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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Octavia Spencer

The Shape of Water (2017)

Further proof why we need to save our oceans.

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

Good friends live disheveled lives together.

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

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

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

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

“Go and get your fish-man, girl.”

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

No matter how large or small.

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

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

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

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

8 / 10

Under the sea. Under the sea.

Photos Courtesy of: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Gifted (2017)

Math is hard. But man, it sure can bring families together.

Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy named Mary (Mckenna Grace), who also happens to be his niece. His sister/Mary’s mother, unfortunately, killed herself due to issues with the family and it’s because of this that Frank has taken it upon himself to ensure that Mary doesn’t turn out to have too much pressure put on her. However, she’s incredibly brilliant, is very good at math, and doesn’t just know it, but also allows for everyone around her to know it, too. It’s both a blessing, as well as a curse – a blessing because she’s smart and will always be successful, but a curse because going to the public school that she’s at, doesn’t really challenge her. Like, at all. Eventually, people around Mary begin to take notice and worry that she’s not being challenged as much as she should. Enter Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), who sees it as her task to help get Mary the right treatment she deserves for her genius brain and ensure that her career is an accomplished and masterful one, much like hers was.

You can find out what the square-root of 3,005 is, but you still can’t read? What child prodigy you are!

Everything about the way Gifted looks, feels, hell, even sounds, just brings gags to my throat. It’s not that I don’t mind these schmaltzy tales of hot, attractive people battling happiness and love, but it’s that so often, they aren’t done correctly. Of course, Nicholas Sparks is definitely to be blamed for that, but it goes one step further than that – it almost feels like these kinds of movies are bound to fail, right from the instance that they are announced, filmed, and released to the wide public. The only kind of schmaltz that seems to work nowadays is the pure Oscar-bait that cares about as tears, as much as they care about votes, which means that they want people to cry, by any means necessary.

And then, like I’ve said before, there’s Gifted, a movie that should have absolutely despised and hated, yet, somehow, came away thinking, “Man, why can’t all these kinds of movies be like this?”

Which is to say that, yes, Gifted works. Is it a perfect movie? Nope. Is it an original one? Not really. Is it still kind of schmaltzy and manipulative? Sort of, yes. But everything about it still kind of works in the way that you wouldn’t expect it to. For one, it actually has a heart and soul that you can feel, not just because it’s telling you to feel it, but because the characters are so lovely, the relationships are so well-drawn, and yes, the actual story is worth getting wrapped-up in.

It’s not a very complex tale, but it didn’t need to be; Sparks’ movies are always so bogged down in silly twists, like alcoholic, abusive ex-husbands, or plot-contrived cancer-scares, that after awhile, it’s nice to get a movie that gives us characters, a conflict, and allows it all to play out, without trying too hard to add too much into the rest of the mix. Director Marc Webb and screenwriter Nick Flynn know what they’re working with here and because of that, it doesn’t feel like they’re taking any cheap shots.

Essentially, what we see is what we get.

Don’t worry, everyone: Octavia is just the sassy black neighbor. Not the sassy black nanny. For once.

Of course, that sounds so easy when put like that, but honestly, it’s just nice to get one of these movies. Flynn’s screenplay is solid in that every character has at least one funny-quip to use at their disposal, but everyone still feels like well-rounded, three-dimensional characters, not made out to be god-like creatures, of fire-breathing devil-worshipers – everyone here is a human being, and in that sense, they’re all complicated. Flynn doesn’t forget to overdue the cute nature of his story, but hey, it’s not cloying, which is all that matters.

And Webb, while no doubt trying to get back in his good graces after the two Spider-Man movies, finds himself giving us a smart, humane tale about humans again. Sure, it’s nowhere near (500) Days of Summer, but then again, not many movies are; it’s just nice to have him back, directing original flicks for a change. Hopefully, he’s here to stay and not ready to get sucked up by the machine that is known as Hollywood.

Because what better way to stick it to the man than have your movie star Captain America himself, Chris Evans?

No, I kid. Regardless, Evans is good here in that he’s his usual charming, snappy-self, but there’s also more to him than meets the surface; the relaxed, chill nature he gives off, eventually starts to show signs of sadness that’s deeper than you’d think. Evans has been looking for a hit outside of the Marvel universe for quite some time and it’s nice to see him finally get it here. Of course, though, the movie is definitely Mckenna Grace’s for the taking and as Mary, she’s quite great. Sure, the character is a type, in that she’s precocious as hell and seems like a 30-year-old trapped inside of a 7-year-old’s body, but it works because you believe in her as this character. If she ever is annoying, or a bit of a pain, it’s because she’s meant to be and not because the movie thinks that she’s just way too cute for our own good.

She is, surprisingly enough, like a real kid. And we get so very few of them in movies nowadays.

Consensus: As schmaltzy and sappy as it can sometimes get, Gifted also works because it has a heart, well-written script, and most of all, solid ensemble of characters who all feel realized and interesting, despite the eventual conventions of the plot.

7 / 10

Like uncle, like niece. Right?

Photos Courtesy of: SlashfilmThrifty Jinxy, Indiewire

Hidden Figures (2016)

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be a racist.

Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) are names that you probably haven’t heard of before, but you definitely should. Back in the early-60’s, when NASA was trying their absolute hardest to beat-out the Russians by getting a person on the moon, they needed all of the power and smarts that were capable of figuring this thing out. These three women ended-up becoming a part of that think-system, however, it wasn’t always a pretty one. When they weren’t facing all sorts of racial prejudices at home, or on the streets, they had to go into work, where they were supposed to be respected for their brains and free-thinking, but instead, were forced to deal with the same trials and tribulations that so many other African-American men and women were facing around the same time. Still though, all three women kept their eyes on the prize and made it their mission to complete U.S.A’s mission and that was to get a person on the moon, as soon as, and as safe as, possible.

Eh. I've seen bigger.

Eh. I’ve seen bigger.

Hidden Figures is your typical, conventional, formulaic, and run-of-the-mill story of historical prejudice and racism that we so often see around awards season, that it’s hardly the kind of movie to get all that excited about, regardless of what, or who it may be about. And the story’s of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson all deserve being told and better yet, their own star-studded, somewhat Oscar-baity movie where we get to see them face all sorts of adversity for the color of their skin, constantly work their rumps off, and at the end of the day, get a slap on the back for the good job that they did, even if it’s not nearly enough to justify all of the pain and punishment they had to go through. It’s a sad and awfully way-too-relevant story which is why, above all else, Hidden Figures is a good movie to see.

Does that make it a great movie? No, not really. But it’s the kind that feels like it’s appealing to each and every person on the face of the planet, without trying to offend a single person imaginable, and yet, still tell us a little bit more about this slice of life in country’s history. Everyone knows how we go to the moon and who did it, but do we really know all of the surrounding pieces? Quite possibly, no, and that’s why a movie like Hidden Figures is nice to have around – it not only shows us that our nation still has some growing up to do, but there was such a thing as a moon-landing that made each and every citizen want to lay down their issues for a second and come together on this momentous occasion.

It’s a little tear-inducing, until you realize that the movie is also a very conventional piece that doesn’t quite set the world on fire.

However, it doesn’t seem like it needs to, either. All it really needed to do was tell these three stories, of these three, miraculous women, who not just used their brains and their math-skills to get their jobs done, but did so in some very unwelcoming areas. Like I said though, it’s a conventional movie where a lot of racism is highlighted, but also plenty of comedy and a little bit of romance – not all of it works, but a solid portion of it does and helps us see these characters a little more than just the actresses playing them.

The white man always has to get involved somehow, right?

The white man always has to get involved somehow, right?

Then again, it does help having Spencer, Henson and especially Monae in these roles, as they not only bring out a certain vibrancy about them, but continue to help us believe that these are some incredibly smart mathematicians, who are capable of figuring these problems out. So often do movies get mathematicians/nerds so terribly wrong in movies, where they are so wild and crazy that they’re practically autistic, or that they’re just a bunch of really good-looking people struggling to make it sound like they know what two plus two is. Here though, it works – not only are these three women beautiful, but they do seem as if they know their jobs, making it seem clear that the movie isn’t just about getting the best face for the poster, but the best gal for the job.

Of course though, Hidden Figures does help itself out by not displaying everyone else surrounding these three women as terrible and awful specimens, but in ways, idiotic and products of the time in which they were raised in. Kirsten Dunst’s characters is probably the most perfect example of this, as no matter how hard she tries, she can never help but come off as racist and rude, even when it does seem like she’s doing her job; the movie likes to make and poke fun at her, but this issue is still prevalent in today’s society and it makes you think of how many things have changed, or how many of them may have seemed like they did, only to go back to their old, ignorant ways.

Oh well. Time will tell.

Consensus: Even as conventional as it may be, Hidden Figures is an interesting look into a piece of America’s history that some may not all that much about and will continue to want to study for years and years to come.

6.5 / 10

You go girls! Don't forget to do your math homework, though!

You go girls! Don’t forget to do your math homework, though!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Halloween II (2009)

Yeah, Michael’s a little more severe than today’s masked-creepo’s.

A year after narrowly escaping death at the hands of Michael Myers (Tyler Mane), aka, her brother, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) has been through and seen a whole hell of a lot. Probably more than any kid her age should ever have to witness, but now that she’s living with her best friend, Annie (Danielle Harris), she feels as if everything’s going to get back to normal and that she can, for lack of a better word, have a rather care-free existence. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is all over the globe promoting and having discussions about his latest book on killer’s psychology, and most importantly, Michael himself. But even though both of them think that Michael is dead and gone for good, somehow, he’s brought back to life by the spirit of his dead mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and is now back on a rampage, not just taking down everyone in his path, but to find Laurie and get rid of her once.

Yeah, that kid's growing up to be a serial-killer.

Yeah, that kid’s growing up to be a serial-killer.

You know, the typical family stuff.

In a way, it’s too easy to despise Rob Zombie’s movies. The man himself, is actually quite an admirable figure; someone who has made the leap from musician, to movie-director successfully, making a movie almost every two years or so, and also, a person who seems like he knows a thing or two about horror movies in general, just judging by how he handles himself in interviews and whatnot. But unfortunately, the movies he makes are so trashy, so gloomy, so screwed-up, so depressing and so, as much as it pains me to say, boring, that it’s hard to really give him the benefit of the doubt, respectable artist or not.

And that’s why Halloween, his first remake of the famous franchise, was absolutely terrible. It was slow, focusing on the dread, pain and suffering, but never really actually doing anything interesting or exciting with any of it. That seems to be Zombie’s go-to with mostly all of his movies – rather than actually going out and trying to make sense, or make things deeper than what they appear, he just continues on with the unnecessary carnage, blood and gore, and doesn’t really care about what he’s saying with it. While that’s normally fine and all, the fact remains that his movies, including this sequel to Halloween, just aren’t all that entertaining to watch; they’re the kind of horror movies that make you wonder why they were made in the first place, considering they don’t seem like they were all that fun to film.

But maybe they are to Zombie, which is a shame, because there are inklings of a good movie to be found somewhere, deep inside of the dark nether regions of Halloween II.

If there is a big step-up from the first movie this time, it’s that Zombie takes his focus away from the conventional plot-line of the first and has decided to shake the story up a tad bit. Now, instead of constantly focusing on Michael Myers as he walks around, savagely kills people, all while mumbling and grunting his way along to the next victim, the movie also shines a light on Laurie “Myers” Strode and Dr. Loomis. While they are both interesting plot-lines that get some moments of energy and inspiration, unfortunately, they don’t go so well side-by-side; Strode’s coming-of-age, horror-tale is far too serious to really work alongside Loomis’ sometimes satirical publicity-tour.

While Zombie does try whatever he can to make sure that Strode’s story a sympathetic take on someone grasping with death and destruction, it doesn’t help that Scout Taylor-Compton isn’t able to make her scenes work. Despite working with the likes of Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, and a random, but great Margot Kidder, Taylor-Compton just can’t get her act together to make sense of a character that should be an unquestionably bleeding and sad heart. Instead, she just seems like a needy, whiny and ungracious brat who can’t stop yelling at those around her.

Pictured: Apparently not Rob Zombie and his thoughts on modern-day culture

Pictured: Apparently not Rob Zombie and his thoughts on modern-day culture

And Malcolm McDowell is good as Loomis here, but honestly, that’s a whole other movie completely. He’s a whole lot more arrogant than he was in the first movie and because of that, we constantly wonder where his adventure is going to take him and how he’s going to hook back up with Laurie and Michael, even if it does come at the expense of actually having to spend more time with Laurie and Michael. Still, McDowell is having a good time here, in a role that seems to be Zombie’s way of speaking out against the critics who have an issue with the slasher-horror and violence he depicts in his movies.

It’s not really subtle, but it’s a whole lot easier to swallow than whatever Shyamalan does when he has a bone to pick with critics.

Anyway, still though, the main issue with Halloween II is that, despite some interesting avenues being looked at, the movie never gets itself together. Despite Loomis and Stroude getting more of a focus, Michael still has a lot of scenes where he daydreams of his dead mother and childhood-version of himself, which feels unnecessary and only adds more to a running-time that comes close to nearly two hours. Of course, it also gives Zombie plenty more time and opportunity to kill people in disturbing ways, but it doesn’t really do much of anything for the movie; it’s not entertaining, it’s not shocking, it’s just, for lack of a better word, there. Zombie may feel as if he’s showing us, the world, something that we don’t want to see and sticking our noses in it, but in reality, we’ve seen far, far worse in real life and you know what?

We don’t need to bother with his version of those events.

Consensus: While a step-up from the original Zombie remake, Halloween II still ups the ante on the blood, gore, ugly violence and grime that may please Zombie and his fanatics, but doesn’t do much for anyone else wanting a good, exciting and actually shocking horror flick.

4 / 10

Cheer up, Mikey. You'll get more remakes.

Cheer up, Mikey. You’ll get more remakes.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Zootopia (2016)

It’s like the actual United States of America. But with animals!

From when she was just a little bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) was always told that she wasn’t going to amount to much. Because of that adversity in her life, Judy trained for years and years to become a cop in the wonderfully huge and grand melting-pot that is Zootopia, a place where all kinds of creatures can live together in perfect peace and harmony. Eventually, Judy’s dream comes true and she finds herself living in Zootopia, with a solid job as a cop. However, she soon finds out that her job won’t amount to much other than just putting tickets on people’s cars. Though she’s disappointed by this, Judy still remains restless and ready to take on any obstacle she meets out there in the real world, which leads her to Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly and cunning fox, who she has a fear of, just based solely on the fact that fox and rabbits aren’t supposed to get along. Using Nick, Judy discovers a missing otter’s case, which leads her to uncovering a greater conspiracy that involves the police chief, the mayor, and plenty other people in power.

Don't call her "cute". Even if, yes, she totally is.

Don’t call her “cute”. Even if, yes, she totally is.

Last summer, when Inside Out came out, a lot of people were going on and on about how it was, essentially, a “kids movie for adults”. And they weren’t wrong. Sure, the animation, the colorful and wild-looking characters were clearly to attract the kids and get them interested in the first place, but really, the plot, the message and the mechanics of it all weren’t really for kids. After all, no kid would have been able to understand “the id”, “the psychosis”, or anything of that psychological nature, nor would they ever be able to understand just what the characters were searching for, or trying to accomplish. In some ways, that’s why I loved the movie, however, I also realize that perhaps the movie was maybe just a tad too smart for its own good, or even for its own audience.

That said, Zootopia is the kind of animated movie made to grab kids’ attention, but really meant to connect with the older-ones who get stuck bringing their kids in the first place.

And that’s a good thing. For one, Zootopia is a solid animated movie that, yes, looks as great and as detailed as ever. Every character, from the sloths, to the lions, to the cheetahs, the foxes, to polar bears, to the bunnies, to whichever you want to call them, all look lovely and pleasantly cartoonish. However, my main adoration for this movie comes in the way it approaches its universe. It’s the kind of movie that has a smart and relatively interesting idea, but rather than using it to rely on a lame plot or kiddie-jokes, instead, it goes balls to the walls with what it can do.

The story is a cross between a police procedural and coming-of-age-tale, but instead, with a rabbit and a fox in the interracial buddy-cop roles. And while for any lesser-movie, they’d just have that idea and leave it there, Zootopia decides to run wild with it and allow for the movie to build both of these characters up, give them personalities, and allow for them to go on throughout this whole world. After all, certain parts of this world that the movie has created for itself is so inventive and creative, that after awhile, it becomes clear that the movie’s dealing with a lot, but not really losing control of itself.

It has a message. It has a message. And most importantly, it has a story.

Granted, the story can sometimes go on and on and for the sake of telling the movie’s central message (racism and treating others for what they look like, and not who they are, is bad), but it still kept me interested. The movie brings up other points about gentrification, xenophobia, and social-classes that do hit, but it isn’t always actually about them; if anything, it’s just using them as a way to make their story feel and sound more important than it may already be perceived as. Of course, one could go on for days with think-pieces out the wahzoo about what Zootopia is trying to say, but none of it really matters, because guess what? The movie’s just a fun piece of animation.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

Sure, it’s definitely made with the adults in mind, but it’s also a good movie for kids in that there’s a lot of the typical humor you’d expect for them to laugh at and love. However, there’s also smarter, more witty jokes aimed at the adults that have to deal with the social and racial constructs of this world, references to movies like the Godfather and Chinatown (among others), and the fact that each and everyone of these animals are supposed to be portraying an aspect of the real world. It’s all so goofy, but so much fun that you don’t care how far they go with these ideas.

You’ll just be happy that someone’s thinking this creatively for once.

And this is all the more surprising considering that there’s at least three directors (Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore) and two writers (Jared Bush and Phil Johnston) working together. Normally, this spells out an uneasy, messy and uneven bit of trouble, but surprisingly, everybody came together here to create some neat and funny ideas, without ever seeming like they’re just throwing stuff in for the sake of it. And yes, the voice cast is also pretty solid, too. Ginnifer Goodwin is bright and sunny; Jason Bateman is as cool as a cucumber; Idris Elba is brass and brawny; and yeah, there’s others. Just know that Zootopia is a fine piece of animation that, if you haven’t already, just check it out.

It has something to say, but more importantly, has something to do with itself, rather than just waste your time because it’s already gotten your money.

Consensus: With smart ideas and messages about the real world we live in, yet, using animated animals to take humans places, Zootopia is not only cute, but awfully inventive and interesting, even when it seems to be preaching an awful lot.

8 / 10 

Oh, sloths. So silly.

Oh, sloths. So silly. Yet, a little creepy-looking.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Seven Pounds (2008)

If Will Smith is God, does that mean Jaden is Jesus? No!

Tim Thomas (Will Smith) isn’t very happy with his life. For reasons that aren’t known fully well right off the bat, he doesn’t really seem to care about where his life is at right now, so in a way, to make himself feel better or something, he decides to help out the lives of a few people – most of whom, already have enough problems in their own lives. There’s Ezra (Woody Harrelson) a blind meat salesmen who also plays piano and is getting a bit lonely; there’s Connie (Elpidia Carrillo) a mother of two children who isn’t in a very healthy relationship; there’s George (Bill Smitrovich), a man who needs a bone marrow transplant; and last, but certainly not least, there’s Kate (Rosario Dawson), a woman with a weak heart defect. Using some shady I.R.S. credentials of his, Tim finds a way to enter himself into Kate’s life, which, at first, creeps her out, but eventually, she gives into Tim’s persistence and strikes up something of a relationship with him. However, what Kate doesn’t know, is that Tim has a reasoning for all of this guiding and assisting he’s been doing, which will most definitely shock her, as well as the others that he’s been there for in the past few months or so.

Will's sad.

Will’s sad.

Seven Pounds, while definitely a flawed film, is also an interesting one. It’s one of the very few and rare, mainstream, big-budgeted flicks featuring an all-star cast that is as dark and depressing as you would probably get with any small-time indie. That isn’t to say that big-budget movies tend to be happy and pleasant pics, but at the same time, they don’t feature nearly as much dread or misery as Seven Pounds does. Because studios are playing for a much-bigger audience, which therefore, means a whole lot more money’s at-play, most of the time, execs will make a film-maker go back countless times to the editing-room so that it tests well and doesn’t scare too many people away from it.

But oddly enough, it doesn’t seem like a lot of that happened with Seven Pounds.

Instead, bravely enough, both director Gabriele Muccino and screenwriter Grant Nieporte, seem as if they were able to keep the sad tone as they had intended it to, with the incredibly shocking, and even more upsetting end. While you can get on this movie’s case as much as you want with its execution, there’s no denying the fact that it took a lot of guts to make this movie and have it stay the way that it did. And though I won’t get too deep into what happens at the end, I will say this: It’s a big shock.

At the same time, however, it’s a bit silly and abrupt. This is mostly due to the fact that throughout the whole movie, Muccino and Nieporte try their absolute hardest to mask just what this whole plot-line means, why we’re watching it, and what it is that’s driving Will Smith’s character to do all of this nice stuff for all of these random people. By using tiny flashbacks, Muccino doesn’t necessarily fill us all in perfectly on where this is all leading, but he makes it clear that everything is happening for a reason, even if it’s all too simple and easy to understand for its own good.

That said, Seven Pounds is an odd mix of a film that, at times, wants to endearing and heartfelt, but also, miserable and painstakingly mean, even if it tries to talk out against such feelings. Most of this comes through in Smith’s performance as Tim Thomas who, sadly, is a bit too bland for somebody as talented as Smith to work and excel with. Rather than allowing for Smith to try out new shades of his acting talents that we may have not seen already, Smith is instead let-down by the fact that Thomas is a bit of a pessimistic and bland person who, every once and a blue moon, will get up and yell at someone, but soon, change his tune and go back to being quiet and brooding.

Rosario's happy.

Rosario’s happy.

In a way, there seems to be two different characters at-play with Tim Thomas, and it’s a shame that Smith is stuck having to work with it all.

Though Smith doesn’t get nearly as much to do here, Rosario Dawson does eventually take over as Kate, a sweet, honest girl who, by the end of the movie, we definitely feel sorry for. However, that’s one of the biggest problems with Seven Pounds: We never actually get to care for Tim himself. Some could say that’s the point of this movie, but I’d definitely like to argue said point; there are many scenes that depict Tim as both, a selfish and heartless person, but also, others that show him as a sweet person, just trying his hardest to do whatever it is that he can to make sure that those around him are happy and pleasant. Though we’re told Tim’s doing this all for a reason, we still never get to fully figure out just who exactly Tim is, which is why the majority of this flick is just watching as some random dude, goes around to random people, helps them out in random ways, and does it all for some random reason.

Sure, we know that the reason’s going to be explained to us at the end, but that also means sifting through two hours just to get to that final reveal. Which means, that we also gave to sift through a lot of scenes where people scream, cry, smile, kiss, make love, and act nice, yet, none of it ever hit the notes that the film-makers clearly want it to. But hey, Will Smith wanted a movie made and guess what Will Smith got? A movie, starring him, produced by him, that also kind of features him as a nice person.

But then again, maybe not.

Gosh! I still don’t know!

Consensus: As daringly bleak as it may be, even for a mainstream flick, Seven Pounds is still not as emotional or compelling as Will Smith, or anyone else around him, may want it to be.

4 / 10

But together, they're as happy as two people can be! Good for them!

But together, they’re as happy as two people can be! Good for them!

Photos Courtesy of: Comingsoon.net

Insurgent (2015)

See what happens when you don’t conform, people? All hell breaks loose.

After messing with the Erudite’s plans, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run and in need of some sort of shelter so that the evil, diabolical head of Erudite (Kate Winslet) can’t force them to be something that they aren’t. Because of this, they find themselves in the company of many random groups – one of which includes Four’s mother (Naomi Watts) who seems to have the same mission in her head as well. The only problem is that nobody is able to fully trust Four or Tris, so they must figure out a way to retrieve this secret box that has all sorts of special powers that only certain people can attain. One of those people just so happens to be Tris, but she’ll have to get to the box, in one piece, before she loses her life and ruins all of the plans that the “Factionless” have had to conquer their society.

This is a very hard premise to write about, because honestly, there’s not much here. Not just because I don’t care about any of this (which I don’t), but because the bulk of Insurgent seems to be about getting this mysterious box and doing so without dying. Or, at least that’s what I thought it was about.

Sorry, Jai NotTaylorKitsch Courtney. You'll get 'em next time.

Sorry, Jai NotTaylorKitsch Courtney. You’ll get ’em next time.

In fact, most of the time while watching this movie, it’s never made clear just what’s really driving it, or even what the main point is; we know that Kate Winslet’s character is up to no good, but why? What does she want from all of these faction-less people that she can’t get elsewhere? And also, just what the hell is up with that box?

These are all questions that you may, or may not, find toggling around in your head. Which is probably a good thing for Insurgent, because at least that’s something to think about while all of the boring proceedings take place in front of you, without you ever feeling invested in it, or having much of a reason as to why you should care about it in the first place. It’s how I felt about Divergent, but at least that movie had enough world-building and character-development to allow for the two-and-a-half hours to go down smoothly.

Here though, Insurgent is a half-hour less than Divergent, but it feels at least ten times longer.

That’s a problem in general, but when your movie has as little plot, character-development, and/or interesting metaphors to offer as this, then you’re in huge trouble. Which is probably why YA movies such as these try so hard to latch onto the popularity of other (better) movies like the Hunger Games, or even Harry Potter. Those movies felt like they had a reason to exist; a reason to explore the universes that they created; and even better reason to give us compelling characters worth rooting for, and sometimes even despising the hell out of. The Divergent franchise has barely any of that, and it shows just about every minute of this second installment.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t some enjoyment to be had with this material. Some of the performances from this ensemble are well-done (especially from a newly-acquired Naomi Watts, who fits in well), and the crazy, over-the-top action-sequences that occur in this LARP-like world are quite neat to look at, but whenever the movie gets back to the reality of this world, it becomes all the more clear that there’s just nothing really holding this together. The world that this movie has created isn’t at all believable, but the movie doesn’t know this – instead, it constantly hits us over the head with metaphors out the wazoo about “being yourself” and “standing up to those who try to make you think or act like they do”.

It’s basically everything my high school therapist told me, except that he actually cared about my well-being. This movie, on the other hand, doesn’t. It just wants my money and my time so that I can hopefully come back around and see what’s crack-a-lackin’ with the next two installments of those already over-done franchise.

How does one actually get caught into this situation?

How does one actually get caught into this situation?

Which brings up another question: Will I actually give them, the creators of this franchise, what they want and go to see these next few movies?

You know what? Probably.

The reason being is because, despite my best intentions, I’m already in too deep. Movies like these where the franchise doesn’t need to exist, nor does it need to be as long as it is, always get me because once I’ve seen one installment, I have to practically see them all. It’s sort of like binge-watching a new TV show and already wanting to give up on it. Then, you realize that there’s maybe two more seasons left and rather than just leaving it at that, calling it a day, and moving onto the next TV show that you’ll probably want to give up on about 30 episodes in, you stick with it because already, you’ve seen too much. You can’t give up – you have to keep on watching, seeing what happens next.

And why is that? Well, because you already made the first mistake of watching the initial installments to begin with. After them, you’re screwed and practically owe your life to whoever created whatever it is you’re watching. It sounds like a painful, miserable, and downright excruciating experience, but that’s because, it is.

Insurgent is a painful movie to get through, and it shouldn’t be. With this stacked of an ensemble, there should be more than heavy-handed metaphors for them to deliver, but sadly, that’s what we get. Nobody here is a real character; they’re just serving a plot that thinks it’s a lot smarter or thought-provoking than it really is. They spout babble about “being themselves” and “not giving in”, but by saying that, the movie has already set itself up for failure. That the movie is conventional, plodding, and like anything else you’ve ever seen in the many years since Twilight hit theaters, already shows that Insurgent should have taken its own advice and branched out a bit more. Instead, it’s just like the rest of the pack.

Damn conformists.

Consensus: At two hours, Insurgent is already too long with hardly anything interesting to say, do with its thin-plot, or offer to its ensemble, who clearly have better places to be than slumming it low like this.

2.5 / 10

"We don't need no education!"

“We don’t need no education!”

Black or White (2015)

Better title – Drunk or Drug-Addict.

After the recent, tragic death of his wife, Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) is left grieving, with nothing more than a bunch of booze and a grand-daughter named Eloise (Jillian Estell) that he has to take care of all on his own. That wouldn’t be such a rough task, if Elliot could just put down the bottle for a second, but wouldn’t you know it? Elliot not only has a problem that he can’t fix himself, but is incapable of allowing anybody else to fix it for him. But still, he treats Eloise with kindness, love and respect – like all pop-pops should. There should be no problem with that, except for the fact that Eloise’s other grand-mother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer), wants her to spend more time at her place; something Elliot is not quite a fan of due to the “economic environment” that they surround themselves with. Not to mention that Elliot isn’t on good terms with Eloise’s father, aka, Rowena’s son (Andre Holland). Rowena wants to be around her grand-daughter more and decides that it’s time to take the situation to court, where her lawyer brother (Anthony Mackie) will try and push the case more towards Elliot’s racist-tactics, even if they aren’t there to begin with.

She's happy with him.

She’s happy with him.

It would seem a little risky for someone like writer/director Mike Binder (meaning, someone who is white), to tackle a film that deals with racial injustices and the certain stereotypes each race sets out for the other. That’s not to say Binder himself shouldn’t make a movie that deals with these issues, but considering the type of tension going around our society currently, to say anything bad about any race whatsoever, let alone African Americans, it would almost seem like a death-warrant. Sometimes, these movies need to be made, and other times, they don’t.

In this case, Black or White did not need to be made. Which isn’t to say because it criticizes certain aspects to black people’s culture (because it definitely criticizes white people as well), but it’s because it so clearly is trying not to offend anyone, of any particular race, gender, or belief, that it tip-toes its way back to the starting line and feels like it’s playing it all way too safe. Now, I didn’t need a totally scathing-outlook on white, or black cultures; however, what I did need was a compelling story that was willing to take charge with the points it wanted to make and actually saw them through. More or less, Binder presents them, alludes to them on certain occasions, but hardly ever takes that extra mile to actually address them in a way that would bring forth some discussion or any bit of controversy to what he’s saying.

There’s an elephant in the room throughout all of Black or White (which is racial-relations and who is right, and who is wrong), and Binder seems to constantly avoid going further and further in-depth about it.

But that’s not to say all of Black or White is poorly-done, because it seems like whenever Binder focuses on the actual story itself, he has a clear head of what he wants to say and how. Normally, this means that Binder’s trying to say Kevin Costner’s character, Elliot, while not perfect or fully-equipped to be the father that this little girl need or deserves, he’s still trying and that’s all that matters. And because of that certain element to his character, Costner is allowed to dig deep into what makes this character tick, and just get by in this world. It’s a shame that the movie constantly wants to have Costner’s character drinking some sort of alcoholic beverage in nearly every scene, because when he doesn’t seem to be too tuned-up on the hair of the dog that bit him, Elliot seems like a genuinely sweet, kind man.

However, too often than not, Binder uses Elliot as the butt of his own joke; the same joke where everybody says he looks, acts, and talks like a drunk, which is true, because he is. It’s hardly ever funny, and not because alcoholism is something not to be joked around about, but because the way it’s done here feels so obvious and tacked-on. In fact, there’s many moments where Binder’s film never makes a clear decision of whether it wants to be a comedy, or a drama. Certain lines a character says, while may speak some heartfelt truth, sort of comes off as a joke that Binder is using to lighten-up the mood when everything else here seems to be getting too hot, heavy and dramatic for the crowd watching in their seats.

Most of these moments come from Octavia Spencer’s Rowena, who I not only found incredibly grating to listen to, but came off as something of a caricature after awhile of what Binder imagines most black men and women’s momma’s to be. Rowena is constantly hootin’, hollerin’, and forgetting to hold her tongue when she knows she should and is always sticking up for her boy, even though she knows he’s not the right fit to be a father in the first place. The film actually references this and shows that Rowena does not in fact want to take Eloise away from Elliot in the first place, but much rather perform a dual-custody type of situation, however, she still treats him like she can’t trust him at all with her baby-girl and wants nothing more than to win this case, and kick the dirt right up in his face. It’s actually quite strange how she acts towards him, both before, during, and after the case, and it’s a shame that Spencer is thrown through such a haywire-of-a-role.

She's happy with her.

She’s happy with her.

She clearly deserves better. As does everybody else in here.

But what it all comes down to with this movie, meaning, the only reason to see this movie for any reason whatsoever, is Costner’s performance. He reveals certain shades, dimensions and aspects to this character that maybe weren’t at all even alluded to in the original-script, but Costner is somehow able to bring to the table. If you want a better example of this, check out one of his final scenes in the courtroom by the end, where he makes it clear that every action he made, for himself and for Eloise, was specifically out of love and adoration, and not out of spite. The movie wants us to see this character as something of a troubled human-being that deserves to at least give up his reigns as Eloise’s sole-provider, but for me, what I saw was, yes, a troubled-man, but one who clearly had the best intentions with everything he did, and everything that he planned on doing. He’s like many men I know in my life, most importantly, my own father.

Such a shame he didn’t get a better movie. Sorry, dad. I mean, Kev. Yeah, Kevin Costner’s not my dad.

Just disregard all that.

Consensus: Writer/director Mike Binder is dealing with some interesting issues in Black or White, but never seems to express them in a thought-provoking way that doesn’t feel preachy, or over-the-top, even if it does get by a tad bit on a great performance from Kevin Costner.

4.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So why can't we all just get along, folks?!?!

So why can’t we all just get along, folks?!?!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Get On Up (2014)

Use your own bathroom next time.

Anybody with half-a-brain knows who James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) is. He’s one of the most known figures in all of music and his legacy continues to live on today. However, there’s more to all of the dance moves, the funky jams, and high-speed car-chases that we all hear about when his name comes up in a conversation;  see, he too, like everyone else, was a young boy who had dreams of making a difference in this world, that all stemmed from the fact that his mom (Viola Davis) left him at an early age. Left with not much else to do from there, James decided to start living in a local whorehouse, where he would do whatever was necessary for a little boy of his age to be doing in order to have a place to sleep, and food to eat. Then, when he was a teenager, he got arrested and sent to jail for stealing a suit. While in prison, he meets a guy by the name of Bobby (Nelsan Ellis) who sees an actual talent in him and wants to be around it, and see what they can do with it. Eventually, he gets James out of prison and they start a musical-group that goes through many different incarnations, with James Brown being the only constant member.

Because in James Brown’s world, all you need is James Brown.

Musical biopics can usually go absolutely one way, or they can go another way. One way is that they can be total conventional pieces of junk that do more harm to the subject than any slanderous article may have ever done; or, they can show us that the subjects we’re watching here truly are talented, yet troubled individuals indeed. However, sometimes, that just ends up playing out like a VH1 Behind the Music special, but with a bigger-budget and stars. So yeah, musical biopics, for the most part, regardless of how interesting the person/persons may be, aren’t always well-done.

"Alright whitey. Off the stage and let me show you to shake and jive them hips like you "allegedly" know how to do."

“Alright whitey. Off the stage and let me show you to shake and jive them hips like you “allegedly” know how to do.”

But is there ever enough space in this world for there to be a biopic that’s just considered “okay”? Well, maybe. And if there is, I think that Get On Up would be located somewhere in there; which isn’t necessarily to say that it’s a bad biopic that does harm to James Brown and the type of man who he was, it more or less shows his both his faults, and his positives. Most of it lingers on the later, than the former, but hey, this is a biopic about James Brown! It can’t constantly hate on him, or else there’d be no inspiration for a movie to begin with.

And director Tate Taylor definitely seems to be inspired by the life of James Brown, if only maybe more so by his professional life, than his personal one, but there’s still interest all around and it shows throughout a good portion of this movie. Most who know James Brown as “that guy who could dance real good and say that he feels good”, will be surprised to know that there was a little more to his life than just some fine moves both on, as well as on the stage. Taylor uses a non-linear narrative to show us various moments in Brown’s life that either impacted him, or those around him, which, for most movies it would utterly confuse the hell out of anyone watching, but here, somehow doesn’t.

That’s mostly because James Brown himself went through many phases/incarnations throughout his whole storied-career and it’s easy for us to identify what was happening to him when, where, and just exactly who he was in good graces with at which time. Because, James Brown being James Brown, who he was actually friends with to begin with, made a whole hell of a lot of a difference. He wasn’t a very likable guy and didn’t always do the right things, at the right time, with/to the right people, but he at least always put on an exciting show and never gave the crowd something that they didn’t want to see him do.

Which is to say that playing such an high-wired, electric character, in a biopic about him and his life no less, would be a hard task for any actor to accomplish – let alone an actor who literally just had his first, leading-role of his career playing another famous figure in American-culture – but somehow, relative-newcomer Chadwick Boseman absolutely gets the job done perfectly. Right when we see Boseman on-screen, piled on with pounds of make-up to make it look like he’s the older-version of James Brown, it looks goofy, so of course, it’s a bit hard to believe. But, as soon as we hear Boseman talk, that all changes.

Not only does Boseman become James Brown, but has us forget that it’s a standard, conventional biopic about somebody’s life we already know plenty about. There’s a certain unpredictability to where he’ll go with this performance, which, in and of itself, becomes more than just an “impersonation”; he channels what it’s like to be such a lively performer almost non-stop. He hardly ever slows down, nor does he ever want to; James Brown, as I’d like to imagine him as being in the real world, was the sort of guy who always wanted to have a ball, while also be exactly who he was, without ever seeming like a joke in anybody’s eyes. He’s got the dance moves, the swagger he carried wherever he went, and even that raspy voice of his. Even if he doesn’t actually sing the songs themselves, there’s still something impressive and exciting to watch about him just moving all over the stage as if he is Brown, calculating his every move, but without calculating too much to where it doesn’t seem as if it was all coming off the top of his head.

A Radiohead concert, this is not.

A Radiohead concert, this is not.

Because James Brown, was never a fella you could pin-point from point A, to point B.

Once again though, like I mentioned before, that’s not to say that this movie wholly glamorizes the life of James Brown; it sort of just lays his story out there for us to take in, piece by piece. Sure, you could say that it likes more about his story, than it doesn’t, but at least there’s something about this figure that’s imperfect, and not constantly making him out to be some sort of savior. Because even though some people out there in the world probably view him as just that, it’s not true; James Brown, like all of us, was a human being. He had feelings, wants, needs, and pleasures that he sometimes let get a little too into his head, but he at least stuck to who he was and went out there, night after night, performance after performance, and gave the crowd exactly what they wanted: A fun show that they would remember till the end of their days.

Now, that said about the actual person himself, does that make this movie memorable?

Well, not really.

Cause like I was saying earlier about Taylor’s direction, although he does jump around rather sporadically through Brown’s life, for a whole two-and-a-half-hours, it’s not always interesting. Some bits and pieces of his story are left out (mostly his drug-use), and even the parts that are hinted at, still feel forced into so that Taylor didn’t have to worry about not portraying the man as a whole person; warts and all. And although this isn’t a kind of raw biopic, you still get a sense that some of this guy was bad, whereas most of him wasn’t. It’s weird how they do this, but I guess Taylor really did respect James Brown for all that he has given to the world.

Not just the music world, mind you, but the whole world in general.

Keep up the funk, people.

Consensus: Without Chadwick Boseman stealing the screen every second he gets, Get On Up would be another moderate, yet ultimately forgettable biopic about one of the world’s most famous musicians of all time, but has enough excitement and fun to go along with the more dramatic-moments to make it all gel out well enough to be forgiven.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Dan Aykyroyd wishes he had a poof as good as that.

Dan Aykroyd wishes he had a poof as good as that.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Snowpiercer (2014)

Public transportation really is a pain.

In 2014, the government is afraid that global warming will rip our worlds to shreds, so they decide to test out an experiment which will supposedly counteract it. The problem is, that doesn’t happen. Instead, nearly all life on Earth is knocked out, with only a few hundred or so left riding on this super duper, seemingly never-ending train called “the Snowpiercer”. It doesn’t seem ideal at first, but when the world outside of you is a frozen wonderland, you take what you can get; but don’t tell that to those who have to stay, live and survive at the tail-end of the train. They’re considered “the low-life’s of society” that live poor, dress poor, and eat these black gelatin-bricks, they’re are told is “protein”; whereas the rich sit up front, eat their steaks and live in total luxury. It’s been like this for quite some time, but finally, the poor have had enough of being treated like total and utter crap! That’s when Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) decides that it’s his time to step up, take charge and map-out a way to get to the front of the train, find the creator, find that engine, and basically, take over the train as a whole. Sounds simple enough, but with the riot-team this train has, getting there is only half of the mission.

It’s taken quite some time for us Americans to get to see this movie, but finally, Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut is here! And yes, even though I just recently got into him, I have to say, from what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been impressed. I like how Joon-ho is seemingly able to take all of these different genres of film, throw them into a blender, add a drop of sugar or two, and somehow, still be able to have it all come out fun, exciting, interesting, original, and best of all, cohesive.

"Call me 'Cap', one more time."

“Call me ‘Cap’, one more time.”

That’s why, as ambitious as this project sounds, I was a little weary. Not because the reviews for it haven’t been good (actually, quite the opposite), but because it seemed like the type of film that gets so hyped-up in the States, because it’s so different/original from anything our lazy, cheeseburger-lovin’ asses see. It doesn’t matter if the film is bad or anything, as long as it features something else other than giant robots facing off against one another, then hey, strap me in coach, I’m ready to play. Personally, I don’t mind that with some movies, but maybe with this here flick, I was more inclined to be against it, solely because everybody and their weird, stay-inside-all-day-nerdy-brothers are loving the hell out of it.

But fear not, ladies and germs! DTMMR has seen Snowpiercer and yet again, DTMMR has given into what the rest of the world has been saying: It’s pretty rad.

That said, the movie isn’t perfect and I think that’s the most important fact to note right away. Because see, while this movie is all sorts of ambitious, strange and, for lack of a better word, “different”, it can be a bit messy. Not just with the action that spills out all over the place at times, but because the balance Joon-ho has here between having people beat the bloody hell out of one another, with said people sitting down, chatting about life and what it all means, isn’t very well-done. You can tell whenever the brakes on this movie are hit, because it doesn’t just slow everything down to a slower-speed, it slows absolutely everything down to a freakin’ halt.

That’s not to say that whenever the movie wanted to sit down, chat for awhile and be more than just “poor vs. rich; fuck yeah!”, it was bad or annoying, it was just clearly obvious that Joon-ho felt like he had to include those moments in there, just so that people wouldn’t be upset that there wasn’t any “substance” behind all of the brutal murders and acts of violence. And although those said brutal murders and acts of violence are a bunch of juicy-fun to watch and see play out, there was still a desperate need for this movie to be about something “more”. Not just in the existential-crisis kind of way where we all take a break or two from the action, to sit around and cry for hours on end about how, one day, we’re all going to die; but in the way that we’re given a story that feels like there’s a reason to it existing.

And for the most part, Joon-ho totally delivers on that point. Not because it’s fun to see a bunch of poor people dressed like chimney-sweepers from a Dickens novel, battle it out with a bunch of riot police, but because you get lost in their cause and what it is that they want. Although, I will admit, it was more interesting seeing as how this movie never quite addresses what it is that these poor ones are wholly fighting for; sure, they want to get to the front of the train, get to that engine, talk to the owner of it and become the big men and women on campus, but in all honesty, what exactly is it that they’re going to do when they get up there? It’s never really brought to our attentions (not just by the film, but by the characters themselves), which is why it’s so thrilling to see them battle their way to the front, and even more thrilling to watch them as they figure out and come to the realization that they have to think of something, and something quick if they want this train to be theirs.

That the film doesn’t feel the need to hit us over the head with non-stop “we’re the 1%” metaphors, really felt like a refresher. But was even more refreshing was just seeing an sci-fi/action blockbuster be exactly all that it should be. It has heart; it has originality; it has blood; it has violence; it has fun; it has sci-fi; it has themes about people taking over control of a situation that they either can’t get out of, or don’t want in the first place that almost everyone can relate to (looking at you, Grandpa); and, to add a cherry on top, there’s a wonderful ensemble cast to go along the ride with as well.

Also, another interesting note to be made about this movie, is it’s cast. Not only are there some pretty big names, but they all comes from different shapes, sizes and regions of the world that it feels so strange having them together, on the same screen at times. Sure, I expected Jamie Bell and John Hurt to eventually cross paths in the film world, but you could have never told me that you’d expect to see Ewen Bremner and Octavia Spencer just hanging out, side-by-side, giving their enemies hell. Then again, maybe you could; maybe, I’m just a strange duckling. But either way, it’s a pretty unique cast that not only works to the movie’s advantage, but also helps make the idea of the whole world being thrown onto this ultra-train all the more believable.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

Tilda Swinton wants YOU to spend your money on this movie, and stop giving it to Michael Bay.

You can’t just have a dystopian-set futuristic world in which survivors from all throughout the globe have survived, and there be all American white guys just hanging around and shooting the shit about the good old days of bull-shitting about the Bush administration. This is the world, man! And last time I checked: It’s pretty damn big!

But although the cast is huge and pretty eclectic, the one who really leads this to the finish line is none other than an American white guy as is: Chris Evans.

Yes, for most of you hormone-fueled women (as well as gay man), Chris Evans has definitely been the pleasure of your eye-lids for quite some time, but he’s changing that all up now with this role. Not by throwing some dirt on himself and growing a beard, but by showing us that he’s an actor baby, and that he can sure as hell do exactly that, which is act! I’ve always had much faith in Evans as an actor, and here, he’s given free reign to not only command this group of his and be a leader, but also command this movie into being something more than just a sci-fi tale full of havoc, blood and destruction. He gives it some levity; most importantly so during one of the last scenes in the movie in which he talks about his history on that train, why he needs to do what he needs to do, and the type of effect it’s had on him for the past twenty or so years. Not only is it one of the most emotional scenes of the whole movie (of which there isn’t many), but it’s definitely the pinnacle of Evan’s acting-ability and shows that he can play both tough, angry, and emotionally distraught, all at the same time.

A very impressive feat. Try topping that, Downey.

Consensus: Internally, Snowpiercer is a messy flick, but it’s hardly ever boring, intriguing, nor against a crazy, out-of-the-box idea it didn’t like, making it one of the better, more memorable blockbusters of the summer.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess they don't have showers in the future. Oh well. Works for me!

Guess they don’t have showers in the future. Yay! Now I’d have an excuse!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Being John Malkovich (1999)

If it’s 15 minutes, then sure, give me Malkovich. However, if it’s FOR LIFE, then give me Brad Pitt!

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a sad, bored and out-of-work puppeteer that eventually gets tired and fed-up with all of his wife’s nagging (Cameron Diaz) and decides to get a job as a file clerk at some place where he works on the seventh-and-a-half floor of the building. There, Craig focuses his attention on his work, but also mostly on a smart, sexy and very intimidating co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he continues to try and win over, but always to no avail. One day though, at the job, Craig finds a whole new meaning to his life when he discovers a portal behind a huge file-desk that leads to John Malkovich’s brain, where he can only stay for fifteen minutes, until he is dropped onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Strange, right? Well, it gets even stranger once Maxine and his Craig’s wife find out about this portal, where, through some way, somehow, they end up falling in love with the other, almost to the point of where it gets Craig very jealous and able to use anything in his power to break them apart and be the apple of Maxine’s eye.

And poor John Malkovich, the man just gets thrown right into the middle of it all.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven't bathed in two weeks.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven’t bathed in two weeks.

So let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would ever believe that something like this could ever happen in the real world, let alone any world for that matter. Science would get so wrapped up into its own twists and turns that eventually, the world would just blow up as a result. Okay, maybe it’s not that severe or crazy, but you get the point: No way in hell could something like being inside of John Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes ever happen, but that’s the whole point behind this movie. Once you can get past that measly fact, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Charie Kaufman’s script than just plain and simple weirdness, and actually realize that this is all about the human-condition in which all of us humans from all over the world, no matter what time-period, all long to be somebody else.

Even if that person is indeed, John Malkovich.

Really random choice of a celebrity to have your movie revolve around and include more often than not, but that’s probably what makes this movie so unique; it doesn’t go for the typical ways of telling its story like you’d expect. Sure, once everything starts out and we get a glimpse at what a sad-sack loser this Craig guy is, who can’t seem to nab this hot chick at work, can’t seem to make any money, can’t please his wife, can’t get her pregnant and just can’t seem to do anything even remotely close to “right”, it seems to be like a down-beat character-study of a genuine loser. Then, once that portal is found out, the movie switches in a way that you’d probably never expect it to on a first-viewing, but still adore once you get to the second, or the third, or the fourth time around.

But like that sudden plot-twist right slap-dab in the middle, the movie whole movie itself is chock full of surprises that keep on giving and showing up in ways that never seem to lose you. Everything that plays out inside of Kaufman’s mind may not be the most realistic ideas imaginable, but they sure are fun, clever and original, so who cares about realism and science and all that crap! Just let a crazy idea, run on even crazier and see where it goes! That’s the motto I’d like to think Kaufman had in his mind while he was writing it, but also inside of Spike Jonze’s as well when he was adapting this, which must have been no easy-feet to begin with.

However, knowing Jonze from his background in some rad-ass music videos, the guy definitely knows his way around a camera and how to make anything work, regardless of how cooky it is. I mean now we know this as nothing more than a mere fact, but back in the days of ’99, he was nothing more than an actor-turned-director, who had plenty of ideas and aspirations with what he wanted to do, just nothing to really break off into the world with. But he found it here with Kaufman’s script and we’re all better human-beings for it because while he’s able to play around with genre-conventions and what we usually can expect from stories like this to play out, Jonze cuts to the core of what, or whom, runs this story and make it matter. I’m talking about the characters here, and how each and every one of them aren’t just a bunch things set in-place for the plot to run laps around, but actual human-beings with emotions, feelings, ideas and wonders about other lives out there that can’t help but get all excited and curious about this whole new “Be Malkovich for 15 Minutes”-thing.

But think about it, wouldn’t you be, too?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that Jonze knows exactly who these people are and why they are the way they are. Some people want to feel like somebody else for the sole sake that they can get away from their small, meaningless lives that are usually full of non-eventful happenings. And whether or not that’s actually true to begin with, doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that anybody wishes they could be anybody, somebody new and different for at least a day. Of course famous people are always on the top of that list, but usually, it’s just that any person in the world longs for a new life full of surprises, love, adventure and all sorts of new experiences that that person may have not been able to have in their old life. Yeah, this all sounds like I’ve been puff, puff, puffing away on the magic dragon, but we’ve all wanted that at one point in our lives. Heck, I want it right now! Oh, R-Gos! You hunk of man, you!

Oh, the third-and-a-half floor? Yeah, that's another name for "Interns".

Every building has a seventh-and-a-hath-floor. It just ends up being where most of the interns get thrown away to before termination.

And that’s exactly the type of people who these characters are in this movie: They long for something more, something that isn’t concerned with their own lives and somebody else’s. John Cusack’s Craig is exactly like that, and while you do feel bad for the guy at first, you do begin to feel like maybe he’s using this new-found freedom for the worst, rather than the betterment and you do begin to not like him. But that’s more of a compliment than a take-away, because with this type of flick, you need to know exactly whose going to use the power to their ability and for the right reasons, or the exact opposite, and take advantage. While Cameron Diaz’s nearly unrecognizable character may go through those same types of shifts at times as well, she too still comes out like a human-being, with a very soft, inner-core that just wants to be loved, be somebody else, but also, still be able to hold grip on reality if she must. Together, the two feel like a realistic, honest and rather innocent couple, that makes it all the more sad when they eventually get broken apart by this fascination with both Malkovich, and this other gal named Maxine, played by the always wonderful and terrific, Catherine Keener.

Keener is always good at playing these slightly snobbish, but also painfully honest characters and she hits it hard on the head right here. Maxine does not pull-back once she sees something she doesn’t like, disagree with or feel comfortable with, and I like how she had no filter whatsoever, yet, making her the perfect object of both of Craig and his wife’s’ affection. She’s so different and mean, that she just has to be the girl that they want to spend the rest of their lives with and be excited about seeing everyday. However though, while it would have been easy for Keener to play it up as this one-sided, cruel and nasty bitch, there is an emotional side to her that begins to show and we realize that maybe her character is the one we’re supposed to be caring about all of this time?

Then again, maybe not as it’s definitely none other John Malkovich himself who deserves all of the love, credit and sympathy for many reasons, but the main which being that he actually decided to do something as weird as this and thankfully for him, it all paid off in spades. Not only is Malkovich the strangest, most random guy to have a movie like this have be its center, but he seems so willing to do anything here. He’s always been a solid actor who, time and time again, has proven that he can surprise us by showing depth and emotion, even in the most sickest and evilest of characters, but he really took me by surprise here when he started to s play-up all of these different sides to his “character”, yet, never feel like he’s just yucking it up for the camera. When Craig jumps into his body, you see a man that is ultimately infused with an endless supply of energy and happiness, and it makes you feel happy for Craig, but also for Malkovich himself as he’s clearly having the time of his life, playing what seems to be his greatest role ever: John Malkovich. Casting doesn’t get anymore genius than that.

Consensus: Strange? You bet your ass it is, but that shouldn’t have you take yourself away from seeing Being John Malkovich, one of the most originally mind-bending movies ever made, with a inner-core to its characters and message that makes it feel more than just a gimmick, but an actual life-lesson as well. Minus all of the sappy and manipulative chord-strings.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo,

Baggage Claim (2013)

Good thing she wasn’t afraid of flying, because otherwise, this would have been a hell of a lot longer.

For some odd reason, Montana Moore (Paula Patton) has just never been lucky in her life when it came to men. She’s always had boyfriends and some serious relationships, but they’ve just never panned-out much to be as serious as something like, say, “matrimony”. However, Montana’s little sister has just got engaged, which makes her see this as the time for a change in her life where she needs to find Mr. Right, even if that means going back to all of her exes. With her besties (Adam Brody and Jill Scott), Montana goes all around the world, hops from plane-to-plane, in hopes of meeting up with these guys while they’re flying up in the air. Most remember her and want to continue talking and being with her, however, some of them aren’t always winners.

So yeah, this is pretty much the African-American version of that dumb-ass, Anna Faris rom-com that came out a couple of years ago called What’s Your Number? If you don’t remember it, that’s fine, because you most likely aren’t alone but basically, it’s close to the same exact premise as this, just minus all of the black people, soothing R&B tunes, and the whole “baggage claimer” angle that seems as new as the Walkman. Anyway, everything I’m saying is practically rubbish because it doesn’t matter, just like this movie doesn’t matter. But in a weird, offensive way, it sort of does.

See, they make a man strip-down half-naked! Damn woman!!

See, they make a man strip-down to being half-naked! Damn women!!

See, what’s so strange about this material is how the film treats its main subject, making us believe that not only can somebody who looks and acts like Paula Patton, NOT find a dude that she could love and settle down with before she hit her 40’s, but that it’s right for somebody like her to find someone that she could love and settle down with. I get why her mother feels like she should, but that’s excusable. Once the movie starts to point its big finger at Montana and tell her that she must get married, she must find that special person, and that she must do it before her little sissy does, honestly, just felt wrong to me. And yes, this is coming from a dude.

It’s pretty weird to see that we could have a chick-flick, rom-com that actually speaks against a woman being her own, independent-being, and more for finding somebody that she can be with, mainly because she has to. Not because she necessarily wants to, but because she needs to so that she can prove a point and not look like such a unlovable wretch in front of every person she meets. To me, this all just felt wrong, and supremely outdated since feminism sure as hell has come a long way since, say, I don’t know, the 1950’s!!!

But honestly, this is just me trying my damn near hardest to try and get past the fact of the matter with this movie; the fact which is that it’s just not funny. I understand that most of these rom-coms are going to follow the same formula, with the same rhythms, beats, conventions, clichés, etc., but there has to be something, hell, anything to get me happy, laughing, and the least bit interested in this material as it’s playing-out. But no, nothing. I couldn’t find anything really, so I just paid attention to its central message, and realized that it’s a bunch of crap that no woman should take to heart, let alone even take notice to. And I get that most women will want to see this movie and think that it’s an empowering-statement of how women should be able to choose who they want to spend their lives with, regardless of what others/society think, but I don’t think that the movie even goes that far, let alone scratches that surface. It just wants to be a goofy, silly, and dumb romantic-comedy that’s supposed to have a meaningful heart, but comes off as somewhat mean-spirtied.

Not fully, but somewhat. However, I’m just going to quit it while I’m ahead because I sound like a complete nut talking about the meaning and understanding behind a movie like Baggage Claim.

Seriously, where has my mind gone?

I wonder what has HER so shocked. No, I seriously wonder.

I wonder what has HER so shocked. No, I seriously wonder.

Okay, anyway, as I was saying about the movie: Yeah, it’s pretty dumb and oddly-delivered, but the cast is good and charming, and I think that’s worth talking about, let alone praising. It should come as no surprise that Paula Patton would get a chance to have her own rom-com vehicle, seeing as that she’s been getting to be a bigger and bigger star by the role she turns in (and who she’s “sadly” married to), and she is charming enough to make her character work for awhile. Montana isn’t as much of a bore to watch as most of the female lead-characters in these dry rom-coms are, but she isn’t necessarily “different” either. She’s always running, always looking to get laid by the hottest man possible, and always has to fall over or hit something when she’s trying to be cool or swift. It’s the exact type of character you’d expect from a rom-com of this nature, but Patton pulls it off well and makes you forget about her character’s many, MANY, shortcomings.

And as for everybody else, well, they’re all fine and sometimes very charming, but ultimately, feel wasted on some pretty cruddy material. The only two who really deserve credit among this supporting cast is Jill Scott and Adam Brody as Montana’s two best-friends who bicker and bat with one another, yet, still love and help their friend whenever she needs it the most. There’s something endearingly sweet to them, but also hilarious to watch because they hold great screen-chemistry together and had me laughing whenever they had something to say. Especially Brody, who hasn’t been this funny since, like, like, LIKE, ever. Also, note to future film makers out there: Next time you put Djimon Hounsou in your movie, make sure the dude’s got some sort of facial-hair to cover-up his scary mug. I sound like a dick, I know, but the dude’s got a scary look to him when he’s trying to be nice and charming. Oh well, he can still sure as hell kick my ass, so I better watch what I say.

Consensus: One could get past the unfunny jokes, constant clichés, and downright predictability of Baggage Claim, however, with the sideways-message at the center, you can’t help but be a little turned-off, even when Paula Patton’s beautiful-self is on screen the WHOLE, DAMN TIME.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

She's looking for the best available escape-route.

Just look at her, she’s so looking for the best available escape-route.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Just when you thought cops were becoming everybody’s heroes once again….

Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something odd in the air. He can’t quite put his finger on what it is really, but he thinks it’s a sign that he needs to stop from hustling and bustling ways, get clean, and start anew. This means being a better husband to his long-time gal-pal (Melonie Diaz), being the son his mother (Octavia Spencer) wants him to be, and best of all: always being there for his daughter when she needs him the most. Throughout this whole day, Oscar sees what his life was and what it could be if he puts his mind to it, but honestly, he isn’t too worried because it’s New Year’s Eve baby, and he wants to just have a good time. So good a time, that he eventually ends up getting shot and killed by two BART police officers in cold blood. Yup, so much for changes, right?

Now, for any of you peeps out there who may already be pissed that I just spoiled the hell out of this whole movie, cool your jets because not only does the last part of that synopsis happen in the first five minutes of the movie, but it’s also a true story, that you may or may not have heard about. I for one, never heard of this story, but apparently it caused plenty of havoc around the Bay Area and had the two cops involved, disbarred and put in jail (of course only to have one of them actually be released several months later), but that’s the real beauty of what this story is really all about: What happened that tragic night and figuring out the people/person behind it all. Of course we don’t know how much of this story is just pure speculation or what is actually what went down from dusk til dawn, but at the end of the day; Oscar Grant was a man who was wrongfully killed and will hopefully spark more and more debate about what’s wrong and what’s right, when it comes to what the police can and cannot use as protection.

My daddy never gave me any piggy-backs.

My daddy never gave me any piggy-backs.

Yep, it’s going to be one of those reviews. Get ready, baby.

Already, people are touting this as “this year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild“, mostly in the sense that this too is a small movie that’s already making plenty of waves around the festival circuit. However, I don’t think it’s comparison really holds up as this is a movie that concerns something very real, honest, and frank with what it’s portraying, that it’s an honest wonder how this movie hasn’t already been made yet. Granted, the actual murder occurred four years ago, but in Hollywood time, all you need is a couple of months and weeks to get a script, director, cast, budget, and shooting-times locked and loaded for a movie to be made. Thankfully though, this wasn’t made or even really produced by Hollywood. It’s all indie, all the time and thank heavens for that because it makes you feel closer and closer to this story than you’d ever expect.

Oscar’s day isn’t a really eventful one, and that’s what makes this movie pretty damn unique. We pop right into his life without any real flashbacks (except for one key scene) or knowings of who this character is, and what everybody else he sees or meets means to him. We are just plopped right into the dude’s life and basically expected to follow in line with what he, and everybody else around him says, which is easy to do since he is so easy to like, even if he isn’t perfect. I have no real clue as to what type of person Oscar Grant was in real life, but from what this movie makes him out to be is that not only was he hustler, drug-dealer, and gang-banger, but he was also a pretty dedicated father that was there for his wife and kid. Sure, the dude messed up plenty-upon-plenty of times, but he still was there for them when they needed it the most.

However, all that I’m saying is mostly pure speculation as we don’t actually see what Oscar used to be like before this fateful day. But then again, we don’t need to because the movie seems to have already mapped-out enough info and details about this dude, his life, what he does, how he does it, and who he is as a person, which makes us care more and more for him as the story goes on. Drug dealers are bad news, no matter who the person may be, but Oscar makes you think that at the end of the day, he will do the right thing and that’s all that matters when you have a story as humane and honest as this one.

Bad news is, we know how the story ends and whether or not he does the right thing means jack shit, because the man died, and for what?

Which brings me to the idea of this movie: Why did Oscar have to die? As soon as the cops show up at the end of the story, we see Oscar and his buddies criticized for the sole reason that they are black and do believe me, it does not stop there. It gets worse and worse and worse, because it seems that these cops not only have authority problems that probably spur from the fact that their mommies and daddies didn’t love them enough when they were children. but they can’t handle a little disagreement between officers and “alleged” prisoners. However, it doesn’t matter what the reason may have been since it only makes wonder “why”, but also, “for what?”

Like the old saying goes, "Momma always know what's up". Or something along those lines.

Like the old saying goes, “Momma always know what’s up”. Or something along those lines.

Oscar Grant was a very troubled guy, but he was still a human that didn’t deserve to get his life taken away so quickly. Then again, nobody does and it’s just a shame that somebody who seemed to really be turning his life around or get involved with making right, had to suffer the consequences for something as stupid and idiotic as a slight scuffle on the subway. I’m not going to give away any further details, unless you don’t already know the story, but the final 30 minutes of this movie are probably some of the most tense I’ve had to go through the whole year so far. Hell, the movie’s like that the whole run-time because you know that no matter what Oscar does, no matter how much promises he makes to the people around him and no matter how long Oscar tries to keep up this get-up of being straight and cool that sadly, the man is going to be nothing more than just another man, wrongfully shot and killed for the sake of a bunch of misunderstandings. That whole feeling rests right in your stomach and has you feeling more and more emotion for Oscar and the story, as soon as the actual shooting actually shows up on-screen. And trust me, once it hits, it’s going to hit you bad, bad, bad. Just as it did to me and apparently, to everybody else in the theater surrounding me.

Don’t get taken away by this story though because as rich as the actual, real-life material may be, the discussion doesn’t quite smack your train-of-thought like it should. For instance, without giving too much away and being as vague as possible, the movie ends on a note that shows Oscar and what’s left of his family as they mourn his death, and it shows a tribute to a man that could have been you or me, but wasn’t. That’s all fine and dandy because Oscar’s story is one that’s meant to be heard loud and clear, but should also spark up some more discussion, which I don’t think this movie had the balls to do just yet. It does point fingers at the cops for being terribly over-zealous with the use of their weapons, but it doesn’t go much further than that. It shows the problem, what happened, how, and why, and leaves it that.

Not much more after that except for a couple of very upsetting scenes that tug on the heart-strings as much as you’ve heard (or may have not, I don’t know). And just like I said, that’s not a bad thing if you’re giving a movie to a real person’s story that’s meant for the big-screen, but there’s so much material and promise here to really capitalize on getting people talking, thinking, arguing, discussing, and getting on the backs of either sides. If the movie made that next step, we would have had a masterpiece on our hands, but it didn’t reach that pinnacle. Instead, it was a nice feature flick about a man who’s life was not just a tragic one, but a real one that anybody on this Earth could have lived as well, it’s just sad it had to end the way it did.

Very, very sad indeed.

Once again though, who Oscar Grant really was is really all up in the air because the movie only uses speculation and what I hope was actual testimony from friends and family alike. Well that, and also Michael B. Jordan’s amazing portrayal of him that is sure as hell going to get him some real deserved Oscar buzz. Jordan is great as Grant because he shows the guy in many ways, all of which seem realistic enough to be taken in as actual fact, even if we don’t know if it’s fact or fiction or just a person reading a script and going with whatever emotion comes first. Whatever it may have been for Jordan, it sure as hell worked since this performance is nothing short of perfection, in the way that he’s able to make us feel something, anything, for this guy regardless of what he does throughout the day.

As I stated before, Grant wasn’t a perfect person, but he was a person nonetheless and showed promise for being an understandable and trustworthy husband, father, as well as a friend. Jordan never loses sight of making this real-life person, anything else but realistic and for that, I really do want to see this guy get a nomination of some sorts come February next year. I know, I know, I know! It’s early as heck for that type of talk, but with the buzz this movie’s been getting: I can actually see it happening. Fingers crossed, people!

"Don't worry, boo, I sort of got your back."

“Don’t worry, boo, I sort of got your back.”

Melonie Diaz is also great as his girlfriend of many, many years as she knows who Oscar is and doesn’t always stand for his shit, but at least still knows that he’s a good enough man that she’ll stick with him at the end of the day. She’s a very realistic woman, and one that every man sure as hell hopes to be with at the end of the day. Octavia Spencer plays Oscar’s mommy and shows the same type of emotions that Diaz shows in the way that she knows who Oscar truly is, but still loves him no matter what. The scenes these two have together are not only raw, but very emotional in that you can see how these two would still stick by one another, no matter how far off-track the other one went. But above all, I’m just happy that the lady has gotten a role that’s worthy of her Oscar-winning role two years ago. Never thought it’d come around, but thankfully, it did in the form of this movie and this role.

Lastly, we have Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray as the two cops involved with Oscar’s death and this is where the slope gets a tad bit slippery. Both are good with their short run-time they have on-screen, but in order for the movie to make them feel substantial enough to pay clear enough attention to and continue to think about even until this day, they needed more time and more material to work with. I get it: The movie is more concerned with Oscar’s side of the story, as it’s obviously clear he was the one who was wronged, but what about the cops themselves? Did they do anything wrong or were they just doing their job? Or hell, if you think about it, could you blame them for accidentally killing Oscar? The questions that I just made up were ones that the movie could have definitely went with and totally hit the nail on it’s head, but it didn’t go that far. And I’m all for rooting for the one who was the victim, but there could have been further development and discussion on the other side. Then again, there may have not been all that much to deal with, so I might just be making shit up that’s non-existent.

All I will say is that if you hated Chad Michael Murray before, you’re going to hate him even more now. Damn you, Lucas Scott!

Consensus: Many people will feel plenty of countless emotions during and/or after watching Fruitvale Station, most of which are deserved, but something still tells me that there is an argument to be made here that still hasn’t been brought to the lime light for all to see, prey on, and devour. Maybe that will come around once people actually see it, but until then: I wait and I wait.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

4 black guys. 1 white cop. Wonder what's going to happen next....

4 black guys. 2 white cops. Wonder what’s going to happen next….

Smashed (2012)

Anybody wanna split a case?

Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul) are a happy, and young married-couple that like to let the good times roll, enjoy the night-life, and drink non-stop. It’s all fun and games for them, that is until Kate goes too far and decides it’s time for her to cut it all out and get her life back on-track. She does, but with most sobriety tests; there’s always perks somewhere to be found and that’s the problem Kate and her hub, will most likely run into.

Movies about addiction are nothing new, and 9 times out of 10, that is usually the case. Flight took everybody by-storm because every person that saw it, thought it was a realistic and disturbing look at alcohol addiction. Those people weren’t necessarily wrong, but they weren’t necessarily right either. Rather than getting into a debate about this and that movie, I’ll just state that this movie is a more-realistic look at addiction, the steps it takes to come out of it, and how the people around you influence you the most. In Flight, all we cared about was whether or not Denzel was going use the mini-bar or not. Once again, not bad, but not as humanizing as this movie is.

What I liked so much about this flick, is the way that writer/director James Ponsoldt approaches this topic, this story, and these characters, and he never really frowns upon them or makes judgement. You can tell that this dude, whether or not be him or somebody close to him that he might have known, might have gone through the same exact problem of addiction, and it shines through this movie because nobody ever seems to get the terrible-look that most movies make the mistake of. Of course there are a couple of characters that show-up here and there, and are just as sneaky and dirty as you’d expect, but they aren’t caricatures that are all about sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, and brew, they just like to have a good time, even if that means they end-up sleeping on a couch in the middle of the street.

"Honey, the eggs have been burning for an hour..."

“Honey, the eggs have been burning for an hour…”

Ponsoldt seems like he has a clear head on his shoulders when it comes to showing us what it’s like to go through a problem like addiction, moving on in the world, and trying your damn near hardest to get through it. Like this flick presents, it’s not that easy and usually, it’s like freakin’ hell, but the movie never seems to glamorize the life that these people have made for themselves. They get drunk, they get stupid, they get wild, and they forget about it the next day, and go through the same cycle. It’s just the way of life for some people, and that frank, but honest look at the reality of the situation, is what really resonated with me. I’m not saying that it made me think twice the next time I go to my buddies’ dorms and decide to throw back a couple of Natty’s, but hey, at least it gave me the view on what it’s like to be a person that has a problem such as this, and what it’s really like to get through it all.

But I can’t continue to go on and on and on about this movie without mentioning the person that really makes this movie fly: Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Winstead has shown-up in a bunch of movies, done her thing, but never really lighted the screen-on-fire. Sure, she was pretty awesome in Scott Pilgrim, but if that’s the only claim-to-fame for her to have, it isn’t anything showwy for her. That’s where this role for her comes through and shows us that yes, she can act. Winstead is amazing as Kate because she never loses her own self of living throughout the whole movie, no matter how much she is at the bottom of the bottle. She does get insane-o drunk sometimes, and always goes too far, but you always feel for her because you know she is a nice person and would never, ever do anything to hurt a fly. That’s why when things start to change for her and she starts to think twice about drinking all of the time, we really feel for her and we really stand-behind her, no matter how hard it is to stick with the sobriety. There are a couple of scenes where I thought her drunken-act was a bit much, but she still nailed it in making us worry for a person, that we knew didn’t deserve this type of a problem, but then again; who does? Kate could be you, could be me, could be your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your dog, your cat, your pigeon, anyone. That’s the whole point of this movie, or at least what I thought it was, and that’s where Winstead really shines through the most.

Basically Ron Swanson, if he was sad, lonely, depressed, and feigning for a scotch.

Basically Ron Swanson, if he was sad, lonely, depressed, and feigning for a scotch.

Aaron Paul plays her hubby that’s always drunk and always acting like an ass, but he still has a nice presence to him where you feel like he is a nice guy, really does love his wife, and wants what’s best for the both of them, but just can’t put down the bottle. Once again, Charlie is probably like anybody we know, but he still has those problems and the marriage between these two, as troubled and as problematic as it may be, still touched me in a way I sure as hell didn’t expect, especially when that ending came around. Woo-wee!

The rest of the cast is pretty damn good too, even if a bit strange. Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) plays Kate’s co-worker and is great at playing it short, sweet, and subtle, even if I do think that a couple moment she lets loose just a bit too much. What I mean by that is that the guy is funny, we all know that, and when they give him the chance to be funny, it seems a bit misplaced. That being said, Offerman is still good and gives me fine hope that he may have the chance to do more than just Parks & Rec. Maybe. His real-life wife, Megan Mullaly plays the principal of the school that Kate works at, and is a lot better when it comes to pulling-off the dramatic and comedic sides of her skills, but even sometimes she feels a bit misplaced. If the movie decided to take a full-on comedic-approach, with dramatic splishes and splashes, then they would have fit right in. But this is not one of those movies and it doesn’t work quite well as I would have liked. The only person in this supporting-cast that seems to nail the tone down real well is Octavia Spencer as Kate’s sponsor, and does a perfect job at nailing that hard-look at being sober, but what pleasure and happiness it can bring to a person.

Consensus: It may not all add-up, but Smashed is a surprisingly dark, but realistic-look at addiction  and shows that this can be anybody in the world, but just so happens to be a young, promising young woman named Kate, played perfectly by Winstead.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Wanna go out for a couple of drinks?"

“Wanna go out for a couple of drinks?”

The Nines (2007)

Should have just stayed in the box, Ryan.

Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis appear in multiple roles which combine into three intertwining stories: A popular TV actor is under house arrest in “The Prisoner”; a TV producer struggles to launch a new series in “Reality Television”; and a video-game designer seeks help for his stranded family in “Knowing.”

I never really knew much about this flick other than that it’s been sitting on my Netflix queue for quite some time and that it wasn’t half bad since it had a 3 1/2 star rating. Thankfully, Netflix didn’t let me down. Or, well, not that I think just yet. Still questioning whether or not this thing really had me all ecstatic in the first-place.

Writer/director John August definitely started this flick off on the right foot with his first part, called “The Prisoner”. What I liked about this was that it was pretty funny, a little goofy, but also very strange how there was some weird ghost-like vision going on throughout this whole part and it made me wonder what I got myself into. There was a lot of questions that I kept on asking myself but then as soon as I thought the answer was coming up, Part 2 and 3 came around, then I got totally confused out of my ass.

It seemed like August definitely had a vision and clear-cut idea of what he wanted to do with all of these three intertwining stories, but for some odd reason, they seemed like they were all lost half-way through the second part. There are so many ideas being brought up, so many questions being asked, and so many different subplots coming from out of nowhere, that after awhile it became tiresome for me to handle it all in and try to understand just what August was throwing at me. The dude definitely had some bright ideas here but they all seemed to get jumbled up with whatever else came to his mind at the time of his filming.

And as confusing as the flick got, the ending left me with barely anything to feel. The last 10 minutes start to get very sappy and almost too serious because the whole film had this serio-comedy thing going on for the first two parts, then it suddenly just drops it for dramatic sake and it was a real let-down since August was doing pretty damn well with the comedy aspects here. It also bothered me that the everything was explained at the end, but I never really understood that either. The number 9’s significance to this story is explained but it seemed somewhat random and a lame excuse just to have some significance to the story. And the whole main twist at the end just seemed like a good idea on paper, but once it was played out on the big-screen, it comes off as way too pretentious and artsy for my liking. I didn’t really know what August was trying to do with these twists and the explanations to this story, but I definitely didn’t feel moved or inspired in any way shape or form.

However, with all of that said about the confusing twists and dumb-ass explanations, I still was very intrigued and entertained by this flick mainly because of August’s structure. The first two stories were very well-done and I mostly liked the second one because it put a cool spin on the whole “reality TV show” look and showed just how ugly and mean the entertainment business can be. Yeah, does it seem a little too random for something like this? Of course, but August’s writing kept me intrigued in wondering what was happening next. Also, sometimes if you pay close attention, you can sometimes catch little hints here and there about what’s really going on as other characters start to utter certain types of dialogue that has already been used in the film before and it was pretty cool to pick that up and see what August could do with this story. Shame that it ended up where it did, but it still had me entertained and that’s all that really matters.

One of the major hypes around this film was about whether or not Ryan Reynolds could carry a whole film all by his lonesome-self. Thankfully, he does just that. Reynolds is so damn good with all three of his roles he has in this flick and shows his range that goes almost all-over-the-place in terms of emotions. Still, I always bought what character Reynolds was playing and it made me realize that he does have some real talent, he just needs to get the right type of roles. Hope Davis was also very good in her roles and I don’t ever really remember her being as sexy before, as she is in this flick, and Melissa McCarthy (aka big chick from Bridesmaids) is also great here and brings a lot of humor and heart to each one of her characters, one of which, is actually herself. All three are great and play each of their roles very well, but in the end, it’s more about August’s style and what he can do with this wacky and wild story and it gets in the way of some rich performances from a pretty narrow, but interesting cast. Oh well, at least McCarthy’s been nominated for an Oscar already. I guess she’s beat these two to the punch.

Consensus: The Nines shows that Ryan Reynolds is definitely able to carry a film on his own, and definitely had me more interested in it’s crazy story than I originally thought I was going to be, but it gets way too confusing in a way that seems almost intentional from writer/director John August. However, I was never bored and maybe that’s a positive.

6/10=Rental!!

The Help (2011)

This is why we should should program robots to help us instead.

In 1960s Jackson, Miss., aspiring writer Eugenia Phelan (Emma Stone) crosses taboo racial lines by conversing with Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) about her life as a housekeeper, and their ensuing friendship upsets the fragile dynamic between the haves and the have-nots. When other long-silent black servants begin opening up to Eugenia, the disapproving conservative Southern town soon gets swept up in the turbulence of changing times.

To be honest, I wasn’t too stoked about this when I first saw the trailer and poster for this, but after awhile it was a chick-flick that started to interest me more and more. Thankfully, it did because this a film that the guys don’t wanna miss.

I haven’t read the book that this film is adapted from, and it seems like I don’t really need to since there is a whole lot here that is brought up, shown, and never lost throughout the whole film. This is a lot of thanks to writer and director Tate Taylor who does a great job of fleshing out all of these characters wonderfully and giving us that little emotional roller coaster that most of us were already expecting after seeing the trailer.

Race relations is always a bit of a touchy subject, no matter what the time is, and here they don’t try to sugarcoat anything really. They just tell the story for what it is and bring out some beautiful moments as to why we can all get along with one another. There’s an old-school feel to this film but it still works because I was very touched by what these black maids did and how far they got just by telling the truth. It may sound a bit gay from my description right there, but it’s not all that bad, trust me.

However, the biggest problems with this film lie within it’s direction. Tate Taylor is good when it comes to the writing but there are long periods of time where we don’t see certain characters for almost 10 to 20 minutes at a time as the film is constantly jumping around to each story left-and-right. This became an annoyance after awhile because I felt like they could have cut out more scenes where it was just all these characters together, or just one central character for about 5 minutes, not a scene that lasted for about 15.

I also had a problem with the time-limit as well. I didn’t keep on checking my watch because I was bored and wanted to get out of there, I kept on checking it because I realized that this damn film was going on for about two-and-a-half hours. I was getting so annoyed by just how long every scene was and by the time the film was over I felt like I was in there watching that for about three hours. This may sound a bit like me bitching, but honestly, it was long.

The cast is amazing here and got me through a lot of the rough patches in this film, especially Viola Davis who needs that Oscar. Davis plays Aibileen Clark and turns in a raw performance that just shows how well she can carry a film, and make almost rather predictable story-telling seem totally moving no matter what you’re about to expect. Another show-stealing performance here is from Bryce Dallas Howard as the complete racist, Hilly Holbrook. Her evilness may be as subtle as Cruella De Vil but the way Howard completely lets us believe that a woman could be this evil and mean towards other humans, totally had me wanting her character told to go and shove it. Which, when you’re playing a villain/bad guy, is a good thing.

Emma Stone is good as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, even though she kind of is forgotten about when you think about the rest of the cast; Octavia Spencer is perfect as the wise-ass but vulnerable, Minny Jackson; Jessica Chastain was a total delight as Minny’s silly employer, Celia Foote, and every scene these two have together just made me like the film more and more by how perfectly acted they both were; and Allison Janney is also very good as Skeeter’s mom. Sissy Spacek also shows up in this film as Hilly’s mother and is by far the most memorable out of the whole cast, and had me happy knowing that legends like her can still do great roles like this.

Consensus: The Help goes on way too long and seems a little choppy from an editing stand-point but the cast makes up for all the flaws, and the story itself keeps you glued and ends with a fairly predictable but pleasing send-off.

7/10=Rental!!