

But what makes this movie a bit more strange is that it’s not only co-written by McCarthy and her real-life husband, Ben Falcone, but it’s also actually directed by him. May not seem like much at first, but for some reason, I couldn’t get that fact out of my head.

Because see, everytime there is something funny to be had here, it almost always seems to come from McCarthy. It doesn’t matter if it’s actually humorous or not – if there’s a moment that Falcone thinks is worth a few chuckles or so, he’ll give it right to his wifey-poo where she’ll take the material and do whatever the hell she wants with it. Hasn’t stopped her before with other peeps behind the camera, so why the hell should it stop with her hubby in that position? It shouldn’t, but it totally should have because there’s hardly anything funny about this movie to begin with.

Actually, nope, scratch that: There is something funny about this movie. But it isn’t McCarthy; it isn’t Falcone; and it sure as hell isn’t our titled-character Tammy; nope, it’s actually the secret weapon to this whole thing that just almost makes it work: Susan Sarandon.

That’s right, ladies and germs, the one who absolutely steals this movie is none other than Susan Sarandon, playing Tammy’s boozing, man-eating, wild-timing Grand-mom and even though it may be weird seeing the seemingly ageless Sarandon wearing a short and grey-wig, it’s a distraction that goes away real soon. The reason being is because Sarandon is such a lovely screen-presence to watch (then again, when is she not?), you can’t help but just accept her character and love every decision she makes. Even if they are sometimes stupid and shallow, they’re just decisions of a character we like, want to like even more and know that we can trust to do the right thing at the end, whatever that may actually be.

Most of that has to do with the fact that we love Sarandon as is, but most of it also has to do with the fact that she’s the only character really worth paying attention/liking in this whole thing. Which isn’t to discredit anybody else who shows up in this movie – the supporting cast is a wide-variety of familiar-faces that all do fine with what they’re given, whether it be to be funny, or not. They all service this material to the best of their ability and it actually made me think it was such a shame to see them all packed in together for something like this.

How sweet of him to cast his own wife, in his own movie. Man after my own heart right there.

How sweet of him to cast his own wife, in his own movie. Man after my own heart right there.

But the sheer fact that Sarandon owns this movie the whole through, is definitely to discredit McCarthy and Falcone; even more importantly, McCarthy herself. I find myself really going at it with my inner-most thoughts, because while I usually like McCarthy in anything she shows up in (yes, even re-runs of Mike & Molly), I just found her so damn annoying here. Most of that has to do with the way in which she is constantly made up to just improv her ass off, every chance she gets, but most of it also has to do with the way in which Tammy is written.

First off, Tammy herself is pretty unlikable, although that’s definitely the point; she doesn’t think things through, she swears a lot, she takes advantage of those around her, and she always acts as if she’s the victim in any situation, when it is, most of the time, the completely other way around. We know that Tammy is supposed to be a likable character and that, eventually, we’re supposed to see some shading to her that’s going to make us like her more, but it hardly ever comes. Okay, it does, but only through cheesy scenes in which we see her flirt with some dude and take some trips down memory-lane with her grand-mom. That’s basically it. Everything else is up to McCarthy where she acts like a fool, knocks stuff over, curses a whole heck of a lot, and randomly acts violently for no other reason other than to draw up a laugh or two.

Maybe we’re supposed to feel lucky for having somebody as dedicated to drawing laughs out of us through self-deprivation, like McCarthy, but by now, you have to wonder how much longer is it going to go on for? I hope not for much longer, only to avoid garbage like this, but then again, judging by her upcoming projects, it seems like we’re going to have a whole lot more scenes like this. Or even worse, like this.

Shit.

Consensus: Tammy is meant to be a starring-vehicle for McCarthy and the talents we’ve seen her show off more than a few times by now, but ends up being more of a showcase for the type of lovely presence Susan Sarandon brings to anything she gets involved with, and how much she can make anything better.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Get it! It's not a real gun!

Get it! It’s not a real gun!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

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

Humpday (2009)

If the ladies aren’t quite working out, might as well just go for your best bud. Always seems like a safe bet.

College friends Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) finally reunite after ten years and spend a night together where they get drunk, get high, and end up talking about having sex with each other on-screen. Yup, you heard right. They actually got around to having a discussion about boning one another in front of the screen. At first, it all seemed like a bunch of “drunken talk”, until the next day where the guys are still thinking about it and have to wonder if they want to go through with it, or not. And hell, if they do end up going through it, what the repercussions would be, as I’m sure there has to be plenty for having sex with your best pal.

Alright, for all of the dudes out there, have you ever had a best bro-friend that you can talk about anything with, do anything with, and just be yourself around 24/7? If yes, then you are like most men and if not, I’m sorry, but go find one of them right now. For the guys that do have one of them (myself included), it’s gotta be pretty weird once you think about you and that other guy actually doing anything more than just being simple, cool bro’s together. I mean sex with anybody can be very weird, but sex with your best male-friend? That’s just a whole ‘nother level of weird and that’s exactly the point that this moving brings up with good reason, but trust me, it’s not exactly what you think.

"Yeah, so, uhm.....about us banging?"

“Yeah, so, uhm…..about us banging?”

Writer/director Lynn Shelton deserves a lot of credit here for going all out with a premise that seems like the snarkiest premise ever put to film, and somehow making it a sweet, insightful tale about the idea of a “bromance” and how far it can, and can’t go. Shelton’s script-skills are impressive because the gal doesn’t really write that much dialogue, instead she just points the actors where to go in the movie, and allow them to just improvise on the spot with whatever the hell it is that they think is right for that exact moment. It’s a method that works very, very well for her and makes this film seem more natural and understated, rather than a shoe-horned story that needed to happen so people could really feel awkward in their seats.

However, that idea of awkwardness is still very present in this movie but it’s used in a way that isn’t just manipulating you to the point of where you feel like this film has nothing else to do with it’s premise; it’s more about how two friends can interact with each other about anything, but the topic of possibly exploring more between one another is where the line is drawn. Not only does it discuss the idea of what binds between a friendship, but also sexuality and not closing yourself off to what you think is right for you, and what may be out there for you as well. It’s a very strange topic that comes out in the strangest way possible, but it’s so honest with itself, to the point of where I felt like I really understood why two guy-pals would actually go so far as to even try and get it on with one another.

As with most mumblecore movies, you get a lot of the same, silent sequences where people don’t seem to be talking and instead just focus on “real-life situations” which, for the most part, are done well here but it sort of got tiresome after awhile. I think what I didn’t like about the mumblecore-aspect of this movie is that it allowed these actors to all improvise their shorts off and even though they are all fine and dandy with it, some scenes seem to drag-on too long and have these people just talk like they have a gun to their head and can’t come up with anything else. Improvisation is usually one of those tricks that can either make or break a film, and oddly enough, this is one of those films that makes it and breaks it a bit. But not by too much, though.

But, like I said, the improvising didn’t really destroy the movie as much as it could have, mainly because of the cast that’s here to deliver it and they all do perfect jobs with it. Mark Duplass is one of those actors who has really been growing on me as of late and needless to say, his role here as Ben makes me realize why. Duplass is just so charming, cool, and sweet, that you really understand why a guy like him would feel the need to not only do something as outlandish as this to prove that he’s not closing his mind-off to what’s out there in life, but also not forgetting to please his wife and make her as happy as she can be. He used to be a cool guy that hung-out and did gnarly stuff with his guy-friends, but now, is all grown-up, married, and on the verge of having kiddies, which makes him a bit of a softy now. Which, altogether, makes total sense why he would want to go through with something such as sex with his best-friend.

She's handling the whole "I'm your husband, and I want to have sex with my best-friend" idea very well.

She’s handling the whole “I’m your husband, and I want to have sex with my best-friend” idea surprisingly well.

Speaking of the said best-friend, Joshua Leonard plays Andrew very well and allows you to get past the fact that yes, he is Josh from the Blair Witch Project (wait, isn’t he dead?). But that shouldn’t be a claim-to-fame that ruins him as a serious actor because the guy’s got a talent that makes you see him more as a real dude, rather than just a caricature of this total nut that just does whatever he wants in life, without any rhyme or reason. What I liked about Leonard here is that he seems like there’s more to him than just a wild-cat, and we start to see more and more revealing aspects to him that make us understand why he would also go through with something like this and also, even push his friend to do the same. It’s a great role for a guy that I think deserves more distinguished ones and it’s also a chemistry between the two that just feels real and honest, and also makes the whole “having sex” idea between the two all the more believable, a it becomes all the more painful to actually watch them as they try to get it on. Not going to spoil anything here but the scene where it’s just the two of them in a hotel room is absolutely hilarious and probably the best scene of the whole movie, for many reasons that you’ll just have to wait and see yourself, my friends.

Playing Duplass’ wife in the movie, Alycia Delmore seems to have more to her than we already expected and it’s a nice touch for her. I’ve never seen this gal in anything else before, but she seems like she’s a really talented actress because she takes the role of the jealous, annoying wife, and makes her more understandable and sympathetic enough in terms of where her view-point’s coming from. Her character gets a little weird at times, too, but it’s a believable weird and it was nice to see Shelton not only play around with the boys’ emotions, but the girls’ as well.

Consensus: Two obviously straight, male best-friends, getting ready to have sex in front of a camera is a bit of an odd premise, but it’s one that Humpday rolls with and doesn’t stop exploring until all of the layers have been unveiled, and each character has their own say on everything around them.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Humpday2

“Let’s get to it, right? Don’t be gay though!”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (2012)

I love my brother, but I’d kick his ass in a game of pool.

Two middle-aged brothers who always are at-odds with one another and continue to find ways to challenge each other in anything, relive their childhood with an immature competition to see who is the better athlete. However, the oldest-brother, Jeremy (Steve Zissis), has a bit of a problem since his wife is all against the idea of him running around like a crazy man, so he and his bro, Mark (Mark Kelly), decide to hide it from her and try their hardest to continue the games.

The idea of having two people, set-up against one another, in a full-out fledged-competition, in a total battle of the wits and strengths, definitely makes it seem like the type of movie that not just any person wants to see. No, when two people go against one another, no matter what the competition may be, most of the time it’s the dude’s that want to see it, while the ladies just stay home, drink their wine, and shoot the shit about soap-operas or whatever the hell it is they talk about behind us dudes’ backs. Either way, this is the type of movie that just spells out, “E-P-I-C”, not just by checking out it’s premise, but as well as it’s title. However, if there was one aspect of this movie that should have changed my mind right away, it was the fact that this was a production of Duplass brothers, and if you know these guys: they aren’t all about delivering stories on epic-proportions.

For the Duplass bros., this story is more about the brotherhood and thoughts of the middle-aged man, rather than any type of one-up man-ship that this story may have you think from the start. However, knowing what the Duplass’ do and do best, you can’t hate this flick for getting down to the nitty-gritty of a story and characters like this. The Duplass’ are all about no frills, no mills movie-making and even though it does get a tad annoying to see the shaky-cam constantly zoom-in-and-out to create that realistic look and feel as if we are really there, it still does make you believe you are watching a true story in front of your eyes, no matter how goofy these guys seem to be.

How is the fat guy winning? Come on!

How is the fat guy winning? Gotta be a movie.

But trust me, these guys aren’t that goofy. Yeah, they like to challenge each other to anything they can; they like to bust one another’s balls; and they definitely don’t seem like the type of bros. that would just bond and shoot the shit about life, especially after one just beat the other in arm-wrestling competition. These factors of who and how they are, is exactly what makes them seem and feel like actual brothers who are not only growing-up, but growing-apart from one another and soon start to realize that maybe their time is up when it comes to being young, cool, lean, and mean again. That’s especially obvious for Jeremy, but Mark as well and the way that the Duplass’ handle this material with care by never allowing it to just turn into a one-joke premise, really surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t like Jeff, Who Lives at Home and I didn’t particularly care for Cyrus, but hey, I’m always down to be surprised by two dudes that know how to make movies, and realistic, every-day ones at that.

As the movie continues, you do start to feel more and more for these characters and understand why they battle each other in almost everything they do, but there does come a point in the story that I feel like the movie loses a great-bit of steam, and just decides to do the same thing, over and over again. For instance, they bring-up the fact that the oldest-bro can’t be doing all of this work and exercise because it may cause him some stress, so that by the end of the movie, the guy is a total nut-job and a freakin’ beast when it comes to being apart of the competitions and being at home, with his wife and kid. I get that the movie was trying to show us how this yuppie-like, middle-aged tool needed some sort of freedom from everyday life and just the right opportunity to release the beast, but it didn’t feel necessary to me and worst of all, just seemed like the Duplass’ were over-reacting.

Even worse, I feel like the movie was trying to have us side with the wife of Jeremy, when in reality: the chick was sort of a bitch. I get that the wife wanted her hubby to not be the total freak-out man that she expected him to be and to at least take it easy but come on! He’s with his bro, he’s having fun, he’s losing some weight, he’s getting the exercise, he’s gaining some self-confidence, and even better, his son is starting to think he’s cool again, so what the hell is so wrong with a guy having a little competition with his brother?!?? Okay, maybe it’s not a “little competition”, but the fact of the matter still lies; it wasn’t really doing much harm to anybody, except for her idea and plans of treating him to a nice b-day and that pretty much being it, before he went back to his life of normality and boredom. Sorry wifey, in this instance, the husband is the one who rules and needs to make himself happy.

Oh, being middle-aged, married, and unhappy. White people problems.

Oh, being middle-aged, married, and unhappy. White people problems.

That’s not to say that the gal who plays her, Jennifer Lafleur, doesn’t do a nice-job with her role; because she actually does a very nice-job at making us feel some ounce of sympathy for her, even if it does feel a bit needy and selfish. She’s like the rest of the cast, though, in by the fact that as good as she is, she’s nothing flashy, amazing, or powerful to say the least, she’s just fine and does what the script needs her to do. I could say the same, damn thing about Steve Zissis, Mark Kelly, and even Reid Williams, who plays the son that just wants his dad to stop being so ultra-lame, and starting being ultra-cool again. Don’t we all, though? The only person who I haven’t mentioned and with good reason, is Julie Vorus who plays the mother of the two boys. It’s not that she’s a bad actress or anything, it’s more or less that he role and writing demands her to just sit-there, be a cooky grand-mom, try to settle the peace between the two, and yet, still seem like a total air-head of the group. In all honesty, I could have done without grand-mom, but then again: I don’t think this story could have so it makes sense as to why she was there to do her own thing.

Consensus: Most people (guys mainly) will probably be bummed-out as hell to see that The Do-Deca-Pentathlon features more self-loathing and middle-aged people problems than any type of competition or one-on-one battles than you may expect, but if you want to see a flick that’s about family, being brothers, living life, and coming to terms with who you are, then this may be your flavor-savor for you. If not, just check-out the entire series of Kenny vs. Spenny. That will most likely have you feeling more-accomplished than this one.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Don't miss it, don't miss it."

“Don’t miss it, don’t miss it.”

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Osama’s dead! Now it’s time for Hollywood to take advantage!

The film is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks, and his ultimate-death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Unless you have been living under a cave for the past years (sort of like Osama himself), then you’ll probably already know how this story ends. People get on the look-out for Osama, find some tip-offs, locate his living quarters, send a search and destroy team, and basically, destroy him and everybody else that was practically in there.

After a decade of anger, frustration, sadness, paranoia, and a great deal of questions left unanswered, we, as a country, finally got what we wanted ever since those fateful hours of 9/11: we killed the son-of-a-bitch that was to be blamed for all of it. If you like to look at humanity in the eyes that every person made in God’s eyes are equal and judged the same, but if you look at it from another pair of eyes, you’ll start to realize that this was a piece of shit that deserved to die, deserved to be stuck in-hiding half of his life, and better yet, deserved to be killed the way he was. In my opinions, no matter how brutal or vicious, I feel like the guy got-off a bit easy with a couple of shots to the dome (apparently) and no torture whatsoever, when this is also the same guy that killed over 3,000 innocent people in just one day. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m rooting for America on this one and I usually don’t get all this “hurrah! hurrah!”, over being a patriot of my country, but there’s just something about the idea of finding the person that was responsible for so many deaths and broken hearts in one day, killing him, and showing him, as well as his followers, what the ‘eff is up with the good, olde U.S. of A. I hate to sound all lame-ass and cliche, but damn, was I proud to be an American after seeing this movie.

No, I did not just spoil the movie's ending with this image.

No, I did not just spoil the movie’s ending with this image.

This also really surprised the hell out of me as well, mainly because I wasn’t expecting feelings like this to pop-up, after expecting this to be Kathryn Bigelow’s big, follow-up to The Hurt Locker, a war movie in which, it seemed like the theme was very much against the war, rather than creating a love-letter to those who fight for our safety and freedom, day-in and day-out. It’s not like Bigelow went full-throttle at the army’s throats and showed them how much of dirty and despicable bastards they can truly-be, but instead, showed them more as a bunch of people that have problems, just like you or me. It was a nice movie, a nice war movie, and a very nice movie with a smart message to-boot, but that’s not the film I’m reviewing here.

The movie I am reviewing instead is this one, Zero Dark Thirty. Up until a couple of days ago where I heard this movie has been destroying film festival award shows, I wasn’t really all that amped-up to see this flick. Yeah, we all know the story about Bin Laden, we all know the cook gets shot, and yes, we all know that people did a lot to figure-out just where, how, and when this guy hid for so long. It was an obvious story that just seemed like it was going to be the more modern, war-version take on a “based on factual events” story like Argo. However, slowly but surely, this movie really started to creep-up and find it’s way into my mind and have me very, very excited to see what was going to go down and after awhile, I got to thinking: I didn’t really know all that much about the whole Bin Laden-killing as it was.

Yeah, I knew how it began and how it ended, which is pretty much enough for some people, but being the type of guy that likes reasons, explanations, and understandings to most of the stories that I find-out to actually be true, I knew there was more than meets-the-eyes and that is exactly what you can expect from this movie. Right from the start, you know you are in for a thrill-ride that is full of suspense, espionage, exposition, clues, hints, interrogations, arguments, conversations, torture, and best of all, action. This movie basically has it all and even though the first 20 minutes seems to go a bit over-the-top with the whole “torture” idea, it soon builds into something that doesn’t need to have things exploding or people being shot to keep you interested and riveted; it just uses conversations, and wonderful conversations at-that.

Seeing how this whole investigation got from Point A, to Point B, is pretty damn interesting, but what’s even more interesting is how much feels like it’s on the line in this flick. When these characters are out searching for Bin Laden, where’s he hiding, and who the hell helped him with terrorist attacks, we feel as if we are there searching with them as well, with just enough terror and suspense as you could imagine. I knew how this was going to turn-out and if you are the biggest-idiot on the face of the Earth and don’t know by now, well then, you do too. It’s a real-life investigation that just so happened to turn-out successful  but getting to that point where everybody is happy, jolly, and feeling victorious, is a real, fucking ride that will take you all-over-the-place in terms of emotions and thoughts. Actually, maybe saying it will fuck with your mind is the wrong-impression to give you, but if you like a thriller where you have no idea what’s going to happen next and like to have your palms sweaty for about 95% of the actual-movie, then this is the type of thriller for you that will stick with you just as much as it did to me.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I'd still try my hardest for her heart.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I’d still try my hardest for her heart.

And as for the rest of that 5%, well, I sort of left that out, mostly because it seems like more of this flick is about getting the facts straight and telling it like it is, which was all fine and dandy with me for the most part, especially because all of it seemed to be pretty legitimate. As with most of these movies that take on an actual, real-life investigation that had to deal with the U.S. government, there’s always a lot of speculation as to what is real, what is dramatized, and what is fake. For the most-part, after all of the controversies this flick has seem to be dealing with as of-late, I can easily state that most of what you will see and hear here, is in-fact told in the way it went-down. Of course not every scene was filled with as much witty-lines and moments of humor that this movie’s scripts throws in there to great-effect, but the ideas, the hints, the clues, the thoughts, and the actions, all seem to be very reasonable and I never really found myself scratching my head as to how the hell somebody could pull something-off like this, no matter how much leverage she may have had. However, it’s less of a history-lesson and more of a thriller that shows you what went-down, how it went-down, and what exactly was going through the minds of the people behind all of the actions. Some good, some bad, some are just not worth giving a fuck about but at the end of the day, Osama was killed and everybody was happy and joyful together. Yippie-Kay-Yay!

Featuring a cast that doesn’t really have any real, blockbuster names to attract an audience to a flick that already seems like it may have a bit of a struggle with making moolah around this time of the year, definitely seems like a risk that Bigelow is willing to take, and a risk I want to watch her take, more and more now, especially after what I saw what she could do with an amazing cast like this. After having what is essentially the greatest year of her freakin’ life so-far (other than that one, beautiful summer where she went to camp and become a woman for the first-time, I don’t know, just guessing that it’s what all girls have memories of), Chastain builds on top of that with a stellar-performance that is probably the best she has given so far, mainly because her character goes through so many changes throughout the whole flick, but yet, they all feel real.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

When we first see Chastain as Maya, we see her as soft-spoken, scared, and a bit of wimpy-like girl that can’t handle the sight of so much blood and torture that she sees within the first 20 minutes, but after awhile, she gets used to it and realizes that maybe, just maybe, she, as well as the rest of the CIA, needs to get their shit together and find this summbitch who caused all of this trouble in the first-place. Chastain is strong-as-hell in this role and you can totally tell that as time continues to go-on for her and for this mission, that the look on her face and her eyes, begin to change and get more and more disrupted by the anger and frustration that sort of domes come with the job of being a very-skilled member of the CIA and handling a mission like locating, and taking-out a top-terrorist. Every look she gives another character in this movie feels deserved and she is such a strong female-character that you are able to stand-by, trust, and feel like she is literally a nice human-being that only wants what’s right for her, her own well-being, and her own country that she fights for day on a daily-basis. No surprise whatsoever that this gal is getting so much damn Oscar buzz for this and if she does win (which she just might), I will have no objection or angry-tirade whatsoever. Hell, after all that she did last year, the woman deserves it. But please, somebody just give her my number!

Her co-star from this year’s earlier-release, Lawless, Jason Clarke has the next best role as another member of the CIA, but yet, has a way different job than her. See, Clarke’s character is a guy that has to deal with the torturing and question of their Iranian prisoners and as hard as it may be to watch some of the actual torture that does go-down in the flick (mainly within the first 20 minutes, just to let you know how crazy, wild and disturbing this movie is going to be), it’s even harder to watch a character like this have to suffer from doing something that literally makes him a miserable human-being. Clarke is a guy I never really payed attention-to in the past, mainly because I never thought he really needed to shine in the spotlight, he’s just always been there, but here, every chance the guy gets, he absolutely nails it in showing us how a character that does something so vicious and violent for a living, can actually still stay sane and normal in the outside world around him. If it wasn’t for all of the buzz that has already been surrounding every-other aspect of this damn movie, then I would definitely have to say that Clarke would be up for an Oscar nom., but as for right now, I think I may just have to wait and keep my, Minnesota Fats-like fingers crossed.

"Seriously, since you're night-vision doesn't work, you brought a candle?"

“Seriously, since you’re night-vision doesn’t work, you brought a candle instead? Do you not know what we are here to do!?!?”

Even though Clarke and Chastain may be the real stands-out of the flick, you know, the ones you really remember when all is said and done, they sure as hell aren’t the only ones that give solid performances worth-mentioning. Mark Strong shows up in a couple of scenes, and absolutely hits the high-rising emotions in this flick, and hits them hard, especially with an introduction-scene that is one of the best he has ever done in his entire career. Trust me, just ask the fellas I saw this movie with. They’ll probably tell you I couldn’t stop quoting his damn scene and with good reason: it’s memorable, important, and best of all, perfect. And no, for all of you people out there wondering: Mark Strong does not play Osama Bin Laden, regardless of what his past-decisions for characters may have you think otherwise. Kyle Chandler seems to be having a lot of fun playing, once again, another member of the CIA that seems to always have the right, witty answers to every solution, but yet, still can’t keep an eye on his own shit and even get the chance to cover his own-ass. Chandler’s been doing some real splendid work as of late, and I think this flick is only going to prove that point a whole lot more. James Gandolfini also shows-up in a scene or two as the main, higher-up of the CIA that always has to give final-word to the president and even though it’s not a glamorous-role for the guy, it’s not one that shows how much of a fat-slob he has become, either. He’s just a normal dude, with a very demanding job.

However, these three are the only three I could really think-of off the top of my head and say exactly why I liked them so much here, because everybody else, I kid you not, is as great as they should be. Every tiny, little-role that Bigelow needs filled-up, she fills it up with a great actor/actress that gives their all and might into scene that sometimes doesn’t mean a shit in the long-run, but after it’s over, you are still left remembering it because of how well-acted it truly was. The only bad apple out of this whole cast that really seems like he may have been trying a bit too hard was Chris Pratt as the main, Navy Seal that goes into Bin Laden’s cave. I love Pratt to death and I think he is an absolute riot as Andy Dwyer, but seriously, you can’t go from a character that’s all about being a man-child, who is dumb, big, and slow, in terms of understanding the things around him, and go right to a character that practically slimes his way around and about Bin Laden’s head-quarters. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pratt and he’s not even that bad here, but he just seems like he should be off, doing something more comedic that would use him well.

Despite all of this big and bad jibberoo about why the movie works and how, I can only imagine the real question on your mind: what about the whole Bin Laden-shooting? Well, without giving too much away or even letting you know of what fully goes down, I’m just going to state that Bigelow handles it in the most understandable, most respectful, and most perfect way that makes you realize how far everybody has come to this point and in a way, what is to come of us next, not only as a country lead by an army, but as humans living in the country as well. Bigelow handles this last-sequence where all of the Navy Seals find their-ways to Bin Laden as if we are actually there, right next to them, as they make all of the tough shots and calls, and it’s probably the most exciting and suspenseful, piece of 30 minutes at the theaters I have spent in a very, very long-time. And mind you, I am talking about the whole Bin Laden-shooting. Something that I actually have prior knowledge to knowing that it did actually happen!

"What by the term, "Casual Friday", do you not understand?"

“What by the term, “Casual Friday”, do you not understand?”

Yup, it surprised the hell out of me too, but if there is anything that surprised the hell out of me, is how happy and proud I was to be in a country where most humans have the rights to do whatever they want, however they want it, and mainly because we all are humans, no matter what eyes you look through. Now, I’m not saying that it’s right for people to do anything they want, whenever they want because they’re humans (last Frdiay’s shootings come to mind), but for people that can choose between right-and-wrong, and are given a set of ideas as to what is right for the world and everybody else living in it, it’s a beautiful country we live in and it’s one that makes me happy, just knowing that I am being protected by people who are days and days away from me, but yet, still continue to keep me safe at-night, while I sit here, half-naked, drink a Mountain Dew, and talk about a movie that’s all about them. Yes, thank you all for saving my life day-after-day, please don’t stop either, because I really like not having to look over my shoulder every five seconds.

Consensus: Some historical facts and inaccuracies may always be up for discussion here in Zero Dark Thirty, but what cannot be up for discussion is how entertaining, enlightening, smart, provocative, well-acted, and perfectly-performed this flick truly is and I really do see it winning a crap-load of Oscars, come February of 2013.

9/10=Full Price!!

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

It’s the future, and Aubrey Plaza still does not smile.

Darius is an intern at a general interest magazine. She has no idea what she’s going to do with her life. She has no friends and no real source of income. Jeff, one of the staff writers, brings her along on a gig investigating a classified ad. Someone is looking for the perfect companion to join them on a dangerous time travelling mission. After a quick series of misfires, Darius becomes the bait for the magazine story.

Time-travel is a certain idea that most people just scoff at. However, there are plenty of those other peeps out there who believe that it’s there and that the government is still using it till this very day. Then again, those are the same people who believe it’s Doc Brown doing it so you can’t really decide on what to believe. All I know is that this film won’t really change your mind onto whether or not it’s real after all, but hey it’s an indie movie, they don’t give a shit anyway.

This film starts off as a somewhat wacky movie with a lot of goofy stuff going on with these characters as they are all being introduced to each other and a very jokey approach to a story that seems like it deserves just that. When you see a premise as wild as this, you automatically think it’s going to be one of those wild and stupid comedies, which this actually does start off with but something happens in the middle, then it all changes.

While this film does start off as your usual, quirky comedy, things start to get very romantic and somewhat dramatic, but it’s done in a very modest way where you feel like it’s genuine and you barely even notice the transition of moods. Director Colin Trevorrow gives us these characters, shows them for all that they are, some likable and some not, but by the end gives us fully-realized characters that actually go through some big changes throughout this whole story. Some of the changes for these characters are happy and others are sometimes bad, but in the end, we seem to get a full sense of who were watching the whole entire time through this whole flick. Because not only, do you feel like you know them, but you also start to root them on a tad bit by the end and that’s where the story got me, the problem is that I didn’t know what it was trying to do. And to be honest, I don’t think it did, either.

There’s a line in this movie that stuck-out for me where one guy asks one of the reporters, “so what’s your story about?”, only to have the reporter respond by saying, “I honestly do not know anymore”. To be honest, that’s how I felt about this film. I’ll give the film some love by saying it’s tone changes are nice and the story is heartfelt, but there seems to be almost too much going on here by the end that you feel like you don’t know what this story is talking about. We start off finding out about these people and how they look at time-travel, how this one quirky dude runs away from the government, has a secret life going on, and then people start to fall in love, but before the big ending where we all of a sudden are focusing on the whole time-travel aspect. Honestly, I didn’t know where this film was going towards the end and how they were going to end it, but when they did, I felt disappointed and left with a tad bit of an empty feeling. Not only did I feel like this because the last 15 minutes feel somewhat rushed as if the writer felt like he needed to end the story before it got drawn-out for far too long, but I also because there was too much going on that strayed away from the whole premise we began with for me to even feel something towards it. I also would have drew up a better ending for this flick, but then again, I can pretty much say that about any movie I watch.

If there was one thing that really attracted me to this movie was Aubrey Plaza, doing her usual sarcastic role she’s loved and known for in everything she does, especially my favorite show on TV right now, Parks and Recreations (which is saying something cause I don’t watch much TV). Plaza starts her character, Darius, off with her usual eye-rolling/sarcastic using act but after awhile, you start to see a lot of that break-down and you see here in a very vulnerable state, which is something you rarely ever see from her even when she is on TV. Plaza is so good here with all of the comedic stuff that it almost surprises the hell out of you, when she comes out of nowhere and brings out all of these emotional feelings out of her that not only feel real, but make you look at her acting in a different way. I hope Plaza gets bigger roles like this one in movies, because this chick definitely has what it takes to be a leading lady. You can quote me on that, bitch!

After seeing Your Sister’s Sister, I have come to realize that Mark Duplass is a very skilled actor and his role here as the nut-ball, Kenneth, shows just that. Kenneth is a total cook throughout the whole movie, but he’s a likable dude that you feel like wouldn’t hurt a fly unless he was pushed to do so. Duplass handles this goofy material perfectly and gives Kenneth a soft-edge that makes you see the world from his point-of-view. Jake M. Johnson also has a good role as the deuchy boss of Plaza, who starts off as this shallow and demeaning asshat, but is eventually brought to his knees and shown the ways of growing up, which was another story I was not only touched by but believed as well. I also have to give some love to Karan Soni as a fellow intern, who is so damn geeky and nerdy, that by the end, when he finally gets his time to shine, you can’t help but be so happy for the guy.

Consensus: Though it’s ending may not be as effective as it’s first hour, Safety Not Guaranteed is still a well-acted indie that features a lot of heart, a lot of humor, and a lot to show you of how you can take a time-travel premise, and push it in so many different ways to show you something just a tad different.

7.5/10=Rental!!

People Like Us (2012)

When you have Olivia Wilde in your life, trust me, no re-thinking has to happen.

The film stars Chris Pine as Sam, a struggling salesman whose latest deal collapses on the day he learns that his father has suddenly died. In the course of fulfilling his father’s last wishes, he inherits $150,000 which he must deliver to the sister he never knew he had (Elizabeth Banks). As their relationship develops, Sam is forced to rethink everything he thought he knew about this family–and re-examine his own life choices in the process.

To be honest, who wants to see a family drama in the dead-beat middle of the Summer. People love the action, the explosions, the robots, and the CGI, but do people really want to venture out and see what could have been one extended conversation on an episode of Oprah? Well, if it’s this good, then yeah.

This is the directorial debut of Alex Kurtzman, writer of films like Transformers and Star Trek, and it’s a very different kind of film for him, obviously, but he makes the best of it with heartfelt writing. This is a story we have all seen done 1,000 times before (angsty adult returns to an unwelcome home) but there’s just something refreshing about this writing that makes it feel new and original in it’s own way. We spend a lot of time with these characters, figuring out why they are the way they are, and what really gets underneath their skin. This attention to character, makes us feel more attached to them so when the more soapy, melodramatic moments start coming around, we don’t feel like we’ve been cheated one bit. In fact, it comes off as an honest look at how families are with one another, especially when times goes on.

The film also balances out it’s light-hearted message very well, where it doesn’t seem like its too preachy or obvious. Of course a lot of the moments in this film are calculated and you could probably tell how the story was going to end and why right from the first shot, but you can’t help but enjoy seeing a film that obviously has its heart in the right place. And let’s be honest, plenty of flicks have their hearts in the right places, but it’s how they pull it off and make it all work out is what really matters and here, it makes the final product so much better. It’s also another rare feat when you see a film that’s so directed towards adult filmgoers, that you can hardly even believe it features such big stars and is getting a big release date, such as this one right here. Yeah, I went to go see it in theaters but that’s just because I needed some time away from all of the hustle and bustle of the Summer blockbusters.

However, as emotionally true and rich this film could be with its writing, something was just missing by the end. I don’t know what it was, but it was like some secret ingredient was supposed to be there for me to get me to feel like I’m about to ball my eyes out, but that ingredient never showed up. Instead, the last 30 minutes where everything starts to get really dramatic and emotional, I just sort of sat there and felt bad for these characters but never really felt the pain along with them. That sounds a little weird that I would be complaining about not feeling their pain, but when you have a flick like this, you should feel so close to these characters, that you feel everything that they do no matter what the feeling may be. As you can tell, I just came back from a yoga class.

I think the main reason why this film didn’t effect me as much was because of some of the subplots that seemed to just work their ways into the main story. One in particular, was Michelle Pfeiffer’s death-scare that comes out of nowhere and feels totally manipulate, maybe even the most manipulative thing in this whole movie. Come to think of it, her character just really bothered me as I could never fully get invested her by how standoffish and mean she was with her son. I get it, the kid doesn’t come around very often but love and enjoy him now, because you never know when that mothaeffa is going to get tired of your shit and never come back. At least that’s how I think, don’t tell my mommy. Another subplot that we didn’t really need was the one with Pine’s girlfriend, played by the always stunning Olivia Wilde. Wilde does what she can with this role, but it’s just another character/plot we didn’t really and only softened the emotional blow the film tries to take at the end.

No matter how damn unlikable this character can get, Sam is still a very watchable and likable person, mainly because of the charm that is within Chris Pine. Pine has this uncanny ability to make this sometimes very selfish character, seem like a type of dude that you can care for and worry about, even if he does make some dumb-ass decisions. I don’t know what it was about him here, but he made me want to watch him more and I think he was a perfect fit for this role and I look forward to him doing more dramatic roles such as this, and staying away from garbage like This Means War. Still can’t believe he said “yes” to that movie.

Over the years, Elizabeth Banks has been trying her damn near hardest going all-out on these dramatic roles just to get her name out there and I think she pulls it off perfectly here with her character, Frankie. There’s always this under-lining sense of sadness that you can tell is within her, but Banks never fully shows that until one memorable scene where she just lets it all out and shows exactly why she has been hurting for so long and why exactly her life sucks so much. But you never just like her because you pity her, you actually feel like she’s a good person and just wants to be happy with her life in anyway that she can. Banks can definitely be taken seriously as a dramatic actress, and if she gets the right role down the road, could even be considered for an Oscar. Then again, you never, ever know.

Consensus: The ending may not be as emotionally satisfying as I would have liked to hope, but People Like Us features some strong writing that balances out all of its characters perfectly, string performances from the cast that make these characters worth watching, and a rare sense that this film is made for the intentions of making people happy and showing how lives, no matter how bad or miserable they may be, can always be lifted up by some familia. Perfect little message for the kiddies and adults.

7/10=Rental!!

Your Sister’s Sister (2012)

Note to self: never bang your best friends sister, unless they both agree for three-some. Hey, call me what you want, I’m just human dammit.

Jack (Mark Duplass) is still reeling a year after his brother’s death. Iris (Emily Blunt), who was previously in a relationship with his brother, invites Jack to go to her family’s cabin where he can relax. When he reaches the cabin, he unexpectedly finds Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). And that’s when things get weird.

For me, mumblecore movies aren’t really my favorite to go out and seek. Some of them are very good and bring a lot of reality to their stories, but others just feel way too quirky and weird for it’s own good. Somehow though, I took a chance on this one, actually paying for my own ticket, and I think it brought a new piece of faith in me for these little flicks.

What I liked most about this film was just how realistic everything felt, and I think a lot of that is due to writer/director Lynn Shelton, natural screenplay. Actually, maybe the word “screenplay” is not the right thing to use here because this film seems like Shelton just wrote-out to these actors, what was going to happen and why, and then she just gave them the camera to run free and do whatever they want. And that’s probably my favorite aspect of this movie because the whole time I was watching this, I didn’t feel like I was watching some really good-looking people, in a small-indie, I felt like I was watching real people, going through a real situation, and having some real emotions be torn apart. I felt like I could also hang out with these people at a party, and just talk, and talk, and talk, which is exactly what they do here but it’s a lot more interesting than what I would talk to them about. Because if Emily Blunt was next to me, I highly doubt I would want to talk to her about her sister. Just being honest here, people.

Another aspect that could pretty much go hand-in-hand with what I already stated, is that this film brings out a lot of emotions in you, without you ever expecting it. For the first 30 minutes or so, I was laughing my ass off just by how brutally realistic and zany everything was. Then, there’s a slight change of pace for this flick where it gets pretty emotional and that’s when it started to hit me because it shows these people in vulnerable states and how they all respond to one another, especially when peoples feelings are thrown into the mix. In any lesser film, this change of pace would have effected it and make it come off as some sort of melodramatic mess that is so easily trying to rip tears out of our eyes, but not this flick. In fact, I got a little teary-eyed by the end and it was something that I was not expecting in the least bit, and for that sneakiness, I have to give major props to everyone involved.

And when I do say “everyone involved”, I mean just that. The cast isn’t that big (probably about 6-actual speaking roles) but you don’t really need many people when you have these three together. Emily Blunt is great in this role as Iris, because she not only gets to show her chicky, British side to her that we all know and love, but she also gets to go down a very emotional path with her character that makes us feel so much for her and it gives her more depth as an actress, more depth than I could have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I think Blunt is a solid actress, but I don’t really think she’s been given the perfect opportunity to flaunt her drama skills, especially when she’s in flicks like The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement, Sunshine Cleaning, and plenty of others. Not that those flicks are bad by any means, but they just don’t let her strut her stuff as well as she does here and for that, I’m glad because I think this gal definitely has a brighter future in Hollywood now. And hell, she’s only 29. Live it up baby!

Rosemarie DeWitt is an actress I haven’t seen much of in anything really, but she gives off an amazing performance here as Hannah that makes me want to see more. Hannah is a character that’s very hard to read at first, but after awhile, you start to see a very sad and lonely person come out of there and even though she, out of everybody else, does the meanest things, you still feel for her because of what she’s been through with all of life and love. DeWitt is definitely not the most likable character out of the bunch, but she’s one that you can feel for even when she is doing some nasty things. I also loved the little sister-sister relationship her and Blunt had going on here and it made me feel like they actually were sisters. And come to think of it, they actually sort of look alike.

The one who really surprised the hell out of me with his performance was Mark Duplass as Jack. From the first scene, this guy totally had me won over with his everyday dude look that seemed realistic and had him come off as a guy that is really messed up from the death of his brother, but also doesn’t take himself too seriously. I don’t know what it was about him, whether it was his delivery or great improv skills, but he had me laughing just about the whole way through and it was even in scenes that were fairly serious. Duplass really shines in this movie because he’s able to take this character from scratch, and give him so much depth and emotional honesty, that it made me feel like I could be friends with this dude and stick by him whenever he needed a friend. Like DeWitt, I haven’t seen this guy in much, but I think now I’ll start to look out for him more.

If there was one complaint I had with this flick, and trust me, it’s a biggy, it’s that I couldn’t really buy “the first ending”. When I mean “the first ending”, I don’t mean that this is like Lord of the Rings or something where Peter Jackson can’t make up his mind on how to end, so he gives us about 30 minutes of extra-footage. No, what I really mean is that the resolution to all of these problems these people have with each other, plays out in a very unbelievable way and I tell you why. By the end of this flick, these characters go through so much uncomfortable and messed-up situations with one another, that sort of feels phony in a way, when it gets resolved at the end. The way that Shelton has it all resolve was a good trick she pulls off very well, but it happened a little neatly and too clean, whereas I think some people wouldn’t let it be resolved exactly like that. I know I sound very vague, but that’s because I don’t want to really spoil the actual ending, even though I did like the final shot of this movie.

Consensus: Your Sister’s Sister may be a tad disappointing by the end, but still features a trio of performances that feel natural and realistic, a script (or lack thereof) that sounds like real people, actually having real conversations with one another, and when the film is all said and done, you feel like you know these people from the inside and out, and you can only wish them happiness for the rest of their lives.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012)

Always count on your big bro to make you feel less weird than you already are.

The film revolves around one man (Jason Segel) searching for the meaning of life while running to the store to buy wood glue. Using the universe as his guide, Jeff looks for signs to help determine his path. However, a series of comedic and unexpected events leads him to cross paths with his family in the strangest of locations and circumstances. Jeff just may find the meaning of his life… and if he’s lucky, pick up the wood glue as well.

The Duplass Brothers‘ last big film was ‘Cyrus’, a film that was strange and quirky but still had a nice heart to it and some pretty good laughs. It’s also the film that got these guys big and made people realize that they are an indie force to be reckoned with, however, I don’t think that they should be showing this one off if that is the case.

The film seems like a minor one because it just barely gets by a run-time of only 80 minutes and takes course over a single day but this is also a film that seems to show The Duplass Bros. stretching out their legs and seeing what they can do with a somewhat bigger budget. The plot here allows them to at least branch out a bit by having the whole thing take place outside and even let them pursue some action here although it’s not the kind you’re probably thinking of. Still, they have the same old hand-held camera style where its jumpy and constantly zooms in-and-out awkwardly on the characters. Their style of mumblecore works well for this flick because there are many moments where I felt myself laughing a bit but also feeling something for these characters and investing myself more and more into them. However, that only went so far.

Much of the script is improvised, exactly how the directors like it, and it adds this sort of genuine flow to the film that works but at the same time takes away from the flick. Since you have these two funny-as-hell actors up in front of us the whole time, you would expect them to make us practically howling out of our seats but instead, they just resort to yelling the F-bomb out of each other and getting in physical fights, physical fights that are actually a lot funnier than what either of them say. Usually these guys are hilarious and have me on the verge of tears but for some odd reason, everything they said just came off as either unfunny or totally flat. I guess Segel was just waiting for Kermit or Miss Piggy to pop-up.

The two different story-lines that these brothers have aren’t very interesting since their so damn simple. Jeff is just a pot smoking dope who lives in his mommy’s basement and barely ever comes out and Pat is a regular dude who seems to be having a marriage that is falling down to an impending doom. There’s nothing too special about either of these story-lines at all but what was pretty neat was the whole idea Jeff has behind that everything in the world is connected to each other in some way or another. It’s pretty cool to see how everything does come together here, just like it was supposed to in Jeff’s mind, but then that mumbo jumbo spiritual crap started to get redundant and made it get a bit annoying after awhile.

What was bad with this film though was that by the end, all of the “comedy” that we saw in the beginning of the flick starts to go away within the last 20 minutes and everything begins to get dramatic. And when I mean dramatic, I mean DRAMATIC. I don’t mind if a comedy is trying to show some of its heart and even a little bit of its love it has to give but it gets very cheesy, very quick and it just came across as melodramatic rather than natural. At least with the Duplass’ last flick, they at least were subtle about showing their soft side, this film just bares it all with the over-powering indie score and everything.

However, when it really came down to it, the performances from everybody involved is what really made this flick work in the end. Jason Segel is good as this goofy and very philosophical dope, Jeff, and the slacker that he always plays his roles with is here but this time it at least has more of a heart and soul this time; Ed Helms is good as Pat but was a little too deuchy for me at points but then again, that was pretty much how he was supposed to be so my point was pretty dumb; Judy Greer is once again great in her little role as the wife of Pat, Linda, who seems to be cheating on him and she has a couple of good scenes where she shows some real emotion and gets this film into its dramatic territory but there’s not enough of her here (then again though, when is there ever?); and Susan Sarandon plays Pat and Jeff’s mommy who actually has the most interesting story as she deals with a secret admirer in her work-place, but then her story sort of gets thrown into unbelievable material by the end and it kind of loses it’s fun feeling it had.

Consensus: Jeff, Who Lives at Home has some funny and touching moments much ado to the cast, but ultimately feels like a let-down from the Duplass Brothers considering how lazy the writing feels, how unfunny many parts, and just how damn dramatic everything gets by the end. It definitely makes me want to watch ‘Cyrus’ again and see what made that one way better than this flick.

5/10=Rental!!

Cyrus (2010)

Who doesn’t love their mommy?

John C. Reilly plays a divorced man who thinks he’s found just the right woman (Marisa Tomei) to help him recover and move on. Unfortunately, the woman’s son, played by Jonah Hill, has no interest in allowing another man into their lives — a stance he proceeds to demonstrate in a variety of obnoxious ways.

I had no interest in this film when it first came out since its done by Jay and Mark Duplass, aka the guys who started this whole “mumble core” movement, so therefore I had no real interest. Then of course HBO had to come on by and I couldn’t help myself.

The Duplass Brothers do a pretty good job with this film because they know how to balance out humor, heart, and romance together all well. There are funny moments in this film but there more about being all cringe-inducing and awkward, which didn’t bother me because it made it all feel realistic. I mean when a kid says “don’t fuck my mom” at the first din-din, that’s just a little weird, especially if you keep calling your mom by her fist name.

The problem I had with this film was that I did feel like I was going to throw-up by how much the Duplass Brothers’ moved their camera around all over the place. It constantly zooms in and out, and even gets out-of-focus at times too and feels like it’s trying too hard to be realistic and just be a straight-up indie film with it’s hand-held camera. I felt like I was watching Tony Scott going indie for a second, until I realized that this film is about a guy and his girl’s son having a feud, not a train–on-the-run or any high concept like that.

Another problem I had with this film was that I felt like a little bit of it meanders right in the middle for no reason and kind of loses focus with its weird pace. The film is constantly building and building until Cyrus is gone for about 15 minutes, and they we focus on this relationship and it just feels a tad off. I don’t know what it was but the middle part of this film just seemed oddly misplaced and could have done better.

I don’t know if this film really had a script by any chance, because it more or less just feels like The Duplass Brothers just got the whole cast together, told them where the film was going to go, and they just let everybody do their own thang, which I think worked. There are a lot of moments in this film that just had me laughing by how goofy and weird this plot could get and honestly I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was some crazy incest angle in it here either. The film isn’t afraid to express its weirdness, which is something you don’t see in many films nowadays, especially with big-names like this one. It’s weird but not too weird for anybody just to watch and enjoy.

John C. Reilly is great as the perfectly named, John, because he plays this sweet, tormented, and overall likable dude so well that he doesn’t seem like he’s doing the same ridiculous act over again, it’s more or less just him being the nicest guy you could ever see in a film. Jonah Hill is the freakin’ man as Cyrus, because he’s playing a lot more of a subtle role than we’re usually used to him playing but I have to say that it was great to see him play silent and weird, and still be very funny. Both are great together because they create this little feud that starts off small with a pair of John’s shoes getting taken but then spills out into them just about beating each other. Just the scenes of them two staring at each other and practically try to win over the same woman’s heart, definitely had me laughing and entertained by these two.

As for the ladies here, Marisa Tomei is very good as Molly. Tomei has been in the game for awhile and it never feels like she’s doing the same role all the time and she plays Molly with that certain type of broken, but accessible beauty character very well to the point of where you believe that her character could really feel this much for her son and her boy-toy. Catherine Keener isn’t really doing much as John’s ex-wife, Jamie but she’s fine with what she’s given. I kind of thought how weird it was that John and Jamie were still good pals even though she left him or something and I don’t know I feel like once you’re done, it’s done. No best friends thing.

Consensus: Cyrus suffers from some annoying indie problems, but it features a simple story with heart, awkward humor, and performances from the whole cast that feel genuine and perfectly picked for each of their characters.

7/10=Rental!!