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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Susan Sarandon

A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)

Make Christmas Bad Again.

Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carol (Kathryn Hahn) are all moms who deserve a little bit of a break. But the holidays don’t necessarily mean that, so the next few days or so, they’re spending, slaving away, looking for presents, putting up decorations, and most importantly, making all sorts of food. It’s a pain, but it’s the kind of things that moms do to ensure that the holidays go by smoothly. However, if all that wasn’t enough, each mom her their own mother come around, to hopefully, make things better. This doesn’t happen, of course. Amy’s mother, Ruth (Christine Baranski), is a stickler and constantly nags at Amy for this Christmas not being as memorable as it should be, despite Amy’s desperate try for it to be as such; Kiki’s mother, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), loves her so much that she can’t seem to grasp any sense of a comfort-zone; and Carol’s, Isis (Susan Sarandon), when not gambling, drinking, smoking, and sexing her life away, is usually around to just ask for money, which Carol doesn’t want to do, ever, but always ends up doing anyway.

Open-containers in the mall? WHO CARES!

Yup. This holiday-season is going to be fun.

The original Bad Moms was a quite surprise. While it looked stupid, over-the-top, broad, and ridiculously white, it was also a pretty funny comedy that had a slight bit of something smart to say and, oh yeah, also paid tribute to moms everywhere. Although it was written and directed by two dudes, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, it felt like the kind of movie that was made for women, by women, and with smart, interesting women, even if that middle-portion wasn’t entirely true. It’s very rare that we actually get movies made exactly for women, let alone comedies, or better yet, let alone good movies in general, and it’s why Bad Moms, while not exactly perfect, got by on pure-charm.

And same goes for A Bad Moms Christmas, which is odd considering that it was made so quick, you’d automatically think of a botched rush-job, but it doesn’t come off that way. Instead, the familiarity with these characters, their lives, and their personalities, helps the story move by at a rapid-pace, without ever seeming to settle down. Jokes fly, with a good portion of them landing, and the others, not, but most of all, it’s all quick, funny, and pretty damn entertaining.

We’ve all been in this position.

Is it as surprising as the first? Not really.

In a way, you know what you’re going to get with A Bad Moms Christmas and because of that, everything works a lot better. We expect tons of raunch, non-stop montages of these moms doing bad-stuff, and eventually, lessons to be learned. It’s all conventional stuff, but with a R-rated raunchy-comedy that’s actually raunchy and funny enough to register as such, it’s all fine. Maybe it’s with the holidays coming up, I’m a lot more lenient to movies such as this, where the sap and endearing whiteness is able to seen from a mile away, but hey, so be it.

Or maybe, it’s just that this ensemble is so much fun to watch, it hardly even matters. As with the first movie, everybody here who shows up, gets an opportunity to be funny and at least bring something to the table, not seeming like window-dressing for an already polished movie. Of course, as we know from the first, Kunis, Bell, and especially, Hahn, are all funny and exciting to watch, but it’s the older moms like Baranski, Hines, and Sarandon who really excel. While they’re all playing their types, the types have some heart and humanity behind them that it doesn’t really matter; also, it’s nice that the movie gives each and everyone of them a chance to not only shine in their own scenes, but together, being one of the very few movies featuring three women, all over the age of 50, to just sit down, talk about their lives, and not once make a joke about Viagra.

Okay, they talk about sex, but who cares? They’re moms! They’re allowed to do whatever they want!

Consensus: As much as it’s like the first, for better and for worse, A Bad Moms Christmas brings back all of the fun, likable characters from the first, as well as the silly, over-the-top raunchy humor, too.

6.5 / 10

What Ms. Claus don’t know, won’t kill her.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Meddler (2016)

Mom’s annoy you, because they love you. Appreciate it.

After the death of her long-loving husband, Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) is kind of lost. She’s heartbroken, sad and lonely, which is why she continuously drops by to see her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), so that she can have a little something to do. The only issue is that Lori doesn’t always enjoy her mom’s presence and because her own career as a screenwriter is stressful as is, she can’t help but bring some of those angry thoughts onto her mother. So instead of trying to help her daughter out every chance she gets, Marnie decides to extend her helping hands to those around who – some of whom, she hardly even knows. And because she was left a whole lot of comfort-money, Marnie is more than capable of doing whatever is necessary to ensure that some of her new friends are pleased with everything they ask of Marnie. While she’s doing all of this, of course, she’s also striking up something of a relationship with a local security-guard (J.K. Simmons), who takes a huge liking to her, even if she isn’t quite ready for a new love in her life.

Clap it up for you, Susie. You deserve it!

Clap it up for you, Susie. You deserve it!

It’s a pretty simple and overly cutesy plot that goes quite awry a few times. See, what’s odd about the Meddler is that it seems like writer/director Lorene Scafaria doesn’t quite know who’s side she’s on – the mom who’s meddling, or the hapless daughter who just wants to be left alone. Considering that this appears to be very autobiographical, it’s odd to see a writer/director side with someone who isn’t them, and it does play into how the movie’s perceived.

There’s a part of the Meddler that’s having fun with itself and its cast, but also seems like it wants to say more. In a way like I’ll See You in My Dreams had something to say about aging and growing old without your soulmate around, the Meddler mostly shows what a person in that situation would do to try and keep themselves busy. Of course, the situations and predicaments she gets herself into are ridiculous, but they’re also kind of funny and charming in only  a way that a movie such as this can get away with.

Because, let’s be honest, driving an Apple employee that you hardly know, to and from law school, never works out.

It’s just a fact.

But what works best about the Meddler is that Scafaria’s writing is just charming enough, to where we don’t care what we can believe in or sympathize with – the situations, after awhile, just write themselves and it’s interesting to watch how each and everyone of them play out. There’s not nearly as much tension as you would expect, but maybe that’s not this kind of movie; it’s just a showing a later-age woman, trying to still make something of the life she’s got left. It’s earnest to a fault, but hey, it kind of works.

Not Sam Elliot, but hey, close enough.

Not Sam Elliot, but hey, close enough.

And yeah, it definitely does help that Susan Sarandon is playing the title character, appearing in almost every scene, showing off her great knack for combining her heart and likability, even when it seems like this character may be something of a caricature. Scafaria shows a lot of love and affection for the characters here, but it’s Sarandon’s that gets the most, with just the right touch of humanism to make her seem real, even if she does sort of seem like she’s too nice, too sweet, and too colorful to be real. But thankfully, that’s why Sarandon is here to show us that, yeah, even if she doesn’t, she’s still a whole lot of fun to watch a movie about.

As for everyone else around Sarandon, they fare a bit better on the realism-side. Rose Byrne is seemingly playing Scafaria and does fine enough being miserable and getting into all sorts of fights with Sarandon; J.K. Simmons is playing the older fella that Sarandon falls for and shows why someone like him would be so attractive in her eyes, yet, at the same time, also maybe not be the right fit; and Cecily Strong, as the gal who gets her wedding picked-up by Sarandon’s character, shows a great deal of heart, even if her character is really meant to stand around and just cry a whole lot.

It’s a bunch of hapless roles, but hey, having a good cast can sometimes work in a movie’s favor.

Consensus: Even though its cutesy premise can sometimes get in the way of an actual plot, the Meddler does benefit from a solid lead performance from Sarandon that overcompensates for almost every other wrongdoing of the script and/or direction.

7 / 10

Nothing like a pain-in-the-ass mother to come in and save the day. When she isn't re-arranging your drawers.

Nothing like a pain-in-the-ass mother to come in and save the day. When she isn’t re-arranging your drawers.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Speed Racer (2008)

Go. No, seriously, go! Get the hell outta here!

A young, brass, and quick-fire driver Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is, as they say, “a demon on wheels.” He races because of a love he’s had since a little tike, doesn’t want to slow up for anything, whether it be off or on the track, and knows that it’s what he wants to do with the rest of his life. That’s great because he’s good at it, and his parents (John Goodman and Susan Sarandon) approve of it as well. However, now that Speed’s skills are getting more and more noticed by the races, he’s starting to gain more attention on his tale which means that more big-corporate sponsors want him to be apart of their “fixed” races, and what him, to make them, money. It’s a cheap scam that Speed may fall for, if he doesn’t listen to a special someone named Racer X (Matthew Fox); his arch-nemesis who may have a secret agenda on his hands.

If you’ve ever watched a single episode of the original, 1960’s TV-anime show, you’ll know that Speed Racer was bananas. And I don’t say that because there’s a monkey in both the show and the movie – I mean it was literally crazy. It was wild, fast-paced, sped-up (pun intended, I’m assuming), always jumpy, and rarely ever slowed down for a single bit. Because of that, it was one of my favorite cartoons to watch as a little kiddie, since anything that featured a down-to-earth, slow-as-molasses story meant I would either die of boredom or fall asleep. That means obviously any person taking the reigns of directing a Speed Racer movie had to know what they were doing and getting themselves into, which is why the Wachowski’s seemed like the perfect fit for this material.

He's tough. Or something.

He’s tough. Or something.

And trust me, for awhile, it seemed like my dreams were coming true. Not only was the opening racing-sequence fun and pulse-pounding, but it was downright beautiful to look at in the type of way that made me feel as if I was watching a video-game, albeit one that I wanted to play myself, but didn’t feel like nudging the other person too much for. It was just catching my eye I’d expect a movie from this type of source material to be and look like, and then some. Some may give the movie crap for having it essentially be a bunch of actors, standing in front of a green-screen, as they act their asses off, with no background whatsoever, but it worked. It wasn’t perfect, but it definitely worked because it’s a Speed Racer movie, not Schindler’s List or anything of the sort.

Then again, you could have had the Wachowskis fooled since about half of their film is dedicated to just car-racing, whereas the rest of the two hours is dedicated to a bunch of needless, nonsensical drama that’s as standard and as boring as you can get, yet, we’re supposed to care for because it’s Speed Racer and his lovable family. Not going to argue whether or not Racer’s cast of friends and family aren’t as lovable here, as they were in the show, but there seems to be too much time on them, their problems, their sadness, and what gets them waking up in the morning. I love these characters for talking fast and being nothing else other than cartoons, but I can’t take them seriously as fully, rounded-out human-beings, as much as the actors in the roles may try to make me think otherwise.

Then of course, you take into consideration how completely bonkers some parts of the movie can be, as if were exactly ripped from the television show. Actually, I’d say the best, most memorable part of the whole movie didn’t come from anything that had to do with racing or cars, but people kicking the crap out of each other. Not only does Speed, Trixie, Spritle, and Chim Chim get in on a little bit out of ass-kicking action that’s as goofy and campy as you’re ever going to get, but so does Pops, who was actually a Greco-Roman wrestler in the TV show, a fact that they thankfully touched on here in this movie. It’s obvious that the Wachowski’s put some heart and emotion into this flick with its look and these key scenes where all hell breaks loose, and the movie just gets wild and crazy for the sake of it, but it’s not enough. Not enough to satisfy any average movie-goer, and sure as hell not enough to satisfy a Speed Racer fanatic, like myself.

Very disappointed here. That’s if you already couldn’t tell by now.

"Falcon pun-what?"

“Falcon pun-what?”

But at least the cast is awesome, right? Ehh, well, I wouldn’t go that far, even if they do seem to all be trying hard. I like Emile Hirsch. I don’t know why so many people get on this dude’s case, but he’s a solid actor and one of the rare, younger guys in the biz today who’s been taking some interesting indie-projects, as well as the mainstream ones. His pick to play the one and only Speed Racer may have been interesting to some eyes, including mine, but the guy doesn’t really do much, nor does he have much to do. He sort of just stands there, broods a bit, tries to look tough and hip, and lets out corny lines that feel like they would be so much better if they were done in a mile-a-minute way they were used in the show. Then again, that’s just coming from a real fan. Most may not care or worry about it too much, but to me, it made Speed Racer feel like a dull character, one that Hirsch couldn’t quite save himself.

What character they really got wrong here, and what pissed me off the most about this movie, was Racer X, played by Matthew Fox. Fox is good as X, and definitely has the presence to make this character work, but rather than having him be subtle in any sort of way about his “real intentions” the movie spoon-feeds us it right away. Then it also begins to make this character seem a bit soft, as if Fox wasn’t able to make him sympathetic in the least bit, which totally defeats the purpose of having a character-foil like X around. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Everybody else is okay, even if nobody lights up the screen and I think that’s how the Wachowski’s want it and like it. They want the color-palette to take over our minds and eyes, and it works; it’s just a problem that it’s the only thing about this movie that does seem to work.

Consensus: The Speed Racer movie any fan-boy or junkie would want, they sadly won’t get here because this adaptation is filled with way too many dry spots, all made for character-development and drama. Basically, the types of things we don’t want, or better yet, need in a Speed Racer flick.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Well, at least we don't need Mario Kart to be adapted for the big screen anymore.

Well, at least we don’t need Mario Kart to be adapted for the big screen anymore.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Tammy (2014)

Still feeling like crap, Rex Reed? Good.

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) isn’t having a very good day. First of all, she hit a deer with her car while she was searching for chap-stick. Then, she gets fired from her job because she constantly shows up late and can’t ever seem to get along with her boss (Ben Falcone). And to make matters even worse, she ends up coming home to her husband (Nat Faxon) being with another woman (Toni Collette), making Tammy leave and eventually live with her mother (Allison Janney) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon). However, that’s not how Tammy wants to roll, so when she brings up the idea of moving away from her hometown and starting anew, her grandmother jumps on the opportunity to go with her; better yet, her car and money will be the reason why Tammy wants to go in the first place. So begins this road trip of sorts with Tammy and her grams, where they go to bars, drink, have fun, meet cuties, get lost in National State Parks and even get to know more about eachother than they ever did, or ever wanted to, before.

If you saw either last year’s the Heat, or Identity Thief, then trust me, you’ve seen this movie. Yes, both are Melissa McCarthy-starring films and while the former may be better than the later, there’s still a certain trend/formula going on with both of them: They consist of Melissa McCarthy doing the same damn thing, each and every time the camera is put onto her.

Susie be like, "Get me da hell out of dis car, with dat gurl".

Susie be like, “Get me da hell out of dis car, with dat gurl”.

Both highlight McCarthy as a female master of improv, where she yells, runs, falls down, and says whatever raunchy thought comes to her mind first. Sure, both movies allowed her to continue this act in different ways, but it’s still the same thing we’ve seen done before and quite frankly, no matter how charming or talented McCarthy may actually be, it’s an act that can get very stale, very quick. And that’s the exact problem with Tammy: It’s just stale. It’s hardly ever funny and it always seems to exist, solely so McCarthy can find something to riff on for more than five minutes, all to show us how much of a clever gal she is, but somehow, only wasting our time and not adding anything to the “story” this flick is actually supposed to be working.

But what makes this movie a bit more strange is that it’s not only co-written by McCarthy and her real-life husband, Ben Falcone, but it’s also actually directed by him. May not seem like much at first, but for some reason, I couldn’t get that fact out of my head.

Because see, everytime there is something funny to be had here, it almost always seems to come from McCarthy. It doesn’t matter if it’s actually humorous or not – if there’s a moment that Falcone thinks is worth a few chuckles or so, he’ll give it right to his wifey-poo where she’ll take the material and do whatever the hell she wants with it. Hasn’t stopped her before with other peeps behind the camera, so why the hell should it stop with her hubby in that position? It shouldn’t, but it totally should have because there’s hardly anything funny about this movie to begin with.

Actually, nope, scratch that: There is something funny about this movie. But it isn’t McCarthy; it isn’t Falcone; and it sure as hell isn’t our titled-character Tammy; nope, it’s actually the secret weapon to this whole thing that just almost makes it work: Susan Sarandon.

That’s right, ladies and germs, the one who absolutely steals this movie is none other than Susan Sarandon, playing Tammy’s boozing, man-eating, wild-timing Grand-mom and even though it may be weird seeing the seemingly ageless Sarandon wearing a short and grey-wig, it’s a distraction that goes away real soon. The reason being is because Sarandon is such a lovely screen-presence to watch (then again, when is she not?), you can’t help but just accept her character and love every decision she makes. Even if they are sometimes stupid and shallow, they’re just decisions of a character we like, want to like even more and know that we can trust to do the right thing at the end, whatever that may actually be.

Most of that has to do with the fact that we love Sarandon as is, but most of it also has to do with the fact that she’s the only character really worth paying attention/liking in this whole thing. Which isn’t to discredit anybody else who shows up in this movie – the supporting cast is a wide-variety of familiar-faces that all do fine with what they’re given, whether it be to be funny, or not. They all service this material to the best of their ability and it actually made me think it was such a shame to see them all packed in together for something like this.

How sweet of him to cast his own wife, in his own movie. Man after my own heart right there.

How sweet of him to cast his own wife, in his own movie. Man after my own heart right there.

But the sheer fact that Sarandon owns this movie the whole through, is definitely to discredit McCarthy and Falcone; even more importantly, McCarthy herself. I find myself really going at it with my inner-most thoughts, because while I usually like McCarthy in anything she shows up in (yes, even re-runs of Mike & Molly), I just found her so damn annoying here. Most of that has to do with the way in which she is constantly made up to just improv her ass off, every chance she gets, but most of it also has to do with the way in which Tammy is written.

First off, Tammy herself is pretty unlikable, although that’s definitely the point; she doesn’t think things through, she swears a lot, she takes advantage of those around her, and she always acts as if she’s the victim in any situation, when it is, most of the time, the completely other way around. We know that Tammy is supposed to be a likable character and that, eventually, we’re supposed to see some shading to her that’s going to make us like her more, but it hardly ever comes. Okay, it does, but only through cheesy scenes in which we see her flirt with some dude and take some trips down memory-lane with her grand-mom. That’s basically it. Everything else is up to McCarthy where she acts like a fool, knocks stuff over, curses a whole heck of a lot, and randomly acts violently for no other reason other than to draw up a laugh or two.

Maybe we’re supposed to feel lucky for having somebody as dedicated to drawing laughs out of us through self-deprivation, like McCarthy, but by now, you have to wonder how much longer is it going to go on for? I hope not for much longer, only to avoid garbage like this, but then again, judging by her upcoming projects, it seems like we’re going to have a whole lot more scenes like this. Or even worse, like this.

Shit.

Consensus: Tammy is meant to be a starring-vehicle for McCarthy and the talents we’ve seen her show off more than a few times by now, but ends up being more of a showcase for the type of lovely presence Susan Sarandon brings to anything she gets involved with, and how much she can make anything better.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Get it! It's not a real gun!

Get it! It’s not a real gun!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Surprise! Surprise! The war fucks up young people and their minds.

Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), a former military MP, finds out that his son has gone AWOL and that there might even be a possibility of him dead. Hank then decides to take it upon himself to drive down to the Army base, and figure out just what the hell has happened to his kid and all of the fellow soldiers that were with him. The problem is, nobody’s giving him straight answers. That’s when Hank asks the help of Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), a New Mexico police detective, who finds it harder and harder to not only discover the truth, but be taken seriously among the rest of her fellow, more-masculine detectives.

Most movies that deal with the war, usually aren’t the pretty ones where everybody loves the war, hangs their flags, high-fives their fighting boys, and ends by chanting, “U.S.A!! U.S.A.!! U.S.A.!!”, altogether at once. Nope, Hollywood is a bit too liberal for that crap and instead, decides to usually stick it’s nosy head in, peek around a bit, and have a thing or two to say. And usually, it’s not a pat on the back, or a simple “thank you”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, nine times out of ten, you’ll usually find me talking shit against the war, some of the people that take part in it, and just what the hell is the reason behind all of it, but still, Hollywood never seems to have anything nice to say about it at all, and even when they do, it usually turns into over-patriotic shite like this.

Still, though, you have to give credit to movies like these that are able to tell us some obvious and well-known ideas about the war, but still make it feel honest and raw, rather than blatant and preachy. Some of it does feel like that, but not all of it, and that’s a sigh-of-relief, based on the fact that this movie is written and directed by the same dude who gave us this scene. Yeah, if you’re with me on this, Paul Haggis is the notorious writer/director behind Crash, everybody’s favorite-hated Best Picture winner of the past decade and tries to bring that same heavy-handedness to this story. Thankfully he doesn’t get too far because he always has a sense of human depth and emotion that keeps it surprisingly grounded in reality most of the time. Not all of the time, but most and that’s great to see in a flick where it could have easily been a train wreck of non-stop patriotism, from start-to-finish, but ends being something honest.

"Here, take it. It's called "The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker."

“Here, take it. It’s called “The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker.”

But what this flick is more concerned with, is its characters, and showing how they deal with their daily hardships they encounter day to day, and how they get through grief, sadness, and the war our country is currently fighting in. Seeing how most of these characters can relate and act with one anothe, is a beautiful thing to watch because it feels natural. Some scenes are coated in sugar, and some don’t go down quite as well as Haggis may have imagined in his head, but to see these characters realize more about their lives by just relating life-experiences and stories with one another, really touched me in a way that was hard to explain when it happened, and especially after too.

I was actually really surprised how the movie depicted not just the war in Iraq itself, but it’s soldiers and how much we can still trust them with our country and our lives, but may not think the same when they get back. The most prime example of this is the fact that Hank’s son isn’t really a nice guy, and in fact, turns out to be more of an asshole as we find more out about him, what he was up to, and how he caught himself going AWOL. This movie could have definitely gone down that wrong path of making him seem like everybody’s, true American hero that fights for The Red, The White, and The Blue, sings John Mellencamp all day, and does it all for our safety, so we may live, breath, sleep, eat, and die in peace, like we were meant to be. If this sound’s lengthy and over-exposed, then you get my point: This flick could have easily gone down that path, but decided to show him as a human, rather than a figure we all like to imagine each and every one of our soldiers as. They all have problems, they all get sad, and most of all, they are pretty fucked-up once they get off the battlefield, and back at the dinner table with ma and pa.

It’s sad, but it’s reality, baby.

However, the movie isn’t focusing on it’s characters, it’s themes, or it’s harsh-realities, it’s focusing on it’s police-procedural that feels more like a cheap-version of NCIS that I didn’t need to be bothered with seeing in the first place. Usually, I don’t mind when movies keep this element in because it entertains, excites, and keeps the mystery afloat, but after awhile, there was no mystery nor was there any case. It came pretty clear to me that the kid was not going to be okay, and that somebody did do something bad to him. No real gray area to be found whatsoever. And before people get on my ass, I’m not trying to give anything away, but you’ll start to see that the movie isn’t trying to reveal more details and clues about what happened, it’s just trying to show it’s characters. We already know, they don’t. And that’s what felt unnecessary and stupid to have, even if it was worth it for the first 45 minutes or so.

Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones was the one to keep this whole movie going and always rose above the material, even when it seemed to sink, lower and lower as it went along. Jones surprised the hell out of everybody when he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Hank, as it not only came out of nowhere, but little to no one even heard about this movie nor that Jones was even in it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still rarely ever hear this movie mentioned, which is a shame, because Jones’ performance is a great one that could have only came from this man who may always be known to be cranky and quick-whipped, but can play it subtle like nobody’s business. Jones shows real heart and emotion with this character and as time goes on and we see more about his kid, we start to see more him layer-out, especially in ways that I didn’t think were possible from Jones and Haggis. Jones’ character began to bother me a bit when he started to show unbelievable ways in how much smarter he was than the police, but after awhile, I stopped caring and just enjoyed the show that Jones was giving me to see. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word to describe this movie or this performance, but I think you get my drift.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She's like barely here.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She’s like barely here.

Charlize Theron doesn’t back down from Jones’ acting either though and actually makes her character more than just another run-of-the-mill, strong female that we need in a flick like this, to show that she can not only hang with the big boys but learn a little something in life as well. Yep, her character is pretty conventional with the whole single-mommy thing, but yet, still works because Theron is not only a strong actress, but one that is able to adapt to any environment she is placed in and that’s a skill that most actresses haven’t been able to master just yet.

Susan Sarandon also got top-billing in this movie, and is pretty solid (as usual) as Hank’s equally-grieving wife, but doesn’t get much screen-time to develop her character. Then again, it’s Susan Sarandon and the girl can act alongside a piece of wood, and make it work. She’s that damn good. Also, James Franco is randomly here trying to look tough, buff, and cool, but seems like he’s really trying to hold in the fact that he just wants to smoke and eat some munchies. It’s so painfully obvious.

Consensus: Paul Haggis isn’t known for being all that subtle when it comes to his themes and messages about life, liberty, and war, but In the Valley of Elah still benefits from a wonderful cast, especially Jones, and characters that give us a darker look at the boys in uniform who are over there, fighting for us, protecting us, and yet, are just as equally as messed-up as we are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sir, yes sir?

Sir, yes sir?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

The Big Wedding (2013)

Now I know why I’m single, but steady. Ladies?

Alejandro Griffin (Ben Barnes) and Missy O’Connor (Amanda Seyfried) are getting married. There seems to be no problem with two, young lovers wanting to get hitched, except for the fact that Alejandro’s family is anything but functional. His dad (Robert De Niro) and mom (Diane Keaton) have been divorced for over 20 years, while he lives with (Susan Sarandon); his sister (Katherine Heigl) pukes at the sight of kids; and his bro (Topher Grace) has yet to settle down and lose that V-card of his. Oh, and if that didn’t suck already, his “real mom” is flying up for the wedding but is extremely catholic so Alejandro has to make sure that his real mom and dad act as if they are still married. Hilarious hi-jinx ensue, as you could imagine.

Since it is ripely considered “wedding season”, it’s more than obvious that Hollywood would take advantage of this time and start popping-out all of the wacky and nutty wedding movies, that were meant for those older-peeps who don’t care much for weddings, or those single peeps who are lonely and in need of some reassurance that they will find that special someone and have a beautiful like this one day. Maybe. I’m in the latter and I still feel no reassurance. Nor do I really need it. I’m flying solo forever, baby!

Going into this movie, I knew it was going to be terrible but here’s the thing about me: I like weddings, I like movies about weddings, and I like to watch a dysfunctional family act like asses around one another. I don’t know what it is about me but the idea of being around a bunch of family members that are as fucked-up as mine, really puts a smile to my face and a pen in my hand so that I can finally get to writing that note for Santa’s wish-list of a better life (it will happen one day). But this movie just isn’t what I wanted. Not at all.

Robin's totally reconsidering being on the wagon.

Robin’s totally reconsidering being on the wagon.

As usual, movies like these try so damn hard to be funny, that they almost sprain themselves on the way down. This is one of those movies, but it isn’t as painful as I may make it sound. Granted, it is a pretty bad movie that isn’t really funny and totally has problems with it’s editing (more on that ish later), but it can be pleasureful if you are really, really lonely. And I mean: REALLY LONELY. Like, not a single member of your family is alive to remember your face or who you are. You may have an Uncle, Aunt, or Grandfather that may be going a tad crazy and lose sight of whether or not you’re the grandson or the dog, and that counts. But seriously, this movie is meant for those people who can’t enjoy and celebrate a wedding with friends or family. The only way you can is by watching actors and actresses (aka, really good-looking people), act as if they are all family, love each other, but also love to fight even more. Yep, THAT LONELY.

Sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s not. That’s usually either hit-or-miss depending on the type of person. But what no person can deny is that this movie is terribly-filmed and edited. Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but I remember this flick was supposed to come out around some time last year, because the trailer hit, and so did the poster, but no release date. But considering it was so early, everybody assumed it was going to come out in 2012. Whether or not it’s all true, doesn’t matter because this flick has definitely caught some fire and wind in the editing-room. Woo-wee!

The problem with this movie and it’s editing is that it feels as if somebody didn’t quite know what movie they wanted to make. So, instead of keeping the comedy and drama elements splish-splashed together for evenness, they just go straight for the comedy, all in a row, without any drama or anything. I wouldn’t have minded that so much if it was funny; but it wasn’t. By the end, the problems start to become even more apparent once people start revealing stuff that would change one person’s life in a heartbeat, but somehow has no effect whatsoever on that person. I don’t want to drop down to spoiler-territory, but it’s really random, stupid, and odd how kosher this flick seems to be with certain things like adoption and not knowing who your real parents are. Not saying adoption is weird, but something about this movie makes it seem weird. Oh, who the hell! Just watch it if you want to see what I mean!

If there is any saving grace to this movie, anywhere at all: it’s the cast. After turning out an Oscar-nominated role in Silver Linings Playbook, you’d automatically assume that it meant Bobby De Niro was with a new agent and back in full-force. But I was so, so, so, so, so wrong. De Niro isn’t bad here, it’s just that his character of being a womanizing-perv doesn’t quite work for the guy as well as it might have about a decade ago. Now, it’s just over-played, stupid, and a bit creepy considering all this dude wants to do is bang someone or something. Diane Keaton plays his estranged ex-wife, and is fine for what she needs to do but is simply phoning it in as if she just wants the lovin’ from Warren Beatty or Woody Allen back. No matter who she chooses to have back, she’s going to get some lovin’.

Have mercy on your souls. Your young, and oh so prosperous souls.

Have mercy on your souls. Your young, and oh so prosperous souls.

As for the kiddies, they are all fine, but feel as if they are just phoning it in like most supporting-acts in rom-coms do. Topher Grace is still trying to make us forget about Eric Forman and it’s still not working; Katherine Heigl is still trying to make us forget that she bitched-out Judd Apatow (aka, her best role EVER), and once again, it’s still not working; Amanda Seyfried has barely any scenes to herself, but when she does, it’s just blank the whole time; and Ben Barnes is charming and does what he can with that Spanish-tongue of his, but still can’t over-come the fact that he’s just there, stuck in the middle of all of this havoc. Poor guy. Get a new manager.

The only peeps in this cast who really seem ready to play are Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon. Williams seems like he’s having fun playing the same role he basically played in that god-awful movie where he played a priest where two younglings were getting married. Not going to call it by it’s name, and just leave it at that. Susan Sarandon is probably the best out of the bunch because of the way she plays her character, and the way they make her character. Since Bebe, the character she plays, swung-around with De Niro when he was still married to Keaton, you would think that she’d be perceived as a bottomless whore that can’t get a man her own, so she goes for one that’s already got dibs called on. You would think, but the movie actually makes a smart-decision in not taking that low road and giving her more to be sympathetic about and show us why she isn’t such a bad lady. In ways, she was even a better mommy than Keaton’s character was. But that’s bad because the Catholic Church thinks divorce is evil and breaths fire and brimstone. Okay, I’m done attacking anything right now. Let’s just get this thing over with.

Consensus: For anybody who wants to get away from their porno-infested computer screens for an hour or two, The Big Wedding may be the right fit for them, but for the other people that are married, in a relationship, or just don’t really care to waste their time in general; then it won’t fit. At all.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

And Diane be like, "Oh lawwddd!"

And Diane be like, “Oh mah lawwddd!”

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.

Snitch (2013)

Would you really call the People’s Champ “a snitch” to his face. Think about it and choose your words wisely, ya jabroni.

A suburban father (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock) decides to risk everything and go undercover as an informant in order to help the authorities build a case against a high-ranking drug dealer. Why does he do this? Well, because he’s the greatest daddy ever apparently and just wants to reduce his son’s 30 year mandatory drug sentence. If that doesn’t scream “Daddy of the Year Award”, I don’t know what the hell will.

It’s coming towards the end of February, therefore it means that the Hollywood production companies are going to start throwing more and more crap at us, up-until the Summer hits and they’ll be throwing more crap at us, except with the cool breeze of Summer in the air. With that being said, this movie was definitely nowhere near my must-see, but surprise, surprise! It ain’t half-bad as I was expecting it to be, except just a little dumb. Just a little.

The fact that this movie is based off a true story, definitely gives it some lee-way in terms of what it can and cannot do with it’s story, and still make it seem believable. For instance, the whole idea that the DEA would be willing to actually allow this suburban-daddy to get involved with this drug world, in order to thrown some prime-time players in jail, definitely seems like a bit of a stretch, even for a movie starring The Rock (yes, that T is still capitalized). However, this movie isn’t all about the facts, it ain’t all about the truth, and it ain’t even all about the fun. It’s surprisingly about the story and what a simple premise can do, when you give it a simple and normal-look.

Directed Ric Roman Waugh did a similar-film like this a couple of years ago called Felon, where he took a regular, everyday man and put him into an atmosphere he has never been involved with ever before. That movie was pretty damn good, and even though this one doesn’t reach the heights of that, it still has the same look, feel, and emotions going-on. For example, instead of making this movie all about the guns, the drugs, the violence, and the action that usually happens in these movies where people get involved with the underground world of drug-trading, we actually get a story that means something here. You know, a story with real and heartfelt emotions.

Just give me a little bit of the People's Eyebrow. Just a tiny bit.

He’s trying so hard to give us the People’s Eyebrow.

The fact that this movie is being advertised as another, slam-bang action-thriller in the same vein as Faster or the Rundown, is a real sin. Because once you get past the fact that you aren’t going to see blood, bullets, and octane (Joe Carnahan has nothing to do with this movie, but it’s still pretty cool to say) the whole-time, then you can actually enjoy this movie and see where it’s going with itself. The movie gives it’s story more meaning by setting itself up, showing us the characters, who we are dealing with, and what’s really at-stake here. Yeah, it does seem a little obvious at-times, but the movie is about showing the connection these people have when there’s a shit-load on-the-line.

I’ll never go so far as to say that this movie touches on a lot of emotional truths and hardships that’s going to make the insides of you weep for a hug, but I will say that it will surprise you with where it goes, and how it gets there. Waugh is about giving us characters we care for and can believe in, and that’s ahead of all of the foolery of the violence we expect from this cast and crew. If there is any credit I have to give to Waugh, it’s that he took the higher-road and decided to give us more substance, than we usually expect from movies like this. You care for these people, you care for this story, and ultimately, you care for this movie. That is, up until the movie starts to lose itself and get all action-y. I mean, come on! Did you really think they were going to have people hugging, crying, and kissing each other for the whole 2 hours? Hell no!!

When the action gets introduced into the story, it feels forced which was unexpected because the movie actually built-up a nice amount of suspense and tension throughout. The movie makes you feel like some real and crazy shit is going to happen any time now, and in a way, it does, but it doesn’t feel legitimate. It feels like the film makers of this movie saw the final-cut, and decided that there needed to be more action, more explosions, and more guns involved, so all of the dudes that went-out to go and see this Dwayne Johnson flick, wouldn’t start to question their sexuality. That idea is so cynical, but for Hollywood, it’s just money baby. That’s what bothered the most about this flick and it seemed like if they kept it a real, near, and dear drama the whole-way through, did a couple of cuts, and re-cast some people, then they would have really had a keeper here. Instead, they decided to take the low-road and stay with the cast, stay with the original-cuts, and keep some of the drama in, but mostly action as well. Hey, some of it works, some of it doesn’t. In today’s day and age, you got to take what you can get.

Now, here I come to the saddest-part of my whole review: The Rock. Yes, I know he’s Dwayne Johnson, I know he wants to be taken seriously, and I know he’s trying so damn hard to shine away from his wrestling-days (even though he was just recently the champ, I think), but he will always and forever be The Rock to me. He’s one of, if not, my favorite wrestler of all-time and just has the look, the charm, and the personality to make any movie he does work. That’s why it comes as such a surprise to me to see that the guy isn’t anything really special here, and sort of came-off like a bit of a miscast problem.

They come runnin' just as fast as they cancause every girl is crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

They come runnin’ just as fast as they can,
cause every girl is crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

Don’t get me mistaken, The Rock is mostly good in this movie. He has a dramatic-range that is surprising and can actually cool himself down when he needs to let the drama and the story take a hold (pun intended), but he seems to be trying too hard as well. There’s a lot of scenes that seem like they call on him to just be use his expressive-eyes and facial-expressions to give the motives of this character more meaning than they should have, and seems like he’s over-emoting. His line-reading isn’t bad, but it does leave a lot to be desired, especially when you think about how bulky and scary his character is. I get that he doesn’t want to be playing his usual, bad-ass type of role where he kicks people’s asses, does The Rock Bottom, and throws his arm-band out at the crowd (still haven’t grabbed one of them yet), but he feels out-of-place here. He tries to play wimpy, he tries to play the family-man, and he tries to play innocent, but the guy looks just too scary and intimidating to really be construed as that. When a guy comes at him, he’s actually scared. The Rock that I know, The Rock that I love, and The Rock that I believe in, would layeth downeth the Smackdowneth on that person’s candy ass and not just stand there in fear. Come on Rocky! There’s so much more to you than this. I know it.

But where The Rock loses, everybody else succeeds. The main reason why I was looking forward to this movie as much as I actually was, was because of Jon Bernthal and seeing what he could do outside of Shane from the Walking Dead. Thankfully, the guy delivers and shows us that he can play a nice, civilized, family-man that may have a bit of a history, but still wants to do the right thing. Bernthal can play that sick, sinister-type oh so damn well, but when he has to come back down to Earth and keep it real; he’s still very believable and makes you feel more for this guy, than you do for Rock’s character. I can tell that if there is anybody from the Walking Dead that’s going to have a shinier career, it’s this dude and I can’t wait to see what he has in-store for us next.

Everybody else is pretty damn good as well. Michael Kenneth Williams is, as you would expect, playing a drug-dealer that smokes, deals, and kills for a living. But also a bit more to him than you’d expect, and the last couple of scenes we get with him is where I was really shocked at the type of dimensions this movie was able to explore, especially for such conventional-characters like “the black drug-dealer”. Benjamin Bratt feels underused and a bit stupid as the head of the Mexican cartel, but still does what he can with material such as this; Barry Pepper shows up in his ZZ Top get-up, is very sympathetic, very bad-ass, but also very believable and does his best at making us all forget about Broken City and how he had the disprivilege of ever touching that crap; and last, but sure as hell not least, is Susan Sarandon as the prosecutor that’s only slightly-less evil than half of the drug-dealers that she’s trying to arrest, but still revels in the material and in a way: fits her like a glove. A firm, lovely glove that I wish I helped her put on. Rawr!

Consensus: Believe it or not, the only real reason why Snitch isn’t as good as it should be, is because of the very same thing that the movie advertises itself as: a thriller. A thriller with guns, action, blood, guts, drugs, and crime is not what this movie’s all about; it’s more about the characters, what they’re going through, what they have to do, and how they can all come out of this problem alive, well, and prosperous for the future. Okay, maybe it’s not that in-depth, but it still is a lot more-developed than any other action-thriller that’s come out this year, so far.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So glad these two finally got to share the same-screen after all of these years of heavy-anticipation.

So glad these two finally got to share the same-screen after all of these years of heavy-anticipation.

Robot & Frank (2012)

Never trust robots, until they make you steak dinners. Then, it’s okay.

Set somewhere in the near, but not too distant future, Frank (Frank Langella) is an aging jewel thief whose son (James Marsden) buys him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) mainly because he cannot take care of him being about 10-hours away. Even though he’s very resistant at first with the robot, Frank warms up when and realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.

Everybody seems to like to make jokes about what could possibly happen, but the idea of having robots practically take over most human’s positions in the world, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched after seeing a movie like this. I mean, think about it: if some human is tired and bored of doing what they do, why not just get a computer/robot that’s programmed to do the same work, with more inspiration, and probably with better results as well? It’s definitely something that most people can poo-poo to the side and say it’s just crazy talk, but I’m serious, if we don’t look out, sooner or later, the robots will be taking over the world. First it’s the jobs, then it’s the wife and kids, then it’s the president, and then it’s the world from there. Okay, maybe not that crazy and drastic, but just you wait you non-believers. Just you wait.

But those simple ideas and thoughts aren’t really the gist of this movie and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a sci-fi film that does include robots, but isn’t all about shit blowing-up, intergalactic battles, and possible end of the world talk. It’s just a realistic and honest, human film that just so happens to involve a talking robot that does and says whatever it’s programmed to do. Think of it as I, Robot without all of the guns, bombs, fights, explosions, kick-ass score, and a constantly-yelling Will Smith.

"While you're at it, shine my shoes, bitch."

“While you’re at it, shine my shoes, bitch.”

This film isn’t all about showing robots taking over the positions and roles that most humans fill; it’s actually about a sweet, tender story of a man getting old and trying to still connect with the world he once knew. Through the robot, Frank is able to relive his glory days as a cat burglar and feels the type of rush and sensation that he hasn’t felt in years, and most of all: hasn’t been able to feel them with anybody else. See, Frank is a crook and was never really able to live that up with his kids or his wife, so it was always just him riding solo and committing crimes. Not the worst way to conduct business, but a bit of a lonely-experience if you think about it. That’s why it’s nice to see him and the robot talk with one-another about life, what they’re doing, and all of the sweet, fond memories that Frank had from his golden-days and it’s as sad as it is sweet.

Getting old is a pretty damn big part of life and it’s something that we can never avoid. Yet, at the same time, it’s something that we can all help by caring for the other’s that need it the most and that’s exactly what this flick shows. You see a friendship between this robot and Frank actually start-up and you see how the other one cares for the other and it’s very surprising how many depths there are to this friendship, as well as how nice they treat it, rather than making it some old-school joke about a cook treating some robot like a human-being. Hell, the movie itself even tries to remind Frank that the robot is not human and as painfully honest as that was to see on-screen, it still made me sad to think that there are just some people out there who probably cannot tell the difference by what is real and what isn’t, and for them, it all comes down to emotions. It’s a thoughtful-idea that the movie plants into your head, and it’s one that the movie still treats with respect and care, sort of like it’s protagonist.

However, the idea’s of getting old and going through dementia aren’t that subtle to see, especially by the last-act when everything begins to get obvious and heavy-handed. We get that the movie wanted us to know that Frank is going through a hard-time with life in trying to remember what he had for dinner 2 days ago, but it gets to a point of where it just seems like the flick is making it TOO obvious. It’s nice how they treat the idea, overall, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, you realize that they could have played it a bit safer and just kept on doing what they did in the first-place. May seem like a bit of a dumb negative to hold against the flick, but it’s something I noticed and didn’t swing too well with me.

The one element of this movie that did swing very, very well with me was Frank Langella as, well, Frank. Langella has this lovable and endearing look and feel to him that makes it easy for us to fall-behind the guy’s back and just wish for the best, but what really makes this performance work is how much you believe in this guy in what he’s going through. He doesn’t forget stuff like how to tie his shoes or turn the television on, but simple things like what his kids are up to in the world or where his favorite restaurant is, really stood-out to me and the way that Langella handles that character’s real-life dilemma with such believe-ability, really worked for me. Langella, in my mind, can almost do no wrong, and here, he gets to show me exactly why it is that I think that and why the guy can still take over a movie, even if he’s not playing one of our most famous president’s of all-time.

"This library used to be sooooo mainstream."

“This library used to be so mainstream.”

The one that really took me by surprise here was Peter Sarsgaard, who literally doesn’t do anything else in this movie other than voice the robot, but he does it so well that it is totally worth being mentioned. Sarsgaard has this voice that is instantly recognizable, by the way it’s so sinister, yet so compelling in the way that he can make little phrases or words sound so devious, yet have so much more meaning that it’s insane. The guy’s always a creep-o in the movies that I see him in, but since he only has to voice the robot, he seems more humane and kinder with the way he uses his words to convey emotion and feeling. Which is weird, because he’s voicing a robot that apparently has neither emotion nor feeling. It’s a great job by Sarsgaard who shows that just by having strong vocal-chords, you can still make the most-compelling character out of the whole movie.

James Marsden and Liv Tyler play Frank’s kids and they’re both pretty good, especially because they get to show how much they love their daddy and will do anything for him, yet still have their own lives to look after as well. I liked how the movie didn’t just make them a bunch of sneaky, lying pieces-of-shits that were ungrateful for everything that dear old daddy did for them, but I still would have liked to see a little bit more to their characters and their history with Frank. Susan Sarandon is here as Frank’s love-interest, and does a pretty nice job with what she’s given, but is just here to serve the plot and serve Frank’s moral dilemma. She’s okay with what she has to do, but it also feels like a bit of a waste for such a beautiful and powerful talent.

Consensus: Even if you might not suspect it to be more than just a movie about a guy and a robot becoming friends, you still will be surprised to know that Robot & Frank features plenty of depth and emotions about the fact that people get old, that it sucks, and that it’s up to us to care for those ones who need our help the most. It’s also a sweet, little story about a guy and robot becoming friends, as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'm telling you: 5 more years, folks.

I’m telling you: 5 more years, folks.

Cloud Atlas (2012)

So, since we’re all connected to one another, does that mean Hugh Grant is connected to me??!?! Yes!

The movie explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.

Most of you folks out there have probably been seeing loads and loads of advertisements and whatnot for this flick and are probably thinking, “What the hell is this about?” I’m pretty sure my synopsis up there didn’t provide any such help for you either so let me just start off by saying it’s about a bunch of stories that all take place during the past, present, and future, and all connect to each other in slight, little-clever ways. There, now you have it so let’s get on with what makes this film one that the common-folk will hopefully see. I highly doubt my review will do anything to change the opinions of peeps, but there’s always hope, people.

This movie marks the long-awaited return of the famous directing team, the Wachowskis, but it isn’t all about them the whole way. They also share directing-duties with Tom Tykwer, but that doesn’t matter because you can’t really tell who’s directing who as neither of them really have a distinct-style of film-making, other than using loads and loads of CGI in their works. Not saying that’s a bad thing but it’d be a lot more obvious if you had a pairing-up between two directors like, say, Martin Scorcese and David Lynch. One person would be telling a story about a bunch of mobsters going off to whack some guy, while the other person would be telling a story about boogie-men, Roy Orbison songs, and live-walking bunnies. Hell, now that I think about it, that would make a pretty cool-ass flick. Anyway, I am toates off-subject here. Back to the freakin’ movie at-hand.

From what I hear through the grapevine, the original novel that this movie is based off of, has been apparently called unfilmable, which makes the direction between these three seem all the more eventful in the long-run. There about six-different stories that are told here, and all seem very understood and easy to follow, where you don’t really ever get confused as to what story is actually taking place and what the hell is going on in each of them. All stories are pretty simple to follow and even though some of them may have goofy sci-fi shit going on, you still get the gist of what’s going on.

And what’s so great about all of these different stories, is that each and every single one is about as entertaining and interesting as you could get. Granted, not all of the stories hold your attention as much (the one that takes place in the woods where everybody talks like they’re from the South, during the 19th century), but they all seemed to keep me glued to the screen and provided me with the right ingredients to have a good time. They also all seem to have their own personalities where there’s one story concerning romance, one story concerning a bunch of slap-stick humor (and it’s slap-stick done right, mind you), one story concerning sci-fi, futuristic action, and even one story that reminded me a lot of Death Wish, with it’s cool, 70’s-thriller vibe. In a way, there’s something here that’s for everyone and if you don’t find one story all that intriguing  then you can always depend on another one to come right out, and sweep you off your feet to get you right back into what’s on-screen. Great directing skills from all three of these peeps and it shows you that these guys still have it in them to make an entertaining movie, even if it is almost 3-hours long. Yes, you heard me right, people. 3-HOURS LONG. Bring the red bull, you may need it. But yet, it’s 3-hours that didn’t feel like it at all, so maybe you don’t. You know what? Bring it just in case.

However, as entertaining and interesting as this whole film was, I still felt a bit empty at the end of it all. The whole point of this movie was understandable, and it was how we all the same, underneath our skin. It’s a message that does get drawn-out very well in this movie with certain stories relating and connecting to another in a very small-way, but that message didn’t have any impact on me whatsoever when the movie was over. Some of the characters in the stories I did care about, but not to the point of where I felt like I was going to cry my eyes out if they died or anything. Maybe that’s sick-way of thinking when you see a flick like this but that’s how it all went down for me. No emotional impact, no emotional connection, no nothing. It was just a bunch of fun, entertainment that kept my interest.

But somehow, I felt like the Wachowskis and Tykwer were going for me than just that, which is why I felt like I missing something at the end. The score did give me that epic-feeling in the pit of my stomach and had me look to the screen with wonder, but how the hell was I supposed to connect to characters and to a story through just plain and simple score-music? I don’t know what was wrong with me during the viewing of this flick, but if you expect a huge, tear-jearker, than you may have come to the wrong-place. Bad/sad stuff does happen, but never to the point of where I felt like I needed an extra box of Kleenex on the way home. Maybe that answers the question for ‘ya. So, for all of you Nicholas Sparks fans, don’t even think about going to this after a bad break-up and expecting to relate.

Most of the fun of this movie that I already alluded to earlier, is watching the ensemble cast and seeing all of these different roles they pick-up in each story. See, in this movie, instead of just having a star play one character, in one story, and having that be their own pride and joy, they all get to play another character in each and every other story and all have different looks. Some are goofy-looking, and some are pretty neat-o how they all pulled it off (make-up and costume designs are sure to get an Oscar nomination this year), but overall, they all will probably have you staring at that one character and thinking to yourself, “Is that Huge Weaving in drag?”

And yes, in case you wondering, Hugo Weaving does actually show-up in drag here and it’s fun to watch him play it too, because the guy plays a villain in every, single story. But he’s not the only one having fun out of the cast, because everybody else is pretty much too. Tom Hanks shows up the most prominently in this flick and plays all of these different types and roles that we have never really seen from the guy before and it just goes to show you why exactly this guy is the face of-Hollywood, in a lot of ways. Halle Berry is another one who shows up the most prominently in this flick and shows us all why she deserves bigger and better roles like the ones she has here. It’s been awhile since Berry has actually took a nice, juicy-role that spoke to her true talents as an actress, and thankfully, the time has come to where we see it finally and she handles herself oh so perfectly with every story.

Out of this whole cast, it’s really hard to decipher who has the more-difficult tasks at-hand here, but I will say that the one I was most impressed with was Jim Sturgess who held his own pretty damn well throughout this whole flick. Maybe the guy didn’t do an amazingly spectacular job, but after appearing in shit like 21, Across the Universe, and One Day, the guy took me by surprise by showing me the depths he has as an actor and I look forward to seeing what else he can do in the near-future with his career. Hopefully, just hopefully, he steers clear of those soapy, melodramas that always seem to plague young, good-looking guys’ careers like his.

It should also be as to no surprise that Jim Broadbent steals the show in every story he has, and the one where he and a couple of fellow old-timers plan an escape out of an old-folks home is definitely worth the price of admission alone. Basically, everybody you see on that cast-list up there on the poster, is featured plenty of times in this movie that will have you pointing to the screen a crap-load of times. But on a sad-note, the coolest Brit of them all seems to get the short-stick a bit. Yep, that’s right. I’m talking about you Hugh Grant. I want to see more of you buddy, so show-up in more stuff!

Consensus: Cloud Atlas is a very, very long movie that’s filled with plenty of stories, plenty of characters, and plenty of ambitions that it’s set for itself, but is also a very entertaining and beautiful movie to watch as it never really leaves you bored when it’s all over. It may not be the most emotionally-impacting viewing-experience you’ll have this year, but it’s a great watch that will probably take-up half of your day. But, in a good way at least.

8/10=Matinee!!

Arbitrage (2012)

Billionaires are never fully satisfied.

Robert Miller (Richard Gere), is a troubled hedge fund magnate who is forced to turn to an unlikely person (Nate Parker) for help after a crucial mistake involving a sale in his trading empire.

I’ve been hearing a whole lot of buzz about this movie for one thing: Richard Gere. Now for all of you DTMMR lovers out there (and there better plenty of them dammit!), you have to already know that even though Gere is a fellow Philadelphian, he is still one of my least favorite actors. That’s sort of why I wasn’t really looking forward to this one but you know what, it’s not so bad sometimes giving an actor that you hate a chance. Still not yet sold on you yet though, Harrison Ford.

This is the directorial debut of writer/director Nicholas Jarecki and the guy does a pretty solid job with his material. This isn’t your typical thriller where it’s constant car-chases and quick-cuts to allow there to be tension and excitement, it’s more about the pacing and how Jarecki takes his time with everything and doesn’t let it get too crazy for his own good. There’s just something about this whole story of lust, greed, and money that just seems so current in today’s world and how it plays out in this flick and it makes for a fun, but very grim watch. It doesn’t get as dark as you may think, but it at least flirts with that idea quite a few times and that’s the strength of Jarecki’s direction.

The problem that I think Jarecki runs into with this flick is that it is essentially two movies in one, with only one of them actually being good. The first movie is about how this billionaire gets himself all caught-up in a financial crisis that he seem to get out of, and the other movie is about the death of his mistress and how that effects everything and everyone around him. The latter story is the one I was most interested by as I found it really made the suspense and mystery flow within the film. Seeing all of these other reviews, I know I’m sort of alone in that boat but there was just something there that intrigued me and kept me watching.

Problem with that is, is that when Jarecki would go right into the whole financial crisis this guy was going through, I didn’t really seem to care. Not just because this guy is a dick but it’s something about people spouting out numbers and stocks that just doesn’t do it for me quite as much as an interrogation does. This makes the film a bit uneven in the way it transitions from one plot, to another and it just gets a bit annoying after awhile and sort of kills all of the tension and excitement that the one story had going for itself in the first-place. Maybe Jarecki got some directorial jitters where he felt the need to pack all of this stuff in just to make it exciting and entertaining, but ended up making something that was a bit too ambitious for his own good. Not saying it was a terrible decision on his part, but it definitely wasn’t the right one, either.

Now believe it or not, and I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but I think it’s Richard Gere himself who makes this film a bit more watchable than I expected. I don’t want to go out there and say that Gere gives the performance of his career here as Miller, because I don’t really think he does anything different other than be pretty mean to everyone around him, but he does give a very good performance that makes this reprehensible guy seem a bit more human than I expected at first. He’s not a total Gordan Gekko as he just gets money, gets the babes, and gets more greedy, he’s just another rich dude that has a lot of respect to his name, and doesn’t want to lose that because of a couple of dumb-ass decisions he’s made and tried to get away with. Gere is good in this role because he sort of humanizes Miller and gives him an older-edge that makes him feel more realistic. As for all of the Oscar talk, I don’t think so. Honestly, I’am willing to throw down my hatred for somebody if they give an all-out, perfect performance, but Gere didn’t really blow me away here and I think if he ends up getting nominated for anything, it will most likely be because he’s never been nominated before and the Academy feels a bit guilty. No offense to the poor guy, but it’s sort of the truth.

Gere is also backed-up by a great supporting cast that all give their two cents into the whole, final product. Susan Sarandon comes out of nowhere as his wife that seems like she has no clue what’s going on behind closed doors, but a couple of scenes by the end proves otherwise and shows you that this chick doesn’t take any shit because she know’s what’s up. It’s a shame that Sarandon doesn’t get more screen-time here, but she takes advantage of what she’s given and that’s all that mattered to me. Brit Marling was okay as his daughter, but could have been a bit stronger in the way she carried herself, especially when things started to go South for her and her daddy. I was also very surprised to see Tim Roth here as Det. Michael Bryer, because it’s been quite some time but he still shows that he’s got it. There’s a little sense that the guy is a bit of a dirty cop, but after awhile, you do realize that he’s just another detective trying to do his job and trying to get the bad-guys, for doing the bad things. The one performance that really stood-out above the rest for me was Nate Parker as I think he made his random character, somebody we can actually sympathize with and stand behind as he seems like the only one who actually has a conscience. The guy definitely holds his own against heavy-weights like Roth and Gere, but when it’s just him doing his own thing, he’s very, very good and shows that he can try and make us all forget about Red Tails. “Try” being the key-word.

Consensus: Arbitrage is essentially two movies all slapped into one which may prove to be a bit uneven for the whole flick, but still features some great performances from the cast and a nice sense of tension that lies underneath the whole time.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Igby Goes Down (2002)

Damn it sucks to be a Culkin.

Igby Slocumb (Kieran Culkin), a rebellious and sarcastic 17-year-old boy, is at war with the stifling world of old money privilege into which he was born. With a schizophrenic father (Bill Pullman), a self-absorbed, distant mother (Susan Sarandon), and a shark-like young Republican big brother (Ryan Phillippe), Igby figures there must be a better life out there – and sets about finding it.

It’s pretty obvious that a lot of people compare this to the Catcher in the Rye because just from reading the plot on the back of the book, they seem to have plenty in common. However, I have not read that book just yet so don’t worry it’s not going to be another one of those “book vs. movie” reviews.

Writer/director Burr Steers does a pretty good job here with all of the expectations that would come from “adapting” a classic like Catcher. Steers puts a modern spin on this story and gives it this dark edge to it that can sometimes be funny but can also be very sad. I can’t say that this flick is a dark comedy because there are moments that are legitimately meant to be funny but so many other jokes all have to do with either drugs, death, or mental illness that it’s kind of hard not to categorize it as that in the first place. Regardless of what you may call this film though, it’s funny and may surprise you with a lot of the jokes it pulls out of its behind.

Where I think Steers’ writing really worked was in the way he showed Igby’s life, as well as Igby himself. Igby is a great character because he is a total smart-ass that always has something sarcastic to say, seems like one of those kids that would do perfectly on his own, and just reminds me of the type of high school rebel that I always tried to be but somehow failed. The kid is an ass and hates his mother so much that when she dies (not a spoiler because they tell you in the first 2 minutes) he calls up everybody she knows and just tells it like it is, “Yeah…she’s dead”, then moves onto more and more people to tell. There’s also a couple of other scenes that made me laugh at everything he was doing and it was just great to see a teenage character in a flick that wasn’t there to show a dilemma he has with picking up chicks or getting good grades, no, this kid’s trying to make a living and figure out what he wants in life.

It’s not just all of the funny ish that happens here that makes Igby so damn cool, it’s also the fact that he feels like an actual kid with a lot of problems that he tries his hardest to hide from. There’s a lot going on in Igby’s life that has effed him up from a father that basically went nutso right in front of his eyes, a mother that he absolutely despises, a godfather that won’t just let him be his own man, a brother that has always been better than him in anything, and an inability to deal with all of the crazy roommates he gets. Maybe it doesn’t sound all that bad to begin with but for an 18-year old kid (hollah!), it can be a lot to take in at a quick pace and we feel for Igby even though he’s surrounded by assholes constantly.

Some parts of this flick worked for me on a dramatic basis, but others, did not. There’s some little love thing going on between Igby’s lady friend and Igby’s brother that felt forced and just another way to bring conflict to the story of how much more his brother reigns supreme over him now. I also didn’t like how the film just sort of left everything up in the air without any resolution to any of these characters whatsoever. I’m not saying that I loved all of these characters, because a lot of them were just plain and simple assholes, but I still spent enough time with them to actually get to know and care about them, so why not show me what actually happens to them after it all? Hell, we don’t really know what happens to Igby at the end either but what bummed me out was just how sudden and abrupt the ending was without showing me the characters that I spent so much time with.

The reason Igby is so damn good as a character though is because of Kieran Culkin is spot-on with this act and I hope that more and more people take notes and see that this kid has a real true comedic talent. Don’t believe me? Check out ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’, and you’ll see what I’m saying. As for everybody else they’re all good too. Claire Daines is a fun character named Sookie to watch and learn more about, which was a surprise because Daines is usually very bland in her flicks; Jeff Glodblum is the absolute man as Igby’s godfather, D.H.; Amanda Peet is just fine as Rachel, even though I think she kind of over does the whole “I’m on heroin” act she had going for a good part of the movie; Ryan Phillipe plays, once again, the soulless ghoul here as Igby’s bro-brah and does a nice job even though he’s playing another rich kid who thinks he’s better than anybody else; Bill Pullman is great in flash-backs as Igby’s daddy and he has some of the more emotionally wrenching scenes; and Susan Sarandon is back doing what she does best: being a bitch. And that’s all we really want from her.

Consensus: Igby Goes Down has an involving lead character, as well as some very funny moments that take us inside the mind of a teenager, no matter how quick life may come at you for it.

7/10=Rental!!

That’s My Boy (2012)

Somehow I wish my dad was like this.

While still in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd (Andy Samberg), and raised him as a single parent up until Todd’s 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd’s world comes crashing down on the eve of his wedding when an uninvited Donny suddenly shows up.

To be truly honest, I was somewhat looking forward to this flick. Adam Sandler has been in a down-fall as of late, but this one had promise because it was directed by someone new (Sean Anders of Sex Drive), has another big-name that is on the verge of being the new “comedic bad boy” that Sandler once was, and is rated-R. I know I can’t get myself hyped up for something just because it’s rated-R but it’s Sandler we’re talking about here! This guy is freakin’ hilarious when it comes to this stuff, right?

The main problem with this flick is that a lot the comedy is in bad taste. This is something that many comedies can pull off if they can do it in a smart way that can make you laugh, here, it’s done terribly wrong as if the idea of this film was to just horrify the audience. The first 5 minutes of this film is dedicated to a relationship between a twelve-year-old student and his adult teacher, and if that doesn’t get you right away, trust me, there is plenty more to disturb you. For me, I wasn’t all that disturbed by everything here because I feel like anything goes whenever you’re making a comedy but it doesn’t work here since all of the raunchy and vile stuff that the writers were throwing at us, were just for the sake of doing so. It almost felt like it was forcing itself to be raunchy in order to be funny, which bothered me because when you have a guy like Sandler, you shouldn’t have to force any type of comedy regardless of what the film may be.

It’s terribly raunchy and dirty but the film isn’t anything different from what we’ve already seen from any other Sandler comedy. All of the conventions we have come to expect, and probably hate by now, are here and in force the whole way through such as the hair metal music soundtrack, the random D-list celebrities who show up here just to make a quick buck, the women who are all made out to be either bitches, whores, gold-diggers, or just complete psychopaths, gross-out gags, and the annoying schmaltz that creeps up by the end and tells you about how “family is important”, aka the same exact theme behind every single one of Sandler’s productions. Yeah, it’s all pretty obvious and even though it did have me chuckle every once and a blue moon, the film still missed the mark on every other single joke it tried to make.

I guess what really bugged me about this whole film was how unfunny Adam Sandler was here. Sandler plays Donny, a total dirt bag that obviously can’t connect with his son, nor with his son’s richy-rich friends and acquaintances but just wants to have a good time and get some moolah in the meantime. This doesn’t sound so bad for a Sandler character but the problem with Donny is that he’s kind of annoying, and Sandler’s frat-boy antics don’t quite work out as well when you’re pushing 45. The voice Donny has is this Boston-like, high-pitched voice that just got on my nerves right from the start and every joke that he makes is hard to understand due to this. But Sandler may have to stop with these types of roles sooner or later because even though they worked incredibly well back in the 90’s/early 00’s, they are starting to seem too obvious for him now as if he just wants to go back and try to bring back that glory he once had.

I sure as hell hope that Andy Samberg didn’t leave SNL for this shit because this guy really gets screwed over here as Donny’s son, Todd/Han Solo. Samberg is pretty good at playing the straight-man but he’s never fully able to let loose of his crazy-boy antics that he shows off so well in everything else he does, and a lot of that is mostly given to Sandler. But surprisingly, the funniest cast member of this whole film has to be Vanilla Ice playing himself and actually really open to making fun of himself. Ice is probably the funniest/best thing of this whole flick and he doesn’t do much other than just be a total nut case. Also, he allows a couple of “Ice Ice Baby” jokes here and there as well, something I was not expecting from his side one bit.

Consensus: That’s My Boy is a raunchy comedy that’s done in terribly bad taste, but also isn’t very funny, features the usual antics and gags we expect from an Adam Sandler comedy, and squanders the comedic talent that lies within Andy Samberg, only to give it to random d-listers like Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges.

2.5/10=Crapola!!

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012)

Always count on your big bro to make you feel less weird than you already are.

The film revolves around one man (Jason Segel) searching for the meaning of life while running to the store to buy wood glue. Using the universe as his guide, Jeff looks for signs to help determine his path. However, a series of comedic and unexpected events leads him to cross paths with his family in the strangest of locations and circumstances. Jeff just may find the meaning of his life… and if he’s lucky, pick up the wood glue as well.

The Duplass Brothers‘ last big film was ‘Cyrus’, a film that was strange and quirky but still had a nice heart to it and some pretty good laughs. It’s also the film that got these guys big and made people realize that they are an indie force to be reckoned with, however, I don’t think that they should be showing this one off if that is the case.

The film seems like a minor one because it just barely gets by a run-time of only 80 minutes and takes course over a single day but this is also a film that seems to show The Duplass Bros. stretching out their legs and seeing what they can do with a somewhat bigger budget. The plot here allows them to at least branch out a bit by having the whole thing take place outside and even let them pursue some action here although it’s not the kind you’re probably thinking of. Still, they have the same old hand-held camera style where its jumpy and constantly zooms in-and-out awkwardly on the characters. Their style of mumblecore works well for this flick because there are many moments where I felt myself laughing a bit but also feeling something for these characters and investing myself more and more into them. However, that only went so far.

Much of the script is improvised, exactly how the directors like it, and it adds this sort of genuine flow to the film that works but at the same time takes away from the flick. Since you have these two funny-as-hell actors up in front of us the whole time, you would expect them to make us practically howling out of our seats but instead, they just resort to yelling the F-bomb out of each other and getting in physical fights, physical fights that are actually a lot funnier than what either of them say. Usually these guys are hilarious and have me on the verge of tears but for some odd reason, everything they said just came off as either unfunny or totally flat. I guess Segel was just waiting for Kermit or Miss Piggy to pop-up.

The two different story-lines that these brothers have aren’t very interesting since their so damn simple. Jeff is just a pot smoking dope who lives in his mommy’s basement and barely ever comes out and Pat is a regular dude who seems to be having a marriage that is falling down to an impending doom. There’s nothing too special about either of these story-lines at all but what was pretty neat was the whole idea Jeff has behind that everything in the world is connected to each other in some way or another. It’s pretty cool to see how everything does come together here, just like it was supposed to in Jeff’s mind, but then that mumbo jumbo spiritual crap started to get redundant and made it get a bit annoying after awhile.

What was bad with this film though was that by the end, all of the “comedy” that we saw in the beginning of the flick starts to go away within the last 20 minutes and everything begins to get dramatic. And when I mean dramatic, I mean DRAMATIC. I don’t mind if a comedy is trying to show some of its heart and even a little bit of its love it has to give but it gets very cheesy, very quick and it just came across as melodramatic rather than natural. At least with the Duplass’ last flick, they at least were subtle about showing their soft side, this film just bares it all with the over-powering indie score and everything.

However, when it really came down to it, the performances from everybody involved is what really made this flick work in the end. Jason Segel is good as this goofy and very philosophical dope, Jeff, and the slacker that he always plays his roles with is here but this time it at least has more of a heart and soul this time; Ed Helms is good as Pat but was a little too deuchy for me at points but then again, that was pretty much how he was supposed to be so my point was pretty dumb; Judy Greer is once again great in her little role as the wife of Pat, Linda, who seems to be cheating on him and she has a couple of good scenes where she shows some real emotion and gets this film into its dramatic territory but there’s not enough of her here (then again though, when is there ever?); and Susan Sarandon plays Pat and Jeff’s mommy who actually has the most interesting story as she deals with a secret admirer in her work-place, but then her story sort of gets thrown into unbelievable material by the end and it kind of loses it’s fun feeling it had.

Consensus: Jeff, Who Lives at Home has some funny and touching moments much ado to the cast, but ultimately feels like a let-down from the Duplass Brothers considering how lazy the writing feels, how unfunny many parts, and just how damn dramatic everything gets by the end. It definitely makes me want to watch ‘Cyrus’ again and see what made that one way better than this flick.

5/10=Rental!!

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

23 years later and money is still messed up.

Trader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) tries to mend the broken relationship between his fiancée, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), and her father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), while avenging the fate of his mentor, Lou (Frank Langella), by getting close to Wall Street’s new megalomaniac, Bretton James (Josh Brolin).

After seeing the first Wall Street, I realized just how much things with money in today’s world hasn’t changed at all really. However, it seems the cheese factor for this type of material hasn’t either.

Director Oliver Stone has always been a favorite director of mine because he always knows how to make any story seem interesting with his great use of style but here he shows that those skills are starting to fall apart. Stone relies too much on montages, almost the same ones we saw from the first one, and quick cuts that try to bring off some sign of rapidness in the Wall Street world but overall none of it actually works.

Having this film set in the time of the 2008 financial crisis seemed like a perfect move for this story but it doesn’t really actually explore that nor does it actually try to explore the relationship between Gekko and his daughter, or any other story for that matter. Basically all the little sub-plots here and there seem totally forced and actually muddled in the end since it doesn’t really seem like Stone knows what story to focus on the most or which one will have the most effect. So what he does is just have all the stories play out at once, but to no effect whatsoever.

With the first one too, the film showed a lot of the dark and mean sides to having business on Wall Street but none of that was really even here to glue me in by how gritty and bad everything is. The one-liners also don’t have the zing they once used to because it all seems so dated as if Stone were just trying to do what he did with the first one but none of it was actually funny or even catchy, just lame and at times just totally forced.

However, my only real favorite thing about this film is the actual performances from the cast. Michael Douglas seems like a natural in his role as Gordon Gekko and plays the anti-hero here rather than the villain but still makes it all work. Douglas knows how to make bad seem cool in so many ways and it’s good to see him do what he does best here. The sad thing though is that it really just feels like him playing the same character, just a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and a lot more grumpier.

Shia LaBeouf is the real star here actually playing his soon to be son-in-law Jake, who works on Wall Street and just so happens to be in a relationship with a Wall Street legend’s daughter. I actually liked Shia in this role because I think he handles a lot of the financial talk really well and gives us that idea that he really can hold a film on his own it only matters if he’s given a good enough role. Carey Mulligan is good at displaying any emotion just by using her face as Winnie; Josh Brolin is good as this dickish rival hedge-fund manager, Bretton James; and Frank Langella is also very good in a small, but powerful role as Lewis Zabel, a man way past his time. There’s also a small performance from Susan Sarandon here as well as Jake’s mom that doesn’t even seem meaningful to the story at all but more just to have an Oscar winner on the set.

Consensus: The cast may help this get through most parts, but Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has a crappy title (obviously), really piss-poor writing that doesn’t have any actual emotional depth or any connection to the characters, and has no real swift style that Oliver Stone has shown in many of his other films, especially the first Wall Street. A huge disappointment.

3/10=Rental!!

Thelma & Louise (1991)

A message to men everywhere: treat your women well, otherwise, they’ll go on a crime spree.

Fed up with her boyfriend, live-wire Arkansas waitress Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon) persuades her friend Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis), a naïve housewife burdened with a negligent, sexist husband, to hit the road with her for a simple weekend of freedom. But after accidentally killing a man, the two friends wind up outlaws blazing a cathartic trail across America.

It’s funny to see that the director of macho-dude hits such as Gladiator, Black Hawk down, and American Gangster, Ridley Scott, can make a film about two chicks on the run and it still be pretty cool.

The best thing that Scott does here with this direction is bring a lot of fun energy here. The plot is contrived, but the things that actually happen on this trip are pretty fun, and at times unbelievable but somehow Scott makes it all work with his heavy-hand of style. Scott keeps the action going at a nice pace and still allows time for these two characters to talk and actually be developed which is the least we could say for many other road movies.

The writing is also pretty good too with a lot of funny little moments of wit but also a great deal of reality that this film shows too. You may think it will hit the conventions of your ordinary road movie right off the bat, but it stays different and fresh somehow mainly because it’s script knows how to even out both comedy, drama, and some really fun action. Instead of these two ladies just roaming around the place, going crazy, and shooting people, we actually get some real poignant moments where these two just need an escape from their real shit-hole lives, and are just so happy to branch out of there boring days of just doing work, making dinner, and practically doing nothing new all day. This film showed that it wasn’t just the guys who could have all the crazy action fun, the girls could play just as harder also, which is also something very revolutionary about this film as well.

However, as inspirational and fun as it may be, some of it still feels a bit dated. There were moments where I listened to what these chicks said, and just thought to myself: “why are they saying that?”. Then, I actually realized that this film just wanted these two girls to say something naughty, or rough to be cool. Also, not every guy in the world just pops an automatic boner as soon as they see two women. I mean I understand that there are freaks out there, but this film really showed that almost every guy is a sex-freak that wants anything they can get right away.

My other problem with this film is probably the last 15 to 20 minutes, which would also include the ending. The whole time this film sort of fought against the convention of your ordinary action/road movie, but then somehow all the crazy car chases, and guns blowing up came out of nowhere, and thus, we had ourselves the same old action/road movie.

The ending was also very controversial at the time, but for me, I liked it. I thought it summed the whole 128 minutes I just watched pretty well, but the problem with the ending is the final shot. The final shot which many know, but I still won’t give away, should have been left on the screen longer than it was on. Scott faded to the happy-go-lucky montage/end credits way too quick for the audience to actually sink in what we just saw and then it’s impact is almost forgotten and lost. I know this may seem crazy to be pissed off about, but when I saw that ending I noticed some real problem with that.

These two gals also probably give their best performances to date. Susan Sarandon is awesome as the tough-as-nails, but also determined, Louise Sawyer and shows that she has that look that will make any man shriek once they see it. Geena Davis is also very good as the ditzy, but also very kind-hearted, Thelma Dickinson. Both of these great actresses work so well together and their chemistry builds up even more and more as the film goes on to the point of where you believe these two as friends. Not a moment with these two felt false and that’s what these two greats bring to the screen.

Let’s not also forget this was the first introduction into the hunk that they call, Brad Pitt as the sly and mysterious drifter, J.D. He has great scenes here as well and shows that he really was bound for greatness after all. The only thing he would have to do was take his shirt off, and he had no problem with that here.

Consensus: Thelma & Louise is guided by a great direction from Ridley Scott who has an even better script that knows how to balance out comedy, drama, and action very well with two great performances from David and Sarandon. However, by the end, the film starts to fall into convention and the last shot of the film feels too rushed off the screen, and therefore loses the whole impact that I felt I was going to have from this film.

7/10=Rental!!

Rango (2011)

Either somebody was watching too many Clint Eastwood films, or took a lot of LSD.

A chameleon (Johnny Depp) that aspires to be a swashbuckling hero finds himself in a Western town plagued by bandits and is forced to literally play the role in order to protect it.

I was actually surprised to see an actual good animation film, that wasn’t by Pixar. I was also more surprised by how different than any other animated film this was.

The real reason this whole film is an awesome treat is because of writer/director Gore Verbinski who does a good job of bringing us so much entertainment to our eyes. When he shot this film, it wasn’t just voice actors in a booth, he actually had everybody up and dancing along and doing all the actions that their characters do. This is what I think adds so much more enjoyment to the film because you can tell that all these actors are having a good time, with all that fun being brought onto us watching this film.

The script for me was OK to say the least, although I did feel it was all a bit too in it’s owns ass. The reason I say that is because there’s too many times where it just seems to be a pop-culture reference, after another and it started to become annoying to the point where I just wanted this story to go on. I did find myself actually chuckling at this film, but I couldn’t help thinking that the writers of this film, felt like they were so much more wittier when they wrote it.

The animation here is so finely detailed, but not in a pretty way, because this may actually have you puke if you’re not careful. There is some gross stuff here like reptiles as well as desert critters, and we get to see every scaly, verbally crack in their skin. Some of this may just scare children, but if you want to look at some amazing visuals, this is the film to see. What I like about this film is that it uses cutting-edge technology to take us back to a kid’s story would kill off a character as well as give us nightmares, but we would still have a great time.

Johnny Depp provides the voice of Rango, and really fits him well because Rango is a very theatrical character which is perfect for Depp because it gives him the chance to really goof around, and as always he does it so well here. Isla Fisher voices Beans, and does a funny job here as our main love interest, who sort of looks like Susan Sarandon. Others in this fine voice cast include Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin, Ray Winstone, and Harry Dean Stanton. Must I also add that there are two great cameos, from two very iconic figures but once you see them, you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about.

Consensus: The script may think it’s funnier than it actually is, but Rango features top-notch animation, with an overall fun energy that keeps almost all who watch happy, even though the little ones may not like it as much.

8/10=Matinee!!

You Don’t Know Jack (2010)

HBO can actually make some damn good movies.

Al Pacino stars in this enthralling biopic that focuses on the life of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the controversial physician who boldly advocated the legalization of euthanasia and personally helped over 100 terminally ill patients commit suicide.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian is one of the first public speakers to be brought into this assisted suicide deal going down in today’s world, and is sometimes is referred as Satan or the Devil.

I don’t want to bring out any of my opinions on assisted suicide or anything like that, because that will just spur a whole bunch of other drama, but that is the main reason to see this movie. It doesn’t matter what side your on, cause your view won’t change as much, although it actually does bring up some good points.

There is times when director Barry Levinson could have easily just stood up for Kevorkian, and say that he was a wrongly convicted man and such, however it does none of that. Whatever your feeling is on this topic, you will be intently watched every scene and see the personnel struggles/egos/pain of many different characters. Like the movie states in its title..”You Don’t Know Jack”. You only think you know about the Kevorkian story but upon viewing this movie, you will have a much better understanding.

The problem with this film is that some parts are better than others, and its just really slow in parts. Also, the story was a little lacking. Some of the more interesting things he did in life are either left out or glossed over. He was a jazz musician, but we only get like one scene of that, and he was also jokester, we never got to see that either.

Al Pacino, I have to give it to him, shows that he is a great actor. There just those certain performances, where you can’t get past the fact that the actor is playing somebody else, and you just see them as the actor. For me, I saw Pacino as Kevorkian, nothing else. Really, Pacino has some great scenes where he does his usual freak-out, but he also doesn’t act like some other characters he’s played in the past.

Consensus: Whatever your opinions are, You Don’t Know Jack is a great, moving biographical pick on a media figure, that although was misunderstood, still had many problems, all played perfect by a once again great, Pacino.

8/10=Matinee!!!

Cradle Will Rock (1999)

One of the worst planned out plays ever!

In the 1930s, as labor strikes erupt across the country, New York City launches a dramatic cultural revolution of its own. Orson Welles (Angus Macfadyen) stages the controversial titular play — a leftist manifesto. Diego Rivera (Ruben Blades) paints a socialist allegory on the walls of Rockefeller Center. And Margherita Sarfatti (Susan Sarandon) gives Da Vinci masterworks to any millionaire who’ll fund her war effort on Mussolini’s behalf.

Now this film has an insanely huge star-studded cast. It is honestly filled with some comedic and dramatic greats that it’s hard to say it almost doesn’t work, but in reality it kind of doesn’t.

It often talks down to the viewer, as it assumes that no one outside of the film and professional theater industry could know about these events or the mood of the nation at this time. The movie’s radical stance is that artists should get to do their art without being destroyed by mean rich people, and aren’t we just wonderful for agreeing with that?

The film puts all these ideas or radicalism, and communism in the film that it makes you wonder is this even about the play at all? I asked myself that many countless of times, I just wish that the film actually focused more on the play, cause I found those scenes to be more entertaining than the ones that were all about the themes of communism and radicalism.

There are some very good things about this film though. I did like the setting and I thought that was really welld done of how it actually did look like the depression era. Also, the script although packed with a lot of combustion and crazyness still does bring out some good ideas, and actually funny humor. It has very dramatic moments, but is soon brought out by it’s comedic factor which works very well at times.

The best part of this film is the acting from the cast. The film does have that great ensemble-cast who each fits their part respectively very well. Tuturro gives a very solid performance showing the anger that has always been inside of him, and Watson shows she can use her charm to probe to still be a cute young character. The best of the side performances I think was Bill Murray who plays a ventriloquist, and brings a lot of humor to the film but also the heart that the film needed.

Consensus: Cradle Will Rock is over-stuffed with way too many themes, and different stories that don’t jell together very well, but has a very witty screenplay, and a wonderfully acted ensemble cast.

6/10=Rental!!!

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Proof that Peter Jackson isn’t the greatest.

When 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is murdered, she watches from above as her family deals with her tragic death — and as her killer prepares to strike again. Torn between vengeance and healing, Susie’s loved ones are forever changed. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz star in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s riveting best-selling novel; Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci co-star.

Now this is based off a n0vel, that I have never read. Before this movie was coming out I really wanted to go out and buy it but never got that far. But now after watching this I have decided I need to give the book a nice read.

Peter Jackson uses a lot of these great ways to lighten up the mood in this film. He uses a full pallet of rich color, lush music, and astonishing visual effects that will simply leave you in awe. When Susie is in the after world there is a lot of images to look at, yeah they may be a bit creepy and weird with their CGI look, but I felt like I was in a whole new world of love and beauty when these scenes were on.

There are some beautifully crafted suspenseful set pieces within this film as well. Scenes come up out of nowhere that just leave you on the edge of your seat not knowing what was going to happen next, and how it was going to happen.

The one big bad problem that the film has is that it can’t find a coherent approach to this story. At times its grim and the others its beauty, but it just didn’t work out real well. One minute I would be in this beautiful wonderland full of joy and happiness, then the next minute I would stuck watching this serial killer at all nutty, while the parents of Susie are still trying to investigate. The film should have just went with one whole approach and mood towards this film instead it tries to combine these two, and it doesn’t work at all.

The biggest problem, overall, is that in a movie that runs well over two hours, Jackson is so busy bombarding us with trippy post-death visuals that he forgot to include actual human relationships. There are maybe fifteen minutes of actual conversation between characters in the entire movie — and believe me, I’m not exaggerating. Everything else is given over to our perky dead girl running through CGI mountains and fields, or observing her mopey family, while the ponderous, constant, droning narration makes the whole thing feel like an illustrated audio book.

Wahlberg and Weisz are completely given really nothing at all, other than being just these cheesy one dimensional characters throughout the whole film. For me they could have been given more material, because these two have proved in the past that they can work with good material, if given it correctly. The best performance here is Stanley Tucci as the creepy serial killer. Every time he was on screen I was just scared and wondering to myself what was this man going to do next. There wasn’t one time that I didn’t believe that this man was a crazed and amazingly creepy neighbor. Ronan is OK in this role, as sometimes she is just seen as being scared, and at the same time just repeating these little monologues.

One last thing with this film is that it’s message about death, and the after life did not seem all that well brought out. It wasn’t that preachy, but it also wasn’t well brought out in the way it could have been with the source material it was given.

Consensus: The Lovely Bones has Peter Jackson’s visual flairs and a great performance from Tucci, but can’t find a coherent approach to its mood, and barely shows any other human emotion other than just being sad all the time.

5/10=Rental!!!!