Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Sharlto Copley

Free Fire (2017)

Did someone say “bang bang”?

Two different groups of thugs get together to finish up the deal on a bunch of guns. Seem simple enough, eh? Well, unfortunately, that doesn’t quite go as planned when the groups begin to feud for some odd reasons and then, eventually, and seemingly out of nowhere, begin shooting at one another. But why? And better yet, who is to be blamed for all of this craziness and havoc?

Co-writer/director Ben Wheatley thinks he’s definitely a lot smarter and humoruous than he actually is, which is why his movies, for the most part, have left me feeling a tad bit dry. Sure, they’ve got inspiration and definitely some creativity, but they mostly feel like mixed-bags where Wheatley tries a lot of different things at once and doesn’t quite come out on top, looking as clean and as smart as he thinks.

Still so cool.

It’s nothing against him, as a person, because I’m sure he’s a cheeky and lovely fella to be around, but it also seems like he’s a lot wittier than he may be. Does he take extra steps to put himself into a corner with the kinds of movies he takes on? Oh yes. Does he at least show a surprising amount of ambition? Definitely. Does he always seem to know what he’s doing? Not quite, and that’s why Free Fire, while still something of a slightly mixed-bag, also works a lot better than his other flicks because, well, it is actually as witty and humorous as it think it is.

Which is definitely saying something.

Cause honestly, the premise is basically one overlong gun-battle and while it can get to be a little tiring after hearing gun-shot-after-gun-shot, it also sinks so much into your brain that it works. Eventually, the sound just becomes background noise to these characters constantly plotting, yelling, and figuring out ways how to get out of this situation alive, get off with all the guns, and also, get rid of the ones shooting at them. Sure, is it maybe too simple for its own good? Most definitely, but it still works because Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump seem to know what it is that they’re dealing with here and it works.

In other words, it’s a fun movie. It’s actually kind of funny, but also pretty barbaric and disturbing when it needs to be, and it draws us even closer into the twisted, sick and warped mind of Wheatley. Could he have possibly have toned-down all of the constant shooting and instead, I don’t know, given us something along the lines of a one-on-one battle? Probably, but still, it’s hard to complain about a movie that doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot, yet, still entertaining. It so rarely happens to me with a movie, so it’s great when it does.

Somehow, they have time for laughs?

And yes, the awesome ensemble is to be thanked for that, too.

Because everyone’s got their own one little trait, it works in the long-run. Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley are the bad-ass Irishmen; Brie Larson is the woman who constantly keeps on getting underestimated, but always proving herself; Jack Reynor and Noah Taylor are scummy dudes; Sharlto Copley, in one of his best performances to-date, is the stylish, yet annoying South African who takes things too seriously; Babou Ceesay is his very hard-to-understand partner; Jack Reynor is pugnacious and always looking for a brawl; and in probably the best performance, Armie Hammer stays cool and stylish, even with all of the killing and violence surrounding him.

With a great cast such as this, would you expect a bit more than just quips and shots fired? Probably, but once again, it still kind of works. Wheatley knows how to shoot this action to where we can tell what’s happening, even when it’s sometimes not all that clear, but he also knows how to draw us in on the tension, by upping the stakes and keeping surprises up his sleeve. It can be viewed as pretentious, but compared to his other movies, it’s probably the least stylish and obvious he’s ever been, which means yes, it’s good.

Pretty damn good, to be honest.

Consensus: As simple as it may be, Free Fire still gets by on its fun, humor, and perfectly put together cast who work well in this crazy atmosphere.

7.5 / 10

Don’t take her Oscar away just yet.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz


The Hollars (2016)

Family’s suck. No matter how colorful.

John Hollar (John Krasinski) is having a bit of a rough time in his life. He’s struggling to make something of his career as a graphic designer, so he now works in retail, hoping to make something from nothing, and now, impregnated his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick), and doesn’t seem to know if he’s ready for that or not. Either way, John’s going to have to grow up real soon as he finds out that his mom (Margo Martindale) has brain cancer. Feeling as if it’s finally time for him to go home and see the family he left behind so many years ago, John has to put up with a lot – despite his mom actually being all fine and dandy, all things considering, everyone else in his family seems to be crumbling. John’s brother (Sharlto Copley) is still reeling over his divorce and estrangement from his kids, while his father (Richard Jenkins), is about to lose his company and file for bankruptcy. Not to mention that one of his mom’s nurses, also happens to be an old foe from high school (Charlie Day), who’s now married to his high school girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). So yeah, it’s an odd time for John, but he’s going to do whatever he can to make out as humanly sane as possible.

To read the full review, head on over to Riot-Nerd and check it out. It’s a new gig that I’ll be showing up on every so often, so yeah, check it out and let them know what you think!

Hardcore Henry (2016)

It’s like “Smack My Bitch Up“, but for an-hour-and-a-half.

A man wakes up in a Moscow laboratory to learn that he’s been brought back from the dead as a half-human, half-robotic hybrid. He has no memory of his former life, except only what a mysterious woman (Haley Bennett) who claims to be his wife tells him. For one, he finds out that his name is Henry and that he doesn’t have a voice to speak with. But before he can even get his voice activated, a bunch of evil and dangerous thugs storm in, kidnap her, and lay waste to all of the other scientists who are trying to help him out. Eventually though, Henry ends up roaming the streets of Moscow, where he constantly meets up with a fella named Uncle Charlie (Sharlto Copley), someone who takes on many different forms and doesn’t seem to ever die. With Charlie, Henry starts to understand his new abilities and begins to search the city, far and wide, killing almost every person in sight that poses him any threat, so that he can save his wife from mystical psychopath (Danila Kozlovsky), who seems to have ulterior motives in destroying the world.

Or something.

If you have a fear of heights, good luck.

If you have a fear of heights, good luck.

The whole gimmick surrounding Hardcore Henry is that everything is filmed with a GoPro, having us see and experience everything through Henry’s eyes. And like most other gimmick movies, your enjoyment of the actual flick itself relies on whether or not you mind the gimmick in the first place. If you don’t mind the gimmick and feel like it’s interesting, almost ground-breaking way to film full-length feature flicks, let alone, action ones, then yeah, Hardcore Henry may be your cup of tea. However, if you think it’s just a manipulative way of making some very dry and conventional material appear to be more than just that and do mind the gimmick, then yeah, Hardcore Henry won’t be for you.

Just as it wasn’t for me.

And honestly, I’m surprised by that. For one, I don’t mind gimmick movies, so long as they make sense in the grander scheme of things and actually make the movie more of an interesting watch. All of the found-footage movies that have been shoved down our throats since Paranormal Activity hit the big screen haven’t so much as bothered me, as much as they have gotten lazier and lazier as time has progressed and the inventiveness of the formula went down the tubes. Gimmick movies don’t have to be manipulative, nor do they have to be bad, they just have to make sense of themselves and give the audience any reason to actually care, which is why I haven’t had much of a problem with the found-footage flicks, so long as they were actually good and seemed to do something the least bit compelling with what they were presenting as “new”, or “ground-breaking”.

That’s why Hardcore Henry, despite it trying to do something new, interesting and compelling, also doesn’t quite work. It’s gimmick in that everything is filmed in the first-person doesn’t ever make much sense, except that it’s supposed to make all of the gruesome and hectic violence appear more crazy and insane. That does the ticket, however, for all of the wrong reasons. One of the main reasons why so many people have an issue with the found-footage movies is that a lot of them rely on the actual actors themselves, holding the cameras and moving along with them everywhere they go. Obviously, this gives a greater sense of realism, but it also makes the camera move more frantically, give people headaches, and not actually allow for anything to be seen.

Basically, all you have is a lot of shaking and moving around, but without anything actually being seen or enjoyed.

That’s the same issue I had with Hardcore Henry. While Henry himself may be running, jumping, flying, soaring, kicking, punching and going all over Moscow, we hardly actually see anything. When Henry is sitting still and looking all around him, we can see everything because the camera itself is still. However, when Henry is engaging in some sort of action, everything is shot and moved around in such a frenzied way, that it’s hard to make up what’s actually going on and/or whom is doing what to whom. We hear a lot of crunching, breaking, and shooting that seem to imply that there’s some sort of brutal violence occurring, but we hardly see it. The times we do see it, it’s raw and disgusting, in the right ways, too, but it’s very rare when we do.

If you have a fear of law enforcement, good luck.

If you have a fear of law enforcement, good luck.

This leads me to wonder the simple question: Why can’t Hardcore Henry just be another action flick filmed in the conventional, yet simple manner? I get that the appeal of the movie is that everything is seen in the first-person, making you feel as if you’re actually in the mind of a savage, robotic killer, but the fact that the movie is relying on this gimmick actually ruins it. There’s no denying that there’s a true and fun bit of energy surrounding this movie and the way it approaches all of the cruel and ballistic violence it has, but it’s all channeled through a gimmick that not only brings confusion, but ultimately, doesn’t work.

The other parts of the movie that do work, like Sharlto Copley’s appearances, all feel thrown into a flick that wants to have fun with them, but ultimately, fall back on a crutch that brings us right back to the gimmick. It’s not a terrible gimmick to have, but it also feels like you’re watching a video-game; the kind of video-game that may be fun, however, because you’re not playing it and somebody else is, it doesn’t really matter what happens. You’re just sitting there, awaiting your turn, and expecting that person to die or fall at any time so that they can give up the controller and you can have your time.

Except that you never have your turn. The movie ends without you ever having your fun, but instead, watching and dealing with the fact that somebody else got the chance to play, and you didn’t, and may never get the opportunity again.

Now, does that sound like fun to you?

Consensus: Even with its frantic and fun energy, Hardcore Henry still can’t get past its distracting, sometimes infuriating and always confusing gimmick that doesn’t offer much, except nausea and disappointment.

3 / 10

If you have a fear of murder and/or death, especially good luck with that one.

If you have a fear of murder and/or death, especially good luck with that one.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Chappie (2015)

Being raised by Die Antwoord would have definitely been different, to say the least.

It’s the year 2016 in Johannesburg, an area of the world that is largely populated with crime, violence, and all sorts of dirty drug-lords creating all sorts of havoc, which is also one of the first police-forces to use humanoid-like robots to do all of the dirty work, rather than risk the fragile lives of actual humans. This is successful as it makes people rich; baddies to get taken into jail; and altogether, for society to be a whole lot safer. However, designer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) believes that he can take it one step further: Allowing for these robots to use their subconscious as if they were actual humans, too. Deon tries this on one robot and is successful, but gets ambushed by a pack of thugs (Die Antwoord and Jose Pablo Cantillo) who are in need of a robot for themselves, so that they can teach him to commit heists and make them lots and lots of money. It’s a smart idea, and Deon is more than willing to comply with it, so long so as that he gets to help the robot learn more about the world around itself. Well, for lack of a better term, the robot does, and then some.

But most of all, he gets a name: Chappie.

So, yeah. Is the premise to Chappie incredibly goofy? Better yet, is it a mash-up with pieces of Robocop, Short Circuit, and even Neill Blomkamp’s own District 9? Well, yeah. But I’ll be damned if Blomkamp doesn’t go to hell and back with it and leave hardly any stone un-turned!

Being gangster, like we all know how to be.

Being gangster, like we all know how to be.

To say that Blomkamp is going for it all here, isn’t to say that he’s actually made a good film, however. It’s an interesting one, but one you can clearly tell he’s having some problems with in wondering where to go, what to say, and how he wants us all to feel when we’re walking away from it. Gone are the days where everyone felt like Blomkamp was the next big thing to come to sci-fi since James Cameron, but that doesn’t need to be such a bad thing.

A lot of people got on Blomkamp’s case for losing all sorts of subtlety with Elysium, and while I can see where some of the nay-sayers are coming from with that movie’s case, there was a part of me that had a problem hating that movie. Sure, it was messy, over-the-top, and not one bit as thoughtful as District 9, but it was fun, action-packed, gritty and not afraid of offending any sort of person who didn’t like what he was doing, or trying to say. Now, I don’t know about any of you out there, but I feel as if the sci-fi genre was built on the foundation of not giving a single piece of shit of what others say about your story, or it’s ambitions – all that matters is what you, the creator of the story, have to think about it. Basically, what it all comes down to is saying, “screw the haters!”, and being back onto your business.

And that’s what I felt like Blomkamp was, at least for the most part, doing with Chappie.

Because, even while the movie itself has the subtlety of a rock, Blomkamp seems to be playing around and having all sorts of fun with where his story goes and what it does once it gets to its destination. Like I’ve noted before, it’s mix-and-match of all sorts of different sci-fi movies, and while none of them are particularly original or ground-breaking, they still add a nice dash of creative energy to the proceedings that makes Chappie a lot different and more complex than most of the sci-fi schlock we see out there in the world.

While some movies try to be different, and in the process, fall on their knees when trying to say something smart or mind-blowing, Chappie doesn’t seem like it’s trying that. At points, Blomkamp is giving us a fun, sci-fi action-romp that seems to be digging at something deeper with its story and the characters it gives us to think about. It may seem off-putting to some that the most intriguing character in all of Chappie is that of the title-character itself, but it still works to the movie’s advantage in that we are dealing with a protagonist worth paying attention to, getting behind, and hoping that all things work out for, even if it doesn’t always make the right choices throughout the majority of the film.

Hell, you can’t even get that feeling with some humans in movies like these!

Speaking of Chappie, whatever they did to make Sharlto Copley become something of the next Andy Serkis, it totally worked. According to what I’ve read on the inter-web, Copley not only voiced Chappie, but did the motion-capture for him as well, which not only helps the animation seem more life-like, but does the same for Chappie, the character. In fact, it’s almost seamless sometimes; if you really wanted to study the movie’s animation, you could probably find all of the nooks and crannies that make this character an obvious piece of computer-animation, but there’s no need to. The CGI for this character is top-notch and if that’s all the movie was able to give me, then I’d be somewhat fine.

But that’s what’s nice, as Blomkamp takes this character one step further than just making it a pretty distraction to stare at. There’s more to the character of Chappie, which, as a result, makes it interesting to see where it goes from being literally a baby-bot, who has no idea of the world it’s been placed into, to a fully-grown, angry, gangster-bot that doesn’t take no shit from nobody. There’s obvious reasons for why Chappie turns out to be the way it is, but the movie never seems like it’s taking any cheap-shots in giving us those bits and pieces of info; Blomkamp takes his time in developing this character and those who are close to it most. Therefore, we feel and like Chappie, the character a whole lot more, which makes it hard to sometimes sit by and watch whenever it’s put into danger and the possibility of imminent death becomes even more and more of a reality.

That said, whenever Blomkamp seems to jump away from the story of Chappie, his movie gets a bit jumbled-up. For instance, the whole subplot concerning what’s going on between Deon, his boss (Sigourney Weaver), and a co-worker (Hugh Jackman), and the problems they seem to all with one another’s vision of the robots, gets a bit too goofy for its own good. Mostly though, it gets this way with Jackman, who I’m glad to see is reveling in the moment to play a baddie for once, but also feels like a half-baked villain with something of a plan, yet, loses all sorts of humanity once push comes to shove and he has to start killing any and all things. Jackman’s funny in this role and cheeky here more than ever, but it feels weird that he’d be given this villainous role and not given much of a chance to bring out any semblance of convection within him. Surely, there’s something more to him than just shooting, yelling and killing?

"What did I tell you about making cracks about the mullet, mate?"

“What did I tell you about making cracks about the mullet, mate?”

Or maybe I’m just too damn naive. Whatever.

Another subplot of this film that, even though it ties into Chappie’s story, still feels like its own story, and heck, maybe even its own movie. Of course, I’m talking about the fact that Die Antwoord are not only close to being the main stars of this movie, but are virtually playing versions of themselves. See, if anybody knows who the hell Die Antwoord are, they’ll know that they’re this married, South African rap group that are a bit on the strange side, and definitely aren’t the ones who you’d expect to anchor your big-budgeted, mainstream, talking-robot flick on, but for some reason, Blomkamp saw something in these two odd individuals and in some way, it kind of works for the movie.

But at the same time, doesn’t. Let me explain.

See, what’s so odd about having Die Antwoord here, isn’t that they’re actually cast in the movie and given a lot to do – it’s that they aren’t playing actual characters. Both of the characters in the movie are named “Ninja” and “Yo-landi” which, believe it or not, are actually the same names that the members of Die Antwoord go by. Even stranger, you can tell that half of the time, they didn’t even bother to show up and get dressed by the make-up and creative department; sometimes, you can even spot their band’s logos on their cars, or even on Chappie’s steel-body. It’s all weird and it made me wonder whether or not Blomkamp was fine with this, or didn’t want to get anymore involved with it, so instead, just decided to keep their crazy mannerisms in there and whatnot.

And judging by what real-life accounts have been saying, this seems more than likely the exact option.

But here’s the real kicker about Die Antwoord’s presence here – they actually work for the movie. In an odd, out-of-this-world, you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it-way, they make most of Chappie’s scenes compelling to watch. It’s never clear whether or not Ninja and Yo-landi are acting what was given to them, or are just saying whatever gangster things they can think of on the spot, but whatever the case may be, it made most of their scenes with Chappie interesting, in that the movie sort of just lets them roll on and on, without ever getting into whether or not the movie likes, or despises these characters. Clearly we’re supposed to like them, but one is possibly more mean and evil than the other, which makes me wonder just what the overall atmosphere was like for the making behind this film.

Whatever it may have been, don’t forget, Die Antwoord are weird. But Chappie, the movie, may be even weirder.

Truly a feat in and of itself.

Consensus: In its weird ways, Chappie is a fun, riveting, and sometimes heartfelt piece of sci-fi action that doesn’t seem to care what others say and just goes for it every chance it gets, which may or may not put off some viewers. The choice is up to you!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

You go Chappie. Don't let anybody stop you and your shiny, metal ass.

You go Chappie. Don’t let anybody stop you and your shiny, metal ass.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Maleficent (2014)

How could one not be petrified to death of those cheek-bones?

When Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was just a blissful young fairy, she was full of all sorts of life and cared for all of those around her. She loved and protected the forest she lived in; had fairy-friends that she would often fly around with; and even made herself a human-friend in the form of Stefan (Sharlto Copley). They had a great friendship that lasted until he became King – an honor he received by cutting-off Maleficent’s wings, and therefore, robbing her of her innocence. So obviously Maleficent wasn’t too happy about this and decided that she would do whatever she could to extract revenge on him in any way possible, even if that meant cursing his newborn daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). With the fear that his whole family is in danger, Stefan decides to send his daughter away with three fairies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple), where they will watch over her and take care of her. However, the problem is that these fairies do a pretty lackluster job at doing so, and instead, leaves Maleficent herself to care for Aurora and watch over her through her formative years; making the bond between the two of them stronger than either could ever imagine. Especially for Maleficent who, if she’s not careful, may actually start caring for this little kid she calls “a beast”.

Though most of you may think that these constant, live-action re-workings of classic fairy-tales may not work for someone such as myself – it’s surprisingly the other way around. In fact, more or less, I actually commend more of them to be made. Not only do I feel like it gives our future generations a better understanding of what these stories actually are and look like, but it also shows us what these types of stories could be with actual, real-life human beings in the role, regardless of how much CGI may be floating around them.

And in the case of Maleficent, there’s a whole lot of CGI floating around here, and then some.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

While what I just said may have given off a negative connotation, I’ll have you know, that is totally not the case with this movie. See, first-time director Robert Stromberg has truly created something beautiful here; colors, locations and fantasy-like worlds all blend together to give us an idea that were in some place totally original, despite looking like every other fantasy world ever created. It’s a hard task that Stromberg is able to pass, and pass well, which may not seem like much of a surprise to anyone who knows that he’s worked on movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland in the past.

However, is there such a thing as a movie looking “too beautiful”? Personally, I don’t believe so, but there does come a point where you have to wonder just when do the visuals end, and the story begin. And here, there isn’t ever a really story that begins, or even ends for that case; it sort of just accompanies the beautiful, awe-inspiring visuals that keep our eyes busy and preoccupied, so that we don’t realize what little story there actually is here.

But considering that this movie is a little over an-hour-and-a-half (a huge surprise to get in the first month of the summer movie season), the lack of a story/drive, is really noticeable and actually makes a lot of the problems with this movie shine even brighter and harsher than before, when all it was that we had to pay attention to was how purrty everything looked.

Like, for instance, with the exception of our titled-character, there is not a single interesting character to be found throughout this whole movie; instead, everybody is just a bunch of walking, talking, and behaving cliches. Sharlto Copley plays King Stefan who is basically just a selfish, deuchy man that continues to get more and more insane, just as his facial-hair begins to get more and more ridiculous and over-bearing; the three fairies are ditsy klutzes used to be something of “comedic-reliefs”, yet they are neither; Sam Riley seems like he wants to break out and show off some charm as Maleficent’s side-kick that she can turn into any creature she can think of, but anytime it seems like he’s just about to, our evil queen (aka, the movie) turns him into a crow, or a wolf, or a dragon, therefore killing any possibility that he may have some fun in this thinly-written role; and Elle Fanning, for once in her short, but storied-career, gave me a performance of hers that’s not the least bit intriguing, because, for the most part, all she has to do is look up to Maleficent and gaze into those mesmerizing eyes of hers.

That’s pretty much it. Could have called up Dakota for that job, if you ask me.

But that’s not even the bulk of the problems with this movie; like I alluded to before, there’s really no story here. In case you didn’t know, this is an origin-tale that throws us right into this story, this world, and this character that we’re clearly supposed to care for, but once Maleficent turns the other cheek and becomes an evil beotch, then the movie sort of just moves along at its own pace, while at the same time, not really doing anything. Sure, we get to see some shading to the character of Maleficent and how she’s not all that much of a despicable witch after all, but it’s not enough to warrant a whole movie made about her, her adventures, and the problems she must overcome as an evil witch scorned with hatred and revenge for another man.

Come to think of it, it’s always about a man, isn’t it? These Disney movies always love to brag and show off how much they’re about “girl power” and how much having a man in their life doesn’t matter, but when it really comes right down to it, it’s always a man that they’re fighting for, or because. It’s never that a woman lives her life because she wants to by her own free-will; it’s always because a man had some inspiration in the matter, somehow, someway. Always seems a bit weird to me, but maybe I just think too much.

And this is what sort of brings me to my next point about the most important aspect of this whole movie: Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. It’s cool to see Jolie in a role like this that nobody could ever see her actually accepting to do, but I guess motherhood has had a bit of an affect on her life as of late and it’s about time that she finally decided to take some roles for herself and bring some of that extra-dough. Whether or not that’s actually the case, it doesn’t matter because at least we still get to see how good she is when she’s given enough material for her to chew on and work with to the bone. She’s always been known to do that, as well as show everybody how damn beautiful and dazzling she looks; so with an iconic villain like Maleficent, you think that she’d be working wonders with this role. Right?

Ripped right out of Shrek.

When did everything become Shrek all of a sudden?

Well, that’s the problem, once again, with the movie: It doesn’t give her enough to really run wild or have a good time with. There’s a certain charisma that Jolie brings to this role that allows us to see her more human than ever before, but there’s just not enough camp to this performance where we really get the sense that she’s having fun. She’s never going through the motions, however, she’s never really showing all that much of an effort that would really put this movie over the edge into being something you need to see, if only for her.

Most of that’s the movie’s fault, and less of her own, but it’s still a fault that this movie should be held accountable for. And not just because it doesn’t give one of our best-working actresses today enough material to really go nuts with, but because it makes Maleficent, the character, seem like sort of a jumble of ideas. I’m all for getting behind a villainous character and showing them in a slightly sympathetic-light, but with somebody as memorably and recognizably scary as Maleficent, it doesn’t really do her any justice for us to see her as a character we not only stand behind, but actually come to like. Not saying that it can’t be done, but when it comes to this character, one who is quite frightening even in animated-form, then you really have to know just what you’re going to do with her and why. If you don’t, then don’t bother.

And you sure as hell don’t waste any of Angelina’s good old time. Especially when she’s got to go back to that hunk of man-meat every night.

Consensus: Easy on the eyes with its beautiful production-designs, Maleficent proves to be a movie that’s a lot about what it seems to be on its lush-surface, but when one really gets down to it and digs a bit deeper under that said surface, there’s not much to be found. Just a waste of a great cast, most importantly, a more-than-willing Angelina Jolie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Ugh. I can't believe she wore that to this party. Like what a betch."

“Ugh. I can’t believe she wore that to this. Like, what a betch.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Open Grave (2014)

First reviewed movie of 2014, and what a bummer it is.

A man (Sharlto Copley) wakes up, after what seemed to be quite the slumber party, in a pit full of mutilated corpses. He has no idea how he got there, who he is, or what he has done, all that he does know is that where he’s at right now is not good and he needs to get out as soon as possible. Eventually, he does and he begins to walk around the wilderness when he spots a deserted cabin in the middle of it all. Inside this cabin, he stumbles upon five other people who have the same problem he has: No memory of who they were, are, or how they even got here in the first place. But to make matters worse for this guy is the fact that he was found at the top of this grave, meaning that he looks a tad bit more suspicious than these others who just woke up and found themselves inside this cabin. Though they definitely are curious about all of each other, the group decides to set-out and figure out where the hell it is that they are and how they can escape, all in one piece mind you. However, strange things begin to happen and sooner than later, people start getting knocked-off one by one, just as soon as they begin to remember things about their previous-lives. Also, there’s a calender located inside the cabin that has the 15th of the month circled. Why is that? Be ready to find out!

"This is to all of those haters who preferred the original Oldboy to the remake!!"

“This is to all of those haters who preferred the original Oldboy to the remake!!”

This not one of those times.

The first 20 minutes of this movie were pretty good because of the way it stuck itself to the former. We literally see this dude wake up, have no clue what happened, find a group of people who are just as clueless as he is, find themselves in a situation, and do the best they can with trying to get out of the said situation, while also trying to remember things about their past-life. It’s interesting to watch, because you could think of all the possibilities of what could happen and why, and director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego definitely seems just as interested as we are with the rest of the movie. But, once we get a couple or so flashbacks inside the mind of these characters, then it all comes pretty clear that not only do we have any clue where this story could go or end up, but neither does Lopez-Gallego himself.

With a movie like this, it’s okay to be as vague and as confusing as you want, but it has to be done in a way that makes you, the viewer, feel like it’s working to something that’s not only going to completely and utterly blow your mind, but change the way you thought about the film prior to this point-in-time. That never happens here and that’s a huge problem because most of these movies bank on that huge, surprise twist at the end that shakes things up. Without giving too much away, there are some brief moments where we see characters start to have their brains racked-over memories they had that could either lead them to understand why they are where they are, or what their relationships were with the others around them. In some rare cases in this movie, this leads to some interesting directions that I didn’t quite see coming right off the bat, but once the first-hour is finally over and said with, the movie’s practically thrown all of those possibilities and ambitions to the side.

Just as soon as the hour-mark passes by, we are then thrown into a “suspense-thriller” that not only has the slightest idea of where it’s going to end-up, but doesn’t care about logic at all. Instead, the movie seems like it’s just throwing one ludicrous idea, one-after-another, almost to the point of where the movie just lost my interest because it just seemed to be pointless. This also substitutes any chance of character-development the first two-halves may have been working with and rather, we’re just left sitting and watching a bunch of characters we don’t feel diddly-squat towards, as they try and figure out who’s bad, who’s good, why they are here, how they can get the heck out of this situation and where the end in sight may be. And even when characters begin to get knocked-off, one by one (as they predictably do in faux-horror flicks like this), there’s no emotional-attachment whatsoever and it just feels more like a good riddance, rather than a piece of us being lost.

Why can't condos be in the middle of the woods?

Why can’t condos be in the middle of the woods?

Because don’t we all just long for a sincere, heartfelt human-connection with anybody? Even characters from a B-grade thriller? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me and my neediness after all!

However, it’s not even like the performances themselves aren’t that good, it’s just that the movie doesn’t really give a lick about them. Sharlto Copley had a pretty stacked-2013 in which he played it so over-the-top in movies like Elysium and Oldboy, you would wonder if he was even allowed in a single public library across the globe (if they still exist). But here, as the soon-to-be-named protagonist, he’s surprisingly effective at just down-playing his act and gives us a guy that you don’t know if you can trust, or even want to be around in a situation like this. Yet, there are brief-snippets of humanity that has this guy go a long while, even when it seems like he is at his most morally questionable. However, the best performance of this cast is Josie Ho as a mute gal known as “Brown Eyes” who, as you guessed it, is able to convey any emotion she may be feeling based solely through her eyes and body-motions. She’s the stand-out here, but considering that nobody else is really given much to do at all, it’s not really worth praising as much as it is noting, I guess. Oh well, she’s good! And I’ll just leave it at that!

Consensus: Starts off moody, interesting and chock-full of promise, but once the clues start to show and the possibilities seem overly-endless, then Open Grave begins to spill-out into nothing more than another typical, run-of-the-mill thriller with a few good moments and performances to be seen along the way.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

If you can get past the horrendous smell of rotting, mutilated corpses, it's actually pretty romantic. Dare I say it, titilating?

If you can get past the horrendous smell of rotting, mutilated corpses, it’s actually pretty romantic. Dare I say it, titillating?

Photo’s Credit to:

Oldboy (2013)

oldboyWe get it! IT’S HAMMER TIME!!

After he screws up with a major client, advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) knows that there is only one way to ease the pain: By getting utterly and completely plastered. He does this, but after falling asleep in the streets, he somehow finds himself trapped inside of a cellar, disguised as a hotel room. Doucett is obviously bewildered as to what the hell is going on, why and who is doing this to him, but all of those thoughts get thrown to the side once he finds out, via the television in his room, that his wife was raped and murder, allegedly by him, leaving his three-year-old daughter an orphan. Doucett has know idea what the hell to do with his life, but after several attempts at trying to get out “the easy way” he decides that he wants to live and continue to train his mind, body, soul and hatch out a plan to escape. However, he wakes up one random day in a box out in the middle of nowhere, with only a phone, a couple thousands dollars and some clue as to where to go. From there, he’s told that he must find the man who did this to him, but also, find out why this happened to him. The results, as you may suspect, are utterly shocking.

Oh yeah, and a hammer does come into play at one point or another.

"And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!"

“And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!”

Everybody’s been awaiting this moment, and here it finally is: The American-made remake of the near-perfect, 2003 Park Chan-wook South Korean flick, and as you could expect, people will be furious. I was too, not just because there were actual ideas of a remake being talked about, but that they were actually being pursued and were even touched by the likes of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg. Yes, I know that they are two very talented guys in the business and would have done all that they could to make this piece of film work, but I highly doubt that their sensibilities (especially the former’s) would have done justice to the original tale. But time went on and once Spike Lee got attached to the flick, I felt like maybe, just maybe there’s something to see here; and lord, being a huge Spike Lee fan (of his movies, that is), I definitely went in with some happy and hopeful expectations. I expected it not to be as good as the original, but I still expected it to hold some weight on its own, considering that Lee is one of the most important, most original directors we’ve had the pleasure of being graced with in the past two decades.

And you know what? That’s pretty much what I got, except with some disappointment.

Most peeps are going to be pissed about this movie and already write it off as “useless”, “unneeded and just plain “stupid. And to be honest, none of those words of slander are wrong, nor are they right. They are simply just fans of the original’s mind-sets going in, but knowing that this isn’t going to be word-for-word, shot-for-shot exactly like that movie going in before-hand, definitely helps you know what to expect and where to be surprised by, as it sure as hell helped me out to get through this flick. Well that, and being a huge fan of Spike Lee’s directional-skills.

While there definitely isn’t the constant trademarks we usually see from Lee in this flick (with the exception of a near-two second infamous “dolly shot”), there’s still that dour, sad feel we usually get to see and feel from his movies. The original tale of Oldboy is not a very pretty one, and with every chance he gets, Lee never forgets to remind us of this. The violence is bloody, in-our-faces and definitely quick like it needed to be, however, it’s never gratuitous and gives us the impression that Lee wants to stick to his guns with the original, while also not letting-go of what made it such a fun time to begin with. And although he did screw-up the all-mighty, all-known “hammer sequence”, I’ll still give him a pass because he gives us an American-made remake that doesn’t feel like a cash-grab, and more of something along the lines where an original auteur wanted to try his hand at mainstream films once again. The results may not be as spectacular as they were with his last “big” flick, Inside Man, but they are still interesting nonetheless.

But that’s when the problems with this remake do begin to arise. Once Lee has to put his mind on the story, how it develops over time, why and whether or not it totally invests us in all that’s happening, it kinds of screws up and loses some tension. Granted, I’ve seen this story happen before, so obviously mind was a bit turned-off to some of the twists here and there that may be shocking to newcomers, but even then, when Lee decides to change the story up-around a bit, something still didn’t feel right. We get this whole new back-story as to why this is happening and the mystery in which our main characters go out to discover the truth, actually becomes something rather conventional and unexciting, which isn’t because I knew what was going to happen, it’s just because there was nothing really all that interesting surrounding it. It was just a bunch of people hiding, running around and looking for clues, but in all-too-serious matter, as if Holmes and Watson needed to be called to the scene, and pronto!

See, while the original wasn’t necessarily a comedy that made light of the situation that this dude was imprisoned, alienated, framed for murder and sent back out into the wild after all of these years, there were still moments where you could tell that the creator wasn’t taking himself too seriously, only when needed. And it worked, to great-effect because it gave us something that knew the type of audience it was going to please, and didn’t try to steer-away from them one bit. Here, it felt like Lee needed a dash, or hell, even a sprinkle of some lightness to go around, rather than just making this a very deep, dark and depressing affair, with barely any signs of hope or happiness involved. May sound like a weird complaint, I know, but some smudges of light would have went a real, REAL long way.

The cast Lee chose may not be the heaviest-hitters out there in the world today, and they sure as hell aren’t the household names the producers probably intended on originally having, but with whom they have, they made the best out of it, especially even in the smaller roles. But playing the biggest role of all is James Brolin as Joe Doucett, the type of despicable human-being you learn to hate in the first couple minutes, then begin to actually like as time slightly goes on. Brolin’s good at keeping Doucett’s heart and humanity well in place, but he can only go so far with that when all the guy wants is to get revenge on the man that ruined his life, while also trying to find his daughter. The rugged look and persona that Brolin has, does well for Doucett when he has to throw-down and get his hands a little bloody, however, I never quite felt as bad for this guy as I did for Hwang Jo-yoon’s portrayal in the first one. Some of that may have to do with the fact that Brolin’s character has barely any little-to-no personality once he gets out of captivity, or that he looks like he could take on anybody and anyone with his quarterback-shoulders, but overall, I just didn’t feel as attached to Doucett as I should have. I felt bad for him, but I was never rooting him on, which is a little weird for a revenge-thriller.

It's like The Rock's awesome tat, except it's permanent. I mean, so is The Rock's,, you get it!

It’s like The Rock’s awesome tat, except it’s permanent. I mean, so is The Rock’s, but…aw, you get it!

The one real improvement in terms of characters from the original is with Elizabeth Olsen as the young, sweet-natured, but damaged girl that falls for Doucett, just as soon as she meets him once he’s roaming around the free world. Olsen’s a good actress, so she definitely has that going for her, but also, the character feels a lot better-written this time around, making her more of a “person”, and less than just a “fantasy-image” that most older dudes seem to have for ladies half of their ages. Nope, she’s actually a sad, hurt and wounded bird, just looking for a nest to settle into and be sheltered by and she may have found that with Doucett. Michael Imperoli shows up as Chucky, Doucett’s old buddy from awhile ago and does a nice job portraying the type of guy that’d be there for his friend, even after all of these years has gone by, but begins to seem like a bit of an unbelievable dick, just as time goes on.

Last, but certainly not least though, we have Sharlto Copley as Adrian Pryce, the crazy Brit who has put Doucett through all of these problems to begin with, and only wants to prolong them some more. Copley’s a very interesting talent as he shows up in certain movies, and you can almost never pin-point down, exactly where the hell you’ve seen him from before and whether or not he’s played the same character twice. Basically, he’s the type of versatile actor modern-day flicks need nowadays, and he does a stellar job giving us the sick and twisted, but passionate individual Adrian Pryce. While the portrayal and development for Yoo Ji-tae’s character in the original was a bit better, Copley does all that he can with this character and gives us a menacing figure, that never feels like he isn’t capable of taking control, however he wants, at any given time. Same could be said for Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as one of Pryce’s most-trusted lackeys, Chaney, except that he definitely says “motherfucker” a lot more. Not than just Pryce, but more than anybody else in this flick. But then again, I think we’ve all come to expect that by now and we love it!

Consensus: No doubt in my mind is telling me that this Oldboy remake isn’t better than the original, however, my mind is also telling me that if you are at all interested with seeing how it turns out, given all of the talent involved, then you should definitely give it a go since it’s better than expected, with a couple of questionable choices here and there.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Thus it begins.

Fine. “It’s hammer time.”

Photo’s Credit to:

Elysium (2013)

In the future, we can trust that Jason Bourne will be RoboCop and save the day.

It’s the year year 2154 and basically, the planet Earth has gone to shit. So shitty, in fact, that the most of the better-off citizens have now fled to an ideal, carefree space-station Elysium, where they don’t have to worry about injury, disease, poverty, being dirty, or anything at all for that matter. Because they run such a tight ship up there, mainly thanks to the Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster), nobody from Earth gets into their atmosphere or comes even close to polluting it. Their so well-off, that everybody down on planet Earth is just struggling to get by and make ends meet, especially factory-worker and ex-con Max DeCosta (Matt Damon), who now has an even bigger burden on his back of only being allowed 5 days left to live, due to a mishap at the factory he works at. In order to get back at the high-priced, corporate-heads that seemingly ruined his life and wanted nothing to do with him, Max has found a way to become super-strengthened, brutal, and ready for a fight, in hopes that he can take over Elysium, save his life, and gain many others on Earth, citizenship to roam about and have the same benefits as the ones on Elysium. However, when you have a whole space-station against you, as well as a ruthless mercenary (Sharlto Copley) who’s hungry for blood, the objective may be a lot harder for seemingly a one-man-army.

Yeah, sorry for the long-ass synopsis but I can’t help it. This movie got me pumped-up and still has me going a little bit crazy in the head! Not because it was confusing, mind-numbing, or psychological in any way, but because it’s straight and pure, sci-fi action-flick that we could only get during the last month of summer, and done so well by the same man who made a relatively similar blockbuster 4 years ago with District 9: Neil Blomkamp. That’s right, even though there are no aliens in refugee camps here, there’s still plenty of themes and ideas that Blomkamp likes to tuggle with, but also have some insane action go on as well, which is some of the best, most thrilling I’ve seen all summer. Don’t get me wrong, these past 3 months haven’t been lame or action-less at all, but they haven’t necessarily had me jumping in my seat quite as much as this one did throughout it’s hour-and-40-minute time-limit.

"Taste these apples, rich people!!"

“Taste these apples, rich people!!”

Honestly, it all just goes to show you what type of writer/director you’re working with here with Blomkamp as the guy seems like he has a vision, sticks to it, makes his points, but never gets over-preachy and forgets about what really matters the most about this flick: The enjoyment-factor. Plenty of times you can just hear Blomkamp’s material crying out, “immigration is bad”, “the government’s corrupt”, and even a little bit of “we are “the one percenters””, but it’s never over-done to where we stray away from the thrills and chills of this action, which is made even better by Blomkamp’s grand-eye for detail to creating this world and making it his, even if isn’t the most original thing out there in the world. Pretty much, you can tell that instead of there being aliens living in these run-down shacks, there’s humans, and also robots, however, Blomkamp keeps it interesting using CGI that almost looks too real to be taken as science-fiction. Even the little utopia of Elysium seems like it could be happening right outside in space right now, that’s how impressive these visuals are.

But enough of the visuals, back to the movie itself. What works here the most is that no matter where this story goes, no matter how many twists it throws at us, or hell, what it has to say about what it’s all a metaphor for; the movie never ceases to be thrilling. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for the longest amount of time, and even though there’s a couple of soft spots here and there for character-development and exposition, the movie continues to move and move at a rapid speed that you’ll feel like you’re all wrapped-up in this race along with Max and the rest of his friendly-followers. The world looks beautiful and realistic enough to bring you in, but it’s the pace and the energy that Blomkamp brings which keeps you there, and rarely ever lets you go. You’ll root for the good guys, even when they stand-up against the biggest and the worst obstacles in their way; and you’ll shiver in fright whenever you see a baddie coming from a mile away, putting you in the place of knowing something that the goodies don’t know. That feeling is what makes, but can also break most action-thrillers, but it does more of the former to this one and it’s a testament to Blomkamp’s direction for never settling for less and always going for the loud, thrashing sounds of bullets, explosions smacks, grabs, punches, breaks, and whatever the hell else the man has to throw at us or his characters.

Basically, in a nutshell: Blomkamp is the type of director, in general, that you have to keep your eye on. The man’s already two movies down, and he’s taking the sci-fi game by storm. Hell, he’s taking movies by storm! Just watch out for this guy. I’m telling ya!

First, we had a respected, quality-actor like Brad Pitt take on a “genre flick” earlier this summer with World War Z, and now his buddy here, Matt Damon, has done the same thing; except the fact that Damon’s may have been a better choice for him and his career in the long run. Damon’s general likability, and every-day look and feel of his acting repertoire, works so well for this character and has you immersed in Max and his story right away. We get that he’s a troubled guy, who grew up as an orphan, dreamed big, but had very little happen for him, and as hackneyed as that may sound, Blomkamp and Damon make it work and comes off as sympathetic. We feel for Max right from the beginning, and we follow him as he goes through whatever he has to do to stay alive, keep his morals in check, and also save other’s lives as well. Max isn’t a perfect human-being in the least bit, he can actually be kind of selfish at times, but he feels like a human-being nonetheless, and a very compelling one to watch as well. It probably also helps that Damon is always down for looking the part of a total ass-kicker, and it’s nice to see that his trimming-down days didn’t stop with the end of the Bourne franchise. Tack on a head full of nothing but skin, and you got a scary mofo; something I’d never thought I’d say about a performance coming from the always lovable Matt Damon.

"Gee, blimey! I'm wicked haaardcorre. That's Scottish enough, right?"

“Gee, blimey! I’m wicked haaardcorre. That’s Scottish enough, right?”

The person in this movie who I can say is easily the exact opposite in terms of character and acting here is Sharlto Copley as the mean, lean, blood-thirsty mercenary assigned the unofficial, but official task of killing Max before he goes too far into the system. In all honesty, Copley is so over-the-top, so crazy, and so insane with this role, that he ends up just about stealing the whole movie, despite him being totally out-of-place among the rest of the flick. Any lesser-actor probably would have been a freak-show you couldn’t love to just sit, point, and laugh at, but Copley, with about 3 movies I’ve seen him in so far, shows that he’s capable of making a total nut-job, actually frightening to be around, rather than a total joke from beginning to end. You know that once he shows up, bad shite is going to happen, and nothing’s going to bode well for the people he’s pursuing, which makes him all the more detestable, but also utterly and completely watchable. The scenes with him and Damon, whether they are chatting, fighting, or macho-posturing the shit out of the other, are filled with much deserved tension and suspense, as if the movie itself is going to rip apart and just let these two go at it for days on end.

The only one in this cast that I couldn’t really care for all that much was surprisingly Jodie Foster as the snarly, evil Secretary Delacourt. And trust me, it’s not that Foster gives a bad performance per se, hell, I think she’s incapable of doing so, but it something does seem to be a bit too weird about her character, from the accent that she forces out with every line, and what her real motivations are behind all of the sneaky crap she’s pulling. It was also probably more disappointing to see Foster in such a role that was meant to be so meaningful to the rest of the story, but somehow, wasn’t. From the trailers and even the posters, you’d think she’d have a bigger role everything, but she sort of takes the back-seat to some of the biggest, most pounding scenes, even if you know she’s somewhere in the background. Her presence is felt, but almost in the sense that you know she’s just waiting to act her ass off, yet, isn’t given the chance to. It’s all fine and wondrous because we’re able to be distracted by the rock-solid action and suspense, but it still feels like something is missing, and it’s Ms. Foster herself. Or at least more of her.

Consensus: Despite featuring most of the same ideas and points Blomkamp studied, and did a lot better with, in his first flick, Elysium still grabs ahold of you with it’s compelling, emotional story, continues to work it’s tension up, until it’s about to practically explode and take you down with it. That’s a good thing, by the way.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

And you call that, "gay"?

And you call that, “gay”?

The A-Team (2010)

Basically it’s like the show, with steroids.

This updated feature-film take on the hit 1980s television show follows a group of Iraq War veterans on the run from U.S. military forces while they try to clear their names after being framed for a crime they didn’t commit. Along the way, Col. Hannibal Smith, Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock , Sgt. Bosco “B.A.” Baracus and Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck help out various people they encounter.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the original show, but I have at least seen a couple of episodes to know what I was getting myself into.

The film works best when it’s showing it’s over-the-top action, that will totally have you getting rid of all disbelief, but at the same time will keep your eyes on the screen, cause it is a lot of fun to watch. However, the film is overly edited with CGI, and special effects, that at times did have me question, just what the hell was going on.

There are also some funny moments, however, there’s just not enough. I wish they relied a little bit more on the humor within the film’s screenplay, rather than clunking it with just a bunch of crazy ass violence.

The cast is good here, and what adds a lot more to this film, then I expected. Liam Neeson understands what movie he’s in, and makes no attempt to make his character other than a two-dimensional good guy. Bradley Cooper has the good looks, but also the charm, spot-on timing, and enthusiasm, that makes all his crazy stuff believable. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is playing Mr. T’s role, he never brings the charm of Mr. T to the role, but yet he doesn’t substitute it with anything else, so he was just basically ehh. The most risky move in this film was casting Sharlto Copley, who has only appeared in one other movie, District 9. But I’m glad they took this step, because he’s funny, crazy, and overall the best out of the whole cast. However, I wish there was more moments between these guys, where they got to show their talents off together.

Consensus: Much like tv show, The A-Team is loud, fun, and well-acted by this weird ensemble, but is too packed on with CGI, and not enough scenes of comedy that could have made this film better.


District 9 (2009)

I never realized how much I actually care for aliens.

When aliens land on Earth, global business conglomerate Multi-National United forces them into rigid containment zones where they are compelled to labor, even as MNU commandeers their other worldly technology for profit. As tensions build between human and non-human races, a rogue agent leads a resistance movement against MNU’s ruthless consolidation of power.

The first thing I noticed about this film is its style. It uses a lot of documentary-esque presentation, they use a lot of footage from interviews, the use of the shaky camera, and even some security camera footage. It’s that feeling of realism that sells the world and makes it feel like its a documentary and not another glitzy Hollywood production.

The action is amazingly fast-paced, there’s humans shooting all over the place, and the way the special effects look. In many movies that use a lot of special effects they don’t really look real and your sort of just looking at the camera and saying, “oh this is a nice science fiction film”. However these aliens actually look like they could walk the Earth. They look all the very real, and add that in with a whole bunch of action you got a whole bunch of people sitting on the edge of your seat.

The most powerful aspect of the film is witnessing all the horrible treatment of refugees. It’s interesting how the aliens are set up, because you have many conflicting feelings for them. On one hand your scared of them cause their just so darn ugly, but on the other hand you feel compassion for them because their treated like crap. This is a wonderful example of how special effects can work as the hand-maiden to story telling.

The film has that documentary feel to it and it works well for awhile, but then by the third act it actually starts to abandon it and create a very standardized shoot-out scene. I feel like they could’ve done a better job with how the ending was handled, but it still did feel right by the end. Much of the dialogue is actually pretty cheesy and uses a lot of the same lines that I have heard over and over again.

Sharlto Copley who plays the main character does a good job at playing the sort of anti-hero. He’s never acted before but he seems like he has acted all the time. At some points you love him and then at some points you really just want to kill him yourself.

This film is very dark that and it brought up a huge social statement. It touches subject on immigration, the handling of refugees, and so many other subjects are brought up and what is done to these aliens you just feel so emotionally wrenched to.

Consensus: District 9 has some very obvious plot holes, but is brings up many good points, and will leave you emotionally distraught with enough action to keep you on your seat amazed at how real it looks.

9.5/10=Full Priceee!!!