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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Peter Mullan

On a Clear Day (2005)

Swim upstream. Or down. Depending on your mood.

After losing his job at a Glasgow shipyard that he’s been working at for quite some time, 50-year-old Frank (Peter Mullan) doesn’t really have much going on in his life. While his wife (Brenda Blethyn) is practicing to become a bus-driver and become the soul bread-maker of the family, Frank is looking anywhere he can for a job, that doesn’t just pay, but also get him out of this funk that he’s been in ever since a tragedy hit him and his family many, many years ago. That’s why, even though a casual remark is made by a buddy of his, Frank gets an idea: to swim the English Channel. While it’s rather outlandish and silly, Frank is determined enough to make the dream a reality and with the help of his closest friends and of course, his loving and supportive family, Frank sets forth on a training regimen that will help him achieve his goal. But that goal is a lot harder to achieve when you already have so much baggage on land, in the first place.

Peter Mullan, or David Beckham? Nope, definitely Peter Mullan.

On a Clear Day is such a cute, little adorable movie that it’s hard to really point out any faults about it. Of course, there are quite a few, but at the end of the picture, do any of them really matter? Because while the movie isn’t as deep as it wants to be, nor is it ever really as smart, either, On a Clear Day, when all is said and done, is charming, nice, and rather enjoyable. It’s the kind of movie that’s safe, inoffensive, and essentially, perfect for the whole family, in the same ways that Disney movies are, but instead of talking cartoons, it’s actual, real life human beings.

And instead of singing, everyone’s just yelling in heavy Scottish accents.

But there’s not much of a problem with a heavy accent – in fact, half of the charm of On a Clear Day is from where it takes place and the overall setting. It’s a calm, easy and rather lovely little place where everyone knows each other and is able to lend a helping hand. However, on the other side, it’s also a dark, sometimes muggy town that sees people losing jobs, day in and day out, and more immigration to the big cities, than ever.

So is it really all that happy and lovely? Not really, but that’s one of the many aspects On a Clear Day hints at with itself. It never gets as deep, or as dark, or as depressing as it wants to, which is sometimes okay, but other times, it does feel like it’s keeping itself away from being better and much more thought-provoking. Does that make it a bad movie? Not really, but it makes it one that had plenty of promise to go to some deep, heavy places, but instead, chose the safe way out.

“Oi, ladeys. Who’s swimmin?”

Sometimes, there’s no problem with that. At least most would be pleased.

But then again, it’s hard to be mad at a movie like On a Clear Day when the cast assembled are so wonderful and fun to watch, that at the end of it all, it’s almost like, “Aw, who cares?”. Peter Mullan has been one of the more dependable acts in film today and honestly, it’s no shock; he can play down-and-dirty when he wants, but he can also brighten things up and play charming. Here, he gets to do a little bit of both, although, without ever showing one side too much and it’s actually quite nice. He makes us feel and understand the sadness that exists within Frank’s life, while also showing some glimmers of hope throughout. It’s a slight performance on his radar, for sure, but it’s also a sign that the man knows what he’s doing.

Brenda Blethyn is quite charming, as usual, in the role as his wife. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see a whole lot more of her, other than trying to talk to Frank and, on occasion, getting into arguments with him about his life and their history together. A much smarter movie probably would have focused on how both of their lives are affected, but eh, so be it. Blethyn still gets a couple of opportunities to show why she’s great in these smart, yet very strong women roles and it goes without saying that I wish there was more of her now.

Maybe some day. On a clear day, perhaps?

Consensus: While slight, small and relatively safe, On a Clear Day is also quite a lovely movie that doesn’t go as deep as it should, but does have a charming cast to make up for its issues.

6 / 10

Hey, Michael Phelps had to start somewhere, right?

Photos Courtesy of: Icon Pictures

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Welcome to the Punch (2013)

Why can’t gangsters and cops just get along?

Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is going damn near-obsessed with Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), a notorious British gangster who shot him in the knee, left him injured, and with a burning flare of revenge in the pit of his stomach. So, in order to get this criminal, Max decides to devise a set-up in which they’ll use Jacob’s son as bait. The plan sort of works, but it sort of doesn’t; while Jacob shows up, he still doesn’t fall prey to the tricks and trades of Max, therefore, leading to another battle of gunshots and violence. Meanwhile, the city’s law enforcement is cracking down on crime by issuing in new, state-of-the-art facilities and plans, all of which seem to promise a better, less-criminalized future for London, but really, seems like it may just be a pipe dream. After all, when you have cops as unprofessionally obsessed as Lewinsky handling very serious, almost life-changing cases, it’s hard to wish for a better tomorrow, when the present is already so screwed up and muggy.

"You fell for the free ice cream bit, too?"

“You fell for the free ice cream bit, too?”

Welcome to the Punch is, for lack of a better term, a very bloody, very violent, and very dour adaptation of cops and robbers. I say this intending for it to sound so exciting and fun as you’d expect something along those lines to be, but in reality, I can’t help but let you know that the film is very far from being exciting, or better yet, even fun. If anything, Welcome to the Punch is so cliched, serious and boring, that by the end, you may actually want to go out and play a simple, seemingly harmless game of cops and robbers yourself.

If you want to add the guns, the violence and the cursing, then sure, knock yourself out, but trust me, the entertainment you’d find with that game, you won’t find here.

A big part of that has to do with the fact that writer/director Eran Creevy doesn’t seem to know what to do with his set-up. While you can’t say the story here is particularly “original”, or even “surprising”, per se, there’s still a lot of promise up in the air. British gangster tales like this, when done right, can be every bit as compelling as they were back in the heydays of cinema – you just have to find the right approach and spin to make them as such. Creevy seems like he’s interested in these kinds of characters, but doesn’t know where to go with them, what to do with them or how to do anything that doesn’t bring anybody’s attention to far better, more engaging movies of the same genre.

Sure, this is expected with the British gangster genre, but still, there should be something different to make a note, instead of nothing. The violence and the few action-sequences we do get are, thankfully, fun and slick enough that they nearly save the movie, but everything else, when there isn’t shooting, or killing, or bleeding, or stuff blowing up, is just dull. Creevy seems to have a bright idea of staging action-sequences and how to get them going when push comes to shove, but actually getting there and bringing enough tension and turmoil to the action-sequences, he seems to have issues with.

Nobody lives in London except for James McAvoy, apparently.

Nobody lives in London except for James McAvoy, apparently.

This is a big problem, too, considering that he’s got a very solid cast to work with, yet, also seems to saddle them with dry, almost two-dimensional characters. McAvoy’s Lewinsky is so unrealistic and ridiculous, that he’s already hard to sympathize with, but McAvoy tries. We’re supposed to believe that a character like this would be such a live wire that, despite him brimming with rage and anger, he’d still be able to maintain himself in a place of professionalism and handle such a high-profile case as this. We don’t get to know anything more about McAvoy’s Lewinsky, other than that he’s obsessed with catching his shooter and that’s it.

Yawn.

Mark Strong’s Jacob seems like he’s going to be more than just your average British crook, but turns out to be just that. Sure, he’s not a total bad guy, but other than the fact that he seems to be doing everything for his son, there’s no real development to him that sets him apart from the rest of the other gangster characters who show up here. The only aspect is that he changes his mind about killing McAvoy’s Lewinsky, which almost doesn’t matter because, well, it’s hard to really care for that character in the first place.

Other welcoming presences show up like Peter Mullan, David Morrisey, and Andrea Riseborough show up and try their damn hardest to add some bit of electricity to the movie, but ultimately, seem like they’re not given anything in return for their efforts. Everyone here reads their script and does their absolute best, but Creevy isn’t really there to pick up the rest of the slack; they’re all sort of left working with thin characters we don’t come to care about, nor really identify with. They’re just place-holders for a bunch of action-sequences that, yes, look nice, but ultimately, don’t add up to much other than a bunch of in-focus explosions.

Give me a Diet Coke, Mentos, and a video-camera, and honestly, I could do the same thing. Except that it wouldn’t cost over 10 million dollars, nor would it be 100 minutes – it would cost five bucks, and last only about two minutes. Everybody would be a lot happier and not feel as if they’re time was just wasted.

Basically, the opposite feeling you get from Welcome to the Punch.

Consensus: Despite a great cast, Welcome to the Punch flounders their talents on a lame script, predictable storytelling, and uninteresting characters that are only meant to push us to the next action-sequence.

3 / 10

"Just do it. Make this thing interesting."

“Just do it. Make this thing interesting.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Boy A (2007)

Boyposter“Let the past, be the past”, is something nobody actually does.

After spending many years in the slammer for a crime he and his lad committed when they were boys, Jack (Andrew Garfield) is finally now out and ready for the real world. That’s why he decides to take up this new name, identity, and start somewhere he hasn’t before. This leaves him to take up a job as a deliveryman, where he not only makes friends, but also possible love-mates. While his social skills are definitely not as up-to-par as they should be, Jack still gets by on trying to fit in, regardless of the social situation. When he’s out at clubs, he drinks a lot and does crazy drugs, when he’s with his girlfriend (Katie Lyons), he’s awkward, but also kind of horny, too. But as much as Jack wants to leave everything he did in the past, exactly there, it still finds its way of coming back to bite him in the rear-end and ruin the great life that he’s been having thus far. This is something that Jack isn’t just afraid may actually happen, but also has him terrified of what he may actually do, once the information of his past becomes known to his newly-made friends.

Does he even age?

Does he even age?

Boy A is the kind of movie that, despite its small scale, still works with the big emotions that can either make, or totally break, dramas such as these. However, what works so well for Boy A, is that it takes its relatively familiar-premise and gives it some fresh new life by just having us interested in this guy’s life, right from the very start. Director John Crowley and screenwriter Mark O’Rowe both do a brilliant job of giving us just enough information of this Jack guy, to get a clear picture of him; while we know that he did something heinous and nearly unforgivable when he was younger, we’re never outright told right away. Instead, we’re left to watch him as he tries to live his life and, in the meantime, experience everything grand that life has to offer, for the first time.

And this is all interesting because Jack himself, is an compelling fellow that’s never too easy to pin-down; we get the sense that he’s a genuinely nice kid, but due to his checkered-past, as well as his incarceration and need for it to stay under-wraps, there’s still an odd feeling about him. We see Jack live life, have fun, make friends, and be as happy as one can be when life is as simple as this, but by the same token, we also see him struggle with trying to make amends for what he did when he was younger, as well as trying to make sure that fact never, ever gets out. Of course, there’s a great deal of mystery surrounding what Jack does – there are countless flashbacks to his childhood – but they never feel unnecessary and just a way to take up more time.

In fact, they tell us more about Jack himself.

But really, what element makes Jack work the most is Andrew Garfield who, in a very early role of his, shows us the type of promise he showed before he got stuck playing Spidey. As Jack, Garfield plays these two sides quite well; he’s sweet and earnest as all hell, but he’s also quite scary to watch whenever it seems like he seems like he may be losing his cool. Through it all though, we feel for Jack and want him to actually be happy. Sure, his crime is almost unforgivable, but that’s why this performance, as well as the movie is so well-done.

There’s actually a case to be made here for getting past what someone did many, many years ago. As Jack, Garfield shows that while those scars may never ever heal, they’ll still be covered-up just enough so that one can move on with their life and remember the better things that make people happy to be alive. That’s why, although it is funny to watch as Jack does such things as initiate sex with his girlfriend, as well as get totally wasted at a club, it’s also quite endearing as well. He’s like a little kid, seeing the bright and beautiful things the world can offer.

Which is why when the harsh realities of the world come crashing down on him, it’s heartbreakingly tragic.

"Don't play Peter Parker, son. The first movie will be alright, but after that, just nope."

“Don’t play Peter Parker, son. The first movie will be alright, but after that, just nope.”

While I won’t get into too much of what occurs during the final-act, I’ll just say that the movie becomes very dark, serious and upsetting, which sometimes, and other times, doesn’t. For one, Boy A gets awfully melodramatic, which isn’t something I thought it could get. While the first two-halves of this are, for the most part, like a thoughtful, but precise character-study, the last half is, as much as it pains me to say, almost like a soap opera. Not to mention that, sadly, it ends on a cliff-hanger that feels completely random and a bit of a cheat. This is why, despite all the greatness within Boy A, it’s hard for me to run to the highest mountain, praising my love and adoration for it.

But still though, I always come back to the performance. Not just Garfield’s, though, as Peter Mullan, who plays Jack’s mentor, as well as his sort-of parole officer, is especially great to watch. There’s a certain degree of heart and pleasantness to this character that, honestly, Mullan doesn’t always get to play with. Don’t get me wrong, nobody does slime quite like Mullan, but it’s also neat to see him play somebody that not only has a conscience, but a very nice one, at that.

Like I said before, though, it’s Garfield’s show the whole way through. That’s why, with 99 Homes already out and about, and with upcoming Martin Scorsese’s Silence, it’s exciting to see Garfield back to his more dramatic-roots, giving us more and more showings of just what kind of talent he actually is. While it’s always been there throughout his whole career, he’s finally going back to it, But if people ever feel like they want to know what the hell I’m going on about, just watch Boy A.

You’ll be surprised, as well as happy.

Consensus: Boy A may have a bit of an odd ending, but features an amazing performance from Andrew Garfield, as well as an interesting look at the life of someone we may not always understand, but see live his life. Heartbreak, happiness and all.

8 / 10

Childhood: Where it all begins.

Childhood: Where it all begins.

Photos Courtesy of: Vagabond’s Movie Screenshots, Indiewire, Masculinity Movies

Shallow Grave (1995)

ShallowposterThere’s more to life than friends. Like money, baby!

Three ordinary, middle-class friends (Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, Ewan McGregor) all share a flat together and, generally, seem to be having a good time. However, they’re are in search for a flat-mate who they can hopefully sponge off of when the time comes around. They search through some – most of whom, they make fun of and tease for being lame – until they eventually settle on a person that they feel safe enough to have around in the house. This silent man (Keith Allen) eventually settles in and, wouldn’t you know it? Within a day of his residency, the dude’s already OD’ed on a bunch drugs, leaving behind his naked-body, his belongings, and most importantly, a briefcase full of cold hard cash. Seeing as how they don’t want to lose the money, the three pals decide to get rid of the man by dismembering him and burying what’s left of the body. Surely, they think this is a smart idea that will leave them alone with nobody else, but themselves and all of the money they get a chance to spend, right? Well, time begins to roll on and it becomes clear that the money’s starting to change these friends for the worst, and will continue to do so, until it’s probably too late.

"Can't a man get a little privacy every once and awhile!"

“Can’t a man get a little privacy every once and awhile!”

It’s difficult to judge a director’s debut after having seen everything else they’ve had to bring to the table. Especially when that director’s Danny Boyle. Because obviously, in the past two decades or so, Boyle has turned out to be one of the most vibrant, exciting and interesting directors on this planet. Not only does he find new stories to work with, he also never seems to make the same movie twice. While most may seem like they’re going to be one thing, all of a sudden, about half-way through, Boyle himself decides that he’s bored and switches up genres.

This is the Danny Boyle us movie-fanatics have all come to know and love, which is why it’s a bit of a shame to look at his first film and realize that, well, he wasn’t always this great?

Sure, the Beach is a perfect example of Boyle-gone-wrong, but Shallow Grave still stands as his first film. So, with that said, yeah, it’s pretty messy. Like I mentioned before about Boyle liking to change genres up about half-way through his flicks, he does so here, but it’s not all that effective, nor is it really believable. That these three characters are as normal, plain and simple as you can get, the fact that they start to turn into wild, crazy and downright evil loonies, doesn’t make all that much sense. It would make sense if the movie ever made a mention of any of these character’s having something of a dark history or past, but because Boyle doesn’t seem all that interested in actually giving us a chance to know who these characters are, it just seems random and as if Boyle had a premise he needed to fulfill.

This isn’t to say that Boyle doesn’t make Shallow Grave worth watching, or better yet, fun, but after awhile, the style can run a bit deep. The camera, as expected from Boyle by now, zooms, runs, flies, and jumps all around scenes, and also gives plenty of beautiful moments that only the eyes of Boyle could have found. There’s a certain creepiness to the way the outside world is shown in such brooding darkness, that when we do eventually find ourselves in these people’s bright, shiny and lovely-looking apartment, it’s effective. It does drive home the point that Boyle wants to make with this story about how rich, fame and fortune can make anybody sell their souls and turn evil, but that falls on deaf-ears once all of the blood and gore comes around in the final-act.

Nobody in the cast is really to be blamed for that much, either.

Imagine those kids living on top of you.

Imagine those kids living on top of you.

It’s nice to see Eccleston, Fox and McGregor in such early, fresh-faced roles, but they do seem as if they’re trying to compensate for some of the script’s problems. Though these characters are mostly obnoxious, self-centered and unlikable, doesn’t mean that the movie itself has to be bad; there are loads of movies that focus in on/revolve around mean, nasty characters and yet, still work. However, the difference between these characters is that we never get to see anymore light shine through them than just what Boyle’s presenting. We have an idea of who these characters are early on, but eventually, the alliances start to change, revelations are made clear, and people start getting hurt. When this all begins to happen, too, there’s supposed to be a feeling of some sort of emotional or remorse for what’s about to happen, but because we don’t really get a chance to find out who it is that these characters actually are, makes all of the bloodshed feel empty.

And once again, this isn’t to say that Shallow Grave is a bad film by any chance; that it’s a movie made by the hands of Danny Boyle already puts it higher on the list of most other films. But, having seen what he’s been able to do with such solid flicks like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine (or at least half of it, anyway), 127 Hours, Trance, and hell, even the Olympics’ opening-ceremony, it makes this movie pale a lot more in comparison. He was a first-time director trying to hone his craft, work his own sense of style and make sense of it, which definitely makes the movie an interesting one to watch, but by the same token, also makes you happy that Boyle eventually got his act together not too long after this.

Although, yeah, the Beach is a terrible movie.

That’s something I will always stand by.

Consensus: Seeing as how it was his directorial-debut, Shallow Grave remains an interesting, albeit mildly interesting picture in Danny Boyle’s filmography, although it’s clear that he had to brush up on his skills quite a bit.

6 / 10

"The more champagne, the merrier", somebody has had to say.

“The more champagne, the merrier”, somebody has had to say.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Hercules (2014)

The stone age totally needed a whole lot more Rock Bottoms.

Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) was born as a demigod; meaning he was both a human, as well as powerful, immortal God. And while there have been constant stories whispered in the shadows about him and all of the numerous battles he has won, not everybody’s sure as to what the true story is. Is he a human after all, that can live and die just like us? Or, is he simply a God-like human who was put on this Earth to protect those who need him the most? He doesn’t answer that, nor does any of his long legion of trusted associates, who join him along on every mission/task he has. Their latest “adventure” of sorts, is from Cotys, King of Thrace (John Hurt) who propositions them with a hefty amount of gold, in which all they have to do is train his army to be the most ruthless, fearless army on the planet, as well as be able to help him overtake these other armies that have been ruining his various lands. Hercules doesn’t like to be considered a “mercenary”, even though he totally is, but he takes the job anyway and somehow finds himself connecting with the King’s daughter (Rebecca Ferguson) and starting to realize that something may not be all that fine with this mission. Something rather mysterious seems to be going on, actually.

Apparently, earlier in the year, there was another big-budget Hercules reboot that starred Kellan Lutz and while I heard nothing special about it, nor had any intentions of seeing it (it was January after all), it made me think about how, once again, Hollywood seemed to be running out of original/innovative ideas. Last year, it was two “secret-service-men-saves-president-from-terrorists” movie; now this year, it’s two Hercules movies. One starring a male model, the other, starring the Rock.

"Who turned the lights on?!?!?"

“Who turned the lights on?!?!?”

Which one do you think is better?

My thoughts exactly.

See, because while I do sneer at the fact that this is a movie directed by Brett Ratner, for some reason, that never bothered me during this movie. Sure, Ratner doesn’t necessarily have a certain style or trademark that allows his movies to be considered “his own” (except that most of them blow), but you know when you’re watching a movie and it happens to be bad, which as a result, also ends up being directed by Brett Ratner. So when I actually walked into this movie, I wasn’t feeling to happy. Dwayne Johnson (I guess I’ll give up and just call him that from now on) is always somebody I can smile about seeing, but Brett Ratner? No thank you very much on that!

Somehow though, the movie worked for me, which may, or may not have anything to do with the fact that Brett Ratner was the one sitting behind the camera (presumably doing cocaine off of hooker’s asses). A part of me wants to say it is, but another part of me still wants to fight it and not give into the idea that a movie coming from the sweaty, hairy palms of Brett Ratner, might actually be considered “good”. And the only reason why I highlight this fact so much, is because the movie’s a whole bunch of fun and shows that, despite his terrible reputation amongst those in the biz, Brett Ratner is capable of directing a “good” movie; better yet, he’s actually capable of a directing a “fun” movie.

And with the story of Hercules and Dwayne Johnson in the lead, you really do need some element of fun to keep everything moving surely and fine. Which, here, usually consists of us watching as Johnson lurks around the screen like the huge, HGH-fueled monster that he is, occasionally making jokes, cracking a grin, patting little aspiring boys on their heads, and, every once and a blue moon, freaking out from his troubled-past. But, for the most part, this movie just consists of him kicking ass with every inch of his square body and if you’re like me and grew up on seeing that occur on a daily basis, then yeah, this movie’s going to be a total blast for you.

If you aren’t used to seeing the People’s Champion lay the smackdown on some jabronis, then you may want to watch the 1995 Disney-animated flick. That has a lot more substance than this movie, and is perfect if you’re looking for something with more of a deeper meaning. Because here, you’re not really going to find it, although the movie totally does try and ultimately, fails. In fact, the only times where I really felt like I may have lost total interest, is exactly when the characters started talking, getting all dramatic and focusing on Hercules’ problems. I get that the movies needs those elements in order to round the character out some more and not just be an non-stop barrage of violence, action, and arrows, but it could have been done slightly better. Then again, you could say that about any movie really.

"Oh mah gawd!! From the top-rope!!"

“Oh mah gawd!! From the top-rope!!”

Like I was saying about Johnson earlier though, the man is perfectly fine as Hercules – he’s never really called on to do any heavy-lifting that may result in him popping a blood vessel or pulling a groin muscle – he’s mostly just told to look tough, be his usual charming-self whenever the script calls on it, and be willing to kick anybody’s ass. He does that oh so perfectly here, which isn’t really a surprise at all, considering he’s done it for about his whole entire career. And we, as a society, are so much better for it, too. Wrestling fans, or not.

And like how it is for Johnson in the lead role, the rest of the cast isn’t really called onto do much either. Except this time, they have to be a bit more cheery and likable. Which, when you have a supporting cast that includes the likes of John Hurt, Peter Mullan, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell, and Ian McShane, do you really expect much else? No, not really. Just like you sure as hell don’t expect Brett Ratner to make something that could be considered “good”, but hey, here we are.

The world is chock full of surprises, ain’t it?

Consensus: With Brett Ratner at the helm, and Dwayne Johnson in the lead sporting a loincloth and a club by his side, Hercules is exactly what you’d expect from it to be, except maybe a tad too heavy on the drama.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

He said he beat both Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan, but I thought he was lion.....

He said he beat both Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan, but I thought he was lion…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Session 9 (2001)

Just stay out of insane asylums. Even if you’re job is to clean them.

The plot focuses on the growing tension within an asbestos removal crew (lead by Peter Mullan) working at an abandoned mental asylum that’s already pretty freaky as it is but hey, they need the bonus money so why the eff not?!?!

Co-writer/director Brad Anderson is most known for his ultra-creep-o flicks like The Machinist, Vanishing on 7th Street, and Transsiberian, but can you believe that he never started out in that genre. Nope, this was his first movie after he did two rom-coms and it’s a real surprise now knowing that this guy can go from making lovely little tales of romance, to sick, twisted tales of paranoia and psychos. You are one, crazy mothereffer, Mr. Anderson.

Anybody going into this horror flick expecting all of these guys to go into this mental asylum and start hacking one another up into tiny pieces, will most likely definitely be disappointed. Anderson does not care about that type of horror and instead, builds and builds on the atmosphere and tension of this flick to fully get us immersed in just what the hell is going on behind these freaky, closed-doors. It’s a horror film that doesn’t show you much, but has you continuously thinking the whole time as to what the hell is going to happen next and why is everybody acting so weird with one another. There’s many answers to that question, but you still never know until that final twist comes out of nowhere and grabs you right by the throat. Anderson always has a knack for doing that, and that idea is no different here, either.

But what really sets this film apart from all of those other, spooky horror flicks, is the setting that still gives me creeps to this day. The abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts is where Anderson shot this whole flick and it provides a very strange, a very weird, and a very creepy subtext for the whole film. Every single shot in this film just oozes tension as this place literally looks like it’s about to fall-apart any second now, and these guys are stuck trying to re-built it. Apparently Anderson and his crew didn’t really have to change anything up whatsoever in this abandoned hospital, and just left everything around and filmed along with it. That makes it even creepier to know that this hospital looked exactly the same before these guys showed-up, when they showed-up, and after they left. I wonder if it’s still up, cause if so, I think I know of the next place me and my buddies are going next for “haunted house hunting”. Yeah, I know we’re lame but we’re 19, what you gonna do?

However, as creepy as this setting was, something about the movie as a whole just felt off. I will say that this is one of those rare horror movies that focuses on the atmospherics but if you look at it from a real, horror movie standpoint, there isn’t much here that’s worth scaring you. Yeah, it’s tense and creepy but nothing ever jumped out at me, nothing ever made me feeling like I can’t go to sleep, and nothing really that dark or sadistic stayed in my mind long after the movie was gone. There was this one, phenomenal shot that takes place in a hall-way with the lights going out, one-by-one, in a weird-fashion, but that’s all I can really remember that terribly freaked me out and that wasn’t even what I originally imagined. Basically, you can be as freaky and creepy as you want, but you got to have some scares here and there to really keep my horror-self going.

The lack of scares, is something I put the blame on Anderson for because the guy plays it too subtle here. I get that the guy doesn’t want to give too much away and just wants this setting and story to linger-on into our minds, until we can’t take it anymore but it doesn’t really work that way here. Instead, we get way too many shots of random scenery that does look freaky, I’ll give it that, but that’s pretty much it and by the 5th time Anderson pulled this move, I was about to just give up and fall asleep. Trust me, there were plenty of other times when I could have just called it a day and dozed off right on this film, but I chose not to and stayed alive, but still, Anderson was not helping with that one-bit. So maybe, just maybe, drinking a little 5-hour energy beforehand won’t kill you either.

Thankfully, Anderson the fact that Anderson tried hard to play it low-key, didn’t effect the performances here because everybody still knocks it out of the park, much like I expected. David Caruso is good and charming as Phil Cronenburg, the guy who knows what to do, how to do it, and when to get it all done. He’s basically acting like he’s in another episode of NYPD Blue, but instead, is placed inside of a crumbling hospital, rather than the crook-filled streets of NYC. Peter Mullan is good as the weird, headmaster of this whole operation, Gordon Fleming, but the problem I had with him was that it seemed like almost everything he said, came out in a stutter or a piece of language that I just didn’t understand. It wasn’t really a problem with the film, as it’s more of a problem with him and the way his Scottish accent never really left the role. Then, there’s Josh Lucas as Hank, the d-bag that stole Caruso’s girl and isn’t as one-dimensional here as he usually is in flicks. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is still a total d-bag here, he’s just one that has a bit of a humane side to him that makes you realize that the guy is just a regular human-being, who is still a jerk none the less.

Consensus: Session 9 may not satisfy all of your horror-loving needs with it’s lack of blood, gore, and showy-presentation, but still hits it’s tension hard with an eerie sense of suspense, dread, and no clue as to what’s going to happen next to these characters and the setting they’re involved with.

7/10=Rental!!

War Horse (2011)

Damn this kid really loves this horse. I mean he reaaaaaaaaaally loves this horse.

This is a tale of a horse named Joey who is remarkable that he starts off just a little guy in England to then be transported off into the war in France. His owner, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) goes all-over-the-world to come and find him as Joey goes throughout the world, meeting new people and gaining new life experiences.

What director Steven Spielberg has always been able to do is tug at our heart-strings no matter what the story may be. Here, he tries a little too hard for that but in the end it’s too hard to hate on a Spielberg.

The problem right off the bat with this flick was that it gets very corny, very early. You get these moments where we see just how amazing Joey is as he can row out a field, or follow his owner just by hearing a simple bird-call, or even just by walking over a piece of wood and then a huge sweeping score comes in just to let you know how magical and beautiful these moments are when in reality they are just plain and simply cheesy. I think I got the fact that Joey was a horse that was unlike any other, after about the first 10 minutes but the film just kept hammering away at this and it becomes an annoyance after awhile.

Another problem with this flick that I actually think Spielberg ran into himself was the idea of how and who was going to make this appeal to everyone. On one hand you have this very emotional story about a horse who goes through everything that is adapted from a Tony-winning Broadway play, but on the other hand you also have this very grim and disturbing tale with soldiers being killed left-and-right and horses being put away in a not so happy matter after there is no use for them anymore. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s pretty hard to center a film out there that seems like it’s for the whole family, when you have these certain darker moments that may scare away the younger people of the family.

This problem is what leads Spielberg to making a very tame film that gets by with clichés and eye-rolling moments. Take for instance the scenes between the grandfather (Niels Arestrup) with his granddaughter are scenes filled with dialogue that should be playful and come out a bit corny especially when the grandfather tells her a story about a bird flying home, which seemed totally cheesy especially considering the fact that the grandfather was kind of being a dick to her also. There are also plenty of other moments where this film just totally flames you with the manipulative moments that are supposed to make you feel something incredible but instead usually just make you want to punch whoever wrote this film.

However, when it comes to Spielberg, this guy always seems to come out on top no matter what it is that he does. The one element to this film that makes it the most watchable throughout all of these cheesy moments is the beautiful look this film has. Spielberg gives this film the epic scenery it deserves and with so many beautiful colors coming at you in every scene, it’s almost too hard to look away. Spielberg is not only just great in showing how beautiful this film can be but also very gritty as the film starts to get darker as we get more into the war which not only show Spielberg’s fine attention to detail but also how he is able to actually capture the feel of WWII but also WWI, which means that the Vietnam War is only about two movies away from being covered.

The film also shows that even though Spielberg tries to manipulate the hell out of his audiences, he still has that sympathetic bone in his body to make us care about what he is showing us on screen. The whole story basically shows Joey being the horse-version of ‘Forrest Gump’, going from one owner to another and each story somehow getting better and better as it goes on. What this horse Joey goes through is hard to watch sometimes but always made me feel something not just by how great he is, but just how useful he is even though he’s just viewed at as another horse. I’m not going to try to get into the whole “all living things should be treated the same” speech that it seems like I’m leading myself into but regardless of that, the story of Joey will make you feel something deep down inside of you and it’s all thanks to Spielberg because he always knows how to make anybody feel something.

It seems like every person who has seen this film or reviewed it is mentioning the no-man’s land scene between the British soldier and the German soldier where they meet to free Joey from barbed-wire and it really is worth mentioning apart from this flick. This scene is probably one of the best that has been in a Spielberg film in the past 10 years and it shows just how well he is able to show two conflicts being calmed down or resolved just by simply taking it easy or even just coming together to help a certain someone or something that may be in harm’s way. It’s a very powerful scene and one that makes this stand-out from recent war films.

Something else that Spielberg does here that really works is how he barely uses any big-names for his cast but that works incredibly well for the film since it keeps our minds on Joey. Jeremy Irvine is good as Albert and gives him this innocent boy act that works and makes us feel for his character when him and Joey actually get separated; Emily Watson is probably the most familiar face as his mother, and she’s great as well; and Tom Hiddleston is also very good as Captain Nicholls, even though some people may not be able to get past the fact that it’s Loki playing a British war Captain. There are many other performers here but nobody else that really stands out except for Irvine, and even he isn’t anything all that memorable.

Consensus: War Horse is heavy-handed, corny, and built on upon tons and tons of clichés, but somehow Spielberg is able to make this story heart-warming with a beautiful look, and some very good scenes that will make you feel more for this story as it goes along.

7.5/10=Rental!!