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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 Downey Jr.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Alright. No more reboots!

After being recruited by the one and only Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and kicking all sorts of ass in the so-called “Civil War”, 15-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland), when he isn’t in school, cutting class, or crushing hard on his fellow classmate (Laura Harrier), he’s throwing on his red and blue jumpsuit, shootin’ webs, and yes, stoppin’ crime. The only issue is that he was given specific instructions not to act out in this manner, or else, he wouldn’t be allowed in the Avengers, something Peter has wanted since day one. But Peter thinks that he can keep a low-profile, until real bad stuff starts happening, like when a low-level arms-dealer (Michael Keaton), begins selling highly illegal and dangerous weapons to all sorts of criminals on the streets. Sure, he was supposed to stay cool and calm, but after awhile, Peter just can’t stand by and let this happen, which means that it’s time for him to get involved and kick some butt. The only issue is that he’s got so much pressure, both at home and at school, that he doesn’t quite know how to juggle everything with his personal life and still, at the end of the day, save the world.

Just your friendly dorky neighborhood Peter Parker, everyone!

Such is a daily dilemma for all superheros, I presume.

So yeah, first things first: Spider-Man: Homecoming is, get this, not necessarily an origin story. Believe it or not, what we got to see of Spidey in Civil War was basically all we needed to know about him; he’s fun, goofy, quick-witted, and oh yeah, brash. That’s basically. Co-writer/director Jon Watts, as well as the five other writers here (Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers) are all smart enough to know that by now, we’ve seen and understood all that there is to know and understood about Peter Parker, his upbringing, where he came from, and all of the backstory that usually plagues another origin-story such as this.

Instead of showing us his first steps, or better yet, the first time he learned how to swing a web, we actually get character-development for Peter, as well as all of those that surround him. Sure, there’s plot about growing up, this baddie lurking somewhere in the distance, and of course, all of the tie-ins to previous Marvel stuff, but really, the movie is all about the characters, how they work with one another, and how exactly they work in this universe. It’s the small things that make these mega-budget, loud, and bombastic summer blockbusters so worth while and it’s why Marvel’s got a solid formula to keep on working with.

Which means that, yes, Homecoming is a swing and a hit. It’s not a home-run, but it’s definitely a solid piece of Marvel entertainment that feels like it’s not just giving us a nice peak inside this already large universe, but also allowing us to get used to these characters for future installments to come. For someone such as myself, who grew up on and adored the Sam Raimi Spider-Man flicks, it’s a little difficult to fully take in this new band of trustees, but after this first showing, they could grow on me. They’re easy-to-like, charming and yes, different enough from the original to where it doesn’t feel like we have to sit down, compare and contrast the two products the whole time.

Wait. Batman? Birdman? Some dude called “Vulture”? What’s going on?!?

Instead, it’s just nice to sit down and appreciate a popcorn superhero flick for being, well, exactly what it sets out to be: Fun.

End of story.

And if we are going to compare, then yes, it’s safe to say that Tom Holland more than fits into the role of Peter Parker because he’s not playing a total and complete dweeb. Sure, Maguire’s take is still heartfelt enough, but really, Holland’s Parker is portrayed more as of a bit of a smart-ass, who also happens to be incredibly smart. Holland’s fun to watch as Parker, but it also helps that he feels and looks like an actual kid; Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both nearly 30-years-old, playing a high-school-aged Parker, seeming like they were just doing dress up for October the 31st. With Holland in the role, he seems like an actual high-school kid, stuck in this sort of situation and because of that, it helps to relate to the kid a bit more.

And really, with our superhero flicks, isn’t that all we want? Someone we can root for, sympathize with, and even identify with? Probably not, but hey, it works for me.

Consensus: Fun, quick, and pretty smart for a superhero flick, Homecoming proves that Spider-Man doesn’t need another damn origin-story, but does need/get/deserve a solid bit of players to look forward to seeing in the near-future.

7.5 / 10

Brought to you by Jansport.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to let them fight.

After years and years of constant controversy over their extreme efforts to stop evildoers in the world, the Avengers are now facing public scrutiny. So much so that now, the government wants to find a way to intervene with their ways in how they go about stopping the evil, while also making sure that no innocent, kind citizens get killed in the process. This new rule sets the group apart; while Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is all about it for the sake of still being able to stop villains from taking over the world, Captain America (Chris Evans), on the other hand, doesn’t feel the same way. Of course, there are others in the group who feel the same as either side, but they’re coming to a point now where they don’t know if they can stay together as a single unit without someone getting hurt. And now, what with Bucky (Sebastian Stan) back in the picture, Cap wants to protect him in any way he can, even if that means having to take down fellow friends and confidantes that he could once trust.

I know someone in DC who could probably beat all of them....

I know someone in DC who could probably beat all of them….

Which means, yes, they all brawl.

A few months ago, there was a huge backlash against Batman V. Superman. Most of the reasons had to do with the fact that it basically just sucked and that was about it. Of course, none of these people were ever wrong, but for me at least, I was a tad bit kinder on it because it set out to make a superhero movie that, yes, was ultimately messy, but asked certain questions and toggled certain ideas that we don’t typically see in superhero movies. Should there be superheroes in the world in which we live in? And if we can’t help the fact that they are, what can we do to stop them, or better yet, decrease their power and danger to our society? Get rid of them altogether? Or put little rules and guidelines for them to follow, so that they don’t go around killing thousands and thousands of citizens as if it was, yes, 9/11 all over again.

Obviously, these are the same kinds of questions and ideas that Civil War plays with in its own mind, but where BVS screwed-up with, they actually deliver on. Not only do they ask the goddamn questions, but they also seem interested in solving it, even if the only way to do so is basically through fist fights and banter-battles. For once, we see characters and superheros who, for the past few years or so, have been nearly untouchable and almost too close to being perfect, but somehow, Civil War finds a way to have them all shine in different lights. Even though this is supposed to be his movie, Captain America actually comes off more like an unlikable child here who doesn’t get his way, so therefore, has to resort to punches, kicks and throwing his shield.

Then again, nobody else is perfect here, either. And well, that’s sort of the point of this story.

Falcon punch!

Falcon punch!

What the Russo Brothers do the best job of here is that they allow for the story to do its usual checklist of things we see in these kinds of superhero movies, but does them way better than those movies. While new characters and subplots are being brought to our attention, the Russo’s never allow for it to get too jammed-up to where we have no idea what’s the conflict with which character, for what reasons, and when we can expect it all to get resolved. In Age of Ultron, the movie was admittedly way too overstuffed and overlong to really make sense of its mayhem and therefore, it suffered. The action itself may have been fun and well-done, but because there was just so much going on, with so many damn people, it was hard to really care for any of it, especially when you’re still trying to pinpoint who matters and why.

The Russo’s, thankfully, don’t have that problem. Even though they’re working with a wide arrange of characters and stories to work with, they somehow are able to have it all work together in a cohesive manner, that when the action does eventually come around, you care. Not only do these characters get their opportunities to shine and show why they’re genuine ass-kickers, but give us a little background on who they are and their personalities. Even for characters like Hawkeye and the Vision, who you may feel have overstayed their welcome, still come around to show us that they’re around and actually matter to a story as overcooked as this.

Does this make Civil War perfect? Nope, but it definitely makes it the best Avengers movie since the first Avengers.

Which is saying something, because all of the Marvel movies have been fine and done their jobs well. That isn’t to say that they haven’t all felt like they were doing the same things as the one that came before it, but regardless, it still doesn’t matter, because it seems like Civil War gets Marvel right back on-track. Though a lot more is left up in the air this time, the feeling that everything has changed and gotten a whole lot more serious with this universe and these characters is still around and it’s what makes me genuinely excited for what’s next to come.

Cause yes, obviously, we’re going to get more of these movies, whether you like it or not.

Consensus: Exciting, tense, smart, and believe it or not, interesting, Civil War does everything that Batman V Superman tried to do, but hits every nail on the head and reminds us why this universe can be so great to be apart of when they’re firing on all cylinders.

9 / 10

Hey guys, I know you're kicking ass and all, but 2-on-1 ain't cool. Let's fight fair here.

Hey guys, I know you’re kicking ass and all, but 2-on-1 ain’t cool. Let’s fight fair here.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

He gets angry. He goes green. He doesn’t like it. Yeah, we get it.

Scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) has a bit of a problem. After being exposed to a gamma radiation that contaminated his body and cells, he’s now been unable to control his emotions and therefore, has been lashing out as the Hulk. Desperate to find a cure and get away from the controversial spotlight that constantly surrounds him, Banner decides to go across the world, looking anywhere that he can find any sign of hope. Of course, going off the grid as he does also means having to be cut-off from his one true love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), who wants nothing more than for him to just be safe. Her father, CIA Gen. Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), however, wants Banner to turn himself into the authorities so that they can cure him and make sure that he doesn’t go around smashing things anymore. But because Banner doesn’t seem all that interested in listening or taking orders, Ross decides to enlist the help of a supremely powerful enemy known as The Abomination (Tim Roth), who is nearly as dangerous, if not more as the Hulk.

How Edward Norton prepares for a role. Any role.

How Edward Norton prepares for a role. Any role.

Except in his case, he’s the baddie!

It’s been said and shown that giving the Hulk his own movie doesn’t quite work out as perfectly as some would prefer. Ang Lee’s Hulk was an odd, slow and downright boring character-study that was way too deep for its own good and the Incredible Hulk itself, while fun, still feels like it’s not really allowing for this interesting character, other than, as expected, setting up several other Marvel movies to come up after. If anything, as evidenced by the first two Avengers movies, Hulk is perhaps best used as a supporting character, who comes around every so often, destroying things, smashing them and reminding people that he can an absolute crowd-pleaser, while also the most dangerous thing around.

But regardless of all this, the Incredible Hulk does do the character some justice, in that it gives him plenty of things to smash and be angry at. At the same time, however, it also can’t help but feel like a small disappointment compared to all of the other standalone Marvel movies, where we get a rich mix of story, humor, heart, and excessive tie-ins. In a way, actually, the Incredible Hulk‘s actually very interesting to watch all of these years later as, at the time, it was the second movie produced by Marvel in this planned-universe (after Iron Man, obviously). So, with that said, it’s neat to see how little the film actually relies on featuring tie-ins from other superheros, or barely even hinting of their existence at all; after all, when this movie was being made, the idea of an Avengers movie was just a pipe-dream that Marvel had planned, it all came down to whether or not people were going to stick around for four more years to actually see it. Thankfully, they did, but as a small microcosm of what Marvel once was, the Incredible Hulk serves as a nice little escape from some of the overstuffed and overcrowded superhero movies we’ve got going on nowadays.

And I’m not just talking about Marvel’s movies, either.

But regardless of its importance in the long-run of Marvel movies, what the Incredible Hulk does best is that it serves its story justice by offering up as much as action as humanly possible. Louis Leterrier isn’t the best director out there, but he’s a competent enough director that when you tell him to shoot an action-sequence, well, he does just that. And to mention, he makes them pretty damn exciting and fun, even if they are just chock-full of CGI and green-screens. Still, that’s the name of the game with these superhero movies and if that’s what I’m going to start complaining about, well then, I’ve got bigger problems on my hand.

And even when the action isn’t going on, the movie still works fine enough. The drama may not be as heavy as it was in Ang Lee’s movie, which is both a positive, as well as negative; positive because it doesn’t drag the story down from being an actual fun piece of big-budgeted action, negative because it doesn’t always feel like it’s the strongest it can be, given the cast and talent involved. Getting Edward Norton involved with the movie in the first place was smart, as it showed that someone as talented and as smart as him was willing to take a chance with this role and, well, guess what? He does a good job with it.

Take away that grizzled 'stache and Liv Tyler's a spitting-image of William Hurt!

Take away that grizzled ‘stache and Liv Tyler’s a spitting-image of William Hurt!

Granted, the material is not nearly as strong as we’re used to seeing Norton work with, but he does what he can, with what he’s given. While Ruffalo is a perfect fit as the Hulk now, it still makes me wonder what would have happened if Norton didn’t piss-off too many people behind-the-scenes and he was around, collecting the big paychecks. Sadly, it’s all speculation, because obviously, Norton didn’t last long.

But hey, he left a pretty good impression.

After all, some of the scenes he has with Tim Roth, William Hurt and especially, Liv Tyler, as oddly-written as they may be, he brings a certain amount of genuineness to it that makes us feel closer to this story, as well as this character. We don’t get to know his heart and soul like we did in Ang Lee’s, but that’s actually fine; you get the sense that perhaps they were setting-up more development of this character for future movies, but instead, had to opt for the easy way out in just letting it all hang. While I don’t particularly agree with the fact that we can’t give Hulk his own movie, one of these days, I’d like to see them do him justice one day, where we get all of the smashing and whatnot, but some heart and humanity behind it as well.

Maybe with Ruffalo? Who knows!

Consensus: As an early Marvel movie, the Incredible Hulk does fine in giving enough action to help measure out some of the messier parts of the movie, like the melodrama.

7 / 10

It's like David vs. Goliath, although, they're both pretty well-matched.

It’s like David vs. Goliath, although, they’re both pretty well-matched.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

More robots?

Since their big battle in New York City, the Avengers crew has been up to a lot; although, more often than not, they’re separated from one another, left to fend for themselves. Now, many years after their last team-up, the gang is back together and, for the most part, everybody seems to be the same. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still a snarky deuche; Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to keep everybody in line; the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is trying his hardest to control his temper and not lose all sense of control; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still kicking as much ass he possibly can; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is doing the same as Thor, except with her sheer beauty; and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is, well, still there. However, now with a new threat on their hands, inadvertently courtesy of Banner and Stark, the gang has to fight even harder than ever before, especially since they’re going up against new foes like Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), and perhaps more dangerous than they ever expected, Ultron (James Spader), a piece of artificial intelligence that nobody seems to be ready for.

"Quit crying, bro. We've got baddies to fight."

“Quit crying, bro. We’ve got baddies to brawl.”

The first Avengers was pretty much everything anybody who had been waiting four incredibly long years could have ever wanted. It was fun, hilarious, action-packed, and featured all sorts of fan boy moments that made not just the die hards happy and not taking their disapproval straight to the message boards, but also showed that, while this may have been the pinnacle of the Marvel franchise so far, it wouldn’t at all be the last outing. In fact, if there was anything at all spectacular about what Joss Whedon did with the first movie, was that he showed that there was plenty more life to be found inside of these characters, their stories, and what could come their way next.

And now, it’s time for the eventual sequel to that near-masterpiece of everything that’s right with superhero movies and there’s a slight feeling of disappointment. It’s not because Whedon messes up here and gets everything wrong; in fact, everything that Whedon does here, for the majority of it, is that he allows for the action to be as fun, as loud, and as energetic as possible, while also still allowing for us to see everything that’s happening where, when, and to whom. However, he never loses sight of what makes them kick so hard and as well as they do, and that’s the characters.

Yes, these are the same characters that we’ve spent so much time with already, but as you’ll see here, Whedon breaths some new life into them and allows us to see them in a light that we haven’t quite seen them in before: A vulnerable one.

See, what Whedon gets right here, as Guardians of the Galaxy showed us all last summer, is that these characters probably work best when they’re just hanging around with one another, shootin’ the shit, getting on each other’s cases, and overall, learning more than they ever thought they could. Because, as they’re getting to learn more about each other, we’re doing the same; which in and of itself, is not only interesting, but fun. We think we know these characters for all that they appear to be and then we see a certain conversation they have go a way they didn’t expect it to, and all of a sudden, something new is learned. There are many moments of that here and, due to reasons that can’t be disclosed, they feel more emotional and compelling, rather than just fine bits and pieces of filler.

Problem is, that once the filler comes around, it feels like it’s just around to take-up space.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad at a Marvel movie for offering all sorts of action it can come up with. However, I do get a tad bit ticked-off when it takes away from moments that could be spent, dedicated to more and more character development, where we feel like something is actually being accomplished, rather than just tacked-on so people don’t get bored quickly. Whedon does a fine job at putting in certain action sequences that go everywhere and anywhere that they want, with absolute reckless abandon and they’re fun to watch, it’s just that it sometimes feel like the wheels are spinning, but there’s nobody driving.

Things can blow up as much as they want, but when there’s general basis for them, then there’s a bit of a problem. Which, like I’ve said before, wouldn’t have been bad, had it been serviced by something of a plot that worked, or better yet, made some bit of sense. From what I can tell you, Ultron is bad and is capable of planting his subconscious into any robot-body it wants. This, for the most part, made sense to me, but then, for reasons I can’t understand as anything but “corporate excess”, Whedon throws a plethora of characters onto our plate where we’re wondering what they serve to the plot, what they’re all about, and whether or not they’re even worth our time.

Not saying that I have a problem adding in new characters, but when it eventually seems like too much, then you have the same sort of problem that a fellow superhero flick like Spider-Man 3 had. While that movie was definitely off a lot worse than this one, there’s something here that makes me think that all of the added-on characters and subplots, like some of the action, were all just filler; they weren’t to serve much of a purpose, other than to just distract the audience from what is a very confusing and nonsensical plot, and the fact that it could care less about developing the already-known characters a bit more.

"Me mad? But why? WAAH!"

“Me mad? But why? WAAH!”

This isn’t to say that the characters here don’t get some attention and care that they deserve. Above everyone else, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner gets the most development of the pack, where we see him not only tangle with his possible emotions for the likes of Black Widow, but his actual emotions as well. There’s been a lot said about the Hulk character in the past where he seems like too much of a supporting character that, when he’s given his own, single-picture, it doesn’t quite work as well as the others. If that is the case, then Whedon has done a true service to this character where we get enough of him to sense the danger, the sadness, and the actual thrill within this character that people always want to see.

Everybody else that isn’t the Hulk, though, sort of get the short-end of the stick.

One of the more genius aspects surrounding the newly-recruited Scarlet Witch’s character is that she’s able to dig into anybody’s deepest, darkest and most painful secrets imaginable, and with that power, comes plenty of glimpses into some of these character’s heads that are not only disturbing, but pretty sad. For example, Cap’s and Thor’s memories are all about how they miss the people they let-down and left behind, whereas with Black Widow’s, we see her horribly violent up-bringing that makes you wonder just how far she’s willing to go with these missions, where she runs the risk of losing herself. These small glances are what help make these characters all the more compelling to watch and root for, however, there comes a point where it seems to just be used as a way to make us think that the odds are fully stacked-up against the Avengers’ crew.

And while that may most certainly be true with the likes of the absolutely dangerous and intimidating Ultron, the fast, furious and cocky Quicksilver, and the previously mentioned Scarlet Witch, it seems unneeded. It’s almost as if Whedon wanted to jump inside these character’s heads, and jump out as soon as quickly before the going got too heavy. This definitely puts it a step-up above most of the summer blockbusters that are constantly thrown at us left and right, however, it also feels like a teaser for something that’s deeper than what any of us expect.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why the small hints, Joss? Give us it all!

Consensus: As far as superhero blockbusters go, Avengers: Age of Ultron is as action-packed, exciting and as fun as you’d expect it to be, however, some of it is starting to feel repetitive now, especially since there’s more to be unraveled about these characters and what we do get, works so damn well.

8 / 10

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Judge (2014)

Usually it’s the dad bailing the son out of jail, not the other way around. But hey, I’m not from the South, so whatever!

Henry “Hank” Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a hotshot lawyer who always defends the obviously-guilty, and somehow, always ends up winning. However, his shattered personal life is starting to catch up with his successful professional-career, when he hears news of his mother’s passing. This puts him on a journey to go back to where he started from; which, in this case, would be the small town of Carlinville, Indiana where, unsurprisingly, his estranged father (Robert Duvall) is still the town’s respected judge. But see, even his personal life begins to catch up with him when, on one fateful night, the Judge supposedly runs over and kills the town degenerate. And normally, nobody would care, because the guy was a total prick, but the family does and they’re taking the Judge to court! Not to mention, they’ve equipped themselves with one of the meanest, cruelest lawyers in the world, Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton). This seems like the perfect opportunity for Hank to stand up and defend his father, but since their relationship isn’t the most ideal, he hesitates. That is, until he realizes that maybe his father needs him, and now, more than ever before for reasons that will shock and shape his life, whether he wants to accept it or not.

So while this movie seems like total Oscar-bait from the plot, to the cast, and even to the subject-matter itself (courtroom genres are usually a big plus in the eyes of the 80-90-year-old Academy voters), there’s just one big element keeping it away from making that a reality: Director David Dobkin. Sure, to some, the name may not mean much. Well, let me put it in terms to make you understand: Dobkin is the director of such hits as Wedding Crashers, the Change-UpShanghai Knights, and Fred Claus.

Judge1

“Vera Farmiga with arm-tat” is totally “slumming it”.

Yes. Fred freakin’ Claus, everybody! The movie still finds a way to pop-up in everybody’s head, even if it’s as relevant as a box of Chia Pets.

And while at least more than half of those movies are fine, entertaining-pieces of cinema, they’re mostly all, immature, R-rated comedies that make people stand up, laugh, hit themselves silly, go home, and continue on with their everyday lives, but now continuously quote “that hilarious movie they saw with their buddies last weekend”. Those are the same kinds of people that, mind you, don’t really seem like they’d be all that enthused by the Judge, even if it does have a few of those “hee hee” moments.

But then again, I can’t hate on a director who wants to actually branch-out and try something new for once. Sometimes, the most unique movies come from those creators who were pigeon-holed as being a director of one certain genre and sticking to it, and decided to tell the world to “kiss off” and do something different, regardless of how much it would set people back. Though I’m drawing blanks on a few examples, I know they’re out there! But sadly, David Dobkin’s the Judge won’t be joining that list because this is a mess, and understandably so. Dobkin is a director that’s too inclined to just throw in a poop or fart gag, so that when he has to deliver on these strong, compelling moments of drama, they don’t quite mesh so well with the many scenes we get in which we think Downey’s character has possibly hooked up with his own biological daughter.

Not only does this create a jumble between tones, but it makes you wonder what could have happened, had the Judge been given a director that’s more comfortable with both sides of the table. Because, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, there are a few scenes of drama that are well-done and make some of this material, as well as the characters, slightly interesting. But then, moments later, after this touching scene has occurred, Dobkin will make a kind-of-a-joke about how Duvall’s character is incapable of controlling his bowels. And no, I am not kidding you, some of that is actually played up for a joke and it feels oddly-placed.

And that’s pretty much how the whole film is: Sometimes interesting, sometimes not. Most of this is because Dobkin isn’t all that capable of handling drama and comedy together, and also, because his movie just gets more and more conventional as it runs on along. Which was fine because I knew it was going to turn into that after a certain while, but nearly two-and-a-half-hours of waiting till a conclusion that we can already pin-point from a mile away, is a bit too much. Especially when one has to deal with all of the rough patches Dobkin goes through in order to build up to the predictable climax.

But if anything, the Judge makes you wish this kind of high-caliber cast had been given a better movie, because mostly everybody here is good, and sometimes, trying way harder than they need to. Though Robert Downey Jr. is, essentially, playing the same snarky character we’ve seen him do since the beginning of his career, there’s something slightly refreshing in seeing it done now, as an actual person, rather than as Tony Stark, or Sherlock Holmes. Not saying that either one of those characters are bad, but if it came down to RDJ having to play human beings for the rest of his life, as opposed to multi-million-dollar franchise “names”, I’d be happy with him just being Charlie Chaplin again.

RDJ just can't handle this right now. Like OMG.

RDJ just can’t handle this right now. Like OMG.

As long as he stays away from the drugs, that is.

Same goes for Robert Duvall, an actor who, because I haven’t seen him in quite some time, totally left my mind as being a capable actor. But here he is, pushing 83 and giving a good performance as the grumpy curmudgeon that is our titled-character. Though most of the movie is Duvall growling and looking pissed, the scenes he has with Downey Jr. feel like they come from a soft spot in both of their hearts, and to me, really struck a chord. Even if the rest of the movie was manipulative, over-stuffed, over-long, jumbled, and messy, these two being on screen together and just acting their behinds off was more than enough for me.

That said, David Dobkin should just stick to hand job-gags. Those seem to work out best for him in the end.

Consensus: Despite a strong cast trying with everything each and everyone of them have got, the Judge turns out being a jumbled-up mess of comedy, drama, family-dynamics, courtroom arguments, and ill-placed jokes, all coming to a predictable end.

 5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Grrrrrrrr!"

“Grrrrrrrr!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Chef (2014)

Is it me, or has my stomach just been ripped to shreds?

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a professional chef working in a place that allows him to make whatever sort of menu he wants to and command the kitchen the way he wants, however, he still butts heads with his boss (Dustin Hoffman) every so often. Still though, cooking food for plenty to enjoy is what Carl lives off of and loves; maybe even more than life itself. So, he just goes with the flow most of the time, and lets people know that he knows a thing or two about making some grade-A quality grub. Problems arise though when Carl goes head-to-head with a popular food blogger (Oliver Platt) who absolutely trashes him in a scathing review. This brings Carl to not only confront him in an anger-filled, rage-like way, but to also quit because he doesn’t like the way things are going with the restaurant. This brings Carl to a crossroads in his life: either a) apologize to his former-boss, get his job back, and continue to take orders from schmucks who don’t know the difference between a crepe and a pancake, or b) start up his own food-truck business in which he has command over everything, and may even get a chance to rekindle a relationship with his son (Emjay Anthony).

Decisions, decisions for Mr. Carl Casper, and plenty of Cuban sandwiches to eat along the way.

Before I get into the actual details of what I felt about this movie, first thing’s first: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT come into this movie on an empty-stomach. As if that wasn’t already obvious enough by the plot, the foodgasms-filled trailer, and heck, even the title itself, just know, you must eat a hearty meal before seeing this. I don’t care if it’s a home-cooked meal, something you picked up on the go from Burger King, or a small bowl of Ramen Noodles (gotta think about the college kids here) – just do not see this movie without at least a meager amount of food in the pit of your stomach.

Oh, old people learning how to use Twitter. So precious.

Oh, old people learning how to use Twitter. So precious.

Because, if you don’t, you’ll be screwed. No matter what goes on in this movie, you’ll constantly be thinking about what you’re going to have when you get home, be getting constant head and stomach-aches, and maybe even think that that $13 large popcorn may do the trick to cure whatever hunger problems you may be having. You may enjoy the movie still, for sure, but all will be in your mind is how much longer this film is going to go on so that you can go home, and cook up some fresh Hot Pockets and call it a night.

And the reason why I’m harping so much on the idea of eating food before seeing this, because you don’t want to be distracted during this movie. Trust me, it’s a pretty good one that you don’t want to forget about because you couldn’t get that half-slice of pepperoni left-over in your fridge, out of your mind. You’re going to want to enjoy yourself during this movie, because, quite frankly, that’s what Jon Favreau wants you to do. Sure, he also wants you to rub your tummy like you’re playing an old-fashioned game of “Simon Says”, but he also wants you to enjoy the fun-filled spirit of this movie, and just about everybody in it.

Pretty fitting that it’s released in the summer, eh?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that with Chef, Favreau clearly isn’t trying to go for anything life-changing. There’s a lot of talk about him changing his life, being a better mate, being a better father, and being a better person that’s open to criticism, but it’s all there in sprinkles to make it seem like this story is more than just Jon Favreau and friends laughing, cracking jokes, and making food for nearly two-hours. Don’t get me wrong, that type of movie actually excites me, but I could probably do the same thing with half of my buddies, spend less money, and maybe even have a better time than simply watching these peeps do it.

Actually, that’s a lie. I’d totally have a better time hanging out with the likes of John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale. Sorry to any of my friends that are reading this, but what can I say? They’re rich and they’re funny. Can’t ever go wrong with that!

High-lighting the cast would actually probably be the best way to go about with this movie, because they really are the reason why this movie works as well as it does. Sure, Favreau’s style and script is very funny, charming and heartfelt at times, but anybody can make an alright script; it’s the cast you work with, and how much they are able to elevate into being something more that really matters. And here, with this ensemble, which is basically just anybody Jon Favreau’s ever made a movie with (i.e. partied and did blow with), with the exception of Vince Vaughn. Pretty weird, right? You have just about anybody in the biz that Jon Favreau can call “a friend”, and yet, no Vince Vaughn.

Guess Couples Retreat really tore those two apart. Oh well. RIP Vince and Jon. Maybe one of these days they’ll be money again. Who knows.

Anyway, like I was saying about the cast, everybody that shows up here is fun and entertaining to watch, even if they only show up for a little over five minutes or so. Case in point, Robert Downey Jr.’s near-cameo as Carl Casper’s ex-wife’s ex-husband, who is the type of character you’d expect to see RDJ to play: Weird, off-kilter, goofy, fast-talking, and always acting as if he’s on another planet. However, with the limited screen-time, he makes it all so worth the while and leaves us wondering why the hell he doesn’t just do more movies without superheros and Guy Ritchie. I mean seriously: Come back to being a human, RDJ! There’s nothing at all wrong with that, dammit!

#RDJSwag

#RDJSwag

Others that pop-up ever so slightly too, are folks like Scarlett Johansson as Casper’s possible love-interest, who, weirdly enough, looked like my sister with her black hair, black bangs, black dresses, and tattoos. So every time the two would be hooking up or doing anything remotely sexual, I automatically got creeped-out. But hey, I guess my sister could do a lot worse, so good for her if that ever does happen! Dustin Hoffman also shows up for a small bit as the Casper’s boss that, can be a bit of a dick, but in reality, is just trying to keep his business afloat and do whatever’s best for his joint, even if that means getting rid of some of the best talents it may have to offer. You know, sort of like a real business man.

Also to mention, again sort of, is Oliver Platt as the critic that gives Casper a written-dialogue spanking that is actually a lot more terrible than some of the reviews I’ve seen on sites like Yelp, but still feels real, especially in the way Casper reacts to him in a way that’s both cruel, funny, and a bit sad, considering Platt’s character is a critic, doing what he does best: Critiquing. Sofia Vergara shows up as Casper’s ex-wife who is very wealthy and seems like she’d be a total shrew, but is actually supportive and nice to Casper, even when he seems to be a bit of a dick to everyone around him; Emjay Anthony is a good fit as Casper’s son who is a bit needy at times, but still feels like a kid who just wants to hang with his dad and get to know him about more; and, in case I didn’t need to re-iterate this anymore than I already have, it’s always lovely to see John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale show up in anything, and here is no different. They’re funny, exciting, cool, and always bringing the room’s volume up to at least an 11. My heroes.

But, in the middle of all this is Jon Favreau, who, considering this is a movie he single-handedly wrote, directed and put together all himself, could have easily made this a movie where he gets to do all of the heavy-lifting and show why he’s the man. But he doesn’t. Rather, Favreau is kind and allows everybody else to work off of him and get the most attention from the crowd; while in honesty, he’s the real heart, soul, and charm of this movie. As a whole cast, they make it better, but with Favreau at the dead-center of it all, just acting like that normal, everyday-man we all loved seeing him act like before, he keeps it all grounded and sincere. Without him, this movie would have never been made. Yet, without him, this movie wouldn’t have been so lovely to watch. Nor would it have been as delicious to look at neither.

Yum.

Consensus: Not the deepest movie ever made, yet, Chef is still able to slide by with a charming ensemble, well-written script, and many food delights to make you reconsider the next time you ever think McDonalds is a suitable dinner.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, well my dad's a government worker. So take that.

Yeah, well my dad’s a government worker. So take that.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Good Night, And Good Luck (2005)

Television, where have you gone?

During the mid-1950s, there was a man by the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy who saw many people around him as “communists”. Those people he found to be affiliated with this political party, regardless as to whether or not he had substantial evidence, would be put on trial, questioned, manipulated and practically have their lives ruined, all without much grounds to stand on. Not many people liked to see this happen, however, not many people voiced their disapproval in hopes of not being considered a “communist” as well. There was one man, though, that saw wrong-doings being committed and he was a pretty well-known figure at the time, that definitely had enough power and respect within his own industry to where he could get in front of the television, speak out his mind and say what he has to say loud, proud, and in front of thousands, upon thousands all over the nation. That man, was Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), and he was more than willing to take on McCarthy and all of his fellow “red-baiters”; but, as most of us know when you’re taking on the bull, you’re going to eventually get the horns.

You have to hand it to George Clooney – when he isn’t being charming, swift, lovable and the coolest mofo on the face of this planet, he’s always finding a way to express himself in a way that makes us see him as more than just a pretty face, with a pair of fresh, shiny teeth. Sure, he’s got the looks to make it as an actor, and he’s definitely got the skills to make it as both an director and a writer, but believe it or not, the guy’s also got a pretty big head on his shoulders, with some very bright, very insightful ideas that he’s not afraid to let public to the rest of the world. In today’s day and age, where celebrities are getting all sorts of clatter for speaking out with whatever controversial opinion they may, or may not have, you have to give someone as famous, as well-known and as respected as George Clooney is to, most of the time, let everyone know what he thinks about where society is headed, and why he thinks it’s either in a good, or bad direction.

So much lung cancer.

So much lung cancer in that right room.

However, in this case, George comes down to the conclusion that we’re all going in the later-direction; don’t worry though, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as faint as it may be.

I guess what I am trying to get across here is that, as both co-writer and director, George Clooney definitely has a lot to handle in terms of giving us a real-life story, that mostly everybody knows about and, if we’re being brutally honest, may not be all that interesting to put to screen in a big, showwy way, with a whole bunch of familiar, attractive faces attached to the roles. But that problem soon goes away once we realize that not only does Clooney get past the problems of making a story as well-known like this, still interesting, but he also finds way to keep us entertained, while also informed on the side as well. For every point being made about how you should speak up for yourself, regardless of what others out there may be saying; there’s always a cool glance or two about how television during the 50’s was done, how a story was put-together, who it went through first and just why the ratings were so freakin’ crucial during that time. So for anybody who doesn’t give a lick about what Murrow may be saying about McCarthy and his “unjust allegations”, then have no fear, because there’s still plenty of people smoking, beautiful black-and-white cinematography to gaze, and plenty of lovely faces that all adapt quite well to the 50’s setting.

And the people that Clooney was able to get for this movie, including himself, all do amazing jobs with what they’re given, even though it’s fairly clear that their characters come second to whatever message Clooney wants to get across. There’s nothing all that wrong with that since that message is exactly why Clooney is making this film, but in the case of Murrow, you get the idea that we never get to know who this person really was, behind the camera and dead-pan tone; we just know that he’s a patriot and sticks to everything he says, no matter how many times people spit in his face about it (figuratively, not literally). Maybe that wasn’t Clooney’s point, but it does create a bit of a distance between us and Murrow, especially once we realize that it’s his story that really matters most, even despite all of the Left-Wing propaganda Clooney is shoveling down our throats (in a good way, I promise).

But it’s easy to get past this problem with Murrow, as well as every other character here, solely due to the fact that the people in these respective roles are great and can do efficient work, when given the shot to. David Strathairn really excels here at giving us more than just a simple impersonation of the man we all know, and delivers each and every single speech with passion in his heart, and a fire in his eyes, without ever showing too much emotion or feeling in the process; except only to smoke and inhale, that is. It’s surprising to see someone as notable as George Clooney take on the type of role that would have been perfect for a “character actor”, but he works pretty damn fine as Fred Friendly, giving us a restrained, off-to-the-side performance we don’t usually see from him. Then again though, this is his movie, so maybe he didn’t want to be hogging-up the spotlight a bit too much now, eh?

Everybody else is great too, and shows you that Clooney himself probably picked each of these people so damn delicately, right down to the very bone of the role. Frank Langella has a few, wonderful scenes as the chief executive of CBS, William Paley, the man who practically runs the whole show, but never censors Murrow one bit, giving him a clear-conscience in the name of journalism; Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. show up and add some much-needed heart and humor to the proceedings as a married-couple trying not to get caught actually being married, due to it being against CBS policy; Jeff Daniels is clearly having a ball in his few scenes as Frank Stanton, another one of Murrow’s bosses who doesn’t like everything that goes down, but is still there to stand by and watch the fire-works occur; and lastly, Ray Wise does a pretty efficient job as Don Hollenbeck, CBS’s evening-news reporter who you just feel so bad for once you see him, and never lose a single ounce of sympathy for, all because you can tell this is clearly too much for him.

Basically, from the look, to the acting, to the setting; there’s clearly a little something for everyone here, and I think that’s where Clooney really excels at the most.

He gives us a story that is as thought-provoking now, as it might have been nearly 50 years ago, but not without giving those some moments where they can at least be interested in seeing why all of this matters, and how we, as a society, are being affected by all of this today. Because, once you think about it, Murrow isn’t just standing-up for his own right to free speech, but for all of ours as well. He does this in hopes that it will not only translate to news being spread more rapidly, but that we, as viewers, consumers and citizens, will grow smarter and more aware as to what is really out there, and what the truth is lying behind most controversies we see out there.

Aka, a total dick.

Aka, a total dick.

What all of this really comes down to is whether or not we’ve learned from our past mistakes, and if we’ve moved on to informing those in the best, clearest ways possible. Have we? I don’t know. The state of television surely isn’t a pretty one today, with the likes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or 16 & Pregnant, or even an easy target like Jerry Springer, not only taking up most of our television-screens, but our day as well as our head-space, and sadly to say, it seems like it will never end. Are these shows entertaining? Sure, why not! However, can they, or better yet, are they only made to as Murrow himself would say, “distract, delude, amuse and insulate” us? I definitely think so! Now, would Murrow, had he been alive today, be at all pleased with that?

Honestly, I do not think so, but Clooney isn’t trying to beat that horse over the head with a hammer that’s nearly about to break; instead, he’s just trying to show us that television, like all news formats, can still be important, interesting and worth watching. Though the art of journalism itself has definitely lost some credibility over the years, and in ways, changed its own meaning, it’s still out there for us to read, see or hear about, and rather than just sitting on our pie-holes and listening to what other’s are telling us what to think, we should be out there, right now, allowing ourselves to speak freely and make up our own mind about whatever feels right for us. Who cares what those over-paid, sponsored-up hacks from ABC have to say, go with what you think and never let your own opinion, no matter how unpopular or popular it may in fact be, get shut-down. Stick to your guns, speak your mind and never let go of your stance. If you can do this and keep to it, then you’re only influencing others to do the same, and therefore, continuing on the cycle of people thinking, speaking for, and overall, just being themselves.

Now that is something I feel as if Murrow would be quite pleased with.

Consensus: Smart, well-crafted and powerful in the message it’s trying to get across about the future state of television and information, Good Night, And Good Luck is basically a history-lesson with many attractive, talented people giving it to us, but it’s never a boring one, or one that rings false. Just sticks straight to the facts, much like Edward R. Murrow himself.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If this guy doesn't make you want to start smoking and speaking about politics, I don't know who will. Surely not Glenn Beck!

If this guy doesn’t make you want to start smoking and speaking about politics, I don’t know who will. Surely not that joke Glenn Beck!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Iron Man 3 (2013)

At least he’s on the wagon now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just give me some damn time, man!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

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

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

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

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

No midgets hung themselves during the filming of this movie.

James Franco stars as Oscar, a small-time circus magician who is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. There, he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Oscar must put his magical arts to use through illusion, through a bit of wizardry slowly transforming himself into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz he was destined to be after all.

Alright, let’s face it: we weren’t awaiting for a whole new-look at Oz, and hell, we weren’t even anticipating this movie; but dammit, it feels so good to be back. The first couple of previews for this movie made it seem as if it was just another, CGI-filled trip that was more like the recent Alice in Wonderland-debacle, than anywhere near a genuine piece of cinema, but thankfully, that’s where Sam Raimi comes in, and thank the movie heavens for him. However, anybody expecting a Drag Me to Hell or Evil Dead Raimi, are going to be surely disappointed. This is Raimi at his most kiddie-ish, and whether or not you are down for that; is most likely going to affect your whole feeling on this movie.

For me, I didn’t mind that Raimi was gunning for the kids/families, because it’s Oz, and I highly doubt people would want to go see Oz hanging out with Ash, and going around and sawwing-off zombies with a chainsaw instead of a limb. Like Bryan Singer pulled that last week, it may lose some respect from the people that love and praise you the most, but in this world and in this business: you can’t please everybody. Thankfully, the man pleased me and that was more than enough. Okay, I just realized that came out wrong but you get what I’m saying.

"Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place."

“Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place.”

What I liked so much about Raimi’s direction is that no matter what the problem may be with this story, with these characters, or with the ideas, the movie is always stunning to view. I got the humble chance to see this in 3-D (with some fancy schmancy glasses, thank you for that, Allied) and it was breath-taking because you can totally tell that whoever designed this movie, did it with love and with a great attention to detail. Throughout the whole 2 hours and some-odd minutes, you really do feel as if you are right there, stuck in this world of Oz there with all of these wondrous, and crazy characters, whether they be creatures, flying monkeys, witches, magicians, or people pretending to be magicians, and it was a place that I was happy to be in. Even when the start-off with the strange ratio in the old-school, black-and-white look, it was still beautiful and felt more than just a mindless gimmick.

I don’t know if that was because of the look, the feel, the characters, or what, but what I do know is that this movie is beautiful and you can totally tell that Raimi and company really put a lot of effort into the look of this film, and to make it work. It isn’t just pretty to take your eyes off of what’s supposed to be a plot, but it’s there to ease your eyes and have you go, “Woah. Ooh. Aaah.” Whether or not you’re the person who likes the shell-out a couple of extra bucks for 3-D, I’d say go for it, but don’t come complaining to me if you can handle that extra-dimension. It’s what it promises on the package, baby.

But it’s not like this movie is only good for the visuals, the story itself is pretty cool too. As a kid, I loved the hell out of the Wizard of Oz and always wondered what it was like before Dorothy and Toto came-around and shook things up a bit. I finally got that view, and Raimi provides a nice world that is easy to get used to, even if some of it does seem a bit like filler. But filler is fine with me as long as it’s fun, entertaining, and enjoyable while it lasts, and that’s something I have to give a lot of credit to Raimi for: he brought me back to this world and gave me a good time. Come to think about it, isn’t that what going to the movies are all about? Being transported into a different world where all of your wildest and craziest imaginations could, and just might come true? I think that’s what the social-act of “going to the movies” is all about, and what makes it better is that this time, the world you are transported to, just so happens to be Oz. Oh yeah.

What surprised me the most about this movie is how strong and fun it started-off. I felt as if there was a real sense of joy and display of entertainment to be entertained-by, but somehow, the film loses it’s way and found myself actually losing interest the story. Yeah, I can’t explain it and if I do, I’ll just end up running into spoiler-territory but something was just not working for me. It almost felt as if the movie had all of these intentions to get our minds, right off the bat, and then stopped caring much about the story as it continued to trug-along and that’s where I found myself forgetting what was going on, why characters were doing certain things, and just what were all of these crazy witches jabbering on about.

Maybe a film like this that takes place in Oz and is only meant for kids, isn’t really something that’s worth to be all that thought-about and studied as if it was my Junior Year research paper (still haven’t gotten my grade for that either), but to me, that shows a problem. A problem not just with the story or the screenplay, but with the direction and how Raimi begins to lose a bit of focus. Instead of making this movie just one, joyous adventure after another, the movie continues to pile on, more and more explanation and exposition to the story, when in reality, all we needed to know was: witches are evil, Oz is good, people need saving, and that’s why he is there. That’s all we needed, but the movie continues to ramble on with random shite that makes no sense and doesn’t need to when you have a movie that takes place in Oz. Just give me fun, delight, happiness, jokes, witches, magicians, flying monkeys, and dwarves. That’s it. Nothing more and sure as hell, nothing less.

"Hotness! Be summoned!

“Hotness! Be summoned!

Other than the fact that the movie adds a bit more than it should have, what has really surprised me the most about this movie is how it’s already being received. And by “being received”, I mean James Franco and his performance as Oz. Personally, I think the guy nailed what it was like to be a big, old cheap-o of a magician that doesn’t have a care in the world, is selfish, egotistical, a womanizer, and a bit of a d-bag. I thought, if anything, Franco nailed that aspect of that character down like-pat and really made me believe that such a schlub of a guy like Oz, could actually turn his life around and be the grand wizard all of these people expect him to be. Yes, the already-wanted Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp would have been a lot better for this role, but with Franco, he gives it his all and if anything, deserves some praise and kudos for going balls-deep in this role and not coming off like a member of the Dull Party, like he usually comes off as. Even though you may not hear this from many others, James, I just would like to say: good job and keep-up the good work. Don’t let them haters get yo ass down. Holla.

The supporting cast around him, also do fine jobs, even if some are better than others, which shows as well. Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams play the three witches of Oz, who all do fine, except for the gal who plays the Wicked Witch. Even though Disney themselves already shot-themselves in the foot with this one and spoiled who the actual witch was, I refuse to give it away and say who. But, the person that they do end-up with seems a bit miscast, almost as if she put way, way too much emphasis on the yelling and cackling. The story as to why that chick becomes the Wicked Witch, is pretty interesting (Oz is a pimp daddy, fo sho), but the development of that certain character and how she acts so pissed was a tad annoying and made me just want to shoe her away. Maybe that was the point after all, but I was more annoyed of the chick, than scared. Unlike when I was a kid and nearly pissed my Spider-Man pj’s every time THAT Wicked Witch came around. God, she was a scary woman.

It was also nice to see Zach Braff back in action as Finley, Oz’s trusty side-kick who also happens to be a talking-monkey, since the guy hasn’t been around much. Also, I’m a huge fan of Scrubs so whatever the guy had to say, in whatever which way, always had me howling at the moon. Oh, and yes, for all of you die-hard Raimi fans out there, Bruce Campbell does show his wonderful-self in this movie, but it’s in a role that may surprise you, but more because you did not even know it was him and was such a small-role for the guy. Granted, a Bruce Campbell cameo is better than no Bruce Campbell cameo, but at least it could have been more epic and cool, considering I was waiting for him the whole time. Disappointment, disappointment.

Consensus: Though Raimi bites-off a bit more than he could ever possibly chew with some of this classic-material, Oz the Great and Powerful is still a fun, beautiful, and enjoyable trip back to the world we all loved when were kids, and will feel even happier to pass it on down to the next-generation of go-getters who still have no idea what tapping your ruby slippers are all about. Silly Y-Generation children.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hey, I know they're sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck?

Hey, I know they’re sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck? I’ll cover the kid’s eyes…?

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Who cares about family when you got a plate full of turkey right in-front of you?

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is a divorced, single-mom who just lost her job and now has to fly home for the traditional family Thanksgiving Dinner in Baltimore. Thing is, her parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft) are a bit out-of-whack, her gay-brother (Robert Downey Jr.) likes to start a whole bunch of trouble, and her sister (Cynthia Stevenson) doesn’t like anything that anybody else does.

Ohhh, Thanksgiving. The family, the mashed potatoes, the turkey, the corn, the butter, the bread, and most of all, the fights. Yes, not matter how perfect your family may be, there are always fights to be had around this joyous time because let’s face it, any time you get a group of people together, to sit-around and eat dinner, there’s going to be some words thrown around and about and that’s just the way it works. Me, on the other hand, I eat, talk, watch football, and that’s it. If my family fights, then so be it because I know I’m not getting myself involved and I’m sure as hell not missing out on some turkey, that’s for damn sure. To be honest though, I think eating turkey was something that was more interesting to think about than watching this movie.

Jodie Foster went behind the camera for the 2nd time with this flick and you can sort of tell that she’s connecting with this topic through her own experiences with her, and her family, especially around Thanksgiving. Now maybe since Foster was such a big-name at such an early-age, maybe she didn’t really have nice, little, suburban-cooked meals of turkey with her ordinary-family of regular-day people, but you can definitely tell that she enjoys that aspect behind Thanksgiving because it shows a lot in this film, and there’s just a certain easy-going feel to it that makes it so pleasant of a watch. All holiday movies are cheery and happy-go-lucky, and this one is no different but it’s something about the family-dynamic that this movie nails so well that got me all cheerful.

All of the interactions these characters shared with one another, all felt real for about the first hour or so. I liked how everybody in this family, knew each other, had their own ways of communicating with one another, and didn’t hold-back when it came to expressing their real-feelings about something, whether it be each other or the world around them. That’s how a real family is and I liked watching everybody just talk and be themselves around one another, even if themselves was just a selfish, condescending piece-of-crap that you wouldn’t want to be around, let alone spend all of Thanksgiving Dinner with. I don’t know how many actual, normal Thanksgiving Dinners Foster has had in her life, but I can definitely tell that she enjoys the look and feel of a believable family-dynamic and how everybody gets that all families are wacky, dysfunctional, and always, I do repeat, always fight about something stupid or meaningful.

However, this whole realistic family-dynamic doesn’t go on forever. After the first hour of this movie, it seemed like Foster sort of lost what she was going for originally, and just decided to make this one, long soapy melodrama and sort of abandon all of the realistic, family-stuff that was going on before. I liked when the family was arguing and how they couldn’t decide on what to eat or not, but I didn’t give a single-crap about how the father remembers the good old days and how he could wish to go back in-time and do them all over again. I’m sorry, but it didn’t interest me and it seemed like Foster lost herself because instead of focusing on the whole family and what they’re all about, she focuses more on Claudia as time goes on and as good as interesting as she may be at-times, she’s never fully-developed.

You have to give Holly Hunter a lot of credit for really nailing her roles as Claudia. Claudia is a bit of nut-job that obviously has problems with her professional and personal life, and even though that is touched-on within the first 20 minutes or so, it never feels like we really care all that much to begin with. Then, the film starts to really focus on her and what’s going on with her life, and it makes no sense as to where all of this crap is coming from. I get it, she’s a bit sad, and she misses her daughter, but what does that have to do with her and her personality. I didn’t get what Foster was touching on with her and even though Hunter is very-good here, I still wish that her character was more fully-developed and wasn’t used so randomly.

Everybody else in the cast is pretty good, too, and to be honest, a lot more interesting than Claudia in-ways. Robert Downey Jr. seems like he’s having a ball as Claudia’s trouble-making brother, Tommy, and just uses that “talking-really-fast” shtick oh so well here as he does everywhere else. Him and Hunter have a nice chemistry that really does feel like they are brother and sister, and that they have always loved each other through thick-and-thin and just watching them together was great to see, especially since Downey was probably all coked-up out-of-his-mind while he was doing this. Anne Bancroft plays the mother, Adele, and is very, very good as we all know her as being and just nails the whole cooky, paranoid mother-role very-well. Hell, in a way, it even reminds me of what my mom may be in the near-future but I’m not banking on it. A super young-looking Dylan McDermott shows up here as Leo Fish, a friend of Tommy’s, and he’s okay but he seems way too comfortable with this family, way too quick. Literally, as soon as the guy stops in, he starts making wise-cracks to Claudia about how much of a hell the house has got to be and it’s obvious that he wants to get into her parents, because why else would he randomly be talking to her like that, but it didn’t seem believable. Instead, it just came off as a bit creepy and if he was a guy that one of my relatives brought over for dinner, I’d probably want him the hell out. Then again, it’s Dylan McDermott and I’d be pretty honored if the guy showed-up in my house in the first-place so never mind that noise that I’m spraying.

Consensus: Home for the Holidays has the look and feel of a cheery, good-spirited holiday movie, but also feels like it’s trying to go for a bit more and instead, bites off a little bit more than it can chew.

6/10=Rental!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Gobble Gobble!

The Avengers (2012)

Summer season here we gooooooo!!!!

When an unexpected enemy emerges threatening global safety and security, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Director of the International Peacekeeping Agency (known as SHIELD), finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

Ever since 2008 swung by with ‘Iron Man’ on its shoulders, Marvel Studios has pretty much been patiently waiting and building up to this moment. And needless to say (however still said), the wait was worth it.

The best thing about this flick is how Marvel was able to get a director/writer like Joss Whedon. Whedon knocked it out of the park last month with ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, and he pretty much does the same thing here; but instead of focusing on the horror genre, he focuses on the superheros that we all know, love, and hope to be someday. Maybe I’m alone with that last one, and maybe I snuck it in so quick you didn’t even notice, but basically what I’m trying to say is that these are superheros that deserve the right treatment with everything they get. Whedon gives them all that, and much, much more. I mean after all, Whedon is a fanboy at heart but he is also a film-maker, and that is something he’ll always live up to. He knows what comic ban fans expect to see from this type of material, and he absolutely delivers.

Whedon’s great attribute to this flick is that he is able to stage so many excellent action sequences that are some of the best I have seen lately. Of course, the special effects and CGI are perfect. And the IMAX 3-D does makes this film look so cool it seems like you’re right there along for the ride, but when it comes down to some awesome, kick-ass throw downs, Whedon knows how to do it; and even better, do it right. They’re all breath-taking because they have so much intensity, but a lot of it’s because plenty of the action scenes consist of superheros fighting superheros. We get to see Thor versus Iron Man, Captain America versus Thor, Iron Man versus The Incredible Hulk, and so on and so forth. If any of you out there love these superheros and want to see what they would be like stacked up against another superhero, then definitely see this flick because almost every fight shows these heroes pulling just about everything they have out of their arsenal. It’s like King Kong vs. Godzilla, Lincoln vs. Washington, or even  Backstreet Boys vs. N’Sync. It’s the battle between two opposing forces that can almost never be stopped, and it’s just pure fun. It’s as easy as that.

The strangest but most awesome thing about this movie is that it’s turns out bring one of the funnier comedies of the past couple of years. Whedon shows that he’s even better when it comes to writing witty scripts, and pinpoints perfection here with this cast of characters. I mean all of these superheros are pretty much egotistical freaks who think they’re superior to others because of their freakishly powerful skills they inherited; and that’s exactly what Whedon touches on here. There are plenty of scenes where it’s just a one-on-one outrageous verbal battle between two characters and it’s probably some of the funniest dialogue you’ll hear this whole summer. But it’s not just these verbal battles that are funny, everything else here is too, and it doesn’t even seem like Whedon is trying to write funny dialogue just to be funny and cool; it comes naturally. Even better is that it’s not just one character who gets a chance to be funny, EVERYBODY here does. There will definitely be moments where you come close to rolling out of your seat. My buddy next to me was on the brink a couple times there and I couldn’t blame him.

I honestly think that the reason this film does work so well the way that it does here is because that we’ve had all this time (4 years to be exact) to get to see, know, love and understand these characters in their own movies; and it’s just awesome to finally see them all together in the same room doing exactly what it is they do best: be freakin’ awesome. Robert Downey Jr. obviously is the star of the show and gives off a whole bunch of hilarious one-liners as Tony Stark/Iron Man (remember when people thought that movie was going to blow?); Chris Evans is THE MAN as everybody’s favorite red, white, and blue superhero, Captain America; Chris Hemsworth is once again likable and charming as the Olde English speaker/Norse God, Thor; Mark Ruffalo does a great job of replacing Edward Norton here as Bruce Banner/Hulk, and gives him this scruffy, worn-out look that coexists well especially when he gets angry and turns green; Scarlett Johansson is pretty cool as Black Widow even though it didn’t really seem like she was going to be around here much, but surprisingly, she is also great and doesn’t let us down; Jeremy Renner is pretty much cool and tough as Hawkeye; and Samuel L. Jackson‘s performance here as Nick Fury is basically him playing the Samuel L. Jackson we always see him play, but this time with an eye-patch. Is that a bad thing? Not at all people, not at all.

A superhero film like this is usually made or broken by the villains, and I think they chose right with Tom Hiddleston as Loki. To be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Loki in ‘Thor’ and I actually found him to be a somewhat weak villain no matter, despite how entertaining the flick was. However, Whedon gives Loki just enough time to show how evil and dangerous of a villain he is when he allows this guy to cut a villainous monologue every time he is around one of these heroes. It sounds a bit tiring, but thankfully, Whedon keeps all of these speeches interesting simply while showing  how incredibly powerful Loki can be. Also have to give a lot of credit to Hiddleston who shows that he’s definitely able to carry one villain role all by himself, but also exercise a bit of his comedic chops here as well. A lot of the funnier scenes in this movie revolve around Loki and just how ridiculous this damn dude can be.

Actually, it’s not just Loki who gets the special treatment from Whedon here, come to think of it, everybody does and that’s what’s did it for this flick. There are so many characters/superheros here, but Whedon’s still able to keep them all relevant by showing how all of their powers, skills, and elements as heroes can change the situation that they’re in while simultaneously reminding us why and how we fell in love with these characters in the first place. For example, Black Widow is definitely a character that you would expect to be forgettable in this huge cast of characters. But Whedon shows her as being a kick-ass spy and assassin that actually adds a lot more to the team than you would expect. You think a lot differently of her and what she can do with those nice, strong legs. It’s just great that Whedon lets every character have their time to shine and not have any of them get over-shadowed by one in particular. Hell, even Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson gets to have a couple of memorable moments! Joss surely does know how to share the love.

If I had to be a total dickhead here and nit-pick, it would have to be that sometimes, the film did seem to hit a lull in its pace. And not only did it seem to take a bit away from the final product, but it also made me want more action up on the screen. The scenes with Hawkeye and Black Widow were a little lame and didn’t do much for me, but then again, it didn’t matter because when it got to them kicking ass, that’s exactly what they did.

Consensus: The Avengers is pretty much everything you could expect it to be with fun action, great performances from this ensemble cast of characters that we all know and love, very funny screenplay, and just a reminder as to why nerds rule, and will never, ever go away. Best film of the year so far and a totally kick-ass ride from start to finish. Long live Marvel!

9/10=Full Price!!

BTW: If you guys get a chance to, check out a website called GuysNation. It’s a pretty far-out site I’ve been writing for, for quite some time and just go on by, show me some love, and check out some of the other non-related movie stuff that’s on there as well. Have a good Friday night everybody!

If you have recently seen the new Marvel hit the Avengers and you feel like watching more action packed Summer blockbusters then why not try one of the available online movie services. Visit LOVEFiLM vs Netflix UK to compare two of the leading brands in the online streaming service business.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Batman and Iron Man together at last! Except this time, Batman actually is gay.

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Junior) is a thief posing as an actor who teams up with tough-guy private eye Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer) and frustrated actress Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan). They stumble upon a murder, which is when the comedy starts to ensue.

When you take elements of a noir, mix it together with dark comedy, action, a little bit of love, and a whole lot of satire and put in one flick, it seems like it would just be another jumbled up piece that would turn out to be just another lame rip-off of ‘Pulp Fiction’. However, c0-writer/director Shane Black is definitely a guy you can depend on for originality.

The film starts off with this very self-aware narrative that shows us all of the things we should know about this story, and makes it a point to point out all of the obvious stuff that pop-up later on in the flick. This was a hilarious way to start the flick off because it got me in the right mind-set of how the comedy was going to be, how frequent it was, and that I also wasn’t going to see something I’ve seen before. Black is a writer that I hear so much about and I can really tell that he has some real talent because with each and every single frame, he keeps on bringing more and more fresh ideas to this story to the point where you think anything can happen, and it actually does.

Despite bringing some fresh and new air to this type of flick, there is also a huge amount to laugh-out-loud here, which is exactly what I did. There’s a lot of gay jokes here to be heard but they work incredibly well, the tongue-in-cheek humor that shows these characters basically talking like they are in another crime-action flick works and doesn’t seem overly used at all, the one-liners just come out like crazy, and you can’t laugh at how funny Black is when he’s poking fun at Hollywood. We always get those flicks that make it abundantly clear that Hollywood is just a huge scam but this flick tells it in a very funny and different way where Black brought up funny statements such as the fact that every girl from a little farm-town makes it “big” or that everyone in these bars look like celebrity impersonators, just felt like the best kind of satire that actually had me laughing. It’s also one of those flicks that pokes fun at people getting shot and killed but that still made me laugh. I don’t know what it is with this guy, but Shane Black is really earning points from me.

My only gripe with this flick is that I do feel like the film tries a little too hard to give us a complicated plot so it doesn’t become one of those stories it’s making fun of. Yes, the plot is a mystery but it gets way too complicated to the point of where I had no idea who the hell this chick was that they were searching for, let alone, if she was alive or dead. All I wanted to see was what would happen to our three main characters and I guess that’s where my favorite parts of this flick came from.

Robert Downey Jr. is absolutely awesome as Harry Lockhart because he plays Downey the way we want to see him played. The character, Harry himself is pretty interesting but it’s not his character arch that made him interesting, it was the charisma and charm that Downey gives off in his performance that gets you behind this guy right from the start. Once again, it’s one of those mile-a-minute/tweeker talks that we usually get from him but it works well for his character and it’s just so much fun to see Downey having a ball with a character like this.

However, what really surprised me was how he actually took the back-burner from a dude none as, Val Kilmer. Yes, The Val Kilmer takes this film from Downey and practically makes it his own with his hilarious performance as Gay Perry (yes that is his name). Kilmer is an actor that is known for choosing some really good roles but then at the same time, known for choosing some real shit roles but I think he found his niche here as the sarcastic-as-hell, gay cop that just elevates this film beyond belief, every time he shows up on-screen. Don’t let me take any credit away from Downey because I think he was awesome here equally, but it was Kilmer who just brought so much energy, so much fun, and so much humor to this whole flick that it really made me crack-up at just about everything he said, even when he was being serious. The chemistry is also a lot of fun to watch too considering that they are supposed to be hating each other for a good part of the flick but they still end up having that buddy chemistry that worked so well for Black in the past.

Michelle Monaghan is surprisingly awesome as Harmony Faith Lane, Harry’s love-interest. I was very surprised when I actually found myself laughing at Monaghan’s character here because not only is she fine as hell but she’s got some great comedic timing to her as well and makes her character seem more than just another one-note, action flick love-interest that starts off strong but then starts to fade away from the picture slowly. I also couldn’t stop thinking about how much Emma Stone actually looks and sounds like her but I hope that Stone stays on the path she’s on, considering Monaghan hasn’t really had a good flick in awhile.

Consensus: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an original piece of work that combines mystery, crime, action, romance, and tongue-in-cheek comedy that works on almost every level especially with its great lead performances and gets me more and more excited to see what Black and Downey Jr. are going to do with ‘Iron Man 3’.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Zodiac (2007)

Who is “The Zodiac Killer”? Actually I think the better question is who cares?

“The Zodiac Killer” was a serial killer during the 60’s to 70’s who wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle talking about what he was going to do next and stunned everybody all-over-the-world by how he was never caught. Two people, a homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) spend half of their lives trying to solve the case, only to be shown-up many years later by a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Going into this and knowing that this was a David Fincher flick, I had a feeling that I was in for some utterly insane craziness that happens in just about all of his films. However, when it comes to a 157 minute film about an open-case, I got something way way better.

This is a very long film that is filled with non-stop talking, evidence, procedures, details, facts, and everything else that has to do with this case but I was never bored once. Fincher seems totally dedicated to this case and all of the investigations and claims that were made for this whole case are brought up giving us a more clear view of what is actually going on with this case. We never find out who the killer is, even though we get a general idea through red herrings, but the fact that we listen and learn as this case is following through, you can get a sense that you are here solving the case as much as they are as well. Of course this is more like a clear-cut film that seems like one long episode of ‘CSI’, but if you like mystery/crime films that show you just about everything without leaving anything out, this is a perfect watch for you as much as it was for me.

Another great element to this film that Fincher uses is creating tension in the mood as if I was watching a flick from the 70’s itself, which is where the story takes place. Fincher creates the fashions and feelings of the time, but still being able to add in his own CGI-enhanced material that will still seem relevant to the story as it gives it this very moody and grim look but still in a way full of colors when some big shine of light comes through. We also get these dark and moody feelings where something is just not right in the air and the fact that almost nothing happens (no big car chases, no big shoot-out) is a true testament to Fincher’s sturdy hand considering the whole time I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat with this paranoia that I was starting to feel a lot more than the actual characters themselves. I also could not tell you if there was a completley unneeded scene here that had nothing to do with this actual investigation, which is not very common with thrillers nowadays but then again, Fincher is just a totally different dude.

I think I was just some impressed by this film because it’s something that is incredibly different from anything else that Fincher has done before. We see him in more of a subdued drama, that may seem too dialogue-heavy in some parts, but overall keeps you watching the whole time. The fact that Fincher also never lets us in on what he feels is the right solution to this case or who he feels is really the killer, made me appreciate this film even more as it could almost be another case where even motion pictures can shed some intelligent life on an investigation that may have taken forever to solve, but could be easily solved by just facing the facts…Jack.

My one and only problem with this flick is that I didn’t really like what it turned out to be in the end when we start to focus on Gyllenhaal’s character, Robert Graysmith. We see how Graysmith starts to become terribly obsessed with this case so much that he starts to alienate his family, grow paranoid in everything he does, and basically make his house a shit-sty of papers that have to do with the case that he can’t get over and just let go. We have all seen this idea and material way too much and it wasn’t like the last act had me annoyed, I was still easily interested but I just think it was more of a bummer to see Fincher resort what seemed like ‘The Number 23’.

Fincher has a huge cast of characters here but only a couple stand out in my book. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a very good performance as Graysmith and shows that he has a lot of craft, energy, and tension in almost every scene that he places himself in. It’s such a shame that him and Fincher vowed to never work again because Gyllenhaal was able to give one of his best grown-up performances that I have really seen so far. No, I do not mean you, ‘Prince of Persia’. Mark Ruffalo is also very good as David Toschi, showing that he is able to throw himself into an eccentric role that demands you to feel his pain and anguish. Robert Downey Jr. is a lot of fun as the flamboyant and funny, Paul Avery and shows why Downey should just go back to playing normal people roles rather than just Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. There are so many other people in this film that just do phenomenal jobs with each of their own respective roles and I really have to give it to Fincher for nailing down just about every single role.

Consensus: Zodiac is a film where barely anything happens, except for a lot of talking and investigation into a case that is still open today, but Fincher keeps this long flick totally entertaining, exciting, and tense with a great screenplay that dives right into the investigation itself, and show perfect performances by just about everybody involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I don’t even think Sherlock himself could figure out what the hell was going on here.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Sherlock Holmes, teaming up with Watson (Jude Law) once again trying to fight crime and solve mysteries. The crime they must stop is the powerful kingpin of England, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who seems almost too tricky to get a hold of.

When the first Holmes film came out back in the winter of ’09, I have to say that it was really cool seeing this character taken in a completely different and action-star way, mixed with a lot humor as well. Though, going into this I was a bit skeptical knowing that twice is not always the charm. That is unless your Robert Downey Jr.

Director Guy Ritchie is one of my favorites and his style and energy is what had me liking the first one so much and he does a good job here as well. The story is very mysterious and many times I had no idea what was going to happen next, considering that I couldn’t pay attention enough because of how funny Holmes and Watson were together. Also, there is a lot of fun action to be seen here with the usual idea of having Holmes narrate what he’s going to do next and basically every time doing exactly that, but sometimes adding in his own little twist in the end.

Ritchie also has a knack where he tries to not only illustrate what Holmes is going to do next, but basically everything that has any type of action to it, which is what I found really cool. He uses all of these cool camera-tricks where the film is sped-up, then sped-down or if a gun is being loaded, we see where the bullets go, when the safety is turned off, and when the gun shoots. It was pretty cool seeing how Ritchie could use all of these cool tricks that he had up his sleeve to create some pretty cool action moments and give it his own style.

However, where this film suffers the most is the fact that the film feels like it needs to be a sequel, so therefore, everything is the same from the first one, except a whole lot more. I didn’t mind all of the slow-mo scenes as much as others but I do think that Ritchie gets a little too carried away with having way too much of that early on as well as more explosions, more explanation, and more bantering for these guys to do. I’m not saying I hated these elements but I do definitely think that Ritchie just took exactly what he did from the first one, and injected steroids into it so that we got more, more, and more.

The story for the first film, was not a very original idea in the first place but compared to this one, it’s a hell of a lot more simple! Where the problem with this plot/story lies is that it is very jumbled and doesn’t really do much when it comes to keeping us compelled. Though I could follow it, I still felt like the whole idea of Watson and Holmes going around, searching for a mysterious gypsy woman and stumbling upon a plot to start the first World War, seemed a little lame and too generic for a film that obviously wants to stray itself away from countless others just like itself.

Robert Downey Jr. is still a total delight as Sherlock Holmes and keeps his fun, frenzied, clever, and always funny act up to the point of where you think this guy can play this performance in his sleep. Jude Law is also a whole lot of fun as Watson, and keeps that fun chemistry he and Downey have together. They both act like they have been hanging out for years with their constant jokes, innuendo, and constant badgering of one another that never seems to stop no matter what kind of crazy-ass mess they find themselves in.

The real delight to watch is the performance from Jared Harris who plays Professor James Moriarty. Moriarty is obviously more devious and smart than a lot of “sequel bad-guys” usually are and basically everything that you thought that could not be touched or harmed, he proves within the first 30 minutes that it can and will be, because he’s in charge, bitch. Harris plays Moriarty with a quiet and menacing look on his face and you can always tell that he is always one step ahead of Holmes whether it being finding a bomb, having a one-on-one brawl, or playing a nice little game of chess. Harris is very good in this role and definitely a lot better of a villain than I had first expected.

What the real disappointment of this film was the fact that they have Noomi Rapace here playing Madam Simza Heron, and she does absolutely nothing. She is only here to be the replacing female character because Rachel McAdams bites the dust pretty early and I wish that they did so much more with her considering how much of a bad-ass she was in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’. I feel bad for Rapace because she could have done so much here but instead she was only used as a plot contrivance.

Consensus: Although there are times when Guy Ritchie feels like he’s over-doing the whole style he used for the first one, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still a whole lot of fun with energy, humor, a good villain, and the pitch-perfect chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law that keeps this film always entertaining.

7/10=Rental!!

Charlie Bartlett (2007)

This is the rare time when you actually see a drug dealer that cares.

This comedy follows the exploits of Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin), a miserable high school student who finds a novel way to fit in with his classmates: by pretending to be the school psychiatrist, dispensing advice and the occasional prescription medicine. Charlie’s sympathetic ear and ready access to drugs make him popular with the students, but his activities soon attract the unwelcome attention of the school principal (Robert Downey Jr.).

Here we have the 21st century answer to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where basically this one kid, can practically run the whole school without any teachers even being found. However, the comparison is a little weak.

The screenplay for this film actually had some very good writing to it once the film got past all the annoying high-school movie cliches. I liked that in this comedy they had some teenage angst that actually was clever and very real. A lot of people don’t take time to actually listen to a lot of these kids, let alone teenagers, and if only one person can listen with his/her two ears, it can honestly make a whole hell of a difference.

With a lot of comedies that I see, I always see when a film gets sympathetic by the end and it’s usually terribly cheesy. However, in this film the sympathy in the film actually worked because it was thrown in at moments that it needed it the most as opposed to just throwing it in there in order to get some hearts warming up by the end of the film. You also will really start to care for these characters as the film goes on to the point as to where you don’t know who to like and who to dislike.

The problem with this screenplay is that this film actually being a satire on high-school, it should have bitten harder. I mean you have all of these kids, taking drugs, being total assholes towards authority, and an R-rating, so why wouldn’t you push the envelope just a bit. It was a real shame when I saw the roads this film could have actually went down because there are times when it can be a bit edgy but nothing ever too shocking to the point of where you haven’t seen anything like it in a high-school film before, which with the material this film had, could have easily been.

Another problem I had with this film was the non-stop homages and elements that actually seemed like they were borrowed from countless other high-school films such as Rushmore, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and of course the John Hughes films of the 80’s. Probably the most unneeded homage was to Harold and Maude where the film uses the song, “If You Want to Sing Out” by Cat Stevens, for no reason other than just to basically reference that film in a way that seemed kind of dumb actually.

Anton Yelchin does a very good job at Charlie Bartlett who goes from this total geek, to being the most popular and lovable kid in school. Bartlett has the smarts to make you actually believe he’s capable of doing all of this, he has the charms to where you could actually believe that he would be able to actually talk to all of these people he does talk to, and he’s a also a little bit goofy to show that he’s just like you or me, nothing more, nothing less.

Robert Downey Jr. is very good as Principal Gardner, who is basically always drunk but still has a lot of good lines to himself and as usual, Downey plays him to perfection; Hope Davis is also good as Bartlett’s ditzy mom, Marilyn; and Kat Dennings has great scenes when it’s just her and Yelchin together, which makes her an even better fit as Susan Gardner. All of these characters are fleshed out well and we all care about them so that when something bad happens, we actually feel a little bit of it too.

Consensus: Charlie Bartlett has some clever themes about teenagers and the angst they go through, as well some great performances from the cast but the film never goes anywhere beyond it’s R-rating and plays it safe way too much, which is a bummer because this could have really been some nasty and wild stuff since we are talking about high-school taking pills.

6/10=Rental!!

Due Date (2010)

These are the last two people I’d ever go on a trip with.

When high-powered Los Angeles business executive Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) gets stuck in Atlanta during a snowstorm that grounds all flights just days before his pregnant wife’s due date, he hitches a ride across the country with slacker Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis). As Peter desperately tries to get home, he must deal with Ethan’s laid-back attitude, numerous delays and several mishaps in this road trip comedy. Jamie Foxx co-stars.

This film is being heavily promoted as the next big from from Todd Phillips, or as you mainstream audiences may know, “the dude who did The Hangover”. However, the problem is that is the only thing going for it.

The problem with this film is that it’s screenplay is terrible. Actually terrible is not right because, occasionally, there are a few funny moments, very few, but they are just watered over, by the sometimes numerous awkward, heavily violent, and lazy jokes that came through with this film. I get the whole concept of these stupid comedies, because in all honesty, I like them, but this film offers nothing really funny, and at times, the comedy just falls short way too many times, and your just stuck wondering, if it was meant to be a joke, or just something you wouldn’t find funny, but because it’s these two, it’s absolutely hilarious. The problem is, I didn’t ponder any of those thoughts at all, this film just wasn’t funny. I almost felt like the creators said: “The Hangover 2 is going to take about 6 months to write, let’s just make a film that will take about 6 minutes to write”.

The places this film takes are incredibly unbelievable. There are moments where these guys almost practically die on the road, because the driver falls asleep, and they do a 360 in the air. I also noticed a lot of comedy directed towards these guys getting there asses kicked, or to them almost dying. There’s nothing funny about near-death experiences people, so stop with the harsh slapstick in comedy.

I was probably more disappointed by the fact that I was expecting so much more from these two. I understand the whole odd-couple mismatch that the film was going for, but in order for that to work, you got to have two actors that can create a good chemistry that will last through out. This doesn’t have that at all. Robert Downey Jr.‘s character disappointed me, because I was expecting him to be a bit more likable, and at least a little funny, unintentionally, but he was just too mean to be likable or funny. I know he was trying to play against type, but for God’s sake man, it’s a comedy, be funny somehow! Zach Galifianakis is funny, but he is just too over-exposed by now, and I really do think he needs to slow down, before he becomes a bore to every film he is in. These two try their hardest to bring laughs, but they just can’t, and I think they would have been able to, with different material. There are also some funny spots from Danny McBride, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, and RZA. But not enough to make this film better, actually not even the master-bating French bulldog can do that.

Consensus: What should have been hilarious, mostly due to the fact of the talent involved, Due Date turns into a unfunny, lazily written, bore-fest, that tries hard to be funny, and just ends up being a huge failure for all involved. Let’s hope Hangover 2 is better.

2/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

One of the trippiest movies, about tripping.

Working as an undercover cop in a world where almost everyone is addicted to Substance D — a drug that produces split personalities in its users — Fred Arctor (Keanu Reeves) sets up an elaborate sting to nab a notorious drug runner named Bob. Little does Fred know that “Bob” is his alter ego.

This is not the most easily accessible material I have seen on screen, sometimes there are moments, where we don’t know what the hell is going on, and hell I don’t think the characters do as well, but that’s the whole point of it.

Drugs create illusions in your mind, and it gets so deep into your mind, that soon your just all caught up in it, and you don’t know what’s real, or fiction. This film does a great job of showing how that can affect you, as well as the others around you. You create these ideas in your head, and then you just get paranoid all around, and you can’t control it, cause it has taken over your mind, body, and soul. Then you, know there’s no actual way of turning back.

People criticize director Richard Linklater, cause they say he wasn’t the best suit for this material, but in all honesty, I think he does the best job of keeping this stuff alive. The crazy-ass visuals, may seem like a gimmick at first, but then you start to notice it actually goes along with the film, because it shows you how consumed these people are with the drugs, and the visuals it creates in your mind. I also really did like the script and thought as weird, crazy, and insane as they were, all of them were interesting. You hear these people talk about the craziest crap ever, and you don’t know whether to laugh, or be sad that some people are this far into drugs that they would talk like this, but in reality these are how people talk, especially when they are totally under the influence.

The problem with this film was that i felt the constant political messages, got way too out of hand, especially by that lackluster ending. I wish more of the message was pointed at the drugs, instead of crappy political satire that doesn’t work. There is scene where a former cop harangues people in a street about the war on drugs being itself the real problem. I honestly believe that one in 3 criminal justice professionals already recognize this truth. Drug abuse is a public health issue and should be taken out of criminal justice. That will not happen for the simple reason that market for selling and fighting drugs are both too profitable.

Keanu Reeves is good in this lead role. He doesn’t get too Johnny Utah-like for me, yet he doesn’t get too Neo-y for me either, he’s just the dude that the film revolves around. Winona Ryder surprisingly brings a lot to her role, providing enough details of cool, sexiness, and charm, that had us loving her in the beginning. Woody Harrelson is also in this, playing himself I would presume, basically the guy is always high. But the best here is Robert Downey Jr., who’s character is so taken back by the drugs, that the wildest things, come out of his mind, but he does it so well, that it’s actually believable to the fact that he’s just too real to be true.

Consensus: A Scanner Darkly may rely too much on one message, when it should have on another, but the direction is solid, with the trippy visuals, actually doing a lot for the story, as well as the wonderful acting from the cast.

8/10=Matinee!!!

The Soloist (2009)

Jamie Foxx playing a black musician, who isn’t named Ray.

This true-life drama tells the poignant tale of Los Angeles newspaper reporter Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), who discovers brilliant street musician Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), and the unique friendship that transforms both their lives. In helping his new friend deal with his demons, Steve ends up battling with his own.

Just watching The Soloists’ trailers you can already tell this has got the same idea like the movie Shine. However, just by watching this, you can see how badly these people involved want an Oscar.

I give a lot of credit to director Joe Wright, who directed a favorite of mine Atonement. He gives that same sweet lush feeling to Los Angeles, that he did to an English Manor, or war site. He also gives us a real look at the scum that is Skid Row. However, he showed it to us too many times, to the point as where we’re actually wondering what the main story at hand really is. Either it’s a story about friendship, schizophrenia, or the majority of homeless people in LA. And with all these different stories coming into place, it feels episodic, and not one long narrative which it could have really gone for. I feel like the film went down too many avenues, and just not resolve anything.The film does do a good job at showing the struggle and frustration of dealing with mental illness, for the people that have one, or are helping a person with one. And the film mostly shows us the real nature of friendship, and how rich and pure it is, when pushed to other limits.

The one thing that will really capture your heart in this film, is the music itself. I’am not in love with orchestra music, however, I can at least appreciate the beauty that is within it, and that is what this film expresses the most. We see how Nathaniel sees the music as its playing, and really it is beautiful.

Jamie Foxx was OK in this film, he wasn’t totally insane to capture my heart, as bad as that sounds, but when he’s playing the music I could almost feel like he was just acting like Rain Man who could play music. The real stand-out here is Robert Downey Jr., who is one of those rare actors that can show off about 10 different emotions on his face at one time, and you feel like you know this character. He is sometimes a dick, but other times you can feel for him, as you know he is trying his damn hardest to make the best for this dude. Their chemistry feels real, especially at the end, and this is where the real heart of the film lies. They become friends because they both want to change each others lives, without either one knowing. I liked how a lot of real actors were used to portray their own story, and it gives you this real feeling that the film strives for.

Consensus: The Soloist has two strong leads, with a couple of powerful, inspiring messages, but it’s narrative is jaded, and goes from one end to another, and you just feel like it could have been a lot better.

7/10=Rental!!

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Its funny, even the 4th time around.

This combat film send-up from director-star Ben Stiller tracks a group of actors who are forced to become real-life soldiers when they’re abandoned in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The all-star cast includes Robert Downey Jr. (in an Oscar-nominated role), Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Nick Nolte, with an unrecognizable (and Golden Globe–nominated) Tom Cruise playing a crude movie mogul.

For the most part, I have seen this film about 4 times, and almost every time I laugh more. When I first saw this, I didn’t quite get the satire the film was using, however, knowing more and more about the movie biz I understood everything that this movie was saying.

The script I have to say is very well-written with some of the best satire in a long time. The jokes here are centered towards anybody, because the films finds its ways to make fun of anyone and everyone: blacks, whites, homosexuals, mentally-challenged, drug addicts, and of course celebrities. All of these jokes are in bad taste, but almost every single gag works. Some people don’t understand the jokes because its jokes are more Hollywood based, so it will go over some people’s heads, but once you understand the joke, their actually very funny and smart.

However, I will say that some of the jokes were pretty stupid, and it seems like they were trying their hardest to get a lot of really funny jokes out there, and it just looked like they were trying too hard. Don’t get me wrong they were funny, but sometimes, it seemed like it was just itching for the laughs.

The cast is the main reason why this film works. Each star gets credit, cause they take the bait, by letting themselves be made fun of. Ben Stiller is the typical down-grading action star, Jack Black is the drug-addicted, fat comedy man, Brandon T. Jackson is playing the rapper-turned-actor, who can’ stop drinking booty sweat, and Jay Baruchel, is…well….the guy who’s just there. Each character makes fun of someone, and its easy to see who, but others will just go over your head.

The two best worth mentioning are obviously the only two that were nominated for awards. Robert Downey Jr., sometimes didn’t make any sense when he talked, but he is hilarious when I did understand him. He has the greatest lines of the whole movie, and brings nothing other than his A game, and makes everything funny. Tom Cruise, is also funny as hell. He brings a lot of random funny as hell moments, with his random out-bursts, and spoof of real-life agents.

Consensus: Tropic Thunder sometimes tries too hard to bring laughs, with some easily offensive ones, but is other than that, a hilarious spoof, that is boosted even more by the great performances.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Why is Tony Starks such a total d-bag all of a sudden.

Wealthy inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) — aka Iron Man — resists calls by the American government to hand over his technology. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has constructed his own miniaturized arc reactor, causing all kinds of problems for our superhero. Sam Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson co-star in director Jon Favreau’s sequel based on Marvel comic book characters.

After seeing Iron Man, back in 2008, I was totally in love with Iron Man, and the series that was to be. However, I can’t say that I enjoyed this one as much.

First of all, the writing in this film is very top-notch compared to the first one. I can’t remember the last superhero movie that I actually laughed, or chuckled, the whole time through the film. There’s a huge deal of one-liners, that work, and some do not, but it was just better to get a not so serious superhero film.

I think the main problem with this movie is that it has the same thing all superhero films go through: sequelitis. Sequelitis is when a sequel to a very famous film, gets too over-powered with characters, run time, and overall too much story. The film starts off fine with good action here and there, but by the 1 hour mark gets totally dry beyond belief. For a long time, there just wasn’t anything happening, other than the fact that Starks was a total alcoholic (without the film really saying it), and some scenes with Rourke and Rockwell being bad boys. If you take away the sexy people, and big explosions, you really just have a film about one arrogant defense contractor, against another arrogant defense contractor.

Many elements to this story could have been better but instead were just dry. The villain Ivan Vanko is actually a good one surprisingly, mostly due to the fact that the film sets him up to be this totally intimidating guy, with lightning bolts for hands, and a Russian accent that would make Ivan Drago crap his pants. However, the films waters him down with not enough screen-time showing him doing nothing bad or villainous, and showing more evil from Rockwell’s character. The addition of Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson makes no sense what so ever, other than just trying to hype up the Avengers films, which are starting to get pretty annoying now. Listen, I understand that sometime in the future there may be an Avengers film, but in the mean time stop hyping it up to the point, of where there seems to be no use for a film to hype it up, rather than a film that’s just hyping another film up anyway. I know that last sentence was totally confusing, but its hard to explain.

I will admit however, the film does show great action when it does have it, and the actors are able to fill the shoes. Downey Jr. is perfect as this charming, sort of snobby millionaire Tony Starks, and you can really tell why he is a perfect choice for this type of super hero. Paltrow is doing what she does best, playing the strong female companion, with enough sense to be believable. Don Cheadle is also replacing Terrence Howard, and does well with picking up the scraps from Howard’s previous performance, but he just is not on the screen as much as I think he could have been. Sam Rockwell is the real star, and totally steals almost every scene he’s in, and shows how superhero villains are supposed to be played even without all the crazy action.

Consensus: Iron Man 2 has charming performances from the cast, good humor, and enough action to satisfy, however, hits a block in the middle of the film where it lags on, and starts to become a cheap, lame excuse for the Avengers movie.

7/10=Rental!!!