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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 Wahlberg

The Italian Job (2003)

If you’re going to pull-off a cool heist, your whole gang’s gotta be cool, too. It’s a known fact.

After a super, duper tricky heist in Venice, Steve (Edward Norton) turns on his partners in crime, and ends up killing skilled and legendary safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Why? Well, Steve got greed and just wanted to keep all the gold for himself, and not try to cut in anyone else. The rest of the team that Steve ripped-off included leader Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives man Left Ear (Mos Def), and tech geek Lyle (Seth Green), or, as he likes to be called “Napster”, now all vow revenge. But in order to totally get back at Steve and ensure that their heist goes down without a hitch, they enlist the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), so that they can get an inside-view into Steve, his life, and just where exactly he’s hiding all of that damn gold. But it’s known that Steve’s a tricky dude to mess with, and it’s why the gang’s really going to have to get their act together, in order for them to not just pull this all off and get the gold, but ensure that everyone’s alive by the end of it.

“Ayo Marky Mark, check this out. I’ll say hello to my motha for me, too.”

The Italian Job is a typical remake that’s modern, which means that it’s “hip”, “cool”, and totally unnecessary. But still, it’s also a bit of fun and when it comes to remakes of old-school classics, having a bit of fun means a lot, because most of the time, they’re just soulless, annoying and nauseating cash-ins. The Italian Job is different in that it doesn’t seem a whole lot of it was made solely for the money, but that it’s still got the same kind of look, tone and feel of all the other “gang-heists” movies.

Basically, think of it a more adult, somewhat smarter version of the Fast and Furious movies.

Which isn’t to say that the Italian Job is all that dumb of a movie, it’s just silly. But in that silliness, there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had, mostly because F. Gary Gray knows that the best way to keep this material interesting, even when it’s silly, is to always be moving, never stopping and never focusing too hard on one aspect of element too much. We have a heist, we have a cast of characters, we have a baddie, we have a conflict, we have a plan, and that’s really all we need; Gray doesn’t get too bogged down in too many senseless subplots to where it feels like extra padding for a movie that does come a tad close to two hours.

But it’s a solid two hours that keeps up its energy throughout, so much so that you also realize that some of the key issues with the movie, like character-development, are left by the waist-side. Now, there’s a part of me that’s fine with the fact that each character sort of has their one characteristic/personality-trait and there’s not much else to them, but for some reason, it’s hard not to expect something a little more, especially from this well put-together cast. For instance, Statham’s Handsome Rob is pure Statham – silent, but scary, and that’s about all there is to him. Same goes for Seth Green’s “Napster”, who is just the goofy tech-y and yep, that’s it. Mos Def is also sort of like the comedic-support with Left Ear, but he’s got such stiff-competition from Green in that department, that often times, it feels like a lot of his stuff was cut.

And then, there’s the core trio of Wahlberg, Theron, and Norton who all, in any other movie, probably would have put on acting-class beyond our beliefs. But sadly, they’re stuck in a silly actioner that doesn’t quite care about how good of actors they are. As long as they are hot enough and can read lines, than it’s all that matters, right?

Honestly, public-transportation has been worse.

Well, yeah, I guess.

In 2003, it’s hard to believe that Wahlberg was still finding his inner-leading man, which is why his performance as Charlie Croker, while not bad, isn’t necessarily the strongest, either. Same goes for Theron’s Stella, who is basically there to be the hot romantic love-interest for Charlie to eventually learn feelings from. Theron was also in a weird spot in Hollywood where they knew she could act, but she was too busy getting these roles where she was just window-dressing because of her absolutely gorgeous-looks. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s obvious she was made for much, much more.

And of course, the same is clearly said for Norton who, even as the villain here, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Still, Norton tries in what is, essentially, a paycheck gig that allow for him to take more risks with the smaller indie-flicks that he had always became so known and adored for. Even in the moments where we’re supposed to feel like this guy is a total and complete asshole, Norton’s not fully there and it’s weird, because it’s like we almost don’t care and just remember how effective he was in another good heist film, the Score.

But still, all of this talk about performances and characters, guess what? It doesn’t matter. The Italian Job gets the job done it set out to do, right. It doesn’t slow itself down and it sure as hell doesn’t try to appear as anything more than it already is – it’s just a fun, sometimes way too silly flick, with hot, talented people, being hot and cool.

And in that sense, yeah, it’s fine.

I just like to complain.

Consensus: Though it’s disappointing to see such a waste of a good ensemble, the Italian Job still delivers the right amount of fun, thrills and humor to have anyone happy.

7 / 10

As usual, the bro’s don’t know what to do when a tall, beautiful and smart woman comes around. Except Marky. He knows everything.

Photos Courtesy of: Cineplex.com

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The Corruptor (1999)

Chinatown’s good for everything but the night life.

NYPD Lieutenant Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) is head of the Asian Gang Unit and his main job is to ensure that there is peace in Chinatown. After a turf war between the Triads and the Fukienese Dragons broke out in the town, Chen now really has hands full, with even more possible gang-warfare expected to break out and kill more and more people, most of all, innocents who just so happen to get wrapped-up in the fire. The city sees this, knows this, and recognizes that this is a huge problem, and not one that can be handled by just one cop all alone. That’s why they decide to send over talented agent Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg), who knows how to get the job done, however, Chen isn’t having any of it; Wallace doesn’t like Chen much either, but he knows that there’s a job that needs to be done and because of that, he’s not going to let personal issues get in the way. But the two start to dig in on each other’s past more thoroughly and they begin to find out that the other has something dirty and controversial, making them wonder if they can continue to work together and stop this whole warfare from starting.

"So, uh, do we have to be friends, or something?"

“So, uh, do we have to be friends, or something?”

You have to feel bad for Chow Yun-Fat, one of the most exciting and iconic Chinese talents ever, because no matter how hard we try, the States just doesn’t get him. Or, if they do, they don’t give him the right material that’s not just worthy of his talents, but matches perfectly why people have loved him so much in John Woo’s films. See, the movies that he’s done, where he’s the lead and made out to be this big deal, don’t really match the same sort of craziness and excitement that Woo’s films have and allow for Yun-Fat to shine; movies like Bulletproof Monk, the Replacement Killers, Dragonball Evolution, and yeah, even the third Pirates of the Caribbean, all gave him something to do and kick ass, but it just didn’t match what everyone knew and loved him for over in China. What made him a bonafide star over there, for some reason, just didn’t translate over to here.

And it’s not like it’s his fault, either, because Yun-Fat tries as he might in all of these flicks, including the Corruptor – it’s just that these movies themselves don’t measure up. They’re not as crazy, not as wild, not as fun, and sure as hell not as entertaining as we’re used to seeing Yun-Fat and his movies and it’s why they feel like a sheer disappointments, considering what we know Yun-Fat himself can do.

But the Corruptor may be the better of them because it gives him a lot to do, in terms of action and acting, but still, there’s something missing.

For one, the Corruptor was clearly seen as Yun-Fat’s big break into the American-market and because of that, he gets a lot to do; he nails his English as well as you’d expect, the scenes where he has to throw guns around and kick ass, he shows off style in, and when it’s just him, sitting down, smoking a cig, he’s still pretty cool and charming. The man’s got presence for sure, it’s just that the Corruptor, oddly enough, just doesn’t know what to do with him, or better yet, even itself.

The Corruptor tries to be a lot of things, but for some odd reason, never seems to fully explore any of the numerous ideas. At one point, it’s a look into the deep, violent and bloody underground of Chinatown; at another, it’s a look at police corruption. At one point, it’s a drama about racism and prejudice and how it affects the workplace; at another, it’s about sons and fathers not connecting with one another and hiding secrets from one another. At one point, it’s this mysterious, crime-thriller where secrets have to be discovered and murders have to be solved; at another, it’s this slam-bang, crazy and violent action flick that likes killing people and blowing up cars.

Kind of confused, yet? Well, that’s sort of the point.

Chinese stand-offs are a lot wilder than Mexican ones.

Chinese stand-offs are a lot wilder than Mexican ones.

The Corruptor doesn’t know what it wants to be and it’s a shame because director James Foley is probably not the best one to make sense of this material. You almost get the sense that he was shooting and looking for something deeper, smaller and far more emotional, but once the studio got involved and realized the possibility of the bucks that they could rake in, well, he lost all control. Foley is best when he’s dealing with these tiny and sturdy character-pieces, and while the Corruptor still feels very much like a noir of his, it’s still clearly not up his alley and it takes away from what could have been a far better, more exciting and interesting movie.

Speaking of studio interference, it’s also obvious that Mark Wahlberg was thrown into the cast, just because he was a sort of big name at the time and the studio really wanted to ensure that people would flock out to see it. And even though Wahlberg is perfectly fine now and one of the best leading-men we have around, back in ’99, he wasn’t quite established; his acting wasn’t all that there, he seemed far too serious for his own good, and yeah, he didn’t show much versatility. And it’s a shame, too, because the scenes he has with Yun-Fat, you can tell that the two are clearly trying to make some sort of spark happen, but the script just isn’t there and neither are they. They’re there to collect a paycheck, move on and see what happens to their career next.

It’s a good sign for Marky Mark. Maybe not Yun-Fat, but hey, it probably doesn’t bother him much.

Consensus: Unfocused and rather conventional, the Corruptor gets by on the bits and pieces of a compelling story, as well as an always reliable Yun-Fat, but ultimately, feels like a missed opportunity to make something great and memorable.

5 / 10

"Yeah, elsewhere, I'm a pretty big deal."

“Yeah, elsewhere, I’m a pretty big deal.”

Photos Courtesy of: Film Critic, Esq.

Patriots Day (2016)

We could be heroes, just for a few solid hours.

It’s Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston and man oh man, what a lovely day. The Boston Marathon is set to happen, with tons and tons of people all involved and excited to run for a good cause. But of course, things don’t go down this way. In the final stretch of the run, bombs start going off, injuring and killing some. This leads the Boston Police Department, as well as the FBI to get involved as best as they can. Eventually, they find out who is responsible and limit their search to two people: Brothers Tamerlan And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff). Of course, it’s now up to everyone to get together, stand strong and find these guys before they cause even more damage to the city of Boston and put an even greater shadow over what was supposed to be a very lovely, carefree day.

The term “too soon” is normally used with a negative connotation and well, there’s good reason behind it. People, the fragile beings that we are, find it hard to connect or accept tragedy or heartbreak, that talking about it immediately or even a little time after, seems to be too much to handle; nobody can really talk about something sad, because well, that just brings on more sadness. I point this out, not to just ramble on and on for no reason, but to point out why a movie like Patriots Day, while immediate, exciting, tense, and well-done, also feels like it may have been done way too soon.

Marky Mahk thinks he hears something fizzlin'.

Marky Mahk thinks he hears something fizzlin’.

But not in the way you’d expect.

When United 93 came out over a decade ago, it was four years and a few months after the events of 9/11, and considering how emotionally jarring that movie was, it makes sense that people would get up in arms, wondering whether or not this tale needed to be told, so suddenly, so soon, and so in-our-faces. After all, we as a nation still have yet to get over 9/11, 15 years after the fact, so you could only imagine how those in the mid-aughts must have felt when they saw a documentary-like film based on one of the hijacked planes. That said, director Peter Berg approaches the Boston Marathon Bombings with the same sort of tenacity; it’s the kind of movie that takes awhile to get going, but is setting up so many pieces of the story, that just watching and seeing how they connect in the long run is really interesting.

And then the movie does get going and eventually, it becomes something along the lines of a typical action-thriller, except with very real-life circumstances. Just like he showed with Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, Berg has a knack for telling these fact-based stories where we probably know the ending and certain details, but there’s still a thrill and a certain energy behind it that’s hard not to get compelled by. Even when it seems like he’s manipulating certain elements of the story a bit, there’s still a feeling that Berg is giving it all that he’s got to make us feel as if we are there, while the action is all happening, trying our own hardest to put together this sometimes convoluted and crazy pie.

But then again, there’s that issue of being “too soon” and I think that’s where Patriots Day really runs into problems.

For one, it’s been a little over three years since the attack, meaning, that a lot of old wounds still have yet to heal. Due to that, it seems like there’s not enough appropriate room, space, or time to really think about the hard, thought-provoking questions that need to be asked in order for us, a society, to gather a better understanding of what happened. Sure, Berg does a nice job of sticking straight to the facts and giving us what is, essentially, a play-by-play analysis of what’s happenin’ and shakin’, but for a movie such as this to really resonate and hit hard, it also needs to be more than just that.

At its heart, Patriots Day is definitely a tribute to those who lost their lives and those who worked day and night on that one, fateful afternoon, and there’s nothing wrong with that – these are all stories that deserve to be told and given the type of treatment that Berg is more than happy to give them. At the same time though, there’s not enough introspection that makes us think longer and harder about this event – it’s just sort of the standard, bad guys did something bad, now good guys must go and find them. It is, for lack of a better term, a procedural.

An entertaining one at that, but still, a procedural.

"I told ya, it was paked down by da riva."

“I told ya, it was paked down by da riva.”

The bits and pieces of the movie where it seems like Berg really wants to dive in further to this event, is through the portrayals of both Tamerlan And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Surprisingly, the movie does go the extra mile to try and develop them, show them for what they were, and most importantly, give us a better look into what the hell was going through their heads, which is admirable, on the part of Berg’s. He’s telling the whole story for what it is and considering that a good portion of what happens can only happen from their point-of-view, it makes sense that we get some time spent with them and try whatever we can to understand them for their actions. The movie doesn’t hold back on showing us their terrible actions, but it also doesn’t shy away from showing that, well, they were human beings. As troubled and as ill-conceived as they may be, they are still human beings and sometimes, it’s interesting to see their side of the story, regardless of whether or not you sympathize with them or what they did.

Which is interesting here, because while the movie boasts a big, starry and shiny cast with the likes of Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Rachel Brosnahan, and plenty others, really, the movie’s more concerned with Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff’s portrayals of the brothers. It shows that Berg was at least trying to go somewhere more interesting with this material, but of course, also realized who he was doing this movie for and didn’t want to offend anyone. There’s nothing wrong with that, either, however, it does leave that feeling of wondering maybe it was too soon and maybe something else will come down the pipeline.

Like, I don’t know, say a movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Malsany?

Oh, well there we go.

Consensus: Compelling, thrilling and well-paced, Patriots Day works as an exciting take on the events, as well as a nice tribute to those who lost their lives and responded quickly, even if there’s still some material left to be covered.

7.5 / 10

Marky Mak is da best cop awound dese paks.

Marky Mak is da best cop awound dese paks.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

Live by the oil, die by the oil.

On April 20, 2010, an oil rig out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico exploded, leaving many oil riggers on board, dead, severely injured, and even worse, an insane amount of oil to fill up the ocean and wipe out a rather large chunk of the sea population. In this take on the true events, we get a glimpse into the life of one oil rigger, Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), who is very dedicated to his wife (Kate Hudson), his family, and his job, which means that he is mostly concerned with making sure that each and every member of his crew is safe on board of the oil rig. However, issues arise when certain shareholders and powers that be within BP have some issues with the way the rig has been going as of late; so far, they’re past budget and feeling a lot of pressure from their bosses to get the oil out of this rig, as soon as possible, and by any means neccessary. Of course, this means actually testing the darn rig in the first place, which causes a whole lot of problems and, essentially, sets off the disaster that we’ve all come to know and, unfortunately, may never forget.

"No! I've got to save the day!"

“No! I’ve got to save the day!”

Peter Berg seems as if he’s become the perfect, go-to guy for these true, fact-based tales about hard-working men and women being, well, hard-workers and facing death straight in the face, even when any normal person in their situation would run away and scream for their lives. Berg likes to make tributes to these people and honestly, it’s an admirable task that he has on his hands; he chooses to make movies about the stories that do actually matter and deserve to be told, to a larger audience who may not know the story as is, or exactly what happened. And because of that, another movie in his wheelhouse, like Deepwater Horizon, not only feels like a solid step in the right direction, but hopefully a sign of better things to come with Patriots Day, a film about the Boston bombings that comes out later this year.

Does it really matter though? No, not really. But if anything, a movie like Deepwater Horizon proves Berg to be one of the better directors out there today, but we just don’t know it yet. He’s not necessarily a flashy director, showing off all of the neat and unusual skills that he learned in film-classes or from his peers, nor does he ever seem to be the kind of director who has a statement to make with every flick he directs, with the exception of, of course, showing us that there are average, everyday people like you or I that could be, essentially, heroes. Sure, it’s a little cheesy and melodramatic, but it still works because Berg doesn’t lay it all on thick, as opposed to directors like Spielberg and, oh lord, Michael Bay seem to do.

No offense, Berg. You’re no Spielberg and you’re sure as hell no Michael Bay.

That said, Berg does a nice job with this material as he presents a story that most of us seem to know by now and still, somehow, some way, make it all compelling and tense. There comes a certain point about halfway through the film in which Berg has set everything up that he needs to set up – location, the characters, their relationship to one another, the central conflict of the movie, and why any of this matters in the first place, etc. – and just lets it all spin completely out of control. While that may sound like a bad thing, it works in Berg’s favor; he truly does get put in the heads of these men and women aboard this oil rig and makes us feel as if we are actually there, experiencing all of the carnage and havoc for what they are, which is disastrous.

Sure, you could make the argument that Berg goes a tad bit overboard with it, in the way that he went a little nuts about the soldiers in Lone Survivor breaking all of the bones in their body, but it makes you feel closer to this whole situation. While Berg is trying to tell us a story, he’s not trying to sensationalize anything, either, no matter how many explosions or high-flying acts he lets run wild; he’s respectful of the story itself, but isn’t afraid to also show what the sort of hell it may have been like on-board of that oil rig that day.

Trust the 'stache. It may save your life.

Trust the ‘stache. It may save your life.

Man, and to think that J.C. Chandor was the original director for this.

Regardless, Berg’s recreation of everything here is tense and unpredictable the whole way through, even if, yeah, we know exactly how everything goes down. All that matters most is actually being drawn in by these characters and the cast, which Berg allows for even more. Wahlberg has become something of his muse as of late (he’s starring in Patriots Day), and the two seem to handle each other quite well; Berg allows for Wahlberg to be his macho-self, while also still giving him a sense of vulnerability that makes us see a true human being, stepping up and being a hero of sorts. Berg also gets a lot of mileage out of some really talented actors like Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien, Gina Rodriguez, and a whole slew of others, but never feels like he’s shorting anyone, at any particular time. Malkovich’s BP member may seem like your typical Malkovich-villain, loud-screaming and all, but there’s a little something more to him than just being a savage-like prick who doesn’t care about the cost of human life when compared to the cost of his shares.

That said, the note that Deepwater Horizon ends on is an admirable one. Berg shows us, in small, relatively subtle ways, that our world is incredibly reliant on oil. While Berg doesn’t ever get the chance to stand on his soapbox and preach, he still shows us that this is what can happen when the danger of more profit and more reliability is out there in the world. Sure, he’s not necessarily asking you to get rid of your cars and start walking/riding bikes, but he’s also asking us to take a second look at what we do with our normal lives and most importantly, just how much we spend when we go to the pump.

Especially to BP.

Consensus: Tense, thrilling, emotional, and believe it or not, exciting, Deepwater Horizon is another true tale from Peter Berg that not only ups the ante on the explosions and deadliness of the situation he’s portraying, but one that’s got something to say and isn’t totally concerned with just blowing stuff up for the sake of it all.

8 / 10

"Coach? I've got a bad feeling about this."

“Coach? I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Mojave (2016)

Chances are, random dudes you meet in the desert, aren’t going to be the ones to trust in actual society.

Famous Hollywood writer Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), is conflicted about his life so, one day, he decides to get up and leave his mansion, French girlfriend, and money behind, to venture out into the desert for some peace and solidarity. However, while in the desert, Thomas realizes that he may not actually be alone in this huge desert – in fact, he may actually be being followed. This is when Thomas meets Jack (Oscar Isaac), a drifter who says that he’s a director, but at the same time, doesn’t really seem all that convincing when he says that. He and Thomas, despite the obvious awkwardness of the whole situation, have a solid conversation about life, death, Jesus Christ and the devil, but it becomes all too clear that there’s something off about Jack that Thomas doesn’t want to be around. So, that’s why Thomas decides to leave the desert, as well as Jack behind; which, as a result, makes Jack very angry and forced to follow Thomas all the way to his glitzy and glamorous home life, leading to some very bloody, very violent results.

He's brooding.

He’s brooding.

William Monahan, nearly a decade ago, wrote the script for the Departed and he could have stopped right there. Already, he had given each and every person on the face of the planet something that they wanted, loved and adored, and right then and there, Monahan could have packed his things up, got all of his money together, and head for the hills, never to be heard from or bothered again, but knowing that he did something right for society. But seeing as how Monahan is, first and foremost, a creator, he decided to make Mojave which is, most definitely, a whole heck of a lot different from the Departed in many ways.

Of course, though, what Mojave does have similarly to the Departed, is that both movies feature big, rough, and tough guys being, well, big, rough, and tough.

And honestly, for the longest time of Mojave, there’s a lot to enjoy in just watching that happen, especially when the two said guys in question are Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund, two young talents that are so well-deserving of every role they’re given. Seeing as how both are actual friends in real life (as well as co-starred in Inside Llewyn Davis), it makes sense that they feature wonderful chemistry together, just playing off of one another and testing each other to their limits; the same is definitely said for their characters who are, randomly, at odds with one another for reasons we never fully know or understand. However, there’s still a feeling you can get watching these two pals act alongside one another, and just knowing that they’re having a great time watching as the other works the field, so they say.

Which is why, had Mojave just been a two-hander of these two talking about whatever the hell they wanted to talk and swinging their dicks around, it probably would have been a whole lot better, tighter and enjoyable. However, because Monahan adds on so much more than just these two going to battle with one another and leaving it at that, it becomes messy and we forget what makes the movie so strong in the first place: Isaac and Hedlund. While neither loses any sense of charm or presence in the proceedings, they still get pushed too far to the back so that Monahan can run wild, say whatever he wants, and do weird things that nobody expected, but nobody really needed to see, either. Monahan gets mixed-up in his own ideas where, one side of him wants to make this mono-e-mono thriller between these two colorful characters, but on the other side, wants to talk about Hollywood and everybody in it is a terrible, mean-spirited and disgusting place that nobody should ever get caught up in.

Wow, where have I heard this before?

He's weird.

He’s weird.

Clearly, Monahan’s not working with any life-changing, ground-breaking themes or ideas and it sometimes calls into question just how odd this movie can be. Mark Wahlberg randomly shows up a coked-up, over-the-top and wild Hollywood agent who is, definitely fun, but still doesn’t add much to the whole movie; Walton Goggins shows up as a Hollywood executive who is about as dead-spirited as they come; and yeah, then there’s a whole murder investigation that never seems to escalate, but still bring these two guys closer. Monahan brings up a whole lot of stuff here, but because he’s both the writer, as well as the director, there’s no holding back in just where Mojave can, and will, go.

Still though, it’s Hedlund and Isaac who make this movie work the most and it makes sense why they’re given the most to work, for better as well as for worse. Hedlund is, once again, playing up that whole brooding-angle he always shows and does fine with it. While Thomas, the character, may be limited in how much we actually care or get to know about him, Hedlund shows that there’s something of a soul underneath it all and it makes us sympathize with him just a tad bit more, even if we don’t really care either way where the story goes, or who ends up getting the ax.

But Isaac is perhaps the one having the most fun here and it’s great to see him just live every bit of this material up. In a way, as Jack, Isaac livens this material up a whole lot more than it probably should have been, as he’s not just funny, but more thoughtful than the movie may have called for. He’s got a lot to say about faith and Hollywood, or whatever, but he’s also got something to say about Hedlund’s Thomas, and it’s these revelations that I found most telling. While Monahan has a bone to pick with Hollywood, he still has a point in saying what he says, which makes me wonder why he’s making movies as conflicted as Mojave, and isn’t giving it his all again like he did with the Departed all those years ago?

The world may never know, but we wait and wonder.

Consensus: Hedlund and Isaac are great, however, Mojave‘s odd plotting and themes don’t always come together in a cohesive manner, that gives them the movie they wholly deserve.

5.5 / 10

Together, they're the perfect couple.

Together, they’re the perfect couple.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Daddy’s Home (2015)

Some kids are lucky enough to have a dad in the first place, but to have two that are Marky Mark and Ron Burgundy?

Brad Taggart (Will Ferrell) wants to have kids of his own, but due to a mishap at a dentistry, he unfortunately can’t. That’s why, when he meets Sarah (Linda Cardellin) and finds out she has two kids of her own, he’s more than happy to take on the duty of being their stepfather. While their father, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), is sort of out of the picture, the kids still love and adore him a whole lot more than Brad, who they just see as “the guy who’s married to their mom”. Brad’s fine with this as he’ll try to do anything he can to win them over, which he does come very close to, until Dusty decides to come back home and stay around for his kids. Obviously, the kids are happy to see their daddy, which makes Brad feel as if he has to overcompensate for something. So, he and Dwight have a battle of wits, of sorts, all to decide just who isn’t the better man, but who is the better father and more equipped to handle a whole family-unit.

"And don't ever forget, always say 'hello' to ya mothers for me."

“And don’t ever forget, always say ‘hello’ to ya mothers for me.”

If anything, Daddy’s Home proves just how great of a comedy the Other Guys was. Even though it was basically just a romp on the buddy-cop genre, featuring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell playing off of one another the whole time, it was still so funny and wacky, that it didn’t mattered that it was a bit messy and if nothing more, just an enjoyable comedy. That’s why, when watching Wahlberg and Ferrell unite here together again and try to recreate some of that same magic, it’s hard not to feel like some of the spark may be missing; after all, the Other Guys came out around a time where Wahlberg was trying so desperately hard for everyone to take him ridiculously seriously and didn’t even bother to show his mug in a fun-spirited comedy that, quite frankly, made him look like a goober.

But at the same time, the issue with Daddy’s Home lies in the fact that it never quite knows what it wants to be. For instance, believe it or not, Daddy’s Home is rated a friendly PG-13, whereas, from the look of this, it seems like at least an R. Still though, the movie still flirts around with the idea of being this raucous, raunchy R-fest that likes to poke jokes at balls, fertility, and sex, whereas another good portion of this movie just wants to poke fun at kids and still be able to cuddle up with them at the end of the day. No matter which way the movie has it, it doesn’t work and seems a bit confusing.

Still though, there were parts of Daddy’s Home that had me laughing and when I looked back on it, quite enjoyed.

Most of this comes back to the fact that everybody in the cast, no matter what they’re working with, can’t help but be charming, funny and above all else, entertaining to watch. Ferrell, as usual, is overly-earnest and sweet as Brad, a role he has played many times before but this time, seems so dedicated in actually developing more and more as the flick rolls on, and Brad gets thrown into some very weird predicaments. That Brad hardly ever turns into a bad guy, makes Ferrell seem like he’s one-note, but there’s more to this character than just being a total and complete softy, which is how the movie could have presented it and left it at. Instead, the movie shows that this sweeter-side to his persona is, perhaps, what makes him the most lovely presence to have around.

The sweet babies I couldn't imagine these two making together.

The sweet babies I couldn’t imagine these two making together.

Of course, I’m definitely getting way too deep into thinking about Daddy’s Home like that, but hey, it goes a real long way when a comedy adds a bit more heart to its characters when it isn’t just embarrassing the hell out of them. And yeah, as Dusty, Wahlberg’s a fine fit; he’s both suave and cool, but at the same time, more than willing to let himself be the butt of any joke tossed at him. Together, Ferrell and Wahlberg still have great chemistry that doesn’t get used as much as it probably should have been, but for what it was worth, there were still plenty of jokes and gags to be found between the two that are, for lack of a better word, humorous.

And the cast goes on and on with the likes of Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress, Paul Scheer, Bill Burr, and Bobby Cannavale, all seem to try with their material and may not always come out on top, but still deliver enough to add a little bit of something on the top. Basically, it was just nice to see them and see the film not trying to ruin any of their personalities in the meantime; while Daddy’s Home could have easily been the movie to have them all look stupid and foolish for actually taking this gig up in the first place, it instead, rewards them for being able to play along for as much as they can. In a way, they’re all sort of like dads who know when it’s time to relax and take a chill, but because they love their family so much, continue on with whatever they’re doing to keep the smiles up.

Yeah, definitely thinking about this one too much, but so be it! I laughed, surprisingly, and well, so should you!

Consensus: Daddy’s Home isn’t perfect and definitely doesn’t allow for Wahlberg and Ferrell’s chemistry to shine on perfectly through, but is still funny enough to make it an enjoyable comedy to sit through and not be worried about who is being wasted on what jokes.

6.5 / 10

That sex would be fun to watch. Just saying.

That sex would be fun to watch. Just saying.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Ted 2 (2015)

Teddy bears are people, too!

Three years after we last left them, Thunder Buddies Ted (Seth MacFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) are back together and hanging out more than ever! Ted is now married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and is looking forward to the future and starting a family, but for John, things aren’t so pretty. Recently, he and Lori (Mila Kunis) got a divorce because she wanted him to change for the worst and John just wasn’t allowing that. However, now that he’s single, he’s a bit depressed and can’t stop checking out porn. But now, for Ted’s sake, he’ll have to put all of that on the back-burner so that he can help Ted and Tami-Lynn have the family that they want. Problem is, after much legal looking into, the U.S. government suddenly declares that Ted isn’t fit to be married, raise a child, or be considered a “person” because he is, in essence, a “thing”. Though Ted can think, read, act, and feel, the government doesn’t believe so – which means that it’s up to him, Johnny, and their young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) to take on the government and, once and for all, prove that Ted is more than just a thing.

Be careful, Amanda!

Be careful, Amanda!

Seeing as how I’m not a huge fan of Family Guy, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the original Ted actually worked for me. While it was nowhere near a masterpiece, it was still funny and entertaining enough to where it felt like MacFarlane was giving us all of his greatest hits, without trying to remind us too much that he’s the same dude who created Family Guy. Surely, he’s got his audience out there, but not everybody likes Family Guy and for the matter, not everybody likes Seth MacFarlane, so for him to be able to have people forget what it is that they’re watching come from him, is relatively impressive.

And then, there was A Million Ways to Die in the West. I won’t harp on that movie’s failure too much, especially considering that this is a review for Ted 2 and not the sequel to that dreadful garbage, but I will say that it reminded me so much of what I don’t like about MacFarlane, his certain brand of humor, and his over-excessive tendencies to think that he’s way too clever for his own good. Once again, some laughs were there to be found, but for the most part, they consisted of the weirder moments that MacFarlane was able to cobble-up from a pretty standard plot-line that seemed to have aspirations to go elsewhere, but just didn’t.

And now, there’s Ted 2, which is pretty much a mixture of both.

One of the main problems that seems to be plaguing MacFarlane and his first three movies, is that he doesn’t know when to take a chill pill; too much of this movie is him just pushing a scene deeper and deeper into places that it probably didn’t need to go. There’s a scene where Amanda Seyfried’s character gets a guitar and starts singing, that starts off simple and straight-forward, but soon turns to the odd and bizarre. Which, once again, wasn’t so bad because it actually had me laughing, but too much of it felt like it was thrown in there for good measure, regardless of it had to do with the plot or not.

Which is to say that yes, Ted 2 is a mess, but it’s one that’s at least somewhat entertaining to watch, if only because there are nice moments of comedic inspiration from MacFarlane. There’s another similar sequence to the Seyfried one that I mentioned earlier, that concerns Liam Neeson and it’s so odd, so random, and so strange, that it works well enough to get past the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the over-sized plot. There are many moments like this, most of which are so nonsensical, that they actually elicit some chuckles; then again though, there’s those many other moments where the movie doesn’t seem to go anywhere with itself, except just use the same stupid gag, over and over again.

And that’s a problem, especially when the gag to begin with isn’t all that funny.

Oh, so that makes us the "catcher".

Yeah, that’s not mayonnaise.

This becomes a big problem too, considering that that Ted 2 comes very close to two-hours; which, for any comedy, is already a problem, but one that uses three courtroom scenes to get its point across about accepting all “persons”, by using a walking, talking, and smoking teddy bear as symbolism, is a major disaster. Because MacFarlane doesn’t seem to know where he wants to go, except for the bottom of the barrel, it becomes distracting that he can’t find anything to do to keep the plot moving. But instead, it just rolls and rolls along, as if there is no end game.

Once again, I’m not saying that I despised Ted 2 – it’s just clear that this movie has plenty of problems that could have probably been fixed, had there been maybe one or two more editors by MacFarlane’s side, letting him know what can stay, what can go, and what can never see the light of day. While there’s maybe not a whole lot of scenes that could be placed in that later category, there’s some that come pretty close and/or probably didn’t need to be thrown into this already mish-mash of a movie. Of course MacFarlane is fine at voicing Ted, but are you honestly surprised? It’s his character for gosh sakes!

And as usual, Wahlberg is up to the task of goofing-off as Johnny, even if this time around, he’s saddled with a more boring story-line. Whereas with the first movie, we were getting to see more revealed to us about this character, here, we just sort of see Johnny mope around, look sad and make it seem at all believable that someone who looks like Mark Wahlberg would have a problem getting laid. Either way, Wahlberg seems like he’s trying here and, for the most part, pulls it off, but at the same time, it made me feel like maybe he wasn’t all that there for this one.

Maybe someone was missing…

Consensus: Nowhere near a tragedy, yet not as good as the original, Ted 2 is just funny enough to be worth checking out, if only for the crass moments we all know and, sometimes, love MacFarlane for.

5.5 / 10

The buddies that have a thunder song together, go scuba-diving together. For some odd reason.

The buddies that have a thunder song together, go scuba-diving together. For some odd reason.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Gambler (2014)

Albert Camus and gambling. How could I have not seen the similarities before?

Literary professor Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) doesn’t seem like he’s happy about his life. For one, his grand-father just died and has practically left him little-to-no money. Bennett also happens to have a gambling problem, that gets him into all sorts of trouble with powerful kingpins of the underground poker world. And, to make matters slightly worse, he has a job that he absolutely hates, where all he does is practically yell at each and everyone of his students, telling them that not only are they “not great”, but they’re also wasting his precious time. So yeah, Bennett doesn’t necessarily have the best life in the world of all person’s lives, but he does have a possible-girlfriend (Brie Larson), a very rich mom (Jessica Lange), and nearly seven days to settle all of his debts before it’s too late. But a week isn’t so bad if all you have to do is cobble up a couple hundred thousand dollars, right? Well, wrong.

One of the main problems with the Gambler lies solely within the lead character himself, Jim Bennett. For starters, he’s not a very likable, nor sympathetic one to say the least, but he also is quite repetitive without hardly any rhyme or reason. And then, there’s the fact that Mark Wahlberg, of all people, was cast in this role as a literary professor at what seems to be a very prodigious university somewhere in California. Both go hand-in-hand with what makes the Gambler a poor movie, but they’re both hard to describe to a person who hasn’t seen the movie. It just feels, while watching it, very mis-matched and awkward. Almost like a blind date you set up between two mutual friends; you know that they may have similarities and be a nice match, but you’re not sure how they’re going to approach one another.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

It’s a bad simile, I know, but it’s all I got to work with since this is a very frustrating movie.

First off, the lead protagonist of Jim Bennett isn’t a very likable one, which is fine and all if a movie at least shows us that there is something to him that’s not only interesting, but turns him into something of a tragic-figure. However, the writing for Bennett is too repetitious and simple to make him as anything but; Jim Bennett is, simply put, a dick. But he’s the worst kind of a dick – he’s that kind of rich, self-entitled, whiny dick that you see at a dinner-party, who everybody crowds around and listens to all because he seems like a smart, know-it-all dude, when in reality, he’s just a bone-head who pisses, moans, and cries about everything in life, when he doesn’t really need to. Everything’s been practically handed to him on a silver spoon and the only problems that he ever faces in life, are ones that are completely made because of him and nobody else.

Yet, the movie makes him out to be some sort of martyr that we’re not only supposed to feel bad for because he’s so pissed off and angry about life, but also because he apparently has a gambling problem; one that’s never really brought out well enough to be classified as such. What I mean is that while you see certain movies about people with addictions, mainly gambling addictions, you know that they are, the way they are, is because they love the trill of winning whatever big con it is. In the case of gambler’s, they love the excitement of winning a bet and absolutely chase that for as long as they can. Here though, with Bennett, we never see his utter joy and/or pleasure for winning; we just see him bet a lot of stupid hands in the game of Blackjack, lose, and then continue to dig himself in a deeper-hole for no other reason other than, well, he can.

To me, this not only makes him an unlikable, nearly insufferable character to watch and have to stick with for two hours. Not to mention, it also wastes the talents of Mark Wahlberg, an actor who, when given the right material to work with, is strong and impressive, but seems like he is way out of his depth here as, get ready for it, a literary professor who may have reached his mid-life crisis already. I know it sounds like a joke, but judging by how this movie portrays Bennett, as well as the rest of its story, it isn’t. It’s pure, unabashed drama, and it’s hard to take in as fact or compelling.

You’d think that casting-directors would think twice about putting Marky Mark in roles of teachers, but oh well.

Though, to be fair, I have to hold back on the hate of Marky Mark’s performance, because he’s not all bad; you can tell by the fact that he lost about 60 pounds, that he truly is trying with this role. But the problem remains that he’s just not believable enough in this role as a professor who just preaches about the monotony and shit-heap reality that is life. There are some instances in which we see the good, old school Marky Mark come out (mostly in scenes where he’s acting smarter than the person he’s talking to and/or ready to brawl), but overall, it’s a mixed-bag of a performance, that could have easily been avoided, had Wahlberg not been cast in a role that clearly doesn’t suit him well.

Then again though, it all comes back to this character of Jim Bennett; he’s not nice, not interesting, and sure as hell isn’t compelling enough to make this movie work. He’s just a blank-slate, that’s made even worse by the dumb, idiotic decisions he makes in life that not only impact his own life – one that he’s already made pretty clear he doesn’t care for. But, even worse, he impacts those around him who love him, care for him, and actually care about their own, relatively pleasant lives as human beings. He doesn’t care, so therefore, we’re supposed to care.

And because we don’t care about him, or the actions he makes, there’s hardly any tension to be found in the Gambler. Sure, some of the scenes where Bennett’s betting his life away on what seem to be ordinary games of Blackjack, do have some real suspense to them, but it’s only because of the way they’re filmed. It’s not that we’re held in suspense because Bennett may actually die if he loses whatever hand he’s playing with, but because director Rupert Wyatt actually seems to care for how this film looks and feels. Even if his lead character is terribly-written, he’s still trying and that, for the most part, at least made it watchable.

"The King stay the King." Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

“The King stay the King.” Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

Although, Wyatt isn’t the only one trying here. It’s the rest of the supporting cast that show up every so often to not only make things a little bit brighter, but make a lot of these self-important speeches the script frequently lapses into actually interesting. John Goodman has the brightest end of the stick as a bald loan shark that Bennett meets with on a few occasions, and talks about how America is build on “fuck you”. It’s a lovely bit that adds some flair to this film, but also counts as one of the rare speeches here that actually works and doesn’t seem like the writer behind it is just trying his hardest to sound smart.

The one’s who don’t really come away as nicely as Goodman does with his speeches, are Michael K. Williams, Alvin Ing, and Anthony Kelley; with the former two playing actual mob bosses who Bennett runs into conflict with, and the later just being a student of his, who is constantly on the discouraging end of Bennett’s many rants about paying attention in class and not trying to get by in the academic-world because of athletics. None of these characters really seem believable, and it’s even more evident once they open up their mouths and start going on about stuff we either don’t care for, or have much of a foundation to really build our own feelings on. We’re just sort of sitting there, wondering what it all means, and end up not caring at all.

The only impressive part about this supporting cast is that the two female roles, played by Jessica Lange and Brie Larson, actually feel pertinent to the story and add some dramatic-heft to a piece that definitely needed it. Lange plays Bennett’s mother and has maybe two dramatic scenes where you can definitely tell she loves and cares for her dastardly son, but wants to be rid of his problems and hopes that he does to. And Larson, who I’m glad was cast here, at least makes some sense of her character’s motivations, especially when we’re supposed to believe somebody as lovely and chirpy as hers would fall for someone as downtrodden and inexplicably depressed as Bennett. They are two fine performances in their own rights, that go a long way.

Especially for something as disappointing as this.

Consensus: Occasionally entertaining and interesting, but mostly, where the Gambler loses points in is because its lead character is terribly-written, and suffers even more from a miscast Mark Wahlberg playing it.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Ladies, don't act like you aren't impressed.

Ladies, don’t act like you aren’t impressed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

A strange part of me missed Shia LaBoots.

After the near-apocalyptic events that transpired in Chicago almost three years ago, the country has been on high alert keeping the lookout for any Transformers whatsoever. If there is a Transformer of any kind to be spotted, they are hunted down, destroyed and made as scrap metal so that the government can build better, stronger and safer ‘bots to better protect their world. But somehow, in Texas of all places, an independent architect by the name of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) somehow stumbles upon a truck that he thinks is just a simple, fuel-driven truck, but comes to realize that it’s a Transformer – better yet, it’s Optimus Prime. The government soon finds out and they are not too happy with this, but neither is Cade with having to give up the Transformers neither, considering he trusts Optimus more than he does some humans. This leads to a bit of a battle between the government and the rest of the Autobots that Prime is able to assemble, but somehow, there’s a new type of Transformer out there and not only are they conspiring with the government to get rid of the rest of the Autobots, but they’re as deadly and lethal as ever.

Even though he said so differently a couple years ago, somehow, some way, Michael Bay decided that it was time for him to bring us back, yet again, another Transformers movie. Now, don’t get me wrong, people – like with any of Bay’s movies, I don’t have total problems with the Transformers movie. Sure, they are incredibly dumb, loud, over-the-top, stupid and insane, but you know what? They’re actually kind of fun and when I go into any movie that has Bay attached to it any way, I always know that’s what I have to expect. Not high art, or even something close to being a “masterpiece” – just fun, fun, fun.

"Brawsh!!!"

BRAWSH!!!

But there’s a difference between a movie being “fun”, and a movie being “too much”. See, with this new Transformers, it isn’t that Bay doesn’t bring on the heavy-set action, explosions, goofs, special-effects, and violence, it’s just that it’s so much, for so damn long, that it’s less of a fun ride, and more like a ride that keeps on going up and down, left and right, without barely any intermissions or time to breath whatsoever. And even if there are some of those moments to be found throughout here, they’re lame, poorly-written moments that are supposed to be dedicated to character-development, but instead, come off as half-assed as you can get with a Michael Bay.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew what to expect when I walked into a Michael Bay movie, but when you’re forced to spend nearly two-and-a-half-hours with these characters, there has to be something keeping us behind them. And casting likable personalities such as Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and T.J. Miller doesn’t cut it; they have to be at least somewhat well-written, with some reasoning behind their motivation to do the things that they do and why exactly they’re necessary to the plot. Am I asking too much from a Michael Bay movie? Better yet, am I asking too much from a Transformers movie? Probably, but I think if you’re going to push your movie into being almost three hours, there has to be something more to it than just big explosions, action-sequences and goofy, unfunny one-liners in the middle of all this tense action spilling out.

That being said, when the movie is fun, it sort of is a blast. However, that’s only because so much action gets built-up, that it’s almost like we’re being strong-armed into at least enjoying ourselves, even in the slightest bit. And that’s not to say everything about this movie, or what Bay does is absolutely godawful; in fact, I’d say that some of this shows Bay being as creative as ever, especially once the story itself gets tossed into China. But by the end, once all of the carnage has been done and about three states have been totally and completely decimated, you sort of have to ask yourself: “Why?”

An even better question would be: “What’s the point?”

Yes, I understand that it is the summer and that, yes, these are the types of movies we’re supposed to waste $20 on seeing, just so that we can get out of the hot air for once, chill out in the air-conditioned theater-lobbies, forget about the world outside, and just enjoy ourselves for the time being. That much I understand, get and absolutely love. To me, there’s nothing more than a summer blockbuster that knows it’s audience, what it’s made for, and doesn’t try to be anything else – just quick, fun, exciting, and engaging for as long as it is up on the screening. “Nothing more, nothing less”, I always like to say, and it’s something that I’d like to think most blockbusters are made with that in mind.

"Say hi to ya mothas for me!!"

“Say hi to ya mothas for me!!”

However, when you do have a movie like this fourth Transformers flick, it comes down to whether or not you yourself are willing to spend up to nearly $20 (popcorn and soda included) just for a nearly three-hour-movie in which there are two-dimensional characters, in a plot that doesn’t really matter so long as it includes big-ass robots, fighting other big-ass robots, while everything and everyone around them gets utterly and completely destroyed? If you’re totally all for that, then hey, go for it. I won’t try to tell you otherwise because clearly, your mind is already made up and ready to throw your ass in that front-row seat.

But for the others that may want a bit “more” bang (or in this case, “less) for their buck, then this may not be the perfect ticket for you. Because yes, it is a very fun movie, at times. However, at other times, it can be incredibly excessive, long, over-the-top, and destructive that by the end, rather than wanting jump out of your seat, wanting to fist-pump the air, as well as everyone else around you, go home, take a shower, lay down in your bed, and smile with a huge smile on your face going from cheek-to-cheek, you’ll just want to get out the theater as soon as possible, get in your car, drive home 5 mph under the speed-limit, get the hottest/longest shower you’ve ever had in your life, lay down, and just go right the hell to sleep, while feeling all safe and cozy that you’re in your own little comfort-zone.

Sounds extreme, I know, but with a Michael Bay movie: Anything bad or unhealthy for you, can and just might possibly happen to you by the end of one of his long, coke-winded adventures.

Consensus: Loud, abrasive, over-long and full of non-stop destruction, Transformers: Age of Extinction is the kind of movie you expect to see, not just from this franchise, but from Michael Bay himself, which may ultimately decide whether or not you want to spend three-hours in a movie theater watching his latest piece of “art”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

 

Yeah, totally not real. Lame.

Yeah, totally not a real dinosaur. Lame.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Yards (2000)

Screw family! I’d just stay in prison!

Leo (Mark Wahlberg), a recently released convict, finds himself on the right track as he has a job lined-up for him and everything. But that all goes South once he finds out that his boss and company are up to some shady-business. The business is owned by his uncle (James Caan) and ran mainly by his bestie (Joaquin Phoenix). So yeah, basically the guy is having a lot of problems being able to separate right from wrong and family from enemies, but to top it all off: His mother (Ellen Burstyn) is sick, and not getting any better. Isn’t coming home just grand?

This is one of those rare movies that somehow found it’s way of sinking in beneath the cracks, without anybody ever knowing about it or even mentioning it, unless they were some prestigious film critic that had the privilege to see it in theaters, or some ultra-fan of Marky Mark. It was just one of those movies that had its stars and its premise, but didn’t have the backing it would have had, had it been released in today’s world. Thankfully, that’s what On Demand is for – to remind me what an idiot I was before when I watched this movie.

In case some of you don’t know what I mean by that, I reviewed this movie a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away and thought that the movie plain and simply blew. Now, maybe those weren’t my exact words or anything, but the fact of the matter was that I was bored, annoyed and just tired from watching this movie about a bunch of a-holes, act like bigger a-holes to one another, and make it seem as if family is some sort of reason for allowing a person to almost die. I wasn’t having any of it, and gave the movie a low rating. But after these years, I think I’ve come to realize that this is just one of those movies that’s a nice watch, but you got to be in the mood for it.

Still has that Dirk Diggler cut on and everything.

Still has that Dirk Diggler cut going on? Oh, now I see what type of living he’s going to be making nowadays.

Even though the movie may be advertised as a slam-bang, action-thriller with Marky Mark, guns, violence, crime and Johnny Cash acting all sly on us, it’s totally not. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of Marky Mark, guns, violence, crime, and Johnny Cash to be found here, but it’s not the way that most mainstream movies would paint it as. Writer/director James Gray is a step above that in the way that he has everything all slowed down so that not only can you get in the mood for what’s about to unfold, but also get involved with the characters as well.

If anything, that’s what the movie really blew me away with: The characters. Gray captures what it’s like to be and live in a close family that does almost everything and anything for each other, even if that means sticking their heads in a little bit and killing some people in the mean time (hey, it’s family, right?). He shows how everybody interacts with one another, who likes who, who doesn’t, what their type of relationship is, the why, the where, the who, and the be, being, been. All of that fun and nasty stuff is included here to give us a full picture of what to not only expect from these family members, but why.

That’s why once everything gets all wacky and crazy at the end, it’s still somewhat believable because we feel like we know these characters, and can come to expect them to commit dumb actions, given the circumstances. Some are conventional and obvious with their actions, but the way they are painted with morally-corrupt souls, than just normal, generic assholes, is what takes you for a left turn. Not everybody is bad, but the ones that are, stay in your mind and really mess with it, especially just as everything begins to boil down as to “who is going to betray who next?”. That aspect of the movie is fun to see, but given the character-development, it’s more than just a bit entertaining.

However, Gray’s sense of style doesn’t always work with me. For my first, initial-viewing, the slowness bothered the hell out of me to the point of where I was snoozing left and right. After these years of seeing worse movies that take it’s slo-mo pill for the sake of being slow; I thought I’d get used to it. But that’s where I was slightly wrong. See, Gray’s style is that he lets a lot of scenes just linger on and on until they really get under your skin. That works for a good couple of scenes, but after awhile, it goes on too long and seems like it’s the only trick in the book that this guy had to play. I don’t mind when my action isn’t non-stop guns and explosions, but don’t slow everything down just to have it all settle in. With time, it will. Trust me, my friend.

A bastard, a bitch, and a poor child with no morally-right future. Now say cheese!

A bastard, a beotch, and a poor child with no promising-future. Now say cheese!

As slow as the movie was at times, it still didn’t take away from the final-product, nor its performances. Marky Mark was pretty solid as Leo because he isn’t called on much to do except to look concerned, and to brood the whole time with his angry face. He does it very well, even if it does feel like his character’s blandness gets lost in a sea of overly wild members of the cast like James Caan and Joaquin Phoenix. Caan is great as the slimy, untrustworthy step-uncle that seems like he means well and all, but in all honesty: Just wants money and fame. And he’ll do whatever it takes to get that dream of his. Whatta bastard. Joaquin Phoenix is fun to watch as Leo’s best buddie because he gets a chance to show that wild side we always see so much, but also show you how much a person can get so tangled in a web, without ever having a clear enough head to know when the hell to get out. Phoenix is good at showing those contrasting sides, and it’s what makes his character more than just a fuck-up. He’s a sympathetic fuck-up, at the most.

For the ladies, you still have a pretty solid troupe, but nobody really worth going crazy about. Charlize Theron is good as Erica, Leo’s cousin and Joaquin’s girl, because she’s able to get past the fact that she is a beautiful woman underneath it all, and just let her character win you over. She’s a bit grimy and dumb for staying with a d-bag like Phoenix’s character, but you see where she’s coming from and it’s not hard to feel for her once everything goes South. Theron’s always a capable actress, and doesn’t let herself get up-staged when she’s right next to vets like Faye Dunaway and Ellen Burstyn. Both are good for what it is that they are called upon to do, but that doesn’t seem as if it’s really saying much, once the ending hits you like a ton of bricks.

Consensus: James Gray may use a couple of the same tricks a little too much, but he still keeps The Yards interesting and compelling with it’s three-dimensional characters, the situations that they are put in and the decisions they are forced to make. Some of which, won’t make you too happy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh Charlize. How you always love to make men think you don't look like this.

Oh Charlize. How you always love to make men think you don’t actually look like this.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo,

Lone Survivor (2013)

I wonder how many people got out of this alive?

It’s the summer of 2005 in Afghanistan and four Navy SEALS (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) find themselves assigned a covert mission: Find the vicious Taliban leader known as Ahmad Shahd and kill him. All four of these soldiers feel like it’s going to be another walk in the park, but soon, things start to go wrong once they seem not to be able to get their radio to work. To make matters even worse, they stumble upon a few local goat herders, whom they hold in captivity in fear of not knowing what to do just yet. However, working with their better judgement, the four decide that they shouldn’t hold them any longer, nor kill them. So, they let them go and continue on with the mission. Problem is, once they let these bystanders go, one of them actually goes right back to the local Taliban and gives up their cover, meaning that it’s these four Navy SEALS, against this whole army. In other words, it’s a fight to the death in which the Americans, for once, are out-numbered and may continue to be if they can’t get their stinking radio working.

Peter Berg’s been known to be a big advocate for our soldiers, which is why a movie like this just plainly reads “total propaganda”. Even if the story itself is real, with all of the right details thrown in there and such, it still seems like another case of Peter Berg getting his hand on a military story, making it for the masses and showing the rest of our society the heroes that are out there, fighting on a day-to-day basis, so that we can continue to live our lives in perfect, total harmony. Trust me though, there’s nothing wrong with that as we should all definitely pay our respects and gratitude to these soldiers who risk their lives day in, and day out. But a movie that’s basically telling me I need to, is never something that sits well with me, which is exactly what I thought I was going to be subject to here with, yet again, another Peter Berg “military” movie.

With or without guns in their hands, they're pretty damn boss.

With or without guns in their hands, they still look boss.

However, I was very wrong. I’m glad to be though because now seeing it, I can say that this is as honest, and as heart-wrenching of a tribute to our fallen heroes, as we’ve gotten for quite some time. Especially with one that doesn’t hold any obvious political-agenda; it’s just signaling a tribute to those who deserve it the most.

What Berg does so well with this true tale is by the way that he doesn’t really pander to any view-point in particular. Whether the people who see this more are for the war, or aren’t, it doesn’t matter as Berg clearly shows us that this is less a story about the actual war, the brutal killings and all sorts of other controversies that surround it, but more about the human-beings who get wrapped up into this war, feeling as if they are doing something right for themselves, their families and most importantly, their country. And they definitely are, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to watch as each and every one of these guys continue to fight for their lives, find the best possible way to make it out alive and make sure that whomever it is that’s on their side, walks across the finish-line alongside them as well. It’s more of a testament to how these soldiers are like brothers in a way and care more for the person next to them, rather than themselves. I don’t usually like that “hurrah hurrah!” type of stuff in these war movies and quite frankly, I don’t really fall for it, but here, with Berg’s attention to emotion, it felt real and authentic, without many strings attached. There were some over-dramatic moments that were clearly tugging at the heart-strings, but never to the point of where it was unbearable.

But what really sets this movie over that edge of being more than just your traditional, war flick, is in the way it portrays our infamous sequence-of-violent/horrific-events. It’s less sentimental than one might suspect, and really will test some audience’s patience as it gets very up-in-your-face, and never seems to shy away from the harsh facts of the reality of this situation.

For instance, the whole sequence between the SEALS and the rest of this Taliban army starts off on the top of a mountain, and at first, Berg makes it seem like these soldiers are invincible heroes that yes, do get shot, but also suck it in and walk away from it all, only to continue on with the shooting, the strategizing and the running away. Eventually though, the soldiers do begin to get more and more shot at, which also means, they begin to take more bullets wherever they just so happen to connect. Some take it in the legs, the back, the shoulders, the stomach, the head, and all sorts of other parts of the body that I don’t even want to get into or describe.

Nonetheless, this is when the movie really starts to hit you, and hit you hard. This is also where Berg’s direction really starts to excel in the way that it paints a portrait of just how bad a situation can get, once one unfortunate mishap continues to happen, after another, and nothing seems to be working well for one side, but perfectly for the other. You begin to feel a palpable sense of danger, just about the same time as the soldiers do and it takes you for a thrill, more times than often. Especially once the battle itself starts to spill out all the way to the bottom of the mountain, and people begin to start falling all over themselves, and getting injured even more, in horrific and gruel detail.

Though some may see what Berg does here as “too realistic”, it’s never gratuitous as if he were making a horror film. For example, some people’s ears are shown falling off; blood is seen spraying every which way but loose; and even eyes get enclosed to practically making some people blind. But somehow, it never seems over-done. Instead, it seems like Berg really does want us to get an idea of what it is that these soldiers went through on that fateful day, without trying to manipulate us in any way. Simply, Berg just allows for the scenes to happen, with barely any directorial-trickery or manipulative score added anywhere.

It’s just four Navy SEALS fighting for their damn lives, and it’s a compelling watch, every single second its on-screen.

Yep, they really do go there.

Yep, it goes there.

However, it should be noted that once the actual mountain-attack is over and done with, the movie does begin to get very conventional, and this is exactly where Berg begins to tug on the heartstrings. And usually, it would feel deserved, especially since we’ve already been through so much with these SEALS and seen them go through and, well, stay there, but it didn’t quite work as well as the first two-halves of the movie. Most of that simply has to do with the fact that barely any of these characters have much more to them than we see painted on a portrait for us in the first 30 minutes or so.

Despite this, the cast does very well with each and every one of their roles, despite never really getting any development beyond the bravery-side to their personality. Mark Wahlberg definitely does well with being macho and tough, but showing the capability of being smart as well; Taylor Kitsch is at least easier and less painful to watch here, then he’s been in his past three or four movies; Emile Hirsch brings a lot of his little-boyish charm that we’ve seen him bring to most of his movies, and it works wonders for his character here that himself seems a bit immature and a bit too out-of-his-reach; Eric Bana tries hard to hold-back on his Australian-accent, but does fine altogether as the one sergeant whose back at base, watching over all of the proceedings; and, if there is any stand-out to be found here, it’s Ben Foster as the one soldier who suffers through the most pain and agony out of them all, but never wusses-out or asks for mercy. He just keeps on trucking until he can’t truck on no more. Much like every other soldier did on that terrible, terrible day where lives were lost and families were hurt. But altogether, we stuck through it and will continue to do so until the end of time. ‘Murrica!

Consensus: Though it has all of the workings of a very obvious, ham-fisted war flick that’s trying to make its political stand-point known loud and clear for all to hear, Lone Survivor still sticks to the humanity of this real-life mission, in which many soldiers lost their lives and even though one came out alive to tell the story, the painful reality of fallen family members is still there and never going to go away.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

I Heart Huckabees (2004)

Just live life, don’t think too much and shut up! There, just saved you a near-two hours!

Environmental activist Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is the type of guy you just have to feel bad for. He’s the type that means well, but nothing ever seems to be working out well for him to the point of where he could just finally relax for a little bit. But nope, that is not the case, especially since he’s practically getting screwed over by a major corporation called Huckabees, mainly the head of P.R., Brad Stand (Jude Law). Brad practically promised Albert that he would save a huge part of land so that they could plant all sorts of trees and beautiful things, however, Brad doesn’t care about that and just wants his money, so he plans on just planting a huge shopping-mall instead, with Huckabees dead in the center of it all. Albert’s pissed about that, but he’s also worried about these strange run-ins he continues to have with this tall, African American man, that he automatically thinks are more than just sheer coincidences, they might just give meaning to his whole life in the past, present and the future. That’s where “Existential Detectives” Vivian and Bernard (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) come in and try to help him figure it all out, but since Albert’s a bit of a spastic nutcase, not everything goes as smoothly as planned.

Let”s just start things off on the right foot here: The movie is a mess, but it’s an intriguing mess, much like life is. There’s the hook, now on with the rest of this review.

They aren't supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

They aren’t supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

David O. Russell may be a very talented film maker and from what we’ve seen in these past couple of years, he’s really shown himself to be something of a man who can handle anything big or large. Sure, he’s had his freak outs many, many times before, but he’s made it clear that if you give him a huge cast, with a relatively simple, yet complex story, he can work wonders. However, when the story seems to be more than just simple and way more than just complex, then it becomes painfully clear that he can’t really hold his own and has to rely on his usually well-chosen casts. Which, once again, isn’t all that bad to begin with since everybody he gets to be apart of his ensembles are all great and do magnificent in his flicks, it’s just that there needs to be more substance to these stars doing shop, and regardless of what you may think with this material, there is no substance here. Please, do not be fooled.

See, while people will probably go out there and say, “this movie speaks volumes because of the types of questions it asks us about our current-existence, the lives we live and the world we live in”, is all a bunch of bologna. The movie seems so damn pleased with itself that it’s more than just your traditional, quirky comedy; instead, it’s asking bigger questions, that have to deal with bigger issues most people don’t get to thinking about on a day-to-day basis. There’s nothing wrong with thinking outside of the box either, it just has to be done right. Almost in the way in which Charlie Kaufman writes his movies: Strange, quirky and off-kilter, yet wholly insightful, emotional and more than meets the eyes.

David O. Russell, as much as it may surprise some, is no Charlie Kaufman and doesn’t have the ability to make this movie more than just a series of pretentious, heavy-thinking discussions about our existence on this planet. Those are the types of questions that usually come popping right up when a bunch of pals are saddled-around the campfire, smoking on the peace pipe, and that’s probably exactly where they should stay, especially if O. Russell’s going to be discussing them. I feel bad for getting on his case so much, because while there are some funny bits and pieces here, they mainly all stem from the fact that what’s happening on screen to cause these small pieces of laughter, is just because they’re pure random. Plain and simple. They don’t really work well towards the story or the type of message the movie is trying to get across (which is painfully clear, or not, who knows, who cares), and just seem like a bunch of crazy ideas O. Russell had rocking around in his mind and decided to go for the gull with here. Sometimes it works and amounts to nothing, sometimes it doesn’t and it just makes you feel bad for everybody involved.

Especially the cast. This poor, poor cast.

Better yet, I should just say poor Jason Schwartzman, because while I usually find him hilarious and entertaining to watch in whatever the hell it is that he pops up in, I couldn’t help but see him as annoying here. He always seemed to bitch and complain about everything in his life, never seemed like an actual character, with dimensions or emotions and seemed like the perfect type of guy that O. Russell could use as the straight-man for all of these over-the-top and crazy performances to play off of. And in that general aspect, the man gets what he wants, however, some of them fall short.

They're all jealous, Mark. Don't listen to 'em.

They’re all jealous, Mark. Don’t listen to ’em.

Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman come close to, but keep their heads afloat playing the two Existential Detectives, who basically just serve as Albert’s self-conscious; letting him know what’s right, what’s wrong, what does it all mean and how he can move on in his life, the right way. Together, they form a fiery and fun chemistry, but their roles do begin to get a bit repetitive, as they seemed to be saying the same things, over and over again, just with different phrasing and mannerisms. Jude Law also gets the bad-end of the straw as the sleazy Brad Stand, though he definitely relishes in the moment of playing somebody that would be as mean and detestable as a man of his looks golly-good looks would be. Naomi Watts seems to really be loving her time as Tom’s girlfriend, the scantily-clad model for Huckabees, and gets most of the laughs from her side of the spectrum. Worked wonders for her role, especially once her character goes through her own existential crisis and as you could expect, some hilarity ensues.

The only time actual hilarity within this movie does ensue, is whenever Mark Wahlberg shows up to steal the spotlight as Tommy, the oddball firefighter who drives everywhere in his bike, has something against petroleum, likes to start fistfights anywhere he goes, with whomever he sees and just seems to want to get his point across, by any means imaginable. Yeah, he seems like he’d be the most grating character on display here, but Wahlberg somehow gets him by on sheer charisma and willingness to make himself seem dumb. It’s very rare where you’d get a very good-looking guy like Wahlberg, who’d actually be willing to participate in something as strange as this, playing an even stranger character than we’d ever seen him play before, and trudge all trudge all the way to the finish line with it, while making us laugh all along the way. Wahlberg’s obviously shown his love for comedy in the past couple of years, but this was when he showed the world that he was more than just a nice set of guns, a catchy-as-hell song and a wonderful way of saying hello to mothers, he could actually entertain you and steal the show from heavyweights like Hoffman, Tomlin and yes, even Isabelle Huppert! Not even going to acknowledge the shock in that statement, I’ll let you take that one for me.

Consensus: There may be some moments of actual comedy to be found in I Heart Huckabees, but most of them are scattered across a slap-shot script, full of pretentious ideas and performances from a very talented cast that don’t add up to much, even while they’d probably work wonders in a way better, less preachy movie.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

2 Guns (2013)

Can’t ever trust a cop. Unless they’re Marky Mark and Denzel. Then, it’s safe to live again.

Two criminals-on-the-run (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) decide that it’s best for them to rob a bank, in order for them to take it away from a drug-lord (Edward James Olmos) who launders it there. However, in the midst of the heist, both find out that they are not who each other seem to be, and both decidedly turn on the other, leaving them both stranded and helpless by their superiors. To make matters worse, they owe a slew of money to the said drug-lord, and also have a scary, vicious secret enforcer (Bill Paxton) hot on their tracks and ready to get back the money that was stolen from him during the bank-robbery. Basically, it sucks being these two right now, but damn does it look so good.

It’s been quite awhile since the last time I saw a straight-up, unapologetic R-rated action-er like this, and although it didn’t have me miss those types of flicks, it still reminded me how much fun they could be when they’re done right. But as we all know, R-rated flicks don’t do much bang at the box office, so of course every major studio has to give us the watered-down, PG-13 version of any action movie. Whether it be with superheros, crooks, or zombies, the PG-13 action-flick seems to be in full-force for now, but it’s movies like this that remind me that the R-rated action-flick may not be around as much, but it sure as hell won’t die.

"Darn toots, boy!!"

“Darn toots, boy!!”

That said, can’t say I loved the hell out of this movie all that much either. It was just nice to get a shot in the face and be reminded of how much fun these types of movies can be, especially when they feature a full, lean, mean 100 minutes of double-crossing, gun-play, bullets, curse-words, corny jokes, and even some nice nudity from Paula Patton herself. The first 5 aspects, when done right, make any movie worth watching, but when you throw in that last one: Well, you got something that you need to see! And NOW!

But as I cool myself down, let me just remind you that this flick isn’t perfect. It’s obvious, it’s a bit by-the-numbers, and very convoluted into where it goes and how it ends up, but for awhile, a lot of the usual meanderings my mind would take with a movie like this, did not show up in my system at all. Sure, I could see who was going to kill who and how it was going to be done, but for a split-second, if only that, I had a slight bit of fun because I was able to let go of all the previous-knowledge I have for these types of movies. A movie that can do that for me deserves at least some credit, if not enough to be worth seeing.

Like I said though, not perfect. I only continue to say this because so many people will probably see this movie as stupid, badly-written, and over-the-top with it’s odd sense of humor. And to all of those fair points, I strike no objection whatsoever: It is a dumb movie; the plot doesn’t make sense half of the time; and I do think that they went a little bit overboard with some torturous scenes of action or grimness. However, I couldn’t help myself a single bit! I had fun, I enjoyed what I saw, and I definitely won’t remember this flick in 2 years or so, but that idea doesn’t matter when you’re just soaking up all of the air-conditioning in for an-hour-and-fourty-minutes. Hell, maybe it was the cool air that got to me, and if that is the case, then so be it.

I had fun, and if you like these types of movies, then most likely: You will too. There, I said it. Let it be done with!

Clothes on? Boo!

Clothes on? Boo!

Most of the fun that I did have with this movie, mainly came from the solid cast involved, even if it does feel like a hint of this material is a bit a cut below their pay-grade. Washington and Wahlberg have done far-better movies in the past decade or so, but they absoloutely live it up here together when they’re on screen. They joke, they kid around, they get serious, and they get very brutal as well. However, they always seem like people that enjoy working together, and didn’t let a single second of their first team-up go to waste, especially Wahlberg who really seems to turn on the charm here, in a slightly different way than we’ve seen from him before. Yeah, he’s still a bit goofy and stupid, but he’s got a bit of a cockiness to his act here that works, and makes me feel more and more confident about what he has next to accomplish with his grade-A, acting-career so far. As for Denzel, the guy just oozes cool. Nothing more to it.

I’d actually probably say that the weakest parts of this flick came from when these two weren’t together. See, they hold so much energy and life together, that when they’re respective stories take them down different roles, we are kind of saddened and missing something as a result. We know that they’re ways are going to collide again soon, but when they aren’t doing their thing and making this movie fun, it seems like a bit of a dull-experience. Not that the supporting cast isn’t good, it’s just that they don’t quite light the screen up like it’s two stars do. Actually, save for Bill Paxton who plays the shadowy government-connected enforcer who is red-hot on his trail for blood, and wants to find these two peeps on the end of it. Paxton’s so nutty and so cunning, that it’s almost a bit too much of a service to take him seriously, but you can’t help but roll with it and enjoy what the dude has to offer you, even when he isn’t screaming, “Game over, man!!”

Consensus: May not break any new ground, or change the frequency of R-rated action-flicks in the mainstream, but for the time it’s up on the screen, 2 Guns is still a bunch of quick, tense, action-filled fun, made even better by the always-entertaining chemistry between Wahlberg and Washington.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"After this, wanna sip down a couple brews? I'm buying..."

“After this, wanna sip down a couple brews? I’m buying…”

The Happening (2008)

Pretty, pretty deadly flowers.

In the middle of a peaceful New York City-day, a bunch of people are walking through the park when all of a sudden, everybody stops what it is that they are doing, walks backwards a few steps, and each commit suicide. There is no reason whatsoever for this mess, but whatever it is, it has traveled by air all the way to Philadelphia where a couple (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel) runs away, trying to find safety wherever it might possibly be. Problem is, nobody knows what it is, what caused it all, how to stay away from it, and what is the cure. It’s just something in the air, and you must run away and find shelter, as soon as possible. Or something like that.

Fuck it, I’m just going to come right out and say it that this is one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life-time. Which means, yes, I have seen this movie more than once. Once, when it came out in theaters because I was young and stupid, and twice, because I had to do it all for you loyal readers out there waiting to see me complete my posts on M. Night’s career.

The things that I’ll do just to please your asses.

Anyway, away from all that crap, let me just say that this movie is still god-awful after all of these years, and hell, probably a lot worse now that I’ve gotten used to what makes a movie good, entertaining, bad, or just shit. This is that latter category that nobody should ever bother with. Yes, not even movie critics who have been dared by their friends because they apparently “watch any movie that’s put in front of them.” Trust me, friends: I’ve said it all before and it’s not worth it. IT’S JUST NOT!!

We all know that M. Night’s career has been one shit-show-after-another, but at the time of this movie coming out, everybody thought it was his big return to making movies the way he did before. It was rated-R, it was coming out during the summer, and hell, it even had Marky Mark in the lead role, what could possibly not make a comeback occur?!?!? Well, let’s just say a whole lot did, but let’s start off fresh and just go by hitting the buttons with M. Night.

The problems they're running through all goes back to the fact that he won't become a vegan.

The problems they’re running through all goes back to the fact that he won’t become a vegan.

M. Night is a dude that loves his plots, his premises, and his twists, but one thing he does not seem to love so much is what gets him to his passion in the first-place: dialogue. No matter what flick you want to attack, you can’t help but notice that almost all of M. Night’s flicks have a problem with the dialogue, whether it be because nobody sounds like real human-beings, or that the people do sound like real human-beings, but just idiotic ones. Either way, take your pick and you’ll most likely find a little something to make fun of. However, here, you can find almost everything wrong with the dialogue.

Every piece of spoken-line dialogue in this movie is just god-awful, because M. Night does not have a single clue where to pin-point this movie towards. Sometimes it seems like he’s going for a drama; sometimes a comedy; sometimes a dark comedy; sometimes a horror movie; sometimes a thriller; and heck, sometimes even a “it’s so bad, it’s good” type of movie that you would have probably seen in the 50’s, had it been done by Ed Wood or someone of that nature. The guy loses himself, just as much as he loses these “characters”, and during it all; we’re lost and left without a clue as to what to think of this movie. Is it supposed to be serious? Or, just or, is it supposed to be a slightly off-kilter movie that likes to throw in some laughs, along with the terror and dread? We never find those answers, and after awhile; you’ll probably just give up looking for them. They aren’t worth it, especially when you have so much promise like this just thrown to the ground, in hopes that someone will pick it back up.

Problem is, nobody does. Not the actors, nor M. Night himself. Even he seems at a bit of a loss for what to make of this material. The explanation he comes up with for this whole movie/epidemic inside of it, is that it was all caused by the plants. But why did the plants release some sort of toxin into the sky? Oh well, because we, as humans, are threatening our world and make the plants/trees/nature/etc. feel as if they are constantly at a fight so rather than just giving up and dying as we celebrate with our Cadillacs and light-bulbs, they decided to fight back and show us a bit of a warning to fuck our lives up. Yep, that’s right, in case you couldn’t tell where that idea was going, it was actually M. Night himself trying to go for it all by giving us some food-for-thought about our environment, and give us a spin on the whole global warming aspect of today’s economy. A bit risky you might say? Yes, but does it work at all? Fuck no! It’s actually really stupid, and as much as I may agree with what M. Night has to say on some level, I’ll still can’t say I support his decision to be as preachy, as obvious, and as idiotic with his points as he was here.

But no need to fear, Mark Wahlberg’s in this movie and that dude barely ever touches a screenplay that’s shit, right? Well, back in 2008, along with this other “masterpiece”: that was all a bunch of cons and lies. Wahlberg plays Elliott, a high-school science teacher, which, in a way; sort of is a joke in and out of itself. Wahlberg does whatever the hell he can with this character, but the same old mannerisms that the dude has with all of his characters (and sometimes make them so memorable), are what kills him and his character.The guy rambles, talks to trees, acts scared, has a bunch of close-ups on him looking scared, and does nothing else but use that usual, high-pitched voice we all know and maybe, just maybe, love him for. I love him for all that he does, but here, I felt like the dude was really falling-apart and couldn’t help but go along with whatever the hell M. Night threw at him. Sometimes, I don’t think even he knew what the hell to expect, but hey: that’s him, not me. If only I was Marky Mark, though. If only.

"And remember, once you get home and all, make sure to say hello to ya motha's for me."

“And remember, once you get home and all, make sure to say hi to ya motha’s for me.”

However, Marky Mark looks like he’s about to win an Oscar for his work, compared to what Zooey Deschanel brought to the table. Deschanel plays his wife, who’s obviously a bit weird, unhappy, and confused about what she wants, but rather than being Summer, she’s trying to be like Jessica Tandy in a way. That shouldn’t quite matter if the actress who’s channeling that side of her skills, is supremely talented, but Zooey just isn’t. And if she is, well she didn’t show too much of that talent here because every line that came out of her mouth, felt forced and bored, as if Zooey only did this for the money, in hopes that she will one day have that one, big show that’s dedicated to just her, and her hipster-ways.

Oh wait, I think it has happened already. Shit.

Consensus: M. Night fans (I’m joking, right?) might appreciate the promise and the eeriness that stands behind most of the Happening, but for peeps who don’t much care for the guy, and want good stories, with reasonable acting, writing, and direction, will most likely be at a loss for words just by how shitty this movie truly is. Don’t even bother getting drunk or high for this neither, just don’t even bother.

0.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Shit. This is really bad."

“Shit, I thought M. said this was going to be a dark, domestic drama that teaches us the importance of family values and honor.”

Pain & Gain (2013)

Steroids will kill you. But also will guns, lies, sex, drugs, murder, and leading a whole life of crime.

Three dimwitted body-builders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie) make a living teaching other people how to put their body’s into shape. But they’ve had enough of it and want more out of life like money, fame, and drugs. You know, the American Dream. They decide to reach for this goal by kidnapping and extorting money from a very rich and powerful man (Tony Shalhoub). It sort of works, but as time goes on and their ego’s and utter stupidity seem to get in the way of things, they lose their way to figuring out just how the hell to keep their heads up and out of jail.

Oh yeah, and it’s all based on a true story. Don’t believe me, then seriously; go check this out and come back. See what I mean? Real shit.

The fact that this is all apparently happened, was directed by Michael Bay, and considered to be a passion project of his, really has me scratching my head still, even to this very sceond where I’m typing. However, being the “esteemed” critic that I am, I knew I had to be open to seeing something that Bay actually had been wanting to do for awhile and I think I stand with everybody else when I say that it’s time we saw something new from this guy. At least, I think so anyway. I hope I’m not alone.

I wonder if they need help with their luggage.

It’s Miami, in the 90’s. So chill, fashion police.

I knew something was “up” with this movie once it began. It wasn’t that the movie wasn’t interesting or that I wasn’t wondering what this was all going to be about, it was that something didn’t feel right. The movie begins with Marky Mark doing sit-ups on a ceiling  then sees a bunch of cop cars, yells out “fuck”, and begins to run away, all to a narration that’s supposed to be funny, but isn’t. That’s how the whole movie actually plays out, in fact. Most moments are supposed to be done for laughs in the way that we point and chuckle at these bumbling fools trying to pull off robbery, but it doesn’t work. Instead, it seems like the movie is trying too hard to be funny, and failing at it so miserably so. It gets better, but very slightly.

The problem with this movie isn’t that it isn’t really funny, because once the first hour comes and goes, it begins to find it’s funny-footing, but it’s just “off” in ways that’s hard to explain. This a true story, about people that did bad stuff, tried to get away with it, and came close to doing so as well, so why the hell should all of this shit be played-up for laughs? I get that Bay wanted to have a bit of a tongue-in-cheek approach with this story and get all goofy on us, but he’s not the type of director that can make the transitions from drama to comedy seamless. You notice when the movie is trying too hard to be funny and too hard to be serious, and it just ends up coming out like a weird mixture of eggs and chocolate. Never tried that combo before, but something tells me it doesn’t mix well.

That’s not to say that this movie isn’t entertaining to watch, because it is, it just doesn’t feel like anybody can make up their right minds as to what type of film they want to make. The screenwriters wanted a dramedy; Bay wanted a buddy comedy, with a bunch of grit; the actors wanted a loosey-goosey comedy; and Marky Mark just wants to show the ladies that he’s still got the looks. Everybody is playing at their own pace, with their own rules, and their own ways of getting shit done. It honestly isn’t as bad as I may make that sound; it really isn’t. It’s actually interesting to see, considering you never know where it’s going to go next, in terms of story and tone. And even though not all of it fits right in the way you’d expect, it’s still fun for that aspect alone.

Other than problems with tone and pace, Bay still seems to be having fun here and I was glad. When this movie wants to be wild and crazy; it’s a blast of fun. You never know where it’s going to go, where it’s going to end up, and what these crazy mofos are going to try next. Well, that is unless you don’t already know the story beforehand. If you do, then you’re sort of left out a bit of all of the fun, but not fully. If you like watching a movie, not having a darndest clue what the people involved are going to show you next; then this may be the trip for you. It has the humor; it has the action; it has the performances; and it has the fun-feel to it, but you still can never seem to get past the fact that almost everybody involved with this movie was on some sort of coke or something. More strange, than it is crazy, but still interesting to watch. I’m not sure if I’m selling this movie well at all, but don’t be worried because it is a good movie; just a very odd one at that.

But if you really want to see something insane: then, just watch these performances. Seriously, every cast member seems like they are either high off of their asses, or having the time of their lives. Sometimes, even both at the same time. Marky Mark is as fun and electric as he has ever been as Daniel Lugo, “the mastermind” (use that term very loosely) behind the whole wheeling and dealing operation. Wahlberg’s manic energy really plays well with this character because it allows him to be a nut-job, just about the whole time. He’s a guy that likes to poke fun at himself, even when he is doing curls for the girls with 50 lb.’s in each hand. It’s hard for a guy to be sexy, charming, and self-knowingly goofy at the same time, but Wahlberg pulls it off perfectly, as usual.

Then, there’s Dwayne Johnson as his fellow-partner, Paul Doyle. If anybody seems to be having any bit of fun in this movie: it’s The Rock (whoops!). Rocky has always been one of these guys that’s been wanting to break free for the longest time and it’s just so great to see him do it now, do it loud, and best of all: do it proud. Doyle’s character is a funny one because he’s constantly on either side of the fence. He’s a holy man that’s been sober for awhile and believes in the higher-power, yet, is all caught up in these deadly-shenanigans that he can’t make up his mind as to whether or not he wants to partake in it or not. But at other times, the character totally loses his idea of sensibility and is just balls to the walls from there on. That’s where Johnson really exceeds well, and kept me laughing my ass off, even when the movie didn’t seem to be working with any funny material whatsoever. Just watching him act like an ass and make fun of himself as well, was funny enough to give me joy and laughter. Sort of like Christmas Day, but instead of presents; it’s just some roided-out freak who likes to make goofy faces. Goofy faces that worked, so I guess I can’t talk too much shite.

Monk's rich and not putting up with anybody's shit.

Monk’s rich and not putting up with anybody’s shit.

Even though he isn’t advertised all that much as partaking in the crimes, Anthony Mackie is also here for the wild ride and is good for what he has to do to keep up with these two. Not only can he flex-up when need be, but he can also joke around about his look and style as well, which is always needed. However, it’s abundantly clear that he does not have as much material to work with, like Dwayne and Marky Mark do. That still doesn’t mean that he isn’t funny or entertaining to watch; because he is. It’s just that the guy’s jokes are more obvious and more about him being black than anything else. Hopefully, Captain America 2 will start getting him some finer-roles like he deserves.

Other actors that show up in this seem to be having fun, even if they are as nutso as you can get. Tony Shalhoub plays the mean and cruel rich guy that these body-builders decide to target and is good because he always stays funny, without ever drawing out the sympathy card. We don’t like his character and we don’t really care for him, which was sort of the point. That’s why it’s so fun to see Shalhoub just take a role like this, and revel in the unsympathetic-nature of it. Ed Harris also shows up as the detective that helps him out and is good, but it’s Ed Harris. What else is there left to say? But trust me, there’s plenty more where that came from and they are all just as wacky as the leads. And I also have to give credit to Michael Bay for giving Rebel Wilson a chance to be funny again, even if she lost all of my respect after last Sunday. Lord, I still feel the pain from that.

Consensus: Most of Pain & Gain is meant to be seen, just for the sake of bragging-rights and pure experience. But with that said, it is still fun for what you see with it’s random bits of comedy, drama, crime, and action, all rolled into one piece of wild popcorn fare. Also, it’s a Michael Bay film with no robots. So just be happy dammit!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

ROCK BOTTOM!!! ROCK BOTTOM!!

ROCK BOTTOM!!! ROCK BOTTOM!!

Shooter (2007)

I thought all snipers had to do was just sit there, hold their breath, and shoot. That’s it.

Marksman Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) leaves the Army after a mission of his goes bad. After he is reluctantly pressed back into service, Swagger is double-crossed once again, but this time: it’s a tad bit more serious. With two bullets in him and the subject of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger begins his revenge, which will take down the most powerful people in the country, even leading him back to that fateful incident where he was initially screwed-over in the first place.

No matter what action movie you venture out or stay inside to see, chances are; you’re going to get nothing but sure, mindless entertainment with a few, but also very little surprises. That’s just the way the movie-world works and as fine with that as I may be, sometimes, there are just some cases where I can’t turn my brain off anymore. Sometimes, I just gotta let loose. Sometimes, I just gotta let a movie have it. Sometimes, is one of those times right now!

Antoine Fuqua may not have the best track-record out there, but still a guy that I have enough faith in when it comes to action, using it right, and using it to his advantage, and for the most part; is actually what kept this film alive and well when it seemed to hit some dead ends. The action starts off fine and kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat a couple of moments, especially one car-chase scene that went all throughout the “fine” streets of Philadelphia. First of all, being a homeboy of Philly, I was happy to see my town be in a big-budget action pic where the streets were used perfectly and also, it was just a fun little piece of action that this film seemed like it needed to enhance and mostly, keep our minds off of the “plot”. I use that term “plot”, very loosely.

I guess she was making breakfast...

I guess she was making breakfast…

Most action pics are stupid. Duh, we all know that. But this one was a little TOO stupid for me to even have fun and enjoy at points. The whole idea that these dudes would just come up to a guy, have him come out of a life of solitude, and proposition an assassination attempt, without him ever gettin’ the willies from the guys, just really surprises me since I knew if I was in that situation, I would know something was fishy right away. Also, isn’t Marky Mark supposed to be a trained marksman that excels in this type of shit? Just a thought. So there we go, the beginning of this story already had me annoyed but it just continues to get worse and worse as more of these plot twists begin to unravel. I’m all down for plot twists when they make a story more interesting, but there were plot twists within the plot twists happening here and after awhile it became more laughable than actually entertaining. Then again, maybe “laughable” and “entertaining” go hand-in-hand in ways, too. Either way, something just was not clicking with me here and slowly, but surely, the movie started to lose me.

Then, the story continues to get worse as, for some freakin’ odd reason, they decide to get all political with our simple, action movie watching asses. Throughout the whole film, there is this under-lining theme of corrupt politicians that runs throughout and doesn’t come on strong until the very end where it all comes together (I think?). The whole movie plays out like a slight-thriller, with action elements, but then changes into where we’re supposed to feel of this as some sort of morality piece. I mean when I watch my dumb-ass action movies, don’t try to bog me down with a bunch of political themes that could be very present in today’s day and age. Why? Well because, I don’t give much of a shit about all that! That’s why I came here: to see Marky Mark get a sniper and start blowin’ people’s heads off left-and-right, not to understand what our dirty politicians are doing to poorer, foreign countries out there. Maybe for a different flick that may be the topic of the day, but not for this one.

Speaking of Marky Mark Wahlberg, say what you will about him, but the guy does do his best with every piece of material he’s given. The guy is a bona-fide star because he can take these shitty, action scripts and actually give them something more to hold onto because there is just something there with him and his charisma that works. However, I think his role as Bob Lee Swagger was the true point where I see him being a bit too dull for my liking. This guy, Swagger (what a cooooool name!), has a lot going for him that he’s one of the toughest mofos out there and can shoot just about anything that walks from a pretty sexy distance. However, this guy doesn’t really seem like he’s all that tough to begin with. Yeah, he shoots people and yeah, he kills them but what else can he really do? The guy barely has a personality and as much as he tries, Wahlberg can’t seem to really give him one. Wahlberg tries so, so, so hard with this role but in the end, it just comes off as another one of his dull, action-hero performances. Maybe that’s the script’s fault, and maybe it isn’t. Regardless, the two weren’t coming together and making sense.

"Just kill this dude. Okay? Good. That's all, now go home."

“Just kill this dude. Okay? Good. That’s all, now go home.”

The one who actually showed some real personality with his character was Michael Peña as the field agent that has nothing else really going for him, except for Swagger and finding out what’s getting jiggy with him. No matter what, you got to love Peña for what he is able to do with all of his roles and it’s great to see him have a bunch of fun with a character that is essentially one, big, effin’ cliche. The guy deserves all of the praise he’s been getting for awhile, and I think it’s time he just about broke out of that shell, and into our laps. If that makes any possible sense whatsoever.

Then, on the flip-side of the coin, you got Ned Beatty and Danny Glover as the two, terribly-corrupt government workers that just ooze evil in every scene. Both are good and show that they can work with a shitty script but after awhile, they’re evilness began to get ridiculous and over-played, almost to where it seemed very unbelievable that they would be at all nice or humane to the ones around them, let alone to each other. Oh, and then you got Kate Mara as Swagger’s old-partner’s wife. She definitely had a cute look to her but the way her character just lets Swagger into her life without ever knowing or seeing him ever before, did seem a bit unbelievable. Once again, another part of this story that seemed stupid, but was somehow needed to move the story right on along.

Consensus: Though Shooter is a loud, dumb, and stupid action thriller that makes no apologies for what it does, it somehow still comes off as a terribly-written piece of work that does nothing other than pull out a bunch of incomprehensible plot twists, only to add more confusion on to the final-product, that was already struggling as it was.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"You better say hello to ya motha for me."

“You better say hello to ya motha for me.”

Broken City (2013)

If Mayor Nutter ever needs somebody to watch his woman, he can always give me a call. He just better drop my taxes.

An ex-cop (Mark Wahlberg) finds himself in a job for New York City’s mayor (Russell Crowe), which is that he must trail his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom he believes is having an affair. However, what the ex-cop stumbles upon is worse than he ever imagined and thus, the job becomes a lot more difficult than he expected.

This is one of those movies that seems like it has all of the promise with the cast, the characters, the plot, the stars, and heck, even the director (Allen Hughes, in his first movie without bro Albert by his side) all being big and well-respected. However, just like Gangster Squad, it is January, and you can’t always expect the best, no matter who may be behind it all. Why can’t it just be May already? Why?!?!??

As a director all by his lonesome, Hughes is actually not too bad. Granted, this isn’t a very showwy-direction for the type of dude that is known for this type of stuff, but he gives us a nice atmosphere and mood to start us off on the right foot. We feel as if we are in for a movie that’s all about dark stuff, happening to dark people, in dark ways, that are almost too dark to explain and believe. Basically, this movie was started-off as being one, big, piece of darkness that was most likely going to keep me guessing until the very end and for awhile; it was doing just that.

I don’t want to say that all of the twists and turns of this story work when you take everything else into consideration, but for the most part, I liked not knowing exactly where the story could go and how. Rarely do you ever get thrillers that just like to throw plot-twists for fun, but actually have them mean something, rather than just be a wake-up call to the audience and make sure they’re paying attention. You never quite know where this story could go and even the places that it does end-up, could actually take you by surprise and make you feel like this is a no-holds-barred movie, that’s ready to take you down any chance it can get. However, that would definitely be giving the movie way too much credit.

"What do you mean you thought Hugh did better?"

“What do you mean you thought Hugh did better?”

Even though the twists, the turns, the darkness, the secrets, and big reveals kept me interested in what was going on behind the closed doors we rarely get a glimpse at, they didn’t feel deserved. It was almost as if the movie itself thought, “Well, we already have these twists here, why not throw in a couple more just for good measure?”. That idea that I maybe think the creators thought up of in their heads during the writing-process, only goes to show you that there wasn’t much thought going into this script, because certain things just don’t add up. We get a look at how the world of politics can be cruel and why it’s more of a fight between the toughest, rather than the smartest, but those moments only get shoved down our throats when the movie feels like it needs to be more than just a natural-thriller where Marky Mark is going around and kicking the crap out of people.

Then, it just gets stranger and more contrived, as more subplots come in like a gay couple that seems as forced as can be, a problem with Marky Mark’s drinking problem, a love story between him and his gal-pal that has the material there to be interesting and gripping, but just isn’t due to the delivery, and a plot that shows Mark’s past and how the “hood” he used to represent, may not always be there. You put these three factors in, add a bit of the political-idea of this flick, and mix them altogether in a blender; then you’re most likely going to get a mixed-bag full of moments that work, but other moments, that just don’t add up to anything. I think where I’m trying to get at with this flick, is that even though you get into it, the movie is still nothing more than just a thriller, no matter how many debates and arguments they want to throw in there about changing NYC, by giving “the People” they’re money back. In today’s day and age, with the economy we have, maybe messages like that would work and really get inside the minds of many, fellow Americans, but put that message in a movie like this: it’s going to go nowhere and not matter a single-bit. Why? Well, because people paid over $9 to see Marky Mark and Maximilian go head-to-head, not discuss on how to make the world/NYC a better place to live free and be happy in. Yeah, wrong movie entirely.

Marky Mark definitely seems like he’s made for these types of roles where he plays the type of conflicted dude that may not have the best morals you have ever seen, but is still a hell of a likable dude that you can’t help but cheer on. His role here, as Bobby, is exactly one of THOSE roles and it’s not something new, original, or slightly refreshing to see from the guy, but it doesn’t matter, because Wahlberg is good, as always, and gives us more to like about this character. However, it’s that character himself I just didn’t believe.

"I told you, Michael. The doctor said only 3 times a month for sex, or else."

“I told you, Michael: the doctor said only 3 times a month for sex, or else no Wall Street 3.”

Without spoiling too much about this plot and basically telling you what goes down with Mark and everybody else, I’m just going to state that Mark’s character goes through some sort of self-realization phase where he soon starts to find-out that there’s a set-up somewhere along the lines, and it’s up to him to not only save the day, but show the bad people, for everything that they are: bad people. In any movie where Wahlberg does the same, exact transformation, not only do you believe it, but you like Wahlberg more and more cause you see the cool guy come out of his performance, but here, you just don’t care. Billy is one of those dudes that’s got a troubled-past and some issues that he’s dealing with at the present-time, but never so much to the point of where I feel like the guy would really turn his life around and eventually go balls-deep in a case, that doesn’t seem like it concerned him, well, ever. I can’t give away anymore of what happens, but trust me; you won’t believe in Bobby, no matter how much Wahlberg may distract you with those big guns and crooked, angry eyebrows.

Out of the cast, the two that really shine are probably Jeffrey Wright and Russell Crowe, who both feel as if they were just called-up to have a good time, and do exactly that. Especially Crowe, who seems like he needed to give the audience a nice-reminder that yes, even though he can’t sing, he can sure as hell own the screen like no other. I mean, hell, the guy has an Oscar at his household, and has been nominated close to three times by now! The guy’s got talent, it just doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in his vocal-chords. Oh well, nice to see you back, Russell. Now, stay away from Broadway musical-adaptations!

Consensus: The promise that lies within Broken City is exactly there for the first 45 minutes or so, but once the flick decides to spice things up with an over-abundance of plots, twists, conventions, and obvious-narratives that don’t feel believable, then it just loses all of it’s steam and is nothing more than just another thriller, with more talking than usual.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Of course I'll say hello to my mother for a face like that!

Of course I’ll say hello to my mother for a face like that.

Life of Pi (2012)

Think of it as Cast Away, with instead of Wilson, there’s a shit-load of CGI.

This is the story an Indian boy named Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) from Pondicherry who survives 227 days after a shipwreck, while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. However, like any 227-day trip with a Bengal tiger, it doesn’t go so smoothly.

An adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel was definitely one that needed to wait-out it’s time. It was called unfilmable for many reasons, but one of the main ones being the fact that the story mainly-revolves around a boy, stuck in a boat with a tiger. The only way you could have ever shot this movie with an actual-tiger still in-play, would be to have it utterly and completely stoned, and I think instead of eating the actor, the tiger would just go for the nearest Cheetos bag. So, obviously filming it conventionally was already-out before anybody could put it in, but what about the art and magic that is cinema? Can all of the money in the world ($10 million to be exact) make a CGI-tiger, look as real as the ones you see eating zebras alive on the Discovery Channel?

The answer to that is with an upstanding yes! Director Ang Lee once again shows that he is able to find beauty in any story he feels the need to tell, and he finds it here in the best-way with some of the most-realistic, beautiful special-effects I have seen in quite some time. With well-established directors like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese both trying their aims at 3-D and doing a relatively nice-job in their efforts, it is so great to see a director that has never messed with this technology before, and just really give-it-his-all and give us a mesmerizing picture from start-to-finish.

And when I mean “start-to-finish”, I mean exactly that. Everything not only looks as realistic as you can get in terms of the animals involved, but the constant-colors that just pop-out of each and every scene really kept me looking the whole-time. You think by watching the trailer that you saw all you needed to see in terms of how gorgeous and stunning this film looks, but trust me, you haven’t. Certain things that you didn’t even think were possible to do with CGI-animation, let alone 3D, is done here and will take you by-storm by just how much effort and energy Lee puts into this new-found love of telling a story. I honestly cannot tell you enough: go see this movie in 3D and realize that maybe it’s the directors like Lee, Scorsese, and Spielberg who should be throwing out 3D movies instead of chumps like Timur Bekmambetov and Scott Speer. In case you couldn’t tell, Speer directed Step Up Revolution (trust me, I have no idea why I saw it either) and Timur directed the OTHER Honest Abe movie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Keep on giving 3D to legendary directors that know how to work this kind of stuff, and keep it away from guys who literally are only doing it to “up” their box-office sales. And 9 times out of 10, it doesn’t even help.

But in case you haven’t been able to notice already, I’ve only been mentioning the 3D and visuals of this movie and that’s mainly because the story kind of loses itself, as well as this movie. Watching the trailers, seeing the previews on TV, and even looking at that poster up-above, will already have you know that this is about a boy and a tiger lost at-sea, but little do you know that that whole-factor doesn’t play, until about 30 minutes in and we have to deal with an introduction to this kid’s life that is unexpected and a bit annoying. I think my problem with it was that it constantly went back-and-forth between this person’s child-hood, to the present-day of when he’s talking with this reporter and after awhile, it made me wonder just when the hell the damn ship was going to sink and we could get some straight-up, survival-guide facts at-play.

After that glorious and beautiful-looking crash (gives the infamous one in Flight a run for it’s moolah) ends up happening, the story then kick-starts into what I wanted and for the most-part, it works. I really liked where Lee went with this story, how he told it in a way that didn’t seem to bore the hell out of everybody watching because of it just being a kid and a tiger treading along hopelessly at-sea, and most of all, how he didn’t find himself going back-and-forth between the past and present like he was doing in the beginning. Just let a story tell itself and you’ll be perfectly fine and that’s where the real charm and beauty in Lee’s direction plays-out. Sadly, it doesn’t last forever and the story just finds it’s way back into screwing everything up, once-again.

The problem this movie runs into by the end, without giving anything away, is that it’s ending is a bit too long, too explanatory, and mainly, not needed at all. I don’t want to get into the logistics of this ending and what happens, but it’s the same exact one they took from the book that I apparently heard about, and even though staying close to the source material is something that more directors should take from Lee, they should also take away the fact that sometimes things that play-out well in a book, don’t necessarily play-out very well on-screen. It’s novel-adapting 101: make sure the audience picks-up, what you’re throwing down, just as long as you don’t lose the audience of the book’s near-and-dear faithfuls, but also don’t lose the movie-crowd, as well. I won’t say that the ending and honor to the original source-material lost me, but I will say that it definitely killed any hopes I had of feeling emotionally-connected to this story at all. Sorry Lee, you had me crying over two gay cowboys but when it comes to a boy and a tiger, ehhh, not so much.

New-comer Suraj Sharma does a really great-job with his lead-role as Piscine Patel, and what’s more notable about this performance is how it’s his first-role ever, he had no prior acting-experience, and he was practically all by himself throughout the whole movie, in terms of acting and communicating with others. Yes, in the movie, there is a tiger there that looks just about as real as you can get, but you have to remember, that it is not a real tiger and that this Sharma kid is practically talking to the thin-air or an imaginary object. It’s sort of like how Mark Wahlberg talked to a tennis ball in-place of Ted, in well, Ted, and how he made it so damn realistic, and that’s pretty much what this Sharma kid does. He’s a believable kid that has us believe in him right from the start, he’s a kid that definitely has us feel like he can pull it out in the end, and he’s also one that seems to have a chip on his shoulder, where he knows that it’s probably not right to try and hang-out, kick-back, and try and smoke a couple of doobies with this tiger, because this thing does not play nice.

Even though it is fairly a one-man show, the movie does have some nice supporting roles, as well. Irrfan Khan is very, very good as the older Pi and shows how he has changed into a stronger, but more enthused man about life and by the end, once we learn that there is more to this character, more to him, and more to what’s on-display here, then that’s when he gets good even if the story sort of loses him in the shuffle. Rafe Spall plays the writer that interviews Pi about this miraculous story and it’s a really, really blank role that would have really benefited well if it was originally-given to Tobey Maguire. Yeah, he would have been way too familiar for this role and pretty much take us out of the story, but at least it would have been a lot more entertaining watching Peter Parker get all awkward with some guy about how he saw some of the sickest shit out there at-sea, rather than watching the guy who once-played a fake-Shakespeare. And besides, if you’re not going to put Maguire in the movie because he’s too recognizable, then don’t put Gérard Depardieu in there, either. Everybody knows who that fat slob from French is, and I highly doubt it’s going to bother-us anymore.

Consensus: With outstanding visuals that are probably some of the most realistic I have ever seen put onto screen, as well as some of the beautiful as well, Life of Pi is definitely a spectacle that’s worth venturing out to see in 3D, however, be ready for the visuals to eventually play second-fiddle to a story that isn’t all that strong to begin-with, gets a bit better, and then fizzles out with no emotional-connection whatsoever. Still, deserves to be seen.

8/10=Matinee!!

Ted (2012)

If only I could get my plush doll Spider-Man to start talking and doing cool shit.

The film centers on a 35-year-old man (Mark Wahlberg) who must deal with the cherished teddy bear (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) who came to life as the result of a childhood wish… and has refused to leave his side ever since.

The one reason why I wasn’t really looking forward to this film as much was mainly because it’s the directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane, aka the creator of Family Guy, aka a show I’m not too fond of. I don’t know what it is about me and that show, but I just don’t find it all that funny and consider other animated-shows like Futurama or South Park to be a lot funnier and wittier when it comes to their jokes. But somehow, I caught myself laughing….a lot.

The idea of having a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear seemed like something that would be funny for the first 10 minutes, then just falter out after that and get boring, but somehow, MacFarlane doesn’t allow that to happen mainly because he’s allowed to do whatever the hell he wants with this material. That’s right, no FCC, no rules, and no standards to live by, he’s allowed to do whatever the eff he wants to do with this story and he obviously is enjoying this newly-found freedom because almost every scene is filled with fart jokes, poop jokes, sex jokes, gay jokes, pot jokes, and plenty of other jokes raunchy jokes that you can shake a stick at.

But the difference here with all of these raunchy jokes in this movie, from say, another raunch-fest like That’s My Boy, is that this film actually has some cleverness behind all of the raunch. It’s not just all about making people go “ewww” or squirm at the sight of a dude’s penis, it’s all about making people laugh their asses off at something dirty, but something that’s also very funny and witty. They do the same thing in The Hangover and even though that film and this one are somewhat different from one another, they both show you can still be clever, even if a good majority of the jokes are centered around dudes smoking pot and farting.

However, it’s not all about being dirty that makes this film funny, no, there’s actually plenty of other funny stuff going on that doesn’t concern any bodily fluids. There’s a couple of great movie references to such flicks as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Van Wilder (random, I know), Superman Returns (another random one), Airplane!, and even the 80’s cult classic, Flash Gordon, which actually plays a big part in this film as well. There are plenty of other references here that I’m sure I forgot to mention but it’s also still the same exact kind of snarky humor from Family Guy and that confused me because I laughed at just about everything here, but I barely ever laugh at that show. Maybe it’s just the foul language that makes everything funnier. Oh yeah, there’s also a reference to that show as well that seemed clever. Once again, I’m using that word “clever” in a review of a movie that’s about a talking bear.

Probably the best, and worst thing about this movie, is in fact Ted, the CG bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane. It’s obvious that Ted was going to pretty much steal every single scene, but what really got to me was just how consistently funny this freakin’ character was. Sometimes when you have certain characters like this, they are very funny at points but miss the mark at others, Ted, just about made me laugh each and every single time he opened up his stitched mouth. Not only did he have the best lines in the movie (obviously) but some of his insults that he flings at almost everybody around him were sometimes so mean and cruel, that I couldn’t believe I still liked him in the end. MacFarlane, of course, does a great job with this voice-role and it’s actually surprising just how good Ted, the CG bear actually looks in this film. I don’t want to go as far to say that he looked freakin’ realistic along the lines of Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I really couldn’t find a single flaw in the animation they had made for him/it.

Sadly though, Ted is such a great and funny character to have on-screen that whenever he isn’t the film falters and definitely isn’t as funny as you would have liked it to be. It’s not like the rest of the cast isn’t game, because they sure as hell are, it’s just that you laugh so much at Ted and all of the crazy shit he says, that whenever he isn’t around you’re left wondering where he is and what he’s up to. Maybe MacFarlane focused on writing so much funny stuff for his own character, that he sort of left the others all in the dust.

Also, the flick starts to get less funny by the end and lose its originality points when the story starts to dive into Ted getting his ass captured by a childhood admirer of his (another crazy role for Giovanni Ribisi, maybe his weirdest, and that’s say something). I get it, they needed to bring this story-line in to give it some tension by the end, but Ribisi’s character is sort of forgotten about for a good hour or so that when he comes back, we just don’t give a crapola and just want Ted to go back to smoking pot, having sex with chicks, and doing coke. You know, the fun stuff.

But as good as MacFarlane may be as Ted, Mark Wahlberg still shows that he’s great at doing comedy, once again with his role here as John Bennett. Wahlberg is great at delivering comedy but mostly at playing the straight-man, which he does here perfectly and it definitely helps out a lot of the scenes whenever Ted isn’t around and it’s just Wahlberg, being Wahlberg, which isn’t a bad thing because it’s obvious this guy is having a ball with this role. Mila Kunis is also pretty funny as Lori and shows that she still has some great comedic timing to her as well, and I like how they didn’t make her character one of those bitchy-types that hate on their mans for having another friend that get’s in the way of their “alone time”. Nope, she’s actually a pretty cool chick that just wants a guy who wants to settle down. Typical woman, that’s why I’m done getting married after three unsuccessful attempts. Or maybe it’s four?

Consensus: Even though it starts to lose some flavor in the last act, Ted is still a very funny and raunchy comedy that shows off MacFarlane in a new light. It’s a new light where he’s able to say, do, and act whatever he wants and not have to give a crap at all, who say’s he’s not allowed to. Still, doesn’t mean I’m going to start watching a becoming a fan boy of Family Guy. Not a chance in hell, my friend.

7.5/10=Matinee!!

Contraband (2012)

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch are back except this time, they’re robbing people!

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris, a former drug smuggler who must revert back to a life of crime when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss (Giovanni Ribisi). To settle the debt, Wahlberg’s character assembles a team of crooks and does what he does best: smuggling contraband.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormàkur seems like a pretty inspired choice for a flick that seems so simple and could have easily been done by a schmuck like Joel Schumacher or someone else of that kind. However, it doesn’t matter who the director may be, it still needs to work which is something this film kind of does and doesn’t do.

Kormàkur starts this story off pretty well with just the right amount of mystery, energy, and suspense to fill the air. The plot does take its time getting to where it has to go but the action scenes, when they come, are very well-done. Notice how I said ‘when they come’. Still though, they are used to actually to move this plot along and not just used as an action flick device that we usually come-and-get. Also, I love heist films so going into this, I wasn’t expecting much else other than some really cool and tricky heists which is what this film provided enough to satisfy me and keep me guessing.

The problem with most of these action scenes, as fun and exciting as they truly may be, for some reason it’s filmed with the annoying shaky-cam that we always see and hate, but is used to create a feeling here that doesn’t work. Whenever action hits this flick, the camera always moves around at a rapid and paranoid pace, as if it kept constantly looking around each corner, making sure not to get caught pulling off the heist itself. The shaky-cam is obviously something I hate no matter what the film may be, but here it didn’t seem needed considering how slick the action sequences are in the first place.

I also think another problem with this film is that for some reason the direction and screen-writing never really seem on the right page at all. The film is marketed as a silly and dumb action flick but it’s a lot much more smarter than that and sometimes teeters on drama. When I mean drama though, I mean the kind of drama where they try to really discuss some real issues about family, betrayal, and alcoholism. Let me remind you, I am talking about the film called ‘Contraband’. The film could have honestly been a thriller, heist, drama, and action flick but for some reason, the film doesn’t know how to jell all of that together in the right way in order for it to seem reasonable and not so uneven. It also doesn’t help that the plot stops and starts so many times to the point of where I just wanted the damn boat that they were in to blow up just for the action to stay constant.

Mark Wahlberg is pretty reliable as an actor here to pull of this good-guy role as Chris, to where it isn’t an obvious attempt at making a former criminal seem like a hero. Actually, he doesn’t really do much here that we haven’t seen him do already but watching Wahlberg play in his comfort zone isn’t so bad in the first place. Kate Beckinsale plays his wife, Kate, and she really does try to give some weight to her character but she doesn’t really do much here and just comes off as a plot device for Chris to have a race-against-the-clock situation.

Giovanni Ribisi seems like a strange choice for the villainous role here as the thug Tim Briggs, but he’s actually very good with his eccentric and sometimes crazy acting style to make this bad guy a bit more menacing than I was expecting, and always entertaining; Ben Foster is also great as Sebastian, Chris’s best friend, who has a battle with alcoholism and always strides in these kind of roles; and it was also nice to see J.K. Simmons doing a role that was humorous but also never made you forget that he was a total dick-head as Captain Camp.

Consensus: Contraband features many problems with its script, tone, and annoying camera issues, but the cast somehow rise above the material and make this crime/thriller/action/heist/drama flick a very entertaining, if flawed one to say the least. But hey, it’s January and I was at least entertained rather than feeling depressed.

6.5/10=Rental!!