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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Michael Peña

CHIPS (2017)

Cause idiot cops can still be funny in 2017, right?

Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña) have just joined the California Highway Patrol in Los Angeles, but for very different reasons. Baker is a former motorbike rider who’s trying to put his life and marriage back together, whereas Poncherello is a cocky, undercover FBI agent who’s investigating a multi-million dollar heist that may or may not actually be an inside job. The two are somewhat of opposites, with Baker being the far more touchy-feely of the two and even though they don’t seem to necessarily understand one another just yet, they know one thing is certain: They absolutely have to nab the bad guys. But in order to do that, they’re going to have to do some straight-up detective-work, that may or may not also include a whole lot of faith and trust between the two being exchanged. Baker’s ready for that, but Ponch, when he isn’t having all sorts of hot sex with the ladies, isn’t.

Hey, at least there’s always Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television.

Hollywood’s got the bright idea that what the world needs right now are more and more of R-rated reboots of old-school TV shows. Whether the actual shows themselves were good, bad, or even memorable in the slightest, it doesn’t matter – if they’ve got some form of nostalgia attached to them, Hollywood’s going to take it over and bring it back to the mainstream, but with naughtier, louder, and much more current jokes. And Hollywood can’t be blamed for this either, because with the success of 21 Jump Street, both commercially and critically, it’s no shock that Baywatch and eventually, CHIPS were next on the list.

Did either of them need to be? Probably not. Especially CHIPS, though, and it’s fairly obvious in the first ten minutes that this is going to be a misguided affair. Writer/director/star Dax Shepard, for some odd reason, may seem to have a love and passion for the original show growing up, because taking on triple-duty just doesn’t work for him. What should have been a joyous moment in his life and career, honestly may have been a little too much to deal with, as the direction itself, while loud, bright and big, equals up to nothing. His script is even worse with jokes just not connecting at all, or bordering on mean and offensive, and his performance, while somewhat charming, also feels like it’s him just doing the usual act we’ve seen from him, time and time again. And it’s a shame, too, because Shepard’s an actually likable guy who seems genuinely talented.

Why he wanted to make this movie so bad, is beyond me and it shows.

Sheeeeeeeit, indeed.

Sure, there’s a few jokes every so often that connect, but not really as they’re just the bottom of the barrel. There’s too much gay-panic jokes that are trying to poke fun at the idea of gay-panic itself, but still seem to make fun of the idea of two men being close and intimate; women are clearly hated here with barely any female character being a nice person; the central-conflict and supposed villains never make any sense, nor do they ever seem existent; and oh yeah, everyone else feels wasted and somewhat bored. It’s nice to see a great and underappreciated talent like Michael Peña get a lead role in a major motion-picture for once, but even he’s saddled with a boring character who’s main purpose to serve to the plot is that he forges no connections with anyone around him, sleeps around, is a bit of a jerk, and oh yeah, doesn’t like touching dudes.

It’s hack comedy for someone who isn’t a hack and it makes it all the more disappointing to watch this go down. Cause even at 100 minutes, the movie feels at least three-hours longer than that, with a plot that never comes together, character’s that feel false, and most importantly, comedy that’s just not funny. The only person here to blame is Dax Shepard, since this seems to be his baby, and it’s sad.

Let’s hope that he wakes up and does learn a little bit from this.

Consensus: Frequently unfunny and mean-spirited, CHIPS features an A-list cast and crew and saddles them with hack-jokes, a weak-story, and no reason for existing, except to hopefully make some nostalgia-money. And hell, it couldn’t even do that correctly.

2 / 10

Oh, what an odd couple!

Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures

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War on Everyone (2017)

everyoneposter

Can corrupt cops be a funny thing in 2017?

Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob (Michael Peña) are two corrupt cops who have been together for so long, doing what they do, blackmailing criminals, and making a lot of money off of it, that they hardly give what they’re doing, a second thought. They don’t see it as something bad, nor do they see it as any bit of dangerous – if anything, they see it as another way to get some more money and not live off of the terrible salary that most cops in their positions would be stuck with. However, they start to re-think a lot of their decisions once they discover there’s an evil, maniacal and downright vicious criminal (Theo James) out there, looking to take them both down. Meanwhile, while the two are trying to crack this case and get rid of the baddie, Terry’s off starting a relationship and trying to fill that void in his life, and his mansion, that’s been so noticeable for so very long. He’s hoping that perhaps this Jackie gal he’s been taking up with (Tessa Thompson), will change his outlook on life and possibly have him rethink the decisions that he and Bob make when they’re out on the job.

It's not the 70';s, but fro's like this still exist?

It’s not the 70′;s, but fro’s like this still exist?

Remember that period of time in the mid-to-late-90’s when just about every crime/action/comedy/thriller tried so desperately to be the next “Pulp Fiction“? Remember how they were so clearly made out to be some sort of witty, yet, violent and demented ride of pure craziness, but just felt like a bunch of studio-executives getting together and coming up with stuff that they thought would be “hip”, or “cool”? Remember how most of them, for the most part, kind of blew?

Well, yeah.

And that’s sort of what War on Everyone is. It’s not terrible, or bad, or as much as a rip-off as some of those movies from the 90’s could definitely get – it’s just it feels like it’s trying so desperately hard to recreate some of the magic made from Tarantino, that it literally has no identity all by itself. It’s as if you’re listening to one of Tarantino’s best friends talk about the movie idea they had, with all the jokes, gags and scenes of violence that they wanted, and while some of the ideas are nice, mostly, they’re just afterthoughts and clearly trying way too hard.

Which is weird to say about this movie, because it’s written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, someone who has, with his two movies so far (the Guard, Calvary), proven that he’s capable of dark, comedic thrills, as well as giving us a fresh story to work with, too. For some reason, War on Everyone feels like it’s trying too hard, but by the same token, not trying hard enough; the plot is so simple and straightforward, that you’d almost wish for the nonsensical and crazy twists and turns, but nope, they never come around. Instead, we get a procedural with jokes and observations about music, art, movies, TV, life, death, one’s existence, and capitalism.

That may sound fun and somewhat interesting, but it’s odd, because they don’t really come off that way in War on Everyone.

I'll watch that for an-hour-and-a-half.

I’ll watch that for an-hour-and-a-half.

They mostly just come off as a way for McDonagh to make people laugh and think of him as some witty son-of-a-bitch, but it doesn’t quite work – it feels too often like he’s bragging, or showboating, when there’s no reason for him to be doing so in the first place. Giving us solid characters and a story would have been fine enough, but unfortunately, the movie’s just one punchline-after-another, without there ever seeming to be a rhyme or reason for it, but to just try and break up any tension that may be found.

The only instances in which War on Everyone truly comes to life is in the form of its ensemble, all of whom are very good and more than make this sometimes cheeky material play better. As a duo, Peña and Skarsgård work well together; you can tell that there’s a certain camaraderie between the two that wouldn’t have worked, had they not been able to get along and build some sort of chemistry. It’s really Skarsgård who delivers the best performance, though, as we get some brief moments of his life, realize how much of a sad-sack he is and, as briefly as we get it, realize that there’s something more to him than just good looks and witty one-liners. There’s a human being underneath the facade and it makes his character interesting, and his performance all the better.

Tessa Thompson also benefits from being the gal in this subplot, as she not only brings out the best in Skarsgård, but truly does seem to be going for something more emotional and dramatic than the rest of the movie probably had in mind. Shame, too, because they both work great together and it would have been lovely to just see a movie all about them two, falling in love, and having hot, steamy sex together.

Seriously, though? Where was that movie?

Consensus: Even with the occasional moment of fun and humor, War on Everyone seems as if it’s trying way too hard to recreate some sort of dark comedy magic that was long dead by the 21st Century.

5.5 / 10

We get it: You're bad cops. Go away.

We get it: You’re bad cops. Go away.

Photos Courtesy of: Fresh From the Theater, Cinema Axis, I Watch Stuff

Collateral Beauty (2016)

Mr. Smith Goes to a Wonderful Life.

After the tragic death of his daughter, rich and successful New York ad executive Howard (Will Smith) loses all hope with life. He is, essentially, sleepwalking through it all, barely talking to those around him, getting anything done at work, and just ruining everything that exists in his own world. His coworkers don’t like this – not just because they care and love Howard, but because they’re worried that their company is about to go under. So, in a way to make sure that it doesn’t, the concoct a plan to, in a way, blackmail Howard by hiring three actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore), to come up to Howard, talk to him, and make him think about the three aspects in his life that he thinks about the most: Life, Time, and Death. While the partners believe that it’s only Howard’s life who needs some help, eventually, the actors start hanging around them, making them take one look closer at where they’re going with their own lives and how they could make the best of what they’ve got.

So yeah, Collateral Beauty is a pretty bad movie, made from a pretty bad idea. But here’s the dilemma I always seem to run into with movies such as these: Can a movie be so absolutely, positively, no-doubt-about-it horrendous, if it’s barely 90 minutes? A part of me wants to say that it can’t happen, because there are so many movies out there hitting the two-hour run-time, and then some, and are just so bad, that they should have just never happened in the first place.

"Hey, Will. Cheer the hell up bro."

“Hey, Will. Cheer the hell up bro.”

But Collateral Beauty, no matter how long or short, is just a bad movie.

And it’s kind of a shame, too, because there’s an iota of a good idea to be found somewhere in the deep, thick and confusing layers of this narrative, but sadly, it just never comes out; it’s stuck under a movie that never makes sense of itself, is so stupid without ever knowing the sheer lengths of its stupidity, and somehow, thinks that it’s changing lives with how deep and meaningful it is. Does this movie mean well and have something to say about life, love, death, time, and family? Sure, a little bit, but does any of that come out in a meaningful, somewhat powerful way that resonates with those who set out to see this?

I don’t think so, or better yet, it didn’t for me. Could I be wrong and nothing more than a heartless, soulless, evil and unforgivably mean a-hole? Most likely, but when it comes to Collateral Beauty, I don’t care – the movie’s bad and if you enjoy it, you’re not a bad human being, you just don’t know what a good movie is supposed to be.

It’s weird, though, because everyone involved with Collateral Beauty is, in one or another, a talented individual. Director David Frankel has definitely had some stinkers in his life, but when he’s on his game (like with Hope Springs or the Devil Wears Prada), his movies are actually enjoyable to watch. Here though, it feels like he had no sword in the battle. For one, he was already replacing the much more interesting Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and, oh yeah, he’s working with a script from Allan Loeb, the same person who have us the scripts to winners like Here Comes the Boom, the Dilemma, and oh man, the Switch.

The Switch, people.

What the hell?

Anyway, so yeah, i feel bad for Frankel because it really feels like he doesn’t know how to make this script play well, or even remotely work on the screen, so in a way, he just sort of gives up, films every scene the way it’s supposed to be shot and let’s the script do all of the talking. Clearly that was the biggest issue for the movie, but it also seems like a battle that someone as plain and as ordinary as Frankel just wasn’t ready to battle; perhaps had Gomez-Rejon stayed on, or maybe even a better director got on-board, something could have been done, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we got the finished product of Collateral Beauty, which is stupid from the very beginning and never seems to quick, what with the exception of maybe one or two bright spots to be found in the whole thing.

"Faster! We gotta get the hell out of this movie!"

“Faster! We gotta get the hell out of this movie!”

And yes, most of that comes from the impressive, yet unused ensemble. Will Smith may get top-billing here, but oddly enough, he’s not really in the movie nearly as much as you’d think. And even when he is, he’s downplaying all of that fun, all of that charm, and all of that coolness about him that just radiates off the screen. Nope, instead, he’s playing it sad, depressed and without a single smile to be found. Normally, I’m all for this change of pace, but it never feels real, just calculated; it’s as if someone told him to always have a frown when the camera was on and went one step further and got plastic-surgery to make his face literally look that down and out.

We know he’s better, so why?

And while I’m at it, yep, the rest of the cast here knows better, too. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Michael Pena Jr., Ann Dowd, and freakin’ Dame Helen Mirren are all here, and as good as they may all be, not even they can save whatever the hell it is that they’re stuck with doing. Norton gets his own whole subplot that kind of works and sees him trying something new, while Mirren and Pena have some great scenes together, but honestly, it doesn’t matter – the rest of the movie is way too concerned with itself and trying to make sense of things that will never, ever make sense, no matter how hard the cast, Frankel, or Loeb tries. It’s just sad and a shame to watch, which makes me think why anyone bothered with it in the first place.

Oh well. At least they got paid, right?

Consensus: Silly, random, nonsensical, and as contrived as you are able to get with a wholesome movie, Collateral Beauty tries to do interesting stuff, but it just never pays off and has everyone, especially the great cast, look dumbfounded.

4 / 10

Always listen to the Dame. Even when she's in crap like this.

Always listen to the Dame. Even when she’s in crap like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Martian (2015)

Didn’t Christopher Nolan already make this movie?

After a crazy super-storm hits Mars, the Ares 3 mission is forced to abort their mission and head on back to Earth. Problem is, they do so without one of their members, a fellow by the name of Mark Watney (Matt Damon). Because he got by some space-thingy during the storm, everybody assumes that Watney died, but wouldn’t you know it? He wakes up the next day, stranded and no way to contact home. The only thing he’s got to work with is whatever gear the crew left back, which eventually equals out to a month’s left of food. Considering that it’s going to take nearly four years for NASA to send out another mission to come and rescue him, Watney’s got to come up with some neat, interesting and MacGyver-ish ways to create some food with what he’s got around. While he’s doing this and not trying to lose his freakin’ mind, back on Earth, NASA headquarters is figuring out a way that they can save Watney and to be able to do so in the most efficient way that’s not only safe to Watney, the crew, and the spaceship, but also to NASA’ public persona, as well.

Yep. Totally not the same director who did Prometheus.

Yep. Totally not the same director who did Prometheus.

Take all of those challenging, rather annoying aspects of Interstellar and Gravity, give them a sense of actual humor, throw in a Cast Away subplot (with no Wilson), and ensure that the audiences understand just what the hell is actually going on at any given time, and you have the Martian. And while I’m definitely not doing it any favors by making it sound like a carbon-copy of other, much better movies, I can assure you, that it’s better than that.

In fact, it’s way, way better than that.

For one, the Martian is a movie that never takes itself too seriously. While all of the trailers and ads have been promoting an ultra-serious, inspirational survival story, the movie’s actually a lot more fun and lighter than that. In fact, it’s humor is what just about saves it! At times, sure, it can seem like they’re playing “the joke card” a little too much, but if a movie about a dude stuck in an amazingly depression, isn’t depressing and finds ways to have me howling at the Lunar Eclipse, then sure, count me in. Hell, take all of my money!

Just make me laugh, dammit!

And while I wouldn’t necessarily tag the likes of Ridley Scott and “the comedy genre” together, somehow, they work perfectly with one another. Scott has been in desperate need of a winner these past couple of years, and now, seems like he finally has it. Sure, Scott isn’t trying anything new, experimental, or awfully hard that’s taking him into new areas that we may never see him try again, but there’s a nice feeling about that. For one, he’s not getting in the way of the movie and/or the wonderful script by Drew Goddard.

Secondly, he just allows for the story to tell itself. I know that this may sound like an easy compliment to give away – in fact, it may sound like something I’m just throwing out there to make my job a tad bit easier (you’re right). But no, seriously, making a movie with a story that seems as simple as this, and having it play out that way, yet, still being able to travel through little alleyways and side-streets to make it still seem fresh, exciting and most of all, original, is something extraordinary. Like I mentioned before, we’ve seen the Martian many times before in movies that, occasionally, are better. But the fact that this movie still finds a way to get you glued into its story, never let its grip get loose, and make you give a hoot about what happens to which characters, is a beauty to behold as it is.

There’s literally no reason we should care at all about Mark Watney, his crew, or those ass-bags back on Earth that work in a place called NASA (never heard of her), but as soon as Watney gets hit, the crew leaves without him, and NASA gets word of this, it’s an automatic adventure right from then on out. Now, to be honest, did we really need all of the NASA headquarter shenanigans? Probably not, but they help round the movie out a whole lot more and keep things exciting and above all else, interesting.

See, even though it is Matt Damon playing Mark Watney, watching him, and only him, try to survive on Mars, talk to cameras, listen to disco, use clever witticisms to express his feelings of the situation he’s in, and eventually, get a grip on the life he’s living and try to keep it going, probably would have gotten a bit boring and tedious. I mean, despite the recent flubs he’s been letting loose of, Matt Damon is, generally, a guy we all love to watch on-screen; he’s got that general, normal guy, everyday kind of feel where he seems like a bro you could hang around, enjoy his company, and go on happy about your day.

He wouldn’t give two shits because, well, he’s Matt Damon and he’s got celebrities to have brunch with.

A few years of community college and woolah! You're working for NASA, baby!

A few years of community college and woolah! You’re working for NASA, baby!

But what I’m trying to say is that yes, Matt Damon is a charming dude in practically everything he does, and that’s no different here with his performance as Mark Watney. Because Watney’s a wise-cracking, smart-ass dude that would much rather use sarcasm to mask his actual, genuine thoughts, Damon fits perfectly. He not only seems like the kind of dude who would have the next best, funniest thing to say in a conversation, but could also, in his own words, “science the hell out of this thing!” Not just because he works at NASA, mind you, but because he’s Matt Damon and he always seems like the smartest dude in the room.

Like I said though, the good thing about the Martian is that it takes its focus away from Damon’s Watney a bit and show just what the hell’s going on on planet Earth, what’s everybody trying to do to get him back home, and how it’s all going to come together. Now, the science in this movie I’m not too sure of, but I don’t think I needed to be – which is a good thing. Most sci-fi movies get themselves all tied-up in trying to explain too many loose-ends where it’s almost as if, rather than just actually giving us a random doohickey and letting us roll with, they have to go on and on about it as if it cares!

We get it! The thingy-ma-bob goes back in time! Cool! Move it along, folks!

But with the Martian, the science is there as a placement to show just how brilliant NASA is. And I kid you not, I am not joking here; the Martian is, in many words, an absolute, unabashed tribute to NASA, the powerful, enigmatic and brilliant minds that inhabit it and the inspiration it can give us all, so long as we think just like each and everyone of its workers do. This is as hokey as a blind girl touching a horse’s nose, but somehow, it all works and is, as much as I hate to admit it, inspiring.

Though the Martian is, basically, a sarcasm-laced, sci-fi survival tale, above all else, it’s a movie about the power of what can be done when you’re using your brain. If you think things through to the best of your ability and seem to know what you’re talking about, then you too, can learn to live and survive on a planet like Mars longer than anybody ever expected you to. All you have to do is put your mind to it, long and hard enough, and eventually, you’ll get there. If you don’t, then think harder or open up a book! Learn something dammit!

Gosh! I gotta go back to school!

Consensus: Exciting, compelling, emotional, and surprisingly hilarious when you don’t at all expect it to, the Martian is the best kind of sci-fi blockbuster that has you using your brains, but at the same time, still enjoying the wild and fun ride while it lasts.

9 / 10

I won't even dare tell you what that actually is.

I won’t even dare tell you what that actually is. Just know this, count me out for a trip to Mars anytime soon.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Ant-Man (2015)

Never be afraid to dream a little bigger. Unless Kevin Feige says otherwise.

After being released from prison for a robbery he committed on some company he worked for many years ago, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finally gets a shot to take back his life and make amends for the pain he’s put his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and daughter through. Problem is, Scott’s past is so shoddy, that he’s finding it harder and harder to get a job, start anew and move on from what he once was. That’s why when one of his buddies (Michael Peña) brings up the idea of pulling off a vault-heist on some old dude’s house, he’s initially hesitant, but also realizes that cat-burglarizing is what he’s best at – whether he likes to admit it or not. Little does he know that the old man’s house he’s robbing is Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who once worked for Stark Enterprises and left when he realized that one of his inventions were getting used for all the wrong reasons. But now, with Scott, Hank has found his perfect guinea pig for his pet-project: Ant-Man.

Puns intended.

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor....

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor….

Already going into Ant-Man, there was a feeling of disdain from yours truly. Most of that has to do with the fact that, not only does it seem like the Marvel machine is growing to be more and more of the same entertaining, but generic thing, time and time again, but that there’s hardly a chance for anyone to come in and try to shake that formula up. Case in point, Edgar Wright – someone who is able to make many movie-nerds foam at the mouth at the possibility of him both writing and directing something. And heck, put his own sense of zany style in a Marvel movie, where a bigger cast and budget would be at his free reign, you bet your bottom dollar that the hype-train just gets more and more packed.

But sadly, and predictably, I guess, things didn’t pan out so well.

For one, Wright left and the powers that be within Disney were left scrambling far and wide for the next possible replacement to pick up the slack and see if they could make water out of ice. With Peyton Reed, most people involved with Marvel and Disney felt as if they found the most suitable replacement available and honestly, I can’t hold many qualms with that decision. Even despite the fact that Reed’s previous directorial efforts include the horrendous Yes Man and Break-Up, clearly they were working against a deadline and came up with whomever they felt was more than willing and capable of handling the job.

Sure, Reed’s no Wright, but then again, who the hell is? Though Reed’s directing-style may borderline on “generic”, he still handles a few action set-pieces well enough to where we get the same sort of imagination and frivolous fun that we would come to expect with Wright. If anything, Reed’s style is so mediocre, that it helps not get in the way of what could have been a very pushy and needy movie. Sort of like a pet who wants you to pet it, so it just cozies up to you, never leaves you alone, and stares deep into your eyes until you give in and give it what it wants.

Pretty sure you can’t pet ants, but you get my drift.

So, with that all said, it’s worth mentioning that Ant-Man turns out to actually be a bit of a better movie than I expected from all the controversy surrounding it in the pre-production stage. One of the main reasons that Ant-Man works well, is because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to get out there in this huge, Marvel universe, and tell a bunch of other stories that it doesn’t need to bother with; instead, it’s focus is solely on Scott Lang and whomever else is around him. Some may be annoyed at the fact that other Marvel superheros don’t get the time of day like they do in other flicks, but somehow, it works in this movie’s favor; it helps keep things simple, contained and most of all, entertaining, without ever trying to be more complicated than it needs to be.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

Still though, that’s not to say that this movie doesn’t feel as if, considering what Marvel’s been up to in the past couple or so years, a bit of a disappointment. And this most definitely has to do with the fact that there were so many hiccups before filming even got started, because something does feel a bit “off” about Ant-Man while watching it. Maybe the fact that there were literally four writers on this thing has something to do with it, but also due to the fact that the movie itself doesn’t always set out to blow our minds.

Sometimes, there’s no problem with that; in most cases, all you need is a good time to get you through everything. But something feels odd in this movie where the humor can sometimes feel tacked-on and random, as if it were just thrown in there so Marvel could keep up with the formula that their movies hold so dear to their hearts – exposition, action scene, character development, witticism, rinse and repeat. The jokes themselves are a bit hit-or-miss, but whether or not they’re funny isn’t really the point – what is, is whether or not they feel like they deserved to be tossed in there when they are, and they sort of don’t. I’m glad at least one of the four writers made an attempt, but sometimes, it’s best to just take a back-seat and let things move for a little while.

But when things go wrong in movies such as these, it’s always best to depend on the cast to save the day, which is what they do.

Well, sort of.

Paul Rudd, as usual, is charming, funny and cool as Scott Lang, even if it feels like he’s never quite given that opportunity to shine, break out from his comfort-shell and prove exactly why he deserves to be taken seriously as this superhero. None of that has to do with Rudd himself, though, as it’s most definitely the script’s fault for not spending more time in fleshing him, or anybody else at. Because where it stands, mostly everybody here is fine at playing these characters on a superficial, surface-area level and that’s about it.

Such talented folks like Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Martin Donovan, Michael Peña, and Michael Douglas, all play their characters in such a way that makes it seem like they just came ready to play around for awhile and that’s it. Once again, not their fault, it’s just a bummer considering that with these names, you’d expect something so much better. Way better, actually.

If only Edgar Wright stayed on.

Consensus: Without trying too hard, Ant-Man is a perfectly serviceable piece of superhero blockbuster, but considering the company it keeps, it can’t help but feel like a small step down.

6.5 / 10

Until next year, bro.

Until next year, bro.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fury (2014)

I guess something that weighs over 30 tons isn’t all that safe after all.

It’s April 1945 in Nazi Germany, towards the end of WWII and the Allies seem to be kicking all sorts of ass and taking names. So much so, that Adolf Hitler himself has been ordering just about every man, women, and/or child, to get out there on the front lines and fight the good fight. And during all of this, therein lies a tank crew who maintain and work in a big mofo they call “Fury”. The tank sergeant is a man that goes by the name of Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and just recently, finds himself all torn up over the fact that his second-in-command has just been blown away in the middle of combat. He still has the rest of his crew intact, but this proves to be such a hard hit, that he doesn’t know necessarily how to move on. Well, except all that he and his crew have to do is fight, fight, and fight some more. This time though, they’ll be along for the ride with a newbie by the name of Cobb (Logan Lerman) who nobody really takes a liking to and with good reason: He’s never been on the battlefield before and doesn’t know if he can handle killing other people that haven’t done anything specifically to him. Throughout the next week or so, that may change and Wardaddy will be more than happy to show him why.

There’s something of a plot to be found here in Fury, but honestly, what it all comes down to is “Brad Pitt and a bunch of his fellas go around Germany, shooting and killing people.” While that sounds somewhat repetitive and ultimately, boring, there’s a feeling here that writer/director David Ayer is using it for a whole other reason in particular.

For instance, it’s never made clear to us what exactly the objective here of this story is; usually for a war movie, we understand who is searching for what, why, how they’re going to go about it, and what is going to be accomplished at the end of the day. However, here, the only objective of the plot-line is to fight the war, continue killing the enemy, and try to do so without getting you, or your fellow soldier killed in the process.

Looking that good, can sometimes be so tiring.

Looking that good, can sometimes be so tiring.

In all honesty, that’s more of how the war probably is. there’s no need to save any Private Ryan’s, or even any plan to capture top-level Mogadishu-officials. Here, it’s all about trying to stay alive and killing as many Germans as they possibly can, which is probably just how being in a bloody war is like – hardly ever stopping and always fighting. This is a bold move on Ayer’s part to take, but it’s one that I think needed to be taking, because so rarely is it that we get a war movie that shows us just how screwed up and unforgiving the battlefield truly is, without trying to force a message down our throats. Here, you could say that the moral of the story is, “the war is terrible, and people die.” That’s all Ayer seems to be saying here and I think that’s all that needed to be said.

But of course Ayer takes it a bit of another step forward and actually get to discussing the certain soldiers in the war, by showing us just the type of disturbing affect the war has on them, regardless of how messed-up in the head the individual may be. This is where I think Ayer’s writing is at its best, because rather than glamorizing these soldiers and having them come off as the Nation’s biggest heroes, Ayer has them portrayed as a bunch of guys who had nothing else better to give to society back in the States, other than just sitting around and taking up space. On the battlefield, they have a purpose, they have a cause, and most of all, they have a reason to live. Though we never actually hear a character state this throughout the film, they don’t really have to for us to get the point; in fact, them just stating every so often that being in the war was, “the best job they ever had”, gives us the impression that this is all they have to live for and they’re more than proud to die if they have to. They may be scared, but they’ll at least feel proud to perish because it’s for a reason, even if that reason is for their own well-being.

And though I may make this movie come off as a bit of a melodrama, I can assure you that it’s not; there are moments of pure drama where characters break down, shout their hearts out, and let us know how they feel. However, at the end of the day, it’s a war movie, and because of this, we get plenty of action-sequences with tanks going toe-to-toe with another, people getting shot, stabbed in the face, lit on fire, and most of all, dying. But while these scenes are effective in the most gruesome ways possible, there’s still a feeling that the movie doesn’t know what it wants to say about them – are we supposed to feel bad that countless soldiers on both sides are getting killed? Or are we just supposed to care that way for the American side?

The best example to highlight this problem the movie seems to have with itself is when Cobb, the new blood of this tank group, is ordered by Wardaddy to shoot a German prisoner. Though the German prisoner has surrendered (thus, making it illegal to kill him), Cobb is physically and emotionally manipulated into doing it, even though it is a horrifying act he does not want to partake in. We know it’s not right, he knows it’s not right, but every other character around him (as well as the movie), doesn’t and that’s one of the sole problems with this movie. It doesn’t have enough to say to be an anti-war movie, yet, it doesn’t have enough self-control to not glamorize the violent, sometimes inhumane, acts that occur during the war itself.

Basically, you could write it all down to Ayer not being the best director out there. Sure, as a writer, he’s pretty fine and has shown that he has a knack for writing gritty, raw, and bare human beings who are conscience enough to be considered “realistic”, but as a director, his movies don’t always translate so well. End of Watch was a fine piece that showed he was able to turn the found-footage genre on its head a bit, but that’s about all the praise Ayer gets as a director (his other film released earlier this year, Sabotage, is currently running the gauntlet for being one of my least favorite of the year). That said, while this is probably Ayer’s most accomplished film as director, there’s still signs that what comes out of the pen, doesn’t always translate so well onto the screen, even if the one writing, also happens to be the same individual filming.

Thankfully though, for Ayer at least, he can fall back on the amazing ensemble he has here to ensure that his material will be more than just what’s presented on the surface, and can at least be dissected and looked at a bit more. Brad Pitt, playing a WWII soldier that isn’t collecting Nazi scalps, does a lot as Wardaddy, although it seems like he’s just being his usual-self: Cool, smart, collective, and most of all, masculine as hell. However, there’s more to this character and we get the idea that even though he’s all about defending his country to the very end and do whatever he has to do to protect those around him, at any costs, he still fears the idea of dying, or even worse, a close-one of his meeting the same fate. He’s an emotionally-battered man that disguises it all with orders, commands, and death, but if you look closely, you can see exactly what kind of person he is, and it’s not all that different from you or I.

That's the look of someone who has maybe gone too method.

That’s the look of someone who has maybe gone “too method”.

Except that he looks like this, a sad reality I live with everyday I look in the mirror.

But as good as Pitt is in the lead role, I really have to give a lot of kudos to Logan Lerman, a young talent who is really rising through the ranks and showing us he has what it takes to hang with the big boys. Though Lerman’s character can be classified as “scared, wimp-ish rookie”, Lerman presents us with shades to this character that makes it easy to see why someone as sheepish and kind as he is, would actually totally change into a ruthless, unforgiving killer. It’s actually pretty horrifying if you think about it, and that is why Lerman’s performance is so good: He’s a normal person like you or me, but now it’s time for him to grow up, face the terrible realities of the war, and start shooting that rifle of his.

Though, as good as Lerman and Pitt are, there is a glaring difference between them two, and the attention they get from Ayer, as opposed to the characters played by Michael Peña, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal, who all seem like types that want to be more than just that, but never get a chance to cause the writing prohibits them from doing so. However, because these three are all good performers, we get a deeper, more effective camaraderie between the whole group that seems to go further than just “war buddies”; they could actually be something of brothers, that just so happen to be connected by the reality of war.

One instance of this is a scene that, for some reason or another, takes place all in real-time and runs for about twenty-five minutes. It starts with Wardaddy and Cobb going into a random German woman’s home, having dinner and sex, but turns into something darker and tense once the rest of the group shows up. This is a great scene because it not only shows the restraint in Ayer’s sometimes confused direction, but actually allows all of these guys to just act with one another, in one scene, one location, and uninterrupted. In this scene, we get to understand who all of these fellas are, why they stick up for one another when they have to, and why they all love each other, in the most non-sexual way possible. It’s probably the most memorable scene of the movie, which is probably a testament to the cast, especially when you consider how much blood, guts, bullets and steel are flying around.

Consensus: Maybe not the deepest war movie ever made, Fury doesn’t know where it stands on certain ideas, but is still well-acted by its highly-capable cast and displays a growing talent in David Ayer as a director, even if there is some room for improvement to be made.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

#2MasculineForYou

#2MasculineForYou

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Cesar Chavez (2014)

Hail Cesar!

César Chávez (Michael Peña) was a man that believed in sticking up for himself and his people, even if it didn’t mean having to take matters into your own hands. César had a problem with the way Mexican farm-workers were being treated; they made very little, worked for very long and if they decided not to work any longer, then they would be forced to go back to their native country. So yeah, of course César saw this as “wrong”, which is why he decides not to stand for it any longer and get together as many of people he possibly can on his side, to face-off against the powers that be – aka, the head of these major companies making these workers work so hard, long and without much of a reward to show for it. Throughout César’s mission, he goes through his usual ups, his downs and even finds himself questioning whether or not there’s any reason to fight for a cause/group of people, that are clearly out-matched, out-numbered, and out-of-their-element when it comes to how the government does things and if they do so in a moral way, or let the sound of money and pride get in the way of doing what is right.

Well, there you have it, folks. It needed to happen sooner or later, but we have finally gotten the César Chávez biopic. Is it the one we deserve? Eh, not really, but I guess if there is one thing that this movie gets right, it’s that it informs those of us out there as to why this man mattered, why his cause was just and how much his impact has been felt on the world today. With that aspect of the film taken in and thought about, then yeah, director Diego Luna (yes, the actor) gets the job done. No questions asked.

"Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?"

“Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?”

However, when it comes down to giving us a heartfelt, emotional and complex story about one man’s struggle to fight for what he believes in, as well as staying true to himself, his values and those who are close to him? Eh, I wouldn’t say so.

See, where I think Luna runs into the problem with this movie is that he clearly loves and has so much respect for César Chávez in the first place, that you never get an sense that we’re watching a movie that’s trying to get us to know exactly who this man. Much rather, we get the story about what this man did, those he cared for and why he believed in sticking up for his people. That’s all we really get and even though I wasn’t expecting Diego Luna to throw out some random bits or pieces of info that would have César Chávez look as if he was a downright, despicable human being, I still would have liked to seen a little more detail into the mistakes he made along the way.

Sure, we get to see that he runs into conflicts with his wife, but only because she feels as if she’s being tied-down too much and not given the time to stretch her own wings and fly around for a bit. And sure, we get to see him have problems with other members of the group, but only because where as he wants to rebel in a calm, sophisticated, no-violence way, they all want to take out their dukes and start rumbling a bit. Oh, and sure, we see how much the law-enforcement acted so wrongly against him, as well as the rest of the group, but that’s only because their a bunch of racist, bigoted Southern assholes that have nothing else better to do with their time, money or house-maids, then just take out their shotguns and wailing it around some.

You get the point now? It isn’t that Luna paints César Chávez as the most perfect person on the face of the planet, but it doesn’t really do much to show him at his faults either. Apparently he wasn’t that great of a father to his son either, which comes and goes as it pleases and only seems desperately thrown in there to create some more conflict and family-drama, when in reality, we don’t really need anymore of it at all. All we really need is an honest story about a man we should know a whole lot more about coming out of, than going into, but somehow, it ended up just being the same. Even for someone like me, who only knows the man of César Chávez, his influence and his impact, through the beautiful workings of WikiPedia.

Ah, what a wonderful and nifty tool it is to have the internet exist in today’s day and age. How wonderful indeed.

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

If there’s anything really worth seeing this movie for, it’s mainly for the fact that Luna makes a smart choice in giving Michael Peña a rare chance at a lead role for once and a lifetime, and the guy does an okay job with it. I can’t really say that it’s anything spectacular or even better than what we’ve seen him do in some smaller, supporting roles, but with what material he’s given, which is rather thin, Peña delivers. Same goes for America Ferrera who fits-in perfectly as Chávez’s wife, even though she’s given the conventional-role of “the house-mother that sits at home all day, does nothing and just wants to be apart of something fun and exciting”. It’s a role we’ve all seen written a million times before, and somehow, Ferrera makes it a bit more watchable and even creates a realistic-piece of chemistry between her and Peña.

The supporting cast has a whole bunch of familiar-faces, which are great to see and all, but none of them really stand-out among the rest; which, once again, may have more to do with the script, rather than their own acting-abilities. Rosario Dawson shows up every once and a blue moon during this as one of Chávez’s most-trusted supporters; Wes Bentley plays a free-lovin’, hippie lawyer-brah that backs up Chávez when he needs all the help he can get; and out of everybody here, the one who made the biggest impression on me was John Malkovich as one of the owners of these major-companies that Chávez and his people are speaking-out against. Malkovich is clearly soaking up the sun as, who is presumed to be, the baddie, but he actually gives a nice moment of humanism where we see him talk about his days of growing up as a Scandinavian immigrant in America, and how he had to work his way up the ladder to become the man who he is today. It doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s being a total and complete, money-grubbing prick that doesn’t give two hoots about his workers, their families, or their livelihoods, but it definitely does throw us a curve-ball in terms of the way we view this character. Love it when that happens in any movie, and I wish there was more of that in here.

Consensus: Though it boasts a few fine performances worth seeing, Cesar Chavez feels more like a tribute to the man, rather than an actual narrative, where we get to see him for all that he was, good qualities, as well as bad ones, alike.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Still pissed somebody hasn't filled his glass back-up yet.

Still pissed somebody hasn’t filled his glass back up yet.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

American Hustle (2013)

Whenever you listen to more than a few hours of disco, something bad is always bound to happen.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) run into one another, and it’s automatically love at first sight. Despite Irving having a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and having a kid back at the house, Irving spends more than a few hours of his day completely, and utterly devoted to Sydney. Along with her, he also keeps his devotion to his successful scamming business, that’s been going pretty well for quite some time, all up until the moment they get nabbed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie, seeing more than just a promotion in his hind-sights, decides to cut them a deal: Either go to jail for a really long time, or help him catch a series of stings, and get out of jail, Scott-free. Irving and Syndney obviously go for the latter plan, however, once they realize that the people they’re dealing with here are along the lines of New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), and even worse, the mob. To add insult to injury, it becomes painfully clear that Sydney and Richie start to have a little thing for one another, which also leads to Irving to get a little bit jealous and begin to bring his wifey-poo around a bit more, despite her not being the most functional human being on the face of the planet.

Although this movie definitely seems to be based on the Abscam operation, everything about is partially fictional. That’s probably one of the smartest decisions David O. Russell ever makes here because he never, not for a second, has to worry about who he’s offending here, who he’s portraying in a bad-light, or even what facts he’s getting right, getting wrong, or totally missing the ball with. Instead, he just indulges himself with a story that could be told by anyone, however, given his talent as a director and the cast’s talent as, well, thespians, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as if Marty Scorsese himself could have sat behind the camera and did this himself.

What long-haired red-head doesn't just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

What long-haired redhead doesn’t just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

But nope, while we do have a couple of weeks until The Wolf of Wall Street sees the light of day, we’re stuck with what seems to be a bit of a carbon-copy of his famed-style, and yet, it’s also its own baby in its own right. It just isn’t perfecto, you know?

Here’s the thing with O. Russell: The man loves his big ensembles, there is no question about that whatsoever. He so much indulges himself, just as much as the cast does and I think that’s where the bear of positives here lie. The cast is absolutely a treat to watch and practically the sole reasons why this movie works as well on the level it does. No offense to dear ol’ David, he’s great and all as the director and mastermind behind the works, but the cast he was able to assemble here, more than makes up for any pitfalls the script runs into (which trust me, I’ll get into for a second, just let me have me way with this delightful cast first).

Seeing as this is a movie that takes in place in the 70’s, you obviously have to expect everybody to be living it up with all of the frothy hair, nice and big jewelry, digs, cars, money, etc., which also means you have to expect everybody to be just a tad bit over-the-top. Heck, this was the decade in which disco roamed free all throughout the Nation state, so it only makes perfect sense that each and every cast member would get a chance to do a little playing around a bit, even if they are all characters in their own right. However, they’re entertaining characters to watch and that’s mainly due to the amazing cast at hand here. The most clear example of this is Jeremy Renner as Mayor Polito, who would seem like a totally crooked, immoral and unbelievably stupid guy to begin with in any movie, but somehow, the makes him a sympathetic character that doesn’t seem to know what he’s gotten himself into, nor does he really know the difference between right and wrong. He just wants to make people happy, look good for the cameras and treat his friends to a good time. The writing is in some way to credit for the handling of this character, but it’s also Renner’s likable-presence as well, that never goes away, even when the movie seems to highlight him in a very unsuitable-manner.

Same goes for Bradley Cooper who, if he’s lucky, may be looking at an Oscar nomination by the end of this year, as he deserves it. We’ve all seen Cooper do comedy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us laugh; we’ve all seen him play a bad guy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us not like him and his charming good-looks. Combine those two elements together, and you got Richie DiMaso, one of the most entertaining guys to watch in this whole movie (which is saying something), and for good reasons too. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Cooper himself took a shot of Red Bull everyday before shooting, because this guy is constantly speaking a-mile-a-minute, saying things that aren’t always clear, always having a wise-crack handy and always making it seem like he’s got somewhere to be, something to do and someone to bother. Yet, he never seemed to annoy me. He was always a fun guy to watch, and honestly, a very honest guy that just wanted a promotion to come his way and a little bit of the spotlight as well. Yeah, he does get to be a bit creepy and brutal at times, but at the end of the day, you know that he means well and just wants what’s best for the rest of society, even if it does all come at a cost. Cooper is constantly on-fire here, stealing the show and making a name for himself, in every which way possible, which is why I feel like, if the world is perfect and does go round and round, that he may just run a good chance at getting a nomination this year. Going to be hard and all, but I think he’s got what it takes, boyishly good-looks and all.

That handsome bastard him.

And despite him being known as the type of guy who was practically in Cooper’s place, only three years ago, surprisingly, Bale really dials it down here as Irving Rosenfeld, giving us a guy you genuinely care for, despite being a proud con for all of these preceding years. While Bale definitely doesn’t go as nuts as he usually does in most movies, he’s still great here with his scrubby look, laid-back feel and overall sense of sadness that follows him throughout every scene, regardless of what his character is doing. Even in the scenes where he and Amy Adams are together, you can tell that he just wants to be with her badly, and their arc together really expands throughout the movie, keeping the emotional-glue firmly in tact. Sure, sometimes it does weave in and out-of-place at times, but it’s still what keeps this story moving and on a larger-level than just simply “catching cons”.

Speaking of Adams, the girl is as lovely, as sassy and as fiery as she’s ever been here as Sydney, the type of girl two guys like Irving and Richie would fall head-over-heels for. Adams has definitely flirted with playing up her “bad side” in the past, but never to the extent here in which you never quite know if she’s playing Richie, Irving, or even us for that matter. She’s a sneaky one, that Amy Adams and she’s perfect at fooling us, every step of the way. However, as good as she may be among the rest of these dudes, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely the one who gets the upper-hand as Irving’s accident-prone wife, who never seems to know when to shut up, nor does she ever know when to make the right moves either. At the beginning, she does play on the sidelines a bit, but once the story gets more complex and bigger, then she comes in and play a bigger role, and she’s an absolute blast to watch. She’s hilarious, nutty, wise enough to where you could actually see her playing a gal that’s about ten years older than her actually age, and even dumb enough to blurt out confidential info like Irving and Richie being in cahoots with the FBI and all, the same type of info that could get them all killed. J-Law (not to be confused with the other one J-Law) is definitely the celebrity it seems like nobody can stop watching and I see why: She’s genuinely talented, good-looking and a pretty cool gal, that just so happens to be a great actress.

"Trying to out-act me kid, huh? Huh? HUH??!?!"

“Trying to out-act me, huh kid? Huh? HUH??!?!”

But while these peeps are great and all, including many others that I couldn’t even begin to list and take up more of your time with, there’s still one person that needs to bring this altogether in order to make all of these different parts come together in a cohesive, but enjoyable way, and that’s David O. Russell. For the most part, O. Russell moves the story pretty quickly once the cons get going and it becomes abundantly clear that the dude doesn’t even have to do anything special with the camera to allow us to have a great time with these characters; he just lets them be themselves. Whenever he just places the camera solely in the middle of a conversation between a few, or maybe two characters, it’s literally the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this Holiday season, bar none. Everybody’s light, quick, punchy, funny and always entertaining, making you laugh the whole way through, even if you know that there’s so much you may be missing because of how fast everything’s moving.

However, O. Russell’s style isn’t necessarily a very inventive one, and in fact, more or less feels too much like a carbon-copy of Scorsese’s, rather than his own take on that said style. We get plenty of the dual-narrations, the swooping in-and-out of the camera, a hip, rockin’ soundtrack from the 70’s, and heck, even a supporting performance from a person who’s synonymous with Scorsese movies. Granted, the last two aspects can’t really be held against O. Russell because the dude’s obviously just working with what he’s got, but as for the other times, it felt like something I’ve already seen done a hundred times before, just with more over-the-top and wacky performances from the whole cast and crew.

Once again, I’ll say it: This is by no means a bad movie, it’s just a very good one, that could have really gone for great, had it not been what seems like another Scorsese look-alike. Sure, there are definitely problems with the script, and how it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, at any given point in time, but by the same token, it still doesn’t matter considering everything’s moving at such a quick-pace, you don’t really have time to stop and think. You just sit-back, watch, and enjoy the ride. That’s what movies are all about, regardless of who’s in front of, or behind-the-camera. This coming from a two-bit movie critic, but you get the point.

Consensus: When done at its worst, it’s a not-so original take on a con story, done in a way that feels like a Scorsese flick; but when done at its best, American Hustle is most likely going to be the funnest time you will have at the movies for the rest of the year, showing you exactly what one can do when they have more than a few talented people delivering their script.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Rocky Balboa’s only real competition: a woman!

In the wake of a painful estrangement from his daughter, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time. That all changes when Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym, but also walks into his life. Maggie wants to box, but Frankie ain’t about teaching girls to box since it’s considered a joke around the league and his buds that have respected him forever. However, Frankie sees something in her and realizes that maybe there’s more than just a woman underneath it all; there may even be a true fighter. And I’m not just talking about in the ring either, folks.

You have to really give it to Mr. Clint Eastwood; the guy just never stops. Most 82 year olds out there, wake up at 7 a.m., have a nice piece of toast for breakfast, watch golf, sit on the porch, read the paper, talk about the good old days with whoever’s present (sometimes nobody), watch the news, go to sleep at 9, and do the same thing all over again the next day after that and so on and so forth. However, that’s not how Eastwood rolls, nor is it how he likes to spend his latter-years, and even though the guy has had some stinkers in the past, you still have to see that this guy has some real talent left in him and he shows no signs of stopping.

What I liked most about Eastwood’s direction here is that he takes your ordinary story about a trailer-trash girl who has high hopes of one day being the next big thing for boxing, and turns that cliché into something heartfelt and real. No matter what form of advertisement you saw of this film, everybody had it being planned-out as the “female Rocky“, but that really couldn’t be any further from the truth. You feel like all of these character’s motivations are understood, realistic, and best off all, believable to where you can hold everything closer to heart. It’s also a sure thing of beauty to see the relationship between Frankie and Maggie build over time, almost to where he becomes a father-figure for her and she becomes a daughter-figure for him. It all sounds so predictable, mushy, and ham-fisted but it’s surprisingly not, which is mostly because of how much of this rings true to not only these characters minds, but also their souls. You can tell that each and every character starts to wear their hearts on the sleeve by the end, and for that: I think I decided to join along in the heart-wearing festivities.

"Hit the fucking thing! Harder!"

“Hit that fucking thing! Harder!”

I haven’t gotten choked-up at a film in quite some time, so by the end, when I started to tear up just a bit, not only did it make me feel good but it also made me realize how great of a director Eastwood can be if he just plays it light and assured. So many films from Eastwood, especially lately, have all been about him trying too hard to get in the way of the story and because of that, he makes some big mistakes in the process. Some of which, actually cause him to lose control of his whole movie, then that’s where he leaves his actors to pick up the pieces. That is different here as you can tell that Eastwood is not all about getting pigeonholed into another genre flick; instead, he’s more about telling the story from his heart and that’s evident through this compelling, but always-subtle direction.

Even though this film did work for me so well in so many ways, there were other problems I had with this flick that made me take away from my final grade. One of the main elements of this film that bothered me was Maggie’s, trailer-trash family that was so one-dimensional that every time they were on-screen, I couldn’t help but laugh, which was something I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to do in the first place. I get it, they’re a bad bunch of siblings that only care for themselves rather than the down-and-out daughter that’s doing everything she can for them, but every time they showed up (which was usually the most emotional scenes out of the whole film) I couldn’t help but think that the only way to get rid of these stereotypical characters in a good way was to have Eastwood take out a .44 Magnum and blow ’em all away. Obviously, he didn’t feel like doing that this time around but it would have been the best solution to getting rid of these characters and their annoying ways of speaking and acting. Seriously, what a bunch of grateful asses.

Another big element of this film that I couldn’t take in for certain was the champion boxer Maggie ends up facing. Not only is this chick as one-dimensional as Maggie’s familia, but she is also unbelievably ruthless and cruel, to the point of where I don’t really think she would even be allowed to fight in the ring again, let alone, hold the crown for a big bout. Both of these elements may not mean much now, but in hindsight, when they are placed in some real, dramatic scenes, you can’t help but feel like you’re being cheated just a teeny, weeny bit. Hey, I didn’t say Clint was always perfect.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, this guy is pretty stellar (no surprise there) as the notoriously cranky boxing trainer, Frankie Dunn. Eastwood starts the role off with his usual grumpy, old fart character that we usually see him pull-off so well, but by the end, he starts to reveal some dramatic-layers within his acting that I didn’t even know really existed and even though I did, I still haven’t had the privilege to see them in awhile. Of course, we’ve all seen Eastwood pull out some of his dramatic chops every once and awhile, but not as much as we see here and it’s something of total beauty to see because you feel for his old man, mostly cause you know that this guy is a good man. He’s an old fart that yells, cranks, and pisses on everybody, but he’s still a person none the less and should be treated as one for that. Throughout the whole movie, you can tell that he is trying to forgive himself for all of the time he has spent away from his daughter and more on in the ring, but you realize that Maggie is the one last hope of forgiveness for him and for that, you root him on as much as you do for Maggie.

"When you get in there, fuck her shit up."

“When you get in there, mess her shit up.”

And as for Maggie, the gal that’s playing her, Hilary Swank, gives yet again, another top-notch performance of hers as the trailer-trash boxer, but this time; with more layers to a character that could have easily been deemed as “conventional”, “obvious”, and “not worth spending more than 2 hours of your time with”. Maggie is a character that annoyed me at first, considering she seemed like she was just too damn happy and optimistic to be in the boxing atmosphere, to be training, to be getting into shape, and to be trying to make a living off of punching the hell out of people in the face, therefore, made her too much for me at first. But then I thought to myself: who cares!?!? Give me more! Well, that’s what I got and I have to give a lot of credit to Swank for pulling this role off perfectly because not only do we see her for the bad-ass that she can be whenever she’s in the ring, but we also see her as a very sad, lonely, and hopeless little girl that just can’t make right with her family, or her life. Pretty sad stuff, but Swank makes it hopeful with her performance and it was a good choice for Best Actress that year.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention already, but Morgan Freeman is here as Eddie, the washed-up boxer who works/lives at Frankie’s gym. Freeman narrates this movie, and of course, it’s as classy and stylish as ever, but his voice is only used to enhance the story-telling, his performance is a whole, ‘nother thing completely  Freeman is always a solid actor and always gives it his all no matter what the shit-pile may be, but his performance as Eddie is as rich and emotionally-powerful as it’s gotten for him, recently at least. Eddie is a bit of a smarty-pants that may not have the best past for a human-being, ever, but he still is somebody that you love and feel for just because you know that underneath it all, this guy is hurting from the life that he could have had in the ring and for some reason; just never did. Freeman has this one, special scene where he talks about his last match and it’s not only a great scene, but one of the best in Freeman’s career. Underneath all of that narrating he does, it’s still nice to see him pull his acting-chops out every once and awhile and amaze us, as we all know he can do. These three are amazing and keep this film grounded in emotional honesty, and brilliance.

Consensus: This may look like your normal, predictable sports drama that we have all come to know, see, and sometimes love/hate from this genre, but Million Dollar Baby is different than that category most movies get sucked into. With a steady and sturdy direction from Eastwood, characters to care for, emotional-truths behind people we want to hear speak, and a trio of solid performances, it’s better than those types of movies and one that you won’t soon forget, long after you’ve seen it for all that it is.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Didn't know God used to fuck people up in his past.

Didn’t know God used to fuck people up in his past.

Lions for Lambs (2007)

In Tom Cruise, we trust.

Three separate stories somehow find their ways of connecting to one-another the way you wouldn’t expect (or maybe you’re a movie dick, and do expect it). Robert Redford plays a college professor talking to one of his most-promising students (Andrew Garfield) about what he possibly could and could not do for his future; Meryl Streep plays a reporter interviewing a Senator (Tom Cruise) about a new war-plan in the making; and two soldiers (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) get caught behind enemy lines without a hope or prayer in the world.

If a regular, everyday person gets pissed-off about the war and doesn’t agree with the intentions; then most likely, that person goes on throughout their day, keeping their thoughts and ideas to themselves, and occasionally blasting-out all of those thoughts and ideas whenever they get to shot to, either around a group of co-workers, friends, family, or total and complete strangers. Either way, this is the story of the everyday man who has a voice and that’s it. Hollywood stars are like us in the ways that they too have a voice, but they also have money, powerful friends, and in Robert Redford’s case; a camera, a crew, and a script as well. First problem right there.

Regardless as to whether or not you agree with the war, why we are over there, and whether or not it’s a waste of time and lives, you will find something to take out of this movie. There’s plenty of important ideas the movie is willing to spout-out at you that makes you feel like it knows what it’s talking about, and even better, has the best intentions at-hand. However, like with most movies along the same lines of this one, best intentions don’t mean jack-shit if you can’t give me a compelling story, compelling characters, and just an overall, compelling and entertaining piece of cinema for an hour and a half. That’s all I ask, that’s all I want, and that’s all I need to enjoy myself and if I get that, then hell, go to freakin’ town on the idea-spouting! But, if you can’t give me anything that’s the least-bit compelling, nor can you even give me an hour and a half movie time-limit (this runs a cheap-o 88 minutes), then buzz off!

Oh my gosh! It's Brad Pit.....in 30 years.

Oh my gosh! It’s Brad Pit…..in 30 years.

That’s what I felt like saying to Robert Redford by the end of this movie because everything he tells us and lectures us on throughout this whole movie, is nothing more than that: just lectures. If I wanted to be lectured on how the war is bad, how it’s waste of time for our people to be over there, and how politicians continue to make mistakes about it, then I would have either taken a Political Science course, gone to a student-rally, or just went online, and typed in “Why the war is bad”, and thus, there would have been over 6,000,000 results and all for the price of $0. However, when you ask me to go out of my way, drive to the nearest theater-complex, and actually throw out about $9 or $10 for one of these lectures, then you can just forget it. Thank the high heavens I never payed a dime to see this movie, and according to the box-office results for this thing: apparently nobody else did either. Just goes to show you that the typical, American movie-goer wasn’t as dumb as we all thought they were. Then again, they probably went out to see Transformers that weekend so I guess that statement doesn’t hold much truth.

Also, it’s not even like everything this movie is trying to say is anything new, revolutionary, mind-boggling, or original that we haven’t already heard or seen said before. Watching Fahrenheit 9/11 will probably tell you the same exact stuff that this movie is, but instead, with more insight, more humor, more personality, more entertainment, and just more of a “movie-aspect” to the whole product that will actually have you feel like you really made the right decision to see it. This movie, which is not a documentary, just tells you stuff that you have already heard before and doesn’t necessarily break any new-ground. It’s almost like Redford had this movie in his head ever since the war started, and then had to wait an extra 6 years until it was almost too late to where everything he said was relevant.

Though he shows signs of getting older as a director, Robert Redford still has the knack and talent to make himself work as an actor, and I guess that’s worth complimenting when you take the whole movie into place. Redford has a natural charisma to him, that still lies within himself, no matter how old or wrinkly his luscious face gets. The guy’s got charm to him, and it only gets better with age. However, the one who steals the spot-light away from him is Andrew Garfield, in a very early-role of his career as a student that has promise and has the brain to make a difference in this world, but just won’t take the bait on everything that he’s being taught. The kid’s a bit cocky and over-his-head with certain ideas, but Garfield makes it work and shows that it doesn’t matter if you’re up against a veteran actor like Redford, you can still do a helluva job and get your name out there for the whole world to see. I don’t know if that worked with this movie or not, but hey, at least he’s Spider-Man now, so that’s got to account for something.

"Shit. Now I HAVE to be in the movie."

“Shit. Now I HAVE to be in the movie.”

The other story in this movie is with Streep and Cruise, who show that they have good banter between each other, but still feels like some of their weaker-attempts at making a crappy-script work. Cruise is charming as the manipulative, but well-intentioned Senator that has a tough job and knows it, and shows you that he can play slimy, but still make you like him and feel like he’s a good guy, underneath the whole charade of being way too cool for school. On the opposite-end, Streep is okay as the reporter, but it really feels like a role that should have been played by somebody else, like somebody younger, or somebody that isn’t as amazing as an actress as Streep, mainly because we expect more from her. Apparently her character is a little cuckoo for Coco Puff’s, even though it rarely shows when she’s able to keep her cool with the Senator, but that was probably just another attempt at trying to give us character-development from Redford, that just so happened to not work.

The last story is probably the least-interesting out of all of them, and that’s a real shame too because I like Derek Luke and Michael Pena and I feel like they can be really good in certain movies, when they’re given good scripts to assist them. This is not one of those scripts. Basically, all of the scenes we get with them are either they’re talking to a class about their political-beliefs, or they are stranded in a field, injured, and trying to not get killed. We’re supposed to feel bad for them and get a sense that this is like every poor solider that decides to sign-up for the war: but we don’t. It feels manipulative and shallow, as if Redford tried his hardest to take a jab at the military and also humanize it at the same time, but just comes off as forced.

Consensus: Redford’s intentions obviously mean well and aren’t to make everybody out there that he disagree’s with, look like total and complete a-holes, but Lions for Lambs features nothing else other than a bunch of ideas, lectures, and opinions that aren’t new, aren’t special, and don’t really serve any meaning, other than to show you that A-listers really know what’s up with the world. I call bullshit.

3 / 10 = Crapola!! 

Pictured: Propaganda

Pictured: Propaganda

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.”

Gangster Squad (2013)

The most violent game of Cops and Robbers I’ve ever seen played.

Sean Penn plays mob king Mickey Cohen, a ruthless gangster who runs the entire city of Los Angeles, including the cops and politicians under his control. Determined to bring him down is a small, secret task-force spearheaded by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling).

After the Aurora shootings occurred over last Summer, I was pretty bummed to see that this flick would be pushed-back, due to the fact that it actually featured a movie theater shooting itself. It looked like a nice mixture between L.A. Confidential and The Untouchables, with just a dash of present-day, digital-era filmmaking, and to top that, it boosted a pretty solid cast. However, it doesn’t matter when I saw this flick, all that matters is that I did see it and it’s nothing special. Yep, now I’m sort of glad it waited til now.

It’s pretty strange to see that director Ruben Fleischer would actually take this material, considering it’s not really something he has done in the past. This is the same guy who brought us Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less, which are both movies that feature a crap-ton of action and humor, but yet, never made me feel like I was watching the work of a guy that could be the next De Palma or Lumet. I was right. It’s not that Fleischer doesn’t hold his own when it comes to the action, because he definitely does and make it as bloody as can be, it’s more or less that there’s nothing else more to it. It’s pretty cool to see a bunch of crooks get their asses beat to a bloody pulp and watch all of the new, sadistic ways it can happen, but after awhile, it just seems like that is all this flick has going for itself.

Meet me in the paaaaark, it's going down.

Meet me in the paaaaark, it’s going down.

Hell, even at one-point during the movie, somebody actually begs the question, “why?. Why is this violence happening?” Well, the answer to that is simple: Hollywood and making money, baby! I never expected this flick to ever bring-up a point that I was thinking the whole time, and that’s that these police officers are doing just as much dirty work as these crooks are doing, but yet, are being applauded and praised for it, all because they have a gun and a badge. It definitely brings up a great question as to why should they be allowed and who’s right and who’s wrong. However, those points are a little too smart for a movie like this where people get their heads drilled in and eaten by dogs. Both of which, actually happen, and all due to the excitement and glee of it’s audience.

But, that excitement and glee, isn’t all that bad when it’s done right. Yeah, Fleischer really does drop the ball on providing more of a moral important/emphasis on all of the violence and ass-kicking, but for the most part, he keeps things alive and well with just enough action to have us cured for whenever this story feels the need to take a nap, here and there. You get the blood, you get the guns, you get the punches, and you get the explosions. What else could ya ask for? And if there is something else could you ask for, why the hell would you? Seriously, it’s the dead of Winter and if this is the best we are going to get, then hey, I’ll get a piece of popcorn, soda, my nice jammies, sit-down, relax, and freakin’ revel in it. You can’t ask for much else, so you might as well just enjoy it.

If there was a big disappointment with this movie, it’s the fact that the cast is so stacked and so filled to the brim with A-listers that are usually hitters, more than missers, that it’s really disappointing to see them work with a lame-o script like this. Josh Brolin is the leader of the Gangster Squad, and of the movie, if you think about it, and does a serviceable job as a pretty tough-guy that can do his work, wants to do what is right, but yet, go back home to his lovely wife and be the husband that she wants. Brolin is always a likable presence to watch on-screen and even though I felt like this character could have had more done to him to make us feel like we really know him from the inside and out, it’s still a lot more development than anybody else in this damn movie.

Well, him and Ryan Gosling, of course. Gosling is great as the sly, but charming cop that doesn’t even originally plan to be apart of this gang, but actually does and thank the high heavens for that, because the guy not only makes the gang better, but the movie in-return. Gosling just has this look to him that not only makes him the coolest guy in the room, but also the nicest guy, too, and you feel as if no matter what crazy shite gets thrown his way, he will still always end-up doing the right thing. The little “romance” he has with Emma Stone feels like it could have really sparked, like it did so well in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but just doesn’t. Instead, most of their scenes are them just having melodramatic-argument-after-melodramatic-argument, almost to the point of where it doesn’t matter as to whether or not they stay together, because it won’t be for long.

I'd take that drink.

I’d take that drink.

The reason they do argue so much, is because Stone’s character is with Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn in his most entertaining-role in the longest-time. When this movie was originally supposed to come out, I thought that it would give Penn a nice Oscar-push for Supporting Actor since he was playing a person so evil, so malicious, and so bad, that he could have easily gotten a nomination. However, since his flick doesn’t even come close to qualifying and now that I’ve seen it, I can say that he doesn’t even come close, but that’s still not a bad thing. This isn’t as much of an Oscar-caliber performance, as much as it is just a fun performance that seemed like Penn wanted to do for the longest-time, just so he could get away from the heavier stuff in his career. Is it perfect? No, not really, because the guy is still over-the-top and cartoonish, but at least he is always entertaining to watch and that was more than I could really say about him, when he was impersonating another famous figure; Robert Smith. Yeah, I guess people want to forget about that movie now.

The rest of the cast has a bunch of big names that have all been amazing in the past, and hell, maybe even the past year, but yet, aren’t given all that much to do. Nick Nolte is absolutely wasted as the head of the L.A. police department and shows up for about 10 minutes, tells Brolin what to do, and sounds like he’s still looking for that lung after all of these years. He’s alright, but damn, is it a weak role for an actor that always gives 110%, with everything he’s given. The rest of the Gangster Squad features the likes of Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, and Robert Patrick, all of which do their best with what they can but in the end, sort of feel like they should have been given a lot more to do. Especially Mackie, of all people, who really feels like he should have been a big star by now, he just hasn’t found the right juices to get it flowing.

Consensus: Though it is nothing more than a movie about bad guys and good guys facing-off, against one another, Gangster Squad is still a bunch of fun that has a retro-vibe and feel, even if it feels like it should be more with the load of talent it has in-front of and behind the camera.

6.5/10=Rental!!

"Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!"

“Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!”

End of Watch (2012)

Honestly, after seeing Training Day, I will never be able to trust a cop.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two Los Angeles police officers as they patrol the city’s meanest streets of south central Los Angeles. One day, however, they stumble upon a discover that makes them two-wanted men, that puts both of their careers and lives at stake.

Writer/director David Ayer has taken his stabs at the police-force with his past two efforts (Harsh Times, Street Kings) but now, seems like he’s making up for all of that with a flick that could almost come off as a police-recruitment video in a way. Sounds crazy, especially since cops aren’t as handsome as the two leading-men here, but if one dude who’s thinking about what to do for his life, stumbles upon this, the police-force will be able to say they have another in uniform.

But as preachy and heavy-handed as I make that sound, that is not something Ayer is all about with this flick. In fact, as hard as it may try to win points over with the police-crowd out there, the film is still more about the characters, rather than exactly about what they do. This is the study of two guys, who love each other, love their work, and most importantly, love doing what they’re sent out there to do, and that’s to save people’s lives whenever they get a call. This may sound hokey and uninteresting but Ayers actually brings a lot of depth to the story, that at times, may surprise you by how far it goes with itself. You feel for these characters and their surroundings and every time they get a call about something bad going down on the radio, you automatically get worried and you fear for these guys because you have become so attached to them over the whole course of the movie.

Building up an emotional-level for these characters is something that Ayer does very well, but when he’s building that up, he’s also building up a great deal of suspense that caught me by surprise. Granted, people going into this film will probably be a bit disappointed by how there isn’t as much action as the trailers may suggest, but with a story like this, it doesn’t really matter because everything else that’s going on is so strong. However, when they do focus on the action of the movie, it’s exciting, thrilling, and very unpredictable as you have no clue what’s going to happen to these guys or when they’re going bite the bullet. This is definitely what kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat and had me into this story when all of this other crap would seem to almost take me out of it.

The crap that I’m talking about, is when it seems like Ayer feels the need to constantly weave-in and out of the “found-footage” aspect of this movie. I will say one thing about this movie going in, I was not looking really forward to it because of this aspect and I’m glad that it wasn’t like this the whole time but seriously: either do it the whole time, or don’t do it at all! Even when they do abandon this format, the camera is constantly shaking and breaking all-over-the-place and it made me feel like I was still watching a found-footage movie, except with the camera actually being stuck in a blender. This bothered the hell out of me and I wish Ayer just stuck it straight to the original format of filming a movie, because he had strong enough material to make it work in the first-place.

Then, of course, there’s the typical cop-movie conventions that always seem to plague movies like this. Of course, we got the burnt-out cop, the rookie cop, and the usual crooks that seem like they come right out of another movie. That statement, right there is not a good thing because even though those two other conventions are here, at least they seem grounded in-reality, as opposed to these cartoonish bad-guys that had me laughing my ass off every time they showed-up. First of all, I thought it was dumb how they actually had them film their own murders and crimes, which seemed to come out of nowhere and in this film for no other reason than to just go along with the format they already established in the first-frames. Then, of course, they seem to come out of nowhere in certain scenes where they seem so pissed off about these two cops going from house-to-house and finding out about all of these murders and drugs. It seemed really random for these two cops to eventually get tracked-down by this gang considering there are large-portions where these gangs aren’t even shown, let alone discussed. Seriously, does every gang-member say “fuck” every 2 seconds in their sentences? Especially those Latino ones?

Despite these bitty problems, the real reason why this film works so damn well is because of the work given by it’s two leads: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. These guys, from start-to-finish, display a pitch-perfect chemistry that is probably one of the best I have seen in quite some time. Granted, not many buddy-cop movies actually have their whole story revolve around the two cops, and actually show them inter-acting with one another on a daily-basis, but this film shows that and accomplishes at showing us how close these guys are. It’s not just the film that does this, though, Jake and Michael both do perfect jobs just messing around with each other, teaching each other life lessons, and even working really hard together on some life-or-death situations. Also, it needs to be added that these guys don’t really have a bad-bone in their body either, but also have a lot of problems in their lives to where you believe them not just as movie cops, but as real cops in general. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here but you really do believe in these guys, and it makes every conversation they have together is as interesting and entertaining as the one that came before it. I would be terribly surprised if I found out that these guys weren’t best buddies in real-life because there’s just something between these two that really does seem like it went on, and off-screen for them. Please, no Brokeback Mountain jokes there, either.

Consensus: Even though End of Watch suffers when it feels the need to stay within the conventions of your usual cop-drama, it still benefits from the amazing chemistry between the two leads, that make these characters more interesting, more entertaining to watch, and two people that we want to see live on at the end of the story.

7.5/10=Rental!!

World Trade Center (2006)

Surprised that I didn’t hear about Lee Harvey Oswald in here at all.

This follows the true story of the heroic survival and rescue of two Port Authority policemen – Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Officer William J Jimeno (Michael Pena) – who were trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, after they went in to help people escape.

Back in 2006, when this was first coming, people had two reservations about it at first: 1. Is 5 years too soon? and 2. What the hell is Oliver Stone going to do with this material? To be honest, these reservations were both very reasonable and understood at the time because people were (and still are) grieving over their lost ones from that fateful day and Stone has always been known to get pretty crazy and paranoid about the topics he covers. But thankfully, nothing ever really goes down the wrong path here. I mean that too, nothing.

The best part about Stone’s direction here is that he doesn’t pull any punches with this touchy story. That means there’s no conspiracy theories about who was behind the Bush administration at the time or who was actually behind the attacks themselves, but instead just gives us a true story of courage and the man’s will to fight for survival no matter what the obstacles may be standing in their way. Sounds like something that is very out of the ordinary for Stone to direct but he doesn’t lose his mind with this material and keeps everything grounded to where this becomes one of those inspirational stories you would expect it to be.

Going into a film about this certain subject, you have to expect your heartstrings to be tugged at a bit and even though they do, it doesn’t feel manipulative. Simply put, this is Stone’s way of showing us how two policeman, fought for their lives just to stay alive, tell the story of it all, and go on back home to their wife and kids. It’s one of those sappy stories that we always see and hear about but it isn’t used in that same context here. It feels real, it feels genuine, and it feels like something that Stone really does rightfully care about and feel for. Weird to think that this is the same dude who was out there showing Mickey and Mallory shooting people’s heads off, would also be one of the first people to pay tribute to the men and women that died on 9/11.

But aside from being very genuine and true to it’s emotions and who it’s trying to give love towards, there’s not much else here that’s really eventful or groundbreaking in terms of story-telling which makes it a bit more tedious in a way. This is a story about real human-beings being in real-life situation/catastrophe, but maybe there should have been more excitement, more tension, more, I don’t know, more suspense as to know what’s going to happen. I wasn’t asking for a fast-paced action movie that took place in New York during 9/11, but I was just waiting for something to really pull me in fully and keep my eyes glued but instead I just found myself and my mind going into other places. I have no idea but it just did and maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t in the most perfect mood to watch this.

The movie looks great with plenty of detail and attention going towards how New York looked like during and after the Towers fell. It was really neat to see how realistic everything looked as you could almost feel the same pandemonium as everybody else did there but there could have been more of that. There was this really cool sequence where Stone gathers real-life footage from people checking out what happened on 9/11 from all over the world and it’s a sequence that shows you the kind of impact this even had on the world, not just our own country. This showed me that Stone maybe played it a little too safe in just focusing on this little story of two men, and could have gone a bit bigger by focusing on the environment surrounding them and how everybody felt during this time but I guess Stone didn’t want to go too far because then he would have had to start bringing out the conspiracy theories, and then things would have gotten bad for this movie.

Oh, another reservation some people may have had about this film beforehand may have also been that Nicolas Cage was in the lead role as Sergeant John McLoughlin, but no need to fear people, he’s actually pretty good here. I think it would be pretty hard for Cage to screw up a role like this, considering he barely moves and just stays underneath a huge piece of rubble the whole film, but the guy does well with it and reminds us that he can still handle roles like these. The one who really gets away with this flick is Michael Peña as Officer William J Jimeno, showing a sweet innocence to him that makes us sympathize with this character even more because all he shows is love and sweetness to everyone around him even before this happened. Both are good and work very well together, as well as everybody else in this cast, but those New York accents got to be a bit too much for me at points. I get it, everybody in this movie is practically from New York or somewhere near there so they have to have an accent but do they really need to be this deep? It get’s distracting at times, but you’ll start to forget about that once you start to see all of the notable faces that Stone has pop-up on the screen. It’s sort of like a really fun game of “Hey, remember me?”.

Consensus: World Trade Center is a rare example of Oliver Stone playing it really, really safe which has it’s positives and negatives, but mostly shows us the true story of two brave Americans that did whatever they could do stay alive in a time and place like New York City during 9/11.

7/10=Rental!!

The Good Doctor (2012)

Will Turner is one creepy mofo.

Martin Blake is an ambitious, good-looking, and smart doctor that just wants to be respected. Problem is, he’s got a bit of a dark side to him that starts to come out once he tries keeping an attractive patient Diane (Riley Keough) in longer than she should be.

Whenever you’re sick, hurt, or close to dying, you always count on the doctor to save your life and if he can’t, do the best to his ability to do so. This is what’s expected of a doctor no matter where they are and whatever circumstance they’re under. But what happens when that doctor happens to be one sick piece of shit that does the exact opposite of what’s expected? Well, that’s where Mr. Turner walks in and make sure you never go to a hospital ever again. And you thought healthcare was bad!

It seems like this film could easily be classified as a thriller, or even a type of horror flick, but deep down inside, underneath all of the weirdness to it, there’s a dark comedy that comes out very surprisingly. One of the main reasons why this film seems a bit like a dark comedy is because all of the bad and terrible shit Blake can, and sometimes does do, he gets congratulated by it from all of his clueless co-workers and a lot of the scenes come off more ironic than scary. To be honest, despite all of the dark source material, I actually found myself chuckling a bit at points but I’m not going to get too ahead of myself because even as darkly humorous as this can be, it’s heart is a dark nail-biter, and it does pretty well with that element, too.

Perhaps the most interesting and tense aspect of this whole flick is that there is always a sense that all of this terribly evil shit that Blake is doing, will soon get himself caught. You feel that a lot throughout this film and it could get pretty suspenseful at times, as soon as this character starts to act more and more shady about his on-goings. It’s a nice piece of suspense that works but suddenly something happens half-way through the film and then it’s just sort of lost.

Without giving too much away, the story gets side-tracked with Michael Pena’s character who starts to bribe Blake over something and even though that could have been considered a nice touch for this story to go on and be more tense, it sort of just feels like a bit of drag. It’s almost like the writer/director Lance Daly ran out of things to do with his story, so he just added another one in there and see what could happen with it and even though that story in and of itself creates some tension and suspense, it still does not hit that mark to where it felt necessary and reasonable, especially when you have a story that starts off so dark as this. At least we get a lovable and fun Pena to watch. That’s always a treat no matter what movie you’re watching.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect behind this whole flick is having Orlando Bloom play a very rare, dramatic role as Martin Blake. It’s been awhile since the last time I saw Bloom in a film at all and I think with good reason. The guy has never really been a stand-out actor and just always seemed to be in the background for Johnny Depp when he wanted to do his Keith Richards impersonation, so he could look pretty and kiss the prettier Keira Knightley at the end of the day. But, I think with this role as Blake, he may change some perceptions on him because he’s actually pretty good here. I think what makes Bloom stand-out so well in this film is that the guy is very, very subtle in his own creepy way. We never really get a huge scene where the guy has secretly had some dude locked up in his basement for the past 5 years, torturing him, and doing dirty things to him. No, instead, we get a somewhat weird guy that doesn’t really do the right thing throughout the whole film but yet, you still watch him the entire time. It’s a nice performance from Bloom considering this guy shows some range and depth into a character we couldn’t care less for, but it’s also a character I would have liked to see more about.

The problem with the treatment that they give Blake here is that we never really get an essence as to why this guy is, the way he is. Why does this dude want to illegally keep this girl under his watchful eye? Why is he sitting in his room every night just staring at the wall? Why does he just gaze at the beach for days on end for no reason? Why is that never explained? Why do I care so much considering the character is being played by freakin’ Orlando Bloom? Honestly, I feel like this film could have benefited from more of a compelling character to spice things up and really get us going, but I think Bloom makes this character a lot better just by doing his thing. Whatever that thing may be, I’m still waiting to see but I think it’s so far, so good.

Consensus: With an exceptional performance from Orlando Bloom and a great deal of suspense and dark humor, The Good Doctor does it’s job at getting us to feel uneasy, but doesn’t go the full-mile and seems a bit stretched out beyond it’s limits by the last act or so.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Everything Must Go (2011)

Ron Burgundy really does love Scotch.

The story revolves around Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell), a career salesman who gets fired, for falling off the wagon one last time. He returns home to discover his wife has left him, kicked him out of his own house and dumped all his possessions out on the front yard. Faced with his life imploding, Nick puts it all on the line – or more properly, on the lawn – reluctantly holding a yard sale that becomes a unique strategy for survival.

Anybody coming into this film expecting, yet another, yuckfest from Ferrell will probably be let-down right off the bat. However, if you’re going into this expecting another Stranger Than Fiction, you will probably get what you want, without the Emma Thompson narration.

This is a very impressive debut from Dan Rush because he initially takes a simple story of a guy, who is down-on-his luck and suffering from alcoholism, and gives it a fresh and lighter approach to make this story more interesting. I don’t want to go out there and say this is a comedy per se, but there are quite a bunch of humorous moments that work and bring a light feel to this film even when it steps into darker territory. This darker territory worked though because you actually feel for Nick and all of the problems that he’s going through, so when you see him getting the temptation of getting a drink, you can’t help but feel scared for the guy and hope that he doesn’t do what you think he’s about to do. Rush does a very good job at actually making us care for this character and his life, even though, deep down inside, he is a very sad and lonely man that can’t really be cured of his problems unless he cures himself.

Where the film really got me at was how Rush makes this story a lot more touching than I actually expected. The whole theme with this story is about how we are all lonely people in this world, and we somehow need to connect with others in order to feel less lonely. It’s a very real theme and one that works well for this movie’s subject matter, but what really had me going were some of the scenes that Rush puts in here that work and make you feel something. One scene in particular is when Nick goes to visit an old girlfriend, played by the stunning Laura Dern, and the whole scene is on for about 2 minutes but it’s the most touching and realistic scene of the whole flick that makes you realize; “maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all”. Really nice touch by Rush and also, especially by Dern.

The film does have its problems though, especially when it came to its metaphors. I knew exactly what the film was going for and what it was trying to say, but sometimes this flick does hit us over the head a little too much with what it’s trying to throw at us. Scenes like when Nick is walking past a Quick Mart and keeps on staring at it, wanting a beer, or when his old boss leaves him a drink in the bathroom of a place and he’s there, contemplating on whether or not to drink it. Some of those scenes were pretty obvious and bothered me but thankfully, they aren’t all there. Also, the pacing can be a little slow and actually reminded me a bit of The Descendants, where I felt like the film started up, then slowed down, then started up, then slowed down, and continued to do the same thing for the whole time-limit. A little bothersome but when you think about the whole product, it’s pretty minor.

Most people will probably realize that this isn’t Will Ferrell playing his usual “Frank the Tank” roles and may even consider this stunt casting, but it’s so much better than that. Ferrell has the charisma in his acting to give such a dark character, more likability than he has any right to be. The character he’s playing, Nick, can be very mean, very drunk, and very sad but Ferrell is able to bring a lot of humanity and heart out of this guy without ever over-doing it. In fact, the moments where his character is barely saying anything, are still powerful just because Ferrell is able to convey so many emotions just by sitting there and looking lonely. Very subtle and very strong performance from Mr. Burgundy.

The rest of the cast that surrounds him is also pretty damn good such as Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie’s son) playing a young kid that decides to help Nick with his Yard Sale/life; Rebecca Hall as a pregnant, but lonely, housewife who misses her hubby; and the always reliable, Michael Peña as Nick’s sponsor. It’s a small cast but a very effective one at that.

Consensus: People expecting another Will Ferrell laugh-out-loud comedy will probably be disappointed, but anyone who wants a sad, but inspirational story, featuring plenty of touching moments and good performances from the cast, will probably feel happy with the final product they have here with Everything Must Go.

8/10=Matinee!!

Tower Heist (2011)

Donald Trump better watch his men extra close now.

When a group of workers at a ritzy Manhattan condo realize their boss has swindled them out of their pensions, they vow to reap their own justice. With the cooperation of the building manager, the group devises an ingenious plot to recover the funds.

When I first heard of this film and saw the trailer, I thought it was going to be good because it had the return of Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy. But then I thought about it, and I realized it was the return to form of Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy I was talking about but this is certainly nothing like the pieces of shit they have turned out recently.

This is basically the concept of the “Ocean’s” films but with a sloppier cast of characters and a high-rise building in Manhattan but it’s not all that much different. The film is very funny and had me laughing a lot but there are also other times when the film gets a little bit serious about getting back at the ones who have made your lives miserable. In some sense the film feels a bit uneven because of this but regardless I still had a fun time laughing my ass off as what all these characters were saying.

The film doesn’t seem like it would be original or new in any kind of way, but it actually is a bit original which provided a lot of enjoyment for me. I love heists, and I love comedies when they are done right so when they put these two together for this film, everything just felt right. I liked how they had all of these buffoons who had no idea really how to rob or steal anything, so basically the whole film just shows you exactly how real people would act if they were put into these types of situations that go from bad to worse to sometimes perfectly executed. It’s a whole lot of fun to see this and it was definitely more original than another “heist/plan gone wrong” film ‘Horrible Bosses‘.

I think the real fault of this film is that it did so well in keeping me laughing as well on the edge of my seat the whole time, that the film sort of starts to fall away from the comedy and be more about the heist itself. It may seem weird that I had a problem with this because I was still enjoying myself, but I still thought that they could have done a little laugh here and there, but instead just totally focused on the action and heist at hand. However, I was very surprised by how well Ratner did with the action and kept the film moving at a fun pace that never really stops to just sit and get emotional.

Eddie Murphy is not the best part of the film as Sly, but he is one of the better parts because he is just so funny here and almost makes you forget about all of the dumb-ass family films he’s done in the past decade. I was glad to see Murphy go back to his old-school roots and finally be that snappy-ass, crazy, and always funny black dude that you don’t wanna mess with because he’s always too smart and too cool. Murphy made me laugh every time he was on screen and I thought this was a perfect choice as Sly and hopefully he continues to do cool stuff like this.

The reason he may not be the best is because I don’t think the film used him as much as I was expecting. In the first act, he shows up only a couple times, then he totally takes over the second act with every line he says, but then by the end of the film, his character’s resolution is just sort of just left there and almost like he was forgotten about, considering he was probably the most memorable out of the whole cast. This was a shame but I still will say that Murphy owns this role and every chance he gets with it.

The rest of the cast is hilarious and all of them do well. Ben Stiller is good as the usual average Joe, named Josh; Michael Peña fills a lot of comedy when Murphy isn’t around, and he does it well like I expected; Matthew Broderick is maybe the 2nd funniest by how random the things that his character says, and how almost everything he says has nothing to do with the heist really; and Casey Affleck is surprisingly very funny as well as Charlie, but I still can’t get over Ben. Alan Alda is the man in this role as Arthur Shaw, and he’s almost too likable to actually hate him. However, Alda is so good at playing villainous roles that he can make the worst son-of-a-bitch seem just a tad bit charming. The girls in this film are also good with Téa Leoni playing the FBI agent, who has a hilarious drunk scene with Stiller; and Gabourey Sidibe is also funny with her Jamaican accent that seems fake, but still had me laughing just because her character is so damn funny.

Consensus: Tower Heist may seem a bit uneven, but it still has a very fun feel to it with goofy comedy, fun performances from the whole entire cast, especially Eddie Murphy, and a story that actually entertains with some very funny moments.

7/10=Rental!!

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

This film really did make California look like a crap hole.

Tasked with defending rich lothario Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), who’s been charged with assault, lawyer Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) finds himself and his family in danger when he deduces the truth behind this and former cases he’s worked on.

This is based off the 2005 crime best-seller, that I still have not read, but after seeing this, I don’t really think I need to read it.

There’s not nothing new here that we haven’t seen before. The plot plays out like you would expect a courtroom drama to play out, and almost everything that happens seems like it came from some other film of this nature. However, that’s not always a bad thing.

Director Brad Furman keeps this film going at a slick and quick pace. He keeps us interested in this plot because he films this so tightly, that we actually do start to wonder, what exactly is going to happen next. The screenplay written by John Romano goes well with Furman’s direction, because a lot of the twists and turns that this story takes here, actually seem believable and not put on. I love old-style courtroom thrillers, and this brought me back to the good old days of when you could just sit back, and watch a crime be solved right in front of  your eyes.

My main complaint with this film is that I didn’t like how this was shot. Furman uses a very dirty look that was trying to show California in a crap way, but instead just seemed dumb and intentional to show how much of a crap hole it can look like. It looks gritty for the sake of looking gritty and this just seemed put-on.

I think Mick Haller is the perfect role for Matthew McConaughey, and he actually pulls it off real well. It’s been awhile since McConaughey has actually head-lined a “good” film, probably because he’s been too busy with those shitty romantic comedies, but this role was a good reminder as to why he doesn’t always have to do them. He’s smug and cocky but at the same time, determined to get his job done in any way possible. McConaughey does a wonderful and believable job as Haller, and has me hoping he’ll continue to take roles like this in the future. The rest of the supporting cast is awesome. Ryan Phillipe is very evil and vindictive as Louis Roulet, who as time goes on, becomes a very, very bad kid. Marisa Tomei also pops up and does a good job as Maggie, and let’s not forget William H. Macy who is always a sight to see, and is not different here as Frank. The rest of this great cast is filled with the likes of John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Josh Lucas, and Frances Fisher.

Consensus: The Lincoln Lawyer doesn’t offer anything new to the courtroom thriller genre, but a well-paced story, with interesting mystery, and great acting from the cast, keep this somewhat predictable film, entertaining enough.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Observe and Report (2009)

Paul Blart, in other words, your a total bitch.

Rent-a-cop Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) is tasked with keeping the peace at the Forest Ridge Mall, but when a flasher strikes, Ronnie has no gun — and no power to stop the exhibitionist. A rivalry ensues when the police send in Det. Harrison (Ray Liotta) to crack the case. Can Ronnie bring the flasher to justice before the well-armed Harrison does? Also, Anna Faris stars as Brandi, Ronnie’s main love, that he tries to protect.

I remember back in Easter of last year when I was going to go and give this film a try, howveer, one thing lead to another and I just didn’t and watched as all these reviews saying how bad it was come out, and then I just lost interest. So, I was going into this with nothing in mind, other than a bangin’ review from Aiden.

I have never given director Jody Hill‘s other film, The Foot Fist Way, a try. I never really have had any connection with Jody Hill, but just to see this film as dark, and brutal as it was made this a crazy ass trip.

The jokes in this film are dark, and pretty agressive, while trying not to forget disturbing, but somehow they all work. In my opinion comedy should have no borders, and that is what this film does, streches those borders, but to much avail. There are plenty of crazy scenes such as watching these mall cops, go shoot heroin, and snort cocaine, then beat up a bunch of 13-year old skateborders. All of this was pretty nuckin’ futs, but it wasn’t like I was offended by it all, cause I was too busy laughing.

Excuse me my fellow readers, but I need to apologize for this next paragraph, for it is mostly a rant on other people talking about this film, rather than the film itself. The thing that pisses me off so hella bad is this whole date rape argument, some people are totally offended while others don’t give it a second thought. I believe comedy should have no borders, if you say it’s not OK to make fun of one thing, then how dare you make a joke about something else. People are makeing it sound like the big thing here is that they crack a joke at date rape, yet nobody bats an eye when you see Seth Rogan’s mom falling down drunk, and nobody gave two shits when they see Ronnie snort a line of cocaine, and then go beat up several teenagers. So why freak out on a joke that is like 5 seconds long. I understand for some women this is a horrifying reality, and I understand, and I feel for you, yet in that same fact I don’t think they should take that scene out. Anyone who sees this film and says that it was rape is crazy. Sometimes, people just don’ understand what a film is trying to do.

The best thing teh film has going for it is indeed Seth Rogen, who plays Ronnie Barnhardt. Ronnie is bi-polar, and at first the movie starts out as showing him, as this pathetic delusional person, that thinks that his job is so sweet, he acts like he can beat every mofo on the planet. He plays out like a 21st Century Rupert Pupkin, or Travis Bickle for that matter. Just like both of them, we feel sorry for this guy and can’t take him seriously, that is until he starts messin’ shit up, and then we just love every moment with him on the screen, cause he is that guy we want to watch beat some ass.

Seth Rogen balances his brute of a character with equal amounts of both violent and at times sweet tendencies. Ronnie is just the big lovable fuck up. He is the kind of guy you can’t stay mad at. He is extreamly violent, yet he can be extreamly gentle and caring, as in the way we see him put a blanket over his mother who is passed out on the floor, while whispering “Love you mom”. The other people from the cast are great too: Michael Peña as Rogen’s side-kick (nice to see a departure from all his dramatic movies), Ray Liotta as that son-of-a-bitch cop we all know him for, and the funniest of all, Anna Faris who plays that dumb-girl role, like no other.

The reason I’m giving the film the rating I’am is cause this is not a film that is for every one. It is dirty, raunchy, disturbing, and mean, which will probably make you hate it, if you have a good heart. But the film for me was hilarious, and also very successful with making us love the tragic character, Ronnie, and all the crazy shit he does.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

Sorry for that one rant folks. I’ll cut it down to two-sentenceas next time.