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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rami Malek

Buster’s Mal Heart (2017)

Yeah, life can be weird.

There’s an eccentric mountain man named Buster (Rami Malek), who, for one reason or another, is surviving the winter by breaking into empty vacation homes in a remote community. While Buster isn’t his actual real name, he mostly acquired it by calling up local talk shows to rant and rave about the impending Inversion at the turn of the millennium. Of course, people just assume he is a total nut and leave it at that, but there’s actually more to Buster than just crazy and insane theories. Believe it or not, back in the day, or at least, so we think, he was a married-man, with a wife (Kate Lyn Sheil), a kid, and yes, in-laws that bothered the heck out of him. But he’s constantly by what happened to them, him, and the role that he may have played.

He’s a mountain man.

Buster’s Mal Heart is being described a whole lot as “a Donnie Darko-type” that means it’s just weird and supernatural enough to charm all the sci-fi loving nerds of the world, and also still realistic and humane enough to be, well, a movie for almost everyone. Although, to say the least, this movie isn’t for everyone; it’s a little weird, a little twisted, and most of all, a tad confusing. However, there’s something to be said for a movie that does seem to trust its audience in filling certain gaps that perhaps scenes or moments of obvious dialogue could.

It’s like, get this, writer/director Sarah Adina Smith knows we came to see her movie, to not just think, but also be a bit challenged.

That’s fine for me, because while it’s not an easy movie to fully immerse yourself in, Buster’s Mal Heart still does a lot of interesting and neat little tricks that make you think that the ideas are here, but maybe, just maybe, the execution may be a bit flawed. After all, it’s a morbid and rather sad movie about a dude losing his crap and why that all happens, without ever seeming to actually explain why it all went so downhill. Then, the movie does and it feels a little plain and conventional and a tad random, as if we didn’t really need an explanation in the first place.

That said, Smith takes her time with this story, developing it, and telling us what we need to know to keep us going. Seeing Buster as a squatting, fully-bearded mountain man is odd, but then seeing him as Jonah, the lonely, bored and rather odd hotel clerk, makes the movie even more odd. But it still works because we’re watching two stories be told to us, with a certain amount of deliberate pacing that helps us in the small, yet subtle and meaningful ways that work for weird movies such as this.

Marriott Inn better have a good Fire Wall.

Just like Donnie Darko, although, when compared, this movie clearly takes the cake.

Then again, was that already obvious in the first place?

Regardless, in the lead role, Rami Malek does a nice job showing us a normal, everyday dude who has some oddly weird and rather sinister thoughts and ideas brewing underneath the appearance. Watching Malek play a nut-ball can be occasionally amusing, but watching him as he loses all control, even when he’s with his family, or at his job, is actually more compelling. After all, watching a crazy person be crazy, while sometimes amusing, can often times get boring because, well, we know what they are and that’s it. However, watching a crazy person act normal, in everyday situations are way more compelling, mostly because we never fully know where they’re going to go, or when they’re going to let out the crazy cries. Malek does that well on Mr. Robot, but he does that especially well here and it makes me think that perhaps it’s time he take on more movie roles, rather than getting stuck on a crazily pretentious show that, with all hopes, will come back into our good graces when the second season premieres.

But that’s another story, another day, and hell, a whole site in general. Not this.

Consensus: While definitely odd and off-kilter, Buster’s Mal Heart still gets by on keeping itself just weird and clear enough to stay compelling, even when it veers into absolute weirdness that’s almost a little hard to explain.

6.5 / 10

We get it. You’re nuts. Let’s move on, shall we?

Photos Courtesy of: Everything is Everything, Gamechanger Films, Snowfort Pictures

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Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2015)

ff388289b27ddfa130ea3d18c29e9913_largeVampires from New York are a lot less insufferable.

After being stabbed to death by his assistant with a cursed ancient weapon, scholar Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams) finds himself transformed in ways he didn’t expect to be. For one, he can’t kill himself, no matter how hard he tries. And he’s now got an addiction to blood, which would, in turn, make him into a vampire. It’s life-changing alteration that Green feels weird with at first, but sooner than later, soon realizes that he can have some fun with it. The only thing is that he needs to make sure that he gets blood, from anywhere he can find it; meaning, in some cases, he’ll have to kill people, just in order to suck out their blood. After some time, however, his assistant’s ex-wife, Ganja Hightower (Zaraah Abrahams), shows up and actually begins to fall for him. Green doesn’t know whether he can let Ganja in on his little secret, because if he does, that means the both of them will turn into addicted, blood-sucking vampires. Rich ones, too.

Though he’s had plenty of missteps in the past (like any talented director has), there’s no ignoring the fact that whichever movie he does, Spike Lee always finds ways to make them interesting. Not just visually, but also by what he’s trying to say underneath the actual plot itself. Sometimes, his point is effective and can definitely hit home for some (He Got Game and Do the Right Thing are famous examples of this), but other times, they can be not one bit subtle and just seem like someone getting up on their soapbox and preaching at you for two hours (Jungle Fever and Bamboozled). Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is somewhere in the middle of these two possible options, although it’s hard to ever pin-point what sort of message Lee is trying to make in the first place.

Quite effective. Assuming that the other person doesn't have a fire-arm with them.

Quite effective weapon. Assuming that the other person doesn’t have a fire-arm with them.

Could it be that fortune makes one person lose all humanity and forget about who they once were? Could it be that society has been constructed in such a way that the only way for an African American to survive in today’s economy, is for them to eat and kill their way to the top? Or, simply put, is it that no matter how far down the deep-end one can go in life, that God, our lord and savior, is always there to save you?

Personally, I have no clue and I don’t think Spike Lee knows either.

This creates a problem with a movie that, on the surface, is a bit too plain. It’s known that Lee raised all of the movie’s finances through a Kickstarter campaign and while it is nice to see someone put all of that hard-earned money to good use (as opposed to other famous celebrities utilizing the same method for financing), there’s not much more to this story that makes it all feel deserving of being told to us. Especially when it’s our own money being dealt with here.

However, there is something to be said for someone like Lee, who is able to bring out interesting anecdotes in a film that isn’t filled with too many of them. Rather than coming right out and saying that this movie’s a vampire tale about one dude trying to get as much blood as he possibly can to survive, Lee goes a step further in exploring the actual dude who has, suddenly, been turned into a vampire. As dull on the surface as Dr. Hess Green may be, it’s his background that’s actually the most interesting element about him – he’s a smart fella, for sure, but the only reason he is as rich as he is, is because his parents left it all for him. So now that he’s been stricken with this tragic circumstance, he now has to act on his own and do what’s best for him, rather than having to follow whatever mommy or daddy may have wanted for him to follow.

This might be an instance of me stretching myself a tad too thin, but whatever the case may have been, there was something intriguing to this character that made him compelling to watch. Williams doesn’t bring much flair or excitement to this role, but then again, I don’t think the movie was calling on him to do so, either; he’s as plain as day and the fact that he’s now a blood-sucking vampire, is supposed to make him interesting. If only ever so slightly.

Not creepy at all, bro.

Not creepy at all, bro.

And speaking of the whole vampire-angle to this story, it’s kind of where you can tell Lee’s having the most problems with this film. Rather than shaking up the genre in his own, innovative way, Lee seems to just constantly hammer in the fact that vampires like blood and will do whatever they can to gain access to it. Lee hardly ever strays away from that and it’s a bit of a disappointment, considering how he’s made a career out of doing that practically his whole career. There’s maybe one instance in which we see Lee play with the formula, in which Green sucks the blood of a prostitute who may, or may not have AIDS. Automatically, this puts the whole story into perspective and made me wonder what kind of movie was next to follow. But then, as soon as he brings the idea to the table, Lee then poo-poos it and counts it off as nothing more than a false alarm.

Yet again, another instance in which Lee, someone who seemed to once love to shake things up for cinema, gets back into line like the rest of the other directors out there.

And don’t have me fooled, this isn’t me saying that everything Lee does here isn’t inspired (there’s another key scene near the end involving a church ceremony that is one of the more exciting, visually breath-taking things he’s done in awhile), it’s just that this clearly isn’t the film for him to really stretch his wings out, try something new, or better yet, even show the world why he needs us, the adoring fans, to fund his work. Kickstarter is fine and all, but when you raise a bunch of money, for something that doesn’t seem to quite go anywhere all that eventful or miraculous, then what’s the point? Vanity?

Oh, who knows.

Consensus: Occasionally interesting, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus finds Spike Lee trying to do whatever he can, with whatever limited resources he’s given, but also doesn’t allow it to result as much worth talking about.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

At least we get a dolly shot. That's all that I paid to see.

At least we get a dolly shot. That’s all that I paid Spike Lee millions to see.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Need for Speed (2014)

Next best thing to do after selling the dopest meth? Drive cars. Betch.

After one of his best buddies tragically dies in a street-racing incident, driver/auto-mechanic Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is thrown into jail, even if he isn’t the one who caused the accident. That title blame should go towards Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), an entrepreneur who decides that he’s had enough of Tobey’s ways of showing-off, and wants him gone. Well, in his case: Mission accomplished. Tobey takes the jail-card for a little over two years and you’d think he’d learn his lesson. But nope, as soon as he walks right out of jail, he meets up with his good buddy (Scott Mescudi, aka, “the Man on the Moon”) and they’ve already deviled-up a plan that consists of them getting into this big, annual race to settle the score once and for all. And by actually getting into that race and therefore, being able to face-off against Dino once and for all, Tobey would have to strut his stuff all the way from New York to California, in hopes that the tournament-owner (Michael Keaton) will see him, be impressed and allow him to qualify for the race. However, when you’re driving a fast-as-hell Mustang, and traveling cross-country, it’s a bit hard to stay out of harm’s way, or the law’s way, to be even more exact.

Don’t worry, I get that this is based-off the video-game because I myself, back in my younger days, actually played it and loved the hell out of it. So that means I understand that this movie isn’t devoid from the same material as those the Fast & the Furious movies, but here’s what I can’t seem to wrap my head around: Why would you even bother trying to make a whole other street-racing movie, when that franchise has been kicking ass for quite some time. Sure, right now it has run into a bit of a hurdle, but from what it seems like, they’ve bounced right back and already have a movie zooming into theaters sometime soon.

"YO MISTAAA WHITTEEEE!!!"

“YO MISTAAA WHITTEEEE!!!”

So I ask once again: Why does this movie, another street-racing genre-pick need to exist?

Well, the simple answer is: To make money. That’s it and nothing about it.

That’s all Hollywood is really concerned with, so instead of just making up another story about a bunch of people who like to do underground, street-racing, why not just adapt the story itself from a video-game? Or better yet, how about we just take a random, conventional story, plop the title of the video-game on it and then be able to say, “Oh no, it’s different”? Because that’s exactly what it seems like they did here.

Not only did they take a video-game that people know and definitely love, but they’ve also brought-back the “street-racing movie” genre, back to its root. See, in this day and age where most of our street-racing movies are getting themselves further and further away from the driver-seats, and more into whatever type of action most blockbusters follow, this movie wants us to remember what it’s like to feel the rush of the velocity in the air; the constant life-or-death aspect that comes into the equation when driving insane, ludicrous speeds; and also, how cool you can look and be, when you’re driving a sexy-as-hell ride, yo. And I have no problems with those types of movies whatsoever, in fact, I welcome it, but there’s something here that just really knocked me down, again and again; and I think that all comes down to the fact that this is just about over two-hours.

Yep, it’s that long, and trust me, it does not need to be one bit. Sure, most of the premise revolves around these characters getting from one end of the U.S., to the other, all by vehicle, but they could have easily tightened that part up, or gotten rid of it all the same. Much rather, they could have just had this story focus in on how this Tobey guy wanted to extract revenge in any way possible, and by doing so, he decides to challenge him to the almighty, climactic final race of a life time. That would have been really simple, swift and good for the movie itself, had they decided to go in that direction.

BUT NO!! Instead, we had to get a cross-country field-trip that is about as exciting as being on a chariot with your mom (except we do get to see these people pass an RV), that features these people driving a whole heck of a lot, and pulling-off some mean, nasty and dangerous stunts, just all for the sake that this Tobey guy can get a chance to get his revenge, clear his name and show this baddie whose boss. It’s weird, because although I’m usually good at suspending my disbelief for any movie, just as long as it’s fun, but I just couldn’t here. Every time Tobey would be driving on the wrong side of the road, having near, head-on collisions with various other cars or almost killing a load of pedestrians, I couldn’t help but feel bad for all of them, not Tobey.

In fact, I felt like he, as well as all of his buddies that lent him a helping-hand in all of these shenanigans, were actually somewhat of dicks. Not only did they want to get a chance to prove themselves as a bunch of mofo’s who know a thing or two about racing cars, but they were so dedicated to do so, that they just didn’t care about what the hell else, or who else it was that was around them. They just kept on driving, and driving, and driving, and driving, and after awhile, it downright nearly killed me. By the hour-and-a-half mark, I had about had it up to here with all of the constant revving of the engine, the spinning of the wheels and the violent car-crashes being after-thoughts. Usually I don’t care for this type of petty-stuff in better movies, but here, I totally did and it got to me.

However, what sucked the most, is that I knew I had about 30 or so more minutes left to go.

Like. what is she doing?!?!? Chicks aren't supposed to be doing that, right?

Like, what is she doing?!?!? Chicks aren’t supposed to be doing that, right?

As much as I felt bad for myself, I couldn’t help but want to extend my tender love and care towards the cast, who clearly showed up, trying their hardest. Sadly though, barely anybody comes out of this movie unscathed; not even Aaron Paul. I must say that for Aaron Paul, head-lining in a major-motion blockbuster, post-Breaking Bad, is definitely an inspired, if ambitious choice on his part, but it comes off more like a paycheck gig than anything else. The script only allows him to grit his teeth, stare out from the driver’s seat as he grips the steering-wheel and, occasionally yell whenever necessary. There are some bits and pieces of his natural-charm sprinkled throughout, but overall, it’s just a weak performance from somebody who deserves so much damn better. Oh well, can’t feel too bad though, because he most definitely got a nice, new beach house out of this.

Another strange aspect behind this movie is the fact that both Scott Mescudi and Dominic Cooper are given top-billing in this movie, despite most of the world not knowing exactly who the hell they are (especially Cooper). Sure, people know Scott Mescudi if you’ve ever listened (*cough cough* gotten high) to Kid Cudi’s music, but you’d never know that it was him in this movie, just by reading the poster or the advertisements; same goes for Cooper, who was probably just given a chance to be a big name because he plays the main-baddie here. Regardless of all of this talk, neither are very good, which may be a case of the script, or it may just be because they both read it wrong. Either way, something wasn’t mixing well here and there needs to be someone to blame. My heart tells me the script, but my head tells me the actors themselves. I don’t know. Let me just move the hell on.

The only two in this movie who inject some form of life or energy to be found in this piece whatsoever are Imogen Poots and Michael Keaton. Poots is becoming another one of my famous “darlings” because, as of late, I’ve seen her show-up in stuff and just bring so much life into whatever it is that she’s doing. She’s wonderful here as the British, quirky, free-spirited and very smart gal that Tobey gets stuck riding with for this long trip of theirs, even if it does seem like the script treats her as both “annoying” and “unnecessarily emotional”. I mean, she sticks up for herself, knows a thing or two about cars and even gets behind-the-wheel on more than a few occasions, what the hell is so wrong about that? Damn, men and all their misogyny! As for Keaton, I think we all know by now how hilarious, fun and awesome this guy can be, and that’s no different here. I’ll just leave it like that. On a positive note, despite the fact that the movie was a stinker.

Consensus: Car-junkies will probably love every bit of the two-hour-long Need for Speed movie, however, for everybody else, it will become a real bore, real soon and barely ever change from being anything but.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Still see no turn-signals on.

Pick a lane, bud!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Oldboy (2013)

oldboyWe get it! IT’S HAMMER TIME!!

After he screws up with a major client, advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) knows that there is only one way to ease the pain: By getting utterly and completely plastered. He does this, but after falling asleep in the streets, he somehow finds himself trapped inside of a cellar, disguised as a hotel room. Doucett is obviously bewildered as to what the hell is going on, why and who is doing this to him, but all of those thoughts get thrown to the side once he finds out, via the television in his room, that his wife was raped and murder, allegedly by him, leaving his three-year-old daughter an orphan. Doucett has know idea what the hell to do with his life, but after several attempts at trying to get out “the easy way” he decides that he wants to live and continue to train his mind, body, soul and hatch out a plan to escape. However, he wakes up one random day in a box out in the middle of nowhere, with only a phone, a couple thousands dollars and some clue as to where to go. From there, he’s told that he must find the man who did this to him, but also, find out why this happened to him. The results, as you may suspect, are utterly shocking.

Oh yeah, and a hammer does come into play at one point or another.

"And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!"

“And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!”

Everybody’s been awaiting this moment, and here it finally is: The American-made remake of the near-perfect, 2003 Park Chan-wook South Korean flick, and as you could expect, people will be furious. I was too, not just because there were actual ideas of a remake being talked about, but that they were actually being pursued and were even touched by the likes of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg. Yes, I know that they are two very talented guys in the business and would have done all that they could to make this piece of film work, but I highly doubt that their sensibilities (especially the former’s) would have done justice to the original tale. But time went on and once Spike Lee got attached to the flick, I felt like maybe, just maybe there’s something to see here; and lord, being a huge Spike Lee fan (of his movies, that is), I definitely went in with some happy and hopeful expectations. I expected it not to be as good as the original, but I still expected it to hold some weight on its own, considering that Lee is one of the most important, most original directors we’ve had the pleasure of being graced with in the past two decades.

And you know what? That’s pretty much what I got, except with some disappointment.

Most peeps are going to be pissed about this movie and already write it off as “useless”, “unneeded and just plain “stupid. And to be honest, none of those words of slander are wrong, nor are they right. They are simply just fans of the original’s mind-sets going in, but knowing that this isn’t going to be word-for-word, shot-for-shot exactly like that movie going in before-hand, definitely helps you know what to expect and where to be surprised by, as it sure as hell helped me out to get through this flick. Well that, and being a huge fan of Spike Lee’s directional-skills.

While there definitely isn’t the constant trademarks we usually see from Lee in this flick (with the exception of a near-two second infamous “dolly shot”), there’s still that dour, sad feel we usually get to see and feel from his movies. The original tale of Oldboy is not a very pretty one, and with every chance he gets, Lee never forgets to remind us of this. The violence is bloody, in-our-faces and definitely quick like it needed to be, however, it’s never gratuitous and gives us the impression that Lee wants to stick to his guns with the original, while also not letting-go of what made it such a fun time to begin with. And although he did screw-up the all-mighty, all-known “hammer sequence”, I’ll still give him a pass because he gives us an American-made remake that doesn’t feel like a cash-grab, and more of something along the lines where an original auteur wanted to try his hand at mainstream films once again. The results may not be as spectacular as they were with his last “big” flick, Inside Man, but they are still interesting nonetheless.

But that’s when the problems with this remake do begin to arise. Once Lee has to put his mind on the story, how it develops over time, why and whether or not it totally invests us in all that’s happening, it kinds of screws up and loses some tension. Granted, I’ve seen this story happen before, so obviously mind was a bit turned-off to some of the twists here and there that may be shocking to newcomers, but even then, when Lee decides to change the story up-around a bit, something still didn’t feel right. We get this whole new back-story as to why this is happening and the mystery in which our main characters go out to discover the truth, actually becomes something rather conventional and unexciting, which isn’t because I knew what was going to happen, it’s just because there was nothing really all that interesting surrounding it. It was just a bunch of people hiding, running around and looking for clues, but in all-too-serious matter, as if Holmes and Watson needed to be called to the scene, and pronto!

See, while the original wasn’t necessarily a comedy that made light of the situation that this dude was imprisoned, alienated, framed for murder and sent back out into the wild after all of these years, there were still moments where you could tell that the creator wasn’t taking himself too seriously, only when needed. And it worked, to great-effect because it gave us something that knew the type of audience it was going to please, and didn’t try to steer-away from them one bit. Here, it felt like Lee needed a dash, or hell, even a sprinkle of some lightness to go around, rather than just making this a very deep, dark and depressing affair, with barely any signs of hope or happiness involved. May sound like a weird complaint, I know, but some smudges of light would have went a real, REAL long way.

The cast Lee chose may not be the heaviest-hitters out there in the world today, and they sure as hell aren’t the household names the producers probably intended on originally having, but with whom they have, they made the best out of it, especially even in the smaller roles. But playing the biggest role of all is James Brolin as Joe Doucett, the type of despicable human-being you learn to hate in the first couple minutes, then begin to actually like as time slightly goes on. Brolin’s good at keeping Doucett’s heart and humanity well in place, but he can only go so far with that when all the guy wants is to get revenge on the man that ruined his life, while also trying to find his daughter. The rugged look and persona that Brolin has, does well for Doucett when he has to throw-down and get his hands a little bloody, however, I never quite felt as bad for this guy as I did for Hwang Jo-yoon’s portrayal in the first one. Some of that may have to do with the fact that Brolin’s character has barely any little-to-no personality once he gets out of captivity, or that he looks like he could take on anybody and anyone with his quarterback-shoulders, but overall, I just didn’t feel as attached to Doucett as I should have. I felt bad for him, but I was never rooting him on, which is a little weird for a revenge-thriller.

It's like The Rock's awesome tat, except it's permanent. I mean, so is The Rock's, but...aw, you get it!

It’s like The Rock’s awesome tat, except it’s permanent. I mean, so is The Rock’s, but…aw, you get it!

The one real improvement in terms of characters from the original is with Elizabeth Olsen as the young, sweet-natured, but damaged girl that falls for Doucett, just as soon as she meets him once he’s roaming around the free world. Olsen’s a good actress, so she definitely has that going for her, but also, the character feels a lot better-written this time around, making her more of a “person”, and less than just a “fantasy-image” that most older dudes seem to have for ladies half of their ages. Nope, she’s actually a sad, hurt and wounded bird, just looking for a nest to settle into and be sheltered by and she may have found that with Doucett. Michael Imperoli shows up as Chucky, Doucett’s old buddy from awhile ago and does a nice job portraying the type of guy that’d be there for his friend, even after all of these years has gone by, but begins to seem like a bit of an unbelievable dick, just as time goes on.

Last, but certainly not least though, we have Sharlto Copley as Adrian Pryce, the crazy Brit who has put Doucett through all of these problems to begin with, and only wants to prolong them some more. Copley’s a very interesting talent as he shows up in certain movies, and you can almost never pin-point down, exactly where the hell you’ve seen him from before and whether or not he’s played the same character twice. Basically, he’s the type of versatile actor modern-day flicks need nowadays, and he does a stellar job giving us the sick and twisted, but passionate individual Adrian Pryce. While the portrayal and development for Yoo Ji-tae’s character in the original was a bit better, Copley does all that he can with this character and gives us a menacing figure, that never feels like he isn’t capable of taking control, however he wants, at any given time. Same could be said for Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as one of Pryce’s most-trusted lackeys, Chaney, except that he definitely says “motherfucker” a lot more. Not than just Pryce, but more than anybody else in this flick. But then again, I think we’ve all come to expect that by now and we love it!

Consensus: No doubt in my mind is telling me that this Oldboy remake isn’t better than the original, however, my mind is also telling me that if you are at all interested with seeing how it turns out, given all of the talent involved, then you should definitely give it a go since it’s better than expected, with a couple of questionable choices here and there.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Thus it begins.

Fine. “It’s hammer time.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Love makes ya do the darnedest things.

Ruth and Bill (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) are young, madly in love, and plan of having a baby together. That’s usually a tri-fecta for any couple, but it’s different for these two since they are both outlaws, and Bill is in jail for all of the crimes he committed and some of which, he didn’t. Fast forward to a couple of years later, Ruth is living her with her and Bill’s baby girl, while also living a life under the lingering-eye of a local deputy, Patrick (Ben Foster). However, things go back to normal, and by “normal”, I do mean bat-shit crazy once Bill escapes jail and intends on coming back to Ruth, his daughter, and living the life they once lived before. But it isn’t going to be so easy with the law and a bunch of hitmen on his tail.

Right from the start, it’s obvious that David Lowery takes inspiration from Terence Malick’s shoes of film making. The images are beautiful, wistful, and poetic in the type of way that you could only get with a dude who pays as much attention to his editing, than the actual filming-process itself, but Lowery is a new type of breed that may be more welcome than Malick is these days. To the Wonder featured all of the same pretty things we love and adore about Malick films, but the story just blew. So you have to wonder: If Malick isn’t being the best he can be, who’s next to take the reigns? Obviously David Gordon Green had all of the promise in the world that just squandered once he started smoking hefty-amounts of pot and hanging with the Apatow crew, so that only leaves one person right here, right now, and possibly for awhile, and that’s David Lowery himself.

"Don't worry, baby. If you come with me, I'll take you away from this life of crime and killing and take you to one where we are constantly on-the-run and looking behind our backs at every corner. Deal?"

“Don’t worry, baby. If you come with me, I’ll take you away from this life of crime and killing and take you to one where we are constantly on-the-run and looking behind our backs at every corner. Deal?”

And yes, with the visuals, the sound, and the feel of this movie, it’s very Malick-y. It’s able to convey plenty of emotions just strictly through putting the camera in a certain position, barely moving it at all and just letting the images do the speaking for themselves. But he’s also very Malick-y in the way that he frames this story, if not better because at a surprising quick and fast hour-and-a-half, everything you need to, want to, and have to know about this story, just so happens to occur within the first 10 minutes and after that, it’s a free-fall from there of character-development, emotions, ideas, and themes, none of which ever seem to be over-shooting their guns either. For a first-time director with such limited resources, it’s a surprise that Lowery was able to hit as many marks as he was able to with a story that seems so familiar of outlaws and bandits falling in love and running from the law, but the stance and direction that Lowery takes is what makes it surprisingly fresh.

Rather than having this whole movie focus in on the relationship between Ruth and Bill, the how, the where, the what, and the when; we get only a tiny-bit of development between these two where we see how they obviously love each other and why, and then go straight to where they become separated, only to find that Ruth is pretty lax in her latter-days as a single-mommy. Believe it or not, after all of the hustle, bustle, action, and Jackson of the first 10-15 minutes, the movie calms down and gets very light, touchy-feely, and probably the most enjoyable since it’s all about the characters. And what makes those characters work as well as they do is how Lowery is able to make almost every character as interesting, or as likable as the one that came before.

Except for a couple of shady hitmen that come knocking through town later in the movie, there’s nobody here that’s really considered a “baddie”, which makes every conversation between whatever characters on-screen, interesting and compelling. Lowery’s script is great as he’s able to tackle the subject of love and at what lengths one would be able to pursue for it, but is also great at giving us a rich, detailed-characters that feel like real people, with real problems, and real feelings. Of course they’re more dramatic than the common-day folk, but at their core, they feel like people you could meet on the streets, especially the streets of Texas during the 70’s, where, you guessed it, this movie takes place. Obviously Lowery is a talent that needs to be watched from here on in and to be honest, once this movie hits the big-screen; I think we’re going to have ourselves a new David Gordon Green. Let’s just hope, as I said, he doesn’t start smoking hefty-amounts of pot and hanging with the Apatow crew.

Beware, David. Be very aware!

But as much as Lowery’s to be congratulated for the awesome work he’s pulled-off here, so is the cast that is just about perfection. Rooney Mara is a nice fit for Ruth, when she’s both a reckless troublemaker, and also a sweet, relaxed house-mommy-of-one. It’s nice to see that after a tough-ass performance in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mara can still make us forget about all of that and actually get us paying attention to how nice and civilized she can be. Ruth is a character caring for and worth watching, especially since you know she means well and just wants what’s best for her and her daughter, regardless of whether or not the daughter actually sees her father.

Speaking of the daddy, Casey Affleck is also very good as Bill, the outlaw on-the-run. Affleck’s good here because he’s not only able to make us care for this dude by the sure fact that he just wants to see his daughter and his baby momma, but also that we feel like he won’t kill anybody just to do it. In fact, he makes it an apparent point not to do so, but yet, still finds himself doing so when push comes to shove. It’s just the way the world works and he tries to keep his head above it, but still gets sucked down in every once and awhile. Aiding Bill at one point, is Nate Parker as one of his ex-crime buddies who has now taken up a life as a bartender/owner. Parker’s been a star on the rise for quite some time now and it’s only a matter of time until the dude breaks-out and takes the whole movie world by storm. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, baby.

Mustache = extra serious

Mustache = extra serious role

However, the best of the best for me was Ben Foster as Patrick, the local copper who not only takes a liking to Ruth, but also seems like he’s actually on Bill’s side, as much as he’s on the law’s side as well. People get on Foster’s case for being all about the yelling, the screaming and the larger performances that usually take more attention away from the movie or the character he;s playing, and more towards how over-the-top he is, but I’ve always stood by him no matter what, which makes this performance all the better because of how much he downplays it all. Patrick could have easily been a character that’s unlikable in the way that he’s thirsty for revenge and wants to bang the dude who shot him’s girlfriend, but it isn’t like that way with the character or with Foster. The dude’s actually really nice, seems to care about Ruth and would probably never do anything to hurt her or a fly, despite having a badge and a gun that may show otherwise. It’s great to see Foster finally getting more quality-roles and even though I wouldn’t say this is his best (this always does it for me) it’s still a step in the right direction for a dude who I think is criminally-underrated and due for some big roles. Hopefully my dreams come true. Hopefully.

If there was a problem I had with this movie, is that I think a little bit more time devoted to plot would have really benefited this flick. How it ends is pretty emotional and compelling, as the movie never seems to settle for a second, but it also feels rather abrupt, as if there was more here that Lowery didn’t leave in the final-cut or just didn’t bother shooting at all. Whether that may be the case or not, I have to say that something felt like it was missing from this movie and I still think about it now. Maybe I’m due for a re-watch sometime soon to fully get a grip? Just maybe I do but until then; that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Consensus: With a short running-time of only an hour-and-a-half, you would assume that Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is just too packed-up for it’s own good, but it’s surprisingly brisk, deftly-paced, detailed, entertaining, and compelling enough to where you care for the characters, what happens to them, and where they might end up once the triggers have been pulled and the blood has been spilt.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"I'll never let go. Not even when you're in jail and having initiation time with Big Bubba.

“Bill, I’ll never let go. Not even when you’re in jail and having initiation time with Big Bubba.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Short Term 12 (2013)

Next time, just hug it out. That always seems to work better.

Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, has a bit of a wild past behind her, but is looking bright and hopeful towards her future. For starters, she loves her job and loves dishing out advice to any kid who needs it; she also is happily in love with her boyfriend/co-worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), and looks to spend the rest of her life with him. On top of that, she’s just happy in general and is living the easy-going life like all young, twenty-year-olds should. However, when Grace finds out something that could alter the course of the rest of her life, she’s thrown a curve-ball as she has no idea what to do. And as if matters couldn’t have gotten any worse, well then, they do once things at the foster-care facility begin to get a bit shaken-up once a new, very troubled girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) shows up, and does not follow along with the rest of the other kids. But like Grace was and in ways, still is, there’s a lot more to the act that she uses as a front, and Grace will find the best possible way to get to the bottom of it, by any means possible.

Little flicks like this remind me why I love watching movies so much. Especially the movies you don’t know much about going into, except for the fact that it’s supposed to be good and that’s all. That’s exactly what happened to me going into this flick: I knew it was going to be good and I expected the best, and that’s exactly what I got. Except maybe a bit more. Like I said though, this is why I love watching movies; this is why I love not knowing too much before going in; and best of all, this is why I love having a movie blog where I tell everybody about little movies such as Short Term 12 because, let’s face it, most of you out there probably never have, and never will hear about this until it randomly pops-up on Netflix.

Well, that is until now. So consider this you’re wake-up call, fellow movie-lovers.

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

The balance this movie strikes between heart and humor is pitch perfect for many reasons, the main which being that it’s present in every scene. Watching these characters go about their day, say what’s on their mind and show what they feel or want to give to the others around them, is very interesting and touching, mostly because it all feels real and natural. A lot of this material has been touched-on before, but done in a way that’s almost like made-for-TV movie way. This time, it’s shown as painfully honest and as bleak as it can be, without any strings attached whatsoever. What you see is what you get with most of these characters, and some of them will take you by surprise with just how troubled and messed-up in the head they truly are.

However, such as is the fact with life, and it’s a fact that writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton doesn’t shy away from, nor does he throw in our face. He lets us understand these characters, the situations they’re thrown into, and gives them the circumstances for which they can choose to live by, if they have to. Cretton allows for this material to go into some very dark, disturbing places, but never lets go of it too far to where it feels like we’re watching a different movie. Don’t be fooled by words like “bleak” and “painfully honest” scare you away from something that’s actually more light-hearted and happy than it may sound; it just takes awhile to get to get you to realize how light-hearted and happy it truly is.

However, like I stated before: Such as is the fact with life. You never know when it’s going to make you happy, and you sure as hell never know when it’s going to make you sad. Sometimes it happens out of nowhere, and sometimes you can predict it, but just don’t have the right amount of power to stop it. And that’s not a judgement-call-of-character on you as a human-being or anything; it’s just the way we are wired. Cretton really shows us that being human, for all of its negatives and its positives, really is a beautiful thing that we should not take for granted. Some people don’t have the same type of life as you do, so stop bitchin’ about your WiFi not being located! Get out there, do something with your life, and make a difference!

Sorry if this review is sounding more like a preach, and less like a review, but that’s just what happens when I see a movie that allows me to think as much as this one did. But like I said, it’s a review, so on with the movie itself, folks!

I think where this movie really hits it’s sweet-spot is in the way it continues to hammer us down with emotion-after-emotion, and yet, never fully kills us to where we can’t watch anymore. Granted, by the end, it did get a bit too repetitive where I felt like I was watching the same conversation, happen with the same people, for the same reasons, but that’s just me being nit-picky. If I really wanted to judge this movie on it’s full merits, I’d tell you that it’s a very funny movie, that focuses on the witty interplay between it’s characters, but also doesn’t lose sight that most of them have, and still are, hurting to this day.

No other statement could have been truer for the character we have here of Grace, played so perfectly by Brie Larson, in a performance that I hope garners her more recognition and notice than just being known as “that Indie darling”. In fact, I have seen Larson’s face in quite a number of indies, most of them good, so it comes as to almost no surprise to me here that she’s great here, but the movie she chose is even better. Not only does the movie offer Grace all of the extra-baggage she needs to seem fully-dimensional and understandable in the way that she leads her life and why, but also allows Larson to show everything about her acting-ability that should make her a star by now. It won’t, but it’s worth a shine of hope I’d say.

"Are you even trying anymore with that facial-hair?"

Only thing in between them and their passionate kiss? His slacker/pseudo-hipster beard.

Everything about Larson is great here: She’s funny; she’s angry; she’s smart; she’s emotional; she’s dedicated; she’s a bit sexy; she’s sweet; and most of all, she’s hurting. Like all of us, Grace is hurting on the inside and rarely ever shows it. However, she does throw subtle hints to everybody around her and uses it as a way to connect with the kids she tends for, but not in a way to make her seem “cool” or “hip” with the kids; but more as a way to draw similarities between her and another person going through the same motions she went through. There’s a couple of beautiful scenes here where Grace really gets to the core of her character, as well as the others around her, but the best in my mind is when she gets a fairy-tale told to her from the newest, most troubled kid of them all. It’s a scene that starts off a bit funny, but gets very disturbing and sad by the end of it, where we see not only Grace’s true emotions come out, but the movies’ as well. We see Grace do all that she can to make everybody else’s life around her easier for the sake of mankind, and it mostly works. She forgets about herself sometimes and has to depend on herself for happiness, and like most of us, she can’t find it easily and usually tends to lash-out irrationally at the ones around her that mean the most.

In other words: Grace is like you or I. She’s a damaged soul, but she’s also very lovely to the ones around her and knows that with each and every smile you have and get a day, means a better life for you, and many more. Brie Larson makes Grace this thought-provoking, sweet and beautiful to watch, and if I don’t at least put her in my “Top Crush List” now, I don’t know what I’ll do.

And even though I may make it seem like this is just Larson’s show, and nobody else’s, don’t be mistaken, cause it isn’t. John Gallagher Jr. shares a loving, if sometimes playful chemistry with Larson and allows us to see him for a bit of a goof, but a charming one at that. Then again though, he’s not all fun and games. He does tend to get serious at times, and those scenes are probably the best of the movie because they’re more concerning him and Grace’s relationship, the type of movie-relationship that I really cared for, believed in, and was rooting for the whole time, even if it’s made evident to us that they’ve been together for quite some time and are happily in love. But still, you want them to stay together, forever. Kaitlyn Dever is also great as Jayden, the newest kid who’s brought in and causes a bit of a trouble, but is still smart, fresh, and funny enough to hold our interest. But, like with Gallagher Jr., her character isn’t all fun and games, and can get very touchy, and very sad at times, both of which feel earned and honest. Pretty much like this whole movie,

Consensus: Many will resonate towards Short Term 12, not because it touches those most affected by abuse and neglect, but because it teaches us all that having emotions, being inconsistent, laughing, crying, hugging, and feeling, are all apart of what makes us humans, and for that life-lesson, it’s a beautiful movie that deserves to be seen, especially for younger kids who need to see that they aren’t alone and can easily always look for help, if needed.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I'll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you'll toates be cool."

“I’ll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you’ll toates be cool.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Master (2012)

Move over Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise officially has a new arch-enemy.

A charismatic intellectual named Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) launches a religious organization following World War II. A drifter named Freddie Quell  (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes his right-hand man, but as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the drifter finds himself questioning the belief system and his mentor.

Whether you’re a Scientologist and have been waiting to protest outside of every movie theater across the nation, have been waiting to see the return of “normal” Joaquin Phoenix, or have been waiting to see what writer/director P.T. Anderson has kept himself busy with over the past 5 years, chances are, you’ve been pretty amped for this flick, as well as I have been. I mean hell, I reviewed two movies, from the same director, for the past two days! I rarely do that, and I was definitely willing to make an exception for this guy just because he once again, proves that he is one of the best directors we have working in America today. Without a doubt.

One thing that could be said about this tale (but not taken away from, however) is that a lot of it plays out in the same vein as There Will Be Blood. Don’t believe me? Okay, well think about this: instead of oil, you have religion; instead of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, you have religion-starter Lancaster Dodd; instead of the loose-cannon Eli, you have the loose-cannon Freddie; and instead of the relationship between Daniel and Eli being at the fore-front, you have the relationship between Freddie and Lancaster. The only difference here is that Freddie and Lancaster actually seem to get along with one another, rather than drinking each other’s milkshakes. But I digress.

Whatever way you want to look at this film, you cannot deny the artful skill and compelling nature that lies behind every frame of this movie that Anderson beautifully constructs. From a technical standpoint, this film honestly could not be any better as certain scenes will just have you forgetting about what’s going on screen by how beautiful and wonderful they look. Anderson captures the look and feel of the 50’s as if he actually took a DeLorean back to those days, along with his film crew, and just started filming right on the spot. The long landscape shots that Anderson captures are even more beautiful and breathtaking as the ones he took in There Will Be Blood and I highly suggest you see it in the 70MM way it was meant to be seen in. I would like to complain and say that it was almost distracting how wonderful this film looked sometimes because it really does take your eyes off the action at-hand, but I can’t diss art and that’s exactly what Anderson has painted here.

Then of course, you got the score from Johnny Greenwood that uses the same exact trifling with sounds as he used in There Will Be Blood, but this time almost plays out a bit differently as Anderson gets back into the grand scheme of things by allowing pop-music to ironically poke it’s head into some key scenes that will probably fit any type of emotion Anderson was going for in the first place. No, there’s no Sister Christian or Aimee Mann songs to jam out too, but still some nice quality tunes that shows Anderson is the perfect guy for when it comes to meshing music with scenes.

One of the biggest buzzes surrounding this flick is whether or not this is Anderson’s take on the early days of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. There are a whole bunch of similarities between “The Cause” and Scientology, but Anderson never seems like he feels the need to go so far and just openly describes what it is and that was a pretty brave step coming from Anderson as he could have taken as many cheap-shots as he wanted to with this subject material. However, this does give him plenty of room and opportunity to talk about religion and whether or not this “Cause” is actually good for any of the people that follow it. You can tell that these people love being able to believe in something that makes them feel like they live in a beautiful and wondrous world, but at the bottom of it all though is the fact that some of this may just be all based on a bunch of lies. But still, even though this seems like an area that Anderson can get into and almost badger the hell out of, he smartly doesn’t and allow the viewers to make up their own interpretations about whether or not this religion is the right one to follow. Once again, another brave move by Anderson and shows you why he is in fact, one of the smartest-working writers and directors on the planet. That’s right, ON THE PLANET.

But as much as this film may seem to be about this underground religion and all of the effects it has on its people, this film is really all about the relationship between the two main characters: Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd. Both are very, very different from one another as one is the leader of a smooth-talking, happy-all-the-time “religion”, and the other one is just a drifter who can never seem to control his anger, or his drinking for that matter. This contrast between the two characters is probably one of the most interesting and entertaining aspects of this whole flick because we see them both work wonders for each other in ways that we thought weren’t even imaginable from the first meeting the two. They actually care for each other and both want what’s best for them, even if they don’t fully make it work every single time they try. One scene that comes to my mind the best when I think of the relationship between the two is when Dodd actually tells the cops to not hurt Freddie, even after he continues to beat the ever loving crap out of them all. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the whole film not because it’s a turning-point for the whole direction in where the story was headed, but because it shows you the depths of the relationship these two have together.

What I think makes the relationship between them both the most memorable, is the fact that they are played so brilliantly by its two leads: Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was so damn happy to see Joaquin back in full-on acting mode because it’s performances like these that make me realize the type of talent this guy has that shouldn’t be wasted on a faux-rap career. Phoenix is mesmerizing as Freddie Quell because he brings all of that vent-up frustration and strangeness that he had with his “character” in I’m Still Here, and let’s that play-out in a way that’s as memorable as it is compelling. You can tell that this guy is going to flip any chance he gets the chance to and it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t have the best conscience out there, either. However, there are a couple of key scenes that show Freddie in a very sympathetic light that may have you understand why this guy is always so off his rocker. He comes off as a fully-realized character that has plenty of sides to him and you honestly can’t take your eyes off of. This performance is nowhere near the type of actor’s play-day performance Daniel Day-Lewis had with Plainview, but it’s still something that’s worth loving and remembering come Oscar time.

Then, you got Hoffman playing the type of Plainview-like character as Lancaster Dodd, a character that couldn’t have honestly been played by anybody else except for Hoffman. Hoffman does a great job with Dodd because he plays the character, like a guy that has so much charisma, so much heart, and so much warmth to him that it makes you realize why everybody feels so close to him that they could follow him and every word he speaks out. He’s almost reminiscent of Orson Welles in a way of how he’s all tight-lipped with his speeches and rarely ever loses his cool, but when he does, it’s one of the more memorable scenes since we see this character slowly start to unravel right in front of our eyes. It’s not like this character is treated like an evil piece of crap that nobody should care for, but is instead shown off to be a guy that believes in his own way of life and wants to spread that across to everybody else. Yeah, that could be viewed at as a bad thing but the film never quite portrays it as that and it’s another brave step Anderson was not only able to take with this story, but this character that Hoffman has also fully-realized in his own charismatic way.

Some may be surprised to see that Amy Adams doesn’t have a bigger role here as Dodd’s wife, Peggy, but does a nice job giving her character a very dark turn that I wasn’t expecting in the least bit. Still, out of the other two, she sort of comes off as the weakest-link and could have used a bigger and better role to be more substantial to everything that’s going on and the plot itself. Everybody else is good here too, and I like how Anderson made every character in this cast worth something and have their own moment, even if it may only be for a second or two.

So, here I am, going on and on and on about this flick and how amazing it is and you are probably sitting there wondering, “Oh em gee! Is he going to give it the prized 10/10 I haven’t seen in God knows how long??!?!”. Well, no. Sorry to burst your bubble everyone but this film did still have some problems in its own right and it’s that I think the emotional connection for this film was a bit more off this time around, probably due to the fact that the story is always weaving around and whatnot. With Daniel Plainview, it was easier to follow this character and know him for all that he was because it mostly just about him doing his own, evil thing, but here, the story goes back-and-forth between Freddie and Lancaster so much that it was a bit hard to build-up the tears when that ending came around. Also, there was this really strange scene that had to do with Amy Adams, Hoffman, and a bathroom that is still fresh in my mind because it made no sense and seems to be a bit misplaced in a film that seemed to really go for it all, in terms of being sane and keeping itself in reality. Still though, minor quibbles if you ask me.

Consensus: The Master could easily be a title that director P.T. Anderson is giving himself, because that is exactly what this guy is. Everything from the visuals, to the landscapes, to the score, to the performances, to the fully-developed story, to the religion movement; all are done with the masterful craft of Anderson and is sure to be one of the films to watch out for, come Oscar season.

9/10=Full Price!!