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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 Ruffalo

Reservation Road (2007)

Still though, those little bastards gotta hurry their asses up off those buses!

Ethan and Grace Lerner (Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly) are more than happy with the way things have been going for their lives, but all of that happiness ends when their son gets killed in a hit-and-run accident. Even worse, the person in the car (Mark Ruffalo) who caused it, knows who they are, is still stuck with the guilt, and has yet to fess-up to what he’s done. That’s when Ethan decides to take matters into his own hands and figure out just who the hell is responsible for all of this pain and misery that has been inflicted on him and his family.

Even though the idea of watching a bunch of people go through grief and suffer through pain and agony doesn’t sound like the most exciting bit of an-hour-and-a-half I’d like to spend, you can never, ever go wrong with a cast like this. People know Phoenix to be the type of guy who takes rich and hearty-material that challenges himself, Ruffalo is always a guy that’s capable of taking anything the world throws at him and make it totally and completely work in his favor, and having Sorvino and Connelly round things out ain’t so shabby, either. So, the big question on your mind may be, “How the hell did all of this go wrong?”

My answer? “Script, man. Script.”

The main problem with this script is that even though it does pay attention to the problems its characters face on a day-to-day basis when it comes to dealing with their own levels of grief, the movie still feels the need to rush things up and make this almost like a type of thriller. That sounds all fine and dandy for people who want more than just a character-based story and want some action and excitement to go along with their tears and heavy-grieving, but for a movie like this where we essentially know what happened, who did what, and what the only way to end this could be, it’s a little silly and not all that thrilling. We know who killed the kid, who’s responsible, where this could go, and that this can only end in two ways, either death or imprisonment  so what the hell is all of the tension supposed to be there for?

Pictured: A guy who just got done thinking.

“Damn. Paparazzi.”

And it’s odd, because the tension in this movie is supposed to lie in the fact that everything this driver goes through in life, always has him ending up in one way or another, connecting with the kid’s family. For example, his ex-wife just so happens to be the kid’s sister’s music teacher that is totally superfluous to the plot, except to only include the always wonderful Mira Sorvino (more on her in a bit). Then, it gets even worse when Ethan decides to take the investigation into his own hands and get lawyers involved and in case you couldn’t tell where this is going, get ready, because guess what? The man who killed Ethan’s son, just so happens to be that lawyer he asks for help.

Shocked yet?

Anyway yeah, this movie is just chock full of coincidence-after-coincidence and they don’t seem to serve any other purpose to this story, other than to keep the audiences minds awake for when the flick decides to actually focus in on its characters. You could also argue that the flick only added in those thriller-elements to appeal to a larger-audience that wouldn’t really feel the need to venture out to some movie about a bunch of people crying and being sad all of the time, and if that is the case, well then that’s a damn shame because there is a lot of promise for this type of material to work, regardless of if it’s a mainstream, or indie production.

But regardless, it almost shouldn’t matter when you have a cast like this, because they’re supposed to be able to do no wrong. And that sort of happens, but not really. Joaquin Phoenix may seem a tad miscast at first as the grieving simpleton father of a suburban-family, but shows us differently when he unleashes those raw and honest emotions we always see in each and every one of his performances. You feel bad for the guy and you just want to give him a hug and tap on the back, whispering into his ear that “everything’s going to be alright.” It’s not Phoenix’s most daring role, but it was a true sign that he could play a normal, everyday dude.

Pictured: Sad actors

Pictured: Sad Actors

The same can definitely be said for Mark Ruffalo who never seems to phone-in a performance, no matter how crappy the movie may be, which is what happens here. Ruffalo is great as the driver that kills this boy and runs away without getting caught, because he makes you feel something for the guy, even though he is totally in the wrong, through-and-through. You can sort of see why a guy like him would run away from the punishment of being arrested, but after awhile, it does start to get a bit ridiculous that it hides this all for so long, and for all of the reasons that he apparently has to himself, as well. Still, Ruffalo prevails and shows why you can give him anything, and he can make it work.

Jennifer Connelly is simply used here to be another grieving character of the whole movie and does that very well. Connelly is always good in what she does and that’s why it’s so weird to barely see her around anymore, but it should always be noted that she’s a good actress, when the material is there. It’s sort of here for her, and sort of not, so it’s hard to fully judge her.

Oh and yeah, I previously mentioned Mira Sorvino and it isn’t because she does anything simply out-of-this-world with this movie (mainly because she isn’t given much to work with in the first place), but, without any type of spoilers or giving-away major plot-points (like it really matters), there’s this one scene with her and Ruffalo that is probably the most endearing and emotionally-truthful out of the whole movie, and it really took me by surprise. Rarely does this movie ever talk about how Sorvino’s and Ruffalo’s character used to be married and a loving-couple with one another, other than when they yell, fight, and argue with one other, but that one scene, that one moment between these two, not only made this movie just a tad better, but made me feel like there could have been so much more had they just dropped the whole death-of-the-kid angle and even went so far as to focus on Ruffalo’s character trying to actually get through the divorce and make ends meet. Sure, it’s not the movie we got, but man, I imagine wonders could have been made going down this road, especially with the always dependable Sorvino who, like Connelly, needs to be in more.

Much, much more. Come on, Hollywood!

Consensus: Even with a solid cast on-deck, Reservation Road can’t get its head together quick enough to where it fully works as a small drama about sadness and grief, or as a nail-biting thriller.

5 / 10

I guess he's going to start taking after his kid. Hayyoh! Okay, I'm done.

I guess he’s going to start taking after his kid now. Hayyoh! Okay, I’m done.

Photos Courtesy of: Focus Features

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Ride with the Devil (1999)

Ridin’s better than runnin’, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always follow Jewel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 / 10

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

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

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

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

David Blaine was more convincing.

After fleeing from the public eye, the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan) Dave Franco) have now decided to get back in the game of stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor, all for the beloved and mysterious “Eye”. However, they all land themselves in some deep water when a billionaire who’s money they once took (Daniel Radcliffe), wants them all to do another heist, but for him only. The Horsemen have no option, so obviously, they set out to make sure that the heist goes as perfectly planned as possible, even when there’s the unpredictable factor of magic around. Meanwhile, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is still trying his hardest to keep his disguise, while also trying to hatch together some sort of plan his own plot against Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a man whom he blames for the death of his dad, some many years ago. But eventually, he’s going to have to run into the Horsemen and help them get out of this sticky situation, alive, well, and still capable of performing tricks for the greater good of society.

Lead 'em, Jess-man.

Lead ’em, Jess-man.

The first Now You See me was fine. At the very least, it was a lazy summer blockbuster that used fancy, cool-looking visuals as a way to say, “Oh, wow. Magic!”, when, in reality, all they were doing was trying to hide the fact that there were no real believable plots or twists in their own story. Instead, they were just phony, but because they’re taking place within a story that features a bunch of people performing and acting out magic tricks, then yeah, fine, they don’t need to make any sense.

But honestly, that was the least of my problems with that movie and, to a greater extent.

While I can get over the sheer manipulation of their twists and turns, I can’t get over the fact that Now You See Me 2 has more characters than the first, but at the same time, still doesn’t develop any of them. And that’s a huge problem when you take into consideration that the characters from the first movie still have nothing to them other than, uh, well, that they’re “magicians” and uh, yeah, that’s about it. Sure, they all have backstory, but a personality other than snarky? Not really.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, had it not been for some of the great actors in these roles, these two movies, as well as the characters themselves, would just absolutely fail. No one really has anything going for them and because the actors themselves are so vibrant and fun to watch in almost everything else they do that isn’t this, it’s kind of hard not to feel disappointed. You know that almost everyone here is better than what they’re being offered, yet, they don’t seem to care about that fact; they’re getting paid, so why the hell should they better?

If anything, though, Now You See Me 2 does remind the world that Lizzy Caplan deserves every role offered to her, if only because she truly is the real deal. Even though a lot of the material handed to her is pretty bad, she handles it all so perfectly; she’s called on to be the smarty-pants, call-it-like-it-is character who says whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and to whomever she oh so pleases. It’s a role that she seemed pitch perfect for in Mean Girls, however, hasn’t done in quite some time. Thankfully, she gets a chance to do that here and shows that this isn’t just a man’s playground – sometimes, a woman has to come in and show everyone else up.

And yeah, everyone else is fine, too.

Harry's evil? Oh my!

Harry’s evil? Oh my!

Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, and Dave Franco all do what they did in the first and it’s what they always do best: Just read lines. Newcomers like Jay Chou and Daniel Radcliffe almost don’t matter, because the script seems to have so much going on at times, that when it comes time for them to actually matter to the plot, it’s hard to care. Chou himself feels like a shameless way of ensuring that Now You See Me 2 will be an international hit, whereas Radcliffe, bravely playing against-type, never seems serious or evil enough to play someone as twisted and sick as he’s made out to be here.

In fact, I’d say that’s how it is for the rest of the movie. Because everyone involved with Now You See Me 2 takes itself in such a jokey way, none of it ever registers as being a really gripping, emotional, or thrilling movie. That’s fine and all, if all you want to do is entertain people, without offering anything beneath the surface, but sometimes, you need an extra push or pull to make it work. Now You See Me 2 exists in a world where everyone follows each other with a joke about something that isn’t funny, or makes no sense, yet, no one seems to really care; they’re all just laughing, smiling and moving on with their day.

Once again, that’s fine, but Now You See Me 2 isn’t a really fun movie. There’s maybe one or two sequences that really work, but other than that, there’s just too much talking going on about stuff that nobody cares about, or has any clue of, and way too many surprises that make literally no sense. Yes, I know that’s the beauty of film, in how they can transport us to this world where realism and simplicity doesn’t exist, but seriously, I need to have some grasp on reality. It doesn’t need to be firm – it just needs to be there so that I’m reminded that once the movie’s over, I can go home and just sit down, wait and pray that they don’t announce a third movie.

Just please. No.

Consensus: Squandering an immensely talented cast, Now You See Me 2 is an obvious cash-grab with little-to-no personality, a confusing, almost nonsensical story, and a bunch of characters who, quite frankly, are hard to care about at all.

3.5 / 10

"Rain, rain go away, that's what all my haters say."

“Rain, rain go away, that’s what all my haters say.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)

As long as your dad is fun, who cares if he’s a little crazy?

Growing up, Amelia Stuart (Imogene Wolodarsky) had a lot to put up with. For one, her father, Cam (Mark Ruffalo), had a bipolar disorder that tended to make him awfully erratic, even though, deep down inside, he meant well. Though she, her father, her mother (Zoe Saldana), and her little sister (Ashley Aufderheide), were never poor, per se, they never quite had a lot of money either and always seemed to be living from paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s why, when her mother gets the grand idea of chasing her dream to become a lawyer so that she can take care of her family once and for all, she’s worried. They have no money, but mostly, that means that all of the family duties will be given to Cam – someone who can’t be trusted with a jar of peanut butter, let alone, two kids, a mortgage, a job, and a whole butt-load of other responsibilities. But still, with this knowledge, Amelia’s mom heads out to study anyway, leaving Cam to take over the role as a family-leader, which, of course, can have both its “good”, as well as its “bad”. But no matter what, through it all, the family tries to love each other and get past their issues, regardless of how big they may be.

Dad's can be so cool with their mid-life crisis polos.

Dad’s can be so cool with their mid-life crisis polos.

Thank heavens for Mark Ruffalo being in Infinitely Polar Bear. Without him, the movie would probably just be another one of those feel-good, earnest after school specials about families facing adversity, families taking on all sorts of challenges along the way of their journey to something, and at the end of it all, still coming out on top, happy, united and more in love than ever. That’s basically all of Infinitely Polar Bear in a nutshell and if anything, it sounds like it deserves a spot somewhere on the 4 o’clock block on Lifetime, rather than on the big screen, or whichever screen one decides to watch movies on nowadays.

Then again, there’s Mark Ruffalo who, basically, saves the day and then some.

As Cam Stuart, Ruffalo is clearly having a great time, but he doesn’t forget that there’s actually a heart and soul to this character that makes him work so well. Because Cam’s personality can border between “outrageous” to “chill”, it’s interesting to see Ruffalo play between both sides, but at the same time, still seem like the same person. Cam is clearly an intelligent character who has seen life, been through life and knows what to expect from it all, so it’s not hard to listen closely by and take note. Still, he’s not the old wise man in the room and instead, also likes to have a bit of fun and can sometimes be more spirited and exciting than his own daughters, both of whom can’t be any older than 13.

Even though the movie itself sort of gets mixed up in what exactly is causing Cam to act-out so much irrationally in the first place, Ruffalo stays honest, hilarious and most of all, heartfelt. He seems like the kind of dad we get in these types of movies where we know he’s a bit of an unintentional screw-up and can never change, but also means so well that it’s hard to hold anything against him. Some of this has to do with the writing for Cam, but most of it is definitely towards Ruffalo and his genuine likability that floats off the screen.

"Baby #3?

“Baby #3?

No wonder why he’s been nominated for a Golden Globe and is basically the only thing worth remembering here.

Okay, maybe that’s not totally true and just another case of me being utterly harsh on a movie that doesn’t fully deserve it. Zoë Saldaña plays the mother here and while she’s not around a whole lot to begin with, you still get the idea that she’s just waiting, watching in the background, ready for whenever her time is up to be called to the line of duty that is motherhood and raising a family. Her and Ruffalo have nice enough chemistry together too, that makes you believe they actually would get together, have sex a bunch of times, raise two kids together, and love one another enough not to get in the way of each other’s own, singular happiness. In a way, that’s how all people want their relationships to be, but so rarely get.

But other than these two performances, everything else about Infinitely Polar Bear is just frustratingly mediocre and light beyond belief. Writer/director Maya Forbes is clearly telling an autobiographical tale here and while it all seems realistic enough to be believed in, none of it ever really connects. For instance, we know that since Cam could go nuts at literally any second, we’re waiting for that moment to come, but for some reason, it never actually seems to. Instead, we just watch a bunch of scenes where Cam acts like a 12-year-old throwing a tantrum, where all he wants to do is hang out with kids his daughter’s ages and treat them to hot chocolate. In a way, yes, it sounds a bit weird, which it may have intended to be, but Forbes seems like she’s having a total ball telling this material again and it shows the whole way through.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Forbes wanting to tell her story of childhood in a lovely way, but still, it does take away a bit from the story when there’s no real dramatic-arc or any sort of conflict pushing it along. The only conflict here seems to be that Cam may, or may not snap, and is a bit weird – that’s about it. Everything else seems pretty cut-and-dry, which may not be something Forbes actually wants to hear about her own childhood, but how it plays out here, that’s exactly what it is.

Simple and relatively easygoing. Sorry.

Consensus: Ruffalo saves Infinitely Polar Bear from being a slightly sappy, overly-sweet tale about one family’s test of power and love, although neither of which actually get tested in any way, shape, or form.

5 / 10

Happiness exists in all families. So what makes yours so special?!?!

Happiness exists in all families. So what makes yours so special?!?!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spotlight (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There. I’m done.

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

9.5 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

More robots?

Since their big battle in New York City, the Avengers crew has been up to a lot; although, more often than not, they’re separated from one another, left to fend for themselves. Now, many years after their last team-up, the gang is back together and, for the most part, everybody seems to be the same. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still a snarky deuche; Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to keep everybody in line; the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is trying his hardest to control his temper and not lose all sense of control; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still kicking as much ass he possibly can; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is doing the same as Thor, except with her sheer beauty; and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is, well, still there. However, now with a new threat on their hands, inadvertently courtesy of Banner and Stark, the gang has to fight even harder than ever before, especially since they’re going up against new foes like Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), and perhaps more dangerous than they ever expected, Ultron (James Spader), a piece of artificial intelligence that nobody seems to be ready for.

"Quit crying, bro. We've got baddies to fight."

“Quit crying, bro. We’ve got baddies to brawl.”

The first Avengers was pretty much everything anybody who had been waiting four incredibly long years could have ever wanted. It was fun, hilarious, action-packed, and featured all sorts of fan boy moments that made not just the die hards happy and not taking their disapproval straight to the message boards, but also showed that, while this may have been the pinnacle of the Marvel franchise so far, it wouldn’t at all be the last outing. In fact, if there was anything at all spectacular about what Joss Whedon did with the first movie, was that he showed that there was plenty more life to be found inside of these characters, their stories, and what could come their way next.

And now, it’s time for the eventual sequel to that near-masterpiece of everything that’s right with superhero movies and there’s a slight feeling of disappointment. It’s not because Whedon messes up here and gets everything wrong; in fact, everything that Whedon does here, for the majority of it, is that he allows for the action to be as fun, as loud, and as energetic as possible, while also still allowing for us to see everything that’s happening where, when, and to whom. However, he never loses sight of what makes them kick so hard and as well as they do, and that’s the characters.

Yes, these are the same characters that we’ve spent so much time with already, but as you’ll see here, Whedon breaths some new life into them and allows us to see them in a light that we haven’t quite seen them in before: A vulnerable one.

See, what Whedon gets right here, as Guardians of the Galaxy showed us all last summer, is that these characters probably work best when they’re just hanging around with one another, shootin’ the shit, getting on each other’s cases, and overall, learning more than they ever thought they could. Because, as they’re getting to learn more about each other, we’re doing the same; which in and of itself, is not only interesting, but fun. We think we know these characters for all that they appear to be and then we see a certain conversation they have go a way they didn’t expect it to, and all of a sudden, something new is learned. There are many moments of that here and, due to reasons that can’t be disclosed, they feel more emotional and compelling, rather than just fine bits and pieces of filler.

Problem is, that once the filler comes around, it feels like it’s just around to take-up space.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad at a Marvel movie for offering all sorts of action it can come up with. However, I do get a tad bit ticked-off when it takes away from moments that could be spent, dedicated to more and more character development, where we feel like something is actually being accomplished, rather than just tacked-on so people don’t get bored quickly. Whedon does a fine job at putting in certain action sequences that go everywhere and anywhere that they want, with absolute reckless abandon and they’re fun to watch, it’s just that it sometimes feel like the wheels are spinning, but there’s nobody driving.

Things can blow up as much as they want, but when there’s general basis for them, then there’s a bit of a problem. Which, like I’ve said before, wouldn’t have been bad, had it been serviced by something of a plot that worked, or better yet, made some bit of sense. From what I can tell you, Ultron is bad and is capable of planting his subconscious into any robot-body it wants. This, for the most part, made sense to me, but then, for reasons I can’t understand as anything but “corporate excess”, Whedon throws a plethora of characters onto our plate where we’re wondering what they serve to the plot, what they’re all about, and whether or not they’re even worth our time.

Not saying that I have a problem adding in new characters, but when it eventually seems like too much, then you have the same sort of problem that a fellow superhero flick like Spider-Man 3 had. While that movie was definitely off a lot worse than this one, there’s something here that makes me think that all of the added-on characters and subplots, like some of the action, were all just filler; they weren’t to serve much of a purpose, other than to just distract the audience from what is a very confusing and nonsensical plot, and the fact that it could care less about developing the already-known characters a bit more.

"Me mad? But why? WAAH!"

“Me mad? But why? WAAH!”

This isn’t to say that the characters here don’t get some attention and care that they deserve. Above everyone else, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner gets the most development of the pack, where we see him not only tangle with his possible emotions for the likes of Black Widow, but his actual emotions as well. There’s been a lot said about the Hulk character in the past where he seems like too much of a supporting character that, when he’s given his own, single-picture, it doesn’t quite work as well as the others. If that is the case, then Whedon has done a true service to this character where we get enough of him to sense the danger, the sadness, and the actual thrill within this character that people always want to see.

Everybody else that isn’t the Hulk, though, sort of get the short-end of the stick.

One of the more genius aspects surrounding the newly-recruited Scarlet Witch’s character is that she’s able to dig into anybody’s deepest, darkest and most painful secrets imaginable, and with that power, comes plenty of glimpses into some of these character’s heads that are not only disturbing, but pretty sad. For example, Cap’s and Thor’s memories are all about how they miss the people they let-down and left behind, whereas with Black Widow’s, we see her horribly violent up-bringing that makes you wonder just how far she’s willing to go with these missions, where she runs the risk of losing herself. These small glances are what help make these characters all the more compelling to watch and root for, however, there comes a point where it seems to just be used as a way to make us think that the odds are fully stacked-up against the Avengers’ crew.

And while that may most certainly be true with the likes of the absolutely dangerous and intimidating Ultron, the fast, furious and cocky Quicksilver, and the previously mentioned Scarlet Witch, it seems unneeded. It’s almost as if Whedon wanted to jump inside these character’s heads, and jump out as soon as quickly before the going got too heavy. This definitely puts it a step-up above most of the summer blockbusters that are constantly thrown at us left and right, however, it also feels like a teaser for something that’s deeper than what any of us expect.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why the small hints, Joss? Give us it all!

Consensus: As far as superhero blockbusters go, Avengers: Age of Ultron is as action-packed, exciting and as fun as you’d expect it to be, however, some of it is starting to feel repetitive now, especially since there’s more to be unraveled about these characters and what we do get, works so damn well.

8 / 10

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Foxcatcher (2014)

If this is about wrestling, where are all the tables, ladders, and chairs?

After winning gold at the 1984 Olympic Games, pro wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) doesn’t seem to have much going on in his life. He sort of just lugs around his house, eats Ramen like a barbarian, and continuously trains with his older, much more well-known brother, David (Mark Ruffalo). That all changes though once Mark gets a call from a very wealthy man by the name of John du Pont (Steve Carell) who would not only like to meet Mark, but go so far as to train with him and a few others in preparation for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Mark finally feels like he’s wanted and appreciated for his talents, so therefore, he and du Pont strike up something of a friendship, which often times, sometimes dives into seriously dark places. That’s fine though, so long so as Mark and John are together and happy. But it all changes once again when David comes around to help coach the team and this is when things start to get a bit tense for all parties involved. All up until, of course, they reach their tragic breaking point.

So, if none of you out there have ever heard of any of these real-life people, then have no fear, I won’t spoil the outcome or the intricacies of this story. Instead, I’ll just beat around the bush as much as possible, but I can assure, it doesn’t matter either way. I’ve researched this story long and hard many times throughout my life that even though I knew exactly what happened to each person by the end of this story, I still didn’t care and was constantly on-edge just about the whole time. And also, I just stopped caring and decided to pay attention to what’s on the screen in front of me because, quite frankly, nearly everything about this movie deserves your time and undivided attention.

That nose though.

That nose though.

Most of that’s because the cast is so damn stellar (more on that in a little while), but it’s also because director Bennette Miller knows how to choreograph his movie in such a perfect way, that every scene, every lingering shot, every piece of info that’s slightly thrown at us for us to catch, is worth thinking about and adding up to what the whole final product means. Because honestly, when you’re watching Foxcatcher, you’re not watching a director tell you what his movie’s about; rather, a director who is laying bits and pieces of it out on a large table, gives you a fork and a knife, and lets you just pick up whatever it is you want from it. These are the kind of subtle pieces that hardly ever get made nowadays, and even if they do, they’re hardly seen by more than a few hundred or so people that aren’t cool, got-there-first hipsters, which is why for about the whole two hours of it, I couldn’t stop paying attention.

Once again, this is mostly because of Miller’s direction. Some may say it’s slow, but from my perspective, it seemed deliberate in a way as to get us in the right mood for what was to eventually come of these characters, and the resolution of their times together. It’s not a pretty story here, folks, and if you can’t handle that, then go check out Frozen or something!

But, like I originally promised, I won’t dive into what this story ends up being about, or even how it ends; mostly, I’ll just talk about what makes it work and that’s pretty much everybody involved. I’ve talked plenty about Miller here and I still don’t think I’ve fully hit the nail on the head with it: It’s a very subdued, but artfully crafted direction. Miller doesn’t tell us everything we need to know up front and hardly ever over-does it with the development; he just gives us glimpses of these people, their interactions together, and how it makes them who they are. Would I have liked a little bit more clarification on a few ideas presented in this movie? Of course, but I mostly feel like the reason Miller held back a bit from diving deeper and deeper into these character’s relationships with one another, is not to just offend the main producer of this movie (who also happens to be Mark Schultz), but because it would have nearly been too much to show us, the audience. Keeping it hidden in whispers and emotional stares was perfect enough for Miller to do, and it’s what I found most satisfying.

And if any of you out there are reading this, I think you’ll have a clear idea of what I’m speaking about and won’t go into any more detail about. Because, honestly, what’s suggested is pretty creepy, but then again, so is the rest of this movie.

Which also brings up another point made about so many movies, which is, “Is it enjoyable?”.

Well, my answer to that fine, fine question would be, “No, not really. But it doesn’t really need to be either.” Grim, chilly character-dramas such as this don’t need to throw us a bone here and there to excite things – all it needs to do, and do well, is present us with enough meat in its story and its characters to keep us gripped from the beginning, all the way to the end. If it can do that, then I’m fine with there being no explosions, car-chases, or warfare. Would I like it? Sure, why not. But this isn’t that type of movie and it’s why I think I loved it so much, and haven’t been able to get it out my noggin since the last time I saw it, some few weeks ago.

Anyway though, I know I’ve been avoiding them for quite some time, but I might as well get it out of the way now and say that I hope the trio of leads in this movie get at least a nomination for each of their own, respective pieces of work they put in here. If they win, that’s even better, but honestly, judging by how rigged the Academy is, a nomination would suffice, especially considering how strange these casting-choices are.

First of all, I know having Mark Ruffalo play the honest, earnest, and down-to-Earth dude isn’t a huge surprise to see in a movie, but he’s not the one I’m speaking of. It’s actually Channing Tatum and Steve Carell in two very dark, dramatic, and nearly humorless roles that really shocked the hell out of me. Not just by how effective they were in the roles, but because I hardly saw them as their celebrity, and more of just them as who they were playing. Which, yes, I know may not be saying much, but when you have somebody as recognizable as Tatum is, hardly ever cracking a smile and keeping a straight-face for nearly the whole duration of a film, it’s hard to see it is a “true, bonafide piece of acting”, and more of “an actor trying way too hard to be taken seriously”.

That could have easily been the case here, but because both Tatum and Carell are amazing here, they sink into their roles and hardly ever make it apparent to your mind that these two are most known for their abilities to make a crowd laugh or happy, rather than scared and miserable. Though it’s definitely easier for Carell to disappear into his role as du Pont, what with the stellar nose-job the make-up department’s given him, it still doesn’t matter much because the guy is downright terrifying in this role. We’ve definitely seen Carell do dramatic before, but never as dark and as eerie as it is done so here, and he absolutely commands your attention every time, but without ever begging or pleading for it. The camera just simply lingers on his eyes, the way he tilts his head, sinks into his chairs, and even by the way he awkwardly carries himself from room-to-room, seeming like he’s trying to fit in with the rest of the macho-group around him, but is actually so ill-equipped in doing so, that he’s practically another fish-out-of-water. If anything, this is where Carell gets most of his laughs from, but only because he’s so good in this role that the creepiest things du Pont does over the course of the movie, somehow takes on a ridiculous-view and you can’t help but laugh.

Same goes for Tatum playing the big, muscular lug that is Mark Schultz. In fact, it’s quite a fun role for Tatum, considering that we know he can practically do no wrong now, but him playing a full-and-out meathead, who sometimes borders on the verge of being autistic, is something different and even strange. However, he makes it work so well by just using his physical-prowess and allowing us to feel sorry for this person; we know that he’s clearly vulnerable and wanting to make a name for himself, so it’s obvious that the first guy who comes his way with arms wide open, he’ll fall right into with and hail as his best friend. It’s actually quite sad, really, but what makes it all the more disturbing is how good Carell and Tatum are together.

"Schultz brothers, unite!!"

“Schultz brothers, unite!!”

Sometimes, the friendship gets so strange, you wonder just what the hell exactly this movie is trying to get across about it, but for the most part, the movie’s just basically showing us two actors at the top of their games, and absolutely getting into their character’s mind-set, without any frills attached. It’s wonderful to see these two act together on-screen, but it’s even better to see both of them constantly growing as acting powerhouses in their own rights and it keeps me excited and optimistic for what’s next to come of them in the future.

As for Ruffalo, like I said before, he’s perfect at what he does as David Schultz – he’s told to play this really normal, mellowed-out guy and it’s effective. Which isn’t just because Ruffalo’s great in the role (though he totally is), but because he’s the only sense of normalcy we actually get in this whole piece. With Mark Schultz, you get this battered, awkward, and self-conscious muscle-bound freak that doesn’t really know what to do or say in any situation that comes his way that doesn’t involve wrestling, and with John du Pont, you get this grown up, spoiled, rich kid who just wants to prove to his disapproving mom that he can do something with his life and make her proud. Those two combined are as wacky as you can get, so to get some sort of voice of reason at all, is an absolute blessing. To get it from none other than Mark Ruffalo himself, one of our finest actors working today, it’s a treasure to behold.

Put them altogether, you got three amazing performances in a movie that deserved them all.

Consensus: Dark, chilly, atmospheric, and downright disturbing, Foxcatcher may not quite be the pick-me-up one might expect to see during the holidays, but if you want to witness some of the best performances of the year, then it’s definitely worth a watch and plenty of thinking-space.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I told you, stop dancing already and wrestle!"

“I told you, stop dancing already, and wrestle!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Begin Again (2014)

Just pick up anything and play! But don’t forget to cover something from Frozen. That seems to be the “hip” thing to do nowadays.

After Dan (Mark Ruffalo) gets dropped from the music label he helped build, the man dives into a bit of a drunken-stooper. And somewhere along the night, he ends up in a bar where he hears a song being performed by a small, rather sweet British gal by the name of Greta (Keira Knightley). Though the people around him don’t really think much of her song and only use her as background music, Dan sees, hears and feels potential, which is why he doesn’t hesitate a single second to get her information right after the performance. Though she’s a bit reluctant to start diving right into recording and all that, Greta eventually gives in and Dan finds any which way he can, with anybody he can find with enough time on their hands, to help him record at least two or three songs of Greta’s own doing. But both of their troubled-pasts may come back to haunt them if they aren’t lucky enough, especially in Greta’s case where her ex-boyfriend (Adam Levine), also just so happens to be the hottest and coolest, up-and-coming talent out there in the mainstream today.

After finally seeing Once and really enjoying all that it set out to be, I must say, I was relatively excited for another movie in which John Carney would be jumping back into the world of musicals. However, where as that movie was a small, intimate musical that looked as if it had been made for a dime and a Big Mac, this one is a lot larger, broader and definitely with a bigger-budget. All that aside though, all that matters is that the songs are not only catchy, but actually good and feel like they build to something more than just a couple of neat hooks here and there. There has to be emotion, there has to be feeling, and most of all, there has to be inspiration for the songs we hear and the reason for which they exist.

You know it's true love when they start taking selfies together.

You know it’s true love when they start taking selfies together.

A sort-of musical that comes to my mind is Inside Llewyn Davis which, through the songs played by that titled-character, we got a glimpse into who he was and what it was that he felt as a person. Sure, the songs themselves were catchy and well-constructed, but there was so much more heart and soul put into them, that it felt like a person really letting us know who he was, rather than some dude who is trying to be heard on the radio. You know, not like the songs that we have here.

And yes, that is to say that most of the songs here are catchy, in that, as soon as I left the theater, I was humming the tunes to the songs, but totally forgot about them as soon as I got into my car and hooked up my iPod to the aux. But that’s also to say the songs never really feel like they’re giving you more information about these characters than we already know, or have heard alluded to before. Save for the opening-track that Greta plays about feeling lost and abandoned in the Big Apple, which actually gives us a clear view into who this character is and why it is she feels this way. Every other song, though entertaining to listen to for the time being, don’t really have much of an impact.

Which, for a movie that prides itself on its love for music and the thrill one gets when they are in the act of creating something, is definitely a disadvantage. Especially considering that with his previous-musical, Carney was able to construct something sweet and everlasting that could be connected with, even if you weren’t a musician to begin with. Here, it feels like in order to really connect with any of these characters, or what it is that they’re making, you have to at least have some foot in the door of music, or else it may not matter much to you whether or not they all end up getting a record deal at the end.

Also not to mention that Carney is extremely sentimental here with his script; it’s the conventional story of a girl, fighting all against the odds stacked up against her trying to make it big, while the man she’s investing her future in is still suffering from his divorce and the disconnect he feels with his daughter. If you’ve heard of that plot-line before, don’t worry, so have I and Carney continuously milks it for all that he’s got, even if he knows he’s soaking up in the sap. Which can be fine if there’s more sentiment added onto the sap, but here, we get some thinly-written characters who are here to just service the plot, aka, “the jams”, baby.

"Who needs that mainstream crap like producing an album in a studio?!? Fresh air is all you need, man!"

“Who needs that mainstream crap like producing an album in a studio?!? Fresh air is all you need, man!”

Which wouldn’t be such a problem with most movies, but when you have a cast this stacked, it makes you wonder just how nice that paycheck was looking. Mark Ruffalo is okay as Dan and has some nice one-liners, but feels like he’s too amped-up on coffee most of the time, which is rather strange considering he’s supposed to be playing a down-and-out bum with a drinking problem; Keira Knightley is given more to do as the meek and kind Greta, while also showing off her mighty fine pipes which service these songs for what they are; and Hailee Steinfeld for what seems like the umpteenth time I’ve seen her playing an angst-fueled, angry teenage girl that clashes with all adults around her, does a nice job and shows that she’s one of the better, brighter talents out there.

The one who actually surprised the hell out of me here was Adam Levine as Greta’s ex-boyfriend who, believe it or not, cheats on her and leaves her for a big career in music, where he loses his identity and even grows a big, hip beard. Sound like somebody you know? Anyway, what’s so good about Levine here is that while it could have been quite easy for him to just play his normal deuchy-self, the guy does well showing us a true character that not only loves his girlfriend, but actually wants to see what this whole rock ‘n roll lifestyle is about. In a way, he feels more human than anybody else here which, I imagine for most significant-others for other big-time musicians out there, may in fact be terrifying.

Consensus: Light, frothy and pleasant for its near-two hour run-time, Begin Again may not ask much of its audience except to just enjoy the numerous songs it plays, which, depending on the kind of viewer it’s speaking towards, may or may not be enough.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Hide the cone. Don't want Dairy Queen calling its lawyers up.

Hide the cone. Don’t want Dairy Queen calling its lawyers up.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Normal Heart (2014)

AIDS are bad, m’kay.

During the early 1980’s, numerous homosexual men were being infected with a certain disease that barely anybody knew anything about, except for that it was lethal and that many more people were dying from it, each and every day. Eventually, some homosexual men, whether they be closeted or as “out” as they come, decided to start up a group called the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, which would bring attention to this deadly disease that would come to be known as AIDS, or HIV. One man in particular, former-journalist Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) took matters into his own hands on numerous occasions by publicly going on television, bad-mouthing the government for not paying close enough attention to this disease and doing whatever it is that they could to stop it from killing almost anyone and everyone it infects. However, as the group begins to get closer and closer to figuring out a deal with the government to increase funding for these studies/tests to be done, Ned finds himself in even more hot water with the rest of the group, as not all of them feel as if it’s their duty to be out there fighting and never giving up. Some just want to wait and see what happens next; something Ned doesn’t want to do, considering those closest to him are dying as each and every second goes by.

Though I myself am a straight-man, I have seen quite a number of AIDS-related documentaries high-lighting the troubles and tribulations that most homosexual men and women were, and still are, facing when it comes to getting what it is that they need to stay alive and beat the disease, if that’s even possible. By now, it’s almost become hammered into my head that, for those people who were apart of that movement and were in fear for their lives, it was a terrible time and one that most straight-men or women would have not a single clue knowing about. And that’s true, which is why I don’t pretend to act as if I know everything about what a homosexual goes through on a daily basis; it’s just not fair and personally, it doesn’t seem like it should matter.

Born in the U.S. and gay!

Born in the U.S. and gay!

We’re all humans, after all, regardless of who we like to go to bed with, right?

And while that’s definitely a stance that’s become more and more popular within our society as the generations change, it’s still not a notion that everybody feels comfortable with admitting to believe in, nor do they ever feel comfortable admitting just how truly scared they can be of the idea of homosexuals being all around them. For some people, it doesn’t matter whatsoever and is just another simple, walk-in-the-park; but for others, it’s absolute hell that makes people want to run away back into their safe, little hiding places where they can’t be a witness to any of those “un-Holy acts” being committed. I’m not one of those people, but there totally are plenty still out there and it should be noted that this will seemingly never go away.

Anyway, what brings me to this film is that with the Normal Heart, I felt like everything was a tad too familiar; not just that the story has been done before, but the total act of despair and loneliness that these homosexual men must have felt during this period. I’ve seen it documented in plenty of other films before, whether they be narratives or documentaries, and personally, seeing a movie in which many very-handsome, talented people had to act everything out, just seemed like it was going to be a trip down depressing-lane.

And for the most part, it was, but I think it needed to be in order to get its point across. You can’t have a story told like this that’s all bright, sunny and happy, when the idea is that thousands and thousands are dying, and nobody is doing a single thing about it. It’s a very sad story that needed to be told in the darkest way possible, without an ounce of any sentimentality; which is probably why it’s a good thing it was released on HBO and not on some channel like Lifetime or even Hallmark. For the most part, it would have all been watered-down as to not to offend anyone and it definitely wouldn’t be able to dig deep into some of its most disturbing, darkest moments when trying to get the point of its story across.

Which is definitely to pass all of that credit onto director Ryan Murphy, who definitely seems like he wants to tell this story straight from the heart, no strings attached. Sure, there’s a couple of moments that are a bit too stylized for its own good and sort of take away from the overall impact of this story, but you can clearly tell he wants to tell this tale and put all of his might into it. Better yet, it’s a way better movie than any of his past films to date (Running with Scissors, Eat Pray Love), so I have to congratulate on doing that.

However, there’s one thing about this movie that’s really keeping me away from praising it so damn highly, and that’s because a lot of it does feel like a long-winded, two-hour-plus preach after awhile. Which I guess makes sense when you consider the fact that this is adapted from a stage-play of the same name, but still made this whole thing feel a bit tacked-on whenever, say, a certain character or two would be exclaiming their feelings to others; rather than it feeling genuine and like how someone would actually speak to another person, it just seemed like a person ranting the best way possible. That makes sense too, considering that this movie is on the same side of homosexuals, but it soon made me think that there wasn’t a real story here, and instead, just a bunch of scenes in which people yelled about how they aren’t getting treated fairly and so desperately need to be.

For a better, more clearer example, I’d choose the character of Ned Weeks himself. Weeks is supposed to be this loud-mouth dude that loves to start trouble wherever he goes, because he sees it as him “fighting for what it is that he believes in”; not just pertaining to homosexual problems either, just anything with life in general. Weeks is all about fighting and never giving up, even when it seems like people are really tossing the mud in his face and screwing him over even more. This usually would make him an inspirational-figure in any movie, but here, he’s always constantly yelling, hollering and going off about how he’s fighting and nobody else doesn’t seem to.

The movie sees this as his down-fall, not just as a character, but as a person, and while it definitely gives Mark Ruffalo plenty of meat to chew on, it doesn’t really do wonders for his character. It seemed like whenever there was a time for us to learn a lesson, it was usually through Ruffalo and his lungs, without us ever having to dissect something for ourselves. Like I said before though, Ruffalo is good in the role, it’s just that he has a fairly one-note performance where all he has to do is holler at somebody and let us know that, “Guys, this AIDS stuff is some serious business.”

Got some marker on your right cheek there, bud.

Got some marker on your right cheek there, bud.

Julia Roberts’ hard-nosed, yet totally-determined doctor character goes through the same sort of motions as well, but not nearly as obvious as Ruffalo’s. Still though, it’s lovely to see her doing something different with her career that has her acting as mean as she could possibly be, but at the same time, still not letting us forget what makes her so charming in the first place. Same goes for Jim Parsons who gets to take a breath of fresh air for a bit from his Sheldon act and play everything a lot more serious than we’re so used to seeing him play. Yet, he’s also still funny and brings a lot of the more light-hearted moments to the screen, which is something this movie was clearly in desperate need of.

Matt Bomer is also great as Weeks’ boyfriend, Felix, who believably falls in love with him and sets up some very emotional-ground for the later-part of the movie when the AIDS epidemic gets even harsher; Taylor Kitsch shows us all that he’s back to actually “acting” once again and putting himself in some roles that challenge him, not only as a pretty-boy, but as an actor in general; the always great Alfred Molina plays Weeks’ brother and has to battle whether or not he considers himself an equal as his brother, or better-off because he isn’t “gay”; and Joe Mantello has a great scene that really hit me hard as one of the members of this group that just can’t help it anymore that he’s being looked at as the bad guy for continuing his day-job during the morning, and at night, still coming around to help out with the cause.

All of the performances are great and nobody here really tears down the whole ship, it’s just that with more-subtle writing, who knows what could have happened.

Consensus: While most of the Normal Heart feels like familiar-ground being covered again, the fine cast and Ryan Murphy’s stylistic-choices as director make it an emotional trip that still feels relevant in today’s society. Just wished it didn’t blatantly say the same thing, over a hundred times in a row.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Screw your male-on-female relationships! That's love right there!

Screw your male-on-female relationships! That’s love right there!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Thanks For Sharing (2013)

If I was a sex addict and Gwyneth Paltrow wanted to bang me, do I really have to say “no”? Can’t I at least get one pass or something?

Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is a sex addict who’s been that way for quite some time and finds it a step-by-step process everyday. That means no jerking off, porn, television, internet, nothing. He can’t even have girlfriends, and if he can, he doesn’t really find them coming his way due to his lack of sex. However, when the fun and vibrant Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes strolling through, Adam’s stuck with the challenge of staying true to his intentions guide-lines, while also pleasuring her in the best ways possible, even if that does mean sexual. However, this isn’t just all about Adam’s recovery, it’s also about two other dudes that join him on a day-to-day basis in meetings and getting through recovery as well. Mike (Tim Robbins) is still trying to live with the fact that he’s gotten his wife (Joely Richardson) through a sexually-transmitted disease, while also trying to build back the relationship with his son (Patrick Fugit), whereas Neil (Josh Gad) doesn’t take this “recovery” as serious, and begins to find himself in some trouble with the law if he doesn’t partner-up with somebody and get help from them.

I know that sex addiction is a real problem that people in this world struggle with, day in and day out, but I can’t feel like the media establishes it as something of a joke. Anytime you ever hear of a celebrity get caught cheating (mainly a male), the excuse is always being a sex addict, and everybody hears it as fact, not thinking that that said celebrity who just caught philandering around, wasn’t just a sleeze-ball. Makes you think about all of those REAL people out there, who are REALLY going through with this problem with sex addiction, but so be it. That’s how the media’s always going to portray it, and there’s no sense in me bitching about it.

"I swear honey! It was my sister posting some funny pictures of her half-naked, in a bikini, on Facebook. Like it's my feed! I can't help it!"

“I swear honey! It was my sister posting some funny pictures of her half-naked, in a bikini, on Facebook. Like it’s my feed! I can’t help it!”

However, what I can bitch about is this movie, and its portrayal of that same sex addiction that’s so prevalent in so many people’s lives out there, which feels like it’s respectable, but isn’t doing it much justice either. What I did like about this film right off the bat was how it showed that going through a recovery is a joint-group effort that isn’t done through one lonely person, it’s done through everyone that that person reaches out to and asks for help. Hell, sometimes those people don’t even reach out for a lending hand, sometimes it just comes to them. It’s basic, pure instinct and I think that’s what I liked so much about this movie’s message.

Whenever we see any movie about addiction (sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.) we always see one person, sad, lonely, wanting love and help, but never getting it. However, with this movie, we see a group of people having to deal with this problem everyday of their lives, and trying their best to get through it all, in one piece and their right mind-set still intact. Makes you feel all warm, cozy, and happy inside, knowing that whatever it is that you’re going through, you aren’t alone in it.

But then again though, the message can be a bit hokey if you think about the actual addiction itself: Sex addiction. it’s not a pretty thing, and if Shame is any indication to the sorts of limits it will drive a person to, you can be sure as hell certain that if you become one, you’re going to be fucked (literally, and figuratively). That’s why, although I liked how the film showed its group of addicts going through this problem together, at the end of the day, it feels too wholesome and clean for something that can be so dirty, raunchy, and downright nasty. Then again, I’m just basing this all off of my own opinions of what sex addiction is, and what Shame presented to me, so if I’m wrong, please do let me know.

Though it’s not even the whole “feel-good” vibe that surrounds most of this movie that bothered me, it was more that the tone was just so off and never able to find its own groove. Moments that seem like they should be funny in an over-sexxed, over-the-top way, end up being a little sadder than they should be; and the scenes that are supposed to be all melodramatic and serious, sort of come off as a bit corny. The movie never really knows what it wants to be, so instead, it just sets itself somewhere in the middle of a light-hearted comedy, and dark, addiction melodrama, with bits and pieces of motivation thrown in there for good measure. It bothered me more than I expected it to, and really took away from the important message at the center of it all that I’ve already alluded to more times than I probably should have. You get what I’m saying though. No reason to reiterate.

The only way this movie is saved in any way, is through its ensemble that work their rumps off with the mediocre script they were so sadly given. Mark Ruffalo is good as Adam, however, the only reason the character’s any ounce of interesting, is because Ruffalo makes him that way. We never really get much information on his past, why he is the way he is now, and whether or not that had any effect on his love life back in the day. We don’t even get mentions to it, which made it somewhat feel like this character was just thrown in and used as the lead character because Ruffalo’s a more than capable actor. Poor guy, deserves so much better. And hell, I could probably say the same thing about Gwyneth Paltrow who, for what it’s worth, is actually very good and fun to watch on screen. In fact, I’d say that the chemistry between her and Ruffalo is so good, that I probably would have not had a problem with seeing them in their own movie, with or without the sex addict-angle. They’re fun, light, jumpy, and bring out the best in one another.

Yeah, cause you want a haircut from THIS.

Yeah, cause you want a haircut from THIS.

Somewhere, Tony Stark is blowing steam out of his ears.

Tim Robbins is also pretty good in one of his best roles in awhile as Mike, the older, more seasoned guy that’s been down this addict road many of times, understands what it can do to one person, and how it affects the ones you love. Robbins is good, even if his character’s interactions with Adam can be a bit awkward, especially since it seems like they’re on the verge of making-out almost every time they’re together. Even Mike’s son makes a reference to that, and leaves them both shocked and upset, but seriously, if only they saw the way they were hand-shaking. Some seriously “unbroish” stuff going on there, man.

Josh Gad is, once again, playing that obnoxious, over-weight, Jewish, creepy dude that can’t seem to ever get laid for the life of him, but yet, still tries to do so. Gad’s good at it, don’t get me wrong, I just wish people would throw more roles his way that weren’t so one-note, and maybe a bit more humane. However, I have to give him and Alecia Moore, aka Pink, a lot of credit for handling their chemistry so well, and making it seem like they really could be besties, even under the circumstances presented in front of them. Good for them, and good for her, because’s she actually pretty good as an actress. Makes me forget all about that annoying “So What” song that every girl in grade-school sang at the top of her lungs! God, grade-school, such an eternity ago.

Consensus: The message behind Thanks For Sharing may be a little lighter than what you’re used to with most movies about addiction, and for that reason, it’s tone is very off, even if the cast does what they can to keep it all together without having it fall apart.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Secretly, he's thinking of Mark. Hence the "from behind" action.

Secretly, he’s thinking of Mark. Hence the “from behind” action.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Now You See Me (2013)

Imagine if David Copperfield, David Blaine, and Criss Angel got together to rob a bank. It would never happen.

They are known as The Four Horsemen, and they are made up of four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco), who have found themselves in some hot water, after being considered suspects in a bank-robbery that occurred in France, while they were taking bunnies out of hats in Las Vegas. However, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) doesn’t believe this shite and along with his rookie Interpol investigator (Melanie Laurent) and well-known magic debunker (Morgan Freeman), they band together and figure out what is real and what isn’t. But in the world of magic: what you see, isn’t always something you can believe. Or, is it? Who the fuck knows!

Movies about magicians are sort of like real-life ones: they’re interesting in the way that you want to see what they pull off, how they pull it off, and where all the time and effort comes into play. Add that with a whole crime-caper aspect, and you got yourself something that might just be a bit of a winner, in terms of the audience and the box-office. But after awhile, like most magic tricks you see in real life, once the secret is revealed; you believe in certain things, and you don’t believe in others. It’s all a matter of time until the cracks begin to show, and that is exactly what goes down with this movie.

But hey, at least it starts out fine and dandy, for the most part. What was surprising the most about this flick is that how after the first 25 minutes, instead of having all of our attention and eyes locked onto the Horseman, we then find ourselves watching and following the story of the cop who’s trying to figure out just what the hell they did. Some will be surprised, some will be pissed, some will think it’s a clever-way of presenting the twists, and some will just be content. Overall though, it was a smart move on the movie’s part, because it puts us in the dark about what really happened, almost as much as it puts the cop himself in as well.

Like her real-life hubby: she's fucking with everybody.

Like her real-life hubby: she’s fucking with everybody.

Once this part of the story gets going, then things get a bit conventional with the typical, “cops-and-robbers” film that we have seen all of the time, except now: WITH MAGIC! It is interesting to see how these peeps pulled off have of these tricks and what expenses they went to in order to make them happen, but the problem I had the most was that it just didn’t all add up. I’m not one of those guys who gets crazy about a movie that has to deal with sci-fi, the powers that be, or some sort of mystical powers some person might have, because I know it’s all made for the purpose of being somewhat fake and unrealistic, but here; it felt like a cheat. That’s all thanks to Louis Leterrier who doesn’t seem like the type of director I’d trust with this material, since the guy isn’t really known for his smart, tricky moves.

But what the guy is known for, is mainstream film making, and that shows so evidently because of the way he is able to constantly mess with our minds by doing quick-cuts, fast-editing, and non-stop music blasting throughout the whole thing, as if we were at a rave, popped-up on some of the finest X (I could have only wished). By doing all of this, Leterrier is trying to distract us into thinking that everything that is being revealed to the characters and us, is reasonable and believable in a world where magicians are the top, money-makers of the world. As much as it may work on the average, movie-going audience, it did not work on this cynical, d-bag film critic.

Once the reveals are (ahem) revealed, we see what this movie is trying to throw down our throats and trying to make us believe in, but it doesn’t work because not a single bit of it seems like it could have actually happened, real-life or not. The Horseman start off as magicians that can pull off some neat tricks and whatnot, but after awhile, we see that they are more or less a bunch of meticulous planners that knew exactly what they wanted to do, at what time, when, who, where, and how, but it rarely makes sense once we see it all. However, Leterrier isn’t too concerned with that and instead; just wants to entertain the hell out of us with his spastic direction that honestly never seems to take a chill pill. Even when two peeps are just talking, Leterrier seems bored and almost like he needs to get going, or his dosage of ADD meds will ware down and he’ll have to take another five.

And entertained is what we are for the most part, but when the entertainment-value is mostly based on what we believe in, and the tricks the movie plays on us; then it gets a bit sour and unbelievable. I’m usually down for any movie that wants to give us a bunch of twists and not always giving us the right clues to set our minds straight, but it has to be done in an understandable manner, that doesn’t seem just to be used for mind-fucking us. Even the ending itself is a bit of a mind-fuck, if only for the fact that it seems preposterous, even after all of the time that we spent with these characters, this plot, and this heck-of-a-mystery.

At least the ensemble is amazing, right? Well, sort of. Nobody in the cast really sucks the wind out of the movie and brings it down by the antlers, except for Leterrier who seems to have an awesome cast of characters on his plate, yet, doesn’t know what to do with them so instead, just gives them a bunch of two-dimensional characters, lets them play around, and hope that they do the job he was supposed to be doing in the first place. Maybe it’s not such a bad strategy for some directors, but when you have a cast this good and a plot this interesting, you need more, more, more! Come on, Louis!

"See this card? Next second, it won't be there due to our impressive usage of CGI."

“See this card? Next second, it won’t be there due to our impressive usage of CGI.”

Jesse Eisenberg is a good fit as the egotistical, cocky leader of the Four Horseman who obviously seems to know it all and have more confidence on display than we have ever seen from him before; Isla Fisher is sweet, sexy, and sassy as his former-assistant, who seems to be more of the brains of the group, rather than the boobs (although they are as fine as can be); Woody Harrelson seems to be having buckets of fun as the hypnotist of the group, and looks like the only dude out of this cast who was in on the joke; and Dave Franco is still coming up fine in his career, playing the youngest member of the group, with a chip on his shoulder, and plenty of time to learn and think. All are fine together, but since the movie is less concerned with their dynamic, and more about the tricks they pull off; each and every performance seems like a bit of a waste.

And instead, the movie’s more focused on Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes, our cop for the 2 hours. It doesn’t suck that the movie is based-around Ruffalo’s character and whether or not this dude figures out just what to get done, but it doesn’t help that his character is at least a bit boring. Ruffalo does all that he can with this dude by giving him the scruff, the loosened-tie, and the few sips of a Jack Daniels, but he still isn’t as interesting as you would have liked to see, especially coming from the guy who can make any character he plays worth watching. However, being a lover of Ruffalo, I still have to give the guy credit for at least trying to make this character work, going out of his way, and at least showing some effort. Hell, even if the attraction between him and Laurent doesn’t quite work, at least you want to see them together in the end.

And last, but sure as hell not least, we have the men with the plans: Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Together, these two are dynamite and seem to be having the times of their lives just playing-off one another and seeing what they can pull-off next. But even when they are separated and moving on with their own stories, they still seem to be having butt-loads of fun, and really make this movie more entertaining, just with their charm and wit. Obviously Caine gets the shorter-end-of-the-stick with his slightly maniacal character, but nonetheless, the dude still seems to have that sprinkle in his eye that makes you want to give him a big-ass hug.

Consensus: Though it has the ideas and promise that may make any, average moviegoer locked and loaded for a good time, Now You See Me still comes off as a cheat that was made for the sole purpose that it would mess with our minds, yet, not really make much sense by doing so. It would just trick us into being tricked, and leave with our money in it’s hands.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, I get most of it. But what the hell did he do with the card I originally had?"

“Okay, I get most of it. But what the hell did he do with the card I originally had?”

Margaret (2011)

This is exactly what a teenager’s life is like: confusing as hell.

Anna Paquin stars as a 17-year old girl named Lisa Cohen who has to deal with her regular life as a conflicted teenager as well as the moral, legal and sexual pitfalls of the adult world. She struggles with what is right and wrong after taking witnessing the seemingly accidental death of a woman and fighting the ever-building guilt resulting from her role in it.

Holy hell is it a total surprise that I actually got the chance to view this movie! This film has been basically sitting on the shelf for about 6 years now, all because of the fact that writer/director Kenneth Lonergan had an over 3–page script, that made the movie run for as long as 3 hours. Apparently, the studios didn’t like this idea he had and they made him try to shorten up the run-time to make it under 2 hours. Surprisingly, nobody got their way because the film got cut-down to a 150-minute time-limit (all thanks to the master of swift editing, Martin Scorsese) and despite a pretty big-name cast, the film was released in limited theaters, barely even seeing the light of day. Thankfully, that’s what DVD-viewing is all about baby.

"Was somebody that pissed that I didn't show-up in the new Bourne movie, that they had to go-off and spit in my food? Typical NYC diners."

“Was somebody that pissed that I didn’t show-up in the new Bourne movie, that they had to go-off and spit in my food? Typical NYC diners.”

So after going over the whole history of this movie for you in that last paragraph, you would think that a production this troubled goes two ways: either it’s a unknown masterpiece that only people who go out there and reach for it, will love until the day they die, or, it’s just a bunch donkey crap, that should have just stay shelved. Somehow, the film is somewhere in the middle and I don’t really know where I stand on this flick just yet, however, being the dedicated critic that I am, I’m going to give it my all just for you kind souls out there who actually give a crap what I have to say about this little indie.

There’s a lot to this film, maybe almost too much, but from what I was getting most of the times with this flick worked for me because of Lonergan’s superb writing. This is a very dramatic but heartfelt story about a young girl who’s coming to terms with the world she lives in and she’s starting to realize just what this world is really like, for all of the good and for all of the bad. Obviously this isn’t something new, daring, or original but Lonergan makes every scene, no matter how random or awkward, seem real and to be honest, a lot of these scenes and what he’s having these character say, did ring true to me.

I am not a young lady, never have been, and maybe never will, but I can definitely say that a lot of Lisa’s problems that she goes through here aren’t just what young ladies go through, but young adults in general. Everybody around you just annoys you, you want to get your point out there to the best of your ability, everybody is out to get you, and at the end of the day, you just want to be understood and listened to. This is how a teenager thinks and Lonergan gets us inside the mind of a teenager, by showing us your typical, everyday one that just so happens to be dealing with one of the most traumatic moments in her life so far. She’s confused, she’s guilty, she’s angry, she’s horny, she’s misunderstood, she’s scared, and she’s so many other things, but this is exactly how a young person is, especially when you live in a world like the one Lisa lives in where everybody seems to be just at your neck, no matter what it is you do or say. This provides some real, heart-breaking emotional context for a character that seems so based in her own reality, that you just don’t want to see her have her heart broken when she realizes one thing about the world: it’s not all sunshine and daisies. It’s a cruel, cruel world out there that you may have to be ready to fight off every once and awhile. Maybe that’s a little bit too much of my left-over teenage angst coming out, but it still seems true and reasonable considering the film I’m discussing here.

"I told you, I have no idea where Logan went!"

“I told you, I have no idea where Logan went!”

No matter how great most of that teenage angst stuff may be, the film still feels very stuffed together and I was sort of left wondering why they didn’t just take a risk and end up going with the 3-hour version instead. There is about 4 or 5 subplots here that could have been taken out, but instead, Lonergan leaves them in and has them pop-up at some of the most random parts throughout the flick, without us ever getting a chance to fully feel for them and get behind them. I get it, Lisa’s life is hectic and has a lot going on it, but did we really need those 5 scenes with her and her daddy (Kenneth Lonergan himself in a very greedy role) just talking about random ish? Or what about that little teacher-student “relationship” she may be trying to get with a hot and young male teacher, played Matt Damon? Oh, and let’s not forget about some of the random class-room scenes where Matthew Broderick actually gets mad over a kid totally schooling him in Shakespearean comprehension? There’s a lot of material that could have been easily cut-out here. Or, if they really wanted to, which they obviously didn’t, but if they did, they could have went with the 3-hour version that Lonergan proposed in the first place and we could have had a more coherent and understandable story that lays everything out for you all nice and even.

But even with this edited-down version that were given here, some of it almost feels like Lonergan’s coming on a little too strong with his numerous ideas and messages he’s trying to get across. There’s a lot of discussion about a post-9/11 New York that is very realistic, but also feels very random and pushy, as if Lonergan was trying to find a way to voice his own opinions about what’s happening to the area after that disastrous day, so thought the easiest way would to have kids yell and holler at each other about. Doesn’t feel right for this film, given the story itself, and I think Lonergan kind of loses his head a little bit with what he’s trying to say but after awhile, I just didn’t care and tried my hardest to get involved with this story, as crazy as it could be.

I wish all NYC bus drivers looked this cool, and especially wore a cowboy hat.

I wish all NYC bus drivers looked this cool. Especially with that cowboy hat.

Seeing this movie now, in the year 2012, you have to wonder what a bummer it must have been for Anna Paquin to just see her high-rising, dramatic acting career, go almost to nowhere because honestly, this is a phenomenal performance, if not, the best I’ve seen from her, ever (still haven’t seen The Piano so bear with me for a little while). Lisa Cohen is not a very sympathetic character and she definitely is not a very emotionally-grounded character, and it’s one that Paquin plays up perfectly on almost all-sides. We see Lisa for all that she feels, all that she does, and all that she wants to do, and even though not all of her choices may be the most morally correct, they are still her choices and we have to accept them for what they are because she is a human nonetheless. Paquin was about 23 when this film was made, so it seems a little strange for her to be off playing 17-year olds, but she pulls it off perfectly and makes you believe that she really is this confused and bewildered young woman that just wants to do what she thinks is right, even if it may not have the best consequences for all involved. Yeah, I know that Paquin’s got it big now with her role on True Blood, but this film would have definitely made us think twice about her acting, whenever we saw her kill some dude by kissing him. Rogue reference, in case you didn’t catch on!

While you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell from my whole review, trailers, or poster, this film is much more about Lisa’s mom then it is about her, and I think with good reason. J. Smith-Cameron is somebody I haven’t ever really seen too much of in movies and with a performance she gives here as Lisa’s mom, I have to say I’m going to look for her more now because this gal knocks this performance right out of the park. Even though I do think that some of her scenes, just the ones where it’s her all by herself, could have been cut-out, she still gives us a sympathetic mother character that wants nothing more but to connect with her daughter like she feels like she should, but no matter how hard she tries, she still can’t seem to break the ice between them and get them together, connecting once again. It’s a sad thing to see in a film like this because you know this is how it is for almost all mothers having to deal with young adults in the house and Smith-Cameron plays it up just about as perfectly as Paquin does with her own character. They also fight like a real mother-daughter combo and that’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me.

Consensus: With a time-limit that sort of jams everything together in a very incoherent way, Margaret can sometimes feel like a film that can never make up its mind about what it wants to do or be about, but it’s also much like it’s lead character, Lisa, played to perfection from Anna Paquin. It’s a little-known flick that makes me want to see it again, just as long as I can get a hold of the 3-hour director’s cut. That’s if they actually have one for this movie.

7/10=Rental!!

"Walking through the streets of New York and nobody has yet to ask for me an autograph? Now I'm really scared."

“Walking through the streets of New York and nobody has yet to ask for me an autograph? Now I’m really scared.”

The Last Castle (2001)

Maybe if Paul Newman had tagged along, than this would have been a cooler prison.

Robert Redford stars as a three-star general who has just been sentenced to 10-years for unknown crimes. He’s sent to a prison that houses military convicts nicknamed the castle. Running this institution is Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini), a meek-looking bear of a man who’s unafraid of doing what ever it takes to maintain order.

With any prison movie, you have to make us care and feel something for the prisoners that we are supposed to watch for the whole 2 hours. And even if you don’t do that, you have to at least try to and make somebody look much, much worse than they already do. This is something that director Rod Lurie couldn’t seem to get his head behind.

I can’t say that I hated this film because I sort of enjoyed it, even though it’s basically another generic prison flick with plenty of problems when it comes to its script and one of its biggest problems is it didn’t make much sense. First of all, why does this huge break-out even go down in the first place? Why, because a murderer didn’t follow an order and in doing so, he got shot in the head? I mean I can understand retaliating against something that is completely and utterly unfair but this dude wasn’t listening when he should have been and instead got blasted for it. Does that mean that a whole jail full of people should just go insane, destroying millions and millions of dollars of government money, killing/hurting prison guards, and losing other prisoners in the mix, just so you could prove a point? Come on people, isn’t there a better way to solve this rather than just going full-on coo-coo for Coco Puffs?

Speaking of these prisoners going crazy, it also seemed unbelievable that these prisoners could pull off such an invasion as the one they pull in the last sequence of the flick. It’s not like I’m giving much away by saying this because it’s pretty damn obvious just by looking at the trailers and posters, but what bothered me was how they could pull such an invasion like this that would require so much planning, so many coincidences, and so many close calls of actually having another prison snitch on them, or having a guard picking up on the plan. It also didn’t help that they pretty much planned all of this shit out within a week, which made it even harder to believe that it would work out THIS well.

But don’t get me wrong here peeps, this film isn’t a total waste, actually, it’s pretty entertaining once you can get past all of those holes. The last half hour, where the invasion goes down, is actually very entertaining to watch and it actually feels a bit unpredictable as to who’s going to live and what’s actually going to go down. I don’t want to say that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time because most of this does come out as some pretty predictable stuff, but I still think that Lurie had a good eye for action and knowing how to keep the energy pumping, even if it only was in the last 30 minutes. Also, if you’re a big patriotic person, you’re going to love all of the several themes about war, soldiers, and showing pride for the country you love. Hoooorah!!

The cast is pretty good here, even though I think they are sort of wasted on cheap material. Robert Redford is basically playing Robert Redford in a very stoic role here as Gen. Eugene Irwin. I could easily buy Redford as the hero and the guy that everybody in the prison basically looked up to as if he was Santa Claus himself, but I do think that by the end of the flick, they start to get a little carried away with his random montages about the good old days of being trapped as a POW. Oh, the war torture! Those bring back the memories. Mark Ruffalo is also OK in a role that seems like it deserved more development, just to suit Ruffalo’s acting.

However, the other problem I left out with this film earlier came back to me just now and it was that this flick didn’t have much character depth to these members of the “chain gang” and even when it did, it came off as way too contrived to be taken seriously. Basically, every prisoner here has a heart of gold. This is a person, which means that this is a place that is full of drug dealers, killers, rapists, smugglers, pedophiles, and all sorts of other baddies, which made me wonder why not one of them ever shows any signs of giving these guys some trouble. I get it that not every person you put in prison is a mean s.o.b., but everybody sure as hell isn’t a disciple of the lord himself, either.

I think out of this whole cast, I really liked James Gandolfini here as Col. Winter. Gandolfini is basically playing Gandolfini but it works and gives this character a very self-conscious look that isn’t sympathetic at all, but still makes you look at him more than just another piece of shit warden that only gets off on watching these prisoners suffer every day. Wish Gandolfini got more roles like this because he can play a good villain that has a bit more to him than people may see at first. Then again, the dude was the leading man on one of TV’s biggest shows of the past decade so he can’t complain too much I guess.

Consensus: With a lot of holes in its screenplay when it comes to its characters and plot, The Last Castle doesn’t hit you as hard as it should, but with a reliable cast and entertaining feel to it, especially with the last 30 minutes or so, it still will keep your attention. Especially, if you love America.

5/10=Rental!!

You Can Count On Me (2000)

You can always depend on your doped up brother to bring some shock to your life.

The return of wild brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo), is an unwelcome surprise to Sammy (Laura Linney), a young mother who is starting to cheat on her fiancé, Bob (Jon Tenney), with her boss, Brian (Matthew Broderick).

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan is a dude I hear so much about considering he has only done two films in the last decade. Still though, I’m surprised that he isn’t a bigger name, especially after doing something like this.

What I like about his script is how it is a very honest script that shows what real relations between family is like. Every human emotion here doesn’t feel contrived or like they just rehearsed it, everybody reacts to each other the way that they normally would in real-life and it’s that kind of human honesty is what made me react to this flick the most. These are sad people, with sad lives, but they are all trying to get through it with one another and even if it may not work out to the best of their imaginations, they still somehow find ways to make good with what they have. This is a script that has some very smart moments with its drama and its emotions but its also very funny at certain points that you wouldn’t expect right away.

I also liked how Lonergan didn’t try to make us feel more for these characters than we already did by throwing us a bunch of sappy and cheesy moments that all emotional films like this try to snake us into. Since the film also shows the relationship between a long lost bro-bro and sis-sis, you would expect that there would be plenty of key scenes about their past and what happened so that the viewer would know more, however, the film doesn’t show this at all with the exception of the beginning, and it works. It’s quite impressive when films like this can do that because it lets us think about what happened through how they are now and it doesn’t try to spell anything out for us.

Lonergan is very good and skilled as a writer, no doubt about that but as a director, it seems like he may need a little working with. There is a lot of shots in this flick that shows these characters either just sitting, sleeping, watching TV, driving, or just randomly doing something that doesn’t pertain to the story and is just there because Lonergan wants to show us how unhappy these characters really can be. Some of these scenes seem very random and un-needed and one in particular with Broderick’s wife, seemed to go on a little too long for my liking. May sound like a weird complaint but there a couple of random scenes like this that didn’t really need to be here in the first place.  As good as the script may be too, everything still plays out the same way you would expect a drama like this to. It’s not as terribly disappointing as I may make it sound but it was still something I noticed right off the bat.

Laura Linney isn’t an actress that I usually like, because I thinks she plays the same character in almost any flick that she does but she’s very good here as Sammy. Sammy is one of those confused but very strong-willed women that just wants to do the right thing no matter what, but always seems to be dragged down by all of these mean people around her. Linney plays this character well because she shows what it’s like to be a woman who’s been through so much and just can’t seem to get a grasp on things but it’s not a one-note performance. Linney takes this character and give her a charming likability that is easy to relate to and understand right off the bat and I’m glad that she was nominated for an Oscar here.

Mark Ruffalo was also amazing in his role as her brother, Terry. Terry is one of those characters who has a lot of obvious problems but always tries to do the right thing no matter what. Problem is, he’s taken down by other people, just like his own sister. Ruffalo plays this role perfectly with just enough anger and heart to give us a full-rounded character that may be a little rough around the edges, but still is a good person no matter what he may mess up with. The scenes with him and Linney are all great and they feel like the an actual brother and sister that haven’t seen each other in so very long. Matthew Broderick is also good as Brian, Sammy’s boss, and he actually has a couple of funny scenes that work here even though his character may be a tad strange. Still, good performances all around here.

Consensus: Though some moments may not work, You Can Count on Me works mainly because of the great script from Lonergan that feels honest, insightful, and emotionally here, as well as the great performances from the whole cast.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Avengers (2012)

Summer season here we gooooooo!!!!

When an unexpected enemy emerges threatening global safety and security, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Director of the International Peacekeeping Agency (known as SHIELD), finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

Ever since 2008 swung by with ‘Iron Man’ on its shoulders, Marvel Studios has pretty much been patiently waiting and building up to this moment. And needless to say (however still said), the wait was worth it.

The best thing about this flick is how Marvel was able to get a director/writer like Joss Whedon. Whedon knocked it out of the park last month with ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, and he pretty much does the same thing here; but instead of focusing on the horror genre, he focuses on the superheros that we all know, love, and hope to be someday. Maybe I’m alone with that last one, and maybe I snuck it in so quick you didn’t even notice, but basically what I’m trying to say is that these are superheros that deserve the right treatment with everything they get. Whedon gives them all that, and much, much more. I mean after all, Whedon is a fanboy at heart but he is also a film-maker, and that is something he’ll always live up to. He knows what comic ban fans expect to see from this type of material, and he absolutely delivers.

Whedon’s great attribute to this flick is that he is able to stage so many excellent action sequences that are some of the best I have seen lately. Of course, the special effects and CGI are perfect. And the IMAX 3-D does makes this film look so cool it seems like you’re right there along for the ride, but when it comes down to some awesome, kick-ass throw downs, Whedon knows how to do it; and even better, do it right. They’re all breath-taking because they have so much intensity, but a lot of it’s because plenty of the action scenes consist of superheros fighting superheros. We get to see Thor versus Iron Man, Captain America versus Thor, Iron Man versus The Incredible Hulk, and so on and so forth. If any of you out there love these superheros and want to see what they would be like stacked up against another superhero, then definitely see this flick because almost every fight shows these heroes pulling just about everything they have out of their arsenal. It’s like King Kong vs. Godzilla, Lincoln vs. Washington, or even  Backstreet Boys vs. N’Sync. It’s the battle between two opposing forces that can almost never be stopped, and it’s just pure fun. It’s as easy as that.

The strangest but most awesome thing about this movie is that it’s turns out bring one of the funnier comedies of the past couple of years. Whedon shows that he’s even better when it comes to writing witty scripts, and pinpoints perfection here with this cast of characters. I mean all of these superheros are pretty much egotistical freaks who think they’re superior to others because of their freakishly powerful skills they inherited; and that’s exactly what Whedon touches on here. There are plenty of scenes where it’s just a one-on-one outrageous verbal battle between two characters and it’s probably some of the funniest dialogue you’ll hear this whole summer. But it’s not just these verbal battles that are funny, everything else here is too, and it doesn’t even seem like Whedon is trying to write funny dialogue just to be funny and cool; it comes naturally. Even better is that it’s not just one character who gets a chance to be funny, EVERYBODY here does. There will definitely be moments where you come close to rolling out of your seat. My buddy next to me was on the brink a couple times there and I couldn’t blame him.

I honestly think that the reason this film does work so well the way that it does here is because that we’ve had all this time (4 years to be exact) to get to see, know, love and understand these characters in their own movies; and it’s just awesome to finally see them all together in the same room doing exactly what it is they do best: be freakin’ awesome. Robert Downey Jr. obviously is the star of the show and gives off a whole bunch of hilarious one-liners as Tony Stark/Iron Man (remember when people thought that movie was going to blow?); Chris Evans is THE MAN as everybody’s favorite red, white, and blue superhero, Captain America; Chris Hemsworth is once again likable and charming as the Olde English speaker/Norse God, Thor; Mark Ruffalo does a great job of replacing Edward Norton here as Bruce Banner/Hulk, and gives him this scruffy, worn-out look that coexists well especially when he gets angry and turns green; Scarlett Johansson is pretty cool as Black Widow even though it didn’t really seem like she was going to be around here much, but surprisingly, she is also great and doesn’t let us down; Jeremy Renner is pretty much cool and tough as Hawkeye; and Samuel L. Jackson‘s performance here as Nick Fury is basically him playing the Samuel L. Jackson we always see him play, but this time with an eye-patch. Is that a bad thing? Not at all people, not at all.

A superhero film like this is usually made or broken by the villains, and I think they chose right with Tom Hiddleston as Loki. To be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Loki in ‘Thor’ and I actually found him to be a somewhat weak villain no matter, despite how entertaining the flick was. However, Whedon gives Loki just enough time to show how evil and dangerous of a villain he is when he allows this guy to cut a villainous monologue every time he is around one of these heroes. It sounds a bit tiring, but thankfully, Whedon keeps all of these speeches interesting simply while showing  how incredibly powerful Loki can be. Also have to give a lot of credit to Hiddleston who shows that he’s definitely able to carry one villain role all by himself, but also exercise a bit of his comedic chops here as well. A lot of the funnier scenes in this movie revolve around Loki and just how ridiculous this damn dude can be.

Actually, it’s not just Loki who gets the special treatment from Whedon here, come to think of it, everybody does and that’s what’s did it for this flick. There are so many characters/superheros here, but Whedon’s still able to keep them all relevant by showing how all of their powers, skills, and elements as heroes can change the situation that they’re in while simultaneously reminding us why and how we fell in love with these characters in the first place. For example, Black Widow is definitely a character that you would expect to be forgettable in this huge cast of characters. But Whedon shows her as being a kick-ass spy and assassin that actually adds a lot more to the team than you would expect. You think a lot differently of her and what she can do with those nice, strong legs. It’s just great that Whedon lets every character have their time to shine and not have any of them get over-shadowed by one in particular. Hell, even Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson gets to have a couple of memorable moments! Joss surely does know how to share the love.

If I had to be a total dickhead here and nit-pick, it would have to be that sometimes, the film did seem to hit a lull in its pace. And not only did it seem to take a bit away from the final product, but it also made me want more action up on the screen. The scenes with Hawkeye and Black Widow were a little lame and didn’t do much for me, but then again, it didn’t matter because when it got to them kicking ass, that’s exactly what they did.

Consensus: The Avengers is pretty much everything you could expect it to be with fun action, great performances from this ensemble cast of characters that we all know and love, very funny screenplay, and just a reminder as to why nerds rule, and will never, ever go away. Best film of the year so far and a totally kick-ass ride from start to finish. Long live Marvel!

9/10=Full Price!!

BTW: If you guys get a chance to, check out a website called GuysNation. It’s a pretty far-out site I’ve been writing for, for quite some time and just go on by, show me some love, and check out some of the other non-related movie stuff that’s on there as well. Have a good Friday night everybody!

If you have recently seen the new Marvel hit the Avengers and you feel like watching more action packed Summer blockbusters then why not try one of the available online movie services. Visit LOVEFiLM vs Netflix UK to compare two of the leading brands in the online streaming service business.

Zodiac (2007)

Who is “The Zodiac Killer”? Actually I think the better question is who cares?

“The Zodiac Killer” was a serial killer during the 60’s to 70’s who wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle talking about what he was going to do next and stunned everybody all-over-the-world by how he was never caught. Two people, a homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) spend half of their lives trying to solve the case, only to be shown-up many years later by a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Going into this and knowing that this was a David Fincher flick, I had a feeling that I was in for some utterly insane craziness that happens in just about all of his films. However, when it comes to a 157 minute film about an open-case, I got something way way better.

This is a very long film that is filled with non-stop talking, evidence, procedures, details, facts, and everything else that has to do with this case but I was never bored once. Fincher seems totally dedicated to this case and all of the investigations and claims that were made for this whole case are brought up giving us a more clear view of what is actually going on with this case. We never find out who the killer is, even though we get a general idea through red herrings, but the fact that we listen and learn as this case is following through, you can get a sense that you are here solving the case as much as they are as well. Of course this is more like a clear-cut film that seems like one long episode of ‘CSI’, but if you like mystery/crime films that show you just about everything without leaving anything out, this is a perfect watch for you as much as it was for me.

Another great element to this film that Fincher uses is creating tension in the mood as if I was watching a flick from the 70’s itself, which is where the story takes place. Fincher creates the fashions and feelings of the time, but still being able to add in his own CGI-enhanced material that will still seem relevant to the story as it gives it this very moody and grim look but still in a way full of colors when some big shine of light comes through. We also get these dark and moody feelings where something is just not right in the air and the fact that almost nothing happens (no big car chases, no big shoot-out) is a true testament to Fincher’s sturdy hand considering the whole time I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat with this paranoia that I was starting to feel a lot more than the actual characters themselves. I also could not tell you if there was a completley unneeded scene here that had nothing to do with this actual investigation, which is not very common with thrillers nowadays but then again, Fincher is just a totally different dude.

I think I was just some impressed by this film because it’s something that is incredibly different from anything else that Fincher has done before. We see him in more of a subdued drama, that may seem too dialogue-heavy in some parts, but overall keeps you watching the whole time. The fact that Fincher also never lets us in on what he feels is the right solution to this case or who he feels is really the killer, made me appreciate this film even more as it could almost be another case where even motion pictures can shed some intelligent life on an investigation that may have taken forever to solve, but could be easily solved by just facing the facts…Jack.

My one and only problem with this flick is that I didn’t really like what it turned out to be in the end when we start to focus on Gyllenhaal’s character, Robert Graysmith. We see how Graysmith starts to become terribly obsessed with this case so much that he starts to alienate his family, grow paranoid in everything he does, and basically make his house a shit-sty of papers that have to do with the case that he can’t get over and just let go. We have all seen this idea and material way too much and it wasn’t like the last act had me annoyed, I was still easily interested but I just think it was more of a bummer to see Fincher resort what seemed like ‘The Number 23’.

Fincher has a huge cast of characters here but only a couple stand out in my book. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a very good performance as Graysmith and shows that he has a lot of craft, energy, and tension in almost every scene that he places himself in. It’s such a shame that him and Fincher vowed to never work again because Gyllenhaal was able to give one of his best grown-up performances that I have really seen so far. No, I do not mean you, ‘Prince of Persia’. Mark Ruffalo is also very good as David Toschi, showing that he is able to throw himself into an eccentric role that demands you to feel his pain and anguish. Robert Downey Jr. is a lot of fun as the flamboyant and funny, Paul Avery and shows why Downey should just go back to playing normal people roles rather than just Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. There are so many other people in this film that just do phenomenal jobs with each of their own respective roles and I really have to give it to Fincher for nailing down just about every single role.

Consensus: Zodiac is a film where barely anything happens, except for a lot of talking and investigation into a case that is still open today, but Fincher keeps this long flick totally entertaining, exciting, and tense with a great screenplay that dives right into the investigation itself, and show perfect performances by just about everybody involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004)

How oblivious can people be?!?!

Two married couples (Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts) who have been close friends for years find that dynamic irrevocably changed when two of them (Ruffalo and Watts) have an affair. Things get even more complicated when their spouses find out and have an affair of their own.

Director John Curran, who directed Stone, seems like he does the same thing with both films. He has great stars in their roles, interesting enough premise, and shows early promise, but then he soon loses it all. Here, he doesn’t quite lose everything but still too much than I expected.

Right from the get-go you know this film is just going to be confrontational, tense, and a tad awkward by how these two married couples inter-act with each other, and to be honest, it gets almost worse in a way. There are times when the arguments here seem so realistic and honest that it’s at a point where I wondered if the writing team behind this all just cheated on their wives at one point and had these actual conversations.

The film also does a good job at not taking sides. We get to see everybody’s view-point on all this “screwing around” and each one seems pretty reasonable. It was also a very detailed look into how each spouse treats each other differently, which can be both good and bad, but usually the later. It was kind of sad to see these people actually not care about these infidelities until it’s almost too late and the damage has already just about been done. It’s sad to see this but at the same time, very good to see because it’s believable and a film like this, definitely needed that.

However, Curran starts to get a little too carried away here and this is where I think the film falls apart. He has these random little moments of silence and odd imagery that is supposed to create some sort of background into these people’s lives and show the impact of this infidelity it has on these couples. To me, this seemed really annoying because I didn’t know what Curran was trying to get across and I wish they actually focused more on the scenes of these people having realistic arguments, which may seem a little odd for me to say but it would have worked if they had more.

There were also moments here where the film I think had times where it just dragged on and on with nothing really exciting happening. The film just feels like it moves along a steady pace with nothing really happening other than these couples being awkward with each other, and not really saying anything else other than how they don’t want to get caught or anything of that cheating nature. I also realized that there is barely any humor whatsoever in this film, and some people say you have to look closer for it. However, I looked as hard as I could, I found nothing humorous here.

The cast is the real benefit of this whole film and I have to say they did a splendid job of casting as well. Mark Ruffalo is great as Jack because the whole film he just carries this look of sadness, anger, and confusion through the look of his eyes the whole movie and gives us a lot of depth for his character. Laura Dern is also great in this role as Jack’s wife, Terry, because I never knew exactly what she was going to do next and I think that is always something you need when you’re playing the always upset wife of a dude who’s sleeping around; Naomi Watts is also good as Edith because the whole time she seems very remorseful about her actions, but just can’t stop and shows a huge deal of sadness to her character as well; and the weak link in this cast is actually Peter Krause as Hank but not because it’s badly-acted, it’s just because Hank is such a one note character the whole time and never shows any real emotions other than just being cool I guess.

Consensus: The script shows brutal honesty, powerful characters, and some sad moments of a broken-marriage, but We Don’t Live Here Anymore suffers from moments that just seem too far-fetched and others that don’t entertain as much as they do just depress the viewer.

6/10=Rental!!

Blindness (2008)

If everybody around me was naked and I could see, I’m would go naked 24/7. But then nobody would be able to see my six-pack. Never mind then.

After a plague of blindness overtakes the residents of a city, all sense of order breaks loose in the hospital where the victims are being quarantined. It’s up to a woman (Julianne Moore) who’s keeping her sight a secret to lead a group safely to the streets.

Director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) is the man who really makes this film work because he does not once let loose from keeping this film terribly bleak and just claustrophobic. There’s no real happiness in this story, except for some parts, but this film moves slowly with a very sad atmosphere that makes you feel confined with the rest of these people as well.

Meirelles never lets us out of the confined little head-quarters were in, and it started to have an effect on me because I wanted to know just what was going on in the outside world, but are questions are never really answered which kept me even a little more freaked out.

Another good element of this film is the cinematography is just beautiful and really keeps you involved with this film. The constant use of black and white really added a lot bleakness to this film and brought me into this post-apocalyptic world of just nothing being the same or simple. Everybody is blind, everybody is lost, and most of all, it’s just about every man/woman for themselves. You may actually get tricked by a lot of the visuals, which kind of added a bit more of a great feel to this film of just not knowing. It’s kind of like I Am Legend except instead of zombies, it’s just people who keep walking into things.

However, my big problem with this film is the fact that it seemed like for the longest time this film was going nowhere. There was no real drive behind this film except for a bit of a conflict that was there, but I never felt totally driven by it. I almost just felt like I knew where this was going, and no matter how it ended, I didn’t really care since it almost seemed like these character’s themselves didn’t either.

I also felt that this premise had so much more promise than what actually came of it. I mean just imagined if we were all blind, and what would we do to survive? I think this film could have been paced a lot better because even though films may be terribly dreary, sometimes they can be a tad enjoyable by the way the film moves. Blindness just moves at a very slow-pace with no real idea where it wants to go, it just wants to be dark and depressing and try to provide social commentary that was really lame.

Speaking of the social commentary, I didn’t understand what exactly this film was trying to say because either we’ve seen it all before, or it made no sense. The film looked like it was trying to say that the government won’t know what to do with an out-break, and we’ll all be left to fend for ourselves basically, which is something that has been said plenty and plenty of times before. It also seemed like it was trying to comment on the way the government treats the blind and this made no sense since blind people aren’t really made this much of fools to begin with. So wherever Meirelles was trying to get at that with, he didn’t do such a good job.

The cast here is alright as well but nothing entirely special. Julianne Moore is good as our hero, who always seems to “see” more than others (teehee); Mark Ruffalo is good and conflicted; Gael García Bernal is good as the villain/blind asshole that stirs up the pot early in the film; and Alice Braga is good as well as pretty sexy I must say. The only real bad performance here is from Danny Glover because he seems out of place in such dark material and everything he says, just seems corny.

Consensus: Blindness is beautifully shot and directed, and keeps your interest for the longest time, but the social commentary sucks, the plot doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and the pay-off is kind of disappointing considering all the promise this premise had but in the end, it was stylized.

5/10=Rental!!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Maybe there are some chicks that I wanted out of my memory, maybe….

After learning that his mercurial ex-girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), has undergone an experimental medical process to purge all memories of him, mild-mannered Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) opts for the same procedure. But during the operation, he decides he doesn’t want to lose what’s left of their relationship and tries to conceal her image in his memory cells.

The script here is done by Charlie Kaufman, who has done scripts for films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, so already you know this is going to be some crazy shit. And crazy shit, is exactly what you get here.

The one thing about this script that separates itself from other romantic comedies is that this is painfully honest at times. The sci-fi premise is used as a metaphor as to whether or not we would be better off eliminating that heartbreak from our lives. The fact is that we need heartbreak to learn from it and make sure not to make the same mistake again, and thus it makes us the person we are today. This script really does show love in a beautiful yet painful way because this love that Joel and Clementine has, isn’t a pretty one. This love/relationship isn’t one of those instant love-at-first-sight kind of deals, it’s more that for almost every single great memory of Joel and Clementine there is an equally painful one, one that I wouldn’t want, but not every single relationship a person has, is going to always be happy-go-lucky. This script is just so beautiful and breathtakingly honest because it shows that people change over time, and no matter how much you have your mind want to believe that truly do hate that other person, your heart will never forget that one person. I know it may sound cheesy and a little schmaltzy, but the way the film tells this fact, is just beautiful.

Let’s not also forget that another reason as to why this film works, director Michel Gondry. I don’t know how Gondry took a look at this script and came up with this piece of beauty, but I have to say he absolutely makes every single scene here, his own. Since this takes place in the mind, and as we all know, a lot of crazy things happen inside of our minds, Gondry has the opportunity to let some real trippy stuff happen on screen. The visuals are amazing and are amazing without hardly any use of CG special effects. There’s a lot of beautiful lighting tricks, setting movements, and just overall breath-taking scenes that take us inside of the mind, and give us this wonderful fantasy that life really is something you can’t imagine.

The cast here is also something to praise. Jim Carrey gets rid of his goofy faces, and give us a spot-on performance as the quiet, sweet, and endearing Joel. Carrey owns this performance because he has you believe that somebody this serious could actually have the type of relationship he has with Clementine, and go through all the things he does to keep her in his mind forever. Kate Winslet is almost even better as the eccentric and quirky Clementine, who actually carries her character into being more than just that zany chick, that is almost too hard to believe. Winslet is hilariously likable in this role, but at the same time believable, and wins the crowd over almost throughout the whole film. The rest of the cast in this film is good with the likes of Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, David Cross, and the always reliable, Tom Wilkinson.

Consensus: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is twisty and trippy, but beautifully filmed, with a brutally honest script that shows heartbreak as something in life we always need, no matter how painful, or rewarding. Perfect film all around for anyone who wants to get inside a mind, and possibly get inside their own. I wish I could say more about this film and it’s utter greatness, it’s just one of those things you have to see to believe.

10/10=Full Pricee!!

Happy Friday everyone!

Oscar Predictions and Thoughts for 2011

So as everyone among the film community know, it is Oscar time babyyyyy!!! So that means get ready for some of the biggest upsets, wins, and probably tearful moments of the year. It was a great year in the film, and this is what has all come down to it people. The big night, and here are my predictions, I hope I do well.

Best Animated Feature: Will Win: Toy Story 3 Should Win: Toy Story 3 Wild Card: How To Train Your Dragon

Best Documentary Feature: Will Win: Restrepo Should Win: Restrepo Wild Card: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Best Foreign Language Film: Will Win: In a Better World Should Win: Dogtooth Wild Card: Biutiful

Best Documentary Short, Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short: Will Win: Can’t say I care too much

Best Editing: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Black Swan

Best Cinematography: Will Win: True Grit Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The King’s Speech

Best Visual Effects: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: Alice in Wonderland

Best Sound Editing: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: Unstoppable

Best Sound Mixing: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The Social Network

Best Art Direction: Will Win: Alice in Wonderland Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The King’s Speech

Best Costume Design: Will Win: Alice in Wonderland Should Win: Alice in Wonderland Wild Card: True Grit

Best Makeup: Will Win: The Wolfman Should Win: The Way Back

Best Original Score: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Inception

Best Original Song: Will Win: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) Should Win: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) Wild Card: I See The Light (Tangled)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: 127 Hours

Best Original Screenplay: Will Win: The King’s Speech Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Will Win: Hailee Steinfeld Should Win: Melissa Leo Wild Card: Amy Adams

Best Supporting Actor: Will Win: Christian Bale Should Win: Christian Bale Wild Card: Geoffrey Rush

Best Actor: Will Win: Colin Firth Should Win: Jesse Eisenberg Wild Card: James Franco

Best Actress: Will Win: Natalie Portman Should Win: Natalie Portman Wild Card: Annette Bening

Best Director: Will Win: David Fincher Should Win: David Fincher Wild Card: Tom Hooper

Best Picture: Will Win: The King’s Speech Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Toy Story 3

I must say that this is a pretty solid year for the Oscar’s this year. All the nominees look just about right the only problem is how will the picks turn out? This year, everything seems like it’s coming down to Old School (The King’s Speech) vs. New School (The Social Network). The past couple of years The Academy (I hate that word) has been looking more towards hip, new films to win it’s Oscar Best Picture. Films such as Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, and American Beauty have all been unconventional new films that have seen their taste of Best Picture gold. But there has also been countless period piece wins for films such as Gladiator, Shakespeare In Love, and The English Patient. Also, many other major award shows have already presented the Best Picture win to The King’s Speech which is really chasing up people’s noses, as many other award shows have been choosing The Social Network as theirs. In my opinion, I liked Inception more than both of them, and yeah it’s nominated, but in all honesty it has no chance of winning. When it comes down to it I think that The Social Network should win, because it is an age-defining film, that went from being known as “The Facebook Movie” to being known as the top contender for every Oscar it’s nominated for. I hope that The Academy goes for the new school, because if they had The King’s Speech win, everyone would feel robbed really.

As for Best Actor, I think that Firth deserves to win for all his years dedicate to films, but Eisenberg fully deserves it. I think what the Academy is doing more and more now, is honoring actors & actresses not for just a certain performance they had, but their careers and saying that it’s their time. I don’t mind seeing stars like Jeff Bridges, Kate Winslet, or Colin Firth win an Oscar, because of the career they have but I’d rather see the “best performance of the year award” go to the BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR.

When it comes to the Best Actress category, it seems like Natalie Portman is the sole winner for here, as she has won almost every single Best Actress nomination at every award show. However, there is once again that little idea that it’s Annette Bening’s “time” to win, as she has been nominated twice, and still has not won yet even though her career has been going on for so long. I want Portman to win, and most likely she will, but I still have a feeling that The Academy may pull something out of their pockets and surprise us all with a Bening win.

I’m very disappointed that my main man Christopher Nolan was not nominated for Best Director this year. He was snubbed for The Dark Knight, and now he’s being snubbed again, and it just pisses me off knowing that certain directors that do such a good job with daring material, don’t get the credit they deserve. I think if Nolan was nominated, he should have won, but I know it’s The Oscars, and not everything works out the right way.

This year had great films, and I’m glad to see that the Oscars have turned out to be this way. I loved 2010 as a year, and the films made it awesome. Here’s to 2011, and let’s just hope that the Oscars are awesome.

Thanks everybody for always reading, and keep on checking!!