Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Michael Sheen

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2017)

Can’t trust anybody. Not even randomly kind Jewish men.

Norman (Richard Gere), a New York fixer, knows the right people and can get things done. He also can tend to be a bit overzealous and, as a result, begin to scare more people away, than actually bring them in and closer. Often too, his tactics can be a little odd and rub certain people the wrong way. But then again, those are the kinds of people Norman doesn’t want to really work with, which is why when an Israeli dignitary named Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) comes to the city, Norman decides to impress the man by buying him some very expensive shoes and seeing if they can build on some sort of friendship. It works and he establishes a strong connection to the man, and it helps him when Eshel becomes Israel prime minister a few years later and, get this, actually remembers Norman and wants him to help out in his office. Norman accepts, but also wishes that he was a lot closer to Eshel and the inner-workings. Eventually, this causes issues for both men and will ultimately prove to be Norman’s unraveling, where his real life, all the secrets and lies that he’s kept throughout the years, finally come to lie.

“Trust me, it’s cold out.”

Norman feels like it’s based on a true story, but it really isn’t. In a way, writer/director Joseph Cedar seems to be basing this story off the numerous individuals who work in the strategy-world portion of politics and he doesn’t seem to be frowning upon them, nor even glamorizing them – in fact, he’s more or less just giving them the fair-shake they probably deserve. Political fixers, so often, are seen as heartless, tactful, and evil-doers who find a way to win and keep at it, no matter what. Why on Earth we look down upon these people as less than human, when in reality, they’re just really good at their jobs. And in Norman, the idea we get about political-fixers, as well as the title-character, is that being good at your job is one thing, but being a good and smart human being is another.

Although, that’s what I think.

See, the small issue with Norman is that the movie never really knows just what proves to be his actual fall-from-grace, because honestly, we never really get to see the rise, either. Of course, the word “Moderate” in the title probably says it all, but honestly, when your movie is built around the fact that your lead character doesn’t really accomplish a whole lot, yet, still falls down dramatically off the social-ladder, it’s hard to really feel any pain or emotion. We may care for this character, or even what he’s doing, but if we really don’t get the sense of what’s being accomplished and lost, then really, what’s the point?

Well, Israel’s got enough problems on its plate, honestly.

If anything, Norman proves to be another solid showcase for Richard Gere who, so late in his life, almost doesn’t care how big the movies he’s doing are. By now, he’s so happy to be able to work with these three-dimensional, interesting characters, that he’ll take the budget on, regardless. And as the title-character, Gere’s quite good here; he has every opportunity to play it silly and cartoonish, but thankfully, he strays away from that. In fact, what we see with Gere’s portrayal is a small, rather smart man who also just wants to be recognized, praised, and above all else, loved.

In a way, if you look closer and closer into Norman, the movie does show itself as an intimate character-study of this one relatively troubled man who, despite seeming to have it all, still wants a little more. Cedar is a smart director to know when to get in the way of his ensemble, but because he doesn’t and they’re all good, we see more sides to these characters than ever expected, especially Gere’s Norman. He begins to show his true shadows and signs that, once broken down, unveil a very unexcited and disappointing man. The movie doesn’t really hit as hard, or as heavy as it should, but considering there’s Gere here, it’s safe to say that he’s still an interesting enough character to watch wheel-and-deal for over two-hours.

Anybody else, anywhere else, probably would have been a pain.

Consensus: Though it never really delivers going any deeper than it should have, Norman still works as a smart, interesting character-study, anchored by an even better Richard Gere performance.

7 / 10

Someone give him a hug already!

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Advertisements

Passengers (2016)

Space can get pretty lonely for hot, attractive people.

On a trip to a new planet, where all sorts of wonderful and exciting adventure awaits them, 5,000 passengers lay asleep, waiting to be awoken in 90 years so that they can start fresh. However, the ship malfunctions and awakes one passenger, Jim (Chris Pratt). For Jim, he has no idea why this has happened, or better yet, what to do, but tries whatever he can to alert someone that he has been woken up before everyone else, can’t get back to sleep and may now be forced to live the rest of his life, alone and on this spaceship before it reaches its destination. It’s such a sad existence that all of a sudden gets a little bit better when Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) suddenly wakes up, too, leaving the two to obviously put their brains together even more and think of ways to get out. But of course, seeing as how they are two attractive, hot people trapped on some spaceship together, they eventually begin to gain feelings for one another, making the situation all the more dramatic, especially when the ship begins to malfunction more and more, leaving them to have to make brash decisions in the wake of it all.

She's hot.

She’s hot.

Okay, so yeah. There’s more to Passengers than I’m letting on, but because I am a nice guy, I will try my best to avoid spoiling any small secrets about Passengers that may not just ruin your experience, but not have you expect anything to happen. Because for a movie like Passengers, not knowing what’s going to happen, helps it a great deal.

It’s just that certain level of unpredictability doesn’t stay around so long.

But still, what Passengers does best is somewhere to be found in the first hour or so, when all of the fun of this setting and the promise of this premise is toyed with in smart, sometimes interesting ways. Director Morten Tyldum and writer Jon Spaihts seem to both love this idea of having this spacious, lavish spaceship to play around with and get crazy with possibilities, which makes it interesting to see how these two characters act within their surroundings; this idea that living the rest of your existence seemingly alone sucks, but there’s also plenty of other stuff in this spaceship like a basketball court, something resembling a Wii, Michael Sheen as a robot-bartender, and so much more to it.

However, what’s perhaps most interesting about Tyldum and Spaihts’ approach here is that it feels like there’s so much more to explore within this spaceship and this idea and that for awhile, it almost seems like they’re going to go there. I’ll admit, the love-story does come on very strong, but still, the idea presented about their relationship and how it pertains to the spaceship and overall existence itself still sticks around, making all of the lovey-dovey stuff, at the very least, bearable. It also helps that the spaceship itself, from the outside and in, as well as the rest of the movie, looks pretty great, never seeming as if it’s cheaping out on getting us even more and more immersed into this story and this setting.

Then the final-act kicks in and yeah, it kind of falls apart.

Without saying too much, it seems like the first two acts were written by Spaihts and the last act was done by some studio head’s wannabe-writer kid. Melodramatic revelations start to drop, people begin to cry, sci-fi jargon is thrown everywhere and supposed to mean something, and oh yeah, lots and lots of stuff begins to catch on fire. Why does this happen? Well, no reason really, except that it’s a studio movie and studios are afraid that if there isn’t any action around, people are going to get bored and leave.

And sure, while I’m not totally against the idea of allowing there to be all sorts of crazy action to crank-up the intensity of a story, here, it feels unnecessary and incredibly rushed. It’s as if the movie wasn’t actually finished being written, but there was a budget and a deadline, so they had to do their best but to stick with the conventional fall-out we expect from a plot like this and it just does not work. It’s overlong and way too chaotic to really work – making this movie seem like two different ones combined, without much of a transitional period.

He's hot.

He’s hot.

And that’s honestly why Passengers is getting such a bad rap.

Sure, some may blame it on the fact that the advertising holds back a very important part of the story intentionally, but it sort of doesn’t matter – the movie is less about the spoiler/surprise, as much as it’s about actually watching these characters interact with one another, in this setting, and thinking about what to make of it all. In that sense, the movie is very interesting and the two performances from Lawrence and Pratt, are compelling, but the movie doesn’t totally challenge them a whole lot, either. Essentially, they are playing very much in their wheelhouse, where they both have to play charming and dramatic, and together, they create quite the hot couple. They keep it watchable, at the very least, even when everything begins to fall apart in the end.

Which isn’t to say that Passengers is quite the train wreck everyone’s been making it out to be, but it could have been so much more, had it not seem like the studio interfered. Or even if they didn’t interfere in the first place, the least someone could have done was look over the script a few more times, think of things to fix and overall, make that ending better. It would have helped out a lot and probably kept that spoiler from being so idiotically secretive in the first place.

But hey, whatever brings butts to the seats, right?

Consensus: For a short while, Passengers takes full advantage of its talented leads and interesting premise, yet, does a full 180 about halfway through and loses any sense of what it was originally going for.

5.5 / 10

So, why shouldn't they be hot together?

So, why shouldn’t they be hot together?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Life is depressing, then you die. It’s that simple.

Despite the big house and even bigger bank account, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is still incredibly sad about something. Her second husband (Armie Hammer) constantly leaves for business trips, when in reality, he’s just having sex with other women; she doesn’t keep in-touch with her teenage daughter; and she’s still feeling some sort of guilt from having cheated on her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). But for one reason or another, he sends her a transcript of his latest novel and it absolutely haunts Susan’s life – in her dreams, at work, at her house, seemingly everywhere. And why is that? Well, it just so happens to be a random tale about a husband (also Jake Gyllenhaal), a wife (Isla Fisher), and a daughter (Ellie Bamber) who get ran-off the road by a bunch of mean, dirty and foul Southerners. What does this novel have to do with Susan’s life? Well, she doesn’t quite know, but the more she continues to read, the more she starts to think about her own life and all of the countless decisions she should have, or shouldn’t have, made.

It’s been nearly seven years later since famed fashion-designer Tom Ford’s A Single Man and well, he’s been sorely missed. While that movie not just proved to be a great acting showcase for the always underrated Colin Firth, it also proved to the world that Ford was more than just one of the biggest, most notorious names in the fashion-world. His aspirations and ambitions with his career went further beyond designing pretty clothes and making a heap-tons of money – he had a skill for directing movies and guess what? It all showed.

I don't know, so don't ask.

I don’t know, so don’t ask.

But what’s so interesting about A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, his latest, is that Ford shows he doesn’t just have a knack for crafting beautiful visuals, but also knows how to make, well, a movie, with a good story, good acting, and most importantly, emotion. This time around, however, Ford’s creative-skills are put to the test in that he takes on what is, essentially, two movies into one; there’s the dark, depressing character-drama about sad and lonely rich people, and then, there’s the even darker, but far more grueling and violent Southern-revenge thriller. What do the two have to do with one another?

Well, I’m still trying to figure that all out.

However, there’s no denying that Ford crafts a very interesting, if at times, hard-to-watch movie. While it’s easy to give him credit for making the one story about the sad and lonely rich people and making it somehow work, it’s not as easy to give him credit for the Southern-fried revenge-thriller. The two are very hard movies to make, side-by-side, but somehow, he pulls it all off; both stories and compelling and also seem like they could have been their own movies.

Which is also the very same issue with Nocturnal Animals, in and of itself. For one, it takes a lot on, and handles it well, but also runs into the problem of having one story-line be fare more intriguing than the other. It happens to almost every movie with countless subplots, but here, it feels more disappointing, because they’re both very interesting to watch; it’s just that one clearly has more juice than the other.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

And yes, I am talking about the Southern-fried revenge-thriller, although, it doesn’t make me happy to say that.

See, with that story, Ford is able to transport himself into far more deadly material, where anything can happen, at any given time. Just the introduction into this story, with the couple getting pulled-off to the side of the road and essentially terrorized over the course of ten minutes straight, still plays in my head, just by how truly disturbing it is. But it continues to get better and better, asking harder questions and not giving all that many answers, either.

But then, there’s the other-half of Nocturnal Animals and it’s still good, yet, also very different. It’s slower, more melodic and and far more interested in building its characters. And is it successful? Yes, but it just so happens to be placed-up, side-by-side with this other movie and it makes you wonder whether or not they should have been put that way in the first place? The book in which Tom Ford is adapting does, but I don’t know if it transitions well to the screen, where we literally have two entirely stories being told to us, with two very different styles.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’m still racking my brain around Nocturnal Animals.

If there’s anything I’m for sure certain about, it’s that Tom Ford is no fluke of a director and has, once again, put together a pretty great cast. Amy Adams gets a lot to do with very little, as the very cold and mean Susan Morrow who, through certain flashbacks, we do see develop over time and become more human to us; Jake Gyllenhaal plays her ex-husband as well as the daddy in the book very well, even if they are, two different performances, both seeming to be emotionally draining; Aaron Taylor-Johnson has always been fine in everything he’s done so far in his young career, but here, is absolutely bone-chilling and scary as the one psychopath from the story; Michael Shannon pops up as the Texas Ranger from that story and is clearly having a ball, yet also, showing off a great deal of heart and humanity in a story that, quite frankly, could have used more; and others seem to pop-up, like Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Isla Fisher, Michael Sheen, and Andrea Riseborough, and do whatever they can, but sometimes, have such limited screen-time that it’s a bit of a shame.

But hey, maybe that’s just me being extra needy.

Consensus: By working with two movies at once, Tom Ford expertly crafts Nocturnal Animals into being a dark, dramatic and sometimes disturbing emotional-thriller that may not fit perfectly together, but does offer up some really great performances.

7.5 / 10

It's love. Or is it?

It’s love. Or is it?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz, Indiewire

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Never have hallucinogenics been so dull.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a girl who dreams big, beautiful and often times, crazy things. So often so, that the real world surrounding her just doesn’t do anything for her. That’s why when it turns out that she’s set to wed a British chump, she can’t help but run away to her own world of extravagant and out-of-this-world beings. However, in this world, Alice does’t know if she’s dreaming it all, or if it’s really happening. Either way, Alice is thrown into a whole new world that she’s just getting used to. In this world, Alice meets all sorts of colorful and wild characters like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and then, there’s mystical characters like the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and most importantly, the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). All of whom are characters that Alice has at least one or two interactions with in this world, but mostly of all whom make her wonder if she’s in a dream that she needs to wake up out of, or a world that she needs to escape from. Either way, she needs to do something, and quick!

Tim and Johnny loved dress-up just a little too much.

Tim and Johnny loved dress-up just a little too much.

It’s an honest surprise how bad Alice in Wonderland turned out to be, because you’d think that this would be something in Tim Burton’s wheelhouse. Alice in Wonderland is the kind of oddly strange, but endearing story that benefits from an extra bit of weirdness, as well as visuals, and considering that Burton is quite solid at being both “weird”, as well as “visual”, it’s almost a no-brainer that he’d be chosen for this.

So why oh why did everything go so wrong?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the script Burton may have been working with here was probably really, really bad. For one, it never knows if it wants to be overly-goofy, or just plain weird, but with a darkening and serious tone. Burton himself never quite figures that out, either, but it seems like the script is going to battle with itself over whether or not it wants to set out and scare people, or if it wants to just be a silly old time, where colorful things and characters do crazy, over-the-top things.

Honestly, I’m perfectly fine with the later, because Burton himself has proven, time and time again, that he’s more than able to handle all of that and make it fun, even when it can get brooding. Here though, it never fully comes together. Burton always seems as if he’s trying to settle on one style, but instead of sticking to one in particular, he goes back and forth so often, that we never know what to expect with the movie, nor do we actually care. It’s just such a mess in its own right, that the time it takes to figure its own identity and mood out, it gets to become too late and we already don’t really care.

And that’s a shame because Burton is obviously way better than this here, and it’s clear that he took the visuals very seriously. Sure, some will complain that there’s an over-reliance on CGI and special-effects here, but honestly, what did you expect? It was a live-action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, in the year 2010 – how could it have not been mostly all CGI? The visuals themselves do look quite impressive and it’s clear that certain details from the original flick are here as well, except on a greater scale, but there gets to be a point where you wonder for how long can pretty colors and things make you forget that a story is clearly lacking?

In the case of Alice in Wonderland, not long.

Creepier than Snape? Maybe.

Creepier than Snape? Maybe.

It’s clear that a lot of this story is plodding along, introducing its zany characters one by one, but never really giving them any arch or sustainable personality that makes us want to see them, again and again. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter may have been perfect casting, in hindsight, but in the movie, it’s a typical Johnny Depp performance: He over-acts a whole lot, switches up accents half-way through for some reason, and seems like he’s just making everything up as he goes along. Helena Bonham Carter is at least fun to watch and listen to as the Red Queen, if only because her gags are the only ones that land; Crispin Glover plays her right-hand man and is suitably creepy, although, maybe not creepy enough, given that it’s Crispin Glover we’re talking about here; Anne Hathaway is pretty as the White Queen; Mia Wasikowska seems like she’s interested in doing so much more than what she has here, but instead, has to do a lot of looking around and staring into space; and the voice talents all come in and add another level of charisma to the CGI-creations.

But really, do any of them even matter?

What ends up happening by the close of Alice in Wonderland is that the story goes from point to point, without ever really caring about anyone, or what’s happening. We’re told that the Red Queen is out to take over Wonderland and is this evil, ruthless Queen who doesn’t care about anything that exists, but are we supposed to take any of it seriously? Or, are we supposed to just laugh at her big head? The movie never knows what the answer is and that’s a huge problem.

Eventually, there’s a big battle that comes into play and seems absolutely random, even by this film’s standards. There’s no rhyme, reason, or understanding of what’s happening, for what reasons, and what is to be accomplished; all we do know is that Tim Burton wants his characters to battle it out with one another, for one reason or another. Which maybe would have been fine in any other Tim Burton movie.

Just maybe not in Alice in Wonderland. Sorry.

Consensus: As messy as you can expect a Tim Burton movie to be, but for all of the wrong reasons, Alice in Wonderland never makes sense of its tone, its character, or even its plot, but knows that it’s pretty to look at and only focuses on that.

2.5 / 10

Bobblehead! A ha!

Bobblehead! A ha!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Queen (2006)

God save the queen, indeed.

After the death of Princess Diana, all of London was a public mess. People were crying, leaving beds of flowers, and in a downtrodden depression that hadn’t been since the days of the sudden deaths of John Lennon, or Elvis Presley. However, one person who wasn’t quite as tearful or as upset as the rest of the general public was her former mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren). Elizabeth, even though she tried to appreciate Diana for what she was, can’t understand why so many people would be in such a fit over somebody who, to be honest, they didn’t know. Surely, Elizabeth doesn’t get the point of this sadness, which is why she seems to live her life as usual, walking around with her beloved Corgis, appreciating her husband (James Cromwell), and doing what she always does. Except, this is probably not the best thing for Elizabeth to do, what with Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) ascending to the office of Prime Minister, creating more tension and hatred for her in the press and among public opinion. Eventually, Elizabeth starts to look at the situation in a different light and realize a little something new about herself, as well as the rest of London.

More skin is always better, Philip.

More leg is always better, Philip.

The Queen is an interesting drama, in that everything about it screams “Oscar-bait”, however, the way in which the movie actually plays out, shows something somewhat different. For one, director Stephen Frears approaches the material, not with an overabundance of metaphors and moments of sheer importance, but with a delicate, attention-paying hand and eye that’s more concerned about these actual few people or so, rather than trying to make some statement about how the Queen’s ideals represent an older way of life, against what Diana represented. Surely, all of this material was probably here for Frears to work with, but because he doesn’t see the need in making his material more heavy-handed than it has any right to be, it plays out a little bit better than it would have, had the Academy been sneering towards his way.

At the same time, however, the Queen is also a movie that doesn’t really do much with itself.

I don’t mean this as a way to say that the movie is boring, as there’s plenty to look at, pay attention to, and think about, even when it seems like there’s hardly anything to look or think about. But what I do mean to say is that the Queen deals with such a small issue, in such a particularly subtle way, that if you aren’t already in love with the Queen, the royal family, or everything that the British Royal stand for the most, then sadly, you’ll be kind of lost. For me, I found it hard to care whether or not Queen Elizabeth actually came to terms with the death and subsequent public outcry of Princess Diana. Most of this has to do with the fact that, well, nothing’s really at-stake here; nobody’s going to be calling for the decapitation of her, there’s not going to be any impeachment, and there will surely be no moment of spiritual awakening.

Everything, as they say, will remain the same. Some things may change, but overall, it will be the same as it always was.

And even though watching as a bunch of British cabinet members run around, talking with one another, and generally looking as serious as can be, may sound like fun to some, it doesn’t always sound as fun to me, especially when there isn’t much to grab at here. Frears does a smart thing in that he doesn’t try to overdo the movie with a heavily-stylized direction, but because of this, the movie can sometimes feel as if it’s just treading along, at its own, meandering pace, where people talk and do things, but really, what does any of it matter? Once again, I know I may be in the minority of saying bad things about this relatively beloved film, but for me, while watching the Queen, it was hard to really get sucked into what was going on, especially when there didn’t seem to be much of anything at-stake, except for people’s own hearts, feelings and self-respect.

"Oh, poof! These bloody wankers!"

“Oh, poof! These bloody wankers!”

To me, that’s only high-stakes drama if we undoubtedly care for the subjects whose hearts, feelings, and self-respect is on the line, and with the Queen, some characters were sympathetic, others were not. Helen Mirren won the Oscar for this here and it makes total sense; not only does she downplay the whole role, but she really gets inside of Queen Elizabeth II’s mind, body and soul, wherein we see here deal with this tragedy in the only way she can – without saying, or doing much at all. And of course, there’s a lot of what Queen Elizabeth II says about the public that’s not only funny, but honest, too, giving us the impression that she’s a lady who doesn’t hold back when expressing her feelings on a certain issue, regardless of whether it’s in-line with public opinion, or not.

This isn’t the kind of performance that tends to win Oscars, which is perhaps why Mirren’s performance is all the more illuminating.

But once again, what’s at stake? According to the movie, it’s everything and anything, but in reality, it doesn’t feel like much. We hear a lot from Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair who, considering that the public loves just about everything he does and says, generally seems to be the voice of reason amidst all of the pain and turmoil, but even he turns into this sappy mess who, seemingly out of nowhere, is breaking into speeches about the Queen, her pride, her courage, and why everybody should stick right up for. Maybe the actual Tony Blair was like this, but it seems to come out of nowhere in a film that paints him in an odd light. Same goes for James Cromwell’s Prince Philip, who seems more concerned about his stag, and less about anything else that’s going on.

Once again, maybe this is how the real people, but it still doesn’t grab me even more and make me actually give a flyin’ hoot.

Consensus: Though the direction and performances are much smaller than you’d expect from the typical, awards-friendly fare that the Queen exists in, there’s still not enough to make someone who generally doesn’t care about subjects such as these, actually start doing that.

6 / 10

"Kiss it. Kiss it harder."

“Kiss it. Kiss it harder.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Identity Theory, Cineplex

Far From the Maddening Crowd (2015)

Look out, Marcus Mumford. You’ve got lots of competition coming your way.

In Victorian England, single, independent and smart farm-owner Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) lives a comfortable life where men are always asking for her hand in marriage. After she inherits her uncle’s farm, and all the riches that come along with it, plenty more men come her way, but mostly, in the forms of three, very different men. Suitor one is Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer who asked for Bathsheba’s hand in marriage early on before she got rich, and still clearly has the hots for her, as she does for him. Suitor two is Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), an army Sergeant who, after being stood-up at the altar by his ex (Juno Temple) is currently pissed-off and always drunk, although he catches Bathsheba’s eyes many of times; and suitor three is William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a rich, much older man who constantly stalks Bathsheba no matter where she goes, and always seems to be infatuated with her it borderlines on the verge of being creepy. All three suitors have their own pros and cons for Bathsheba, but it’s fully up to her to make her own decision and come to the conclusion as to who she wants in her life as a mate, if she even wants one at all.

Every year, especially around this time, it seems like we’re all treated to British, Victorian-era period pieces that are clearly targeted to whomever isn’t interested in seeing Avengers for the third of fourth time. While this is a smart marketing plan by whoever makes these kinds of decisions, it leaves one to wonder if these movies are any good in the first place? Surely, not every movie has to feature robots, things blowing up, and CGI, but by the same token, do we really need to get so many period pieces around the same time of the year where only a fine majority will actually go out to see and enjoy them?

Meh. Uhm, no.

Meh. Uhm, no.

Maybe these are questions best suited elsewhere, but anyway, that’s one of the main reasons why Far From the Maddening Crowd worked for me, as opposed to so many other prestige, British dramas of the same vein.

While it’s all very luscious to look at, serious, professional, and color-codded in a way to make older people gasp and gaze at a time when things were a lot simpler, it’s still also a very modern story that doesn’t take too much time or effort to think about. Sure, Far From the Maddening Crowd is still a complex tale with plenty of layers to decipher, but basically, what it really is, is a story of one woman deciding who she wants to be with in her life. Some of that may not seem like it comes at any cost, but the movie makes the good point that, in at least Bathsheba’s case, there totally is.

Bathsheba is an independent free-thinker that doesn’t need a man to define who she is, what she does, or what she can do for those around her, but at the same time, she wants that never ending feeling of love and happiness that mostly comes with having a mate in one’s life. She doesn’t need it, but she wants it, and that’s what makes her tail all the more complex, as it’s a smart one that doesn’t try to tell all women out there that, “All you need to make yourself happy is a man, and that’s it. Everything else is poppycock.”

And it’s also a perfect piece of casting to have Carey Mulligan in the role that, from what I’m supposed to believe, is the one female character to inspire many generations of ones to come. Mulligan doesn’t have a great amount of range (or at least, none of which that I’ve totally seen yet), but she’s good here as Bathsheba Everdene because she’s not only gorgeous, but doesn’t seem stupid. Sure, she makes the silly mistake of falling for the wrong guy and marrying him at one point, but she isn’t a dope that could be easily swayed one way; with her, it would take a lot of time and effort on one’s behalf to really impress her, which makes Bathsheba all the more compelling to watch.

No! Definitely not!

No! Definitely not!

Not to mention that it helps make her three suitors entertaining, even if one does get a tad too over-the-top for his own good.

Though Tom Sturridge is a fine actor and does what he can here, his Frank Troy here is just too one-note. Sure, we feel bad for the dude because he gets stood-up at the altar for all of the wrong reasons, but once we realize that he’s the main antagonist that the movie is going to rely on, the role gets a bit more bland. He’s there to basically stir the shit when the shit needs stirring and it just comes off as lazy and manipulative on the part of director Thomas Vinterberg. Maybe this was how he was written, I’m not sure, but all I know is that it doesn’t wholly work.

That said, Sturridge doesn’t blur the fact that both Michael Sheen and especially, Matthias Schoenaerts, are great here and allow for these two characters to seem more deep than they may actually be written as being. Sure, Sheen’s character may be a total and complete creep, that can’t help but find Bathsheba whenever she’s in a dark, confined hallway, but also seems like a genuinely nice guy who is willing to do whatever he can to get the love of his life. Once again, not saying I fully condone his actions, but the dude’s inspired by something, so I’ll give him that.

The one who obviously seems like the perfect fit for Bathsheba is Schoenaerts’ Gabriel Oak – a character who seems so hokey, that he sort of works. He’s the quiet, stern and silent type, but he’s also incredibly handsome, hot and capable of fixing anything and everything that needs fixing. Clearly, he seems like the perfect fit for Bathsheba, but because she doesn’t go for him right off the bat, were left waiting and wondering when that may happen, if at all. I’ve only seen Schoenaerts in a few films or so, and I have to say, the dude has impressed me tons. Not only does he find ways to further challenge himself, but doesn’t seem pigeon-holed as being the Brando-clone that he was made out to be so early in his career.

Can’t wait to see what he’s got next, but let’s just hope that it isn’t another British period-piece. I can only handle so many of these a year.

Consensus: Like most period pieces, it’ll appeal to some, and not to others, but Far From the Maddening Crowd features a top-notch ensemble, with a romantic story that goes certain places that are interesting, believable, and fun to watch, all at the same time.

7.5 / 10

Yes! Get it, girl!

Yes! Get it, girl!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Kill the Messenger (2014)

What’s a newspaper?

Middle-aged journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) isn’t necessarily the type of writer who searches for a big story, but if it ever comes his way, he’ll more than likely take the opportunity to jump on it right away. That’s why when Webb stumbles upon a lead that may take him all the way to uncovering that the CIA channeled drugs through the U.S., he gets on top of it right away, interviewing possible sources, even if that includes him taking trips out to to the villages of Nicaragua and putting his life on the line. However, Webb is a true journalist and will do anything to make his story the best possible one out there and for all of the world to see, which is exactly what happens. It gets his name known, story re-published in larger, much more respected news outlets, face on TV, and even an award for “Year’s Best Journalist”. Everything looks wonderful for Webb’s life and career, that is, until the government actually gets involved and starts putting pressure on him, as well as his news publication to stop pursuing the story any further, or else. This leaves Webb at a stand-still: Continue following the story his career was made for and lose everything he has, or, listen to what the government demands so that he can live a normal, comfortable life, like everything was before all this press? Decisions, decisions.

There’s certain movies that, to me, may speak volumes, while to others, may not at all. I understand this because while most critics out there like to say that they “have no bias” when it comes to reviewing a certain movie, from a certain creator, on a certain subject, the fact is, we are all biased. Which isn’t a problem, it’s just a fact of life that every human being has deep down inside themselves, regardless of if they want to admit or not.

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm...

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm…

The reason why I say this, is because a movie like Kill the Messenger is made exactly for me: A movie about an respectable journalist, taking place in a time when journalists truly did matter to the mainstream media, and doing what most journalists do, day in and day out. I too, am an aspiring journalist and while I do realize that the world is starting to need fewer and fewer of them, it’s still a profession I love and will continue to pursue until the day I die, regardless of if I have a job in the field or not. So yeah, as you could probably tell by my statement, that this is the movie for me.

That said, I do realize that not every movie out there that works for me, won’t work for others and while I do want to jump into this movie head-on and talk about Webb, his practice, and how he, the real-life figure, makes me happy to be an aspiring journalist, I have to judge the movie on its merits. Merits which, mind you, may be a bit fuzzy to me and my inner-bias.

Sorry, people. I’m only human, after all.

But as I was saying, Kill the Messenger is a pretty typical biopic; while it definitely tries to shy away from being by-the-notes, it hardly ever flies away from this convention and just tells its story like how it was presented to us. Which isn’t a bad thing, because if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it, and such is the case here. Webb’s story, as is, is an interesting one that doesn’t need to go through any interesting, yet shocking, twists to liven things up – all it needs to do is be told to us as it was, with every bit of information known about who he was and the controversy that surrounded a good portion of his life. Sort of like an article as is, but I won’t go on any further about that!

Anyway, director Michael Cuesta, while not necessarily the most flashy director in the world, doesn’t need to be so because the strength of the movie is in the real-life story itself. Of course with most of these biopics, there’s always the wonder of how much we are seeing presented on screen is actually how it happened, or how much is just made for the sake of making the movie entertaining, but for the most part, I couldn’t find any punches pulled by Cuesta. Even if there were any, they were so thinly-done, that it was hard for me to notice and hardly ever took me away from the real strength of this movie, which was the character of Gary Webb himself. But most of all, the actor portraying him: Jeremy Renner.

By now, within in the past five years of seeing the Hurt Locker, I think the world has come to realize that Jeremy Renner is a wonderful actor that’s more than capable of handling a movie on his own (for some of us, it may have been earlier, but you know, I’m talking about the mainstream audience here, you hipsters). So for him to be involved with a biopic such as this, it made me interested in seeing just how far he could go into making us see him as somebody, and not just him playing somebody. And honestly, it’s impressive how well-suited for this role Renner is; though we don’t know all that much about Webb, the real-life person, what we see from how Renner plays him, we get the idea that he was a sweet and lovable, yet also troubled, family man. Because Renner has such a charming screen-presence, there’s an idea that he gets along with practically anybody he’s around and doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to telling it like he sees it. Which is, once again, all thanks to Renner’s wonderful performance that may not get a lot of press, but definitely should, because it’s probably his strongest since the previously-mentioned Locker.

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Really?

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Didn’t see that coming!

But what Renner, as well as the movie, tells us about Webb is that he was a hard-worker, who stuck to his journalistic guns, even when it seemed like, for the well-being of everyone around him, he shouldn’t have. However, that’s what brings us to the main dilemma that the movie discusses: How far should a journalist go to pursue a story? Should they go in so deep that they practically abandon those who love and count on him/her for support? Or, should they create their story and jump off of it right before the story itself gets all sort of unwanted press?  This, to some, may seem like an obvious point made by many other movies concerning the world of journalism, but to me, a fellow journalist, is a problem I struggle with everyday. Not because I myself am throwing myself right into these highly controversial stories that could put my life on the line, but more because that could definitely happen some day. A person could easily read a story of mine that they don’t like and could decide to take matters into their own hands, which, I know, sounds barbaric, but crazier things have happened, people.

But enough about me, because while I found a way to connect to this movie with my own journalist-mind intact, I think the real wonder of this movie that makes it easy for almost anybody to appreciate is that it gives a glimpse into the life of a man not many people discuss or even know about much anymore. Webb, while seeming like a slightly troubled-fella, really did love his job, but most of all, loved discovering and unraveling the truth about those in power and all of the wrong-doings they were committed. Which is why it’s sad to see not just his family begin to bail on him once this story gets too hot, but also his publication that doesn’t want to be involved with a journalist who may, or may not be, good for their image.

It says something about journalism as a whole, but also says something about how this man, Gary Webb, truly did want people to know that he was telling the truth just about every step of the way. But that it only takes a few of those in power, to be angry, and make sure that whatever skeletons they have in their closet, stays put. It sucks, but it’s a reality and it was inspiring to see someone like Webb stand up for himself, even when it was the riskiest choice he could make.

Even if I was the only one who felt it.

Consensus: Kill the Messenger isn’t just a testament to the legend of Gary Webb and his journalistic pursuit to discovering the truth, but also to journalism as a whole, and presents plenty of strong questions, with hardly any answers. The way it’s supposed to be told.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Admission (2013)

Aren’t the people who work in admissions heartless, soulless creatures? Or at least the ones who denied me?

Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan, a Princeton University admissions officer who is caught off-guard when she makes a recruiting visit to an alternative high school overseen by her former college classmate, the free-wheeling John Pressman (Paul Rudd). Portia also finds out that she may have a son that she doesn’t remember all too fondly for reasons unknown.

Anybody who has ever attended college or is planning to do so in the next year, probably already knows how grueling the admissions process is. You get your application, you say everything beautiful and amazing you have ever done with your life or the world, hand it in, and just hope and pray to the lord above that they decide to make you that one in a millionth person to get in. However, as most of us know, it isn’t that easy and usually, we get denied. So, who do we blame? Ourselves? Pshh! Nah! We blame those spineless, horrible people that work in the office, where they either deny you, approve you, or put you on the waiting list.

So, therefore, to know that these are the people that the rest of your days depend on, is one thing, but to dedicate a whole entire movie to those people, especially one that loves her job so much, just seems downright idiotic? Why the hell would we want to watch someone who denies and judges kids for a living as to whether or not they saved the world with their limited resources, for over 2 hours? Well, with Tina Fey playing that person, then I guess you could count me in as one of those people.

She can't help but just fall for the Rudd charm.

She can’t help but just fall for the Rudd charm.

The movie starts out, not quite like I was expecting it to. See, I knew there was going to be comedy, I knew there was going to be romance, and I knew there was going to be dramatic, mommy-issues, just judging by the trailer alone, but the beginning really started things off on the right foot. It was fun, quick, and actually hilarious in the way that it makes fun of most kids that apply to schools like Princeton, or anywhere for that matter, and how they are solely judged right from the start, without ever getting a chance to plea their case. They make fun of this harsh reality by showing how shallow the people who work in admissions can be, but then again, not all of them are bad. Some are just more heartless than the others. You’ll find that anywhere you go, in any work place, really.

But aside from that fact, this movie really had me going from the beginning just because it seemed to take pride and joy in it’s premise, and milking it for all of what it was worth. The idea of having this admissions lady, that’s all stuck-up and a tad prudish, find her ways through the world by a bunch of farm boys and possible-son, doesn’t seem like a case for a comedic-classic. But this flick continues to make you laugh by just never stopping and always seeming natural. Nothing seems like they’re trying too hard here and I think that’s all thanks to the cast and crew that director Paul Weitz was able to assemble here.

Tina Fey, god bless her, is the real powerhouse of this whole movie that keeps it going on and on and on, until it can spin no mo. Fey, as we all know, can be and is, very hilarious in this movie because she plays it cool, calm, and sweet, but always stays true to herself in the way that we can tell that this Portia lady is a nice one, who just has the dilemma of being an admission-worker, that may also have a son. A lot of the scenes where it could have easily been written off as “goofy”, “stupid”, or “dumb”, Fey rises above the material and makes it worth your hard-earned doll hairs, if you decide to check this out in theaters when it comes by.

But what really surprised me about Fey the most here is how she was able to be funny and charming, but also very realistic in the way she handled herself through most of the dramatic scenes, which, for the most part, were the core scenes in making this movie work it’s magic and charm. Thankfully, with Fey on-board, the magic sizzles. There’s a couple of key scenes by the end where we really feel something for Fey, her character, and all that she’s been through, and to watch all of that culminate in a scene where she has to speak-out for her supposed-son during the admissions process, really touched me and almost had me feel like any mom would do the same. Fey really strikes a chord with this character, makes us feel for her, but also let us see who she really is and all that she feels. Thanks to Fey, this movie works way beyond then I expected it to, and that’s because the gal has a natural charm that cannot be denied whether she’s being goofy, laughing, sexy, or just downright serious. Either which way, she’s great at what she does and was a real pleasure to watch on-screen.

He's just a normal dude that likes the simple and easy tasks in life, like chopping wood with an ax. What a dream-boat.

He’s just a normal dude that likes the simple and easy tasks in life, like chopping wood with an ax. What a dream-boat.

Even though his role isn’t as dramatically-rich as Fey’s, Paul Rudd still gets to show us all what he’s got as the simple, everyday man John Pressman. Rudd has that wit and charm that’s easy to make anybody smile and chuckle at, but there’s also more to this character than we see coming. He has a bit of a problem just staying in one area for his whole life and instead, can’t really make up his mind as to where he wants to go in life, or how. That would be fine and all if he was a 21 year old, recent-graduate of college, but the dude’s over 40, has a kid, has a job, has a house, and has a responsibility. This guy definitely should be taking it easy and realizing where his priorities really stand. Rudd’s great in this role, even if when he does go up-against Fey, she’s the one who really steals the show.

There’s a whole bunch of others in this cast that are great like Fey’s DIY-mom, played by the always hilarious Lily Tomlin, John’s adopted Ugandan son Nelson, played by Travaris Spears, and even the return of Wallace Shawn to the big-screen, as Portia’s boss at Princeton. Everybody in this heavily-stacked cast are great and do everything in their will-power to make these characters work, but by the end, something with this movie starts to change, with the tone, the direction, and the characters, and all of a sudden, everybody is revealing crap about themselves and having dilemmas that feel unnecessary  Not to say that none of these characters are interesting or anything, but they all seem to have a problem in life, and talk about it at the most random situations possible. I get that there’s stuff that needs to get laid-out on the table for all to see, but it begins to happen to almost every character here, and really bothered me seeing as that the movie could have just stuck it straight with Fey and Rudd, and been done. But they bit off a bit more than they could chew, and it’s noticeable.

Consensus: You may be surprised, but Admission is a very surprising piece of entertainment that had me laughing, had me happy, had me smiling, had me fall in love with Tina Fey all over again, but also, had me a tad sad by the end, where I actually fell into tune with these characters, their problems, and how they get by in life. Was not expecting this one bit.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Inconceivable!"

“Inconceivable!”

TRON: Legacy (2010)

Almost 30 years later, and I still don’t get what the hell they’re talking about.

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), son of the famous Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), responds to a message from his long-lost father and is transported into a virtual reality called the Grid, where Sam and the algorithm Quorra (Olivia Wilde) try to stop the malevolent program CLU (a younger Bridges in CGI-form) from invading the human world. However, times have changed for dear old Kevin Flynn and he’s not exactly what he used to be, so it’s up to Sam to save the day.

After checking out the first TRON and not seeing it as anything more than just a pretty film that’s easy on the eyes (if you take the time-period into consideration), but still, very hollow once you get underneath it all, I was actually looking forward to this one. The reason being is just because it’s been almost 30 years since the original, so therefore it seems like they would have a new hold on the visuals, the story, the acting, the writing, and just about everything else that didn’t work in the original. Somehow, that idea didn’t get around to anybody working on this movie, except maybe the people working on the soundtrack. Yeah, giving Daft Punk a call was a bit different.

If you haven’t seen the original, you may want to do that now before you even bother reading the rest of this review or even seeing this movie because going into this one blind and having no idea what to expect will probably leave you in the dust. Not only does the flick barely touch on anything that happened in the first movie, but it’s story (or lack thereof) is mainly for the people who saw and could at least understand some portion of the original’s. Basically, see the first one and THEN, check this one out. You’ll be happy I gave you that piece of advice, but then again, you maybe be unhappy that I gave you that piece of advice because not only did you have to sit-through one TRON movie, but two! My condolences, people. My condolences.

"I'm the Flynn, man."

“I’m the Flynn, man.”

Actually, all of this pre-game shit-talking may not be deserved because to be honest: I actually enjoyed myself with a good-portion of this flick. Heck, if I was to put it head-to-head with the first; I’d probably have to go with this one pulling out the close victory. Close-call, but still a victory none the less. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that the same problems I had with the first movie aren’t here, it’s just that there is more to distract me this time around. Thankfully, that distraction lies in the form of Joseph Krosinski’s visual-direction. In the 30 years ever since the first one came out and shook-up the world of movies and video-games as we knew it, technology sure as hell had changed and improved in ways that we wouldn’t have ever been able to swallow back in those days. This means that the movie actually takes advantage of that fact, the same way the original did, except with more CGI, more 3-D, and more IMAX.

Obviously, the first one for it’s time, was revolutionary and visionary with what it could do back in the dog days of Summer in ’82, but now, in the 21st Century; there’s so much more than we ever imagined. The world of the Grid looks more beautiful and breath-taking than it ever did before and you really feel as if you are swept into this virtual-reality world with the same shit from the first movie like electronic cars, frisbees, and weapons, but this time; with more pizzazz and style added to the mix. I really felt like Krosinski had a total understanding of what the look and feel of this world would be like, and he doesn’t drop the ball on it once. Especially in one scene that takes place inside this wild and crazy night-club that had me feel like I was watching a whole, different movie. Also, the scene works because that’s really when Daft Punk’s score begins to kick-in and if it wasn’t for them and their pounding, electronic-beats in the background in that scene, as well as for the rest of the movie, there probably wouldn’t have been the same amount of electronic-energy involved that just got your senses alive and pumping.

Thanks to Krosinski, you feel as if you are there in this virtual-world where everything is on such a higher-platform than it ever was before and the guy absolutely revels in it. You can tell that he really did grow-up with the original movie, and shows that he loves this world just as much as any other nerd, who probably watched it back in the day, and fell in love with it just the same. However, the difference between Krosinski is that he has a camera and about $170 million to work with, whereas the nerds are just left there, making $10 an hour, eating Doritos off their chests as they sit-back, and watch as a fellow-nerd lives out their shared-dream to the fullest. In a way, that can all be viewed as a humble experience, but it still goes to show you that if you have inspiration and a vision that you want to get-out there for the rest of the world to see, don’t hold yourself back from showing yourself. Get the hell out there and make it happen! Fuck yeah!

Anywho, I think I may have gotten a bit too carried away with what I was trying to say because yes: even though Krosinski knows exactly what he’s trying to do behind-the-camera and with the visuals, he still hits the same dead-end that the original hit way too many times: the script. For all of you who probably guessed it, then yes, the script is pretty terrible and without getting into the whole gist of this thing and finding myself in a circle of total and complete convoluted craziness, I’m just going to state that this plot practically makes no sense, even to a person that has seen the original no less than a week ago. There are some interesting ideas here, but nothing all that special that the Matrix didn’t already cover, about 11 years earlier. Which means watching it now, just seems like a bit of a re-tread of something that was done and said, a hell of a lot better before. God, you gotta love the 90’s.

As you could probably suspect, the dialogue is pretty shitty but you don’t come to a movie like this for winning-dialogue and understandings of the world we surround ourselves with; you come to these movies for fun and fun only, and that’s what element this script is missing out on: fun. What made the original a relative joy to watch was that no matter how corny, no matter how dated, and no matter how lame the rest of the script was (and trust me, it did get unbearable at-points), the film still always had this breath of fresh air that knew it wasn’t taking itself so seriously and always allowed there to be room for play-time. However, this movie, this story, and this script, only allows little to no room for play-time and really brings down the whole mood of the film. Terrible shame too, because it could have really saved a lot of the shaky-material this movie had on-display.

Don't worry, Garrett. On the Road will win you praise."

Don’t worry, Garrett. On the Road will win you praise.”

Yeah, I get that it’s supposed to be a bit of a dumb movie that’s strictly for fans of the original and people that like extra butter on their popcorn, but is this really the BEST material they had to offer? I mean, you can live-off the fanboys money for only so long, all up until the point where the fanboys begin to realize something is wrong, dead-wrong with the way things are structured in a movie, especially a movie that’s living in a cult-name like TRON. Even though I wouldn’t go so far as to call the final-product a total cash-grab for that said audience; it still feels like a lame and disappointing attempt at trying to re-create the fire that was once there. The fire that also never really caught my eye in the first-place but then again, it’s a different type of movie for a different type of person. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

The one thing they did improve on, if only a tad bit, from the original is that the characters at least have more to them than I originally expected. Jeff Bridges returns as Kevin Flynn in two forms: the goodie and the baddie. The goodie-form of him show the Zen-like fashion where he’s more of The Dude, than the precursor to Neo. This especially works for the aging-Bridges who always seems to be the most reasonable and coolest guy in the room, no matter what type of role he’s playing in any movie he appears in. However, the baddie-form of this character is where things really start to get topsy-turvy for Bridges because it isn’t exactly that it’s Bridges actually playing the character and giving a realistic-performance, it’s more that the computer is taking over and giving us another one of those terribly-creepy, Robert Zemeckis-like motion-capture performances that not only have us scared, but totally take us away from the movie.

Flynn’s baddie-version of himself was supposed to be intimidating and threatening in the way that he could control almost everything and everything, due to the set of skills and prowess he had from the computer codes Flynn gave him. However, when you give the guy the motion-capture treatment like this, he doesn’t look the least-bit scary. The only form of scary, is that he’ll probably just give the kiddies nightmares, that’s if you even bring them to see this. Don’t know why you would, but you never know: nerds have done far worse. However, instead, you’re too busy laughing your ass off by how dull his eyes look and how stupid it seems to be whenever he opens his mouth. They did nail some aspects of Bridges when he was a younger lad, but it’s still not enough to be less distracting than a form of CGI in say, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That was not only used to enhance the story, but done very, very well. Here, it just looks dumb and takes you totally out of the movie and character, even if Bridges does try his hardest to make this character, in both forms, work. I mean, I’ll give a lot of credit to Bridges for actually allowing a movie to take a younger-version of himself and plant it in a movie where he shows-up quite frequently, but still, for the movie’s sake, it’s a bold-move that doesn’t work.

Garrett Hedlund plays his son, in what seems to be the type of role that could make him a star and send his name up into the highest-rankings (sort of like Chris Pine in Star Trek), however, he’s just not really talented enough to allow that to actually happen. Hedlund definitely looks the part of a young, wild, and brass go-getter dude that knows his shit don’t stank, but there was just something that felt off in his delivery and sent his character into a daze of dullness. You sort of forget that he’s even around and if it wasn’t for the plot needing him to do cool, flashy action-moves (mainly because Bridges sure as hell can’t do them anymore), then he would have not served any purpose to this story whatsoever. Okay, maybe that’s a bit drastic to say but you get my drift: the guy blows here.

"BELIEVE IN ME!!"

“I’M MORE THAN CGI!!!”

Olivia Wilde is the one who really saves this cast, and in a way, the movie as well. She plays Quorra, the ass-kicking femme fatale of the group and is not only a gorgeous soul to just gaze at, but also has some nice dramatic-chops to her that she shows in full-display here. Something tells me the script didn’t really ask for much with a character of her liking, but Wilde doesn’t ever seem to settle for conventionality and actually brings the cake to the screen, whereas her co-star Hedlund, seems to really fall-apart. Not only does she have the looks, but she has the brains as well. My type of woman.

Also in the cast, is Michael Sheen who seems to be having a freakin’ blast as Castor, aka, the sci-fi version of David Bowie that only gets about 10-minutes or so of screen-time, but lights it up the way he always likes to. He’s apart of that crazy, club-scene I was alluding to earlier and is one of the main reasons why it’s so electric and fun in the first-place. Still, it’s a total downer that the guy doesn’t show-up more as I feel like the film could have totally used his type of contribution here. I also have no idea why Cillian Murphy was here and decided to show-up for 5-seconds of screen-time, but hey, I guess it’s just another job to put down on his resume, so good for that guy.

Consensus: The promise for a TRON sequel may lie somewhere in-between the loads of amounts of CGI in TRON: Legacy, but it somehow falls by the same waist-side the first one did. That’s all due to lack of character-development, a story that makes little to no sense, and a feeling of joyful fun that’s about the action, adventure, excitement, and playing the deadliest-game of Frisbee, rather than incomprehensible exposition that doesn’t add anything to the final-product, other than snores from the audience. Even the nerds!

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Daft Punk is playing in my mediocre-movie, my mediocre-movie.

Daft Punk is playing in my mediocre-movie, my mediocre-movie.

Frost/Nixon (2008)

I would have definitely liked it more if they interviewed the Nixon from Futurama.

This is a period piece, that centers on little-known talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen), who goes way out of his way to interview probably one of the most controversial and famous presidents of all-time, Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). This is the story of how those interviews went.

I really didn’t know too much about the Frost/Nixon interviews other than the fact that they both were interviews between two dudes. Goes to show you how much I paid attention in history class after all. Surprisingly though, this is not a history lesson and more of a film about the two dudes who were in these famous series of interviews together.

Director Ron Howard really gives it his all with this film because of the way he makes these interviews seem less like actual interviews and more like a boxing match of words between two famous figures. Howard keeps the tension building up and up on these interviews and gives us enough character development to realize just how much both of these people need these interviews. One for fame, the other for forgiveness and setting the record straight.

Another great element to this film that makes it so damn watchable is that it’s script is very very good with a lot intelligence, wit, and small doses of humor to keep us laughing and entertained. It’s basically a “talking heads” film where you just watch a whole bunch of people talk without anything really happening, but it’s a very fun one that relies solely on the fact that it can keep people glued into what Frost is going to ask, and what Nixon is going answer with. I never actually saw the play that this is based off of but apparently everything is taken verbatim which makes the transition from stage to screen even better.

The problem with this film that keeps it away from being anything perfect or amazing like it could have easily been is that I feel like Howard could have really went out-of-bounds with this film. Granted, this is a very small film where there isn’t really a lot happening other than these two guys talking but I feel like there could have been more of how the nation felt about these interviews, and more about other characters that are just sort of there.

I also never understood why Howard have the actors who portrayed these actual people, come off and randomly narrate what was happening and why. I feel like the film is trying to give a sort of documentary feel when in reality it could have just stayed away from that or even used the real-life people itself. We all know who the actors are and who the real people are, so there’s no need to trying to show us otherwise.

Michael Sheen is a lot of fun to watch as David Frost because this guy is sometimes at the lowest points of his life, but no matter what keeps a big olde smile on his face. Sheen reminds me of that very cheeky, very corny, but always funny British guy that always seems to think he’s better than everybody, and usually is depending on who you are talking. However, this film really does belong to the one and only Frank Langella as Richard Nixon.

Even though he doesn’t look like Nixon, Langella probably does the best performance/impersonation of the man that any other actor has ever done in their whole lives. Yes, Anthony Hopkins has played Nixon too, Langella is THAT GOOD. You notice the physical differences within the first 5 minutes but then you totally got lost in this guy because he really just sells this whole conflicted, and tormented soul that knows what he did was wrong but he can’t get past it with everyone around him always breathing down his neck. There is some pretty wild stuff that Langella does as Nixon, such as losing his temper like a 7 year-old would do if his mommy didn’t buy him ice cream, but it’s totally easy to see why Langella got nominated for an Oscar and hopefully he keeps on getting better roles from now on.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t achieve greatness, Frost/Nixon is still a great flick with two great performances, a clever script, and a direction from Howard that keeps this film tense and on its toes.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Midnight in Paris (2011)

After taking French for 2 years now, I finally have a reason to go and tour Paris. Thank you Woody!

Woody Allen focuses his lens on a young engaged couple (Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams) whose experiences traveling together in Paris make them begin to question the kind of life they want to live as a couple. There’s more to this plot, but I can’t tell you anymore I’m sad to say. You may just have to check it all out.

Woody Allen is one of my favorite writer and directors, and it’s just awesome to see him have a film come out during the big Summer blockbuster season and actually get this small film out there. You the man Woody!

My favorite thing about this film is just the overall delightful feeling which comes from Allen’s direction and writing. The first 5 minute silent sequence of Paris throughout a whole day is just beautiful and the way Allen films each little area of Paris is amazing. So basically right from the get-go, you get the total feeling that this is Woody Allen’s love-letter to the city of LOVE aka one of the most beautiful cities of the world. The whole film I just wanted to walk around Paris and every single place this film went made me feel so warm and cozy inside. I know that all may seem a little strange but Paris really is beautiful and the way Allen films it, almost makes it look even better.

The script by Allen is also something to praise as well. This is a very well-written script that features a lot of hilarious dialogue, as well as some nostalgia that will have you looking for your vintage vinyl players, and some insight to hit your brain also. Despite all the of the beautiful scenery here, the film is about living in the now and having a great time with what you have now, rather than just sitting back and brood on how the old days were so much better. It’s pretty funny hearing this message come from a guy who hasn’t put a single song in any of his films that have been after the year 1950, but with Woody, it’s still very relatable. Also, I was totally taken away with what happens to this premise. It really is awesome when you don’t really know what’s going to happen in a film before you see it.

The only real problem I had with this film was that I felt it was way too short and just happened very quickly. I guess I was just expecting more insight, and more plot development by the end of the film and with many of Allen’s films, I usually adore how he ends his films. Here, I didn’t really like the ending and I felt it was a little bit forced to bring out some more smiles for the people leaving the theater, which is not really a complaint, I just know that Woody almost always gets a great ending for whatever it is that he’s doing.

Owen Wilson is fantastic as Gil Penders, a screenplay writer who want’s something more. You would not really think of Wilson as a suitable Woody Allen stand-in because his persona is so easy-going, confident, and totally relaxed feel to him that it’s crazy to see how likable he is in this film. It’s been awhile since Wilson has got a good role lately but here he does a pretty stellar job at not at all phoning it in, and being believable when all this crazy ish is happening around him. Rachel McAdams is a total bitch as his fiancee Inez, but a good and hot one to say the least. The one thing about this film that also had me a little annoyed was how these two actually became so in love, in the first place since all they do here is basically argue and misunderstand one another. Inez treats Gil as a total moron and for me, I don’t care how fine the bitch is, if she’s disrespecting me, she is out the door. The rest of the cast is filled with some nice supporting performances/cameos from a couple of A-listers and up-and-comers, but when you see them, you’ll be totally surprised so I won’t say anything else.

Consensus: It may end very quickly than I expected, but Midnight in Paris is a charming and delightful comedy filled with beautiful images of the city of Paris, a great central performance from Owen Wilson, and an insightful script about living in the present, rather than harping on the past. You tell ’em Woody!

8.5/10=Matinee!!!