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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Oscar Isaac

The Promise (2017)

Can’t deny what they make movies about, right?

A medical student by the name of Michael (Oscar Isaac) meets a beautiful dance instructor Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) in late 1914 and the two instantly fall in love. Well, sort of. He falls for her, head over heels, but she already has a boyfriend, an American photojournalist named Chris (Christian Bale), who is dedicated to exposing the truth. However, the one thing keeping them together and united is their Armenian heritage and in the time they live in, it matters most. Cause as the Ottoman Empire crumbles into war-torn chaos, all three must have to put their differences and passions aside to ensure that they save one another and help out those who need it the most.

A lot of the positive reviews about the Promise seem to highlight the fact that it isn’t perfect, it’s a little messy, and oh yeah, it’s a bit of a faulty-look at the Armenian Genocide, but is being made and should be praised for nonetheless. In some regards, I see this, understand this, and agree with this; whereas most Hollywood studios would like to turn a blind-eye to such a catastrophe like the Armenian Genocide, especially since the Turkish government still refuses, to this day, to actually admit it happened, the Promise is the rare exception. It’s made, it’s got something to say, and it’s there for the whole world to see.

How could a girl deny that beard?!?

Does that mean that they should see it? Probably not, good intentions and all.

The one issue of the Promise, no matter what it tries to do or say, is that it all revolves around this love story and that’s just hard to get past fact. There have been countless movies that have used real-life tragedies to star-glossed, passionate and heated love-affairs (Titanic, the Impossible), but the reason why those kinds of movies have, for the most part, worked, is because their attention to the tragedy is well-known and the romance is actually something to get behind. While the Promise does pay an awful-lot of attention to the tragedies of the Armenian Genocide, it also spends nearly as much to a love-triangle that, in all honesty, just never works.

It never registers because the whole time, we know that the Armenian Genocide is going to happen, it’s going to take over the story, and we’re not really going to be all that concerned with whether they live or die; we’re way too busy worrying about all of the countless others that are going to hit their graves already. It’s why the Promise, try as it might, just doesn’t work – it’s romance is lame and the fact that co-writer/director Terry George spends so much time on it, shows that he was trying to play center-field, and not only appease the studios and audiences who wanted a love story, but also dial down on the Armenian Genocide stuff, too.

What the set of Exodus: Gods and Kings should have liked look, but nope!

Aka, the stuff that really counts and needs to be talked about.

And it’s a shame, too, because the trio of leads here all do their best, but the screenplay is sometimes so cheesy and melodramatic, they almost never have a chance of surviving it. Oscar Isaac turns in perhaps his possibly first bad performance as Michael, as he’s saddled with an Armenian accent that seems to go in and out; Christian Bale is interesting as Chris, the journalist who wants to expose the truth, but also feels so made-up, that it’s hard to see him as anything more than “a type”; and Charlotte Le Bon, as the object to both of their affections, is charming and pleasant, but once again, is given a dull-role as the woman who everybody loves and falls over for. It’s probably what happens to her everywhere she walks in real life, but it doesn’t feel like the right time, here, in this movie.

There’s clearly bigger issues to discuss and drop over.

Consensus: Despite the legions of ridiculous deniers, a movie based in-and-around the Armenian Genocide like the Promise, is a step in the right direction, but with such a weak script and love-story surrounding it, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

4.5 / 10

“Women, men and children are being wrongfully slaughtered, but hey, let’s have that passionate embrace!”

Photos Courtesy of: Open Road Films

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Love to see these little indies around the holidays.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

First things first, reviewing Star Wars is a lot like reviewing the air, or water: It doesn’t really matter, because people already love it and everyone has a thousand opinions on it. That’s why, with the Force Awakens, I sort of stayed back, gave it a week, put my review out and watched as the haters came out to hate, the lovers came out to love, and the moderates just stay put. Why? Because it’s Star Wars – some people love it, some people hate it, and some, such as myself, like it when the movies are good.

And with the Last Jedi, trust me, it’s good, hence why my review is out today and not just another week from now.

So emo.

Why? Because there’s actually something to really go on and on about and that’s the Last Jedi is the best in a long while and feels like the opportunity where the die-hards either put-up, or shut-up. It’s one of the rare studio-flicks of a blockbuster, billion-dollar hit that not only feels accessible to everyone, but also tests what some people love about the franchise in the first place. Meaning, it’s a little dark, a little light, a little weird, a little scary, a little action-packed, a little steeped-in its own world, and it’s also a little nuts.

But most of all, it’s fun, exciting, thrilling, and honestly, I never use this term, but “epic”.

And why? Because the powers that be at Disney decided to take a chance on one of our most promising and interesting sci-fi directors with Rian Johnson, who not just wrote the script, directed it, but also fought long and hard for his vision. And it clearly shows; almost every frame has a certain bit of beauty to it that it’s as if every shot could be an iconic image, plastered on fanboy’s walls by the summer, or in the next decade. Johnson himself seems like a fanboy, but doesn’t just rely on cheap tricks, like call-backs, Easter-eggs, references, or even in-jokes that sometimes, make most franchises a little too winky and meta; trust me, they’re all there, but they don’t over-power the material.

Spin-off? Maybe? Please? Pretty please? Make the world a better, happier place?

And it’s why the Last Jedi is as incredibly compelling as it is – it deals with everything we know, love, appreciate, and sometimes get annoyed by with Star Wars, but sort of turns it on its head. Whereas the Force Awakens was a bit of a refresher and reminder that people can have faith in this franchise once more, the Last Jedi proves that you should most definitely have faith in this franchise, love it, hold it tight, and never let it go. It’s the right kind of mainstream-entertainment that feels like it was made with a lot of people’s pockets in mind, but also feels a little dangerous, because it isn’t afraid to take certain steps that most franchises at this point in time, would back away from, or not even think about.

Once again, sounds a little vague, but that’s only because the more surprised you are by what happens, the better.

Then again, the movie doesn’t get by on shocks, twists, turns and surprises, but mostly, entertainment in the purest sense. It’s big, bright, loud, and expensive-looking, but it’s also sometimes sweet, small, dramatic, and touching. It can also be silly, random, and seemingly throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, but it also feels perfectly thought-out, smart, and a step above and beyond what we usually get with mainstream-fare. And oh yeah, it’s a love letter to the franchise itself, the characters, the connections, the relationships, the galaxy itself, the history, the exposition, and the craziness of it all, but also, a reminder that this franchise will continue to go on, get better, bring in more interesting characters, better actors, and definitely never, ever forget to remind us to have fun, love it all, and not get too caught-up in what all the naysayers do and, uhm, say.

Once again, I’m talking about Star Wars here, people. And I am definitely happy to say that my cynical, angry and depressed soul is back to loving it all over again. I’m glad to be 24, but I’m also glad to feel like a kid again.

Let’s hope that feeling sticks around and stays. God. This franchise is dangerous.

Consensus: Though it’s steeped in already so much pathos and nostalgia to begin with, the Last Jedi is an exhilarating, action-packed, fun, emotional, and most importantly, epic installment that further makes the case for why we still need Star Wars in our lives.

9 / 10

Spoiler? IT WAS IN THE FREAKIN’ TRAILER

Photos Courtesy of: Walt Disney Pictures

Suburbicon (2017)

Racism and bigotry. Only in the late-50’s, right?

It’s the late-50’s and everybody in America seems to be happy. In this particular case, it’s Suburbicon, a small, yet quaint suburb where everyone is joyous, lovely, nice to one another, and oh yeah, very white. So much so that when a black family moves in, all hell breaks loose. But while this is all happening, there’s the Lodge family who, in their own ways, have another tragedy to deal with. Gardner (Matt Damon) has just lost his wife to a duo of robbers and now has to bounce back, as does his son, Nicky (Noah Jupe), who doesn’t quite know how evil and dastardly the world is just yet. However, he soon learns this fact of life when he finds out that not only is his father shacking up with his aunt (Julianne Moore), but that the two are planning on sending Nicky away to a boarding-school of sorts. But why? Nicky doesn’t quite know yet, until those robbers start coming around and expecting more money – something that Gardner doesn’t want to do, but at the same time, doesn’t have much of a choice.

“Clean this up, you animal!”

And oh yeah, there’s a lot of racism on the side, too.

Deep in the center of Suburbicon is a really tight, lean, mean and relatively fun darkly-comedic thriller that feels exactly like a rip-off of the Coen’s. Which is obviously purposeful because, for one, the Coen’s wrote this, but also feel as if they’re treading familiar waters, poking fun at suburbia, the hidden secrets we all tell ourselves, and just how one incident, can snowball into many, many more. It’s typical Coen’s and it works.

But then, there’s all of the racist-stuff to go along with it and yeah, that’s where Suburbicon falls apart. And it isn’t that what director/co-writer George Clooney brings to the table isn’t meaningful; this notion of the 50’s that we all have is sweet and dough-eyed, yet, it was also very troubling, especially in terms of social-issues. Is this an altogether crazy and shocking surprise to anyone that’s ever taken a history course, anywhere, at any time? Not really, and it’s why Suburbicon, while well-intentioned, drops the ball.

Also, Clooney probably isn’t the best director for this kind of tricky material, either.

After all, he’s not the kind of director who’s known for his subtlety, nor for his skill of blending together different genres, tones, and moods. Look at every movie he’s directed, save for Good Night and Good Luck., and you can tell that they’re taking on a lot and honestly, it’s too much for George to chew. He does an admirable, serviceable job on all of those other flicks, but he seems to always get stuck in a hole where he doesn’t know where to go with his movies, nor what he’s actually trying to get across. He’s just a messy director and while I want to give him credit for taking risks, he hardly ever sticks the landings.

And that’s the case with Suburbicon, although, because he’s working with a Coen brother’s script, he’s a lot better off. Whenever the movie isn’t focusing on the social-issues about race and religion, it’s actually kind of fun and a little twisted, but whenever it is, it’s ham-fisted, obvious, and not all that surprising. What’s weirder though, too, is that Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov seem to be going for some kind of satire that gets so over-blown, so crazy, and so insane, it doesn’t hold-up. It’s as if Clooney didn’t think he was getting his point across enough, so he had to literally bang us over the head with a hammer to make us woke.

Save us, Oscar. Please.

Nobody’s doubting that you’re woke, George. Just shut up about it already and make a good movie.

But at the end of it all, what saves Suburbicon, aside from the Coen’s side of the script, is the cast who all seem to be trying very hard to make this work. Matt Damon has a lot of heavy-lifting to do as Gardner Lodge, the dorky, seemingly square father of the family and has to show a darker, meaner side as the time goes on and it works. In a much tighter, much more focused movie, the performance would be better, but as it stands, it does what it needs to do and Damon’s good. Julianne Moore’s role is fine, too, although her character is a bit more silly and weird, which sort of fits, and sort of doesn’t. Either way, after this and Kingsman, it’s nice to see her playing around with some light and funny roles for a change.

But the real stand-out is probably Noah Jupe who, like with the rest of the cast, given a much more focused movie, could have really made miracles. Still, as the meek, mild and relatively sweet Nicky, who is starting to realize the whole world around him is crumbling, Jupe gets a lot of mileage out of simply standing in a scene and reminding us that he’s a kid, after all. There’s a certain sweetness to him that keeps some heart left in this movie, even when the rest of it seems to be getting wrapped in blood and guts. It’s a role that has me excited for what he next on his plate, so long as hoping it’s in a movie that gives him much more.

Oh, and Oscar Isaac is here for maybe two scenes and easily makes them the best.

Then again, when doesn’t he do that?

Consensus: Try as he might, George Clooney just doesn’t have the strongest chops to make Suburbicon, an already uneven and messy bit of satire, gel perfectly, but still gets by on some cheap thrills and a game cast.

6 / 10

“Honey, I won’t be home for supper tonight.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Eh. I’m fine with the apocalypse after all.

Taking place exactly ten years after the events that occurred in Days of Futures Past, the X-Men have now all found themselves enjoying some idea of lives of luxury. While they are still mutants with miraculous powers and looked at as “weirdos who can’t be trusted in a normal, civilized world”, they still get by solely through depending on one another’s good will. Professor X (James McAvoy) is still teaching classes, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is trying to keep the peace among the mutants and humans, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) now lives a comfortable life out in the woods of Serbia, where he has a wife, kid, and a solid job where nobody knows a single thing about him or his checkered past. So yeah, for awhile, it seems like everything’s all fine and dandy for the X-Men, until, after decades upon decades of sleeping, a powerful mutant by the name of Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) wakes up and plans on destroying the world with some of the most ferocious and powerful mutants out there who haven’t already been taken in by Xavier. This means that a battle between two sides of good and evil is about to occur, and who chooses which side is totally up in the air.

He's still a cool hipster-kind of guy.

He’s still a cool hipster-kind of guy.

Bryan Singer clearly loves the X-Men stories and it’s one of the main reasons why he’s been able to not only keep his career alive, but even their own stories. Even when Origins came in and seemed to destroy the franchise for good, he came back to help, and give everyone their favorite mutants that nobody knew that they loved and/or missed. He not only found a way to make their plight a sad and sympathetic one, but to also make their adventures actually interesting to watch and play out, especially when they’re all putting their mutant powers to the test.

And now, with Apocalypse, his fourth X-Men movie to-date, it appears that Singer may have run out of things to actually say about all of these mutants and what makes them tick. While I don’t think it’s necessarily his fault, it’s also hard to wonder where to take this story and these characters next; sure, you can give them plenty more evil-doers to go head-to-head with, but after awhile, it can just become conventional. And also, when all of your drama is about each and everyone of these characters just sitting around and moping about how “the rest of the world doesn’t accept them”, it can get a bit tiring.

So why tell these stories anymore?

Well, obviously, it’s all for money. They still make a pretty penny at the box office and it probably won’t change any time soon, however, I can’t help but think a similar superhero movie like Civil War, where it’s clear that there’s a lot going on, with so many different people, and yet, it all comes together so damn smoothly, will make ones like these pale in comparison. After all, Singer is taking on a whole lot of different plot threads, with a whole lot of characters to deal with and develop over a near two-and-a-half-hour run-time, so it would only make sense that he take care in making sure each and everyone gets their due, right?

Surprisingly, Singer doesn’t quite do this. In a way, it appears that there’s many characters with something to do or say, that after awhile, he just cobbles them all up together, and relies solely on the talented cast’s presence to pick up the pieces whenever they can. It’s not a bad idea, especially when you have such a great cast to work with like this, but there’s also that feeling that Singer doesn’t quite know how to develop this story anymore and just seems to be going through the motions.

We get plenty of action and most of it’s good, but when there’s no heart or emotion surrounding it, does any of it matter? It’s hard to imagine an X-Men universe without some of the core characters and actors that made the original franchise so damn appealing and iconic, but unfortunately, the creative team has set it all up that way. We won’t get many more glimpses of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, and even Anna Paquin – instead, we’ll just get more and more of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Hoult, and Sophie Turner.

New Wave = Villains

Everyone’s favorite New Wave cover band.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? Of course not.

In fact, that cast is so good, I’m honestly surprised that I didn’t care more for these characters once it was all said and done. But that’s the issue with Apocalypse – there’s so much going on, with so many people around and about, that no one person gets enough to do or make a case for why they exist. We’ve got so many great actors here and ready to play, yet, the material’s just not there; it’s all focused on building this villain and this predictable conclusion that will lead to the goodies, facing off against him.

And as the baddie, yes, Oscar Isaac gets to have some fun. However, because he’s so covered and hidden underneath all of that make-up, it really feels like a waste of a good actor. He gets to act all sorts of evil, what with his powers and all, but really, there’s not much else to him; all he wants to do is destroy the world because, well, why not? It’s so typical and it seems like a missed-opportunity for having someone as good as Isaac in a main role. Same goes for Olivia Munn, who literally shows up for pure sex-appeal, is given nothing to do and is expected to be an interesting character for future installments to come.

There will definitely be future installments people, but know this: They have to get better.

They just have to.

Consensus: With so much going on, Apocalypse becomes a mess that Bryan Singer tries so desperately to save, but only gets by because of a good cast and solid-looking action. But in a year of already two great superhero movies, it’s going to take a lot for this franchise to make its presence felt.

6 / 10

"Hey guys! If we look close enough, we may be able to see other superhero movies coming very, very soon!"

“Hey guys! If we look close enough, we may be able to see more superhero movies coming very, very soon!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Mojave (2016)

Chances are, random dudes you meet in the desert, aren’t going to be the ones to trust in actual society.

Famous Hollywood writer Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), is conflicted about his life so, one day, he decides to get up and leave his mansion, French girlfriend, and money behind, to venture out into the desert for some peace and solidarity. However, while in the desert, Thomas realizes that he may not actually be alone in this huge desert – in fact, he may actually be being followed. This is when Thomas meets Jack (Oscar Isaac), a drifter who says that he’s a director, but at the same time, doesn’t really seem all that convincing when he says that. He and Thomas, despite the obvious awkwardness of the whole situation, have a solid conversation about life, death, Jesus Christ and the devil, but it becomes all too clear that there’s something off about Jack that Thomas doesn’t want to be around. So, that’s why Thomas decides to leave the desert, as well as Jack behind; which, as a result, makes Jack very angry and forced to follow Thomas all the way to his glitzy and glamorous home life, leading to some very bloody, very violent results.

He's brooding.

He’s brooding.

William Monahan, nearly a decade ago, wrote the script for the Departed and he could have stopped right there. Already, he had given each and every person on the face of the planet something that they wanted, loved and adored, and right then and there, Monahan could have packed his things up, got all of his money together, and head for the hills, never to be heard from or bothered again, but knowing that he did something right for society. But seeing as how Monahan is, first and foremost, a creator, he decided to make Mojave which is, most definitely, a whole heck of a lot different from the Departed in many ways.

Of course, though, what Mojave does have similarly to the Departed, is that both movies feature big, rough, and tough guys being, well, big, rough, and tough.

And honestly, for the longest time of Mojave, there’s a lot to enjoy in just watching that happen, especially when the two said guys in question are Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund, two young talents that are so well-deserving of every role they’re given. Seeing as how both are actual friends in real life (as well as co-starred in Inside Llewyn Davis), it makes sense that they feature wonderful chemistry together, just playing off of one another and testing each other to their limits; the same is definitely said for their characters who are, randomly, at odds with one another for reasons we never fully know or understand. However, there’s still a feeling you can get watching these two pals act alongside one another, and just knowing that they’re having a great time watching as the other works the field, so they say.

Which is why, had Mojave just been a two-hander of these two talking about whatever the hell they wanted to talk and swinging their dicks around, it probably would have been a whole lot better, tighter and enjoyable. However, because Monahan adds on so much more than just these two going to battle with one another and leaving it at that, it becomes messy and we forget what makes the movie so strong in the first place: Isaac and Hedlund. While neither loses any sense of charm or presence in the proceedings, they still get pushed too far to the back so that Monahan can run wild, say whatever he wants, and do weird things that nobody expected, but nobody really needed to see, either. Monahan gets mixed-up in his own ideas where, one side of him wants to make this mono-e-mono thriller between these two colorful characters, but on the other side, wants to talk about Hollywood and everybody in it is a terrible, mean-spirited and disgusting place that nobody should ever get caught up in.

Wow, where have I heard this before?

He's weird.

He’s weird.

Clearly, Monahan’s not working with any life-changing, ground-breaking themes or ideas and it sometimes calls into question just how odd this movie can be. Mark Wahlberg randomly shows up a coked-up, over-the-top and wild Hollywood agent who is, definitely fun, but still doesn’t add much to the whole movie; Walton Goggins shows up as a Hollywood executive who is about as dead-spirited as they come; and yeah, then there’s a whole murder investigation that never seems to escalate, but still bring these two guys closer. Monahan brings up a whole lot of stuff here, but because he’s both the writer, as well as the director, there’s no holding back in just where Mojave can, and will, go.

Still though, it’s Hedlund and Isaac who make this movie work the most and it makes sense why they’re given the most to work, for better as well as for worse. Hedlund is, once again, playing up that whole brooding-angle he always shows and does fine with it. While Thomas, the character, may be limited in how much we actually care or get to know about him, Hedlund shows that there’s something of a soul underneath it all and it makes us sympathize with him just a tad bit more, even if we don’t really care either way where the story goes, or who ends up getting the ax.

But Isaac is perhaps the one having the most fun here and it’s great to see him just live every bit of this material up. In a way, as Jack, Isaac livens this material up a whole lot more than it probably should have been, as he’s not just funny, but more thoughtful than the movie may have called for. He’s got a lot to say about faith and Hollywood, or whatever, but he’s also got something to say about Hedlund’s Thomas, and it’s these revelations that I found most telling. While Monahan has a bone to pick with Hollywood, he still has a point in saying what he says, which makes me wonder why he’s making movies as conflicted as Mojave, and isn’t giving it his all again like he did with the Departed all those years ago?

The world may never know, but we wait and wonder.

Consensus: Hedlund and Isaac are great, however, Mojave‘s odd plotting and themes don’t always come together in a cohesive manner, that gives them the movie they wholly deserve.

5.5 / 10

Together, they're the perfect couple.

Together, they’re the perfect couple.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Wait! Where’s Jar-Jar?

Many years has gone by since the events of Return of the Jedi, and well, a lot has happened. For one, Luke Skywalker (Hamill), has gone into some sort of hiding, leaving many people to wonder where he is and also, try desperately to find him. Also, the Empire has finally, once and for all, shattered and fallen apart, but that isn’t to say that evil forces in the galaxy are over and done with; now, rising from the ashes, is called the First Order, led by a ruthless, powerful and evil baddie named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). But have no fear, kind citizens, as the Resistance still exists, however, they’re doing what they’ve always done: Fight the evil-doers and leave it at that. However, in order to defeat the baddies, the Resistance needs to find a small droid who is carrying a secret map to Skywalker, which just so happens to be by the side of a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). Along the way, Rey meets Finn (Jon Boyega), a former storm trooper for the First Order who has decided to defect and do whatever he can to stay alive and safe from the evil, harmful ways of the so-called bad allegiance.

The force is strong with this emo punk.

The force is strong with this emo punk.

Now, it’s hard for me to fully review/write about the Force Awakens without really bringing anything new to the table; for silly reasons, I wasn’t able to see the movie for nearly a week, which left plenty of time for people to commit all sorts of chatter about it. Mostly, it’s all been good and fine, but there are the occasional bad apples in the bunch who don’t like what they see and because they have an opinion that doesn’t fully agree with the rest of the consensus, they’re attacked, made fools of, and seen as members of “the no-fun police”. Granted, it is Star Wars, a very beloved and adored franchise, but still, it’s also a movie, and by that same token, it should be approached as any movie ever made.

Which is to say that yes, the Force Awakens is a good movie. Not great, but good. Don’t kill me, please. Just bear with me and we’ll see if we’re still friends by the end of it, okay?

Good. Let’s get to it!

No matter what’s said about any of the problems within the Force Awakens, there’s no denying the fact that co-writer/director J.J. Abrams deserves every bit of respect. First off, he took on the challenge of making another Star Wars film, which also just so happened to come out after he was working on making the Star Trek movies. Clearly, he has an affection for this kind of sci-fi geekery and because of that, he gives each and every fan from every background, something to cherish and hold onto. There’s plenty of callbacks here, most of which are well-done, and because of that, it makes it obvious, even from the very start, that Abrams cares, isn’t trying to keep this all for himself, and wants to share his love and appreciation for this galaxy, just as much as every other fan does, too.

That said, the problem with the Force Awakens is that, for one, it’s a Star Wars movie and it’s one that constantly feels the need to callback and reference the original ones. Which is, yes, fine for a punchline or two, but the references, similarities, or comparisons don’t just begin and end with the humor – it’s everywhere from the plot, to the character-development, to even the action itself. While this isn’t a spoiler really, it still goes to show the kind of disappointment that can be had when one realizes that the story-line here, starts the same, continues on the same, and almost comes close to ending, nearly the same way as A New Hope.

This is especially a problem because, well, Abrams and his band of trusted confidantes clearly had so much to work with at their disposal and well, to see them hark back to the story-lines of yesteryear, almost feels like a waste.

Why does, ultimately, the movie have to come down to it being a battle between two sides? Better yet, why does it have to be hinting at some sort of family-drama? And while I’m at it, do we really need to keep on developing Han Solo, Leia, and Chewie? Can’t we just have them around to do their things, in a way to allow for the new, probably more important characters take over, do their things, and give us reasons to actually give a flyin’ hoot about their part in this story? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset that Abrams decided to include Solo, or Leia, or Chewie, or anybody else from the old trilogy, all over again and show us all that they’re still alive, well, and doing what they’ve always done, but a tad too much time is dedicated to them, and not enough time is given to these newer ones who are supposed to be the leading stars of this new franchise.

Either way, it was nice to see Harrison Ford actually give a damn in a movie again, but it was even sweeter to see him playing as Han Solo all over again. Rather than seeming annoying and shticky, Ford wears this role like a glove that any line of wit he delivers, feels like a genuine reaction someone as wild and cool as he would deliver on. Carrie Fisher didn’t really get a chance to do much as Leia, except for numerous reaction-shots, but it was still nice to see her and Ford, on the screen again, clearly still having feelings for one another, but also realizing that a lot has changed, time has moved on, and well, they’re old.

As for Luke? Well, I’ll leave that up in the air.

But like I said before, not all of the Force Awakens is bad. For a movie that runs a tad over two-hours-and-ten minutes, it’s a surprisingly quick and exciting movie that hardly ever feels like it’s slowing down or not going somewhere. One of the main issues with the prequels is that we all knew where they were headed towards, however, they took so damn long to get there; here, while we don’t necessarily know where they’re heading, we’re still on-board, seeing just where Abrams takes the story next, and how he does it all. That Abrams takes familiar situations and plot-points that we’ve seen already highlighted in the earlier movies, but also turns them on their side slightly and shows them in a new light, adds a nice touch that only someone as smart as Abrams could deliver on.

Reunited and it feels so good! Just look at Harry's face!

Reunited and it feels so good! Just look at Harry’s face!

Cause I know that a lot of what I’m saying here makes it seem like Abrams missed the ball and ruined the Star Wars franchise, because he really did not. He sets everything up in a solid enough manner that it makes me all sorts of ready and anticipated for what’s to come next (in Rian Johnson’s movie, that is), while also not forgetting to keep enough going on in this story, that it doesn’t just feel like unnecessary filler. Stuff happens, is learned and made clear to us in the Force Awakens, and while plenty is left open and ready to be discussed in the upcoming films, there’s still that great feeling of knowing that yes, Star Wars is finally back in our lives and it’s actually in the hands of people capable of being trusted.

And I’m not just talking about Abrams, either, I’m also talking about the surprisingly great cast. Even though there’s no real big names among the young cast that will get the non-conformist’s butts into the seats, that doesn’t matter because they’re all still worthy of checking out and getting invested in, even if it can sometimes feel like the script isn’t giving them a whole lot to roll with or develop.

Daisy Ridley comes absolutely out of nowhere here as Rey and is a total star.

First of all, she’s got a crap-ton of charisma. Though she’s a female character, who also seems to be taking the role of one that would have been made for a man, the movie doesn’t make a point of this; it turns out that Rey, having been on her own for almost her whole life, is just a bad-ass chick that can take care of herself, regardless of what situation comes into her way. Sure, there’s one too many obstacles that she works out too simply or quickly, but hey, the fact that she’s a fun, but compelling presence on the screen, without being pushy or annoying about it, makes her more watchable and fun to stand behind.

Jon Boyega who, granted, already had a nice role in Attack the Block, does a fine job as Finn – someone who gets plenty of development and helps him and his cause more believable. Finn’s characterization is made out to be more of that he’s just a simple, everyday guy who doesn’t want to kill people for senseless reasons, but instead, wants to just be happy and live a normal life, but Boyega also makes him funny and charming, which doesn’t seem like something the script seems to always be calling out for. Rey and Finn’s relationship, whether it be anything more than just pals right now or not, is sweet enough that it tugs at the heartstrings a bit, but also not too developed to where we’re tired of seeing them together and get it already.

But really, it’s Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren who I can’t seem to get enough of. Granted, I love Driver already, but his casting as Ren, while initially, a bit strange, ends up totally working when you see it actually play-out. For one, Driver’s physical presence is demanding and intimidating, but he’s also really interesting to listen to, even when it seems like he’s just delivering “bad-guy dialogue”. Ren may appear to be a total and absolute bad-ass who can stop lasers in thin-air with the force, as well as be able to choke people from across the room, but he also appears to be a bit of whiny brat, who may not deserve all of this power and respect that’s at his disposal. We soon learn more about his backstory and why he matters throughout, but what should be said now is this: Driver’s good in the role and if anything, he makes me want to see more about Ren as well as the rest of the First Order.

As for others like Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, and Gwendoline Christie, and their characters? Well, that’s for the next movies to discuss.

Until then, we’ll just wait and see.

Consensus: The Force Awakens may be too familiar and easy for its own good, but is still an exciting, well-acted, interesting, and rather funny adventure back into a galaxy that we’ve been missing for so long, and can’t wait to see what happens with it next.

8 / 10

Step aside, R2, and eat your heart out, ladies.

Step aside, R2, and eat your heart out, ladies. BB-8 has arrived.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Ex Machina (2015)

Trust humans, or trust robots. Choose one. Can’t be both.

For no reason whatsoever, young computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is chosen to spend a week with reclusive billionaire Nathan (Oscar Isaac), where he remains secluded from the rest of the world in his palace in the mountains. Though Caleb isn’t sure as to why Nathan, of all people, would choose him to spend some time with and get to know, isn’t fully known; however, it’s an opportunity that Caleb will not pass-up. But when Caleb gets to Nathan’s place, he soon realizes that something is clearly up with this guy and not in a good way, either. Nathan drinks a whole heck of a lot, only to wake up the next day, work his ass off, and purge it all out of his system, only to then repeat the same pattern the next day. Not to mention that every time Nathan says something to Caleb, it ends up making the later feel incredibly uncomfortable in a manner that he doesn’t know how to discuss without offending Nathan, and possibly having him kicked-off this lovely land of paradise. And, let’s not forget to mention that Nathan has Caleb working with a robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), who may or may not be able to think like most humans do.

So rarely does a sci-fi movie come out where it doesn’t feel like the same threads are constantly being traced over. While some movies definitely try to be as far-out as humanly possible to avoid these problems, they mostly end up stabbing themselves in their own feet and just being huge, insane piles of mess that can’t really be cleaned-up; they’re their for the whole world to see and not make any sense of. Sometimes, that’s how the creators behind it prefer it to be, and other times, you have Christopher Nolan, in that he wants you to understand what he’s throwing your way, but instead of doing so, you just roll with it and try to hope he takes you to the promised land.

A computer geek with no porn on his screen? Yeah, alright!

A computer geek with no porn on his screen? Yeah, alright!

Basically, what I am trying to say is that making an actual good sci-fi movie, without it seeming like all else that has come before, is a total challenge.

This is a challenge, however, that Ex Machina is more than willing to go up against, even if the themes of artificial intelligence has been practically done-to-death by now. However, writer/director Alex Garland knows and understands this, and rather than trying his hardest to break away and make some sort of everlasting message about the way technology and humans are alike, Garland keeps everything as ground-level and as simple as possible. Though the movie is definitely a sci-fi flick in nature, Garland seems more interested in the complex relationship between the characters here, and because of that, the movie’s far more than just “another flick with robots in it”.

It’s a strange oddity that truly does go wherever the hell it pleases, with absolute reckless abandon. Which definitely makes it all the more difficult to discuss without getting down to the nitty gritty of what happens, why and what Garland is trying to say. Trust me, I shall do my best in keeping the secrets hidden, but if a little something slips out, consider it not intentional; there’s just something about this movie that makes me want to reveal everything and anything about it. Yet, at the same time, I realize some people want to be treated to chock full of surprises, and it’s totally understandable.

Because honestly, surprises is what you’ll get here.

Garland keeps the movie bumping along in a way that feels like we’re leading towards something, but what that is, is never fully known. We’re told early on that Caleb is given a task that he can either complete, or not complete, but if he does go through with it, it will most likely change his life, as well as the rest of humanity’s. That said, throughout the whole duration of this movie, the weirder things appear to be, the more the reason behind Caleb’s trip begins to blur. And whereas some movies I would be ticked-off at the lack of closure, here, I just decided to roll with it and see where exactly Garland was going and whether or not any of it made sense.

To be honest, not much of it makes sense, but there’s something interesting about that. Rather than going through the motions of a story that could be literally told to anybody who hasn’t read sci-fi before and already predict the ending right away, Garland throws as many curve-balls our way as possible, without ever seeming like he’s just bored. The movie’s twist and turns come with mood; where, one second, you’ll be laughing at an extreme dance-formation, and the next second, terrified because of someone’s threatening demeanor. The movie literally goes from one end of the spectrum, to another, and Garland doesn’t seem to have a problem with not making any sense of it; he’s just having a grand time throwing us down so many different hallways.

And most of the unpredictability does come from the performances here, which are made all the more impressive by the fact that we hardly get anymore than four characters here. There’s maybe one or two side characters thrown in here at the beginning, but once Caleb gets to Nathan’s place, it’s literally just four people, all walking around the same place, talking to one another and testing each other’s limits. This in and of itself is fun, but the cast is so talented, that it goes one step further and makes these characters complex specimens.

For instance, Nathan, at the forefront, seems like the typical billionaire a-hole, until you realize he isn’t. He gets trashed all day, falls asleep, wakes up, works out, and is constantly making Caleb feel awkward by the way in how he’s trying to seem “cool” and “inviting”, but is doing just the absolute opposite. It’s pretty hard to be sly about telling a person where they can and cannot go in your house, but trust me, watching Nathan handle every conversation he has with Caleb, where they could have gone to learn more about one another and bond like most males do, will make you want to buy each and everyone of your friends a beer in hopes that the know your cool, and actually mean it.

There’s more to Nathan however, and whether or not it’s sinister, is totally left up to us to watch and see. Thankfully, as always, Oscar Isaac puts in solid work as a guy who always seems to be acting like a dick, but he just doesn’t know it. However, there’s still humanity to this guy where you can see that he may actually just be a lonely dude in need of some friend-time with anybody who is willing to partake in it. Or, he could just be a total d-bag. Either way, Oscar Isaac is mesmerizing just about every second and proves why, once again, he’s the one actor we should all be looking and paying attention to.

Caleb’s the perfect counterpart to Nathan, because he’s not just meek, mild and nervous, but because he’s a tad clueless to any sort of hostility that may, or may not be coming from Nathan’s side. Doomhnall Gleeson is great at showing this Caleb guy in a light that doesn’t make him just seem like a nerd, but a nerd that has a heart, and most importantly, has one that needs some sort of love in it. Wherever it comes from, he oh so desires it and to watch as he comes to the realization of this and still try his hand at understanding Nathan, is engaging.

It’s weird, but once again, cool to watch.

The one who truly does steal the spotlight from these two, however, is Alicia Vikander as Ava, a robot who can think and act like a human, but is still a work-in-progress. This is where I really have to hold myself back, but what I will say is this: Vikander is a revelation in this role. With only being able to use her expressive face, Vikander is able to make us feel something for this robot character, that we don’t even know is good or not; we know that she wants to be a human and to be freed, but to what extent is that? The questions here that lie, may be answered.

Then again, they may be not. Check out for yourself.

Consensus: Strange, surprising and unpredictable, Ex Machina deals with a lot of ideas, but lets them sit second-hand to the exciting performances for these well-written, complex characters, who help put the broader theme of everything into perspective.

8.5 / 10

Is it already too soon for Death Grips cover bands?

Is it already too soon for Death Grips cover bands?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Most Violent Year (2014)

It’s rough out there for a oil salesman.

Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is an honest man, trying to make an honest living, with an honest wife (Jessica Chastain), and an honest family. However, during the winter of 1981 in New York City, that’s a lot easier said then done. Because once Abel makes a deal with a local money-launderer, everybody around Abel who either loathes or envies him, don’t want him to pay any of that money back. Instead, they want Abel to go broke, get found out by the cops, and possibly even dead. Though, the problem for Abel isn’t that it seems like everybody’s coming after him, and only him, it’s that he doesn’t who it is, nor does he want to stoop to their levels of violence, murder, and corruption. He believes he is better and doesn’t want to dirty-up his business one bit. But now that the cops are hot on his tail, Abel believes that it may be time to step up and defend his business, or become what everybody around him wants him to become – a goner.

Sometimes, it’s incredibly easy to classify a movie as what it seems to be, or better yet, actually sounds like. For instance, A Most Violent Year is the kind of movie that looks and sounds like that it would be another violent gangster-pic in the same vein as a Scorsese flick. Heck, it even has the word “violent” in its title, so how could it not have people whacking one another?

"Ya heard?"

“Ya heard?”

Well, sometimes, looks can be deceiving, kids. While that usually means something bad for movies that look good and end up turning out to be junk, here, we’ve got something different – a movie that may seem like it’s chock full of bloody violence and action, actually isn’t. Sure, there’s the occasional gun-fight, or chase through the streets, but they don’t feel thrown in there for the sake of livening up the proceedings; instead, what writer/director J.C. Chandor does best is that he allows them to flow smoothly into the story, and make it seem pertinent. That this is a story of a man who’s trying to keep him, his family, and his business strictly clean and legal, makes it all the more understanding that, when push comes to shove, he can’t help but loose control a bit and take all sorts of drastic decisions.

And that’s mostly where Chandor’s flick stays to talk about; it’s not whether one can stay afloat with their business, it’s that they can do so without having to become one with the rest of the wild and rowdy pack you are sometimes grouped-in together with. It’s an interesting dilemma that Chandor poses with his protagonist and for the story as a whole, but it never actually loses steam. Instead, it keeps us guessing as to whether or not this lead character is going to lose his cool, and if so, how so and at one costs. We don’t want to see him have to be forced to kill anybody, but if he has to, we hope that he does so at a reasonable level that doesn’t put him, or anybody that he loves in harm’s way.

As you can tell, it’s not just an interesting dilemma for the lead character, but for us, the audience, as well.

The parts where I do feel that Chandor as the story lose a bit of steam, is when it seems like he’s being as vague as humanly possible, only to throw us for more curveballs, but to also remind us that his movie isn’t like other crime-thrillers out there. A good portion of that is true, but when it comes to making a gripping, interesting-to-listen-to thriller, you have to give the audience enough details and bits of info to allow for them to draw their own conclusions. You don’t have to spell everything out in big, bold letters and practically hold the audiences hand, but when it seems like you’re not going further into detail about a certain aspect of the story, it seems like you’re cheating the audience out of what could be an even more engaging tale.

That said, Chandor, in my humble opinion, is a director who is three-for-three. Which is even more of an impressive feat considering that the two other movies he’s created (Margin Call, All is Lost) are all completely different from one another. Call was talky and almost Mamet-like; Lost was a Cast Away-ish tale of one character, and one character only; and this one here, is a moral, crime tale, that seems like something Sidney Lumet would have made and been quite proud of. If there is one similarity between all three of these movies, however, it’s that they all feature desperate people, in some very tragic situations, who are trying their hardest to survive by any means necessary. They may not always make the smartest decisions, but they are at least trying to save their own head.

And that’s the exact case with Abel Morales, played to perfection by the always powerful Oscar Isaac. With Morales, we get a character that we like, if only because of what he stands for; he’s an immigrant who came over to this land, to create his own business, and get what each and everyone of us want, “the American Dream”. So already, he’s winning points with us, but once we see him starting to get all sorts of pushed and pulled by these local gangsters that are practically suffocating him, then it’s obvious to see that we may be losing him a tad bit. He’s not just losing his sense of morality, but he also might lose the dream he set-out for himself and it’s hard to fully root for him with the actions he commits. Then again, there’s also the sense that it’s all for a good cause and it puts this character into perspective as to whether he’s a good guy, or a bad one.

Mostly though, it comes down to him just being a guy, trying to make a living for himself, and those that he loves. That’s it.

"Mhmmmmmmmmm."

“Mhmmmmmmmmm.”

Isaac is wonderful in this role and has you totally believe in the constant struggle he goes through with this character. Isaac plays both sides of this character very well in that we never quite know whether he wants to be apart of this bloody, violent underground, or not. All we do know is that his intentions are good enough that makes it easy for us to root for him, even when we don’t know if we’re not supposed to. Once again, Isaac is great at showing these dueling-sides to this character and always has you on-edge, wondering when he’s going to turn the other cheek and how.

Another great performance here is from Jessica Chastain as Abel’s mob-daughter wife, Anna. As great of an actress as Chastain may be, for some reason, I just didn’t know if I could fully believe in her as an Italian, New York-housewife; this isn’t to say that I’m doubting her talents, I just don’t know if she’d been able to pull it of well enough to where we’d see more to her than just the act of what a stereotypical, Italian-woman looks, acts, and sounds like. Thankfully though, I was proven wrong as Chastain absolutely owns this role and allows us to see her as less of an accessory in Abel’s life, and more of a factor in the reason as to why he is as successful as he is. She constantly pushes him further than he could ever imagine and when he needs her the most, she’s there, sometimes, with nearly as much fire-power as he. I don’t want to call her a Lady Macbeth-like character, but she pretty much is; just not nearly as corny as that kind of role was for Laura Linney in Mystic River.

Ugh. So bad.

Anyway, while these two are incredibly solid in these roles, there’s plenty more where they came from, with each and every character still seeming as interesting, and as thought-provoking as they could be. For instance, the character of Lawrence, the detective who is constantly behind every corner Abel and his business turns down, may seem like he’ll be just as dirty and as corrupt as the people he’s going after, but more or less, stays true to himself or any kind of code that he may have set out for himself as a cop. Sure, David Oyelowo is quite solid in this role, but he’s also helped-out quite a bunch by the writing for this role, that doesn’t have him act like the standard-version of a cop we see in these kinds of movies; he goes by-the-badge, but also doesn’t forget about certain aspects of the job that may need to be looked at a bit differently. He’s not a bad, or immoral person; he’s just a person. With his own needs, hopes and desires.

As we all are.

Consensus: Exciting without ever over-exploding, thought-provoking without being too obvious, and well-acted without a weak-link, A Most Violent Year is a solid crime-thriller that asks hard questions of both its characters, as well as its audience.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The perfect, Reagan-era couple.

The perfect, Reagan-era couple.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Two Faces of January (2014)

Stop fibbing, already!

Rydal (Oscar Isaac) is a low-time swindler who, while vacationing and, assumingly, ripping people off in Greece, meets a very wealthy couple, Chester MacFarland and Colette (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst). Though he doesn’t know much about them, where they came from, who the hell they are, and how they both got so damn rich, he is still somehow intrigued by them and decides to join them on a dinner late one night. It goes off splendidly, with the two parties leaving one another and hoping that each of their lives entangle once again. Well, sometimes, what you wish for, isn’t exactly what you want to get. After the two parties separate, Rydal realizes that he has to give Colette her wedding ring back, but while doing so, he discovers Chester getting rid of a body of a man that he presumed to be an FBI agent. What the agent was doing in Greece and tracking down Chester, is totally beyond Rydal’s knowledge, but now they’re in this together. Meaning, all three of them are on the run and have to find whichever ways they can figure out to escape the police who, seemingly, should be hot on their tails as more and more information comes out about who these people are, their past and why they are running and hiding in the first place.

If you’ve ever seen the Talented Mr. Ripley, then you’ve kind of seen the Two Faces of January. It’s probably no accident either, because both are adaptations of Patricia Highsmith novels, and both concern the same kind of themes and ideas constantly thrown around: People not appearing to be who they say they are, crime, lies, murder, beautiful locations, etc. And while the former film, is definitely better than the later, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some fun to be had here; it’s just that there’s all you really need here, fun.

"What you say?"

“What you say?”

See, though this movie definitely flirts with the idea of being about how we all, as a society and just basic, pure human beings, lie to protect ourselves from the real truth of the world and those around us, it’s mostly just a suspense-thriller that features a bunch of people on the run. Whether or not they’re who they actually say they are, is totally left up to us, the audience, to make our own conclusions.

And yes, people, that’s where most of the fun to be had in the Two Faces of January can be found: Constantly guessing. Not just who these people are and why they actually lie as much as they do, but where exactly this story is going to take place next. Because honestly, there’s only so many lovely locations a movie can take place in, but better yet, there’s also only so many actual places these characters can escape and constantly be on the run towards. That doesn’t mean the film is over-the-top or too crazy to handle, but there is something to be said for a movie in which we are repeatedly being shown certain areas of Greece that not even the most dedicated tour-guide could.

Which basically means that if you’re seeing this movie now, in the fall, where the weather outside is more than likely going to get a bit chillier, you’re going to be incredibly bummed-out and want to hop on that next plane to Greece as soon as humanly possible! Trust me, I did and I saw this nearly two days ago!

Damn, I’m already missing summer.

Anyway, like I was saying before, this movie really isn’t much more than “cons play mind games on other cons”, which is yes, very fun, but also, made it a bit better that the three actors playing these cons are very good with what they’re given. Oscar Isaac plays Rydal like he seems to play every character of his: Smart, charming and handsome, yet, always seems to have a sinister side to him that he isn’t afraid to utilize to his advantage. The guy’s made a killing off of these sort of roles and while we want to think of him as “the bad guy”, because of the way he looks and how we’re introduced to his character (he’s taking money from very naive, very foreign girls), we soon find out that he really isn’t. He’s just a human being is all, and sometimes, humans have to make certain choices that don’t always benefit the others around them.

The same could be said for Viggo Mortensen’s Chester; we’re supposed to think he’s a low-level con that has hardly any soul, or moral compass, but we soon realize that he too, is just another misguided guy trying to make a living, as well as the woman he loves, happy. Mortensen is another actor like Isaac who can sometimes seem like a bad guy, only because of the menacing look he constantly has on his face, but there’s shades of his character being a genuinely good guy that just wants to save his ass, regardless of anybody else’s. Sure, he’s a selfish-fellow, but given the circumstances of some of the situations he’s thrown into, I can’t help but assume that plenty others would be acting the same way, too.

Oh yeah, old guy, don't mind that dude sitting next to you or anything. He's just going to be in the next Star Wars for god's sakes!!

Oh yeah, old guy, don’t mind that dude sitting next to you or anything. He’s just going to be in the next Star Wars for god’s sakes!!

Just saying, people. Just saying.

The only one I have yet to really mention is Kirsten Dunst, which is actually on purpose because her character isn’t all that well-written. Sure, she’s definitely charming, sweet and honest, whereas nobody else around her seems to be, but there’s just a dull-presence about her that kept making me wish the creative-team involved gave her more than just being the damsel in distress. Also, say what you want about her, but Kirsten Dunst, when given the right material to work with, can really do wonders. It’s just such a shame she isn’t allowed to really show her fellow male co-stars off, like I totally know she’s capable of doing.

Damn men and their penises. Damn them to hell!

Consensus: Nothing more than a simple game of cat-and-mouse between a trio of talented leads, the Two Faces of January never really transcends its narrow plot, but doesn’t quite need to, considering it’s fun to watch these characters mess with one another.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Ah, this seems like a good place to continue on running and hiding from the law."

“Ah, this here land seems like the perfect place to continue on running and hiding from the law.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

If Mumford & Sons weren’t featured on the soundtrack, this would have been a total slap-in-their-faces.

It’s New York City in 1961, and Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) doesn’t quite know what to do with his life. He knows that he wants to continue being a musician, so that he can make the money, to get the house, to have a roof over his head that’s actually his, to have food to eat, to not rely on others, and basically, to just be left alone from the rest of the outside world. In case you may have not been able to tell now, Llewyn isn’t the type of guy people enjoy being around, or vice versa. He’s got a stingy attitude towards everything and everyone in his life, and with an ex of his coming out and saying she’s pregnant (Carey Mulligan), it seems like most of it all may be coming back to bite him in the rear-end. However, Llewyn Davis has a dream and he knows that if folk music isn’t the biggest thing since slice-bread in the Big Apple, then it may just be the case somewhere else, which is why he decides to venture out into the rural country-side and see if he can land some steady gigs, get a record-deal, get some nice cash-flow and eventually, settle into his own secluded life.

Need I remind you, this is a movie about folk music in the early-60’s? If you don’t already know the significance of that time-frame and genre of music, then I’ll just allow you to let it sit around and linger in your mind and see what I mean for yourself.

Get that cat a nomination too!

Get that cat a nomination too!

Here’s the thing with me and this movie: I love the Coen Brothers. Absoloutely, positively adore them, and if this past week was any indication of that whatsoever, then you’ll realize that I feel very strongly for these guys because of what they’re able to do with any plot or genre that comes their way. They’ve always had a knack for re-constructing genres to the best of their creative abilities and it’s never seemed to fall-back on them. They’ve always came out unscathed of something that may not have gone over so well with critics and audiences alike, but it doesn’t matter. You know why? Because they’re Joel and Ethan Coen, baby. And they can do whatever the hell they possibly please.

That’s why when I saw that they were making a film that’s was going to chronicle the life and times of this folk singer, during its hey-day in the early 60’s, something didn’t sit too well with me. I know that they appreciate folk music, but I don’t, and that’s where I was a little bit worried with this flick. I didn’t know what to expect, whether it be a love-note to this era of some sorts, or another one of their “stories that start out normal and simple, then turn into a complex tale of love, sex, lies and violence.” However, I got, neither. Instead, I just got a simple, slightly steady tale of a dude that practically hates almost everyone and everybody around him, yet makes some of the most beautiful folk music I have ever heard.

May not sound like much coming from my finger-tips, but trust me, if you’ve grown up in a day and age where hack bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers are being called “the best rock bands around”, then you’d at least sympathize with me. Or at least see what angle I’m coming from. At least.

But that’s where this movie really caught me off-guard, in the best way at all possible. The Coen Brothers take this conventional story of a down-and-out folk singer, and rather than spin it in a way that has him reach some life-changing prophecy or realize that there’s more to life than just pissing and moaning about useless things in day-to-day life, we just get a story about a down-and-out folk singer, who pisses, moans and has a problem with everything, and/or everyone that comes at all into his path of wrath. Sounds like it would be one of the most grueling and uncomfortable experiences to have to sit-through the whole year, but knowing the Coens, like I know the Coens: They manage to pull it off perfectly and make this guy’s life one that’s full of all sorts of interesting and entertaining happenings, even if there’s nothing really happening in his life at all.

More than likely, we’ll get a scene or two, in a row, where it’s just Llewyn walking from one destination, to the other, with his guitar case in hand and sometimes a cat in the other, and we’ll just follow him. We are never told where, why or when this is all happening, but we just watch and keep our eyes peeled to the screen because everything that’s said, heard or felt, is raw and realistic. Sure, there’s plenty of colorful and hilarious moments of comedy that usually come from the Coen’s writing-style, which goes to make sure that this thing isn’t a total drab to watch, but overall, I didn’t care too much about that. All I did care about was, believe it or not, this guy Llewyn Davis; the type of person he was, is and what he sees himself as being in the near, not-too-distant future.

Sounds crazy, I know, but it just so happens that I fancy myself a Coen Brothers movie where practically nothing happens, and yet, so much does seem to be happening. It’s just all about looking closer at the way a certain somebody does something, how they say something or just how they are in general. I know I’m getting all emotional over here, but really, this flick will surprise you with how compelling it is, without really doing anything at all. I guess the Coens finally got tired of killing people, and decided that maybe it was time to take a chill-pill and just let their actors and mood do the talking.

And if my prediction is correct and that was their thought-process when making this movie, then smart move on their parts because it’s one of the best casts I’ve seen this year.

You’ve seen him many times before, but you can never match the face with the name. After this movie and this star-making performance, you better remember the name Oscar Isaac and you better be able to match the face. Why? Well, for starters, he’s in my profile picture (that’s always a plus in my book), and well, let’s just say that the guy is the total package: He can sing, play guitar, act, be funny, be sad, be mean, nasty, hilarious and do all of these sorts of things, and find a way to incorporate them all so perfectly into the character that is Llewyn Davis, one character I didn’t expect to like or even come close to caring for, but as time goes on and you realize that there’s a lot more simmering beneath this guy other than bouts of rage, you just can’t help but want to give him a high-five. Nothing too touchy feeley. Just yet, that is.

Anyway, what makes Isaac so amazing here is that the dude nails every aspect of this character that he needed to, and gives us the impression that we’re seeing a man for all that he is. Sometimes we can see a fictional character, and sometimes we can see a character made upon other elements of other people; but the whole time, I saw Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis, a guy who was not only a huge dick in his own right, but an entertaining dick that realizes all of the problems he causes in his life, and is trying to the best of his ability to make up for them. While he definitely doesn’t go about doing so in the best of ways, it’s the thought, in his mind, that counts, because while he is trying to make end’s meet with whomever is on the opposite end of his deal, he’s still never losing that edge that makes him such a smart guy that you want to be around, but never get into an argument with. Not only to top that off, but the dude can freakin’ sing his heart out and when it came right down to it, the guy brought a tear down my eye more than a few times. Not just with the weeping of his guitar, but with his soft singing voice, that shows more depth into his character than any back-story we ever hear about.

Oh, the good ol' days. You know? When you actually USED TO BE ABLE TO SMOKE ANYWHERE!

Oh, the good ol’ days. You know? When you actually USED TO BE ABLE TO SMOKE ANYWHERE!

And I could go on and on and on about how great the soundtrack is, but in all honesty: I won’t. The reason being is that the soundtrack is so good, that it should already speak for itself as is. And I’m telling you now, if “Please Mr. Kennedy” doesn’t walk away with the Oscar this year, then I’m straight-up protesting! You heard it here first, people! Mark my words!

Anyway, while Isaac is amazing in the lead role, as expected, so is everybody else in this supporting cast, which just goes to show you that the Coens never make a bad move on their parts. Carey Mulligan gets down, dirty and mean as the ex Llewyn screwed over and ever single chance she gets, she lets him have it in a very funny, entertaining way. However, once we do get past her usual tantrums of anger-spouting, we do get to see a gal that loved Llewyn, and probably still does, for the sad-sack, asshole that he is, which gives their scenes more emotion than I ever expected it to. Some may shiver and scratch their heads at the thought of Justin Timberlake showing up in a Coen Brothers flick, but the dude holds his own quite well, especially when most of what he does concerns singing and just being charming as hell. Same goes for Adam Driver who is another reason why that song up top mentioned is such perfection.

I said it once and I’ll say it again: Oscar-gold, baby! Oscar-gold!

However, the supporting cast doesn’t just begin with Mulligan and end with Driver; there are two other peeps in this cast that get a lot of attention for quite some time and are great at what they have to do, yet, don’t feel wholly in-sync with everything else that’s happening. In case I’m being too vague as it is, the two performers I’m talking about are John Goodman as an aging blues musician who gives Davis a bit of a run for his money in the insults department, while Garrett Hedlund plays his brooding and mysterious driver, Johnny Five. While both were a treat to watch, especially Goodman who just revels in playing a total dick whenever he sees fit, they fit more with the Coens’ more off-kilter flicks like Barton Fink, or Blood Simple, or if you really wanted to get crazy, Raising Arizona. Nothing against them as performers, but they felt more like caricatures, rather than actual living, breathing human beings that had hearts, emotions and feelings, like Llewyn and the type of people he hated to surround himself with. Like I said though, nothing against them and their performances, it’s just that they could have easily been placed in another Coen Brother flick, and probably fit like gloves. Here though, they just seem a tad too goofy, especially since you know Dylan’s just around the corner.

Consensus: Rather than giving us a strange, slightly odd flick that just so happened to involve the folk music scene and singers, the Coen Brothers make Inside Llewyn Davis a sad, heartfelt, but overall, complex look inside the life of a guy that you’d never thought you care about or want to spend time with, yet, with Isaac’s superb performance and the Coen’s writing, you never want to leave his side.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Just a man, his guitar and his voice. Who just so happens to not be Bob Dylan.

Just a man, his guitar and his voice. Who just so happens to NOT be Bob Dylan.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Body of Lies (2008)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Totally not his type. But apparently Ridley thinks differently.

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

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

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

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

6 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Sucker Punch (2011)

Pretty much a wet-dream for any nerd who stays in on the weekends to drool over the hotties from anime. And sex addicts that like it rough.

A girl named Babydoll (Emily Browning) gets sent to the insane asylum where she is essentially going to get a lobotomy, but before that occurs and her whole mind and memory is lost, she dreams of a world that’s as imaginative and as weird as you can get. She dreams of being a newly-affirmed dancer in a high-class nightclub where instead of dancing for rich dudes by taking off of her clothes, gets into the beats and rhythms by being sent on missions, along with her fellow strippers, where she has to kill someone or something. However, reality catches up with poor Babydoll and eventually the life she once had, begins to intersect with the one she’s dreaming of.

Since Zack Snyder’s going to apparently be changing the world with his “newer, darker version of Superman”, I thought it would be best to see just what the hell the dude fucked up with last time he made something for the screen. I never had any reason or sole-desire to see this movie, not just because of the shitty reviews or unanimous anger centered towards the movie’s material, but because scantily-clad ladies in leather, shooting guns, and killing baddies just doesn’t interest me all that much. No, it’s not because I’m a dude, that just so happens to have a dick, and actually be one as well, it’s just because that’s just not my style, yo. I’ve never been the nerd who loved anime, nor did I love video games, and nor did I love porn, aka, exactly who this movie’s made for and should only be judged by. Then again, I’m judging and even critiquing it so who am I to talk?

Give me the right time and place, I'll be shooting something off. I mean, dammit! See what Zack made me think?!?!?

Give me the right time and place, I’ll be shooting something off. I mean, dammit! See what Zack made me think?!?!?

Anyway, what’s so strange about this movie is that the story doesn’t make a lick of sense and doesn’t seem to actually try to. It’s just weird and confusing, just for the sake of it. Rather than explaining why this girl goes from gyrating her hips to the sexy beats of the music, to all of a sudden being placed in a world where samurai-Nazis are causing all sorts of havoc, we are just left to sort of go along with it, which would have been fine had the movie actually taken itself a little less seriously than it was, but Zack Snyder is not really known for shits and gigs. He’s a serious dude that not only loves hid dark, bloody violence, but also loves his slo-mo as much as the next pot-head and it still shows, even if, surprisingly; it isn’t as annoying this time around.

I’ve always gone to bat for Snyder when it’s came to whatever the hell he’s put on the big-screen, so to say that the slo-mo didn’t bother me wouldn’t make much of a difference, as I think it was used well this time to add more impact onto the hits and the blows of the violence, but that’s not what matters here. What does matter here is that this story is random, strange, and confusing as hell. Yeah, you could go so far as to call it “ambitious”, “original”, and “one-of-a-kind”, and I wouldn’t really disagree with you on that, but that creative-control can only go so far. You have to give me a story/characters that are worth caring about, rather than just throwing whatever you can find at the wall, in hopes that something will stick, and if something doesn’t; well then, that nobody noticed.

Problem is, everybody notices because Snyder isn’t exactly the most subtle guy in the world when it comes to what he wants to portray or say in his movies. And yes, I am talking about the typical, man-beats-up-on-woman signature that Snyder oddly enough has in his films. For some reason, the dude likes to show women getting their asses beat to shreds by stronger, manlier dudes and as dark and disturbing as it may be for some movies; his movies make it feel more exploitative as if he wants to get a rise out of you by doing it. He does that plenty of times here, but since this is a PG-13 rated movie (don’t know how the hell that was even possible), it’s toned-down a bit more or shown off-screen. But still, shown or insinuated, the movie still doesn’t seem to make much sense of the man-on-women violence. It’s just here to up the ante in hopes that we will feel more for these ladies as they band together to fight the pig-headed men that they are constantly surrounded by.

As empowering as this is supposed to be, it’s odd in the way that it shows these ladies as nothing more than just a bunch of chicks who wear short skirts, shoot big guns, spout-out corny lines, and show some skin here and there (but not too much because let me remind you, this is PG-13 after all). For dudes that haven’t gotten any action in the 30-40 years they’ve been alive and kicking; this is no more than porn at your own disposal without the possibility of being caught by your parents and frowned-upon til the day you die, but for a dude that’s 19 and doesn’t have much to worry in terms of women or sexual-activity (I’m a pimp-daddy, basically); it seems useless. None of it is empowering, it’s just stupid.

Which means that yes, this movie can be perceived as the “so-bad-it’s-good”-type, but even that feels like a bit of a stretch since nothing here really shines above the rest. Snyder’s direction seems to be inspired with the visuals, but with a story as wacky and self-serious as this, it doesn’t matter a bit and believe it or not, the action is pretty damn fun once you get past all of the slo-mo and sure randomness of it all. But, as I said, what’s it all for? It’s obviously not to make women feel superior to men or feel as if they can take over the world, we’ve already gone by that part, so what is it for?

Even Quentin Tarantino would say, "Dude, what the fuck?"

Even Quentin Tarantino would say, “Dude, what the fuck?”

I still haven’t been able to answer that question and who knows: I may never be able to.

And as for the ladies that have to stand-around, shoot guns, act strong and willful, but also be sexy as hell: I felt bad as hell for them since their careers are the only ones on-the-line here. Emily Browning had to practically get full-on naked, from head-to-toe after this to assure everybody she didn’t star in this; Vanessa Hudgens sort of did the same, but yet, still reminds us that she too will always be known as “that chick who dated Zac Efron when he looked like a girl“; Abbie Cornish shows up in things from time-to-time and probably has the most-respected career out of the main gals; and Jena Malone is still trying to make us forget that she was that bitchy-ass teenager who didn’t like Julia Roberts banging her daddy. I know, I sound like a dick because I’m talking more about these ladies’ careers after the fact that this movie came out, but that’s all that really matters here because their performances are nothing special, mostly because they aren’t asked to do much other than what I alluded to earlier. They do their job because they’re sexy and look good half-naked, not because they can act. Call me an asshole, call me what you will, but it’s more obvious once you actually see the movie and let it all sink in like yours truly.

Consensus: Snyder’s eye for detail and style doesn’t disappoint, but the odd, confusing, and surprisingly-offensive story in Sucker Punch does and only further shows us why Hollywood should be careful to give hot-shot, big-headed directors the chance to do whatever the hell they want to do, all because they made plenty of money at the box office already and are practically granted their time to shine on their own.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Listen to me, honey: get the fuck away from this dude. I've been with him twice so far, and almost nothing good has come of it."

“Listen to me, honey: get the fuck away from this dude. I’ve been with him twice so far, and almost nothing good has come of it.”

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

This guy can diffuse bombs. What can you do, Jason?

Everything that happened to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), is pretty much all lost now and brought back onto to this new CIA agent, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). He just so happens to be on the run, and everybody at Treadstone is going wild all over again because of this. Typical.

Many people have been dreading this film ever since the day that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass both said, “no”, to doing another Bourne flick, let alone, another sequel when they ended it off so well with The Bourne Ultimatum. And as much as I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this like as much as everybody else on the planet, I still got to give it to this franchise and say that it still has some steam left, even if it’s without the constant “crack-cam”. You heard it here first, people.

Writer/director Tony Gilroy (who worked on the early Bourne films) shows that he wasn’t really going for the same-old formula that somehow worked it’s magic, for three movies, but seem to be a little too tired for a fourth one. Instead, this guy gives us a pretty tense ride that may have you almost forget about Bourne, about half-way through (even though Gilroy brings him up about every 10 minutes, just by flashing his pictorial up on-screen). I will say that it does take it’s good-old time to get started up, but once the adrenaline starts picking-up, and the blood starts to flow, this film doesn’t seem to really want to stop, which I don’t think I ever wanted it to.

Since there is no “crack-cam” in this film, that means we can actually tell what’s going down in the action sequences, whether it be hand-to-hand brawls, knife-fights, guns-a-blasing battles, or the simple car-chase, you can actually see everything that’s going on and I have to say that’s a bit of a big-step up for this franchise, since it seemed like Greengrass used that a bit too much with the last entry. Did I miss some of the elements where we were practically on Damon’s tail as he was flying through ceilings and windows? Yes, but it wasn’t like I was in the corner sobbing over this, because I actually found myself to be having a lot of fun with what Gilroy did with this story and this action. Gilroy is a very talented film-maker and I would have never thought he’d be able to make such an exciting action-picture, let alone, a Bourne one.

But as fun and exciting as Gilroy made this film, there was still a lot of the conventions that we got from those Bourne films that came before this, and I thought since Gilroy seemed to be one-step ahead of the crowd that we wouldn’t get the same shit. Sadly, we did. Franka Potente-like damsel in distress? Check. Lots of undercover CIA dudes yelling at computer-screens? Check. Par-cor on buildings? Check. And my least favorite: top assassin out to kill target? Major check. I don’t know what it is about that last one convention that bothers me so much but it seems like it’s the one that they use in all of these flicks and think that it’s going to make us think differently about the fate of them or their target, but it never changes.

My next real beef with this film is how abruptly it ends, which bothered me more than anything else in this movie because I was having a real ball here. What I liked most about the last 30 minutes of this movie is how it just continued to build-up, and up, and up, until it finally just left me with one big-ass car chase through the streets of Manilla that is sure worth the price of admission alone. It also didn’t occur to me that this was actually, the last 30 minutes of the entire movie because once the story actually seems like it’s getting somewhere with itself, seems like it’s going to get better, and seems like Gilroy is really going to be pulling out all of the stops, that freakin’ song by Moby just kicks in and then we get the credits rolling. I honestly thought that this film would have gone on longer, and even though it’s the longest of the whole franchise with a time-limit of 135 minutes, it didn’t feel like that at all. In fact, it just whizzed right on by, which is not necessarily as much of a negative, as it is a positive, but I think about 20 more minutes would have made things a tad bit better for my taste. Then again, it’s just my taste and I’m a dick-head so don’t listen to me.

One element to this film that has people the most curious is how it will do without the presence of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. The answer to that is, pretty fine, especially when you have Jeremy Renner playing a bad-ass character, that’s a bit different from Bourne in more ways than I expected. Right from the first couple of scenes, we see that this Aaron Cross guy is actually a bit more content with his line of work that he does, unlike Bourne, and actually remembers his past, unlike Bourne, as well. But he also has a lot of personality where we see him act a bit more talkative and jokey towards other people he meets and encounters, and it gives you a sense that this is a real guy, that is just caught-up in all of the wrong shit but he has no one else to blame but himself. This role is perfect for Renner because he not only gets to show-off, once again, how much of a tough-ass guy he can be, but also show that he can make any generic action-hero, seem a bit more complex just by adding a likable personality onto him. Renner was a great choice for Cross, and I actually look forward to seeing what he can do with this character in the near-future, if they ever give him that chance, that is.

Rachel Weisz is also perfect for the role of the scientist that Cross comes around to sweep her away from danger, Dr. Marta Shearing. Weisz is such a lovable actress that it makes it a lot easier to buy this very generic character that seems to be a staple in these types of thrillers, but the difference here is that this girl actually seems like she has real-feelings and the feelings she may, or may not have for Cross come out perfectly in their chemistry that I would like to see worked on in the future installments. Then again, it all depends my people. Edward Norton is fine as the main dude that is orchestrating this whole hunt for Cross because he does what he can with a guy that seems so two-dimensional, but it’s almost like I expected him to just lash-out at everyone, every chance he got. Maybe it’s just that I think Norton deserves better roles, in better movies sometimes, but I think he could have been used a lot better here and should have gotten just more than one scene to show his true colors. Also, was it me or did anybody else feel terribly distracted when Norton and Stacy Keach were in the same scene? I kept on getting flash-backs to Vineyard just kicking the shit out of Cameron Alexander and I think that’s what Norton’s character here would have benefited from in all honesty. If only Hollywood allowed to polish more scripts.

Consensus: The Bourne Legacy features fine performances from this ensemble, plenty of action that will excite, and offers us a new franchise that will hopefully meet up with it’s old one that came before it, but it’s also very similar to that old one and that déjà vu feeling may be a bit too much for some viewers, as it sort of was for me.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Drive (2011)

This guy would make a killing at delivering pizzas.

Driver (Ryan Gosling), a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, is lured from his isolated life by a lovely neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. His newfound peace is shattered, however, when her violent husband is released from prison.

The weird thing about Drive is how this is being advertised as a slam-bang, action thriller with a Fast & Furious look of cars. But that is far from the truth.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) has a great knack for making incredibly bloody films, seem so beautiful. The film reminded me of an 80’s noir with it’s synth-crazy score, the hot pink title cards, and even the colorful as well as gritty look of the under-belly of LA that had me reminded of a Michael Mann film. There are some real great scenes where Refn brings out this very dark mood within the material with the way he films and the way he makes it all sound.

The problem with his direction is that I feel like too many times he doesn’t let the story tell itself at all, and just wants to basically remind people that he’s the one directing here and every shot is shot with his artsy-fartsy trademark. This didn’t bother me that much but when you have a script like this it really does get annoying after awhile.

I thought that the script had its moments where it truly wreaked in awesomeness but then other times, I just felt bored and bothered by what this film was doing. Almost every scene where these characters talk to each other is just filled with some awkward pauses and very slow responses that would have any person trying to leave the conversation as soon as possible. About the third time that I heard Gosling breath and Mulligan sigh, I just about had it about up to here with it, and relied on the action for my entertainment.

Oh wait, there’s barely any of that either. The action here is very short but done so well because of the way Refn creates the tension and keeps the bloodiness packing on up. He also adds this extra colorful flair to every scene, so when some guy is getting his head smashed in, not only is it bloody, but it’s also bright and colorful. This I liked and even though there’s only 2, that’s right, 2 car chases, I still liked them.

However, my problem lies within the fact that I just wish they actually gave us more of the awesome action rather than focus on these boring and awkward conversations that didn’t make me laugh, or really feel any more of an emotional connection to the story, it just annoyed me. I can see why Refn wanted to focus more on the story and visual flair rather than the action but when you got some writing that’s as boring as this is, you start to get pretty annoyed.

The real reason to see this film though is indeed, Ryan Gosling, aka one of my top man-crushes. Gosling plays The Driver and is quiet, calm, and relaxed throughout the majority of the film, but when it comes to him flipping shit, I was totally scared in all the right ways. Gosling plays both sides of this character believably well so you believe the subtlety that he has and the physical anger he projects from his character. I mean I was intimidated by Gosling here and every scene he is in, he uses that look on his face and his body language to convey a sense that his character is feeling every scene and it works so well. My man is on a roll!

The rest of the cast is also pretty good too. Carey Mulligan is good as the sweet Irene, although I think her and Gosling could have really projected some great screen chemistry given the right material; Bryan Cranston is gritty in his role as Shannon, the guy who brings Gosling into the world of crime; Ron Perlman is entertaining to watch as Nino the Jew, and I know this because they call him the name about 12 times; and Oscar Issac and Christina Hendricks have some pretty good “blink or you miss em” performances here as well. Albert Brooks as Bernie Ross is probably the most surprising of the whole cast because he has a presence that’s so powerful and ruthless that you actually can believe him as this violent mobster, rather than the voice of Marlon.

Consensus: Drive has moments where it absolutely works with it’s stylish direction from Nicolas Winding Refn, great performances from the cast, especially Gosling, and some bloody and thrilling flashes of violence, but too much of it feels slow and features conversations that are more boring than one you would have with a wall.

7/10=Rental!!