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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 Sarsgaard

Year of the Dog (2007)

Save the animals. Don’t save yourself.

Peggy (Molly Shannon) seems to have a pretty normal and relatively safe life going for her. She’s surrounded by friends and family, as well as her beloved beagle that she cares for each and every chance she gets. She’s not married and doesn’t have any kids of her own, so basically, it’s her one and only responsibility. But after the beagle dies, Peggy soon begins to look for all sorts of ways to fill the void in her life. This leads her to getting involved with people she doesn’t quite care for, watching over her friends’ kids, and also doing other monotonous tasks that only a person in the sort of funk she’s in, would ever be bothered with. But then, Peggy gets the grand idea: “Save” all of the dogs in the world. Meaning, it’s time that she doesn’t just adopt one dog, or hell, even two, but maybe like, I don’t know, 15 at a time. Why, though? Is it grief? Or is just because Peggy literally wants to save every dog in the world and believes that she can, slowly by surely, dog-by-dog?

That’s how it all starts: With just one dog.

One of the great things about Mike White and his writing is that no matter how zany, or silly, or downright wacky his characters and their stories can get, he always has a certain love and respect that never seems to go away. In the case of the Year of the Dog, with Peggy, we see a generally goofy, sad, lonely little woman who seems like she could easily just be the punchline to every joke. And, for awhile at least, that’s what she is; Year of the Dog is the kind of movie that likes to poke fun at its main protagonist, while also realizing that there are people out there in the real world just like her and rather than making fun, maybe we should just accept them.

While, of course, also making jokes at their expense.

But still, that’s why White’s writing is so good here – he knows how to develop this character in small, interesting and actual funny ways, without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard. The comedy can verge on being “cringe”, but in a way, White actually dials it back enough to where we get a sense for the languid pacing and it actually works. We begin to realize that the movie isn’t really as slow, as much as it’s just taking its time, allowing us to see certain aspects of Peggy’s life and those around her.

Hey, guys! Here’s Peter Sarsgaard playing a normal human being! Wow!

It also helps give us more time to pay close-attention to Molly Shannon’s great work as Peggy, once again showing us why she’s one of the more underrated SNL talents to ever come around. It’s odd because when she was on that show, Shannon was mostly known for being over-the-top and crazy, but in almost everything that she’s touched since, including this, the roles have mostly stayed down-played and silent. You can almost sense that she’s maybe trying to prove a point, but you can also tell that she’s just genuinely trying to give herself a challenge as an actress and show the whole world what she can do.

And as Peggy, she does a lot, without it ever seeming like it. It’s a very small, subtle performance, but there’s a lot to watch here, what with the character’s constant quirks and oddities, making her actually a very compelling presence on the screen. We don’t know what she’s going to do next, or to whom, and for that, she’s always watchable and constantly keeping this movie interesting, even when it seems like nothing is happening.

But that’s sort of the beauty about a Mike White film: Nothing seems as if it’s happening, but in a way, everything is.

Consensus: With a solid lead performance from Shannon, Year of the Dog gets by despite some odd quirks, but also remembers to keep its heart and humor.

7 / 10

I think everyone aspires to have this car, with all these same types of furry friends in it.

Photos Courtesy of: Plan B Entertainment

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Jackie (2016)

Thanks for the fashion tips. Now, get out!

After the tragic and sudden assassination of her husband, First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) has to deal with a lot over a certain period of time. For one, she has to ensure that the rest of her family is alright. Secondly, she has to make sure that her husband’s funeral isn’t just one of the most memorable of any other assassinated President before him, but the best ever. And then, yes, she’s also got to do her absolute hardest to hold onto her sanity, even when it seems like this certain situation in particular wouldn’t call for it. However, no matter how bad life gets, all that Jackie wants is for her husband’s legacy to live on, regardless of what sort of mistakes he made in the past.

Jackie may seem, on paper, like your traditional, ordinary biopic of someone that we think we know so much about, but in all honesty, actually don’t, however, it’s anything but. What director Pablo Larrain does here with Jackie’s story is that he frames it in a way where we get to see small, fleeting glimpses into her life, through certain parts of it, as opposed to getting the rags-to-riches story that we so often get hit with. And sure, there’s nothing wrong with the kinds of biopics that take on those structures to tell their story and to tell a little more about their subject, but with Jackie, an odd structure actually works, as it not only has us feel closer to her than ever before, but also see what really lied beneath the legend.

We still see you.

We still see you.

Sure, most people think of Jackie as this reversed, sometimes not-all-that-bright women who was just lucky to marry the man who would eventually be President of the United States, and a fashion icon, but the movie shows us that there’s much more to her than that. We see that she not just cared about preserving the legacy of the past Presidents who came before her own husband, but also wanted to carve out a legacy for herself as well; rather than just being seen as this harpy wife who stood by her husband, even while he was off, strutting his stuff with many other women, she wanted to be seen, be remembered, or at the very least, be thought of as someone who was intelligent and cared all about the appearances of her and those around her. It’s actually very interesting to see this side to her, as we get a clearer understanding of what her real, actual beliefs and aspirations were, and end up sympathizing with her a whole lot more.

Okay sure, it’s not that hard to sympathize with a woman who has literally just lost her husband right slap dab in front of her, but still, Larrain crafts this story awfully well.

It’s odd though, because while even just focusing on her so much may already seem sympathetic, Larrain still asks a whole lot more questions about her, than he does answer. Like, for instance, why did she stay by her husband for all those philandering years? Was it all for show? And speaking of the show she put on, did she actually care so much about past Presidents, or did she just use that all as a way to show that she was so much more than the First Lady? The movie brings the questions up, never answers them, but at the very least, it does show that Larrain isn’t afraid to question his subject more than actually glamorize her and for all that she was able to do while in the White House.

Damn journalists. Always ruining the sorrow and grief of famous widows.

Damn journalists. Always ruining the sorrow and grief of famous widows.

And as Jackie, Natalie Portman is quite great, however, it does take awhile for it to get like this. Because Jackie herself had such a mannered, controlled and signature way of speaking and presenting herself with those around her, Portman has to do a lot of weird and awkward-sounding pronunciations throughout the whole flick. Her first few scenes with Billy Crudup’s character are incredibly distracting and make it seem like it’s going to overtake the whole movie, but it does get better after awhile, especially when we see her actually show emotion and use her persona to make the situations around her better. Sure, Portman gets to do a lot of crying, smoking, drinking and yelling, but it all feels right and not just another Oscar-bait, showy performances that we so often get around this time.

And while it is definitely Jackie’s story, a lot of others still get attention to paid them as well, like with Peter Sarsgaard’s incredibly sympathetic take on Bobby Kennedy. While he doesn’t always use the accent, regardless, Sarsgaard does sink deep into this character and become someone who is almost more interesting than Jackie, only because we don’t get to spend every single waking moment of the run-time with him. In a way, there’s a certain air of mystery to him where we aren’t really sure what his motives are, how he actually does feel about his brother’s death, and just what the hell he wants to do now with his life.

Somewhere, there’s a Bobby Kennedy biopic to be made and if so, Sarsgaard ought to be there.

Although, yeah, that damn Bobby title’s already been taken.

Consensus: Smart, insightful and compelling, Jackie presents us with an interesting look into the life of its famous subject, while never forgetting to show the possible negative sides to who this person may have really been.

8 / 10

You look great, Natalie. You don't need three mirrors to prove it.

You look great, Natalie. You don’t need three mirrors to prove it.

Photos Courtesy of: Silver Screen Riot

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

It takes one to ruin a village. And about six more so blow it the hell up.

Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) has been taking over small towns, wiping out any man, woman, or child who comes into his way. Why? Because he’s an absolute savage and does not give a single hell what anybody else thinks, says, or does – as long as he’s rich and powerful, then there’s no issues. Eventually, he seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek, wiping out quite a few of the townsfolk there, too, leading some residents, like Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) desperate and in need of some help. That’s when they discover bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who is more than up to the task, but may need a little bit of help from some talented, incredibly violent pals of his. That’s when he recruits the likes of a gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), an assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), all to take down this Bogue, even if they have to get over their differences and whatnot at first – something that’s actually quite easy when they all have a common enemy.

Possibly the beginning of a great friendship? Let's hope.

Possibly the beginning of a great friendship? Let’s hope.

The original Magnificent Seven isn’t a perfect movie, to be honest. Like a lot of other movies from its time, sure, it’s dated, but it’s also pretty slow and takes a little too long to get going, when all it seems to do is focus on such icons like Steve McQueen and Yul Brenner measuring dicks and beating their chests like true alpha males. Sure, that’s some bit of entertainment in and of itself, but after nearly an hour of that, there needs to be something to help speed it all along, which is why when the action does eventually come around in that movie, it’s glorious and a healthy reminder of what sort of magic can happen when you have a lot of bad-asses, picking up guns and shooting other bad-asses.

So yeah, in that sense, it’s a good movie, but not a perfect one.

And the same goes for the remake, which for some reason, takes even longer to get going. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t mind that as much here, as it’s very clear that director Antoine Fuqua, is just enjoying his time with this cast and these characters so much, that to jump right to the action where most of them may go down in a blaze full of bullets, would almost be a disservice to them all. Fuqua isn’t the best director out there, regardless of the fact that he drove Denzel Washington an Oscar with Training Day, but when he decides to settle all of his crazy tendencies down, believe it or not, he’s actually a pretty solid director. He may love the blood, gore, guns, and women a whole lot more than the actual characters themselves, but he does something smart here in that he keeps the character moments here for safe keeping.

Of course, too, it also helps that Fuqua himself has such a solid cast to help him out, with his pal Washington back in action as the sly, but cool and dangerous Sam Chisolm. Washington may seem like a weird fit, but he works it all out perfectly, showing that he’s the clear-headed individual of the whole group, while also proving that he’s not afraid to lose his cool and shoot some mofo’s down, too. Chris Pratt is also a bundle of joy to watch Faraday, showing off another sense of cool and charm that works in his character’s favor, as well as for him, too. It’s nice to see Pratt, even after something like Jurassic World, that didn’t allow for him to even crack a smile, well, get a chance for him to do that and prove that there’s also something a little more sinister to him, as well.

Yeah, where's Eli Wallach? Oh, never mind.

Yeah, where’s Eli Wallach? Oh, never mind.

The rest of the cast and characters don’t get nearly as much attention, but they’re all still fine, nonetheless.

Ethan Hawke has some interesting moments as Robicheaux, showing a serious side effect to all of the gun-slinging and killing that he talks so famously about; Vincent D’Onofrio is goofy and weird as Jack Horne, a big bear of a man, but it’s right up his alley; Byung-hun Lee is cold and dangerous Billy Rocks, even if he doesn’t have a whole lot to say; Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is probably the weakest of the crew as Vasquez, never quite getting the chance to really show off any charm or excitement; and Martin Sensmeier, while barely uttering a line as the Red Harvest, is still a pretty intimidating figure nonetheless and it works.

The only shame about the movie is the inclusion of both Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgaard. Nothing against either performer, who both do fine jobs here, but it also feels like they may have been a little tacked-on. Bennett literally has a leading role here and honestly, a part of me wanted to believe that she’d be one of the so-called Seven, all sexist issues aside, but sadly, that doesn’t happen and she’s lead to just be the smart gal who, yes, can take care of herself and yes, can shoot a gun, but also doesn’t feel like she’s that part of the crew. And Sarsgaard, enjoying his time as a campy villain, doesn’t have many scenes to show off all of his evil tendencies and instead, seems like an afterthought in the movie’s mind; so much time is spent on the Seven, their dynamic and their training for this battle, that the movie forgets the actual threat himself, which is Sarsgaard’s Bogue.

Still, the final battle itself is solid and saves any sort of bad feelings going into this ending. It’s bloody, brutal and surprisingly, unpredictable, with a few people biting the dust that you wouldn’t expect to. It’s nice to see a mainstream movie not afraid to take off some famous people’s heads, while, at the same time, still have the chance to offer up a sequel in the near-future.

Would I see it? Probably. Just give me a better next time.

And no, I’m not talking about Marvel.

Consensus: With a talented and more than capable cast, the Magnificent Seven works as an entertaining, sometimes incredibly violent Western that’s a lot like the original, but also feels more concerned with characters this time, even if the villain himself doesn’t appear all that much of a threat.

7 / 10

Yeah, I'd turn around, too.

Yeah, I’d turn around, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Rendition (2007)

How sad is it when the only thing you remember from a movie is the water-boarding?

Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a CIA analyst based in North Africa is forced to question his assignment after he witnesses the brutal and unorthodox interrogation of an Egyptian-American by secret North African police. Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) is an Egyptian-American chemical engineer whose family emigrated to the States when he was a boy, and who is now suspected of a terrorist act. And his very pregnant wife Isabella El-Ibrahimi (Reese Witherspoon), does everything in her power to find her missing husband. All three stories are connected in strange, if tragic ways.

"You can trust me. I've never played anyone sinister before."

“You can trust me. I’ve never played anyone sinister before.”

Whether or not you agree or disagree with the act the U.S. Government calls, “Extraordinary Rendition”, is not relevant, hell, it’s not even needed to understand or appreciate this movie anymore. It’s basically just a way for Hollywood to preach and say how they are so against the war in Iran and how George Bush is a big, old dummy. There’s no issue with these statements, but when it seems like that’s all your movie’s got to say or do, then you don’t really have a movie.

You just have a soap-box you can’t get off of.

It’s safe to say that Rendition‘s plot is, for the most part, intriguing and deals with all sorts of political questioning and intrigue that makes political-thrillers like this so appealing. Taking all of these different stories, from different continents and having them all make a lick of a difference of how they all connect, is what keeps the interest-factor of this alive and well for about the first 30 minutes or so. Director Gavin Hood is a skilled-enough guy to make it seem like he has a clear head and idea of what he wants to do and where he wants to go, but also what he wants to talk about.

Hood shows that, while our anti-terrorist tactics in America may be considered “necessary” they are, in no ways, the most pitch perfect way to infiltrate any terrorist or their activities. In ways, just picking up a person off the street because of what they look like, torturing them, prodding, teasing them, and having them think that they are terrorists, well, believe it or not, can sometimes create terrorists in the first place. While there’s plenty of torture-sequences that go a bit far and beyond what you’d expect from a glitzy, glamorous Hollywood production, it still serves enough of a purpose to matter in what Rendition, the movie, is trying to get across.

Which is why the next two hours seem like a total slog.

Pondering the day of when he'll win an Oscar.

Pondering the day of when he’ll win an Oscar.

But what’s worse about Rendition is how it seems like it had a lot more going for it, but for some reason, none of that’s to be found in the two-hours-and-two-minute run-time. For instance, certain plots go unresolved and there actually seems to be more questions, than actual answers in the long-run. Some of this may have to do with the fact that the studio wanted to trim down some of the run-time to not scare people away, but really, the damage can kind of already be done. Those who veer-off in the leftie territory, may still find themselves a bit troubled with how far this movie goes with it’s preaching, to where it seems like its main concern is letting people know how it feels, and less about actually telling a real, compelling story.

This is all the more of a shame, due to the fact that the cast here is actually pretty solid and definitely deserves better.

Jake Gyllenhaal really nails the part of the young, brash CIA agent that can’t get past the fact of all the crazy stuff he’s seeing right in front of him and it’s another great role for an actor that was really climbing the totem pole at the time. Now, on the other hand, everybody knows what to expect from the guy and that’s pretty cool considering this is Donnie Darko we are all talking about here. Reese Witherspoon has top-billing here as the wife of Anwar El-Ibrahimi, but doesn’t do much mainly because she is probably in the film for 20 minutes. That didn’t bother me much, mainly because every time she’s onscreen, she really seems like she’s struggling to be taken seriously and it even gets to the point of where she’s just screaming at the top of her lungs, “WHERE IS MY HUSBAND!?!?!?”.

Yeah, sorry gal. No Oscar for you this time around.

Peter Sarsgaard is probably the most memorable out of the whole cast, since he really does seem like a genuinely nice guy (change of pace for the dude), and one that feels really convicted of doing the right thing, regardless of how much trouble it will get him in with the higher-ups. Sarsgaard is always great with every role he’s given and he’s probably the most believable character out of the whole bunch, mainly because his problem can’t be as solved easily. Meryl Streep seems like she’s tailor-made for the queen bitch role as Corrine Whitman, a powerful women that makes men soil themselves with the sound of her voice, and as good as she may be with this role, it still feels like a bit of an undercooked character, that could have been used so much more and so much better than what she really was. Alan Arkin also shows up and does his thing, and that’s not so bad, but it’s kind of a waste of a dude that literally won an Oscar a year before this even came out.

Consensus: Rendition deals with plenty of interesting ideas about the then-current political world, but really, despite a solid cast, doesn’t fully come together.

6 / 10

Two vets who clearly just had some vacation time on their hands.

Two vets who clearly just had some vacation time on their hands.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Experimenter (2015)

Doesn’t matter how many volts it is, being shocked freakin’ hurts!

In 1961, famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) concocted a psychological experiment that, on the surface, seemed simple and easy, but once looked at deep enough, turned out to be quite disturbingly complex. What Milgram would do in this research study, was have one person be on one side of a glass door, get them strapped-up to a machine that delivered electric shocks and have the other person involved with the study ask them to reiterate phrases that they say. If the person on the other side of the door got it wrong, the person in control of the electrical volts were supposed to deliver as high of a shock as they were instructed to do so, no matter how much pain or anguish the person on the other side of the door sounded, or better yet, appeared to be in. Obviously, people question what to do next and whether or not to deliver the shock because, what they think at least, is that the other person is being shocked, nearly to death – little do they know is that said person being shocked-to-death, isn’t actually being shocked at all and is just testing to see how far and willing these subjects are able to go with the shocks.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that. Or in general.

And that, my friends, is what we call in the psychology biz, “the Milgram Experiment“.

Everything about the whole Milgram Experiment and the ideas about humans that it brings up is actually pretty interesting. Milgram, as he tells us quite often throughout, is trying to test the limits of just how far humans will go when they are given, as plainly defined, an assignment; while nobody apart of the experiment may actually be bad people who enjoy inflicting cruel and unusual punishment onto random strangers, at the same time, they’re given this assignment to do and have to keep with it, no matter what. So of course, they trudge on along and continue to zap, and zap, and zap away at the other subject, without wholly fighting the system that is telling them to do so.

If this sounds a whole lot like the Nazis well then, you hit the nail right on the head. Milgram himself, as he tells us constantly throughout the movie, tells us that his parents were apart of the concentration camps before they came to America and it’s interesting to see how this needle-and-thread narrative constantly gets weaved-in throughout, even while we’re learning of just what kind of person Milgram actually was. While writer/director Michael Almereyda has a lot to work with here, in terms of handling the biopic-form of this person’s life, as well as throwing that person’s own ideas into the narrative, he doesn’t lose himself on the material, either.

At the same time, however, it’s hard not to watch Experimenter as two different movies into one, with one being definitely far more interesting and better than the other.

But still, even the one that is off worse, isn’t terrible. The only issue with the part of the movie focusing on Milgram’s personal life, is that Milgram himself, isn’t all that intriguing of a person to begin with. Sure, the studies he concocts are, but overall, him as a person, is quite dry and uneventful, which calls into question why we needed such a film dedicated to telling his whole story, and less about the study itself. Of course, Almereyda does fine with showing us plenty of the study happening, but it’s sometimes so effective and compelling to watch, that it’s not hard to wish that it was just the whole film, with Milgram occasionally looking towards the camera to talk to us.

See? Winona doesn't even trust him.

See? Winona doesn’t even trust him.

Still though, Almereyda does some neat things with the biopic-form, in that he definitely understands that the material he’s working with isn’t all that exciting or eye-popping, so instead, he finds ways to make it so. There’s a random scene about half-way through where Milgram and his wife are driving in front of what’s clearly a walled-in background, but for some reason, it’s done on purpose. It’s meant to campy, odd, dated, and over-the-top, but so is the rest of the film, which doesn’t totally work, but is still interesting to think about and wonder why, among everything else, why Almereyda decided to do such a thing?

Is he trying to say something about people’s perceptions? Or, is he just trying to keep our minds off of material that’s not really all that strong to begin with?

Either way, it doesn’t matter because it makes Experimenter a bit more watchable than it probably could have been had it just focused in on Milgram, his life, and leaving it at that. This isn’t to say that Sarsgaard doesn’t do a fine job in the role of Milgram, as he has that perfect blend for dull weirdness, but at the same time, it’s hard not to imagine what could have happened to this character, had there been maybe more to him. We see him act around his family and such, just as he does at the office and none of it’s really intriguing; his studies may be, but he himself, isn’t really something to speak about, let alone see a whole movie about.

Again though, Experimenter isn’t a very long movie. At nearly an-hour-and-a-half, it moves on by, showing us all the study, making us wonder what we’d do in the same position, and providing plenty of food-for-thought about the whole human race. Will it have you not trusting people for the rest of your days? Maybe, not maybe not. But either way, it’s worth checking out, if only because it will bring some energy to your brain during the dead of winter that is January.

Consensus: Though it’s two movies into one, Experimenter brings up enough interesting questions and ideas about the human condition that makes it worthwhile to look past some of the flaws in its narrative.

6 / 10

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they're not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they’re not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Pawn Sacrifice (2015)

How Bobby Fischer was everyday of his life, is exactly how I get when I enter a movie theater.

Ever since he was a little boy, Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) has always loved the game of chess. He’s also been incredibly paranoid about everything, too, but that’s done more to enhance his skills as a chess-player than actually hinder it. As he got older, Bobby became more and more known as a genius and gained a whole lot of notoriety – most of which, he wasn’t able to deal with. But the peak in his career/life came during the rise of the Cold War, when he challenged the Soviet Union and their best player, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), to a series of chess matches. Though the Russians agreed, Bobby still felt as if the games were being rigged in ways that went against him and it’s what ultimately made him a tragic-figure in the media. Though everybody wanted to tout him as an “American hero”, Bobby just wanted to be left alone and pushed away from the rest of the society he viewed as “Commies”. This not only pushed away those who were most close to him, but also ruined his skill as a magnificent chess-player.

He's crazy.

He’s crazy.

The crazy, unusual life of Bobby Fischer is an interesting one that, sadly, not too many directors have tried to tackle. It seems as if because his antics were so erratic and controversial, that to just make a movie solely based on him and his antic tirades would lead to be nothing more than just that. However, Edward Zwick and his crew of writers (Steven Knight, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson) try to make amends for that mistake in giving us a sorta-biopic of Fischer, his upbringing, and his momentous chess bouts against the Soviet Union.

There’s a slew of other characters to pay attention to, of course, but still, it’s Fischer’s story we get.

And as Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire is solid. Maguire gets a bad rap for not being the best actor out there, which isn’t something I wholly agree with; while he’s definitely not shown a huge amount of range over the years, he’s still proven to be a fine presence in movies that he’s just coasting-by in (the Great Gatsby), or when he has to act like a total and complete nut (Brothers). His performance as Fischer is a whole lot more of the later and it works; once we see Fischer grow up into becoming Maguire, he’s a whole heck lot more frantic, manic, and strange, and it’s something that Maguire can play quite well.

You’d think that three movies playing someone as nerdy and straight-laced as Peter Parker would make Maguire into a dull specimen, but thankfully, for him, as well as the movie itself, it didn’t.

Everybody else in this movie is fine, too and ensure that Maguire doesn’t steal the whole movie away from them, even if he does occasionally get the chance to do so. Peter Sarsgaard plays Catholic priest William Lombardy, one of Fischer’s fellow chess experts, who also served as one of his teachers, and gives a humane-look inside a guy who isn’t exactly what he appears. Sure, he’s wearing the same outfit that a priest would wear, but he swears, drinks, smokes, and is able to hang around Fischer, even when he seems to get so erratic, nobody in their right mind would stand-on by.

Michael Stuhlbarg shows up as Fischer’s manager of sorts and while you know he’s someone that’s not to be trusted, there’s still a feeling that he has Bobby’s best intentions at heart. He may not at all, but Stuhlbarg keeps us guessing as to what it actually is. Lily Rabe shows up as Fischer’s sister who tries to help her dear brother out as much as she can, but eventually, it becomes all too clear that the man is just too far gone to be helped, talked to, or aided in any way – which is actually a pretty sad that the movie doesn’t really touch on until the end of the movie. And though he doesn’t get a whole bunch to do, Liev Schreiber still does a nice job as Boris Spassky – someone who had no clue what to make of or how to handle Fischer, except to just play him in chess and hope for the best.

And honestly, the performances are all that’s worth to discuss here because they’re the reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Everything else about Pawn Sacrifice is as handsome and nice as you can get with a biopic, but really, that’s all it is and stays. Nothing really leaps out at you as any sort of insight into Fischer’s character or persona; he was just a wack-job that, yes, was great at the game of chess, also had plenty of issues when it came to interacting with others, his own psyche, and how to handle all of the fame that had totally blind-sided him. This, if you’ve ever known a thing or two about Fischer himself, is obvious, but the movie still tries to find other aspects to his character that haven’t been touched on yet.

He's not.

He’s not.

Problem is, they all have. So there’s nowhere else to go.

Zwick may seem interested in the political landscape surrounding Fischer at this time in his life, but he never goes anywhere further with it; there are constant conversations about Communism and conspiracy theories, but really, that’s just all of Fischer talking and no one else. Whether or not any of these accusations held true, are never said, which leads it to all just seem repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something enjoyable about watching and listening to Maguire ramble on about how the Jews, the Russians, the White House, and practically everybody else on the face of the planet, are out to get him, but after awhile, it becomes a bird that I would have been pleased to stop hear chirping.

And of course, there’s a post-script about Fischer’s later-life, how far away from society he had gone and where he had been living before he died, but it’s all too late. The movie had already focused so much time on Fischer’s life when he was younger, alive and successful – everything else was, as it seems, added-on filler. Which is a bit of a shame because this later-half of Fischer’s life would have been very interesting to see portrayed, but it doesn’t seem like the budget or time allotted it.

Shame. But I guess there’s another biopic to be made another time.

Consensus: Thanks to great performances from the cast, especially an unhinged and edgy Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice is an enjoyably, mildly interesting, but never seems to rise above being that.

7 / 10

The end.

The end.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Black Mass (2015)

Tim Burton must feel pretty useless right about now.

Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) was one of the most notorious criminals in history. He ran South Boston by his rules, which, for the most part, consisted of a lot of drugs, booze, women, and murder – actually, there was lots and lots of murder involved. But the reason why Whitey was so able to get away with all of his criminal escapades was because he aligned himself with an old pal of his, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just so happened to be part of the FBI. Because Connolly looked up to and adored Bulger, he gets the FBI to strike some sort of deal where they’ll take down all of Bulger’s enemies (the Italian mob, local kingpins, etc.), and Bulger himself will practically be able to get away with anything he wants. Nobody quite catches on to this fact just yet, but eventually, the blood-shed, the drugs, and the murders become too much and too frequent to the point of where people start to notice that something is awry with this deal between Bulger and the FBI. And it all comes down to Connolly and Bulger’s relationship; one that will ruin both of their lives forever.

"Don't you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!"

“Don’t you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!”

Finally, after a few months of sitting through some okay-to-good movies, it seems like the time has come for extraordinarily great movies to start hitting the cinemaplexes. While I am very tempted to say “Oscar season is upon us”, my better-half doesn’t want to because that seems to have recently given off a negative connotation. Rather than just being about good movies that deserve our attention, Oscar season is more about how studios finagle and manipulate their way into getting more votes and notice from the Academy, so that they can make more money, become more successful, and continue to do so for as long as they want to. And while Black Mass may not be a total Oscar-bait-y movie, through and through, it’s still a sign of good things to, hopefully, come in the next few or so months.

Oh yeah, and Johnny Depp’s pretty good in this too.

In fact, he’s really good. As good as he’s been since he started hanging around with Tim Burton. And while you could make the case that, yes, Depp is once again playing a notorious gangster (like he did in Public Enemies as John Dillinger not too long ago), there’s still something that feels different about this portrayal here that makes it seem like we’re not watching Johnny Depp playingJohnny Depp“. But instead, we’re watching Johnny Depp play Whitey Bulger, a ruthless, cut-throat, mean and sadistic crime-boss that intimidated practically everyone around him, that nobody ever dared to step up to him.

Sure, some of that has to do with the sometimes-distracting make-up job that’s trying so desperately hard to make Depp have some sort of similarities to the infamous Bulger, but Depp is so dedicated to making a character, that it works throughout the whole movie. He’s one-note for sure, but he’s so scary and terrifying to watch, even as he holds conversations that seem to go south as soon as somebody steps slightly out-of-line, that it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. Which is an all the more impressive feat when you consider that Black Mass isn’t exactly a Depp-centerpiece, as much as it’s an ensemble piece, where everybody gets their chance to show up, do some solid work, and give Depp a run for his money.

Depp may still own the movie at the end the day, but it’s an effort that’s compelling.

This is mostly evident with Joel Edgerton’s performance as John Connolly, a close friend and confidante of Bulger who, after awhile, you begin to feel bad for. Though Connolly is dirty, corrupt, and tries to avoid every idea that Bulger may get incriminated for all the wrongdoings he’s committed, there’s still something interesting to view and dissect. That Connolly looks up to Bulger more as a big brother, rather than a pal, makes it all the more clear that there’s something inherently wrong with Connolly’s own psyche, but he doesn’t own up to the fact and watching Edgerton play around with this character, showing-off all sorts of shadings, is enjoyable. It may not be as showy of a performance as Depp’s, but there’s something that sits with you long after that puts Black Mass over the hill of being more than just “an entertaining gangster pic”.

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you're an FBI agent in the 1970's, you've got to have a sweet-ass 'stache!

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you’re an FBI agent in the 1970’s, you’ve got to have a sweet-ass ‘stache!

Which is to say that, yes, Black Mass is in fact, an entertaining gangster pic. Director Scott Cooper and co-writers Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth clearly have a love for these kinds of raw, gritty, and violent gangster flicks in the same vein as Scorsese and do well in constructing a movie that’s both fun, as well as emotional. While it’s hard to really get attached to any character in particular, there’s still interesting anecdotes made about certain character’s and their lives that make it more of an interesting watch.

For instance, though she only gets a few or so scenes, Julianne Nicholson is spectacular as Connolly’s wife who, from the very beginning, doesn’t like a single thing about Whitey Bulger. While she knows he’s helping her hubby out in getting a nice promotion, she also knows that the dude’s bad news; so much so, that she won’t even bother to sit at the same dinner table as him, let alone socialize with him at a party at her own house. Though this role is clearly limited to “disapproving wife”, there’s a lot more to her in the way Nicholson portrays her that makes us want to see a whole movie dedicated to just her.

Same goes for a lot of other characters here, as well.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Bill Bulger, Whitey’s bro, is a mayor who knows that his brother is up to no good, but is so willing to push it off to the side if that means he gets to have more power, politically speaking, that it’s actually scary; Peter Sarsgaard plays a drug-dealer that gets in on Whitey’s dealings and, although a total mess, still seems like a real guy who is easy to care for; Dakota Johnson only gets a few scenes as Whitey’s wife, but sets the basis for what Whitey himself will live by until the day he died; and of course, there’s the likes of Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, W. Earl Brown, Juno Temple, and a very emotional Rory Cochrane, that all add more layers to their characters, as well as the movie itself.

Though it doesn’t make the movie great, or better yet, perfect, it still makes it a highly enjoyable, mainstream gangster pic that has more to it than meets the eyes.

Or should I say, more than just bullets that meets the eyes.

Consensus: Led by a breathtaking performance from Johnny Depp, Black Mass benefits from its stacked-ensemble, but also has plenty more to say about its characters than just guns, blood, and crime.

8 / 10

Jack Sparrow who?

Jack Sparrow who?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

KRussians love the cold, so what the heck could a little radiation do to them?

During 1961, when the Cold War was running hot and wild all over, the Russians needed a way to really hurt their enemy: the U.S. So, what they got all packed together was a newly-made submarine that packed nukes in hopes to add more blow and potentially come close to winning the war. They had a stubborn, but inspired captain (Harrison Ford), they had a co-captain that was just as inspired, but also more friendlier (Liam Neeson), and a butt-load of other fella’s that knew their way or two around a submarine, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s just say that radiation could start to leak out, infect the whole ship, and get just about everybody aboard sick or near-dying, that’s what.

I don’t know how they did it, but somehow Kathryn Bigelow and everybody else involved with the production of this flick got made, which is probably more of a sin for them, than it was a victory, since it had no chance of ever being able to connect with the mainstream, American audience. Why? Well, that’s because the story is focusing on a bunch of Russians during the Cold War, who were practically carrying weapons that were destined to hit us and us alone, while also trying to make us feel sympathy for them as each and every one started to die from the spilled radiation on-board. It does sound very strange once you get to thinking about it, but despite the cast, the crew, and the obvious, but hokey message behind it all, the movie was made, widely-released, and then got back the numbers that were apparently $35 million domestically, on a $80 million dollar budget.

"A captain always go down with his ship. Make sure somebody tells Chewwy that."

“On this mission, can I bring my trustworthy friend named Chewwy along?”

All of this number-throwing and speculation does eventually lead somewhere, and that’s to say that this is a movie that was destined for death right away. Nobody, not even the most hardcore hippie in the world wants to lay down their rights, views, or themes inside of their heads, and take some time and effort out of their days to watch a story about REAL Russians, who went through REAL problems, and actually, REALLY died. It’s asking a lot of Americans, and it came as no surprise to anyone that this movie bombed it’s ass out of the water, which should also bring up the question as to whether or not this flick was even really worth all of the hate/bombing?

Kind of, but not really.

The idea behind this movie that really keeps it moving and interesting is knowing that what you see really happened, no matter how much speculation there may or may not be. Granted, that usually comes with the material, but it’s something that is easy to forgive here since Bigelow actually seems to take a tender love and care with this material, and more or less expresses each and every one of these crew members as humans. They’re corny and one-dimensional ones, but knowing that these characters are in fact based off of real-life people, makes you feel a little bit more closer and more sympathetic to the material, even if you know that what they are dying from, most likely could have killed us, had they actually succeeded in getting to their destination. I guess that’s a spoiler but since I’m typing on this computer about this movie and you’re reading this, wherever you may be, that it isn’t totally a spoiler, as much as it’s a little tidbit that you may or may not know going on.

Okay, it’s not a spoiler! We didn’t get nuked, dammit!

Anyway, Bigelow has an assured direction and I’m surprised that despite her having an actual vagina, that her movies more or less are aimed towards men, and men alone. I mean hell, I think we only get one scene of some actual, female tail here and that’s probably for about a good two minutes or so. Everything else after those two minutes is practically dude, dude, dude and whether or not you’re the straightest dude out there in the world, then you may not want to bother with this, however, gay men will be in heaven right here, especially if they have a fetish for dudes with a Russian accent. Regardless, Bigelow’s choices for what material she wants to bring to the big-screen next is always surprising and usually impressive, considering what she does with that material once its up on the screen.

But something here tells me that I wish there was more effort along the way to make this more than just a standard flick about a bunch of dudes in a submarine that are arguing, yelling, and acting angry at one another, as they come closer and closer to death. The feeling of remorse and death is in the cold air throughout this whole movie, but it never swamped me as much as it swamped the characters in the actual flick. It just felt like I was watching people die, without barely any feeling whatsoever as to what was happening, or to whom. It just tallied-up it’s death-toll and continued to make it’s moves; almost sort of like a horror movie, but you can’t kill the slasher. He just continues to kill and kill away, no matter how hard you try to stop him or keep him away. Oh wait, that is actually a horror movie!

And it’s not like the reason I didn’t care was because I’m some political a-hole that can’t at least feel some sort of sympathy for the other side in any way, shape, or form; it’s just that the movie cares more about the submarine jargon and what these people have to do next, rather than the people themselves. That can create tension and suspense in the air, but that still doesn’t give us a lick of sympathy for these guys and in the end, it just felt like the film lost all of our hearts and minds, because it wanted to continue to rattle down what’s happening to the submarine and why, but never actually explaining it.

For instance, I don’t think I stand alone for when I say that I’m not very submarine-savvy, so, when I have a flick that’s telling me that this thing blew up in this part of the submarine, which also blew up this rod and so on and so forth, I’m practically left with my tongue half-way down my throat. I don’t know what half of these characters were saying, what it meant for them or the ship, and how they could get around the problem. I just sat there listening in, trying to understand, get a grip of what was going on, but ultimately come to the conclusion that everything everybody said was bad, bad, bad and would most likely lead to death, death, death, if they don’t get up off their asses, kick out their egos, and get to work right away. That’s what it came down to me understanding with this movie after awhile, and by “after awhile”, I mean a good hour-and-a-half. Then, I realized I had all but 40 minutes left of the movie, and I felt like I was missing out on something, somewhere around here.

But anyway, back to what I was talking about before, was the fact that this movie still got made, produced, and green-lit, despite featuring a premise that was surprisingly unheard of, especially from an American-made production. Well, one of the key reasons behind all that is mostly that Bigelow was able to rope in big star, Hollywood actors like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, who are, oddly enough, playing the two, main Russians-in-command here. It’s weird seeing both of these highly-recognizable stars don a Russian accent, but it’s even odder to see Ford because not only does the guy not do very well with the accent, but his whole act is just so polarizing to begin with.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

Think about it for a second, he’s Indiana Jones; he’s Han Solo; and hell, for God sake, he was even the President of the United States, so where the hell did the idea for this “American-hero” to be portraying a Russian that not only protected his country til the day he died, but also to any cost?!? Never made much sense to me and never seemed to work for Ford, or the character he was portraying. It seemed like a parody after awhile, as if Ford was payed a huge chunk of money just to goof-around and work with a spotty accent. Problem is, it wasn’t a parody and there was no joke here. It was mega-serious, all of the damn time.

Poor Liam Neeson too, because the guy actually does a serviceable-job here as the second-in-command (despite not even bothering with an accent), but has a character that’s so prideful and in-the-right all the time, that there never seems to be a moral dilemma for this dude as if he knows what he should do next, whether it would be the most moral move or not, or if he’s going to be able to pat his friends on the back. I got it from the first couple of minutes, the guy was a nice dude that obviously cared for his crew mates and wanted what was best for them, as well as his country, but it’s an act that got stale after awhile, as if he would have never made a bad call ever. Peter Sarsgaard remains the only other crew-member that’s the most recognizable, even today, and is okay, but really obvious as he plays the wussy that eventually stands up for himself and is forced to come up big when they need him the most. Corny.

Consensus: Bigelow’s intentions are surprisingly heartfelt and well-mannered, even if the rest of the movie that’s supposed to make K-19: The Widowmaker pop, lock, and drop it as if we are on-board with these guys, doesn’t do either of the three and just hangs there.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Even they know they deserve a better movie. Then they died.

Even they knew they deserved a better movie. Then they died.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Night Moves (2014)

Hug a tree next time, kid.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Deena (Dakota Fanning) are two environmentalists who want to make something of a difference. So, they decide, as one does when an environmentalist has radical beliefs, to blow up a dam. However, they know very little about actually lighting explosives big enough to blow up an actual, life-sized dam, which is why they decide to hit up ex-Marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard); somebody who has been long-time friends with Josh and may have his eye on Deena. Anyway, after much planning, speculation, and talking, the three decide to go through with the plan of blowing up the dam and on the way, they run into problems here and there. But since this is what they believe in the most, they’re going to stick to their initial plans, no matter how many odds are stacked-up against them. That is, until they realize that they may be doing the wrong thing to begin with.

In all honesty, that plot-synopsis is a bit of a cheat. Though I definitely want to inform you all of what this movie’s actually about, it’s hard for me to really actually go into all of it because most of what happens in this movie (and basically, all you need to know) occurs in the first half-hour. And mind you, this is a near two-hour film, so for all of the action and whatnot to happen in the first act, isn’t just surprising, it’s downright unbelievable.

But that is exactly what we have here with Night Moves and honestly, I wouldn’t expect much different from writer/director Kelly Reichardt, somebody who, if you don’t already know of by now, doesn’t totally like to play by the rules/conventions of what the rest of the movie world sets out for others to follow suit.

"So...uhm...you in the mood for breakfast or anything?"

“So…uhm…you in the mood for breakfast or anything?”

However, it’s not just about how Reichardt places what is, essentially, the climax at the beginning of the film that makes it so unique to watch, it’s more of how she allows her characters to speak like natural human-beings. Which any person who has ever tried their hand or two at writing a script will tell you: Writing how typical people actually talk, is nearly impossible. Actually, that’s a lie, because there are a few writers out there who are able to do so (early Kevin Smith films come to my delinquent mind), but it’s a difficult task and more often than not, the characters can come off as if they’re trying so hard to be real and raw like actual humans, that it’s phony.

But for someone like Kelly Reichardt, it seems and feels so effortless. Not only does she write her characters in a slightly vague way that we have to search beneath each and everything that they say, to just get an understanding of who they are as people, but she also allows them to tell us something about themselves in the way they carry on their bits of silence. Sure, some people may call this a form of “laziness”, or just a director relying on a trick that’s been used for years and years to show us the inner-feelings of character, but when I look at it, especially in the way that Reichardt uses silence, I feel as if this is how real life would play out.

So very often do we get movies where characters just sit down, in silence, and hardly utter a peep. And hell, even if they do utter a peep or two, they don’t constantly sound like the wittiest human beings god has ever put on this Earth. Sometimes, they’re just like us and when they don’t have anything smart to say, they don’t say anything – and even if they do, they know when to shut up right away. This how I like to view each and everyone of Reichardt’s movies: Typical interactions between human beings that you yourself could actually stumble upon in the vast landscape out there that is Earth.

Sure, the people she may present in her films are a bit more attractive than say your or I, but somehow, through the way in which Reichardt’s script is written, they seem almost too real.

Take for instance the character of Josh, played so wonderfully sternly by Jesse Eisenberg. Though we don’t know too much about Josh early on (then again, we don’t much about anyone here), Eisenberg brings out certain layers to this character that’s more than brooding and seeming as if he’s about to lose his freakin’ mind. See, with this character of Josh, we get the idea that this is just another guy, who cares so much for a cause, that he’s willing to go as far, as wide, and as deep as he can, to make that cause a possibility, rather than just something he pisses and moans about at rugged get-togethers. There’s a feeling in this movie that we’re not supposed to really like Josh because of the way in how he goes about making sure his cause actually is heard, but then again, we’re never told to not like him either.

In a way, you can get that feeling that Reichardt herself doesn’t really have the faintest clue of what to think of Josh, other than that he’s just another young guy who, like every other young person out there in the world, believes in something that they hold so near and dear to their heart, that they lose sight of who they actually are. Not just as spokes-persons, but as human beings. That, to me at least, is downright terrifying. Not because of the way it’s presented in this film, but because of how true this really is about certain people out there in this world.

Don't do it, Jessie! You've still got Lex Luthor to portray!

Don’t do it, Jessie! You’ve still got Lex Luthor to portray!

Same can be said for the characters that both Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard play; both aren’t made clear to us early on as to who they are, or why they are, the way they are, but through time and attention, we understand that their goals, though may seem like the same on the surface, aren’t really exactly what either one would want when things really get down to it. Especially for Fanning’s character who, at first, seems like the typical young, wise and brash know-it-all that wants you to show everyone around her how smart she is about the environment and stuff, man, but at the end of the day, is just another little girl who has no clue about how ugly the world can get. I’d explore that same option with Sarsgaard’s character but, considering it’s a character played by Peter Sarsgaard, you could probably already bet that he’s a bit of a sick and twisted dude as is. Which isn’t to say that either performances are bad (Fanning is actually quite good in a role that shows she is in fact GROWING UP IN FRONT OF OUR OWN VERY EYES), but the characters they play make you think and wonder just about who they truly are, when nobody else is around them, staring.

But honestly, now I’m just getting further and further away from the point and avoiding the fact that this movie is fantastic, but not in a very pick-me-up kind of way. Once again, without saying too much, the movie definitely gets quite dark and terrifying at points, but it’s never used in a way to jolt us like so many manipulative thrillers out there do. Instead, Reichardt uses these quietly tense moments to play out what would happen in real life, without all of the glitz, the glamour and the spotlight. And even though I know so many writers and directors out there try to achieve this, Kelly Reichardt really seems to nail that mood.

Which is, yes, pretty weird, especially if you know Reichardt’s filmography. She’s mostly known for these small, naturalistic, and character-driven dramas that can’t necessarily be classified as “thrillers”, but somehow still are, because the tension and the suspense is within the characters interactions between one another. But more so the case here, especially in a scene where one character has to buy fertilizer and I kid you not, had my palms sweating so hard, I needed a towel just to dry them off. And that to me is what really makes this film one of Reichardt’s better pieces: Not only is she showing growth as a writer/director, but she’s also showing the audience that it doesn’t matter how many plot twists you throw around, if you have well-written characters and plot-archs, then you don’t need much else to really excite your audience.

A special note to all you up-and-coming writers out there looking to make a break in the biz, ya’ll.

Consensus: With a naturalistic tone and feel, Night Moves feels like real life, except this time, a whole lot darker and with more questions than answers. Actually, kind of like real life.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"What? We're just eating a PB&J. THAT'S ALL!!"

“What? We’re just eating a PB&J. THAT’S ALL!!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Lovelace (2013)

So did she really have a clitoris located at the bottom of her throat?

Remember that porno back in the 70’s that started a phenomenon of pervs getting away with watching people bang on-screen and have be it considered “art”, Deep Throat? Well, the main star of that “film” was Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) who was more than just a gal who gave very good head. Nope, actually, believe it or not, she was once a small-town, Christian gal from the suburbs that just so happened to get caught up in an older man named Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). They fall madly in love and before they know it, they’re out gallivanting and loving life in the hot sun of L.A. However, Chuck sees potential in Linda, the same type of potential that could be used to make both of them very rich, and very famous as well. Problem is, with fame and fortune, comes the problems and with Chuck, the problems never seem to stop coming up.

The porn world sure has come a long, long way since the early days of the 70’s, and all of us horny dudes have Linda Lovelace to credit for that. However, as most of us may, or may not know, there was a lot more brewing underneath the surface of Lovelace’s life, as well as the making behind Deep Throat. Not only was Lovelace practically beaten within an inch of her life for a long while of it, but she was also forced to do the movie just so that Traynor could pay off some debts, support his drug habit, and just make money in general. He also wanted Lovelace to be a star, which she did become, but once that actually panned-out well for her, the dude put his foot back down and domineered his way back into her life like before, except it only continued to get worse and worse.

"Okay, now, you have to blow him. HARD."

“Okay, now, you have to blow him. HARD.”

All of this is pretty tragic, considering the fame and fortune Lovelace could have had had her career gone on any longer; but the film never seems to tap into that fact. It’s strange, but believe it or not; the flick is mainly more about Traynor than it is Lovelace. Lovelace does have many scenes where she’s not with Traynor, but even then, she’s always with another person on screen, as if both writers/directors Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman didn’t have enough trust in their material to find a way in making her more of an interesting character to hold an hour-and-a-half-long movie. It gets very disappointing after awhile, and it also feels strange because the movie never quite goes as deep as it should with it’s subject, the sadness behind it, or what exactly happened to Lovelace’s later life.

In fact, I’d probably say that her later life was probably the most interesting thing going for her. Once Lovelace had it with all the money, the notoriety, and the sex, she decided to stand right up against the porn industry; the same porn industry that she helped catapult it’s way into total and complete popularity. Seems odd for a type of person to do that, but given the circumstances of which she lived with for a long while, it makes sense that somebody so damaged and upset would go back to those limits and scare others away from making the same mistakes she made.

However, that’s just a reality; the type of reality this movie doesn’t even bother to develop enough. Then again though, oddly enough, it doesn’t develop much else either. Sure, we see the spousal-abuse from Traynor come around, a little too much I would say, and we see her film her porn scenes that have become something of infamy now, but never anything else to where we really feel a connection to this story or anything that’s going on. Even Lovelace herself just feels a bit like a sad excuse to show boobies, asses, dicks, and grotesque-sex, just so the horn-balls watching this will have something to get off too. A real shame too, because Lovelace’s story that I wouldn’t mind hearing more about, or even seeing for that matter, but the flick doesn’t show much interest in her, or anything else for that matter. It’s just dull, and painfully so. Where’s Dirk Diggler when you need him!!?!? Seriously!

Speaking of Linda Lovelace, she’s played very well here by Amanda Seyfried, the type of role that’s meant to stretch her abilities as an actress, but somehow doesn’t. Not her fault neither, because she does all that she can, without as much clothing as possible, but it never amounts to a fully-driven, sympathetic character. We do feel bad for her because she’s stuck with a d-bag that acts like all sweet and charming with her one second, and then turns into this crazy, ballistic animal the second, but nothing else here really makes us sympathize with her or have us root in her corner. We know she’s a nice gal that would like to do nice things for the ones around her, but is there anything else to that? Does she deserve to have a porn career? Or hell, does she even deserve to have a whole movie made about her?

I thought she did, but this movie could have fooled me!

Like what happens to most loving couples: The porn industry eventually tears them apart.

Like what happens to most loving couples: The porn industry eventually tears them apart.

But like I was saying before, the movie isn’t all that concerned with her as much as it should be. Instead, most of the supporting-cast around her takes over the spot-light, which isn’t so bad since it’s such a heavily-stacked list of names, but then again: Who’s story is being told here? Anyway, playing the d-bag-of-a-hubby that she gets stuck with, Chuck Traynor, Peter Sarsgaard does a wonderful job, as usual, playing two sides to this character. Firstly, he has that lovable, charming side that makes it easy for him to win us, as well as her and her parents over. And then secondly, and probably everybody’s favorite side of Sarsgaard’s acting in general, is the crazy side where he’s yelling, doped-up, an being a total evil, and manacle ass. Why? Well, the movie makes it clear that it’s all about drugs and debts that he has to pay off, but doesn’t make it any clearer than that. Basically, he’s just a self-destructive nut because that’s what he is, just about all of the time. Sarsgaard is good at playing this character and at keeping him somewhat interesting, but like with everything else in this movie, still pretty dull at the same time.

The rest of the crew we have here is a bit more scattered, with some having more screen-time than others and bringing a little plate of food to the party, and others just showing up empty-handed. The ones who’d be placed in the former would definitely have to be Robert Patrick and a nearly unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Linda’s Catholic-faith parents. They are both good because you can tell that they love their daughter very much, but aren’t going to leave out a helping-hand too much, due to the fact of where she’s going with her life. Sounds pretty harsh and mean if you ask me, but the movie still has them seem sympathetic and almost like the voice-of-reason to all of the havoc and dismay that will take part most of Linda’s later-life. But as for the others: Ehh, they’re fine, but no real pieces of shining silver to be found. James Franco has a nice bit as a younger Hugh Hefner; Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale seem to love the hell out of playing-off one another as the director-producer combo that worked on Deep Throat; and Chloe Sevigny has, I think, maybe 5 seconds of face-time on screen, and the rest of her performance is just her voice. That’s it, nothing more. I think somebody needs to give their manager a call!

Consensus: While it touches on certain moments of Lovelace’s life with as much respect and adoration as one movie can, Lovelace is still a very dull, uneventful, and tepid biopic that never reaches high enough to get it’s story moving, or get it’s point across, whatever that may have been.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Speaking on behalf of all horny, sexually-excited men out there, I say "Res in Peace."

Speaking on behalf of all horny, sexually-excited men out there, I say “Rest in Peace. You will truly will be missed.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Rich people can be sad too, they just are able to water it down in martini and lemons.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had it all: The rich husband (Alec Baldwin), the lavish lifestyle, the money, the looks, the riches, and all of that fine and happy stuff. However, like most good things, it all came crashing down in an instant and left Jasmine bankrupt without anywhere else to go in the world, except for his lower-class sister (Sally Hawkins)’s house. There she pries more, than actually gets her act together and begins to find out that having to take care of yourself doesn’t mean just making money, it means taking responsibility for your actions and not drinking your life away. Or maybe that’s just what I gathered. Actually, it more than likely is.

Woody Allen has had his fair share of hits, and he sure as hell has had his fair share of misses, but I still remain loyal to the guy as he always brings whatever he can to the big-screen, with his witty writing, and a stacked-cast that always gets on-board with anything he does. He just has that type of power that will get anybody going and for a little while, with Midnight in Paris, had everybody back on their feet, waiting to see what he would do next, as if the King had returned to his throne. However, then To Rome with Love came around, and everybody realized that maybe Paris was just a flash-in-the-pan for Woody. Maybe, just maybe.

She's still good enough for me.

She’s still good enough for me.

However, Woody’s not going to give up without a fight and is back yet again with Blue Jasmine, the type of flick it seems like anybody would make if they had some spare-time in their schedule to just make a movie, hang out with some big names, and get paid while doing so. That’s not to say that the movie’s good or bad, it’s just to say that the flick carries that type of lax-feel and pace where everybody involved seems to be happy and more than ecstatic to be working with a screen-legend like Allen, but at the same time, doesn’t bring much to the proceedings either. They’re just working to work, which is entertaining since everybody’s fun and happy, but it doesn’t really get this material up off the ground as it should.

For awhile, actually, I felt as if the movie I was watching was more of a stone-hard drama than any bit of witty and quirky comedy that we’re so used to associating with Allen’s flicks. That could have just been so since with Cassandra’s Dream and Match Point, he’s shown us that he can do a dark drama, regardless of if it fails or not. So that’s exactly why I felt like I was watching a drama right from the get-go. Obviously, there’s plenty of moments where Allen allows the humorous part of his script to creep in whenever it so pleases, but there’s still a seriousness to this final-product that I at least appreciated more than anything Allen’s done in awhile. He treats Jasmine, as well as every other character with tender, love, and care, it’s just that they don’t really pop-out at us like they should.

Case in point, our main character herself, Jasmine. Jasmine is the type of character that seems perfectly fit for Allen because he’s able to show us all of her flaws, as well as her positives as well. The former gets presented more than the latter, but that’s not to say that the former doesn’t rear it’s beautiful head in every once and awhile neither. We get to see enough of Jasmine that it allows us to care for her and sympathize with her, even when she’s constantly ragging on everyone for not being exactly like her in every which way. She’s not the type of gal I would want to be stuck with near the punch bowl at a party, but I definitely wouldn’t mind having a casual conversation with her every once and awhile, just to do a quick game of catch-up and see who’s more miserable than the other. With that game, she may win, but it would come pretty close.

So I guess it’s safe to say that Jasmine is an interesting enough character to have a movie revolve around her and her all of her misery and self-indulgence, but the movie doesn’t seem to really go that deep enough into her psyche as to what makes her, well, her. We see what she’s done in her past, how she’s gotten over it, and how terribly she was treated to be such a witch in the present day, but it still didn’t feel right to me. Something, whatever it was, wasn’t perfectly fitting with the tone and the art of this character and I wish I got to know more of her, rather than just snippets of what seemed like a pretty mean person, but a meanie that actually had somewhat of a soul. Allen can do well with these types of characters when he’s focusing on just them and them alone, but he moves the focus all around to where we see more of the supporting characters, rather than her. Which is fine, if they were just as interesting enough as her, but they just aren’t.

That’s not to say that the ensemble doesn’t work well with these roles, because they really do, and make the movie a whole lot better just with their presence being felt. Cate Blanchett gives a great performance as Jasmine as she’s able to capture all of the types of moods and feelings that go through this gal, most of which are abrupt and random, but still realistic enough to warrant some amount of sympathy. As I’ve said up above, Jasmine is an interesting enough character to want to watch a whole movie about her and her ways of getting her life back together, and that’s because Blanchett is able to make us loathe this character, while also feel like she could do a hell of a lot better in her life, if she just lowers her guard a bit and smiles. Then again, with the past that she’s had, you’ll see why maybe putting a grin on that face may be a little easier said then done. Got to give Blanchett a lot of credit for this role, not because she’s able to be funny, mean, and sympathetic all at the same time, but she’s not afraid to “ugly herself up” either.

Assuming she didn't have a problem with his profession.

Assuming she didn’t have a problem with what he does for a living.

Sally Hawkins plays her sissy, Ginger, and is good at playing the trashy-type that’s very different from Jasmine’s stuck-up self. Hawkins has always been a treat to see in any movie she shows up in and it’s good to see her working in something again, especially with Allen. They both comment each other well, as she hits the funny-marks her character is supposed to, while also giving us a nice glimpse inside the world of a lady that just wants as much love and respect as her sister does, she just doesn’t demand it as much. The always-loveable Bobby Cannavale plays Chili, her boyfriend that Jasmine despises, and does a nice job being funny and a bit sweet at the same time. Any movie would have painted this guy as a dick, but here, instead we see him as a guy that just wants to be with the woman he loves and will stop at nothing to do so, even if that means getting a little bitter at times. Especially with Jasmine.

The rest of the cast is fine as well, even if some of their work is only comprising of “showing up on screen for a bit, and then going away seconds later”. Alec Baldwin plays Jasmine’s ex-hubby, Hal, and plays up the d-bag type of character we know and sometimes love him; Louis C.K. almost steals the show playing against-type as a possible match-made-in-heaven for Ginger, which is funny because all he does here is try to play it all smooth and cool, both of which Louis is not, but plays it so well if not just for laughs; Andrew Dice Clay, another random comedian thrown into the mix, is fine as Ginger’s ex-hubby who doesn’t really do anything funny but is good for what he has to do with the material he’s given; Peter Sarsgaard is serviceable as the object of Jasmine’s eyes, and actually feels like a genuinely nice guy that would love and care for her when she needs it the most; and Michael Stuhlbarg is odd and strange as head-dentist of where Jasmine works and does exactly what I said he had to play, and does it well.

Consensus: Though there’s plenty of pleasing moments from Woody’s script, as well as the fine cast that he’s assembled, Blue Jasmine comes off more as a somewhat mediocre flick from his library, if not one that held plenty of potential.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"I have a hangover, somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please."

“I have a hangover. Somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please.”

Robot & Frank (2012)

Never trust robots, until they make you steak dinners. Then, it’s okay.

Set somewhere in the near, but not too distant future, Frank (Frank Langella) is an aging jewel thief whose son (James Marsden) buys him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) mainly because he cannot take care of him being about 10-hours away. Even though he’s very resistant at first with the robot, Frank warms up when and realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.

Everybody seems to like to make jokes about what could possibly happen, but the idea of having robots practically take over most human’s positions in the world, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched after seeing a movie like this. I mean, think about it: if some human is tired and bored of doing what they do, why not just get a computer/robot that’s programmed to do the same work, with more inspiration, and probably with better results as well? It’s definitely something that most people can poo-poo to the side and say it’s just crazy talk, but I’m serious, if we don’t look out, sooner or later, the robots will be taking over the world. First it’s the jobs, then it’s the wife and kids, then it’s the president, and then it’s the world from there. Okay, maybe not that crazy and drastic, but just you wait you non-believers. Just you wait.

But those simple ideas and thoughts aren’t really the gist of this movie and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a sci-fi film that does include robots, but isn’t all about shit blowing-up, intergalactic battles, and possible end of the world talk. It’s just a realistic and honest, human film that just so happens to involve a talking robot that does and says whatever it’s programmed to do. Think of it as I, Robot without all of the guns, bombs, fights, explosions, kick-ass score, and a constantly-yelling Will Smith.

"While you're at it, shine my shoes, bitch."

“While you’re at it, shine my shoes, bitch.”

This film isn’t all about showing robots taking over the positions and roles that most humans fill; it’s actually about a sweet, tender story of a man getting old and trying to still connect with the world he once knew. Through the robot, Frank is able to relive his glory days as a cat burglar and feels the type of rush and sensation that he hasn’t felt in years, and most of all: hasn’t been able to feel them with anybody else. See, Frank is a crook and was never really able to live that up with his kids or his wife, so it was always just him riding solo and committing crimes. Not the worst way to conduct business, but a bit of a lonely-experience if you think about it. That’s why it’s nice to see him and the robot talk with one-another about life, what they’re doing, and all of the sweet, fond memories that Frank had from his golden-days and it’s as sad as it is sweet.

Getting old is a pretty damn big part of life and it’s something that we can never avoid. Yet, at the same time, it’s something that we can all help by caring for the other’s that need it the most and that’s exactly what this flick shows. You see a friendship between this robot and Frank actually start-up and you see how the other one cares for the other and it’s very surprising how many depths there are to this friendship, as well as how nice they treat it, rather than making it some old-school joke about a cook treating some robot like a human-being. Hell, the movie itself even tries to remind Frank that the robot is not human and as painfully honest as that was to see on-screen, it still made me sad to think that there are just some people out there who probably cannot tell the difference by what is real and what isn’t, and for them, it all comes down to emotions. It’s a thoughtful-idea that the movie plants into your head, and it’s one that the movie still treats with respect and care, sort of like it’s protagonist.

However, the idea’s of getting old and going through dementia aren’t that subtle to see, especially by the last-act when everything begins to get obvious and heavy-handed. We get that the movie wanted us to know that Frank is going through a hard-time with life in trying to remember what he had for dinner 2 days ago, but it gets to a point of where it just seems like the flick is making it TOO obvious. It’s nice how they treat the idea, overall, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, you realize that they could have played it a bit safer and just kept on doing what they did in the first-place. May seem like a bit of a dumb negative to hold against the flick, but it’s something I noticed and didn’t swing too well with me.

The one element of this movie that did swing very, very well with me was Frank Langella as, well, Frank. Langella has this lovable and endearing look and feel to him that makes it easy for us to fall-behind the guy’s back and just wish for the best, but what really makes this performance work is how much you believe in this guy in what he’s going through. He doesn’t forget stuff like how to tie his shoes or turn the television on, but simple things like what his kids are up to in the world or where his favorite restaurant is, really stood-out to me and the way that Langella handles that character’s real-life dilemma with such believe-ability, really worked for me. Langella, in my mind, can almost do no wrong, and here, he gets to show me exactly why it is that I think that and why the guy can still take over a movie, even if he’s not playing one of our most famous president’s of all-time.

"This library used to be sooooo mainstream."

“This library used to be so mainstream.”

The one that really took me by surprise here was Peter Sarsgaard, who literally doesn’t do anything else in this movie other than voice the robot, but he does it so well that it is totally worth being mentioned. Sarsgaard has this voice that is instantly recognizable, by the way it’s so sinister, yet so compelling in the way that he can make little phrases or words sound so devious, yet have so much more meaning that it’s insane. The guy’s always a creep-o in the movies that I see him in, but since he only has to voice the robot, he seems more humane and kinder with the way he uses his words to convey emotion and feeling. Which is weird, because he’s voicing a robot that apparently has neither emotion nor feeling. It’s a great job by Sarsgaard who shows that just by having strong vocal-chords, you can still make the most-compelling character out of the whole movie.

James Marsden and Liv Tyler play Frank’s kids and they’re both pretty good, especially because they get to show how much they love their daddy and will do anything for him, yet still have their own lives to look after as well. I liked how the movie didn’t just make them a bunch of sneaky, lying pieces-of-shits that were ungrateful for everything that dear old daddy did for them, but I still would have liked to see a little bit more to their characters and their history with Frank. Susan Sarandon is here as Frank’s love-interest, and does a pretty nice job with what she’s given, but is just here to serve the plot and serve Frank’s moral dilemma. She’s okay with what she has to do, but it also feels like a bit of a waste for such a beautiful and powerful talent.

Consensus: Even if you might not suspect it to be more than just a movie about a guy and a robot becoming friends, you still will be surprised to know that Robot & Frank features plenty of depth and emotions about the fact that people get old, that it sucks, and that it’s up to us to care for those ones who need our help the most. It’s also a sweet, little story about a guy and robot becoming friends, as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'm telling you: 5 more years, folks.

I’m telling you: 5 more years, folks.

Jarhead (2005)

Call of Duty gives kids so many wrong impressions.

Anthony “Swoff” Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a third-generation enlistee, from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, sporting a sniper’s rifle and a hundred-pound ruck on his back through Middle East deserts with no cover from intolerable heat or from Iraqi soldiers, always potentially just over the next horizon.

When people go out to see war flicks, they are basically expecting all of the works such as action filled with guns blazing, grenades blowing up, tanks shooting up the place, and just a whole bunch of other crazy ish that you could probably reenact on your XBOX 360 or PS3. The thing is though, not all wars were like this and not all war films are like that either.

What I liked most about ‘Jarhead’ was Sam Mendes‘ direction here. Mendes really isn’t a guy that’s known for slam-bang, action war flicks so he doesn’t try to do anything here that he isn’t already familiar, instead he gives this film a new type of edge that shows us just how boring the war really is. It’s much like ‘Three Kings’ in that aspect, whereas that was a bit of a satire on what was going on during The Gulf War, this is more of a serious first-hand account that has the type of realism to it that really works and brings you into this setting and the everyday life of these soldiers.

All they do is sit around and wait for the actual “action” to happen while playing a bunch of football, masturbating a hell of a lot, and drinking like nobody else’s business. Hey, I know it doesn’t sound all that bad but just imagined being stationed out hours and hours away from home with no woman and no time to not worry about anything, then the times may start to get a bit bothersome. It feels very real and adds a lot to the whole aspect where no action at all during a war, can actually eff with another person’s mind. Any time these guys feel like they’re about to just go out there and get some kills, they are once again disappointed by how things just don’t end up working in their favor. And on top of that, your “lady” at home who’s supposed to be waiting for you to come home with arms wide open, is also probably getting banged by your best friend or neighbor. Warfare isn’t so fun and exciting now is it?

Mendes also has a keen eye for making any gritty war flick look pretty and he does that so well here. The shots of these young soldiers in the desert are nice to look at because anything with long-ass landscapes of barely anything look pretty. What really caught my eye with this cinematography was near the end where they light the oil wells on fire and the skies light up with this dark, yellowish look and it’s actually very beautiful but at the same time, very depressing like the mood of this flick.

The only problem this film actually has with itself is that since there is so much waiting and waiting for these guys to actually get a chance to do something, that it sort of keeps the same pace and mood the whole time with barely any real emotional weight in-stored.  There are moments where they take you inside of these soldiers’ heads and get you to understand, but there was never anything here that really made me feel like I needed to watch what these characters were going to do next. It keeps everything the same for the whole flick and as much as I can’t complain about the mood that the film set in right away, I still can say that I wish there was more to this plot, to these characters, and to the heart of this flick.

The film also never really dives into these dudes’ emotional states as much as it should have. Yeah, they showed how these guys were effed up by the fact that they couldn’t shoot anything up but it never goes anywhere deeper other than that. We get a couple of scenes but nothing special and it was kind of a shame because even though this flick does have what it takes to be a really good, and somewhat important war flick, it still dropped the ball on not having too much emotional weight to it. You can only care for so much on the screen and it’s only a matter of time until you start to have no feelings for any of these characters.

One of the real reasons this film works so well is because of Jake Gyllenhaal‘s lead performance here as Swofford. Jake is an actor that is highly underrated because he has so many great roles and performances, but at the end of the day people continue to look at him as Donnie Darko. That’s a shame because his performance here is probably the one thing that keeps this movie so compelling at points. He goes through all of the steps of being a shy rookie, to being a bad-ass in training, and then to being one of those dudes who starts to lose his fuckin’ mind when he doesn’t get the chance to shoot his rifle. Everything he goes through here is believable and it almost seems like this character couldn’t be played by anybody else either.

The rest of the cast isn’t too shabby either. Peter Sarsgaard is really good as Troy, and gets this one scene where he just lets loose on his emotions and it’s a real stunning scene that was also the most memorable; Chris Cooper gets a top-billing but is barely even in this flick with only two scenes and still kicks ass as always; and Jamie Foxx adds more emotional weight and understanding to the “angry black drill sergeant” role here as Staff Sergeant Siek.

Consensus: Jarhead is definitely not the war flick for everyone, actually it’s very anti-war, but what sets this one apart is the direction from Mendes who gets inside the heads of these soldiers and shows what they’re going through, and also features a stand-out performance from Gyllenhaal, who is compelling the whole time.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Shattered Glass (2003)

Damn, I’m scared to be a journalist now.

This fact-based film depicts the rise and fall of disgraced magazine journalist Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a staff writer at The New Republic and a contributor to Rolling Stone who ultimately fabricated many of his stories, which led to his downfall.

Writer-director Billy Ray takes a film that I had some little interest in at first, and totally takes it into places I was not expecting in the least bit. I mean because it does have Anakin Skywalker in it, and he just blows.

Ray does a tremendous job of telling the story: giving us the facts of what exactly happened, the tough world of journalism, and even a little character study of a sociopath. This all may seem a little too much for a story that’s about a dude lying, but it brings so much more depth to this story that as it developed more and more, I found myself more and more intrigued by this film.

I, myself, actually want to be a journalist and I found this to be a big warning for all journalists out there to not make up phony stories, even though sometimes they would be nice to hear. It’s not necessarily about making people happy with the stories, it’s more about telling the truth, and how we should all never try to make things up as they go along just for some kicks. This theme is amazing because the fact is that today reporters at every publication seem to be exposed for doing the same thing. You’d think the lesson would have been learned eventually, but it hasn’t.

The film doesn’t show Stephen Glass as this total dick-head of a dude who messed with his stories to be “fun”, he’s actually just a kid that messed up big-time and wanted nothing more to make people happy when they read his stories. I mean I actually did sort of feel for this kid, as did everybody in this film because this Glass kid, was so charming and nice that when the ish really started to hit the fan, everybody stuck up for him, except for the editor who was downright embarrassed when he let such fake stories go by him. This brings up some moral questions as to how you would feel if you were ever put in the same situation and how you would respond it.

However, the problem with this film is that even though they show us a nice-portrait of this kid Glass, we never really get inside of his mind except for a couple of dumb foreshadowing scenes. When this kid was on-screen, I was actually on the edge of my seat as he tried to cover up more and more of his lies and then saying it was just because he was in a state of panic. This all was interesting and the film could have actually went deeper into this character more to actually have us understand just why he did what he did, but the film never really does.

We get all of the who’s, the what’s, and the when’s of the story, but never exactly the why part. I think Glass wanted to just get his stories read and make people happy, but never understand as to why he lied about so many of his stories, and what lead him to continue the lies as it seemed like things were going from bad to worse for him. Was he a little crazy? Was he just trying to make it big? Or was he just an insane kid that never really got paid attention too that much because he was so charming? I never understood why Glass exactly did what he did, and that’s what kind of took me away from this tale to make it a little less interesting.

Judging by the poster to the upper-right, you probably already gave up all hope on this film because of that big head you see. Yes everybody, that is Hayden Christensen, but I have to say his performance as Stephen Glass is probably his best ever, and although that’s not saying much, it’s still great in and of itself. The melt-down for Stephen Glass is a slow one but the way Hayden handles it is very believably, especially the way he manipulates almost every one around him to the point of where of no one knows because its terribly subtle. Stephen Glass didn’t seem like a bad kid, just confused and way-over-his-head and Hayden’s performance is so terrific that it almost makes me forget about Anakin. OK, maybe I won’t go that far.

Peter Sarsgaard is also very good as Chuck Lane, the editor who finds Glass out for all of his lies. Lane is a great character because you can tell that he’s going to have some real impact on this story by the end of it, but you just don’t know how, and the way Sarsgaard handles every scene he has is just brilliant. Lane tolerates Glass the most even when the kid lies to him with every statement that comes out of his mouth, which is sad, because Lane really is the one who seems like the actual voice of reason here that knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and knows what has to be done. Great performance from Sarsgaard who is easily becoming one of those signature supporters you need in almost any film.

The rest of the cast is pretty good with the likes of Chloë Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey playing Glass’ two best girly friends; Hank Azaria as the nice and understanding former editor, Michael Kelly; and Steve Zahn and Rosario Dawson are also very good as the two people who find all of the information out that Glass is lying about.

Consensus: The film may have missed a major up-grade in showing us more about the person of Stephen Glass, but other than that, Shattered Glass is phenomenal with great writing and insight into the world of journalism, and great performances from the whole cast, especially Christensen and Sarsgaard, who provide so much context for their characters by the end, that we actually know more about them then the actual story.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Knight and Day (2010)

Too many reminders of Vanilla Sky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.5/10=Rental!!

Green Lantern (2011)

The Green Lantern film the fans have been waiting for…..if it were made for TV 15 years ago.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a brash, talented test pilot, is chosen by an alien force of warriors to become their representative on Earth and use his new powers as the Green Lantern to promote order and justice before conflict destroys his world. Despite being the first human to wear the ring that bestows his abilities, Hal must combat villain Parallax. Fellow pilot Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) aids Hal in his quest to save the galaxy.

It seems like Hollywood is trying anyway they can to get almost every superhero film done in time for the big Avengers film. Add this to the collection of superhero films that make more ready for it.

This film wasn’t really for me because I was not a huge fanboy of The Green Lantern comics, or The Green Lantern himself. I thought he was a pretty silly superhero to begin with and I looked to this film to have me like him more. Which it didn’t do really. The problem this movie has I think lies within it’s script which is so jumbled altogether with all these different stories and crazy mythology that it takes away from the actual story that could have been more compelling and easy enough to get behind. The mythology here they constantly talk about is also nonsensical and seems to have any reason to be put in there also.

Many scenes also felt like they had no real purpose and were just put in there to show a cool CGI shot that didn’t really do much to the film in the first place. But let’s not forget that this story doesn’t really get going until we are already an hour into the film and have already known what The Green Lantern can do, and who ALL of the characters are, what they do, and the purpose they actually serve to the story.

However, when it get’s going, it really does move much thanks to director Martin Campbell who knows what he’s doing when it comes to showing awesome action scenes. Campbell, who brought back to life the “Bond” films, knows what he’s doing when he wants to make the action fun and exciting look at and that transcends well with this material to 3-D. The film has tons and tons of CGI as well which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it does look well-done here, I just wish they less on the special effects in some cases. Although, I still liked the CGI, because this film did actually look “pretty” to say the least.

Ryan Reynolds is very good as Hal Jordan, a role that some thought he wouldn’t be able to pull off but in my case, thought he did the best job there could be to be done. He has the looks, he has the charm, he has the humor, but he also has the dramatic acting chops that makes it look like he actually wants to be there and not just phoning it all in for an easy paycheck. That is why I liked Reynolds so much here. Blake Lively is just gorgeous as Carol Ferris; Peter Sarsgaard is always vilainous in anything he does and his performance as the big testicle, Dr. Hector Hammond, is no different; and Mark Strong is also awesome as the porn-star look-alike, Sinestro. The rest of the cast is fine as well with the likes of Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Geoffrey Rush, and Michael Clarke Duncan.

Consensus: Martin Campbell knows what he’s doing with the action and the cast, especially Reynolds, all do well with their own individual performances, but the script is clonky with too much going on and not enough focus on the real story at hand, which may have fanboys totally pissed off. However, not being a fan of the original comic books, I must say that I walked away happy that I saw this.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Salton Sea (2002)

Why couldn’t Val Kilmer hang as Batman? He kicks so much ass.

Punk-rocking speed freak Danny Parker (Val Kilmer) freelances as an informant for a pair of brutal narcotics cops (Anthony LaPaglia and Doug Hutchison). But when he’s not assisting the cops on drug busts, Danny gets high and leads a double life as a talented, mild-mannered trumpeter named Tom Van Allen. One personality is in search of his wife’s killer, but reality is evasive.

I’m not going to lie but this film is all over the place. It starts off very quick, fast, and funny which got me ready for a fun-filled, crime comedy, but instead turns out to be something a lot more than that.

The problem I had with this film was that it’s pace is sort of all over the world. It’s quick, and fun in the first 15 minutes, but then you start to notice that it dies down, and gets a lot more serious. I didn’t have much of a problem with this change of pace, as much as I had with it’s genre mixing. This is honestly a crime thriller, with features of neo-noir, and under lining humor. It seems crazy just describing it, and it really is when you see it play out.

However, when the film isn’t being slow, and dramatic, it actually does a good job at creating a entertaining story. The side dealers we meet in this film are funny, and entertaining, providing plenty of humor for this film. And the action, when it happens, works very well and will please any gun-loving maniac.

But that almost seems to be able to cover up for the fact that the story-line can be terribly confusing sometimes. I wasn’t as confused with the story as much as others were, but I will admit that you could get easily confused right away. There are certain twists, here and there that will keep you glued, and explain a lot about the story. But for others it will just mean more confusion, to a already confusing story.

Val Kilmer is the man. He can pretty much play any role you put in front of him, and although it may not be the greatest thing you ever see, it’s still entertaining to watch him play these crazy characters. We cheer on Val Kilmer here, it’s easy to get behind him, with his casual approach to all the craziness happening, and ways of figuring things out right away. But he is only the straight-main in this film, as everybody else is used as even better entertainment. Vincent D’Onofrio does a good job as the crazy drug-dealer Pooh, who brings so much to the film, that it actually takes the film to a different level. Peter Sarsgaard is good here playing a crazed-out “tweeker”, and his act never gets old. You also got other satisfying supporters such as Adam Goldberg, Doug Hutchison, Anthony LaPaglia, and Luis Guzman.

Consensus: It’s entertaining, and does a lot with a story that seems crazy at first, but many will find themselves confused, as well as wondering whether they should laugh or not, by what’s actually happening.

6/10=Rental!!

Garden State (2004)

Whoever thought New Jersey was so depressing??

Having just weaned himself off antidepressants, Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff, who also directs) returns to his New Jersey hometown after a decade away to attend his mother’s funeral and slowly begins to see his life in a new light. In the process, he confronts his psychologist father (Ian Holm) and forges a connection with a new friend (Natalie Portman).

Garden State is one of those films, that all 20 somethings in today’s world have always quoted and loved. Hell even my best friend’s sister, danced with her husband, at her wedding, to a song from this movie. I never understood all of the freakin’ hype until now.

Zach Braff does a great job in his debut directing/writing job. There is a lot of insight in here about how wonderful, and grand life is, but yet, it’s so short, that you shouldn’t take it for granted, and live out every second of it. Many films I know, have this same message, but the way Braff shows it, and doesn’t over play it, that it stays fresh, and it actually hits you, especially by the end.

The film kind of annoyed me a bit with its quirky stuff, but at times I didn’t mind it. I did actually laugh at a lot of this, and made me realize that all of this may be how real people actually can be. There is a great sense of alienation that Braff feels with these people around him, and we feel that, not just through his character, but from the direction he puts the film in. I liked the soundtrack, and a lot of it fits in with the film and it’s moments so well.

Probably the best thing about Garden State and why it’s going to live on forever, is these characters that Braff creates. Yeah, their crazy, and yeah, their not all that believable. But, their lovable, and you can’t shy away from the fact that they entertain the hell out of you. Largeman is in Garden State for a couple of days, and it’s great to be on this ride with him, because the characters are fun, quirky, and overall, just downright hilarious. Zach Braff does a great job of making his character the biggest loner in the beginning of the film, and then having him totally change, and become this fun, free-loving dude. Braff goes way past his Scrubs days with this one. Natalie Portman plays one of the best characters she’s ever played since Closer, and that’s saying a lot. Her portrayal as a slightly neurotic, compulsive liar who’s wackiness becomes very disarming (not an easy task), is worthy of high praise, mostly because her and Braff are fun to watch on screen, and their chemistry doesn’t feel forced or anything, it’s genuine fondness of one another’s personalities. Ian Holm is also good here, as the father that still holds a lot against Braff, and he has a good scene. Peter Sarsgaard is as usual, good, and brings a lot to his character, as the grave-digger, who we always wonder if he should be trusted or not. Also, be on the look out for a random cameo from Method Man. Always great to see him in random ish.

Basically, Garden State is a great film for anybody who likes feel-good romantic dramedies. That hit the core of the heart the right way. It makes you think about life, as well as makes you laugh about it, and just possibly have you thinking differently about it.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!

Orphan (2009)

Why adoption isn’t always the best thing.

Picking up the pieces after their baby’s tragic death, the Colemans — Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) — adopt 9-year-old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) from an orphanage, but it doesn’t take long for Kate to see through Esther’s angelic façade. When John brushes aside Kate’s paranoid suspicions, Esther wreaks havoc on the world around her.

Imagine just losing a child, and then adopting one, having a bright future and everything just set out for this child, and then the kid ends up being The Good Son.

Orphan is different from some horror films because it gives us some good dark comedy, that is mixed with scares that get held off. You think that the shock is going to come right up, and then it gets taken back and saved for later, changing our trace of suspense.

However, those are the only things that are different. Other than that it turns into your typical “demon child movie”. I mean just looking at this chick, she’s scary, white, artistic, and most of all, of Russian decent. All those things just do not add up to a girl scout, and besides why would you choose this girl out of everyone else in the orphanage. I could have thought of about 1,000 other kids I would have chosen over this creepy one.

Also, there were many times where the film is just upsetting. Esther does all this mean stuff: like beating up a nun with a hammer, lighting tree houses on fire, and overall just being a total bitch. We never got a real sense as to why Esther did the crap she did to everyone in the family, only until the end, and its just too late, cause we can’t fathom any more with this chick. The way she takes advantage of her deaf little sister, is just really sad to watch, and took away a lot from the film. I wish they paid attention more to the relationship between the two parents and coping with their loss.

I will give the film one thing that it does well, and its that the performances are actually good. Vera Farmiga is perfect as the only one with sense in the film. She knows right away that somethings up with this girl, and doesn’t let her forget about it. Her character could have easily been one-note but she adds a lot more dramatic emotion, and a strength within her character. Peter Sarsgaard is also good here, because his act does bring out a good deal of dark comedy that almost works in the film’s favor. Isabelle Fuhrman is good too, but never really gets past the fact, that she’s just some evil little bitch, and hell give me some makeup, and a cute little hair cut, then I can be the next Esther.

The twist in the end is understandable, but other than that stupid, and won’t change how you feel about the film.

Consensus: Orphan has some good moments of dark humor, but doesn’t do much to add anything new to the horror genre, and becomes something like The Good Son or The Omen.

2.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!

An Education (2009)

Sounds like a Pink Floyd song.

Jenny’s (Carey Mulligan) Oxford-bound teen life is undistinguished in 1961 London until she’s given a different kind of education after being immersed in the beguiling but hazardous world of cultured and much-older David (Peter Sarsgaard). Even Jenny’s father, Jack (Alfred Molina), is intrigued by him, but her school’s unimpressed headmistress (Emma Thompson) works to keep Jenny’s entire future from crumbling under David’s influence.

Set in 1961 London, “An Education” tells the all too familiar tale of a high school girl seduced by an older cad. The girl in question is tops in her class and bound for Oxford. She repeatedly beseeches the adults around her to give her a compelling reason to go to Oxford rather than run off with the cad.

The film isn’t so much about the relationship, and surprisingly isn’t terribly sexual with its PG-13 rating. It is actually more about Jenny, and how she is finally introduced into this new world, that she was so sheltered from due to school. This is about discovering a new part of the world, after being sheltered for so long.

The film is depicted in the 60’s and I really did feel like I was in it. You could feel that slight bit of change in the culture. Like honestly why were women getting an education in the 60’s, because there weren’t any options open for them after they got their degree.

The one thing that got me with this film is that it doesn’t quite hold up all the way. The dialogue is a bit implausible, and that does start to show by the third act. I’m not going to say that I knew what was going to happen but I will say I kind of had a feeling that all of this was too good to be true. I feel like a lot of the writing does add a lot to the uncomfortable level in this film, and that I had a problem with at times.

The real saving grace from this film is the amazing lead performance from Carey Mulligan. Mulligan gives out the definition of a star-making performance, because the role of a girl losing her innocence and going from wide-eyed to sassy know-it-all, it is not an easy role, but she is spot on. Peter Sarsgaard is perfectly cast here, I find him super creepy and also very charming and likable, and I never knew which one of those things he is.

Consensus: The dialogue may run out of steam by the third act, but An Education blossoms with its great coming-of-age themes with a new twist, and a star-making performance from Mulligan.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!