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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Stephen Root

Get Out (2017)

Stay away from the white ‘rents house. Always.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Alison Williams) have been dating for quite some time. So, this obviously means that it’s time for Chris to meet her parents – something they’ve both been holding off on, because well, Chris is black and knows how these sorts of things go. Rose brushes it off and it makes sense; her parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), both seem like well-intentioned white people who, sure, may not always say the best, most appropriate things, but love their daughter enough to know that if she loves Chris, well, he’s got to be something special. But Chris starts noticing some odd things going on around the house, like with the house-workers both being black and very odd, as well as some of the other black people in/around the area. It’s all very surreal to Chris, but maybe, maybe he’s just overreacting. Until he realizes that maybe something incredibly bad and dangerous is going on here, and it’s up to him to figure it all out, way before it’s too late and something bad happens to him. Whatever that may be, he doesn’t know. But he sure as hell isn’t going to stick around and wait to see what happens.

Young happy couple. Time to ruin their lives.

Young happy couple. Time to ruin their lives.

It’s crazy that someone like Jordan Peele had Get Out within him; all of those years of creating and writing some hilariously biting and funny satire, behind it all, there was a dark, rather sick and twisted soul who wanted to get his voice and vision out there for the whole world to see. It’s actually shocking how different Get Out is from what you’d expect from Peele, but to take it one step further, but also by how different it is from so many mainstream horror movies. It’s as if the movie was made on a hand-shake agreement between Peele and the studios, where he would give them the funny bits of his persona, only so that they would invest and allow his freak-flag to fly.

And yeah, it pays off. For the most part.

The one interesting aspect surrounding Get Out is that you never quite know where it’s going to go, both in terms of its story, as well as its tone. That can sometimes back-fire, but for the longest time, Get Out is a suspenseful, tense and rather exciting horror-thriller that doesn’t try to grab out at us with the big, loud and obvious shocks and scares that we’re so used to seeing with horror movies of this same kind (although there is that conventional scene early-on of the couple running into a deer for a jump-scare, but it’s easy to forgive). Instead, Peele shows a resistance in giving us everything we need to know about this story, and slowly builds this story, giving us small, itty, bitty clues and hints into where this story may be headed and what the overall shocker’s going to be.

It’s the kind of suspense-horror that the genre doesn’t quite utilize that much anymore – in a way, it’s as if Polanski’s influence has come and gone out the window, once it appeared like he himself left the genre in the back-burner. But Get Out does suspense right, never letting us forget where the story may head, as well as what it’s trying to say about numerous things, like race, gender, and the class-system in our country. But it’s interesting that Peele doesn’t quite hit us over the head with these points; you’d think that a movie about black people being practically whitewashed would be a lot more irate and angry, but instead, Peele uses it as a platform to discuss further more troubling issues about identity and losing one’s self-respect.

White parents. Nice and presentable on the outside, evil and heartless on the inside.

White folks: Nice and presentable on the outside, evil and heartless on the inside.

Oh, and yes, we are still talking about a horror movie here, folks.

So yes, Peele should definitely be commended here for taking the horror-aspect of the story and working it for all that he’s got. The only regard where Peele seems to lose himself and show a bit of a room to grow in his debut feature, is that he doesn’t quite nail the comedy down as much as he thinks he does. Lil Rel Howry – who is a scene-stealer in the Carmichael Show – plays Chris’ best buddy who is, for the most part, seen having phone-conversations and that’s about it. He’s funny and the scenes in the first-half that we get of him work and help break-up the tension every so often, but then it gets to become a little tiresome, with a whole ten or so minutes dedicated to watching this character make dick and sex jokes.

Howry’s timing is on-point, but the movie’s is not. It doesn’t do much but take away from the momentum that the movie has going for itself and just seems like cheap laughs, for no exact reason other than to have cheap laughs. Maybe in a far less serious movie, it would have been fine, but Get Out is not that movie. It’s very deep, very dark, very serious and very drab, and it deserves to be that way, with some comedy sprinkled throughout – not whole segments.

But hey, Peele’s just getting started and he’s constantly going to be creating. I’m excited to see just where he sets him ambitious sights next. Whether it’s in a comedy, or another horror movie, remains to be seen.

Can’t wait to see, though.

Consensus: Even with some narrative flaws here and there, Get Out is still a suspenseful, unpredictable and chilling horror-flick that also proves Peele to be a talent to keep a look on when he’s behind the camera.

7.5 / 10

White people will do this to you.

White people will do this to you.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

Yeah, it would be a total shame if you looked like Zac Efron and couldn’t get a date.

Mike and Dave Stangle (Adam Devine and Zac Efron) are two bros who like to party hard. In fact, maybe a bit too hard. Everywhere they seem to go, they create some sort of havoc that can’t be maintained and while it is definitely memorable, it’s for all of the wrong reasons. That’s why, with their sister’s wedding coming up, Mike and Dave’s parents are a bit worried; to be fair, they know that Mike and Dave are capable of being grown-ass adults, but they also know that they can always make sure something will go wrong, even if they don’t mean for it to. So, in a way to have them grow up a tad bit and look presentable at the wedding, Mike and Dave are forced to find dates to the bring to the wedding. While Mike and Dave have known their fare share of women over the years, they want to find someone who is, at the very least, kind and caring. Eventually, they post an ads on Craigslist, allowing them to meet all sorts of wacky and wild ladies, and sometimes, even men. Eventually, they settle on two gal-pals, Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) – two women who are both playing Mike and Dave to get a weekend vacation in Hawaii for free, even if the bros themselves don’t actually know this.

When the broskis walk in, you always know it.

When the broskis walk in, you always know it.

Believe it or not, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is actually based on a true story. In order to spare you from looking it all up and wasting anymore of your time on this thing than is more than necessary, just know this: The movie follows the true story, almost note-by-note for the first-half. The dudes become Craigslist famous, they get on talk shows, they eventually meet a bunch of wacky characters that only Craigslist meeting’s can have, and yes, they do get dates. However, that’s about where the movie’s inspiration seems to end, as well as its originality.

See, the biggest issue with Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is that it just isn’t all that funny. Real story or not, writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien have an promising premise on their hands, one that’s ripe with hilarity, fun, and all sorts of raunchy R-rated fun; think perhaps, Todd Phillips, with a dash of Generation-Y cuteness. But instead of actually infusing any sorts of fun, liveliness, or even originality, Cohen and O’Brien seem as if they’re perfectly fine with quoting far better, more memorable movies, not giving us any characters, and especially, not even trusting their own actors to really work well together, or alone.

Either way you put it, the movie’s just not funny.

There are bits and pieces where there seems to be some comedic inspiration, however, it’s clear that they don’t seem to come at all from the script. A lot of what appears to be going on in Mike and Dave is that there’s a lot of improv between the actors, where there may have been four or five cuts of a scene, that may have had a different joke, or line thrown in there for good measure. That’s sometimes fine, especially if you have as talented as the people you have here, but it seems like the takes that director Jake Szymanski eventually settled on, weren’t all that funny in the first place.

And heck, even judging by the end-credits (are you surprised that another mainstream comedy has one?), it seems that some of the better jokes were left out. Why is this? Well, it seems like the movie itself has an identity crisis of sorts; while it wants to be a nutty, dirty and absolutely care-free R-rated comedy, it also wants to be a sweet, endearing and nice take on friendship, love and most importantly, marriage. That’s not to say that both sides can’t exist in one movie, but for some reason, they just don’t come together here.

Typical bros.

Team Foxcatcher? More like, Team Ladycatcher! Am I right?!?

Instead, they feel like they’re taking away from what could be a really funny movie, if anybody cared enough to really add any actual “funny” jokes. While humor is definitely subjective, in nature, there’s no also no denying that when something doesn’t work well, it’s noticeable. Think of a fresh and new stand-up comedian trying his material on the stage – he may have the goods and may possess a funny bone in his lanky, sometimes awkward body, but he just can’t get it all out to where people understand that they’re funny and know what “being funny” actually means.

Not speaking from experience, but you get my drift.

And while the likes of Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, and Adam Devine, have all proven themselves to be very funny, they just aren’t here. None of them have really discernible personality traits that make them stand-out or excite us, mostly because they’re all just “characters” and not actual “people”. Which, yeah, sure, you can make the argument that characters in movies don’t need to necessarily be “real people”, but when your movie is based on a true story, it’s kind of hard not to expect that. After all, Cohen and O’Brien must have thought that there was something heartfelt about this story of true bros who, after searching far and wide on Craigslist for possible dates, ended-up bringing girls that they knew when they were younger and less bro-ish.

Or maybe they were? I wouldn’t know just from judging this movie and that’s it’s biggest problem!

Consensus: Despite a few funny moments, mostly thanks to a talented cast, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates also needs more than just pretty girls to help them, but funny jokes and likable characters to help make the actual event worth RSVP’ing for.

4 / 10

And they lived happily ever bro-y.

And they lived happily ever bro-y.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Comingsoon

Finding Nemo (2003)

Animals lose their kids, too. It’s not just humans.

Marlin (Albert Brooks) is an obsessively overprotective Daddy clownfish, but with good reason. Some time ago, when he and his late wife had just welcomed all of their children to the sea, because they weren’t paying enough attention, somehow, they all got swept away, and the wife died. There was one left, however, and it turned out to be Marlin’s sole child: Nemo. And needless to say, yes, Marlin is very uptight and worried about Nemo, so much so that Nemo himself feels as if he needs to venture out there into the world a whole lot more than he’s allowed to. However, all of that adventuring gets Nemo caught by a bunch of humans and thrown in some dentist’s office fish-bowl. For Nemo, this is a new world, but it’s one that he doesn’t quite love just as much as he loves the sea. But Marlin will not stop until he finds Nemo and brings him home safe, once and for all – now, though, he’s got the help of a fellow fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneras), who may actually be more of a problem than a solution.

How I imagine Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneras talk to one another in real life.

How I imagine Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneras talk to one another in real life.

Finding Nemo came out at a time for Pixar that was definitely crucial. They were still hitting it out of the park with each and every flick they offered, but by 2003, you could start to tell that maybe, just maybe, Pixar’s appeal was starting to wane. Sure, a sequel to Toy Story works perfectly, because who doesn’t love talking toys, but talking sea-creatures? And one that involves one fish being lost and, hopefully, found?

Well, regarldess, none of this talk matters. Finding Nemo wasn’t just a hit commercially, but it also showed that everything Pixar was able to do with their first couple of movies, they were still able to carry-on with and remind everyone that they were the voice and brand-name to be reckoned with when it came to the world of animation. Nowadays, it seems as if they’ve fallen a tad off the ladder, but still, Finding Nemo, as it still lies, works.

The visuals, for one, are as beautiful as they ever have been. Given that the story literally takes place under the sea, it only makes perfect sense that every bit of Finding Nemo be as eye-engaging and beautiful as the bit before it. Heck, even after it being over 13 years of this thing being out and about, you’d think that at least some portion of it looks dated, or doesn’t quite hold-up; technology has, believe it or not, gotten a whole lot better and Pixar has definitely shown this. But nope, it’s still a beautiful movie.

And I’m not just talking about the visuals, either, although they are quite great to look at.

The greatest aspect of Finding Nemo is that it wears its heart on its sleeves practially the whole way through. It all starts off somber, tragic and absolutely upsetting for the first five minutes, but sooner than later, turns into this pleasant, relatively sweet story about overcoming one’s fears, adversities, and own handicaps to get something in life, as well as making one’s self better. While, yes, you could most definitely chalk that same message/theme to every other Pixar movie ever released, the fact remains that it still works and hits close to home here, even if you also get the idea that maybe Pixar wore it on a bit too strong?

Maybe? Eh?

Then again, maybe not. What Finding Nemo works best in is that it allows for its story to hit the emotional archs and all that, but also bring on the funny, too. There’s so many silly and lovely side characters that, honestly, it’s not hard to want to see a movie about them. There’s the sharks going through AA for blood; there’s the sea turtles who live the rock ‘n roll lifestyle like bro-ish surfers; and most especially, there’s the sea creatures stuck in a fish bowl who want nothing more than to escape this unforgiving prison. Of course, Finding Nemo gives all of these characters their chances to shine, but what matters most is that none of them feel like throway gags that Pixar thrown in there to create more toys, or because, well, they were bored; each and every character serves a greater purpose to the story and helps it move along.

Cowabunga dudes!

Cowabunga dudes!

And yeah, while I’m on about the characters, I might as well say that the voice-casting is probably the ballsiest, yet, smartest bit of casting Pixar has ever done. Albert Brooks’ gruff, yet slightly neurotic voice is perfect for the overly neurotic and scared Marlin, who is easy to warm up to, especially since we know that Brooks is such a lovely presence on the screen. But it’s strange that he was cast in the role, because honestly, he wasn’t all that big at the time of this release; it’s hard to say if Finding Nemo helped revitalize his career (he’s not on the screen at all and half the people who saw it probably have no clue who Albert Brooks is), but hey, if it’s a role that utilizes him well, then so be it.

But really, the star of the show is Ellen DeGeneras’ Dory.

Now, despite this too being a voice-role, Dory’s the character that definitely regenerized DeGeneras’ career for the greater good of society. The character allows for her to get as high-pitched and silly as she wants, without ever seeming as if she’s over-doing it to a huge exteme. In fact, it’s the right bit of goofiness and charm that works well for this character, as well as DeGeneras, because even if we do want to strangle Dory at times, it’s still hard not to want to see her and be around her more.

Probably why she’s getting her own flick, now that I think about it.

Consensus: Just as you’d expect from Pixar, Finding Nemo is a heartfelt, sweet, honest, fun, and downright hilarious tale of adventure, family and love, which is what makes it all the more great.

9 / 10

Yeah, now you're lost.

Yeah, now you’re lost.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

All the Way (2016)

Oh, that LBJ. What a silly goose he was!

After JFK is assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson (Bryan Cranston) assumes the position as President of the United States. While it’s a controversial and heartbreaking decision, immediately, Johnson takes the position and makes it his own; promising more Civil Rights laws than even JFK ever promised. This leads him to talking with Martin Luther King, Jr. (Anthony Mackie) a whole lot, with some of their discussions ending with agreements, and other times, not so much. But while Johnson is out battling it with the Civil Rights activists and MLK, he’s also got to work his magic into winning the next election, which is nearly two years away. While for any President running for office again, there would be no issues, the problem for Johnson is that his Civil Rights bills are turning some people away from him, making him less and less loved among the blue-blooded Republicans. It’s all so very tense and crazy for Lyndon, but when push comes to shove, he knows that he can always fall back on his wife (Melissa Leo), who was there for him since day one and will continue to be do so, so long as he keeps his head on and doesn’t lose his temper too much.

He's white.

He’s white.

Oddly enough, All the Way isn’t going to be the last Lyndon B. Johnson biopic we get this year. The already-titled LBJ, starring Woody Harrelson as the titular President is currently being filmed and planned for a late winter release, which leads me to beg the question: Why? Why on Earth do we have not one, but two star-studded biopics about Lyndon B. Johnson? This isn’t to say that his presidency, or better yet, his character doesn’t deserve the attention, but at the same time, it’s hard to wonder why there are already two movies being made about the guy, when possibly one will do?

Then again, there is the case in 2012, where we had two Abraham Lincoln movies and those are definitely two stories that needed to be told.

Regardless, All the Way is an okay movie, but honestly, a lot of its impact is weakened by the fact that it almost tells the same exact story of Selma, but instead, puts it focus directly on the man white man of the story, the President of the United States. There’s no issue with that in terms of narrative storytelling, but after it having been hardly two years since the release of that much powerful, much smarter movie, I think it’s almost impossible not to compare the two, especially considering how ballsy and risky that movie seemed to be. In a way, All the Way is the kind of movie that would have been made and released before the 21st Century, where instead of focusing on the African Americans, their hardships, their strife, and all of the brutality they suffered, we focus on the one man who had all of the power in the world during this infamous and controversial time.

Also, it should be noted that in Selma, there was plenty of scenes dedicated to sitting there and watching as Lyndon B. Johnson himself handled conversations with Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders, although at the same time, that didn’t take up the bulk of the movie. It still, however, provided a voice to Johnson who, from the viewpoint of that movie, as well as this one, was really just a guy trying to do the right thing, while also keep his ass in the White House seat. That’s smart and honest storytelling that doesn’t have an agenda, but more or less, try to tell a story, the best way it can.

That’s why All the Way is no Selma, by any means. However, I don’t think it wanted to be.

He's black.

He’s black.

Jay Roach seems like the one guy HBO calls on to deliver these made-for-HBO movies with politics somewhere, somehow involved, and he’s made a nice career out of it. For one, his movies aren’t glitzy, or glamorous, but more or less, just natural, well-told stories that need to be seen, but not necessarily on the silver screen. It’s actually quite odd to describe, but there’s that feeling while watching All the Way, where you know that it’s perfect for cable, but not so much for the big screen.

Why? I couldn’t tell ya. It’s just feeling.

But much like the play it’s adapting, All the Way is really a platform for Bryan Cranston to act his rump off and well, he’s great at it. Much like he did in Trumbo, Cranston is using a signature and odd voice to really get us into the mindset of who this person is and their kind of personality, and it works, again. While you can tell there’s some deal of over-acting that got transitioned over from the stage, Cranston still handles it well enough that we get the perfect idea for who this person is, especially during the smaller, more humane moments.

Most of these moments come from the scenes he has with his wife, played by Melissa Leo, who is both the voice of reason, as well as the dog whisperer to the sometimes wild and cranky Johnson. Leo’s great at these understated, yet emotional characters and it’s why she’s a perfect choice. Anthony Mackie also shows up as MLK, and in a much better, more focused movie, I feel like he’d be the performance to steal the show, but unfortunately, he isn’t given a whole lot to do. Now if it was Anthony Mackie in Selma, we may have had a whole different movie on our hands.

Consensus: With a good cast, All the Way is better than its route, conventional format makes it out to be, however, with Selma still clear in our minds, it’s hard not to compare the two.

6 / 10

But hey, they're pals in the end.

But hey, they’re pals in the end.

Photos Courtesy of: HBO

Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)

Oh, how far we’ve come since the days of the Flying Nun.

With the recent passing of her mother, Doris (Sally Field) is left to, basically, fend for herself. No worries, as it’s something that she’s been doing for quite some time, but now that she’s nearly 70, the time has come and gone for hoarding, taking the ferry to-and-from work, and not having any particular motivation in life. Though, after a attending a seminar by a motivational speaker (Peter Gallagher), Doris realizes that she has plenty of life to live and it’s her opportunity to grab it while she still can – even if that means, well, pining after her much younger co-worker John (Max Greenfield). And because Doris is so infatuated with John, she can’t keep herself away from stalking him on Facebook, at the office, or trying her hardest to hang out with him, every opportunity she gets. Eventually, she starts to win over John and believes that her dream may just come true. However, it’s also at the expense of her best friends, as well as her own mental-health.

At least it isn't Nicholas Sparks!

At least it isn’t Nicholas Sparks!

It’s great to see such a seasoned vet of the silver screen like Sally Field get roles like Doris. While it’s nowhere near the kind of role that would make us think, “Oh, well they could have given it to anyone,” it’s still also the kind of role that reminds us why she’s just so lovable and cute in the first place. Even at nearly 70, Sally Field can still make wonders with what she can do with a character.

Even in something as fine and okay as Hello, My Name is Doris.

And the only reason why I say that the movie is “fine and okay”, is solely due to the fact that it deals with two different tones and ideas, yet, doesn’t always have the right idea of how to balance them. For one, it’s a movie about an elderly lady getting with the times and finding her new spirit with the younger, much hipper generation, but on the other hand, it’s a movie an elderly lady who is slowly, but surely, coming to terms with her mortality and how, in some ways, she’s only got a few good years left and she might as well make the best of them, even if that does mean putting herself in a very troubling situation. Because of these two different movies colliding, Hello, My Name is Doris doesn’t always feel like the tragic-comedy it wants to clearly be, but co-writer/director Michael Showalter clearly treads the fine line between both.

In ways, too, the movie is very funny, as well as very sad, with one clear attention to the former, and not so less on the later. What’s perhaps actually hilarious about the movie is that there’s a lot of jokes made at the expense of this hipster culture, their weird, electronic music they listen, the odd, seemingly old-timey hobbies they take up (like knitting), and how their lives seem to be so run with technology, that it’s almost too difficult for them to embrace the real world around them. While the movie never tries to make this its prerogative, there’s still plenty of moments where you get the idea that someone like Doris, an older, but seemingly fun and vibrant lady, could actually throw herself into this world and into this life, and nobody would really push back.

The movie could have easily been about how out-of-place and fish-out-of-water Doris is in this younger, much faster world, but really, the movie doesn’t make itself about that. If anything, a lot of the characters want to hang out with Doris more than she actually knows and they treat her just like they would any co-worker; they may not be the best of friends, but their still easygoing enough that they don’t seem like snobs. This extra attention to detail makes the movie feel like so much more than just your average comedy, and make it seem more sweet.

Then again, there is that tragedy-aspect of the movie that comes in, but doesn’t always work.

That Doris has some sort of a mental illness (what with all the hoarding and all), makes it seem like the movie will make some sort of point about it, or better yet, try to have us understand it better. But it sort of doesn’t. This is a problem because the movie does show many of scenes where Doris is clearly having some sort of mental breakdown and doesn’t always understand what’s going on around her, but then not know what to do with them. It’s as if Showlater wants to develop this idea more, but doesn’t want to get too down in the dumps and take us away from the more charming, funny bits that the movie has to offer.

Oh, Sally!

Oh, silly Sally!

At the same time though, this is why Sally Field is such an important factor to a movie like this, where she’s able to blend both sadness and happiness, without ever making too clear of a distinction of what she’s exactly feeling. Because Doris is such a cutesy, lovely little old lady, she can sometimes be seen as the comedic-relief among those around her, but as the movie goes on and on, we see certain shades to her that, yes, may be darker, but may also give us a great understanding of who this woman was and why she is, the way she is now. We never get a clear answer, but because Field is so great at making us think more and more, it doesn’t matter – she’s great as is, creating a funny character, who also has a heart and soul, and isn’t just made to be a joke.

The same can’t really be said for the other characters, however, Showlater still gives them enough to work with.

Though Max Greenfield’s John may be a bit bland, there’s still some sort of idea of him that may actually fall for a woman like Doris. Whether it’s because he has mommy issues, girlfriend issues, or is just lonely and in need of a hug, we don’t know. What we do know is that he and Field have a solid chemistry that transcends being just an infatuated possibility, and more of a nice and tender friendship, where both people give a little something more than the other.

Consensus: Hello, My Name is Doris may have issues with its tone, it still features a solid performance from the always great Sally Field, while also offering a sweet, sometimes, very funny story about aging and embracing the reality that life may have passed you by, but it hasn’t gone away just yet.

7 / 10

Take your lamp and move on, girl!

Take your lamp and move on, girl!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, We Got This Covered, Tumblr

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Take it from rappers, being imprisoned makes you a better musician.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) all escape from jail to embark on a buried-treasure that Ulysses himself declares that he hid and is safe and sound somewhere. However, they have an awful long way to go before they get to the treasure, which means that they have to go through a lot of hoops, meet a lot of shady characters, and most of all, try to stay away from the police’s sights. Obviously, this sounds a lot easier said then done, but everything and anything seems to be happening around the same time that these three are heading out for their adventure. For one, they unintentionally become a popular folk band, then, they get mixed-up with the KKK, make an African American friend by the name of Tommy Johnson, have a run-in with Baby Face Dillinger, and, most importantly, meet the acquaintance of some very lovely ladies. But no matter how many holes may stand in the way of these guys’ trip, they never forget about the treasure that’s just awaiting for them to seize and make their own.

Try singin' your way out of this one!

Try singin’ your way out of this one!

There’s no denying that the Coens have a certain love and adoration for their characters, no matter how silly, ridiculous, or over-the-top they may, or can get. Some people say that they make fun of said characters, as well as their settings, but I tend to disagree with this notion, as it’s clear from the very start that the Coens find something very interesting about each one of their characters that they draw and create, as well as the world around said characters that seem to take on a whole personality on its own. In O Brother, it’s clear that the Coens have a soft place for the sweaty, mugginess of Depression-era Mississippi that’s less about making fun of people who talk funny, but more about embracing some of their more old-timey notions of life.

Obviously, the Coens are a bit subversive about this idea, too, with featuring a story all sorts of violence, racism, and blood, but they don’t ever lose their sense of fun here. They also never seem to sell themselves short; rather than making this just a one-note premise in which these stupid characters get away with everything that comes their way, they show that there’s some trouble and difficulty for these characters to get from point A, to point B. Of course, O Brother is, first and foremost, an adventure flick and it’s nice to see the Coens give as much attention to their characters, as much as they do to the jokes and random sequence of events.

For instance, Ulysses, Delmar, and Pete may all seem like your typical, bumpkin idiots, but really, the Coens show that there’s more to them.

Not only do they have hearts, but they all do seem to genuinely care for one another that makes it easy to see why they’ve got such a strong bond in the first place. As a result, we want to see these three together more and more, not just because they’re fun to watch (which they are), but because there’s something warm, soft and cozy about knowing these three pals are all together and because of that, nothing will go wrong. Of course, things don’t always turn out that way, but still, watching and listening to these three characters was more than enough to stick around.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain't gonna work.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain’t gonna work.

And let’s not forget to mention that George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson all do fantastic jobs in these roles, seeming like they’re very interested in who these characters are, past the backwater-stereotypes. Clooney, however, is the one who really seems like he’s having the time of his life, smirking, snarling and laughing in just about every scene he’s shown, where you get the idea that he could not wait a single second to work with the Coens, nor could he get enough of the fact that his character is, in some ways, the smartest out of the three. Clooney gets to use a lot of big words and articulate a whole lot, which may not sound like it works, but surprisingly, does, and it just goes to show you what Clooney can do when he’s a bit unhinged and less caring about appeasing a certain demographic.

There’s more people in this film, like John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, and others, who show up here, do their thing and show that they’re worthy of being around, which makes O Brother all the more exciting.

There’s not a huge world out there for the Coens to work with, but it’s all up to their own choosing. While O Brother is certainly not the Coens best movie, it’s still their most ambitious as it shows that the studio had no problem funding their vision and idea for this movie, even if every period detail seems perfectly picked to the bone. And with more money and freedom to do what they want, they run wild. Sometimes, the goofiness, other times, it doesn’t; when the movie is supposed to be deep and serious, it can’t help but stumble and make you wonder where all the smiles and charms went. But still, it’s a Coens brother movie, which mostly always means, it’s worth seeing.

If not for them, then at least do it for the soundtrack.

Consensus: Perhaps not the Coens best, yet, at the same time, still very much an exceptional piece of work from the power duo, O Brother shows they not only have a keen eye for attention to detail and character, but also their odd sense of humor that still hits.

7.5 / 10

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Trumbo (2015)

Wow. Communists make the best screenplays.

In 1947, there was nobody hotter than Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). While he wasn’t the one you’d see on the screen, he was still the one responsible for so many great flicks, that people come to love and appreciate his work. But after this, people started to worry about his politics. See, Trumbo, as well as a few countless others of his closest friends and confidantes, were all blacklisted for showing their support for the Communist regime. Because of this, just about everybody who was blacklisted, were told to come forward and give away more names – for those dedicated few who didn’t, they risked never working in Hollywood ever again. Trumbo was one of those people, however, he still found a way to keep on working and turning out scripts, without ever jeopardizing the studios he actually wrote for. Through the next few years, Trumbo will write some of the very best screenplays, to some of the most iconic and revered movies of today’s day and age, however, all of that hard work and hardly any play begins to take a toll on Trumbo, as well as his loving, caring family who depend on him and his talents.

Wife = good.

Wife = good.

A lesser film, by a lesser director probably would have just kept the story limited to just Trumbo being accused of being a Communist and leaving it at that. However, because Trumbo isn’t a lesser film, and because Jay Roach isn’t a lesser director, there’s more going on with Trumbo’s life that the movie continues to focus on. And while the movie may definitely benefit from having a source as strong and as interesting as Trumbo to make their movie about, it still deserves to be said that Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz entertainment that shows us everything we despise about the industry, as well as the things we love.

Sure, maybe it’s more of love than hate, but hey, it’s still a pretty place that anybody would want to be apart of, if they had the talent to pull it all off.

But like I said, Trumbo is all about Hollywood at a certain period and time that was, on one side, very exciting and glamorous, but on the other, quite scary as well. What Trumbo does best is that it highlights the absolute paranoia and fear those within Hollywood feared due to the Communist blacklisting; while most of those associated with the biz were also Communist sympathizers, they weren’t allowed to come out and say so because, well, they wanted to continue to work. There’s a select few of insiders with Trumbo’s group of trusted allies that all seem to be on the same page, initially, but slowly and surely, start to peter-off and throw the other under the bus, just so that they can continue to work and make as much money as they were before. While we may not share a whole lot of sympathy for these attractive stars and celebrities, there’s still a certain feeling of some sadness when one or two of them have to suck their pride in, accept their lashings, and move on with their careers.

At the same time though, Trumbo is still, first and foremost, a small biopic of a movie legend that, honestly, not many people remember or still treat as an inspiration.

Though it’s interesting to see how Trumbo, the man, handles all of the negative press and attacks he gets for being a Communist party sympathizer, it’s even more so when the later part of his career comes into play and he’s stuck writing crappy scripts, for crappy production companies, and sometimes, making great scripts, for great companies, but not being able to take any sort of credit. It’s both fun and exciting to watch, while, at the same time, a bit heart-wrenching because we know that Trumbo deserves all of the credit and praise for these scripts, but just can’t actually go out into the world and say so.

Not to mention, it’s great to see a flick that focuses on, most of all, a screen-writer. So rarely do screen-writers get the credit that they so rightfully deserve – especially those from the older-days of Hollywood. While there were a few directors who directed their own screenplays, for the most part, directors made scripts that they picked-up and decided to go from there – due to this, not a lot of screen-writers got the whole credit that they deserved. With Trumbo, Roach not only shows that it’s definitely up to the writer themselves, to tell whether or not a piece is going to work.

Because, quite frankly, if you don’t have a good screenwriter, what good is your movie anyway?

Journalist = bad.

Journalist = bad.

As Dalton Trumbo, Bryan Cranston does a nice job of taking what could have been, at first, a very over-the-top impersonation of the real life figure, but then takes it one step further and digs deeper. There’s a lot more to Trumbo than just a bunch of witty-lines, humor, and a fancy ‘stache; the dude’s actually getting to become a bit stressed-out and screwed-up from writing all of these screenplays and not being able to take any credit for them. Cranston’s good here as he not only shows the light-hearted, fun-loving side to this man, but also the sometimes angry, almost spiteful side as well.

And everybody else surrounding Cranston is quite good in their own roles, too. Though Diane Lane isn’t asked much to do, she still gets some bright, shining moments as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, who wants nothing more than for her family to be happy and peaceful; Helen Mirren is nastier than ever as Hedda Hopper, the most hated journalist at the time and shows just why she was so despised, but why she was also always getting dirt on those around her; Louis C.K. has a couple of nice scenes with Cranston as one of Trumbo’s buddies who is involved with the Communist-sympathizing party; and Michael Stuhlbarg does a good job at giving us more to Edward G. Robinson, but never fully lapsing into an impersonation that seems like a parody.

If there’s anything about Trumbo is that, when all is said and done, it’s a fine piece of cinema, but that’s about it. Having focused on Dalton Trumbo and looking at all the work that he’s created over the years, the movie definitely doesn’t live up to the legacies, but as it is, it’s still a fine piece of showbiz entertainment. People laugh, people cry, people learn lessons, people get better, and most importantly, people make a lot of money. That’s about all there is to showbiz, which is why that’s all there is to Trumbo.

Consensus: Maybe not setting the biopic world on fire, Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz drama that doesn’t step too far out of its comfort-zone, but also benefits largely from having such a talented cast on-board.

7 / 10

Screenwriter = always good.

Screenwriter = always good.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Conspirator (2011)

Where have I heard this story before? Well, nowhere actually, but see what I’m trying to get across in a not-so subtle way?

Mid-April 1865, stage actor John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell) assassinates President Abraham Lincoln during a production of Our American Cousin. We all know this, who the hell doesn’t, but what most people don’t know is the story surrounding the other conspirators in this assassination, one of which was a woman wrongfully accused all because her son was one of those conspirators. That gal’s name was Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), her son was Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), and she ran a boarding house in Washington that Booth, along with the other conspirators in this assassination frequently stayed in, and where the plan was most likely hatched. Whether or not Surratt really did conspire to kill the President isn’t quite known yet, but Union war hero and attorney Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is assigned the task to defend her to the best of his ability, by any means necessary. At first, Aiken doesn’t think it matters because she’s guilty in his eyes, but after awhile, he starts to see that there is more brewing beneath the surface here with this case, and he will not stop until justice is so rightfully served.

In case you don’t know by now, Robert Redford is a pretty political guy, and he takes his liberal-stance very seriously. So seriously, that most of his flicks seem to come off more as history lessons, rather than actual movies, with real, interesting, and compelling narratives driving them along. That said, the guy’s got plenty of power in Hollywood to do whatever he wants, when he wants, with whomever he wants, and how he wants to, which makes total sense why a real life story like this would get such a star-studded cast, with such a preachy message, that it’s no wonder why it got past almost every producer out there in the world.

It’s Robert Redford, are you going to deny his movie?

Did a woman who's being wrongfully convicted for a crime she didn't necessarily commit really need to be dressed in all-black throughout the whole movie?

Did a woman who was being wrongfully convicted for a crime she didn’t necessarily commit really need to be dressed in all-black throughout the whole movie?

That’s why, as intriguing as this story is, you know exactly where he’s getting at with every part of this movie. For instance, Redford is obviously making a lot of points about the similarity between this case and the ones of post-9/11 hysteria that was more about finding anybody who was even close to being guilty, and make sure they pay the price so that the rest of the country can begin to feel like a safe and peaceful place like it was meant to be. Honestly, it’s a nice analogy that Redford uses, the only problem is that we get it every step of the way. So instead of being a movie that’s filled with a compelling story, characters, and emotions, it just feels like a history lesson where we’re being talked down to, as if we don’t know all about the problems our world of politics is facing today.

And it should come as no surprise that this was Redford’s first movie since doing Lions for Lambs, which was more of a thesis, than an actual movie, so I at least have to give the guy credit for cobbling up something of a story together and making something out of it. While I don’t want to get into discussing that movie anymore than I already need to, I will say that this movie does show Redford improving more as a film-maker who has a point behind his movies, even if they are extremely heavy-handed and as blatant as you can get. While that does seem weird to say about a guy who has a Best Director Oscar to his name, as well as plenty of other great movies he’s written and directed under his belt, it seems like something that needs to be said considering how damn preachy the guy gets, both in real life and with his movies.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that it’s better than Lions for Lambs.

There, happy? I rest my case!

The only way that this movie survives throughout it’s near-two-hour-running-time is because its cast is so stacked to the brim, that you can’t help but want to watch and see what they’re able to pull out of this. James McAvoy was a great choice as Frederick Aiken, the type of guy you feel like would make it big as a lawyer-type in today’s society, but just didn’t have much leeway to get past all of the head-honchos back in those days. McAvoy is good at handling the determined, passionate character that Redford doesn’t bother to cut any deeper with, but I still think that’s better than nothing consider he can get-by in scenes against heavy-hitters like Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, and most of all, Robin Wright.

"Attica!!! Oh, shit. Wrong history class."

“Attica!!! Oh, crap. Wrong history class.”

However, it should be said that it couldn’t have been too hard for McAvoy to get by in his scenes with Wright because she doesn’t do much talking really. Instead, her performance is strictly consisting of cold stares, a lot of frowning, and just looking like she’s about to lose it at any given second – which isn’t such a bad thing because the gal handles it very well. I’ve always liked Wright in all that she’s done and I feel like she gets a great chance to give it all she’s got, even in a way that didn’t need to be over-the-top or totally blown out-of-proportion. This is a especially surprising given the fact that this character could have easily gone that way, and to even worse results being that this is a Redford flick, and he usually seems to sympathize quite heavily with wrongfully convicted.

And since I’m on the subject of the cast, I have to say that the rest of this ensemble do pretty good jobs with their roles as well, even if some do feel a bit off here and there. Those two in particular are Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood who both feel as if they’re a bit too modern for this type of material, and don’t really fit in well. Maybe for Wood’s character, that’s probably done on purpose, but for Long, whenever it is that he shows up with his fake mustache that looked like it was ripped right off the face of Burt Reynolds, it feels like a total curse on him, whoever is around him the scene, and the movie itself. Not saying that he ruins the movie just by the pure simple fact of his presence being noted, but just because it feels like a piece of stunt-casting that back-fired on Redford, as well as Long himself; a very underrated actor that has yet to be given the full-on pleasure of taking a complex role and making it his own. Maybe one of these days. Just maybe.

Just hopefully not in a Robert Redford flick, is all.

Consensus: The true story that the Conspirator is telling is a very interesting, compelling tale that may stand the test of time, but as for the preachy, history lesson disguised as a full-length feature-flick? Not so much.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, what I want you to do in this next scene is point to the camera and say that, "You are innocent, until proven guilty.""

“Okay, what I want you to do in this next scene is point to the camera and say that, “You are innocent, until proven guilty.'”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Dave (1993)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, even him?

Or, even him?

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

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

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

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

7 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Leatherheads (2008)

Total fiction. George would never do anything that would harm that beautiful, majestic face of his.

Believe it or not, back in the mid-20’s, football was not as big of a thing as it is now. Or, should I say that it was “big”, but it sure as hell wasn’t considered as a professional type of sport that you could play, be respected for, and actually making a living off of. Hell, some fans and players probably still wish the sport was still like that today, but hey, whattya gonna do? Dodge Connelly (George Clooney) was one of the aging-stars in this time and era who finds out that his team is folding under because of budget-restrictions and lack of money coming in and out. However, along with a sneaky reporter (Renée Zellweger), he hatches up a plan to get a very popular college player, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), on his team so that the team can get back to playing and that he may get some money in his pocket. But once love is thrown into the situation, then nothing ever goes as planned.

George Clooney obviously loves old movies because, well, let’s face it: everybody still considers him, to this day, “the next Cary Grant.” So, when you have a comparison like that, you have to at least take pride in it, especially when you’re as talented and powerful as Clooney is in Hollywood. Literally, the dude could say that he wanted to a movie about him and another dude taking reading the phone-book for two hours, and with a snap of his finger, everybody would be on-board, already having a release-date ready. That’s just the type of person Clooney is, and even though he never lets you forget about it, I can’t say I hate it because the guy makes good movies, stars in good movies and never seems like he’s just phoning it in for the sake of doing so. 110% is what Clooney always puts in, and even though it may not always work, at least he tries, right?

"Ladies and gentleman, I think we have just been spotted planning a three-some."

“Ladies and gentleman, I think we have just been spotted planning a three-some.”

Being that this is his third outing as director, Clooney had a lot to live up to and making a movie about football back in the 20’s seemed a bit odd. But hey, it’s George Clooney, so what the hell can go wrong? Well, to be honest, not much, but what does go wrong, hits you straight in the face and makes you wonder why he made something like this in the first place. It’s not like it was a terrible move on Clooney’s part to make an old-fashioned movie, about the early days of pro-football, but the question remains: Why?

The areas of this movie that Clooney’s skill works very well is in the first hour or so of this movie, which is when we are being introduced to our characters, our story, and our setting, all of which are finely detailed in their own rights. But obviously, Clooney’s strong-suit here is in starting this movie on the right foot by allowing the comedy and goofiness of this all to just keep us entertained and not really take itself too seriously. It’s funny, quick, witty and very screwball-ish that it doesn’t seem disingenuous to the plot or it’s characters. Hell, it takes in 1920’s, so why not just make a movie that could have been seen or made during the time of flappers and Prohibition?

You know, the good old days.

Nonetheless, most of this is pretty damn entertaining because Clooney never settles for anything less when it comes to capturing the right tone and feel of a screwball comedy that could have easily been made by Billy Wilder, had he been alive in ’08. The problem with this movie is that when he does begin to get further and further away from the screwball elements of this movie, a into more darker and dramatic-territory, then things get a little hectic.

And this occurs around the hour-mark, because this is when the tone really gets lost in the shuffle of trying to be frothy and playful, while also focusing on these characters and the harsh-realities they have no chance of escaping. I know that the movie is supposed to be all about how the game of football changed from being a small hobby on the side that a bunch of guys who loved doing it, to a sport that almost everybody and anybody aspired to be apart of, all for the riches and expenses, rather than the fun of the game, but that point came and went as it pleased. Clooney didn’t seem to bother to focus on that aspect of the story as much as he wanted to with the love-triangle; the same love-triangle that started off fine, but just got nonsensical. I can handle it when characters act like idiots because a little tail is thrown their way, but after awhile, I kept on wondering, “Why are these guys still fighting for this chick, when it’s clear who she wants to fully be with?” I don’t know, maybe it was just me.

But even though the dude does screw up being a director this time around, at least he’s good as the leading man and shows that he still has the wit, the charm and the perseverance to make any role of his work. Dodge Connelly is a bit of a strange role for Clooney, but not as obvious because you can still tell the guy loves the sport that he plays, loves what he has to do, and really wants the money. He’s the type of fast-talker you don’t want to see at a Christmas party because he’s too busy talking your ear off about how you and him should get together some time, look over the paper-work, and see just where they could go next with this idea of his. However, he’s still a guy we like, which is solely due to the fact that Clooney just has that “thing” about him that makes him so cool to begin with.

Even with all of the mud and gook, George still finds a way to be the sexiest mofo on the planet.

Even with all of the mud, George still finds a way to be the sexiest mofo on the planet.

Renée Zellweger is also a blast to watch and listen to as Lexie Littleton, an untrustworthy reporter for the Tribune, who shows all of the fiery sass and sexiness that we’ve always seen from her in past rom-com roles, but never really got to see placed in a period where all ladies acted and talked like this. Okay, maybe Chicago, but to me, that doesn’t count because half of her lines were sung, rather than spoken. Nonetheless though, the gal’s great here in the way that she’s able to hold her own against the dudes, show-off some of that brassiness to her act that we haven’t seen in awhile, and also make us feel a bit more for her than we should. Even though I don’t like it, most journalists seem to get a bad-rap in movies and for once, it was nice to see a movie that portrays a journalist as a person that loves their job, and does whatever they can to get the right facts, by any means necessary.

John Krasinski is also here as the happy-go-lucky, always positive-thinker, Carter Rutherford. I’ve always had an admiration for Krasinski because the dude is able to make us like him, even when his character is a bit off of his rocker. It’s also nice to see him not play a character that’s practically Jim, and seeing him just shine it up as Carter, make us fall in love with him almost as much as everybody else in this movie does, reminds me why I go to bat for the guy every chance I get. Then again, it’s a role that’s seemingly there so that everybody else can work around it, respond to it, and do a lot better than, so maybe it’s not the role-of-a-life-time for the guy like many, including himself, may have hoped. It’s still good though and makes me hope he’ll challenge himself a bit more in the future.

Consensus: Being that Leatherheads doesn’t just star Clooney, but also has him directing as well, you should already know it’s a good movie, while definitely still not as good as we’ve seen the dude do in the past. Namely, three years ago with Good Night, And Good Luck.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Stop being so happy!!

Just trying to make the moments he has next to George last forever. Don’t blame him.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Ladykillers (2004)

Not the type of lady-killing I do at the clubs, but same idea. I guess.

A charlatan professor by the name of Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, PhD (Tom Hanks) moves into the house of an older, African American woman widow (Irma P. Hall) for what seems to be a nice place for him to relax and jam with his gospel band. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth as Dorr is up to no good with a cast of criminals that plan to rob the bank of a gambling casino, just through an underground tunnel. It may work, or it may not, but with the widow around, things prove to be pretty tense for the boys. Well, that and the fact that they are also a gang of misfits that don’t quite come together so perfectly on what they need to do next in their two dollar-plan.

The Coen Brothers love to have fun. I know that, you know that, Frances McDormand knows that, your parents know that, hell, in fact, I’d wager that even a person whose only seen one Coen Brothers flick could tell you that. That’s why the opportunity for them to remake a somewhat-classic film, may bring groans and moans from their dearly-beloved fans, but it’s what the Coens want to do, and they do have a knack for choosing their fine pieces of material, so yeah, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us, right?!?!?

Well, kinda, sort of, not really, but yeah. Here, I’ll explain:

What these two guys specialize in is taking a genre that can be tired and conventional and spin it totally on its head. That’s sort of what they do here with this movie, but even when they don’t, it still seems like the guys know exactly what they’re doing, any given moment; it’s just whether or not we like seeing them go through the motions with it. For the most part, there was some enjoyment in seeing them go through the motions as they made their steps in the mud, here and there, but other times, it felt like they could have been doing so much more with this material. Almost like they took this job because they had nothing else better to do during ’04, so they thought, “Why the hell not?!?!?”

Could totally just see them sitting around for a cup 'o tea, if they weren't robbing some casino.

Could totally just see them sitting around for a cup ‘o tea, if they weren’t robbing some casino.

Still, I have to give it to the guys for at least knowing how to enjoy themselves, where they allow others to join in the fun as well. Even if the movie does feel repetitive, predictable and slightly unoriginal, you never get the sense that this wasn’t made by the Coens. Their trademarks are still in full-force (quirky characters, heist-gone-wrong, gospel music, long, drawn-out scenes of dialogue), but they don’t win you over quite as well as they used to, especially once the heist begins to get going.

Once the movie begins, we are introduced to the older, black widow, then we meet Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, then we get a montage of the other cats that will be joining in this heist, and that’s about it for the hype-up. Then, once we see them all, it’s on with the heist. It felt quick and ready-to-go, but for me, I need my heist to take it’s time of where it goes, just so I can get a feel for the characters, the plot and the actual heist at-hand. Here, it just seemed like the Coens weren’t ready to settle down and wanted to get right into the action, which makes sense since this isn’t a very serious piece of work, at first. However, once it does become that way and we start to see that these are characters we’re supposed to care for and understand, it never fully comes together as we’re never given anytime whatsoever to be with these guys or see who they are before the heist, during it, and after. Maybe I was asking a bit too much, but with the way things turned out at the end, I kind of felt like my feelings were understandable. At least to me, that is.

But these characters are memorable in their own ways, all because they have their own set of quirks that make them stand-out from the rest. However, they aren’t the finest creations the Coens have ever brought to screen. Take for instance, the character played by Ryan Hurst, Lump: The dude’s the quintessential dummy that plays football, doesn’t have much going for him in the brain-department and just stands around with his mouth open, barely saying anything at all. Why? Well, it’s simple: It’s because he’s too dumb to even know what’s going on. Once or twice, it’s funny, but knowing the Coens and knowing how they role with their goofy characters, by giving them a set of quirks and trademarks that fit perfectly well together with the rest of the movie, it feels as if these guys ran a out of ideas, and decided to go down that obvious-route. Nothing ill to say against Hurst because the dude is fine with this role, it’s just that the character gets annoying after awhile, and seems like the Coens were scratching their heads for ideas and just crapped the most conventional one out onto paper.

But, not everybody suffers from the same problem that Hurst does as Lump, because they all have good characters to work with and do what they can to make them work. Tom Hanks was a freakin’ laugh-out-loud riot as the silver-tongued gentleman, G.H. Dorr, and shows that the guy can practically play anything and make it work ten times better than you’d least expect it to. I know, it sounds crazy that I’d ever be doubting Hanks’ role in a movie, but there have been the occasional times where things haven’t always worked out for him. Here though, he’s fun, entertaining, charming and interesting to just listen to as you know there’s mroe than just a caricature behind that whole facade. You just know it. He uses a lot of big words, most of which will probably go over the smartest person’s head, but Hanks handles it all with perfection and seems like he actually does know these words, rather than just reiterating them in a way that’s attractive enough for the camera. Hanks is the anchor to this flick, and always seems to be having the time of his life. As he should, cause the dude’s one of the best working right now.

A random bit of casting here is Marlon Wayans as the brass, black dude that works at the casino these guys are planning to rob and is funny, but also a bit sympathetic as well, despite him always cursing and going on about one dude bringing his bitch to the Waffle Hut (trust me, it’ll make sense once you see it). I’m really surprised that Wayans gets choice roles in movies like this and Requiem for a Dream, yet, always goes back to making shit like this and that. I’ve never understand why so many acclaimed directors choose this guy to be in their movies, never understood why he’s been so good in them, but most of all, I’ve never understood why the hell he doesn’t just stay away from the crap he makes with his family. I get that you are supposed to be there through thick-and-thin with the familia, but when they begin to take your career down; you gotta move on and tell them you’ll see them at the next Christmas party.

Does knitting really excuse hearing?

Does knitting really excuse hearing?

Then again though, that’s just me. I guess I didn’t learn a single thing from the Godfather.

Rounding out the cast of characters is J.K. Simmons and Tzi Ma as the other fellas apart of this heist, and are both good. Simmons has impeccable comedic-timing that usually works in everything he does, and Ma rarely ever speaks but is funny, a bit goofy, and slightly intimidating as well. Both are good, but don’t leave much of an impression on you, as much as Irma P. Hall does as the widow these guys are staking out in. Hall is funny because she’s always yelling and complaining about something new, but also has a bit of a sweet side to her as well, where you can see that she’s a nice lady, but she’s just getting all old and alone. Sort of like all elders out there in the world. Difference between them and her, is that most of those folks aren’t getting robbed blindly by a bunch of random misfits.

Consensus: The Coens have done way, way better and far more original movies than the Ladykillers, but they still seem to be having fun, and allow the cast to do their thing. Not the most memorable one out of their flicks, but still a bunch of joy to be had.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

I'd prefer it to be raining this, but that's just me.

I’d prefer it to be raining this, but that’s just me.

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.

Office Space (1999)

Life in a cubicle.

Overwhelmed by stress on the job, Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) goes in for therapy and comes out with a life-changing career philosophy: work sucks. Eager to begin a new life of unemployment, he decides to spend more time with his sexy girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) and less time at he office.

Everybody, at one time or another, has hated getting up early, getting stuck in traffic, and going to work where they stay from 9 to 5. It’s all so monotonous and pretty much anybody who has ever worked a day in their life can say that they can easily relate to a premise like this, and I can as well even though I’m not much of a big worker. Thank God for that!

Writer/director Mike Judge is a dude that can be very funny mainly because of how he is able to make a satire about regular, every-day life and this time chooses something we all know a lot about: work. The satire here is that this company, Initech, are pretty much a joke in and of themselves. For anybody that has ever worked a job, whether you were in a cubicle or not, you can still probably go “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about bitch!” when Peter starts to over-sleep and miss work or when him and his pals go out to destroy the officer copier. Regardless of what sort of jobs you have done in your life, shitty or non-shitty, it’s still something that everybody can relate to and laugh at.

A lot of this film is very, very quotable and funny without even really being lewd or raunchy. So many comedies in today’s world are pretty much based on how funny they can place the word “fuck” in thier lines, but here, it’s all about Judge’s writing and how he is pretty much able to make painful observations on life. Everything you would expect a job like this to be, it exactly that: hell. Very simple piece of comedy with a couple of running gags here and there, and a nice feel of satire to make you realize that work really does suck. Then that’s when you wake up and realize that yeah, it does suck but it’s what pays the bills so I’m gonna go anyway. Sucks to say but true.

Problem is with a lot of this flick is that as funny and biting as its satire may be, something happens to it in the middle where we lost a lot of what really had me going for the first couple of acts. When Peter was walking into work late and not really giving a shit about anything and telling his higher-ups that, I thought it was awesome because it’s something we would all love to do but have no balls to do so. However, there’s a middle patch where the flick starts to show Peter in a rut, where he may be getting put in jail and we see this film go into more of a farce rather than a satire. Sometimes, farces aren’t so bad but here, it was sort of a disappointment considering everything else was working so well.

That was a strange problem I had with the flick, as well as noticing that a lot of the laughs weren’t really coming up all that much, probably because they start to focus on the plot. The plot isn’t so terrible, but it starts to get really thin and rather than focusing on the stuff that mostly worked and made me laugh, like all of the office scenarios and incidents, they try to go with this semi-crime caper of a movie that doesn’t really keep you interested or laughing. However, you got to give a lot of love to Judge for actually pulling something off like this and being one of the first people to do it too.

Ron Livingston lives it up here as Peter and basically gives this guy the cool, laid-back persona where you know that if you were to see this guy on the street, you would give him a huge high-five just for being so cool; Gary Cole is pretty much awesome as everybody’s worst nightmare of a boss, Lumbergh; David Herman is funny as hell as Michael Bolton, no not that one but trust me, they do bring it up enough times here; Jennifer Aniston is great in a very young role from her as Peter’s lovey-dovey girlfriend, Joanna; and how could I ever forget the hilarious Stephen Root as Milton, aka a dude who should have been and should still be the spokesperson for Swingline staplers because honestly, imagine how much business that would do for them. It’s great to see a cast with a bunch of unknowns that can all do awesome in their own roles, but now they pretty much can’t escape the roles they all play here, with the exception of Aniston of course. May not be the worst thing in the world really, but then again, it would get old real quick if people were just coming up to you saying “Aren’t you that dude from Office Space?”.

Consensus: Office Space may not have the best plot out there, but it still a comedy that works mainly because of its satire of middle-class, blue-collar America with hilarious one-liners, and pitch-perfect observations from the master, Mike Judge. Definitely gets better if you have ever worked a job in your life too.

8/10=Matinee!!

Everything Must Go (2011)

Ron Burgundy really does love Scotch.

The story revolves around Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell), a career salesman who gets fired, for falling off the wagon one last time. He returns home to discover his wife has left him, kicked him out of his own house and dumped all his possessions out on the front yard. Faced with his life imploding, Nick puts it all on the line – or more properly, on the lawn – reluctantly holding a yard sale that becomes a unique strategy for survival.

Anybody coming into this film expecting, yet another, yuckfest from Ferrell will probably be let-down right off the bat. However, if you’re going into this expecting another Stranger Than Fiction, you will probably get what you want, without the Emma Thompson narration.

This is a very impressive debut from Dan Rush because he initially takes a simple story of a guy, who is down-on-his luck and suffering from alcoholism, and gives it a fresh and lighter approach to make this story more interesting. I don’t want to go out there and say this is a comedy per se, but there are quite a bunch of humorous moments that work and bring a light feel to this film even when it steps into darker territory. This darker territory worked though because you actually feel for Nick and all of the problems that he’s going through, so when you see him getting the temptation of getting a drink, you can’t help but feel scared for the guy and hope that he doesn’t do what you think he’s about to do. Rush does a very good job at actually making us care for this character and his life, even though, deep down inside, he is a very sad and lonely man that can’t really be cured of his problems unless he cures himself.

Where the film really got me at was how Rush makes this story a lot more touching than I actually expected. The whole theme with this story is about how we are all lonely people in this world, and we somehow need to connect with others in order to feel less lonely. It’s a very real theme and one that works well for this movie’s subject matter, but what really had me going were some of the scenes that Rush puts in here that work and make you feel something. One scene in particular is when Nick goes to visit an old girlfriend, played by the stunning Laura Dern, and the whole scene is on for about 2 minutes but it’s the most touching and realistic scene of the whole flick that makes you realize; “maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all”. Really nice touch by Rush and also, especially by Dern.

The film does have its problems though, especially when it came to its metaphors. I knew exactly what the film was going for and what it was trying to say, but sometimes this flick does hit us over the head a little too much with what it’s trying to throw at us. Scenes like when Nick is walking past a Quick Mart and keeps on staring at it, wanting a beer, or when his old boss leaves him a drink in the bathroom of a place and he’s there, contemplating on whether or not to drink it. Some of those scenes were pretty obvious and bothered me but thankfully, they aren’t all there. Also, the pacing can be a little slow and actually reminded me a bit of The Descendants, where I felt like the film started up, then slowed down, then started up, then slowed down, and continued to do the same thing for the whole time-limit. A little bothersome but when you think about the whole product, it’s pretty minor.

Most people will probably realize that this isn’t Will Ferrell playing his usual “Frank the Tank” roles and may even consider this stunt casting, but it’s so much better than that. Ferrell has the charisma in his acting to give such a dark character, more likability than he has any right to be. The character he’s playing, Nick, can be very mean, very drunk, and very sad but Ferrell is able to bring a lot of humanity and heart out of this guy without ever over-doing it. In fact, the moments where his character is barely saying anything, are still powerful just because Ferrell is able to convey so many emotions just by sitting there and looking lonely. Very subtle and very strong performance from Mr. Burgundy.

The rest of the cast that surrounds him is also pretty damn good such as Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie’s son) playing a young kid that decides to help Nick with his Yard Sale/life; Rebecca Hall as a pregnant, but lonely, housewife who misses her hubby; and the always reliable, Michael Peña as Nick’s sponsor. It’s a small cast but a very effective one at that.

Consensus: People expecting another Will Ferrell laugh-out-loud comedy will probably be disappointed, but anyone who wants a sad, but inspirational story, featuring plenty of touching moments and good performances from the cast, will probably feel happy with the final product they have here with Everything Must Go.

8/10=Matinee!!

Cedar Rapids (2011)

Makes insurance companies actually look fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/10=Matinee!!