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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Pruitt Taylor Vince

Heavy (1995)

The more, the merrier.

Victor (Pruitt Taylor Vince) works in a pizza shop and doesn’t really talk to anyone around him. While he gets along with most everyone, it has to do with the fact that he’s so shy and big, nobody really knows how to really talk to him, or what to say. Because for Victor, life is just something to get through on a day-to-day basis and it doesn’t really matter about much of anything else. But his life sort of changes when a new girl, Callie (Liv Tyler), comes into town and begins working at one of the local taverns in the area. Immediately, Callie takes a bit of a liking to Victor – it may not be love, infatuation, or anything sentimental, but it’s enough to give Victor some life and hope. But Callie has some issues going on in her own life, in that she doesn’t really know what she wants to do, either. The two end up forging something of a friendship that helps the two navigate through life and realize that there truly is some sweetness out there in the sometimes dark and brim world.

Writer/director James Mangold has had quite the career, mostly because he’s never really seemed to pin himself to one genre in particular. When he’s not making action-heavy, big-budget spectacles (the Wolverine, Knight & Day), he’s actually out there making subtle, slightly arty dramas (Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line). And of course, when he’s not making those movies, he’s off trying his hand at other genres, like Westerns (3:10 to Yuma), fantasy rom-coms (Kate & Leopold), and twisty, Hitchcockian-thrillers (Identity).

"Take me away. Far, far away from here, where people don't call me, 'Steve.'"

“Take me away. Far, far away from here, where people don’t call me, ‘Steve.'”

And then, there’s his debut, which is perhaps his most different movie, but unfortunately, probably his weakest.

For one, it shows that Mangold definitely knew how to create a sense of time and place. Heavy is a very sad, depressed and at times, moody flick. Mangold puts us in this small town, where it’s not exactly bright, shiny, or even happy – it’s just a lot of rain, clouds and frowns. There’s hardly any light in the sky, nor is there much of any light in the people’s faces. In a way, they’re all kind of miserable and at a stand-still, not knowing where they want to go, what they want to do, and how to go about the rest of their lives.

Which is fine for a mood-piece, if that is exactly what you’re going for, but at nearly two hours, Heavy wears out its sad and repressed welcome. After all, Mangold presents this small part of the world and doesn’t have much else to offer; the sweeping shots of the forest and mountains underneath dark clouds of rain, while beautiful, are also incredibly repetitive, not adding much to the story except an obvious bit of symbolism. Which isn’t to say that it’s a pretty movie, because it is, but beautiful landscapes can only go so far.

Especially when you don’t have much of a story to actually work with.

And that seems to be what’s happened with Heavy. Mangold has a good idea of how to frame and show a story, but actually telling it and allowing for there to be any sort of drive behind the narrative, he doesn’t quite seem to have the knowledge of here. Cause if anything, Heavy isn’t just a heavy movie, but it’s a slow one, that doesn’t really seem to have much to say, or anything to really show. It’s just a bunch of sad people, being sad and trying their hardest not to be sad anymore.

Or something like that, I’m not quite sure. It’s basically the most picture perfect Sundance movie ever made: Moody, dark, gritty, and basically just depressed. It doesn’t have much of a reason to be, either, but Mangold clearly doesn’t know that and pounds hard on the darkness.

Cheer up, Liv! You're always going to be rich!

Cheer up, Liv! You’re always going to be rich!

If anything, the performances do help this movie out a whole bunch, even when it seems like there’s no real character-development or strong writing to even help them.

Case in point, Pruitt Taylor Vince as Victor. Vince is a pretty accomplished character actor, who shows up every now and then in those sloppy, country bumpkin-ish roles. Here though, he’s actually pretty thoughtful and rather sweet as Victor, never going too far to say much of anything, but always getting something across by just the look on his face, or the slight-movement of his brow. It’s actually the perfect kind of small, subtle performance, for this small, rather subtle movie, the only problem is that the rest of the movie doesn’t quite know what to do with itself, so of course, it’s a great performance put to waste.

Same goes for Liv Tyler as the object of Victor’s affection. At this stage early on in her career, Tyler was more of a cute mystery – we didn’t quite know if we could trust the characters she portrayed, nor did it seem like she did. And here, she’s quite good in a role that doesn’t quite measure up to much, except being pretty, moody, and nice to almost everyone around her. Pros of the big-screen like Shelley Winters, who plays Victor’s sometimes controlling mother, and Debbie Harry, as the co-worker who’s a bit of a problem to everyone, work out well here, but they, too, like the rest of the movie, just seem underdeveloped.

Oh well. At least Mangold would eventually get his act together.

Consensus: Even with the beautiful cinematography, Heavy just never fully comes together as both a visually and emotionally satisfying movie, but instead, only resulting in the former.

5 / 10

Kiss her, bro. Do it. Why not?

Kiss her, bro. Do it. Why not?

Photos Courtesy of: Derek Winnert

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Down by Law (1986)

lawposterSome of your best friend’s are found in prison. Not high school.

Zack (Tom Waits) is driving out late one night on the town when all of a sudden, he gets pulled over by the cops and brought in on a bunch of drugs. They weren’t his, but the cops don’t want to hear it, so they book him and now he’s forced to spend a certain amount of time in the clink. Same goes for Jack (John Lurie), who was also set-up by someone he thought he could trust. Now, he’s sharing a cell with Zack and while it takes some time for them to get used to one another, they eventually become good cell-buddies, joking around, relating and whatnot. Then, in walks foreigner Roberto (Roberto Benigni), who got arrested for a way different charge: Murder. However, Zack and Jack eventually take to Roberto and altogether, they forge a plan to get the hell out of jail and hopefully, on with the rest of their lives. The only issue is that getting out of jail is the easy part – it’s not getting caught and thrown back in the slammer that’s the hardest.

"Sing something."

“Sing something.”

What’s perhaps so interesting about Down by Law is that while it’s definitely a movie about a bunch of inmates, in prison, and trying to escape, the movie is actually not all that about the escape itself. There’s not all that much planning of where someone has to be at an exact point, who’s going to help out on the inside, the outside, and just how every part of the plan is going to go down. Most movies dealing with inmates breaking out detail this at great-length, but for writer/director Jim Jarmusch, it doesn’t really seem to matter.

In fact, it’s the inmates themselves who provide the most interesting story in the first place and it’s through them, that we get to learn a little bit more about the way Jarmusch sees the world. The one thing that there’s no denying about most of Jarmusch’s movies, is that they’re definitely quirky, sometimes, to a fault, but here, he seems to have dumbed that down a bit; Roberto can get a little silly at times, but that’s mostly because Benigni is such a clown, it’s hard not to, at the very least, chuckle at this character. Nope, interestingly enough, Jarmusch gives us a smart, compelling and sensitive character-study about three odd-balls, meeting up in the worst places of them all, and yeah, making something out of it.

In a way, ensuring to us, the rest of the world, that there is some hope for those inmates out there.

Still though, the movie isn’t trying to preach in the slightest; if anything, it’s just giving us a better glimpse into lives of three individuals, who we either don’t always see get their stories told, or when we do, they’re usually filled with drugs, violence and a whole lot of rape. Down by Law is a very different beast in the subgenre of prison movies, but it’s still a compelling one, even if the movie never does take us out of the one single cell that these guys live in. It’s not suffocating, though and it easily could have been – Jarmusch is working with some larger-than-life characters and cast-members that it helps make his movie pop and excite, rather than just drown in its sorrow and misery.

We get it, Roberto. You love your wife.

We get it, Roberto. You love your wife.

Something that Jarmusch will do in the future for sure, but thankfully, not here.

And yes, with Waits, Lurie, and Benigni, Jarmusch showed his knack for assembling a very odd cast, putting them together, and seeing what sort of odd magic happened. Luckily for him, and especially us, the three all have great chemistry and are more than willing to have us believe in some sort of budding relationship between the three of them. Aside from being together, they’re all very good, too – Waits is cool and bluesy, Lurie is a bit brooding, and Benigni’s as vibrant and wacky as you’d expect him to be, but he is still grounded, so that you do believe in him, as a person, not just another one of his characters.

That said, Down by Law does take a sort of different turn in the last-act and it works, and sort of doesn’t. The movie doesn’t go the conventional route out in ending itself, but by doing that, may have been too subtle for its own good. Jarmusch’s films always seem to have this problem, in that he himself seems to afraid to show any real, big emotion with his characters, that when it comes time for the emotional-button pushing, he backs away. He’d much rather take a hand-shake or high-five, than a hug or kiss, and honestly, sometimes we need that hug or kiss.

Only sometimes.

Consensus: With a talented ensemble and some of Jarmusch’s snappiest writing, Down by Law is a smart take on the prison movie subgenre, aiming more for character-development, than plot-mechanics.

8 / 10

Nowhere to go but East. Or East? Or, well, I don't know.

Nowhere to go but East. Or East? Or, well, I don’t know.

Photos Courtesy of: Generation Film!

Nurse Betty (2000)

NurseBettyposterThe bigger question is: Why the hell do people still watch soap operas?

Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger) is a lovely, young woman from Kansas who is simple, loves her hubby (Aaron Eckhart), and loves to watch her favorite show, the popular daytime TV drama A Reason to Love. Betty is such a nice girl, that it’s almost insane to see what happens to her when her hubby is killed by two drug-dealers (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), and then decides to flee the scene of the crime, in order to find and locate her favorite character from that show, Doctor David Ravell (Greg Kinnear). Problem is, Betty is so disillusioned as to what the hell is going on that she doesn’t see David Ravell as a character from a show, but an actual character in real-life. Yep, she’s nutso!

It may came as sort of a shock to some of you out there, but this flick was actually directed by Neil LaBute, way before he started hanging out with Nicolas Cage and bees. However, this one wasn’t written by him but still features a lot of his trademarks: d-bag characters, dark humor, a bit of misogyny, and a double-entendre’s galore!

You know, what everybody loathes and loves about LaBute’s pieces of work.

They don't make cardboard cut-outs like they used to.

They don’t make cardboard cut-outs quite like they used to.

With this movie, we’re able to see that LaBute has a funny bone and even though none of his actual trademarks are here as a director or writer, we still get a feel for the guy and the type of material he likes thrown at him. Later in his career, that wouldn’t do much to help him, but before it all went downhill, LaBute was a pretty big, freakin’ deal at one point and it’s flicks like these that show why. While you’re laughing, you’ll actually find yourself following a story that’s clever, but is also very informative in the twists and turns it takes and at times, you may not know whether you should or shouldn’t laugh at what’s going on.

Yeah, it gets pretty serious, pretty quick.

Which, to say the least, can sort of be the problem, tonally speaking. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bunch of fun that made me laugh, feel suspense, and question these characters and their motivations, but the tone felt a bit off to me. This is apparently clear especially around the last-act where, all of a sudden, we have characters shooting one another, murdering, bleeding, trying to save fish (once you see the film, it will make sense), and people yelling out for their loved-ones. It’s all very drastic, serious, and actually scary, considering we’ve spent so much time with these characters and all that they do, and now we actually have the possibility of seeing them be killed-off, in front of our eyes, is a pretty freaky sight. Not to always say that this movie’s most glaring problem is it’s tone, but when it doesn’t work, it shows and seems like the writers of this flick (John C. Richards and James Flamburg) may have needed a bit of LaBute-flavor to spice things up. Then again, that’s just the way I feel.

After Death at a Funeral, I don’t know what to believe anymore, but a comeback of sorts is clearly is in-store for Mr. LaBute.

I just know it!

But aside from that, everything else is pretty stellar about this movie, especially the cast. One of the biggest and best aspects of this flick, is Ms. Renée Zellweger as Betty Sizemore, our lovable klutz for the next two-hours. Say what you will about Zellweger, her scrunched-up face, her random marriage to Jack White, and her obvious, public drunkenness at the Oscars, the gal is one hell of a charmer and shows that she can make any character work, especially one that’s so strange like this. The fact that Betty is all in a daze and believes everything she sees is real, and not fictional like her favorite TV show, is more than enough to poke-fun at a character and make her seem like a total nut of a person, but Zellweger makes her more than that. She’s got a beautiful smile, a nice look to her, and is actually a sweet person, once you get past the fact that she’s a bit too cuckoo for Coco Puffs. But still, the movie plays off of her with such ease and Zellweger is more than up to the challenge when it comes to that. Without her and her earnestness, I don’t know quite how well this role, hell, this movie would have worked.

If this was the South, they'd be more than just fucked. They'd be dead.

“Next time, no driving Ms. Daisy.”

Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play the two dudes that are after her, and work very well together, despite them seeming like an odd-match at first. Rock is the straight-laced, comedic-man that is more like the voice of reason, whereas Freeman is the down-and-out hitman, that’s on his last job, wants to retire, and is starting to see more visions than he ever planned on, sort of like Betty in a way. Both have this odd-contrast between the two, but still do well at showing how goofy they can be, but also still have you a bit scared of what they could do next.

Greg Kinnear is also a nice fit as Dr. David Ravell, aka the person his character in this movie plays on the show that Betty loves to watch (make any sense?). What I liked about Kinnear is that he’s a bit of a dick because he’s a famous star that mostly older-housewives love, and seems to have it all go to his head. Yet, still respects and loves Betty for the fact that she’s able to be “in character” the whole time that they chat, but little does he know: She’s serious. Dead serious, in fact. It’s fun to see him play that idea up as we all know Kinnear is more than capable of playing a deuche.

He’s just got that look, I hate to say.

Consensus: While going through a few tonal issues, Nurse Betty still works as a dark, twisted, but surprisingly funny piece of LaBute fiction that may not have his trademark style, but still seems up the same alley.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a dick in this too. Much of a surprise to no one.

Oh yeah, and he’s a dick in this too. Not much of a surprise to any one.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Constantine (2005)

Cigarettes are the devil.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift that gave him the ability to recognise the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human camouflage. It’s not something he wanted, but it was the hand he was dealt, so there’s not much else he can do with it other than drive the demons off of this Earth from hurting humans, and just smoke his life away. He seems pretty content on spending the rest of his days like this, that is all until police detective Angela Dodson’s (Rachel Weisz) twin-sister jumps off of a balcony, plummeting to her death. However, right before she decided to go sidewalk-diving, she apparently turned to the security-camera watching her uttering his name. Dodson knows that there’s something more powerful going on here than just a sudden burst of suicidal thoughts, so she decides to ring Constantine up, despite his best wishes to, once again, be left alone to smoke and fight evil for the rest of his days. But now, Constantine realizes there may be a way to save Dodson’s sister’s life, even if that does mean putting himself clearly in harms way.

A lot of people have made a stink about this movie and the choice in which Keanu Reeves was to play the titular character of the famous comics, John Constantine. While I have never read the comics, meaning I don’t have much of an opinion as if he perfectly solidifies this character or not, it doesn’t matter because Keanu Reeves, no matter what bad stuff you may hear about him, is STILL a movie star, and can take any piece of material, find a way to make it interesting and be able to get people to watch him do what it is that he’s doing, despite us all knowing he’s not-that good of an actor. That’s the reality of it, but we should all just get by that right now and move on. Shall we?

Hey, at least she didn't leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Hey, at least she didn’t leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Anyway, what this movie does do well is that it sets its story up with a unique tone. Seeing this movie and material from afar, some would probably bet this to be an overly-serious, religious-themed thriller that’s all about demons, gods, angels and all sorts of other biblical references to where you feel like you’re back in Sunday School, but the movie has a little bit of fun with itself, right before it dives right into that cheesiness. Constantine’s played-up more as an anti-hero that always has something nifty to say, has his pack of smokes handy and basically knows what it is that he has to do next, at any given time. The movie sets us up with this cool-as-molasses character right away, gives us a tone that’s at times goofy, but darkly so, and has us feel like if the rest of the movie continues on like this, we may just have ourselves a clear-defined winner of religious-themed, action-thrillers, among the other religious-themed, action-thrillers (of which there are many, I think).

However, about half-way through, once the real bulk of this story gets introduced to us, things begin to slowly go downhill. For starters, the movie is over two-hours long, which already gives you the impression that no matter what it is that this flick does with its story, it must do it quick and easy, just so it doesn’t feel like a three-hour epic along the likes of Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments (and yes, I know those two are way, WAY longer than just “two-hours”). But needless to say, despite him having a clear-eye for what it is that he wants to tell us about this story and this main character, director Francis Lawrence still can’t seem to get himself away from all of the constant-exposition that usually brings these types of movies to a screeching-halt.

With a story of this matter, it’s not like you don’t need to know the ins, the outs and whereabouts of when Satan was born, how, where and why he matters now, it’s just that there is a more efficient way to tell that, among many other parts of the story, without having it seem like a total snooze-fest that’s so repetitive, you don’t even care if it makes sense or not. Instead, you just want to see this Constantine guy put his feet into water, grab a cat, start meditating and all of a sudden, be thrown into this dark after-world, where all he does is battle demons. Yes, that scene does happen and it’s pretty cool, but it’s in the middle of non-stop dialogue-heavy scenes where people just use a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that can easily get passed off as “religious”.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, I say!

As we all know though, once the middle-half of a movie goes by and we feel as if we’ve been more-than introduced to this story and the characters that inhabit it, then things begin to get fun, and that’s the truth with this flick. While it does get really goofy and cheesy by the end with all of the CGI, the movie still kept me entertained and feeling as if I was just watching a piece of science-fiction, rather than something that was supposed to have a deeper-meaning because it used biblical-figures like Gabriel or Lucifer himself (perfectly given the nickname of “Lou”; whatta cool guy). Some may be enraged by me saying something like that, but it helped me get through the movie a lot easier. So crucify me if you must, but I was just trying to make the pill go down easier.

"Did I hear somebody talking about 'a machinehead'?"

“Did I hear somebody talking about ‘a machinehead’?”

And yes, I did use a “pill joke” there because Keanu stars in this and yes, he is like I said before: Stiff, tired and dull, but he’s still fun to watch. He makes Constantine the type of witty bad-ass a movie of this nature needs to move along and survive by, and without him, I don’t really know who else I could see doing it. Maybe if I read the comics I would know, but for right now, it seems like Neo was a pretty solid choice in the first place. Rachel Weisz, despite her credible acting-abilities, is sort of left without much to do other than work-off of the blank piece-of-paper that is Keanu Reeves’ screen-presence, but she makes it interesting enough, to say the least. Still though, this would be released in the same year that she won her Oscar, so I guess all was forgiven after awhile.

As okay as these two are in the lead roles, they’re sort of given the standard-roles where all they have to do is all act all plain and simple, amongst all of their crazy, bat-shit surroundings, which doesn’t just limit itself to the atmosphere and the story, but the fun and energetic supporting cast as well. Shia LaBeouf gets his first, real taste in mainstream cinema as Constantine’s lacky and shows that he has the ability to be charming and a bit annoying at the same time, but rightfully so; Djimon Hounsou plays a strange, voodoo-like conjurer called Papa Midnite, who doesn’t take sides between the angels and the demons, yet, sees himself leaning more towards the demons, just because the plot needs him to do so; Gavin Rossdale is charming as the cunning Balthazar, showing us that in the year 2005, he was still staying relevant by doing this and Gwen Stefani at the same time (bastard); Tilda Swinton shows up early on as the angel Gabriel, and isn’t heard from in quite awhile, until she shows up later and does what she does best; and Peter Stormare plays the infamous Lou, giving him all the likable, but evil charm we’d expect to see when Peter Stormare is playing the man also known as Satan himself. If that isn’t what the devil’s really like, then I have no clue what a better personification truly is!

Consensus: Juggles itself around with being overtly-serious at certain times, and campy-but-fun at others, but at the end of the day, Constantine is just a fun, cool-looking and feeling religious-themed action-thriller that somehow benefits from the deadly-charm of Keanu Reeves and the rest of his able cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

“WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Plenty of chicks I knew in high school were witches. Then again, those were the same ones who still have yet to return my phone calls/love letters. Bitches.

After his mother’s tragic death, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) re-enters high school in hopes that he will pick back up with his studies, get back in line with the ladies, and eventually get the hell out of his little, Southern town and venture throughout the world. And hell, if there is any kid in that small town: it’s him. But all of his plans get put to the side once Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), a mysterious new girl, shows up to the town and everybody accuses of being a witch and a lover of all things weird. Whether or not this is true, Ethan does not care as he takes a liking to Lena and begins to start a relationship with her, even though it’s frowned-upon from his best buddy (Thomas Lennon), to the his house-keeper (Viola Davis), and even to the mother of his best buddy, who just so happens to be the head of the Church (Emma Thompson). What Ethan should care about though, is Lena’s odd uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), who seems to have a bit more secrets than you could imagine.

Ever since Twilight ended, the most predictable, yet obvious thing happened to the world. The Earth still continued to revolve around the sun, people woke up the next day and went on with what they do usually do everyday, and men and women still mated in hopes that there will be a next generation to come. So yeah, the world didn’t turn over on it’s side and begin an apocalypse like every female teenager probably suspected, but what did actually happen out of the whole ending was that studios desperately realized something: they needed the next, big Twilight movie. Not necessarily Twilight itself, but something that’s along the same lines in terms of it’s one-dimensional characters, sappy, teenage romance, and supernatural happenings. This is what they came up with but here’s the problem: this movie isn’t like those crap-fests.

Sneaking into places that you aren't originally supposed to be in: oh, how young love gets me swooning in the moment!

Sneaking into places that you aren’t originally supposed to be in: oh, how young love gets me swooning in the moment!

And by that, I mean that the movie actually has a bit of soul to itself. Not a huge soul that may have you re-thinking what you’ve been doing with your life for the past couple of years, but a soul that’s pretty clear for you to see on-screen, even if everything else surrounding it is nothing new or original you haven’t already seen done just a couple of months before. That’s what’s so surprising about this flick is that it isn’t actually boring and it isn’t actually just a movie made to appeal to the Twilight audiences (even though it’s clear that it definitely went for that type); it was actually made to entertain audiences. Wow. Who would have ever thought that you could make a movie about a teenage romance, with some superpowers, and not have it be as boring as a snail race?

Well, at times though, the movie does seem like it’s a lot more boring than a snail race, and probably just as bad as one of those shit-fests we know as Twilight. For instance, whenever the movie focuses away from the couple and goes more towards the witches and what their history means, the movie becomes exceedingly bad. It isn’t that it’s bad because it doesn’t make sense or everybody’s just speaking in code that you don’t even dare to understand, it’s that the movie doesn’t really want you to care about it. It’s honestly just there to fill up time, make us forget about the sappy love in the middle, and hope that we actually fall for the exposition it’s piling down our throats. Sometimes, however; it does work, especially when the witches get into a battle with one another. But other times; it’s just a bore of a chore to watch.

And that’s about half of the movie right there: a bunch of annoying, shitty exposition that’s only here to add more depth and information to this story than needed. Obviously the books they adapted this movie from probably had the same bit of exposition and rules to being a witch and how, but that still doesn’t make it any more or less interesting. What looks good and informative on the page, may not look the same on screen and I have to call-out director Richard LaGravenese for not realizing that. The dude definitely tries his hardest to try and make us care about these witches and what it is that they do, but we just don’t, as it seems like the movie doesn’t really care for them either. Or, well, care enough for them to actually give them a decipherable history, meant to be understood by the common-folk who don’t quite understand witches, except for the fact that they make stew that’s supposed to poison you or something of that kind nature.

However, like I said, the movie isn’t always as bad as I may make it sound, because at the center of it all is actually a love that’s worth caring about and believing in, which is most thanks to the chemistry between the two leads: Aiden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert. Both of them together, was great to see because you could tell that they actually did both care for one another and didn’t care about what the rest of their little town had to say. They don’t fall head-over-heels right off-the-bat, but over time and through getting to understand one another, something nice between the two develops and it was a nice reminder that the central love in your story doesn’t have to be awe-inspiring to work, it just has to have some amount of detail to. Of course, my thoughts may be with a totally different movie that may have actually put more emphasis on their relationship-dynamic, but at least the movie still gave them enough development together as a couple to make it work well enough, that to when shit started getting weird with this plot and these characters; that I was at least somewhat invested in what I saw.

"Well darn' tootin' boys and gals! Yee-haw!! Southern enough for ya?"

“Well darn’ tootin’ boys and gals! Yee-haw!! Southern enough for ya?”

Because trust me, these two are the only elements of this movie grounded in any sort of reality. Still wondering if that’s a good or bad thing.

Every supporting character seems to be camping it up beyond belief that it’s no wonder why people think they’re all crazy-ass witches. Jeremy Irons strains himself trying to hide his English-accent, and gives Macon a very goofy-demeanor where you don’t know if you should be terrified of him, or get him a drink while he parties it up with all the gals and sings karaoke. Irons seems to be having fun, but it’s at our expense and it’s a bit strange to watch. Not saying an veteran who has given his life to the big-screen can’t have a little bit of fun every once awhile, but what I’m saying is that watching it does become a tad strange after awhile. Once again, don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing considering I didn’t seem to quite know where this movie was going with it.

He’s just the starting-point though, as everybody else is just as campy and goofy as he is. Emma Thomspon is another who’s guilty as Mrs. Lincoln, who seems to be really enjoying the hell out of herself, but like Irons; still seems to be doing it just by simply goofing around. Whether or not we are supposed to be scared by her, is totally up to us and how much we still wet the bed at night. Emmy Rossum is good as the sexy and seductive Ridley Duchannes, who seems to be using her good looks to get whatever it is the hell that she oh so desires, but it doesn’t go further enough. She’s a big part of the story and then, all of a sudden, gets kicked out, only to come in again. The scenes with her were pretty good, but the movie didn’t use them or her quite enough to really get her character across the board and in our minds. Except for the maybe teenage dudes who were strangled into seeing this with their girlfriends. Then, lastly, there’s Viola Davis who actually feels bored with the material, almost as much as we are. Can’t blame her though since all she has to do is talk about what witches do, what’s bad about them, what’s good about them, and while she’s at it, put the groceries away into fridge. You would honestly think that after doing something like the Help, that the gal would gain a bit more respect for what roles she’d be given, but nope; she’s right back to getting food and packing it up for white folks.

Consensus: Most of what’s wrong with Beautiful Creatures, lies on the fact that the movie tries too hard to appeal to the Twilight crowd, but it’s slightly better than that because of it’s leads and the love story in the middle. Everything else is a bit too campy or over-the-top to take seriously or really care about enough.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

One second, she's making the Thanksgiving dinner for a white family of two. Next second; she's reading witch diaries.

One second, she’s making the Thanksgiving dinner for a white family of two. Next second; she’s reading witch diaries.

Identity (2003)

That’s why you gotta fly high, Marriott Inn-style, baby.

It all started on a very-rainy night with a woman getting run over by a limo-driver (John Cusack). After this, the man tries to save her life by bringing her to a motel in the middle of the desert, owned by an odd man named Larry (John Hawkes). There’s no such luck, until a cop (Ray Liotta) with a prisoner in his custody (Jake Busey), comes on by. There might be hope, but there somehow isn’t, considering the more and more people that show up, the more deaths there are. But here’s the kicker: nobody has a single-clue exactly as to who’s killing all of these people in the shadows. It could be anybody. Hell, it could even be YOU, the viewer!! AHHH!!

This movie is such an obvious rip-off of an Hitchcock movie, it’s not even funny. Everything from the strange-o characters, to the tense setting, to the mystery, and hell, even to the actual motel itself. It looks exactly like the one that Norman Bates rented out for anybody that strolled-along, almost to the point of where the actual sign itself continues to flicker on-and-off to portray just how shady the area actually is. Yes, it can get pretty obvious where the creators took their inspiration from, but the distractions go away once the story starts, and ultimately: where the fun really begins.

Going into this movie, thinking that you have a hot-head for detail and knowing what’s good when it comes to any movie, may just have take your high-hat off for this one because it’s a total puzzle in every stretch of the imagination. Every time a new character is brought to our attention, more of a mystery is presented to us, and just when we think we know exactly what this story is all about, where it’s going, and who’s going to end up being the slasher behind the closed-doors; the movie still toys with us and gives us something new to think about. There were countless times in this movie where even I thought I had it all figured-out, but somehow I was stooped, once again.

Just had to get run over, didn't ya?!?!?

Just had to get run over, didn’t ya?!?!?

Movies like this where you can’t trust anyone, not even the director himself (in this case, James Mangold), always are a treat for me to watch because it’s very rare where I actually get to check out a movie that makes me second-guess myself, almost every step of the way. No matter what I thought was right, I was usually wrong. Even by the end once all of the pieces seemed to start to come together, once more, I was slapped in the face with a disapproving look. Not to say it was an insult or anything, but it was more of a slap to wake up, and look at the finer-details in order to see if I could really get on with this movie, and what it was trying to pull.

But most movies like this, with all of the twists and such, remind me of a young-at-heart relationship between two people. At first, all is good. You see where things could go, you get happy, and you start to appreciate everything that you have in front of you, even if you may be stepping-out of your comfort-zone a bit. Actually, maybe even a bit too much for yourself. However, suddenly things go awry and you realize that maybe not everything was as perfect as you once thought it was, and now it’s time for a slight-change. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to over-do everything, show the other person how much you care, and rather than gaining their love and support back, you gain other thoughts and feelings that you didn’t quite want in the first place. You know, the baddie one.

That’s how this movie felt to me. Once everything got ready and going, I was happy and ambitious. I expected the movie to keep me puzzled, glued-in to what was going on, and shock me, every time that it felt like it wanted to. However, things got a little crazy at a certain point that I eventually started to realize that maybe this movie was turning it’s wheels a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the movie for being fun, clever, and original in it’s own type of way, but after awhile, it only went on for so long and so far, that is, until I started to question whether or not this movie even believed in the twists it was throwing at the wall and seeing what stuck, and what sort of just surely, but slowly continued to slide-down the wall.

Then, on the other side of the stadium, I am a bit torn with this movie because I enjoyed myself, had fun, and continued to second-guess myself, even when I was sure that I was correct in my pretentious, critical-ways (hey, it comes with the job). So therefore, I guess it’s all just a judge of character. Whether or not you are able to take the numerous twists the movie begins to launch into the story, is all up to you. For yours truly, some of it worked and seemed smart, whereas some of it didn’t quite work so well and actually seemed goofy. Oh well, that’s just me. Make up your own minds, kids!

But no matter what crazy shit a movie tries to pull, you at least have to give it credit for getting a cast such as this assembled, and allow them to do whatever it is that they can do to make a movie as goofy as this work. Nobody is really playing very far and away from what we’ve seen them do before, but at least they own it and are game for this type of material. At least. John Cusack is good as the ring-leader of the group, who knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to pull it all off so no more people get killed. You see that he has a past where the guy used to be a cop, but suffered a problem that left him emotionally-strained and messed-up in the head, therefore, he left his duty. But that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy, right? Keep on guessing.

Ray Liotta plays, as you could expect, a cop that has a huge chip on his shoulder with a dangerous criminal in his custody, and a bit of anger-issue. However, as obvious and conventional as this may sound (even for a character played by Liotta), Liotta makes him work because you constantly believe that there is more to this dude than he lets in, even if the character himself doesn’t seem to admit it. Liotta is always good at playing these types of roles, even if it sort of has become a trademark of his by now. That’s fine, though, because the guy seems like he would do the right thing if he had to, but does that mean he’s really a good guy? Keep on guessing.

"No, you go first."

“No, you go first.”

The only one here who really seems to have a clear-enough conscience not be considered a prime-suspect in all of the killings, is a whore with a heart of gold played by Amanda Peet. I usually love Peet in everything she does, but she seemed a bit annoying here. It wasn’t Peet herself, as much as it was more of her character for having that loud, obnoxious Southern-accent that continued to ring in my ears, even when she wasn’t yelling at somebody for looking at her hot body. Yeah, blame us for this, Amanda!

But they aren’t the only ones in this movie, they’re just the main stars that may (or may not) attract the audience to the wider-show. There’s plenty more where that came from, and they are all great. Clea Duvall plays a young, just-recently married gal that’s having problems with her d-bag hubby; John C. McGinley’s character’s wife is the one who gets hit in the first place and is good at being awkward and twitchy, without reminding me of the legend of all this; John Hawkes is a fun-fit as the type of dude you’d expect to own a motel out in the middle of nowhere (meaning he’s a bit of a creep-o); and lastly, the lovely and equally-as-creepy Rebecca De Mornay is here as an aging, but still very uptight actress that believes she deserves more than she’s given. Art imitating life? Just maybe.

Consensus: Most of what Identity has to offer and whether or not you’ll be able to go along for the ride, is all up to you, the viewer. Twists and turns will occur, and it all depends on whether or not you are game for them. Me, I was quite game, but I will admit that there is some goofiness underneath the blankets of a story that seemed drench in mystery.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Surprise! Surprise! It was the bubble-wrap killer after all of this time!!

Surprise! Surprise! It was the bubble-wrap killer after all of this time!!

Butter (2012)

Hey, that’s one way to stop obesity in our country. Make butter sculptures!

A young orphan named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who, after being adopted by a Midwestern family (Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone), discovers she has an uncanny talent for butter-carving. She eventually finds herself up against the ambitious wife of the retired reigning champion named Laura (Jennifer Garner) in a town’s annual butter-sculpting contest.

Director Jim Field Smith surprised the hell out of me two years back when he showed-up with what was yet, another typical rom-com in the name of She’s Out of My League. What surprised me about this flick was not just how it was actually funny, it had some nice insight to relationships and the way dudes and girls are looked at when they’re both together. It surprised the hell out of me, even if the formula didn’t. However, Smith is right back to formula this time around and this time, it’s not so commendable.

The problem with Smith’s direction here is that he never seems to get as dirty or nasty as he wants to get. The satire is so freakin’ obvious it’s not even funny (seriously, it isn’t). Basically, by showing us this butter-sculpting competition, Smith is poking fun at corporate America and how they look at the world in their own eyes. Is it a smart idea? Of course. Is it executed well at all? Nope, not at all and I think the main problem with that is because Smith plays it a bit too safe with a story that could go anywhere (and sometimes does), but ends up going along the lame-o types and formulas we have come to expect from movies of this same nature.

Playing it safe is what bothered me about this film, but the other element that seemed to annoy me was how the story never followed a pattern. For instance, it’s comedy would seem to come out of nowhere and be that raunchy, dirty-type of comedy that pleases Apatow fans only, but then suddenly changes itself into a sappy, corny story about a young girl who’s trying to make sense of the world. At some points, it’s edgy, and at others, it’s plain and soft to the point of where you almost feel like they want to give you a hug. This comes in the way of all of these stories that never really seem to have any meaning, other than to just be there and make use of their big-names on the posters. Olivia Wilde’s character, as amazing as she may be here, still did not need to even be in the movie except for about the first 5 minutes were with her, so every other time she shows up, it seems like over-kill and Smith’s only way to get comedy out of a tired-plot.

That’s not to say that this film isn’t entertaining, because it really is and with the laughs that work, they really do work. The first 45 minutes or so work because it gets us ready and prepped-up for the whole butter competition, shows us the goofy characters, and gives them enough characterization to make us feel like we’re in for a big and wild surprise. Sadly, that only stays with us for about 20 minutes or so, but for those 20 minutes, I was laughing and had a good time.

The main reason why I laughed a good amount of times was mainly because of the cast and what they’re able to do with some caricatures. One of the biggest surprises of this whole cast was Rob Corddry who really dials it down here as Destiny’s adoptive father. What I liked so much about Corddry here is that there is a nice feeling of warmth and support in his character, that comes through in every frame. Corddry is usually that one guy in raunchy comedies that seems way too over-the-top to even be considered entertaining or funny, but here, he shows that it sort of just comes naturally to him and it makes me wonder what else this guy can do with his career. Maybe he can pull-off a drama in the near-future, or maybe he’s just going to stick to R-rated comedies that barely get him noticed as anything else but that crazy, loud bald guy that seems like he’s high all of the time. Maybe that is the case, but hey, I’m not judging.

The one star in this film that did not work-out as well as Corddry did for me, was Jennifer Garner as Laura. Here’s my thing with Garner, the girl is good when it’s her in drama, but when she tries to step her foot into comedy, she falls flat on her face and never seems to get up. That is exactly the same case we have here with her character, Laura, as she’s just another one of those self-righteous bitches, that nobody likes, nobody wants to see, and 9 times out of 10, doesn’t even laugh at because she’s so freakin’ evil. Laura isn’t as evil as the film may want you think, since the only real bad thing her character even does is lie, but Garner tries so damn hard to push her character to those bitch-levels, that it seems forced and never like Garner really has what it takes to make an entertaining bitch. She’s insufferable to watch and I think that Hollywood just needs to stop throwing this girl’s comedic-skills (or lack thereof) down our throats and just realize one, simple damn thing: Jennifer Garner, aka Mrs. Ben Affleck, is not funny! Never has been, and never will be so stop giving her big comedic roles where we need to laugh at her to enjoy ourselves. It just doesn’t work.

Consensus: Butter has some delightful moments and features a fine cast, except for Jennifer Garner who is annoying to watch and listen to, but never goes down to those deep deaths of hell that they call satire and decides to play it safe with it’ story and what it is essentially poking jokes at.

5/10=Rental!!

Monster (2003)

Charlize Theron would definitely be the #1 hooker in America, but not #1 serial killer. Then again, she was both and she didn’t look like her normal, sexy, beautiful self.

Charlize Theron stars in true-life story of Aileen Wuaronos, a prostitute executed last year in Florida after being convicted of murdering six men. While Wuaronos confessed to the six murders, including a policeman, she claimed to have killed only in self-defense, resisting violent assaults while working as a prostitute.

So it seems like this Aileeen chick isn’t a real peach in the first place but the hot and sexy South African Charlize Theron is playing her, so it she can’t be that unbearable, right?

Writer/director Patty Jenkins tells this story in a pretty straight-forward way that doesn’t get in the way of anything here and that’s not so bad. Jenkins does do a nice job of showing us the dark and light side of Aileeen, and instead of just focusing on what we think she was like behind all of those murders, we get to understand her for a person that has been so knocked down by men and society, that the only possible solution could be is murder. There isn’t any real terribly graphic stuff to see here in the first place, but the film has this dirty/gritty look that takes you into the world that Aileen herself lived in for so long too. Still a surprise that Jenkins was actually going to direct the sequel to ‘Thor’ because the only action here is basically Theron holding up a pistol to some dudes’ head, and that’s just about it.

Since this is an actual serial killer, it’s somewhat hard to get involved with this story as well as Aileen, considering we know what she did and she had no problem with it either. Serial Killer movies can only do so much because they show you what actually happened with some character development to even out all of the grisly details, but it’s pretty hard to do that when the character isn’t a person that you can totally get behind. I mean yeah, she’s a hooker that has to kill these dudes in order to live for herself and her girly-friend and only does it because she had a messed-up childhood but she could honestly choose something else as a profession. The film shows her trying her hardest to actually do that but I honestly couldn’t have any sympathy for this girl either because even when she did get the moolah, she spent it all on cigs, beer, and occasionally a new place to stay.

I also found it a little strange that there is barely any light moments that occur during the last two acts of this flick. There is a pleasant love story that takes over the first two acts and it has it’s fair share of joyful and amusing moments to cheer us up, but it almost feel like it was just in order to get us ready for the dramatic and dark territory we were about to venture into. I don’t think all films about serial killers and murderers need to bring some light to the topic just in order to keep my attention, but the film just started to lose my interest a bit more and more as it went on.

Charlize Theron definitely deserved the Oscar back in ’04 for her role here as Aileen Wuaronos, because she totally gets lost in this insane and crazed, real-life figure. Her performance aside, the physical transformation she goes through is absoloutely stunning because this is what Charlize Theron looks in real-life, and this is what she looks like as Aileen. See the difference? It’s crazy how they got Theron to look so damn disgusting and gritty, but it’s also even crazier how amazing Theron is here as well. Theron jumps into this role at a 100 mph and never lets loose. She’s a very freaky gal that will definitely give you this tense feeling whenever she’s picked up on the side of the road and Theron is great at showing us just how intimidating a one-lady killer can be. Theron also has some real emotional scenes that may not have you win over any sympathy for her character, but they are still great scenes none the less and you start to realize that this Aileen chick, is a lot more human than the media may have you think so. Don’t really think I would pick up a chick that looked like Aileen and do a little something something, but then again, many other people would.

Christina Ricci is also very good as Aileen’s young and spoiled lesbian lover, Selby. Ricci looks nothing like the real chick, but she still has the emotional chops to carry her performance throughout the whole movie. Their love also works because you can feel that these two actually have something going on between them, even though one of them is serial killer. Good chemistry between two chicks that are usually hot in everything they do, but here, I didn’t think of them like that once.

Consensus: Monster features an amazing performance from Charlize Theron, that commands the screen the whole time she’s on-screen, but the rest of the flick is sort of lackluster and definitely isn’t as interesting when it comes to plot development since we all know how it ends, and also that everything is pretty damn grim.

7.5/10=Rental!!