Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Scott Glenn

Courage Under Fire (1996)

Who to trust? The hunky guys? Or the gal?

While he was on-duty during the Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) accidentally caused a friendly fire incident and it caused him to rethink his military career, even if his superiors were able to look the other way for it. Now, with the war-effort over, he is assigned to investigate the case of Army Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), a soldier who was killed in action when her Medevac unit was attempting to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter. And while it seems like a simple case of a solider being killed by enemy-fire, the more and more Serling begins to look, the more he realizes that there’s more to this story than just what’s on the surface. In a way, someone on the U.S.’s side could have killed Walden and if so, for what reasons? By interviewing everyone involved with the incident and who worked closely with Walden on that one specific day, Serling hopes to find it all out and then some.

Meg and Matt? What a dynamic duo!

Meg and Matt? What a dynamic duo!

Courage Under Fire is a lot like A Few Good Men in that, yes, it’s a fairly conventional drama-thriller that deals with the Army and a case that needs to be solved, however, it ends on a far more interesting note than it may have ever set out for. With the later, it’s become infamous for its final showdown between Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise and all of the countless conversations to follow, but with Courage Under Fire, that discussion is literally the whole two hours. In a way, Courage Under Fire is a conversation and an argument both for, as well as against the Army and the war-effort during the Gulf War of ’91, that neither pays tribute, nor attacks the soldiers who have, or haven’t participated in it.

Which is to say that it’s a good movie, yes, but it’s also more than just your average war-drama.

Director Edward Zwick knows how to handle a lot of material all at once, but what’s surprising the most here is that he does seem to actually settle things down and focus on the smaller details of the story that make it so dramatic. Sure, whenever he takes a flashback to the actual incident itself, the movie is chock full of action, with bullets flying, people dying, and explosions coming out of nowhere. At first, it may feel a tad uneven, but eventually, the movie, as well as Zwick, begin to find a groove that works in helping for the movie get to its smaller moments, while also giving the action-junkies a little something to taste on.

After all, the movie, from the ads and posters and whatnot, does appear to be promising this slam-bang, action-thriller of a war flick, which is also very far from the truth. However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t thrills, chills and action – there is, it’s just not in the forms of any sort of violence. Instead, it all seems to come from learning more and more about what really happened in this incident, realizing the conspiracy theories and cover-ups, and then, also seeing all of the different perspectives and how those characters shape the perspectives themselves. It’s a whole lot like Rashomon, but there’s a whole lot going on that keeps the similarities at bay, and instead, just feels like an interesting way to tell a mystery that could have been dull, boring and, honestly, uninteresting.

It’s also very hard to make a movie as dull and and as uninteresting as the one it could have been, especially what with the great cast on-hand.

"No blinking!"

“No blinking!”

As is usually the case, Denzel Washington is great in this lead role, showing a lot of dramatic-depth and compassion, without hardly saying anything at all. He’s the kind of actor that gets by solely on a look of his face and totally makes the scene his, and even though his role may not have been as fully-written as he’s used to working with, it’s still a role that Washington himself works wonders with, even if he does have to put in a little extra here and there. It’s also nice to see the likes of Lou Diamond Phillips, Seth Gilliam, and a young Matt Damon, as the soldiers involved with the incident, showing us more into their souls and what they saw.

But really, it’s the performance from Meg Ryan that makes the movie so good, as she shows a rough, tough and brave character who, despite what version of her, we hear and/or see, is still an admirable one. Ryan may seem like an odd-choice for this role, but as she proved in the 90’s, she owned almost every role thrown at her, and it was nice to see her do well with a role for someone who was, essentially, shown in just flashbacks. It honestly makes me wish she did more drama and stayed away from all of the non-stop rom-coms, as she clearly had the chops to pull it all off, but yeah, unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

And now, nobody knows quite where she’s gone.

Consensus: With a timely, smart message about war, Courage Under Fire brings a lot of thought and discussion to its sometimes predictable format.

8 / 10

Just one of the guys. Except, a lot prettier. Depending on who you ask.

Just one of the guys. Except, a lot prettier. Depending on who you ask.

Photos Courtesy of: Writer’s Digest, Teach With Movies, Empire


The Hunt for Red October (1990)

We hated the Russians so much, we just cast Scotsmen in their roles!

Soviet naval officer Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) is a pretty big deal, especially since he himself, along with the rest of his crew are aboard the submarine known as “Red October”. What makes this sub so special is that it’s able to move so silently throughout the ocean, without ever being detected by a fellow ship or submarine. It can practically get from point-A-to-point-B, without a single hiccup or interruption to be found in between, which is probably why the U.S. government freaks out so much when they have the slightest idea that Ramius, along with his ship and crew, may be heading for the States in hopes that they’ll blow-up Washington and send us a message we’ll be soon to never, ever forget. However, most members of the U.S. government have no clue who Ramius is, or the type of man he truly is; all of them, with the exception of one CIA agent Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin). See, Ryan believes a theory that Ramius isn’t actually coming to America to blow us up, but rather to escape his country in hopes that he can start anew and get away from all of the pain, hardships and suffering he’s witnessed over there in Russia. Problem is, Ryan’s going to have to do a lot of convincing, to a lot of people, and may have to do it all before the Russians themselves pick-up the pace with Ramius’ ship and get rid of him for betraying them.

"Brrr, baby. Itsch cold outshide."

“Brrr, baby. Itsch cold outshide.”

It seems like adapting a Tom Clancy novel can be a hard task to go through with, especially considering his books are so dense and rich with detail, jargon and exposition. That’s why most of these Jack Ryan movies that are made, usually try to center on the well-known CIA Agent-character himself, in hopes that they don’t have to put that much of an eye on the technology Clancy himself loves to chat about, but also piss-off those devout readers of his, just in case you have to change some things up in the process. But that’s not the department where director John McTiernan doesn’t screws up; in fact, from what I hear, he stayed pretty damn loyal to the source-material, which must have been very hard considering there’s all sorts of stuff going on here, and sometimes, all at once.

To start things off though, I have to be honest and tell you all like it is: The first 20 or so minutes of this are pretty hard to get into. Not only is the movie relatively slow as molasses, but there’s a lot of talking going on here that you don’t know what it’s all really about. I got that the movie itself was trying to set-up character’s, give us a bit of insight into them and have us locked and loaded for what was to be the premise for the rest of this movie, but oddly enough, I felt like I may have stumbled upon the middle-half of the movie, where we’ve already been introduced to everything it is that we need to know with this story, the characters and the central-conflict at hand. And I’ve already seen this before, so to have that problem occur once again, made me feel like I was surely making a mistake, one that I should have left as another “one and done” deal.

But, as I expected it to, things began to sort themselves out and this is where McTiernan’s skills as a director come into play, as he’s somehow able to rack-up tension, just by throwing little bits and pieces of information at us. When a couple of people are speaking about what options they have next on the table for themselves, I couldn’t help but feel riveted and wonder what conclusion all of these peeps were going to come to. Most of the time, hell, I didn’t even know what they were talking about, or even how they gained all of that information in the first place, but I trusted McTiernan enough as a director to where I knew that wouldn’t bother me and I’d just have to pay attention a bit more.

That’s why “paying attention” is exactly what you’re going to have to do with this one, because the more you figure stuff-out, sometimes along with the characters in this film themselves, the more the tension amps-up and absolutely sucks you in. Submarine-thrillers seem to always do the trick for me nowadays, but this one really got to me as I could practically taste the sweat dripping off of each and every one of these dude’s foreheads, feel the heat from the steam running all throughout the submarine itself and the constant clinging and clanging of the steel up against, whatever it was that it was constantly clinging and clanging against. I felt like I was right there, watching the ride, enjoying the show and in the middle of a dire situation that just seemed to get more and more suspenseful and unpredictable as it went along, even if I already knew what the outcome was going to be beforehand.

And that, my friends, is exactly when you know a thriller is doing its job, and doing its job correctly. God, I wish John McTiernan would get out of the clink, come back and continue to make movies. Because, I don’t know about you, but I think some people may need him around for another flick or two.

Just saying, legal system.

"Damn you, Charles. You sunk my battleship, once again!"

“Damn you, Charles. You sunk my battleship, once again!”

Another reason why this thriller works so well too, and in many ways, why it isn’t as dated as most movies from the year of 1990 are and/or ought to be, is because it doesn’t really take any political-stance on the Cold War itself. We see plenty of development on the sides of both the Americans, as well as the Russians, and while the former may get a tad better treatment than the latter, it still should be noted that the flick never makes it out to seem like these Ruskies are the types of soulless, blood-sucking nuke-nuts that the media may have portrayed them as. Sure, they went into the war with their weapons and heads held high, but they were also fighting for their families, friends and most importantly, their country. Hate to start sounding like a die-hard liberal over here, but it’s a nice change-of-pace to actually see from a movie for once in which we aren’t given a clear-cut, black-or-white situation with these two sides. We see them both as humane, for better and sometimes, for worse.

Acting as channels for both of those sides are the performances from Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery, who both play on both sides of the coin, but also seem to understand one another as human-being, as well as tactical soldier. This is infamously Alec Baldwin’s one-and-done stint as Jack Ryan, and while I wouldn’t say he is amazing here, he certainly isn’t terrible neither. Actually, I’d just put it simple and state that Baldwin’s fine, and while I do think that, in recent time, we’ve seen him come-off a lot better as a supporting-player, much more than the star of the show, he still does a nice job as Jack Ryan, giving us a guy that has the brains to think his way into, and out of any particular situation, and even if he may not have the skills to succeed in a fight, isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty a bit. Over the next couple of flicks, this element to the character of Jack Ryan would begin to change and evolve into a more “fuck yeah”, action-y type of character, but it still worked well for Baldwin nonetheless.

The one this movie really works wonders for is Sean Connery who, despite obviously trying to hide his thick Scottish-accent, really does give a certain heroic-pose and feel to Marko Ramius, even though he may definitely make some questionable decisions as Captain of the ship, here and there along the way. Still, through it all, Connery seems like the type of guy you’d be able to trust when he’s at the helm of all this, and be able to spit some inspiration into your hearts, even when he clearly knew the shit was about to hit the fan. However, there’s a reason for why he stays so calm and never clams-up throughout this deadly situation, and it’s one that humanizes him and makes us see that Connery can work with anything. Just throw him a script worthy of his talents and watch him spin the wheels. Gosh, I truly do miss him.

Consensus: May not be the quickest, most punchiest thriller you’ll ever see in your life, but it still stands, and stands in high-order that The Hunt for Red October is an exceptional thriller that gets down the meat of the situation, while never forgetting about making it fun, exciting and worth while for everybody involved, especially the audience sitting back at home and using their brains as hard as they can.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Old-school computer-programming must have been a hoot!

Old-school computer-programming must have been a hoot!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Sucker Punch (2011)

Pretty much a wet-dream for any nerd who stays in on the weekends to drool over the hotties from anime. And sex addicts that like it rough.

A girl named Babydoll (Emily Browning) gets sent to the insane asylum where she is essentially going to get a lobotomy, but before that occurs and her whole mind and memory is lost, she dreams of a world that’s as imaginative and as weird as you can get. She dreams of being a newly-affirmed dancer in a high-class nightclub where instead of dancing for rich dudes by taking off of her clothes, gets into the beats and rhythms by being sent on missions, along with her fellow strippers, where she has to kill someone or something. However, reality catches up with poor Babydoll and eventually the life she once had, begins to intersect with the one she’s dreaming of.

Since Zack Snyder’s going to apparently be changing the world with his “newer, darker version of Superman”, I thought it would be best to see just what the hell the dude fucked up with last time he made something for the screen. I never had any reason or sole-desire to see this movie, not just because of the shitty reviews or unanimous anger centered towards the movie’s material, but because scantily-clad ladies in leather, shooting guns, and killing baddies just doesn’t interest me all that much. No, it’s not because I’m a dude, that just so happens to have a dick, and actually be one as well, it’s just because that’s just not my style, yo. I’ve never been the nerd who loved anime, nor did I love video games, and nor did I love porn, aka, exactly who this movie’s made for and should only be judged by. Then again, I’m judging and even critiquing it so who am I to talk?

Give me the right time and place, I'll be shooting something off. I mean, dammit! See what Zack made me think?!?!?

Give me the right time and place, I’ll be shooting something off. I mean, dammit! See what Zack made me think?!?!?

Anyway, what’s so strange about this movie is that the story doesn’t make a lick of sense and doesn’t seem to actually try to. It’s just weird and confusing, just for the sake of it. Rather than explaining why this girl goes from gyrating her hips to the sexy beats of the music, to all of a sudden being placed in a world where samurai-Nazis are causing all sorts of havoc, we are just left to sort of go along with it, which would have been fine had the movie actually taken itself a little less seriously than it was, but Zack Snyder is not really known for shits and gigs. He’s a serious dude that not only loves hid dark, bloody violence, but also loves his slo-mo as much as the next pot-head and it still shows, even if, surprisingly; it isn’t as annoying this time around.

I’ve always gone to bat for Snyder when it’s came to whatever the hell he’s put on the big-screen, so to say that the slo-mo didn’t bother me wouldn’t make much of a difference, as I think it was used well this time to add more impact onto the hits and the blows of the violence, but that’s not what matters here. What does matter here is that this story is random, strange, and confusing as hell. Yeah, you could go so far as to call it “ambitious”, “original”, and “one-of-a-kind”, and I wouldn’t really disagree with you on that, but that creative-control can only go so far. You have to give me a story/characters that are worth caring about, rather than just throwing whatever you can find at the wall, in hopes that something will stick, and if something doesn’t; well then, that nobody noticed.

Problem is, everybody notices because Snyder isn’t exactly the most subtle guy in the world when it comes to what he wants to portray or say in his movies. And yes, I am talking about the typical, man-beats-up-on-woman signature that Snyder oddly enough has in his films. For some reason, the dude likes to show women getting their asses beat to shreds by stronger, manlier dudes and as dark and disturbing as it may be for some movies; his movies make it feel more exploitative as if he wants to get a rise out of you by doing it. He does that plenty of times here, but since this is a PG-13 rated movie (don’t know how the hell that was even possible), it’s toned-down a bit more or shown off-screen. But still, shown or insinuated, the movie still doesn’t seem to make much sense of the man-on-women violence. It’s just here to up the ante in hopes that we will feel more for these ladies as they band together to fight the pig-headed men that they are constantly surrounded by.

As empowering as this is supposed to be, it’s odd in the way that it shows these ladies as nothing more than just a bunch of chicks who wear short skirts, shoot big guns, spout-out corny lines, and show some skin here and there (but not too much because let me remind you, this is PG-13 after all). For dudes that haven’t gotten any action in the 30-40 years they’ve been alive and kicking; this is no more than porn at your own disposal without the possibility of being caught by your parents and frowned-upon til the day you die, but for a dude that’s 19 and doesn’t have much to worry in terms of women or sexual-activity (I’m a pimp-daddy, basically); it seems useless. None of it is empowering, it’s just stupid.

Which means that yes, this movie can be perceived as the “so-bad-it’s-good”-type, but even that feels like a bit of a stretch since nothing here really shines above the rest. Snyder’s direction seems to be inspired with the visuals, but with a story as wacky and self-serious as this, it doesn’t matter a bit and believe it or not, the action is pretty damn fun once you get past all of the slo-mo and sure randomness of it all. But, as I said, what’s it all for? It’s obviously not to make women feel superior to men or feel as if they can take over the world, we’ve already gone by that part, so what is it for?

Even Quentin Tarantino would say, "Dude, what the fuck?"

Even Quentin Tarantino would say, “Dude, what the fuck?”

I still haven’t been able to answer that question and who knows: I may never be able to.

And as for the ladies that have to stand-around, shoot guns, act strong and willful, but also be sexy as hell: I felt bad as hell for them since their careers are the only ones on-the-line here. Emily Browning had to practically get full-on naked, from head-to-toe after this to assure everybody she didn’t star in this; Vanessa Hudgens sort of did the same, but yet, still reminds us that she too will always be known as “that chick who dated Zac Efron when he looked like a girl“; Abbie Cornish shows up in things from time-to-time and probably has the most-respected career out of the main gals; and Jena Malone is still trying to make us forget that she was that bitchy-ass teenager who didn’t like Julia Roberts banging her daddy. I know, I sound like a dick because I’m talking more about these ladies’ careers after the fact that this movie came out, but that’s all that really matters here because their performances are nothing special, mostly because they aren’t asked to do much other than what I alluded to earlier. They do their job because they’re sexy and look good half-naked, not because they can act. Call me an asshole, call me what you will, but it’s more obvious once you actually see the movie and let it all sink in like yours truly.

Consensus: Snyder’s eye for detail and style doesn’t disappoint, but the odd, confusing, and surprisingly-offensive story in Sucker Punch does and only further shows us why Hollywood should be careful to give hot-shot, big-headed directors the chance to do whatever the hell they want to do, all because they made plenty of money at the box office already and are practically granted their time to shine on their own.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Listen to me, honey: get the fuck away from this dude. I've been with him twice so far, and almost nothing good has come of it."

“Listen to me, honey: get the fuck away from this dude. I’ve been with him twice so far, and almost nothing good has come of it.”

The Paperboy (2012)

Would have been better, had it been based on the Nintendo games.

Ward, a reporter (Matthew McConaughey) and his younger brother, a college drop-out named Jack (Zac Efron) investigate the events surrounding a murder to exonerate a man on death row, named Hillary (John Cusack). However, the only reason they are doing so is because the gal that wants Hillary out, a sexxed-up, piece of work named Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), just so happens to be the apple of Jack’s eyes.

I’ve been hearing a lot of crazy shit about this film and to be honest: it’s all deserved. Everybody knows Lee Daniels because he pulled-off Precious about 4 years ago and it showed him as the type of director that can get a story, no matter how gritty or despicable, and be able to make it in the least-bit inspirational for people. However, it wasn’t his first rodeo, as that honor (and I guess, dishonor) goes to a little, fucked-up movie called Shadowboxer. If you’ve never heard of it, please, don’t go watch it because it’s just an insane piece of work to watch and it will have you question whether or not you’ve just watched two films, from the same director. And if you have heard or have actually seen it, then buckle up, because that exactly the same type of crazy shit you’re going to get here.

As much as Daniels’ debut may have blew huge gonads, this flick is actually more controlled than that one and that’s probably because it’s just wild, without making any excuses for being so. There’s definitely that type of grungy, exploitative look and feel to the movie that has you feel as if you are in the dirty South, around the 60’s when racial-issues were up to the forefront and everybody was just sweating their asses off. If anything Daniels does do right in this flick, it’s at least nail the look and feel of the period that he has it placed-in, but everything else, well, it is sort of all-over-the-place.

Being “all-over-the-place” isn’t really all that much of bad thing if you can do it, and get away with it. The problem isn’t that Daniels can’t do it, because he sure as hell makes sure that everybody knows he can in every, damn second of this movie, but it’s more that he can’t get away with it. He can show two people making each other cum without ever touching one another and just simulating dirty things to one another, but it sticks out like a sore-thumb to everything else, and he can’t get away with it; he can show a girl peeing on a guy because he got stung by a bunch of jelly-fish, but it’s just odd and seems like it was only done for shock-factor, and he also can’t get away with it; and lastly, he can try and bring some issues up about the whole Civil Rights-movement, but when you compare it to the last sequences I just mentioned, it seems uneven, and once again, he can’t get away with it. Directors like Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodóvar (who apparently wanted to take this material at one time), or even Robert Rodriguez  for that matter, could take this material, do whatever the hell they wanted to with it, and at least make all of the crazy shit and melodramatic stuff gel well enough together, that you almost don’t notice it, but Daniels isn’t one of those directors. He’s just a regular-director that seems like he’s trying his damn near hardest to have us all forget about the over-weight girl story he pulled-off 4 years ago, and try to distract us with insane amounts of sex, whether it actually happen on-screen or just be insinuated. Either way, there’s a bunch of sex that seems to come out nowhere at times.

Look what you've been missing out on, Tom!

Look what you’ve been missing out on, Tom!

Is all of this wackiness and cookiness fun? In a way, yes it is and honestly, as much as I may be ragging on the film right here, I am more or less just hating on Daniels. Not to say that the guy doesn’t know how to make a story move, because he definitely does, but it focuses way too much on the personal lives of these characters and not in an exciting or electric way either, it’s just a boring, way-too-dramatic way that comes off as trying too hard. We never really care for these characters, the case they continue to push to the side, or what their relationships are with each other and how that affects one another, and I guess that was the point. Daniels is just giving us a bunch of dirty people that we can either care to like or not. Whether or not we actually do, doesn’t matter, because as long as Daniels is just allowing us to see how insane he can be, then he’s the one with the real joy in the end. That kind of ticks me off now that I think about it, because there was definitely a crap-ton of promise with this flick and premise, it’s just a shame that it had to fall so far from ever achieving that said promise.

The only promise that this flick ever does hit head-on, is the ensemble cast and what they are able to do with each of their roles, no matter how wacky or unbelievable they may be. Zac Efron is the sort-of voice of reason throughout this whole flick and is definitely growing-up right in front of our own eyes, but if you think about it, it is sort of a dull role for the guy but nowhere near as dull as the role Robert Pattinson had in Cosmopolis. Still, Efron makes this character work and his performance shows-off a kid that definitely wants to be treated like an adult, yet, still has the tendencies of a kid that just doesn’t yet know what to do with his life or who to spend the rest of it with. Sort of how Efron is now, just without being peed-on. Then again, I still have no idea what him and Vanessa Hudgens did in their spare-time.

Playing his big bro, Matthew McConaughey is good as the slick and sly reporter that can not only charm his way into getting whatever the hell he wants, but also has a bit of problems brewing underneath that he’s pretty good at hiding. This is a nice role for McConaughey and it’s one that he can practically play while sleeping, but after a year where tore the roof down as force to be reckoned with in flicks like Killer Joe and Magic Mike, this one definitely ranks the lowest-of-the-low for him. Not to say it’s bad, but it’s not to say that it’s anything special, either. John Cusack is playing really, really against-type here as the psychotic and nutty Hillary, and shows that Cusack can probably do more than any of us ever expected from him. He’s strange, he’s weird, but he’s also very sinister and I like how Cusack totally just swan-dived right into the role, totally leaving all shades and memories behind of Peter Gabriel tapes in his pathway. Not to say that this is a special performance that makes us think of Cusack in a different way now, but it’s definitely a role that shows the guy can do more than just be that old dude from the 80’s we all remember relating to when our dates walked-out on us at prom. Yeah, that he is no more.

Better get used to that look, because that's all you're going to see him look half of the damn movie!

Better get used to that look, because that’s all you’re going to see him look half of the damn movie!

The one who really steals the spotlight from the rest of these dudes is Nicole Kidman, as the starlet fire fox, Charlotte. Kidman hasn’t been this sexy or bad-ass since the days of Eyes Wide Shut and To Die For, but here, she totally steals all the glory and attention, and has all of the fun out of everybody here. She just relishes in the fact that she can be sexy, be a little dirty, but also be a little bit sympathetic as well and once things start to go South for her and this story, she’s the only one you really give a single hoot about, especially since she’s the only one that has the most believable convictions out of the whole story (she just wants love). Kidman is probably getting the most recognition and praise for her work here and rightfully so, because the gal just looks freakin’ hot and steams up every scene she’s in, whether she’s trying to seduce people and act sexy, or not. Either way, Kidman definitely had my attention in almost every scene and I’m glad so, too, because she deserved it.

Consensus: You may have a boat-load of fun with The Paperboy if you’re looking for some weird shit to happen, non-stop without any rhyme or reason as to why exactly, but if not, then you may just be bored and annoyed by how uneven everything is, despite Daniels trying his hardest to make us think or see otherwise. You strike-out this time, my friend!


"I triiiiiiieeeed to not get type-castedddd....."

“I triiiiiiieeeed to not get type-castedddd…..”

Apocalypse Now (1979)

War is hell. Especially when you’re dropping acid.

This film tracks the journey of Captain Benjamin L Willard (Martin Sheen), a USA Army Intelligence Officer sent on a hazardous mission up river into Cambodia to terminate “with extreme prejudice” American renegade Colonel Walter E Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has spun out of control and out of his mind. What Willard has to go through in order to get to Kurtz is unlike any other.

Jesus H. Christ. Where do I begin with this one? Well to start, I should say that this isn’t the first time I ever saw this movie, or even the first time I ever reviewed this movie. Confused as to why I’m doing a total double-take? Well, the first time I watched this flick I wasn’t as fully into it as I should have been and my review at that time (along with many others), come off as very lazy to the point of where it seemed like I was reading off of Rotten Tomatoes and piecing them altogether. Trust me, that’s not what I did but if you go back and read it, you’ll think it by all of the jibber-jabber that I typed. But after checking it out for the second time, I finally realized the beauty and the ugliness that lies behind this film but I said it once and I will say it again: this film is somewhat overrated.

Anybody who has ever done research about this film probably heard about how director Francis Ford Coppola literally went to hell in pre-production just to get this film done in his way (it’s actually the subject of a documentary, one that I need to still see), and thank heavens for that because this film would have not worked without his direction. Seriously, no way in hell would it have. What catches your eye right from the start is the beautiful, but deadly images of a Cambodian jungle being blown up to pieces, all played to a tune from The Doors. It’s the perfect combination of a dark song and a dark image coming together and starting this baby perfectly right off the bat, and it gets you ready for what’s about to come and that is pure, utter craziness that’s all from the point-of-view from Coppola.

Let me just say that this film is probably one of the more beautiful ones I have ever seen in my entire life. I don’t know how Coppola got some of the shots that he did, but the long, sweeping shots of helicopters blowing shit up to the tune of Wagner still sticks in my mind every time I think about this film and the beauty it has. Oh, and there’s also the famous bridge blowing up scene where the only source of light throughout the whole scene is just fireworks and gun shots being lift-off in the sky. But regardless of what specific scene I’m talking about, there’s something inventive Coppola does with the colors in his film and it’s just that he constantly mixes them with every new frame. One shot you got purple, the next you got yellow, the next you got red, the next you got orange, and so on and so forth. Coppola has a great eye for colors and how they convey moods for a film and that’s what really caught my eye every time with every shot. When you look at this film and the way that it’s shot, you know that you have to give Coppola enough credit for that but that’s not all he does that makes this film work. No sireee!

The whole general story of this flick starts off pretty strange, but only gets worse after that whole “Wagner sequence”. We start to see these soldiers go across Vietnam running into other soldiers that are either completely insane, or have no guidance whatsoever, or run into a bunch of innocent Vietnamese that are just trying to make it across without getting killed or hurt, or just another bunch of people that keep on making this film tick and tick away some more. There are no sunshine and peachy days with these people that we soon meet on this “trip”, if you will, and they automatically shock and compel you every time somebody new shows up. This is fairly one of the strangest films of all-time, with characters that only make it so, but it’s all there for a reason and that’s to show you the type of effect the war has on people from all different sides of it.

Not once do we see the enemy from their point-of-view, or do we ever really see them up-close-and-personal. Instead, we get to see plenty of the American soldiers that are fighting against them and just how much of a terrible toll this isolation and destruction is taking on their bodies, on their minds, and on their lives as well. This is all some scary shit that we have seen before in anti-war flicks of the same nature, but never this disturbing to the point of where you really feel like it’s about to get bad. Coppola gives us the images to really stick in our heads, but he also gives us the situations and characters to think about and how all war, brings pain and misery no matter whichever way you make it out to be.

However, you heard me going on and on about this film but the one question in your head still has to be left there thinking, “Just what the hell does this cat think is so overrated about this movie, because all he’s doing is having orgasms over it?”. Well, have no fear because here’s the answer to exactly why I think so: not as much character development as there should have been. That’s right, in this whole 2 hour and 30 minute movie, we get plenty of crazy and bizarre-o characters that pop in-and-out and provide us with a lot of philosophical shit to chew on for the time-being, but when it came to the main players of the story, I found it very hard to care for.

Let me give you the prime example of this flick, and that is Martin Sheen‘s character, Captain Benjamin L Willard. Willard is a very confused fellow that seems like he has no motivation for this duty he has to do, other than the fact that he literally had nothing else to do and was just assigned to it. We see Willard go throughout the whole war, meet up with new characters that eff his mind up as much as it effed mine up, challenge what he thinks is suitable of the war, and teach him some new things about life that he never once realized. Problem is, I think I’m looking into that a little bit too much because we never get much from this Willard guy, other than a very cold and intimidating stare from Sheen. Don’t get me wrong, Sheen does an amazing job with this role and handles the lead with such ease and perfection, but he’s not given much to work with outside of just looking pissed and barely saying anything. All of his motivations and convictions feel real, it was just that we don’t really know what to think about him since the guy is so damn stern the whole time and barely loosens up with the exception of a couple of scenes where he actually cracks a smile.

Everybody else kind of suffers from the same thing, but that doesn’t matter as much because of the awards-caliber performances they give as well. Robert Duvall is a sensation to watch as the hip, fun, and cool as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore. Of course everybody knows the famous “Napalm” line that Duvall utters in this film but honestly, how can you not love that line as well as this dude’s charisma? The whole film is essentially one, big downer of a movie and Duvall brings a whole bunch of comedic relief to the film that makes you appreciate him a whole lot more once he’s out of the film for good but you never forget one of the lines he says, and trust me, it’s not the “Napalm” one either. You’ll see.

Then of course, you got Marlon Brando who caused all types of shit (as usual) on the set of this film by showing up overweight, needy for money, and dicking everybody around like he normally does. However, it’s kind of hard to be mad at him for something like that especially when he gives off such a commanding but brief performance as Colonel Walter E Kurtz. As soon as Brando shows up, the film takes a much darker turn, which I thought wasn’t even possible, but once I started hearing all of the shit Kurtz discusses, then I realized it was. Brando hits like a wrecking ball in these types of roles and his small role here as Kurtz is no different and you can’t help but just wait, and wait for him to show up as soon as you see his picture-perfect face within the first 10 minutes.

Also, be on the lookout for plenty of other supporting performances from people you obviously recognize, but other’s, you don’t by how young they are. Especially a very young Laurence Fishburne, who deserves major props for being 14-years old in this film and still not getting blown out of the water with the type of talent they have on-display here. Nice going Morpheus!

Consensus: While it’s not the pitch-perfect masterpiece so many people laud it as being, Apocalypse Now is still a powerhouse of a film to watch, mainly because of the inspired direction from Coppola that pulls out all of the stops, awesome performances from this wide ensemble, and plenty of themes and moral issues to chew on about the war and all of the misery it brings to those involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

This guy can diffuse bombs. What can you do, Jason?

Everything that happened to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), is pretty much all lost now and brought back onto to this new CIA agent, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). He just so happens to be on the run, and everybody at Treadstone is going wild all over again because of this. Typical.

Many people have been dreading this film ever since the day that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass both said, “no”, to doing another Bourne flick, let alone, another sequel when they ended it off so well with The Bourne Ultimatum. And as much as I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this like as much as everybody else on the planet, I still got to give it to this franchise and say that it still has some steam left, even if it’s without the constant “crack-cam”. You heard it here first, people.

Writer/director Tony Gilroy (who worked on the early Bourne films) shows that he wasn’t really going for the same-old formula that somehow worked it’s magic, for three movies, but seem to be a little too tired for a fourth one. Instead, this guy gives us a pretty tense ride that may have you almost forget about Bourne, about half-way through (even though Gilroy brings him up about every 10 minutes, just by flashing his pictorial up on-screen). I will say that it does take it’s good-old time to get started up, but once the adrenaline starts picking-up, and the blood starts to flow, this film doesn’t seem to really want to stop, which I don’t think I ever wanted it to.

Since there is no “crack-cam” in this film, that means we can actually tell what’s going down in the action sequences, whether it be hand-to-hand brawls, knife-fights, guns-a-blasing battles, or the simple car-chase, you can actually see everything that’s going on and I have to say that’s a bit of a big-step up for this franchise, since it seemed like Greengrass used that a bit too much with the last entry. Did I miss some of the elements where we were practically on Damon’s tail as he was flying through ceilings and windows? Yes, but it wasn’t like I was in the corner sobbing over this, because I actually found myself to be having a lot of fun with what Gilroy did with this story and this action. Gilroy is a very talented film-maker and I would have never thought he’d be able to make such an exciting action-picture, let alone, a Bourne one.

But as fun and exciting as Gilroy made this film, there was still a lot of the conventions that we got from those Bourne films that came before this, and I thought since Gilroy seemed to be one-step ahead of the crowd that we wouldn’t get the same shit. Sadly, we did. Franka Potente-like damsel in distress? Check. Lots of undercover CIA dudes yelling at computer-screens? Check. Par-cor on buildings? Check. And my least favorite: top assassin out to kill target? Major check. I don’t know what it is about that last one convention that bothers me so much but it seems like it’s the one that they use in all of these flicks and think that it’s going to make us think differently about the fate of them or their target, but it never changes.

My next real beef with this film is how abruptly it ends, which bothered me more than anything else in this movie because I was having a real ball here. What I liked most about the last 30 minutes of this movie is how it just continued to build-up, and up, and up, until it finally just left me with one big-ass car chase through the streets of Manilla that is sure worth the price of admission alone. It also didn’t occur to me that this was actually, the last 30 minutes of the entire movie because once the story actually seems like it’s getting somewhere with itself, seems like it’s going to get better, and seems like Gilroy is really going to be pulling out all of the stops, that freakin’ song by Moby just kicks in and then we get the credits rolling. I honestly thought that this film would have gone on longer, and even though it’s the longest of the whole franchise with a time-limit of 135 minutes, it didn’t feel like that at all. In fact, it just whizzed right on by, which is not necessarily as much of a negative, as it is a positive, but I think about 20 more minutes would have made things a tad bit better for my taste. Then again, it’s just my taste and I’m a dick-head so don’t listen to me.

One element to this film that has people the most curious is how it will do without the presence of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. The answer to that is, pretty fine, especially when you have Jeremy Renner playing a bad-ass character, that’s a bit different from Bourne in more ways than I expected. Right from the first couple of scenes, we see that this Aaron Cross guy is actually a bit more content with his line of work that he does, unlike Bourne, and actually remembers his past, unlike Bourne, as well. But he also has a lot of personality where we see him act a bit more talkative and jokey towards other people he meets and encounters, and it gives you a sense that this is a real guy, that is just caught-up in all of the wrong shit but he has no one else to blame but himself. This role is perfect for Renner because he not only gets to show-off, once again, how much of a tough-ass guy he can be, but also show that he can make any generic action-hero, seem a bit more complex just by adding a likable personality onto him. Renner was a great choice for Cross, and I actually look forward to seeing what he can do with this character in the near-future, if they ever give him that chance, that is.

Rachel Weisz is also perfect for the role of the scientist that Cross comes around to sweep her away from danger, Dr. Marta Shearing. Weisz is such a lovable actress that it makes it a lot easier to buy this very generic character that seems to be a staple in these types of thrillers, but the difference here is that this girl actually seems like she has real-feelings and the feelings she may, or may not have for Cross come out perfectly in their chemistry that I would like to see worked on in the future installments. Then again, it all depends my people. Edward Norton is fine as the main dude that is orchestrating this whole hunt for Cross because he does what he can with a guy that seems so two-dimensional, but it’s almost like I expected him to just lash-out at everyone, every chance he got. Maybe it’s just that I think Norton deserves better roles, in better movies sometimes, but I think he could have been used a lot better here and should have gotten just more than one scene to show his true colors. Also, was it me or did anybody else feel terribly distracted when Norton and Stacy Keach were in the same scene? I kept on getting flash-backs to Vineyard just kicking the shit out of Cameron Alexander and I think that’s what Norton’s character here would have benefited from in all honesty. If only Hollywood allowed to polish more scripts.

Consensus: The Bourne Legacy features fine performances from this ensemble, plenty of action that will excite, and offers us a new franchise that will hopefully meet up with it’s old one that came before it, but it’s also very similar to that old one and that déjà vu feeling may be a bit too much for some viewers, as it sort of was for me.


The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

How hard can it be just to tell this guy who he is?

In the new chapter of this espionage series, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) will hunt down his past in order to find a future. He must travel from Moscow, Paris, Madrid and London to Tangier and New York City as he continues his quest to find the real Jason Bourne – all the while trying to outmaneuver the scores of cops, federal officers and Interpol agents with him in their cross-hairs.

As you all have probably already read on here before, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy were two good action flicks, that did what they did well, and kept me entertained while it was going on. However, they weren’t really anything worth writing home about and I don’t know what it was about them, but they just fly away in comparison to this one. Oh wait, I do know why. This one’s freakin’ awesome!

Director Paul Greengrass brought a new type of style to Supremacy, but didn’t seem like he fully used it to his advantage. Here, that’s a totally different story as it seems this guy took about 5 sniffs of cocaine and washed it all down with 3 Red Bulls, just to get in the same intensity-mode here as Jason Bourne. The last two films have been action-packed and very tense, but this one ups the anty and gives us a nail-biter almost from start to finish. The pacing that Greengrass gives this film is one that never really slows up, one that never lingers, and it’s always one that keeps the adrenaline moving, even if the story itself is just focusing on two peeps just talking about CIA shit and life. It’s a real wonder why most other action films don’t try and use the same type of fast-pace as this one does here, because you really feel like you’re in the mind of Jason Bourne, as he’s running away from these people and as he is getting closer and closer to finding out who he really is. Just a total thrill-ride that never lets loose, which is something I always love with my action-thrillers.

As for Greengrass’s hand-held camera style, it works very well with the material by how frantic it makes all of the action scenes seem. Usually, whenever this type of style comes into an action film, it takes away from the action and instead of making people feel the craziness of the action, they just feel a headache coming on. However, Greengrass has this style down very well and uses it to his advantage not only to give this film a crazy look, but also give the story more and more layers of tension that feel worth it, especially since it seems like this story is coming down to the nitty-gritty of finding out what the hell is going on with this guy.

The problem with this non-stop hand-held camera shit is that the film seems to use it the whole time, even if it is just two people talking. I get that Greengrass is just trying to keep the tension up-and-up by having his camera move all-over-the-place, but when you have a scene of just two people staring at each other in silence, 9 times out of 10, you don’t really need the camera panning in and out of their faces as if we were watching a low-budget documentary. Surprised that I didn’t hate this style of film-making here, but I still found something else to complain about it also.

Another problem I seemed to have had with this flick was that the formula, is somewhat the same and even though that isn’t so bad and noticeable this time around, you can still see certain aspects that just seem lazy. One of these instances is with the hit man that are always assigned to kill Bourne. In each and every single one of these flicks, there’s always that one hit man, who is always the best at what he does it seems and makes it look like he can kill anybody he’s ever assigned to. We get that here with 2 characters this time and it just bothered me because it always seemed like that, in the past, whenever they use it, it just came off to end the same exact way it did before.

For the third time once again, Matt Damon absolutely positively kicks total ass as Jason Bourne. Bourne is one kick-ass character, we all know that, but this time we get to see him actually be a lot smarter with the situations he plans out and of course, we get to see plenty of times where it’s just him taking names and coming one step closer and closer to the truth. In the acting department here, Damon isn’t anything particularly special, but he doesn’t have to be when he kicks this much ass. Bourne is sort of like our 21st-century superhero that just so happens to be a real person, just so happens to have no superpowers, just so happens to be an amnesiac, and just so happens to be able to beat the ever lovin’ tar out of anyone who steps up to him. It’s a great character and it’s a shame that this new one coming out doesn’t feature him for a go-around, one last time. Then again, Damon can get bored of roles pretty quickly.

The others in the cast are solid, too, with a couple of new-comers here and there. Joan Allen returns as Pam Landy but isn’t as much of a sinister bitch this time around and actually shows that she has a heart that cares about Jason Bourne a bit. It’s surprising to see this character actually have a heart and have this much depth considering I was expecting her to just be that ruthless, CIA hoe that everybody wanted Jason Bourne to just bitch-slap the shit out of. David Strathairn is new to this film as Noah Vosen, another CIA member that basically takes the spot of Landy and comes off as a ruthless son of a bitch that doesn’t want to take any prisoners when it comes to finding Bourne. Also, Julia Stiles is also back here as well, and she’s pretty good and makes her character have a lot more emotional depth than you would expected from her in the past two flicks. Shame we don’t see Stiles too much nowadays because this gal can do very well when she has the right script. Be on the look-out for a nice, extended cameo from Albert Finney, as well. That guy is always bad-ass. Even when he happens to be dying in films like Big Fish.

Consensus: Being the best out of the trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum features plenty of memorable action scenes, a direction that just gives this film a whole new level of intense, and a story that continues to get better and better as more secrets begin to come out and we eventually figure out the truth behind Jason Bourne and who the hell he really is.


The Virgin Suicides (1999)

*Spoiler Alert*: not all of them are quite the virgins that the title makes you think. Teeehee

This is the story about a group of teenage boys who delve into the mysteries of womanhood through their discovery of a personal diary belonging to the beautiful Lisbon sisters. The five girls, Cecilia (Hanna R Hall), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), Bonnie (Chelsea Swain), Mary (AJ Cook) and Therese (Leslie Hayman), are aged 13 to 17 respectively. Through the diary the boys start to learn about the girl’s lives, coming to hold the girl’s collective memories and experiences as their own.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola is just one of those directors that has her own type of style, and it’s either you love it or you absolutely loathe it. Somehow I found myself in the middle but this flick definitely makes me think more of her in a good way.

This premise isn’t a very happy and light one, but Coppola gives it this stylish and compelling treatment that is sure to win anybody over right away even as grim as the material may be. Copp0la perfectly matches the look and feel of the 70’s with all of the tacky designs, poofed up hair, and rockin’ soundtrack, but there’s just something that Coppola brings here that makes it worth noting more than just a fine looking period piece. Some shots in this flick are beautiful to look at, with Coppola bringing plenty of real-looking hand-held camera footage that gives it this realistic look, but there are also some shots that are not just beautiful but also devastating. There’s a lot of color in this flick but also a lot of darkness and even though the story may take place in a sunny part of Detroit, I couldn’t still help but be placed inside this dark, sheltered, and cooped up world that these girls also had to live in as well.

Coppola also shines when it comes to creating a compelling story that shows 70’s suburbia for what it was for some families, and the effects it would have on the children. The film’s subject material is very disturbing (I mean suicide is never a fun subject to talk about) but it’s not like Coppola depends on that to have us feel something for these characters. We sense that there will be dread coming on its way soon but we can’t help but get lost in these girls’ stories and just how they are constantly being strangled by their parents control, just so they can be safe from the cruel and outside world. I liked how we see an outside view telling us about this story because it doesn’t give us every single little detail about these girls’ lives, but just the right amount to where we are actually able to connect parts of the puzzle together and understand what really made these girls tick after all.

Where the film really shined for me was how it accurately showed the way two opposite sexed teenagers react with one another. Being a young adult like myself, my awkward teenage years are pretty much behind me but I can remember those days when it was so hard for me to actually talk to girls because all that I could keep on thinking about was how big their boobs are. Yes, if you were a teenage boy, you always thought like this no matter what girl you were talking to and this film shows that incredibly well here. I loved when this film focused on these girls and their reactions to other people, especially boys, and it also made many moments that through me off guard by how darkly funny they were. It’s about suicide, but it’s also quite funny. Good job Sofia!

Where this film really lost me was about the last act when the film really starts to stumble and I think lose some steam. The main story-line that has to do with the high-school hunk and Lux, was probably the highlight of the movie for me, so when that seems to go bye bye, the film also seemed to say the same thing to creativity as well. Instead of actually making a compelling ending, Sofia depends more on making everything look cool that seems more like her attempt to get past the fact that she can’t come up with an ending that will truly hit us where it hurts. The motives of these girls also come up a little too late for us to ever really believe in it in the first place, and when they show this random-ass party where all of these rich people are partying with gas-masks seems exploitative and unneeded. I think if they ended the film a little earlier it would have had a better effect overall, but it was just a shame that the last act seemed to just drag.

What really got me into the authenticity of this flick was the fact that almost everybody that’s cast here, were all pretty damn close to the ages of the characters they were playing. This is a huge cast, that features some familiar faces we have seen before but there is only a couple that really stand-out for me. Kirsten Dunst is amazing here as Lux, the sexy and bad girl of the family and just about every scene she has feels real and how a teenage girl would act, if she was given a chance to just break-out. Josh Hartnett is also great in the role as the high-school hunk, Trip, and he was such a delight every time he popped up on-screen that I honestly wish they had more of him but then again, the amount that he did actually have felt right. James Woods and Kathleen Turner are also great in these roles as the mommy and daddy and even though their characters may not be as fully fleshed-out as I would have liked to have seen, they still were very restrained which is a huge surprise from both of them.

Consensus: The Virgin Suicides may start to disappoint once it comes to its final act, but Sofia Coppola’s debut still features a stylish direction that adds so much more to this compelling story than just your usual teenager story, as well as the great ensemble cast that feels real and authentic as if you are watching real people on-screen.