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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ridley Scott

Welcome to the Rileys (2010)

Need a better outlook on your life? Call up a hooker.

James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo play the titular Doug and Lois Riley, a married couple whose relationship has become lifeless and frozen due to both of their reactions to the death of their daughter Emily. An encounter with Mallory (Kristen Stewart), an underage stripper in a dingy local club, where Doug only wants to pay her to talk to him, eventually leads to a cautious friendship between the two and a realization of life for everybody.

There’s not much of a story to Welcome to the Rileys and it never really offers any surprises, but it’s not boring, or better yet, all that conventional. Because where the movie excels in, is the smaller, more low-key moments in this story that make it more than just your typical tale of a sad person, helping out another sad person, who also just so happens to be a hooker. It’s a simple, tried and true story we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but writer/director Jake Scott, the son of Ridley, does all that he can to make it so much more.

"Wanna come on down to the Bada Bing?"

“Wanna come on down to the Bada Bing?”

Still, it is a pretty simple tale and because of that, it’s hard to fall in love with it.

If there is anything to be found here to fall in love with, it’s each of the performances from the key three leads.

James Gandolfini is great here as Doug Riley, because while there’s something deep and a little dark about him, there’s also something very sweet, earnest, endearing and relatively compassionate about him that makes you believe that he could do something as oddball as this. Every time the guy smiles, you feel a certain drip of happiness pour out from the screen and because of that, you cannot help but just love him and enjoy his presence on-screen. There’s no doubt that Gandolfini was the king of playing mean, nasty and downright grotesque thugs, but he did also excel at giving us characters with hearts and it’s nice to get that reminder – one which, unfortunately, we never quite got the chance to see more of.

Gandolfini almost gets his own show taken away from him though, from Melissa Leo who gives off a very natural and realistic performance as the still-grief-ridden mother, Lois. Leo’s character starts off as a bit of a nutcase as she never comes out of the house because of what happened, but as time rolls on you start to see a more round human-being come out of her and the things that she does and as soon as her pretty face pops into the story big-time about half-way through, the story itself hits a big boost that made it more of a delight to watch. It’s also nice to get a movie where the couple at the center, despite all of the hardships that brought them to this point, still do love and trust one another with all their hearts. Leo and Gandolfini, as a married-couple, would have probably been a great movie on its own, but here, they get a chance to create something lovely and nice. It’s something you don’t usually see in movies and it’s great to realize that trust is still one of the biggest elements in a relationship in order to make it work.

Oh, K-Stew. Shut up and be happy!

Oh, K-Stew. Shut up and be happy!

And yes, Kristen Stewart is also good as Mallory. Granted, she does have the more clichéd role, as whom is, essentially, “hooker with a heart of gold”, but this also helps make her performance much better and impressive. There’s something sad about her character that makes you want to reach out to her, too, but there’s also some sort of mystery, too. The scenes between her and Gandolfini’s character could have easily been creepy and cringe-inducing, but the two have a solid chemistry that truly does seem like a loving, lasting relationship that isn’t played so one can get their kicks off, but so that they both can feel some meaning in their lives.

It’s all so sweet, simple and obvious, but that’s how life works and it’s why Welcome to the Rileys works.

Consensus: The story and message may be a bit of your usual, hokey pokey, after-school special stuff that we are used to seeing in these types of dramas, however, the strong performances from the trio of leads make Welcome to the Rileys one-step above the ordinary stuff we are used to seeing with human-dramas such as this one.

6.5 / 10

Who wants a K-Stew, when you could have a M-Leo?

Who wants a K-Stew, when you could have a M-Leo?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Martian (2015)

Didn’t Christopher Nolan already make this movie?

After a crazy super-storm hits Mars, the Ares 3 mission is forced to abort their mission and head on back to Earth. Problem is, they do so without one of their members, a fellow by the name of Mark Watney (Matt Damon). Because he got by some space-thingy during the storm, everybody assumes that Watney died, but wouldn’t you know it? He wakes up the next day, stranded and no way to contact home. The only thing he’s got to work with is whatever gear the crew left back, which eventually equals out to a month’s left of food. Considering that it’s going to take nearly four years for NASA to send out another mission to come and rescue him, Watney’s got to come up with some neat, interesting and MacGyver-ish ways to create some food with what he’s got around. While he’s doing this and not trying to lose his freakin’ mind, back on Earth, NASA headquarters is figuring out a way that they can save Watney and to be able to do so in the most efficient way that’s not only safe to Watney, the crew, and the spaceship, but also to NASA’ public persona, as well.

Yep. Totally not the same director who did Prometheus.

Yep. Totally not the same director who did Prometheus.

Take all of those challenging, rather annoying aspects of Interstellar and Gravity, give them a sense of actual humor, throw in a Cast Away subplot (with no Wilson), and ensure that the audiences understand just what the hell is actually going on at any given time, and you have the Martian. And while I’m definitely not doing it any favors by making it sound like a carbon-copy of other, much better movies, I can assure you, that it’s better than that.

In fact, it’s way, way better than that.

For one, the Martian is a movie that never takes itself too seriously. While all of the trailers and ads have been promoting an ultra-serious, inspirational survival story, the movie’s actually a lot more fun and lighter than that. In fact, it’s humor is what just about saves it! At times, sure, it can seem like they’re playing “the joke card” a little too much, but if a movie about a dude stuck in an amazingly depression, isn’t depressing and finds ways to have me howling at the Lunar Eclipse, then sure, count me in. Hell, take all of my money!

Just make me laugh, dammit!

And while I wouldn’t necessarily tag the likes of Ridley Scott and “the comedy genre” together, somehow, they work perfectly with one another. Scott has been in desperate need of a winner these past couple of years, and now, seems like he finally has it. Sure, Scott isn’t trying anything new, experimental, or awfully hard that’s taking him into new areas that we may never see him try again, but there’s a nice feeling about that. For one, he’s not getting in the way of the movie and/or the wonderful script by Drew Goddard.

Secondly, he just allows for the story to tell itself. I know that this may sound like an easy compliment to give away – in fact, it may sound like something I’m just throwing out there to make my job a tad bit easier (you’re right). But no, seriously, making a movie with a story that seems as simple as this, and having it play out that way, yet, still being able to travel through little alleyways and side-streets to make it still seem fresh, exciting and most of all, original, is something extraordinary. Like I mentioned before, we’ve seen the Martian many times before in movies that, occasionally, are better. But the fact that this movie still finds a way to get you glued into its story, never let its grip get loose, and make you give a hoot about what happens to which characters, is a beauty to behold as it is.

There’s literally no reason we should care at all about Mark Watney, his crew, or those ass-bags back on Earth that work in a place called NASA (never heard of her), but as soon as Watney gets hit, the crew leaves without him, and NASA gets word of this, it’s an automatic adventure right from then on out. Now, to be honest, did we really need all of the NASA headquarter shenanigans? Probably not, but they help round the movie out a whole lot more and keep things exciting and above all else, interesting.

See, even though it is Matt Damon playing Mark Watney, watching him, and only him, try to survive on Mars, talk to cameras, listen to disco, use clever witticisms to express his feelings of the situation he’s in, and eventually, get a grip on the life he’s living and try to keep it going, probably would have gotten a bit boring and tedious. I mean, despite the recent flubs he’s been letting loose of, Matt Damon is, generally, a guy we all love to watch on-screen; he’s got that general, normal guy, everyday kind of feel where he seems like a bro you could hang around, enjoy his company, and go on happy about your day.

He wouldn’t give two shits because, well, he’s Matt Damon and he’s got celebrities to have brunch with.

A few years of community college and woolah! You're working for NASA, baby!

A few years of community college and woolah! You’re working for NASA, baby!

But what I’m trying to say is that yes, Matt Damon is a charming dude in practically everything he does, and that’s no different here with his performance as Mark Watney. Because Watney’s a wise-cracking, smart-ass dude that would much rather use sarcasm to mask his actual, genuine thoughts, Damon fits perfectly. He not only seems like the kind of dude who would have the next best, funniest thing to say in a conversation, but could also, in his own words, “science the hell out of this thing!” Not just because he works at NASA, mind you, but because he’s Matt Damon and he always seems like the smartest dude in the room.

Like I said though, the good thing about the Martian is that it takes its focus away from Damon’s Watney a bit and show just what the hell’s going on on planet Earth, what’s everybody trying to do to get him back home, and how it’s all going to come together. Now, the science in this movie I’m not too sure of, but I don’t think I needed to be – which is a good thing. Most sci-fi movies get themselves all tied-up in trying to explain too many loose-ends where it’s almost as if, rather than just actually giving us a random doohickey and letting us roll with, they have to go on and on about it as if it cares!

We get it! The thingy-ma-bob goes back in time! Cool! Move it along, folks!

But with the Martian, the science is there as a placement to show just how brilliant NASA is. And I kid you not, I am not joking here; the Martian is, in many words, an absolute, unabashed tribute to NASA, the powerful, enigmatic and brilliant minds that inhabit it and the inspiration it can give us all, so long as we think just like each and everyone of its workers do. This is as hokey as a blind girl touching a horse’s nose, but somehow, it all works and is, as much as I hate to admit it, inspiring.

Though the Martian is, basically, a sarcasm-laced, sci-fi survival tale, above all else, it’s a movie about the power of what can be done when you’re using your brain. If you think things through to the best of your ability and seem to know what you’re talking about, then you too, can learn to live and survive on a planet like Mars longer than anybody ever expected you to. All you have to do is put your mind to it, long and hard enough, and eventually, you’ll get there. If you don’t, then think harder or open up a book! Learn something dammit!

Gosh! I gotta go back to school!

Consensus: Exciting, compelling, emotional, and surprisingly hilarious when you don’t at all expect it to, the Martian is the best kind of sci-fi blockbuster that has you using your brains, but at the same time, still enjoying the wild and fun ride while it lasts.

9 / 10

I won't even dare tell you what that actually is.

I won’t even dare tell you what that actually is. Just know this, count me out for a trip to Mars anytime soon.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Hannibal (2001)

Should have just let him eat whoever he wanted to eat.

Ten years after getting away from practically everybody involved with law enforcement, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is enjoying his time, relaxing, looking at fine art, and walking through the breezy, lovely streets of Florence, Italy. Meanwhile, back in the states, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is stuck in a bit of a pickle in which a drug-bust went incredibly wrong and violent – leaving the FBI to have to clean up the mess. But because Lecter can’t keep his appetite for Clarice down, he decides to send her a letter, which then leads her to start her own investigation into finding exactly where Lecter is. However, Clarice isn’t the only one. Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is also on his own search for an art scholar who goes missing, which may lead him to stumbling upon Lecter and having to decide whether he wants to arrest the man, or bring him in for a healthy reward granted by deformed billionaire, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman). The reason for Verger’s reward, is because he is one of Lecter’s last survivors around, and has the face, body, and voice to prove it.

Ew.

Ew.

So yeah. The Silence of the Lambs is, was, and will forever be, a great movie. There’s no way of getting around that. And as is usually the case when you’re trying to recreate some of the same magic from a precursor that’s as legendary and iconic as that movie was, the odds are not in your favor.

Such is the case with Hannibal, the sequel to the Silence of the Lambs, that came out nearly ten years later, starred someone new as Clarice, and had a different director.

Granted, Anthony Hopkins is still around and if you’re replacing the likes of Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme, with Julianne Moore and Ridley Scott, then not everything’s so bad. But honestly, if there was ever a reason for a sequel to not exist, it’s shown here. That is, after the first ten minutes in which some of the creepiest, most disturbing opening-sequences ever created, transpire and bring you right down to the level of knowing what to expect from the rest of the movie.

And the rest of the movie for that matter, is also pretty creepy. Because Scott is such a talented director, he’s able to make almost each and every shot feel as if it came right out of an art exposition itself and add a sense of eeriness, even if we’re literally watching a scene dedicated to two people just sitting around in a darkly-lit room, whispering about something, and not doing much of anything else. There’s a lot of scenes like that in Hannibal, and while it’s hard to really be excited by any of them, Scott tries his hardest to add a little more pizzazz and energy in any way that he can.

But it still doesn’t escape the fact that the movie’s still uneventful.

Sure, people are shot, killed, ripped-open, eaten alive, sliced, diced, and chewed-on, but is any of it really exciting? Not really, and that’s perhaps the movie’s biggest sin. The first flick may have been a dark, serious and chilly thriller, but there was still a bunch of excitement to the madness of tracking down Wild Bill, nabbing him, and taking him; while it took its time, there was still a feeling of tension in the air. That same tension isn’t really anywhere to be found here, even if the same feeling of general creepiness is – though it only comes in short spurts.

Most of this has to do with the fact that, despite there being maybe three-to-four subplots going on, there isn’t anyone that really grabs ahold of you and makes you want to watch it as it unfolds. Once again, Clarice is on the search for Dr. Lecter, but because there’s another story that runs along the same lines going on, it doesn’t actually seem all that important. Sure, she’ll get her arch-nemesis, but at the end of the day, does any of it really matter? The dude’s off the streets and not eating people anymore, but does that mean the killing is done once and for all?

This is a point the movie seems to bring up, but never actually go anywhere deeper with. Instead, it’s more concerned with seeing how many times Dr. Lecter can fool people into thinking that he isn’t a mean, sadistic, and brutal cannibal. In fact, hearing that, I realize that these scenes should be somewhat fun, if not, totally hilarious. But they aren’t. Instead, they’re just drop dead serious, grim, and uninteresting.

Stop saying her name!

Stop saying her name!

And that’s about it.

The cast does try their hardest, however. Hopkins, as usual, fits into the role of Lecter as if he never left it to begin with. He’s weird and off-putting, but at times, can also be incredibly suave and charming, especially when he’s speaking of disemboweled bodies. But, at the same time, we are getting a lot more of him, which means that it can seem to be a bit of overkill; whereas the first movie featured nearly 15 minutes of screen-time devoted to Lecter, Hannibal features nearly an-hour-and-a-half of him, which means that his act can get a bit old and stale as the time rolls along. Especially since, you know, he isn’t really growing as a character – he’s still killing, conning, and eating people, the way he always did.

The only difference now is that he’s a lot more laid-back than usual.

And though she tries, too, Julianne Moore really does have all the odds stacked against her playing this role that was definitely made a lot better, and more famously by Jodie Foster. Though Moore seems to be still playing into that same kind of ruthless aggression and dedication that Foster worked well with, it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s playing the same character, but it not being Foster. Ray Liotta shows up and, of course, plays a crooked cop that seems like he has nobody’s best intentions at heart and is fine, but once again, what else is new?

The best of the rest, though, is an absolutely nonidentical Gary Oldman as the disgusting and vile-looking Mason Verger. From the beginning, it’s difficult to recognize that Oldman is even in the movie (mostly do the ugly, but impressive make-up and costume job done to him), but after awhile, it’s obvious that it is him, and the performance works wonders from then on. Despite being able to only use his eyes and voice for his character, Oldman still gives off an deceitful feel that helps make it clear that, if the film was just about him and Lecter sparring-off in a duel of wit and evilness, then it would probably be better.

But sadly, that is not what we get and instead, we’re left reaching for our copies of the Silence of the Lambs.

Consensus: Despite trying its hardest, Hannibal cannot quite reach the same creepily entertaining heights as its predecessor and feels more like a waste for each of the talent involved.

5 / 10

It's okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

It’s okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

Photos Courtesy of: Screen Musings

Life in a Day (2011)

You know what makes life even grander? NOT LIVING IT WITH A CAMERA ALWAYS ON AND ATTACHED TO YOUR DAMN BODY!!!

Directors Kevin Macdonald and Ridley Scott got together to concoct a simple experiment, with not-so simple results: Ask that people from all over the globe submit footage of what they do on YouTube on the day that was Saturday, July 24, 2010. Over 65,000 hours of footage was submitted, and from those 65,000 hours, they were able to spruce together an-hour-and-a-half movie that shows what people do on an average day. Sometimes these people’s days tend to be either sad, happy, or terribly uneventful, but regardless, it is a day in the life of actual human-beings that just so happen to have cameras with them, filming what it is that they do, who they are as people and what they contribute to the world around them, if anything at all.

I must say, in the 21st Century, it is no surprise to me whatsoever that a movie like this has been made. Yes, it seems like a crazy task that would be incredibly daunting for even the most talented filmmakers like Scott or Macdonald to complete, but somehow, they did and the finished-product ends up giving exactly what we were promised in the first place: Lives in the day of many people from all over the world.

Apparently, this type of stuff DOES happen in the world.

Apparently, this type of stuff DOES happen in the world.

While I will admit that some of these pieces of footage aren’t the most exciting things to be seen, they’re still worth seeing for the sole fact that they were made from real people, with real cameras, and real ideas in their mind. Some of the stuff that these people do in front of the camera do seem a little bit like a put-on, but never to the point of where it’s just them smiling for the camera, trying to hog it up as much as they can so they can get a bit of screen-time in the movie. Instead what we get, are people that actually live their lives, regardless of how interesting they may or may not be.

And in that general regard, the movie works because it presents us many different view-points we would have never thought of, not in a million years of looking through, and yet, we are and we can’t help but feel inspired to want to grab your camera, get out and document what you have shaking and baking in your life right now. However, you could also do that all without the camera. You don’t always need it, you know?

There are some cool bits in here like a skydiver’s view as he’s heading towards the ground, a couple of shots of people up in the mountains, and even, a festival in some part of the world where apparently, people started getting all crammed-in and dropping like flies. The cool part about that bit isn’t that people were dying, it was that it was a crisis that actually happened in the world, and better yet, had to happen on that day, with so many people just standing around, documenting every second of it. Imagine if we took more montages of one event as it was happening, from all sorts of different view-points? Maybe everybody would be nicer to each other? Or then again, maybe not? Probably not at all actually, but hell, it’s a thought.

And thoughts is what Macdonald wants you to have when watching this movie, the only problem is that he doesn’t really know which ones. Since this whole movie is such a mixed-bag of submitted videos and the content they include, you never quite know or see where Macdonald’s going with all of this, but instead, trust in him that he’ll at least show some sort of cohesion in the process to where you understand why he’s showing this one clip, after this other one. However, it’s not always cohesive.

For instance, in order to show how, even on this one day, there is some brutal violence occurring in this world, mainly onto animals, Macdonald decides to include a five-minute or so montage of pigs being burned alive, fish being brought out of water and suffocating to death and probably the most jarring clip out of this whole movie, the one that still stampedes into my mind every once and awhile, a clip where we see a cow get shot in the head a couple of times, die and get its slit cut-open at a meat factory. Whoever the person was that decided to not only film this, but send it in as a possible submission, is a messed-up dude that I would not want to meet in the light of day? But the same could also be said for Macdonald for actually including this bit in, as well as the rest of the montage. Have no clue what it was supposed to say, signify or even bring up in terms of questions of our humanity, but it definitely left an impression on me in all of the right, and wrong ways possible.

Oh, I remember the last time I did that.....

Oh, I remember the last time I did that…..

Maybe that was the point after all? Hmm….

Anyway, there are plenty of other times in this movie where I was a little disturbed, but overall, I still felt like Macdonald chose carefully in what he was showing us, and gave us some of the best footage he could skim-through. You could definitely see some cooler, far better videos on YouTube right here, right now, but Macdonald is giving you the best of the bunch; showing you that while you may feel like life sucks or is taken for granted, well some others, sometimes on the opposite end of the Earth, things the same thing, or maybe even the exact opposite. Who knows!?!? What I do know is that all of our lives are made up of something that’s pure and worth sticking around for, no matter what lies in the future. Because none of us know and surely none of us can tell what’s going to happen next in our lives, so why fret over it? Just enjoy the hell out of life and live, dammit!

Consensus: The whole narrative to Life in a Day is a conceit that leaves little to no actual meaning or message, but overall, every clip feels deserving of being seen by all those around the world, no matter how simple, exciting, or slice-of-life they may be. They’re just another part of life, and that’s that.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

So mundane. So life-ish.

So mundane. So life-ish.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Counselor (2013)

Seems like everybody has to be a drug dealer nowadays. I place blame solely on Mr. White, that damn chemist.

A counselor (Michael Fassbender) has the life we would all like to live: Nice job, nice house, nice wife he so frequently pleasures (Penelope Cruz) and all sorts of other glamorous things around him. However, the life we would all like to have, apparently isn’t enough for him, which gets him involved with the drug-trafficking business in hopes of making some extra cash-flow here and there on the side. This is when the counselor gets involved with shady characters like Reiner (Javier Bardem), Westray (Brad Pitt) and perhaps the most suspicious of all, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who seems like she has more up to her sleeve then just banging the hell out of her boyfriend and automobiles. Maybe she has something to do with this drug-dealing business which, as a result, draws further consequences for the counselor and all of his fellow associates involved with this deal that suddenly goes sour.

There’s been a lot said about the Counselor, and most of it is deserved. It is an odd piece of filmmaking, filled with more uneven pieces than actual comprehensive ones, but somehow, it works. See, the film’s marketing really created a shit-storm for this because it seemed like all it promised was non-stop sex, drugs, bullets, murder and DEA agents. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth as this is more or less, another crime-thriller in the vein of last year’s Killing Them Softly: It’s all about pacing, baby. Pacing, pacing, pacing. And if you’re willing to stick by it, even when it does get incredibly strange, then you’ll find yourself happy and confused.

Don’t worry, those feelings are good because it’s abundantly clear that Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy both want you to feel this way.

He really needs something more?

He really needs something more?

Making a mention of Cormac McCarthy is probably the most important aspect in reviewing this movie because while some out there may not be familiar with him before seeing this movie, it’s almost imperative of you to know that his style of writing is not one that mixes so well with movies. Yes, he does have a stylish tongue that he likes to use on all of his characters and he definitely doesn’t have the happiest outlook on the world surrounding him, but because I already knew this, the movie was an easier pill to swallow than it most likely was for some, even in its weirdest moments.

The weird moments that i continue to allude to come at you aplenty here, but the most infamous one that seems to be getting the most attention, is the scene where Cameron Diaz’s character bangs a car. Honestly, this scene is so random, so strange and so out-of-place, that I honestly wondered who the hell saw this in the final-cut and thought it was okay to leave in. I get that it was supposed to be telling us that this character was not your normal female heroine, as in that she definitely likes to get what she wants right away, but it was just too distracting to get by, no matter how understandable the character’s motivations were. The only thing making it easier to get through this scene is Javier Bardem’s crazy faces and narration, which can be even more painful to see and hear, all because you’ll wonder what movie it is that you’re watching after awhile.

Thankfully, right after this scene, the movie gets somewhat back on track and shows us how these characters respond when shit begins to hit the fan. Everything leading up to this half, don’t get me wrong, was good because it focused a lot on dialogue and the setting-up of what would be a very tense final-half; but once this half kicks in, you do realize that the cast has finally taken notice of the type of material they’re given to work with, which is also, oddly enough, when Scott decides to throw some of his artistic-direction in as well. And as odd as it may be to say, this is probably the least “Ridley Scott-ish” movie he’s ever done. Not only is he restrained, but any moments that give him a free-reign to just get nuts with the look of the film, he somehow backs out on. Can’t say I was disappointed with seeing this, considering that the material didn’t seem like it demanded much of an overbearing style to get in the way of it, but I did also wish I saw some more of Ridley Scott in here. Just a shaky-cam bit or two. At least.

But I can’t get on Scott’s case too much because he does do the nice deed of letting the cast and script come together in a way that this flick so desperately needed in order to survive and stay interesting. And what a great coming-together of actors and material, save for one that I’ll get onto in a bit. Leading the cast is Michael Fassbender who, if you don’t know by now, is not just the most handsome mofo in the whole world, but also one talented dude as well that seems to be popping up more and more now for American audiences to get used to. While this won’t make him a household name by any stretch of the imagination, his role as the counselor shows us that he’s able to handle a film like this all to himself, where he practically goes from one character to the next, talking, showing emotion, giving each one of them a different piece of his personality and just creating a person that we can either loathe, or love. But sometimes with this character, it’s at the same time because he isn’t the most moral guy in the world, but then again, he isn’t the most evil one either; he’s just a guy trying to make some few extra bills here and there, in order to make a life for his wife more glamorous than it already is. He’s greedy for sure, but he isn’t a terrible person for that; he’s just a person. Plain and simple.

Fassbender’s best parts in this movie come mainly from the scenes he each has with both Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt, which makes it all the more tragic that all three never show up on-screen together at one point. Disappointing, but at least we still get to see them all act their asses off and have fun while doing so. Bardem has that crazy hair going on, but gives his character plenty of personality to where you really like the dude, but due to the company he surrounds himself with, you still never quite know if he can fully be trusted. And as for Pitt, well, needless to say, the guy steals the show everytime he shows up, which is sadly only about 15-minutes out of the whole 2-hour run-time. Pitt not only fills his character with plenty of wistful charm and coolness, but also gives him a slight humane-aspect as well, that somehow has him come off as the most reasonable human-being in the whole movie. The character only seems like he could be written for the screen, and yet, he still comes off like a relateable guy that knows what type of business he’s dealing with, and won’t think twice about who he throws under the bus, once that time eventually comes around.

"Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw."

“Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw.”

The boys in the cast have plenty to play with, which is good, but also disappointing as well, considering that the girls don’t fare quite as well. Penelope Cruz is underused, but sweet, soft and a bit sassy with her performance as the counselor’s girl who doesn’t always nag him about what he’s doing for most of the hours of the day, and is just happy to know that he’s alive, safe and still loves her. Total girl of his dreams, as well as all of ours, indeed.

However, I would have traded a whole flick dedicated wholly to Cruz’s character, if that meant we didn’t get a single scene of Cameron Diaz’s Malkina, all because she is absolutely, positively terrible in this movie and it gets very, very hard to watch after awhile. I remember when this flick first got announced and its cast was shown to us, I remember thinking that Cameron Diaz had herself an Oscar-nominee in the bag because the character of Malkina wasn’t the type we usually associate her with. There’s no inkling whatsoever of a heart, a soul or even the typical charm we usually see come from her performances; she’s actually the total opposite, which is probably the biggest problem with Diaz’s performance in the first place. Not only can she not play-against type to save her life, but she’s so outmatched by everybody else here that it makes you wonder who the hell she beat out for this role to get it. The accent she supposedly has, goes in, and it goes out; everytime she talks about something, she’s supposed to come off as “one bad-ass bitch”, but instead, seems like she’s trying WAY too hard; and if you don’t include her previously-mentioned scene where she humps a car, there’s no arch whatsoever to be found in this character, but it doesn’t hurt as much because you don’t care. I’ll give Diaz some credit for stepping out of her comfort-zone and doing a total 180, but it comes off more like a miscast opportunity, then a respectable one in terms of her career and where it’s going. Can’t say that same thing for the others here, only her.

Consensus: Definitely not the type of film its marketing has been promising, which is why, for better or worse, the Counselor is worth a watch to see what happens when you give a good cast, some worthy material, and just let them do their thing, as odd as that “thing” in question may be at times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

This is when it all begins.....

The car is so willing…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Did the U.S. Army actually screw up for once? And come close to admitting it?!?! What is this?!?

It’s the fall of 1992 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and just about every citizen of that city is starving to death. Why? Well, powerful warlords are using starvation as a fear-tactic to knock down the weak, get the strong ones, and find out who is most loyal to fighting the good fight. This doesn’t seem like such a nice thing in the eyes of Americans, so it’s seems obvious that the next the U.S. army would take would be to go over there themselves and show them the right way to live and be socially acceptable. In order to do this, they need to capture a powerful warlord named Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the same warlord who declared war on the remaining U.N. personnel still left in his territory. Together as one, the U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers, and 160th SOAR aviators all gang up to capture him in what is snow-balled as a “30 minute mission”, no more, no less. However, when one soldier (Orlando Bloom) makes the rookie mistake and gets badly injured in the heat of the battle, that’s when all of the forces begin to fall apart, lose formation, balance, and sight of what they’re in this land for anyway. Suddenly, a 30 minute mission becomes a whole day-affair with more than a few casualties, and families with members taken away from them, as a result.

"Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition."

“Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition.”

So marks the fifth and most likely not going to be my final, viewing of this movie and needless to say, time has not done this one well. That’s less of a hit on this movie, and more of a hit on the type of pretentious movie reviewer I have become, but so be it! The fact of the matter is that even though the film has lost its steam in certain spots over the years, the spots that worked so well for me in the first place, still do work. And that all goes back to Ridley Scott’s direction which is, once again, nothing short of spectacular.

It’s common-knowledge now that Scott doesn’t just take a piece of material because he wants to get a new cover for his Jacuzzi; he takes it because he wants to, and feels so passionate about it that he’ll put his whole heart, mind, body, and soul into it. Sometimes, that can usually backfire on him, which is why he is one of the very few filmmakers working today to have director’s cut editions on almost all of his movies, but for the most part, the guy knows what he is doing behind the camera, and it allows for the viewer to take a peak inside of his mind, see what he sees, and wonder just how the hell he was able to cobble all of these pieces of film together to make one, long, cohesive story.

Maybe that’s why the movie won Best Editing all of those years ago. Just maybe.

But anyway, the landing-point for this tangent is that Scott, no matter how hollow the stories he works on may be, he himself, as a director and visual artist, is not. As soon as the movie begins, you feel as if you’re right there with each and every one of these soldiers just shooting the shit, cracking jokes, trying to prove whose ding-a-ling is bigger than the other’s, and so on and so forth. This starts things off on the right, if not more relaxed, foot, so that when things do start to get all crazy and jumpy, not only do we get hit with a sure rush of energy, but make us feel like all of the nice, happy, and playful vibes have gone elsewhere. This is where the material gets serious, and pretty damn violent as well.

However, the violence in this movie never oversteps its boundaries into “gratuitous” territory. Whenever a soldier dies, Scott clearly cares for this character and puts the spotlight right on them for however long that may be, and it gives you the general idea that yes, soldiers did die in this ill-planned raid, but also, fellow human-beings died as well. It’s sad, no questions about it, and that’s why Scott never takes his attention off the gruesome, gory details of this war/raid and has you feel as if you are right there, ducking every bullet within an inch of your life, just hoping that you have the upper-hand on your enemy, and it’s not the other way around. Sort of like warfare, isn’t it? Except that you aren’t actually participating in a war, you’re just watching it all play out, which is both comforting and tense at the same time.

So for right now, I think we’ve pretty much hammered in the fact that Scott is not to be blamed for any of this movie’s short-comings, because trust me, trust me, trust me: There are plenty to be had here. First of all, while I do respect that Scott shows the same type of respect and gratitude to those soldiers who lost their lives during that fateful raid, you never care for any of them. Or, let me try it like this: You’re never really given much of a reason to care in the first place. Sure, it’s easy to feel sympathetic as it is because they’re humans just like us, and were fighting a war, for us, however, nobody really seemed to be the most separate from the pack. Instead, every soldier, with the exception of a whole bunch of familiar faces, feels like the same person and they’re thinly-written persons at that.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Take for instance, our lead guy in the midst of this whole battle, Josh Hartnett as SSG Matt Eversmann. Now, obviously Hartnett has never really been the type of actor to carry a film on his shoulders, which makes it strange and relatively reasonable why Scott would make him the main leader in an ensemble feature, but the kid’s never given a chance here with the lame character he has to work with. Not only does Eversmann start off with the most dull and plain motivations any character, in any war movie has ever had, but his whole arch never changes over time. He just sees the war for all of its gory, bloody despair and detail. Once again, another thoughtful pretty-boy who looks at the world as one big bargaining chip where discussion and finding a middle-ground is daily accepted among society, finds out that the world actually isn’t like that? Really?!?! Is that the type of writing we want to accompany a movie about a raid that the U.S. wrongfully envisioned and got caught with their wankers in their hands more than a few times? I don’t think so, but hey, I guess if you have Ridley Scott on-board as director, not much can really go wrong. That’s if you don’t listen to the characters when they speak, which is exactly the problem here with everybody.

Hell, even the most talented actors among this ensemble can’t even save some of these lines from coming off as terribly corny. Tom Sizemore comes close as the bad ass, tough-as-nails commander that, get this, casually walks to wherever he goes on the battlefield. This whole character gets by on Sizemore’s nasty charm, but it’s so ridiculous, that it almost makes you forget about the rest of the stars in this cast that get stuck with even worse characterizations. Jason Isaacs has a really, REALLY thick Southern drawl that never catches on; Eric Bana’s accent is even worse and makes him seem more like a surfer brah, than an actual self-righteous soldier; Jeremy Piven and Ron Eldard love to crack jokes to one another while they’re getting ready to drop off fellow soldiers into a play land full of guns, bullets, explosions, death, and all sorts of viciousness; Sam Shepard yells out orders from a comfy, cozy bunker somewhere very far, far away from where this is happening, and seems like the type of dick nobody wants to be around, on-or-off the battlefield; and Ewan McGregor’s desk-jockey character, as charming as he may be, has that one skill of being able to make a great cup of coffee. Dude would have been hella popular with Buddy the Elf, but in the middle of Mogadishu, where all sorts of guns are being discharged and explosions are, ahem, doing exactly that, does that really matter? Does that even need to be included in here? Actually, those are all rhetorical. The answer is no!!!

Consensus: Scott’s inspired, jumpy, frenetic, and chaotic direction makes Black Hawk Down a thrilling, exciting, and sometimes, scary war flick, but the script never goes any deeper with its message, motivations behind the actual proceedings, or even the real-life soldiers who were involved with it, most of whom deserve better attention and writing. Except for the coffee guy. Seriously, why was he around again?!?!?!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Must have been gnarly waves........dude.

Must have been gnarly waves……..dude.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Blade Runner (1982)

2019 doesn’t seem too far from today. Now, where the hell are those new wave-stylized cyborgs at?

It’s the year 2019, and all sorts of sci-fi futuristic craziness is going on. “Replicants” (or robots, take your pick) that look, smell, sound, and feel like humans are slowly, but surely going extinct, but the ones who are still left around to roam the Earth, are looking for their creator in hopes of making more of these replicants and hopefully prolonging their existence. This is where Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) comes in to save the day, or will he? See, the problem with Deckard is that he isn’t necessarily your go-to cop when you need something done, and done the right way. For starters, he’s a bit of a pissant, doesn’t like his job, somewhat sloppy in terms of his fighting skills, and now, to top all of that off, he’s fallen for a fellow cyborg in the form of Rachael (Sean Young) who isn’t as deadly as these other ones who want to take over the world, but still shows herself to be a threat to the case Deckard is handling, as well as himself.

Well, well, well. Where do I begin with this bad boy? I know, let’s start from the history of all this and how I somehow, someway, get thrown into the mix, shall we?

Anyway, knowing about this movie beforehand on countless occasions, I’ve tried to get through it all, but yet, no matter how hard I may try, I never succeeded in the completion of this movie. I’ve always either watched it, found it to be too slow, and lost interest, or, watched it, wasn’t in the right frame of mind, distracted, found it to be too slow, and lost interest. Basically, they were both the same problems, with the same outcome, and that’s because the movie’s pace really took me for a loop. I can handle slow movies that need to be so in order to build characters, tension, plot, and an overall atmosphere to the whole proceedings, but the numerous times I’ve seen this movie, knowing the hype that surrounds it, I just felt like it was too deliberate for its own good. It almost felt like Ridley Scott wanted to make the definitive mix of sci-fi and noir, that he didn’t really care about much else in the flick other than handling his plot. To me, back in those early days of my film watching/reviewing, it seemed like a stingy act on his part; but now, after many, many movies have been watched, reviewed, and studied, I think it was the most brilliant act he performed on this whole movie’s behalf.

Can't even use both hands. What a softy!

Can’t even use both hands. What a softy!

Well, that and the visuals as well, but that’s another story for later one. Let’s just continue to focus on the plot and the way Scott handles it, especially since it gives this movie a whole down-and-out, dirty vibe that too many modern, big-budget sci-fi flicks are scared to even touch, all because they fear they may scare away the audience members looking for lasers, aliens, spacecrafts, and all sorts of explosions. If you are that type of audience member and if those are your favorite things to see in a sci-fi movie, then go watch Star Wars or Star Trek, and don’t even bother with this movie. Not only does this movie have a slow-as-molasses pace that’s more than likely to have you drinking three cups of coffee in the first 30 minutes, just in hopes of making it through the whole near-two hours, but it doesn’t really have much lasers, aliens, spacecrafts, or even explosions for that matter, nor does it need to.

What Scott relies on the most here, other than his beautiful look of the movie, is the pacing and how it continues to give you more and more detail about the story we are watching unfold in front of our own very eyes; the character’s we are getting to know from the inside, and the out; and the future that Scott’s envisioned for us (originally done by Philip K. Dick, every sci-fi’s go-to novel guy), that not only puts you deep into a dark place where bad things happen on a regular, normal basis, but in a future where it almost never ceases to stop raining. I know, it’s a little dumb fact, but it’s always something I noticed and it just added more to the whole cold and muggy mood of the movie, giving the story more of a compelling feel, and also adding more stipulations onto why these replicants taking over the world matter, and why we should cheer on somebody like Deckard in the first place.

Speaking of Deckard, I can’t say that Harrison Ford was the most perfect pick for the guy, however, something tells me that Scott pitched it to him, and the dude absolutely loved it. And back in ’82, working with Harrison Ford was an offer you did not want to turn down so Ford gave it all that he could, despite the character being a little bit of a sheep-dog in terms of how he puts up his dukes and goes about certain scenes in the movie. See, the odd thing about Deckard, is that he does have this icy-cold front where he’s always making smart-ass comments and not really caring about those that he’s around that may have a problem with him; and yet, he’s a bit of a wimp. Not only does he get his rump beaten-up on more than a few occasions (by ladies no less), but he almost always resorts to his laser gun whenever he finds himself in a rut. Which, in case you haven’t been able to find out by now, is ALL OF THE TIME. And it’s not like I’m getting on Ford’s case or anything here, because he does a nice job with what he’s given, it’s just that the character of Deckard seems like such a normal, average dude that not only does it seem the slightest bit implausible that he would be considered a no-nonsense, take-no-crap cop of the near-future, but that he would be portrayed by the same guy who made a living off of those sorts of roles. Some may say this role is “iconic”, in regards to how he was naturally-written in order to give him more of a humane-feel, which I will not argue against, but putting Ford in this lead role definitely wasn’t the best action on Scott’s choice.

However, that’s just a blip on the radar compared to all of the great decisions Scott made with this movie, so I think it’s safe enough to just let it slip.

Still have no idea where that pigeon came from. Oh well, I'll let it slide by again.

Still have no idea where that pigeon came from. Oh well, I’ll let it slide by.

Everybody fares a lot better than Ford, and that’s mainly because they feel right for the material and live it up in all their campy, over-the-top, 80’s glory. The most impressive out of this cast that I can’t go on any further without mentioning is definitely Rutger Hauer who broke big with his role as the leader of these replicants, Roy Batty, a pretty effed-up and sadistic dude in his own right that proves a great foil for the straight-laced Deckard. Hauer’s a great villain and when you give him a role that he can sink his teeth into, he will gladly do so and give you the type of performance you oh so desire from him. He’s proved it time and time again in the past couple of years, but it was here where he first proved this fact and made us scared to high heavens as to what he was going to do Deckard, hell, scratch that, the human race once he got his hands around its throat. But, like with the best-written villains, there’s more to Batty than meets the eye and when we find out the real being behind what he’s perceived as, then it will not only bring a tear to your eye, but make you realize the type of movie you’ve been watching all along. And yes, I am talking about the infamous “Tears in Rain” soliloquy which totally lives up to the hype and legend surrounding it; which is all thanks to Hauer and his sure genius of making somebody more than they may be originally seen as. Good decision on his behalf, bad on anybody else’s out there who want take a look at this guy already and give him another shot. Come on, Hollywood!

Like I said before though, everybody else gets their time to shine and do what they do best, and it serves as a fun flashback to all of the stars that were big in the 80’s, and how some of their careers have sort of gone haywire since then. I’m talking mainly about Sean Young, but hey, she had a pretty damn solid run for the longest time in the 80’s-early-90’s, and her role as Rachael is what started it all. Not only was she a pleasure to look at, but she gave another character that could have easily been written off as literally “painfully robotic”, and instead, gives Deckard an unusual love-interest, yet, a very believable one since you can tell that guy wants somebody in his life to love and behold, no matter if that other person is a human or not. Pretty weird if you ask me, but hey, I’m not Rick Deckard, and thank heavens for that! But I do wish I was Harrison Ford. That is something I will not thank the heavens for. Damn you, heavens! Damn you!

Consensus: The idea that Blade Runner may not be all that it’s been hyped-up to be since it debuted so poorly back in the summer of ’82, may not be welcomed by most die-hards, but the fact of the matter remains is that it is one of the better sci-fi flicks out there because it pays attention to what matters the most in any good story: Characters, development, story, plot, and pacing. That’s all that you need and that’s what Scott executed perfectly, along with some beautiful visuals to appeal to the eyes.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Suddenly, I feel bad for Calista Flockhart.

Suddenly, I feel bad for Calista Flockhart.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Prometheus (2012)

Crews of explorers should just not go into space unless they are with a freakin’ army.

Prometheus centers around a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Let me just start off by saying that after watching Alien and realizing it to be the true sci-fi/horror classic that everybody has ranted about, I was very pumped for this quasi-prequel of sorts. Problem is, when you watch Alien, there isn’t really any need to see this flick.

What makes this “prequel” so different from many others out there, is that it’s directed by Ridley Scott himself. The thing with Scott, is that he won’t just go for a quick and easy job where he’ll just make some moolah. No, instead he’ll put his heart and soul into production that quite frankly, deserves it and that’s what makes this film better than plenty of the other prequels we see out there. Scott brings us back to the universe he made famous and expands it, answering more questions for us that we already had. But even though this film’s big selling point is it’s tie-in to Alien, it’s a real beautiful film to just gaze at.

Scott always has a great attention to detail and his production design for Prometheus just totally backs that up. There’s some cool, futuristic stuff here like space suits, vehicles, holographic displays, medical devices composed solely of robots, and plenty of other impressive treats to see here as well. Everything looks so dazzling, especially if you see it in 3D, where a couple of scenes may just take you by surprise by how you feel like you can just reach-out and touch whatever it is that’s on the screen. Some real beautiful stuff here, mainly because Scott feels something for this universe that he’s created and has given all of his might to make it work.

The problem with this flick isn’t really Scott’s fault, it’s more of the story itself. The core of this story is basically Alien done all over again. Crew wakes up out of deep sleep, spaceship lands on mysterious alien planet for some strange reason, crew discovers some ancient alien crap, alien force is awakened by them, people get others infected, and then they are all picked off one by one. It’s pretty obvious where this story is headed, because it’s pretty much the same thing around and that took away from the surprise factor for me. I knew that only a few were coming out alive and the only sense of guessing with this film, was who was it going to be. Sadly, I guessed right.

Even though this film is about 2 hours long, for some odd reason, a lot of it feels like there were some actual big scenes cut-out from the final product. The main reason for me saying this is because there’s a lot that goes down here, that makes no sense and seems somewhat random. One example is how Captain Janek is able to explain the purpose of aliens and what was inside of them so damn quickly. It almost comes out of nowhere, without any clues or signs to how Janek must have known this and comes off like a way to make the finale hit harder. Another example is how David knows how to work the Space Jockey devices without any faults whatsoever. How did he know how to do all of this? What, did he just learn it all by reading a bunch pictographs from Earth or is it just that he’s so totally uber smart cause he’s a robot and all? Not explained at all and it gets even worse when he can apparently speak the alien language fluently, as if he has been doing it his whole life. Yup, didn’t make any sense.

Scott does do a pretty good job with the pace of this film and I can easily see that he put a lot of effort into making this film thrilling, just like he did with Alien. However, there is a huge difference between both of those films and it’s pretty obvious considering the whole hour and 50 minutes of that movie was filled with tension out the wahzoo, whereas this one, had about 4 to 5 scenes of actual tension in it’s whole 2 hour run-time. I don’t know what it was about this flick that made it so different but for some reason, I wasn’t really on-the-edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next to these characters. I just sort of sat there and kept on waiting for Scott to really knock me out of my seat. Which was a shame too, because there seemed to be plenty of opportunities for Scott to do this but just ended up, well, keeping me somewhat satisfied. Somewhat satisfied is not something I want to feel with a product like this, especially when it’s coming from Ridley Scott.

As for the performances, everybody is good but nothing out-standing by any means. Noomi Rapace is fine as our leading lady, Elizabeth Shaw, but feels too much like Ripley and definitely isn’t as strong as her considering we never fully see her lash-out and get “tough”. She just runs away and screams, except for one scene that feels too much like the infamous “chest bursting” scene from AlienLogan Marshall-Green looks like Tom Hardy, but is fine as Charlie Holloway even though the character comes off extremely dicky at times, to the point of where you don’t care if he lives or dies. Charlize Theron plays a villain for the second week in a row, but is more subtle and stoic this time as Meredith Vickers and does a good job with her, even though I think they could have done more with her. Idris Elba is good as Captain Janek and probably has the most likable personality on the whole spaceship.

Probably the stand-out performance from this cast would have to be Michael Fassbender as the robot David. David is a pretty unsettling character the whole way through this flick as you have no idea whether or not he’s going to be good or going to be bad. He’s also a character that sort of just goes his own way the whole movie and doesn’t really care about the others, but you still can’t let that get in the way of what you may think of him since we all know that robots in sci-fi movies usually aren’t the nicest “things” around. Thankfully, those results are told to us by the end but for some very brief moments, he kept me guessing and I think a lot of that is credit to Fassbender’s skills as an actor. Wish I had more to say about him considering he was the best but it’s just one of those good performances that are notable once you see the movie.

I usually love Guy Pearce in everything he does, but his casting here as Peter Weyland just didn’t seem like it belonged in this movie at all. Peter Weyland is an elderly character, so why did Scott feel it was necessary to cast a younger dude as him and just keep on stuffing his face with make-up and effects. First of all, it looks stupid and fake, and secondly, it just seems like such a waste of a talent like Guy Pearce.

Consensus: Prometheus has some great moments that dazzle and excite, but still has plenty of pot-holes that make this story more confusing, makes the characters seem very one-dimensional, and also make a lot of the genius opportunities Ridley Scott had here, seem to go right out the window.

7/10=Rental!!

Alien (1979)

Now people understand why we don’t send more humans into outer-space.

In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. After landing on a barren planet, Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) works to decipher the transmission and discovers that the signal is actually a warning, not an SOS. But it is too late to turn back as three members of the crew have already left to investigate the derelict ship.

Movies like this are hard as hell to review because they are just loved by so many people, that it’s almost like a death sentence if you say one bad thing about it. So by the time this review is over, I’ll have to be looking over my shoulder at every corner now.

All of the credit for how awesome this film is, probably has to go to director Ridley Scott. First off, the film starts with all of these slow-moving shots of the space shuttle, where there’s nothing really going on except for there being an eerie feeling the whole way through. This was a great way to start off this flick in my opinion as it showed that the horror film that I was about to see, wasn’t just your ordinary, jump-scare horror flick, it was actually going to be more of a slow-burner that would take its time to build up its scares. Scott uses a lot of slow pans here to fully capture the set designs and spooky atmosphere but also depends on a lot of sounds (or lack thereof) to gain some spookiness too. So many horror films nowadays, feel the need to bring in this huge, grandiose score that makes you feel like you should be scared but somehow doesn’t. Here, Scott depends on a lot of moments of silence in certain scenes where we don’t have some soundtrack telling us what to feel at a certain moment and the noises that Scott usually replaces them with (the computer sounds still give me a chill till this day), actually take you more into this atmosphere than you expected.

Scott also did a pretty awesome job at making this spaceship, and just space itself, look absolutely beautiful with it’s amazing production that is still some of the most inventive in sci-fi movie history. The inside of that spaceship, is pretty freakin’ scary because you never know how big it truly is, what places are safe and what aren’t, and also, top all of that with a whole bunch of darkness that Scott adds in to truly mess with your heads. Hell, even the way those ventilation shaft doors shut gave me the chills! The film also ventures out to an unknown planet that also looks very beautiful, with it’s long, sweeping terrain to give the Alien egg farm some more creepiness to it than it already needed. I don’t know if I’m doing this flick any justice by the way I’m talking about it, but I can say that Scott did a perfect job of filming it all and gave it a very stylized look, even though it mostly takes inside a spaceship.

But it wasn’t just his art direction that kept me involved with this flick, it was mostly the fact that I knew some crazy shit was going to go down and Scott continued to build that idea up and up and up until, the whole film starts to go crazy (along with everybody on the ship). There’s always a sense of eerie dread in the air, something that Scott builds on and lets it get inside of our head the whole way through. You never know what’s going to happen next, but you know it’s not going to be good and whenever something bad does happen, it’s injected with so much frenetic energy, that almost don’t realize that they only last for a couple of seconds. We also never get to see the Alien quite as much you would think (the movie is named Alien for Christ’s sakes!) but every time it did show-up, wooooooo-weeee, did it create a lot of tension!!

The one problem that I did keep on finding myself running into was probably one of the dumbest details, but it was also one of the biggest of the whole movie: the cat. I had no idea what this cat was even doing here in the first place, which was fine with me, but the film started to bring it into some key moments like where a person would have to go look for it, only to get killed off the next second, or to have people at the end of the movie trying to save it, while the Alien is ready to kill and all-over-the-place. This just seemed like a cheat to have some characters die and give the characters a reason to go back on the ship, even though it’s about to self-destruct and strapped with a killer Alien on-board. Seemed really dumb, for a movie that was doing so many smart things with itself.

What I loved the most about this film, was how each and every character in this flick got the same amount of screen-time, which also meant that you cared for them a lot more rather than just being a bunch of walking cliches you would normally expect from a horror movie about a crew entrapped on a spaceship with large monster. Tom Skerritt is pretty manly and tough as Dallas, and it’s pretty easy to see why this dude was the head-honcho of the crew. Sigourney Weaver, as we all know, is pretty bad-ass as Ripley and gives her this smart and sassy edge, that really comes out of her by the end when it comes down to nut-up or shut-up time with the big Alien. Don’t know why she had to get half-naked at the end, but hey, she looks pretty good, don’t she?? Veronica Cartwright is a cutie-patootie but isn’t given much to do here, and even when she does do something, it seems like she’s just yelling, screaming, and worried about whether or not she’s going to die. Probably the lamest character out of the bunch, which is saying much. Harry Dean Stanton was a lot of fun as Brett, who brought a lot of humor with his usual, dead-pan delivery. Still can’t believe that dude is 85 now! Sheeesh! John Hurt is good as Kane but I do wish we could have seen more of him because we all do know what eventually happens to that dude. Ian Holm is creepy as balls, playing the freaky scientist, Ash, and just plays up that whole weird, off-kilter dude perfectly. Oh, and Yaphet Kotto is a lot of fun as the token black guy you always need to have in a sci-fi/horror movie. Not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just something you usually need to have to round it all out.

Consensus: Alien is definitely a sci-fi movie amongst sci-fi movies because it features a highly-stylized direction from one of the greats, Ridley Scott, who gives this film a very tense, dreary, and gloomy feeling the whole way through, and also keeps you guessing until the very end with scenes that are so iconic, I don’t even need to mention here. Just get out and go see it before you see Prometheus, because something tells me you’re going to have to do your homework for this one.

9/10=Full Price!!

Thelma & Louise (1991)

A message to men everywhere: treat your women well, otherwise, they’ll go on a crime spree.

Fed up with her boyfriend, live-wire Arkansas waitress Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon) persuades her friend Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis), a naïve housewife burdened with a negligent, sexist husband, to hit the road with her for a simple weekend of freedom. But after accidentally killing a man, the two friends wind up outlaws blazing a cathartic trail across America.

It’s funny to see that the director of macho-dude hits such as Gladiator, Black Hawk down, and American Gangster, Ridley Scott, can make a film about two chicks on the run and it still be pretty cool.

The best thing that Scott does here with this direction is bring a lot of fun energy here. The plot is contrived, but the things that actually happen on this trip are pretty fun, and at times unbelievable but somehow Scott makes it all work with his heavy-hand of style. Scott keeps the action going at a nice pace and still allows time for these two characters to talk and actually be developed which is the least we could say for many other road movies.

The writing is also pretty good too with a lot of funny little moments of wit but also a great deal of reality that this film shows too. You may think it will hit the conventions of your ordinary road movie right off the bat, but it stays different and fresh somehow mainly because it’s script knows how to even out both comedy, drama, and some really fun action. Instead of these two ladies just roaming around the place, going crazy, and shooting people, we actually get some real poignant moments where these two just need an escape from their real shit-hole lives, and are just so happy to branch out of there boring days of just doing work, making dinner, and practically doing nothing new all day. This film showed that it wasn’t just the guys who could have all the crazy action fun, the girls could play just as harder also, which is also something very revolutionary about this film as well.

However, as inspirational and fun as it may be, some of it still feels a bit dated. There were moments where I listened to what these chicks said, and just thought to myself: “why are they saying that?”. Then, I actually realized that this film just wanted these two girls to say something naughty, or rough to be cool. Also, not every guy in the world just pops an automatic boner as soon as they see two women. I mean I understand that there are freaks out there, but this film really showed that almost every guy is a sex-freak that wants anything they can get right away.

My other problem with this film is probably the last 15 to 20 minutes, which would also include the ending. The whole time this film sort of fought against the convention of your ordinary action/road movie, but then somehow all the crazy car chases, and guns blowing up came out of nowhere, and thus, we had ourselves the same old action/road movie.

The ending was also very controversial at the time, but for me, I liked it. I thought it summed the whole 128 minutes I just watched pretty well, but the problem with the ending is the final shot. The final shot which many know, but I still won’t give away, should have been left on the screen longer than it was on. Scott faded to the happy-go-lucky montage/end credits way too quick for the audience to actually sink in what we just saw and then it’s impact is almost forgotten and lost. I know this may seem crazy to be pissed off about, but when I saw that ending I noticed some real problem with that.

These two gals also probably give their best performances to date. Susan Sarandon is awesome as the tough-as-nails, but also determined, Louise Sawyer and shows that she has that look that will make any man shriek once they see it. Geena Davis is also very good as the ditzy, but also very kind-hearted, Thelma Dickinson. Both of these great actresses work so well together and their chemistry builds up even more and more as the film goes on to the point of where you believe these two as friends. Not a moment with these two felt false and that’s what these two greats bring to the screen.

Let’s not also forget this was the first introduction into the hunk that they call, Brad Pitt as the sly and mysterious drifter, J.D. He has great scenes here as well and shows that he really was bound for greatness after all. The only thing he would have to do was take his shirt off, and he had no problem with that here.

Consensus: Thelma & Louise is guided by a great direction from Ridley Scott who has an even better script that knows how to balance out comedy, drama, and action very well with two great performances from David and Sarandon. However, by the end, the film starts to fall into convention and the last shot of the film feels too rushed off the screen, and therefore loses the whole impact that I felt I was going to have from this film.

7/10=Rental!!

Gladiator (2000)

Wanted to totally kick some ass after seeing this.

Tapped for the throne after the death of the emperor, Roman general Maximus (Russell Crowe) instead finds himself condemned to death by the late ruler’s power-hungry son (Joaquin Phoenix). Escaping execution, Maximus becomes a powerful gladiator, bent on exacting revenge in the ring.

Gladiator is that film that basically revived the swords and sandals epics, that come around every once and awhile, and with good reason too, because this film kicks ass.

Director Ridley Scott got inspiration for this film from a beautiful painting, and I have to say he does an amazing job with making a film, just from looking at a painting. The one thing that Scott does best is make this film visually stunning, while not forgetting to show some awesome action. The costumes, arms and armor look plausible, down to their tiny details. The battles are brutal and breathtaking. The city of Rome itself feels alive – dirty, chaotic, gaudy, beautiful, massive, sweltering. Scott is most known for paying too much attention to detail, but here it works, as he totally brings you into ancient Rome.

However, Scott totally takes over this film when the action comes on because he films it with just the right amount of shakiness to have us see everything that’s going on, and create a great tension within every action scene. This film is filled with blood and gore, but there’s nothing like watching swords, arrows, and chariots flying all around a Colosseum. You feel like your in the arena while all this action is going on because you can hear the cheers and chants from the crowd, and the constant clanging of weapons hitting together, and it all just feels so awesome.

People who watch this will love the action scenes, mostly guys, but if you’re looking for some story here, this has that too which separates from it other films of this nature. The good thing here about this story is that the screenplay isn’t all that bad. The story is rich in detail because the themes of revenge and corruptness within politics still ring true today, and do well with this story. The things these characters say aren’t campy or ironic, it all feels realistic and done very well.

My main problem with this film is a little nit-picky, but being very interested in history as I’am, I noticed plenty of historical inaccuracies that kind of bothered me. I understand Scott did this to create a more dramatic effect when the final clashes came around, but I couldn’t help but notice that people die here so much earlier then they actually did in real life. But I can’t give too much away, and I know I’m nit-picky this just kind of bothered me.

Russell Crowe is exactly what a bad-ass should look and act like. His role as Maximus is one of his best and probably most iconic because he does such a great job of combining that total bad-ass look that would make any of those American Gladiators crap their pants, but still has the dramatic skills to pull off the more heart-rendering scenes. Crowe won an Oscar for this, and even though he should have won it for something else, I was glad that he got something for this great performance. because we really do get behind Maximus the whole time. Let’s not also forget to mention Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus, who is absolutely perfect as this vindictive and evil little son-of-a-bitch. There are scenes where Commodus character starts to dive into some strange material, but Phoenix keeps it very believable as he shows that he has the range to play some terribly evil characters, even if we have seen this role done time-and-time again. Connie Nielsen is also very good as Lucilla who is torn between doing the right thing, and doing what she can to not get caught by her asshole brother. Djimon Hounsou is here as Juba, and is the man here as well, and Derek Jacobi is good as well. But the real performances here to watch are the ones given by Richard Harris and Oliver Reed who give worthy swan songs, and make us realize just how great they really were.

Consensus: Gladiator may not be as perfect as some may claim, but Ridley Scott’s inspired direction keeps this well-acted, beautifully shot, and tremendously entertaining epic, on its toes by never once diving into cheesy or lame territory.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

American Gangster (2007)

It doesn’t matter what drug you deal, it all depends on how cool you look when your dealing it.

Armed with ruthless, streetwise tactics and a strict sense of honor, crime boss Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) rules Harlem’s chaotic drug underworld. When outcast cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) sets out to bring down Lucas’s multimillion-dollar empire, it plunges both men into a legendary confrontation.

Looking at this all on paper, you have Oscar winners Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, and Ridley Scott all working together on one film, you should be expecting something perfect, right? Well, not quite.

Ridley Scott does a great job here of directing this thing to the core. Scott keeps the camera on both of these character’s and their own stories, and not once do we lose a sense of what’s happening. He also gets the look for this film, including a very gritty atmosphere behind all the glam and beauty of the drug world, and perfectly captures how the late 60’s early 70’s felt and looked. He also tells the story, not through explosions, and random gun-fights, but through more story and development as time goes on, but he doesn’t lose his pace and keeps this entertaining.

The only problem here is that although Scott is doing a good job of keeping this film entertaining, he’s not necessarily doing much different that what has been done before. I think the main problem with this film is that it’s not to different from any other crime thriller we’ve seen before. Now, there were moments of originality with Washington out-smarting all the cops, but the drug deals, the lines these characters use, hell even the characters themselves all seem like something we have seen before. It’s not to say that this film doesn’t do those things right, because they do, it’s just that it’s nothing different.

Also, with these crime films the tension is always somewhat lacking. We all know how this is going to end, since it is a true story, so your just waiting for the big climax of these two to finally meet, and eventually have the main bad guy get his time in jail. The problem with this film is that we are waiting for almost two-and-a-half hours for that to happen, and although it keeps your interest for the time being, you still can’t help but wonder why the hell it had to be so long to get where it got.

However, this ensemble cast just kept me watching the whole time. Denzel Washington is perfect as mob-boss Frank Lucas. He’s got that swagger that makes him so cool, that brain and wit that has you believe he can outsmart any cop, and just so cool that he’s the most likable gangster ever. I think Denzel should have gotten nominated for an Oscar here, but hey the man is always great no matter what you put in front of him, just ask Ridley’s brother, Tony. Russell Crowe doesn’t get much praise here but he’s also very good as Richie Roberts who is so attached to finding this guy, that he stops at nothing to do it. He also very likable enough to have you root behind as well. The rest of the cast is also very good and just has a bunch of random faces that pop up out of nowhere such as T.I., Chiwetel Ejiofor, Common, RZA, John Hawkes, Idris Elba, Ruby Dee, Josh Brolin, Carla Gugino, and the return to Hollywood acting of Cuba Gooding Jr. God it has been so long since I have seen him in a film that hasn’t been released straight-to-dvd, but he has only a couple of minutes in this film, but he still makes it worth awhile.

Consensus: The performances are great from all over the spectrum, and the direction from Ridley Scott makes this film a gritty but entertaining crime thriller, but never goes anywhere we haven’t seen before, and almost seems like a drag to get to the last scene that we all see coming.

8/10=Matinee!!

G.I. Jane (1997)

Changes any sexual fantasies I had about Demi Moore, forever.

Lt. Jordan O’Neil (Demi Moore), a Navy topographer chosen as a litmus test for women in combat. O’Neil trains with the elite but punishing Navy SEALs — and with a 60% dropout rate, no one expects her to succeed. But the steely-nerved and tightly muscled O’Neil attempts to prove everyone wrong. Viggo Mortensen co-stars as a crusty instructor who dishes out the grueling training regime.

A lot of people discarded this film due to its lack of an accurate portrayal of the Navy SEALS and their training- you can watch almost any documentary and will realize this is true, but who cares this is Hollywood! Where everything is totally wrong!

The screenplay is the one main thing that works, cause although it is still a big-blast summer action flick, the movie still has an idea. An idea that self-reliance, not self-pity, is the key to the feminist revolution, or any revolution. Ridley Scott directs this pick as if it were a documentary, showing the training, and how everything goes down behind closed doors, in the training, and the base itself.

The problem with this film is that there isn’t enough depth into this picture. The first part of the film raises the question as to if she’s going to make it or not, we already know the answer. But there were also parts that had to do with her sexuality, the love for her man back at home, or even the fact that she may have to go to war to fight. Some of these issues I wish were actually brought up, however, some of the stuff they had actually made it OK.

Demi Moore, is sometimes criticized for her mainly voice, and awkward body shape, however here she uses it to her advantage, and gives a great performance, probably her best. The role is demanding, using a lot of energy, strength, and muscle for the role, and Moore uses this all, even more. She looks the part, and can act the part, especially when she’s telling guys to “suck my dick”. Viggo Mortensen is good here as a guy that at first is a total d-bag, that you just wanna see get his ass beat, then, he’s suddenly a cool as hell dude.

Consensus: G.I. Jane doesn’t go far enough, but still features a great performance from Demi Moore, and an inspired script and direction from Ridley Scott.

6.5/10=Rental!!!

Matchstick Men (2003)

Being a con man, actually looks like a lot of fun.`

When Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage), a professional con man struggling with an obsessive-compulsive disorder, meets the daughter (Alison Lohman) he never knew he had, he inadvertently jeopardizes his tightly organized and artificially controlled life. Sam Rockwell plays Cage’s partner and protégé, with Melora Walters co-starring as Waller’s ex-wife.

So one of my favorite directors Ridley Scott, does this breezy dark comedy, focusing on con men, and their lifestyles something that I had no idea about in the first place.

Compared to many other companion pieces of the last 30 years this is one of the most enchanting. You just love seeing this father and daughter tag-team together. There are many scenes with them that are just totally bittersweet, and actually bring a lot of heart to the film.

The script crosses the crime plot and the emotional plots at the perfect moments. There’s a well made scene where Roy’s daughter begs him to teach her a con. They go to a Laundromat and con a woman into thinking she’s won the lottery. And like a good father Roy forces her to give the money back.

If there is a problem it’s the “Usual Suspects” style ending. I have nothing against playing a trick on the audience but as I put the pieces of the story together I found the final twist to be completely implausible and contrived. I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say that It’s one of those situations that could have never worked if one character picked up the phone and called another character.

Nic Cage gives one of his best performances in years with this film. I love how he just chooses to play these weird and zany characters, and make a great run with it. He masters all the ticks with the OCD character that he’s playing, and actually feels real. The chemistry between him and Lohman actually does feel genuine, and most of the scenes just add to the films appeal.

The conclusion left me a little depressed and disillusioned, but I think that poignant feeling at the end is just what they were shooting for. It can seem a bit corny, but almost works a bit here as a master-piece.

Consensus: Matchstick Men has a heart-warming story about family, great character studies that go to the very edge, and a great performance from Cage, even if the ending is a bit far off.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

Black Hawk Down (2002)

The Saving Private Ryan of the African war genre.

On October 3, 1993, Army Rangers and members of the elite Delta Force participated in a covert operation in Mogadishu, Somalia that went horribly wrong. Sent to abduct two lieutenants of a vicious Somali warlord, the soldiers found themselves surrounded by hostile militia. Two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and many men lost their lives.

Scott’s obsession for detail is shown throughout the whole movie as he doesn’t leave out a single detail when showing this African and these soldiers roaming through it. About 19 soldiers died that day and Scott almost shows each one in his death.

The war scenes are some of the most realistic and riveting war scenes ever filmed. Scott does a great job at not getting us confused of the action and graphing out every scene with a fast but easy to follow pace so we don’t get confused.The visuals is what makes this movie look as if its real life. The difference between this film and Saving Private Ryan is that is Saving Private Ryan is depicts war at its lowest and most gruesome. Though it never depicts warfare in its modernity, as this film does with all its other urban complexities, that this film succeeds in depicting.

The huge problem with this film was the lack of character development and this is its main fault with the film. The thing with other war films is that the soldiers are explained in all their characteristics and we can connect to them easier. However, in this film none of the characters are really shown in detail other than we just know their names. This film was more about the situation these soldiers were in but it would have been nice if we knew who these soldiers actually were.

The acting is mediocre at its highest. I say this because there aren’t a lot of scenes for the actors to show off their skills and more of the movie was centered towards the actual battle itself. With more character development this ensemble cast could’ve shown their acting chops and made this film more effective.

The war scenes are very realistic and riveting and are shown at such a pace so you don’t get confused. The lack of character development is what in all killed this movie in the end but was saved by the war scenes themselves.

8/10=Matinee!!