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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 Dano

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Secretly, all men want a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to spend the rest of their lives with.

Writer Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is sort of like the literary definition of what it means to be a “one-hit wonder”. The guy had that one book that practically took the whole reading world by storm, and then somehow fell off the face of the planet without a clue or idea of what his next book might be. As his fans continue to wait more and more desperately for what he has next to bring to the table, he can’t seem to get his head around the fact that he simply has nothing. That is, until he starts writing about the latest creation in his head: Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). At first, Ruby only appears to him in his dreams and in his writing, but suddenly it becomes all too real and Calvin realizes that he actually has a real-life girlfriend that goes by the name of “Ruby Sparks” and will do anything and everything he writes about her doing.

And there you have it: The male fantasy, given to one geeky, antisocial writer. What a waste!

"Hello? Police? Yes, I have an intruding-hipster in my house that won't stop making all my meals vegan and telling me how the man is wrong, man. I need back-up assistance!"

“Hello? Police? Yes, I have an intruding-hipster in my house that won’t stop making all my meals vegan and telling me how the man is wrong, man. I need back-up assistance!”

Ruby Sparks, like a lot of other indies of its own kind, deals with an originally wacky and quirky idea, but you know what? It milks it for all that it’s worth. It’s hard to take it entirely seriously, until you realize that, after awhile, the movie itself is in order to deal with the greater aspects of life, like, for instance, love itself. Ruby Sparks shows us how no matter where we go in life, no matter who we date, or no matter how much we try to change the other person, that idea and sense of love will always be there, as much as we may injure and toy around with it. A person can change their look, style, views, friends, favorite places to eat, etc., but they can’t change the inner-self that makes them a person, especially one that deserves to be loved by anybody or anyone. People forget about that because you think about that one person not being with you and how much he/she has changed without you around to talk or be with, when in reality, they are still the same person, just with some changes here and there.

In other words, the bolts and crannies may be loosened, but the gears are still turning and moving the way they once did.

 

So yeah, Ruby Sparks can be funny and a little silly, but it’s also very deep and has something to say. Where it begins to run its unfortunate course is within the actual characters themselves of Calvin and Ruby. You see, the double-edged sword behind Calvin and Ruby is that you love them when they’re together and being all cute with one another, but once they get away from all the cuteness and start getting semi-serious, mad, and sad, then, you begin to realize that they aren’t as likable as you had once imagined. I don’t know if Ruby can count since she is practically a character that was made on the page and does next whatever Calvin rights her to do, but he sure as hell can since he’s not a real nice dude to begin with.

Maybe I’m alone on this boat, but I’m not always there rooting for the “troubled-soul of a writer who can’t come up with an idea and treats everybody around him like crap”-aspect of most movies. I do get that writers going through writer’s block tend to be awful to those around them, no matter who it is around them, but Calvin turns out to be just an unpleasant guy that you can’t really seem to be happy with when he’s happy, or even sad when he’s sad. You just sort of don’t care. Or, if you do care, it’s mainly for Ruby since the poor gal actually loves the dude for who he is, rather than what he should be in her mind, something he can’t seem to avoid with everybody he runs into.

Prefers long walks on the beach. Wow, that Ruby girl is so unique....

Prefers long walks on the beach. Wow, that Ruby girl is so unique….

That’s not to say that Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano aren’t good in this movie, whether they be together or separate, it’s just that their characters aren’t written as well as the ideas and thoughts of the premise were. That’s especially surprising since Kazan wrote the screenplay herself, and you’d think that there would be more to her characters than just stock, but that’s sadly not the case. Dano does what he can to make Calvin a nice, charming-enough dude to stand to be around, but it doesn’t amount to much other than another case of a guy who can’t seem to check himself into reality just yet. Kazan is good as Ruby, which also helps since the chick is literally as cute as a button that I hope to see more of in the near-future.

But not like a hipster. Please, no more of that.

Though the leads don’t knock anything out the park, the supporting cast is at least better and worth mentioning. Chris Messina plays Calvin’s slightly jealous, envious brother that wants to have the same advantages that Calvin has in his easy-going life, but just can’t because he’s married, has a kid, and a little thing called “responsibilities”. Messina is great at these types of roles and always finds a way to make them the least bit likeable, even if the characters he plays do seem a bit dick-ish, at a first glance. Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas play their parents that are the old-school, stoner hippies that haven’t realized ‘Nam ended some time long ago; it’s nice to see Elliott Gould working again, even if it is just a small-role as Calvin’s just-as-inspired therapist; and Steve Coogan, once again, plays a dastardly character.

Consensus: The idea behind Ruby Sparks is smarter and more thought-out than the actual characters, but Kazan’s writing always remains compelling and interesting, even when it does detour in obvious territories like the fight every couple should have, or the thing that’s keeping them from really loving each other. However, this time, it’s with a twist!

7 / 10

"The girl of his dreams", or, "A girl he can't see because the sun is practically beaming down on his face."

“The girl of his dreams”, or, “A girl he can’t see because the sun is practically beaming down on his face.”

Photos Courtesy of: Fox Searchlight

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L.I.E. (2001)

Get out of Long Island the first thing you do.

Still affected by the death of his mother, Howie (Paul Dano) has been having a bit of a rough go at life, for the time being. His dad (Bruce Altman) doesn’t seem to get him and is too busy spending time with his new girlfriend, who Howie obviously detests, and his best-friend Gary (Adam LeFevre), who he also has a love for, plans on moving out of their small suburban town in hopes of achieving his dreams of being rich and famous. Howie wants to profess his love for Gary, but he finds it easier to just go around causing all sorts of shenanigans with him, like for instance, robbing random people’s houses. One person that they rob is Big John (Brian Cox) an older, very charming man who has a certain affinity for young boys and immediately takes a liking to Howie. The later, all confused as to who to love or care for, immediately takes to Big John, too, and they both forge something of a friendship that gets dangerously close to being something much more. But will the two take the plunge, or learn to just respect one another?

Did Howie get his candy yet? You know, like he was promised?!?

A part of me feels like a great deal of the positive reception and, dare I say it, hype around L.I.E. has to solely due with the fact that it was touching on some really disturbing taboos that no one could get away with. Sure, the movie got slapped with an NC-17 rating nonetheless, but mostly that was due to the fact that it dealt with homosexuality, pedophilia, and sex in general, all featuring characters who seemed to be clearly underage. You could make the argument that the movie’s just another case of Larry Clarke’s Kids, but that would actually be an insult to L.I.E.

This movie’s much more thoughtful, whereas Clarke’s was just over-the-top and disturbing, for the sake of being so.

But still, L.I.E. isn’t quite nearly as good as it should be. One of the main aspects holding it back is that it’s the directorial debut from Michael Cuesta and in ways, you can tell. The movie’s dark, dirty, gritty, and grainy look, while giving it a realistic-look and feel, also feels amateurish, especially when the movie decides to stylize itself up a bit more with random, floating montages. You could say that it’s “pretentious”, but it isn’t entirely; a good deal of the movie is small, contained and actually, subtle, but there’s the other deal that also seems like a first-time director having a bit too much fun with a budget and a script in his hands.

That said, when the movie does settle down, L.I.E. works as a thoughtful and smart character-study of two troubled people coming together in a surprisingly believable way. It helps that we get to know each character very well before they meet one another, however, it also helps that Cuesta was able to get both Brian Cox and a very young Paul Dano in these lead roles, because they don’t just work well together, but they are actually the heart and soul of the whole picture.

Which is saying something, considering that the movie itself is pretty damn dark.

Don’t do it! Or do. It’s okay!

As Big John, Cox has the really troubling job of making a despicable and disgusting character seem somewhat sympathetic. And well, it works – not only do you come to care for this heinous wreck-of-a-man, but you also actually seem to get charmed by him. A part of the charm is his act and how he reels people in, and Cox gets by on this in spades, while all still seeming like one creepy individual. There’s more to this character that, in all honesty, deserved to be explored, but as far as portraits of actual monsters go, Cox’s Big John remains one of the more fully-realized and well-done.

Which is a shame because despite him trying very hard, Dano’s Howie doesn’t quite resonate as much. See, one aspect behind Howie’s character is that he’s a whole bunch of things that teenagers at that age are; confused, naive, angry, upset, and constantly fluctuating between emotions and how it is that they feel at any given moment. We get to see a lot about Howie and Dano makes it all work, but then, Cuesta comes around to making there more to Howie, like how he writes poetry, understands certain pop-culture references, and watches old movies, that don’t quite work. The movie wants to make Howie more than he actually is – which is just another upset teenager – and because of that, it takes away from what was already a smart and understandable character to begin with.

Oh well. Both Dano and Cuesta would continue to go on and do much better.

Same is obviously said for Cox.

Consensus: By touching on some disturbing themes in a very in-your-face way, L.I.E. can often times seem a little cloying, but still works because of the smart, understated and thoughtful performances from both Dano and, especially, Cox.

6.5 / 10

Love at first face-piercing.

Photos Courtesy of: Alter Ego Entertainment

Okja (2017)

But bacon is so good! Ugh!

With the threat of world hunger looming out there far in the distance, the family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation decides that the best cause of action is to create a series of super pigs who, over the next ten or so years, will continue to grow, get bigger, fatter and more juicier, so that when the time is right to munch down on them, they’ll be as tasty, as succulent, and as beneficial as ever. But in order for these pigs to grow as big as they need to, they need to be fed and kept-up well, which brings us to young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), who has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But what Mija doesn’t know is that Okja, as big and as smart as he is, is one of the best super pigs around, meaning that it’s going to be the prime candidate for the killing and eating of. It’s something that Mija can’t understand or fathom, so that when the time comes to Okja getting taken away from her, she follows wherever the pig goes. But obviously, Mija isn’t the only one who has Okja’s best interest at-heart and sooner than later, everyone’s fighting over Okja and trying to figure out what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s actually for dinner.

Vanna White?

Movies like Okja make me happy that Netflix is around and doing what it’s doing. Sure, say what you want about how it’s killing movie-theaters and changing up the whole business-aspect of the film-industry, but still, you have to look at it like this: Okja is such an odd, crazy, and wild movie, that only a streaming-service could help get it made and released to a huge audience. Obviously, what happened to Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer a few years ago had something to do with it, but still, it deserves to be said that Okja is as crazy, as original, and as fun of a movie as you’ll get the chance to see on the big screen, anywhere, this summer.

Of course you see this on the big screen which, yes, if you can, you probably should. It’s one of those rare movies that will probably on be seen on small-screens like laptops, iPads and, gasp, iPhones, but more than definitely deserves to be seen on the biggest, loudest, and most epic screen possible. If it isn’t, though, don’t worry – Okja is still a fun movie, no matter how, or where you see it. In a way, it’s the kind of movie that makes me happy not just for Netflix, but for visionaries like Bong Joon-ho and the fact that, despite their movies probably not making Transformers money, still get enough of a chance to make whatever they want and show it to the rest of the world.

Sure, that’s what every film-maker does, but for Bong Joon-ho, I don’t know, it’s something more special.

See, for Joon-ho, it’s all about the constant juggling act of tones and genres, and most of the time, he succeeds at pulling off a solid, satisfying transition. Okja is an odd mix between a comedy, a drama, a satire, an action flick, a monster movie, and yeah, a political-piece, but it does come together so well that it barely ever seems like it’s switing itself up – the bits and pieces of comedy/satire don’t always work and more than often seem way too over-the-top (more on that later) – but yeah, for the most part, Joon-ho knows what he’s doing and what he’s playing around with, and it’s just so much fun to watch. It’s almost as if you can forget about the obvious humanitarian message at the center of it all that’s basically saying, yeah, meat is murder.

End of story. Thanks, Morrissey.

And yeah, it’s preachy, sure, but it’s also handled in such a smart way that it doesn’t really attack those who decide to eat meat, either. Mostly, those who profit off of the meat-market and continue to do so, for all lack of general well-being and decency, are shown in the negative spotlight and made to apologize for themselves, even if they actually don’t. Sure, Joon-ho may not even be making a point and instead, just wanted to make a silly, fun, and rather sweet movie about a girl and her giant pig, but yeah, sometimes the themes are too obvious.

But in this case, they’re fine. They don’t take away from the fun, the excitment, and the enjoyment of the movie. If anything, it strengthens it by making it seem like more than just your typical monster movie; it has a heart, it has a soul, and yes, it has a little something to say. It’s the kind of monster movie that Joon-ho’s the Host seemed to want to be, but backed away from, slowly but surely.

Steve Irwin?

This time around, though, Joon-ho nails it and it’s just so much fun to watch.

Well, everything except for the satire. See, Okja clearly takes on a cast of colorful and nutty characters that, on paper, sound like a lot of fun, but when put together, in a movie which, despite having a lighter-tone than expected, is still serious enough to not be taken as a joke. And that’s a bit of a problem when you have the likes of Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal showing up and acting as if they’re deleted-scenes from the latest season of Twin Peaks; Gyllenhaal is especially grating in a terribly annoying performance that doesn’t know if it wants to be sad, mean, funny, or just out-of-this-world. Either way, it’s hard to watch and just downright disappointing coming from an actor who seemed like he could do it all.

Then again, though, everyone else here who is downplaying, still does a fine enough job in keeping everything together. Steven Yeun, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Devon Bostick, and Daniel Henshall all play animal rights activists here who may or may not be just as sinister and as harsh as the corporations they’re out against, but all play it small enough to where it’s interesting and they don’t take over every scene. Same goes for the young, brash and exciting Ahn Seo-hyun, who has a great presence for someone so young, and in something so big and ambitious. It would have been very easy for her to get lost in all of the crazy supporting characters and CGI, but nope, Seo-hyun holds it altogether and ends up being this movie’s glue it so desperately needed.

But once again, thank you Netflix. More of these, please.

Consensus: While the constantly switching in-and-out of tones doesn’t always work, Okja is still a smart, exciting and entertaining piece of popcorn fun that has more on its mind than meets the eye.

8 / 10

Just the sweet love between a girl and her huge pig? Aw.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Swiss Army Man (2016)

A little flatulence can go a long way.

For some reason he can’t explain, Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded, sad and pretty damn alone in this one little island. However, right before he’s about to kill himself due to loneliness-overkill, a random body (Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore. Though this shouldn’t mean much to Hank, originally, nor should it get in his way of ending his life, for some reason, it can’t stop farting. Why? Well, Hank doesn’t really know. But what he does know is that the flatulence is able to take him from point-A-to-point-B and, hopefully, itch him closer and closer to home and getting some help. Eventually though, time starts to pass with Hank and, for other reasons unexplained, the body starts to do and say certain things that no other lifeless body should ever do or say, ever. So obviously, Hank is perplexed, but rather than figuring out all of the scientific reasons why this could have happened, he then decides to throw all caution to the wind, except it for what it is, move on, try to find shelter, and in the meantime, have a little fun. After all, he’s got a lifeless body with him that is capable of all sorts of weird superpowers, so why not try and take advantage, right?

Being shipwrecked will make you become Grizzly Adams pretty quick.

Being shipwrecked will make you become Grizzly Adams pretty quick.

Swiss Army Man, as I’m pretty sure most have either heard, or expected after reading that plot-synopsis, is a pretty strange bird of a flick. It’s the kind of fantasy film that I feel as if a really young Kevin Smith would have written and cobbled-up together, but instead of there being a plethora of weed, dick and sex jokes, there’s only farting. A whole lot of it, too. But you know what? It’s actually funny and kind of works.

Writers/directors Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan (“Daniels”, as they like to call themselves), clearly have a lot of wacky and wild ideas in their heads and don’t know what to do with them, or where to store them all. So, it only makes sense that in a movie like Swiss Army Man, where a dead body literally starts speaking, farting, barfing-up water, and feeling emotions, they throw everything that they’ve got at the wall, see what sticks, and when they’re not pleased fully, they decide to throw more at the wall, and rinse, recycle, repeat. For most people, this will be tirelessly annoying and downright amateurish of them, but somehow, they make it all work.

Swiss Army Man isn’t the kind of movie that needs to be taken seriously right off the bat and it’s what keeps itself interesting and fun for the most part. It deals with dark comedy in a way that’s so strange, I’m not sure how it would be seen as “comedy” elsewhere; the Daniels’ clearly have a weird sense of humor, but they use it well enough here to where it doesn’t get in the way of the story, or making it feel as if they’re getting in the way.

However, at the same time, they kind of do.

The Daniels’ work best when it seems like they’re throwing everything at us, including and actually, most especially, the kitchen sink. They take what could have been a really standard survivalist story, with instead of Wilson the Volleyball, there’s a dead corpse, therefore giving it an angle, and exploring all sorts of other weird ideas and facts about life. The Daniels’ may have set out to make a silly comedy, but they somehow come-off as being more enlightening and sweet when all is said and done.

They have to do a lot here to keep this story interesting and their idea fresh, so in that sense, they succeed. It’s only when the movie, as well as their own selves, realize that all of the silly shenanigans and fun from before, have to be put back to the side, for a message about life, love and living to your fullest potential – although, I’m not too sure about that last one, as I feel like the movie itself was kind of making that up, too. Once again, there’s no problem with a comedy wanting to get serious and spout out some serious life-lessons in the process to learn and abide by, but there’s a certain movie you do that in and I don’t believe that Swiss Army Man, the farting-corpse movie, is that one movie.

Clearly breathing.

Clearly breathing.

If anything, it’s that movie’s hated and alienated step-cousin that people feel obligated to invite for family functions, but don’t really bother with or talk to much.

Poor Swiss Army Man – now I actually want to give it a hug.

As for Dano and Radcliffe, since they basically are the two main stars of the flick, do well together. Dano is still doing that off-put and frazzled nerd, whereas Radcliffe, playing incredibly against-type, gets a lot to do, without ever showing us. Sure, he moves his lips a whole lot, but because he’s playing a corpse, Radcliffe can’t move or emote a whole lot; most of the movie is spent with him in something of a mix between a grin and frown. Either way, Radcliffe works perfectly in this role, making us laugh when we least expect it, and also nailing down this movie’s odd tone, whenever it seems like it needs him to. If anything, the movie makes me wonder where the Daniels’ careers will go after this and who would dare try out whatever they’ve got cooking next.

Perhaps a peeing-skeleton movie? Or, a movie where nobody pees, poops, farts, throws up, and just acts like normal, typical human beings in a world as sensible as the one we leave in?

Meh. Probably not. That’s boring.

Consensus: Hardly ever boring, Swiss Army Man works better than it should in an odd, but rather funny kind of way, but also loses itself when it tries to be important and manipulatively tug at the heartstrings.

7 / 10

Nope, not a horror movie. I don't think at least.

Nope, not a horror movie. I don’t think at least.

Photos Courtesy of:

Youth (2015)

Hope I die before I get old. Or probably not.

At a fancy health spa located somewhere in Switzerland, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) walks around aimlessly, thinking about life, love and his career that he’s had. During one point in his life, Ballinger was a renowned conductor/composer who has, for personal reasons, lost the will to record, or better yet, live. Granted, he doesn’t want to kill himself, but he doesn’t really appreciate life quite as well as his dear best buddy, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), does. Boyle’s different from Ballinger in that he thinks that he’s got some of his best work ahead of him, which is why he’s currently stationed in this spa with four younger confidantes, working on what he pledges to be “a testament to cinema”. However, while together in this spa, the both realize that not only has life passed them by, but that they’ve also got to do something with the last couple good years of their lives they have left. This means that they do a lot more walking, talking, swimming, sun-bathing, and oh yeah, ogling at hot chicks.

Just as old men tend to do.

My cocaine not happy with white walls.

My cocaine not happy with white walls.

No matter what problems persist in Youth, there’s no denying that writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has an eye for beauty. Every shot in Youth, feels as perfectly calculated and put-together as you’d expect a Renaissance portrait to be, but instead of feeling as if he’s just being showy, it just somehow works and you get used to it. That Sorrentino set the movie, first and foremost, in the lovely countryside of Sweden, already allows for him to shoot any scene, whichever way he wants and it’s hard to take your eyes off. Of course, this is perhaps best seen on the big screen, but no matter what screen or aspect-ratio it’s seen on, Youth is a beautiful movie.

Which is a shame that it’s script is a bit annoying.

For one, a lot of the visuals that Sorrentino sets up here only seem to exist for the sole purpose that they’re metaphors and that’s it. While I have no problem with the visual-imagery here being displayed as shiny and bright metaphors, the issue with Youth is that the screenplay itself starts drive home the same kinds of points that the visuals are trying to get across, so after awhile, it just feels like over-kill. It’s almost as if the movie didn’t trust having a scene in which Michael Caine’s character went out into the middle of the woods and started imagining a piece of music he would create using only nature’s sounds to drive home the point of getting old and losing one’s mojo, that they had to have him constantly go on and discuss with just about everyone he comes into contact with.

And honestly, this wouldn’t have been too bad to listen to, except for the fact that what these characters all talk about, only serve one purpose and one purpose only: To preach. It’s hard to listen to characters talk about their own mortality and aging-process, when it seems like they’re reading free-form poetry; had more of the dialogue been a tad bit more naturalistic, the conversations these characters have probably wouldn’t have been so nauseating at certain points. It’s obvious from the very start that these characters are all going to be sad about getting old and realizing their time has come, but give us more reasons to care for that and not just go, “Oh, well it’s sad. But hey, look at this pretty bird and how Michael Caine so adoringly gazes at it.”

Perhaps less navel-gazing would have helped Youth in the long-run, but really, I’m not sure.

Old men sneaking a peek. What else is new?

Old men sneaking a peek. What else is new?

All I do know is that what Youth benefits from the most, aside from Sorrentino’s keen eye for detail, is that the ensemble here is just terrific. Of course, Michael Caine plays Fred Ballinger to near-perfection, as it genuinely seems like he’s touched by this character’s willingness to keep his career on-halt, even though there’s much more demand for him to come back to the stage and continue making music. There’s one scene in particular that shows Caine’s true connection to this character, when he lets loose on why he doesn’t want to perform any of his old material for and in front of the Queen, and it’s quite emotional, but well-done as well. While not much of Youth is subtle, Caine still finds a way to peak underneath the cracks and slip a little piece of it every now and then.

While it’s weird to see Harvey Keitel being cast as Michael Caine’s best friend here, surprisingly, it works. Because Ballinger and Mick Boyle are so different in ways, it’s fun and interesting to hear them go on and on about their careers, their interests, women they’ve slept with, and their history together. It’s hard to imagine that Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine would ever sit down and have a fully-functioning conversation, let alone, be besties, but still, the two make it work and it was also nice to see Keitel dig hard and deep into a meaty role that we haven’t seen him get for quite some time. And yeah, Paul Dano shows up as a “serious actor” working in Switzerland, whereas Rachel Weisz plays Ballinger’s heart-broken and pissed-off daughter, and both do good work here and it’s nice to see them round it all out.

However, the one who probably walks away with the whole show, is Jane Fonda showing up in nearly two scenes as Brenda Morel, a friend and co-worker of Mick Boyle.

Though Fonda appears seemingly out of nowhere, she takes over the whole movie by showing that her Brenda Morel character is, most importantly, the exact kind of worker in the biz that Youth seems so obsessed with focusing on. Even though her best years have gone past her and, quite frankly, she’s holding on to her career and fame by a thread, Morel’s still trying to keep herself busy and relevant, even in a world that could probably care less about her. She won’t give up and won’t let anybody stand in her way, which is why her scene, while hilarious and exciting (something the rest of Youth really isn’t), is probably the most heart-breaking. Fonda’s terrific in this role because even though she gets maybe only 15 minutes of screen-time, she delivers us everything we need to know about this character, from the very first second we get with her, to the last and it’s hard not to stop and think about her when all is said and done.

Consensus: As pretentious as it can occasionally be, Youth still offers up some wonderful visuals, as well as a great couple of performances from both veterans and stars alike, that all give a little extra to the sad, but true message of the movie.

7 / 10

Pictured: Metaphor upon Metaphor.

Pictured: Metaphor upon Metaphor

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Being Flynn (2012)

Happy that my dad has a roof over his head and isn’t a complete dick.

Aspiring writer Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) begins working at a homeless shelter and develops a drug problem he struggles to control. His father, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), is a con man who was never there for him as a child and still considers himself to be one of the greatest, living writers of all-time, despite never being published. Jonathan actually stumbles upon Nick one day at the homeless shelter and is need of a place to stay. But, as predicted, Jonathan finds problems with just about everything around him.

The problem with Being Flynn, right away, is that its whole idea of a joke is to have its character, Jonathan Flynn, narrate some of the movie and talk like he’s the greatest novelist of all-time and is a walking genius, even though nobody knows it. Problem is, he doesn’t know it. That idea of a joke can be a little humorous at times (because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to crack a couple of chuckles at older, Alzheimer-bound men), but it gets annoying and repetitive, as if the movie didn’t realize the butt of its own end joke was meant for the character, and not for the freakin’ movie itself.

But this turns out to be the whole movie. Just one long joke that nobody ever seems to get the hang of telling better.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that's okay. Whatever suits you best.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that’s okay. Whatever suits you best.

And this is a shame because the material for Being Flynn seems as if it has more to it than just being “a joke”. But what ultimately happens is that it just lingers and gives this Jonathan character another reason to yell, scream, and scam his way some more into people’s lives. I never, not for once, felt any ounce of sympathy for these characters and even when it seemed like they were going through problems as people of society, and of people going through age, I still never bought them.

There were some elements I did buy, like the fact that Nick does go down a bit of a rocky road with drugs and needs to change his life around to be a better person. But that’s about it. Other than all of Nick’s problems that could have pretty much been centered-down to, “Yeah, my dad left me when I was a baby, my mom raised me, slept with a bunch of dudes, and killed herself”, Jonathan’s problems seem to be a bit more scary in the way that the guy is homeless, the guy is out in the cold, and the guy is a bit of an over-zealous dick. That fear of him dying never hit me hard enough, just because he’s a, well, a dick.

As plain and simple as that.

I think I’ve exhausted everything there is to say about the character of Jonathan Flynn, but honestly, it deserves to be said because there’s not much more to this movie than him. Which is annoying because Paul Weitz can’t help but be utterly pleased to have him being a miserable and unlikable hack that doesn’t do anything else in his life other than bullshit his way past things with that signature De Niro smile, chuckle, and charm. And heck, thanks to De Niro, it almost works!

And De Niro is fine here, but he’s saddled with a character who is just too unpleasant to give a hoot about. That’s why it was nice to see Dano at least try with the likes of Nick, another unlikable and whiny character. Dano is known for his “big” performances, but here, he dials things down for us so that we get to see Nick as more of a sad, self-destructive human being, rather than somebody who is cool because he lives life like its constant party. In a way, he’s sort of a tool, but the movie never fully digs deep into that aspect of his character; it’s just left up to Dano to pick up the pieces and work from there.

She's like a dude, but she's not. So rad, man.

Short hair, don’t care.

This is a shame, too, because Dano and De Niro, together, playing a son-father duo, seems like it would be ripe with all sorts of powerful and raw emotion. And though Dano may have been more than happy to share the screen with De Niro, Weitz’s direction and script gets in the way too much. Somebody has to learn something, somebody has to grow up, and somebody has to bond. If it’s these two, then so be it.

This is all to say that, even though they’re both solid actresses in their own rights, Julianne Moore and Olivia Thirlby aren’t used as much as they could have been to help even this movie and its melodramatic self out. Moore is mostly designated to flashback scenes, whereas Thirlby’s character has to do a little bit of heavy-lifting, both literally and figuratively, as Nick’s gal-pal. But still, her character is then soon treated as being a female love-interest for Nick to hook up with, screw around on, break up with, try to get back together with, and eventually, have all of his dreams come true because he’s, well, “a better person now than he was before”.

Bunch of BS if I ever heard it!

Consensus: Though it has a solid cast and, on occasion, director, Being Flynn falls apart because it’s not only a bit too melodramatic for its own good, but conventional, self-serving, and too smart for its own good.

3 / 10

Staring at your child in admiration: such a mother's thing to do.

Staring at your child in admiration – whatta mother!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Love & Mercy (2015)

Dude should have just stuck with the surf rock genre. Clearly, it was going places.

Beach Boys member Brian Wilson is covered at two points in his life, both of which seem to unveil certain problems he faced with his wild personality. In the 60’s, he was a lot younger (Paul Dano), and decided that it was time for he and the rest of the Beach Boys to test the waters out and see what they could do next with their sound. This lead to Pet Sounds, which ultimately, lead to a whole lot more tension within the band, and left Wilson to start losing his mind a little. Then, in the 1980s, Wilson is a bit older (John Cusack), but also under the watch of self-appointed therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), which means that his life and every decision he makes, is being monitored so that Landy can keep track of what it is that Wilson does, regardless of whether or not it’s actually worrisome to his health. However, one fateful day, Brian meets a car saleswoman by the name of Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) and automatically knows that he wants to be with her. However, due to his “condition”, and also the fact that Eugene doesn’t like it when he disobeys certain rules, Brian’s left to act out a little.

Not crazy.

Not crazy.

I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people know about Brian Wilson, the music he created, his personality, his career, and all of the controversy that came along with the decisions that he’s made throughout it. Some of it’s good; some of it’s bad; and some of it is, well, just what you get when you have a small-time musician who all of a sudden gains tons and tons of success, whether they wanted it or not. Sometimes, they go crazy – other times, they just blow it all away on drugs, guns, beer, women, and end up dying because of so.

Hardly do you ever see a musician go from being small, to big one day, without any screw ups occurring between, or after the fact.

But this is all to prove a point about the idea of the rock biopic itself: In all honesty, it’s sort of becoming tired. Sure, it’s nice to see high-quality actors like Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti, among others, take over the roles of some of these more famous types, but when you have a figure as famous and as notorious as Brian Wilson at your forefront, are you really trying to shed some light on anything new about him, his personality, or the music he created? Not really, and it shows so often here in Love & Mercy.

While this isn’t to say that the movie’s bad, it does, by the same token, still make it seem conventional, even if director Bill Pohlad tries very hard to make sure that this doesn’t happen. But even though it does, Pohlad still doesn’t forget the idea of what makes movies like these so interesting, is that all you need is a compelling angle to make things sizzle and spice a whole lot more. While that doesn’t wholly happen here, there’s something neat about watching the likes of Dano and Cusack just sink into these roles, playing practically the same person, without hardly looking anything alike, and still coming off as believable.

Now, once again, that’s talking about the acting, and less about the actual story itself and how it’s structured. The structure is, like I’ve said before, typical of these sorts of movies. We get a flawed musician who has a bit of problem, tries to get past it, and faces plenty of adversity from those around him due to this problem that he features. This is what we’ve all come to expect with these kinds of movies and it’s a bit of a shame, because you’d think a movie about such an innovator like Brian Wilson, wouldn’t try to walk the same patterns that some of Wilson’s fellow members always seemed to bring up and argue about.

Either try to change things up? Or stick to the script and do what people like? This is the main question of at the end of the day, but even I know if it’s able to make up a conclusion.

Still not totally crazy just yet.

Still not totally crazy just yet.

Which makes sense because the movie seems all the more infatuated with its performances, rather than any actual surprises in the narrative. As mentioned before, Dano is very good in the role as a younger version of Brian Wilson, where we get to see him in the studio, working with just about each and every person he employed to help out with his wild and crazy project ideas. He sinks right into a role that we think would be hard to do, but comes off as the right amount of odd ballish and sincerity, even if he is still a bit on the cooky side.

As the older version of Wilson, John Cusack puts in a great performance that he hasn’t seem to interested in giving for quite some time. However, what works so well for Cusack here is that he isn’t afraid to make us feel unsettled by Wilson’s demeanor, but also realize that he’s actually something of a sweet guy once you get beneath all of the weird mannerisms. Though it’d be easy to suggest that the real life Melinda Ledbetter would have fallen and gotten married to Wilson so quickly because of his name and the money, in the movie, you’d be wrong. Banks and Cusack have legitimate chemistry where it seems like, even despite the significant problems in Brian’s personality, they still want to make it work.

And of course, there’s Paul Giamatti, who is absolutely milking it to death as Dr. Eugene Landy. Because Landy was a pompous joke in real life, the movie really plays up the fact that it may have been him after all, that was the true psycho – not Brian. While the movie makes this strong argument (and Giamatti is very helpful in that effort), there’s still a part of me that feels like he was maybe a bit too wild and crazy to be taken as seriously as the movie wants us to take him. Sure, Giamatti’s scary, but Landy? Puh lease. It’s just another rich dude, scamming to make himself even more rich.

What else is there to know?

Consensus: Even despite the conventional format of Love & Mercy, the well put together cast helps keep it thoughtful, entertaining, and interesting, all at the same time.

8 / 10

Oh yeah, toates crazy. No doubt about it.

Oh yeah, toates crazy. No doubt about it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Girl Next Door (2004)

Still convinced the girl I brought to prom was a porn star. Slept with everybody else, but me!

Matthew (Emile Hirsch) is a high-school senior who has high aspirations for his life in college and, hopefully, at Georgetown. But right now, at this moment in time, all he wants to do is remember something special about his life that he can talk on and on about for the rest of his days. Then Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door and suddenly, it all changes. Not only does Matthew come to understand his sexual innocence by gazing at Danielle’s perfect bodily-shape, but he also strikes up a friendship/relationship-of-sorts with her. Although, there’s just one problem that Matthew doesn’t find out about until it’s practically too late: She’s a porn star. And although Matthew eventually comes to accept this as a part of her life, he still brushes up shoulders with her ex-boyfriend/producer (Timothy Olyphant), who not only threatens to ruin the relationship he has created with Danielle, but Matthew’s whole future life and career as well. This is when Matthew decides that it’s time to nut up, or shut up, and depending on how you take that pun, you can pretty much guess where his next source of inspiration goes towards.

So yeah, basically, this is just Risky Business, but for the Gen-Y age where computers, cell-phones, and heavy-R ratings do exist. However, whereas that movie, despite being a sometimes crass and overly-sexualized film, at least had something to say about one coming to terms with their age, as well as their sexuality. Here, with the Girl Next Door, all we get are a bunch of nerds who crave sex and, despite never having had it before, still do whatever it is that they can to ensure that they lose their “V cards” before heading off to that next stage of their lives. Nothing wrong with that at all; in fact, it’s just a way of life which most people (mainly dudes) go through.

Being in a pool with a girl you're trying to get it on with doesn't end well. Trust me.

Being in a pool with a girl you’re trying to get it on with doesn’t end well. Especially if you’re trying ti “impress” her. Trust me.

However, there’s something not really all that there about this movie that makes it feel like it’s just about sex and porn, and that’s it. Sure, it’s a rom-com of sorts that likes to deal with young people trying to approach their sexuality in a certain manner that will get them laid, but there’s not much more beneath the surface. It’s exactly what it sets out to be and if that’s what you’re looking for, then yeah, you’ll probably enjoy this flick.

But that’s the problem with this movie: There feels like there could have been so much more here, had everybody involved just decided to put more time and effort into it.

For instance, the movie explores the pornography business in an almost complete and full matter; heck, the movie even pushes its attention towards a porn convention in Las Vegas. But rather than actually saying something remotely interesting about the state of pornography, where it’s heading and how those involved with such an distasteful business, are just like you and me, too. Instead, the movie decides to take the easy, relatively safe way out and just show us boobs, ass and girls hooking up with one another. For a frat bro that has a boner at just about the very second he wakes up, to the moment he decides to hit the hay, then yeah, this will probably be a near-masterpiece that absolutely speaks to their soul. However though, for somebody who wants a little bit more to their comedy, then there’s just hardly anything to firmly grasp.

And even worse, the movie’s not even all that funny. A few throwaway gags here and there, but honestly, the movie just isn’t very funny. It clearly likes to think it is – in the Van Wilder-sense where the sight of t’s and a’s are automatically followed by LOL’ing – but nothing really works in that regard. It’s just a stale comedy, reusing plot-devices and jokes we’ve seen before, yet never really spins them in a way that could make it seem like the story/movie itself could have only taken place in the new millennium. Then again though, to those who would probably want to see this, that doesn’t matter because as long as there’s naked chicks and a whole lot of sex-talk, then what else is there?

No seriously, what else is there?

Anyway, the only aspect of this film that seems even remotely interesting is its cast, and even then, mostly everybody feels wasted on material that just couldn’t be less concerned with them showing up and putting in all that they have in their might and power. Emile Hirsch shows that he was ready to step out of that childhood acting shell of his at this point in his career, and although it was a smart move on his part, the movie doesn’t seem concerned with giving him much to do except just be a nerd and react in slightly shocked manners. He does get one sequence of some finely-timed comedy where he’s high on ecstasy in a public event, but even that feels put-on, old, and tired, as if we had seen it a hundred times before. Because, most likely, we already have.

"Nobody fucks with the Olyphant."

“Nobody fucks with the Olyphant.”

And though I have to give it to the casting-directors for allowing Elisha Cuthbert to be like the absolute sex-pot that she appears to be, I have to wish that they’d given her so much more to do. Because sure, what she’s called on to do is act and look sexy and she does that quite well. But her character is just poorly-written in the way that we never find out anything about her past, why it is that she decided to take up the career as a porn star, why she wants out and why it is that she takes an interest in such a normal, typical dweeb like Matt. Cuthbert herself definitely seems like she wants to explore these character-traits, but sadly, it just doesn’t work in her favor.

The only person who really seems to come away unscathed from this is Timothy Olyphant, playing Danielle’s dangerous, slightly unpredictable bad boy of a producer that sees cash whenever he looks at her. Olyphant is always perfect at playing these types of slightly off-kilter, weirdo roles and while it’s a character we’ve seen him do before, it’s still a refresher in a movie that, quite frankly, isn’t filled with many. Except for showing us guys the occasional boob and butt, but honestly, that’s right at our finger-tips, every second, of everyday, so do we really need to watch a near two-hour comedy filled with some shots of it?

I say nope, but that’s just me. I’m a weirdo. I’d much rather watch a movie, than actual porn itself.

Consensus: Nothing more than a shameless remake of the far-better Risky Business, the Girl Next Door likes to think it explores more about the man’s psyche when it comes to sexuality, but in reality, it’s just another raunchy, unfunny teen-comedy.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Usually the kind of girls I bring home to my folks. Except not really.

Usually the kind of girls I bring home to my folks. Except not really.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

12 Years a Slave (2013)

I thought all slaves walk around to the sounds of James Brown and Rick Ross.

This the true story of one Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man who, in 1853, was expecting to be in business with two circus men (Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy) looking to make a quick buck with the very talented violinist, but instead, found himself to be drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery, all within a 24-hour time-frame. As soon as he’s shipped off to the South, he meets and interacts with fellow other slaves, as well as other slave owners that range from sympathetic (Benedict Cumberthatch), to downright despicable (Michael Fassbender). But through this all, Solomon realizes that he can’t continue to plead that he’s a free man who can read, write and work as well as any other white folk can, and just has to accept the reality that this is his life from now on and he must face it head-on. A sad reality, but a reality for many African-Americans (and whites as well) out in the South during this time.

Hard to believe that even after all of these years of coming very close to hitting the nail on the head of the slice of history that was slavery, it took a Brit director in the form of Steve McQueen to give us the most definitive, honest, painful and realistic look at it, and then some. We all know that there’s been some hype and some buzz surrounding this movie for quite some time, and while it may have taken me longer than expected to actually get out there to my local indie theater and give it a go, I’m glad I did because this is one of those flicks that many people will be paying attention to for awhile. Not just at the end of this year when Oscar talk is running rampant, but for many, many years to come, as it presents us with a view of slavery that has never been as grueling or as painful as this is.

"You're pretty much my best buddy. Just don't tell anyone. EVER!!"

“You’re pretty much my best buddy. Just don’t tell anyone. EVER!!”

And yet, all of that importance still doesn’t make it the best movie of the year, heck, maybe not even Top 10.

I know, I know, I know. The pitchforks are already seized and the torches have been lit, but please, I urge you to bear with me and see if we can maybe come to an understanding. And if not, I don’t care. I’m a movie critic, dammit! I got opinions, regardless of popular-belief!

The aspect in which I must give this movie credit for, is mainly in the way that it does not back-down a bit from what it wants to show us. Most of that credit does deserve to go to McQueen, as he has proved that, time and time again, he is one of the masters at giving us a downright nasty piece of subject-matter, throwing it out there on screen and allowing us to just watch as it all plays out in front of our eyes, while also having us come to our own conclusions about what he’s showing as well. I respect this decision, not just here, but with his other two flicks (Hunger and Shame) as it shown him as the type of director we all have to look out for as he might be changing the ways movies are made and looked at in today’s world. I know that’s one huge leap I’m taking, but it’s one that I feel confident supporting as the guy really seems like he hit his stride here. And then some…

See, the real reason why this movie works as well as it does is because it gives us the story of slavery that we all think we know by heart by now, and yet, shows us that we still don’t know all that much about it, nor do we actually even realize the REAL harshness behind it. We see Solomon go through all sorts of travesties in his time as a slave: People suddenly get killed, raped, sold, left-for-dead, or are simply never heard from again. But the saddest reality of all that this movie brings up more than a few times is the fact that, for these slaves, it didn’t matter if they lived, died, or how many times they were constantly being sold-off and moved around; because nobody knew about them, nor even cared. Most of these people were already born into slavery as it was, so they already knew that they had no lives outside of picking cotton to live, but even for the ones who were free and then eventually sold into slavery, they still had no certain level of existence in their loved ones’ minds.

These types of slaves couldn’t write to their loved ones, let them know where they were and how they could free them, because usually, it was too much of a risk to take in the first place. Not just by being caught actually trying to transport a letter from Point-A-to-Point-B, but letting your owner know that you are in fact a free man or women,who can read, write and do all sorts of other things that a typical slave doesn’t have the ability to do. That realization could have you either killed, sheltered away from the rest of the public till the end of your days, or threatened to keep your mouth shut and realize that it doesn’t matter what you can or cannot do; you are a slave, and you must work, work, work, and work. And when you can’t work no more, you’re dead.

End. Of. Story.

But see, that’s the strangest idea about this movie, as well as our society itself: We already know this harsh reality, and yet, we still can’t seem to get our heads around the fact that this was America at one point in time. All of these brutal feelings, thoughts, ideas and standards we set for the rest of our society were felt during that time-period, but are still ever so present in today’s day and age, that a movie like this must be seen to inform others about what happened back in those days, and how we’re still getting over it all. Because honestly, let’s face it, nobody will ever be able to live slavery down: Whites, blacks, Jews, Chinese, etc. None of them will be able to live it down, and that’s a mind-set that will probably be forever tattooed in our minds. The fact that slavery, although being abolished for more than 140 years now, will still never, ever go away. Will we ever move on as a society, or we will just continue to remind ourselves of what our nation used to be like?

Questions, questions, questions.

As you can tell, this movie definitely gave me plenty to think about, mainly important stuff, but while all of those ideas ran around in my mind, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that despite it being an unflinching, powerful and important look at slavery, there was something holding me back from thinking it was the end-all, be-all masterpiece of the year. While the true story of Solomon Northup is one that should never go unnoticed, the framing of the story itself just felt too normal to me, as if everything we were seeing, all happened in a sequence, without much rhythm or rhyme. I get that this is most likely how Northup experienced most of these events, but for a movie, it just makes it seem less like a story being told to us, and more like a series of things that are happening. For instance, we get to see Solomon get sold-off to a couple slavers throughout his life-span which, rather than making you feel awfully terrible about the type of predicament he’s in, comes off more episodic, as if it’s a new chapter in the life of Solomon Northup, or how it probably read on paper.

He's also a producer on this. Wonder if he's got a big, rather important role?

He’s also a producer on this. Wonder if he’s got a big, rather important role?

The problem I had with this movie wasn’t that it was told to me in a way that easily understandable and comprehensive so that I understood all that McQueen was doing, at any given moment, it was just that there never really felt like much of an emotional-connection here that would have had me running along with Solomon and everybody else around him for as long as they wanted me to. Granted, I did tear-up a couple of times to the point of where I needed a clean wipe-down, but that was mainly because I was reaching for something to cry about. The movie that McQueen was giving me, wasn’t the nearest thing to “sentimental”, and while I give him credit for not soaping this story up to where it could have been laughable, a hint, or hell, even a smudge of sappiness would have really put me over the edge to where I felt like this movie was the emotional-experience of a lifetime. Instead, I just felt like it was a series of bad things, happening to good people, from bad people, and that was about it.

Oh, and slavery was bad, too. Mustn’t forget about that fact.

That’s why, even though many will disagree with me, this flick feels like it delivers on what it sets out to do, and yet, could have gone deeper and even further into it’s subject story, by creating emotions and feelings. But McQueen doesn’t roll that way, and although I respect his decision to keep it so, I still feel like it would have done him a great deal of good if he had decided to throw something in there for good effect. Maybe a couple more crying-sessions? Or character-development? Maybe? I’m just a dude with a blog, what do I know?!?!

What I do know though, is a great performance when I see one, and there is an exceptional one given by the always-excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor as none other than Mr. Solomon Northup himself. Ejiofor is one of these actors in which, it doesn’t matter how many great pieces of work he does in a year or throughout a whole career, he still will never be a household name. Which is a damn shame because the dude is so freakin’ talented, and has been showing this talent for years-on-end. I think now may be that time where it all changes, and he finally gets the credit he deserves. Now, I am not saying that he’ll win the Oscar this year, however, he will definitely be nominated and a sure-pick because of just what he goes through here.

Every emotion that that Northup feels, every thought that crosses his mind and every pain-staking reality that he is coming to terms with, Ejiofor channels in the most perfect ways. He’s very subtle with his emotions, but when he has to do let loose every once and awhile, you really feel the man’s strife for freedom and getting back to those that he loves the most: His family. You already feel bad for Northup in the beginning, considering that he’s practically tricked into slavery in the harshest way imaginable, but once things get going and he has to make decisions that will alter the rest of his future on Earth, then you realize that this is a human-being, no matter how many slavers around him try to prove to him otherwise. Some decisions he makes for the betterment of those around him, but sometimes, he makes decisions for the betterment of himself and to save his own ass. While any other movie based on this same story would have probably shown him as being a bit of a selfish guy, McQueen shows him with a moral compass in hand, making us realize that he’s just trying to survive, by any means necessary. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and the lines rarely ever get blurred. It’s only when others get in the way, is when they do, and Ejiofor shows this inner-conflict wonderfully, giving himself one of his best performances ever.

And trust me, that’s saying a lot. Don’t believe me? Just check out anything the cat’s ever done in his huge body-of-work. Trust me, you’ll be shocked to see what he was in. Minus this one. Yeah, on the second thought, don’t even bother with that one.

"Wanna go kill something? ANYTHING!?!??"

“Wanna go kill something? ANYTHING!?!??”

But while this is easily Ejifor’s show, he doesn’t necessarily steal it away from everybody else in this heavily-stacked cast. Which was a nice act on his part, considering that everybody you see in this movie, speaking-role or not, is a face that you’re at least familiar with. Actually, let me just get right off of a face that you’re not familiar with, as she is easily the most compelling character you’re going to get in this whole movie that isn’t Northup himself: Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey. If you don’t know that name, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Neither does anybody else, but after this movie, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to forget it as she is amazing in every scene she has as the slave that Northup sticks with the most, and easily runs into the most problems with. Early on, it’s shown that Patsey starts a relationship with a slaver, that is less about rape, than it’s more about her trying to pleasure him and stay alive for as long as she can. While this act may be deemed “dehumanizing” in most eyes, it seems like the only act that she has left to live by, therefore, is giving it all she’s got with every hump she takes. Nyong’o’s eyes are expressive and convey an emotion everytime she shows up on screen, so definitely expect a nomination for her come Oscar-time.

Another person that you may also expect to be hearing whose name pop-up a lot is Michael Fassbender, playing that said philandering-slaver, Edwin Epps. Fassbender’s character is one demented soul; the type of guy you wouldn’t want to be around when he took one too many shots, nor would you want to be owned by him neither. Basically, Fassbender goes crazy in all of the right ways that gives you the idea that this guy is a twisted person you do not want to get on the wrong side with, nor do you actually want to be around. You just want to do the work he’s demanded you to do, no “ifs”, “ands”, or biggity “buts” about it. However, there is some semblance of a soul deep inside of this man’s crazy well-being, and Fassbender allows that play out very rarely, but still in a believable way to where he isn’t so over-the-top, he’s downright laughable. Same can be said for Sarah Paulson, who plays his wife, Mary, in a very chilling, yet understated performance that tells us a lot about this character, without telling us much at all. She’s just that damn good of an actress, one that I wish got more notice.

Others in this movie that are pretty damn hard to watch, mostly by of how despicable and unlikable they are, are performers such as Paul Dano as a worker that feuds with Northup many times, Paul Giamatti as an owner whose trying to make a quick buck as a business salesman who specializes in human-lives, Garret Dillahunt as a rare-case of being known as a white slave, among many of the black faces, but still can’t be trusted, Alfre Woodard as mistress that takes pride in the fact that she bangs her owner and gets treated like a white woman and especially Benedict Cumberthatch who plays one of the first slave owners Northup deals with, and is more sympathetic than the others out there, because even though he realizes is bad, he still does nothing about it. Instead, he just continues on with his business, selling away more and more humans lives, like many others were doing at that same point in time; the same point in time we will never soon forget.

Consensus: Most definitely going to be the one film you must see before the year ends, 12 Years a Slave is a harrowing, uncomfortable, somber and disturbing look inside the life of one man who had a journey much like many others during this time-frame, and yet, still never gave up hope and did all he could do to survive at any costs.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yep, even he's ready for what's to come by the end of the year.

Yep, even he’s ready for what’s to come by the end of the year.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Prisoners (2013)

Most twisted game of hide-and-go-seek, EVER.

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) get invited over to a neighbor’s house, Nancy and Franklin Birch (Viola Davis and Terrence Howard), for the turkey dinner. Everything’s going fine, they’re getting a little tipsy, the dinner was tasty, and both sets of kids are getting along pretty well. However, when both pairs of parents aren’t looking, all of a sudden, the youngest daughters both go missing. Their respective families go running all over the place looking for them, but can’t find a single shred of evidence to where there may have gone; except for an beaten-down RV truck that was owned by a not-all-that-there guy named Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Determined, but slightly off-kilter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case and is trying to figure out what Jones did with these girls, however, he can’t find a shred of evidence on him either. So, Jones gets taken out of custody and back at home with his Aunt (Melissa Leo) where Keller, believing that justice has not been served to the best of its ability, decides to take matters into his own hands and discover the truth.

It’s hard to do a “kidnapped-children” thriller the right way, especially if you’re being produced by Warner Bros., but somehow the influence of a foreign director in the name of Denis Villeneuve allowed for this material to be as brutal and as dark as you’d expect a movie about two kidnapped, and possibly killed, children could be. That said, the movie doesn’t ever stretch into material that could be “depressing”; sure, it’s sad to see other people sad, but what would you expect to see from people whose reason for living has just been taken away from them, and possibly for good? You see? It’s not a happy movie, in the slightest bit but it’s not like it’s a slow-paced, character-driven drama; this is a freakin’ thriller, baby, and if you don’t know that by now, then you have to see it!

"You know what these hands have coming out of them when I get mad?!?!?! Huh?!??"

“You know what these hands have coming out of them when I get mad?!?!?! Huh?!??”

Seriously, this is a “thriller” in every sense of the word. Not only does it keep you guessing right from the beginning and barely lets you go by the end, it’s also the type of thriller that gives you just the right amount of clues and hints as to what the hell could possibly happen with this case, and to the people involved with it, but still not making you feel so certain. Even though I knew this was a mainstream movie, I still felt like anybody could have bitten the dust, at any given time, and it would totally fit with the movie’s tone. Would have been a bit of a bummer to say the least, but still would have kept me guessing and wondering what’s going to happen next, and to whom. This is what I love about thrillers, especially when they’re done right, and I have to hand it to Villeneuve, because he does a thriller, well, right.

And yes, you most likely are going to be hearing a lot of comparisons to David Fincher, and I feel like they’re suitable, but only in the sense of their moods are alike. In all honesty, I feel as if Fincher’s movies are better at doing both the procedural-police work, and the character-driven parts, at the same time, to great effect, but Villeneuve still gives him a bit of a run for his money. Every scene is calculated, timed, and set up with the utmost importance that every second, every day, every month into this case matters, and it gets you involved right away. Even with a run-time of over 2-and-a-half-hours, the movie never seems like it’s falling asleep on us, our us on it; it constantly keeps your brain thinking, your blood pumping, and, if you really can’t handle these types of movies, your bladder on the edge of fully-bursting.

Hey, like I said before: It’s over 2-and-a-half-hours, so watch what you drink before, how much, and at what time, because you’re not going to want a miss a single second of this movie.

But mostly where I feel like Villeneuve falls short of deserving the Fincher comparisons, is how he handles the final-act. Once it is revealed to us what has happened, for what reasons, and by whom, the movie loses all sort of credibility in terms of being an honest, and realistic-depiction of what it’s like to lose somebody in your life that matters so much such as your children. Before, I don’t know, before the final 15 minutes or so, everything in this movie felt real, brutally frank, emotional, and very tense, as if you really were watching REAL people go through this same situation, in REAL life. However, once those final 15 minutes (or so) pop-up, then all the realism built within the past 2-hours, practically goes to the crapper, so that things can get very conventional, and very, “Hollywood-ish”, for lack of a better word.

It’s hard for me to go into any detail about what goes down with this realization of who the kidnapper is and what happened to the girls, but what I will say is that it will take you by surprise a bit. If not, then so be it, you’re probably just a bit smarter than me and most of the crowd I saw this with. But you will be taken by surprise by what information comes to light, who ends up being the baddie, and what happens to that said baddie, while also a bit disappointed that the movie lost its previous identity, just to stick with conventionality. Maybe Warner Bros. didn’t want to lose too much control over this, eh?

Now that I get to thinking about it, I think what made the first 2-hours so realistic and work so damn well, was that the ensemble in it made every character feel like a living, breathing human-soul that has the ability to feel pain, while also be able to dish it out as well. Such is the case with Keller Dover, who is played by Hugh Jackman, in one of his best performances yet. When we first see Keller, we see that he’s a bit of a religious-fanatic that stocks up on all sorts of canned-goods and resources for the arrival of “The End”, but he isn’t a cook-ball with all of the song-singing and preaching. He’s more of a laid-back, calm, and understandable family-man, that we get to know for a good 10 minutes, until that whole facade goes away and we are then shown the evil, angry, and remorseful human-being that Keller may have been in the past, but hasn’t shown to anybody in a very, very long time. Jackman owns every scene he’s in, whether he’s sobbing in bed next to his wife; drunk off of his ass, stumbling home; yelling his lungs out at anybody around him that he sees as a person who isn’t “fully” concerned with finding his daughter, and/or the kidnapper; or trying to keep it all together, while he’s slowly, but surely, losing all sense and thoughtfulness deep down inside. Jackman is a force to be reckoned with here, and although I don’t feel like he has much of a chance at being nominated for an Oscar, something still tells me that we may be hearing whispers of his name come that time. However, it does seem slightly unlikely.

You know how we can believe that she would be married to him? The glasses.

You know how we can believe that she would be married to him? The glasses.

While Jackman is all sorts of powerful and compelling here, in a more showwy, chaotic way, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Loki is the same, just with more quietness added to great effect. What I liked so much about Detective Loki is that he’s a cop, that sets his priorities straight, gets right down to business, and does not stop until he’s achieved his goal, and solved the case. In other words: He’s a cop that does his job, no “ands”, “ifs”, or “buts” about it. We don’t get to know all that much about this character, other than that he’s a pretty lonely guy with no real family or friends for him to talk to, but that doesn’t matter because we know that he’s a good guy, and will do everything in his might and will to find these little girls, even if his life is on the line, more than a few times. Gyllenhaal doesn’t seem like he’d be a fine fit for the role of a “tough cop”, but he handles it with perfection, and shows us even more why he’s one of the best leading-men in the biz today.

Yup, I fucking went there, and I’m gonna stay there, too.

Though they’re the two with the most central roles in this movie, everybody else is fan freakin’ tastic as well. Maria Bello seems like she was on the verge of a mental breakdown every time she showed up on-screen, which made it harder to watch, and her performance all the more affecting; Viola Davis doesn’t get much to do here other than be sad and shocked, but she handles it as well as you’d expect a powerhouse such as her to; Terrence Howard proves that he can be a sweet, soft, and sensitive, middle-class family man that, surprisingly, wouldn’t take a hammer to some dude’s hand, even if he was highly suspected of kidnapping, and possibly killing, his daughter and her friend; Melissa Leo is pretty strange and odd as the Aunt of the suspect, and shows that she can chew scenery like nobody’s business, even if there isn’t any scenery to chew on; and Paul Dano plays the one that all of the fingers point to as the main culprit behind all of this, who seems more like a child himself in the way that he speaks, interacts with others, and just generally goes about his way. So much so, that you don’t know whether or not the guy’s actually done anything to begin with, or if he’s just another victim, caught wrongfully in this world win of mystery, aggression, and anger. You sort of feel bad for him, believe it or not. Actually, you sort of feel bad for everybody, as well as yourselves because you don’t know how you’d act in a situation like this. I know I’d act like a freakin’ nut, but that’s just me. Decide on your own time, my friends.

Consensus: For some, Prisoners will be a long strand of darkness to get through, and in one piece no less, but for those that are as determined as the characters in the movie itself, you’ll find it a rewarding, tense, exciting, and very thoughtful thriller, even if it does shoot itself in its own foot by the end.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

He saw the bunny-rabbit, but this time, he's prepared to get rid of it.

He saw the bunny-rabbit, but this time, he’s prepared to get rid of it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Looper (2012)

Don’t we all want to be John McClane in the future?

The film revolves around a mobster (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) working for a crime syndicate in the near-future. He, along with other so-called Loopers, kill people sent from the future by their boss. Things get complicated when he recognizes one victim as his future self (Bruce Willis) and lets him escape.

Writer/director Rian Johnson‘s debut, Brick, was one of the biggest surprises in a film that I have ever seen. I went into it, expecting a crime-thriller, which is exactly what I got, but with a new twist on it that made it seem cooler and a lot more different from anything else I have ever seen prior to that. That’s why when I heard about Johnson tackling the sci-fi genre, I had no doubts whatsoever in my mind that it would be nothing short of original and different. Thankfully, that’s exactly what I got.

Most people that see the trailers for this flick will automatically get stuck in their head that it’s another confusing, sci-fi movie about time-travel. In a way, it is a sci-fi movie about time-travel, but it’s more of a twist on the crime and gangster genre than anything else. But even saying that it’s a crime and gangster genre movie is selling it short, because trust me people, this is not something you have seen before. You think you know the premise, you think you know how it’s going to play-out, and you think you know where it’s going to go, but trust me, you don’t know nothing yet and I think that’s where the fun in Johnson’s writing and directing comes from.

Anytime this movie ever seems like it’s going to go straight for the genre conventions, somehow, Johnson pulls himself straight-back from that and offers us a surprise that we were not expecting in the least-bit and even adds another secret twist/idea to the story that we didn’t already have in front of us before. This story, for some, will probably be as confusing as the meaning behind 2001, but if pay attention, if you stay with this story, and you stay with these characters, then nothing will go wrong for you at all. This is also one of those stories that I can’t go on and on about too much because the less you know about it going in, the better for you as you’re most likely going to get slapped in the face many of times with a bunch of happenings you weren’t expecting.

Johnson obviously loves having this bigger-budget and takes every great use of it with a slick look that reminded me a lot of Kubrick film, but not too much to the point of where it’s distracting, and also gave me a future that just seemed gritty and dirty, rather than over-stylized and filled with technology to the brim. There’s also a lot of sweet and stylized action scenes that will totally grab you out of nowhere, and just release you in the coolest way possible. However, it should be noted that as much action as there may be in this flick, this is not a pure, old-fashioned action flick per-se. Instead, the story takes this big twist about somewhere in the middle where things start to get a little slow, start to get a little bit more dramatic, and start to get a little talky, but it wasn’t a bad thing at all because Johnson seems like he has that perfect spark for snappy and fun dialogue that always seems interesting, no matter where these peeps may be getting at.

However, if there is a problem that I had with this change of pace half-way through the film, it’s that the characters just never came through for me. Yes, you do feel some of their sympathy throughout the film, and yes, Johnson lets them all have their different arcs but there was just that missing ingredient that wasn’t there and made me almost feel as if I was losing some sort of heart for this flick. JGL’s story (which is practically Willis’ as well), really made me root for him but the times where death was staring him straight-down in the eyes, I didn’t really know what to do or feel. The guy starts the film off as a total dickhead, just doing drugs, killing people, and stealing money, but then gets a conscience at the end and it just didn’t work for me, nor did it work for Willis’ side of the character either. Maybe I’m a heartless fool, I don’t know. But what I do know is that these characters just never really had me reaching out to them and it really bummed me out when it was all said and done.

Despite this problem with the characters, the people who play them are better than ever. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been on such a winning-streak by now that it almost seems obvious to say he kills it once again in this role, but he really does. Right when you take a first-glance at him, you’ll notice that JGL is playing a darker, more evil character than we’re used to seeing him play before and it really makes us wonder what we got ourselves into, especially since his make-up is less than subtle. However, you do get over it after awhile and just realize that this is another chance for JGL to bring out some real character emotions, and bring out a character that could really have us feeling for him when it’s all said and done. As for his “supposed” Willis impersonation, it’s not really what you think. In a way, JGL is doing certain channels of Willis and his trademarks, but it’s never to the point of where it comes off as a Frank Caliendo impression or anything. It feels real and that’s just another sign that JGL can do no wrong. Trust me, already forgot about Premium Rush.

As for Bruce Willis himself, the guy does an awesome job in a gritter and meaner role than we have seen from him in the longest time and it’s a welcome back to form for the guy because it’s been awhile. What most people will be surprised about is how Willis and JGL don’t really spend all that much time together in the film. All of their scenes take place with them rarely being near one another, and the only time where they actually do come in-contact for the first, and only real time, is this magnificent diner scene that reminded me of Heat in a way. Where Johnson goes with both of these characters though, is what really intrigued me because instead of having Willis be some, old, crotchety mentor to JGL’s young dude ways, it’s sort of the other way around where we see a guy with some level of humanity and heart, and another that just seems to have lost it after all of this time in crime and killing.

Another cast-member/character that people will be mainly surprised about is Emily Blunt as Sara, the gun-toting, tough farmer-chick that JGL hangs with for a little while. Some will be surprised to see Blunt in such a rough and ragged role for a gal that has been in many rom-coms as of late, but the surprise is well-deserved considering this girl really seems like she has something to her that works and really takes us by storm. Her character has an arc that didn’t really make me cry or love her character any more than I already did, but I like how Blunt made this character one that you feel could kick somebody’s ass when she had to, yet, still be very vulnerable at times, as well. It’s a performance that shows she’s got more to her than just looking pretty and being witty, and I look forward to seeing what type of direction this role takes her career in now.

Consensus: Though it’s not as emotionally-stimulating as some may, or may not be expecting, Looper is still very original and different in it’s own way of story-telling, character-development, and it’s numerous plot twists that really make you wonder just what the hell is going to happen at the end of this story.

8.5/10=Matinee!! 

There Will Be Blood (2007)

The whole point behind this whole film: drinking milkshakes.

This tells the story of an oilman, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who goes into a small town to drill for oil. But, a local preacher, Eli (Paul Dano), tries to get a piece of his profits to expand his church, and Daniel doesn’t like that one bit and that’s what causes a whole bunch of problems between the two characters.

With The Master coming up closer and closer by the seconds that pass us by, I thought it would be a great idea to check-up on how P.T. Anderson‘s last flick still does after it shook up the whole, wide world 5 years ago. Needless to say, it still kicks some oil-loving ass.

The most notable element that stands behind Anderson and his skills as a director is how he is able to make anything look very beautiful, but also very dark and Gothic in it’s own weird way. The cinematography for this flick is beautiful as we get to see a lot of the long, wide landscapes that always find themselves, hidden somewhere in the background and give you a better idea that you are in fact watching a story that’s taking place during the early days of the “oil boom”. There’s a lot to gaze at here and there are plenty of memorable shots where Anderson just keeps the camera on one piece of action and never seems to move and it creates more and more tension as it goes along. But as beautiful as this film may be, there’s also plenty of darkness in it as well, mainly coming from the story.

One of the key elements behind this story that makes it work is just how progressively dark and strange things begin to get for everybody in this story. There is never a single moment in this flick where you feel like anything good is going to happen to these characters, which does make this seem like a bit of a downer in hindsight, but for some reason you never stop watching. Scene after scene is just as memorable as the last one as Anderson has a knack for making even the slightest bit of dialogue show just who a character really is and what their real motivations are underneath it all. It’s strange that a guy like this can do something so dark and depressing as this, but still have the chance to turn out a zany, wacky rom-com like Punch-Drunk Love, a flick that he did 5 years before this one but it also shows just how versatile of a writer/director this guy can be.

But without even going any further about this flick, I have to say that this also features one of the most epic and bizarre scores that I have ever heard before in my life. You would never, ever think that the words “Daniel Day-Lewis”, “Western”, and “Radiohead” would go in the same sentence, but somehow, someway, Anderson found a way to get them altogether and it makes a perfect match that seemed very weird to have in the first place. Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, did this score all by himself and it’s very well-calculated in the ways that he makes certain types of noises fit in so well with whatever is going on on-screen. There’s always a great deal of tension and darkness in this film, and Greenwood’s score conveys that with a weird collision of strings and percussion that just add more to the dark and manic tone of the whole flick. One scene in particular, is when Plainview runs after a well of his that just burst and without any music whatsoever, it would have still been tense the whole way through, but not as tense with the power-heavy beat coming from Greenwood that continues to build and build-up until almost all hell breaks loose. It’s one of those rare scenes where everything just comes together so perfectly into one film and it’s one that should probably be played up to the highest level of volume you can get on your television.

Despite almost everything in this film coming together and gelling so perfectly, there was one problem with this flick that always seemed to get me even when I was going for the whole 10/10 aspect. The story is all about Plainview and how his whole descent into darkness makes him more evil and insane as the days go by but in my opinion, I never understood exactly as to why. We get that the guy doesn’t like people, doesn’t see the good in them, and just wants money so he can get as far away from them as he can, but why? Was there ever a moment in his life when the guy realized that his life was going to be surrounded by people that he hates or was he always just like this and the huge amounts of money he’s been raking in just made him feel it even worse now? I don’t know what it was and quite frankly, I don’t think P.T. did either. I think that this was just a character study about a guy that hated human-beings for no reason, and that was my problem with this flick: I needed the reason. Yeah, that’s right, this film would have been a 10/10 had it not been for this one, itty, bitty problem in the story.

But aside from this strange character foil, you can’t help but walk away satisfied after seeing one of the greatest performances in the past decade, given by one of the best off all-time: Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel Day has been known to be very selective with his roles, very weird with him about the limits he goes to with staying in method and in character, and to always walk away with an Oscar nomination or Oscar win. All of which is exactly what you get here with his performance as Daniel Plainview as I think it is probably the best he has ever given just by how much he puts into this role. Granted, this character already had a lot to work with when it came to the whole script, but Daniel Day takes that character one-step further in his own way. This guy is one evil son of a bitch that I don’t think does a single nice thing throughout the whole movie (I seriously don’t) but you can never, ever take your eyes off of him just because every scene of Plainview, is just another scene where Daniel Day does something different.

What I mean by something different is that there are these types of facial expressions that he has just to give his character a real feeling that is unlike you have ever seen in this character the whole flick. Essentially, this character could be written off as the usual, one-note, evil asshole that nobody cares to be around but there’s something more behind it all and Daniel Day keeps us watching and waiting for that throughout the whole film. If my whole description about this guy’s performance hasn’t already sold you yet on this perfect performance, than please, stop reading and go out there and watch this freakin’ movie and pay attention to every little thing that Daniel Day does with this character. To the weird limp, to the Jack Palance impersonation, to the open-handed slaps, to the evil looks he gives Eli, and to everything else he ever does in this movie, he does it with the utter grace and perfection that should always be shown off, especially when you’re working with a character such as this. Totally deserved that Oscar win.

Although this is Daniel Day’s show, through and through, Paul Dano doesn’t allow himself to get kicked out of the whole film. In fact, Dano has just as many intense and memorable scenes as Daniel Day, it’s just that every single one is with Daniel Day and it creates some of the best back-and-forth scenes I have seen in a long-ass time. Dano nails the whole crazy aspect that lies behind those certain preachers out there in the West, but he never necessarily over-does it and that’s what really surprised me about this character. Him and Daniel Day work perfectly together as you can tell that right from the start, they never really see eye-to-eye on anything and it’s only a matter of time until one of them finally has enough of it all and decides to break loose. That’s what ultimately leads up to one of the most abrupt, yet satisfying endings that I have seen in the past decade, and is definitely one to stick around for no matter how much the flick’s slow-pace may be pissing you off.

Consensus: There Will Be Blood may not make much sense of it’s story at the end, but will still keep you watching the screen the whole time with it’s out-standing performance by Daniel Day-Lewis (one of his best of all-time, if you can believe that), a strange score from Johnny Greenwood that actually goes along with the subject material very well, and a superb direction from Anderson that captures all of the beauty, and all of the horror that comes along with fame, money, and well, oil.

9/10=Full Price!! 

Meek’s Cutoff (2011)

The Indie version of ‘Unforgiven’.

Set in 1845, this drama follows a group of settlers as they embark on a punishing journey along the Oregon Trail. When their guide leads them astray, the expedition is forced to contend with the unforgiving conditions of the high plain desert.

I never thought that the computer-game that I had so much fun with back in the days of computer class, that the real story its based off of was so depressing. I mean having to kill all of your livestock right from the get-go for food and having people die of the chicken-pox all the time wasn’t very fun in the game, but in real life it must have really blown.

The poster right there is pretty bad-ass but it gives you the wrong impression. You think that Michelle Williams is going to be blowing fools up this whole time but you soon realize that it takes about an hour to reload the gun in the first place, and killing fools is the last thing on these peoples minds. Honestly, this whole story is just about these settlers looking all over the place for some water. That’s it but for some odd reason it actually works.

Director Kelly Reichardt seems like she was pretty fed-up with all of the non-stop, gun-slinging, and bar-hopping cowboy fools that take over Westerns in today’s world, so she makes this whole flick make it seem like real life. The film is terribly slow and within the first 5 to 10 minutes where nobody’s speaking, you wonder just what the hell you got yourself into in the first place but Reichardt does well with this considering she’s not trying to sell us something fake, she’s actually giving us something that we could use as a “source” for our next history project. The Oregon Trail was real boring and this film moves at just the right snail-pace to give us that feel of just how damn bored and thirsty these effers really were.

Let’s not also forget that this film has some very beautiful landscapes that almost remind me of some wallpapers I would have for the backgrounds on my old computer. We see all of these huge sheets of land where there is barely anything but sand and then it shifts right towards another shot of the sun shining on a prairie giving us this feel of they were totally alone and had nowhere to go. Considering that actual dialogue is pretty rare in this film, the shots actually add a lot to this flick when it comes to its mood and how its approached.

The problem with this film is that since it is so damn slow, there are plenty of moments where I just dozed right off. I mean I don’t know if I wasn’t in the right mood for this film or what, because I did like this film but there were moments where it just felt like this film dragged on and on and on to the point of no return. I get the fact that Reichardt was trying to do something new and hipsterish with this material but in all honesty, there has to be some sort of tension for this flick to actually keep us involved. I also could have done without the whole score because even though it was a tad eerie, I think they placed it random times and really could have been even more effective had there been no music at all.

Also, don’t let me forget the ending which just pissed me off. The film leads up and up and up until we finally get to a place where we weren’t expecting one bit and then it just ends without ever telling us anything about what happened to these settlers. This ending bothered me because I felt like the whole time this film was just leading up to its tension-fueled final moments, but instead it just sort of ended and lost all of the momentum it somehow gained, which was something I was not expecting in the least bit. Another problem was that we never actually get any info on what happened to all of these settlers and I guess we were just supposed to go look it up ourselves, which I did do so I guess I’m the sucker really.

The characters were pretty good and everybody is pretty good, they just don’t have much dialogue for it. Michelle Williams is obviously the star of the show and she’s very funny, realistic, and brave and she does a great job with the material she’s given. One performance I was not expecting to be so good was the one given by Bruce Greenwood as Stephen Meek . Greenwood is almost unidentifiable with his huge beard, wild hair, and mountain-man look but every time he’s on screen, you see him as this dude and it shows a real talent with his acting. I’ve never ever really taken Greenwood as an acting threat but he’s very good here and his scenes with Williams are great, I just wish there were more of them really.

Consensus: Meek’s Cutoff is very good to look at and features a very cool approach to the whole Western genre, however, the slowness may bother a lot and put them to sleep, and the ending isn’t a satisfying conclusion really.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Extra Man (2010)

Gives me hope of one day being a gigolo myself.

It seems like this BoomTron shindig is becoming a Friday thanggg now. Well, anywhoo, go on out and check out the review of this little indie-flick. As always, leave some love, say hey, or just read it and let me know what ya think in the comments section.

Check out the link here:

http://www.boomtron.com/2011/09/the-extra-man-review/

Thanks ya’ll! Happy Friday! Try to check out the new cool action thriller Drive, with my man-crush in it. And also don’t forget about an unneeded Straw Dogs remake, and Sara Jessica Parker doing some raaaaaaange.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

This might actually be taught in Texas history books.

Amnesiac gunslinger Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) stumbles into the Wild West town of Absolution, where he’s confronted by potent enemy Col. Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and a terrifying problem: invading aliens. Aided by the lovely Ella (Olivia Wilde), Jake rallies a posse of the townspeople, Dolarhyde’s minions and local Apache warriors to fight off the extraterrestrial threat.

I’m not going to lie, when I first saw the trailer, I actually kind of thought it was totally dumb and the title itself had me chuckling. But then I saw who was involved, so my opinion changed. So here I’am telling that the title isn’t such a let-down after all.

For the most part, this film has a pretty bangin’ premise that and the action that goes down is all pretty well-done, which is a lot of thanks going to director Jon Favreau for that. He knows how to make an action sequence look good and the effects just look great. It’s always good to watch a film and not actually be able to tell what the real effects are, and what the fake ones are too.

However, when it comes to the writing, it doesn’t seem like they were all on the same page and when I mean “they”, I mean the five people that actually wrote this script together. Here and there we have a couple of amusing one-liners but too much of it just feels cheesy and nothing new we have seen before. When you watch this film, you don’t really think you need five writers to come up with something cool, like, say if a dude walks into a bar with this blaster on his hand. I could come up with 100 things that would be cool to come up with but the film just doesn’t and instead seems like nothing new.

This film also takes itself way too seriously, which in some cases isn’t so bad, but honestly when you have a film about cowboys and aliens duking it out, you can’t really expect people to want characters talking as if they just got of an episode of All My Children. I was expecting a lot of fun, wild, and crazy things to happen here but instead I just got what I’ve been seeing in every action blockbuster that has come out each and every Friday. I like a lot of those Summer blockbusters but come on, is this the best they could come up with?

Daniel Craig knows what to do when it comes to beating the shit out of people, but his performance as Jake Lonergan isn’t totally as memorable as it could have been. Craig in this film is channeling guys like Eastwood and John Wayne, where he lets his actions do the talking but the problem is that I actually wanted this guy to talk more so I could care about him. I mean just for him to spout a one-liner would have been cool with me but to just have this dude stand there, beat the crap out of people, and say nothing after it’s all said and done just kind of bothered me since Craig could have brought so much more to the table.

Harrison Ford is alright as the kind of good guy, kind of bad guy role as Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde. Ford still has that signature old deuche-baggery act to him but it doesn’t seem to work as much as it used to and I think he should start doing some different stuff because it seems pretty laughable. Olivia Wilde is alright but is way too hot and sexy for this film, which isn’t to say anything bad about her performance it’s just that in a place where all these dudes are constantly dirty and sweating, to have a chick look like she just got out of a commercial for Loreal looks a bit dumb. Sam Rockwell is pretty good here and stands-out the most because he has that comedic timing that always seems to work.

Consensus: Though it promised so much more, Cowboys & Aliens has some good action sequences and gives us what we see in the title, but suffers from writing that doesn’t bring anything new to the table and brings us constant cliches, bad one-liners, and an overall feel of disappointment because we know this could have been so much more wild than what we got. You got Han Solo and James Bond loading up their guns looking to shoot some aliens, how hard could it have been!?!?

5.5/10=Rental!!

Knight and Day (2010)

Too many reminders of Vanilla Sky.

Perpetually unlucky in love, June (Cameron Diaz) becomes intrigued by a mysterious man (Tom Cruise), who unexpectedly drags her into a whirlwind adventure involving devious enemies, life-threatening confrontations and a major discovery that may alter the future of humankind.

Already by seeing this plot, you know just exactly how it’s going to begin, continue, and then finally end. But usually, it doesn’t matter if it’s formula. It’s all about the ride itself.

Director James Mangold knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating some fun action. Mangold keeps the pace moving at a breezy movement with just enough hits of whimsy and action to keep anybody satisfied. The action sequences may go on too long, however, I still liked a lot of them and they actually made up for a lot of the weak parts of the story.

There are also some beautiful exotic locations here that Mangold takes us to such as Spain, Germany, and Austria. The story may go all-over-the-place but with a lot of these great spots that the film goes towards, you really can’t help yourself but gaze at the beautiful scenery itself.

For me, I didn’t think this film was really that funny and that it tried way too hard to get laughs out of the person watching. The film tries to be goofy and a romp on all those old spy-flick thrillers, but none of it really works since it just seems like they will take 5 minutes to actually get a joke out. Maybe I chuckled once or twice, but other than that, I was just annoyed by how annoying this film could be with it’s comedy, or lack thereof.

Although the action was good, I couldn’t help but be terribly annoyed by the fact that the CGI here was pretty blatant. I wish that a lot more of the action was just actual stunts and if they were going to use actual special effects, that they would look a lot better rather than just a bunch of crappy effects they used off of a DELL computer. You’ll be able to tell the special effects from the actual action happening here, but it’s a lot more of an annoyance than you would expect.

Tom Cruise is an actor that seems like at the beginning of every film he does, I’m going to be terribly annoyed by his character and I almost never am. His performance here as Roy Miller is pretty fun to watch because he’s got that cool charm, that mannish look, and that mysterious thing about him that just has you wondering what he’s going to do next. Cameron Diaz does that smile and laugh gig that she’s been doing forever, but it’s not so bad here and she’s pretty charming as well as June Havens. Their chemistry works as I would come to expect from these two pros and may actually get the film through some of it’s more rocky parts. The rest of the cast is good too such as Viola Davis, Peter Sarsgaard, the sexy Maggie Grace, and the always dorky Paul Dano.

Consensus: The comedy doesn’t work as well as the CGI, but the chemistry between Cruise and Diaz, the beautiful locations that are shown, and the fun action action make this an OK, action date movie.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Taking Woodstock (2009)

One of the biggest parties of the centuries, that nobody who saw this was apart of.

A twenty something man (Demetri Martin) finds his life forever changed in the summer of 1969 when he offers up his parents’ motel in the Catskills as a home base for Woodstock organizers and helps the show go on by donating an all-important music festival permit.

Based on the Elliot Tiber novel, the films aims to tell what happened behind the scenes. Many viewers though looking for spectacular concert footage, will find themselves leaving and wanting a lot more than they got, such as I did myself.

Now, for people that wanted to see all the love and music that was put into Woodstock, go check out the documentary Woodstock. This one doesn’t feature any of the performances, which kind of made me a little ticked off knowing that I wanted to see Woodstock itself, and not necessarily this dysfunctional family that had to deal with it.

The film also has those bunch of crazy cliches that surround the 60s. You got the pot smokers, LSD doers, transvestites, naked hippies, and of course the ones always rolling in the mud. I was expecting a different more fresh look at the crowd rather than just seeing everything that I already know I’m going to see, from a film about the 60s.

Now all that said, the film looks exactly like it was in the 60s during Woodstock. I really did feel like I was apart of this, and this is what made the film a lot more entertaining for me. Director Ang Lee, does a great job at re-imagining these beautiful and cultural images from Woodstock that we all know.

The film isn’t as funny as it just a little cute coming-of-age drama. I liked how the film explored all the ways this nerdy guy tries to become part of this hippie movement, but also has a lot of differences with all of them. Ang Lee also uses the split-screen documentary style to show everything that is going on and it really does work here, and captures the same exact essence the documentary did.

The performances weren’t that good, but they were OK. I wish Demetri Martin was more funny, and to be truly honest I think he was sort of miss cast. The colorful characters that surround him are made up of superstars like Paul Dano, Emile Hirsch, and the real saving grace of this film for me, Liev Schreiber. He is funny as this transvestite, and every time is on-screen brings out a whole bunch of laughs within me.

Consensus: Taking Woodstock has the usual 60s cliches that you would expect, not a lot of hilarious comedy, and an underwhelming atmosphere, but captures the look and feel of Woodstock, and has some nice moments.

5.5/10=Rental!!!