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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Paul Bettany

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to let them fight.

After years and years of constant controversy over their extreme efforts to stop evildoers in the world, the Avengers are now facing public scrutiny. So much so that now, the government wants to find a way to intervene with their ways in how they go about stopping the evil, while also making sure that no innocent, kind citizens get killed in the process. This new rule sets the group apart; while Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is all about it for the sake of still being able to stop villains from taking over the world, Captain America (Chris Evans), on the other hand, doesn’t feel the same way. Of course, there are others in the group who feel the same as either side, but they’re coming to a point now where they don’t know if they can stay together as a single unit without someone getting hurt. And now, what with Bucky (Sebastian Stan) back in the picture, Cap wants to protect him in any way he can, even if that means having to take down fellow friends and confidantes that he could once trust.

I know someone in DC who could probably beat all of them....

I know someone in DC who could probably beat all of them….

Which means, yes, they all brawl.

A few months ago, there was a huge backlash against Batman V. Superman. Most of the reasons had to do with the fact that it basically just sucked and that was about it. Of course, none of these people were ever wrong, but for me at least, I was a tad bit kinder on it because it set out to make a superhero movie that, yes, was ultimately messy, but asked certain questions and toggled certain ideas that we don’t typically see in superhero movies. Should there be superheroes in the world in which we live in? And if we can’t help the fact that they are, what can we do to stop them, or better yet, decrease their power and danger to our society? Get rid of them altogether? Or put little rules and guidelines for them to follow, so that they don’t go around killing thousands and thousands of citizens as if it was, yes, 9/11 all over again.

Obviously, these are the same kinds of questions and ideas that Civil War plays with in its own mind, but where BVS screwed-up with, they actually deliver on. Not only do they ask the goddamn questions, but they also seem interested in solving it, even if the only way to do so is basically through fist fights and banter-battles. For once, we see characters and superheros who, for the past few years or so, have been nearly untouchable and almost too close to being perfect, but somehow, Civil War finds a way to have them all shine in different lights. Even though this is supposed to be his movie, Captain America actually comes off more like an unlikable child here who doesn’t get his way, so therefore, has to resort to punches, kicks and throwing his shield.

Then again, nobody else is perfect here, either. And well, that’s sort of the point of this story.

Falcon punch!

Falcon punch!

What the Russo Brothers do the best job of here is that they allow for the story to do its usual checklist of things we see in these kinds of superhero movies, but does them way better than those movies. While new characters and subplots are being brought to our attention, the Russo’s never allow for it to get too jammed-up to where we have no idea what’s the conflict with which character, for what reasons, and when we can expect it all to get resolved. In Age of Ultron, the movie was admittedly way too overstuffed and overlong to really make sense of its mayhem and therefore, it suffered. The action itself may have been fun and well-done, but because there was just so much going on, with so many damn people, it was hard to really care for any of it, especially when you’re still trying to pinpoint who matters and why.

The Russo’s, thankfully, don’t have that problem. Even though they’re working with a wide arrange of characters and stories to work with, they somehow are able to have it all work together in a cohesive manner, that when the action does eventually come around, you care. Not only do these characters get their opportunities to shine and show why they’re genuine ass-kickers, but give us a little background on who they are and their personalities. Even for characters like Hawkeye and the Vision, who you may feel have overstayed their welcome, still come around to show us that they’re around and actually matter to a story as overcooked as this.

Does this make Civil War perfect? Nope, but it definitely makes it the best Avengers movie since the first Avengers.

Which is saying something, because all of the Marvel movies have been fine and done their jobs well. That isn’t to say that they haven’t all felt like they were doing the same things as the one that came before it, but regardless, it still doesn’t matter, because it seems like Civil War gets Marvel right back on-track. Though a lot more is left up in the air this time, the feeling that everything has changed and gotten a whole lot more serious with this universe and these characters is still around and it’s what makes me genuinely excited for what’s next to come.

Cause yes, obviously, we’re going to get more of these movies, whether you like it or not.

Consensus: Exciting, tense, smart, and believe it or not, interesting, Civil War does everything that Batman V Superman tried to do, but hits every nail on the head and reminds us why this universe can be so great to be apart of when they’re firing on all cylinders.

9 / 10

Hey guys, I know you're kicking ass and all, but 2-on-1 ain't cool. Let's fight fair here.

Hey guys, I know you’re kicking ass and all, but 2-on-1 ain’t cool. Let’s fight fair here.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Art is just pretty colors. Nothing more. So let’s take it easy.

Famous and notorious symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is used to facing all sorts of controversies in issue throughout his life. However, he’s now facing the biggest surprise of his life when, as it turns out, he becomes the leading suspect in a murder of a Louvre curator that he met some odd years ago. Why is this, though? Well, Robert doesn’t really know. But what he does know is that the murder all means something and has to do with a bunch of symbols, shapes and colors, all of which, somehow connect. So, in order to figure out just what the hell it all means, to find the actual killer, and above all else, clear his name, Robert, along with police cryptographer (Audrey Tautou), will have to run from the police and go through every piece of art that they believe to solve the puzzle of this guy’s murder. While all of this is going on, an albino assassin (Paul Bettany), who apparently works for the Church, is going around and killing people for shady reasons. But will Robert be the next one on this assassin’s list? After all, the stuff he has to say about Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Catholicism, aren’t too popular and most definitely make him a key target for the Catholic Church to take out and shut up, for good.

Can't trust the French.

Can’t trust the French.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Da Vinci Code back before it even came out. Most of that had to do with the tricky subject-material the book seemed to deal with in discussing how Jesus may, or may not, have had relations with Mary Magdalene, as well as how Catholicism wasn’t originally set out to be monothestic, but rather, goddess-centered. Surely, the ideas are interesting and make one think quite a bit, but honestly, they’re hardly ever touched at in the movie; there’s a nice sequence involving Sir Ian McKellen’s character who goes on about the Last Supper painting in ways that’s intriguing and fun, but really, that’s about it.

And you know what? That scene is probably the best one here.

Everything else about the Da Vinci Code, despite what the subject-material may have promised initially, just feels, looks, and seems safe. That mostly has to do with the fact that Ron Howard’s the director here and more or less, appears to be making a movie for the kind of large crowd that would want to go see this and not have to worry about being offended or thinking too hard. I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool to see Robert Langdon go through some of these historical documents and use his brain to think things through and connect the dots, but really, the movie doesn’t always seem too concerned with that. Most of the time, it just wants to keep itself moving without ever focusing on one key plot-element in particular.

Which isn’t to say that Howard does a bad job here; the movie looks as slick and as professional as can possibly be. But an action director, Ron Howard is not, and it shows quite often here. For one, the majority of the movie features Langdon running away – whether it be in cars, or on his own feet, Langdon always seem to be sprinting to the next location. Rather than to allow for the tension to pick up and grab ahold of us, Howard seems to use the manipulative device of just shaking the camera like he was trying to wake it up (or us, for that matter), and it just gets distracting. The movie, as was, already doesn’t do too much to grab ahold of you, but to see Howard try so incredibly hard to make you forget about that fact, can get a bit sad.

But perhaps Howard’s biggest wrong-doing with the Da Vinci Code isn’t his action-sequences, but the fact that the movie’s awfully way too self-serious and melodramatic, and it surely didn’t need to be. Had this been a crazy, wacky, and over-the-top piece of campy fun (which is definitely how it appears to be when you read what the movie’s about), I wouldn’t have minded some of the sillier moments that seemed to come completely out of nowhere and make very little, to almost no sense whatsoever. But because the movie hardly ever cracks a smile, or a joke, it all just seems like it’s taking itself way too seriously and doesn’t really just what kind of nuttiness lies within this material.

Can't trust albinos.

Can’t trust albinos.

If only.

Thankfully though, Tom Hanks, as usual, seems to be trying. Even as a character like Robert Langdon who, honestly, feels pretty boring, Hanks finds ways to make him somewhat charming and cool, even if all he does is stare at stuff all day, think way too hard about whatever it is, and come to crazy, almost random conclusions that nobody will ever believe. Hanks’ sort-of mullet is definitely annoying, but eventually, it’s easy to get by and just appreciate the fact that, yes, Hanks is here, trying to make this movie better, and do just whatever the hell he can to make this material come off as at least slightly legitimate.

Joining Hanks is a pretty solid international cast that we don’t get to see too much of in movies nowadays. Tautou does what she can to be more than just “the girl”; Bettany is just, plain and simply, creepy, but works well as it; McKellen adds the only bit of sizzle and spice to a movie that, quite frankly, needed a whole lot more of it; Alfred Molina shows up to chew the scenery as a member of the Catholic church; Jean Reno is the cop on Langdon’s tail and just wants to know what the hell happened; and yeah, there’s some more to be found, too. But still, none of them are ever given the full chance to spread their wings and fly as much, and as high as they want to – instead, they have a key demographic to appeal to and it’s just boring.

Consensus: Largely inoffensive, the Da Vinci Code barely touches on any of the controversial issues that made it such a hot-button many years ago and instead, suits itself for a more generic, run-of-the-mill, and occasionally interesting thriller. Lame.

5 / 10

But hey, don't worry, you can trust the British.

But hey, don’t worry, you can trust the British.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Legend (2015)

Evil twin brothers aren’t just horror cliches, but actual, real life things?

Reggie and Ronald Kray (Tom Hardy) are literally identical twins who couldn’t be anymore different. Well, actually, that’s a lie. While they both handle themselves in certain public, as well as business situations differently, they both share the same love and need for violence, money and power. However, despite this shared interest, Reggie and Ronald don’t always see eye-to-eye. Reggie is the more calm, understated one of the two, whereas Ronald is clearly mentally-challenged, awkward and a nervous-wreck. While Reggie knows that his brother is a dangerous nut case to have around, he’s still, after all, his brother. That means that, no matter what idiotic, downright evil mistakes Ronald makes, Reggie always sticks to his brother’s side. Even though by doing so, it not only costs him respect, his marriage to his sweetheart Frances (Emily Browning), and his sanity, Reggie continues to stay at his brother’s side. Eventually though, all of this gets to be a bit overbearing for Reggie and it soon starts to ruin just about every aspect of his life; which isn’t something that’s happening to Ronald because, quite frankly, he’s not all that there to begin with.

That's Ronnie.

That’s Ronnie.

There truly is an interesting movie to be made about the notorious Kray Twins, and some of it can be found in Legend. While the movie runs 131 minutes, there’s at least an hour and five minutes of a movie that realizes it’s dealing with two ultra-violent, twisted gangsters who, believe it or not, just so happened to be identical twins. The other half of the movie, well, thinks it’s something a whole lot more serious and melodramatic which, really, it doesn’t need to be.

But before I go any further it should be noted that no matter where Legend goes, or what it tries to do, Tom Hardy is nothing short of amazing.

This may come as no surprise to anyone who has been seeing the evolution of Tom Hardy’s career as he’s went from small, British character actor, to huge, charismatic, fun and lively leading-man who’s not only great-looking, but also can command the screen. And as both of the Kray twins, Hardy is given the rough task of having to play two different characters, while simultaneously making us believe that we’re not just watching Tom Hardy act as twins and get past some of the camera-trickery that director Brian Helgeland pulls off. This is all made harder by the fact that, personalities aside, the only discernible physical traits that separate the two from one another is that Ronald wears glasses, and Reggie doesn’t.

But still, Hardy’s more than up to the challenge and making these characters feel entirely separate from one another. Though, perhaps what helps Hardy out the most is that Ronald is a whole lot more sadistic and over-the-top than Reggie, which means that Hardy has an absolute blast with this role. Every time Ronald’s in the movie, he’s constantly saying weird stuff, making everybody around him generally uncomfortable, and always making it seem like if someone were to say something that ticked him off ever so slightly, it would just set him off into a rage where anyone and everyone were in danger of losing their lives, or a limb with a hammer. Hardy makes this character, although fun and entertaining to watch, genuinely scary as you never know when the light in his head is going to set off.

This is also to say that Ronald, the character, is also all the more interesting and probably the best part of the movie.

Not only was he a gangster who was, in a day and age when this was never even talked about, openly gay, clearly mentally challenged, but at the same time, still sophisticated enough that he could handle on a conversation with just about anyone. Sure, those conversations tended to get weird and awkward, but they still shed some insight into just how this man thought and what he brought to the gangster world. Honestly, I wouldn’t have much rather seen a film about him, rather than been bothered so much with Reggie’s life, but sadly, this isn’t really the movie we get.

That's Reggie.

That’s Reggie.

Instead, we see Reggie’s life play out, as he not only meets the love of his life, gets married, and continues to try and stay alive and prosperous in the gangster world. It’s a pretty conventional story-line that most gangster flicks in the same vein and while it can sometimes work because Browning and Hardy are good together, here, considering the interest and excitement level there is Ronald, it tends to just bring the rest of the film down. Not to mention that we didn’t really even need a voice-over from Browning’s character practically the whole time, especially since she just tends to spell everything out that we can clearly see on the screen, happening in front of us.

But still, there are bits and pieces of Legend that are fun and show that Helgeland did set-out to make an entertaining gangster flick.

However, they’re mostly concerning Ronald, which makes just about everything that doesn’t concern him, uninteresting and seem like a waste of time. Not to mention that, like I said before, the movie is over two hours and starts to feel like it when the movie loses focus and instead, just wants to give us more scenes to sit, gaze and wonder how and why there is someone as talented as Tom Hardy in the movie world.

Which definitely is a good question to ask because, yes, Tom Hardy is a great actor and so is everyone else who pops up here. Paul Bettany, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccelston, David Thewlis, and Chazz Palminteri all show up to do their actorly things and make Legend appear to be more than just a huge showcase for the talents of Hardy. Once again, that’s fine and all, but why isn’t the movie better?

Consensus: There’s no denying that Tom Hardy is great and a force to be reckoned with in Legend, but there’s also no denying that the movie he’s in is a bit messy, boring, and most of all, uninterested in probably what would have made the movie more of a compelling watch.

6 / 10

And that's somebody that we don't really care about.

And that’s somebody that we don’t really care about.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Gangster No. 1 (2000)

All gangsters are cool. Even the crazy ones.

Malcolm McDowell plays an unnamed Gangster who, through him, we’re being told this story. He finds out that his mentor, Freddie Mays (David Thewlis) is finally getting released from prison. This is when we’re brought back to the year, 1969, where he tells us the story of when he was a young gangster (Paul Bettany) and practically climbed through the ranks of the British mafia.

It seems like whenever a gangster flick comes out, they’re always unnecessarily compared to other, sometimes better gangster flicks that came before them. For instance, if one has a bit of humor in it, it’s often considered a rip-off of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Or, if one is quick-as-lightning, it can be sometimes looked as a carbon copy of Goodfellas; and if there’s a flick that’s takes its time, and prefers more of the slow-burn approach, it’s then compared to the Godfather, no matter what. Basically, gangster flicks have it tough and it’s only made worse by the fact that it’s getting a whole lot harder to tell these kinds of stories in fun and fresh ways.

When does Malcolm McDowell not look pissed-off?

When does Malcolm McDowell not look pissed-off?

But what about a gangster flick that’s more like American Psycho?

Now, that’s something new, which is why Gangster No. 1 is a pleasant surprise.

Director Paul McGuigan deserves credit here because he doesn’t try to be like any other types of gangster flicks out there, nor does he over-do anything, either. There’s no hip soundtrack, nor are there any bits of wit to break-up the tension when things get too serious; it’s very straight-forward gangster movie. However, it is, in no way, a boring or conventional one; it’s a surprisingly ruthless piece that, once it gets going, starts spinning faster and faster, only until that wheel eventually breaks loose and becomes a wild ride where you have no idea where it’s going to end up and how. The story may not be as unpredictable as I may make it sound, but what really makes this film tick is the style (or lack thereof) of the violence in this film that no matter how gruesome or tense it got, it keeps you glued.

One scene in particular that stays clear in my mind is the one where “the Gangster”, finds a rival mob-boss, and slowly tortures him. Heard it done before? Of course, but there’s a surprising twist with it: It’s told in the victim’s view-point. It may sound gimmicky, but surprisingly it’s effective as every little piece of pain that gets inflicted onto him, almost feels like it’s getting inflicted onto us. The blood for that scene just shoots out everywhere, the camera is constantly moving rapidly, but yet, still stays on the violence happening, and there’s even a nice little pop tune playing in the back to remind us just how more sinister this piece of torture truly is. Anytime you have pop song in your violent movie, always make sure to play it during the most violent scene.

Always ironic. Always awesome.

And while that was just one scene in particular, the rest of the movie works because McGuigan doesn’t seem to try too hard to make this separate itself from the plenty other gangster flicks out there.

But if there was something here that bothered me, it was the narration from Malcolm McDowell, that honestly, was heard one too many times. At first, it didn’t seem like much of a problem because it placed us in the story and setting, but after awhile, it just became over-bearing and pointless to where it just seemed like half of the stuff he said was profanity. He even goes as far as to describe one scene while it was happening and it just seemed like over-kill and probably could have been done a lot better without really having to explain the needless things. Then again, they were probably just trying to put us in the mind of a psycho killer, which honestly, we kind of get the drift of after the first ten or so minutes.

Gangsters? Or Wanksters?

Gangsters? Or Wankers?

And before I forget to mention it, why the hell did everybody look the same with some nice make-up on after the 30 years, but Paul Bettany completely changes into McDowell. Everybody in this cast gets some fake, gray hair, a couple of wrinkles in their skin, and a very fragile voice, but the main Gangster is the only guy that gets fatter, has a bigger head, has a terrible five-o’-clock shadow, and is still yelling, pissing, and screamin’ all of these years later. Maybe people don’t change after 30 years and still stay their same old, crazy selves, but it seemed a bit unbelievable to me that after 30 years, these people would all still look and act the same, as well as holding the same, old grudges they held before.

Maybe I’m just not a true gangster.

Though it may not sound like I was happy with him doing anything here, McDowell is still quite solid in this role as the aging, but still vicious gangster. It’s obvious that they placed him in the role of an older, and much more crazier psycho (*cough cough* A Clockwork Orange *cough cough*), but he kicks ass with the role still and made me laugh whenever he seemed like he just felt like dropping the C-word for no good reason at all.

But it’s Paul Bettany, playing the younger version of him, who steals the whole show. Bettany has a lot to work with here because he gets to show a lot of evil and dark aspects to this guy, while also showing a lot what makes us love him so much in the first place. However, a lot of that lovely shite he usually has in those other flicks, isn’t as showy here and we get to see what he can do whenever he gets angry and just feels like gutting somebody up into little pieces. We’re never made to feel sympathy for this cat, which works; he’s not asking for that and that’s what makes him so much more bad-ass. Now, will somebody please give Paul Bettany one more leading role and just act like Priest doesn’t even exist.

Consensus: Without trying to be too flashy or shiny, Gangster No. 1 is still an effective, surprisingly fun gangster flick that puts us inside the mind of a psycho killer, and allows for Paul Bettany to work wonders with the meaty role as said psycho killer.

7.5 / 10 

Silent, but deadly. Yup. Obvious one, I know.

Silent, but deadly. Yup. Obvious one, I know.

Photos Courtesy of: Nick Tentis, Film4, Mubi 

A Knight’s Tale (2001)

KnightposterSir Lancelot always did prefer AC/DC.

Ever since he was a little boy, William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) has always wanted to be a knight and make something of his life. That’s why, when his master dies, William steps up to the plate and takes over his command; while this is obviously illegal to do, he’s going to get by on a phony name, as well as a certain type of skill in jousting. And after his first few matches, William, along with his fellow squire buddies (Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk), get the idea that maybe it’s time to take this career a little more serious. After all, they’re gaining so much fame and fortune, that why should they even bother to stop? And now it seems like William has caught the eye of a princess (Shannyn Sossamon) who shares quite the chemistry with him. However, in the eyes of the man she’s supposed to get married to (Rufus Sewell), this is clearly not something good, which means that he will take whatever steps necessary into not just defeating William on the jousting-field, but off it, too. This is where William’s past comes to light and has him wondering whether or not his father would be proud of what he’s become.

Don't mess with these folks. I guess.

Don’t mess with these folks. I guess.

The whole gimmick surrounding A Knight’s Tale is that, yes, it’s a medieval story taking place in the 1400s, which also happens to feature characters speaking in modern dialects, references to modern-day culture, and, perhaps most infamously, a whole ton of rock music. In fact, if one were to go into this movie, not knowing absolutely anything at all, they’d probably be shocked to all hell; once these medieval characters start suiting up and, randomly, War’s “Low Rider” begins to play, it seems so random and completely out of nowhere, that you can’t believe it’s actually happening. Is it a bad idea?

Well, given the context of this movie – not really.

What works best about A Knight’s Tale isn’t just that it features rock music to push itself further away from the rest of the medieval action sub-genre, but also seems to exist in its own goofy universe. Writer/director Brian Helgeland has a nice understanding of what sort of humor works in a movie like this, and it was a nice change of pace to get a medieval action movie that wasn’t always so serious, all of the time. Instead, it had humor, cookiness, and above all else, rock music!

And honestly, the first hour or so of A Knight’s Tale is where it’s probably where it’s most promising. The movie takes its time with its story, allows us to get a fine understanding of these sometimes silly characters, and for the most part, doesn’t take itself all that seriously. While Helgeland doesn’t ask the audience of too much, he still does a nice job in giving plenty of joy to the two types of audience members out there who would see this movie – there’s, of course, the popcorn-friendly members who care about lots and lots action, while on the other hand, there’s also those more sophisticated types who appreciate when a fine joke or two is worked into a scene. In a way, there’s a little something for everyone here and it was nice to see a blending as odd as this, actually work out well.

But then, about half-way through, A Knight’s Tale changes up its tune.

For one, it loses any sort of focus on what made it so exciting and enjoyable to watch in the first place: Its keen sense of humor. Are there still some funny jokes placed in throughout the rest of the flick? Sure, but they come so very few and far between, that it almost seems like Helgeland ran out of funny material to work with. So, much rather, instead, he decided to focus more on our protagonist’s childhood and his soon-to-be-love-life; neither of which are actually interesting, but I guess because, after all, this is his movie, we’re forced to sit through and watch his life unfold before our very eyes.

One element that helps, though, is that William Thatcher, our main protagonist, is played the late, but definitely great Heath Ledger who, even after all of these years, had that certain aura about him that’s hard to really deliver back on. For one, he was a great-looking guy that clearly got the ladies’ and gay men’s butts in the seat, but there was more to him than just the good looks. Ledger also wasn’t afraid to make himself seem like the butt of the joke in certain scenes, nor was he afraid to show off his fun and adventurous side, even if that meant he didn’t always get the chance to look as manly and as tough as some producers probably would have liked for him to be. Either way, it’s still a fine performance from Ledger and reminds us all why he was so great to begin with, but even looking back at it now, it does feel like a bit of a mediocre role to work with.

Then again, Ledger, as always, makes it work.

Alright. Going back to closing my eyes again.

Alright. Going back to closing my eyes again.

Gosh. How I miss him so.

And as for the rest of the cast, they’re all lovely and enjoyable to watch, but like I said, the movie starts to fall for convention and lose focus about half-way through, and it leaves most of these members with much to fully work with. Shannyn Sossamon’s princess character is a bit different from the rest, in that she’s actually equipped with something of a personality and seems to share actual, loving chemistry with Ledger; Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk do that Abbott & Costello act quite well here; Paul Bettany is charming here, as usual, playing the author who knows how to make anything mundane, sound terribly exciting; Rufus Sewell is, once again, playing the baddie; and there’s also an early performance from Bérénice Bejo, as the princess’ right-hand girl. Even though she doesn’t have a whole lot to do, it’s still nice to see where her career got started. And in some ways, a whole lot more interesting, too, considering that she’s been nominated for an Oscar in the subsequent years and most of the members of this cast haven’t at all.

Except for Heath. Of course.

Consensus: Though the anachronisms are fun and add a bit of sizzle to a relatively lifeless subgenre, A Knight’s Tale begins to fall into the same old trappings of a sports movie plot. Except, this time, it’s jousting we’re talking about here.

6 / 10

What a man.

What a man.

Photos Courtesy of: Upside Down MoviesAntonia Tejeda Barros, Mettel Ray

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

More robots?

Since their big battle in New York City, the Avengers crew has been up to a lot; although, more often than not, they’re separated from one another, left to fend for themselves. Now, many years after their last team-up, the gang is back together and, for the most part, everybody seems to be the same. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still a snarky deuche; Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to keep everybody in line; the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is trying his hardest to control his temper and not lose all sense of control; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still kicking as much ass he possibly can; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is doing the same as Thor, except with her sheer beauty; and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is, well, still there. However, now with a new threat on their hands, inadvertently courtesy of Banner and Stark, the gang has to fight even harder than ever before, especially since they’re going up against new foes like Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), and perhaps more dangerous than they ever expected, Ultron (James Spader), a piece of artificial intelligence that nobody seems to be ready for.

"Quit crying, bro. We've got baddies to fight."

“Quit crying, bro. We’ve got baddies to brawl.”

The first Avengers was pretty much everything anybody who had been waiting four incredibly long years could have ever wanted. It was fun, hilarious, action-packed, and featured all sorts of fan boy moments that made not just the die hards happy and not taking their disapproval straight to the message boards, but also showed that, while this may have been the pinnacle of the Marvel franchise so far, it wouldn’t at all be the last outing. In fact, if there was anything at all spectacular about what Joss Whedon did with the first movie, was that he showed that there was plenty more life to be found inside of these characters, their stories, and what could come their way next.

And now, it’s time for the eventual sequel to that near-masterpiece of everything that’s right with superhero movies and there’s a slight feeling of disappointment. It’s not because Whedon messes up here and gets everything wrong; in fact, everything that Whedon does here, for the majority of it, is that he allows for the action to be as fun, as loud, and as energetic as possible, while also still allowing for us to see everything that’s happening where, when, and to whom. However, he never loses sight of what makes them kick so hard and as well as they do, and that’s the characters.

Yes, these are the same characters that we’ve spent so much time with already, but as you’ll see here, Whedon breaths some new life into them and allows us to see them in a light that we haven’t quite seen them in before: A vulnerable one.

See, what Whedon gets right here, as Guardians of the Galaxy showed us all last summer, is that these characters probably work best when they’re just hanging around with one another, shootin’ the shit, getting on each other’s cases, and overall, learning more than they ever thought they could. Because, as they’re getting to learn more about each other, we’re doing the same; which in and of itself, is not only interesting, but fun. We think we know these characters for all that they appear to be and then we see a certain conversation they have go a way they didn’t expect it to, and all of a sudden, something new is learned. There are many moments of that here and, due to reasons that can’t be disclosed, they feel more emotional and compelling, rather than just fine bits and pieces of filler.

Problem is, that once the filler comes around, it feels like it’s just around to take-up space.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad at a Marvel movie for offering all sorts of action it can come up with. However, I do get a tad bit ticked-off when it takes away from moments that could be spent, dedicated to more and more character development, where we feel like something is actually being accomplished, rather than just tacked-on so people don’t get bored quickly. Whedon does a fine job at putting in certain action sequences that go everywhere and anywhere that they want, with absolute reckless abandon and they’re fun to watch, it’s just that it sometimes feel like the wheels are spinning, but there’s nobody driving.

Things can blow up as much as they want, but when there’s general basis for them, then there’s a bit of a problem. Which, like I’ve said before, wouldn’t have been bad, had it been serviced by something of a plot that worked, or better yet, made some bit of sense. From what I can tell you, Ultron is bad and is capable of planting his subconscious into any robot-body it wants. This, for the most part, made sense to me, but then, for reasons I can’t understand as anything but “corporate excess”, Whedon throws a plethora of characters onto our plate where we’re wondering what they serve to the plot, what they’re all about, and whether or not they’re even worth our time.

Not saying that I have a problem adding in new characters, but when it eventually seems like too much, then you have the same sort of problem that a fellow superhero flick like Spider-Man 3 had. While that movie was definitely off a lot worse than this one, there’s something here that makes me think that all of the added-on characters and subplots, like some of the action, were all just filler; they weren’t to serve much of a purpose, other than to just distract the audience from what is a very confusing and nonsensical plot, and the fact that it could care less about developing the already-known characters a bit more.

"Me mad? But why? WAAH!"

“Me mad? But why? WAAH!”

This isn’t to say that the characters here don’t get some attention and care that they deserve. Above everyone else, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner gets the most development of the pack, where we see him not only tangle with his possible emotions for the likes of Black Widow, but his actual emotions as well. There’s been a lot said about the Hulk character in the past where he seems like too much of a supporting character that, when he’s given his own, single-picture, it doesn’t quite work as well as the others. If that is the case, then Whedon has done a true service to this character where we get enough of him to sense the danger, the sadness, and the actual thrill within this character that people always want to see.

Everybody else that isn’t the Hulk, though, sort of get the short-end of the stick.

One of the more genius aspects surrounding the newly-recruited Scarlet Witch’s character is that she’s able to dig into anybody’s deepest, darkest and most painful secrets imaginable, and with that power, comes plenty of glimpses into some of these character’s heads that are not only disturbing, but pretty sad. For example, Cap’s and Thor’s memories are all about how they miss the people they let-down and left behind, whereas with Black Widow’s, we see her horribly violent up-bringing that makes you wonder just how far she’s willing to go with these missions, where she runs the risk of losing herself. These small glances are what help make these characters all the more compelling to watch and root for, however, there comes a point where it seems to just be used as a way to make us think that the odds are fully stacked-up against the Avengers’ crew.

And while that may most certainly be true with the likes of the absolutely dangerous and intimidating Ultron, the fast, furious and cocky Quicksilver, and the previously mentioned Scarlet Witch, it seems unneeded. It’s almost as if Whedon wanted to jump inside these character’s heads, and jump out as soon as quickly before the going got too heavy. This definitely puts it a step-up above most of the summer blockbusters that are constantly thrown at us left and right, however, it also feels like a teaser for something that’s deeper than what any of us expect.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why the small hints, Joss? Give us it all!

Consensus: As far as superhero blockbusters go, Avengers: Age of Ultron is as action-packed, exciting and as fun as you’d expect it to be, however, some of it is starting to feel repetitive now, especially since there’s more to be unraveled about these characters and what we do get, works so damn well.

8 / 10

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mortdecai (2015)

Funny ‘staches, get it?

Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is an eccentric British chap who likes fine women, fine drinks, fine food, fine cars, and most importantly, fine art. So much so, that it’s actually gotten him and his luscious wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) into a bit of debt; $8 million dollars in debt, to be exact, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s most important now is that Charlie and his trustee, self-proclaimed “man servant”, Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), track down a piece of stolen art, so that they don’t get nabbed by the MI5 agent (Ewan McGregor) for any wrongdoings that they may, or may not have been up to. However, what turns out as a simple case, gets so convoluted that nearly all of the enemies in Charlie’s life, which are many, start showing up out of nowhere – not to just gather a debt from Charlie, but possibly extract some vicious revenge for any wrongdoings he may have brought their way. It may seem all bad for Charlie, but because of ever-dashing wit and charm, he seems to look on the bright side of things, or something.

The joke here is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The joke here is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It’s interesting to note that at one point, believe it or not, Johnny Depp was actually targeted for the role of Monsieur Gustave H. in the Grand Budapest Hotel; the same role that would eventually be taken up by Ralph Fiennes. Looking back, it’s easy to see why Depp was considered for this lead role, as Depp’s certain exuberance with most roles that he tackles, seems to fit in with Wes Anderson’s world, for better and for worse. Though it’s hard to say whether or not Depp would have actually made Hotel better, the fact remains that it still would have been an interesting choice for him to take, especially considering all of the random, and sometimes inexplicably poorly-directed, dribble he’s been appearing in as of late. Save for maybe a slight cameo here and there, overall, Depp’s film choices as of late have not been anything spectacular.

And Mortdecai, as you may have already seen, is no exception.

But it’s rather strange that most of Mortdecai feels as if it is trying oh so very hard to be such a Wes Anderson movie, that it’s easy to believe that this could possibly had been Depp’s chance to take one under his belt and give it a go; although, to be fair, this would have to be a Wes Anderson movie that Anderson himself did not want to make and more or less was asleep through half of the proceedings. Director David Koepp shoots this with as much color, whimsy and slap-dash as you’d expect Wes Anderson to have created, however, there’s something missing here that most of Anderson’s movies seems to contain: Some kind of heart. Oh, and laughs, too. That’s a very, VERY big factor.

It makes sense why Koepp is going for here with this movie – in a way, he’s trying to create a silly, screwball-ish comedy ripped-out directly from the 60’s, and into the modern day and age for a new audience that may be able to appreciate what his parents were appreciating way back when. It doesn’t work, but for the first 15 minutes or so, it’s quite effective that it only took until I saw a modern-day, pro wrestling match between WWE wrestlers Sheamus and the Big Show, that I fully realized that this was not only taking place in a certain time period, but that the time period was actually the 21st century. Hiding when exactly this story’s taking place isn’t a neat conceit, as much as it’s just a lazy way of trying to throw your audience for a loop, seemingly because it’s all you’ve got.

And in the case of Depp and Koepp, in what’s their second team-up since Secret Window, there’s really not much for the audience to get a firm grip on, so any distractions that they can throw our way necessary is all that they want to do. Maybe less so in the case of Koepp, because while his film doesn’t have its funny bone working at all, nor does it seem to realize that there’s more to life than just testicle-gags, he seems to at least dress this movie nice and handsomely enough that it’s fine to look at. It’s even enjoyable to listen to, so long as nobody’s speaking or trying to make us laugh, because it never works.

But nope, I have to say that most of the problems to be found within this movie, and the one who seems to be trying so utterly and desperately hard to distract us is Johnny Depp – an actor who, I think we can all agree on, was one of the most talented, exciting talents working in mainstream Hollywood. Nowadays, it seems as though Depp has become nothing more than just a parody of his own-self, where he produces certain films that give him the leading-role, while also allowing for him to stretch his funny-wings as far as he can, even if th

The joke here is boobs.

The joke here is boobs.

ey are beyond their initial-reach. That’s not to say that Depp isn’t funny; the man definitely has a talent for making many normal circumstances seem all the more zany because of what he brings to the table, but here, as Charlie Mortdecai, it’s so obvious that’s he really going for it here, that it makes you uncomfortable.

Sort of like that uncle you don’t see too often, who constantly tells the story about how you peed yourself when you were over his house and rather than understanding it’s a story nobody wants to hear repeated when they’re 35-years-old, married, and with kids, he still persists on going through with it because, well, what the hell, it gets a few giggles out of the surrounding crowd. The difference between the sad and lonely uncle I’ve just described and Johnny Depp, is that maybe, in the off-chance that the uncle has bribed somebody beforehand, people are actually laughing along with said uncle. As for Depp, he’s the only one laughing. And giggling. And sneezing. And cavorting. And whizzing. And, well, you get it.

Depp’s doing a lot here, and while I give him kudos for at least trying his damn-near hardest, it gets to become downright annoying after awhile. The only ones who actually make some way for comedy are the ones surrounding him, and even they have hardly anything to work with. Paul Bettany plays Mortdecai’s “man-servant” (get it, cause it’s kind of referencing gay-stuff), who has a running-gag that he can’t keep it in his pants and is constantly banging random girls, that is, whenever Mortdecai himself is not accidentally injuring him; Gwyneth Paltrow, despite being absolutely despised by practically everybody with a computer and/or Twitter, is actually quite charming in movies still and it’s nice to see her bring some life to an otherwise forgettable character; same goes for Ewan McGregor who, with his character’s gimmick that he fawns after Mortdecai’s wife’s every move, brings some much-needed wit and spark; and Jeff Goldblum, god bless his heart, shows up for maybe five minutes and does nothing. Absolutely nothing.

God, now I really want to watch a Wes Anderson movie.

Consensus: Not only is Mortdecai unfunny, but it also highlights something of a career-low in Johnny Depp’s filmography where he’s taken it upon himself to be the center of attention and never let us forget that he wants to make us laugh, or happy, by any degrading means possible.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

The joke here is mustache, because well of course.

The joke here is mustache, because well of course.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Legion (2010)

Angels vs. demons, with God and Satan somewhere hanging out in the back.

When an angel named Michael (Paul Bettany) takes it upon himself to rebel against God’s plan of wiping out the entire existence of the human race, the whole world gets thrown into a battle of good versus, and Michael is thrown right into the middle of it. Problem is, he gets thrown on Earth in the middle of the desert with a group of ragtags that literally have the worst luck in the world right now. There’s a diner’s owner (Dennis Quaid), his son (Lucas Black), the head-chef (Charles S. Dutton), a man who looks like Tyrese Gibson and just so happens to have a gun on him, as well as baby-momma issues (Tyrese Gibson), and an upper-class, stuck-up family just waiting for their car to be fixed so that they can get the hell out of this deserted hellhole and back on with their rich, extravagant lives (Kate Walsh, Jon Tenney and Willa Holland). However, the reason Michael has taken to Earth in order to save humanity from existence is because of the diner’s waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), who also just so happens to be pregnant; aka, the last hope this world has left. Now it’s up to these groups of ill-matched peeps, along with Michael guarding their sides, to take down whatever force God has prepared for us, the human race, to face off against.

And for one thing, it sure ain’t pretty.

Yes, that scene actually does occur in this movie, and yes, it is easily the best part of all.

Don't know what you think, but that looks like a sign from God or something.

Don’t know what you think, but that looks like a sign from God or something.

But if you, like myself, watched that scene and absolutely laughed your ass off, then you’re in for a treat, because most of this film plays out exactly like that. It doesn’t matter if the special-effects look cheesy, the dialogue is clunky, the characters are incredibly under-developed, or even that the whole idea of God creating these dangerous, powerful monsters to destroy the rest of the human population, only to have each and every one of them easily kill-able by a couple of bullets or a nice smack in the head, is a bit ludicrous. Nope, it doesn’t matter how terrible this movie can get, because for one thing, it’s pretty fun.

Yes, I know that not everybody in the whole wide world can just lay down their swords of disdain and hate for anything that’s not considered “a work of art”, but trust me, if you like old, cheesy, 80’s flicks like Maximum Overdrive or even the Terminator, then this is an absolute blast from the past, that just so happens to be a movie made in the new millennium. But still, you get my drift: Expect this movie to be utter garbage and somehow, you will have fun.

Now, that’s not to say that this movie is totally amazing and perfect because it’s so dumb and over-the-top and knows it, because there are more than a few problems that this movie ran into and brought it all down as a matter of fact.

What takes this movie away from being very fun is that, like any other movie ever made in the existence of man, there does need to be some cooling-down time so that we can get to know our characters, their plight, what keeps them living on and on, and why it is that we should keep on rooting for them. I get that this needed to happen, but whenever you have quality-actors like Charles S. Dutton, or Paul Bettany, or even Dennis Quaid delivering lines like, “Show me your teeth!”, you just know that you’re in for a good, old fashioned, goofy-as-hell treat. That’s why when things slow up and get a bit serious, things are boring and they only get worse as time goes on.

But then, just as I would start to get annoyed with how serious and melodramatic this movie wanted to get for me, it pulls something completely out of its ass like a walking, talking, and sinister demon-child, and just had me rolling around in my seat. Sure, you could look at this as something as “total and complete crap”, but that’s sort of the point. There’s some messages to be brought about following God’s plan and how it’s up to us to interpret for ourselves what it is exactly that God wants us to do, or not to do, that totally gets lost in the shuffle of blood, action, and F-bombs; and with good reason, because all that stuff was really bringing down the vibes, man.

I spy with my little eye, five different people who definitely lost a bet or two.

I spy with my little eye, five different people who definitely lost a bet or two.

All this movie needed to do was give me some actors like Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black, and even Kate Walsh enough moments where they got to be crazy and/or shoot something, and then I was good. And thankfully, I got to be of witness to that, more than times than one human being probably should be exposed to. However, I enjoyed it and I think that if you’re going to get a random ensemble such as this together, you need to allow them to do as much as possible, with at least something of a script. It doesn’t matter if the script is awful and even makes some of the actor’s doing the line-readings a little embarrassed – all that matters is that they seem like they’re having a fun time, even if the movie they’re in is as deadly serious as you can get.

That’s why when you have a talent like Dennis Quaid who is able to be gruff, mean, and a bit silly at the same time, it’s a joy to watch because you know that he’s in on the joke, even if the movie doesn’t like to show it off too often. As for somebody like Bettany, well, I feel bad for him because while this is a rare leading-role for the guy, he’s way too stiff and just seems like he showed up late to a party that everybody was already high and drunk at. Maybe that’s exactly how it was on set, so if that is the case, then Bettany deserves an Oscar. But for his work here, I feel bad that somebody as talented and as reliable as him still has yet to be given that leading role that puts him on the same marquee as many other supporting players who went big time.

Yet, he will always be remember for his bum. Poor Paul Bettany, man. Poor him.

Consensus: Can Legion be placed in the “so-bad-it’s-good” category? Most definitely so, and if you don’t think it, then lighten up, grab a drink or two, and give this one more watch and see how many times you laugh at somebody like Dennis Quaid guzzling down a Busch Light.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Transcendence (2014)

Well of course Johnny Depp thinks he’s God!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eh, whatever.

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

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Dogville (2003)

Always keep a lookout on those small villages.

One night in the sleepy, quiet town of Dogville, Tom (Paul Bettany), the self-appointed town spokesman, hears a gun-shot, followed by a woman arriving in his town a couple seconds later. Her name is Grace (Nicole Kidman) and she’s on the run from her mobster daddy (James Caan). Whatever the reason may be, Tom does not worry about and hides her just in the nick of time. Now that Grace is hiding out in this small town, she’s going to have to hold her own in order to stay away from the authorities, as well as not piss off any of the town-folks themselves. Grace tries to do whatever she can and at first, everything seems pitch perfect for her to be there. But once Grace starts messing up a bit and the authorities continue to breath more and more down the town’s neck, well, then the peeps themselves start to get a little wacky and wild with Grace’s presence being known and felt, and it’s Grace who ends up on the bad end of things.

The whole gimmick behind this whole film is that it all, with the exception of maybe one scene, takes place in this small town. However, the small town of Dogville isn’t what you’d expect it to be or look like. In a way to make the flick look like a stage play on screen, or to also cut down on production-costs, writer/director Lars von Trier designs the set where you can see everything, without any walls, doors, or blockades separating us from these characters and denying us the access of seeing all that they do. On top of that, the flick is also filmed with a digital-camera, which made it seem more like I could have filmed the same thing with me and my buddies. So yeah, it’s a bit hard to get used to for about the first ten or so minutes, but mind you, this is a near-three-hour flick, so take into consideration that for at least ten minutes, you may be a tad bit uncomfortable with what’s going on.

A window?!??!? First rule of von Trier-ism broken already!?!??

A window?!??!? First rule of von Trier-ism broken already!?!??

Then again though, this is a Lars von Trier film, so for those whole near-three hours, you might be uncomfortable the whole way through. And trust me, you shouldn’t be ashamed to feel so because it’s what the dude excels in the most, but here, something feels different about it all. First of all, I loved how von Trier set this story up in a way to make us feel as if we are right there in the middle of this town, right from when Grace pops herself in, to the end where the town has been practically turned inside out. It works because as the hysteria and panic within this community begins to swell-up and lose all of control, we feel the same emotions as well and it becomes a hard film to get through on many levels. One of those levels being that von Trier never strays away from showing us some dirty, messed-up stuff that he’s been planning in his head for quite some time. But like I said, something feels different about it all this time.

See, rather than feeling exploitative and provocative, just for the sake of being so, there’s a point to von Trier’s madness: To convey fear. The movie jingles on that idea every once and awhile, until the final ten minutes rolls up and takes it to the extreme, but it works because it’s so very true. Coming from a human being as well, it’s very hard to admit because this flick is inexplicably making fun of how humans react to a little bit of change, in a way that makes them go mad or insane. We, as a society, all feel the need to continue to go on with our days, the same way as if they were the way before. However, once a little diversity in that day comes around to shake things up a bit, then we lose our grips of what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

I would totally like to go into a little more detail and explore why I have came to this conclusion that I have, but only going on further would spoil the movie and have you expect the unexpected, which is not what this flick is all about and surprisingly, may take the fun out of it all. I can’t say that the flick is “fun” per se, but it’s a challenging piece of work that asks you to reflect on your own minds, your own ways and your own style of living, but also asks that you take note of the next time you feel fear. How do you respond to it? Do you act irrationally? Do you keep your place in check and not lose sight of what’s really meant to be fearful of? Or, do you do nothing? The flick goes more and more in-depth with this idea than it should, but I have to say that for once, watching a von Trier movie and seeing all of the ugly stuff that he pulls out of his rump and having it all make sense and cohesive to what he’s trying to get across, I was satisfied. I was emotionally torn-up, but I was also satisfied with what von Trier brought to the forefront, to make us take a look at. It may not be something we want to even acknowledge is present in our lives, but it’s always there. Von Trier knows this; I know this; hell, everybody knows this!

You can’t escape it, because fear will always be there. No matter what.

There’s probably more themes to shake a stick at here, but this is neither the time, nor the place for me to do so. Maybe when I’m in my superficial, artsy-fartsy film class next semester, but as for right now: I have a movie to review, and performances to praise. Main one being the one from Nicole Kidman as Grace, a name that sticks so perfectly with her act and the final conclusion this flick comes to meet. Kidman’s always been a knock-out actress, there’s no questioning it. She’s always been able to take a role, however crazy or simple it may be, do whatever she wants with it, and always give us a performance that knocks all of her other ones out of the park. However, I wouldn’t have been surprised if people were a little skeptical about whether or not Kidman would be able to handle von Trier’s style or treatment of his characters, especially the female one.

"And so kids, that's what the ending to Antichrist means. Or so I think."

“And so kids, that’s what the ending to Antichrist means. Or so I think.”

However, all those skeptics can kiss Kidman’s firm-behind because she does an amazing job as Grace, giving us a performance that’s more physical than emotional. And no, that’s not me being a dirty boy. Kidman has those expressive, beautiful eyes that are able to convey any sort of emotion – whether it be sadness, forgiveness, regret, vulnerability, love, or happiness, give her an emotion to express, and she’ll do it ten times better than you’d ever expect her to do. She’s just an amazing actress, and despite her character being a bit too repetitive and weak-minded, Kidman pulls through and gives us a three-dimensional character that we care about, not just because of all this bad stuff happening to her, but because she’s the only one with a bright head on her shoulders.

Everybody else here seems to be a bit too crazy for their own good, with the exception of Paul Bettany as Thomas Edison, the philosopher and free-mind thinker of the small community that takes a liking to Grace right off the bat. Bettany’s always been a quality actor and even though I feel like his Southern-accent was a little suspect, the guy still gives us a good character that seems like he has all of the right intentions one person could want or need; he just doesn’t know what to do with them or how to show them in a way that could be suitable for both Grace and the rest of the community. Sometimes, both aspects don’t ever seem to come together, but you have hope that he’ll do the right thing no matter what, even if he does get a pushed-up against a wall many more times than one.

The rest of the heavy-stacked cast is very good too, even if nobody shines brighter than the other. They all do wonderful jobs, but it’s Kidman’s and von Trier’s show for the taking, and they won’t let you forget about it, either. Not even when the credits show up, which are some of the darkest, but hilarious credits I have ever seen scrolling in my life. Seriously, try to watch them without cracking at least a chuckle or two by the irony. The end.

Consensus: As with most of von Trier’s movies, Dogville is most likely going to be a hard pill to swallow for some, but once you get by all of the dark sexuality and titillation of the material, you’ll find yourself surprisingly compelled and interested in what von Trier has to say, whenever he gets to that breaking-point.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

No wonder why everybody's so cranky and mean: No toilets!!

No wonder why everybody’s so cranky and mean! There’s no toilets!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Wimbledon (2004)

Tennis is for wimps, although football doesn’t seem like the type of sport that reels women in. Never mind then.

When it came to being the supreme star in the world of tennis, Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) was never quite that person, but he came pretty damn close back in the day, when he was ranked #15 in the world. Years later, he’s ranked #115. Yeah, time changes, people get older, and skills start to deplete over time, but Pete isn’t letting too much of it go to his head as he plans on making his latest-trip to Wimbledon, most likely his last one as he continues to let more and more people know that he is in fact “retiring from the world of tennis”. Sounds all depressing and whatnot for Pete, but then walks in Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), a bright-and-shining star in the tennis world that is not only making her name known, but her look as well, especially in the eyes of Pete who just so happens to find Lizzie’s presence and likeness of him, help out his game a bit more and make tennis seem more like a fun, competitive-game for him once again, rather than just a chore.

Rom-coms and tennis are my least two favorite things in the world; put them together, you have a movie that’s just not for me, but yet, I still found myself oddly-attracted to. I don’t know how it happened, but I actually found myself sitting down on my couch in front of the Television, checking out Encore On Demand, finding this, and thinking, “Why the hell not?” and at least giving it a try. After witnessing this movie for all that it is, I feel like I should make random, aimless decisions like this more often, especially if they make my day just a bit sunnier. Even if it is the hot, summa time.

Woah! Tennis is actually FUN and INTENSE!??!!?

Woah! Tennis is actually FUN and INTENSE!??!!?

Everything you expect to happen in a movie like this, whether it be a rom-com or a romantic-dramedy (don’t know how to shorten that one up); happens exactly like you’d expect it to be. The initial-meeting between these two characters is hokey and contrived; the tennis scenes where Pete begins to feel the sensation come all throughout his body once again was seen from a mile-away (because honestly, who wants to see a movie where the lead character gets his ass kicked-out in the first round?); and once things begin to look bright for Pete, you realize that he’s going to end up facing somebody that’s supposed to mean a whole bunch to him and causing the most problems throughout most of the majority of the flick.

Yeah, I know a lot of you out there are probably going to be pissed off that I already spoiled all that you’re practically going to see here, but in all seriousness; if you watch the first 10 minutes of this movie and don’t already know what beats it’s going to hit, how and when, then STOP READING. I knew right from the start, I accepted it, and eventually, it’s magic and charm began to work for me in a way I didn’t expect it to. Rom-coms such as this don’t have to change the world or break any new-ground to really hit me and allow me to enjoy myself, they just need to be done right and that’s exactly how this flick is done here: just right.

Sort of like the Goldie Locks story, but instead of having a little, spoiled brat not make up her mind about what soup or bed to eat/use, we have a witty, British guy who’s trying to win over “the girl”, while also trying to win the coveted, Wimbledon tournament. This ones more entertaining and interesting than that sad-sack-of-a-tale, but they do come pretty damn close. Okay, not at all.

Anyway, back to the movie!

But ultimately, I think what struck my interest-level with this movie and had me eventually go for the gold with it was the fact that it had Paul Bettany in a rare, leading role that we so often see him in, let alone use to his advantage to show why he’s such a good actor,  as well as a very underrated one at that. Bettany gives off the same type of master wit and charm we’re so used to seeing and hearing work wonders for Hugh Grant, but it works even better with Bettany, along with the character he’s playing, because the guy’s just generally likable, even from the start. Pete, as you can tell, is not a guy who asks for much in the world, other than a slight-shot at fame once again, some love in his life, and eternal happiness for the rest of it. That’s all there is to this guy and because of that aspect of this character, and the way Bettany allows him to be perceived as, the movie’s a lot better to sit-through because we see, what seems to be a real guy, going through real problems, and wanting to have real solutions, to his said real life. This is where Bettany shines, not just by making us laugh or want to give this guy a hug, but also show why more and more Hollywood producers should take a look at him when they’re thinking about what next British actor to call next after Colin Firth or Hugh Grant deny a role.

"Love rules! So does tennis! Woo-hoo!"

“Love rules! So does tennis! Woo-hoo!”

And no, I don’t mean these types of opportunities.

While Bettany keeps the movie going, Kirsten Dunst doesn’t show any signs of slowing it down either. Dunst has always been that actress I’ve gone-to-bat for on many occasions, and she’s fine here as Lizzie, even though I feel like she may have just been a bit too young and ambitious with her life to settle-down for such an old-head like Pete, despite the dude being only 32 in the movie. Still, that’s just a weird nit-pick of mine, either way; they’re chemistry is sweet, sexy and worth sticking with this movie for, even if they do feel like they were put together because the studio’s first-choices bailed-out at the last second. Not to be a dick and all, but seriously, I highly doubt that Hollywood producers were clamoring in their seats for the day that they finally got “Mary Jane Watson and that British dude who shows up on the side in every movie” together as love-interests. Just a thought, as mean or as bold as it may be perceived as.

Consensus: Everything you’ve seen done and/or occur before in a rom-com, happens exactly, note-for-note in Wimbledon, but because of fun chemistry between the well-acted leads of Bettany and Dunst, the constant clichés are worth ignoring and/or getting used to, in order just to have a good time with yourself.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"You're that dude who's practically naked all throughout A Knight's Tale, right?"

“You’re that dude who’s practically naked all throughout A Knight’s Tale, right? Yeah, you’re not so hot with your clothes on.”

Iron Man 3 (2013)

At least he’s on the wagon now.

After the wild events that took place in New York with Gods of Thunders and worm-holes and such, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has found himself in a bit of a crisis. Not only is he constantly reminded of what occurred, but he can’t seem to get any sleep and continually works on his hobby: building and building shit. It doesn’t matter what it is or what it could do, the fact is that he’s building shit, losing sleep, losing the love of his life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and losing what it means to be a superhero. However, an evil terrorist by the name of Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), might just change that feeling in the pit of his stomach and have him realize what it was about him that made him Iron Man in the first place.

Since the Avengers came, saw, and conquered the world last Summer, it seemed only right that Marvel would unleash it’s brand-new bag and go back to where it all started: Iron Man, or if you really want to be legit about it: Tony Stark. Without the first movie coming out in 2008 and taking over like it did, who knows just what the hell Marvel might have done not just with their fellow, other superheros, but in general as well. But from what we’ve all seen and what we do know is that Tony Stark is the go-to guy for when you need a compelling movie, and Iron Man is a pretty bad-ass superhero, even if he doesn’t have a big hammer. I still think that’s one of the all-time best weapons in superhero history. By far.

The first piece of curiosity that sprang through my mind when I initially heard of this movie happening, was the choice of Shane Black as director and co-writer. If you don’t know who this cat is, I suggest you go and find Kiss Kiss Bang Bang somewhere on DVD and check that out because it is a gem of a movie and it’s all because of Black. The guy’s also written Lethal Weapon, but in my eyes: his directorial-debut ranks supreme against all others because it’s funny, exciting, and filled to the brim with plot that may seem like over-kill, but keeps you guessing until the end. And just as promising as that may sound for a guy who’s about to tackle Iron Man, it still seemed strange considering that not only was this his second movie to date, but also that his first one had barely any CGI whatsoever, or action for that matter. Most of it was just shooting, guns, bullets, a car-crash, and fake blood. That was it. So, how the hell did Marvel trust this guy with their biggest money-maker to date?

"Sometimes, my left hand just have a life of it's own. I swear, Pepper...."

“Sometimes, my left hand just have a life of it’s own. I swear, Pepper….”

Well, whatever it was that the big guys at M found in him, sure as hell worked because Black does a superb job as both director, and co-writer. Not only is his humor present throughout the whole flick, but the guy also finds a way to throw in some neat and nice little twists here and there to spice things up. One plot-twist that I won’t give up unless you want to e-mail me about it (CMrok93@yahoo.com), really divided this movie into two, different ways. Some will definitely go along with it and think that it was a nice-departure from what we are used to seeing with typical, superhero movies, whereas others may be a bit pissed and wished that they exactly got that typical, superhero movie they had grown so accustomed to. I still haven’t been able to rack my brain around whether or not I liked it all that much, but I will say that in Black’s case, it sure as hell was risky, something different, and not exactly what I was expecting. So, yeah, maybe you could put me in that earlier-group of peeps, but at the same time, don’t, because I’m still not sure.

Just give me some damn time, man!

But what really worked for Black and what mainly surprised the hell out of me is how well he handles all of the action, CGI, and 3D (basically, the big-budget). Black knows exactly what the fans want to see when they see a superhero movie about Iron Man and that’s what the dude gives to ’em. Some may actually be surprised to see that not all of this action features the actual superhero, Iron Man, but features more of Stark doing all of the ass-kicking himself, but it’s still fun and exciting to see, especially when you add a darker-element of story-telling on top of it all, which is what Black has done surely well. Of course the humor is always there to keep people laughing and giggling, but the stakes feel higher with this one and it’s no surprise that some may actually be scared as to who’s going to get off’d next, who might not make it for Iron Man 4 (although Paltrow spilled the beans on that enchilada), and who’s going to come out victorious and with a little bit of something to brag about. It’s fun to watch a movie that knows how to keep the energy rolling without a real break in the pace, but it’s even better when you feel like the seconds you see a person on screen for, could just might as well be their last. Black keeps this going for quite some time, that is, until the last-half shows up and sort of ruins things.

For the most part, about an hour and a half in, I was on-board with this movie and I easily felt like I was working on a 9-9.5 here, but something happened. No, not the twist I was talking about earlier, but the final showdown that we all know is going to eventually come. Something, I don’t know what it was, just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel as epic as the rest of the movie did and it sure as hell didn’t do much to really knock me out of my chair with it’s originality; something I was seeing from Black’s side of the room, more and more. Don’t get me mistaken, I still had a ball with this final-act and just about lost my hearing by how many clangs, booms, and bangs I continued to hear (that’s a good thing, by the way), but something didn’t make it feel like the movie was tied-up with a pretty, little bow at the end like all of the other superhero movies have lately. Even Iron Man 2 somehow decided to do that, and as we all know: that was nowhere near greatness.

However, I can’t put anything against this cast because as usual: they are all phenomenal, even the newbies too. But I’ll get to them later, let me stick with the man of the 2 hours, the man with the power, and the man who practically has it all: Robert Downey Jr. Everybody and their mothers (the coolio ones who didn’t give up on him when he got busted all of those years ago) know that Downey was made for this role and he continues to show us why with his egotistical act, look, and feel. Yet, there’s something more to this guy that makes him actually feel like a hero worth rooting for. Stark does make some stupey mistakes and gets caught-up in situations that he could have easily gotten himself out of if he just thought more, but he’s human, dammit! That’s what we do. And even if we don’t have a mansion, a billion dollar corporation, or a suit made of iron that can kick ass and speak like Paul Bettany, we still feel like this guy would do the right thing, if he was given a chance to make the decision as to what that exactly is. Downey is funny as usual, and probably a lot better with the script considering that he practically vouched for Black to get this job, but it’s his human-aspect within that makes this character tick, rock, and kick….some ass. See what I did there? Yeah, I’m all out of being witty for the night.

Always gotta tug on the suit-jacket to make sure you know how big pimpin' you truly are.

Always gotta tug on the suit-jacket to make sure you know how big pimpin’ you truly are.

Even if it seems like nobody in their right minds is willing to let all of the hate for Gwyneth Paltrow go, just for a little bit of time over 2 hours, at least the girl still shows us that she can act and be charming as hell. I don’t hate Paltrow like everybody else seems to, and that’s why I really liked her as Pepper Potts because it not only felt like her character really loved Tony and wanted him to be all fine and dandy once things were over with, but that she could also stick up for herself in the chance arose itself. Pepper isn’t the type of character that you could classify as a “damsel in distress” and that’s the route that Black turns away from and gives her more a chance to knock some people out, if she needs to. During this movie, she definitely does need to and that’s exactly what she does. Keep on going, Mrs. Coldplay!

Don Cheadle is here once again as Col. Rhodes (still thought Terrence Howard was better, but hey, that’s just me, baby) and does fine with what he’s given. Cheadle doesn’t have a huge role here but gets more to do than just pick up Tony’s scraps and make us feel like he’s more of a bad-ass too. Although, I will say that he does get to show us what makes him all bad-ass still. Oh, and before I forget about it all: Rebecca Hall is here as an old-fling of Tony’s and is good, even if her beauty and charm does seem a bit wasted on a character that is essentially around just to show how much of a chauvinistic a-hole Tony basically was back in the darker days before he fell in love with Pep. Still, the girl is mighty fine!

Now is the part where we go onto the baddies and this is where things begin to get a little dicey for me and you. See, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce both play some evil a-holes that definitely are not the breed you want to mess with, let alone see Tony mess with, but there’s more to them than just that and I can’t give away too much without sounding annoyingly-vague, or just giving it all up. Both do what they need to do as the baddies, especially Kingsley who actually terrified me at one point, but there are more layers to them and once you see what’s really going on with these cats, you might just be a bit surprised. I sure as hell was and once again: I still don’t know what to make of it. What I can say though, is that the movie does not, for a second, stray-away from giving these two guys plenty of scenery to chew on and that’s where all of the fun comes from. Because if you think about it: that’s all you need in a good villain, right?

Consensus: Starts off perfectly with a funny script, electric set-pieces, and a cast that never backs down from a script they can’t grapple, but Iron Man 3 ends more on a whimper, than on a bang. Which would have been all right and perfect with the world, had we not already see the Avengers and know what there is to expect with the Marvel Universe.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

P.S. Stay for the credits. Even though you probably already knew that, didn’t you?

It's like Gandhi all-over-again, except Chinese.

It’s like Gandhi all-over-again, except Chinese.

Margin Call (2011)

These ARE the people we trust with OUR money?

The story takes place at an investment bank during a time span of about 24 hours during the early stages of the financial crisis as a financial analyst uncovers information that could destroy the firm. Tough decisions have to be made, pushing the lives of those involved to the brink of disaster.

In my honest opinion, this is the flick that the debacle Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps should have and tried to be. Which is an ever bigger shame for me considering Oliver Stone is one of my favorites and to see this young blood, writer/director J.C Chandor, practically make a better script, do a better-job behind the camera, bring-out more emotions, make a way, way better flick and take his spot, really makes me sad for one reason and one reason only: the times are changin’. However, it’s not something to really be all that sad about because trust me; after spending 2-hours with this movie, you’re going to be more than inspired to take all of your moolah out of the bank, and hide it in that secret vault behind that lame-ass painting G’Mom bought you last year. Don’t act like you have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m on to you people out there.

But I digress. For those of you out there who don’t know this already, Margin Call is the directorial debut of Chandor and it’s a real surprise because you would think with something this entertaining, smart, thrilling, and overall, good, that the guy has been directing for decades upon decades. As a director, the guy is all fine and dandy since he never really does anything flashy other than tell the story like it is, but where he really shines is the script. Chandor’s script is amazing not only because it shows you what may have happened to cause the Stock Market crash, but because he shows the Stock Market crash for all that it is, with all the tiny and intricate details, yet without letting anything go over our heads. Like many others reading this, I, myself am a regular, every-day citizen which means that any type of talk of the stock market, the dow, and yadda yadda, all sound like a foreign language to me. However, that’s why I’m glad Chandor decided to include all of that jargon here, but just enough for all of the little-known citizens to fully understand and get a feel of before he launched a full-out, attack of numbers, stocks, and the most important of all: money. Remember the word “money”, people, because it’s going to come-up in this story many, many times. I can assure you on that.

"Kirk, I may need your help."

“Kirk, I may need your help.”

Instead of showing us a bunch of assholes that pretty much bankrupt this country for all that it’s worth, Chandor takes time with these characters and shows about each and every single one of them as human-beings, rather than people to be blamed for the mess they caused. Actually, everybody’s to be blamed here because they didn’t take notice as soon as they should have and Chandor shows that in many ways:  some people feel guilt, others feel sad, others feel optimistic, and others, well, they just don’t give a shit because they already make $56 million a year and won’t really lose much after the whole crash is said and done, so why the hell should they give two hoots!??! It’s a very disturbing idea to think about and have sit in your head, but it’s also very true and realistic in it’s own way because while there are over thousands and thousands of people out there, struggling to make ends meet and support a family; these other people who are supposedly responsible for the whole shit-show, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the Benjamin shower. Why? Because they can and quite frankly, they don’t care.

That whole last paragraph may seem like a total tirade/rant and for those out there who came hear to read about Chandor’s direction, I apologize but it’s just the way the world works, and that’s the way that Chandor paints it. There are no heroes, there are no villains, and there sure as hell aren’t any underdogs here, either. They’re just straight-up human-beings that just so happen to get plenty of moolah, but also have plenty of decisions to make at their workplace. That’s why, instead of sitting around and sobbing about the worst that has yet to come (and trust me, it will come), they get-up out of their seats, do their job, and move on with their lives. That’s mainly the mind-frame of everybody else in today’s world and if not, then it sure as hell should be. Pretty sure I gathered a lot more from this film than I imagined, but none the less, it’s a great script that Chandor deserved the nomination he got for it.

My problems with this film lie in the fact that I feel like this film didn’t have much momentum going for itself. I mean think about it: we already know what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen, and how it may or may not be resolved. All we really have to do is watch everybody’s reaction and see what their view-points are. That’s not terrible thing to have in a movie like this where the central-problem of the movie is an actual, real-life happening that screwed many people over in today’s world, but it also just seems like it could have been a hell of a lot more tense, had it not already been known what was going to happen in the end. However, that’s why you have movie stars, and holy hell; what movie stars we have on-display here, all for show and tell.

Kevin Spacey is the center of this film as one of the more morally confused characters of the whole film. You can tell that he wants to stay true to his original vision of not selling off worthless stock, but as time goes on, you see this character start to fall back from this original idea as the “money” begins to comes into play and has to make-up and come to terms with the fact that he’s going to have to give into to being a coward, just so he can make a living and be fine in this dying economy. Spacey is always great in roles like this, but we barely see him get a chance to pull it off because he’s always too busy playing the evil, dick-headed roles that he seems to perfect so well. And even though, yeah, he’s good in them, it’s always nice to see him play a character that we root for rather than against,  because he does the right thing and even if he doesn’t do it, at least he’s thinking it. It’s the thought and idea that counts and as shitty of an excuse as that may sound, then trust me; that’s more than I can say for any other character in this flick.

Zachary Quinto also stars in a very strong performance as the one guy who actually finds out about this problem in the formula and is left to solve any pieces of the puzzle that he can. Quinto isn’t somebody I have seen enough of in the past to actually give you my general opinion of what I think of him, but he’s very good here and it’s a real shame that he may not be able to get more roles after this, outside of Star Trek, because of the fact that (I may get shit for saying this but if you think about it: it is somewhat true) he’s gay. Once again, it’s a sad thing to say but it’s true because certain people just don’t want to see an openly gay men in a film, especially one where a character takes such a central focus as this. Yes, I know that it’s a very cynical way of thinking, but it’s the way people are and I hope that I’m wrong about Quinto because I would like to see him in more, other than just playing Spock. No matter how good he may be at it.

Right about now is where I would have to change my diaper.

Right about now is where I would have to change my diaper.

The real scene-stealer of this whole film is actually Paul Bettany, who plays one of the playboy bosses. Bettany has that perfect British wit down-pat here and shows that in every scene he has. However, it isn’t all fun and games with this dude, as he actually has a soul to let-loose and one that may not always seem the most morally-composed at times, but still understands how the world works and understands what’s going to happen to people, once the shit really hits the fan. Bettany deserves more roles like these and it shows that the guy can not only show the humorous-side of him that we see on-display in mostly all of his flicks, but also be able to balance it all out with a rare, dramatic-side as well. Jeremy Irons also pops in as the head-honcho, and does his usual, villainous shit where he comes into a scene, takes it over, brings out the inner-Scar within him, and just lets everybody know that he isn’t having anybody’s crap. In fact, the first scene where he’s introduced and allows us to see the real boss, play his cards and play them well, is one of the high-lights of the movie, not just because of the build-up, but because Irons owns these types of roles and absolutely delivers on everything we have come to know and expect from him.

Make no means about it: everybody in this cast is good and all get to show what they can do when they have the right piece of material, slap-dab in front of them. However, not everybody gets to join in on the fun quite as much as the ones I just mentioned earlier and in a way, as terrible as it may sound, seem like they are all just there to have a BIG-name on the poster. The useless roles for such stars as Demi Moore, Simon Baker, and Mary McDonnell all seem like they were created just for some more publicity, which isn’t necessarily a problem if you’re whole film is going to have them in it as much as the others, but they aren’t really around too much to really take their toll on you. Especially McDonnell, who literally shows up for 2 minutes, barely shows her face, and that’s it. Oh and even worse, it’s basically by the end of the movie, almost to the point of where we start to feel all trugged-along by this movie and all of their characters as it is. But hey, put her name up there next to Stanley Tucci and let’s see how many butts we can get in the seats. Apparently not a lot, but hey, it was worth the “money”-making shot. There’s that damn word again.

Consensus: While it lacks the tension due to the predictable turn of events that conspire, Margin Call is still an in-depth look into the lives of the people that made the ’08 crash possible and how, even though they may have screwed-up terribly, they are still human-beings none the less and made mistakes, that only you, myself, or the rest of the human-species would make.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Yeah, we're assholes."

“Yeah, we’re assholes.”

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Being on a ship isn’t always swashbuckling fun.

Russell Crowe is Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, renowned as a fighting captain in the British Navy, and Paul Bettany is the ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin. Their ship, the HMS Surprise, is suddenly attacked by a superior enemy. With the Surprise badly damaged and much of his crew injured, Aubrey is torn between duty and friendship as he pursues a high-stakes chase across two oceans.

Anybody who ever hears the words “ships” and “pirates”, automatically think of Captain Jack running rampant all over the seas, with his pet monkey on his shoulder. However, how do people feel whenever they make a story like this, with adults in mind? Answer is, more rum!

Director Peter Weir did a great job with accurate depiction of what it would really be like to stay on a ship like this, way back when. All these people do all day is stare at the ropes of the boat and the stars in the sky, then eat, sleep, drink, occasionally have a battle, and then go back to eating, sleeping, and drinking all over again. It seems very tedious, which is an emotion that Weird conveys very well and it’s a real change of pace we usually see from the fun, hip, and energetic movies about pirates out on the seas, having a grand old time. I also liked how we never knew who the enemy was in this story, considering we never know exactly who the hell these guys are going to face up against. Could be an army. Could be a leper boat. Hell, it could even be Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers. But either way, it was still as much of a mystery to me as it was to these guys in the movie.

Let’s also not forget to mention that Weir’s attention to detail is what made this a sight to see the whole film. Weir definitely has a great eye for what looks good and what doesn’t and with a film that takes place on a boat, that’s something to be commended for. The opening shot is absolutely stunning and got me ready for the rest of the shots I was going to get. Long, beautiful, and sweeping shots of the sea and land around it, really made me feel like I was out there with them and took me to this world where I never knew what was going to happen next or where I was going to be, just exactly like these people on the ship thought. Maybe I’m thinking about the cinematography a bit too much here, but when you have something that looks as pretty as this one, you can’t go without at least talking about it. I mean hell, just check out this shot right here. Now try and tell me that that isn’t something that catches your eye! By the way, it’s all real, no CGI. Don’t see that very often.

Even though Weir’s direction really brought me into the mood, the story itself didn’t do much for me and I have no idea who’s fault that was. First of all, the story is pretty slow and even though it does pick up every once and a blue moon, you still can’t help but feel like there should be more character development to have us care who lives, who dies, and who ends up getting put at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker (which basically mean’s dead, but I just wanted an excuse to use that term). Whenever somebody died, and the crew had a huge ceremony for them, I didn’t really know or even care about it all that much because nothing really happens with these characters to drive this story on. It’s strange too, because even though action doesn’t take up the film, all of the other scenes weren’t really dedicated to the crew members or their character development, instead, the film just sort of lingered around. Weird, I know, plus add on a two hour run-time and you got yourself a boat ride that may over-stay its welcome by a good 45 minutes or so. Give or take.

Another strange aspect of this story, and probably its strongest was Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey. Once again, Crowe turns in another impressive and strong performance that shows he is able to convey so many emotions, no matter who he is playing. The character of Aubrey isn’t a very likable one, but Crowe somehow finds his way to get him by with a wee bit of charm and it worked on me, and then it didn’t. The problem with this character is that this guy goes through so many problems over the course of the flick, that it almost seems like he is a bit bi-polar. There’s those scenes where we see him being the commanding officer of the ship and is inspired to beat the enemy, then we see him being jealous towards his friend and not allow him to do what he wants to do (some random story about collecting newfound insects, that didn’t do much for me), and then he goes a little control freak-ish when he starts to lay down the law on some of the crew for not being respectful enough to him. However, at the end of all of this we get a shot of him feeling triumphant as if he was just another hero of the seas, when throughout the past 2 hours we get a glimpse at a person that seemed like he had a lot of control issues and went with his pride a bit too much. But the film tried to play him off like some great, heroic figure? Didn’t get it but I guess that’s why Weir hired Crowe to do the job since he’s always a great watch.

Another performance that almost steals the spotlight from Crowe is the one given by Paul Bettany as Aubrey’s supposed “friend”, Dr. Stephen Maturin. Bettany and Crowe last appeared in A Beautiful Mind together, where it was obviously Crowe’s show which was supposed to be the same plan here, instead, Bettany comes close to almost stealing the spot-light from him. Bettany easily as one of the best character arcs here because this is a dude that just wants to help everybody out on the ship, is very real with Jack and the crew, and just wants to see some damn animals! His character definitely sticks a lot of sense into Crowe’s face and it’s a real wonder why Bettany didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this one because his character was really the only one I actually cared about. Everybody else could get captured by Black Beard and I wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass.

Consensus: With a couple of good performances from the cast and a beautiful vision from Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World definitely should hit a lot harder than it does, but due to a lacking script without a confused central character and barely little, or no character development, the film just ends up being a mildly entertaining 2 and a half hours spent. Next time, just call up Johnny Depp.

7/10=Rental!!

The Avengers (2012)

Summer season here we gooooooo!!!!

When an unexpected enemy emerges threatening global safety and security, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Director of the International Peacekeeping Agency (known as SHIELD), finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

Ever since 2008 swung by with ‘Iron Man’ on its shoulders, Marvel Studios has pretty much been patiently waiting and building up to this moment. And needless to say (however still said), the wait was worth it.

The best thing about this flick is how Marvel was able to get a director/writer like Joss Whedon. Whedon knocked it out of the park last month with ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, and he pretty much does the same thing here; but instead of focusing on the horror genre, he focuses on the superheros that we all know, love, and hope to be someday. Maybe I’m alone with that last one, and maybe I snuck it in so quick you didn’t even notice, but basically what I’m trying to say is that these are superheros that deserve the right treatment with everything they get. Whedon gives them all that, and much, much more. I mean after all, Whedon is a fanboy at heart but he is also a film-maker, and that is something he’ll always live up to. He knows what comic ban fans expect to see from this type of material, and he absolutely delivers.

Whedon’s great attribute to this flick is that he is able to stage so many excellent action sequences that are some of the best I have seen lately. Of course, the special effects and CGI are perfect. And the IMAX 3-D does makes this film look so cool it seems like you’re right there along for the ride, but when it comes down to some awesome, kick-ass throw downs, Whedon knows how to do it; and even better, do it right. They’re all breath-taking because they have so much intensity, but a lot of it’s because plenty of the action scenes consist of superheros fighting superheros. We get to see Thor versus Iron Man, Captain America versus Thor, Iron Man versus The Incredible Hulk, and so on and so forth. If any of you out there love these superheros and want to see what they would be like stacked up against another superhero, then definitely see this flick because almost every fight shows these heroes pulling just about everything they have out of their arsenal. It’s like King Kong vs. Godzilla, Lincoln vs. Washington, or even  Backstreet Boys vs. N’Sync. It’s the battle between two opposing forces that can almost never be stopped, and it’s just pure fun. It’s as easy as that.

The strangest but most awesome thing about this movie is that it’s turns out bring one of the funnier comedies of the past couple of years. Whedon shows that he’s even better when it comes to writing witty scripts, and pinpoints perfection here with this cast of characters. I mean all of these superheros are pretty much egotistical freaks who think they’re superior to others because of their freakishly powerful skills they inherited; and that’s exactly what Whedon touches on here. There are plenty of scenes where it’s just a one-on-one outrageous verbal battle between two characters and it’s probably some of the funniest dialogue you’ll hear this whole summer. But it’s not just these verbal battles that are funny, everything else here is too, and it doesn’t even seem like Whedon is trying to write funny dialogue just to be funny and cool; it comes naturally. Even better is that it’s not just one character who gets a chance to be funny, EVERYBODY here does. There will definitely be moments where you come close to rolling out of your seat. My buddy next to me was on the brink a couple times there and I couldn’t blame him.

I honestly think that the reason this film does work so well the way that it does here is because that we’ve had all this time (4 years to be exact) to get to see, know, love and understand these characters in their own movies; and it’s just awesome to finally see them all together in the same room doing exactly what it is they do best: be freakin’ awesome. Robert Downey Jr. obviously is the star of the show and gives off a whole bunch of hilarious one-liners as Tony Stark/Iron Man (remember when people thought that movie was going to blow?); Chris Evans is THE MAN as everybody’s favorite red, white, and blue superhero, Captain America; Chris Hemsworth is once again likable and charming as the Olde English speaker/Norse God, Thor; Mark Ruffalo does a great job of replacing Edward Norton here as Bruce Banner/Hulk, and gives him this scruffy, worn-out look that coexists well especially when he gets angry and turns green; Scarlett Johansson is pretty cool as Black Widow even though it didn’t really seem like she was going to be around here much, but surprisingly, she is also great and doesn’t let us down; Jeremy Renner is pretty much cool and tough as Hawkeye; and Samuel L. Jackson‘s performance here as Nick Fury is basically him playing the Samuel L. Jackson we always see him play, but this time with an eye-patch. Is that a bad thing? Not at all people, not at all.

A superhero film like this is usually made or broken by the villains, and I think they chose right with Tom Hiddleston as Loki. To be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Loki in ‘Thor’ and I actually found him to be a somewhat weak villain no matter, despite how entertaining the flick was. However, Whedon gives Loki just enough time to show how evil and dangerous of a villain he is when he allows this guy to cut a villainous monologue every time he is around one of these heroes. It sounds a bit tiring, but thankfully, Whedon keeps all of these speeches interesting simply while showing  how incredibly powerful Loki can be. Also have to give a lot of credit to Hiddleston who shows that he’s definitely able to carry one villain role all by himself, but also exercise a bit of his comedic chops here as well. A lot of the funnier scenes in this movie revolve around Loki and just how ridiculous this damn dude can be.

Actually, it’s not just Loki who gets the special treatment from Whedon here, come to think of it, everybody does and that’s what’s did it for this flick. There are so many characters/superheros here, but Whedon’s still able to keep them all relevant by showing how all of their powers, skills, and elements as heroes can change the situation that they’re in while simultaneously reminding us why and how we fell in love with these characters in the first place. For example, Black Widow is definitely a character that you would expect to be forgettable in this huge cast of characters. But Whedon shows her as being a kick-ass spy and assassin that actually adds a lot more to the team than you would expect. You think a lot differently of her and what she can do with those nice, strong legs. It’s just great that Whedon lets every character have their time to shine and not have any of them get over-shadowed by one in particular. Hell, even Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson gets to have a couple of memorable moments! Joss surely does know how to share the love.

If I had to be a total dickhead here and nit-pick, it would have to be that sometimes, the film did seem to hit a lull in its pace. And not only did it seem to take a bit away from the final product, but it also made me want more action up on the screen. The scenes with Hawkeye and Black Widow were a little lame and didn’t do much for me, but then again, it didn’t matter because when it got to them kicking ass, that’s exactly what they did.

Consensus: The Avengers is pretty much everything you could expect it to be with fun action, great performances from this ensemble cast of characters that we all know and love, very funny screenplay, and just a reminder as to why nerds rule, and will never, ever go away. Best film of the year so far and a totally kick-ass ride from start to finish. Long live Marvel!

9/10=Full Price!!

BTW: If you guys get a chance to, check out a website called GuysNation. It’s a pretty far-out site I’ve been writing for, for quite some time and just go on by, show me some love, and check out some of the other non-related movie stuff that’s on there as well. Have a good Friday night everybody!

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The Tourist (2010)

Not as terrible as people say, just disappointing.

Watery Venice, Italy, provides the setting as Johnny Depp, playing an American tourist seeking solace for his shattered heart, instead finds it in danger again after encountering a beautiful Interpol agent (Angelina Jolie). Little does the Yank know that the artful lady has gone to great lengths to arrange their “chance” meeting and is using him to trap a thief who happens to be her ex-lover.

This film was all hyped up mainly due to the fact that it’s Depp and Jolie’s first pairing together. And for the most part, I think that’s really what this film was going for, and didn’t do so well with that.

I did like seeing these two together on screen. Johnny Depp plays the straight-man, but he doesn’t over do it, which I liked, because many stars try to do this performance right, and don’t make it very believable. He’s not a total bumbler, and plays this low-key, shy, subdued, and a little bit of a clumsy character very well. Angelina Jolie does what she does best here, which is walk around, looking like a sex-bomb. But that soon starts to become an annoyance, and I just wanted her to get a gun, or a personality to make her character more interesting at least. Paul Bettany is also in this, and does a good job as the main CIA agent.

The chemistry between these two is good, but soon by the middle part, you can start to see it fizzle. It’s pretty easy to see where the movie is headed, and it just becomes pretty predictable. It starts off as a nice little James Bond-like thriller, but then soon starts to turn into something generic. As well as the mystery aspect that this film was aiming for, just is such a bore.

However, this film does have some beautiful looking images of Venice, and it was nice to see the stars running all around it. The action was good, but it wasn’t always there, and that is what mainly disappointed me. I feel like if you don’t have that much action, than the character parts should be a lot more interesting, and that’s what this film didn’t really have.

Consensus: The Tourist may not be as exciting, or thrilling as you would want, but the stars keep this moving, along with some beautiful scenery of Venice, to make this some nice popcorn film fun.

5/10=Rental!!