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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Stanley Tucci

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Cause we needed an updated version of a buffalo and human falling in love.

Belle (Emma Watson) is a bright, young, and beautiful girl who loves to read, doesn’t have herself a man, and doesn’t really know if she wants to have a family just yet. Due to this, everyone around her treats her like she’s a silly little girl, who doesn’t know much about the real world, except for what she reads in books. Her father (Kevin Kline), however, knows, understands, and loves her no matter what, which is why when he turns out to be captured and held hostage by the Beast in the big castle (Dan Stevens), she saves his life by sacrificing her own. And at first, for Belle, it’s a pretty terrible time – the Beast is mean, grumpy, and not all that fun to be around, and it seems like Belle will probably live the rest of her days miserable and depressed. Sure, there’s the talking objects around her that constantly console her and let her know that it’s all going to be okay, but for some reason, Belle just can’t get past the fact that she’s being held prisoner. Until, of course, her and the Beast begin to actually get to know one another, and then everything changes. For her, for him, and for everyone else surrounding them.

Oh, Belle. So innocent. So sweet. So feminist.

Did we really need a live-action Beauty and the Beast, considering that the original animated flick is downright perfect? Probably not, but hey, it’s Hollywood, so why not get one, eh? And honestly, the live-action update isn’t a soulless, boring and total manipulative cash cow that you’d expect – there’s some fun, some light, and some enjoyment to be had. But for the most part, it feels like the kind of movie that tries so much, for no real reason.

For instance, take the run-time. At just a little over two hours, this live-action update doesn’t just feel overlong, but rather unnecessarily plodding at times. There’s added-on songs, scenes, and even story-bits that, okay, do show some effort, but they really don’t go anywhere; the original movie was barely even 90 minutes and it was perfect for that reason alone. Adding on another 30 minutes doesn’t do much but just add more time for people to get bored and start realize that there’s more problems underneath it all.

Which isn’t to say that this live-action can’t be fun, because it definitely can.

It’s just that for a movie like this, if you’re looking for problems, you’ll find them. There’s a whole gay subtext involving Lefou, as played by Josh Gad, and Gaston, as played by Luke Evans, that just feels shoe-horned in and way too silly for its own good. Sure, I’m fine with gay characters in Disney movies and would definitely love more of them, but in this instance, it just feels forced – it’s almost as if those behind the screen were just deliberately trying to mess with the studio-heads and took the easy way out in doing so. Gad’s fine in the role and can be funny, but Evans, while hunky, charming and can belt them out like no tomorrow, also doesn’t feel right for this role because he’s, well, not necessarily as jacked or as huge as he’s supposed to be.

And that goes for a lot of the other cast-members, too. Everyone playing the objects in the castle are fine, with Ewan McGregor stealing the show as the most Scottish French candlestick ever, but others, like Watson and Stevens, for some reason, just don’t fit. Watson herself seems bland, and Stevens, depending on how much of the movie was him and not just CGI, tries what he can, but overall, it’s a thankless role left to voice-over. Also, their voices do leave a lot to be desired – why we’re not using voice-dubs anymore is totally beyond me and it proves to be a problem for this movie because, a good portion of the people here can’t really sing as much as they should. These songs, while definitely memorable, still need that huge, loud operatic voice that the original had, and with Watson, Stevens, Gad and others, it’s just not there.

Gay or not gay, it don’t matter.

The only heart and soul found here is from Kevin Kline’s Maurice, who gets to be sad and emotional, while also have some fun, too. It’s the true sign that above it all, Kline will always come out on top, because he’s not just a pro who can do it all, but proves why he’s always better than the material that he’s working with.

In other words, they should have just given the movie to him.

And trust me, I know that I’m doing a lot of hating on this flick, but it’s not totally the case. It’s still enjoyable, Bill Condon is a good director who knows how to make material like this click and pop, and the production-design, above everything, is a downright orgy of glitz and glam. It’s just that there are issues, none of which were found in the amazing, still watchable, still great, and always so lovely original.

So yeah Disney, stop trying so hard.

Consensus: Undeniably light, charming and often times, fun, Beauty and the Beast also suffers from being unnecessary and a little too long.

6 / 10

Tale as old as time? Between a buffalo and a human being?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Hoax (2006)

It’s always best to get in the fake company of known-crazies.

Author Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) is finding it hard to stay afloat. His latest book was just passed-on, making him feel as if he’s nothing and probably going to be forgotten about some time soon. However, when he catches wind that famed billionaire Howard Hughes is as crazy as can be and barely anyone knows anything about him, well, Clifford concocts the perfect book. In it, he’ll be interviewing Hughes about his life, his business expenditures and most importantly, get all of the latest dish on his deepest, darkest and dirtiest secrets. Clifford feels like he can really get down to the bottom of what makes Hughes clicks and why he is the way he is, something that the publishers absolutely love and go haywire for. The only issue is that Clifford has never met Hughes and probably never will; the security is so air-tight on that man, that not even his closest, best friends can get anywhere near him. But that’s not going to keep Clifford away from getting the book he wants, he’ll just have to talk to everyone but Howard and try to do what he can to get the best story out of imaginable. Even if, you know, there are some lines to be blurred between “fact” and “fiction”.

"Look at me, Hope. Could you hate this face?"

“Look at me, Hope. Could you hate this face?”

It’s hard to do a bad, uninteresting movie about con-men. Whether the tales themselves are real, or fake, it doesn’t quite matter; it’s so entertaining to watch a bunch of sly, smart people act their ways through life, with all the right lies and moves. There’s something truly exciting about watching this, because deep down inside each and everyone of us, there’s that feeling that we wish we were that smart, that brave, and that damn slimy to do the same as they are, get away with it, and walk away from it all with a smile on our faces.

And that’s why the Hoax, despite seeming like it can border on the verge of ringing false, is still entertaining to watch.

Even though it is, oddly enough, directed by Lasse Hallström, of all people. However, what Hallström does best here is that he doesn’t get in the way of the material, or try to force anything down our throats; regardless of what the true stories behind most of these situations may have been, the movie moves at such a quick, efficient pace that it’s hard to really pin point the issues with the facts. The movie may seem ridiculous at points, but at the same time, it’s hard not to have a little fun, watching as this little weasel of a man tries his best to wig and worm his way out of every tense situation possible.

But beneath all of the facades, gags, lies, deception, and most of all, cons, there’s something to be learned here. There’s this idea running throughout the Hoax that is interesting, because it tries to make sense out of this whole situation in the first place. The fact that someone like Irving was so easily capable of fooling just about everyone around him, for so very long, for all of the wrong reasons, really makes you think – is there such a problem with his lies? After all, the lies and deceptions he was making, were all to really just get himself some money and a little bit of fame – he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, start any wars, and he sure as hell wasn’t hurting Hughes’ feelings.

Wait, who's Leonardo DiCaprio?

Wait, who’s Leonardo DiCaprio?

There are bits and pieces of the Hoax that show that maybe, just maybe, Irving’s little escapades had more of an effect than he, or anyone else had ever expected, but mostly, the movie realizes that this is best left to our interpretation. The movie doesn’t make us think that Irving is a great man for getting away with everything that he was able to get away with (although, he’s definitely ballsy, for sure), but show that even someone like him, can get away with so very much. And when all is said and done, for what reasons?

Well, fame and fortune and for most, anything can happen.

As Irving, the man, the myth, the legend, so to speak, Richard Gere does a solid job because he’s playing very much against-type. Sure, he’s still charming, handsome and yes, the ladies love him, but there’s also something more dastardly about him that makes his performance here the more bearable than some of his others, where we’re literally begged to fall in love with him and adore his beautiful, well-constructed face, chin and hair. Even though Irving isn’t made out to be a perfect human being here, there’s still something sympathetic about him that makes you hope he gets away with all of his lies, even though, yeah, it probably won’t happen.

While Gere’s Irving is mostly front-and-center for a good portion of the movie, there’s others who all show up on the side and remind us why they deserve to be noticed. Alfred Molina plays Irving’s sidekick, so to speak, and has some truly great moments, never letting you know exactly when the man is going to crack under all of the pressure; Marcia Gay Harden plays Irving’s wife, and despite an odd Swedish accent, she’s still charming; Stanley Tucci has a few great scenes that make you wish he was in the whole thing, as is the case with Hope Davis and Julie Delpy. They all add a little bit of fun and excitement to a story that certainly didn’t need their help, but hey, at least they were here to add something.

Consensus: While a good portion of it seems made-up (wouldn’t that be great?), the Hoax still gets by on the charm of its cast, and quick, swift and exciting pace.

7 / 10

Yuck it up, fellas!

Yuck it up, fellas! No seriously, please do. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Photos Courtesy of: PopMatters

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

pradaposterFashion is life.

After graduating college, Andrea (Anne Hathaway) is finally ready to get on with her life and career. Of course, she hits the ground running immediately when she takes up an assistant job to one Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), editor-in-chief and general boss of Runway fashion magazine. Right off the bat, Andrea feels as if she has no clue what she’s doing in this job, with all of the crazy tasks and missions that she’s called on to complete, with barely any of them seeming like a good use of the skills she required as a journalism major at Northwestern. However, with the help of the fellow assistant, Emily (Emily Blunt), eventually, Andrea gets the hang of things and before long, the job itself begins to take over her own personal life, with her own personal boyfriend (Adrian Grenier). And wouldn’t you know it, but Andrea starts to lose focus of said personal life and focus way too much on her job, to the point of where she’s alienating all of those around her, and just falling more in deep with Miranda, the fashion world, and the fellow people that inhabit that cult-like world.

You look good either heel, Anne. Trust us all.

You look good either heel, Anne. Trust us all.

The Devil Wears Prada barely registers as a movie, but I mean that in a good way. It’s harmless, meaningless, by-the-numbers, conventional entertainment that’s made solely for women to adore, the men not admit that they liked, and everyone else to watch whenever it pops up on TV. Sometimes, when you’re a big-budgeted comedy flick, isn’t that all you need to be? In a way, sort of and it’s why the Devil Wears Prada, while not setting out to change the world in any stretch of the imagination, does what it needs to, gets the job done, and heads out before it can wear out its welcome too noticeably.

So like I said, what’s wrong with that?

And like I said before, not much, however, there is that feeling that it could be a better movie. In a way, the flick wants to be a satire on the fashion world, the sheer ridiculousness of it, and how, or better yet, why so many damn smart and rich people are in it and constantly flaunting it around like it’s nobody’s business. But in another way, it also wants to be a movie about how the fashion world is this crazy, cooky place where all sorts of smart and rich people get together, throw money around on fabric, and well, offers up quite the ride for those looking to become apart of it. So, really, what’s the movie trying to say?

Honestly, I don’t know, nor do I think it matters. Director David Frankel and writer Aline Brosh McKenna seem to understand how light and fun they each want the material to be, but when it comes to thinking longer, or even harder about it, well, not so much. They both sort of drop the ball on that point, with McKenna seeming like she really wants to stick it to the shallowness of the fashion world, but with Frankel not realizing this and perhaps having way too much fun in all of the glitz and glamour and all that.

Like I stated before, though, does any of it really matter?

Kind of, but not really. Frankel knows how to keep the pace up to where we’ve seen this story a million times before, but there’s still something fun and exciting about it, what with watching Meryl Streep and Anne Hathway on the screen together, working off of one another and generally, having a great time. Streep, believe it or believe it, was nominated for an Oscar here and while it’s a bit of a joke, it’s still a great performance in an otherwise fine movie; she’s not necessarily funny in the role, as much as her character is, but it’s still a sign that Streep, especially when she’s dialing it down and relaxing her acting-muscles a bit, is still a wonder to watch. It not only makes me wish she’d take on more comedy, but probably more challenging-comedy roles, if that makes any sense.

Like mentor....

Like mentor….

Anyway, Hathaway’s good, too, even if she is essentially playing the Julia Roberts character of the flick. Still though, there’s something about her that makes her so likable in the first place, that no matter how far she gets wrapped into her job, we still actually give a hoot about her. Emily Blunt also shows up as the other assistant and is quite great in the role, telling it like it is and bouncing off of Hathaway whenever the scene seems to call for it. Also, even better to see Stanley Tucci in a fun role as one of the key fashion-editors of the magazine, showing why he too, deserves to do more comedy, as well.

Anyway, like I said, the movie’s just about that: It’s a sum of its parts, all of which are fine as they are.

Doesn’t make it bad, doesn’t make it great, and it sure as hell doesn’t make it memorable – but it does make it a movie and I guess, if I’m going to spend at least two hours of my life on one, the least it can be is entertaining, which thankfully, this is.

Consensus: Light, frothy and a little fun, the Devil Wears Prada won’t fool anyone for life-changing Oscar-bait, but will prove to be a good time regardless.

6.5 / 10

Like student....

Like student….

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Screw too many women, trust me, you get screwed, too.

Harry Block (Woody Allen) has had a pretty crazy and unfortunate life. He’s been with many women, has made many mistakes, and has a lot of opinions that don’t always make him the most popular guy in the room. And now, he’s gaining fame and fortune off of all of that by putting into a new book of his, one that people love, with the exception of the few he’s actually writing about. Most of the women from his past have disowned him, which depresses Harry to a great degree. However, the only thing keeping him alive and well is the fact that he has a son, who he knows will have a bright future. Also, Harry finds out that the university that once kicked him out, now wants him back for a ceremony to honor him and all of his accomplishments. This gives Harry an idea: Take his son with him on this trip and allow for all sorts of fun and adventure to occur. Little does Harry know that he’s kidnapping his son to go along for the ride with him, along with the likes of a friend (Bob Balaban) and hooker (Hazzelle Goodman).

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Way more loyal than Annie Hall.

Due to the fact that Woody Allen likes to make a movie almost every year, a lot of people tend to get on his case. Obviously, some movies are better than others and, especially as of late, it appears like some of them aren’t even worth watching, but because they’re movies by Woody Allen and feature great talent in front of the screen, people can’t help but see what he’s got cooking up next. After all, a bad Woody Allen movie is at least better than most of what we seem to get out there, right?

Well, either way, where it seems like some of the issues with Woody releasing a new movie every year is that the movies tend to all follow the same formulas, ideas and themes of all of his movies. They’re mostly all lighthearted affairs that have to do with dysfunctional families, Judaism, forbidden love, sex, writing, poetry, classical music, jazz, or anything else of these natures. They’re all very similar and it honestly makes me wonder why Woody himself doesn’t bother to go deeper and darker with himself, or his material.

Cause, honestly, Deconstructing Harry is that perfect example of what Woody Allen can do when he decides to throw all caution to the wind and just not appease to anyone. While some of themes and ideas may be the same from before, here, they’re much more darker and sinister; rather than appearing to play for the big and broad laughs, Woody’s going for something much more meaner and angry, where it appears that he does in fact have an ax to grind.

Who is he grinding it at/for?

Well, no one in particular, but it allows for Deconstructing Harry to be better than most of his other flicks, because it proves that the guy actually has a point. He’s not just making a movie because he’s got the budget, the stars, and an inchworm of an idea that he’ll decide to play around with after the first-half – nope, this time Woody is going for the kisser and not apologizing for it. This is all to say that Deconstructing Harry is quite funny, but in a far different way that makes me feel better about Woody Allen, the writer – his jokes aren’t necessarily played-up for the smarter people of the crowd, but more for anyone who appreciates a good joke when they’re given one.

It sounds so stupid in hindsight, but honestly, good, consistent humor in a Woody Allen movie can sometimes be hard to find. Sure, every once and awhile, you’ll get a sly or witty line passed by some character here and there, but here, Woody’s throwing out jokes left and right. Do they all work? Not really – the whole bit involving Billy Crystal as the Devil could have probably bit the dust in the editing-room – however, the moments where the comedy works, it really works and is worthy of a big, howling laugh.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Focus on the finer things in life.

Yes, I know, it sounds stupid, but trust me, it totally matters.

But it’s not like Deconstructing Harry is better than most other Woody Allen movies because it’s darker and funnier (although, those are two attributes that help it), but because what Woody himself seems to be talking about is interesting. Harry Block’s life is such a whirlwind filled with heartbreak, anger, resentment, and controversy, that writing about it, gets him into hot water with those around him and eventually, he alienates himself from the rest of the world. Clearly, Woody seems to be channeling his own, inner-most demons and it’s neat to see play-out, as Woody himself definitely feels guilty for hurting the people that he’s hurt in the past, but also knows that the same hurt that he’s caused, is the same kind that’s brought him so much fame, fortune and respect in the biz.

So yeah, Woody’s talking about himself a lot here, but it works. Woody himself is quite good in the movie, but really, he’s meant to let others do all the work for him and show that they’re worthy of being here. People like Tobey Maguire, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Robin Williams, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Kirstie Alley, and others, don’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but are still funny and well worth their short time here. Why none of these people have bothered to show up in a Woody Allen movie is beyond me, but then again, maybe they, too, don’t want to waste time on something that’s going to just be “mediocre”.

Then again, neither do I, and I still can’t stop watching his movies.

Consensus: With a darker, more energetic edge, Deconstructing Harry shows a meaner side of Woody Allen that we hardly ever see, that’s both funny and interesting.

8 / 10

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Everyone loves Woody. Except obvious people.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Another YA adaptation down, plenty more to go.

After she was attacked by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is fed up and ready to take action against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Meaning, that it’s time for war to get going and it’s going to be Katnis the one spearheading it. And once again, it becomes clear that a lot of what Katnis does or says, is all planned out from the beginning with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) constantly working behind the scenes, testing and working with every maneuver Katnis takes. Regardless though, there is a war to be fought, which leads Katnis, as well as the rest of her trusted soldiers for the cause, to head straight to District 2 and then the Capitol itself for one last fight to take down Snow and his tyrannical reign. However, as expected, Snow is more than up to the task of taking on this band of soldiers, while also proving that he may be the more powerful force after all. But there’s also something else that’s a bit fishy about this situation and it has less to do with Snow, as much as it may have to do with those that Katnis aligns herself with in the first place.

Will miss him.

Will miss him.

Finally, after three years, four movies, and plenty of money, the Hunger Games film franchise is coming to an end. In ways, it’s kind of bittersweet; while none of the films have ever astounded me, they’ve been plenty better than all those other young adult novel adaptations that come out every few months or so. Granted, considering the company that’s kept in that genre, that may not be saying much, but still, it’s worth noting that each and everyone of these movies have all done some neat, interesting things with a plot and source material that could have easily been the most melodramatic, boring piece of crud since Bella and Edward started hookin’ up in the forest.

Still, what makes the Hunger Games, the franchise, so special, is that it’s the kind of YA adaptation that plenty of people can actually enjoy. Of course, the target audience for this will continue to devour and adore it until the day they die, but so many other people, who may not think that this is “their thing”, may find something to be interested by here. There’s the romance for all the screaming fan-girls in the crowd; there’s the violence for the boyfriends who get dragged to them; there’s the high-production values for the film-fanatics; and most importantly, there’s political messages and ideas for those who still believe that we’re being spied on by the government, at this very second.

They’re not wrong, but still.

And with Mockingjay – Part 2, it really does feel like, not just the end, but the greatest hits of what this story had to offer, but seemed to lose sight of over the past two movies. All of the elements that have made the past films work, are still here, but now, there’s so much more emotion, so much more power, and most of all, so much more feeling that has you realize, “Holy hell. This truly is the last time we may ever see these characters on the screen again.” It’s definitely the same feeling everyone had watching Deathly Hallows – Part 2, as well as most other finales, but here, it feels done just right.

There’s a greater deal of suspense and tension in the air, which definitely helps this movie out. Though I haven’t read any of the books (I actually tried and then I picked up a copy of the Corrections and the rest is, as they say, history), it’s pretty simple and easy to predict just who’s going to survive by the end of the movies, and who is going to bite the dust. Here, however, because this is the last movie, there’s a sense in the air that we don’t know who’s going to live, who’s going to die, and just who’s life is going to be completely ruined forever.

Even way after the credits end.

This is all some incredibly grim and bleak stuff that the movie’s dealing with, but it all surprisingly works with the rest of the tone. Everything before Katnis and her fellow soldiers get out onto the war-field, everything’s slow, meandering and plodding, to say the least; in fact, it had me worried that we were just getting left-over scenes from Part 1, which, in and of itself, was already a pretty lame movie, so why would I want to be reminded of it? But after all of the emotions are exchanged, the guns start coming out, explosions start happening, and characters, well-developed or not, believe it or not, start dropping like flies. There’s characters you may expect to perish, whereas there may be some you don’t – either way, it’s hard not to watch when these characters are all getting themselves into more and more dangerous situations as they parade along to find and kill Snow.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

It’s all action-packed, of course, but it’s also incredibly compelling that makes you feel something for these characters probably more so than before. Katnis is, as usual, a bad-ass, but here, we really do get a chance to see her true personality, heart and soul shine; so much has been made in the past two movies where Katnis is, basically, just an image and nothing else. However, with her fourth-outing as Katnis, Jennifer Lawrence shows that she’s still able to find some new ways to breath fresh life into this character. Does she seem a bit bored? Yeah.

But I guess that’s what happens when you’re the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

And everybody else is fine, too. The ensemble here is so stacked by now that, honestly, it feels like a shame they aren’t all given monologues to deliver and run rampant with, but so be it. In any other film, this cast would have absolutely made any movie a near-masterpiece, but because this is a Hunger Games movie, it’s less about them, and more about the spectacle.

Which, like I’ve said before, isn’t a bad thing. These movies, especially this one, have all done great jobs at balancing-out all the different aspects it takes to make this story interesting to watch and think about. The last-half of this movie definitely deals with that in a smart, but nearly shocking way that’s sure to surprise a whole lot of people who don’t know what to expect. But still, it works because the world that this movie has created, right from the very get-go, is one that may look all bright and shiny from the outside, but once you dig a bit deeper, is downright sadistic and disturbing. Such is the case with the real world, too, I guess.

But hey, we’ll miss you Katnis.

*Whistle-salute sound*

Consensus: Surprisingly grim, exciting and most of all, emotional, Mockingjay – Part 2 isn’t just the final installment of the franchise, but also the best one, proving just what sorts of wonders it was able to work, despite the target audience and what’s generally expected of stories such as these.

8 / 10

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spotlight (2015)

Of course Thomas McCarthy would know a thing or two about journalism.

In 2001, with the internet slowly rising to become the top source for news and information, the Boston Globe felt as if they had struck gold. Through their investigative unit known as “Spotlight”, the Globe came upon a bunch of sources and stories about Massachusetts priests molesting children and then covering it all up with fancy lawyers and lingo that made it seem like a crime wasn’t committed. While the Spotlight team realizes that they’ve got something really strong and ground-breaking to work with here, they’ve got to do more uncovering and following to get the full story. And, well, due to the fact that Boston is a primarily Catholic-based city, it makes sense that just about everyone and their mothers are pleading with the Globe not to release this story. However, these journalists know better than to let such issues get in their way of telling the full story and uncovering what the truth about these priests are, what they did to these kids, who are mostly all now adults, and try to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It's the dude with the tie.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It’s the dude with the tie and facial-hair.

As most of you can probably tell, Spotlight is the kind of movie that’s made exactly for me. Not only do I love journalism movies that feature journalists, doing journalism-y things, but I also love it when the journalists in the journalism movies use their job, their smarts, and their skills, to take down big institutions. Whether it be the government, hospitals, or the Catholic church – any huge institution that gets a much deserved dressing-down, then you can count me in.

Which is to say that, yes, Spotlight is not only a great movie, but possibly, for now at least, my favorite flick of the year.

One of the main reasons why Spotlight works as well as it does can all be traced back to writer/director Thomas McCarthy, who is hot of the heels of the disaster that was the Cobbler. What’s so interesting about McCarthy’s previous films (even including the Cobbler, sadly), is that they’ve mostly all been small, simple, and understated human stories that deal with the big emotions, but in a very subtle kind of way. While much of the style is still the same, with Spotlight, McCarthy is now dealing with a bigger story, that takes on a whole lot more fronts and ends than he’s ever worked with before. Still though, despite what troubles this may have caused any director in the same shoes as he, McCarthy handles it all perfectly, making sure that the story that needs to be told, is done so in an efficient, understandable and most importantly, compelling manner.

That the way Spotlight‘s story begins to unravel once more revelations come to fruition, as well as the way it begins to blend-in together, makes all the more reason why this movie is a true testament to the art of journalism, as well as those who work within it. Just like the best parts of a movie like Truth, Spotlight loves that feel and utter rush someone can has when they feel as if they’re walking upon something that could make their story, as well as the certain heartbreak and utter disappointment they can feel once they walk upon something that could feasibly break their story. There’s a certain bit of joy and pleasure one gets from watching people, who are not only great at their job, do everything in their absolute power to make sure that they keep doing their job to the best of their abilities, while also not forgetting the true reason for it all.

And while a good portion of this movie is a dedicated to the world of journalism, it’s also a dedication to those who are passionate and inspired to uncover the truth.

But, trust me, it’s not as hokey as I may make it sound; while McCarthy’s movie definitely flirts with certain ideas of self-importance, he never falls for the fact that the story he’s telling is BIG, EMOTIONAL and IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. There’s an argument that Mark Ruffalo’s and Michael Keaton’s characters have where they’re combatting between the two different oppositions of this story; whether it be to tell it to sell some copies, or to expose the problems that have been going on for so long. It’s not only riveting, but also very smart, as it definitely reminds us why this story matters, but does so in a way that gets us back on-track for what needs to be told – which is, that the Catholic church covers all their wrong-doings up, and it’s time that somebody called them out on it.

Once again, though, this may sound all incredibly melodramatic and corny, but trust me, it isn’t. McCarthy doesn’t let the story get out-of-hand with overt cliches, but also, makes sure that the characters in this story stay true, realistic and above all else, actually humane. Nobody in this movie is ever made out to be a superhero for what it is that they’re doing; most of them, quite frankly, are just doing their job. While they definitely feel the need to tell this story and make it so that their points are seen, they also understand the utmost importance of faith and Catholicism, which, all being residents of Boston, means a whole lot.

No! Don't go on the computer! It's the devil!

No! Don’t go on the computer! It’s the devil!

And though the movie may not dig as deep into these characters as possible, it still does a fine enough job of making us realize just who these characters are, what their part of the story is, and just why exactly they matter. Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes is always jumping around and running to the next piece of information that, despite the sometimes pushy Boston-accent, is quite entertaining to watch, but at the same time, we still get the idea that this guy loves his job so much and will do anything to keep himself alive and well.

Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer is the sweeter one of the ensemble, who is there with the abuse victims when they’re airing their disturbing stories out in the most matter-of-fact way imaginable; Liev Schreiber’s Marty Baron doesn’t have much of any personality whatsoever, but still feels like the voice of reason for this story, when it all seems to get a bit haywire; John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. also feels like the voice of reason, but at the same time, still very much like Roger Sterling (which is a compliment); Brian d’Arcy James’ Matt Carroll has a neat little subplot about finding out one of the accused priests live in his neighbor and how he goes about finding that out is well-done; and Stanley Tucci, is very energized here, but also seems like the most understandable character in the whole flick, showing a person who not only cares about the cause he’s fighting for, but also knows that he has a civic duty.

However, as great as everyone is, it’s Michael Keaton who steals the show, with just one look.

There’s a scene towards the very end of Spotlight where it becomes very clear just what this story means and the sort of effect it’s going to have – and it’s all on Keaton’s face. Though I won’t get into the nitty, gritty details of what occurs during the end, but after everything that has come along with the story – from the facts, to the sources, to the edits, to the fragments, to the re-writes, to the push-backs, and to everything else that has to do with it – the movie makes us understand what it was that these journalists were fighting for. Keaton, who is superb, as expected, throughout the whole movie, doesn’t fully want to believe that the Catholic church would have been involved with something so dastardly and maniacal as the evidence proves. However, though, he eventually does come to believe that evil can be real, not to mention that it can take all forms, shapes, and sizes. But rather than pissing and moaning about it, late night at the bar, he, as well as his fellow co-workers, are doing something about it. There’s a look in Keaton’s eyes as he sees this all happen and then, he accepts it, metaphorically pats himself on the back, and moves on with his job.

That’s what journalism is all about and that’s why Spotlight is one of the best flicks of the year.

There. I’m done.

Consensus: Gripping, intelligent, and above all, important, Spotlight takes on its subject without ever editorializing or leaning one way, but instead, telling its story as it was ought to be told, with some of the best actors in the game today.

9.5 / 10

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Road to Perdition (2002)

perditionposterAlways trust daddy. Especially if that daddy just so happens to be Tom Hanks.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) lives a comfortable, easy-going life with his family in a little house in the countryside of Rock Island, IL. Sullivan works for John Rooney (Paul Newman), an old school mobster who found him at a young age and practically raised him, as if he were one of his own. And what Sullivan does for Rooney, is such a mystery to his sons that one night, his oldest, Mike Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), decides to sneak into his daddy’s car late one night and see what it is that he does. What Mike finds out is that his dad’s a hired-assassin and kills people! But, as if that wasn’t bad as is, Rooney’s actual, biological son, Connor (Daniel Craig), finds this out and decides to take matters into his own hand. This means that there’s a hit out on Sullivan and the rest of his family, which leads Sullivan to hit the road with Mike and set out on the run, hopefully trying to stay safe and find out how this sort of situation can be mended. But just to ensure that this never happens, Connor hires a weird-looking hitman (Jude Law), who has a certain penchant for taking pictures of the dead, just as they’re nearing the light.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Coming off something as magnificent and ground-breaking as American Beauty, the odds were clearly stacked-up against director Sam Mendes to make another great, awards-caliber movie. Which is why Road to Perdition‘s a bit of an interesting choice for him to decide to follow-up with; not only is it a gangster-thriller of sorts, but it’s also one that’s based on a graphic novel of the same name. Surely, this is not something anybody expected Mendes to try, but thankfully, it all worked out for the best. Even if, you know, the movie in and of itself may not be the perfect Oscar pic that people would have liked.

But does that matter? No!

Not every movie ever made has to be perfect or absolutely shoot to get every single award known to man. While producers and studios may want that (because with more awards-buzz, comes more cash money), the films themselves don’t necessarily have to be catering towards that specific kind of audience who likes when their movies are classier and more prestige. Though there’s nothing wrong with a movie trying to be more than just your everyday fodder, as long as it’s interesting and somewhat stimulating, then it doesn’t matter what it gets nominated, what it doesn’t get nominated for, or what it wins, and what it doesn’t win.

All of the rest is just a bunch of unnecessary junk and that’s why Road to Perdition probably works best. It doesn’t set-out to achieve greatness, but it just goes out there and tries to tell a fine story that may, or may not, impact your life till the day you die. You may even forget that you see it a few months after the fact, but still, it isn’t trying to win each and every person over (much like every Oscar movie tends to do).

But anyway, I digress.

So yeah, Sam Mendes definitely had a lot working against him here, but the man, being the talented director that he is, did a splendid job here. Mendes is clearly more interested in the characters and the relationships they share with one another, which is why when the guns do start going off, the bullets start flying, and the bodies start dropping, it’s a lot more effective. This isn’t to say that Mendes doesn’t at all care about the violence to begin with, because honestly, many of these scenes can be as bloody and as disturbing as you’d expect them to be, but it isn’t his main focus and it’s probably why the movie works a lot better than most gangster movies.

Not to mention, too, it’s actually a rather sweet and tender tale about the relationships between fathers and sons, how complicated they can be, and most importantly, how important they are in helping to develop someone as they are growing up and trying to make sense of the world around them. That Mike Jr. is so young and is already thrown into this crazy, incredibly messed-up world of guns, violence, drugs, money, death and gangsters, is already enough for us to sympathize with him and hope everything goes smoothly from here on out – but also, the fact that the kid isn’t precocious, also helps. It’d be one thing if we had a smarty-pants kid acting as if he knew everything that the world had to offer him, but it’s a whole other one completely when the kid is actually a kid, who knows little to nothing, and can’t make sense of a single thing happening to, or around him.

Oh no, Tommy! Look out! A gun!

A Tom holding a tommy-gun. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

It’s quite sad, really, but the movie focuses on how his father is there for him to help him through.

Which also causes a bit of a problem for Road to Perdition – while on the one hand, it’s this sensitive, emotional drama between a father and a son, on the other, it’s also this dark, violent and sometimes sinister tale about gangsters each other over and the great lengths some of them will go to to protect their pride, fortune, and reputation. Both movies, in their own rights, are fine, but together, they do have the film feeling a bit languid and off-center at times. Not to say that I wasn’t always interested in where it was going to go next, but it also isn’t to say that I didn’t want to see one movie over the other.

This became especially true whenever Jude Law’s hitman character came into the foray. Law is great here and seems to really be enjoying himself with this dastardly, snidely character, but because he’s so campy and over-the-top, he feels out-of-place from the rest of the overly serious, melodramatic flick he’s supposed to be apart of. There’s almost this feeling that he comes straight out of the graphic novel and onto the screen, and the transition isn’t all that pretty, no matter how hard Law and Mendes try to cover it all up. Still, it’s another good performance from Law that, once again, shows he’s more than just a pretty face and hot body.

Which probably isn’t something people had problems with the likes of Tom Hanks or Paul Newman, because not only are they good-looking guys, but hell, they’re fine actors, too.

That’s why when we do get a chance to see them share the screen together, it’s actually quite exciting. Here’s two legends of the silver screen, finally, after all this time, pairing-up together and getting to work with one another, and while the movie doesn’t feature them together a whole lot, the scenes that they do have, still work well enough that they make it last. Respectively, both are solid; Newman’s an endearing father-figure with a bit too much love for his son, and Hanks, playing against type, is actually quite menacing as the charmless hitman who won’t hesitate to shoot or kill someone, but also doesn’t want to do it out of cold blood either.

They’re both excellent here and help Road to Perdition become a great movie, even if, you know, the Oscar-voters didn’t go as nuts as everybody would have liked.

Because, quite frankly, who gives a hoot about them anyway?

Consensus: With a solid cast and directing job from Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition is a fine gangster film, that also works as an endearing tribute to the relationship that a father and son duo have with one another.

8 / 10

I'd have a drink or two with these fellas.

I’d have a drink or two with these fellas.

Photos Courtesy of: Collider, Indiewire

The Core (2003)

CoreWhen the world is about to end, trust cellular-devices. Oh, and Hollywood.

After a couple of freak accidents all around the globe, scientists come to the mind-boggling conclusion that the Earth’s core will stop rotating, allowing for the world to all go to shit. So in order to continue the spinning, a group lead by Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) and astronaut Rebecca “Beck” Childs (Hilary Swank) go down there to stop the disaster. However, like with most of the times when people try to prevent natural-disasters from occurring, mother nature fights back, and she fights with vengeance. Or, something like that.

I’m not a huge science-buff, but I passed a couple of those classes back in school and I even learned a little bit. Nothing too much, but just enough to know that the Earth revolves around the sun and that there is a crap-ton of water on our planet. You know, the simple and easy things. That’s why when I see a flick and people get on it’s case about not being smart or “correct” about the science it uses, I don’t really care nor do I ever notice. That sort of stuff just doesn’t bother me as much, especially when the flick’s dumb and stupid, such as is this one.

God's finally had it!

God’s finally had it!

But that’s where the problem of this movie lies: It’s so stupid, so dumb, and so innate, that the terribly thought-out science that it uses as it’s axle, is so noticeable and distracting, that it’s almost too hard to even enjoy. To think that the Earth’s core can suddenly stop rotating, for no explanation other than “we did it” or some failed earthquake machine, really made me laugh and wonder just what these writers were thinking when they even bothered jotting down words on a page. Hey, they know more science terms and jargon than I do, but that being said, at least I know what actually can and cannot happen with them. That’s why this movie’s so hard to get through, because everything you see, hear, or even feel, is just of the lowest common-denominator of dumb.

However, there are many movies out there that can be considered “so bad it’s good”, which is why I could recommend the movie just for that fact alone, but nothing else. You can’t expect much from a movie that gets it’s science so wrong, that almost every star in it’s ensemble strains themselves to explain certain things about it, why something’s happening, and how they can fix it, or stop it. For that matter, we’re straining ourselves in return, just to get through this damn thing because even though we know it’s been on for awhile, we still have to face back to reality and realize that the flick is over 2 hours and 4 minutes. Did not need to be at all, considering they jump right into the actual “mission”, about 30 minutes in, leaving any type of character-development or background on the ground, never to be picked up, and only used when the movie needs it to justify certain characters dumb-ass actions.

By “actions”, what I mean is that once one character dies (who I will not spoil, even if you can probably tell a minute or two before it actually happens), it becomes almost like a slasher-flick, where instead of their being a masked-killer or psychopath going around and hacking people up, it’s the Earth’s core itself. This can provide some bits of fun and excitement for people who probably have never seen a disaster flick or know what happens to a certain character, right after they say “I’ll be right back”, but for a d-bag critic like me; it doesn’t fly so well and only twists the knife in harder and harder as each and every character meets their doom. Even the actors themselves feel like they may be just slumming it up for a paycheck, which once again: Makes it even more disappointing to watch.

Obviously back in the early ’00’s is the only time a movie could be lead by Aaron Eckhart and that’s a shame too because the guy’s a quality actor who’s been kicking some fine ass for years, but in smaller indies, and is only seen by a larger-crowd when he does big, loud, and stupid blockbusters (with the exception of this one). Here, it’s apparently clear that Eckhart’s doing whatever he can to make this character/material work more than it should, but he just falls prey to it’s utter crapness, that he comes out the most laughable of all. Best example, a character that’s very close to his, perishes and leaves him yelling, while crying, and demanding his character to come alive. It’s all so laughable to watch, that it’s almost painful, especially because Eckhart, as I said, is a quality actor that knows how to make anything work. However, he can’t help himself or the film that he’s in here.

Alien?

Alien?

Hilary Swank on the other hand, well, she does the same thing except isn’t given that much to work with so it’s not as bad to watch as Eckhart. Still, it feels like a conventional-role for a gal that deserved better things, and still does to this day. Others in this cast fare a bit better, mainly because they aren’t given much development and actually seem to “enjoy” the crap they’re working with. However, it’s weird to watch everybody here act because they all seem to be in a different movie, where apparently lines are a lot easier to read, without it all coming out as total gibberish.

For instance, Stanley Tucci plays a scientist who is something of a celebrity in his field, and plays it up like the star that he is. Tucci’s funny, a bit mean, and very mawkish, but it all works because that’s who the character is, and Tucci gives him a soul that continues to show. I can’t say the same thing about Richard Jenkins’ role as General Purcell, but man does that guy love to deadpan. Every scene he’s in is hilarious and it’s just because of his lovely-presence being felt or around the screen. Nobody else in this movie fares any better than him. No not the uncharismatic DJ Qualls; no, not the highly underrated Delroy Lindo; and no, sure as hell not one of the world’s strongest female-presences working today, Alfre Woodard. Richard Jenkins is the one who steals the movie and kept me laughing and entertained every time he was on the screen. As for the rest of the movie, eh, not so much. Sorry, B-movie lovers.

Consensus: You could deem it as such “a terrible movie that it’s almost watchable”, but the Core suffers from a terrible scripting, sad-sack acting from a heavy-stacked cast, and poor science, that it’s almost too much of a strain to even be bothered with, regardless of if you’re bored, drunk or high one night or not.

4 / 10

"Coming up ahead we have some sort of blue stuff here that needs to be looked at or explained as to what the hell it is."

“Coming up ahead we have some sort of blue stuff here that needs to be looked at or explained as to what the hell it is.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Wild Card (2015)

At least this one isn’t an English professor.

Nick Wild (Jason Statham) has a problem. It isn’t that he helps his friends too much, it isn’t that he takes odd-jobs that sometimes put his own life in danger, and it sure as hell isn’t that he likes to flirt with ladies – his problem is that he likes to gamble. A tad too much. And living in Las Vegas, that’s a bit of a problem. But now, Nick seems to have much bigger problems that concern an old lady-pal of his (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) who was recently beaten-up, bruised, raped, and left for dead by some scummy, yet dangerous crime-lord, Danny DeMarco (Milo Ventimiglia). DeMarco packs a lot of heat and has a lot sway within the Las Vegas crime-syndicate, but he knows that he has to do the right thing and because of that, he decides to help out his old friend. Though, things go South and eventually, Nick finds himself running for his life and wondering where Danny’s going to turn up to get him next, or whether or not Nick’s going to be able to pull it altogether himself, either. Nick doesn’t know, but what he does now, is that he loves to play a simple game of Blackjack.

See, that's the eye I'm talking about!

See? That’s the eye I’m talking about!

The plot I decided to write there, may seem a bit jumbled-up and odd, but that’s my intention. See, for some reason, Wild Card has at least two or three different subplots going on within itself; none of which are really all that interesting to begin with, but they’re all given the same amount of attention that it makes it hard for me to get past not even talking about them at all. There’s a subplot concerning a young, wealthy dude, played by Michael Angarano, who Nick runs into business with, even though Nick knows full well that this kid won’t be able to handle the heat that comes from the mean streets of Las Vegas; there’s the gambling-addiction that I alluded to earlier; and there’s a whole slew of familiar-faces that pop-up here every so often, to give us the impression that they’re going to serve some real purpose to this story, except, don’t.

Instead, they shutter away and sink into the darkness that is this movie’s background. And it made me wonder, why? Why would one try to hide more scenes from the likes of Sofia Vergara? Or Anne Heche? Or Hope Davis? Or hell, even Jason Alexander? Stanley Tucci shows up here in what seems to be nothing more than an extended, yet totally glorified cameo, so I didn’t include him for that reason, and that reason alone, but as for the others, my head needs scratching.

It would make sense if someone like Sofia Vergara could only film a scene or two for the whole film, but if that is the case, then why give her something so useless and forgettable as what she has to do here? Vergara’s in the first five minutes of this and all she spends her time doing is looking scared, fighting with her boyfriend, giving Jason Statham “the eye“, and then, when all is said and done, gets in a car and drives off. That’s it. One of the biggest, most recognizable faces working in entertainment today, and you give her is a role that could have literally had zero dialogue and none of us would have ever known the difference.

But not using it’s ensemble to the best of its ability, isn’t Wild Card‘s biggest problem.

More or less, the movie felt like it was spliced and edited together by somebody who had a major dead-line and didn’t know whether he/she could get it done well enough in time, so they just put anything together, in hopes their bosses wouldn’t notice and the movie would make millions and millions of dollars, giving everybody everlasting happiness. That doesn’t happen here, but there are parts of this movie that work – if only because they actually feel more focused than the rest of it.

For instance, the movie tries to make it apparent to us that Nick Wild has a gambling addiction. He makes several allusions to that throughout, so that when he does eventually get on a table and start spitting out “stays” and “hits”, it makes sense for his character and makes the movie move a bit more. Then, you add on that with the whole subplot concerning Ventimiglia’s crime-lord character, and you have a solid crime-thriller on your hands. Not because this aspect of the film offers people getting sliced with cards and throat-punches, but because it actually felt right for this story, as well as the character who was given to us.

Enough with this mushy stuff!

Enough with this mushy stuff!

But then, for some odd reason, the movie does try to have its cake and eat it, too, which doesn’t wholly work. It gets over-packed for no reason, and feels like there’s a reel or two missing. For some people, the fact that it’s hardly even an-hour-and-a-half may be lovely, but for some, such as me, it feels like an under-cooked meal coming straight from your aunt’s house. Maybe there’s bits and pieces of Wild Card lying on the floor of some editing-room in the deepest, darkest movie-studios of the Earth, but without them, the movie feels incomplete.

That doesn’t make it bad, because with what it does have, it’s quite fun.

As I said before, whenever Jason Statham’s mouthing-off to people, or kicking their rear-ends, it’s always a good time. The guy’s incredibly charming and to see him lay waste to a bunch of baddies, is just a pleasureful sight. And heck, even when he’s gambling, the scenes are shot in a smart way that actually shows the cards being laid-out on the table, what Statham’s character does with them, and the end-result; whereas a movie like the Gambler, continued to jump away from actually giving us a glimpse at what was on these tables. For all we know, they could have been playing a game of Go Fish! Though neither movie is better than the other (and also, they’re quite different), there’s still something to be said for a movie that works at what it originally set-out to be.

Even if it continued to get further and further away from that end result.

Consensus: Messy and too short, Wild Card feels incomplete, but given that the movie offers more than a few solid action scenes that don’t just concern fists being thrown, then it still deserves credit for working well with one thing, while not fully excelling at the many other one’s it tries to go for.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

And more of this! Yeah!

And more of this! Yeah!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Bows and arrows are the ultimate weapons for rebellion. Guns are better, but hey, you work with what you’ve got.

After the tragic events of the second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is, once again, left in total and complete shock. However, she’s not alone, as she was soon taken in by the rebellious District 13 and given the task to fight back against the malicious Capital, and its evil leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). And although Katniss is more than happy to fight back and get whatever revenge she can get on Snow and his legions of soldiers, there’s a couple problems holding her back. For one, District 13’s president, Coin (Julianne Moore), and her trusted lackey, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), not only want her to stand high and tall with District 13, but even be seen as the face of the new rebellion that will hopefully inspire many others to stand up against Snow and his regime. Also, after the last Hunger Games, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was kidnapped and taken in by the Capitol, who seems to be using him as a way to coax Katniss into just putting down her bows and giving up. Katniss wants to, so as to not hurt Peeta even more, but the problem is that she’s not the one fully in control – others are and it begins to show.

It’s safe to say that, by now, the Hunger Games film franchise has been pretty successful. Not just in terms of its box-office success, but also with those pretentious, unhappy human specimens we know as critics. Meaning, that it was only just a matter of time until one of these films, as it only takes one, had to screw it up for the rest.

And it’s quite fitting that it just so happens to be the first part of a movie that didn’t need to even have a first part to begin with.

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch?

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch? Say it ain’t so, J-Moore!

Trust me, too, this is coming from a guy who has never read a single page of one of these books; Hollywood thinks that since they have a cash-cow on their hands, that they should try their hardest and pan the movies out for as long as they can, as only a way to reel in more and more dough. They did it with the Harry Potter franchise, they did with those terrible Twilight movies, and heck, they were even thinking about doing it for the Hobbit movies, that is until somebody actually wised up and realized that it’s probably not the best decision to push that franchise any longer than it needed to be, especially considering that it’s all made from one single book. Just one, people! So why the hell did there need to be three, freakin’ movies at all?!?!

Anyway, like I was saying, here with Mockingjay – Part 1, it’s obvious that the powers that be behind it, wanted it to just go on for as long as it could, so long so as it all built-up to what would hopefully be the ultimate finale for this franchise next year, and it shows. That’s not to say all of the movie is bad, but when you have a film that goes on for so long which is, quite frankly, is pretty solid up to a point, and it just ends, it not only feels abrupt, but pretty disappointing. You can tell that, if they really wanted to with these movies, they could have made just one, three-hour epic that would, hopefully, put the bow-tie on the franchise once and for all. But nope, when big-wig, hot-shot Hollywood executives see dollar-signs, they can’t help themselves one bit.

Sort of like how I am in Dunkin’ Donuts. Only one, I promise myself, and then, a dozen doughnuts later, I’m wondering just what the hell happened to me and my thought-process. It’s a bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got to work with, people, so bare with me please.

But to get a bit away from the whole problem with this movie being unnecessary in the first place, I think it’s best to just dive right into what made it so good to begin with and, therefore, made the abrupt ending all the more enraging. See, what’s interesting about this flick, is that while it’s clear that it has the biggest budget in the world and can practically do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, and with whomever it wants to, for some reason, Mockingjay – Part 1 has a very limited-scope which, dare I say it, makes it feel almost claustrophobic. Hardly do we ever get to see what’s going on/around the world of Panem and in these other districts, outside of maybe a TV monitor or through of what somebody says.

A perfect example of this is a very terrifying sequence in which District 13 gets attacked by the Capitol, leaving everybody inside scrambling, running, and trying to find any shelter that they can. While this is all going on, we hear the explosions hitting District 13 and we see the effect it has on the base from the inside, but we never see what’s exactly going on outside; what we see and hear, are just enough to scare us into an oblivion and have us expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. It’s a well-done sequence that I kept on thinking about the most after I saw the movie, because it pretty much puts the rest of the movie into perspective: We are thrown into this tiny, nearly suffocating world and we can’t get out of it. We’re along for the ride with Katniss, even if that does, or doesn’t take her anywhere special.

Speaking of Katniss, once again, Jennifer Lawrence is great in this role and allows Katniss to be strong, smart, and also, humane. She hardly does something for her own self-interest and it makes us sympathize with her a lot more, even if she is playing with both Gale and Peeta’s hearts like a person putting a carrot in front of a rabbit on a treadmill. Still, she’s good to watch and brings a lot of development to a character that could have easily been just another little, whiny teenager who can’t decide if he loves me, or loves me not.

I'll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

I’ll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that it plays around with the ideas of propaganda and how the use of it, if effective, can really drive people to do something, whether it be fighting for a cause, or just changing a certain lifestyle of theirs. Here, we get to see Katniss be constantly taken to all of these different Districts, where everybody is either dead, dying, or just bones underneath pieces of rubble. The way we’re supposed to feel about these tragic occurrences is supposed to be sadness, but because we know Katniss is being taken to these certain spots, only so that they can film her and show the rest of the world why her cause is worth standing behind, puts a slight comedic-twist on it. A dark one, but a comedic-twist nonetheless in a movie which totally needed a lot more.

This is where the likes of new recruits Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, pleasant returners Jeffrey Wright, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman all bring their own level of depth to a story that deserves it. It’ll be interesting to see where the next film takes these certain characters, because while it’s easy to fall for Peeta, Katniss, and Gale, the older, much more established presences in these films are mostly what keeps the heart of these movies running. Not to hate on what Lawrence, Hutcherson, or Hemsworth do with their own respective characters, but if I had to, I’d watch a scene containing just Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and Jeffrey Wright, all sitting around in a room, talking about whatever was on their mind next.

Obviously that’s virtually impossible now, but what a treasure it would be.

But, like I said, while the ideas and themes this movie toggles around with may be interesting, and a hell of a lot more thought-provoking than we all get with half of the YA adaptations out there, there’s still that feeling that this movie is build-up, and hardly anything more. Director Francis Lawrence gives this movie a tone that’s dark, creepy, and slightly sinister, but the way in how the movie ends, just puts everything into perspective: This is all leading up to something a lot bigger and more epic.

See you next year, folks. Let’s hope that this is actually the end.

Consensus: Thought-provoking without being ham-fisted, exciting without being manipulative, and well-acted without ever focusing on one character more than the other, the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 works for so long, all up until it abruptly ends, leaving us maybe ready for the next, but also disappointed that there had to be two parts in the first place.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

A strange part of me missed Shia LaBoots.

After the near-apocalyptic events that transpired in Chicago almost three years ago, the country has been on high alert keeping the lookout for any Transformers whatsoever. If there is a Transformer of any kind to be spotted, they are hunted down, destroyed and made as scrap metal so that the government can build better, stronger and safer ‘bots to better protect their world. But somehow, in Texas of all places, an independent architect by the name of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) somehow stumbles upon a truck that he thinks is just a simple, fuel-driven truck, but comes to realize that it’s a Transformer – better yet, it’s Optimus Prime. The government soon finds out and they are not too happy with this, but neither is Cade with having to give up the Transformers neither, considering he trusts Optimus more than he does some humans. This leads to a bit of a battle between the government and the rest of the Autobots that Prime is able to assemble, but somehow, there’s a new type of Transformer out there and not only are they conspiring with the government to get rid of the rest of the Autobots, but they’re as deadly and lethal as ever.

Even though he said so differently a couple years ago, somehow, some way, Michael Bay decided that it was time for him to bring us back, yet again, another Transformers movie. Now, don’t get me wrong, people – like with any of Bay’s movies, I don’t have total problems with the Transformers movie. Sure, they are incredibly dumb, loud, over-the-top, stupid and insane, but you know what? They’re actually kind of fun and when I go into any movie that has Bay attached to it any way, I always know that’s what I have to expect. Not high art, or even something close to being a “masterpiece” – just fun, fun, fun.

"Brawsh!!!"

BRAWSH!!!

But there’s a difference between a movie being “fun”, and a movie being “too much”. See, with this new Transformers, it isn’t that Bay doesn’t bring on the heavy-set action, explosions, goofs, special-effects, and violence, it’s just that it’s so much, for so damn long, that it’s less of a fun ride, and more like a ride that keeps on going up and down, left and right, without barely any intermissions or time to breath whatsoever. And even if there are some of those moments to be found throughout here, they’re lame, poorly-written moments that are supposed to be dedicated to character-development, but instead, come off as half-assed as you can get with a Michael Bay.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew what to expect when I walked into a Michael Bay movie, but when you’re forced to spend nearly two-and-a-half-hours with these characters, there has to be something keeping us behind them. And casting likable personalities such as Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and T.J. Miller doesn’t cut it; they have to be at least somewhat well-written, with some reasoning behind their motivation to do the things that they do and why exactly they’re necessary to the plot. Am I asking too much from a Michael Bay movie? Better yet, am I asking too much from a Transformers movie? Probably, but I think if you’re going to push your movie into being almost three hours, there has to be something more to it than just big explosions, action-sequences and goofy, unfunny one-liners in the middle of all this tense action spilling out.

That being said, when the movie is fun, it sort of is a blast. However, that’s only because so much action gets built-up, that it’s almost like we’re being strong-armed into at least enjoying ourselves, even in the slightest bit. And that’s not to say everything about this movie, or what Bay does is absolutely godawful; in fact, I’d say that some of this shows Bay being as creative as ever, especially once the story itself gets tossed into China. But by the end, once all of the carnage has been done and about three states have been totally and completely decimated, you sort of have to ask yourself: “Why?”

An even better question would be: “What’s the point?”

Yes, I understand that it is the summer and that, yes, these are the types of movies we’re supposed to waste $20 on seeing, just so that we can get out of the hot air for once, chill out in the air-conditioned theater-lobbies, forget about the world outside, and just enjoy ourselves for the time being. That much I understand, get and absolutely love. To me, there’s nothing more than a summer blockbuster that knows it’s audience, what it’s made for, and doesn’t try to be anything else – just quick, fun, exciting, and engaging for as long as it is up on the screening. “Nothing more, nothing less”, I always like to say, and it’s something that I’d like to think most blockbusters are made with that in mind.

"Say hi to ya mothas for me!!"

“Say hi to ya mothas for me!!”

However, when you do have a movie like this fourth Transformers flick, it comes down to whether or not you yourself are willing to spend up to nearly $20 (popcorn and soda included) just for a nearly three-hour-movie in which there are two-dimensional characters, in a plot that doesn’t really matter so long as it includes big-ass robots, fighting other big-ass robots, while everything and everyone around them gets utterly and completely destroyed? If you’re totally all for that, then hey, go for it. I won’t try to tell you otherwise because clearly, your mind is already made up and ready to throw your ass in that front-row seat.

But for the others that may want a bit “more” bang (or in this case, “less) for their buck, then this may not be the perfect ticket for you. Because yes, it is a very fun movie, at times. However, at other times, it can be incredibly excessive, long, over-the-top, and destructive that by the end, rather than wanting jump out of your seat, wanting to fist-pump the air, as well as everyone else around you, go home, take a shower, lay down in your bed, and smile with a huge smile on your face going from cheek-to-cheek, you’ll just want to get out the theater as soon as possible, get in your car, drive home 5 mph under the speed-limit, get the hottest/longest shower you’ve ever had in your life, lay down, and just go right the hell to sleep, while feeling all safe and cozy that you’re in your own little comfort-zone.

Sounds extreme, I know, but with a Michael Bay movie: Anything bad or unhealthy for you, can and just might possibly happen to you by the end of one of his long, coke-winded adventures.

Consensus: Loud, abrasive, over-long and full of non-stop destruction, Transformers: Age of Extinction is the kind of movie you expect to see, not just from this franchise, but from Michael Bay himself, which may ultimately decide whether or not you want to spend three-hours in a movie theater watching his latest piece of “art”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

 

Yeah, totally not real. Lame.

Yeah, totally not a real dinosaur. Lame.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Oh, those Muppets. So hip, so meta, so cool.

It has finally happened! The Muppets are back and more popular than ever! The only difference now is that they don’t quite know what to do with all their popularity, that is, until booking-agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) walks into their lives and gives them an offer they can’t refuse: Come along with him, go on a world tour, sell every place out and sooner than later, they’ll be rich, famous and cool all over again. But, the only problem here is that none of the other Muppets know about what Dominic is really up to, which concerns breaking into art galleries all over the world, finding buried-treasure and becoming even more rich than ever before. Also, there is another part of the plan that consists of Kermit getting mistaken for a villainous thief known as “Constantine”, because they look exactly the same, although the latter does have a mole on his face. Either way, the switch-up happens and when Kermit is thrown into a Russian prison, the rest of the Muppets are left with nothing else to do but to just get on with the show and hope for the best, even if they do notice that something rather strange is going on with the “new” Kermit.

To clear things up right away, I absolutely loved and adored the hell out of the latest Muppets movie that came out some odd years back. Not only was it a return-to-form for those lovely puppets I grew up watching and knowing throughout all of my childhood, but it reminded me just how hilarious they actually were, despite me growing up a little bit. Their jokes were a lot more self-knowing, smart, witty, and even, dare I say it, meta. It showed me that the Muppets weren’t only here to stay, but that they could easily continue to have me smiling, laughing and having a great time with them, even as I got older.

For once, Ricky Gervais doesn't know what to say.

For once, Ricky Gervais is left speechless.

Heck, I even watched that holiday special they had with Lady Gaga and RuPaul a couple of months ago!

Anyway, that’s why when I was going into this, I expected to have the same bit of fun I had with the last movie, while still remaining a bit skeptical. Why? Well, because with the first movie, it seemed like there was a lot more at-stake. We hadn’t seen the Muppets pop-up in much for a very long time, nor did we get a movie of theirs for a whole ten or eleven years. So basically, the first movie was created as a tool as to see if these puppets were still popular, or, better yet, could even make some money for those powers-that-be. Thankfully, the movie did both! But that’s why I remained a little weary of what this movie was going to do and if it wasn’t going to stick to its guns like the latest movie did. I felt like they were probably going to try all that they could to strangle a laugh out of us and probably end-up straining themselves in the process.

But somehow, this wasn’t the case here, although some of my fears did come true here, if only a wee bit.

What I think works so well here, as it does with practically anything involving the Muppets, is the humor. It’s the type of humor that works for any and all ages. There’s the older, more-knowing jokes suitable for the more mature crowd; as well as there’s plenty of those slapstick jokes where characters are falling down, blowing stuff up and hitting each other over the heads with whatever they can find, for the younger crowd. It all works very well and barely ever lets up, even if most of those “thoughtful” jokes do, and will, go over most of those younger kids’ heads. Not saying so in a condescending way, just saying that it’s something that you have to expect with a Muppets movie. Or anything involving the Muppets whatsoever.

The next best aspect of this movie is definitely the music which seems like it only gets better the more and more you think about certain lines of lyrics. Sure, there’s nothing along the lines of “Man or Muppet” to be found here, but for what it’s worse, most of the tunes heard here are funny, well-written and better than most of the other crap you hear on the radio nowadays. I mean, seriously, who in the hell is “the Glitch Mob”!??!?

And I guess you could consider the cast to be the next best aspect of this movie, mainly Ty Burrell as a French Interpol inspector that works with Sam the Eagle on this whole big mystery of a plot and is always competing with him as who is the better Secret Service agent. Also, they battle it out on whose badge is bigger, which is a running-gag that never seems to get old. Burrell is probably the only who is more lively and energetic than some of the Muppets here, if only because he has the goofiest, showiest role of them all. Whereas Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey, despite the latter sporting a heavy-Russian accent, don’t really get to do much other than try their very few hands at being funny and holding believable reaction-shots with a bunch of puppets. That’s not taking anything away from Burrell at all, because he truly was hilarious to watch in a campy, over-the-top way. You know, the way you should be when you’re in the same frame as Ms. Piggy, or the Swedish Chef, or especially Kermit himself.

Okay, sure. I guess if the sight of Hornswaggle is a "Spoiler", than whatever.

Okay, sure. I guess if the sight of Hornswoggle is a “Spoiler”, than whatever.

The cameos themselves are all fine and dandy, if totally and completely random. However, that’s exactly what these movies live-off of. Some of the people who show up I’m scared to even give away or spoil, but just know, a few of them will absolute stun you and make you wonder just where the idea of putting this particular person the movie came from. Not all of them are great, but more often than not, they’re pretty strange, but in a good way that the Muppets are always known for featuring.

At the end of the day with this movie, I find myself being totally ecstatic about it, and then, other parts of me find it hard to remember it as perfectly as I did with the first movie. I guess that’s my fault for stacking 30 years of Muppets movies up against one another, but then again, I don’t think it is. As a fan, I think it’s alright to shine a light on the past, and see exactly where the franchise is going. For now, I’m content with the Muppets being around and making us laugh, but still, I hold a little hesitance in my heart, as I know that there could quite possibly be another Muppets from Space, just around the corner. Let’s just hope that’s just another case of me talking out of my backside, and not the harsh, brutal truth.

Consensus: As usual, Muppets Most Wanted assures that our favorite, lovable puppets are still funny and able to make us have a great time, although it is clear that some of the magic is fading away. If only some of it is.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

That "Walter" guy is still around? Meh!

That “Walter” guy is still around? Meh!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)

Most of the knowledge you’ll ever gain in your life comes from your dog. Screw cats!

Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is, well, yeah, he’s a dog. But he’s a dog that’s capable of all sorts of things most dogs aren’t capable of doing: He can talk, learn, read, travel in time, dance, sing, play any instrument known to man, drive, and hell, even raise a kid. This is where Sherman comes into his life and, despite him not being a very conventional father-figure for such a young boy, decides to adopt a small boy named Sherman (Max Charles), who was left all alone in a basket one night. Peabody gets clearance from the law to adopt Sherman and be his legal-guardian, enabling him to teach him everything he knows. For the most part, Sherman an Peabody get along splendidly, however, things are going to get a bit more complicated for them now that Sherman’s going to start going to school and being around other kids, where he’ll most likely be subject to a lot of teasing and pestering. Why? Well, because all kids are evil and if your dad’s a dog, well, you’re kind of asking for it. Anyway, one thing leads to another and Sherman gets lost in time with a little ship called “The Wayback Machine”, prompting all sorts of wacky and goofy hijinx to ensue where all sorts of historical-figures get in on the action.

I’ve never watched the original Peabody animated-shorts, but from what my old man tells me, their funny. That’s all, really. That’s actually all I had to work with when it came to this movie, which is why I decided to take him and see if this movie shit all over his childhood like those horrendous Smurfs movies have done.

They aren't walking the right way. Geddit?!?!?

They aren’t walking the right way. Geddit?!?!?

Needless to say, he was pleased. But most importantly, I was as well. Which, if you think about it, is all that matters, right?

Okay! I know. I’m just kidding. Love you, daddy.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t have much high hopes going into this, and for once in awhile in a long, long time, I went in and came out unexpectedly happy. With most animated movies, they run a very fine-line to where they can be either Pixar-heavy, crying-for-days lite, or just light, ordinary, bring-your-fam-squad-out-for-a-good-time lite; very rarely does one go in between, or, even if they do try, they fail miserably. But somehow, through those creative mofo’s at DreamWorks Animation, things actually work out quite well, even if they are juggling around a bit.

See, what works so well with Peabody, is that it never tries to hammer us over the head of what message it is trying to get across. It’s quite clear that by setting this in the present day, with current themes, ideas and norms, that the movie is trying to tell us that it doesn’t matter if your guardian is a dog or a human, all that does matter is whether or not they treat you right, make you feel special, inspire you and give you all of the common-knowledge in the world that you need to know in order to grow up and be all that you can be. The movie throws that idea out every so often, but it never feels preachy, mostly because Peabody and Sherman themselves, as characters and as a father-son duo/combo/relationship/something, are so well-done that you almost forget about the whole “talking-dog-fathering-real-life-human-being”-aspect of the story. And yes, done anywhere else, that would have been creepy as hell.

I’m not going to keep myself any further from not making a mention of this, but when I saw this sequence in this movie, I knew it was the real deal. About half-way through, the movie shows us, through a sweet, heartwarming tune and various, eventful flash-backs, the life that Peabody and Sherman have built with one another. What’s so nice about it isn’t that we get to actually see how Peabody found and was able to adopt Sherman in the first place, but how much they both matter in each other’s lives, all done in a way that’s played backwards, if to show us how all of their constant time-traveling and history-learning has affected them both as people, as well as knowledgeable people. I know I’m maybe harping on this part a bit too much, but I think it deserves to be. Not only did it get me fully in-tune with the rest of this movie, but it made me tear-up like I haven’t done so in an animated movie in quite some time.

Not until, well, you know. Oh, gosh! Shouldn’t have even posted that link! Crap!

The next "white Hendrix", if there ever was one.

The next “white Hendrix”, if there ever was one.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

And like I said before, right after that sequence, the movie really picks up and all of a sudden, not only do we care about both Peabody and Sherman, but also the adventure they are thrown in. But the adventure only adds more to the whole story, as it not only teaches us a bit more about family-values, but also a teenie, tiny bit about history, in its own funny, pun-y way. Speaking of which, the humor may not always work, but when you have a kids flick that features at least two or three poop/fart/bathroom-jokes, and you are still able to get a laugh from yours truly, then you’re golden pony boy. The kids of course will love the jokes and just how many times people slip, fall and almost nearly die, but the parents will also be able to appreciate that there’s some humor in there for them as well, without totally abandoning the kiddies. Aka, the same type of kiddies that parents will most likely use as an excuse to see this with, just so that they can see if their childhood has just received a huge turd on its chest from a bunch of billionaires.

The parents will also be pretty darn happy to see that both Peabody and Sherman are voiced well by both Ty Burrell and Max Charles, respectively. Burrell is obviously attuned to this type of deadpan, sarcastic humor with his stint on Modern Family, and it’s clear that it doesn’t matter in what form he’s delivering it in, he’s still pretty damn funny and able to make everybody laugh. Same goes for Max Charles, sounding how a spirited, happy and energetic seven-year-old should sound like. Good job, kiddo! There’s also some other neat, little voice jobs by the likes of Leslie Mann, the almighty Stephen Colbert, Lake Bell, Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci, and even Mel Brooks, if you can believe that! Nice to see the man back, even if we never do see him and just hear his voice. Still, it’s better than no Mel Brooks, that’s for sure!

Consensus:  Part family-tale, part adventure, and even part history-lesson, but ultimately, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is animated-fare that’s meant for everybody, especially the parents who may be curious to see if their childhoods are ruined or not. Spoiler alert: They aren’t.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

A boy and his dog, clogging up traffic during rush-hour. But oh, the bonding.

A boy and his dog, clogging up traffic during rush-hour. But oh, the bonding.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Peeta and Katniss: This generation’s Jack and Rose. It’s true, and you know it.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, due to a con in which they were both going to kill themselves in a full-on act of rebellion, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) finally get all settled back into real life, while also being paraded around along with the upper-class, for their upcoming Victors tour. However, as much as they may embrace the glitz and the glamour of this new life, Katniss still has problems fully accepting what it was that she had to do to get in this position. As she struggles with this, Peeta is there to comfort her whenever she needs some the most, much to Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth) dismay. While everything seems to be going along all fine and dandy without much of a hitch, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) senses a rebellion within the districts that support Katniss’s rebellious spirit and words, enabling him to throw on a new rule for these next Hunger Games in which anybody, past winners included, can now be eligible for the contest. Meaning that Katniss and Peeta are now being thrown to the wolves, with the hopes that they may actually die, however, the two have a little bit more tricks up their sleeves that won’t allow themselves to go down so easily. Or, let’s at least hope so.

By the way, that IS Thor's little bro.

By the way, that IS Thor’s little bro.

The first Hunger Games movie shocked me in ways I didn’t expect it to. Before most of you out there star to stand up and yell, “BLASPHEMY!!”, at the top of your lungs, let me remind you that this was in fact the world in which Twilight still reigned supreme, and gave us the idea that all young adult novel-adaptations were to be sappy, overly-dramatic and boring love stories about moping teenage vampires and werewolves. So yeah, that’s why the shock hit me so hard. Despite its very interesting premise, the movie had a lot of baggage going into it, but coming out of it was a totally different story. Wasn’t perfect by any means, I’ll say that much, but it was a sign that the younger-generation of tweens may actually love and behold something, that is the least bit credible.

And with this sequel, that point is only proven more truthful.

The hard task that this sequel has to carry is that it has to not just tell the story, but continue to move it along as more subplots, characters and ideas are coming in by-the-minute, while also still giving the audience the goods in terms of tension. There’s a lot more going on here than what I presented up-top in that synopsis, and while some of it does seem to be a bit of an over-haul at times, director Francis Lawrence surprisingly keeps things smart, determined and compelling, even when you can tell that the run-time could have been chopped-down a bit. Gary Ross was a surprisingly perfect choice for the first movie, and Lawrence, while not necessarily doing anything flashy or out-of-this-world with his direction, shows that he’s able to transport himself into this alternate universe, where apparently all sorts of bad stuff is happening, behind and in front of the scenes.

That’s why, despite this one definitely being more bloated than the first movie, the story still works in grabbing you by the throat and taking you along for the ride. It’s been quite some time since the last time I ventured out into Panem, and needless to say, I’m surprised by how much of it I missed. There’s definitely a slew of timely-messages about “we vs. us”, and countless uprisings occurring within the lower-class that will ruffle a few feathers, and more than likely go over the heads of the target-demographic, but it never felt like it was preachy or over-bearing. It tells its story, pulls no punches and keeps the tension moving, while all sorts of other strands within this story enter, and leave at the drop of a hat.

But that’s where most of my problems with this movie came from, hence why I don’t think it’s as good as the first. See, while that movie was getting us introduced into this world, the mechanics of the Hunger Games and why it all matters, this movie doesn’t necessarily have to do that, yet, feels the need to up the stakes in a way that works for a short while, until the actual stakes are shown to us and go down with a whimper. Maybe the novelty of watching these people go head-to-head with one another in as bloody of a battle-to-the-death as you can get in a PG-13 movie, is sort of lost with what we saw in the last movie, but here, the Hunger Games felt like they were maybe just a bit too crazy for their own good.

Once again, I get that the story shows why the Hunger Games are changed up now, and why there’s more risk to be had, but something still didn’t feel right with them being so amped-up to the point of near-craziness. Don’t know if all of these higher-stakes were in the original book, or just added into the script, but after awhile, it started to take its toll on the actual proceedings of the Games themselves, and made me wonder when I was actually going to start to feel like I was once again, apart of this world. Took me awhile to get back into it, but once those final five minutes or so came up and went by, thankfully, I was brought back into realizing why this story, these characters and all of these emotions mattered.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am pretty damn ready for these next two installments, and here’s to hoping that they do what this one did, while also reminding us why the first one was such a huge surprise to begin with. May be asking a bit too much, but hey, what can I say?

I’m a movie critic/lover, dammit! I got needs!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You're next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I'd be!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You’re next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I’d be!

At the center of all this nuttiness is in fact Jennifer Lawrence who, despite the whole annoying obsession the media has with her daily-life, still gives us a stellar performance as Katniss Everdeen, but in a different matter this time around that works for her, than against her. See, ever since the last movie, J-Law has done a couple of cool things (scratch House at the End of the Street off that list), but the most notable one has to be her winning an Oscar last year, beating-out some heavy and stiff competition. She deserved it, that’s for sure, however, she was playing a more adult-role in Silver Linings Playbook, which made me wonder if I’d be able to still accept her as the young, brass and tough teen-like heroine, but in her own way, I was able to, if not more so than before. Lawrence gives Katniss more rage this time around, while also showing us that this gal means well. However, if there’s anybody to stick her middle-finger up to the man, it’s definitely her, and Lawrence’s performance never lets us forget that. Good on her part.

And while Josh Hutcherson isn’t really breaking-down-barriers with his performance as Peeta, the guy’s still charming and sweet enough to win all of our hearts over, just as much as it’s supposed to be winning over Katniss’. I don’t yet buy into their whole “love thing” they got going on, but hopefully with time. Even Liam Hemsworth isn’t doing anything special here as Gale, but he has more to do here than he did in the last movie, and he makes enough use of it to not totally be thrown to the side. However, both actors seem like window-dressing compared to Sam Claflin as former winner Finnick Odair, because not only does the dude just reek of charm, but he’s also got some pretty sexy and fiery chemistry going on with Lawrence which, hopefully, plays out to be much bigger and much-more developed later on. Once again, I don’t know because I didn’t read the books, so it’s all just pure speculation.

As for the rest of the star-studded cast that’s returning, they all do fine, especially with some new and fresh faces thrown in there for good measure as well. Woody Harrelson shows sympathy, but also a hard-edge as Haymitch; Elizabeth Banks finds an ounce of heart and humanity that digs past the outlandish outfits and wigs she wears, as the 80’s-looking glam-queen, Effie Trinket; Stanley Tucci is having a whole bunch of fun just yucking it up as Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman; and Donald Sutherland is delightfully evil and nasty as President Snow, the type of dude that we don’t ever want to see as a leader of our own country, yet, can’t help but picture in full-detail as holding that position. As for the newcomers: Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer, despite being such a strange addition to this franchise, fit perfectly as the nerdy, electronically-advanced competitors of the Hunger Games that have the brains, instead of the muscles; Jena Malone is incredibly sexy, feisty and fun whenever she’s on-screen and steals the show, just about every time; and last, but certainly not least, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee, who, oddly enough, fits perfectly into this world despite having no signature outfit, wig, color, or even a look, he’s just an ordinary, simple guy that down-plays everything he says, giving you the impression that he’s a guy you don’t know if you can quite pin-point to be good, or bad. I’ll leave it at that. See ya next year!

Consensus: The novelty of not knowing what to expect from the first one may make sense as to why this sequel pales a bit in-comparison. However, that is not something that hurts Catching Fire‘s chances of winning over its demographic, while also ushering in some new watchers, as it continues to show us why this story and these characters matter now, and why we should keep our eyes peeled for what happens in the next two movies. Mockingjay parts uno and dos, here we come!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Barking up the wrong tree, bud. Or maybe the right one? Oooh! Spicy!

Sweatin’ all over just thinking about it! Rawr!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Company You Keep (2013)

People get old. Even hippies.

Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is living the life that most men of his age should. He has a job, he has a kid, he has responsibility, and he seems to have no problems. That all turns inside-out once a fellow acquaintance of his (Susan Sarandon) turns herself over to the police for a crime she and others committed almost 30 years ago. Grant may or may not have been apart of it, but before he can even turn himself clean, young and reckless journalist (Shia LaBeouf) decides that it’s his time to shine and accidentally “outs” Grant as a former member of an underground movement that had something to do with the death of a bank-teller, those fateful 30 years ago.

This reminds me of one of those thrillers that should have been made, and probably would have made more sense in the 70’s. Due to the fact that a lot of this movie has to do with some hippie-talk, paranoia, and discussions of “the man”, it only seems right that a certain generation that had everything to do with those themes, would be the perfect time for a story like this to take place. However, that’s not where Redford decides to take it and instead, shows that everybody gets old, age-wise, but their beliefs still stay the same. That’s right, we’re most likely going to be stuck with hipsters for the rest of our lives. Hip, hip…..

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at with this movie is that it seems like the aging (and it’s showing) Robert Redford likes to direct movies and better yet; likes to direct movies about something political. Obviously Lions for Lambs was a crack-pot of ideas, thoughts, and themes that he loved to shout at everybody, as if they didn’t already think war killed people, but hey, that’s all fine and dandy once you get underneath it all. This movie is probably less concerned with politics, and more about actually being a thriller, that has a lot of people speaking in code, talking about the past, and running-away from the policia. In that aspect of the film: ehh, it’s okay. But to be honest, going into a movie like this, with the cast he has assembled (seriously, just look at it!!), and knowing that it’s coming from the grips of Redford, you can’t expect greatness. Just expect a good time that is a perfect time-killer, and leave it at that.

"Hello? 911? Yes, I'm serious. I'M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK."

“Hello? 911? Yes, I’m serious. I’M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK.”

However, that’s not to say that all is forgiven in the end. Nope, there are still a bunch of problems with this flick and that’s the fact that most of this just is not all that interesting. There are about three story-lines going on here at once, with one being the most interesting, the other starting off strong and then running it’s course, and then the last one ending up on being “ridiculous”. The most interesting story-line of the whole movie is definitely LaBeouf’s journalist character as he leaves his conscience on the side, for the hopes that he will make it big and get his story on the front of the paper. This was not only the most interesting because of where it went (in and out of the newsroom), but because LaBeouf is so good in it.

I’ve always stood-up for LaBeouf in most movies that he’s done in the past and even though I will admit, the guy surely isn’t lovable and probably isn’t all that easy to work with, I still have to say that he’s very good when it comes to putting himself into a role, and making it work. This is that role where he totally surprised me and from what I read: others as well. LaBeouf is perfectly-cast because he uses that cocky, brash-attitude of his that we see used so many times whether it be actually in a movie or on the streets, and show how it can affect one person when they work and when they aren’t working. I’ll admit that the ending for this character felt a little bit half-hearted with it’s attempt to give him a heart and soul (journalists have none), but LaBeouf keeps his head above water and makes this his movie. But when the movie moves away from him, then it gets bad. Not too bad, but bad nonetheless.

Redford is still a good actor and has that wit and charm that makes him a likable guy to watch on-screen, but he’s pushing 76, which means the guy’s getting old. Also, that means that it’s getting a bit harder and harder to believe that a guy of his age and his build, could really last a whole flick where he’s out-running the cops, Bourne-style. Out-smart them? Sure, I could believe that. But running away from them every chance he gets? Eh, there’s only so much I can and will believe in. That whole aspect where he’s on the run starts off interesting, but loses steam as quickly as Redford does when he’s running those laps (heyyo!), but it’s not the worst story-line in the whole movie.

Out of the three, the worst story-line I’d have to say was the one where every single person that Redford’s character in this movie talked to, talked about the old days and never seemed to get a grip with reality and realize that they aren’t young, whippersnappers anymore. Every person that he reconnects with, either has grown-up, or totally stayed in the same motto of life where the man got them down and they did everything for a valuable reason. Whether or not Redford actually believes in this hippie bullshit is totally beyond me, but I can only hope not, considering it’s so preachy, so stupid, and just so annoying to hear, especially coming out of the mouths of such old folks. Not saying that old people don’t have these same opinions or beliefs or anything, just saying that it’s a bit hard to believe in.

Jew-fro and all, the kids got it made.

Jew-fro and all, the kid’s got it made.

Having a ensemble cast like this, however, may spice things up a bit to the point of where it’s not so bad to listen to these characters speak their “government speech” anymore. Peeps such as Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, and Sam Elliot show up to do their thang, but so do some ladies like Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick, and Julie Christie. Everybody in this movie is good with what they do, no doubt about it, and it’s not like they were needed for anything else other than a couple of scenes to do on the weekend, just to help out their old pal, Robbie (I hope that’s what his friends call him). For that matter, it’s fun and exciting to watch, especially since you know that there is always another welcome face, just right around the corner waiting to be spotted. Nice to know that Robbie also still has some pull with stars nowadays, as well.

Consensus: It may not always work, and is downright ridiculous at times, The Company You Keep is still an entertaining movie that has the well-acted ensemble to back it up, as well as a story that takes a couple of twists and turns you don’t really see coming, regardless of how how much you can or cannot take it in and believe it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

“Giants, ain’t got shit on me!”, says the little kid from About a Boy.

Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a young farmer who ends up taking a bribe from a snarky monk, for some magic beans. Jack doesn’t think much of it, until he goes home, drops some of the beans, and it rains. Yeah, you know what happens next. The beans end-up leading to a land populated by giants with a taste for human flesh, and they have the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson), captured and it’s up to Jack and the King’s royal-men to save her and get rid of those damn giants!

In a way, I can totally see why so many people aren’t looking forward to this movie as much as I was would be expecting. It does seem silly, it does seem stupid, it does see overly-reliant on CG, and does seem like a random-time and place for a movie like this to come out, but that’s all that advertising. That’s why, in another way, I have no idea why so many people aren’t looking forward to this. I mean, first of all, it’s directed by Bryan Singer, it’s written by Christopher McQuarrie (the two did the Usual Suspects together), and it features a new-take, on a classic-tale but told in the type of way that doesn’t alienate older-viewers, but doesn’t cater to the younger-ones either. It’s somewhere in there, slap-dab in the middle and it works perfectly for a movie that could have easily gone South, real quick, had they decided to take the darker-route. Thankfully, they didn’t and stayed straight to the source-material that I’m sure all of us grew-up loving. If not, get off your asses, and read that shit! You haven’t experienced childhood until you have.

Anyway, aside from that point, I have to say that this movie is a huge bag of fun in the sun! Okay, maybe no sun is involved because it is the beginning of March, but nonetheless, it’s still a hell of a wild ride, straight from the imaginative-mind of Bryan Singer. Here’s the thing about this movie: it doesn’t cater to a certain crowd, yet it’s the type of film you can bring your kids to, mainly boys. Why? Because it’s got all of the right-ingredients that a boy at that age should oh so desire: action, fun, humor, giants, fart jokes (not as eye-rolling as it sounds), swords, guys speaking in funny-accents, and a whole lot more where that came from. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect piece of cake to allow your kids to take a bit out of, I don’t know what the hell will!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you bastard!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you lil’ bitch!

Some may rag on this flick for not going any-deeper than just being a loosey-goosey, fun, and wild romp about the Jack and the Beanstalk-tale, but who needs that when you have Bryan Singer just playing around with the material that it seems like he actually enjoys? Seriously, the guy is having a ball with this material, and in-return; so are we. He never lets loose of the action and never loses his mind on what type of movie he’s making. He’s always making a wacky and crazy movie that has a bunch of people, hunting-down giants, and sometimes, vice versa. You can’t ask for much more, unless you want the Usual Suspects-Singer. If you go in and expect that type of Singer, then you’re going to come out of this with a huge slap-mark on your face saying, “WRONG!!”. It’s just a fun-as-hell movie. That’s it.

I could beat this horse to death with all of the shit that I’m saying, but it’s the truth: this movie is just fun. Take for instance, the fact that I saw this at a 11 a.m. screening on Saturday, not expecting anything other than a movie that would be okay, so I could sleep my hangover away. However, that’s where the surprise came. The movie woke me up instantly, and didn’t lose me for a single second. Sure, it started-off pretty slow and made me feel like I was in for a ride that I would most likely doze-off for, but as soon as Jack gets those treacherous beans, it’s a total and complete party, right from there. Singer never loses the sense or style of that party, and always kept me alive, awake, happy, and above, entertained. I can’t give this any more credit. Just go see this movie and be ready to see the return of Bryan Singer. The guy knows exactly what he’s doing with a story, how he wants to film it, and how he wants to keep the spirits alive while doing-so. If there is any increment in my mind that the guy can handle the next X-Men, this is the reason why I think so. Now, I just cannot wait!

As for the cast, they all seem to be up-to-pace with all of the fun and wild times that Singer’s having behind-the-camera. Nicholas Hoult is charming as the naive Jack that has to grab his pair, and beat the shit out of some giants. He does do some of that, but not enough to where I was feeling like, “Wow, this character really is a slayer.” Don’t get me wrong, Hoult’s good and all, it’s just that I wish Jack was doing more slaying of giants, like the title promised.

Instead of Jack doing all of that bad-assery business of slaying the fuck out of giants, all of that is left up to Elmont, playued by the awesome Ewan McGregor. Say what you will about the questionable-choices the guy has made in the past, but Ewan McGregor is a very, very likeable presence that always keeps my attention on him whenever anything’s going down, and he just so happens to be located in the same scene. McGregor seems to be having so much fun playing the charming, but bad-ass soldier that doesn’t take “no” for an answer, and never lets his target get away. He’s not as sadistic as I may make him sound, but McGregor does have a cool character that can kick ass, take names, chew bubblegum, and spew-out hilarious one-liners, like nobody’s freakin’ business. Where the hell was that in all of the Star Wars movie, dammit!!?!?

"Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!"

“Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!”

Stanley Tucci is another one that seems to be having a lot of fun in his role, but instead, is more of the bad-guy here and absolutely revels in it. Tucci is a great screen-presence to have on-screen, but to watch him chew the hell out of the scenery and spit it back out, was just a blast to see, and probably an even bigger-blast to perform. Tucci’s good at playing weird-o bad guys (*cough* The Lovely Bones *cough*), but a simple one that’s just evil for the darn-sake of being evil, is even better in my book. The only one who feels like a bit of a waste is Ian McShane, who really seems like he just wants to break-out his shell, get loose with it, and just start being the bad-guy himself. Instead, he’s all wrapped-up in that King’s armor that makes him look more like a freakin’ egg than any type of ruler, but hey, at least we get to see those devil-ish eyes. God, they still scare me to this day.

Consensus: Jack the Giant Slayer is not what you think it to be from the misleading trailers and advertisements  It’s not a waste of time, it’s fun, it’s exuberant, it’s made for the whole family, it never loses it sense of joyfulness  and even better, just never loses what it’s all about in the first-place: complete and utter entertainment. Don’t bother with the 3D, but if you’re bored and got nothing else better to do with your life than watch highlight clips of the Oscars, then give this bad-boy a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

Margin Call (2011)

These ARE the people we trust with OUR money?

The story takes place at an investment bank during a time span of about 24 hours during the early stages of the financial crisis as a financial analyst uncovers information that could destroy the firm. Tough decisions have to be made, pushing the lives of those involved to the brink of disaster.

In my honest opinion, this is the flick that the debacle Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps should have and tried to be. Which is an ever bigger shame for me considering Oliver Stone is one of my favorites and to see this young blood, writer/director J.C Chandor, practically make a better script, do a better-job behind the camera, bring-out more emotions, make a way, way better flick and take his spot, really makes me sad for one reason and one reason only: the times are changin’. However, it’s not something to really be all that sad about because trust me; after spending 2-hours with this movie, you’re going to be more than inspired to take all of your moolah out of the bank, and hide it in that secret vault behind that lame-ass painting G’Mom bought you last year. Don’t act like you have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m on to you people out there.

But I digress. For those of you out there who don’t know this already, Margin Call is the directorial debut of Chandor and it’s a real surprise because you would think with something this entertaining, smart, thrilling, and overall, good, that the guy has been directing for decades upon decades. As a director, the guy is all fine and dandy since he never really does anything flashy other than tell the story like it is, but where he really shines is the script. Chandor’s script is amazing not only because it shows you what may have happened to cause the Stock Market crash, but because he shows the Stock Market crash for all that it is, with all the tiny and intricate details, yet without letting anything go over our heads. Like many others reading this, I, myself am a regular, every-day citizen which means that any type of talk of the stock market, the dow, and yadda yadda, all sound like a foreign language to me. However, that’s why I’m glad Chandor decided to include all of that jargon here, but just enough for all of the little-known citizens to fully understand and get a feel of before he launched a full-out, attack of numbers, stocks, and the most important of all: money. Remember the word “money”, people, because it’s going to come-up in this story many, many times. I can assure you on that.

"Kirk, I may need your help."

“Kirk, I may need your help.”

Instead of showing us a bunch of assholes that pretty much bankrupt this country for all that it’s worth, Chandor takes time with these characters and shows about each and every single one of them as human-beings, rather than people to be blamed for the mess they caused. Actually, everybody’s to be blamed here because they didn’t take notice as soon as they should have and Chandor shows that in many ways:  some people feel guilt, others feel sad, others feel optimistic, and others, well, they just don’t give a shit because they already make $56 million a year and won’t really lose much after the whole crash is said and done, so why the hell should they give two hoots!??! It’s a very disturbing idea to think about and have sit in your head, but it’s also very true and realistic in it’s own way because while there are over thousands and thousands of people out there, struggling to make ends meet and support a family; these other people who are supposedly responsible for the whole shit-show, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the Benjamin shower. Why? Because they can and quite frankly, they don’t care.

That whole last paragraph may seem like a total tirade/rant and for those out there who came hear to read about Chandor’s direction, I apologize but it’s just the way the world works, and that’s the way that Chandor paints it. There are no heroes, there are no villains, and there sure as hell aren’t any underdogs here, either. They’re just straight-up human-beings that just so happen to get plenty of moolah, but also have plenty of decisions to make at their workplace. That’s why, instead of sitting around and sobbing about the worst that has yet to come (and trust me, it will come), they get-up out of their seats, do their job, and move on with their lives. That’s mainly the mind-frame of everybody else in today’s world and if not, then it sure as hell should be. Pretty sure I gathered a lot more from this film than I imagined, but none the less, it’s a great script that Chandor deserved the nomination he got for it.

My problems with this film lie in the fact that I feel like this film didn’t have much momentum going for itself. I mean think about it: we already know what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen, and how it may or may not be resolved. All we really have to do is watch everybody’s reaction and see what their view-points are. That’s not terrible thing to have in a movie like this where the central-problem of the movie is an actual, real-life happening that screwed many people over in today’s world, but it also just seems like it could have been a hell of a lot more tense, had it not already been known what was going to happen in the end. However, that’s why you have movie stars, and holy hell; what movie stars we have on-display here, all for show and tell.

Kevin Spacey is the center of this film as one of the more morally confused characters of the whole film. You can tell that he wants to stay true to his original vision of not selling off worthless stock, but as time goes on, you see this character start to fall back from this original idea as the “money” begins to comes into play and has to make-up and come to terms with the fact that he’s going to have to give into to being a coward, just so he can make a living and be fine in this dying economy. Spacey is always great in roles like this, but we barely see him get a chance to pull it off because he’s always too busy playing the evil, dick-headed roles that he seems to perfect so well. And even though, yeah, he’s good in them, it’s always nice to see him play a character that we root for rather than against,  because he does the right thing and even if he doesn’t do it, at least he’s thinking it. It’s the thought and idea that counts and as shitty of an excuse as that may sound, then trust me; that’s more than I can say for any other character in this flick.

Zachary Quinto also stars in a very strong performance as the one guy who actually finds out about this problem in the formula and is left to solve any pieces of the puzzle that he can. Quinto isn’t somebody I have seen enough of in the past to actually give you my general opinion of what I think of him, but he’s very good here and it’s a real shame that he may not be able to get more roles after this, outside of Star Trek, because of the fact that (I may get shit for saying this but if you think about it: it is somewhat true) he’s gay. Once again, it’s a sad thing to say but it’s true because certain people just don’t want to see an openly gay men in a film, especially one where a character takes such a central focus as this. Yes, I know that it’s a very cynical way of thinking, but it’s the way people are and I hope that I’m wrong about Quinto because I would like to see him in more, other than just playing Spock. No matter how good he may be at it.

Right about now is where I would have to change my diaper.

Right about now is where I would have to change my diaper.

The real scene-stealer of this whole film is actually Paul Bettany, who plays one of the playboy bosses. Bettany has that perfect British wit down-pat here and shows that in every scene he has. However, it isn’t all fun and games with this dude, as he actually has a soul to let-loose and one that may not always seem the most morally-composed at times, but still understands how the world works and understands what’s going to happen to people, once the shit really hits the fan. Bettany deserves more roles like these and it shows that the guy can not only show the humorous-side of him that we see on-display in mostly all of his flicks, but also be able to balance it all out with a rare, dramatic-side as well. Jeremy Irons also pops in as the head-honcho, and does his usual, villainous shit where he comes into a scene, takes it over, brings out the inner-Scar within him, and just lets everybody know that he isn’t having anybody’s crap. In fact, the first scene where he’s introduced and allows us to see the real boss, play his cards and play them well, is one of the high-lights of the movie, not just because of the build-up, but because Irons owns these types of roles and absolutely delivers on everything we have come to know and expect from him.

Make no means about it: everybody in this cast is good and all get to show what they can do when they have the right piece of material, slap-dab in front of them. However, not everybody gets to join in on the fun quite as much as the ones I just mentioned earlier and in a way, as terrible as it may sound, seem like they are all just there to have a BIG-name on the poster. The useless roles for such stars as Demi Moore, Simon Baker, and Mary McDonnell all seem like they were created just for some more publicity, which isn’t necessarily a problem if you’re whole film is going to have them in it as much as the others, but they aren’t really around too much to really take their toll on you. Especially McDonnell, who literally shows up for 2 minutes, barely shows her face, and that’s it. Oh and even worse, it’s basically by the end of the movie, almost to the point of where we start to feel all trugged-along by this movie and all of their characters as it is. But hey, put her name up there next to Stanley Tucci and let’s see how many butts we can get in the seats. Apparently not a lot, but hey, it was worth the “money”-making shot. There’s that damn word again.

Consensus: While it lacks the tension due to the predictable turn of events that conspire, Margin Call is still an in-depth look into the lives of the people that made the ’08 crash possible and how, even though they may have screwed-up terribly, they are still human-beings none the less and made mistakes, that only you, myself, or the rest of the human-species would make.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Yeah, we're assholes."

“Yeah, we’re assholes.”

The Hunger Games (2012)

The best way to have kids learn their lessons fast, is to just put them in a fight to the death. Then they’ll wise up, trust me.

In the story, a dystopic Capitol requires its twelve subjugated districts to pay tribute in the form of a teenage boy and girl who are forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. When Katniss Everdeen’s little sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place.

I must admit that I have no idea where the hell I was when this book was first published and created all this hype for a flick. However, what I did have an idea about was that it was a hell of a lot cooler and more bad-ass than that ‘Twilight’ garbage and that’s really all that matters.

For the whole first hour, things really weren’t taking off which is a problem, but at the same time I was still interested. I liked the setting this film made where the rich basically got richer and the poor got poorer (which is sort of how it is in today’s society, but you didn’t hear that from me). The setting is here and I felt very intrigued by seeing how these kids all trained for the games, how they got siked up for it, and just how they spent what could be their last days alive. However, the problem with a lot of this is that even though the film has all of this interesting stuff going on right off the bat, the film moves very slow and it’s a tad boring. I won’t sit here and say that I was dozing off at any chance, because my eyes were always watching the screen, but all of the important things said (like what these kids had to say about their lives possibly being put to an end) and important things shown (how these kids were defined by these situations), all sort of went down without any real emotional connection.

After this first hour though, the film really starts to pick up and that’s where Gary Ross‘ sturdy direction really comes into play. Ross has a lot to deal with here such as a big-budget full of eye-catching visuals and CGI effects, plenty of social themes to be shown without seeming to hit us over the head (‘The Lorax’ *cough* *cough*), and a crap load of violence that had to be bearable enough to supply a PG-13 rating but also please the fans of the book that wanna see some gore. Ross is easily up for the challenge by making each of his three different locations (poverty stricken areas, lavish metropolis-like looking buildings, and a forest that isn’t a normal one you would find in your state park) all look beautiful and bring you into this world that seems similar but at the same time feels like something you have never seen before. Ross is also a great action director because he’s great at speeding up the camera just when he wants to and bring some intensity to the scenes but is also able to slow it down and give us one of the better “trip scenes” that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s nothing spectacular or different that Ross is doing here but he seems pretty comfortable having to deal with so much pressure and so much money on just one movie by getting it done in a way that would both make regular movie-goers happy but die hards of the book as well. Good job Gary!

I also have to say for a film that has a premise where a bunch of kids are going around hacking each other to death all for their government, the film keeps the violence pretty toned down. There isn’t that much blood, there’s hardly any gore, and the violence is usually sped up so fast that you can barely make out what’s going on but when it does happen, it’s pretty disturbing. It definitely deserved it’s PG-13 rating but I can tell you that there are some stuff here that you’ll see that are pretty hard to watch but feels right to the story. It also may show us where I world is running towards with richer people looking for more entertainment in the ways of watching the lesser people practically kill each other, so you better all start working on your fighting and hunting skills.

My key problems with this film are just from a person who didn’t read the book, and probably didn’t fully “get it” like so many of you probably reading this did. Example numero uno is the whole love story between Katniss and Peeta. First off it all came off as forced, which at first was the intention but then it started becoming serious and that’s where I didn’t buy it. It practically comes out of nowhere and even when it does come around, the film makes it seem like these two kids have so much more to win for other than their lives, they also have their love. Maybe there was something that made more sense that I didn’t read but it just didn’t lock me in and have me believe in these two characters any more than I already did. Also, the little “love triangle” between these two and Gale (a totally underused Liam Hemsworth) didn’t draw me in mainly because it was too underdeveloped and didn’t really do anything for me either.

What sold me on this film though was the key performance from Jennifer Lawrence who is nothing but spectacular as Katniss Everdeen. This chick is endearing enough to where you can feel for her character, believable enough to not only make you feel for her character but also make it seem like she’s just an ordinary girl put into a real shitty situation such as this, a little smart assy to have you feel like she always has something witty to say, but also very tough where you think that she can win these “Hunger Games” and fend for herself even when things really seem like their going South for her. Lawrence gives a very well-rounded performance and doesn’t make this just seem like another character drawn right from the book, but an actual human being put into a life and death situation such as this. If ‘Winter’s Bone’ didn’t make her a star, then this definitely will and I’m glad that is the case.

As for everybody else, they are all pretty amazing too. Josh Hutcherson looks and fits the role as Peeta, and has you believe that this kid is always one step ahead of everyone else; Elizabeth Banks was goofy and flamboyant as Effie; Wes Bentley finally comes back from the dead (or wherever the hell he’s been since ‘American Beauty’) here as Seneca and gives a pretty solid performance even though he is upstaged by his awesomely-drawn tattoo/beard he’s got going on here; Woody Harrelson gives his usual witty but seasoned role as Haymitch; Lenny Kravitz was surprisingly very good as Cinna even though I had a feeling he was going to break out into “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which would have been perfectly suitable for the action scenes; and Stanley Tucci steals the show as Caesar Flickerman, the totally goofy-looking and smiley talk show host that seems to always be winning the crowd over, even though he’s a total cheese ball.

The only cast member that I thought was pretty lame was Alexander Ludwig as Cato. I don’t think it was necessarily Ludwig who played this character wrong it was just that the film basically made him out to be the most dangerous person in the whole “Hunger Games” and when they actually start, he’s pretty much absent from everything and has Seneca do more work for him. Then again though, I don’t think he was “the real enemy”………

Consensus: The Hunger Games probably would have been a lot better for me have I previously read the book, but without that, it features an inspired direction from Gary Ross, a great cast that all work wonders with their parts (especially Lawrence), and will be able to provide enough adventure, pathos, action, and themes for anybody who are big fans but also for people who just want a teen novel adaption that’s a hell of a lot better than those ‘Twilight’ pieces of shite.

8/10=Matinee!!

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

And if you don’t like him then you can just go to Russia!

Marvel launches another super franchise with this origin story, which follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he volunteers for a secret experiment during World War II. Transformed into a superhero named Captain America, Steve goes after the Axis. With his perfect physique and heightened reflexes — and his sidekick, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) — Steve battles the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a super soldier created by Italian fascists.

With The Avengers film coming closer and closer, it’s time we finally got a look at the one who basically started it all and is the most important of all of them. And he is played by Johnny Storm.

Director Joe Johnston knows what he’s doing with this material because he once made a 1940’s superhero flick back in the day called The Rocketeer, and it seems that he hasn’t lost that spark for making the 40’s seem awesome. To add to the awesome look this film has, is the action that this story brings out.

There’s nothing really much else like watching a dude dressed in all red, white, and blue hurling a shield almost the length of a football field, kicking the shit out of these super-Nazis, and seeing him shoot people right in the face without even caring one bit. After awhile, it starts to just become the same old stuff after awhile, but the action keeps on building and building itself up to the point of where the end is there and hell practically breaks loose.

The problem with this superhero film is that this is basically the same as every single, superhero film that has come out within the past 3 years ever since Iron Man. I was expecting this to be a lot different for this story since it needs to tell us more about just why everything happens for the reasons they do, but we never really get that. Just about three montages as well.

The story here is pretty much the usual good vs. evil premise we have all come to know by now but the writing is all so solid that it makes it all seem very different. I found myself actually laughing a couple of times with this film and actually a little bit of quoting after wards too which I guess can’t be said about too many superhero films in today’s world. There’s also a great deal of heart to be shown in this film which by the last 10 minutes will be somewhat moving.

Chris Evans has never really been much of an household name and is somewhat a poor mans Ryan Reynolds, but we now know who can play the better superhero. Evans keeps a little bit of that sarcastic comedy he has here but he also does a great job of making Steve Rogers seem someone to completely love and stand behind. He seems like a noble dude and a normal human-being who just has this superpower that he is incredibly strong and ready to kick ass at any second. Let’s also not forget that he totally looks the part with his buff and muscular body that actually had me believe this dude could perfectly defend our country. It was a little hard to get past the fact that he already played another Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four, Evans was still a solid casting choice.

Hugo Weaving is OK as The Red Skull who looks really menacing with the scary look and slick-leather wardrobe but is nothing memorable. I never really hated him at all because he just wants to destroy the world and that’s pretty much it which I think is a problem with the script because as much as Weaving tries to look smug the whole time I knew what was going to happen, didn’t really care, and most of all just thought with better writing this villain could have been even more terribly menacing.

The rest of the cast is pretty bangin’ though. Tommy Lee Jones can practically play the one-liner, smart, old-timer role in his sleep now and his role as Col. Chester Phillips is no different; Newcomer Hayley Atwell does a pretty strong job keeping up with the boys here as Peggy Carter; and Stanley Tucci is also good as German scientist Abraham Erskine and shows just what a pro he really is. The rest of the ensemble cast is filled with the likes of Derek Luke, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, and Neal McDonough who is surprisingly not playing a villain this time around. I guess he’s just trying to build back up his career after that Street Fighter shit that came out two years ago.

Consensus: With a couple of writing brush-ups, Captain America: The First Avenger could have been even better, but instead works with awesome visuals, kick-ass action, and some very good performances that really add so much more to this film and get you even more pumped up for The Avengers film.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Julie & Julia (2009)

Food: the quickest way to a man’s heart. Remember that one ladies.

A woman verging on thirty (Amy Adams) and frustrated in a temp secretary job takes on a yearlong culinary quest: cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” She chronicles her trials and tribulations in a blog that catches on with the food crowd.

I do not cook, I wish I really could because then I could have so much more food that I wanted, but I don’t. However, I do love food, and that is why throughout this whole film, I was just holding my stomach.

It seemed like a challenge for the makers of this film, because they are taking two sources of material, and making it into one and I think that’s where the problem lies. The setting of post-WWII Paris where Julia Child’s story takes place is so intoxicating, that every time we cut away we to New York, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. At times, I just felt like these were two movies about the same subject, copy-and-pasted together.

However, despite this problem with the film, I still found myself enjoying a lot of what’s going on here. I think the overall pleasant mood to this film, and the fact that it just does everything with a smile, is what works here. The whole time I was expecting a standard “chick flick” that was going to be all about cooking, which it was, but it was all so fun to watch, and I had a better time than I actually expected.

Meryl Streep as you can already tell just from seeing that she’s in this film does an amazing job as Julia Child. I had no idea who this chick was before this movie, but after wards I checked her out, and I must say Meryl nails it. She is so alive and flamboyant here that I went from thinking of her as just the PBS cooking lady to somebody who could confront all of life’s challenges with a smile. Amy Adams is her usual cutesy-bootsy self here as Julie, and although her story isn’t as interesting as Streep’s, she still does a good job here and brings out a likability to her character. Also, it was awesome to see Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina up in herre doing great jobs at playing the main-boos for both of these gals, because they are always a pleasure to see, and here they are not different.

Consensus: Streep’s great performance, and along with the overall happy and joyous mood, Julie & Julia is an enjoyable, if flawed treat. See what I did there…

6/10=Rental!!