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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 Strong

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Well, maybe Bond is a lot cooler.

It’s been a year since we last caught up with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and well, let’s just say, things are still kind of the same. Baddies still want to kill him and he’s still got to find ways on how to not only kill them, but save those lives around him. And while he’s definitely looking forward to living a life on the straight-and-narrow, he’s pulled back in when a new threat arises in Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a dangerous, but very light and happy drug-dealer who’s trying to end this war on drugs as we know it. Back with his usual band of misfits, like Merlin (Mark Strong), Eggsy is ready to stop Poppy once and for all, but this time, with the help of another spy company, Statesman. And if that wasn’t enough for Eggsy, it turns out that his mentor Harry (Colin Firth), who he had long thought was dead, is still alive and trying to get his skills back. But that’s obviously going to be a lot harder than he expects, especially what with this mission continuing to threaten more and more lives.

Somehow, it works.

The first Kingsman, while definitely in poor-taste, was no doubt a Matthew Vaughn film, for better and for worse. It was stupid, loud, dirty, dark, violent, and oh yeah, pretty fun. It’s the kind of movie that didn’t really know if it wanted to be smart, or just plainly dumb, but either way, it was fun and got by mostly on the charm of its game-cast, as well as Vaughn himself who takes this kind of material, makes it his own, and doesn’t allow for us to forget about that. There’s something actually kind of awesome and relatively brave about that, because while so many people will get on his case for his mistreatment of women and other issues within society, he still doesn’t care; he takes it in stride, moves on, and continues to make some fun movies.

That’s why the Golden Circle is a bit of a disappointment, especially coming from his side.

For one, it’s a sequel which, already, causes some problems. Meaning, it’s louder, more over-the-top, longer, and densely packed with so much stuff, it’s almost overkill. I get Vaughn’s enthusiasm for having the opportunity to hang with these characters again and in a way, it makes it feel like less of a hack, studio-job, and much more of a passion-project, but there’s so much going on here, it can’t help but feel stuffing. At nearly two-and-a-half-hours, Vaughn may have a lot to say and a lot to do, but in all ends up jumbling together, making the first one seeming like a tight, well-paced adventure.

This new one, unfortunately, takes too many weird side-roads to get where it needs to go, especially since the script isn’t nearly as smart as it may think it is. The first one ran into that same kind of a problem, where it’s almost like it thought it had something neat and smarmy to say about intelligence movies of its nature, but really, just wanted to shoot people and objectify women. Once again, if that’s your bag and you can pull that off, then good for you,

Hey, everyone. See this? It’s Julianne Moore having fun. Let her have more of that!

The first one could and did. This one? Maybe not so much.

Still, every opportunity I get to think of the problems I had with this movie, in terms of its story and jam-packed story-line, I still remember that there’s a lot of fun to be had with it, too, in particular with the action-sequences that Vaughn has no problem with making so absolutely insane and crazy, it’s hard to expect it anywhere else. There’s just a certain bit of flair and energy to these sequences that aren’t found much elsewhere, and it’s hard not to get swept-up in it all, even if you know that when they’re done, it’s time for 20-25 minutes of more random bits of dialogue.

But hey, the ensemble seems to be having fun with it, so is that entirely a problem? Well, not really. Taron Egerton fits this role of Eggsy like a glove; Firth shows back up and gives us a bit more depth to a character that I think we already had enough of; Strong comes back and brings some heart and fun to a character that deserved more depth and, finally, got it this time around; Julianne Moore gets the opportunity to vamp and have fun here as Poppy Adams, and yes, makes every moment worth it; Pedro Pascal proves to be a bad-ass as another secret-agent, Jack Daniels; Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Halle Berry, despite a whole lot of promise by the ads, aren’t in this whole lot, although they make the best with what they can; and oh yeah, there’s a secret musical-guest that’s a pretty nice addition and a whole lot of fun. Don’t know if it’s a spoiler or not so I’ll just shut up and say that this person, along with everyone else, made the experience a little bit better.

Not a whole lot, but a little bit. And that’s all that really matters.

Consensus: Bloated and overly ambitious, the Secret Circle, unfortunately, suffers from a great deal of sequelitis, but due to Vaughn’s knack for exciting action and a fun cast, it still works.

6 / 10

Somehow, skiing just got pretty bad-ass.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Stardust (2007)

Better than Goldust’s brother.

Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man from the town of Wall, a small, quaint and lovely little town on the border of Stormhold, a magical kingdom where all sorts of crazy things happen. To hopefully win the heart and the hand of his girlfriend Victoria (Selma Miller), Tristan enters the magical world to collect a fallen star, in hopes that he’ll obviously win her over, but prove that he is quite the man that he always thought he could be. After little issues here and there, Tristan eventually collects the star who, to his surprise, is a woman named Yvaine (Claire Daines). However, Tristan isn’t the only one who’s looking for Yvaine; numerous witches, Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses also want this star and will do anything to get it, by any means. So now, Tristan’s job just got a whole lot harder. Not to mention that he and Yvaine, while initially not being able to get along with one another at all, start to see each other as equals and even, well, connect. In possibly more ways than Tristan has been able to ever do with his possible future-wife.

A pretty hot star.

Matthew Vaughn is probably the perfect director for a Neil Gaiman book, because no matter how strange, or action-packed, or even tense things get, Vaughn remembers not to take everything all that seriously. Meaning that we do get a lot of jokes aimed at the material, but it’s also very funny in the same way that the Princess Bride was – it respects the fantasy-genre up until the point of where it realizes how ridiculous it truly is. That’s a lot of Gaiman’s material and while there’s been plenty of attempts at recreating the same kind of odd-style that he has, Vaughn’s perhaps the closest one to achieving that.

And yes, it also helps that the movie is buckets of fun, reminding us that, when he isn’t trading quips and smart-ass remarks, Vaughn knows how to keep the action moving and exciting. Cause Stardust is a little over two-hours and about a bunch of silly witches and knights battling it out for a star, it can be a bit too much to ask for a non-lover of the fantasy genre. And yes, I am one of them.

However, Stardust is a much different tune.

It’s in on its own joke, it never really relies too much on exposition, or world-building, or certain other tricks and trades of these kinds of stories that can tend to make them a bit annoying. The story itself is already pretty straightforward and thankfully, Vaughn doesn’t try to over-complicate things; he keeps it simple, effective and most importantly, fun. He could have done anything he wanted with this movie and I wouldn’t have cared, because he knows how to keep it fun, even when you least expect it to remain as such.

That’s Michelle Pfeiffer? Uh. Yeah. Time has not done well for her.

And a whole bunch of that fun extends to the cast, too, who are, as expected, game for this kind of silly material. Charlie Cox, in a pre-Daredevil role, shows a great deal of charm as Tristan, a dork-of-a-man who we like right from the get-go and sort of stand-by, no matter where he goes, or what he does. Claire Danes is also quite great as Yvaine, the star with a whole butt-load of personality. Danes knows how to make this wacky material work and come-off not so wacky, and yes, her and Cox have a neat little bit of chemistry that transcends most other movies that are just like this.

In that we actually care and want them to get together in the end.

The rest of the cast is, thankfully, having a ball here. Michelle Pfeiffer shows up as the main evil witch, vamping it up and having an absolute ball; Robert De Niro may seem out-of-place, initially, as a pirate, but really blends in with this goofy-world; Mark Strong is, as usual, charming and a lot of fun as Prince Septimus, Tristan’s ultimate foe; and well, there’s plenty more where that came from. The real joy is just getting a chance to see everyone here show up, have a good time, and not make us feel like we aren’t involved with it, either.

We are and that’s the greatest joy of all.

Consensus: Despite its silliness, Stardust wears its heart and soul on its sleeve, with a fun and exciting pace, matched by an even more charming ensemble.

8 / 10

There were a lot of Italian pirates back in those days, people! Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Paramount Pictures

Miss Sloane (2016)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to stick it to ’em.

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is one of the more infamous and controversial lobbyists working Washington. That has less to do with the fact that she actually gets her bills passed, as much as it has to do with her brash, cocky and sometimes incredibly arrogant attitude that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. When the company she’s working for decides that they want to get a gun-bill passed, Elizabeth’s good intentions kick in and it makes her realize that she doesn’t like the bill and wants her own gun-reform bill to pass instead. So, what does Elizabeth Sloane do? Well, she joins up with a rival company, gathers up her team of new and old coworkers, and sets out to take down the new bill, garnering as many votes for her own gun-reform bill that can. However, when you’re going up against so many big dogs on the hill, there comes a point where you may have to put up, or shut up – something that Elizabeth doesn’t want to do, and it may as well cost her, not just her career, but even her life.

Miss Sloane sounds so incredibly boring and lame. It’s as if all the grand-parents got together in a room, decided that they needed a movie that only they cared about, gathered together a huge crowd of talented people to work in it, and yeah, just watch the movie for themselves. But Miss Sloane, if anything, is not at all like that; the best way I can describe it is as being a cross between David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, and Alan J. Pakula.

"I'm not terrible. Okay, maybe a little bit."

“I’m not terrible. Okay, maybe a little bit.”

Intrigued yet?

Well, if not, that’s okay. Miss Sloane, on-paper, doesn’t seem like the kind of movie that would actually work or better yet, be entertaining in the slightest bit, but for some reason, director John Madden and first-time writer Jonathan Perera, come together so perfectly, matching their styles, needs and wants like a couple who’s been together for five decades, that it hardly ever bored me. It’s snappy, quick, jumpy, sometimes random, a little crazy, surprisingly very funny, and yeah, when they decide to slow things down every once and awhile, actually kind of heartfelt. Actually, not really, but that’s kind of what works.

See, Miss Sloane takes place in this all-too-real world where politics is a dirty and unforgiving game, where rich, powerful and corrupt people will continue to always crack down and ruin the much poorer and less-connected civilians who are, honestly, just trying to make the world a better place. It’s the typical worldview we see painted so very much, but it still works because, well, that’s exactly what happens in the sick, cruel and usually evil world of politics.

Because it paints this portrait so vividly, Miss Sloane never for once feels like it’s taking any cheap shots; it’s easy to get wrapped-up in this world of fast money, fast people, and fast crime, and almost forget that, oh yeah, this movie’s actually about getting a bill passed. Madden, as a director, has shown that he usually loves to take his movies as slow and as melodically as possible, actually keeps up the pace here, which as a result, helps ensure that no matter how many times it gets off-course, Perera’s score stays crackling and fun.

Most of that, of course, has to do with the fact that from the very beginning, the movie makes it awfully clear that, yes, these are smart people, doing smart things, in smart jobs, so why shouldn’t they sound smart?

It’s actually a lot of what follows Sorkin in his career and works so damn well for him, which is why I’ve been getting a little shocked by all of the criticism towards this movie. Most of the complaints seem to come from the fact that no real characters have any actual development to them, whereas the plot does, and it’s a pretty lame one at that. For one, it’s a two-hour long movie that, quite frankly, moved by so quick that I hardly noticed and/or cared about the lack of character-development and as for the other, well, yeah, the plot can be pretty lame.

"Man up, dammit!"

“Man up, dammit!”

I’m still not sure whether or not Perera’s original script had as many silly twists and turns in it, or if it was just another case of studio interference, but either way, the ones that do eventually come around in the later-portion of the movie are, for lack of a better term, silly. Sure, it’s hard to not expect a movie such as this to eventually fall into the melodramatic-trappings that it does, but it’s also not hard to expect a movie that’s as smart, that seems to know what it’s doing from the very bat, not roll into them to keep the audience excited and on-edge. It’s hard to talk about these few twists and turns without giving stuff away, but just know this: The twists and turns are silly and definitely keep Miss Sloane away from being an otherwise perfectly solid and exciting piece of thinking-man’s entertainment.

And yes, while I’m at it, I may as well talk about the character-development that I alluded to before, because well, yeah, there isn’t much here, but at the same time, I don’t feel that there needs to be.

Miss Sloane, the movie, from the very beginning makes it very clear that a good portion of these characters have no lives outside of their work; they are utterly and completely consumed by it and it takes over what exactly makes them who they are. In that sense, it’s understandable why we don’t get to know much about these characters, or the way they are, or how they act, outside of the idea of their professions. In a way, it’s kind of sad, but the movie doesn’t harp on that aspect too much and instead, shows us exactly why these characters have no lives, are so dedicated to their jobs, and more importantly, care so passionately about getting this bill passed.

And because of that, the amazing ensemble is better off for it, too. Everyone assembled here, honestly, is quite great, with hardly a single bad apple to be found in the pack – Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, John Lithgow, Sam Waterston, Allison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, Douglas Smith – but really, the one to outshine them all is Jessica Chastain, playing our titled-lobbyist. Honestly, Chastain has never been better, mostly because her roles have never been nearly as daring as this; here, she gets the chance to play someone who is unlikable, doesn’t make excuses for it, and if someone has a problem with it, always has a snappy comeback, primed and ready to hit back with. The movie does make some attempt to develop her more, but mostly gets rid of that idea once it realizes that it’s sometimes best to just let Chastain do her thing and own every scene she’s in.

More roles like this for her, please. And also, more movies like this, please.

Consensus: Even if it does take some odd twists in the later-half, Miss Sloane is a fun, crackling, and spitfire thriller that may be about something as boring as getting a bill passed, but has just as many explosions and battles than any summer blockbuster.

8 / 10

Fourth-wall already broken?!? This movie has no rules!

Fourth-wall already broken?!? This movie has no rules!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Collider

The Brothers Grimsby (2016)

“MI6” usually is the reason for most family-members gone missing.

Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a typical Englishman living in the lower-class and just getting by. His girlfriend (Rebel Wilson) is always down to screw him whenever he wants, his kids are always willing and able to listen to what he has to say, and heck, even his grand-kids are happy to have him around. So yeah, while things may be all fine and dandy for Nobby, the fact remains that he’s still a little sad because he hasn’t seen his brother for nearly 30 years. Why is that? Well, nobody really knows because, quite frankly, nobody really knows who Nobby’s brother is. However, that’s on purpose because, as it turns out, Nobby’s brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong), is a top MI6 agent in the middle of a very important mission. While Nobby wants to get back in good graces with his bro and figure out just what the heck happened, the mission eventually finds its way in between Nobby and Sebastian, making it so that Nobby now has to get involved with the mission. Considering that he’s such a dimwit, this is bad news for everyone involved – most importantly, MI6.

Watch the throne.

Watch the throne.

You know exactly what you’re getting yourself into when you pay to see a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. While he may not be doing the avant-garde, mockumentary flicks anymore, he’s still doing R-rated raunch-fests every now and then, showing the world just how far and willing he is able to go with the vile, disgusting and downright appalling scatological humor, all without making a single excuse or apology for it. In today’s day and age where it seems like saying anything remotely controversial will have you thrown down a dungeon with the key locked away, it’s refreshing to see someone as well-known and famous as Baron Cohen continue to make the kinds of mean and nasty flicks that he does, while also not seem to care who it offends, or what people have to say about it.

After all, the guy can continue to do these movies for the rest of his life and there’d be nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, yes, as well as no. For one, the Brothers Grimsby isn’t a very long movie and it’s definitely better because of that. At nearly 83 minutes, the movie doesn’t try to pack a whole lot in, except for a spy story, a few comedic bits, character-development, and an action set-piece or two to keep most people over. Director Louis Leterrier is a confident enough director in that he knows something like this doesn’t need to have too much of anything; sure, there’s much more comedy than anything else, but Leterrier takes a whole lot on his plate and seems smart enough to know exactly where and when to put each piece.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that each of the respective pieces make up a great whole, but they still don’t get in the way of the best parts. Which is to say that, yes, the Brothers Grimsby is in fact a funny movie. While not every joke, or gag it makes is hilarious, or at the very least, chuckle-worthy, they still all highlight Cohen’s brand of over-the-top, ugly humor that misses quite often, but when it hits, is as funny as you can get. There’s a bit concerning elephants that gets even crazier and crazier as it goes along and it’s an absolute blast to watch, just as is a misunderstanding about a “seduction”. Both scenes can definitely be removed from the movie and there would be no cause or effect on the final product, but still, they work and are funny enough that it doesn’t matter.

And really, that’s all you can want with the Brothers Grimsby – a funny movie.

It doesn’t set out to light the world on fire, nor does it seem to try and change the landscape of the comedy world. It’s a shame that it didn’t do too well at the box-office, because it only shows that some people still may not be able to accept the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen can still make movies, he just won’t be able to do them to unknowing victims. While that’s definitely a shame, it’s also the reality of the matter; you can only strike gold so many times until, eventually, people start to catch on and the well starts running dry.

Little bro's are always nosin' around.

Little bro’s are always nosin’ around.

As Nobby, Cohen gets another opportunity to be as crass and as vile as he can be, however, the character is actually well-liked here enough that we feel as if we’re rooting for him, as opposed to rooting against him because he’s such a blockhead. Of course, Cohen is really just using Nobby as an outlet to act all crazy to those around him, but hey, it’s entertaining to watch and made slightly better by the fact that he isn’t the butt of the joke.

If anyone is, it’s Mark Strong’s Sebastian, who is basically the straight-man of the whole flick and with good reason – he’s so good at it. Strong doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for actually being charming, when he isn’t scaring the pants off of every protagonist in every movie he’s ever shown up in, but here, working alongside Cohen, he gets the chance to show-off in many ways. There’s a lot of ridiculous and unbelievable actions that his character does throughout the whole movie and yes, Strong is absolutely game for each and every one.

And everyone else in the cast is able to, too, however, most of them are kind of wasted. There’s the likes of Isla Fisher, Penelope Cruz, Gabourey Sidibe, Rebel Wilson, and Ian McShane, among others, who all show up and do their things, and all are fine. But at the end of the day, really, the movie is meant to be a showcase for Cohen and all of his dirty and disgusting ways of getting us to laugh at some of the most wrong, most inappropriate things ever put to screen.

But hey, it works.

Consensus: The Brothers Grimsby is exactly what you could expect from Cohen’s brand of humor, even if there’s a little more that takes away from the sometimes hilarious, but always raunchy jokes and gags.

6.5 / 10

Cool guys don't look at explosions and they also jump away from them, too.

Cool guys don’t look at explosions and they also jump away from them, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Welcome to the Punch (2013)

Why can’t gangsters and cops just get along?

Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is going damn near-obsessed with Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), a notorious British gangster who shot him in the knee, left him injured, and with a burning flare of revenge in the pit of his stomach. So, in order to get this criminal, Max decides to devise a set-up in which they’ll use Jacob’s son as bait. The plan sort of works, but it sort of doesn’t; while Jacob shows up, he still doesn’t fall prey to the tricks and trades of Max, therefore, leading to another battle of gunshots and violence. Meanwhile, the city’s law enforcement is cracking down on crime by issuing in new, state-of-the-art facilities and plans, all of which seem to promise a better, less-criminalized future for London, but really, seems like it may just be a pipe dream. After all, when you have cops as unprofessionally obsessed as Lewinsky handling very serious, almost life-changing cases, it’s hard to wish for a better tomorrow, when the present is already so screwed up and muggy.

"You fell for the free ice cream bit, too?"

“You fell for the free ice cream bit, too?”

Welcome to the Punch is, for lack of a better term, a very bloody, very violent, and very dour adaptation of cops and robbers. I say this intending for it to sound so exciting and fun as you’d expect something along those lines to be, but in reality, I can’t help but let you know that the film is very far from being exciting, or better yet, even fun. If anything, Welcome to the Punch is so cliched, serious and boring, that by the end, you may actually want to go out and play a simple, seemingly harmless game of cops and robbers yourself.

If you want to add the guns, the violence and the cursing, then sure, knock yourself out, but trust me, the entertainment you’d find with that game, you won’t find here.

A big part of that has to do with the fact that writer/director Eran Creevy doesn’t seem to know what to do with his set-up. While you can’t say the story here is particularly “original”, or even “surprising”, per se, there’s still a lot of promise up in the air. British gangster tales like this, when done right, can be every bit as compelling as they were back in the heydays of cinema – you just have to find the right approach and spin to make them as such. Creevy seems like he’s interested in these kinds of characters, but doesn’t know where to go with them, what to do with them or how to do anything that doesn’t bring anybody’s attention to far better, more engaging movies of the same genre.

Sure, this is expected with the British gangster genre, but still, there should be something different to make a note, instead of nothing. The violence and the few action-sequences we do get are, thankfully, fun and slick enough that they nearly save the movie, but everything else, when there isn’t shooting, or killing, or bleeding, or stuff blowing up, is just dull. Creevy seems to have a bright idea of staging action-sequences and how to get them going when push comes to shove, but actually getting there and bringing enough tension and turmoil to the action-sequences, he seems to have issues with.

Nobody lives in London except for James McAvoy, apparently.

Nobody lives in London except for James McAvoy, apparently.

This is a big problem, too, considering that he’s got a very solid cast to work with, yet, also seems to saddle them with dry, almost two-dimensional characters. McAvoy’s Lewinsky is so unrealistic and ridiculous, that he’s already hard to sympathize with, but McAvoy tries. We’re supposed to believe that a character like this would be such a live wire that, despite him brimming with rage and anger, he’d still be able to maintain himself in a place of professionalism and handle such a high-profile case as this. We don’t get to know anything more about McAvoy’s Lewinsky, other than that he’s obsessed with catching his shooter and that’s it.

Yawn.

Mark Strong’s Jacob seems like he’s going to be more than just your average British crook, but turns out to be just that. Sure, he’s not a total bad guy, but other than the fact that he seems to be doing everything for his son, there’s no real development to him that sets him apart from the rest of the other gangster characters who show up here. The only aspect is that he changes his mind about killing McAvoy’s Lewinsky, which almost doesn’t matter because, well, it’s hard to really care for that character in the first place.

Other welcoming presences show up like Peter Mullan, David Morrisey, and Andrea Riseborough show up and try their damn hardest to add some bit of electricity to the movie, but ultimately, seem like they’re not given anything in return for their efforts. Everyone here reads their script and does their absolute best, but Creevy isn’t really there to pick up the rest of the slack; they’re all sort of left working with thin characters we don’t come to care about, nor really identify with. They’re just place-holders for a bunch of action-sequences that, yes, look nice, but ultimately, don’t add up to much other than a bunch of in-focus explosions.

Give me a Diet Coke, Mentos, and a video-camera, and honestly, I could do the same thing. Except that it wouldn’t cost over 10 million dollars, nor would it be 100 minutes – it would cost five bucks, and last only about two minutes. Everybody would be a lot happier and not feel as if they’re time was just wasted.

Basically, the opposite feeling you get from Welcome to the Punch.

Consensus: Despite a great cast, Welcome to the Punch flounders their talents on a lame script, predictable storytelling, and uninteresting characters that are only meant to push us to the next action-sequence.

3 / 10

"Just do it. Make this thing interesting."

“Just do it. Make this thing interesting.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

James Bond was never this cheeky.

After a mission ends up disastrously and leaves a fellow agent dead, secret service agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) makes a promise to the man’s family, especially to the young baby, that he will look after them and be there when they need him the most. Fast forward a couple years later, and that baby, is now a young man named Eggsy (Taron Egerton), who has problems with his mom’s trashy boyfriend, the local bullies that seem to always be on his case about everything, and most importantly, the law. After landing himself in the slammer, Eggsy meets the man he met as a baby, who then recruits him for a secret training-session where he, and many others, will be fighting for the position of being a loyal, noble Kingsman. And honestly, the world needs Kingsmen more now than ever, what with millionaire tycoon Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) setting up an evil plan that threatens society as we know it. But with a bit of tuning-up and order thrown into Eggsy’s head, he might just be the one to stop Valentine, all before it’s way too late and there’s nobody left to save.

Matthew Vaughn makes fun movies. Regardless of whether or not you like those fun movies, it can’t be argued against that no matter what stories he decides to take, Vaughn always finds his own, unique way of electrifying them any way he can. That said, there’s a lot of people out there who just don’t care for his work – especially Kick-Ass. Though I quite liked that movie and felt like it was an honest superhero movie, where it seemed like there was no such thing with Marvel and DC hanging around, constantly trying to one-up one another, there’s plenty of people who don’t feel as I do. And that’s fine. I’m used to the rest of the world not agreeing with me on everything I believe in; it helps make me a lot more popular at parties, if I’m being honest here.

"Hey, thir. Nithe to meeth youthe."

“Hi, thir. Nithe to meeth youthe.”

But those who hate Kick-Ass, have to admit that Vaughn, for all that it’s worth, at least tried to spice everything up as much as he could. You could argue that he goes a tad bit over-the-top in certain instances and doesn’t really know whether he wants us to think of a situation as seriously as it’s intended to be, or just scoffed at and not taken seriously one bit, and I wouldn’t argue against you. But for some reason, Vaughn’s movies are fun and they hardly ever bore.

Which is sort of why Kingsman is a bunch of fun to sit back, watch and enjoy, even while stuff is constantly exploding and being shot at. The problems that seem to have followed Vaughn practically everywhere he’s gone in his career, where everything he features is so ridiculous and over-the-top, that it can’t at all be taken seriously, actually work quite well here. The whole movie, for what it’s worth, is essentially one big “yeah, whatever you say, bro” – scenes that seem so over-dramatic and nutty, are made a lot better by the fact that Vaughn has placed Kingsman in this world where everything crazy, is known to be as such. Therefore, rather than trying to explain it all for the people at home, the movie just lets us know right away that it knows it’s being ridiculous and allows you to make up your own mind as to whether you’re down for the ride, or not.

If you are, I can assure you, it’s a fun ride. If not, then piss off!

And that’s mostly where all of the fun can be had with Kingsman; it never wants to take itself too seriously to the point of where it’s dismissive of all its unexplainable, highly improbable acts that occur throughout, but it’s also never too goofy to where it turns into a parody of itself, or better yet, a Bond movie. In fact, if there was some problem to be had with this movie, it was that I felt like the humor didn’t constantly click as well here, as it does for a a movie from someone like, I don’t know say, Tarantino, or an earlier-version of Robert Rodriguez.

Those two film-makers have found their inherently genius ways of combining both bloody, shocking bits of violent, with subversive humor that clearly loves itself, but is also quite funny. No offense to Vaughn, because he clearly has a solid funny-bone located in his body, but he’s no Tarantino; he may be a bit better than Rodriguez nowadays, but then again, so is my dad when he’s had about four beers in his system. What starts out as a James Bond-ish parody flick, soon turns into it’s own comedy that sometimes hit, solely due to the fact by how knowing it is of all its ridiculousness, but then when it tries to sprinkle the funny throughout all of the in-your-face action sequences, it doesn’t always connect well.

Once again, that’s not to say that this movie’s action isn’t fun, or at least worth getting smiley-faced over – because it definitely. There’s actually one scene that takes place inside of a church that goes from normal, exposition-filled scene, to absolutely balls-out, wild and crazy action scene that goes nowhere you’d expect it to actually go to. It then ends in a shocking manner, but I won’t spoil it for you any of you here. I’ll just say that the movie is fun, just not as funny as it thinks it ought to be.

I’ll leave it at that.

"Daniel Craig? Oh, what a hack!"

“Daniel Craig? Oh, what a hack!”

Another element to Kingsman‘s success with most of this wacky material is that its cast is more than willing to commit whatever sorts of heinous it needs for them to do, and still be able to make it all cool with a smile or a smirk soon following. Colin Firth, in what seems like the role he’s been waiting nearly 30 years to play, gets a chance to show the world what it’d be like if he ever got the chance to play Bond, and it’s pleasant to watch. Of course, Firth’s charming and cunning as ever, but there’s also a certain bit of anger and aggression lurking beneath this character that makes you believe he’s a ruthless, sometimes toothless killer. When he’s called upon to act like so, that is.

Same goes for Samuel L. Jackson as Richmond Valentine, another pro who seems to be relishing in a role that he’s been wanting to play for some time now. You could say that Jackson’s doing an impersonation of Mike Tyson, what with the lisp and his goofy-demeanor and all, but there’s something more to this character that made him one step above most action-movie villains we normally see. He has an evil plan to get rid of most of the humans on the face of the planet, which is so that he can save the environment from turning on society and destroying Earth itself. It’s an evil plan, no getting around that, but it’s one that has some ground set in reality and for that, it’s worth noting.

The rest of the cast is pretty fine, too, with mostly everyone having a grand time with this wild material. Taron Egerton proves as a suitable protagonist with Eggsy, and gives us the impression that bigger, better things are to come of him; Michael Caine isn’t in this nearly as much, but is still such a class-act, that he brings plenty of dramatic-weight to any scene, just by showing up and doing his thing; Mark Strong, believe it or not, isn’t actually playing a lying, conniving, sniveling baddie like we’re so used to seeing him get type-cast as and it works well because the lad’s quite charming when he isn’t twisting his mustache; and Sofia Boutella, in a movie filled to the brim with male counterparts, somehow finds a way to stand-out as Gazelle, a bad-ass villain who has a set of deadly-pegs for legs and proves to be more deadly than Samuel L. Jackson’s actual, main villain.

You go, girl!

Consensus: Its tongue falls out of its cheek a few times, but for the most part, Kingsman: The Secret Service finds ways to keep things exciting and fun, even if it is completely over-the-top in ways you may not be able to imagine.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

One of these things does not quite look like the other.

One of these things does not quite look like the other.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Imitation Game (2014)

Being liked by others is so overrated.

During WWII, when Britain needed him the most, number-crunching genius Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) stepped up to the plate. However, it wasn’t easy for a fella like him. In Bletchley Park, Turing became involved of a top-secret program where he, as well as a few select others would try to decipher the German’s Enigma Code. Not only would it help them understand what the Nazi’s were going to do next, where and when, but it would also give the British an upper-hand in the war and possibly even allow them to win it. But problems arise with Turing’s personal life, as he’s definitely not well-liked by those he works with and, mostly due to his secretive homosexuality, hardly ever opened-up to those around him. The one exception to his rule was fellow number-cruncher Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who Turing develops something of a friendship with, even as hard as it may have been for him. But the fact of the mater remains: There is a war that needs to be fought and won, and Turing was not going to stop one bit in finishing it once and for all. Even if his own life and reputation depended on it.

"Quick! I need a three-letter word for 'being twee'!"

“Quick! I need a three-letter word for ‘being twee’!”

Everything about the Imitation Game screams “Oscar-bait”, and reasonably so. It’s not just produced by the incredibly sneaky and conniving Weinstein’s, but looks and feels just exactly like the King’s Speech. It’s handsomely-made with its production-values matching every single bit of detail it’s mean to portray; features a lead character that has many personal problems that may, or may not, hinder his effectiveness at the job he’s called on to do; and there’s even a female love-interest thrown in the mix as well. Overall, the movie has a very old-fashioned feel to it, that makes me feel like it’s the kind of movie I could see with my grand-mom and pop-pop, rather than seeing all by myself, or with my buddies, after we’ve had a few at the local bar.

But that doesn’t necessarily always mean a bad thing – it just means a thing. A movie can absolutely, positively hit every beat you expect to hit, yet, still not be bad. It’s just conventional and easy to predict a mile away. Once again, nothing wrong with that, especially when it’s done in the right way it should be.

And that’s where the Imitation Game works most of its magic – it has an old-time look and feel, but feels like it actually moves along at a fine pace, building both its plot, as well as its characters. Mostly though, it works with the former, in that it develops this lead character, Alan Turing, in a way that’s respectful enough to the history that he holds behind him (and reasonably so), but also shows us that well, yeah, the dude wasn’t perfect and more or less, had many problems that ended up getting in the way of his day-to-day human connections. Didn’t make him a terrible person, but just a person who possibly you, nor I would ever want to get stuck with talking to at a dinner-party.

If it was Benedict Cumberbatch playing any other character, then yeah, I’d totally want to hang out with him all day and night. But as Alan Turning? Sorry, Ben!

But, anyway, like I was saying about Turing here – the way he’s written and developed over time is well-done. We see him in all sorts of shades, and while they all may not be effective in their own ways, they still at least give us a bigger-impression of who this person was and why he matters to any of us, whether we be from Britain, the United States, Germany, or Niagara Falls. The movie definitely spells itself out as being important in nearly every frame, but it never became bothersome to the rest of it; it’s just a story about a person who deserves to be appreciated.

Though, there is something to be said for a movie that clearly wants us to sympathize and even identify with its lead character, yet, have him act in such ways that don’t seem believable, even by today’s society standards. For instance, back in the old days of England, being gay was considered “a crime”. It didn’t matter if you were a nice citizen who paid your taxes, lived a comfortable life and hadn’t done anything bad to anybody, ever; if you were gay, you were considered a bad person who needed to be locked away, or ticked, tooled, and played around with, as a way to hope that the government would be able to “get the gay out of you”. In case you couldn’t tell by my writing, it sounds all so very ridiculous and crazy, but that’s just the way the world was back then and it’s the way we, as a society, have to live with in knowing and understand as fact. Doesn’t mean we can’t move on from it and grow as a better, more well-adjusted society, but it also doesn’t mean that we have to forget about it neither and act as if it never existed in the first place.

What bothers me though about the way Turing’s written here, is that they make him out to be a guy who not only seemed like he had relatively serious case of Aspergers, but was openly letting people know that he was a homosexual, if push ever came to shove. My problem with this wasn’t that he told people and they were mostly fine with it, but it was more that he was telling people about it in the first place, even if it meant he would be locked away and possibly drugged-up for the rest of his entire life. This isn’t mean throwing out my own personal opinion, because it feels and reads-off as phony, especially given that the rest of the movie wants to be seen as something of a history-lesson.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soliders in this scene.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soldiers in this scene.

The bits and pieces about Turing actually cracking the code, what he and the rest of his crew had to do with that code, and for how long, were very interesting and seem like they’re trying more to actually inform the audience about history, much rather than actually give them an interesting, compelling story. It works as being such, to be honest, but for the most part, it feels and reads-off as being pretty legitimate and interesting. However, while the other bits and pieces about Turing’s personal life and how those around him approached it, while interesting at first, slowly dissolved into seeming unreasonable and almost like a liberal’s apology for all of the bad things the past had done to certain people of a certain group/demographic. It didn’t fit right with me and made the movie as a whole, feel like it was just taking a lot of liberties with its story.

That said, where the movie got very interesting was whenever it portrayed the relationship between Turing and his possible love-interest, Joan Clark. Though the movie has a bit of a hard time portraying someone as beautiful and charming as Keira Knightley as “plain”, it still gets by on showing how these two interact with one another, why there’s something of an attraction between the two, and why it’s a total shame that they can’t be together in an acceptable way. They both clearly have an attraction to one another, even if it isn’t simply by attraction. Knightley also does a solid job with a character who feels like she’s trying so very hard to be accepted from her male counter-parts, but ends up being a sweet, somewhat sad girl who just wants to be loved, even if it isn’t in the most ideal way imaginable.

Just anything would suffice for her and because she’s such a bundle of joy, it would suffice for us, too.

Problem with Knightley being so good here, with such a small-role, it makes Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing seem a bit one-note, although that’s maybe not fully his fault. The way Turing is written here is to be made out like some sort of weirdo, who doesn’t communicate with those he’s supposed to be communicating with, and even when he does, doesn’t know how to do so in an normal manner. Sometimes, it seems like he has Aspergers, other times, it seems like he as Autism. And while the movie never fully says what Turing’s problem was when it came to socializing, it still feels like the kind of character we’re supposed to be rooting wholeheartedly for, yet, we never get the chance to understand well enough to do so. That doesn’t mean Cumberbatch isn’t good in this role, it’s just a shame that he wasn’t given a whole lot more meat to chew on.

All in all though, what the Imitation Game is, is a tribute to the legend of Alan Turing. A man who deserves to be known by many more people and here’s to hoping that maybe this movie will give everybody a chance to. Even if, you know, a Wikipedia read will probably do some a lot more justice.

Consensus: While ordinary and by-the-numbers, the Imitation Game still presents an interesting enough view into the life of a man people should know more about, regardless of whether or not he’s portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more computer-devices.

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more shirts and ties.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Guard (2011)

Why can’t more cops be this cool?

An unorthodox Irish policeman named Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. As you could imagine, things don’t gel so well between the two as one’s kind of a dirty, lazy drunk that likes to sit around on his romp while everybody else solves crime, whereas the other one wants to get on the case right away, no frills attached. Not to mention that there’s a bit of a race problem between the two, seeing as how Irish, when they get drunk, well, tend to say some stuff that aren’t always nice.

While I was watching this movie, something really strange happened to me. While watching this movie and found a lot of similarities between this and In Bruges because right from the start, it’s pretty obvious. You get a bunch of lovely accents, Brendan Gleeson acting like a charming fool, dark situations, blood, violence, and they’re all done for laughs.

Another strange happening that occurred to me was the other day before I saw this movie, I was actually checking out the drug-induced trip that was Spun, and thought to myself, “Wow, this director seems like he’s making a music-video. I wonder if he was one of those before this movie? Hmm?” Sure enough, it turned out that the director of that one was, and better yet, that the writer/director of this movie, not only was trying to make a movie like In Bruges, but was also the freakin’ brother of that same writer/director! Goes to show you what I know and it made me feel like I was on-top of the world of with my movie knowledge, that will probably all get thrown-back in my face once I go to the next local Quizzo and fail miserably at the “Movie Round”.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink 'em out.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink ’em out.

Yeah, that’s reality for me, folks, and it’s not something I, nor my parents are too fond of being true.

Damn. What a disappointment I am.

Anyway, similarities aside, the writer/director of THIS movie, John Michael McDonagh still does a great job in his own right and starts us off perfectly with what we’re to expect from the rest of his movie. There’s definitely a very goofy side to this movie that isn’t afraid to show itself, poke a little fun at the whole buddy-cop aspect, and also make a lot of the more serious cliches of a crime movie, seem totally stupid and ridiculous. Like his brother, John Michael seems to be playing around a bit with the conventions we are all so used to seeing from movies of this nature and it kept me on edge wondering where he was going to go next with this story, and what exactly he was going to throw at me next. While making me laugh, I presumed.

That’s why this film’s humor, is so rich in the way it’s delivered. We’ve all seen dark comedy used in crime movies, especially from the likes of Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and countless others, but this movie really uses the dark comedy aspect to its strength and doesn’t seem forced in the least bit. Rather than giving us an act of violence and trying to make it all light by adding a cheeky line in there, John Michael still uses the same exact formula, but instead, makes it feel deserved and pretty goddamn funny if you ask me. I liked this film’s sense of humor, and it mostly just all felt very Irish to me as everybody is mean, cruel, and pretty damn depressed. That is, until they get a couple of Guinness’ in your systems, and then they’re a bunch of partyin’, happenin’, drunken fools.

Like true and tried Irishmen.

Where I think John Michael screws up a bit with this movie and the tone he’s going for is whenever he decides to get a tad bit more serious on us, and sadly, it doesn’t work. Most writers/directors are able to make the transition from goofy, lighthearted comedy, to straight-up, serious drama, but I don’t think he is one of them. For instance, any time the movie focused on Boyle and the meetings he would have with his, equally-as-cheeky mother who was slowly dying, the film got very dry, very serious, and very boring for me to actually keep my interest. Some people can make this transition work, but if you can’t, it’s just all the more glaring in the end as we never really catch on to any of the actual drama John Michael has in store for us. Instead, we just want the guy to keep on throwing more and more comedy at the wall, without worrying who it does, and doesn’t offend.

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

However, when it comes right down to it, I cannot, for a second go wrong with an all around solid performance from Mr. Brendan Gleeson himself, who is just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Sgt. Gerry Boyle. Gleeson has always been a guy that’s known for his dramatic-power in big-budget dramas where he usually plays a supporting character, but when it comes to comedies, he’s just as good, if not better just because of this undeniable amount of likability to him that shines through every scene he has here. Right from the start, you know that this cop isn’t going to be your usual, heavy-duty copper that takes everything so seriously. He’s more of a reasonable dude that doesn’t take everything so damn seriously, likes to make sarcastic jokes, and most of all, just likes to have a wee bit of fun for the hell of it. Now why couldn’t someone like him pull me over on the Freeway, Thanksgiving Eve?

Bastards.

And while it does seem weird to see Don Cheadle, of all people, in a very Irish-flick, the point is sort of in that description; he’s meant to be out-of-place and therefore, we draw jokes at him. It’s also a joke that hardly gets old, which mostly has to do with the fact that Cheadle and Gleeson work so well together, they seem like two guys you could really see connect together, given under circumstances of course. But watching as they build some sort of a friendship/connection, is interesting enough and gives more substance to a movie that could have been a down-and-out comedy, with bits and pieces of violence and action sprinkled in.

Consensus: Though the tone can be a bit all-over-the-place at times, the Guard still works because of its goofy sense of humor that, never gets annoying, nor takes away from giving us a lovely chemistry between the unlikely pair that is Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink. That's it.

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink…… That’s it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Body of Lies (2008)

Leo’s gone rogue! And Russell’s eating too much! What’s going on with the world?!?!?

CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan. When Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate his network, he must first win the backing of cunning CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) and the collegian, but perhaps suspect, head of Jordanian intelligence. Problem is, Hoffman isn’t quite exactly who he says he is and turns more heads than one man should be doing. Which will not get past Ferris’ head since he’s Mr. Smarty Pants over there.

I remember back in October 2008 when this film was being advertised, all my buddies and I made a promise to go out and see it. Sounded like a reasonable plan for a Friday night when girls or booze weren’t around. The one problem was that our ages from somewhere around 14-15, which meant we couldn’t see this unless we wanted to try the risky, but totally worth it sneak-in maneuver. We tried, but it didn’t succeed and we were bummed to say the least. After seeing it all of these years later, I wonder why the hell we cared so much in the first place.

Guess I wouldn't be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie too.

Guess I wouldn’t be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie, either.

There’s one thing you have got to say about Ridley Scott: The dude never half-asses a movie of his. From a technical standpoint, he does his job by making this film look as gritty and as dirty as he can get it, much like he did with Black Hawk Down. Since the film takes place in the Middle East, it makes sense that the camera look a lot grainier and sandier as if Scott just picked one up off the ground, dusted it off, and started filming. But it isn’t as amateurish as I may make it sound, because it actually adds a darker look onto the flick and it gets even better once the action actually starts to kick in. The action, as you could probably tell by now, is filmed in the trademark, crazy and kinetic way that we all know and sometimes love Scott for (less so for his late brother), but it brings a lot of energy to scenes that otherwise could have come off as generic and a bit unneeded. Still, they were thrilling, fun, and got the job done.

Needless to say, for the first hour or so, I was really digging this film. I thought that Scott really had his ass on the right track here with setting the story and making it appeal to anybody who isn’t necessarily a CIA-expert, while also making the movie itself quite suspenseful and feeling as if it could go, at any second, anywhere it wanted to. Somehow though, Scott seemed to lose himself along the way, which cause a problem the movie itself never seemed to recuperate from.

Right after Leo’s character gets bitten by a dog and has to go to the hospital for a series of rabies shots, the film takes a wild turn into a somewhat romantic-territory as Leo starts to fall for the nurse that treats him. Not only did it practically come out of left-field and add nothing to the story, but it seemed like such a tacked-on way of getting us to care more and more about Leo’s character, when I think that having Leo in the movie itself, playing that character is already sympathetic enough since the guy is able to win anybody over (even when he is playing a 19th century slave owner). All we needed to know about him was that the guy could do his job and get it done just in time to get screwed over by the head-honchos he works for. Not much else needed to be added, but Scott thought otherwise and ended up screwing his own movie over as a result.

It gets to so strange at one point, that you begin to feel like you’re dealing with two separate films: One, a dumb romantic flick based on a character’s smarts and another’s dullness, and the other one, a spy thriller that started off strong and fresh, but got very convoluted once too many characters started showing up and throwing their ulterior-motives around. Eventually, the romantic angle does go away for a bit and we are once again involved with the whole angle of this film that made it so fun in the first place, but by this time, it seems to have already lost a lot of its momentum. It’s weird too, because as they were building this story up and up, I felt like I should have really been along for the ride and wonder just what the hell is going to happen next to all of these characters but instead, I didn’t really seem to care all that much. Even when they hit the climax they’ve been itching for the whole time, it still feels undeserved and a bit anti-climactic.

Totally not his type. But apparently Ridley thinks differently.

Totally not his type: Born in the 80’s.

With that being said, the film does rely on its performances to make everything better and for the most part, they are worth depending on for quite some time until it becomes apparent that nobody can save this plot. Leonardo DiCaprio does a fine job as Ferris by giving this character more of a reasoning to be upset when it’s practically him versus the rest of the world. Come to think of it, that sounds like the same character he played in Blood Diamond, Inception, Shutter Island, and so many more. So yeah, it’s nothing new that Leo hasn’t already touched before, but at least he tries and show tons of effort in making this character, and ultimately the movie he’s in, work. Same goes for Russell Crowe who seemed like he was having fun, even if all he did was talk on the phone. I don’t know if eating cheeseburgers everyday for two weeks was the way to feel like you’re in the role but hey, I guess it worked for him and worked for us too, I guess.

Even as good as these two are, they aren’t the most interesting ones out of the bunch. The one who probably stole the most scenes for me was Mark Strong as Hani Salaam. The whole thing with Strong is that no matter what film his name pops up in, you always know he’s going to be the villain. Does he play the villain well? Yes, but could he actually spread his wings out and try something else other than that? Yes to that rhetorical question as well. That’s what he does here but this time, he plays around the idea of whether or not you know he’s the bad guy or not. He also adds a whole bunch of suave and relaxed coolness to him that makes him steal every scene, as well as not make him seem the slightest bit of gay whenever he calls another dude, “my dear”. Lately though, it’s cool to see him start to loosen up a bit and play around with other roles, even though it is a shame that Low Winter Sun seems like a bust. Poor guy. He deserves so much better, he’s just got to smile more so Hollywood producers know that he has the ability to.

Consensus: Though it wasn’t the most fresh or original-take on the thriller genre, Body of Lies was still working well in its first hour or so, but then began to lose its head once too many subplots were thrown in there, especially a cheesy one featuring Leo and some nurse he thought was cute. Lame!

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole "method thing"!"

“No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole “method thing”!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

RocknRolla (2008)

American gangsters are so boring.

This is a flick about a Russian mobster (Karel Roden) who orchestrates a crooked land deal, millions of dollars are up for grabs, and all of London’s criminal underworld wants in on the action. Everyone from a dangerous crime lord (Tom Wilkinson) to a sexy accountant (Thandie Newton), a corrupt politician (Jimi Mistry) and down-on-their-luck petty thieves (Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, and Idris Elba) conspire, collude and collide with one another in an effort to get rich quick.

After giving us two turkeys in-a-row like the ultra sappy, soap-fest that was known as Swept Away and the oddly slow and philosophical brain-take that was Revolver, Guy Ritchie was finally back to his old-ways in showing us gangsters that did bad things, said very funny things, and also, found themselves in some crazy situations that somehow connect to other gangsters that only live a couple of blocks down the street from them. Say what you will about it being conventional and nothing new for Ritchie to explore, but just be happy that he wasn’t doing another movie with his honey-at-the-moment, Madonna and making us watch as Jason Statham screamed his arse off for over an hour and some odd minutes. Yeah, be happy you damn people.

"What do you mean my next movie is some rom-com with that chick from Grey's Anatomy?!?!?"

“What do you mean my next movie is some rom-com with that chick from Grey’s Anatomy?!?!?”

Going back to his old roots may piss some people off because it’s nothing and nothing original we haven’t already seen from the dude, but Ritchie isn’t worried about that and instead, allows us to have a great time as much as he must have been making this movie. There’s a lot of goofy-stuff here with comedy coming-out in places you would have never expected and even some violent spots that just so happen to make us laugh but no matter what, Ritchie always adds in his style of wit that makes this flick seem all the more jokey, no matter how much it may try and be serious. You really can’t take a Ritchie flick seriously and even when this movie actually does try to do so, you don’t really buy into it and just realize that it’s better if you don’t pay attention to any of those aspects at all and pay attention to the finer things in life, as well as this movie.

The finer things in this movie is definitely the plot and just where the hell it goes, where it stops, where it changes, and so-on-and-so-forth. This is typical Ritchie: setting-up a plot for us, giving us all of the characters we need to know, let us know what they do, what the stakes are, and just let it all roll-out as if it was just one, huge Domino game. You start to see how a certain group of characters are effected by another group of characters and it almost never stops, especially with all of the damn twists and turns that Ritchie seems to take, yet, they never get old. Ritchie always knows when to say “enough” and rather than just continue to pile-up on the plot twists and have things get spiced-up a bit more, as well as more convoluted  he lets everything settle-in and have it become familiar to us, and then throw in another twist or turn, here and there just for good measure. Seriously, as much fun as it may be for us to actually watch this flick, it seems like it wasn’t even more fun for Guy to make it and that’s something that we all felt like we missed for the longest time. Glad to have you back, Guy. Now stay the hell away from that talent-sucker we all know as Madonna!

I think the biggest misstep for Ritchie here, as a writer and director, is that he never really pays all that much attention to every character the way they should have been payed attention to. For instance, in all of his other flicks, each and every single character was given a great-amount of screen-time that just so happened to fly-in whenever another character would show-up and become apart of their story-line, as well. However, here, in this flick, certain characters get the most attention, for the longest time, and then they stay there, only to ruin other story-lines of other characters. It isn’t that bad right from the start, mainly because all of the stories are fun and interesting to-watch, but once the film starts to focus on a bunch of other characters that haven’t been seen in awhile, you start to realize you don’t care all that much about them and it continues this way, until every story-line, in typical, Ritchie-fashion, finds themselves convulsing into a weird, but exciting finale.

It’s a trip that’s fun to take and ride-on, but it’s a bit messy and when it’s all said and done, you’re not really sure how it worked or even if it did. Heck, it’s almost like Ritchie was able to distract us all with his non-stop camera and writing tricks that he always has up his sleeve, and almost makes us forget that underneath the surface, is a very sloppily-made flick that forgets about certain-aspects that work, but remembers clearly the ones that don’t. I don’t know, maybe I was the only nut who was thinking that while watching this but either way, it definitely seemed a bit-off to me but also showed me that Ritchie is always the man to be trusted in terms of making a fun, entertaining flick, no matter how derivative it may be.

However, the familiarity of the style and story didn’t bother me all that much, especially when you take into account the quality-cast that he’s working with here. Gerard Butler is pretty solid as One Two, a tough-as-nails crook that always has a flair for wit, but also allows himself to be on the butt-end of a joke in terms of how he’s viewed-at as a tough-guy, that can also be a tad sensitive. If only Butler continued to take good roles like this nowadays, then we wouldn’t have shite-boxes like Playing for Keeps or Chasing Mavericks. That’s only a small list, though. Playing his two partners-in-crime are Idris Elba and a very skinny Tom Hardy, and as good as they both are, they aren’t really given a whole bunch to do that really makes them stand-out among the rest like Butler, even if Hardy’s character is a bit on the flip-side of the bed, if you know what I mean.

Does she not know who she's walking away from!??!?

Does she not know who she’s walking away from!??!?

Out of the whole-cast, the one who really steals this whole movie from underneath his wing is Tom Wilkinson as the old school gangster that does things his own, vicious way. Wilkinson seems to be having a ball as the mean and cruel gangster that doesn’t seem to put-up with anybody’s shite, no matter how heated or reasonable it is. Wilkinson never really gets to play evil-like characters such as these, so to see him have an absolute ball with it, was an absolute ball just to watch it. Playing his partner-in-crime is a fun and terribly-quirky mobster played by Mark Strong, who is really good at playing these types of roles, and is even better with his cheeky narration that supplies most of the film’s humor throughout.

I think the one performance I was really bummed-out by was Thandie Newton as Stella, the accountant that sort of starts all this shite between these countless blokes. She starts off strong, smart, and sexy, and seems like a huge-departure for Ritchie to have in one of his flicks since all of his characters are mainly just a bunch of fellows that do shit the old school, gangster way, but after awhile, turns into the type of character you’d expect her to be and it’s a bit of a bummer because she really had a lot of promise going for her. It was sort of like she was just there to move the plot along and as much as Ritchie may have gotten his wish fulfilled on that aspect, it still feels like a bit of a shame, considering he was really brewing on something here.

Consensus: Though it treads familiar-territory for Ritchie, RocknRolla is still a crap-load of fun that’s filled with witty characters, surprising twists and turns that you rarely ever see coming, and an ensemble cast that always seems game to work.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hold on! I swear we're the only ones who have nothing to do in this movie!"

“Hold on! I swear we’re the only ones who have nothing to do in this movie!”

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/10=Full Price!!

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

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

Syriana (2005)

So does any of this explain as to why gas is up to 4 bucks?!?

This is the story that tells the oil industry from different perspectives such as a CIA operative (George Clooney), an energy analyst (Matt Damon), a Washington attorney (Jeffrey Wright), and a young unemployed Pakistani migrant worker (Mazhar Munir) in an Arab country in the Persian Gulf.

Damn, I wish I was smarter when it came to watching movies because this film pretty much killed me. However, coming from the dude who wrote Traffic, I wasn’t expecting anything less.

Writer/director Stephen Gaghan does the same thing he did with that film and give it the inter-connecting story-lines, with plenty of characters, and all centering around one central topic. This time around, it’s not as good but he still has his moments as writer and director, mostly the latter though. I liked the look Gaghan gave this film: gritty, dirty, and very realistic looking as I actually felt like I was there going from Pakistan to Texas, then to Maryland and back to Pakistan again. Gaghan also some nice moments of suspense and tension here with the script as you know something crazy is going to go down and you can feel the heat in the air rising. However, the problem with all of that is that I didn’t know exactly what or why that heat was rising in the first place.

My main problem with this flick was that I don’t think that this film really was for me. I like to watch a movie to be enjoyed, to see good performances, nice writing, and maybe learn a thing or two in the process, but the problem here is that I didn’t learn anything probably because I didn’t know anything about this topic to begin with. Gaghan knows what he’s talking about when it comes to all of this political mumbo-jumbo about the oil and foreign relations, but I honestly didn’t. Instead of trying to make it work for the audience in anyway, Gaghan doesn’t seem to really give a shit whether or not anybody understands what the hell everybody’s talking about because he’s got some knowledge to drop on us. Gaghan constantly keeps on bringing out information left and right and it was so frustrating after awhile because even though I tried to fill in the blanks myself as to who was doing what to who, I still couldn’t come up with anything and realized that I was missing out on some key plot elements to this film, not like I was going to even know what was going on in the first place anyway.

I guess the blame could be put down on me since I barely knew anything about this main topic, or anything else they talked about here but I honestly think that Gaghan could have at least dumbed it down just a bit. That’s right people, I said dumb it down and I will stand by that statement only for this flick. Hell, maybe dumb it down isn’t the right thing to say, maybe it just needed to be more coherent for an average folk such as myself. Yeah, coherency is what I really meant.

The key audience for this flick who will understand just about everything that’s going on are probably dilettantes, politicians, pundits, and all of the other people that are involved with the government, but for your regular movie goer, it’s hard to understand anything really and I think that Gaghan could have really benefited from some explanation or more time to keep this flick going and making a lot more sense to the wider audience. Maybe this film is too smart or maybe I’m just too dumb, either way, I can’t say that I was on the edge of my seat nor did I have any real clue as to what was going on.

Where the film really did start to pick up though was about the last 30-45 minutes when everything started making sense after awhile. All of the stories start to come together and even though I didn’t really know what the hell was going on in the first place, I could say that the ending was definitely a satisfying ending because I did pay enough close attention to it the whole time. I know it’s a cheat saying that I almost forgave the film for it’s last act, but I still think Gaghan handled it well. Wish I could say the same for the rest of his flick.

The ensemble Gaghan was also able to get here worked very well even though it really comes down to three people: George Clooney, Matt Damon, and the criminally underrated Jeffrey Wright, who are all great and perfect choices to be the anchors for this flick. They are all very good with their roles as is everybody else in this big-ass ensemble too but really, it’s Clooney who shines the most. Clooney got his Oscar with this performance as Robert Barnes, and as good and strong as it may be, I don’t quite think it was pure Oscar material but this guy is going to get a big win in the future so it’s all fine and dandy for now.

Consensus: Gaghan’s direction is well-done, and his work with this big ensemble is also very impressive, but the problem with his script is that it’s way too confusing with all of it’s jargon that will only make sense to people who actually pay attention to this stuff in the first place. I don’t know if it was just me or the flick itself, but something wasn’t going too well here and that’s why I can’t say it’s as great as everybody says it is.

6/10=Rental!!

John Carter (2012)

Don’t worry people, he’s not John Carter of Mars, he’s just regular old John Carter of Earth. Lame.

The film tells the story of warweary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.

I have to admit that before I went to see this flick I was not that hyped up as much as others were. The trailers didn’t do much to excite me, I haven’t read any of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pieces of work, and this just looked like the sci-fi version of ‘Prince of Persia’. Thankfully though, my expectations were met with some high glee that I was not expecting at all.

Director Andrew Stanton does a great job with his first live-action feature because he not only keeps to what made this story so damn influential in the first place, but also makes it work for people who aren’t that familiar with either. The film was made for over 250 million dollars and I can tell that every single piece of that moolah went right to the production design because this flick made Mars look like a pretty cool place to be rather than just a desolate planet. There are these cool solar-sailing ships that are constantly moving in and out of this flick and look really neat, the creature designs look very realistic as if John Carter is actually talking to a bunch of these four-handed aliens, the costumes are a slight mixture of old Rome-looking fashion mixed with some ‘Star Wars’ looks and they look pretty cool as well, and just about every bit of special effects work and seem like Stanton really put his heart and soul into getting us into this world of Mars.

Stanton also does a very good job at keeping this film fun, entertaining, and just exactly what a sci-fi blockbuster should be, epic. In the past couple of years the bar for sci-fi blockbusters have been set pretty high but I think that this one could very easily sit right up there close to the top because it doesn’t try to do much that isn’t different from what we’ve seen before, but with what they do do, it’s a whole lot of fun. There’s constant guns shooting, swords clanging against one another, fist fights happening out of nowhere, aerial battles in those cool solar-sailing ships, a very extreme arena scene where John Carter takes on two huge gorillas, and just a whole bunch of other sci-fi goodness that will surely make anyone, especially sci-fi lovers, just feel a total energy burst in their system. Basically, it’s a film that has fun with everything it’s given with its huge plot and it also has a nice sense of humor to work around with too which is always a plus in any flick.

The problem that this flick hits is that on the story front, there seems to be a little too much going on here for people to grasp onto right away. As soon as John Carter lands right on Mars, we are stuck with the conflicts between the warring races, the new planet and it’s technology, the princess being married to someone she doesn’t want to be married to, the alien species, and the whole fact that John Carter is trying to find a way back home to Earth. It’s definitely a lot to take in right off the bat and even when we find out what the master plan behind all of this conflict is, we are kind of left with that feeling of “we don’t know what the hell he’s talking about”.

When it comes to holding a film on his own, Taylor Kitsch seems like he can do it, but for some odd reason, he’s just not all that special here as John Carter. I will give Kitsch the benefit of the doubt and say that there are some scenes where he displays some wit and charm and looks very fit and in-shape for the role of this ruthless warrior that the film soon makes him out to be, however, he came across as wooden sometimes. I don’t know if it was Kitsch’s fault or if it was just the writing’s problems, but there were times where he just seemed like he was reading his lines with the flattest delivery I have ever heard and I was wondering if he was supposed to do this to show that he’s confused about what’s going on, or if Kitsch is pretty lame as an actor. The guy is appearing in two more big flicks this year so I guess those ones will answer my question but he’s pretty empty here as John Carter and that’s one of my biggest gripes with this flick.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re all pretty good too. Lynn Collins is very stunning but also pretty smart, hip, and sexy as Carter’s main love interest, Dejah Thoris, a new and cool princess that can actually stick up for herself rather than just standing there and let her boy do all of the ass-kicking; Mark Strong is good as Matai Shang, aka the evil angel that shows up and has complete control over anybody he wants to have it over; and Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe, and Samantha Morton all do very good jobs as the CGI-covered Tharks and even though we can’t see their faces, we can still tell that they are putting every ounce of their skills into these performances, which also helps the great-looking animation of these characters too.

Consensus: John Carter has certain problems with its central performance from Kitsch and its over-abundance on plot, but what does work is the fact that Andrew Stanton has done nothing here but make a beautiful and stunning flick with a lot action, excitement, humor, and everything else that makes a sci-fi blockbuster work. I hope it gets all of its money back but that seems pretty far-fetched right now.

8/10=Matinee!!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Did anybody smile in London during the 70’s?

George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman, is forced back from his retirement, to find out who the mole in the Circus is. Alongside Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Mendel (Roger Lloyd-Pack), they start the search inside the “company”, ruling out one by one.

Hearing that this film is one tough-as-nails film to keep track of, I thought I’d still be all good and cool not reading any of the source material and not really being totally awake for this flick. Little did I know that I made a grave mistake.

This film is one you really have to pay attention to. Every single little line, of every single little sentence is another piece of information that adds more onto this story and mystery to where if you mis-understand what one character says, you’re lost for the most part. It’s also even harder to follow this film when you have about 100 characters with all of their code-names, things they do, what they did, what they are supposed to, position in the office, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a lot of stuff that this film throws at you but to be honest, I liked that element.

This is one of those rare films that asks you to use your brains and instead of spoon-feeding everything to you, there are times when you just have to make up assumptions for yourself. It sounds a little bit too much for some to handle, but for me, I liked this whole feel where I had no idea what was going to happen next and as the main character, Smiley, was gaining information, I felt like I was right there with him finding out just who is “THE MOLE!”. It also helps that the tone is downright glum and dark to where we know that no matter, something bad and unhappy will happen so we can never really get our hopes up.

Another way why this film works is because of director Tomas Alfredson‘s approach to this material. From the trailer and the plot summary, I was expecting a lot of talking, anger, and just all of these crazy things being thrown at me, but instead it was a lot more quiet, subtle, and slow which at first seems annoying but as time goes on, the film starts to get even more paranoid and you don’t quite know exactly what’s going to happen next. When these character do actually have words to say to one another though, they get straight to the point and never steer towards anything else like what they had for breakfast or anything. You also never know when these huge climatic moments happen either because everything goes along so smoothly and we take so much information throughout the whole film that when something big is revealed, we don’t really feel it because we are so used to be clobbered over the head with info.

This is where my biggest problem with this film comes up. The film is about 2 hours and 8 minutes long but even then it feels short with everything we get thrown at us. Don’t get me wrong, I was able to keep up with most of this but after awhile it becomes too much considering that we never really get a chance to let all of this information sink in and right as soon as it does, or at least we think it does, the film throws us another piece of info and then that’s when the headaches start to come on. The script is done perfectly by Peter Straughn and the late Bridget O’Connor but in all honesty, too much information with so little time really. Hey, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ was about 2 hours and 40 minutes, a run-time that I think that this film could have really easily benefited from in the first place.

Another problem with this film was that I felt like there wasn’t much of an emotional pay-off for anybody who was actually paying real close attention to this film. It’s not hard at all to figure out just what the hell everybody is discussing, but it’s more the fact that all of the details that we have to pay close attention to, never pay off. There are even some parts that are brought up such as a homosexual relationship between two workers which at first seemed very interesting, but for some odd reason it never gets touched upon except for just one time and then it’s just left open to us. As long as this film may be (which it didn’t feel like at all), it almost felt like there was another hour needed just for all of these story lines to be resolved, which may make sense as to why it was a mini-series in the first place anyway.

As for the cast though, what else other than perfection could you expect? I think it’s easy to say that this huge-list of British all-stars is brought together by the one and only Gary Oldman as Mr. Smiley. Just like the tone of the film, Oldman plays this role very straight-forward, very quietly, and also very understated. This shows how impressive of an actor this guy can be and this is one of the most recent performances that he’s given where he shows just why he is one of the best working actors in today’s day and age. As for all of the Oscar talk that he’s been getting as of late, I do think that he could somehow, someway sneak his little way into a nomination but there’s nothing else here that’s really “Oscar material” other than one little speech he gives, which shows his way of bringing out emotion no matter what film he’s in.

The rest of the cast here is also amazing as well. Colin Firth is great to watch as Haydon, the most charming character out of this whole film; Tom Hardy is one of the best supporting performances in this flick with his role as Ricki Tarr; it’s also a huge surprise to see Mark Strong in a flick where he doesn’t completley suck ass, but regardless he’s great here with his performance as Prideaux; and Benedict Cumberbatch also looks and acts the part of the smart-little side-kick, Guillam. There are so many other great performances given here but instead of just rambling on the whole time and dropping names left-and-right, I think I’ll just leave it at the peeps who I remembered the most from this flick.

Consensus: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy benefits from its strong cast, a whole bunch of details that add more to the mystery, and a dreary/paranoid feel that goes perfectly with its subject material, but it packs so much information and details into a time-limit of 127 minutes, that it’s almost too much for us to handle let alone get a full feel for in the end. Definitely take a 5-hour energy before going into this flick though.

8/10=Matinee!!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I don’t even think Sherlock himself could figure out what the hell was going on here.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Sherlock Holmes, teaming up with Watson (Jude Law) once again trying to fight crime and solve mysteries. The crime they must stop is the powerful kingpin of England, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who seems almost too tricky to get a hold of.

When the first Holmes film came out back in the winter of ’09, I have to say that it was really cool seeing this character taken in a completely different and action-star way, mixed with a lot humor as well. Though, going into this I was a bit skeptical knowing that twice is not always the charm. That is unless your Robert Downey Jr.

Director Guy Ritchie is one of my favorites and his style and energy is what had me liking the first one so much and he does a good job here as well. The story is very mysterious and many times I had no idea what was going to happen next, considering that I couldn’t pay attention enough because of how funny Holmes and Watson were together. Also, there is a lot of fun action to be seen here with the usual idea of having Holmes narrate what he’s going to do next and basically every time doing exactly that, but sometimes adding in his own little twist in the end.

Ritchie also has a knack where he tries to not only illustrate what Holmes is going to do next, but basically everything that has any type of action to it, which is what I found really cool. He uses all of these cool camera-tricks where the film is sped-up, then sped-down or if a gun is being loaded, we see where the bullets go, when the safety is turned off, and when the gun shoots. It was pretty cool seeing how Ritchie could use all of these cool tricks that he had up his sleeve to create some pretty cool action moments and give it his own style.

However, where this film suffers the most is the fact that the film feels like it needs to be a sequel, so therefore, everything is the same from the first one, except a whole lot more. I didn’t mind all of the slow-mo scenes as much as others but I do think that Ritchie gets a little too carried away with having way too much of that early on as well as more explosions, more explanation, and more bantering for these guys to do. I’m not saying I hated these elements but I do definitely think that Ritchie just took exactly what he did from the first one, and injected steroids into it so that we got more, more, and more.

The story for the first film, was not a very original idea in the first place but compared to this one, it’s a hell of a lot more simple! Where the problem with this plot/story lies is that it is very jumbled and doesn’t really do much when it comes to keeping us compelled. Though I could follow it, I still felt like the whole idea of Watson and Holmes going around, searching for a mysterious gypsy woman and stumbling upon a plot to start the first World War, seemed a little lame and too generic for a film that obviously wants to stray itself away from countless others just like itself.

Robert Downey Jr. is still a total delight as Sherlock Holmes and keeps his fun, frenzied, clever, and always funny act up to the point of where you think this guy can play this performance in his sleep. Jude Law is also a whole lot of fun as Watson, and keeps that fun chemistry he and Downey have together. They both act like they have been hanging out for years with their constant jokes, innuendo, and constant badgering of one another that never seems to stop no matter what kind of crazy-ass mess they find themselves in.

The real delight to watch is the performance from Jared Harris who plays Professor James Moriarty. Moriarty is obviously more devious and smart than a lot of “sequel bad-guys” usually are and basically everything that you thought that could not be touched or harmed, he proves within the first 30 minutes that it can and will be, because he’s in charge, bitch. Harris plays Moriarty with a quiet and menacing look on his face and you can always tell that he is always one step ahead of Holmes whether it being finding a bomb, having a one-on-one brawl, or playing a nice little game of chess. Harris is very good in this role and definitely a lot better of a villain than I had first expected.

What the real disappointment of this film was the fact that they have Noomi Rapace here playing Madam Simza Heron, and she does absolutely nothing. She is only here to be the replacing female character because Rachel McAdams bites the dust pretty early and I wish that they did so much more with her considering how much of a bad-ass she was in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’. I feel bad for Rapace because she could have done so much here but instead she was only used as a plot contrivance.

Consensus: Although there are times when Guy Ritchie feels like he’s over-doing the whole style he used for the first one, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still a whole lot of fun with energy, humor, a good villain, and the pitch-perfect chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law that keeps this film always entertaining.

7/10=Rental!!

Sunshine (2007)

When Sheryl Crow sang, “I wanna soak up the sun”, these people took that to the heart.

With permanent darkness looming, scientists devise a plan to reignite the sun before the lights go out forever. To do so, a crew of astronauts is sent hurtling through space on an intense mission to determine the fate of the planet.

Director Danny Boyle is a dude that has been doing great things for the past decade. Ever since he flew on the radar with Trainspotting, people have been watching this guy for just what crazy story he’ll bring out next. This is one of them.

Boyle does a great job with this film because he creates this ultra-freaky sense of claustrophobia as the crew members get closer and closer to the sun, and farther and farther away from the actual planet. This is how Boyle creates suspense as he shows more close-up shots, confined structures, and basically telling us what’s going to happen next but still leaving that little thought and idea that something, just something may go wrong.

Another great thing that Boyle does here is show us perfect actually almost seamless dazzling effects that look like an actual spacecraft if it were to travel to the sun. I liked how Boyle used all these different types of vibrant colors to contract the over-bearing darkness in space. The scenes of where we actually see the sun hitting these people’s eyes or just seeing the sun in general are actually very well-detailed and if Boyle did one thing right here, it was to show us just about pitch-perfect visuals that never seemed to disappoint and brought me more and more into this world.

My main problem with this film is that none of this really seems original which is what anyone could see from a mile away. I almost got the sense of claustrophobia that I had with Alien, or the talking space-ship from 2001, or hell even the little plot twists that happen here reminded me so much of Solaris and plenty other sci-fi flicks. This isn’t saying that this one doesn’t stand well on it’s own two feet because it does well, but the constant reminders of countless other sci-fi films started to annoy me.

I like how Boyle chose this international cast and actually all had them live together so he could get this very legit feel between all of the, and to say the least it worked. Cillian Murphy is the real showcase of talent here as Capa; Rose Byrne is gorgeous but also very good as Cassie; Michelle Yeoh creates a very good character which is something I wasn’t expecting as Corazon; and Cliff Curtis does a good job as the reasonable nice guy, Searle.

The best out of the cast though is a guy I actually talked about not too long ago in my Captain America review. Chris Evans is stunning here and attributes to a lot of the scenes he has because he has that legitimate feel to him and it almost seems when everybody’s getting all too freaky and crazy with what’s about to happen. He’s the one who always seems to breath some fresh air of smarts into their sci-fi heads and even though the rest of the cast is good he is still the one that seems to do it for me the most.

My final problem with this film is that the tone starts to switch very dramatically by the last hour. The first hour is this building of suspense, sci-fi, and unknowings, but then the last half comes up and then we get this strange, trapped, almost slasher flick kind of film. This kind of disappointed me because it was never explained why the last half actually happened the way it did and the way everything happens just seems so run-of-the-mill even though I thought the ending had a good touch.

Consensus: This isn’t a totally original film, and the final act may disappoint, but Sunshine benefits from Boyle’s inspired direction that creates suspense, beautiful visual effects, and a cast that actually do well with their roles and seem like actual people rather than just a bunch of action cliches.

7/10=Rental!!

Happy Last Day Of Summer of Everyone! It’s been a great one!

Green Lantern (2011)

The Green Lantern film the fans have been waiting for…..if it were made for TV 15 years ago.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a brash, talented test pilot, is chosen by an alien force of warriors to become their representative on Earth and use his new powers as the Green Lantern to promote order and justice before conflict destroys his world. Despite being the first human to wear the ring that bestows his abilities, Hal must combat villain Parallax. Fellow pilot Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) aids Hal in his quest to save the galaxy.

It seems like Hollywood is trying anyway they can to get almost every superhero film done in time for the big Avengers film. Add this to the collection of superhero films that make more ready for it.

This film wasn’t really for me because I was not a huge fanboy of The Green Lantern comics, or The Green Lantern himself. I thought he was a pretty silly superhero to begin with and I looked to this film to have me like him more. Which it didn’t do really. The problem this movie has I think lies within it’s script which is so jumbled altogether with all these different stories and crazy mythology that it takes away from the actual story that could have been more compelling and easy enough to get behind. The mythology here they constantly talk about is also nonsensical and seems to have any reason to be put in there also.

Many scenes also felt like they had no real purpose and were just put in there to show a cool CGI shot that didn’t really do much to the film in the first place. But let’s not forget that this story doesn’t really get going until we are already an hour into the film and have already known what The Green Lantern can do, and who ALL of the characters are, what they do, and the purpose they actually serve to the story.

However, when it get’s going, it really does move much thanks to director Martin Campbell who knows what he’s doing when it comes to showing awesome action scenes. Campbell, who brought back to life the “Bond” films, knows what he’s doing when he wants to make the action fun and exciting look at and that transcends well with this material to 3-D. The film has tons and tons of CGI as well which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it does look well-done here, I just wish they less on the special effects in some cases. Although, I still liked the CGI, because this film did actually look “pretty” to say the least.

Ryan Reynolds is very good as Hal Jordan, a role that some thought he wouldn’t be able to pull off but in my case, thought he did the best job there could be to be done. He has the looks, he has the charm, he has the humor, but he also has the dramatic acting chops that makes it look like he actually wants to be there and not just phoning it all in for an easy paycheck. That is why I liked Reynolds so much here. Blake Lively is just gorgeous as Carol Ferris; Peter Sarsgaard is always vilainous in anything he does and his performance as the big testicle, Dr. Hector Hammond, is no different; and Mark Strong is also awesome as the porn-star look-alike, Sinestro. The rest of the cast is fine as well with the likes of Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Geoffrey Rush, and Michael Clarke Duncan.

Consensus: Martin Campbell knows what he’s doing with the action and the cast, especially Reynolds, all do well with their own individual performances, but the script is clonky with too much going on and not enough focus on the real story at hand, which may have fanboys totally pissed off. However, not being a fan of the original comic books, I must say that I walked away happy that I saw this.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Kick-Ass (2010)

Sorry to disagree with you my bud, Aiden, but this did not suck-ass.

Inspired by his love of comic books, high school student Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to transform himself into a masked crime fighter — a decision that eventually thrusts the teenager into Internet stardom. Soon, Dave’s antics inspire a wave of would-be heroes to don costumes and live out their superhero fantasies. Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloe Moretz also star in this comic book adaptation from director Matthew Vaughn.

The controversy for this movie has mostly been brought out from the first trailer. There is a lot of bloody, and crazy violence, while there is like a 12-year old saying the word “cunt”. However, those were mostly it’s main points.

The film has great writing. The premise is highly original, and perfect for any superhero nerd, who has dreamed of one day being a cool guy with a mask, and don’t get me wrong it starts out funny and fresh, but then it just turns into something I have seen before. It’s basically structured , by the end, like a super-hero film, and last time I checked it was about this dude trying to be a superhero and failing, not being a super-hero, and all of a sudden, turning into one. It also, sometimes is just too flat at times to be funny, and could have actually benefited from better writing when it came to its comedic side, although I do think some of it was good. I understand the fact of tongue-in-cheek, but after awhile I just ignored it, and thought too myself, if this is how its going to be the whole film, oh well I can get over it, and still have a good time.

I have to say though, it’s main strong-point was the crazy violence it got in trouble for. If you are squeamish, do not go to this film, because you will mostly be wasting your money seeing this blood-fest. And I’m no major blood lover kind of guy, but I just loved how much these people got their shit wrecked. It was cool to see how we evolved from old superhero films that use like super-powers, and now in our recent ones, we have guns, weapons, and basically our fists. If you wanted to watch one scene from the movie that would basically sum it all up, it would basically be the one where Nic Cage’s character, takes out about a dozen dudes, by far one of the coolest things I have seen in any action film.

Aaron Johnson is good in his role as a nerdy dude, but when he takes his mask and glasses off, and his hair is matted down, you realize that he is just another good-looking actor. His character also is played too much like a Jesse Eisenberg, or Michael Cera, and he is just basically a type picked for this role. The best part of the cast was Hit-Girl, and that bad-ass to the top right, Big Daddy. Nic Cage is great in this role, cause its awesome just be in this role, and not try so hard to cheese it up, or be cool. He’s just one bad-ass mofo, that knows how to use a shotgun. Chloe Moretz, basically owns this movie, and shoots it in the face. She curses like my dinner table at Thanksgiving, kills people in beautiful ways, but there is also this innocence that makes it so hard not to love. She is an iconic character, and will surely be played off many other times in other films to come. Halloween costume?? I think so!

Also, Mclovin’s in this basically playing, a rich, super-hero like Mclovin. Poor guy can never play anything else. While, Mark Strong is his dad, and cheesing it up as the main villain.

Consensus: Kick-Ass may not have the best writing, and start to turn into something we have seen before, but still has the great bloody violence, awesome performances, and some nice writing.

8/10=Matinee!!

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

I never really imagined Sherlock Holmes as this type of dude.

Robert Downey Jr. stars as the legendary London sleuth Sherlock Holmes, joined by Jude Law as dear Dr. Watson, in this Guy Ritchie reinvention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s oft-adapted detective series. Based on a comic book by producer Lionel Wigram, the story follows Holmes and Watson as they face off against the villainous Blackwood (Mark Strong). Rachel McAdams co-stars as quick-witted beauty Irene Adler.

So as soon as I found out that this film was going to be directed by one of my favorite’s, I was interested and curious at the same time. Why would this guy get stuck with this type of material, and would it work?

To answer the question, it’s a sort of yes and kind of no. Guy Ritchie’s pacing is quick and he does make the film a lot more fun that what I was expecting. There is a lot of action sequences that are nice, violent, and fun to watch. If the film just focused on his detective ways, it wouldn’t have been as exciting as seeing a kick-ass detective, breaking people’s jaws into two places. The way that the action works its way into the film doesn’t at all slow it down once.

The editing in the film is top notch as well. In between present moments of time are a plethora of moments involving Holmes recapping and analyzing how he should proceed in his actions. These scenes are beautifully executed and very well timed, allowing the viewers to really get inside of Holmes’ head more effectively than any bit of dialogue ever could. Although slow moving at first, the story builds to a climax that brings all questions full circle and opens up room for a sequel by introducing an element that any Holmes fan will notice was absent in throughout most of the film. I won’t spoil it here but, needless to say, I curiously await how well it shall be done in the sequel, should it come to fruition.

Now when I mean no, is that Ritchie’s style of story-telling does get a bit in the way. I felt that some stuff was put in the movie, just for comedic relief, and not necessarily for the story. I was kind of confused on how the case was actually getting solved by all the action, and at points I was even confused what were the results of the case.

Other of Ritchie’s trade marks, however work very well. The screenplay is rich with this sarcastic wit and humor that works very well throughout the whole movie. Some action scenes and others with the mystery involved were better with its light tone added with the humor. Also, the way Ritchie uses his way of telling these little clues work well, as you find out peace by peace the story.

Another problem I had with the film was the absence of any sense of color and the setting. I mean yeah the setting was good-looking, but it was just very grimy and very depressing. The story can be colorful at points, but there was never really any great blend of rich colors to stylize the movie more.

Probably the best element of the film is the acting by its two leads. Downey Jr. is great as the sarcastic and colorful Sherlock, and although sometimes the guy can be so goofy that we love him as a wonderful lead. But the duo of him and Jude Law is what makes it the best. Every time these two are on-screen it just feels like two comedians who have known each others their whole lives, and just continually riff on each other again and again. McAdams didn’t seem that strong in this film, and plenty of the lines she had just seemed very forced.

Consensus: Though Ritchie’s style doesn’t quite fit the original material, Sherlock Holmes is a fast-paced, action mystery, that has funny dialogue that gets even better with its performances from the leads.

8/10=Matinee!!