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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 Rapaport

Chuck (2017)

Rocky who? Oh yeah, that guy.

Chuck Wepner (Liev Schrieber), for quite some time, had the life that any person would have wanted to live. He was an accomplished boxer, kicked a lot of people’s assess, had a wonderful wife (Elizabeth Moss), good kids, loyal friends and family, respect, a cool nickname (“the Bayonne Bleeder”), and oh yeah, went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali. In fact, he was so well-known that, believe it or not, Sylvester Stallone actually used his life and career as the inspiration for Rocky – a fact that, for a very long time, Chuck would continue to let everyone know about, regardless of if they asked or not. But after awhile, Chuck began to get too big of britches and, to go along with his insane drug-habit, he couldn’t stop screwing around with all the wrong people, other women included. Eventually, he loses his job, his wife, his legacy, and oh yeah, his family. So where does he go from there?

No really, where does he go from there?

Uh oh. Chucky go some ‘asplainin’ to do!

See, Chuck was advertised heavily as “the story of the guy who inspired the story of Rocky“, as if any of that really matters. It’s like when John Carter came out and the advertisements were all saying, “the story that inspired Star Wars and Avatar“, once again, as if any of that matters. Because even though the story may have inspired another one, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the adaptation of said story, isn’t conventional, or formulaic.

After all, we didn’t get Chuck before Rocky. The other way around, in fact. So because of that, Chuck comes off a bit like a run-of-the-mill, stationary biopic that hits all of the same beats and rhythymns that Rocky hit, but also feels a little overdone. Because instead of feeling like a movie, of its time, like Rocky did, Chuck goes the extra mile to put us in the place of the 70’s, where coke was everywhere, disco was constantly playing, and people dressed-up so super fly.

Does it kind of work?

Yeah.

It’s hard to have an issue with a movie that makes the energy and glitz of the 70’s so fun and infectious; if anything, it’s nice that they were able to get it all down so perfectly, without feeling like they were trying way too hard to recreate a period of time that they obviously didn’t have the budget for. Director Philippe Falardeau, while no doubt a very serious French director, also seems to be enjoying himself here, not allowing for the material to get too dark or serious, but just to the point where it matters. But for the most part, he’s having a good time and relishing in the period-setting and the details that all went along with it.

Does that help take away from the fact that Chuck is a little conventional and, well, as a result, slight? Not really. But it makes what could have been a very boring movie, turn out a lot more fun and entertaining. It’s still a formulaic boxing movie, about an underdog who had his shot at the big time, accomplished it, and then lost it all due to awful life decisions, but it’s an entertaining one, at that. So yeah, it helps.

All about the hair.

And yeah, it also helps that the ensemble is quite good here and clearly able to keep up with the times.

Liev Schreiber is perfect casting as Wepner, because he not just looks the role, but feels it. There’s something lovable about him, but also makes you realize that he’s a bit of flawed asshole who you can’t always trust, especially not with your wallet or wife, but can always still love, when the end of the day comes around. And that’s what matters for a story like this, about a guy like this, who definitely didn’t make perfect decisions, but was a good time to be around. He had his moment in the spotlight, made it last, and did what he could to keep the party going? Granted, he forgot about his wife, kids, bank-account, and plenty other responsibilities, but hey, who am I to judge?

Either way, Schreiber’s great in the role that he was, essentially, born to play. Everyone else is good from Elizabeth Moss as his annoyed, but strong wife, to Jim Gaffigan in a pretty silly role. But everyone’s good here; even the bit role with Naomi Watts, while feeling a little self-serving, still works because, believe it or not, her and Schreiber do have good chemistry.

See, not every couple has to have their own Gigli.

Maybe that’s why they’re broken-up now. Ugh. True love doesn’t last, people. So love the one you’re with and try to make it last.

That’s the moral of Chuck, right?

Consensus: Formulaic and run-of-the-mill, Chuck is a boxing-drama that doesn’t really break any new ground, but is fun, light, and well-acted enough to get by the conventions that usually keep movies down like this.

6.5 / 10

“Guys. Who’s Sly?”

Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films

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Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)

For the last time: Yes, you can kick it.

A Tribe Called Quest were a hip-hop/jazz-fusion group in the late-80’s/early-90’s who didn’t necessarily tear it up on the charts, but were respected enough that they’re legacy long lasted anyone or anything that may have been #1 at the time. Over the course of eight years, they released five albums – almost of all of which are near-masterpieces and considered to have changed the game of rap – went on tour, made plenty of money, and began to build bigger and bigger names for themselves. After all, Q-Tip, Phife, Jarobi, and Ali were just a bunch of kids from New York, looking to do something with their lives and music was the clear way. However, after plenty of inner-group tension and fighting, the band eventually went their separate ways, with plenty of bad blood felt between certain members. Obviously, every member would go on to do their own thing and poo-poo an idea of a reunion ever occurring, until, well, they do actually reunite, get back on-tour, start performing, and, believe it or not, teasing a soon-to-be-released sixth album. It seemed like everything was going great for A Tribe Called Quest again, but sometimes, old wounds stay open.

Somebody must have not gotten the memo about the hats.

Somebody must have not gotten the memo about the hats.

A Tribe Called Quest is probably the most important hip-hop group in all of the game of rap. While a lot of people will probably fight me to the ends of the Earth about that – to which I say, “bring it on” – the fact remains that A Tribe Called Quest created this innovative sound that was, in a way, their own. They were this nice hybrid of jazz, rock, rap, alternative, funk, and blues that wasn’t heard before, or hasn’t really been heard of since and it’s a shame, too, because so much rap nowadays could benefit from that. Don’t get me wrong, the rap game is still alive and well in today’s day and age, but still, there’s that slight feeling that it’s missing the same tenacity and style that A Tribe Called Quest had.

Even if you don’t like rap, they’re still a band that you have to at least respect; for doing what they did in the rap-world, at a time when it seemed like people were still belting out “Hammer time!“. They were slowly, but surely changing the way most of us listened to hip-hop and while you may not say that they’re absolute “originators”, they still did so much with the term “hip-hop”, went above and beyond it, and well, made a respectable name for themselves. You can’t despise hip-hop as much as you’d like, that’s up to you, but you’ve got to hand it to A Tribe Called Quest.

Hence why they’re documentary is still pretty great, even if it doesn’t quite reach the genius of the band themselves.

Michael Michael Rapaport, aside from being a pretty solid actor, seems very much at-home with his directorial debut here and it’s an interesting one. Clearly he has a love and affinity for the band and in that case, probably wouldn’t want to go too far and push these guy’s buttons, especially when there’s plenty of buttons to in fact push, but nope, he goes to the extra limits to see just what is on these guys’ minds and how they feel about certain other members of the band. Sure, he gets down to the nitty and the gritty of how the band started and all sorts of other lovely insights into how some of their most iconic sounds and raps were created/originated from, but he also goes the extra mile in seeing just what makes them all tick, whether it’s ticking in a good way, or bad way.

For a lot of people, they still don’t have the slightest idea why the band did originally break-up and exactly why there’s bad blood between anyone in the first place. What Rapaport shows is that, between Q-Tip and Phife, there was plenty of anger and resentment, however, it’s not always like that. After all, they’re not just band-mates, but buddies that love the same thing in music and work perfectly off of one another. Say what you will about musicians having a sort of God-complex – which Q-Tip definitely has – they have the ammunition to change a lot of people’s minds and worlds, which is why when Q-Tip and Phife were together, and on, they could have changed the world around them.

Of course, they did seem to fight an awful lot, too, so maybe changing the world’s a bit of a pipe dream.

Spin the black circle, Q-Tip.

Spin that black circle, Q-Tip!

But still, the movie shows that there’s not just a beautiful creative-process to the guys, but a real heart and soul to what makes them live and want to create music. Rapaport gets some of the deepest, darkest secrets from these guys, but it never seems exploitative; as a fan, you can sense that he’s so interested in just what the hell happened with these guys and how they’re still touring, even if, you know, there’s still some anger between them. He isn’t asking as a journalist, or gossip columnist, per se, but more as an admirer of fan boy, which sort of makes me wish the movie featured him just a tad more than it actually did. Then again, it’s not his story, so it makes sense why we don’t get a lot of him in the first place.

After all, it’s A Tribe Called Quest’s story and it’s a story worth listening and seeing, regardless of if you’re already a fan in the first place or not. It definitely helps if you’re a fan to begin with, as some of their more pointed moments are talked about at great lengths and it’s quite salivating, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Like the band’s music, the documentary is made for anyone to listen to watch, enjoy and take a little something out of. If you come away liking the band a whole lot more than you did, or taking on a newfound love of them, then good.

Just know that they were one of the greatest hip-hop acts to ever take the mic, which makes Phife Dawg’s passing all the more tragic.

RIP Phife. You’re always on point.

Consensus: Regardless of if you’re already a fan of A Tribe Called Quest or not, Beats Rhymes & Life will do a lot inform you about the band, as well as give you an inside scoop on some of the band’s inner-turmoils and dramas, without ever overdoing it, but instead, always appearing as a tribute to the one-of-a-kind act.

8.5 / 10

Did somebody forget to tie their shoes?

Did somebody forget to tie their shoes?

Photos Courtesy of: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

Small Time Crooks (2000)

Cookies are usually on my mind when I’m smokin’ stuff, not robbing vaults. That’s just me though.

Ray Winkler (Woody Allen) is an ex-con who has big dreams and an inability to hold down dish-washing jobs. His next plan in life is an inspired one: Rob a bank with his buddies. However, the main problem with robbing the bank is Ray being able to get it past his wife (Tracey Ullman)’s head. Even when he does, thinks don’t go so according to plan and that’s for better, and for worse.

That short synopsis up there may not seem like much, but trust me, once you see this flick and realize that I didn’t give away half of what happens in the second-half, the better for ya and the more thanks to me. See, the trailers and advertisements for this movie will have you think that it’s about Woody Allen, and all of his clowning-buddies, trying to hash together a plan to rob a bank, but being the buffoons that they are, just can’t get it to work. For the first 30 minutes or so, that’s exactly how it plays out in typical, Allen fashion. It’s fun, goofy, zany, witty, and very classy in the way that it’s just having a joyous time with itself and not worrying about going anywhere deeper than just a regular, heist movie.

Then something changes.

Without giving away too much of what goes down in this flick, especially in the latter-parts, I will say that it is the usual, kind of Allen we are used to seeing and loving so much, but much more important in the way it talks about it’s subject matter and the characters it usually points a funny finger at. For instance, all of the people that we are surrounded by in the latter-act are a bunch of richy-riches that act as if their shit don’t stank, don’t have a worry in the world because they can just get their butler or maid to do whatever they need done, and are totally absorbed in being fine, fancy, and loaded with cash. Allen makes fun of this but also brings up an important idea of how we all get absorbed when we have money, but yet, not everything about us gets affected, right?

It's a Woody Allen film, what did you think? There wasn't going to be any shots of New York?

It’s a Woody Allen film, what did you think? There wasn’t going to be any nostalgic shots of New York?

It never goes anywhere deeper than that, which is probably one of Allen’s main faults with this movie, but that’s fine because the way Allen makes jokes and satirizes this life-style really made me laugh, as well as feel as if I was seeing real people, actually be affected by all of the money they have for themselves. Some people get wrapped-up in it all; some just stay the same. Some people like to see a fine opera on their Saturday night; some like to stay at home, hang out with their buddies, slug a couple of brews, eat chips, eat pizza, play some cards, and bet some moolah. Some people like to venture out to Europe to see what the life out there is all about; some are just content with staying home and enjoying all that’s around them, without having to jump aboard a plane.

Yes, if I was given $5 million, most likely, I would be going a tad bit insane with it all, just throwing it away and acting like I didn’t have to worry about bankruptcy, losing it, or wasting it at all, but would I change? That’s what I thought about with this movie and it’s always a testament to Allen’s fine writing as to how he is able to give us something more to think about then what we are seeing, even if he is still hitting the notes on making us laugh and have a good time. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is still hilarious and will make you chuckle more times than you can imagine, but the way that Allen is able to incorporate more general-thoughts, is what really stands-out with this flick, and sort of stands-out from everything else that he’s done. Allen is a very hit-or-miss director nowadays, but thankfully, it’s safe to say that this is a sure-hit for him. He’s creepy and all, but at least he makes good movies.

Regardless of who he prefers to go to bed with, Woody Allen is still a talented mofo, and a very likeable one at that. His performance here as Ray, the down-and-out con who just wants to re-live his glory days, is actually very surprising to see from him. No, don’t get me wrong, Allen still plays up his whole blubbering, frantic-phase that we all see and hopefully love from the guy, but not matter what, he stays lovable, easy-to-relate-to, and very believable as the type of guy that would actually be feigning at the knees to pull-off another heist. Allen never seemed like the bad-boy type to me, and I’m pretty sure everybody else feels the same way, but he will surprise you here by how much he’ll change your opinion on that as soon as it’s time for him to act. He’s still goofy, but he’s very smart too, and it’s never annoying.

The one who really steals the spot-light from Woody, just so happens to be Tracey Ullman as his wife, Frenchy. Ullman is really playing-up her New York, Jewish-look and accent but it works so well for this character because she’s so quirky, so funny, and so obvious at times, that you can’t help but like her in the way that she wants to be rich and accepted. The fights between her and Allen feel real because they never really escalate to the point of near-death, but actually just keep you laughing because they feel like two people that are just getting tired of each other’s shit, even if they know that they love each other in the end. Allen and Ullman on their own, are hilarious, but when they’re together; they’re freaking dynamite!

Still shocked that he isn't on the front-paper.

Still shocked that he isn’t in today’s head-lines.

Elaine May plays Frenchy’s sister, May, who is definitely not the brightest bulb of the bunch, but definitely charmed the hell out of this character. Not only is she hilarious at playing a total ditz, but she also has a sweet and sympathetic-look to her that isn’t all about playing dumb to be cute, but more or less just a lonely girl, that gets discouraged because she is stupid. Yeah, maybe I am looking into it just a tad much, but that doesn’t mean that the motivations for that character aren’t there and shows that there are at least more to her than we may presume. Nice job on both May and Allen for that side-addition. Everybody in this cast is pretty good, but most of them do feel underused. People like Jon Lovitz, Tony Darrow, and Michael Rapaport are all good for what they do, but also get thrown to the side once Hugh Grant shows his beautiful, British-self into the mix. Those damn Brits! Always stealing our screen-time, even in Woody Allen movies!

Consensus: The shift in narration may change some viewer’s opinions about Small Time Crooks, but nonetheless, still shows Woody Allen in top, comedic-form as a guy that loves playing around with conventions, characters, and humor that we all think we’ve seen before, but with a couple of surprises along the way.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"It's so artful."

“It’s so artful.”

Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

I never pay prostitutes to have brains. Just enough low self-esteem that they’d consider to be with me.

Lenny (Woody Allen) and Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) are in love and want to start a family. However, Lenny’s not quite ready for that yet so they decide to adopt a child named Max. A couple of years go by, Lenny is feeling neglected from Amanda, but is always there for Max and surprised by how smart and knowing he is. That intrigues Lenny so much that he starts to begin a search, behind Amanda’s back, for Max’s birth-mother and finds out that she’s a porn star/prostitute named Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Lenny is obviously shocked by this result but he doesn’t let it get to him, and tries to change her so that she can meet-up to his vision and leave the life that she’s been living, despite it being the only way she can manage a steady-income. While Lenny is off being a counselor of sorts, Amanda’s off on her own having her own sort of affairs, main which being one with her art-gallery owner (Peter Weller).

An “okay” Woody Allen movie, is better than no Woody Allen movie. That’s all there is to say about the man, especially since he churns out a movie every year, gets an even-more stacked-cast than before, and continues to find more and more interesting ideas for his stories, and how to tell them. They don’t always work, but it’s always nice to see the guy back on the big-screen, no matter how regular or average the film he’s working with may be. Although some may definitely disagree with me on this: Yes, Mighty Aphrodite is average and regular.

Mighty1

“32 years younger? Good enough for me.”

As usual, what I always like about Woody’s flicks is that the guy has a keen sense of humor, no matter how dark or grim the subject-matter may be. Which is weird considering how the movie starts off light and straight-forward with him and his girl adopting a kid. It feels like a film that’s a bit too innocent and sweet, especially coming from the finger-prints of Woody Allen himself. Thankfully, once the movie goes about 20 minutes into itself, we are then introduced to a whole other story-line that makes the film any bit of being memorable. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Ms. Mira Sorvino herself as the screechy-voiced prostitute herself, Linda Ash.

See, I can’t go on and on any further without mentioning her right off the bat because she makes this movie. Sure, Woody’s good, his writing is inspired, and everybody else in the cast has their bright and shiny moments, but it’s this woman who takes this movie, brings it up by the grips of her hands, and never lets go of it, even when she isn’t on-screen. Her presence is always felt in this movie, and that’s a good thing because she keeps it hilarious and fun, while also giving it it’s right amount of heart and sympathy as well. Of course this is Mira’s best performance, not only because she won the Oscar for this, but because she hasn’t really done much after this. And hell, even the stuff that she did do with her career, was nowhere near as challenging or as exciting as this role.

She’s given the hard task of taking a character that would be easily considered “annoying” and “bothersome” by about the first 10 seconds of screen-time that we spend with her fine-ass, but surprisingly, the girl keeps her rompy, to where it’s almost like a whole person herself. Easily, without a doubt, she could have been played-up for just a bunch of laughs as if she was more of a caricature that we usually see in these types of flicks that concern a low-bit, NYC hooker, but the combination of Woody’s sharp-writing and Sorvino’s general likability, is what keeps this character more than just a cliché. She actually has a heart and soul that you feel for, not because she’s way too in over-her-head with certain things, but because she actually does plan on being a person that makes a difference in someone’s life, even if it does concern still hooking around and whatnot. Sorvino’s so good here, in fact, that knowing that she hasn’t really done much with her career ever since, makes it all the more better because it’s the snap-shot of brilliance that comes every once and awhile.

Did that hype the performance up enough for ya?

"So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?"

“So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?”

As I said though, saying that she’s the best part of this movie isn’t too discredit any other aspect of this movie that makes it work. It’s a joint-effort and more than likely, the flick works. Woody’s always been, and probably forever will be, a welcome-presence of the big screen, even if it is a bit odd to see a 60-year-old man, adopt and raise a child as if it was the most casual act of kindness on the entire face of the planet. Others are good too, especially the highly-underrated Michael Rapaport, who plays a boxer at a gym that Lenny cons into going out on a date with Linda and has the under-lining, good-boy sweetness to him that allows you to get past the fact that he’s a total idiot. Then again though, she is too and watching them together is probably the high-lights of the movie. In fact, those scenes are so good, as sparse as they may be, I probably wouldn’t have minded seeing one whole flick just surrounding them and their blossoming relationship. Now that would be a Woody Allen flick I’d be very excited to see, but probably may never, ever get.

The ones in this cast who I don’t think worked were very small problems here and there. I like F. Murray Abraham in just about everything he does, and is even good here, but the whole act that his legion of cult-singers narrate the story and tell us what’s lingering at the end of it, as if it were a Greek, modern-tragedy, got old and only took steam out of the flick. Also, it served as a pitch perfect example of what it’s like when Woody can get a little too up his own ass and seem a bit pretentious. And before I go and forget to mention it, Peter Weller, as snarling and oozy as he may be, feels like he’s here more than nothing else to be a dick, and nothing but. Come on, Woody! You can do better than that!

Consensus: Whenever Mira Sorvino isn’t on the screen at all, Mighty Aphrodite isn’t as sharp or as entertaining, but when she is around, for us to set our eyes on, she’s fun, exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt, in only the type of way an Oscar-winning performance could be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, I'm going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career."

“One day, I’m going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career.”

The Heat (2013)

Be careful, Rex Reed. This “hippo” can shoot to kill.

Stuck-up, by-the-books FBI agent Sara Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is a bit of a hard fire to put out. She doesn’t work well with others; is a bit egotistical; and acts as if she knows everything that there is to do, how to do it and when. She’s just that good, and she knows it, however, that’s what also gets her ass transferred over to the Boston district, where she joins forces with tough-as-nails detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy). They’re obvious opposites in every stretch of the imagination, but as we all know how the saying goes: opposites do attract. And not in that type of way, either. Although it would have been pretty sexy to see these two lock lips, if only for a small bit.

Right from the beginning of the movie and hell, even before I stepped into the theater; I expected what was to be another Identity Thief. Not just because Melissa McCarthy happened to be in both movies, but because it just had all of the same rings and tones to it, except this time, with Sandra Bullock added to the mix. It was a welcome addition, I guess for the most part, but after the lackluster year of comedy that we’ve gotten so far for the year 2013, save This is the End, I was not expecting greatness nor anything recommendable for that matter. I just wanted to get the movie on with so I could go home, feed my dog, get on the computer, write some reviews, and begin to watch more movies.

Sorry, Sandra. Try all you want, but your hotness will never, ever distract my chubby-chasing ways.

Sorry, Sandra. Try all you want, but your hotness will never, ever distract my chubby-chasing ways.

But something happened. Something miraculous, you could even say because, believe it or not, I actually had a great time with this flick. And no, I did not get greatness, but I did get something recommendable so count this as your letter of recommendation already. If you want to leave, then go for it, but continue on if you’d like.

Die hard DTMMR fans, you still out there? Cool, let’s do it!

Everything I just typed up top in that description of the plot and what’s supposed to eventually happen, is nothing new or original that we haven’t seen done 100x before. However, the movie knows that and doesn’t pull any punches in knowing that either. It presents all of the clichés, conventions and obvious routes we can expect to see from a buddy-cop comedy, but give us a meaner, harder edge that isn’t all about female-empowerment and showing how chicks can do just as much justice as the guys can, but that they can still have a bunch of fun, make you laugh and also give you something to smile about on the way home. That is, until you actually get home and reality hits you in the face. Yup, only until then, does the smile go away. But, for the whole hour-and-a-half of this movie, you’ll be smiling and laughing like the dickens and that’s more than enough that I can say for most of the comedies I’ve been seeing as of late (don’t save The Internship).

Hell, it may have been a lot longer than just 90 minutes, but that didn’t bother me because I found myself laughing just as much as I did with Bridesmaids, a comedy that I thought was underrated-as-hell, but still entertaining and funny for what it was, and not what it could have been. Just like that movie, this is a comedy that knows what it is, what’s it about and isn’t trying to win any Oscars, or any tears from your eye-sockets; it’s just being funny and allowing you to have a good time. That’s what all comedies are about and even if they don’t have a hidden, underlining-meaning, then it shouldn’t really matter. As long as the movie is making you laugh and entertaining the heck out of you, then that’s all there is to it.

As I always say: nothing more, nothing less. That’s all you need, baby.

Okay, maybe I don’t always say that, but I feel as if I should be starting with that sometime soon.

And obviously, you can see where the Bridesmaids-comparisons come in because not only is this by the same director (Paul Feig), but also stars the same lady that stole the show in that one; Melissa McCarthy. Like I alluded to earlier, Identity Thief sucked beyond belief. It wasn’t funny, tried so hard to be and squandered most of the talents of everybody involved, except for McCarthy. Granted, the chick wasn’t that funny in that movie, and I think that more or less has to be a problem with the script and not her, but still; she had me realize that maybe she’s more than just the loud, rather rotund woman in all of these comedies that got by on her big mouth and her love for sticking it to the people with penises (aka, men). There was actually more to her act, as if there was a real human-being that I could connect with on some levels and feel something, anything for.

They got the whooooleeee movieee in their hands....

They got the whooooleeee movieee in their hands….

The character she plays here, Mullins, isn’t that deep or emotional, but some moments of that act still shine through, especially when she isn’t cursing and yelling at every one, while also being able to make us laugh our asses. You can tell that so much of what she does or says, is mostly improv and it hits a lot more, than it actually misses and that’s something you so rarely see in a comedy, or in the comedienne nonetheless. McCarthy sure as hell is talented and brings out the best in the material as well as her co-star, as hard of a task as that may have been to complete.

Sandra Bullock is very hot-and-cold for me. Sometimes, I think she can be very funny, as well as a strong, female-presence on screen, like we all need in our lives; but at other times, she can be really annoying and feels like she’s trying too hard to rip laughs out of our bodies. It’s more of the latter than the former, which is why I was a bit skeptical seeing what she could do with McCarthy and for the most part, the gal holds her own and keeps it just as funny on her end of the bargain, as much as it is on McCarthy’s. Together, they have a great chemistry that develops overtime and one that you actually believe in, despite them both two totally different people. It’s corny and obvious when they do decide to put away their expectations and start to become friendly with one another, but with their inspired-chemistry, it almost feels like anything but. The rest of the cast is good, but it’s these two who really keep this ball rolling, no matter how obvious side streets it decides to go down.

Consensus: Despite The Heat featuring an overly-familiar plot you can see coming from a mile away, Bullock and McCarthy’s chemistry and comedic-timing is working so well, you almost forget about all of the problems from direction, to editing it has.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'll accept that invitation, just as long as that one on the right's involved too. Just saying.

I’ll accept that invitation, just as long as that one on the right’s involved too. Just saying.

Special (2005)

If you were a superhero that had a budget to go by, wouldn’t you be a bit sad too?

Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) is having problems with his emotions, his self-esteem, and the way he acts. Therefore, he begins to take these new pills for a scientific experiment in hopes that they will improve his life-style, but his way-of-thinking as well. However, thinks start to go weird for Les as he starts to realize that maybe there’s more to these pills than he initially expected.

Superhero films, no matter who the superhero is or what the superpower may be, are usually always fun and exciting to watch. Even the shittiest-superhero movies are at least entertaining to watch, especially around the Summer time when nobody gives a shit about what they see, but just want to get away from the hot sun, and chill out in a beautifully, air-conditioned movie theater. But what happens when it isn’t the Summa, Summa, Summatime anymo, and you expect some quality to your movies, let alone ones that involve superheroes? Also, what about those little superhero films, that are just waiting to get loved and noticed by everybody? What happens to them? Well, they get put on Netflix Instant streaming and watched by d-bags like me. Hey, may not sound like much but it’s sure as hell better than nothing.

Writing/directing-team Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore obviously have an intriguing story on their hands and start it off pretty well by showing us just how a person like Les would respond to the type of superpowers he ends up receiving with the consumption of these mysterious pills. Most people would have no idea what the hell is going on, while others would probably think of this as their time to shine, go out there, do good for the rest of the world, fight crime, and try their hardest to save others, from whatever danger may be lurking around the corner for them. This is obviously the road that Les goes down and for the most part, it’s pretty entertaining because you don’t know where this story is going to end up and you don’t exactly know what Les is going to do next. I liked that unpredictable-nature of this story but sadly, it went away real, real soon.

Fuck you, David Blaine. This shit is real!

Fuck you, David Blaine. This shit is real!

With a micro-budget like the one that have at their disposal here, Haberman and Passmore are able to do some lively and innovative things with the plot and the special-effects, but the plot itself suffers from that considering it’s tone is all over the place. At first, it starts off as a comedy where this lovable goof goes out trying to be a superhero and fight evil, but then it turns right into a dark drama that seems to do the same things over and over again. This wouldn’t have bothered me so much because I feel like this certain type of story needed a dark side to it, but the film gets very, very dark and almost a little too depressing for my liking. But it didn’t really feel like it had any reason to be that way in the first place. Yeah, this dude Les is a guy that’s easily picked on and made a fool of, but it’s never to the point of where I felt as if he’s going to go and jump-off of a bridge for that reason, nor did I feel like he was the type of dude that needed a new-direction in his life, as severe or life-changing as this. He’s just a little sad guy: that’s all. That’s why I had no clue why this flick continued to shove down our throats how sad and self-wallowing his life is.

Even at a lean, but not-so mean 82 minutes, the film does seem like it drags in certain parts which sucked even worse, mostly because I was totally on-board for this flick right from the start. There were some moments in this film that really touched me (like when Les and that girl from the market actually have a conversation), but they are only sprinkled throughout, as if they were the only parts of heart this flick had to offer, and the writers/directors decided to throw them in when they found it was necessary. Also, I know that the film was made with such a small budget that they couldn’t do as much as maybe Joss Whedon or Christopher Nolan has been able to do in the past, but I still feel like there could have been more action and violence to convey the sense of reality that Les found himself out of so much. It also would have been more exciting than just watching Les run away every time something bad would happen, because that’s all that he ever did.

I'm assuming this is supposed to be all a metaphor for Viagra? I assume.

I’m assuming this is supposed to be all a metaphor for Viagra? I assume.

The only real reason why I have to give this film any sort of recommendation is because of Michael Rapaport’s awesome lead performance as Les Franken. Rapaport has always been that one guy who stands-out in big ensembles like Cop Land or True Romance, but he’s never really been given his shot to just shine and strut his own stuff. Thankfully, he is given that shot here and nails it by making you feel something for this schlub of a guy. There’s a lot of goofy things going on with Les but you never once feel like he’s going to hurt anybody on-purpose or do it to anybody that doesn’t deserve it already. He’s just a regular guy that’s finally getting tired of putting up with all of the shit he suffers on a regular-basis from all of the people around him. Great performance from Rapaport and I honestly think that if the script and direction knew what to do with him here, he would have gotten noticed more and hopefully be moving his way up the ranks more and more. Also, be on the lookout for a very young Josh Peck as a nerdy stoner. Probably a better performance here, than the one he had in that shit-pile known as Red Dawn. Just saying.

Consensus: Special is nothing all that special (gedd it?) because of its constantly-shifting tone and micro-budget that keeps it away from doing anything miraculous, but at the center of it all, still has a great and dedicated rare lead performance from Michael Rapaport, that is worth seeing if you’ve always liked this guy in the random shite he shows up in.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Do cuts and bruises really look that convenient? You know, REAL ones?

Do cuts and bruises really look that convenient? You know, REAL ones?

Big Fan (2009)

We don’t have fans like this in Philly…..

Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a hardcore New York Giants football fan, struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.

What’s pretty surprising about this film right from the get-go, is that this isn’t your ordinary sports film. You know, the big sports epics that are based on true under-dog stories with inspirational themes pouring out of its screenplay. Nope, this is not one of those movies and that’s what probably works most in its advantage.

This is the directorial debut of writer Robert D. Siegel and proves that he can find a great balance between humor and some very dark drama. The one thing that Siegel does here is act as if this film is going to be one lovable loser pic about how this one dude loves his sports team so much that he just can’t hold his excitement, and that there will be laughs a plenty here. In reality though, this film gets very, very dark at points and you honestly have no idea what Siegel is going to pull out next. You never know what these characters will do next because you never know where their heads are at and it honestly seems like this guy could take these characters anywhere. Some of this stuff is funny because it perfectly captures what it’s like to be a die-hard sports fan but then it is also very depressing for that same fact too because we realize just how lonely some of these people can actually be underneath all of the know-it-all stats from last week’s game.

The problem with a lot of this is that I feel like the film takes a huge nose-dive into some pretty grim material that it’s almost too much of a switcheroo from early before. The film doesn’t have the lightest tone you would expect in the beginning, but by about the last act it gets pretty damn dark to where you think that there is going to be some straight-up murders going on around here. Then again, don’t want to give too much away but I just want to say that it may turn off plenty of viewers where this film does try to go with itself.

Patton Oswalt shocked the hell out of me with his perfect performance in Young Adult and his performance here as Paul is pretty much the same thing around, except a little less of the comedy aspect. This guy is one funny guy, which he gets to show at some parts here, but for the rest of the flick, it’s all up to him to basically show what it’s really like to be a total loner that can’t miss a single game of his favorite team. You feel sorry for this dude Paul because you know he’s a genuinely nice dude, but he just gets stuck up at the wrong place, at the wrong time and Oswalt pulls it off pretty well. Yeah, he sort of reminds you a bit of a Travis Bickle-type by the end of the movie, but that gives you a lot more reason to care for him and root him on as he’s going through this crisis of his.

Even though Siegel really writes Paul as a very three-dimensional character, everybody else just seems like caricatures and this is what also sort of bothered me about the flick. I get that Paul’s family is supposed to be full of asshole and morons just to make him look good, but they really shoot low for these characters as if they were in some really crummy sitcom. A Certain character like Paul’s best friend, played by Kevin Corrigan has a certain dimension to him because we see him hang out with Paul and express how he feels about certain things, where half of these morons just do something completely stupid after another just to show Paul how to live. This came off to me as sloppy writing and I can give credit to Siegel for making an interesting plot go on longer and longer, but I have to say that his way of actually having us care for Paul was rather cheap considering how everyone else is so poorly written.

Consensus: Big Fan isn’t your regular sports flick that many are used to seeing, but it features a very darkly comedic feel with a great performance from Patton Oswalt. It gets a little too dark by the end but it’s also one that works by just being different and at least interesting.

6.5/10=Rental!!

True Romance (1993)

Don’t eff with the comic book nerds.

The film tells the story of a novice prostitute Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) and the adventure with her lover, comic book store clerk Clarence Worley (Christian Slater). When Clarence kills Alabama’s pimp (Gary Oldman), the newlyweds ride off into the sunset — with $5 million worth of cocaine in a suitcase and the police and the mob on their trail.

Since director Tony Scott is in such a slump nowadays, I honestly think he should just go back to having Tarantino write his scripts because he gave him two of the best films of his career. Aside from ‘Crimson Tide’, this is the other one.

The real selling point of this flick is that it’s written by Tarantino himself, and as everybody already knows, this guy is a freakin’ original genius. Tarantino is able to take any situation and make it go from normal to completley insane in about a matter of 5 seconds and it will give you this bad-ass feeling that you could not expect. The story is a pretty familiar but there are people getting killed at every second that you wouldn’t expect, twists and turns, random pop-culture references that somehow fit into the story, and just a whole bunch of other cool moments in this flick that make it ten times more the awesome thrill ride that it is known as today.

My complaint with this script is that even though it is by Tarantino, this is definitely not his best work by any means. Yes, he does get to use all of his trade-marks like funny one-liners, pop-culture references, and tense stand-offs but for some reason it’s not as edgy as you would expect. There was just something that felt like it should have really hit me harder and stuck with me more but instead it just ended up entertaining me and left me with a pretty happy mood. I don’t think Tarantino had full control over his story and that’s why the story may come off as a little more lame than his usual stuff, but it still at least works in a rather medium way.

Director Tony Scott also adds a bunch of fun to this flick by giving it this straight-forward, energetic thrill ride that isn’t filmed with that annoying shaky-came he can’t ever seem to get his hands off of nowadays. Scott is a good director when he’s got good source material, which he definitely has here, and even though it’s not drenched in style like you would expect from him, it still has a fast-paced to it that keeps the story going and the bullets flying.

However, what really had me going for this flick was its whole ensemble cast that is filled with just about every star from the early 90’s. Christian Slater is pretty good as Clarence, a guy that may seem a little strange but after awhile you start to believe and actually hope he comes out of all of this shit alive. Patricia Arquette is also a lot of fun to watch as Alabama, and you can totally feel like this one girl could actually fall in love with this type of dude. Their romance is something you actually care about because we spend enough time to see them together, and to see them be happy with one another so that when they go on this road trip and their lives are in danger, we care not only about them but their relationship as well. Sounds pretty sappy, I know, but it’s something that surprisingly worked here.

The rest of the cast is freakin’ great too, considering that just about every big star this flick had to show is in here for about 5-10 minutes each but totally kick-ass for the time they have. Dennis Hopper is great here as Clarence’s dad, in a non-psychotic role; Val Kilmer is here as “The King” but is still funny and cool, considering we barely see him; Gary Oldman is hilarious and menacing as Drexl, the white boy pimp with dreadlocks; Brad Pitt is also here as our pot-smoking friend, Floyd, and probably one of the best performances of his career, and I am willing to go toe-to-toe with whoever thinks otherwise; and Christopher Walken shows up for about 7 minutes but gives the film’s best scene where its just him and Hopper talking shit to one another and once again, it’s always Walken who steals the show at the end of the day and I can’t say that I expected anything else. Aside from these peeps I already mentioned there are plenty of other familiar faces here such as Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport, and Bronson Pinchot among others. Basically, it’s one of the better casts for a flick that I’ve seen and they all do excellent jobs with what they are given.

Consensus: It may not be Tarantino’s best script ever written, but it still has a great energy to it, with crazy performances from the ensemble cast, and some really kick-ass moments that make this film a fun watch if not as good as you would expect from these Scott and Tarantino working together.

8/10=Matinee!!

Beautiful Girls (1996)

Being snowed in makes me all warm and fuzzy, except I wouldn’t want that feeling all year round.

Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) returns to the small town he left behind as erstwhile friends, lovers and the scary thought of settling down swirl around him. A friend’s unapproachable cousin (Uma Thurman) and the winsome teenager next door (Natalie Portman) couldn’t be more different, but they afford glimpses of two possible futures.

Those “small-town” films have always been a favorite of mine since I like to feel like I’m right there with the story, and this one did not disappoint.

The script here by Scott Rosenberg is what really has this film clickin’. Rosenberg does a great job of expressing the insecurity’s that men have, and the sexual politics between men and women. Us men, we can sometimes be horny mofo’s and not always do the brightest things, and this film shows that it’s alright because that’s how life is. There is also plenty of comedy to go along here that won’t have you laughing-out-loud, but it will at least give you this breezy feeling throughout the whole film.

Most of the problem with this film that people will actually have is that not much happens here. The whole film is basically conversational, and nothing eventful really goes down and some will be bored by this, but I actually didn’t mind it because they gave us things interesting and witty to talk about.

However, my problem with this film is that it does get schmaltzy at times which sort of took away from the whole cool feel that this film gave me. I didn’t mind the little emotional scenes they had, but I think they were unnecessary especially with that cheesy score they had pop in every once and awhile. Also, I wish there was more viewpoints from the gals here too, but I can’t lie, I still liked what I heard from both sides.

The ensemble cast is good-looking, but don’t let that actually fool you because their all so good. Timothy Hutton is good as Willie and handles the film really well bringing in that coolio charm, and actual “realistic-guy” feel to him. I don’t know if that made any sense but the point I’m trying to make is that he’s a cool dude. Matt Dillon, Noah Emmerich, and my favorite no matter what he does, Michael Rapaport, all do great jobs as the other dudes here. Martha Plimpton, Mira Sorvino, and Lauren Holly are good too. But my favorites out of this cast are from three gals actually. Rosie O’Donnell has a totally hilarious scene here where she talk’s about dudes and our sexual fantasies, and it’s all so true, but the way she puts everything just made me crack up the whole time. Uma Thurman is also awesome as the really cool chick named Andera, who really made me wish I had here as a “fake date” when I needed one the most. But the best performance from the whole cast is Natalie Portman, who at 13, took this little role, and made it so memorable. Her character, Marty, is really quirky and Portman does a great job at bringing out that quirkiness within her character, and make almost every scene she has hilarious but also very interesting. This was a star-making role for her, and with good reason because she’s awesome in this role.

Consensus: Nothing much really happens here other than a bunch of conversations, but Beautiful Girls’ script is so good, that it kind of makes up for that, with it’s themes about men and women, and performances from a great cast, especially Natalie Portman.

7/10=Rental!!

Higher Learning (1995)

If this is what college is like, well I better start taking boxing lessons.

College is a battleground in the hands of writer-director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood). As several students make their way through school, they find themselves traversing a minefield of race and sexuality. The stellar cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Jennifer Connelly and Michael Rapaport.

Higher Learning is a very underrated film for many reasons. One of the major reasons is the fact that it’s directed by John Singleton, who everybody considers a one-hit wonder, because of Boyz N the Hood. That is all bull-crap, because he does a good job here as well.

One of the best things about this film is that it’s script really is amazing. Singleton does a good job at combining all these little, inter-twining stories, that each show conflict in every way. There are always problems with sex, race, and heritage, everywhere we go, and we are shown that it can always lead onto something more serious than we originally think it will. Racism is never a good thing, and through this we see how both whites, and blacks, criticize one another, and how that leads onto more serious consequences.

The problem with this film is that Singleton’s direction kind of gets distracted by the middle, and you can see that he doesn’t know what to do with all of this story-telling in one movie. He has a strong message, no doubt about that, but he doesn’t know how to deliver it. He steps into way too much melo-drama, that seems misplaced, and handles bigger issues than he should be. I will admit, he keeps the film interesting, but there are parts in this film that just had my head turned sideways, and too cliche.

I did like Singleton’s style however. He’s a very energetic director in this film, and there are some nice shots that show emotion, like how dark this world can be. The campus he filmed this on seems so real, and adds a lot to the realism this film was going for, especially when you got all these young adults running around, drinking, having sex, and causing havoc.

The performances here are actually quite good. Omar Epps never shines away from being stunning at all. Ice Cube is good with what he does, but doesn’t show up enough, and literally is gone for about 30-minutes of this film, which is odd considering he has top-billing. Laurence Fishburne is very good here as Professor Phipps, and the character is very smart, witty, and true to himself, and Fishburne handles that pretty well. Kristy Swanson is good here, as the shy, naive school-girl, that just wants peace, and Jennifer Connelly kind of got annoying after awhile. She would show up at random times, and then we had no idea why her character was there in the first place. My favorite performance of the whole film was Michael Rapaport, who does a great, and strong job at playing this weird, lonely, and out-of-place dude, that soon follows in with the Neo-Nazis, and you see how he transforms into something more. Every time he’s on screen, you can feel the tension, and presence within him, and it sucks that he doesn’t get much of a credit in today’s world, cause he knocks this one out of the park.

Consensus: It has its flaws, and problems, but Higher Learning has a great message, that is shown with its terrific script job, and acted so well, that you almost forget your watching a fictionalized film.

7/10=Rental!!