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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 Giamatti

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – With a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017)

Oh yeah. That movie named after that R.E.M. song.

In one of the biggest roles of his already amazing career, Jim Carrey was set to portray one of the oddest comedians of our day: Andy Kaufman. But because Carrey wanted to do the role justice and honor the legacy of his late hero, he went full-on method throughout the role, literally speaking and acting like Kaufman, regardless of whether or not the cameras were actually rolling. The footage itself has been locked away in a vault for nearly 20 years, but now it’s out and we get to see the true mayhem and craziness that took place, both on and off the set of Man on the Moon.

Jim & Andy will probably give people much more admiration for Jim Carrey, the actor, as opposed to the persona that he constantly plays out there in public. As of late, Carrey seems to have had a screw-loose and with the personal tragedies that he’s hit, it’s no surprise. It’s sad and awful, but it also calls into question why he’s acting the way he is: Was he always this crazy and we just didn’t care? Or, is he genuinely having a nervous-breakdown, but nobody knows whether or not to take it as serious because it’s one of the world’s most known funny-men, Jim Carrey?

Can’t tell who’s playing who here.

Either way, Jim & Andy will remind you that, first and foremost, Jim Carrey is a great actor. He may not always show it and may not always care, but when given the opportunity to, he can work wonders and have us forget about Fire Marshall Bill for a few hours. You could chalk Jim & Andy up to being a puff-piece for Carrey and to show the great workman that he is, or you could chalk it up to being an honest, behind-the-scenes look at Carrey, in character, for a movie that, honestly, hasn’t really stayed around as much as people would like.

But still, that aside, Jim & Andy is a solid piece of work that gives us complete access to the sheer craziness that was the production of Man on the Moon and it works mostly because director Chris Smith was able to track down this footage, get the “okay” from the studio, from Carrey, and just let us soak it all in. It makes sense why the studio wanted to hold on to this footage for as long as they did; Carrey does look like an asshole, but it also makes the rest of the production highly unprofessional and a little amateurish.

Yeah, I don’t know what he’s been smoking, either. Hopefully he stops?

But that’s also what makes Jim & Andy so much fun to watch.

We get to see a Jim Carrey like never before and because he’s the only interview here, hear him like never before, either. Sure, he, as well as the movie itself, get a bit too carried away with all of the philosophizing about life, comedy, entertainment, and the meaning of the universe, but when it’s just focusing on Carrey in-characetr, practically egging on everyone around him, it’s truly astonishing. We sit there wondering how long or far this could go on for, and whether or not Carrey himself ever regrets it.

In all honesty, the answers aren’t all that easy to come by, which makes Jim & Andy something of a mystery. It’s not as particularly as deep of a documentary as it hopes it is, or wants itself to be, but it is a solid documentary that pulls back the curtain, shows us the man beyond the laughter, the funny-faces, and the general goofiness, and reveals a hard-worker who did anything and everything to make the role work to perfection. Even if that meant literally making a joke out of one of the greatest directors ever (Miloš Forman), or making a mortal enemy out of Jerry Lawler, it was all for the tribute.

Even if, yeah, the end-result was something magical, within something that was a tad mediocre.

Consensus: Raw, funny, entertaining, and surprisingly chaotic, Jim & Andy is the kind of interesting documentary that doubles as a look at the life of Jim Carrey, but also doesn’t reach the ambitions it sets for itself.

7 / 10

“That means that Mighty Mouse, is on his way!”

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

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Morgan (2016)

Humans are evil enough. Let’s just leave it at that.

A corporate troubleshoot named Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is sent in to check out a new scientific experiment named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy). Though Morgan may look, act and talk like a real human girl, the reality is that she’s just a scientific specimen that was created to create some sort of super-being, in hopes of greater specimens to be made in the future. However, almost seemingly out of nowhere, Morgan stabs a fellow doctor (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the eye, leaving everyone involved with the raising of Morgan to wonder just what the hell happened, where did it all go wrong, and how can it be fixed. That’s why Weathers is here, to not only check out what went wrong, but also, how far gone just Morgan is, to the point of where it’s time to destroy her and move on to the next science experiment that may make the world a better place. But being able to think for herself know more than ever and growing more special powers, Morgan isn’t so happy about this and starts to act out in more dangerous, overly violent ways, leaving her creators to reconsider their creation.

Morgan feels like the kind of movie that was written in the 80’s, left sitting on a shelf somewhere, collecting up all sorts of dust and spiders, until someone decided that they had officially run out of ideas from the 70’s and had to get on with the next decade, so of course, it was the next option. Of course, I don’t mean this as a particularly bad thing – Morgan is the kind of movie that has a retro-feel and vibe, yet, never gets to become “corny”, or nostalgic”. It’s still modern enough to take place in the year 2016, yet at the same time, also feels like the kind of corny sci-fi film that’s been made since the dawn of time.

Staring.

Staring.

Which is to say that it’s entertaining, yes, but that’s about it.

And normally, I’d be perfectly fine with this. While a lot of people have been comparing this to Ex Machina, they’ve been forgetting that this movie doesn’t entirely float on that movie’s same radar; Machina is obviously way better, but it’s also far more serious, dark, disturbing and further more, in-touch with certain issues about technology taking over the rest of society. Morgan seems like the kind of movie that may have had something interesting to say about this, but really, is a whole lot more concerned with killing people and watching as one character, after another, bites the dust in awesomely gory and intense ways.

Once again, is there anything wrong with that? Probably not. That’s why, for a good portion of Morgan or so, it’s at least an interesting watch, because of the sense of terror, doom and tension in the air that’s there for a reason, but never gets going right away. We know that Morgan is bad and will eventually snap, but watching these characters, getting to know them, their location and most importantly, settling into these quarters, is still compelling to watch, if only because it takes its time to do small things that most blockbusters of this nature wouldn’t dare bother with. Of course, this isn’t saying that Morgan is a smart, or even well-written movie, but for a short while, it’s the kind of sci-fi movie that takes it time, doesn’t rush itself, and pays attention to certain things that probably matter in a movie like this and in order for it to work.

Then again, about halfway through, the movie does get crazy and, eventually, become something of an uninteresting bore.

Still staring.

Still staring.

Director Luke Scott seems like he had the perfect idea for setting this character and this plot up, but when push came to shove and it was eventually the time to start moving, he kind of lost his head. He gets way too bogged down in killing characters and doing so in gruesome ways, rather than actually trying to keep the momentum and intensity building up and up, until it eventually becomes almost too much for even the audience to handle. Most of this definitely comes from the fact that he doesn’t really develop any of the characters, but it also has to do with it seeming like a rushed job on the final-half, where things continuously happen, but there’s no real fun, joy, excitement, or connection to any of it.

Granted, this may be a case of me expecting more from a product than there probably needs to be, but hey, so be it. Morgan has a great cast and it seems like everyone came ready to play, but their material is so thin and so weak that after awhile, it’s not hard to want to see everyone die. Mara is probably the most interesting character of the bunch, but after a short while, her character becomes so hilariously unenthused, that it can almost seem like a parody. Same goes for the fellow scientists who sit there, love and support Morgan, and who also can’t seem to pull the trigger on it when the time comes around. These are the kinds of scientists that it’s hard to believe in actually existing – the ones who love their experiments more than life itself and are more than willing to sacrifice the goodwill of the rest of society for it – but without them, who knows how many sci-fi movies we’d have around?

Especially ones like Morgan?

Consensus: Initially tense and interesting, the well-cast Morgan soon turns into a conventional sci-fi thriller that just gets rid of characters as a chore and doesn’t quite know how to end next.

5.5 / 10

Well, not anymore. Maybe. Can't quite see past the emo-cut.

Well, not anymore. Maybe. Can’t quite see past the Pete Wentz emo-cut.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Screw too many women, trust me, you get screwed, too.

Harry Block (Woody Allen) has had a pretty crazy and unfortunate life. He’s been with many women, has made many mistakes, and has a lot of opinions that don’t always make him the most popular guy in the room. And now, he’s gaining fame and fortune off of all of that by putting into a new book of his, one that people love, with the exception of the few he’s actually writing about. Most of the women from his past have disowned him, which depresses Harry to a great degree. However, the only thing keeping him alive and well is the fact that he has a son, who he knows will have a bright future. Also, Harry finds out that the university that once kicked him out, now wants him back for a ceremony to honor him and all of his accomplishments. This gives Harry an idea: Take his son with him on this trip and allow for all sorts of fun and adventure to occur. Little does Harry know that he’s kidnapping his son to go along for the ride with him, along with the likes of a friend (Bob Balaban) and hooker (Hazzelle Goodman).

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Due to the fact that Woody Allen likes to make a movie almost every year, a lot of people tend to get on his case. Obviously, some movies are better than others and, especially as of late, it appears like some of them aren’t even worth watching, but because they’re movies by Woody Allen and feature great talent in front of the screen, people can’t help but see what he’s got cooking up next. After all, a bad Woody Allen movie is at least better than most of what we seem to get out there, right?

Well, either way, where it seems like some of the issues with Woody releasing a new movie every year is that the movies tend to all follow the same formulas, ideas and themes of all of his movies. They’re mostly all lighthearted affairs that have to do with dysfunctional families, Judaism, forbidden love, sex, writing, poetry, classical music, jazz, or anything else of these natures. They’re all very similar and it honestly makes me wonder why Woody himself doesn’t bother to go deeper and darker with himself, or his material.

Cause, honestly, Deconstructing Harry is that perfect example of what Woody Allen can do when he decides to throw all caution to the wind and just not appease to anyone. While some of themes and ideas may be the same from before, here, they’re much more darker and sinister; rather than appearing to play for the big and broad laughs, Woody’s going for something much more meaner and angry, where it appears that he does in fact have an ax to grind.

Who is he grinding it at/for?

Well, no one in particular, but it allows for Deconstructing Harry to be better than most of his other flicks, because it proves that the guy actually has a point. He’s not just making a movie because he’s got the budget, the stars, and an inchworm of an idea that he’ll decide to play around with after the first-half – nope, this time Woody is going for the kisser and not apologizing for it. This is all to say that Deconstructing Harry is quite funny, but in a far different way that makes me feel better about Woody Allen, the writer – his jokes aren’t necessarily played-up for the smarter people of the crowd, but more for anyone who appreciates a good joke when they’re given one.

It sounds so stupid in hindsight, but honestly, good, consistent humor in a Woody Allen movie can sometimes be hard to find. Sure, every once and awhile, you’ll get a sly or witty line passed by some character here and there, but here, Woody’s throwing out jokes left and right. Do they all work? Not really – the whole bit involving Billy Crystal as the Devil could have probably bit the dust in the editing-room – however, the moments where the comedy works, it really works and is worthy of a big, howling laugh.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Yes, I know, it sounds stupid, but trust me, it totally matters.

But it’s not like Deconstructing Harry is better than most other Woody Allen movies because it’s darker and funnier (although, those are two attributes that help it), but because what Woody himself seems to be talking about is interesting. Harry Block’s life is such a whirlwind filled with heartbreak, anger, resentment, and controversy, that writing about it, gets him into hot water with those around him and eventually, he alienates himself from the rest of the world. Clearly, Woody seems to be channeling his own, inner-most demons and it’s neat to see play-out, as Woody himself definitely feels guilty for hurting the people that he’s hurt in the past, but also knows that the same hurt that he’s caused, is the same kind that’s brought him so much fame, fortune and respect in the biz.

So yeah, Woody’s talking about himself a lot here, but it works. Woody himself is quite good in the movie, but really, he’s meant to let others do all the work for him and show that they’re worthy of being here. People like Tobey Maguire, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Robin Williams, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Kirstie Alley, and others, don’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but are still funny and well worth their short time here. Why none of these people have bothered to show up in a Woody Allen movie is beyond me, but then again, maybe they, too, don’t want to waste time on something that’s going to just be “mediocre”.

Then again, neither do I, and I still can’t stop watching his movies.

Consensus: With a darker, more energetic edge, Deconstructing Harry shows a meaner side of Woody Allen that we hardly ever see, that’s both funny and interesting.

8 / 10

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

Storytelling (2001)

Read me a story, daddy. Especially ones filled with rape, racism, and teenage angst.

Two different stories that never connect, are told to us through the parts known as “Fiction” and “Non-fiction”. “Fiction” is the story of a young college student (Selma Blair) who gets her emotions all wrapped up in a bunch when her boyfriend (Leo Fitzpatrick) breaks up with her, leading her to fall into the arms of her cocky, but charming professor (Robert Wisdom). “Non-fiction” is the story of a middle-aged, failing documentarian (Paul Giamatti) who gets inspired to make a movie, following a young, confused teenager (Mark Webber) and the rest of his dysfunctional family, that just so happens to have a lot more going on between them than meets the eyes.

Is it too wrong to say that she had it coming to her?

That blonde hair will drive any man wild

Todd Solondz movies are of required-taste and if you can get through them without batting an eye or feeling awkward, then good for you. For me, I still can’t help but feel like this guy is just messing with me, to mess with me. And I hate to say it, but it works well, even though I feel as if I’ve seen and heard it all by now. But still, he continues to push the envelope, even if that aspect of his directing makes him of a provocateur, and not a film maker.

Hell, even in this movie, he makes fun of what people have had to say about him in the past. They call him “shocking for the sake of being shocking”, “racist”, “a bigot”, and even go so far as to be called the dreaded “P-word”: “pretentious”. For a film maker like Solondz to take all of that criticism in stride, really does deserve some credit because he not only throws it right back in those hater’s faces, but even shows them why they may be right as well.

That said, this is where the movie hits its slippery-slope in the way.

The idea of having two, separate stories told in one movie definitely makes it feel like we’re going to get double the trouble with what Solondz has to offer, which is true, but not in the smart, sly way he’s done it before. Instead, all of the dirty stuff that happens here, feels deliberate, as if Solondz himself is trying really, really hard to get a reaction out of us, simply because the material he’s working with doesn’t have that much steam to pile on through. Both stories seem interesting on their own, and even the points he brings up go along with them as well, but it just feels like a missed-opportunity for Solondz to really give us something worth thinking about, rather than landing on the same, two feet that he landed with before.

And yes, you can expect there to be plenty of sex, awkwardness, explicit content, and random conversations about the slimy stuff in our bodies. And yes, sometimes, it works. Other times, it doesn’t. Storytelling feels like the kind of flick Solondz perhaps needed to get off his chest after something as ambitious as Happiness, but still, it also makes it feel more like a greatest hits album, rather than actual greatness itself.

Either way, the stories do sort of work.

With “Fiction”, the idea of young teens falling for an older demographic because of the seniority they show, is actually pretty scary. Seemingly out of nowhere, however, Solondz gets a little bit too ahead of himself, gives us an over-long sex scene (unedited, no red boxes in my viewing), and a couple uses of the “N word” that was supposed to get a rise out of us I assuming, but instead, felt like it was Solondz getting a bit too wacky and explicit for his own good. The aftermath of this scene is smart and funny, however, I still continued to scratch my head wondering, “What was the point of all that?” Is everything we write on paper already considered “fiction”, or is everything after that “real”.

No matter how many licks, we may never know the answer.

Then, we have “Non-fiction” which is oddly longer than the first entry into this flick and shows it’s length as well. It isn’t that I didn’t feel like there was an interesting bit of storytelling to be had here with the loser documenting the stuck-up, egotistical family, it’s just that the targets it’s meant to be satirizing doesn’t quite work as well because it’s all too obvious and easy. The idea of having a film maker, make a movie that’s already pretentious as it is, in your already-pretentious movie is so obvious, that it’s almost too dumb to really take seriously, so that when it does begin to go down the path of making fun of those people who have talked crap on Solondz work in the past, it feels more like a kid saying, “hate to say I told ya so!”, rather than somebody making a legitimate statement about the films he makes. Like I said before, it’s an opportunity that seems missed, even if this story has the most disturbing ending I’ve seen in a long, long time.

"Hi, it's me Paul. Again. Yes, I am depressed. Again."

“Hi, it’s me Paul. Again. Yes, I am depressed. Again.”

Yep, even Happiness‘ ending loses to this one.

Consensus: Even at a measly and meager 87 minutes, Storytelling feels like a collection of interesting things that Solondz can, and is perfectly able to do, however, with no real payoff.

6 / 10

Let's face it: we've all wanted to do the same thing.

Let’s face it: we’ve all wanted to do the same thing.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

American Splendor (2003)

Believe it or not, Stan Lee isn’t the only guy who writes comics.

Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) works a dead-end job as a file clerk, his second wife leaves him, and he has a debilitating vocal impediment. The two things that keep him going are his collections of jazz records and comic books. After becoming friends with animator Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak), Harvey finds himself inspired enough to write his own type of comic book, which turn out to be just the depressing, yet amusing accounts of his everyday life.

Whenever people hear of a comic book movie being made, they automatically shoot their minds to Marvel and think of names like Iron Man, or the Hulk, or Captain America, or whoever gets the next big-screen adaptation. But hardly do we ever get to see the sort of comic book movies that are made for people who could care less about superheros and all of those wonderful tales of fantasy. Sometimes, comic books have the opportunity to hit closer to home and it’s this fact, this reality that American Splendor hits hard each and every second it gets.

He's perfect.

He’s perfect.

Of course, in a bit more depressed manner, but still. It’s a little more refreshing than watching another Marvel flick.

Co-writers and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini know that they’re working with simple material here, so it makes sense that they’d add a little comic book touch to the look and make it feel as if we are looking at an actual comic book on the screen. It doesn’t happen all of the time, because that would just get gimmicky after awhile, but the way they do use it when needed, works and puts you in the mind-set of how this guy looked at the world through his own eyes.

But the style isn’t just what works, as there’s a whole lot of interesting scenes where we actually see the real Harvey Pekar early on, through interviews, and even see all of the other real people in his life as well, show up every once and awhile. It’s a bit surreal at first, considering we are essentially watching a movie about the real life story of these people, they know it, and are standing there just giving their input when needed. It’s definitely weird, but after awhile, seems pretty cool as it looks like Berman and Pulcini both wanted to keep this story as close to the real thing as possible, so what better way than having the real people themselves, you know?

Honestly though, American Splendor is as interesting as it is, all because of the subject at the center: Harvey Pekar. There’s no way of dancing around that fact.

What’s interesting about Pekar is that, other than the fact that he’s a pretty miserable dude, there’s a lot more to him than just that. Does he know it? Not really, but that’s where the intrigue is; while everybody looks at him as a lovable, self-loathsome loner, he doesn’t even know it, think about it, or better yet, give a hoot. This is especially evident in how he describes his comic book creations, the stories he writes about, and how he allows them to approach life, the way in which he sees it. To him, it’s just his own thoughts and opinions getting scribbled onto a piece of paper – whether hundreds of people see it or not, is totally their call.

But then, what makes Pekar even more of engaging figure here is that he’s played by the one and only Paul Giamatti himself. Once again, Giamatti seems to be playing his “kvetching, neurotic Jewish guy”-role as we usually see in his films, but there’s more to that than just being a miserable sad-sack. Pekar seems like the perfect role for Giamatti cause not only does the guy have a general distaste for a lot of what happens throughout his day, but when he starts to realize the happiness that’s out there, it’s very nice to see and Giamatti handles it so well. In fact, when Pekar himself shows up on-screen, it’s almost hard to tell them totally apart. Whatever Giamatti himself had to do to prepare for this role, clearly paid-off as he got down every mannerism that Pekar has, wonderfully.

She's perfect.

She’s perfect.

Though, there is more going on here than just Giamatti’s great portrayal of Pekar, as Hope Davis does a charming job as Pekar’s third wife, Joyce Brabner. Because the real-life couple of Joyce and Harvey is so odd and unique in its smallest details, Davis and Giamatti must have really had to be hard-at-work to ensure that they got everything down perfectly between the two; not just when they’re together on-screen, but how their own respective characters grow throughout the movie. Cause obviously, they are their own person, but together, they feel oh so perfectly united, that it’s hard to imagine either one of their miserable selves being with anybody else.

Basically, they were stuck together, forever. Till death did them part and I couldn’t had been any happier for them.

So if anything, American Splendor not only serves a fine send-up of all the superhero/comic book movies that seem to flood the airwaves everywhere you look nowadays, but a touching tribute to the legend of Harvey Pekar. While some may have a problem with the fact he was so ticked-off and angry for no apparent reasons whatsoever, there’s still some hope and humanity to be found in that. Cause as hard as it may be to stay happy all throughout your life, it must be even more incredibly difficult to stay as mad, either.

So here’s to you, Harvey. Rest well. And smile for a damn change!

Consensus: Though it has style to boot, what makes American Splendor so lovely is how it approaches life the same way as Harvey Pekar himself did: Not quite sure what to make of it, but couldn’t wait to find out, even if the results didn’t always make him the happiest bee in the hive.

8.5 / 10

Together, match made in heaven.

Together, match made in heaven.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Madame Bovary (2015)

When being rich just isn’t quite cutting it for you.

Young American Emma (Mia Wasikowska) is finally able to leave the convent, although, it’s only so that she can get married to a country doctor by the name of Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes). It was arranged by her father, of course, but there’s no real problems with Charles to begin with; however, he’s so boring and dull, Emma begins to grow tired and look for something more meaningful. She thinks she finds that with the dashing Marquis (Logan Marshall-Green), a man who appreciates hunting and fine art, and then she thinks she finds it with local law clerk Leon Dupuis (Ezra Miller). Eventually though, this excess in love and sex, leads to a much greater excess in fashion and luxuries; both of which Emma, nor Charles are able to pay for, although the dry-goods dealer Monsieur Lheureux (Rhys Ifans) has no problem extending her as much credit as she wants. This all starts to catch up to Emma, where she’s not only in constant fear of her husband finding out about her philandering ways, but also of losing everything that was handed to her when she got married in the first place.

Normally, these kinds of fluffy, British period pieces don’t do it for me, but with recent releases like Belle and Far From the Madding Crowd entertaining me, my tune has changed a bit. Now, I’ve come to realize that these period pieces can work if they’re made for more people than just their target-audience. Sure, you can say, “It works for who it’s made for”, but to me, that’s another way of saying, “Oh well, you know, a good majority of people will hate this movie, but they aren’t the target audience who it’s made for.” If that’s so abundantly the case, then whom exactly are these period pieces made for?

Sad.

Sad.

Older people? Intellectuals? People that aren’t below the age of 50? Either way, I’ve come to realize that the more these kinds of period pieces start to try and reach out a little to other possible target audiences, the more I’ve come to enjoy them and understand the appeal.

And then, there’s Madame Bovary, which kind of reminds me exactly why these kinds of period pieces don’t work for me, as well as many others like me, in the first place.

Adapting the story of Madame Bovary must be a pretty hard task, but you’d think that with a female director on-hand to direct a story about a female, straight from the female’s perspective, that there’d be a little bit more of an impact, right? Well, that’s the problem here – there isn’t. Instead, director Sophie Barthes just shows Emma’s actions, over and over again, without much of any tension or narrative driving it. Rather than understand full-well why it is that Emma wants to screw around so much on her husband and spend all of his money in places she shouldn’t be, making us at least understand her, and somewhat stand behind her back, the movie mostly portrays Emma as being a bit of mopey, unlikable, and needy brat.

Which wouldn’t be so bad had the movie been maybe an hour-and-a-half where we didn’t have to see Emma constantly make the same mistakes, over and over again, but that’s not the case. The movie goes on for at least two hours, to where we see the mistakes being made, she hardly ever learns, and it’s hard to care. Not to mention the fact that the movie actually starts off with Emma’s death early-on, so much rather than actually building to that shocking climax, the movie already shoots its gun too early and makes it easy for us to all connect the dots.

This isn’t to say that Mia Wasikowska doesn’t do a fine job as the title character, because she does, it’s just a role that sees her sort of going through the motions. Of course, she may not have been challenged all that much to begin with, but there’s a lot of Wasikowska just looking drab, bored and sad, which makes sense at certain points with this character, but at the same time, feels repetitive. Also, the fact that Wasikowska absolutely killed it in another period piece not too long ago (“Jane Eyre“), makes this performance sort of seem like an after-thought and shows that maybe Wasikowska doesn’t need to bother with them anymore.

And then, there’s her suitors, who all try just as much as Wasikowska does, but they too seem to fall on dead ears. It may seem like a weird role for somebody as modern as Ezra Miller to play a character in a period piece, but surprisingly, he works well with it. There’s no sense of irony to anything he does or says, and more often than not, seems like a reasonable enough guy to fall in love with Bovary, although he mostly falls into the background of a character people lose interest in. Ditto for Logan Marshall-Green who seems to be ready to charm the socks off of Emma Bovery, but instead, just looks at her and all of a sudden, she’s absolutely smitten.

Handsome.

Handsome.

If only it was that easy in real life.

But the real performance I want to talk about from this whole movie that’s probably the most interesting anecdote it had to offer was Rhys Ifans’ Monsieur Lheureux. Even though Lheureux initially seems like a sweet, likable and honest businessman who actually is looking out for Emma and her expenses, he eventually starts to edge on over the other way. He’s very easy to extend her as much credit as she oh so desires, he doesn’t care how much time or effort it takes for him to get the goods that she wants, and he doesn’t even bother his head as to when he will get the money back; he just knows that he one day will.

Ifans is so good at oozing charm, that it makes it all the more scary when he turns the other cheek and shows ulterior motives. People who have read the book will know what happens with this character, but for those who don’t, it will come as an absolute and complete shock, all thanks to Ifans’ work here. Even though, yes, Paul Giamatti is around too, he doesn’t get nearly as much as Ifans and it’s quite surprising what he’s able to do with so very little.

Consensus: Occasionally engaging, if only due to the performances, Madame Bovary suffers from the fact that it’s too repetitive and bland to really get over that hurdle that so many period pieces as of late seem to get over.

5 / 10

EVIL.

EVIL.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire03

Cold Souls (2009)

Just take my soul already!

Paul Giamatti stars as a fictionalized version of himself, who is an anxious, overwhelmed actor who decides to enlist the service of a company to deep freeze his soul. Complications ensue when he wants his soul back, but mysteriously, his soul gets lost in a soul trafficking scheme which has taken his soul to St. Petersburg, making Paul have to venture all the way out there to see just what the hell is even going on in the first place.

What you see in the title, is exactly what you get in the movie’s tone. Seriously, don’t come expecting some minor laughs here and there, because the film really just doesn’t seem all that concerned with that aspect at all. It’s more about being dark, moody, bleak, and overall, pretty frigid in its portrayal of where our society may be turning towards. Actually, it’s a pretty far-fetched idea, but I could definitely imagine, just waking up one day, and wanting to be and have Brad Pitt’s soul.

Damn, now that I think about it, I hope this future does come to existence!

Here's a shot of Paul Giamatti being sad.

Here’s a shot of Paul Giamatti being sad.

This is the debut flick of Sophie Barthes who not only directs, but writes this flick as well and the information I was looking up for this said that apparently she had this idea in her dream. Now, I could only wish that any of my dreams had anything as ambitious lingering around in them, as apparently the ideas she has swimming in her brain when it’s sleepy-time, but considering that she’s working off of an idea that was probably no less than two minutes, I have to give the gal some credit because it’s pretty intriguing what she comes up with here. Even if the results don’t fully match the ambitions, you have to at least give her credit where credit’s due, because it’s sure as hell not easy to make a movie in today’s day and age – let alone one with as kooky of an idea as Cold Souls.

Barthes doesn’t paint a portrait of a future that’s groomed for doom, where people are in desperate need to be others, have different lives, and basically just erase or escape any type of life they have and don’t like. It’s sort of like the same ideas that went through mind-benders like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, and although this one doesn’t really stack up anywhere near those masterpieces, Barthes at least tries to capture that Charlie Kaufman-esque nature of her material without really going overboard. There’s a lot of weird, sci-fi stuff going on here that’s definitely thoughtful, but it’s also grounded in a reality to where you feel like something could happen like this, had somebody gotten a more well thought-out plan. Barthes definitely deserves style-points on this one in terms of his screenplay, but damn, did we really need to be so sad the whole time?

The answer is no, but most people will probably disagree with me.

Even though the premise definitely promises a bunch of weird, wacky fun in the same light as a Kaufman flick, that promise never gets fulfilled. Instead, Barthes seems like she’s content with just focusing on the sad aspect of this story with long, gloomy shots of a snowy Russia, and an even more horrid-looking New York City that looks as if it hasn’t seen the sun in a decade. All of the colors in this movie feel like a mixture of soft blues and muddle grays, and as much as that may make this flick seem more depressing and sad, do we really want to feel like we, as well as the characters were watching, should just go kill themselves and get it all over with? I don’t think so, because even while you may have an interesting premise to work with, to just constantly hammer us over the head with your inherent seriousness about it can get pretty old.

And another, even despite the fact he's in the same bed as Emily Watson.

And another, even despite the fact he’s in the same bed as Emily Watson.

But even despite the actual lack of fun in this movie, probably the most disappointing aspect of this whole flick is that it brings up all of these questions, ideas, and messages about life and exactly where we are headed as a society, but loses them about half-way through once the last act kicks into high-gear; and then, it ends, just leaving everything up in the air. Listen, I’m totally game for any type of film that wants to bring up a lot of food-for-thought, have me doing thinking about what’s it trying to say, and eventually allowing me to go out with some people afterwards and talk it up, but this movie doesn’t even seem like it wants to give me that privilege. Even when that last act comes around and the movie oddly changes from this existential drama, into this mystery/romance/off-kilter comedy that now all of a sudden wants to please us, rather than having us contemplate jumping off the San Francisco bridge. It was a change in tone that not only felt phony, but showed that Barthes maybe backed-out on an ending, that could have answered a whole lot, and even left some more up for thought and discussion.

But nope, she didn’t even give us that.

What’s even more surprising than this change in tone, was how Paul Giamatti seemed to be a bit boring to watch as well. Granted, the guy isn’t given all that much to work with, other than a slew of shots of him just staring off into the space, looking all mopey and sad all of the time, but when the guy does need to liven things up, he does with that charm and wit we all know and love the guy for. His character (which is pretty much him, just not nearly as famous), is a downer and that’s why it’s pretty fun to see what happens to him when he switches souls, gets a little bit more energetic, and a bit more inspiration with how he lives his life and it’s one of the very rare moments in this flick where not only he comes alive, but the movie as well. Sadly, Barthes knocks his character back down to reality, and he becomes the same old, sad sap we started out with in the first place and it’s a bummer, because Giamatti’s always good and entertaining to watch. You just got to give him the right material that allows him to have some fun every once and awhile.

Consensus: Cold Souls deals with a very interesting idea about the current landscape of our society, but is too dour to really bring anybody into the world it’s trying to portray, nor does it really follow through on any of the rules it sets up to begin with.

5.5 / 10

And, yet again, another. But with snow!

And, yet again, another. But with snow!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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

Donnie Brasco (1997)

Forget about it?

New York mobster Lefty (Al Pacino) walks into his usual diner, starts talking up a storm with some guy named “Don the Jeweler” (Johnny Depp), figures out that the ring he just bought his girlfriend was a Fugazi, takes him out to find the guy, gets his money back, and badda-bing, badda-boom, the deal is done. However, Lefty doesn’t want to just say “bye” to Don and be done with him forever – he wants him to be apart of his mob, walk him through the ranks so that one day, Donnie will be the new crime boss that everybody obeys and looks up to. Donnie has those aspirations too, but the problem is that his real name is Joseph Pistone and he’s not all that he seems to be. Rather, he’s an FBI informant that’s been working the streets for about two years now, and he’s getting more and more tied into this underground life, and leaving his other life, the one with his wife (Anne Heche) and kids, on the back-burner as if it almost doesn’t exist.

I honestly could not tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. I want to say the perfect, rounded-up amount is probably ten-and-a-half times, but I can’t be too sure because it’s probably a whole lot more than what I can remember. Hell, probably a couple of drunken-views may have happened in there as well. Either way, whatever the total amount is, doesn’t matter, because each and every time I’ve watched this flick, not only have I liked it even more, but I get to see more and more about it, especially since, as a film fanatic, my eyes have been opened a bit wider to what makes a movie work, and what doesn’t.

"Ew, fugetaboutit!"

“Ew, fugetaboutit!”

However, I still have yet to call this movie a “favorite” of mine, and here’s exactly why: The problem I have with this movie is that, after all of the times I’ve seen this and plenty other movies of the same nature, I’ve come to realize that the “FBI-informant” story has all been dead by now. We get it; whenever you take a regular, FBI agent, throw him into a world where he has to have that one identity and nothing else, then most likely, that dude’s going to get thrown in there too deep. It’s what we see with every undercover-cop flick, and it doesn’t make it all the better or more original. It’s just there.

But there is that one aspect to this movie that makes that problem sort of go away: The drama involved here between the characters and the situation we have on our hands here. Everybody in this flick is essentially a cliché of what it’s like to be apart of the mob. Greased, slicked-back hair? Check. A bunch of Italian, mobster slang used that makes no sense? Double check. Paying for a coffee or a drink with a wad of cash? Way too many checks. An over-the-top scene of an act of violence to prove how much you do not want to get all tangled-up in with the mob? You got it. People getting whacked? Well now, would it be a mobster movie if it didn’t at least have one or two or more scenes that include that act?

I’ll allow for that last, hypothetical question to rest in your mind.

So, with all of that said, you see where I’m going with this? If not, follow through. The aspect behind this movie that makes it work, despite all of the obvious conventions and happenings of the usual mobster movie, is that there’s actual, real-life emotion involved with this story and the characters that inhabit it. Rather than making Joe, or “Donnie”, the type of FBI informant that’s way too in over his head, is a bit of a bastard for throwing his family to the side and focusing a little bit too much attention on the task at hand, the movie shows him off as being a troubled-soul, yet, one that knows what mission he has to complete, and to do it by any means necessary. Sure, he has to get his hands dirty a couple of times and may even have to pull off some risky moves of his own, but he knows that he has to get the job done and the movie paints him more as a regular-guy, who just so happened to stick to his guns, in more ways than one. I don’t want to call him a “hero” per se, but I do want to call him an inspiration to most people who feel like they can’t go through something because the shit’s too deep or too dangerous. And I’m not just talking about FBI informants – I’m talking about anybody, dammit!

Then, something strange with this movie begins to happen: You start to feel a bit wrapped-up in this world just as much as Joe does. Once Joe realizes that not all of these mobster-figures are as bad or as dastardly as they may seem from the outside, he begins to wonder whether or not he should fully go through with it, and if he does decide to actually say, “Yeah, arrest all their asses”, he still wonders whether or not it’s the right thing to do or if he should leave a couple people out of it. It’s a problem for us, almost as much as it is a problem for Joe, and it gets you more and more involved with the material, regardless of if you know how it all turns out. Obviously no major Hollywood production is going to fund a movie where the real-life protagonist gets killed, but you still feel like any chance the dude has to lose his cover, he will, and become a victim of it so.

Don't worry, honey. Just fugettaboutit.

Don’t worry, honey. Just fugettaboutit.

Very smart writing and directing on both sides of the camera, but in front of it all is the two stars we have on our hands here, none other than Johnny Depp and Al Pacino themselves. This was the first movie where I think Johnny Depp really broke-out of his shell, showed us that he could actually “act”, and, despite what his good looks may have you believe, make it seem like he’s a real person, with real problems, marital ones and whatnot. Depp’s character may go through the usual trip of where he gets in way too deep and can barely get out without keeping his hands clean, but it’s Depp himself who keeps his head above the water, allowing us to believe in him no matter how scary certain situations may get for him. There’s a real sense of likability and regularity to Depp here, that I wish he would just go back to, at least one more time. That is, before he gets back together with Gore Verbinski and starts acting all nutty and cuckoo again. Why Johnny?!?! Why not come back to the real world?!?!

As great as Johnny is here, though, he’s definitely not the one who walks away with the flick. Leave that recognition to Al Pacino, playing, yet again, another mob boss that has a bit of anger-issues and problems on the inside, but keeps them more bottled-in than what we’re used to seeing with this type of character, or even the way Pacino usually plays them. What’s so great about Pacino playing Lefty is that, we get that this guy is not perfect and definitely has some control issues that get in the way of his better-judgement at times, but we still feel like he’s a good guy, underneath the phis-age and all. In fact, we know it, it just rarely comes out in the most obvious, hackneyed way you’d expect from a movie such as this. Pacino yells and hollers at times, but he keeps it surprisingly subdued and quiet as well, and that’s probably some of the best parts of this movie. Actually, mainly the ones with Depp and Pacino together, because you can tell that they form a bond that’s like a father-son combo, but also one that feels like it could be best friends as well. It’s sad to see them together, but you can’t help but feel something for them both, especially Lefty, who feels like an old man who will just never, ever get it right in the world that he lives in. Poor guy.

Same can sort of be said for the rest of the rag-tag mobsters that these two hang with. Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, and James Russo all play members of their mob and all do great jobs with the roles, especially Madsen who gives us his bad-boy charm that we all know and love, but also shows a bit more sympathy underneath it all, as if he too has something to prove to the people he surrounds himself with and aspires to be in the same shoes of one day. They’re all characters you’d expect to hate right off the bat, but they surprisingly have more heart and charm to them then you’d ever want to see in a flick like this. Just like the character of Joe’s stay-at-home-wife, played to perfection by Anne Heche, who not only shows us a real hard-edged woman that isn’t taking any shit from her hubby, but is also easy to sympathize with, despite her being a bit of a nag for bothering her husband about a job that not only pays the bills and gets the kids to school, but she knew about when she married him. She should be the vain of your humanity, but she’s written very realistically and performed very well by Heche herself, an actress who doesn’t get as much credit as she should.

Consensus: Though on page, Donnie Brasco should not work and be considered as conventional and predictable as they come, it surprisingly becomes a more emotional, compelling trip about what happens when a man gets too deep, can’t quite get himself out right away, but still has the screws in tight enough to get through it all. Sounds corny, but in the hands of Depp, Pacino, and the rest of the cast and crew, it’s very far from.

8.5 / 10

"I'm serious. Just forget about it."

“I’m serious. Just forget about it.”

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Spiders can have problems, too.

The last time we left Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) he was just a punk, high school kid that had a smart and hot girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a loving, supportive aunt (Sally Field), and was also saving the day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week as the web-slinging, wall-climbing, friendly neighborhood superhero known as Spider-Man. Yes, that little Peter Parker grew up to be quite a somebody and now that he’s graduated high school, he’s got to look forward – which means that some changes may have to be made. That means no more girlfriend; no more other priorities; and no more distractions to take him away from what really matters: Saving the day and finding out more about his parents’ pasts. However, he may have to put all of those plans on hold when Oscorp employee, and self-declared, Spider-Man’s number one biggest fan, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) gets electrocuted and falls into a pool of electric eels, turning him into what some will know as “Electro”. He’s dangerous, but so is Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), the son of rich billionaire Norman (Chris Cooper) who has just recently passed-away due to a radiation infection, leaving his son all of the estate and plenty of power in the palm of his hands. Almost too much, some would say.

Growing up on the Raimi-Maguire Spider-Man movies, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first Amazing Spider-Man. First of all, I knew it was all made as a way to ensure that Sony would be able to keep the rights to the Spider-Man name and brand, and because of that, was made and released literally five years after the original franchise ended. In my book, that’s way too soon, especially for a franchise that clearly was close to me, regardless of how crappy that third one-of-a-turd turned out to be.

Oh my gawd! We get it! You're in love! Now quite the PDA for gosh sakes!

Oh my gawd! We get it! You’re in love! Now quit the PDA for goshsakes!

Regardless, now that we have a sequel to the re-boot and unsurprisingly, I come off with a little bit of the same feelings that I had before: “Meh”. But this time, with a bit more oomph. Just a little bit.

See, I think where most of this movie’s charm comes from is in the way that Marc Webb does not give up on making a single-sequence here the least bit exciting or entertaining. Sure, the action scenes are a romp-and-a-half by how much CGI he’s able to throw at us, without ever making it seem like total overkill, but he’s even able to make the character-driven scenes pop with a little more energy than one would expect from something so up-and-moving all of the time. Which for a two-hour-and-twenty-minute-movie, can get a bit tiring, but considering that this movie begins with a car-chase through the streets of NYC, and ends with a mono-e-mono duel in the same place, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I got all of the action that I wanted, but not without the fun, of course.

That’s why Marc Webb, despite initially not knowing what to think of him as director for the first movie, really does deserves to keep this franchise under his name. At least for now; that is until he pulls a stunt like this and burns everybody’s corneas, as well as their memories of what a Spider-Man movie should be.

Sorry, people. I’ll still never be able to get over that. Never, ever.

Yet though, I find myself oddly perplexed by this movie because while it is definitely fun, exciting and thrilling, there’s still something about this story that feels a bit hollow, yet at the same time, totally shouldn’t be. It’s almost like the third Raimi movie, except that this time, it seems like everybody behind-the-camera is actually trying to make sure that they can make sense of all the numerous subplots, characters and conflicts, while also still being able to deliver the goods on the action-element of this movie. More often than not, the effort works and makes it seem as if this was created by those who care about making a lick of sense, but other times, it doesn’t really seem to matter what makes sense or what doesn’t, because there’s sometimes nothing really there.

For instance, this whole story is centered around the fact that Peter wants to discover more about his parents, their lives, their professions and why exactly they decided to leave him with his aunt and uncle on that one, fateful day. It makes sense why he would and it would have been able to bring out some raw emotions within Pete himself, but it never really does much except just have Pete running all around New York, skateboard in hand, eyes wandering all of the place and a confused-look on his face practically the whole time whenever he’s reading or seeing a hidden-document for the first time.

But that’s just me reaching for something that isn’t there, because basically, this is just a story about Peter Parker’s one crazy summer after high school ended. He gets to break-up, and get back together with his sweetheart numerous times; he gets a chance to hang out with old pals; he gets to walk around the streets; do his own laundry; talk-back to his aunt; be rebellious; swing; fight crime; beat-up baddies; and get in all sorts of trouble with those who are closest to him. That’s pretty much all there is to this story, but rather than make it as simple and easy as that, the movie decides to throw layer, upon layer, upon layer, until there’s too many layers to begin with. It’s almost like freakin’ ogres!

That said, it’s still entertaining to watch Pete do all of this fun and wacky stuff with his summer, because Andrew Garfield is such a joy to watch play him. I’ll admit it, I was a bit too hard on Garfield in the first movie, which may have to do with the fact that I was just getting over not being able to see Tobey don the red-and-blue jump-suit any longer. But now that I’ve been able to let it all sink in, I have to say that I was really astonished by how natural Garfield is in this role; he’s funny, without being brass; he’s charming, without being too cutesy; and he’s nervous, without being too fidgety. He’s the perfect 30-year-old to play an 18-year-old teenager, and it makes me happy to know that this kid could literally do this role for the next ten years or so, and I will not get bored once. He’s that good. Although, I’ll still stand by Tobey no matter what.

Always got your back, Tobes.

Always.

Joining Garfield once again is his real-life, off-screen-hottie Emma Stone, playing Gwen Stacy, the type of gal every guy in high school wanted to go out with, after high school was already over and done with. Stone, like Garfield, fits all of the perfect requirements with what makes her character lovable, as well as sympathetic, even when all sorts of chaos and mayhem is occurring around her and she refuses to leave. Don’t get it twisted though, because she’s not a damsel-in-distress by any means; sometimes, she may even know a little thing or two more than her boyf himself. That’s why it’s not only a blast to watch Stone do her thing and play, what is essentially way past her own, actual age, but to also see how her and Garfield make great use of their chemistry for the betterment of this movie and how its emotional-core is built stronger through them. Hell, it makes me even not want to see M.J. pop her little, red head in.

As for the villains, despite there being two more than the first movie, it never felt too over-crowded for me – just too much that was left undeveloped. More specifically in the case of Harry Osborne who, through Dane DeHaan, is able to become a bit of a punk-ass kid that has an attitude problem, but still doesn’t really reach the heights of “psychopath” that the movie so clearly and dearly wants him to reach for and grab. DeHaan is good in the role, however, it does seem like it’s his weakest to-date when he starts yelling and having to act all serious, yet goofy and over-the-top at the same time. Regardless of whatever else the guy’s done in the past couple of years, being both “goofy” and “over-the-top” is not a right fit for him, and I felt like somebody should have known that right from the get-go. He tries with it, but by the end, I felt like Willem Dafoe was bound to pop-out of the infamous mirror at any second.

Could have swore I saw this guy on the subway the other night.

Could have swore I saw this guy on the subway the other night.

The better villain of the three is Jamie Foxx as Electro, which moreso has to do with the way the FX team really paid close attention to this character and making him work in every which way. Foxx is fine when he’s Max Dillon, because he’s in human-form and we’re able to see him actually act, but once he becomes Electro, all we really see is some glowing, blue-light floating around from place-to-place, blasting everything with his magic hands. We know this too, because everytime Electro does blow shit up, something like Skrillex blasts through the speakers and makes it seem like you’re not necessarily in a theater, but a wild and crazy rave. Sadly, without the ecstasy.

Still though, as much as I may make a joke about it, the creators behind this really felt confident enough with Electro in terms of the way he looks, acts and proposes a threat to Spidey, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just give him his own movie and leave all of the Green Goblin and Rhino stuff until a tad bit later? Oh yeah, and speaking of Rhino, well, I think I’ve already said too much. Just see the movie and you’ll know what I am talking about.

Consensus: May have handled more than it rightfully should have, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 squanders a great villain in Electro, but leaves the rest of the movie a fun, exciting blockbuster that doesn’t go for the big, or heavy thoughts, but just wants you to get ready for the rest of the summer and all of the joys it may, or may not, be able to bring to you. Hey, have to say, that sounds good enough for me.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Alright, Spidey. A little too friendly.

Alright, Spidey. A little too friendly and neighborly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Supercali….aw screw it!

Famed author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) lives her life the way she wants to, which usually means that she’s pushed-off from the rest of the world around her, doesn’t care much for others, or even being known as “nice”. She’s just simply doing her, and from the flashbacks we get to see of her and her days as a little girl (with her daddy being played Colin Farrell), it all makes sense. However, she may have to stop her ways for awhile, or at least settle them down so she can get some more money in a way that she isn’t as up accepting of at first, but eventually decides to go through with, despite her obvious reservations. The job: Go to Hollywood, meet with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), and see if they can both come to an agreement on making the tale of Mary Poppins that she wrote, come to life on the big screen. The two come to a stand-still in which they’ll make the movie, but she gets final say, cut and edit. Altogether meaning that she and Mr. Disney’s vision won’t necessarily meet the same standards, but that’s the movie business for ya, honey! Take it or leave it!

Here’s one of those flicks that I actually thought was going to do nothing for me. For the most part, I’ve never been a huge Mary Poppins fan, but having seen it more than times than I can actually count, I will say that seeing the back-story of how this movie came about did get my interest a bit. However, then I realized one key element to this movie that automatically turned me off: The fact that it was a Disney movie, talking about how the iconic-owner himself, got one of their classics made for the whole world to see. So basically, to me, that seemed like nothing more than a film company patting their own selves, on their own backs; for what their owner did, why it all happened, and how, even after all of these years, families and children from all-over-the-world still can’t get the grins off of their faces from this decision made.

He must love it when they ask if he's "still running".

He must love it when they ask if he’s “still running”.

So yeah, there was a lot of heat within me going into this flick but something happened. Actually, scratch that. Something REALLY did happen. Not just with this flick, but to me. Once all of the old-school Hollywood, self-pointing jokes were over and done with, I soon realized that there was something a bit more to this story that wasn’t as self-congratulatory as I expected it as being. In fact, very far from. See, this is one of those rare flicks, better yet, rare STUDIO flicks, in which the movie itself actually gives a hand or two for those who write the original stories that get made for big-budget productions and yet, also stick to their original vision. That surprised me, especially considering what the end-result of this story was, but even then the movie never seems to turn their backs on its main subject. Even the one who seemed to cause all of the trouble in the first place: Ms. P.L. Travers herself.

It would have been terribly easy for the movie to paint her as the cruelest, meanest and rudest witch in all of the land, and for awhile, that’s exactly what she is. Sure, she has her redeeming qualities about her in the fact that she can read, write and make the people around her rich, but she never seems like an actually nice person that me, or anybody else for that matter would want to be around. So when she does eventually decide to take the offer to fly out all the way to Hollywood and she gets all nestled-up in her suit, it’s easy to believe that she’s doing this more to find a part of herself out, be fun and happy again, while also reinvigorating a spirit within her that’s been tucked away for quite some time. Maybe I’m reaching here, but there are moments where wee see when, where and why Travers herself wants to change her ways, and though it does take an awful while til she does eventually do so, it’s done in a believable, honest, emotional and most of all, unmanipulative way.

Though there is definitely a large amount of bullshit to be had here in what actually happened during the filming of Mary Poppins, for the most part, it was easy to get by because this was really a flick about an artist, a writer, or a creator in any way imaginable, and how they stick to a certain vision they have, regardless of what others may try to say, do or change about it. As we all know, Travers does eventually give up the goods, suck it all up and let Disney get his way, as well as his hefty bags of cash, but it’s never like Travers herself gave up or quit. It’s just that she eventually moved on with the times and realized that there’s no use at all in fighting something, because we all got to get along somehow, and someday.

That’s why when people see that this movie has Walt Disney in it, those same people will be awfully surprised to see how much of it really concerns P.L. Travers, who she is, whom she was and the type of creative genius she could be if you gave her a pen, paper and some time on her own. And this is why Emma Thompson’s performance as Travers is so brilliant, because she gives us a shrewd, older gal who doesn’t put up with anybody’s crap whatsoever, and yet, we don’t really hate her. We get angry at annoyed at her, but we never want to raise our fists in the air and take a swing at her. Can’t say the same for the people that probably worked on making this movie come to alive with her, but hey, at least I knew that there was something more to her, which is what Thompson herself conveys so well. There’s a deep, sad and fragile figure at the center of this rock, and we get to see it chipped-away at each and every second we spend with her, but it doesn’t happen right and it never happens with strings attached. We simply see her go from mean, old, nasty bitch, to relatively pleasant, easy-going and okay-to-be-around bitch. She’s still a bitch either way, but a sympathetic one that’s easy to like when she puts a smile on, and just as easy to be angry with when she’s treating the others around her so inappropriately.

I think that Thompson’s definitely got a nomination in her midst and if that’s the case, I hold no objection whatsoever. The woman is, has and forever always will be a great actress and I feel like she is the only one who could have made P.L. Travers a lovely woman to be around, despite all of her bickering and nagging. In that general regards, she was like my grand-mom. Except that she actually makes me cookies! Love you, Gams!

Though the story is definitely more about Travers, Walt Disney gets some chances to develop over time, too, and rather than seeing a money-grubbing, shameless business-man, we legitimately see a guy who rose from nothing, to own this huge bedrock of an empire where people from all over the world come together to share one of the most beautiful emotions any human can share: Happiness. We get a couple of scenes where we see Hanks turn the charm-dial on and show us that he can easily sink his teeth into a role as Walt Disney, but there are some very few moments where we get to see a real human being underneath that whole facade we usually see in commercials or pictures. He’s definitely a charmer for sure, but he’s not always like that and when we do get to see the human-side to him, he’s believable and a sympathetic guy that I’d be willing to work with any day of the week. That, and the fact that he’s FREAKIN’ WALT DISNEY!

Wow, P.L.! When I meant by "let loose", I didn't mean THAT LOOSE!!

Wow, P.L.! When I meant by “let loose”, I didn’t mean THAT LOOSE!!

Everybody else surrounding this story that aren’t Disney or Travers are all great too, with Paul Giamatti, once again, coming off with the best supporting role here, despite being the only made-up character in the whole flick. Giamatti plays the limo-driver assigned to lugging Travers around left-and-right and while at first, they don’t really get along despite his best intentions, they build a nice friendship that would seem cloying and schmaltzy in any other movie, with any other two actors, but with Thomspson and Giamatti, it works wonders. Same goes for Colin Farrell who plays Travers’ alcoholic daddy-o that runs into plenty of problems through these flashbacks, and while they may not work the best to the film’s ability, he’s still lovely, charming and easy-to-like, despite being a very flawed person. I wanted to see more of Farrell here, just not done in a way that bothered me when it took away from the real story: Everything happening with the big-screen development of Mary Poppins.

That’s what brings me onto my only real problem in which the movie did focus a bit too much on Travers’ life, as well as her back-story. It’s fine that we got to see where she came from and what exactly made her who she is today, but we get so many damn flashbacks, that it slows everything down that we see in Hollywood. Those scenes where we witness Travers growing up as a little girl, and all the sorts of hard-ships she went through, are definitely the back-bone to the story that was Mary Poppins, as well as this movie itself; however, you can also tell exactly when they’re going to come up, what they’re going to show and how they correlate to the story of Poppins itself.

Then again though, I bitch and I complain about these flashbacks, but yet, later on in the movie is where it also really got tugging on my heartstrings and brought out the tears within me. I don’t want to say how, when or why this happens, but it just happens and it will completely take you off-guard. Mostly because it’s done so in a way to where you know it’s going to try its hardest to make you cry in the way that most biopics normally do, let alone movies directed by John Lee Hancock himself, but it never begs you to. It just simply allows you to and I have to say, I allowed it. I fell victim and I cried. Didn’t make it a perfect movie by any means, but I’d be lying if I didn’t need at least two tissues by the end of this. At least.

Consensus: Could have easily been the type of off-putting movie that cracked jokes about Hollywood, while simultaneously hugging itself at the same time, but somehow, Saving Mr. Banks is the furthest thing from that and instead, gives us a real story, of a real person that speaks for all of the writers out there when one has a vision, wants to stick to it and won’t settle for less. But, also realizes that there is a time to move on and most importantly, a time to adapt and go on with the times.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

There she is! Ehrm, well, at least the inspiration for her.

There she is! Ehrm, well, at least the inspiration for her…

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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

Parkland (2013)

We got Bobby, but now, here’s Johnny! Sort of.

When JFK was assassinated in Texas, the whole nation was left in a widespread panic of not knowing what to do next, how to pick themselves up from such tragedy and what would be the best way to move on. But before any picking up and moving on could be done, there had to be some simple procedures done, like finding out who killed JFK, who that killer’s family was, who the person filming the incidence was, how they can keep it away from the media, an so on and so forth. Basically, this is a look inside the various lives that were affected after JFK’s murder, and how most of them coped with the disaster in many different ways, sometimes some were more positive than others. But the ones who were negative, they really were hit hard, as you’ll soon see.

The JFK assassination is something that no matter what type of person you are, history buff or not, will always interest you. All controversies about whom did it, why and whom with, there are still some very interesting facts about it that many of us have yet to even know about, while some are still being unearthed. It’s strange to think that even 50 years after the fact that we’re still getting bits and pieces of info about what really happened, who was behind it and possibly just if it was all a ruse or not, is really surprising. However, one must remember that it’s the U.S. government we’re dealing with here, folks. They can’t always be trusted.

About to have themselves a bloody good time. What? Too soon?

About to have themselves a bloody good time…….. What? Too soon?

Anyway, those said interesting little facts about this well-known assassination is probably what does this flick some good in the first place. For starters, it gives us a glimpse inside the lives of a bunch of people we’d never expect to see get a movie made about and it actually allows them to have their story shown. Some get better than treatment than others, but overall, everybody here has a story to tell, and they are all somewhat worth watching and paying attention to, even if the direction doesn’t quite follow suit with that the whole way through.

Some have been having problems with this movie because it’s considered “overstuffed” and “jammed”, and I can’t say I disagree. With a movie that runs just about under an-hour-and-a-half, showing all of these stories, with all of these different, familiar-faces, definitely does come across as “too much to take in”, especially when you pretty much know that the material would benefit a lot more from something like a miniseries or hell, even a longer movie. The stories that are interesting get the most attention here, but the others that don’t, still feel like they have something that we would want to see or take notice of, yet, they aren’t really given much time of the day.

For instance, there’s this one story the movie focuses on that features Ron Livingston playing an FBI agent that knows all about what’s happening with the president, who killed him and where they can nab him, but we never actually see him go out onto the field, actually gathering info, clues, hints, or anything else that would probably help him get a clearer view of the case. This subplot also leaves more questions than actual answers as it becomes clearly evident that the movie, in some way, shape or form, is suggesting that Oswald didn’t act alone and had to have some outside-help in order to kill the president. Personally, I agree with this sentiment, but I feel like when you have a movie that’s dedicating its legacy to an event, as well as to a public, iconic figure no less, that it may not be right to choose sides. Then again, I’m always down for when things get shaken around a bit, so who the hell am I to even talk, you know?

Other than Livingston’s character’s story, there are plenty of other ones to that get the light of day, most are a lot more interesting than the one I just mentioned, and some far more deserving of their own movie or hell, one-hour running-time. The one story I’m mainly talking about is the one in which James Badge Dale plays Oswald’s brother that somehow gets wrapped up into all of this, all because he shares the same last name as the man who killed the president. The movie paints a nice picture of this conflicted man who knows what his brother did was wrong, and yet, still can’t bring himself away from totally abandoning him and leaving him out to dry. Because honestly, let’s face it: Family is family, no matter what.

Dale is not only great in this role, as he is in all of the 50 movies he’s shown up in in the past two years, and really gives you the sense that this is a good-natured citizen who knows what’s right, and what’s wrong, and yet, still can’t help but get thrown under the bus all because of who his brother is and the dirty act he committed. While Dale’s performance is very nuanced and subtle for this type of material, Jacki Weaver, playing Oswald’s crazed attention-whore-of-a-mother, is a little more nutty and over-the-top, but is still worth watching because if you watch any of the interviews with the real-life figure, you’ll see that she more than just hits the nail on the head. She absolutely bangs it in with utter force.

The rest of this studded-ensemble is a bit of a mix-bag, which is less of their fault, and more of the film’s because it doesn’t quite utilize their skills as well as it should have, which is a damn shame, considering the type of true talent we have on-deck here. Colin Hanks, Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden all play the nurses and doctors that examine both JFK one day, and Oswald the other, which gives us a nice contrast between the two, even though the characters themselves are never fully sketched-out to be more than scared fellas and gals. They all try, but their characters are thin. Billy Bob Thornton gets a chance to show up on screen and do his bit for a short while as the FBI agent assigned to figuring out what happened here and how they can fix it all up in a neat and tidy bow. Nice to see Thornton do something where he isn’t either a total and complete a-hole, or for that matter, a total and complete dirtball that has no sense of normal hygiene or normalcy.

"Make way! We got a guy trying to pretend he's dead!!"

“Make way! We got a guy trying to pretend he’s dead!!”

The one who I was most surprised by, not because he was bad or anything, but by how uninteresting his story actually was, was Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder who, if you don’t know by now, was the poor individual who had the displeasure (or pleasure, in some crazy mofo’s minds) of not only filming the assassination, but to be the one the media and FBI came to first, throwing away any price he would deem desirable. Giamatti is great in this role, as usual, giving us a distraught, scared old man that doesn’t quite know what to do with himself for the time being, but definitely doesn’t want to wake up and smell all of the real harsh realities that the world brings. While I felt these sad, emotional connections coming from Giamatti’s performance, I never quite felt that for his story, which actually felt like it could have been given its own movie, and maybe even be up for some Oscars along the way as well. However, we may never get to see that happen. And if we do, it won’t be with Giamatti. Poor guy. He so deserves better.

And don’t even get me started on Jackie Earle Haley as the priest who gives his final blessing to JFK’s corpse. It’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it roles, and is by far one of the strangest aspects of this whole cast. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say the movie as well.

Consensus: The approach Parkland brings to its infamous event, surely is one of the far more interesting aspects going for it, but can’t help but feel disappointing once you realize how under-cooked, short and jammed-up it is, and even worse, it didn’t need to be either.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

How he didn't recieve an Oscar for Best Documentary short that year is totally beyond me......What?!?! Once again, too soon!??!

How he didn’t receive an Oscar for Best Documentary short that year is totally beyond me……What?!?! Once again, too soon!??!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

All Is Bright (2013)

Chalk it up to the Canadians to ruin Christmas for us Americans!

Ex-con Dennis (Paul Giamatti) gets out of jail and put on parole, and begins the rest of his life. However, once he shows up to the home where his wife (Amy Landecker) and kid live, little does he know that not only does she want nothing to do with him as she’s started a relationship with his ex-con partner, Rene (Paul Rudd), but that she’s told their kid that he’s died from cancer as well. Basically, nothing is going well for Dennis in his life and to make matters any worse than they could possibly already be, his parole-officer doesn’t really seem to care too much about his job and basically leaves Dennis without any job, source of income, or references where to get his life back on track. So, who can Dennis go to for help? Well, try that same dude who’s now banging his wife, and gets him hooked-up with a holiday job selling Christmas trees in the heart of NYC. Problem is, it’s cold as hell, they’re not selling any trees, and business isn’t quite as booming as they originally thought it would be, which leaves these two former friends angry at and tense-as-hell with one another.

While most of you probably already saw that I wasn’t totally fond of Junebug, I do have to say that given the talent involved with Phil Morrison’s first flick in 8 years since, I was a little excited. Not only do I love Giamatti, Rudd, and Sally Hawkins in almost all that they do with their lives and careers, but honestly, come on. It’s not even Fall yet, and we’re already getting Christmas movies. Now I don’t know about you, but that gets me extremely amped-up for the holidays and prepare for the cold, the tree, the presents, and most of all, the wholesome and happy feel everybody has in their minds.

That's what I am talking about! The Holidays, baby!

That’s what I am talking about! The Holidays, baby!

That’s what’s made me relatively excited for this movie even though, yes, it is still technically September. But who cares for technicalities, it’s the holiday cheer! Now cheer!

But the problem with this movie is that, save for maybe 2 or 3 scenes scattered throughout, the movie is not really cheery, happy, or even interesting. Some of it feels like Morrison was working on a very low-budget, didn’t want to hike-up his costs too much, so just had the movie and its story take place in the same 3 locations, throughout the whole hour-and-a-half and depend on character-development and the performances to swoop in and save the day, but they don’t even work in the film’s favor. The performances all feel like their own type of animal, whereas Morrison’s direction just tries too hard to be slow, sullen and a little too dark for its own pleasure. Reminded me a lot of Junebug in that aspect, but with better results, if only because of the cast. And hell, this movie doesn’t even have Amy Adams in it, so you already know which one’s more pleasant to watch.

However, most of you reading this will probably think my complaints of this movie not being pleasant, happy, and as joyous as the season it’s taken place in as “idiotic” or “incomprehensible”, and I wouldn’t really argue against you if that was the case. The movie definitely will appeal to some more, cynical viewers out there who may have a harsher-view of the world, so much so that they feel as if they can share their own opinions and feelings with this movie, and make some sort of connection. If that is the case, then good for you. But for me, myself, and my feelings: I just wanted this movie to turn its big ol’ frown, upside down. Now you tell me, is that too much to ask for in the end? No, I’m serious: Please, tell me! I want to know!

While I’m starting to jump away from the bad of this movie, let me just focus in on the goodness of it all, and that’s mainly the cast that came prepared to act and do what they do best: Be funny. Paul Giamatti is playing, once again, another version of Paul Giamatti, but the only difference here being is that he has a French Canadian accent to go with it. And even that goes in and out every once and awhile. However, that doesn’t matter because Giamatti is great at these sorts of roles and while some may find it unoriginal for him to be playing the same old, sad-sack character that we usually see him portray in any flick he shows up in, I can’t say I’m all that bored of it, especially since he throws his own little pieces of skill in there for good-measure.

For instance, Dennis isn’t considered a bad guy because he’s actually trying to make an effort to change his life. Sure, he was a crook and he got caught in the middle of his action, but at least he wants to make amends for all the mistakes he’s made in his life, despite life not really welcoming him in with wide open arms. In that aspect, Giamatti owns this role as Dennis because it shows him the world against him, and how he’ll never quite lay down, and let the world get the best of him, despite it being quite clear that he should. Still though, it’s Giamatti, and it sure as hell doesn’t matter who’s he playing, cause you love him and want to bear-hug him everytime.

They're dirty, so they obviously CAN'T be funny.

They’re dirty, so they obviously CAN’T be funny.

Same goes for Rudd, even though he’s playing a little more-against type than Giamatti may be. Nonetheless though, Rudd is still great at playing-up Rene’s charm, while also showing him as a bit of a snake-like character that has yet to divorce his own wife, yet, has no problem sleeping with Dennis’s. Yeah, if you think about it, Rudd’s character isn’t the most likable guy in the whole world, but he isn’t necessarily the most distasteful guy either, he’s just made some bad mistakes in his past that he’s sort of paying for now. Just like Dennis, his old buddy. The only difference is that Rene didn’t get caught, Dennis did, and look who paid the whole price.

See what I was talking about though with this movie’s dark view? It never ends, not even when Sally Hawkins shows up as a Jewish house-maid that comes by to pester Dennis every once and awhile, and believe it or not, actually have a nice dynamic going on between one another. She’s sort of miserable and bothered with life in her own, quirky way, whereas he’s the same, just with a more depressed, and worn-out look and feel. Their scenes are fun to watch, and bring out the best within both of each other’s acting-skills. Hell, I maybe would have even liked to see them get their own movie maybe, eh? Never mind, highly unlikely, but still. If only.

Consensus: The cast in All Is Bright excels at everything that they have to do with the thin-script, but it does come off as a bit of a bore at times, especially given the premise, where it takes place, and during what season. I mean, come on: It’s the Holidays for Christsakes!

6 / 10 = Rental!!

As usual, somebody's laughing, but Giamatti isn't. Story of his life, all in a nutshell.

As usual, somebody’s laughing, but Giamatti isn’t. Story of his life, all in a nutshell.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

I never pay prostitutes to have brains. Just enough low self-esteem that they’d consider to be with me.

Lenny (Woody Allen) and Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) are in love and want to start a family. However, Lenny’s not quite ready for that yet so they decide to adopt a child named Max. A couple of years go by, Lenny is feeling neglected from Amanda, but is always there for Max and surprised by how smart and knowing he is. That intrigues Lenny so much that he starts to begin a search, behind Amanda’s back, for Max’s birth-mother and finds out that she’s a porn star/prostitute named Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Lenny is obviously shocked by this result but he doesn’t let it get to him, and tries to change her so that she can meet-up to his vision and leave the life that she’s been living, despite it being the only way she can manage a steady-income. While Lenny is off being a counselor of sorts, Amanda’s off on her own having her own sort of affairs, main which being one with her art-gallery owner (Peter Weller).

An “okay” Woody Allen movie, is better than no Woody Allen movie. That’s all there is to say about the man, especially since he churns out a movie every year, gets an even-more stacked-cast than before, and continues to find more and more interesting ideas for his stories, and how to tell them. They don’t always work, but it’s always nice to see the guy back on the big-screen, no matter how regular or average the film he’s working with may be. Although some may definitely disagree with me on this: Yes, Mighty Aphrodite is average and regular.

Mighty1

“32 years younger? Good enough for me.”

As usual, what I always like about Woody’s flicks is that the guy has a keen sense of humor, no matter how dark or grim the subject-matter may be. Which is weird considering how the movie starts off light and straight-forward with him and his girl adopting a kid. It feels like a film that’s a bit too innocent and sweet, especially coming from the finger-prints of Woody Allen himself. Thankfully, once the movie goes about 20 minutes into itself, we are then introduced to a whole other story-line that makes the film any bit of being memorable. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Ms. Mira Sorvino herself as the screechy-voiced prostitute herself, Linda Ash.

See, I can’t go on and on any further without mentioning her right off the bat because she makes this movie. Sure, Woody’s good, his writing is inspired, and everybody else in the cast has their bright and shiny moments, but it’s this woman who takes this movie, brings it up by the grips of her hands, and never lets go of it, even when she isn’t on-screen. Her presence is always felt in this movie, and that’s a good thing because she keeps it hilarious and fun, while also giving it it’s right amount of heart and sympathy as well. Of course this is Mira’s best performance, not only because she won the Oscar for this, but because she hasn’t really done much after this. And hell, even the stuff that she did do with her career, was nowhere near as challenging or as exciting as this role.

She’s given the hard task of taking a character that would be easily considered “annoying” and “bothersome” by about the first 10 seconds of screen-time that we spend with her fine-ass, but surprisingly, the girl keeps her rompy, to where it’s almost like a whole person herself. Easily, without a doubt, she could have been played-up for just a bunch of laughs as if she was more of a caricature that we usually see in these types of flicks that concern a low-bit, NYC hooker, but the combination of Woody’s sharp-writing and Sorvino’s general likability, is what keeps this character more than just a cliché. She actually has a heart and soul that you feel for, not because she’s way too in over-her-head with certain things, but because she actually does plan on being a person that makes a difference in someone’s life, even if it does concern still hooking around and whatnot. Sorvino’s so good here, in fact, that knowing that she hasn’t really done much with her career ever since, makes it all the more better because it’s the snap-shot of brilliance that comes every once and awhile.

Did that hype the performance up enough for ya?

"So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?"

“So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?”

As I said though, saying that she’s the best part of this movie isn’t too discredit any other aspect of this movie that makes it work. It’s a joint-effort and more than likely, the flick works. Woody’s always been, and probably forever will be, a welcome-presence of the big screen, even if it is a bit odd to see a 60-year-old man, adopt and raise a child as if it was the most casual act of kindness on the entire face of the planet. Others are good too, especially the highly-underrated Michael Rapaport, who plays a boxer at a gym that Lenny cons into going out on a date with Linda and has the under-lining, good-boy sweetness to him that allows you to get past the fact that he’s a total idiot. Then again though, she is too and watching them together is probably the high-lights of the movie. In fact, those scenes are so good, as sparse as they may be, I probably wouldn’t have minded seeing one whole flick just surrounding them and their blossoming relationship. Now that would be a Woody Allen flick I’d be very excited to see, but probably may never, ever get.

The ones in this cast who I don’t think worked were very small problems here and there. I like F. Murray Abraham in just about everything he does, and is even good here, but the whole act that his legion of cult-singers narrate the story and tell us what’s lingering at the end of it, as if it were a Greek, modern-tragedy, got old and only took steam out of the flick. Also, it served as a pitch perfect example of what it’s like when Woody can get a little too up his own ass and seem a bit pretentious. And before I go and forget to mention it, Peter Weller, as snarling and oozy as he may be, feels like he’s here more than nothing else to be a dick, and nothing but. Come on, Woody! You can do better than that!

Consensus: Whenever Mira Sorvino isn’t on the screen at all, Mighty Aphrodite isn’t as sharp or as entertaining, but when she is around, for us to set our eyes on, she’s fun, exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt, in only the type of way an Oscar-winning performance could be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, I'm going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career."

“One day, I’m going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career.”

Lady in the Water (2006)

I wish there were mystical, sexy-ish creatures swimming around in my pool after closing time. Instead, it’s just me and my drunk friends.

This part may be a little hard to talk about, but hell, I’ll give it a try. Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) works at the Cove apartment complex and does whatever he can to get by throughout the day. He cleans bathrooms, kills bugs, changes light-bulbs, does everything really, but he never seems happy. All of that somehow changes when the mysterious creature Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), shows up in his pool saying that she needs to go back to land. She tries to, but finds out that a scary monster is there to attack her, and it’s up to Cleveland and the rest of the tenants to fight back and help Story get back to her home-land and hopefully, tell her story.

We all know that M. Night is a story-teller and loves to give us somewhat strange, wacky tales that can only occur in his mind, and his mind alone, but this is where I think people started to grow impatient with the dude. The Village was a bit of the last-straw, but I think more people were apologetic on that one because it had some good features to it. If not, and it’s only me who feels that way, so be it because I will go-to-bat for the dude anytime of the day, night, or week. But this is where things started to not only change for me, but for plenty others as well. And it hasn’t been pretty since.

It’s obvious that M. Night is making this story so that kids will want to go with their families and see all of the wonderful, wildness that M. has to bring to this slightly-original fable, but I highly doubt that’s what came out here. Yes, it is a fairy-tell that captures the wonder and imagination of a kids mind, but it also seems too confusing in terms of what it’s trying to say, where it’s trying to go, and how freakin’ pretentious it is. It’s been said that M. Night is a bit of a cocky dude who feels as if he can do wrong (just watch some of his movies and you might just see differently), and I’ve always put my hand of separation between me and those nay-sayers, but now I can totally see where they are coming from. The dude thinks he’s the shit, and if I’m not just talking about his story, I’m also talking about the character he plays here.

If you're going to throw a banger, the pool has to at least big 3x bigger than that kiddie-shit!

If you’re going to throw a banger, the pool has to at least big 3x bigger than that kiddie-shit!

Instead of having himself play a small-role, or even a cameo like he usually does, M. gives himself a character that is not only one of the biggest parts of the whole movie, but probably the most important since his character is a writer, who’s future piece-of-work is supposed to inspire and influence generations and generations to come. A bit self-indulgent? You think!??! And hell, it wouldn’t been half-bad if the dude could have backed it all up with some nice acting, but the dude seriously can’t act for shit in this movie. His character is supposed to be pretentious and cocky, but instead, he just comes off like a whiny-ass that always comes to Cleveland whenever he needs a light-bulb fixed, his rug washed, or house ram-sacked so that people can see what he’s up to.

However, M.’s problem with his character is the same problem that everybody else in this movie seems to be having as well. God bless Giamatti, but the dude really seems to be phoning it in here. And that’s not just his fault, but more of the character’s and how M. writes him as being. We first see this Cleveland dude as an obviously sad, lonely, and depressed dude that has a stutter, so why the hell would he all of a sudden help out, let alone, actually believe this mystical creature as a thing from a different world? Oh, I don’t know, maybe cause he’s had a tragedy bestowed upon him that’s only brought up once? Yeah, maybe that’s it. Regardless of what the real reason was, I didn’t care, I didn’t understand, and I felt bad for Giamatti as it seems like he got roped into doing this, just so he could work with “that guy who did the Sixth Sense.”

Somehow, I feel that’s why anybody still works with the dude, even until this day.

Everybody else suffers from the same problems that Giamatti does as well. Jeffrey Wright’s character is the type of dude that seems to know almost anything and everything about the English language, just through doing a whole bunch of crossword puzzles, and yet, we are actually supposed to believe that the fate in humanity rests in his hands, as well as his own kid’s, who reads cereal boxes all day. Yup, believe that for sure! But the list of characters go on and on and on, almost to the point of where you stop feeling bad for M., not realizing that he’s losing all control, but for the obviously, very-talented people involved with this movie.

People like Freddy Rodriguez, Jared Harris, and Sarita Choudhury are all here, and trying to do whatever the hell it is that they can, but all fall fate to M. Night’s crappy-writing. He tries to make these characters funny with their own little quirks here and there, but none of it even comes together for the finale to make sense, nor does it ever come together to make us laugh. The movie tries whatever it can to do both of those things (laugh and make sense), but fails miserably and it’s all because of M. Night. The dude may know how to make a shot interesting and make any type of atmosphere as every-bit of tense and eerie, but he can’t write snappy-dialogue, unless the actors/actresses are up to it. I don’t know if everybody was up to it here, but something did not mix so well.

He's got the whole world of this chick's life, in his hands....

He’s got the whole world of this chick’s life, in his hands….

The only person I can say who wasn’t involved with any of the shit-talking I was doing up there is Bryce Dallas Howard as Story, and the only reason I don’t include here is because her character is so dry (funny, because she’s the lady in the WATER), so dull, and so boring, that you don’t ever understand what makes her such a wonderful creature to save, let alone, go nuts for. I get it, she’s almost like a mermaid and has mystical powers, but does that mean we too are supposed to give two shits about her character and how her fate rests in these num-skulls’ hands? Hell to the no! Obviously M. Night cares, but we can’t share the same feelings, which is probably how most people have been feeling for the longest time when it comes to them and the dude.

Poor guy. He’s from Philly, he likes his twist-endings, and he’s got a great name that’s easy to make jokes about, but he just can’t seem to win nowadays.

Consensus: The Lady in the Water is a self-indulgent mess that finds M. Night at his most cocky and arrogant, for the sole-purpose that he thinks everything he’s doing is right, smart, and makes sense, but doesn’t care too realize that he might, just might, be going a tad over-board with the ideas and turns his story takes, as obvious as they are.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Go on, Paul. Take a dip. You deserve it buddy.

Go on, Paul. Take a dip. You deserve it buddy.

The Illusionist (2006)

Sorry, ladies. Leave the magic tricks to the men.

When word of famed-magician Eisenheim’s (Edward Norton) astounding illusions reaches the powerful and pragmatic Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), the egotistical-ruler attends one of the magician’s shows in order to debunk Eisenheim during the performance. However, when the Prince’s intended, Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), assists the magician on-stage, a dormant love affair is rekindled. That’s where Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) steps-in to clear the air and find out just what the hell is going on here.

Back in the golden days of 2006, there was not one, but TWO movies made about 20th century magicians (the second-one being Christopher Nolan’s far-better The Prestige). Apparently, David Blaine or Criss Angel just weren’t cutting it for the movie-going audiences and they needed more magic, more illusions, and more bullshit! And even though Neil Burger is nowhere near the type of director Nolan is, and probably forever will be, at least the guy keeps us believing in that everything we see is real, no matter how much CG they may use. Oh, it’s actually fictionalized-tale? Could have fooled me. NOT!!

All kidding aside, the guy, Burger as I could probably assume he loves to be called, actually does a fine job with this material because he is able to not only keep us wondering just what the hell is going on here, but where this story is going to end-up lastly. It’s not easy to see the twists and turns coming and that’s where the fun of Burger’s direction seems to lie: the element of playing with his audience’s minds and expectations, much like the illusionist this story is all about. However, maybe I’am a bit biased in my own way and found more to reach for than mostly other-viewers.

On the next episode of Whisker Wars: The 20th Century Version....

On the next episode of Whisker Wars: The Royal Days….

I have to say, I love movies about con-men and in a way, magicians are sort of shoved into the same category as them. Therefore, fore me, watching as this magician would pull-off tricks and illusions to play with the minds of everybody who cared to go out and see him, really interested me and had me wonder just where exactly Burger was going to go with this story. Some places he takes you; you expect, whereas others; you don’t. All you do know is that Burger seems to have a fiery-passion for this material and it shines through in every, which way. Also, make sure to pay close-attention to all that’s going on here because it may just help you in the end. That’s the only piece of advice I’m giving away, and it’s all for free. Sadly.

Then again, the fact that Burger loves this material so much, you know, magicians playing tricks on each other, you sort of start to lose reality of what this story is actually about: a love between two people that can’t be together. It’s the age-old story of two kids that knew each other when they were young, fell in love, had their first, awkward kiss together (trust me, there’s plenty more where that came from you youngsters), and vowed to always be together, until they eventually are separated by two walks of life and class-situations. To be honest, there isn’t anything wrong with the story here, it just doesn’t get as much as love and dedication as the whole mystery does. It’s obvious that maybe Burger needed a little som-som to back-up all of his fun and games, but it doesn’t work or even have you give a lick about the forbidden-love between these two. You sort of just want them to bone, get it over with, and shut-up about the whole thing and move on with their lives. That would have been a lot more entertaining to watch then a bunch of people just moping and pissing around about how they can’t be with the one they love. I love Scarlett Johansson, but you don’t see me bitchin’ about that every, damn day, now do ya?!??! Didn’t think so. Get over it!

Half of the problem that I had with this plot-line, also had to do with the fact that Jessica Biel can’t act for shit, and when she tries too hard: this is what we end-up getting. Not a good thing to witness at all. Every movie I see this gal in, I always want her to blow me away, show me something more from her that I never, ever thought she had, and just make me believe in her once again as an actress (I don’t know when the first time was), but she just can’t pull that off here, no matter how meaty the material may be. Around all of these heavy-weights, she sort of sticks out like a sore-thumb and it’s very, very noticeable. I can’t even blame Burger either, because every obvious and predictable line this flick they throw at her, she hits it as if she was in a day-time soap, or better yet, still on another episode of 7th Heaven. Now, I think is the time to fully give-up on Biel as an actress and just face the fact that half of the roles that she’s offered, her hubby JT should just take mainly. May be a bit far-fetched for some people to believe in, but the guy can do no wrong. Let’s just face that fact and live our lives a little bit better now.

Even though Biel is bad, everybody else seems to be on their A-game. Hell, with a cast THIS GOOD, I actually wonder what the hell even drew Burger to cast Dullsville-Biel in the first-place. Was it the looks? Was it the possibility of the nude scene? Was it because he was secretly having a fling with her that JT didn’t know about? Or, was it just because she was a big name and that’s what this movie needed to get any sort of viewers whatsoever? I’m going with the former. But anywho, back the cast at-hand.

Edward Norton is, as usual, good as Eisenheim and gives the guy a very dark, mysterious-path that never gives us the easy answering of knowing whether or not the guy is good, or bad. His intentions are never clear, and you never really have the idea in your head that he’s doing all of these magic tricks for the entertainment of others or the money, but something more. He’s an interesting character that I wish we got to see more of, other than just realizing who that person is that makes his knees weak. He even gets pushed to the back-burner somewhere around the final-act, as the movie takes it’s own detour into mystery-thriller territory and sort of forgets all about what makes him a living, breathing character. It’s still a fun, last-act, but a very disappointing one if you take Norton and the character he was playing into consideration.

Biel's facial-expressions tell it: she what she is doing in a movie with such fine actors as these.

Biel’s face tells it all: she has no idea what she is doing in a movie with such fine actors as these.

Rufus Sewell, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever, plays Crown Prince Leopold, the corrupt and bastard-like ruler of the land, who soon hopes  become king of the empire one day. Obviously, you know this guy is going to do evil and sadistic things throughout the large-portion of the flick, however, you sometimes get teentsie, tiny surprises of emotional-depth with this guy that seems real, honest, and more than just the traditional villain that we are used to seeing in these types of movies. But even though that depth and insight of that character comes out every once and awhile, it starts to be shoved back into him, just so the plot can move along and make him feel like he’s more and more of a dick, rather than a human-being. There’s a scene by the end with him where I really feel like I was starting to get the full picture of who the heck this guy really was, underneath all of the royalty and fancy-shizz, but sadly, it was a little too late for me and for him to really get the credit he deserved. Even if Sewell did a great-job with this character, I still feel like the script didn’t accompany him as well as it started-off as being. Poor guy, at least he still will forever and always be type-casted as that dick from now on.

The one who really steals the show in this whole movie, however, is in-fact Paul Giamatti as Chief Inspector Uhl. Uhl was a character that I thought was going to be the straight-up dickhead of the whole movie that was corrupt, mean, terrible, and ridiculous with all of the things that he did and used to his power as head of the police force. However, things for him, just like the plot itself, start to change and we see more of a moral-compass shell out of the guy, which was anymore than I ever expected. Giamatti plays this up so perfectly as we have no idea whether or not to trust this guy, believe he will do the right thing, or even, do anything reasonable to make his job and life seem like it has some sort of meaning. Watching Giamatti go through this internal conflict with himself was something of a work of magic (heehee), and it goes to show you that the guy can play anything he wants, and still have that pure-bread, lovable personality to him, no matter how dark or mean the character may be. Swell job, Paul. Swell.

Consensus: The Illusionist may not work when it comes to being about the love between our two main-characters, mainly because it doesn’t feel developed as well as the all of the fun and games of the magic-tricks, but with a superb-cast (minus Biel) and an inspired direction from Burger who seems to really enjoy this material, you have more enjoyment than you expect.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Fuckin' rabbit out of the hat?!?!? No!! So stupid and unoriginal for a mind-bender like myself!!"

“Fuckin’ rabbit out of the hat?!?!? No!! So stupid and unoriginal for a mind-bender like myself!!”

John Dies at the End (2013)

If this was released on 4/20, the box-office would explode.

Told in flashback with a reporter named Arnie (Paul Giamatti), this is the story of Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) who are two slackers who do nothing with their lives except act as if they kill monsters, all for the greater-good of society. They soon find themselves all caught up in a whirlwind of inter-dimensional activity after their exposure to a drug dubbed “soy sauce” that allows them to have unusual powers and wild visions.

The plot synopsis up-above may not be the best in the whole, entire world, mainly because this movie doesn’t really seem to follow a regular structure that most movies out there follow. That being said, you can probably already tell whether or not this is your type of movie by the look of the trailer, the poster, or even the first 5 minutes in which we get a random sequence of some dude talking about chopping a person’s head-off. It’s quick, witty, and really humorous  and I knew if that’s how the rest of the film was going to play-out, then I was in for a total treat from beginning-to-end, no drugs required. However, by the 30-minute mark, it became quite apparent to me that drugs were going to need to be acquired. Damn my sobriety!

Writer/director Don Coscarelli is mostly known for his dip in cult-films that people either love, or absolutely  positively despise. I guess it all depends on the type of person who’s viewing it and that’s why I may have been a bit shaky about seeing what he did with this material here. The thing is: it seems like this guy knows what he’s doing, how he wants to do it, and why he’s doing it, but the final-product doesn’t make it seem so. In the beginning of the movie, everything seemed so wacky, wild, and insane, but made absolute sense as to why, but by the latter-acts, things start to change and it almost becomes like a desperate-act for Coscarelli to keep things up-and-about, by throwing in random-sequence-after-random-sequence.

Yeah, something tells me they wouldn't be friends, if this took place in real-life.

Yeah, something tells me they wouldn’t be friends if this took place in real-life.

It makes sense why this movie feels like it is one, huge drug-ride from hell, because the truth is: it is one huge, drug-ride from hell. The main characters are constantly on drugs throughout the whole movie and it gives us a reason and explanation as to why everyone and everything is so incredibly strange, but there comes a point where it feels like we need more than just random, crazy shite. It almost feels like we need plot, reasoning, structure, emotions, characters, and most importantly: more fun.

That’s the weirdest-problem I had with this movie: just not enough fun. I’m not going to lie, there were times I really felt like I was having a ball with this material because I never, ever had a clue as to where it was going to go, and didn’t want to know until it finally showed-up on-screen and blasted my mind away. But then there were other times where I felt criminally-bored by the proceedings up on-screen, and that’s because the movie begins to focus on too much of it’s plot, without any of the “fun-element” going for it. It may sound strange having me complain about this movie focusing on too much of a plot, considering I said it needed more of that, but the complain I am centering more towards is that the shit just does not make sense, and whether or not it was supposed to, really, really goes over my head.

Having the interview with the journalist at least gives the film some sort of easy passage-way in having us understand what the hell is going on and what’s next to come, but that’s only good for about a-half-hour. Then, after that minute-mark, it all goes downhill and really seems to get lost in it’s own exposition, without ever being able to bring itself back-up to life. The idea of having soy sauce be your main drug of choice that fucks with these people’s minds and have them see a bunch of insane things makes sense and is good, that is until it starts to get out of control and make it seem like the soy sauce itself is more than just a drug that makes you imagine things, it actually has the ability to give you powers only Clark Kent could dream-of. It all gets to a point of where I couldn’t buy into it anymore and I just wish that Coscarelli decided to relax with the plot, and allow more fun to be had here. Is there such a problem with wanting that when you see a movie? Especially one with Paul Giammatti?

Speaking of Giamatti (the dude also produced), anybody going in and expecting him to do his own thing, left this material up from hell’s gate, and give it a sort of levity, are going to be very disappointed coming out. All he does here is play the journalist with a gullible sense of well-being, and sometimes, act a bit snarky like most journalists do. It’s nice to see Giamatti show-up in “different” material like this and really expand his comfort-zone, but when he’s given about 15-minutes of screen-time, it just feels like a total waste of an amazing and reliable actor that, in my eyes, can do no wrong. Yes, that even includes Lady in the Water.

Wish they actually sold masks like these. Halloween costume for 2013, anyone?

Halloween costume for 2013, anyone?

Instead of giving the spot-light to an actor as talented as Giamatti, the movie instead focuses most of it’s attention on Chase Williamson, a new-comer that I think has a future of bigger, and brighter things. Apparently this was Williamson’s first, ever movie and for a virgin who’s just getting his cherry popped: the guy leaves a lasting-impression (sort of like the time I lost mine). The character he plays could have been one that is absolutely annoying and terribly one-note, but Williamson always seems to be one-step ahead of that and makes this guy into one of your typical, slacker/stoner characters you see in movies like this, but instead, give him more charm and wit. In somebody else’s hands, this role could have really been cringe-inducing to watch, but Williamson gives it his all and makes this flick his bitch. Not sure whether or not that’s a good thing, but for a first-time, major IMDB credit: it’s pretty damn impressive.

The same can’t quite be said for the other-half of the duo, Rob Mayes as the titular John. It’s not that Mayes is bad in this movie or anything, it’s just that his role is deuchy and stud-like, that he comes-off more like a frat-guy that likes to take hallucinogens, instead of a slacker-nerd that enjoys hunting monsters and solving strange problems. Together, they form a solid-duo that I could see kicking ass and taking names, the completely stoned-way, but when it’s just them hanging-out and doing their thing; Dave was a lot cooler and more interesting than that d-bag named John, who just so happened to have the movie named after him.

Consensus: In order to watch and actually enjoy John Dies at the End, I guess you need to have an acquired taste for the material as it is, but even if you are looking for a fun, wacky, and wild trip that is all about no-holds-barred entertainment, then you still may be wanting more. Who knows though! Go out, get stoned, and watch it. Just don’t say you heard that from me.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Just wait till he hears the box-office returns on this one. Mr. Paul won't be smiling any longer.

Just wait till he sees the box-office returns. Mr. Paul won’t be smiling any longer.

Cosmopolis (2012)

Join Team Edward. You’ll get all coke, sex, and parties you want.

Set during a 24-hour period, Cosmopolis stars Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, a 28-year-old newlywed billionaire who manages to lose both his fortune and bride in the span of one short day. He starts by doing one bad thing and keeps going on to the next;  and you know what happens in the end? Nobody cares because he’s a little rich piece of shit.

This was a film I really wanted to like. It really was. Writer/director David Cronenberg hasn’t always been one of my favorites per se, but he’s got this unique vision when it comes to making his movies: his own ways, and I could at least respect that about him. That is, until now.

When I think about this film and what really pissed me off throughout it, I think about Cronenberg and how he easily could have made this one, crazy, effed-up wild-ride from start-to-finish. Problem is, it’s just as much the trailers’ fault as it is his. All of the teasers and trailers have been promoting this Cronenberg’s big return-t0-horror film, where R-Pat is going around, shooting guns, doing drugs, being a total a-hole, and effin’ ladies in the limo. But it’s not that at all! Instead, it’s just him going around and talking to people about absolutely nothing! Actually, I shouldn’t say that because they do actually have some conversations about the state of the world and where it’s going, but never did I feel compelled, never was I on-the-edge guessing what was going to happen next, and never was I thinking to myself, “Oh shit! All hell is about to break loose up in this bitch!”. Nope — instead I just kept dozing off and wondering when the hell it was finally going to fade to black.

That’s what really bothered me about this film: the non-stop talking. All these characters do is talk, talk, talk and that would have been fine had the script been a bit more Quentin Tarantino-, Aaron Sorkin-, or even Martin Scorsese-esque. But Cronenberg doesn’t add anything new or engaging to this script to fully keep me involved when everybody is just blubbering on about God knows what. It’s just way too dull and pretentious to keep me even somewhat intrigued. It makes me wonder if Don DeLillo’s novel was one of those situations where it looked good on paper, but when it came to be being brought-up on film, just didn’t fit. And since that’s what it seems here, it’s a real bummer because a lot of the material seems thought-provoking and very relevant if you think about how a lot of it is about the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer while encasing riots everywhere they go. Could have been so much more interesting if there was just something here to keep it going and alive.

One of the most intriguing aspects about this film that caught my eye way before I even saw a trailer for it, was the fact that Robert Pattinson was in the leading role as numb billionaire, Eric Parker. I’ll give Pattinson some slack, the kid definitely seems like he can act and actually has some skill to him, but he keeps on getting bogged down by shitty movie, after shitty movie and I thought that this was going to be his one light at the end of the tunnel. How wrong I was.

See, what Pattinson does here is exactly what he’s been accused of before: being way too dull. Eric Parker seems like one of those great characters that just wreaks of sleaze, where he doesn’t give a shit what happens to him, when it happens to him, and how, he just wants to live up his life with sex, booze, and money. That’s your typical rich dick-head that can sometimes make or break a movie depending on who’s playing them; I think it goes without saying that he breaks the hell out of this movie, in a bad way of course. I get that Parker was supposed to be a numb character that didn’t feel any sort of excitement until society has finally started crackling down into ashes, but Pattinson’s performance doesn’t bring anything else but that and by the end, it starts to feel one-note. So one-note, that even when his character starts to seem like he’s actually gaining some sort of edge towards the end, you can’t really feel it because he’s got the same type of delivery with each and every line. It was almost like Cronenberg told him to go out there and act like you’re in a zombie movie, but to be the zombie that can talk. Seriously, he’s that lifeless, which, in a way, could be the point, but it still didn’t work for me. I think this will stand as the moment where I realized that Pattinson may not have any talent at all, and is just that piece of brooding little shit that all of the dudes hate, and the girls love. Maybe that’s why K-Stew is getting so bored of him now. Heyyoh!

What’s even worse about his performance, is that when anybody else from this ensemble shows up on-screen, you barely even pay attention to him as everybody here gives it there all. The problem here is the same one that I had with Pattinson: so damn dull and lifeless. Each and every performance seems like they are just another annoying character that barely has any emotions whatsoever, and almost every supporting performance doesn’t last for more than 8 minutes on-screen. So really what you have here is a dull Robert Pattinson, running around the streets of New York (obviously filmed in Toronto), meeting up with even duller people, and at the end of it all, you’re supposed to look at the world we live in and realize something that CNN has been telling us for the past year: the economy is going way, way down-hill. Thanks Cronenberg! I really needed to wake-up and smell the cauliflower on that one!

Consensus: Cosmopolis may be a very thought-provoking and smart thing to read on-paper, but being adapted into a feature film just doesn’t cut it because of the dull performances from everybody involved, the uninteresting direction that Cronenberg goes for and succeeds in, sadly, and the ideas and insight into the world we live in that seem very current, but just don’t bring anything new to what we have already heard before.

2/10=Crapola!!

The Truman Show (1998)

Surprisingly, MTV hasn’t tried this yet. Probably will after Jersey Shore starts to become repetitive. Oh wait…

‘The Truman Show’ chronicles the life of a man named Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) who is initially unaware that he is living in a constructed reality television show, broadcast around the clock to billions of people across the globe. Truman becomes suspicious of his perceived reality and embarks on a quest to discover the truth about his life.

In today’s day and age where everybody is constantly on Twitter tweeting about what they had for din-din, on Facebook posting pictures of them and their bong sesh the night before, or on YouTube uploading videos on themselves singing R&B songs by Mariah Carey, it’s easy to see why you would sometimes feel like you’re life is all one big TV show. However, life isn’t that cool and unique after all.

High Concept movies are usually hit-and-miss and rarely ever do they hit as well as the concept here. Writer Andrew Niccol takes gives everything he can into this concept where Truman in his own little world, and where everything is one big show, one big block of advertising, and most of all, one big piece of reality TV. There’s obviously a lot of satire to be had here where Niccol brings up the point about how our nation, is a nation that is consumed by watching other people’s live and needing to know everything that goes on in his/her private lives. It’s definitely a theme that gets better and better as the years go on by considering we have so many things in today’s world that take more and more away from our privacy. But it’s not all about the obvious satire, and that’s where the real beauty of this film lies.

Director Peter Weir did a perfect job here as a director because he immerses us into this world where Truman lives. We see everything that goes on in his “fake” world, then to the people who make this world for him, and then to what’s going on behind closed doors and how they are all filming everything the way they are. It definitely seems like a concept that would be a little too far-fetched but somehow Weir was able to pack all of these things in here that gets you more and more involved with this story as if you are, hey, watching a life play out in front of your own eyes. That’s right people, I’m talking about something that sounds exactly reality TV. Oh em gee! As you see Truman start to peel away the layers of his life to realize that something eerie is going on, you start to root for him and can only hope that he eventually does find out that it’s all one big show, and that he was the main star. This plot may have never been able to work, had it taken place in real life, but the way he realizes everything, hint by hint, not only makes the film seem plausible but feel like it’s actually happening right then and there.

It’s a real surprise how a plot like this actually came together so damn well in the end, but I guess when you put two heads like Niccol and Weir together, miracles can happen.

My only problem with this flick was that I sort of felt like the ending was a bit too abrupt. All of this build-up is leading and leading up to the finale of where Truman finally finds out about the world outside of his own, but even when it does happen, it’s sort of a let-down. Actually, I don’t want to say that it’s a let-down because I think it was actually handled very well in fact, it was just that it all happens so quick and I would have liked to see more of what actually happened after the ending went down. I know I sound very vague but that’s because, believe it or not, I don’t really want to give too much away here.

Ever since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out, people really started to take notice that Jim Carrey could play a more serious role than we usually see, but this was the real film that let us know that this guy had more than just a bunch of goofy faces. Carrey is amazing as Burbank because he makes this character so damn likable and believable that it’s easy to see why someone would want to center a TV show around him in the first place. In front of everybody, he’s hamming it up to the neighbors and going through the same routines day-in and day-out, but behind the closed doors, he continues to lose his shit as he realizes that something is a little too freaky underneath it all and you really do want him to find out everything at once and just get the hell out of there. Carrey totally throws himself into this role showing a lot of dramatic range as an actor, but also showing the things that make him funny in the first place as a comedian and giving us a new look at someone that we thought would end up being his own biggest fan.

Even though I’m not as fond of her as everybody else seems to be, Laura Linney is pretty good as Truman’s wife and it makes me wonder just how much money would a lady take if they had to act like Carrey’s wife and sometimes, get it on with him? Yeesh. Ed Harris is also good as the show’s director, Christof, and gives off this God-like nature to him that makes it seem like he was the one who actually gave life to Truman after all. Also, be on the look out for a nice little side spot from Paul Giamatti. Damn, this guy was everywhere back in the 90’s!

Consensus: The Truman Show works as well today, as it did way back when in 1998 with it’s very realistic satire but also works because of an amazingly original premise that seems to get better and better as more and more is revealed, and also features some great performances from the cast, especially a very good and very different Jim Carrey.

8.5/10=Matinee!!