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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Melanie Lynskey

XX (2017)

Women be shoppin’. Except not really.

A mother (Natalie Brown) has no clue what to do with herself, now that her son refuses to eat anything, no matter what’s put in front of him; another mother (Melanie Lynskey) tries to throw the biggest and best party for her daughter, only to realize that it probably won’t happen due to unforeseeable circumstances; a bunch of young whipper-snappers head out into the mountains, expecting to have some fun and catch up some history, only to discover something horrifying and dark; and lastly, another mother (Christine Kirk), seems to be hiding something from her troubled 18-year-old son, but he, nor anyone else really knows what.

In case you couldn’t tell, XX is an anthology piece, done by four women, with four different stories, focusing on, above all else, women. It’s a nice angle to take on the horror-genre and shows that it still has some growing to do, in terms of its versatility as well as its acceptance. However, it does also show that it has some growing to do in terms of its quality.

Scared

See, one of the main issues with XX, and as is the case with most anthology pieces in its same vein, is that it’s way too brief for its own good. At nearly an-hour-20, each story has at least 20 minutes each to tell its story, characters, and most of all, give us the chills. But there’s something with the horror genre that, in order for the scares to be smart, effective, and most of all, scary, there has to be some sort of build-up to it all, and at nearly 20 minutes each, none of these tales really have that.

In a way, each one of them feel like they’re fully realized and fleshed-out, but are missing a few reels, either at the beginning, at the end, or somewhere in between. A part of me wonders what the exact want and reason for making these stories actually was, considering that it doesn’t seem to be any reason other than, “Oh, well, they’re kind of scary, I guess. Oh, and they star women, written and directed by women.” Once again, nothing with this approach, as it is definitely something that the horror genre as a whole could and definitely should, work on, but perhaps XX isn’t the brightest, most shiny example of why.

If anything, it proves to be an interesting and mildly entertaining diversion from what we’re used to seeing with horror anthologies, but yeah, it’s been done better before.

And to talk about the four pieces of story here, it’s best to go on about each one of them. First off, “the Box”, written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, plays with a lot of visual cues, but ultimately, isn’t about much. It’s about this family, going through a rough time when one of the children won’t eat, and has all the makings of a weird, almost surreal dark comedy, but it doesn’t go that way – instead, it plays itself very serious and dark, and sort of just ends on that note. It’s the perfect piece to start out on, because it literally won’t be remembered by the end.

Petrified

St. Vincent’s tale, “the Birthday Party”, works a little bit more because it does take a slightly comedic-edge to its story, but once again, doesn’t feel like it’s really built upon anything. It’s just sort of weird, wacky, and features a random cameo from Joe Swanberg. If anything is to be taken away from this part, it’s that St. Vincent is a competent enough director to show us that she knows what she’s doing behind the camera, so who knows? Maybe it will be nice to see more of her there.

Anyway, then there’s “Don’t Fall”, by Roxanne Benjamin, that started off promising, but ultimately, doesn’t know what to do with itself. Everything happens way too quick, we get the very smallest, slightest bit of character-detail to work with, and yeah, none of it really matters. The gore and the scares work, but they’re done in about five minutes anyway, so does it really matter at all?

And lastly, there’s Karyn Kusama’s “Her Only Living Son”, which may be the only one here that actually feels like a fully realized and written short movie about a mother, coping with whatever mystery is in her life. It helps here that Christina Kirk is a good actress and an inspired bit of casting for this dark role, but Kusama herself also shows some initiative, with enough mystery, development, and oddness to make it all work. The ending is stupid and doesn’t quite make sense, but hey, at least it is attempting at doing something.

Which, after all, is all I needed and/or could have ever wanted.

Consensus: Though not terrible, XX is more of a mixed-bag, showing why there should be more stories about women in horror, but also showing why they should be longer than 20 minutes each.

6 / 10

Numb

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Joblo

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I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

largLock the door next time! Come on!

When Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) decides that she’s had enough of it and quits her nursing job, she expects to live out the rest of her life the way she wants to. She can drink, smoke, read, listen to music, and eat ice cream all day, and not have a thing in the world to worry about. That all changes when one day, she comes home to her house burglarized, with some of her most treasured possessions gone, without a clue in the world of where it may have gone to. Though she does call the police, they don’t seem to really care, leaving Ruth to set out and find who robbed her house, by herself. But she soon realizes that it could be a very dangerous job for one woman to do by herself, leading her to invite random neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) along for this adventure of sorts. Tony’s more than ready to crack down on these two-bit criminals, until the both of them learn that they are dealing with much bigger fish and they aren’t going to fry easily.

Or yeah, something like that.

He was a boy.

He was a boy.

Writer/director Macon Blair is making his directorial debut here and while you may not know the name, you definitely know the face. He’s been in both of Jeremy Saulnier’s movies (Blue Ruin, Green Room), and is slowly, but surely, making a name for himself out there in the indie-world, which is why it’s interesting to see him try his hand at writing and directing movies. Cause if anything, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore feels a lot like a Saulnier movie, but instead of being drop-deadly, bleakly serious, it’s got a bit of a comedic-edge to it.

Initially, the movie seems like any other indie-comedy, with long, silent breaks of weird bits and pieces of comedy followed in, but slowly, and surely, the movie starts to show its true colors. Blair’s writing is, at the very least, interesting here, because he never quite picks a genre that he wants to work with; it’s a dark comedy for sure, but how dark and how funny the movie is going to stay, is never quite sure. We get these brief signs that the story’s going to take a viciously upsetting turn, but when and where is never quite known, and the mystery of it all is quite compelling.

And then, it gets viciously upsetting and all of a sudden, it feels like a whole different movie entirely.

See, as much as I don’t want to do this, Saulnier’s two movies so far, have absolutely benefited from the fact that they’re mean and serious, almost from the very start. They don’t try to crack any jokes, make light of a situation, and they sure as hell don’t loll-gag. They get right to the point and don’t leave us waiting. And that’s why they both work as well as they do – the violence we eventually get in those movies is stark and chilling, but sort of expected and germane, because the mood of the whole piece was already stern in the first place.

She was a girl.

She was a girl.

That’s why Blair’s movie doesn’t quite gel as well as it should. It doesn’t take itself seriously enough to fully work as a deadly serious thriller, nor does it goof around enough to work as a comedy. If anything, it’s a weird, odd, and twisted version of the two and in that sense, it’s definitely worth watching. Blair’s ambition to combine these two genres, so to speak, doesn’t fully come together as well as he may have wanted, but it’s worth noting that he at least tries and is at least semi-successful.

Shouldn’t that account for something?

Where Blair got really lucky was in the casting of both Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as this odd couple of sorts. Lynskey hasn’t always been considered “a scary presence”, but here, she shows that beyond her everyday woman appeal, there’s something meaner lingering. We don’t quite know what it is, or how it’s going to present itself, but we know it’s there and she’s interesting to watch because of that. Wood’s also very good in this role as Tony, a sort-of weirdo who knows karate and has numb-chucks. Normally, this kind of character would be used as a non-stop punch-line and never taken seriously, but Blair’s writing for him and Wood’s portrayal of him, shows that there’s actually a sweet soul stuck deep down inside of this goofy guy. He may think he’s a lot tougher than he is, but then again, who doesn’t? Together, the two have a nice chemistry that gets to play out in small, yet cute ways, showing that perhaps Blair could have just focused on them and left it at that.

Cause when Blair does show the “robbers”, of sorts, like I said, the movie acts very dark and serious. It also doesn’t help that these characters seem as if they’re from another movie entirely; one that’s way more over-the-top than this one here. So yeah, it doesn’t help them anymore and only takes away from Lynskey and Wood’s great moments together.

Consensus: With a darker edge than most comedies, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is an interesting watch, but also uneven, taking a more sinister and meaner approach to its material that doesn’t quite gel so well with the funnier, more human bits of itself.

6.5 / 10

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Photos Courtesy of: Collider

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?

Maybe.

Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Happy Christmas (2014)

It’s ironic. I guess.

20-something Jenny (Anna Kendrick) is a bit of a wreck right now in her life. Not only did her boyfriend just break up with her, but due to emotional problems of hers beyond comprehension, she’s decide to move the ‘eff out and stay with her brother (Joe Swanberg) and his sometimes writer, sometimes stay-at-home momma, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey). Though her brother is fine with her being around and watching over his child, his wife isn’t so keen on the idea, due to the fact that she feels like Jenny is a bit too immature to really put another life ahead of herself. Some part of her is right; other parts of her isn’t. But over time, the two get to connect, talk about life, and eventually get Kelly back into her writing-process, with Jenny right by her side, feeding her idea, after idea, after idea. It’s a neat process that gets Kelly all wrapped up in something that isn’t watching over her kid and having to stay at home all day, and keeps Jenny away from her personal problems, or her feelings to a new guy she meets (Mark Webber).

Not only was I happy to see that last year’s Drinking Buddies, was actually a good movie, but that it began to bring some more exposure to the undeniable and creative talents that are Joe Swanberg. Sure, the guy’s been around for quite some time and it’s not like people haven’t ever heard of him before, but outside of the usual, movie-geek crowd, a name like “Joe Swanberg” wasn’t officially known, or on somebody’s radar. Hell, I don’t even think it is now, but at least they know a little thing or two about what this guy does behind the camera and the constant movies he churns out, once and sometimes even twice, a year.

Is "Hipsters with babies" a thing? If not, I hope it stays that way.

Is “hipsters with babies” a thing? If not, I hope it stays that way.

That said, something like Drinking Buddies, is something that Happy Christmas is not, in that they are both simple premises, but actually feel like they’re building towards something, rather than just more scenes of people talking about whatever the hell the discussion of the hour is at that given moment. Here, there’s not much of a central-conflict, and I was fine with that, however, it did make me wonder what the main problem of this whole movie was going to be. Was it going to be that either Jenny can’t seem to settle down in her life, or, is that she causes too much of a ruckus at a house where a quiet, relatively safe family lives?

It’s never made abundantly clear where this movie’s going to go, or what sort of path it’s going to take, which I commend on Swanberg’s part. He could have easily made this movie a conventional “battle of the sister-in-laws”, but he doesn’t. He ops instead for showing us real ladies, who feel real pain and have real wants and needs that aren’t just sitting at home, watching over their young ones, and cooking dinner, while their hubby gets to do everything he wants to do with his job, his money, and maybe even possibly, his own mistress. But that aside, what I’m trying to say is that Swanberg goes for actually explaining who these characters are, rather than what they could be in the face of a plot that changes.

Which, honestly, is sort of why this film just isn’t as interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie, but there’s just a feeling that Swanberg was a little too relaxed with his filming here and much rather just wanted to hang out with Anna Kendrick again. Can’t say I blame him too much, but when it’s at our expense and we aren’t the ones actually “hanging around with” Anna Kendrick, it can seem to be a bit of a bore. Not to mention that the movie never really seems to care about whose story it’s exploring – most of it wants to just be about Jenny and the problems she’s facing in this time of need, yet, also wants to have it another way and much rather focus on Kelly and her “problems” with motherhood and losing her inspiration for her creative-expression. It’s not that neither stories aren’t interesting, it’s just that there’s not much of a focus on either of them, nor does Swanberg really make it seem like he wants to go anywhere with them. It’s just like life, but maybe a little bit too much of so.

Me practically every Christmas morning after I discovered that he was, well, you get the drift.

Me practically every Christmas morning after I discovered that he was, well, you get the drift.

But with that said, both of these women character’s are performed very well by both Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey respectively. Lynskey herself hardly ever gets a chance to fully unveil the true talents she has hiding underneath those lovely looks of hers, and it’s nice to see a lot of that “average-lady” persona come out here. She’s good at it and it feels like she’s an actual mom who has responsibilities on her plate and doesn’t want to screw it up. Yet, at the same time, she wouldn’t mind having a little bit of “alone time” either, just so that she can gather her thoughts and feel somewhat sane for a second. Like how I imagined my mom must have acted when she was raising me.

With more downing of Scotch, of course. But that’s another story, for another day.

But the one who really makes this movie work so well is Anna Kendrick herself, and it’s hard to be surprised about that. Kendrick uses her lovable, sometimes ditsy charm the only way she knows how to and it’s absolutely lovely to watch. Also not to mention that it feels so incredibly natural, that when she has to use all of this everyday lingo like “like”, or “uhm…so…yeah”, it doesn’t feel forced or thrown upon us to make us see how real this material is. She sells it like that and if Swanberg wants to keep on making movies with her for the rest of his life, I’m totally fine with that.

Just give me something of a better movie is all and we’ll be fine.

Consensus: Feels less thought-out than past movies, Happy Christmas finds writer/director Joe Swanberg spinning around in circles, figuring out what to film about, and instead, just focuses enough on his characters and the cast to make it worth while, if only slightly.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Lena Dunham around a young child?!?! I'm pretty sure that's a crime!

Lena Dunham around a young child?!?! I’m pretty sure that’s a crime!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

They Came Together (2014)

So if I don’t profess my love to a girl in the pouring rain, she won’t fall in love with me? Damn rom-coms!

Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) are practically perfect for one another. They’re both two kind, gentle and easy-going people who just got out of relationships and need somewhere to start fresh and anew. That’s why it’s so weird that when they finally meet up, there’s so much distaste between them both. It’s strange really, and nobody knows how or why it is the way it is, but that’s just the fact. However, late one night, when Joel has some time to think to himself and even talk to his “baby brother” (Max Greenfield), he realizes that it’s time to nut up, or shut up. So, he asks Molly out on a date and they both realize they’re perfect for one another in every which way. They compliment each other; they have wonderful sex; and Joel is even something of a father-figure to Molly’s son. However, there is problem in that Joel works at a Candy Research Factory that preys on knocking out all of the smaller, mom-and-pop chain candy stores; one in particular they are looking at is one owned by Molly herself and it just may possibly ruin their relationship forever.

If you just read that synopsis up above and felt like everything I just said was quite familiar, that’s because, it is! Or, better yet, it’s supposed to be!

See, They Came Together, is exactly like every romantic-comedy ever made; it has all of the troupes, the formula, and heck, even has the same characters that you’d find in any rom-com, had you just been scrolling through the channels or on your Netflix queue. And as a whole, the rom-com genre sort of deserves this much of a thrashing; it’s a genre that hardly ever seems to learn from its mistakes, and instead, just continues to force-feed us the same bullshit stories and resolutions that happen in only said types of movies. Not at all in real life, and anybody who believes otherwise, don’t deserve to be reasoned with.

Aw!

Aw!

Anyway, that’s why watching something as obvious and goofy as They Came Together is something refreshing, regardless of how much it actually does, or doesn’t work. Sure, it’s definitely funny in spots, but there’s something to a movie that understands it’s a joke and doesn’t really try to make itself anything else. Some may complain that this movie doesn’t have much substance, nor even a real, actual story-line to follow along and get involved with, but I don’t think it needs one to be considered a fine movie. If you just want spend a near-hour-and-a-half watching as somebody riffs on the rom-com genre, then this is more than fine for you.

Better yet, if you’re already a fan of the type of humor David Wain brings to any project of his, then it’s even more of a treat for you. Because, for one, he doesn’t hold back on really letting this movie expose the same old and tired troupes we’ve all seen practically done to death. Maybe he’s a bit too obvious about what it is that he’s trying to say or get across, but I didn’t mind that because most of the time, he had me howling like a wildebeest that couldn’t get a firm grip on his own self-control.

That said, if you’ve seen any David Wain production ever, you’ll know that, for one thing, he doesn’t really take himself away from getting really weird. And here, there are many occasions where Wain lets his weirdness really take over and even confuse the hell out of the viewer who may be watching it.

For instance, there’s a scene in which somebody is sad and lonely, sitting at the bar after they’ve just had a pretty shitty night (after a bad date, presumably), and, as expected, the bartender asks the person who’s drinking, “Bad night”, in which the character drinking responds, “Tell me about it”. And I swear to you, for the next five-to-seven minutes, this whole scene is played-on repeat, almost giving you the impression that something is wrong with the actual movie you’re watching. Sounds a whole lot like the kind of stunt that Andy Kaufman would pull, and for some odd reason, it works here. It’s just that strange and random, that it actually works.

Need another example of weirdness taking over Wain’s flick? Well, try the idea of incest between a grandmother and her grandson, that, surprisingly, gets even weirder than you could originally imagine.

AW!

AW!

So yeah, if that tells you something about this movie, it’s that it’s constantly up to no good, making fun of rom-coms, and even itself at points. And although it is a relatively short movie, I did find it running a bit out of steam by the end. Then again though, that’s the case with most parody-movies; there’s only so much surprises they can throw at us for the first two-halves that once things have to settle down, get resolved and eventually end, you can feel it and in a way, you sort of want it as well. That’s not to say the last-half of this movie isn’t funny, it just feels long-winded, even if, like I said before, it’s only an-hour-and-20-minutes (which is like three episodes of Breaking Bad, kind of, sort of, maybe).

And of course no parody movie would work if its cast weren’t up to the task of absolutely just letting loose and looking like total goobers and I think Wain’s assembled a great one here. It’s nice to see Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler work together again (especially after something as classic as this), because their chemistry together is pretty great. Although it’s a bit hard to tell because you can never take them seriously for a single second, it helps that they at least feel comfortable enough with one another to just be all sorts of crazy and weird, just exactly like they know how to. Now, that’s not to say that I kind of wished this was a straight-forward rom-com, both starring Poehler and Rudd in the lead roles, with Wain writing and directing, but for something as funny as this, I guess I’ll just shut up and take what I can get.

Consensus: Those who want a somewhat serious, standard rom-com will be utterly shocked and displeased to find out that They Came Together is neither, and instead, a crazy, funny, wacky, and sometimes incredibly weird, parody that doesn’t always work, but at least tells enough truth in what it’s making fun of.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Huh?

Uhm….huh?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Frighteners (1996)

Marty McFly, Ghost Whisperer.

Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) isn’t the most moral man around, but he gets by with what he can; which is showing up to funerals of the recently-deceased and throwing his business cards around, in which he goes under the title “paranormal expert”. Some believe it’s phony bologna, others like Lucy Lunskey (Trini Alvarado), believe he really can speak and reason with the dead. And they aren’t incorrect in their thinking either, it’s just that maybe they don’t quite know how much Frank does in fact talk to these ghosts. In fact, he talks to them all the time and even has a scam-plan running with them where he’ll tell the ghosts where to go and whom to spook, so that he can get a call, show up and practically save the day, all for a healthy price, of course. So yeah, he may be a bit of a scam-artist, but he’s making a living at doing it and nobody knows how he is, so there’s no problem with that a single bit. That is until the Grim Reaper shows up and tries to put all of Frank’s, as well as his fellow ghouls’ shenanigans to a much-needed, much long rest. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m talking about death. He’s going to get rid of them forever.

Since Peter Jackson was making his name pretty well-known during the early 90’s in his native New Zealand, it only makes sense that eventually Hollywood would catch on, give him a call and see what they can do about making him a bigger name in their neck of the woods. Just ask any foreign director who made their names known with a big hit on their shoulders, and they’ll practically tell you that Hollywood has a knack for doing this, and the results usually aren’t pretty. Sometimes they can be, but other times, they don’t quite work out as well as maybe the Hollywood producers had originally planned on.

"HERE'S MIKEY!!"

“HERE’S MIKEY!!”

This is one of those cases.

Don’t get me wrong though, it isn’t like Peter Jackson’s inspired vision was ever lost in the process of this movie being made, edited and marketed to a wider audience. In fact, I’d probably wager that that’s where the main problems for this movie arises in that he couldn’t quite make up his mind as to whom he wanted to appeal to, other than just his usual band of misfits who loved all of his movies before his big break in Hollywood. That’s why there’s a slight problem with this movie and it’s tone; it never quite knows whether it wants to be a dark comedy about death, the after-life and the effect it has on those who are alive, or a slap-stick, full-blown comedy about a bunch of silly willy ghosts that like to do crazy things, even if they are just souls floating throughout the atmosphere. Jackson never quite finds that balance either, and it becomes painfully clear that this flick would have definitely benefited from that.

Then again though, I have to give Jackson still a bunch of credit for at least sticking to his vision, and making this something of his own natural beast. Every moment of horror, sprinkled with just a dash of humor, feels exactly like something you’d get from a Jackson movie, even if there aren’t loads and loads of blood or gore thrown all over the place. It’s weird that even though this is an R-rated movie, that there wasn’t as many ketchup packets to be seen here. It’s not like there were too many moments arouse that needed a nice helping of some red paint, but it wasn’t like the movie was necessarily supposed to be tame or anything. But still, Jackson gets past this and does give us a reasonably fun and light horror flick, that’s probably more about the thrills, than the chills.

However, those chills and thrills begin to somehow go away by the end, and the movie seems to get bland. Suddenly, Banister’s back-story comes to light and while it surely was interesting to see who he really was before all of these crazy ghosts came into his life, it still brought down the speed and fun of the first-half. It seemed like Jackson wanted to bring some depth and emotion into this story, which would have gone a real long way, had the movie not been so light on its feet in the first place. Because the movie was so wacky and wild for the first hour, once it gets deep into dark themes like death and the people who succumb to it, it feels strange and out-of-place, as if Jackson had intended for this to be apart of a whole other movie entirely. Instead, he just got stuck with a goofy movie starring Michael J. Fox and all of the ghosts he hangs out with, one that’s even an old Western cowboy who humps a statue. Yup, it gets that silly, which I was fine with, but once again, gets lost in the shuffle of an overly-serious last-act. One that also takes a cop-out ending, which really bummed me out more than anything else here.

My grandmom's wallpaper usually does the same thing too. Time for a change!

My grandmom’s wallpaper usually does the same thing too. Time for a change!

Speaking of the Fox, the guy does pretty well as Frank Bannister, giving us his usual wise guy, up-to-no-good persona we usually see from him. He always has some wise-crack to say in passing and seems like a pretty good guy, underneath all of the conning, lying and money-grubbing. Even when the movie does get a bit serious and dive right into Bannister’s life, it works for a short while because we know there’s more to this character and we know that he ain’t so bad of a dude, he just needs to stop messing with people’s minds and their wallets. Then again, the same could be said for those a-holes on Wall Street, and we all know that there’s nothing more to them!

Trini Alvarado, despite being quite the cutie, is rather bland as the supposed love-interest/admirer of Bannister’s and is okay with what she has to do, but doesn’t really bring much to the table. She’s just another pretty-face, that just so happens to fall for the strange guy on the outside. If only those types of chicks were real, then I wouldn’t have to worry about going to the clubs every night, on the prowl and looking for wife-to-be #3.

Consensus: You can definitely spot where and when Jackson’s creativity and original vision of this story comes into play, however, you can also see where and when the movie begins to lose its punch and energy, making the Frighteners seem like something more of an uneven affair.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Them silly ghosts! Always haunting my dreams!

Them silly ghosts! Always haunting my dreams!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Oh, high-school. Those were the freakin’ piss-poor days of teenage angst.

This adaptation stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, an introverted and unpopular teenager who has to come to terms with the suicide of his best friend, falls in with a crowd of outsiders (Ezra Miller and Emma Watson), and is now falling in love for the first time. You know, the usual kids stuff.

High-school. Everybody knows what it’s all about and everybody has memories of it, whether they be good ones or bad ones. For me, being fresh out of high-school, I feel the same exact way where there were days that I loved, and others I just wanted to be over with and move on. High-school is not the only thing you can relate that to, but it’s definitely one of the first times in life where we actually start to feel this, understand this, and eventually, use this tool in our lives to move on and be bigger, possibly more mature adults. Thankfully, this movie made me never, ever want to grow-up.

The trailers, advertisements, and even poster for this film have made it out to be one of your ordinary, run-of-the-mill teenage dramas where we look at how kids eventually grow-up and live their lives. Yawn! Seen it all before and that’s why this film didn’t really intrigue me at first, no matter how much hype was surrounding the book. The one element to this film that did intrigue me a bit was how the actual writer of that book, Stephen Chbosky, not only wrote the screenplay for this adaptation, but also directed it as well. This is a very rare occurrence to hear about in Hollywood since those high-class executives don’t really feel comfortable giving off a big-budget flick to a director they have never worked with before, nor a director that has ever directed anything else before this. However, I don’t think anybody else could have ever directed this. I seriously don’t.

The reason I say this is because Chbosky not only knows everything about this story that he created, but he also feels everything that these characters feel. Every scene here has been done in plenty of other high-school movies before. For instance, the first couple days of high-school where a kid sits all by himself at lunch and can’t connect with anyone; meeting your first friend; going to your first party; getting high for the first time; getting drunk for the first time; and even falling in love for the first-time. All of this, and plenty more conventions of the high-school drama that we usually see, are shown here, but they feel different this time, and by different I mean in a very understandable and powerful way.

Chbosky feels what these characters feel when they get hurt, they get happy, and when they get confused, and every single scene he shows this, never feels tacked-on, manipulative, or cheesy. It all feels real and done with pure and rich emotion to the point of where you can actually relate to these characters a lot on so many topics that get very, very dark at times. But when it does get dark at times, it never loses you because you feel invested in these characters and all of their surroundings and you almost feel like you’re a part of the Wallflowers, more than Charlie is. It can get depressing, but not in a bad way because when it does have fun with itself, it really does have fun and it’s almost like you’re taking a road down memory lane and remembering all of the fun and dumb stuff you did back when you were in high-school. I remember all of the stuff that I did, and I thank this film for letting me actually smile about it all again.

The whole 90’s setting is done well because it uses all of the popular and hip music of that time, but still never exactly tells us when the story takes place giving it that idea that no matter what generation you’re from, or where you grew-up in, teenage angst has always been around and been the same case for all of the people that have had to go through it. That’s one of the main points of the story, but it’s not the only one. The film mainly touches on the feeling of being accepted and actually feeling like you belong somewhere. In this world, sometimes, you can get very, very lonely and almost feel as if you don’t really have much to go about in life anymore and are just going to be stuck in this on-going world of sameness and monotony. To be honest, I feel like that a lot at times and it hits me hard but even in my deepest and darkest times, I still feel accepted by the people around and me and have this idea that I do matter in the world. This film really does hammer that idea down to it’s core and in all honesty, had me in tears by the end of it all once I realized that this wasn’t just one kids story that not a single person could relate to, this is everyone’s story and it’s one story that I think will be beneficial for all of those younglings out there in the world who need to feel accepted and that they do matter in life.

Now that I’ve gone on a huge rant about high-school and the feelings it makes you feel, let me go back to the movie and tell you exactly why this story is as emotionally-involving as any other one I have seen this year: the cast. When I first saw that Logan Lerman was going to be the lead in this, my expectations pretty much plummeted since the kid seems to annoy me in almost everything he does and playing an awkward teen wasn’t going to do much for me, either. However, I stand corrected and say that it’s one of the finest, young performances I have seen this year and in quite some time. The reason I state this is because Lerman has a lot to do. The kid has to be a bit awkward, a bit nerdy, a bit weird, a bit horny, a bit angsty, and above all, a bit of a likable character. Thankfully, the kid nails every single one of those emotions and makes this Charlie character, such a lovely person to stand behind and feel for, especially when we get behind his back-story. Charlie is a nerd, but he’s a lovable nerd that has this type of innocence to him that is easy to root for and only hope for the best, and the trip he takes us through his freshman year of high-school is one of the best class-trips I have ever taken, and that’s all because of Lerman. He’s come a long, long way since being dumb-ass Percy Jackson.

The other one in that cast that everybody has been wondering about was Emma Watson and whether or not she was going to be able to get rid of the whole Hermione Granger act that she has come to be worldly-known for by now. Thankfully, just like Lerman, she does a great job with this character and makes us realize just why there is so much to love about her in the first-place. My only complaint with this film would probably have to be her and that American-accent that seems to come-in and out sometimes, but she’s so damn charming here that it’s very easy to get by and just love her character as much as our little friend Charlie does. I look forward to seeing more from this gal in the future and hopefully seeing her go-on and do bigger stuff than Rupert Grint or Daniel Radcliffe may do. Sorry guys, you just don’t got it like Emma.

And last, but certainly not least, Ezra Miller plays the crazy, fun, and gay kid that Charlie first befriends, Patrick. After seeing Miller play a pretty effed-up kid in We Need to Talk About Kevin, I was so happy to see him absolutely steal each and every single scene he was in because of that delivery he has. I don’t know what it is about his delivery or what, but whenever he’s given a line that’s either funny or sarcastic, he just owns it and totally comes off as the funniest guy in the room. But it’s not all fun and games with his character, he’s actually got a very dark-element to him that really makes you feel for him and understand just why he feels the way he does in life, despite being a gay young teen. Miller finally shows us the emotional side to his acting ability that we’ve all been waiting to see for so long and makes me feel like this kid is going to be a huge break-out star after this and probably the most successful out of three young stars in this movie. Sorry Logan and Emma, you two are great, but Ezra kicks ass.

Since this is mainly a movie about kids and everything they go through, it seems a bit unneeded for adult characters but each one does a great job with the limited material they’re given. Some stars show-up for only a minute, while others show-up for 6 minutes, but regardless of how much they actually show-up, they all do what they’re needed and that’s to give good performances. Much of this love goes out to Paul Rudd as Bill, Charlie’s ridiculously cool English teacher that made me really jealous that I never had him in my high-school life. And I mean Paul Rudd, not the actual cool teacher himself. God, that would be so damn cool.

Consensus: In case you haven’t been able to tell from my highly-detailed review, I loved almost everything about The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s emotionally heartfelt, poignant, entertaining, funny, dark, insightful, sad, well-acted, great to listen to, and always had me watching and loving these characters for what they were, and not for what they needed to be. Definitely see it, especially if you’re just another little guy starting out in high-school. This one here, may change your life.

9/10=Full Price!!

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Boning Keira Knightley would probably be on my list of things to do if the world was going to end in three weeks.

Set in a too-near future, a man searches for a meaningful connection as humanity’s last days are at hand. Can he find his greatest love at the worst possible time? As the respective journeys of Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten.

I really do like this idea. What would you do, if you knew you only had 21 days to live? Would you have endless sex? Get drunk all of the time? Commit suicide? Party it up like no other? Tell off people you have always wanted to tell off? Rekindle with an old flame? Find love one last time? Or just sit there and go on through your day, as if nothing happened? Honestly, I don’t know what I would do except maybe watching all of my favorite movies one last time. This won’t be one of them.

This is the debut from writer/director Lorene Scafaria, and it’s a pretty good one, too considering she is the chick he wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a movie that made me want to kill all NYC indie bands in existence. That’s why I’m afraid to go to New York, because I know that if I do step somewhere in that city and I hear an indie band, murder will happen. OK, that’s actually not the reason but you get the drift, I didn’t like that movie but I like this one and I think that’s because Scafaria starts this movie out pretty well with a lot of humor.

There’s a lot of goofy stuff that happens in the first half, where we see how all of these people react to the apocalypse differently, like a bizarre-o restaurant called “Freindsies” that starts out with a happy birthday song, and then ends in an orgy that almost comes out of nowhere. Definitely think of that next time I go to Hooters for my b-day celebration. Then there’s also another scene where we see Penny and Dodge get picked up by some random dude, only to find out that he has hired a hitman to kill him. Pretty funny stuff altogether but underneath all of the humor, there lies a very sad darkness and eventually, it comes up from out of nowhere which was good for this film, but also bad.

What I did like about this total shift in tone was that Scafaria gives this trip between Penny and Dodge, some real development so that when these two eventually do “fall in love” it’s earned and feels like something that’s meant to happen, much like the end of the world. That’s another aspect of this movie that kept me going throughout, the fact that there was two ways this movie could have ended. It was a comedy after all, so there could have been a sucker-punch ending where Scafaria decided that the world wasn’t really going to end and all of these people have to live with the dumb mistakes they have already made. But then again, going with the actual doomsday coming around is more logical and it seems like at one point that Scafaria is going to go for it and totally wipe out the whole planet of Earth. I won’t give away what ending she does end up with, but it had me glued to the screen until the credits rolled.

However, as funny as this film could have been at times, the dramatic stuff does come on a little too strong, giving the film an uneven tone. The first half, as I have already mentioned, is pretty damn funny with a whole bunch of wacky situations to how people would act when the end of their days is coming up. But once the film starts to unravel and the idea that everybody will actually die starts to set in, things start to get more and more melancholy and sad. Honestly, I get that you can’t have a film about the nearing apocalypse and have it be funny the whole way through, but this shit ends up getting depressing. Really, the last hour or so barely had any laughs whatsoever and even though before that, it wasn’t the funniest thing known to man, it still put a smile on my face and made me happy. Really, you couldn’t have done this film any differently with it’s tone than Scafaria already did, but it feels like Funny People, where it’s like two different films stuck together. Some of this stuff was touching though, so I can’t be too harsh on it.

Actually, the main reason this flick was so touching was because of the odd pairing of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. These two actually make a good romantic couple together, even though the age difference between them is a big turn-off for most people, myself included, but I guess that’s the point of them and why they’re together. These two would have never hung-out if the world was still the same, but because of this coincidental circumstance, they end up being the only person they’d much rather spend their last few days alive with.

Carell is doing that sad-sack character again here, but still works well especially when he has to play a character that is still so sad from the fact that his wife and everything else he knows, has left him. Whereas Knightley is playing a lively and full-of-life character, but still shows that she has some sad emotions to her as well. Knightley is great in this role and shows that she actually has some comedic chops to her as well, but it’s the fact that we are able to care for her character as much as Carell’s is and that’s where I think the real beauty of this film lies. The pairing of these two may be odd, but it’s also somewhat inspired and shows that if you have an inspired premise, inspired writing, and inspired characters, then it all can work out in the end. That is…until the world blows up. Then, that’s when things don’t work out.

Consensus: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is funny, tender, well-acted by its leads, and has its heart in the right place, but also features a big tonal shift about halfway through that makes it feel like two different movies, wrapped up into one, big apocalyptic nightmare.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

The main reason why I refuse to travel to New Zealand.

Heavenly Creatures is true story of two teenage girls (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) from New Zealand who form a very strong friendship that changes both of their lives as they live through their own imaginations. However, things start to get strange when their friendship turns into obsession, which soon leads into murder.

The most disturbing aspect of this whole film is that this is an actual true story and while that is effed up in it’s own right, the chicks are still alive and well today, roaming the streets of only God knows where. Then again, this is a Peter Jackson film which means it’s always going to be strange.

The one thing about this film that sets it apart from other films of this nature is the direction and vision from Jackson himself. This is a pretty straight-forward story but the way Jackson tells it through extreme close-ups, awkward camera angles, constant zooming in-and-out, and not many regular shots, gives this flick a real different feel that I haven’t really seen before in a film that’s about two teenagers who go bat-shit crazy.

However, my problem with this whole direction is that everything here is practically going just about a mile a minute and I just wanted this film to slow down a bit. I get what Jackson was trying to do here, he wanted us to see the world through these girls’ own eyes and imaginations but after awhile it felt like Jackson just wanted us to know that it’s him directing so of course we need gigantic clay figures running rampant killing people. The best scenes for me here were when Jackson kind of just let the tension flow and come on in itself without Jackson ever getting in the way of that but for some reason, he just tried a little too hard and got in the way of what was going on.

The film also opens up with these girls covered in blood from head-to-toe screaming about a murder so right off the bat, I knew exactly what was going to happen by the end and for the whole time, I was just sitting there waiting for it to happen. If they didn’t show us this scene right from the get-go, I think I would have been more into this film like I had wished because it was only till after the flick that I actually checked out the actual case itself.

Even though I still bitch about all of these problems with the film I still found myself totally involved with the very disturbing story that this flick is all about. Seeing two girls go from being friends, to obsessive lover types, to stone-cold killers is downright frightening and the fact that everything here is true is what kept me really disturbed. Every film always shows the bright side to friendship and finding your bestie, but you hardly ever see the dark side of that and what it can do to not just everyone around you, but also yourself. The last 10 to 20 minutes are probably some of the most tense and disturbing I’ve seen ever since ‘Bully’ and I have to say that is something worth recommending.

The performances given by the two girls here are awesome and I think elevated this film completley. Melanie Lynskey is great as Pauline Parker and gave me that very angsty but dangerous teen-vibe the whole time. I still cannot look at her the same and actually be able to call her hot seeing this film. Kate Winslet gives a break-through performance here as Juliet Hulme and steals the show giving this incredible energy that keeps the film entertaining every time she is on-screen. It’s crazy to see where these two really got their starts and it’s also even more great that they sort of made me feel something for their characters, even if they are totally effed up in the head.

Consensus: Peter Jackson has way too much style here for me to actually be involved with this story, but regardless, Heavenly Creatures is a flick that is very disturbing, well-acted, and makes you feel as if you are in these girls’ heads as they go from normal to completley insane.

7/10=Rental!!

Win Win (2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/10=Matinee!!

Shattered Glass (2003)

Damn, I’m scared to be a journalist now.

This fact-based film depicts the rise and fall of disgraced magazine journalist Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a staff writer at The New Republic and a contributor to Rolling Stone who ultimately fabricated many of his stories, which led to his downfall.

Writer-director Billy Ray takes a film that I had some little interest in at first, and totally takes it into places I was not expecting in the least bit. I mean because it does have Anakin Skywalker in it, and he just blows.

Ray does a tremendous job of telling the story: giving us the facts of what exactly happened, the tough world of journalism, and even a little character study of a sociopath. This all may seem a little too much for a story that’s about a dude lying, but it brings so much more depth to this story that as it developed more and more, I found myself more and more intrigued by this film.

I, myself, actually want to be a journalist and I found this to be a big warning for all journalists out there to not make up phony stories, even though sometimes they would be nice to hear. It’s not necessarily about making people happy with the stories, it’s more about telling the truth, and how we should all never try to make things up as they go along just for some kicks. This theme is amazing because the fact is that today reporters at every publication seem to be exposed for doing the same thing. You’d think the lesson would have been learned eventually, but it hasn’t.

The film doesn’t show Stephen Glass as this total dick-head of a dude who messed with his stories to be “fun”, he’s actually just a kid that messed up big-time and wanted nothing more to make people happy when they read his stories. I mean I actually did sort of feel for this kid, as did everybody in this film because this Glass kid, was so charming and nice that when the ish really started to hit the fan, everybody stuck up for him, except for the editor who was downright embarrassed when he let such fake stories go by him. This brings up some moral questions as to how you would feel if you were ever put in the same situation and how you would respond it.

However, the problem with this film is that even though they show us a nice-portrait of this kid Glass, we never really get inside of his mind except for a couple of dumb foreshadowing scenes. When this kid was on-screen, I was actually on the edge of my seat as he tried to cover up more and more of his lies and then saying it was just because he was in a state of panic. This all was interesting and the film could have actually went deeper into this character more to actually have us understand just why he did what he did, but the film never really does.

We get all of the who’s, the what’s, and the when’s of the story, but never exactly the why part. I think Glass wanted to just get his stories read and make people happy, but never understand as to why he lied about so many of his stories, and what lead him to continue the lies as it seemed like things were going from bad to worse for him. Was he a little crazy? Was he just trying to make it big? Or was he just an insane kid that never really got paid attention too that much because he was so charming? I never understood why Glass exactly did what he did, and that’s what kind of took me away from this tale to make it a little less interesting.

Judging by the poster to the upper-right, you probably already gave up all hope on this film because of that big head you see. Yes everybody, that is Hayden Christensen, but I have to say his performance as Stephen Glass is probably his best ever, and although that’s not saying much, it’s still great in and of itself. The melt-down for Stephen Glass is a slow one but the way Hayden handles it is very believably, especially the way he manipulates almost every one around him to the point of where of no one knows because its terribly subtle. Stephen Glass didn’t seem like a bad kid, just confused and way-over-his-head and Hayden’s performance is so terrific that it almost makes me forget about Anakin. OK, maybe I won’t go that far.

Peter Sarsgaard is also very good as Chuck Lane, the editor who finds Glass out for all of his lies. Lane is a great character because you can tell that he’s going to have some real impact on this story by the end of it, but you just don’t know how, and the way Sarsgaard handles every scene he has is just brilliant. Lane tolerates Glass the most even when the kid lies to him with every statement that comes out of his mouth, which is sad, because Lane really is the one who seems like the actual voice of reason here that knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and knows what has to be done. Great performance from Sarsgaard who is easily becoming one of those signature supporters you need in almost any film.

The rest of the cast is pretty good with the likes of Chloë Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey playing Glass’ two best girly friends; Hank Azaria as the nice and understanding former editor, Michael Kelly; and Steve Zahn and Rosario Dawson are also very good as the two people who find all of the information out that Glass is lying about.

Consensus: The film may have missed a major up-grade in showing us more about the person of Stephen Glass, but other than that, Shattered Glass is phenomenal with great writing and insight into the world of journalism, and great performances from the whole cast, especially Christensen and Sarsgaard, who provide so much context for their characters by the end, that we actually know more about them then the actual story.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

The Informant! (2009)

Whoever thought you could be getting so ripped off for just buying a can of corn! Damn ADM!

While gathering evidence against his institutional employer to help the FBI build a price-fixing conspiracy case, affable agribusiness executive Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) begins to piece together a fantasy world of his own.

So this film is really hard to advertise at all. I mean it’s part dark comedy, part satire, part thriller, and sometimes part drama, but it all works out OK.

The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh and he does a fine job of bringing all this different material together. The film doesn’t work as a broad comedy, but it’s funny in a more subtle and satirical way that actually works. You can tell that this film is aiming for laughs behind all this serious lying, and illegal corporate dealings, but the film somehow finds a way to bring comedy in between all this.

My only problem with this is that it is too long for the material that it’s given and some viewers actually may find themselves bored, as I did. The film is about 108 minutes long, and the big pay-off that were all waiting for is about 88 minutes too late for this material. Also, I saw that this film tried to go somewhere with this story, and have us root behind this guy, but after all this lying and making-up of stories, it was kind of hard to actually back this guy up. I also never saw the inspiration behind all this guy’s lying, and in the end the film doesn’t really tell us either.

Also, what the hell was up with that score?? I liked how it reminded me of an old 1950’s crime show, but then at the same time I felt like they were placing it in there to be wacky, and to bring laughs out of the cast. This just showed that Soderbergh didn’t really have much fun material to begin with, so they just relied on a goofy score.

This whole film really belongs to Matt Damon as the ridiculous Mark Whitacre. He is the opposite of the slick, and sneaky FBI undercover informant, he’s a bumbling, nut job that gets stuck in series of unfortunate events, however Damon has you believe him throughout the whole film. He really inhabits this guy and has you believe him as this total chump, and speaks more about Damon’s skills as an actor because it shows that he can carry any film, regardless of material. You also have all these comedians such as Joel McHale, Scott Bakula, Melanie Lynskey, and hell you even got Biff from Back to the Future here, but the problem is that their not really doing anything funny. It was nice to see all these familiar faces, but there was too much of them and it started to get a little distracting, and seem like an episode of I Love The 90’s.

Consensus: Certain elements of The Informant! are entertaining, including Damon’s hilarious performance, but the slow pace, and the mishandled use of the story, feels like it should have been so much better than what it really was.

6/10=Rental!!