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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Toby Kebbell

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

If it’s not on Google Maps, chances are, you should stay away from it.

It’s 1973, the Vietnam War is close to an end, and Bill Randa (John Goodman) a senior official in a super secret government organization known as Monarch, finally sees his opportunity to capitalize on achieving one of his biggest missions yet: Going to the mysterious Skull Island and figuring out what sort of threat is out there. After much arm-twisting, the government finally gives Randa the tools and resources he needs to get there, which means that he gets the army, the weapons, as well as the experts to help guide him along on this possibly dangerous island. One person Randa seeks out and pays to help him is world-renowned traveler James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), who doesn’t know what’s there on Skull Island, either, but doesn’t like the sounds of it, which is why he demands for his pay to be doubled. Meanwhile, on the mission, is anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who can’t wait to see what’s out there, and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a member of the Army who isn’t too happy about what happened with the war and isn’t ready to let that go. Not even a gigantic, monstrous and incredibly violent ape known as Kong.

Kong best look out.

Kong: Skull Island is so entertaining, so quick, so visually impressive, and so fun that, even with all of its flaws, I’m willing and absolutely able to just let bygones be bygones and praise the film as it is. Because even though the script is silly, underwritten, and not at all up to the task of aiding and abetting this talented ensemble, the direction from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is so thrilling, it’s hard to care so much. After all, do you really go to a King Kong movie for the well-written, three-dimensional, and emotionally complex characters? Or, do you go to a King Kong movie for the vividly gigantic monsters beating the absolute hell out of one another and terrorizing any human that tries to stand in their ways?

Honestly, it’s not bad to have a little bit of both, but fine, Kong: Skull Island wants to stick with the later, so whatever.

Either way, Kong: Skull Island is still a very fun movie and a lot of that is credited to Vogt-Roberts because he takes what could have been a very soulless, almost boring job of rebooting the tale of Kong and instead, adds some life, flair (literally), and energy into it. One of the most notable and interesting aspects Vogt-Roberts adds here is that Kong: Skull Island is, on one hand, a monster movie, in which people run away and try to kill a monster, but on the other hand, it’s also a Vietnam War movie, in which some cold cut rock classics from the early-70’s blasts out from the speakers, everyone’s a little scared and paranoid, and yeah, the temperature is hot, sweaty and downright miserable. In a way, Vogt-Roberts wants to make the Apocalypse Now of monster movies and while he doesn’t quite reach those heights, he still shows us all something new and original can be done with the monster movie.

And because of this, there’s an energy to Skull Island that’s hard to resist and shove-off. Even though it’s absolutely clear from the get-go that the script is going to be shoddy, silly and downright stupid, there’s just something about the look and feel of this all that’s easy to ride along with and enjoy. Even those who want to see Kong in all of his finest form, will be pleased to know that he’s seen a whole bunch throughout and doing all the sorts of things that you’d expect him to do in a movie involving him; there’s smashing, crunching, chewing, roaring, pounding, beating, breaking, punching, kicking, throwing, eating, and oh yeah, crying. Kind of.

But not from these fools.

Regardless, those who complained about 2014 Godzilla not having enough of said title character, then sit down, shut up and feast your eyes on the creature that you’ve all been so desperately wanting to see.

That said though, like I’ve said before, the script is just, uhm, how should I say this? Lame. But it’s not terrible in that it’s hard to listen to, ruins the movie, and sucks all of the fun out of it; it’s more that it feels like a leftover script from the 90’s, right around the time Jurassic Park came out and all of a sudden, everyone wanted to make a big-budget, effects-heavy monster movie. Meaning, there’s a lot of cheesy one-liners; a lot of characters who have basically one personality-trait to them and it basically defines them; a lot of contrivances; a lot of scenes that need more explaining; and oh yeah, a lot of random bits of silliness that seem to literally come from out of nowhere.

And it’s weird, too, because the cast here is so well-done and impressive, that it’s a bit of a shame. No one’s bad here, honestly, but because the net has been cast so far and wide, no one true performance really gets to shine above the rest. The only ones I can truly think of doing this are probably John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s just because they get maybe two or three more sentences than the rest of the cast to explain themselves and allow us to get to know them a tad bit better. Others like Hiddleston, Larson, Goodman, Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, and an oddly miscast Thomas Mann, all fall by the waist side and it’s a sign that the movie may have cast a smaller net, or have been longer.

Still though, for a movie that clocks in just under two hours, it makes for a good time. Just don’t try and think too hard, like me.

Basically, don’t be me.

Consensus: Even with an awfully wacky script, Kong: Skull Island gets by solely on the pure energy and fun from its direction, as well as an interesting take on the monster movie genre itself.

7 / 10

Oh wait. Never mind. He can’t be stopped.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Gold (2017)

Greed is sort of good, so long as your ugly, bald and fat.

After his father dies, Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is left without much to do in his life. He was so successful for so very long, but now, without the inspiration of his dear old daddy to help him out, he’s basically hitting rock bottom, drinking, smoking and eating a whole lot more than he used to. Even though his wife (Bryce Dallas Howard) is there to cheer him on every step of the way, there’s still something just dragging Kenny down and not making him able to catch that big break just yet. Then, out of nowhere, it hits him: Set out on an adventure to the uncharted jungles of Indonesia and look for gold. Kenny feels that this idea is great enough that he could get funding from just about any person with half a brain – unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. Instead, Kenny has to reach out to a local businessman, Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez), to help him on this adventure and see just what kind of gold mine they’re actually working with here. Turns out, there’s a whole lot of it hidden, and now, it’s up to Kenny and Michael to get it all out, make a whole lot of money, and not get dragged down by other various greedy sons-of-bitches.

"Trust me, bro. I can smell the gold. Or it could be my liver rotting away."

“Trust me, bro. I can smell the gold. Or it could be my liver rotting away.”

It’s interesting to compare Gold and director Stephen Gaghan’s last movie, Syriana, to one another because while they definitely have a lot in common, they’re also quite different in many ways, too. For one, they’re both movies that preach about billionaires, greedy businessman, and the whole mentality of making more money, by any means, at whatever costs. However, while the later was far more ambitious, taking on what were basically four different subplots all at once, it also happens to be the far more boring of the two.

Gold, on the other hand, is quite a wild ride.

The only issue is that it does take some time to get going. For at least the first hour or so, it seems like the movie doesn’t quite know what it wants to be; does it want to poke fun at this overweight, balding businessman who can’t seem to get the idea that he’s just lost “it”, or, does it want to celebrate him for the courage, the drive and bravura that it takes for him to get up, each and every day, expecting to make millions and millions of dollars? Gaghan, for the longest time, seems like he doesn’t quite know and it’s why the first-half of Gold is probably going to start people off on the wrong foot.

Because after said first-half, things are a whole lot better, in that they’re quicker, more interesting and most of all, just fun. After a short while of not knowing what it wants to say or do, Gold eventually figures out that making there’s some true joy and loveliness to be had in making all of this money; it seems as if it’s never going to end and basically, the world is your oyster. Gaghan cranks up the pace and all of a sudden, rather than having a dark, dramatic and rather slow piece about businessmen doing whatever they can to stay afloat, we get a dark, yet, slightly comedic, and rather exciting piece about businessmen making all sorts of money and having a great time doing it.

What? You're telling me you wouldn't trust this guy with your livelihood?

What? You’re telling me you wouldn’t trust this guy with your livelihood?

It’s not hard to get swept up in all of this fun and excitement, either, which is why Gaghan deserves praise for knowing just how to tell this story, the right way. Because even while it’s all fun and games, the movie still does have a little something to say about the ridiculousness and cut-throat world that all of these men seem to inhabit and it turns the movie on its head a bit. Of course, the Founder explores the same ideas and probably does a better job, but the fact that Gold does, at the very least, try and discuss these very real issues, is smart and makes it feel like something far more different than one would expect from the first-half.

And yes, it also gives McConaughey to have a great time with this role, too.

Of course, Gold will probably be best remembered for the absolute dressing-down and uglying-up of McConaughey in a role that gives him weird teeth, a potbelly, and a balding hair-piece. While it may seem like a showy-stunt to show us all just what lengths McConaughey will go to, it still works for the character; this Kenny Wells can be so vile and disgusting at times, it’s hard not to feel irked by him, if only by his appearance alone. That said, McConaughey is more than capable of showing the dark sides of this character and it’s hard to take your eyes off of him, even when it seems like the movie’s getting a whole lot more nuts and convoluted.

And yeah, the rest of the ensemble is pretty amazing, too. Édgar Ramírez has a nice chemistry with McConaughey, making it seem like the two could be more than just business-partners, but actual buddies; Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but does have a few moments to shine; Corey Stoll and Bill Camp show up as vindictive and toothless Wall Street dudes and are perfect at it; Bruce Greenwood has an odd British accent, for some reason; Toby Kebbell puts on a weird American accent, for some reason; and yeah, there’s more.

Just know this: Gold is fun. End of story.

Consensus: Despite starting off relatively weak, Gold gets going and shows us that greed isn’t good, but with a great cast and lively pace, it’s hard not to enjoy.

7 / 10

See! Making money is fun! Now shut up!

See! Making money is fun! Now shut up!

Photos Courtesy of: Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire

A Monster Calls (2016)

Hug the trees. Just not too hard.

At his age of 12 years old, Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with a lot. For one, his mom (Felicity Jones) is sick with cancer and slowly, but surely, dying. His grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), while meaning well, is also a bit of a stuck-up meanie who doesn’t let Conor have any fun, when at his age, that’s all he should be caring about. His dad (Toby Kebbell) is barely in the picture, now living in the States and occasionally coming back across the pond to visit and check-up on things. And oh yeah, there’s that talking tree in his backyard (voiced by Liam Neeson). The Monster may cause a lot of imaginary destruction and chaos, but mostly what he wants to do is tell Conor stories about life, death and love, making him think longer and harder about his own life, his family, and his whole grieving process. Of course, this makes Conor dream more than he should, wondering what’s real and what isn’t.

A Monster Calls is one of those movies that’s so emotionally draining and dour, that after awhile, you start to think whether or not it’s actually a good movie. Because while it’s definitely good at making it so that every person seeing it has at least one tear in their eye during the two-hour run-time, there’s other elements it seems to be lacking in, like an actual plot development, or meaning to it all. And sure, you could say that A Monster Calls is one, long movie about the grieving process and learning that it’s okay to be sad, but still, does that make it a better movie?

"God? Or, tree?"

“God? Or, tree?”

Not really, but I will say that director J.A. Bayona is a very talented fella who knows how to make a story about a woman slowly dying from cancer, pretty compelling.

That said, it is a pretty sad movie and at times, feels like it’s doing incessantly, to the point of where it seems like it’s got no other card to play. The only moments of actual fun and spirit seem to come through the talking-tree bits, but that’s only because listening to Liam Neeson tell folk tales is like a warm cup of coffee on a cold, winters day. Bayona definitely knows how to set a mood, as he’s done with the Orphanage and the Impossible, but he doesn’t quite know how to go from the mood-setting; to just make people feel sad and depressed is one thing, but to actually do something with that sadness and depression is a whole other thing and I’m still not sure Bayona’s been able to work that out perfectly.

However, this may be Bayona’s best movie in that it does move at a solid pace, all things considered. Being a nearly two-hour movie about a woman dying, could have been a total and complete slug of a flick, but Bayona knows that in order for a story like this to work and actually matter, there has to be something driving the movie along. And sure, while he doesn’t always seem to have it going for him in the story-department, he more than makes up for it in his characters.

As Conor, Lewis MacDougall has got a whole lot to do, but he handles it all well; there are times when he seems a bit too smart for his own good, but there are others where it seems like he’s just a kid, who has no clue of what’s really going on in the world out there, and most of all, hasn’t come to terms with the fact that his mom’s about to die and his life as he’s known it, is about to go through a total and complete change. It’s a weighty role and the kind that could definitely make or break a child actor (see Thomas Horn in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), but MacDougall’s very good here. He plays a kid very well and when the movie really starts hitting the hard stuff, he’s even more compelling to watch.

"It's okay, son. Life goes on. Just without me in it."

“It’s okay, son. Life goes on. Just without me in it.”

Felicity Jones has impressed me before, but for some reason, she doesn’t quite work here, but it may not be her fault. Due to her character literally dying the whole entire movie, we don’t really get many shades to her and instead, only see her sick and in constant agony. It’s a one-note role and unfortunately, Jones just isn’t able to do much with it. Sigourney Weaver shows up as Conor’s strict grand-mom, who may seem like the typically evil mom-mom, but has certain shadings to her that make her probably the most compelling character in the bunch. Toby Kebbell, despite getting maybe one or two scenes, does a nice job as Conor’s estranged daddy and a longer movie would have probably focused on this relationship more.

But nope, of course, we get a talking-tree and dreams.

Not that I’m complaining, because I cried. Then again, how could you not? A Monster Calls seems to have one sole objective on its mind from the very beginning and it’s hard not to let go and just allow for the movie to rip the tears right out of you. The movie’s not perfect, but hey, at least it gets its job done.

Consensus: Pretty sad and emotional, A Monster Calls is an interesting fantasy flick that deals with grief and death, yet, is still somewhat compelling.

8 / 10

Uh oh. Look out evil-doers.

Uh oh. Look out evil-doers.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Alexander (2004)

Some people let fame and fortune go to their heads. Others, just want to party and have a lot of sex.

Ever since he was a little boy, Alexander (Colin Farrell) was always a person destined for great and wonderful things like becoming the greatest empire in the world, at a staggeringly young age of 32. Of course, however, his path to greatness was a rough and troubling one, mired by all sorts of controversy and adversity that seemed to take him down a peg, even when it seemed like he was ready to take down everyone who stood in his way. There’s his mother (Angelina Jolie) and his father (Val Kilmer)’s legacy and how all of their accomplishments have overshadowed his impact; there’s his sexuality and how some people don’t ever know what it is that he likes to have sex with; and then, there’s also that need and utter desire he has that makes him want to kill nations and nations of people because they don’t praise him as the lord he so desperately wants to be praised as. Of course, all of this would be prove to be his ultimate demise.

"I know you love the blonde hair. All the girls do."

“I know you love the blonde hair. All the girls do.”

Alexander is not nearly as awful as people make it out to be. It’s probably Oliver Stone’s worst movie, but in that, therein lies an interesting movie that has a lot of good ingredients, a few rotten ones, and ultimately, doesn’t fully come together as perfectly as his other movies have. But does that make it absolutely, positively awful?

Not really.

And it’s because of Stone, that a movie like Alexander – one that would have been so slow and boring – actually comes off far more compelling than one would expect. Just as he’s shown before, Stone seems a whole lot interested in just what makes a legend like Alexander tick and become the man that he wants to eventually become; sure, the narrative of him from childhood, to his adult-years, don’t always mesh well and would have probably worked out better had they been shown in a more conventional format, but still, there is something of interest to this person here. Stone doesn’t always know what he wants to say about Alexander, or better yet, what point he’s trying to get across by telling his story in the first place, but there is something here, as small and as slight as it may be, that’s definitely worth watching and thinking about.

It’s just that it’s still hard to figure out just what that may be. Stone seems interested in judging this person solely on the fact that he condoned a whole lot of violence, yet, at the same time, didn’t know why or for what reasons, expect that it was all he was taught when he was just a little tike. But then, Stone also seems interested in how his sexual preferences may have also done a little something to make him seem like a weakling that couldn’t be trusted in the long-run. And then, of course, there’s also the fact that Stone seems interested in wondering just what it is about a person like Alexander that makes him feel like a God that can do no wrong, never die and still keep the love, respect and adoration of all those around him.

There’s a lot to think about and work with, but unfortunately, yes, the movie is also quite messy and doesn’t always make the best sense of what it’s trying to do or say.

And yeah, that’s a huge problem for Alexander, considering that it clocks in at nearly three hours, showing us that, once again, Stone is the King of excess, especially when it seems like there’s no real reason for the actual excessiveness in the first place. And hell, if there is a reason, it’s because Stone himself knows that he doesn’t quite know what he’s getting across with the material, so rather than trying his hardest to make a small, concise movie, he overloads it all, adding more bits and pieces of style that come and go as they please. It’s what we’ve come to know and, unfortunately, expect with Stone, even if it does sometimes feel like he’s got something of interest to work with here.

Their family is better than yours.

Their family is better than yours.

He just doesn’t know what it is, sadly.

But that’s why he’s got such a good cast to work with and, in ways, pick up the pieces whenever the narrative seems to flowing from one place to another. Colin Farrell is fine and hunky as Alexander, even if the character himself is written in so many different ways, that he almost feels like an entirely different person altogether, at random parts of the movie. Farrell gets past most of it, but he also feels like he’s struggling to make sense of just what Stone is aiming for here. As his parents, Val Kilmer and Angelina Jolie are terrific, vamping and hamming it up, showing us that Alexander definitely had two role models in his life, for better and for worse, and they made him who he is today, and honestly, the movie would have been a whole lot better just about them and their little dynamic.

Because once Kilmer and Jolie are thrown in the background, others like Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and the one and only, Anthony Hopkins show up and quite frank;y, the material just isn’t there for them. They all feel like added-on characters who show up because Stone wanted to work with them and, honestly, needed an excuse. Dawson’s got the most to do out of all these actors, but even she feels short-shifted, only made to give sad looks and take her clothes off. I’m not complaining, but trust me, there’s a whole lot that she can do.

In fact, so can everyone else here. Including Stone himself.

Consensus: Not quite the travesty as some have made it out to be, Alexander suffers from being messy and never always making the best sense of itself, yet, gets by on a few good performances and moments from the near three-hour run-time.

6 / 10

"Join me in this fight now and afterwards, we'll all get mangled!"

“Join me in this fight now and afterwards, we’ll all get mangled!”

Photos Courtesy of: The Ace Black Blog, Metro, Cine Cola

Warcraft (2016)

Another day, another good video-game, another “meh” video-game adaptation.

Looking to escape from his dying world, the orc shaman Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) utilizes dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. Supported by his fierce fighters, Gul’dan organizes the orc clans into a conquering army called that they call “the Horde”. Among them is one such orc named Durotan (Toby Kebbell), who not only has a new family on the way, but also appears to be more of a free-thinker than the rest of his fellow orcs. Sure, he’ll follow rules and orders, but he questions them, too, and doesn’t seem perfectly set out to just die for a cause he knows little to nothing about. On the opposite side of the spectrum, and looking to unite and protect Azeroth from these orc invaders is King Llane (Dominic Cooper), the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), and the powerful wizard Medivh (Ben Foster). As the two sides begin to battle one another and inch closer and closer to a finale, they also start to question whether or not all of this hate, anger and violence is the answer after all.

Orcs don't have dental plans?

Orcs don’t have dental plans?

So yeah, Warcraft is an adaptation of the video-games and really, I’m not going to get down to which ones it’s necessarily using as a platform, nor am I going to go into great deal about the video-game itself because, well, I don’t have much experience with it. Sure, I’ve played it once or twice and have, often times, enjoyed myself, but really, it just wasn’t my bag, unfortunately. I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard, but regardless, none of that really matters because it did nothing to my expectations for this movie, except knowing that it was another video-game adaptation.

However, this time, it was directed by one Duncan Jones.

Jones, in my mind at least, is still 2-0; Moon is a great movie and Source Code is just fine. However, what Jones shows as a director is that he’s willing and perfectly able to take simple genre movies and give us something completely different than what we can expect. Sci-fi is definitely the world in which he likes to lay-out and put his toes in the sand in, but he also aims for a little something higher, as he knows that sometimes, the best sci-fi isn’t the kind that alienates everyone except for the die-hards – sometimes, it’s what gets the alienated to feel apart of something that really matters.

That’s why Warcraft, while it may be definitely running and gunning for its key audience, does everything that I’m sure said audience expects. There’s a lot of magic; characters talking in strange languages we don’t understand; battle-scenes; and yes, a whole bunch of CGI. Does that make the movie bad? Not really. In fact, I’ll give Jones credit for at least doing almost all of these aspects well; the story may be incredibly lacking, but when the action is on the screen, it’s never boring and it helps that the powers these orcs and these human warriors have, is at least clearly enough spelt-out to where we understand what sorts of powers lie on both sides.

Then again, the story is pretty lame and it’s what causes the whole film to fall by the wayside.

Jones definitely seems like his main concern was getting us to believe in this universe and if that was indeed the case, then a job well done on his part. This majestical, fantastical world that Jones has made for the big screen not only works at capturing the imagination, but also makes you want to wonder about it more. While in the game, you could go almost anywhere and everywhere you wanted, here, we’re unfortunately to places that look great, but ultimately, we want to travel out into ourselves.

Poor, Paula. When will her agent just go away.

Poor, Paula. When will her agent just go away!

And honestly, that’s the biggest issue with these video-game movies, not just Warcraft. People want to play these games so much, that when they don’t feel as if they are, they aren’t enjoying anything. That’s why the action scenes, as few as they come by, are exciting and fun for the time being, because they give you that idea that you’re playing a video-game, as opposed to just watching one being played by somebody else. But whenever that action goes away, and the story kicks in, Warcraft loses any sort of sizzle, spice, or fun it had going for itself.

If anything, it can just be boring.

Cause honestly, by now, it doesn’t matter how much you dress it up, or what sort of different brand-name you give it, the battle between good and evil will always be the same. Warcraft wants to appear as if it’s some new breed of story-telling, but honestly, is just a less compelling take on something like Lord of the Rings, or better yet, the Hobbit. And if anything, those movies had something of a clear plot going on that made sense of everything – Warcraft tries to have that, but never makes sense of itself.

And really, I feel like Jones got lost here and was left without a paddle to swim with. He took on this project from the very beginning, so it’s not as if I feel sympathy for him, but honestly, it’s not hard to see someone struggling to keep their cool together, even when the rest of the film is falling around him. This isn’t to say that Warcraft is terrible either – for the key demographic, it gets just about everything right – but also, that’s about. Outsiders looking in may continue to look elsewhere because, for some reason, they missed-out on playing a video-game.

Shame.

Consensus: Despite getting everything right for the people who are going to trek out to see it, Warcraft still suffers from a boring story, a lack of strong characters, and never the sense that it wants to be more than just a “video-game movie”.

5 / 10

"FREEDOM! OR SOMETHING!"

“FREEDOM! OR SOMETHING!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Fantastic Four (2015)

Any person looking to direct movies one day, stay away from Marvel.

Ever since he was a young kid, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has always wanted to use science for the greater-good of the world and one day, during his high school’s science fair, he finally gets the chance to do so. When Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) walks up to Reed and propositions him with the idea of working for him, in his laboratory, on a full-time scholarship, Reed has no chance but to accept the offer. Reed soon joins in with the likes of Storm’s two children, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and the adopted Sue (Kate Mara), and an intelligent recluse by the name of Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). All of these intelligent brains combined, work on a teleportation device that takes them to a dark and scary world full of clouds, rocks, and lava. Eventually, their project works, but one day, when they decide to travel out into the world on their own, things go awry with everyone involved. Reed becomes a floppy man that can stretch any part of his body, Sue can become invisible and create force-fields, Johnny can fly and light himself on fire, Reed’s childhood buddy, Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), becomes a huge, rock thingy, and von Doom, who sadly gets left behind, is able to control things using his mind and power. After this incident, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Why we're people pissed-off at this casting-choice.....

Why we’re people pissed-off at this casting-choice….

So yeah, there’s already been lots and lots of problems surrounding Fantastic Four and mostly all of it can be chalked up to the fact that, once again, Marvel and a director of their choosing, don’t seem to get along. In this case, it’s Josh Trank who had to suffer from all of the chipping, chopping and rules of Marvel. Which is a total shame because Trank’s first flick, Chronicle, was a fun, entertaining, and surprisingly smart superhero movie that fell back on its genius ways of telling a story, rather than relying on a big brand-name that people can spot on any billboard from a mile away. And while it would make sense that Trank getting a chance to make another movie about young people becoming superheros would be another home-run, sadly, that doesn’t happen.

Except it’s not always as bad as it may have been said to be.

For at least the first hour or so, Fantastic Four seems like Trank’s movie full and through. It takes its time building characters, showing their relationships with one another, and giving us a certain amount of time to get used to them, the story they’re involved with, and get a chance to see just what may occur once everything goes South (as we know these movies tend to do). This earlier-portion of the movie is where Trank’s, Simon Kinberg’s, and Jeremy Slater’s writing seems to be at their best; not only does it seem like we’re going somewhere with this story, but we’re getting a chance to get a feel for these characters so that it’s easier for us to connect with them and relate. It may take awhile to get where it needs to get, but it’s funny, entertaining and, at the very least, interesting.

Then, things go awry.

After the gang goes to this parallel universe lazily titled “Planet Zero” and everybody’s got their own, respective super powers, then something strange happens to the movie. For some reason that I can’t explain other than the mandatory re-shoots that were needed for this project, the government somehow gets involved, Reed Richards runs away, and out of nowhere, Doom finally comes into play and starts blowing up each and every person’s heads. Why that is, we never get a chance to know, but when we see Doom get put back into the story after being away from him for about a half-hour, it’s as sinister and as scary as scenes with Dr. Doom should be.

..when they should have been pissed-off at this one?

..when they should have been pissed-off at this one?

But then, all of that seems to go down the drain once we get an eventual battle with Doom and the Four, and eventually, it becomes as clear as day that he’s so easily beatable. Rather than feeling like a film where an opponent seems to get the better of his rival(s), whoever edited the final-half of this movie make it seem like a boss fight in a video-game. Before defeating the bad guy and beating the game, you may have to go back and restart the level a few times, trying different combos and buttons out, all before you do get the chance to beat him and moving on with your day as if you have truly accomplished something revolutionary.

I’d expect that with a battle between Mario and Bowser, but not Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four.

And it’s a shame too, because with the ensemble that Trank was able to get together for this, it seems like a missed-opportunity that he wasn’t able to get more out of each and everyone of them. Don’t get me wrong, everybody here is fine and seem like they’re on the same page when it comes to reading the script and performing it, but each and everyone of their own talents get lost in a mess of a final-act that doesn’t know how to wrap itself up. In the end, everything that happened before makes it feel like it was all just a lead-up to next week’s episode, where the Fantastic Four will, once again, battle against a certain evil, have problems along the way, break-off, get back together, and once and for all, beat the super, duper villain.

And even though there’s already a sequel planned for this, something tells me plans may get scrapped. Which, to be honest, isn’t something I want. To me, deep down inside, there seems to be a good, entertaining, and relatively smart Fantastic Four movie just lurking around somewhere in the darkness. But because the powers that B from Marvel got involved, everything went to shit and we’re instead left with an incredibly mediocre superhero movie that serves more as a cautionary tale, rather than a celebration for the fans of these comic book characters getting to see them on the screen once again.

Only time will tell though.

Consensus: After about the first hour or so, Fantastic Four becomes the trainwreck you’d expect it to be, but for a good while, it’s entertaining and compelling, until all of the fun times go away and we’re left with plenty to be desired.

5 / 10

So, what else can he stretch?

So, what else can he stretch?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Conspirator (2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There, happy? I rest my case!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

No Kraken? Booo!

A decade after kicking some mighty and fine Kraken-ass, Perseus (Sam Worthington) settles down into a life that’s relaxing, full of joy and happiness, as he teaches his son the ways of the world. Everything’s going fine too, until he finds out that his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), needs to be saved from his long-lost, rogue brother (Édgar Ramírez) and asshole-uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes). As strong and powerful as Perseus might be, he can’t do it alone so he recruits Poseidon’s half-human son, Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) to join him as they fight through thick and thin, limb-from-limb, and even battle a Minotaur. Aw yeah! Maybe not as awesome as the Kraken, but aw yeah!

Even though I didn’t mind it, I can get why a lot of people hated the hell out of Clash of the Titans. It was dumb, a bit long and had CGI done in a way that makes me wonder if we’re still using MACs or not. However, I still can’t understand why the hell we needed a sequel to it, let alone, one that starred the same lead, nor featured the Kraken; because let’s face it: The only reason people waited around in the first movie, was just to see how awesomely cool and epic the appearance of the Kraken would be. Which it was, but does all of five minutes, make an-hour-and-a-half seem worth it?

I can’t quite come to answer that question because, as I said, I didn’t mind the first one but I can totally see and understand the disdain of hearing the news of a sequel. However, you have to think about Hollywood here for a second and realize that not only did the first one make a shit-ton of millions and millions of dollars in the States, but overseas, it made a ton more. So, therefore, you have to realize that of course Hollywood is going to do a sequel for the sake that the first made a bunch of movie, whereas also hoping that the people who ventured out to see the first one, however many times it might have been, will see the second one and probably be just as pleased. That’s exactly who this flick is made for, and that’s the only way this flick could really work.

"No please! Don't squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or so sequels!

“No please! Don’t squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or six sequels!

That’s why I sort of liked this one a bit more, which isn’t saying too much but is better than what I can say for a movie that’s still on my list for “Most Unnecessary Sequels of the Past Decade”. Even though I didn’t hate Louis Leterrier’s approach to the first movie, producers felt like it was time to re-vamp the series and give it a darker look, feel, touch and story, so therefore, they brought in Jonathan Liebesman to shake things up a bit and see where he could go with this. Liebesman is a welcome addition to this series, mostly because he knows exactly how to get this story off-and-running, right from the beginning.

As soon as we get introduced to what Perseus has been doing for the past couple of years, action just erupts out of nowhere, and we begin to see the old-school Perseus come back in full-form by tangling with a two-headed beast (three, if you count the mouth they have on it’s tail). Right after this fun beginning, the movie jumps right into the story and continues to pile and pile on the exposition, as if all the stories and legends we remembered from Greek History 130 and Herc’s Adventure, was all bullshit.

As mean-spirited as that may sound, the movie still doesn’t show much improvement over the first one in terms of it’s story and script. Of course, I wasn’t expecting a life-opening screenplay about what it means to be a father in the day and ages of Gods and evil forces running amok, but at the same time, at least give me something to hold onto when the action isn’t slamming me in the face. I can only handle so much subplots, stories about Gods, what they can do, and all sorts of philosophical speeches about the after-life that’s supposed to have a deeper-meaning than just, “I don’t want to die”.

That’s where the action comes in and take over what was already a pretty dialogue-heavy movie. Not much better, but slightly in the way that everything looks more polished, feels more thought-out and definitely has more fun with itself, even if it’s a tad too serious for it’s own good. I liked the first one for knowing that it was dumb, loud, and stupid, as if you were watching a B-movie on cable when you and your buddies were high, drunk, bored, or a mixture of all three. This one, however, drives itself down the darker, windier-road that’s all about showing emotions and sad things that not only bring you down, but try and make you feel like there’s more at-stake here when two people are going toe-to-toe in a scrap. It doesn’t work, and it feels like the movie’s trying a bit too hard. All that being said, the movie still has enough fun with itself to the point of where the dark-approach isn’t numbing or bothersome, it’s just more noticeable than it should be.

Nary a scratch and yet: she's in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she's doing half of the killing.

Nary a scratch and yet she’s in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she’s doing half of the killing. Inspiration to women all over the globe.

The only real improvement in this flick that’s actually noticeable is that Sam Worthington does feel a bit more “in-his-mode” than he did with the last one. Here, he seems to actually enunciating the horrendous-dialogue he’s been given and seems to really throw himself into the action-sequences that call for more than just heavy panting and staring. Even though there seems to be little to no personality with his take on Perseus, at least Worthington shows us that he wants to be here because maybe all of those wads of cash that he was getting from four years ago, are finally running out and he needs whatever he can take.

Yup, that movie about those blue aliens was released four years back. Funny how time flies.

Returning with Worthington from the first movie, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson seem to be having a bit more of fun as Hades and Zeus respectively, even if they too, do feel like they are slumming themselves down to really fit in with the pure-dumbness of this movie. Can’t complain about that too much, since it is a dumb movie, but a little bit more time and effort would have been greatly appreciated. Hell, if this dude can give us that, why can’t you, Oscar-nominated actors?!?!?

Since everybody from the first movie practically died in it, or re-thought their movie careers, there are new faces and names to be seen and heard which are more welcoming than I expected. Rosamund Pike is a nice addition as the sexy, fiery lady-warrior that isn’t taking anybody’s crap, yet, doesn’t have a problem showing that she can still flaunt it like the boys as well; Toby Kebbell brings a bunch of wit and charm to his role as Agenor, Poseidon’s human son; and Bill Nighy shows his bearded-up face for a wee bit as Hephaestus and has fun, makes his wisecracks, and goes on his own way, probably collecting a hefty paycheck or something, and making us all wish that he would just come back and give us more fun and entertainment. Can never get enough of Bill Nighy, now can ya?

Consensus: To say that Wrath of the Titans is better than its predecessor is stating the obvious, but the problems with that first one still do lie within the cracks and creeks of the script here, and are only ignored when there’s loud, hectic stuff happening on-screen, which makes it at least entertaining to sit-through, even if you sort of wish somebody would crack a smile or two.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Two dudes who played Germans during the Holocaust unite!!

Two dudes who played Germans during that Holocaust movie unite!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The East (2013)

Can’t trust those Occupiers! You never know if one of them just so happens to be a vampire.

A secret informant, Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) who works for a group of private companies trying to protect their image and sales, is assigned her latest task: which is to go undercover, and become one of the members of the extremist group known as “The East”. They are lead by a charming, yet inspired leader (Alexander Skarsgård), and thrive on showing all of these companies for what they are. However, Sarah knows what needs to be done and will not stop at anything, until she stops this group from completing their final “jams”. But that’s easier said then done, especially when love and morals come into play, which is exactly what hits Sarah clear in the face.

Here’s one of those movies that seems like it could literally be happening right now, right from underneath our noses, but we would never know about it. Why? Well, that’s because there’s some form of rebellion going on everywhere in our world and it would be almost no surprise to me after awhile if the government starting cracking down on some of these groups/organizations, for causing what they consider “acts of terrorism”. Whether or not I actually believe in that, will be totally left up for you to make up your mind’s own, but that also means that a movie like this has it’s homework done already for itself. All it has to do is tell it’s story, gives us it’s characters, and give us it’s reasons, and not fuck up.

Somehow, the movie couldn’t hold up it’s end of the bargain.

God forbid she actually see the creepy, fogged-up woods she's getting taken into. Because you know, she'd totally be able to identify them.

God forbid she actually see the creepy, fogged-up woods she’s getting taken into. Because you know, she’d totally be able to identify them.

But, that being said, the movie still does start off pretty damn well if I don’t say so myself. What director Zal Batmanglij (good thing I’m typing that, and not saying that) does well is that he gets us involved with the story right off the bat, by showing us what these extremists are all about. They’re a bit inhumane, but, they also show what they are doing for a reason so maybe, just maybe there is more to them then just simple, old-school rebellion. And there is, but Batmanglij still likes to keep us wondering where this story is going to go next, and what areas of it’s message is it going to focus on.

There’s plenty of humanity to be found within these activists, but what really makes them work as a whole is that the causes that they are fighting for, feel honest and not a bit for show. They really do feel like their environment is being cheated out of a system that’s mean-spirited, corrupt, and impure to the rest of the world that surrounds them. When any movie tries to tackle a subject like this, I get terribly annoyed as it just comes off as a piece of “preaching, in the form of a movie”, but this movie handles it well because it shows both sides of the coin very well, with enough attention and care to what the one side, says to the other, and vice versa.

The idea that these activists are torturing and doing harm to these corporate big-heads for the same type of shit that they accuse them of doing, does get brought up many times and you have to wonder: who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, the activists have a reason to be mad and you can see why they would want to put an end to the pain and suffering that is being caused, but is their way, the right way? Or, is it simply the only way to get shit done?

The movie continues to rattle that question around, almost as much as you’ll be doing the same in your head, and it’s only made better by the fact that the movie feels like it could go anywhere, at anytime, with just about any character. Everybody gets their chance to show what they really mean to the group, and who they really are underneath all of the anger and rebellion, which makes it enough for us to at least care about what it is that they decide to pull off next, and whether or not they will come out alive or unpunished for their ways. Brit Marling has this certain feel to her as an actress that makes her almost feel like she’s up in the sky with the birds and pretty clouds, but here, she feel like she’s brought back down to Earth where she can at least get done, whatever she is told to, and lets up for no one. Obviously, she gets wrapped up into all of the hum-drum of these activists and see why their way is sometimes the better way, but it feels more realistic and believable with Marling in the role, rather than some other cute, air-head that could have made the character barely passable to watch.

Playing the leader of the group she’s over-watching, is the incredibly-tall Alexander Skarsgård as Benji, the world’s least-intimating male name. Skarsgård was okay as the leader, because he’s able to convey a sense that he’s a nice dude, underneath all of the evil-looks and thoughts. However, it was conveyed in a way that made him that way, just so it could give him and Marling’s character a reason to bang and fall in love. It didn’t feel like it was needed for the story, if only for that, and didn’t really give him a clearer-enough arc. If anybody deserved to be banging Marling’s character, it was Toby Kebbell as one of the most-important members of the group, who used to be a doctor in Africa, until he was surprisingly harmed by one of the medicines he was given over there, making him shaky and twitchy all of the time. This physical set-back already makes the character seem sympathetic, but the way Kebbell brings out more and more humanity out from within this guy, really makes you feel as if he’s the one who deserves all of the good things in the world, even Marling’s tush.

Hey, can’t go wrong with that, right?

"Pass it to the right, man."

“Pass it to the right, man.”

But as three-dimensional and well-acted some of these characters may actually be, the plot is what really matters here, which makes the ending all the more disappointing. See, if you were paying attention, you may have noticed that the big idea behind this flick was whether the group’s ways of handling their acts of rebellions were right or not? Well, as much build-up and details the movie may have given that message throughout most of the run-time, is all slapped-down by the last 15 minutes in a way I did not expect to see coming. And not in the type of way where I liked the surprise, but in the way where I thought it was a cheap way of getting out of being anything remotely close to insightful, or thought-provoking into where it went.

Can’t say much else other than that, but everything leading up to that was pretty solid in it’s way of getting me involved with it’s characters, their motivations, and what each and every one of them had to say, but the movie shakes a blind-eye towards that all. It sort of makes you feel like the first hour hour and 45 minutes, was made for nothing else other than a bunch of things to make you think, only to have them thrown out of your mind, as soon as things get really complicated for these characters and the movie itself. I guess the movie didn’t want to really offend anybody that may care for this type of material, but there could have been more of a thought-process into what could have been the best and most effective way to go out. The way they chose: nowhere near it and ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth going out. Poor me.

Consensus: There are plenty of ideas, thoughts, and feelings that The East plays with, as well as a relatively-compelling plot-line, but it all gets shut-down after about the hour and a half mark, and then all of a sudden; the movie doesn’t seem to care for any of those elements anymore, and just wants to play it safe without really going any deeper.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

They bonded so much during filming, that they actually joined Occupy Wall Street. Nah, jaykay. They went back to their 6 bed-room houses, took a dip in their in-ground pools, and drove their fine Lamborghinis around town.

They bonded so much during filming, that they actually joined Occupy Wall Street. Nah, jaykay. They went back to their 6 bedroom houses, took a dip in their in-ground pools, and drove their fine Lamborghini’s around town.

RocknRolla (2008)

American gangsters are so boring.

This is a flick about a Russian mobster (Karel Roden) who orchestrates a crooked land deal, millions of dollars are up for grabs, and all of London’s criminal underworld wants in on the action. Everyone from a dangerous crime lord (Tom Wilkinson) to a sexy accountant (Thandie Newton), a corrupt politician (Jimi Mistry) and down-on-their-luck petty thieves (Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, and Idris Elba) conspire, collude and collide with one another in an effort to get rich quick.

After giving us two turkeys in-a-row like the ultra sappy, soap-fest that was known as Swept Away and the oddly slow and philosophical brain-take that was Revolver, Guy Ritchie was finally back to his old-ways in showing us gangsters that did bad things, said very funny things, and also, found themselves in some crazy situations that somehow connect to other gangsters that only live a couple of blocks down the street from them. Say what you will about it being conventional and nothing new for Ritchie to explore, but just be happy that he wasn’t doing another movie with his honey-at-the-moment, Madonna and making us watch as Jason Statham screamed his arse off for over an hour and some odd minutes. Yeah, be happy you damn people.

"What do you mean my next movie is some rom-com with that chick from Grey's Anatomy?!?!?"

“What do you mean my next movie is some rom-com with that chick from Grey’s Anatomy?!?!?”

Going back to his old roots may piss some people off because it’s nothing and nothing original we haven’t already seen from the dude, but Ritchie isn’t worried about that and instead, allows us to have a great time as much as he must have been making this movie. There’s a lot of goofy-stuff here with comedy coming-out in places you would have never expected and even some violent spots that just so happen to make us laugh but no matter what, Ritchie always adds in his style of wit that makes this flick seem all the more jokey, no matter how much it may try and be serious. You really can’t take a Ritchie flick seriously and even when this movie actually does try to do so, you don’t really buy into it and just realize that it’s better if you don’t pay attention to any of those aspects at all and pay attention to the finer things in life, as well as this movie.

The finer things in this movie is definitely the plot and just where the hell it goes, where it stops, where it changes, and so-on-and-so-forth. This is typical Ritchie: setting-up a plot for us, giving us all of the characters we need to know, let us know what they do, what the stakes are, and just let it all roll-out as if it was just one, huge Domino game. You start to see how a certain group of characters are effected by another group of characters and it almost never stops, especially with all of the damn twists and turns that Ritchie seems to take, yet, they never get old. Ritchie always knows when to say “enough” and rather than just continue to pile-up on the plot twists and have things get spiced-up a bit more, as well as more convoluted  he lets everything settle-in and have it become familiar to us, and then throw in another twist or turn, here and there just for good measure. Seriously, as much fun as it may be for us to actually watch this flick, it seems like it wasn’t even more fun for Guy to make it and that’s something that we all felt like we missed for the longest time. Glad to have you back, Guy. Now stay the hell away from that talent-sucker we all know as Madonna!

I think the biggest misstep for Ritchie here, as a writer and director, is that he never really pays all that much attention to every character the way they should have been payed attention to. For instance, in all of his other flicks, each and every single character was given a great-amount of screen-time that just so happened to fly-in whenever another character would show-up and become apart of their story-line, as well. However, here, in this flick, certain characters get the most attention, for the longest time, and then they stay there, only to ruin other story-lines of other characters. It isn’t that bad right from the start, mainly because all of the stories are fun and interesting to-watch, but once the film starts to focus on a bunch of other characters that haven’t been seen in awhile, you start to realize you don’t care all that much about them and it continues this way, until every story-line, in typical, Ritchie-fashion, finds themselves convulsing into a weird, but exciting finale.

It’s a trip that’s fun to take and ride-on, but it’s a bit messy and when it’s all said and done, you’re not really sure how it worked or even if it did. Heck, it’s almost like Ritchie was able to distract us all with his non-stop camera and writing tricks that he always has up his sleeve, and almost makes us forget that underneath the surface, is a very sloppily-made flick that forgets about certain-aspects that work, but remembers clearly the ones that don’t. I don’t know, maybe I was the only nut who was thinking that while watching this but either way, it definitely seemed a bit-off to me but also showed me that Ritchie is always the man to be trusted in terms of making a fun, entertaining flick, no matter how derivative it may be.

However, the familiarity of the style and story didn’t bother me all that much, especially when you take into account the quality-cast that he’s working with here. Gerard Butler is pretty solid as One Two, a tough-as-nails crook that always has a flair for wit, but also allows himself to be on the butt-end of a joke in terms of how he’s viewed-at as a tough-guy, that can also be a tad sensitive. If only Butler continued to take good roles like this nowadays, then we wouldn’t have shite-boxes like Playing for Keeps or Chasing Mavericks. That’s only a small list, though. Playing his two partners-in-crime are Idris Elba and a very skinny Tom Hardy, and as good as they both are, they aren’t really given a whole bunch to do that really makes them stand-out among the rest like Butler, even if Hardy’s character is a bit on the flip-side of the bed, if you know what I mean.

Does she not know who she's walking away from!??!?

Does she not know who she’s walking away from!??!?

Out of the whole-cast, the one who really steals this whole movie from underneath his wing is Tom Wilkinson as the old school gangster that does things his own, vicious way. Wilkinson seems to be having a ball as the mean and cruel gangster that doesn’t seem to put-up with anybody’s shite, no matter how heated or reasonable it is. Wilkinson never really gets to play evil-like characters such as these, so to see him have an absolute ball with it, was an absolute ball just to watch it. Playing his partner-in-crime is a fun and terribly-quirky mobster played by Mark Strong, who is really good at playing these types of roles, and is even better with his cheeky narration that supplies most of the film’s humor throughout.

I think the one performance I was really bummed-out by was Thandie Newton as Stella, the accountant that sort of starts all this shite between these countless blokes. She starts off strong, smart, and sexy, and seems like a huge-departure for Ritchie to have in one of his flicks since all of his characters are mainly just a bunch of fellows that do shit the old school, gangster way, but after awhile, turns into the type of character you’d expect her to be and it’s a bit of a bummer because she really had a lot of promise going for her. It was sort of like she was just there to move the plot along and as much as Ritchie may have gotten his wish fulfilled on that aspect, it still feels like a bit of a shame, considering he was really brewing on something here.

Consensus: Though it treads familiar-territory for Ritchie, RocknRolla is still a crap-load of fun that’s filled with witty characters, surprising twists and turns that you rarely ever see coming, and an ensemble cast that always seems game to work.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hold on! I swear we're the only ones who have nothing to do in this movie!"

“Hold on! I swear we’re the only ones who have nothing to do in this movie!”

War Horse (2011)

Damn this kid really loves this horse. I mean he reaaaaaaaaaally loves this horse.

This is a tale of a horse named Joey who is remarkable that he starts off just a little guy in England to then be transported off into the war in France. His owner, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) goes all-over-the-world to come and find him as Joey goes throughout the world, meeting new people and gaining new life experiences.

What director Steven Spielberg has always been able to do is tug at our heart-strings no matter what the story may be. Here, he tries a little too hard for that but in the end it’s too hard to hate on a Spielberg.

The problem right off the bat with this flick was that it gets very corny, very early. You get these moments where we see just how amazing Joey is as he can row out a field, or follow his owner just by hearing a simple bird-call, or even just by walking over a piece of wood and then a huge sweeping score comes in just to let you know how magical and beautiful these moments are when in reality they are just plain and simply cheesy. I think I got the fact that Joey was a horse that was unlike any other, after about the first 10 minutes but the film just kept hammering away at this and it becomes an annoyance after awhile.

Another problem with this flick that I actually think Spielberg ran into himself was the idea of how and who was going to make this appeal to everyone. On one hand you have this very emotional story about a horse who goes through everything that is adapted from a Tony-winning Broadway play, but on the other hand you also have this very grim and disturbing tale with soldiers being killed left-and-right and horses being put away in a not so happy matter after there is no use for them anymore. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s pretty hard to center a film out there that seems like it’s for the whole family, when you have these certain darker moments that may scare away the younger people of the family.

This problem is what leads Spielberg to making a very tame film that gets by with clichés and eye-rolling moments. Take for instance the scenes between the grandfather (Niels Arestrup) with his granddaughter are scenes filled with dialogue that should be playful and come out a bit corny especially when the grandfather tells her a story about a bird flying home, which seemed totally cheesy especially considering the fact that the grandfather was kind of being a dick to her also. There are also plenty of other moments where this film just totally flames you with the manipulative moments that are supposed to make you feel something incredible but instead usually just make you want to punch whoever wrote this film.

However, when it comes to Spielberg, this guy always seems to come out on top no matter what it is that he does. The one element to this film that makes it the most watchable throughout all of these cheesy moments is the beautiful look this film has. Spielberg gives this film the epic scenery it deserves and with so many beautiful colors coming at you in every scene, it’s almost too hard to look away. Spielberg is not only just great in showing how beautiful this film can be but also very gritty as the film starts to get darker as we get more into the war which not only show Spielberg’s fine attention to detail but also how he is able to actually capture the feel of WWII but also WWI, which means that the Vietnam War is only about two movies away from being covered.

The film also shows that even though Spielberg tries to manipulate the hell out of his audiences, he still has that sympathetic bone in his body to make us care about what he is showing us on screen. The whole story basically shows Joey being the horse-version of ‘Forrest Gump’, going from one owner to another and each story somehow getting better and better as it goes on. What this horse Joey goes through is hard to watch sometimes but always made me feel something not just by how great he is, but just how useful he is even though he’s just viewed at as another horse. I’m not going to try to get into the whole “all living things should be treated the same” speech that it seems like I’m leading myself into but regardless of that, the story of Joey will make you feel something deep down inside of you and it’s all thanks to Spielberg because he always knows how to make anybody feel something.

It seems like every person who has seen this film or reviewed it is mentioning the no-man’s land scene between the British soldier and the German soldier where they meet to free Joey from barbed-wire and it really is worth mentioning apart from this flick. This scene is probably one of the best that has been in a Spielberg film in the past 10 years and it shows just how well he is able to show two conflicts being calmed down or resolved just by simply taking it easy or even just coming together to help a certain someone or something that may be in harm’s way. It’s a very powerful scene and one that makes this stand-out from recent war films.

Something else that Spielberg does here that really works is how he barely uses any big-names for his cast but that works incredibly well for the film since it keeps our minds on Joey. Jeremy Irvine is good as Albert and gives him this innocent boy act that works and makes us feel for his character when him and Joey actually get separated; Emily Watson is probably the most familiar face as his mother, and she’s great as well; and Tom Hiddleston is also very good as Captain Nicholls, even though some people may not be able to get past the fact that it’s Loki playing a British war Captain. There are many other performers here but nobody else that really stands out except for Irvine, and even he isn’t anything all that memorable.

Consensus: War Horse is heavy-handed, corny, and built on upon tons and tons of clichés, but somehow Spielberg is able to make this story heart-warming with a beautiful look, and some very good scenes that will make you feel more for this story as it goes along.

7.5/10=Rental!!