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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Teresa Palmer

Lights Out (2016)

Always keep those phones charged, kiddies.

When Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) was a kid, she battled through all sorts of demons, in-personal and personal. Whenever the lights out went out at her place, scary things began to happen, which made her question life and her own existence as a whole. Now that she’s older and out of the house for good, she feels as if she finally has left all that behind. Her mother (Maria Bello) is still a little cooky and definitely doesn’t have a firm grip on reality, but her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman), who she looks over, does and that’s all that matters to her. However, the strange entity that once threatened Rebecca is back and more dangerous than ever, but now instead of just going after Rebecca and her mom, it wants to take Martin, which means that the family is going to have to pull out all of the stops to get rid of it, once and for all.

At just a little over 80 minutes, Lights Out doesn’t get too bogged down in all the sorts of stuff that most horror movies of its nature tend to get a little too carried away with. For one, it’s not too concerned with its genealogy, or better yet, explaining all the sorts of stuff that happen – it trusts its audience to have a good idea that spooky stuff happens when the lights go off right from the get-go and that’s about it. The fact that the movie doesn’t try to make the force, or what have you, that’s terrorizing these people, into some sort of ancient folklore only known or talked about from crazy, old people living out somewhere in the middle of the mountains, also makes it even more refreshing, while also reminding us that this, first and foremost, a horror movie.

Oh, T. It'll be okay.

Oh, T. It’ll be okay.

And a pretty scary one, at that.

Director David Sandberg and writer Eric Heisserer seem to come together perfectly on one aspect of Lights Out, and that’s how to handle the scares. Sure, the idea is a gimmicky one for sure, but it’s also one that’s handled incredibly well; we get a good sense of what the force does, how it does what it does, and how it could possibly be stopped, with still some questions unanswered when all is said and done. The movie doesn’t concern itself with the questions, the answers, or the reasons, but mostly just pays close attention to creeping people out with smart, random, but always effective scares.

In fact, the movie works best perhaps when it’s just playing around with its certain rules and conventions, being stuck in its own little creepy world and not caring about much else. Sure, it’s good to have a story, characters, development, and heart added to the proceedings as well, but sometimes, when all you want to do is relish in your own scariness, then nothing’s wrong with that. Both Sandberg and Heisserer know exactly what they’re making, don’t try for anything more, and because of that, end up pulling off a solid little bit of horror.

Of course, the movie does have characters and plot, which also keeps it away from being truly, if above all, great.

Yeah, turn around, bro. Think that's a pretty easy decision to make.

Yeah, turn around, bro. Think that’s a pretty easy decision to make.

But here’s the thing: The movie is so short and quick with itself, that all of the qualms about the acting, or the plot, or even the characters, may seem rather silly. The movie doesn’t take up a whole lot of time on them, but instead, building up the scares and scenarios. It’s admirable and smart, but the fact remains that these aspects of the movie are troubling and can sort of make the other 40 minutes of this flick seem rather, I don’t know, lame.

Teresa Palmer is always great to watch, but even here, she seems like she’s not just forcing her American-accent, but some of her goofy-lines as well. Same goes for Maria Bello who, unfortunately, is stuck with the crazy, sometimes not-all-that-there mother role that likes to yammer on about things that may or may not be real, while also having nervous breakdowns left and right. It’s a rather obvious role and though Bello tries with it, there’s no getting past the fact that, yeah, it’s kind of weak. Still, like I said, the movie gets by solely on the fact that it’s short and sweet, so when you take all of these problems into consideration, it hardly matters much.

They’re not around, but guess what is?

The spooky stuff!

Consensus: While not perfect, Lights Out still gets by on the sole fact that its short, sweet, and pretty scary when it wants to be, making it the rare franchise-starter that’s actually interesting.

6.5 / 10

CSI?

CSI?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Who brings a gun to a fist fight, anyway?

Ever since he was a little boy, Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) has been around and seen all sorts of violence that it’s made him into a far more civilized, peaceful person as he’s gotten older. However, with WWII on the horizon, Desmond feels the need to serve and protect his country. But, how can one do that if they aren’t willing to pick up a gun and kill the enemy? Well, for Desmond, he decides that his true calling in war is to be a on-the-field medic and care for his fellow soldiers, all without having to lift a finger to kill someone. Obviously, Desmond’s fellow soldiers and comrades don’t take too kindly to Desmond’s “conscientious objector” ways, leading them to not just beat him up, but mock him and try whatever they can to get him kicked out of the Army for good. Through it all though, Desmond remains faithful to his true-self and doesn’t let others get in the way of what he rightfully believes him, even when death is staring him clear in the face.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a pacifist.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a pacifist.

For the first hour or so, Hacksaw Ridge is as playful, as entertaining, and as light as I’ve ever seen a war movie start. Sure, there’s a lot of dark stuff about alcoholism, PTSD, daddy issues, and violence that pops up every so often, but for the most part, Hacksaw Ridge starts out like an old school war flick, that soon turns into the bright-eyed version of Full Metal Jacket. It seems as if we’re going to get something so silly and wacky, that it actually makes you wonder whether Mel Gibson directed it, or he just through his name on there and had someone else do the job for him.

But then, after that first hour and the soldiers hit the battlefield, holy hell, it does a total 180 and all of a sudden, it’s a real war flick.

There’s blood, there’s guts, there’s decapitations, there’s severed-limbs, there’s fire, there’s explosions, there’s wounds, there’s cuts, there’s injuries, there’s cursing, there’s screaming, there’s shouting, there’s grown-men yelling for their mommies, there’s bullets, there’s guns, there’s grenades, and most of all, there’s death. Somehow, through some way, Mel Gibson himself was able to fool us all into thinking that this was going to be none other than an entertaining romp on WWII, only to then, turn the other cheek and absolutely stick our faces in it. If anything, it says more about us, than it does him – how can we expect something so lovely and cheerful to come out of so much pain, agony and death?

Well, Gibson answers that by basically saying, “we don’t.” We don’t, in that we spend roughly an hour or so with these characters, getting to know them, their lives, their hopes, ambitions and dreams, and then, with the drop of a hat, they’re shot dead, point blank in the heads. It’s so shocking, so abrupt, and so disturbing, that honestly, it couldn’t have been done any other way. Some may call it “uneven”, which it may definitely be, but still, Gibson surprises us out of nowhere and it works – it has the rest of the movie play-out in a far more serious, albeit more solemn tone.

Now, that isn’t to say that the movie’s perfect, of course.

As usual, Gibson’s movies, always look, sound and feel great, but when you get down to the bottom of them, are they really about much? Not quite. See, with Hacksaw Ridge, it’s obvious from the very start that it’s about faith, religion, and standing against war, with Garfield’s Desmond clearly angled as the Jesus-figure of the story and it’s so corny, that it actually works, until it gets way too obvious, with Gibson finding whichever possible symbolism that he can find and not stepping away from it one bit.

"Yes, Mr. Garfield. We allow you to stay away from franchise flicks forever!"

“Yes, Mr. Garfield. We allow you to stay away from franchise flicks forever!”

Should I be shocked that it’s coming from the same guy who did Passion of the Christ? Obviously, no, but it does make you wonder just what is this story about? Desmond Doss’ acts of bravery and heroism? Or, Mel Gibson’s constant battle with himself and his religion? Either way, it doesn’t keep Hacksaw Ridge from still being a very good war movie, that has something to say, even if Gibson doesn’t fully know what that is, or how to get it all out.

It also doesn’t keep the cast from giving some solid performances, either.

Andrew Garfield, now that he’s done with Spider-Man, can finally go back to making due on the promise he showed with the Social Network and if last year’s 99 Homes was just a starter, Hacksaw Ridge is his next-at-bat. While it’s definitely a thinner role, Garfield’s great in it, displaying a wild deal of humor, heart and personality, even if he does sometimes come off a tad bit too much like a classier-version of Forrest Gump. That said, Garfield handles everything so well, that he honestly does make it seem like he’s a true saint, even if the movie can’t trust him enough to give that impression in the first place.

Others like Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, and yes, even Vince Vaughn, all show up and put in some surprisingly solid work. Gibson has always been an actor’s director, showing each and every player off for what they can do best and never losing sight that they add a little more to the story. Because it’s not just about Doss and his heroic acts, as much as it’s about the aspect of war and the toll it can take on the actual humans themselves. The film’s preachy and obvious, but there’s an undercurrent of some real, hard and honest emotions here that work and make you think twice about war itself, and also Gibson.

Maybe that was his plan all along, that bastard.

Consensus: While heavy-handed, Hacksaw Ridge works as a brutal, well-acted and compelling anti-war flick that shows the return of Mel Gibson, the incredibly talented director that we didn’t know we missed so much of.

7.5 / 10

Hold up, everyone. Private Doss has got to think about his life.

Hold up, everyone. Private Doss has got to think about his life.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

I Am Number Four (2011)

I feel like Number 666 is pretty damn cool. Where’s that person’s movie?

John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) seems like an ordinary teenager, who wants to live long, prosper, have a great time, find some hot chicks, drink, party, and just do what every other teenager in the whole entire world wishes for. However, he’s very far from ordinary – in fact, he’s an alien on the run from merciless enemies hunting him and the eight others like him. So in order to make sure that he doesn’t get found out by this group of baddies, he and his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), have to constantly go from town-to-town, changing their identities and staying as hidden and as unseen as they possibly can. That’s easy for Henri to do, but for John, he just wants to be out there in the world, living life like a typical teenager, which leads him to start going to the local high school, where he meets an falls for the cutest girl at the school (Dianna Agron), but at the same time, also captures the attention of the school-bully (Jake Abel), who isn’t afraid to start some stuff with John whenever he oh so feels the need or desire.

Basically, it’s high school, but you know, with aliens.

"Trust me, I'm hot."

“Trust in me, I’m hot.”

Just like Disturbia was D.J. Caruso’s junior-Hitchcock, I Am Number Four is definitely his junior-Spielberg. Everything in it just breathes, hell, screams Spielberg; the high school-setting, the angsty, misunderstood teenagers, the aliens, the government conspiracies, the monsters, etc. It’s as if Caruso felt the need to start trying out whatever famous director’s style he could go for next, regardless of whether or not he actually had the talent to do so, so in a way, it’s an admirable effort on his part.

Issue is, I Am Number Four also feels a whole heck of a lot like every other YA adaptation that tried so desperately hard to recapture the same magic and success as Twilight did and because of that, it definitely feels like a step-down for someone who is a pretty competent director. After all, Caruso gets a lot right here that other Spielberg-wannabes have tried to aim for; the high school and its characters are compelling, if also somewhat realistic, and for awhile, the mystery of these aliens, their powers, and all that stuff, is interesting enough to stick around for. But then, the movie also dives really, really deep into the mythology which, honestly, doesn’t matter, or work.

I Am Number Four is the kind of movie that probably works best, when nobody takes it serious – the director, writers, cast, everyone. It’s so goofy and weird that often times, it would have probably been best if the movie made itself out to be something of a parody of these YA adaptations, and then decided to turn the other cheek and become its own genre-flick, like say Shaun of the Dead, or even Airplane. But of course, that isn’t the case here – instead, we get a relatively self-serious movie that doesn’t always know how to tone down the sci-fi mythology that nobody can understand or care for, nor does it know when the best time for some fun character-stuff needs to happen.

Then again, maybe that’s just a problem with me – expecting human stuff out of a YA adaptation.

Metaphor for technology? Eh, probably not.

Metaphor for technology? Eh, probably not.

But still, Caruso does offer up enough to make the movie, at the very least, an entertaining piece of mainstream trash that doesn’t need to be thought about long, especially considering that all it really wants to do is set-up more and more sequels to come. And considering that this is the film-business, is that such a problem? It isn’t if you have something to really work with; Twilight got five movies, whereas I Am Number Four only got one and honestly, there’s something wrong with that. A part of me feels like if I Am Number Four got the opportunity to expand on its universe, hire some better writers and whatnot, that it would have grown on to be something better than just another YA-knockoff that people forget about after a week or two.

It probably wouldn’t have been the next Hunger Games in any way, shape or form, but it would have at least been somewhat of an enjoyable diversion, right? Cause with the cast, the movie could have definitely done more to add some sizzle and spice to the whole YA-genre. Alex Pettyfer, despite always having to work with an odd American-accent, is perfectly fine and hunky as Four, or the apt-named, John Smith; Dianna Agron’s pretty-girl-who-takes-pictures-so-yeah-she’s-interesting character is boring, but she does enough of something with it; and yeah, Timothy Olyphant is a blast to watch, making the best of what he can, even going so far as to infuse any bit of humor that he can find in the creases. Everyone here is fine, but sadly, they never got the next opportunity to see what they could do next with this story, this franchise, or even this world.

Oh well. At least we got another Divergent movie coming out sometime soon.

So that’s good, right?

Consensus: Too serious to be campy, and too weird to be hilarious, I Am Number Four is an okay diversion from the rest of the YA-fare, but unfortunately, also doesn’t have much of its own identity to help itself out and break away from the rest of the pack.

5 / 10

Wow. Alex must not really want Isabel in his life. Deuche.

Wow. Alex must not really want Isabel in his life. Deuche.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Knight of Cups (2016)

The life of a Hollywood writer is so tragic.

Rick (Christian Bale) is an acclaimed writer currently spending his life in Hollywood, where he parties, has an awful lot of sex, and mostly, walks around, mumbling his own thoughts to himself. But even though his lifestyle may be a lavish one, he still feels the pain and agony from the many relationships he has. There’s Della (Imogen Poots), a rebellious firecracker who sports a leather jacket; there’s Nancy (Cate Blanchett), his sad ex-wife who doesn’t know what it is that she wants in life; there’s Helen (Freida Pinto), a fancy model he meets at a party who may be out of his league; there’s Karen (Teresa Palmer), a carefree, but fun-loving stripper; there’s Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a married woman who he carries on a sordid affair with; and then, there’s Isabel (Isabel Lucas), an excited young woman who brings some joy to his already sad life. Through this all, Rick also engages with his brother (Wes Bentley), who may or may not be a junkie, and his old, but dying father (Brian Dennehy), who may or may not have abused them both when they were kids.

Either way, there’s a lot of sulking going on here.

Why so sad? The beach is right behind you!

Why so sad? The beach is right behind you!

Terrence Malick has been all over the place as of late, sometimes, for better, as well as for worse. The Tree of Life was his first movie in nearly five years, but it proved to be something of a surprise, even by Malick’s standards. Sure, it was nearly two-and-a-half hours long and seemed to dive into the cosmos one too many times, but at the same time, it still registered as a heartfelt, intimate and insightful tale into what Malick saw as growing up and becoming a man, when you’re still definitely a child at heart. That movie opened-up a lot of new insights into the kind of director Malick was, how he viewed himself, and just why he still deserves to be a trusted force, even if he is as unpredictable as they can get.

And then To the Wonder came out and sadly, things went back to the old, weird and somewhat boring ways.

Not that there was anything wrong with that movie in terms of its production-design, as everything in it, looked and sounded beautiful. But as a story? The movie was pretty hallow and in desperate need of some sort of heart, or emotion, or insight to really keep it moving. Heck, Ben Affleck’s lead character had barely five lines of dialogue and we were supposed to follow him and be compelled by every choice he made in his love life? Didn’t quite work for me, even if there were aspects of the movie that I did admire.

That’s why something like Knight of Cups, while not totally Malick’s most accessible film, still offers up a little something more than what we’ve been seeing as of late with him. What’s perhaps most interesting about what Malick does here is that he focuses all of his time, attention and beauty on the soulless, cruel and dull world of Hollywood; one in which everybody parties, soaks up the sun, and has sex with one another, yet, nobody really seems to fully enjoy the excess. This isn’t new material being touched on, but considering that it’s Malick, it feels slightly refreshing and more poetic, rather than just seeming like a rich person, going on and on about how rich people, make too much money, have too much fun, and don’t really seem to have many responsibilities at all.

Okay, the cast may make it seem like that, but Malick’s focus is mostly on Christian Bale’s Rick – someone who, like Affleck’s character, doesn’t have much of anything to say. But considering that everything happens around him, it’s interesting to see just how much of Bale’s demeanor doesn’t change, as it seems like he was just directed and told to walk around, observe his surroundings, and just stare at people if they talk to you, or ask you questions. It’s a bit odd at times, but Bale is still a compelling presence here, that even when it’s clear he isn’t the star of the show, he still makes us want to know more about him.

Same goes for all the other characters who show up here, which is why Knight of Cups has a slight bit more character-detail than his latest offerings.

Rather than featuring everyone frolicking and smiling in/around nature, everyone seems to have at least some sort of personality that makes them intriguing to watch, even if Malick himself doesn’t really give them all the attention they need or deserve. Most of the women in Rick’s life show up, do their charming thing, and leave at the drop of a hat, but it’s still enough to leave a lasting impression. Cate Blanchett’s character is perhaps the saddest, most tragic character out of the bunch, with Natalie Portman’s coming up to a close second. Others like Teresa Palmer and Imogen Poots seem as if they showed up to have a blast and because of that, they’re hard not to smile about or love. Sure, we don’t get to know much about them, or why they matter (other than from the fact that they’re banging Rick), but we get just enough that it goes a long way.

Same goes for Wes Bentley’s brother character, as well as Brian Dennehy’s father character. Bentley seems as if he showed-up to the set, high off his rocker, which brings out a lot of intentional, but mostly unintentional, laughs, whereas Dennehy is a stern presence, making a lot of his scenes feel oddly tense. Malick could have definitely dug into this dynamic a whole lot more, rather than just trying to let all of the narration do the talking for him, but what he’s got here, as meager as it may be, is still well worth taking a bite at.

See?!?

See?!?

Still, there is that feeling that even at nearly two hours, there needs to be something more.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities about Knight of Cups is that Malick gives at least some more attention to the plot and to the characters than he has recently, but like with most of his other films, it’s hard not to wonder where’s the other reels. We know that certain actors like Joel Kinnaman, Thomas Lennon, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Jason Clarke, and Joe Lo Truglio, among others, have all filmed scenes for this and can be seen ever so briefly, so why not include them? If judging just solely by their celebrity status and skill, why not put them in for good measure and allow for them to make their mark? Sure, it would be a crazier, perhaps longer movie if they were in it, but at least there’d be something to enjoy, rather than be utterly confused by.

Same goes for the characters and cast-members Malick already has at his disposal. There’s so many characters and actors here that, at times, I wish there would have been more context. And knowing Malick for Malick, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be at least a three hour opus of sorts. Sure, some would be pissed and not want to bother with it, but his fans, and those who admire him most probably would definitely like to see what Malick had in his goody-bags all this time. After all, nobody ever said “more development” was a bad thing to have, especially not in a Malick movie.

But hey, this all just me.

Consensus: Beautiful, engaging, and as meditative as you can get with a Malick film, Knight of Cups may not be his most accessible film, but it still offers up enough emotion and intrigue that makes it feel less like a slog, and more like a brain-teaser of what else could possibly be out there.

7 / 10

The dude who played Batman for three movies definitely has enough money for a private lap dance and then some.

The dude who played Batman for three movies definitely has enough money for a private lap dance and then some.04

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Triple 9 (2016)

Dirty cops do dirty things. Like not take showers, apparently.

A group of bank robbers are running high on their latest heist and feel as if, finally, it’s their time to settle up, kick back, relax, and enjoy all of their riches. However, that’s all short-lived once the the ruthless and notorious gangster Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) orders her men to pull off another job – the one they keep on calling “the last job”. While none of the guys are happy about this, they see this as their only way out, so they devise up a few plans on how to steal another huge amount of cash. Eventually, they have a million-dollar idea, the only issue, is that it involves cops. But this isn’t much of a problem considering that two of the members in the group, Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge Rodriguez (Clifton Collins, Jr.) , actually happen to both be cops. But to make their plan even more difficult than before, Marcus gets saddled with Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), a by-the-books cop who is now for playing it on the straight-and-narrow. Will the guys be able to get the heist altogether, even despite the obvious issues standing in their way?

Corrupt cops never smile.

Corrupt cops never smile. That’s just a fact.

What’s so interesting about Triple 9 is how little it’s being promoted, or how it doesn’t seem like many people will see it this weekend, even though it features an insanely stacked, all-star cast list of who’s who. Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Clifton Collins, Jr., Michael K. Williams, Teresa Palmer, Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, and more, all show up here in Triple 9, yet, you wouldn’t know it. And it’s not like the studio’s trying to bury the movie, either; this much talent can’t be attracted to something so terrible that it would be thrown in the February time-slot, due its horribleness. While you could definitely make the argument that that has in fact happened before, I still rest my case and say that, for what it’s worth, Triple 9 is a fine movie.

In fact, it’s a very fine crime-thriller, which makes it all the better.

John Hillcoat loves him some blood, action, and crime, which is why it’s no surprise that Triple 9, in nearly every shot, seems as if everyone and everything in it, needs a long, steaming hot shower. However, it’s quite refreshing to see something so down, out and gritty as Triple 9, that isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to its violence, nor when it comes to giving us characters we don’t necessarily hate, or love. In some ways, we can sort of feel very “meh” about a character, depending on how much time they’re given to develop, but really, Hillcoat isn’t trying to make one character in particular, better than the rest. Everybody’s conflicted; everybody’s got an issue; and most of all, everybody’s got at least some sort of “bad” to them.

That’s why, with this solid cast, it can sometimes feel like Triple 9 isn’t giving each and every person a whole lot to do, even if there are a few exceptions to the rule. Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet get the two showier roles of the movie, and even then, it feels like they aren’t here enough. While Casey Affleck could easily be classified as “the protagonist”, he still feels like an afterthought when it becomes clear that Hillcoat himself is a tad too enamored and caught up with all that’s going on with bank-robbers and their own personal lives. No issue with this, as the bank-robbers here are all played by solid actors, but at the same time, it still can’t help but feel like a little too much, for a movie that’s so simple to begin with.

Why does Daryl always get stuck driving?

Why does Daryl always get stuck driving?

Sure, Triple 9 may combat with the idea of it being a far more “serious” and “complicated” crime-thriller, but really, it isn’t all that much different from any other crime-thriller out there.

Every character feels like a type, every situation that they’re thrown into, when it’s not predictable, has been done before, and really, there’s no real message at the end of the day. Not that every movie ever made needs to have a message at the end of it to wrap everything up in a neat, little bow, but Triple 9 thinks that it has one and that’s its biggest issue. It’s maybe far too self-serious and brooding for its own good, when really, all we want it to do is crack open a beer, chill out, and turn that frown upside down.

The more entertaining moments of Triple 9, other than the violence, is when the actors seem to be dialing it up to 11 with reckless abandon. Harrelson and Winslet are definitely the main ones here who take advantage of their limited screen-time, having as much fun as they seemingly can, but there’s others in the cast like talented character actors, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Michael K. Williams, who seem like they showed up, ready to have some fun and just let loose. That’s why, when Triple 9 is just living it up in these moments, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.

But then, like I said, the actual story comes around and everything gets so super serious, so super quick and it’s a bit a slog to get through. Not to say that people like Affleck, Mackie, or Ejiofor can’t do some interesting stuff with this kind of material, but by the same token, it also feels like they’re bringing down the whole ship with them. Although, not nearly as much as Aaron Paul is, with his one-note, rather annoying character who is addicted to drugs and constantly causing problems everywhere he goes. In fact, if there’s a weak-link in this huge cast, it’s Paul, but it may be less of his problem, seeing as how he doesn’t have much to work with.

Sort of like a lot of other people here. Even if they all make a go of it, for the longest time.

Consensus: Given its well-stacked ensemble, Triple 9 may be a tad bit disappointing for those expecting something far more powerful, but for those expecting a bloody, ruthless, gritty and sometimes, fun, crime-thriller, then enjoy.

6.5 / 10

Red means "they're onto something". I think. Or the bar just has crappy lighting.

The red glow means “they’re onto something”. I think. Or the bar just has crappy lighting.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Choice (2016)

Kids fall in love so easily these days. Throw one hot neighbor at them and all of a sudden, they’re smitten!

Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker) is a ladies’ man who doesn’t have any sort of rush to get into a serious, romantic relationship because, well, life is good enough, so why bother with all of that other crap, right? Well, that’s why when Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) moves in next door, he’s thrown for a loop; not only is this a woman he’s attracted to physically, but mentally as well. But little does he know that Gabby herself has some love going on in her own life with a long-term boyfriend (Tom Welling), whom she’s looking to settle down with. But as fate would have it, the two end-up finding themselves together in ways they never expected to. At first, what starts out as a little fun and fiery fling, soon turns into something loving, caring, and above all else, serious. Clearly, this scares the absolute hell out of Travis, but he’s willing to let all of that go to be with Gabby? Heck, is Gabby willing to let all of her freedom go away on someone as much of a wild card as Travis? Who knows!

Choice2

She’s pretty.

But really, who cares?

Everybody knows what they’re getting into when they decide to see a Nicholas Sparks movie, so why does anybody bother? Well, there’s always that small, but surprising off-chance that there will be the one movie to break the curse and show that, even despite all of Sparks’ fluffy mannerisms and conventions, his material can still somewhat, kind of, sort of, maybe work. It’s been quite some time since the Notebook (aka, the last actually “good” Sparks movie), but really, we’ve been through some barn-burners since then.

And needless to say, yes, the Choice is another “bad” Sparks movie that shows just why the haters will continue to hate, and the lovers, will continue to love and support his work until he eventually succumbs to his own plot-devices, like say a random disease, car accident, or incident in which death is the outcome.

But if anything about the Choice actually comes close to working, then it’s the chemistry between Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker, both of whom are clearly a lot better than they material they’re saddled with, but are giving it their all anyway. Walker’s Travis is, of course, the usual Sparks man: He’s cool, suave with the ladies, speaks in a Southern twang, but at the same time, a bit heartfelt and has a tender hand when it comes to curing animals. Basically, he’s the perfect man that doesn’t exist in real life, but Walker shows some heart and humanity to this character that’s not only believable, but actually sympathetic, even though we know he’s a type, and a very lazy one at that.

As for Palmer, her Gabby is another Sparks type, but this time, in woman form: She’s fun, flighty, sweet, but at the same time, confused about what she wants in life and scared of falling in love. Here’s another human that doesn’t exist in the real world, but Palmer tries her hardest to keep her character her interesting, lovely, and most importantly, believable, even when it seems like she’s making random decisions, bad solely on moving the plot along. Together, they create something that can seem genuine and sweet, even if the movie loves to dive into their personal histories, like which family-member died, what artifact did they leave behind, and why exactly they all touched their lives.

It’s all a bunch of a melodrama that we’ve seen before with Sparks’ movies, and here, it’s just all the more annoying, because it’s obvious Palmer and Walker really do seem to be trying.

However, what’s weird about the Choice, is that it’s never fully known just who these characters are, what they do, and why it is we’re watching these two fall in love. Because almost every member of the cast is at least 30 years old, or above, it’s hard to place just what age these characters are, where they stand in terms of their education, and just what the hell kind of jobs they have to maintain their overall peaceful, luxurious lifestyles on the lakes of North Carolina. Clearly, this is all fiction, that can sometimes border on fantasy, but it really sets in when it becomes clear that the movie less concerned about these character’s own, personal lives, and more concerned with just who it is that they’re going to bed with, and/or smitten with.

Then again, any person in my position would know better than to expect actual detailed heart or humanity with a Nicholas Sparks movie. But then, the movie continues to go on and on, showing this romance developing over years and years with one another, and we’re supposed to believe that they’re going through all sorts of the same problems that couples seem to go through, yet, we never actually hear them or see how they start. We just see how they materialize and then, suddenly, end. It’s as if there’s hardly any build-up, but just a drop and we’re supposed to connect the dots of what’s going on, for what reasons, and how exactly we’re supposed to feel.

However, considering that the Choice is another Sparks movie, it’s pretty clear what we’re supposed to feel: Sap and a whole lot of it.

Choice1

He’s prettier.

And of course, the people who love these kinds of movies will fall for this, hook, line and sinker, nor should they feel otherwise. After all, this is their movie, and nobody else’s. But that’s the problem with these Sparks movies – they never seem to be for anyone else, but the target-demographic. The Notebook, while all sorts of cheesy and over-the-top at times, also happens to be a coming-of-age tale, where we not only believe the romance, but see how it develops over time, with enough attention and care to detail. The cast is also allowed to work wonders, too, with just the right enough of good material, to balance out the terrible ones.

However, the Choice still feels very much for the audience who has been with Sparks since the Notebook and haven’t left his side, even though mostly all of his movies since then, have been absolute crap. They’re the kinds of movies that don’t care about getting anybody new interested in their stories, but rather, continue to aim for the same audience members, having them swoon, cry and love life all over again. Sure, it’s not like the movies are necessarily making people turn to heartless, evil human beings, but at the same time, they aren’t doing much else either.

And that’s just pure laziness that needs to stop, or be done away with.

Neither of which, I’m afraid, will actually happen to Nicholas Sparks movies.

Consensus: As usual, the Choice is a sappy, predictable, and believe it or not, boring piece of Nicholas Sparks fiction that shows why, once again, his movies don’t care about anyone else except for the audience who is already buying tickets for this now, as we speak.

2.5 / 10

Choice3

Together, they’re both pretty pretty.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Rotten Tomatoes

Point Break (2015)

If your movie doesn’t have Gary Busey, don’t even bother.

Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) was, at one time in his life, a very famous and well-known motocross rider who, for the most part, risked his life on more than a few occasions for the thrill and rush of it all. But after tragedy struck, Johnny realized that it was probably best to cease the riding and stick to a much safer, more relaxing job. This is when Utah joins up with the FBI where, at first, all he does is pencil-pushing. Then, Utah gets to thinking about these mysterious series of crimes that keep happening where a group of criminals perform extreme stunts to steal money and other valuables, but instead of keeping it for themselves, give it those who need it the most: The poor. Because Utah believes that he is like these men, whoever they may be, he does his hardest to convince his superiors to allow him to go out into the field and track these guys down. Eventually, he finds them, and meets their cool leader Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez). Together, Utah and Bodhi form a friendship that transcends just doing crazy stunts together, which makes Utah forget about what he was sent out to do in the first place.

Sweet tats, braj.

Sweet tats, braj.

First off, did we really need a Point Break remake? Most definitely not. However, in a day and age where there seems to be a new reboot/rehash/remake/spin-off in the works and released to the masses, it comes as almost no surprise that the powers that be within Hollywood decided, “Why not?”, when it came to the idea of giving the 1991, beloved bro-classic original a remake. Which isn’t to say that every remake ever made, is a bad one – it’s just to say that sometimes, certain movies don’t need to be remade in the first place.

Especially if your remake isn’t going to be all that good in the first place.

And yes, the Point Break remake, all issues with the idea of remakes aside, is not a very good movie. But the problem with it is that it seems like it’s trying hard to actually be one; perhaps maybe a bit too hard, but hey, at least there’s an effort on the movie’s part. Most of this is due to the fact that director Ercison Core really seems as if he’s interested in making this Point Break movie all about the cool, over-the-top, and daring-as-hell extreme stunts that take-up a solid portion of this movie.

While the original was about riding wild and gnarly waves, the remake is more about jumping off of the highest mountains and gliding around in ultra-tight spandex. Because Core makes the decision to shoot all of these crazy stunts in a natural way, they feel more realistic and exciting than they would had he decided to take the easy way out and just let the CGI do the talking. Even the surfing sequence in the beginning of the movie feels real, due to the waves being real, but once the surfers themselves actually start riding the waves, then it becomes obvious that it’s just computer-trickery working its magic and it takes you right out.

And considering that at least 45 minutes of Point Break is just a bunch of ripped, way-too-masculine dudes performing wild stunts, just because they want to “feel free”, it should be said that these are the minutes of the movie that work best. They don’t care too much about character-development, moving the story along, or even focusing on what the point of all of it is – it’s just a bunch of dudes climbing mountains, hand-crafting fires, snowboarding down dangerous cliffs, and much more. So no, the remake is not as bad as I expected it to be.

But yes, it’s still pretty bad.

Because even despite these numerous scenes, the movie is still, believe it or not, pretty damn boring. Considering that the movie is nearly two-hours long, with at least 45 of it being cool-to-look-at stunts, that means there’s about an hour-and-15-minutes left where it’s just bunch of stonewall characters talking to one another about liberation, occasionally fighting one another and, oh yeah, Ray Winstone showing up just to collect a paycheck because, hey, why the hell not!

Ride out, Bodhi. Seriously. Don't even bother to look back.

Ride out, Bodhi. Seriously. Don’t even bother to look back.

And this isn’t anything to fully hold against Core because he seems like he’s trying to do something with the direction of the story, but the script is just not there. None of the fun, vibrant flair of the original’s screenplay is anywhere to be found, nor is the emotion of how frustrated and torn Johnny Utah should be in this situation. Also, the characters themselves can be so bland and poorly-written, that really, it doesn’t matter if they live another day to climb another mountain, or die by falling-off of one – all that matters is that they take us one step closer to getting to the end of the movie.

Which I know makes this sound like I’m saying that the original Point Break was the greatest movie ever made and not without any of its own issues, because it definitely is. It’s corny, over-the-top and, above all else, silly. But you know what? It’s also fun, pretty hilarious, and downright cool, in a sorta-retro way that most movies from the early-90’s are. This Point Break, for some odd reason, just feels like a cash-grab that somebody thought was a good idea to do again, yet, didn’t actually think through how it would actually work.

Instead, we’re left with a bunch of people who don’t seem to care, or if they do, aren’t trying hard enough to make even the best parts of this material, work.

I don’t know if Luke Bracey was trying to do a Keanu Reeves impersonation here or not, but whatever he’s going for, just isn’t quite clicking. He’s painfully dry, uninteresting and most importantly, lacking any sort of trait that would make it understandable as to why he would go from being an extreme motocross driver to then, all of a sudden, becoming an FBI agent. We get that his friend died early on in the movie, hence why the sudden change in employment, but the FBI? Really?

As for Edgar Ramirez, the guy already had a lot to live up to with trying to take over a role held by the iconic Patrick Swayze and, well, it’s a shame to say but the role eats him up. Ramirez does definitely try to make all of these hippie-ish sayings sound compelling and wise, but really, he ends up sounding like a dude who took one too many bong hits. Same goes for Teresa Palmer as Samsara, Utah’s love-interest and possible villain, who is definitely hot and spicy, but has such a boring personality, that it makes the perfect argument for Utah just saying, “Well, bro, the chick was sexy, man.”

And that’s about all I can say for this.

Consensus: Despite it being unnecessary, there are certain moments of fun and excitement within the remake of Point Break, but mostly, they don’t do much to carry the boredom and dryness that the rest of the film, as well as the talented cast, swims under.

3.5 / 10

Just make-out already. Please! We all know you want to!

Just make-out already. Please! We all know you want to!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Wolf Creek (2004)

This summer, kids, just stay home.

Three college graduates are finally ready to embark on their summer and all of the fun times that they could have. So, they decide that what better way to get started than to go back-packing in the mountains of Australia? Better yet, how about the infamous Wolf Creek, where the hike itself is apparently three-hours long and is practically in the middle of a desert! Yep, that sounds pretty great! And for awhile, it is – the three drink, party, kiss, sleep, camp, sit by a fire, play guitar, tell goofy stories, and look forward to what’s next lying ahead of them – however, things go a bit South once their car breaks down in the middle of this said desert. But, thankfully, there’s a local outback man by the name of Mick (John Jarratt) that assists them in their time of need. And for the longest time, that’s what it seems like is actually happening, despite the culture-clash between these young rascals and this older, stranger redneck-like man. Something weird happens though when the three wake up the next day, only to find themselves tied-up, trapped, and kidnapped by Mick, who isn’t exactly as kind and as helpful as he once seemed. Instead, he’s more of a murderer that loves himself a bit of torture. You know, for the fun of it.

Anytime a horror movie opens with “based on true events.”, you know you’re in trouble. Not because the movie is just making that up to give it some sort of significance (which it sort of is), but because you know that the real facts of whatever true story it’s talking about, will be lost in the shuffle of crazy, loose ideas that some director wants to throw onto the screen. Which is fine and all, if you’re doing a movie that isn’t based on some real, grisly killings that “allegedly” happened, despite their being little-to-no evidence found, or even witnesses, then you have to realize that your juggling fire.

Not a piece of obvious symbolism at all.

Not at all obvious symbolism.

By that, I mean that you can do what you want with a story, but once you throw that subtitle up there, you have a certain image to protect. You can get dirty and dark with the details of the story, but to mess around with it so much to the point of where it seems like a director is just using it to shock more and more people, feels wrong. And worst of all, almost reprehensible.

For instance, there’s a scene somewhere by the end that I won’t spoil too much, except only to say that it involves a knife and a spine. Maybe you’ve already heard of/seen it before, but either way, it’s a pretty graphic scene that shocked the hell out of me when I saw it originally. That’s the way most horror movies should be: Dark, disturbing, and as bloody as you want it to be, where you can get the viewer actually cringing. However, the more and more that I thought about this display of graphic violence, I began to feel like it was totally unnecessary, especially given, once again, the fact that this is “based on true events.”.

Sure, if that scene happened in a Eli Roth or Saw movie, people would have easily been going nutso for the rest of time (I guess they still are), but since this is supposed to be based on real-life, actual murders of young people, it seems gratuitous and takes on an even darker meaning than ever before. Which, I guess for a horror movie, is a good thing. But here, I didn’t see it that way. I saw a director, Greg McLean to be exact, using a “supposed” real-life tragedy to frame all of the bloody, gory images he’s had in his head for quite some time and was only waiting for that moment to shine and show everybody in the world what he has.

For the most part too, I can’t really get on McLean’s case too much, because it really does seem like he has the look of this movie down. Like with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (an obvious comparison, I know, but it’s all I got to work with right now), a lot of the action in this happens during the day, which somehow, gives it a creepier feeling. When it’s dark, you have no idea what to expect next, which is totally scary. However, with the day-time, you totally know what to expect next, and for some shocking reason, that works even more. McLean clearly has an eye for the long and moody outbacks of Australia, and paints them as how they should look: Lifeless, mean and unforgiving.

With that McLean definitely redeems himself as a horror director that knows what it is that he’s doing with the style of this movie, it’s just a shame that his material didn’t quite pop-off like it should have.

"Scope's are for wimps."

“Scope’s are for wimps.”

And while I’m talking about it, I think I should mention that while most of this movie was a little too much, it still worked when it needed to. It was a clever little game of cat-and-mouse that had some surprising twists here and there, even if the characters still made the same old, dumb mistakes like they usually do in these types of movies. For instance, at one point during the movie, a baddie is knocked-down, on the ground and clearly unconscious, so one of the victims decides to end him right then and there, you’d think, right? Well, yeah, you would definitely think it, but rather than finishing the baddie off, the person just runs away and hopes to god that the villain doesn’t wake up. Felt dumb to me and made it seem like this movie needed a story, just to justify its run-time and the ending it would eventually get to.

And when it does, needless to say, it’s what you’d expect – a whole lot more of that “true story” bullshit that doesn’t make much sense and almost makes this whole thing seem like a waste of time. It isn’t, but it sure as hell does come close.

Consensus: The fact that Wolf Creek takes most of its story away from what are supposed to be “real events”, makes all of its brutal, grisly scenes of torture and murder seem almost gratuitous, although it may still provide to be thrilling for some other viewers more-attuned to that type of stuff.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Crocodile Dundee, who?

Tourists better think twice now.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Warm Bodies (2013)

Eat it, Nicholas Sparks! No, literally: eat it.

R (Nicholas Hoult), is a lonely zombie who longs for more in life rather than eating brains of the humans he hunts down. Suddenly, he falls in love with a beautiful human survivor named Julie (Teresa Palmer), who he gains feelings for after he eats the brains of her boy-toy (Dave Franco). As their relationship deepens, he soon begins to act more and more human, but he’s not the only zombie who feels these same feelings and emotions.

Ever since the Walking Dead come onto the air, we’ve been getting this huge explosion of zombies. World War Z is coming out, zombie-costumes have been in high-demand every year for Halloween parties, and finally, George A. Romero seems to be getting the love and praise he’s deserved for so damn long. However, we only knew it was a matter of time until the teens started to latch-on to the latest craze, and give us what is essentially the Twilight film, of the zombie-genre. However, have no fear, as this movie doesn’t feature anybody named Bella, Jacob, or Edward. Score!

The trailer may have you fooled about this movie because it continues to advertise it as a rom-com, mixed with horror and action, but make no means: this is a romantic-comedy at it’s finest. The movie starts off slow and rugged, but not in the bad-way that you might suspect. It actually fits with the way the story is structured in how we follow R throughout his day as he rambles on and on about the inner-day livings of a regular, slowly-moving zombie, and listening to all of his quirky and zany pieces of insight, really work and make this movie stand-out among the rest of the zombie flicks I have seen recently. You have a sense that this movie is going to be more about characters, setting, and story, rather than blood, guts, action, and zombies. You do get some of the latter elements, but the first ones are here in full-effect and that’s all thanks to director Jonathan Levine.

Oh yeah, and points-off for stealing a page directly out of Shaun of the Dead. Come on now!

Like nobody in the past decade hasn’t already seen Shaun of the Dead. Come on now!

Levine takes the “indie-approach” here, and has this movie focus more on the relationship between R and Julie (if you haven’t been able to figure this out by now, it’s essentially Romeo & Juliet) which not only builds-up the interaction between these two different people, from two, completely different backgrounds, but also builds-up on what’s yet to come with what these two could possibly form, if the world ever gets back to normal. We get a real sense of the dynamic between the two as they interact through looking at R’s collectibles, jamming out to some choice tunes from Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and John Waite, amongst many others, and most importantly, getting to know one another through where questions of where they came from, how they got to where they are, and where the world could go if everything doesn’t turn to shit right away.

You really root for these two to be together and it almost feels like the movie actually does to, as it may even sound crazy in your head that you want a zombie and a human-being to be together, but it’s different than that. It’s more subdued, and more about building a relationship between two people and it just goes to show you that if you focus on characters, and are able to make their dialogue and development interesting enough to hold your interest, than almost any ridiculous plot can work. It may sound crazy but I think this simple tale of a love brewing between a zombie and a female, may actually be the Valentine’s Gift that you men may want to take your ladies out to see. Don’t expect any hanky-panky by the end of the night, but definitely do expect some sort of heavy-petting, cuddling, or tonsil hockey. I don’t know how exciting or titillating that may sound to you guys, but hey, it’s better than getting nothing on Valentine’s Day. Am I right, men? Huh? Huh?

However, in a cheap and lame-way of trying to make sure that all types of horny teenagers may go out and actually see this movie, they’ve slapped it with a PG-13-rating that is not only pretty soft, but also doesn’t allow it to get any edgier than it could have been. There is action that does happen here, but it’s very sparse and filmed in a way where you don’t see much blood, gore, or brains, but it’s also made in such a way that’s constantly bothersome, as if the movie knew that it had to appeal to a larger-audience so they decided to take it easy on the ketchup packets. I get that all movies try to go for that PG-13-rating so they can hopefully reach that audience where angst-ridden teenagers may hopefully want to venture out and see, in hopes of an easy lay that night, but then again, when you take the subject-matter into mind and realize that this is a ZOMBIE MOVIE where are talking about here: it does seem like an obvious, if not reasonable cash-grab. Hey, I guess Levine’s family has gotta eat, too.

Despite that d-bag problem us movie aficionados may have with the tame-approach, the movie still succeeds in giving us a relationship that is worth watching, believing in, and hoping actually survives by the time the 90-minutes is up. That’s all thanks to the charming leads: played by Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. Ever since his days of paling around with Hugh Grant, Hoult has been on the verge of breaking-out and letting everybody know that yes, he has grown-up and yes, he is a good-looking lad now, but if A Single Man was his attempt at trying to persuade me, it didn’t quite work. However, Hoult shows me that I’m an idiot and have no clue what I’m talking about with his performance as R, the zombie who wants more than just eating brains and listening to vinyl records: he wants love, he wants a girl, he just wants life. Hoult doesn’t have to do or say much, considering that his character is a zombie and all (just a small-fact), but he still does a nice-job at giving R a loveable personality that’s easy to fall for, almost as much as Teresa Palmer’s character does.

I can bet you donuts-to-dollars that half of the people seeing this, will have no idea what movie that is.

I can bet you donuts-to-dollars that half of the people seeing this, will have no idea what movie that is.

Speaking of Palmer, she is great as Julie, the one-in-a-million, attractive girl that would actually for a thing that eats brains and hasn’t bathed for as long as the apocalypse started, but yet, still makes it all believable. She has a lot to work with in how she sees the world she used to know, where it’s gone, and how she can make herself happier in it, and even though it is a bit obvious that she would try to rebel against her powerful and control-hungry daddy, Palmer is still always a welcome-presence on-screen and the scenes with her and Hoult actually made me jealous, as it actually seemed like they were, in-fact, falling in love. Somebody hold J-Law down, because she may have a bone or two to pick with Ms. Teresa Palmer! Regardless of my jokey side-comments, Palmer and Hoult are great in this movie, whether they are together or not and make this movie work a lot more than it had any right to be. You know, being a zombie, rom-com coming out in the dead of Winter.

Rob Corddry shows-up as M, one of R’s fellow zombie-buddies that he occasionally grunts with, and seems like he’s having a ball with a role that would have and could have been played by anybody. Corddry actually gets a real chance to shine later-on when his character has some more dramatic-heights to jump-over and surprisingly: the guy excels in it. With this and the close-to-being-abysmal Butter, Corddry may have patched a new leaf for himself and hopefully, this shows us finer things to come for the man. Playing the “powerful and control-hungry daddy” that I spoke about earlier, is John Malkovich who, as always, is great at what he does and comes-off as a terrible and despicable man you just do not like, care for, or would never even trust running your society in a post-apocalyptic world, but shows more dimensions than that and has you actually fall for the guy. Yes, people, believe or not: there was a time when John Malkovich played nice characters, who did nice things for all of the rest of humanity and it’s a great thing to see him play that type-of-role, once again. It’s been too long, John. Please do stay.

Consensus: The PG-13-rating that’s supposed to please almost everyone and everybody, is what keeps Warm Bodies reaching the bar set-by other, fellow zombie movies out there, but it is still a pleasant rom-com, that has a twist you believe in, enjoy watching, and can actually, sort of relate to. Well, that is, unless you have never dated a chick in high-school. Hayoo!!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, you were that kid in About a Boy, weren't you?"

“Hey, you were that kid in About a Boy, weren’t you?”

P.S. Major, and I do mean MAJOR, props go out to Rodney from Fernby Films for the new header up-above. Hope you all like it and while you’re at it, go on over and give the guy a look. He’s got some solid material that is definitely worth a view or two.