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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Michelle Monaghan

Patriots Day (2016)

We could be heroes, just for a few solid hours.

It’s Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston and man oh man, what a lovely day. The Boston Marathon is set to happen, with tons and tons of people all involved and excited to run for a good cause. But of course, things don’t go down this way. In the final stretch of the run, bombs start going off, injuring and killing some. This leads the Boston Police Department, as well as the FBI to get involved as best as they can. Eventually, they find out who is responsible and limit their search to two people: Brothers Tamerlan And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff). Of course, it’s now up to everyone to get together, stand strong and find these guys before they cause even more damage to the city of Boston and put an even greater shadow over what was supposed to be a very lovely, carefree day.

The term “too soon” is normally used with a negative connotation and well, there’s good reason behind it. People, the fragile beings that we are, find it hard to connect or accept tragedy or heartbreak, that talking about it immediately or even a little time after, seems to be too much to handle; nobody can really talk about something sad, because well, that just brings on more sadness. I point this out, not to just ramble on and on for no reason, but to point out why a movie like Patriots Day, while immediate, exciting, tense, and well-done, also feels like it may have been done way too soon.

Marky Mahk thinks he hears something fizzlin'.

Marky Mahk thinks he hears something fizzlin’.

But not in the way you’d expect.

When United 93 came out over a decade ago, it was four years and a few months after the events of 9/11, and considering how emotionally jarring that movie was, it makes sense that people would get up in arms, wondering whether or not this tale needed to be told, so suddenly, so soon, and so in-our-faces. After all, we as a nation still have yet to get over 9/11, 15 years after the fact, so you could only imagine how those in the mid-aughts must have felt when they saw a documentary-like film based on one of the hijacked planes. That said, director Peter Berg approaches the Boston Marathon Bombings with the same sort of tenacity; it’s the kind of movie that takes awhile to get going, but is setting up so many pieces of the story, that just watching and seeing how they connect in the long run is really interesting.

And then the movie does get going and eventually, it becomes something along the lines of a typical action-thriller, except with very real-life circumstances. Just like he showed with Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, Berg has a knack for telling these fact-based stories where we probably know the ending and certain details, but there’s still a thrill and a certain energy behind it that’s hard not to get compelled by. Even when it seems like he’s manipulating certain elements of the story a bit, there’s still a feeling that Berg is giving it all that he’s got to make us feel as if we are there, while the action is all happening, trying our own hardest to put together this sometimes convoluted and crazy pie.

But then again, there’s that issue of being “too soon” and I think that’s where Patriots Day really runs into problems.

For one, it’s been a little over three years since the attack, meaning, that a lot of old wounds still have yet to heal. Due to that, it seems like there’s not enough appropriate room, space, or time to really think about the hard, thought-provoking questions that need to be asked in order for us, a society, to gather a better understanding of what happened. Sure, Berg does a nice job of sticking straight to the facts and giving us what is, essentially, a play-by-play analysis of what’s happenin’ and shakin’, but for a movie such as this to really resonate and hit hard, it also needs to be more than just that.

At its heart, Patriots Day is definitely a tribute to those who lost their lives and those who worked day and night on that one, fateful afternoon, and there’s nothing wrong with that – these are all stories that deserve to be told and given the type of treatment that Berg is more than happy to give them. At the same time though, there’s not enough introspection that makes us think longer and harder about this event – it’s just sort of the standard, bad guys did something bad, now good guys must go and find them. It is, for lack of a better term, a procedural.

An entertaining one at that, but still, a procedural.

"I told ya, it was paked down by da riva."

“I told ya, it was paked down by da riva.”

The bits and pieces of the movie where it seems like Berg really wants to dive in further to this event, is through the portrayals of both Tamerlan And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Surprisingly, the movie does go the extra mile to try and develop them, show them for what they were, and most importantly, give us a better look into what the hell was going through their heads, which is admirable, on the part of Berg’s. He’s telling the whole story for what it is and considering that a good portion of what happens can only happen from their point-of-view, it makes sense that we get some time spent with them and try whatever we can to understand them for their actions. The movie doesn’t hold back on showing us their terrible actions, but it also doesn’t shy away from showing that, well, they were human beings. As troubled and as ill-conceived as they may be, they are still human beings and sometimes, it’s interesting to see their side of the story, regardless of whether or not you sympathize with them or what they did.

Which is interesting here, because while the movie boasts a big, starry and shiny cast with the likes of Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Rachel Brosnahan, and plenty others, really, the movie’s more concerned with Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff’s portrayals of the brothers. It shows that Berg was at least trying to go somewhere more interesting with this material, but of course, also realized who he was doing this movie for and didn’t want to offend anyone. There’s nothing wrong with that, either, however, it does leave that feeling of wondering maybe it was too soon and maybe something else will come down the pipeline.

Like, I don’t know, say a movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Malsany?

Oh, well there we go.

Consensus: Compelling, thrilling and well-paced, Patriots Day works as an exciting take on the events, as well as a nice tribute to those who lost their lives and responded quickly, even if there’s still some material left to be covered.

7.5 / 10

Marky Mak is da best cop awound dese paks.

Marky Mak is da best cop awound dese paks.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Pixels (2015)

Nerds will save the world from ultimate destruction. Not Adam Sandler.

In 1982, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) thought he was the ultimate champ at arcade games. Turns out, however, he was wrong when he lost in the final round to the likes of Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage). Now, over 30 years later, Sam’s life is a bit depressing – he’s middle-aged, single, and works a job as a electronics repairman. His best friend, on the other hand, Will Cooper (Kevin James), just so happens to be the President of the United States, so at least he has that going for him. Everything in their lives change one day when, out of the blue, old-school video games start attacking them; nobody really knows why, but all anybody can make up is the fact that these attacks are serious and that cautionary action should be taken right away. But because beating these arcade games takes a certain type of skill and persistence, the U.S. Army can’t defeat them, which brings President Cooper to ask the aid of Sam, Eddie, Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), and a fellow gamer from the past named Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad). The fate of the world, now rests solely in their finger-tips.

All of the kiddies will love Q'Bert, until they realize that little 'effer curses up a storm.

All of the kiddies will love Q*bert, until they realize that little ‘effer curses up a storm.

Movies like Pixels make me wonder what’s wrong with me. Not just a movie-viewer, however, but as a person. See, while I am all for despising the likes of Adam Sandler and all of the pieces of utter feces he’s been putting out lately, there’s something about Pixels that I couldn’t help but like. Sure, I know there’s clearly a huge hatred for this movie already and more or less, I’m definitely in the minority of this thing, but for some reason, I enjoyed myself during Pixels.

If any of you readers want to write me off right here and now, I will not be offended. In fact, I would welcome you as smart, conscious human beings, who clearly know who they do and don’t want to read. However, for those of you who are at least slightly interested in where I’m going with this, then I say, thank you and please bear with me for as long as you possibly can.

Still here?

Good! Let’s get going!

As is, Pixels is better than most Adam Sandler movies we’ve been seeing in the past decade. I realize that’s like saying it’s better to get shot in the head, then to jump on a live grenade, but still, it’s something that needs to be said. Because while Pixels could have easily been another case where Sandler gets all of his pals together, both in front of and behind the camera, to just goof around and hurl whatever they want on the screen, for no other reason other than to take up people’s time, it actually doesn’t turn out that way. It’s still produced by Happy Madison, but rather than getting the most generic-of-generic directors around that Sandler usually aligns himself with, Chris Columbus steps up to the plate and does a relatively fine job at keeping the pace constantly moving.

Columbus, having directed the first two Harry Potter‘s and many other blockbusters, is already used to these kind of big-budget, wild extravaganzas. And though some people may already be fuming with anger that I even dropped the name Harry Potter in a review about an Adam Sandler movie, it’s not like this is so incredibly distasteful that it should never be watched. Believe it or not, there is a plot here that moves, there is some humor to be found that isn’t just Sandler’s same old brand of making fun of easy targets, and when you get right down to it, there are some fun performances from those involved.

Is that to say the movie is perfect? Hell to the no!

But like I’ve stated before, Pixels is in no way, shape, or form, quite like Sandler’s recent disasters. That’s not saying much at all, but when you go to an Adam Sandler movie and don’t have the feeling of wanting to rip out your ears, eyes and brain, then it’s definitely something that’s more positive than bad. Whatever that may mean for some of you, I do not know, but for me, it means that at least Sandler was able to get some help this time around and not make this into another Grown Ups, produced by Nintendo.

Just imagine Pac Man as the general public and this scene's a whole lot funnier.

Just imagine Pac Man as the general public and this scene’s a whole lot funnier.

Like I alluded to earlier in my first paragraph, Pixels makes me wonder what’s so wrong with me? See, even though everybody on the face of the planet seems to be despising this one literally as soon as they walk out of the theater, for me, I couldn’t help but feel a little pleased. Don’t get me wrong, I realized that there were certain problems in the comedy-department as some jokes worked, whereas others totally failed, or that solid actors like Jane Krakowski, Sean Bean, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox are here to just practically do nothing, but to me, the overall fun feel of this movie was enough to let all of those issues slide-on by.

Because, once again, this movie could have been a whole lot worse, but thankfully, it wasn’t.

Maybe that’s a judge of my character, and less about others, but still, if there’s something wrong with me to where I enjoy certain movies like Pixels, and despise the absolute hell out of a movie like Paper Towns, then so be it. Everybody has their guilty pleasures, as well as their own minority picks; one person does not think the same about one thing as another person does, nor do most people conform to what others are sticking with because it’s, for lack of a better term, the majority to roll with. I, for one, have never been like that and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.

So if a silly movie starring Adam Sandler has to remind me of that, then so be it. I’ll keep being me, ya’ll can keep being yourselves.

So, have I lost all of my followers yet?

Consensus: Despite obvious problems in certain departments, Pixels is still entertaining enough to be one of Sandler’s better movies in recent memory, even if, once again, that’s not saying much to begin with.

6.5 / 10

I'll only trust the girl from True Detective, Tyrionne, and Olaf to save the world. That other person there? Yeah, not so much.

I’ll only trust the girl from True Detective, Tyrion, and Olaf to save the world. That other person there? Yeah, not so much.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

 

The Best of Me (2014)

Funny how true love always seems to come around while on the verge of dying.

After an explosion on a rig that nearly kills him, Dawson Cole (James Marsden) catches wind of news that his mentor of sorts (Gerald McRaney) has tragically passed away. With this, Dawson decides it’s time to head back home and see what needs to be taken care in the estate. While he’s doing this, an old-love of his, Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), is doing the same. Which would be great if they wanted to catch up and be cool with one another, however, considering where they last left things, that can’t seem to happen. But because the recently-deceased wishes was for them to see if they can be friends again, they decide to give it a try and with this, we get to see, through flashbacks, how they got so acquainted with one another in the first place and where exactly they went wrong in the process. Which begs the question: Are they too damaged to get back together one last time for all? Or, are they just beginning on another romance of theirs that they can make into something serious? Oh, the melodrama!

Here we go again, people – another year, another Nicholas Sparks film adaptation. And as most of you may know, I for one do not take kindly to these movies; they’re poorly-done and yet, still make so much money because young teenage girls can’t seem to get the fact that hardly any of these movies are good. Sure, the Notebook was serviceable at best, but other than that rarest-of-rare example, there’s not much else to write home about.

In fact, the only times that these movies are at least watchable, at that, is when they’re absolutely crazy and over-the-top that it doesn’t matter how manipulative and corny the final-product turns out to be. As long as you’re having fun with it, that’s all that matters. Safe Haven showed small signs of this, as well as the Lucky One, but regardless, those movies are still terrible. Like I said before, there’s some fun to be had in how ridiculous they can get, but for the most part, they’re just a bunch of overly-sappy, rather boring romantic-melodramas that not even some housewives can get through.

Is there really any need for the shirt to be off?

Is there really any need for the shirt to be off?

And trust me, I live with one and she hates these pieces of garbage!

Which is what brings me to the Best of Me, yet again, another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, but with a slight twist: the two lovers here are actually a bit older than we’re used to seeing with these adaptations. Usually, Sparks’ adaptations like to appeal to a young-ish crowd, so therefore, they include two hot, young, in-the-moment stars to ring in the dough, but here, the story is a bit different in that the two stars this movie is being advertised with having, are older and definitely not huge stars to begin with. No offense to either James Marsden or Michelle Monaghan (who actually receives top-billing, thankfully), but they’re not the sorts of movie stars that I could see ranking #1 at the box-office, with or without the Nicholas Sparks name attached.

All that said, it’s sad to see them in something like this because, unsurprisingly, they do both try and do succeed in making this material seem genuine. They have a nice chemistry together that is challenging and believable, which is probably a testament to how talented these two pros are. But, as one could imagine happening, even they eventually succumb to the beast of this movie’s script and just how terrible it is.

But most of what makes this movie so bad isn’t the script and how horrendous it is (although it’s definitely a key-factor), it’s the non-stop flashbacks that this movie uses to enhance the emotions of this story, and just constantly annoyed me everytime it showed up. Some of that has to do with how hackneyed the dialogue is between all of these teens, but most of it has to do with the fact that they cast someone who looks like Luke Bracey, in a role that’s supposed to be a younger-version of a James Marsden character. Seriously, look at the two and tell me if you can see one bit of a similarity in how they look.

Not one?

Well, don’t worry, because you’re totally not alone. See, rather than actually searching the landscape and finding a person that looks somewhat like a young-ish James Marsden, the creators here make it seem like they had enough money and time to get a young-stud like Luke Bracey and just decided to cast him in the role, regardless of if he shared any similarities in terms of look or personality with Marsden. This isn’t just a glaring problem with the movie, but it’s constantly distracting because you never for one second believe that one would eventually grow up to be the other. It’s like they’re two different characters, who just so happen to share the same name.

Nicholas Sparks' view of what a grizzled, ex-convict looks like.

Nicholas Sparks’ view of what a grizzled, ex-convict looks like.

Which is to say that had Bracey not been playing the same character as Marsden’s, the performance probably would have been viewed better, but sadly, that is not the case. Even though he tries to make us believe in him as this Dawson character, he can’t help but seem like just another one of those bumble, redneck-like characters. But you know, this time, has a heart of gold. Haven’t seen that before, I’ll tell ya!

Thankfully though, Monaghan and the one playing a younger-version of her character, Liana Liberato, are better-off; not because they actually look the least bit alike, but because the personalities of the two characters match and make you believe that one could actually grow up to be the other. That said, Liberato is probably the most memorable part of this movie because she makes a young gal like Amanda, not just seem like she could fall in love with somebody as troubled as Dawson, but because she actually seems like a young kid. She’s reckless, spirited, and lets her emotions get the best of her – a true-to-form, high school girl.

But it’s just a shame that it all had to get wasted in something that doesn’t once feel “honest”, or even “believable”.

Consensus: Like most of Sparks’ other adaptations, the Best of Me is sap-tastic in every which way, meaning that those who usually love this kind of stuff, will continue to do so, whereas everybody else, just cringes and laughs away.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"James, take my hand. AND WE OFF TO NEVA NEVA LAND!! BOOM!!"

“James, take my hand. AND WE OFF TO NEVA NEVA LAND!! BOOM!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Sorry, Jen. But together, these two are really hot.

After having a chance meeting in a foreign country some odd years ago (five or six, neither ever knows), John (Brad Pitt) and Jane (Angelina Jolie) Smith live a comfortable life where either one talks to one another, yet, still live under the same roof and go to couples-counseling in hopes that things will get better between them two. However, when both find out that they are not only living separate, secret lives as super-duper spies, but that they are also part of feuding spy-agencies, then things got a whole lot more tense between the two; not to mention deadly. Oddly enough though, this newfound information ignites a spark between them both and for the first time in a long time, John and Jane both find themselves happily in love with one another, banging and eating all over the floor. Problem is, it may just be too late as the spy-agencies soon find out that these two are actually married in real-life and decide that it’s best to take them both out because it’s, “bad for business”. Whatever that means, right?

Herein lies the film that started it all; the famous, highly-attractive Hollywood couple that will be synonymous with Generation-Y’ers till the end of time; and definitely the duo that J-Aniston still wants to get back at all of these years later. Ladies and gentleman, here is the beginning of what we know to be known as Brangelina. Heck, it’s even got its own WikiPedia page! If that doesn’t just scream “culturally significant”, I can’t tell you what will!

Oh stop!

Oh stop!

With most movies that have more talk about what’s going on behind the scenes usually means that the final-product itself isn’t anything worth chatting about it either. It just serves as a platform for a conversation to get started on about; although today, one could just mention either Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie respectively and end up finding themselves still talking about their togetherness, and less about the actual movie that brought them all together.

And as you can tell, I’m doing the same exact thing I’m going on about, because it’s sort of the truth: The movie that brought these two superstars together, really isn’t all that memorable.

“But surely something must have been well-done enough to where it would actually attract such picky A-listers as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Dan? So what is the problem?”, you might respond with, and honestly, my answer might be a general, “I don’t know”. Maybe these two were attracted to the idea of starring in a movie together, or better yet, maybe they just saw plenty of big bucks in the idea as is. It doesn’t really matter because either way, the movie is still very “meh”.

Most of that has to do with the premise itself which, on paper, seems very promising, fun and witty, and for the most part, is. However, the movie knows this a little too much and can’t help but remind us each and every chance it gets that, “Our premise is so goofy and our co-stars are so in love with one another, that we can’t help but be pleased!” These are the types of movies that linger on being “smug”, and there are more than a few occasions in which Mr. and Mrs. Smith finds itself creeping over to that side.

What keeps it away from doing so on most occasions? Well, it’s the main selling-point this movie had to roll with in the first place: It’s lovely co-stars.

And yes, it’s also said that usually actors who hook-up in real life, have terrible chemistry in the movies they’re starring in together, but here, with Jolie and Pitt, that isn’t necessarily the case. They’re good together and you can really tell that the two have a little twinkle in there eye whenever the other is in the same scene with them, however, they don’t get to show it off too many times. Because the premise is sort of a joke in and of itself about this married-couple hiding their real selves from the other and not really doing much of anything together as a unit, Pitt and Jolie aren’t really given too many opportunities to do a whole lot of on-screen flirting. More or less, they’re spending scenes together in awkward silence, which yes, is the point, but after awhile, does seem like a waste of some incredibly talented-individuals, who just so also happened to be shaken’ the high hoots behind closed doors at the time.

Yet, the moment in which these two come alive, is when they both find out that their secret spies, which yes again, is the point; they’re bored with their simple, carefree home lives and just want to live a little. In a way, Pitt and Jolie, at the time of filming this movie, were probably the same kind of people – Pitt wanted an escape from his faltering-marriage with America’s Sweetheart, whereas Jolie herself was looking to settle-down a bit and get serious with somebody who didn’t wear her blood across their neck, and/or wasn’t her brother. Maybe I’m looking way too deep into this than I should (actually no, I totally am), however, I can’t help myself. Not just because I’m obsessed with these two and their career’s in general, but because there’s not much else to talk about with this movie.

No, seriously! Cut it out!

No, seriously! Cut it out!

Personally, they’re the only reason to see this. Any reason why you’d laugh during this would be because both Pitt and Jolie are charming enough to make even the dumbest line/moment work. Everything else is sort of a mess. Like, for instance, the whole action-sequences themselves aren’t filmed right; Doug Liman is a fine director that clearly knew what he was doing with the Bourne Identity, but doesn’t seem to realize that action scenes work best when we care about everything that’s going on and is at least given to us in a fun, exciting way. Here, bullets fly; grenades explode; punches are thrown; and upper-class, suburban homes burst into flames. And yet, I didn’t give a single hoot about any of it.

Except for Jolie and Pitt themselves, who are clearly doing fine without hearing anything I have to say.

Love ya Brangie. Sort of made that up, sort of didn’t. Whatever.

Consensus: Most of the talk surrounding Mr. & Mrs. Smith has to do with what happened in real life between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and basically, are the only real reason this movie deserves to be seen – a time-capsule for what everybody was talking about in the mid-21st Century.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No! Damn you adorable freaks!

No! Damn you adorable freaks!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Constantine (2005)

Cigarettes are the devil.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift that gave him the ability to recognise the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human camouflage. It’s not something he wanted, but it was the hand he was dealt, so there’s not much else he can do with it other than drive the demons off of this Earth from hurting humans, and just smoke his life away. He seems pretty content on spending the rest of his days like this, that is all until police detective Angela Dodson’s (Rachel Weisz) twin-sister jumps off of a balcony, plummeting to her death. However, right before she decided to go sidewalk-diving, she apparently turned to the security-camera watching her uttering his name. Dodson knows that there’s something more powerful going on here than just a sudden burst of suicidal thoughts, so she decides to ring Constantine up, despite his best wishes to, once again, be left alone to smoke and fight evil for the rest of his days. But now, Constantine realizes there may be a way to save Dodson’s sister’s life, even if that does mean putting himself clearly in harms way.

A lot of people have made a stink about this movie and the choice in which Keanu Reeves was to play the titular character of the famous comics, John Constantine. While I have never read the comics, meaning I don’t have much of an opinion as if he perfectly solidifies this character or not, it doesn’t matter because Keanu Reeves, no matter what bad stuff you may hear about him, is STILL a movie star, and can take any piece of material, find a way to make it interesting and be able to get people to watch him do what it is that he’s doing, despite us all knowing he’s not-that good of an actor. That’s the reality of it, but we should all just get by that right now and move on. Shall we?

Hey, at least she didn't leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Hey, at least she didn’t leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Anyway, what this movie does do well is that it sets its story up with a unique tone. Seeing this movie and material from afar, some would probably bet this to be an overly-serious, religious-themed thriller that’s all about demons, gods, angels and all sorts of other biblical references to where you feel like you’re back in Sunday School, but the movie has a little bit of fun with itself, right before it dives right into that cheesiness. Constantine’s played-up more as an anti-hero that always has something nifty to say, has his pack of smokes handy and basically knows what it is that he has to do next, at any given time. The movie sets us up with this cool-as-molasses character right away, gives us a tone that’s at times goofy, but darkly so, and has us feel like if the rest of the movie continues on like this, we may just have ourselves a clear-defined winner of religious-themed, action-thrillers, among the other religious-themed, action-thrillers (of which there are many, I think).

However, about half-way through, once the real bulk of this story gets introduced to us, things begin to slowly go downhill. For starters, the movie is over two-hours long, which already gives you the impression that no matter what it is that this flick does with its story, it must do it quick and easy, just so it doesn’t feel like a three-hour epic along the likes of Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments (and yes, I know those two are way, WAY longer than just “two-hours”). But needless to say, despite him having a clear-eye for what it is that he wants to tell us about this story and this main character, director Francis Lawrence still can’t seem to get himself away from all of the constant-exposition that usually brings these types of movies to a screeching-halt.

With a story of this matter, it’s not like you don’t need to know the ins, the outs and whereabouts of when Satan was born, how, where and why he matters now, it’s just that there is a more efficient way to tell that, among many other parts of the story, without having it seem like a total snooze-fest that’s so repetitive, you don’t even care if it makes sense or not. Instead, you just want to see this Constantine guy put his feet into water, grab a cat, start meditating and all of a sudden, be thrown into this dark after-world, where all he does is battle demons. Yes, that scene does happen and it’s pretty cool, but it’s in the middle of non-stop dialogue-heavy scenes where people just use a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that can easily get passed off as “religious”.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, I say!

As we all know though, once the middle-half of a movie goes by and we feel as if we’ve been more-than introduced to this story and the characters that inhabit it, then things begin to get fun, and that’s the truth with this flick. While it does get really goofy and cheesy by the end with all of the CGI, the movie still kept me entertained and feeling as if I was just watching a piece of science-fiction, rather than something that was supposed to have a deeper-meaning because it used biblical-figures like Gabriel or Lucifer himself (perfectly given the nickname of “Lou”; whatta cool guy). Some may be enraged by me saying something like that, but it helped me get through the movie a lot easier. So crucify me if you must, but I was just trying to make the pill go down easier.

"Did I hear somebody talking about 'a machinehead'?"

“Did I hear somebody talking about ‘a machinehead’?”

And yes, I did use a “pill joke” there because Keanu stars in this and yes, he is like I said before: Stiff, tired and dull, but he’s still fun to watch. He makes Constantine the type of witty bad-ass a movie of this nature needs to move along and survive by, and without him, I don’t really know who else I could see doing it. Maybe if I read the comics I would know, but for right now, it seems like Neo was a pretty solid choice in the first place. Rachel Weisz, despite her credible acting-abilities, is sort of left without much to do other than work-off of the blank piece-of-paper that is Keanu Reeves’ screen-presence, but she makes it interesting enough, to say the least. Still though, this would be released in the same year that she won her Oscar, so I guess all was forgiven after awhile.

As okay as these two are in the lead roles, they’re sort of given the standard-roles where all they have to do is all act all plain and simple, amongst all of their crazy, bat-shit surroundings, which doesn’t just limit itself to the atmosphere and the story, but the fun and energetic supporting cast as well. Shia LaBeouf gets his first, real taste in mainstream cinema as Constantine’s lacky and shows that he has the ability to be charming and a bit annoying at the same time, but rightfully so; Djimon Hounsou plays a strange, voodoo-like conjurer called Papa Midnite, who doesn’t take sides between the angels and the demons, yet, sees himself leaning more towards the demons, just because the plot needs him to do so; Gavin Rossdale is charming as the cunning Balthazar, showing us that in the year 2005, he was still staying relevant by doing this and Gwen Stefani at the same time (bastard); Tilda Swinton shows up early on as the angel Gabriel, and isn’t heard from in quite awhile, until she shows up later and does what she does best; and Peter Stormare plays the infamous Lou, giving him all the likable, but evil charm we’d expect to see when Peter Stormare is playing the man also known as Satan himself. If that isn’t what the devil’s really like, then I have no clue what a better personification truly is!

Consensus: Juggles itself around with being overtly-serious at certain times, and campy-but-fun at others, but at the end of the day, Constantine is just a fun, cool-looking and feeling religious-themed action-thriller that somehow benefits from the deadly-charm of Keanu Reeves and the rest of his able cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

“WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Ethan Hunt is back once again, and he’s freakin’ cooler than ever.

Tom Cruise stars once again as IMF agent Ethan Hunt who has to go undercover along with his team (Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg) to clear his organization’s name after they are implicated in a global terrorist plot.

After a year or so of this movie, coming and going at the theaters, I still feel pretty guilty that I missed out on it. I missed out on it for many reasons, but the main, which one being that I just didn’t really care for the series all that much and didn’t even bother catching up with any of the other movies. As you all have probably been able to see, I’ve reviewed all three and rather enjoyed them all, but none stand anywhere near as close to this one. I’m still pissed I missed out! Damn you my broke ass from last year!

All of the M:I movies seem to have been all about the cool gadgets, the high-tech stuff, the crazy stunts, and the incredible amounts of punishment that Hunt was able to take. All of those factors, are still here, but they are given more class and pizzazz this time around that feels more like James Bond movie, rather than another, useless cash-grab for the audience. In a way, it is gunning for the wallets of moviegoers, but at the same time, it’s still offering us more than what we are used to seeing in action-thrillers of this caliber, and I think that’s all thanks to the one, and the only, Brad Bird.

After making animated-flicks like The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, Bird took his chances with live-action filmmaking and even though taking a popular-series like this seems awfully risky for a guy who’s never directed humans, up until now, he still over-comes the task of not only allowing us to have a bunch of fun with the material, but do it in a more sophisticated, smarter way that’s easier to believe and understand than most action movies. I know, it’s crazy to actually think a M:I movie would actually have us believe in some of it’s crazy stunts and action, but that’s what Bird does, and he does it oh, so freakin’ well here. But, what’s even crazier is how much fun Bird seems to be having, despite giving this flick a new look and feel that we haven’t ever seen before. Sorry J.J. Abrams, you tried, but the Bird will always fly higher.

Yeah, we all know what you're looking at in this photo. Can't blame you.

Yeah, we all know what you’re looking at in this photo. Can’t blame you.

There’s a couple of stunts and set-pieces that really mess with you and make you realize exactly why you love action movies so much in the first-place, that is, when they are done well and done the right way. The one scene that always sticks through my mind is when Hunt is climbing the walls of that Skyscraper, as if he was Spider-Man himself, and what’s so breath-taking about that sequence is not only how breathtaking it is to see on-screen in such a way that makes you wonder how somebody didn’t slip-off and plummet to their death, but more or less why you are so on the edge of your seat. I mean, think about it: we all know Hunt is going to survive this stunt, we all know he’s going to live, and yes, we all know that he’s going to end-up saving the day and doing all that cool, action-y stuff that we are used to seeing him do, but yet, we are still on-edge as in wondering if this guy is going to end up becoming a splat on the ground below. Seriously, the palms get sweaty, the hairs on your neck come-up, and the tensions get higher and higher, and it just continues on throughout each and almost every scene/sequence that Bird plays around with, and that’s what I missed so much with action movies, let alone, M:I movies.

The amount of effort that Bird puts into this movie and the material is outstanding and I can’t believe that this guy hasn’t done more live-action movies in his career. Hopefully, just hopefully, this will be the one flick that gets his name out-there for all of the major studios to finally take notice of and give a shot, because who knows what other animated directors are out there, just looking to get their notice for being able to direct actual people. Well, I guess we can all forget about Andrew Stanton for now, but hey! That was one time and one time only! Just choose wisely next time.

No matter how much people may hate or criticize his wild and crazy personal-life, when you get right down to it, Tom Cruise is still, and forever always will be a movie star and his fourth-outing here as Ethan Hunt, shows us once again why we all love him to begin with. Make no means about it, Cruise was born to play Ethan Hunt and no matter how lame or strange the past 3 movies have been in terms of plot, characterization, or action, Cruise has always prevailed in being the best of all and always being able to keep us happy and pleasant enough to watch him go around, kick-ass, and always bring out the best one-liners we can imagine in certain situations. Even the fact that Cruise does his own stunts is something to revel at, especially here, where it seems like it would be so much harder for a man who’s pushing 50 to do. However, like always, Cruise proves all of us nay-sayers wrong again and it just makes me hope and wish to see more of him in this role.

Probably the best remake of Vertigo, ever.

Probably the best remake of Vertigo, ever.

The rest of the crew that Hunt works with, all do great jobs as well, especially Jeremy Renner who, with this role and The Bourne Legacy, seems like the perfect guy to take over an action role, when the reigns need to be passed-down. Renner adds a lot of sensibility to this role and not only gets to flex some of his action-muscles every once and awhile, but his comedic-ones as well, and you know what? The guy’s pretty damn funny when you allow him to be. Just another reason why this guy is a total diamond in the rough when it comes to casting. Paula Patton’s role as Jane Carter may be a tad unbelievable  mainly because she’s so young and brass that handing over a top-secret, professional-operation would seem almost too volatile to whoever assigned her, but yet, Patton prevails. Not only is the gal unbelievable sexy beyond belief, but she also gets a chance to kick some ass as well and show the boys a thing or two. Simon Pegg is always fun and nimble to watch as Benji, aka the comic-relief of the movie, but he’s not over-bearing and at least allows a lot of the tense scenes to just calm you down with his jokes. Overall, solid cast that actually gets to take-over the movie, more than Hunt ever does and that’s not so bad considering all of the characters are fun and interesting to watch.

My main gripe with this movie was that despite there actually being a villain, played by Michael Nyqvist, there’s no real-threat that ever seems to stand in the way of our lovable crew. After Philip Seymour Hoffman’s superb job in the last movie, it seems like it would be damn near *ahem* impossible to do anything as good as that, but at least give us the chance to have a villain that at least poses a threat to Hunt and everybody else. Instead, the guy is barely around and even when he does show-up, he doesn’t do shit and most of the time, just gets his ass-kicked. Where’s the real threat in that? It’s also even lamer that the show-down between the two never really occurs and even when it somehow does, it feels almost anti-climactic. Real, real bummer, especially since I can now say that Dougray Scott was probably a better villain than this chump. Does Jon Voight even count? Or Jean Reno for that matter?

Consensus: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the best in the series for many reasons, the main one being that it always keeps you excited, always allows you to have a good time, and never loses your interest for a second, and just goes to show you that Tom Cruise can still make any movie he wants, and have it be as successful or as entertaining as his last one. Long live, Tom. Fuck you, Katie!

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Seriously, who the hell is this guy?!?

Seriously, who the hell is this guy?!?

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Come on Ethan, I thought you didn’t need women.

Super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has retired from active duty to train new IMF agents and start a life as a married man with his new squeeze (Michelle Monaghan). But he is called back into action to confront the toughest villain he’s ever faced, named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international weapons and information provider with no remorse and no conscience.

If you have seen the first two Mission: Impossible movies, liked them, had a good time with them, and didn’t get bored watching Cruise play cool, then chances are, you are going to like this one, have a good time with it, and not bother one-bit that Cruise is playing cool, once again. Actually, I could just use that one-sentence to sum-up my whole review and be done with it, but since I am a critic and I just spent 2 hours of my life watching this thing, I’m going to take away 5-7 minutes away from your life, just so you can read what I have to say. It’s a sort of domino effect, but trust me, you don’t really have to read this. I’m probably just going to go on and on about Katie Holmes and how right she was. Seriously, take a drink every time I mention her name. The review will be a lot better.

Anywhoo, after highly-stylish directors like Brian De Palma and John Woo took over the last two installments, J.J. Abrams comes up on-board and gives his first-shot at directing a full-length, feature movie. Before this, Abrams was known for creating Alias, Lost, Felicity, and other popular TV-shows that people loved and fan-boys went oogle over, which makes this movie all the more interesting to watch now, considering this is also the same guy that went on and brought Trekkies back to life almost three years ago. It’s great to see a director that obviously loves these old-school action movies, but yet, doesn’t forget to throw some of the newer-stuff in as well to fully get us going and have us feel like we’ve gotten the best of both worlds.

"Felicity's graduated, bitch."

“Felicity’s graduated, bitch.”

Thankfully, that is exactly what Abrams brings to the table here and right from the first-sequence where Hunt and his gal get tied-up and interrogated, you know you are in for a real, real action-treat. Actually, after that scene, the movie doesn’t really ever seem to slow down. We get a bunch of non-stop, tense action-sequences that seem to pull out something new each and every time, and a couple of twists and turns that are sure to have you wondering what’s going to happen next, but in the good way that actually makes sense and not confusing like the first-one. Basically, it was a great choice to bring Abrams along for the ride on this one and it’s obvious that the guy knows how to stage a tense, suspenseful action-scene that will have you gripping your seat, even if you do know how it’s going to end. That’s the sign of a good action director, actually, let alone, director none the less.

However, if you do not like these movies chances are, you’re not going to like this even more. It’s not as stupid as the others, that’s for damn sure, but it definitely feels like a plot-line that wasn’t really thought-out well enough for an action movie of this caliber. For instance, it’s never really brought to my attention what was so bad about this Davian guy in the first-place. Yeah, he’s got weapons and materials of mass-destruction, but I never really saw any of that put to test nor did I really see him actually go to work on any of that whatsoever. I just heard that the guy was bad, realized he was a bit of a dick, and I guess, just assumed that he wasn’t a guy that plays on the good-side. There’s a whole bunch of other problems with this plot that didn’t seem to really make all that much sense to me but in the end, I soon realized that it didn’t matter a lick and all that did matter was watching Ethan Hunt be as cool, as he might as well can be.

Faster than a speeding bullet coming from an Chopper, he's Ethan Hunt dammit.

When you have Scientology on your-side, you can out-run anything. Even speeding bullets.

Once again, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt like he always does: cool, swift, witty, sneaky, and most of all, smart. Cruise plays this role like no other, has no intentions on leaving, and you know what? I don’t really mind it all that much, either. Yeah, the dude’s getting old and a bit funny-looking in terms of botox but the guy still can play this role in his sleep and have us love him, no matter what crazy shit he does or says in his personal life. At the time of the release of this movie, I know that was a bit hard to get by but to me, it doesn’t make much of a difference now and never really did.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid too, but the one I was really impressed by most of all was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian, the main-villain that Hunt is forced to mess with. What makes Davian so different from the others, is the fact that the guy holds no remorse for the things he’s done or is about to do, and plain and simply looks at you in the face, tells you he’s going to put a bullet through it, and says so with no emotion or expressions whatsoever. You really feel like this guy will hold you up on his promise when he’s going to get right down to business and kill you, and that’s why this guy was so freaky to watch and most of all, actually seemed like a legitimate threat to Hunt after all. I will say that his character doesn’t meet the smartest demise of all, but before all of that, Hoffman is electric, fun, and very sinister to watch, in a way that makes me wish he played more villainous-type roles. In a way, I guess he does but oh well, doesn’t matter because the guy can act.

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

The only one in this cast who really stuck-out like a sore-thumb and seemed to bring everything down was Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s new lady-friend, Julia. I don’t know if it was Monaghan’s acting, her writing, or just the shoddy-development for her character, but I didn’t give a crap that she was there, why she was there, or what really even was going to happen to her in the end. Abrams tries very hard to throw at us that Hunt is not only doing this mission for the safety of country, but the safety of his heart as well and as appealing and relateable as that may be for some audience-members watching, I for one, didn’t really buy it and give a single-crap whatsoever. If you want to know why, just go on back to my M:I-2 review and you’ll see why I don’t think Hunt should play around with gals. That is it.

Consensus: Mission: Impossible III is probably the best of the whole series because of it’s electric-direction from Abrams, tense action-sequences that never seem to end, and fun-loving spirit for both old, and new action-movies of the world and makes you feel like this is a series that will never run out of a steam, just as long as they stay fresh with new-directors coming on-board and keep Cruise in-line. Oh yeah, by the way, Katie Holmes. Drink up, people!

8/10=Matinee!!

"Employ me again, Tom. Please?

“Employ me again, Tom. Please?

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Never leave a spy alive, especially if that spy happens to be Will Hunting.

This sequel re-enters the shadowy world of expert assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), who continues to find himself plagued by splintered nightmares from his former life. Except this time, he has a bigger threat in CIA agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen).

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you liked The Bourne Identity, you’re liking this one. As simple as that.

Director Paul Greengrass does a great job here with this material because instead of doing exactly what Doug Liman did with the first flick, he molds it himself. The first one without a houbt had action but focused way too much on its plot, which in turn took away from the little action there was. So what Greengrass does is just match the plot development it but tops it off with more action. And when I mean action, I mean action, baby! Yeah!

Greengrass films more than a few of the action scenes with his infamous “shaky cam” method, but it didn’t bother me as much here as I thought it would have; actually, it tweaked the film in just the right way. All of the fights that go down here feel like they were filmed by a drunken sports fan who just wanted to see some mono-e-mono brawls and happened to fumble in the right places for his camera. Maybe that doesn’t sound (look) so awesome right now but it really makes you feel like you’re there watching Bourne layeth the Smackedowneth on all of these CIA agents’ candy-asses. You can feel the action no matter how far away from the screen you are. The frenetic editing Greengrass did here may not be for everybody, especially the ones that were huge fans of the original, but most will appreciate the gritty vibe he brings to the film and if nothing else how good he is at filming a car chase.

This film isn’t all about its action though, because a lot of it actually is dedicated to its plot which keeps on moving and moving the plot along. If you saw the original, you will probably know everything that’s going on here in the first place, so therefore when all of these mysteries start to be brought up, solved, and twisted around like a curly fry, you can’t help but feel like you don’t know what’s going to go down next. So many things are being brought up here but somehow, it all works itself out and doesn’t become over-bearing.

However, as interesting as the story may have gotten to become, it was still pretty predictable in the end which bothered me. Yes, I know that this is all used for entertainment values and anybody going into these types of films expecting anything else but just pure, adrenaline-junkie action is a total dumb-ass, but I couldn’t get past the fact that almost every action sequence would pretty much end in Jason Bourne coming out on top no matter what the odds stacked against him were. Maybe the fact that I also know that there’s another sequel to this one is what had me thinking this too. Actually, that’s exactly what it is. Damn, I just wish I saw this when it first came out!

Other parts of this film I didn’t like was when the film tried to  get a little sentimental with some subplot about Boune’s first “job”. I don’t mind an action/thriller flick trying to be more than just that but the film tries to edge Bourne out more by giving him this plot to show that he really is a human and humans make mistakes. It comes up just about every 30 minutes when something strange goes down and when it’s all over, you feel like they totally dropped the ball on it. I don’t want to say how this whole subplot eventually plays out, bu the scene it ended with seemed to have left me a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Don’t know what it was but definitely didn’t feel too right.

Matt Damon once again proves himself to be a good action star, and an even better action star as Jason Bourne. He is able to handle this “plain-looking” guy style but also be able to come off as a ruthless bad-ass whenever it comes down to him taking on other spies and the CIA. Bourne is also a bit more interesting this time around because we see him go from a defensive position to an offensive one, which allows us to root him on some more as he battles these CIA punks. Go get ’em Bourne!

Damon is also backed up by a pretty solid cast. Joan Allen is pretty awesome as Pamela Landy because she’s a strong character that doesn’t have to use her muscles to prove her ruthlessness, instead, she uses her brain and that’s a real tough brain to go against. Let’s also not forget to mention that she’s very sexy and a chick I wouldn’t mind going up against myself, if you know what I mean..? Rawr! If you have ever seen Brian Cox play a bad guy before, (which is almost every flick with the exception of Super Troopers) then his performance here as Ward Abbott will just be another example as to know what this dude is capable of and Karl Ubran gets some pretty bad-ass scenes where it’s just him looking all tough and ready to fight Bourne. Yet, none of them ever really stand a chance.

Consensus: Though it misses a couple of beats here and there, The Bourne Supremacy is still a solid action flick because it keeps the adrenaline moving at such a solid pace, that you rarely ever forget what you’re watching and you get more and more involved with the story as it goes along.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Syriana (2005)

So does any of this explain as to why gas is up to 4 bucks?!?

This is the story that tells the oil industry from different perspectives such as a CIA operative (George Clooney), an energy analyst (Matt Damon), a Washington attorney (Jeffrey Wright), and a young unemployed Pakistani migrant worker (Mazhar Munir) in an Arab country in the Persian Gulf.

Damn, I wish I was smarter when it came to watching movies because this film pretty much killed me. However, coming from the dude who wrote Traffic, I wasn’t expecting anything less.

Writer/director Stephen Gaghan does the same thing he did with that film and give it the inter-connecting story-lines, with plenty of characters, and all centering around one central topic. This time around, it’s not as good but he still has his moments as writer and director, mostly the latter though. I liked the look Gaghan gave this film: gritty, dirty, and very realistic looking as I actually felt like I was there going from Pakistan to Texas, then to Maryland and back to Pakistan again. Gaghan also some nice moments of suspense and tension here with the script as you know something crazy is going to go down and you can feel the heat in the air rising. However, the problem with all of that is that I didn’t know exactly what or why that heat was rising in the first place.

My main problem with this flick was that I don’t think that this film really was for me. I like to watch a movie to be enjoyed, to see good performances, nice writing, and maybe learn a thing or two in the process, but the problem here is that I didn’t learn anything probably because I didn’t know anything about this topic to begin with. Gaghan knows what he’s talking about when it comes to all of this political mumbo-jumbo about the oil and foreign relations, but I honestly didn’t. Instead of trying to make it work for the audience in anyway, Gaghan doesn’t seem to really give a shit whether or not anybody understands what the hell everybody’s talking about because he’s got some knowledge to drop on us. Gaghan constantly keeps on bringing out information left and right and it was so frustrating after awhile because even though I tried to fill in the blanks myself as to who was doing what to who, I still couldn’t come up with anything and realized that I was missing out on some key plot elements to this film, not like I was going to even know what was going on in the first place anyway.

I guess the blame could be put down on me since I barely knew anything about this main topic, or anything else they talked about here but I honestly think that Gaghan could have at least dumbed it down just a bit. That’s right people, I said dumb it down and I will stand by that statement only for this flick. Hell, maybe dumb it down isn’t the right thing to say, maybe it just needed to be more coherent for an average folk such as myself. Yeah, coherency is what I really meant.

The key audience for this flick who will understand just about everything that’s going on are probably dilettantes, politicians, pundits, and all of the other people that are involved with the government, but for your regular movie goer, it’s hard to understand anything really and I think that Gaghan could have really benefited from some explanation or more time to keep this flick going and making a lot more sense to the wider audience. Maybe this film is too smart or maybe I’m just too dumb, either way, I can’t say that I was on the edge of my seat nor did I have any real clue as to what was going on.

Where the film really did start to pick up though was about the last 30-45 minutes when everything started making sense after awhile. All of the stories start to come together and even though I didn’t really know what the hell was going on in the first place, I could say that the ending was definitely a satisfying ending because I did pay enough close attention to it the whole time. I know it’s a cheat saying that I almost forgave the film for it’s last act, but I still think Gaghan handled it well. Wish I could say the same for the rest of his flick.

The ensemble Gaghan was also able to get here worked very well even though it really comes down to three people: George Clooney, Matt Damon, and the criminally underrated Jeffrey Wright, who are all great and perfect choices to be the anchors for this flick. They are all very good with their roles as is everybody else in this big-ass ensemble too but really, it’s Clooney who shines the most. Clooney got his Oscar with this performance as Robert Barnes, and as good and strong as it may be, I don’t quite think it was pure Oscar material but this guy is going to get a big win in the future so it’s all fine and dandy for now.

Consensus: Gaghan’s direction is well-done, and his work with this big ensemble is also very impressive, but the problem with his script is that it’s way too confusing with all of it’s jargon that will only make sense to people who actually pay attention to this stuff in the first place. I don’t know if it was just me or the flick itself, but something wasn’t going too well here and that’s why I can’t say it’s as great as everybody says it is.

6/10=Rental!!

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Batman and Iron Man together at last! Except this time, Batman actually is gay.

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Junior) is a thief posing as an actor who teams up with tough-guy private eye Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer) and frustrated actress Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan). They stumble upon a murder, which is when the comedy starts to ensue.

When you take elements of a noir, mix it together with dark comedy, action, a little bit of love, and a whole lot of satire and put in one flick, it seems like it would just be another jumbled up piece that would turn out to be just another lame rip-off of ‘Pulp Fiction’. However, c0-writer/director Shane Black is definitely a guy you can depend on for originality.

The film starts off with this very self-aware narrative that shows us all of the things we should know about this story, and makes it a point to point out all of the obvious stuff that pop-up later on in the flick. This was a hilarious way to start the flick off because it got me in the right mind-set of how the comedy was going to be, how frequent it was, and that I also wasn’t going to see something I’ve seen before. Black is a writer that I hear so much about and I can really tell that he has some real talent because with each and every single frame, he keeps on bringing more and more fresh ideas to this story to the point where you think anything can happen, and it actually does.

Despite bringing some fresh and new air to this type of flick, there is also a huge amount to laugh-out-loud here, which is exactly what I did. There’s a lot of gay jokes here to be heard but they work incredibly well, the tongue-in-cheek humor that shows these characters basically talking like they are in another crime-action flick works and doesn’t seem overly used at all, the one-liners just come out like crazy, and you can’t laugh at how funny Black is when he’s poking fun at Hollywood. We always get those flicks that make it abundantly clear that Hollywood is just a huge scam but this flick tells it in a very funny and different way where Black brought up funny statements such as the fact that every girl from a little farm-town makes it “big” or that everyone in these bars look like celebrity impersonators, just felt like the best kind of satire that actually had me laughing. It’s also one of those flicks that pokes fun at people getting shot and killed but that still made me laugh. I don’t know what it is with this guy, but Shane Black is really earning points from me.

My only gripe with this flick is that I do feel like the film tries a little too hard to give us a complicated plot so it doesn’t become one of those stories it’s making fun of. Yes, the plot is a mystery but it gets way too complicated to the point of where I had no idea who the hell this chick was that they were searching for, let alone, if she was alive or dead. All I wanted to see was what would happen to our three main characters and I guess that’s where my favorite parts of this flick came from.

Robert Downey Jr. is absolutely awesome as Harry Lockhart because he plays Downey the way we want to see him played. The character, Harry himself is pretty interesting but it’s not his character arch that made him interesting, it was the charisma and charm that Downey gives off in his performance that gets you behind this guy right from the start. Once again, it’s one of those mile-a-minute/tweeker talks that we usually get from him but it works well for his character and it’s just so much fun to see Downey having a ball with a character like this.

However, what really surprised me was how he actually took the back-burner from a dude none as, Val Kilmer. Yes, The Val Kilmer takes this film from Downey and practically makes it his own with his hilarious performance as Gay Perry (yes that is his name). Kilmer is an actor that is known for choosing some really good roles but then at the same time, known for choosing some real shit roles but I think he found his niche here as the sarcastic-as-hell, gay cop that just elevates this film beyond belief, every time he shows up on-screen. Don’t let me take any credit away from Downey because I think he was awesome here equally, but it was Kilmer who just brought so much energy, so much fun, and so much humor to this whole flick that it really made me crack-up at just about everything he said, even when he was being serious. The chemistry is also a lot of fun to watch too considering that they are supposed to be hating each other for a good part of the flick but they still end up having that buddy chemistry that worked so well for Black in the past.

Michelle Monaghan is surprisingly awesome as Harmony Faith Lane, Harry’s love-interest. I was very surprised when I actually found myself laughing at Monaghan’s character here because not only is she fine as hell but she’s got some great comedic timing to her as well and makes her character seem more than just another one-note, action flick love-interest that starts off strong but then starts to fade away from the picture slowly. I also couldn’t stop thinking about how much Emma Stone actually looks and sounds like her but I hope that Stone stays on the path she’s on, considering Monaghan hasn’t really had a good flick in awhile.

Consensus: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an original piece of work that combines mystery, crime, action, romance, and tongue-in-cheek comedy that works on almost every level especially with its great lead performances and gets me more and more excited to see what Black and Downey Jr. are going to do with ‘Iron Man 3’.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Somewhere (2010)

People staring into space doesn’t do anything. Unless it’s Bill Murray.

‘Somewhere’ follows Johnny Marco, a newly famous actor, as he recuperates from a minor injury at the Chateau Marmont, a well-known Hollywood retreat. Despite money, fame and professional success, Marco is trapped in an existential crisis and feels little emotion during his daily life. When his ex-wife suffers an unexplained breakdown and goes away, she leaves Cleo, their 11-year-old daughter, with him.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola knows an awful lot about having a very famous daddy and barely being able to see him, which is sort of the reason why this is an even bigger disappointment then I imagined.

Coppola does here what she’s done in practically all of her films but instead it feels like a cheap rip-off this time. She tries to, once again, shed a light on the whole art of “celebrity” and give us a glimpse into the life of a celebrity that I can’t really say that I felt connected to this let alone feeling like I was going to have much interest anyway. For this flick I wanted something new and instead I kind of felt a little bit cheated considering that Coppola does know what she’s doing behind the camera, it’s just the fact that she doesn’t know how to do a film where she isn’t focusing on a very rich and famous person being put through a whole bunch of depression.

Once again too, Coppola feels the need to give us these long, boring shots of barely anything happening such as Dorff just sitting in his room smoking and drinking beer, then another goes to him watching two twins pole-dancing to the Foo Fighters, and then to watching his daughter do some really cool ice skating routine. All of these shots come and go but stay for a very long time without any real emotion to what the story actually is.

There were times though where I felt like Coppola did a pretty good job with what she was trying to convey, especially when it came to this father-daughter relationship. These two obviously don’t have any real connection with each other but when they are both forced to be together, you realize that they both have fun together and treat each other nicely, which is what Dorff’s character needs considering all of the crazy shit that happens to him when his daughter isn’t around. There were a couple of scenes where I think Coppola hit the right note with trying to convey an emotion with this story but too many times did it sort of get lost in moments of random silence, and scenes where it just went on and on for no apparent reason.

Coppola also knows how to make a beautiful film here as well. Even though she is essentially poking a bit of fun at the whole “celebrity” high-life in LA, she still knows how to make this film look very vivid with colors that just pop-out and a surprising amount of cool cinematography. The hipster band Phoenix also provided the score for this film but they are barely ever even in it, which kind of disappointed me considering I think they would have made some cool background music for a lot of the scenes.

Stephen Dorff got his big “come-back” with this flick playing Johnny Marco because the guy has always had talent, he’s just never been in the right film to show it off. Dorff’s character is not a very likable guy. He takes advantage of everything he has practically been given, parties to the point of where he breaks his own arm, and has very little to offer his daughter when she comes around but somehow I liked this guy. I just had a feeling that he was a good guy and wanted to just make his daughter happy with him, even though he is not very skilled at doing so. Dorff is great with this performance because even though he barely says anything, you can see the sadness on his face the whole film and he just has this look to him that makes you want to empathize with him, even though you know he does all of this dumb shit.

Elle Fanning is even more impressive as the daughter Cleo because she plays up that “too wise for her age” role very well here to where everything she says seems very natural, rather than just being too cutesy or annoying. Her and Dorff have very good chemistry together and you can tell that through it, that these two love each other but don’t know how to inter-act and it’s really sad to watch but at the same time nice to watch, because they find ways to connect through some funky things such as Guitar Hero, playing ping-pong, or eating some delicious gelatos. It was also pretty awesome to seem some nice little cameos from the likes of Chris Pontius, Benicio Del Toro, and Michelle Monaghan.

Consensus: Somewhere has two great performances from Dorff and Fanning and features a nice little father-daughter story at the heart, but Sofia Coppola doesn’t do much here that she hasn’t done in all of her other flicks and packs way too many shots and scenes that don’t add anything to the real story.

5.5/10=Rental!!

North Country (2005)

Why does all-of-a-sudden every dude just get horny when they automatically see a chick here?

Based on an inspiring real-life event that took place in the 1970s, North Country stars Charlize Theron in another low-glamour but high-impact role as Josey Aimes, one of only a handful of women working in the Minnesota iron mines. Forced to labor under sexist conditions, she and her female colleagues decide to stand up against the unrelenting harassment from their male counterparts.

You’re probably sitting there now, wondering to yourself after you just read the premise and thought, “Haven’t I seen this before?’. And the truth is yes have, almost every two hours on Lifetime channel.

The film actually does have some moments where it was actually a bit up-lifting, which is probably because the way they depict the way these chicks are treated, was just absolutely terrible and I really wouldn’t wish it on anyone else at all. It’s also kind of sad that these events are actually true and it kind of makes me ashamed of the ways dude treat their women. But other than that, that’s all I felt from this film.

The main problem with this film is that director Niki Caro lets all of this just seem totally over-dramatized and so unbearably obvious that it makes the film almost seem like a really crappy soap-opera rather than an actual inspiration tale that changed the way women work with men forever. I didn’t really get a reason as to why these dudes acted like complete and such little boys with these girls, and the reason we’re actually given, is totally unbelievable and just forced.

I also never understood why any of these guys actually stood up for these chicks, instead of just sitting back and letting it happen. I mean, can every single guy in Minnesota not think for themselves and actually stand up for other human-beings when their being treated like pieces of shit? It’s also kind of weird in a film that basically preaches respecting humanity, it sure does have a lot of pain inflicted on its characters.

Charlize Theron is good as Josey Aimes and shows how her bitterness increases into something that makes her stronger as a woman, and gives her the power to fight back against these d-bags. The only thing is that we don’t see any other side of Josey other than this, and even though Theron plays her very well it’s kind of a disappointment to see what could have been a really complex and great lead, sort of one-note.

Frances McDormand is fine as Glory in her little feisty role that always works so well for her but isn’t in the film as much really; Sean Bean and Woody Harrelson are good as the only two men in all of Minnesota that seem like they actually have a soul; and Richard Jenkins and Sissy Spacek are both good as Theron’s parents. However, the best performance out of the whole cast is Jeremy Renner as this uber d-bag named Bobby Sharp, who Theron’s character went out with when she was younger and almost every scene he had, sort of started to give me the chills. Renner scores emotional depth in a character that would just seem like a total cliche and when the film was over, I remembered his character more than Theron’s actually.

Consensus: What could have been up-lifting and inspirational, gets totally bogged down by hokey, predictable, and sappy cliches that takes a lot away from what’s being talked about in North Country, which could actually seem very important had it been given better direction.

3.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Source Code (2011)

If I had about 8 minutes to relive again and again, I think I’d choose….well….that’s a story for another day folks.

Jake Gyllenhaal portrays a soldier recruited for a time-bending government investigation that places him in another man’s mind and body, reliving the same traumatic event repeatedly in an effort to identify the perpetrators of a terrorist bombing. Vera Farmiga plays a communications specialist who provides the vital link to the soldier’s primary reality as he searches for critical clues within a recurring nightmare.

This is the sophomore effort by Duncan Jones, who some may know him as the director of the 2009 sleeper hit Moon, and others may know him as David Bowie’s son. But look out Bowie, your son is starting to pick up some steam now.

Probably the best thing about this film is the premise that is sort of a combination of Groundhog Day, Memento, and a slash of Inception that seems to work out so well. Duncan Jones is able to grab you into the film and direct it in a way that feels original enough that I didn’t think about its similarities to other films until it was over. The editing is also very solid, and you can’t stop but wonder what exactly is going to happen next, and the suspense works out very well. The movie never feels repetitive even though the same events happen over and over again because they’re each constructed differently enough to feel fresh.

My main problem with this film is that the script is kind of lackluster. Source Code is written by Ben Ripley, who previously wrote two straight-to-DVD Species sequels and one made-for-TV movie. The script has plenty of problems, mainly it being just a combination of ideas from other films without too much originality to it. There’s also a nice little amount of human depth to this story which I actually did like, but the ending here doesn’t do much to support that nice attribute.

While Jones does an excellent job giving the film humanity and life for most of the movie, the conclusion just feels forced and unauthentic. I don’t want to give away too much, but it feels like it should have ended on a much darker note than it does because either the writer or the studio didn’t want to scare away too many moviegoers. While I don’t mind happy endings when they happen in films like these, it’s just odd that this film seemed like it was going to go in another direction, but instead ended on a bad note.

The saving element to this film that really elevated was the performances from the cast, mainly Jake Gyllenhaal, who I think really needed this movie. Jake plays Colter Stevens, and right from the get-go you have no idea who this guy is, and how he’s going to act, but after awhile you really start to see the situation he’s in, and you can actually believe the steps he makes. His charm works here, and by the end you really do find yourself cheering him on, hoping that in the end it all works out. I think this film will really remind people as to why he is such a good leading man. Michelle Monaghan is cute and likable as Christina, and provides a good romantic interest for Gyllenhaal’s character. Vera Farmiga plays Goodwin, who is basically a head in a box, but she somehow elevates her character into a more developed persona and seems more human than I would have expected. The painfully underrated Jeffrey Wright is good here as Dr. Rutledge and makes the best of his villainous-like character.

Consensus: The ending and writing may be a bit of a bummer, but Source Code is uplifted by Duncan Jones’s fearless direction, and good performances from the cast, especially Jake Gyllenhaal, will keep viewers on the edge of their seat throughout the whole ride.

8/10=Matinee!!

Eagle Eye (2008)

I know I’ll catch a lot of heat for this, but this film isn’t as bad as everybody says.

Returning home to grieve after the shocking death of his overachieving twin brother, an aimless slacker named Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) finds himself inexplicably linked to a notorious terrorist cell and hotly pursued by federal authorities. With the nation’s law enforcement agencies hunting them down, Jerry and single mother Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) — who’s also been framed — must work around the clock to clear their names.

First of all let me focus on the negatives here. The plot is one of those big question raisers as to “can this actually happen?”. And the question to this is no, but that’s why we go to see films like this. But there are a lot of problems with this plot mostly cause it gets more insane by the second as it goes on. There is literally one scene where LaBeouf falls from a third story window, only to crash and fall on a subway railroad track, but have the strength to get up out of the trains way. Yeah, it’s very hard to believe anybody could actually do this in real-life.

Throughout the whole beginning and first hour of the film your wondering, who is actually doing all of this, and when they actually show you, you are still scratching your head. Like honestly, you could have put a dog in a high-chair and it would have been more plausible than what they had. The fact that this computer mind thingy, that actually quite resembles Hal 9000, just saying. The stuff that has to do with this computer doesn’t really entertain as much mostly due to the fact that the film doesn’t know what to say about it either. There is also a little political message like there is a “big brother” and their always watching you, didn’t really ring a huge bell for me since it just came off as stupid and unintelligent.

However, despite those negatives I still thoroughly enjoyed many other elements of the film. Director D.J. Caruso uses a lot of action to keep this story moving forward but it doesn’t feel like a Michael Bay film as its used by CGI or a computer, but it actually feels real, especially when the car crashes x6 happen. Even despite the action, the best scenes I think, are just the quiet, smooth scenes between LaBeouf and Monaghan, and actually bring a lot to the film.

I don’t care what people say about Shia LaBeouf being a pretty boy, but this boy can totally act. He’s got a lot of skill to bring out all the emotions necessary to keep his character believable. Michelle Monaghan is also great, and actually has a lot of great scenes where she is showing emotion for her son that she is trying to find. The two despite the general appeal they have, create this great chemistry together, and put a lot of heart into their scenes, as well as making you believe what is happening, is real.

The supporting cast is great with the likes of Rosario Dawson, Anthony Mackie, and Billy Bob Thornton, playing his usual smart-ass self that we all know and love him for.

Consensus: It may not be the smartest film out there, and has some very unbelievable occurrences, but Eagle Eye still entertains with its great knack for fast action, and great performances from the cast that add on a lot of heart to the story.

5/10=Rental!!