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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Russell Crowe

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Most cold-blooded killers are, after all, misunderstood.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) has been on the run, gun slingin’, robbin’, killin’, and committing all sorts of crimes that have him number one on every person’s bounty list. However, Wade is a pretty ruthless man, to where he can get away from anyone looking to reel him in for justice; it also helps that he’s got the helping hand of his band of fellow thugs, especially his go-to-guy, Charlie (Ben Foster). But eventually, Ben gets caught by the local law and ready for the 3:10 train to take him to Yuma. But in order to get him there, he’ll have to be transported among many lines, where everyone is looking to take Ben down and get a little piece of the reward-money pie. However, Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is just looking to do this so that he can get some money, save his farm, and go home to his family, where he can feel like a responsible man again. As expected though, the trip goes through all sorts of bumps, bruises, and plenty of violence, where one thing leads to another, and it’s never very clear if Ben will ever get on that train and behind bars, like he should.

"Hold it! I'm not Batman here, but other places. Kind of."

“Hold it! I’m not Batman here, but other places. Kind of.”

3:10 to Yuma is the rare kind of Western that not only revitalizes the genre, but also proves why it’s so great in the first place. It doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the genre, make up new rules, and play by its own game, but instead, take everything that you know and love from all those other classics, bring them together, and let you have a great time. It’s as if it’s own beast, entirely, even if, yeah, it’s actually a remake, too.

Still, even if 3:10 to Yuma isn’t the most original story out there, it more than makes up for it in all the thrilling, exciting and rather unpredictable action-sequences that take place over its two-hours. James Mangold is a perfect fit for this material, because he knows exactly how to make it all crackle and pop, without ever seeming like he’s out of his depth. Even though Mangold sure does love to jump around from genre to genre, with sheer reckless abandon, it seems like the action-genre may be the one he sticks with, not just because he seems to enjoy it the most, but because he actually seems to know what he’s doing with it, as opposed to those like Michael Bay, or McG.

Why on Earth did I just mention McG’s name?

Anyway, moving on. 3:10 to Yuma more than gets by with its action, but at the heart of it all, and perhaps what makes it more than just another fun and exciting romp through the Old West, is that it’s also the tale of two interesting, challenging, and complex men. Both Christian Bale and Russell Crowe put in great work here, going beyond the silly accents, and showing that there’s more to these two guys. Crowe’s Wade may be a ruthless, toothless (not really, he has quite the set of chompers), and almost sadistic killer, but he’s also got a set of morals and he’s quite the charmer. Whereas, on the other side of the coin, Bale’s Dan is a man with plenty of morals, a simpleton, and family man, but at the same time, won’t hesitate to kill, if he ever has to.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Both men are different, yes, but they’re also quite alike in many ways, too, and it’s what makes 3:10 to Yuma quite compelling to watch.

Even when the action is gone for a short while and everyone’s sitting around a fire, eating beans, chewing the fat, it’s still entertaining to watch; the cast is so good, the characters so well-defined, and the script is actually polished. And with Bale and Crowe’s performances, we get to see two men who, despite being on opposites of the social spectrum, still respect the other enough to know where they come from, what their ideals are, and why they are, the way they are in the world. It almost comes close to a bromance, except for the fact that they do try and kill each other every so often, but even then, who knows.

Bromances work in mysterious ways, sometimes.

But anyway, aside from both Crowe and Bale, the ensemble’s a pretty good one. A very young Logan Lerman shows that he can hold his own as Dan’s son; Dallas Roberts plays the sheriff who has to take Wade in with Dan and shows that even the scrawniest of men, with a gun, can still kind of be bad-ass; Peter Fonda shows up and brings some class; Kevin Durand is, as expected, pretty crazy; Luke Wilson has a fun cameo; and Ben Foster, as Wade’s right-hand man, is so crazy, so deranged and so evil, that he almost ends up stealing the show. But still, it’s Bale’s and Crowe’s show to the end and when they’re together, their scenes never stop igniting the spark and make you wish that they’d work together more and more. It doesn’t even have to be in Westerns.

Couldn’t hurt, though.

Consensus: Even if it’s still a Western through and through, 3:10 to Yuma is a tense, exciting and incredibly well-acted piece of entertainment.

8 / 10

Look at 'em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Look at ’em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, Rotten Tomatoes 

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Proof of Life (2000)

Americans, stay home.

Alice and Peter Bowman (Meg Ryan and David Morse), are a loving couple who are now stationed in a nice little house somewhere in South America. Why? Well, because where Peter’s energy company is overseeing construction of a dam, something that is obviously benefiting them, but no one else who actually lives there and has to put up with all of the destruction, construction and rampage. While Peter is out and about doing his job, Alice is at home, getting more and more frustrated and unhappy about their marriage, what she wants to do with her life, and wondering whether or not she actually wants to start a family with Peter, or leave him altogether. Well, Alice is in for a shock when she finds out that Peter has been taken hostage by a bunch of terrorists, looking for more money from Alice and seeing how long they can keep her on the hook, while he’s still alive. Alice, without a clue in the world of what to do, decides that the best way to handle this situation is call up a professional: Enter Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), a professional negotiator who has a strict moral code when it comes to hot and heavy situations like these, and won’t put up with any silly shenanigans, especially since he’s kind of becoming a little attracted to Alice and her plight, all things considered.

"Yeah, let's go yell and shoot things."

“Yeah, let’s go yell and shoot things.”

Most of the heat surrounding Proof of Life around the time of its release wasn’t how “good”, or “bad” it actually was, but because of how both co-stars, Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan, got together, shacked-up and inevitably, ended the later’s years-long marriage to Dennis Quiad. Does any of that really matter? No, not really, but it definitely does help to make sure that a movie, whether it’s bad or not, is talked about in the mouths of many people who probably have no reason to see it in the first place.

They just want the gossip and that’s about it.

That said, Proof of Life is a better movie than the controversy surrounding it, mostly because it’s about something slightly more than you’d expect with thrillers of these natures. Director Taylor Hackford is definitely hit-or-miss, but what he does well here, is that he does find smart, interesting ways to keep the tension moving, even when it seems obviously and abundantly clear just where the story is going, at almost every moment. Writer Tony Gilroy also deserves some credit for trying to make this ordinary thriller about more than just a husband being kidnapped, and more about the issues of big, corporate America coming in and taking over foreign countries for land, oil and money, but a part of me feels like there was a far more detailed script, that went into this a whole lot more and more.

Instead, Proof of Life mostly concerns itself with the fact that Morse’s character may have been up to no good and probably deserves some bad stuff to happen to him, but to die for it all? Well, probably not. And that’s fine; Hackford and Gilroy do come together enough in a way that makes us care about Morse’s character while he’s on this seemingly never ending journey to nowhere, as well as making us care about the characters at home, sitting around, waiting for something, hell, anything to happen. In fact, there’s more character stuff going on here than I see with most other thrillers of the same kind, making it worthy of getting invested in.

Wait, which one's David Morse?

Wait, which one’s David Morse?

And yes, that does mean that Crowe and Ryan are good, however, both seeming to be in different movies.

Proof of Life is by no means whatsoever, a smart, sophisticated film made for the far more prestige-crowd out there, but at the same time, it’s no silly, slam-bang action-thriller, either. It’s just serious enough to be dark, but also fast-paced enough not to be slow. That’s why it’s odd by how cartoonish Crowe is here, showing up into every scene, only to drop some witty line, kick somebody’s ass, or stare long and hard at Meg Ryan. Don’t get me wrong, Crowe is fine with that and can be fun to watch, but when you take into consideration the rest of the movie surrounding him, it seems a little off. Same goes for David Caruso, who is so loud, obnoxious and foul-mouthed, you wonder if he was expecting this to be some sort of Die Hard spin-off.

But on the other hand, Morse and Ryan are both quite great here, showing that this kind of material can work, so long as you underplay as much as you can. Sure, often times, Morse laps into the loud craziness that contains both of Crowe’s and Caruso’s performance, but there’s also these small, human moments that make his character tick a whole lot more and it’s interesting to see what sort of lessons he learns and how he handles said situation. Ryan’s good as his wife, because her character’s also a little complicated, too; she’s the wife who actually got into a dispute with her hubby, didn’t know whether or not she wanted to stay with him and now, all of a sudden, has to really care about him and his well-being, all of a sudden. It’s a difficult role to make sympathetic, but Ryan does and it’s a shame that she never seemed to get enough credit for her against-type roles, because she truly did challenge herself, when push came to shove.

Unfortunately, not so much anymore, but here’s to hoping for a possible return of Meg Ryan.

Even as unrecognizable as she may be.

Consensus: While definitely an odd mixture between being too serious and sometimes silly, Proof of Life is an interesting thriller that tries to be about something, but overall, just ends up being a tense thriller.

6 / 10

"Come with me, Meg. Marriage is so silly, anyway."

“Come with me, Meg. Marriage is so silly, anyway.”

Photos Courtesy of: Rave Pad, Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB

The Nice Guys (2016)

Who ya gonna call? Two studs!

It’s 1977 in Los Angeles, and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a bit down-on-his-luck. His wife has just died, he’s left to care for his teenage daughter all by himself, and he’s got a job as a private investigator that sometimes pays the bills, and sometimes doesn’t. However, there’s a new case that comes his way when a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. While Holland is sure enough that he can solve the case on his own, a local enforcer, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), comes into the picture, vowing to find Amelia as well. The two don’t get along fully well, but hey, they’re willing to push aside differences to solve the case and make a few bit of dollars in the process as well. What the two run into while in the case, though, is probably more than they bargained for, what with shady government agencies, hitmen, and the porn community, all involved in one way, or another.

He doesn't drive, but he takes pics, too. Man. Talk about a total package.

He doesn’t drive, but he takes pics, too. Man. Talk about a total package.

The best thing that Shane Black has ever done for himself and his career is become a director. Once he was able to do that, he didn’t have to worry about any director messing-up, or misinterpreting his vision, but instead, just know that what he wanted to see, was what he was going to get. Case closed. All of his movies have all been pretty great, but with the Nice Guys, it feels as if he’s finally found that sweet spot in cinema that may make or break him.

Meaning, if people don’t go out to the Nice Guys, Hollywood may stop allowing for Shane Black to work carelessly on his own projects and just keep him to name-brands. However, if people do go out to the Nice Guys, which they totally should, Hollywood will not only reward originality and creativity in the biz, but reward Black himself.

But honestly, it doesn’t matter because whichever way you put it, there’s no denying the Nice Guys is just a fun time from beginning to end, and Black is all to thank for that.

Clearly, it’s a buddy action-comedy, given the fact that this is a Shane Black movie, but it doesn’t feel like a well-worn thread; instead, Black himself finds new and interesting ways to not only surprise us, but himself as well. You think you have a clear-cut idea of where this story is going to go, what with the convention and all that, but nope, Black will take a step to the right or left and beat away from the path we’ve all seen before. I can’t go into great detail about what I’m going on and on about, but if you’ve ever seen a Shane Black movie, you get where I’m going; the dude follows the beat to his drum and that’s great. He does it better than anyone else, mostly because he created the damn drum in the first place.

And this is all to say that the Nice Guys is the perfect kind of summer blockbuster you’d want to see. It’s pace is breezy, its sunny-set location is relaxing, it’s jokes deliver, it’s action is exciting and unpredictable, and most of all, the characters themselves are so great and well-written, that it’s hard to find a stand-out here. Black brings in a lot of colorful beings, but mostly all of them are better than the last and after awhile, you start to wonder if he’s got any more in him.

Then, you soon find out that yes. Yes he does.

With Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, Shane Black has found his perfect odd-buddies. Crowe is the rough, tough and ragged figure that loves to solve every problem/argument with a fist and a gun, whereas Gosling is the kind of cowardly figure who definitely uses his brain to get by, but has no capability in fighting or kicking ass. The two obviously clash, but to watch Crowe and Gosling bicker and banter with one another, is an absolute joy. The two really seemed to have get along during filming and even if they didn’t, they do a great job at hiding it.

Cheer up, Russ! You're in a Shane Black flick!

Cheer up, Russ! You’re in a Shane Black flick!

But it isn’t just about the joking around and busting-of-balls that makes these two characters such a blast to watch. Over time, as the movie rolls on and the case that they’re following gets more and more deadly, we get to find out more about these guys, their pasts and how, in ways that they don’t even know, are pretty similar. A lot of this can be attributed to Black’s script, but really, it’s Gosling and Crowe who do a lot of heavy-lifting and make the smaller, more quieter moments in between all of the guns, blood and cars, much more meaningful than you’d expect with a movie like this. Sure, Black keeps them funny, but there’s a heart and soul deep inside of these characters and it keeps the adventure worth sitting through.

It also helps that there’s so many others in the cast that are fun to watch, too.

Angourie Rice plays Gosling’s daughter and while she could have easily been another annoying, precocious child character, she shows that she’s smart, but also still very immature and can’t always handle every situation perfectly, just like any kid would act; Matt Bomer shows up briefly as a scary, vindictive hitman who makes his presence known in an awesome shoot-out; and Kim Basinger, in some limited screen-time, shows up as a shadowy figure, reminds the boys that she’s around to play as well and won’t let the screen get stolen from her.

That’s Basinger for ya. Always stealing that spotlight.

So yeah. I guess the real question is should you see the Nice Guys? The answer is yes. However, I feel like not many people will. Neither Gosling, Black, or Crowe are the box-office draws that they once were, but to me, that doesn’t matter. The Nice Guys is a great time; it isn’t perfect, but then again, what is?

“A lot of stuff,” you could say, but who cares? Just see the movie, dammit!

Consensus: With Black’s well-written script and smart direction, the Nice Guys is a laugh-out-loud, thrill-ride from beginning to end that benefits from a wonderful bit of chemistry between Crowe and Gosling.

8.5 / 10

Oh, Ry and Russ up to their silly shenanigans again!

Oh, Ry and Russ up to their silly shenanigans again!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Mystery, Alaska (1999)

The New York Rangers clearly have better things to do. Like watch paint dry.

In the small town of Mystery, Alaska, hockey is king. It’s everywhere you look and, quite frankly, it’s all anyone cares about. That’s why, when it turns out that the New York Rangers actually want to fly out there for a total publicity stunt, not only does the town take it as serious as a heart-attack, but the hockey team themselves are as prepped-up and as excited as anybody else in the town. Problem is, they now have to sort through their own personal problems to get their heads in-check for the big game. There’s John Biebe (Russell Crowe), the town sheriff who, at one point, was the captain of the hockey team, but due to his slowness, was given the boot; there’s Charlie (Hank Azaria), a hot-shot producer from New York who once went out John’s wife (Mary McCormack) and now seems to miss his lovely, little hometown; there’s Stevie Weeks (Ryan Northcott), who wants to have sex with his girlfriend, but can’t actually seem to get the act done; there’s Skank Marden (Ron Eldard), who has sex with practically every woman in town, including the mayor (Colm Feore)’s wife (Lolita Davidovich); and then, there’s Judge Walter Burns (Burt Reynolds), who doesn’t really care for hockey, but just might once this game gets going.

No. I am not entertained.

No. I am not entertained.

There’s a lot going on in Mystery, Alaska, however, none of it ever seems to involve the actual playing of hockey. Which, for some people, will be a huge deal-breaker. For those expecting a sports flick with plenty of swearing, fighting, heart, humor and hockey in the same vein as Slap Shot, well, go the other way. Instead of actually getting a movie that’s as dedicated to the sport as it states it is, we get more of a inside look into the lives of these various characters, as they not only try to wade through their problems, but also try to find ways to make themselves the best hockey players that they can be for the big game.

The big game, which, mind you, is highly unlikely to ever occur in the real world, regardless of how many reasons you try to toss in.

But honestly, the fact that this plot is unbelievable to a fault, is the least of its problem. That it wants to be a melodramatic character-study, but is in no way, dramatic, or ever interesting, already proves to the point that maybe more scenes of hockey being played would have helped out. But director Jay Roach and writers David E. Kelley and Sean O’Byrne, never seem to be all that interested in ever portraying the sport; more or less, it wants to see just what the dudes who play the sport are up to. And truly, I’m all for this – however, the writing is neither strong, nor compelling enough to make me see why we needed a movie so dedicated to finding more out about these characters.

Not to mention that the characters, for the most part, spend the majority of the movie going on and on about the loads of amounts of sex they had, and that’s about it. Ron Eldard’s character is made out to be the biggest horn-dog in the whole town and while his subplot is supposed to pack some sort of dramatic-weight, it never actually does because we don’t care about him, the people he’s banging, or the kind of effect it has when those said people he’s banging, get caught by their significant other. Same goes for whatever Russell Crowe’s character is going through; we’re made to think it’s some sort of mid-life crisis, but all of a sudden, turns into a possible extramarital love affair, or whatever.

After awhile, it gets to a point where you’ll wonder: Where’s all the damn hockey!

And then, eventually, the hockey does come up. Problem is, it’s towards the end, which means that you have to wade through the meandering and plodding initial 90 minutes, just to get there. Even then, though, it’s already too late to where we don’t care which team wins or loses, we just want it to be over so we can go home and play NHL 16 or whatever the cool hockey game the kids play nowadays.

Eh. Hope they lose.

Eh. Hope they lose.

Which is to say that Mystery, Alaska, despite the solid cast on-hand, doesn’t do any of them justice. 1999 was a pretty weird time for Russell Crowe’s career, as the Insider had yet to come out and Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with him. Therefore, we get a pretty dull performance from him as this small-town sheriff who can’t seem to turn that frown of his upside down. Not to mention that once Hank Azaria’s character comes into town, now we have to listen to numerous spousal disputes between he and Mary McCormack’s character; neither of whom, are actually ever interesting to hear, because we don’t know who these characters are, nor do we really give a hoot if they’re together or not by the end.

And everybody else pretty much suffers the same fate as Crowe, McCormack and Azaria. Burt Reynolds, even after coming hot off from an Oscar nomination for Boogie Nights, seems like he’s just going through the motions as the older, yet wiser man of the town who likes to dispose of his knowledge whenever the moment seems necessary. It’s a boring role for Reynolds and quite frankly, he doesn’t do a nice job of hiding his own snoozes. Same goes for Colm Meaney and Lolita Davidovich who, like McCormack’s and Crowe’s characters, are left to just have marital problems and honestly, it’s hard to care at all.

All we want to see is more hockey, the actual New York Rangers (who never actually show up, because they were obviously smart enough), and somebody getting the absolute crap beaten out of them. Just like an actual hockey game.

Except with those, we don’t really care about what their personal lives are like.

Consensus: Even though there’s a great cast on the bench for Mystery, Alaska, none of them are given anything credible to work with, nor do they ever actually get to play as much hockey as everything about this movie may suggest.

2 / 10

And yeah, this is totally not forced.

And yeah, this happens, too.

Photos Courtesy of: A Movie A Day, Every Day, Sorry, Never Heard of It!

The Water Diviner (2015)

Who ya gonna call? Russell “dude who already hates phones” Crowe!

After the presumed death of his three sons in WWI and the sudden suicide of his wife, Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) has nowhere to go but overseas and find his kids’ bodies. He’s not happy about it, but to abide by his late-wife’s wishes, he’ll do anything. So then, Joshua travels to Turkey where he hears stories of heroism and bravery about his two sons who were tragically killed on the battlefield, but then again, he also hears them from the man who had them killed in the first place (Yılmaz Erdoğan). Even though the two may not have much in common, the Major ends up assisting Joshua on his search for his sons and, believe it or not, there’s a rumor going around that one of them may actually be alive; the only problem is that no one knows where he’s at. Joshua, with all of his heart and pride, decides to set out on his own which, more or less, puts him into some very dangerous, scary situations. Also, let’s not forget to mention that Joshua begins to fall a bit head-over-heels for a lonely hotel-worker (Olga Kurylenko).

There’s a part of me that wants to give a lot of credit to Russell Crowe for stepping out of his comfort-zone, going big, going home and being as ambitious as humanly possible for his directorial debut. Most actors-turned-directors feel more inclined to just keep their projects short, sweet and simple-to-the-point where they don’t spend too much money, nor do they have to worry about having too much on their plate. I’m fine with these movies, but sometimes, it’s nice to see a larger scope of a movie coming from someone who may, or may not have any clue what they’re doing behind the camera.

Bonding over something cultural, I assume.

Bonding over something cultural, I assume.

However, in the Water Diviner‘s case, it’s a bit of a mess. And an uninteresting one at that.

Most of this comes down to the fact that Crowe, despite all of his best intentions, doesn’t quite have it down yet as to what makes a movie flow so well and smoothly. In terms of the pace, the movie seems to flirt with the idea of being a gritty, ugly and violent war picture, but then, at another second, will slow things up so suddenly to focus on some romance and it’s a huge, drastic change. It almost feels like Crowe wanted to make one movie, and then halfway through it, decided that he wanted to make another; which wouldn’t have been so bad had both movies actually been well worth the watch, but they’re kind of not.

The only reason any of them are worth getting invested in is because of Crowe’s performance that, like usual, shows off his skill for mixing tenderness with masculinity and doing it in a way that we don’t too often see from most actors. Sure, we all know that Crowe can kick some ass when need be, but we so rarely see the softer side to some of his characters and here, as Joshua Connor, Crowe gets a chance to act all of that out and show that this man, deep down inside, is truly hurting. Though the adventure he sets out on isn’t all that exciting or eventful, it’s at least somewhat compelling because of the fact that we care early on for Connor and hope that he gets what he wants; whether that be closure, or happiness, or whatever.

But once again, it’s hard to judge a movie based on the lead performance, especially that lead performer just so happens to be the one directing it all.

Throw on a 'stache and all of a sudden, Jai Courtney's a lot cooler.

Throw on a ‘stache and all of a sudden, Jai Courtney’s a lot cooler.

Which is a shame because Crowe is dealing with some hard-earned issues and feelings here; any movie involving a father searching for his own sons on the battlefield is touching, it’s just that it’s placed in a movie that’s pretty uneven. One second, it’s an anti-war flick explaining how the battlefield makes most humans into angry, malicious animals; another, it’s trying to be a thought-piece about foreign powers coming together and settling scores; and then, of course, there’s the ham-handed love story that we can see coming from a mile away. All of these ideas are toyed around with and while Crowe gives just about each and every one plenty of attention, they never add up to much except for just a jumble that could have easily been handled better.

What ultimately ends up happening though, is that it seems like Crowe just had too much on his plate to begin with. Had he settled down and at least focused on one portion of this story, everything probably would have been all fine and dandy. Though Olga Kurylenko is a solidly lovely and spicy presence on-screen, her character serves no purpose other than just “foreigner that Russell Crowe can shack up when all is said and done”. Having seen To the Wonder, I already know that Kurylenko is capable of much more than that and while she’s fine here, she’s in the middle of a movie that throws her around whenever it sees fit.

I can’t say much about Jai Courtney here, especially since he’s hardly ever around, but it is nice to see him showing up in pieces that don’t just call on him to be a bad-ass. It’s a solid casting-choice on the part of Crowe, but ultimately, it leads to nothing because it’s so clearly Crowe’s movie and nobody else’s. Which is, yet again, not such a terrible thing because Crowe is superb in the lead role, but there’s a feeling that maybe Crowe could have just been the lead here and allowed somebody else to take the reigns of director. Because honestly, Crowe just may not be ready yet. With time, though, he may.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: Uneven in terms of tone and messy in terms of handling of subplots, the Water Diviner finds Russell Crowe taking on duties as director and while he gives it his all, sadly, the results aren’t as up-to-par as his solid performance is.

5 / 10

Throw that hat full-force at somebody and more than likely, they'll die. I'm serious. Look at that thing!

Throw that hat full-force at somebody and more than likely, they’ll die. I’m serious. Look at that thing!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

State of Play (2009)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boo.

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Insider (1999)

Just another reason why cigarettes are not good for you.

The true story of how the commentator of 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer), and his producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) were black-balled into dumping a segment on tobacco industry defector Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), because CBS execs were in the midst of a multi-billion dollar merger with the corporation that owned Wigand.

Anybody who hears the name “Michael Mann”, automatically thinks of a high-tech, energized-up mofo that did epic-thrillers such as Collateral and Heat. In fact, I’m one of those people considering I think those are the only two films he truly kicks ass with. However, my mind has officially been blown by what he’s able to do with a straight-forward story where I don’t think a single shot is fired. Except for when it’s people actually getting fired themselves.

What Mann does so perfectly here with this story is that he take his time with it. Everything starts off rather mysterious if you aren’t already familiar with the true story this movie is based on, but it’s also very thrilling where we don’t know where this story’s going to go, how it’s going to go, and what’s going to set it off. Thankfully, after about the first 15 minutes, we realize what type of story we’ve stumbled upon and that’s when everything starts to become clearer and more understandable to take in, but by the same token, still mysterious. We know that the walls are going to drop eventually, but as a matter of when and where is what’s really interesting.

Life in the cameras. So depressing.

Life in the cameras. So depressing.

Then again, it doesn’t really matter because the characters were given to watch are already interesting enough as is.

Most of the Insider is concerning a bunch of evil people, talking about evil things, and actually doing most of those evil things that they discuss. Granted, this may not sound like the most exciting thing in the whole world, but Mann makes it so. The whole film is one tense ride from start-to-finish where twists come absolutely out of nowhere, but they make sense and keep the story moving on and on until it reaches it’s breaking-point. Every single shot/scene in this flick seems like it actually means something and furthers the story, rather than just being placed in there for a time-killer and to add more exposition to a story that was filled with it already in the first place. It’s over two-and-a-half hours, and while that would normally kill me, this time, it doesn’t. Hell, I don’t even know how this could have been shorter! Nearly two-hours and forty-minutes seems like the perfect amount of time for Mann to give us a story, where almost nobody does the right thing, and still be able to keep our attention glued onto the screen.

Bravo, Mr. Mann. Bravo.

As entertaining and tense as this story may be, the emotional-level of this film didn’t fully connect with me, and I think that has something to do with some of the characters here. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to really feel bad for anybody in this flick as they all do bad things that better themselves and nobody else, but there was a certain amount of disconnect that I was feeling with everybody that came off as a bit too dreary. The only person that could be considered remotely sympathetic and actually good, is Wigand, and even he comes off as a bit of a jerk that sort of screwed the pooch on himself this time and should have just done the right thing, rather than put himself, and everybody else around him in jeopardy. Then again, the guy had a story to tell and it just goes to show you that not everything in this movie, let alone life, is as cut-and-dry as some people make it out to be.

Going along with that last point, I feel as if the whole story behind the actual story, lacked any type of real feeling. This is, as I put it up above, a story about how 60 Minutes got sued and was almost bought out for millions and millions of dollars by a huge corporation, but even that said corporation has an interesting story to tell; one that never fully grows to get you as excited as when 60 Minutes begins to get hit hard in their pockets. This could have really twisted everything up and got us, the audience, rooting for the home team the whole time, but just had us sitting there, and watching it with barely any feelings or emotions left still intact. Maybe this is just a weird problem I had and nobody else, but so be it.

A lot of people that see this flick will probably not only be surprised by how freakin’ tense this movie is, but by also how Al Pacino doesn’t really get into his infamous “insane-o mode” that we all know, and sometimes, love him for. Instead, his character, Lowell Bergman, is more of a straight-man to everything else that’s going on around him; keeping his cool, and not really having much to talk about or keep at-stake, other than what he gives everybody else around him, his “word”. It’s a character who doesn’t seem all that interesting right from the start, as he’s mostly content with just sitting around and letting the wheels turn as they go, but eventually begins to build more of an arch as the film continues. This makes it even better to see Pacino actually playing it subtle for once, and still be able to garner the same emotions he would if he was all coked-up and shooting the shit out of people. But don’t let that fool you, he still has a freak-out here or two, and they’re both pretty awesome.

"You talkin' to me? Oh wait, sorry, wrong guy to be doing that bit to."

“You talkin’ to me? Oh wait, sorry, wrong guy to be doing that bit to.”

God, why did this guy have to do freakin’ Jack and Jill?

Playing opposite of him, Russell Crowe gives one of his finer performances as the strange, but compelling technician that starts this whole shit-storm in the first place, Jeffrey Wigand. Crowe is great here as Wigand because the guy has to go through a lot in terms of emotions and feelings, and Crowe pulls it all off with ease. The guy does seem very sympathetic as he’s the only person who seemingly does the right thing and the whole time we are left sitting there, watching as his whole life comes crashing down, without him ever being able to recuperate. It’s pretty sad to watch at times, and makes you wonder just how the hell this Wigand guy kept his cool and didn’t end up taking a leap off the Brooklyn Bridge for good measure. My only complaint about Crowe here isn’t really a bad thing about the movie, it’s just more that he plays this role, almost the same in every movie where he stars as a middle-class, American man. Not a huge complaint, but still something that’s obvious when you look at any other Crowe film where he practically plays a regular guy, with a more than less-than-regular problem brewing up inside of him.

The other performance that really took me by surprise was Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace. Plummer plays Wallace as your stereotypical, high-class dick that demands respect and wants everything done his own way, even though he doesn’t really contribute much except for asking a person a bunch of dumb, meaningless questions most of the time. Still, the character comes full-circle by the end of it all and shows that Plummer was, and still is able to, convey all types of heartfelt emotions out of any character he plays and it’s another reminder as to why this guy was long over-due an Oscar win. Everybody else in this film do superb jobs, as well, but these are three that continue to come to mind when I think of the exact stand-outs.

Consensus: Though it is, essentially, a two-hour-and-40-minute flick dedicated to a bunch of unsympathetic people, talking about doing unsympathetic things, the Insider is still one hell of a thrill-ride that asks the right questions, portrays them the right way, and still has us thinking about what was right, and what was wrong even after it’s all done.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

After these comments, I think Russell definitely has the right to be as paranoid as he is.

After certain comments, I think Russell definitely has the right to be as paranoid as he is.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Winter’s Tale (2014)

Sometimes, love just doesn’t make any sense. In this case, nothing makes sense!

In 1895, while on the run from his adoptive father, deadly gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) decides to make one last score in a house that seems to include some very wealthy people, who also may not even be home in the first place. He gets to the vault and starts working his magic, when all of a sudden, Peter realizes that he’s not alone in the house. It just so happens that the patriarch of the family (William Hurt), left his daughter, Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) behind and Peter has no idea what to do, except just act natural and talk to her. And wouldn’t you know it, they actually have something in common and start up something of a relationship! The problem is, Beverly is slowly dying of consumption and needs to be with a man, and soon. Peter believes he can be the man to make the sweet lovin’ to her, but he also realizes that time is running out before Pearly and his men find him and decide to take his life away.

While that may sound all simple and carefree, like an ordinary romantic-drama should be, there’s something particularly strange about this movie. See, it’s a fantasy movie, that has flying horses, demons, 120-year-old-women and time-travel, but for some reason, in the mind of someone like Akiva Goldsman, apparently fantasy just means “throwing whatever shit you can think of on the screen, without any rhyme or reason.” And don’t get me wrong, I like that type of movie, but there has to be some sort of ground-rules to allow for everything to make sense. If not, there’s no reason for your movie to exist, except to just show everybody how crazily creative you can get.

And I hate to break it to you, Akiva Goldsman, but you’re not all that creative. In fact, you’re kind of a bore that doesn’t seem to know where to begin a story, where to go with a story, and just how exactly to end it. Which may all sound weird considering this is the same guy who wrote A Beautiful Mind, but anything that worked there, totally doesn’t here. Then again, those are two different movies in their own right, so the less I speak about that comparison, the better.

"What's so wrong with a man embracing his horse?"

“What’s so wrong with a man embracing his horse?”

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, that’s right, this movie. It’s a mess. It truly is. Certain things happen, then don’t happen, and then do happen again, for no reason except to just happen and keep the plot moving along. Which, once again, is fine, just as long as there are some ground-rules being laid down for us to make note of anytime anything completely out of the ordinary happens. We sort of get some of that when a demon character shows up and tells another demon what they are, and aren’t allowed to do, but it was told in such mumbo-jumbo, that I didn’t really get any of it, nor did I care. Also, the two actors in that scene just seem like they are on completely separate planets, let alone in the same movie.

But I guess that’s the way Goldsman not only directed his cast, but the movie as a whole. You can tell that there’s a really soft, sweet and endearing romance at the center of this movie, and there are times when he allows for it to just sit, relax, tell itself, and breathe. But then, moments later, Goldsman can’t help his urges, so he decides to throw in some weird ideas about the light and how it reflects on where a person is directly located on a map. I know. It’s weird and it don’t make a single ounce of sense, but I think that’s sort of the point.

Or maybe it isn’t. Personally, I don’t know and I shouldn’t care when a movie is as wild as this, but I do care and I have no clue as to why. Maybe because it seems like with a movie like this, where you can be so random and insane and still find a way to bring some emotional-connection to the proceedings, there’s always something to enjoy. But everything here was so odd and out-of-left-field, that it wasn’t. It just kept on making me scratch my head and wonder just what the hell was going to happen next, for what reason, and where was it going to lead to. And then once it did lead to that next scene, it was the whole rinse and repeat act. Rinse and repeat.

Like I alluded to before, too, there is an actual heartfelt story in the middle of all this craziness, it just doesn’t get as much of a spotlight as it should. With this love story (aka the main reason why any guy would get dragged into seeing this in the first place), we’re supposed to root for both Peter and Beverly to get together. Not only does it seem like Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay have legitimate, natural chemistry, but it’s believable why these two would be drawn to one another in the first place; she’s dying because she hasn’t consumed and is a bit picky with her boys, whereas he’s just got too much going on with his wacky lifestyle to even worry about a beautiful girl like her. They get a few scenes together where they really feel like honest love birds and I have to admit, they’re what kept me going with this movie.

"Do know, I de devil, me mate."

“Do know, I de devil, me ladey.”

It was only until Russell Crowe with his Elmer Fudd, mixed with a drunk Irish guy-act got in the way of everything and had to spoil the party. It’s not like Crowe is bad per se, he’s clearly trying to have fun with this role and give it all he’s got, but he’s really trying here, almost to the point of where the movie seems to just sort of let him run rampant with whatever he’s doing and forget to even make sense of hiss nonsensical ramblings; which there are many of, sadly.

But it does get worse and though I’d like to spoil this for everybody and say why this is the case, I’m going to take the higher-road and allow for you to see for yourself, if you wish. If you don’t, I can’t say it’s your loss. You do what you want to do, just know that this movie’s nuts and drugs may not help.

Once again, just saying.

Consensus: The romance at the center is what keeps Winter’s Tale, for the most part, grounded in some emotional consciousness, but everything else is just so weird, unbelievable, and out of the blue, that any connection we may have had to the story gets lost in the nonsensical shuffle.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

How I dance with the ladies. Except a whole lot more grinding.

How I dance with the ladies. Except with a whole lot more grinding.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Noah (2014)

Thought he’d need a bigger boat. Guess not.

I don’t think I really need to state what this movie is about, but in case those of you out there have either been living under a rock for the past one million years, or just don’t pay attention to anything at all in the whole, wide world, here’s the plot: Noah (Russell Crowe) is a descendant of Seth, which means he is one of the very few nice men in the world that doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t kill when he doesn’t have to, and loves all things that are beautiful with the world. He loves nature, he loves his wife (Jennifer Connelly), his family and most of all, his God. So much so, that when he has a vision in his dreams that the world will be destroyed one day due to a huge flood, he decides to take matters into his own hands and prepare the right way. What is “the right way”, you ask? Well, that consists of building a giant-scale Ark that will hold two of every animal species known to man in order to have all of them continue on and live, even if the world itself is totally wiped-out. Things for Noah and his whole family seem to go fine, that is until Noah gets a little bit crazy with what it is that God actually wants him to do, against what it is that he thinks he should do.

As predicted, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding this movie. Many Christian-advocates have stood-up, said their peace about this flick and even though they haven’t necessarily been totally against it, per se, they definitely haven’t given it the glowing pass of approval neither. So basically, this movie may offend you, but then again, at the same time, it may not. It all depends on how in-touch you are with your faith and whether or not you actually want to see a full-length, feature-flick about a dude who built an Ark to preserve life for the rest of humanity.

Personally, I don’t want to see that kind of movie. But if Darren Aronofsky is directing it, then count me the hell in!

"Guess you didn't get the memo about '80's glam-metal hair-styles only', huh?"

“Guess you didn’t get the memo about ’80’s glam-metal hair-styles only’, huh?”

And if anything, the idea of having Darren Aronofsky direct this as a certain “passion project” of his, is definitely the most intriguing-aspect behind this flick. You’d never expect the same kind of guy who gave us scenes like this, or this, or hell, even this, to be so willing and dedicated to give his own, in-depth version of an as-old-as-time story that’s only about a few paragraphs or so long. But with Aronofsky, you can never, ever tell what his next move is going to be; whether it be what movie he decides to direct next, or what he actually does in his own movies, the guy is totally unpredictable. However, in today’s day and age of cinema, we need that, which is why when you get a Darren Aronofsky movie, it doesn’t matter what the subject-material is or how it’s going to play-out in terms of who it’s for – all you have to know is when, where, what time and if you’re able to see it right away!

As you can probably tell, I was very excited for this movie, just judged solely by who was making it and to be honest, that’s probably what kept this movie going for me. It seemed strange in the first place that a major-studio would actually back a biblical-epic directed by Darren Aronofsky in the first place, and seeing the end-result, it’s apparent why I had those ideas in my in the first place. Like all of Aronofsky’s movies, this is downright beautiful; from the visuals, to the amazing, sometimes over-wrought score from Clint Mansell, to even the biblical-imagery that doesn’t hit you over the head, but is able to make you understand what message it’s trying to convey, everything was given the right attention of detail it needed to seem like an actual story from this time and place, rather than just a cheap dramatization we’d get on the History Channel.

Even the actual story here, which Aronofsky clearly took plenty of liberties with, seems like something he’d do; the main character of Noah, here, has an obsession over doing what God wants him to do, even if it does make him absolutely insane. In fact, where this movie really gets interesting is when Aronofsky sheds a light on how Noah either does or doesn’t take God’s demands or ideas about saving humanity and getting rid of those who don’t deserve to live, as understandably as he should. In any movie, directed by anybody else who didn’t have nearly as bright a mind as Aronofsky, this message could have been handled terribly and even offend some out there, but what Aronofsky does is just show a character finding himself in a bit of a bind as to whether or not he should do exactly what he thinks God is telling him to do, or act as he should, a moral human being. Instead of seeing Noah as a Saint that did everything right, for every person around him, including God, we see him as a man that struggled with his faith, with the situation he was thrown into and how all of the pressure was thrown onto him to not only preserve these animals, but keep those around him alive and well, knowing that they’d die soon, and possibly even be the last ones alive on Earth.

Pretty freaky stuff, but I guess when you got the big G.O.D. backing you up, it doesn’t matter.

But as interesting as most of the things that Aronofsky does with this material, I still can’t help but feel as if a bit too much of it is over-blown beyond its means. For instance, Noah, as almost every epic, is nearly two-and-a-half-hours, and it feels like so. That isn’t good, not because long movies shouldn’t exist, but because this one feels unnecessarily long, when only a good hour-and-a-half of this movie is really worth seeing. Everything leading-up from when Noah has these dreams of the apocalypse, to when he actually gets the Ark up and running, is exciting, tense and exactly the type of viewing-experience I expected to have with something on this grand-of-a-scale.

"But in all seriousness though, honey, I'm fucking craving a hamburger. We gotta get rid of the pigs."

“But in all seriousness though, honey, I’m fucking craving a burger. We gotta get rid of the cows.”

However, all of the energy of this movie seems to fade out, slowly but surely. I don’t want to say where this story goes and how dark it gets, but it seemed like Aronofsky felt like he really needed to allow this movie to play-out as long as he possibly could, so threw in all sorts of subplots he could. This not only has it seem like it’s meandering and taking its good old time to get to a finale, but doesn’t really know where it’s going to end-up – much like Noah and the rest of his family on this Ark. I was still interested in seeing where this movie would go, but after awhile, I began to wonder if that moment would ever come around, and if it did, would it actually be satisfying, or just rushed and too safe for its own good.

Somehow, it placed somewhere in the middle, but I can’t say I was all that disappointed where it did go and end. Doesn’t offend too many people, but still keeps it a bit edgy and hard-hitting for those who want some deeper-meaning out of what they see here.

And of course, before I head-off into the sunset, I do have to give some credit to the cast for at least trying with what they’re given, as timid as some of it may be. Russell Crowe is perfectly-cast as Noah, showing all sorts of grit, manliness that makes you seem his as the type of guy you don’t want to mess with when it comes to the apocalypse, but also enough compassion to where you can sort of see that he’s a sweet guy behind the huge muscles and supreme fighting-skills. It was also nice to see Jennifer Connelly back in a movie with Darren Aronofsky, and actually get some worthy-material that has her shed those skills more than a few times, particularly in a scene where she basically tells Noah to wake up and snap out his crazed-daze. And as usual, Anthony Hopkins is a fine-addition to the cast as he brings a lot of fun, light and humor to a film that seemed so serious and over-blown most of the time. And he does it all by wanting berries!

Didn’t see that part in the original source-material, but then again, it’s been a long time since my Vacation Bible School days.

Consensus: While the first hour-and-a-half packs a exciting, tense and epic-punch that Darren Aronofsky is clearly able to deliver, the remainder of Noah does seem to meander and have no clue where to go, which may be more of a problem with the studio that helped produce it, rather than the creator himself, but it’s still a noticeable problem nonetheless.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?"

“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Body of Lies (2008)

Leo’s gone rogue! And Russell’s eating too much! What’s going on with the world?!?!?

CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan. When Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate his network, he must first win the backing of cunning CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) and the collegian, but perhaps suspect, head of Jordanian intelligence. Problem is, Hoffman isn’t quite exactly who he says he is and turns more heads than one man should be doing. Which will not get past Ferris’ head since he’s Mr. Smarty Pants over there.

I remember back in October 2008 when this film was being advertised, all my buddies and I made a promise to go out and see it. Sounded like a reasonable plan for a Friday night when girls or booze weren’t around. The one problem was that our ages from somewhere around 14-15, which meant we couldn’t see this unless we wanted to try the risky, but totally worth it sneak-in maneuver. We tried, but it didn’t succeed and we were bummed to say the least. After seeing it all of these years later, I wonder why the hell we cared so much in the first place.

Guess I wouldn't be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie too.

Guess I wouldn’t be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie, either.

There’s one thing you have got to say about Ridley Scott: The dude never half-asses a movie of his. From a technical standpoint, he does his job by making this film look as gritty and as dirty as he can get it, much like he did with Black Hawk Down. Since the film takes place in the Middle East, it makes sense that the camera look a lot grainier and sandier as if Scott just picked one up off the ground, dusted it off, and started filming. But it isn’t as amateurish as I may make it sound, because it actually adds a darker look onto the flick and it gets even better once the action actually starts to kick in. The action, as you could probably tell by now, is filmed in the trademark, crazy and kinetic way that we all know and sometimes love Scott for (less so for his late brother), but it brings a lot of energy to scenes that otherwise could have come off as generic and a bit unneeded. Still, they were thrilling, fun, and got the job done.

Needless to say, for the first hour or so, I was really digging this film. I thought that Scott really had his ass on the right track here with setting the story and making it appeal to anybody who isn’t necessarily a CIA-expert, while also making the movie itself quite suspenseful and feeling as if it could go, at any second, anywhere it wanted to. Somehow though, Scott seemed to lose himself along the way, which cause a problem the movie itself never seemed to recuperate from.

Right after Leo’s character gets bitten by a dog and has to go to the hospital for a series of rabies shots, the film takes a wild turn into a somewhat romantic-territory as Leo starts to fall for the nurse that treats him. Not only did it practically come out of left-field and add nothing to the story, but it seemed like such a tacked-on way of getting us to care more and more about Leo’s character, when I think that having Leo in the movie itself, playing that character is already sympathetic enough since the guy is able to win anybody over (even when he is playing a 19th century slave owner). All we needed to know about him was that the guy could do his job and get it done just in time to get screwed over by the head-honchos he works for. Not much else needed to be added, but Scott thought otherwise and ended up screwing his own movie over as a result.

It gets to so strange at one point, that you begin to feel like you’re dealing with two separate films: One, a dumb romantic flick based on a character’s smarts and another’s dullness, and the other one, a spy thriller that started off strong and fresh, but got very convoluted once too many characters started showing up and throwing their ulterior-motives around. Eventually, the romantic angle does go away for a bit and we are once again involved with the whole angle of this film that made it so fun in the first place, but by this time, it seems to have already lost a lot of its momentum. It’s weird too, because as they were building this story up and up, I felt like I should have really been along for the ride and wonder just what the hell is going to happen next to all of these characters but instead, I didn’t really seem to care all that much. Even when they hit the climax they’ve been itching for the whole time, it still feels undeserved and a bit anti-climactic.

Totally not his type. But apparently Ridley thinks differently.

Totally not his type: Born in the 80’s.

With that being said, the film does rely on its performances to make everything better and for the most part, they are worth depending on for quite some time until it becomes apparent that nobody can save this plot. Leonardo DiCaprio does a fine job as Ferris by giving this character more of a reasoning to be upset when it’s practically him versus the rest of the world. Come to think of it, that sounds like the same character he played in Blood Diamond, Inception, Shutter Island, and so many more. So yeah, it’s nothing new that Leo hasn’t already touched before, but at least he tries and show tons of effort in making this character, and ultimately the movie he’s in, work. Same goes for Russell Crowe who seemed like he was having fun, even if all he did was talk on the phone. I don’t know if eating cheeseburgers everyday for two weeks was the way to feel like you’re in the role but hey, I guess it worked for him and worked for us too, I guess.

Even as good as these two are, they aren’t the most interesting ones out of the bunch. The one who probably stole the most scenes for me was Mark Strong as Hani Salaam. The whole thing with Strong is that no matter what film his name pops up in, you always know he’s going to be the villain. Does he play the villain well? Yes, but could he actually spread his wings out and try something else other than that? Yes to that rhetorical question as well. That’s what he does here but this time, he plays around the idea of whether or not you know he’s the bad guy or not. He also adds a whole bunch of suave and relaxed coolness to him that makes him steal every scene, as well as not make him seem the slightest bit of gay whenever he calls another dude, “my dear”. Lately though, it’s cool to see him start to loosen up a bit and play around with other roles, even though it is a shame that Low Winter Sun seems like a bust. Poor guy. He deserves so much better, he’s just got to smile more so Hollywood producers know that he has the ability to.

Consensus: Though it wasn’t the most fresh or original-take on the thriller genre, Body of Lies was still working well in its first hour or so, but then began to lose its head once too many subplots were thrown in there, especially a cheesy one featuring Leo and some nurse he thought was cute. Lame!

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole "method thing"!"

“No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole “method thing”!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Man of Steel (2013)

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman going in really, really slo-motion.

After his mother and father (Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer) are killed and destroyed, along with everything else on his home planet of Krypton, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) lands on a farm in the middle of Kansas, owned by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). While he’s on Earth, he finds out who he really is, what his powers are, what he’s supposed to do with them, and what could be made of them. However, he those are just ideas and questions juggling around in his head, as he, nor anybody else that knows of his secret powers are quick to give the answers to any of them. So, in spite of the life-saving abilities he has as something that’s not from planet Earth, he decides to lay low with a bunch of seamen (not that type, pervs), that is, until General Zod (Michael Shannon comes back from his home planet to unleash his wrath and anger on Clark, along with the rest of the human-beings on planet Earth, some of which, especially fame-hungry journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams), he cares about.

Superman, no matter what your stance is on the Marvel Universe, is the definitive superhero of our time. So definitive, that it’s almost way too hard to make a movie out of him, because you never know what you’re going to get right about his story, what you’re going to get wrong, what you missed completely, and what isn’t the right way to develop his story and all that he can do. He’s had plenty of movies, comic books, and even his own WB television series (top of the food-chain right there), but nothing has ever seem to really get him right in terms of the who, the what, the where, the when, the why, and all of the finer-details in between all of the sci-fi talk and hooplah.

Something tells me that Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer all knew this and had the bright idea that some justice needed to be done! However, they haven’t quite done it the justice that even the big man in spandex would approve himself, but he would at least give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re getting there and it’s only a matter of time until we are taken by the Clark, as much as we were with Peter and Bruce, not too long ago.

"Don't worry, guys. I think I got this one."

“Don’t worry, guys. I think I got this one.”

Give it some time and just let it happen. It will. If not now, then definitely, maybe later.

Where most of this “justice” comes from is in the first hour or so of this movie, that not only packs on all of the exposition and back-up info we need to, even if we already do, know about our man of the 2 hours and some-odd minutes, but gives us plenty more themes and ideas to tackle. We never think in our minds, but if somebody like Superman was to ever come into our lives; we would not have the brightest clue what to do with him, other than just push him to the side and be scared that he might just turn on you. That’s exactly the type of idea this movie touches on, and while we’re still in the period and time where our superheros are crying, more than they are actually kicking some baddie-butt, at least it can still be done in a well-deserved, original way that makes us gain more respect and gratitude for this character.

It all gets better too once Clark begins to see more of what’s on the in, rather than the out (even though he isn’t doing so bad with that aspect). The attention to detail of who this character is and why, all makes sense, seems logical, and doesn’t have you scratching your brain or throwing your hands up in the air because you felt like they couldn’t come up with anything smart, so just went with their gut-feeling and threw it all up. It works, it makes sense, and it keeps this story fresh, and full of new ideas; exactly what I expected when you got three minds like Nolan, Snyder, and Goyer on the job.

However, once things get hairy and the movie hits that hour-mark; things begin to change up a wee-bit, my friends, and not in the good way either. See, with the first hour of this movie, we really got a look and feel for Superman, who he was as a person, what he was feeling, why we should care for him, and root for him to do the right thing and stand up for Earth, even though we know that’s exactly what his brave-ass is going to do (what’s a superhero for anyway?). It’s dramatic in the way that it knows it’s a movie about a guy who flies around with a cape, but takes itself seriously enough to where you feel the story and all that it’s trying to get across, but it all goes away once the three minds I alluded to earlier, realized that they were still making a movie about “a guy that flies around with a cape”, and couldn’t have it be smart, enlightening, or a powerful experience in the least bit. It had to be loud, angry, violent, chaotic, special-effects-fueled, and most of all: a summer flick movie.

Yes, yes, yes! I know that I may be going against this flick bit too much by coming at it’s neck for being a summer flick, that is actually released in the summer, but I’m not rolling like that. What I’m angry at this flick for doing, is getting me all hyped-up, ready, and locked-up for an experience unlike any other superhero movie I’ve seen in some recent time, but what I got was something that started off with more than enough originality to soak us up, away from the sun, but got rid of them once the explosions and fighting came in. Which, trust me, isn’t a bad thing because I love the occasional beat-down as much as the next bad-ass motherfucker, but I have to say that this flick, with the way that it’s done and at the capacity it’s constantly at; it’s a damn shame. Everything was working so fine too, and then Warner Bros. had to (possibly) screw it all up.

Damn, major, Hollywood producers!

"In my contract, it says I have to do this at least once, so awwhwhwhwhwhwwhwhwhwh!!!"

“In my contract, it says I have to do this at least once, so awwhwhwhwhwhwwhwhwhwh!!!”

But the movie does deliver on it’s goods when it comes to being an action movie, with superhero’s doing superhero-like things, it just seems like a bit of a bummer after the incredible start we got. With that taken into the mind, Snyder still does a nice job at showing all types of carnage and destruction, without ever having it look too campy or using that dreaded slo-mo of his. The man also shows that he’s more than capable of being subtle with what he wants to say, and how he wants to get his words across, without literally spelling them out on the screen or having the character say it for him. Snyder seems like he’s changing and evolving more as a filmmaker and it has me anticipate more and more what’s next to come of him and his career. And I’m not just talking about the next Superman movie, I’m talking about whatever he decides to do next as a project. No matter what, sign me up and get me a Redbull!

An aspect of this movie that Snyder handles perfectly, is the impressive ensemble he’s been able to put together. Henry Cavill leads the day as Superman/Clark Kent and does a serviceable job as the man with the big red cape, but here’s the thing about him: he isn’t given much to do. When it comes to being a superhero, having those sort of traits, and making us feel like this guy could, and would go to bat for our race of humans, had he been pushed into doing so, but he isn’t given much else other than that. Cavill’s definitely a charming, handsome-looking dude, no doubt about that one, but something still felt like there should have been more given to this guy, in order for him to really work his ass off. Just like with Snyder’s direction, I hope to see it get better and better as the sequels come piling in.

Despite her being a tad too old to play young, hot-shot journalist of the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Amy Adams is still great because she has that fiery-attitude of hers that meshes well with the character, as well as being an equal of sorts to Superman. She doesn’t fall head-over-heels for the dude right away, it takes some time and some development to really have them fall in love, and I have to say that it was pretty damn effective by what they were able to do with them both. Nothing spectacular, but better than what we’re used to getting with superhero/human romances. Laurence Fishburne plays Perry White, her boss, and is good, but really serves no purpose in this movie other than to be Perry White who’s there to give Lois a hard-ass time, run when the shit gets heavy, and remind us that he’ll probably play a bigger part in the sequels as well. I look forward to it, but as for now; I wait and I wonder. Just like I do with everyday-life.

"Perry White", get it? Laurence Fishburne is playing a character named, "Perry WHITE".

“Perry White”, get it? Laurence Fishburne is playing a character named, “Perry WHITE”.

A lot of people praised the hell out of the decision to cast Michael Shannon as General Zod and although I think it was a smart move since this guy can be completely bonkers when he wants to, I still feel like there’s a better performance from this dude, lying within all of the yelling and screaming. Zod definitely has a moral-dilemma here that’s supposed to make us wonder if what he’s planning on doing is the right, or the wrong thing, however, the movie only seems to touch that surface and go nowhere else with it. It’s just Zod being a dick, and although I like Shannon playing a dick, especially one that just so happens to be General Zod, it’s not like I haven’t seen this type of performance done before, done better, and done by Shannon himself.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as the Kents, aka, the people who take Clark in as a wee, little boy, and both are fantastic. I thought Costner’s role was going to be shoe-horned in because he’s a big, but aging-star, but he did well with the role and provided plenty of emotion, depth, and understanding for the character of Clark Kent, that carries on mostly throughout the film. Lane is also great because she provides the same type of emotional-attachment to Clark, and never feels like she’s over-doing the earnestness. And lastly, we have Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Clark’s real daddy, and in a day and age where Crowe can’t seem to do anything right by anybody’s imagination, it’s nice to be reminded that not only can do the dude still act and have us bring some tears to our eyes, but also kick some ass when he needs to. Just stay away from the microphone, buddy, and all will be fine with your career and respect you oh so desire.

Consensus: Though it definitely starts off great, with just enough attention to exposition, character, story, and heart, Man of Steel eventually takes a detour into the loud, action-y, stupid, and brainless exercise that we’re used to getting with superhero movies, but feels like a bit of a disappointment now, knowing what could have been, and still might be, seeing what the sequels can do next.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well, he just broke the vault so that's considered a robbery, right? Yep, this dude's gonna get pinched with a lifer.

Okay, well, he just broke-open the vault so that’s considered a robbery, right? Yep, this dude’s gonna get pinched with a lifer.

Broken City (2013)

If Mayor Nutter ever needs somebody to watch his woman, he can always give me a call. He just better drop my taxes.

An ex-cop (Mark Wahlberg) finds himself in a job for New York City’s mayor (Russell Crowe), which is that he must trail his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom he believes is having an affair. However, what the ex-cop stumbles upon is worse than he ever imagined and thus, the job becomes a lot more difficult than he expected.

This is one of those movies that seems like it has all of the promise with the cast, the characters, the plot, the stars, and heck, even the director (Allen Hughes, in his first movie without bro Albert by his side) all being big and well-respected. However, just like Gangster Squad, it is January, and you can’t always expect the best, no matter who may be behind it all. Why can’t it just be May already? Why?!?!??

As a director all by his lonesome, Hughes is actually not too bad. Granted, this isn’t a very showwy-direction for the type of dude that is known for this type of stuff, but he gives us a nice atmosphere and mood to start us off on the right foot. We feel as if we are in for a movie that’s all about dark stuff, happening to dark people, in dark ways, that are almost too dark to explain and believe. Basically, this movie was started-off as being one, big, piece of darkness that was most likely going to keep me guessing until the very end and for awhile; it was doing just that.

I don’t want to say that all of the twists and turns of this story work when you take everything else into consideration, but for the most part, I liked not knowing exactly where the story could go and how. Rarely do you ever get thrillers that just like to throw plot-twists for fun, but actually have them mean something, rather than just be a wake-up call to the audience and make sure they’re paying attention. You never quite know where this story could go and even the places that it does end-up, could actually take you by surprise and make you feel like this is a no-holds-barred movie, that’s ready to take you down any chance it can get. However, that would definitely be giving the movie way too much credit.

"What do you mean you thought Hugh did better?"

“What do you mean you thought Hugh did better?”

Even though the twists, the turns, the darkness, the secrets, and big reveals kept me interested in what was going on behind the closed doors we rarely get a glimpse at, they didn’t feel deserved. It was almost as if the movie itself thought, “Well, we already have these twists here, why not throw in a couple more just for good measure?”. That idea that I maybe think the creators thought up of in their heads during the writing-process, only goes to show you that there wasn’t much thought going into this script, because certain things just don’t add up. We get a look at how the world of politics can be cruel and why it’s more of a fight between the toughest, rather than the smartest, but those moments only get shoved down our throats when the movie feels like it needs to be more than just a natural-thriller where Marky Mark is going around and kicking the crap out of people.

Then, it just gets stranger and more contrived, as more subplots come in like a gay couple that seems as forced as can be, a problem with Marky Mark’s drinking problem, a love story between him and his gal-pal that has the material there to be interesting and gripping, but just isn’t due to the delivery, and a plot that shows Mark’s past and how the “hood” he used to represent, may not always be there. You put these three factors in, add a bit of the political-idea of this flick, and mix them altogether in a blender; then you’re most likely going to get a mixed-bag full of moments that work, but other moments, that just don’t add up to anything. I think where I’m trying to get at with this flick, is that even though you get into it, the movie is still nothing more than just a thriller, no matter how many debates and arguments they want to throw in there about changing NYC, by giving “the People” they’re money back. In today’s day and age, with the economy we have, maybe messages like that would work and really get inside the minds of many, fellow Americans, but put that message in a movie like this: it’s going to go nowhere and not matter a single-bit. Why? Well, because people paid over $9 to see Marky Mark and Maximilian go head-to-head, not discuss on how to make the world/NYC a better place to live free and be happy in. Yeah, wrong movie entirely.

Marky Mark definitely seems like he’s made for these types of roles where he plays the type of conflicted dude that may not have the best morals you have ever seen, but is still a hell of a likable dude that you can’t help but cheer on. His role here, as Bobby, is exactly one of THOSE roles and it’s not something new, original, or slightly refreshing to see from the guy, but it doesn’t matter, because Wahlberg is good, as always, and gives us more to like about this character. However, it’s that character himself I just didn’t believe.

"I told you, Michael. The doctor said only 3 times a month for sex, or else."

“I told you, Michael: the doctor said only 3 times a month for sex, or else no Wall Street 3.”

Without spoiling too much about this plot and basically telling you what goes down with Mark and everybody else, I’m just going to state that Mark’s character goes through some sort of self-realization phase where he soon starts to find-out that there’s a set-up somewhere along the lines, and it’s up to him to not only save the day, but show the bad people, for everything that they are: bad people. In any movie where Wahlberg does the same, exact transformation, not only do you believe it, but you like Wahlberg more and more cause you see the cool guy come out of his performance, but here, you just don’t care. Billy is one of those dudes that’s got a troubled-past and some issues that he’s dealing with at the present-time, but never so much to the point of where I feel like the guy would really turn his life around and eventually go balls-deep in a case, that doesn’t seem like it concerned him, well, ever. I can’t give away anymore of what happens, but trust me; you won’t believe in Bobby, no matter how much Wahlberg may distract you with those big guns and crooked, angry eyebrows.

Out of the cast, the two that really shine are probably Jeffrey Wright and Russell Crowe, who both feel as if they were just called-up to have a good time, and do exactly that. Especially Crowe, who seems like he needed to give the audience a nice-reminder that yes, even though he can’t sing, he can sure as hell own the screen like no other. I mean, hell, the guy has an Oscar at his household, and has been nominated close to three times by now! The guy’s got talent, it just doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in his vocal-chords. Oh well, nice to see you back, Russell. Now, stay away from Broadway musical-adaptations!

Consensus: The promise that lies within Broken City is exactly there for the first 45 minutes or so, but once the flick decides to spice things up with an over-abundance of plots, twists, conventions, and obvious-narratives that don’t feel believable, then it just loses all of it’s steam and is nothing more than just another thriller, with more talking than usual.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Of course I'll say hello to my mother for a face like that!

Of course I’ll say hello to my mother for a face like that.

Les Misérables (2012)

Thank you Tom Hooper! It’s been awhile since we’ve had a musical that’s made us want to slit our wrists.

The film is set against the backdrop of sociopolitical upheaval in 19th century France and revolves mostly around Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a escaped convict who spent time in prison after stealing some bread to feed his sister. He is on-the-run from a vengeful officer named Javert (Russell Crowe), but in the meantime, changes his ways, finds a woman named Fantine (Anne Hathaway), and eventually, goes out to look for her daughter named Cosette.

I’m not going to lie to you, I am not the biggest musical-lover out there but if I have to sit-down, watch one, and at least enjoy myself, chances are, I’m going to enjoy myself. That’s why I was a bit skeptical of this flick, not just because I haven’t ever seen the musical this is based-off of, but because it seemed like the type of musicals I’ve grown to despise. Everybody’s crying, everybody’s moping, and everybody’s so self-indulgent, almost to the point of where it’s just one, long cry-fest that is more likely to have you want to jump-off a bridge, rather than get in the Holiday Cheer. For some people, jumping off of a bridge is getting in the Holiday Cheer, but for me, it isn’t and that’s why I was a bit worried of what I got myself into on Christmas night. Thankfully, I stayed very, very far away from the Ben Franklin bridge and instead, stayed home and cried myself to sleep. Oh, the holidays.

Right off the bat, you should know that if you don’t like musicals where every single-line of dialogue is spoken through song, then this will definitely not be your bag, baby. Because if you hate that about certain musicals and get bum-rushed into seeing this, you are going to be one, pissed-off monkey for the next two-and-a-half hours, and most likely, going to just switch your plans and see Django Unchained. No problem with that whatsoever, but if you’re bag is in-fact a musical where everybody speaks in octaves, then you are going to go fuckin’ bananas over this, especially if you are already a fan of the source-material in the first-place. Tom Hooper was, obviously, and that’s why this is not your typical, run-of-the-mill musical. It’s got style to it, and that’s what so different.

Don't worry, just because he's singing in this, doesn't mean Russell can't still kill a couple of mofos. Just look behind him, if you don't believe me.

Don’t worry, just because he’s singing in this, doesn’t mean Russell can’t still kill a couple of mofos. Just look behind him, if you don’t believe me.

What I mean by the “style” that Hooper apparently uses here, is that instead of going for the grand-scale, epic-feel of this material and showing us how huge this world is, with all of these large, sweeping song-notes that take you from one end of the Earth, to the other, he keeps it small, secluded, and very emotional. We get a lot of close-up shots on these people as they sing and we feel as if we are right there, not only to feel what it is that they are singing and emoting about, but to also have us placed-in this world that is dark, cruel, and very, very *cough* miserable. Hooper does get the look-and-feel of this movie and never for a single-second has us believe that we are watching a play on the big-screen, or even a musical for that matter, it actually feels natural to the story and how it’s trying to make you feel.

Not for a single-second did I think that I was going to cry during this movie, and don’t worry all of my fellow dude readers out there, trust me, I can assure you that I did not cry, but I sure as hell teared-up a whole lot more than I ever expected. Seriously, we all know about the “I Dreamed a Dream” number that Hathaway sings, executes-perfectly, and makes us all pull out the boxes of Kleenex, but there were so many more moments that just hit me where it hurt the most and not only did it surprise that the one time actually happened, but surprised me even more that it continued to occur. Everybody’s singing loud, proud, and right there for us to see clearly, and because of that, you really feel hit with the raw emotions that this story brings-out in it’s meaning, and how you can actually receive it. So many equal moments of pure beauty and sadness just really get to you and once you see the actual people sing them, on-camera, live, and for all of us to hear and see, you’ll know that it’s not because you have a soft-heart for a bunch of rambunctious college kids facing-off against the system, but because the musical-numbers have a feeling of power that you so rarely see in musicals nowadays. You feel as if every musical-number is meant to be apart of this story, is general to those characters and what they’re feeling, and exactly what it means for the rest of the movie.

Actually, that’s probably where my only problem for this flick actually came-from: when they weren’t singing. About 95% of this flick is full-on, singing, but the rest of 5%, obviously isn’t and really seems out-of-place, especially when people seem to hit breaks that don’t feel necessary to it’s story, or it’s believeability. Honestly, had the movie been 100% pure song, dance, and emotional breakdowns, I would have no problem, but whenever these people got the right ideas to just talk out of nowhere, and then continue to sing as if the actual, spoken-words never happened, then it seemed a bit too strange. However, then numbers like “One Day More”, “On My Own”, and “Stars” came-up, and all of my problems went away with the soothing and wondrous voices of this cast, and all that the brought to the table.

After X-Men Origins, Logan really fell on some hard times.

After Origins, Logan really fell on some hard times.

I think it should be noted right-away, that this isn’t your typical musical, mainly because what you see and hear on-film, is pretty much what stars gave-out. They don’t lip-sync, they don’t read from some script and have it gelled in with their mouth-movements, and they sure as hell did not take the easy way out and just record it in a studio, but instead, just did it, all in front of the camera, with an ear-piece in that played the background music. In ways, this works for the songs and the performers because you get a natural feel you wouldn’t normally get with any, other musical, but in other ways, it doesn’t because not everybody is exactly on-cue with the music that surrounds them. You understand the lyrics more, now that you actually get to see the live-wire lyrics come-out through the mouths and emotions of these characters and believe in everything they feel, no matter how bitter or joyous it may be. However, it’s more good ways then bad, so if anything, I have to give Hooper more credit for being even-more ballsy with his artistic and subdued direction of a musical that could have gone totally out the window into Annoyance-ville. There isn’t a real place called Annoyance-ville, but if there was, that’s where most musicals would be found.

As for the performers themselves, just about each and every-one here is as perfect as they come with the music they’re supposed to sing, the looks they’re supposed to be giving, and the feelings that go through characters like these. Hugh Jackman finally gets to show the world what he can do as an actor and performer, into one, amazing performance as Jean Valjean. Jackman, as we all know, can sing his heart out to the highest mountains and can definitely act, but the combination of both, in such a raw-feeling and way, is what really makes him stand-out among the rest, even when he takes the back burner a bit later-on in the flick. Jackman nails all of the song-notes he has to hit perfectly, but when it comes to being a guy that we feel a real, utter sympathy and love for, then Jackman succeeds even more and it’s one of his finest performances, mostly because it shows us that when you give him good material that he can work with, he will, and work with it to the best of his ability. The best of his ability is this performance here as Jean Valjean, and thank the singing gods for that!

Don't lie, you'd still tap that.

Don’t lie, you’d still tap that.

A lot of people have been trashing the hell out of Russell Crowe as Javert, and how his singing-voice just really does not fit with the character, nor the rest of the flick, but I have to be honest: I sort of feel bad for the guy. Believe it or not, Crowe is not as much of a random-choice for this role as some may have you think otherwise, because he’s actually apart of a rock band called Thirty Odd Foot of Grunt and apparently, does a nice job with the material for them. However, that’s a rock band-like voice that’s used, not an Opera-like, musical voice that’s meant to capture the hearts and souls of millions across the globe. Okay, maybe that was a little too drastic of a point to make, but what I’m mainly getting at is that if you don’t have a powerful enough voice to handle this material and make it work when you play the menacing and evil character, Javert, then you may have a bit of problems coming down the pipelines. Okay, maybe more than “a bit”, but you catch my drift.

Does Crowe deserve the panning that he’s getting for his role in this movie? Yes and no. Yes, because he is the weakest-link out of the whole cast and shows just what happens when you cast a in a role, mostly because he’s a big-name, and no, because he isn’t terrible to watch. Maybe since I have never once heard the actual-play done itself and don’t know how Javert is supposed to sound, but I thought that Crowe did the best that he could with a role that definitely needed some great and powerful moments of song to be handled with grace and care, and that is exactly what Crowe did, except it wasn’t what everybody out there in the world wanted. You’re never going to please everybody with every little thing you do, so don’t worry Russell, you won me over and I’m glad to say that you weren’t all that bad of a choice to begin with. However, they could have seriously gotten somebody else, I hate to say it.

Hopefully, come January 10th, that not will read: "Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress". Hopefully...

Hopefully, come January 10th, that not will read: “Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress”. Hopefully…

Of course the buzz that has been surrounding the hell out of this film is Anne Hathaway’s performance as Fantine, and the heartbreaking, show-stopping rendition she gives of “I Dreamed a Dream”, and all of that buzz is deserved because holy hell, did she make me tear-up. Hathaway’s character of Fantine isn’t around for a terribly-long time, but for how long she is alive and well on-screen, you see a real, true, and harrowed woman that does all that she can to make ends meet, but yet, still finds herself taking off her nickers just for a quick buck here and there. It’s heartbreaking and sad to watch and Hathaway makes you believe in this pain and strife that her character goes through, and when she breaks into that song, try your hardest to control-yourself because trust me: you won’t succeed. Hathaway is the one you really remember when you leave the theater and I don’t even know why we have to wait 2 more months for the announcement, just give her the damn Oscar! The gal deserves it, if not just for this perfect-performance, but for all of the other perfect-performances she’s given over the years. Not looking at you, Bride Wars.

Another gal in this cast who gives a whopper of a performance, in terms of acting and singing, is Samantha Barks as Éponine. If you don’t know recognize the name or don’t even know who the hell she is and why she’s even here in a star-studded get-together like this: don’t worry, you don’t need to because she will have you remembering her name, long after the credits roll. Granted, she obviously was going to knock the singing out of the park because she was cast in the musical a couple of years ago, but still, the woman is terrific in all that she does here and the two songs that she’s given to perform, are equally as heartbreaking and powerful as Hathaway brings to the table. She’s got a great look, a great style, and most importantly, a great voice and I wish to see a whole lot more of in the future.

The cast gets even better, though, with Eddie Redmayne as Marius, who surprised the hell out of me because after seeing him in My Week with Marilyn and countless other flicks, I thought he was nothing more than just another pretty face, but here, he shows me he’s more. He can hit the notes he’s supposed to hit, and he hits them with a great deal of charm and wit that makes you like the guy right from the start, even if you think his face is a bit goofy at times. However, that’s just a tiny nit-pick of mine, so don’t mind me and my asshole-like self. Some will probably be bummed to see that there isn’t a real, huge-part for Amanda Seyfried here as the older Cosette, but don’t worry, she still gets to show-off those pipes of hers (not those pipes you pervs) and doesn’t, not for one-second, get out-matched by anybody else in this cast.

Consensus: If you don’t like musicals before, then chances are, you are going to hate the ever-loving piss out of Les Misérables but if you do like musicals, then you are going to love just about every-second of this as each and every song is filled with bright emotion, power, drama, and simplicity, that’s very hard to capture in any type of musical, especially one this much of a grander, epic-scale.

9/10=Full Price!!

Somewhere, Tim Burton just got the best idea for a new movie.

Somewhere, Tim Burton just got the best idea for his next flick.

The Next Three Days (2010)

Save me, Maximus!

Life seems perfect for John Brennan (Russell Crowe) until his wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks), is arrested for a gruesome murder she says she didn’t commit. With the rejection of their final appeal, Lara becomes suicidal and John decides there is only one possible, bearable solution: to break his wife out of prison.

It may seem a bit strange that director Paul Haggis would return to the director’s chair after two character-driven flicks like Crash and In the Valley of Elah, to do something very action-oriented in a way that would remind me a bit of the Bourne movies. Total change-of pace if you ask me, but a pretty intriguing one, none the less. However, this is also the guy who wrote Casino Royale and I think he should have kept it that way and try not to stretch out his action skills anymore teaming up with this dude, because he said he was an “Oscar-winner”.

What I liked about Haggis’ direction here is that he does have a good combination of character-driven drama and a suspense-thriller for a combination that sort of evens each-side out. We first start this flick off by focusing on Crowe, how he’s struggling with being a single father, having a wife put in jail wrongly, and it basically just sets up a lot of sadness for his character and the situation he so sadly found himself so involved with. But underneath all of that, there’s also a very interesting prison-escape drama that shows how Crowe goes around, checking for all of the clues on how to get his wife out successfully without any problems whatsoever, and it’s so interesting and well-done, that it actually made you wonder just how the hell this guy was going to pull it all off in the end, if at all. Prison-escape movies are always fun to watch, but it was really cool to see that aspect, used on the outside, from a guy who’s trying to break somebody out, and not really being able to tell how smoothly everything will go. Definitely a good combo for Haggis, but sadly, it all ends up losing it’s way about half-way through. Oh well, at least it was intruiging for the longest-time.

Mainly the problem with this flick is that it can be very hard to buy at times, especially the main bond between Crowe and Banks. As soon as we step into the movie, we see Banks and Crowe at dinner together, then in no less than 5 minutes later she gets hauled out by cops and that’s pretty much all of the love we get see come from them. That’s right, only 5 minutes of them actually being loving and happy together and we’re supposed to buy the fact that Crowe would go the ends of the Earth to save his wife from prison. Who knows, maybe they had one of the most beautiful marriages that any person has ever seen, but with the very limited-amount of time they have together on-screen, I found it very hard to actually believe Crowe would do what he ends up trying to do for her.

However, that’s not the only part of this movie I didn’t buy. The whole film revolves around Crowe and whether or not he can pull off such a plan as the one he has mapped out on his wall (so original) but I couldn’t really believe much of that either. The film does show him doing certain things to gain pieces of information that ultimately help him out with this plan and gaining more information, but it was never fully-developed to the point of where I understood how he could make it all happen to begin with and even worse, only showed-up every once and awhile. In fact, the whole escape itself by the end was really just based on coincidences that Crowe just so happened to find himself running into by sure luck. Crowe’s character had so much time to think everything through and to get everything right, but by the end, everything just happens in a very messy way and like almost every obstacle he got through was just another piece of perfect-timing, that was just a bit too perfect for my taste, really.

Now I say all of this crap but I did have a certain bit of fun with the very fast-pace this film was going through. As implausible and coincidental things may get for this plot, Haggis kicked up the volume and the speed of this movie and kept it going perfectly where I actually felt like I was on the edge of my seat for a good time. That’s why I can’t go too far into how much this film didn’t make sense to me, because I like prison-escape movies and seeing the sensitive-edge Haggis brought to it, kept me interested. However, a lot of that is lost on some very obvious twists this film goes through.

Russell Crowe is one of the best-working actors today and can make almost any character he plays, work. His performance as John Brennan may be the only exception to that statement. My problem I had with this character wasn’t necessarily Crowe’s performance itself, but it was more or less the essence and nature of the character he was playing here. Brennan is such a meek, awkward, and shy dude that it really seemed “out of his element” and unbelievable whenever he would just decide to g0 around and start doing crazy shit just, in order to help his wife escape from jail. I can understand what a man does and thinks when he’s pushed to the edge, but I never saw that for Crowe and that’s a surprise because this is a guy who’s known for beating the shit out of people in many other films as well as real-life (telephone-throwing joke right there). This performance really surprised me and I think with other actors it would have worked, but when you get a tough-ass like Crowe, ehhh not so much.

One performance that really took me by surprise was Elizabeth Banks as his wife. Banks is always one of those very cute, very funny, and very sexy ladies that pop-up in these raunchy-comedies, but she shows she has a lot of dramatic depth here and makes her character seem a lot more believable than Crowe. Hopefully she continues to get more and more dramatic roles that fit her, and no, I do not mean Man on a Ledge. Liam Neeson is also here as a former prison escapee that helps out Crowe and is easily one of the best and most memorable parts of this flick even though it only lasts for 4 minutes. Oh, and Olivia Wilde is here as the only model, single mom in Pittsburgh. Wilde is a random character to have for this movie and what made it even worse and just added to the implausibility of this movie, was the fact that Olivia Wilde, was playing a single-mom! What the hell! If this is what single moms look like in Pittsburgh, get me my 2005 Scion right now! I’ll be there soon, ladies! Just you wait.

Consensus: The Next Three Days starts off pretty-strong with a great combination action, mystery, suspense and character-drama, but the script really starts to lose itself about half-way through with all of its implausibilities, strange coincidences, and unbelievable character relations, especially the ones between Crowe and Banks, who was supposed to be the core-relationship for us to really connect to this movie and actually give a damn.

6/10=Rental!!

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Being on a ship isn’t always swashbuckling fun.

Russell Crowe is Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, renowned as a fighting captain in the British Navy, and Paul Bettany is the ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin. Their ship, the HMS Surprise, is suddenly attacked by a superior enemy. With the Surprise badly damaged and much of his crew injured, Aubrey is torn between duty and friendship as he pursues a high-stakes chase across two oceans.

Anybody who ever hears the words “ships” and “pirates”, automatically think of Captain Jack running rampant all over the seas, with his pet monkey on his shoulder. However, how do people feel whenever they make a story like this, with adults in mind? Answer is, more rum!

Director Peter Weir did a great job with accurate depiction of what it would really be like to stay on a ship like this, way back when. All these people do all day is stare at the ropes of the boat and the stars in the sky, then eat, sleep, drink, occasionally have a battle, and then go back to eating, sleeping, and drinking all over again. It seems very tedious, which is an emotion that Weird conveys very well and it’s a real change of pace we usually see from the fun, hip, and energetic movies about pirates out on the seas, having a grand old time. I also liked how we never knew who the enemy was in this story, considering we never know exactly who the hell these guys are going to face up against. Could be an army. Could be a leper boat. Hell, it could even be Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers. But either way, it was still as much of a mystery to me as it was to these guys in the movie.

Let’s also not forget to mention that Weir’s attention to detail is what made this a sight to see the whole film. Weir definitely has a great eye for what looks good and what doesn’t and with a film that takes place on a boat, that’s something to be commended for. The opening shot is absolutely stunning and got me ready for the rest of the shots I was going to get. Long, beautiful, and sweeping shots of the sea and land around it, really made me feel like I was out there with them and took me to this world where I never knew what was going to happen next or where I was going to be, just exactly like these people on the ship thought. Maybe I’m thinking about the cinematography a bit too much here, but when you have something that looks as pretty as this one, you can’t go without at least talking about it. I mean hell, just check out this shot right here. Now try and tell me that that isn’t something that catches your eye! By the way, it’s all real, no CGI. Don’t see that very often.

Even though Weir’s direction really brought me into the mood, the story itself didn’t do much for me and I have no idea who’s fault that was. First of all, the story is pretty slow and even though it does pick up every once and a blue moon, you still can’t help but feel like there should be more character development to have us care who lives, who dies, and who ends up getting put at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker (which basically mean’s dead, but I just wanted an excuse to use that term). Whenever somebody died, and the crew had a huge ceremony for them, I didn’t really know or even care about it all that much because nothing really happens with these characters to drive this story on. It’s strange too, because even though action doesn’t take up the film, all of the other scenes weren’t really dedicated to the crew members or their character development, instead, the film just sort of lingered around. Weird, I know, plus add on a two hour run-time and you got yourself a boat ride that may over-stay its welcome by a good 45 minutes or so. Give or take.

Another strange aspect of this story, and probably its strongest was Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey. Once again, Crowe turns in another impressive and strong performance that shows he is able to convey so many emotions, no matter who he is playing. The character of Aubrey isn’t a very likable one, but Crowe somehow finds his way to get him by with a wee bit of charm and it worked on me, and then it didn’t. The problem with this character is that this guy goes through so many problems over the course of the flick, that it almost seems like he is a bit bi-polar. There’s those scenes where we see him being the commanding officer of the ship and is inspired to beat the enemy, then we see him being jealous towards his friend and not allow him to do what he wants to do (some random story about collecting newfound insects, that didn’t do much for me), and then he goes a little control freak-ish when he starts to lay down the law on some of the crew for not being respectful enough to him. However, at the end of all of this we get a shot of him feeling triumphant as if he was just another hero of the seas, when throughout the past 2 hours we get a glimpse at a person that seemed like he had a lot of control issues and went with his pride a bit too much. But the film tried to play him off like some great, heroic figure? Didn’t get it but I guess that’s why Weir hired Crowe to do the job since he’s always a great watch.

Another performance that almost steals the spotlight from Crowe is the one given by Paul Bettany as Aubrey’s supposed “friend”, Dr. Stephen Maturin. Bettany and Crowe last appeared in A Beautiful Mind together, where it was obviously Crowe’s show which was supposed to be the same plan here, instead, Bettany comes close to almost stealing the spot-light from him. Bettany easily as one of the best character arcs here because this is a dude that just wants to help everybody out on the ship, is very real with Jack and the crew, and just wants to see some damn animals! His character definitely sticks a lot of sense into Crowe’s face and it’s a real wonder why Bettany didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this one because his character was really the only one I actually cared about. Everybody else could get captured by Black Beard and I wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass.

Consensus: With a couple of good performances from the cast and a beautiful vision from Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World definitely should hit a lot harder than it does, but due to a lacking script without a confused central character and barely little, or no character development, the film just ends up being a mildly entertaining 2 and a half hours spent. Next time, just call up Johnny Depp.

7/10=Rental!!

The Man With the Iron Fists (2012)

It would have totally been better if the rest of Wu-Tang was here. Even you, ODB. Even you.

In feudal China, small village’s blacksmith (RZA) is forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction. When the clans’ brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become savior of his adopted people.

With Wu-Tang Clan madman RZA directing, co-writing with Eli Roth, and having Quentin Tarantino produce, The Man With the Iron Fists definitely seemed like something in my backyard. I love the old, kung-fu movies that RZA obviously loves and pay homages to here, and the story itself just seemed like the perfect fit for a mixture of those oldies, with the new, gore-tastic days of today. Sadly, all of that hype and promise lead to it being just another passion-project, that never goes it’s full-distance.

Apparently during post-production of this movie, RZA threw a huge fit because he had to cut-down a 4 and-a-half hour movie, to an hour and-a-half. To be honest, I don’t blame the guy because that is a butt-load of footage and seems like the type of job I wouldn’t want being told to do, especially if it was my own movie. However, I think that’s the problem this film hits in the first-place: it’s WAY too cut-down. What I mean by this is that certain characters will just show-up for 5 minutes, and apparently have some sort of significance to the plot, without us ever realizing it. It almost seems like there were all of these back-stories meant for these types of characters, but weren’t there for the final-cut, so instead, we get a bunch of characters that don’t really do anything for the plot other than just show-up, speak their lines, and get killed.

That element of this movie, and the fact that the story is pretty confusing is the reason as to why the cutting of this film hurts the final-product. Throughout the first hour or so, it’s never made clear as to who the villains are, who the heroes are, and just who the hell this story is going to be focused on. The Man With the Iron Fists himself, doesn’t really get much of a spot-light until the last 30 minutes or so to where he all of a sudden means a lot to the premise because of something bad that happens to him. I mean, there was an idea of who the bad guys were because of who they killed, how they did it, and what their intentions were, but after awhile, it just became a bit confusing and made me wonder just who was important to this story and who wasn’t. Once again, there was probably plenty of footage developing these characters and their story-lines a lot more, but sadly, didn’t make the final-cut and are just kind of left lost on the cutting-room floor. Poor scenes, maybe there’s a director’s cut in the future. Maybe.

Where the story fails, however, is where the action of this movie prevails and definitely made this a lot of an easier ride as it went through. Even though the whole story is filled with little bits and pieces of action here and there, the final 30 minutes is where all of it really comes into play and tears down the house and shows RZA’s true eye for fun and entertainment. The kung-fu is goofy with a lot of wire-work used to the point of where it almost seems like self-parody; the music is a mixture of hip-hop and some score music, even though it’s not entirely like the same soundtrack RZA used for Kill Bill, and gives every scene a pretty cool, retro feel while still keeping it current; and the gore/blood is pretty awesome and shows that there was a huge Roth inspiration going-on throughout this flick the whole time. All three of these factors is why I enjoyed the last 30 minutes of this flick because instead of focusing on a crappy and confusing plot, with crappy and confusing characters, we get what we came for: bloody, crazy, and fun action without any logical-reasoning as to why all of these people are flying in the air other than the fact that they are in a kung-fu movie.

Even though these action scenes are the only times the movie really comes to life, the cast does do their best to try and help-out, but end up getting over-shadowed. Lucy Liu is having the same type of fun with this role, as she had with the one in Kill Bill, and that’s all fine and dandy until you realize that the gal isn’t really trying anything new, other than working with a lesser-script, and no offense bud, but lesser-director as well. The only one who seems to be having the most fun, and brings that out onto the audience is Russell Crowe as an English mercenary, Jack Knife (gedd it?!?). Crowe is such a weird-pick for this role, but seems like the perfect-fit once you see him because he knows what movie he’s in, what role he’s playing, and what’s expected of him to make it work. Even though Crowe kicked plenty of ass in Gladiator, it still doesn’t make him any type of martial-artist master, but still shows that he can be as sinister and dangerous as he was in that classic. Yeah, it’s only been 12 years and I’m already calling that one a classic.

As a director, RZA may not be the unstoppable force to be reckoned with, but at least he still tries to maintain that credit as an actor. Sadly, his role is mainly just him keeping that one, signature, sullen-look we all know and love him for but sadly, doesn’t allow us to really stand-behind automatically, despite him being our main hero that we’re supposed to cheer for. Thankfully, though, RZA knows this and doesn’t take the center spot-light, which is pretty respectable in my opinion. Also, it was pretty neat to see former-WWE wrestler Dave Bautista show-up somewhere again as a bad-ass that can’t be stopped. I miss the hell out of that guy and it’s nice to see him doing movies now, even though a guy who turns to bricks and only has about 12 lines of dialogue isn’t the ideal role out there for a pro-wrestler. But hey, how many movies has John Cena showed-up in this year? Exactly.

Consensus: If it weren’t for the final 30 minutes of this movie where everything finally comes to head and is fun, exciting, and bloody just like we expected, The Man With the Iron Fists would have definitely been a huge-disappointment because of it’s lack of distinctive-style, sense of plot, or sense of characters. Instead, it just comes off as a minor-disappointment.

6/10=Rental!!

Gladiator (2000)

Wanted to totally kick some ass after seeing this.

Tapped for the throne after the death of the emperor, Roman general Maximus (Russell Crowe) instead finds himself condemned to death by the late ruler’s power-hungry son (Joaquin Phoenix). Escaping execution, Maximus becomes a powerful gladiator, bent on exacting revenge in the ring.

Gladiator is that film that basically revived the swords and sandals epics, that come around every once and awhile, and with good reason too, because this film kicks ass.

Director Ridley Scott got inspiration for this film from a beautiful painting, and I have to say he does an amazing job with making a film, just from looking at a painting. The one thing that Scott does best is make this film visually stunning, while not forgetting to show some awesome action. The costumes, arms and armor look plausible, down to their tiny details. The battles are brutal and breathtaking. The city of Rome itself feels alive – dirty, chaotic, gaudy, beautiful, massive, sweltering. Scott is most known for paying too much attention to detail, but here it works, as he totally brings you into ancient Rome.

However, Scott totally takes over this film when the action comes on because he films it with just the right amount of shakiness to have us see everything that’s going on, and create a great tension within every action scene. This film is filled with blood and gore, but there’s nothing like watching swords, arrows, and chariots flying all around a Colosseum. You feel like your in the arena while all this action is going on because you can hear the cheers and chants from the crowd, and the constant clanging of weapons hitting together, and it all just feels so awesome.

People who watch this will love the action scenes, mostly guys, but if you’re looking for some story here, this has that too which separates from it other films of this nature. The good thing here about this story is that the screenplay isn’t all that bad. The story is rich in detail because the themes of revenge and corruptness within politics still ring true today, and do well with this story. The things these characters say aren’t campy or ironic, it all feels realistic and done very well.

My main problem with this film is a little nit-picky, but being very interested in history as I’am, I noticed plenty of historical inaccuracies that kind of bothered me. I understand Scott did this to create a more dramatic effect when the final clashes came around, but I couldn’t help but notice that people die here so much earlier then they actually did in real life. But I can’t give too much away, and I know I’m nit-picky this just kind of bothered me.

Russell Crowe is exactly what a bad-ass should look and act like. His role as Maximus is one of his best and probably most iconic because he does such a great job of combining that total bad-ass look that would make any of those American Gladiators crap their pants, but still has the dramatic skills to pull off the more heart-rendering scenes. Crowe won an Oscar for this, and even though he should have won it for something else, I was glad that he got something for this great performance. because we really do get behind Maximus the whole time. Let’s not also forget to mention Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus, who is absolutely perfect as this vindictive and evil little son-of-a-bitch. There are scenes where Commodus character starts to dive into some strange material, but Phoenix keeps it very believable as he shows that he has the range to play some terribly evil characters, even if we have seen this role done time-and-time again. Connie Nielsen is also very good as Lucilla who is torn between doing the right thing, and doing what she can to not get caught by her asshole brother. Djimon Hounsou is here as Juba, and is the man here as well, and Derek Jacobi is good as well. But the real performances here to watch are the ones given by Richard Harris and Oliver Reed who give worthy swan songs, and make us realize just how great they really were.

Consensus: Gladiator may not be as perfect as some may claim, but Ridley Scott’s inspired direction keeps this well-acted, beautifully shot, and tremendously entertaining epic, on its toes by never once diving into cheesy or lame territory.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Not as amazing as everybody says it is, but still awesome.

In 1950s Los Angeles, three wildly different cops (Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey) form an uneasy alliance to ferret out deep-seated police corruption. But some people will do anything to land their faces in the pages of trashy Hollywood tabloids such as Hush-Hush magazine.

This is one of those films that almost every film geek has as one of their all-time favorites. I wouldn’t really put it in mine but I will say I had a great time.

The best thing about this film is it’s overall feel is just very cool and slick. The story is your typical detective story that you would see in any neo-noir film, but there are little twists and turns that really keep you involved with it. But this is also a great “whodunit” as well because you have to pay attention real well to the story as it moves along because all the little clues, double-crosses, and twists come when you least expect it too. The whole time you’re constantly wondering just what’s going to happen next, and the script really adds to that suspense level well.

Curtis Hanson does a great job here as director because he takes this pretty enjoyable script, and makes it even better on-screen. This is a great detective story, but also a very fun one because it just looks beautiful, with the 1950’s look and the action is great too. You have a lot of great shoot-outs here, to add to the mystery appeal of this film, and the pace is very taut and gives enough detail to the story so we’re not totally lost.

However, my only problem with this film is that something just didn’t fully glue me in like I was expecting it too. Something was just not there and I don’t know if it was the script that kind of left me hanging, or the direction that was just a little too taut for me, I don’t know what it was but I just couldn’t get fully involved with this story, even though I liked the angle on police corruption. Not much really has changed in the past 50 years, and that is a real damn shame.

The ensemble cast is what really had me going with this film. The best thing about this cast is that they do so well with characters that are so fully fleshed out, that they could have had about dozens of spin-offs of each and every one of these cool characters. Kevin Spacey is great as Jack Vincennes and plays that cool, but slick cop so well. Guy Pearce is very good as Ed Exley because he starts out as this smiley-faced, bright-eyed rookie who just wants to do the right thing and make sure justice is served. However, he starts to get a little more vicious as he soon starts to realize all the corruption within the force, and he does a believable transition too. This was probably the first introduction of Russell Crowe to the world, and with good reason because he’s awesome as brutish, brawling and self-righteous police “Bud” White. Crowe is great at playing those big and bad characters who have a lot more to them then meet’s the eyes. Kim Basinger won an Oscar for her role as Lynn Bracke, which is OK, but she didn’t do an amazing job here, just pretty good. Danny DeVito is perfect as the slimy and snarky gossip magazine writer Sid Hudgeons, James Cromwell is ever so evil and corrupt as Dudley Smith, and David Strathairn is only in a couple scenes as Pierce Patchett but does a good job as well.

Consensus: Though there was something that just didn’t compel me as much, L.A. Confidential is still a well-directed, perfectly scripted, and fun detective story, that keeps you guessing with it’s smart story and will just entertain any popcorn-friendly watcher.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

American Gangster (2007)

It doesn’t matter what drug you deal, it all depends on how cool you look when your dealing it.

Armed with ruthless, streetwise tactics and a strict sense of honor, crime boss Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) rules Harlem’s chaotic drug underworld. When outcast cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) sets out to bring down Lucas’s multimillion-dollar empire, it plunges both men into a legendary confrontation.

Looking at this all on paper, you have Oscar winners Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, and Ridley Scott all working together on one film, you should be expecting something perfect, right? Well, not quite.

Ridley Scott does a great job here of directing this thing to the core. Scott keeps the camera on both of these character’s and their own stories, and not once do we lose a sense of what’s happening. He also gets the look for this film, including a very gritty atmosphere behind all the glam and beauty of the drug world, and perfectly captures how the late 60’s early 70’s felt and looked. He also tells the story, not through explosions, and random gun-fights, but through more story and development as time goes on, but he doesn’t lose his pace and keeps this entertaining.

The only problem here is that although Scott is doing a good job of keeping this film entertaining, he’s not necessarily doing much different that what has been done before. I think the main problem with this film is that it’s not to different from any other crime thriller we’ve seen before. Now, there were moments of originality with Washington out-smarting all the cops, but the drug deals, the lines these characters use, hell even the characters themselves all seem like something we have seen before. It’s not to say that this film doesn’t do those things right, because they do, it’s just that it’s nothing different.

Also, with these crime films the tension is always somewhat lacking. We all know how this is going to end, since it is a true story, so your just waiting for the big climax of these two to finally meet, and eventually have the main bad guy get his time in jail. The problem with this film is that we are waiting for almost two-and-a-half hours for that to happen, and although it keeps your interest for the time being, you still can’t help but wonder why the hell it had to be so long to get where it got.

However, this ensemble cast just kept me watching the whole time. Denzel Washington is perfect as mob-boss Frank Lucas. He’s got that swagger that makes him so cool, that brain and wit that has you believe he can outsmart any cop, and just so cool that he’s the most likable gangster ever. I think Denzel should have gotten nominated for an Oscar here, but hey the man is always great no matter what you put in front of him, just ask Ridley’s brother, Tony. Russell Crowe doesn’t get much praise here but he’s also very good as Richie Roberts who is so attached to finding this guy, that he stops at nothing to do it. He also very likable enough to have you root behind as well. The rest of the cast is also very good and just has a bunch of random faces that pop up out of nowhere such as T.I., Chiwetel Ejiofor, Common, RZA, John Hawkes, Idris Elba, Ruby Dee, Josh Brolin, Carla Gugino, and the return to Hollywood acting of Cuba Gooding Jr. God it has been so long since I have seen him in a film that hasn’t been released straight-to-dvd, but he has only a couple of minutes in this film, but he still makes it worth awhile.

Consensus: The performances are great from all over the spectrum, and the direction from Ridley Scott makes this film a gritty but entertaining crime thriller, but never goes anywhere we haven’t seen before, and almost seems like a drag to get to the last scene that we all see coming.

8/10=Matinee!!

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Good film, but to beat out Moulin Rogue! and Lord of the Rings for Best Picture, ehh, not so much.

John Forbes Nash Jr. (Russell Crowe) was a brilliant economist — when his mind was clear. But life changed forever with the revelation that he was schizophrenic, although his brilliance persisted amidst the anguish his mental illness caused for him and his wife (Jennifer Connelly).

The one thing that caught my eye of this film, was that it one Best Picture in 2001, when other great films such as Gosford Park, Lord of the Rings, In the Bedroom, and Moulin Rogue!, were all nominated. That is why some people hate the Oscars.

I can’t lie but this is a very good film, mostly cause of the direction from Ron Howard. It isn’t a biopic, its an original story mixed with some key elements of Nashs’ life. The way the film shows how he suffers from schizophrenia is neat in a way cause you sense a level of paranoia within yourself, and always wondering what is real or what isn’t real as did this film.

But not only did the film focus on the trauma he was having from this disease, the film also shows how his friends, and his family are all effected by it, and that’s where I think this film works the best at. Because you see how people interact with him before and after the schizophrenia, and you sense a total change by it. The film doesn’t go for the flim-famming of the illness, instead gets right inside this guys head.

However, these are the reasons why I think its a good film but not great. The chemistry between him and the character Jennifer Connelly played as his wife was non-existent, which I cannot buy: A woman would not stand by so selflessly with a paranoid schizophrenic without a deep rooted love and commitment to that love. The climax also features nothing new added to the story, and comes off as just anti-climactic, why?, I don’t even know myself. Finally, the film is focused largely around John Nash’s beautiful mind, and his remarkable accomplishments (which eventually won him the Nobel Prize), but the film does little to attempt to explore the ideas that John Nash developed, and that is perhaps the films biggest short-coming.

I do believe that the performances from Crowe and Connelly are good despite the story’s problem to make it any better. Crowe plays this character with such realism, and doesn’t depict him as being a total nut ball or anything, like we normally see, but instead he plays this character with his signature simplicity, and becomes John Nash. Also, Connelly does a very good job as well, and the scenes she has with Crowe, actually come off as almost better. I just wish she did more roles like this instead of movies like Dark Water.

Consensus: A Beautiful Mind is a good film, but not Best Picture good. Though it has great performances, and great direction from Howard, that balances the illness, and the family Nash was with.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!