Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Naomie Harris

Collateral Beauty (2016)

Mr. Smith Goes to a Wonderful Life.

After the tragic death of his daughter, rich and successful New York ad executive Howard (Will Smith) loses all hope with life. He is, essentially, sleepwalking through it all, barely talking to those around him, getting anything done at work, and just ruining everything that exists in his own world. His coworkers don’t like this – not just because they care and love Howard, but because they’re worried that their company is about to go under. So, in a way to make sure that it doesn’t, the concoct a plan to, in a way, blackmail Howard by hiring three actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore), to come up to Howard, talk to him, and make him think about the three aspects in his life that he thinks about the most: Life, Time, and Death. While the partners believe that it’s only Howard’s life who needs some help, eventually, the actors start hanging around them, making them take one look closer at where they’re going with their own lives and how they could make the best of what they’ve got.

So yeah, Collateral Beauty is a pretty bad movie, made from a pretty bad idea. But here’s the dilemma I always seem to run into with movies such as these: Can a movie be so absolutely, positively, no-doubt-about-it horrendous, if it’s barely 90 minutes? A part of me wants to say that it can’t happen, because there are so many movies out there hitting the two-hour run-time, and then some, and are just so bad, that they should have just never happened in the first place.

"Hey, Will. Cheer the hell up bro."

“Hey, Will. Cheer the hell up bro.”

But Collateral Beauty, no matter how long or short, is just a bad movie.

And it’s kind of a shame, too, because there’s an iota of a good idea to be found somewhere in the deep, thick and confusing layers of this narrative, but sadly, it just never comes out; it’s stuck under a movie that never makes sense of itself, is so stupid without ever knowing the sheer lengths of its stupidity, and somehow, thinks that it’s changing lives with how deep and meaningful it is. Does this movie mean well and have something to say about life, love, death, time, and family? Sure, a little bit, but does any of that come out in a meaningful, somewhat powerful way that resonates with those who set out to see this?

I don’t think so, or better yet, it didn’t for me. Could I be wrong and nothing more than a heartless, soulless, evil and unforgivably mean a-hole? Most likely, but when it comes to Collateral Beauty, I don’t care – the movie’s bad and if you enjoy it, you’re not a bad human being, you just don’t know what a good movie is supposed to be.

It’s weird, though, because everyone involved with Collateral Beauty is, in one or another, a talented individual. Director David Frankel has definitely had some stinkers in his life, but when he’s on his game (like with Hope Springs or the Devil Wears Prada), his movies are actually enjoyable to watch. Here though, it feels like he had no sword in the battle. For one, he was already replacing the much more interesting Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and, oh yeah, he’s working with a script from Allan Loeb, the same person who have us the scripts to winners like Here Comes the Boom, the Dilemma, and oh man, the Switch.

The Switch, people.

What the hell?

Anyway, so yeah, i feel bad for Frankel because it really feels like he doesn’t know how to make this script play well, or even remotely work on the screen, so in a way, he just sort of gives up, films every scene the way it’s supposed to be shot and let’s the script do all of the talking. Clearly that was the biggest issue for the movie, but it also seems like a battle that someone as plain and as ordinary as Frankel just wasn’t ready to battle; perhaps had Gomez-Rejon stayed on, or maybe even a better director got on-board, something could have been done, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we got the finished product of Collateral Beauty, which is stupid from the very beginning and never seems to quick, what with the exception of maybe one or two bright spots to be found in the whole thing.

"Faster! We gotta get the hell out of this movie!"

“Faster! We gotta get the hell out of this movie!”

And yes, most of that comes from the impressive, yet unused ensemble. Will Smith may get top-billing here, but oddly enough, he’s not really in the movie nearly as much as you’d think. And even when he is, he’s downplaying all of that fun, all of that charm, and all of that coolness about him that just radiates off the screen. Nope, instead, he’s playing it sad, depressed and without a single smile to be found. Normally, I’m all for this change of pace, but it never feels real, just calculated; it’s as if someone told him to always have a frown when the camera was on and went one step further and got plastic-surgery to make his face literally look that down and out.

We know he’s better, so why?

And while I’m at it, yep, the rest of the cast here knows better, too. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Michael Pena Jr., Ann Dowd, and freakin’ Dame Helen Mirren are all here, and as good as they may all be, not even they can save whatever the hell it is that they’re stuck with doing. Norton gets his own whole subplot that kind of works and sees him trying something new, while Mirren and Pena have some great scenes together, but honestly, it doesn’t matter – the rest of the movie is way too concerned with itself and trying to make sense of things that will never, ever make sense, no matter how hard the cast, Frankel, or Loeb tries. It’s just sad and a shame to watch, which makes me think why anyone bothered with it in the first place.

Oh well. At least they got paid, right?

Consensus: Silly, random, nonsensical, and as contrived as you are able to get with a wholesome movie, Collateral Beauty tries to do interesting stuff, but it just never pays off and has everyone, especially the great cast, look dumbfounded.

4 / 10

Always listen to the Dame. Even when she's in crap like this.

Always listen to the Dame. Even when she’s in crap like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Advertisements

Moonlight (2016)

Dancing in the…

Growing up on the hard, sometimes unforgiving streets of Miami, Chiron has had to deal with a lot. He’s constantly heckled for being gay, even if, as a young kid, he doesn’t even know what gay means, or if he even is it. That’s why a local drug-dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) makes it his duty to take care of him and be something of a surrogate father to him. Chiron doesn’t know what to think of this guy, nor does he really know what a daddy is; his mother (Naomie Harris), is currently trying her best to raise Chiron, but her drug-habit is so persistent and reckless, that even Juan, the one who is selling the drugs to her, has something to say. Fast forward to Chiron being in high school and, well, not much has changed for him. He’s still getting picked on, he’s still finding himself on the bad end of brawls, and most of all, he still doesn’t know how to talk to people. The only person that he does have some sort of a connection with is Kevin, a kid who may be in the same boat as Chiron, but doesn’t quite know it yet. Then, fast forward many years later and all of a sudden, Chiron is out of Miami, making money as a drug-dealer, and yes, jacked as hell. But how did he get there? And better yet, what’s next to come?

Baptize me in Miami beaches.

Baptize me in Miami beaches.

It’s actually kind of weird to talk about Moonlight, but trying hard not to say too much about it. For one, it’s not necessarily a movie built on the element of its surprises, or its twists, or its turns that the plot takes, as much as it’s just about the story evolving into something that we don’t expect from the first scene. In it, we see a typical coming-of-ager where a young little tyke named Chiron, or as he likes to be named, “Little” (played by Alex Hibbert), all of a sudden is being raised and brought-up by a local drug-dealer.

If this was its own little movie, it would probably get a 10 out of 10 from me. It’s sweet, heartfelt, honest, and perfectly acted by Mahershala Ali who, just saying, deserves something of an Oscar nomination (alongside Shia LaBeouf, but of course, neither of which will actually happen) for his work here, showing that the age old cliche of a drug-dealer with a heart of gold, really can be spun and seem fresh. But somehow, writer/director Barry Jenkins switches things up unexpectedly; the screen sudden fades to black and fast-forwards to a story that’s still about Chiron, but now, he’s older, in high school (played by Ashton Sanders), and somehow, it seems like a smart transition. For a director behind the camera and pen for a second time, it’s actually surprising how many risks and gambits Jenkins tries and yet, still somehow pulls it all off.

It makes me wonder why his directorial debut, Medicine for Melancholy was so, meh.

But that’s neither here, nor there.

Anyway, what Jenkins works with best here in Moonlight is that he tells us an honest, raw, gritty and sometimes beautiful tale of love, finding one’s self, and becoming who you are, through certain periods of your life, but it’s neither sappy, nor sentimental. In a way, it’s a whole lot like Boyhood – not just in terms of its narrative – but in terms of how it depicts real, everyday things that people go through when they grow up, but never sensationalizing them; for someone like Chiron and all of us, they’re just things that happen and help make us who we are. Jenkins is a smart director, as well as a writer, in that every single scene, literally, every frame, there’s not just a certain feeling of inherent beauty lying from within, but we also feel that this is one singular story, and not just our own that we can relate to.

And while, yeah, it’s great if you can relate to a movie, it’s not always a necessity and it’s why a movie like Moonlight, as much as it wants to be a typical coming-of-ager, is still uniquely original in its own kind of gritty way. Jenkins allows us to feel something for this protagonist, through all of the thick and thin, never judging him for who he is, what he does, what he becomes, and surely what he represents, but mostly just gives us a story of one person growing up, in Miami and encountering all sorts of painful hardships that gets so highlighted in so many movies, yet, so rarely feels as fresh and as organic as it does here.

Stay there, kid. It's not even worth it.

Stay there, kid. It’s not even worth it.

That Jenkins doesn’t tell us exactly how old Chiron is through all of the stages of his life, or where certain characters are at when they’re not seen on-screen, doesn’t matter; the movie’s not about the plot intricacies and structure, it’s about its raw, painful emotions that, after awhile, are hard to resist. The movie doesn’t ask for you to cry, nor even shed a tear, but it’s hard not to. Its story is so simple and so easy-to-follow, that it’s almost criminal.

How can so many movies with the same structure and same messages still get everything so wrong?

Regardless, Moonlight may also be one of the rare movies in which its lead character is played to perfection by all of its different players. As a pre-teen, Alex Hibbert gets down perfectly the sheer innocence and sweetness that so many kids are born with and can’t ever shake off, regardless of how awful their surroundings get; as a teenager, Ashton Sanders is also quite great, showing a great deal of intensity and emotion, even without uttering a single word half of the time; and as a grown man who would literally have King Kong turning back for his island, Trevante Rhodes, an actual athlete who competed in the Olympics, is absolutely brilliant, not just displaying the same sense of raw intensity and emotion without saying anything like Sanders did, but going even further and showing us that there’s a small, vulnerable child still somehow trapped in there. It doesn’t get any better than these three and honestly, it makes me wonder where their careers are going to go next, what with all of the lovely attention this has been getting.

But of course, there’s others in the cast and they’re all quite good, too. Janelle Monae shows up as Juan’s girlfriend/possible wife and fits perfectly into this movie’s world; Jharrel Jerome plays Kevin as a teen and does a great job showing a certain personality in a story that can get as bleak as Moonlight‘s; Andre Holland plays an older-version of Kevin and is quite perfect, showing a great deal of the same personality, but with an even better chemistry with Rhodes; and, well, unfortunately, Naomie Harris plays the drug-addicted mother of Chiron’s and she’s just not good. It’s a shame, too, because in all honesty, Harris is good in mostly everything else I see her in, but here, she was just so over-the-top and crazy, that she literally felt one crack-pipe away from Rosario Dawson’s similar character in Gimme Shelter. The movie tries to make her more than just the typical, cliche druggie-mommy, but in all honesty, she’s even worse as she really does carry the movie down with her.

Hence why a 9 and not a 10. Sorry, fellas.

Consensus: Even with a plot as simple as this, Moonlight is still painstakingly raw and emotional, that it reaches for the sky, hits it, and then some, echoing in a new, exciting voice with Barry Jenkins.

9 / 10

Silent, but definitely deadly.

Silent, but definitely deadly.

Photos Courtesy of:

Street Kings (2008)

Don’t mess with Johnny Utah. Ever.

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a veteran member of the LAPD who has definitely seen better days. While he does still do his job and take down the bad guys that need to be taken down, he also does so by sucking down bottles of vodka. He does this because he is still mourning the loss of his wife and as is such, has alienated a lot of those around him. One person in particular is his former partner, Officer Washington (Terry Crews), who now looks back on his time with Ludlow in disgust. Ludlow knows this and doesn’t like it, which is why he decides that it may be time to get Washington to shut up, before certain people start listening in on to what he has to say. But wouldn’t you know it that when Ludlow does get a chance to shut Washington up, Washington is gunned-down in what happens to be a random corner-store robbery. Feeling some echo of guilt, Ludlow decides to set out and find out who did this to Washington, but unfortunately, the more he digs up, the more dirt begins to show.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

David Ayer can handle these types of dirty, gritty and violent thrillers about corrupt cops and politicians being, well, just that, corrupt. However, there does come a point where eventually, all of the same things that you made your name on, can get to be a bit too old, especially when you’ve got nothing left to say. Sure, a movie like Street Kings should resonate more so now, than it ever has before; police corruption is at an all-time high and people seem to really be demanding questions more than ever, but for some reason, it’s the kind of movie that brings these hard and questionable figures up, without ever seeming to bother to really say much more about it.

Instead, Ayer is more interested in shooting things and throwing blood anywhere he can set his sights to.

That’s fine because Ayer can handle action well. The best parts of Street Kings, actually, are when it’s just a few characters sitting in a room, expecting there to be some violence occurring soon, with their hands firmly on the trigger’s of their guns, not knowing when the other shoe is going to drop and people are going to have to be lit-up. It’s why some of the best moments of Training Day, were the ones where you had no clue exactly what was going to go down, even if you had a general idea.

Problem is, with Training Day and countless other flicks that Ayer has attached his name to, he’s become a tad too conventional. Street Kings feels like the kind of cop flick that would work somewhere back in the mid-90’s – ideas like these weren’t new, but they were still sustainable for entertainment. You could make the argument that Street Kings is sort of working with the same environment, to just be fun and nothing else, but when you have brothers in blue, who are literally doing terrible, immoral things, or getting killed, left and right, there’s a feeling that maybe, just maybe, someone needs to ask, “why?”

In a way, it’s almost like Ayer has a responsibility to ask those questions and get, at the very least, an idea of an answer. To just service your plot with cops and criminals getting shot and killed, without ever saying anything else about it, seems wrong. Trust me, I’m all for the down, dirty and immoral action when push comes to shove, but Ayer doesn’t really have his flick placed in any sort of fake world, or universe – it’s a real world/universe, where cops are meant to stop bad people, from doing bad things.

In fact, it’s the world in which we live in now.

"Uh. Hey. Freeze, man."

“Uh. Hey. Freeze, man.”

But honestly, besides that, Street Kings can be fun, when it actually cares to be fun. There’s a lot of the same stuff seen before, especially from Ayer’s pen, and you can tell that he’s trying to change everything up, yet, fall back on  the same conventions that have made cop-thrillers, such as his, hits in the first place. Ayer is a good director and writer when he wants to be, but here, it feels as if he’s just moving along, steadily, not trying to rock the boat and rely on what he knows best, without trying to change up any sort of format.

The only opportunity Ayer really gets a chance to liven-up things in Street Kings is with his wonderful ensemble, all of whom are having a great time. Keanu Reeves is actually quite good as Ludlow, mostly because the guy doesn’t always have to say something – some of the times, he just backs it up with his gun, or his fists. This suits Reeves just fine, just as it suits him playing the mentor-role to Chris Evans’ young, hotshot rookie character, both of whom work well together. Evans, too, in an early role before he truly broke-out into stardom, seems like the heart and soul of this cruel, dark and upsetting world, which works, until the movie decides that it cares less about him and more about just shooting people’s heads off.

Once again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but there comes a point where it’s overkill.

Others randomly show up like Common, the Game, Cedric the Entertainer, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, and Terry Crews, and all add a little something to the proceedings. You can tell that Ayer likes to cast these known-actors in roles that you least expect them to work with and it actually works in his favor. However, had he given more screen-time to Hugh Laurie and Forest Whitaker, equally the best parts of this otherwise mediocre movie, all would have been right with the world. The two play opposing chiefs who may or may not be as evil, or as good as they present themselves as being. Ayer always treads the fine line here between these characters and it makes me wish that he decided to do more with the other characters, or even the plot.

Consensus: As conventional as cop-thrillers can go, Street Kings boasts an impressive cast and some fun moments, but ultimately seems to concerned with blowing stuff/people up, and not ever asking why.

5 / 10

"Let me give you my card. And no, I'm not playing that cynical doctor this time."

“Let me give you my card. And no, I’m not playing that cynical doctor this time.”

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert.com, IMDB, Deep Focus Review

Spectre (2015)

Hey, at least it’s not another remake of Home Alone.

After the events of Skyfall left him depressed and battered, 007 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) is now back on the hunt, except this go-around, it’s on his own time. Because while things back at MI6 headquarters may not be going as swimmingly as he’d like, Bond is still going to make sure that he gets his job done, so that he can feel a whole lot better about himself. Or something. This time around, Bond, is going after a shadowy criminal organization who may, or may not, have had something to do with the death of M, and/or also may be connected to some of his past adversaries. But in order to follow the bread-crumbs, Bond will have to go through and meet all sorts of colorful characters. One, is Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) a psychologist he comes to have a relationship with, whereas another is a jacked-up, bulking henchman (Dave Bautista), who wants nothing more to do than just beat the hell out of Bond. There’s also Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), a man believed to be dead but for some reason, is actually alive and hunting Bond because, well, he’s evil and he can do that sort of thing.

Do you really need that gun to be menacing?

Do you really need that gun to be scary?

The Bond franchise has been around for such a long time that it’s no wonder that, every once and awhile, we get a crummy movie. While they don’t come every year and are, in ways, considered to be “events”, Bond movies can sometimes range from being “awesomely rad”, to just being “fine”. Though most people want to put Bond up on a peddle-stool that refrains from it ever being compared to any other thriller released, ever (because it’s Bond, dammit!), the fact remains: Bond movies, too, can also be mediocre.

Which is exactly what Spectre is.

But for the longest time, it isn’t. In fact, it’s actually a pretty solid Bond flick that reminds me of some of the best parts of Skyfall, which makes sense because Sam Mendes is thankfully back for another go-around. The best element that Mendes brings to these Bond movies is that he not only allows for the stories to be more dramatic and emotional, but also puts an over-emphasis on the “gritty” aspect of these movies that separates them from the rest of the pack. While there’s plenty of gorgeous-looking women, cars, martinis, dudes, guns, locations, and buildings, there’s still an inherent darkness to it all that makes it seem less like a glamorized version of being a high-class, smart and talented spy, but also more humane.

Sure, the glitz and the glamour is what Bond fans come to expect with these movies, but Mendes and the rest of the crew he’s with do nice jobs of keeping the stakes relatively high, while also building more complex relationships between these characters. This is also to say that the story, while a tad confusing at certain times, also stays compelling. While we’re never sure of where the story is going to end-up, we’re still glued to the screen enough that it doesn’t matter how much exposition they’re throwing at us – we’re just trying to see how and where all the cards fall. We know that there’s bad people involved with doing bad things, and that’s pretty much all there is to it which, given the complexity of most of the Bond story-lines, is fine.

But then, the movie gets a bit ahead of itself.

For one, Spectre is nearly two-and-a-half hours and after a long while, totally begins to feel like that. One of the main reasons for this is that the story takes a nosedive into being “slightly confusing”, to just plain and simply, “huh?”. Though it’s never made fully clear just where the story is going, and effectively so, too, the movie then decides that it wants to totally and completely throw the audience in the dark by giving us a villain in the form of Christoph Waltz who, literally, shows up outta nowhere, starts going on and on about Bond’s past troubles, and decides that he wants to do bad things to Bond because, well, it’s a Bond movie and there needs to be some sort of threat posed to Bond.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a Bond villain being as bad and as distasteful as he can be, but there has to be a reason. To just simply have some evil, cackling baddie show-up and start throat-punching every one in sight because the box for “bad villain dude” needed to be checked-off, isn’t a good enough reason – in fact, it’s what every Michael Bay movie has ever done. You could even make the argument that, even while Javier Bardem’s villain in Skyfall didn’t have much of a rhyme or reason for being around, he still at least served a greater-purpose in pushing Bond to his deepest and darkest limitations; in a way, he was baiting-and-switching him, which not only allowed for us to see Bond in a different light, but also give us a glimmer of hope that, hey, maybe the bad guy, for once, has a point.

That said, despite Waltz being a talented scene-chewer, he doesn’t have much to do with this villain and instead, is left to just rant and rave about Bond, all the bad things he’ll do to him, and other stuff that, quite frankly, I don’t care enough about. His only purpose here is to be some sort of obstacle for Bond to hurdle over, which seems kind of unnecessary, because Dave Batista’s henchman character definitely filled that requirement perfectly. He’s big, scary, menacing and totally bad-ass, and does this all without barely even speaking a word!

She's cold, mysterious and sexy. Never seen a Bond girl be that, ever!

She’s cold, mysterious and sexy. Never seen a Bond girl be that, ever!

He’s Bond’s rival because of his brawn, not his brawn, which in Spectre‘s case, would have probably been a better road to go down.

And because the movie is so fixated on what Waltz’s baddie is up to and concocting, the rest of the ensemble and story sort of gets thrown-off to the side and feels more like filler. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw, and new-blood to the franchise, Andrew Scott (Moriarty!), all seem like they’re here because it’s a Bond movie, and well, Bond needs to have his adversaries on the side, just in case he needs a cool gadget or two. Same goes for Léa Seydoux who, despite being a charming, fiery-presence on-screen, also seems like she’s around because Bond needs a hot lady to bang and randomly, fall head-over-heels for. I won’t really go into too much detail about Monica Bellucci here, other than to say for a 51-year-old, the gal still looks great.

Now, why wasn’t she the Bond girl?

And for his fourth go as Bond, Daniel Craig still does a fine job at portraying both sides of this character. There is, of course, his exterior (the stiff upper-lip, the charm, the nice way with words, etc.), as well as his interior (the fact that he’s been through so much violence, disturbance and loss, that it’s beginning to take its toll on him). Even though Craig himself has been coy about whether or not this will be his final time donning the Bond penguin suit (personally, I think he’s got one more in him, but that’s just me), it still remains to be said that he’s still got some juice left in his system to be going through the motions, but at the same time, be able to show that there’s more to this character we deserve to know and understand.

Hopefully, we’ll get that.

Sooner than later, maybe.

Consensus: At nearly two-and-a-half hours, Spectre is overlong and jumbled, but still provides plenty of fun, exciting and tense, spy-oriented action that still makes it worth a watch.

7 / 10

Ain't nobody can rock the turtleneck quite like Bond.

Ain’t nobody can rock the turtleneck quite like Bond. Except Jason Statham, of course.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Southpaw (2015)

From what I hear, the more jabs to the head, the merrier!

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) faced all sorts of adversity over the years to make himself one of the best boxers in the profession today, and still be able to come home to his beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and kid (Oona Laurence). However, all of that changes when tragedy strikes and Billy is practically left to fend for himself. Due to all of the blows he’s taken to the head, not only is he a punch-drunk, fumbling mess, but he’s also lost all sorts of control over his emotions, which puts him in a lot of legal trouble. This all eventually leads to his house, car, money, and worst of all, kid get taken away in hopes that he can change his act for the good. Problem is, the only way Billy can get back on top, is through boxing – a sport he has been told, time and time again, that “he should retire from before it’s too late”. Still though, Billy sees his fight against the current champ, Ramone (Victor Ortiz), as his comeback one, regardless of what the nay-sayers may spout on about. To get back in shape, Billy enlists the help of Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker), a trainer who only helps out younger boxers, and nobody else. However, in Billy’s case, Tick is willing to make an exception.

That is, if Billy changes his act a whole bunch.

Hey, you two! Stop PDA'ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

Hey, you two! Stop PDA’ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’ve seen one boxing movie, you’ve practically seen them all. Of course, there are the noble exceptions to the rule (Raging Bull), but for the most part, each and every movie that concerns with the sport of boxing, plays out like another take on Rocky. Underdog has dreams; underdog faces adversity; underdog faces set-back; underdog gets back on his feet; underdog sets out to defeat the champ. It’s all been said and done before, many, many times and you know what?

Southpaw isn’t going to change that formula.

Thankfully though, it’s the kind of movie that’s lucky to benefit from a talented cast who, despite having to deal with a very over-dramatic and sometimes corny script from the wild and wacky mind of Kurt Sutter, make better because they’ve come ready to play. Case in point, Jake Gyllenhaal who, believe it or not, is actually taking up a role written for Eminem. While I would have definitely liked to see how that played out, in hindsight, I’m still glad that the second person to get the call was Gyllenhaal, cause not only is he proving himself to be one of the better actors we’ve got around working today, but he’s able to throw himself into any role where it doesn’t matter who was supposed to be in it originally, or not. Gyllenhaal’s going to make you believe it should have been him all along and that’s why he works wonders with Billy Hope – the most conventional character he’s had to work with since Bubble Boy.

Which I know sounds terrible, but it actually isn’t; Gyllenhaal’s more talented as an actor now, than he ever was before, and it’s great to see him sink his teeth deep into what could have been a total paycheck gig. Though it most definitely is the kind of role that’s paying for Gyllenhaal’s pad in Malibu, he still gives it his all, showing the sadness and sometimes, vulnerability to this character of Billy Hope. He’s conventionally written in that he’s an underdog who brought himself from nothing, to something, only to have to do it all over again, but Gyllenhaal takes it some steps further, by showing that this character really needs to box for his life.

Because without it, what is he?

Just another average Joe, working a 9-to-5, having to come home to a wife, two kids, dog, and white picket fence? Or, is he a guy that has to constantly wade through the thick, the thin and do what he can to provide love and support for those he cares for the most? The movie itself seems to lean more towards the latter, but Gyllenhaal, even despite the fact that he got himself all jacked-up and scary for this role, constantly makes you wonder where his mind is heading toward and thinking of the most.

And of course, Forest Whitaker’s great as Billy’s trainer, as well is Rachel McAdams as Billy’s wife, but the reason why I’ve high-lighted Gyllenhaal’s performance so much is because he’s clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and proves to be the best part of it when all is said and done. Sure, Southpaw is entertaining in that it features plenty of boxing, running, training, cursing, and rap music, but at the same time, it’s a little too hard to take seriously at times, even if it so desperately pleads and begs you to do otherwise.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

You can, once again, chalk that up to the fact that Kurt Sutter is here writing this thing, but you can also add on the fact that Antoine Fuqua directed this and even though he’s had some good movies in his past, he’s no master of subtlety, that’s for sure. Every time it seems like Billy’s going to lose his shit and break something in his way, have no fear, because he will. Heck, every time that you think Whitaker’s character is going to have something inspirational to say to give Billy more hope, don’t worry, because he definitely does. It’s not much of a problem because Whitaker and Gyllenhaal are both pros at what they do and share incredible chemistry with one another, but after awhile, it’s get to be a bit disappointing when you know that they’re working with mediocre material.

Granted, you should always take a movie for what it is, and not what it could have been, but in this case, I’m making the exception. Whereas, on paper, with the premise and cast involved, Southpaw could have been a huge, hot and heavy Oscar-contender (like it was originally planned to be), with the likes of Sutter and Fuqua combined, their brand of unsubtle melodrama takes over everything and has it play out a bit more soap-opera-y. It’s what we’ve got, so I shouldn’t complain too much, but man, imagine what it could have been with some other people involved. Like, I don’t know, say, Marty Scorsese?

Yep, that sounds like a perfect idea. Somebody call him up next time.

Consensus: With Gyllenhaal in the lead role, Southpaw turns out to be a lot better, but can get so over-the-top and silly at times, that it takes away any sort of momentum that it can sometimes build for itself.

7 / 10

Good thing Rach wasn't around.

Good thing Rach wasn’t around, cause she’d definitely want to butt in…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Wow, timing is everything.

This is the story of the life and the times of one Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba), where we first see him as a lawyer in South Africa where he makes an honest living, has a beautiful wife-and-kid and most of all, gets along with practically everyone around him. However, he starts to clash with the local police force once he realizes that there have been numerous bouts of racism occurring around him, some that end in death, and worse, even some including his own friends. Mandela does not put-up with this and sooner than later, eventually begins to build a revolution and make his, as well as most of the Africa’s voices heard. Around this time too, he meets a lovely lady named Winnie (Naomie Harris), with whom he marries and shares the revolt with. But, as we all know, when one person has a voice that doesn’t quite go along with the conventional way-of-thinking, problems can ensue and eventually, Mandela and his fellow band of trustees are all locked-up and taken away to an island prison, where he spends 27 years of his life in. Through it all though, Mandela persevered and we see this, not just through his soul, but through his wife’s as well.

With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, I’m pretty sure that some people may feel a bit of discomfort in watching this movie. Which is fine considering that this was a real person, albeit, one that’s usually considered “one of the most influential figures of all-time”. I do not necessarily disagree with and with what little I actually do know of the man who was Nelson Mandela, I have to say that I was actually looking forward to learning more about his hardships, his activism, and basically, just his whole life in a nutshell.

Hey, they at least gave him some toilet-paper so you can't say they were all "that bad".

Hey, they at least gave him some TP, so you can’t say they were all “that bad”.

That said nutshell did just so happen to take 139-minutes to get through, and also didn’t offer me much learned either. So basically, this is just a Nelson Mandela movie for all sorts of people whom may already know Nelson Mandela, what it was that he fought for and know enough about his life as it is, and that’s basically it. In other words: He’s getting “the Hollywood treatment” here and it feels like so. However though, I can’t say that it makes this movie bad; it’s just disappointing really.

Though director Justin Chadwick may have never made anything worth writing-home about, he still does a nice job here at giving us a Nelson Mandela we usually don’t see in many movies. Or better yet, maybe not just Nelson Mandela in particular, but a subject of a biopic altogether. What we see of Nelson Mandela here is a man that may be inspired, may have the right ideas of how to run a government in a happy, peaceful way, but he isn’t perfect and the movie makes sure that we know that. He’s shown to have a bit of a short-temper, some control-issues and also can’t really seem to keep it in his pants when he’s out late at night at some club, and spots himself a fine honey that just so happens to not be his wife. Can’t say I blame him, hell, it makes him all the more human. And that’s the point!

Most biopics should (even though they usually fail to do so) present us with a realistic, honest-to-God view of their subject, without many biases involved whatsoever. You can definitely stand-behind somebody’s story and/or what it exactly was that they brought to the world, but it’s better to make sure that they get to be seen as “human”, and not just as “inspirational superheros”. At first, the movie starts off by painting Mandela as the former, but once things begin to move on, the latter starts to show and it gets rather dull after awhile.

See, we all know that Mandela was wrongfully imprisoned for speaking his mind and taking matters into his own hands on more than a few occasions, but the movie never really quite digs any deeper than that, nor shows us anything new. Mainly, we’re just subject to seeing how Mandela and his fellow anarchists lived their lives in prison, got used to the harsh surroundings, which also meant getting used to the corrupt police-system they had going on over there. The movie nails this aspect of the story more than a few times, and does well with this, but soon, it begins to get over-shadowed by what it is that Winnie Mandela herself is doing on the front-lines, out there in the “real world”. And sooner or later, Nelson’s story becomes to get far less and less interesting, and Winnie’s takes over, showing us depth, emotion and even offering us some new insights into her life, and the way she lived it at that point in time.

You go tell 'em, girl!

You go tell ’em, girl!

Every so often we’d go back to Nelson’s story, but it basically sucks all of the energy and emotional-heft of Winnie’s story that, sad to say, was keeping this movie alive and interesting. There was probably a better way to show Mandela’s 27-year-span in prison, without feeling so dry and disjointed from the rest of the movie, but it wasn’t here and it’s disappointing because what Idris Elba does as Nelson Mandela here, is some of the best acting I’ve seen him do in a long while (besides from this, of course). Elba does stretch himself here to be more than just a walking, talking “Mandela impersonator”, and he does get to the inner-kindness, as well as anger that was probably lingering inside of this man for the longest while, but it feels underused by a movie that changes itself around so much. Which, need I say, isn’t all that bad considering Winnie’s story is a lot more interesting and compelling, but come to think of it: Wasn’t this mainly supposed to be about Nelson Mandela in the first place? Didn’t we already get a Winnie Mandela biopic that absolutely nobody saw, earlier this year? Anyway, my point is that while Winnie’s story does wonders for this movie, Nelson’s is just sort of there, sucking all sorts of life out of it, not really adding much new or surprising to the tales we already know of Nelson Mandela. Other than he was a very smart, very compassionate, and very determined man, even when placed hundreds-of-millions of miles away from actual, on-going society.

But, like I was saying, Winnie’s side of the story works a lot better, and most of that has to do with the fact that Naomie Harris is just so great as here, offering us some real, unrelenting and raw insights into a person that so desperately needed them. Like for instance, Winnie does go through a whole seep of changes throughout this movie; where we first see her as meek and mild girl that instantly falls for Nelson’s big brawn and good charms, and then changes into a very angry, very violent gal that wants her man back, but most importantly, won’t stand for all of the wrongdoings her country’s government has been committing. Harris is quite believable in this role and best of all, she keeps us on the same side as Winnie, even in her most questionable moments. Even when she begins to realize that violence is in fact the answer to solving a problem, she doesn’t seem like an even, relentless queen beotch. She seems like a woman who stands up for what she believes in, and won’t stop until she gets what she wants, by any cost necessary. Nelson believed in the same ideas, but she was the one who carried out his message, while he was away wasting his precious time in prison. Then, as we know, he got out and continued to spread the good word with Winnie and we’re better humans for it. Even though it is still sad to see him gone from us, forever.

Consensus: Elba and Harris give powerful performances in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, making it worth seeing for them and them alone, but don’t expect to learn much new, or even feel all that compelled by what it is you’re seeing. Just know of the ramifications of these people’s actions and you’ll probably walk off with a smile.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hope he remembered that moment for the next 27 years, as that was the only action he was going to get with his wife for that whole time.

Hope he remembered that moment for the next 27 years, as that was most likely the only action he was going to get from his wife for a long, long time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End (2007)

Why couldn’t I have just boarded the ride instead?

After the last film took 2-and-a-half hours to get to no conclusion whatsoever, we once again follow-up with our heroes Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) as they venture out on a quest to free Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Sparrow, in case you may not know this, made a deal with the devil, or should I say, The Flying Dutchman and Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). However, there’s more here than just that. Apparently everybody has their own demons to fight through and once you add the loser-government into the equation (lead by Tom Hollander), then hell is going to break loose. Oh, and apparently a Chinese pirate named Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) has something to do with this story as well. Whatever that actually may be, I still do not know the answer to.

No matter how much trash this franchise gets, I’ve always been there supporting the hell out of these Pirates movies. I honestly could not give you a clear-reason as to why: maybe it’s because I saw the first one and loved it as a kid; maybe it’s because I went on the ride as a kid, only to see the movie the next year it came out; or maybe it’s because I’m a huge Keith Richards and Johnny Depp fan, and put together, then it’s just sex-at-the-cinemas for me? Whatever the cock-hold reason may be, I still find myself cheering for these movies, enjoying myself while watching them, and always going to bat for them, even as everybody tells me the same old excuses as to how they’re too long, boring, or tedious. And needless to say, after seeing this for the 3rd time; I have to say that they’re right, but also wrong as well.

Battle of the outlandish accents! GO!

Battle of the Outlandish Accents! GO!

What? You didn’t actually think I was going to give up the battle that easily, did ya? I’m still reeling for my pirates, even if they do overstay their welcome by about two-and-a-half hours.

Seriously man, this movie is way, way too fucking long and it almost never seems to end. After the movie starts off impressive with just the right air of mystery, intrigue, suspense, and action going on, the movie begins to get more and more bogged-down by unneeded subplots, love-triangles, exposition, and maps that are supposed to mean something and lead somewhere, but only serve as a plot-device to get every character in the movie to meet-up together in the end. And say what you will about the first one: at least it had a swashbuckling bit of a fun with itself, especially when it wasn’t taking-on needless myths and background stories to support all of the crazy shite these characters were getting involved in. Hell, even the second one, as long and over-stuffed as it may have been, was still fun and made you feel like all of the wait and suspense was worth it, especially once the last-act, slam-bang finale came in. Here, the movie makes you feel like you’ve been waiting forever, only to have you realize that you’re not even half-way through. You still have about an hour-and-a-half left to go, and you still have no idea what the fuck is going on.

That’s where I think Gore Verbinski really screwed the pooch with this movie: his pacing. The movie starts, and then it stops, and does the simple task of rinsing-and-repeating. It works for the first hour because you like these characters and this action enough to give it the benefit of the doubt, but once it gets past that hour-mark and you realize that you have a lot more on your hands than you actually took in, then you might start to get a little pissed, as did I, and this is coming from a person who’s seen this movie about three times by now. It never gets old to watch the movie, but next time I feel like watching this, I think I’m just going to go for the last 40 minutes, because that’s all that’s worth watching in this movie.

Man, I’d even say that the last 40 minutes of this flick is the only reason to even see this thing, especially considering how fun, epic, dark, and exciting it truly is. Verbinski takes his damn time getting to where the story needs to go and even though I’m still a bit left in the dark as to how the movie got where it did by the end and why, I still don’t care because it’s so much fun to watch, always offering something new to get a glimpse at again and again. Verbinski obviously took his budget into some serious-thought and shows us what he’s been up to, making “the most expensive movie ever made”. It’s as perfect as you were going to get back in the summer of ’07 and it’s a real shame for Disney and Verbinski that it wasn’t 3D when it first came out, or else this movie would have committed a mass-slaying at the box office. Seriously, it probably would still be making money, even to this day.

If that's jail, Orlando's screwed. Literally and figuratively speaking.

If that’s jail, Orlando’s screwed. Literally and figuratively speaking.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a ridiculous statement to make, but I think most of you out there smell what I’m trying to sell. The fact is that Verbinski knows exactly what he wants to do with all of the CGI and special-effects that he has packed into here, and it becomes less of a clutter of pretty-images, and more of a visual-feast that was deserved to be seen on the big-screen, as I did when it first came out. Twice. That said, thanks to the last 40 minutes for being so gosh darn fun, wacky, and wild (unlike the rest of the flick that’s surprisingly self-serious), the movie allows the “original” trilogy to go out with a bang. Ending with all of the subplots and myths finally put to be resolved or to rest and you feeling like you not only got through a fucking movie experience, this side of 2001, but one that was somehow boring, save for those said last 40 minutes.

But what would any Pirates movie be complete without jolly, good olde Johnny Depp in the iconic role as Jack Sparrow? Because, let’s face it, without him (both character and actor), this franchise would have all but folded by the summer of ’07. Nobody would have cared for another Pirates movie, people probably would have stopped wondering if Depp bothered to take showers anymore and there sure as hell wouldn’t have even been a strange fascination people had with pirates. The planned-franchise would have fallen flat on it’s face, died, and left in the banks of everybody’s memory; the ones who saw it, or didn’t even bother to see it. However, since Depp was in the lead role as Jack Sparrow and the character was as iconic as ever, the franchise was alive and well, and people expect this movie to be Depp’s crowning-achievement. It wasn’t, but at least the guy made the movie still all the better just by his presence being felt throughout the whole flick, regardless of if he was on-screen or not.

Actually, some may be surprised to know that with this flick, Sparrow is not on screen as much as you’d expect the franchise-character to be on. After the first 30 minutes, we finally see Sparrow and it’s Depp playing him at his nuttiest. The guy talks to himself, rambles on incoherently about lord knows what, and always seems to be back-stabbing anybody who takes his good faith into consideration. That’s just the sneaky-devil Jack Sparrow is and Depp plays him to perfection, still keeping him the most interesting and entertaining aspect of the whole movie. That’s a how a hard-feat for even the slickest-pro like Depp to pull off, but somehow he did it, made it work, and even got his own movie while he was at it. Then again, everybody practically predicted that one to happen.

Nice to see him show up, you know, when he wasn't climbing coconut trees.

Nice to see him show up, you know, when he wasn’t climbing coconut trees.

However, since Depp is the best part of this whole movie, that leaves all of his co-stars in the dust and left for scrutiny, no matter how hard each and every one of them try. The most noticeable of the co-stars left for scrutiny is definitely Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley who are both given more material here together or separate, than they should have ever been given. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bloom and Knightley and I think that they’re romance in the first two movies are what kept most of it humane and grounded in some sense of reality, but here, they’re just around and in love to serve a mechanism for the plot to make us happy, make us smile, and have us catch the ill-fated love bug. At the end, that latter aspect comes into play, oh so obviously, and is excruciating to watch, not because it isn’t romantic or anything; it’s just cheeky and trying way to hard to make us swoon for their love. It’s a lame way to end a romance that had so much promise, even from the first movie.

Geoffrey Rush is good once again as Barbossa and seems to be enjoying his stay in the role, even if he’s not as fun to watch because of the fact that he’s playing the good guy this time, and not the hammy-villain; there was also a lot of talk on this movie about Chow Yun-Fat’s role in the movie as the Chinese pirate, Sao Feng, which makes no sense because the dude’s barely in it and even when he is, gets annoying after awhile since he just goes on and on and on with the exposition nobody gives a shit about; and Bill Nighy is once again playing Davy Jones and plays him well, as you’d expect, but doesn’t really get the chance to let his character go any deeper than what was initially-promised. Same goes for the British actors who are all but wasted here in the forms of Tom Hollander, Jonathan Pryce, and especially, Jack Davenport who could have all been more interesting and compelling to watch on screen, but are never quite given that chance to shine and do their thang. Oh well. At least they collected a healthy paycheck from this, along with a new summer house.

Consensus: Rather than feeling like an epic event you have to see, whether it be on a big-screen at home or in a movie theater, POTC: AWE feels like it’s more of a chore to get through, rather than an actual fun, light, and entertaining movie, like the first two were, but without all of the heavy-baggage of useless subplots and exposition.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Bigger bad-ass? Definitely that fireball in the middle. Rawr!

Bigger bad-ass? Definitely that fireball in the middle. Rawr!

Skyfall (2012)

When in doubt, just get rid of Marc Forster.

James Bond (Daniel Craig)’s loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat (played by Javier Bardem), no matter how personal the cost.

When Mr. Craig first jumped into the role as James Bond, people were severely pissed. They said he didn’t look like the type of Bond-like character, he didn’t was too small, and worst of all, he was blond! Oh dear! Well, all of those fools’ mouths were shut once Casino Royale came around and absolutely kicked-ass, going to show that not only does this franchise show some new promise, but so does Craig as well. However, all was fine and dandy until Marc Forster got his dumb hands on the franchise and decided to release Quantum of Solace. As most of you probably already saw, I didn’t hate that movie, but I didn’t love it much either. It was an okay movie, but something was missing from it to really make it feel like a Bond movie. But now that they’ve kicked Forster out of the director’s chair, and placed Sam Mendes in it, all is well for Bond and most of all, all is well for this franchise that will continue on through it’s 50-year history. Woo-hoo!

Having a director that is most known for character-dramas and theater work, definitely made me feel a bit a scared for how Mendes would actually handle all of the material, as well as how much would feel like an actual Bond movie itself. Thankfully, Mendes made me feel less scared right from the opening-sequence where it’s pretty clear that this guy knows how to film an explosive and fun action scene, without having people tilt their heads to see just what the hell is even going on. This is something that really made me feel happy as I knew I was back to seeing a Bond film and not a Jason Bourne one, where I would constantly have to deal with shaky-cam and the constant idea that I may have to leave the theater to puke my guts out sooner or later. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic here but I think you get it: shaky-cam can be pretty damn annoying and it’s a great idea that Mendes decided not to use it and instead, go with the original look, style, and feel that we all know and love from the Bond movies.

Since 2012 does mark the 50th anniversary of Bond, there’s a lot of moments here that Mendes takes advantage of to give little winks and homages towards Bond movies of the past. All of these moments will easily make the die hard’s go ape shit in their seats, as it’s been pretty long since the last time anybody has saw 007 drive an Aston Martin in awhile, as well as do and say a bunch of many other trademarks that I won’t spoil here and it’s just great to see done on the screen once again. However, as much as this is a tribute to all of the Bond films that have come before it, Skyfall, is still it’s own original story that Mendes takes time to build up and up until every single action-sequence is filled to the brim with tension and suspense. Solace had absolutely no tension whatsoever, and was more fun to watch than nerve-wrecking, this one, on the other-hand, had me a bit fearful for Bond’s life and every scene where his life hung in the balance, I was scared as hell for the guy. It doesn’t get any more tense this year with an action movie and it’s really surprising to see that one of the best action movies of the year is done by the same dude who had a whole film revolve around Rose and Jack fighting and yelling at each other every time they’re around one another.

Aside from being the one of the best action flicks of the year, this also may have to go down as the most slickly-produced movie of the year as well. Every single scene just bleeds with cool and style that it’s hard to look away, even when things really seem to get dull, and most of that is thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins. Most of the action scenes here are filled with color and lavish-looking settings that you can’t help but feast your eyes on what you see beyond all of the violence and action going on with Bond, and it gets even better when hit the latter parts of the movie and we see the outer-lands of Scotland, and see just how muggy and dirty a place can be, yet, with a cinematographer like Deakins, can still ooze style. The whole film, from start-to-finish, oozes style and it’s just great to see that not just in a movie, but a Bond movie none the less.

But before I go on any longer about this movie, I still have to say that it doesn’t rank-up as one of the best Bond movies of all-time, even though it seems like every single person on the face of the earth is hailing it as that. I think my problem with this movie was that some moments just felt dull and a bit uninteresting and even though I was glad that they weren’t just constantly hitting us over the head with action-sequence after action-sequence like Solace did, sometimes I really felt like there was something needed to spice the movie up. These small, quiet moments, really took me out of the film and I think because of Mendes’ theater background, is the reason why there was so many in here and used to break-up the action. Still, when that guy wanted to pump-up the action, he sure as hell did just that. I just wish that he kept it going on throughout the whole movie like I expected him to.

Aside from that problem, Daniel Craig, for me at least, still ranks up there as one of best Bond’s because the guy just has it all going for him, especially here in this movie. Because the story is about Bond getting his skills back, showing a more vulnerable side to him, and letting us know that he’s not fully ready for combat just yet, Craig shows a more human-side to this character and allows for us to relate to him and connect with him on a human-level, rather than just a super, secret-spy that we look up to because he kills the baddies and bones the ladies. Yes, he still does commit both of those actions here in this movie, but that’s not what it’s all about with Craig’s Bond. This guy has got some issues, but at the end of the day, we still feel like he’s got what it takes to take down the evil-force that stands in his way, and be able to do it by getting down and dirty, but also still being able to stay in style.

And holy shit! What an evil-force that stands in his freakin’ way, man! I must admit, I thought the casting of Javier Bardem was a bit unoriginal since the guy is most known to American audiences as the bad guy from No Country for Old Men and to go from villain to villain seemed like a dumb-way to type-cast, especially for a talented actor like Bardem. However, once again like I was proven wrong with Mendes as director, I was proved wrong with Bardem as the our bad guy for the next 2-and-a-half hours, Raoul Silva. In No Country, Bardem played Ant0n as a total bad-ass that went about his evil ways in a sadistic, but subtle way, allowing Bardem to show the real evil inside of a character, without ever really saying or being up-front about anything. Here, as Silva, the guy is so over-the-top, so obvious, and so talky that I couldn’t stop but love the guy every time he showed up on-screen. Bardem owns the screen every chance he gets and he’s one of those rare villains that actually makes you fear him not because of the technology he has to hack into the super-secret system, but because the guy’s smart and malicious, but only in the right ways for a Bond villain. If Bardem was in this movie more, I would definitely be calling for some Oscar buzz, but he’s in it for around 20 minutes and that was good enough for me because the guy takes care of business every chance he gets and if I have to see him play another villain in another movie, then hey, I have no problem with that considering the guy is a welcomed-presence to everything he does.

I think it should come as to little or no surprise that Judi Dench is great here as M, and once again gives us a performance that shows how sassy and witty one gal can be, but also still be able to show some heart and humanity when need be. As with all of the Bond movies, every one needs a Bond girl, or two and that’s exactly what Craig has here in both Naomie Harris and the smokin’ hot Bérénice Marlohe. Harris, as usual, is good and shows a lot of strength to her character, but Marlohe, as hot and sexy as she is, isn’t really given much to do at all and is barely in the film as much as the advertisements may have you think. It’s a real shame too, because I could have literally stared at the gal the whole movie and not have had a single problem one-bit. I kid you not, people, this chick is hot! Then again, so was Denise Richards and we all know how that turned out.

Consensus: Skyfall is not the best Bond movie out of it’s 50-plus year series, but is one of the best action movies of the year and is a return-to-form for Bond, but also a way to show that this franchise has nothing to fear as long as they are under the guidance of Mendes and Craig.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: 28 Days Later (2003)

When in doubt, make ’em fast.

28 days later after a rage-virus has swept the area and turned every infected person into crazy zombies, bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes from a coma in the deserted intensive care unit of a London hospital. He soon meets up with a fellow survivor, Selena (Naomia Harris), and both embark on a journey to get themselves the hell out of London, and also, be able to get themselves out alive.

I’ll never, ever forget the first time that I saw this movie. I was probably in 8th grade, and it was late at-night (on a school-night of course), and I stumbled upon the beginning of this flick on FX and thought to myself, “It’s 10 o’clock. Should I watch this movie for the next 3 hours and be extremely tired tomorrow, or should I go to sleep, catch it another time, and get my 9 hours of perfect sleep? Hmmm….” Thankfully, I went with the first option and to be honest, it didn’t matter how late it was because my ass wasn’t getting any sleep at all that night after watching this. Seriously, that movie kept me up all night and at one-point, I was afraid to even go to the bathroom because it was a dark hallway, and I thought I heard noises. Little did I know that it was just my dog, but still, you couldn’t have told me that at that time and place because I was so wrapped-up in what I just saw that my mind wasn’t taking anything else in.

This whole dumb story about me and my first-viewing with this flick may come off as random and unneeded, but in my case, it totally is. See, I rarely ever get scared by horror films because I for one, know that they aren’t ever grounded in-reality. Iconic horror characters like Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, and etc., don’t scare me because I know they aren’t real and most likely, never will be real. But, what really scared me about this movie was how it didn’t have those elements, instead, everything felt, looked, acted, and played-out, as if it was all real and could actually happen in a world like ours. Yes, I know it all sounds pretty freakin’ goofy that I would assume a zombie apocalypse would ever run rampant in our world and go out like this, but seriously, just think about it: they don’t even have to be zombies, they can just be a bunch of infected human-beings that have no control over anything in their minds. Seriously, it could happen and if it doesn’t, I will be glad to be proven wrong, but that is why this movie scared the utter bajeebers out of me 5 years ago when I first saw it, and that’s why it still does now.

Most of the credit for scaring the hell out of me has to go to Danny Boyle and what he does with this material. Instead of making this your typical zombie-movie where all we see is a bunch of people shooting blood and guts, we get an actual story-based type of approach that not only fits the characters in it, but also the mood that Boyle has set for us as well. Right from the beginning with those iconic shots of a deserted London, we know that we are placed in a post-apocalyptic world that is sad, depressing, and as dark as you’re ever going to get with any other film of this nature, and the way Boyle sets it off is exactly how he allows it to all play-out.

Of course we all know what a post-apocalyptic world looks like: no people, no civilization, no order, and in some cases, no nothing, but there’s something so realistic-feeling about this world that Boyle paints that has me still frightened to this day. See, it seems like this could happen any day, any place, at any time, and it doesn’t matter where it begins or where it ends because it’s going to sweep the globe as soon as possible. That’s the way you mostly have it with any type of zombie/virus movie, but this one is different because it feels like a real-threat. These people can run, they can hide, and they can do whatever they want, but one of these days, they may not be so lucky and end-up biting the dust sooner than they may think. This urgent sense of danger and doom surrounds this flick in every single shot, and it never goes away, which is why I’m still clinging to my pillow as we speak.

None of this would ever feel so realistic and dangerous if it wasn’t for Boyle, and this guy sure as hell doesn’t lose that idea in his head. See, the best thing about Boyle is that he isn’t just a type of director that shoots the scenes, gets good performances from the cast, and calls it a day. Nope, this guy is all about everything else in-between all of that and it shows so perfectly here. The digital-camera brings an extra grainy-look to the flick that puts us inside of this cold and dark world that never seems to have a bright day; the music comes in at times at makes you feel happy, then makes you feel sad, and then makes you feel like your about to go crazy by how tense everything is (I’m talking about you, tunnel scene); and the color-schemes that Boyle chooses for each and every scene bring out a certain amount of beauty to each scene, as dark and hideous as it may be (the red dresses during the last-act just freakin’ popped-out at me). Basically, when it comes right down to it, Boyle is a guy that looks at everything in a flick, makes it better, and gives it his own little stylistic touches that in some ways, may come off as too “artsy”, but in other ways, it comes off as fan freakin’ tastic.

But, let’s not forget people, this is not your typical zombie story that we have all seen a hundred times before-hand, because believe it or not, there’s actually a story here that talks about something more than you might expect from a movie about a bunch of ragged-up killers on the loose. The film talks about how it sometimes takes a devastating act like an apocalypse  or a break-down in society to show you who evil human-beings can be. This point is never really hammered-through to you until the last 45 minutes when the story takes a dramatic turn, but you get an essence of that the whole time throughout and you also feel like the only way most people can get through such terrible events like this, is by love and friendship with the people around you. That’s why the “romance” here works, because it’s shoe-horned in and quick for a reason, people need each other in the world no matter what. There’s also a juicy little piece of context in here about how we, as people, have been killing each other for years and years and years, but now have to actually go-forth with that in a society where that’s the only-option. It’s a fairly obvious point you can pretty much gather right from the first scene or two, but it’s still one worth mentioning because it goes beyond what you normally expect in a movie about zombies.

Jeez, I feel like I’ve gone on way too long about this movie but the fact is, after seeing it over 8 times now, I still can’t get enough of it and look at each and every scene as if it was just another piece of art that Boyle chose in his mind and was somehow able to paint it all out onto film. The sturdy story that takes over the first hour or so, does change-up drastically by the last hour and becomes more of an action/thriller type of movie but even that still works, even if it is a bit conventional. Still, though, I realized there was a lot more to this plot than just blood, guts, and violence, and in a way, all of that shit that does go down in the end sort of justifies it’s point and by what it’s trying to say. Trust me, the plot-conventions and cliches are more than you think they are, and that’s the whole beauty and uniqueness of this movie.

Boyle also did something very daring and smart with this movie and chose people for the roles, that were the normal people you’d see in movies like these, let alone in movies in general. I mean now, these people are pretty big-stars, but before this, they looked like nothing else except for just real people, that were stuck in a real world, and tried their hardest to find happiness in it. Cillian Murphy does a great job with his role as Jim because the guy starts out as such a wimp, and dumb-ass that seems to be a bit way too in over his head with the world he has yet to get a grasp hold onto, but after awhile, builds up enough courage and steam of his own to actually have you believe that this guy can really stick up for himself and survive in this world. The transformation Jim goes through isn’t touched-upon enough, in my book, but is still shown in a believable and understandable way, thanks to both Boyle and Murphy themselves.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is a nice line-up that all do perfect jobs with the limited-material that they’re given. Naomie Harris plays Selena as a bad-ass that would kill you in seconds if she had to, but also shows there’s a lot vulnerability to her as well that makes her seem more well-rounded as a human-being rather than just a straight-up, vicious beotch; Brendan Gleeson is a delight to watch as Frank, the loving father that always seems to look on the bright-side to any situation and kept me smiling the whole time he was on-screen; Megan Burns wasn’t so good as the daughter, but I think she was supposed to underplay this role a bit so I can’t be too hard on her; and last, but certainly not least, is Christopher Eccleston as Major West, a guy who comes off as a knight in shining armor right from the start, but starts to slowly change your mind about him and you never, ever know what this guy is going to do next. I like that with characters and I think Eccleston handles that well and shows to be more of a human-being, rather than just showing off as a villainous d-bag.

Consensus: Maybe, just maybe, I’m in the minority with this one but 28 Days Later is one of my favorite horror films of all-time. The world that Boyle paints is as devastating and frightening as it gets; the characters are more well-rounded and developed than the script actually gives them credit for; the scares and chills get to you by the utter feel of realism that shoots-out in every frame of this picture; and the message about who we are as humans and what we’ll do to live-on in life is as heartbreaking and brutally honest as it can get. Definitely go out there and see it, not just to be scared, but also to be a bit enlightened as well.

9.5/10=Full Effin’ Price!!