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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Scott Eastwood

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Live By Night (2016)

Alcohol kills. Literally.

It’s the 1920’s in Boston and Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) wants to make a name for himself, and get out of the shadow of his father (Brendan Gleeson), a Boston police captain. By doing that, he starts robbing banks and taking out local gangsters, getting his name more known, of course, but also putting him on a lot of people’s radars. Eventually though, once Joe does his time in the slammer and gets out, it’s the 1930’s and more people want to get drunker than ever before. What ends up happening is that Joe gets sent to Tampa, where he and his best buddy (Chris Messina), will watch over rum-business, make sure people are drinking it, buying it, and not trying to start any scuffles. However, when you’re a bootlegger, things aren’t always going to go as planned and when you’re with a lovely lady, like Graciella (Zoe Saldana), you’re going to continue to have issues – not just with racist locals, but sometimes, even with your own bosses. This is something that Joe realizes right away and has to start acting quickly, or else he, as well as everyone else that he loves, may soon be killed.

Oh, the hot and stirring possibility of chemistry!

Oh, the hot and stirring possibility of chemistry!

Live By Night isn’t nearly the disaster, or awful train-wreck, so many have been calling it. If anything, it’s just a sure sign that Ben Affleck, like many other great directors/actors/writers/artists/human beings before him, is capable of giving up, admitting defeat, and being a disappointment. Sure, say what you want about his acting resume, as a director, Affleck has rallied-up an impressive roster behind the camera; Gone Baby Gone, the Town, and Argo are all pretty great movies, highlighting that Affleck knows what it takes to make a solid, exciting and compelling piece of film. Are they all perfect? Nope, of course not, but they get a lot more right, than they don’t.

And there’s the ugly stepchild known as Live By Night, that shows Affleck’s directing skills that he continuously building on and on as the years and projects have gone by, perhaps, came back to stab him in the back a little bit. But what’s odd about Live By Night is that it’s not a bad movie because of what Affleck does, it’s more of what he doesn’t do, or better yet, include.

For instance, Denis Lehane’s book could probably be adapted into some sort of miniseries, let alone, its own show altogether.

There’s a lot of subplots, relationships, characters, ideas, and messages toggled around with here, some of which are very interesting to watch and see how they play-out, but unfortunately, they’re all packaged within a movie that’s just a little over two hours, not allowing for there to be enough time and attention devoted to ensuring that each and everyone of these points gets the eyes that they deserve. Don’t believe me? Well, take for example, halfway through the flick, our lead protagonist, Joe Coughlin, goes to prison for what seems like a pretty heavy sentence and then, in the next scene, he’s out and ready to continue on with the rest of his life.

But there’s more of that going on here. Certain characters pop in and out, who are supposed to have some sort of overall meaning to Coughlin, his life, and his work, but for some reason, they are harped on for about ten to fifteen minutes, forgotten about and never to be heard from again. It’s odd, because it seems like Affleck himself knows that he’s got a lot on his plate and seems like he has an eye for this period’s detail and style, but it never quite translates to the story. It feels too jumbled, messy and sporadic, as if it’s not ever safe to get too attached or involved with one major plot-point or character, because they next scene, it/they could all be gone.

What a preacher's daughter!

What a preacher’s daughter!

Which isn’t to get past the fact that Live By Night is an entertaining movie, it’s just sometimes too random for its own good.

It’s a shame, too, because Affleck shows that he can still direct a somewhat compelling movie, all obvious issues aside. There’s a few gun-battles that are tense and fun, there’s a car-chase sequence that’s well-staged, and yeah, there’s even some compelling moments involved with Coughlin and how exactly he runs this rum-business. But like I said, there’s probably six or seven hours worth of material, all cut-up, jumbled and put together in a two-hour piece, that also feels like it’s trying hard to get everything out there, but doesn’t know how to package it correctly.

Even the ensemble, as talented as some of these people may be, don’t always get-off quite easy. Affleck is fine as our lead, although never quite as magnetic as he should have been; Zoe Saldana and Sienna Miller are sultry and sexy, but that’s about it; Elle Fanning’s character has an interesting complex, but it ends on such a silly note that it’s easy to forget about her; a porky and relatively plump Chris Messina shows up as Coughlin’s cousin/go-to man who feels like he deserved so much more attention than he got; Brendan Gleeson shows up as Coughlin’s very Irish dad and feels like he wandered off the set of Assassin’s Creed and thought about collecting a nice paycheck; and Chris Cooper, despite trying very hard as the town’s preacher, oddly enough, gets a whole lot to do, then leave in such a manner that feels rushed and a total betrayal of the character himself.

Oh well. At least Miguel’s in it for about five minutes.

Consensus: With so much going on and to explore, Live By Night can’t help but feel like a jumbled-up mess, albeit, one with a great look and feel to it, that occasionally stirs some sort of emotion resembling excitement.

6 / 10

Walk away from it, Ben. You'll be okay.

Walk away from it, Ben. You’ll be okay.

Photos Courtesy of: GQ, Are You Screening, Metro

Snowden (2016)

It doesn’t matter if you’re awkward and kind of nerdy – if you can type fast, the world is yours.

Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was just another typical, young dude from North Carolina who had an obsession with Ayn Rand and most of all, wanted to be in the Army and serve his country. However, due to a disability that made it so that any pressure applied to his legs would almost certainly cripple him for life, he had to opt-out for something that he was far better advanced and skilled in: Typing. That’s when he heads up to Virginia, where he learns a thing or two about network systems, hacking, and most importantly, how to maintain confidential information. And for Snowden who, at first, felt like he was doing a justice for his country, this was the perfect life to live; he was a patriot, a hard-worker, while making lots of money, as well as some sweet money with his supportive, but also incredibly liberal girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shaliene Woodley). This all begins to change for Snowden when he not only realizes that the government is using its resources to destroy the lives of, quite possibly, innocent people, but also spying on each and everyone of its citizens for reasons that he apparently doesn’t have the clearance to hear the answers to.

Edward Snowden. War hero?

Edward Snowden. War hero?

Did we really need a Snowden biopic after Citizenfour? Not really, but much like with Man on Wire and the Walk (yet again, another JGL flick), did we really need a movie about Philippe Petit? Probably not, but sometimes, it does help to get a little more info and attention on a subject who, for some reasons or another, may actually need, or deserve it. In Snowden’s case, this is especially true – while he will, in no way, ever be a forgotten person of our times, his cause and what he believes in still seems to be forgotten about, even when people seem to be putting more and more of an over reliance on WikiLeaks, despite all of the issues going on with that website and what it publishes to the rest of the world.

That said, Citizenfour is probably the go-to movie for finding out everything you need to know about Snowden, the person.

Or better yet, by checking out the web itself, even if the government is spying on you actually do it, that is.

But regardless, the tale of Edward Snowden, as done by Oliver Stone, isn’t all that bad. Sure, it’s by-the-numbers and rather conventional, but because the tale of Snowden, how he became someone we know about, why he got there, and where he had to go through, is actually very interesting. Even if you do a small Google search on Edward Snowden himself, you may find one or two things that you didn’t already know about, discovered here – but then again, you may not. Either way, it’s less that Snowden is a meaningless movie, it’s more of a movie that isn’t doing anything particularly ground-breaking, yet, doesn’t have to – it’s telling a story of a person whose life in the past decade or so, has become quite the compelling one.

And while Stone is typically known for the kinetic, sort of crazy outrage in movies such as these, believe it or not, he’s actually a lot more chill and relaxed here – rather than running off the seams, trying to tell us more and more about the paranoid state of mind one must be in while working for the government, Stone keeps everything on even-ground along with Edward, allowing for us to see, hear and think everything that he’s seeing, hearing and thinking at the same time. It actually works in the movie’s favor, especially since a lot of Snowden’s tale is, unfortunately, about a lot of inner-angst, depression and paranoia that only he seemed to feel and for us to feel as if we are one step closer to him, actually works with the movie.

That said, the movie does lack in actually giving us more to the characters surrounding Snowden, even including Snowden, too.

Love at first bit.

Love at first bit.

As Edward Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does the best that he can – because he’s playing someone with as much personality as a pebble, he has to dial down all of the charm and fun that we’re so used to seeing from him. However, even with the deep-voice and awkward twists and turns of his body, the performance still works; there’s not a whole lot of heavy-acting moments where he loses his cool and stops the whole movie dead in its tracks, but there’s still enough to watch and be compelled by, even when everyone and everything else around him seems not to be so up-to-snuff.

Case in point: Shaliene Woodley and her performance as Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. Of course, Woodley’s a great actress and lovely as all hell, but still, even her good looks and chemistry with JGL can’t help Mills from seeming like just a case for Stone to get all sorts of liberal opinions and views out there, and also challenge Snowden’s viewpoint and career. It’s too preachy to really work, but it does help that it’s all being done through Woodley, who is able to show some sort of heart and emotion with a character who, quite frankly, needed a whole lot more of it.

After all, she’s a real woman and is the love of Edward’s life. So why not a little more?

As for the rest of the heavily-stacked ensemble, they all fair fine, but once again, they aren’t nearly as developed as they should be. Zachary Quinto and Melissa Leo play the distraught but always interested Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, respectively; Rhys Ifans is hamming it up completely as Snowden’s seemingly evil boss; Ben Schnetzer has a good couple of moments as a fellow hacker within the CIA that teaches Snowden a thing or two and wakes his eyes up; and yes, believe it or not, with barely even ten minutes of screen-time, Nicolas Cage does a pretty solid job evoking a sense of pride, playing one of Snowden’s peers who, like everyone else around him, teaches him something about life. It’s cheesy, but hey, it still kind of works.

Consensus: Perhaps the movie we didn’t quite need, yet still actually get, Snowden is very much a play-by-play of what we can expect from a traditional biopic, but still benefits from an interesting store and a solid lead performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who, unfortunately, has to do a lot of acting, for a lot of people.

7 / 10

And he just keeps typing, and typing, and typing....

And he just keeps typing, and typing, and typing….

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Suicide Squad (2016)

Always be nice to those weird kids from high school. You never know how they’re going to turn out.

In the world in which even Superman himself can be considered a “terrorist”, it’s time for some action. That’s when intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated super-villains for a top-secret mission. While it’s risky as all hell to trust a bunch of evil, armed and dangerous villains to help save the world, the U.S. government still feels as if there’s nothing to lose if the plan goes South, so they decide to give it the green-light. Meaning that certain baddies like Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and Slipknot (Adam Beach) are all given plenty guns and ammunition at their disposal. And together, along with Captain Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) watching their every move, they have to stop an evil and powerful witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevigne) to stop from destroying the world. Meanwhile, an underground and heinous criminal by the name of the Joker (Jared Leto) is trying to get back the love of his life, all while taking down every person who gets in his way.

She's too good for the Joker.

She’s too good for the Joker.

There’s commonly a negative connotation when a movie is called “a mess”. Some of the times, the movie’s can be “messes”, because there was no idea put-in to how it was going to work, so instead of actually thinking things out, the film maker just cobbles up whatever they can find, hoping for some sort of a cohesive product to come out of the madness. Unfortunately, these movies mostly end up just being dull and, often times, boring.

Then, there’s the “messes” that are so wild, so crazy, and so chaotically put-together, that you can tell someone tried really, really hard to make it all work, however, knew that whatever they had left, they had to work with. Do that make the movie’s “good”? Not really. But does it make them, at the very least, “interesting”? Yes.

And honestly, that’s what Suicide Squad is: An interesting mess, that also happens to be pretty fun.

Sure, you have to get past all of the snap and chopping of the plot, the numerous characters, subplots, special-effects, musical-numbers, twists, turns, plug-ins, product placement, and god knows what else I left out, but honestly, Suicide Squad isn’t all that bad of a flick. It’s got plenty of issues, for sure, but it’s also the kind of movie that writer/director David Ayer had very near and dear to his heart, gave it all he had, and came up a little short. But he doesn’t focus on any of the character’s screwed-up, sad childhoods like Dawn of Justice did; he doesn’t muddle himself in all of the misery of these character’s lives, like Dawn of Justice did; he doesn’t forget that he’s got a solid cast to work with, like Dawn of Justice did; and yeah, he doesn’t forget that the most compelling characters to watch, no matter how thinly-written they may be, are sometimes the ones who morals are in grey areas, like Dawn of Justice did.

Now, this isn’t me saying that Dawn of Justice was some awful and terrible wreck of a flick, like so many others have stated; it’s a movie that tries to be more than your normal superhero flick and yes, is a little gloomy, but still delivers some good moments. That said, the movie forgot that watching a superhero movie, in which, people who are essentially cartoon characters, fly around and kick each other’s asses, which is something that Suicide Squad doesn’t forget. Ayer himself knows that some of the most fun had in comic-book flicks is the action itself, where over-the-top characters engage in some of the bloodiest and most violent of brawls, without caring about who’s feelings are being hurt in the process.

Of course, Suicide Squad has to worry about a PG-13 rating, but it still gets by on that.

Where Ayer really loses points with Suicide Squad is that his plot doesn’t always work. In fact, I’d wager that there hardly is one in the first place; it isn’t until after the first hour, in which we’re introduced to every character in loud rock-montages, where we get an inkling of a plot. Apparently, the Squad has to go in and stop an evil force from taking over the world. Why is it happening? Better yet, why should any of them care? Ayer never really asks these questions, nor does he ever seem to make sense of what drives the plot to begin with – he’s sort of just relying on these characters and these actors to save the day.

Yeah. I miss Heath.

Yeah. I miss Heath.

And yes, that sort of happens, but it sort of doesn’t. Ayer is usually very good at giving these kinds of rough, tough and ragged characters some semblance of humanity and personality that makes them compelling to watch. Here, Ayer has so many characters to work with, that he gives a lot of attention to one or two characters, while totally forgetting about others. Adam Beach’s Slipknot is in and out of the plot so quick, that it’s almost a wonder why he was in the movie in the first place; Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang really has nothing to him, except that he likes to steal money, or something; Cara Delevigne’s character pulls double duty as both a super evil witch and a super scientist, none of which are well-written; and Karen Fukuhara’s Katana wields a cool, deadly sword and that’s about it.

Everyone else, like Will Smith’s Deadshot, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Jared Leto’s Joker, Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag, Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo, and yes, even Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc, all get attention, courtesy of Ayer’s screenplay and direction. Ayer has so many to work with and he’s only able to really define a few, so that when the final-act of the movie comes around and we’re supposed to “buy” them as a group that can connect and care for another, it doesn’t quite connect. A few of the characters we like and can believe in, but others?

Yeah, not so much.

Which isn’t to say that the cast is bad – in fact, everyone’s quite good. They all know what sort of material they’re rolling with and because of that, seem to be having a ball. Smith, Robbie, Hernandez and Viola Davis have perhaps the best roles, whereas Jared Leto’s the Joker is, well, a disappointment. He’s so crazy and insane, that it almost becomes like a parody of sorts. Sure, Leto was a smart choice for an actor to take over the role that Heath Ledger seemed to ruin for every other actor in the world, but his material is so wacky and unnecessary, that he takes away from the rest of the movie and makes me wish that DC would just hold off on him for a short while, and give him his own time to shine with Batman.

And yes, we will get more DC movies. I have no problem with this, however, it seems as if they have to get their act together. Marvel will continue to be trouble for them, but only time will tell if they can take them down, or just raise the white flag and give up, once and for all.

It probably won’t happen, but hey, we’ll see what happens next.

Consensus: Messy, disjointed, and sometimes, incoherent, Suicide Squad is a wild ride, for better or worse, depending on who you are, but it’s action and cast is fun enough that makes it something to possibly enjoy.

7 / 10

Yeah, I'm, uh, turning down the other side of the street.

Yeah, I’m, uh, turning down the other side of the street.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Longest Ride (2015)

Art enthusiasts and bull-riders rejoice! You’re somehow compatible.

Though Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) live right by one another, they’ve never met and honestly, why would they? They’re both complete opposites with him being a handsome, daring bull-rider, and her, a college student from New Jersey looking to get her foot in the art world. But somehow, due to a chance meeting and date, they somehow realize that they’re perfect for one another, even if there are the occasional problems that ensue when you’re young and still trying to make sense of the world, as well as who you want to spend it with. Both of them eventually learn of all of life’s joys and hardships through an aging man by the name of Ira (Alan Alda), who they stumble upon after he has a car-accident. What Ira tells them about, is the story of when he was younger (Jack Huston), and met the love of his life, Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Through his memories of his sometimes tragic past, Luke and Sophia grow closer and realize that they may be the ones the other needs to help keep them happy and always willing to be their best selves.

With Nicholas Sparks movies, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That means, there’s not much of a point in discussing what doesn’t work in them – if only because hardly anything does. They are as contrived, cliched, and saccharine as you could possibly get, and while some may not be as terrible as others, there’s no denying the fact that they’re really not worth checking out. Like, at all.

Can't wait to see when their families finally meet.

Can’t wait to see when their families finally meet.

However, in order to wade through all the crap, it’s up to us, the regular, common folk who doesn’t fall for these types of movies, to figure out which ones are slightly more commendable above the rest. The Notebook of course comes to mind as the one and only Sparks movie that’s worth watching (if only for Baby Goose himself), but other than that, it’s all pretty much the same old junk. Two love-sick people meet, fall in love, have some sort of conflict, and wouldn’t you know it? By the end of the story, somebody either has cancer, has been dead for the whole time we’ve been watching them, or is a total and complete, murderous psycho. It’s the formula that, no matter how many times we see it, never seems to die away an everlasting, painful death.

But for better, and especially for worse, the Longest Ride takes that formula and does something s relatively interesting with it.

“Relatively”, being the keyword here, people. So please, bear with me.

What the Longest Ride has going for it that most of the other saptastic Sparks pieces lack, is that the central couple actually seems to have sparks of chemistry between each other. Both Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson, despite seeming like the sort of cutesy, overly attractive types that you see in these roles, actually do put some effort into how their characters bond with one another, even if it’s all incredibly calculated and predicted from beginning to end. You can’t tell me that once Eastwood helps up Robertson from a mechanical bull mishap, that she’s instantly going to fall right in love with him, as she stares deep and hard into his eyes, getting lost in the maze that is his hunky exterior.

Sure, we’ve all seen this done before, but what Robertson, Eastwood, and director George Tillman, Jr. admittedly do, is that they light some sort of fire between these two characters that it makes whatever happen to them next, feel like it has a certain kind of believability. You believe that Eastwood’s narrow-headed character would think the Expressionism art Robertson so loves and desires, is stupid and not deep at all, just like you’d believe that Robertson wants Eastwood to stop bull-riding, aka, the only source of employment that he’s able to live well off of. I’m not saying that where their story goes, it’s all understandable and therefore, not corny as all hell – because it totally is. I’m just saying that, considering what I’ve seen some of these on-screen couples get into with these movies, it works a bit better here.

That’s not to dismiss that there’s also a whole other relationship going on here that, unsurprisingly, isn’t all that interesting and just adds way more material onto this already hefty material than there definitely needs to be.

Which does sound a bit crazy, considering that the other relationship portrayed here involves not just Oona Chaplin or Jack Huston, but also Alan Alda, because they’re all fine in everything that they do; it’s just that here, it feels like they’re wasted on a lame script that doesn’t deserve them. According to the movie, Alda is supposed to be playing a 90-year-old-something Jewish man (even though he doesn’t look a day over 60, even despite all of the machinery of make-up and hair), who, at one point in his life, looked like Jack Huston. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t think either one look like the other in any sort of fashion; even though Huston has this sort of timeless look and feel to him that makes it easier for him to blend into any decade that he’s placed in, playing a younger-version of Alda doesn’t seem to fit so well with him. Chaplin’s fine in her role as the love of Huston/Alda’s character life, but she even feels too one-note, as she’s constantly sunny, happy and charming, no matter what sort of curve-balls get thrown into her way.

Just imagine a younger version of Clint, with more hair.

Just imagine a younger version of Clint, with more hair.

And then, there’s the whole conceit that the plot never gets tired of using and it’s as tiring done the fourth time, than it is for the ninth, or tenth time.

Because the movie is telling two stories at once, in order to go back and forth between the two and make it easier for the audience to understand what is happening, the movie uses this narration from Alda that’s supposed to be his diary/journal entries, chronicling his life with Chaplin. Problem is, every entry literally feels like it was written two seconds after the two had a date, and is actually less of a diary of one’s feelings or thoughts, as much as they’re just Alda telling us what happened with his character and this other one. It’s so obvious and unnecessary, that once you get to the two-hour mark, you’ll start to wish that the movie just took out that whole angle and stuck small and simple with Robertson and Eastwood’s story. Because at least with them, you would have had something sweet to fall back on when the silly moments came around.

On a side note, though, I think it’s worth pointing out the fact that literally three, out of the four main cast-members in this movie are in some way related to other actresses or actors. Eastwood is clearly the son of Clint; Huston is the grandson of John, as well as nephew of Anjelica and Danny; and Chaplin, well, is the daughter of Geraldine and grand-daughter of, well, I’m not even going to say it it’s so obvious. If anything, this proves that Hollywood, in case you haven’t been able to tell by now, is as nepotistic as you have probably heard. People get on Will Smith’s case for pushing Jaden and Willow to the front of each and everything he does, but just look here! That’s not to say that none of these actors have talents worth looking at and enough to cast in your movie – it’s just that maybe, quite possibly, there’s other actors out there more willing for these kinds of roles, that are maybe less-known or less connected than these ones here.

Just a food for thought, I guess. Because, before you know it, whatever spawn Brett Ratner produces, will soon be taking over Hollywood and demanding that we see their over-budgeted messes, no matter how many people actually dislike them.

Can’t say you’ve been fore-warned.

Consensus: Despite a lovely chemistry between Robertson and Eastwood that makes it slightly less painful to watch, the Longest Ride is still like mostly every other Nicholas Sparks movie in that it’s stupid, contrived and way too overlong.

4.5 / 10 

She doesn't know what she's getting herself into....

She doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fury (2014)

I guess something that weighs over 30 tons isn’t all that safe after all.

It’s April 1945 in Nazi Germany, towards the end of WWII and the Allies seem to be kicking all sorts of ass and taking names. So much so, that Adolf Hitler himself has been ordering just about every man, women, and/or child, to get out there on the front lines and fight the good fight. And during all of this, therein lies a tank crew who maintain and work in a big mofo they call “Fury”. The tank sergeant is a man that goes by the name of Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and just recently, finds himself all torn up over the fact that his second-in-command has just been blown away in the middle of combat. He still has the rest of his crew intact, but this proves to be such a hard hit, that he doesn’t know necessarily how to move on. Well, except all that he and his crew have to do is fight, fight, and fight some more. This time though, they’ll be along for the ride with a newbie by the name of Cobb (Logan Lerman) who nobody really takes a liking to and with good reason: He’s never been on the battlefield before and doesn’t know if he can handle killing other people that haven’t done anything specifically to him. Throughout the next week or so, that may change and Wardaddy will be more than happy to show him why.

There’s something of a plot to be found here in Fury, but honestly, what it all comes down to is “Brad Pitt and a bunch of his fellas go around Germany, shooting and killing people.” While that sounds somewhat repetitive and ultimately, boring, there’s a feeling here that writer/director David Ayer is using it for a whole other reason in particular.

For instance, it’s never made clear to us what exactly the objective here of this story is; usually for a war movie, we understand who is searching for what, why, how they’re going to go about it, and what is going to be accomplished at the end of the day. However, here, the only objective of the plot-line is to fight the war, continue killing the enemy, and try to do so without getting you, or your fellow soldier killed in the process.

Looking that good, can sometimes be so tiring.

Looking that good, can sometimes be so tiring.

In all honesty, that’s more of how the war probably is. there’s no need to save any Private Ryan’s, or even any plan to capture top-level Mogadishu-officials. Here, it’s all about trying to stay alive and killing as many Germans as they possibly can, which is probably just how being in a bloody war is like – hardly ever stopping and always fighting. This is a bold move on Ayer’s part to take, but it’s one that I think needed to be taking, because so rarely is it that we get a war movie that shows us just how screwed up and unforgiving the battlefield truly is, without trying to force a message down our throats. Here, you could say that the moral of the story is, “the war is terrible, and people die.” That’s all Ayer seems to be saying here and I think that’s all that needed to be said.

But of course Ayer takes it a bit of another step forward and actually get to discussing the certain soldiers in the war, by showing us just the type of disturbing affect the war has on them, regardless of how messed-up in the head the individual may be. This is where I think Ayer’s writing is at its best, because rather than glamorizing these soldiers and having them come off as the Nation’s biggest heroes, Ayer has them portrayed as a bunch of guys who had nothing else better to give to society back in the States, other than just sitting around and taking up space. On the battlefield, they have a purpose, they have a cause, and most of all, they have a reason to live. Though we never actually hear a character state this throughout the film, they don’t really have to for us to get the point; in fact, them just stating every so often that being in the war was, “the best job they ever had”, gives us the impression that this is all they have to live for and they’re more than proud to die if they have to. They may be scared, but they’ll at least feel proud to perish because it’s for a reason, even if that reason is for their own well-being.

And though I may make this movie come off as a bit of a melodrama, I can assure you that it’s not; there are moments of pure drama where characters break down, shout their hearts out, and let us know how they feel. However, at the end of the day, it’s a war movie, and because of this, we get plenty of action-sequences with tanks going toe-to-toe with another, people getting shot, stabbed in the face, lit on fire, and most of all, dying. But while these scenes are effective in the most gruesome ways possible, there’s still a feeling that the movie doesn’t know what it wants to say about them – are we supposed to feel bad that countless soldiers on both sides are getting killed? Or are we just supposed to care that way for the American side?

The best example to highlight this problem the movie seems to have with itself is when Cobb, the new blood of this tank group, is ordered by Wardaddy to shoot a German prisoner. Though the German prisoner has surrendered (thus, making it illegal to kill him), Cobb is physically and emotionally manipulated into doing it, even though it is a horrifying act he does not want to partake in. We know it’s not right, he knows it’s not right, but every other character around him (as well as the movie), doesn’t and that’s one of the sole problems with this movie. It doesn’t have enough to say to be an anti-war movie, yet, it doesn’t have enough self-control to not glamorize the violent, sometimes inhumane, acts that occur during the war itself.

Basically, you could write it all down to Ayer not being the best director out there. Sure, as a writer, he’s pretty fine and has shown that he has a knack for writing gritty, raw, and bare human beings who are conscience enough to be considered “realistic”, but as a director, his movies don’t always translate so well. End of Watch was a fine piece that showed he was able to turn the found-footage genre on its head a bit, but that’s about all the praise Ayer gets as a director (his other film released earlier this year, Sabotage, is currently running the gauntlet for being one of my least favorite of the year). That said, while this is probably Ayer’s most accomplished film as director, there’s still signs that what comes out of the pen, doesn’t always translate so well onto the screen, even if the one writing, also happens to be the same individual filming.

Thankfully though, for Ayer at least, he can fall back on the amazing ensemble he has here to ensure that his material will be more than just what’s presented on the surface, and can at least be dissected and looked at a bit more. Brad Pitt, playing a WWII soldier that isn’t collecting Nazi scalps, does a lot as Wardaddy, although it seems like he’s just being his usual-self: Cool, smart, collective, and most of all, masculine as hell. However, there’s more to this character and we get the idea that even though he’s all about defending his country to the very end and do whatever he has to do to protect those around him, at any costs, he still fears the idea of dying, or even worse, a close-one of his meeting the same fate. He’s an emotionally-battered man that disguises it all with orders, commands, and death, but if you look closely, you can see exactly what kind of person he is, and it’s not all that different from you or I.

That's the look of someone who has maybe gone too method.

That’s the look of someone who has maybe gone “too method”.

Except that he looks like this, a sad reality I live with everyday I look in the mirror.

But as good as Pitt is in the lead role, I really have to give a lot of kudos to Logan Lerman, a young talent who is really rising through the ranks and showing us he has what it takes to hang with the big boys. Though Lerman’s character can be classified as “scared, wimp-ish rookie”, Lerman presents us with shades to this character that makes it easy to see why someone as sheepish and kind as he is, would actually totally change into a ruthless, unforgiving killer. It’s actually pretty horrifying if you think about it, and that is why Lerman’s performance is so good: He’s a normal person like you or me, but now it’s time for him to grow up, face the terrible realities of the war, and start shooting that rifle of his.

Though, as good as Lerman and Pitt are, there is a glaring difference between them two, and the attention they get from Ayer, as opposed to the characters played by Michael Peña, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal, who all seem like types that want to be more than just that, but never get a chance to cause the writing prohibits them from doing so. However, because these three are all good performers, we get a deeper, more effective camaraderie between the whole group that seems to go further than just “war buddies”; they could actually be something of brothers, that just so happen to be connected by the reality of war.

One instance of this is a scene that, for some reason or another, takes place all in real-time and runs for about twenty-five minutes. It starts with Wardaddy and Cobb going into a random German woman’s home, having dinner and sex, but turns into something darker and tense once the rest of the group shows up. This is a great scene because it not only shows the restraint in Ayer’s sometimes confused direction, but actually allows all of these guys to just act with one another, in one scene, one location, and uninterrupted. In this scene, we get to understand who all of these fellas are, why they stick up for one another when they have to, and why they all love each other, in the most non-sexual way possible. It’s probably the most memorable scene of the movie, which is probably a testament to the cast, especially when you consider how much blood, guts, bullets and steel are flying around.

Consensus: Maybe not the deepest war movie ever made, Fury doesn’t know where it stands on certain ideas, but is still well-acted by its highly-capable cast and displays a growing talent in David Ayer as a director, even if there is some room for improvement to be made.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

#2MasculineForYou

#2MasculineForYou

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Chasing Mavericks (2012)

Bodhi is swimming in his grave right about now.

The movie centers on the real life relationship between the late surfing phenom Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston) and his legendary mentor Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) as they embark on a quest to surf five-story tall waves known as “Mavericks”.

As far as surfing moves go, 1) there hasn’t been many, and 2), the best of them all is probably Point Break. Say what you will in the comments and talk about how Point Break isn’t really a surfing movie, as much as it is a crime-thriller with the surfing element but seriously, try and not associate surfing with that movie when you think of it. If you’re not sure about that statement, well then be sure about this statement: you sure as hell won’t associate THIS movie with surfing, I can promise ya that.

Coming from director Curtis Hanson (aka, the guy who directed most of it, only to be replaced with two weeks left of shooting due to health issues), you’d expect something very inspirational, full of energy, and able to hit you in the heart and make you weep like a little bitch. The reason I say this is because the guy’s given us many great flicks like L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and the one I think this one compares to the most, 8 Mile. No matter what you may say about that last film I mentioned, it’s inspirational, has a good story, and had a nice lead character, something that this movie seemed like it could have been but just ended up dropping the ball on big-time.

It’s obvious that the promise of the tale of surfing legend Jay Moriarty was there, but it just never comes full-circle and seems like a long, dull drag until you’ve had enough with these damn kids, surfing, and the ocean. Maybe the fact that I’m not part of the surf culture is the reason that I don’t get what’s so special about this kid, but there was just nothing here to really grab me and have me involved one-bit with this story. The surfing scenes were sometimes cool to look-at, but that’s about it, and I was surprised that there was barely any type of energy thrown into this flick at all. The only times I really felt like this film was moving at a solid-pace was when they would throw some nice-ass 90’s tune in for easy-listening, and even they felt a little misplaced since half of the scenes consisted of guys paddling out into the sea. It’s a pretty boring experience that definitely does not give you the rush or energy that goes into surfing, or the surf culture itself. Seriously man, this movie needed Bodhi, and big-time, too.

Aside from the cheap surfing scenes, the story here is pretty uninvolving and just comes off like a normal, day-of-the-week TV special. The main story of Moriarty could be pretty inspirational and exciting, but they never show the kid as a human-being and make him out to be this sunny-eyed kid, with beautiful, blond hair, beautiful aspirations for life, and not a single problem going on for him. Hell, I think the only problem the kid had was a note from his father that he didn’t read for 5 years or so and if that was his only problem, jeesh, he should have considered himself one, lucky mother ‘effer. Now, I never knew the real Moriarty and I’ve never read anything on him, to know if he was a bad kid or not, but there had to be at least a little something wrong with him. Maybe he liked little boys? Maybe he robbed banks in his down-time? Maybe he had a secret fetish for feet? Who knows?!?!? All I do know is, that he definitely was not the latter-day saint this movie had portrayed him as and it just got to bother me after awhile.

The main part of the reason why I was so annoyed by this kid was mainly because of Jonny Weston‘s cardboard performance as him. I’ve never seen Weston before, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a bright-future ahead of him with a body and good-looks like that, but he cannot act for crap and this movie just proves that. The kid is painfully bland, rarely ever shows any type of emotions, and is not easy to connect with, just because he’s the same-old, underdog we have seen time, and time again. Except, this time, he has no problems in life and can still get by the fact that this big wave he wants to take, may be the last one he ever takes, ever. And when I mean “ever”, I mean that his life will be over. That’s why it will be his last one.

Even though this is Jay’s story, Gerard Butler somehow gets top-billing over him as the guy’s mentor, Frosty Hesson and is fine, but also dull, even though it’s not as painful to watch as it was for Weston. There’s something about Butler that makes it seem like he has a crap-load of charm to throw-out all over us from the screen, but never gets the chance to because he gets put in crap like this, The Ugly Truth, and that one coming-up, Playing for Keeps. Butler does what he can here with a role that’s thinly-written, but all of the subplots that come along with his character just weighs everything down (if that was even possible), and never really felt fully-developed for me, either. And seriously dude, drop the fuckin’ Scottish accent. You’re a gnarly, surfing-dude from Santa Cruz and you sound like William Wallace.

Perhaps the most interesting character of the whole cast was the gal who played his wifey, Abigail Spencer, who seems like she has a lot of problems with his love and dedication to surfing, and not his love and dedication to their kids. She’s got a nice role and does what she can with it, but once again, she never feels fully-developed and her story ends up getting little or no focus. And since we’re talking about a mommy that’s in this film, let me just get right down to talking about Elisabeth Shue and what the hell her career has been bringing her nowadays. Shue is a beautiful woman, who is still pushing a surprising 49-years of age, and definitely has great talent that could still get some Oscar-looks, but yet, she still finds herself as the beaten, battered, and dysfunctional, single-mommy in films like Mysterious Skin, House at the End of the Street, and Piranha 3-D. Seriously, there is so much more to this gal than Hollywood is giving her credit for and I think it’s time for her to go back and see what she can do as an older, more accomplished hooker now. Leaving Las Vegas 2 anyone?

Consensus: Though the surf culture will probably eat this movie up from start-to-finish (if they can remember it), Chasing Mavericks is still not a film that’s worth seeing by others because of it’s thinly-written characters, lack of energy, and nothing to really grab-on to and take ahold of you. It’s just there, and that’s pretty much it.

3/10=Crapola!!

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

“Getttt offffff of myyy fieeeeld.”

The film centers on an aging Atlanta Braves scout (Clint Eastwood) who is starting to lose his sight and goes on a last scouting trip with his reluctant daughter (Amy Adams), who, in her own time, becomes slightly involved with a rival scout (Justin Timberlake).

Not only does it seem like Dirty Clint has lost his mind (talking to chairs and all), but the guy’s also losing a lot of energy and steam to not only make movies, but to star in them as well. That’s why it is heavily rumored that this may be his last flick, ever, and thought what better way to go out then give the directing duties over to a first-timer he’s been working with for over 12 years. Problem is, there is a better way to go out: make your own movie because you got the skill to do so jackass!

First-time director Robert Lorenz doesn’t really do anything spectacular with this material whatsoever. It’s a generic, boring, and dull-looking film that doesn’t bring-out anything neat or different in it’s story-line, either. Now, I know Eastwood was no master when it came to directing flicks (hell, his last directorial effort was  J. Edgar, and we all know how that did) but at least the guy put some heart, emotion, and feeling into his work. This Lorenz guy doesn’t really seem like he has any of that and is just trying to see what he can do with himself behind the camera this time. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this was another George Lucas situation where he plays the head-producer behind the flick, but is automatically the director in his own way because he takes over every decision that was made. Actually, I would be surprised because this doesn’t seem like something Eastwood would just churn out, no matter how old or goofy he gets.

A lot of the people going into this flick will probably expect a baseball drama along the lines of last year’s fall-hit Moneyball (even though it talks-out against using a computer for statistics), or the classic baseball tearjerker, Field of Dreams, but will end-up most likely being disappointed with how little baseball action there is. I knew it wasn’t going to be a full-out baseball movie where bats were hitting balls, peanuts were being chewed, and tobacco was being dipped, so I wasn’t all that bummed when it started focusing on the actual-story at-hand but I kind of wish they did something more with this generic story. Right from the first scene, you can tell where it’s all going to go. It’s going to follow the same patterns you would expect from a family-drama like this one here and any chance the film actually gets to surprise us, it either tries and fails, or doesn’t even try at all. It’s sort of like this flick trudges along, like a baseball game between two teams that suck, but you only went to go and see because the tickets cost less than the whole McDonald’s Value menu combined together. Been there, done that and don’t want to go back to it again.

The story itself was also quite repetitive and never seemed to fully make sense with itself. There’s this constant problem that Clint has with getting old, then Adams tries to help him, he gets mad, growls at her, she gets mad, leaves, and then they are back together in the next scene acting as if nothing had just happened between them. I don’t know how most families work out most of their problems but if my mom or dad basically tells me to piss-off, I’m not going to be sitting with them at a baseball game, telling them how everything’s going. I’m going to tell them to kiss my ass and ask for somebody else to help. Then again, I may not be the most lovable son out there, but you get my point. Then, the ending pops-up and it seems as if nothing was fully resolved. Well, yeah, in a way it was but nobody ever really comes out of this feeling like a changed-person and never really admits to doing any wrong in their lives, ever. It’s almost as if this film/story never happened which is a shame because these stars make the best of it and deserve a hell of a lot better.

Clint Eastwood (in which I hope isn’t his last role) does a great job playing the usual, cranky old man that people have come to know and love him for, but this character has a bit of an emotional ting to him that makes his character a bit more accessible. Granted, a lot of the film has Clint doing his usual “growl”, and non-stop yells at random people, but he has a bit of a soft-side to him that you see very early on and continues to show various times throughout the whole flick. It’s a nice performance from Clint, but not one of his best and I hope that he doesn’t decide to end a stellar career on this one because I think, and this is just my opinion, he’s got one more solid performance left in him that may give the Academy voters a bit of a run for their money. Don’t know if I’m ever going to actually get to see that but that’s why I keep my fingers crossed.

Amy Adams is fun to watch as his everyday woman, that has a bit of that tomboy-ish act to her that separates her from most gals. Adams is good here and offers up plenty of real and honest emotion, and most of her scenes with Eastwood feel genuine enough to make me believe in that story only, but I couldn’t help thinking how much more powerful and special this role would have been, had it been given to Sandra Bullock in the first-place like they originally planned. Obviously, that whole idea would just change-up the whole movie in general, but it would have been more interesting to see her in a dramatic role, opposite of a legend like Eastwood. Still though, I can’t take too much away from Amy as she does do a nice job with what she’s given.

Everybody has this terrible hate for Justin Timberlake which in ways, I do see, but at the same time, I don’t because the guy is just so damn likable. Timberlake is a lot of fun in this role because he seems like a genuinely nice and fun guy to be around, and brings out a lot of energy and spirit in most scenes that seem a bit boring and generic. His whole love-story with Adams seems a little tacked-on, but they have a nice chemistry that makes you believe in it and makes it a lot more fun to watch their scenes. There’s a whole bunch of other actors that show-up in this flick and all do their parts well, but also seem like they just decided to do this movie because it had Eastwood in it. That’s not a terribly bad thing, as this film really isn’t, but it also shows you the type of impact Eastwood still has on everybody in the business. Yes, that’s right, even Matthew Lillard.

Consensus: There’s a crowd-pleasing feel to Trouble with the Curve that will have the audience happy, as well as the great performances from the talented cast, but is also too predictable, too repetitive, too manipulative, and too disappointing to be anything that really hits you hard and seems like a flick that Clint better not end on.

5.5/10=Rental!!