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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 Stuhlbarg

The Shape of Water (2017)

Further proof why we need to save our oceans.

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute, lonely woman who lives by herself and generally has a calm, care-free, and quiet existence. Her best friend is also her neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), who also happens to be gay and wanting desperately to come out of the closet, yet, with this being early-60’s Baltimore, few things like that are ever heard of. Still, Elisa gets by with her job as a cleaning-lady at a top-secret, government-testing facility, where she mops and cleans up mostly everything. But then, one day, her suspicions get the best of her when she notices a strange fish/person/thing (Doug Jones), that the facility has in its own safe keep so that the Russians can’t get it. What they want to do with it, or what’s going to become of it, they don’t really know, but the security-guard keeping watch over it (Michael Shannon), knows that he wants to make its life absolute and total torture. But Elisa doesn’t like this and sees a little bit of herself in this creature, making their relationship stronger and more passionate as the days go by and the danger of their lives near closer.

Good friends live disheveled lives together.

In all honesty, Guillermo del Toro is a writer/director I respect and admire more than I actually like. Mostly all of his movies work for me, they’re beautiful, put-together exceptionally well, and feel like the creative-work of a visionary at his finest, but for some reasons, the emotions are just never there for me. This isn’t to take away from his work as a writer/director, nor is it to say that those who love his work are “wrong” by any means – it’s just a thing with me. I’ve come to accept it, watch his movies, appreciate them, and move on.

And the Shape of Water is another one of those works I respect and appreciate, yet, by the same token, also walk away from a little cold.

Mostly though, it’s shocking how conventional and simplistic the Shape of Water is, considering that del Toro’s films all take on a rather crazy, confusing, and fantastical tone that seem to come from some other dimension. Not that there isn’t any of his usual fantasy-elements here, but mostly, they’re all toned down so that del Toro can get to a more human and understated story about a group of misfits, getting by, finding love, happiness, and meaning to a life that seems to hate them for being who they are. In other words, it’s a beautiful movie in both the way it looks and feels, but at the center, it’s also a lot sweeter than a lot of del Toro’s other more foreboding movies.

Which isn’t to say that del Toro plays it safe here, because that’s not the case. In fact, del Toro still somehow finds a way to keep his voice and vision, even when it seems like he’s making some sacrifices to bring other people to his work; though it’s a creature-feature in some senses, there’s also romance, drama, comedy, and espionage that makes this a movie that has something for everyone, regardless of if they want it or not. And of course, some people may not be willing to stick with this odd movie, the plot, the twists, and turns, but so what?

“Go and get your fish-man, girl.”

They’re not used to something this odd and original, which makes the Shape of Water a treat for us all who want a little something more out of cinema.

No matter how large or small.

We also appreciate a movie that has these somewhat colorful and comical characters, yet, also gives them enough heart and humanity to make them seem somewhat humane. Sally Hawkins, in what is practically a silent performance, does a lot with very little; she’s sweet and soulful, yet, doesn’t have the opportunity to ever make us feel that with her words. It’s just the way she carries herself and looks, and it works. Richard Jenkins is even better as her gay neighbor who, with almost every line, steals every scene. He’s funny, heartfelt, smart, witty, and oh yeah, a little sad. Basically, he’s a perfect character for Richard Jenkins to play and he makes every second work.

There’s also Octavia Spencer as Hawkins’ funny, smart and sassy co-worker who, with just about every line, also has something funny to say. In fact, other than the Hellboy movies, the Shape of Water may be del Toro’s funniest movie, because while it embraces its darker, more sinister undertones, it always has a funny snap or two immediately after, that knows how to be self-aware, but never too cloying or over-the-top. It’s just the right amount of light and darkness, and it’s why the whole cast, does a great job. Michael Shannon plays the villain here who is so distasteful and evil, it’s hard to really watch him, but once again, it works.

It all works. It just didn’t, once again, grab me the way it probably has to everyone else. And that’s just my cross to bear.

Consensus: Ambitious, smart, funny, humane, heartfelt, and well-acted, the Shape of Water proves to be del Toro’s mos accessible movie, but also doesn’t let go of his ever creative-vision.

8 / 10

Under the sea. Under the sea.

Photos Courtesy of: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Miss Sloane (2016)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to stick it to ’em.

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is one of the more infamous and controversial lobbyists working Washington. That has less to do with the fact that she actually gets her bills passed, as much as it has to do with her brash, cocky and sometimes incredibly arrogant attitude that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. When the company she’s working for decides that they want to get a gun-bill passed, Elizabeth’s good intentions kick in and it makes her realize that she doesn’t like the bill and wants her own gun-reform bill to pass instead. So, what does Elizabeth Sloane do? Well, she joins up with a rival company, gathers up her team of new and old coworkers, and sets out to take down the new bill, garnering as many votes for her own gun-reform bill that can. However, when you’re going up against so many big dogs on the hill, there comes a point where you may have to put up, or shut up – something that Elizabeth doesn’t want to do, and it may as well cost her, not just her career, but even her life.

Miss Sloane sounds so incredibly boring and lame. It’s as if all the grand-parents got together in a room, decided that they needed a movie that only they cared about, gathered together a huge crowd of talented people to work in it, and yeah, just watch the movie for themselves. But Miss Sloane, if anything, is not at all like that; the best way I can describe it is as being a cross between David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, and Alan J. Pakula.

"I'm not terrible. Okay, maybe a little bit."

“I’m not terrible. Okay, maybe a little bit.”

Intrigued yet?

Well, if not, that’s okay. Miss Sloane, on-paper, doesn’t seem like the kind of movie that would actually work or better yet, be entertaining in the slightest bit, but for some reason, director John Madden and first-time writer Jonathan Perera, come together so perfectly, matching their styles, needs and wants like a couple who’s been together for five decades, that it hardly ever bored me. It’s snappy, quick, jumpy, sometimes random, a little crazy, surprisingly very funny, and yeah, when they decide to slow things down every once and awhile, actually kind of heartfelt. Actually, not really, but that’s kind of what works.

See, Miss Sloane takes place in this all-too-real world where politics is a dirty and unforgiving game, where rich, powerful and corrupt people will continue to always crack down and ruin the much poorer and less-connected civilians who are, honestly, just trying to make the world a better place. It’s the typical worldview we see painted so very much, but it still works because, well, that’s exactly what happens in the sick, cruel and usually evil world of politics.

Because it paints this portrait so vividly, Miss Sloane never for once feels like it’s taking any cheap shots; it’s easy to get wrapped-up in this world of fast money, fast people, and fast crime, and almost forget that, oh yeah, this movie’s actually about getting a bill passed. Madden, as a director, has shown that he usually loves to take his movies as slow and as melodically as possible, actually keeps up the pace here, which as a result, helps ensure that no matter how many times it gets off-course, Perera’s score stays crackling and fun.

Most of that, of course, has to do with the fact that from the very beginning, the movie makes it awfully clear that, yes, these are smart people, doing smart things, in smart jobs, so why shouldn’t they sound smart?

It’s actually a lot of what follows Sorkin in his career and works so damn well for him, which is why I’ve been getting a little shocked by all of the criticism towards this movie. Most of the complaints seem to come from the fact that no real characters have any actual development to them, whereas the plot does, and it’s a pretty lame one at that. For one, it’s a two-hour long movie that, quite frankly, moved by so quick that I hardly noticed and/or cared about the lack of character-development and as for the other, well, yeah, the plot can be pretty lame.

"Man up, dammit!"

“Man up, dammit!”

I’m still not sure whether or not Perera’s original script had as many silly twists and turns in it, or if it was just another case of studio interference, but either way, the ones that do eventually come around in the later-portion of the movie are, for lack of a better term, silly. Sure, it’s hard to not expect a movie such as this to eventually fall into the melodramatic-trappings that it does, but it’s also not hard to expect a movie that’s as smart, that seems to know what it’s doing from the very bat, not roll into them to keep the audience excited and on-edge. It’s hard to talk about these few twists and turns without giving stuff away, but just know this: The twists and turns are silly and definitely keep Miss Sloane away from being an otherwise perfectly solid and exciting piece of thinking-man’s entertainment.

And yes, while I’m at it, I may as well talk about the character-development that I alluded to before, because well, yeah, there isn’t much here, but at the same time, I don’t feel that there needs to be.

Miss Sloane, the movie, from the very beginning makes it very clear that a good portion of these characters have no lives outside of their work; they are utterly and completely consumed by it and it takes over what exactly makes them who they are. In that sense, it’s understandable why we don’t get to know much about these characters, or the way they are, or how they act, outside of the idea of their professions. In a way, it’s kind of sad, but the movie doesn’t harp on that aspect too much and instead, shows us exactly why these characters have no lives, are so dedicated to their jobs, and more importantly, care so passionately about getting this bill passed.

And because of that, the amazing ensemble is better off for it, too. Everyone assembled here, honestly, is quite great, with hardly a single bad apple to be found in the pack – Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, John Lithgow, Sam Waterston, Allison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, Douglas Smith – but really, the one to outshine them all is Jessica Chastain, playing our titled-lobbyist. Honestly, Chastain has never been better, mostly because her roles have never been nearly as daring as this; here, she gets the chance to play someone who is unlikable, doesn’t make excuses for it, and if someone has a problem with it, always has a snappy comeback, primed and ready to hit back with. The movie does make some attempt to develop her more, but mostly gets rid of that idea once it realizes that it’s sometimes best to just let Chastain do her thing and own every scene she’s in.

More roles like this for her, please. And also, more movies like this, please.

Consensus: Even if it does take some odd twists in the later-half, Miss Sloane is a fun, crackling, and spitfire thriller that may be about something as boring as getting a bill passed, but has just as many explosions and battles than any summer blockbuster.

8 / 10

Fourth-wall already broken?!? This movie has no rules!

Fourth-wall already broken?!? This movie has no rules!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Collider

Arrival (2016)

If they can’t speak English, can’t trust ’em. Right?

On one random day, for unexplained reasons, multiple mysterious extraterrestrial spacecraft touch down across the globe. What do they want? What are they? And what the hell could they possibly do? No one quite knows, which is why, as expected, the government gets on it immediately. And in doing so they, they put together an elite team including linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), to help investigate these matters and see if there’s any harm going to be done to planet Earth. No one quite knows how to communicate with these extraterrestrial beings, but Louise believes that she’s able to and starts figuring out what they’re language is, how to decipher it and yes, how to figure out all that they’re feeling or saying. It’s not an easy task, and with the rest of the world watching, sitting on pins and needles, not sure of what to make of these things, it becomes extra stressful for Louise. However, she has a plan and knows that it’s always best to treat outsiders with the utmost respect and dignity, especially if they could exterminate your whole population with the drop of a hat.

Hey, Am? Yeah, something weird over there.

Hey, Am? Yeah, something weird over there.

Another year and guess what? Another Denis Villeneuve movie. While saying that may make it seem like I’m discouraging the fact that one of our brighter, more inspired directors of today’s day and age continues to make a movie each and every year, it’s not meant to. As opposed to someone like Woody Allen, who churns out flicks because he’s got nothing else better to do and well, has the money, Villeneueve’s movies seem like they took forever to direct, are handled with care, and yes, for the most part, pretty damn good. Sure, at the same time, they’re dreary, sad, sometimes, violent, and yes, a little disturbing, but hey, they’re mostly all good movies and they deserve to be appreciated as such, right?

Anyway, with Arrival, it’s interesting to see Villeneuve sort of in a new light. He’s tried out the thriller genre by now, so instead of just focusing his sights on that, he goes towards sci-fi and it’s actually surprising how different this flick is from his others. While it’s still thrilling and sometimes unpredictable, it’s not dark, it’s not dreary, and it sure as hell isn’t ultra-violent – it’s actually quite heartfelt and inspiring.

Yes, for a movie about so-called aliens, I’m as shocked as you are.

What it all mostly comes down to though, is that Villeneuve himself never keeps us as informed as viewers, as we ought to be. Like Louise and all of these other characters, we don’t quite know what these beings what, or what they’re put on this planet for – what we do know is that they’re here, on Earth, and they may pose something of a threat. However, it’s interesting to watch as Louise and all of these other scientists get together and try to communicate with these beings in a relaxed, peaceful, and sometimes civil manner.

Most of the time, with sci-fi flicks especially, we see that the alien-beings up in the sky are evil and out to get the human race, but it’s a little different here; the aliens here look different, for sure, but they also have different intentions that we haven’t quite seen, or heard before in sci-fi movies of this nature. Even the layout of the pod is interesting; it’s literally one dark room, with a clear-glass and totally left up to our imagination – it’s dreamy, beautiful, but also terrifying, and seeing this on the biggest screen possible, honestly, the better.

Do scientists really look this sexy and cunning?

Do scientists really look this sexy and cunning?

Oh and yeah, Arrival is quite thrilling, but not in the way that you’d automatically expect. There’s some guns, there’s some explosions, there’s some running, there’s some running, and yeah, there’s some cursing, but it’s not all played-up for dramatic-effect because Villeneuve had nothing else better to do – it all feels earned. The movie’s main source of tension and excitement mostly comes through not knowing what to expect next and constantly waiting for this situation to get out-of-hand and spiral out of control, which it sort of does, but not in the way that you’d expect. Villeneueve and writer Eric Heisserer are constantly flipping the script on sci-fi conventions here that it is, yes, smart, but also interesting to watch, as we never quite know where they’re going next, nor does it seem like they know, either.

They’re just having way too much fun living life in a sci-fi flick and well, I can’t blame them.

The only aspect the movie sort of falls a tad apart in is the fact that it relies a little too heavily on this final-act twist that, for all the red herrings, curve-balls, random dream sequences, and symbolism, is still obvious and doesn’t quite pull the rug from underneath us. It’s hard to really be mad at a movie for not having a solid final-act twist, but there’s also something to be said for a movie that seems to harp on it so much and so often, that after awhile, it becomes annoying. We get what the movie’s getting at and because of that, it feels overdone.

Still, the cast is quite great here. Amy Adams is a sweet and peaceful presence as Louise, but also hints at having something of a darker side to her; Jeremy Renner plays the hip, cool and joking scientist that aids her in all of her work and has a nice bit of chemistry with her; Forest Whitaker shows up as the as the army Colonel, making it seem like he’s going to be the evil, dispirited villain of the story, but surprisingly, doesn’t turn out that way; and Michael Stuhlbarg, despite not being given a whole bunch to do, still has some fun as the coordinator of this mission and it’s just nice to see him around.

Consensus: Despite a weak final-act, Arrival is interesting, thrilling and smart, while also feature another win for Denis Villeneuve, one of film’s more compelling talents who seems to be challenging himself more and more with each flick he does.

8.5 / 10

Yeah, so what?

Yeah, so what?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, TwiCopy

Doctor Strange (2016)

He’s strange, but then again, aren’t we all?

Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is, for lack of a better term, a deuche. He’s constantly rude, always showing-off in front of those around him, and throwing around his genius that after awhile, everyone around him learns to just accept it for him being just himself. However, his whole life changes when he gets into a near-fatal car accident that leaves him with career-ending nerve damage. Strange being the ignoramus that he is, believes that there’s a cure that save him and won’t stop at a single cost to figure out just how he can get his life back on-track the way it was before.  life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. Eventually, he ends up at Kamar-Taj, where he is told that, in order to receive the use and feeling of his hands again, he’ll have to believe in himself and everything that everyone tells him. Strange isn’t up for this, but decides that the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) may know a thing or two about achieving all sorts of crazy powers. And achieve all sorts of crazy powers is exactly what happens to Strange, however, he now has to think about how to use them: For himself, or for the greater good of the world?

He may be strange, but man, he sure is sexy.

He may be strange, but man, he sure is sexy.

Marvel is on a roll. You know this, I know this, Disney knows this, even Grandma Pearl knows this. It’s just a thing that every person in the world, even Zack Snyder and all his cronies, have come to accept and just embrace. Even the movies that are, at the very least, “meh” (Ant-Man), are still fun, entertaining and good pieces of popcorn fun because they’re Marvel – they’ve got a winning-formula and no one will stop them.

That’s why Doctor Strange, for some reason, feels like a breath of fresh air.

It’s not just a good Marvel movie, but close to being a great one. It is, yes, an origin story, but it also doesn’t try to make us understand each and every little thing about its mythology, what it’s all about, or what the tie-ins actually are – in fact, with the exception of maybe one or two mentions, not a single other Marvel character shows up here. Call me crazy, but I don’t mind that; sure, seeing the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, or even the Hulk pop-up, say a witty line or two, and then be off into the sun is nice, but it also makes the movie feel more and more like a product, than less and less of its own, actual thing.

Does that make any sense? Probably not, but it doesn’t matter, because Doctor Strange is a good piece of Marvel. Director Scott Derrickson clearly has a certain love and affection for these characters and this universe and it shines through just about every single shot. The constant trippiness and mind-bending of the visuals and the fight sequences, in 3D no less, make you feel as if you are actually stuck inside someone else’s dream and can’t get out of it; while that may sound absolutely horrifying to some, to me, it worked. Doctor Strange is the kind of Marvel movie that can get away with a lot because of its obvious tie-in, as well as its huge cast, and because of that, it’s better off.

It’s the kind of movie that gets to be all sorts of weird and goofy, but yet, at the same time, still work wonders that most superhero movies aim for.

Because even if it doesn’t want to admit it, at its heart, it is still a redemption story, with Stephen Strange at the center, showing us a person who can be awfully mean and unlikable, but at the same time, because he’s Benedict Cumberbatch, charming as hell. In fact, it’s perhaps perfect casting that even though I was initially thrown off by the awkward-sounding American-accent Cumberbatch uses, after awhile, it’s easy to get used to, because you accept this character for kind of a d-bag who, sometimes does the right thing on others behalf, and other times, doesn’t. The movie never makes him out to be a super, duper awesomely great guy, but more or less, some a-hole who just so happened to get some super powers. It’s a nice, refreshing touch that seems to be lacking in so many of the other Marvel movies, even including the Iron Man flicks.

"People didn't like our casting. Screw them."

“People didn’t like our casting. Screw them.”

And the rest of the prestige cast is quite great, too, even if they do have some silly material to work through. Chiwetel Ejiofor is good as Karl Mordo, something of a mentor to Strange, even if he becomes more of a sidekick by the end; Rachel McAdams pops up every now and then as the only human here and is fun and charming, bringing a nice bit of chemistry and flair to the screen with Cumberbatch; Benedict Wong doesn’t have a whole lot of stuff to do, but he makes the best of what he’s got with Wong (yes, that’s actually his name); Tilda Swinton is pretty great as the Ancient One, making her plea for her own movie, all the more understandable; and Mads Mikkelsen, as Kaecilius, is fine as our villain, but his character is also the main problem with Doctor Strange and Marvel movies as a whole.

See, it’s no shock that Marvel has its fair share of issues with villains; they do such a great job of building up and developing these ultra superheroes, that when it comes time for the foes to show up and act menacing, it feels rushed and weak.

Sure, Loki’s perhaps the only exception to the rule, but he hasn’t been seen in a Marvel movie in nearly three years, so it’s kind of a problem. And while Mikkelsen is as menacing as ever as Kaecilius, the character himself just feels weak and random; the issues that he brings up, or better yet, the reasons for why he’s acting out in evil, maniacal ways, never quite register. It’s hard to really talk about it at great lengths without giving a little bit away, but the realization of what’s going on and why he’s trying to destroy the world, never quite makes sense and feels rushed, as if the writers themselves were thinking of something to make him so mad about. That doesn’t ruin Doctor Strange, but it definitely does keep it away from reaching the heights it so desperately comes close to touching.

Oh well. Maybe Black Panther will hit the nail on the head?

Consensus: Even with the weak villain, Doctor Strange is still a wild, yet fun adventure from Marvel that adds another great superhero to its already stacked list of great superheros.

8.5 / 10

"Wingardium Leviosa!"

“Wingardium Leviosa!”

Photos Courtesy of: The Nerds of Color

Miles Ahead (2016)

He didn’t pee his pants, but he was still cool.

After taking over the world of jazz and music altogether, Miles Davis (Don Cheadle), for one reason or another, inexplicably left the public eye, left to scour and hang out in his apartment, where people couldn’t bother him, nor could they even ask him questions about the next album he’ll make. It was just Miles, his music, his drugs, his booze, and his occasional friend popping on through. One day, however, he gets a knock from Rolling Stone writer Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) who absolutely insists on getting a one-on-one story with Miles, if not just for the music, but for the sake of his fans around the world. While Miles doesn’t necessarily agree to a story, he does allow for Dave to hang around with him on these next few days, where he’ll go to his label, get in fights with high-as-hell college kids, and think hard and long about the past love he had with a woman named Frances (Emayatzy Corinealdi) – someone he clearly still loves, misses and wants back in his life, even if she doesn’t want anything to do with him, or the drugged-up life he’s created for himself.

Pretty fly for a white guy.

Pretty fly for a white guy.

There’s no denying that Don Cheadle got to make the Miles Davis biopic he has been so clearly and passionately been trying to do for nearly his whole career. And thankfully, that kind of biopic isn’t the typical, run-of-the-mill pieces we’re all so used to and annoyed of. Sure, if you have an interesting enough subject to work with, I bet using the old formula of rags-to-riches may work, but for someone like Miles Davis, it doesn’t seem to fit. If anything, a biopic made about the man, the myth, and yes, the legend, needs to be as idiosyncratic, as unpredictable, and as wild as the man himself was.

And yes, Don Cheadle gets a chance to make that movie.

Does it always work? No, not really. But is it at least entertaining and a lot better than some of the yawn-inducing passion projects we’ve seen from Hollywood stars cut from the same cloth as Don Cheadle? Yes, and that’s perhaps its best attribute.

Throughout Miles Ahead, Miles Davis is seen as a bad-ass who takes his gun out, points it at people, kicks people’s asses, says what he wants, does what he wants, and doesn’t like to mince words or emotions with people he doesn’t care about, or at all. What Miles Davis wants to do, as we can tell from this movie, is just live the life he wants to live. That’s why, for the longest time, Miles Ahead plays very much like a toned-down, but relaxed character-study where, occasionally, we’ll get a random action-sequence with Miles Davis running for his life, or getting in a car-chase, or shooting random people, but we’ll still get those smaller, more humane moments of character where we get a chance to see Miles Davis as the man behind the legend.

Sure, we’ll see and get to hear a lot of what we expected from Davis, but at its heart, Miles Ahead wants to also show that there was a more painful and aching heart deep within Miles Davis that didn’t always shine through with the people around him, but was definitely around and made him the rough, tough and ragged some people obviously saw him as. That’s probably why, as Miles Davis, Don Cheadle was a great choice; Cheadle himself can do meek and mild quite well, as well being funny and gritty, all at the same time. Even when it seems like Miles Davis is a mean, almost despicable human being who doesn’t care for those who actually love and support him, Cheadle will show a small bit of humanity that will make us sympathize with this character a bit more, even while we’re laughing at everything he does.

That said, Miles Ahead is definitely an uneven movie.

There's always one lady to ruin a man's soul. This is that lady.

There’s always one lady to ruin a man’s soul. This is that lady.

You can definitely tell that Miles Ahead is Cheadle’s first movie as a director, because it doesn’t always tonally work. Certain sequences where someone’s shot, beat-up or severely injured, will be played for laughs, in a dark kind of way, whereas in the next scene, we’ll get a flashback to a time when life was lovelier and simpler for Davis. It’s good that we get these scenes and in a way, I don’t mind the scenes of violence and ass-kicking, but after awhile, you start to question what kind of movie Cheadle wanted to make. Did he want to make a heartfelt, detailed and emotional tribute to the man we all knew as Miles Davis? Or does he want to make a fun, exciting and wild tale about Miles Davis, someone who, yes made some great music, but also took plenty of pleasure in knocking people out when push came to shove?

Honestly, I never fully figured that out. However, I will give Cheadle credit for at least trying something new, fun and interesting with the biopic formula. Cause, if anything, I wished the movie would have been more about Davis hanging out/around with Ewan McGregor’s Dave Braden. McGregor, believe it or not, is actually quite charming here and gives Braden a personality that goes beyond just being an annoying, overly clingy journalist who just hounds Davis for answers to his questions. Together, too, they have a great bit of chemistry that is definitely unusual, but still works because they share something of an understanding that there’s a certain love of music between the two and therefore, they need a little excitement out of life. Even though Braden may not be a totally interesting character, he and Davis still feel like the oddest, if well-matched buddies ever put on the screen.

Especially in a musical biopic of Miles Davis.

Consensus: As Cheadle’s directorial debut, Miles Ahead works as a nice, well-acted change-of-pace from the typical biopic formula, but also feels a bit uneven and could have definitely benefited from a few reworkings.

7 / 10

Please let me drink with you!

Miles! I want to party with you!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Trumbo (2015)

Wow. Communists make the best screenplays.

In 1947, there was nobody hotter than Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). While he wasn’t the one you’d see on the screen, he was still the one responsible for so many great flicks, that people come to love and appreciate his work. But after this, people started to worry about his politics. See, Trumbo, as well as a few countless others of his closest friends and confidantes, were all blacklisted for showing their support for the Communist regime. Because of this, just about everybody who was blacklisted, were told to come forward and give away more names – for those dedicated few who didn’t, they risked never working in Hollywood ever again. Trumbo was one of those people, however, he still found a way to keep on working and turning out scripts, without ever jeopardizing the studios he actually wrote for. Through the next few years, Trumbo will write some of the very best screenplays, to some of the most iconic and revered movies of today’s day and age, however, all of that hard work and hardly any play begins to take a toll on Trumbo, as well as his loving, caring family who depend on him and his talents.

Wife = good.

Wife = good.

A lesser film, by a lesser director probably would have just kept the story limited to just Trumbo being accused of being a Communist and leaving it at that. However, because Trumbo isn’t a lesser film, and because Jay Roach isn’t a lesser director, there’s more going on with Trumbo’s life that the movie continues to focus on. And while the movie may definitely benefit from having a source as strong and as interesting as Trumbo to make their movie about, it still deserves to be said that Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz entertainment that shows us everything we despise about the industry, as well as the things we love.

Sure, maybe it’s more of love than hate, but hey, it’s still a pretty place that anybody would want to be apart of, if they had the talent to pull it all off.

But like I said, Trumbo is all about Hollywood at a certain period and time that was, on one side, very exciting and glamorous, but on the other, quite scary as well. What Trumbo does best is that it highlights the absolute paranoia and fear those within Hollywood feared due to the Communist blacklisting; while most of those associated with the biz were also Communist sympathizers, they weren’t allowed to come out and say so because, well, they wanted to continue to work. There’s a select few of insiders with Trumbo’s group of trusted allies that all seem to be on the same page, initially, but slowly and surely, start to peter-off and throw the other under the bus, just so that they can continue to work and make as much money as they were before. While we may not share a whole lot of sympathy for these attractive stars and celebrities, there’s still a certain feeling of some sadness when one or two of them have to suck their pride in, accept their lashings, and move on with their careers.

At the same time though, Trumbo is still, first and foremost, a small biopic of a movie legend that, honestly, not many people remember or still treat as an inspiration.

Though it’s interesting to see how Trumbo, the man, handles all of the negative press and attacks he gets for being a Communist party sympathizer, it’s even more so when the later part of his career comes into play and he’s stuck writing crappy scripts, for crappy production companies, and sometimes, making great scripts, for great companies, but not being able to take any sort of credit. It’s both fun and exciting to watch, while, at the same time, a bit heart-wrenching because we know that Trumbo deserves all of the credit and praise for these scripts, but just can’t actually go out into the world and say so.

Not to mention, it’s great to see a flick that focuses on, most of all, a screen-writer. So rarely do screen-writers get the credit that they so rightfully deserve – especially those from the older-days of Hollywood. While there were a few directors who directed their own screenplays, for the most part, directors made scripts that they picked-up and decided to go from there – due to this, not a lot of screen-writers got the whole credit that they deserved. With Trumbo, Roach not only shows that it’s definitely up to the writer themselves, to tell whether or not a piece is going to work.

Because, quite frankly, if you don’t have a good screenwriter, what good is your movie anyway?

Journalist = bad.

Journalist = bad.

As Dalton Trumbo, Bryan Cranston does a nice job of taking what could have been, at first, a very over-the-top impersonation of the real life figure, but then takes it one step further and digs deeper. There’s a lot more to Trumbo than just a bunch of witty-lines, humor, and a fancy ‘stache; the dude’s actually getting to become a bit stressed-out and screwed-up from writing all of these screenplays and not being able to take any credit for them. Cranston’s good here as he not only shows the light-hearted, fun-loving side to this man, but also the sometimes angry, almost spiteful side as well.

And everybody else surrounding Cranston is quite good in their own roles, too. Though Diane Lane isn’t asked much to do, she still gets some bright, shining moments as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, who wants nothing more than for her family to be happy and peaceful; Helen Mirren is nastier than ever as Hedda Hopper, the most hated journalist at the time and shows just why she was so despised, but why she was also always getting dirt on those around her; Louis C.K. has a couple of nice scenes with Cranston as one of Trumbo’s buddies who is involved with the Communist-sympathizing party; and Michael Stuhlbarg does a good job at giving us more to Edward G. Robinson, but never fully lapsing into an impersonation that seems like a parody.

If there’s anything about Trumbo is that, when all is said and done, it’s a fine piece of cinema, but that’s about it. Having focused on Dalton Trumbo and looking at all the work that he’s created over the years, the movie definitely doesn’t live up to the legacies, but as it is, it’s still a fine piece of showbiz entertainment. People laugh, people cry, people learn lessons, people get better, and most importantly, people make a lot of money. That’s about all there is to showbiz, which is why that’s all there is to Trumbo.

Consensus: Maybe not setting the biopic world on fire, Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz drama that doesn’t step too far out of its comfort-zone, but also benefits largely from having such a talented cast on-board.

7 / 10

Screenwriter = always good.

Screenwriter = always good.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Pawn Sacrifice (2015)

How Bobby Fischer was everyday of his life, is exactly how I get when I enter a movie theater.

Ever since he was a little boy, Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) has always loved the game of chess. He’s also been incredibly paranoid about everything, too, but that’s done more to enhance his skills as a chess-player than actually hinder it. As he got older, Bobby became more and more known as a genius and gained a whole lot of notoriety – most of which, he wasn’t able to deal with. But the peak in his career/life came during the rise of the Cold War, when he challenged the Soviet Union and their best player, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), to a series of chess matches. Though the Russians agreed, Bobby still felt as if the games were being rigged in ways that went against him and it’s what ultimately made him a tragic-figure in the media. Though everybody wanted to tout him as an “American hero”, Bobby just wanted to be left alone and pushed away from the rest of the society he viewed as “Commies”. This not only pushed away those who were most close to him, but also ruined his skill as a magnificent chess-player.

He's crazy.

He’s crazy.

The crazy, unusual life of Bobby Fischer is an interesting one that, sadly, not too many directors have tried to tackle. It seems as if because his antics were so erratic and controversial, that to just make a movie solely based on him and his antic tirades would lead to be nothing more than just that. However, Edward Zwick and his crew of writers (Steven Knight, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson) try to make amends for that mistake in giving us a sorta-biopic of Fischer, his upbringing, and his momentous chess bouts against the Soviet Union.

There’s a slew of other characters to pay attention to, of course, but still, it’s Fischer’s story we get.

And as Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire is solid. Maguire gets a bad rap for not being the best actor out there, which isn’t something I wholly agree with; while he’s definitely not shown a huge amount of range over the years, he’s still proven to be a fine presence in movies that he’s just coasting-by in (the Great Gatsby), or when he has to act like a total and complete nut (Brothers). His performance as Fischer is a whole lot more of the later and it works; once we see Fischer grow up into becoming Maguire, he’s a whole heck lot more frantic, manic, and strange, and it’s something that Maguire can play quite well.

You’d think that three movies playing someone as nerdy and straight-laced as Peter Parker would make Maguire into a dull specimen, but thankfully, for him, as well as the movie itself, it didn’t.

Everybody else in this movie is fine, too and ensure that Maguire doesn’t steal the whole movie away from them, even if he does occasionally get the chance to do so. Peter Sarsgaard plays Catholic priest William Lombardy, one of Fischer’s fellow chess experts, who also served as one of his teachers, and gives a humane-look inside a guy who isn’t exactly what he appears. Sure, he’s wearing the same outfit that a priest would wear, but he swears, drinks, smokes, and is able to hang around Fischer, even when he seems to get so erratic, nobody in their right mind would stand-on by.

Michael Stuhlbarg shows up as Fischer’s manager of sorts and while you know he’s someone that’s not to be trusted, there’s still a feeling that he has Bobby’s best intentions at heart. He may not at all, but Stuhlbarg keeps us guessing as to what it actually is. Lily Rabe shows up as Fischer’s sister who tries to help her dear brother out as much as she can, but eventually, it becomes all too clear that the man is just too far gone to be helped, talked to, or aided in any way – which is actually a pretty sad that the movie doesn’t really touch on until the end of the movie. And though he doesn’t get a whole bunch to do, Liev Schreiber still does a nice job as Boris Spassky – someone who had no clue what to make of or how to handle Fischer, except to just play him in chess and hope for the best.

And honestly, the performances are all that’s worth to discuss here because they’re the reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Everything else about Pawn Sacrifice is as handsome and nice as you can get with a biopic, but really, that’s all it is and stays. Nothing really leaps out at you as any sort of insight into Fischer’s character or persona; he was just a wack-job that, yes, was great at the game of chess, also had plenty of issues when it came to interacting with others, his own psyche, and how to handle all of the fame that had totally blind-sided him. This, if you’ve ever known a thing or two about Fischer himself, is obvious, but the movie still tries to find other aspects to his character that haven’t been touched on yet.

He's not.

He’s not.

Problem is, they all have. So there’s nowhere else to go.

Zwick may seem interested in the political landscape surrounding Fischer at this time in his life, but he never goes anywhere further with it; there are constant conversations about Communism and conspiracy theories, but really, that’s just all of Fischer talking and no one else. Whether or not any of these accusations held true, are never said, which leads it to all just seem repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something enjoyable about watching and listening to Maguire ramble on about how the Jews, the Russians, the White House, and practically everybody else on the face of the planet, are out to get him, but after awhile, it becomes a bird that I would have been pleased to stop hear chirping.

And of course, there’s a post-script about Fischer’s later-life, how far away from society he had gone and where he had been living before he died, but it’s all too late. The movie had already focused so much time on Fischer’s life when he was younger, alive and successful – everything else was, as it seems, added-on filler. Which is a bit of a shame because this later-half of Fischer’s life would have been very interesting to see portrayed, but it doesn’t seem like the budget or time allotted it.

Shame. But I guess there’s another biopic to be made another time.

Consensus: Thanks to great performances from the cast, especially an unhinged and edgy Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice is an enjoyably, mildly interesting, but never seems to rise above being that.

7 / 10

The end.

The end.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Cold Souls (2009)

Just take my soul already!

Paul Giamatti stars as a fictionalized version of himself, who is an anxious, overwhelmed actor who decides to enlist the service of a company to deep freeze his soul. Complications ensue when he wants his soul back, but mysteriously, his soul gets lost in a soul trafficking scheme which has taken his soul to St. Petersburg, making Paul have to venture all the way out there to see just what the hell is even going on in the first place.

What you see in the title, is exactly what you get in the movie’s tone. Seriously, don’t come expecting some minor laughs here and there, because the film really just doesn’t seem all that concerned with that aspect at all. It’s more about being dark, moody, bleak, and overall, pretty frigid in its portrayal of where our society may be turning towards. Actually, it’s a pretty far-fetched idea, but I could definitely imagine, just waking up one day, and wanting to be and have Brad Pitt’s soul.

Damn, now that I think about it, I hope this future does come to existence!

Here's a shot of Paul Giamatti being sad.

Here’s a shot of Paul Giamatti being sad.

This is the debut flick of Sophie Barthes who not only directs, but writes this flick as well and the information I was looking up for this said that apparently she had this idea in her dream. Now, I could only wish that any of my dreams had anything as ambitious lingering around in them, as apparently the ideas she has swimming in her brain when it’s sleepy-time, but considering that she’s working off of an idea that was probably no less than two minutes, I have to give the gal some credit because it’s pretty intriguing what she comes up with here. Even if the results don’t fully match the ambitions, you have to at least give her credit where credit’s due, because it’s sure as hell not easy to make a movie in today’s day and age – let alone one with as kooky of an idea as Cold Souls.

Barthes doesn’t paint a portrait of a future that’s groomed for doom, where people are in desperate need to be others, have different lives, and basically just erase or escape any type of life they have and don’t like. It’s sort of like the same ideas that went through mind-benders like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, and although this one doesn’t really stack up anywhere near those masterpieces, Barthes at least tries to capture that Charlie Kaufman-esque nature of her material without really going overboard. There’s a lot of weird, sci-fi stuff going on here that’s definitely thoughtful, but it’s also grounded in a reality to where you feel like something could happen like this, had somebody gotten a more well thought-out plan. Barthes definitely deserves style-points on this one in terms of his screenplay, but damn, did we really need to be so sad the whole time?

The answer is no, but most people will probably disagree with me.

Even though the premise definitely promises a bunch of weird, wacky fun in the same light as a Kaufman flick, that promise never gets fulfilled. Instead, Barthes seems like she’s content with just focusing on the sad aspect of this story with long, gloomy shots of a snowy Russia, and an even more horrid-looking New York City that looks as if it hasn’t seen the sun in a decade. All of the colors in this movie feel like a mixture of soft blues and muddle grays, and as much as that may make this flick seem more depressing and sad, do we really want to feel like we, as well as the characters were watching, should just go kill themselves and get it all over with? I don’t think so, because even while you may have an interesting premise to work with, to just constantly hammer us over the head with your inherent seriousness about it can get pretty old.

And another, even despite the fact he's in the same bed as Emily Watson.

And another, even despite the fact he’s in the same bed as Emily Watson.

But even despite the actual lack of fun in this movie, probably the most disappointing aspect of this whole flick is that it brings up all of these questions, ideas, and messages about life and exactly where we are headed as a society, but loses them about half-way through once the last act kicks into high-gear; and then, it ends, just leaving everything up in the air. Listen, I’m totally game for any type of film that wants to bring up a lot of food-for-thought, have me doing thinking about what’s it trying to say, and eventually allowing me to go out with some people afterwards and talk it up, but this movie doesn’t even seem like it wants to give me that privilege. Even when that last act comes around and the movie oddly changes from this existential drama, into this mystery/romance/off-kilter comedy that now all of a sudden wants to please us, rather than having us contemplate jumping off the San Francisco bridge. It was a change in tone that not only felt phony, but showed that Barthes maybe backed-out on an ending, that could have answered a whole lot, and even left some more up for thought and discussion.

But nope, she didn’t even give us that.

What’s even more surprising than this change in tone, was how Paul Giamatti seemed to be a bit boring to watch as well. Granted, the guy isn’t given all that much to work with, other than a slew of shots of him just staring off into the space, looking all mopey and sad all of the time, but when the guy does need to liven things up, he does with that charm and wit we all know and love the guy for. His character (which is pretty much him, just not nearly as famous), is a downer and that’s why it’s pretty fun to see what happens to him when he switches souls, gets a little bit more energetic, and a bit more inspiration with how he lives his life and it’s one of the very rare moments in this flick where not only he comes alive, but the movie as well. Sadly, Barthes knocks his character back down to reality, and he becomes the same old, sad sap we started out with in the first place and it’s a bummer, because Giamatti’s always good and entertaining to watch. You just got to give him the right material that allows him to have some fun every once and awhile.

Consensus: Cold Souls deals with a very interesting idea about the current landscape of our society, but is too dour to really bring anybody into the world it’s trying to portray, nor does it really follow through on any of the rules it sets up to begin with.

5.5 / 10

And, yet again, another. But with snow!

And, yet again, another. But with snow!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Body of Lies (2008)

Leo’s gone rogue! And Russell’s eating too much! What’s going on with the world?!?!?

CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan. When Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate his network, he must first win the backing of cunning CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) and the collegian, but perhaps suspect, head of Jordanian intelligence. Problem is, Hoffman isn’t quite exactly who he says he is and turns more heads than one man should be doing. Which will not get past Ferris’ head since he’s Mr. Smarty Pants over there.

I remember back in October 2008 when this film was being advertised, all my buddies and I made a promise to go out and see it. Sounded like a reasonable plan for a Friday night when girls or booze weren’t around. The one problem was that our ages from somewhere around 14-15, which meant we couldn’t see this unless we wanted to try the risky, but totally worth it sneak-in maneuver. We tried, but it didn’t succeed and we were bummed to say the least. After seeing it all of these years later, I wonder why the hell we cared so much in the first place.

Guess I wouldn't be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie too.

Guess I wouldn’t be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie, either.

There’s one thing you have got to say about Ridley Scott: The dude never half-asses a movie of his. From a technical standpoint, he does his job by making this film look as gritty and as dirty as he can get it, much like he did with Black Hawk Down. Since the film takes place in the Middle East, it makes sense that the camera look a lot grainier and sandier as if Scott just picked one up off the ground, dusted it off, and started filming. But it isn’t as amateurish as I may make it sound, because it actually adds a darker look onto the flick and it gets even better once the action actually starts to kick in. The action, as you could probably tell by now, is filmed in the trademark, crazy and kinetic way that we all know and sometimes love Scott for (less so for his late brother), but it brings a lot of energy to scenes that otherwise could have come off as generic and a bit unneeded. Still, they were thrilling, fun, and got the job done.

Needless to say, for the first hour or so, I was really digging this film. I thought that Scott really had his ass on the right track here with setting the story and making it appeal to anybody who isn’t necessarily a CIA-expert, while also making the movie itself quite suspenseful and feeling as if it could go, at any second, anywhere it wanted to. Somehow though, Scott seemed to lose himself along the way, which cause a problem the movie itself never seemed to recuperate from.

Right after Leo’s character gets bitten by a dog and has to go to the hospital for a series of rabies shots, the film takes a wild turn into a somewhat romantic-territory as Leo starts to fall for the nurse that treats him. Not only did it practically come out of left-field and add nothing to the story, but it seemed like such a tacked-on way of getting us to care more and more about Leo’s character, when I think that having Leo in the movie itself, playing that character is already sympathetic enough since the guy is able to win anybody over (even when he is playing a 19th century slave owner). All we needed to know about him was that the guy could do his job and get it done just in time to get screwed over by the head-honchos he works for. Not much else needed to be added, but Scott thought otherwise and ended up screwing his own movie over as a result.

It gets to so strange at one point, that you begin to feel like you’re dealing with two separate films: One, a dumb romantic flick based on a character’s smarts and another’s dullness, and the other one, a spy thriller that started off strong and fresh, but got very convoluted once too many characters started showing up and throwing their ulterior-motives around. Eventually, the romantic angle does go away for a bit and we are once again involved with the whole angle of this film that made it so fun in the first place, but by this time, it seems to have already lost a lot of its momentum. It’s weird too, because as they were building this story up and up, I felt like I should have really been along for the ride and wonder just what the hell is going to happen next to all of these characters but instead, I didn’t really seem to care all that much. Even when they hit the climax they’ve been itching for the whole time, it still feels undeserved and a bit anti-climactic.

Totally not his type. But apparently Ridley thinks differently.

Totally not his type: Born in the 80’s.

With that being said, the film does rely on its performances to make everything better and for the most part, they are worth depending on for quite some time until it becomes apparent that nobody can save this plot. Leonardo DiCaprio does a fine job as Ferris by giving this character more of a reasoning to be upset when it’s practically him versus the rest of the world. Come to think of it, that sounds like the same character he played in Blood Diamond, Inception, Shutter Island, and so many more. So yeah, it’s nothing new that Leo hasn’t already touched before, but at least he tries and show tons of effort in making this character, and ultimately the movie he’s in, work. Same goes for Russell Crowe who seemed like he was having fun, even if all he did was talk on the phone. I don’t know if eating cheeseburgers everyday for two weeks was the way to feel like you’re in the role but hey, I guess it worked for him and worked for us too, I guess.

Even as good as these two are, they aren’t the most interesting ones out of the bunch. The one who probably stole the most scenes for me was Mark Strong as Hani Salaam. The whole thing with Strong is that no matter what film his name pops up in, you always know he’s going to be the villain. Does he play the villain well? Yes, but could he actually spread his wings out and try something else other than that? Yes to that rhetorical question as well. That’s what he does here but this time, he plays around the idea of whether or not you know he’s the bad guy or not. He also adds a whole bunch of suave and relaxed coolness to him that makes him steal every scene, as well as not make him seem the slightest bit of gay whenever he calls another dude, “my dear”. Lately though, it’s cool to see him start to loosen up a bit and play around with other roles, even though it is a shame that Low Winter Sun seems like a bust. Poor guy. He deserves so much better, he’s just got to smile more so Hollywood producers know that he has the ability to.

Consensus: Though it wasn’t the most fresh or original-take on the thriller genre, Body of Lies was still working well in its first hour or so, but then began to lose its head once too many subplots were thrown in there, especially a cheesy one featuring Leo and some nurse he thought was cute. Lame!

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole "method thing"!"

“No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole “method thing”!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Rich people can be sad too, they just are able to water it down in martini and lemons.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had it all: The rich husband (Alec Baldwin), the lavish lifestyle, the money, the looks, the riches, and all of that fine and happy stuff. However, like most good things, it all came crashing down in an instant and left Jasmine bankrupt without anywhere else to go in the world, except for his lower-class sister (Sally Hawkins)’s house. There she pries more, than actually gets her act together and begins to find out that having to take care of yourself doesn’t mean just making money, it means taking responsibility for your actions and not drinking your life away. Or maybe that’s just what I gathered. Actually, it more than likely is.

Woody Allen has had his fair share of hits, and he sure as hell has had his fair share of misses, but I still remain loyal to the guy as he always brings whatever he can to the big-screen, with his witty writing, and a stacked-cast that always gets on-board with anything he does. He just has that type of power that will get anybody going and for a little while, with Midnight in Paris, had everybody back on their feet, waiting to see what he would do next, as if the King had returned to his throne. However, then To Rome with Love came around, and everybody realized that maybe Paris was just a flash-in-the-pan for Woody. Maybe, just maybe.

She's still good enough for me.

She’s still good enough for me.

However, Woody’s not going to give up without a fight and is back yet again with Blue Jasmine, the type of flick it seems like anybody would make if they had some spare-time in their schedule to just make a movie, hang out with some big names, and get paid while doing so. That’s not to say that the movie’s good or bad, it’s just to say that the flick carries that type of lax-feel and pace where everybody involved seems to be happy and more than ecstatic to be working with a screen-legend like Allen, but at the same time, doesn’t bring much to the proceedings either. They’re just working to work, which is entertaining since everybody’s fun and happy, but it doesn’t really get this material up off the ground as it should.

For awhile, actually, I felt as if the movie I was watching was more of a stone-hard drama than any bit of witty and quirky comedy that we’re so used to associating with Allen’s flicks. That could have just been so since with Cassandra’s Dream and Match Point, he’s shown us that he can do a dark drama, regardless of if it fails or not. So that’s exactly why I felt like I was watching a drama right from the get-go. Obviously, there’s plenty of moments where Allen allows the humorous part of his script to creep in whenever it so pleases, but there’s still a seriousness to this final-product that I at least appreciated more than anything Allen’s done in awhile. He treats Jasmine, as well as every other character with tender, love, and care, it’s just that they don’t really pop-out at us like they should.

Case in point, our main character herself, Jasmine. Jasmine is the type of character that seems perfectly fit for Allen because he’s able to show us all of her flaws, as well as her positives as well. The former gets presented more than the latter, but that’s not to say that the former doesn’t rear it’s beautiful head in every once and awhile neither. We get to see enough of Jasmine that it allows us to care for her and sympathize with her, even when she’s constantly ragging on everyone for not being exactly like her in every which way. She’s not the type of gal I would want to be stuck with near the punch bowl at a party, but I definitely wouldn’t mind having a casual conversation with her every once and awhile, just to do a quick game of catch-up and see who’s more miserable than the other. With that game, she may win, but it would come pretty close.

So I guess it’s safe to say that Jasmine is an interesting enough character to have a movie revolve around her and her all of her misery and self-indulgence, but the movie doesn’t seem to really go that deep enough into her psyche as to what makes her, well, her. We see what she’s done in her past, how she’s gotten over it, and how terribly she was treated to be such a witch in the present day, but it still didn’t feel right to me. Something, whatever it was, wasn’t perfectly fitting with the tone and the art of this character and I wish I got to know more of her, rather than just snippets of what seemed like a pretty mean person, but a meanie that actually had somewhat of a soul. Allen can do well with these types of characters when he’s focusing on just them and them alone, but he moves the focus all around to where we see more of the supporting characters, rather than her. Which is fine, if they were just as interesting enough as her, but they just aren’t.

That’s not to say that the ensemble doesn’t work well with these roles, because they really do, and make the movie a whole lot better just with their presence being felt. Cate Blanchett gives a great performance as Jasmine as she’s able to capture all of the types of moods and feelings that go through this gal, most of which are abrupt and random, but still realistic enough to warrant some amount of sympathy. As I’ve said up above, Jasmine is an interesting enough character to want to watch a whole movie about her and her ways of getting her life back together, and that’s because Blanchett is able to make us loathe this character, while also feel like she could do a hell of a lot better in her life, if she just lowers her guard a bit and smiles. Then again, with the past that she’s had, you’ll see why maybe putting a grin on that face may be a little easier said then done. Got to give Blanchett a lot of credit for this role, not because she’s able to be funny, mean, and sympathetic all at the same time, but she’s not afraid to “ugly herself up” either.

Assuming she didn't have a problem with his profession.

Assuming she didn’t have a problem with what he does for a living.

Sally Hawkins plays her sissy, Ginger, and is good at playing the trashy-type that’s very different from Jasmine’s stuck-up self. Hawkins has always been a treat to see in any movie she shows up in and it’s good to see her working in something again, especially with Allen. They both comment each other well, as she hits the funny-marks her character is supposed to, while also giving us a nice glimpse inside the world of a lady that just wants as much love and respect as her sister does, she just doesn’t demand it as much. The always-loveable Bobby Cannavale plays Chili, her boyfriend that Jasmine despises, and does a nice job being funny and a bit sweet at the same time. Any movie would have painted this guy as a dick, but here, instead we see him as a guy that just wants to be with the woman he loves and will stop at nothing to do so, even if that means getting a little bitter at times. Especially with Jasmine.

The rest of the cast is fine as well, even if some of their work is only comprising of “showing up on screen for a bit, and then going away seconds later”. Alec Baldwin plays Jasmine’s ex-hubby, Hal, and plays up the d-bag type of character we know and sometimes love him; Louis C.K. almost steals the show playing against-type as a possible match-made-in-heaven for Ginger, which is funny because all he does here is try to play it all smooth and cool, both of which Louis is not, but plays it so well if not just for laughs; Andrew Dice Clay, another random comedian thrown into the mix, is fine as Ginger’s ex-hubby who doesn’t really do anything funny but is good for what he has to do with the material he’s given; Peter Sarsgaard is serviceable as the object of Jasmine’s eyes, and actually feels like a genuinely nice guy that would love and care for her when she needs it the most; and Michael Stuhlbarg is odd and strange as head-dentist of where Jasmine works and does exactly what I said he had to play, and does it well.

Consensus: Though there’s plenty of pleasing moments from Woody’s script, as well as the fine cast that he’s assembled, Blue Jasmine comes off more as a somewhat mediocre flick from his library, if not one that held plenty of potential.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"I have a hangover, somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please."

“I have a hangover. Somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please.”

Hitchcock (2012)

Whoever thought that Hitchcock was such a lady-killer? No, literally.

Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the legendary director we all know as Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), the film catalogs the various pitfalls and challenges Hitchcock encountered while trying to get his 1960 classic off the ground and into the movie-theaters.

If you watching movies, writing movie reviews, going to the movies, or just simply, love movies in general, chances are that you’ve heard of the legend that is, Alfred Hitchcock. He’s considered one of the greatest directors of all-time and rightfully so, because the guys has some legendary films that he’s made in his career that are over 50 years old and still hold-up, as well as inspire in today’s day and age, just as much as it did then. He’s an iconic-figure everybody knows, recognizes, and in some cases, even love, but there has yet to be a movie even made about him. There’s been thousands upon thousands of remakes that are all loosely-based off of his pieces of work, but still, there has yet to even be the slightest-glimpse of anybody trying to duplicate the look, sound, feel, and overall character of Hitchcock. Maybe the guy’s too noticeable or maybe the guy’s just way, way too loved by cinephiles out there, that it would almost be a cardinal sin to have a flick about him that has even one negative-thought about him.

Fast-forward to 2012, and we have not one, but two biopics based-on Hitchcock with this one and the HBO-movie, The Girl, that apparently talks a whole bunch of smack on him and makes no apologies for it, either. For me, I don’t really care to see that and instead, I’d much rather go with the one that’s most-likely going to pop-up more around Oscar season, and actually says some nice stuff about the guy who has made filmmaking the inventive and stylistic art that it is today.

Director of Anvil! The Story of AnvilSacha Gervasi makes his directorial-debut with an actual-movie this time around and for the most-part, does a relatively fine-job with creating everything that went-on around Hitchcock in terms of his personal life, as well as his professional life. Instead of having the whole-movie focus on Hitchcock’s time he spent on Psycho and actually getting it out there for the world to see, this is more focused on the relationship between him and his wife, Alma, who actually seemed to be the brains behind the operation. We’ve all seen the unsung hero aspect of a movie before, where one person gets all the love, fame, and gratitude for doing something incredible, whereas the other one gets diddly-squat and a pat on the back, but here, it feels reasonable and honest. You see how Alma just wants to be accepted and thanked for all of the hard-work she puts into Hitchcock’s work, even when he’s off acting like a little baby, eating, and drinking himself to death. There’s a part of you that relates to her and understands her pain, and even when it seems like she’s about to drop her knickers and get dirty with somebody else, you actually get worried for bother her and Hitchcock, considering they obviously love one another and have a special thing going together, that it would just be inhumane to let it go to waste.

As much as I may go on and on about how much of the relationship between these two matters, the fact is, it isn’t the best-parts of the movie. Probably the best part for me, as well as everybody sitting with me in the Press section during my screening, were the scenes that showed the filming of Psycho and just how Hitchcock made everything turn into magic, just by a little tweak of magic he would pull here and there. These scenes were probably the best because they showed how Hitchcock made everybody feel on-set, and most of all, showed us how hard it was to actually get a piece of work like this made, without breaking any laws or regulations that were so strict back in the 1980. It goes to show you that a lot has definitely changed in the movie-world, but also goes to show you that even Hitchcock had some problems to deal with his own.

However, being that the scenes where we follow Hitchcock filming on the set were the best, anything else that interrupted this, seemed to get in the way and really put a damper on things. Hitchcock has a subplot where it focuses on him talking to Ed Gein in his mind and trying to be like, and think like him in-order to get the right feel and mood of Psycho down-pat. The reason I had a problem with this sub-plot was not because it was annoying (which it was), but it was because it tried so hard to be like a movie Hitchcock would have made himself and just feels like it was trying too hard on that boat and should have just stuck with what was really going on. Screw Ed Gein, that dude’s a freak anyway.

Alma even gets a sub-plot and even if her’s is a bit more-interesting than Hitchcock’s, it still slows everything down and keeps it a tad boring, at times. The focus on making Psycho and keeping the relationship between these two still strong, and in-tact were interesting aspects of this movie, but focusing on anything but that just to create a certain amount of drama and tension, didn’t add or do anything at all. It just made the movie linger-on a bit more and have me await the moment til I got to hear the infamous “Shower Scene” score. And trust me, when that sound pops-up, the hairs on your neck are going to just stick straight-up.

Having somebody very famous and noticeable like Anthony Hopkins, play the titular role of Alfred Hitchcock seems a bit risky after awhile, but is still an idea you can get used to because Hopkins is always great with every role that he takes, and that is no different here. The way this movie paints the portrait of Alfred Hitchcock, is that he was a very fun-loving guy, that didn’t mind to get cheeky every once and awhile, and just wanted to have fun while he was on-set, no matter how unprofessional and boyish it looked. Hopkins definitely disappears into this role and gives one of the finer performances I’ve seen from him in awhile because he seems to be having such a ball, playing an iconic-figure we all know and can identify in no less than 10 seconds. There’s a certain-amount of joy and energy to be seen and had with Hopkins here as Hitchcock, and I honestly don’t think anybody else could have played him as well as Hopkins does. I think an Oscar nomination is definitely in-store for Mr. Hopkins, even though I highly doubt he’ll win for it.

Helen Mirren ain’t all that bad either, and is probably just as good as Hitchcock’s wife, Alma. Although Mirren may be a bit too in-shape and foxy (yes, I just said the word “foxy), for a to play Alma, who always looked frail and small in real-life, she still handles it very-well and comes off more strong of a person that Hitchcock is. Mirren definitely has her great-moments of pure fun and hilarity, but the moments where it’s her and Hopkins on-screen, together, it’s great to see because you really do feel the love and respect between the two and it’s something that I wish I saw more with married-couples in movies. Nowadays, all they ever do is fight, argue, yell, and end-up agreeing on a divorce by the end. Take a page out of Hitchcock’s book and realize that fighting, isn’t always the answer to your marriage-problems. Or if you don’t want to listen to him, then just go on the Steve Wilkos Show. You’ll probably find your answers there.

As good as Mirren and Hopkins are in the leads (and trust me, they are very good), it’s the supporting-cast of familiar faces that really makes this movie so much damn fun. A lot of people were worried to see Scarlett Johansson taking over the role as Janet Leigh, but she’s fine because of her instant-beauty, charm, and just overall likability that she has going for her; Jessica Biel is in a very small-role as Vera Miles, but still does a nice-job as a person that seems to know Hitchcock for me than he seems to be; and James D’Arcy is almost too spot-on as Anthony Perkins, capturing all of the weird tics and mannerisms that made the guy so memorable in the first-place.

Consensus: If you have an appreciation for the subject and all that he has done for filmmaking, then Hitchcock will be right-up your alley with spot-on performances, a fun-vibe, and entertaining bits of insight into making movies in the old days.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Oh, and before I head-out, go on over to see my post at GuysNation. It’s called ‘Movied’ and it will be a weekly-post so if you like what you see, comment, show me some love, and keep on going back for more. Thanks!

Lincoln (2012)

Sorry guys, no vampires this time around.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the sixteenth President of the United States of America, also known as Abraham Lincoln, and paints a portrait of him during the tumultuous final months of his life, during which he fights to abolish slavery by putting forth an amendment in the House of Representatives.

For over a decade now, we have all been waiting for Steven Spielberg to deliver on his promise of an actual, Abraham Lincoln biopic and for awhile there, it was going to happen. Actually, at one-point, Liam Neeson was supposed to star as Honest Abe but Neeson himself even declared he was “too old” for the role, even though Daniel Day is five years younger than him, but hey, if Oskar Schindler says no, Oskar Schindler means no. Thankfully though, after all of this time, Spielberg delivers on his promise and gives us a movie that isn’t quite the epic biopic we were all expecting out there. Hell, it’s the farthest thing from actually.

Instead of going for the full-scale, sweeping epic idea that he has gone with on such pictures like War Horse, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, Spielberg takes a step-back and decides to play it down a little bit and make it a more intimate, focused piece of work that doesn’t focus on Lincoln’s whole life, but the last couple months of his life where he had to put up with all of these problems, that it’s a real wonder how the guy didn’t just die of a heart-attack right then and there. In a way, a part of me wishes that Spielberg went all-out here and tackle Abe through his life, but seeing him in the latter years of his life does seem like a better fit for Spielberg to play it safe, and not get way too in over his head, like he has been known to get in recent-years. However, that’s not to say that Spielberg still doesn’t have what it takes to deliver some the top-notch directing moments we all know and love him for.

I think what really intrigued me the most about this flick was how it shows just how hard it was, and probably still is, to get a bill passed and all of the twists and turns that come along with that mission. Abe had to talk to a lot of people, had to plan out a lot of ideas in his head, had to win over a crap-load of people, and most of all, had to still keep it in his mind to do the right thing. It’s a very hard, especially in today’s day and age of politics, to not only do the right thing but also keep with that idea in your head and never mess-up on that. Abe never gets dirty with where he gets with his mission to abolish slavery, and it’s really fresh to see considering this is a guy that America still reveres to this day.

We get a great glimpse at a guy, we can only read about in bore-fest books and Spielberg, for the most part, delivers on that spectrum. The story is as simple as they come, yet, Spielberg never loses sight of what he really wants to show and what he really wants to convey and we get that perfectly. It’s a slow-burn of a movie, but Spielberg keeps it surprisingly entertaining with a couple of nice touches here and there where we feel like we are placed in the same exact setting that the movie’s portraying, and also feel like we’re on the edge-of-our-seat, wondering just how the hell this bill is going to get passed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know that the bill gets passed and whatnot, but the film still kept me wishing and hoping that it would, considering there is so much anger and aggression against it, that’s a huge wonder how it didn’t continued to get denied until this very day.

However, I still can’t lie to you and tell you that I loved this movie, because I really didn’t. The problem I had with this movie was that it would go on for so long (it clocks in at 150 minutes, if that tells you anything already) with just talking, arguing, and political-jargon being used, that I actually felt myself dozing off a couple of times and wondering when they were going to get a move on with this story. Playing it subdued and intimate was a nice approach that Spielberg decided to use, but when your whole film is about a bunch of people just talking about a bill that we all know gets passed at the end of it all, well, it can be a bit repetitive, as well as, dare I say it, boring.

Another problem I had with this movie was that I wasn’t as emotionally-invested as I feel so many other people were with this movie. Ever since this movie came out, I’ve been seeing reviews from people that are just talking about how much they couldn’t handle their emotions during this film and just had to let out all of the tears. My question is, how the hell are all of these people crying at a movie that’s about a story we all know, a history-figure we all think we know, and features a screenplay, where everybody talks and hollers at each other in this sophisticated, political language that is rarely ever muttered in today’s day and age (thank god for that, too)? Seriously, I would get it if we all watched Lincoln from the start of his life, to the end of it but something just did not connect with me and have the water-works moving at the end. Instead, I felt like I knew the man more than I ever did before and I think that’s all I needed, really, a history lesson, not a life-changing experience.

However, I don’t blame these people for getting emotional, either, because when you have Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead, it’s hard not to tear-up. As always, Daniel Day is perfect in a lead role that shows him off to be one of the finest actors we have working today but it’s not the type of role you’d expect from the guy. With roles like Bill Cutting and Daniel Plainview being some of his most famous in recent time, it’s a refresher to see him go back to his old-ways and play soft, gentle, and kind fellow that means no harm to anyone around him, but just wants to do what he thinks is right for the country and what feels right in his heart. He’s obviously a nice guy that you can tell has some real charm to him that wins everybody over that he meets, as well as a knack for story-telling that are some of the funniest, if not thought-provoking pieces of tales that I have ever heard. How many times did Honest Abe break out of regular-conversation just to tell a story about a man and his farm? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do know is that they were lovely stories to hear, mainly because it was Daniel Day who was delivering them in his sweet, gentle voice that doesn’t even seem recognizable in the least bit.

Daniel day lights up the screen every time he pops-up on it and delivers one of the finest performances of the year, and really does have you sympathize and feel something for a man we rarely know about how he was in life. We read about it in books, but it’s all up in the air as to what or who this guy really was in real-life, but I think Daniel Day’s portrayal is the most accurate depiction we can all go along with and agree on. If Daniel day doesn’t get a nomination this year, hell will freeze over, but then again, I think it’s a pretty sure thing that no matter what the movie the guy signs up to do, he’s going to get an Oscar-nomination regardless and you know what? I have no problem with that because this guy is an actor’s actor, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. That was a pretty obvious statement though, because everybody looks forward to what the guy does next, it’s all just a matter of how long will it take this time around.

Even though Daniel Day is perfect in this lead role, he almost gets the spotlight taken away from him from an actor that could also be considered “an actor’s actor”. Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens in a way that we all know and love Jones for playing his roles. He’s cranky, he’s old, he’s witty, and most of all, he’s a bastard that you do not want to go toe-to-toe with when it comes to an argument. As Stevens, Jones allows this fact to be even more truer than we already know it to be and really gives us a glimpse at a man that may even want this bill passed more than Lincoln himself, and there’s an amazing, final scene with him that shows us why. Jones is on-fire in this role and I really do think that he’s a sure-thing for an Oscar nomination this year and I do not disagree with that one-bit because the guy is always spectacular, he’s just been wasting too much of his time as Agent K to really allow us to see what is so spectacular about him in the first-place.

Playing Lincoln’s wife, Sally Fields probably gives one of her best performances I’ve seen from her in the longest time. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln the same exact way you’d expect her to play her, she’s weird, she’s paranoid, she’s always angry, but yet, she’s always supportive of what Abe does and to see that play out in this film is a thing of beauty, considering her and Daniel Day have great husband-wife chemistry between the two. As opposed to Jones and Lewis, I don’t think Fields is a sure-shot for an Oscar nomination this year, but hey, if she does end up getting one I will not be pissed in the least bit. The gal is great with all that she’s given and it’s finally time that somebody’s given her a role to chew down on.

This whole movie is filled with a supporting cast that will probably shock you by how many names it really does have and to be honest, there’s a bit of a problem with that. See, there are so many damn people in this movie that even though they are all so good with each and every one of their own, respective roles, it becomes a bit of a waste to see such good talent in roles that sometimes don’t show-up on-screen for any longer than 5 minutes. Having a huge, supporting cast is great if you want to make sure every character is well-done, and every performance is good but after awhile, it sort of starts to tick you off once you realize that half of these people can do some quality work in their own flicks, they just aren’t given the chance all that much. Still, it’s great to see such big names show up in a production together and show how much people still want to work with Spielberg.

Consensus: Lincoln may take some people by surprise to how it plays-out, but if you can handle a bunch of talking, then it will definitely keep you watching from beginning-to-end with a spectacular lead performance from Daniel Day, and a message about doing the right thing, no matter who gets in the way that is still relevant today, especially in the world of politics.

8/10=Matinee!!

Men in Black III (2012)

Look out aliens, they’re getting older.

Agent K (Will Smith) travels back through time to the 1960s to save Agent J (Tommy Lee Jones). However, the big mishap here is that he’s about 30 years younger (Josh Brolin) and they both have to fight off super-alien, Boris the Animal, from destroying the world.

Now, I know I sure as hell wasn’t asking for this and I’m pretty sure (hoping) that nobody else really was either; but there is still something positive to be said about this franchise. The first one was very fun and probably stayed in every kids memories forever; and then the second one came around suck all of the fun from the first one! Still, there’s a smidge of fun here taht brought me back to the good old days of sitting down and poppin’ in the old MIB into the VHS, with a couple of my really cool buds. Oh, the old times.

What really had me scared in the beginning was how out-dated this flick seemed. It’s been awhile since the first and second film came out, so when you have Smith up on-screen using lines like “pimpslap the biznitch” or “fo’ real dawg”, it gives off barely any comedy and seems like everybody involved is trying to go back to their 90’s flavor. It’s not sitting well with the viewers, though. Actually, movies, Summer blockbusters, and comedy in general has sort of changed since ’97 and you don’t have to look past the first 20 minutes to notice. I didn’t find myself laughing once and felt boderline disappointing because they tried so damn hard to make me. Everything that Smith did back in the 90’s that seemed hip, cool, and funny —  comes off flat. Sure, there’s something nice about a comedy that isn’t all about being raunchy goes with a clean approach, but it just isn’t funny enough here and that’s what pushed my buttons at first.

Thankfully once Smith finds himself in 1969, things start to pick up smoothly. Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a nice job with this material because he was able to balance out all of the elements of comedy, action, sci-fi, and even a bit of drama; and somehow he made it all work. I started chuckling a lot more once they got into the 60’s lunged at the time-period by bringing up iconic figures like Andy Warhol, played hilariously by Bill Hader, and a couple of little references to outdated music and fads that were big around then. Yeah, the time-travel idea may have not been very inspiring, but it still worked, alright? Thanks mainly, of course, to Sonnenfeld, who is able to make it work, without just seeming like a one-trick pony where every other joke is a hit at the decade. When you got MIB gadgets in the 60’s, you got a quick laugh.

However, a lot of the fun comes from the action and sci-fi elements. The 3D for this movie is actually pretty good and the special effects look even better, thanks to the wonderful work by Rick Baker who always seems to be on his A-game no matter what the movie is. Of course, the aliens look great and the gadgets are cooler than ever but there’s also a lot of action here that really keeps the movie going, without ever really stopping itself to slow down and focus on its characters.

You know what? I did sort of like when they started to slow the film down and focus on the characters, because it worked better than expected. The film really focuses on how Jones’ character has changed over the years from this smiling happy dude that is liked by many, to this totally stern and miserable-looking guy that nobody wants to be around. This was a cool idea and used well — whenever the film brought it into the picture a bit, however, it immediate starts to shy away from it and then this final twist comes in at the end to give us a connection to these characters more and it comes off as totally shoehorned in. I don’t want to give anything away but what shocked me at first, really made no sense and seemed like a really manipulative way of getting us to care for these two characters that we already love and root for as it is.

Will Smith returns to the screen after a 4-year absence and plays the role of Agent J with all of the charisma and enthusiasm he has in his pocket, almost as if he wasn’t gone from the screen for 4 minutes. As I said before, a lot of Smith’s comedy at first, comes off as dated but he starts to get the hang of it and shows why he is one of the most lovable personalities on the big-screen and I hope he comes back to stay and not leave us after doing some dumb shit like Seven Pounds. Tommy Lee Jones is not really here all that much as Agent J, because a lot of that time is given to the awesome Josh Brolin, who plays a younger version of him. Brolin hits the deadpan delivery that Jones has perfectly and he adds a lot of charm to a performance that could have easily just been one-note. He said “slick” a little too much for my liking, but I still have to give a lot of love to Brolin for bringing an impersonation of a very notable actor, and giving it his own, little swing.

Jemaine Clement is sort of one-dimensional as the villain, Boris the Animal, and I think it’s a disappointment because I think Clement could have really handled this material like a champ. Instead, they give him non-intimidating villainous lines, a running gag about his name that wasn’t funny the first 100 times they did it, and a Randy “Macho Man” Savage look that made me feel like he was going against the wrong guys in a battle like this. He should have been facing Hulkamania, brothers!!

Consensus: Men in Black III may not be a threequel we needed to see nor does it bring anything new to this almost-forgotten franchise, but it does bring a lot of kid-oriented fun to it, with charming performances from the cast, a breezy pace, and a nice mixture of comedy and action that will remind you as to why this franchise worked so well in the first place.

7/10=Rental!!

Hugo (2011)

I guess Marty got tired of making films about people getting murdered so he decided to get in touch with his inner-child. No, not I’m not talking about Leo.

When his father dies, 12-year-old orphan Hugo (Asa Butterfield) takes up residence behind the walls of a Parisian train station. There, he meets Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), the daughter of filmmaker Georges Méliès, who holds the key to Hugo’s destiny.

Knowing that this is Martin Scorsese‘s first family-film and the trailer was kind of cheesy considering it had that really bad song by 30 Seconds to Mars in it, my expectations were pretty low despite all of the non-stop positive reviews. However, I’m glad to say I was duped once again.

What Scorsese does perfectly here is bring out the most exuberant flair as a visual arts director then in anything else we have ever seen him in. I don’t normally see films in 3-D because I think they’re are a waste of money and 9 times out of 10, the 2-D versions end up being the same thing as the 3-D one. However, I went into this one with the glasses and everything, and I have to say that almost every single shot here is perfectly made with lush and gorgeous visuals that will take you inside of this colorful little place where it seems like Scorsese had Van Gogh do the film’s art-work himself. I mean this guy makes screws look beautiful. That has almost never been done.

Another great element about this flick is how Scorsese is able to basically send a love-letter to all of the silent film era stars who have inspired him to do what he does best, but it doesn’t feel like he’s just kissing these peoples asses the whole time, he actually creates his own story and adds a silent film-look onto it as well. There are some scenes where there is barely any talking at all and it’s all about how the score, sounds, and art-work all look to make sure you aren’t bored one bit. Basically, anybody that is a film-lover, like yours truly, will love all of the homages and shout-outs to all of Scorsese’s homeboys but the film is also something for kids to watch even if they don’t get all of the silent film stuff right off the bat. However, that’s why they invented Google kids.

The biggest problem for this flick is that it does take quite a bit of time to get started and that usually doesn’t bother me but the first hour or so, was terribly boring and actually had me zoning in-and-out of the film, which barely ever happens. The first part is your typical little kiddie movie that I’ve seen far way too many times for my own liking where the two kids both talk about being reckless, free, and adventurous but then everything sort of just goes back to normal once they realize their kids. It also a long flick (clocking in at 127 minutes) but then again, coming from Scorsese I wasn’t expecting a 1 hour series premiere.

Another major problem I had with this flick was the fact that I think it’s central story, you know the story about the orphaned kid who’s father dies, kind of gets lost by the end. I don’t want to give away too much but there is a big “twist” in the story that gets more attention than the real story at-hand, which is something I was kind of disappointed about because I think they could have made a real emotionally-realistic story about a kid who misses his daddy, but they went with something else. The story they ended up going with was not a problem for me but I still think they could have a done a bit of better job of focusing on the real story they started with.

The performances from everybody involved is also great as well. The kiddie performances from Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz are good but they have done better in the past, and they kind of get lost by the end of the film. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Gustav the Station Inspector and is a perfect fit for this role because he seems like a silent film star villain where he uses his goofy emotions on his face to express his villainous acts and the terrific dialogue matches well with those emotions too.

Ben Kingsley is the real show here to watch as he gives a totally heart-breaking performance that goes way back to his wonder days when he was in talks for Oscar-bait every year. Kingsley had me worried at first because I thought I was going to hate this angry and grumpy old man but somehow he turns that around with a sad and grief-stricken character that brings out the most emotion I felt for the whole entire film. It’s definitely a good performance that I wouldn’t be surprised got him a nomination come Oscar time but it is definitely enough to make me forgive him for BloodRayne. But I understand, a man’s gotta make a living somehow.

Consensus: Hugo may not get fully off its grown in the first hour or so, but Martin Scorsese makes this love letter to his favorite films growing up something else that’s stacked with utterly gorgeous, luscious, and amazing visuals that everybody should definitely go and experience in 3-D no matter what.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

A Serious Man (2009)

Made me feel like I was Jewish.

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) has hit a “rough patch,” according to a colleague, and it would seem so: people are dropping dead all around him, his wife (Sari Lennick) wants a “get” and his whining kids (Aaron Wolff and Jessica McManus) only add to the heavy load. Larry is just looking for some help. Can a few rabbis guide him to life’s answers?

This is a Coen Brothers film and is one of their oddest, and most different attempts at the world they create. There is a lot of nice uses of dark humor here that actually work. The screenplay is highly rich with detail about this guy’s life and once again, with plenty of off-beat dark humor that takes awhile to get used to and understand.When it comes to making hilarious stereotypes, Coens do the job right.

The one thing I have to really praise about this film as usual is the wonderful direction from the Coen Brothers. Almost everyone that they cast is just cast perfectly with their looks, and even by the way they act. This is probably one of the most specific in detail films from the Coens, and their films are already specific enough. The movie also brings up a nice reminder of how we sometimes believe blindly in things because we are told to by religion.

However, I did have some major problems with this film. I felt like this guy was such a deuche for actually letting all this horrible shit happen to him. Many times, I just wanted to grab him by the head and tell him to grow a pair and take charge in his life. Also, the film has a problem with which some other Coen Brother films don’t, it doesn’t feel like its going anywhere, and if it is, its nowhere special. You are left wondering where this story is going, and I didn’t get any answers – it seemed to be a slice of life type story that just starts and ends and has twists and turns galore. Everything does seem to have meaning, but no one can tell you exactly what it is.

Michael Stuhlbarg plays the lead and handles it very well. He doesn’t play this type of character so depressing to the point where you can’t even acknowledge him, instead he plays this character with sure realism. Everybody else is pitch-perfect with their performances adding more and more of detail to their characters.

Consensus: A Serious Man is flawed and at times left without a clue, but is darkly hilarious, richly written by the Coens, and perfectly acted by its cast, especially Stuhlbarg.

7.5/10=Rental!!