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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Reese Witherspoon

Sing (2016)

Furries love them some Katy Perry.

Ever since he was just a little koala, Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) has always wanted to provide arts and entertainment to the world around him. However, because of his size, he was never quite given the opportunity to work on the stage, in front of the crowd – instead, he was always given the position to work behind the scenes for his dad’s theater company. Many years later and with his father long passed away, Buster’s theater isn’t just losing money, but it’s damn near broke. So, in order to not just raise money for the theater, but awareness too, Buster decides to hold a local talent signing competition, where the best and loudest will all come together and battle each other, song after song, for a grand prize of Buster’s choosing. Eventually, the competition gets down to five beings: Mike (Seth MacFarlane) a wise-cracking mouse, Meena (Tori Kelly), a timid elephant who has a way better voice than she’s letting on, Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a pig who, for practically all of her life has had to stay-at-home and raise her 25 piglets and is just now getting the opportunity to do something she wants to do for a change, Johnny (Taron Egerton), a gorilla who’s family wants him to drop this whole singing thing and join them in the life of crime, and Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a punk-rock porcupine who’s current break-up with her boyfriend leads her to thinking about her independence a whole lot.

Uh oh. Miss Piggy gonna sue somebody!

Uh oh. Miss Piggy gonna sue somebody!

Sing is so ridiculously and utterly adorable that it takes a lot to bash it. And sure, while I won’t do that, I won’t also say that it’s a great movie – it’s the kind of animated flick that gets by solely on its pure cuteness, appeals strongly to the kiddies, and yes, uses a lot of pop-tunes that will get everyone going home and checking out Spotify instantly. In a way, it’s like every other animated flick ever made, but it’s also just really cute.

Sometimes, isn’t that all you need to be?

For Sing, it seems like that’s the case. Writer/director Garth Jennings seems to know just how to get to a kid’s heart, by infusing loud, catchy songs with lovely, cute-looking, walking, talking and singing animals. Sure, can this sort of stuff appeal to older folks out there? Most definitely, but for the kids, who Jennings really seems to be aiming for, it works even more so; they’ll get up during the movie, sing, dance and laugh at just about every bit of comedy, whether physical or not.

And is there anything wrong with that? Honestly, no. That’s why for what it’s worth, Sing does get the job done. It will most definitely make every kid happy, pleased, but at the same time, it also won’t keep the parents away from feeling as if they’ve been cheated out of their time, and/or money.

At the same time, though, should there have been more of an effort on Jennings part to try and make Sing more than just your standard, yet fun, kiddie-fare?

Sort of, yes, and sort of, no. Yes, because as Pixar has proven already many of times, the best ways to get everyone involved is to also give a little something for the older folks to grab a hold onto as well. There’s no denying that most adults will be happy and pleased with the youngsters being happy, or regardless of that, all of the music and colorful characters, but there’s still a certain idea that for the near two-hours the movie spends, the end result is just fine.

And no, because well, Jennings is probably doing exactly what he set-out to do in the first place with Sing and it’s not his problem that his flick doesn’t meet every person’s standards.

Like, mine.

Seth MacFarlane as a caricature? You don't say?

Seth MacFarlane as a caricature? You don’t say?

Anyway, Sing for awhile is fun and enjoyable, yet at the same time, not exactly groundbreaking or life-changing, like many other animated flicks I’ve seen in quite some time have been. That said, the final 30 minutes, you know, when the actual competition gets underway, are pretty exciting and show a certain amount of energy and zaniness that’s probably best shown in Jennings’ last two flicks, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and incredibly underrated Son of Ranbow. All of the pieces of the lovely, little puzzle eventually come together and you get the sense that Jennings is happy to see it all come out the way it is, even if he may have taken a little too long to get there.

It does help, however, that the voice-cast is also quite great and more than capable of keeping our attentions. But while everyone’s great, the real stand-out, of course, is Tori Kelly as Meena, the self-conscious elephant who can belt it out like nobody’s business. It definitely helps that, out of all the actors who do their own singing here, Kelly is perhaps the most professional-sounding, but that her character gets the message across in a strong manner.

What Sing says about kids, having a talent, and life in general, is that it doesn’t matter what you may or may not think is holding you back from doing what you want to do – as long as you’re doing it, then who cares? Life will continue to go on and get probably better for you, all because you’re doing what you want to do. A message like this is a nice reminder that even if animation doesn’t always knock it out of the park like Pixar, it can still bring heartfelt, warm and rather important messages to the youngsters watching in the lobby.

Alongside all of the singing and dancing they’ll be doing.

Consensus: Admittedly, while Sing is for the kids, there’s still some warm, colorful and good fun to be had, along with all of the crazy catchy pop-tunes that the movie never seems to run out of.

6.5 / 10

Don't be shocked. Sing.

Don’t be shocked. Sing.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Rendition (2007)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Hot Pursuit (2015)

Thelma and Louise definitely had more fun. And they *SPOILER ALERT* died!

Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) has been a by-the-books police officer for as long as she can remember. However, after a infamous mishap, she’s found herself away from field duty and put behind the desk where, hopefully, she won’t hurt anybody or screw things up. Cooper isn’t about this, but it’s all that she’s got to work with now. That’s why, when she’s given the duty to transport the wife of a drug cartel leader, Daniella (Sofia Vergara), to witness protection in Dallas, she is more than willing to oblige. But on the way over, things get a bit iffy, where fellow officers are killed and sooner than later, Cooper realizes that she’s being made out to be the baddie. This is when she decides to take Daniella to witness protection on hero own, in hopes that not only does Daniella get to where she needs to be, but her name gets cleared and all. However, during their little road trip, as expected, wacky hijinx and heartfelt conversations about life, love and unity ensue.

There’s a part of me that appreciates what Hot Pursuit is doing, but at the same time, also despises it. See, Hot Pursuit can list itself among the very small subcategory of road-trip movies that feature not one, but two female leads; the Heat may be apart of that group as well, but that was nearly two years ago. Movies like this where we are treated to two female leads doing and acting in roles that could have easily been filled-out by their male counterparts, hardly ever see the light of day and that’s why Hot Pursuit can be appreciated.

Boobs, get it?

Boobs, get it?

However, by the same token, it’s also a pretty terrible movie that shouldn’t be seen no matter what it represents.

Basically, this movie is not funny. While that’s as simple and as short as I can possibly be, it’s the absolute truth. As with most comedies, there’s maybe one or two times that I myself chuckle and while there is definitely two or maybe even three instances of that here, I can’t remember where they came from, what was funny about them, or even when they happened during the duration of this hour-and-a-half film.

But the long answer is that Hot Pursuit is, ultimately, a very sexist, unfunny comedy that seems to appreciate the fact that it’s about two female characters, but also gratifies them to make jokes about their bodies, their sexual activities (or in some cases, lack thereof), their age, and, how could I forget, their menstrual cycles. Yes, every joke ever made about a member of the female gender is touched upon here as if it were a Three Stooges short from the 20’s, but whereas those are actually funny in their offensive, slightly inappropriate sign-of-the-times ways, Hot Pursuit is just using them all for cheap, dirty laughs.

Which wouldn’t have been such a problem, had the jokes actually delivered, but they hardly ever do. They don’t land and more often than not, just continue on a very mean-streak this movie seems to lead early on and hardly ever stray away from.

And most of this comes from the fact that these characters are so thinly-written, that they almost become caricatures. Cooper is small and very strict about her day-to-day life, so most of the jokes surrounding her are about her height, her non-existent sex life, and the fact that she talks so professionally and nerd-like. With Daniella, because she has a lovely body and is Colombian, many jokes are made about her breasts, her accent, and oh, I almost forgot, her age. In fact, there’s maybe two or three jokes that are about Daniella’s age that don’t make any sense; not just because the character’s age has never been discussed before, but because Sofia Vergara is way too good-looking to be mistaken for a 50-year-old, even though she is slowly approaching that age.

But honestly, I can’t hold much of this movie’s problems against Vergara, Witherspoon, or the rest of the ensemble. Everyone here seems to be trying, it’s just that they’re saddled with material that would be better suited for a low-rent sitcom that would maybe last a week or two, until the network eventually realized that it’s offending way too many people and is already suffering from low ratings. Except that with Hot Pursuit, it’s a movie that people will pay to go and see, so even though I hope people want to see it for the fact that it’s a marketable movie featuring two female leads, I hope that it doesn’t lead to there being anything of a sequel.

Physical comedy, get it?

Physical comedy, get it?

Like, seriously, that would be terrible.

However, if there is someone to be partially blamed here, it’s Witherspoon herself. See, even after her infamous 2013 arrest, or, better yet, even the numerous pieces of trash she’s starred-in over the years, Witherspoon is still an incredibly talented actress who, even nearing 40, seems like she’s got plenty left in her system to go for another 20 years or so. Heck, she even just got nominated for an Oscar not more than three months ago! So what the heck gives?

Well, that’s because Witherspoon, in what seems like a very smart move on her part, produces a lot of what she stars in. Granted, she produced Gone Girl and didn’t star in that, but she produced Wild, which was a critical, as well as a financial success, but then again, she’s doing the same here for Hot Pursuit. Whether it was a move to ensure that the role she plays would stay straight for a woman, or if it was just money getting in the way of things, is totally unknown. However, if there is one thing that I do know, is that Witherspoon needs to steer clear of what sort of movies she backs up, let alone, star in. Because while Hot Pursuit may be a movie starring women, made for a general, wide audience, it still feels like the kind of flick that everybody will love it, except for women and that’s a huge problem.

So, please Reese, be careful.

Consensus: Though Witherspoon, Vergara, and everyone else in Hot Pursuit seem to be trying, there’s just no helping the fact that it’s jokes are lazy and sometimes insulting, leading to an overall, very unfunny comedy.

2 / 10

Yelling, get it?

Yelling, get it?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Inherent Vice (2014)

Note to self: Don’t do insane-amounts of drugs while trying to solve crimes.

It’s 1970, and hippie private investigator Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) plans on living it up in every which way he can. That means an awful-lot of hangin’ out, smokin’ pot, and just enjoying his care-free life. That all changes though when an ex-love of his named Shasta (Katherine Waterson), comes around and informs him that her boyfriend, real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), was kidnapped and hasn’t been heard of since. Some say he’s dead, but Shasta doesn’t believe this and wants Doc to drop whatever it is he’s up to (which is seemingly nothing), and find out what has happened to him. Doc agrees, but as soon as he gets started on the case, many other cases start falling into his lap. For instance, an ex-junkie (Jena Malone) is worried that her rocker-boyfriend (Owen Wilson) isn’t in fact dead, as previously reported, and has been kidnapped. Then, a local gangster (Michael K. Williams) asks Doc to delve deep into a possible union between real estate agencies and the Aryan Brotherhood. And there’s many more where that came from, and no matter how far Doc may get into solving these mysteries, Det. Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) is always there to stop him, get involved, and see that the cases are done in an efficient, legal way.

"Is your refrigerator running...?"

“Is your refrigerator running…?”

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, there’s a lot going on in Inherent Vice, and not all of it makes sense. At first, it definitely seems so, but once starts off as a simple, ordinary mystery about a disappearance, soon spirals into being about so much more. Some of it’s good, some of it isn’t. But because this is a Paul Thomas Anderson (one of my favorites currently working today) movie, it’s mostly all worth watching.

Mostly.

But, like I said before, because this is a PT Anderson flick, there’s a certain mood surrounding Inherent Vice that makes it seem like the kind of movie he hasn’t ever tried his talented-hands at before. Though some may get a glimpse at this and automatically assume that PT is going straight back to his Boogie Nights days, those same people will probably be utterly disappointed when they find out that this is not at all the case. Sure, the movie may sometimes sound and look like that hip and happenin’ film, but for the most part, Anderson’s tone is a lot different here than usual, and it brings a large amount of sadness and, dare I say it, depression to what could have been considered some very groovy times.

And it’s not that Anderson hasn’t made a sad movie before, it’s just that he hasn’t quite made one in this vein; while it’s a colorful and bright movie, there’s a grainy undercurrent felt in it that makes some of the funniest, wildest moments, seem like they’re coming from somewhere of a nightmare. An enjoyable nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless. To be honest, too, I think Anderson prefers it this way.

To say that Inherent Vice is “confusing”, would be as conventional as I could get as a writer – not only has it been said many of times from many other writers, but it wouldn’t really do much justice at all to a film that I feel like is confusing, but can still be enjoyed despite this. See, whereas the Master was a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about Scientology, it was also a character-study that functioned as such. Here, with Inherent Vice, we have a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about a few mysterious cases, yet, it’s also a hilarious look at this strange, underground world in California. This is a world where not only does everybody do some sort of drugs, but that they also have plenty of secrets, which, if you wanted to dig deep enough, could actually find out are all connected in their own sick, twisted ways.

However, simply put, this is just me diving deep into what this movie may, or may not mean, and as a result, making myself sound like a pretentious-ass. Because, in reality, the real enjoyment behind Inherent Vice is that it goes from one bizarre-o situation, to another, and it’s hardly ever dull. Random? Sure, but boring? That word doesn’t exist in PT Anderson’s dictionary and it makes this movie one of the funnier pieces of comedy I saw all year. That’s not to say that it’s all meant to be hilarious, but sometimes, just watching a crazy situation, with zany characters involved, get even crazier, just adds so much joy and happiness that it’s hard to hate on.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Even if it doesn’t all add up to making total, complete and perfect sense, it’s still enjoyable and that’s where I think most of Inherent Vice works.

To go on about all this and not at least mention the cast would be an absolute crime, because everybody who shows up here, no matter for how long or little, all leave a lasting-impression that deserve to be mentioned, and remembered. Leading the wild race here as Doc Sportello is Joaquin Phoenix, and once again, he proves that he will never play the same role twice, nor ever lose that interest-factor surrounding him whenever he shows up in something. Phoenix fits right in as the “come on, man”-type of hippie that Sportello is and it makes it easy to root him on during this case, even if you never are too sure what’s going to happen to him next. He’s not necessarily a blank slate, as much as he’s just a simple, uncomplicated protagonist that makes it easy for us to identify with him, even while he makes some brash, weird decisions throughout the adventure we share with him.

While Phoenix may be our main point-of-reference here, he’s not the only one worth speaking of. Owen Wilson finally gets a lovely role for himself to dig deep into as Coy, the missing rocker-boyfriend, and mixes in well with the rest of the hippies surrounding him; Jena Malone is sympathetic his sad girlfriend who just wants him home, so she can live happily ever after with him and their kid; Katherine Weston plays Sportello’s ex-flame that has this fiery, yet understated mystery about her and the way she carries herself in certain scenes that she started to cast as much of a spell on me, as she had on Sportello here; Benicio del Toro is fun as Sprotello’s zany lawyer who always has the best ways to get him out of jail; Reese Witherspoon is smart and sassy as Penny (Reese Witherspoon), Sportello’s attorney girlfriend who may be just using him so that she can give the FBI what they want; Maya Rudolph has a nice-bit as one of Sportello’s nurse-secretaries and seems like she’s winking at the audience just about every second she gets; and Martin Short, with maybe nearly five minutes of screen-time, is way more hilarious than probably the whole entire season of Mulaney has been.

None, however, I repeat, NONE, measure up to the types of greatness that Josh Brolin brings to this movie as Bigfoot Bjornsen, Sportello’s mortal enemy/confidante.

See, what’s so lovely about Brolin here is the way in how Bigfoot is written: He’s rough, tough, gruff and a mean son-of-a-bitch who clearly doesn’t care for the likes of Sportello, or the fellow pot-smoking, lazy hippies that he associates himself with. Therefore, he and Sportello have a bit of a rivalry, where one may get a certain piece of info and get ahead of the other, in whatever case they’re covering. It’s fun to watch these constantly try and one-up one another, but most of this is because Brolin is so dynamite in this role, that he nearly steals the whole movie from everybody else. Every scene Brolin’s in, whether he’s deep-throating a chocolate-covered frozen banana, ordering more pancakes in a foreign language, or getting ordered by his wife to have sex with her, he’s an absolute blast to watch. You can never take your eyes off of him, and he’s happy with this; for once, in what in seems like a long time, Brolin looks as if he’s having a good time with the material he’s working with. But the difference here is that he commands your attention every time he shows up, making you think about whether or not this character is actually a good guy, or simply put, just a guy, with a hard job, who just wants to solve his cases.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

It’s as simple as that, but Brolin makes it so much more.

But, I’ve just realized that most of what I’m writing about here, may only add to more of the confusion within Inherent Vice and for that, I apologize. It surely is not my intentions, as I clearly want each and every person to see this, even if they aren’t expecting to love it, or even understand it quite nearly as well as they may have been able to do with Anderson’s flicks in the past. And honestly, I don’t even know if Anderson totally wants people to make perfect sense of this movie and how all of the small, meandering threads of its plot-line tie-in together, but he doesn’t ever lose his confidence in trying his damn-near hardest. Even if it doesn’t always work, it’s admirable that he would try in the first place and I think that’s what matters most here.

Sure, making damn sure that your plot, the twists it has, and the characters who weave in and out of it, all make perfect sense as to why they even exist first and foremost definitely matters, but when you have a movie that constantly goes from one scene, to the next, without ever missing a beat of being interesting, then all is forgiven. Maybe you could say I’m giving Anderson too much credit here, and I would probably say “you’re right”, but for some reason, I can’t help but praise this guy anymore than he already has been. Especially here, because it seems like plenty has been said about this movie, without ever getting to the core: It’s entertaining.

While not “entertaining” in the sense that it is constantly exciting with numerous amounts of gunshots, explosions, and car-chases (although some do happen here); more so, it’s in the case that we’re given a simple plot, with some simple characters, and to see it spiral out into absolutely bonkers area’s is what makes it such a blast to watch. One can definitely take this as a serious piece of pulp crime-fiction that’s supposed to make perfect sense, every time that it offers a new plot-thread, but another one can definitely takes this as a serious piece of film-making that, if you want to, you just take for what it is, see what happens next, and just enjoy the ride. I know that it’s hard for me to recommend a movie based solely on that, and not lose some sort of credibility, but I don’t care right now. I feel about as safe and comfortable as I can with recommending this movie for anybody, so long so as they just let it start, go on, and end, exactly as it is. The deep and heavy-thinking can come later, but while it’s on the screen, just let it go and see how you feel.

If you still hate it, then so be it. At least I tried.

Consensus: Maybe not the most comprehensive piece of his career, Paul Thomas Anderson still works his rear-end off to make Inherent Vice one of the crazier experiences at the movies this holiday season, but also allows for it to constantly stay compelling, funny, and most of all, entertaining. Even if all the numbers don’t add up.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Sort of like the Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Sort of like the actual Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Wild (2014)

I just walked from my living-room to the kitchen, so why am I still addicted to heroin?

One day, 30-ish-year-old Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to do a 1,000 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, all by her lonesome-self. Why is this? Well, after years of drug abuse, random sex with strangers, the loss of her mother (Laura Dern), a few pregnancy scares, and her recent divorce, Cheryl has about had it up to here with life and finally realizes that in order for her to finally change it all, she has to get away from it all and focus her attention on another part of her life: Survival. This means, for Cheryl, she has to eat a lot of cold oatmeal, stay hydrated, stay warm, not die, and sure as hell not get raped by any of the huge creep-o’s that may, or may not be out there in the wilderness, just waiting for a little thing like her to come around into their little wooden-hut. Mostly though, Cheryl just wants to change her life and along her journey, she meets people that are sometimes in the same situation as her, or are just simply hiking for the hell of it.

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going....

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going….

You know, like we all do.

On the outside looking into a movie like Wild, I cannot help myself one bit to not just scoff at a piece that includes someone played by Reese Witherspoon hiking on an Eat Pray Love-style journey of self-discovery, all because she shot up heroin, had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s, and got a divorce, because she had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s. To me, not only does it sound like not “my type of thing”, but it seems like pure Oscar-bait for Witherspoon to show her “range”, and also to see her as a bad-ass kind of gal. Call me harsh, call me what you will, but I know when a movie intrigues me and this was not one of them.

But, from the inside of this movie looking out, I can easily say that not only did it turn out to be “my type of thing”, but Witherspoon more than proved herself capable of being hot, sassy little mama who screws, shoots up, and divorces, whatever she wants, when she wants, and how she chooses to do so.

I never thought I’d ever be typing that in my life, but such is the case when you have a little surprise like this on your hands.

And most of that is due to director Jean-Marc Vallée’s handling of this material and not just letting it tell itself; Vallée gets us inside the mind of this Cheryl Strayed character, shows us what she’s thinking, when she’s thinking, why, and how it affects her current journey in life. Though it gets a bit over-the-top with all of the constant smarmy-narration from Strayed, Vallée still does a nice enough job of putting us slap dab in the middle of this woman’s life and the journey she’s embarking on, and making us actually care for her. Sure, he may utilize more flashbacks than two whole episodes of Lost, but they’re flashbacks that work and allow us to grow closer to this character, the more and more that we know about her.

And trust me, that’s not an easy feet, especially when you have Reese Witherspoon playing the main character, but there’s something about her here that really shocked me and actually puts her whole career into perspective, as a matter of fact. See, it’s not that I dislike Witherspoon as an actress – I think she’s immensely talented and, in the past, has proven to be quite versatile in what she’s chosen, and for how much cash. But lately, it seems that the Reese we all once knew and loved as Elle Woods (or as Tracy Flick, for all you cool 90’s kids out there), has gone the way of the Dodo and would much rather take a huge pay-cut to star in movies where dashing, handsome-as-hell men fight to the death for her and leave her going, “Oh, golly!”

Well, my friends, you no longer have to be scared because it seems like the Reese Witherspoon we all loved is back and this time, she’s rawer than ever! Meaning, that yes, Witherspoon does get quite naked in here and shows us elements to her abilities as an actress that none of us have ever seen before, and it all works. She’s compelling, smart and gives much insight into the type of damaged woman you can still like and care for, even if she’s made some pretty dumb mistakes in the past, and especially to people who don’t at all deserve it. The role could have easily been another large check for Witherspoon, but she puts so much effort into it that it actually pays off and has me so excited to see what she has next. Because, quite frankly, with all of the hits on her hands, by now, she can do whatever she damn well pleases with her career.

....and going......

….and going……

Quite like Cheryl Strayed.

Anyway, all that aside, Wild isn’t perfect. There are moments where it seems to fall back on “are they, or aren’t they rapists” aspect of its story and while it may bring tension to the story, it feels constantly thrown in there, if only to just keep peoples eyes open and watching the screen. But that isn’t to say Cheryl Strayed’s adventure isn’t, as is, already intriguing, or even, ever so slightly, inspirational, because, yes, it is. Though Vallée doesn’t hit us over-the-head too many times with making us feel like we should love this person more and more as she goes on with our journey, it’s still easy to do so. Not because she’s been through a whole hell of a lot to begin with, but because she actually wants to make amends for it all.

The real reason as to why she actually gets up one day and decides to say, “Aw, fuck it! Time for a 1,000 mile hike”, is a question that the movie brings up, never explicitly answers, and leaves hanging like a sad flower that’s been without water for too long. But it doesn’t need to. With giving us many insights into Strayed’s past-life, we get the impression that she needs this more than anything. However, rather than being a total baby and seeming like she’s running away from her problems, it seems more like she’s walking towards a new life, that will probably have its fair share of problems. However, she’s constantly learning and understanding that life will always get better. Sometimes though, you just have to take advantage of it, get up, and see what’s out there in this huge canvas we call “Earth”.

Okay, now I’m definitely getting sappy here. Damn you, Reese!

Consensus: With a compelling lead performance from a very dedicated Reese Witherspoon, Wild gets past any of the problems it may have with its narrative and reminds its audience about the small pleasures in life, even if they don’t always come right away.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

...and, yup, you guessed it, still going......

…and, yup, you guessed it, still going……

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Legally Blonde (2001)

Is it really that easy to get into Harvard? Then, what the heck am I doing with my lame-o journalism degree!?!

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has it all. She’s the president of her sorority, a Hawaiian Tropic girl, Miss June in her campus calendar, and, above all, a natural blonde, but has one problem: No boyfriend. Why though? Well, because, according to him, she was “too blonde” for his liking. This automatically steers her career towards a different path where Elle decides that it’s time for her to study at Harvard Law, become a lawyer and, as a result of all this, win her man back. However, things are a lot harder than they may be this time around for Elle, especially when things aren’t handed-down to her right away, or even on a silver platter like she’s been so used to for all these years.

I gotta say, it’s been a long, long time since I last saw this flick and probably with good reason – it’s a total chick-flick that mostly deserves to be watched with gals around you (yes, Grand-moms count). But somehow, someway, I found myself chilling in my house all by my lonesome, one fine afternoon and decided to pop this in my “old school” DVD player and see how it does all of these years later. Thankfully, it still holds up, even though I still go by that golden-rule of needing a female next to me.

How most of my first dates go. Usually then followed by screaming, shouting, and wine thrown in my face.

How most of my first dates go. Usually then followed by excessive screaming, shouting, and wine thrown in my face.

God, I need to start going out more.

Anyway, Legally Blonde is one of those films that doesn’t really do anything new, original, or special with its premise, but doesn’t really need to because the fun of it is kind of in its simplicity. You get the plot you need, with the right amount of character-development on the side, and most of all, a nice array of laughs that can either totally blindside you by how actually funny they are, or are just worthy of a simple chuckle or two. Either way, it’s funny flick, that mostly gets by on its charm, as well as its characters who, although may be a bit one-note at first, do actually develop over time and we get to sort of care about as time goes on. Not too much, but just enough to where it’s okay to be interested in where this plot goes, for what reasons, and how it affects those involved.

I am definitely thinking a lot harder and deeper than this film than I should be, but so be it. Sometimes, it just happens and feels necessary, rather than just laying out why a movie works by simply saying, “Yeah, it’s funny and entertaining”. I mean, yeah, it is, but sometimes, there’s a little bit more reasoning as to why that is and here, I think it mostly has to do with the fact that these characters are a bit better-written then you’d expect them to be.

Take, for instance, the character of Elle Woods, in a star-making role from none other than Reese Witherspoon herself. Woods, the character, is your typical rich-girl cliche that every film pokes fun at – rich, stuck-up, always needs her hair to be done, always needs a pedicure, wants shiny things, has a keen eye for fashion, and constantly has a little pooch by her side. But surprisingly, the film doesn’t really poke too much fun at her for this and instead, has us sympathize with her and believe in her as she practically goes against everybody’s belief that the girl just didn’t have what it took to be a major lawyer, coming from the university of Harvard. Yes, it sounds pretty damn unbelievable, and in a way, still is, but this film definitely has you think otherwise for a good hour-and-a-half.

But the main reason why Woods works as well as she does, as a character, isn’t just because the movie treats her so gently, but it’s also because Witherspoon displays a great amount of charm and likability to her, that it’s almost way too hard to ignore. In today’s day and age, Witherspoon has definitely been a lot more miss, than hit as of late, which is why flicks like these are always nice little reminders that the girl is entertaining as hell to watch when she’s given good material, and isn’t trying too hard to play-up her klutzy, ditsy girl roles that seem to plague her in every rom-com she shows up in nowadays. She’s got great comedic-timing, looks quite gorgeous in the type of stuff she wears, and always seems like there’s a lot more to her than just beautiful blue eyes and long, blonde hair. That’s what everybody loved about Witherspoon in the first place and it makes me wish that she would just go back to that and give it a try once more.

Next week on, "Attorneys at Law"!

Tune in next week to see what happens next on, “Attorneys at Law“!

Just as long as that keeps herself away from pieces of junk like This Means War. Seriously, her, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy will never, ever be able to live that down from my point-of-view. I would also include McG in that list but who the hell cares about that dude.

Co-starring as her “love-interest of sorts” is Luke Wilson who really feels like he stumbled up on the set randomly and they just decided to let him go. Wilson is a good actor that has a great level of charm when he feels like showing it and is given the right script, but here, the guy feels terribly misused and sometimes come out of nowhere with some of his lines. It’s almost like he’s playing in the background the whole movie, only deciding to show up once they movie decided that they needed a romantic-interest for Witherspoon because you know, all girls need a guy when they’re searching for the right career-path that not only makes themselves happy, but gives them a bit of self-respect as well.

Oh, how some ancient social norms never seem to go away.

Consensus: Unoriginal, obvious, and sometimes, so cliche that you’ll wonder if the writers are even trying, but somehow, Legally Blonde gets by on its inherent charm, which has to do with some of the likable script, as well as Reese Witherspoon’s lovely portrayal of Elle Woods.

7 / 10 =Rental!!

Werk it, ladies!

Werk it, ladies!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Good Lie (2014)

Guess what, white people? Not everybody needs your help!

Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Abital (Kuoth Wiel) are four Sudanese refugees who, after having left their homes in 1988 and spent 13 years living in a refugee camp together and bonding. But now, it’s the year 2001 and they are finally ready to come to America, “the Land of Opportunity”. Upon arrival though, they already have some issues in which Mamere gets misplaced with another family, from another town, leaving the rest of the three to feel slightly disjointed. However, they know that it is their time to make up and do what they can to survive in America’s society and common day workplace. This is why they believe Carrie (Reese Witherspoon), an American employment counselor, is their own version of an angel, even though she doesn’t want to ever think of herself in that way, ever. But once the fellas get acquainted their living-quarters, their jobs, and just how everything works in America, they start to realize that maybe this isn’t all that they wanted in life. Or maybe it is, they just don’t know how to get by the problems they faced when they were younger.

Yes, while everything about this movie shouts “GLAMORIZED, HOLLYWOOD-VERSION OF REAL-LIFE TRAGEDIES”, there’s something surprising here in that it’s not fully what you expect. While it may be a PG-13 movie that, most of the time, glosses over certain, painful hardships that its subjects were victims of, something here about the Good Lie still hit harder than I expected to. Better yet, more than I wanted it to.

Somebody must have been a big fan of Legally Blonde.

Somebody must have been a big fan of Legally Blonde.

And I think this is because Philippe Falardeau spends most of his time focusing on our three main protagonists: Jeremiah, Paul, and Abital. See, it would have been totally easy for this movie to just make it all about the rich, better-off white people coming in to save the day whenever these fellas ran into a little bit of trouble, but it’s usually not like that. Now, that’s not to say that the movie doesn’t try to hit us over the head just a bit with the white guilt idea that there’s always Caucasian right around the corner to help out any black individual in need, but it’s not over-done.

More or less, it’s done in a way that makes it seem reasonable; these three characters are coming into America, so obviously, they would need at least some assistance in getting their feet on the ground. Meaning, they’d need jobs, a place to live, some guidance in how different the cultures are, and just how exactly to survive in the wacky and wild place that is America, the land of opportunity. So yeah, though we get plenty of instances in which we spend more time getting to know about Reese Witherspoon’s, or Corey Stoll’s service-worker characters, it’s not done in a way to take the spotlight off of those who matter the most.

But anyways, I digress.

Back to what I was saying about the three main characters here, they are the ones who deserve the most attention here, seeing as how this is not only their story, but they are also the real reasons why this movie works. In terms of how much this movie glosses over these character’s tragic, rather disturbing upbringing in Sudan, when the movie transports them to America and we see how they interact with everything and everyone around them, it’s interesting and rings a lot of truth. Sure, there’s plenty of silly fish-out-of-water scenarios in which these guys don’t know what a telephone is, or how it’s used, and there’s even a nice bit of product-placement for Pizza Hut, which are all played up for cheap laughs. Sometimes effective, but mostly cheap.

But when the movie steps away from this and focuses on how hard it is for these guys to maintain a hard-working, paying-job, whole also still holding on dearly to the morals they were brought up with and continue to believe in, no matter where they go. Because honestly, when you’re working and making money, it’s quite easy to lose a sense of who you really are; one second, you’re giving any bit of your nickels and dimes to homeless men/women on the street, but the next second, you could be trying your hardest to avoid them. It’s all a matter of the type of person you are and I think that’s what this movie addresses the most. Sure, it’s hard to keep a job in America as is, but keeping a job in America that clearly doesn’t always gel with what you fully believe in, now that is especially difficult.

However, like I’ve made a mention to before, the movie doesn’t continuously whack us over the noggin’, trying to get these thoughts into our heads – it just serves them up on a silver platter, asks us to gaze at them, and make up our own minds about what we want to do with them. We, the audience, can toss this off to being, yet again, another hokey piece of melodrama that’s profiting off of real-life tragedies. Or, we, the audience, can choose to see this movie for what it is and try our hardest to connect to what it’s saying, and who it’s speaking out for.

The choice is up to us, the audience. Not just in this case, but always.

Wipe those grins off your face, whites!

Wipe those grins off your faces, whites!

Anyway, I know I’m doing it again where I get further and further away from the review of this movie and more to my own wild ramblings, so I’ll just try to wrap things up. Before doing so, however, I’d like to speak about these three main characters once more, as they truly are the reasons why this movie works so well. Not just in the way they are written though, it’s mostly in due part to the acting by the trio of leads, most of whom don’t seem like they’ve ever had any prior-training to this. However, it totally works for the movie because it makes us seem like we’re watching real-life African guys come over to the U.S. and learning the steps as they go along.

That said, Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal are all good in their roles, respectively, and you can tell that they have a nice bit of chemistry between the three of them that makes you believe in them; not just as their own respective characters, but as life-long friends who consider themselves “brothers”, especially after all that they’ve been through together. And though they don’t get much character-development other than “they are all kind-hearted spirits”, the movie doesn’t try to make them look perfect, either; one character especially goes down a dark path and while you can see it coming a mile away down the plot-line’s path, it still rings true enough that it works well enough to make you not just feel bad for these characters in particular, but for anybody who has ever had to cross over into America, just for a better life and opportunity.

If only more people had that opportunity in their lives.

Consensus: While most plot-archs are conventional, the Good Lie still doesn’t wholly give into the usual, Hollywood-ized version of events that are supposed to make all us white folk feel happy, and/or safe. There’s some sadness and heartbreak here, but most of all, there’s hope, and that’s what matters the most.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Pretty much how I look every time I visit Universal Studios.

Pretty much how I look every time I visit Universal Studios.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Devil’s Knot (2014)

When you hear Metallica blasting through somebody’s speakers, run as far away from them as you can!

We’ve all heard this story before, but only through documentaries, so here it is again, I guess: Three boys in West Memphis went out for a little while and promised they’d be back by 4:30. 4:30 goes by, and less than a day later, they are found dead, naked, and tied-up at the bottom of a lake nearby their houses. Families, friends, neighbors, and people in general, are all upset about this travesty, but they know that justice needs to be done. This is when the police come up with enough evidence to arrest and hold a trial for three boys, all of whom were thought of as being the killers of these three little boys. Only reason? Because they looked, dressed, and talked differently, and had some ideas about Satanic-cults than most people like to feel comfortable with. Though mostly everybody believes that these are in fact the boys who committed this murder, one man, a private investigator (Colin Firth), doesn’t, and for some odd reason, decides to take this case on his own, pro-bono and all. What he finds out is not only are there some sheisty pieces of evidence left alone and barely even thought of, but that most of these stories just don’t add up.

As many of you may know, last Thursday, I reviewed the documentary about the West Memphis Three case, West of Memphis, and I found out two things: a) Arkansas cops can be really dumb, and b), that everything I read about that case beforehand was true and therefore, didn’t really needed to be forced down my throat once again. However, I chose to watch the documentary anyway, and realized that there were some things I didn’t quite know about and was definitely happy enough to see brought to light, especially after all of these years of barely hearing anything, except for the fact that *spoiler alert* the three boys convicted of these murders, weren’t actually even the murderers and finally let free.

"Please, shut the fuck up."

“Please honey, shut the fuck up.”

That’s why it’s no surprise to see that an actual, narrative-film was made of this controversial case, and it’s not an even bigger surprise to see so much talent get behind it either. However, what is a surprise, is how bad it is.

And that’s not really anything against Atom Egoyan as a director, because you can tell that his intentions are well-driven and noble, to say the least. He isn’t really trying to bring up any new claims about this case that we haven’t heard before, and he surely isn’t trying to point the finger at anybody in an obvious way that may give us the impression that he a certain stance that he’d like to make known to the general-public. Nope, instead, he’s sort of just presenting this case, this story, and these people, exactly how it was, what happened, and whom they were.

The only problem is that none of it is at all interesting. Egoyan tries and tries again, but the problem is that there’s already been four documentaries made about this case, so what the hell is the point anyway? Sure, there’s one piece of evidence about a bloodied-man walking into a local Bojangles restaurant that I had never heard of before, but that seems to come, go, come back, go, and then all of a sudden, show up at the last second, as if it was the most meaningful piece-of-evidence of all.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been spoiled enough already with all of this ungodly amount of info I have stored-up in my brain about this case, so maybe that’s why this movie didn’t do much for me. But in all honesty, the movie as a whole, really doesn’t work. It isn’t that it’s boring because it doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of excitement for this case, but because it seems like the type of made-for-TV movie that you’d see Lifetime or Hallmark doing, except only with a few more dirty words and blood thrown into the mix. Oh, and the big-named cast as well, but really, they’re just here to collect a paycheck, I’d like to think.

Aside from all of that though, this movie doesn’t really do much at all. It’s less about the actual people involved with the case (like Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin), and more about the case itself, making it seem more like a police-procedural than anything else. Which, yet again, would be fine and relatively interesting, had those documentaries never been made before in the first place; but they have, and therefore, it’s nothing new to see or hear when we find out that the cops are pulling whatever strings to ensure that these three boys go to jail. It’s less shocking here, and more like it’s just grand-pop telling us the same history-lesson, over and over again, without much variation in the details. I love my grand-pop and all, but seriously, the stories get old quick if you don’t do anything to spice them up. That’s just a fact of life, though.

Sorry, G-Pops. You da man.

Anyway, the movie does pay attention to some people involved with the case, mainly Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs, a mother of one of the murdered boys. Witherspoon tries to settle into this gritty, Southern-bumpkin mama that loves her family, just as much as she loves justice being done, but aside from the extra poundage she clearly put on, nothing here that she does really feels genuine or even interesting. She just yells, cries, faints and uses a lot of shocked-expressions on her face, and that’s it. She tries and she tries again, but her character isn’t worthy of our attentions, as horrible as that may sound coming from me.

Southern Colin Firth is definitely more of a deep-thinker than English Colin Firth.

Southern Colin Firth is definitely more of a deep-thinker than English Colin Firth.

Another character that gets a hell of a lot of attention, for no other reason other than that he’s played by Colin Firth, is private investigator Ron Lax. Firth has a troubled-role in which he has to disguise his English accent to fit with his newly-acquired Southern one, and it doesn’t always work. Aside from that, his role is sort of bland – he’s just there to get all of the facts straight, and figure out what to do with this case, as well as his own personal life. Like Witherspoon, Firth tries, and he tries again, but sadly, the material given to him just doesn’t do much of anything for him at all.

And it gets even weirder, because believe it or not, this cast is actually jam-packed with recognizable and talented faces, it’s just that they don’t do much. Alessandro Nivola has the role as Terry Hobs, Pam’s husband, who in real-life, actually has the most controversial role in the case as a whole, but doesn’t have any of that hinted at all, except maybe towards the end with one shot. That’s it. Other than that, all he has to do is have his inevitable “freak-out” scene, comfort his wife, and that’s it. Lame, I know. Same goes for notable stars like Mireille Enos, Dane DeHaan, Elias Koteas, Kevin Durand, and worst of all, Amy Ryan. I think it should be a golden-rule by now that whenever you have Beadie Russell in anything, you must always use her to the best of her ability. No questions asked.

Consensus: Devil’s Knot tries to be more than just a regurgitation of everything we’ve heard and seen done before in countless documentaries, but the final result still ends up being a dud and not doing much of anything at all for the talents in front of, or behind the camera.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Give 'em a break! It was the early-90's for godsakes! New Edition was still considered "cool".

Give ’em a break! It was the early-90’s for godsakes! New Edition was still considered “cool”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mud (2013)

His name is Mud.

Matthew McConaughey is Mud, a fugitive drifter hiding on a small island in the Mississippi River. He’s on the run and living peacefully all by his lonesome, that is until he is found out by two, young boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland). They don’t cause him much trouble as they seem to be more lost in wonder about this dude and eventually assist him in evading capture and reuniting with his beloved girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon).

So far, for writer/director Jeff Nichols; life has been pretty good. Not only did his first flick (Shotgun Stories) have “the artsie crowd” jumping in their tight jeans, but his second one (Take Shelter) got his name out to a bigger audience that one more over, just by the sure-fire of Michael Shannon being the man. But we all know that when something is too good to be true, it usually is and that’s what I felt like going into this movie. It wasn’t that I doubted Nichols’ skills as a writer or director, it just seemed like such an obvious and predictable story where boys will be boys, and we’ll leave it at that. That’s what I thought, but what I got was so different.

Sorry for ever doubting ya in the first place, Jeffrey.

Movies that feature kids at the fore-front really have to win me over with more than just showing them being funny and insightful by cursing. They have to give me something more, and that’s exactly what this flick did. Instead of reaching for the conventions, and giving me a story that I’ve seen done a hundred times over, Nichols takes that story, and loosens-up it’s hinges a bit. It sort of like Nichols knew the type of genre-movie he was making, and decided to give it a little taste of his own. Not as dirty as I may make it sound, but it sure is fun and entertaining to watch.

"Howdy ya'll!"

“Howdy ya’ll!”

Fun and entertaining in the way that the movie starts off quick and continues to go that way as well. There are moments when the flick decides to get real heavy on us and teach us some lessens, but not anything that really hit us in the face like a fish. Nichols keeps every character and their moments grounded in reality where we see these people who for the types of people they are. Each one, in one way or another, has a relationship with somebody else that you’d never knew about before, but the film brings up and shows you how that developed over time. It’s so interesting to see what you can do with character-development, just through simple and lean conversations. Some of it’s dramatic, some of it’s subtle, and some of it’s obvious, but most of all: it was interesting to see and made me care more for each of these characters as the stakes got higher and the tension began to build.

And once that tension does blow off, it does it in a way that isn’t everything you’d expect from a movie like this. Without jumping down the throats of all of you fine people with spoilers out the wahzoo, I’ll just keep it real simple in the way that the flick does end with some shooting and whatnot, but not like you’d expect. It happens for a reason and not just because Nichols got bored and needed to light up some fire works. Once again, it’s another way of showing how certain people use violence to their advantage and don’t seem to care about the after-effects. Just what needs to happen, and how it can be pulled off. Now, where have I heard that before!?!?

But it is meant to be said that by the end of the movie, things did start to get a tad bit conventional. Almost too much, dare I say it. It isn’t that I didn’t hate the flick for ending the way it did, but going to where I could sort of tell everything that was going to happen, and for what sole reason it was as well. Nichols did everything right leading up to the end, but the actual end itself is a tad of a bummer, for the sake that you know where it’s going to go. Again, I don’t wholly mind when a film goes that way, but it did sort of feel like a cheat, coming from Mr. Jeff Nichols here. He had me going though. He really did.

Though, I can’t be too hard on Nichols, because the guy has assembled a fine cast of characters here and that is definitely meant to be praised more than discouraged. Matthew McConaughey has been on a role as of late, and it doesn’t seem to show any chances of slowing down, by any means. His role as Mud is great for him to play because he gets the chance to, once again, tool around with the idea that we don’t know everything about this guy, what he’s done in his past, why he’s doing it, and if everything he’s saying is all truthful or a tall-tale. The whole time I kept wondering what was up with this guy, and by the end: I still didn’t quite know. But that’s the whole beauty about McConaughey’s performance in how he is able to mess with us, even long after the movie. We get general ideas about the guy where we see he’s a slick, cool, and kind fellow that does things for the people he loves, but a bit too harshly? Maybe? The answers to those questions are left for you and you alone to decide. Get going!

"Please tell me you brought the fucking weed?!?!?"

“Please tell me you brought the fucking weed?!?!?”

Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland play the two boys that find Mud on the island, and remind me of two kids that were picked right out of a Stephen King novel. They curse, spit, swallow, and cause havoc like all kids usually do, but there’s more of a sweetness to them that makes you want to hang out with them, as well as wish the best for them through this wild adventure. Especially Sheridan, who won me over two years ago in The Tree of Life and showed me some real promise as the next, young actor to watch. The kid’s story-line may be a bit too packed for it’s own good, but the kid kept his head above water and that’s more than enough I can say about certain kid actors out there.

After her most recent 15 minutes of fame in the slammer, Reese Witherspoon finds a way to re-group herself from driving and puts her rump down in the acting chair, like she should because she’s good at it when she isn’t choosing shit scripts. That’s a very rare thing for her, but let’s just soak up the moment now, shall we? What’s good about Witherspoon here is that she uses her beauty to her advantage in the way that she never gives you everything you need to know about her, only what you think you need to know. She walks a very fine-line in being both easy to trust, but also a tad mysterious in her ways, and it’s a fine-line that Reese can walk (at least when she’s sober that is!!). I’m really glad that Reese picked up a role like this because it reminded me why the gal was so lovely and so talented in the first place. I mean, hello! She does have an Oscar!

Nichols’ buddy from his past two movies, Michael Shannon is here as an uncle of one of the youngsters and is good, even if he isn’t in it all that much. Actually, the role is so small that it seems like he just showed up for one day of filming, cleared-out his schedule, and went right back to being Zod and reading sorority sister letters. The one who really steals the spot-light away from them all is Sam Shepard who shows them that he is still the bad-ass he once was, even after all of these years. Nice to know that guy’s still around and can do shit and do it right.

Consensus: Mud takes a slight-detour into convention by the end, but it’s a trip that’s worth taking regardless because of the amazing performances, the heartfelt script, and characters that are worth watching because you care for them and feel as if you know them.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Does "staying in character" excuse drinking and driving?

Does “staying in character” excuse drinking and driving?

Election (1999)

Exactly why I never ran for high school president. Well, that and because it’s just lame to begin with.

Election tells the story of Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), a popular high school history and civics teacher in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, and one of his students, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), around the time of the school’s student body elections. When Tracy obtains a nomination for class president in the school election, McAllister believes she does not deserve the title, and tries his best to stop her from winning.

High school elections are probably the dumbest things I ever had to go through throughout my 4 years of high school because it’s the same old shit every single year. People promise to change the school, they promise to listen to what you, the student has to say, they promise to talk with the principal about certain changes to the school that will never, ever happen, and when that’s all said and done, it’s onto the next year, and the year after that, then after that, and then so on and so forth. As you can tell, I hate high school elections and this film reminded me exactly why.

Co-writer/director Alexander Payne takes what we usually expect from “teen comedies” and gives us something a hell of a lot smarter and dark than anybody would expect. Payne starts this flick off as if it was a normal, every day type of high school comedy with all of the goody-goodies, the hard-working teachers, the goofy jocks, and of course, the lesbian girl that nobody really likes or wants to be around. But when the actual elections come around in the film, that’s when things really start to get interesting and very mean-spirited, but in a good way.

At its core, this film is a biting satire about how teachers don’t really like the students and how students don’t really like the teachers. It’s pretty much one of those unsaid understandings that are always around in high school. Of course, there are those teachers that everybody loves and feel like they can go up to and talk about anything with, but mostly, the teachers themselves aren’t as fond of you as you aren’t of them. I’ve learned this throughout all of my 4 years of high school and have realized that the quicker I understand this, the better and that’s when things for me in my high school life started clicking. Then again, a lot of teachers started to dislike for my “deauchy” attitude towards them but it’s mainly because I just knew that there couldn’t be a friendship between me and them. Sounds strange, I know, but that’s how I have lived for so long and that’s how I may always live.

But enough about me, more about this flick that we got here. Payne’s writing for this film is awesome because not only is it funny in the way it satirizes high school as we know it, but also shows us a funny glimpse at how life should not be based on just high school. Sure, sometimes we’re stupid, sometimes we’re mean, sometimes we make dumb decisions that regret the next morning, and sometimes we deserved to be laughed at. But when it’s all said and done, it’s high school and in the end, we’ll be OK. Maybe that’s not the smartest message out there in today’s world, and I can probably bet you that there are about 10 other flicks just like this with the same theme, but Payne’s message hit well and felt like a well-deserved pay-off after all of the time he dedicated to these characters and all of their immoral acts.

My only complaint with this film would probably have to be that I never really laughed all that much, even as much as it wanted me to. Yeah, the satire bites and there is a lot here that’s very honest, if a little too honest, but I still never caught myself with a gut-busting laugh and I think that’s just because it’s too dark to laugh at some of the stuff here. Some character’s lives go into some pretty sad places and even though the film seems to be pointing the finger at them and showing us that “their misery = humor”, I still couldn’t find a way to laugh. I don’t know, maybe I love human beings too much to laugh at their misfortunes but not much here made me laugh like I expected to with a guy like Alexander Payne.

Casting Matthew Broderick in the lead role of Mr. McAllister is an obvious riff on his days as the iconic hookey player, Ferris Bueller, but Broderick brings more to this role and makes it more than just a one-joke character. Mr. McAllister is one of those teachers that thinks he can change every student who ever needs him and loves to be involved with his school in anyway that he can. However, Tracy Flick is a girl he can just not like (mainly because his buddy boned her) and because of this problem he has, his life spirals out of control and you can’t help but just feel bad for the guy. There are plenty of great scenes that actually made me laugh just because Broderick has that great comedic timing that has done him so well, even all of these years later, but there’s a certain amount of honesty to his character that makes you feel for him, even when he betrays his morals (or is it ethics?). Actually, that same honesty could probably be said about another character here as well: Tracy Flick.

Reese Witherspoon is absolute dyno-mite as Tracy Flick, everybody’s favorite (or not favorite) perky, goody goody two shoes that wants to do every single activity and be the face of the high school, just so she can have that it can make her look good for college. Flick seems a bit like an innocent character at first, but after awhile, we soon start to realize that she is anything but and once she starts to find out that she’s going to have to fight for her presidency, that’s when her character starts to get lean, mean, and crude, unlike any other character Reese has ever played before. Since Reese has devoted most of her time to lame, chick flick roles, it’s nice to get a reminder of just how awesome of an actress she can be and how powerful her skills no matter who the character is. Tracy Flick is definitely one of her more iconic roles and it’s one that reminded me of plenty of other girls I knew in high school that just bothered me to death. Yep, I’m still at that stage where I look back at all of the bad things in high school but that will probably change within the next year or so.

Chris Klein is pretty good as the dumb jock, Paul Metzler, who gets conned into running against Tracy for president. The problem with this character is that this guy is so goofy, so dumb, that it almost doesn’t seem like this guy is even a human character that we can root for, even if he is the nicest character out of everybody else here. Even as much as I liked Jessica Campbell as his little sister, Tammy, the film never gives her enough screen-time and the rest of the flick, she is sort of just forgotten about until a last-minute montage showing all of the characters and what they’ve been up to as of late.

Consensus: Election may not be as funny as it would like to think of itself as being, but the satire is biting and very honest with it’s three-dimensional characters that do bad things, but you still care for, mainly because of the great performances from the cast, mainly Reese Witherspoon in a role you have never seen her in before. That is, unless you have already seen this flick.

8/10=Matinee!!

Water for Elephants (2011)

Hans Landa vs. Edward Cullen: imagine if this was handled by Tarantino.

Taking place in the Depression Era veterinary medicine student Jacob (Robert Pattinson) joins a 2nd-rate travelling circus and falls for the star performer (Reese Witherspoon). Christoph Waltz plays her husband, August, a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer who is as mean to his wife as he is to the circus creatures.

With all of this talk and hype about how director Francis Lawrence may take over the sequel for The Hunger Games, I thought what better way to know what you’re going to get yourself into than to check out his latest work. No, not I Am Legend, even though I wish it was.

I never read the best-seller that this is based off of (probably because it wasn’t written by Elmore Leonard) but I can definitely tell just by watching this flick, that it was probably one hell of a read with the story they have here. The story itself takes place in 1931, and it sort of feels like a film that could have been made around that time as well. This reminded me a lot of the old-Hollywood movies where there are little or no explosions, heavy violence, heavy cussin’, or CGI for that matter.

The cinematography, costumes, and set-designs also brought me back to the time of where things were harder to get and the people were a lot more sad than usual, but in the end, an honest works pay was still an honest works pay. It’s just a straight-up, old-fashioned, love story that almost played in the same reign as countless other flicks like The Notebook and Seabiscuit and rather than just telling another generic, love story that offers nothing new or original, we get something that is at least interesting to keep your eyes glued onto.

However, there were some obvious things that seemed to bother me especially when it came to the casting here. I really do want to like Robert Pattinson, I really do. I think beyond all of that Twilight shit he gets thrown onto him, somewhere lies a very talented actor that is ready to just branch-out at any second, but keeps on getting roles that just seem to put him in the same exact boat as he was back in 2008. Pattinson’s role here as Jacob (irony!) comes off more bland even though it’s obvious he is trying his damn near hardest. It’s not like watching this guy is brutal by any means, because he’s definitely a tolerable actor, it’s just that this role seemed like they needed a man but got more of a boy instead. Maybe in a couple of years down the line once he has a whole bunch of experience with some roles, Pattinson might be a forced to be reckoned with, but for now, I think he has to safely rely on Cosmopolis. For now, anyway.

Another piece of casting that didn’t quite work like I would have wanted it to was surprisingly Christoph Waltz as the angry circus-owner, August. I loved him as Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, as did everybody else including the producers who pretty much give him the exact same role, but instead of killing jews, he was killing circus animals. This is a huge bummer considering that this guy doesn’t really disappear into this role at all and just gives a character that is a little bit too menacing for his own good. Yeah, he’s supposed to be a bad guy that looses his temper very quickly and easily, but this guy is so damn sinister and effed up in the head that I couldn’t buy him once as a guy that owned a circus with a bunch of fun-loving animals, or even buy him as a guy that wouldn’t kill every person that worked for him either. Waltz is good with this role, as you would expect, but this guy was just a little too mean for his own good and definitely took me out of his character’s believably more and more as the film went along.

Believe it or not, the cast member that actually finds a way of coming out clean throughout the whole flick is actually Reese Witherspoon as both of these dudes’ object of affection. She’s sexy, cute, and has a lot of charm to her that seems to work and make you realize why she is so damn irresistible and beautiful. Still, her chemistry with Pattinson is a bit lacking but I guess that’s another problem we have here with the casting.

Actually, the one performance that really t0ok me by hold was Hal Hollbrook here, who plays the older version of Jacob in the scenes where it’s just him talking to a fellow circus-worker. Obviously, you can’t compare 25-year old Pattinson to 86-year old Hollbrook when it comes to acting, but Hollbrook’s performance as a sweet, heart-broken old man comes off as one of the main reasons this guy is such a damn good actor and one that deserved a lot more screen-time here.

Consensus: Some of the casting and chemistry may be off, but Water for Elephants is still a flick that brings you back to the old-Hollywood days with a sweeping romance, some fine-looking scenery, and a romance that we can actually care for rather than just rolling our eyes at.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Pleasantville (1998)

Black, white, orange, yellow, red, green, etc., their all the same thing.

Geeky teenager David (Tobey Maguire) and his popular twin sister, Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), get sucked into the black-and-white world of a 1950s TV sitcom called “Pleasantville,” and find a world where everything is peachy keen all the time. But when Jennifer’s modern attitude disrupts Pleasantville’s peaceful but boring routine, she literally brings color into its life.

It’s hard to believe this but with The Hunger Games and Seabiscuit, I have now seen all of Gary Ross‘ films. Now I know that’s not saying much but with the three films he’s made, he’s very impressive and I hope he goes on and on to do more.

When I first was about to watch this film, I was expecting a nice satire on 1950s culture from the fashion to the TV and that’s what I got with plenty of laughs. The screenplay is very funny and there are plenty moments where I think Ross hit the nail right on the head with how he shows just all of the “too good to be true” moments and cliches that we usually see in old school television shows from the 50’s. I mean you got the temperature that always stays the same, the fact that these kids think they are so bad and dirty when they just hold each other’s hand, how every single kid on the b-ball team absolutely rocks and makes every single one of their shots, and just about everything else that made me laugh at just how much Ross makes jokes about. We all know that episodes of “I Love Lucy” are cheesy as hell now but back then, they seemed so cool and hip and it’s always fun to poke jokes at that especially since Ross isn’t doing it in a mean way either.

However, as much of a satire as it is, there is still more to this film than meets the eye. The whole film is one big insightful speech about how we should all stick up for ourselves and that things shouldn’t be as narrow-minded as they once were back in those days. If people didn’t like something back then, they just stuck by it because there was nothing else to do but honestly, who is that helping? You have to stick up for yourself and sometimes it’s not so wrong to change things up a bit rather than just doing the same old crap day after day. Ross brings a lot of this up and it’s also great to see how he is able to show contrasts between the 50’s and 90’s just through this one general theme.

What really struck me right away though was the way it looked. Ross uses black-and-white for the majority of the film but as the town starts to change, so do the colors. At first, we get little glimpses of red, or yellow, or pea green, but then the colors really start to pop-out at us and it mixes in well with the original black-and-white look it had in the first place. It’s pretty impressive how Ross was able to mesh these two art styles together but it’s also even more impressive how he made things such as a tree on fire, or a leaf falling, or even rain pouring down from the sky seem so much more beautiful than they actually. Well, that is Hollywood’s job to do (make simple things in everyday life seem so much more beautiful) but its add so much more to the film’s look and the story itself considering everything here is caused from the colors changing. It’s a very beautiful film and one that will probably make me look at everyday occurrences a lot differently now.

My problems with this flick though was that by the end, everything get’s a little too obvious. We know that this flick is making a statement about the 50’s lifestyle and how people just repressed their negative emotions towards their everyday life but Ross is aiming other places too. Ross draws a lot of comparisons to racism at that time as well and shows how the town doesn’t want anything to do with people who have color at all, and they even go so far as to call them all “coloreds”. It’s pretty obvious that Ross is trying to draw some ideas from this as well but it’s too in-your-face and can get very annoying at times. May seem like a dumb complaint but by the end, you’ll start to notice some preaching.

Tobey Maguire isn’t really playing anything new from his usual “lovable but geeky dude” role he plays but his performance as David is good because he’s able to seem like a real teenager that finally gets a chance to change a world that he though he never could be apart of in the first place; Joan Allen is also great as his TV mommy, that finds out about sex and then her whole life is changed which provides some of the better scenes of this film; Jeff Daniels is goofy but charming as the strange dude who works at the restaurant, Mr. Johnson, but when isn’t he playing anybody strange?; William H. Macy is good as David’s TV daddy and provides plenty of funny scenes when he tries his hardest to cope with the fact that his wife just won’t be around all that much after this sexual awakening in her; J.T. Walsh is good as the mayor, Bob Bob, playing his usual villainous character that we always see him in; and Reese Witherspoon isn’t in this as much as I would have liked even though she started this whole change in colors fiasco in the first place, but she’s still pretty good with what she does. It seems like with all of his films, Ross is able to assemble a great ensemble cast and give them all shots to strut their stuff, even if that person does include Paul Walker who probably gave his best performance ever here. You better be thankful for Gary, Paul.

Consensus: Some of it starts to get preachy by the end, but Gary Ross keeps Pleasantville just exactly that, pleasant, with great performances from the ensemble, funny satire, and themes about how we should all stick up for each other and change things up every once and awhile because going on in life so narr0w-minded, isn’t doing yourself or anyone else any good. Or at least that’s what I got from it.

8/10=Matinee!!

This Means War (2012)

Maybe if these guys sang some Johnny Cash, they would have won her over easily.

The world’s deadliest CIA operatives (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) are inseparable partners and best friends until they fall for the same woman (Reese Witherspoon). Having once helped bring down entire enemy nations, they are now employing their incomparable skills and an endless array of high-tech gadgetry against their greatest nemesis ever – each other.

From afar, this actually looks like a pretty fun flick with a clever premise, a ‘True Lies’ feel to it, and three reliable leading stars. However, it’s such a shame to see all of that go down the tubes when you have a crap director like McG. That’s right McG. The d-bag that single-handedly killed the ‘Terminator’ series.

The film begins with another shitty McG action sequence that is loud, stupid, unneeded, and cartoonish to the point of where I couldn’t believe anything going on and also to the point of where I couldn’t even tell either because McG felt the need to move the camera around constantly just to add more of a crazy feel to it. The action isn’t a constant in this flick but when it does happen, it looks poor. I know they spent a lot of moolah on this flick, but I have no idea as to why the hell they would considering none of it went to the budget.

To be honest, I think half of it went to the THREE writers they had for this flick and I’m definitely thinking that one of them still hasn’t graduated 5th grade yet. The film tries so hard to be funny within the first 15 minutes with all of the fart, sex, and dick jokes that never hit the mark at all. It also sucks because this film borrows from so many other flicks that after awhile it’s just too hard to imagine this flick as its own, original self, and more as a parody flick that takes all of these ideas from other movies and puts them into one for shits and gigs. The problem here is that they’re very serious.

The comedy was terrible here (except for one scene that has to do with paint-ball), which is a given, but it’s when the flick tried to be all serious and mushymushy is where it really made me ticked off. First off, doesn’t anybody think it’s a little weird that these dudes are basically sharing a girlfriend? These guys are best friends and decide to play a little game but I don’t know why anybody would ever want to get sloppy seconds, let alone, your own best friends’. I know that some people out there actually do put down bets on this sort of thing to see who can sleep with the chick first but they aren’t even doing that, they’re waiting to see who she loves first which is pretty cruel and sadistic. The sad part of this flick is that the film’s tone is really playful and acting like this whole thing is a fun time even though anybody who would want to try to bet who can get a girl to love them first, is pretty much a total dick-headed thing to do no matter who you are.

However, it’s not only the guys that are playing this little game, she’s testing it out too and even though I am against that, I still couldn’t believe the fact that this flick tried to get us to feel something for her when everything is revealed to her. This is a chick that chose to two-time, get caught up in both of them, cheat on them both, and basically act like they’re the one, and we are supposed to feel something for this damn chick?!? I don’t care if you want to have fun going out with two guys at once, but don’t start crying about it when it comes right back to get you because that’s when you know that karma is a bitch and frankly, you deserve it.

As for this obviously talented cast, they are pretty much all wasted on a script that has no idea what they’re doing, other than trying way too hard. Tom Hardy is a very strange pick for a lead rom-com role as the sensitive but muscled, Tuck, and this guy tries his hardest, he really does, but I couldn’t help but think that this sort of role just doesn’t fit him at all. I just felt like Hardy was sleep-walking through this role and even though he still has that charm we all know and love him for, I couldn’t help but think that this sort of sweet and relaxed role, just isn’t the kind for the dude who walked around naked for about an hour-and-a-half, kicking the shit out of everybody in his way in ‘Bronson’. Chris Pine is here as FDR (whoever wrote this, definitely was in history class when they were writing this) and does what he always does which is be sly, cool, and sexy enough for all of the woman to want him. He doesn’t do anything different, but it’s not all that bad in the first place either.

Reese Witherspoon is once again playing that ditzy and super-cute blond chick role that she’s been doing in rom-com land for the past decade and she still is alright here as Lauren Scott. Even though this is nothing new for Witherspoon and her chemistry with both is OK (her and Pine is probably better), I still feel like she deserves a meaty enough role for her because she has shown in the past that when she gets those sort of roles, she can do a superb job, but she just hasn’t really had them for the longest time so I guess we’ll have to put up with more of these shitty rom-coms from now on. Probably the best part of this flick was Chelsea Handler as her best friend, and she made me laugh the most with all of her constant jokes and one-liners. I definitely think with a smart script Handler could get her own leading role, but then again, that seems very far-fetched.

Consensus: Even though the leads try their hardest, This Means War fails in almost everything such as a bad direction from a dude nobody likes as it is, a script that feels like it was written in some 12-year old’s journal, and a premise that may be all fun and games when it first starts, has a very dark and mean feel to it deep down inside. Then again though, maybe I’m just a weirdo.

1.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

American Psycho (2000)

The 80s… those were the days. Plastic pop, designer drugs, pretension, fake wealth, bad hair. What a decade.

With a chiseled chin and an iron physique, Patrick Bateman’s looks make him the ideal yuppie — and the ideal serial killer. That’s the joke behind American Psycho, which follows a killer at large during the 1980s junk-bond boom. Bateman (Christian Bale) takes pathological pride in everything from his business card to his Huey Lewis CD collection, all the while plotting his next victim’s vivisection.

Taking a first glance at this film, you would think that it’s a horror film. However, it’s more of satire about all things that weren’t ever cool in the 80’s.

I have not read the book that this film is based off of and to say the least, I really do wish I did, even though this provides a lot of depth for a story and detail for a story about a yuppie who just goes around killing people. But I may have to tell you that it’s more about just the killings, it’s about the person behind the killings.

Director and co-writer Mary Harron puts a new spin on the horror genre and brings a lot of satire here that actually had me laughing. You see all these Wall Street dudes who are so full of themselves, and have so much greed that you just think these are the sickest and most cliche bastards ever, but that’s the whole joke. As Bateman continues with killing these people left-and-right, you may actually find yourself laughing because of the way all of these killings are portrayed, but then you soon realize, he’s laughing with you too.

The film also brings out a lot of great questions about what’s more violent; the fantasies we have in our head about certain amounts of violence, or the actual violence we see in day-to-day life. Bateman has no real reason or inspiration for these killings, and this whole film is not the portrait of an actual serial-killer.

This is more the portrait of a personality and that there are many people out there like this over-achiever, narcissistic, egotistical, and self-centered Patrick Bateman guy here who do whatever they can to satisfy their own needs, and forget everyone else’s. I also liked the fact that you never rarely see any of the killings except for some, and it’s all left to your imagination really and aside all of the chainsaw’s and axes that there’s more of an edge and smarter side to all of these killings because they all have reason.

My problem that I had with this film was actually this random sequence that went on for about 10 minutes and to me just felt totally bogus and not like the whole film at all. There’s a lot of action that goes down, and without giving too much away, just feels like a total fantasy in the end and made no real sense as to why it had to be involved.

Another problem I had which kind of had me confused, was how all of the female characters in this film are practically almost half-human and fall for any type of dumb gag, and it’s funny because you would think that with a film directed and written by a lady, there would be so much more to these lady characters. But for some reason they just seemed stale and very dumb.

Christian Bale really has made himself a house-hold name in Hollywood today, but people almost forget that his role as Patrick Bateman is the real reason. This character is the biggest douche-bag in the whole entire world and walks around like he’s hot shit just hoping that others notice how much his amazing suit cost, and how he just got in so much shape. Bale plays all of this narcissistic act very well in a compelling performance that had me loving this charming, and almost every-day serial killer. Bale really has made a name for himself in today’s world of Hollywood, but if you ask me, this is where people really started to notice.

The rest of the cast is alright even though they don’t really do much compared to Bale. Names such as Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Justin Theroux, and a sweet little performance from Chloe Sevigny. A good cast, but then again, they aren’t really given anything good in the first place.

Consensus: Though parts of it may not work as well as others, American Psycho is a great blend of horror and comedy, that makes the scares into satire, and features an amazing, star-making performance from Christian Bale.

8/10=Matinee!!