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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rebecca Hall

Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman (2017)

Three’s a party.

Professor William Marston (Luke Evans) and his wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), live a relatively happy and carefree life together. He’s a professor at Harvard and she desperately wants to be, but because this is the 1920’s and she’s a woman, for some reason, that’s not allowed to happen. Anyway, the two have a loving and passionate romance that gets a newfound lease of life when they meet Olivia (Bella Heathcote), a young grad-student who applies to become their assistant. Both are struck by her; he wants her, and so does Elizabeth, but it’s sort of different. But in a way, it’s a little too unconventional and controversial to really go about trying to initiate a poly-amorous relationship, especially back in those days. That’s why no one really makes a move for awhile, until they do and all of a sudden, they’re in a loving, sexy, and great romance together. The only issue is that the outside world doesn’t quite accept them all for what they are and it becomes a much larger issue when Professor Marston decides that he wants to make a comic-book.

And what comic-book would that be? Oh yeah, a little thing called Wonder Woman. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

“Babe? You want up next?”

What’s so interesting about Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman is that it starts off feeling and looking exactly like one of these charming, relatively entertaining, yet safe biopics that we see too often. There’s soft jokes, a little bit of character-development, a great sense of time and place, and a smidgen of conflict in the air. But nothing too much, really; it’s almost as if writer/director Angela Robinson is doing this on-purpose to put us in the this safe-place where we won’t be expected to really think long and hard about much.

But then, in case you couldn’t tell, it all changes. Olivia walks through the door and into these two character’s lives, and suddenly, there’s sex, nudity, whips, chains, gimps, and a whole lot of kink. But no matter what, it actually still stays interesting and never strays away from being heartfelt and humane, even though, at times, the movie can get a little comical. Then again, it’s also the rare movie about BDSM that doesn’t poke jokes at it, or seem to ever have a laugh about that, either; supposed respectful pieces of art like Fifty Shades of Grey likes to think that they respect and appreciate those who like a little kink in their sex-lives, but really, mocks it in certain ways, too.

Here, there’s a certain deal of love and respect for this kind of sexual-healing and it’s nice to see. For once.

It’s also nice to see Robinson actually focus in on these characters, their relationships with one another, and how they all change, over time, when things begin to get hot-and-heavy. Robinson could have easily made this into a movie about how these characters feel about getting whipped and gagged, and how they try to hide it from the rest of the world, but it’s also about so much more. It’s about love, and how Marston himself uses these two lovely women in his life to make sense of the evil in the world, just when it becomes almost too over-bearing. It’s also a movie about life imitating art, and vice versa, where we see what happens to Marston’s real, personal life, and how that affected a lot of the material as seen in the Wonder Woman comics.

“Don’t speak. I know what you’re thinking.” (Why am I always referencing this damn song?)

It’s not all that ground-breaking in terms of the biopic-genre, but hey, it works. Why fix something that ain’t broke, right?

Anyway, Professor Marston also features one of the first performances, in probably ever, where I actually liked and appreciated Luke Evans’ presence. He’s always been charming, hot, and likable, it’s just that he’s never seemed to have been given the one role to really launch him beyond “hot and sexy British dude”. As Professor Marston, he not only gets to use that charm to the fullest-extent, but show a great deal of heart and humanity, which can sometimes put this character in a negative light. Which is fine, because it’s the kind of biopic that isn’t afraid to ask if this guy was a sleaze-ball, or a genuinely smart and intelligent man who did a lot for the world of comics and women, and who also appreciated a little bit more fun in the sack. Either way, he’s an interesting fella and it’s nice to see Evans get the chance to do some real work, for once.

Same goes for both Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote who are both pretty great. Hall’s a strong, commanding force whenever she’ up on-screen, whereas Heathcote feels sweet and shy, but also smart in every which way. Together, they represent a little part of Marston’s life, but they aren’t just there to be the women that he occasionally bangs – they have lives, hopes, dreams, and ambitions too that, hopefully, one day, they’ll be to achieve. There’s a slight feminist-angle which doesn’t seem to get fully explored as well as it probably should have, but it’s there, and it’s telling us that all women deserve an equal-chance at a career and love.

So can we at least progress, people?

Consensus: Smart, tender, and character-based, Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman isn’t as safe of a biopic as it looks, with solid performances and an interesting-angle on sex and humanity, overall.

8 / 10

Always takes three to tango. And three to get ball-gagged and whipped, cause hey, someone’s gotta help.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Dinner (2017)

Have a nice, friendly din-din with your bro, they said.

Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife, Claire (Laura Linney) get ready to spend an evening with his brother and sister-in-law at a fancy restaurant where they can catch up, discuss some things, and yeah, just do what adults do by a certain age when not much else is left to do: Try to one-up each other. It’s this sole reason that Paul doesn’t want to go, but there’s something going on with his son (Charlie Plummer) that this dinner needs to address and rather than sitting around, moping, and not seeing anything getting better, Paul decides to suck it up and have dinner with his brother and his wife. And said brother, who also happens to be Congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), knows that he and Paul have some things to address, but it takes too long to get there because, well, they don’t quite get along. There’s a history there and it’s something that keeping this dinner away from being, at the very least, a civilized one. Tack on the fact that Stan’s wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), isn’t in the best of moods, either, and yeah, it’s going to be a long night.

Steve Coogan is sure-as-hell wishing that he was dinner at with Rob Brydon right about now.

Without going so far as to review the Dinner on what could have been, instead of its merits like one should always do, there’s a part of me that wishes it had been a lot easier, simpler, and laid-out than what actually happens. See, on the surface, there’s a movie that’s ripe with promise of tension, questions, answers, family-history, and well, ideas about the world we live in, the world we make for future generations to come around, and most above all, politics. In that sense, had the movie just been a four-hander between these four very talented actors, just waxing on and on about life and all of its issues, then yes, the Dinner probably would have been as compelling as it promised.

But unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.

The Dinner is, for lack of a better term, overstuffed beyond belief and way too busy to really work with itself out. Director Oren Moverman has proven in the past that he has a knack for telling small, subtle, but dark tales about everyday humans, but for some reason, he gets wrapped-up in way too much going on here; granted, it was Cate Blanchett who was originally supposed to direct here, but dropped out, leaving Moverman to pick up the pieces. He tries to make sense of the many strands of plot this movie has, but after awhile, once the eighth or tenth unnecessary flashback hits the screen, it becomes really repetitive and really annoying, really quick.

After all, it’s only breaking up any of the tension that the actors create here in the first place, making it seem like the material was too troubling to work with in the first place, or that Moverman didn’t trust these actors enough to really give the movie all the intensity it needed to work. And when it’s just them four, sitting around a table, it’s quite a treat to watch; Coogan, Linney, Gere, and as usual, Hall, are all pros at what they do and can handle whatever this sometimes wacky script throws at them. However, it gets to become a problem when the movie steps away from them so much, almost to the point of where you wonder whether the title is ironic, or if there is actually supposed to be a so-called “Dinner” taking place?

I don’t know who’s their daddy, but Richard Gere and Steve Coogan did not came from the same mother.

And if so, with whom? Or better yet, will we actually be able to watch it?

Still though, it’s hard to hate a movie with this cast because when the Dinner is on them, it’s fun and rather, exciting. It’s a true testament to what can happen, even if you have a weak script, when you have a solid cast, doing what they do best: Act. Coogan’s probably the most impressive here, as his character not only gets the most development out of the four, but also gets to show off his much darker, meaner and weirder side that we don’t too often see. Sure, his American-accent is a little too odd for me to fully buy, but in this character’s case, it sort of works. Yeah, I’m still not sure.

However, the movie not only needed more of him, but yeah, everyone else, too. It’s called “the Dinner” for a reason – let’s see said “Dinner” actually occur.

Consensus: Despite solid performances from the four leads, the Dinner suffers from a way too busy and hackneyed plot that does so much, it breaks up any of the tension that’s meant to be felt with dark and disturbing material such as this.

5 / 10

“Cheers to pure hatred and contempt for one another and everything around us!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Christine (2016)

Hate to say it, but journalism hasn’t gotten much better.

Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hill) is not all that happy with her life. While she’s got a reporting job at a local news station, the stories that she seems to want to really dive into and make her name on, unfortunately, don’t seem to get much attention or done at all. The station is changing, just like the rest of the journalism world itself is, too. That’s why Christine sticks to her guns no matter what and tries to get the juiciest, meatiest stories she can find. However, there’s a lot more going on in Christine’s life than just her job; she’s also trying to find that one, special someone so that she can get married, have kids and do everything that she was brought up to do. She thinks she has that opportunity with the star reporter at the station (Michael C. Hall), but she’s so closed-off and awkward, she doesn’t know how to go about initiating anything resembling a conversation, let alone, a date. Meanwhile, her mother (J. Smith-Cameron) is now living with her, making her more and more frustrated about life, leading her to act out in some despicable, shocking ways.

Wrong channel?

Wrong channel?

The story of Christine Chubbuck is, needless to say, a very sad one. While there’s a good part of this movie that was most definitely made-up for the sake of having an actual movie, the idea that someone who just wanted to make something of a difference in this world, tell interesting stories, find love, get married, have kids and just be happy, if anything else, is relatable to life in general. And knowing the real story behind the subject, as well as director Antonio Campos’ past two flicks (Afterschool, Simon Killer), it’s hard not to expect Christine, the movie, to be an absolute dark and deep breath of depression.

But it’s actually kind of not. In ways, it can actually be pretty funny, in that it makes fun of certain characters, while also, by the same token, embraces them for who they are, especially Christine herself. But no matter how funny the movie can get, there’s always this underlining air of sadness that’s mostly always felt, even in some of the more compelling scenes; one in particular, where we hear of all of Christine’s problems in a very straightforward, manner-of-fact way, starts off one way, and ends a totally different way then you’d ever expect.

But it still works.

It’s definitely a credit to Campos and writer Craig Shilowich for coming together and figuring out how to make this forgotten figure in our pop-culture’s history, story, still relevant and heart-wrenching. Why should we care about this girl, other than the fact that she killed herself on live television? Well, the movie tells us why, not forgetting about her flaws, while at the same time, not forgetting that she was a human being who wanted just the same as you or I.

But as much as Campos and Shilowich deserve the credit here for telling Christine’s story to the best of their ability, it’s also a lot of credit to Rebecca Hall, giving it her all and then some, in a role that finds her really stretching her acting-muscles and it all coming off so perfectly. A lot of people went crazy this awards season about Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy and how she nailed down the voice, but also made us see beneath the fine dresses and speech – Hall does that with Chubbuck, but I think, almost does a better job.

Yeah, don't be on the opposite end of Letts' wrath.

Yeah, don’t be on the opposite end of Letts’ wrath.

For one, it’s definitely a little hard to get used to Chubbuck’s manner of speaking and the way she carries herself in just about every conversation she has, but Hall works with it and shows us that there’s more to her than just an awkward-presence, and instead, a person who solely wants to be seen, loved, and cared for, regardless of who said person may be. It’s actually quite heart-breaking to watch, as even though Chubbuck may think she’s the smartest person in the room, the movie still shows us that nobody’s paying attention to her and because of it, she’s driven deeper and deeper into her depression. Christine may not place itself as a sort of cautionary tale, or even a cry for help, for those who can’t cry for themselves, but at the end of the picture, it definitely seems like that.

And the rest of the cast is quite good, too, showing us how each and everyone interacts with Chubbuck, as hard as it sometimes may be. Michael C. Hall plays the one reporter she falls for and while he may seem like the typical d-bag, there’s actually more to him as the movie progresses; J. Smith-Cameron is a very good actress, but unfortunately, her role here does seem very stuffed-in, as if the character may have not been all that much of a presence in real life, but the movie felt like it needed her around; Maria Drizzia plays Christine’s co-worker who actually listens to her and, in other ways, looks up to her; and Tracy Letts plays her boss who always yells, drinks, and smokes, and he’s pretty great at it.

Like I said, no one here is a bad person, or a good one – they’re all just people.

Like Christine Chubbuck.

Consensus: Well-acted and insightful, Christine is an interesting look at one of TV’s more forgotten-figures, showing us a sad, but always compelling look into a life full of depression and some hopes.

8 / 10

Very, very lonely there in the journalism world.

Very, very lonely there in the journalism world.

Photos Courtesy of: HeyUGuys

The BFG (2016)

Yeah, a pretty big f****n’ guy!

Ten-year-old Sophie (Sophie Barnhill) is an orphan, pretty lonely, bored and not quite happy with her life. So, it’s obvious that she’s definitely ripe and ready for any adventure that she can find, even if it just so happens to be by the side of the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). While she’s initially scared of the Giant, she soon starts to realize that there’s something more to him than just being monstrous and talking funny; he’s actually quite sweet and actually wants her to feel comfortable and happy being around him. After all, the Big Friendly Giant feels as if he can’t let her go back to the real world, where she’ll most definitely be going on and on about the Giant, making everyone suspicious and worried about its actual whereabouts. And while, for a short time, Sophie and the BFG are getting along just fine, fellow, meaner giants like Bloodbottler, Fleshlumpeater and others, start sniffing around, looking for something to eat, giving both Sophie and the BFG the idea of how to stop these big, bad and evil giants once and for all.

No one to find you under the covers, little girl. Have no fear. No one has ever gotten caught under the covers.

No one to find you under the covers, little girl. Have no fear. No one has ever gotten caught under the covers.

Steven Spielberg is at that stage in his career now where he doesn’t need to appease anything, or anyone. He doesn’t need to prove anything to himself, or to anybody else, as he’s basically done all that a director and storyteller can do. He’s basically done it all and now, for the time being, it seems like Spielberg is just going to do what he wants, when he wants, and however he wants it. After all, with all the great movies that he’s done, why shouldn’t that be the case?

And heck, when Disney’s footing the bill, the time for play gets even more fun and grand, right?

Well, yes, it actually does. That’s why a movie like the BFG is, oddly enough, a neat little experiment of his; while he’s made family-friendly movies in the past, by far, none of them have ever equaled the silly, childish play of the BFG, not to mention that it’s source material, from Roald Dahl, is also a bit odd for Spielberg’s tastes. He’s been weird before, but Spielberg has never gone to the full limits of weird and fantastical that he has to with the BFG and that’s one of the main reasons why it can be such a joy to watch. You almost get the feeling that Spielberg himself is having a blast trying on some new skin for once, not having to answer anybody, or prove that he’s still got the talent that he was praised so heavily for back earlier in his career.

Now, with something like the BFG, he’s going to try some new things out and, in the process, enjoy himself while he’s at it. He’s like the old man who, once he gets the chance to finally retire, soaks it all in by changing his schedule around a whole bunch, while also still maintaining the usual, like breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack, and bedtime. Except that in this case, Spielberg isn’t retired, nor showing any signs of such, and he doesn’t need to change his whole schedule around.

Cause honestly, after watching the BFG, it reminds me a lot of what Spielberg is capable of doing: Making any story, no matter how weird or realistic, compelling to watch.

The first act of the BFG is quite great because it’s actually somewhat different from what we’re used to expecting with Disney-approved kids movies of this nature. Rather than being all about the visual splendor and grandeur, Spielberg allows for his film to take a slower-approach to the relationship between the BFG and Sophie. A movie of this nature, with a much-less inspired director, would have shoved all of the talking and character development to the side for more special-effects and wacky, wild action, but Spielberg is not that director. He knows that in order for us to actually end up giving a hoot about this tale at all, we have to spend some time with these characters, get to know them a bit, and also realize just what the heck is at stake here.

This is the dude who beat out Sly for that Oscar?

This is the dude who beat out Sly for that Oscar?

And it all works out, too, because Mark Rylance and Sophie Barnhill are both pitch perfect for their own respective roles. Rylance gets a lot to do with the BFG, because it’s a performance that’s solely reliant on his facial-expressions – all of which come out beautifully in the special-effects and makes us feel like we truly are watching a giant (not that I’ve ever seen one). While it would have been easy for Barnhill to get mixed-up in having to basically act towards a tennis ball the whole time, she actually works pretty well with it; we never get the sense that she’s talking to the mid-air, nor that she’s outmatched by Rylance’s spark and wit. Together, they have a nice chemistry that transcends being what we normally expect from one like this, and it’s mostly due to the fact that Barnhill and Rylance seem to be enjoying themselves just as much as Spielberg is, but with the add-on of more conviction.

Always need more conviction.

Of course, the BFG isn’t a perfect movie, as we can come to expect with this latter-career Spielberg. The movie clearly has three parts to it; the first being good, the last being fine, and the middle one being pretty terrible. Getting to know these characters means slowing things down, sure, but the movie also decides that there doesn’t need to be an actual, driving-plot to really keep things interesting. It’s almost as if Spielberg decided to himself, at that point in time, that everyone would be so enamored with the BFG, that any sort of compelling story didn’t need to be explained or, better yet, even hinted at. Problem is, the movie never seems to get going with its plot until, well, it’s way too late. And it’s barely under two hours, making a rather long kids movie, but an even longer movie once the middle-act comes around.

But then Spielberg gets his act together, brings us to London in a last-minute twist that’s funny, sweet, and oddly enough, kind of interesting. Spielberg knows how to comedy in general, but never has really displayed it so much for kids, as often as he does in the BFG and if anything, the last-act is a perfect showing of that.

Now, if only we get more fun from Spielberg.

Consensus: While a bit choppy in the story-department, the BFG finds Spielberg in a relaxed, but enthusiastic mood, trying new and fun things out, seeing how well they all work out, and allowing us to watch it all play out.

6.5 / 10

Don't do it, girl. Fun and adventure will await you, but uh, okay never mind. Do it.

Don’t do it, girl. Fun and adventure will await you, but uh, okay never mind. Do it.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Tumbledown (2016)

TumbledownposterFolk singers have the saddest lives.

After her husband dies, Hannah Miles (Rebecca Hall) goes into her own bit of hiding. While she isn’t necessarily depressed and doesn’t know what to do with her life, at the same time, it doesn’t seem like she’s making much movement on it, either. Aside from the every so often hook-up she has with the local hunter (Joe Manganiello), she doesn’t seem to be getting any serious about another relationship and, for the most part, doesn’t really seem to care that her husband was, when he was alive, a cult-followed folk singer who so many people loved, yet, didn’t fully get to appreciate because he died so tragically at a young age. However, one person in particular that wants to find out more about this singer’s life is part-time writer Andrew McCabe (Jason Sudeikis). Though Hannah is initially against the idea of bringing a stranger into her home and into her late husband’s studies to chronicle his, as well as her, life, she starts to give in and realize that she’s happy with Andrew around. Not to mention that he brings out a certain sparkle within her that hasn’t been around since, well, when her late husband was actually alive, well and writing songs all about her.

Why have dinner when you can just maul one another?

Why have dinner when you can just maul one another?

Tumbledown has all of the promise of a soft, sweet and tender romantic-dramedy, but sadly, it falls prey to its own conventions one too many times. For one, the movie itself doesn’t seem to want to take itself too seriously at first, which is fine, but it’s not very good at being funny, either. There’s a lot of annoying rom-com cliches and conventions that show up here that not only feel very beneath the cast and crew working here, but the material itself.

The idea of one moving on with their life after the loss of a very near, dear and loved one, is a universal theme. Not only is this shown in movies like I’ll See You In My Dreams, where the older women are shown to be living out the rest of their years, wondering where to go or what to do, but it’s very rarely shown for the younger women out there who are, believe it or not, widows. Death knows no boundaries, so it’s an honest wonder to me why we don’t have more of these kinds of movies about young widows trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, where do they go from their certain situation, and most of all, whom do they choose.

Throw in the folk music angle and guess what? You’ve got a pretty interesting movie that goes above and beyond any melodramatic romantic story we’re so used to seeing and hating with Nicholas Sparks.

However, that’s the exact issue with Tumbledown: It turns exactly into that kind of movie.

Most of this is especially evident with the characters. Even though the cast here is understandably strong, it’s a bit of a shame to see some of them playing such types that, after awhile, it makes you wonder why they even bothered to begin with. Rebecca Hall gets the meatiest role as Hannah Miles, where shows both sadness, as well as loveliness to a character who seems like she’s at a bit of a stand-still with her life. Though she wants to live each and everyday in absolute tears, she doesn’t and it’s interesting to see how she still copes with the loss of her husband, even if she also knows that there’s more to life for her out there – it’s just a matter of whether or not she wants to actually go out there and see it for herself.

Mmmm! Ms. Hall just ain't got time for that Sudeikis charm!

Mmmm! Ms. Hall just ain’t got time for that Sudeikis charm!

So yeah, Hall’s character isn’t really the issue as much as it’s Jason Sudeikis’ Andrew McCabe who is, basically, Jason Sudeikis, but this time, playing a college professor and writer. Sudeikis is a good actor and, in the past few months, I’ve come to respect for at least trying to do something more interesting with his career than just sticking himself in every broad comedy he can find, but for some reason, he doesn’t feel right for this role. The character is a little too smarmy for what appears to be a really laid-back, almost reserved kind of guy. He and Hall have good chemistry, but the way that they’re relationship gets put together, or how they come to a certain common ground, doesn’t always feel believable and it’s a shame, because they’re both solid actors. Sudeikis just doesn’t seem like he’s the perfect fit for whatever kind of character Andrew McCabe is.

Other actors show up here like Joe Manganiello, Dianna Agron, the always welcome Blythe Danner, Richard Masur, and Griffin Dunne, but they’re kind of just here on the side to allow for Sudeikis and Hall to do their thing and develop their never-believable relationship. It’s good to see these actors here, but when they aren’t really around to do anything but play window-dressing to a poor plot and script, it almost feels like a disservice. Especially for Danner who, in the past few years at least, has shown that there’s more to her than just playing the sassy, sometimes way-too-smart mom that knows what’s going on with every relationship around her, but will sometimes keep her mouth shut.

I love Danner with all my heart, but I want to see different roles for her, especially since we all know she’s got the chops.

Same goes for the rest of the cast, because something like Tumbledown, while showing off a indie-sensibility, plays out like any mainstream rom-com. People fall in love, people fall, people get hurt, people get into fights, and believe it or not, people cry, but they always seem to brush it off with a laugh or two. This happens with life, but not nearly as much Tumbledown portrays it as and it can’t help but feel like a disappointment.

Consensus: Given the subject material and ensemble cast, Tumbledown can’t help but feel like a bummer when you see it all get wasted on a rote rom-com plot.

4 / 10

Will they? Or won't they? Oh, I just don't know!

Will they? Or won’t they? Oh, I just don’t know!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Gift (2015)

High school is life.

Married couple, Simon and Robyn Callum (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), have been encountering some problems as of late with their marriage, so they decide to move back to where Simon grew up. One day, during shopping, a person by the name of Gordon Mosley (Joel Edgerton) comes up to Simon, to see if he remembers him from high school. Long story short, Simon kind of does, but kind of doesn’t, either. Plenty of time has passed, but to be a nice guy, Simon decides to invite “Gordo” over a fine dinner one night. It isn’t until long that both Robyn and Simon start to see that there’s something odd and off-putting about Gordo; he constantly leaves them gifts and comes over unexpectedly, asking for Simon, but stays longer than he probably should. Eventually, Simon gets tired of this and lets Gordo have it, which is when they think everything’s over with. However, Robyn’s fish are killed, her dog goes missing, and randomly, she starts having panic-attacks, which leads Simon to think that it’s all Gordo causing this and nobody else. But the main question remains: Why would Gordo go all this way to push himself into some dude from high school’s life, some twenty-odd years later?

A-hole.

A-hole.

Despite there being plenty more out there to see, I tend to believe sometimes that I’ve seen plenty of movies. Some were better than others, of course, but that’s not the point of my rambling – the point is that I think, after all the movies I’ve seen, I’ve come to know a lot about what to expect with certain movies. Therefore, when a story starts to lean down a certain direction, my brain automatically turns to the most conventional solution because, well, I’ve seen it all before. In all honesty, I wish I didn’t always think like this with movies, because it actually sucks a lot of the fun out, but so be it. I’m a miserable sack and I blame it all on movies.

But I digress.

The same directions that I’ve just alluded to, are the same ones I saw appear on countless occasions during the Gift. However, what’s different from this movie, as opposed to so many other ones out there that I’ve had the displeasure of seeing, is that it goes down a different way that I didn’t least expect it to. For instance, when Gordo starts showing up unexpectedly, inserting himself into this little couple’s life together, and making it known that he wants to be their friends, my brain was already saying, “Oh great. Here we go. He’s going to creep this family out so much that, eventually, they’re going to have to let him know straight-up, that their relationship is over. Then, Gordo’s going to get all crazy, start harassing the family, creeping them out plenty more, until, there’s a final battle between both sides that’s bloody and senseless.”And heck, once the dog ended up missing and the fish were killed, my mind had already turned off and let me knew that, yup, the Gift was going to be nothing different from any of the other “creepy neighbor thrillers” out there.

Once again, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that, time and time again, writer/director Joel Edgerton turned down a different street and instead, opted for more fresh ways to tell this pretty familiar story. Take, for example, the characters Edgerton has created here – nobody here, even though the movie may sometimes lean a certain way, is considered to be a “good guy” or a
“bad” one. Mostly, everyone is just a person who may have better morals/social skills/earnings/personal issues/etc. than others and that’s all there is to them. This not only helps the movie feel like it’s more than just a thriller, but a character-study, as well heighten the tension in the air because, quite frankly, we start to care for these characters.

We care for them, not just because the movie wants us to, because after a bit of time, we get to know each and everyone of them. But it’s never over-done; we get certain, little inklings about a person’s life to where we’re able to conjure up exact ideas of how these people may be. And even though, it’s never fully clear who these people are. Maybe that was the cynical point Edgerton was trying to get across, but either way, it’s still an interesting thought to have in a movie that, honestly, could have been all about this couple getting terrorized and the creepy guy, continuing to be creepy.

Edgerton is a smarter talent than that and it goes without saying that, this being his debut and all, I’m quite impressed.

Not because Edgerton finds himself more off-screen, than in front of it, despite this being his movie and all, but because he seems to understand what it takes for a movie to be both smart, but also fun-in-a-silly-kind of way. This is especially evident in the final act when it becomes clear that this is less of a story about a creepy people being creepy, and more about how bullies continue to be bullies, no matter how old or experienced they get. Though the movie itself is smart and complex, the message it sends across, isn’t; however, it’s handled in a way that makes it seem like Edgerton was actually trying to say something here, as simple as it may have been.

Sweetheart.

Sweetheart.

But still, the characters here are strong enough that it doesn’t matter if Edgerton trips up on making sense of this movie. As Simon and Robyn, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are, respectively, very good here and help create their own characters well enough to where we see them as separate human beings, and not just a couple. To me, this was probably the most important aspect to making these characters work; while it’s easy to say that they’re in love, hence the fact they’re married, it’s what they do when the other’s not around that makes them into their own person and allows us to see them for all that they are.

For instance, whenever Simon’s not around, Robyn casually goes on a job around her neighborhood, re-organize the house, work on her computer, and do whatever else she feels like doing when she’s home all alone. Though these may seem unimportant when watching them, after awhile, the film uses this as a way to develop her character and make it known that, you know, she’s just a simple, sweet and easy-going gal; she may have had past problems with drugs, as we get more than enough hints at throughout, but overall, she’s a lovely gal. In fact, she’s probably so lovely, that it becomes almost baffling as to why she decides to stick with someone like Simon who, being played by Jason Bateman should already tell you, is a bit of a dick.

In fact, he’s a huge dick.

While this may seem like the same kind of role we’ve seen Bateman do a million times before, there’s something darker and meaner about this character that makes it feel slightly “different”. Instead of all is snarky comments being played for laughs, they’re now played for serious breaks of silence, where he makes a room a whole lot more tense for just saying what he feels and thinks. Bateman’s great here and it shows that, when given a solid script, the dude really can deliver. Same goes for Hall who, by now, we understand to be a pretty great actress. She not only handles the American-accent well, but also allows us to see that there may be a bit of a darker side to this character too, even if it doesn’t always show.

But perhaps, the best character of the bunch is, no surprise, the one being portrayed by the same dude who created this movie to begin with.

Though it’s made clear to us early on that Edgerton’s Gordo may be a bit of a weirdo who is best left in his own, little world of weirdness, rather than jumping in other people’s, there’s still something about him that makes him a character worth watching. While he may be socially awkward and odd at his worst, he is, in no way, a person who seems capable of murder, or any of the heinous acts he’s accused of throughout the flick. And once it becomes clear that he’s not really a bad person, we start to feel bad for him a whole lot more and wish that, not only would someone give him a hug, but also take him out, buy him a beer, and develop a long-standing relationship with him.

Still though, the dude’s still a mystery to us by the end and it’s what makes the Gift perhaps more thought-provoking than most thrillers of this nature that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Consensus: Working as both a character-study, as well as a psychological thriller, the Gift is a smart, complex and tense tale echoing in a new writing/directing talent in the form of Joel Edgerton.

8 / 10

Strange guy.

Strange guy.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Transcendence (2014)

Well of course Johnny Depp thinks he’s God!

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) both believe in technology being used as a resource to help the planet, rather than continuing to destroy it. Evelyn believes in preserving the environment; whereas Will never necessarily disagrees with her, but cares more about making technology the prime, supreme force in the world. Their other science-buddy Max (Paul Bettany) doesn’t really know what to think, but then again, he doesn’t have much time to once Will is shot with a lethal injection of radiation by a bunch of rebels looking to take him down. He has only about a month to live, and that’s all Evelyn and Max need to transport all of Will’s mind into a computer hard-drive, where they could still talk to and interact with him, as if he was really there; except for, you know, the fact that he’s inside of a computer. While Max doesn’t like what he initially sees with this new programming software Will is in, Evelyn doesn’t care too much and decides to keep Will alive and happy through this computer, where he, all of a sudden, has the world, literally at his finger-tips. This is also, incidentally, around the time when Will decides that it’s time to take the world into his own hands, where he has the ability to repair and posses anyone, giving them hope and invincibility at the same time. Sound like somebody else we all know of?

Yeah, as you can tell, the religious-tones of this movie aren’t at all subtle; then again, nothing of this movie is, or what it’s trying to say is. Throughout the whole two-hours of this movie, you can almost hear director Wally Pfister yelling at the top of his lungs, “Too much technology can ruin one’s mind!!’ It’s a point that he makes abundantly clear in the first 20 minutes, and decides, “Aww, what the heck! I’m already there, so I might as well”, and hammers this point into our heads for the next hour-and-40-minutes. In all honesty, all of this preaching and ranting wouldn’t have been so bad had the movie been able to actually keep its the audience’s pulse, as well as its own, up and moving.

"He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!"

“He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!”

But nope. For some odd reason, Wally Pfister (making his directorial-debut after years and years as an amazing cinematographer) thinks that it’s best to harp on these ideas he has, and totally forgets that this isn’t a college class where kids are supposed to be falling asleep in the back of the room, or inconspicuously playing Candy Crunch on their “notebooks”; this is a movie, for Christsakes! Better yet, it’s a two-hour, sci-fi thriller blockbuster, that has huge names like “Johnny Depp”, “Morgan Freeman”, and, ehrm, “Kate Mara”. She’s a big name now, right? House of Cards anybody? Oh wait! Cillian Murphy is in this and he’s a pretty big name from wherever he’s from. So that counts, right?

Anyway, you get the point! This is a big-budget, sci-fi thriller that is supposed to deal with the big questions one must have about day-to-day society, the technology that runs so rampant around in it, and whether or not we should let that said technology get the best of ourselves and make us forget exactly who it is we are, what we were put on this world to do in the first place, and why, as a species, it is that we matter. There’s no problem with dealings with those questions and trying to find the best, most suitable-answers possible, but there’s a better, more efficient-way to do so than what is presented here.

And it’s not like I’m some sort of caffeine-junkie that can’t wait two more weeks until the summer blockbusters start coming around every damn weekend and needs his action now, now, NOW; but it’s more that I just needed an extra “oomph” to the material that was presented here. That said extra “oomph”, rarely came around. Even when it did, it was near the tail-end, which was also a bit too late and only had me assume that Pfister realized he had to add some sort of action in there, so he decided to have guns shot, people murdered, cars flipped-over and streets exploding from the ground-up. Yeah, it sort of comes out of nowhere, and while it may be damn pretty to look at, it almost amounts to nothing. Just a bunch of smart people, talking about smart things, and trying to be smart, while also a bit bad-ass as well.

Note this, Hollywood: You can’t be a total smarty-pants, and also be a bad-ass as well. Sure, it works for our beloved superheroes, but they aren’t real people. They’re just a bunch of freaks. The same could be said for our modern-day, ordinary, regular-people scientists that roam the Earth, however, THEY ARE real people, which makes it all the harder to see them pistol-whip a baddie, while simultaneously be spewing out coded, scientific-numbers and such.

I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work. Not for real-life, human beings that is. They’re just too, real. Man.

Also, something else to mention about this movie isn’t the fact that this movie doesn’t make much sense, but how it never really seems to stop at a certain-point and realize that this is in fact the point they want to leave its audience with. For instance, the character of Dr. Will Caster comes off a bit like a normal, everyday science-geek. He loves technology, he loves playing around with internet-connections and he even loves playing old-school, vinyl! Yup, so you know he’s a bit of a weirdo! Anyway, with Will, who seem to starts out unlike any other character we’ve seen Johnny Depp in the past decade or so (in other words, “normal”), once he gets shot and is transported into that trusty old computer of his, things start to get a little shaky for this character, as well as this movie. Depp is fine here, but I can’t help but feel like he couldn’t show up to all of the filming for this movie, so just got on his Webcam and decided to act from there. That’s sort of what the role calls on him to do, but it feels like a waste of someone who has finally found some time in his hectic schedule of partying with Tim Burton.

Seriously, those two need to stay apart for a long, long time.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they're delivering scientific exposition.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they’re delivering scientific exposition.

Anyway, with with Will, firstly, it seems like he becomes a total, longing-for-the-almighty-power nut-job, all because he “thinks it’s the right thing to do”. Sure, I could see why somebody would want to create a God-like figure, let alone, use themselves as the subject, but after awhile, this movie makes you think at which point did anybody decide that letting Jack Sparrow-speaking Siri start healing people with infinite powers, and taking over their souls was a smart idea? Apparently half-way through, Evelyn just stops caring and is like, “Yeah, whateva. He’s my hubby and I love him for what he is. Even if he is just a computer that can’t touch, feel or bang me. Yup, that’s him alrighty.”

I know I’m making light of this, but this movie’s plot truly is careless. Not much of it makes sense, and the movie never realizes whether or not it wants to condemn technology for being, well, technology, or wish that everybody would take a chill-pill and go back to the old days of smoking on peace pipes and playing Pong for hours-on-end. The movie is somewhere caught right up in the middle, leaving not only its audience with too much info jiggling around in our minds, but never, ever too sure whether or not the movie itself ever knew what it wanted to say. Instead, we’re just left to get in our cars, go to our homes and sit in front of our lap-tops for the rest of the night.

Ah, technology. What a beautiful thing to waste. Or not waste.

Eh, whatever.

Consensus: Filled with more ideas than it can probably handle, Transcendence may get by on its ambitions, but never seems to take-off in terms of its plot, its tone, or even its feelings regarding what it is that it’s speaking out against, or for. I’m still not sure.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Please Give (2010)

Leave the homeless be! They’re already fine living their simple, care-free lives.

Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) seem like a happy couple because not only do they own a mid-century antique furniture shop where they sell stuf for a much larger price than they originally get it at, but because they see nothing really wrong with their lives. Sure, they take stuff from families who just had somebody die, but they aren’t exploiting them and even give them some cash for their problems as well, so they can rest easy on their conscience, right? Well, for some reason, Kate still feels guilty about all of this and begins to start helping anybody that she can, especially her neighbors (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall) who aren’t really fond of her because of the fact that their 91-year-old grandmother (Ann Guilbert) lives in the house that she owns. Meaning basically, when she croaks, then they get the house back and are able to sell it for whatever they want and do whatever they want with it, which obviously rubs the granddaughters the wrong way, as you could expect.

I must admit, even though I’ve only seen two of her flicks so far (this one included), I don’t really see the whole appeal behind Nicole Holofcener. She’s a good writer and is more than capable of stacking together a very talented ensemble, but she seems like she has a little too many ideas crammed into one, less-than-2-hour movie, and doesn’t seem to go anywhere with them. Like I said, this is coming from a guy who has only seen 2 movies of hers so far so take with that what you will, but I feel as if I’ve seen two, realized that they both sort of share the same ideas and plot-points in ways, than I’ve practically seen all of them. While Enough Said looks like a bit of a change-of-pace for her, once again, I’ll expect to see somebody complaining about how much or how little money they have, and/or start talking about how they’re getting older and how they have no control over it.

"Hey, hey, hey! We're just a happy, old-time family from Manhattan. Love us, please.

“Hey, hey, hey! We’re just a happy, simple-minded family from Manhattan. Love us, please.”

But those aren’t bad things to talk about in movies, regardless of if it’s over-and-over again, because they’re problems actual, real-life people have. Which, in a strange way, made this movie a bit more interesting to watch because even though it gives us characters that aren’t all that pleasant to be around as they bitch and moan about their financial issues, it still gives us a reason to care or at least be interested by them, just by the way they’re written. There’s more than meets the eye with these characters, and even though most of them aren’t happy people, you can tell that they are capable of being happy, and making those around them happy as well. At times, it may seem like it’s hard for them to do, but you know they’ll be able to in the near-future, and I think that’s what really kept me going with this movie.

Holofcener could have really thrown it in my face and given me characters that I didn’t give a shit about, and made me watch them as they throw their misery and unpleasantness on others around them, but she doesn’t allow for that to happen. She allows them time to grow, experience life, and realize that there are bigger problems out there in the world which, believe it or not, are more important than a $200 pair of jeans. But Holofcener also does something else with these characters where she does have a sort of playfulness with them; one in which she isn’t making fun of the way they overreact to little happenings, but at the same time, she’s not really supporting it either. It’s strange, but somehow, some way, it works well in the movie’s favor. It allows plenty of room for character-development, some emotional moments, as well as others that are rich with dark-comedy. Take, for instance, the awkward birthday party that goes oddly astray once the liquor is brought out. It’s a funny scene, but also a very dark one for reasons I won’t give away, but will open your eyes to what the rest of this movie can and will do.

However, this is a very slight movie that I don’t think you need to see right away, but definitely should if you’re just hanging out and slumming around the house. Everything that happens to these characters by the end, can sort of be seen a mile away, but it never rings false. It just sort of happens, with enough humanity to seem believable, despite it being as obvious as humanly possible. But, that’s life, and sometimes, things just happen the way you expect them to happen. Maybe not in the way you had originally imagined, but still with the same result.

Like with most of Holofcener’s films, Catherine Keener obviously plays a big role in it, which isn’t such a terrible thing to have because Keener has been a solid actress for as long as she’s been working, and she’s able to turn any character into a likable, sympathetic person. Even though the main conflict that Keener’s character has is that she can’t stop “giving” to people who seem as if they are in need of something. For example, one of her main quirks is that she gives money away to homeless people that she sees on the street, except that sometimes, they aren’t even homeless. Wouldn’t be so bad either if all she did was give her money away to the homeless people that need it, but she won’t even give her daughter money that she oh so desires and has been desiring for quite some time. The fact that this character can’t stop helping and reaching-out to others is a problem that nobody should care about, nor ever want to see a whole movie surround itself around, but Keener makes it ring true and Holofcener never judges her character for the over-dramatic gal that she is. Sometimes the movie will throw a joke making fun of her ways, but never anything that could be deemed as “disrespectful” or even “mean”. They both keep Kate likable and sympathetic enough to where you sort of want her to wake up and change her ways, even if that means giving the homeless $5, instead of $20 . Hey, any change is a good change, especially for her!

Caught in the act of actually appearing in a good movie.

Caught in the act of actually appearing in a good movie.

Everybody else gets the same fair-treatment as Kate and Keener, even though it’s obvious that Holofcener’s heart truly lies with her. Oliver Platt is, as usual, fun and fluffy playing Kate’s husband who’s a bit more realistic with the way he lives and spends his money, however, also has a bit of problems too that are shown throughout the movie and make you wonder if he’s a nice guy, or not. Amanda Peet gets a meaty-enough role that’s worthy of her talents as Mary, the more stubborn granddaughter of the two and seems to really be enjoying herself with this material, while also being able to get past all of the high times, and give us some substance that a character like hers so desperately needed in order to be considered “tolerable”, and she pulls it off very well. It’s been awhile since I’ve really seen Peet do something that’s as dramatic as her work here, and it makes me wish she would take these types of roles more often.

Rebecca Hall plays her younger sister, Rebecca (original), who’s a lot more meek, quiet and sweeter, even though there’s an underlying sadness to her that you can’t help but make you feel as if you want to hug her, hold her, and just tell her that life will go on and she’ll be happy. Hall’s good in this role, even though it feels like she could have easily been the main character in this movie, and it probably would have been better had she been. However, that’s not what happened, so what the hell do I need to complain about?!?! Nada, that’s what!!

Consensus: Though the problems the characters in Please Give face may be a little over-dramatized, the emotion and heart is still there enough to make you feel for them, rather than belittle them for being so self-loathsome all of the time.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Believe it or not, G-Mom's the happiest one out of them all.

Believe it or not, G-Mom’s the happiest one out of them all.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Closed Circuit (2013)

Good thing I don’t live in London. Seems like they’re government is crazy.

Over 120 people were killed after an explosion was set-off in very busy London marketplace, and the main suspect is an Turkish immigrant known as Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). After his defense attorney is mysteriously killed, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) rises on the scene and is given the opportunity to work with special advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall). Seems fine and professional and all of that, except it isn’t because the two had an affair that destroyed Rose’s marriage some years earlier. However, the court can’t know about that, or else they would both be out of a job and would lose this case; one that surprisingly ends up being very serious and detrimental to the government, because people begin to wind-up dead, just as more and more information comes out about it.

The best way to really, and I do mean REALLY, get a thriller pumping, is just to add the threat of the government. Once they’re involved, then you know there’s nowhere safe to go, nowhere to hide and no way you can come out of this unscathed in one way or another. Mostly all thrillers end the same with the government prevailing and showing us that no matter how hard us determined human-beings may try, the government is always going to be one step ahead of us and ready to lift their magical, power fingers in order to come out on top. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles and although this movie does give us very subtle hints at what type of powerful wrecking force the government can truly be, it never seems to go anywhere with it.

It's the paper-guy. He can't be trusted. KILL HIM!!

It’s the paper-guy. He can’t be trusted. KILL HIM!!

See? Didn’t think all of my jabbering and ranting had a point, now did you?

Anyway, where I was getting at with that paragraph was that the movie definitely wants to be like one of those frenetic, paranoid thrillers from the 70’s, but never fully amounts to that. And I don’t mean that in the way that the movie doesn’t generate any type of suspense or tension in the air, because it sure as hell does; it just never quite gets to that point where I understood that this was a “Two small-time lawyers vs. the big-ass government” type of story. It only kicks in with about 10 minutes left, and that’s where I really understood what was going on, for what reasons, and who exactly was all involved with this cluster-fuck. Only then did I get a chance to pain the full-picture, but everything leading-up to it was just a tad too confusing for me.

Not because I need every single clue, hint or plot-twist painted out on the walls for me, it’s mainly just because the story never sits with one aspect and pays attention to it the most. We get that these two got it on back two years ago, and rather than making that the fore-front of the movie and paying attention to how this whole case causes a strain on they’re relationship, the movie only alludes to it from time-to-time, and suddenly, out of nowhere, becomes ALL about it by the end, just as things with the political-conspiracy is starting to heat up. That bothered me, not just because it seemed unnecessary or stupid, but because it probably would have made the movie more effective and more suspenseful, had we cared for these characters and their relationship, but we sort of don’t. We just sit there, watch them as they fumble around, look behind their shoulders everytime they turn a corner and throw subtle hints that they just want to get on top of the table right now and go at it like never before. Some of that sounds fun, but most of it isn’t.

However, as much of a thrashing as this movie may be getting from yours truly, I do have to say that I got tense very often. It isn’t like the flick totally loses all sense of its mystery and what it’s actually about; it actually pays close enough attention to the case, therefore, allowing us to feel more compelled when we begin to realize what’s happening and what this cover-up means. Once we get painted a clearer-picture, it all makes sense and takes you by the throat and throws you along, I just wish it happened earlier, and with more character-development.

"Screw this case! Let's just screw one another, for old time's sake!

“Screw this case! Let’s just screw one another, for old time’s sake!

That said, I can’t get on the cast’s case all that much because everybody does their best with what they’re given, even if it is only for a short amount of screen-time. Rebecca Hall is still one of those actresses that has yet to really do anything for me, but she shows that she’s getting bigger and better roles now, especially with her performance here as Claudia Simmons-Howe. Hall’s a bit sexy, but she always seems inspired to do the right thing, which makes it a lot easier for us to actually root her on and care for her when the shit hits the fan. Eric Bana, despite having a pretty piss-poor British accent attached to his vocal-chords, does a nice job being smart, confident, and slightly heroic as Martin Rose. Together, they show that they do have chemistry, but since they aren’t on-screen together all that much and aren’t really given much to do with one another other than just look scared and shout out facts of the case, it only feels like a missed-opportunity.

The rest of the cast is pretty rad too, especially because they have some real heavy-hitters here. Jim Broadbent is probably the most sinister he’s ever been here as the Attorney General of the case, and shows that he can not only charm us, but make us wet our shorts at the same time when he wants to; Ciarán Hinds is a lovable presence to watch on screen, but you know that there’s always something up with him that you can’t quite put your finger on just yet; Julia Stiles randomly shows up as a New York Times journalist whose role shows not much purpose, but it still made me smile seeing her working again, so that’s something to commend; and Anne-Marie Duff, for all of the sexiness that she has, really scared the hell out of me as Melissa, somebody you expect to be a goodie-goodie in all of this, but somehow turns out to be the decider in all that happens. Overall, a solid cast that I wish was given more to work with, even though they do make the best of what they have here.

Consensus: Even though it doesn’t really get tense and edgy until the final 10 minutes or so, Closed Circuit is still an okay watch if you don’t have much else to do with your life, just don’t expect much in terms of character-development or shocks.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Something's out of place here, and it isn't that red dress.

Something’s out of place here, and it isn’t that red dress.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Iron Man 3 (2013)

At least he’s on the wagon now.

After the wild events that took place in New York with Gods of Thunders and worm-holes and such, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has found himself in a bit of a crisis. Not only is he constantly reminded of what occurred, but he can’t seem to get any sleep and continually works on his hobby: building and building shit. It doesn’t matter what it is or what it could do, the fact is that he’s building shit, losing sleep, losing the love of his life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and losing what it means to be a superhero. However, an evil terrorist by the name of Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), might just change that feeling in the pit of his stomach and have him realize what it was about him that made him Iron Man in the first place.

Since the Avengers came, saw, and conquered the world last Summer, it seemed only right that Marvel would unleash it’s brand-new bag and go back to where it all started: Iron Man, or if you really want to be legit about it: Tony Stark. Without the first movie coming out in 2008 and taking over like it did, who knows just what the hell Marvel might have done not just with their fellow, other superheros, but in general as well. But from what we’ve all seen and what we do know is that Tony Stark is the go-to guy for when you need a compelling movie, and Iron Man is a pretty bad-ass superhero, even if he doesn’t have a big hammer. I still think that’s one of the all-time best weapons in superhero history. By far.

The first piece of curiosity that sprang through my mind when I initially heard of this movie happening, was the choice of Shane Black as director and co-writer. If you don’t know who this cat is, I suggest you go and find Kiss Kiss Bang Bang somewhere on DVD and check that out because it is a gem of a movie and it’s all because of Black. The guy’s also written Lethal Weapon, but in my eyes: his directorial-debut ranks supreme against all others because it’s funny, exciting, and filled to the brim with plot that may seem like over-kill, but keeps you guessing until the end. And just as promising as that may sound for a guy who’s about to tackle Iron Man, it still seemed strange considering that not only was this his second movie to date, but also that his first one had barely any CGI whatsoever, or action for that matter. Most of it was just shooting, guns, bullets, a car-crash, and fake blood. That was it. So, how the hell did Marvel trust this guy with their biggest money-maker to date?

"Sometimes, my left hand just have a life of it's own. I swear, Pepper...."

“Sometimes, my left hand just have a life of it’s own. I swear, Pepper….”

Well, whatever it was that the big guys at M found in him, sure as hell worked because Black does a superb job as both director, and co-writer. Not only is his humor present throughout the whole flick, but the guy also finds a way to throw in some neat and nice little twists here and there to spice things up. One plot-twist that I won’t give up unless you want to e-mail me about it (CMrok93@yahoo.com), really divided this movie into two, different ways. Some will definitely go along with it and think that it was a nice-departure from what we are used to seeing with typical, superhero movies, whereas others may be a bit pissed and wished that they exactly got that typical, superhero movie they had grown so accustomed to. I still haven’t been able to rack my brain around whether or not I liked it all that much, but I will say that in Black’s case, it sure as hell was risky, something different, and not exactly what I was expecting. So, yeah, maybe you could put me in that earlier-group of peeps, but at the same time, don’t, because I’m still not sure.

Just give me some damn time, man!

But what really worked for Black and what mainly surprised the hell out of me is how well he handles all of the action, CGI, and 3D (basically, the big-budget). Black knows exactly what the fans want to see when they see a superhero movie about Iron Man and that’s what the dude gives to ’em. Some may actually be surprised to see that not all of this action features the actual superhero, Iron Man, but features more of Stark doing all of the ass-kicking himself, but it’s still fun and exciting to see, especially when you add a darker-element of story-telling on top of it all, which is what Black has done surely well. Of course the humor is always there to keep people laughing and giggling, but the stakes feel higher with this one and it’s no surprise that some may actually be scared as to who’s going to get off’d next, who might not make it for Iron Man 4 (although Paltrow spilled the beans on that enchilada), and who’s going to come out victorious and with a little bit of something to brag about. It’s fun to watch a movie that knows how to keep the energy rolling without a real break in the pace, but it’s even better when you feel like the seconds you see a person on screen for, could just might as well be their last. Black keeps this going for quite some time, that is, until the last-half shows up and sort of ruins things.

For the most part, about an hour and a half in, I was on-board with this movie and I easily felt like I was working on a 9-9.5 here, but something happened. No, not the twist I was talking about earlier, but the final showdown that we all know is going to eventually come. Something, I don’t know what it was, just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel as epic as the rest of the movie did and it sure as hell didn’t do much to really knock me out of my chair with it’s originality; something I was seeing from Black’s side of the room, more and more. Don’t get me mistaken, I still had a ball with this final-act and just about lost my hearing by how many clangs, booms, and bangs I continued to hear (that’s a good thing, by the way), but something didn’t make it feel like the movie was tied-up with a pretty, little bow at the end like all of the other superhero movies have lately. Even Iron Man 2 somehow decided to do that, and as we all know: that was nowhere near greatness.

However, I can’t put anything against this cast because as usual: they are all phenomenal, even the newbies too. But I’ll get to them later, let me stick with the man of the 2 hours, the man with the power, and the man who practically has it all: Robert Downey Jr. Everybody and their mothers (the coolio ones who didn’t give up on him when he got busted all of those years ago) know that Downey was made for this role and he continues to show us why with his egotistical act, look, and feel. Yet, there’s something more to this guy that makes him actually feel like a hero worth rooting for. Stark does make some stupey mistakes and gets caught-up in situations that he could have easily gotten himself out of if he just thought more, but he’s human, dammit! That’s what we do. And even if we don’t have a mansion, a billion dollar corporation, or a suit made of iron that can kick ass and speak like Paul Bettany, we still feel like this guy would do the right thing, if he was given a chance to make the decision as to what that exactly is. Downey is funny as usual, and probably a lot better with the script considering that he practically vouched for Black to get this job, but it’s his human-aspect within that makes this character tick, rock, and kick….some ass. See what I did there? Yeah, I’m all out of being witty for the night.

Always gotta tug on the suit-jacket to make sure you know how big pimpin' you truly are.

Always gotta tug on the suit-jacket to make sure you know how big pimpin’ you truly are.

Even if it seems like nobody in their right minds is willing to let all of the hate for Gwyneth Paltrow go, just for a little bit of time over 2 hours, at least the girl still shows us that she can act and be charming as hell. I don’t hate Paltrow like everybody else seems to, and that’s why I really liked her as Pepper Potts because it not only felt like her character really loved Tony and wanted him to be all fine and dandy once things were over with, but that she could also stick up for herself in the chance arose itself. Pepper isn’t the type of character that you could classify as a “damsel in distress” and that’s the route that Black turns away from and gives her more a chance to knock some people out, if she needs to. During this movie, she definitely does need to and that’s exactly what she does. Keep on going, Mrs. Coldplay!

Don Cheadle is here once again as Col. Rhodes (still thought Terrence Howard was better, but hey, that’s just me, baby) and does fine with what he’s given. Cheadle doesn’t have a huge role here but gets more to do than just pick up Tony’s scraps and make us feel like he’s more of a bad-ass too. Although, I will say that he does get to show us what makes him all bad-ass still. Oh, and before I forget about it all: Rebecca Hall is here as an old-fling of Tony’s and is good, even if her beauty and charm does seem a bit wasted on a character that is essentially around just to show how much of a chauvinistic a-hole Tony basically was back in the darker days before he fell in love with Pep. Still, the girl is mighty fine!

Now is the part where we go onto the baddies and this is where things begin to get a little dicey for me and you. See, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce both play some evil a-holes that definitely are not the breed you want to mess with, let alone see Tony mess with, but there’s more to them than just that and I can’t give away too much without sounding annoyingly-vague, or just giving it all up. Both do what they need to do as the baddies, especially Kingsley who actually terrified me at one point, but there are more layers to them and once you see what’s really going on with these cats, you might just be a bit surprised. I sure as hell was and once again: I still don’t know what to make of it. What I can say though, is that the movie does not, for a second, stray-away from giving these two guys plenty of scenery to chew on and that’s where all of the fun comes from. Because if you think about it: that’s all you need in a good villain, right?

Consensus: Starts off perfectly with a funny script, electric set-pieces, and a cast that never backs down from a script they can’t grapple, but Iron Man 3 ends more on a whimper, than on a bang. Which would have been all right and perfect with the world, had we not already see the Avengers and know what there is to expect with the Marvel Universe.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

P.S. Stay for the credits. Even though you probably already knew that, didn’t you?

It's like Gandhi all-over-again, except Chinese.

It’s like Gandhi all-over-again, except Chinese.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Now I know what the ‘B’ in Barcelona stands for now. Yeah, I’m a dirty boy.

Two American women named Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) spend a summer in Barcelona to re-connect with the lives they think they have, and hopefully be able to find inspiration in terms of love and life. When vacationing and trying to discover themselves in Barcelona, they meet an artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who is attracted to the both of them while still enamored of his mentally and emotionally unstable ex-wife María Elena (Penélope Cruz). Somehow, everybody starts boning one-another and it’s all deserved. Why? Because it’s Barcelona, that’s why!

Regardless of whomever the hell he prefers to go to bed with at night, Woody Allen is a film maker that knows his shit and knows how to do it right. He always has a knack for writing these stories that are so simple, so down-to-Earth, and so plain, that they make you feel as if you could have written the general-premise of half-of them when you were still drawing circles with your big crayons. That’s not to discredit Mr. Allen in any way, shape, or form, it just shows you that if you have the talent to make you writing witty and always fun, then you can do no wrong. Sadly, this is not the one movie where he exhibits his best work. Sorry, Midnight in Paris. Maybe we’ll get another like you, sooner or later.

The problem I think that Allen runs into with this flick, is that he’s more concerned with the look and feel of the whole movie, rather than what makes it so important in the first-place: the characters. This may come-off as a shock to you readers out there, but surprisingly, the characters in this movie aren’t as electric or thought-provoking as you’d think. The two female leads that this story practically breathes and dies by, Vicky and Cristina (hence the title), aren’t anything more than just a bunch of confused, American college students that just seem to be the types of people who think too much about the little shit in life, and don’t ever decide to wake-up, smell the cauliflower, and get the hell on with what’s in front of you at the time-being. There’s even this one scene where we see how much of “feeler” Vicky truly is by the way she listens to a Spanish dude play guitar, and practically cries about it once it’s over. Why? I don’t know, maybe because Woody Allen likes these types of characters that make more meaning to stuff than their really is in the first-place.

Looks like Scarlett's wearing the same hair my sister's barbies used to have.

Did Scarlett kill a Barbie doll for that hair?

It may sound weird since I am talking about a Woody Allen movie, where the characters are mostly neurotic to the point of where they have to bring a freakin’ tranquilizer with them everywhere, but it just doesn’t work here as well as it does in other films. You could even go so far as to argue that maybe the same case with the characters being too neurotic and quirky are evident in mostly all of Allen’s work, but what separates the best, from the worst, is the way he’s able to cover it all up with witty and hilarious-dialogue that keeps you interested in seeing/hearing what these characters have to do or say next. I never really felt that with these characters and I sort of just wanted them to stop their damn talking, and get back to the whole love-makin’ idea. But without Javier Bardem in the mix. If you know what I mean?

If there is anything that Woody Allen can fall back on in this movie it’s that he is so determined and inspired to show Barcelona in it’s finest, and most extravagant form, that it actually works. Barcelona is a place I would always love to venture out to, but being 19, with no job, no wife (not that I know of, no kids (not that I know of), and no relation whatsoever to a billionaire, may never get the shot to. And if that is the depressing, but true case, then this is probably the closes I’ll ever get to that trip and I have to say it’s better than nothing because you really feel as if you are there in this setting, where the pharimones between these fellow-residents are just running-wild. Seriously, if this movie doesn’t get you hot at all, I don’t know what will. And I’m not just referring to watching this during the Summer-time, neither. If you know what I mean?

The other key-factor to making this movie work is the cast that, as usual with most of Allen’s flicks, is star-studded but shows everybody doing their best to make it all work out. For the most part, they succeed. Javier Bardem was just coming off of his Oscar-win as the bad-ass Anton from No Country for Old Men, and took a pretty risky, but big-move in his career gunning for a role that’s as suave and sexy as this. Thankfully, Bardem pulls it off like crazy and shows that the guy can play charming and cool, but also have you totally revved-up to go out there and tell babes to get in their plane for Barcelona in an hour. Thank you, Javier Bardem. You give hope to all men out there in the world, in the hopes that they will one day, find woman that are as desperate for sex as themselves. It’s sad, but true.

However much you want baby, I'll pay. I swear.

However much you want baby, I’ll pay. I swear.

People get on Scarlett Johansson’s case for not being the greatest actress since the glory days of Elizabeth Taylor (or some royal beotches like that), but the girl’s got a look and style to her that works and have you feel something for her character, even if you can’t put your finger on what it is. She’s got this real sense of vulnerability and confusion within her act that makes you feel bad for her character when she gets a tad screwed-over from time-to-time, and makes you just want to give her a hug and possible smooch on-the-side. However, we all know that will never, ever happen unless you’re Ryan Reynolds or Sean Penn (present-day, mind you), so it’s all hopes and dreams from here. Rebecca Hall is always showing-up in heavy-duty dramas where she plays the straight-laced, serious gal that does her own thang and likes it, and her performance as Cristina is pretty much the same old song and dance for her, but with a bit of a lighter-feel this time. Hall is good at playing up-tight and shows how one girl can practically go from despising everything, to just wanting more out of her life of living, and life of lust. Hall is always great in what she does, but here, I saw that the girl could really handle comedy and make it work. Let’s just hope Hollywood takes notice of this and stop making her co-star as the female love-interest all movies seem to need.

The most-popular and noted aspect of this movie was probably Penélope Cruz, with her Oscar-winning role as the psycho, ex-girlfriend. It’s a role that suits our usually high-strung actress like a glove, but also doesn’t do much for the story or it’s meaning. The whole movie, you are constantly just waiting for Cruz to show up and light everything on fire and have her presence be known, but she shows up to the party a bit too late, and doesn’t really liven things up like I expected her too. It’s sort of like me that one time at my own Sweet 18th. All I wanted to do was get my ladies, my money, and my food, and I had to wait 3 hours for that crap! What the hell?!? Anyway, back to Cruz. As she usually is with anything she gets thrown at her (even you, Tom Cruise), she’s great with this role and definitely brought out the most laughs from the cast. Everybody was pretty damn serious up until she reared her beautiful self in, but still didn’t keep me as awake as I would have wished for and being that this was an Oscar-winning role: I was expecting a shit-load more from her. But then again, who doesn’t just love when Cruz breaks-out her native tongue? Huh? Huh? Am I right or what, fellas? Okay, I guess I’m the only perv around these parks. Thanks everybody!

Consensus: Allen’s writing in Vicky Cristina Barcelona isn’t as sharp or as entertaining as it has been in the past, but still, with a cast and setting like Barcelona, you could do a hell of a lot worse with a hell of a less expectations.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Despite the beautiful scenery in the background, I think we all know where I'm staring.

Despite the beautiful scenery in the background, I think we all know where I’m staring.

Everything Must Go (2011)

Ron Burgundy really does love Scotch.

The story revolves around Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell), a career salesman who gets fired, for falling off the wagon one last time. He returns home to discover his wife has left him, kicked him out of his own house and dumped all his possessions out on the front yard. Faced with his life imploding, Nick puts it all on the line – or more properly, on the lawn – reluctantly holding a yard sale that becomes a unique strategy for survival.

Anybody coming into this film expecting, yet another, yuckfest from Ferrell will probably be let-down right off the bat. However, if you’re going into this expecting another Stranger Than Fiction, you will probably get what you want, without the Emma Thompson narration.

This is a very impressive debut from Dan Rush because he initially takes a simple story of a guy, who is down-on-his luck and suffering from alcoholism, and gives it a fresh and lighter approach to make this story more interesting. I don’t want to go out there and say this is a comedy per se, but there are quite a bunch of humorous moments that work and bring a light feel to this film even when it steps into darker territory. This darker territory worked though because you actually feel for Nick and all of the problems that he’s going through, so when you see him getting the temptation of getting a drink, you can’t help but feel scared for the guy and hope that he doesn’t do what you think he’s about to do. Rush does a very good job at actually making us care for this character and his life, even though, deep down inside, he is a very sad and lonely man that can’t really be cured of his problems unless he cures himself.

Where the film really got me at was how Rush makes this story a lot more touching than I actually expected. The whole theme with this story is about how we are all lonely people in this world, and we somehow need to connect with others in order to feel less lonely. It’s a very real theme and one that works well for this movie’s subject matter, but what really had me going were some of the scenes that Rush puts in here that work and make you feel something. One scene in particular is when Nick goes to visit an old girlfriend, played by the stunning Laura Dern, and the whole scene is on for about 2 minutes but it’s the most touching and realistic scene of the whole flick that makes you realize; “maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all”. Really nice touch by Rush and also, especially by Dern.

The film does have its problems though, especially when it came to its metaphors. I knew exactly what the film was going for and what it was trying to say, but sometimes this flick does hit us over the head a little too much with what it’s trying to throw at us. Scenes like when Nick is walking past a Quick Mart and keeps on staring at it, wanting a beer, or when his old boss leaves him a drink in the bathroom of a place and he’s there, contemplating on whether or not to drink it. Some of those scenes were pretty obvious and bothered me but thankfully, they aren’t all there. Also, the pacing can be a little slow and actually reminded me a bit of The Descendants, where I felt like the film started up, then slowed down, then started up, then slowed down, and continued to do the same thing for the whole time-limit. A little bothersome but when you think about the whole product, it’s pretty minor.

Most people will probably realize that this isn’t Will Ferrell playing his usual “Frank the Tank” roles and may even consider this stunt casting, but it’s so much better than that. Ferrell has the charisma in his acting to give such a dark character, more likability than he has any right to be. The character he’s playing, Nick, can be very mean, very drunk, and very sad but Ferrell is able to bring a lot of humanity and heart out of this guy without ever over-doing it. In fact, the moments where his character is barely saying anything, are still powerful just because Ferrell is able to convey so many emotions just by sitting there and looking lonely. Very subtle and very strong performance from Mr. Burgundy.

The rest of the cast that surrounds him is also pretty damn good such as Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie’s son) playing a young kid that decides to help Nick with his Yard Sale/life; Rebecca Hall as a pregnant, but lonely, housewife who misses her hubby; and the always reliable, Michael Peña as Nick’s sponsor. It’s a small cast but a very effective one at that.

Consensus: People expecting another Will Ferrell laugh-out-loud comedy will probably be disappointed, but anyone who wants a sad, but inspirational story, featuring plenty of touching moments and good performances from the cast, will probably feel happy with the final product they have here with Everything Must Go.

8/10=Matinee!!

Frost/Nixon (2008)

I would have definitely liked it more if they interviewed the Nixon from Futurama.

This is a period piece, that centers on little-known talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen), who goes way out of his way to interview probably one of the most controversial and famous presidents of all-time, Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). This is the story of how those interviews went.

I really didn’t know too much about the Frost/Nixon interviews other than the fact that they both were interviews between two dudes. Goes to show you how much I paid attention in history class after all. Surprisingly though, this is not a history lesson and more of a film about the two dudes who were in these famous series of interviews together.

Director Ron Howard really gives it his all with this film because of the way he makes these interviews seem less like actual interviews and more like a boxing match of words between two famous figures. Howard keeps the tension building up and up on these interviews and gives us enough character development to realize just how much both of these people need these interviews. One for fame, the other for forgiveness and setting the record straight.

Another great element to this film that makes it so damn watchable is that it’s script is very very good with a lot intelligence, wit, and small doses of humor to keep us laughing and entertained. It’s basically a “talking heads” film where you just watch a whole bunch of people talk without anything really happening, but it’s a very fun one that relies solely on the fact that it can keep people glued into what Frost is going to ask, and what Nixon is going answer with. I never actually saw the play that this is based off of but apparently everything is taken verbatim which makes the transition from stage to screen even better.

The problem with this film that keeps it away from being anything perfect or amazing like it could have easily been is that I feel like Howard could have really went out-of-bounds with this film. Granted, this is a very small film where there isn’t really a lot happening other than these two guys talking but I feel like there could have been more of how the nation felt about these interviews, and more about other characters that are just sort of there.

I also never understood why Howard have the actors who portrayed these actual people, come off and randomly narrate what was happening and why. I feel like the film is trying to give a sort of documentary feel when in reality it could have just stayed away from that or even used the real-life people itself. We all know who the actors are and who the real people are, so there’s no need to trying to show us otherwise.

Michael Sheen is a lot of fun to watch as David Frost because this guy is sometimes at the lowest points of his life, but no matter what keeps a big olde smile on his face. Sheen reminds me of that very cheeky, very corny, but always funny British guy that always seems to think he’s better than everybody, and usually is depending on who you are talking. However, this film really does belong to the one and only Frank Langella as Richard Nixon.

Even though he doesn’t look like Nixon, Langella probably does the best performance/impersonation of the man that any other actor has ever done in their whole lives. Yes, Anthony Hopkins has played Nixon too, Langella is THAT GOOD. You notice the physical differences within the first 5 minutes but then you totally got lost in this guy because he really just sells this whole conflicted, and tormented soul that knows what he did was wrong but he can’t get past it with everyone around him always breathing down his neck. There is some pretty wild stuff that Langella does as Nixon, such as losing his temper like a 7 year-old would do if his mommy didn’t buy him ice cream, but it’s totally easy to see why Langella got nominated for an Oscar and hopefully he keeps on getting better roles from now on.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t achieve greatness, Frost/Nixon is still a great flick with two great performances, a clever script, and a direction from Howard that keeps this film tense and on its toes.

8.5/10=Matinee!!