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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Robert De Niro

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

It’s like they say, “Your best movies, are the ones that come close to killing you.” Even though, yeah, they don’t.

After making not just the Godfather Part I, but Part II in the span of a nearly two years, Francis Ford Coppola could basically do whatever the hell it is that he wanted, with as much money, with whomever, and wherever. That’s when he decides to take up adapting Heart of Darkness, the novella that had been a long passion-project of Coppola’s, but needed some extra push to get off the ground. Eventually, he got it, but in this case, it wasn’t what he, or anyone else was expecting. Needless to say, without saying too much, one lead actor gets a heart-attack, another gets recast about halfway through, one is filmed in a drunken-stooper, one lies about his age to get in the movie. But then, if you go past the usual actor stuff, you’ve also got the fact that the budget is running up the bill way more than it was supposed to, the Vietnam locals are getting pissed, the weather was absolutely awful and practically unlivable, and oh yeah, Coppola himself literally lost his mind.

Was it “method”?

The biggest joke about Hearts of Darkness would be that the resulting film of all this mayhem and madness, Apocalypse Now, turned out to be a bunch of crap that people put way too much of an effort into, for no other reason because they had to, or they thought what was right. But that’s what’s funny, because the movie turned out, dare I say it, almost perfect. All of the years spent filming, editing, and putting money into it, guess what?

At the end of the day, everyone went home happy.

But Hearts of Darkness isn’t a movie about what the final product ended up becoming, nor is it really about what everyone else thought about the movie, it’s mostly about the behind-the-scenes of everything that happened on, as well as off the set, and yeah, it’s just about as candid and as eye-opening as you can get with a documentary about so many big names and faces in Hollywood. With the assistance from Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper, believe it or not, Eleanor Coppola, Francis’ wife, is actually the perfect one to bring this table of absolute craziness to the big screen; she was, after all, there for it all, and her insight, while sometimes silly, focuses on things that probably mattered the most. While Francis was off worrying about how much fire was burning the trees down, Eleanor was worried that her husband was going to have a stroke and possibly die from all of the tension and turmoil in his life.

It’s not like she wants us to feel bad for her husband, but at the same time, she also wants to see it from more of a film-nerd’s perspective, where the control-freak director is always right for themselves, the movie, and everyone else around them. But still, just watching what happens behind-the-scenes here, and the things that we only hear small instances of, are truly insane, but draw you in even closer to the mind of Coppola, how he worked, and why he slaved away for so long to get this picture of his made and up on the big screen, for all the world to see and hopefully feast their eyes on.

It was the 70’s and it was hot, so maybe he wasn’t totally crazy.

And really, it all comes back to Coppola, someone who has become a pretty infamous figure in movie-making, only because it appears like his career has taken a huge turn downwards after he was put into debt for this project, as well as the many others to follow. For one, it’s interesting to see Coppola talk about this project, but also not think of him as a total ass; sure, he loves himself and his work, but can you blame him? The man has literally just made two of the greatest movies of all-time and was onto making another, so maybe he’s allowed to kiss his own ass, eh?

If so, it still brings up the question: How much is too much?

Eleanor and the movie as a whole, brings this point up many times and makes us think, whether we’re on his side for going so far as he did, to make sure that this movie was complete and actually worked to his vision, or, if he was just way too artistically-driven in the first place? See, it would be a problem if the movie didn’t turn out to be such a classic, but it somehow did and it makes us not just think, but wonder: Where has that same artistic integrity gone? And hell, when is it coming back?

Consensus: Eye-opening and thrilling to watch, especially if you’re a film-nerd, Hearts of Darkness will surely show you everything you need to see, hear, and understand about all of the craziness that went into making sure the final product turned into what it is seen as today.

8.5 / 10

Pictured: Cast and crew getting the hell out of Coppola’s rage.

Photos Courtesy of: Jonathan Rosenbaum

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The Comedian (2017)

Isn’t stand-up comedy supposed to be funny?

Jackie Burke (Robert De Niro) has seen better days. He was once the star of a much-loved sitcom from the 70’s, hit the stand-up circuit as one of the biggest, loudest and meanest shock-comics out there on the scene, and yeah, he had a whole bunch of love and adoration from people in his world. However, time went on and eventually, the rest of the world sort of forgot about Jackie. Nowadays, he’s forced to work for the nostalgia circuits, playing to small crowds, filled with either hapless teens, or barely-there senior citizens. Jackie realizes this and because of that reason alone, tension builds up within him, more and more. One event goes bad when Jackie beats up an audience-member filming and heckling him, leaving Jackie to have to serve out a some jail time and community service. While on community service, he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), a troubled gal who gravitates towards Jackie and his ways. But she doesn’t really know what’s underneath all of the jokes, and he doesn’t really know what’s underneath all of her beauty, either.

Ladies love those has-beens! Especially the ones without money, right?

Ladies love those has-beens! Especially the ones without money, right?

The Comedian is a perfect example for what happens when you have a good cast, and that’s about it. The plot, the jokes, the heart, the humor, the meaning – just about everything about it is odd and doesn’t quite work. But man oh man, whenever they’re given the chance to do so, the ensemble here tries with every bone, every fiber, and every material of their body to make this material work.

And because of their effort, and because they’re all good, yes, they do help the Comedian out a whole bunch. Does that mean it’s a good movie? No, it does not. But it does help make a very bad movie, slightly less worse than it could have been, with less talented and committed people involved.

And this doesn’t just go to the cast, either – behind the cameras is director Taylor Hackford, who hasn’t always had the best track record, but does have more hits than misses, and four writers, Art Linson, Jeff Ross, Richard LaGravenese, Lewis Friedman, all of whom seem to know what they’re doing in their own, respective projects. But for some reason, they just didn’t quite know what to do here; it’s as if they signed on to do a movie about comedians and late-aged ones, but ended up just telling one too many dick, fart and sex jokes.

And oh yeah, the jokes themselves are pretty lame, too.

If there’s one big no-no in movies about comedians, it’s that the comedy you’re selling us on, in the first place, has to be funny. Like, does anyone remember that subplot in Mother’s Day where the British dude wanted to be a comedian and strutted his stuff out on the stage, told really awful jokes, and everyone in the movie was laughing at him, as if he was some sort of godsend? Well, if not, don’t worry, because you didn’t miss much. But if you did see that, then you get an idea of just how the Comedian is – not really funny, even though no one seems to have told it so.

There are the occasional moments of actual humor, but it’s mostly because of Jackie’s brand of comedy – he’s the kind comedian who Stern would have had on his show every day, just going as deep and as far into the dirty talk as either of them could. If that’s your brand of humor, then yeah, a lot of De Niro’s jokes will work perfectly for you and hit the mark, but if not, well then the jokes will just continue to be more and more grating as they go on. De Niro’s character gets grosser, meaner, and far more idiotic, making us wonder whether anyone involved knew what actual humor was in the first place?

"Get it? Fart!"

“Get it? Fart!”

Or, at the very least, just how stand-up comedy worked?

And then it goes on. The movie then tries to deal with romance, drama, and almost attack the showbiz industry itself, but it just never makes sense, mostly because a good portion of it can be unbelievable. Jackie goes viral at least three times, none of them ever making sense, or seeming as if they could happen in the real world that the Comedian seems to inhabit. It’s odd because it seems like everyone involved behind the cameras are so out-of-touch, you almost wonder just how long this script was sitting around on the shelf for, never got looked at, and collected up dust.

Probably a lot and yeah, it shows.

But like I said, the cast really does help this movie out, a great bunch. De Niro does what he can in the lead role; he’s deliciously mean and cruel when he wants to be and it works, but the jokes just ruin him. De Niro’s line-delivery feels awfully too stilted to make it sound like we’re hearing an actual comedian on the stage, and not just an actor reading lines and forgetting where the punchline is. Still, when he’s off the stage, De Niro is compelling, as we get to see a sad, old man for what he is: Sad, old and kind of miserable. This character and this performance deserve a way better movie, which is why it’s hard to just accept this one for what it is, as poorly-written as it can sometimes be.

Then, there’s everybody else. Leslie Mann is charming, despite her character having some awfully weird baggage going on that’s never fully explained; Harvey Keitel plays her controlling and generally creepy father who is way too over-the-top, but has some fun scenes with De Niro; Patti LuPone shows up as De Niro’s sister-in-law to yell at him and get in his face, which is fun; Danny DeVito plays his brother who basically does the same thing; Edie Falco plays his manager and has nice chemistry with him; Charles Grodin shows up as a rival who’s barely around; Cloris Leachman shows up as this sort of aging Lucille Ball character and is fine; and yeah, there’s many, many more cameos from all sorts of real life, well-known comedians. It makes you wish there was more of them and less of the scripted jokes, because lord knows the Comedian would have been, well, funnier.

Consensus: Try as it might, the Comedian just doesn’t have enough juice to make itself funny, relevant, sad, important and interesting enough, even with the talented ensemble helping out as much as they humanly can.

4.5 / 10

"So yeah, when's Marty going to get going on this Irishman movie, so we can stop doing stuff like this?"

“So yeah, when’s Marty going to get going on this Irishman movie, so we can stop doing stuff like this?”

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Cape Fear (1991)

Criminals never forget.

When attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) knowingly withholds evidence that would acquit violent sex offender Max Cady (Robert De Niro) of rape charges, Max spends the next 14 years of his life in prison. And of course, while in the clink, Max has been thinking about that decision each and every day of his sentence, while on the other side of the bars, Sam has been living life with his wife (Jessica Lange) and young daughter (Juliette Lewis), who seems to be getting more and more rebellious as the years go by. But now that the 14 years are up, Max is ready to extract some revenge right from the get-go. However, rather than just beating the hell out of, or better yet, killing Sam, what Max does is spend every waking moment of his life and dedicating it all to stalking Sam, his family, and especially his friends. To Max, no one is safe and after awhile, Sam starts to realize that he’s going to have to come to some pretty drastic decisions if he’s going to protect the lives of those that he loves and wants to keep alive.

Bad lawyer.

Bad lawyer.

There’s nothing like watching an insanely talented director have the absolute time of their lives. It’s like watching a little kid in a Toys R Us, but rather that kid being limited to only buying a few items, the kid’s allowed to have the whole store. They can do whatever they want, however they want, and with all of these wonderful, fabulous and great toys.

That’s what it’s like watching Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear; the kind of movie where a master of his craft knows exactly what it is that he’s doing, having a lovely time with it all, and is barely ever going to let-up. And honestly, when you’re doing a remake on an already-great movie, that’s sort of the way you’ve got to go – you can’t follow the same, beat-for-beat, note-for-note, track-for-track, but instead, amp things up a bit differently. You can focus on a different plot-point altogether, bring out more interesting ideas of the story that may not have been discovered originally, and basically do whatever else you want with the story, so long as you stay true to heart and soul of the original. So few remakes actually abide by this rule, but despite the changes in story and style that Scorsese goes through here, he still sticks true to the original with an eerie tone humming all throughout.

But what’s interesting is that it’s different this time around.

Scorsese approaches the material as if it was an over-the-top, wild, wacky, crazy and unpredictable adventure into one man’s psychotic psyche – someone who doesn’t seem to have a moral compass anywhere to be found and because of that, is taking out the nice, somewhat innocent people. The original touched on this idea, obviously, but Scorsese really hammers it in, allowing for the character of Max to be as depraved and as sickening as humanly imaginable. Sure, it’s campy, it’s wildly insane, and it’s really schlocky, but you know what? It actually kind of works.

A good portion of that has to do with Scorsese’s quick pace, but another portion of that definitely has to do with De Niro’s committed-as-ever performance. Of course, working with Scorsese brings out the best in De Niro, but here, it’s unlike how we’ve ever seen him before – he’s definitely flirted with the idea of being a villain in other flicks before and after this, but never to the supreme extent that he goes with Max. The movie does try some avenues to have us, in the very least, sympathize with him and his stance, but for the most part, the movie knows that he is a monster, and so does De Niro, which makes every scene in which he’s just acting like the creepiest, most erratic person around, so damn entertaining.

It almost makes you wonder where all of the inspiration’s gone in the past few or so years.

Bad housewife.

Bad housewife.

Regardless, Scorsese doesn’t shy away from letting the rest of the cast have their moments, too, especially since they also get to have some development and not just become a typical white, suburban, upper-class family who plays golf and tennis. Nolte’s Sam has got some dark issues to work with, Lange’s Leigh seems to be struggling in her own ways, Lewis’ Danielle, while most definitely a teen, is also a little bit smarter than we’re used to seeing with this kind of character, making her one key scene with De Niro all the more creepy, and Illeana Douglas, in a couple or so scenes, shows true fun and spirit for a movie that seems to enjoy her presence, yet, at the same time, remind us that there’s something dark and grueling really behind all of this fun we’re having.

In fact, where Cape Fear works less is probably in the last-half, when Scorsese really loses his cool here. In a way, Scorsese wants us to see Max as a sort of Christ-like figure which, for a short while, is fine and all, but by the end, becomes such a major plot-point, that it’s almost unbearable to sit and listen through. We get the point as soon as it’s mentioned, yet being that this is a Scorsese movie, faith must be driven into the ground and because of that, the final-act of Cape Fear feels more like wild and over-the-top symbolism, on top of symbolism, and less of a thrilling, compelling and wholly satisfying to a wild ride of thrills, shrills, and shocks.

Still though, it’s one of the rare remakes that rivals the original and how many times can you say that?

Consensus: Wild, a little insane, well-acted, and always exciting, Cape Fear is the rare remake that works just as much as its legendary original does, especially what with Scorsese seeming to have the time of his life behind the camera.

8 / 10

Bad criminal. Or is that sort of obvious?

Bad criminal. Or is that sort of obvious?

Photos Courtesy of: the ace black blog

New York, New York (1977)

Frankie should have sued somebody.

It’s the end of WWII and the nation wants to keep on celebrating like there’s no tomorrow. One person in particular is Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro), an aspiring saxophone player, who meets a band singer by the name of Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) during V-J Day celebrations. While she initially doesn’t appreciate his constant nagging, eventually, she gives in, realizing that the guy may not mean all that much harm and, in the end, may just want to become the greatest musical duo the world has ever seen. And the two do band together, set out on the road and tour with a band, picking up gigs left and right, as well as attention from those who can make both of their careers pretty big. However, what does end up happening, too, is that the two start to fall in love, leaving the important decisions of their careers to become even more serious and passionate than ever before.

Generally, when people think of New York, New York, they either never bring it up, because they don’t know it even exists, or they think of it as a failure because it’s a Martin Scorsese movie that barely anyone talks about, remembers, and absolutely bombed at the box-office when it came out. However, there’s something to be said about a movie that, nearly 40 years later, we as a society, are still trying to make sense of and answer. For one, what was the experiment Scorsese was trying to go with for here? Not to mention, what made him want to tell this story in the first place? Did it have to be a musical? Did it have to be over two-and-a-half-hours (in its original-cut and not the 136-minute version that was re-released into theaters)?

Close, but no Cabaret.

Close, but no Cabaret.

Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be many answers for those questions, but that’s sort of what’s interesting about New York, New York: It’s the kind of movie where you can tell that there’s a lot of inspiration and thought behind it, that even when it doesn’t quite work itself out together perfectly well, there’s still something compelling about. You could almost make that same argument about a lot of Scorsese’s other movies, but for New York, New York feels exactly like a director testing himself and his limits, seeing where he can go next, figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and what could possibly be worked on in the future to-come.

Does that make it a bad movie? Not really, but it can make it sometimes seem like a uneven mess of one.

Or basically, the only kind that Scorsese knows how to make.

For one, what it seems like Scorsese tries to do here is take the bombastic, colorful, glitzy and glamorous musicals of the 40’s and 50’s, and cross them with a down-to-Earth, raw and understated story of two people falling in love through each other’s own creative talents. The later is something we’re used to seeing from Scorsese, but the former isn’t, which makes this experiment all the more interesting to watch and see how it plays out; while a lot of the musical-numbers are fun and exciting, they do come in at random times, when it literally seems like no one’s saying anything and maybe, just maybe, Scorsese himself got bored. And it’s not like Scorsese favors one idea over the other – he genuinely respects the music, as well as the dramatic emotion, but at times, the two do combat one another.

A perfect example of this is the final-act, in which all of a sudden, the movie becomes an absolute, unabashed, without-a-doubt musical, channeling the likes of Singin’ in the Rain and Cabaret, among others. The number goes on for nearly 20 minutes, in which we sit and watch Liza Minnelli change up styles with the drop of a hat, which is all great and exciting to watch, but it feels odd and misplaced. It’s as if Scorsese finally found some time to really let loose on the music and did so, but chose to do so so late in the game that we mostly all forgot this movie was supposed to be a musical in the first place.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

In fact, the movie would probably be better had it not been classified as that at all. Because with New York, New York, we really get a small, yet lovely love story about two people finding one another at the end of the war, realizing that anything’s possible, and both having a shared affection for music. In a way, it’s probably Scorsese’s most romantic movie, even if it does dive into the predictable areas where violence, drug-abuse and gangsters seem to pop-up, but it still works. If anything, Scorsese seems to be showing us that these beautiful and magical worlds that these musicals paint, don’t quite exist and instead, are a lot harsher than they attend to appear to be.

Or, something like that.

Once again, still not sure I’ve got all the answers here.

Still, if there is one thing I definitely know, it’s that Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli are quite great here and surprised the heck out of me, what with the chemistry they’ve got going on here. Of course, both are very much playing in their wheelhouse, but together, they bring out the best in one another; De Niro shows a much more softer, more vulnerable side than we’re used to seeing from him, whereas with Minnelli, we see someone who is sweet, but also not going to take any crap, either. Their characters may feel thinly-written, but because the performances are so good, it hardly matters. It makes you wish that the two worked together again, whether in another Scorsese movie, or just in general.

But yeah, definitely a Scorsese movie for sure.

Consensus: Clearly more of an experiment than a full-fledged, thought-out feature-flick, New York, New York finds Scorsese trying to mesh intimate-drama with musical-numbers, and while the results don’t always click, the performances do.

7 / 10

Love? Between these two?

Love? Between these two?

Photos Courtesy of: The Red List

Hands of Stone (2016)

Never say “no mas”.

At age 72, after a few brushes with death and the notorious mafia, legendary trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement to coach world-class Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán (Édgar Ramírez). It’s a job that many other trainers would take, let alone, come out of a retirement for, but it’s one that Arcel feels as if he has to do, if only to teach Duran a thing or two about manners and living life like a peaceful, everyday citizen in the United States of America. After all, growing up, Duran had to constantly fight his way through childhood and to ensure that no one ever brought him down as a person; now that he’s older, muscular and more than capable of beating the hell out of whoever steps in his way, he’s definitely not stepped down. But now that Duran wants to face-off against the one and only champ, Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond), he’s more than ready to settle down, listen to his trainer and win the title that he feels he has earned after all of the years and hard-work that he has put in.

"Get up, you wimp!"

“Get up, you wimp!”

With the troubled production, constant delays on its release-date, and late-August release, you’d honestly expect Hands of Stone to be an utter piece of crap that no one wanted to see. Thankfully, it doesn’t turn out that way; it’s the kind of movie that you can tell had a clear agenda on its mind while being made, but for one reason or another, so many backstage politics got involved that after one cut too many, the movie lost its train of thought. It’s the perfect case of a good movie, unfortunately, being tarnished and ruin by the sole fact that it had one too many people’s wallets involved, so therefore, it had to suffer the consequences of having a whole lot in it, but essentially, not being about a single thing.

Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad movie, just a very messy, unclear and unfocused one.

The one thing that it does get right, thankfully, is the actual boxing itself. Writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz keeps Hands of Stone from ever getting boring, moving at a quick, fast and efficient pace that hardly ever lets up, even when it is featuring a bunch of people, sitting in a room, and talking about Jimmy Carter the Panamanian Canal. But where the movie really moves, is in its boxing.

Sure, the boxing isn’t as realistic as say, a real fight that you’d check out on PPV (that’s still a thing, right?), but it doesn’t matter – when it’s on, you pay attention and you have some fun. You feel every punch, hold, broken bone, sweat, blood-drip, and everything else that goes hand-in-hand with boxing, so much so that after awhile, you’d sort of just wish the whole movie stayed in the ring and never even bothered to go outside of it.

Because yes, unfortunately, when it does go outside of the ring, it gets pretty bad.

For one, Hands of Stone is, like I said, a messy movie. It has a lot to talk about race, family, power, the government, sports, and so on and so forth, but at the same time, doesn’t really have much of anything to say about them in the slightest. Take, for instance, De Niro’s Arcel, a character who is probably deserving of his own movie, but here, is saddled with playing second-in-command and has a very brief, very random bit where he’s trying to settle a dispute with his long, lost and estranged daughter that literally none of us have ever heard about. It seems like the movie itself knew this, so rather than having her show back up and make some sort of sense to the whole movie, she’s literally never heard from again.

Why, though?

We can't really see what you've got going on underneath the suit and tie, but hey, we're going to assume you've got some pretty big muscles.

We can’t really see what you’ve got going on underneath the suit and tie, but hey, we’re going to assume you’ve got some pretty big muscles.

Also, while I’m at it, why does the movie seem to bring up relations between U.S. and the Dominican Republic, yet, at the same time, never really have much of anything to say about them? And also, why are we learning so much about Durán’s upbringing and hotshot attitude, yet, at the same time, never actually knowing anything more about him besides that? The movie seems to present a whole bunch of stuff, but keep it all at such a surface-level, that after awhile, you don’t even know what it is.

Is it a boxing movie? Or, is it an unfinished cut of one?

Either way, the movie does thankfully stay entertaining all throughout, which mostly has to do with the fact that the pace is quick and the cast is quite good. As stated before, De Niro is good as Arcel, who probably deserves his own movie, just like Edgar Ramirez’s Durán does, as well. In fact, Ramirez is so good here, that he makes it very clear that possibly, some time down the road, he could give it another go, under a new writer, director, and studio, because there’s truly something here, to this person and this person’s tale that makes me want to see more of him and how he goes about his day-to-day life.

Unfortunately, we do get to see some of that here, but it’s in a movie that doesn’t seem to care, or know what to do with any of that rich material.

Consensus: With so much going on, Hands of Stone can’t help but feel and seem like a mess, but an entertaining one because of its fast-pace and good cast, which both deserve way better than what they’re given.

5.5 / 10

The weirdest sequel to Joy, ever.

The weirdest sequel to Joy, ever.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

These younglings don’t know how old-heads get down.

With less than a week to go before his wedding, Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) has good knowledge of how he wants the rest of his life to go down. And even though he’s definitely looking forward to getting hitched to his high-class, but very pretty fiancee (Julianne Hough), all of those happy feelings and thoughts are put to the side once he learns that his grand-mother has died. Heart-broken and sad is Jason’s grandpa, Dick (Robert De Niro), who Jason reluctantly volunteers to drive to wherever he wants. Problem is, Jason gets duped into taking his grandpa to Daytona Beach, for Spring Break of all times. Turns out, grandpa has been in desperate need of some fun as of late and now, with his late wife being gone, he now finally has the chance to do so. While Jason isn’t all about allowing his grandpa go around, smoking, drinking, and bangin’ whatever, he also doesn’t want to keep his grandpa away from having some fun on his own time as well. This also gets Jason to thinking of his own life and how, at one point in his life, he wasn’t so uptight and by-the-books and, believe it or not, really fun and exciting to be around – something his grandpa reminds him of all the time.

Why are Grandpa's always doing this?

Why are grandpa’s always doing this?

Movies like Dirty Grandpa are the kinds I, for one reason or another, want to stick up for. The main reason being is that it’s an R-rated raunch-fest that does, says, or acts whatever way it wants to, regardless of what others may think, say, or be offended by. In other words, Dirty Grandpa is exactly like the aging-grandfather you invite to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner – you know he’s going to say a lot of inappropriate, borderline racist stuff, but you just let him go because, well, he’s old and doesn’t really know that he’s doing or saying anything wrong. You could totally make the argument that those behind Dirty Grandpa know exactly what they’re doing and saying is, by far, wrong, but you could also make the argument that absolutely none of them care.

And that, to me, takes a lot of gut to actually create and deliver on.

Cause in today’s day and age where political correctness is shoved aside as a means to not offend a certain demographic, Dirty Grandpa pulls down its pants, flips the bird, and says, “screw you”, to each and everyone of those people who may be offended by what the movie’s making cracks about. Granted, it’s not hard to get offended by Dirty Grandpa; whether you’re white, black, male, female, obese, skinny, attractive, ugly, gay, young, old, or whatever, you’re going to get made fun of and be somewhat offended. Sure, some may call this “crass”, “mean”, or just downright “despicable”, but is there always a problem with that? Can, sometimes at least, that same crassness, that same meanness, and hell, that same despicability, be at least somewhat funny?

In Dirty Grandpa‘s case, it can sometimes be, but at other times, not really.

But really, the parts of Dirty Grandpa that are in fact, funny, worked for me enough to get past the other issues with the movie like say, I don’t know, the fact that it has no general regard for anyone person’s feelings or emotions. Basically, what Dirty Grandpa sets out to do is make fun of those they decide to because, well, they can, so why not? It’s not hard to hate a comedy who’s general position is to make fun of everyone around them, but it’s also not that much harder to hate one when it isn’t actually being funny – Dirty Grandpa, though, in some cases, was at least funny enough that I didn’t care and let all of those sensitivity issues fall by the wayside.

That said, if you’re offended by Dirty Grandpa, you definitely should be pissed-off and upset. There’s no denying that the movie does and says a lot that can definitely land itself in hot-water that’s hard to swim out of and honestly, for the most part, there are jokes that are so painfully stupid and obvious, you’ll want to leave the theater for about five seconds, just so that you can wash away the agony from said terrible joke. Then again, there will be another joke or two that comes by that is, surprisingly, actually funny and delivers on the mark it sets out to hit, which is why I stuck through and decided to give this thing the benefit of the doubt.

From one hunk, to another.

From one hunk, to another.

Which is all to say that, thanks to De Niro and Efron, Dirty Grandpa works better than it probably ever should.

Efron’s been desperately trying to get away from his teen-idol image and carve-out a more serious, mature look for him which, seems to be working. In Dirty Grandpa, he does more of a job of making fun of himself than anything else, and it’s actually quite fun to watch. Clearly, he knows that he’s the sexiest, hunkiest person in the room, so he doesn’t mind getting naked, or poking jokes at his ridiculously-ripped and chiseled body at his own expense. After all, he’s the butt of the joke, but really, he’s the one that all the ladies still want to be with so it’s fine, I guess.

But as much as Efron may try, it’s De Niro who actually gives it his all and seems to really make this thing work. Granted, Dirty Grandpa probably shouldn’t work at all, but because De Niro seems to be enjoying his time so incredibly much, it’s hard not to crack a smile or laugh whenever he’s on the screen. He’s dirty, raunchy, disgusting, and a bit annoying, but most of all, he’s De Niro having fun and being spirited at the same time which, if any of you have seen what he’s put out in the past couple of years, means a lot. The movie may not be fully up-to-par but hey, seeing De Niro have some fun, allows me to have some fun, as well.

Just don’t tell anybody I said that.

Consensus: Not at all politically correct by any means and definitely a mixed-affair, Dirty Grandpa sets out for the shock laughs than anything else and can, for the most part, make them work, if only because De Niro and Efron seem to be having fun.

5 / 10

Whatta party.

Whatta party.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Joy (2015)

So, did Jennifer Lawrence invent feminism, too?

Ever since she was a young girl, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) knew that she was always destined to do something great for the world. While it may have all started in her room where she would experiment with creating little inventions here and there, after awhile, real life started to get in the way and it’s where she found it harder and harder to let her true inspiration come out and make a difference. For one, she got married, had two kids, and then got divorced from Tony (Édgar Ramírez). Then, she moved back into her mom (Virginia Madsen)’s place, where her grand-mother (Diane Ladd) also lives, meaning that the current house situation is incredibly cramped. And now, if matters weren’t already bad, her unpredictable, but always trouble-making father (Robert De Niro), has moved back in and wants to take over the whole family again. But knowing that she’s destined for something greater, one day, Joy stumbles upon a brilliant, but all-too-simple idea: the Miracle Mop. While Joy believes her billion-dollar idea to be brilliant, the only issue here is that she doesn’t quite know how to get in the business of selling her invention to the larger masses where each and every person can see what she’s made. This is when Joy decides to really push her boundaries and take chances that no simple woman in her situation would ever take, but because she’s got nothing to lose, she doesn’t care.

Even during serious times, this family can't help but get ready to start brawling.

Even during serious times, this family can’t help but get ready to start brawling.

About an hour into Joy, after we’ve gotten through all of the wacky family drama, the random dream-sequences in the form of a corny soap opera, the flashbacks, the narrations, the exposition, etc., something happens that wasn’t quite there all along: Excitement. This starts to happen when writer/director David O. Russell decides that the next best step to take this story is to QVC which, believe it or not, ends up working out quite well for the film in the end; it’s only about 30 minutes or so, but it’s absolutely the most fun to be had in the whole two-hours here. Of course, this has to do with the fact that Bradley Cooper shows up and he and Jennifer Lawrence are as spicy and as fun as ever, but it also gives us an inside glimpse of how exactly a product is sold, what goes into getting said customers to buy something, and just how manipulative home-shopping networks can be.

In all honesty, had David O. Russell just made a movie solely based around the inner-workings and early days of QVC, there’d probably be more of something to discuss with Joy. However, the sole issue here with Joy is that it’s not always about QVC, nor is it really about Joy, the character, and her product – it’s more about those around her who constantly bring her down, never allow for her to reach her dreams, and constantly screw up. Once or twice in the beginning of the film is nice to give us an understanding of the kind of situation Joy’s in, but after awhile, it becomes clear that O. Russell has a dead horse he wants to beat, leading to a lot of situations happening the same way, over and over again, with hardly anything new, or surprising learned in the process.

Which is to say that yes, Joy is a disappointment considering what O. Russell has been able to do in the past five years with his career.

However, when you take into consideration great flicks like the Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, not only is the bar raised pretty high, but there’s also a certain expectation that O. Russell himself has already carved-out. Considering that O. Russell himself seems to love and adore dysfunctional families, and cast practically the same people, each and every time he gets a chance to, it’s almost impossible not to approach Joy, another movie about a dysfunctional family, with at least three-fourths of the cast from Playbook and Hustle, and expect the same kind of wonder and entertainment.

The thing with Joy, however, is that it’s a much different, more dramatic, and far more serious movie that, quite frankly, isn’t as bad as I may make it out to be. Disappointing? For sure, but that’s also to say that someone like O. Russell can’t switch things up every so often because of a niche he’s already made for himself; no director ever would be able to stick with one and only style, which is why, on O. Russell’s part, it’s a brave choice to take a story such as this and take it a bit slower.

And this is why there are certain parts and moments of Joy that are actually pretty wonderful.

The babies these two would create. Oh my gosh.

The babies these two would create. Lord almighty.

Of course, the aforementioned QVC-subplot works wonders, but what happens afterwards is interesting, in the way that we get to see Joy, the character, gain more confidence in herself and start to try her hand at making something of her invention and seeing where she can go with it. Because Joy Mangano is already a pretty sympathetic figure who makes it clear from the start that she’s a smart, brassy girl, it’s easy to get behind her and watch as she takes whatever challenges life tosses at her. While most of these challenges concern her family just acting like selfish a-holes, it was still interesting and compelling to watch and see how she reacted to each situation and got through.

And with that said, yes, Jennifer Lawrence is quite good in this role, because how can she not be? Lawrence, despite playing another character she seems too young for, grabs this character, shakes her up and gives it all she’s got; sometimes, it seems like she’s working with a script that isn’t nearly as up to her speed, but at the same time, she keeps things moving and most of all, believable. Though Joy’s already shoddy performance with critics may keep Lawrence away from winning another Oscar of her own, it’s still hard not to believe her getting a nomination for what she does here, as she can be, at times, the best thing going for it.

Which isn’t to hate on the rest of the cast as the likes of Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Édgar Ramírez, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, and the already mentioned Cooper don’t put in fine work, either, but clearly, O. Russell has a problem handling all of their stories/personalities and allowing for them to mix with Joy’s story in a cohesive manner. Because a good portion of these characters are so self-centered, it’s never easy to feel bad for them, which makes them also feel like they’re getting in the way of what could have been a very powerful story about one, small-time woman standing up against all of the adversity in her way to, well, make a difference in the world.

Though I’m not sure just how much of what appears in Joy, is actually true of the real person’s life, O. Russell searches far and wide to make perfect sense of it. He doesn’t always come up with any easy answers or solutions, but for the most part, he gives it his absolute best. But if anything, he just makes you appreciate his last three movies even more and also give the inclination that maybe, just maybe, it’s time for him to change things up a bit.

Not just with his cast, but subject-material as well.

Consensus: Joy is not nearly as magnificent as what David O. Russell has put out in the past five years, but because of a solid lead performance from the always radiant and exciting Lawrence, as well as some strokes of genius, it still works.

7 / 10

No matter what, that J-Law can't seem to get herself out of trouble.

No matter what, that J-Law can’t seem to get herself out of trouble.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Sleepers (1996)

Never mess with a hot-dog stand, kiddies.

Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra (Jason Patric), Thomas “Tommy” Marcano (Billy Crudup), Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt), and John Reilly (Ron Eldard), are all childhood friends from Hell’s Kitchen who, after many years, haven’t really kept in close contact. Most of this has to do with the fact that, when they were younger, they were all sent to a juvenile delinquent center, where they were both physically, as well as sexually abused by the wardens there. Many years later, one of those wardens (Kevin Bacon), gets shot and killed in a bar late one night and guess who the shooters allegedly are? Yup, John and Tommy. Seeing as how they’re buddies are in the right to have shot and killed the warden, Shakes and Michael concoct a plan: Get Michael to defend the dead warden and have their old local mafia gangster, pay-off a lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) who will do the job that needs to be done, where both John and Tommy shine in a positive light and aren’t convicted. However, moral dilemmas eventually sink in and make everybody rethink their decisions – not just in this one particular moment, however, but through their whole life in general.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he's doing.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he’s doing.

There was a constant feeling I had while watching Sleepers that made me think it was just so “movie-ish”. Like clearly, a case like this couldn’t ever be true – and if it was, it sure as heck didn’t deserve the oddly-sentimental tone that Barry Levinson gives it. Despite there being a chock full of talent both behind, as well as in front of the camera, Sleepers just never resonates, mostly due to the fact that it all feels too sensational and over-wrought – something I would expect material of this nature to be.

However, that isn’t to say that Sleepers is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For at least an hour or so, Sleepers is actually a smart, disturbing, and interesting coming-of-ager that doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel of the kinds of movies that have come before it, but at least put you in the same position of these characters, so that when they do all eventually get back together some odd years later, we’re already invested in them enough as is. When the kids are transported to the juvenile delinquent center, it’s made obvious that the movie’s going to get a whole lot more heavy and mean, and it still worked.

Though maybe the big reveal of having these kids sexually abused was a bit campy, it still worked because it added a certain sizzle to a story that, quite frankly, needed one. Whenever you put young kids and pedophiles in the same story, most often, the stories tend to get quite interesting and thankfully, that’s happening with Sleepers. While I sound terrible for typing what I just did there, it’s the absolute truth; in hindsight, Sleepers is two meh movies crammed into one, with one being a lot more gripping to watch, then the other. That’s not to say that the courtroom stuff of the later-half doesn’t bring about some form of excitement, but because it all feels so phony, it never quite works.

Now pedophiles being in-charge at juvenile delinquent centers? That’s something I can definitely believe in!

Still though, the later-half of the movie brings Sleepers down a whole bunch. For one, it’s hard to ever believe, not in a million years, or even in places like Syria, that there would be a case as blatantly perjured and/or one-sided as this. Sure, the movie tries to make it understandable that a public-defender could get away with doing something like this, so long as he kept-up appearances, but I don’t believe I heard Brad Pitt’s character stand-up and yell “Objection!” once. For the most part, he’s just sitting there, looking determined, tense and most of all, pretty. That’s what we expect from Brad Pitt, of course, but it doesn’t help make the case seem at all legit, even though the movie seems to be depending on that.

"I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore."

“I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore.”

Then, there’s Levinson’s direction that, honestly, is pretty odd. Though Levinson makes it clear that the boys killed a person that raped them when they were kids, the fact remains that they still killed plenty of other, probably innocent people. So, to just stand by them and say, “Well, that guy had it comin’ to him”, seems a bit weird; the guy whose death is being contested over was a bad person, but what about all of the others? What if these two guys are just, regardless of what happened to them when they were younger, bad apples that need to cause some sort of ruckus by killing others? Does that make them worthy of being stood-up for?

The movie never seems to make that decision and it’s a bit of a problem.

But, like I said, the cast on-deck is fine. It’s just unfortunate that most of them don’t have a great deal of heavy material to work with. Jason Patric and Brad Pitt both seem like they’re trying hard to make everybody take them seriously, but sadly, it just ends up with them being a bit dull. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, on the other hand, also don’t have much to do except just look mean, mad and ready to pull out a pistol at any second.

The more seasoned-pros of the cast do what they can, too, but as I said, they get lost a bit. Kevin Bacon is in full-on sicko mode that’s fun to see him playing around with, even though his character is quite the despicable human specimen; Dustin Hoffman gets some chances to shine as the inept lawyer of the case, which works because of how laid-back his persona is; and Robert De Niro, with the few scenes he gets, seems to inject some heart into this story that’s definitely needed. He doesn’t help push the movie over that cliff it so desperately seemed to be searching for, but he does the ticket just enough.

And that’s all any of us want from Bobby D, right?

Consensus: Sleepers is, essentially, two movies into a two-and-a-half-hour long one that is occasionally interesting, but ultimately, ends up seeming to silly to be believed in or compelled by.

6 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Intern (2015)

White People: the Movie.

Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has come to a point in his long life where he has to make a decision: Either, sit around and enjoy his retirement, like most men his age do, or, continue to work whatever jobs he can to make something out of the rest of his life? Obviously, Ben goes with the later once he goes in for a meeting with a start-up, fashion-based e-commerce company, for the coveted role as the “senior intern”. Ben, as expected, gets the job and is then transferred over to being the main intern of the CEO, Jules (Anne Hathaway). where he basically does all the work she asks of him. This means that Ben does a lot of driving around, running errands, getting coffee, and just generally, being there for whenever Jules needs him. The two, through their time together, get along, get to know one another, and eventually, start to see how one another can learn from the other’s career. However, Jules’ professional life is starting to get in the way of her personal one and it’s up to Ben to help her get through it – that’s if, he even knows how to.

STOP.

STOP.

Like most of Nancy Meyers’ movies – there’s not much of a plot to go along with the Intern. Basically, we get an older-guy, thrown into a much younger, much quicker work-environment, where it’s up to him to see if he can still hang with today’s generation. That’s basically it. And if you’re like me, you’re already hitting your forehead with the palms of your hands thinking about all the cliches this movie most go through.

Oh wait, let me guess, because Ben is older, he doesn’t know how to technology? Or better yet, because he’s old, he doesn’t understand some of the slang that these young people around him are constantly coining every five-to-seven seconds? Or how about the character of Jules? Let me guess, she’s one of those workaholic types that’s an absolute pain in the ass to be around, but somehow, everybody still sticks with her because her company is just so goddamn successful? And because of this dedication to work, she’s also got a terrible and lonely personal life, with no one else to go home to except her cat Fiffy?

Well, thankfully, I was wrong.

See, Meyers decides to take this movie one step past all of the conventions we expect to get with these sorts of stories, and instead, give us something, although so incredibly happy, light, and pleasant that it’s practically sickening, more realistic and smart. Yes, the Intern is as sweet as a two-for-one deal at Krispy Kreme, but there’s a nice attention to these characters that Meyers presents and highlights as her strength; no longer do her characters feel as if they’re just acting all silly and wild for shit’s and gigs.

Now, her characters, especially with Ben and Jules, seem to be actual, living, breathing, loving, caring, and emotional human beings. Neither one, despite what they may seem like from a first gaze, are types; mostly, they’re just familiar characters that also happen to be very likable. And surrounding them, are even more likable characters that, although not getting the same amount of attention as the two leads, still add their own two cents to a story that, thankfully, includes them to begin with.

But really, this tale is about Ben and Jules and with good reason: They’re strong, well-defined, and have lovely, if somewhat complicated personalities.

Ben may be a bit more easy to enjoy being around than Jules, but even he sometimes seems like he could have some problems of his own. For one, he himself has to do deal with the fact that he is definitely getting up there in age and, in a decade or so, may not even be alive. So therefore, he sets out to actually make something of the time he has left on this Earth, as best as he can. I know this sounds so incredibly schmaltzy and corny, but trust me, there’s enough depth to go along with this character to make him, as well as the situations he gets thrown into, work.

Not to mention that De Niro is quite charming here, showing us a certain happiness we haven’t seen on the screen for quite some time. Of course, whenever he’s in a David O. Russell film, De Niro seems to be as dedicated to the craft as possible, but here, he seems like he’s settling in just nice with this role. However, he doesn’t seem like he’s being lazy or phoning it in at all; his character is just a genuinely laid-back dude who tries to approach everyday, as maybe his last. But he, nor the movie, is cloying about this aspect – you can just tell by the joyful expression placed on De Niro’s face throughout.

FREAKING.

FREAKING.

But really, this is Hathaway’s show to steal and she does wonders with her role as Jules Ostin, the boss of her own start-up company that may be growing to be something bigger, better, and more recognizable. From the beginning, it seems like Ostin’s going to be an incredibly difficult person to be around, let alone, work for, but as we soon see, she’s actually fine to be around. I don’t want to say she’s “lovely” or “great” to be around, because there are times when it seems like she’s strict and slightly mean, but then you remember: Oh wait, she’s the boss of this company. She’s the one who has to keep it running and in order to do so, she’s got to keep a tight ship. Sometimes, that means hurting a few people’s feelings and getting on with your day/life as if it never happened.

Basically, she’s every boss I never had. They were all terrible, evil human specimens.

But I digress.

Like I was saying before about Hathaway, she’s great with this character because shows certain shades and layers to this character that we might not have gotten in another film. That Jules genuinely seems to care about her company, her family, as well as her employees, makes it all the more reason to sympathize with her when she decides to choose one over the other, and then see what happens when she does make those decisions. Sometimes, the ball in his favor – other times, it is not. But always, Hathaway’s Jules stays relateable and above all else, human.

There’s a few scenes that highlight this, but there’s one important one that comes around the end, wherein Jules breaks down about what she wants out of life and how she’s absolutely terrified of it all falling apart. At times, the scene can be funny because of what she blurts out in a mostly serious way, but it’s all revealing and shows just what really goes on behind this character when she isn’t working all day and night. She, like you or I, wants a certain level of happiness and fulfillment in her life and she’ll do anything to make sure it happens – even if, at the same time, that means she loses other meaningful aspects of life. People who dislike Hathaway because of her off-screen personality, will hopefully wake up and realize that even though she may be a bit of a grating presence when she isn’t smiling for the cameras, still can act and work wonders when she wants to.

Consensus: With a smart direction and script from Nancy Meyers, the Intern is an incredibly sweet and charming tale that may be a bit too lovely, but still features character that feel like real people we could meet on the streets, or in the office.

7 / 10

SMILING.

SMILING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Being Flynn (2012)

Happy that my dad has a roof over his head and isn’t a complete dick.

Aspiring writer Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) begins working at a homeless shelter and develops a drug problem he struggles to control. His father, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), is a con man who was never there for him as a child and still considers himself to be one of the greatest, living writers of all-time, despite never being published. Jonathan actually stumbles upon Nick one day at the homeless shelter and is need of a place to stay. But, as predicted, Jonathan finds problems with just about everything around him.

The problem with Being Flynn, right away, is that its whole idea of a joke is to have its character, Jonathan Flynn, narrate some of the movie and talk like he’s the greatest novelist of all-time and is a walking genius, even though nobody knows it. Problem is, he doesn’t know it. That idea of a joke can be a little humorous at times (because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to crack a couple of chuckles at older, Alzheimer-bound men), but it gets annoying and repetitive, as if the movie didn’t realize the butt of its own end joke was meant for the character, and not for the freakin’ movie itself.

But this turns out to be the whole movie. Just one long joke that nobody ever seems to get the hang of telling better.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that's okay. Whatever suits you best.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that’s okay. Whatever suits you best.

And this is a shame because the material for Being Flynn seems as if it has more to it than just being “a joke”. But what ultimately happens is that it just lingers and gives this Jonathan character another reason to yell, scream, and scam his way some more into people’s lives. I never, not for once, felt any ounce of sympathy for these characters and even when it seemed like they were going through problems as people of society, and of people going through age, I still never bought them.

There were some elements I did buy, like the fact that Nick does go down a bit of a rocky road with drugs and needs to change his life around to be a better person. But that’s about it. Other than all of Nick’s problems that could have pretty much been centered-down to, “Yeah, my dad left me when I was a baby, my mom raised me, slept with a bunch of dudes, and killed herself”, Jonathan’s problems seem to be a bit more scary in the way that the guy is homeless, the guy is out in the cold, and the guy is a bit of an over-zealous dick. That fear of him dying never hit me hard enough, just because he’s a, well, a dick.

As plain and simple as that.

I think I’ve exhausted everything there is to say about the character of Jonathan Flynn, but honestly, it deserves to be said because there’s not much more to this movie than him. Which is annoying because Paul Weitz can’t help but be utterly pleased to have him being a miserable and unlikable hack that doesn’t do anything else in his life other than bullshit his way past things with that signature De Niro smile, chuckle, and charm. And heck, thanks to De Niro, it almost works!

And De Niro is fine here, but he’s saddled with a character who is just too unpleasant to give a hoot about. That’s why it was nice to see Dano at least try with the likes of Nick, another unlikable and whiny character. Dano is known for his “big” performances, but here, he dials things down for us so that we get to see Nick as more of a sad, self-destructive human being, rather than somebody who is cool because he lives life like its constant party. In a way, he’s sort of a tool, but the movie never fully digs deep into that aspect of his character; it’s just left up to Dano to pick up the pieces and work from there.

She's like a dude, but she's not. So rad, man.

Short hair, don’t care.

This is a shame, too, because Dano and De Niro, together, playing a son-father duo, seems like it would be ripe with all sorts of powerful and raw emotion. And though Dano may have been more than happy to share the screen with De Niro, Weitz’s direction and script gets in the way too much. Somebody has to learn something, somebody has to grow up, and somebody has to bond. If it’s these two, then so be it.

This is all to say that, even though they’re both solid actresses in their own rights, Julianne Moore and Olivia Thirlby aren’t used as much as they could have been to help even this movie and its melodramatic self out. Moore is mostly designated to flashback scenes, whereas Thirlby’s character has to do a little bit of heavy-lifting, both literally and figuratively, as Nick’s gal-pal. But still, her character is then soon treated as being a female love-interest for Nick to hook up with, screw around on, break up with, try to get back together with, and eventually, have all of his dreams come true because he’s, well, “a better person now than he was before”.

Bunch of BS if I ever heard it!

Consensus: Though it has a solid cast and, on occasion, director, Being Flynn falls apart because it’s not only a bit too melodramatic for its own good, but conventional, self-serving, and too smart for its own good.

3 / 10

Staring at your child in admiration: such a mother's thing to do.

Staring at your child in admiration – whatta mother!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Score (2001)

Never trust a guy that is half your age. Especially if he has already done better movies than you.

Career-thief Nick Wells (Robert De Niro) is about to mastermind a nearly impossible theft that will require his joining forces with a clever, young accomplice named Jackie Teller (Edward Norton). The unlikely alliance, arranged by Nick’s long-time confidante Maximillian Beard (Marlon Brando), interrupts Nick’s plan to retire from crime and leads Nick to wonder whether or not this last job of his, will be the one to ruin them all.

When you got three acting powerhouses in one movie, you would expect there to be nothing else other than pure greatness. But sometimes, that doesn’t quite happen. Instead, you just get mediocrity, whether you’re willing to accept it or not. Even if the movie in question does star not just Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, but also Marlon Brando.

Seriously! Why isn’t this thing as spectacular as it sounds?

You wouldn’t think that the guy who voices Miss Piggy and Yoda would be helming a feature flick like this, but I guess Frank Oz is just chock full of surprises. Oz doesn’t do necessarily do anything new, neat, or flashy with his direction here, but did bring some well-earned moments of suspense and keeps the heist as involving as he can, without showing his cards too early-on. The heist, when it does happen, doesn’t take up the whole movie. The rest is actually dedicated to a lot of scenes with Norton and De Niro, who are butting heads and ego’s together on-screen. Which honestly, is a way better movie, because when you give two stars like these ones here free reign to just work with one another, only good can come from it.

"Now remember kid, don't try and upstage my ass."

“Now remember kid, don’t try and upstage my ass.”

However, though, it all comes back down to the plot of this movie, which services these talents, but also doesn’t do much of anything interesting either. All of the caper/heist conventions are here – guy tries to get away from his life of crime by pulling off one last job; guy doesn’t work well with others; partner isn’t all who he seems to be, etc. Basically it’s got all of the clichés that you don’t want to see in a crime thriller, especially this one, but you sadly get.

If anything, that’s what disappointed me the most here is that nothing was all that surprising with this plot and how it all eventually played out. We get a couple of tense moments where we don’t know where this film is going to go and we get a nice twist at the end that’s a bit surprising, but nothing else to really have me going, “Oh crap! You gotta see this movie with Bickle, Vineyard, and Don Corleone! Not only are do they kick-ass when it comes to the acting, but the plot is actually pretty neat-o too! Right on!”. Maybe the average movie-goer would say that, let alone, anybody else in the whole world, but the point is, this film should have offered plenty of more surprises than it actually gave.

But people, let’s not fool ourselves here, this film probably would have never gotten made and given a wide theatrical release had it not been for these three names: De Niro, Norton, and Brando. All of whom don’t disappoint, even if the movie sort of does. Robert De Niro gives a pretty solid performance here as the Nick, the old-timer just looking to get out of the “business”. De Niro doesn’t do anything special with this performance that he hasn’t already done in his long career, but it’s nice to see him actually give a commendable performance considering that seems to be very hard to come by with the crap he chooses today. Angela Bassett plays his girlyfriend, and as good as she may be, her character still comes off a bit random and unneeded, even if it does give De Niro’s character some reason for wanting to leave and star anew.

"Hey, didn't I play you once?"

“Hey, didn’t I play you once?”

Let’s face it, Bassett is black, beautiful, and rocks a sweet ‘fro whenever she wants. Why wouldn’t you want to retreat with her?

Marlon Brando isn’t in this film a whole lot, but whenever he is, he makes his presence be known. Brando plays an aging and severely over-weight crime lord that seems desperate to make sure that this last job works and it’s a role/character that seems superfluous if it wasn’t being played by anybody else. The difference here, is that it’s none other than Brando in the role and he makes it all work perfectly giving him plenty of great lines, tension, and water-drinking. This is his last film he was ever in and it’s a shame since it’s not exactly the perfect swan song that anybody with his type of career could have asked for, but at least it’s better than doing the Freshman 2.

The one who actually runs away with this flick is Edward Norton as the hormone-fueled kid that Nick is forced to work with, Jackie. Norton is always great to watch no matter who he’s playing and what I liked most about him here is that you know there’s something about this character that you can’t really trust, but you don’t know what it is because Norton is so good at playing those types of confusing characters. Norton is always a powerhouse in every film he does and could almost be considered a younger Marlon Brando himself, but in this film, he actually shows that he may be one-step ahead of the master and continue to give compelling performance after compelling performance.

Now, what about the movie?

Consensus: Though it may not offer many surprises, the Score mostly gets by on the power and strength of its leads, even if the movie itself does seem to be relying on them a tad too heavily to begin with.

7 / 10

Look out, aging actors. Eddy Norton's a comin'!

Look out, aging actors. Eddy Norton’s a comin’!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Grudge Match (2013)

The fight we all wanted and prayed for is finally here! Thirty-years later, of course.

Back in the good old days of the 80’s, two famed-boxers, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “the Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro), had one of the biggest, and best rivalries anyone sports fan had ever seen. They both had a win on the other, which obviously meant that there would be begs and pleads for a the all-time classic “rubber match”, but sadly, that didn’t happen. Razor ended-up retiring, retreating to his suburban-roots in Pittsburgh PA., and ultimately, leaving the spotlight forever; whereas the Kid just continued doing what it was that he was doing with boxing, still fighting, still collecting paychecks, still wooing the ladies, all up until the time came for him to retire and buy his own bar, in which he still makes money off of and have a great time with. Now, after nearly thirty-years, through a series of strange events, the modern-day media all of a sudden wants the end-all, be-all rematch two happen between these two, and some head-shot promoter (Kevin Hart) is the one to get it all back together. The only problem would actually be getting these two in the same ring together at all, which holds more problems than what may seem on the surface, all because of some personal issues the two ran into with a girl (Kim Basinger) they both had relations with.

Here it is, everybody! The fight we all waited so desperately for: Jake LaMotta vs. Rocky Balboa! Except, take about thirty, some-odd years later, and Grudge Match is what we have.

Oh my! So meta!

Oh my! So meta!

Disappointed? I’d sure as hell say so!

Basically, what it is that we have on our hands here is a joke movie that seems like it was solely made so that these two aging, but still-popular stars can get in the ring together, and do what every movie-nerd has been chatting on and on about for years. But, since they are in fact old (Sly is 67, Bob is 70), that means we get a whole bunch of “old people jokes” that include rectal exams, Viagra, boners, menopause, heart-attacks, Alzheimer, and so on and so forth. Which, needless to say, aren’t all that funny, but yet, also aren’t that harmless neither. In fact, I’d say that some of these jokes are a bit funnier than what I’ve seen in many other “old people” comedies; much more so than Stand Up Guys or Last Vegas.

However though, it was once the movie started diving into such comedic-territory like racism, or homophobia, or even rape, is where I began to draw the line and realize that hey, maybe this movie needs to calm it down and get on with the story. And if it isn’t going to get on with its story, then at least get on with its character. And well, hell, if it sure as hell isn’t going to get on with its characters, then it surely might as well get on with the actual boxing match itself. You know? The same boxing match most fans have been desperately clamming over thirty-years for? Yeah, well they do get on with that, but it takes us about two-hours to get there. In the meantime, we’re subject to all sorts of jokes that either hit hard (anything with Kevin Hart and/or Alan Arkin doing what it is that they do best), or miss terribly (the whole idea of making blow job jokes in front of a seven-year-old was a terrible one in the first place, but to have it play out the way it did, just added insult to injury).

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like I’m saying that this movie isn’t funny, because it can be, it just takes some standard jokes that we’ve seen and/or heard a million-hundred times before, and doesn’t really put a new spin on them. That’s all. And if this were an-hour-and-a-half-movie where all we got was some back-story, and some of this over-the-top comedy, I’d be all fine and dandy with that. However, the movie piles one element, on top of the other, all up until it’s two-hour-mark, and then the movie itself realizes that it actually has to include the boxing match we were all initially promised.

Which, even when it does show up, it’s so poorly-done, you can’t help but to get past its several obvious problems. For instance, it’s very clear who has the better body of the two, but I won’t even bother to dive into that. Instead, I’ll just yammer-on about the obvious difference in weight-classes between De Niro and Stallone and how, in the real world of professional-boxing, this fight would: a) Never happen, and b) not at all go down the way it did. I don’t want to give away what it is that exactly happens in this brawl between these two, as it actually may bring some fun and enjoyment for you peeps out there, but needless to say, the fight goes down the exact way you’d expect a sports movie to have itself go down, and already, it just never works.

Some may say I’m an a-hole for going into a movie like this where two old-as-hell men are battling in the ring and actually got “some” medical clearance for this, expecting some sense of realism, but I say I’m just a guy who wants his entertainment done right. Especially when it concerns two stars like De Niro and Stallone who have both been way, way better than they are here, and not too long ago neither. Stallone hasn’t really been stretching his acting-muscles much lately, but he’s still shown that he’s able to turn that charm on, make us laugh and make us still think of him as the lovable, goofy meathead that he was all those years ago.

I see plenty of timeouts in that little seven-year-old's future.

I see plenty of timeouts in that seven-year-old’s future.

As for De Niro, he’s had better luck in terms of being able to show us what it is that he can still do with dramatic, worthy-enough material; the only problem is, is that it just hasn’t been too often. Sure, he’ll knock it out of the park with something like Silver Linings Playbook, but for every dramatic, subtle-turn he gives, there’s about two or three Fockers sequels just waiting in line. De Niro can usually charm his way into making anything good, and he does his job well here, but after awhile, it becomes painfully clear to us that he’s slumming it for this role, and slumming it hard. The fact that he’s still considered this hardcore womanizer and boozer, and still actually living all of these years later, is a bit ridiculous, but De Niro sells it for all that it’s worth. It just doesn’t work as well as it should for a guy of De Niro’s talents, and it makes me wish he’d just take better work. It’s not like he can’t get it, either!

Perhaps having a dedicated solely to the developing-relationship between the Kid’s son, played very-well by a favorite of mine, Jon Bernthal, and the Kid himself would have been a smarter move on the movie’s part, because it’s quite clear that’s where most of the interesting elements are. It helps that Bernthal is good as the Kid’s son and provides a maybe too-dramatic look at a grown-up man just trying to find a common-ground between he and his estranged daddy, but it also helps that he and De Niro work together, which makes plenty more sense once you realize that Bernthal was in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, too! See the connection!?!? Woo, I’m good!

Anyway, as good as the two are together, the movie doesn’t really do them much justice and instead, decides to splice their scenes alongside those of Razor’s and his budding-romance with an old-fling of his, played by a still-looking-good Kim Basinger. In all honesty, Basinger and Stallone are good enough together to make their scenes work, but after awhile, it’s obvious that they’re what’s sucking most of the wind out of this movie and eventually, it gets to the point of where you just want someone to throw on the gloves, get in the ring and start pummeling another person. Was that too much to ask for in a boxing movie? I mean, really?!!?

Consensus: Fanboys from all over the globe who have been awaiting for this bout to actually happen, may be a bit disappointed with Grudge Match, and how it takes too long to get where it needs to go, and provides us with too much filler that’s either too desperately funny, or just not funny at all.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

American Hustle (2013)

Whenever you listen to more than a few hours of disco, something bad is always bound to happen.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) run into one another, and it’s automatically love at first sight. Despite Irving having a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and having a kid back at the house, Irving spends more than a few hours of his day completely, and utterly devoted to Sydney. Along with her, he also keeps his devotion to his successful scamming business, that’s been going pretty well for quite some time, all up until the moment they get nabbed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie, seeing more than just a promotion in his hind-sights, decides to cut them a deal: Either go to jail for a really long time, or help him catch a series of stings, and get out of jail, Scott-free. Irving and Syndney obviously go for the latter plan, however, once they realize that the people they’re dealing with here are along the lines of New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), and even worse, the mob. To add insult to injury, it becomes painfully clear that Sydney and Richie start to have a little thing for one another, which also leads to Irving to get a little bit jealous and begin to bring his wifey-poo around a bit more, despite her not being the most functional human being on the face of the planet.

Although this movie definitely seems to be based on the Abscam operation, everything about is partially fictional. That’s probably one of the smartest decisions David O. Russell ever makes here because he never, not for a second, has to worry about who he’s offending here, who he’s portraying in a bad-light, or even what facts he’s getting right, getting wrong, or totally missing the ball with. Instead, he just indulges himself with a story that could be told by anyone, however, given his talent as a director and the cast’s talent as, well, thespians, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as if Marty Scorsese himself could have sat behind the camera and did this himself.

What long-haired red-head doesn't just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

What long-haired redhead doesn’t just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

But nope, while we do have a couple of weeks until The Wolf of Wall Street sees the light of day, we’re stuck with what seems to be a bit of a carbon-copy of his famed-style, and yet, it’s also its own baby in its own right. It just isn’t perfecto, you know?

Here’s the thing with O. Russell: The man loves his big ensembles, there is no question about that whatsoever. He so much indulges himself, just as much as the cast does and I think that’s where the bear of positives here lie. The cast is absolutely a treat to watch and practically the sole reasons why this movie works as well on the level it does. No offense to dear ol’ David, he’s great and all as the director and mastermind behind the works, but the cast he was able to assemble here, more than makes up for any pitfalls the script runs into (which trust me, I’ll get into for a second, just let me have me way with this delightful cast first).

Seeing as this is a movie that takes in place in the 70’s, you obviously have to expect everybody to be living it up with all of the frothy hair, nice and big jewelry, digs, cars, money, etc., which also means you have to expect everybody to be just a tad bit over-the-top. Heck, this was the decade in which disco roamed free all throughout the Nation state, so it only makes perfect sense that each and every cast member would get a chance to do a little playing around a bit, even if they are all characters in their own right. However, they’re entertaining characters to watch and that’s mainly due to the amazing cast at hand here. The most clear example of this is Jeremy Renner as Mayor Polito, who would seem like a totally crooked, immoral and unbelievably stupid guy to begin with in any movie, but somehow, the makes him a sympathetic character that doesn’t seem to know what he’s gotten himself into, nor does he really know the difference between right and wrong. He just wants to make people happy, look good for the cameras and treat his friends to a good time. The writing is in some way to credit for the handling of this character, but it’s also Renner’s likable-presence as well, that never goes away, even when the movie seems to highlight him in a very unsuitable-manner.

Same goes for Bradley Cooper who, if he’s lucky, may be looking at an Oscar nomination by the end of this year, as he deserves it. We’ve all seen Cooper do comedy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us laugh; we’ve all seen him play a bad guy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us not like him and his charming good-looks. Combine those two elements together, and you got Richie DiMaso, one of the most entertaining guys to watch in this whole movie (which is saying something), and for good reasons too. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Cooper himself took a shot of Red Bull everyday before shooting, because this guy is constantly speaking a-mile-a-minute, saying things that aren’t always clear, always having a wise-crack handy and always making it seem like he’s got somewhere to be, something to do and someone to bother. Yet, he never seemed to annoy me. He was always a fun guy to watch, and honestly, a very honest guy that just wanted a promotion to come his way and a little bit of the spotlight as well. Yeah, he does get to be a bit creepy and brutal at times, but at the end of the day, you know that he means well and just wants what’s best for the rest of society, even if it does all come at a cost. Cooper is constantly on-fire here, stealing the show and making a name for himself, in every which way possible, which is why I feel like, if the world is perfect and does go round and round, that he may just run a good chance at getting a nomination this year. Going to be hard and all, but I think he’s got what it takes, boyishly good-looks and all.

That handsome bastard him.

And despite him being known as the type of guy who was practically in Cooper’s place, only three years ago, surprisingly, Bale really dials it down here as Irving Rosenfeld, giving us a guy you genuinely care for, despite being a proud con for all of these preceding years. While Bale definitely doesn’t go as nuts as he usually does in most movies, he’s still great here with his scrubby look, laid-back feel and overall sense of sadness that follows him throughout every scene, regardless of what his character is doing. Even in the scenes where he and Amy Adams are together, you can tell that he just wants to be with her badly, and their arc together really expands throughout the movie, keeping the emotional-glue firmly in tact. Sure, sometimes it does weave in and out-of-place at times, but it’s still what keeps this story moving and on a larger-level than just simply “catching cons”.

Speaking of Adams, the girl is as lovely, as sassy and as fiery as she’s ever been here as Sydney, the type of girl two guys like Irving and Richie would fall head-over-heels for. Adams has definitely flirted with playing up her “bad side” in the past, but never to the extent here in which you never quite know if she’s playing Richie, Irving, or even us for that matter. She’s a sneaky one, that Amy Adams and she’s perfect at fooling us, every step of the way. However, as good as she may be among the rest of these dudes, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely the one who gets the upper-hand as Irving’s accident-prone wife, who never seems to know when to shut up, nor does she ever know when to make the right moves either. At the beginning, she does play on the sidelines a bit, but once the story gets more complex and bigger, then she comes in and play a bigger role, and she’s an absolute blast to watch. She’s hilarious, nutty, wise enough to where you could actually see her playing a gal that’s about ten years older than her actually age, and even dumb enough to blurt out confidential info like Irving and Richie being in cahoots with the FBI and all, the same type of info that could get them all killed. J-Law (not to be confused with the other one J-Law) is definitely the celebrity it seems like nobody can stop watching and I see why: She’s genuinely talented, good-looking and a pretty cool gal, that just so happens to be a great actress.

"Trying to out-act me kid, huh? Huh? HUH??!?!"

“Trying to out-act me, huh kid? Huh? HUH??!?!”

But while these peeps are great and all, including many others that I couldn’t even begin to list and take up more of your time with, there’s still one person that needs to bring this altogether in order to make all of these different parts come together in a cohesive, but enjoyable way, and that’s David O. Russell. For the most part, O. Russell moves the story pretty quickly once the cons get going and it becomes abundantly clear that the dude doesn’t even have to do anything special with the camera to allow us to have a great time with these characters; he just lets them be themselves. Whenever he just places the camera solely in the middle of a conversation between a few, or maybe two characters, it’s literally the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this Holiday season, bar none. Everybody’s light, quick, punchy, funny and always entertaining, making you laugh the whole way through, even if you know that there’s so much you may be missing because of how fast everything’s moving.

However, O. Russell’s style isn’t necessarily a very inventive one, and in fact, more or less feels too much like a carbon-copy of Scorsese’s, rather than his own take on that said style. We get plenty of the dual-narrations, the swooping in-and-out of the camera, a hip, rockin’ soundtrack from the 70’s, and heck, even a supporting performance from a person who’s synonymous with Scorsese movies. Granted, the last two aspects can’t really be held against O. Russell because the dude’s obviously just working with what he’s got, but as for the other times, it felt like something I’ve already seen done a hundred times before, just with more over-the-top and wacky performances from the whole cast and crew.

Once again, I’ll say it: This is by no means a bad movie, it’s just a very good one, that could have really gone for great, had it not been what seems like another Scorsese look-alike. Sure, there are definitely problems with the script, and how it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, at any given point in time, but by the same token, it still doesn’t matter considering everything’s moving at such a quick-pace, you don’t really have time to stop and think. You just sit-back, watch, and enjoy the ride. That’s what movies are all about, regardless of who’s in front of, or behind-the-camera. This coming from a two-bit movie critic, but you get the point.

Consensus: When done at its worst, it’s a not-so original take on a con story, done in a way that feels like a Scorsese flick; but when done at its best, American Hustle is most likely going to be the funnest time you will have at the movies for the rest of the year, showing you exactly what one can do when they have more than a few talented people delivering their script.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Last Vegas (2013)

Think The Hangover, but with menopause.

After getting married and living each other’s lives apart from the other, four old friends (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline), all get together and reunite for a crazy weekend in Vegas, that’s most likely going to be full of non-stop drugs, women, booze, nakedness, bad decisions and moments that remind themselves of the good old days. However, while two of these old friends seem to still be on good terms and having a grand old time (Kline and Freeman), two others don’t seem to be, and most of that stems from the fact that Billy (Douglas) is marrying a gal much younger than he is (art imitating reality?), which is an act that Paddy (De Niro) doesn’t quite condone, nor does he really care for Billy in the first place because of something weird that happened between the two and another girl when they were kids. But nonetheless, all four friends are back together and have as much money as they can spare to have a good time, but they have to realize that they are in fact old guys, and they have to be careful with what they choose to do, that is, before they go too far. Nah, screw that. They just want to have a good time and party like it’s 1959 all over again!

While I would bargain that maybe say, I don’t know, 20 years ago, the pairing of acting legends such as Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline would have not only meant tons and tons of hype that would have already caused earthquakes as soon as the first whispers of it happening were heard, but would have also meant box-office gold right from the start; 20 years later, I have to say that it’s pretty easy to accept the fact that this wouldn’t be happening, or heck, even coming anywhere near to that occurring. And that’s not because these actors are terrible, untalented or were simply “overrated” back in those days; it’s more of the fact that the past 20 years haven’t been too kind to each of these guys, and the material that they choose has kind of suffered because of it.

Give it five minutes and they'll all be battling for who gets to use the pisser next.

Give it five minutes and they’ll all be battling for who gets to use the pisser next.

Granted, I’m always down to see what happens when a bunch of acting legends who never shared the same screen before, get together, do what they do best and have a great time while doing so; but for all of these guys, it seemed a little too late. Then again, I kept the open-mind and believe it or not, wonders actually occurred for me. Not only did the movie have me laughing, but the legends involved with this movie weren’t just doing shop to get that paycheck and hopefully, have enough money to get the pool cover, but in fact, they’re actually putting their hearts and souls into this material, just in order to make it work for us and have us all laughing at them.

And yes, I am saying “at”, because while these guys definitely do seem to be embracing the fact that they are old fellas now, the movie never really celebrates the fact that they’re old, and most likely just pokes jokes at the fact that they can’t quite get it up like they used to, have bad knees, aren’t able to move around with the best of them and are probably creeping more girls out, than bringing them back to their rooms at night. But that’s what being old is all about, so why not share a laugh or two about it, right?

Well, sad to say, no. Old people jokes have never been funny, which means that any Viagra joke you throw in there, just does not deserve to be laughed at or even acknowledged. Not because I’m a softy and have a kind heart when it comes to those before me, but because those jokes have practically been done to death by now, and it’s time for a change. And if not time for a change, then at least give me somebody who can take this cheesy material, and at least transcend into some form of enjoyment, by any means possible.

And yes, these four acting legends are in fact those peeps who can take this cheesy material, and make it about a hundred times better just by showing up, having fun, being themselves and proving to the world that they not only still got it, but can probably make you laugh a lot harder than most of the popular comedic-talents out there in the world today.

While his track-record has probably been better than the other three involved, Michael Douglas is still doing Michael Douglas better than anybody else in the world can, which is a good thing (I think). He didn’t really need to stretch outside of boundaries to really get inside of a character like Billy (guy marries girl almost three times his age, ringing any bells?), but he still seems to be having a good time, palling around with some guys you never see him around with as much. The scenes he has with Mary Steenburgen, who plays a local jazz singer, actually add more to the film, rather than take away from it, which is weird considering that it doesn’t concern any hard-partying, drinking, doing blow or getting down-and-dirty, it’s just fun and somewhat sweet, which is a nice side-dish this movie offers from all of the craziness going on in it.

Yeah, well I do feel like the Kevin Kline in real-life wouldn't care if a girl took her top off. Say, I don't know, maybe a red bikini-top?

Yeah, well I do feel like the Kevin Kline in real-life wouldn’t care if a girl took her top off. Say, I don’t know, maybe a red bikini-top?

Mainly when talking about that craziness, I’m referring to Kevin Kline and Morgan Freeman’s performances as their two characters are probably the most vibrant and exciting characters in the whole movie, and they continuously steal the show everytime the camera just keeps it placed on them. Freeman gets a couple of choice scenes where he gets to show his comedic-ability to great effect (the Red Bull rant is something that his Oscar-winning turn in Million Dollar Baby couldn’t even touch), but believe it or not, despite not being the biggest name out of the four, the one who walks away with this all is actually Kevin Kline, mostly because he’s working with the type of fun, electrifying and charming material he’s been so deserving of his whole life, and hasn’t quite gotten it since he won his Oscar all those years ago. The story surrounding Kline’s character is done well, only to be shown as a stupid and poor-attempt at trying to get him to remember why he loves marriage so much in the first place, but whenever it’s just Kline saying or doing something goofy, the movie is a blast to watch. He and Freeman have great chemistry that makes you feel like they’ve been buddies all their lives, but its Kline who just owns the screen everytime it’s given to him, like I expected it to be. I’ve been rooting for Kev all these years, and I’m glad to finally seeing it pay-off.

Though I didn’t mention him with his fellow costars, Robert De Niro is still charming and worth watching, even when he’s mucking it up a whole lot as Paddy. However though, it’s obvious that out of the four, he’s the only who really needs these types of movies to keep reminding us that yes, he’s still talented, and yes, he’s still got what it takes to have us both laughing and crying at the same time. He did that last year with Silver Linings Playbook and i can only hope that it continues on from here on out. That also means no more pieces of junk like the Family or Killing Season either, Bobby!

Consensus: The material that these legends have to work with in Last Vegas, surely isn’t the best they’ve ever been dealt, but that doesn’t phase any of them a bit since they absolutely make every second count, have a ball with one another and as a result, give us a movie that may not be perfect, but still feels like an opportunity to see four acting legends team-up together, that wasn’t a waste of precious good time, talent or money.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Hopefully this means that they're waving "bye" to bad choices in the future. Then again, probably not.

Hopefully this means that they’re waving “bye” to bad choices in the future. Then again, probably not.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Family (2013)

Cause honestly, who hasn’t wanted to take a bat to the head of some Frenchies?

The Manzoni family were a powerful mob family from the streets of Brooklyn, that is, until the head of the family, Giovanni (Robert De Niro), ratted on some of his fellow mob-buddies. Now, every mob-syndicate within the a hundred-mile radius wants him, as well everybody else in the clan dead. However, they can’t find them because the family’s been shipped off to France, where they hide out under new names, new occupations, and are protected under the Witness Protection program, lead by Tom Quintiliani (Tommy Lee Jones). At first, they are total fish-out-of-water because the French don’t like their American ways and want nothing to do with their non-stop diets of hamburgers and cholesterol, but eventually, through some brute force, everybody eventually lightens-up and welcomes the family in with open arms. Problem is, the family can’t seem to get their stories straight and get caught up in a bit too many lies, making them even closer to being found-out and killed.

In case you peeps haven’t been reading this site over the past two days, I’ve been doing me a little research into the good old days of Luc Besson, and I’ve come to the realization that the guy had a certain flavor that he has yet to taste since the 90’s ended. He’s had some real stinkers in the past, and in the past decade no less, but it seems like all he needed was a way to get back to his roots in order for some sort of comeback, right? Mobsters, violence, and French people are the perfect recipe for that comeback, right?

"Did you just say that my American accent is thick? So help me!!"

“Did you just say that my American accent is thick? So help me!!”

Well, hate to say it, but not at all.

The problem Besson’s material hits early on, and stays that way for quite some time, is that it’s just not funny. Yes, maybe a couple of chuckles here and there at a funny-quip or piece of dialogue that hit only my funny-bone, only, but nothing really spectacular like the trailers seemed to have promised me. And it isn’t that I’m a miserable old-sack of potatoes that needs intellectual humor to really get me laughing and holding my gut, it’s more that I just need something to make me laugh, and this movie did not have that. Besson tries, and he tries, and he tries again to make this material pop and sizzle with all of the comedic-beats still intact, but to no avail.

Which makes it even harder to sit-through when you take into consideration just how much physical, disturbing acts of violence are played-up for laughs here, but just come off as strange. For instance, there’s this whole “running-gag” (I guess) that De Niro’s character has where he can’t stand to be around a person who may condescend to him in the least bit, without at least beating the ever loving shite out of them. He’s a mobster, who has been in the mobster-game for quite some time, so I guess it makes sense. Not funny, but it makes sense. Anyway, most of the scenes that feature him talking to somebody who ticks him off a bit, is later followed by a scene showing the after-math of the violent acts he bestowed onto them, including one memorable act where he drags a dude from the back of his car.  That’s right, he drags a dude, for what seems to be a very long distance, by the tail of his car. The dude’s all bloodied up, and looks as if he’s been through a cheese shredder, but you know, it’s funny, right?

Wrong!

And sadly, that’s how the whole film plays out. Jokes don’t land, and even when they do, they seem to become set-ups for terrible jokes that you didn’t want to see coming, and somehow hit you slap-dab in the face, and it just becomes a sort of disjointed affair. And don’t have me fooled here, I’m not saying you can have a dark comedy where the humor is hilarious, and the violence is gruesome, but there comes a certain line you just don’t cross, and Besson crossed it.

Which, I have to say, is very strange considering that the only REALLY good aspect about this flick that made me WANT to keep my eyes on the screen, was when Besson seemed to throw all of the joking and playfulness aside, and start to go back to his old ways with a gritty, threatening tone that would promise the killings of many, many characters. We’ve seen it in his brightest and best flicks, and it finally showed up here by the end and had me totally amped-up and ready-to-go for something that was considered “vintage-Besson”. However, once the violence actually got going and started to get very gruesome, Besson softened the blow up again, and went back to his goofy ways, making this less of a somewhat brutal thriller, and more of a crowd-pleaser. Boo on that idea, especially because I know Besson is capable of doing so much better when he just takes the gloves off and shows his bloody finger-prints.

She actually has to shop in a super-market now. What a change!

She actually has to shop in a super-market now. What a drastic change!

The same thing could be said for very talented actors like Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, however, it seems like they may have finally given up on doing anything commendable in any way, shape or form. De Niro, as we all know, has moments of pure inspiration, and has his moments of pure insanity, and this falls in somewhere in between. The guy’s charming enough to enjoy while he’s on-screen, but you know he’s better and when the most memorable moment comes from a Goodfellas reference, then you can’t help but reminded of a simpler, better time when he used to choose good material, and not anything that came his way and paid the bills. Looking at you, Fockers.

The same can sort of be said for Pfeiffer, but sort of can’t. The reason I say that is because even though she hasn’t really been doing much as of late, she still seems like she’s a welcome-enough presence that I wouldn’t mind seeing again and again. Sure, her character can be a little stereotypical and annoying, but there’s just something so sincere and natural about the way Pfeiffer has her seem, that makes it easier for us to get used to her. The only reason I didn’t include Tommy Lee Jones in that list up-above is because the dude, within the past decade, has proven that he still is able to choose great material and not worry about the roof over his head. He’s a bore to watch here, but I didn’t care all that much, mainly because I know he’s probably got something better cooking in the oven. As for De Niro and Pfeiffer, I don’t really know and personally, if they’re going to keep on going at the rate that they’re going at, I don’t care. I’m a dick, but that’s just the way it is.

Consensus: What separates The Family from all of the other bad mobster, dark comedies out there is that you know everybody could be so much better if they just put a little more effort into the proceedings, regardless of if the material wasn’t there or was.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Zzzzzzzzzz......"

“Zzzzzzzzzz……”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Big Wedding (2013)

Now I know why I’m single, but steady. Ladies?

Alejandro Griffin (Ben Barnes) and Missy O’Connor (Amanda Seyfried) are getting married. There seems to be no problem with two, young lovers wanting to get hitched, except for the fact that Alejandro’s family is anything but functional. His dad (Robert De Niro) and mom (Diane Keaton) have been divorced for over 20 years, while he lives with (Susan Sarandon); his sister (Katherine Heigl) pukes at the sight of kids; and his bro (Topher Grace) has yet to settle down and lose that V-card of his. Oh, and if that didn’t suck already, his “real mom” is flying up for the wedding but is extremely catholic so Alejandro has to make sure that his real mom and dad act as if they are still married. Hilarious hi-jinx ensue, as you could imagine.

Since it is ripely considered “wedding season”, it’s more than obvious that Hollywood would take advantage of this time and start popping-out all of the wacky and nutty wedding movies, that were meant for those older-peeps who don’t care much for weddings, or those single peeps who are lonely and in need of some reassurance that they will find that special someone and have a beautiful like this one day. Maybe. I’m in the latter and I still feel no reassurance. Nor do I really need it. I’m flying solo forever, baby!

Going into this movie, I knew it was going to be terrible but here’s the thing about me: I like weddings, I like movies about weddings, and I like to watch a dysfunctional family act like asses around one another. I don’t know what it is about me but the idea of being around a bunch of family members that are as fucked-up as mine, really puts a smile to my face and a pen in my hand so that I can finally get to writing that note for Santa’s wish-list of a better life (it will happen one day). But this movie just isn’t what I wanted. Not at all.

Robin's totally reconsidering being on the wagon.

Robin’s totally reconsidering being on the wagon.

As usual, movies like these try so damn hard to be funny, that they almost sprain themselves on the way down. This is one of those movies, but it isn’t as painful as I may make it sound. Granted, it is a pretty bad movie that isn’t really funny and totally has problems with it’s editing (more on that ish later), but it can be pleasureful if you are really, really lonely. And I mean: REALLY LONELY. Like, not a single member of your family is alive to remember your face or who you are. You may have an Uncle, Aunt, or Grandfather that may be going a tad crazy and lose sight of whether or not you’re the grandson or the dog, and that counts. But seriously, this movie is meant for those people who can’t enjoy and celebrate a wedding with friends or family. The only way you can is by watching actors and actresses (aka, really good-looking people), act as if they are all family, love each other, but also love to fight even more. Yep, THAT LONELY.

Sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s not. That’s usually either hit-or-miss depending on the type of person. But what no person can deny is that this movie is terribly-filmed and edited. Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but I remember this flick was supposed to come out around some time last year, because the trailer hit, and so did the poster, but no release date. But considering it was so early, everybody assumed it was going to come out in 2012. Whether or not it’s all true, doesn’t matter because this flick has definitely caught some fire and wind in the editing-room. Woo-wee!

The problem with this movie and it’s editing is that it feels as if somebody didn’t quite know what movie they wanted to make. So, instead of keeping the comedy and drama elements splish-splashed together for evenness, they just go straight for the comedy, all in a row, without any drama or anything. I wouldn’t have minded that so much if it was funny; but it wasn’t. By the end, the problems start to become even more apparent once people start revealing stuff that would change one person’s life in a heartbeat, but somehow has no effect whatsoever on that person. I don’t want to drop down to spoiler-territory, but it’s really random, stupid, and odd how kosher this flick seems to be with certain things like adoption and not knowing who your real parents are. Not saying adoption is weird, but something about this movie makes it seem weird. Oh, who the hell! Just watch it if you want to see what I mean!

If there is any saving grace to this movie, anywhere at all: it’s the cast. After turning out an Oscar-nominated role in Silver Linings Playbook, you’d automatically assume that it meant Bobby De Niro was with a new agent and back in full-force. But I was so, so, so, so, so wrong. De Niro isn’t bad here, it’s just that his character of being a womanizing-perv doesn’t quite work for the guy as well as it might have about a decade ago. Now, it’s just over-played, stupid, and a bit creepy considering all this dude wants to do is bang someone or something. Diane Keaton plays his estranged ex-wife, and is fine for what she needs to do but is simply phoning it in as if she just wants the lovin’ from Warren Beatty or Woody Allen back. No matter who she chooses to have back, she’s going to get some lovin’.

Have mercy on your souls. Your young, and oh so prosperous souls.

Have mercy on your souls. Your young, and oh so prosperous souls.

As for the kiddies, they are all fine, but feel as if they are just phoning it in like most supporting-acts in rom-coms do. Topher Grace is still trying to make us forget about Eric Forman and it’s still not working; Katherine Heigl is still trying to make us forget that she bitched-out Judd Apatow (aka, her best role EVER), and once again, it’s still not working; Amanda Seyfried has barely any scenes to herself, but when she does, it’s just blank the whole time; and Ben Barnes is charming and does what he can with that Spanish-tongue of his, but still can’t over-come the fact that he’s just there, stuck in the middle of all of this havoc. Poor guy. Get a new manager.

The only peeps in this cast who really seem ready to play are Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon. Williams seems like he’s having fun playing the same role he basically played in that god-awful movie where he played a priest where two younglings were getting married. Not going to call it by it’s name, and just leave it at that. Susan Sarandon is probably the best out of the bunch because of the way she plays her character, and the way they make her character. Since Bebe, the character she plays, swung-around with De Niro when he was still married to Keaton, you would think that she’d be perceived as a bottomless whore that can’t get a man her own, so she goes for one that’s already got dibs called on. You would think, but the movie actually makes a smart-decision in not taking that low road and giving her more to be sympathetic about and show us why she isn’t such a bad lady. In ways, she was even a better mommy than Keaton’s character was. But that’s bad because the Catholic Church thinks divorce is evil and breaths fire and brimstone. Okay, I’m done attacking anything right now. Let’s just get this thing over with.

Consensus: For anybody who wants to get away from their porno-infested computer screens for an hour or two, The Big Wedding may be the right fit for them, but for the other people that are married, in a relationship, or just don’t really care to waste their time in general; then it won’t fit. At all.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

And Diane be like, "Oh lawwddd!"

And Diane be like, “Oh mah lawwddd!”

Mad Dog and Glory (1993)

Hey, cops can have girlfriends too.

Robert De Niro plays Wayne, a timid Chicago cop sarcastically nicknamed “Mad Dog.” He saves a gangster name Frank (Bill Murray)’s life and as payback, Frank “gives” Wayne his beautiful bartender Glory (Uma Thurman). However, when the two fall in love, then Wayne realizes he may have to fight-off Frank from his girl.

Let’s just put it like this: this is a weird-ass movie. From the beginning, you feel like you know how this one is going to play-out but as time goes on, and as the story progresses more and more, it changes up a whole lot and you never know where it’s going to go. That’s a lot of fun whenever you’re sitting-down and watching a movie and it’s that element of film-making that movies had nowadays but somehow, just don’t. Maybe Hollywood gets in the way, maybe stars get in the way, or hell, maybe movies are just running out of any original ideas that are worth showing on-screen. But either way, watching a movie and having no idea where it’s going to go from frame-to-frame is a hell of a lot of fun and it’s even better when you have a cast like this.

"That was some of the most awkward sex I've ever have. You know, other than Gary Oldman of course."

“That was some of the most awkward sex I’ve ever have. You know, other than Gary Oldman of course.”

The movie’s casting may have it seem like a bit of a stunt where De Niro is playing the meek, sensitive-type that takes random pictures of life, whereas Bill Murray is playing the tough, unpredictable gangster that you don’t whether or not you should trust, or be totally scared-of. It seems like a total switcheroo and believe it or not, De Niro was actually offered the role of Frank, before he even knew about the role of Wayne, but he turned it down, just so he could show the world that he can in-fact, play a nice and sweet guy that doesn’t stomp on people’s heads. De Niro, in an obvious-effort to change the way his career was being viewed upon at during that time, took the role of this simple-minded, nice guy and does a great job with it, mainly because De Niro dials it back insanely.

Usually, when you see an actor/actress trying their hardest to play against-type, they usually go overboard with playing it cheap and subtle, you know, just so people don’t associate them with the other dozen similar roles that they have played in the past. In an effort to not be distracting, it actually ends-up becoming distracting and in full-effect, it’s a bit bothersome when you watch the performance and judge it as a whole. However, De Niro isn’t like that here as Wayne and really just seems to playing himself, but a more simpler, kinder-self of his and it shows that the guy can play these types of roles and make us care about him even more. Wayne is obviously a very small man, in a very, very big world and you kind of feel bad for him after awhile, mainly because you know that he’s going to get his heart ripped-out sooner or later and all you can do is just sit there and wait for it. I loved this small, tiny performance from De Niro and now that it seems like he’s getting his career back on-track with the Silver Linings Playbook, I can only hope to the Movie Gods, that he ends-up going back down this career-path and making some smart-choices. Or, he could just go back and do another Meet the Parents movie. His choice, not mine.

It should almost go without saying that Bill Murray is a freakin’ blast to watch in any movie he does, but that’s especially the case here as Frank, the sadistic and mean gangster that you just can’t help but love. This is a perfect piece of against-type casting not just because Murray has never played a role like this before, but mostly because he absolutely never lets you forget that he hasn’t and is at least having a bunch of fun with it, in the meantime. Murray never loses his sense of humor (Frank is a part-time gangster, part-time comedian) and always allows himself to be on the butt-end of a joke whenever it suits the script. Whenever he gets dangerous, it is actually pretty scary to watch because you never quite know what this guy is going to do next, but that’s the whole fun of watching Murray in this type of role, and just watching Murray in general. He’s always surprising us and always keeping us on-edge. That’s the beautiful thing about Bill Murray and I don’t think it will ever stop.

Uma Thurman does a nice-job as Glory, the gal that Frank hires to keep Wayne some company for a week, but when you put her next to these two actors, she sort of sticks out like a sore-thumb. I mean, that’s not saying that Thurman isn’t good, because she’s very good at playing this sympathetic, and vulnerable girl that just wants to do the right thing, but when you have two stars like Murray and De Niro absolutely knocking homers out of the park with all they can do, then it becomes pretty obvious who the script had in mind when it was first being-developed. It also probably doesn’t help that Glory’s story could have been developed a bit more to have us care more for her, along with Wayne, but in essence, we just end-up caring more for Wayne and a little bit for Glory.

However, that’s where the tone of this movie comes in and ultimately, it’s weirdness as well. What makes this movie so weird is that it continues to change it’s tone and pace every time a scene switches. One second you’ll have a police drama, next second you’ll have a black comedy, then the next second you’ll have a gangster flick, and then the next second, you’ll have a romance movie, and so on, and so forth. Basically, you can never pin-point exactly where the hell this movie is going to end-up, how, and when, but you don’t really care because it’s always fun, it’s always entertaining to watch, and it’s always making you laugh.

Ultimate show-down: Peter Venkman vs. Jake LaMotta. Somehow, I thought it would have turned-out differently.

Ultimate show-down: Peter Venkman vs. Jake LaMotta. Somehow, I thought it would have turned-out differently.

The only aspect of this movie that I don’t think was as strong as everything else, was in-fact, the romance between Wayne and Glory. See, we’re supposed to believe that these two random pieces of crap would, by sure chance, fall in-love over this one week together where they do nothing but hang-around, have awkward sit-downs while watching television, and even awkward trips to the bed (if you catch my drift). However, when they’re romance seems to face a bit of a problem with Frank wanting Glory back, you don’t really care all that much, mainly because the movie doesn’t really seem to have you believe that these two opposites, would indeed fall in-love and fight for it no matter what. There even comes a point where I felt like it was all a part of Wayne’s wild-imagination to be some sort of plot contrivance, but in reality, it wasn’t and the movie really was THIS serious about the actual love between the two. Other than a very realistic and honest sex scene the two have, Wayne and Glory’s romance never fully catches fire and the only reason why you want them to continue with one another, is just so Frank can come in and screw everything up for them and add even more enjoyment to our viewing. Hey, what can ya say? We all love Bill Murray!

Consensus: Mad Dog and Glory is as weird as they come, and if you can handle the non-stop changes in tone and pace, then this one will definitely be a treat for you, but even if you can’t handle that aspect, just sit-back and watch the amazing performances from Bill Murray and Robert De Niro who both play against-type, but quite perfectly, may I add.

8/10=Matinee!!

Okay, maybe he's not playing THAT MUCH against-type.

Okay, maybe he’s not playing THAT MUCH against-type.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Man, I’m glad to be from Philadelphia.

Bradley Cooper stars as a sad sack loser named Pat trying to get back on his feet after suffering a mental breakdown. When he meets a mysterious girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) with problems of her own, an unexpected bond begins to form between them.

As many of you out there may know, I’m a proud Philadelphian through and through, and to see and hear about a big-budget, Hollywood rom-com be filmed around my parks was surely something that had me interested. I mean honestly, it’s been awhile since the City of Brotherly Love has had a good movie come from it’s native-land in a long, long time and that’s why I was a bit skeptical of just how well this one would do, despite it’s somewhat generic premise. Then, a miracle started to occur right in front of my eyes, as the reviews started to tricked in and I realized: this movie could be the next Rocky, in terms of representing Philly and making all of those who live there, proud to be apart of a city that deserves all the love and praise (in some ways). Then, lastly, another miracle came my way and made me realize something: I LOVED THIS MOVIE.

Yes, I just used the “L word” and with good reason, because this film is exactly what I wanted in a rom-com/character-drama. Director David O. Russell steps out of the boxing ring, and into the streets of Prospect Park (holla!), which may definitely seem a bit odd at first considering this is a character-drama that focuses on people who have problems and don’t really do much about it except talking, and not just go into the ring and beat the shit out of each other, but in a way, you can almost tell that the guy is as ever comfortable as he has ever been with material like this. See, earlier in the review, I stated that this was a “big-budget, Hollywood rom-com”, but I was wrong. Dead-wrong. Actually, it’s more of a very indie-like, rom-com that down-plays everything that we have come to know and expect from any movie of this unoriginal genre, and thank O. Russell for that because that’s the real charm behind this movie.

Right from the first-shot of this movie, I couldn’t help but be swarmed in by all of the fun, humor, and wittiness of this setting and script and as soon as more and more characters became introduced to the story, I knew that I was only getting started on this wild-ride. Every piece of dialogue between these characters is always fun, always interesting, and always something that feels realistic and believable, especially when you actually consider the characters. The real risk O. Russell takes with this movie and these characters, is that he introduces us to people that aren’t exactly the most likable or lovable people we would want to watch a movie about, let alone spend 2 hours with, but somehow, the script makes you forget all about that and you really see something underneath all of the humor, goofiness, and weirdness of these characters, you actually see a heart to it all.

What I loved so much about this flick is how it takes a look at love, through the eyes of a heart-broken man, that has literally been pistol-whipped by love, and can’t figure out just how to go back to the life he once had and make right with everybody he knew, so instead, he just goes back to his old ways and tries to convince everybody that he is the same dude he was 8 months ago when he was shipped-away to crazy town. However, sooner or later, as predictable as it may sound, this guy eventually has to come to terms with what is true and what is not, and eventually that takes a toll on his life and what he thinks he should do with it. This idea of picking yourself back-up from a broken-heart and broken-life, by doing whatever you can to make yourself better each day-by-day is an idea that really resonated with me, as I can definitely say that there have been many times throughout my life where I’ve realized I can be happy in my life if I just allow myself to be better as each day goes by.

However, as corny and gooey as I may make this sound, this film is definitely not all about that. This love that is eventually carried-out, is not something we are used to seeing in movies and what’s even weirder is what the script brings into the fore-front of this love and what gets in the way of it. To be short, without giving too much away, the film combines crazy people, dancing, and the Philadelphia Eagles all into one movie and shows you that as weird of a combination that may be, you give it some real heart and depth, than anything can freakin’ work. I loved this film for showing me, once again, that making your life better is certainly on you but can also be used by allowing yourself to help others and have others help you. It’s a beautiful message that may seem as conventional as they may come, but this film carries it out in a way that isn’t and makes you re-think about where your life/love-life may be heading, and how you can make everything around you, well, better. I know, I know, I’m corny as can be but seriously, this film will make you feel like there is nothing wrong with you, or the world you surround yourself with.

I also think that most of the feelings I have for this movie mainly come from the “romance” between the two lead characters: Pat and Tiffany. First of all, Pat and Tiffany are not necessarily a romantic-couple, even though they may show signs of it. In their own, strange ways, they are both a bit crazy and off-kilter from the rest of the world, but the feelings they share about the things around them has them connect on a way that makes you believe in them as people that could definitely meet and be friends, but also be together, fall in love, and make themselves, and everyone else around them better as well. The whole movie is pretty strange in the directions it goes towards, and that’s mainly thanks to these two and it’s just great to see a rom-com about a couple that doesn’t necessarily fall in love right on impact, and can’t really show each other the type of love-signs we have come to expect from generic characters in these types of movie. Pat and Tiffany is the perfect, anti-rom-com couple that makes it all the more disappointing that once things do get a bit conventional and soapy by the end, it’s a bit too hard to believe or be satisfied with. However, it’s not to the point of where I felt like the whole movie was ruined for me. Just a tad bit of it was. Just a tad bit, mind you.

Despite that itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, little problem, these characters are still great to watch together, especially considering the cast that’s behind them all. Bradley Cooper probably gives his finest performance yet as Pat, by showing that he can let-loose with his manic-energy that definitely shows he still has that pitch-perfect comedic-timing, but also shows a bit of a darker side to him as well. For Cooper, lately, there hasn’t really been a film that’s showed him off a true, dramatic-force to be reckoned with and it’s more that his comedy-skills have been used a hell of a lot better, and showed-off more than I expected. However, his role as Pat allows him to break free from that mold, give us a character that is a bit off his rocker, isn’t always the nice guy when it comes to certain situations and choices that he makes, but also, always allow us to feel some sort of sympathy for the dude as well. Cooper gives off what could possibly be his closest shot to an Oscar nomination this year, and you know what, I think the guy deserves that at least because he nails this role to a “T” here and it’s just great to see him finally break-out and combine what he does best: comedy and drama.

I was a bit skeptical of Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, because the character is definitely supposed to be a lot older than Lawrence’s 22-years of age and would seem a bit weird considering that Cooper is 37, but surprise, surprise, Lawrence makes this work like no other. What’s so beautiful about Lawrence here is not only is she able to really have us believe in this gal that could be so weird and cooky, but also have us believe that she is as old and damaged as she is. Tiffany is not the easiest character to really get right from the start as you can tell that she has some problems that may need more fixing than just a simple dance-competition, but Lawrence is so natural with this gal that you can’t help but want to reach your hand out to her, even when Pat doesn’t seem to be. Lawrence is everything you would want her to be in this role and yet, it’s something that we have never seen from her before. She’s vulnerable, but never asking for sympathy; she’s sad, but never mopey; she’s smart, but never condescending; she’s weird, but never to the point of where she’s considered “crazy”; and she’s good-looking, but never to the point of where you wouldn’t believe her is as this older, sadder-woman that comes to terms with the life she lives and where it’s going. Basically, in a nutshell, Lawrence is perfect for this role and if she doesn’t at least get a nomination for her role here, then I’m really going to be ticked off. Seriously, this girl has tons and tons of amount of promise going for her and I’ve already forgotten about House at the End of the Street. Even though, I can’t believe how I remembered that title.

As much as this is Cooper and Lawrence’s show, everybody else on the side still gets their own chances to shine and jeez, am I ever so glad for that, because their just as good too. Thank you so much David O. Russell, for giving us a meaty-role for Robert De Niro that shows us why everybody loved the guy so much in the first-place. De Niro plays Cooper’s OCD-like father that can’t seem to ever miss an Eagles game, and is absolutely terrific in a role that shows how much one man can love a son, but also want the best for him and try to give him advice on how to make his life better. It’s a role that shows De Niro at his finest, that we haven’t seen from him in a long-time and as much as he may down-play it, he still lets loose a bit and still makes us laugh our asses off whenever he does the signature crunched-up face. Man, you gotta love De Niro!

As for his wife, played by Jacki Weaver, she’s great as well and shows us a lighter-side to her acting-skills, by giving her character a delightful smile that only wants what’s right for her boy and her family. Oh, and I forgot to thank David O. Russell for something! Thank you so much for bringing back Chris Tucker to a mainstream movie that isn’t co-starring Jackie Chan and reminding us why the guy is so damn funny in the first-place. Yeah, Tucker may have lost his signature, high-pitch voice that mostly everybody hated (even though I loved) and has definitely packed on a couple of pounds for good measure as well, but still shows us that he has that great comedic-timing that makes me wonder why the hell he isn’t in more stuff. Does his character matter all that much to the plot? Hell no, actually, if you got rid of him, nothing in this movie would ever change one-bit but it’s Chris Tucker, man! The guy’s hilarious and I want to see more of him.

Consensus: With a heart as big as the state of Philadelphia (not terribly big, but still big none the less), a message that hits the heart, characters that interest the hell out of you right from the start, and a script that balances quirky, comedy, drama, and romance altogether, Silver Linings Playbook is exactly the type of feel-good movie you want to see this Winter-break, especially if you have ever longed for someone to tell you that your life is worth it and is something that’s meant to be made better not just by others around you, but yourself, as well. Definitely go out there, and go see it. Especially, if you’re from Philly. Then again, I feel like that’s obvious enough already.

9/10=Full Price!!

Countdown to Claus: Everybody’s Fine (2009)

Sometimes you just wanna give these old actors a hug.

Frank (Robert De Niro) just lost his wife, and without their mother by his side, Frank’s grown children aren’t compelled to visit for the holidays. So he hits the road to visit them — collecting various revelations and learning about himself along the way.

Back in the winter of ’09 when this flick first came out, I had no intentions of seeing it whatsoever. The trailer was pretty corny, that poster is terribly photo-shopped (what the hell happened to De Niro’s face?), and just an overall feeling of I knew exactly what I was going to get myself into. However, it’s always awesome to be blind-sided.

Even though this is apart of my whole Countdown to Claus meme, this is still not a Christmas film. It’s actually a huge downer that does have some lighter humorous moments, but this tone is something I was not expecting from this flick. However, it’s actually pretty good to get a Christmas film to come around the season to be jolly, and not just be the same old happy-sappy bull crap we see for two hours every year.

This is a very simple movie with a very simple story about a father trying to reconnect with his kiddies while also trying to figure out just where the hell he went wrong with this whole fathering-business. This is where the film succeeds in the most because it’s a very universal subject that almost any person can relate to because whether or not you knew your dad, still keep in touch with your dad, or are a dad yourself, you can still see yourself in any one of these characters, which gives you a total better understanding of what the film is actually trying to say. There are some sweet and gentle moments where they handle the emotions in this film well, and it did feel truthful, if somewhat obvious.

My main problem with this film is the fact that these kids are assholes. First of all, all they ever do is lie to their dad about the smallest, most random, and gayest things I have ever heard somebody lie to their parents about. Secondly, when the kids do end up telling their daddy why it is that they keep all of these secrets away from him, it doesn’t all match up and just seems forced to give these characters more room to breath for development. Personally, I felt bad for Frank cause this guy wanted to see his kids for Christmas altogether, but they lied and said they have certain things to do, when in reality, they just don’t want to be embarrassed or some dumb shit like that.

Another problem I had with this film was that some of the scenes here seemed a little misplaced and forced. There was one scene where Frank gives this junkie money, and the junkie goes crazy at him. Basically the scene was trying to show you how good of a man Frank was even though this seemed totally out-of-place. Not because Frank was a bad guy or anything, it’s just that I have a feeling that he’s not stupid and knows what happens when you give those jerk-offs moolah and he’s not a saint-like dude in the first place anyway.

The next weird scene was where Frank had his kids fess up about all of the lies they have told him but it’s total in a dream-like sequence and the kids are actually played by kids. I don’t know why they couldn’t just show Frank talking to them in real-life and making them feel like the pieces of shits that they are but for some odd reason, they decided to go with some weird way of showing getting on with this plot.

Robert De Niro does so much shit every now and then, that is always good to see him do something that’s actually believable. As Frank, De Niro is subtle, charming, and just overall a pleasant dude that has his obvious problems with being a father to his kids and actually accepting the fact that his kids were pushed away from him, because of himself. There are some real moments of emotional truth and De Niro handles it perfectly well and I think he did the same with the whole film in general.

As for the rest of the cast, they all try their hardest but these characters are already such assholes and one-dimensional that it’s almost too hard to really like them. Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and the always reliable Sam Rockwell are OK, but their scenes with De Niro always end up being another spot-light for De Niro to show off his veteran skills.

Consensus: It’s definitely not a totally happy film and features one-dimensional characters, but Everybody’s Fine features a great central performance from De Niro and a simple story, that has real truth to it and works for anybody who is watching this flick.

6/10=Rental!!

New Year’s Eve (2011)

Just another excuse for people to go, “oooh look who it is!”.

‘New Year’s Eve’ celebrates love, hope, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts, in the intertwining stories of couples and singles, told amidst the pulse and promise of New York City on the most dazzling night of the year.

Oh once again, another holiday, another holiday, and yes, another time for Garry Marshall to make Robert Altman turn around in his grave. This is basically the same exact thing as Marshall’s same ensemble-filled film, ‘Valentine’s Day’, and even though this one is only just a tad better, that really is not saying much at all.

What these types of films always have problems with is that all of these types of films have so many stars passing in-and-out of the flick as if it was I95 but they are sometimes not really given much to do, instead of just to be there and look pretty. This is the case with this flick and I felt like Marshall really rushed things here to the point of where he wasn’t really concerned with the stories as much as he was more concerned with just getting as much stars up on the screen before they had to go leave and shoot a better film. When I say this, I’m not talking about Sarah Jessica Parker. She loves this kind of stuff and I think she may be the only one who does too.

Another problem with all of these films is the fact that almost everything everybody says here either seem like cliches, something taken out of another flick, or just plain schmaltz. The film always goes for being sweet, cute, and loving but it more or less just comes off as being the same old crap that I’ve seen time and time again, except this time with Jon Bon Jovi spouting out corny love songs. But then again, the guy owned The Philadelphia Soul, so it’s not as bad if say someone like Nick Jonas was doing it. Yeah, that kids lame.

I knew I was going to get this kind of stuff before I went into this flick but I honestly think that these films try way too hard to give more meaning about a holiday that is basically all about getting plastered with your buddies, yelling random shit at people you’ve never met in your life, freezing your ass off, counting down till a big-ass glow ball hits the bottom in 10 seconds, ending up making out with a person that chick that looks like your sister, and waking up the next morning in somebody else’s bath tub with a splitting headache. I’m not at all speaking from experience but let me just tell you that when it comes to this holiday, not many people are reflecting on the past year and what they are thankful for and what they aren’t thankful for. So stop trying to give it more meaning than it already needs Garry!

However, as much as I wanted to diss on this film for what it obviously fails in, there were moments here where I was enjoying myself probably because New Year’s is such a fun holiday and that’s something that I don’t think Marshall took away from. There are moments where this film actually seems funny and had me chuckling here and there, mainly because of the cast and probably just because this film sort of put me in a good mood. It’s also one of the rare cases where the “bloopers” during the end credits had me laughing a lot more throughout them, instead if the whole film itself.

The whole cast here is star-studded everywhere you look and made this film a little bit better. Instead of naming the whole cast like I normally do with these ensemble-like films, I’ll just run down the people who were probably the most enjoyable. Zac Efron was probably the one dude I had the most fun watching up on screen; Hilary Swank is actually quite convincing as a Times Square vice president; and Sofia Vergara is not only stunningly gorgeous but fun as hell to watch here as the sex-pot chef. There are others that were somewhat fun but too many times were there just these big-named stars just sitting around doing nothing. I’m talking to you, Ludacris. And no, I will still not call you by your “real name”.

I mean to be brutally honest, Valentine’s Day is not a very joyous and fun holiday probably because it’s too centered on having a love on this one special day. However, New Year’s Day where you can just do whatever the hell you want basically and have a blast the whole time no matter how old, young, or if you’re single or not. This film may have it’s obviously problems with plot, writing, and overall construction, but keeping to the fun and reckless spirit that is New Year’s, is what made my enjoyment level of this flick higher than I ever expected it to be in the first place.

Consensus: There is plenty of schmaltz, corniness, and moments that will more or less make you want to punch the writers in the face, but when it comes to keeping the actual fun and unpredictable atmosphere/spirit of it’s holiday, New Year’s Eve is a fun flick for anybody that wants to see stars coming-and-going non-stop for a whole 118 minutes.

5/10=Rental!!

If you have just read this review and cannot believe I just did what I did, please do not have any lost hope for me. I will once again get back to reviewing shit and calling it exactly what it is. I promise people.