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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Sigourney Weaver

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

Family’s enough competition as is.

Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler) is going through a bit of a rough-patch in his life. He and his wife are separated, his daughter (Grace Van Patten) is going off to college to hopefully continue the family’s long legacy of being artistically-sound, and he just lost his home, forcing him to have to move back in with his father, renowned sculpture-artist Harold (Dustin Hoffman). And by doing so, he also becomes closer with his sister, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), and stepmother, Maureen (Emma Thompson). It’s not too happy of a time for Danny and while his father knows this, he doesn’t quite help the situation out much, either. Then enters Danny’s half-brother, Michael (Ben Stiller), who his father loves and adores a lot more and for very obvious reasons – Michael is a lot more successful and Harold happened to marry his mother twice. While the two aren’t really supposed to get along, they eventually try to tie the binds between them and get over the long years of familial strife and continue on the Meyerowitz legacy. Or at least, whatever is left of it.

“No! I’m funnier!”

Is Noah Baumbach a pretentious film-maker? A part of me likes to think that he is, but another part of me likes to think that he isn’t. While there are certain movies of that I don’t care for (Margot at the Wedding, Greenberg), there are others that I do (everything else), and it mostly all comes down to how unfathomable and unlikable his characters are. And in mostly all of Baumbach’s films, that seems to be the case.

It’s pretty interesting, really, that he’s chosen to have his protagonists be challenging, somewhat unsympathetic human beings that, while we dislike the time we spend with them, they’re still human and compelling. After all, the characters are either just like us, or like people we know, and while we may not want to spend two-hours with them, there’s no denying the fact that actually spending time with them is rather refreshing. So yeah. I don’t know if the fact that enjoys having his movies centered around these awful characters makes him pretentious, it just makes him, as well as his movies, a bitter pill to swallow.

But one that you’ll probably be fine with afterwards.

And while in the Meyerowitz Stories, there’s no really awful, unlikable, and reprehensible character here, they’re all kind of annoying and a little deuchy. Then again, that’s sort of the point. Family itself is raised on the notion of competition and who’s more successful than the other, so when these characters all start bragging to one another about their great noble achievements, however small they may be, sure, it may be a little tiresome, but it all comes from a soft spot in their hearts that we can, at the very least, relate to.

Baumbach’s a smart enough writer to at least know and understand that each of these characters all have something going for them, as well as a little something going for them. For instance, while Danny’s made out to be a bit of a loser, he’s also got a stronger connection to his daughter and most other humans than perhaps his half-brother, Michael will ever have with another person. On the flip-side of things though, Michael’s also a lot more successful in his life and probably always will be, whereas Danny seems like he’ll never get up off the couch and do something extraordinary with his life because, well, he’s never had to, so why start now? It’s an interesting contrast that follows just about every character in this movie, and while it may make them a wee bit over-bearing, they’re still honest and raw.

So much sarcasm.

And oh yeah, because of the ensemble, fun to watch, too.

Especially in the case of Danny, who gets a great performance out of Adam Sandler, for once and a blue moon. But what’s interesting about Danny is that he’s basically every other Adam Sandler character the guy’s played in the past two decades or so: He’s a man-child who doesn’t know if he ever wants to grow up, how to do it, and is kind of sad. But in this case, the sad-sack has a lot more to him than just childish hi-jinx, as he’s much more likable and sympathetic, and not just an all around dick. It’s great to see Sandler in this kind of role, where he’s literally forced to act and actually do something, and it shows us all that, yes, he’s still got it, and when the Netflix money runs out, he can always turn back to arthouse, character-driven roles. So long as it’s not something like the Cobbler.

Ben Stiller is, as usual, pretty good, too, playing another sort of dick-head who seems like he’s got his whole life in-check, but really doesn’t. Stiller’s done a great job in his outings with Baumbach and while this isn’t his most challenging, it still shows us that he and Baumbach help each other out in working better for the two. Together, Stiller and Sandler have a sort of anti-chemistry that, even though they’re not supposed to like each other, they sort of do and it’s quite a lovely little sight to see. After all, these are two of comedy’s greats, finally together, once again, but instead of yucking it up for the nosebleeds, they’re actually playing three-dimensional, fully-realized characters.

Wow. Funny how times change. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Consensus: With a talented ensemble and a group of interesting characters, the Meyerowitz Stories is an honest, funny, and sometimes look at family and all of the hostilities that go along with it.

8 / 10

Invite me to that reunion. Oh wait. Maybe not.

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

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Aliens (1986)

Aliens are pretty scary, but humans can be even worse.

After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). And while no one on-board really knows who Newt exactly is, or why she was all by herself on this huge ship, Ripley takes a liking to her and trusts her with all her might. Little does she, nor everyone else know, that there’s literally a huge colony of aliens waiting to get rid of them all and it’s up to these rough and tough soldiers to step up, stand together, and get rid of the threat, because lord knows that if they don’t get rid of it in space, it may just come closer to hitting Earth and causing way more problems than they could have ever expected.

Say what you will about James Cameron, his scripts, his cheesiness, and his knack for going over-the-top, but the man can direct a freakin’ action movie, for gosh sakes. I mean, literally, there’s not a minute in Aliens that isn’t packed with some sort of fun, or intensity, or excitement in the air; it’s literally two-and-a-half-hours of pure, unabashed adrenaline, mixed in with some speed for even better times. While some movies like to pride themselves on being a piece of absolute energy from start-to-finish, very few of them actually are and it’s why Aliens, all of these years later, still reigns supreme as one of the best action movies of all-time.

Okay, so yeah, Jimmy Cameron clearly recycled some ideas.

That said? Is it stupid? Hell yeah, but with James Cameron, it works. See, whereas Alien was much more of a slow-burning horror-thriller, Aliens is way more of a slam-bang action-thriller, where instead of taking our time, feeling the mood, it’s a pure straight-shot from the get-go. While that may sound bad and a downgrade from the original, it actually works in the movie’s favor; we still get to feel the mood, we still get to know some of these characters, and yeah, we still get thrown on the edge of our seats. All the stuff that made the original so great are here still, but they’re just heightened to a point of where they seemed to have been replaced by something far better.

It’s like something we didn’t even know we needed.

But that’s why James Cameron is such a master at his craft – he knows what a movie-going audience wants and absolutely delivers on it all. Sure, he hasn’t met a cheesy one-liner he didn’t like, nor does he seem to stray away from macho-posturing, but it really doesn’t matter, because it’s so fun to watch and listen as these goofy characters all talk, scream, and pose their muscles. In other words, Aliens is the perfect movie for a nerd to enjoy and not feel threatened by, but also for the jocks to enjoy and not feel like they’re losing their reputation as one of the cool guys.

In other words, everyone can find something here to love and enjoy and at the end of the day, even get along.

See what I mean?

Now, isn’t that what movies were made for in the first place? Not just entertaining people, but bringing them together, no matter how different they may be from one another? To me, that’s what movies are about and it’s why Aliens, while definitely not the heartfelt, sentimental flick I’m making it out to be, is just a near-masterpiece. It’s got some stupid moments and Paul Reiser’s character, more often than not, feels like an unfortunate villain that the movie just falls back on for unnecessary conflict, but for the most part, every bit of it works.

And mostly, it all comes circling back to Sigourney Weaver in the title-role of Lt. Ripley. See, in the original, while Ripley was still a strong character, she wasn’t quite given nearly as much as she’s given to do here and it’s why Weaver’s performance tops everyone else’s here; she’s got presence and seems like she’s as tough as she makes herself out to be. But she’s also the kind of character that isn’t asking for us to love, adore, and praise her – she’s just a rough and rugged S.O.B. that isn’t afraid to stand up to those around her and speak her mind.

In other words, she’s the perfect woman. But also a little scary.

But that’s fine, because Weaver is great at these kinds of characters. After all, she’s practically made a career out of them and it seemed to have started with Ripley. While yes, even those on the side of her like Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and the late, always amazing Bill Paxton are great to watch and have here, it’s Ripley’s show the whole way through. She reminds us not why strong female characters matter first and foremost, but why strong characters matter in general.

Especially in something that is basically an alien shoot-em-up.

Consensus: While undeniably cheesy and over-the-top, Aliens is also undeniably fun, exciting, compelling, and perfectly directed by James Cameron, that you almost forget how great Weaver is in the lead role.

9.5 / 10

Move aside, fellas!

Photos Courtesy of: Horror Freak News

A Monster Calls (2016)

Hug the trees. Just not too hard.

At his age of 12 years old, Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with a lot. For one, his mom (Felicity Jones) is sick with cancer and slowly, but surely, dying. His grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), while meaning well, is also a bit of a stuck-up meanie who doesn’t let Conor have any fun, when at his age, that’s all he should be caring about. His dad (Toby Kebbell) is barely in the picture, now living in the States and occasionally coming back across the pond to visit and check-up on things. And oh yeah, there’s that talking tree in his backyard (voiced by Liam Neeson). The Monster may cause a lot of imaginary destruction and chaos, but mostly what he wants to do is tell Conor stories about life, death and love, making him think longer and harder about his own life, his family, and his whole grieving process. Of course, this makes Conor dream more than he should, wondering what’s real and what isn’t.

A Monster Calls is one of those movies that’s so emotionally draining and dour, that after awhile, you start to think whether or not it’s actually a good movie. Because while it’s definitely good at making it so that every person seeing it has at least one tear in their eye during the two-hour run-time, there’s other elements it seems to be lacking in, like an actual plot development, or meaning to it all. And sure, you could say that A Monster Calls is one, long movie about the grieving process and learning that it’s okay to be sad, but still, does that make it a better movie?

"God? Or, tree?"

“God? Or, tree?”

Not really, but I will say that director J.A. Bayona is a very talented fella who knows how to make a story about a woman slowly dying from cancer, pretty compelling.

That said, it is a pretty sad movie and at times, feels like it’s doing incessantly, to the point of where it seems like it’s got no other card to play. The only moments of actual fun and spirit seem to come through the talking-tree bits, but that’s only because listening to Liam Neeson tell folk tales is like a warm cup of coffee on a cold, winters day. Bayona definitely knows how to set a mood, as he’s done with the Orphanage and the Impossible, but he doesn’t quite know how to go from the mood-setting; to just make people feel sad and depressed is one thing, but to actually do something with that sadness and depression is a whole other thing and I’m still not sure Bayona’s been able to work that out perfectly.

However, this may be Bayona’s best movie in that it does move at a solid pace, all things considered. Being a nearly two-hour movie about a woman dying, could have been a total and complete slug of a flick, but Bayona knows that in order for a story like this to work and actually matter, there has to be something driving the movie along. And sure, while he doesn’t always seem to have it going for him in the story-department, he more than makes up for it in his characters.

As Conor, Lewis MacDougall has got a whole lot to do, but he handles it all well; there are times when he seems a bit too smart for his own good, but there are others where it seems like he’s just a kid, who has no clue of what’s really going on in the world out there, and most of all, hasn’t come to terms with the fact that his mom’s about to die and his life as he’s known it, is about to go through a total and complete change. It’s a weighty role and the kind that could definitely make or break a child actor (see Thomas Horn in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), but MacDougall’s very good here. He plays a kid very well and when the movie really starts hitting the hard stuff, he’s even more compelling to watch.

"It's okay, son. Life goes on. Just without me in it."

“It’s okay, son. Life goes on. Just without me in it.”

Felicity Jones has impressed me before, but for some reason, she doesn’t quite work here, but it may not be her fault. Due to her character literally dying the whole entire movie, we don’t really get many shades to her and instead, only see her sick and in constant agony. It’s a one-note role and unfortunately, Jones just isn’t able to do much with it. Sigourney Weaver shows up as Conor’s strict grand-mom, who may seem like the typically evil mom-mom, but has certain shadings to her that make her probably the most compelling character in the bunch. Toby Kebbell, despite getting maybe one or two scenes, does a nice job as Conor’s estranged daddy and a longer movie would have probably focused on this relationship more.

But nope, of course, we get a talking-tree and dreams.

Not that I’m complaining, because I cried. Then again, how could you not? A Monster Calls seems to have one sole objective on its mind from the very beginning and it’s hard not to let go and just allow for the movie to rip the tears right out of you. The movie’s not perfect, but hey, at least it gets its job done.

Consensus: Pretty sad and emotional, A Monster Calls is an interesting fantasy flick that deals with grief and death, yet, is still somewhat compelling.

8 / 10

Uh oh. Look out evil-doers.

Uh oh. Look out evil-doers.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Ice Storm (1997)

Cheer up, suburbia. Have some sex.

1973 is winding down and you know what? Maybe it’s time for a little break. It’s Thanksgiving break and those living in the suburbs of Connecticut, when they’re not dealing with the cold temperatures and snow on the ground, are also dealing with one another. Ben (Kevin Kline) is a frustrated father who doesn’t like his job, but also doesn’t know how to seek love or happiness from his wife Elena (Joan Allen). So rather than trying to actually solve it by talking to her like the old days, he’s currently seeking fulfillment from his neighbor Janey (Sigourney Weaver). Meanwhile, his teenage daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci), has some issues going on of her own, too. She’s currently playing weird sexual games with Janey’s son Mikey (Elijah Wood), making him act out in the usual ways that young, adolescent kids do. And there’s the older brother, Paul (Tobey Maguire), who has a huge crush on some girl in his class (Katie Holmes), but doesn’t know how to go about it, nor does he quite know how to even talk to girls, but is going to try anyway.

When in doubt, trust daddy to carry you home.

When in doubt, trust daddy to carry you home.

Though it doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for this, the Ice Storm was actually one of the first “suburbia sucks” movies to start the boom that sprung in the late-90’s-to-early-aughts. Of course, a lot of the movies to follow were bland, unoriginal, and just downright depressing, but the Ice Storm, even without it being the starter-package, still sails above the rest. See, it does something with its message and its sadness, and it actually builds off of them; so many of the other movies that were soon to follow, seemed to just focus in on this aspect of suburbia and not go anywhere else.

It was just one emotion, the whole way through.

And sure, you could also kind of say the same about the Ice Storm, but it’s a much more deliberate mood-piece. It’s a slow-burner for sure, but it’s also a movie that takes its time for certain reasons, like building up characters and each of their relationships to one another; the fact that the movie has about five-to-ten core characters, really gives off that feeling of repression and suffocation, but in a way, draws us closer to these character. Ang Lee may be known for paying extra attention to the ways his movies look, but here, he shows that there’s a certain attention paid to characters that just can’t be matched.

What Lee shows is that, beyond all of the sadness, repression and claustrophobia, is that there can be some bittersweet moments of pure love and joy. At times, when it’s not trying to get us down in the dumps, the Ice Storm can actually be a funny movie, poking fun at both growing old and growing up, in a time and place where it seems like the experiences and feelings are almost identical. That’s not to say that the movie’s a dramedy in any sense of the term, but the movie isn’t just one long funeral – there’s bits and pieces of sheer happiness and joy, but because they are indeed so scattered, they truly do make those said moments all the more lovely and emotional.

And then, yes, there’s the ensemble who are all, as expected, pretty great.

Kevin Kline is so perfect as Ben, the upset and constantly nervous father who clearly wants the best for him and his family, but just also doesn’t know what to do anymore. With Kline, there’s always this feeling that he’s the cool and hip dad who never gets the respect he deserves and watching him here, you totally feel that – he’s just waiting to be noticed, recognized and if anything, appreciated. If he has to go out and find that for himself, then so be it.

Joan Allen plays his wife, Elena, and has a far more subtler role than him, but is still very effective in it. There’s this lingering sense of anger underneath everything that she does and it’s exciting just waiting around to see when she’s going to crack and lose her cool, once and for all. Sigourney Weaver’s Janey may also seem like a total villain at first, but the movie does humanize her in certain ways that’s not just surprising, but refreshing; here’s a woman, having sex with a married man, and while she doesn’t feel regret for it, she’s also not very happy about it, either.

Like everyone else, she’s just trying her absolute hardest to get by.

Sorry, Tobey. Don't have to go home, but can't stay here.

Sorry, Tobey. Don’t have to go home, but can’t stay here.

As for the kids, they all fair-off pretty fine, too, especially since most of them were the premiere young actors at the time. Christina Ricci is great as the sassy, overtly sexual Wendy; Elijah Wood is very fun to watch as the fellow teenage boy she constantly teases and plays around with; Tobey Maguire plays the older college student who isn’t sure just how to go about picking up girls and because of that, his awkwardness shines through in every scene; and Katie Holmes and David Krumholtz, in only just two scenes, really do come close to stealing the show, highlighting a great deal of adolescent sincerity that they were able to match in the following years to come, but not with the same amount of rawness.

But the real takeaway from the Ice Storm and these characters is that, yes, they’re performed and written well, but they’re also never judged. Because these characters are so sad and in such huge funks, they don’t always make the best, or brightest decisions – in most cases, they’re doing just whatever they feel will make them happy at that one exact moment in time. It would have been easy for a movie, let alone, its director to shine a light on them and frown, but instead, Ang Lee embraces them for all of their faults and realizes that they too, just like your or I, have issues and they’re just trying to wade through them all. They aren’t perfect, hell, they’re not even nice, but they’re real people and those are the kind that are very hard to find movies nowadays, or in general.

Consensus: With extra attention paid to its troubled characters, the Ice Storm is a sad, dramatic, but rather moving mood-piece about suburbia and all of those imperfect beings who inhabit it.

9.5 / 10

Cheer up! Your celebrities!

Cheer up! Your celebrities!

Photos Courtesy of: Moon in the Gutter, Awards Circuit

Ghostbusters (2016)

Chill out, geeks. It’s all good.

Paranormal researcher Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and physicist Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) have had a pretty rough relationship in the past few or so years. While Yates has been about tinkering around and playing with her toys, and finding out more about the paranormal in a slightly more silly way, Erin has been approaching the subject in a far more serious, relatively esteemed way. She’s trying to make tenure at the college she’s been teaching at, but she can’t seem to take herself away from that past-self of hers that loved spooky ghosts and communicating with whatever ghost-like things were out there. Now, the two are back together and figuring things out when strange apparitions appear in Manhattan. Along with them to find out more about these ghostly creatures, is engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), a slightly odd gal who loves the hell out of her cool gadgets and toys, and Patty Tolan, a lifelong New Yorker who knows the city inside and out. Armed with proton packs and plenty of inspiration, the four women prepare for an epic battle as more than 1,000 mischievous ghouls descend on Times Square, as they not only hope to save the world, but also still seem legit in the long-run.

Go-go gadgets!

Go-go gadgets! Oh, wrong reboot/rehash/remake!

Okay, everyone. It’s time to shut it. Yes, the new Ghostbusters movie is totally forgetting that the first one ever existed; yes the new Ghostbusters features women in those iconic roles everyone remembers from the original; and yes, it’s actually an okay movie. A lot of people couldn’t handle the fact that their beloved childhood treasure was going to be changed for the sake of putting a new spin on an old story, and well, of course, more money. It’s not wrong to think that, and after all of the terrible trailers, it’s fine to get a little worried, but have no fear, as the new Ghostbusters is the kind of movie you’d expect from director Paul Feig.

Except, well, not as good.

That isn’t to say that the new Ghostbusters is a fine and fun movie; there’s plenty to like about it, without ever thinking too hard about anything really. The comedy works when it’s just a bunch of these characters goofing around and ad-libbing whatever Feig doesn’t feel like trying to write to paper; the call-backs, of which there are a whole bunch, are fine and do have that perfect balance between sentimentality and nostalgia that’s not always seen in reboots/rehashes/remakes of this kind; and yes, the performers are quite good.

However, while watching the new Ghostbusters, I couldn’t help but feel like this was a pretty big step back for Feig and co. Ever since Bridesmaids, he’s been building himself as one of the few incredibly reliable directors in comedy who, yes, definitely knows what’s funny and what isn’t, but also seems to be growing. Spy may forever be his giant leap from just being, yet again, another “comedy director”, to someone with hopes and ambitions to be something bigger; while it was essentially “a comedy”, it also had a lot of fun, twisty and exciting action to go along with it, all of which Feig seemed to film perfectly.

Here, with the new Ghostbusters, Feig seems as if he wants to bring all of that fun and excitement he had with that project, over to here, but there’s almost too much for him to do and work around, that makes it all seem like a bit much. The callbacks and popping-up of old characters can tend to be a bit draining (especially when a few of them aren’t even funny); the exposition and plot begin to take over to where it takes away from any actual fun that could still be found in this plot nowadays; and yes, it’s PG-13.

Sure, it may not seem like much, but it totally is.

After all, Feig is perhaps best when he allows for his characters and his cast to just run wild with material, whether scripted or not, and just see where everything falls. Of course, he has to keep the improvisation limited to a few scenes and he also has to remember that there’s a plot that needs to be pushed, die-hard fans who need to be serviced, and a rather more family-friendly crowd to have in-mind, especially when picking and choosing what comedy bits to use.

Lesbian, or nah?

She may be a lesbian, but please, let’s not add anymore fuel to the fire.

For Feig here, it seems as if he’s not as loose and wild as he once was – now, he’s got people really looking at him, making sure he doesn’t miss a beat or screw something up. I’m pretty sure that’s how it was on his past few films, but here, it appears like it got to him a bit, where some of the interest from his other movies seem to be lost. He’s not “selling out”, obviously, but he’s also not gaining anymore cred, either.

Either way, it’s an okay job on his part, as he gets everything right, but at the same time, it also feels like he wasn’t allowed to be his full-fledged self here.

That said, his cast is talented and they more than help him out. McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon, Strong, and yes, even Chris Hemsworth, are all funny, even if their characters feel a tad bit thin. McCarthy, Wiig and Strong seem to get the most development, but unfortunately, McKinnon doesn’t. Her character, if anything, is just there to do and say, weird and crazy things for no other reason, except to be weird and crazy. The movie never makes an attempt to really go any further into her background and while it’s a shame we don’t get it here, I do have the feeling we’ll get it some time soon, in the sequels, if there are any.

And yeah, Hemsworth is perfect here. He’s funny, stupid, chiseled and as masculine as you can get without dying of devouring five T-bones in one sitting.

Basically, he’s perfect. More of him, please kind sir.

Consensus: Better than everyone expected, Ghostbusters is funny and charming, but also feels like Feig and his crew are being held back a little by the well-known franchise, and all of the extra baggage that comes along with it.

6 / 10

They're here. They're gals. And guess what, they're going to stay. Deal with it, nerdos.

They’re here. They’re gals. And guess what? They’re going to stay. Deal with it, dorks.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Wall-E (2008)

Save the world. Save the robots. Get off your rumps.

It’s been nearly 700 years and yep, us humans have destroyed the planet we all loved and called “home”: Earth. After years and years of negligence and laziness, Earth has become nothing more than just one huge, ever-expanding trashcan. But where have all the humans gone? Well, somewhere up in the sky, they’ve all retreated to a paradise of sorts, sitting down on their lazy butts, getting fatter and fatter as the days go by, eating and drinking everything that comes in their way, and being able to move around, solely by a chair. But while they’re all enjoying the heck out of their fat lives up in the sky, trash compactors are left on Earth to clean up their mess and make life on Earth sustainable again. However, it appears as if all of the trash became too much for the trash compactors, as only one still exists and seems to be working: Wall-E. And yes, being all alone on Earth can definitely be a problem for a little robot like Wall-E, who wants nothing more than some sort of love in his life. Eventually though, he gets that in the form of Eve, a robot sent down from the paradise-in-the-sky who may, or may not have sinister intentions for Earth, the human existence, or even Wall-E himself.

But don’t tell him that! That boy is smitten!

True love if I was ever able to see it happen between two bots.

True love if I was ever able to see it happen between two bots.

Anyway, yeah, Wall-E‘s another typical Pixar home-run, in that it makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think, and it makes you happy and absolutely proud that there’s still a small part of you that’s still a child. You may work a typical, 9-to-5, have a wife, kids, dog, car, and drink beer, but deep down inside, you’re still a six-year-old kid who wants to hold his mommy’s hand when he gets sad. Or then again, maybe you’re not that at all.

Either way, you get my point: Pixar has been working with this formula for as long as they’ve been around and guess what? Wall-E is no different.

But there’s a little something more to it that makes it worthwhile in the long-run.

You can tell that director Andrew Stanton definitely has a huge affinity for silent films, as well as the classics of yesteryear, in how he appreciates the simplistic messages of love they spout-out, and also likes how they all rely on an emotion and tone, told solely through the way everything looks. Automatically, when you’re thrown into this new and desecrated Earth, there’s already this sad, lonely and depressed feeling when watching Wall-E, all by his lonesome, do nothing but clean-up, watch old movies, long for someone to hold hands with, and have conversations with a invincible grasshopper. Then, all of a sudden, Eve comes in and everything seems a lot more goofy, joyous and believe it or not, hopeful. Yeah sure, the Earth is close to being nearly destroyed, but hey, at least these two robots found their possible soul-mates, right?

Well, that’s why Stanton’s direction is so smart here; he does a lot without telling us anything us, but rather, just showing us everything we need to know. Eve talks in perfect, Siri-like English, whereas Wall-E barely makes sense and for some reason, it’s better that way; hearing these two speak to one another isn’t the point of this flick, or even their romance. In all honesty, it’s all about the raw and sweet emotions that the feeling of love, or that idea of being connected with someone out there in the world can make you feel. Sure, call it maybe a tad too serious for a Pixar movie, but hey, what can I say?

This is the kind of stuff that gets me going.

Such a cuddly little robot. Until he kills you and takes over the whole world.

Such a cuddly little robot. Until he kills you and takes over the whole world.

Of course, about halfway through, the movie’s tone changes from carefree and pleasant to, of course, more convoluted, tense and plot-heavy, but for some reason, it still works. It definitely shouldn’t – the change is so drastic, that it almost feels like the powers at be got to Stanton and had him get things going – but where the movie goes without itself after this switch is interesting. It certainly does become an obvious farce, but it’s a funny one that drives home its environmental message as well as it could have, without totally pointing and wagging its finger in your face.

Okay, maybe the movie is trying to tell us humans to “stop leaving your trash everywhere and sitting on your rumps all day”, but still, is that not supposed to be something we should hear? I mean, heck, I’m sitting down now as we speak and I already feel like I’ve got to get up and do something with my life. Wall-E knows that it has a story and a plot to work with, aside from all the gooey and heartfelt emotions running throughout, but the mix-and-match between both sides gels so well together that, honestly, I’m shocked.

But at the end, Wall-E still takes itself all the way home.

While it definitely gets a tad bit lost in some odd and relatively annoying political shenanigans involving Fred Willard (!) as the President of the United States (!!!), Stanton is still able to bring us back to where we were at in the beginning: Wall-E searching for that one and special someone to sit down and watch movies and hold hands with. It will bring a tear to your eye the right way and it will remind you that true love does and can most definitely exist.

Even if the true love does exist between two robots in a post-apocalyptic future version of Earth.

Consensus: Fun, hilarious, smart and tender, without ever feeling like it’s trying too hard to be any of them, Wall-E drives home an environmental message that matters, while also not forgetting about what really makes a great family flick for everyone in-mind.

9 / 10

Pictured: America, circa 2026

Pictured: America, circa 2026

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Screen Musings

Baby Mama (2008)

Who doesn’t have baby mama drama?

Kate (Tina Fey) is a businesswoman who, for the most part, has been pleased with her life thus far. She has a good job, a nice apartment in Philadelphia, and generally considers her life simple and easygoing enough that she doesn’t have to worry about too much. Problem is, there’s one thing that she really wants to do with her life that sadly, she may not be able to do: Have a child. Due to her being infertile, Kate has not been able to, no matter how hard she has tried, to naturally have a child; so, she takes the next best step in the matter, which leads her to becoming apart of a surrogacy program. In the surrogacy program, for those who don’t know what that means, Kate’s baby will, through sperm injections and all sorts of other medical shenanigans, be conceived and born through some other woman. This other woman in question just so happens to be Angie (Amy Poehler), someone who is definitely not at all like Kate. Which is fine for Kate, so long as she can trust Angie to be smart about her body and realize that there is indeed a human growing inside of her. But after Angie runs into issues with her own husband (Dax Shepard), she begins to live with Kate, which is when the two begin to learn more about one another, even if they also have differences as well.

Tina doesn't need Greg Kinnear in her life, but hey, she'll take him!

Tina doesn’t need Greg Kinnear in her life, but hey, she’ll take him! And you know why? ‘Cause she can!

Of course, in Baby Mama, wacky hijinx ensue. That’s obvious from the very start, however, Baby Mama is a tad bit smarter than most of the other broad comedies out there that would have attacked this premise as dumb as possible. This isn’t, of course, to say that Baby Mama isn’t predictable, by-the-numbers, or at least, conventional, because it’s each and everyone of those things – but working behind all of those conventions and obvious story-structures is, for one, laughs, and also, a decent-sized heart that reminds you that you’re watching a female-lead comedy, that can appeal to basically everyone.

Sure, it may definitely help if you’re a woman or going through the same life event as the one depicted here, but regardless, it doesn’t matter.

Baby Mama is, first and foremost, a comedy. And a funny one at that. Most of that comes from the fact that both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have such great chemistry between one another, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in the fun and enjoyment they clearly have playing side-by-side. Even though their characters are, obviously, general opposites, not just in terms of personality, but also in social backgrounds, you still get the feeling that Fey and Poehler can’t wait for that moment in this film where their characters start to put all of their issues aside, take some shots, get wild together, and generally, have fun together.

To say that Fey and Poehler are both funny here, is doing them justice. However, there’s also another element to their performances that factor in well and that’s that their characters are actually well-written, despite initially seeming like stupid and dull caricatures from the beginning. Like, for instance, try Fey’s Kate: While she appears to be a stuck-up, way-too-serious businesswoman who is all about her job and not much else, eventually, the story goes on and we see that there’s actually a lot more fun and excitement to her life. Heck, the reasons for why she wants a baby to begin with, regardless of whether it’s naturally or through agencies, are understandable; she’s gotten to that point in her life where she wants one, she doesn’t need one, but wants one.

It's set in Philadelphia, so of course the bell-hop is a token black guy!

It’s set in Philadelphia, so of course the bell-hop is a token black guy! Gotta love my city!

That is, most of all, perhaps the greatest distinction this movie makes and is truly a smart piece of writing. It shows that woman like Kate, whether they be successful or not, don’t need to have babies to make their lives feel fulfilled. Does that mean that they’re not nice to have around? Of course not, but Baby Mama doesn’t believe that in order to make sure that your life is great and superb, it needs to be so with a baby by your side. It’s a small piece of writing, I know, but it’s what sets it apart from most other female-driven comedies out there that are all about getting married and having kids, because of some ill-conceived notion from many, many years ago, that says women need a certain amount of requirements to make their lives great.

But still, seriousness aside, Baby Mama is still a fine comedy.

Like what I said for Fey’s Kate, can be said the same for Poehler’s Angie: She may seem a bit white trash-y, but after awhile, the movie just shows her more off as a wild girl who not only likes to have some fun, but also wants to be a bit more serious in her own life as well. She doesn’t need to be serious, but she wants to be. There are others in this movie that show up in this movie that are funny, charming and welcome, but it’s really Poehler and Fey who make the movie work the most.

Even though the movie does admittedly get a bit syrupy and sentimental by the end, Poehler and Fey still feel fun and fresh, adding another sense of enjoyment to the proceedings. The plot does eventually get to be a bit too much and be about things happening, one after another, with random twists coming out left and right, but regardless, Baby Mama can still be funny and at times, relatively insightful. It may not be trying too hard, but in its own way, it sort of is; it’s taking the female-driven comedy and doing something with it that isn’t revolutionary or game-changing, but normal.

And hey, there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

Consensus: Predictable and lightweight for sure, but regardless, Baby Mama still offers up plenty of laughs and enjoyment courtesy of Poehler and Fey’s lovely chemistry.

7 / 10

Does this tend to happen? Ladies?

Does this tend to happen? Ladies?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Exactly why you never mess with guys named Moses. Especially when you’re near the beach.

If you don’t know the story of Moses by now, you probably should. But anyway, here’s what this movie’s all about. In 1300 B.C, Moses (Christian Bale) is a general and a member of the Royal family, which makes him a brother to  Prince Ramesses (Joel Edgerton). However, he is not blood-related, so therefore, when Seti I (John Turturro) passes away, it’s Ramesses who is next to claim the throne. While this doesn’t upset Moses, he knows that this won’t be good because Ramesses doesn’t take responsibility well and lets his emotions get the best of him. Ramesses knows that Moses thinks this and therefore, he banishes from the land and forces him to survive on his own. While in exile though, Moses finds out that not only does God want him to continue out his plan, but that he needs Moses to take control of whatever the hell crazy stuff Ramesses is doing to his land. Obviously Ramesses isn’t going to fall for all of this mumbo jumbo, which makes God very angry and nature so drastically turns on humanity.

And the rest is, I guess, history.

"Guy-liner is cool!"

“Guy-liner is cool!”

A lot of has been said about Exodus: Gods and Kings, and most of it isn’t about whether or not it’s actually good and worth your time at all. Most of it is, and reasonably so, is about the casting of the white actors in roles that were made especially for Hebrews and Egyptians. It was a small bit of controversy that held some ground, but it was made all the worse by the fact that Ridley Scott couldn’t quite shut his trap and therefore, seemed to have kick-started a huge list of people boycotting his film.

Is it reasonable? Yeah, I guess so. But that isn’t really the point of this movie, or even this review. The point of this movie is to inform and possibly entertain the audience about the story of Moses. However, the point of this review is to tell you that while it does the former, the later is hardly anywhere to be found.

Most of this has to do with the fact that Scott doesn’t really do much of anything entertaining, interesting, or even enlightening about this story. It’s all as plain as day. It may all look incredibly pretty, but honestly, there’s only so much one viewer can do with really pretty visuals. Eventually, you need an interesting story, to be told in an incredibly compelling way. If you can’t do this, then there’s something wrong with your film, all problems with casting aside.

And no, I’m not making the argument that Scott’s movie somewhat fails because we all know the story of Moses, it’s mostly because he doesn’t know where to go with it. He shows us that, yes, Moses was a person who spoke to God, set out to do what he was called on to do, and when it didn’t, all hell (literally) broke loose. This aspect of the film is, at least, exciting, fun, and interesting, something you don’t get from the rest of the movie. It shows us that not only does Scott still appreciate a nice monologue when he wants to use one, but that his exquisite eye to detail still pays off.

That said, I’m talking about what’s maybe 15 or so minutes in a movie that runs on almost two-and-a-half hours. Which wouldn’t have been a huge cause for concern, had the rest of the movie been at least somewhat worthy of watching, but it’s so slow and meandering, you’ll wonder if Scott fell asleep while making it, or was already in the midst of planning and filming his next picture, that he totally forgot about what was already on his plate. Either way, it’s a bit of a snoozer of a film and it’s made worse by the fact that some signs of Scott’s genius shows, teasing us more and more about what this film could have been, had it not decided to get bogged down in whatever it was blabbering on and on about.

And the same could also be said for the cast who, despite all being pretty big, respectable names, don’t really offer much to a movie that desperately needed something to liven it up.

Fleece on horse. Strike a pose.

Fleece on horse. Strike a pose.

Though Christian Bale is one of the best actors we have working today, it seems that whenever he is in a major blockbuster picture, he never quite gets the chance to show everyone those skills he’s known to have. Here, as Moses, he gives a pretty wooden performance that, at times, can seem inspired, but for the most part, just makes it seem like he’s reading from a Gideon Bible and doesn’t really care whether or not he’s putting any effort into anything. It’s not a terrible performance, but definitely one of Bale’s high-points, I have to say.

Same could be said for the rest of the cast. The likes of John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Ben Mendelsohn, Aaron Paul and María Valverde all show up here, but hardly any of them leave a lasting impression on us. They’re just here to service a script that doesn’t know what it wants to say or do about itself, nor does it really know how to treats its characters, so it just has them talk a lot about seemingly nothing and see if they can draw up any sort of emotion whatsoever.

It seems like that was the same guideline given to Joel Egerton, although he’s a lot better off with his role as Ramesses because he’s call on one thing and performs it well: Be campy. Egerton seems like he’s not only having a fun time with this role, but is at least more interested in diving deep into who this person may have been and why he was inspired to make the actions that he did. Though most of this gets lost in a muddled film that could really care less about any sense of humanity there may be in these characters, the effort is still noticeable and it’s worth commending Egerton for. Even if, you know, the character was written as a guy who yells a lot, forces people to die, and eats a lot grapes.

Consensus: Everybody in Exodus: Gods and Kings seems to be trying, except for Ridley Scott himself and it proves to be a major problem for a two-and-a-half-hour epic that moves slow, doesn’t say anything interesting, and hardly ever seems to know what it wants to do with itself, other than just try and inform people about the story of Moses that they may already have known since kindergarten.

4.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Gotta give it to those Egyptians - they sure did have style.

Gotta give it to those Egyptians – they sure did have style.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Be Kind Rewind (2008)

What’s a VHS?

In a downbeat area of New Jersey, there lies what seems to be one of the last ever mom-and-pop-run video-shops that actually still sells VHS tapes. The place is called “Be Kind Rewind” and it’s run by the old and a bit out-of-touch Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). However, in order to see what’s wrong with his video-store and how he can fix all of its problems, he decides to take a bit of a vay-cay and do some thinking on his own. This leaves his most trusted, dedicated employee, Mike (Mos Def), the responsibility of watching over the whole shop and making sure nothing bad at all happens. Somehow though, it totally does, because once the buffoon of the neighborhood, Jerry (Jack Black), gets electrocuted and comes into the shop, he wipes all of the tapes clean with nothing but static on them. Scared to have his boss find this out and be ultimately disappointed in him, Mike decides to pick up a camera, get Jerry and start filming their own versions of these movies. It’s called “Sweded”, and somehow, the town catches on and, in a way, like these versions a lot more than the actual movies themselves. This gets the store all sorts of attention – both wanted and unwanted.

So yeah, while that premise may sound strange and all, just let me tell you that this is a film written and directed by Michel Gondry; somebody who is definitely one for not always being the most “normal” film-maker out there. However, that’s the reason why this movie actually works – Gondry has a vision that may alienate some, but to others, there’s a certain joy in seeing what he sees through those artistic eyes of his. And while I couldn’t necessarily call something like this “artistic”, there’s still something joyous about it that makes it all worth watching.

"So you want me to get rid of all the Woody Allen pictures?"

“So you want me to get rid of all the Woody Allen pictures we have in store?”

Gondry’s weird-isms aside and all.

Although, I do have to say that for the first half-hour of this movie, nothing seemed to be happening at all. I get that there was supposed to be some sort of reason behind why these tapes were all erased and therefore, drive these guys to actually have to make these Swedes, but it seemed way too slow and messy. Almost as if Gondry himself was searching everywhere he could for anything that resembled a plot and didn’t know where to start, or end; he was just searching and searching, while annoying us at the same time.

But eventually, once the plot gets going and the Swede-ing starts happening, then the movie gets to be a bunch of fun. Which is mostly due to the fact that I think Gondry shows exactly what it’s like to have the creative adrenaline run through your body; the same kind of adrenaline that makes you want to get up from what you are doing and just have the world see what it is that you see, or are able to create. A part of me likes to think that Gondry uses this angle, only to express his own knack for creating low-budget remakes of popular films, but another part of me likes to think that whatever the case may be, it doesn’t matter. He’s clearly happy making these small, really cheesy remakes, and as a result, I was too.

And basically, that’s the whole gist of this movie. For a good portion of it, at least, the movie is all about what it’s like to have the need to make a movie right from where you are, with whatever you’ve got. It doesn’t matter if you have a budget, a whole lot of talent, or even all of the right equipment to get going from the ground-up. All you need is some inspiration and that drive to make you keep on shooting whatever it is that you want to shoot. If it’s a video of you just ranting about whatever it is that’s on your mind in that point in time – then go for it! If it’s a video of some Charlie kid biting somebody – then sure, totally go for it!

Whatever the idea in your head may be, it doesn’t matter. All that does matter is that you’re able to get up off your rump and film something! That’s what movies are all about in the first place, and while this movie may not be the most perfect piece of cinema to exemplify that fact, it’s still a noble effort from someone who clearly knows a thing or two about what it is that he’s talking about/filming.

How I imagine he acts every time he steps out of the shower.

How I imagine he looks every time he steps out of the shower.

As for the rest of the movie, it’s all pretty fine, especially in the casting-department. Though Jack Black’s shtick is the same here, as it’s been in, I don’t know, say, every single one of his damn movies, it’s still pretty entertaining and makes sense once this Jerry character gets a little bit too big for his britches and acts like he’s some big-time star of some sort. Sure, he has plenty of haters, but Black’s shtick, when used well, is entertaining and fun to watch. Same goes for Mos Def who, despite being on a short list of rappers-turned-actors, is one of the better ones because he’s able to go from role-to-role, without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard for one thing or another. He’s just being an actor, although there still has yet to be that one role that distinguishes him from the rest of the group.

Still though, I hold out hope. Not just for Def, but for the future of movies as a whole. Because even though certain people don’t believe the movie-business will be the same twenty-thirty years from now, there’s still hope out there that people will feel the need to want to express themselves in a fun, creative manner. Especially with a camera in their hand; something in front of them; and a chock full of ideas inside their noggins.

I still hold out hope, people. And you should too.

Consensus: While inherently messy, Be Kind Rewind still gets itself together in time for it to be a fun, creative, and rather passionate-look at what it takes for a person to create something, whether it be a film, a book, a song, or any piece of work that expresses themselves for being who they are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Now they're all working at FYE. Damn, DVD's.

Now they’re all working at FYE. Damn, DVD’s.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Dave (1993)

Luckily Barack doesn’t have too many impersonators out there. OR SO WE KNOW OF!!!

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) is a simple, small-town man that wears big-rimmed glasses, rides his bike to and fro work, and also run a temp service that isn’t quite as big on making a whole lot of money, as much as it is just all about getting people jobs and having them make money. Oh yeah, and he also has an uncanny resemblance to the 44th president of the United States, William Harrison Mitchell. That eventually comes to work out for him in the future when he’s called upon to be an impersonator for the President in public appearances, just to avoid any problems whatsoever. However, it just so happens that on that same night, the President happens to suffer a stroke while banging his secretary, which leaves all of his right-hand-men stumbling without any idea of what to do. Allow the country to run wild with the sudden-death of their president? And by doing so, do they leak any dirty secrets about what he did during his time as presidency, minus the whole “cheating-on-his-wife” thing? Well, the simple answer is “no”. Instead, they all decide to let Kovic take over the position as acting-President, but only until the actual President himself wakes up and is ready to get back to doing his job. But what if he doesn’t seem to wake up? Even worse, what if the President’s wife (Sigourney Weaver) finds out that this man placed in her husband’s position, actually isn’t her husband?

Yes, there’s so much drama going on here that only a politician during the 90’s would know all about. Ammiright?!?!?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Anyway, so yeah, this movie always gets talked-about when you discuss the subgenre of “political comedies” and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the first of its kind during the Clinton-administration, but it’s one of the very rare political-satires that doesn’t really destroy any sort of political-agenda that was being thrown around during that time. Instead, it sticks to whatever “people get jobs and we all stay happy forever and ever” idea it has about politics. Sure, the fact of the matter is that that would never, ever happen in real life, but sure, when you’re watching a movie, let alone a comedy, you don’t really need reality to come in and hit you in the face. All you need is some nice, pure escapism in the finest form and that’s exactly what Dave is, with some snappy jokes thrown in for good measure.

That’s not to say that the movie is at all “dated”, it’s just that some of the humor probably doesn’t hit me nearly as hard, or as effectively as it probably did for those back in the early-90’s. It’s not that I don’t know a thing or two about politics, it’s just that most of this film seems to be playing it so damn safe most of the time, that it’s really hard to find much of anything to really laugh at in the first place. Sure, there are plenty of quips made here that may, or may not catch you off-guard, but they are hardly surprising, nor are they really slap-happy hilarious.

However, where I think most of the film focuses its strengths on is just the overall pleasant, carefree pace that Ivan Reitman sets, which carries the movie through some very sketchy-waters. For instance, there’s the sequence in which the President and the First Lady head-off to a homeless shelter in which they just stand there, say hi to people they wouldn’t bear to be around, had their not been cameras around, and basically just muck it up for the press surrounding them with all of the cameras flashing and recording their every step. We always see this in politics, and it could have easily been seen as a snotty thing for a the President and his wife to do here, however, Reitman handles it with care and always makes it seem like this Dave guy does genuinely mean well, even if he doesn’t know a lick or two about actual politics itself. Especially not how to run a country.

I mean, sheesh! We should have all been happy with Bush Jr. just by looking at this guy! You know?

Too far? Okay, anyway, back to the movie itself.

What you could also attribute most of Dave’s charm to is the performance from the always lovable Kevin Kline, doing another one of his sweet, happy-guy acts. My only complaint about Dave, and well, practically every other character with the meager exception of one in particular, is that we never really get an impression for who these people were before this movie. Yeah, we get the idea that Dave was always a nice, peaceful soul that tried to make those around him happier in life, just by solely giving them what they want, but why is he like that? Better yet, why is it that he’s alone in his life, despite being what some clearly see as “the nicest guy on the face of the planet”. Nobody says that about him in the movie, or even to his face, but it’s pretty much implied with just how much Dave is able to make everyone around him smile, cheerful and just overall, feel better about themselves and their lives.

Or, even him?

Or, even him?

Sort of like how I was, until I started drinking. Then, it was all downhill from there.

Anyway, like I was saying about Dave, I wish I got to know more about him. I guess that was the point of not getting to know who he really is as a person, considering he has to practically impersonate another the whole movie, but just more detail would have gone a long way for him, Regardless though, Kline works well with Dave, giving us a guy we can all stand behind and love, even if he is just being the type of guy who doesn’t ask for much in the first place, and doesn’t want much in return. He’s just that type of cool guy, and that’s mostly how I’d like to imagine Kline is in real life.

Same goes for Sigourney Weaver in terms of her character, although her character doesn’t clearly go so far as “wife who hasn’t the dong in awhile”. Hey, it’s not like Weaver can’t play that role-up to perfection, but I think we’d be able to give her just a bit more to work with. If only a bit, that is. We also get treated some amusing, side roles from the likes of Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, Laura Linney, Ben Kingsley as that one character I said has some of his past told to us, in a way that isn’t at all manipulative, and a despicable-as-hell, but-clearly-loving-it Frank Langella as what we pretty much expect him to play, “the baddie”. Once again, you can tell that they definitely elevate the material to being a bit more than what it is, which is all we really needed in the first place.

Consensus: Though Dave doesn’t really bite with its satire as much it should, that still doesn’t take it away from being a mildly funny, tame and rather pleasant comedy that’s big on likable characters, rather than laughs. Either way, something here is bound to be liked.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you're right.

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you’re right.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Annie Hall (1977)

Thanks, Annie. All we needed in this world were Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Thanks a lot.

Meet Alvy Singer (Woody Allen): He’s a neurotic, 40-year-old living in New York who’s had a pretty undefined life so far. He was born underneath a roller-coaster, has been married twice, and has yet to understand the meaning of what makes you happy in life. He’s never met a person that’s really took him by surprise and he’s never really been able to look on the bright side of things; always negative and always downing those around him. But that all somehow changes when his buddy (Tony Roberts) introduces him to a spunky gal named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The rest, as they say, “is history”.

Yes, this marks my first viewing of Annie Hall and before any of you jump down my throat right as soon as I open the gate, I have a reasoning for doing so: The time just never amounted itself. See, there’s a little something you folks out there may not know about me and my movie-viewing that I’m going to let you in on right about now, I have a weird thing about me where I need to watch a movie that I hear is “perfect” and “a masterpiece”, in the most perfect way possible. That means not on my computer, not on some lap-top, and sure as hell not in the middle of the day. It needs to be done in a way where I can watch it on my own, personal television (that’s rather huge), and needs to be done during the night, especially when I’m thinking of it the most. Hence why it took me over 2 years to actually crack-open the old VHS tape and actually watch this bad boy.

Don't drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Don’t drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Thankfully though, in the 2 years that it’s taken me to view this, has also lead me on to leave 2 years of my life that I feel were necessary enough to fully “get” just what exactly this flick was all about, for better or worse. I’ve been through a couple of “get-togethers” in the past 2 years and I’ve come to the realization that most relationships are exactly what you make of them and how much effort and love you want to put into it, but then my brain also gets raddled-around when I begin to think about all of the other aspects of a relationship like the people involved themselves. I begin to wonder, “well, maybe it was supposed to happen like that”, or, “it’s her, not me”, and you know what, that’s absolutely, positively true. So why the heck do we always go through with the same old stuff like relationships, even if they begin, go on, and end, mostly all the same?

That’s the type of question that Woody Allen brings up perfectly here not just once, but more than a couple of times but it never feels preachy or annoying; it feels like there’s really a man trying to get behind all of the stupidity and sappiness about what makes relationships loving and caring, and figuring out what the hell’s the point of it all. Allen himself seems to have had that problem many times in his life, but this time it was the most drastic-change for him where he needed to get his word out there, for all of the rest of the world to see, hear, and feel as well. It worked, and 4 Oscars later, Woody Allen will never, ever lose that cliché of his that “wasn’t better than Annie Hall“.

I can’t disagree with that statement, but that’s more of a positive than a negative because Allen has had his fair share of blunders in the past, but also his fair share of wonders as well, and this one only showed the world that he was more than just a satirist who was ready to make an easy joke out of any situation. This time, he showed a compassion and feeling towards the things that he was making fun of, as well as a reasoning behind all of the mucking it up. He shows us that humor is the quickest and best way to making a person happy, and is able to get them away from all of the hard-ships they may, or may not be happening in their life at the present time, even if it’s only for a second. Sounds like a sappy thing to say, but it’s the truth and it’s present in just about every frame here when Allen’s script comes out hitting us like a ton of pins and needles.

The one-liners the guy has to present are hilarious, regardless of if you don’t get them or not (and trust me, you won’t, but neither did I so it’s okay). But with every situation and happening this story goes through, the movie always finds the lighter side of the equation, even if the man himself who’s telling it, is a pessimist himself. Everybody knows that about Woody, and especially about Alvy the “character” in this movie that he’s playing, which brings us more of a real-world glimpse at the world of love, happiness, and sadness, without ever seeming like it’s the Hollywood-ized version or anything of that nature. It’s the way that Allen sees the world and everything that inhabits it, and it’s such a pleasure to see, for many more reasons than one, but the most important one being that it’s as real as you’re ever going to get and ever going to need, especially with a subject like love and relationships.

There’s a reason why every rom-com that’s any percent above the usual cookie-cutter, conventional rom-com, always seems to find itself compared to this flick, which is reasonable because this is one of the first rom-coms to ever really scratch the surface with such an attending eye as the one that Allen himself has. It touches on relationships in the way that they don’t last forever, just like love as well, and it’s up to us to decide whether we want to go through with any of it anymore, or just give up it all entirely and save ourselves some pressure and some time. However, there’s also this idea that one may need love, no matter how desperate it may actually be.

See, couples can have fun and be happy. It just doesn't last forever. Wah.

“Yeah, take a picture of me doing this so I can remember the happy time we had every time you piss me the hell off, woman!”

Love is like a must one person has to have in their life, if only for just a short amount of time. It can either be the first person who said “hi” to you on your first day of Junior High; your ex who left you for the best man/bridesmaid at your wedding; or it can even be the significant other you’ve stood by after all of these years, even if you do get tired of hearing their dreaded snoring, night and night again. It doesn’t matter who you felt love for, it’s as long as you’ve felt it, if just for one time. Love is what people constantly throw themselves into, time and time again, regardless of if it comes out negatively or positively. It comes out in a way that reminds you what life is all about and even if you lose that person you love, well, life still goes on and you will continue to meet more and more people, experience new things, and may eventually come to realize that that person you held an affection for, maybe wasn’t the best person who deserved it in the end. Just maybe.

As you can tell, this movie made me think a whole lot and it still will, even after I finish this review. That’s the sign of a great movie, and dare I say it, “a masterpiece”.

However, no film at all would be complete without great performances from it’s cast, which is exactly what this movie has, but benefits more from the wonderful chemistry by it’s two leads, the same two that were rumored to have been out and about during the time of this movie’s release and filming. Many people considered this work to be “autobiographical” in the sense that everything that Annie and Alvy go through and experience together, is exactly what Woody and Diane did as well, but something tells me that that’s only taking credit away from the perfect jobs these two did together, especially by actually getting us to believe in this couple right from the get-go. Except I’m still mad at Diane Keaton for giving us this. Why, Diane! Why?!?!?!?!?

Woody Allen still plays-up his usual, neurotic-shtick that never gets old or annoying, it’s always hilarious to see him react to the others around him, even if it comes from a source of a mind that’s a bit too miserable to be around. Then again, all of the problems this guy has with the world around him seems reasonable and understandable, especially considering the way he was brought up in the world. Woody Allen has always been a bit of a charmer in his movies, but his comedic-timing and wit was on fire during this movie, and rarely ever kept me from laughing. It’s an act that some people thought would have been done to death by now, but has yet to have over-stayed it’s welcome. Don’t ever change, Woody. No matter what all the nay-sayers may, ahem, say.

Only thing that's dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she's the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it.

Only thing that’s dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she’s the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it but times have changed, my friends.

Diane Keaton though, all jokes aside, really gave it her all with this performance and is absolutely loving and cute as our titled-character because she feels real. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been mixed-up with a couple of cooks back in my day, but I felt closer and closer to this relationship because I could see why somebody would want to be together with someone, break-up with them, and get back together a couple of days, hours, or seconds later. As a human-being, some of us are prone to making mistakes and trying to undo them as soon as possible, which is exactly what Annie tries to do throughout the whole movie. She tries to cater to Alvy’s own needs and wants, yet is keeping herself away from something that she herself wants to do; she allows herself to be made fun of and criticized for the way she talks and acts, even if she’s still not sure why she does or says certain things, it’s just who she is; and she continues and continues to go through with a relationship that’s more than shaky at times, all because she needs somebody in her life, especially somebody like Alvy.

It’s a beautiful relationship these two form and one that I felt more of a connection to, being that I’ve been through a couple of crazy relationships of my own. Together though, Keaton and Allen make a wonderful screen-couple because they feel real, honest, and as heart-breaking as ever, even if you may want to punch the other in the face sometimes for being such a ding-bat to the other’s emotions and feelings. However, that’s just how relationships go. You can’t always satisfy the other, from beginning to the end of your relationship; your always going to mess up and have to kick yourself in the ass for doing so. But then, you get back up, continue forward, and work at it. If the relationship doesn’t work out as you or the other may have planned, then so be it. Life goes on, relationships will come and go, and love will continue to find itself back into your soul, whether you want it to or not. Case closed.

Consensus: Annie Hall is considered “one of the greatest rom-coms of all-time” and well, with good reason: It’s beautifully-told tale that’s honest, hilarious, perfectly-acted by Woody and Diane, and leaves room for plenty of thought and discussion, even if it all comes through one’s life experiences and own ideas. Still though, you’ll feel the bug of love eating at you long after the credits roll.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Hi. I'm Woody Allen and I hate everything that's good and right with life. Now, watch my movie."

“Hi. I’m Woody Allen and I hate everything that’s good and right with life. Now, watch my movie.”

The Village (2004)

Thanks for helping me locate my next drinking spot, M. Night!

In rural Pennsylvania (holla!) during 1897 a group of Protestants who live in a small area live happy and peaceful, in an area surrounded by the woods. However, things aren’t always so peachy and keen, due to the fact that in these woods, apparently lie creatures that kill and might possibly invade this little town. Because of this “problem”, the leader of the village (William Hurt) keeps everybody confined and safe with a set of rules that will help them hide-away from these vicious beasts. After awhile, some people begin to lighten-up and realize that there may be something else out there to find, and one of those curious citizens goes by the name of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), who also just so happens to be in love with the leader’s blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Yes, it’s been known to many, many people that M. Night Shyamalan is the 21st Century equivalent to a one-trick-pony. He starts off all movies the same, with just the right amount of mystery and wonder, continues to build it all up and up, until, woolah; we have ourselves a twist on our hands. Everybody knows what to expect with an M. Night movie and most of the problems with his movies is that when you see them once, who needs them again. However, “everybody” does not mean yours truly.

Yep, believe it or not, I am one of the very few people who actually will still go-to-bat for Philly boy M. Night. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m representing my home land, or maybe it’s because I actually like watching movies that continue to challenge me with an original story, an original twist, and an original look and feel that reminds me why I love watching movies so much in the first place. I know I’m hyping this one up quite a bit, but don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those “I don’t see why everybody hates this movie” review, it’s just going to be me sticking up for poor, old M. Night. And with his latest-flick coming out this Friday, the dude needs all the love and support he can get.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What I liked so much about this flick starting off, is that M. Night doesn’t simply spoon-feed us what we need to know about this smallish-community, and he sure as hell doesn’t try to make sure that there are conversations that make it easier for us to figure out. He is simply plopping us into this setting, and just allowing ourselves to get ready and up-to-speed with all of these people and what they are up to. Of course, there’s plenty of mystery surrounding what the community is really like, but you don’t think too much about that as much as you think about just who these people are, what’s their deals, and why are they so freakin’ petrified of going out to “the towns”.

You definitely know that something is up from the get-go, but you’re not exactly sure what. However, even though the characters here tell one another that they are monsters in the woods, monsters that you even see from time-to-time, you can’t be too sure what it is that you are seeing, is in fact real or just a figment of yours, or the character’s imaginations. Throughout the whole duration of the movie, up until the last 10 minutes or so, you know that M. Night is playing a trick on you and feel as if you aren’t easily consumed by being fooled, however, something still has you questioning just what is the truth and what isn’t. M. Night does this in all of his movies, and this time is one of those rare instances where it works and makes this movie better, especially when you see it for a second time.

But then of course, there is always that big question at the top of your mind whenever you finish an M. Night flick: “does the twist really hold up when you compare it to the rest of the flick?” Well, the answer to that is: sort of. See, the movie is all about it’s twist, what it tries to make you believe in, and what is actually the truth, but it never loses focus of it’s characters or it’s sense of place in the world. Sure, you don’t quite know exactly what area of the world M. Night has placed us in, but you know it’s a strange place that could easily be in any type of forest on the face of the planet. Does that rule out every realm of possibility? Nope, not really, but it does get a bit obvious as it goes on from there.

As a whole, I do believe that the twist works and the way that holds up in the story is well-done, but what I do feel like M. Night dropped the ball on was actually handling how the twist was revealed, and what he did to us when we realized what was really going on. Slowly, but surely, odd pieces of evidence begin to shine and you not only realize that this movie is getting at itself somewhere, but M. Night can’t wait to show us either. But because of that frantic-feeling the dude must have had in the pit of his stomach, the twist almost feels too sudden, as if we should have really been hit with that “WTF?!?!?” moment that the dude has lived his career on thus far. It does eventually sink in over time, but not enough time until the full-twist is revealed and then all of a sudden, there’s a jumble of thoughts, ideas, and wonders that the brain is attacked with and as we know; the brain can only handle so much.

So, to answer the question that most people have on their minds after seeing an M. Night flick; I’d say yes, the twist does hold up and work well, but the way that it plays itself out, almost defeats any type of smart or genius that the man had to present. Not sure if I still answered the question I placed up-above or if I’m making any sense, but it worked for me. May not work for you or any other peeps on this Earth, but that’s what movies are made for: discussion, disagreement, and different points-of-views.

But it doesn’t matter where M. Night goes with this funky story, the dude always has time for character-development, as well as giving his cast some time to shine in the spotlight, especially when he isn’t stealing it from them. Joaquin Phoenix is good as the member of the community that wants to rise up and find out what’s really happening outside there in the woods, because he’s able to give us a brave and courageous character, that also has some insecurity-issues as well and isn’t just a born-and-told superhero. The same accent he uses here, that he used in Gladiator was a tad annoying since they sort of came off as the same character, but at least the dude is capable of having us forget about that memorable-role after awhile, and focus on this one. Playing the town “special buddy” is Adrien Brody who is fine with giving this character more emotion and heart than you could suspect, but considering that this movie was filmed and released two years after he came out victorious in what some call the most-stacked ballot for Best Actor in a Leading Role, it does seem like a bit of a disappointment for a dude that’s so talented and obviously can show it.

He heard the train 'a comin'....

He heard the train ‘a comin’….

William Hurt is also very good and charming as the leader of the community, because of the way he’s able to make us believe in all that he says, but yet, also not allow us to fully trust in every word he says. There’s some sexy-chemistry going on between him and Sigourney Weaver’s character, the mother of Lucius, and it’s pretty compelling to see since it gives you further and further clues as to what the hell really is happening underneath the wooden-tiles in the ground.

And last, but damn sure as hell not least is Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy, the blind girl of the community with a heart of fire and passion. Howard has somewhat became a household name by now, but it’s so great to see where she got her start as a head-liner, and show that she was more than just “that girl, who also happened to be Richie Cunningham’s daughter.” It took me awhile to figure out that she was blind, but that didn’t matter after awhile because I could evidently see that this girl had something more to her than just being one of those disabled-peoples, that takes life more for granted now, than most people who seem to have it all. She actually is capable of loving, and to be loved, which gives us more of a reason to feel more for her as time goes on and her adventure begins to get more creepy and scary. Actually, “scary” may not be the right word, but “creepy” definitely is. Yeah, that fits.

Consensus: Even if not all of it adds up to make for a perfect-conclusion to a well-done story, The Village still works, even as a re-watch because of all the hints, clues, ideas, and themes that M. Night gives you to chew on and ponder for a bit, that is, until he shoots himself in the foot by the end once everything is brought out into the open.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chads Ford, PA!!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chadds Ford, PA!!!

Alien (1979)

Now people understand why we don’t send more humans into outer-space.

In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. After landing on a barren planet, Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) works to decipher the transmission and discovers that the signal is actually a warning, not an SOS. But it is too late to turn back as three members of the crew have already left to investigate the derelict ship.

Movies like this are hard as hell to review because they are just loved by so many people, that it’s almost like a death sentence if you say one bad thing about it. So by the time this review is over, I’ll have to be looking over my shoulder at every corner now.

All of the credit for how awesome this film is, probably has to go to director Ridley Scott. First off, the film starts with all of these slow-moving shots of the space shuttle, where there’s nothing really going on except for there being an eerie feeling the whole way through. This was a great way to start off this flick in my opinion as it showed that the horror film that I was about to see, wasn’t just your ordinary, jump-scare horror flick, it was actually going to be more of a slow-burner that would take its time to build up its scares. Scott uses a lot of slow pans here to fully capture the set designs and spooky atmosphere but also depends on a lot of sounds (or lack thereof) to gain some spookiness too. So many horror films nowadays, feel the need to bring in this huge, grandiose score that makes you feel like you should be scared but somehow doesn’t. Here, Scott depends on a lot of moments of silence in certain scenes where we don’t have some soundtrack telling us what to feel at a certain moment and the noises that Scott usually replaces them with (the computer sounds still give me a chill till this day), actually take you more into this atmosphere than you expected.

Scott also did a pretty awesome job at making this spaceship, and just space itself, look absolutely beautiful with it’s amazing production that is still some of the most inventive in sci-fi movie history. The inside of that spaceship, is pretty freakin’ scary because you never know how big it truly is, what places are safe and what aren’t, and also, top all of that with a whole bunch of darkness that Scott adds in to truly mess with your heads. Hell, even the way those ventilation shaft doors shut gave me the chills! The film also ventures out to an unknown planet that also looks very beautiful, with it’s long, sweeping terrain to give the Alien egg farm some more creepiness to it than it already needed. I don’t know if I’m doing this flick any justice by the way I’m talking about it, but I can say that Scott did a perfect job of filming it all and gave it a very stylized look, even though it mostly takes inside a spaceship.

But it wasn’t just his art direction that kept me involved with this flick, it was mostly the fact that I knew some crazy shit was going to go down and Scott continued to build that idea up and up and up until, the whole film starts to go crazy (along with everybody on the ship). There’s always a sense of eerie dread in the air, something that Scott builds on and lets it get inside of our head the whole way through. You never know what’s going to happen next, but you know it’s not going to be good and whenever something bad does happen, it’s injected with so much frenetic energy, that almost don’t realize that they only last for a couple of seconds. We also never get to see the Alien quite as much you would think (the movie is named Alien for Christ’s sakes!) but every time it did show-up, wooooooo-weeee, did it create a lot of tension!!

The one problem that I did keep on finding myself running into was probably one of the dumbest details, but it was also one of the biggest of the whole movie: the cat. I had no idea what this cat was even doing here in the first place, which was fine with me, but the film started to bring it into some key moments like where a person would have to go look for it, only to get killed off the next second, or to have people at the end of the movie trying to save it, while the Alien is ready to kill and all-over-the-place. This just seemed like a cheat to have some characters die and give the characters a reason to go back on the ship, even though it’s about to self-destruct and strapped with a killer Alien on-board. Seemed really dumb, for a movie that was doing so many smart things with itself.

What I loved the most about this film, was how each and every character in this flick got the same amount of screen-time, which also meant that you cared for them a lot more rather than just being a bunch of walking cliches you would normally expect from a horror movie about a crew entrapped on a spaceship with large monster. Tom Skerritt is pretty manly and tough as Dallas, and it’s pretty easy to see why this dude was the head-honcho of the crew. Sigourney Weaver, as we all know, is pretty bad-ass as Ripley and gives her this smart and sassy edge, that really comes out of her by the end when it comes down to nut-up or shut-up time with the big Alien. Don’t know why she had to get half-naked at the end, but hey, she looks pretty good, don’t she?? Veronica Cartwright is a cutie-patootie but isn’t given much to do here, and even when she does do something, it seems like she’s just yelling, screaming, and worried about whether or not she’s going to die. Probably the lamest character out of the bunch, which is saying much. Harry Dean Stanton was a lot of fun as Brett, who brought a lot of humor with his usual, dead-pan delivery. Still can’t believe that dude is 85 now! Sheeesh! John Hurt is good as Kane but I do wish we could have seen more of him because we all do know what eventually happens to that dude. Ian Holm is creepy as balls, playing the freaky scientist, Ash, and just plays up that whole weird, off-kilter dude perfectly. Oh, and Yaphet Kotto is a lot of fun as the token black guy you always need to have in a sci-fi/horror movie. Not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just something you usually need to have to round it all out.

Consensus: Alien is definitely a sci-fi movie amongst sci-fi movies because it features a highly-stylized direction from one of the greats, Ridley Scott, who gives this film a very tense, dreary, and gloomy feeling the whole way through, and also keeps you guessing until the very end with scenes that are so iconic, I don’t even need to mention here. Just get out and go see it before you see Prometheus, because something tells me you’re going to have to do your homework for this one.

9/10=Full Price!!

Ghostbusters (1984)

Trying to keep some of the Halloween spirit up and about during Christmas time.

After losing their academic posts at a prestigious university, a team of parapsychologists (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis) goes into business as proton-pack-toting “ghostbusters” who exterminate ghouls, hobgoblins and supernatural pests of all stripes. An ad campaign pays off when a knockout cellist (Sigourney Weaver) hires the squad to purge her swanky digs of demons that appear to be living in her refrigerator.

Before director Ivan Reitman decided to go on and do classics such as ‘No Strings Attached’ and ‘Evolution’, he actually did some legendary stuff with a film that you may have heard of, but then again maybe not. All I have to know is…who ya gonna call? I know that was corny but come on, you had to know it was going to happen at least once in this review.

I’ve seen this film a long long time ago and it was always a favorite of mine, so to give it another shot and see how it held up for me all these years later, was a real treat for me. The premise is pretty original right from the start and it would have easily fallen down like a sack of bricks but it somehow ends up being one of the most genius ideas ever put into a film, mainly because of all of the talent that is involved here.

There are so many hilarious one-liners here that I hear uttered from time-to-time but never really got the joke until I had this film refresh my memory and make me realize just how damn funny the lines are. I mean every situation they have here is just utterly ridiculous but the film knows that but still finds plenty of ways to bring out comedy no matter what whether they are depending on some well-placed slap-stick, dead-pan readings from everybody involved, or some sly satire of surging capitalist hubris. Each and every way this film approaches its comedy works beyond belief and I just laughed my ass off at so many things here that were said. Something that doesn’t usually happen when I’m watching an 80’s comedy.

The comedy isn’t the only fun aspect to this film though, Reitman also seems to have a lot of fun with this plot and his direction brings out some of the most imaginative stuff that ever came out on-screen in the 80’s. There is a lot of fun to be had with these guys all running around in these plain-looking jumpsuits chasing after flying goo that is actually a ghost, and every scene ending with some witty pun. Let’s also not forget everybody’s favorite giant villain, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I mean honestly, who comes up with this shit and can actually make it somethings that revered as comedic gold.

My one gripe with this flick is that the special effects here are very very bad but then again this is 1984 we are talking about here. I know I sound like a complete dickhead for even bringing this up and knocking down some points for this but to be honest, it sort of took me out of the film considering the whole time I just saw this dog flying through the screen as if he had just popped out of a PlayStation game. I know I’m nit-picking, but for some reason it just bothered me.

The real reason this film worked so well is because of the man that plays Peter Venkman, a man named none other than Bill Murray. Murray is always a show-stealer no matter what it is that he is in and here as Venkman he is no different. His dead-pan delivery is spot-on because he knows that everything in this film is just plain and simply ridiculous and he handles just about everything like the sarcastic unprofessional that he is and almost every time he is on-screen, he had me laughing my ass off. There is a reason why this guy was the main thing to see in ‘Zombieland’. It’s a shame that he is apparently kind of a dick in real-life, because if I saw him walking on the street I would probably just try my hardest to hang out with him the whole day, even though I would probably get denied.

Everybody else here is fine too and each give their own little funny lines, while Murray is off killing this film with his delivery. Harold Ramis is funny as the nerdy Egon, Dan Aykroyd is even funnier and nerdier as Ray, and Ernie Hudson is fun as the token black guy Winston. There is also some funny performances given by Sigourney Weaver as Venkman’s love-interest of sorts, Dana Barrett and Rick Moranis as Barrett’s nerdy next-door neighbor, Louis. As you can probably tell now that there are a lot of nerds in this flick but hey, nerds rule and they deserve their times to shine too.

Consensus: Ghostbusters is the classic that I always imagined it being even when I was still running around in my little Spider-Man undies. It’s funny, original, exciting, and perfectly-delivered by the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and many many others.

9/10=Full Price!!

Rampart (2011)

White men can’t jump, but they can certainly be corrupt cops.

Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is pretty much a huge dick-head. He has two ex-wives that he still somehow lives with, uses women like a new pair of shoes, corrupts the law, and has a past that is not the best track-record on any person, especially a cop. However, that’s all starting to come back onto him and he has to start taking it like a man, or at least just go crazy and drink.

Director and co-writer Oren Moverman is coming off of his debut-flick, ‘The Messenger’, which was one of my favorite films of the forgettable year of 2009 but somehow this one doesn’t hit that same cord here it did with me even though it’s also written by the same dude who did ‘L.A. Confidential’.

There have been so many “dirty cop” films in the past that it almost seems like a tired genre in and of itself but somehow this film stays away from the things we’ve seen before with a relatively interesting and different approach than we are used to. The film relies more on the actual guy, Dave Brown, rather than just showing us the non-stop gun fights, macho-man acts, and tiresome car chases, the film decides to show us how he is with all of the people around him such as the women in his life, his brother, and even the people that are trying to help him be a free and non-guilty man. It has a slight noir feel to it which was pretty cool because it’s never really been done before but I think that’s where my main problem where this film lied was.

The pace for this flick is incredibly slow for this type of material and as much as I don’t want to just sit here and rag on about how boring it was, I still couldn’t help the fact that I was checking the time about every 5 minutes at a lot of points. I would have liked a little bit more action, a little bit more mystery, and a little bit more drama to this film for me to actually have something that excited me but instead it was just very depressing to watch this dude’s life practically crumble in front of his eyes. The material isn’t something that’s all happy-go-lucky in the first place, but I still thought that there could have been a tad more done to this flick to spice things up.

The film also had some bright moments by the end but a lot of that shined away with another ambiguous ending that is becoming the next big trend in Hollywood but here it just felt like a cop out (pun intended) so they didn’t have to worry about disappointing audiences. There are many moments in this film where you think something is going to come to a dynamite resolution, but instead, the film backs off which kept me bothered especially for the contrived ending. Come on movie industry! Stop being so damn ambiguous!

Although the film’s story doesn’t do too much the film is actually very great to look at mainly because a lot of the unusual shots that Moverman takes here with this film. Sometimes the film will be up-close-and-personal on a character so much that you can see up their nostrils, sometimes the camera will be far away, and sometimes it will just be moving around the room to keep track of something happening. Either way the film has a lot of good camera-work here and a very random sex club scene is one that sticks out in my head the most. No, not because of the naked people ya pervs, but because it was actually shot beautifully. Duh….

The real reason to see this flick is one of the main and only reasons this film is being mentioned as much as it is, is because of Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown. Harrelson is a great actor and it’s taken awhile for him to actually have his own starring vehicle where he can just do what he wants which is where this film succeeds. Brown is a bigot, racist, homophobic, violent, and mean man that nobody wants to be around but how Harrelson can somehow make this guy likable by any means is a true testament to how great of an actor Harrelson is. There are also moments in this flick where Harrelson really lets out all of his emotions where you feel this character’s sadness but also his grief over all of the bad things he’s done over the years, even though he is still a mean spirit in the end. Harrelson should at least get nominated for an Oscar just because he is so incredibly good.

The rest of the supporting cast are all pretty good because they all get their moments to shine a little bit but having too many characters can be a little bother-some considering if you are just having them on-screen only when the main character talks to them. Nobody really felt fleshed out except for Brown, and maybe that’s the way the film wanted it to be so it definitely succeeded in that way.

Consensus: Dark, depressing, and very slow, Rampart will bother many people who just want a story but for some very good visuals, an interesting take on a premise that has been done time and time before, and a performance from Harrelson that is ruthless, terrifying, and beautiful at the same time is what makes it a real watch.

7/10=Rental!!

Cedar Rapids (2011)

Makes insurance companies actually look fun.

Terrified of leaving his tiny town for the first time, sheltered insurance salesman Tim (Ed Helms) nervously sets out for the bright lights of bustling Cedar Rapids, where he attends a chaotic insurance convention and learns how to survive in the real world.

This was one of those comedies that came out back in February (aka shit movie month) and actually got good reviews, but for some reason I never got around to seeing. Thank the lord I saw it just as the Summer (aka crazy movie time) began.

This premise is petty much your average fish-out-of-water kind of deal here but the way the script expands on that is what really makes this a delight to watch. Cedar Rapids, IA isn’t exactly the party land you would come to expect but watching all these grown-ass guys run around in just about nothing and having a great time in only a matter of four acts, really made me enjoy myself and remind me of a smaller and more adult version of The Hangover. This is kind of like the comedy I could see my mom and dad watching, which isn’t such a bad thing.

The screenplay is what really works here so well coming from first-time writer Phil Johnston. The one amazing thing here that Johnston does with this script is how he has all this R-rated raunch that’s down-right hilarious, but then he equally touches it up with a touch of sweetness to it.

In a lot of comedies where they try to get sweet with their material, it doesn’t work and feels forced, but here I actually cared about all of these characters and what was going on and kind of left me with a good feeling when it was over. Still, even though it is sweet, I still laughed my ass of with plenty of the things that happen here.

My only problem with this film is that I didn’t really get many surprises here with this film because it’s all pretty generic and all the laughs you would expect from this type of material come out. I could also see a lot of chicks not really liking this film that much either since it really is all about guys and how we all grow up and everything, but still be boys. So I could kind of see a couple of chicks watching this and not really liking it that much honestly.

Ed Helms is a pretty good pick if you’re looking for someone to play that innocent, and naive insurance salesman, since almost all of his roles that he takes nowadays are about the same, but it’s not a bad thing because he’s so good at those roles. The role as Tim Lippe is a pretty tough role for Helms and while it’s not necessarily a star-making performance, I really enjoyed him. Mainly because it’s hard to be the dough-eyed nerd and not be too annoying or innocent but he brings the heart when you need it the most and he wasn’t too dorky the rest of the time.

Most of the laughs this film has comes from none other than the always amazing John C. Reilly as Dean Ziegler. Reilly’s seemingly insane and crass remarks were expertly written and most of all, expertly executed by Reilly himself. If you look close enough, you could almost see a little of Bill Murray in this role but I have to say I didn’t mind since almost every time he opened up his mouth, I laughed my ass off. When he first comes on the screen you know it’s going to be a party, and when he isn’t on and you can totally feel all of the energy from this film, not there. This was jackass John C. Reilly at its finest.

The real heart of this film here is Anne Heche as Joan Ostrowski-Fox, Tim’s squeeze, well kind of. The guys are all running around playing these goofy characters but she actually has to ground of this with some sort of humanity and she pulls it off real well. Stephen Root is also good as Tim’s boss; Sigourney Weaver is just so sexy but also great as Tim’s former teacher and now eff buddy; Isiah Whitlock Jr. is good as Ronald Wilkes and has one scene that is just worth the price of admission alone; and it’s always nice to see Kurtwood Smith in a role that isn’t a Red Forman rip-off. Overall great cast and great characters to care about.

Consensus: Though it is generic as well as less and less surprising as it goes on, Cedar Rapids brings out a lot of raunchy laughs, mainly from it’s cast but also from it’s well-written script that has that R-rated comedy appeal as well as an endearing sweetness to it as well.

8/10=Matinee!!

Paul (2011)

I hope that if aliens do exist, that there more like this dude.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg star as two science-fiction freaks who, while on a quest to discover what lies at the heart of Nevada’s infamous Area 51, cross paths with an alien (voice of Seth Rogen) on the run from earthly authorities.

Looking at a cast like this, a premise like this, and a director like this, you would be expecting the funniest thing in years. However, it’s just pretty funny.

The screenplay that was written by Frost and Pegg has some good moments of humor that aren’t what I was expecting from these two, but that isn’t such a bad thing. The comedy is more broad for an American comedy, rather than the smart wit and cleverness of some of the British comedies that these two have been a part of.

My problem with this film was that it wasn’t funny enough, and I think the main reason why that is, is because of the non-stop sci-fi references. Maybe for me, since I’m not a huge science fiction dude, I didn’t get a lot of the references that they were using here, but at the same time they put way too many jokes to a certain crowd and almost abandon everybody else who isn’t familiar with these references. They seem to also be satirizing geek culture with this film, and although it can be cute at some times, it just doesn’t seem all that fun if you don’t get what their saying. Also, the film isn’t as daring with it’s jokes like I was expecting, because there are times where this does get a little bit predictable, and I just wish I had more times where I laughed my ass off, instead of a chuckle here and there.

Director Greg Mottola is a good director for this work because he does a great job of blending comedy, action, and a tad bit of sweetness to the story that actually works and doesn’t come off as fake at all. This isn’t like Superbad where all three worked so well, but for the most part he does a good job of keeping us watching and being entertained.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as you could already tell, do well together. They have that great buddy chemistry going on well and has us believe them as these two sci-fi geeks. What really stands out in Paul is, well, Paul. Seth Rogen is fantastic here as Paul, because he’s not really doing anything different, he’s just playing Seth Rogen, and Seth Rogen always has me laughing. I didn’t look at Paul and see a piece of CGI like I often do, but as a real character. From a technology standpoint, the mo-cap is obviously not as groundbreaking or impressive as Avatar, but Rogen made the character convincing without any of that fancy expensive shit.

There are also others in this impressive cast that do amazing especially Kristen Wiig, who plays Ruth, the little Christian. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see a hardcore Christian have their faith destroyed and Wiig makes it all the more funny. Jason Bateman is alright as Agent Zoil, even though he’s not really doing anything funny. Sigourney Weaver is bad-ass as The Big Guy, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio work perfectly as the two cops that can never do anything right, and Blythe Danner does a good job as well.

Consensus: People may not understand many of the many science fiction references that inhabit this film, but they still will get a chuckle out of this sweet, and funny screenplay, with a great cast. However, you do feel that it could have been better given the talent involved.

7/10=Rental!!

Avatar (2009)

One of the best ways to spend my Christmas day!!

The story is that Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, is a paraplegic who goes to a world known as Pandora. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) tells Jake that if he can get everyone on Pandora to evacuate so that they can get a substance known as unobtanium, he will get Jake some new legs. So Jake uses an Avatar of himself to gain the native’s trust and hopefully get them to evacuate. But after living amongst them, Jake feels a bond with the people and decides to fight back against the colonel in an epic battle.

James Cameron has been going around talking a whole bunch of shit of how great this is, and you have never seen anything like this at all. Now that I look at it, damn he wasn’t kidding.

If you are going to see this movie, definitely give it a try in IMAX in 3D. There really isn’t any other way to see this, and if you choose to you won’t be in this world they call Avatar. This is a technical breakthrough for all the world of technology. At first I felt like I was going to be annoyed by the 3D, but I soon found myself so fascinated with the way the film looked, that it simply went over my head. Cameron really does have a knack for these beautiful visuals, the effects are even better once you see the way this whole world looks, with its creatures, plants, and overall look of it is just fascinating.

The story has a lot of similarities to Star Wars, but really doesn’t match up to it very much. The story is all way too similar, but the way it is done keeps you hooked on from the beginning. The action will keep you on your feet, as it mixes in with the beautiful visuals you are taken away by how you are excited but also taken away by its beautiful visuals.

The film has an original story, not one of those action block busters that are based on a comic book series or another film. And it creates this world where immersed in it visual, so you almost forget that its unreal and you start caring for the characters, and the whole story.The script is kind of corny and obvious, but I soon just totally forgot about that and cared for more of the story and characters.

Worthington gives a very effective performance here as Jake, and you cheer him on as the main protagonist, and just want him to win it all. The others in the film do great with this motion capture element such as Zoë Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang, all do great in each of their respective parts. I mean as creepy as the creatures look, you actually feel like these are real people, and care more for them, then some of the other humans in this film.

If there was one problem in this almost unproblematic film, was that its central message became a pain. The real central message behind this whole film was that it was about how we are causing global warming, and by doing so we are killing ourselves. Now the first time I got it, but after that about forty times they kept bringing it up and up again, to where I was just saying “OK, I get it!”.

Consensus: Avatar has beautifully enchanting visuals, very effective performances, and an exciting if done before story, that has us forgetting about the real world we live in, with such a beautiful way.

9/10=Full Priceee!!!!!!

Vantage Point (2008)

Does it actually take 8 different point of views to see who assassinated the president?

Moments after he arrives in Spain for a landmark anti terrorism summit, U.S. President Ashton is shot. The 15 minutes leading up to the shooting are rehashed — Rashomon-style — from the perspective of various onlookers: two Secret Service agents (Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox), a TV reporter (Sigourney Weaver) and a tourist (Forest Whitaker).

I’m not going to lie but the premise is actually quite intriguing. I was looking forward to actually seeing this movie, but it collapsed into car crashes, shoot-outs, and utterly implausible plot developments.

The one thing I liked about the film was its style. It revealed something new at just about every vantage point, and sometimes things we didn’t understand the first time, we understand somehow later on.

Then, after awhile the flashbacks really start to be annoying. I felt like I was watching Groundhog Day by the 5th flashback, cause to be truly honest, this film has way too much plot and not enough action to let us have fun with. Instead we always have to think about whats going on at that exact moment.

The one big twist to the whole film is that the president that gets shot isn’t really the real president. Yes, it’s one of those dumb look alike twists. I found this completely stupid and just put in to give William Hurt some lines to work with. Also, the cliches come out almost every step of the way. You have lines like “but you gave me your word”, and I’m thinking how could they give you their word, their terrorists!!!

The cast is well-picked but not the best acted. William Hurt does an OK job as the president, Forrest Whittaker probably gives the best performance as a lovable camera man. Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox probably play some of the dumbest security guards ever who ditch out lines so bad that I won’t even try to restate them.

Consensus: Though with an intriguing premise, Vantage Point turns into a loud, dumb, and stiffly acted gimmick of a film.

3/10=SomeOleBullShittt!!!!!!!