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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rooney Mara

Una (2017)

We’ll always have Junior year.

Una (Rooney Mara) arrives at a warehouse one day, looking for an older man by the name of Ray (Ben Mendelsohn). But why? Turns out, the two had something of a relationship when she was 13 and it lead to him not only being incarcerated, but even let out, forced to become a sex-offender, and move on with a different life, name, and in another part of the country. However, he wasn’t able to get away from Una, and on this one fateful day, where it seems like corporate has come in and promised to make cuts on certain employees, Ray doesn’t really have much of any time for this. But it also gets him wondering if he still loves Una for the little girl that she was and the awfully ruined and disturbed one that she is today. After all, he’s moved on and married, whereas she’s a drug and sex-addict, who seems to be using it all to mask her pain. Will she ever get over him? Will he ever get over her?

“So, uh, we doing this?”

The original play in which Una is based-off of, Blackbird, is a very interesting, riveting and smart piece of writing. It’s all in one room, with literally only two characters, yelling and speaking to one another and never losing sight of the heart and humanity in the desperation of these two lives. It’s why bringing the stage to the screen, can be a bit problematic.

Cause sure, while it would have been nice to have Mara and Mendelsohn in one room, doing the same thing that the play did, it’s different here, as director Benedict Andrews has a lot more time and money to work with. Meaning, he now gets the opportunity to tell the story in different ways, go to different places, and do whatever he wants with it, so long as he keeps the heart and sadness of the original. And while he definitely gets a bit too ambitious, who cares?

The heart and the sadness is still there and that’s all that matters.

Also what matters, is that we have two of the best actors working today, together and playing ridiculously challenging characters that we don’t get to see too often on the big-screen. Though her British-accent is a little wary, Mara is great as the lonely, self-destructive and beautiful Una; there’s always a huge frown on her face and you can never get past the fact that she’s lived a hard life where she doesn’t know if she’s loved, or ever will be again. Though we get tons of flashbacks to help us see what happened with the supposed “relationship” she had with the much-older Ray, the movie didn’t need it, as we can clearly see through the  long, winding and tearful eyes of Mara. It’s one of her more disturbing and compelling performances, yet, because of the small-distribution of the film, many won’t see it.

Clearly doesn’t stick out in a warehouse full of hot, sweaty men.

But they should. Not just for her, either, as Mendelsohn, as expected, gives another one of his great performances as a truly despicable, yet somehow, also somewhat sympathetic guy who knows the mistakes he’s made and does what he can to get past it. The movie paints him in a challenging light, where we never know if he’s truly just a dirt-bag, or a guy who actually fell deeply in love with a 13-year-old; by the end of the movie, we’re still not sure. What we are sure of is that Mendelsohn, once again, gives us a person we love to have, but hate to love, and it’s why it’s always a treat seeing him on the big-screen.

Together, the two create something of a tragic relationship that the movie tries to move around and make more difficult with subplots about big corporations, scandals, courtrooms, and family-dramas, but at the center of it all, is these two and they are what’s worth watching above all else. Andrews direction, mind you, should also be noted for the fact that the movie’s quite sleek and beautiful, but in a rather gritty way that never lets you forget about the darkness surrounding each of these character’s lives, whether they want to see it or not. The movie never lets us forget that, while we are seeing something of a love story, we are also seeing a story about two sad lives, who were once happy, in love, and together, were taken apart and had their lives ruined forever, because of it.

Is it a true love story? Honestly, who knows. And that’s the small, unfortunate beauty of Una.

Consensus: Anchored by two amazing performances from Mendelsohn and Mara, Una‘s a sad, honest, and rather frank tale of love, tragedy, sex, pedophilia, and romance, that sometimes gets a bit too carried away with other subplots, but almost doesn’t matter when the core-material is this compelling.

8 / 10

Kiss! Or don’t! I don’t know what I want!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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A Ghost Story (2017)

Man. Ghosts really do have it rough.

A young, loving couple (Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck) who, despite their issues, seem to get along enough that they’re willing to make it work. Then, an unexpected tragedy happens and all of a sudden, both of their lives are changed forever. But somewhere, in the backburner, lies a ghost, who is constantly hovering and watching over every little thing that happens in this house. Over time, the house changes and we start to see new people come into this house, with all sorts of new lives and adventures. But through it all, the ghost remains. Alone. Sad. And without any clue of what the hell is actually going.

In other words, the life of a ghost is a pretty sad one.

Rooney.

The real beauty of A Ghost Story isn’t that it was shot in secret, made for $100,000, and featuring a very recent Oscar-winner, but that it literally goes everywhere and anywhere, and we literally have no idea what to expect from it. It’s the kind of small, mysterious movie that even going on further and further about it, what happens to the story, where it goes, what it wants to do, or hell, even what it’s trying to say, would almost be certain to spoil the movie.

The only thing that I can truly speak of is to the true talent of writer/director David Lowery who, so far, is really proving to be the top-tier talent in film. Cause with A Ghost Story, on paper, it seems simple and easy – a ghost literally hovers around from one life, to another, essentially. But it’s so much more than that. It’s sad, tragic and upsetting, sure, but there’s also bits and pieces of unexpected humor, heart, light, and yes, believe it or not, fun.

Not to mention that, oh yeah, this movie’s beautiful.

Casey.

Not just through the way it looks, sounds, or even feels – it just is. Considering the small budget, you can tell a lot of the money went into the way the film is presented and it works; the very tightly-round aspect-ratio, at first, is distracting and probably unnecessary, but ends up being another weird addition to an already original movie. The movie takes on a lot of different and crazy ambitious themes about life, death, love, afterlife, and existence as a whole, but no matter what, Lowery doesn’t get too bogged-down by trying his best to discuss this, time and time again, hammering it into our heads. He lets the story breathe, move at its own pace, and be as surprising as humanly possible.

And like I said before, the story does go to some truly unexpected and wild places. To say anything more would be a problem, for both you, as well as myself. Just know that wherever Lowery goes, it works. A Ghost Story is the kind of movie you make when you have the absolute drive and creative inspiration that you just can’t settle down anymore. Lowery, even after making the studio-heavy, audience-friendly Pete’s Dragon, didn’t need a whole lot of money, financial back-ups, or even all that much help to get this out and it shows.

He wanted to make something weird, original, and damn beautiful. And guess what? He succeeded at that.

More of this. Please.

Consensus: Despite being an awfully odd movie, A Ghost Story is still a mannered, smart and interesting take on all aspects of life, with a pitch-perfect direction from Lowery.

8 / 10

And ghost. What more do you need to know?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Song to Song (2017)

Music rocks. Until it doesn’t.

Set in/around the Austin, Texas music scene follows the story of four different people who are all in some way, shape, or form connected to one another. There’s BV (Ryan Gosling) a struggling lyricist who has chances of becoming the next best thing since Bowie, but for some reason, doesn’t know if he wants to fully commit to this dream just yet. His buddy/co-writer/co-producer Cook (Michael Fassbender) is on a much different playing-field; he’s already established, rich, wild and happy as can be, but also a bit of a nut-case, which leads him to making some pretty rash, awful decisions. Then, there’s his former assistant, Faye (Rooney Mara), who now spends her time taking up odd-jobs, whenever she isn’t flirting with the idea of music. And then, there’s waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman) who meets Cook and ends up not just falling for him, but the world he represents. The same thing happens when BV and Faye meet one another, too, however, their relationship becomes more and more toxic as certain secrets begin to come up into the air.

Look out, Rooney. This is how Baby Goose gets all the ladies.

Song to Song is a lot like every other Terrence Malick film released since the Tree of Life: Rambling, ambitious, meandering, random, and oh yeah, absolutely beautiful. And normally, as was the case in both Knight of Cups and To the Wonder, I would be annoyed, baffled and oh yeah, utterly disappointed; after all, this is the one director who every person in Hollywood wants to work with, drops everything to be around, and do so, without ever even being promised that they’ll be in the final-cut. It’s surprising, actually, because Malick, while no doubt having made some classics in his film-maker career, has more “mehs”, than actually “wows”.

Consider Song to Song in the category of the later, although, with some obvious mild reservations.

Of course, it deserves to be said that, at times, Song to Song can’t help but be incoherent; the editing is so dazzling and jumpy that it doesn’t take long to realize that every scene will probably be on the screen for upwards of five seconds, only to then be switched back to another. The editing is impressive and considering how much footage was probably there to be waded through, time and time again, cut-and-cut, it’s all the more surprising how much of it actually seems to make sense, when put together, but man oh man, the shots can tend to be repetitive.

I mean, yes, I get it: It’s a Malick film. So of course we have to have a bunch of scenes of people frolicking in nature, looking towards the sky, running around exotic locations, and trying not to kiss, but yeah, it happens way too many times here. A part of me wants to learn and accept that as Malick’s thing, and move on, but a part of me can’t help but think it’s just pure laziness, where rather than having to actually write a script, where people speak to one another and profess certain things, they can just run around, glance at each other, and appreciate nature. Once or twice is fine, okay, whatever, but it happens way too often here to where I was beginning to wonder if certain shots were re-used, just so that Malick could hit his frolicking-cue.

And on that note, let me just switch gears by saying, despite these reservations, this movie is quite the watch.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

Sure, it’s Terrence Malick, so the narrative isn’t always the strongest, but in a way, there’s more cohesion here, than there’s been in anything of his since the Tree of Life. Seemingly, they’re two love stories, all taking place around the Texas music scene, and while the movie does ramble on to other places, it’s easy to understand that it is about these four characters and leaving it at that. It’s easy to get confused and well, bored, in Malick’s other flicks, but here, it seems like he knows the kind of story he wants to tell and doesn’t try to go for anything else.

That said, there’s an energy to this thing that just keeps on kicking throughout the whole two hours. It’s honestly what kept me watching, even when it seemed the movie was going to lose its way. But surprisingly, it never does seem to; even in those parts where the movie slows down and focuses on, hey, get this, the actual characters and their lives, there’s still a rambunctious feeling in the air that Malick, believe it or not, just wants to kick out the jams.

Every waitress’ dream: One day, an alcoholic, drug-fueled, crazy and rather insane music-mogul will come in and sweep you off your feet.

And well, he sort of does.

If there’s one complaint that I’ve been seeing around is how Song to Song isn’t really as much about the music, as much as it’s about these characters that make and live around the music, which is an okay complaint, I guess. Except that well, that’s what the movie’s about. Malick doesn’t seem to set out and create some sort of conventional, crowd-pleasing musical in the same vein of La La Land or Chicago, but much more of a narrative-based movie that surrounds itself with loud guitars, amps, drums, and singers, like Nashville, for lack of a better complaint. Sure, we get brief glimpses of Florence and the Machine, Patti Smith, and the Black Lips, but the movie isn’t trying to make this the ultimate Woodstock experience for those who wanted to experience, but more or less, use it as an interesting backdrop for all of these wildly contained lives.

In a way, it’s incredibly smart on Malick’s part, because he not only makes us feel like we’re watching a documentary the whole way through, but a very interesting one at that. Which is to say that yes, Song to Song is beautiful, but you probably already knew that; Emmanuel Lubezki touches something and it automatically turns to art. But there’s something more beyond the prettiness and glossiness of the whole thing that makes it feel much more about the heart, other than the style.

Which is also why Malick does a smart thing in actually allowing his cast to aid him in telling the story, for once.

And with Gosling, Portman, Mara, and especially, Fassbender, Malick’s found some real treats. Granted, a good portion of their performances ultimately come down to narration, but when they are captured on-screen, in the moment, all of them are captivating and enthralling. Fassbender’s probably the stand-out here, showing a loose and wild man in Cook who, despite having all of the money and power in the world, still shows a great deal of darkness, lying underneath. While most of the performance seems improvised, it’s still a true testament to the kind of talent that Fassbender is, where he can play this sometimes over-the-top character and still, somewhat, make him seem real and honest.

Then again, it is a Terrence Malick film, so how real or honest you can get, totally depends on him.

Consensus: Though it does have the ability to ramble at certain points, the exciting energy, utter beauty, and interesting performances of Song to Song are what keep it, at best, compelling and a lively experience. Sort of like, hey, get this, going to a concert. Except with, of course, less music.

8 / 10

Alright, Rooney. Stop being Sia. Be you, girl.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Discovery (2017)

What’s the point to life anyway? Like seriously, who even cares?

Soon after the existence of the afterlife has been scientifically proven by Dr. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford), upwards to four million people begin killing themselves, thinking that there’s not much more to live for, if all there really is, well, nothing, when it’s all over. Nearly two years after this discovery, Will (Jason Segel), the son of Thomas, decides to head out to join his father’s small, but trusted group of believers who are constantly trying to figure out what the meaning to the afterlife is and, in a way, fix it all, so that people stop offing themselves. Meanwhile, Will also meets Isla (Rooney Mara), a girl with a tragic past who found her life seriously affected by this groundbreaking discovery and has a hard time really connecting with anyone, because she herself doesn’t really know if she wants to stay around much longer. Eventually, the two start figuring things out about the afterlife and together, they feel as if they’ll be able to crack the code and live happily ever after.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe something like that.

“Don’t be intimidated or anything. I’m just Robert Redford.”

The Discovery is so ambitious and so interesting for so long, that it’s absolute travesty what it eventually turns out to be. Cause for the longest time, co-writer/director Charlie McDowell, just like he did with the One I Love, puts us in a state of where we don’t know what’s going to happen, at any time, to any person, for any which reason; it’s unpredictable and off-putting, making the movie itself all the more intense than it probably should be. But whereas that movie was talking about relationships, how we love one another, how we connect with one another, and the lies we each tell the other in a relationship, the Discovery is dealing with a much bigger issue on-hand, such as life, the reason for it, and what’s after it.

So yeah, that’s probably where some of the issues for the Discovery already come from, because while it’s a movie that tackles a lot, it also doesn’t know how to contain all of it on its plate. A lot gets lost in the shuffle, falls off the plate, and almost never gets picked up again – it’s as if McDowell and fellow co-writer Justin Lader knew that they were dealing with a whole lot, but didn’t care. Just mentioning the reason for life, the afterlife, and existence as a whole, it seems to them, was enough.

But honestly, it’s not.

See, in order for certain mind-benders such as this to work, there has to more than just mystery, science and babbling about life’s meaning; sometimes, there needs to be a plot, characters, heart, some humanity, and oh yeah, a small idea that we, the audience, have a general idea of what’s going on. When that’s not all there, unfortunately, sci-fi flicks like the Discovery get a bit messy – they like to deal with a lot and talk about a lot of things, but without helping the audience out, every so often, there’s sort of no point. It’s like throwing a huge banger, full of booze, drugs, hookers, and disco-punk blasting on the speakers, and not inviting anyone to it, except for just you, yourself.

Okay, actually, that does sound awesome. But see, so should the Discovery, a movie that seems to be very close to Lader and McDowell’s hearts, yet, doesn’t fully transport the same feelings towards ours. There’s a lot of talk about what this “discovery” about the afterlife actually was, yet, we barely get to hear, or see anything of it; there’s also a lot of talk about what this group of people are doing now to solve the issues from before, which again, aren’t made all that clear; and there’s even this sort of rogue mission Segel and Mara’s characters both go on that feels like it’s supposed to be more important and most of all, about something, but it’s just random.

Swim away, Rooney. Perhaps a better, much clearer movie awaits.

Once again, there’s a lot that this movie wants to be about, but it just isn’t.

Still, it’s not a total piece of junk and more often than not, proves to be another sign that McDowell is still a very interesting, young director who has a chance to make some real beauty in the world, if given the right script to play around with. The human-element of the story, meaning, the relationships these characters all have with one another, probably remain the most interesting aspect of the whole movie and it’s a testament to McDowell’s direction that makes us see that. It also makes us wonder why there wasn’t more character-development in the first place.

After all, Segel, Mara, Redford, Jesse Plemons, and Riley Keough are all very good here, it’s just that there isn’t always a whole bunch to assist them. Segel’s still interesting as a drop-dead serious straight-man; Mara’s deadpan is hilarious, but also shows a sad, heartbroken soul; Redford, when given the chance, can be chilling as this sort of ring-leader; Plemons’ character seems like he wants to be weirder, but isn’t given the chance to; and Keough, despite having what was a pretty miraculous year last year, isn’t given a whole lot to do here, but still remains chilling enough as is. In fact, just about everyone and everything about the movie is, for lack of a better word, chilling.

It’s just a shame that it wasn’t able to be transported into something far more entertaining, or better yet, even compelling to watch.

Consensus: Even with all of its talk about the afterlife and existence, the Discovery still feels like a half-baked idea, given the big-screen treatment, when in reality, it probably should have been a pilot for a very interesting, very promising TV show. Hence why it’s probably perfect to be on Netflix.

6 / 10

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Lion (2016)

Wow. Google really does have it all.

When he was just a little boy living in India, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) accidentally got on a train that took him nearly thousands and thousands of kilometers away from his brother and his mother. Without any idea of where he came from, how he got there, and just who to contact to get home, Saroo ends up spending a great deal of his childhood in shady orphanages, all until a rich Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) decide to adopt him. Now, many years later, Saroo (Dev Patel) is a chiseled, handsomely-grown man who wants to study hotel management. While there, he meets a very interesting gal (Rooney Mara), who he takes a liking to immediately. However, one night, while hanging out with friends, people begin to question Saroo about his childhood home, his family, where exactly he came from, and how he got here, leading him to think long and hard about the same things. And then he discovers Google Earth and for years, does whatever he can to not just locate where he came from, but try to get back to his birthplace.

Everything about Lion leads up to the final act. In said final act, there are so many emotions, so much heartbreak, so much joy, and so much swooping music, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in it all. If you don’t shed even the tiniest, bittiest tear, you, my friend, may just have a heart of stone, or no heart at all.

Aw, such a cute little boy.

Aw, such a cute little boy.

That said, the movie does feel a tad incomplete.

One reason has to do with director Garth Davis’ way of telling Saroo’s story, but leaving out certain key-elements. For instance, we spend roughly an hour with him as a little kid, when he’s nearly five or so, and it’s quite compelling. The movie sort of feels a lot like bits and pieces of Slumdog Millionaire, but it still works well because Davis knows how to create an aura of sadness just by a single shot and give us an even greater idea of the brutal, harsh realities of being a little boy, alone and without a clue in the world of where you may be. Luke Davies’ script is also smart, too, in that it takes its time in developing just how far Saroo’s story as a child goes, with certain twists and turns coming out of nowhere, yet, still feeling brutally honest and expected.

But then, more than a quarter through the flick, everything changes. We’re introduced to Saroo when he’s an older, hunkier guy, with long, flowing locks and facial-hear to die for and it just feels way too sudden. While we still get to know a little bit more about him, his family, and the struggles they are inducing, just trying to get by, it still feels like we’re missing certain pieces to the puzzle.

Like, for example, why does Saroo want to find out about his birthplace at all?

The movie tries to clarify it with a heartbreaking image of a food-item that I won’t spoil, shows him sad, distracted and obviously out-of-place, but why? Is it because he misses home? Is it because he’s starting to despise his adopted parents and the adopted brother that seems to be a little crazy? Why oh why? I’m sure the real Saroo, of whom this movie is made about, had a great reason justifying it, other than just simply being sad, but I can’t seem to find it here.

That’s why once the movie gets to the final act – of which happens quite quickly – it feels a little rushed. It’s almost as if Davis and Davies knew exactly how they wanted their first and final act to go down, but in by doing so, they forgot to think of a second one, or better yet, a more substantial second one that doesn’t just feel like filler to get to the more emotional moments. Then again, it is refreshing to get a movie that shows us its character’s journey back home in the most simplified, uneventful manner imaginable – after all, it’s the 21st century and if you want to get somewhere in the world, all you have to do is go on your phone and you’ll get where you need most definitely right away.

Wow. That escalated quickly.

Wow. That escalated quickly.

But like I’ve said before, Lion packs a powerful punch and it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in all the swirling emotions by the end. Which is interesting, because it isn’t manipulative; through Saroo’s story and his experiences, we get a sense that this homecoming is a very emotional thing and because of that, it’s hard not to shed a tear. Some of it may be overly sentimental, but hey, it’s the kind of sentimentalism that so rarely works, so I’ll give it credit where credit is due.

And the performances are quite good, too.

In what seems like his best performance since Slumdog a little over eight years ago, Dev Patel finally gets the role worthy of his enigmatic charm. While he’s most definitely grown into a handsome, rather hunky man, he’s also turned into a much better actor that doesn’t get on his boyish charms, but raw emotions where there’s a certain a pain in his eyes. It’s also worth pointing out that the younger-version of Saroo, as played by Sunny Pawar, does a great job even though, yeah a solid portion of the role may just be reaction-shots.

But still, he makes those reaction shots count, man.

David Wenham and Nicole Kidman are also pretty good as Saroo’s adoptive parents, who both seem to understand and sympathize with Saroo’s quest. Kidman’s performance is especially the best, with a few strong, emotional scenes that could have gone incredibly overboard and melodramatic, but somehow, she plays it all so perfectly, like the pro that she is. The only one who feels out of place, in a way, is Rooney Mara. She shows up about halfway through to be a sort of romantic love-interest for Saroo, meant to push him harder and harder into this life-fulfilling adventure of sorts, but she just comes off like a device, as opposed to an actual, real life character in a movie. I’m still not sure if this person exists in real life, but if so, I’d be a little ticked by how dull I was.

That’s just me, though.

Consensus: Though it’s missing a fully-developed structure (something only us annoying critics care about, I know), Lion also packs a very emotional punch, with solid performances and a heartwarming message, even if it does still come off like a Google Earth commercial.

8 / 10

And now he's got a girlfriend? What is happening? Go back to being a kid, Saroo!

And now he’s got a girlfriend? What is happening? Go back to being a kid, Saroo!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Carol (2015)

Once you work in retail, you’ll fall right out of love with everyone.

In New York City, during the 1950s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) works as a sales-clerk for a department store that excels during the holiday season. While she does aspire to be a photographer, most of her life surrounds this job, and the possibility that she and her boyfriend (Jake Lacy), may be heading out for Europe some time soon. However, Therese’s life gets turned upside down when she meets an older woman by the name of Carol (Cate Blanchett). Though Carol is currently going through a divorce with her husband (Kyle Chandler), she’s still tied to her child and doesn’t want to lose her in the proceedings, due to claims of affairs she had with other women. Despite this, Carol is still drawn to Therese and vice versa, so because of that, the two decide to see if they can make something of this relationship, despite it being the 50’s and time hasn’t quite caught on yet. But no matter what, Therese and Carol decide to leave their former lives behind for a little while, head out on a road trip, and eventually, see if they should be together and make this thing work, if it’s just another sordid fling for Carol that she wants to try out with a younger woman.

She's faking it.

She’s faking it.

Given the relationship, as well as the nature of it, Carol could have easily just been one crazy sex ride from beginning to end. Wistful glances from afar? Slight breezing of hands? Curious smell of perfume? Oh man! Already sweating just typing it all!

But surprisingly, but at the same time, unsurprisingly, writer/director Todd Haynes handles it all with ease, care, and above all else, delicacy.

See, for one, Carol concerns itself with a romance tale that most people, new and old, may already feel square-ish about – not due to the fact that it concerns two women, but one who is much older than the other and clearly looking for some hot, young meat to sink her teeth into. And from the very start, that’s exactly what Carol seems like; while our titular character definitely has enough reason for wanting to experience something younger and much more lustful, there’s also a good enough reason why she may just be after Therese in the first place and that’s just for a little bit of fun sex. No shame in that, however, Haynes makes it perfectly clear that to Therese, this is no game.

In fact, if anything, it might be love.

And from here on out, Carol takes a wide turn away from being infatuation, to deep, dark and heavy romance that, despite being seen as constant HLA, is actually very far from. In fact, if anything, it’s plenty more subdued that, despite one key scene that’s not just beautiful, but perfect in describing how it is to make love to someone you actually love for the first time, the whole movie’s just a lot of shared-looks and beating around the bush (pun intended, I’m sorry). Nobody in Carol outright declares their love for one another, nor do they ever make it clear just what they’re full intentions are; all that they do know is that they’re feeling something and going wherever it takes them next.

Which is to say that yes, the two people I’m talking about the most is indeed Carol and Therese, as portrayed both perfectly by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, respectively. Much has already been made about who is the lead character here and who isn’t; no matter how you put it, both characters are given just as much as attention, detail and focus as the other, so regardless, they’re both fully-developed, well-rounded characters who you get a sense of from the very start and gradually continue to know more about, as the story progresses. Haynes could have easily left these characters at just the surface-level, but instead, takes more steps into showing us how they are together, as well as when they aren’t together, which is perhaps what matters most.

And by the same token, allows each actress to dig deeper and deeper into who these characters exactly.

As the titular Carol, Blanchett finally feels as if she’s really building a character here and not just “acting”, with a capital A. Don’t get me wrong, Blanchett is an amazing actress who can never not be good, but lately, it seems like most of her roles have just been about placing her in a spot and letting her do her thing. Nothing wrong with that, but after awhile, it starts to get tiring and, in a way, boring for the actor themselves. That’s why, as Carol develops, we get to see Blanchett go down certain avenues with this character that we don’t expect and get to witness for the first time, which not only makes her seem fresh to us, but also real and believable. While we want to be upset with her and judge her for leaving her family and giving into temptation, to see how truly happy she is in her own skin, when she doesn’t have to hide or shelter herself, is a perfect reason to think otherwise and that’s why Blanchett’s performance truly is amazing.

As is she.

As is she.

As for Mara playing Therese, she’s even better. Therese, on-paper, seems like a meek, mild-mannered girl who doesn’t have much to say or do with her life, and generally seems to be just floating about. However, as we start to understand more and more about Therese as the movie progresses, we see that she’s just a sad, little confused girl who has no road to lead her on, nor a person to fully lean on; she’s just going with the flow, but desperately in need of a plan that it’s making her depressed. Mara’s great in making us feel the sympathy for this character, but never overdoing it, and it’s why her performance, while maybe not as showy, is perhaps the most effective.

Together, the two have great chemistry, from the beginning to the very end.

Because Carol is a movie that deals with a relationship, as its developing, its interesting to see it from the initial, building stages, to what it eventually becomes, if anything at all. There’s no real form of chemistry; there’s just a lot of awkward pauses, phrasing and stutters that don’t really go anywhere, except to show that you’re just as flustered as the other person. You’re getting a feel for the other and you’re just seeing to where it all could go. That’s why, when Carol and Therese first meet, get together and see what they can do about the spark between one another, it feels honest and believable – not like a “meet-cute” scenario where they hit it off right the bat.

This is mostly due to the fact that, yes, both Carol and Therese have issues of their own going on, which basically all just boil down to being about men. However, what Haynes does well here, is that he fleshes out these two character’s stories well enough to where they’re not just worth caring about, but sympathetic. Kyle Chandler’s Harge seems like a genuinely upset and heartbroken man who was lied to and sort of toyed around with, only to just now realize that he’s got no direction in life and basically hopeless. Same goes with Jake Lacy’s Richard, a guy who so clearly and desperately wants Therese in his life, but doesn’t want to overthrow his hand, nor get forgotten about, either – he just wants to be with her, love her, marry her, have kids with her, and do whatever else couples do.

If that doesn’t sound at all sweet or romantic, then go elsewhere and stay away from Carol, you heartless wench.

Consensus: Elegant and beautiful, in both its visuals, as well as its story, Carol features a lovely, but compelling romance, as portrayed perfectly by both Blanchett and Mara.

9 / 10

But together, neither is! It's just love, baby!

But together, neither is! It’s just love, baby!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Pan (2015)

I’ve always felt like Peter Pan needed a little more Nirvana.

Everybody knows the story, but you know what? Imma tell it anyway! When he was just a baby, Peter (Levi Miller) was left on the front-stoop of an orphanage by his mother (Amanda Seyfried) who obviously couldn’t take care of him. Fast forward 12 or so years later, and Peter has grown-up a little bit, trying to make ends meet in England during WWII. One fateful night, however, he’s kidnapped by a mysterious group of pirates and taken away to this strange fantasy world known as Neverland. Here, Peter finds out that he can fly and has all sorts of mystical powers, but is currently on the run from Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who, for one reason or another, just wants to get ahold of Peter because he has some sort of magic powers and is, for lack of a better term, “the chosen one”. Along with a newfound friend named Hook (Garret Hedlund), Peter will venture all across Neverland to escape Blackbeard and, hopefully, be able to find his mom, whom he believes to still be alive and setting up shop somewhere in this magical world of Neverland, where practically anything is possible. So long as you put your mind to it.

I guess "Polly" was off the table?

I guess Polly was off the table?

There’s a line early on in Pan that perfectly summarizes what it is that this movie thinks of itself. Garrett Hedlund’s Hook character says something, in his awfully mouthy and odd Southern accent, along the lines of, “You came here in a floating ship, I think the idea of what’s real has all but flown out the window.” Once again, I highly doubt that those are the actual words he said, but you get the point; this is basically a case of the writers and director getting together and saying, “Hey, guys. Let’s make a fun movie here. No bull. No crap. No nothing. Just fun”. And that’s what Pan actually is.

For awhile, that is.

Eventually, what happens to Pan, is that it forgets about its cheekiness and instead, delves way too deep into its own mythology where mermaids, pirates, floating boys, and white women playing Native Americans. Which, on paper, sounds so incredibly fun, and it is for a good amount of the film, but once it loses its silly edge, it gets extremely dull and boring. All of a sudden, we’re being told the story of Peter Pan once again, which is fine and all for new viewers who may have not previously known about this story already, but to the countless others who already know each and everything about it, it’ll prove to be a bit of a bore.

Which is a shame because I like what Joe Wright seems to be doing here. He knows that because the tale of Peter Pan is, essentially, a fairy tale, that he should approach it as such. There’s a whole lot of self-aware jokes here that are winking so much at the audience, that it practically breaks a bone or two in doing so. Which, honestly, is fine with me; some of the best kids movies, are those that work as well for the parents, just as they do for the kids. Sure, some of the jokes may go over the little kiddies’ heads, but honestly, they’ll be fine anyway!

After all, it’s a Joe Wright film, which means that everything’s pretty, gaudy, over-the-top, and as colorful as a Gay Pride parade, which means that for the kids, they’ll have plenty more to focus on than just the subtlety within the jokes, or the fact that the pirates in this movie endlessly chant Blitzkrieg Bop and Smells Like Teen Spirit together. Is it all weird? Kind of. But I’ll take that in my kids movies, rather than watching some same old, recycled story that just caters to the younglings and not give a single hoot about who else may be coming out to watch this movie.

Because, without us older-people, how would these kids be able to get to the movies in the first place?

But, like I said, this all begins to go down the tubes once the second-half of the movie comes into play. In fact, if I was to be even more specific as to when the movie begins to turn the other cheek, get all mega-serious and lose its sense of wacky fun, is when we’re introduced to Rooney Mara’s whitewashed Tiger Lily. That’s not to say that the casting of her to begin with is more than enough to take you out of the film (although it is quite ridiculous), but it’s the part where I realized that the movie didn’t really have anywhere else to go, or anything else fun to do. It was just going through the same old motions. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

While I’m at it, though, I guess I should point out that I’m not just pissed at the movie for casting a white actress in the role of an obvious and rather iconic Native American character, but because they cast Rooney Mara in the role, a talented actress who deserves a whole lot more than just this. Yes, it’s ridiculously cynical that the studios felt like they couldn’t have cast a Native American in a role that was most definitely made for one, but it’s also a waste of a supreme talent that deserves to be elsewhere and more often than not, actually shows it. Most shots of Mara here are of her just sleep-walking through her lines, occasionally letting something resembling a smile or a chuckle crack through and it just makes you want to hope that she got a solid paycheck here, so that she doesn’t have to bother with these kinds of big-budget, mainstream pieces again.

Let’s hope that she just stays in the beloved indie world, like she always has.

Aside from Mara, everybody else seems to be having fun, although nobody’s ever given that one, big push they needed to make them stand-out from the rest of the film. Hugh Jackman is clearly enjoying his time playing Blackbeard, but doesn’t get enough opportunities to seem sinister and instead, just comes off like a running-joke. I know this is a kids movie and we don’t necessarily want our villain beheading innocents to prove his menace, but at the same time, we don’t want him to just become a gag that the movie can point and laugh at, especially when we know he’s going to have to have that final showdown at the end. Garrett Hedlund is also having fun too as Hook, even though he’s merely just a sidekick that falls down, gets beaten up, and looks silly.

And Amanda Seyfried is hardly even here. Poor girl.

Consensus: Joe Wright is throwing everything at the wall with Pan and seeing what sticks, which can sometimes be fun and exciting, but at other times, can get a bit tiring and odd, even when it seems like the cast are having the times of their lives.

6 / 10

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won't any longer.

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won’t any longer.

Youth in Revolt (2010)

What revolution would choose Michael Cera as their leader? Oh, Scott Pilgrim you say? Never mind, I can totally see it now.

Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is one of those loner dweebs who always dreams about the women he may meet, fall in love, and run off with one day, but it never becomes reality. That is, until his mom’s boyfriend (Zack Galifianakis) decides that they have to stay in a trailer park in the woods for the summer, just so he can lose the heat surrounding him after he sold a shitty car to some Marines. Not that it even matters in the grand scheme of things, but anyway, when Nick is there being lonely once again, he feasts his eye’s on this local named Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). Automatically, Nick falls head over heels for this gal, but the problem is: He’s still a virgin and needs to find a way to impress her so that he can lose said virginity. Enter his bad side, also known as Francois Dillinger (also played by Cera), a lean, suave, and cool guy with a mustache that has a way with words, as well as the ladies.

It seems like hipsters are taking over the whole world, and it was only a matter of time until movies started to be next on their list as well. I don’t really care for hipsters and to be honest, most of them bother me. But here’s the weird thing about me: I actually like hipster movies. Some come to my mind like The Science of Sleep, Juno, and especially, my favorite of all, (500) Days of Summer. I don’t know what it is, but hipster movies always strike a chord with me almost no matter what, but they have to work and not try too hard. Movies such as this, make me reconsider why I even bother with hipster movies, but then I just watch (500) Days and fall in love with Zooey all over again.

GoshWhat a babe.

Now that's what I call RANGE.

Now that’s what I call RANGE.

Anyway, what works about this movie is that when it does want to be funny and is at least inspired with how it uses it’s comedy and where it comes from: It’s very funny. I can’t put my pinkie finger on certain moments that made me die laughing, but there were maybe one or two where I really had to hold my stomach from ripping-open. Other moments I found myself chuckling and thinking, “Oh that sure is witty”. But something kept feeling like it was “off” watching this movie.

I don’t know if it was the tone that likes to be playful at times, then dark, then romantic, then dramatic, and do it all over again, or if there was just no story here at all, really. The more that I think about it and have it juggle around my head some more, I feel like it’s more of the latter, but the former definitely had something to do with it as well. The movies tries to go for this cool, edgy-feel to it but never quite succeeds until that bad side of Cera’s character shows up. But other than those very few and far moments, the movie never really connected with me and made me feel like I was watching something like Rushmore, seeing this small kid go up-against everybody else in the world around him. Nope, instead I just found myself bored to the tip with this character and also by the fact that he felt like he needed to try and be hip and cool to be with the girl he loved. Just run away, or something dude. That simple.

Then, comes the whole story-aspect where there actually doesn’t seem to be one at all. There are some twists and some turns that show up to throw us all off-course, but doesn’t really hit us that hard. You feel as if this is the type of movie where random plot-points just showed up to keep us on our toes, but it didn’t work like that. We were just left with a movie that tried so hard to be funny, and tried even harder to give us a wacky and wild story. Both aspects of this movie seemed to fail, despite some charm and humor with parts of the screenplay, but especially with this whole cast. Jeez, thank the high heavens for them.

Michael Cera has been playing the same character ever since his days of Arrested Development. Is it bad? Not really. However, it does show you that the guy needs some fine-tuning every once in awhile, just to remind us that this cat is an actor, and one that can actually make us laugh, despite him always being a bumbling nerd that can never seem to get a sentence completed. That’s why his performance here as Nick/Francois is a bunch of fun to watch because he plays that nerdy-aspect really well, like we all know he can do, but also decides to get a little bad-ass here and there, and does very well with that as well. Even though we already know when Francois is talking and acting, because of his get-up and whatnot, we still feel like we’d be able to tell the two characters apart, even if they didn’t share the same-screen almost every time. Nonetheless, Cera is good in both roles and it shows that the guy maybe had more to him after all.

In character, playing the character of Fred Willard, the real person.

In character, playing the character of Fred Willard, the real person.

Another member of this cast I was very surprised by was a little-unknown named Portia Doubleday, as Shenni, the apple of Nick’s eyes. Doubleday is good because she’s awesome at combining this sweetness to her character, but also the naughtiness of her as well. Her character can really make you feel as if she’s the most-fragile creature on the face of the planet, and then can change it up to where she might even have your pants rise up just a tad bit. She’s great at making us feel like there’s more to this character than she fully lets on, and that’s what I liked most about her and maybe the most about this flick. It’s weird that I haven’t seen her around as much as I would have thought after a movie like this, but she may have a bright future ahead of her. I’m just waiting around for it.

Others in the cast are fine, but they are mainly here just for window-dressing. Fred Willard is the only one out of the whole cast who really made me laugh, considering almost every scene involves him being slightly creepy, sort of naked, and always up to no good. Sort of like the real-life Fred Willard, so who knows if this guy really is acting or not? You never know with crazy Fred. Oh, and Rooney Mara’s here when she was still hot, still spicy, and without any dragon tattoos whatsoever. At least none that we know of.

Consensus: To most peeps who like these types of hipster movies that go out to one crowd, and one crowd only, Youth in Revolt will be a funny, empowering hour and 30 minutes, but for a person that wants more story, more cohesiveness, and just more laughs, you’ll be left disappointed.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Why didn't I go to prep school? Why oh why?

Why didn’t I go to prep school? Why oh why?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Her (2013)

If Scar-Jo was my computer, then yes, I’d consider it. Her, or Bea Arthur.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant future, L.A. writer Theodore Bwombly (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself in a bit of a rut. After his wife (Rooney Mara) asked for him to sign the divorce papers, he’s been a bit slacking in terms of getting a move-on with that, his love life, or just getting out there and meeting new people in general. I guess you could consider him “antisocial”, although he does still hang-out and pal-around with an old friend of his (Amy Adams); but other than that, he’s practically all alone up in his big apartment, where he sits around, plays interactive video-games and even ends some nights with eventful bouts of late-night chats with complete and total strangers. This all changes once he discovers a new operating-system by the name “OS1”, which promises him “the closest thing he’ll ever get to a real, honest human-connection”. Theodore believes this, downloads the system and eventually, is graced with the presence of Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who, at first, Theodore feels a bit odd with. Which, yes, is expected considering that she’s just a speaking-system that he just so happens to be stuck with, but over time, the two begin to grow closer as they help each other out in ways they never expected to, like in discovering life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and heck, even sex. So yep, it gets pretty crazy and passionate, but eventually, like most romances do, problems do arise, uncertainties are brought into the equation, and feelings are hurt; and a relationship with an operating-system doesn’t make that any further from happening. In fact, maybe even more likely to happen.

Must've been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

Must’ve been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

I know some of you may have already been lost at “human falls in love with operating-system”, and trust me, with anybody else behind this, I would have been too. However, this is not just directed, but written by Spike Jonze and from what I can tell you, the guy’s pretty damn amazing at what it is that he does, especially when it comes to making magic with something as odd and as unique as this. But considering that Charlie Kaufman isn’t around to lay-down the ground-work for him this time around, it makes you wonder: Can Jonze handle all of the pressure when it’s placed upon himself, or, does he simply fold and make this something that’s “too strange” for anybody to even like?

Well, for the most part, Jonze succeeds. And then some.

First things first, this movie would not work at all if it weren’t for the fact that Jonze himself was actually able to get us to believe the relationship that our main character Theodore has with his operating-system. It makes a slight bit of sense that someone as sad, lonely and clinically-depressed as Theo would actually have a relationship with somebody he wouldn’t have to see, touch or even impregnate in order to fall in love with, but it makes total sense why it is that he falls for her, and why it is that you actually want to see them together in the end, despite all of the obvious problems surrounding that outcome.

For instance, like what most relationships are based-on, is the way in which both companions actually do something for the betterment of the other. Theo allows Samantha to experience life in its finest, most complete-form; whereas Samantha allows Theodore someone he can vent-out to, be encouraged by, gain some insight from and most of all, actually connect with. Sure, she definitely is a computer when you get right down to it, but she’s more than just a bunch of data filled with numbers, codes and chips. She’s actually a “thing” that has feelings, emotions, wants, needs, pleasures, desires, dreams, ideas, insecurities, doubts, and anything else you could name that a normal, everyday human-being would have. The only difference here is that she’s an operating-system that you can talk to and engage with through a little speaker in your ear, or anywhere else.

In fact, I’m only going to say this now considering I’m already on a roll and I kind of want to get this out of the way, is that the problem I sometimes had with this movie was that it wasn’t always clear how Theo and others around him could constantly chat-it-up with Samantha, despite it obviously being clear that he needed an ear-piece in, in order to do so. I don’t know, maybe it was something that I missed, but once others could hear Samantha as perfectly and as understandably as Theo did, it kind of had me scratching my head. Didn’t bring this movie down an awful-lot, but did bother me a tad bit whenever it showed up.

Anyway, back to the good stuff, of which there is plenty more of!

Like I was saying though with the relationship between Samantha and Theodore, although it may clearly be an odd relationship between two, highly unlikely candidates, Jonze makes it work solely through the way in which he channels ordinary feelings, emotions and happenings that go on during any relationship, whether it be good ones, or bad ones. While doing this though, he also channels through the step-by-step process in which a relationship builds into being over time, which is something that surprised me the most in how honest, and sometimes heart-breaking it was to take note of.

At first, the relationship is blossoming with countless acts of sex during the day; plenty of late-night talks that go on and on about seemingly nothing; getting comfortable with another person to the point of where you think you know them from the inside, to the outside; aspirations for the future in which one party would be able to meet the other parties’ friends, families, confidants, etc.; the action of getting a place together, moving and even looking for a house pet by any chance; and even the slightest, yet clear discussion about the possibility of moving even more forward and “getting serious” about what it is that these two people into question have together, that possibly, could last forever.

That all seems like the quintessential, go-to sets of standards of what it’s like to be involved with a romance when its first stages, and when it begins to move further and further on into being something deadly, freakin’ serious. It’s what we all know and live by, and that’s just the way basic humans are. It’s neither good nor bad; in fact, I’d say that it’s freakin’ beautiful.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

But, as we all know, there are those problems that casually show up when two people get together and start swapping as many emotions with one another, as they do fluids and it seems like it’s nearly unavoidable, no matter how perfect you think you got it. Eventually, tensions do arise when people start to experience new things; change in ways that they themselves realize, but are too scared of telling the other person; passions begin to go away; eyes start to linger elsewhere; minds don’t seem to cling together as well anymore as they used to, and instead, more or less clang together; and the worst of all, finding something, and/or someone else that seems better for you in many more ways than one.

These happenings are usually what one can expect when a relationship that was once beautiful, passionate, romantic and heartfelt in every sense of the word, suddenly goes South. And what sucks the most is that you don’t know how, you don’t know why, and you sure as heck don’t know what to do in order to you to stop it from ending and being tarnished in the ground forever. All you know is that what it is you have with this person, is real, honest, lovely and altogether, very painful when you get to look at it. When a relationship ends, it doesn’t just end with a whimper, but it ends with a bang in which a connection that two people shared together, seems like it could be gone. And in some cases, possibly gone forever.

Yes, it’s all so very sad and yes, it can be avoided in some situations (trying to re-ignite the flame by getting freaky with it, bringing in the shrink, asking for advice, etc.), but in reality, it’s inevitable. I truly do hate to sound like the miserable, cynical, “love sucks” a-hole that would much rather watch a movie about two people falling in love, than actually going out there into the field, making myself known and experience some lovin’ for myself, but that truly isn’t the case here. I’ve been in plenty of relationships (or in some cases, “something” that was close enough to being one), with plenty of different gals over the year to realize that this transition from absolute adoration for the other person, may not always last. And sometimes, it may even get so ugly and negative to the point of where it’s not even worth sticking around for. But people do try, and more than likely, they succeed and end-up sticking with that special someone of theirs forever and ever, or at least for a very long time.

But that’s what life is all about: Finding someone, getting to know them, falling for them, handing yourself to them on a silver-platter, realizing that they’re everything you could want in the world and basically, just finishing it by sticking together, or calling it quits. Either way, it’s a fact of life that I’ve been through many of times, and although I’d like to think that each and every time I step up to the plate, I’ve learned something new, tricky or life-changing about “The Game of Love“, reality hits me with a curve-ball and reminds me that I really don’t. But hey, that’s not a bad thing. That’s just life; I’m human, you’re human, we’re all human and that’s what humans do: We make good decisions and we make mistakes, but we always get back-up and ride the horse again.

That’s why watching the relationship between Samantha and Theodore develop over time to the point of where I wouldn’t see “an operating-system and a human falling in love with one another”, but rather, “two emotional, sensitive and compassionate-beings falling in love with one another, that also happen to be an operating-system and a human.” And to see these two as they realize who it is that they are when they’re around the other, and certainly away, really did touch me and had me remember all of the relationships I’ve had in the past. But most importantly, I thought about the memories: The good times, the bad times, the sexually-active times, the romantic times, the frustrating times, the upsetting times and how each and every one has shaped me into the person who I am today. Not just in the relationship-world, but in the world in general.

Jonze taps into this reality about our lives oh so beautifully, that isn’t all about the heart, the romance, or the drama, because, believe it or not, there is actually plenty of comedy to be had here. Most of the comedy to be found here stems from the fact that everybody in the future relies more on technology than ever before, but they aren’t cheap jokes. Like it’s not the type of, “Oh, look how funny it is that that person can’t stop texting at the table,” joke, but more sophisticated in the manner that Jonze shows us that we rely on technology so much, that it would totally break-down our lives if it were to go away in some shape, or form. It’s funny, but it’s also true. Brutally so, too.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we've all been there.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we’ve all been there.

Also, one aspect of this movie that a lot of the laughs seem to come from are with the performances of both Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson who both have some pretty hard tasks on their hands, but handle it effortlessly and make this a romance one won’t soon forget. Though Phoenix has never been known as the main source for comedy, but here, he’s pretty damn funny, but in a subtle manner. The way he uses his eyes or facial-expressions to make clear to us whatever emotion it is that he’s feeling, really worked for me and not only made me crack-up more than a few times, but made me feel more for this character of Theodore, who, in essence, is a hurt, beaten-up, heart-broken man that’s left with just about little to nil direction left in his life of where it is that he wants to go or what it is that he wants to do next with it. However, he’s not a boring loser and after awhile, once we get to spend more time with him and see who he is as a person, we realize that he’s just a really nice, fun-loving type of dude that used to be cool, happenin’ and the life of the party; it’s just been awhile since he’s been able to do so and he’s finally getting that chance. Phoenix is wonderful here and for a guy who has been of his for a long, LONG time, let’s just say that I’m happy to see my man Joaquin not only lighten-up the mood a little bit, but smile as well.

Sheesh! When was the last time we saw that dude crack a cheek-to-cheek grin on his face?!!?

As good as Phoenix is though, he somehow gets over-shadowed by the fact that Scarlett Johansson, using only her voice, is able to make us think-up, dream-about and visualize a character of who it is that she would be, as Samantha. I don’t know if I’m alone or not in this voice, but I’ve always thought that Johansson had a wonderful voice and it was about time it was put to the test that was more than just her singing out some classic, gold oldies. Now, we have her voice that practically takes up half of what we hear in the movie, but it never gets old and the character itself, is written so richly, that you understand why somebody like Theodore would fall head-over-heals for it. Heck, you may even ponder the question yourself! Regardless, the chemistry the two have together is pitch-perfect and not only makes you believe in their relationship when it’s beginning to pick-up speed, but when it surprisingly starts to fall-apart. They both seem perfect together and like they know what the other person wants in a relationship, but you know that with them, like with any other relationship out there in the world, conflict is inevitable, and so is the parting-ways between two people. It’s just all a matter of moving on, remember everything that you’ve been through and knowing that life does, and will continue on, that is really important.

Consensus: Her may have a weird premise on-paper, but it works out as perfectly as any other romance put-to-screen in a long while and will more than likely bring a few tears down the cheeks of many on-lookers, as well as having plenty of high-school sweetheart’s getting drunk-dialed in the middle of the night from a sobbing, incoherently rambling ex of theirs. But that’s perfect though, because love truly does make one person do the darnedest things.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who "that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself", was. And then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who “that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself”, was. Then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Love makes ya do the darnedest things.

Ruth and Bill (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) are young, madly in love, and plan of having a baby together. That’s usually a tri-fecta for any couple, but it’s different for these two since they are both outlaws, and Bill is in jail for all of the crimes he committed and some of which, he didn’t. Fast forward to a couple of years later, Ruth is living her with her and Bill’s baby girl, while also living a life under the lingering-eye of a local deputy, Patrick (Ben Foster). However, things go back to normal, and by “normal”, I do mean bat-shit crazy once Bill escapes jail and intends on coming back to Ruth, his daughter, and living the life they once lived before. But it isn’t going to be so easy with the law and a bunch of hitmen on his tail.

Right from the start, it’s obvious that David Lowery takes inspiration from Terence Malick’s shoes of film making. The images are beautiful, wistful, and poetic in the type of way that you could only get with a dude who pays as much attention to his editing, than the actual filming-process itself, but Lowery is a new type of breed that may be more welcome than Malick is these days. To the Wonder featured all of the same pretty things we love and adore about Malick films, but the story just blew. So you have to wonder: If Malick isn’t being the best he can be, who’s next to take the reigns? Obviously David Gordon Green had all of the promise in the world that just squandered once he started smoking hefty-amounts of pot and hanging with the Apatow crew, so that only leaves one person right here, right now, and possibly for awhile, and that’s David Lowery himself.

"Don't worry, baby. If you come with me, I'll take you away from this life of crime and killing and take you to one where we are constantly on-the-run and looking behind our backs at every corner. Deal?"

“Don’t worry, baby. If you come with me, I’ll take you away from this life of crime and killing and take you to one where we are constantly on-the-run and looking behind our backs at every corner. Deal?”

And yes, with the visuals, the sound, and the feel of this movie, it’s very Malick-y. It’s able to convey plenty of emotions just strictly through putting the camera in a certain position, barely moving it at all and just letting the images do the speaking for themselves. But he’s also very Malick-y in the way that he frames this story, if not better because at a surprising quick and fast hour-and-a-half, everything you need to, want to, and have to know about this story, just so happens to occur within the first 10 minutes and after that, it’s a free-fall from there of character-development, emotions, ideas, and themes, none of which ever seem to be over-shooting their guns either. For a first-time director with such limited resources, it’s a surprise that Lowery was able to hit as many marks as he was able to with a story that seems so familiar of outlaws and bandits falling in love and running from the law, but the stance and direction that Lowery takes is what makes it surprisingly fresh.

Rather than having this whole movie focus in on the relationship between Ruth and Bill, the how, the where, the what, and the when; we get only a tiny-bit of development between these two where we see how they obviously love each other and why, and then go straight to where they become separated, only to find that Ruth is pretty lax in her latter-days as a single-mommy. Believe it or not, after all of the hustle, bustle, action, and Jackson of the first 10-15 minutes, the movie calms down and gets very light, touchy-feely, and probably the most enjoyable since it’s all about the characters. And what makes those characters work as well as they do is how Lowery is able to make almost every character as interesting, or as likable as the one that came before.

Except for a couple of shady hitmen that come knocking through town later in the movie, there’s nobody here that’s really considered a “baddie”, which makes every conversation between whatever characters on-screen, interesting and compelling. Lowery’s script is great as he’s able to tackle the subject of love and at what lengths one would be able to pursue for it, but is also great at giving us a rich, detailed-characters that feel like real people, with real problems, and real feelings. Of course they’re more dramatic than the common-day folk, but at their core, they feel like people you could meet on the streets, especially the streets of Texas during the 70’s, where, you guessed it, this movie takes place. Obviously Lowery is a talent that needs to be watched from here on in and to be honest, once this movie hits the big-screen; I think we’re going to have ourselves a new David Gordon Green. Let’s just hope, as I said, he doesn’t start smoking hefty-amounts of pot and hanging with the Apatow crew.

Beware, David. Be very aware!

But as much as Lowery’s to be congratulated for the awesome work he’s pulled-off here, so is the cast that is just about perfection. Rooney Mara is a nice fit for Ruth, when she’s both a reckless troublemaker, and also a sweet, relaxed house-mommy-of-one. It’s nice to see that after a tough-ass performance in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mara can still make us forget about all of that and actually get us paying attention to how nice and civilized she can be. Ruth is a character caring for and worth watching, especially since you know she means well and just wants what’s best for her and her daughter, regardless of whether or not the daughter actually sees her father.

Speaking of the daddy, Casey Affleck is also very good as Bill, the outlaw on-the-run. Affleck’s good here because he’s not only able to make us care for this dude by the sure fact that he just wants to see his daughter and his baby momma, but also that we feel like he won’t kill anybody just to do it. In fact, he makes it an apparent point not to do so, but yet, still finds himself doing so when push comes to shove. It’s just the way the world works and he tries to keep his head above it, but still gets sucked down in every once and awhile. Aiding Bill at one point, is Nate Parker as one of his ex-crime buddies who has now taken up a life as a bartender/owner. Parker’s been a star on the rise for quite some time now and it’s only a matter of time until the dude breaks-out and takes the whole movie world by storm. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, baby.

Mustache = extra serious

Mustache = extra serious role

However, the best of the best for me was Ben Foster as Patrick, the local copper who not only takes a liking to Ruth, but also seems like he’s actually on Bill’s side, as much as he’s on the law’s side as well. People get on Foster’s case for being all about the yelling, the screaming and the larger performances that usually take more attention away from the movie or the character he;s playing, and more towards how over-the-top he is, but I’ve always stood by him no matter what, which makes this performance all the better because of how much he downplays it all. Patrick could have easily been a character that’s unlikable in the way that he’s thirsty for revenge and wants to bang the dude who shot him’s girlfriend, but it isn’t like that way with the character or with Foster. The dude’s actually really nice, seems to care about Ruth and would probably never do anything to hurt her or a fly, despite having a badge and a gun that may show otherwise. It’s great to see Foster finally getting more quality-roles and even though I wouldn’t say this is his best (this always does it for me) it’s still a step in the right direction for a dude who I think is criminally-underrated and due for some big roles. Hopefully my dreams come true. Hopefully.

If there was a problem I had with this movie, is that I think a little bit more time devoted to plot would have really benefited this flick. How it ends is pretty emotional and compelling, as the movie never seems to settle for a second, but it also feels rather abrupt, as if there was more here that Lowery didn’t leave in the final-cut or just didn’t bother shooting at all. Whether that may be the case or not, I have to say that something felt like it was missing from this movie and I still think about it now. Maybe I’m due for a re-watch sometime soon to fully get a grip? Just maybe I do but until then; that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Consensus: With a short running-time of only an hour-and-a-half, you would assume that Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is just too packed-up for it’s own good, but it’s surprisingly brisk, deftly-paced, detailed, entertaining, and compelling enough to where you care for the characters, what happens to them, and where they might end up once the triggers have been pulled and the blood has been spilt.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"I'll never let go. Not even when you're in jail and having initiation time with Big Bubba.

“Bill, I’ll never let go. Not even when you’re in jail and having initiation time with Big Bubba.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Side Effects (2013)

Okay, I get it: drugs are bad!

Emily Hawkins (Rooney Mara), is a beautiful young woman who has a serious addiction to prescription drugs which she uses to deal with anxiety and depression surrounding the pending release of her husband (Channing Tatum) from prison. However, problems start to begin when she soon becomes involved in an affair with the doctor (Jude Law) who subscribed her to the drugs. Moral of the story: never trust a doctor as good-looking as Jude Law. Lesson learned.

Even though I have already stated that there is apparently an affair taking place between the patient and the doctor, rest assured, there isn’t actually any hanky-panky going on. Regardless of what the plot-lines, trailers, and advertisements may be telling you, this is more about the problem that occurs within somebody’s mind and physical state of well-being, when pharmaceutical drugs start to take over. Maybe there is some sex, maybe there isn’t, but the fact that the movie is willing to take the non-Hollywood approach to a relatively conventional story, just goes to show you what type of will and firepower Steven Soderbergh still has to his name.

Instead of making this movie one of those thrillers where a bunch of bad stuff happens, with clear-explanations and more understandings of what is really happening; the movie decides to take the higher-road and make everything more complicated than you’d ever imagine it being. What I liked so much about this movie is how it all started-off obviously, telling the story, giving us characters, and ultimately having us run into the problem that’s going to bring out the bolts and crannies of this movie. And for the longest time, we almost feel like we know where this story is going to end-up, how it will, and what it’s going to say when all is said and done, but no, no, no. Soderbergh doesn’t play by the rules and this movie shows just that.

So happy, so young, so ready to be devoured by a life of drugs and crime.

So happy, so young, so ready to be devoured by a life of non-stop drugs and crime.

Without giving too much away and spoiling all of the fun for you peeps out there, Side Effects goes into places you wouldn’t in the least-bit suspect a medical drama to go towards. It begins as a character-study of depression; then it becomes a medical drama about the negative and positive effects pills can have on a person’s mind; then it becomes a crime thriller; and then, ultimately, turns out to be a mystery/detective-thriller where you feel as if you have all of the clues and hints to make-up a clear understanding of what’s happening, but in reality: you just don’t. In a Soderbergh, nothing is ever quite what it seems to be and that’s not just a cliche, that’s just how he roles.

The combination of these 4 genres, may make the movie seem a bit like it’s too much, for so little, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always this feeling that something new and unpredictable is going to come your way and just when you think you know what the big picture is all about, Soderbergh decides to pull the rug, right from underneath your feet and have you guessing more, more, and more, all up until the end where it feels like all of the questions have been answered, and everything is settled. Soderbergh always seems like he has a clear vision of what it is that he wants to do, say, and show-off in any of his stories, and even though the message may be a bit too obvious with where it goes (pills are only made for the doctors to get more moolah), there is still always that shred of memory that you watched this movie, and sat there in total and utter suspense, not having a damn clue where it was going to show-up next. I love that about movies and even better: I love that with my Soderbergh movies.

If there was a problem that I ran into with this movie, it was that the usual, downbeat ending that we are so used to seeing with Soderbergh movies didn’t show-up this time around. In fact, I would probably say that this is his most positive ending in the longest time, probably ever since Ocean’s Eleven. That’s a real shame too, because even though most of Soderbergh’s movies aren’t the happiest-of-go-luckies to watch and spend time with for 2 hours, you still feel like you’re watching a movie from a guy that doesn’t give two shits about having us leave with a happy and clearer view of the world. For the story right here; it does sort of work but when you take into consideration all of Soderbergh’s other movies: it’s a tad disappointing.

However, all problems with the ending aside, this is still a great movie mainly due to the fact that the cast is more than game for the material that writer Scott Z. Burns and Soderbergh are willing to throw at them. This is probably Jude Law’s best role in the longest-time as the psychiatrist that does all that he can do to not only help Emily with her condition, but also make sure to save his money from totally being thrown into the meat-grinder. From the beginning of the movie, I was expecting the movie to make Law’s character seem like a total, money-hungry doctor that didn’t give a single crap about the people he treated or what it was that they were going through; and have it more based on the fact that he’s just about doing his job, doing it the right way, making sure his patients are fine, and hopefully, at the end of the day, making the money go ching-a-ching. It’s a very, very well-written role for Law that shows that the guy still has what it takes to be the center of attention and never have us lose sight of what this character’s motivations are, whether they be good or bad. In this case, it’s all good in the hood of NYC.

Doc needs to take his own advice, by taking some pills and getting some damn sleep.

Doc needs to take his own advice, by swallowing some pills and getting some damn sleep.

Rooney Mara seems to be a very, very fine fit as the total and complete nutcase that is Emily. Mara really nails what it’s like to be so terribly-conflicted with depression, almost to the point of where she can’t handle it anymore. You always feel for this gal and as much as you want to give your heart out to Law’s character for always being there when his patients needed him, you still have to give some pieces out to Emily, for at least trying whatever it is that she can to get over this problem in her head and mind. Mara seems to really have a bright-future ahead of her and it’s a real delight to know that they ended-up dropping Blake Lively for her. Hell, if that chick was in it; it probably would have been a way different movie. And that’s not a good thing, either.

Much like Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones gets to show-off here more than she’s been able to in the past and gives us a glimpse at a lady that you can’t always trust, but yet, you just can’t put your finger on what it is exactly about her that rubs you the wrong way. Zeta-Jones is just able to mess-around not only with the characters in the movie, but our minds as well and it was great to see that played-out with such slickness and charm from Zeta-Jones. Definitely makes me forget about her sleep-walking role that was the Mayor’s wife in Broken City. Well, obviously not too much since I just remembered and mentioned it, but you get my drift. Channing Tatum is also very good as Emily’s, recently-released-from-prison hubby that does whatever he can do to make things between him and his wife, and is here to serve the plot and that’s about it. Not bad or good, just needed to move things along, I guess. Still, it’s good to see the guy working with Soderbergh once again and being able to keep his clothes on for more than 5 minutes.

Consensus: Even if it doesn’t rank-up with Soderbergh’s best, Side Effects is still one hell of a movie that will keep you guessing, on-the-edge-of-your-seat, and fascinated with how much Jude Law can do as an actor, even if his last couple of movies haven’t been able to prove that point.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

CZJ not happy!!

CZJ not happy!!

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Osama’s dead! Now it’s time for Hollywood to take advantage!

The film is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks, and his ultimate-death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Unless you have been living under a cave for the past years (sort of like Osama himself), then you’ll probably already know how this story ends. People get on the look-out for Osama, find some tip-offs, locate his living quarters, send a search and destroy team, and basically, destroy him and everybody else that was practically in there.

After a decade of anger, frustration, sadness, paranoia, and a great deal of questions left unanswered, we, as a country, finally got what we wanted ever since those fateful hours of 9/11: we killed the son-of-a-bitch that was to be blamed for all of it. If you like to look at humanity in the eyes that every person made in God’s eyes are equal and judged the same, but if you look at it from another pair of eyes, you’ll start to realize that this was a piece of shit that deserved to die, deserved to be stuck in-hiding half of his life, and better yet, deserved to be killed the way he was. In my opinions, no matter how brutal or vicious, I feel like the guy got-off a bit easy with a couple of shots to the dome (apparently) and no torture whatsoever, when this is also the same guy that killed over 3,000 innocent people in just one day. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m rooting for America on this one and I usually don’t get all this “hurrah! hurrah!”, over being a patriot of my country, but there’s just something about the idea of finding the person that was responsible for so many deaths and broken hearts in one day, killing him, and showing him, as well as his followers, what the ‘eff is up with the good, olde U.S. of A. I hate to sound all lame-ass and cliche, but damn, was I proud to be an American after seeing this movie.

No, I did not just spoil the movie's ending with this image.

No, I did not just spoil the movie’s ending with this image.

This also really surprised the hell out of me as well, mainly because I wasn’t expecting feelings like this to pop-up, after expecting this to be Kathryn Bigelow’s big, follow-up to The Hurt Locker, a war movie in which, it seemed like the theme was very much against the war, rather than creating a love-letter to those who fight for our safety and freedom, day-in and day-out. It’s not like Bigelow went full-throttle at the army’s throats and showed them how much of dirty and despicable bastards they can truly-be, but instead, showed them more as a bunch of people that have problems, just like you or me. It was a nice movie, a nice war movie, and a very nice movie with a smart message to-boot, but that’s not the film I’m reviewing here.

The movie I am reviewing instead is this one, Zero Dark Thirty. Up until a couple of days ago where I heard this movie has been destroying film festival award shows, I wasn’t really all that amped-up to see this flick. Yeah, we all know the story about Bin Laden, we all know the cook gets shot, and yes, we all know that people did a lot to figure-out just where, how, and when this guy hid for so long. It was an obvious story that just seemed like it was going to be the more modern, war-version take on a “based on factual events” story like Argo. However, slowly but surely, this movie really started to creep-up and find it’s way into my mind and have me very, very excited to see what was going to go down and after awhile, I got to thinking: I didn’t really know all that much about the whole Bin Laden-killing as it was.

Yeah, I knew how it began and how it ended, which is pretty much enough for some people, but being the type of guy that likes reasons, explanations, and understandings to most of the stories that I find-out to actually be true, I knew there was more than meets-the-eyes and that is exactly what you can expect from this movie. Right from the start, you know you are in for a thrill-ride that is full of suspense, espionage, exposition, clues, hints, interrogations, arguments, conversations, torture, and best of all, action. This movie basically has it all and even though the first 20 minutes seems to go a bit over-the-top with the whole “torture” idea, it soon builds into something that doesn’t need to have things exploding or people being shot to keep you interested and riveted; it just uses conversations, and wonderful conversations at-that.

Seeing how this whole investigation got from Point A, to Point B, is pretty damn interesting, but what’s even more interesting is how much feels like it’s on the line in this flick. When these characters are out searching for Bin Laden, where’s he hiding, and who the hell helped him with terrorist attacks, we feel as if we are there searching with them as well, with just enough terror and suspense as you could imagine. I knew how this was going to turn-out and if you are the biggest-idiot on the face of the Earth and don’t know by now, well then, you do too. It’s a real-life investigation that just so happened to turn-out successful  but getting to that point where everybody is happy, jolly, and feeling victorious, is a real, fucking ride that will take you all-over-the-place in terms of emotions and thoughts. Actually, maybe saying it will fuck with your mind is the wrong-impression to give you, but if you like a thriller where you have no idea what’s going to happen next and like to have your palms sweaty for about 95% of the actual-movie, then this is the type of thriller for you that will stick with you just as much as it did to me.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I'd still try my hardest for her heart.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I’d still try my hardest for her heart.

And as for the rest of that 5%, well, I sort of left that out, mostly because it seems like more of this flick is about getting the facts straight and telling it like it is, which was all fine and dandy with me for the most part, especially because all of it seemed to be pretty legitimate. As with most of these movies that take on an actual, real-life investigation that had to deal with the U.S. government, there’s always a lot of speculation as to what is real, what is dramatized, and what is fake. For the most-part, after all of the controversies this flick has seem to be dealing with as of-late, I can easily state that most of what you will see and hear here, is in-fact told in the way it went-down. Of course not every scene was filled with as much witty-lines and moments of humor that this movie’s scripts throws in there to great-effect, but the ideas, the hints, the clues, the thoughts, and the actions, all seem to be very reasonable and I never really found myself scratching my head as to how the hell somebody could pull something-off like this, no matter how much leverage she may have had. However, it’s less of a history-lesson and more of a thriller that shows you what went-down, how it went-down, and what exactly was going through the minds of the people behind all of the actions. Some good, some bad, some are just not worth giving a fuck about but at the end of the day, Osama was killed and everybody was happy and joyful together. Yippie-Kay-Yay!

Featuring a cast that doesn’t really have any real, blockbuster names to attract an audience to a flick that already seems like it may have a bit of a struggle with making moolah around this time of the year, definitely seems like a risk that Bigelow is willing to take, and a risk I want to watch her take, more and more now, especially after what I saw what she could do with an amazing cast like this. After having what is essentially the greatest year of her freakin’ life so-far (other than that one, beautiful summer where she went to camp and become a woman for the first-time, I don’t know, just guessing that it’s what all girls have memories of), Chastain builds on top of that with a stellar-performance that is probably the best she has given so far, mainly because her character goes through so many changes throughout the whole flick, but yet, they all feel real.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

When we first see Chastain as Maya, we see her as soft-spoken, scared, and a bit of wimpy-like girl that can’t handle the sight of so much blood and torture that she sees within the first 20 minutes, but after awhile, she gets used to it and realizes that maybe, just maybe, she, as well as the rest of the CIA, needs to get their shit together and find this summbitch who caused all of this trouble in the first-place. Chastain is strong-as-hell in this role and you can totally tell that as time continues to go-on for her and for this mission, that the look on her face and her eyes, begin to change and get more and more disrupted by the anger and frustration that sort of domes come with the job of being a very-skilled member of the CIA and handling a mission like locating, and taking-out a top-terrorist. Every look she gives another character in this movie feels deserved and she is such a strong female-character that you are able to stand-by, trust, and feel like she is literally a nice human-being that only wants what’s right for her, her own well-being, and her own country that she fights for day on a daily-basis. No surprise whatsoever that this gal is getting so much damn Oscar buzz for this and if she does win (which she just might), I will have no objection or angry-tirade whatsoever. Hell, after all that she did last year, the woman deserves it. But please, somebody just give her my number!

Her co-star from this year’s earlier-release, Lawless, Jason Clarke has the next best role as another member of the CIA, but yet, has a way different job than her. See, Clarke’s character is a guy that has to deal with the torturing and question of their Iranian prisoners and as hard as it may be to watch some of the actual torture that does go-down in the flick (mainly within the first 20 minutes, just to let you know how crazy, wild and disturbing this movie is going to be), it’s even harder to watch a character like this have to suffer from doing something that literally makes him a miserable human-being. Clarke is a guy I never really payed attention-to in the past, mainly because I never thought he really needed to shine in the spotlight, he’s just always been there, but here, every chance the guy gets, he absolutely nails it in showing us how a character that does something so vicious and violent for a living, can actually still stay sane and normal in the outside world around him. If it wasn’t for all of the buzz that has already been surrounding every-other aspect of this damn movie, then I would definitely have to say that Clarke would be up for an Oscar nom., but as for right now, I think I may just have to wait and keep my, Minnesota Fats-like fingers crossed.

"Seriously, since you're night-vision doesn't work, you brought a candle?"

“Seriously, since you’re night-vision doesn’t work, you brought a candle instead? Do you not know what we are here to do!?!?”

Even though Clarke and Chastain may be the real stands-out of the flick, you know, the ones you really remember when all is said and done, they sure as hell aren’t the only ones that give solid performances worth-mentioning. Mark Strong shows up in a couple of scenes, and absolutely hits the high-rising emotions in this flick, and hits them hard, especially with an introduction-scene that is one of the best he has ever done in his entire career. Trust me, just ask the fellas I saw this movie with. They’ll probably tell you I couldn’t stop quoting his damn scene and with good reason: it’s memorable, important, and best of all, perfect. And no, for all of you people out there wondering: Mark Strong does not play Osama Bin Laden, regardless of what his past-decisions for characters may have you think otherwise. Kyle Chandler seems to be having a lot of fun playing, once again, another member of the CIA that seems to always have the right, witty answers to every solution, but yet, still can’t keep an eye on his own shit and even get the chance to cover his own-ass. Chandler’s been doing some real splendid work as of late, and I think this flick is only going to prove that point a whole lot more. James Gandolfini also shows-up in a scene or two as the main, higher-up of the CIA that always has to give final-word to the president and even though it’s not a glamorous-role for the guy, it’s not one that shows how much of a fat-slob he has become, either. He’s just a normal dude, with a very demanding job.

However, these three are the only three I could really think-of off the top of my head and say exactly why I liked them so much here, because everybody else, I kid you not, is as great as they should be. Every tiny, little-role that Bigelow needs filled-up, she fills it up with a great actor/actress that gives their all and might into scene that sometimes doesn’t mean a shit in the long-run, but after it’s over, you are still left remembering it because of how well-acted it truly was. The only bad apple out of this whole cast that really seems like he may have been trying a bit too hard was Chris Pratt as the main, Navy Seal that goes into Bin Laden’s cave. I love Pratt to death and I think he is an absolute riot as Andy Dwyer, but seriously, you can’t go from a character that’s all about being a man-child, who is dumb, big, and slow, in terms of understanding the things around him, and go right to a character that practically slimes his way around and about Bin Laden’s head-quarters. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pratt and he’s not even that bad here, but he just seems like he should be off, doing something more comedic that would use him well.

Despite all of this big and bad jibberoo about why the movie works and how, I can only imagine the real question on your mind: what about the whole Bin Laden-shooting? Well, without giving too much away or even letting you know of what fully goes down, I’m just going to state that Bigelow handles it in the most understandable, most respectful, and most perfect way that makes you realize how far everybody has come to this point and in a way, what is to come of us next, not only as a country lead by an army, but as humans living in the country as well. Bigelow handles this last-sequence where all of the Navy Seals find their-ways to Bin Laden as if we are actually there, right next to them, as they make all of the tough shots and calls, and it’s probably the most exciting and suspenseful, piece of 30 minutes at the theaters I have spent in a very, very long-time. And mind you, I am talking about the whole Bin Laden-shooting. Something that I actually have prior knowledge to knowing that it did actually happen!

"What by the term, "Casual Friday", do you not understand?"

“What by the term, “Casual Friday”, do you not understand?”

Yup, it surprised the hell out of me too, but if there is anything that surprised the hell out of me, is how happy and proud I was to be in a country where most humans have the rights to do whatever they want, however they want it, and mainly because we all are humans, no matter what eyes you look through. Now, I’m not saying that it’s right for people to do anything they want, whenever they want because they’re humans (last Frdiay’s shootings come to mind), but for people that can choose between right-and-wrong, and are given a set of ideas as to what is right for the world and everybody else living in it, it’s a beautiful country we live in and it’s one that makes me happy, just knowing that I am being protected by people who are days and days away from me, but yet, still continue to keep me safe at-night, while I sit here, half-naked, drink a Mountain Dew, and talk about a movie that’s all about them. Yes, thank you all for saving my life day-after-day, please don’t stop either, because I really like not having to look over my shoulder every five seconds.

Consensus: Some historical facts and inaccuracies may always be up for discussion here in Zero Dark Thirty, but what cannot be up for discussion is how entertaining, enlightening, smart, provocative, well-acted, and perfectly-performed this flick truly is and I really do see it winning a crap-load of Oscars, come February of 2013.

9/10=Full Price!!

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

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!!

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

For a film that tries to tell us about the dangers of falling asleep, I couldn’t help but nod off during this crap.

Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), is a serial killer who crosses the boundary between dreams and the waking world to gut his victims with his razor-sharp blade-fingered glove. As Nancy (Rooney Mara) and her pals fight for their lives, they also uncover clues to a shocking secret from their past.

This is a remake of the 1984 classic from Wes Craven and what I don’t understand is why the hell did we need this?!? Oh wait that’s right because we want kids who don’t even know about the original to go out and see this in order to get lots of moolah. Smart plan, bastards.

The movie’s main problem is that it’s just totally dull. It all starts off as one kid dozes off into this crazy fantasy, and then Freddy comes in and kills them, and then it happens to another kid. Nothing new really happens here other than just the fact that the kill-count keeps on moving up and it all gets so damn predictable. The supposed “scares” didn’t do anything for me, because every time Freddy popped up it was just a jump scare, and I mean almost every single time too. This just annoyed me because I knew where this film was headed and then it just totally began to lose my interest.

However, I liked how they actually dived into a more interesting story explaining Freddy for what he was, and why he is doing this all. I liked this because we don’t just see Freddy as a killer, but more of a human, that did bad things. I also liked a lot of the dark and creepy visuals here too but I feel like they had so much opportunity here to actually do something good and be awesome, but instead just totally relied on a shitty story, and even worse action/kills.

Jackie Earle Haley does try his hardest to be Freddy Krueger. He has that deep and raspy voice, and brings out a lot of chuckles with his one-liners but he’s just no Robert Englund. I think most of that problem is the fact that here, Freddy looks more like a lion mixed with a frog than an actual monster. Every time he popped up, I just wasn’t scared and thought that he looked pretty ridiculous. The rest of the acting is pretty crappy. This kid, Kyle Gallner, he basically has one-note in this film and it’s that he looks like he is about to cry like a little bitch. I don’t know why they got the most emo looking kid to star as the main teen in this film, but I have to say he sucks anyway. Thank God for The Social Network, or else Rooney Mara would be a total laughing-stock after this. She plays Nancy and is terribly boring and brings nothing new to the table other than being scared, sad, or sleepy. The rest of the teens suck but since the film doesn’t really care about them all that much, then neither should I.

Consensus: It has a more interesting take on the story, but that doesn’t mean it is actually good at all one bit. A Nightmare on Elm Street is boring, horribly acted, and just nothing new or cool that we haven’t seen before despite a couple of cool visuals.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!