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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Steve Coulter

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Founder (2017)

Yeah, still eating at McDonald’s. Sorry, guys.

Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is just another salesman trying to get by in the world so that he can come home to his wife (Laura Dern), and have something to show for it. While on his travels one day, Ray stumbles upon this new fast-food restaurant in Illinois called McDonald’s. While there’s not much to them at first glance, the fact that they actually have only a few items on the menu and are so quick, automatically strike Ray as something that he needs to work with. So, he hatches a plan with the owners, brothers Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman), in that he’ll help them expand and bring McDonald’s to the rest of the world. But eventually, as time rolls on, he starts to realize that there’s more money to be made in this food-joint, but the only way to do so is in having to back-stab and get rid of everyone in his life, who has loved and supported him all of these years. Also, he’ll have to get rid of Mac and Dick, leading to an all-out legal-battle that will continue to haunt the McDonald’s name until the end of time.

Okay, probably not, but still.

Yeah, this convo's about to get real weird.

Yeah, this convo’s about to get real weird.

The Founder is actually a pretty misleading title, but it works perfectly with what the rest of the movie is trying to get across. This idea that a person who thought of an idea, as smart as it may be, entitles them to some sort of power, fame and fortune, is an interesting one, especially when said person didn’t actually do anything with the idea. In the Founder, we get this sort of conflict – Ray Kroc may forever and ever be known as the one who got McDonald’s name out there to the rest of the entire world, but he didn’t find, or better yet, even invent the place, the art, the craft, and originality that went into it all in the first place.

Which begs the question: Who’s worthy of being considered “the founder”? The guys who made the place, or the guy who brought the place to where it is today?

It’s a bunch of interesting questions that, thankfully, get brought up many of times throughout the always entertaining, compelling and rather insightful tale about McDonald’s, how it got started, and how it got to be the fast-food juggernaut that it currently is today. Say what you will about McDonald’s, their crappy, fast and easy food, and even the people who work there, but it’s a place that is everywhere you look and will probably stay that way until the person is left breathing. So yes, it’s very interesting to see where it all came from and how it came to be, especially since there’s darker-beings at play surrounding this tale.

For one, director John Lee Hancock approaches Robert D. Siegel’s script in a smart way; he never allows for us to think that this is going to be some quick, fast-paced and glossy biopic about this one smart businessman who hatched this plan to become one of the richest men in the world. There’s always this idea of a darker, more sinister undercurrent here, which makes all of the ups and constantly colorful montages, in a way, seem eerie; we know that Kroc is going to eventually turn the other cheek, lose that winning-smile of his, and start to, as they love to say in the entertainment world, “break bad”, but when, where, and how it all goes down is always left in the air, making this tale a rather unpredictable one at times.

Then again, it’s also a smart and honest tale about what can happen when one person sees money-bags in their eyes and doesn’t really care about the people around them. The Founder makes us wonder whether it was all worth it for Kroc and everyone else involved with the restaurant; can you be a rich, successful and live a rather comfortable life by sticking to your principles and not letting your image get away from you? Or, do you have to get a little down in the dirt at times, hitting elbows and yeah, making some uncomfortable compromises? The Founder asks these questions, never quite comes up with a clear-cut, obvious answer and for that and that alone, it’s a very good movie.

It doesn’t ask whether or not you should go out there and support McDonald’s (which yeah, you probably shouldn’t), but it does ask whether or not someone can stay true to themselves when they want to make some money for themselves.

Sorry, guys. Should have stuck with Burger King.

Sorry, guys. Should have stuck with Burger King.

That, to me, has stayed in my head ever since.

Regardless, as Kroc, Michael Keaton gives us an amazing performance because Keaton, like the man he’s playing, always seems to have something brewing underneath the surface. On the surface, Kroc seems like a rather nice, almost squeaky-clean guy, but the more and more time we get to spend with him, the more realize that there may just be a small screw loose in his head that has him ticking like a bomb, ready to explode and lose all control. Keaton constantly has us guessing just where he’s going to go next with this person and constantly surprises us with his portrayal; while this is no doubt a person we’re supposed to have hard feelings towards, it’s kind of hard because Keaton is just so damn charming. The movie doesn’t let Kroc off the hook, though, and in today’s day and age, that’s something definitely needed.

Everyone else is pretty great, too. Laura Dern doesn’t get a whole lot to do as Kroc’s first wife, but she brings enough warmth and sympathy when is necessary; John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman are perfectly as the two brothers who came up with McDonald’s and are slowly, but surely, starting to see that dream slip away from them; Linda Cardellini shows up in a under-written role as Kroc’s second wife, but tries; B.J. Novak is perfectly slimy as the one who hits Kroc’s head the hardest with opportunities and business ideas; and Patrick Wilson, as brief as he’s here, does a solid job at seeming like a guy who may be a little smarmy, but also may just be something of a good guy, trying to make a quick buck, and oh yeah, loses his wife for it.

Chew on that, people.

Consensus: With an absolutely terrific lead performance from Michael Keaton, the Founder not only makes us question the meaning of its tale, but many others, while still giving us a smart, rather haunting portrait of a business man, with an idea, an agenda, and of course, a shady moral compass.

8.5 / 10

What an empire of morbidly obese customers.

What an empire of soon-to-be morbidly obese customers.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Come on, ghosts! Let’s try and play nice now, ya hear!

With all of the hype and infamy surrounding the Amityville horrors, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) have become something of overnight celebrities. Everyone wants to know more about them, but they also want to question them more and figure out if everything that they say, or do with ghosts is actually real, or all just a put-on. For this reason alone, Ed and Lorraine decide to take something of a sabbatical from the paranormal-busting world and just focus on getting back to reality, where they can continue to raise their family in a carefree, quiet environment. However, when they hear about a family being terrorized somewhere in England, the Warrens can’t help but feel inspired for one more battle against the dead. This time, though, they may have met their match. And with Lorraine losing her touch with reality and starting to battle more and more with the dead and dark spirits that have been haunting since she started seeing them, it’s all coming to head and this may be the most dangerous mission they’ve had to work with yet.

Oh, those silly, little children. Always seeing dead people.

Oh, those silly, little children. Always seeing dead people.

The first Conjuring, if anything, was a fun horror movie. While a lot of people shrieked, screamed, hooted and hollered during it, the movie, at least from my point-of-view, wasn’t all that scary; sure, it had some jumps here and there, but it seemed like the movie was less about the jumps and more about the tension, the suspense and the thrill of waiting to be scared and actually having it happen. James Wan is a smart director in that he doesn’t just throw everything at us, altogether and at once – he takes time to build his pieces, so that we get a clear picture of what we’re heading into, only to then pull the rug from underneath us and have us not knowing just what the hell to expect next.

That’s why, underneath it all, the first Conjuring was a fun movie. It wasn’t great and it, for me at least, wasn’t this terrifying experience that made me go home scared of turning the lights off when I went to bed. It was a normal horror movie in that it had a simple premise, a simple ghost, and simple characters, without trying to go any further on any of that; it had a ghost who needed to be taken out of a house and well, that’s exactly what happened.

But the only reason why I bring so much of this up is because the Conjuring 2 is a step-up from the original and shows that James Wan isn’t just trying to make the same movie, over and over again.

Sure, he has the scares, the jumps, the spooks, and the ghosts on full-display here, but once again, there’s more to it than just that. In making it seem like the almost indestructible Warrens are up against the grain here, Wan has made sure that this ghost is as evil and maniacal as you can get. In fact, I’d say that the first hour of the movie is dedicated solely to this family getting slowly tormented by this spirit who, for lack of a better word, just wants people out of “his house”. Why? Well, the movie goes into a little bit of that, too, but it doesn’t always matter, because the scares are there and we know that when the Warrens come around, everything’s going to be all fine and dandy, right?

Well, no. Not really.

Wan makes the Conjuring 2 out to be a do-or-die experience where anything could go wrong, at any second, and the unpredictable nature of the spirit takes over the story and has us hoping for the best, but also expecting the worst. After all, it’s a horror movie, so obviously, bad stuff has to happen to good people, regardless of whether we want it to, or not. Wan knows this, which is why he actually allows for there to be character-development with all of the characters, not just the Warren’s.

Because the family getting terrorized by this spirit is, after all, a middle-to-low class family just getting by, with a husband who is out and about, living a different life with a neighbor, a daughter who sees things in her sleep, and a boy who has a stuttering problem, we really sympathize with them. We aren’t doing it because, oh yeah, ghosts suck and all of that, but because do they really deserve this? Obviously, no family in their right mind deserves it, but Wan really does make us ache for these characters and it’s why we really want to see the Warrens show up and, essentially, save the day.

Pretty.

Van Gogh would be proud.

But once again, Wan is a smart enough director to know that not everything can be so simple and laid-out, even in a horror movie like this. Surprisingly, there’s more to the relationship between Ed and Lorraine than the first movie ever touched on and through this second installment, Wan shows us that they really are each other’s world and without the other, they’d be nothing in this life, or the next. It’s actually kind of sweet and makes these two characters appear less as just “religious ghostbusters”, and more as a married-couple who want to help those around them, while also trying to make sure that they still come home to one another, alive, well, and happy to go on another day on solid ground.

And really, that’s why the Conjuring 2 is better than the first.

Wan seems like he’s more interested in going darker and deeper into this story than ever before and not just leaving everything on the surface-level. The movie does run a tad too long, however, a lot of the reason why it’s over two hours, is because there is more time dedicated to character-development, as well as more opportunities for Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga to work with material that is, fine at best, but still gives them something to do, rather than just yell at goofy-looking spirits.

In fact, yeah, let’s try and work on those spirits next time, okay VFX team?

Cool.

Consensus: By adding an extra level of depth and emotion to the proceedings, the Conjuring 2 packs more of an emotional wallop to go along with all of the effective jumps and scares.

8 / 10

Does she not have any posters?

Does she not have any posters?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Ghosts are such a pain, you know?

Before the infamous haunting of the Lambert family, there was a young girl by the name of Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) who went through a lot of the same problems. Her, her brother, and her dad (Dermot Mulroney) all live together in a small and cramped apartment, where the recent death of the matriarch of the family still holds a bit of weight around them all. Since Quinn misses her so much, she tries to contact her dead mother by going to local ghost whisperer, Elise (Lin Shaye), who has now turned her back on this business as she has now lost her own husband. However, she makes an exception thinking there will be no harm, nor any foul from this decision. She was dead wrong about that! Instead, Elise has now turned the angry spirits onto her and Quinn, where they have now taken over Quinn’s room and promises to never leave her alone, all until she is theirs forever. Elise will make sure that this happens, but by doing so, that also means she’ll have to go back to her old ways, which was, from what we know, pretty dangerous to begin with.

The Insidious franchise, as a whole, kind of pisses me off. While I understand the appeal in all three of these movies, I never fully understand why so many people give them a pass. The first one was a fun piece of low-budget horror that most definitely benefited from the fact that it was a 21st century horror movie that didn’t have a gimmick attached to it, and was actually good. Then, the second one came around and felt like it was trying to capture that same fun feel of the first, but at the same time, couldn’t avoid tripping over itself in trying to enhance the story and keeping it moving.

Don't go down there!

Don’t go down that hallway!

Now, with this third one, it just seems like everybody involved may have gotten as tired of it as me.

That isn’t to say that Insidious: Chapter 3 is a bad movie, because it isn’t; at least, not for the first hour or so. Unlike the past two movies, this flick takes its good old time to get to the action, where instead of offering a whole bunch of spooks and scares to get the ball rolling, it mostly focuses on developing characters. Initially, this may seem like a waste, but as time goes on, it eventually pays off as it gives the audience a better view of these characters, their personalities, and why exactly they should matter to us.

Heck, even the scares work relatively well. Rather than throwing one scary object at us, after another, writer/director Leigh Whannell takes it easy, relaxes a bit, and lets it all play out in a slow, melodic fashion. Once again, many may be bothered by this approach to a genre of film that should be blasting at the seams with frenetic energy, but as time rolls on (which it will definitely do), it ends up working in the movie’s favor. I always say that more horror movies should take the slow-burn approach to delivering their scares as it definitely keeps on racking up the tension, without ever seeming like it’s losing its audience.

And that’s what this movie is for the first half, and then it just drops the ball; much like the other movies.

Where Whannell seems to lose a bit of sense here is that he mistakes pulling back curtains and giving us three second glimpses of weird-looking figures as being terrifying, and doesn’t realize that they may just be goofy to look and point at. Whereas most horror directors realize that they’re working with campy, B-movie material and hardly ever shy away from that fact, Insidious does’t know whether or not it wants to explore these silly moments more, or take them as serious as heart-attack. The same issue happened with the other two, where it seemed to be so odd and outrageous, that it was surprising when the movie itself didn’t seem to take it as some sort of a joke.

And this is a problem because for the last-half or so, this is exactly how the movie plays out. Elise ends up taking a trip into “the Further”; Elise starts seeing some weird images; Elise fights with demons; and eventually, Elise gets the demons away (or so she thinks!). It’s not that the formula is broken, so therefore, it should be fixed, it’s just that there doesn’t seem to be much life left in them to where they’re fun to see toyed around with every so often. Recent horror movies like the Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, and my favorite of the year so far, It Follows, all take notice of this idea and decide to do something about their sometimes familiar story-lines.

Don't look under that bed!

Don’t look under that bed!

Insidious now feels like it’s a bit behind the curve and it needs to get along with the times.

However, considering that this is a prequel, some have been considering it the last of the series. Which, isn’t a total shame, because it’s definitely overstayed its welcome now, but will definitely leave behind a solid legacy for Lin Shaye, an underrated character actress that seems to finally be getting her due now. It’s odd that someone like Shaye would be the main draw and practically, the poster girl for this franchise, but somehow, she has and the movies are better for it. Shaye’s the only one who seems like she’s fully into the material that she’s working with and while the movie makes the mistake of taking her a tad too seriously, she’s still good enough to where it works for her and her character. In fact, it makes her seem all the more bad-ass.

And because we get more time with her this time around, we’re taken away from the rest of the characters. Though Dermot Mulroney and Stefanie Scott seem to be trying, their characters don’t have much more depth other than just, “normal, everyday human beings who are scared of ghosts”. Mulroney tries to breathe some life into this boring dad role, but eventually, has to sit on the side lines and watch as Lin Shaye cleans house.

Which isn’t that much of a problem, because she does it all so well.

Consensus: If Chapter 3 is indeed the finale to the Insidious franchise, it won’t be a tearful goodbye, but it will leave behind a legacy of being an mediocre movie that could have been so much scarier and fun, much like the other two.

5 / 10

Don't follow her!

Don’t follow her!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Taken 3 (2015)

This family should just never step outside ever again.

After a few run-ins with foreign thugs, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) can finally sit back, relax, and soak in that his family, for once in what seems like an eternity, is safe and sound. His daughter (Maggie Grace) seems to be spending some lovely time with her new boyfriend (Jonny Weston), as well as getting an education in college; his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), is also currently dating (Dougray Scott), but doesn’t know whether or not she should take it to the next level; and there’s even a possibility of their being another member of the Mills family. However, that all goes away once Bryan’s ex-wife mysteriously turns up dead and, wouldn’t you know it, Bryan’s the one who is framed for it. Without standing by and allowing for himself to be wrongfully imprisoned, Bryan takes justice into his own hands, goes on the run, and does whatever he can to clear his name. That means kicking a lot of ass, questioning a lot of folks, and figuring out just who the hell is behind all of this. Also trying to do the same is Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), somebody who believes Bryan is innocent, even if he can’t fully prove it just yet.

"Act your age, missy!"

“Act your age, missy!”

Unlike everybody else on the face of the planet, I was never so hot with the Taken franchise to begin with. Sure, it was a neat concept – place an aging-actor, well-respected actor in an action-packed, take-no-names role and just let him be as menacing and scary as humanly possible. However, both movies hardly ever did anything for me. The first Taken was too serious for its own good, and if we’re being honest here, Taken 2 may have been a bit better for me, if only because it was absolutely balls-out wild and hardly ever made excuses for itself. Action movies that are like always win my heart, even if they do feature one of their characters throwing random grenades all over a city.

But hey, let bygones be bygones.

Now, with Taken 3, it seems like the franchise has finally hit its peak, or I guess, lack thereof. The story itself always showed signs of getting old, tired and stale, and that’s exactly what this movie proves as fact. There’s no real story here, except that Liam Neeson is on the run in a Fugitive-kind of way, where we’re left to sit back and enjoy all of the crazy, adrenaline-fueled close-calls he runs into to protect his life, as well as his family members. Honestly, it’s kind of a bore to watch, which shouldn’t at all be the case.

Some of that problem is due to the fact that the story just isn’t all that engaging to begin with, but it’s also because Olivier Megaton’s direction is constantly irritating. Rather than allowing for us to see how an action-sequence plays out, who is affected in it and why, Megaton feels the urgent need to shake the camera up all over the place, and cut every single shot that comes the slightest bit close to hitting four seconds. In a way, it’s almost nauseating and makes it seem like Megaton knows he’s not working with anything worth writing home about, so he just does whatever he can to distract us, in the most manipulatively obvious way possible.

Where’s Tony Scott when you need him?

Also, let me not forget to mention that this movie is PG-13 in the worst kind of way possible. People get their throats slit, shot in the face, blow-up in car accidents, stabbed in the abdomens, and so on and so forth, and there is absolutely no blood to be found. I get that the powers that be behind Taken 3 wanted to appeal to a larger-audience, so rather than scaring the hell out of anyone who wanted to have a good old time at the theater and not think of the harsh consequences for such violent acts as these, they wanted to soften it all up, without showing any sort of ketchup whatsoever. Like with Megaton’s direction, Taken 3 is made solely to distract you from the real problems that may be lurking within the movie itself and rather than being sly, or even coy about it, it’s easy to pick apart every little problem it has, which makes it all the easier to see why this trilogy needs to end, and end now.

"Excuse me, miss? Have you seen my agent anywhere? They seriously need to be fired."

“Excuse me, miss? Have you seen my agent anywhere? They seriously need to be fired.”

Which is definitely a shame because this is the same franchise that helped re-invigorate Liam Neeson’s career. Say whatever you will about these movies, without the first Taken, we wouldn’t have the Liam Neeson we see and sometimes love, in today’s world, had it not been for the unpredictable popularity of that movie. It helps that Neeson brings some gravitas to this role and allows for Bryan Mills to feel more of an actual, living, breathing human being who also just so happens to be able to karate-chop people to death. However, here, in his third-outing as this character, Neeson seems tired and, dare I say it, bored. And he definitely should be. The guy’s had some of his best roles in the past few years, with a lot better movies, and from what it seems, there’s only more of them to come.

So, people, whatever you do, don’t feel bad for Liam Neeson. The dude’s going to be mighty fine for many years to come.

The ones who you should probably feel bad for are the likes of Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and new-to-the-franchise Dougray Scott. Because, honestly, I don’t know if either of these three are going to get anymore shots at glory like they have with these movies. No offense to Grace, but she’s never been the best actress for this role (especially considering she’s always looked 30, whenever she was supposed to be roughly around 17 to 21), and here, those problems show. She’s got at least one look on her face throughout this whole movie and she wears it to a T. Though I can’t say much about Janssen, due to the fact that she dies pretty early on, the relationship she has with Bryan borders on being friendly, to downright four-play and it makes you wonder whether these two are going to just let all of the bullshit go away and bang, right here and now. That’s the movie I would have liked to see, but sadly, didn’t. Oh well.

Then, of course, we have Dougray Scott, who has actually been pretty good in past movies, but is pretty terrible here. He’s forced to do some sort of American-accent that does not at all work one bit for him, and his character is so clearly not who he says he is at first, that when we eventually get to see some of his true colors come out, it’s no surprise to us whatsoever. And as for Forest Whitaker, he’s just here to service the plot, occasionally dueling out a nice bit of charm here and there. But mostly though, he’s left to just eat bagels.

And there’s your sales-pitch, everybody.

Consensus: With hardly any story to work with, Taken 3 is a relatively boring, aimless piece of PG-13 action, where people practically get beheaded, and there’s not so much as a pint of blood to be found.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

It's okay, Liam. Just get rid of it and let the good times roll.

It’s okay, Liam. Just get rid of it and let the good times roll.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Kill the Messenger (2014)

What’s a newspaper?

Middle-aged journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) isn’t necessarily the type of writer who searches for a big story, but if it ever comes his way, he’ll more than likely take the opportunity to jump on it right away. That’s why when Webb stumbles upon a lead that may take him all the way to uncovering that the CIA channeled drugs through the U.S., he gets on top of it right away, interviewing possible sources, even if that includes him taking trips out to to the villages of Nicaragua and putting his life on the line. However, Webb is a true journalist and will do anything to make his story the best possible one out there and for all of the world to see, which is exactly what happens. It gets his name known, story re-published in larger, much more respected news outlets, face on TV, and even an award for “Year’s Best Journalist”. Everything looks wonderful for Webb’s life and career, that is, until the government actually gets involved and starts putting pressure on him, as well as his news publication to stop pursuing the story any further, or else. This leaves Webb at a stand-still: Continue following the story his career was made for and lose everything he has, or, listen to what the government demands so that he can live a normal, comfortable life, like everything was before all this press? Decisions, decisions.

There’s certain movies that, to me, may speak volumes, while to others, may not at all. I understand this because while most critics out there like to say that they “have no bias” when it comes to reviewing a certain movie, from a certain creator, on a certain subject, the fact is, we are all biased. Which isn’t a problem, it’s just a fact of life that every human being has deep down inside themselves, regardless of if they want to admit or not.

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm...

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm…

The reason why I say this, is because a movie like Kill the Messenger is made exactly for me: A movie about an respectable journalist, taking place in a time when journalists truly did matter to the mainstream media, and doing what most journalists do, day in and day out. I too, am an aspiring journalist and while I do realize that the world is starting to need fewer and fewer of them, it’s still a profession I love and will continue to pursue until the day I die, regardless of if I have a job in the field or not. So yeah, as you could probably tell by my statement, that this is the movie for me.

That said, I do realize that not every movie out there that works for me, won’t work for others and while I do want to jump into this movie head-on and talk about Webb, his practice, and how he, the real-life figure, makes me happy to be an aspiring journalist, I have to judge the movie on its merits. Merits which, mind you, may be a bit fuzzy to me and my inner-bias.

Sorry, people. I’m only human, after all.

But as I was saying, Kill the Messenger is a pretty typical biopic; while it definitely tries to shy away from being by-the-notes, it hardly ever flies away from this convention and just tells its story like how it was presented to us. Which isn’t a bad thing, because if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it, and such is the case here. Webb’s story, as is, is an interesting one that doesn’t need to go through any interesting, yet shocking, twists to liven things up – all it needs to do is be told to us as it was, with every bit of information known about who he was and the controversy that surrounded a good portion of his life. Sort of like an article as is, but I won’t go on any further about that!

Anyway, director Michael Cuesta, while not necessarily the most flashy director in the world, doesn’t need to be so because the strength of the movie is in the real-life story itself. Of course with most of these biopics, there’s always the wonder of how much we are seeing presented on screen is actually how it happened, or how much is just made for the sake of making the movie entertaining, but for the most part, I couldn’t find any punches pulled by Cuesta. Even if there were any, they were so thinly-done, that it was hard for me to notice and hardly ever took me away from the real strength of this movie, which was the character of Gary Webb himself. But most of all, the actor portraying him: Jeremy Renner.

By now, within in the past five years of seeing the Hurt Locker, I think the world has come to realize that Jeremy Renner is a wonderful actor that’s more than capable of handling a movie on his own (for some of us, it may have been earlier, but you know, I’m talking about the mainstream audience here, you hipsters). So for him to be involved with a biopic such as this, it made me interested in seeing just how far he could go into making us see him as somebody, and not just him playing somebody. And honestly, it’s impressive how well-suited for this role Renner is; though we don’t know all that much about Webb, the real-life person, what we see from how Renner plays him, we get the idea that he was a sweet and lovable, yet also troubled, family man. Because Renner has such a charming screen-presence, there’s an idea that he gets along with practically anybody he’s around and doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to telling it like he sees it. Which is, once again, all thanks to Renner’s wonderful performance that may not get a lot of press, but definitely should, because it’s probably his strongest since the previously-mentioned Locker.

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Really?

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Didn’t see that coming!

But what Renner, as well as the movie, tells us about Webb is that he was a hard-worker, who stuck to his journalistic guns, even when it seemed like, for the well-being of everyone around him, he shouldn’t have. However, that’s what brings us to the main dilemma that the movie discusses: How far should a journalist go to pursue a story? Should they go in so deep that they practically abandon those who love and count on him/her for support? Or, should they create their story and jump off of it right before the story itself gets all sort of unwanted press?  This, to some, may seem like an obvious point made by many other movies concerning the world of journalism, but to me, a fellow journalist, is a problem I struggle with everyday. Not because I myself am throwing myself right into these highly controversial stories that could put my life on the line, but more because that could definitely happen some day. A person could easily read a story of mine that they don’t like and could decide to take matters into their own hands, which, I know, sounds barbaric, but crazier things have happened, people.

But enough about me, because while I found a way to connect to this movie with my own journalist-mind intact, I think the real wonder of this movie that makes it easy for almost anybody to appreciate is that it gives a glimpse into the life of a man not many people discuss or even know about much anymore. Webb, while seeming like a slightly troubled-fella, really did love his job, but most of all, loved discovering and unraveling the truth about those in power and all of the wrong-doings they were committed. Which is why it’s sad to see not just his family begin to bail on him once this story gets too hot, but also his publication that doesn’t want to be involved with a journalist who may, or may not be, good for their image.

It says something about journalism as a whole, but also says something about how this man, Gary Webb, truly did want people to know that he was telling the truth just about every step of the way. But that it only takes a few of those in power, to be angry, and make sure that whatever skeletons they have in their closet, stays put. It sucks, but it’s a reality and it was inspiring to see someone like Webb stand up for himself, even when it was the riskiest choice he could make.

Even if I was the only one who felt it.

Consensus: Kill the Messenger isn’t just a testament to the legend of Gary Webb and his journalistic pursuit to discovering the truth, but also to journalism as a whole, and presents plenty of strong questions, with hardly any answers. The way it’s supposed to be told.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

A.C.O.D. (2013)

30 years later and my parents are still together, and I’m still fucked up. So what does that tell you about children of divorce?!?!?

Carter (Adam Scott) is what some of us call an adult child of divorce (or, for a clearer term, A.C.O.D.). While there is a book written about studies that were done on him when he was young, everything that it predicted has not come true. Though his parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) are crazy and definitely have some sort of effect on him as a person, he rarely so often sees them, he’s successful, well-adjusted, with a very supportive girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and willing to help out anybody if they need it. Such is the case with his little bro (Clark Duke) when he decides that he wants to give marriage a try, despite only knowing the bride-to-be for no more than a few months. But hey, love is love, or so they say, so Carter decides to fund the wedding in hopes that it will go down smoothly, without a problem whatsoever, but now that his parents are both coming to it, and AT THE SAME TIME, IN THE SAME ROOM, well, then it seems like things may not go as perfectly as originally planned.

Comedies like this always get my happy and excited for what they may bring to me and my mood of that given day. More so this one because of the awesome cast that has almost anybody, and everybody that’s willing to bring out a laugh in me, no matter what the material is that they’re working with. As long as they’re funny, then I’m laughing and I’m happy. As simple as that.

Reserve me a seat at that Thanksgiving dinner table.

Reserve me a seat at that Thanksgiving dinner table. Please! I’ll literally do anything!

However, comedies like these also make me realize why I dislike so many comedies out there because while it may boast a cast full of people very capable of being funny, it gives them little to nothing to do that be considered funny. Of course there are plenty of gags here that the writers themselves probably thought were absolutely, positively hilarious in their minds and on paper, but when it actually comes to being on film, the gags just don’t work and seem more like they were perfectly for a small sketch you’d see on MAD TV or SNL. And for a movie that’s shorter than an-hour-and-a-half, that’s not a good thing to say, especially because you can tell that the premise itself is a nifty idea, it’s just one that never fully feels like it gets stretched out. Or, at least stretched out in a reasonable way.

The basic idea of this movie is to show how this adult child of divorce is coping in the day-to-day life, with a girlfriend who wants to get married, while also knowing that marriage is doomed from the start, all because his parents couldn’t seem to stay together and be happy while at it. That’s a story worth watching get developed and having jokes work off of, but the problem is that nothing in this story ever seems to mean anything, at all. You get a sense that this character of Carter is just creating more problems then there really needs to be, and after awhile, you stop to embrace this problem of his, and get annoyed by it.

While Adam Scott is sure as hell charming as Carter, the character can be so whiny and self-deprecating at times that it was hard to really care for him or even support him with the problems he had with the people around him. Yeah, so his little bro’s getting married to a chick he just met no more than a few months ago? Big deal, let him be. Okay, and so what, his parents are back together again, shacking up and knocking boots together again like old times? What’s the big dealio with that? Eventually, they’ll get bored of one another, realize the other’s faults and never want to speak to each other ever again, sort of like old times too, right? And so what if you’re girlfriend wants to get married, but you’re not ready yet? That’s your problem, so talk it over with her and do it whenever you feel is necessary?

So many problems this guy had with life just did not at all seem to matter to me. I don’t know if that’s because my parents have been together ever since they’re early-20’s and I don’t quite get the same crisis he’s going through as a middle-aged adult or what, but what I do know is that the movie has no central-plot that really feels like you’re strung along on. Instead, it’s more like a bunch of sketches were made up, with an idea of a story in mind, and somehow, someway, the writers were going to connect them all together to make it into one cohesive story, meant to compel us one second, and howling at the moon next.

Problem is, neither of which seems to actually happen, and that’s all made worse by the fact that everybody involved are very, very, VERY funny in almost all that they do. Just not so much here.

Like I was saying before, while I was having plenty of problems with his character, Adam Scott still does do a nice job as Carter, mainly because he has just such a likable personality, it’s almost too hard to despise the guy. He may be self-loathing practically all of the time, but when he wants to be funny in his own dry, sardonic way, it works and made me laugh like as if I was watching him tell me about Game of Thrones, all over again. He’s good with everybody here, but his best scenes definitely come when he’s with Mary Elizabeth Winstead who gives us a girlfriend that isn’t begging to get hitched right away, nor is she really wanting to wait forever. She just wants to make sure that when the time is right, it will happen, and that’s a nice breath of fresh air to actually see in a movie, even if it is a bit unrealistic (am I right, men?).

She even smiles at him when he's not looking or even saying something remotely funny. Whatta babe.

She even smiles at him when he’s not looking or even saying something remotely funny. Whatta babe.

The most fun out of this whole cast seem to be from both Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara as Carter’s parents who, after sheer-chance, start banging once again, which makes the movie a whole lot more enjoyable to watch since they just work so perfectly damn well together. Jenkins is fun when he’s being a likable prick, whereas O’Hara is always a blast when she’s playing up her mean-side, as well as her outrageous one as well. You combine them together, and you have the best bits of the movie that make this so worth watching, even when everything else around them seems to be mildly interesting, at that.

But sure, Amy Poehler has a few funny scenes as Carter’s detestable step-mother; Jane Lynch shows up and does her thing as the psychiatrist who continues to study Carter on and on throughout the years; and Jessica Alba, sporting a slew of arm-tats, maybe has about five minutes of screen-time in this movie, is charming, very hot and shows Carter a new life he could have. But as soon as she’s gone, she never comes back and that’s that. Disappointing, I guess, but then again, nobody has ever really noticed Jessica Alba for her comedic-chops. Especially no guy has.

Consensus: The more-than capable cast of A.C.O.D. make this a lot better than it truthfully is, but whenever they aren’t working their magic, the script takes over and becomes a mind-numbing bore, offering us nothing interesting to really care about.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Wonder where the hell he's at? Sure as heck not a "book store", is it?

Wonder where the hell he’s at? Sure as heck not a “book store”, is it?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Just get rid of the haunted house, or the human-being! Problem solved!

After the Lambert family got their son back from “The Further” everything goes back to normal. The kids are happy and playful, the parents feel safe, and the spooky grand-mom (Barbara Hershey) is done with all of her ghost-talk. It seems like everything’s a bit back to normal, except, Josh (Patrick Wilson) is acting a little weird. Not only does he not seem himself, but his wife (Rose Byrne) notices that he doesn’t remember certain things about their past, like the song she played for him on piano when they first fell in love. Something weird is happening and everybody begins to wonder whether or not it was actually Josh that came back, or something more deep, dark, and sinister? Also, on the side, the ghost busters from the first movie are back and are diving into the history of who this ghost is, where it came from, and how to get it the hell away from Josh’s soul.

While I think I was sort of in the minority for only marginally liking Insidious, I still do have to say that I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. It wasn’t that the story was one I couldn’t wait for them to just develop more and more of, but because James Wan proved himself as a new voice in the horror-genre not too long ago with the Conjuring. And yes, while I did have my many gripes with that movie as well, I still have to give it to the dude and pat him on the back because he gave me a horror movie that amped-up the terror and the tension, in a way to create more scariness, even if I wasn’t all that petrified by the end. So, with that said, I think it’s safe to say that we know what Wan is capable of when it comes to having a meager-budget and a plethora of scares at his disposal, and sadly, this does not rank-up with what we know.

"WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS?!?!? ACTING BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!"

“WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS?!?!? ACTING BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!”

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this one is a lot weaker than the original; aka, a movie that I wasn’t too fond of in the beginning. The department that I will give Wan and his pals credit in is that they avoid doing what most sequels do: Tell the same story again. Rather than giving us the same old story of somebody being creeped-out by strange noises in the house, this one actually expands on the first, ties up some loose-ends that may have been left dangling, and explains why certain things happened in that movie, making this one of the rare sequels (a horror one, no less) where it’s almost mandatory that you see the first, just to understand all that every character’s alluding to and what to make sense of all the happenings.

In that regard, yes, Wan deserves credit. He does use some of the same jump-scares that he’s been using for quite some time, but he at least gets his story going to somewhere new, and dare I even say it, improved, almost to the point of where it feels like it’s a sequel that could leave plenty more questions than it answers, and we’d be fine with that. However, this is a horror movie, and it is essential for it to have scares, which, sadly, Wan isn’t able to produce all that often, save for the first 20 minutes or so. And even then, the movie feels like it’s just recycling the same scares from the first, even if they are still somewhat effective. “Somewhat”, is what I said, and somewhat is what I mean.

And when Wan is missing the moments that are supposed to make us shriek for our lives, he’s making us laugh and point at just how ridiculous some of these moments are, which is both a sin and a blessing,. It all depends on what type of viewer you are. When Wan had us travel to “The Further” in the first movie, it was silly, but still a bit cool because of how all of these characters looked like “The Circus Act From Hell”. Yes, it was campy, but it was still cool to see because it showed that Wan used his budget for a reason. However, here, “The Circus Act From Hell” shows up many more times than it should, and everytime we see them, we can’t help but chuckle at how over-the-top they are. Certain lines are said in a way that’s supposed to have us pee our pants in fright, but do so more because of our non-stop laughter. Whether or not this was solely the intention of Wan, has yet to be determined, but if there’s something that’s different from the first movie, it’s that this sequel seems to explore more of the goofiness of its material and does it so in a way that makes it seem like it’s doing it on purpose, but in a very serious matter as well.

That James Wan sure has comedic-timing.

That James Wan sure has comedic-timing.

Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that the movie tries to be scary, but is more funny, both intentionally and unintentionally. There! I said it!

While the cast from the first movie mostly stays the same here, some of the performances are a bit different, for better or worse. The most glaring difference in certain character’s personalities is the one of Josh, played by Patrick Wilson, in what has to be his hammiest performance to date. Since we know that Josh is possessed by a very threatening, powerful spirit of a sort, this time being a serial-killer, we pretty much have to expect him to be all over-the-place in a way that’s nearly uncontrollable, just like the rest of the flick. You’d think that the two aspects of the movie would go together like peanut butter and jelly, but come out more like peanut butter and potato chips. Wilson is the peanut butter in this equation, and he takes over the movie in a way that’s distracting to the story, and upsetting to watch for anybody who has been as big of a fan of this guy, as I am. Wilson tries to go as crazy as can be with this performance, but he just is way too cool and charming for this type of nutty-stuff to fully make it seem like it’s all in a day’s work. They should have just given that role to somebody normal like Rose Byrne. Now that would have been over-the-top and campy, but in a freakin’ fun way! Not with Barbara Hershey, though. I’m afraid she’s already played “creepy and crazy” many times before.

Consensus: The first movie wasn’t a masterpiece of the horror genre, but at least it had its fair share of scares, character-development, and sense of fun, which Insidious: Chapter 2 seems to have lost most sight of, but instead, replaced all of that with unintentional yucks and chuckles.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Just your average, run-of-the-mill family, with a bunch of weird ghosts and ghouls slumming around the house. But that's besides the point.

Just your average, run-of-the-mill family, with a bunch of weird ghosts and ghouls slumming around the house. But that’s besides the point.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net