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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rose Byrne

I Love You, Daddy (2017)

Probably intended to be a porno. Title included.

TV producer Glen Topher (Louis C.K.) has a pretty care-free and lax life. He likes his work, he loves his daughter, China (Chloe Grace Moretz), and yeah, doesn’t seem to have many problems. The only problem that seems to be on his plate, at this current moment-in-time, is whether or not he’s going to be able to bag his leading-actress (Rose Byrne), who also happens to be pregnant, for some reason. Also though, he’s got issues with legendary writer/director Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), who strikes up something of a friendship with his 17-year-old daughter, making Glen feel all sorts of weird. Does he condone the friendship, that could suddenly turn into a relationship? Or, does he stick his head out of it because, like Leslie, Glen may be a bit of a dirt-bag, too?

So yes, obviously, I Love You, Daddy is a hard movie to review. All controversies aside, the movie doesn’t seem like it will be released in the foreseeable future and if it does, hardly anyone will want to see it. Nor should they: It’s a movie by a known sexual-abuser, that’s literally about sexual politics, what’s right, what’s wrong, men being dirty, and women having to be on the tail-end of it all. It’s like a Woody Allen (which it clearly aims for, uncomfortably so), but with a lot more F-bombs and n-words.

“I’m allowed to lock women up in closets! Come on!”

It’s also kind of funny and well-acted, all things considered.

That’s why, for me at least, I Love You, Daddy gets two ratings; one is for the movie I saw, two or three days before the New York Times article dropped, and the other, is for the kind of thought-process that went throughout my brain, days after having seen the movie, thinking about its intentions, and what it ultimately had to say. Cause for something like this, you truly can’t treat it just like any other movie – sure, it wasn’t made to be watched, thinking about what its co-writer/director/star does to do women inside locked closets and offices, but hey, we know this now and we can’t help but think about this stuff. After all, like Louis himself, we’re only human and can’t help this stuff.

Even though, he certainly could have and should have.

Anyway, I Love You, Daddy is, at times, a funny movie and that’s just because C.K. himself, is a funny writer. He knows how to write conversations between odd-ball characters that, while they may seem a tad unrealistic, still work because they’re enjoyable and funny. It also helps that the ensemble here, is so impressive and stacked, that they make it all work, even when they shouldn’t. C.K. is, as expected, a bit of a blank-slate, but that’s sort of on-purpose – the movie wasn’t entirely made to be just about him. The rest of the cast, like Malkovich, like Moretz, like Charlie Day, like Edie Falco, like Pamela Adlon, and most of all, like Rose Byrne, all get chances to bring some light and fun to this movie and they do.

Get it? It’s supposed to be Woody Allen! How creepy…..

They all shine with the material and sometimes allow us to forget how sleazy and mean it can get. Byrne especially who feels like a real, understated and smart character, and trapped inside something that should have done a whole lot more with her, rather than just having to sleep with its co-writer/director/star. After all, it’s a little strange that she’s pregnant and hardly anyone brings it up.

But once you get past that, don’t forget, the movie is dirty, mean, sleazy, and most of all, troubling.

There are certain conversations that happen in this movie, where it’s C.K’s character, talking and going on about what is right, what isn’t, and what certain people shouldn’t do during sex. There’s a few scenes or so like this, which are entertaining to listen to, but also eerily insightful into the way that C.K. himself thinks and feels about these topics. It’s weird and in a way, disgusting; to think that a man who literally trapped women to watch him masturbate, would write a movie where consent is something joked about, isn’t just stupid, it’s downright wrong. It’s the kind of movie where you know Louis wanted to be smarter than he looks here, but he just can’t.

We already know way too much about him, his perverted ways, and what he thinks is, and isn’t allowed when it comes to sex. I Love You, Daddy only helps to prove his misunderstanding of everything and it doesn’t make matters any better that the movie may never reach the general-public, or ever be seen.

And maybe it’s better off that way.

Consensus: Even with a very good cast and some funny writing, I Love You, Daddy is also a rather queasy, somewhat dirty look into the mind of C.K., which we already know, is pretty troubling.

Before Controversy: 6 / 10

After: 3 / 10

The look on the face of a man who just caught and has seen all of the hard work, crashing and burning before his eyes. Perhaps it’s better that way.

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The Meddler (2016)

Mom’s annoy you, because they love you. Appreciate it.

After the death of her long-loving husband, Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) is kind of lost. She’s heartbroken, sad and lonely, which is why she continuously drops by to see her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), so that she can have a little something to do. The only issue is that Lori doesn’t always enjoy her mom’s presence and because her own career as a screenwriter is stressful as is, she can’t help but bring some of those angry thoughts onto her mother. So instead of trying to help her daughter out every chance she gets, Marnie decides to extend her helping hands to those around who – some of whom, she hardly even knows. And because she was left a whole lot of comfort-money, Marnie is more than capable of doing whatever is necessary to ensure that some of her new friends are pleased with everything they ask of Marnie. While she’s doing all of this, of course, she’s also striking up something of a relationship with a local security-guard (J.K. Simmons), who takes a huge liking to her, even if she isn’t quite ready for a new love in her life.

Clap it up for you, Susie. You deserve it!

Clap it up for you, Susie. You deserve it!

It’s a pretty simple and overly cutesy plot that goes quite awry a few times. See, what’s odd about the Meddler is that it seems like writer/director Lorene Scafaria doesn’t quite know who’s side she’s on – the mom who’s meddling, or the hapless daughter who just wants to be left alone. Considering that this appears to be very autobiographical, it’s odd to see a writer/director side with someone who isn’t them, and it does play into how the movie’s perceived.

There’s a part of the Meddler that’s having fun with itself and its cast, but also seems like it wants to say more. In a way like I’ll See You in My Dreams had something to say about aging and growing old without your soulmate around, the Meddler mostly shows what a person in that situation would do to try and keep themselves busy. Of course, the situations and predicaments she gets herself into are ridiculous, but they’re also kind of funny and charming in only  a way that a movie such as this can get away with.

Because, let’s be honest, driving an Apple employee that you hardly know, to and from law school, never works out.

It’s just a fact.

But what works best about the Meddler is that Scafaria’s writing is just charming enough, to where we don’t care what we can believe in or sympathize with – the situations, after awhile, just write themselves and it’s interesting to watch how each and everyone of them play out. There’s not nearly as much tension as you would expect, but maybe that’s not this kind of movie; it’s just a showing a later-age woman, trying to still make something of the life she’s got left. It’s earnest to a fault, but hey, it kind of works.

Not Sam Elliot, but hey, close enough.

Not Sam Elliot, but hey, close enough.

And yeah, it definitely does help that Susan Sarandon is playing the title character, appearing in almost every scene, showing off her great knack for combining her heart and likability, even when it seems like this character may be something of a caricature. Scafaria shows a lot of love and affection for the characters here, but it’s Sarandon’s that gets the most, with just the right touch of humanism to make her seem real, even if she does sort of seem like she’s too nice, too sweet, and too colorful to be real. But thankfully, that’s why Sarandon is here to show us that, yeah, even if she doesn’t, she’s still a whole lot of fun to watch a movie about.

As for everyone else around Sarandon, they fare a bit better on the realism-side. Rose Byrne is seemingly playing Scafaria and does fine enough being miserable and getting into all sorts of fights with Sarandon; J.K. Simmons is playing the older fella that Sarandon falls for and shows why someone like him would be so attractive in her eyes, yet, at the same time, also maybe not be the right fit; and Cecily Strong, as the gal who gets her wedding picked-up by Sarandon’s character, shows a great deal of heart, even if her character is really meant to stand around and just cry a whole lot.

It’s a bunch of hapless roles, but hey, having a good cast can sometimes work in a movie’s favor.

Consensus: Even though its cutesy premise can sometimes get in the way of an actual plot, the Meddler does benefit from a solid lead performance from Sarandon that overcompensates for almost every other wrongdoing of the script and/or direction.

7 / 10

Nothing like a pain-in-the-ass mother to come in and save the day. When she isn't re-arranging your drawers.

Nothing like a pain-in-the-ass mother to come in and save the day. When she isn’t re-arranging your drawers.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Eh. I’m fine with the apocalypse after all.

Taking place exactly ten years after the events that occurred in Days of Futures Past, the X-Men have now all found themselves enjoying some idea of lives of luxury. While they are still mutants with miraculous powers and looked at as “weirdos who can’t be trusted in a normal, civilized world”, they still get by solely through depending on one another’s good will. Professor X (James McAvoy) is still teaching classes, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is trying to keep the peace among the mutants and humans, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) now lives a comfortable life out in the woods of Serbia, where he has a wife, kid, and a solid job where nobody knows a single thing about him or his checkered past. So yeah, for awhile, it seems like everything’s all fine and dandy for the X-Men, until, after decades upon decades of sleeping, a powerful mutant by the name of Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) wakes up and plans on destroying the world with some of the most ferocious and powerful mutants out there who haven’t already been taken in by Xavier. This means that a battle between two sides of good and evil is about to occur, and who chooses which side is totally up in the air.

He's still a cool hipster-kind of guy.

He’s still a cool hipster-kind of guy.

Bryan Singer clearly loves the X-Men stories and it’s one of the main reasons why he’s been able to not only keep his career alive, but even their own stories. Even when Origins came in and seemed to destroy the franchise for good, he came back to help, and give everyone their favorite mutants that nobody knew that they loved and/or missed. He not only found a way to make their plight a sad and sympathetic one, but to also make their adventures actually interesting to watch and play out, especially when they’re all putting their mutant powers to the test.

And now, with Apocalypse, his fourth X-Men movie to-date, it appears that Singer may have run out of things to actually say about all of these mutants and what makes them tick. While I don’t think it’s necessarily his fault, it’s also hard to wonder where to take this story and these characters next; sure, you can give them plenty more evil-doers to go head-to-head with, but after awhile, it can just become conventional. And also, when all of your drama is about each and everyone of these characters just sitting around and moping about how “the rest of the world doesn’t accept them”, it can get a bit tiring.

So why tell these stories anymore?

Well, obviously, it’s all for money. They still make a pretty penny at the box office and it probably won’t change any time soon, however, I can’t help but think a similar superhero movie like Civil War, where it’s clear that there’s a lot going on, with so many different people, and yet, it all comes together so damn smoothly, will make ones like these pale in comparison. After all, Singer is taking on a whole lot of different plot threads, with a whole lot of characters to deal with and develop over a near two-and-a-half-hour run-time, so it would only make sense that he take care in making sure each and everyone gets their due, right?

Surprisingly, Singer doesn’t quite do this. In a way, it appears that there’s many characters with something to do or say, that after awhile, he just cobbles them all up together, and relies solely on the talented cast’s presence to pick up the pieces whenever they can. It’s not a bad idea, especially when you have such a great cast to work with like this, but there’s also that feeling that Singer doesn’t quite know how to develop this story anymore and just seems to be going through the motions.

We get plenty of action and most of it’s good, but when there’s no heart or emotion surrounding it, does any of it matter? It’s hard to imagine an X-Men universe without some of the core characters and actors that made the original franchise so damn appealing and iconic, but unfortunately, the creative team has set it all up that way. We won’t get many more glimpses of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, and even Anna Paquin – instead, we’ll just get more and more of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Hoult, and Sophie Turner.

New Wave = Villains

Everyone’s favorite New Wave cover band.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? Of course not.

In fact, that cast is so good, I’m honestly surprised that I didn’t care more for these characters once it was all said and done. But that’s the issue with Apocalypse – there’s so much going on, with so many people around and about, that no one person gets enough to do or make a case for why they exist. We’ve got so many great actors here and ready to play, yet, the material’s just not there; it’s all focused on building this villain and this predictable conclusion that will lead to the goodies, facing off against him.

And as the baddie, yes, Oscar Isaac gets to have some fun. However, because he’s so covered and hidden underneath all of that make-up, it really feels like a waste of a good actor. He gets to act all sorts of evil, what with his powers and all, but really, there’s not much else to him; all he wants to do is destroy the world because, well, why not? It’s so typical and it seems like a missed-opportunity for having someone as good as Isaac in a main role. Same goes for Olivia Munn, who literally shows up for pure sex-appeal, is given nothing to do and is expected to be an interesting character for future installments to come.

There will definitely be future installments people, but know this: They have to get better.

They just have to.

Consensus: With so much going on, Apocalypse becomes a mess that Bryan Singer tries so desperately to save, but only gets by because of a good cast and solid-looking action. But in a year of already two great superhero movies, it’s going to take a lot for this franchise to make its presence felt.

6 / 10

"Hey guys! If we look close enough, we may be able to see other superhero movies coming very, very soon!"

“Hey guys! If we look close enough, we may be able to see more superhero movies coming very, very soon!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)

Girls rules. Boys drool. We all know this by now.

After battling it out with the frat next door some years ago, Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are happily comfortable with their daughter and another kid on the way. Not to mention that they now have their house on the market and another one bought – the only thing standing in the way of absolute freedom is a 30-day period where they have to ensure that nothing goes wrong with the house, and that the buyers who intend on taking the house, do actually stick with the deal. So yeah, a lot is riding on the deal and while it looks like smooth sailing from there on out, it turns out that a sorority is moving in next door, which means that Kelly and Mac are going to have to battle it out again with a bunch of college kids. However, this time, it’s freshman Morgan (Chloe Grace Moretz) who creates the sorority so that she can have a fun time with her friends and not be tied down by the sexist parties that the frats hold. And well, she won’t back down from a fight.

Old school vs. new school

Old school vs. new school

The first Neighbors was an incredibly funny movie, but it surprised me in ways that I least expected it to. For one, it was the kind of raunchy, R-rated comedy that, for the first time in a long time, felt like an actual party from start-to-finish. Sure, you could make the argument that any comedy, as long as it’s actually “funny”, can be considered a good time, but honestly, it really did feel like an exciting piece of comedy, that constantly zipped and zapped along. Not to mention that it had a smart theme about growing up, moving on in life, and figuring out what to do with yourself after college is over, the beer has run out, the girls are gone, and there’s not much else to do. You had to look far and wide to find that message, but it was there and it worked for a movie that could have been just another mainstream, R-rated comedy made for all the jocks and bros.

That’s why in the case of Neighbors 2, as unnecessary as it may be for a sequel, still has something to do and say.

What director Nicholas Stoller does here that makes Neighbors 2 a tad more interesting than fodder of this typical nature, is that he switches the perspective from the boys side, to the girls side, and oh man, does it make quite a difference. All of the hard-partying, sleaziness and misogyny that seemed so fun in the first one, is now turned on its head to show that maybe, just maybe frats aren’t the nicest and safest environments out there. No, there’s no mention of “rape” or anything of that nature, however, considering the kind of college culture in which we live in, it only makes sense that a movie like this would address that sex issues do exist in the college world.

Do they need to be addressed? Well, if it gets in the way of the comedy, then maybe, not really. But hey, that’s fine because Neighbors 2 does some smart things along the way, while at the same time, still offering plenty of hearty laughs to hold those over who aren’t looking for deep, and/or interesting messages about sex, life and love in their Seth Rogen comedies.

Do I agree with this idea? Not really, as comedy can do both, but in the case of Neighbors 2, where the laughs actually do deliver quite frequently, I’m going to wave my white flag and not put up much of a fight. The jokes work, all of the overextended ad-libbing in the first has been toned down a smidge, and because the characters are so well-written and done, it’s easier to laugh at their pain and agony, mostly because we actually know who they are. Does that make them the most interesting characters ever? Nope, but they don’t need to be.

College girls. They're just the devils.

College girls. They’re just the devils.

They’re in a comedy where the biggest concern is how many dick, fart, and weed jokes can be made.

But the cast is so good that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in each and everyone of them. Rogen is his usual Rogen-self, being an everyday schlub and whatnot; Rose Byrne doesn’t get nearly as much to do as she did in the first movie, but it’s still fun to see her get to hang with the boys and be a little dastardly her own-self; Zac Efron gets some opportunities to show-off a more funnier-side than ever before and it totally works, if mostly because we get to know more about this character; and Chloe Grace Moretz, while a tad under-written, gives her character a heart and soul that matters in a movie like this.

Rather than just being an annoying and young college girl who doesn’t care about others around her and just wants to be popular, cool, and party all of the damn time, instead, she’s another case of a high school loner who has finally found herself in college and just wants to enjoy it for all that she’s got. In the first movie, it was more about how much of d-bags the guys were because they didn’t care about how loud or wild they were – here, it’s more about how these girls all love the space that they have and don’t want to lose it because of some old-heads. It’s small details that you may have to squint to really discover, but it’s also those kind of small details that make movies like Neighbors 2 pretty damn fun to watch.

Even if, yes, you only do come for the dick, fart and weed jokes.

Consensus: While unnecessary, Neighbors 2 changes its focus in enough ways to where it freshens its narrative, but still being able to include hilarity to hold most over.

7.5 / 10

I've seen all of these people in my Into to Economics class.

I’ve seen all of these people in my Into to Economics class.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Knowing (2009)

Nic Cage could probably save the world. Issue is, we’d all have to put up with a lot of yelling.

Professor Ted Myles (Nicolas Cage) makes the startling discovery that an encoded message predicts with pinpoint accuracy the dates, death tolls and co-ordinates of every major disaster of the past 50 years. As Ted further unravels the document’s secrets, he realizes it foretells three additional events – the last of which hints at destruction on a global scale, which leads him to go totally gonzo and do whatever it is that he can to warn, as well as possibly save the rest of society. If that’s at all possible, without being laughed at first.

"Okay, but seriously, which one is Earth?"

“Okay, but seriously, which one is Earth?”

This is one of those rare “bad movies” that are pretty terrible and you know that. Yet, there’s something so bad about the way they go about themselves, that they’re actually pretty interesting, as well. Not because you like the story, or anything that the movie is doing really, but because there’s just something about itself that draws your mind to it, if only because you want to see how it all turns out at the end.

That’s exactly how I felt with Knowing – yeah, it was a terrible movie, but one that I couldn’t stop watching.

While, at the same time, not laugh my rear-end off at.

Calling this flick “terrible” and a “piece of a crap” probably isn’t right since it honestly isn’t the worst thing that I’ve ever seen grace the screen, it’s more or less that it just doesn’t do much for you or what your thinking. Director Alex Proyas knows how to make anything beautiful and there are a couple of scenes here that he definitely shows that. There’s a plane crash sequence very early on that’s all filmed in one shot and definitely has a look and feel as if you were right there to begin with. Then, there’s another crash sequence with a subway station that’s well-done and features special-effects that actually make it more realistic than I had imagined the plane crash one as being. There’s also a couple of other scenes where Proyas really cranks up the special-effects volume and allows there to be more than you’d expect from him and his vision, but sadly, it falls like a dud.

"Give me my agent! NOW!!"

“Give me my agent! NOW!!”

If anything, the problem with these scenes is that no matter how striking they are, they still don’t have any emotion or feeling in them whatsoever. For both crash sequences, you hear yells, screams, hollers of terror and fright, but you never get that upset feeling in your stomach, nor do you ever feel anything for these characters whatsoever. It’s almost as if Proyas just wanted to throw these scenes in cause he had the money and he thought it would look cool; which is fine, because it can definitely look cool, but when there’s hardly any emotional connection to something like the world exploding, then that’s a huge problem.

Get all the artistic points you want, but this is the end of the world, dammit! Let’s feel that tragedy!

And it’s not like there isn’t any recipe for that to happen here throughout Knowing. There’s a story between the father-and-son here, but is so under-cooked that it’s easy to forget there’s a kid even in this; the religious themes come and go as if Proyas was just Spark Noting some parts of the Bible to make himself seem more smart; and, aside from the last 20 minutes or so, there’s never really any big surprises to be found.

Oh and of course, if you couldn’t tell by now, Nic Cage is in this movie and does what he usually does – give goofy-faces, deliver some terrible lines, and make us feel as if we are watching the same performance he did, two movies ago. However, Cage owns it all and is pretty fun to watch, because you don’t know if he sees this as a crap script, or is just really giving this his absolute all. Cage pulls a lot of his usual Cage-isms here as Ted Myles, and while I never fully believed him as a college professor, I still believed him as a guy who may, or may not, be slowly, but surely losing his cool and letting people know of a possible apocalypse. If anything, I’d like to see that movie, where instead of us just getting what appears to be a rip-off of the Day After Tomorrow and Armageddon, we get something more interesting and thoughtful to where we don’t know if we can trust this guy and all of his rants – all we do know is that he’s Nic Cage, so he could either be insanely out of his mind, or telling the surprising truth.

Either way, none of that is found in this movie.

Rose Byrne is here and mopes around practically the whole time, which is a huge shame. Considering we’ve seen her light the screen up quite well in the past few years with comedies like Bridesmaids, Neighbors, and Spy, it’s interesting to look back on these earlier flicks of hers, where she was still on Damages and everybody saw her as this drop dead, serious actress who couldn’t crack a single smile. Now, that seems to be what most movies rely on her for and it’s great to see that kind of transition from her.

Cause I bet you she’ll definitely think twice about taking up another part in a Nic Cage movie.

Consensus: Knowing is all bits of bad, but at least gives some entertainment in the form of Nic Cage and the occasional burst of inspiration from Alex Proyas, but they come very few and far between utter garbage.

2.5 / 10

I would not trust Nic Cage to save me from a plane crash.

I would not trust Nic Cage to save me from a plane crash.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

First is the worst and you know what? Second is not the best.

Taking place about ten years after the events of the Phantom Menace, we now see that Anakin (Hayden Christensen) has grown up quite a bit. Though he is still learning a lot under the guidance of Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor), he’s also beginning to understand his strength and power, while also using it for the greater good of the world. But now that Anakin’s a whole lot older too, that means that he’ll be experiencing life in different ways than ever before. That’s when Queen Amidala/Padme (Natalie Portman) reenters his life and reminds him of all those feelings he had for her when he was just a kid. And since Anakin is tasked with protecting Padme after an assassination attempt on her failed, he’s made to spend a lot more time with her in which he gets to know more about her, discuss life, politics, romance, and most of all, realize that he may actually be in love. While this is all going on, the Galactic Republic and Jedi council are also trying to prevent from there being an all-out war from a separatist movement with the help of a clone army.

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I'll leave that up to you to decide

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

So yeah, is Attack of the Clones better than the Phantom Menace? Well, yeah, of course it is. But then again, look at how low the bar has been set. Then again, I do have to give credit to Lucas for at least stepping back up to the plate with the Star Wars franchise, seeing what he could bring to the next installment and, while maybe not totally listening to the haters and their complaints, at least giving them something that they can still enjoy, regardless of if they’re old or new fans of the franchise.

And by this, I mean Lucas gives us plenty and plenty of action.

Sure, the problems with the story and character-development are still here, but they’re not on such full-display as they were in Episode 1; instead, they’re now just used as filler to get us from one action sequence to the next. In all honesty, I would much rather have that, than to be stuck watching as Anakin grew up and as Jar-Jar goofed-around and generally pissed everybody off. Speaking of the later, he’s definitely thrown on the back-burner, although, at the same time, it’s still a tad ridiculous that he’s now playing Padme’s senatorial representative.

Still though, hardly anywhere Jar-Jar anywhere is fine, because, like I said, there’s still plenty more to focus on here. One of Lucas’ strong suits has always been his skill of setting-up and handling action set-pieces, which here, all seem to work out well. There’s a nice piece between Obi-Wan and Boba Fett that not only remind us how crafty and skilled of a Jedia Obi-Wan actually is, but why Jango Fett was considered such a deadly assassin in the later movies. While he’s only seen as a kid here, the movie still sets up the fact that he’d grow up one day to be a scary, trained hitman just like his daddy. Of course, the CGI, despite being somewhat choppy, still helps these scenes to be more intriguing and fun-to-watch, although they were still clearly miles away from having everything look genuine.

And of course, yeah, the movie still does a nice job at setting-up what’s to come with this story next and just how exactly this galaxy gets set into the Clone Wars. Though most of us expect it to come very soon, while watching this movie, it’s hard not to get tense and be curious as to where all the pieces of the puzzle fall. While prequels can get annoying doing too much setting-up and not actually delivering on anything, Attack of the Clones does a nice job in that it sets a lot up for the next, action-packed installment, while still giving people a lot to lock onto here and, overall, be entertained by.

Once again, it’s not a perfect installment, but it’s still far better than anything that the Phantom Menace tried doing.

However though, the one key factor that keeps Attack of the Clones away from going anywhere towards being considered “great”, is that Anakin’s a lot older now and is played by Hayden Christensen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t really hate Christensen as an actor; sure, he’s definitely weak and doesn’t seem to have that certain screen-presence that grabs you from the very start, but I’m hesitant to call him “a terrible actor”. In movies like Shattered Glass and even to a certain extent, Life as a House, Christensen has shown that, with the right script to read from, as well as a talented director to help guide him along, he’s actually quite fine. Not terrific, but just fine.

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

But what he’s forced to work with in Attack of the Clones, is what sets him so far back and really, Lucas doesn’t help much. Though the script here is nowhere near as cringe-inducing and as scattered as the first flick, Attack of the Clones still suffers from a lot of the poor-wording and corniness of what we can come to expect from Lucas, and it doesn’t help that Christensen is, more often than not, the one delivering these sorts of lines. That his story-line is mostly focused on a supposed romance he has with Padme, already makes it hard to watch, but the movie constantly gives Christensen nothing to do except bitch, moan and act as if he’s never had a conversation with anyone else in his entire life.

Which is a huge problem because, well, Christensen is supposed to be the leading-force of this movie – he is, as we know, going to become the one and only Darth Vader. So why he’s such an annoying pain-in-the-ass, is totally beyond me. All I do know is that Christensen spends the majority of this flick whining or kissing, neither of which he does so in a compelling way. Is his poor acting-skills to be blamed? Potentially, yes. But at the same time, I’m still not going to rag on him too much considering I’ve seen him do well before and really, with Lucas, sometimes, you’re just left to fend for yourself.

Which, sadly, Christensen seemed as if he had to do here.

Anyway, the rest of the cast seems like they’re trying too, but like Christensen, aren’t allowed to do much beyond the boring stuff Lucas gives them to do. McGregor is more believable this time as a more seasoned, skilled and disciplined Obi-Wan; Natalie Portman seems like cynical this time around as Padme and is, sadly, left to drop the same corny lines as Christensen had to; Samuel L. Jackson gets more time as Mace Windu here and shows why he’s more of a bad-ass than most of the other Jedi’s hanging around; and Christopher Lee, despite seeming like he was a last second call to fill out a villainous role, does a nice job as Count Dooku, showing us why he’s so menacing and deserving of being a baddie that our heroes can’t seem to defeat.

Oh, and yeah, we get more of Yoda here. Which, honestly, never gets old.

Consensus: Despite the occasional script and tonal issues, Attack of the Clones is still a step-above the Phantom Menace, which may not be saying much, but still says enough if you remember Jar-Jar Binks and all the pain and torment he caused.

6.5 / 10

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Spy (2015)

007 needs to smile more.

After an agent of hers that she’s been looking out for and bonding with over the past five years, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), has to take a leave of absence, desk-bound, under-appreciated CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) finally gets her chance to be in the field. Her task: Stop a Bulgarian crime lord by the name of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) from selling nuclear weapons. The only problem is that Cooper’s cover continues to get blown by either her own wrong-doings, or a fellow agent who has just recently decided to go rogue and try and take matters into his own hands. His name is Rick Ford (Jason Statham) and while he and Cooper don’t get along too well, it’s solely up to her to make sure that she keeps Rick away from the mission as much as humanly possible, while also still making sure that she’s keeping some level of anonymity for her own well-being. But as the mission gets more and more complicated, Susan realizes that she may have to get a little dirty if she not only wants to complete the mission, but to also stay the hell alive.

Though some people may bitch, moan and complain about the fact that writer/director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy seem to team up practically every chance they get time out of their schedules to do so (which seems like every other year, so far), there’s still no denying that they’re a match made in heaven. Both clearly know what the other wants, so therefore, they work well together in not only giving themselves 110%, but also giving the right kind of 110% when necessary. Because yeah, even though these two don’t seem to be challenging one another all that much, when the end result is still entertaining to watch, just as much as the last movie that came before it, what’s the real problem?

Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy! In the same room?!?!?

Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy! In the same room?!?!? Just take my money already!

In all honesty, there is none! So stop complaining, people!

With Spy, McCarthy and Feig’s third team-up so far, the look, feel and overall idea of a spy movie is messed around with, but don’t be fooled by what this movie’s advertising may have you think, because it’s not a parody flick. Though it may have initially started off as such, eventually, the movie turns the other cheek to where it’s less about poking fun at the stylish cars, guns and women, and more or less poking fun at the lovably charming characters here. At points, it probably would have been nice had Feig tried to make more of a comment on the spy genre (especially since there seems to be so many damn movies coming from this genre nowadays), but if a movie is funny, then I won’t hold any gripes against it.

And yes, Spy is definitely a funny flick. Like with the Heat and Bridesmaids, where Feig shows his real, true strength in directing comedy is just allowing for it to draw itself out to where even the most normal, everyday situation, can turn into something truly odd and bizarre. Sure, while some of this praise can go to the cast and crew who definitely seem to be, for the most part, playing along with it and making it up as they go along, there’s still plenty to be said for Feig himself. After all, he’s the guy who gets to say when a scene begins, goes on, and ends and so he definitely deserves credit for at least knowing when and how to format his comedic scenes.

However, like with the case of the Heat, there’s still a weird feeling that maybe the action takes over a bit too much, especially in the last hour or so of this flick. There’s no problem with an action-comedy utilizing the later portion of that term to its fullest, and most absolute extent, but when it seems like it’s doing nothing much other than to just keep the run-time going, it gets a tad bit tiresome. The action’s fine and all, but any comedy that goes over two hours, definitely features some form of trimming, no matter who you are.

Talking about you, Mr. Apatow!

But, as always, a lot of this doesn’t hold up too well when compared to the fact that the movie is enjoyable and funny, but also a teenie bit more than just that. See, with Feig’s movies, he always puts an extra amount of detail into his characters to where, even if they are acting like cartoonish jack-asses, there’s still some form of humanity and personality to them that it all makes sense as to why they’re acting the way they do, with whom, and how. And because of this, most scenes that would generally just seem “funny”, end up turning into more hilarious territory, especially when you consider the smart writing that’s been put into most of them.

Look at J-Stath! The dude's having the time of his life!

Look at J-Stath! The dude’s having the time of his life! Let him do that more!

For instance, take Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper. While Cooper is another instance in which McCarthy gets a chance to swear, yell, make fun of people, and kick ass, there’s a bit more to her character than just that and it makes a lot of what she does and say hit harder. Because Cooper, the character, is such a sweet and relatively gentle person, to hear and see her when she has to step up big time in the field, she turns into a whole different person where she’s loud, obnoxious and more than willing to lay the whoop-ass on whoever deserves it the most. Once again, this is another performance from McCarthy that we’ve seen before, but there’s so much fun in watching her do it and hardly miss a beat, that it’s hardly ever boring.

Not like it was in Tammy, that is, so lets be happy about that.

But even though McCarthy’s the lead, which entitles her character to the most development, she isn’t the only one. Rose Byrne, despite playing the main baddie, gets a chance to not just be funny again, but show some form of humanity within a character that just wants to blow the United States up, as most villains in these sorts of movies want to do; Jude Law plays the charming and handsome fella we usually see him play, but his character is a bit more of a dick than he lets on and it’s actually interesting; Miranda Hart plays Cooper’s best friend and confidante and gets a chance to show an even sweeter side to a job that you wouldn’t think could have one; and Jason Statham, well, what else is there to say other than he lights the screen up every chance he gets. And then some.

See, if there’s any complaint that I have about Spy, that I don’t believe I had with many other movies, is that it needed more Jason Statham. That isn’t to say that I’ve never uttered that phrase before because I detest Statham and think he’s a talentless hack – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think he is very talented, charming and fun to watch, but because he’s usually the lead in the movies he does, there’s a lot of him to go around and it makes me wish that wasn’t the case, at least not in those movies. Movies like Spy where we get to see the more charming and light side to his tense presence, makes it easy to see why somebody would want to hire him just for his comedic skills alone. He’s been funny in the Guy Ritchie movies that he’s done and he occasionally drops a little wittisome here and there in a dull action-thriller, but here, he’s on full-force and I wish I got more of it.

Meaning, producers and casting agents, give Jason Statham more funny material!

Consensus: Tad overlong, Spy runs into a slight problem of unevenness, but because it’s cast and crew are so talented and funny, it slides on by as an enjoyable time that also proves why we’re all lucky to have Melissa McCarthy in our lives, and why Jason Statham needs to do more funny stuff.

7.5 / 10

Funny costumes + Melissa McCarthy = sure, it's funny.

Funny costumes + Melissa McCarthy = sure, it’s funny.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Adult Beginners (2015)

Big sisters both rule and suck at the same time.

After his tech startup ultimately fails and not only puts him, as well as the many investors he was involved with, in debt, Jake (Nick Kroll) decides that it’s time to take a break on everything for awhile and retreat to the one place he can depend on: His childhood home. However, when he walls into to surprise his sister, Justine (Rose Byrne), of his visit, he realizes that maybe he’s only complicating things a bit more. For instance, Justine is a few weeks pregnant, having issues with money, with her work, and even with her husband (Bobby Cannavale). Jake sees this, but he doesn’t really care and just needs a place to stay for a few months or so, which he does, but at a price: Watch Justine’s youngest son, Teddy, each and every day while she and her husband are off at work. Jake isn’t too happy about this, but decides to do it and finds out that having any sort of responsibility is hard and takes a whole lot of effort. Not just from his part, but everybody else’s, too.

A few days ago, I reviewed the little-seen indie Alex of Venice, and while I appreciated the cast apart of it, I felt the plot and direction to be the same old tale of “someone trying to reinvent themselves and get their lives back on-track”. While there’s nothing wrong with telling these stories in the first place, as anybody will tell you, there are many instances in real life where people need to change things up, it’s just that, sometimes, these stories can get so conventional and middling that it doesn’t feel like anything is being taught or learned in the process. Mostly, it’s just a bunch of sad people, being sad, and at the end of the day, making themselves happy in some way, or fashion.

Wonder who he's calling? Hm....

Wonder who he’s calling? Hm….

Once again, not saying that these stories don’t happen in real life, but I don’t really want to see an hour-and-a-half movie about it where I feel the wheels are turning, but that there’s no driver.

Adult Beginners is that type of movie. But instead of being a boring mess like Alex of Venice, Adult Beginners gets by because, for the most part, it’s funny, and it should be. It’s got some very funny people in it, doing and/or saying funny things, but also deals with real life, grown-up issues about maturity, gaining independence, and marriage. A lot of the same ground was covered in Venice, however here, because it’s given a slight comedic-switch to it all, the pill goes down a lot easier and isn’t as rough to swallow; in fact, there came a point where I wanted to see more of where these characters went and just how exactly they were going to get by whatever situation they were thrown into.

Director Ross Katz makes many nice decisions in not giving us, the audience, the easy answers, but it still works in giving the impression that we’re dealing with characters here. Even if a good majority of the time they spend talking, joking around, bitching, moaning and just walking around, there’s still something interesting to all of that here that worked and kept me engaged. Some of the subplots that come in and out don’t quite work, but rather than taking the movie down with their mediocrity, they just sort of feel like leftover strands that can be forgotten about.

Unlike in Venice where every subplot took away from the main story and made it feel longer than it should have been.

But another reason why this movie works as well as it does, given that it’s like so many other movies, is that it has a fine and charming cast to make the material come off a bit more weighty. Lately, we’ve seen the evolution of Rose Byrne, the charming and hilarious screen-presence that is more than willing to hang with the guys when it comes to delivering any sort of gag, and here, as Justine, there’s no exception to the rule. Byrne is funny, sweet, endearing, and challenging as Justine where she makes some bad decisions, as well as some definite good ones, but no matter what, she’s watchable beyond belief and reminded me a bit of my own big sister in the way that she carried herself from day-to-day activities and with her little bro.

Bobby C. just can't right now.

Bobby C. just can’t right now.

Speaking of her little bro, Nick Kroll gets a chance to finally show the world that he may, or may not be capable of weighty, dramatic material, and the results are, well, uhm, fine. I guess. See, the thing with Kroll is that while he’s definitely fine with all of that snarky, obnoxious humor of his, when it comes down to creating a character and becoming this Jake guy, he leaves much to be desired. It isn’t that Kroll isn’t bad, but by the end of the movie, it sort of feels like we don’t really get this character, nor do we ever understand where the transition from him being a “prick” to a “nice dude” ever occurred, or how it happened. Kroll mostly gets by though because the company he keeps.

Which is to say that, yes, Bobby Cannavale is great here, too, but in a way, I found his subplot to be the most frustrating. Early on in the movie, there’s a slight hint at the fact that Cannavale’s character may be screwing around and while Jake’s character approaches this subject as well as a brother-in-law can do, the way it’s resolved left me wondering, “What happened between point-A and point-C?” See, we get a few scenes where words are exchanged and dicks are measured, but then, that’s pretty much it. Cannavale’s character is wonderful and honest, but the situation he’s thrown into never gets explained well enough to where it makes all the sense for him, or his character.

However, you win some, and you lose some. Whatever.

Consensus: Like many others of its kind, Adult Beginners is funny, heartfelt and benefits from solid performances from a cast who are all willing to make material seem a bit deeper.

7 / 10

All convincing smileys.

All convincing smileys.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Annie (2014)

I hear the Jay-Z beat, yet, I hear no Jay-Z. What gives, Hov?

Ten-year-old Annie Bennett (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a foster child living in Harlem who has to deal with the mean treatment of her caretaker, Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), and always looks towards the bright side that her parents may, one day, come back to get her. That’s a dream for sure, but it’s one that Annie doesn’t ever give up on; just like she doesn’t really give up running everywhere she goes, all because she states, “it gets her places quicker”. However, all that running comes back to almost harm little orphan Annie, until the rich, famous and mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), saves her from a possible car accident. This moment finds an audience and gives Stacks the kind of lead in the election that he so desperately needed. Therefore, he is forced to, by his oily campaign manager (Bobby Cannavale), that it’s best for him to keep relations between he and Annie constant and always in front of the public to see. Even if Stacks doesn’t really care for kids as is, he has to do this in order to seem like a relatively likable guy. But then, something changes: Stacks begins to care, but it may be too late.

Oh, and yeah, it’s a musical, too. That’s if you didn’t already know that.

Oh, I get it. You apparently can teach an old dog new tricks.

Oh, I get it. You apparently can teach an old dog new tricks.

Anyway, a lot of people have been raining down on Annie‘s parade as of late and it’s disappointed me. Sure, I get that we didn’t really need a remake/updated-version of the 1982 classic, but then again, you could say that for many other movies out there in today’s day and age that are made for the screen, for no other reason than just money, money, and more money. To me, the fact that critics have been trashing this movie, not only proves that some people aren’t willing to change and go along with the times, but anytime that anybody touches something near, dear and sacred to their hearts, and changes it up a teeny, tiny little bit, there’s automatically resentment. I can’t say that I haven’t acted like this before, but for the most part, when seeing something that’s been remade or updated for a modern-day audience, I sit back and wonder how it could all turn out to be.

Because either way, if the movie’s a train-wreck or not, it’s still something interesting to watch and ponder about. Like, for instance, why was this remade? And the simple answer to that question is simple, “No reason really”. Maybe Jay-Z saw some money in the name-product that is Annie and decided that he might try to cash in on some of that money, even if it did mean making a movie for the whole family, and around the holidays no less.

But I’m definitely beating around the bush with this one. What I’m trying to say about this latest version of Annie, is that the reason for its existence isn’t known and it sure as hell isn’t perfect. That said, I found myself enjoying a lot more of this movie than I maybe wanted to. Most of that has to do with the fact that director Will Gluck makes this out to be the kind of movie that not only doesn’t take itself too seriously, but isn’t afraid to throw some jokes here and there for the older ones in the crowd that may have gotten sucked into seeing this because of a young one at home, begging and pleading to be taken out. Or, they could have just been older, creepier people and saw it by themselves.

You know, like me.

Anyway, moving on!

Like I said though, Gluck’s film isn’t perfect and more often than not, feels like it’s being almost too adorable and cutesy for its own good. There’s a certain sense one can get with a family-film that even though the audience who wants to see it may not think deeper or further than the ones who get roped into seeing it, the charm has to be turned up to eleven and annoy the hell out of everyone who is watching it that may be above the age of twelve. This is exactly in the case of Annie; while it’s charming at times, other times, it feels cloying and like it wants you to not just laugh at it, but pet it, adore it, and take it in as your own.

Sort of like an orphan, really.

And for the longest time, this absolutely bothered me. It made me feel like I was watching a film that didn’t know whether it wanted to be too smart for it’s own good, or just downright earnest that it’s practically asking for a hand-out. To me, Annie seemed a little more like the later, but there’s was always that feeling in the back of my head that maybe I was being a tad too harsh on this. After all, it’s an Annie movie, made for the whole family to see, enjoy and not think too much about, not a piece of awards-bait that asks the hard questions about humanity and demands that you think/discuss them after you’ve just witnessed it. In a time like late-December, where nearly everything I see now is about to bludgeon me to death with their intellectualism, it’s quite refreshing to see a movie which, on paper, is simple and plays out exactly like that. Sure, it’s a tad too earnest for its own good, but once you’re willing to get past that, then it actually works.

If anything though, Annie deserves to be seen for a reminder that Quvenzhané Wallis isn’t just a simple, one-and-done flash-in-the-pan that we’ve seen so many child actors like her become. With Wallis though, there’s an inherent charm and likability to her that not only makes her Annie seem like a real, actual kid, but one that appreciates life more than you’ve ever appreciated anything in your life. Some of this is because of the way she’s written, but most of it is because Wallis seems like she’s having the time of her life on the set of this movie and it helps a lot of her scenes.

Turn away kiddies! Not safe!

Turn away kiddies! Not safe!

And of course, because it is a musical, what matters most is that Wallis is able to belt out some tunes, and she is more than able to. Her voice is sweet and tender, and adds a nice amount of emotion to some of the more cornier-tracks in this movie that could have easily been taken out and we would have already gotten the idea it was trying to get across. She’s an orphan! She’s sad! We get it! Move it on over!

One of the problems with Wallis being so good here, is that she takes away from the rest of the cast, all of whom are big, respectable names in the biz. Thankfully though, since Gluck’s direction is so over-the-top and goofy, everybody here seems like they’re either hopped-up on too much Pop Rocks, or are just simply happy to get a paycheck that they want to express it for everybody else in the movie. Either way, it works in favor of the performances and allows for some of the more badly-placed jokes, to land. Even if they weren’t intentional to begin with.

Jamie Foxx gets to display his key sense for comedy as Stacks and seems like a nice fit alongside Wallis, as they build a nice, but realistic chemistry together; Rose Byrne doesn’t get much to do here as Stacks’ assistant/possible love-interest, although she’s charming enough to get by; Bobby Cannavale is, as you guessed it, a dick and doesn’t hide any of that back whatsoever; and Cameron Diaz is campin’ it up, big time, as Miss Hannigan, but seems to be at least having some fun with the material for once in a long while, so I can’t have too much of a problem with that.

Just like I can’t with the rest of the movie. Even if everybody and their mothers, at the time, seem to despise its guts.

Consensus: Sweet, simple, and overall, pleasant, Annie is the kind of musical that doesn’t try to pummel you over the head with thought-provoking questions about humanity, but much rather, entertain the whole family, with a simple song, a dance, and a huge grin on its earnest-as-hell face.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

So this is why I was stuck in traffic for nearly three hours? Thanks. Next time, harmonize and dance somewhere else!

So this is why I was stuck in traffic for nearly three hours? Thanks. Next time, harmonize and dance somewhere else!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

I’m Catholic, but if Jason Bateman and Adam Driver want me to sit Shiva with them, then yeah, I’m totally Jewish.

After the patriarch of the family passes away, the Altman siblings all decide to honor his final wish and sit Shiva for the next week. Although none of them really want to, they decide to anyway, not to just honor their dad’s wishes, but to ensure that their mother (Jane Fonda) doesn’t have a total hissy-fit. The problem is though, none of the siblings really get along. The eldest, Paul (Corey Stoll), is always so very serious and is having a problem impregnating his needy wife (Kathryn Hahn); Wendy (Tina Fey) is sort of having the same problem of her own with her kids and husband, although she’s finding some peace with her ex-boyfriend (Timothy Olyphant) who happens to still be living in town; Judd (Jason Bateman) is in the midst of divorcing his cheating wife (Abigail Spencer), but finds some solace when he reconnects with a long lost of his own, Penny (Rose Byrne); and lastly, the youngest, Phillip (Adam Driver) is a bit of a wild child that not only brings his much-older girlfriend with him (Connie Britton), but finds it hard to ever really think about why he misses so much of his dad to begin with. Then again, none of them really do, which is how most of their fights pop-up in the first place.

Though I have never read the original-text from which this movie is an adaptation of, I assume that it’s a great piece of work because of how much critics seem to be trashing this movie. Sure, there are some good reviews to be found here and there, but overall, This Is Where I Leave You seems to be a real disappointment. And while I can’t say that I particularly agree, or disagree with the general consensus of this film, I can at least attest to the fact that I’m one of those reviewers who didn’t hate it that much.

There's a Manic Pixie Dream Girl out there for all of us.

There’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl out there for all of us.

Is this, as most note in their reviews, something of a “letdown”? Of course! You’d think that with this premise and this cast heavily-stacked cast involved that not only would we have something of a classic on our hands, but a near-Oscar contender. Maybe that’s going a tad far, but seriously, just look at that IMDB page and try to tell me you’re not at least somewhat impressed with how many great talents decided to work on this. It’s almost as if director Shawn Levy himself had a piece of evidence that was detrimental to each and everyone of these star’s personal and professional lives, that he was able to bribe all of them into not just working with him on this movie, but actually putting in some fine work.

That said, the movie is not a very good one. You can clearly tell that Levy (the same guy who has directed all of the Night at the Museums‘) doesn’t really have much of a background in directing actual moving, compelling scenes of drama and instead, more or less opts for melodrama that sometimes wants to be about “adult things”, happening with “adult people”, but in the end, just turns out to be not all that important/heavy at all. That it wants to be both a comedy with various poop and sex gags, as well as a heavy-handed drama dealing with infidelity, fertility, family, depression, and other such themes, makes it feel confused and messy.

However though, there is something to be said for when you can get an ensemble this good, to really try their hardest with material that, quite frankly, doesn’t really deserve them. Once again, never read the book so all I can assume is that it was pretty great, but whatever they did with this script here is disappointing.

But that’s why we have movie stars – they’re able to not only make us happy, pleased and be entertained, but also there to remind us each and everyday why they still deserve to work, and why exactly it is that we should continue to see them in whatever they decide to do. And this is exactly why I can’t get too mad at this movie, or what Levy does as a director. Sure, it’s a hack job from someone I didn’t expect to otherwise create, but when he allows for his cast to just do what they do best and interact with one another, the movie hits some highs and makes most of the trip worth taking.

For instance, Jason Bateman is doing what he always does: Dead-pan the crap out every line he has to deliver. It’s definitely an act of his that we’ve seen for a very long time and honestly, it never seems to get old. Not there as Michael Bluth, and definitely not here as Judd Altman; which is definitely effective because he’s the sibling who gets the most attention. He’s a sad sack, but he’s the funny one of the group that also happens to be the voice-of-reason, despite him being severely depressed. Though the romance between he and Rose Byrne’s character does feel a bit tacked-on, the two at least try to create some sort of honesty that doesn’t really show much throughout the rest of the film.

Jane Fonduh!!! Holla!

Jane Fonduh!!! Holla!

But what I’ve said about Bateman, his character Judd, and what he does with him, is pretty much the same thing that could be said about the rest of the cast: They’re all putting in good work, although it’s not much different from what we’ve seen them do before. Tina Fey is funny as the jokey and wiser older sister, although it does seem like her dramatic-acting needs a bit of work; Adam Driver is his usual goofy, eccentric-self and steals mostly all of the scenes he’s in; Corey Stoll is the serious one of the family and does fine with that; Kathryn Hahn plays his wife and seems like she wants to be another one of Hahn’s crazy characters, but just ends up being a repressed wifey-poo; and Jane Fonda plays the matriarch of the Altman family, does what she needs to do, is funny, inappropriate and a bit smug, but she’s a pro and handles this material so well, as one could expect her to do.

And honestly, the rest of the supporting cast is fine, too. Some recognizable faces show up and remind you that they can still put in great work and make something of an impact, regardless of how small their screen-time is (Abigail Spencer makes her conventional-character of the cheating-wife seem somewhat sympathetic). Should this have been a better movie? Oh, totally! It not only should have been an Oscar-contender and definitely something people will keep on turning back to every couple of months or so. But given what it is, most likely, it’ll just be the kind of movie you find while searching through your cable. Not saying that’s a bad thing, really, but it’s definitely not supposed to make you fully pleased either.

Consensus: Given the cast involved, This Is Where I Leave You should have definitely hit harder, but everybody’s so fine that it’s at least worth watching, if only for a single-viewing and leaving it at that.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Usually how me and my siblings start off nights together. How they end is a totally different story.

Usually how me and my siblings start off nights together. How they end is a totally different story.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Neighbors (2014)

Don’t join frats! Join a sorority! Who cares if you’re a dude!

Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are a happily-married couple with a newborn baby, a simple life, simple jobs, and a quiet, carefree neighborhood around them. That all changes once a frat moves in next door, and if you know anything about a fraternity, they can be loud, obnoxious, constantly partying, and filled with all sorts of dirty, disgusting debauchery. Not a perfect environment for anybody to grow up around, let alone a family with a baby constantly around, which is why the two decide to make sure things are all hip and cool with the leader of the fraternity, Teddy (Zac Efron). At first, they think he gets the picture – don’t be too loud, and just be respectful of each other’s properties. But, one day, when Mac and Kelly decide that enough is enough and call the cops on Teddy and the rest of the frat, then Teddy not only feels betrayed, but ready for what turns out to be a rivalry of sorts between the two. A rivalry which, mind you, spews-out from just the comforts of each other’s homes, but even to their work-places and such.

Seems simple, right? Frat vs. family? Well, it is. Except for the fact that it’s so much damn fun to watch.

Sure, it’s a blast to watch and be able to laugh almost non-stop throughout a whole movie such as this, but what’s so neat about Neighbors is how it’s more about the actual plot itself, and all of the joy it can have with just milking it for all its got. For example, the whole idea of this plot that is moving it forward, is the fact that these two groups of people are messing with one another, with harmless, as well as harmful pranks and whatnot.

Ugh. Like LAME.

Ugh. Like LAME.

Usually, in most comedies, that’s an idea that would be thrown away as soon as it got started, in hopes that they could just focus on dick jokes and being raunchy, but not with Neighbors. The raunchy, penis jokes are still around and heard, but they’re not done in a way that it’s the only thing you get. Somehow, you get the whole package: You get the fun and the thrill of the plot; the hilarity of the script; the charm of the performances; and the heart of it all. A heart which, mind you, is actually tucked in underneath all of this debauchery, havoc and craziness, in hopes that it won’t bring down the mood too much.

Which, believe it or not, doesn’t actually happen. In fact, dare I say it, this comedy is actually a whole lot better with the heart and the message it brings across, which is that college life is great and all, but it doesn’t last forever. Eventually, you’ve got to grow-up, figure out what you’re going to do with your life, how you want to live it, why, with whom, and whether or not you want to keep on going after the things you want, or if you’re just going to sleepwalk through the rest of your life. Neighbors, on the outside, may look like the type of comedy that’s totally glamorizing the frat/college lifestyle that’s full of drinking, partying, sexxing, and hanging around, like a bum, but what it really is, is a “dramedy” about how you’ve got to move on from all that and become, well, an adult.

“Eww, boring!”, is the response I bet most of you would be giving me after hearing something like that is found in here, but it’s what makes the movie works and somewhat thoughtful. Cause yeah, being known as “the wildest guy at the party” (or, my favorite, “the guy who slept in the same bed with that donkey”) is great and all, and heck, may even do some wonders for your self-esteem for at least a week or two, but eventually, all of that goes away and you have to continue life without all of the non-stop partying and wild antics. You can still have a good time every now and then, and maybe even take a couple of shots, but you do have to wake up, smell the cauliflower, and realize that it’s time to kick that donkey out of your queen-sized and grow the hell up!

But that’s about where all of my preaching ends. Because, to be honest, I’m even starting to get myself down in the dumps and make me re-think every choice I’ve ever made in my life leading up to this moment in time now.

So, yeah, ANYWAY!

I don’t know if I’ve stated this before, but this movie is funny. I mean like, really funny. It’s a quintessential Apatow-production in which we get plenty of weed jokes, gangsta-rap references, and plenty of sex, or at least, in this movie’s case, sex-talk. However, it’s never boring and is actually really short by getting everything it needs done, within a time-limit of only a little over an-hour-and-a-half. And for people who aren’t big fans of Apatow and the type of comedies he has a hand or two in, all because his time-limits exceed way beyond their limits, this may come as a major surprise. But, I kid you not, the hour-and-the-half breezes by so quick, you’ll wonder where all of the time went and just how much, or how hard, you actually laughed.

For me, it was an awful lot. Then again though, these types of comedies are my forte and it’s what I’ve come to expect by now.

Most importantly though, I’ve come to expect that Seth Rogen, no matter what he’s in, will always be Seth Rogen in some way, shape, form, or idea. Still though, that doesn’t bother me because he’s clearly comfortable in his own skin and always the most likable guy in any room he enters. Here, his performance is only slightly different in the idea that he’s a father and husband now and has a bit more responsibilities on his plate, but that’s sort of funny to watch and played up for a whole bunch of jokes that make a lot of sense, given that Seth Rogen doesn’t really seem like the “father-figure” type.

Rose Byrne plays Rogen’s wife, and is an absolute revelation. I’ve been a bit mean and harsh on Byrne in the past, but that’s only because the roles she has in the drama’s she does, all make her seem dull and uninteresting. However, whenever she does a comedy, she always seems to be the one having the most fun and joy with the material she’s given. Such is the case here with her character, Kelly Radner, the type of fun-loving, hip, and cool, but responsible mommy that we don’t usually see in movies like this, played with such likability or charm. In any other movie, she’d be thrown off to the side for not being any fun whatsoever and just acting as a total party-pooper. But, there Byrne is, not only giving Rogen a run for his money, but everybody else as well, showing everyone that it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman in a rated-R comedy, you can be just about as funny, if not moreso than any guy with a penis.

Best thing De Niro's done in a long while.

Best thing De Niro’s done in a long while.

But, as amazing as Byrne is, the one who steals the show is Zac Efron, showing us that he’s finally reached that peak in his career where it may just be his time to truly shine and get away from his High School Musical past. And I guess his role as the leader of the fraternity, Teddy, is sort of a riff on that general idea people have about Efron’s image – the same image he’s been trying to tarnish for so damn long. While I think he’s gotten past that more than a few times, there’s still duds like That Awkward Moment or The Lucky One, that makes it seem like he’s a hot guy, who knows he’s a hot guy, and therefore, tries to be cool and funny about it. However, he isn’t cool or funny, it just seems like he’s bragging, with a hint of self-awareness. Which, somehow, still isn’t enough to justify his gorgeous-looks, his rockin’ bod, and his knack for choosing what so often seems to be sort of the same role, time and time again.

Anyway, I realize that this is getting me off-track, so what I am trying to say is that Efron is great here because not only is he a little self-aware about his sent-from-heaven physical features, but he’s also using his comedic-timing to perfection. He’s cool, charming, likable, a dick when he wants to be, and a bit of a loser when you start to get to thinking of who he really is and why this frat matters as much to him as it does. He’s actually a character, fully fleshed-out and all, and isn’t just a walking, talking stereotype of one of those jerky, muscle-bound, needs-to-be-loved-by-their-mommies-and-daddies frat dudes; he’s living, breathing, and doing all sorts of other crazy stuff, yet, feels real, as hard as that may be to believe. Dave Franco is great here too as Teddy’s second-in-command/best-friend at the frat, but it’s Zac Efron who really struts his stuff, and then some.

Please let this be the chance Efron gets his time as a superstar. Please!

Consensus: Dirty, grotesque and full of all sorts of debauchery and teenage-humor, Neighbors may seem like a totally brain-dead comedy, but effectively finds ways to be something more, with messages about growing up, moving on, and realizing that as rad as a certain party may be, it’s not always going to last.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Not my house. Ever.

Not my house. Not ever. God. I need to be in a frat.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Just get rid of the haunted house, or the human-being! Problem solved!

After the Lambert family got their son back from “The Further” everything goes back to normal. The kids are happy and playful, the parents feel safe, and the spooky grand-mom (Barbara Hershey) is done with all of her ghost-talk. It seems like everything’s a bit back to normal, except, Josh (Patrick Wilson) is acting a little weird. Not only does he not seem himself, but his wife (Rose Byrne) notices that he doesn’t remember certain things about their past, like the song she played for him on piano when they first fell in love. Something weird is happening and everybody begins to wonder whether or not it was actually Josh that came back, or something more deep, dark, and sinister? Also, on the side, the ghost busters from the first movie are back and are diving into the history of who this ghost is, where it came from, and how to get it the hell away from Josh’s soul.

While I think I was sort of in the minority for only marginally liking Insidious, I still do have to say that I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. It wasn’t that the story was one I couldn’t wait for them to just develop more and more of, but because James Wan proved himself as a new voice in the horror-genre not too long ago with the Conjuring. And yes, while I did have my many gripes with that movie as well, I still have to give it to the dude and pat him on the back because he gave me a horror movie that amped-up the terror and the tension, in a way to create more scariness, even if I wasn’t all that petrified by the end. So, with that said, I think it’s safe to say that we know what Wan is capable of when it comes to having a meager-budget and a plethora of scares at his disposal, and sadly, this does not rank-up with what we know.

"WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS?!?!? ACTING BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!"

“WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS?!?!? ACTING BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!”

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this one is a lot weaker than the original; aka, a movie that I wasn’t too fond of in the beginning. The department that I will give Wan and his pals credit in is that they avoid doing what most sequels do: Tell the same story again. Rather than giving us the same old story of somebody being creeped-out by strange noises in the house, this one actually expands on the first, ties up some loose-ends that may have been left dangling, and explains why certain things happened in that movie, making this one of the rare sequels (a horror one, no less) where it’s almost mandatory that you see the first, just to understand all that every character’s alluding to and what to make sense of all the happenings.

In that regard, yes, Wan deserves credit. He does use some of the same jump-scares that he’s been using for quite some time, but he at least gets his story going to somewhere new, and dare I even say it, improved, almost to the point of where it feels like it’s a sequel that could leave plenty more questions than it answers, and we’d be fine with that. However, this is a horror movie, and it is essential for it to have scares, which, sadly, Wan isn’t able to produce all that often, save for the first 20 minutes or so. And even then, the movie feels like it’s just recycling the same scares from the first, even if they are still somewhat effective. “Somewhat”, is what I said, and somewhat is what I mean.

And when Wan is missing the moments that are supposed to make us shriek for our lives, he’s making us laugh and point at just how ridiculous some of these moments are, which is both a sin and a blessing,. It all depends on what type of viewer you are. When Wan had us travel to “The Further” in the first movie, it was silly, but still a bit cool because of how all of these characters looked like “The Circus Act From Hell”. Yes, it was campy, but it was still cool to see because it showed that Wan used his budget for a reason. However, here, “The Circus Act From Hell” shows up many more times than it should, and everytime we see them, we can’t help but chuckle at how over-the-top they are. Certain lines are said in a way that’s supposed to have us pee our pants in fright, but do so more because of our non-stop laughter. Whether or not this was solely the intention of Wan, has yet to be determined, but if there’s something that’s different from the first movie, it’s that this sequel seems to explore more of the goofiness of its material and does it so in a way that makes it seem like it’s doing it on purpose, but in a very serious matter as well.

That James Wan sure has comedic-timing.

That James Wan sure has comedic-timing.

Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that the movie tries to be scary, but is more funny, both intentionally and unintentionally. There! I said it!

While the cast from the first movie mostly stays the same here, some of the performances are a bit different, for better or worse. The most glaring difference in certain character’s personalities is the one of Josh, played by Patrick Wilson, in what has to be his hammiest performance to date. Since we know that Josh is possessed by a very threatening, powerful spirit of a sort, this time being a serial-killer, we pretty much have to expect him to be all over-the-place in a way that’s nearly uncontrollable, just like the rest of the flick. You’d think that the two aspects of the movie would go together like peanut butter and jelly, but come out more like peanut butter and potato chips. Wilson is the peanut butter in this equation, and he takes over the movie in a way that’s distracting to the story, and upsetting to watch for anybody who has been as big of a fan of this guy, as I am. Wilson tries to go as crazy as can be with this performance, but he just is way too cool and charming for this type of nutty-stuff to fully make it seem like it’s all in a day’s work. They should have just given that role to somebody normal like Rose Byrne. Now that would have been over-the-top and campy, but in a freakin’ fun way! Not with Barbara Hershey, though. I’m afraid she’s already played “creepy and crazy” many times before.

Consensus: The first movie wasn’t a masterpiece of the horror genre, but at least it had its fair share of scares, character-development, and sense of fun, which Insidious: Chapter 2 seems to have lost most sight of, but instead, replaced all of that with unintentional yucks and chuckles.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Just your average, run-of-the-mill family, with a bunch of weird ghosts and ghouls slumming around the house. But that's besides the point.

Just your average, run-of-the-mill family, with a bunch of weird ghosts and ghouls slumming around the house. But that’s besides the point.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Insidious (2011)

Once the creepy kid in the house stops being creepy, then you know you’re screwed.

Young couple, Josh (Patrick Wilson), and Renai (Rose Byrne), realize that their family is growing larger and larger by the newborn, so they decide to move to a bigger house. No big deal. Once they get settled in and Josh goes off to his day-time job as a middle-school teacher, Renai is left at home with the baby, where she tries to make songs out of music career (even though it’s never fully explained if she is or isn’t, it’s just there); but then it gets weird when she starts to hear, see, and feel stuff around her in the house. Then, it gets even weirder when their oldest son falls off of a ladder in the attic, only to be placed into a “coma” a couple of days later, one that he doesn’t seem to be waking out of, and one that the doctors have no clue about, how it happened, why, or how to get him to snap out of it. Basically, all hope is lost for Josh and Renai, until they begin to get really, REALLY paranoid about there being some ghost-like figures in the house, so therefore, they call on a professional in the form of a happy-go-lucky paranormal investigator (Lin Shaye).

You got to hand it to James Wan, the dude knows how to make a mainstream movie, even out of an indie-budget. For a movie that apparently cost a reported $1.5 million, had very little CGI-effects, and barely all that much blood (with the exception of a bloody hand-print), Wan knows how to keep things scary and tense, even if he isn’t showing us everything that needs to be seen, in order to be scared by. Obviously for anybody who’s seen his latest-venture in horror with The Conjuring, knows that the guy is good at giving us very little, in order to give us a whole of uneasy feelings in the pit of our stomach; hence why the from first act, to somewhere in the middle, works so damn well.

"Darren? Is that you? Cause if so, this form of foreplay just is not working."

“Josh? Is that you? Cause if so, this form of foreplay just is not working.”

The score that screeches every time something SHOCKING or UNEXPECTED happens, does get to be a bit much at times, but when it comes to creating a sense of dread or fear, just by making us feel like we’re going to see something we’re not going to want to see, is a specialty that Wan seems to run with and actually love. Most of the scary scenes here do occur with the score, but when Wan keeps it quiet and sudden, you’re really on edge throughout most of it. The main scene that comes to my mind right away is the key one where Josh is running around the house late at night, and for some reason, the door keeps on swinging open every time he leaves it all alone. Every time he comes back, it’s open, and you can just feel that there is a presence in this house with him. You don’t know where it is, you don’t know what it looks like, and you don’t know how it’s going to show itself, but the anticipation to find out for yourself is what really gets you going throughout this whole scene. And hell, when it shows up, it’s pretty freaking scary.

But the problem is, once that scene is over with, and Josh realizes that this is all too true to an illusion, then the movie begins to fall apart by its own deception. Case in point: Wan’s direction.

First of all, what Wan set-up perfectly with this first-to-second-act was that this was going to be a horror flick, no doubt about that whatsoever; however, at the same time, it wasn’t going to be the same type of horror flick we usually see from the mainstream. It was going to be small; it was going to be quiet; and it was going to go back to the roots of horror, haunted-house idea and all. This had me all pumped-up for what was churning out to be a great, as well as very effective horror flick, one that didn’t need to change the game to work, but just be scary, that was it. Like I said though, around this time is where the movie began to slap me in the face, and in a way, began to slap itself in the face as well.

See, Wan betrays his own sense of direction by getting extremely goofy by the end, almost in a way that seems like it’s ripped out of an entirely different movie altogether. Without spoiling too much for the fellow-beings out there that haven’t seen this yet, I’ll say that the ending feels like a cheesy, homemade haunted-house you’d walk into if you had a first date with someone on Halloween night. You know it’s not scary, instead, it’s just random and over-the-top, but the person next to you/who you’re with is scared, and so you just sit there and enjoy the fellow person’s crazy emotions. That’s how I felt watching this movie, except, I wasn’t on a date with anybody, it wasn’t Halloween night, and I was all by my lonesome. Which basically means nobody was there to have me entertained by their fright.

All in all though, it’s Wan’s fault, and nobody else’s, that the movie falls apart and gets nutty by the end. And yes, although I do have to say it did look cool and it kept me intrigued the whole time, it felt like a bad move on his part, because what we were working with in the beginning was just doing so well, and was working so many wonders. Why the dude decided to change all of that up, and go for big, loud, and odd, really is beyond me. Then again, it was a mainstream horror movie, so maybe there were more powers at work here? Maybe, baby.

"Look! It's "something"!"

“Look! It’s “something”!”

Anyway, the other source of intrigue I had with this flick was the couple at the center, played by both Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson. Both are good in everything that they do, but I feel as if they are almost too good for this type of material where they have to play somewhat clueless, somewhat stupid, but also scared by what may happen to them. Byrne can yell, hoot, holler and scream her way through just anything, while Wilson just has to be stand there, and he’ll already be the coolest, most happenin’ guy in the room; but when you put them together and place them in a haunted-house, where scary things happen. it doesn’t quite work so well. They’re nice people, and you care for them and their family, but they just feel like they’re slumming it down a bit too much, and could totally be using their skills for something better, and a lot more worth their time.

Same goes for both Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye, both very accomplished actresses in their own right, but feel oddly-misplaced here. Mainly Hershey who, I guess with how her career has recently been turning out to be, might just have to stick with these “creepy mommy”-roles for the rest of her life, which is a shame too, because she’s a solid actress when she’s given the right material. This isn’t it, and I could say the same thing about Shaye, although she comes off in a better light than Hershey, mainly because she seems more-equipped for this outlandish, nutso horror stuff. After awhile though, her only purpose in this movie is to shout out exposition and tell us what should happen, at any certain time. Boring!

Consensus: While Insidious does start off mighty fine with just the right amount of tension, chills, and suspense in the air, it all goes away once Wan realizes that he has a bigger budget to work with here than he originally thought, and decides to let ‘er rip with the non-stop costumes, ghouls, demons, creatures, and Tiny Tim music, as if that dude’s jams weren’t freaky enough.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

It's like college, man. Let's hope there's some Hendrix in that background.

“Well, what we have to do first is smoke whatever’s in this gas-mask, and then we’ll end up searching for the ghosts. Most likely, we’ll find them, or at least some figures that resemble what seems to be a ghost.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

I Give It a Year (2013)

Speak for yourself Brits! Us Americans love staying faithful to our marriages! Sort of.

After randomly meeting one another at a party seven months earlier, Nat and Josh (Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall) decide that they are in love, and have no one else they ever want to be with in their lives, which means only one thing: Marriage. Some say it’s too quick, some say it’s lovely, and some predict it to go on a year. After awhile, it seems like these two may actually last longer than a year and so on and so forth, but the cracks begin to show around month 3 or 4 when the thought of infidelity rears it’s ugly head in (as it usually does). For Josh, it’s in the form of his ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris), who has just returned from Africa after 4 years; and as for Nat, she begins to get very, very attracted to a billionaire playboy that she takes her wedding ring off for and flirts with, in hopes that he’ll do business with her and her company, but also seems to not mind the obvious sexual-tension brewing between the two. Both forms of attractions end up coming together, and it’s whether or not Josh or Nat really do love one another to stick through all of the thick and thin is what really counts.

The British have dominated the rom-com genre for a long while, but have somehow also fallen off the map as of late. They’ve definitely had a few good ones here and there, but nothing too special that brings us back to the days of Four Weddings & A Funeral, to Bridget Jones’s Diary and so on and so forth. Without being so obvious about it, I Give It a Year tries to rekindle those flames that were once around and about all those years ago and does so very well, mainly because it reminds us that this is a rom-com, one that actually features comedy. Let me repeat that: COMEDY.

Desperate role-playing: The tell-tale sign that you're hopeless marriage is now officially failing.

Desperate role-playing: The tell-tale sign that you’re hopeless marriage is now officially failing.

You see, where this movie had me going was that it was actually funny, even if I noticed it was trying a tad too hard to do so. Most of the laughs come from the inescapable awkwardness of the situations these characters throw themselves into, and even though it does seem to get a bit over-played at times, it still somehow made me laugh at others. Take for instance a scene where everybody’s playing a little sweet game of charades and Josh goes up. He has a word that’s hard to describe in a natural, normal way, so of course this being an R-rated, British rom-com, he decides to give out hints and clues the dirty way. Obviously this is meant to be seen as a painful and horrible experience for Josh and everybody involved, almost so horrible and painful that it’s downright near unbelievable, but I couldn’t help but laugh because the movie milks it all for what they got.

And that scenes only one example from this movie. There are plenty more where that came from and it definitely didn’t disappoint me in that regard, even when it did stray away from being awkward and tried to be witty, and “British”, for lack of a better word. Most of the time, it doesn’t work and seems like it’s a bit lazy, but other times, it had me laughing more than I expected to and for that, I have to give the film a high-amount of praise. It’s very rare when a rom-com can actually have me laugh-out-loud more than a couple of times, and do have me do it so in a way that’s refreshing and makes me feel like I’m spending my precious time and money on something that deserves to be watched and laughed at. And not “laughed at” in the bad sense; the good sense that you’d expect from a comedy, especially a British one.

But where the movie succeeds very well in the comedy aspect, it somewhat fails with the romantic one. It isn’t that the movie doesn’t have a romance at the center of it’s flick worth caring about, it’s just that it’s structure is so centered on watching as these two fumble around with their emotions, try their hardest to steer clear and away from sleeping around, and question their marriage to begin with, that you almost lose all sort any type of sympathy this couple had going for themselves to begin with. They do seem in love and they do seem like they were right for one another, but we are sort of just plopped-down in center of it all as they can’t seem to grab one another, make love, and mean it when all is said and done. Even when the flick does decide to explore some darker, meaner territory about their relationship and the future of it all, it all feels a bit too under-cooked, as if director Dan Mazer didn’t really care much for these characters and just wanted to do something that was considered new, cool, original, or altogether, “different”. He succeeded at that, but not in the way that allowed the story to have any certain impact or meaning behind it all. It was just there to shock people, and maybe it will succeed at that.

Mainly though, I feel a bit bad for the cast because although they do get to stretch some of their comedic-muscles with this material, they feel a bit like “characters” and not actual, real people we’d see in a relationship or feeling the same feelings that these characters are supposedly having. Rafe Spall is a fine fit as Josh because he’s a bit of a goof and always seems to be getting into a bit of trouble, and has fun doing just that, but it doesn’t seem like the movie is all that concerned with going anywhere else with this character, other than just give us the fool we see just about every scene he’s in. Not to say that he’s bad, but it feels like he could have been a better-used character, had he been more rounded-out. The same could almost be said for Rose Byrne as Nat, even though she definitely enjoys playing the straight-gal in between all of these wild hijinx that ensue. Problem is, she too feels like a character you can’t believe in and only see as the type of woman who should have never gotten married in the first place or even bothered with settling down.

Stupid Americans! They never fit in!

Stupid Americans! They just never learn to fit in!

Everybody else suffers from the same problems, but they’re lucky that they’re at least a little funnier and used less, so it’s less of a distraction. Anna Faris gets a higher-billing than obvious main star Spall, which is definitely to appeal to a wider, American audience, and most will like what she does here because she seems to do it in every flick she’s apart of. Not to say that her act is getting stale or anything, but when she’s up against these fellow Brits, she does seem like the odd woman out who can’t quite hold her own when it comes to do something new with her act/image. It’s just being weird, slightly ditsy, and always awkward whenever the situation allows it to be. Simon Baker may have seemed like a strange choice as the other American here, but the dude has wit and charm that works, even if his character feels like a bit of a dick at the end of it all. Then again though, any guy who makes as much money as his character does will always be deemed “unlikable” and “unsympathetic”. In today’s economy, that’s just the way it is. Things will never be the same. Okay, they will be, but you know what I mean.

However, while these two try what they can and sadly fall victim to the lazy script, others in the cast really keep the laughs coming, going, and popping-up in situations when you least expect them to. Such talented stars like Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Colman, and especially Stephen Merchant, all get a chance to have their own, respective scene where they rip this scrip apart and just be funny. They all do so very well, that it’s a shame they aren’t in it more, or that they’re lovable wit, charm, and humor didn’t at least rub off more on the leads. If only.

Consensus: Rather than being a rom-com that is both hilarious, as well as heart-wrenching and honest about human relationships, marriage, and staying faithful, I Give It a Year only sticks with the former, forgets the latter, and loses it’s balance of dark and funny around the end.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Next best possible thing? A four-way perhaps? Maybe that's just me?

Next best possible thing? A four-way perhaps? Maybe that’s just me?

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Just eat cakes! Who cares if she said it or not!

If you were the one who fell asleep during “the French portion” of World History Class, don’t worry; this movie has you covered. Kirsten Dunst plays the Archduchess of Austria and soon-to-be Queen of France from her beginning days where her and her husband, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) struggle to bang and get pregnant, to the latter where she had a whole country demanding her head. Funny how time changes, isn’t it?

Even though I know the song about her, and I know the (untrue) statement she apparently made, I still know a lot about Marie Antoinette; who she was, what she did, and all of the other background shizz about her. No, it’s not that I’m some weird dude who enjoys looking up historical figures, it’s mainly because the class I’m taking now for college, just got done covering her, France at the time, and the aftermath. So, yeah, basically: I know my shit.

Apparently, by the looks of it, Sofia Coppola doesn’t. There were plenty of times in this flick where I wanted to slap her, or slap something by all of the historical inaccuracies here, solely for the fact that it probably would have helped the film. I get that Coppola couldn’t be any less concerned with the nitty-bitty details of M-A’s life, but when you have a movie that’s focusing on making her a sympathetic/real person; you need to have all of those details in there and not simply make random shit up. I don’t mind when a movie does that just for shits and gigs, but it didn’t feel right here. It felt like Coppola tried to do whatever she could to keep this movie fun, entertaining, and interesting, but even taking liberties with the story didn’t seem to help either. Something else was going on here that I still need to put my finger on.

Ehh, I've seen bigger and more lush!

Ehh, I’ve seen bigger and more lush!

Coppola has that certain style to her directing and writing that works wonders, and other times; totally misses the mark. Here’s one of the latter-instances. Coppola is a gifted-filmmaker in the way that she is able to tell a story and an emotion, not just through having the characters say something, but by giving us a visual or a single-shot that convey whatever it is that she wants to convey. She’s one of the very-rare filmmakers that can do that now, and actually get away with it without being labeled as “pretentious”, “snobby”, or “an artsy-farsty mofo”. However, it doesn’t aid in her in anyway here, and makes the story seem duller instead.

For instance, there are plenty of scenes where it seems as if Coppola didn’t really seem to worry too much about the story, and decided to focus on what made the movie look pretty. It works, that’s for sure, but it does seem like over-kill and a bit of a waste, considering that this is a 2 hour film, that’s primarily dedicated to shots of Dunst playing in the grass and looking happy. Once again, doesn’t matter if you want to pull off a good shot once or twice, but when it starts to take over the rest of the movie and get rid of the substance, then it gets dull. Very, very dull.

But I can’t talk too much crap on Coppola and her visuals, because she does a hell of a great job with them. Not only is this movie beautiful from head-to-toe, but it’s also very impressive by all that it was able to capture on film. Apparently Coppola was actually able to film in and out of the actual Versailles, which is an opportunity that Coppola does not take for granted, considering she makes us feel as if we really are with all of these high-class, royal S.O.B’s, and watching them as they party, drink, smoke, have sex, fondle, and play games as if they were at a P. Diddy party.

Oh, and they are all doing it to the sweet tunes of whatever the hell Coppola had on her iPod at the time of filming. In the beginning of the flick, we get a bits and pieces of actual, alternative-rock songs playing somewhere in the background, but for the most part; Coppola keeps it cool with the anachronisms. Then, out of nowhere, Coppola seems to have had enough with 18th Century ways, and decides to unleash what she’s got ringing in her ears, and it’s all thanks to that Bow Wow Wow song that you’ve heard a million times (and done better by this guy, by the way). After this track comes seemingly out of nowhere, then Coppola goes ball to the walls with any punk rock/alt. rock song in the history of man that she can find, and it works more than it doesn’t, because it actually glues you into the party-atmosphere that these snobs seem to be reveling in. Goes to show you that Tarantino and Luhrmann aren’t alone when it comes to using songs randomly, but perfectly to fit a tone.

The fact that Coppola was able to make this story more centered towards M-A, what she went through, how she got through it, and all of the problems she had to overcome, worked in most areas, but didn’t in others. The areas that it did work in were all thanks to Kirsten Dunst as M-A because she gives not only a great performance that shows her being young, nimble, wild, and free to do whatever she wants and (sort of) get away with it, but it’s also a very subtle one in the way that she’s able to convey so many feelings this lady must have been going through in real-life. The fact that M-A was so young when she got married, was forced to get pregnant, and basically thrown on the throne as queen is something that makes you think about how she got over all of it, but also makes you feel for her a bit, the same way you would want someone to feel for you, had you been thrown into the same situation. This part of the character is where Dunst works best in and once the movie decides to drop the champagne, the cakes, and the sex-games, then that’s when Dunst decides to take herself a bit seriously and you see a young girl who has seemingly come into her own. However, as we all know: it was too little, too late for her.

"Not tonight, honey. Maybe next year."

“Not tonight, honey. Maybe next year.”

In a role that seemed more like an in-joke, rather than anything worth even taking seriously, Jason Schwartzman does fine with what he has to do as Louis XVI, but the movie isn’t all that bothered with him or his character. The whole first-half of the movie is practically dedicated to him just being a pansy, not being able to make love to his wife, and knocking her up. Once that’s all said and done with, then the guy is shown as a pansy who can’t keep his wife satisfied and basically allows for her to stay at these parties where she (presumably) bangs other dudes. Don’t know how much of that is actually true, but from what I’m able to gather: Louis XVI was a bit of a wimp.

The rest of the cast is fine and seem like they had a great time going on the set for a little play-date they liked to call dress-up. Rip Torn plays the philandering king to perfection because he’s grimy as you could imagine; Asia Argento loves scumming it up as the whore that the king is philandering with; Judy Davis does her usual, weird-face thingy that we all know her for; and Steve Coogan is here as well, but not really doing anything funny. When you have “The Coogs” in a movie, I don’t care what it is: you have to make him do or say something in the least-bit funny. Without any of that, what’s the point of even having him around in the first-place? Just for show? Baloney!

Consensus: Coppola’s style and vision slows the feel and pace of Marie Antoinette down, especially when it doesn’t need to, but at least it’s still left to be seen with it’s beautiful look, desired-attention to the finer-details (talking about the set-pieces, not the actual story), and fine performance from Dunst in the lead role, that showed that she was maturing more and more by the roles she began to take.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, you're going to grow up to be a royal, pain-in-the-ass, just like your mother was."

“One day, you’re going to grow up to be a royal, pain-in-the-ass, who wasted all of her country’s money on lavish parties to satisfy your boredom.”

The Internship (2013)

Somehow, dudes that are getting paid millions and millions of dollars to play people that are working and not getting paid feels a bit disingenuous to me.

Best friends and co-workers, Billy and Nick (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) find themselves stuck in a rut. On a business trip, they find out that not only has the company they’ve been working for all this time, not only folded, but is not referring them anywhere else to work. Without any real direction of where to go next, they both decide to take one step in the right direction where most people in this world seem to be going and that’s to Google itself. Well, not exactly. You see, these guys aren’t getting jobs there just yet, and instead, have to go through a summer-long, non-paid internship where they will see what to do and how to do it, in order to make the big bucks in the 21st Century. Problem is, Billy and Nick don’t really know what the hell they are supposed to do with half of this shite, let alone work a computer.

Back in the day, around let’s say 2005, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson we’re the biggest names in comedy, minus a few others. Wedding Crashers was a hit and continues to have people laugh their asses off even until this day. The problem was, that was 2005 and the chance to act all wild, slightly-young, crazy, wacky, and manic, was all accepted because this is who they were and they were just soaking up the sun, telling everyone, and living life to it’s fullest. However, 8 years later, the act is sort of stale and feels like it’s two dudes that have yet come to the realization that not only are their bodies getting flabbier and their hair is getting a bit gray, but they also can’t continue to act like their young, wild, and nutty anymore. They have to actually be and act like considerable “adults”, and it’s not an act that they can hold for very long.

I get it, they're using a vid-chat, but they don't know how to because their old!!

I get it, they’re trying to use vid-chat, but they don’t know how to because their old.

And that’s the whole joke behind this movie: the fact that these guys are old, still trying to be hip and cool, but just don’t “get it”, in the sense that everything that was awesome and rad back in the 80’s and 90’s, is soooooooo lame. It’s a joke that works well for about the first 5 minutes, and then these guys get to the actual Google headquarters where not only is every kid there absolute dicks to them, but unrightfully so too. Because these guys are old, are practically taking this internship on a whim, and don’t really know all of the insanely-nerdy computer lingo like each and every one of them do, that means you have to complete assholes to them? I mean are they nice guys? Or do they walk around, spit on people’s faces, kick them in the ass, liter, not recycle, commit havoc, and forget to flush? Well, nope to that as well.

Basically, these guys aren’t mean in spirit or nature at all. They are corny and trying a bit too hard to be cool again, I’ll give them that, but they aren’t bad dudes, so when every kid that they met at this internship practically threw their fists and saliva in their general direction, I thought it was a little strange considering where this movie goes with it’s message and what it’s exactly trying to say about the generation we live in. You know, the one generation where everybody sees how trashed you got at that concert through the pictures on Instagram and/or Facebook, what political affiliation you consider yourself apart of because of the tweets you make, and where it takes a total of 2.4 seconds to find who was the 23rd President of the United States just by a little bit of typing in that search box.

By the way, the answer was Benjamin Harris. Didn’t take me long to find it either.

But that’s the type of movie we’re dealing with here: it wants to teach us about the old ways of living your life without being run by technology or any stupid, new-age crap like that, and just living, man. And that whole idea the movie continues to spout-out at us wouldn’t have been so bad if it was a comedy that was actually funny in the least bit. However, it’s not and instead takes the same joke that these guys are old, out-of-touch, and a bunch of lamers that somehow refuse to get with the times, and tells it time and time again. Oh, but also not forgetting to remind us that this movie is taking place on the actual Google headquarters, where apparently everything that’s right, beautiful, and fine with the world, occurs there and nowhere else.

Which means, yes, as you probably suspected; this movie is nothing more than a shameless recruiting video for Google, how their internship-process works, and how you too, if you have enough ambition, perseverance, and belief in yourself, can get a job there and start joining in on all of the peacefulness and fun. And hell, if I was to base this movie on that regard, then I’d say the movie did it’s job, and did it quite well mind you. It gets us to feel like Google is the place to work and even if you don’t know what the hell “Ctt” means, you can still continue to learn more and more about it, and eventually get the job, the money, and the happiness that you oh so desire in life. However, this is not a recruiting video for possible interns, but is actually a full-length, feature film that’s supposed to make you laugh, make you happy, make you think, and make you go about your day in a positive, meaningful way.

Well, then in that regard: the movie fails. I can’t say it fails miserably, but it’s noticeable right away that this movie just does not have the juice to keep it going for 2 whole hours, and is going to try it’s hardest to rest it’s shoulders on the talents of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, but here’s the problem: they’ve lost their touch too. I’ve always liked to consider myself a real fan of these two guys, even in their darkest days, but I honestly cannot remember the last time these two really blew me away in something that they were together in, or, were separate and trying to be funny in. Of course, they both had their battles with dramatic roles that have been more successful than one might have suspected (Wilson with Midnight in Paris; Vaughn with Into the Wild), but last time I checked; I can’t remember either one of them really having me holding my gut, except for those eight years ago that we all know about.

I'd party with Vince and Owen any day of the week, I'd just tell them not to argue how the original Footloose is better than the remake.

I’d party with Vince and Owen any day of the week, I’d just tell them not to argue how the original Footloose is better than the remake.

That said, they both try their nearest and dearest to make the slightest ounce of this material work, but all of the wit, all of the charm, and all of the humor that was once placed in their souls and never seemed to stop working; has all of a sudden broken down and been ran-out. And this time, I think it’s for good. It’s sad to think about considering these guys were once on top of the highest mountain when it came to comedy, but now that they’re older and supposed to be more wiser, smarter, and knowledgeable about where their lives have gone, you expect more. You expect these guys not to try and phone it in; you expect them to at least give it their all and make something seem funny; and best of all, you expect them to understand what is funny and what isn’t. But neither of them do, which makes it harder and harder to watch, as if they were two jocks that got back together to chat it up and hang out after all of these years, and still act as if they were as cool and sexy as they once were. They aren’t, and it’s sad to see.

Don’t be fooled though, because these two aren’t the only ones that aren’t funny: barely anybody else here is worth mentioning either. Will Ferrell shows up for all of 5 minutes, gets a chuckle or two, but really seems to be over-doing his d-headed act; Rose Byrne’s a bore as the apple of Wilson’s character’s eye, and it gets painfully obvious between the two; Max Minghella has some sort of British accent that’s supposed to make him seem more like a smart snob, but just has him come off as a dick that nobody, absolutely anybody would want to be around, let alone work with; John Goodman has about a scene or two and is just chewing-up the scenery with his beard and all; and the kids who played the fellow interns that Billy and Nick work with each have their fair share of good moments, and bad ones too, but it’s more of the latter since the material isn’t funny, and none of them really seem to get off the right foot from the beginning, and get back on the good one. They are just young, trying to get a job, and just as inspired as Billy and Nick, they just don’t go shouting out about it from the roof-tops. They just tweet, make a status about it, or text their friend who replies, “LOL lyke awkward.”

Consensus: The Internship‘s problem isn’t just that it isn’t funny, but never knows it isn’t so instead of actually trying to go somewhere else with it’s story, it continues to hammer in the fact that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, at one time, were hilarious dudes that you just had to see no matter what film they were in. Problem is, times have changed and so has the laughs.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Pictured: heaven

Pictured: heaven

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

All you need is a little hug and support from daddy, and you won’t start robbing banks.

Handsome Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist at the circus who returns to an upstate town where he meets up with a former fling of his (Eva Mendes), only to find that she has a baby of his. In need to support his child and soon-to-be family, Luke decides to start robbing banks and pulling off heists with a buddy of his (Ben Mendelsohn). After this, we see the cop who runs into a problem with Luke, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), and how he deals with the corrupt cops in his jurisdiction, while also keeping his head afloat. And we also see two kids, Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen), meet up together in high school, develop a friendship, and realize that there may be more between them that they never thought was possible.

Not only is this movie hard to describe with it’s synopsis, but it’s also even harder than hell to review it. Why? Well, it’s one of those flicks that just so happens to be built on the idea of it’s twists, it’s turns, and it’s surprises, which therefore means, any type of spoiling of those said twists, turns, or surprises, would not only be a crime against me as a critic, but a crime against you as readers. Also, it’s pretty damn hard to review, because I still don’t know how or what I still feel about it all.

What made me think this flick was going to be close to the second-coming of Christ, was not just the kick-ass trailer or the wonderful reviews it’s been getting so far, but was because of it’s director: Derek Cianfrance. Many people know the dude from his directorial-debut, the perfect date movie, Blue Valentine, and know that the guy has a knack and flair for telling an effective, compelling story just by using characters, plot, details, and dialogue. That’s it, and it’s nothing more. That’s why when it came to him tackling a flick that was like a mixture of the Godfather and the Town, I had no problem with it all, mainly because the guy seems like he knows what he’s doing and seems like he’d do anything that’s far from being deemed “conventional” or “predictable”. Granted, we’ve only seen him do one movie so far, but if that’s the consensus the guy has to work on: it’s pretty damn solid, I”d have to say so for myself. Sadly, this movie doesn’t come close to hitting his last. Sadly indeed.

Ryan Gosling: stackin' his money, layin' low, and chillin'.

Ryan Gosling: stackin’ his money, layin’ low, and chillin’.

But without jumping down it’s neck about the bad, let’s get into the good that will most likely lead into the bad. Rather than jumping back-and-forth from story-to-story without ever making it clear as to what the hell’s going on or how are these peeps’ paths going to cross next, we get three stories, that are told in their own, separate formats, without barely any interruptions at all. The first story is about Luke and how he handles being a daddy, but also a bank robber at the same time. Not only is this the most exciting story out of the three, but it’s also the best. The main reason being because it’s filled with so much energy, entertainment, tension, suspense, and emotional heart, that it gets you ready for what you think you’re about to witness. You automatically think that this whole movie is going to play-out like this first story where we all get all the action and flair, but still some grounded-sense of reality and depth, but that’s not how it all plays out.

Instead of doing the smart thing and keeping up with this sense of intensity, Cianfrance takes the film down a notch and keeps it grounded in the sense that we are watching a movie, and a tad predictable one at that. After we switch gears over to Cross’s story, we start to see the movie delve more into the conventional-side of itself where we see police corruption, people with badges doing mean things, and worst of all, Ray Liotta playing a sincerely, despicable human-being. He’s good at it, but can’t we put Tommy Vercetti up to something else nowadays. How about a role as an inspirational father-figure that does sensible acts for the rest of society? Huh? Not buying it? Oh well, at least I tried.

Anyway, where this flick takes a turn for the worse is not just because it begins to get, dare I say it, generic, but because it seems so obvious. Without telling you exactly what happens or how, there are certain elements of the plot that seem to be so predictable, that it gets to the time of where I could literally pin-point exactly who knew who, how they knew them, and how they were going to tell each other how they knew one another. It got to be a bit of annoyance and seemed more like Cianfrance took the idea of conveniences between two characters, as a way to show us that there’s a twist coming up, or something that we don’t seem to expect, but yet; we do.

That’s not to say that the whole film is like this, because as a matter of fact, most of it is damn good I have to say. There are moments where I was literally on-the-edge-of-my-seat without any other thought or idea that would take me away from this movie, anywhere near my head, and it completely compelled me. And that’s not just the Gosling parts, that’s the whole movie and it surprised me with what Cianfrance was able to bring up next, and how. The guy doesn’t depend on his dialogue here as much as he did with his last flick, but the atmosphere and mood is still there to mess with you and because of that, I have to still give the guy kudos for always allowing us to set our sights on something worth watching here. Can’t say that about many film makers who churn-out a movie a year, but thankfully, I can say it about this dude.

Same one from Hangover?

Same car from Hangover?

The problem is, after two hours and thirty minutes (yes, that’s how long it is), I was still left with an idea in my head: what the hell was that all about? The ideas and themes of there being issues between a father and a son, how we all look out for one another, and how hard it is to stay true to yourself in a world of evil and hate, are abundantly clear and here, and hit us in the face as much as beers to an alcoholic, but never seem to be worth the wait for. Honestly, when all of these stories do finally get the chance to come together, make some sense, and have us make up our minds on what to think of, it feels like a bit of a waste, mostly because nobody really solves anything. Gosling’s story ends a bit too quickly for us to feel like his life’s problems are solved, Cooper’s goes on and on without any clear happiness in sight, and the final story seems like it was all made for us to see how tension still arises, even as the new generations come alive.

It made no sense to me as to why this flick was named the way it was. The Pines definitely serve some sort of metaphor for each of these characters and the way they go about their business, but it didn’t seem reasonable. Certain things are said, and are left unsaid, but they never felt right. As the film continued to go on and on, these characters begin to pull off acts and stunts that not only seem unreasonable, but almost stupid. I get that people can deal with grief and sadness in all sorts of ways, but there comes a point in this flick where it just doesn’t make sense any more and feels like instead of dealing with real human-beings that have feelings, emotions, and a sense of right and wrong, we are dealing with a bunch of wacked-out peeps that act solely on a gut-feeling of anger and violence, without rhyme or reason. There are people out there who live like this, but in a flick like this, it didn’t seem right and didn’t make sense when you take the whole ending into actual consideration. If none of this makes sense to you now, please, go and see this movie and realize that there is a message to what I’m saying, as confusing and as bum-fucked as I may sound.

Thankfully, the ones that hold this flick together is the more-than-able cast of heavy-hitters that do what they do best: be compelling, no matter who it is that they are playing. The person from this cast that I think of the most when I say that, is without a doubt Ryan Gosling as Handsome Luke. Gosling not only uses that innate-likeability to his favor here, but also shows us that he still has the able chance to still scare the sheets off of us, and never know whether we can root for him, or boo him. Gosling has what it takes to make this character work and makes him the most fascinating out of them all, mostly because he strives to be more than just a convention: he actually has a beating-heart that doesn’t always make the right decision every step of the way, but at least tries to make up for them.

Eva Mendes plays his sugar-bunny that’s good, in probably the most-dramatic and compelling role we have ever seen her play before. Not only does Mendes do a perfect job at being able to not look hot or sexy, as hard as that may be for her, she also never forgets to remind us that this is a troubled and lonely woman, that we never lose sympathy for. Ben Mendelsohn is also a butt-load of fun and joy to watch as his buddy, a former-robber who helps him out nowadays, but don’t be fooled: this guy has a mean-streak to him that shows in a despicable-way.

Reminds me of the type of kids I'd hang out with in school. Except they didn't look like Leo DiCap. I did....

Reminds me of the type of kids I’d hang out with in school. Except they didn’t look like Leo DiCap. I did….

Bradley Cooper is great as Avery Cross, the cop with a heart. Cooper really does well at being the type of guy we can feel for and trust, even when he doesn’t seem to do the right thing, and makes you understand why the guy has such a hard problem to think for himself, or take matters into his own hands. He gets to be a bit of a self-righteous dick by the end of this thing, but no matter what, he always stayed true to his character, his motivations, and what he strives for in life. Rose Byrne plays his wife, that I wouldn’t say is still in dullsville here, but doesn’t seem to have much to do other be a chick that never stops complaining about how he’s a cop and always has the chance of dying on the job. You did marry him, didn’t you? So why the ‘eff you bitchin’ at him?!? Let a guy do his job and get that money, money!

Lastly, the performances from Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen as the two kids that meet-up in school, is good in the way that it paints an interesting portrait of what it’s like to meet someone, and not have any idea what to expect from them, but that’s about as much as I can tell you right there. Just know this, DeHaan is great and definitely uses that angst-fueled look to his advantage, and know that Cohen tries to do the same, but his character is too much of a dick for us to really care about him at all. Okay, I think you know enough by now. Time for me to shut up and just go the hell home.

Consensus: With a more-than-reliable cast, suspenseful mood, well-written characters, and interesting plot-changes, The Place Beyond the Pines never loses focus on it’s story or what it’s trying to convey about it’s character, but loses grip with reality and begins to get more and more theatrical and obvious as it goes along. No matter what, you will feel compelled by this, but it starts to shy-away sooner than later.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Lucky-ass baby.

Lucky-ass baby.

Halloween Horror Movie Month: 28 Weeks Later (2007)

Sadly, no signs of Cillian Murphy’s dong anywhere to be found here.

After a rage-virus ravaged through all of London, the U.S military attempts to take over and try to repopulate the city. Everything goes all fine and dandy until an outsider is let in, then it’s all back to normal for post-apocalyptic London.

Being as that 28 Days Later is not only one of my favorite horror movies of all-time, but also ranks up there as one of the scariest movies I have ever seen, this sequel definitely had a lot to live-up to in terms of scaring me, what it made me think, and how it made me feel. As many people do know, horror-movie sequels don’t seem to do so well in terms of sticking close to the source material but somehow, this flick does even though it definitely feels different without Jim or Selena anywhere to be found. I hope the virus didn’t get the best of them.

Anywho, instead of having Danny Boyle return to the director’s chair for this second-go around, director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes over and does a pretty nice job of keeping things promising in terms of mood and atmosphere. It’s pretty cool to see what actually happens when the rage-virus breaks through an already established city and how Juan Carlos keeps us awaiting for that impending doom to occur is what really kept me on-board. I must admit that this isn’t the first time I saw this flick, but it definitely surprised me with some of the scares and what Juan Carlos could do with a bunch of material that seemed to already be used before. However, instead of just trying his hardest to do a good Boyle-impersonation, Juan Carlos sticks to his guns and uses them to deliver a sense of destruction that made me still feel a little scared for my life.

Even though this film didn’t scare the pants off of me with it’s vision like the first one did, I still felt placed in a realistic, if a bit ambitious idea of the world we live in and what it would look like, especially after a catastrophic-event like a zombie break-out. Juan Carlos probably got the memo that more people wanted action, blood, guts, and gore from the first movie, and delivers on all of those accounts by giving us more, more, and more of that. It doesn’t feel needed for this type of story, but given the type of budget they’re working with here and the type of larger-scale they have to control, it feels deserved and works well rather than feeling cheap. The shaky-cam annoyed the hell out of me, but there isn’t much to see in these action moments other than zombies, people getting eaten alive, and a bunch of bullets and blood flying everywhere. So, after awhile, you get used to it and you pretty much get the gist that people and zombies are both getting off’d.

However, being the huge fan of the original that I am, I still can’t go by this flick without mentioning that this one just does not hold a candle to it, it just does not. I hate to make this “negative part of the review” all about my love for 28 Days and how it’s ten-times better than this movie, but it really is and it’s so hard to get by. The whole time I was watching the movie, I just kept uttering to myself, “Oh, Boyle did that better. See that part? Yeah, looked better with the HD-camera.” Maybe that’s a stingy-way to be with a sequel, but when something is obvious to me, hell, I’m going to point it out.

For instance, the underlining political-themes and ideas about the nature of human-beings that ran so rampant in the first-one, are barely anywhere to be found in this. The closest example I could find that connected the first-one to this one in terms of ideas, is the whole idea about how the army can be full of some sickos and I don’t think that really even counts. But for most movies, I can live without a bunch of political-themes and ideas if you give something else to grab-on to, but somehow, this film doesn’t even seem to have that either. All of the characters here really lack any type of development or real heart to them, to really have us root and care for them in the end. And even if we do root for them, it’s only because they’re human-beings and nobody wants to see their own kind get eaten alive by a bunch of rage-infected zombies. That’s the truth, Ruth.

But, when it all comes right down to it, the real-factor as to why this film pales in comparison to the original is that Juan Carlos just doesn’t have the artistic-vision like Boyle does. Boyle has such a real interest and idea for what it takes to make a beautiful scene in such an ugly and grim atmosphere, but it doesn’t really seem like Juan Carlos is all that concerned with that. That’s all fine and dandy, but it does make the picture seem a bit shallow in terms of what it’s trying to offer new and original to the already-tired zombie-genre.

There’s a couple of scenes here and there that sort of reminded me of a “Boyle-look” (that underground safe house scene scared the shit out of me), but nothing else to it. Even though Boyle produced this flick, I highly doubt the guy had a final say in what he thought was best for the final-product and it’s a real shame because this movie could have been filled with so much more brewing underneath the surface, rather than just a bunch of people running away from zombies. In a way, that’s how the zombie-genre is (people running away from zombies and whatnot), but what Boyle offered with 28 Days Later was new, and unlike anything we’ve ever really seen before, whereas this movie, brings the zombie-genre back to where it was taken away from in the first-place. I don’t want to say that I take points away from this movie for not being directed by Boyle, but it definitely goes to show you what a good director can do for your material, if he’s game for another sequel. Please Danny, do 28 Months Later, if it ever happens.

Before I go though, let me not forget to mention the performances in this movie that were all pretty good, except for the fact that some of the characters blew. Out of everybody in this whole cast, Jeremy Renner is the one who really shines as Sgt. Doyle, aka, the same role he would go on to play and get nominated for an Oscar for in The Hurt Locker. Renner just has this utter sense of coolness and warmth to his presence that it’s pretty easy to feel safe when you’re around him in the movie and his character’s motivations feel believable, even if everybody else around him feels like they just watched a Lifetime movie and felt like they wanted to give everybody a hug for no reason.

That’s what brings me around to everybody else in this film, as all of the other characters just don’t really do anything spectacular or show us anything worth really holding onto in the end. Take for instance, Robert Carlyle as Don, one of the guys who escapes a zombie-attack early on in the movie. This guy, from what we see in the beginning, is a rat-bastard who leaves his wife behind to get attacked by the zombies, but then feels sorry for what he did when she turns out to be alive. In all honesty, who the hell cares how this guy feels. There’s no real conviction to him, to the others around him, and when things start to go bad for him, I could care less and even he started to feel a bit shoe-horned in there by the end. Can’t tell you why he does, but the fact is that he does and it got on my nerves, considering Boyle would have never been all about that ish, regardless of if the character was played by Begbie. Oh, now that would have been nice. A good, ‘olde, Trainspotting-reunion in the middle of the zombie apocalypse  Not only do they have to fight-off heroin addiction, but zombies as well. I can already see it now…

Consensus: 28 Weeks Later is definitely one of the better horror movie-sequels out there due to it’s grim atmosphere and mood, but still pales in comparison to what Danny Boyle was able to do with the original and the lasting-effect it’s material it had on you, in terms of horror and emotion. Please come back for one last movie, Danny, please.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Sunshine (2007)

When Sheryl Crow sang, “I wanna soak up the sun”, these people took that to the heart.

With permanent darkness looming, scientists devise a plan to reignite the sun before the lights go out forever. To do so, a crew of astronauts is sent hurtling through space on an intense mission to determine the fate of the planet.

Director Danny Boyle is a dude that has been doing great things for the past decade. Ever since he flew on the radar with Trainspotting, people have been watching this guy for just what crazy story he’ll bring out next. This is one of them.

Boyle does a great job with this film because he creates this ultra-freaky sense of claustrophobia as the crew members get closer and closer to the sun, and farther and farther away from the actual planet. This is how Boyle creates suspense as he shows more close-up shots, confined structures, and basically telling us what’s going to happen next but still leaving that little thought and idea that something, just something may go wrong.

Another great thing that Boyle does here is show us perfect actually almost seamless dazzling effects that look like an actual spacecraft if it were to travel to the sun. I liked how Boyle used all these different types of vibrant colors to contract the over-bearing darkness in space. The scenes of where we actually see the sun hitting these people’s eyes or just seeing the sun in general are actually very well-detailed and if Boyle did one thing right here, it was to show us just about pitch-perfect visuals that never seemed to disappoint and brought me more and more into this world.

My main problem with this film is that none of this really seems original which is what anyone could see from a mile away. I almost got the sense of claustrophobia that I had with Alien, or the talking space-ship from 2001, or hell even the little plot twists that happen here reminded me so much of Solaris and plenty other sci-fi flicks. This isn’t saying that this one doesn’t stand well on it’s own two feet because it does well, but the constant reminders of countless other sci-fi films started to annoy me.

I like how Boyle chose this international cast and actually all had them live together so he could get this very legit feel between all of the, and to say the least it worked. Cillian Murphy is the real showcase of talent here as Capa; Rose Byrne is gorgeous but also very good as Cassie; Michelle Yeoh creates a very good character which is something I wasn’t expecting as Corazon; and Cliff Curtis does a good job as the reasonable nice guy, Searle.

The best out of the cast though is a guy I actually talked about not too long ago in my Captain America review. Chris Evans is stunning here and attributes to a lot of the scenes he has because he has that legitimate feel to him and it almost seems when everybody’s getting all too freaky and crazy with what’s about to happen. He’s the one who always seems to breath some fresh air of smarts into their sci-fi heads and even though the rest of the cast is good he is still the one that seems to do it for me the most.

My final problem with this film is that the tone starts to switch very dramatically by the last hour. The first hour is this building of suspense, sci-fi, and unknowings, but then the last half comes up and then we get this strange, trapped, almost slasher flick kind of film. This kind of disappointed me because it was never explained why the last half actually happened the way it did and the way everything happens just seems so run-of-the-mill even though I thought the ending had a good touch.

Consensus: This isn’t a totally original film, and the final act may disappoint, but Sunshine benefits from Boyle’s inspired direction that creates suspense, beautiful visual effects, and a cast that actually do well with their roles and seem like actual people rather than just a bunch of action cliches.

7/10=Rental!!

Happy Last Day Of Summer of Everyone! It’s been a great one!

Bridesmaids (2011)

Not necessarily “the female Hangover”, but still funny altogether.

Named as her best friend’s maid of honor, down-on-her-luck Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) competition with a fellow bridesmaid, the wealthy and beautiful Helen (Rose Byrne), threatens to destroy the wedding. Meanwhile, a local cop takes a liking to Annie.

When this first came out, I didn’t want to see it at all probably because it looked like a straight-up chick flick, that I would probably get dragged to seeing with my lady. Although it took me over a month to check it out, I’m glad I actually did.

First things first, this film is funny. Not hilarious, not un-funny, just funny. I went in expecting some chuckles here and there, but I laughed a lot with this film because it’s dirty and witty which is very hard to find in any comedy today. Comedy, is usually a dude’s world, but it was cool to see some good humor come from the mouth of a lady, and be equally as funny as some other guy comedies that I’ve seen recently. I’m talking about you Hangover Part II.

My main problem with this film is that it is very uneven. The story structure here made this film just seem like a bunch of funny sketches, instead of a whole film and without those story elements in place, the story in my opinion just started to drag and drag. I mean the film is over 2 hours long and although I liked how they showed a lot of these characters for their imperfections and also tried to get a deep story out of this material, I just found myself checking my watch almost every 5 minutes waiting for this thing to actually wrap-up.

Kristen Wiig is always good in her little bit roles in films like Adventureland and Knocked Up, as well as her stint on SNL, but her leading role as Annie here wasn’t anything special which kind of disappointed me since I always laugh at her in anything she does. At any given moment, Wiig can be really really funny but at the end of the film I didn’t feel like she was one singular character, but more a series of sketch-roles. Despite that, Wiig is still funny but for this role she needed to be more of an actress to make us emotionally sympathize with her rather than just doing a bunch of wacky comedy.

The rest of the cast here is very good at everything they do. Maya Rudolph is putting on some big pounds, but is still good as the bride; Rose Byrne is perfect as the perfect and beautiful, other best-friend, Helen; Melissa McCarthy had me laughing my ass off just about every time she was on screen as Megan; and even though they don’t have too much to do Wendi McClendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper are good too. Jon Hamm is a total deucher in this film, but funny still as Wiig’s “eff-buddy”, and Chris O’Dowd is a delight to watch on-screen as Wiig’s other lover, Rhodes.

Consensus: Although it doesn’t work as a good structure for its story, Bridesmaids still has some very good performances from a very funny cast, that gives this material more laughing power, even when it does start to seem over-long.

8/10=Matinee!!