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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 Rooker

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Take a sick day next time.

An ordinary day at the office becomes a horrific quest for survival when 80 employees at the Belko Corp. in Bogotá, Colombia, learn that they are pawns in a deadly game. It all happens when, out of nowhere, a weird, sinister voice comes over the PA system, letting them all know that they are trapped inside their building and that two workers must be killed within 30 minutes. Two die and the employees think that’s all there is to it. Little do they know that plenty more will have to be killed in order for the voice to stop doing what it’s doing and let the workers go. And for some workers (John Gallagher Jr.), this is fine, because they have a conscience and don’t want people to die. But for others (Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley), they know that the only way to come out of this thing alive is to make the weakest suffer and die off first. Ask questions later. After awhile, it just becomes a free-for-all where no one knows who’s going to live, die, or hell, even what the end game is here.

That look you make when you’re absolutely tired of all the damn memo’s.

The Belko Experiment seems to be going for some sort of message about the current day workforce, or hell, even the government in and of itself. After all, the movie is set in Colombia, where an American corporation is held, dealing with certain issues that never become made clear to us. Is the movie trying to say that foreign relations with the States is so bad, that everyone associated with them is eventually going to become killers? Or, is it trying to say that the workforce, in and of itself, is already so vicious in the first place, that eventually, everyone in it is just going to start killing one another to be the best, literally and metaphorically speaking?

I honestly don’t know. But probably not.

See, the Belko Experiment isn’t a very smart movie that wants to get itself all bogged down in certain stuff like politics, or hell, even ideas. It just wants to kill, give us a lot of gore, and make certain office-items into weapons. A part of that can be fun to watch, but here’s the issue with the Belko Experiment: It’s just not all that fun to begin with.

In a way, it’s actually pretty depressing and dare I say it, disturbing. But honestly not in the way that it intends; writer James Gunn seems to be clearly going for some sort of darkly comedic-edge, where heads are splattered and limbs are exposed, but for some reason, there’s still a smirk on everybody’s faces by the end of the killing. However, that doesn’t quite translate here at all. The Belko Experiment is a drop dead serious movie, which could still allow for the premise to fully work, but it never seems as convinced of its own darkness, that it allows itself to go there.

It’s always just moving along, steadily and surely, but is it easy to care? Not really.

What a courageous guy. Too bad that he’ll probably have to kill her later.

And yeah, that’s what it ultimately comes down to with the Belko Experiment – it’s hard to ever really care. Sure, watching seemingly normal, everyday people go to work and be threatened with meaningless, senseless death is upsetting to begin with, but the movie’s character-development is, well, lacking. For the first ten minutes or so, we get to know a little bit about the main players of the story, but mostly, they all just come down to types, so that when things do start to go awry and characters begin to make rash, downright questionable decisions, none of it really connects, or translates.

Take a movie like It Comes at Night that, in a way, is a horror movie, but not really. That one deals with the day-to-day horror of real life human beings, being shoved the brink of madness and having to act out in heinous ways that they’ll soon regret, but did for the greater good of themselves and the ones that they love. While the Belko Experiment never tries to reach for the same heights that that movie did, it still seems to touch on the same issues of normal people, having to act out in disgusting ways, to save their asses. The difference is that It Comes at Night made us understand and believe these decisions, where the Belko Experiment seems to just, well, give us conventional types, expect us to buy them, and watch as they hack one another off.

When in reality, who cares?

Consensus: The Belko Experiment flirts with being darkly fun, but also gets a little too wrapped-up in being too sinister and mean-spirited to be as exciting as it wants to be.

5 / 10

Conservatives, or just deranged dicks? You be the judge.

Photos Courtesy of: VarietyIndieWire

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

American

After the events of the original brought them all together, the Guardians of the Galaxy are back to doing what they do best: Ehrm, guard the, uhm, galaxy. Right? Anyway, things aren’t so different this time around with everyone – Quill (Chris Pratt) still loves himself and thinks everyone else does too; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) still can’t stand him, even though, deep down inside, she wants to maul him like a bear; Drax (Dave Bautista) is still saying uncomfortable things; Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is, well, still being Groot, but just a baby; and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), when he isn’t getting on everyone’s nerves, seems to be trying his hardest to prove himself as the best of the group. Basically, they’re still a rag-tag group of n’er do’wells who understand what they were put together to do, and while they don’t always get along, they like causing all sorts of havoc. And they get to do that, again, when they come face-to-face with a mysterious man named Ego (Kurt Russell) who, better yet, also happens to be Quill’s daddy. But yeah, there’s something off about him that just doesn’t sit right with the group and threatens to ruin them, as well as the galaxy, forever.

They’re Groot.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was, honestly, one of the better Marvel movies to have come out in some time, for many reasons. One, it was just weird and so different, that yeah, it worked. It wasn’t trying to be like all of the other Marvel movies, it wasn’t trying to tie-in to anything, or anyone else, and it sure as hell wasn’t setting itself aside to make you feel pleased and as if you are a part of the joke. It was its own beast that, despite actually being a product of a huge, overly-budgeted conglomerate, felt like a bad-ass, smart, witty, and self-aware monster that wasn’t afraid to tell you where to shove it.

And some of that, unfortunately, seems to be gone with Vol. 2, however, it’s not nearly as soulless as you may think.

But such is the case with most big-budget, blockbuster sequels, everything that worked so well and felt fresh in the first, sadly, gets overdone here a bit too much. The humor, while still definitely funny, also feels like it hits some lame notes and is just forced for the sake of being humor; the character-stuff, while appreciated, often times feels meandering and as if it’s not deep enough as it likes to be; the plot, while simple and understandable in the first, sort of seems to be overly complicated and covered in exposition that, once again, doesn’t seem to go anywhere, or do much of anything; and oh yeah, the run-time. At a little under two-and-a-half-hours, Vol. 2 does feel long and it shouldn’t – it’s the kind of movie that should constantly zing and zag along, proving to be the most perfect diversion for anyone looking for some sort of action-adventure, pseudo-superhero fun.

And while it sort of is, the movie’s also very long and feels like there’s almost too much going on, without a clear end in sight. James Gunn is no doubt, a very talented writer and director, and is perfect for this material, but even he gets a tad bit carried away; the fact that there is literally five mid-credits sequences should already tell you enough about the length to which this movie goes on till and puts into itself. But then again, when you have a good product, is it a problem to go a little overboard?

In some cases, yes. And Vol. 2 is, as much as it pains me to say, one of those cases.

Then again, the movie’s still a good time, all things considered. It could have definitely done with some trimming in both the writing, the filming, and the editing department, but overall, it feels like a solid piece of its own pie that also, somehow, still exists in the Marvel universe. It still isn’t playing by any sort of pre-conceived rules and it still isn’t trying to please everyone, and for that, it deserves a whole heap of respect. That it’s also a very popular franchise in the first place and a clear money-maker for the already very wealthy Marvel, just goes to show you that there are people out there who will accept and reward creativity, even when that creativity is made for the billions and billions of people out there in the world to buy a ticket and see.

So yeah, Communism rules at the end of the day, right?

He’s Groot.

Anyway, Vol. 2 works well because, by now, we’ve gotten the origin-story out of the way and we can finally, thankfully, get to know who these characters are a bit more and dig in deep. While there’s some questionable character bits and pieces throughout, the bulk of them all work in helping us understand who these colorful cartoons actually are, identify with them a bit, sympathize with them, grow close to them, and oh yeah, also get a little worried and sad when their lives seem to be in danger.

Take, for instance, Michael Rooker’s Vondu who, in the first movie, was a stereotypical villain, with terrible-looking teeth, a mean, grizzled Southern accent, and oh yeah, Michael Rooker playing him. He seemed like a one-and-done kind of character, that would be easy window-dressing for the second, but somehow, he comes close to being the star of the show and with good reason; not only does he have something to offer, in terms of his meaning to the overall story, but he’s actually got a bigger heart and soul than you’d expect. I don’t just chalk this up to Gunn’s solid writing for him, but also Rooker playing to his strengths as an actor, where he’s able to be mean and dirty, but also kind of a softy once you get to know him.

Then again, what can’t Michael Rooker do nowadays? Seriously?

And he’s not just the only character who gets the spotlight a bit and watch it all pay-off. Everyone else from the first, as well as a few new inclusions, all get their time in the sun, and while it may originally seem like overkill, the final-act puts it all into perspective and makes us realize, oh wait, this is about everyone here. Not just Quill; not just Rocket; not just Baby Groot; not just Gamora; not just Drax; and definitely not just the Avengers – but everyone. Needless to say, there’s a final-act here that absolutely worked, as it not only brought tears to this cynical viewer’s eyes, but made me want to watch these characters more and not leave their sides.

They’re just too fun to be away from for so long.

Consensus: While the writing isn’t always there, Vol. 2 still works because of its fun, well-written and exciting characters, to go along with the beauty and excitement of the visuals and action.

7.5 / 10

Yup. We’re all Groot.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Yeah, those “other” Marvel heroes are just a bunch of pricks anyway.

After he sees his own, cancer-riddled mother die in front of his own very eyes, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is mysteriously captured by a spaceship. 26 years later, an older Quill, now sporting the name “Star-Lord” and dancing around to vintage pop-tunes on his Walkman, discovers a strange crystal ball that is apparently very dangerous and serious, considering it triggers off a group of evil people to come after him. So much so, that when he eventually gets into town and sell the thing for whatever money he can get, he ends up getting in a brawl with a woman by the name of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), as well as a giant tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and a talking raccoon they call Rocket (Bradley Cooper). The stunt eventually lands the foursome in prison, where they meet all sorts of trouble and unlikely pals, especially in the form of Drax (Dave Bautista); but what they end up finding out is that the artifact they were all fighting over, is being sought out after by a very powerful, very evil Kree radical named Ronan (Lee Pace) and his noble band of trustees. Together, the five decide to put away their differences for the time being and do all that they can to save the galaxy, one David Bowie track at a time.

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much. Honestly, that moreso has to do with the fact that every Marvel movie since the Avengers, has either been ranging from “mediocre”, to “hey, it’s fine and it’s fun, so what’s the harm, yo?”, and also the fact that it seems like, especially after this whole Ant-Man debacle, that Marvel is becoming more of a lackey-boy for the ultra, super, duper, powerful kingpins that are Disney and their ways of making people do what they want, when they want, and how they want.

“Don’t offend the kiddies!”, Disney may say. Or, something that seems to be more common, “Please do make sure that it ties-in with the AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.! And by ‘please’, we really mean, ‘do it, or else we’re going to fire your ass and find somebody else who is willing to take orders and be happy with it!'”. And though some of this may seem overly-dramatized by yours truly, there’s something in me that feels like Marvel is just starting to become more and more like what others want them to be, rather than what they want to be, which, at first with Iron Man, seemed to be: A kick-ass, fun-as-hell, hilarious and exciting superhero movie that you could take the whole family too; as well as grand-mom and grand-pop if you got stuck with them over the holidays.

That's the thingy they need to find. That's all you need to know.

That’s the thingy they need to find. That’s all you need to know.

But that’s where James Gunn comes in and absolutely gives a big, old, flying “FUCKA YOU!” to Disney and Friends, and shows them that if it’s his movie, it’s going to be his rules and his ways of having fun. Which, for the most part, means we get a whole bunch of strange, slightly off-kilter gags and pop-culture references including Kevin Bacon; metaphors that aren’t metaphors; Jackson Pollack; the art of dancing; and, best of all, calling a raccoon, everything else that isn’t a raccoon. If that sounds very strange to you, then yes, you are at least somewhat sane. And if that sounds especially strange to you being that it’s all packed into a Marvel movie, then yes, you are even more sane and, would you like a cookie?

What I’m trying to get across here is that Gunn’s humor is a weird one and although some of it’s a bit tamer now so that the PG-13 can sit and stay with the movie, it’s still hilarious and nearly perfect for this world that he’s created. That this other “realm” (for lack of a better word without saying “galaxy”), is a wide, never ending and seemingly bizarre matter of space that seems to have a bucket of surprises waiting at every corner, shows Gunn is able to not only build on his characters and the action-sequences, but also this world that he’s created. Which, yes, for a Marvel movie, is very strange, yet, totally works.

Most of that has to do with the fact that each and every character we get here is likable, fun, vibrant and exciting in their own measly, little ways, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Gunn is the kind of writer and director that has a sense of humor that can work for practically anyone. Okay, maybe if you check out his first two movies (Slither and Super, which I definitely recommend), don’t necessarily back me up on that statement, but taking away all of those and just leaving this here movie as his one and only true example, then I’d have to say it’s a pretty impressive one.

Gunn’s funny, he knows he’s funny and he’s going to let us know about it every step of the way. However, whereas most of the other Marvel movies wink their eyebrows so much so that it seems like they’re going to have to be surgically put back into place by the end of its two-hour run-time, GOTG (short for the title, if you’re nitwit) is a different beast: It’s a funny movie, yet, doesn’t try to make you laugh in a charming way. It’s just weird and since it soaks up the sun and basks in its own weirdness, it’s hilarious to watch and listen to, as well as have an awfully fun time with.

Because, yeah, guess what??!?! Guardians of the Galaxy is a damn fun movie!

See, because while I’ve been going on and on so aimlessly about this movie’s humor and how effective it actually is, there’s an element to this movie that works, and can probably be shared among the rest of the Marvel crowd: It’s a fine action movie, if you want to look at it like that. There are hand-to-hand fights; spaceships flying throughout the sky and shooting each other; sword-duels; girls beating the crap out of each other; girls beating the crap out of the opposite-sex; raccoons shooting big-ass guns; walking, talking trees causing havoc; and etc. The only thing that’s missing was the only known wrestler in this movie giving somebody a Batista Bomb, but that’s for another movie, I guess.

And since I just mentioned a certain character in this movie, I think it’s best to now use that as a segue into my next part of the review which, unsurprisingly, also happens to be about the best element to making this movie work as well as it does: The characters and the actors that portray them. Because Gunn’s movie/script is a rather odd one, not only does he need a cast that has a comedic-bone anywhere located in their body – he needs a cast is absolutely able and willing to go that extra mile into trusting that his every move, is not only a benefit to them, but a benefit to how this whole movie plays out. “Well obviously, Dan. You no-sense-piece-of-shit”, you might retort back to me, but I have a reasoning for saying this.

Take the idea of a-list stars such as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel doing voice-work here – not only are they big names that people flock out to the movie theaters to see – but you’d expect them to do more than what they’re given. In the case of Cooper, he voices Rocket as Brooklyn gangster, where it’s sometimes too hard to even recognize he’s doing the voice-work in the first place; as in the case of Diesel, all the dude has to do is say “I Am Groot” over and over again, and, occasionally, yell, scream and holler with that low-pitched bass we know he can do so well. Sounds crazy enough? Well, yeah, but that’s sort of the point. Also not to mention that Cooper and Diesel, with what they have to do, do it so amazingly well that I wonder just how the heck Gunn thought of them two in the first place. And even if he didn’t, then kudos to the casting-department on this decision!

Oh, and that he's the villain, too!

Oh, and that he’s the villain, too!

But an even bigger kudos should be given to them for giving Chris Pratt the star-making role the dude deserves, this time, as one Peter Quill. Or, as some of you may, or may not know him as, “Star-Lord” (and yes, that’s it’s own, whole joke, too). Pratt’s been a lovable presence on the screen for quite some time; rather it be the large one, or the small one, the dude’s shown us time and time again, he has the chops to not only give us a cool-as-hell character, that has a winning-personality. Here, Pratt’s able to utilize the warm, lovely charm he oozes so well on Parks and Rec., but is also able to use some leading-man prowess we have yet to see him do, yet still shows he’s capable of actually having it in the first place.

But he’s not a pansy of a character. He’s a bad-ass dude that knows how to get himself out of situations, even while he doesn’t always think them perfectly through. Same goes for Zoe Saldana as Gamora; not only does she get to be an ass-kicking lady with a mouth on her, she doesn’t let that be her only trait and has a personality that goes almost hand-in-hand with Quills’. And though people were initially rioting over the casting-decision of having Dave Bautista play Drax, needless to say, the dude’s great in it as he shows everybody he can definitely act, be funny and best of all, remind everybody why he was in the profession that he initially chose in the first place.

Altogether though, this movie mostly works because these characters, in their own, little, unique worlds, wouldn’t ever seem like they do fine together. That’s sort of the point, however, Gunn allows them to work off of one another and it’s probably the most fun-part of this whole movie. Sure, you can give me as many mind-numingly loud and outrageous scenes of stuff exploding, while other stuff is exploding elsewhere, and I’ll crack a grin or two. But if you can give me characters that I want to get know better, spend more time with, and just never leave the presence of, then you can count me in, take my money, sleep in my bed, bang my wife, whatever. As long as you can give me that, then I’m all fine and dandy.

And to have that spliced together with the best Marvel movie since the Avengers is, well, exactly all I could ever ask for and ever want.

More Batista Bombs next time, though. Please.

Consensus: Hilarious, exciting, and well-written, Guardians of the Galaxy is a downright good time that features some top-tier performances from a cast you’d be surprised works so incredibly well in the first place, yet, in the world of James Gunn, anything seems possible.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

The best line-up in a "line-up" scene since the Usual Suspects, and it's not even in the actual movie!

The best line-up in a “line-up scene” since the Usual Suspects, and it’s not even in the actual movie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Eight Men Out (1988)

Seriously Joe! What the hell?!?

Back in the 1919 World Series of baseball, 8 players from the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the series away, due to them being offered a butt-load of money. Did it really happen? Is it all true?

It’s a small synopsis, I know. Heck, it may even be one of my smallest ever. But that’s kind of the point: It’s so known and explanatory that I don’t really need to go on. All you need to know is that the 1919 World Series will live in infamy, and here’s why:

I’m not going to lie, but I am not the biggest baseball fan in the world. Do I like the sport? Yes. Do I enjoy watching a game from time-to-time? Most definitely! Who doesn’t? So yeah, of course I know the story behind the whole “Black Sox Scandal” – who was apart of it, what went down and what the outcome eventually was.

And to be honest, I didn’t really need to see it done all over again.

For somebody who comes from a long-line of making indie flicks in his spare-time, I have to give writer/director John Sayles for doing a nice job with a bigger-budget than he’s used to working with, and still not seeming like he goes overboard at all. Usually when little-known directors break out and get a big, paying gig, they get a bit carried away with what they want to do or say with their next feature. However, I don’t think Sayles does that at all.

Instead, where most of his money seems to go is right towards creating of the early 20th Century, where baseball, Apple Pie and swindlers was everywhere to be found. It couldn’t have been that hard considering all he had to do was get a bunch of retro-looking uniforms, find an old-stadium, and get some older-looking stuff to throw in there, but regardless, he does a nice job and proves that bigger, does mean better. That is, in most cases anyway.

Michael Rooker playing a d-bag? No! You don't say?!?!/

Michael Rooker playing a d-bag? No! You don’t say?!?!/

Even when it comes to writing this flick, Sayles never really seems to lose himself and sticks true to what the dude’s made a career out of: Fine attention to enough of his ensemble. There’s a lot of talk surrounding this whole conspiracy these guys have caused and it adds another depth of drama that’s almost unexpected considering we know all of the details as to what does and what doesn’t happen. Every character has a bit of witty dialogue/banter with another character and it feels real, especially when you get two teammates talking to each other and having it almost feel as if you are watching two teammates talk it all out about the game and what they’re going to do next time and make it all better. For baseball lovers, this film would probably the ultimate pleasure, but for me, I could at least appreciate what Sayles was doing and how he just kept it simple and sweet, focusing on these guys the most.

Where I think Sayles runs into a problem with is that his story goes a bit too all-over-the-place at times and never really sets its sights on one character. Maybe he can’t be blamed for that problem, considering this is a whole baseball team we’re talking about here, but there could have been a bit more development on all of them, rather than focusing on just two or three, and getting rid of the rest only to have them show-up in the last five minutes as if they were there the whole time. The characters they do give us to sympathize with, have our sympathy, but not much else. They never really seem to have much of a conflict despite being involved with one of the biggest scandals baseball has ever had to deal with. Should have definitely came off a bit more tense and upsetting if you ask me.

The other problem I think Sayles runs into with this flick is the fact that in reality, we all know this story. People who don’t love baseball, barely even watch it, and couldn’t give two hoots about it all know the story of what went down during the 1919 World Series. That’s why it comes as no surprise to anyone when certain characters in the film are all upset by how they’re losing on-purpose. It’s a bit hard to watch some of these guys put themselves through so much to lose a game, but after awhile, it just becomes repetitive and feels like Sayles doesn’t have much hope for his own material, so he just relied on the typical baseball scenes to cool everybody off and keep them distracted. It kept me distracted for a short amount of time, that was, until I realized that there was no real core to the story’s heart.

It was just one big and simple conspiracy theory that we all knew about beforehand and didn’t find a new life in shaking things up this time around.

Somebody just give him a hug already! And more chewing-tobacco if at all possible.

Somebody just give him a hug already! And more chewing-tobacco if at all possible.

Where the film really succeeds, is in it’s ensemble cast that all do their best with what they’re given. Out of all of the characters, John Cusack comes off as the most-developed and sympathetic player as Buck Weaver, the one teammate who never took money from anyone and still got the blame thrown on him. His character is probably the easiest to get behind and it’s one of the first instances where we actually got to see Cusack flesh-out of his high school, dream-boy phase and actually man-up for once. He’s good with that here and comes off as the best character. The other character I was interested in a lot too, was David Strathairn as pitcher Eddie Cicotte, one of the most complex characters of the bunch. The reason why Cicotte is interesting to watch is because his character really isn’t a bad dude that just wants to be an asshole cause he loves to (unlike some of the other people on his team), but instead, is left with a problem where he knows he may never, ever get another shot at playing big-time baseball again and tries whatever he can to keep it going on and on, until he just can’t play anymore. It’s nice to see that in a character here, and Strathairn was definitely the perfect choice for the role.

There are others in this cast that do great jobs with their roles, but the one I was mostly disappointed in was D.B. Sweeney as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Instead of giving Jackson his own movie, or even a big part in this one, he’s sort of reduced to the unsung hero that just sort of sits in the background role that we have seen so many times before in sports movies, and almost never works except if you want the crowd to cheer. What bummed me out about this was how it seemed like Jackson was the most interesting and complex out of the whole team and was never really given that chance to shine and show his side of the story. Granted, the guy was a bit of a dummy, but a dummy that we could have still, somehow, fallen-behind and cheered-on as his world started to close in around him.

Hey, at least the game of baseball has found new ways to make controversy for itself, right?

Consensus: If you’ve seen one sports movie, hell, let alone, a baseball movie, then you’ve seen Eight Men Out without really knowing it. Although Sayles’ writing and casting-decisions does find a way to separate itself from the rest of the bunch.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

It doesn't matter who did what, they're all dicks. Thanks for ruining sports forever, guys!

It doesn’t matter who did what, they’re all dicks. Thanks for ruining sports forever, guys!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Crank: High Voltage (2009)

Hearts are for wimps. Adrenaline is what the big boys play with.

Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) has had problems with his heart, but this time: it’s almost worse. This go-around, Chev still has the bad heart but also faces a Chinese mobster, who has stolen his nearly-indestructible heart and replaced it with a battery-powered ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep working. This provides many, many problems for Chev, as you could expect, but problems he and his gal (Amy Smart) can’t solve on their own. If, you know what I mean?

If you walked away from the original Crank thinking that it was the dumbest ideas, and a brainless exercise only made as a gimmick because it was quick, fast, and raunchy for a reason: then this definitely won’t be your bag. However, if that first one was a brainless exercise you didn’t mind removing the insides of your head for, then grab a red bull, grab a bunch of buddies, and get ready to go! Woo-hoo! I’m amped-up already!

I don’t know what the hell writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor do in their spare time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys spend their weekends by snorting lines, picking up hookers, playing video-games, and then document all of their crazy and wild adventures of the night into a screenplay. Sounds a little far-fetched and a bit too 80’s glam star rock-starish to me, but I could see it happening because they really upped the ante with this one. For better and for worse, all depending on the type of person you are. The original worked so well as it did because it was fun, fast-paced, all-over-the-place, knowingly-stupid, and didn’t for a second take itself seriously. Granted, it wasn’t always the non-stop ride I would have expected to be in the pleasure of (you know, because the guy’s got a heart that needs to live on freakin’ adrenaline!), but still worked for my crazy mind at the time and that’s what made me happy to see these guys get all buck wild again.

Wouldn't be surprised if this was every woman's reaction to seeing Jason Statham.

Wouldn’t be surprised if this was every woman’s reaction to seeing Jason Statham.

The story starts off three months from where the last one ended and right after the first 5 minutes, the film gets right back into it’s hard-hitting, quick-moving, action-filled pace. But this time, everything and anything would, and quite possibly could, indeed happen. This film definitely isn’t afraid to be considered “offensive” and definitely doesn’t care what characters people want to see alive or dead. Anybody could be offed at any second, and you never know if the scene you get with one person where they are acting like total jack-asses, will be their last-time alive on-screen for us to have the pleasure of seeing. Or displeasure, wherever you stand on this one.  This idea made the movie fun because it truly made me wonder just where the hell this story was going, and whwre exactly the creators were going to end-up with. There is also plenty of the shootings, killings, murders, tits, ass, blood, and bullets, but the story is what kept me really alive and interested. Got to give a lot of love to Neveldine/Taylor for not just trying to cash-in on a sequel and do nothing cool with it. Can’t say the same thing about the Ghost Rider sequel, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.

One of the finer elements of the first movie was it’s humor and how everything, no matter how innate or crazy, happened for a reason and that was to mainly just entertain us some more for shits and gigs. That’s here once again, but in full-force mode. Everything that you would expect to be wacky, wild, and just totally insane to happen, does happen in the typical, over-the-top fashion and added a lot of joy to the final proceedings. However, I think Neveldine/Taylor got a little bit of a hot-head with everything, because they sort of over-do what could have been a movie that was just as funny as the first, if not more hilarious.

All of the funny happenings that made the first movie so comical, are here, but also seem to be very stretched-out and exaggerated for cheap-laughs. Like laughs you’ve already had before, but this time: is MORE EXTREME. For instance, the infamous scene from the first movie where Chev bones his girl in-front of a bunch of people in Chinatown is here, but this time, done to even bigger and badder effect. It still shows Chev boning his girl, but what makes it so much MORE EXTREME, is that it’s played-out in front of a horse-racing crowd, packed to the gills with people. Does it work? Yeah, I guess you could say it’s funny for the first 5 minutes or so, but then after awhile, the film starts to become like one of those lame-ass SNL sketches that never get the idea that they’re funny, and just continue to dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole, almost until the point everybody wants it just burn to the ground, die, and never come back to life, including the actors apart of the skit as well.

I know I went into a long-ass description about this movie’s abilities to try their hardest to be funnier than the first, but it’s the truth. It follows all of the same formulas of most sequels, where more of everything is needed, just to up the stakes a bit more. That works when it comes to the plot, the action, and the pacing of the movie, but the humor just constantly keeps on hitting you over-the-head, and it becomes an annoyance after awhile. Maybe too much blow was the reason for that problem here. Just maybe.

"Say, Jason? Do you think you could take a picture with me so I can give it to my wife and kids so they know I've been working as of late?"

“Say, Jason? Do you think you could take a picture with me so I can give it to my wife and kids so they know I’ve been working as of late?”

No matter what “action film of the month” Jason Statham does, he always give it his biggest and best shot, and his second go-around as Chev Chelios is no different. Statham is a respectable action star in this movie, because he isn’t that afraid to put himself into some embarrassing and goofy situations, but also doesn’t shy-away from major bad-assery, as well. Chelios finds himself in more-ridiculous situations this time around, but it’s so easy to root for him that you don’t even care how many innocents he kills or how many crimes he gets away with. The guy is the freakin’ man and he kicks ass almost every single second he gets a chance to. And also, the guy gets to bone Amy Smart in front of almost every person to see! If that doesn’t show you how bad-ass he is, I don’t know what the hell will!

Speaking of our “bone gal for the hour”, Amy Smart gets to show a bit more of what she’s got as Eve, which I was real happy about because the chick can pull off some great moments, if she’s ever given the chance to. Not only does she get to show-off that she can be hot, sexy, and down to bang at any second of the day, but also gets to flex her action-muscles and actually have you feel like if she needed to, she could totally kick your ass and defend her man. That Jason Statham, is one hell of a lucky man. Even if he really isn’t Chev Chelios and getting the chance to bang Amy Smart in real-life. Then again, something tells me he totally is and it’s all just an act of his. If that’s the case, give the guy the freakin’ Oscar now!

As with any other sequel in the history of sequels, we get the original characters, but also a slew of new ones, and as the case with most sequels: some work and some just seem like filler. Bai Ling was really freakin’ cool as a prostitute named Ria, who keeps on calling Chelios, “her Kevin Costner to her Whitney Houston”. Ling has never really gotten to be this bad-ass before and it’s really surprising to see how well she can pull it off. It also helps matters too, that she’s practically half-naked throughout the whole movie so there’s definitely some fun in watching that, as well. The late, and I don’t know if he’s considered this by now, but great Corey Haim also happens to show up as some mullet, d-bag that gets involved with wild proceedings of Chev Chelios’ life, and it’s pretty cool to see the guy back in a major-role, in a major-movie release. Even if the movie is, Crank: High Voltage. Clifton Collins Jr. gets to pull off some campy villainous ish as the Elvis impersonator, El Huron. Collins Jr. does what he does best here, and that’s to totally over-play his evil role, even though I wonder if he and Michael Rooker have placed a bet against one-another to see who can bitch-out of being a villain in every movie they do, first. It’s going to be close, but something tells me Rooker may lose that one. To go along with Haim, we also get another late and great in this movie; and that just so happens to be David Carradine playing a character named Poon Dong. That’s right: one of David Carradine’s last roles ever was playing a guy named “Poon Dong”. The best thing about this wild and crazy cast of characters is that each and every person knows about the joke, and is totally in on it so to just watch them show-up, for no other reason other than to get pummeled by bullets, was a-okay with me.

Consensus: If you loved the first movie, then Crank: High Voltage will be exactly for you. It’s got naked women, guns, blood, gore, a fast-pace, Jason Statham kicking ass, and a Amy Smart sex scene. However, like most sequels, it’s a bit of an over-kill with it’s jokes that never seem to end or seem rehashed from the first one.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

This is what happens after a wild-night of partying with Neveldine/Taylor.

This is what happens after a wild-night of partying with Neveldine/Taylor. It’s even worse when they’re thinking of movie ideas.

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Slither (2006)

Do small monsters like the ones here ever attack a big city?

The sleepy town of Wheelsy could be any small town in America, somewhat quaint and gentle, peopled with friendly folks who mind their own business. But just beneath the surface charm, something unnamed and evil has arrived, is growing, and has came to take over the small town. Nobody knows what they are, but they look like small-leeches that go right for the brain.

Even though it’s not right to judge a person after only seeing one-piece of their work, to me, writer/director James Gunn seems like one fucked-up individual. Super was one of those very violent flicks that did work, but still, it was so violent that was at-times hard to watch even if it was all played for dark and sinister laughs. His directorial debut is sort of the same-thing, except this time, with even more stuff to make you look away from the screen. But it’s Halloween, so what are ya gonna do?

What I liked most about Gunn’s direction and what he’s able to do with this sickly material is that he doesn’t ever shy away from doing anything that would practically make a person sick. Everything you see in this film is disgusting, gross, slimy, juicy, and altogether, just plain and simply over-the-top, but what saves it is that constant winks and nods at the audience that Gunn gives and makes this material more fun to be around. Gunn knows the type of movie he’s making and even knows the movies that he’s making several homages to, so that obviously doesn’t stop him from just letting loose on some crazy, wild horror fun that take the B-movie audience, says “Hey! Look at me!”, and allows them all to do so with a great time ahead of them.

You got all of the typical horror movie elements you need to make a successful one: blood, guts, gore, action, violence, semi-naked women, corny-lines, over-the-top situations, and many, I do repeat, many moments that will probably have you saying, “What the hell did I just see?”. But the best part of it all, is that it’s done in such a fun way that you just decide to go along with the ride and believe it or not, may actually have you finding yourself laughing at a lot of what goes on in this flick, as did I. Gunn has a perfect knack for comedic-timing and knowing when and how to place them into certain scenes, and not once did I feel like he dropped the ball on that element one-bit. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have hurt if he gave a couple of more funny lines here and there, but with what he did, I was fine with and that’s all that mattered to me.

The problem I think I had with this movie was that there was little to no surprises with this material one-bit. It seemed like Gunn had all of the right material in-place for a movie that could have literally went anywhere with itself, with any character, and any plot-twist whatsoever, but instead, just played it straight by giving us a story that’s simple, easy, predictable, but still fun. Hell, the only time I actually felt a decent-level of suspense throughout the whole damn film was when one of the gals is in the bathtub and the little leeches are coming after her. That whole sequence kept me on-the-edge of my seat and was the only time during the whole movie where I felt like something bad was going to happen to this character, but then again, it was only 3 minutes out of the whole hour and 36 time-limit. That leaves us an hour and 3 minutes left of just unsuspenseful, but fun piece of horror-entertainment.

Also, anybody looking towards this film for some great spooks, chills, and scares whatsoever, are going to have to look elsewhere. I don’t know if this is necessarily considered a problem with the film since it’s sort of what separated it from the usual crap I see out there time and time again, but anybody going to see a horror film with monsters and zombies, are probably going to come out a bit disappointed in seeing a zany and loopy shoot ’em up that doesn’t really care about scaring you in the least bit. Once again, not a big problem for me, but for those horror freaks out there (and trust me, I know there are plenty), you may be a bit ticked off.

Most of the laughs that actually occur in this film, are mainly because of the fun-loving cast that Gunn has been able to assemble. Nathan Fillion is always a delight to watch with whatever it is that he does, and his performance here as Sheriff Bill Pardy is no different. Fillion has some of the best-lines in the whole film, but his comedic-timing is what really makes him so much fun to watch as every crazy situation the guy gets thrown into, he surprisingly somehow finds his way out of it with a quick quirk here and there. Playing opposite of him is the equally as-funny, Elizabeth Banks, as Starla Grant. Banks, no matter what junk she’s in, always has the best comedic-delivery out of everybody in the film and even though she is still playing a bit of a straight-woman here with this role, she still gets to show-off her comedic-chops every once and awhile to remind us why we all love this girl so much in the first-place.

Playing her d-bag, evil husband, Michael Rooker, shines at another one of his “villainous roles” that reminds you why so many people type-cast him as a bad man in the first-place, the guy’s so great at it you. I don’t know when the next time will be when I see Rooker play “the nice guy next-door” role in a movie, but if I never do get that, I won’t be too bummed considering the bad-guy roles are basically what he was meant to play. Don’t believe, watch Henry, then you’ll see. The other dude in this flick who had some of the better lines and stole just about scene he was in was Gregg Henry as the foul-mouthed talking mayor. Any guy who can make me laugh at the way he says “cock sucker” is always a winner in my book and that’s why it was so much fun to watch him work his magic with this zany script.

Consensus: People expecting a full-out, scare-fest will most likely be disappointed in what they see in Slither, but people looking for a fun, entertaining, wild, self-knowing, bloody horror ride from start-to-finish, should look no further and give this baby a shot.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Super (2011)

Basically Kick-Ass with a lower-budget.

When his wife (Liv Tyler) falls in league with a drug dealer, average guy Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) dons the guise of a superhero, dubs himself the Crimson Bolt and tries to keep a tagalong comic-book store clerk (Ellen Page) from becoming his sidekick. But it’s hard to be a superhero when all you’ve got to work with is a pipe wrench.

When I first saw the trailer for this way back when, I didn’t buy it, and just thought it was going to be a complete rip-off of Kick-Ass. In a way it is, but it still works.

Writer and director James Gunn is very good here with this already pretty dark story, and putting some comedy into it and heart here. It starts off as a parody of those super-hero films that we all see, but then turns into one of its own and dives into some very dark and disturbing places. I have to say some of this comedy doesn’t work because it’s almost too terrible to even laugh at, but I have to say I felt uncomfortable at times, and I think that’s what the film wanted to do.

There is also loads and loads of blood, gore, and just really hard-to-watch violence. Some of it will keep you watching and actually rooting for more, while others will just have you totally horrified and taken aback by what you see. Basically, if you’re squeamish, don’t see this film.

My main problem with this film is that Gunn tries to make the audience actually feel bad for rooting this violence on which I did not understand. I guess that Gunn was trying to comment on how we see violence in our every-day life and it’s basically glorified, but this film is pretty much doing the same exact thing here. I didn’t get what he was trying to say, if anything at all, and to be truly honest I think that Gunn could have done a better job of getting his point across.

Rainn Wilson is totally awesome here as Frank aka Crimson Bolt, and is playing this character very straight-laced and normal, with barely anything funny, but he totally gets lost in the character. Wilson is good at making this loser, who turns crazy and wants vengeance, seem believable and actually likable. I think Wilson should keep on doing more roles like these because they actually do work. Liv Tyler is here and does a good job at just being there. Kevin Bacon is great at playing this slime-ball, Jacques, and although he is a total asshole, he still manages to bring laughs out. Nathan Fillion is funny here as The Holy Avenger, the Christian channel superhero who fights off evil. However, Ellen Page is the real delight in this film as Libby who comes out of nowhere and you expect her to be really annoying, but somehow is a great character which Page plays to perfection and her best scenes are with Wilson where they just are total opposites, but seem believable friends.

Consensus: James Gunn’s supposed message may get a little messy, especially towards the end, but has some very dark laughs, a good story, and great acting that keep us involved with this sometimes gruesome superhero tale.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Sea of Love (1989)

Good ole’ Al Pacino doing what he does best.

Lonely, burnt-out NYPD detective Frank Keller (Al Pacino) is on the hunt for a serial killer who uses personal ads to attract potential victims in director Harold Becker’s taut, suspenseful thriller. Unfortunately, Frank falls hard for Helen (Ellen Barkin), the alluring top suspect in the case. Now, their white-hot attraction could save him — or kill him.

Pacino, during the 80’s, was basically doing nothing. He made starred in crap-fests like Cruising, Author! Author!, and the even worse, Revolution. So when this film came out, it was quite a relief to get a film that had Pacino doing something, other than just collecting paychecks.

The film works really well, especially when it comes to its suspense/mystery feel. Everything starts out as your typical thriller, with the murders happening, then when Pacino and Barkin start dating, the slight suspicion in the movie, is that the person you are with, might just possibly be the killer themselves. I liked how they fell in love, because it wasn’t a generic way, they both started out as opposites, and then soon realized there was this sexual attraction between each other, that they both wanted. This is all fairly predictable stuff, but the scenes between Barkin and Pacino are steamy and sizzling.

I have a feeling though that now seeing this, I probably won’t remember it too much after a week or two. I mean it is a good popcorn flick, however, that’s really all it is. It does work as a good “who done it” thriller, but overall, nothing amazing happened. The climax too, felt really dumb, and just totally implausible. We never get any clues, or even an idea, that the person who is actually doing these crimes, actually is, and when it pops up who actually did do it, I didn’t believe it all.

Al Pacino gives off that great, funny man charm, that is Al Pacino. He plays this cop, that at first you feel bad for, cause he hates his life so much, then you realize that this guy is cool as ish, and you want him to prevail in finding the killer. Ellen Barkin is good as this steamy, sexy lady, that steals Pacino’s heart, mostly cause she is just a fire in bed, and who can’t resist that. These two make a good piece of chemistry on-screen, which helps the film in the end. Also, John Goodman, is well, good here, and brings a lot of comedy to the film.

Consensus: Sea of Love has two great performances from Barkin and, the ever so cool Pacino, along with some good mystery, but in the end is just another meaningless pop-corn flick, with an ending, that just doesn’t mean much.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Man Bites Dog (1993)

Without this, there would be no Blair Witch Project, or anything with hand-held cameras.

Spoofing reality television, a fascinated documentary crew follows a charismatic yet unrepentant serial killer (Benoit Poelvoorde) on his murder sprees. The crew attempts to objectively document the horror, but as the violence escalates, they ultimately get sucked into participating.

The film starts off with showing us a murder that this dude commits, and right away you get a sense of what this film is going to be all about: bloody, disturbing, mockumentary.

I’ll give most of the credit to this film for actually doing its best job, even at such a small budget. There is a lot of writing here that still sticks with us almost 17 years after the film was completed. The themes about how reality TV makes all these terrible people look like superstars, has us murdering the normal people in the world. Behind all of the grisly killings, there is actually a couple of good dark laughs, mostly like real life, where not everything is so damn serious.

I have to say that this movie is probably one of the most disturbing films I have seen in a long time. I know it’s not a real documentary, and this dude is made up, and these people aren’t actually murdered like this, but it all seemed so real and that’s why it was effective. Some of the killings are so random and disgusting, that you just have to turn your head. As the murders keep piling on, the viewer starts to feel what the “film crew” starts to feel, utter and total disbelief of whats going on, but still amazed at the same time.

I had a couple of problems with this film however, mostly being other people’s problems too. I feel like the killer’s motives were never ever really told. I mean we do eventually get a little montage of this guy talking about how much the world is a desecrating place cause of problems, yadda yadda yadda. But we never really fully understand as to why this guy kills so many freakin’ people at random. Also, it kinds of hard to believe that this guy wouldn’t at least once get caught with a murder. i mean sometimes his killings are so sloppy, and ill-prepared, that somebody had to have at least found out about him sometime.

Benoit Poelvoorde is not a very well-known actor to us Americans, because he’s always taking appearances in French films, and its a shame, cause here is some real talent. Just like Michael Rooker, from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, he starts out all charming and normal, but as soon as you see him commit these murders hes a totally different person.

Consensus: Man Bites Dog may have its problems with the motives of its main killer, but is so so brilliantly acted, directed, and written, that almost everything you see in this film, no matter how disturbing, all seems so real.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

Cliffhanger (1993)

My fear of heights would never give me this job.

A year after losing his friend in a tragic 4,000-foot fall, former ranger Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) and his partner, Hal (Michael Rooker), are called to return to the same peak to rescue a group of stranded climbers, only to learn the climbers are actually thieving hijackers.

As usual with any of the Stallone action vehicle’s there is no story here, other than this guy saves people off cliffs and ends up in some drug bust, and a bunch of bad people looking for all this money. It’s not a very original story to say the least, but it does have some good to it.

The film is all about the special effects and stunts that go down in this movie. The scenes with Stallone about 200 feet in the air dangling from just a wire are jaw-dropping, and will leave you on the edge of your seat. Also, not to forget the scenery of this ice cold mountain and how almost every time you have to watch your step or you just may fall many feet to your death.

The action is fun and exciting I’ll give it that and is one of the better action flicks from Stallone. There is a lot of nice action, that’s surprisingly bloody and in your face many of the times, especially these slow-mo shots of people getting killed are very nice to look at and also very disturbing.

Stallone tries to play more of a sensitive, human character but most of his dialogue is of the dirt-kicking, “Nobody understands me” elementary school variety. Similarly, Sly presents himself as more of an everyman who isn’t invulnerable – so he gets the shit kicked out of him way more than you’d expect for Stallone. But then he has these moments of almost superhuman feats, like when he sleds down a mountain on some dude’s BODY, hangs out under icy water without a shirt on, and impales a bad guy on a friggin’ stalactite! Well needless to say John Lithgow is not a very believable villain, and many times throughout the film I found myself laughing every time he talked cause I just couldn’t take him seriously as this sinister cold-blooded killer.

Consensus: Not yout typical horrible Stallone action flick, Cliffhanger has some jaw-dropping visuals mixed with exciting action, but still has its writing flaws and a not so relivable villain, but still a nice popcorn flick.

5.5/10=Rental!!!

Rosewood (1997)

Proof that John Singleton can do other stuff than just gang films.

The film stars Ving Rhames who travels to the town of Rosewood, Florida, United States, and becomes a witness to the 1923 Rosewood massacre. The supporting cast includes Don Cheadle as Sylvester, a non-fictional character who also became witness to the atrocities, and Jon Voight, as a white store owner who inhabits a village near Rosewood. The three characters become entangled in a desperate attempt to save whomever they can from the rage of the racist whites of Rosewood.

Now when everybody thinks of John Singleton they always say one movie: Boyz N The Hood. Well, he makes one similar to that, but different setting and different time period.

African American History Month so I’m reviewing this film. This is another movie that makes me want to go out and beats up white people. This movie shows the violences that was displays by jealous people. And it uses a whole bunch of vicious violence, and murder to further the point that all these people wanted to do was kill black people.

The problem I had with this film is that it wasn’t powerful enough. We saw these black people and cheered them on hopefully to get away from the bad white people but we never get to know these black people other than their scared and were supposed to cheer them on. We never see them doing good deeds neither do we get any insight into what their lives are really like. The screenplay was written-well but I still found it to be cliched with lines when it came towards the end and actually getting to the heart of the story.

During some of the parts of the film I wondered, as did the film, how this was all going to turn out. Times, it felt like a straight-up race drama, but then it lingered on the lines of typical action epic. Towards the end of the film this surely showed with the pace up-tempo and violence that was right in your face.

The best thing of this film is its strong performances from the cast. I liked Voight as the only good white guy in the film and found him to be the one everybody else liked the most. But the film really is given to Rhames who brings out a strong performance as the main hero in this film, although he does not have those typical traits, and is fighting for something more, his race. I wish there was more of Don Cheadle in the film as he sort of disappears out of nowhere, and I had a problem with Michael Rooker who was sometimes a good cop, then turned into a bad cop, even though it seemed like he had enough sense to end this massacre.

Consensus: Singleton directs this film with his signature simplicity and strong enough performances to keep it alive, but doesn’t know whether to be a action flick or epic drama, and doesn’t quite have the strongest screenplay.

6/10=Rental!!!

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

What was I getting myself into when I was watching this piece of work!!!

Serial killer Henry (Michael Rooker) serves as mentor to dim-witted fellow killer Otis and as the object of his sister’s affections. Trouble is, Henry’s heart is too hard for friendship to penetrate.

This film was made in 1986, but couldn’t get an R rating from the MPAA ratings board. Finally, in 1990 it went into limited nationwide release, and to be truly honest I can see why it took so long for many people to be so shocked and disturbed.

There are plenty of scenes within this film that are absolutely hard to take. There is one scene that sticks into my mind the most, and that’s when they videotape a murder that they did. That scene disturbed me the most and really did sell the whole disturbing level for me.

I liked especially how the film showed us a passionate and also great look at Henry, the serial killer. There are people out there who do stuff like this just for simple fun, and its time for us to understand that they are people just like you and me. The films murders and the whole element of the film was more serious than just making a joy-ride of these slashing murders.

The only reason I give this profoundly upsetting film only a mild rating, is because it has lost some punch over the years, with the subsequent release of so many even grislier pictures. Even this is upsetting, since it just adds to the film’s overall questioning tone. What kind of world is it, that can make acts like these, and people like Henry and Otis, seem almost normal, hideous acts of pointless murder merely boring and annoying, and the callous actions of these men almost justifiable in the face of the harshness and futility of life as they know it? The camera offers no suggestions or comment, instead just rolling on the action mechanically, like Otis’s camcorder, and offering no view of any better world, one that must exist somewhere outside the half life of ignorance and violence that they take for granted.

Rooker as Henry is great here. He gives us the unsympathetic and at the same token very well-mannered person. Every scene he has is just creepy, and overall disturbing. Rooker never loses his touch in any of the scenes and I just found myself to be fully memorized by the way he handled this character.

Consensus: Though it’s not for everyone, Henry is disturbing, violent, harsh, and ultimately smart. It features a great look at a serial killer that has no remorse, and shows us how these people are just like you and me.

8/10=Matineee!!!!