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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

Going in Style (2017)

Get some life into ya.

Lifelong buddies Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) all decide that it’s finally time to take some time back and retire, once and for all. However, once they do that, they don’t know what sorts of annoyances await them. For one, the factory that they slaved away for all of those years, aren’t going to be giving them pensions. And if that wasn’t so bad, they’re so broke that they may not be able to keep their own roofs over their heads. It’s so bad that even a piece of pie at a diner is a constant cause for argument. But then, Joe gets the idea: Why not rob a bank? Better yet, why not rob the bank that is, get this, robbing him blind in the first place? It’s a crazy idea and one met with disdain from the two other guys, but as time goes on, they start to come around to the idea. Eventually, the three hatch out a plan for what to do, but considering that they’re three old dudes, it may be a lot harder than it seems.

Do they qualify for the license to carry? Let alone, see?

Going in Style is probably an unnecessary remake, but it’s also different from the 1979 version. While that movie was a mostly dramatic, melancholy look at aging, life, and death, with some comedy splashed in there for good measure, the remake is a lot more fun, humorous, and less about being too dramatic. In a way, it’s as director Zach Braff and the studios thought that having a movie in which a bunch of old dudes try to re-ignite sparks in their lives, only to realize that they haven’t got much time left on Earth, was all too serious and real, so therefore, they added a bunch of jokes about prostates, pie, Alzheimer’s, and oh yes, the Bachelor.

Did I mention that this is Zach Braff we’re talking about here? Sure, I Wish I Was Here was a problem, but surely the same guy who made the near-classic over a decade ago (in Garden State), doesn’t feel the need for these sorts of paycheck gigs, does he? Well, in a way, it sort of seems like it, but it’s not like the movie’s the most manipulative piece of money-making machine ever made.

If anything, it’s just enjoyable and pleasing enough to literally not offend a single person.

Is that we should expect from these actors, as well as Braff? Hopefully not.

But for now, it’s fine, because Going in Style proves that the age old formula of “old dudes getting to have some fun one more time”, still kind of works. The only difference here is that the tone is a lot lighter and playful than you’d expect, which makes all of the crazy plot contrivances, twists, and turns, seem fine. Are they unbelievable and absolutely ridiculous? Absolutely, but for the longest time, the movie doesn’t do much but go about its day, with a smile on its face, and a pleasant mood on its mind.

Ride or die, boys.

And for that, it’s fine. It doesn’t ask for the heavy questions, with the heavier answers, about life, death, love, or immortality, or any of that fun stuff, nor does it really ask you to fully get too invested in its heist at the center of the film; it’s all being used to just get by and allow us to have some fun with these characters, in this place in time.

And once again, that’s fine.

It helps that Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, no matter how old they get, still seem like total pros and can do practically no wrong. Sure, a lot of the stuff that they’re saying and yammering on about isn’t all that funny, but the three are so charming and lovely, does it really matter? Yes, it sort of does, but in this case, not really; it’s annoying to constantly see older actors get the short-shift in which they have to play these old dudes and that’s about it, but if that’s the way the world works, then so be it. It seems like Caine, Freeman, and Arkin themselves are so fine with it that it doesn’t really matter.

So long as they keep on doing what they’re doing, until the expected end of their careers, well then, no argument from me.

Keep doing what you’re doing, fellas.

Consensus: Pleasing and enjoyable enough, mostly by the talented trio of leads, Going in Style doesn’t set out to offend anyone, or change anyone’s life, and in this case, that’s all that is needed.

6 / 10

[Insert boner joke here]

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Johnny Handsome (1989)

It kills to look so good.

Due to a disfigured face, John (Mickey Rourke) has spent most of his life either being ridiculed, or never understood. The only thing that he really knows to do in life is set up heists and have them to according to plan. And for his latest one, everything works out perfectly, with all of the money being taken, and very little casualties, until, well, he gets double-crossed and left to be arrested by the cops. John is soon taken into custody where a doctor who specializes in facial-reconstruction surgery (Forest Whitaker) wants to test something out on John and see, if at all possible, he can get him to look like a normal person. It works, but of course, John himself has a lot to get used to, with people not staring at him any longer. And then, sooner than later, John’s out of jail, back on the streets, and ready to be an everyday, law abiding citizen. But before he does any of that, he wants to get revenge on the two criminals, Sunny Boyd (Ellen Barkin) and Rafe Garrett (Lance Henriksen), who screwed him over in the first place.

Eric Stoltz?

Johnny Handsome is an odd movie because, as is the case with most of Hill’s movies, it seems like it wants to be two different one simultaneously. There’s one aspect that wants to be this goofy, high-concept heist-thriller with guns, action, violence, drugs, booze, and cursing, but then there’s this other, that wants to be a thoughtful, quiet and small character-study about this guy Johnny and how he learns to get along with life after finding a new lease on it. By no means has Hill ever been considered the most perfect director for heart-warming tales of humanity, so obviously, the later story doesn’t quite work out for him.

But at least the former does.

And yes, that’s exactly where Johnny Handsome works, in the grit and the action of the tale. As is usually the case, Hill knows how to craft a solid action-sequence, whether it’s a heist scene, or a brawl between two characters, and it just goes to show you what the guy can do, when the material is there for him to play around with. Sure, has he had better action movies on his plate than this one here? Sure, but it also helps that Hill gets a chance to revel in the sleeze that this tale sometimes promises getting to the nitty gritty of. Of course, it doesn’t quite go as far as it should with that, but it gets close enough to make it feel like a worthwhile effort, on the part of Hill’s.

It’s just that, once again, the movie also wants to be something of a stern, serious character-study that, at the center, does have something interesting to say about Johnny himself. But of course, it’s trapped in this wild and rather wacky B-movie that knows what it is, when it’s doing its thing, but when it’s getting away from that, it feels weird. It’s as if Hill knew that there was some true dramatic promise with this premise and did want to develop it a tad bit more, but also didn’t want to scare too many others away from how melodramatic he was able and willing to get.

It’s an odd mix-and-match Hill has to work with here and honestly, in the hands of a much better director, it probably would have worked. Not to say that Hill isn’t a good director, but you can tell his specialties do heavily lie on action, not drama.

I’d hang with them. Maybe not rob a bank, but definitely hang.

But hey, at least the cast is pretty great.

Mickey Rourke, in what would probably be one of the last performances for awhile where he actually seemed to give a crap, does a solid job as Johnny, even though, like I’ve said before, he may be in a tad bit of a different movie. He’s doing his usual cool, calm and collected brooding thing we’ve seen from him before, which may seem a tad dull, but makes sense in the general sense of the story and just who this character is. It would have been nice to see him play this character in a less messier movie, but hey, at least Rourke’s good here.

The real fun from the cast comes from the supporting side. Lance Henriksen is evil and detestable as one of the baddies who rip-off Johnny; Morgan Freeman plays a cop who is on Johnny’s ass from the get-go and seems to push him way too far at times; Elizabeth McGovern is very much playing it serious like Rourke, but is interesting enough to watch; Forest Whitaker plays his doctor character a little creepy, which works; and Ellen Barkin, well, steals the show as Sunny Boyd. As Boyd, Barkin gets to let loose, showing that she can be beautiful, sexy, and a little bit dangerous, never allowing you to fully trust her, but also kind of love her, too. She clearly came ready to play and it’s why her performance is the one worth remembering when all is said and done.

Consensus: Even despite the mess it eventually becomes, Johnny Handsome still gets by on its thrills and excitement given by its talented ensemble.

6 / 10

Oh, there’s the Mickey we all know, love and recognize. Basically, right before he started boxing, for some reason.

Photos Courtesy of: The Film Connoisseur

An Unfinished Life (2005)

Bears bring everyone closer together.

After she gets in another fight with her boyfriend (Damian Lewis), Jean (Jennifer Lopez) decides that it’s about that time to get her daughter and get the hell out of dodge. They do, however, without much of a destination in mind at all. This leads Jean to her father-in-law, Einar (Robert Redford), and his huge farm that he shares with his best buddy, Mitch (Morgan Freeman), who is paralyzed from getting mauled by a bear – the same bear who still roams the streets of this small town in Montana that everyone seems to love and adore. While Einar is accepting of Jean and his grand-daughter, eventually, old memories of his long, lost and deceased son begin to come back, making him fight more and more with Jean, and in a way, basically just resenting her. It’s something that Jean doesn’t appreciate, however, Einar’s relationship with her daughter is fine enough, so she decides to get a job in town, get her own place, and allow for Einar and his grand-daughter to catch up. Eventually though, the boyfriend comes back and wants Jean to come back home with him, or else.

I don't know who's more in love: Me, or them two?

I don’t know who’s more in love: Me, or them two?

An Unfinished Life is, essentially, a Hallmark movie-of-the-week, but it’s a good one that looks great, has a very solid cast, and yeah, is a little sweet and tender in the middle. Sure, it’s corny, sentimental, syrupy and as sappy as can be, but it’s the right kind of sap – the kind you put on pancakes if you’re feeling fun, or the kind you put up with because you’re in a good movie. And yes, being in a good movie could definitely help you appreciate An Unfinished Life a tiny bit more, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it has its charms.

Then again, it is a Lasse Hallström movie, so it’s easy to be a little weary of how far the charms go.

But what’s interesting about An Unfinished Life is that a lot of it, for a good portion or so, really seems to be rolling along, without much of a plot in the mix. There’s some talk about this boyfriend coming back, a bear roaming about the city, and heck, even some conflict between the estranged family-members, but that’s about it, really. Hallström approaches this movie, thankfully enough, with his indie-sensibilities, that aren’t too focused on the bigger, more emotional things that happen, and more in-tuned with human characters, their relationships with one another and whether or not we actually care about them when all is said and done.

And with a cast like this, it’s kind of hard not to. Robert Redford is basically doing Clint Eastwood here, growling and scowling every so often, seeming like a general grump, but he’s great at it; he’s such a class-act that the moments where he’s supposed to appear as this sort of cranky dude, don’t really register as such, because we’re too busy loving the hell out of him in the first place. His chemistry with Morgan Freeman, who is also quite great, makes the movie a tad bit more magical, because you can tell that there’s a real love and admiration between the two. Whether or not that’s how it was in real life, I do not know, but it certainly shows here in this movie and gives us probably the best old-guy bromance I’ve seen in quite some time.

That said, there are weak spots to be found and it’s what ultimately does carry An Unfinished Life down when it was constantly going up and up.

"Duuuuuuuuh."

“Duhhhhhhh.”

Oddly enough, Jennifer Lopez doesn’t quite seem like the perfect fit here as Jean; she’s supposed to be this lean, mean, down, out and gritty gal who doesn’t take any crap from anyone and is her own person, but she doesn’t quite work. Lopez is beautiful and it’s hard to really take her as someone that could be misconstrued as a “trailer gal”. Also, before Homeland snatched him up and Hollywood finally decided they knew what to do with him, Damian Lewis is here and shows that his American-accent wasn’t quite there just yet and definitely needed some time to improve, making his scenes here feel odd and out-of-place.

In fact, after about the first hour or so, the movie does start to roll with something resembling a plot and it’s what takes the movie down a whole bunch of notches. What was originally working as a slow, but thoughtful character-study of many different people who all have a little something in common, soon becomes a melodramatic, over-written, and convoluted tale of lies, deception, anger and violence.

In other words, a Hallmark movie-of-the-week.

Dammit.

Consensus: With a solid cast and some thoughtful direction, An Unfinished Life works better than it should, all up until the final-act and it sort of switches gears, losing any sort of steam it had going for itself.

6 / 10

Keep on dreaming of Sundance, Rob.

Keep on dreaming of Sundance, Bob.

Photos Courtesy of: Vinnieh

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

David Blaine was more convincing.

After fleeing from the public eye, the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan) Dave Franco) have now decided to get back in the game of stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor, all for the beloved and mysterious “Eye”. However, they all land themselves in some deep water when a billionaire who’s money they once took (Daniel Radcliffe), wants them all to do another heist, but for him only. The Horsemen have no option, so obviously, they set out to make sure that the heist goes as perfectly planned as possible, even when there’s the unpredictable factor of magic around. Meanwhile, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is still trying his hardest to keep his disguise, while also trying to hatch together some sort of plan his own plot against Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a man whom he blames for the death of his dad, some many years ago. But eventually, he’s going to have to run into the Horsemen and help them get out of this sticky situation, alive, well, and still capable of performing tricks for the greater good of society.

Lead 'em, Jess-man.

Lead ’em, Jess-man.

The first Now You See me was fine. At the very least, it was a lazy summer blockbuster that used fancy, cool-looking visuals as a way to say, “Oh, wow. Magic!”, when, in reality, all they were doing was trying to hide the fact that there were no real believable plots or twists in their own story. Instead, they were just phony, but because they’re taking place within a story that features a bunch of people performing and acting out magic tricks, then yeah, fine, they don’t need to make any sense.

But honestly, that was the least of my problems with that movie and, to a greater extent.

While I can get over the sheer manipulation of their twists and turns, I can’t get over the fact that Now You See Me 2 has more characters than the first, but at the same time, still doesn’t develop any of them. And that’s a huge problem when you take into consideration that the characters from the first movie still have nothing to them other than, uh, well, that they’re “magicians” and uh, yeah, that’s about it. Sure, they all have backstory, but a personality other than snarky? Not really.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, had it not been for some of the great actors in these roles, these two movies, as well as the characters themselves, would just absolutely fail. No one really has anything going for them and because the actors themselves are so vibrant and fun to watch in almost everything else they do that isn’t this, it’s kind of hard not to feel disappointed. You know that almost everyone here is better than what they’re being offered, yet, they don’t seem to care about that fact; they’re getting paid, so why the hell should they better?

If anything, though, Now You See Me 2 does remind the world that Lizzy Caplan deserves every role offered to her, if only because she truly is the real deal. Even though a lot of the material handed to her is pretty bad, she handles it all so perfectly; she’s called on to be the smarty-pants, call-it-like-it-is character who says whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and to whomever she oh so pleases. It’s a role that she seemed pitch perfect for in Mean Girls, however, hasn’t done in quite some time. Thankfully, she gets a chance to do that here and shows that this isn’t just a man’s playground – sometimes, a woman has to come in and show everyone else up.

And yeah, everyone else is fine, too.

Harry's evil? Oh my!

Harry’s evil? Oh my!

Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, and Dave Franco all do what they did in the first and it’s what they always do best: Just read lines. Newcomers like Jay Chou and Daniel Radcliffe almost don’t matter, because the script seems to have so much going on at times, that when it comes time for them to actually matter to the plot, it’s hard to care. Chou himself feels like a shameless way of ensuring that Now You See Me 2 will be an international hit, whereas Radcliffe, bravely playing against-type, never seems serious or evil enough to play someone as twisted and sick as he’s made out to be here.

In fact, I’d say that’s how it is for the rest of the movie. Because everyone involved with Now You See Me 2 takes itself in such a jokey way, none of it ever registers as being a really gripping, emotional, or thrilling movie. That’s fine and all, if all you want to do is entertain people, without offering anything beneath the surface, but sometimes, you need an extra push or pull to make it work. Now You See Me 2 exists in a world where everyone follows each other with a joke about something that isn’t funny, or makes no sense, yet, no one seems to really care; they’re all just laughing, smiling and moving on with their day.

Once again, that’s fine, but Now You See Me 2 isn’t a really fun movie. There’s maybe one or two sequences that really work, but other than that, there’s just too much talking going on about stuff that nobody cares about, or has any clue of, and way too many surprises that make literally no sense. Yes, I know that’s the beauty of film, in how they can transport us to this world where realism and simplicity doesn’t exist, but seriously, I need to have some grasp on reality. It doesn’t need to be firm – it just needs to be there so that I’m reminded that once the movie’s over, I can go home and just sit down, wait and pray that they don’t announce a third movie.

Just please. No.

Consensus: Squandering an immensely talented cast, Now You See Me 2 is an obvious cash-grab with little-to-no personality, a confusing, almost nonsensical story, and a bunch of characters who, quite frankly, are hard to care about at all.

3.5 / 10

"Rain, rain go away, that's what all my haters say."

“Rain, rain go away, that’s what all my haters say.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Unleashed (2005)

Don’t make Jet Li angry. You won’t like Jet Li when he’s angry.

Danny (Jet Li) is a man-child who has been treated, raised, and brought up as a dog by his owner, Bart (Bob Hoskins). Bart has had Danny in his care since he was a little boy, which means that everything Bart tells Danny to do, he does, without any back-talk or adversity. But mostly what Bart tells and has Danny do, is to kill people whenever he needs some people to wiped-out, whether for money, or just for the heck of it. And to ensure that Danny stays in line, Bart’s installed this collar onto Danny’s neck that, whenever it’s on, means that Danny will stay relaxed and calm, but whenever it comes off, it means that it’s time for Danny to start killing anyone in his sight. Obviously, this is no way for a human being to live, which Danny sort of knows, which is why when he gets a chance to run away from Bart and the rest of his mob, he ends up in the arms of Sam (Morgan Freeman), an older, but kind blind man who wants to teach Danny the ways about the real world around him and how to live like any other normal person would. But too often does it become clear that Danny’s past will come back to hunt him, as well as Sam.

If Mario owns you, then just give up.

If Mario owns you, then just give up.

Jet Li is, in no way, an actor to take very seriously. Sure, he kicks a lot of butt, flies around, and generally seems to be the kind of cat you don’t want to mess with in everything he shows up in, but to be honest, his acting-skills are, for the most part, weak. Then again, that’s fine because it’s not as if you call up Jet Li to deliver your insightful, heartwarming tale about love and loss. No, instead, you call him up to participate in your live wire, fun, exciting, and booty-kicking kung-fu film where he may have to drop the occasional line of dialogue here or there, but really, you, nor the movie, are fully depending on him for that reason and that reason alone.

In a way, though, Unleashed sort of changes that.

While Li doesn’t have to do much of any heavy-lifting with his character of Danny here, the movie still depends on his presence a bit to give us this sad and frightened little creature of a man who, at the same time, can still kill each and every person in a room if he was demanded to. There’s plenty of the movie that focuses in on his background and his relationship with his owner-of-sorts, Bart, but Li himself still seems capable enough of making us believe in this character, even if his origins seem a little silly and far-fetched.

Does it really matter if he still trips up on his English a bit? Nope, not really. All that matters is that we get to see this Danny character as, well, a human being. Not just because a good portion of the movie is focusing on him and his constant interactions with the world around him, as well as other people, but because it adds a certain level of tension and emotion to the fighting sequences that, as you could predict with this being a Li movie, to transpire. But don’t be fooled – just because they’re fighting sequences in a Jet Li movie, means that they’re mindless and crazy. Okay, yeah, they’re definitely crazy, but there’s also that feeling surrounding these fighting sequences that makes us feel sad for Danny, the character, because we know he doesn’t want to fight, or kill anyone, but it’s the only thing he knows to do.

In a way, Unleashed is a very corny movie.

Jet's always had style.

Jet’s always had style.

However, it’s also a very fun one that, when it chooses to, takes some time away from all of the bloody, chaotic violence to develop its characters, as thin as they may be. This is to say that, yes, Li does a serviceable job here as Danny, but it also helps that he has the likes of Morgan Freeman, Kerry Condon, and Bob Hoskins surrounding him, always there to lend a helping hand to a scene if one calls for it. Freeman’s older, wiser character who seems to genuinely have a good heart, fits in well with the rest of the gritty atmosphere of the movie; Kerry Condon’s teenager character may be overly perky, but she’s never really annoying and instead, feels much more like an actual kid who is just happy to have a person to talk to; and Bob Hoskins, as usual, is mean, vicious and constantly chewing up the scenery. However, it’s the right kind of scenery-chewing where you know how far, is “too far”, and he also knows just how willing he’s able to sink deep into his character, without ever losing his sense of control.

And that’s basically all you have it with Unleashed: Four people, one story. Because of that, the movie can tend to feel a lot shorter than it actually is (100 minutes, to be exact), but personally, I have no problem with that. I’ll take a fun, but thoughtful movie any time of the week that’s neither too long, or too short. Sometimes, when something is just slap dab in the middle and just right, then that’s okay with me. The movie itself may think it’s something more meaningful and life-changing than just a fun kung-fu movie starring Jet Li, but at the end of the day, it’s the fighting sequences and the high-flying Li himself who are probably the most memorable, whether director Louis Leterrier or writer Luc Besson would like to admit or not.

Oh, and the late, great Bob Hoskins, too. Can’t forget about that mean S.O.B.

Consensus: A bit deeper than most Jet Li vehicles, Unleashed finds the famous kung-fu star digging deeper into his acting persona, to make for a far more entertaining action-thriller.

7 / 10

A conversation between two people that I thought I'd never see.

A conversation between two people that I thought I’d never see.

Photos Courtesy of: Martial Arts Action Movies.com, Pluggedin.com, Screwattack.com

London Has Fallen (2016)

Always trust in your budding Americans to kick some terrorist ass.

Years after the assassination attempt made on his life,  U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) are still together, joking around with one another and, generally, seeming like the best of friends. After all, the worst that they ever had to face, came and went, so for now on, they’ll just live out the rest of the presidency in absolute and complete peace. However, that all changes when Asher is called to appear at a funeral for the British Prime Minister, and all hell breaks loose. Major tourist attractions start blowing up, people start dying, and terrorists begin to pop-up left and right. Though they hit a few close calls, Banning and Asher are able to get to safety, and await to see what their next best move is. Even though it’s absolute chaos in London, Banning believes that the best tactic is to get Asher, as well as himself, to the British embassy where they’ll hopefully be safe and tucked away from the terrorists who want to kill them, as well as anyone else that they see fit.

"Look out, ISIS."

“Look out, ISIS.”

People will mistake a movie like London Has Fallen as a “serious one”, and it makes sense. Just like its predecessor, it’s dealing with some very realistic situations, where gore, violence, and death is abound, and not really trying to have a great time with them. Instead, it’s trying to be a very dramatic, emotional, and flag-waving patriotic movie about the triumph and the spirit of the citizens of the United States and how terrorists, no matter what shape, color, or religion they come in, will always fall prey to our power.

Clearly there’s an audience out there for this kind of movie and given today’s political race, it’s almost no surprise that a movie like London Has Fallen, actually exists.

It’s one, where instead of really getting down to the idea of why someone would retaliate to a botched drone strike, or why certain political ideologies, whether violent or not, exist, it’s more concerned with blowing things and people up. Nothing’s wrong with this, as evident this film, as well as Olympus Has Fallen, there can be some fun in watching as terrorists get mowed-down, all in the name of the red, white and blue. And while I’m talking about that movie, it’s actually a lot better than people give it credit for; sure, it’s overly serious in a sort of corny, 80’s movie kind of way, but it’s so unabashedly passionate about what it’s doing, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in all of the grisly action that takes place. And even though it’s been a near three years later, it’s surprising how dated the movie may appear to be, given that there’s clearly a climate out there in today’s society that isn’t about shooting first and asking questions later.

Which is why, with a movie like London Has Fallen, it’s hard not to think about the real life situations and issues countries are currently facing. Whether they be relating to religion, warfare, or just general politics, London Has Fallen takes place in a world that is almost a tad too real to the one we currently live in and it’s why this movie can be a tad hard to get through, what with all of the innocents being mindlessly killed, even if it wants us to all have fun and, most importantly, enjoy ourselves.

After all, this is what going to the movies is all about and that’s why, London Has Fallen, can occasionally be a stirring, if exciting action-thriller.

"Man, why won't anyone let me be President?"

“Man, why won’t anyone let me be President?”

Director Babak Najafi knows that his strong suit isn’t really the drama, or the characters, or the humor of the script, but instead, the action. That’s why, when the going gets going and the action starts up, London Has Fallen can be a pretty fun movie. Its characters may be rote, its one-liners may be cheesy, and its politics may certainly be troubling, but when it pushes all that aside and decides to just let the guns, knives, explosions, and muscles speak for themselves, it’s difficult to be bored. The first movie, in my mind, is still better, but there’s a certain appeal of watching a half-hour action-thriller that does what it needs to do and is over before you know it.

This is what really works in London Has Fallen‘s advantage. Though it features a heavy onslaught of solid actors like Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, and, uhh, sure, Gerard Butler, none of them are really doing anything worthy of their talents. Is it a tad disappointing to watch Oscar-nominees and, in some cases, winners, to sit around a desk, in a 4×4 room, look at a screen and talk about what’s going on with the plot, while occasionally trading witty barbs? Yes, but at the same time, London Has Fallen doesn’t focus too much on this aspect to remind us of this fact.

Instead, it just wants to give us plenty of action, excitement, and politics that are as dated as you can possibly get without humming Hulk Hogan’s theme song. This may tick some people off, but for me, I’m fine with it. Just don’t expect me to remember what everybody said or what the point of it all was, because really, I won’t remember.

I’ll just be fine with having seen an alright piece of action-thriller.

Consensus: Over-the-top, incredibly serious, and corny, Lond040on Has Fallen is exactly what you’d expect, given its predecessor, but it’s still fun and exciting enough that it almost doesn’t matter just how troublesome its politics are.

5 / 10

"Hey, agent - just keep giving me these movies. I'm fine with playing the same person, again and again."

“Hey, agent – just keep giving me these movies. I’m fine with playing the same person, again and again.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Glory (1989)

Yes. People did go to war over the Confederate flag.

During the Civil War, the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the more infamous troupes, due to the fact that they were, for the most part, filled with black men. Some were freemen from the North, others were slaves, but all of them were under the command of Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a commander who is still reeling from the affects of the warfare he’s experienced in his lifetime. Already, before they even set out for battle, there was already plenty of trepidation towards the 54th, because some believed that blacks could not be controlled, or commanded in such a way that would have them prepped and ready for war. Despite this, Shaw, along with his second-in-command (Cary Elwes), try their hardest to not only discipline the soldiers, but even relate and connect with them, as hard as it may seem to do. Some soldiers, like John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), are more than willing to go along with all of the problems they encounter fighting for a country that doesn’t accept them as human beings, whereas others, like Trip (Denzel Washington), aren’t and want the whole unit to know that they aren’t fighting for freedom at all – they’re just fighting to die. Obviously, this causes problems between each and everyone and all culminates in the disastrous attack on the Confederate fort in Charleston, S.C.

Goofy-looking 'stache.

Goofy-looking ‘stache.

Glory is, as most people say, a “classic war film”. Not to take any spit out of that statement, but that’s sort of true. It’s a very good movie, in fact, and one that shows both the humane, as well as harsh realities of the war. At the same time, however, it’s also a film about slavery, and how two races can simultaneously connect to one another, while also having to prepare for a war that they may not actually win and come away alive from. Edward Zwick clearly had a lot on his plate here and it’s one of the many things that makes Glory a solid war film that deserves to be seen by any person out there who either, loves film, history, or a combination of the two.

But, that doesn’t make it a perfect movie, as some may call it.

For one, its extremely dated in the way the story is told. What I mean by this is that rather than getting a story about black people trying to get by under extreme war-conditions, told by a black person, we are told the story through their white commander, as played by Matthew Broderick. It’s understandable that the reason for this is to show how the black soldiers are helping to make Shaw open his eyes a bit more to the realities that, well, believe it or not, African Americans are humans, too. Even though he lives in a world where slavery does exist (although, not for much longer), he knows that these black men are just as honest and humane as he is, which is why we see the tale told, in his own words, through his own eyes, and in his own way.

However, at the same time, it sort of feels like a disservice to the actual black folks in the story. Why are we being told that these fellas are all magical and lovely people, when we can clearly see that happening, right in front of our very own eyes? Did we really need to deal with Shaw’s voice-over to begin with? In all honesty, probably not, because it’s already understood that Shaw will start to warm up and grow closer to these black soldiers that are under his command. So, for anything else to be thrown on, makes it feel like stuffy and, well, a bit schmaltzy. Not saying that it didn’t happen in this way, but the way Shaw is used as our heart and soul of the story, makes Glory seem like it’s taking the easy road out – rather than letting the story be told by those who are most affected to begin with.

But, everything else about Glory, aside from that little nugget of anger, is great.

Like I stated before, Zwick clearly had a lot to work with here, and he does so seamlessly. He gives enough attention to the black soldiers that matter most and show how each and every personality can, at times, clash, while at other times, rub against one another to create a far more perfect and in-sync union. No character here is made out to be a perfect human being, and because as such, it’s easy to sympathize with these characters early-on – and makes it all the more tragic to realize that, in all honesty, they aren’t really fighting for much.

There’s one scene in which this is presented perfectly when Denzel Washington’s Trip goes on about the fact that even when the war is over and everybody goes home, he’ll go back to whatever slum he’s been forced to stay in, whereas Shaw and his white counterparts will be able to head back and relax in his big old mansion, and continue to live his life of total luxury. This scene, above all else, drives home the point that these soldiers may, yes, be fighting for their lives, but are doing so in a way because, quite frankly, they have nowhere else to go, or nothing else better to make up with their time. Most of the soldiers are slaves, so therefore, they have no freedom to begin with; however, even the ones that are free, don’t really have much to do except still be treated as minorities and non-equals, although not as harshly as slaves.

Mediocre 'stache.

Mediocre ‘stache.

So yes, it’s a very sad tale, if you really think about it. But Glory shows that there is some light to be found in the folds. There’s heart, there’s humor, and above all else, there’s humanity here that shows that each and everyone of these soldiers were, race notwithstanding, human beings. And because of this fact, the performances are all the more impressive by showing the depth to which these characters are portrayed.

Though Broderick’s Shaw didn’t really need to be the central figure of this huge story, he’s still solid enough in the role to make me forget about that fact. Ever since Ferris Bueller, it’s known that Broderick has always been trying to get past that image and, occasionally, he’ll strike gold. This is one of those times wherein we see Shaw as not only a clearly messed-up vet of the war, but also one that has enough pride and courage to still go back to the battle and ensure that each and everyone of his men are fit for the same battle he will partake in. Cary Elwes is also fine in showing that, even despite him being more sympathetic to the slavery cause, still has to push his men as far as he possibly can, without over-stepping his superior, obviously.

But, as expected, the best performances come from the three cast-members who get the most attention out of all the other black characters: Andre Baugher, Morgan Freeman, and of course, the star-marking turn from Denzel Washington. As an educated, smart and free black man, Baugher’s character faces a lot more tension from the rest of the black soldiers, and his transition from being a bit too soft for all the training, to becoming a far more rough, tough and gritty one, is incredibly believable. Freeman, too, stays as the heart and soul of the black soldiers and proves to be the one who steps up the most when push comes to shove and a leader is needed. Freeman, in just about everything he does, always seems to become a leader of sorts, so it’s no surprise that the role here fits him like a glove.

However, the one that shines above the rest is, obviously, Denzel Washington as the rebel of the group, Trip.

And the reason why I said “obviously”, is because it’s well-known by now that Denzel was given an Oscar for his work here and understandably so; not only does he steal every scene, but when you get down to the bottom of the story, you realize that he’s the heart and soul of the whole thing. Without him, this would have probably been a normal tale of blacks and whites coming together, to fight the obstacles set against them, and fight a war, but it’s Trip who’s the one that hits everybody’s head and wakes them up to the harsh realities that is the world they live in. Denzel is, at times, hilarious, but also brutally honest, and it’s his voice that keeps this movie’s humanity afloat.

Now, if only the movie had been about him to begin with and not the white dude.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, and well-acted on practically all fronts, Glory is a solid war picture, that also happens to have a message about racial equality that doesn’t try too hard to hit you over the head.

8.5 / 10

No 'stache at all and guess what? He's the coolest one.

No ‘stache at all and guess what? He’s the coolest one.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Nurse Betty (2000)

NurseBettyposterThe bigger question is: Why the hell do people still watch soap operas?

Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger) is a lovely, young woman from Kansas who is simple, loves her hubby (Aaron Eckhart), and loves to watch her favorite show, the popular daytime TV drama A Reason to Love. Betty is such a nice girl, that it’s almost insane to see what happens to her when her hubby is killed by two drug-dealers (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), and then decides to flee the scene of the crime, in order to find and locate her favorite character from that show, Doctor David Ravell (Greg Kinnear). Problem is, Betty is so disillusioned as to what the hell is going on that she doesn’t see David Ravell as a character from a show, but an actual character in real-life. Yep, she’s nutso!

It may came as sort of a shock to some of you out there, but this flick was actually directed by Neil LaBute, way before he started hanging out with Nicolas Cage and bees. However, this one wasn’t written by him but still features a lot of his trademarks: d-bag characters, dark humor, a bit of misogyny, and a double-entendre’s galore!

You know, what everybody loathes and loves about LaBute’s pieces of work.

They don't make cardboard cut-outs like they used to.

They don’t make cardboard cut-outs quite like they used to.

With this movie, we’re able to see that LaBute has a funny bone and even though none of his actual trademarks are here as a director or writer, we still get a feel for the guy and the type of material he likes thrown at him. Later in his career, that wouldn’t do much to help him, but before it all went downhill, LaBute was a pretty big, freakin’ deal at one point and it’s flicks like these that show why. While you’re laughing, you’ll actually find yourself following a story that’s clever, but is also very informative in the twists and turns it takes and at times, you may not know whether you should or shouldn’t laugh at what’s going on.

Yeah, it gets pretty serious, pretty quick.

Which, to say the least, can sort of be the problem, tonally speaking. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bunch of fun that made me laugh, feel suspense, and question these characters and their motivations, but the tone felt a bit off to me. This is apparently clear especially around the last-act where, all of a sudden, we have characters shooting one another, murdering, bleeding, trying to save fish (once you see the film, it will make sense), and people yelling out for their loved-ones. It’s all very drastic, serious, and actually scary, considering we’ve spent so much time with these characters and all that they do, and now we actually have the possibility of seeing them be killed-off, in front of our eyes, is a pretty freaky sight. Not to always say that this movie’s most glaring problem is it’s tone, but when it doesn’t work, it shows and seems like the writers of this flick (John C. Richards and James Flamburg) may have needed a bit of LaBute-flavor to spice things up. Then again, that’s just the way I feel.

After Death at a Funeral, I don’t know what to believe anymore, but a comeback of sorts is clearly is in-store for Mr. LaBute.

I just know it!

But aside from that, everything else is pretty stellar about this movie, especially the cast. One of the biggest and best aspects of this flick, is Ms. Renée Zellweger as Betty Sizemore, our lovable klutz for the next two-hours. Say what you will about Zellweger, her scrunched-up face, her random marriage to Jack White, and her obvious, public drunkenness at the Oscars, the gal is one hell of a charmer and shows that she can make any character work, especially one that’s so strange like this. The fact that Betty is all in a daze and believes everything she sees is real, and not fictional like her favorite TV show, is more than enough to poke-fun at a character and make her seem like a total nut of a person, but Zellweger makes her more than that. She’s got a beautiful smile, a nice look to her, and is actually a sweet person, once you get past the fact that she’s a bit too cuckoo for Coco Puffs. But still, the movie plays off of her with such ease and Zellweger is more than up to the challenge when it comes to that. Without her and her earnestness, I don’t know quite how well this role, hell, this movie would have worked.

If this was the South, they'd be more than just fucked. They'd be dead.

“Next time, no driving Ms. Daisy.”

Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play the two dudes that are after her, and work very well together, despite them seeming like an odd-match at first. Rock is the straight-laced, comedic-man that is more like the voice of reason, whereas Freeman is the down-and-out hitman, that’s on his last job, wants to retire, and is starting to see more visions than he ever planned on, sort of like Betty in a way. Both have this odd-contrast between the two, but still do well at showing how goofy they can be, but also still have you a bit scared of what they could do next.

Greg Kinnear is also a nice fit as Dr. David Ravell, aka the person his character in this movie plays on the show that Betty loves to watch (make any sense?). What I liked about Kinnear is that he’s a bit of a dick because he’s a famous star that mostly older-housewives love, and seems to have it all go to his head. Yet, still respects and loves Betty for the fact that she’s able to be “in character” the whole time that they chat, but little does he know: She’s serious. Dead serious, in fact. It’s fun to see him play that idea up as we all know Kinnear is more than capable of playing a deuche.

He’s just got that look, I hate to say.

Consensus: While going through a few tonal issues, Nurse Betty still works as a dark, twisted, but surprisingly funny piece of LaBute fiction that may not have his trademark style, but still seems up the same alley.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a dick in this too. Much of a surprise to no one.

Oh yeah, and he’s a dick in this too. Not much of a surprise to any one.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Ted 2 (2015)

Teddy bears are people, too!

Three years after we last left them, Thunder Buddies Ted (Seth MacFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) are back together and hanging out more than ever! Ted is now married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and is looking forward to the future and starting a family, but for John, things aren’t so pretty. Recently, he and Lori (Mila Kunis) got a divorce because she wanted him to change for the worst and John just wasn’t allowing that. However, now that he’s single, he’s a bit depressed and can’t stop checking out porn. But now, for Ted’s sake, he’ll have to put all of that on the back-burner so that he can help Ted and Tami-Lynn have the family that they want. Problem is, after much legal looking into, the U.S. government suddenly declares that Ted isn’t fit to be married, raise a child, or be considered a “person” because he is, in essence, a “thing”. Though Ted can think, read, act, and feel, the government doesn’t believe so – which means that it’s up to him, Johnny, and their young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) to take on the government and, once and for all, prove that Ted is more than just a thing.

Be careful, Amanda!

Be careful, Amanda!

Seeing as how I’m not a huge fan of Family Guy, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the original Ted actually worked for me. While it was nowhere near a masterpiece, it was still funny and entertaining enough to where it felt like MacFarlane was giving us all of his greatest hits, without trying to remind us too much that he’s the same dude who created Family Guy. Surely, he’s got his audience out there, but not everybody likes Family Guy and for the matter, not everybody likes Seth MacFarlane, so for him to be able to have people forget what it is that they’re watching come from him, is relatively impressive.

And then, there was A Million Ways to Die in the West. I won’t harp on that movie’s failure too much, especially considering that this is a review for Ted 2 and not the sequel to that dreadful garbage, but I will say that it reminded me so much of what I don’t like about MacFarlane, his certain brand of humor, and his over-excessive tendencies to think that he’s way too clever for his own good. Once again, some laughs were there to be found, but for the most part, they consisted of the weirder moments that MacFarlane was able to cobble-up from a pretty standard plot-line that seemed to have aspirations to go elsewhere, but just didn’t.

And now, there’s Ted 2, which is pretty much a mixture of both.

One of the main problems that seems to be plaguing MacFarlane and his first three movies, is that he doesn’t know when to take a chill pill; too much of this movie is him just pushing a scene deeper and deeper into places that it probably didn’t need to go. There’s a scene where Amanda Seyfried’s character gets a guitar and starts singing, that starts off simple and straight-forward, but soon turns to the odd and bizarre. Which, once again, wasn’t so bad because it actually had me laughing, but too much of it felt like it was thrown in there for good measure, regardless of it had to do with the plot or not.

Which is to say that yes, Ted 2 is a mess, but it’s one that’s at least somewhat entertaining to watch, if only because there are nice moments of comedic inspiration from MacFarlane. There’s another similar sequence to the Seyfried one that I mentioned earlier, that concerns Liam Neeson and it’s so odd, so random, and so strange, that it works well enough to get past the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the over-sized plot. There are many moments like this, most of which are so nonsensical, that they actually elicit some chuckles; then again though, there’s those many other moments where the movie doesn’t seem to go anywhere with itself, except just use the same stupid gag, over and over again.

And that’s a problem, especially when the gag to begin with isn’t all that funny.

Oh, so that makes us the "catcher".

Yeah, that’s not mayonnaise.

This becomes a big problem too, considering that that Ted 2 comes very close to two-hours; which, for any comedy, is already a problem, but one that uses three courtroom scenes to get its point across about accepting all “persons”, by using a walking, talking, and smoking teddy bear as symbolism, is a major disaster. Because MacFarlane doesn’t seem to know where he wants to go, except for the bottom of the barrel, it becomes distracting that he can’t find anything to do to keep the plot moving. But instead, it just rolls and rolls along, as if there is no end game.

Once again, I’m not saying that I despised Ted 2 – it’s just clear that this movie has plenty of problems that could have probably been fixed, had there been maybe one or two more editors by MacFarlane’s side, letting him know what can stay, what can go, and what can never see the light of day. While there’s maybe not a whole lot of scenes that could be placed in that later category, there’s some that come pretty close and/or probably didn’t need to be thrown into this already mish-mash of a movie. Of course MacFarlane is fine at voicing Ted, but are you honestly surprised? It’s his character for gosh sakes!

And as usual, Wahlberg is up to the task of goofing-off as Johnny, even if this time around, he’s saddled with a more boring story-line. Whereas with the first movie, we were getting to see more revealed to us about this character, here, we just sort of see Johnny mope around, look sad and make it seem at all believable that someone who looks like Mark Wahlberg would have a problem getting laid. Either way, Wahlberg seems like he’s trying here and, for the most part, pulls it off, but at the same time, it made me feel like maybe he wasn’t all that there for this one.

Maybe someone was missing…

Consensus: Nowhere near a tragedy, yet not as good as the original, Ted 2 is just funny enough to be worth checking out, if only for the crass moments we all know and, sometimes, love MacFarlane for.

5.5 / 10

The buddies that have a thunder song together, go scuba-diving together. For some odd reason.

The buddies that have a thunder song together, go scuba-diving together. For some odd reason.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

5 Flights Up (2015)

House hunting’s a pain. But hey, at least you’ve still got a ten-year-old dog by your side!

After being together for nearly 40 years and living in the same old, New York City apartment, Ruth (Diane Keaton) and Alex (Morgan Freeman) feel that it’s maybe time to start fresh and anew. And with the help of Ruth’s niece (Cynthia Nixon), they’ll definitely try to get the best deal possible, however, things don’t seem to be working quite in their favor right now. For one, their ten-year-old dog, Dorothy, has to be sent to the vet for a very expensive surgery that may, or may not, save the dog’s life. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s now a supposed bomb scare going all around New York City that’s causing all sorts of traffic and keeping more and more people away from Alex and Ruth’s apartment. And now that they are both getting older, Alex and Ruth also have to come to terms with the kinds of people they are, whether it be when they’re together, or their own separate entity; something that may not be too easy for mild-tempered Alex to do.

Glad you're all happy and whatnot, Ruth and Alex, because I know someone who isn't having the time of her life......

Glad you’re all happy and whatnot, Ruth and Alex, because I know someone who isn’t having the time of her life……

There’s something to be said for a movie that stars two of the most engaging, lovely presences ever to grace the big screen, give them characters that we’re supposed to see as wholly sympathetic, and have them be anything but. Surely director Richard Loncraine had different intentions in mind when he was creating 5 Flights Up (originally titled Alex & Ruth, for obvious reasons); a movie where, basically, we spend nearly an-hour-and-a-half watching Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton walk around NYC, going house-hunting. While this doesn’t sound like such a bad time considering that it’s Freeman and Keaton, two seasoned pros who it’s great to see sharing the screen for what I think is the first time, it’s actually a pretty miserable experience, if only because the characters are so grating.

Don’t get me wrong, both Freeman and Keaton are good as Alex and Ruth, respectively. Together, they share a nice chemistry that makes it seem like they’ve been working together for so many years, and that this was only a little practice round for shits and gigs. But separate, they’re both still good, even despite the writing for their characters. As usual, Keaton is warm and bubbly, whereas Freeman spouts wisdom in a class-A fashion that makes you believe he’s been through it all. Which is to say, yes, Keaton and Freeman are both playing their “types” up and not worrying about it, but once again, that’s all fine, because they’re good at what they do and they don’t need to really change it up.

But it all comes down to these characters, man.

See, with Ruth and Alex, though they seem like harmless elderly folk, the movie eventually starts to unravel them as sort of mean-spirited, cranky codgers that don’t like the direction that their neighborhood has been going, and rather than just accepting the fact for what it is, they can’t help but let everybody know that they’re pissed-off about it. This is more so in the case of Alex, as he’s honestly just a mean, sometimes detestable character who gets irritated at practically anything or anybody he stumbles upon in life; people who are simply trying to have a conversation with him, he can’t help but be rude to and shoo them off as if they were actually asking Morgan Freeman for an autograph. While Ruth may not be as irritatingly angry as Alex, the fact that she still sticks up for him, even when he’s being a total and complete ass, still makes me think that she’s not only apart of the problem, she may actually be the problem.

Maybe I’m thinking a bit too hard about these characters and focusing less and less on the mechanics of the plot, but when something is as subdued and small as this, it’s kind of hard not to just talk about them. Although, if there is a reason as to why I didn’t mind this movie as much, was because it offered a sometimes insightful glimpse into the world of real estate – most importantly, the state in which it’s in in New York City. The way in how a house-for-sale is represented to possible customers, to the many deals happening behind closed doors between agents and buyers, writer Charlie Peters definitely seems like he knows a thing or two about buying an apartment, all that comes with it, and how it can be so challenging to find that one special place.

Yup, poor girl.

Yup, poor girl.

And honestly, with that said, I think the pro of this movie is really Cynthia Nixon, as the niece whose helping Ruth and Alex out. Nixon’s always charmed me whenever she shows up in something, and as this untitled character, she helps make what would otherwise be an annoying character, sort of fun, sort of enjoyable, and actually, pretty sweet. Not only is she laying it all on the line to make sure that Ruth and Alex have their own special forever home that they can cherish for their final years together, she’s also making sure that she does so without losing her hair or punching a hole through the wall. There’s something heartfelt about this character that she’s not really trying to find these two a house so she can make more money on the commission, or get in the good graces of fellow real estate agents, but so that she can actually help out two family members she loves.

Then again though, it all comes back to Ruth and Alex.

For some odd reason, while Ruth is sort of okay with the way the niece acts, Alex is so adamant towards her that every sentence he utters in her general direction, has the feeling actual hatred. It honestly seems to come from nowhere and makes Alex seem more like a miserable a-hole that, while probably doesn’t deserve to live on the streets per se, definitely doesn’t deserve all of the time and effort the niece is putting into finding him as well as his long-lasting girlfriend a home. And while the movie may not be all about them house-hunting and also has something to do with Ruth and Alex’s relationship from the early days, to over the years, it still didn’t register with me well enough, nor understand why somebody would be so mean to somebody who, simply, is just trying to help them.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the whole terrorist subplot. Seriously, it’s not worth it.

Consensus: Despite a great performance from Nixon and a neat, rather tense look into the housing market, 5 Flights Up is held down by the fact that it’s two central characters are quite unlikable, even despite the fact that they’re played by Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton.

5 / 10

Well, at least they love the dog. I think.

Well, at least they love the dog. I think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Lucy (2014)

Screw marijuana! Can these drugs be legal?!?

After being fooled by her one-week boyfriend, American tourist Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is somehow made to be a drug mule of sorts by the mob. The drug she’s given to stay in the pit of her stomach accidentally leaks out into her nervous-system and allows her to use more than the normal 10% of her brain. Meaning that Lucy now has superhuman strength and can control just about anything with her mind. And for the most part, she uses it to her advantage; she extracts revenge on those who had done wrong to her, she gets free rides, she kills whomever gives her a hard time, and she takes down all of the drug-dealers that are also involved in this drug-circle. However, the dosage continues to grow for Lucy and, slowly but surely, she starts to lose control and forgets to remember how to decipher what’s considered “real”, or, what’s “just because of the drugs”. Eventually though, Lucy realizes that she needs to chill out and get rid of all this stuff from her body, which is exactly where biology Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) steps in and sees whatever the hell it is that he can do for her, before it’s too late and her mind is totally lost forever.

There’s been a lot of talk about this here film and how it’s pretty much just another version of Limitless, except with a bigger-budget, and also, instead of the dashing, scruffy-look of Bradley Cooper, we get the luscious, natural beauty that is Scarlett Johansson. And while some of that may be true, I can’t help but think the two movies are different. Most of that has to do with the way in which the drug itself is used and how dark things can truly get, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Luc Besson is a better director than Neil Burger; problem is, you’d just never know it.

"Uhm...this is out of my level of expertise. I'm just the narrator, hon'."

“Uhm…this is out of my level of expertise. I’m just the narrator, hon’.”

See, though Luc Besson struck the iron while it was hot back in the day from ’90-’97, the dude hasn’t really been in his element since. It seems like, ever since the Fifth Element, everything that was fun, exciting and wildly original about Luc Besson and the movies he created, had all but disappeared and thus, we were stuck with watching him try his daft hand at comedy late last year with the Family, which, for the most part, failed. That wasn’t the only bad movie Besson has done in the past decade or so, but it’s definitely the main one that made me wonder what the hell happened to the dude and whether or not we were going to get all of that magic back once again.

Thankfully though, with Lucy, it seems like Besson is back in his comfort-zone, but with a whole lot more craziness ensuing. We get to see him use a hell of a lot of special-effects, and while they don’t always look good, it’s still nice to see Besson at least trying harder and harder at new things to incorporate into his movies, rather than just depending on blood, bullets, and action to save the day. Because, sure, while we all love that from him, there needs to be a bit more to that. Like, I don’t know, say a story, or better yet, an interesting protagonist.

And, believe it or not, Lucy has both of them! Although neither the protagonist, nor the premise may be as smart or as well-handled as Besson has done with ones in the past, it was still refreshing to see him give us something more. But to be honest, story doesn’t really matter here because when Besson wants to get nuts, he allows himself to do so and it’s a joy to see. The movie clearly doesn’t want to be taken seriously and more often than not, is capable of using its black comedy to its advantage. While some of it feels random and a bit strange, it was still something I liked to see in a movie that could have easily been as serious as a human-drama with its B-movie premise, but instead, do quite the opposite.

Sure, there’s plenty of moments where this movie dies down and focuses a tad too much on its characters and their plight; mostly the parts with Morgan Freeman’s character talking about life, humanity, animals, and only God knows what else – but they’re very few and far between to where it doesn’t really bring down the movie a whole lot. And for a movie that runs just barely underneath the hour-and-a-half-mark, that’s something to be happy about. So rarely do we actually get a movie, let alone, a summer blockbuster, in which we are in, and we are out in a matter of reasonable time and pace. I get that most movies like to take their time and expand on their story, hence the longer run-time, but most of the time, these movies do not need to run the risk of being longer than two-and-a-half-hours and therefore, running the risk of losing its audience. However, the pleasure of watching Lucy is that it’s simple and doesn’t take much time at all. It’s quick, punchy and absolutely wild, all under the painless hour-and-a-half-mark.

Hey, it's like Oldboy! Except not really.

Hey, it’s like Oldboy! Except not really.

Only wish other movies this summer would have learned that lesson early on. Looking straight at you, Michael Bay.

And as our titled-character, Scarlett Johansson is fine as Lucy, showing us that despite her small frame and raspy voice, she’s still able to be a bit of a bad-ass chick. Just give her a couple of machine-guns, a blonde-poof, a blood-stained tank-top and woolah, you have a female character that cannot only kick ass and take names, but is smart enough to take maters into her own hands when the going gets going. She doesn’t just hang around and hope that the nearest dude can save her from her problem; she gets up off her lovely romp and starts to get stuff done, her own way.

Don’t know about you, but if there’s a female action-hero I’d look up to the most – it’s Lucy. And that’s all you need to know about her, Jack. Or, whatever masculine dude it is that wants to know why he should see a movie about a gal who has super powers and starts tearing shit up.

Consensus: Whereas it may not be the smartest piece of action you’re likely to see the rest of this summer, Lucy is still a return-to-form of sorts for Luc Besson who seems like, for once in a long while, he’s having a great time with what he’s filming.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Coming for you, motherhood."

“Coming for you, motherhood.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Transcendence (2014)

Well of course Johnny Depp thinks he’s God!

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) both believe in technology being used as a resource to help the planet, rather than continuing to destroy it. Evelyn believes in preserving the environment; whereas Will never necessarily disagrees with her, but cares more about making technology the prime, supreme force in the world. Their other science-buddy Max (Paul Bettany) doesn’t really know what to think, but then again, he doesn’t have much time to once Will is shot with a lethal injection of radiation by a bunch of rebels looking to take him down. He has only about a month to live, and that’s all Evelyn and Max need to transport all of Will’s mind into a computer hard-drive, where they could still talk to and interact with him, as if he was really there; except for, you know, the fact that he’s inside of a computer. While Max doesn’t like what he initially sees with this new programming software Will is in, Evelyn doesn’t care too much and decides to keep Will alive and happy through this computer, where he, all of a sudden, has the world, literally at his finger-tips. This is also, incidentally, around the time when Will decides that it’s time to take the world into his own hands, where he has the ability to repair and posses anyone, giving them hope and invincibility at the same time. Sound like somebody else we all know of?

Yeah, as you can tell, the religious-tones of this movie aren’t at all subtle; then again, nothing of this movie is, or what it’s trying to say is. Throughout the whole two-hours of this movie, you can almost hear director Wally Pfister yelling at the top of his lungs, “Too much technology can ruin one’s mind!!’ It’s a point that he makes abundantly clear in the first 20 minutes, and decides, “Aww, what the heck! I’m already there, so I might as well”, and hammers this point into our heads for the next hour-and-40-minutes. In all honesty, all of this preaching and ranting wouldn’t have been so bad had the movie been able to actually keep its the audience’s pulse, as well as its own, up and moving.

"He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!"

“He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!”

But nope. For some odd reason, Wally Pfister (making his directorial-debut after years and years as an amazing cinematographer) thinks that it’s best to harp on these ideas he has, and totally forgets that this isn’t a college class where kids are supposed to be falling asleep in the back of the room, or inconspicuously playing Candy Crunch on their “notebooks”; this is a movie, for Christsakes! Better yet, it’s a two-hour, sci-fi thriller blockbuster, that has huge names like “Johnny Depp”, “Morgan Freeman”, and, ehrm, “Kate Mara”. She’s a big name now, right? House of Cards anybody? Oh wait! Cillian Murphy is in this and he’s a pretty big name from wherever he’s from. So that counts, right?

Anyway, you get the point! This is a big-budget, sci-fi thriller that is supposed to deal with the big questions one must have about day-to-day society, the technology that runs so rampant around in it, and whether or not we should let that said technology get the best of ourselves and make us forget exactly who it is we are, what we were put on this world to do in the first place, and why, as a species, it is that we matter. There’s no problem with dealings with those questions and trying to find the best, most suitable-answers possible, but there’s a better, more efficient-way to do so than what is presented here.

And it’s not like I’m some sort of caffeine-junkie that can’t wait two more weeks until the summer blockbusters start coming around every damn weekend and needs his action now, now, NOW; but it’s more that I just needed an extra “oomph” to the material that was presented here. That said extra “oomph”, rarely came around. Even when it did, it was near the tail-end, which was also a bit too late and only had me assume that Pfister realized he had to add some sort of action in there, so he decided to have guns shot, people murdered, cars flipped-over and streets exploding from the ground-up. Yeah, it sort of comes out of nowhere, and while it may be damn pretty to look at, it almost amounts to nothing. Just a bunch of smart people, talking about smart things, and trying to be smart, while also a bit bad-ass as well.

Note this, Hollywood: You can’t be a total smarty-pants, and also be a bad-ass as well. Sure, it works for our beloved superheroes, but they aren’t real people. They’re just a bunch of freaks. The same could be said for our modern-day, ordinary, regular-people scientists that roam the Earth, however, THEY ARE real people, which makes it all the harder to see them pistol-whip a baddie, while simultaneously be spewing out coded, scientific-numbers and such.

I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work. Not for real-life, human beings that is. They’re just too, real. Man.

Also, something else to mention about this movie isn’t the fact that this movie doesn’t make much sense, but how it never really seems to stop at a certain-point and realize that this is in fact the point they want to leave its audience with. For instance, the character of Dr. Will Caster comes off a bit like a normal, everyday science-geek. He loves technology, he loves playing around with internet-connections and he even loves playing old-school, vinyl! Yup, so you know he’s a bit of a weirdo! Anyway, with Will, who seem to starts out unlike any other character we’ve seen Johnny Depp in the past decade or so (in other words, “normal”), once he gets shot and is transported into that trusty old computer of his, things start to get a little shaky for this character, as well as this movie. Depp is fine here, but I can’t help but feel like he couldn’t show up to all of the filming for this movie, so just got on his Webcam and decided to act from there. That’s sort of what the role calls on him to do, but it feels like a waste of someone who has finally found some time in his hectic schedule of partying with Tim Burton.

Seriously, those two need to stay apart for a long, long time.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they're delivering scientific exposition.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they’re delivering scientific exposition.

Anyway, with with Will, firstly, it seems like he becomes a total, longing-for-the-almighty-power nut-job, all because he “thinks it’s the right thing to do”. Sure, I could see why somebody would want to create a God-like figure, let alone, use themselves as the subject, but after awhile, this movie makes you think at which point did anybody decide that letting Jack Sparrow-speaking Siri start healing people with infinite powers, and taking over their souls was a smart idea? Apparently half-way through, Evelyn just stops caring and is like, “Yeah, whateva. He’s my hubby and I love him for what he is. Even if he is just a computer that can’t touch, feel or bang me. Yup, that’s him alrighty.”

I know I’m making light of this, but this movie’s plot truly is careless. Not much of it makes sense, and the movie never realizes whether or not it wants to condemn technology for being, well, technology, or wish that everybody would take a chill-pill and go back to the old days of smoking on peace pipes and playing Pong for hours-on-end. The movie is somewhere caught right up in the middle, leaving not only its audience with too much info jiggling around in our minds, but never, ever too sure whether or not the movie itself ever knew what it wanted to say. Instead, we’re just left to get in our cars, go to our homes and sit in front of our lap-tops for the rest of the night.

Ah, technology. What a beautiful thing to waste. Or not waste.

Eh, whatever.

Consensus: Filled with more ideas than it can probably handle, Transcendence may get by on its ambitions, but never seems to take-off in terms of its plot, its tone, or even its feelings regarding what it is that it’s speaking out against, or for. I’m still not sure.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The LEGO Movie (2014)

Remember those small, yellow things you used to “accidentally” stick up your nose as a kid? Yeah, they have lives you know.

Normal, everyday Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) lives in a world that is controlled, run-by and practically dominated by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). In this plastic world, everyone is to wake up, follow their day throughout a precise set of instructions and guide-lines, always smile, swallow overpriced coffee, go to work, be happy about it, get that paycheck, sing terribly-catchy, yet excruciating pop-songs like “Everything is Awesome” and go home to watch mind-numbing sitcoms like “Where Are My Pants?“. It’s so painfully dull and monotonous, but nobody cares, nor does anybody fret, because quite frankly, nobody knows any better; not even poor Emmet, who is just like everybody else. But things begin to change for Emmet once he stumbles upon an an ancient artifact known as the Piece of Resistance. He knows nothing about it, but he’s soon picked-up by the rebellious ass-kicker known as Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and is told that the fate of humanity lies in his hands, and his hands only. In better words: He IS the “chosen one”, and it’s up to him to stop Lord Business’ maniacal ways.

The plot is the same old, cookie-cutter stuff that we’ve seen done in a million other movies (*cough cough* Star Wars), but that doesn’t matter because it’s all used so that the directors can get all sorts of these LEGO-pieces together and see what sort of magic they can make-up next. Needless to say, for a kid who has played with LEGO‘s all throughout his childhood, it was an honor to see the likes of 2002-era Shaquille O’Neal, rub shoulders with none other than Batman himself. And no, I do not mean that ACTUAL Shaquille O’Neal and Bruce Wayne got next to one another, showed their faces to the camera, and rubbed shoulders; I mean that their LEGO figures did.

Basically, he's like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

Basically, he’s like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

And that’s where all of the fun lies with this movie, whether you like it or not.

Chances are though, going into this, no matter how idiotic you may think the idea of LEGO movie being, you’re going to be laughing, be having a great time and totally surprised by what this movie does; not just with its animation, which is quite stunning to look at pick-apart, wondering just how they were able to film it all, but with its script, that displays hilarious wit at a non-stop pace. Most of the jokes here, are made solely for the adults that will most likely get roped into seeing this, and there is no problem with that whatsoever, because there’s a lot of humor here that had me howling like a banshee in my seat. I mean hell, there’s even a joke about how they refer to one character as “Michelangelo, the artist”, and another as “Michelangelo, the Ninja Turtle.” Now, if that doesn’t make you at least crack a smile or two, then I have no freakin’ clue what will!

But there’s definitely plenty out there for the kiddies as well, which doesn’t mean that there’s just a whole bunch of slap-sticky, or fart jokes to make them giggle – there’s a whole bunch of action, fun and excitement that gets thrown into this, all because you can tell that both Phil Lord and Chris Miller clearly care about the audience that this movie is being made for. Sure, you could argue that a LEGO movie actually does exist, solely to sell more toys and merchandise, and I wouldn’t disagree with you. However, the movie isn’t just an-hour-and-a-half ploy trying to grab your arm, snatch your wallet and long-dart you to the nearest Toys R Us or Wal Mart; it’s actually an animated-flick that’s pretty damn hilarious, fun and always able to gain your attention, no matter how many times you may have to remind yourself that you are in fact watching LEGO‘s, up on the big screen.

It’s a strange feeling that even I had a problem getting through on occasion, but I knew one thing: I was just happy knowing they weren’t actually MY LEGO‘s. After all of the abuse and torture I put those poor things through, lord only knows that if they ever became animated and alive, they’d come after me, and with a vengeance, too! Same goes for my sister’s Barbie Dolls!

Although, that may be a different story entirely….

Anyway, moving on!

Though it is hard to go on and on without talking about the voice-cast, I do have to give all of them credit because they do some energetic, spunky work here that definitely makes you see their wild and goofy figures brought to life. Chris Pratt is growing up more and more each day into the perfect “everyday man”, even if in this instance, it just so happens to be a LEGO; Elizabeth Banks sounds as sexy and dangerous as she should as Wyldstyle, almost too sexy and dangerous for a kids movie where young boys will most likely be present in viewing; Will Arnett is hilarious as Batman, by basically just being Gob Bluth, disguised as Bruce Wayne; it’s neat to see someone like Morgan Freeman lending his voice to an animated-movie as goofy as this, but you know, the guy gives it his all and really seems to be enjoying the hell out of himself; the same being said for Morgan Freeman, can practically be said about Liam Neeson who seems like he was definitely a bit tipsy during the voice-over recordings, but hey, it made it enjoyable to listen to; and if there was one weak-link to be found in this voice-cast, it’s probably Will Ferrell, who is definitely as harsh he should be with a name like “Lord Business”, but the act gets stale after awhile and you can sort of tell that Will Ferrell himself is enjoying this a bit too much. Maybe somebody like Nic Cage would have done this guy total justice. Actually, not “somebody”, definitely Nic Cage.

Look! That's the joke I'm talking about! And there's even a ghost in the background! Sweet, right?

Look! That’s the joke I’m talking about! And there’s even a ghost in the background! Pretty sweet, right?

But being that this is an animated movie, which is more often than not, being marketed towards the whole family, there obviously has to be a message learnt here, which there is. However, that may also be where my main problem came from – the way in which it kept on hitting me over, and over head with what message it was trying to get across. Granted, Miller and Lord take a very bold-step in the last-act with a twist that I honestly can’t say I saw coming (one which I won’t spoil here), but it’s one that didn’t feel necessary. Reason being is that whatever this movie was trying to tell us about “expressing ourselves no matter how strange or different we may be from the rest of the crowd around us”, all felt like something we understood right after Wyldstyle steps in and decides to shake things up with this story. Clearly this movie wanted to be more than just your typical, fun-for-the-whole-family animated-fare, but rather than being a simple, ode-to-love flick like the Croods, it ends up going for more of a Lorax-feel, that got a bit too preachy and a bit too strained with what it was trying to say. Doesn’t mean the fun didn’t stop, but it definitely did bother me a whole lot and took me away from most of the action that was happening on screen, most of which happened and was said so fast, I couldn’t make-out half of what was going on.

But you know what? That’s the fun of it, everybody! So definitely do make sure to go out and see this! Just make sure you have at least one cup of coffee to assure yourself that you’ll be able to catch almost anything and everything that Lord and Miller are throwing at you. Because do trust me: They’ll give you everything. Even the kitchen-sink.

Consensus: Almost anything and everything that Phil Lord and Chris Miller have at their disposal, they’ll launch at you, and then some with the LEGO Movie, but it’s always fun, exciting, hilarious, appropriate for all ages, and most importantly, as quick-as-a-Jack-Rabbit. So make sure to keep up and not get too distracted by too much butter being on your popcorn!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw "Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another", but also with "The Statue of Liberty right next to them"?!?! Like, super rad!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw “Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another”, but also with “The Statue of Liberty right next to them”?!?! Like, super rad!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Don’t trust your government. Because apparently, they have no clue what the hell’s going on half of the time.

The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds), seems like he may be giving the good ole’ boys of America a hard time. Actually, probably a lot harder than either the president (James Cromwell) or CIA director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) feel comfortable with! Apparently, a nuclear bomb that was mysteriously lost during a 1972 Israeli-Egyptian conflict, somehow finds its way back into prominence with the Russians who, in their sneaky ways, are making a secret bomb of their own. Some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn’t, but one thing’s for certain: America won’t be taking any chances with this whatsoever. This is when they decide to call in CIA Agent Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) who, having already written a book on Nemerov, seems like an expert of sorts on this type of stuff, and goes so far as to call him a “good man”. The U.S. government doesn’t agree with this and sets up defense as soon as they can. However, “as soon as they can”, may just be a little too late.

"I said, "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!""

“I said, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!””

Let’s not forget that this movie was released only nine months after the 9/11 attacks occurred and, in case you were born just yesterday or have been living under a rock for the past 12 years, America still hasn’t quite gotten over it. And nor should we; not only was it one of the worst travesties to happen to our country in the past hundred or so years, but it showed every citizen that yes, our country is vulnerable enough to where a couple of terrorists could actually get into planes, strapped with bombs to their chests, run those said planes into the Twin Towers and during the process, even blowing themselves, as well as everybody within a 10-feet-distance from them, up into smithereens. The images, videos, sound-bites, etc. are still shocking to this day and it has us wonder if anything as tragic like that will ever happen again to our country.

That’s why, when a movie that not just discusses the same ideas of terrorism like nukes, mass-genocide and paranoia, but even goes so far as to give us a shocking sequence in which all of Baltimore is hit by a nuclear bomb, it comes off as a bit “in poor taste”, for lack of a better term. Though some of you out there may get upset with me “spoiling” what happens about half-way through, I think it deserves to be noted because not only is it the turning-point for this movie, but it also still does the trick, even twelve years after it’s initial-release, and a little near-thirteen years after the infamous attacks themselves. It’s still shocking, it’s still brutal and, even despite some choppy-visuals here and there, still feels somewhat realistic.

Strange to think that seeing certain stuff like that in movies still gets us to this day, but so be it. That’s what happened to us on that fateful day, and for most of us, we’ll continue to be scarred till the rest of our days.

But anyway, like I was saying about how it effected this movie, because before this sequence, the movie was rather by-the-numbers. Sure, some of it had energy and intrigue added to the proceedings, but for the most part, I didn’t get what was really happening, nor did I really care. Nobody feels all that fleshed-out, with the exception of Freeman’s Cabot who, as you probably guessed, steals the show every time he shows up. Hell, even when he isn’t around, his presence can still be felt and you’ll wonder just when it is that he’ll show his lovely face again, and give us a character that we both enjoy to watch and be around, but also respect enough to where if he was in the same room as us, we’d automatically shut our traps and let him do whatever it is that he wants. He just has that type of control and prowess over a movie, which is why he was the only real reason to stick with this flick for its first-half, because everything else, is rather boring.

Then, the already-mentioned nuclear attack happens and all of a sudden: Everything in this movie is cranked-up to eleven and everybody is going absolutely ballistic. Though you could argue that this later-half of the film is as conventional and plain as the first, you can’t argue that it wasn’t entertaining to watch a bunch of heavy-hitting, grade-A character actors like Bruce McGill, Ken Jenkins, James Cromwell, and Philip Baker Hall walk around a board-room, just yelling at one another. Even if certain lines like, “It’s the Russians who did it! Nuke ’em!”, are a tad corny, they’re still fun to hear, especially when you have talented dudes like these delivering them. There’s also a stand-off between the Russian and United States government in which both presidents talk to one another through some sort of a computer-messaging system and though it may be a bit silly, it’s still suspenseful to watch and listen to. Yeah, typing on a keyboard has never been the most thrilling, nor exciting thing a movie can do, but here, it worked for me.

"Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something."

“Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something.”

However though, whenever we don’t focus on these powerful men screaming, figuring stuff out and yelling demands at one another, we focus on Jack Ryan as he ventures all throughout what rubble is left of Baltimore, which may have been exciting to watch, had Ryan’s story been all that interesting to begin with, but it isn’t. That’s not to discredit Ben Affleck too much here in the lead role, because while the guy definitely does try, the movie isn’t all that focused on him to begin with and only shines a light on him whenever necessary. I’m not saying that if you took him out of this film, it would work better, but you could probably have featured somebody awesome like Liev Schreiber’s very mysterious, yet ruthless spy in the same role, and it would have been a lot more entertaining to watch.

Then again, everybody out there in the world knows exactly who Ben Affleck is, and not Liev Schreiber. Hence why one is in main leading-role, whereas the other is in the strange, rather under-written supporting role. Sucks to say, but it’s true.

As it remains though, this is Jack Ryan’s story so when it does focus on him to really deliver the thrills, chills and elements of suspense, it isn’t that Affleck blows the chance to do so, it’s just that we don’t care that much. We see that he’s clearly a nice guy that has a bright head on his shoulder, but can’t fight worth of dick. Which means, that when he has to drop-down in the mud and get his knuckles dirty, it doesn’t fully work, nor does it make you believe too much in him. So it stands, Ford may have been the best Jack Ryan to-date, with Baldwin running a close-second. Sadly, that leaves poor Ben in last place, which isn’t so much of his fault, as it was more of just a wrong film, and wrong time. If Big Ben had been in either the Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, something tells me he would have been a nice fit and worked well with Clancy’s exposition-heavy dialogue. That’s not the case though. Poor guy. At least he’s onto portraying bigger and better characters than some chump named “Jack Ryan”.

Consensus: May not quite pick-up its full head of steam until half-way being over, but nonetheless, the Sum of All Fears is a well-acted, tense, exciting and rather visceral thriller that takes on a new life when you think about what our country had been going through at the point in time it was released, but also how the shots of a post-apocalyptic Baltimore still have us cringe a bit.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit's about to get real.

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit’s about to get real.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Last Vegas (2013)

Think The Hangover, but with menopause.

After getting married and living each other’s lives apart from the other, four old friends (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline), all get together and reunite for a crazy weekend in Vegas, that’s most likely going to be full of non-stop drugs, women, booze, nakedness, bad decisions and moments that remind themselves of the good old days. However, while two of these old friends seem to still be on good terms and having a grand old time (Kline and Freeman), two others don’t seem to be, and most of that stems from the fact that Billy (Douglas) is marrying a gal much younger than he is (art imitating reality?), which is an act that Paddy (De Niro) doesn’t quite condone, nor does he really care for Billy in the first place because of something weird that happened between the two and another girl when they were kids. But nonetheless, all four friends are back together and have as much money as they can spare to have a good time, but they have to realize that they are in fact old guys, and they have to be careful with what they choose to do, that is, before they go too far. Nah, screw that. They just want to have a good time and party like it’s 1959 all over again!

While I would bargain that maybe say, I don’t know, 20 years ago, the pairing of acting legends such as Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline would have not only meant tons and tons of hype that would have already caused earthquakes as soon as the first whispers of it happening were heard, but would have also meant box-office gold right from the start; 20 years later, I have to say that it’s pretty easy to accept the fact that this wouldn’t be happening, or heck, even coming anywhere near to that occurring. And that’s not because these actors are terrible, untalented or were simply “overrated” back in those days; it’s more of the fact that the past 20 years haven’t been too kind to each of these guys, and the material that they choose has kind of suffered because of it.

Give it five minutes and they'll all be battling for who gets to use the pisser next.

Give it five minutes and they’ll all be battling for who gets to use the pisser next.

Granted, I’m always down to see what happens when a bunch of acting legends who never shared the same screen before, get together, do what they do best and have a great time while doing so; but for all of these guys, it seemed a little too late. Then again, I kept the open-mind and believe it or not, wonders actually occurred for me. Not only did the movie have me laughing, but the legends involved with this movie weren’t just doing shop to get that paycheck and hopefully, have enough money to get the pool cover, but in fact, they’re actually putting their hearts and souls into this material, just in order to make it work for us and have us all laughing at them.

And yes, I am saying “at”, because while these guys definitely do seem to be embracing the fact that they are old fellas now, the movie never really celebrates the fact that they’re old, and most likely just pokes jokes at the fact that they can’t quite get it up like they used to, have bad knees, aren’t able to move around with the best of them and are probably creeping more girls out, than bringing them back to their rooms at night. But that’s what being old is all about, so why not share a laugh or two about it, right?

Well, sad to say, no. Old people jokes have never been funny, which means that any Viagra joke you throw in there, just does not deserve to be laughed at or even acknowledged. Not because I’m a softy and have a kind heart when it comes to those before me, but because those jokes have practically been done to death by now, and it’s time for a change. And if not time for a change, then at least give me somebody who can take this cheesy material, and at least transcend into some form of enjoyment, by any means possible.

And yes, these four acting legends are in fact those peeps who can take this cheesy material, and make it about a hundred times better just by showing up, having fun, being themselves and proving to the world that they not only still got it, but can probably make you laugh a lot harder than most of the popular comedic-talents out there in the world today.

While his track-record has probably been better than the other three involved, Michael Douglas is still doing Michael Douglas better than anybody else in the world can, which is a good thing (I think). He didn’t really need to stretch outside of boundaries to really get inside of a character like Billy (guy marries girl almost three times his age, ringing any bells?), but he still seems to be having a good time, palling around with some guys you never see him around with as much. The scenes he has with Mary Steenburgen, who plays a local jazz singer, actually add more to the film, rather than take away from it, which is weird considering that it doesn’t concern any hard-partying, drinking, doing blow or getting down-and-dirty, it’s just fun and somewhat sweet, which is a nice side-dish this movie offers from all of the craziness going on in it.

Yeah, well I do feel like the Kevin Kline in real-life wouldn't care if a girl took her top off. Say, I don't know, maybe a red bikini-top?

Yeah, well I do feel like the Kevin Kline in real-life wouldn’t care if a girl took her top off. Say, I don’t know, maybe a red bikini-top?

Mainly when talking about that craziness, I’m referring to Kevin Kline and Morgan Freeman’s performances as their two characters are probably the most vibrant and exciting characters in the whole movie, and they continuously steal the show everytime the camera just keeps it placed on them. Freeman gets a couple of choice scenes where he gets to show his comedic-ability to great effect (the Red Bull rant is something that his Oscar-winning turn in Million Dollar Baby couldn’t even touch), but believe it or not, despite not being the biggest name out of the four, the one who walks away with this all is actually Kevin Kline, mostly because he’s working with the type of fun, electrifying and charming material he’s been so deserving of his whole life, and hasn’t quite gotten it since he won his Oscar all those years ago. The story surrounding Kline’s character is done well, only to be shown as a stupid and poor-attempt at trying to get him to remember why he loves marriage so much in the first place, but whenever it’s just Kline saying or doing something goofy, the movie is a blast to watch. He and Freeman have great chemistry that makes you feel like they’ve been buddies all their lives, but its Kline who just owns the screen everytime it’s given to him, like I expected it to be. I’ve been rooting for Kev all these years, and I’m glad to finally seeing it pay-off.

Though I didn’t mention him with his fellow costars, Robert De Niro is still charming and worth watching, even when he’s mucking it up a whole lot as Paddy. However though, it’s obvious that out of the four, he’s the only who really needs these types of movies to keep reminding us that yes, he’s still talented, and yes, he’s still got what it takes to have us both laughing and crying at the same time. He did that last year with Silver Linings Playbook and i can only hope that it continues on from here on out. That also means no more pieces of junk like the Family or Killing Season either, Bobby!

Consensus: The material that these legends have to work with in Last Vegas, surely isn’t the best they’ve ever been dealt, but that doesn’t phase any of them a bit since they absolutely make every second count, have a ball with one another and as a result, give us a movie that may not be perfect, but still feels like an opportunity to see four acting legends team-up together, that wasn’t a waste of precious good time, talent or money.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Hopefully this means that they're waving "bye" to bad choices in the future. Then again, probably not.

Hopefully this means that they’re waving “bye” to bad choices in the future. Then again, probably not.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Amistad (1997)

Jack Sparrow definitely had something to do with this as well. I know it for a fact.

I think it’s safe to say that anybody who has ever took history in the 5th grade or below knows this story, but if not, here’s the gist of it all: Newly-captured African slaves somehow broke free and revolted against their owners aboard a ship called La Amistad. They eventually got brought into the states where they were tried for their wrong-doings, but thanks to their leader, Cinqué (Djimon Hounsou), they are able to have a voice and get a fair trial. Or at least they sure hope so, or else it’s back to the poop-deck for them!

Steven Spielberg is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and that’s usually something I can never argue against No matter how schmaltzy and disappointing some of his pieces of work can be, you can still count on the fact that every once and a blue moon, he’ll come back in full force and shut our negative mouths up. The guy’s got a knack for doing that and he can do it especially well when he’s telling a true story of those who have suffered the most. Whether he’s focusing on the Jews, the horses, or the living robots from the future, the guy knows how to take one person’s side, show how wronged they are by the rest of society, and let them have their time to shine. Add African slaves onto that list, just not to the tippy-top.

What makes this material so hard-hitting and inspirational in the way that it plays out is the fact that it’s all real, and yes, even though some parts here and there may be fabricated for theatrical-purposes, the main idea of it all stays the same. These were real people who had to go through a real rough time to get their freedom, try to hold onto it for as long as they could, have it taken away from them, and (SPOILER, I guess) then, given right back to them with a full introduction of hope and happiness still in their hearts. It sounds like a sappy story, and the way that Spielberg has it all play out, it certainly can be, but the fact that this a true story, true case, and true. real-life people that went through it all, really touched me more than I expected. And I don’t mean in the Sandusky way, either.

"Why can't anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it's just that nobody's asked me."

“Why can’t anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it’s just that nobody’s asked me. Fuckin’ white people.”

However, this isn’t the type of Spielberg flick where you get all sunshines, rainbows, and a bunch of over-dramatic music-cues; there’s some real smug ugliness to this movie that will catch you by surprise. First of all, the beginning of the flick is quite gruesome where Spielberg shows us, in full-detail, jusr how the Amistad raid occurred, and how the owners of these slaves were killed. It’s a pretty disturbing way to start off with and when it was over, I was slightly relieved because I felt like Spielberg backed away from that dirty stuff and got back on with the emotional-core of the story.

Oh, but how wrong I was.

Somewhere, about half-way through the movie, we get to see what it was like for all of the slaves to be aboard the Amistad, before the raid even occurred, and I have to say, it’s 10-times worse than the opening. You see how all of these people were treated, how they were tortured, put to non-stop work, fed, clothed (if at all), put to sleep, and in many ways, killed. It’s some real, gods-to-honest disturbing stuff that still stays put in my head. Still, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Spielberg because it never feels like he’s exploiting any of it in the least bit. He’s just showing us how it was to be aboard that slave ship, which means we get a lot of blood, nudity, and grittiness, almost to the point of where you feel dirty just for watching. Some people will rag on Spielberg for usually crapping-out from going all of the way with his nasty-material, but for those naysayers: Watch the beginning and middle-half of this movie and then come back to me saying the same thing.

That whole sequence actually helps the movie out in many ways, but mainly because it has you understand these slaves even more than ever before. Not only does it give them inspiration to take charge with their lives, but it also gives them the right amount of hope and clarity they should have in their lives, and makes us root for them even more. I also like how they weren’t all just portrayed as a bunch of wild, gibberish-speaking black folks; they actually had personalities, they actually had words, they actually had meanings, and in some ways, had more ideas than most of the white people they encounter throughout this whole flick. Spielberg definitely showed his balls with this movie, but when it came back to getting with the story and showing us all how we love to root for the underdog in any story, regardless of if it’s true or not, he’s always solid in my book.

But to be fair, Spielberg isn’t always the most grateful man when it comes to humanizing his stories and doesn’t always let everybody get the same treatment as the Amistad slaves he’s portraying. I get that he wanted us to fully feel the internal-strife that these African slaves were going through, and so by doing so, really put the hammer down on some of those opposed to it, but didn’t feel right to me. It felt like, to me, that Spielberg was a little too quick in his movements to start pointing the fingers at other people for being racist, bigoted, and all about making money, when that was just how the times were. To me, it felt like Spielberg could have taken his hand back and realized that it’s not right to point, no matter how wrong or immoral you thought a certain set of persons or people were. Didn’t your mother ever teach you anything, Steven?!?

And as always with most of Spielberg’s flicks, the guy is always able to assemble a highly-qualified cast of characters and lets everybody do their thang, no matter how showwy or subtle it may be. Rarely does anybody ever go for the latter, but at least they keep it entertaining. Even though he has practically faded into obscurity now for no apparent reason, I was surprised to remember just how much of a powerhouse Djimon Hounsou was. What worked so much for him was that he had these eyes and this physical-prowess to him that showed you so much more than he could probably say or put into words. That’s especially true in this movie, because his character cannot speak English at all, but still gets the chance to show everybody around him what he’s feeling by expressions on his face, the tone in his speech, and the look in his eyes, no matter how cold or inspired they may be. The guy has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, and I was sure as shit surprised to find out that this wasn’t one of them. Still, the guy needs to come back and win something, because he’s a great actor and could also snap my neck with the twitch of his leg. No doubt about that.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

The one who did get the Oscar nomination for this movie was Anthony Hopkins, playing former President John Quincy Adams, and does what he does best: Command the screen every chance he gets. Watching Hopkins just take this script, chew it up, swallow it, and spit it out, making himself a new one, was so exciting and entertaining to watch that it was no wonder why he was nominated for this. He shows up every once and awhile throughout the whole movie, but there’s this whole sequence at the end where he just tells it like it is when it comes to politics, living in the U.S., being a human-being, and just doing the right thing, that was compelling the whole time, even if it did seem like Hopkins may have went on some tangents a bit. Still, it’s Anthony Hopkins and the guy always give it a 110% so if anything, there’s always something to see.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lawyer that stands beside the African slaves in the first place and is very, very good, but it almost feels like his role from A Time to Kill, but dashed with some 19th Century apparel, and a goofy, Southern accent to boot. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, because the guy was pretty damn solid in both flicks, but it does show you that maybe more originality could have gone into choosing the right people for these roles. Then again, McConaughey’s career seems to have gotten a bit of a resurgence as of late, so I guess it doesn’t matter what happened to him 16 years ago.

The one out of this whole cast that I was really bummed to see play such a bland and mediocre role was Morgan Freeman as Theodore Joadson. He’s an Uncle Tom of sorts, but a man of color nonetheless, which makes it a great role for Freeman to just roam free with everything he has. However, he doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Freeman does what he can with this role, but it seems like one of those roles that was made for a small amount of time and only there to be the token black guy on the opposite end of the fence. A dull role that Freeman tries to save, but just can’t help but fall underneath the rest of the cast and story. There’s many more in this cast, as well, but as you can tell, I’ve pretty much exhausted myself talking about these four already, so just know that there’s plenty, plenty more.

Consensus: Steven Spielberg is the king of being schmaltzy and manipulative when it comes to his movies, and Amistad is no exception to the rule, but it still proves to be an inspirational, and very true tale of fighting for what you believe in and doing what we were put on this Earth to do in the first place. Corny, yes, but still gets you in the fighting spirit nonetheless.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Red (2010)

They are old as hell, and not going to take it anymore!

Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) has found himself in a bit of trouble when a younger, hot-shot CIA agent (Karl Urban) is hot on his trail. Rather than running away and hoping that he doesn’t get caught, Moses not only takes a possible gal-pal of his (Mary-Louise Parker) along for the ride, but also calls up some of his old pals as well. Some have been waiting for this sort of action all of their later-days (Morgan Freeman); others have just been lounging and relaxing in retirement (Helen Mirren); and well, frankly, others have never left the force and are still waiting to get attacked any second, at any time (John Malkovich). Together, they form the team that they once were and stop at nothing until they unveil the truth about their pasts.

The whole idea of having a bunch of old-farts, go back to their golden days and act all bad-ass and violent again has been just about done to death by now nor has it ever really worked. Most movies like that try so hard to be funny and zany with it’s presentation, that you too, have to laugh at it because honestly, just think about it: Would a small, petite thing like Helen Mirren be able to hold up a huge machine-gun? Well, maybe in the movies, yes, but in real-life: hell no! That’s why movies like these are made; they are supposed to make us laugh by how outrageous they are, supposed to make us feel happy for the old people getting in the spotlight once again, and most of all, supposed to make us feel like we can join in on the fun.

None of these factors that are supposed to work for this type of film, actually happen here, but I still found myself pleased for the most part. Weird, I know, but please do bare with me here.

Totally see the attraction....

Totally see the attraction….

The whole tone of the movie likes to play around with the fact that it’s goofy, but is also very laid-back. A little too laid-back, some may say. For instance, the plot is supposed to be filled to the core with non-stop twists, turns, moments of danger, panic, and heavy-breathing, but since the movie itself seems to take such a lax-approach to it’s material; we never really get to that part where we feel like all hell is going to break loose and that our beloved characters could perish at any moment. Heck, even when one does (and I’m not going to give it away, trust me) bite the dust, quite surprisingly too, I may add; the film plays it off with a shrug of the shoulder, a couple of shots (of Vodka, obviously), a couple of wisecracks about how they’re “too old for this shit”, or something along those lines, and then they’re back on with the story, action, and supposed humor. It’s an odd way to attack a film like this, especially when you’re supposed to have havoc occurring just about every second of it, and it somehow didn’t quite work.

But still, I can’t fault this movie too much because yes, I did have fun and yes, I did enjoy what most of what this flick had to offer me. Could it have been better? Bet your damn tushes it could have been, but I wasn’t going to be hating against this flick for something that it wasn’t, especially when I didn’t see much potential in it in the first place. That means, nope, I have not read the graphic novels that this movie is based off of, but coming from a person who knows what type of movies work and how they should, I know that this movie was not destined for anything more than a couple million at the box-office, some nice sales on DVD, and back to the box of forgotten movies (aka, WalMart $5 Dollar Bin).

But, much to my surprise, I was wrong. Dead-wrong, in fact, and one Golden Globe nomination later (then again, the Tourist was nominated that year as well), the movie screwed-away all of the nay-sayers and just had fun with itself. That was something I was very grateful for, especially when you take into consideration how freakin’ dumb and dull action movies can get nowadays, no matter what type of talent is involved. What makes it so much better to watch here is that not only is the cast the movie working with, very acclaimed and very strange for this type of material, but actually how the movie doesn’t let us forget that this is a dumb action movie that not only did they sign up for, but one that we did, as well. That sharing of fun and joy, is what makes this movie work and at the end of it, I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed. Besides, who would pass-up a moment to watch John Malkovich run towards the Vice President with a bomb strapped to his chest.

Okay, maybe that was a bit too weird, but you see what I’m saying. It’s fun, for the sake of being fun, that it’s. Nada!

Even if the material is dumb and only made so that you’ll get the Extra Large popcorn and hopefully come back for a refill, the cast still doesn’t treat it like that, which does sometimes work, and sometimes doesn’t. More of the former than the latter, but the latter is more noticeable. I don’t want to say that Bruce Willis seemed like he was phoning it in here as Frank Moses, but it does seem like the type of performance that the dude has been giving us every so often. He squints, he makes random googly-eyes whenever possible, and just seems as if he’s itching to say everybody’s favorite line. It is John McClane, so you can’t go too wrong when you have Willis and a gun in his hand, but after awhile, the act does get stale and it seems that the dude is more or less just in the mood for getting a new summer house, rather than actually putting in any effort into making his character three-dimensional or fun to watch.

The one who really keeps his character interesting and begging for more is Mary-Louise Parker as his gal-pal, Sarah. Parker has never really got me much in the movies that she’s shown up in, but she does well here with the humor-aspect of her character, and also being able to make us believe that this chick could fall for a dude like Moss, no matter how dull or boring he actually may be, underneath all of the violence and espionage. Of course even for her age, she is still freakin’ smokin’, but looks aside, the chick’s got comedic-chops that are always worth checking out. Along with her other chops. Hayyo!

Cheer up, guys. This is the best you're going to get. Okay, that's a lie, but still: cheer the fuck up!

Cheer up, guys. This is the best you’re going to get. Okay, that’s a lie, but still: cheer the fuck up!

Helen Mirren doesn’t let Parker steal her spotlight as being the only chick that has something bad-ass to say or do, and gets to show us why she’s still so damn foxy, fun, vibrant, and awesome to watch, no matter what the hell it is that she does. Yes, she played the Queen no less than 7 years ago, and here she is, holding up a machine-gun and letting the mofo’s have it. Awesome. John Malkovich seems like his role as the paranoid, loose cannon of the group would be tailor-made for a dude who’s made a career out of these types of roles, but much to my dismay, played it straight most of the time. It was still entertaining to watch this guy play around with a character that’s a bit loopy in the head, but he never goes so far, to the point of where you can really tell this guy couldn’t wait to start killing people, something that, I think I speak for everybody else when I say, is what seems to go through Malkovich’s mind whenever he plays characters like these.

Lastly, rounding everybody else out here, is Morgan Freeman as the oldest dude of the group, who also happens to be diagnosed with liver cancer and is need of this fun and adventure the most. Freeman is good in the role, even if it doesn’t seem totally right for him, considering how unsubstantial his character is to the plot, and how half of the time the dude is just sitting around, smiling, and poppin’ B’s, as he checks out the house-maids “fix” the television. Yup, apparently when you get old, that’s all you have to live for: boners. Even if you are Morgan fuckin’ Freeman.

Consensus: Some of it tries to be more witty and wild than it actually is, but Red still stays fun, light, energetic, and well-acted enough to be worth a watch, even if you do just want a silly action movie, with non-other than Dame Helen Mirren holding up a machine-gun. Seriously, it’s so awesome to see occur on-screen.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

See what I'm talking about!!!

See what I’m talking about!?!?!

Now You See Me (2013)

Imagine if David Copperfield, David Blaine, and Criss Angel got together to rob a bank. It would never happen.

They are known as The Four Horsemen, and they are made up of four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco), who have found themselves in some hot water, after being considered suspects in a bank-robbery that occurred in France, while they were taking bunnies out of hats in Las Vegas. However, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) doesn’t believe this shite and along with his rookie Interpol investigator (Melanie Laurent) and well-known magic debunker (Morgan Freeman), they band together and figure out what is real and what isn’t. But in the world of magic: what you see, isn’t always something you can believe. Or, is it? Who the fuck knows!

Movies about magicians are sort of like real-life ones: they’re interesting in the way that you want to see what they pull off, how they pull it off, and where all the time and effort comes into play. Add that with a whole crime-caper aspect, and you got yourself something that might just be a bit of a winner, in terms of the audience and the box-office. But after awhile, like most magic tricks you see in real life, once the secret is revealed; you believe in certain things, and you don’t believe in others. It’s all a matter of time until the cracks begin to show, and that is exactly what goes down with this movie.

But hey, at least it starts out fine and dandy, for the most part. What was surprising the most about this flick is that how after the first 25 minutes, instead of having all of our attention and eyes locked onto the Horseman, we then find ourselves watching and following the story of the cop who’s trying to figure out just what the hell they did. Some will be surprised, some will be pissed, some will think it’s a clever-way of presenting the twists, and some will just be content. Overall though, it was a smart move on the movie’s part, because it puts us in the dark about what really happened, almost as much as it puts the cop himself in as well.

Like her real-life hubby: she's fucking with everybody.

Like her real-life hubby: she’s fucking with everybody.

Once this part of the story gets going, then things get a bit conventional with the typical, “cops-and-robbers” film that we have seen all of the time, except now: WITH MAGIC! It is interesting to see how these peeps pulled off have of these tricks and what expenses they went to in order to make them happen, but the problem I had the most was that it just didn’t all add up. I’m not one of those guys who gets crazy about a movie that has to deal with sci-fi, the powers that be, or some sort of mystical powers some person might have, because I know it’s all made for the purpose of being somewhat fake and unrealistic, but here; it felt like a cheat. That’s all thanks to Louis Leterrier who doesn’t seem like the type of director I’d trust with this material, since the guy isn’t really known for his smart, tricky moves.

But what the guy is known for, is mainstream film making, and that shows so evidently because of the way he is able to constantly mess with our minds by doing quick-cuts, fast-editing, and non-stop music blasting throughout the whole thing, as if we were at a rave, popped-up on some of the finest X (I could have only wished). By doing all of this, Leterrier is trying to distract us into thinking that everything that is being revealed to the characters and us, is reasonable and believable in a world where magicians are the top, money-makers of the world. As much as it may work on the average, movie-going audience, it did not work on this cynical, d-bag film critic.

Once the reveals are (ahem) revealed, we see what this movie is trying to throw down our throats and trying to make us believe in, but it doesn’t work because not a single bit of it seems like it could have actually happened, real-life or not. The Horseman start off as magicians that can pull off some neat tricks and whatnot, but after awhile, we see that they are more or less a bunch of meticulous planners that knew exactly what they wanted to do, at what time, when, who, where, and how, but it rarely makes sense once we see it all. However, Leterrier isn’t too concerned with that and instead; just wants to entertain the hell out of us with his spastic direction that honestly never seems to take a chill pill. Even when two peeps are just talking, Leterrier seems bored and almost like he needs to get going, or his dosage of ADD meds will ware down and he’ll have to take another five.

And entertained is what we are for the most part, but when the entertainment-value is mostly based on what we believe in, and the tricks the movie plays on us; then it gets a bit sour and unbelievable. I’m usually down for any movie that wants to give us a bunch of twists and not always giving us the right clues to set our minds straight, but it has to be done in an understandable manner, that doesn’t seem just to be used for mind-fucking us. Even the ending itself is a bit of a mind-fuck, if only for the fact that it seems preposterous, even after all of the time that we spent with these characters, this plot, and this heck-of-a-mystery.

At least the ensemble is amazing, right? Well, sort of. Nobody in the cast really sucks the wind out of the movie and brings it down by the antlers, except for Leterrier who seems to have an awesome cast of characters on his plate, yet, doesn’t know what to do with them so instead, just gives them a bunch of two-dimensional characters, lets them play around, and hope that they do the job he was supposed to be doing in the first place. Maybe it’s not such a bad strategy for some directors, but when you have a cast this good and a plot this interesting, you need more, more, more! Come on, Louis!

"See this card? Next second, it won't be there due to our impressive usage of CGI."

“See this card? Next second, it won’t be there due to our impressive usage of CGI.”

Jesse Eisenberg is a good fit as the egotistical, cocky leader of the Four Horseman who obviously seems to know it all and have more confidence on display than we have ever seen from him before; Isla Fisher is sweet, sexy, and sassy as his former-assistant, who seems to be more of the brains of the group, rather than the boobs (although they are as fine as can be); Woody Harrelson seems to be having buckets of fun as the hypnotist of the group, and looks like the only dude out of this cast who was in on the joke; and Dave Franco is still coming up fine in his career, playing the youngest member of the group, with a chip on his shoulder, and plenty of time to learn and think. All are fine together, but since the movie is less concerned with their dynamic, and more about the tricks they pull off; each and every performance seems like a bit of a waste.

And instead, the movie’s more focused on Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes, our cop for the 2 hours. It doesn’t suck that the movie is based-around Ruffalo’s character and whether or not this dude figures out just what to get done, but it doesn’t help that his character is at least a bit boring. Ruffalo does all that he can with this dude by giving him the scruff, the loosened-tie, and the few sips of a Jack Daniels, but he still isn’t as interesting as you would have liked to see, especially coming from the guy who can make any character he plays worth watching. However, being a lover of Ruffalo, I still have to give the guy credit for at least trying to make this character work, going out of his way, and at least showing some effort. Hell, even if the attraction between him and Laurent doesn’t quite work, at least you want to see them together in the end.

And last, but sure as hell not least, we have the men with the plans: Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Together, these two are dynamite and seem to be having the times of their lives just playing-off one another and seeing what they can pull-off next. But even when they are separated and moving on with their own stories, they still seem to be having butt-loads of fun, and really make this movie more entertaining, just with their charm and wit. Obviously Caine gets the shorter-end-of-the-stick with his slightly maniacal character, but nonetheless, the dude still seems to have that sprinkle in his eye that makes you want to give him a big-ass hug.

Consensus: Though it has the ideas and promise that may make any, average moviegoer locked and loaded for a good time, Now You See Me still comes off as a cheat that was made for the sole purpose that it would mess with our minds, yet, not really make much sense by doing so. It would just trick us into being tricked, and leave with our money in it’s hands.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, I get most of it. But what the hell did he do with the card I originally had?"

“Okay, I get most of it. But what the hell did he do with the card I originally had?”

March of the Penguins (2005)

These penguins were definitely putting on a show. There’s no way they could be this cute.

The film depicts the yearly journey of the emperor penguins of Antarctica. In autumn, all the penguins of breeding age (five years old and over) leave the ocean, their normal habitat, to walk inland to their ancestral breeding grounds. There, the penguins participate in a courtship that, if successful, results in the hatching of a chick. For the chick to survive, both parents must make multiple arduous journeys between the ocean and the breeding grounds over the ensuing months.

Is it me, or are penguins not the most freakin’ adorable animals on the planet?!? Whenever I went to the zoo, I always loved watching them do their own thang, whatever it was, but I never imagined that I would feel this much for them. Yes, I know sound very unMAN-like, but there’s a soft-side to me as well and animals are the ones who always get me to express it the most (ladies?). That said, the rest of this review may make some of you laugh at and lose all respect for me. If that’s the case: then so be it! I love those furry, little things and no one’s going to tell me otherwise!

Co-creators of this flick, Luc Jacquet and Michel Fessler, deserve some huge love for all of the footage they were able to capture here considering the type of problems they had to go through. If it was below freezing for the penguins, chances are: it was freezing for them. Then, therefore, whenever anything bad happened to these penguins, they just had to sit there and let it all go down because that’s the way nature is. If it was me seeing a little penguin being ready to get chewed-up by some hawk, I would step right in there and do what mommy should have been doing, but maybe that’s why this movie wasn’t given to me. What I’m trying to say here is that these two dudes definitely went through a lot to get all of they needed to get and in the end: it all payed off for them.

"PENGUINS UNITE!! AND CHARGE!!"

“PENGUINS UNITE!! AND CHARGE!!”

What really took me along with this flick was some of the natural images and sights these guys are able to catch. And no, I’m not just talking about the sky (even though it did look pretty)! I’m talking about the scenes that would show us just how these penguins really are. We see plenty of beautiful scenes where the penguins find their mates, have intercourse, get the egg, watch as the egg grows older until finally, the egg has hatched and then a new penguin is born. It’s great to see scenes like this that shows us that penguins can be so happy and live beautiful lives, just like us. The simple things in life are what get us the most, and it’s very smiley-inducing to see our furry-friends get so worked up as well. However, it’s not always smiles and happiness with these little guys and girls. Life does throw you some sadness in there as well.

Even though I mentioned all of these beautiful things we see happen with most of these penguins, I somehow forgot to mention the fact that in between each and every single little event, danger seems to show itself at every stop and the mother and father are barely ever together with their baby, because each one is always out getting food. This is some real sad stuff but it gets worse once we actually start to see some of these little guys die and have their lives put into danger. There was this one scene where a hawk comes into attack one of the little penguins, and the whole time I was so scared for them and just wanted somebody to beat the shit out of that hawk. Then again, that’s the way nature is and I’m glad that I didn’t have to get involved with this flick, or else nothing would have been accomplished. There is also another very memorable scene where we see a mother mourning the death of her little baby and soon get jealous, and try to take another one. This scene made me well-up like a girl who just got stiffed before prom as it really made me feel like these penguins have to go through so much, just to produce an egg and keep it living. But as much depressing stuff as there may be, the film never loses that beauty to it. Some scenes will just make you smile from the joy of watching nature like this, work itself out right in front of you. Shit. I seriously got to start watching Discovery Channel more.

Inner-thoughts of the two on the left: "show off".

Inner-thoughts of the two on the left: “show off”.

If there was any problem that I had with the direction of this film was that it was a little too obvious what these guys were trying to say about these penguins. I get it: they are just like us! Except for the sole-fact that they can’t run and also don’t go to the market for the food to support their family. That’s why putting all of the obvious-remarks into a film like this seems so cheap and obvious. Note to all of these documentaries out there: stop comparing humans to certain animal species. We are all alike, now let’s just cut the crap already!

I bet pretty much all of the people went into this film, not giving two shits about penguins, but walked out caring for them, loving them, and knowing everything from start to finish about them. And there is only one man to thank for that all: Morgan muthafuckin’ Freeman. Honestly, who else would be a better fit to narrate a story about a bunch of penguins that sometimes stay in one place, while other times, they move around. Freeman’s voice, is sort of like the voice from God, and he has this slight calmness to him that makes you feel like he actually knows a lot about these penguins and actually cares for them. Obviously, a lot of his stuff was written so it wasn’t just him who thought of it all on the spot to tell how he really felt, but I still couldn’t get past the fact by how relaxing Freeman could make this movie just by using his signature voice. I’m still trying to figure out what to call “his voice”. How about “Morgan Freeman’s voice”? Yup, sounds about good to me.

Consensus: March of the Penguins not only makes you feel happy to live in a world where penguins still can roam the Earth all happy and whatnot, but just make you happy to be alive in a world that is Earth, where the most-fascinating creatures live and around somewhere. You just have to find them yourself. Or watch documentaries like this that do the ground-work. Your choice.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Apparently there's some problem with this global warming thingy. But who cares when we have penguins!!!

Apparently there’s some problem with this global warming thingy. But who cares when we have penguins!!! Just look at ’em waddle!!

Oblivion (2013)

Tom Cruise may not be able to dunk a basketball, but he can save the world, right?

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a lone soldier who lives in the clouds above a post-apocalyptic Earth after a war made the surface uninhabitable. He lives a steady life where all he does is repair drones, in hopes that they will stop any hostile aliens from taking over and destroying the world that Harper now knows and has come to terms with. But things take a turn for the worse once he encounters a crashed space pod with a mysterious woman survivor (Olga Kurylenko), who makes him question everything he knows.

You can’t help but feel pity for most of the sci-fi movies that come out nowadays. It seems as if they aren’t taking something from a piece of sci-fi literature that they read as a big-glassed, tike, they are taking something from another form of media, whether it be intentional or unintentional. That’s what makes so many sci-fi movies hard to follow along with and get wrapped up into because nine times out of ten: it’s been done before. That was my exact problem with Oblivion: been there, done that, 1,ooo times over.

The fact that this movie isn’t anything to scream about in the writing-department is in no way a hit against director Joseph Kosinski. If anything, it’s Kosinski who saves this movie with his inspired-vision and dedication to making every single scene pop-out at you, as if you’ve never seen anything like it, although you have. That’s where this film gets you, but that’s where Kosinski keeps his feet moving and at a steady-pace too. While the film looks beautiful and never seems to look at all fake (IMAX is pretty glorious), the story’s beginning is what really got me because it wasn’t what I was expecting from seeing the trailers, advertisements, and even the numerous posters.

"Neo...uhm..I...mean: Jack."

“Neo…uhm..I…mean..Jack.”

Rather than making this a movie about Tom Cruise, going around, and shooting the hell out of aliens/unknowns that inhabit his dying-land, it’s more about the pace and the mood. It sets you into this cold, dark world where everything is beginning to die down and sooner than you know it; the Earth will be nothing more but it’s own worst enemy. By that, I mean that it will eventually dissolve into nothing. That’s the sad, but true reality that these two characters, Jack and Victoria, are left with and to see them come to terms with that made me feel as if I was watching a different movie than I was promised. Yes, there is Tom Cruise; there is CGI; there are robots; and yes, there are some weird creatures on Earth, but is this a drama I see? I thought so. That is, until I realized that I spoke a little too soon.

The first instance I knew where this movie had a problem was when it’s first batch of twists and turns came, and I had no idea what to think of them except for, “unoriginal.” That’s all it seemed like and without delving into spoiler-territory, the places this movie goes with it’s plot shenanigans don’t really add to anything, except more and more predictability. Once Jack gets to see these warrior humans, he finds out more about himself, his species, and what he was put on this Earth to really do, but none of it seems to make any sense, yet, have us care in the least bit.

I mean, I could go on and on about how none of this plot really seemed to make a lick of sense, but I don’t care too much about that. The story made fine enough sense to where I wasn’t scratching my head too much and to where I wasn’t looking around to see if anybody else was, neither. It was fine the way it was, but I just didn’t have any feeling with it at all. And that word, “feeling”, is exactly what this flick was building on. It tried to go into spots where we were supposed to feel compelled and hit back in our seats, but those moments never came. The movie just sort of went through the motions, gave us sci-fi movie convention after convention, and went on it’s way, like we expected it to from the trailers, advertisements, and posters.

See, the beginning really screwed the rest of this movie up because it makes you feel like you’re in for a somber-look at a dystopian future. But once it gets going, the movie dives into more action-y elements that are fun to watch, but feature no human-connection involved. When I see an action scene go down, I want to feel raw and terrifying emotion as if I was right there, cheering these characters on for fighting the good fight and hoping that they come out alive. However, that movie didn’t have that. It had alright-looking action scenes, but with nothing underneath it. All flair, but no substance. And that would have been fine, if the flair really kept itself going but after awhile; I stopped caring and just wanted more with my story. Now is that too much to ask?

Another beautiful day in a barren wasteland America.

Another beautiful day in a barren wasteland America.

But no matter how shitty the script can be (and definitely is), you got to give some credit to Tom Cruise for at least taking a step by deciding to take this material and make it his. Love him, or hate him, Cruise is a bonafide movie star, and an action one, at that. Cruise is good here as Jack because he gives him a lot of charm and likability that makes us feel like he’s one of those guys that knows it all, what to do, and how to do it, yet, is also just like us in where he doesn’t believe everything around him is really happening, and has the nice-enough soul to realize what’s right and what’s wrong. Of course the guy hits some holes on the way, but Cruise keeps him grounded in reality, where a film doesn’t seem to want that.

Playing the two gal pals of his this time around are Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko, who are both good with what they are asked on to do, but nothing more than that. Some scenes where they have to be more than the “romantic love-interest” are fine, but they aren’t called on to do many of those scenes, so it’s rather useless, really. What was really useless in a movie like this is not only having Morgan Freeman in a supporting role, but even going so far as to advertise him like he’s a big part of your movie, when in reality: the dude only gets about 15 minutes or so of screen-time. Yes, THAT Morgan Freeman! Don’t let me fool you into thinking Morgan isn’t good with what he’s called on to do here, because he is; but it just feels like a waste of a big name, for a role that serves no real purpose other than to be the bearer of good news (or bad, depending on the type of person you are). The rest of the cast isn’t really all that filled with many people, but that doesn’t matter because this isn’t the type of film that’s too concerned with that. They just want to show you shiny, futuristic thingy-majigs, blow up and blow other shit up in the process. Then again, it is a sci-fi movie so what else could you expect? But seriously, don’t answer that. Or else we’ll have another four paragraphs to go.

Consensus: Kosinski’s direction is beautiful and always a sight to gaze at, but the rest of Oblivion can’t sustain his look, and drops beneath his feet with a weak screenplay, no emotional connection to anything that’s happening, and a bucket-list of cliches and conventions I think I speak for everyone when I say; we are tired of seeing used, over and over again in sci-fi flicks.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I told you, shit is really fucked-up out there."

“I told you, shit is really fucked up out there.”