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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Spencer Wilding

Stardust (2007)

Better than Goldust’s brother.

Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man from the town of Wall, a small, quaint and lovely little town on the border of Stormhold, a magical kingdom where all sorts of crazy things happen. To hopefully win the heart and the hand of his girlfriend Victoria (Selma Miller), Tristan enters the magical world to collect a fallen star, in hopes that he’ll obviously win her over, but prove that he is quite the man that he always thought he could be. After little issues here and there, Tristan eventually collects the star who, to his surprise, is a woman named Yvaine (Claire Daines). However, Tristan isn’t the only one who’s looking for Yvaine; numerous witches, Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses also want this star and will do anything to get it, by any means. So now, Tristan’s job just got a whole lot harder. Not to mention that he and Yvaine, while initially not being able to get along with one another at all, start to see each other as equals and even, well, connect. In possibly more ways than Tristan has been able to ever do with his possible future-wife.

A pretty hot star.

Matthew Vaughn is probably the perfect director for a Neil Gaiman book, because no matter how strange, or action-packed, or even tense things get, Vaughn remembers not to take everything all that seriously. Meaning that we do get a lot of jokes aimed at the material, but it’s also very funny in the same way that the Princess Bride was – it respects the fantasy-genre up until the point of where it realizes how ridiculous it truly is. That’s a lot of Gaiman’s material and while there’s been plenty of attempts at recreating the same kind of odd-style that he has, Vaughn’s perhaps the closest one to achieving that.

And yes, it also helps that the movie is buckets of fun, reminding us that, when he isn’t trading quips and smart-ass remarks, Vaughn knows how to keep the action moving and exciting. Cause Stardust is a little over two-hours and about a bunch of silly witches and knights battling it out for a star, it can be a bit too much to ask for a non-lover of the fantasy genre. And yes, I am one of them.

However, Stardust is a much different tune.

It’s in on its own joke, it never really relies too much on exposition, or world-building, or certain other tricks and trades of these kinds of stories that can tend to make them a bit annoying. The story itself is already pretty straightforward and thankfully, Vaughn doesn’t try to over-complicate things; he keeps it simple, effective and most importantly, fun. He could have done anything he wanted with this movie and I wouldn’t have cared, because he knows how to keep it fun, even when you least expect it to remain as such.

That’s Michelle Pfeiffer? Uh. Yeah. Time has not done well for her.

And a whole bunch of that fun extends to the cast, too, who are, as expected, game for this kind of silly material. Charlie Cox, in a pre-Daredevil role, shows a great deal of charm as Tristan, a dork-of-a-man who we like right from the get-go and sort of stand-by, no matter where he goes, or what he does. Claire Danes is also quite great as Yvaine, the star with a whole butt-load of personality. Danes knows how to make this wacky material work and come-off not so wacky, and yes, her and Cox have a neat little bit of chemistry that transcends most other movies that are just like this.

In that we actually care and want them to get together in the end.

The rest of the cast is, thankfully, having a ball here. Michelle Pfeiffer shows up as the main evil witch, vamping it up and having an absolute ball; Robert De Niro may seem out-of-place, initially, as a pirate, but really blends in with this goofy-world; Mark Strong is, as usual, charming and a lot of fun as Prince Septimus, Tristan’s ultimate foe; and well, there’s plenty more where that came from. The real joy is just getting a chance to see everyone here show up, have a good time, and not make us feel like we aren’t involved with it, either.

We are and that’s the greatest joy of all.

Consensus: Despite its silliness, Stardust wears its heart and soul on its sleeve, with a fun and exciting pace, matched by an even more charming ensemble.

8 / 10

There were a lot of Italian pirates back in those days, people! Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Paramount Pictures

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

The galaxy is vast, wide, and apparently, very British.

Everyday British dude Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is currently battling a bunch of contractors who literally want to build a bypass right where his house is. He’s sad about it and constantly rebels in any way that he can, but when he’s not even thinking about it, he’s taken aside by his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def), who informs him that not only he’s an alien, but that the two have barely a minute left to live on planet Earth, as it is set to be destroyed any time now. And well, that’s exactly what happens – Arthur and Ford are then left to roam about the galaxy, until they’re then picked up by a random ship, holding Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the President of the Galaxy, his kind of, sort of, quite possible girlfriend Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who Arthur had feelings for initially, and Marvin the Paranoid Android (Alan Rickman), who seems incredibly depressed about everything around it. Together, the group must face-off against the Vogons, aka, those who were familiar for destroying Earth in the first place and don’t seem to be done just yet.

It's okay, Martin. The day will be over soon.

It’s okay, Martin. The day will be over soon.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a piece of cult pop-culture that’s survived as long as it has, based solely by the fact that people still don’t seem to understand it just yet and are still, as we speak at this moment, trying to make sense of all the crazy, madcap and wild adventures that the countless stories had to offer. That’s why a movie made of this source material is already troubling as is – especially when you’re working on such a big budget and have to, essentially, please not just the fanboys, but everyone else who may seem interested in seeing a madcap sci-fi flick for the hell of it. And it’s also why Garth Jennings, try as he might, just feels kind of lost here.

He gets some stuff right, but for the most part, Hitchhiker’s unfortunately seems like another case of where a lot of people had to be pleased and because of that, the movie itself ends up muddled, somewhat disjointed and yes, even messy.

Still though, there’s some joy and pleasure to be had in the messiness.

For one, Jennings does keep the movie moving at a fine, efficient pace, to where it feels like we’re getting a whole lot of story, but it’s always constantly going. The movie also doesn’t just focus on the one plot in particular, as there are some truly weird, yet humorous sidebars that come in, bring in a little flavor to the proceedings, and leave soon so that they don’t get in the way of the movie. While it may be a little close to two hours, surprisingly, the movie breezes by and may actually sneak up on you with how quick it’s going.

At the same time, though, being quick and swift doesn’t make your movie good, or even hide away all of the issues that may be troubling it in the first place. And if there’s a huge problem to be found with Hitchhiker’s, it’s that it’s just not as funny as it think it is. Sure, bits and pieces pop-up in this one adventure and on the side that could be considered “humorous”, but honestly, they don’t always connect; most of the time, it feels like the movie’s just trying to out-weird itself, throwing another wrench at the screen and seeing how they could go any further. A bit involving a character’s two-heads is supposed to be played for laughs and shocks, but is a gimmick that gets old real quick and honestly, doesn’t even seem like a joke, but just a character trait.

Yup. Just one of those days.

Yup. Just one of those days.

And it’s a shame, too, because there’s clearly a whole lot of ambition here coming from Jennings and everyone else, but the movie ends up being about its plot a lot, its odd sense of humor, its even odder sci-fi, and yet, not much else. It is, essentially, an adventure, for the sake of being an adventure, but we never get a clear understanding of anything that’s going on beforehand, so that when we’re told of what’s going to happen and what the clear goal of this mission is to be, it just doesn’t connect. The movie takes a whole lot of time to set-up its weird puns and sight-gags, but forgets to actually build a comprehensible plot that makes the whole adventure, well, feel like an actual adventure, that doubles as a ride we don’t ever want to get off.

But we kind of do, just so that it would chill out and take some more time with itself to figure things out.

The cast are really the ones who save it, as it seems like everyone came ready to play, for better or worse. Martin Freeman is, as usual, perfect as our every man; Mos Def fits in perfectly, showing his goofier side for once; Zooey Deschanel plays it as a ruler and it kind of works, although you’d sometimes wish she would just crack a smile or something; Sam Rockwell goes way overboard, even though that’s probably what was called on him in the first place, so it’s hard to make sense of whether or not it was a good idea; and the voices of Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, and plenty of others all show up, adding a little bit of zaniness and fun to the overall proceedings, almost making us wish we got to actually see them here, as opposed to just hearing.

Because seeing is believing, as all sci-fi lovers know. And Catholics.

Consensus: Odd and goofy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has its own style of humor that doesn’t always connect, making the over-packed story feel even a little more straining to comprehend or keep up with.

5.5 / 10

What a gang. Now why weren't they more fun?

What a gang. Now why weren’t they more fun?

Photos Courtesy of: Now Very Bad…

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Mad scientists don’t tend to be charming. Or good-looking, either.

Though he works as a hunchback in the circus, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) dreams of doing something more with his relatively pathetic and sad life. One day, everything changes when a young medical student by the name of Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) literally jumps into his life, whisks him off and takes him under his wing as a close friend, as well as confidante in whatever science project he’s working on. Though Igor isn’t always too sure just what the hell Victor is always up to, he knows that it interests him and something that he wants to be apart of; however, Igor also wants to be able to finally live his life, once and for all. This means that he starts to see an attractive gal (Jessica Brown Findlay) who takes his heart, as well as his world by storm. While this is all happening, though, Victor is currently on the run from the police, who want to take him up on charges of having his experiments go a bit too far and doing more harm, than actual good.

Oh yeah, and it looks like these two are going to start making out and bang a whole lot.

Oh yeah, and it always looks like these two are going to start making out and bang.

In all honesty, I really don’t want to write about Victor Frankenstein. You may have realized that once this review goes on and I just continue to ramble on and on about unnecessary things that may, or may not have something to do with this movie, so that’s why I’m letting you now. This is not a movie I want to talk about, or really dedicate 1,000 words to, but you know what? Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what I want and it’s more about what each and everyone of you dear readers (all five of you) want. And if what you want is to know whether or not to see Victor Frankenstein, well then, I’m here to help out.

Even if, you know, you shouldn’t really go out to see Victor Frankenstein.

While I know I may make the movie sound like a terrible piece of garbage, in all honesty, it really isn’t – it’s just an incredibly dull, jumbled-up mess of some good movies, and other bad ones. What director Paul McGuigan seems to be doing here is combining dark comedy, creature-features, dark, gloomy period-pieces, and drama, all into one movie; it’s an admirable attempt, at best, but judging by how the movie turns out, it’s quite easy to tell that none of these elements were meant to work well together. Again and again, McGuigan tries to make each and every story development gel together in some way, but mostly, it seems like he’s losing himself in the process.

Which is to say that no real element here actually works or feels fully flesh-out enough to register. If anything, the movie is much more concerned with being an eerie, creepy, and rather over-the-top creature-feature that Hammer, back in its heyday, would have definitely loved to create. But then, you take into account all of the needless character-drama, random bits of comedy sprinkled throughout, and odd, but obvious homoerotic feelings here, and it just feels like a mish-mash of, possibly, a better movie out there?

I don’t know.

See, what’s odd about Victor Frankenstein is that it feels like a movie made for no one. While it would have been a solid horror flick filled with jumps, scares and boogie-men, the movie feels like it wants to go a bit further than that. However, at the same time, it doesn’t; instead of actually becoming more dramatic about its characters and their situation, the movie back-tracks and focuses on the gooey, disgusting creatures that they create together. Though there’s plenty of action here, none of it is ever fun, tense, or scary in the way that the movie wants it to be – although, I will admit, it is quite loud. In fact, it’s so loud that afterwards, my ears were ringing for quite some time.

Like a lot.

Like a lot.

And then I saw Creed and everything got better.

Life.

My ears.

My self-esteem.

Everything.

Like I said before, as you can probably tell, I don’t really care much about Victor Frankenstein; while I’m absolutely all for what this movie was trying to be initially, after awhile, it loses so much of its original heart and soul, that I stopped caring. The only reason I continued to stay awake and actually watch, was because Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy are such good actors, it’s hard for them to ever be boring. While this is maybe less so in Radcliffe’s case (who is, sadly, given the unfortunately boring role of Igor), McAvoy still lights up the screen every chance he gets as Dr. Frankenstein. The movie may have annoyingly written him off as a quick-witted, funny scientist, who also happens to be mad, McAvoy makes it work and see this well-known character in a new light. Sure, he may be a bit crazy, but he sure does know how to get a party started.

Radcliffe, on the other hand, feels as if he was just given a set of guidelines to follow, told not to inch away from it, and decided that it was probably best to listen. Granted, I’m not raining on his parade for following his job and being a good worker, but still, he’s definitely a whole lot more boring to watch when compared to what McAvoy is doing here. Not to mention Andrew Scott who, like he does on Sherlock, gets to really play-up the weird eccentricities of his character, even though he’s supposed to be the smartest one of the bunch. While this movie may not definitely ruin Radcliffe’s “adult” movie roles, it still shows that he may have to take a few more extra steps in ensuring that he doesn’t get stuck doing unnecessary junk like this.

Then again, if the money’s good, how can you blame him? How can you blame anyone?

Consensus: Even if it tries to do something different with its story, Victor Frankenstein can’t seem to make up its mind of what it wants to be about, or who it’s targeted towards. So, it just ends up being a mess.

4 / 10

In fact, it probably would have made for a better movie. Now, where's that at for the holidays?!?

In fact, it probably would have made for a better movie. Now, where’s that at for the holidays?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Pan (2015)

I’ve always felt like Peter Pan needed a little more Nirvana.

Everybody knows the story, but you know what? Imma tell it anyway! When he was just a baby, Peter (Levi Miller) was left on the front-stoop of an orphanage by his mother (Amanda Seyfried) who obviously couldn’t take care of him. Fast forward 12 or so years later, and Peter has grown-up a little bit, trying to make ends meet in England during WWII. One fateful night, however, he’s kidnapped by a mysterious group of pirates and taken away to this strange fantasy world known as Neverland. Here, Peter finds out that he can fly and has all sorts of mystical powers, but is currently on the run from Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who, for one reason or another, just wants to get ahold of Peter because he has some sort of magic powers and is, for lack of a better term, “the chosen one”. Along with a newfound friend named Hook (Garret Hedlund), Peter will venture all across Neverland to escape Blackbeard and, hopefully, be able to find his mom, whom he believes to still be alive and setting up shop somewhere in this magical world of Neverland, where practically anything is possible. So long as you put your mind to it.

I guess "Polly" was off the table?

I guess Polly was off the table?

There’s a line early on in Pan that perfectly summarizes what it is that this movie thinks of itself. Garrett Hedlund’s Hook character says something, in his awfully mouthy and odd Southern accent, along the lines of, “You came here in a floating ship, I think the idea of what’s real has all but flown out the window.” Once again, I highly doubt that those are the actual words he said, but you get the point; this is basically a case of the writers and director getting together and saying, “Hey, guys. Let’s make a fun movie here. No bull. No crap. No nothing. Just fun”. And that’s what Pan actually is.

For awhile, that is.

Eventually, what happens to Pan, is that it forgets about its cheekiness and instead, delves way too deep into its own mythology where mermaids, pirates, floating boys, and white women playing Native Americans. Which, on paper, sounds so incredibly fun, and it is for a good amount of the film, but once it loses its silly edge, it gets extremely dull and boring. All of a sudden, we’re being told the story of Peter Pan once again, which is fine and all for new viewers who may have not previously known about this story already, but to the countless others who already know each and everything about it, it’ll prove to be a bit of a bore.

Which is a shame because I like what Joe Wright seems to be doing here. He knows that because the tale of Peter Pan is, essentially, a fairy tale, that he should approach it as such. There’s a whole lot of self-aware jokes here that are winking so much at the audience, that it practically breaks a bone or two in doing so. Which, honestly, is fine with me; some of the best kids movies, are those that work as well for the parents, just as they do for the kids. Sure, some of the jokes may go over the little kiddies’ heads, but honestly, they’ll be fine anyway!

After all, it’s a Joe Wright film, which means that everything’s pretty, gaudy, over-the-top, and as colorful as a Gay Pride parade, which means that for the kids, they’ll have plenty more to focus on than just the subtlety within the jokes, or the fact that the pirates in this movie endlessly chant Blitzkrieg Bop and Smells Like Teen Spirit together. Is it all weird? Kind of. But I’ll take that in my kids movies, rather than watching some same old, recycled story that just caters to the younglings and not give a single hoot about who else may be coming out to watch this movie.

Because, without us older-people, how would these kids be able to get to the movies in the first place?

But, like I said, this all begins to go down the tubes once the second-half of the movie comes into play. In fact, if I was to be even more specific as to when the movie begins to turn the other cheek, get all mega-serious and lose its sense of wacky fun, is when we’re introduced to Rooney Mara’s whitewashed Tiger Lily. That’s not to say that the casting of her to begin with is more than enough to take you out of the film (although it is quite ridiculous), but it’s the part where I realized that the movie didn’t really have anywhere else to go, or anything else fun to do. It was just going through the same old motions. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

While I’m at it, though, I guess I should point out that I’m not just pissed at the movie for casting a white actress in the role of an obvious and rather iconic Native American character, but because they cast Rooney Mara in the role, a talented actress who deserves a whole lot more than just this. Yes, it’s ridiculously cynical that the studios felt like they couldn’t have cast a Native American in a role that was most definitely made for one, but it’s also a waste of a supreme talent that deserves to be elsewhere and more often than not, actually shows it. Most shots of Mara here are of her just sleep-walking through her lines, occasionally letting something resembling a smile or a chuckle crack through and it just makes you want to hope that she got a solid paycheck here, so that she doesn’t have to bother with these kinds of big-budget, mainstream pieces again.

Let’s hope that she just stays in the beloved indie world, like she always has.

Aside from Mara, everybody else seems to be having fun, although nobody’s ever given that one, big push they needed to make them stand-out from the rest of the film. Hugh Jackman is clearly enjoying his time playing Blackbeard, but doesn’t get enough opportunities to seem sinister and instead, just comes off like a running-joke. I know this is a kids movie and we don’t necessarily want our villain beheading innocents to prove his menace, but at the same time, we don’t want him to just become a gag that the movie can point and laugh at, especially when we know he’s going to have to have that final showdown at the end. Garrett Hedlund is also having fun too as Hook, even though he’s merely just a sidekick that falls down, gets beaten up, and looks silly.

And Amanda Seyfried is hardly even here. Poor girl.

Consensus: Joe Wright is throwing everything at the wall with Pan and seeing what sticks, which can sometimes be fun and exciting, but at other times, can get a bit tiring and odd, even when it seems like the cast are having the times of their lives.

6 / 10

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won't any longer.

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won’t any longer.

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Sorry, aliens. But Earth is kinda lame.

Russian immigrant Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) wakes up at 4:30 in the morning, only to then get to her job where she scrubs toilets for a living as a maid. It’s not an ideal life, but it’s the one she was handed. Which is why when she hears that she is, according to a galactic family, the powerful mother of Earth, she’s excited. Confused, but excited nonetheless. However, her excitement dies down once she relies that one of the members of the galactic family (Eddie Redmayne) wants her dead so that he can take over Earth and be the most powerful member of his family. Jupiter should have no fear, though, because a genetically-spliced ex-military member named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) comes to the rescue with his anti-gravity boots and all. So now, it becomes clear that Jupiter’s life is in danger and that Wise is there to protect her life so that she can reign supreme as Mother Earth, but there’s more political back-stabbing going on behind her back and, even if she doesn’t know it yet, her life still is in danger, no matter what.

There’s a problem with this plot that’s hard for me to fully out-line here. Not because I don’t want to give any of its juiciest secrets away, but because I myself sincerely haven’t the slightest clue as to what was really going on in this film half of the time. Sure, it can be somewhat simple to just label down the “baddies”, from the “goodies”, and work from there, but there’s a bigger problem with Jupiter Ascending that makes it feel like maybe the the Wachowskis were fighting for something a bit deeper here.

Something that yes, may definitely be relevant, but doesn’t quite work well for this movie in the long-run. Let me explain.

"Good evening, Jackie."

“Good evening, Jackie.”

We’re told to believe that Earth, as well as many other planets, are owned by a very powerful family; one that contains two brothers and a sister, none of which seem to fully get along well enough (sort of like real siblings). One sibling wants more control than the others, and because Earth is apparently the most prestigious planet to own, he goes for that one right away. Makes sense, but then the movie starts to get stranger and stranger as it runs along.

This is where I won’t spoil it for most of you out there, except to say that the Wachowskis, as much as I credit them with definitely thinking outside of the box here, as they often do, seem like they’re making most of this up as they go along. It’s hard to figure out who does what, to whom, for what reasons, and where, all inside this universe, which makes it more difficult to not only figure things out, but get invested in the story a whole lot more. There’s many scenes where the Wachowskis want the audience to get up, cheer and be absolutely shocked by whatever has just happened, but because the story is so all-over-the-place at times, it never clicks inside the audience’s head that, “Oh yeah! The good guy’s are winning! Woo-hoo!”.

I’m not saying that we need to be spoon-fed every single detail about a new universe we’re being introduced to, but it would help if there was just a bit more help in figuring certain things out about it.

That said, Jupiter Ascending is a pretty fun movie. Get past all of the problems with the plot and its mechanisms, and believe it or not, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Which is, yet again, much to the credit of the Wachowskis, because they always seem to know when the right time is to throw an action scene for good measure, wake its audience up, and keep them wanting more. Because not only does the movie look wonderful, but it also feels like its own kind of breed of sci-fi – sure, it’s confusing sci-fi, but it’s one of the rare sci-fi movies to come out in recent time where I didn’t feel like that they ripped so many other movies off, that it’s an absolute wonder how a bunch of lawyers didn’t get called-up.

The Wachowskis know better and for that, the movie moves at a steady-pace that keeps most of its plot easy-to-disregard, especially during the action-bits. One sequence that excited me the most was a high-flying chase in/and around the skies of Chicago, which apparently took six months to shoot, and with good reason. It seems like a lot of time was dedicated to this sequence looked, felt, and came off the screen, and same goes for the rest of the look of the movie.

Now, if only the Wachowskis paid as much as attention to their story, then we’d probably have a bigger winner on our hands here, but sadly we do not. Instead, Jupiter Ascending is serviceable at best. The Wachowskis have a weird, almost off-kilter sense of humor that sometimes translates well into their pieces (see Cloud Atlas), and sometimes doesn’t even show up (see Speed Racer), but here, they seem like they have the right fit for the tone; they don’t throw a joke in there for an easy-gag to liven everything up when it gets too serious. Because the world is as crazy and slap-dash as they created it to be, they’re practically given free reign to throw any wild gags at us that they want. Sometimes, it’s never clear whether the gags they present are meant to be taken seriously, but regardless, it’s always a joy to laugh, look and point at something incredibly ridiculous as this.

Seriously. Who comes up with that kind of stuff?

I am sworn to secrecy on whether or not this dude dies.

I am sworn to secrecy on whether or not this dude dies.

Speaking of such ridiculous-looking beings here, Channing Tatum is saddled with a goofy-attire as half-man, half-wolf and it actually works for him. This is probably because Tatum himself moves and jostles himself around with the same ability of a member of the wolf pack, but because his character seems like a true bad-ass. You can tell that the Wachowskis are going for some sort of Han Solo anti-hero with Caine Wise, and while he’s not nearly that interesting of a character, it’s still fun to watch as C-Tates flies through the sky on those anti-gravity boots, kicking ass, taking names, and still being able to charm even the most heterosexual man out of his boots.

But don’t be fooled, Jupiter Ascending is more of Mila Kunis’ movie than anything, and with good reason – the girl’s downright cute. Kunis’ character acts us, in that everything being taught to her, is being taught to us, as well, and she works well with that role; she’s easily relatable and feels like a normal human being, without being overly-annoying or surprised by this wacky world she’s thrown into. You could make the argument that maybe her character is a tad too comfortable with this new, crazy, and insane world she’s been thrown into, but it’s hard to have any problems with a character played by Kunis, which also made it better to see that she’s not the typical female you see in these kinds of movies. Sure, she needs the help of Caine Wise every so often, but for the most part, she makes her own decisions and, when push comes to shove, takes some matters into her own hands. Right on, girl.

The rest of the cast is an interesting ensemble, even if most of them feel as if they’re hamming it up for the rafters to hear. Oscar-nominated Eddie Redmayne gives a campy performance as Balem, the bad brother of the family that’s trying to go after Jupiter and feels like he’s been plucked right out of a drag show, and thrown right onto our screens, with perfect delight; Douglas Booth is another bro who may, or may not be a baddie, and the mystery surrounding him is a bit of fun; Sean Bean shows up as one of Wise’s old pals and confidantes, and feels like the rough and ragged dude who has seen, and done it all; and randomly enough, in what I’m sure was a role she did before her career was about to take off, Gugu Mbatha-Raw has a bit role as a kick-ass security-guard. It’s small, but man, it made me wish there was more of her to see.

Consensus: The overly-convoluted plot may be hard to get past, but as a sci-fi, action-thriller from the wicked mind of the Wachowskis, Jupiter Ascending is still fun and well-paced enough to make the two hours slip on by. Even if you’re still scratching your head by the end of it all.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Just imagine some Chris Brown playing in the background, and you're set, ladies.

Just imagine some Chris Brown playing in the background, and you’re set, ladies.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Yeah, those “other” Marvel heroes are just a bunch of pricks anyway.

After he sees his own, cancer-riddled mother die in front of his own very eyes, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is mysteriously captured by a spaceship. 26 years later, an older Quill, now sporting the name “Star-Lord” and dancing around to vintage pop-tunes on his Walkman, discovers a strange crystal ball that is apparently very dangerous and serious, considering it triggers off a group of evil people to come after him. So much so, that when he eventually gets into town and sell the thing for whatever money he can get, he ends up getting in a brawl with a woman by the name of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), as well as a giant tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and a talking raccoon they call Rocket (Bradley Cooper). The stunt eventually lands the foursome in prison, where they meet all sorts of trouble and unlikely pals, especially in the form of Drax (Dave Bautista); but what they end up finding out is that the artifact they were all fighting over, is being sought out after by a very powerful, very evil Kree radical named Ronan (Lee Pace) and his noble band of trustees. Together, the five decide to put away their differences for the time being and do all that they can to save the galaxy, one David Bowie track at a time.

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much. Honestly, that moreso has to do with the fact that every Marvel movie since the Avengers, has either been ranging from “mediocre”, to “hey, it’s fine and it’s fun, so what’s the harm, yo?”, and also the fact that it seems like, especially after this whole Ant-Man debacle, that Marvel is becoming more of a lackey-boy for the ultra, super, duper, powerful kingpins that are Disney and their ways of making people do what they want, when they want, and how they want.

“Don’t offend the kiddies!”, Disney may say. Or, something that seems to be more common, “Please do make sure that it ties-in with the AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.! And by ‘please’, we really mean, ‘do it, or else we’re going to fire your ass and find somebody else who is willing to take orders and be happy with it!'”. And though some of this may seem overly-dramatized by yours truly, there’s something in me that feels like Marvel is just starting to become more and more like what others want them to be, rather than what they want to be, which, at first with Iron Man, seemed to be: A kick-ass, fun-as-hell, hilarious and exciting superhero movie that you could take the whole family too; as well as grand-mom and grand-pop if you got stuck with them over the holidays.

That's the thingy they need to find. That's all you need to know.

That’s the thingy they need to find. That’s all you need to know.

But that’s where James Gunn comes in and absolutely gives a big, old, flying “FUCKA YOU!” to Disney and Friends, and shows them that if it’s his movie, it’s going to be his rules and his ways of having fun. Which, for the most part, means we get a whole bunch of strange, slightly off-kilter gags and pop-culture references including Kevin Bacon; metaphors that aren’t metaphors; Jackson Pollack; the art of dancing; and, best of all, calling a raccoon, everything else that isn’t a raccoon. If that sounds very strange to you, then yes, you are at least somewhat sane. And if that sounds especially strange to you being that it’s all packed into a Marvel movie, then yes, you are even more sane and, would you like a cookie?

What I’m trying to get across here is that Gunn’s humor is a weird one and although some of it’s a bit tamer now so that the PG-13 can sit and stay with the movie, it’s still hilarious and nearly perfect for this world that he’s created. That this other “realm” (for lack of a better word without saying “galaxy”), is a wide, never ending and seemingly bizarre matter of space that seems to have a bucket of surprises waiting at every corner, shows Gunn is able to not only build on his characters and the action-sequences, but also this world that he’s created. Which, yes, for a Marvel movie, is very strange, yet, totally works.

Most of that has to do with the fact that each and every character we get here is likable, fun, vibrant and exciting in their own measly, little ways, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Gunn is the kind of writer and director that has a sense of humor that can work for practically anyone. Okay, maybe if you check out his first two movies (Slither and Super, which I definitely recommend), don’t necessarily back me up on that statement, but taking away all of those and just leaving this here movie as his one and only true example, then I’d have to say it’s a pretty impressive one.

Gunn’s funny, he knows he’s funny and he’s going to let us know about it every step of the way. However, whereas most of the other Marvel movies wink their eyebrows so much so that it seems like they’re going to have to be surgically put back into place by the end of its two-hour run-time, GOTG (short for the title, if you’re nitwit) is a different beast: It’s a funny movie, yet, doesn’t try to make you laugh in a charming way. It’s just weird and since it soaks up the sun and basks in its own weirdness, it’s hilarious to watch and listen to, as well as have an awfully fun time with.

Because, yeah, guess what??!?! Guardians of the Galaxy is a damn fun movie!

See, because while I’ve been going on and on so aimlessly about this movie’s humor and how effective it actually is, there’s an element to this movie that works, and can probably be shared among the rest of the Marvel crowd: It’s a fine action movie, if you want to look at it like that. There are hand-to-hand fights; spaceships flying throughout the sky and shooting each other; sword-duels; girls beating the crap out of each other; girls beating the crap out of the opposite-sex; raccoons shooting big-ass guns; walking, talking trees causing havoc; and etc. The only thing that’s missing was the only known wrestler in this movie giving somebody a Batista Bomb, but that’s for another movie, I guess.

And since I just mentioned a certain character in this movie, I think it’s best to now use that as a segue into my next part of the review which, unsurprisingly, also happens to be about the best element to making this movie work as well as it does: The characters and the actors that portray them. Because Gunn’s movie/script is a rather odd one, not only does he need a cast that has a comedic-bone anywhere located in their body – he needs a cast is absolutely able and willing to go that extra mile into trusting that his every move, is not only a benefit to them, but a benefit to how this whole movie plays out. “Well obviously, Dan. You no-sense-piece-of-shit”, you might retort back to me, but I have a reasoning for saying this.

Take the idea of a-list stars such as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel doing voice-work here – not only are they big names that people flock out to the movie theaters to see – but you’d expect them to do more than what they’re given. In the case of Cooper, he voices Rocket as Brooklyn gangster, where it’s sometimes too hard to even recognize he’s doing the voice-work in the first place; as in the case of Diesel, all the dude has to do is say “I Am Groot” over and over again, and, occasionally, yell, scream and holler with that low-pitched bass we know he can do so well. Sounds crazy enough? Well, yeah, but that’s sort of the point. Also not to mention that Cooper and Diesel, with what they have to do, do it so amazingly well that I wonder just how the heck Gunn thought of them two in the first place. And even if he didn’t, then kudos to the casting-department on this decision!

Oh, and that he's the villain, too!

Oh, and that he’s the villain, too!

But an even bigger kudos should be given to them for giving Chris Pratt the star-making role the dude deserves, this time, as one Peter Quill. Or, as some of you may, or may not know him as, “Star-Lord” (and yes, that’s it’s own, whole joke, too). Pratt’s been a lovable presence on the screen for quite some time; rather it be the large one, or the small one, the dude’s shown us time and time again, he has the chops to not only give us a cool-as-hell character, that has a winning-personality. Here, Pratt’s able to utilize the warm, lovely charm he oozes so well on Parks and Rec., but is also able to use some leading-man prowess we have yet to see him do, yet still shows he’s capable of actually having it in the first place.

But he’s not a pansy of a character. He’s a bad-ass dude that knows how to get himself out of situations, even while he doesn’t always think them perfectly through. Same goes for Zoe Saldana as Gamora; not only does she get to be an ass-kicking lady with a mouth on her, she doesn’t let that be her only trait and has a personality that goes almost hand-in-hand with Quills’. And though people were initially rioting over the casting-decision of having Dave Bautista play Drax, needless to say, the dude’s great in it as he shows everybody he can definitely act, be funny and best of all, remind everybody why he was in the profession that he initially chose in the first place.

Altogether though, this movie mostly works because these characters, in their own, little, unique worlds, wouldn’t ever seem like they do fine together. That’s sort of the point, however, Gunn allows them to work off of one another and it’s probably the most fun-part of this whole movie. Sure, you can give me as many mind-numingly loud and outrageous scenes of stuff exploding, while other stuff is exploding elsewhere, and I’ll crack a grin or two. But if you can give me characters that I want to get know better, spend more time with, and just never leave the presence of, then you can count me in, take my money, sleep in my bed, bang my wife, whatever. As long as you can give me that, then I’m all fine and dandy.

And to have that spliced together with the best Marvel movie since the Avengers is, well, exactly all I could ever ask for and ever want.

More Batista Bombs next time, though. Please.

Consensus: Hilarious, exciting, and well-written, Guardians of the Galaxy is a downright good time that features some top-tier performances from a cast you’d be surprised works so incredibly well in the first place, yet, in the world of James Gunn, anything seems possible.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

The best line-up in a "line-up" scene since the Usual Suspects, and it's not even in the actual movie!

The best line-up in a “line-up scene” since the Usual Suspects, and it’s not even in the actual movie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

No Kraken? Booo!

A decade after kicking some mighty and fine Kraken-ass, Perseus (Sam Worthington) settles down into a life that’s relaxing, full of joy and happiness, as he teaches his son the ways of the world. Everything’s going fine too, until he finds out that his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), needs to be saved from his long-lost, rogue brother (Édgar Ramírez) and asshole-uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes). As strong and powerful as Perseus might be, he can’t do it alone so he recruits Poseidon’s half-human son, Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) to join him as they fight through thick and thin, limb-from-limb, and even battle a Minotaur. Aw yeah! Maybe not as awesome as the Kraken, but aw yeah!

Even though I didn’t mind it, I can get why a lot of people hated the hell out of Clash of the Titans. It was dumb, a bit long and had CGI done in a way that makes me wonder if we’re still using MACs or not. However, I still can’t understand why the hell we needed a sequel to it, let alone, one that starred the same lead, nor featured the Kraken; because let’s face it: The only reason people waited around in the first movie, was just to see how awesomely cool and epic the appearance of the Kraken would be. Which it was, but does all of five minutes, make an-hour-and-a-half seem worth it?

I can’t quite come to answer that question because, as I said, I didn’t mind the first one but I can totally see and understand the disdain of hearing the news of a sequel. However, you have to think about Hollywood here for a second and realize that not only did the first one make a shit-ton of millions and millions of dollars in the States, but overseas, it made a ton more. So, therefore, you have to realize that of course Hollywood is going to do a sequel for the sake that the first made a bunch of movie, whereas also hoping that the people who ventured out to see the first one, however many times it might have been, will see the second one and probably be just as pleased. That’s exactly who this flick is made for, and that’s the only way this flick could really work.

"No please! Don't squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or so sequels!

“No please! Don’t squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or six sequels!

That’s why I sort of liked this one a bit more, which isn’t saying too much but is better than what I can say for a movie that’s still on my list for “Most Unnecessary Sequels of the Past Decade”. Even though I didn’t hate Louis Leterrier’s approach to the first movie, producers felt like it was time to re-vamp the series and give it a darker look, feel, touch and story, so therefore, they brought in Jonathan Liebesman to shake things up a bit and see where he could go with this. Liebesman is a welcome addition to this series, mostly because he knows exactly how to get this story off-and-running, right from the beginning.

As soon as we get introduced to what Perseus has been doing for the past couple of years, action just erupts out of nowhere, and we begin to see the old-school Perseus come back in full-form by tangling with a two-headed beast (three, if you count the mouth they have on it’s tail). Right after this fun beginning, the movie jumps right into the story and continues to pile and pile on the exposition, as if all the stories and legends we remembered from Greek History 130 and Herc’s Adventure, was all bullshit.

As mean-spirited as that may sound, the movie still doesn’t show much improvement over the first one in terms of it’s story and script. Of course, I wasn’t expecting a life-opening screenplay about what it means to be a father in the day and ages of Gods and evil forces running amok, but at the same time, at least give me something to hold onto when the action isn’t slamming me in the face. I can only handle so much subplots, stories about Gods, what they can do, and all sorts of philosophical speeches about the after-life that’s supposed to have a deeper-meaning than just, “I don’t want to die”.

That’s where the action comes in and take over what was already a pretty dialogue-heavy movie. Not much better, but slightly in the way that everything looks more polished, feels more thought-out and definitely has more fun with itself, even if it’s a tad too serious for it’s own good. I liked the first one for knowing that it was dumb, loud, and stupid, as if you were watching a B-movie on cable when you and your buddies were high, drunk, bored, or a mixture of all three. This one, however, drives itself down the darker, windier-road that’s all about showing emotions and sad things that not only bring you down, but try and make you feel like there’s more at-stake here when two people are going toe-to-toe in a scrap. It doesn’t work, and it feels like the movie’s trying a bit too hard. All that being said, the movie still has enough fun with itself to the point of where the dark-approach isn’t numbing or bothersome, it’s just more noticeable than it should be.

Nary a scratch and yet: she's in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she's doing half of the killing.

Nary a scratch and yet she’s in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she’s doing half of the killing. Inspiration to women all over the globe.

The only real improvement in this flick that’s actually noticeable is that Sam Worthington does feel a bit more “in-his-mode” than he did with the last one. Here, he seems to actually enunciating the horrendous-dialogue he’s been given and seems to really throw himself into the action-sequences that call for more than just heavy panting and staring. Even though there seems to be little to no personality with his take on Perseus, at least Worthington shows us that he wants to be here because maybe all of those wads of cash that he was getting from four years ago, are finally running out and he needs whatever he can take.

Yup, that movie about those blue aliens was released four years back. Funny how time flies.

Returning with Worthington from the first movie, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson seem to be having a bit more of fun as Hades and Zeus respectively, even if they too, do feel like they are slumming themselves down to really fit in with the pure-dumbness of this movie. Can’t complain about that too much, since it is a dumb movie, but a little bit more time and effort would have been greatly appreciated. Hell, if this dude can give us that, why can’t you, Oscar-nominated actors?!?!?

Since everybody from the first movie practically died in it, or re-thought their movie careers, there are new faces and names to be seen and heard which are more welcoming than I expected. Rosamund Pike is a nice addition as the sexy, fiery lady-warrior that isn’t taking anybody’s crap, yet, doesn’t have a problem showing that she can still flaunt it like the boys as well; Toby Kebbell brings a bunch of wit and charm to his role as Agenor, Poseidon’s human son; and Bill Nighy shows his bearded-up face for a wee bit as Hephaestus and has fun, makes his wisecracks, and goes on his own way, probably collecting a hefty paycheck or something, and making us all wish that he would just come back and give us more fun and entertainment. Can never get enough of Bill Nighy, now can ya?

Consensus: To say that Wrath of the Titans is better than its predecessor is stating the obvious, but the problems with that first one still do lie within the cracks and creeks of the script here, and are only ignored when there’s loud, hectic stuff happening on-screen, which makes it at least entertaining to sit-through, even if you sort of wish somebody would crack a smile or two.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Two dudes who played Germans during the Holocaust unite!!

Two dudes who played Germans during that Holocaust movie unite!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Trance (2013)

If being put to sleep has the ability to get me laid, then hey, where do I sign and let the loving take a hold?

Simon (James McAvoy) works at a fine art auction, but also has a huge gambling problem that only gets worse when he needs the money the most. That’s when Frank (Vincent Cassel) decides to take him under his wing, get him involved with an art heist, and have Simon pay-off all of the debts he has to owe. Problem is, Simon not only messes up the job by losing the painting, but can’t remember where he last put it because of a severe-blow to his head. In order to gain his memory back, they hire hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) in hopes that she will bring back ideas and hints he may had once remembered from before. However, things aren’t as easy with Elizabeth once she gets involved and realizes that there is more at stake than just a painting and whole bunch of moolah. As usual, emotions and feelings have to get involved.

Trance isn’t, and definitely won’t be, the last flick to cover the idea of making the human-mind a setting for a thriller, but it still shows you what you can do when you have an age-old premise, and throw some fun and style in there for good measure. It’s sort of like Inception, if Chris Nolan liked leather nights with his wife; or Eternal Sunshine, if Joel and Clementine liked robbing art museums; or even The Matrix, where instead of fighting off dudes in suits and sun-glasses, they just had sex, ALL THE TIME. Take those three flicks, put a little sexiness in there for good measure, and top it all off with the style from Danny Boyle, and you got yourself a pretty decent, little thriller. However, this is Danny Boyle we’re talking about here, which means: shouldn’t it be better than just “decent”? Yerp, that’s what I thought.

Get that pretty face out of there, James!

Get that pretty face out of there, James!

It cannot be denied that Boyle doesn’t love playing around with genres and even testing himself in some way or form. No matter what the type of story he tackles, Boyle always finds something new to show us that he can do and pull-off with ease, but never having us forget that it’s a Danny Boyle movie through-and-through. His style is just that definitive, and what I liked about his direction here is that he always has something interesting to show us on-screen, even if the story isn’t what I’m speaking of. Colors show up randomly; thumping music continues to build up and up and away; and scenes that you wouldn’t expect to be beautiful, surprisingly are in a very artful kind of way. But at the fore-front of this movie is a story that likes to mess with your mind and that is exactly what Boyle does, and has a hell of a time doing.

Since most of this movie is dedicated to us never wondering what’s real, what’s a dream, or what’s all of this dude’s imagination, we are sort of left in the dark with wondering what’s going to happen next or what certain scenes do or do not mean. For most films from some directors, this would kill the audience and easily lose them; but Boyle is different. The guy seems like he really understands just what it’s like to throw an audience off of their game, bring them back down to the ground, and then throw them back in the air one last time before he lets it all come back, and repeat the same cycle over again. Because we never know what is true or isn’t, we are just left to think for ourselves, but Boyle continues to throw clues, hints, red herrings, and slight-foreshadowings at us to make us feel like we have the big-picture in the grasp of our palms. But we don’t, and that’s what has Boyle so happy. He never seems to lose his essence of fun and continues to build up tension, suspense, and mystery as this flick gets deeper and deeper into this dude’s mind, as well as it’s story. However, that’s the exact problem with this movie: it’s story.

Where this film goes all wrong is that it begins to get more and more serious as it trudges along, which wouldn’t have bothered me, if I actually cared for anybody in this movie. But that’s what the problem is: I just didn’t. I don’t know if it was because I was more involved with the story, the dream sequences, or the idea that I’m going to be stooped at the end of it all or what, but something was not fitting so well with me and these characters, and I think most of that problem comes from Boyle’s direction. You know, the very same direction that I’ve been praising for about first 1/3’s of this review. I know, I’m inconsistent. Bite me.

I think where Boyle loses himself is the idea that he can toy with us, the audience, have us believe something, and then throw something else at us, making us not exactly sure what it means or what this is, in the consideration of the rest of the entire story. Boyle loves doing that, but when it actually comes down to apples and oranges, making us care for these characters and finding out what’s really at-stake here: the guy loses control. He focuses way too much on the plot, the twists, the turns, and the happenings, rather than the actual characters that inhabit it and keep it ticking. You never feel like these are people you can easily get behind and even though they do get a few scenes, here and there, to where you feel like you see them for what they are, Boyle then continues on with a scene that’s just crazy or intense, and thus, we are lost on any type of character-development whatsoever. Once again, this would have been A-okay with me, had he not gotten so damn serious, and decided to make this a thriller that was more about humans, feelings, and their emotions, rather than people fucking around with one another, where guns and violence is the only solution to finding and figuring out the problem. And yes, in a Boyle flick, the latter aspect is totally possible and could have as well happened here; but Boyle digs a bit too deep, gets lost, and tries to go back the same way he came, only to have us confused in the process. Still, can’t talk too much shit on this guy because he might as well be the very same guy keeping the glue in-place.

Run, Rosario, Run!!

Run, Rosario, Run!!

The characters may not be fully-fleshed, but the cast still tries to make us forget about this fault. James McAvoy is good as Simon, the dude who’s mind is continuously fucked-with and does a fine job at showing us how confused and screwed-over a person can be when they don’t know what’s real, and what isn’t, but it doesn’t cut any deeper than that. McAvoy feels like he should be a tad bit crazier in this role to where we never know if he’s going to jump off a bridge, cry himself to sleep by eating a tub of ice cream and watching re-runs of Days of our Lives, or go bat-shit crazy and start blowing-off every mofo’s head off in sight. His character should have been that unpredictable in nature and in action, but McAvoy keeps him too grounded, to where we almost feel like we can calculate his every move. Not a good sign, especially when you have a character that could have been toying with us, as much as the director was.

The only character in this movie who seems to be doing any toying-around with our minds, perceptions, and emotions is Rosario Dawson as hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb. Dawson is good here because she uses that sweet, calming voice of hers to great-effect where she eases the tension and makes us feel like we are in a special place, where good things happen to good people, and everybody walks around with smiles on their face. Her character could have easily been the most-developed one of the bunch, but she even suffers because her character never seems to be on the right track of what to do, how to do it, and is constantly messing with other people. She tells people certain things that aren’t true, makes them think other things, and when all is said and done; seems like she’s the one with the upper-hand, totally going against her zen-like feel we see in the first couple minutes of her introduction. No matter what changes or transformations her character goes through, Dawson is always good, but I wish her character seemed more in control of her emotions and actions, especially when that said character is one that takes care of other’s emotions and actions.

Surprisingly, the most-developed and most-sympathetic out of this whole cast is Vincent Cassel as Frank, the head kingpin that just wants his money, his respect, and his freakin’ painting. Cassel is usually good in the stuff that I see him in, but is usually one-note where he is always bad, he’s always villainous, and always has a mean-streak that never seems humane in the least bit. He’s good at playing it, but it gets old after awhile, which is why I thought it would have been the same thing around again, in this flick. Thankfully, Cassel is given more to work with where we see his character’s true feelings and emotions come out and get a full-feel for the dude, as he seems like he could just change his ways, if he gets what he wants. Yeah, sounds a bit snobby, but hey; the guy’s worked too hard, for too long to not get what he ventured-out for in the first place. Cassel’s character is good and his performance is believable. Hopefully, just hopefully, this is a sign that the guy can play people with a soul and not the type of dude that bashes people’s heads in. Totally justified, but damn man. Scaring the shit out of me over here.

Consensus: Nowhere near Boyle’s best flick, especially considering what it is that we’ve seen from him in the past decade or so, but Trance is still him at his most-entertaining and most-pleasant where he toys with a genre we see and feel like we see so much of nowadays, plays with it’s conventions, and always keeps us guessing until the final scene.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Damn. That gypsy lady's hot."

“Damn. That gypsy lady’s hot.”