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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Owen Wilson

The Cable Guy (1996)

What’s a “Cable Guy”? Better yet, what’s “cable”? Is it like Netflix?

Matthew Broderick plays Steven, a dude who just got out of a relationship and needs someone to fix his cable one day. He calls up the cable guy (Jim Carrey) and he’s a bit weird, but he gets the job done. However, the cable guy wants more than just the job, he wants a buddy and that’s something Steven isn’t quite up for just yet.

The Cable Guy is often forgotten about in today’s world of media, whenever it comes to the conversations of the careers of both Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller. See, while they are both two of the most recognizable names in comedy, at one time, they actually got together and tried to make something that, well, wasn’t quite a comedy. If anything, it’s a lot darker and weirder than anyone had ever expected, which is probably why it’s hardly ever heard from and basically bombed when it was first released.

But did it deserve all that?

It's Jim Carrey being wacky! What could go wrong?!?

It’s Jim Carrey being wacky! What could go wrong?!?

Not really.

 

The Cable Guy is a strange movie, for sure, but definitely more of a comedy, than an actual drama. There’s lots to laugh at, but there’s also plenty more to cringe and be surprised by, too; there’s no real distinction between genres here and Stiller does a solid enough job as writer and director, never letting us in on the lines. We think we know what should be laugh-out-loud hilarious because of other comedies and what they constitute as hilarity, but with the Cable Guy, it’s far different and it’s why the movie, while not always successful, is an interesting watch.

And at the center, yes, it does have a little something to say about the culture of television and how, in ways, it can shelter us off from the rest of the world, and have us feel as if we are in our own, little bubble – the same kind of bubble where you are always loved, accepted and taken in, for who you are, not what you should be. Sure, it’s obvious and been said many times before, but the Cable Guy tells it again, but in a much smarter, heartfelt way, especially with Carrey’s portrayal of the title character who, surprisingly enough, is never given a name.

See! He's not so bad!

See! He’s not so bad!

How fitting.

Which isn’t all to say that the movie’s a down-and-out drama, because it’s actually pretty funny when it wants to be. Of course, though, it brings on problems with tone, where it seems like the movie may have bitten-off more than it can chew and handle all at once, but still, there’s something refreshing about watching a major-studio comedy flick give it the professional try. It may swing and barely hit, but at least it’s trying in the first place, so sometimes, a pat on the fanny is all that matters.

Right? Eh. Whatever.

Anyway, Carrey is the real reason why the movie works as well as it does, because he, like the movie’s tone, constantly has us guessing. We never know what he’s going to say, do, or try next and because of that, we don’t know whether to love, like, or be terrified of him. There’s this slight sense of danger to him, but also a bit of fun, too. Then, there’s also this sad aspect to him that may make you want to give him a hug. It’s a rich character that could have probably done wonders in a far darker, more dramatic movie, but as is, Carrey’s terrific in the role that, unsurprisingly enough, audiences just weren’t ready to accept just yet. It would take some time, obviously, but man, if only they had caught on sooner, rather than later.

On the opposing side of Carrey is Matthew Broderick, who’s fine as the usual straight-man he’s so used to playing by now, but his character has some issues. For one, he’s a bit of an a-hole; he’s constantly a Debbie-downer, never having anything nice or pleasant to say, and yeah, just not bringing much to the movie as a whole. Like I said, Broderick tries, but it seems like the script wasn’t there for him; instead of developing another compelling and well-rounded character, the movie just made him something of a blank slate, with little-to-no personality and allow for the Cable Guy to get all the work. It’s not like it doesn’t work, but hey, it would have definitely helped if we had a little more to work with.

Consensus: It’s obvious what the Cable Guy is trying to say, but it’s less about the message, and more about the funny, sometimes darkly odd premise, bolstered by an unforgettably crazy and all-star performance from Carrey.

8 / 10

Oh, uhm. Ha-ha?

Oh, uhm. Ha-ha?

Photos Courtesy of: Monkeys Fighting Robots

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The Big Year (2011)

These people care about these birds a lot; that is, until they find  that white stuff on their cars. You know what I’m talking about.

Three men (Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Steve Martin), each facing their own personal challenges, try to outdo one another in the ultimate bird-watching competition in 1998. However, bird-watching gets in the way of what’s best in their lives and has them rethinking their dedication and craft.

The whole idea and premise behind The Big Year? Well, it’s real. Every single year, a group of avid birdwatchers go around competing against one other to see who can spot the most birds in some set area. Doesn’t sound like the most happening thing to do on the street, but these people could all be doing something a lot worse with their time, right?

Either way, it makes you think: Did we really need a movie about bird-watchers?

Brian?!?

Brian?!?

Probably not and judging by all of the trailers/posters/ads, it’s made abundantly clear that everyone behind it were trying their damn near hardest to make sure that absolutely nobody knew this was a bird-watching movie, because really, who would want to go out and see that? Seriously. It doesn’t matter who you have, or how good the movie may be – movies about a group of bird-watchers, just isn’t all that exciting to the general audience. And it actually wouldn’t have been such a problem what the material was about, had the movie itself actually just been good, but that’s the icing on the cake, because it just isn’t.

Director David Frankel is your typical layman’s director who shows up to work and doesn’t do much, which probably made him the perfect candidate for the Big Year, a movie that’s so happy-go-lucky and cheerful, that it’s almost nauseating. Being cheerful isn’t always such a bad thing, though – sometimes, it can work in your movie’s favor – but the Big Year relies so much on its slapstick and humor, that it just doesn’t connect. The moments that the movie wants to be funny, just doesn’t work or even register as, well, “comedy”. It’s a problem that never ceases throughout the whole flick, making it all the more of a chore to sit through.

But trust me, it actually gets kind of worse.

Once Frankel takes this story into straight-on drama mode, things start to get really unbearable as all of these dumb stories converging together. The story behind Wilson’s character is probably the dumbest, because here he is being the #1 birder in the world (which is something he deserves credit for, I guess), and he can’t even choose whether he wants to be with the birds or with his wife. Need I remind you, his wife is played by the ever so gorgeous Rosamund Pike who always seems to always look the same as each and every single year goes by. So right then and there, the film tries to pull you into this story and give itself a dilemma – one that, mind you, would be solved if this dude was actually placed in real life. “Goddess or birds?”, seems to be the main dilemma and well, I think it’s pretty simple to figure that one out.

But it’s not just Wilson’s character who gets this type of treatment, everybody else gets it too and it’s only worse when you have three comedic stars like Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black, basically all kicking themselves in the ass just for anything resembling a laugh. Steve Martin used to be one of the funniest and most daring guys in comedy, but now, he’s stuck doing old-man, grandpa roles where his performances consist of him being ultra-serious, with his once-in-awhile signature dance. That dance is priceless, but when he pulls it out here, it comes out of nowhere and didn’t make me laugh at all.

Tim?!?!

Tim?!?!

Then of course, there’s Jack Black who everybody seems to hate, but I for one, don’t. I’ll give Black some love here and there because the guy can be good when he’s given the material to work with, but is really scraping the bottom of the barrel here. He plays his usual “zany” role where he does all of this wacky stuff, and says weird things and why is that, you ask? Oh, because he’s the 36-year old slacker that doesn’t have anything else better to do with his life or his money, instead of just waste it all on bird-watching. Black is probably the most bearable to watch out of the whole cast, but that is really not saying much.

 

But fine, Wilson, Martin and Black all putting in terrible performances? That’s fine. I can accept that because they’ve given terrible ones before and guess what? They’ll continue to do so. The real stab that hurts harder and harder that I think about it is the fact that there’s so many more people in this cast, like Tim Blake Nelson, like Dianne Wiest, like Brian Dennehy, like John Cleese, like June Squibb, like Anjelica Huston, like Rashida Jones, and like so many others, that honestly, deserve a whole hell of a lot better. Why they’re here, why they’re stuck with this crap material, why they needed the money so bad, well, is honestly a hard question to answer.

All I do know is that it’s over with and they’ve all moved on. For the most part.

Consensus: Unfunny, poorly-written, and a waste of everyone involved, the Big Year deals with an odd premise, takes it way too seriously and never knows just what to do with itself.

2 / 10 

"Nope. Not a good movie in sight, fellas."

“Nope. Not a good movie in sight, fellas.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Masterminds (2016)

What’s wrong with a little money in your pocket?

David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) is stuck in an unfortunately very boring and plain life. While he doesn’t necessarily know this, he still knows that his life could get a whole lot better if he just took more chances, rather than just lying around and waiting for life to happen. That’s why when his co-worker who he more than just admires on a professional basis, Kelly (Kristen Wiig), brings up the idea of possibly changing it all, he’s all in. The plan, concocted by Kelly’s pal, Steve (Owen Wilson), is to get David to steal $17 million, and hand it over to the gang. Of course, because David and everyone else involved are a little more than just silly and almost complete idiots, the plan doesn’t go so perfectly. This leads David to have to travel halfway across the world, to make sure that the cops don’t get him, even though they’re looking for him anywhere that they can find him. And just to make sure that David doesn’t do any talking, Steve’s hired a hit man (Jason Sudeikis), who he believes to get the job done in a professional, easy manner.

Why so happy? Cause I'm not!

Why so happy? Cause I’m not!

For some odd reason, Masterminds was supposed to come out nearly two years ago, but just didn’t. Normally, these sorts of things have to do with the fact that the studios got cold feet, didn’t trust the product, or there just wasn’t any big-named talent involved, but not with Masterminds. Despite a huge cast of comedic heavyweights and an interesting, if also, true premise, Masterminds sat on the shelves because Relativity Media, the distributors, were facing financial issues.

So why then, are we waiting nearly two more years for this movie? Is it because the money just wasn’t there to promote it? Or is it because the final product itself was so lame that everyone involved was just too scared to even show the world what it looked like?

Unfortunately, it’s neither. If anything, Masterminds is a mixed-bag in that it seemed like it was a messy movie to begin with, but because there was so much time dedicated and taken to fixing it in any way that they could have, it just comes off a lot more mixed. Writer/director Jared Hess is no hack and surely isn’t a work-for-hire director by any means, but honestly, it seems as if he just stood back and let alone of the movie film itself, with the cast making up the lines and situations as they went on, sometimes creating magic and other times, just seeming like they’ve got nothing to work with, so they’re just throwing whatever they can find, at the wall.

Does it all stick? Not really.

And that’s honestly, one of the biggest problems with Masterminds – it just has way too much going on that doesn’t work, or better yet, even connect. It’s a comedy that’s actually filled to the brim with humor and non-stop weirdness, yet, for some odd reason, that humor, nor weirdness ever seems to really work. There’s a few moments here and there where the movie actually offers something funny and, if anything, inspired (it’s hard not to laugh at Galifianakis mispronouncing Spanish), but they all come very few and far between/

Normally, I wouldn’t even mind this in a comedy, but because there’s so many good and funny people here, it makes me wonder what was really going on. Galifianakis is good at these sort of silly, almost idiotic roles and David Ghantt is not all that different from what we’ve seen before, however, it’s a gag that gets old a little too quick, once we realize that the whole movie is just making non-stop jokes on his behalf. It tries to give him some shading with his love for Kristen Wiig’s character, but at the same time, still likes to watch him fall down, hit his head, or do something so irresistibly stupid.

"Hey, man! It's me! Remember? That guy who's actually really funny, except for in this, for some reason?"

“Hey, man! It’s me! Remember? That guy who’s actually really funny, except for in this, for some reason?”

Once again, there’s not a problem with that in most movies, but it just has to be funny. Which in Masterminds, it never really is.

People fall, get shot, get hurt, and say all sorts of silly things, but does it ever really connect in a humorous way? Not necessarily. Surprisingly, it’s Leslie Jones who actually seems ready to play and willing to work with this material, even if, yeah, her role as an FBI Agent seems, at the very least, probably 90% made up on the spot. Same goes for the likes of Jason Sudeikis and Kate McKinnon, who all show up and, essentially, improv like the Dickens. They may have had a script and a direction, but it never really shows because whatever they make up, they just roll with.

Normally, when you have funny people, ad-libbing doesn’t always hurt. But here, when it seems like the worst bits and pieces of improv were chosen, it just does hurt; we watch as these funny people act in scenes with one another, try their hardest to do something crazier than what they did before, but in the end, just settle for being crazy, but without any humor. It’s like watching Tim & Eric, but not knowing how they construct their episodes or their humor – while that’s perhaps more jarring than watching Masterminds, it still deserves to be said that one’s act of weirdness, works a whole lot more than the others.

And if you don’t believe me, just stay for the credits. They show every cut-scene available to the movie, in hopes that people who didn’t laugh all that much, get another opportunity to do so by watching famous people goof-around with one another, forget their lines, and make more and more stuff up as they roll on along.

As I stated before: Still have no clue what happened with Masterminds, but I’m seeming to get a better idea.

Consensus: Even with the onslaught talent available, Masterminds still feels way too insane and made-up as it went along, to fully function as a well-thought out, actually funny comedy.

4.5 / 10

Yeah. My feelings exactly.

Yeah. My feelings exactly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

You, Me and Dupree (2006)

DupreeposterEverybody’s got that one, seemingly attractive friend who has an oddly-shaped nose and has every woman attracted to him. Yeah, screw that guy.

Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly (Kate Hudson) are back from their honeymoon and finally feel as if it’s the time for them to start focusing on their lives and possibly even starting a family. That all goes out the window once Carl’s old pal, Randy Dupree (Owen Wilson), comes around, asking for some money and a place to live. Why? Well, because it appears that Dupree has yet to grow up and accept life for what it is. Instead of having a job where he gets money, he mostly just sits around the house; instead of having a steady girlfriend, he’ll sometimes just jerk-off and have random flings; instead of being able to be trusted and responsible, he sometimes takes a tad too much of everything he’s handed for granted. And while Carl and Molly both grow tired of Dupree’s wild and unpredictable antics, eventually, they come to realize that maybe he’s going to make their lives a bit better. After all, there’s this fun and happy spirit to him that’s almost too hard to deny.

Some of the best bums I know, are the best chefs. When they're not paying for the food, that is.

Some of the best bums I know, are the best chefs. When they’re not paying for the food, that is.

You, Me and Dupree is a very weird comedy in that it doesn’t really have a plot, or, as my pals in the biz like to call it, “a hook”. It’s a mainstream comedy with big-names attached to it, but no real premise to have people the slightest bit interested; if anything, it appears that the powers behind You, Me and Dupree just relied solely on the fact that it was able to get these people to show up in their movie in the first place. Heck, even Michael Douglas’ unfortunate name can’t help but be thrown on the poster, even if he is only in the movie for at least 20 or so minutes.

And the only reason why I bring any of this up is because it’s actually kind of hard to talk about You, Me and Dupree without feeling like I’m just writing about a movie I think I saw. Don’t worry, I’ve seen it and yeah, it was fine. It’s the kind of movie that, like I said, because there doesn’t seem to be anything actually going on other than Owen Wilson acting like a goof-ball, it’s hard to fully remember any stand-out scene that had me laughing for days, or really surprised me. Mostly, the whole movie just came, went, did its thing, and that was it.

Does that make it bad?

Maybe, but I didn’t hate myself while watching it.

If anything, I was just more confused as to how it got made. The movie’s not incredibly funny, nor is it all that dramatic, either. There’s certain ideas and themes about marriage, loyalty, and sex that come and go as they please, but you get the feeling that directors Joe and Anthony Russo don’t really have a clue what to make of them; they’re way more interested in watching Owen Wilson cause all sorts of havoc around him, while acting like the nicest guy possible. And yes, there is definitely some fun to watching this – Wilson is, believe it or not, a likable presence on-screen, so that when he is given cruddy material like this, he allows for it to appear better than it may actually be. There’s no denying that the script is pretty lame and only brings out the gultiest and easiest laughs, but somehow, it slightly works because Wilson’s good at this kind of role.

And the rest of the cast is fine, too, even if they’re far-off worse than Wilson. Kate Hudson is charming, as usual; Matt Dillon gets a few occasions to have fun and be weird, which is always a plus; Michael Douglas gets to play a dick, which is always magically delicious; and Seth Rogen, in what appears to be an early role of his, does well and leaves an impression. Their characters aren’t all as drawn-out as Wilson’s Dupree and for that, they kind of suffer. However, they all try their hardest with material that clearly isn’t up their alley, nor is it made to fully work.

Mikey Douglas as a father-in-law? Sign me up!

Mikey Douglas as a father-in-law? Sign me up!

Which once again makes me wonder: How did it get made?

Did the actors just read this script, think it was trash, but because they were somewhat interested in doing something that would give them a lot of money, just do it anyway? Did they all want to work together? Or, did they all just want to spend some time with Michael Douglas? Honestly, the later option is perhaps the most believable and it shows; You, Me and Dupree seems like the kind of mediocre-as-hell comedy that would have been the main focus of a season on Project Greenlight. It’s cheap, stupid and really easy-to-follow-along-with, which is basically what you could call any of the movies made from that show.

However, because the cast is involved, it becomes something of a bigger beast. It’s got a bigger budget and you know what? It’s actually a better movie. Does that make it perfect? Nope, but it does make it at least somewhat better to sit through than the worst comedies from its stars.

May not sound like much, but hey, at least it’s something.

Consensus: With a talented cast on-board, You, Me and Dupree just barely squeaks by as being an okay movie, even if its jokes aim as low as they can, without a single care in the world to actually try harder.

5 / 10

What can he say? He's just Dupree!

What can he say? He’s just Dupree!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Zoolander 2 (2016)

Male models are still funny, I guess?

After the death of his wife, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller)’s life basically imploded. First of all, The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too actually collapses due to faulty construction. Then, he loses his son to Child Protective Services. And his best friend and closest confidante, Hansel (Owen Wilson), gets disfigured and is forced to leave the spotlight, never to be heard from again. All of this culminates Derek in leaving the rest of the world himself, venturing out to the far North where nothing, or nobody, can bother him. That’s until Billy Zane (Billy Zane) comes into the picture and warns Derek that known celebrities are not only being mysteriously killed, but reenacting one of Derek’s most famous looks before doing so. This leads Derek back to finding Hansel and figuring out just what this is all about. Eventually, with the help of former swimsuit model, now turned Interpol agent, Valentina (Penélope Cruz), Hansel and Derek find out that the one going after them and killing all of these celebrities just so happens to be their arch-nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell) who, despite being locked-up for all of these years, still holds a grudge and wants to take over the fashion world, once again.

See! Tiny cellphone joke! A! HA!

See! Tiny cellphone joke! A! HA!

Zoolander isn’t a classic by any means, but it’s still a very funny movie. It’s stood the odd test of time as some sort of “cult classic” that may not be as smart as it thinks, but in by doing so, somehow was actually smart. I don’t know. It’s the kind of movie that I’ve seen so much now, whether through TV re-runs or with my buddies that, by now, the movie’s been so imprinted into my mind that I know almost every line of dialogue and I still find it funny.

This is everything that Zoolander 2 is not and it could have been so much more.

But it didn’t really have to try at all and that’s one of the biggest surprises about Zoolander 2. Even with the likes of the original crew back and ready for action, there seems to be something missing in that Zoolander 2 is just the same joke, over and over again, but this time, there’s nothing funny about the joke. The first movie at least made the joke about how models are dumb and went far and wide with it, but here, we’re supposed to take that joke and think that’s just about it, with a slew of cameos thrown in for good measure.

In a way, too, it’s almost as there are so many cameos from totally random people celebrities here, that it’s almost as if Ben Stiller himself knew that he was working with bad material and thought the best way to hide behind that fact was to have people like Sting, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, or even Justin Bieber show up for extended cameos to distract everybody from the real problems with the script. But that’s the issue, the cameos aren’t funny, the script blows and the same joke, being hit over our heads, over and over again, goes nowhere and doesn’t seem to really land, even if the story is basically about this whole conspiracy involving male models.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some laughs to be found, but really, they are few and far between, which mostly has to do with the tone.

The first Zoolander kind of existed in this ridiculous world where people acted-out in strange, over-the-top ways but this second movie only seems to flirt with that world. Instead now, the jokes are a bit more mean-spirited and most of all, just call-backs. I get that  tiny cellphone in the original movie was funny for its time, to have it now be 2016 and have not one, not two, but three jokes about said tiny cellphone is just overkill. There’s so many other callbacks that continue on in this movie, almost everyone failing harder than the one before it and just makes me wonder why Stiller was so off-point here?

The future of the Zoolander franchise that will never work out. Thank heavens for that.

The future of the Zoolander franchise that will never work out. Poor guy.

Clearly he has a sort of love and adoration for these characters, knows that there’s a huge audience out there for this product, and typically, doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to take on a whole project on his own and just go through the motions. Say what you will about some of his choices, but mostly, Stiller has been smart with the movies he’s decided to write and direct, all of which being more ambitious and surprising than the last. That’s why Zoolander 2 not only finds himself back in his comfort-zone, not just as a director, but as actor, but also reminds us why some Ben Stiller movies can be so grating to watch.

We know that there’s more to him than this, but why is he putting this out? Was it for the money? Or was it just because he wanted to get the crew back together, one last time for the hell of it?

Regardless of what the reason was, he’s not the only one who gets caught up here, showing that they have better stuff to do. Owen Wilson tries as Hansel, but with the exception of orgy jokes, there’s nothing else holding him together; Kristen Wiig’s character is supposed to be the head fashion designer who can’t walk, talk or emote right because of all the surgery she’s had and while it can be funny at first, it goes on way too long; Will Ferrell shows up late in the game as Mugatu and seems like he wants to do more, but only has a certain amount of time to be funny and it’s not much; Penelope Cruz tries to bring more to her standard agent role and she shows some personality, but it doesn’t go far enough; and yeah, the cameos. There’s so many here, most of which are surprising, but really don’t pan-out to being much else but just cameos and that’s it.

They’re not hiding the fact that Zoolander 2 stinks, even as hard as they may try.

Consensus: Even despite the original not being a great movie, Zoolander 2 still is no excuse for the likes of Stiller, Wilson, Ferrell, Wiig, Cruz, and everybody else to be wasting their time with such lame material as this that has nothing else to say other than just to say, “models are stupid”.

3 / 10

Todd makes any movie better. So why wasn't this his?!?!

Todd makes any movie better. So why wasn’t this his?!?!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

No Escape (2015)

White people should just stay home, apparently.

After disappointing in the states, Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) takes his family on a business trip to a foreign country where he hopes to not only impress his wife (Lake Bell), but also get out of this work-slump that he’s been in since the recession of 2008. However, little does Jack know that the native residents of this foreign land don’t take kindly to people like Jack, nor do they take kindly to the water company that Jack represents. So, without him really knowing, Jack and his family is being targeted for representing America and its selfish, rude ways of sticking their nose into other countries’ business that they don’t need to be bothered with in the first place. While Jack, nor his wife really have any experience in kicking ass, or taking names, what they do have with them is the will to live, as well as the inspiration in making sure that their two daughters survive this hell-zone. Because even though they don’t know where to go, or even how this is all going to end, they are, most definitely, going to try and get out of this situation with a fight.

Owen Wilson. aka, All-American Daddy.

Owen Wilson. aka, All-American Daddy.

Even if it comes close to killing them.

For a good portion of its running-time, No Escape is actually a damn solid thriller. Director John Erick Dowdle starts things off nice and slowly by introducing us to these characters, the gritty, but odd scenery they’re thrown into, and lets all of the craziness happen, but doesn’t over-do it. Once Owen Wilson’s character goes out for the morning newspaper, there’s a slight chill of discomfort in the air; it’s almost as if we, yes, know that something bad is going to happen, but because Wilson’s character is such a middle-class boob and clearly has no idea what to do in the face of violence, we’re already in-suspense and waiting to see what goes down. Then, the movie focuses on what’s going on with Lake Bell’s character, her two daughters, and the hotel that they’re staying at, and instead of just being tense and somewhat fun, it’s now absolutely terrifying.

Because really, what No Escape wants to be, is a real-life thriller that makes you feel like, if you were given the same misfortune as these characters to be stuck in the same situation, that you’d have no clue what to do either. Rather than having a bunch of pre-calculated, James Bond-like ways of thinking and gadgets to save yourself from an angry hoard of killers, you’re just a simpleton who may have no actual prior experience with violence or tense situations such as these. So therefore, you have to act on intuition, as well as your gut-feeling and this can sometimes lead to the dumbest, perhaps most risky decisions you could make, but because you want to live, and want those that you love to live, too, you’re willing to do whatever it takes, no matter what.

This is perhaps the biggest fear that No Escape taps into and it’s why, for at least the first 45 minutes, it’s a solid action-thriller that puts you directly in the shoes of its protagonists and makes you actually believe that, well, this could actually happen to you.

Of course, a lot of the movie is completely far-fetched and a bit silly, but at the same time, it’s interesting to see how the movie switches the idea around of racism being against white people, and no other race or color. A lot of people have called No Escape “racist” and “ignorant” for not naming its supposed “villains”, or being more descriptive in just who it is that they represent (are they Cambodians?), but really, it’s doing something that not many other blockbusters in the same vein do and that’s focusing on white people being targeted for the color of their skin and how, no matter how hard they try, they can never be taken in as innocent.

Sound familiar?

James Bond is probably the right guy you want on your side in a situation like this.

James Bond is probably the right guy you want on your side in a situation like this.

Well, that’s because it definitely should and it makes me wonder why so much of No Escape, while occasionally smart, if anything, intriguing, also seems to fall apart. For example, the movie really wants to throw the grisly, heinous violence in our faces, which is fine, but by the same token, also wants us to see this movie as something of a cheery flick about sticking together as a unit, regardless of what trepidations stand in your way. While there’s no problem with this message to begin with, in a movie as dirty and disgusting as No Escape, it almost feels like a cheat – kind of like Dowdle himself couldn’t come up with the right tone to tie everything together.

That’s why, after a solid hour or so, No Escape starts to get, not just very silly, but very messy, trying to make sense of its violence, add some context, and most importantly, act as if it’s “important”, when in reality, it’s not. If anything, No Escape is just another shoot-em-up action-thriller, that also happens to take a ripped-from-the-headlines circumstance and give it a realistic treatment – anything added, honestly, feels unnecessary and silly. After all, this is the same movie that features Owen Wilson chucking his two daughters from one fifteen-story building to another, and hardly encountering any strength problems or injuries in the process.

Then again, it’s pretty interesting to see Owen Wilson in this kind of role and it also calls into question just how much thought may have actually gone into No Escape. While the movie could have easily cast a Jason Statham, or a Tom Cruise, or hell, even a Matt Damon in the role and act as if they’re just the everyday man pushed to the brink, the movie actually goes so far as to cast somebody as plain, ordinary, and dorky as Wilson, which works in helping it make it seem like this character has no clue what he’s getting himself into, or how to get out of it. Same goes for Lake Bell, who does get a tad annoying with her constantly pushing and bothering Wilson, but doesn’t get in the way as much.

If anything, however, the one character I’d probably like to see get his own movie is Pierce Brosnan’s Hammond, a variation on James Bond, that’s perhaps more realistic. Not only is the man wiser beyond his years, but he’s also a nice guy who can strike up a conversation about anything and generally seems to know what he’s talking about, regardless of what the topic may be. At the same time, however, there’s this idea that the guy can’t be messed with and what this does, whenever his presence is felt, makes you feel all warm, cozy and safe inside, even if you know full well, that it may not even matter.

Something we want to feel with James Bond, but come on – the guy’s too busy getting laid half of the time!

 

Consensus: One-half a surprisingly effective, if ugly-looking thriller, No Escape starts off strong, but soon dives into trying to take on a bit more than it can chew and lose itself in unexpectedness hokiness.

6 / 10

You can run, you can hide, but no matter what, there's no escape!

You can run, you can hide, but no matter what, there’s no escape!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Probably the tamest movie I’ve ever seen that says “coke” about 15 times. And I’m not referring to the soda, although if it were the late 1800’s, I would be referring to both I guess, right?

Detective David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is all about following the rules, getting the job, and having the law come out on-top, at any means necessary; Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is far different in the way that he’s so cool, calm, relaxed, and mellowed-out, that he doesn’t really care if he gets the job done or not, he just wants to look cool and smokin’. They’re polar-opposites, but they get strung together somehow and have to solve a drug-ring of coke on the streets, lead by millionaire Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). Together, they have their fair-share of problems, but together, through the insistence on getting along and the help of their ears and eyes of the street, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), they finally realize that the law always prevails. Or something of that nature.

It’s strange to think that a man who has been known for his fair share of R-rated, raunch-fests, Todd Phillips, would ever stoop so low as to go for a PG-13. But somehow, with this, he did and his struggle with actually trying to keep to that rating without over-stepping it at all. As I said up-top, there’s plenty uses of the word “coke” and nothing but; girls make-out with other girls; the F-bomb is dropped once (and randomly); partial-nudity is seen (sort of); and the word “shit” gets dropped about 5 or 6 times. It’s just strange because we know that when Phillips turns on the dirty-jets, he has a fun time and lets loose like no other, but what we mostly know is that when he does get down and dirty: he’s a lot funnier as well.

Whatta fun time!

Whatta fun time!

And trust me, it’s not that this flick isn’t funny, because it sure as hell does have it’s moments of comedic-inspiration that are more than likely going to win you over; it’s just that the tone itself is a bit uneven. What I mean by that is that the flick tries to go for a satire of an episode of the original Starsky & Hutch, and at other times, seems like it’s trying to be a straight-forward comedy that makes up it’s own jokes, is in it’s own little universe, and doesn’t even know about the other show. Hell, it even plays out like a failed-pilot of the original, except with more knowing-humor and a switch-up of the lead characters.

Since the movie never seems like it knows what it wants to be, or how for that matter, some comedy hits and some of it misses. More of it hits than actually misses, but knowing what Stiller, Wilson, Vaughn, Ferrell, and even Phillips are capable of, it comes as a bit of a disappointment. The jokes they use get a bit stale after awhile, especially the part where Starsky is high on cocaine and gets into a dance-battle, even though he doesn’t know he’s high, and become the same old, “70’s-fashion-was-so-corny”-type of humor. Nothing as witty or as smart as Zoolander or even Old School here, just a bunch of repetitive jokes made towards the decade it’s apparently supposed to take place in, even if it feels like we’re just watching a bunch of current-Hollywood stars play dress-up and act like their in the 70’s. I don’t know if being a tad bit anachronistic was the movie’s point or not, but if it was; it probably would have been a lot smarter and funnier in that case.

But in all honesty, I can’t discredit this movie too much cause the cast seems to be having fun and is mostly the reasons why we find ourselves laughing at times, despite it seeming a bit desperate at times. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are seemingly playing Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. They both seem to be enjoying themselves, not having to stretch their acting-muscles all that much, and getting a chance to dress in some fine, sexy 70’s digs. Together, they’re a bunch of fun and keep this movie cracking, but after awhile, you start to think how much of this movie was made because they really wanted to make a Starsky & Hutch movie, or how much of it was made as an excuse for the two to pal-around with one another? One has to wonder, and sometimes, it feels like the latter-aspect. It’s fun to watch them, but it feels like their having a bit more fun than we are and that poses a problem, especially when they’re trying to steal the laughs out of you.

Come on! Gimme more!

Come on! Gimme more!

On paper, having Vince Vaughn do his spastic, fast-speech act and Jason Bateman do his dead-pan act, team together, and play the smart, but slightly off-kilter baddies in a movie would seem like comedic-brilliance, but it never musters up any of the courage to really keep them funny or relevant all that much. Vaughn seems like he’s bored being serious and conning, whereas Bateman actually seems like he’s bored, and isn’t just using that to his and his character’s advantage. He actually seems like he’s bored and wants to get his check, so he could get the hell home and get ready to film another season of Arrested Development. Also, any movie that has thew chance to showcase Juliette Lewis and her comedic-talents as the dumb, trashy-chick in the movie, but squander that potential, has seemingly all but lost points from yours truly. The girl is not only a foxy mama, but she’s pretty damn funny, especially when she’s given the chance to be.

Others in this cast that show up do what they can like Snoop Dogg, who actually has some of the funnier-moments in the whole flick of funny people; Carmen Electra and Amy Smart show up to only make-out and provide some sex-appeal for a movie that didn’t need any, and when it finally got it’s chance to showcase it, made it seem more misogynistic than titillating; and actual cameos from the original guys, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, who made it funny just being there, but once I got to thinking about it, made it almost seem like the film was making fun of them and how hell-bent-out-of-shape they seem to have gotten. Poor guys. Oh well, they probably got a nice, healthy paycheck from this. Just like Bateman. Although, needless to say, he probably made that paycheck last.

Consensus: Bits and pieces of Starsky & Hutch seem inspired enough to transpire plenty of inspired moments of comedy, but not too many as the flick struggles to make up it’s mind of what type of comedy it wants to be, or even make us laugh at all.

6 / 10

"1, 2, 3 and to tha 4, Huggy Bear is at tha doe."

“One, two, three and to tha foe, Huggy Bear is at tha doe.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

She’s Funny That Way (2015)

Thought that call-girls and Broadway went perfect together.

Izzy (Imogen Poots) is a middle-class call-girl who dreams of, hopefully, making it big one day. And living in the Big Apple, that definitely seems like a possibility, as far-fetched as it may originally seem. But the opportunity presents itself even clearer once Izzy meets Broadway director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson), on what some may refer to as “a date”. Arnold instantly falls for Izzy, but knows that it cannot go any further due to the fact that he’s currently married to the talented and passionate Delta (Kathryn Hahn). With Arnold’s latest play coming up, it’s around that time where casting decisions are made, people get together, and everything has to come into play to ensure that all else goes smoothly with this one production. However, when Izzy comes into a casting-call for Arnold’s play, everything goes South, real quick. Soon, the co-writer of the play (Will Forte) falls for Izzy, even though he’s with Jane (Jennifer Aniston), which makes Arnold quite jealous. This then leads to a lot of neglect on his part of his wife, who then begins to crush a bit heavily on Seth (Rhys Ifans) – someone Arnold already feuds with enough as is.

Let's get these two together!

Let’s get these two together!

After nearly a decade away from doing whatever the hell he felt like doing, Peter Bogdanovich is finally back to making narrative-films once again and this time, it sort of makes me wonder just why he came back at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to have such a legendary talent like Bogdanovich still around, making movies and using his input to hopefully remind those of his influence back in the 70’s, but if he’s going to be doing all of that with She’s Funny That Way, then honestly, I think I’m fine with him staying away a little while longer.

Sounds harsh, I know, but come on!

One of the main problems early on is that Bogdanovich seems to be going for something of a retro, screwball comedy aspect that’s reminiscent of those sorts of films from the 20’s and so on and so forth, but it never quite gels together well. It’s fine to use that brand of humor, find a way to place it in a modern-setting, and see how it all works out, but Bogdanovich leaves a little too much of that up to chance. Rather than actually finding a way to make his homage work better as a modern-day comedy, it feels more like a tribute that never makes it relevancy known; almost as if Bogdanovich himself just wanted to make this so he could show the world that he too loves these sorts of classic films.

And this is all to state the fact that the screenplay, co-written by both Bogdanovich and ex-wife Louise Stratten, is a mess; it’s an unfunny one, for sure, but it’s also one that can never make up its own mind. For one, it treats each and everyone of its characters like little jokes written out on a cue-card, so that we can all wait for the punch-line to drop. Once the punch-line does in fact, drop, the movie then decides it’s time to make us feel sorry and sad for these poor souls of characters, if only as a way to make up for the fact that it couldn’t help but be pointing the finger at them for the past hour-and-a-half. This all happens, coincidentally, around the same time that it’s about time to wrap everything all up, which makes the final-product itself, rushed, and above all else, strung-together by tape.

Which, in case you didn’t get my meaning, is saying that it’s not good.

This is all the more disappointing considering the fact that the cast seems able and ready to service whatever Bogdanovich has them all do, but they never get compensated for it. Surely, they made plenty of cash-money off of this movie, but what good is it when you have the one chance of a lifetime to work with a silver-screen legend like Bogdanovich, and you’re left with nothing more than jokes about sex, therapists, and Broadway. None of which are actually funny, nor insightful, but seem to come so swiftly that they must have to be jokes nonetheless, regardless of if they’re actually effective.

Or, hey! What about these two?!?

Or, hey! What about these two?!?

Owen Wilson, despite seeming like a perfect fit for Arnold, really seems to be sleep-walking his way through his time here. This, I understand, would have been very unsurprising had this movie came out a little over a year ago, but in the past year or so, we’ve gotten a chance to see Wilson stretch his wings out a little more like he once did back in the early days with films like Inherent Vice, the Grand Budapest Hotel, and even Midnight in Paris, highlighting certain strengths that he can play to, if given the opportunity to do so. But that doesn’t happen here and it’s only a shame since Wilson can work well with this sort of material, regardless of if it actually sucks or not.

Then, there’s Imogen Poots who has to put on a Brooklyn-accent of sorts and despite doing well with it, never really makes sense as the main protagonist. In a see of wild and crazy characters, she gets lost in the fray and makes it understandable as to why Brie Larson left it in the first place. Hahn shows up as Arnold’s wife and seems like she’s down to play, but honestly, the writing just isn’t there for her. It’s uninteresting enough as is and it’s a shame because we know that Hahn can do so much better, no matter what it is that you throw at her.

Hell, look at Happyish!

And of course, there’s the likes of Rhys Ifans and Will Forte who show up, do their thing, collect the paycheck and then leave, but in all honesty, they aren’t worth talking about here. The real one is Jennifer Aniston as Jane, the therapist who is constantly pissed-off and tired of everyone around her’s bullshit. Though we’ve seen Aniston play against type in both of the Horrible Bosses movies, here, she really gets a chance to let loose on her comedic-timing and it shows that, while some may not want to look at her in an anti-Rachel light, they may have to get used to it. Because if the rom-com roles begin to dry-up anytime soon, then we know that for certain, given the chance to do so, Aniston can change her act up and while not being as lovely as before, can still make people laugh and want to see more of her.

Consensus: Despite the key talent both in front of, as well as behind the camera, She’s Funny That Way still never comes together as a funny, nor interesting homage to the lovely screwball films of yesteryear, despite clearly seeming to aim for that target.

3 / 10

Or, just get these two together and make something interesting. ANYTHING!

Or, just get these two together and make something interesting. ANYTHING!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Inherent Vice (2014)

Note to self: Don’t do insane-amounts of drugs while trying to solve crimes.

It’s 1970, and hippie private investigator Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) plans on living it up in every which way he can. That means an awful-lot of hangin’ out, smokin’ pot, and just enjoying his care-free life. That all changes though when an ex-love of his named Shasta (Katherine Waterson), comes around and informs him that her boyfriend, real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), was kidnapped and hasn’t been heard of since. Some say he’s dead, but Shasta doesn’t believe this and wants Doc to drop whatever it is he’s up to (which is seemingly nothing), and find out what has happened to him. Doc agrees, but as soon as he gets started on the case, many other cases start falling into his lap. For instance, an ex-junkie (Jena Malone) is worried that her rocker-boyfriend (Owen Wilson) isn’t in fact dead, as previously reported, and has been kidnapped. Then, a local gangster (Michael K. Williams) asks Doc to delve deep into a possible union between real estate agencies and the Aryan Brotherhood. And there’s many more where that came from, and no matter how far Doc may get into solving these mysteries, Det. Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) is always there to stop him, get involved, and see that the cases are done in an efficient, legal way.

"Is your refrigerator running...?"

“Is your refrigerator running…?”

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, there’s a lot going on in Inherent Vice, and not all of it makes sense. At first, it definitely seems so, but once starts off as a simple, ordinary mystery about a disappearance, soon spirals into being about so much more. Some of it’s good, some of it isn’t. But because this is a Paul Thomas Anderson (one of my favorites currently working today) movie, it’s mostly all worth watching.

Mostly.

But, like I said before, because this is a PT Anderson flick, there’s a certain mood surrounding Inherent Vice that makes it seem like the kind of movie he hasn’t ever tried his talented-hands at before. Though some may get a glimpse at this and automatically assume that PT is going straight back to his Boogie Nights days, those same people will probably be utterly disappointed when they find out that this is not at all the case. Sure, the movie may sometimes sound and look like that hip and happenin’ film, but for the most part, Anderson’s tone is a lot different here than usual, and it brings a large amount of sadness and, dare I say it, depression to what could have been considered some very groovy times.

And it’s not that Anderson hasn’t made a sad movie before, it’s just that he hasn’t quite made one in this vein; while it’s a colorful and bright movie, there’s a grainy undercurrent felt in it that makes some of the funniest, wildest moments, seem like they’re coming from somewhere of a nightmare. An enjoyable nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless. To be honest, too, I think Anderson prefers it this way.

To say that Inherent Vice is “confusing”, would be as conventional as I could get as a writer – not only has it been said many of times from many other writers, but it wouldn’t really do much justice at all to a film that I feel like is confusing, but can still be enjoyed despite this. See, whereas the Master was a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about Scientology, it was also a character-study that functioned as such. Here, with Inherent Vice, we have a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about a few mysterious cases, yet, it’s also a hilarious look at this strange, underground world in California. This is a world where not only does everybody do some sort of drugs, but that they also have plenty of secrets, which, if you wanted to dig deep enough, could actually find out are all connected in their own sick, twisted ways.

However, simply put, this is just me diving deep into what this movie may, or may not mean, and as a result, making myself sound like a pretentious-ass. Because, in reality, the real enjoyment behind Inherent Vice is that it goes from one bizarre-o situation, to another, and it’s hardly ever dull. Random? Sure, but boring? That word doesn’t exist in PT Anderson’s dictionary and it makes this movie one of the funnier pieces of comedy I saw all year. That’s not to say that it’s all meant to be hilarious, but sometimes, just watching a crazy situation, with zany characters involved, get even crazier, just adds so much joy and happiness that it’s hard to hate on.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Even if it doesn’t all add up to making total, complete and perfect sense, it’s still enjoyable and that’s where I think most of Inherent Vice works.

To go on about all this and not at least mention the cast would be an absolute crime, because everybody who shows up here, no matter for how long or little, all leave a lasting-impression that deserve to be mentioned, and remembered. Leading the wild race here as Doc Sportello is Joaquin Phoenix, and once again, he proves that he will never play the same role twice, nor ever lose that interest-factor surrounding him whenever he shows up in something. Phoenix fits right in as the “come on, man”-type of hippie that Sportello is and it makes it easy to root him on during this case, even if you never are too sure what’s going to happen to him next. He’s not necessarily a blank slate, as much as he’s just a simple, uncomplicated protagonist that makes it easy for us to identify with him, even while he makes some brash, weird decisions throughout the adventure we share with him.

While Phoenix may be our main point-of-reference here, he’s not the only one worth speaking of. Owen Wilson finally gets a lovely role for himself to dig deep into as Coy, the missing rocker-boyfriend, and mixes in well with the rest of the hippies surrounding him; Jena Malone is sympathetic his sad girlfriend who just wants him home, so she can live happily ever after with him and their kid; Katherine Weston plays Sportello’s ex-flame that has this fiery, yet understated mystery about her and the way she carries herself in certain scenes that she started to cast as much of a spell on me, as she had on Sportello here; Benicio del Toro is fun as Sprotello’s zany lawyer who always has the best ways to get him out of jail; Reese Witherspoon is smart and sassy as Penny (Reese Witherspoon), Sportello’s attorney girlfriend who may be just using him so that she can give the FBI what they want; Maya Rudolph has a nice-bit as one of Sportello’s nurse-secretaries and seems like she’s winking at the audience just about every second she gets; and Martin Short, with maybe nearly five minutes of screen-time, is way more hilarious than probably the whole entire season of Mulaney has been.

None, however, I repeat, NONE, measure up to the types of greatness that Josh Brolin brings to this movie as Bigfoot Bjornsen, Sportello’s mortal enemy/confidante.

See, what’s so lovely about Brolin here is the way in how Bigfoot is written: He’s rough, tough, gruff and a mean son-of-a-bitch who clearly doesn’t care for the likes of Sportello, or the fellow pot-smoking, lazy hippies that he associates himself with. Therefore, he and Sportello have a bit of a rivalry, where one may get a certain piece of info and get ahead of the other, in whatever case they’re covering. It’s fun to watch these constantly try and one-up one another, but most of this is because Brolin is so dynamite in this role, that he nearly steals the whole movie from everybody else. Every scene Brolin’s in, whether he’s deep-throating a chocolate-covered frozen banana, ordering more pancakes in a foreign language, or getting ordered by his wife to have sex with her, he’s an absolute blast to watch. You can never take your eyes off of him, and he’s happy with this; for once, in what in seems like a long time, Brolin looks as if he’s having a good time with the material he’s working with. But the difference here is that he commands your attention every time he shows up, making you think about whether or not this character is actually a good guy, or simply put, just a guy, with a hard job, who just wants to solve his cases.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

It’s as simple as that, but Brolin makes it so much more.

But, I’ve just realized that most of what I’m writing about here, may only add to more of the confusion within Inherent Vice and for that, I apologize. It surely is not my intentions, as I clearly want each and every person to see this, even if they aren’t expecting to love it, or even understand it quite nearly as well as they may have been able to do with Anderson’s flicks in the past. And honestly, I don’t even know if Anderson totally wants people to make perfect sense of this movie and how all of the small, meandering threads of its plot-line tie-in together, but he doesn’t ever lose his confidence in trying his damn-near hardest. Even if it doesn’t always work, it’s admirable that he would try in the first place and I think that’s what matters most here.

Sure, making damn sure that your plot, the twists it has, and the characters who weave in and out of it, all make perfect sense as to why they even exist first and foremost definitely matters, but when you have a movie that constantly goes from one scene, to the next, without ever missing a beat of being interesting, then all is forgiven. Maybe you could say I’m giving Anderson too much credit here, and I would probably say “you’re right”, but for some reason, I can’t help but praise this guy anymore than he already has been. Especially here, because it seems like plenty has been said about this movie, without ever getting to the core: It’s entertaining.

While not “entertaining” in the sense that it is constantly exciting with numerous amounts of gunshots, explosions, and car-chases (although some do happen here); more so, it’s in the case that we’re given a simple plot, with some simple characters, and to see it spiral out into absolutely bonkers area’s is what makes it such a blast to watch. One can definitely take this as a serious piece of pulp crime-fiction that’s supposed to make perfect sense, every time that it offers a new plot-thread, but another one can definitely takes this as a serious piece of film-making that, if you want to, you just take for what it is, see what happens next, and just enjoy the ride. I know that it’s hard for me to recommend a movie based solely on that, and not lose some sort of credibility, but I don’t care right now. I feel about as safe and comfortable as I can with recommending this movie for anybody, so long so as they just let it start, go on, and end, exactly as it is. The deep and heavy-thinking can come later, but while it’s on the screen, just let it go and see how you feel.

If you still hate it, then so be it. At least I tried.

Consensus: Maybe not the most comprehensive piece of his career, Paul Thomas Anderson still works his rear-end off to make Inherent Vice one of the crazier experiences at the movies this holiday season, but also allows for it to constantly stay compelling, funny, and most of all, entertaining. Even if all the numbers don’t add up.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Sort of like the Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Sort of like the actual Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Are You Here (2014)

Isn’t there supposed to be, uhm, I don’t know, a question-mark or something?

Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson) is the weatherman at a local news station and doesn’t really seem to take much initiative with his life. Sure, he wants to have money, and as much sex as he can possibly stomach, but for the most part, he’s just sitting around, smoking pot, and hanging with his childhood buddy, Ben (Zach Galifianakis). That begins to all change, however, when Ben’s dad dies and leaves him the large farmland they grew up on; whereas his sister, Terry (Amy Poehler) isn’t left with much, except a little store they own in town. This leaves her a bit pissed-off and a bit vengeful, but for Ben, this leaves him wondering what he’s going to do with his life, or whether he’s actually up to the task of handling this much responsibility. But while this is all happening, Steve’s still just doing his thing, but this time, he finds his eyes looking at Terry and Ben’s much-younger stepmother, Angela (Laura Ramsey), who, if he shacks up with, might be able to change his life for the better. That’s if he can put down the joint.

Though I know many people are head-over-heels with the show, I’m not particularly as much of a fan of Mad Men. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched pretty much all of it (or as much as Netflix allows me to) to make up my mind concerning and honestly, I still like it very much, but it’s not one of those shows I’d consider a favorite of mine. It’s well-written, acted, and performed, but as a whole, the show just isn’t one I crave to watch, day in and day out.

Happy meals like this hardly ever occur in my household.

Happy meals like this hardly ever occur in my household.

However, comparing Mad Men as a whole, to everything in Are You Here, is downright wrong. Not because the themes of both works are different, but because the former is so much more well-done and thought-out than the former, that the two don’t even deserve to be talked about in the same conversation. But that’s what’s so strange here, because how somebody like Matthew Weiner can go from creating a smart, well-detailed show like Mad Men, to writing/directing a jumbled-up piece of junk such as this is totally beyond me.

Mostly though, it’s less about how Weiner went from the highest of highs, to then stoop all the way down to the lowest of lows, and more just about what’s going on with this movie.

For instance, Weiner never seems capable once of landing on a tone and sticking with it. One part of this movie is supposed to be something of a “bro comedy”, where we see two dudes slumming around, smoking pot, and talking about the environment, but then the next part of this movie is trying to be a wholesome family-drama about going back to your roots and being in a time and place that’s much simpler. It doesn’t gel quite well, and it gets incredibly worse once we’re introduced to the possible love-angle between Wilson’s character and Ramsay’s; not because it isn’t believable at all (it isn’t), but because the age-difference is so huge between the two, that it’s not even romantic. In fact, it’s totally creepy and makes you wonder if Wilson just likes taking these roles for the sole reason that he gets to hook up with a bunch of pretty, young things. I don’t blame him if that is the reason, but come on, man, make the movies better, at least.

Speaking of Wilson, his character, Steve Dallas, is totally all-over-the-place. We’re supposed to get the idea that this guys’a stoner-bro that is a bit of a cheap-skate and rips people off whenever he gets the first chance to do so, but we never find out why. His credit card hardly works, but why? What’s gotten him into so much debt that he’s so quick to take any hand-out thrown at him? This is never known to us and it gets even worse when we’re told to believe in the friendship between him and Galifianakis’ character.

The exact number of people who actually shelled out cash to see this.

The exact number of people who actually shelled out cash to see this.

Once again, we’re told that Dallas is a close friend of the family, but we never see that. Instead, we just see Dallas bicker and banter with the members of the family and act like a total dick. Same goes for Galifianakis’s Ben who, like all Galifianakis character’s, is weird, manic, and always on the verge of a nervous-breakdown. Why this is? Well, we never really find out and it’s made worse by the fact that the character of Ben (a environmental-activist who has to start living and accepting in the real world) isn’t a particularly interesting one, or even well-written. He’s just dull and stale, yet for some reason, we’re supposed to think of him as the heart and soul of this project – an idea that’s never actually felt to us, but just told.

And honestly, it’s a shame because you can tell that none of this is really the cast’s fault; everybody here is clearly trying, but Weiner’s script is so poorly-written and scatter-shot, it takes away from what could have been a very sweet, relateable dramedy. Instead, it’s just something that has no idea what it wants to be about, what it wants to say, or what it even wants to do with any of its characters. It almost makes you wonder: What did Weiner try to accomplish with this movie? Was he trying to get across the idea of “if you’re true to yourself, then those around you will follow suit”? Or, is he trying to send a tribute to those who go back to their childhood homes and reclaim what’s rightfully theirs? Personally, I don’t know and I don’t even think Weiner himself knows.

What I do know is that when Mad Men ends next year, we better hope that Weiner has a better jump to features than this. Because if not, we’re all going to be wanting a whole lot more of this.

Consensus: Off, not just in terms of tone, but what it’s even trying to accomplish, Are You Here is literally all over the place, which makes it hard for the talented cast and crew involved to do anything interesting, or worth merit. They’re probably just as confused as we are.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Drink up, boys. You'll need it.

Drink up, boys. You’ll need it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbizGoggle Images

Armageddon (1998)

Before we all die, at least we can take some pleasure knowing that we’ll be treated to the lovely sounds of Steven Tyler.

After NASA catches wind of a meteor the size of Texas heading straight for Earth, executive director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) cobbles up a plan: Get a crew on the meteor, drill a hole through it, and leave a nuke in there so that it can break off into two pieces and still miss the Earth by a small bit. It’s a smart plan, but the only problem is finding out who’s right for it. In walks oil-driller Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) who Truman recruits for this mission because the ship plan is the same one Stamper uses on his own oil rig. Though Stamper is initially hesitant to take on such a huge, daring mission, he eventually decides to take it, but on one condition: He gets to choose the crew that goes with him. In walks the rest of his rag-tag group of dysfunctional nut-balls that either love prostitutes (Steve Buscemi), love to smash things (Michael Clarke Duncan), or love Stamper’s own daughter (Ben Affleck). Though not everybody feels alright with this change, they don’t have any other plan to go along with. Meaning, it’s all up to these guys to save the world and all of mankind.

Not much of a burden if you think about it really, you know?

Well, well, well. Here it is, everybody! The movie I swore I would never, ever watch again after seeing it numerous times as a little kid, all because back then, I knew it was total junk. But for some reason, curiosity killed the cat in my case and I just could not help myself; I had to see if this movie got any better with age, and also, whether or not my tolerance for mostly all things Michael Bay would have anything to do with any change in feelings toward this.

He would have done anything to say "Yippie-Kay-Ya".

He would have done anything to say “Yippie-Kay-Ya”.

Needless to say, they sort of do. But not by much. Here’s why:

See, though I like to give Bay the benefit of the doubt on most cases for blowing all sorts of shit up and taking absolute pleasure in doing it, I felt like this was total over-kill. And yes, even by his standards, that means a lot. Then again, I may be getting ahead of myself here, because most of the explosions occur during the last hour-and-a-half of this movie. As for the first hour of this movie, we’re “treated” to watching a bunch of clichés act like nuts, talk goofy, get some back-story on what makes them the slightest bit of “human”, and try to have us believe that they could actually be smart, trained, and neutered astronauts in a near 18 days, but actually be trusted in saving our whole race from extinction.

And while I’m all for a movie being silly for the sake of making people laugh, this was not that kind of silly – it was just downright dumb. What makes it even worse is that the cast here is pretty damn talented – actually, scratch that, it’s an unbelievably stacked ensemble that, with any other movie/director, would have me rushing the gates as soon as I caught wind of it happening, but not here. Especially not with Michael Bay, the kind of guy who takes pleasure in taking these incredibly talented, wonderful screen-presences, and making them his wild, wacky, and near-racist guinea pigs.

Then again though, in the world of Hollywood, money really does talk, so I guess I can’t be getting on Bay’s case too much for just getting along with the times and following the path set out for him.

Still though, that doesn’t excuse giving somebody as wonderfully charming as Steve Buscemi a role in which he just makes stupid comments about hookers, having sex, dying, not being crazy, menstrual cycles, and going absolutely nuts while shooting a machine gun. And yes, while that all may sound incredibly amusing to some of you out there, I can assure you, it’s totally not. It’s just downright corny and seems like Bay is trying way, way too hard to make us laugh at anything; so much so, that he’s willing to embarrass the hell out of some of the most respected talents in the biz.

Also, he uses this comedy to break up all of the nonsensical violence, loud noises and explosions that occur during the last half-hour which, coming from a Michael Bay-standpoint, is relatively impressive. Though, nearly 16 years after the fact, some of it looks a bit dated, you can tell Bay really pays attention to the constant vibrancy he has behind the camera and how he makes this movie look. Sure, it’s frantic and you can almost count how long Bay holds a shot for (don’t worry, it’s two seconds or so each), but it does show you that he’s the kind of director that works well with this stuff.

However, with this stuff here, there’s just way too much. Too much double-crossing; too much dumb humor; too much poor script-writing; too much explosions; too much of random things happening only to make the plot seem more dense and the movie run-time a little longer; just too much of everything really. And yes, while I do admit to being on Bay’s side for this very same reason in most movies, this is not one of them. For some reason, it just felt different this time and rather than laughing and having a great time, I was just laughing, only in a way to pass the time of my complete boredom with the same things happening again, and again, and again.

All that was missing was a bottle of Jack and some Funyuns to make life a whole lot less depressing.

Love and animal crackers: It's the combo you never thought you'd never thought you need.

Love and animal crackers: It’s the combo you never thought you’d need.

Like I mentioned before, too, Bay really does have a knack for getting together an interesting cast, it’s just such a shame that he gives them so very little to do. And even when he does give them anything to do, it’s utter garbage that only makes it seem like the actor in question was in desperate need of another shore house. For instance, despite being practically the perfect role for Bruce Willis in which he has to play a tough, rough, and masculine-as-hell man (with an in-and-out Southern accent), somehow, the writing is so cheesy and godawful for this guy, that everything that comes out of Willis’ mouth seems like he’s having a hard time reading anything at all. Not just because he can’t believe the trash that he’s reading, but because he forgot his glasses on the counter at home.

And heck, I wish I could say the same for Ben Affleck, but man, this kid is terrible here. I know that Big Ben has cleaned his act up now and is a pretty respected guy out there, but any reason why anybody thought he was just a young talent, with barely any of the later at all, were totally correct when they saw this. Which is a shame because watching Affleck, you can see a guy that’s trying really hard, but just doesn’t have the skills yet to really deliver on all of the sobbing and screaming he has to deliver on. It just seems like he’s in a parody of the type of movie that he’s in. You know, a parody of a Michael Bay movie, in which every character has an IQ of 38, has women-troubles, likes to cuss, say dumb stuff, act silly, and at the end of the day, still be able to save the world, all while chanting “USA! USA! USA!”.

Yep, that’s Michael Bay for ya: Praising America, one over-budgeted mess at a time.

Consensus: Though much of Armageddon is what you expect to get from a Michael Bay movie, there’s still no denying how incredibly hard it is to believe anything that happens in this movie, nor enjoy one’s self when all there is a explosion, after explosion, after explosion, with barely any end in sight.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

If these are our saviors, we're fucked.

If these are our saviors, we’re fucked.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This type of nonsense would never occur at a Motel 6! That’s for certain!

In 1968, a writer (Jude Law), staying at a beaten-up, run-down hotel called “the Grand Budapest Hotel” meets millionaire Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who apparently has a lot to do with the history of this hotel – the same type of history not many people actually know the exact story to. Together, the two decide to meet-up, have dinner and allow for Moustafa to tell his story and why he is the way he is nowadays. The story goes a little something like this: Back in 1932, young Zero (Tony Revolori) was hired as a Lobby Boy at the hotel, where he eventually became concierge Gustave H.’s (Ralph Fiennes) second-hand-in-command. Gustave, for lack of a better term, is Zero’s role-model and he’s a pretty darn good one at that: Not only does he treat his guests with love, affection and respect, but he even gives them a little “something” more in private. And apparently, he treats one guest of his, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), so well, that he’s apparently the owner of one of her prized-possessions, the same prized possession that her bratty son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) won’t let him have. But you can’t tell Gustave “no”, when he knows what is rightfully his, so therefore, he takes it, which leads onto all sorts of other crazy, wacky and sometimes deadly, hijinx.

So yeah, for the past week, I’ve been kicking ass and taking names with all of these Wes Anderson movies, and if there is one thing that I myself (as well as most of you) have learned about, is that I really do love his movies. I mean, yeah, I knew Wes Anderson has always been a favorite of mine, but what really surprised me with this past week is that not only have I been watching and taking note of how his style changes over time (or in some cases, doesn’t), but also, how he’s grown as a film maker and decided to get a whole lot more ambitious.

Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

Okay, but on a serious note: Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

And I don’t mean “ambitious” in the form that his movies are a whole lot bigger or more ensemble-driven, but more that they tackle on so many different-threads of meaning, rather than just being all about family-issues amongst a group of dysfunctional, troubled-characters. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love those said “family-issues”, but even I know when it’s time to move on, start trying something new and most of all, stretching yourself as a writer, director and overall creator.

Thankfully, not just for me, or you, or even Wes Anderson, but for all of us: Wes has finally shown us that he’s ready to take a swan-dive out of his comfort-zone and shock us with something that he’s almost never done before.

Key word being “almost”. More on that later, though.

First things first, I feel as if I am going to talk about any notable, positive aspect of this movie, it’s going to be the overall-style. Now, I think we’ve all known Anderson to be a bit of an eye-catcher with the way he has his flicks so colorful and bright, that you almost practically go blind because of them; but this, he truly has out-done himself. Since most of where this story takes place is made-up inside that creative little noggin of his, Anderson is practically given free-reign to just ran rampant with his imagination, where every set looks as if it was taken-out of an historic, field-trip brochure, dibbled and dabbled with some pretty colors, and thrown right behind everything that happens here. In some cases, that would usually take away from a film and be just another case of a director getting too “artsy fartsy”, but due to how crazy and rumpus most of this story is, it actually helps blend these characters in to their surroundings, as well as make this world we are watching seem like a believable one, even if they are so clearly made-up.

Which is why this is probably Anderson’s most exciting movie to-date. Of course though, Anderson’s other movies like Rushmore and even Bottle Rocket had an hectic-feel to them, but they were done so in a type of small, contained and dramatic-way – here, the movie is all about the vast, never ending canvas surrounding each and every one of these characters, and just how far it can be stretched-out for. So while those other movies of Anderson’s may have had a sense of adventure where a character would want to get out of the house, only to go running around in the streets, here, you have a bunch of characters who not only want to get out of their household, or wherever the hell they may be staying at, and get out there in the world where anything is possible. They could either go running, jogging, skiing, sight-seeing, train-riding, bicycle-hopping, parachuting, and etc. Anywhere they want to go, by any mode of transportation whatsoever, they are able to and it gives us this idea that we are not only inside the mind of Anderson and all of his play-things, but we are also stuck inside of his world, where joy and happiness is all around.

Though, there definitely are some dark elements to this story that do show up, in some awkward ways as well, the story never feels like it is too heavy on one aspect that could bring the whole movie crashing down. Instead, Anderson whisks, speeds through and jumps by everything, giving us the feeling that this is a ride that’s never going to end, nor do we want to end; we’re just too busy and pleased to be enjoying the scenery, as well as all of the fine, and nifty characters that happen to go along with it.

And with this ensemble, you couldn’t ask for anybody better! Ralph Fiennes isn’t just an interesting choice for the character of Gustave, but he’s also an interesting choice to play the lead in a Wes Anderson movie. We all know and love Fiennes for being able to class it up in anywhere he shows his charmingly handsome face, but the verdict is still out there on the guy as to whether or not he can actually be, well, “funny”. Sure, the dude was downright hilarious in In Bruges, but being that he had a dynamite-script to work with and was one out of three other main-characters, did the dude have much of a choice? Not really, but that’s besides the point!

What is the point, is that I was a little weary of Fiennes in a Wes Anderson movie, where most of the time, comedy and drama go side-by-side and would need all of the best talents to make that mixture look and feel cohesive. Thankfully, Fiennes not only proves that he’s able to make any kind of silly-dialogue the least bit “respectable”, but that he’s also able to switch his comedy-timing on and off, giving us a character we not only love and adore every time he’s up on the screen, but wish we saw more of. Because, without giving too much away, there are brief snippets of time where we don’t get to always be in the company of Gustave, and when those passages in time happen, they do take away from the movie.

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump'll do!

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump’ll do!

It isn’t that nobody else in this movie is capable enough of handling the screen all to themselves, but it’s so clear, early on, that Anderson clearly beholds this character as much as we do, and we can’t help but follow suit and wish to see him all of the time. Most of that’s because of Anderson’s witty and snappy dialogue that’s given to Fiennes to work with, but most of that is also because Fiennes is such a charismatic-presence that the fact of him actually making me, or anybody laugh, is enough to make you want to see a biopic made about him, and him alone.

But, like I was saying before, the rest of the ensemble is fine, it’s just that Fiennes was clearly meant to be the star of the show and plays it as such. Newcomer Tony Revolori feels like a perfect-fit for Anderson’s deadpan, sometimes outrageous brand of humor that’s practically winking at itself. What’s also worth praising a hell of a whole lot about Revolori is how he more than holds his own when he’s stacked-up against certain presences that aren’t just Fiennes (although the two make for a wonderful duo that they are another reason why it sucks whenever Gustave isn’t around). All of these other familiar faces that pop-up like Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson, and Saoirse Ronan, and even Jeff fuckin’ Goldblum are all great, but surprisingly, Revolori doesn’t get over-shadowed and keeps the heart and soul of the story clearly alongside with him, as it was intended to be. And yes, even though that heart may not be the most richest, most powerfully emotional we’ve ever seen Anderson bring to the screen before, it’s still the same kind of heart that has go along with Anderson on any ride he takes us, all because we know that, at the end, it’s all going to be totally worth it.

That, and also, that we’ll have something new to recommend to our white friends.

Consensus: The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely Wes Anderson’s most ambitious work to-date, meaning that we get plenty of laughs, jumps, thrills, some chills, heart and enough familiar, talented-faces working with some wacky, but fun material from one of our finest writers/directors working today.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

All in the 'stache, ladies. All in the 'stache.

All in the ‘stache, ladies. All in the ‘stache.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Ice-fishing is definitely a safer-bet.

Famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a man that likes to think of himself as something of a genius. He has many faults, yet, he never admits to them, and is starting to find out that it may just come and bite him. While he and his crew of rag-tag misfits get to embark on a series of wild adventures, soon, and totally out of the blue, walks in Steve’s estranged son, Ned (Owen Wilson), who he may, or may not have known actually existed in the first place. But, Steve sees this not only as a way to gain another loyal crew-member, but to spend some more quality-time and get to know the son he never knew was out there, which starts to become an after-thought once a journalist (Cate Blanchett) steps onto the ship and begins to catch both Steve, as well as Ned’s eyes. Also, on the side, they are looking for an exotic sea-creature known as the “Jaguar Shark”, who killed Zissou’s old-buddy. Problem is, nobody knows if it exists or not, not even he knows.

Even though I’m a fan of Wes Anderson, I have to say that even I can get a bit skeptical of his work. When you go into a Wes Anderson movie, you have to expect all of his trademarks, whether you like it or not. Sometimes, there is a slight spin on those said trademarks, but most of the time: What you see from a Wes Anderson movie, is most likely what you are going to get. And if you don’t like it, then suck it!

Or, if put in a nicer-way, just don’t pay to see it, or something like that.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

And most of the problem with this movie is that nothing really seems to be working at all for Anderson, in probably the first hour or so. It isn’t that it’s boring because people are just standing around and talking, it’s more that it never seems to be going anywhere. It’s almost as if Anderson thought it would be easy enough to give us a bunch of wild, crazy and colorful characters, have them do their thing, and that would be enough to hold our interest, as we waited for something to actually happen. It began to worry me a bit, mainly because I know what can happen when Anderson gets a little too up-in-his-own-ass sometimes.

Yeah, it can get bad, people. VERY BAD.

However, things did in fact pick-up, and I think it occurred right when Zissou and his crew start their journey, wherever the hell it may lead them. Most of the charm that we see Anderson utilize so well when he’s on-point, gets done quite efficiently here, but it also seems to show everything coming together. Of course there’s a lot of the same close-ups and strange-cuts that we have come to know (and sometimes love, sometimes hate) from Anderson, but there was more originality to the way he framed certain scenes and gave it an extra-spunk of color that made this film a lot more goofy than I was expecting.

Actually, “goofy” is probably the perfect word to describe this movie as, mostly because that’s exactly what I saw it as once the whole journey began. Don’t want to give away what happens on this journey that spices everything up and makes it go into a totally different direction than I was expecting, but just like me, you’ll be surprised regardless and its a whole lot of fun as well. It seemed like Anderson really took a liberty with a story of his, put his trademarks on it and gave it an unpredictable feel that completely comes out of nowhere. In fact, it actually gets a bit darker, as many situations take on a very serious, very violent-turn for the worst. But it’s never tonally-jarring, and that’s why Anderson’s movie works as well as it does in the final hour or so, rather than in the first hour, where it doesn’t seem like he knows what to do, or where he’s going. He’s just moving along on the current. You know, sort of like a boat on the sea.

Though, what doesn’t work so well here is when Anderson decides that he really wants to touch our hearts by getting to the core of these characters, and how well it doesn’t translate. See, there are a couple of moments by the end where you realize that Anderson really wants us to start crying like big, effin’ babies and grab whatever towels near us that we can find; however, it doesn’t work that way. For the most part, I was having a good time with this just being as goofy as possibly could be, with some darker-elements under-lining it all, but once it took that other page that makes it a lot weightier, it didn’t feel right. Nor did it gel with everything else that happened before. Doesn’t make it terrible, just makes us, the audience, confused as to whether we’re supposed to laugh, cry, feel warm inside, angry, or all of the above. At the same time, no less.

But, like most of Anderson’s movies, it’s the cast that really shines here as he’s seemingly able to get a wonderful performance out of everybody he has here. And of course, that also means we get to see Bill Murray show up and do his dry-wit thing in a Wes Anderson movie, but this time, it’s playing Steve Zissou, who, in case you didn’t know, is based on a real-person. Still though, that doesn’t seem to faze him much since it’s practically the same type of performance we usually see from Murray, in all of his glory. Without saying anything at all, Murray is able to speak volumes to us about his character by keeping that sad, expressionless face throughout the whole movie, and still be the most likable character somehow. He’s a bit more of a dick-head here, than he is in other of Anderson’s flicks, but there’s still a bit more to who he is, why he is the way he is and what makes him a guy worth seeing a movie made about, that keeps us going with liking him and his company.

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsical features!

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsy!

There’s also Owen Wilson who, much to everybody’s surprise here (including mine), is probably the one who steals this movie away from Murray as he seems like the perfect fit for a guy who is so innocent, so clean and so well-intentioned, that it’s so hard not to just love the guy right from the start. I’ll admit, Wilson has never been a favorite of mine but he totally had me won over here with a performance as Zissou’s long, lost son that he never met until now. There’s a lot of development to this character that makes him more than just another, “Southern bumpkin”-like character that he first starts off as coming-across, which makes it nicer and more pleasant to watch when he and his daddy do form a bond and continue to do son-father activities together. Even if the activities are shark-hunting and fossil-discovering.

Cate Blanchett plays the untrustworthy journalist, that’s doing a report on Zissou and his crew and handles a lot of the comedic-material very well, as well as having a believable romance with Wilson that I thought could have had its own flick, if at al given the chance to come to fruition. Willem Dafoe tests out his comedic-abilities as Zissou’s left-hand man, Klaus Daimler, and has a funny running-gag going on between him, Zissou, and Ned, where he just wants to be loved and treated like the best on the crew. It’s a side of Dafoe that I wish we saw more of, rather than just seeing the nutty, second-coming of Harry Osborne in everything that he does now.

Hold up, though! I’m not done, yet! Jeff Goldblum isn’t here as much as I would have liked as Zissou’s rival, Alistair Hennessey, but is still a lot of fun to watch as he just acts like, well, you know, Jeff Goldbum; Anjelica Huston is spicy (and surprisingly), very hot in her role as Zissou’s wife that doesn’t really want much to do with him since he’s such a fuck-up in his personal, and professional life; and it was a “nice welcome-back to the big-screen” for Bud Cort, who is a guy I haven’t seen awhile and does a nice job as Bill Ubell, the guy that’s forced to watch over production of this trip to make sure the funding of it is alright. Sadly, there was no Maude to accompany him. Wah.

Consensus: May not always work when it’s supposed to, but when the Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou finds a way to gel all of its different elements together, it’s a surprisingly fun, heartfelt time, with an extra-ounce of whimsy, due solely to Wes Anderson and his quirky ways.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So many ego's just going head-to-head right there.

So many ego’s just going head-to-head right there. And Bud Cort.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Best way to coax your family into loving you again? Fake your death. It’s working for Andy.

The Tenenbaums aren’t your ordinary family, but then again, they don’t pretend to be either. The hierarchy of this family is Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who isn’t necessarily the nicest, most up-front, or responsible guy in the world; in fact, he’s kind of an ass. This is why (or from what we know of) he gets kicked out his own house by his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), leaving behind his three children – the adopted oldest Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow); the over-achieving; ambitious middle-son Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller); and the relative-favorite of Royal’s, Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson). For years, Royal doesn’t speak to them or see them at all, which leaves them to grow-up full of angst, disappointment and all sorts of mistakes that make them resent him a whole lot more. However, Royal wants to change all of that as soon as he can once he realizes that he might just be dying of cancer, and is given six weeks to live. Though his kids and even his wife, have all moved on with their lives, they somehow find their way back into the house they all once lived in, which is where all of the various ego’s and heads start to clash.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn't one of them.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn’t one of them.

It’s pretty known among fans of him, that if you’re able to get past all of Wes Anderson’s various quirks and just accept his style for what it is, then you can actually find there’s a lot more rewarding-features to what he does. Not just with a story, or in the way he puts so much effort into the look, but to the actual characters he has in the story, as miserable and as unlikable as they sometimes can be. But I like to think of the characters he creates, as not just being considered “unlikable” or even “loathsome”, but maybe just “human”, with all of the nasty, dirty features added-on that we don’t always want to see or be reminded of actually being capable of having. Maybe it works for me and has me go to bed easier at night, but that’s always my advice to anybody who wants to watch one of his movies, especially the Royal Tenenbaums – aka, my long-time favorite of his.

I could start this review off pretty obvious and just start diving into Anderson’s sense-of-style, but I think I’ve done that more times than I ought to. Instead, I’m just going to dive right into what makes this movie kick, push and feel: The characters. Wes Anderson, although he doesn’t always look too fondly at the world, or those around him, definitely appreciates the people he places into the world of his own. It’s small, contained, quirky, heartbreaking, funny and full of all sorts of spontaneity that even the most hyper-active person may not be able to handle. That’s why the characters he creates and invites to be apart of this world of his own creation, aren’t just ones we have to pay attention to, but are filled to the inner-core with all sorts of small, tiny moments where we see them for all that they are, and who it is that they show the others around them as being.

The perfect example of this would definitely have to be Royal Tenenbaum himself, played with perfection by Gene Hackman. We’ve all seen Hackman play an asshole in a movie before, but here, as Royal, he really gets the chance to stretch that image of his own making and give us a glimpse inside the life of a man who realizes that he’s just too lonely to carry-on in this life without anybody around him any longer. Well, that, and the fact that he’s gotten kicked out of his apartment, may have him thinking of his family as well, but the fact remains that he now knows what it is that he wants with his life, and that’s just to remind those around him that he not only loves them, but wants to actually be with them for once in his life. He may not always say, or do the right things; hell, more often than not, his actions are quite reprehensible to say the least. But once we see Royal for the man he wants to be and clearly wasn’t for the most part of his life, you can’t help but want him to be happy and be loved by those around him, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to having that feeling for him. Instead, they’re more content with just being “fine” towards him; but so is he, so no problems whatsoever.

But what makes Royal such a lovable guy, is that Anderson knows he isn’t perfect and definitely deserves to have life slap him in the face a couple of times, but also doesn’t forget to let him have those small moments of victory where everything in his life that’s possible, seems to be working out for him. Same goes for everybody else in this movie though, as you can tell that Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, really did put all of their efforts into making each and every character somebody worth remembering, or caring about, especially once emotions, as well as tears, are shed.

Even the character of Etheline, who could have easily been an angry, vengeful ex-wife, ends up being a woman that not only loves her family, but also wants to be able to move past all of the problems they’ve faced in the past (which in this case, there are plenty of ’em). Also, the same could be said for Henry Sherman, the guy who wants to marry Etheline, who does show various bouts of jealousy on more than a few occasions, but also doesn’t want to lose the lady he loves, especially not to a swindler like Royal. But, like I said, he’s still a guy that’s backed-up by plenty of human-emotion, that never ceases to show itself in some hilarious, yet brutally honest ways.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

And that’s mainly where Anderson’s writing really comes to perfection. Not only is the guy hilarious with many of the deadpan, over-the-top one-liners he has his characters deliver, but he makes them seem so damn serious and down-trodden, that you can’t help but laugh at them. They are all human beings, yes, but ones that may take themselves a bit too seriously, despite being absolutely surrounded by all sorts of light, vibrant and pretty colors. That’s why a character like Eli Cash, played wonderfully and ever-so charmingly by the aforementioned Owen Wilson, sticks out amongst a group of sad-faces like Margot, Richie and Chas. Doesn’t make them any less likable or anything, because Anderson appreciates their sadness towards life and all of the perks that come along with it; and even when they do smile, or laugh, or decide to just let life’s wonders work its magic on them, it doesn’t just surprise us, but makes us happy that they themselves are actually happy as well. It makes us feel all the more closer to them and gives this story an extra oomph of emotion, that so clearly comes into play by the end.

Even when you do think that Anderson is going to get too big for his britches and get almost too dark with the possibility of suicide, he somehow comes out on-top, showing us that life, despite all of the heartbreak to be found, is still worth living, mainly due to the company you surround yourself. I mean, sure, Margot may rarely ever crack a smile, and the only time she does is when she’s around the man she loves, her brother Richie (although they do claim, on various occasions, “they aren’t related by blood”). Yeah, sure, Chas may never seem to live his life with a sign of hope or happiness, despite being surrounded by a bunch of people that do love him. And yeah, sure, Richie may look at life with a frown, despite not really having an understandable reason to. But what all of these characters have in common, isn’t just that they are apart of the same family, it’s that they have lives they don’t feel too gracious of having and most of the time, take it all for granted. However, once they realize that everything with life isn’t as bad as they unreasonably make it out to be, or that there are people with worse conditions in their life, then they can’t help but shut up, move on and crack a grin or two.

Those moments are mainly when Anderson shines the most, as well as the brightest. Making this family one you can’t help but love, although you can still take note of them being a dysfunctional bunch. Although, I for one have definitely seen worse. Just saying.

Consensus: Wes Anderson’s sense of characterization is what really makes the Royal Tenenbaums a heartfelt, hilarious, lovable and near-perfect delight to sit-through, although you never lose the sense that these are people, and not just characters written completely and totally for-the-screen. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get my drift.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Who doesn't remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Who doesn’t remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Bottle Rocket (1996)

Reminds me of the days that me and my buddies used to day-dream about robbing places. Then never would.

After a nervous breakdown, Anthony (Luke Wilson) “escapes” from a mental hospital and begins to hang with his best friend Dignan (Owen Wilson). They have a healthy relationship that has them planning for the future, however, they’re a bit of an odd-couple where Anthony is nice, sweet, and calmed-down, whereas Dignan is more crazy, daring, energetic, and always willing to pull of something dangerous. You know, like robbing a bookstore, which he and Anthony both do, before settling down in an hotel, out in the middle of nowhere. However, both run into the problem where one falls in love with the hotel maid, and the other just wants to find a way to get more money, and pull off more jobs, just so that he can fully live by his expectations he has set for living in the 21st Century. A lot easier said then done, however, especially when you have two different ego’s facing-off against one another.

This is one of those movies that I am, yes, reviewing again, but I feel like Bottle Rocket was in much need of a re-watch for a long while. Not only have I gotten a firmer grasp on what works in movies, and what doesn’t, but I’ve gotten way more used to Wes Anderson’s sense of style and why so many people love the hell out of it (mainly white people). And thank the heavens I did, because not only did I realize what a loser I was back in the day for giving this a “Rental“, but how much a boob I was for not even really paying attention to it because it wasn’t “like The Royal Tenebaums“.

Look at him! He practically wants to take a swan-dive right out of that car!

Look at him! He practically wants to swan-dive right out that car!

Obviously, nothing is! Jesus, I was such a dick back in those days.

Anyway, nothing here really separates this movie from the rest of Anderson’s catalog; the colors still pop-out at you with their quirkiness, the human-tension between characters is obviously felt, and the folky, ironic soundtrack cues up just about every five seconds Anderson gets tired of silence (and there’s also a choice track by the Rolling Stones in here as well, but did I even need to say that?). So yeah, nothing really different here that you haven’t seen Anderson do or explore before, and it surely won’t change your mind on what you think of him as a director. But it’s sort of a novelty watch considering that this was his first flick, his first shot at the big-times, since all of the stuff that he does here that would soon become trademarks of his, were so fresh and vibrant during this time. Also, he added a lot of snippy, snappy writing to create an original-spin on the heist genre; although, I do feel like a bit of a moron for referring to this as something in the “heist genre”, because it really isn’t.

Yeah, there are a couple of robberies done in the span of this movie’s run-time, but they’re more or less pushed to the back-burner, so that character-development and human-interaction can take center-stage and give us a reason to care, which is exactly what happens in this movie. There aren’t any “father-son issues” to be seen here like there are with most of Anderson’s work, but the characters are still interesting enough to pay attention to, especially because they seem like normal people. Sure, they have their quirks and their personalities that may be a little rambunctious, but I never really threw out a character here as being “over-the-top” or “too zany” for me to take in for all that they are. They’re colorful, that’s for sure, but they do have living, breathing pulses underneath their image, and I think that’s where Anderson’s skill in his screenplays shine the most. Not by how funny or unlikable he make his characters be, but just by who they are, and showing that with no strings attached.

That said, it sure as hell isn’t the guy’s best work, but coming from a first-time director, I didn’t expect that. Hell, the first time watching this, I didn’t expect anything except what some consider “his masterpiece”. That was my fault then, but now, I almost feel like I actually get what Anderson is all about and I see why he makes certain decisions in terms of writing and direction, that he does. Every scene has a reasoning for being in this movie, whether it be to build character, suspense, or full knowledge of what type of world we’re placed in, and it all works well. It’s not perfect, and you can definitely tell that some of Anderson’s low-budget problems do come into play and become very noticeable around the middle-act where we spend almost too much time at the hotel, but it’s nevertheless worth paying attention to, if not to just laugh, but to be a bit touched by as well.

And that’s exactly where Anderson’s characters come into this discussion. Though the cast is small and sparse, given the material, everybody does what they can with it and makes it all the more interesting and entertaining to watch. Luke Wilson has always been my favorite Wilson brother, mainly because he has that everyday, get-to-know-me-guy type of charm that works on me, as well as it probably works on the ladies he meets. There’s just something sweet and endearing about the way he handles himself and talks to the people around him, even if those said people around him are total dicks and don’t quite know it just yet.

Nice to see the jumpsuits still hold some relevance today in pop-culture. Obvious connection, I know.

Nice to see the jumpsuits still hold some relevance today in pop-culture. Obvious connection, I know.

The perfect example of one of those people is Owen Wilson as Dignan, the type of friend nobody wants to have, but sadly do. Owen Wilson hasn’t really been showing us much of himself that’s worth loving and caring about, but he’s very good here as Dignan because he acts like a total nut, yet also gets to the bottom of this character, making him more and more endearing in the process. Dignan always senses there is a time for adventure, even when there isn’t one. He tries to get a hair-cut because he feels like he needs to “lay low” after his robbery, and he takes almost any dire situation, to the utmost sincerity, almost to where you wonder if this guy’s joking around or not. Problem is, he never is joking around and always seems like he’s ready to jump-off a building at any given second.

Dignan’s the type of wired-up dude that nobody wants to be around, but we sadly can’t get away from, and Wilson plays him to perfection, not by being funny and dead-panning his ass off, but because he’s able to let us care for the dude, even when he’s obviously not-knowing of his own stupidity. We all know that he means well, and in a way, can’t help but root him on when the going actually does get going, and he needs to man up. The climactic scene where he does finally nut up and shut up, is probably the most memorable and fun, because we too, feel the same type of adventure and fun that Dignan longs for; the only scary part is that it’s real this time, and it could end very badly for him. Good start for Owen though. Wish he took more roles such as this, and actually challenged himself for once, rather than just hanging out with the same damn crew, each and every movie.

Also, nice cameo from James Caan. Can’t get enough of them in this lifetime, so might as well take advantage of them while you still can.

Consensus: While it’s nowhere near being Wes Anderson’s best piece of work, Bottle Rocket is still an effective flick for him to get his start with because it’s heartfelt, funny, a bit weird, a little quirky, and an all around entertaining watch, regardless of if you’re white or not. Mainly though, I’d suggest you be white, because us people, we love the hell out of Wes Anderson and his whimsy! Nearly as much as we love French movies with subtitles! That’s up for debate, though….

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh! The "grown-man-on-small-bike" gag! Never gets old!

Oh! The “grown-man-on-small-bike” gag! Never gets old!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Internship (2013)

Somehow, dudes that are getting paid millions and millions of dollars to play people that are working and not getting paid feels a bit disingenuous to me.

Best friends and co-workers, Billy and Nick (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) find themselves stuck in a rut. On a business trip, they find out that not only has the company they’ve been working for all this time, not only folded, but is not referring them anywhere else to work. Without any real direction of where to go next, they both decide to take one step in the right direction where most people in this world seem to be going and that’s to Google itself. Well, not exactly. You see, these guys aren’t getting jobs there just yet, and instead, have to go through a summer-long, non-paid internship where they will see what to do and how to do it, in order to make the big bucks in the 21st Century. Problem is, Billy and Nick don’t really know what the hell they are supposed to do with half of this shite, let alone work a computer.

Back in the day, around let’s say 2005, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson we’re the biggest names in comedy, minus a few others. Wedding Crashers was a hit and continues to have people laugh their asses off even until this day. The problem was, that was 2005 and the chance to act all wild, slightly-young, crazy, wacky, and manic, was all accepted because this is who they were and they were just soaking up the sun, telling everyone, and living life to it’s fullest. However, 8 years later, the act is sort of stale and feels like it’s two dudes that have yet come to the realization that not only are their bodies getting flabbier and their hair is getting a bit gray, but they also can’t continue to act like their young, wild, and nutty anymore. They have to actually be and act like considerable “adults”, and it’s not an act that they can hold for very long.

I get it, they're using a vid-chat, but they don't know how to because their old!!

I get it, they’re trying to use vid-chat, but they don’t know how to because their old.

And that’s the whole joke behind this movie: the fact that these guys are old, still trying to be hip and cool, but just don’t “get it”, in the sense that everything that was awesome and rad back in the 80’s and 90’s, is soooooooo lame. It’s a joke that works well for about the first 5 minutes, and then these guys get to the actual Google headquarters where not only is every kid there absolute dicks to them, but unrightfully so too. Because these guys are old, are practically taking this internship on a whim, and don’t really know all of the insanely-nerdy computer lingo like each and every one of them do, that means you have to complete assholes to them? I mean are they nice guys? Or do they walk around, spit on people’s faces, kick them in the ass, liter, not recycle, commit havoc, and forget to flush? Well, nope to that as well.

Basically, these guys aren’t mean in spirit or nature at all. They are corny and trying a bit too hard to be cool again, I’ll give them that, but they aren’t bad dudes, so when every kid that they met at this internship practically threw their fists and saliva in their general direction, I thought it was a little strange considering where this movie goes with it’s message and what it’s exactly trying to say about the generation we live in. You know, the one generation where everybody sees how trashed you got at that concert through the pictures on Instagram and/or Facebook, what political affiliation you consider yourself apart of because of the tweets you make, and where it takes a total of 2.4 seconds to find who was the 23rd President of the United States just by a little bit of typing in that search box.

By the way, the answer was Benjamin Harris. Didn’t take me long to find it either.

But that’s the type of movie we’re dealing with here: it wants to teach us about the old ways of living your life without being run by technology or any stupid, new-age crap like that, and just living, man. And that whole idea the movie continues to spout-out at us wouldn’t have been so bad if it was a comedy that was actually funny in the least bit. However, it’s not and instead takes the same joke that these guys are old, out-of-touch, and a bunch of lamers that somehow refuse to get with the times, and tells it time and time again. Oh, but also not forgetting to remind us that this movie is taking place on the actual Google headquarters, where apparently everything that’s right, beautiful, and fine with the world, occurs there and nowhere else.

Which means, yes, as you probably suspected; this movie is nothing more than a shameless recruiting video for Google, how their internship-process works, and how you too, if you have enough ambition, perseverance, and belief in yourself, can get a job there and start joining in on all of the peacefulness and fun. And hell, if I was to base this movie on that regard, then I’d say the movie did it’s job, and did it quite well mind you. It gets us to feel like Google is the place to work and even if you don’t know what the hell “Ctt” means, you can still continue to learn more and more about it, and eventually get the job, the money, and the happiness that you oh so desire in life. However, this is not a recruiting video for possible interns, but is actually a full-length, feature film that’s supposed to make you laugh, make you happy, make you think, and make you go about your day in a positive, meaningful way.

Well, then in that regard: the movie fails. I can’t say it fails miserably, but it’s noticeable right away that this movie just does not have the juice to keep it going for 2 whole hours, and is going to try it’s hardest to rest it’s shoulders on the talents of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, but here’s the problem: they’ve lost their touch too. I’ve always liked to consider myself a real fan of these two guys, even in their darkest days, but I honestly cannot remember the last time these two really blew me away in something that they were together in, or, were separate and trying to be funny in. Of course, they both had their battles with dramatic roles that have been more successful than one might have suspected (Wilson with Midnight in Paris; Vaughn with Into the Wild), but last time I checked; I can’t remember either one of them really having me holding my gut, except for those eight years ago that we all know about.

I'd party with Vince and Owen any day of the week, I'd just tell them not to argue how the original Footloose is better than the remake.

I’d party with Vince and Owen any day of the week, I’d just tell them not to argue how the original Footloose is better than the remake.

That said, they both try their nearest and dearest to make the slightest ounce of this material work, but all of the wit, all of the charm, and all of the humor that was once placed in their souls and never seemed to stop working; has all of a sudden broken down and been ran-out. And this time, I think it’s for good. It’s sad to think about considering these guys were once on top of the highest mountain when it came to comedy, but now that they’re older and supposed to be more wiser, smarter, and knowledgeable about where their lives have gone, you expect more. You expect these guys not to try and phone it in; you expect them to at least give it their all and make something seem funny; and best of all, you expect them to understand what is funny and what isn’t. But neither of them do, which makes it harder and harder to watch, as if they were two jocks that got back together to chat it up and hang out after all of these years, and still act as if they were as cool and sexy as they once were. They aren’t, and it’s sad to see.

Don’t be fooled though, because these two aren’t the only ones that aren’t funny: barely anybody else here is worth mentioning either. Will Ferrell shows up for all of 5 minutes, gets a chuckle or two, but really seems to be over-doing his d-headed act; Rose Byrne’s a bore as the apple of Wilson’s character’s eye, and it gets painfully obvious between the two; Max Minghella has some sort of British accent that’s supposed to make him seem more like a smart snob, but just has him come off as a dick that nobody, absolutely anybody would want to be around, let alone work with; John Goodman has about a scene or two and is just chewing-up the scenery with his beard and all; and the kids who played the fellow interns that Billy and Nick work with each have their fair share of good moments, and bad ones too, but it’s more of the latter since the material isn’t funny, and none of them really seem to get off the right foot from the beginning, and get back on the good one. They are just young, trying to get a job, and just as inspired as Billy and Nick, they just don’t go shouting out about it from the roof-tops. They just tweet, make a status about it, or text their friend who replies, “LOL lyke awkward.”

Consensus: The Internship‘s problem isn’t just that it isn’t funny, but never knows it isn’t so instead of actually trying to go somewhere else with it’s story, it continues to hammer in the fact that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, at one time, were hilarious dudes that you just had to see no matter what film they were in. Problem is, times have changed and so has the laughs.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Pictured: heaven

Pictured: heaven

Frankenweenie (2012)

Owen and Jen could have really used this movie as a tool for the sequel of Marley & Me 2: He Lives!

The story centers on a young boy named Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan), who loses his beloved dog Sparky and decides to harness the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor, but strange adjustments.

It seems as though every time somebody (including myself) goes into a Tim Burton flick, they are expecting the old, wacky Tim Burton that we all fell in love with in the first-place. When I went to see Dark Shadows earlier this year, that’s exactly what I expected but somehow, I was left down in the dumps and totally forgot that he even had another flick coming up. Thankfully, the return-to-form is back for Burton and this time, with no appearance from Johnny Depp. Wooo-weee!

There’s almost something for anybody in this flick, but for all of those film nerds out there, most will probably find the most amusement in pointing out all of the various, old Hollywood horror movies of yesteryear. Obviously, Frankenweenie is a riff off of Frankenstein, but there’s plenty other references/homages to be had here with tips of the hat to The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Dracula, The Invisible Man, and plenty more that may take you by surprise. Hell, I even feel like I missed some and that’s the whole fun of this movie, keeping a special eye out there to spot something just lingering in the background that may make your film nerd blood boil, and that’s exactly what happened to me.

However, it’s not all about the references and nods that Burton gives that makes this flick so much fun, it’s just the whole wacky atmosphere in general. Every single character in this film, is as colorful and goofy as the last one and just watching every single one come around and play for a little bit, brought a huge smile to my face. Sometimes, I even wanted Victor to just get out of his secret lair and run around town and see what all of the other little bastards he goes to school with do, because they were a hell of a lot more interesting than him and are so over-the-top and ridiculous, it made me feel like they could almost be kids I could have known when I was little. Then again, not many in the school I went to brought dead dogs back to life so obviously we never had to deal with any bullying or straight-up weirdness like these towns-people do.

What’s most surprising about the year of 2012 is not how The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers both came out in the same year, but how there have been not one, not two, but three stop-motion animated pictures in the whole year. This, to me, comes as a total random slap in the back of the head because I thought that this was practically a dead forsaken animated genre that people barely went out to see, and in ways, they don’t but that doesn’t mean that the films don’t look as every bit as purrty as that junk Ice Age 4, that every kid and their miserable mother went out to go see. Every single little piece of detail is calculated so perfectly in this film, that you can’t help but keep your eyes on the screen, not just because you may miss a funny little riff you weren’t expecting to see in a PG-rated movie, but because of how much time was obviously put into these characters, their surroundings, and the way that every scene looks and feels. There’s a certain line that Victor’s nutty science teacher uses about science and says something along the lines of how, “Science only works, if you put your heart and feeling into it.” That’s exactly what I felt coming from Burton here, not just with his story-telling, but the look and beautiful animation that caught my eye the whole hour and 25 minutes the film was up on-screen. Good job, Tim. You better keep this up, you son a of a bitch.

Where I think this film gets a little skewered with itself, was in it’s story-line and how I was left feeling non surprised the whole time. Now, that’s not to really put the blame on Burton or his crew as they obviously had all of the right ingredients for a great, original story that plays around with the idea of what Burton did in his early days of film-making, because most of the problem came from the trailers that played everywhere and practically spoiled the whole damn story. Seriously, everything you see or hear in the trailer, is literally the whole first hour, and everything else is sort of obvious as to where it goes from there. That bothered the hell out of me since every scene just felt like something I was expecting and something I have already seen before, considering this was an original story from the guy who directed and co-wrote it. Damn you trailers! Damn you!

Then, there’s the message of this flick that kind of left me a little scratchy-headed by the end. If anybody, and I do repeat anybody, has ever had a pet or companion or friend in their life, will probably get the feeling of, “Hmm, I wonder if I could bring them back.” I’ve often said this, as well as you have, and mostly everybody else has too. This is sort of the whole fantasy “what if..”-story take on it and plays out perfectly for the most part, but by the end, never really capitalizes on what it’s trying to say about dying and letting a loved one go. For a kids movie, the idea of dying and saying good-bye is a bit too dark and grim, but when you have a movie that presents itself in that way with those sorts of ideas, you shouldn’t back-down from bringing out any important messages that may go straight to the kids heads. It seems as if Burton missed that whole point, and without giving too much away, ends the film on a really strange-note that kind of left me wondering what kids are going to do when they get home. Most likely, they’ll be digging up old Betsie out of the backyard, prying some metal hangers onto her, and just waiting for the next storm to come on by, just because good old Tim Burton said so. Never mind about the trailers, damn you Tim! Damn you!

Aside from this whole screwed-up message that Burton seemed to have missed the boat on, you can’t help but love Victor and all of his interactions with Sparky because it will most likely have you remembering all of the good times you spent with your beloved pet. Every time Sparky would bark, yelp, lick, and jump on Victor when he came home from school, it had me smiling cause it made me think of two dogs that I’ve ever had in my life (Patton & Pearl, don’t judge), and made me want to go home and just play with the latter one. If you’re a dog lover, this whole aspect of the story will have an effect on you, as it did to me and you should definitely be ready for some tears to stroll right down the face, because that’s exactly what happened to me and I barely ever find myself crying in movies. That’s right, I’m a tough-ass so don’t try and break me.

Victor himself, is voiced by newcomer Charlie Tahan, who does a serviceable job but couldn’t help me forget that Victor was just a tad too dull to really hold my interest. Victor is nice, polite, quiet, and very soft-spoken, but is looked at as “the weird kid” from everybody else around from his own father, to the kids in his science class. Maybe making Victor this type of kid was sort of the point, but it didn’t do much for me and just made me want to see more scenes of him hangin’ out with Sparky or other people. More of Sparky than anybody else because I couldn’t get enough of that little guy.

Seeing that this is so-called “return to form” for Burton, it should be pretty understandable as to see him reunite with some vets of  in a very impressive supporting cast. Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short voice Victor’s parents and do a fine job at that, but are finally given the chance to let loose when they are allowed to voice the far more wackier characters and it’s nice to see them back in action, even if it is behind the screen; Martin Landau voices the spooky science teacher Mr. Rzykruski, and has this nice bit where he metaphors about immigration using lightening and even gets a nice scene where he tells all of the parents what’s on his mind, in his perfect Bela Lugosi-voice as well; and then there’s Winona Ryder as Elsa Van Helsing, the weird girl next-door who is fine, but nothing special since she isn’t given that much to do here. Then again, it’s still good to see Ryder back in the saddle again and actually being given big roles in Hollywood productions.

Consensus: Frankenweenie is full of fun, light-hearted, goofy, wacky entertainment that may get a bit skewered with it’s message by the end, but is always a blast because it’s Tim Burton returning to what he used to do best: be weird and embrace it.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Wes Anderson’s mind is finally a fun place to be at again.

Moonrise Kingdom centers on two 12 year-olds (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who fall in love and decide run away together into the wilderness. Naturally, the local community frantically scrambles to find them before a violent storm hits shore.

For awhile now, it seems like Wes Anderson has really started losing any credit he’s ever gotten since his debut, Bottle Rocket. Mainly, the reason for that is because his style is just overly-quirky, to the point of where you don’t feel like you’re actually watching real-life human beings, you’re just watching a bunch of twee characters made from Anderson’s sketches. However, that all changes here but at the same time, doesn’t change all that much. Which is very strange considering it’s probably my favorite from him since The Royal Tenenbaums.

This is probably Anderson’s best-looking flick he has ever done but it’s also with the same style he’s been using for his whole career, it’s just that it works so well with the story. All of the trademarks from Anderson’s direction are here in this flick, but the difference here that sets it apart from all of his other, beautiful-looking movies is that this one is set in the 60’s. The bright colors, sets, costumes, and camera-tricks that Anderson pulls out of his pocket all work rather than just seeming like another hipster attempt at being “cool” because of how he sets it in the 60’s. 60’s was a time for fun, relaxing, and being yourself and Anderson totally taps into that mind-set with just how gorgeous he makes this film look and even if you don’t like Anderson films (and trust me, there are plenty out there who absolutely despise the hell out of him), you can still sit there and just gaze at the beautiful portrait Anderson has on-display here.

Anderson always has beautiful films, no surprise there, but what makes this one so different is that he has a great script to give us something else to sink our teeth into. Anderson has a very dead-pan way of comedic timing but it’s put to great use here just because the film is so damn funny. As usual, you have to look out for little sight gags here and there but it’s the fact that this film continues to get more and more goofy as it goes on, that makes you feel like you’re having the time of your life. There’s a certain unabashed “fun” feel to this film that had me entertained so much but it’s more about how the story made me feel, rather than what it made me do.

This is probably Anderson’s most innocent piece of work to date, and with good reason because when you have a story about two runaway, little kids being together and falling in love, how can you not get a little cutesy? There are so many moments here that are so pleasant to watch because you really feel something for these two kids whenever they are together, and you want them to be happy, you want them to never grow-up and be old, angry people like Suzy’s parents, and you just want them to live their lives together, forever. I know it all sounds uber cheesy and lame, but this story really bring you into to its sweetness and Anderson takes full advantage of that showing us that the outside world for these two, is just not a fun or happy place to be, especially together. It was a story that actually reminded me a lot of my little crushes I had on some chickity-doo-da’s when I was little tike and made me feel young again, just watching how happy they were being able to connect to somebody in their lives. It’s some great stuff to see up on-screen and it’s a real surprise that Wes Anderson almost had me close to tears by the end of it all. “Close to tears” is what I said, people! Don’t worry, he didn’t get me just yet.

The reason why you love these kids together so much, is because the performances from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so damn good that I was even surprised to hear that this was their first film-roles ever. Gilman has this nerdy, but endearing look to him that makes him easy to like especially when he starts acting all cool and tough, while he’s trying to protect his “girl” from the cruel outside world. While Hayward is absolutely great as this somewhat disturbed girl, that seems like she would most likely be one of those emo freaks, had she been born 30 years later. They both seem so natural with each other, which really shocked me because they have to do some pretty “intimate things” together that would more than likely have some kids turn their heads and go, “ewwww coootieeeeesss!!”. However, that’s not either of these kids and they’re definitely a perfect fit for one another and I hope that they both get some real, bright futures for themselves because I think they deserve it with the work they put out here.

They’re the real stars of this flick, but everybody else is pretty damn good, too. Bill Murray is great as the dead-pan, always sad daddy of Suzy; Frances McDormand is fun to watch as the very messed-up mom of Suzie (also, Hayward looked a little bit like a younger version of McDormand, just a little bit though); Edward Norton is a whole lot of fun as the cheesy Scout Master Ward, and totally had me by surprise by how spot-on his comedic timing was considering this was the guy who got nominated for an Oscar where he actually curb stomped some dude (doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would have me really laughing at all); Tilda Swinton is evil and bitchy as Social Services, then again, what other kind of character would she play; and Jason Schwartzman also pops-up for about 5 minutes as Cousin Ben, but is still a lot of fun.

Actually, the most surprising piece of good work here was probably done by Bruce Willis as the sad and lonely guy that searches all over for these kids, Captain Sharp. Willis has been so many damn action roles as of late that so many people almost forget about how great of a “dramatic” actor this guy can be at times and he totally surprised me with the depth he was able to go through with this sad-sack of a character. He’s not really all that tough, he’s not really all that happy, and he’s really not at all like John McClane in the least bit. All of which, are a great thing and I hope this shows that Willis has more to him than just shouting out “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!”.

If there was one complaint I had to throw out from this whole movie it would have to be Bob Balaban as the narrator. The guy opens up the film and is a funny joke, but every time he comes on, for some reason just bothered the hell out of me and it seemed like it was a joke that went on too long. Not a huge problem by any means, but any time the guy showed up, I seemed to have gotten more annoyed.

Consensus: Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s welcome back to being a top-notch writer/director, and with good reason. The ensemble all bring out great work, including the little kiddie leads, the writing is hilarious in its subtle, dead-pan way, and the story itself will drag you in with its sweet innocence. Classic Anderson and I hope he’s back to stay for good.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Quirkiness is everywhere, especially in India.

In the wake of their father’s death, three brothers (Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman) embark on a steam-engine journey across India aboard the Darjeeling Limited and attempt to reconnect after years of physical and emotional distance. The trip also opens up old wounds and proves that the base instincts of sibling rivalry can never be completely erased.

Writer/director Wes Anderson is just one of those dudes that you either love or hate, although it’s weird with me. I don’t love him but I can definitely say that he has made some great flicks as well as some ones that maybe aren’t so splendid. This one is definitely placed in the latter.

The original premise is what you would expect from Anderson, and much like the plot, so is the rest of the film. All of Anderson’s quirks and signatures are here such as the running in slow-motion to a 60’s rock song, a Rolling Stones song coming on, very vibrant colors, family issues, and plenty of other strange things happening that we have to come to know and sometimes love with his flicks. This isn’t a huge disappointment to see since these signatures are what separates his rather generic story-lines from many other familiar ones out there. What the problem with this flick is that it’s uneven and really meanders during the middle act. I don’t know what was the problem here but the script didn’t hit any marks whatsoever whether it came to comedy, drama, or even quirky. It all just felt boring and nothing was holding my interest for the longest time.

When I say it’s uneven, I don’t mean that there are parts where it goes for the comedic chops and then just goes right onto totally dramatic territory, because they are actually pretty subtle with the dramatic stuff here, it just didn’t fit all that much. These characters are pretty dickish (what is to expected from Anderson) but the film tries so hard to have us care for these characters by the end that it’s too pushy. There will be a moment here or there, where it’s obvious that Anderson wants us to feel the pain and anguish that these characters feel, but instead we are left feeling nothing and even unmoved. It’s hard to connect to anyone and it wouldn’t have bothered me if they weren’t so busy bickering at each other for the first hour or so acting like one of them just stole their PS2 game.

However, there are plenty of moments to this flick that worked, which I think is Anderson’s fault. Anderson always has a knack for making beautiful-looking films go along with his darkly depressing subject material, and here is no different. His colors just pop-out at you with every shot, the camera itself glides back and forth and crash zooms like crazy as if it was a film from the 70’s, and the soundtrack itself provides plenty of tracks that go along with the setting as well as mood but also stay in your head long after the flick is over. Once again with Anderson, his films are barely hard to stop looking at because no matter what the subject matter is, the flick is always going to have something beautiful to see and gaze at.

As much as I may talk a bunch of ish on the script itself, I still can say that there are plenty of delightful moments to it as well that sort of make it the trip worth watching. The several moments of dry humor work because there are plenty of gags that come around subtlety in the film and it’s almost like the flick itself is testing you to see if you really are paying attention after all. Even the drama by the end starts to hit its mark mainly because Anderson is very good at showing sequences that not only move us but make us chuckle as well. There’s one impressive scene at the end played to the tune of “Play With Fire” by The Rolling Stones and without giving too much away, I just want to say it’s one of those signature Anderson scenes that make you forget about the rest of the film and have you only remember that.

The cast isn’t anything new here for Anderson, but they all do pretty well with his quirky material even though nobody is really gunning for anything new or improved when it comes to their acting. Adrien Brody is pretty good as Peter and is always able to convey any emotion that he has through his eyes, which helps his character out a lot here; Jason Schwartzman is pretty funny with his dry sense of humor that always seems to work but he’s much more mature with this role than we usually have seen him in here as Jack; and Owen Wilson is pretty much playing the same role he always does but with a more pretentious act here as Francis, but he still has great comedic timing and probably got the most laughs out of me the whole time. There’s also an extended cameo scene from Anjelica Huston as these dudes’ mommy, and she always gives that amazing performance that usually always clocks in underneath 10 minutes. As I’ve said before, everybody here is great but their not really trying anything new here to make us totally surprised.

Consensus: The Darjeeling Limited is well-acted and has its moments of pure drama and comedy, but everything feels too familiar with barely anything new or original to see here and the script is definitely one of Wes Anderson’s more uneven ones as of late.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Wedding Crashers (2005)

Why can’t these guys do more comedies like this?

John (Owen Wilson) and his buddy Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) are emotional criminals who know how to use a woman’s hopes and dreams for their own carnal gain. And their modus operandi? Crashing weddings. Normally, they meet guests who want to toast the romantic day with a random hook-up. But when John meets Claire (Rachel McAdams), he discovers what true love — and heartache — feels like.

Here’s a film that has been in my mind ever since it first came out. I remember when I was in fifth grade and I always used to watch this with my buddies, and we would laugh our asses off like a bunch of hyenas, even though half of the shit these people said in this film, were stuff we had no idea about. The only thing that mattered is that it was dirty stuff and that was cool.

What works with Wedding Crashers is just how damn funny it is. The humor here is raunchy but the whole time it had me laughing my ass off by just how witty these one-liners were. When I was watching the film, I couldn’t help but quote lines like “Baba ganoush!”, or “lock it up!”, and even the “people helping people” speech that we get. I love when I can quote films and still laugh at the quotes even though I have seen this film about 15 times. Yes, I have been counting.

The film is essentially broken up into three parts – the hour where we are at the Summer House and the two half-hours where we are not. Everything in this one hour at the Summer House works incredibly well and had me laughing non-stop because that feeling of just being around this one family, where everyone’s a little kooky in their own way and nothing seems to be going right for one person, but does for the other, is always funny in my book.

The only problem with this film is that by the last act, the film starts to get terribly and I do repeat terribly over-dramatic. Throughout the film, there were these little montages of Wilson and McAdams falling in loooooove, which I thought was incredibly stupid and annoying but when the last act showed up and then you have the dumb-ass speech where you’re all lovey-dovey and saying sorry all-over-the-place, that’s where this film lost me and had me totally annoyed. I usually hate it when films do this and this was even worse considering how funny that one hour was, and everything else is basically chuckle-worthy.

I have to say though that the real show to watch in this film is definitely Vince Vaughn as Jeremy. I wouldn’t say that this is on par with his debut in Swingers but I will say that his performance here is just hilarious because he does that “speak 100 miles a minute” thing that he’s so good at and probably has some of the most funny if not memorable scenes of the whole film. The film would have still been pretty funny without him, but having Vince there just makes everything so much better and funnier.

Owen Wilson is pretty good too as John, but then again he’s just playing Owen Wilson so there’s no real stretch there for him, acting wise; Bradley Cooper is totally dickish as Sack, a name that just screams dick head; Isla Fisher is insane but hilarious as Gloria; Rachel McAdams is sort of in a whole entirely different film as Claire; and Jane Seymour is a hot and sexy mama as Kathleen, Claire and Gloria’s cougar mommy. I don’t really have much to say about her performance other than the fact that she is just hot!

Oh, and Christoper Walken is here too as the daddy. However, I don’t need to mention how awesome he is.

Consensus: With some very funny moments, tip-top comedic performances from the cast, and a big list of quotable lines, Wedding Crashers is a sure comedy classic but with the last half-hour, when things start to get a little too over-long and serious, that’s when my happiness started to run away.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!