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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Robin Wright

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blad

It’s many, many years into the future and for some reason, the old Replicants of yesteryear aren’t being used anymore. Now though, there’s some new and improved ones out there that are working for the LAPD, hunting down the old ones, to ensure that no more problems can come of them. One such blade runner is Officer K (Ryan Gosling) who isn’t quite happy about his existence. Mostly, he spends his time hunting and eliminating old Replicants, then, coming home to Joi (Ana de Armas), a hologram that he has as a companion, despite the two actually never being able to touch one another. On one mission, K unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos, which eventually leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years and may hold all of the answers that K’s looking for. But he may also offer the same hope and ambition that K himself wants, but doesn’t quite know it just yet. 

With the way this world’s looking, that may be Vegas in the near-future. Almost too near.

Was the original Blade Runner all that great of a movie to garner as much of a following as it has? For me, I’m still not sure. It’s a bold, ambitious and creatively original movie, even for 1982, but it also feels like it deals with a lot of ideas and doesn’t have the opportunity to flesh them out completely and/or fully. Some of that probably had to do with Ridley Scott trying his best to combat with a budget, or some of it may have to do with the fact that the studios just didn’t know what to do with this truly dark and complex material. That said, here we are, many, many years later, and now we have a sequel. Did we really need one?

Actually, it turns out, yes.

What’s perhaps most interesting about Blade Runner 2049 and what, ultimately, turns out to work in its favor, is that it didn’t call for Scott to come back and sit directly behind the camera again. Nope, this time, it’s Denis Villeneuve who is much more of an auteur and has proved himself more than worthy of a big-budgeted, blockbuster in the past and gets the chance to really let loose here. But what’s most interesting about Villeneuve’s direction is that he doesn’t seem to be in any kind of a rush; with most of these kinds of sequels, especially the ones financed by a huge studio, there’s a want for there to be constant action, constant story, and constant stuff just happening.

In Blade Runner 2049, things are a lot slower and more languid than ever before and it does work for the movie. Villeneuve is clearly having a ball working with this huge-budget, with all of the toys and crafts at his disposal, and it allows us to join in on the fun, too. Even at 164 minutes (including credits), the movie doesn’t feel like it’s all that long-winding because there’s so much beauty on-display, from the cinematography, to the clothes, to the dystopian-details, and to the whole universe etched out, it’s hard not to find something to be compelled, or entertained by. After all, it’s a huge blockbuster and it’s meant to make us entertained, even if it doesn’t always have explosions at every single second.

That said, could it afford to lose at least 20 minutes? Yeah, probably.

But really, it actually goes by pretty smoothly. The story itself is a tad conventional and feels like it could have been way more deep than it actually is, but still, Villeneuve is using this as a way to show the major-studios that they can entrust him in a franchise, no matter how much money is being invested. He knows how to keep the story interesting, even if we’re never truly sure just what’s going on, and when it comes to the action, the movie is quick and exhilarating with it all. There’s a lot of floating, driving, and wandering around this barren-wasteland, but it all feels deserved and welcomed in a universe that’s not all that forgiving – Villeneuve doesn’t let us forget that and it’s hard not to want to stay in this universe for as long as we get the opportunity to.

And with this ensemble, can we be blamed? Ryan Gosling fits perfectly into this role as K, because although he has to play all stern, serious and a little dull, there are these small and shining moments of heart and humanity that show through and have us hope for a little something more. Gosling is such a charismatic actor, that even when he’s supposed to be a bore, he can’t help but light-up the screen. Same goes for Harrison Ford who, after many years of not playing Deckard, fits back into the role like a glove that never came off, while also showing a great deal of age and wisdom, giving us fond memories of the character he once was, and all of the tragedy and horror that he must have seen in the years since we left him.

That said, my praise for this movie ends here and especially with these two.

“Dad? Just kidding. You’re way too cranky.”

For one, it’s really hard to dig in deep into this movie without saying more than I would like to, but also, most of my issues with this movie comes from the possible spoilers I could offer. To put it as simple as I humanly can: The movie suffers from problems of, I don’t know, leaving way too much open in the air.

Wait. Did I say too much?

Let me explain a bit further. The one problem with Blade Runner 2049 is that it does feel the need to give us a bunch of characters, subplots, ideas, themes, and possible conflicts, yet, when all is said and done, not really explore them any further. A part of me feels like this is the movie trying to tell us to stick around and wait for me Blade Runner movies, but another part of me feels like this was something that could have been easily avoided, had the writing and direction been leaner, meaner and most of all, tighter.

Don’t get me wrong, all that’s brought to the table, in terms of the main-plot, is pretty great. Everyone in the ensemble, including a lovely and delightful Ana de Armas, put in great work and even the conflicts brought to our attention, have all sorts of promise. But then, they just sit there. The movie ends and we’re left wondering, “Uh, wait. What? That’s it.”

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’ve said too much. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll just shut up now.

Okay, no. I definitely will. Just see it so I don’t have to type anymore.

Consensus: Big, bloated, bold, beautiful, and ridiculously compelling, Blade Runner 2049 is the rare many-years-later sequel that does a solid job expanding on its universe and ideas, but doesn’t quite know how to wrap things up in a tiny little bow that it possibly deserved.

8 / 10

Holograms in the real world really do have a long way to go.

Photos Courtesy of: aceshowbiz

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Wonder Woman (2017)

Alright DC. I see what you did there.

Before she was ever known as the rough, tough, fearless, and absolutely beautiful Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was also Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. However, Diana always longed for something more than just kicking ass and taking names, as being and raised on a sheltered island paradise, she never really got to see the outside world. But that all changes when she meets an American pilot Steve (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world, between the Germans and the U.S., meaning, WWI. Diana believes that the threat may actually be Ares, the ruthless and evil God that her family has spoken about for so very long, so she joins Steve along for the ride, to see if she can stop the pain and death from happening. Cause after all, Diana just wants peace, regardless of who is against it, and it’s something that Steve, as well as fellow other humans who meet her, soon to start to realize.

Hey, Diana? I think it’s a bit chilly out there in no man’s land.

It’s not a surprise to anyone that DC has got a lot of catching up to do. Marvel practically owns the name and the game when it comes to the superhero movie market and by now, it’s not even worth the battle. They’ve been around the longest and the far more superior brand that it’s probably best just to let them do their thing and wait for it all to die out, as all things once popular do.

But now, Wonder Woman shows up and all of a sudden, Marvel’s got something to work against. Sure, a lot of the praise from Wonder Woman comes from the fact that, so far, the two other DC movies have been lacking and messy as hell, but a good portion of the praise comes from the fact that Wonder Woman is a solid movie, filled with action, fun, excitement, humor, heart, romance, sci-fi, and yes, just enough references to keep everyone pleased with what they’re watching, as well as looking forward to what’s next to come. In ways, Wonder Woman is an origin story which, by now, has become so tiring and uninteresting, but somehow, director Patty Jenkins makes it all work, making Wonder Woman, look and feel like an old-fashioned Hollywood flick that our grandparents would probably enjoy the hell out of.

But by the same token, Wonder Woman is still a solid movie, old-fashioned or not.

It looks like a superhero movie and literally deals with a super, duper Amazonian woman who can deflect bullets with her shields and lasso people to death with a golden, glowing rope, but it’s also just a typical action swashbuckler, filled with action, bullets, death, a bit of blood, and oh yeah, monsters. So maybe that last part is a bit out there, but still, you get the point: Patty Jenkins and everyone aboard came together to make a movie that’s not just a loving ode to Wonder Woman and other superheros just like her, but the power of peace, love and tranquility. It’s a little difficult to talk about that in a movie where, of course, every issues is solved with fists, kicks, and death grips, but still, it matters in a movie like this.

Oh and yeah, it’s a movie about women being the most powerful ones in the room, but the rest of society just not knowing it, understanding it, or even wanting to accept. A lot of the humor here is placed on Wonder Woman being a lot more talented and smarter than most of the men around her, which is used for ironic chuckles, but also takes on a more serious-meaning, especially when we look at the world we live in today. Honestly, I’m not one for drawing paralles between a movie that is so obviously fiction, it’s not even funny, to the real, hard, and honest world, but sometimes, it’s hard to look away from this stuff.

Sometimes, it just needs to be restated that women rule, boys drool, and guess what, we’re all equal. So shut up to those who don’t believe the same!

Okay, I’m done.

Come on, boys. Show a little more skin.

But like I said before, Wonder Woman is light, breezy, and not all that serious of a movie, which definitely has to do with the tone, but also has to do with Gal Gadot’s downright star-making turn as Wonder Woman. Sure, this isn’t her first outing as the kick-ass princess, but for the sake of the argument, let’s say it is, because not only does Gadot get to show the world her true talents that Dawn of Justice wouldn’t allow for us to see, but she also gives us the most compelling superhero in quite some time. While Batman and Superman, in the DC world, are all conflicted with their feelings of honesty and of course, the daddy issues, Wonder Woman is a superhero that battles the reality that the world is an ugly place that even someone like her, can’t make better.

Is it a bit cheesy? Sure, but it works so well because Gadot is believable every second here. It helps that she’s gorgeous-as-hell, but it also helps that she has a nice presence about herself, where she’s not afraid to look sexy and daring, but also a little goofy. She reminds me of all the insanely hot girls from my high school who I didn’t bother with, not because they were out of my league (which they were), but because they didn’t have a lick of personality to them (which was also true, but honestly, it didn’t stop me from asking half of those girls out).

Either way, Gadot is amazing here and her chemistry with the always dependable Chris Pine, is another sight to behold. Honestly, I’d watch a movie where it was just to the two of them having a meet-cute and watching as the clouds aligned, but in the midst of all the action, CGI, and general craziness, they create something beautiful and honest. It doesn’t just give me hope for this franchise, but also for the real world, where it doesn’t matter who, or what, or where you are, you will always find somebody to love.

Okay, maybe a bit deep there, but you get the idea.

Consensus: Smart, exciting, and heartfelt, Wonder Woman is the first real good movie of the DC universe, but also a solid superhero movie in its own right, proving why, honestly, woman truly do rule the world. Get used to it, fellas.

8.5 / 10

Wait, is Gal Gadot auditioning for a role as a Sith Lord? Because I totally buy it!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Crossing Guard (1995)

Grief makes you crazy. Literally.

After his daughter is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Freddy Gale (Jack Nicholson) is left, unsurprisingly, heartbroken. He drinks a lot, goes berserk, and yeah, patiently waits the day that the driver John Booth (David Morse) is out of jail. It’s something that no one around Freddy can support – not even his ex-wife (Anjelica Huston) – but Freddy doesn’t need their support. He’s grieving and he is in desperate need of said grief to go away, so that when the day comes around to taking care of business, he can do so with a happy mind. Eventually, Booth does get out of prison and he’s come to terms with his accident; he’s apologetic and regretful, and honestly, just wants to move on. He gets a job, starts going to meetings, stays away from bad stuff, and oh yeah, he’s even got himself a girlfriend (Robin Wright). Still though, Freddy doesn’t care. The past six years have been nothing but hell for him and he’s going to let John know it, by any means necessary.

“Yeah, agent? Get me a much louder role next time.”

The Crossing Guard is a tad bit different from Sean Penn’s the Indian Runner, in that it does have a slower, more melodic story to work with again, but this time around, he’s actually developing something about it. As opposed to just giving us something resembling a story, things resembling characters, and issues resembling conflicts, everything matters and is exactly what it seems. There’s conflict, there’s development, there’s characters, and above all else, there’s a drive.

Where that drive ends up may be problematic, but hey, at least it’s going somewhere in the first place.

Where Penn gets the most mileage here is out of the cast, all of whom are terrific. Nicholson’s Freddy is one of the most dramatic and dressed-down performances the man has ever given and it’s a surprise how well he pulls it off, without much of any of the usual gimmicks to be found. His dark persona does work for this character, as we know that there’s something truly upsetting and mean about this character, but there’s also a lot more sadness to him than anything. We see it come out in honest, shocking ways, that show Nicholson can work well, even if he is sort of playing a bit against-type.

Then again, with Nicholson, was he ever a “type”?

It’s a Sean Penn movie from the mid-90’s, so of course Robin will be around, half-naked.

Anyway, Huston gets some solid moments, too, as the ex-wife who, essentially, just yells and hollers a lot. But hey, she does it like a pro. David Morse’s John is also more sympathetic than he would have been in other movies, but it still works to Morse’s skill-set, as we get to see a heart and soul behind the sadness and darkness. We never fully get to know the demons lying inside of this guy, but the ones that we do see and identify, are still interesting. Robin Wright is also fine as his supposed love-interest, who may mean more to the overall story, but mostly, just seems like someone to be there for Morse’s character when all is said and done.

As for the rest of the movie itself, it’s still pretty good, but we also get the sense that Penn himself is constantly growing and learning as a writer/director. Here, with the Crossing Guard, he gets the idea of grief down perfectly and realizes that it’s not us ourselves who make us the most sad in these troubling times, but those around them. Penn doesn’t hide away from the fact that what this Freddy guy is dealing with is some pretty brutal stuff, and rather than trying to sugar-coat as a Lifetime after-school special, he films it in all of its raw, unabashed irony. It’s quite a surprise to get in a movie such as this, and shows that Penn, when he’s not telling a meaningful story, is also not backing down from approaching his story in a much harder manner.

The issues is that by the final act, things get a little screwy. It’s hard to say how, or why, for any of these matters, but just know that the Crossing Guard does eventually dive into thriller-territory and it feels odd. It’s as if Penn himself was so enamored with the character-drama, that he also sort of felt obligated to deliver on the action and supposed violence that a tale like this would promise. It’s a shame, too, because the message it delivers at the end is a smart and meaningful one.

It’s just a shame it had to go through that last act to get there.

Consensus: With pitch perfect performances across the board, the Crossing Guard works as a smart, disturbing look at grief and depression, but also botches its final act.

7.5 / 10

He doesn’t look so bad for a child killer.

Photos Courtesy of: HotFlick.net, Pop Matters

Nine Lives (2005)

Due to the cosmos in the sky, me and some dude from Iowa share the same feelings for bleach? Right?

You know how a cat apparently has nine lives, well, so do women! Well, not actually, but the movie gives us nine stories, all surrounding a woman going through something in her day-to-day life, whether it be at the grocery store, the federal prison, her childhood home, her friend’s newly-acquired apartment, an ex-husband’s wife’s funeral, or so on and so forth. But somehow, in someway, each and every story is connected, rather it be through a character or some event that occurs.

Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia takes what could be a really ordinary, if sad, movie and gives it a little artistic twist by having each and every story filmed in one, single shot. It’s nothing fancy, glitzy, or shiny – just one shot as we watch everything’s that happening in front of our eyes. And yeah, it works. It may seem like a gimmick, but surprisingly, it’s one that ends up working out for the best of the stories, because it makes us feel like flies-on-the-walls, seeing what happens next.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that's ready to argue and fight about who's to blame for their falling-out before they hit college.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that’s ready to argue and fight about who’s to blame for their falling-out before they started college. Possible clean-up needed.

But with like I said, this is an anthology film and with most anthology films, not all the stories work as well as others. Does that make the whole movie bad? Nope, just a tad uneven and it causes a whole bunch of problems when your movie seems to have some great bits, thrown into a not totally cohesive whole.

And if anything, Garcia wants us to know that, the lesson of the story here is that, well, everyone is connected in some way, shape, or form. We just may not know it.

The movie blatantly points this out about once or twice, in two, different ways, which I didn’t mind because it was where the movie was supposed to be getting at, but then, it starts gets obvious. There comes a point in this movie where two characters are literally walking outside, looking up at the sky, and say how they are all connected through the stars and planets in the sky and in our universe. Whatever the hell that means, I’ll never know (especially when I’m sober), but it seems like the movie wanted us to believe that. Many movies movies like Short Cuts and Magnolia have said this before and it’s nothing new, or original – it just makes you seem like you’ve had a tad too much to drink and smoke.

But the central theme can be pushed to the side when you look at the solid cast, all of whom are fine, but with some being a whole lot better than others, solely depending on the stories they have to work with. The opening sequence with Elpida Carrillo as a prisoner who wants to talk with her daughter had all of the right ingredients to make a satisfying, start-off for what was to come, but instead, it seemed almost too much and melodramatic for the sake of being so. Carrillo also isn’t a strong enough actress to really pull this role off and makes it seem like she’s over-acting, even if she might be playing it genuine and raw. I wouldn’t know, because her performance wasn’t all that good.

But thankfully, it gets better. A whole lot better, in fact.

The best segment out of the whole movie, which also featured the best performances were Robin Wright (drop the Penn) and Jason Isaacs as two old flames, who finally meet up in a super market after all of these years. Both are amazing stars and can work material like this till the day they die, but what’s so good about this segment is how each performer shows something more insightful with their character, even as the seconds go by. Even more impressive too, when you take into consideration that just about every segment lasts under ten minutes or less. It’s strange how awkward it starts off, but ends on a happy, heartwarming note that may surprise some people by honest and real it feels.

"Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness."

“Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness.”

Then, the next couple of stories are just okay, if a bit too dry for my sake. The story in which Lisa Gay Hamilton comes back to talk with a possible, sexually-abusive father is compelling, until she starts crying and over-doing it. After this, we see another story with a warmed-up lover in Holly Hunter, and the cold, cynical type of dude in Stephen Dillane as they go to meet old friends and what starts out pretty light and fluffy, becomes very dark and mean, but not in a good way. It’s odd how it transitions almost out of nowhere, which was too glaring to put aside, no matter how good the performances in the little segment were.

For all of you people who watched The Help, and thought that you needed more Sissy Spacek, well, no need to fear. She’s in both stories as a philandering wife of a paraplegic, played by the wonderfully amusing Ian McShane. Both stories are weak and just aren’t interesting, despite her being one of the greatest female actresses working today. But hell half no fear when the adorable, but sassy Kathy Baker comes to town as a woman who is in the stages of getting a mastectomy and takes all of her pain, frustration, and nervousness out on her husband. Baker is a pleasant to watch, because she’s always funny when she’s bitching and yelling at somebody, but the dynamic she shares with Joe Mantegna, who plays her hubby, makes it seem like a real life, married-couple, who really do loveone other and will be there with one another through thick and thin.

Really nice and sweet to see, especially in a movie that hasn’t been so light or hopeful in the first place.

The next sequence of the movie is probably the runner-up for the strongest sequence, with Amy Brenneman as a woman who goes to the funeral of her ex-husband’s wife, which may sound strange and all, but works because of that. Still, no matter how bizarre it may be for this gal to show up to her ex-hubby’s wife’s funeral, there’s still something sweet and endearing beneath it all that leaves you with a happy feeling in the pit of your stomach, rather than an empty one. Lastly, the movie ends with Glenn Close playing the mother of a little girl, played by Dakota Fanning, and is good, if a little weird because of the way it’s structured. However, the movie shows us why it was structured the way it is, despite it not fully working out to the best of its advantage.

Sort of like the rest of the movie, if you think about it.

Consensus: Certain stories work, whereas others don’t in Nine Lives, despite a well-acted ensemble and powerful moments of bleakness, but also sincerity as well. Still, how many movies can there be where it tries to tell us that every person on the face of this planet is connected, and doesn’t try to mention it at least more than two times?

6.5 / 10

Those eyes. THOSE EYES!!

Those eyes, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

Everest (2015)

Staying at home is fine, too.

Mount Everest is considered to be one of the greatest snowy mountains to climb up and sights to see, ever. That’s why, in March 1996, there were a few commercial expeditions all getting ready together and prepared to climb the mountain, even if they knew it can sometimes be rough and not so lovely, even if you do reach the top and complete the trip. One group in particular was lead by Adventure Consultants’ Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who, with his latest group with the likes of Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), who’s dealing with some marital problems of his own, as well as mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who is apparently using the trip as a way to prove himself to his wife, as well as some sponsors of his. However, these two are just a slight few of the many who decided to travel up the mountain, reach the top, and achieve their goal. There were plenty others like traveling journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) and Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal), just to name a few, but no matter how many there were, they still all faced the extreme weather conditions and storms that would soon sweep their area.

If Everest can take these three on, it can take on anyone!

If Everest can take these three on, it can take on anyone!

When all is said and done, all Everest really has to say about climbing and traveling and all that fun stuff is, that well, “it’s really hard to do”. For one, you have to have a whole lot of money to actually get the right treatment. Secondly, you have to train and prepare for it so much that, it comes to an eventual point where you don’t know how to live your own normal life, in normal society. And then, of course, there’s the risk-factor where, any wrong turn, slip, slide, or move in any way, can actually result in your fatal death. And while Everest can sometimes work as a way to get more and more tourists up there to check out the mountain for what it is, at the same time, that’s not at all the truth.

Because as the movie tells us, people die there. In fact, a lot of people.

And that’s about all Everest really has to say about this one particular, if true, story. People got cold, people got swept up in the huge storm that began to form right over them, and yes, people died. Of course, it’s very sad and there is no way of shining any sort of light or hope on it, however, there is something to be said for a movie that presents these deaths in a surprising manner, but also doesn’t shed any thought on them. It’s almost as if every character in Everest who dies, was around not to just die, but to also show us that hiking up a mountain like Everest is as scary and as terrifying as you’d expect it to be.

Which is a huge shame, because the cast here is pretty well-stacked and great. One can only assume that this great deal of talent got together in a movie like this because the paycheck was nice and there wasn’t too much heavy-lifting needed to be done, but still, you can tell that everybody here is trying and giving it their all. Jason Clarke finally gets a chance to shine and be charismatic for once, here as Rob Hall – somebody you just feel so incredibly safe and comfortable with, that you’ll almost forget your climbing one of the biggest mountains in all of the world. Though we get to see that he’s a generally nice guy who takes care of his free-loading buddies, picks up those that have fallen down, and loves his wife, it’s really Clarke who does most of the work here and shows just what he can do with such a limited-role.

Because frankly, everyone else’s characters don’t get much to do, either. And once again, it’s a total shame.

Josh Brolin gets to show us some semblance of humanity as Beck Weathers, the character we expect to be “the villain” of this whole story, only to realize that he’s nicer than expected; John Hawkes’ Doug Hansen is a bit of a corny character, but Hawkes is so likable that it almost doesn’t matter; Michael Kelly’s character feels like he serves more importance to the overall story, but doesn’t really get to stretch any of that out; Jake Gyllenhaal is hardly here as Scott Fisher, someone who is constantly drunk, miserable, tired, and hopped-up on some sort of drug, which Gyllenhaal works fine with, even if we don’t get any sort of background as to why; Emily Watson and Sam Worthington stay in the safe parts of Everest, for the most part, but still show enough humanity as much as they can; and Robin Wright and Keira Knightley are mostly downgraded to “wife roles” where they sit at home, watch over the house, and have occasional conversations with their spouses.

That snotty Keira, all tucked away and cozy in her warm home.

That snotty Keira, all tucked away and cozy in her warm home.

In case you couldn’t tell, that’s a lot of characters for a two-hour movie. So, it’s probably no surprise that a good handful are just left to act for a scene or two, and leave it at that. Most of them are effective, but overall, you can tell that, had the screenplay been more with their interest at-heart, something special would have happened.

That said, Everest is still pretty hard to look away from and get discouraged from, mostly because it does the job right in painting this storm as one of the most terrifying ones ever.

Director Baltasar Kormákur obviously didn’t set out to make some sort of thought-provoking piece of drama, but instead, wrap us in on a suspense-ride from beginning, to end. And honestly, it kind of works. The movie not only looks beautiful, but truly does make you feel as if you’re there at Everest, watching as each and everyone of these characters grapple with each one’s lives and try their hardest to stay the hell alive. Honestly, once the storm kicks in, which isn’t until about an hour in, is only when the movie really gets going, but it’s so enriching and compelling, that I was able to forgive it for all of the missteps it made before.

Even if the cast gets wasted on roles that are way too limited, there’s still the feeling that, deep down inside, Kormákur wanted to chronicle this tragedy. Sure, he went about it in such a manipulative manner, but he’s a film-director – how could he not want to make a little bit of money out of other people’s suffering?

Consensus: Despite not feeling as if it’s fully up-to-par with the extreme talents of the ensemble, Everest still works a chilly thrill-ride that keeps you enamored with the spectacle, so long as you don’t try to look too deep enough.

7 / 10

"Yeah, it's uh, it's pretty cold up here."

“Yep. Still pretty cold up here.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Conspirator (2011)

Where have I heard this story before? Well, nowhere actually, but see what I’m trying to get across in a not-so subtle way?

Mid-April 1865, stage actor John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell) assassinates President Abraham Lincoln during a production of Our American Cousin. We all know this, who the hell doesn’t, but what most people don’t know is the story surrounding the other conspirators in this assassination, one of which was a woman wrongfully accused all because her son was one of those conspirators. That gal’s name was Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), her son was Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), and she ran a boarding house in Washington that Booth, along with the other conspirators in this assassination frequently stayed in, and where the plan was most likely hatched. Whether or not Surratt really did conspire to kill the President isn’t quite known yet, but Union war hero and attorney Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is assigned the task to defend her to the best of his ability, by any means necessary. At first, Aiken doesn’t think it matters because she’s guilty in his eyes, but after awhile, he starts to see that there is more brewing beneath the surface here with this case, and he will not stop until justice is so rightfully served.

In case you don’t know by now, Robert Redford is a pretty political guy, and he takes his liberal-stance very seriously. So seriously, that most of his flicks seem to come off more as history lessons, rather than actual movies, with real, interesting, and compelling narratives driving them along. That said, the guy’s got plenty of power in Hollywood to do whatever he wants, when he wants, with whomever he wants, and how he wants to, which makes total sense why a real life story like this would get such a star-studded cast, with such a preachy message, that it’s no wonder why it got past almost every producer out there in the world.

It’s Robert Redford, are you going to deny his movie?

Did a woman who's being wrongfully convicted for a crime she didn't necessarily commit really need to be dressed in all-black throughout the whole movie?

Did a woman who was being wrongfully convicted for a crime she didn’t necessarily commit really need to be dressed in all-black throughout the whole movie?

That’s why, as intriguing as this story is, you know exactly where he’s getting at with every part of this movie. For instance, Redford is obviously making a lot of points about the similarity between this case and the ones of post-9/11 hysteria that was more about finding anybody who was even close to being guilty, and make sure they pay the price so that the rest of the country can begin to feel like a safe and peaceful place like it was meant to be. Honestly, it’s a nice analogy that Redford uses, the only problem is that we get it every step of the way. So instead of being a movie that’s filled with a compelling story, characters, and emotions, it just feels like a history lesson where we’re being talked down to, as if we don’t know all about the problems our world of politics is facing today.

And it should come as no surprise that this was Redford’s first movie since doing Lions for Lambs, which was more of a thesis, than an actual movie, so I at least have to give the guy credit for cobbling up something of a story together and making something out of it. While I don’t want to get into discussing that movie anymore than I already need to, I will say that this movie does show Redford improving more as a film-maker who has a point behind his movies, even if they are extremely heavy-handed and as blatant as you can get. While that does seem weird to say about a guy who has a Best Director Oscar to his name, as well as plenty of other great movies he’s written and directed under his belt, it seems like something that needs to be said considering how damn preachy the guy gets, both in real life and with his movies.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that it’s better than Lions for Lambs.

There, happy? I rest my case!

The only way that this movie survives throughout it’s near-two-hour-running-time is because its cast is so stacked to the brim, that you can’t help but want to watch and see what they’re able to pull out of this. James McAvoy was a great choice as Frederick Aiken, the type of guy you feel like would make it big as a lawyer-type in today’s society, but just didn’t have much leeway to get past all of the head-honchos back in those days. McAvoy is good at handling the determined, passionate character that Redford doesn’t bother to cut any deeper with, but I still think that’s better than nothing consider he can get-by in scenes against heavy-hitters like Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, and most of all, Robin Wright.

"Attica!!! Oh, shit. Wrong history class."

“Attica!!! Oh, crap. Wrong history class.”

However, it should be said that it couldn’t have been too hard for McAvoy to get by in his scenes with Wright because she doesn’t do much talking really. Instead, her performance is strictly consisting of cold stares, a lot of frowning, and just looking like she’s about to lose it at any given second – which isn’t such a bad thing because the gal handles it very well. I’ve always liked Wright in all that she’s done and I feel like she gets a great chance to give it all she’s got, even in a way that didn’t need to be over-the-top or totally blown out-of-proportion. This is a especially surprising given the fact that this character could have easily gone that way, and to even worse results being that this is a Redford flick, and he usually seems to sympathize quite heavily with wrongfully convicted.

And since I’m on the subject of the cast, I have to say that the rest of this ensemble do pretty good jobs with their roles as well, even if some do feel a bit off here and there. Those two in particular are Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood who both feel as if they’re a bit too modern for this type of material, and don’t really fit in well. Maybe for Wood’s character, that’s probably done on purpose, but for Long, whenever it is that he shows up with his fake mustache that looked like it was ripped right off the face of Burt Reynolds, it feels like a total curse on him, whoever is around him the scene, and the movie itself. Not saying that he ruins the movie just by the pure simple fact of his presence being noted, but just because it feels like a piece of stunt-casting that back-fired on Redford, as well as Long himself; a very underrated actor that has yet to be given the full-on pleasure of taking a complex role and making it his own. Maybe one of these days. Just maybe.

Just hopefully not in a Robert Redford flick, is all.

Consensus: The true story that the Conspirator is telling is a very interesting, compelling tale that may stand the test of time, but as for the preachy, history lesson disguised as a full-length feature-flick? Not so much.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, what I want you to do in this next scene is point to the camera and say that, "You are innocent, until proven guilty.""

“Okay, what I want you to do in this next scene is point to the camera and say that, “You are innocent, until proven guilty.'”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

State of Play (2009)

Bloggers can’t pull off stunts like this. Not even me. And I’m Dan the Man, dammit!

Washington D.C. reporter, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is the type of guy you want telling the news. He gets his facts straight, no bias-stance whatsoever, and he always seems to find an impressive hook on how to make it worth reading or caring about. The latest story that comes his way, puts him in a bit of a rough position because not only is one of his close friends involved with it, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), but because it’s surprisingly a life-or-death situation that escalated to that level quite quickly. With young, hot-and-ready reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), he’ll figure out who exactly was Collin’s mistress, whether her death was a suicide or a murder, why somebody would want her dead, and whether or not it’s even worth risking their life for. Then again though, he works at a newspaper, and I think any story, is a story worth telling, so he’ll go with what he can get.

"Be careful, Rachel. We all know what he does with phones when he's upset."

Be careful, Rachel. We all know what he does with phones when he’s upset.

Surely a movie about a newspaper industry seems already dated, way before conception and release, but that’s where this flick works so well. It is a modern-day thriller, where computers, the internet, smart phones, and texting reigns supreme; however, director Kevin MacDonald also frames this movie in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching one of those old-school, classy, and cool thrillers from the 70’s, where conspiracies ran high, and it was all up to the dedicated reporter to get the truth out. Nowadays, it seems like you go anywhere for any bits of news information, everybody knows about it and has reasoning/sources, but that makes it so sweet to get a flick that reminds us that the old methods of information-sharing still exists, even if it isn’t used quite as often as it once was. Then again, maybe being the fact that I’m a Journalism Major makes me more sympathetic to the issue.

Actually, that’s most likely the reason, but so be it!

Anyway, the film. What works well here is that even though it does seem to be very dense in every piece of detail, every clue, and every hint it throws at us, it never feels confusing. Practically, we are strung along on a trip of finding out anything we can about what’s going on, and are left in the dark about other stuff as well. We think we get the full picture more than a couple of times, and then, we are thrown right for a loop when a slight piece of info comes out and proves us wrong. It messes with our minds and has us curious by how it’s all going to pan-out; but it never feels manipulative.

Where most thrillers would make have conceit becomes over-used and overstay its welcome, MacDonald uses it more to his advantage, in a way to almost coax us into believing all that we hear and see as fact, and nothing but it. With most thrillers like these, we can’t always expect to take in all that’s thrown at us as pure fact, but we do have to believe in it, and I never felt like I was seeing a movie that went maybe a bit too over-zealous with its twists. Mainly, I always felt like MacDonald always knew what he was doing, what he wanted to show us, what he didn’t want to show us, what he wanted us to think at certain moments, and how he wanted us to feel when certain conclusions were made. Many times you’ll be surprised with where one twist will take you, but such is the skill of a thriller, when it’s a thriller done right. And to add on the fact that it’s a movie about the dedication and hardships that reporters take when it comes to getting their stories right, while also making sure to get them out there first; it’s almost like adding a cherry on top. Especially for me.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for these types of movies. Twisty-thrillers and movies about journalists!

But while the movie does work in keeping us on an unpredictable, turny path, it does show some weaknesses as well, ones that became more apparent to me once I got to thinking of them. First of all, I think that having the friendship-clash between Collins and McAffrey works as its own thing, so therefore, to throw in Collins’ wife to the mix, as to set-up some sort of love-triangle, feels manipulative and unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, Robin Wright is solid as Collins’ wife, as she plays around with the feeling of being betrayed by her own husband, but also curious enough to get him right back. She’s the perfect form of snidely, evil, and sexy that I’ve ever seen from her, but her character doesn’t need to be used in this light, or even at all. She definitely brings on more guilt to the Collins character, but other than that: Not much else.

While I’m on the subject of the cast, let me just say that all-around, this is a very solid ensemble that feels as if they were hand-picked, for good reasons: 1.) they can all act, and 2.) they actually get a chance to show the mainstream world what they can do when they aren’t slumming themselves down for Hollywood. Russell Crowe seems like he’s a bit too brutish and tough to be taken seriously as this meek and soft, but determined reporter, but somehow, the guy pulls it off very believably. There’s an essence to his character where you know you can trust him to do the right thing, but you don’t quite know if he’s going to get coaxed into doing it, or not. Actually, that’s a pretty interesting point about his personality that movie brings up, but never really develops further, is the fact that not only does he have a job to do, which indicates responsibility, but he has a friend that he obviously cares for and wants to protect. So, basically: What does he do? Turn on his friend, and give the world the spicy story, no details left aside, or, does he stay true to his friend, and give the public a story that has him come out unscathed? The movie sheds this light a couple of times, but by the end, totally loses all sense of it and just stops worrying about it after awhile. Could have really done wonders for itself, but sadly, just does not.

Batman getting rough with Kal-El's daddy? Is this a sign of things to come?!?!

Batman getting rough with Kal-El’s daddy? Is this a sign of things to come?!?!

Boo.

Playing Congressman Stephen Collins is Ben Affleck, and I have to say, the guy does quite a swell job here. No, he’s not perfect and he isn’t as enthralling as you’d expect a conflicted-figure like his to be, but he does what the roles asks upon him to do: Show enough feeling to where you could be viewed upon as “sympathetic”, but not too weak to where you don’t seem like you couldn’t be a bit of a rat-bastard as well. With that idea, Affleck does wonders and shows the rest of the world that he can still act (even though by ’09, people already knew that).

Rachel McAdams is also a fiery-sword as the young and brass blogger that hops aboard this story, and seems to be really enjoying herself, whether it’s when she has her time on her own, or if she’s around fellow co-stars and gets a chance to strut her stuff. Either way, she holds her own and doesn’t come off as annoying, or way-too-in-over-her-head or anything along those lines. She’s just Rachel McAdams, and that’s perfect as is.

The rest of the stacked-cast is pretty awesome too, with some getting more notice than the others: I wish there was more of Helen Mirren, but then again, I feel like that could be a criticism for any movie, so I’ll leave it be with that; pre-Newsroom Jeff Daniels shows that he has the acting chops to, one minute, be playing a sophisticated charmer, and then the next minute, be as corrupt and evil as the same politicians he talks out against; Viola Davis gets a short, but sweet cameo as a morgue-employee; and Jason Bateman shows up all coked-up, high-living, and fun as one of Collins’ known-associates, and almost steals the movie all by himself. Almost.

Consensus: Sure, State of Play is nothing more than a classic-piece of deception, cheating, lying, and suspense, all placed around the idea of a newspaper, but for that reason, it’s still entertaining and compelling to watch.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

In this situation, I think Helen Mirren is the one to be feared the most.

In this situation, I think Helen Mirren is the one to be feared the most.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

The Germans are the good guys now?

In the wake of 9/11, every country seemed to be hot on the heels of any person/organization that may, or may not, have been affiliated with terrorists and nobody else is feeling this worse than German Intel agent, Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman). While Günther knows that there are bigger fish in the sea, just waiting to be caught, he also knows that he’s getting a lot of pressure from those higher in the food-chain. That’s why, when he finds out about the case of a Chechen, who may possibly be planning a terrorist attack, he jumps on it right away and starts to negotiate deals with people who may be possibly linked to this suspected terrorist. One is Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) a small-time lawyer who makes a living out of giving benefits to possible refugees, and a shady banker, Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe), who may be funding most of these terrorists. Either way, Günther knows that he has to come up with a result, by any means possible. Because if not, somebody else will. And in this case, it’s U.S. embassy ambassador Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright).

I'd be scared to even go to sleep.

I’d be scared to even go to sleep.

With Philip Seymour Hoffman gone from ever appearing on our screens again (except for the second part of the Hunger Games: Mockingjay due later next year), it’s always bittersweet to check out some of his past projects. Also though, by doing this, it’s inevitable to compare his latest works to what some would consider “his best” and sometimes, “most inspiring”. And in the case of Seymour Hoffman, and the legacy he leaves behind, there’s plenty to compare and contrast with.

However, with A Most Wanted Man, it’s a bit difficult – while the movie itself may not be all that on-par with what we most know him to have done, he’s still pretty good in the movie. That said, the movie itself is still lackluster and feels like a mediocre piece that Seymour Hoffman himself, as well as the rest of the cast, elevates to being something worth watching, if only ever so slightly. But that’s why we can rely on actors such as Seymour Hoffman; they make whatever they show up in, interesting and exciting.

As Günther Bachmann, Seymour Hoffman gets plenty of opportunities to show us what’s really brewing inside this man. While it may not always be pretty, there’s still a feeling that we can trust this character to get past his problematic ways and complete this mission of his, as troubled as it may sometimes be. And like with most of his other performances, Seymour Hoffman does quite a few subtle things with his performance to give us an impression of who this guy is; a certain way he takes off of his tie, or orders a drink at a restaurant, there’s always something for Seymour Hoffman to do where he can continue to build and build this character into being someone worth identifying with. Even though, you know, it may be hard for some simpletons to identify with a German Intel Agent in the first place.

But, like I said before, that’s why we can always rely on talents such as Seymour Hoffman to make that idea, an actual reality.

Though, Seymour Hoffman isn’t alone in putting in a good performance, as the rest of the cast all get their own, respective chances to build their characters and, as a result, the plot as well. Rachel McAdams’ character may be flawed and thinly-written, but she still tries hard enough to make it seem like she’s just another well-intentioned woman, who sadly, doesn’t seem to know the reality of the world going on around her and just how serious certain circumstances can be. Also, Willem Dafoe puts in a sneaky performance as the shady banker who may, or may not be, a total bad-guy behind some dastardly plans, or just a guy, trying to get by in the modern-day economy, even if his own morals are a bit questionable.

While these performances may be good, there’s still a feeling in the pit of my stomach that feels like they deserved a better movie. See, what’s so disappointing about A Most Wanted Man is that it comes from director Anton Corbijn, a director who is most-known for his various, stylized photos, but doesn’t really do much for this movie, except pack it with so much information that it can sometimes be way too overbearing. Especially for even the smartest, most determined-viewer out there.

Be jealous, Sean Penn.

Be jealous, Sean Penn.

But while there may be all of this information tossed at us, in hopes that things get intriguing and tense, the problem is that hardly any of that actually happens. Much rather, the movie just ends up becoming a slog and a meandering one at that. That’s not to say all of Corbijn’s choices are bad, but when you’re movie is this based on a possible case, and hardly delivers any suspense or excitement in the air, it’s quite hard to get involved with the proceedings, let alone care for those involved with them.

The only interesting aspect I can think of that Corbijn brings to the forefront of this film is that he discusses the behind-the-scenes, sometimes back-handed politics between the German and American Intel Agencies, and how both were so desperate to get results, that they didn’t care about who they got or how, they just knew they wanted them right away. This is probably where Corbijn breathes some life into this material, because it not only shows us that Günther may not be as powerful as we’d wish he was, but also gives us a chance to see him develop a nice bit of chemistry with Robin Wright’s Martha Sullivan. The two seem like they enjoy working with one another and amidst all of the political exposition – this means a lot. It actually gives a hint that there may be something deeper, and far more involved between these two characters and it brought plenty of promise to the rest of the film.

But, as fate would have it, all of that promise goes out the window as soon as the case ends and we realize that there are bigger hands at play here. While this may seem like a huge wake-up call to the characters involved – to us, the audience, it feels like the sign of a movie ending, way later than it should have. At least it gives us more time to share and adore with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

A true talent meant to be missed forever.

Consensus: Unexciting and sometimes meandering, A Most Wanted Man deals with certain meaningful political ideas and well-done performances, but doesn’t really get the audience involved as much as it nearly should.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

That look. Oh, how I will miss it so.

That look. Oh, how I will miss it so.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Adore (2013)

Knowing my friends and their moms, why can’t either of them be this open to experimentation?

Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) have been besties ever since they were children. They grew up together, got married and had families together, and are not banging each other’s son together. Wait, what?!?! You heard me, right: They are banging one another’s son, and what’s the strangest thing behind it all is that they like it, and don’t want to put at end to it. Roz’s relationship with Ian (Xavier Samuel) gives her a way to escape the problems she’s having with her hubby (Ben Mendelsohn); whereas Lil’s relationship with Tom (James Frecheville) is mostly spurred-on by the fact that Roz is in one with her son, so why not her, right? Anyway, the two seem to enjoy nailing these younger dudes, but what happens when the idea of them moving on and getting acquainted with women more their age, becomes a reality?

You could only imagine how a premise like this would settle in with any real person, mother or not. It’s pretty weird to think that one second, your best-friend’s mom is cooking you sandwiches for lunch, and then the next second, she’s cooking you sandwiches for your post-sex lunch. Pretty weird idea, don’t you think? Well, what may be construed as “weird” in the eyes of normal folk like, say, you or me, may not be in other people’s eyes and believe it or not: I could totally see something as outlandish as this actually happening in real-life. Hell, it could practically be happening right from underneath my nose for all I know!

"So it's cool, right? Not weird at all if you start locking arms with my son, and mine with yours?"

“So it’s cool, right? Not weird at all if you start locking arms with my son, and mine with yours?”

With that said, the movie takes the daring, but bold choice in showing these characters and their situations as real human-beings, that not only have a reasoning for mom-swapping, but also do not judge the other for doing so either. They’re all fine and dandy with the idea that they’ll be having dinner like a normal bunch of friends and family, and then be spankin’ the hell out one another right after. Pretty weird, I know, but the movie never judges these characters for partaking in such actions either, and I have to give it credit for that, if nothing else.

We see them, for them, and, in terms of our main female characters, paints them in a way that shows them as sexually-dominating, getting what they want, how they want it. Usually in movies like this, the shoes are on the other-foot, with the male getting whatever type of sexual-satisfaction he wants, whenever he says so; but here, it’s a bit different and I liked seeing a movie approach a story in that light. It may have not been able to work any other way (except maybe if you showed it from the guy’s perspectives, and had the movie written and directed by Neil Labute) and I’m glad they rolled down the avenue, making it more appealing to all MILFS world-wide.

And hell, if that gets their rumps in the seats, then count me in! Can’t lie, but I wouldn’t mind myself an older woman here and there, knowing what I’m saying? Probably not, but so be it! I know what I like, people! Leave me be!

But despite the brave approach the movie takes to its story, somehow, someway, none of it ever seems to come flying off the screen. You’d think that with this much sexual-tension lying underneath each and every frame of this movie, that you’d probably need about four fans and bottles of water around you just to make sure you stay cool and alive for the rest of the movie, but it surprisingly never reaches that point. There are signs that it may go that way, but after the first scene where the act of sex has already been initiated, it all sort of gets repetitive after that, showing how these four characters all entangle themselves in affairs, and don’t really seem to care for much else, except for maybe time away so they can bang each other some more.

You know, weird stuff like that.

The film does make you wonder though, and it brings up this question more than often: What are these young dudes and older women going to do with their sexual-lives together when the idea of moving-on, meeting new people, and exploring life shows up? Well, probably sit down, cry, and pout like it’s no tomorrow, because that’s exactly what these characters seem to do and it didn’t really make much sense either; and it should have, however, the film didn’t bother to spend much time developing these characters further than just that they like having sex, and best of all, with each other. More time spent on who these characters are, the way they function when they aren’t spreading themselves across the sheets and what they think about doing for the rest of their lives. would have done a sexualized-story like this wonders, but it somehow doesn’t get off the ground or make much sense.

Or, "The MILF-slayers" as they like to go by in some circles.

Or, “The MILF-slayers” as they like to go by in some circles.

For instance, take the two characters of the young guys. Both are chiseled, sexxed-up, in-shape, ready-to-go, and able to get any woman all hot and ready upon first-glance, so why the hell are they settling for these older ladies, who also happen to be each other’s mommies? Never made much sense, mainly because they aren’t weird dudes. They definitely are young and use their dicks more as tools than as meaningful parts of their body, used for creation and years of love, but it never hit me why they would get so far as to bang these gals, and then stick with them for so long. Never made much sense, and as much as Frecheville and Samuel do try with their roles, they aren’t anything more than just a bunch of pretty faces, slapped on to some sexy bodies. Hey, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty dam impressed with what they had packing.

As for the two older ladies that they’re banging, Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, both seem to like this material and put their hearts into it, but the movie doesn’t really do them any favors either. Even though the movie is on their side and shows that they have wants and needs too, it never feels like it gives them much credit for being the great actresses they are. They don’t develop that much, and in ways, get really strange at times, almost to the point of where it really creeped me out. It is creepy to see them all hang out like a normal family that goes to dinner, chats, and hangs out together, but it was even creepier to see them try to step out into the real world, and act like there isn’t anything more going on between them all. Now that, my friends, is strange as can be.

Consensus: The premise for Adore is odd and will definitely shock most normal, run-of-the-mill humans out there, but it does take a respectable-stance on its material, and doesn’t pass judgment on these characters, as thinly-written as they may be.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

The future looked so bright for these friends, and then puberty hit.

The future looked so bright for these close friends, and then puberty hit.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

OK maybe I lied, Americans acting like a Swedish people are more effed up.

This is basically the same exact premise as the Swedish original with a young computer hacker, Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) becomes entangled with a journalist, Mikael (Daniel Craig), over a case of a young girl’s death that is over 40 years old.

Never reading the book but seeing the Swedish original, I kind of knew right away what I was getting myself into. Even though it didn’t fully come out the way I would have liked to wish, I still couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Christmas night then watching 2 hours and 40 minutes worth of incest, rape, lesbians, and James Bond wearing glasses.

One of the problems with the remake was the fact that it didn’t really take too much time fleshing everything out from the characters to the mystery itself. Everything sort of just felt a little rushed but with this one, not so much. Writer Steven Zaillian does a great job of keeping this dialogue on many roads but giving them all enough time to flesh out and still seem effective at the end when it’s all said and done. You got to also give Zaillian a lot of credit for not trying to dumb it down for audiences in any way either.

However, this film is solely David Fincher‘s and almost every frame here, he reminds of you that. Fincher has been really getting farther and farther up my list for my favorite director and it’s inspired directions like this that make me understand why I feel this way. Fincher does not put in a scene here that doesn’t mean anything to the plot and instead every scene he puts in adds something more to the story every-time whether it being more material found out about Harriet, Lisbeth boning Mikael again, or just some more crazy-shit going down for this story. Fincher is working his A-game with this flick and doesn’t stop once to slow down or take a breather, don’t go into this blind, you will want to rip your hair out, and that’s something that Fincher likes to hear.

Even though his direction is incredible though, I still felt some tension was a little lost for many reasons. One of the reasons being here is that I felt like he should have at least taken more time with this story because when he does, it puts you on-the-edge-of-your-seat without any remorse. There also isn’t much time for Fincher to build up tension within a certain scene rather than just focusing on a lot of fast-cuts and quick chases in between two characters. There was probably one scene by the end of the flick where I really felt the real deal tension that I would usually get with a ‘Seven’ or ‘The Game’ or even ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ for that matter.

Another reason why I felt a lot of the tension was lost was because this is a re-make and even though some scenes are either changed, left out, or breezed right over that are from the original, I still couldn’t feel like I saw this story before but except with different people. The original film was all about the unpredictability of it and having no idea where this case was going to take either character, and just who was going to end up alive or dead. Here, the film didn’t change all that much so knowing all of the twists and happenings of the plot was kind of a real bummer and sort of felt lackluster for me even though I still do think Fincher gives it his all. You can only do so much with a film that has been by so many in the first place Finch, but I’m glad they gave it to you to direct.

The biggest selling point for this film was in fact The Girl herself: Lisbeth Salander who’s played by Rooney Mara aka that girl that broke up with Mark Zuckerberg in the beginning of ‘The Social Network’. I don’t think anyone ever thought that they would soon again be seeing the same chick about a year and two months later with tats, piercings, and full-on nakey scenes all-over-the-place. To say the least though, Mara is amazing here and brings a lot more to a role that was already down pat by Noomi Rapace. Mara has a lot to do here and in such a demanding role, she makes everything seem believable with a tough-ass character like Lisbeth that at times may go away but you never forget her and it’s only a short-time until she’s back on being a scary chick like usual. Mara definitely deserves an Oscar nomination probably because Rapace got one and I think that Mara should at least get a lot more roles now considering the last time I remembering her doing something this dark was ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ aka the awesome remake….

One of my biggest and bitchiest complaints of the original was the fact that the film barely even focused on Mikael, who was a totally cool character in and of himself. This is something that this film does not do and instead gave me what I would like to say Daniel Craig‘s best performance since he first decked out the James Bond look in ‘Casino Royale’. Mikael is an interesting character and it was cool to see him get a lot of time spent on him even when Lisbeth does come around to eff shit up. Even though he did not stand a chance from taking Mara’s spot-light, Craig is still great and offers up that real human-being aspect of a character that needed more attention to him in the first place.

Everybody else here is pretty damn good as well with plenty of creepy and eerie performances given by Stellan Skarsgård as Martin Vanger, Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger, and Joely Richardson as Anita Vanger who with this and ‘Anonymous’ earlier this year has found herself really heating things up and getting our minds away from the fact that she went out with the kid that played her son in ‘Nip/Tuck’. Yeah, it’s a little creepy but then again just watch one episode of that show and it will seem pretty normal after awhile.

Let’s also not forget to mention that this film also features another kick-ass score from the minds of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Every time Fincher teams up with these guys, they just somehow make magic together and almost every scene that is under-lined with another piece of the score music, the more and more creepy the film gets without over-doing it. Also, this film definitely features one of the best and most random opening sequences to a film that I’ve seen all year. You can basically that ‘Immigrant Song’ cover to anything, and I guess that anything here was whips, chains, and very black and oily people.

Consensus: If you have seen the original, everything here may feel a bit familiar and old, but with Fincer’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo you don’t know what to expect with some great tension, non-stop fast pace, and great performances from the whole cast, especially Mara who shows her total role commitment and deserves some type of recognition come February.

8/10=Matinee!!

Countdown to Claus: A Christmas Carol (2009)

When did Scrooge become a zombie.

Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) begins the Christmas holiday with his usual miserly contempt, barking at his faithful clerk (Gary Oldman) and his cheery nephew (Colin Firth). But when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come take him on an eye-opening journey revealing truths Old Scrooge is reluctant to face, he must open his heart to undo years of ill will before it’s too late.

I don’t know why I even put that synopsis there considering everybody knows and loves this story. However, Robert Zemeckis wants to do something totally cool, hip and different to this story: put the whole story in 3-D. Even better, with motion-capture. Yikes.

I still don’t understand why Zemeckis has become so obsessed with this whole gimmick of having these computer-animations look like real people and also be in 3-D, although I do have to say that it does look quite pretty. The film looks stunning with a lot of great transitions from one are to the other and plenty of other times where I felt like I was on this adventure with Scrooge and although I didn’t see it in 3-D, I do have to say that it was stunning as it was.

However, I don’t understand why anybody, let alone an Oscar-winning director, would ever get the bright idea of adapting a Charles Dickens novel that is about 150 years old into 3 dimensions. It also didn’t help that all of the CG characters look pretty freakin’ creepy especially when they’re smiling or crying, because they just look like their constipated. Don’t get me wrong this flick is almost like a painting brought to life, in some ways, but if you look too closely you can almost see all of the characters eyes look flat or dead.

The other problem with this gimmick is the fact that the film feels more like a spectacle rather than actually giving us the heart that lies behind this beautiful story. ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a wonderful tale that should and probably will be around for the next 200 years because it just gives off this positive and loving energy that Christmas gives to everybody during this wonderful season. It’s a timeless classic but the film doesn’t seem too hell-bent on making that story come to life here and rather just use it as the back-bone for making it all look pretty.

There was also barely any comedy and when the film tries to be sly and witty with it’s little side comments, it fails and just seems flat. Also, the film can be pretty dark and the times when I saw the three ghosts pop-up, I was more freaked out rather than intrigued. I mean just take a look at Christmas Past. Don’t tell me that doesn’t make you wanna wet your bed on Christmas Eve!

While reading the opening credits, I was excited to see names like Gary Oldman, Robin Wright, and Cary Elwes were all going to be in the movie but it wasn’t long until I realized that this was Jim Carrey‘s show, and those stars are barely ever in it. Carrey is good at playing these animated characters, especially all of the Spirits but when he plays Scrooge it seems like he is just either yelling or mumbling something under his breath. He plays half of the characters here and he at least had me entertained.

Consensus: A Christmas Carol is very good to look at, a fun roller-coaster, and features a great performance from Jim Carrey, but the film feels more like a spectacle that loses the heart, humor, and overall feeling that the original Charles Dicken novel fed off so well. However, if you want a nice little holiday treat, that is in 3-D, check it out.

5/10=Rental!!

Rampart (2011)

White men can’t jump, but they can certainly be corrupt cops.

Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is pretty much a huge dick-head. He has two ex-wives that he still somehow lives with, uses women like a new pair of shoes, corrupts the law, and has a past that is not the best track-record on any person, especially a cop. However, that’s all starting to come back onto him and he has to start taking it like a man, or at least just go crazy and drink.

Director and co-writer Oren Moverman is coming off of his debut-flick, ‘The Messenger’, which was one of my favorite films of the forgettable year of 2009 but somehow this one doesn’t hit that same cord here it did with me even though it’s also written by the same dude who did ‘L.A. Confidential’.

There have been so many “dirty cop” films in the past that it almost seems like a tired genre in and of itself but somehow this film stays away from the things we’ve seen before with a relatively interesting and different approach than we are used to. The film relies more on the actual guy, Dave Brown, rather than just showing us the non-stop gun fights, macho-man acts, and tiresome car chases, the film decides to show us how he is with all of the people around him such as the women in his life, his brother, and even the people that are trying to help him be a free and non-guilty man. It has a slight noir feel to it which was pretty cool because it’s never really been done before but I think that’s where my main problem where this film lied was.

The pace for this flick is incredibly slow for this type of material and as much as I don’t want to just sit here and rag on about how boring it was, I still couldn’t help the fact that I was checking the time about every 5 minutes at a lot of points. I would have liked a little bit more action, a little bit more mystery, and a little bit more drama to this film for me to actually have something that excited me but instead it was just very depressing to watch this dude’s life practically crumble in front of his eyes. The material isn’t something that’s all happy-go-lucky in the first place, but I still thought that there could have been a tad more done to this flick to spice things up.

The film also had some bright moments by the end but a lot of that shined away with another ambiguous ending that is becoming the next big trend in Hollywood but here it just felt like a cop out (pun intended) so they didn’t have to worry about disappointing audiences. There are many moments in this film where you think something is going to come to a dynamite resolution, but instead, the film backs off which kept me bothered especially for the contrived ending. Come on movie industry! Stop being so damn ambiguous!

Although the film’s story doesn’t do too much the film is actually very great to look at mainly because a lot of the unusual shots that Moverman takes here with this film. Sometimes the film will be up-close-and-personal on a character so much that you can see up their nostrils, sometimes the camera will be far away, and sometimes it will just be moving around the room to keep track of something happening. Either way the film has a lot of good camera-work here and a very random sex club scene is one that sticks out in my head the most. No, not because of the naked people ya pervs, but because it was actually shot beautifully. Duh….

The real reason to see this flick is one of the main and only reasons this film is being mentioned as much as it is, is because of Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown. Harrelson is a great actor and it’s taken awhile for him to actually have his own starring vehicle where he can just do what he wants which is where this film succeeds. Brown is a bigot, racist, homophobic, violent, and mean man that nobody wants to be around but how Harrelson can somehow make this guy likable by any means is a true testament to how great of an actor Harrelson is. There are also moments in this flick where Harrelson really lets out all of his emotions where you feel this character’s sadness but also his grief over all of the bad things he’s done over the years, even though he is still a mean spirit in the end. Harrelson should at least get nominated for an Oscar just because he is so incredibly good.

The rest of the supporting cast are all pretty good because they all get their moments to shine a little bit but having too many characters can be a little bother-some considering if you are just having them on-screen only when the main character talks to them. Nobody really felt fleshed out except for Brown, and maybe that’s the way the film wanted it to be so it definitely succeeded in that way.

Consensus: Dark, depressing, and very slow, Rampart will bother many people who just want a story but for some very good visuals, an interesting take on a premise that has been done time and time before, and a performance from Harrelson that is ruthless, terrifying, and beautiful at the same time is what makes it a real watch.

7/10=Rental!!