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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Toni Collette

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

Who needs one Fast & Furious franchise, when you could have so, so many more?

It’s been many years since we last saw him and as it turns out, daredevil operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) wasn’t doing too much. He was just living big, rich and with plenty of hot, sexy women around him, having all of the fanciest and coolest parties around. But now, he’s being asked to come out of retirement for another job, with this one, hopefully, being the last. Together with a band of trusted nut-jobs just as crazy as he is, Xander must race against time to recover a sinister weapon known as Pandora’s Box, a device that controls every military satellite in the world. But of course, the job isn’t as easy as it seems, what with his arch-rival Xiang (Donnie Yen) looking to take Xander down and, possibly, even a government-conspiracy behind it all.

The only scene with Donnie Yen where there isn’t 20 cuts-a-minute. Maybe.

Return of Xander Cage is clearly trying to make the original xXx look a subtle indie flick, and in a way, that’s fine. The first, while not at all perfect, is often too tame and to held-back by its own edginess to be anything more than just a lackluster attempt at creating a James Bond for the MTV-generation. Now, it seems like the MTV-generation has gone the way of the Dodo and it’s up to its sequel to be the James Bond for the Snapchat crowd.

For better, as well as for worse.

Look, there’s no denying that Xander Cage knows what it is and isn’t making any sort of apologies for itself and that’s fine. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s stupid, it makes literally no sense, it destroys all laws of physics, and yes, it features some of the corniest one-liners in the history of corny action movies. But it’s also a bit too much, which may make it seem like I’m just another self-serious movie-goer who expects high-art with everything he sees.

Is some of that true? Yeah, why not? But trust me, I know and expect Xander Cage not to be an Oscar-worthy film; I just expect it to be a solid action-flick that takes itself somewhat seriously, gives me fun, exciting action set-pieces, and oh yeah, maybe even a believable, charismatic character here and there. It doesn’t have to fly me to the moon or knock it out of the park with every aspect of its creation, but it also doesn’t have to be a total joke of a movie that, without the fancy special-effects, ensemble cast of characters, and huge budget, me and my buddies could have made, drunk off of our asses, tongue-firmly-in-cheek.

All the ladies need a little Vinnie D.

But nope, Xander Cage is, instead, a $85 million movie that plays like a B-movie you’d find in the Wal-Mar bargain bin.

Does that make it a bad movie? Not really, because it sets out to do exactly what it wants to do – be loud, big, and stupid-as-hell – but there’s a fine line between “having fun”, and just “being idiotic”. Xander Cage crosses that line right from the get-go and never seems to even bother to go back; the large stunts, for instance, while awfully imaginative, are clearly so fake, you can almost see the green still left on the screen. No character has a single bit of serious dialogue, with talented actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Donnie Yen, Rory McCann, Tony Jaa, and hell, even Diesel himself, really chumming their ways through the whole thing, making it seem especially obvious that they’re in it for the money and not much else. It’s a shame too, because large blockbusters like this can actually have something resembling a heart, a soul, and hell, even cohesion (like the Fast & Furious franchise), but nobody here seems to be bothered with that.

They’re just throwing whatever at the wall, seeing what sticks, and rolling the camera.

And trust me, that’s not as fun as it sounds.

Consensus: Big, loud, expensive, crazy, stupid, and ridiculous, Return of Xander Cage is exactly what it wants to be, but also doesn’t become much else beyond that.

5 / 10

Fur coat off. Sexy.

Photos Courtesy of: Paramount Pictures

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Unlocked (2017)

Spies don’t even spies.

After failing to apprehend the terrorist behind a Paris attack that claimed dozens of lives, CIA agent Alice Racine (Noomi Rapace) is forced to spend the rest of her days in in London, living and working the boring task of being a caseworker. Out of the blue, though, her mentor (Michael Douglas) unexpectedly calls her back into action when the CIA discovers that another attack is imminent. And just like that, Alice is thrown back into the dangerous life of being a spy who has to get any sorts of information, by any means whatsoever. And that’s exactly what happens, although, it’s a lot more violent than she’d ever expected, especially when information she’s able to draw out of a suspect is compromised and she becomes a target of every government agency known to man. Now, it’s basically Alice back on the run, without any idea of where to go, or who to turn to, except to just use her smarts and ass-kicking abilities.

Who’s the more bad-ass one here?!?!

You wouldn’t know it, or hell, even think about it, but Michael Apted’s probably one of the best directors ever. Now granted, he hasn’t necessarily changed the way we watch film, or take it in, but what he has proven, is that no matter where he goes, what he takes on, or whatever the hell it is that he’s doing, he remains consistently good at it. Sure, you can say all that you want about some of his flicks, like the World is Not Enough, or even Nell, but the man has made some pretty great movies, over the past 40 years.

Which is why something as boring and silly as Unlocked feels like a bummer and an overall waste of everyone’s time and talent, his especially.

Which is odd, because spy-thrillers seem to be Apted’s niche; these dark, dirty and twisty tales of intrigue and violence seem to be up his alley, considering he knows how to keep the tension going, even when we’re not sure where the story’s are going. That’s what sort of happens to Unlocked at first, until it just loses all control and hope in ever making sense, or even being entertaining.

See, the best part of these so-called “spy-thrillers”, is that while they are twisty and turny, they still at least have some sense of understanding and cohesion. Meaning, there has to be a rhyme and a reason for someone to turn out to be, I don’t know, either a spy for another agency, or not actually dead all of this time – throwing those twists out in the air and out of your ass, doesn’t quite work. The best part of these thrillers is being able to follow along with everything, but also not knowing what to actually expect next, and yet, still have an idea of where it could go.

Make any sense?

Come on, Mike! Really?

Probably not, but hey, it’s whatever. Unlocked is the kind of thriller that doesn’t ever make sense of itself, its characters, where it wants to go, or hell, what it even wants to say. There’s a lot of twists and turns for sure, but none of them ever make any sense. And when it turns out that we get a twist, a character has to go on and on for a four-five stanzas about why they did what they did, why they were deceitful, and why it’s for the greater good. Which isn’t to say that we don’t see these twists coming from a mile away – one particular character’s evil motivations are noticeable from the very beginning – it’s just that they’re so stupid in the first place, that to have to explain them, more and more and why they should make sense, doesn’t work. It’s sort of like telling a joke – if you have to explain it, it didn’t work and therefore, isn’t funny, or effective.

That’s how it is with Unlocked‘s non-stop twists and turns: They don’t make sense and probably weren’t ever supposed to. Which is sometimes fine, but the movie’s not all that much fun in the first place, with Apted turning in a disappointingly workmen-like direction, where it seems like even he’s bored. Hell, the ensemble who, for some reason, is quite stacked, even feels like they’re giving it their all, but ultimately, fall prey to lame editing and an even lamer script.

Noomi Rapace, as usual, is a bad-ass and knows how to play it, but who her character is, or what her motivations are beyond “saving humanity”, is never quite clear; Michael Douglas shows up to sort of chew scenery; Toni Collette, sporting an Annie Lennox-do, is pretty bad-ass, but also randomly here; John Malkovich sort of chews scenery, too, although why he’s even here in the first place is a total question-mark (I’d ask the same thing about Douglas, although one close look will actually show he produced the damn thing); and believe it or not, the best of them all is Orlando Bloom who, sporting a ridiculous cockney-accent, a crap-ton of tats, and gelled-up hair, seems to be having the most fun, playing up a rare villainous role.

He may be in the wrong movie for this much fun, but hey, I want that movie instead!

Consensus: The cast does definitely try, but through it all, Unlocked is too boring and over-written to really work as a smart, fun, and exciting spy-thriller, despite what Apted’s previous credits may have you hoping and wishing for.

3.5 / 10

“Oy, mate. No mo’ pirate movies for may!”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Fun Mom Dinner (2017)

Moms rule. Dads drool. Right?

Emily (Katie Aselton) is in, essentially, a loveless marriage and needs to have some fun in her life. Her best friend, Kate (Toni Collette), feels the same way and the two decide that it’s finally time to get involved with one of these “fun mom dinners” that they hear so much about. Okay, actually, that’s not how it actually goes down. Emily gets an invite from the two moms holding the dinner, Melanie (Bridget Everett) and Jamie (Molly Shannon), who as a result, also invites Kate who doesn’t actually like either Melanie or Jamie. Why? Simple mom stuff, honestly. And it’s why the dinner starts off a little weird and awkward, until the booze starts flyin’ and the weed starts gettin’ smoked and then, all of a sudden, everyone’s having a good time. And then, Emily starts talking to a cute bartender (Adam Levine), and heads off with him, putting the whole night into one, crazy funk where everyone’s scrambling all over the place, looking for her, while also connecting with one another and realizing that their moms and nights such as this need to happen more often.

This is the part where they sing “99 Luftballoons”. In German. H-I-L-A-R-I-T-Y.

Or yeah, I think that’s what it is.

Actually, for a movie that’s about 80 minutes along, it really pads itself with jokes, random bits of humor, and a plot that’s already thin to begin with. But honestly, that’s the least of Fun Mom Dinner‘s problems, because simply put: It’s just not funny. It tries so hard to be a cross between Bridesmaids and Bad Moms, but isn’t nearly as interesting, deep, or even funny as the two.

In other words, it’s just a bit of a bore, which is a shame because it’s a movie, written and directed by women, starring women, and about women being, well, women. It’s supposed to be a fun time at the movies, regardless of your sex, but for some reason, it just feels like a missed-opportunity for a lot of people who got together, spent some time working on this thing, giving it their all, and eventually, coming up short. It’s didn’t have to be this way, but sadly, it is.

But really, Fun Mom Dinner just doesn’t ring all that true.

These women, while all good in their own little performances, don’t feel believable as pals. Sure, they’re all connected by the fact that their kids all go to the same school, so maybe that’s the point, but still, when they do start to become closer and more acquainted with one another, it just doesn’t connect. It feels like a group of fun-loving gals who wouldn’t actually be fun friends together in real life, and can’t even act like it once they’re paid to do so.

And the part where they reference “Sixteen Candles”. Which they do a thousand times.

Once again, though, that isn’t to take away from any of the respective performances, because they’re all fine on their own. It’s nice to see the always lovely and joyful Katie Aselton get a leading-role, even if her character is chock-full of cliches; Molly Shannon feels wasted, especially after last year’s Other People; Bridget Everett is basically given the loud, obnoxious role that Melissa McCarthy’s usually stuck with, and while she’s still amusing, she feels like a crutch the movie constantly falls back on when it wants to be wacky and silly, for no apparent reason; and Toni Collette, for some reason, just feels bland here, which is weird, because at one point, she was considered one of the most interesting actresses working.

Unfortunately, not anymore.

Now, she’s playing second-fiddle in a movie that doesn’t really know what to do with much of these ladies, other than have them yell and act-out in crazy ways, yet, not really giving anything else behind it. It would all help if the movie was funny, but it’s not and because of that, it’s hard to really recommend the hell out of Fun Mom Dinner. It tries to be the next Bad Moms, but with that movie’s sequel coming out later this year, do we really need a copycat, or should we just wait for a, hopefully, superior second installment?

Probably wait it out. Or see this, too. I did that and it doesn’t really matter.

Consensus: Constantly straining itself to be funny and somewhat insightful, Fun Mom Dinner also feels weak and poorly put-together, despite the insane talent both in front of and behind the camera.

4.5 / 10

And yeah, where they just talk about their lives and stuff. UGH.

Photos Courtesy of: Momentum Pictures

Towelhead (2008)

Don’t you just love your neighbors.

Jasira (Summer Bishil) is a 13-year-old Arab-American girl navigating through the confusing and frightening path of adolescence and her own sexual awakening. When Jasira’s mother sends her to Houston to live with her strict Lebanese father (Peter Macdissi), she quickly learns that her new neighbors find her and her father a curiosity, something that has some positive, as well as dangerously negative effects on them, and everyone around them.

It’s hard to watch Towelhead and not at all try and compare it to writer/director Alan Ball’s other work. For one, American Beauty and Six Feet Under are absolute masterpieces, showing off Ball’s great sense of heart, humor, satire, and thoughtfulness beyond it all. In a way, True Blood took him away from what we all know and love, which is why it’s so good to see something like Towelhead, as mixed as it may be, still at least hit the same notes we expect from Ball.

Like father....

Like father….

But at the same time time, when you’re up against American Beauty and Six Feet Under, it’s a really hard battle to win, which ultimately becomes Towelhead‘s one factor holding it all back.

Ball isn’t really diving into a subject he hasn’t tried before (suburbia), but at least he still makes it feel fresh and inventive just by how hard he pushes this story. A lot of the subject material, as you would suspect, is very controversial, but Ball isn’t afraid to dig in deep. Jasira’s story starts off bad and then gets worse and worse and worse, and it only has some bright spots here and there, but not enough to fully make us feel as if we can put a smile on our faces when it’s over. It’s a ride of torment that Ball involves us in, and if you can handle it and watch, then you may actually come away liking this flick.

Now, if menstrual blood, tampons, underage sex, masturbation, bloody tampons, and dead kittens aren’t your cup of tea, then yeah, Towelhead may grossly disturb you. But then again, it’s sort of the point; Ball is showing that growing up, going through puberty, and eventually, having a sexual awakening, isn’t a very pretty thing. It’s sometimes scary, random, and yes, a little disgusting. But it’s a fact and way of life and it’s kind of great how Ball doesn’t approach any of this in a back-offish way, but instead, showing it all in its gritty glory.

Something he’s done before, of course, but man, he does push some buttons here.

Problem is, something feels missing. Normally, this wouldn’t always bother me, had I not been familiar with the director’s work prior, but with Ball, I love and appreciate his work so much, it’s hard for me not to watch Towelhead and wonder what was here and what was missing. Ball seems to be reaching a bit here, in that there’s a lot he wants to say about racism, about sex, about gender, about puberty, about religion, about family, and about so much other stuff, that he could do to the absolute fulfillment in the whole five seasons of Six Feet Under, but in Towelhead, he has to find a way to cram it all in under two-hours somehow, and it can’t help but seem a little messy. It’s as if Ball himself knew he had a lot to work with, gave it the Freshman try, saw what stuck, what didn’t, and just leave it all there, in one, messy, and rather unfocused piece.

But then again, I’d much rather have a messy, unfocused piece from Alan Ball, than from a lot of other people out there, so it does help.

Like mother...

Like mother…

Really though, where Towelhead does seem to lose a bit of intelligence is in the way Ball himself writes everyone who isn’t Jasira. Either they’re all sickening, mean, or absolutely rude, and it makes you wonder: Is it the point? One adult character in particular is Maria Bello as Jasira’s mother. Bello is great, as usual, but her character is just so selfish, so mean, and so callous the whole time she’s on the screen, that it made me wonder just how the hell anybody would want to stay at her place over a long Summer. Also, Jasira’s dad and her mother seem like total opposites that would never, ever come together in real life, let alone be married for six years and have a kid.

On the flip-side of the equation, there’s Aaron Eckhart as the terrifyingly creepy next-door neighbor that takes a liking to Jasira right from the start. We already know that Eckhart can play sleazy very well, but this is a different kind of sleazy right here. This guy is dirty, uncomfortable to be around, inappropriate, nasty, cruel, and any other bad word that I can come up with now, but would just so repetitive. Eckhart takes control of the screen every time he’s in front of it and the scenes he has with Jasira, just make this film even more tense and bizarre than it already was in the first place. There’s only about two or three scenes where his character feels fleshed out, but Eckhart never forgets to remind us that this guy is a predator, and predator’s are always lurking around every corner.

So yeah, some of the characterization works and some of it doesn’t.

As Jasira, Summer Bishil is pretty great, in that she doesn’t feel like the typical teen you’d get in a movie such as this. She’s smarter, a little bit wiser, and yes, even aware of her surroundings. Still, at the same time, she is a bit naive and silly about the world around her and it’s interesting to see her learn, adapt and grow over the course of the movie, even when it seems like the movie’s pushing her arch so ridiculously far, it’s a wonder how she stays believable and understated through it all. But she does, so good for her.

Consensus: Towelhead is another one of Alan Ball’s take-downs of middle-class suburbia, with some biting, lovely writing, but also an unfocused direction that leaves a lot of loose strands by the end.

7.5 / 10

Oh, and definitely like neighbor.....

Oh, and definitely like neighbor.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Miss You Already (2015)

MissposterHug your bestie and never let go.

Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They were both there for each one’s first kiss, first bout with sex, and basically, everything else. So it would make sense that Jess is there for Milly when she gets diagnosed with breast-cancer, right? Well, yes, definitely. Problem is, Jess has a bit of a problem in her own life and it features getting pregnant with her husband (Paddy Considine) before heads-off for a few months to an oil rig. Still though, as hard as she might, she tries to be there for Milly, even while she’s going through this painful, and obviously scary time in her life. Because together, even though they may both be sad, they’re never lonely and find ways to make the other feel better; not just about themselves, but about life in general. That’s why when Milly starts acting-out in un-Milly-like ways, Jess is surprised and, at the same time, angry and doesn’t know what to do. Not to mention that, after many times of trying, she’s now pregnant and doesn’t want to tell Milly because she feel as if it might make her feel worse than she already does.

They were together for what appears to be a birthday.

They were together for what appears to be a birthday.

It’s obvious that Miss You Already’s intentions are good. Everything from the message, to the characters, to the plot-line, and hell, especially to the humor, everything about Miss You Already is so clearly not trying to offend anyone who has either had cancer, known someone else who has, or lost someone to it. Therefore, a lot of the promotion for Miss You Already, as well as many other “cancer comedies” (I hate using that phrase, but somehow, it’s become a thing), has been hiding the fact that the key character in this movie, does in fact have cancer. This isn’t because the producers and creators behind this flick are embarrassed because of it – but because they know that it’s very hard to sell a movie about cancer as is, let alone, a light-hearted one.

As I said though, Miss You Already has good intentions flying right out of itself, but at the end of the day, those good intentions aren’t used on anything except a bunch of a lame-gags that try to cover up the fact that this subject material is downright depressing.

And it’s not like the comedy aspect of telling cancer stories doesn’t work. Take 50/50 for instance – what that movie does so brilliantly is that it not only goes deep and dark with the terrible realities cancer provides, but also show that there’s some fun and humor to be had in the situation as well. However, that movie’s humor was more based on the actual characters themselves, their reactions and, in general, they’re day-to-day livings. Miss You Already is less subtle than this and instead, feels the need to endlessly barrage us with half-baked jokes because, well, they don’t want everything to be so serious.

Once again, I’m not saying that movies about cancer, should not at all feature comedy, but it does have to be done in the right way to where it feels necessary to telling the story; to just have it around as a way to break-up the tension, isn’t suitable. And the main problem with Miss You Already, is that it never actually realizes that it not only can get by on not having any comedy in it whatsoever, but actually isn’t all that funny, either. But because nobody ever finds this out, the movie feels more obnoxious, than actually heartfelt; for every sad character revelation, we get a scene or two dedicated to the characters yelling and shouting gibberish because, uhm, comedy?

I’m still not sure, but either way, it wasn’t working.

Which is to say that Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette’s on-screen chemistry, doesn’t work much, either. Collette, as usual, is clearly down for every journey this movie takes her and it works well in helping to develop this character. While it seems that early-on, the movie may try to hide away any fact that the person with cancer may actually be not the most perfect human being on the face of the planet, surprisingly, it doesn’t and much rather, shows just how selfish and sometimes manipulative Milly can be. This is where Collette’s performance works best, as we’re supposed to know that we should care and sympathize for her, but because she’s acting like a bit of an a-hole, it’s actually pretty hard.

As well as for a wedding.

As well as for a wedding.

Drew Barrymore, on the other hand, doesn’t quite fare as well on her own. For one, she seems oddly miscast; while the character she’s called onto play is supposed to be a sweet, sincere gal that cares for Milly and all those around her, for some reason, her own personality seems lost in the shuffle. I’m not saying that Barrymore can’t play this kind of role, but because it’s so limited to her just being “Milly’s friend”, it sort of feels like all of her development was left by the wayside because, well, one has cancer and she deserves the most attention. Nothing wrong with this, either, but considering that most of the flick is being told from Jess’ perspective, it’s rather difficult to ever care for her, or what she’s up to.

Due to this, Barrymore and Collette’s chemistry doesn’t work so well. It seems as if Miss You Already was literally the first time these two had met and rather than doing any sort of cooling-down, or ice-breaker for the two, director Catherine Hardwicke just decided to have them meet for the first time, on the set and act as if they were lifelong besties. Had these characters been the actual opposite, then that method probably would have worked, but whatever the method used here was, it doesn’t show any signs of helping because they never seem like best friends, nor do they actually seem as if they do any time relating to one another, or better yet, making us realize why they’re considered “best friends” to begin with. Most of the time they spend together, consists of Jess taking care of Milly and, occasionally, passing off an in-joke that nobody in the audience is ever supposed to understand.

Meaning, what’s the point of ever telling the joke to begin with? If we’re never going to get a chance to understand what the in-joke actually means, or where it comes from, then why the hell should we care?

Consensus: Miss You Already has its subject material’s best intentions at heart, but overall, seems like it’s trying so hard to be both, funny, as well as dramatic, that it loses any charm in the process that would have been vital to making the story hit harder.

5.5 / 10

Oh, and how could I forget that they were together for this unexplained, but seemingly happy moment together! What pals!

Oh, and how could I forget that they were together for this unexplained, but seemingly happy moment together! What pals!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

Dude, you’re married to Rosamund Pike. How much more happiness do you seriously need?

London psychiatrist Hector (Simon Pegg) feels like his life isn’t as fulfilling as he would like for it to be. Sure, he’s got a nice job, a nice house, and an even nicer wife (Rosamund Pike), but for some odd reason, he feels like that there’s something more to his life. And if he doesn’t find out what that is, he won’t fully be happy. So, of course with the permission of his wifey-poo, Hector sets out an globe-spanning adventure that takes him all around the world and allows for him to meet some of the most interesting people he’d never have the chance to meet, had he stayed in his boring, posh life in London. However, whenever one travels to a new place that they’re not quite familiar with, they of course run into certain problems with people who don’t take too kindly to tourists – aka, exactly who Hector is. This leaves Hector in many life-or-death situations where he has to take into consideration that sometimes, the life you’re dealt, isn’t so bad at all. So stop whining!

Most of the reviews I’ve read for Hector and the Search for Happiness have been basically calling this, “the indie Secret Life of Walter Mitty“. And while that’s not entirely incorrect, it’s still ill-advised for someone who was actually a fan of Ben Stiller’s piece (such as myself); while the movie wasn’t perfect, there was a certain layer of sweetness that helped the movie get by some of its more dodgy spots. Not to mention, it also had me look at Stiller, the director, in a different light than ever before.

Such an adventure ahead of him. And yet, I could care less.

Such an adventure ahead of him. And yet, I could care less.

But that’s besides the point because Mitty is definitely a better movie than Hector, which isn’t to discredit the later’s leading-man at all. In certain aspects, Simon Pegg is a lot charming and lovable than Stiller, but for some reason, he’s absolutely insufferable here. Pegg’s not doing anything different from what we’ve seen him do before, but the character of Hector, is so dull and thinly-written, that there’s a certain feeling of anger I began to feel with this character. He’s already a whiny mope as it is, with practically everything one could want in life, and yet, he still finds enough time to piss and complain about it, acting as if there’s more to life than living in upper-class society.

Just saying, bud, but many people would be happy to live the life you’re living.

So yeah, already this movie’s not working for me, and then, the plot continues on and once I realize that everywhere Hector goes to, he’ll be involved with some sort of life-threatening situation, my interest was lost. Not only was it unbelievable that Hector himself would just randomly get thrown into these deadly situations for no reason or another than to move the plot along, but the movie never treated them as seriously as they should have to really make it feel like, holy crap, Hector could literally die, right in front of our faces, and we’d be spending the rest of the day in absolute shock and despair. But nope, instead, the movie cracks a smile, even when there’s an AK-47 directly staring them in the face.

For instance, take the whole sequence in the later-half when Hector ends up in Africa – a region of the world that movies such as these love to show as desolate, crime-ridden war-lands. Without getting into the intricacies of what lands Hector there in the first place, basically, he gets kidnapped and taken in by a bunch of thugs, where he is then imprisoned, questioned about his recent whereabouts, and threatened with death, so much so that he’s actually thrown into an execution position. I don’t know about you, but to me, that sort of stuff is not funny. Just go on LiveLeak and you’re bound to find plenty of real, downright disturbing videos of the same thing happening to someone, for no reasons whatsoever.

You're leaving that at home?!?!?

You’re leaving that at home?!?!?

However, the movie thinks differently. Much rather, it thinks that coming close to executing someone is rich with humor, so they treat it as something of a joke. As a result, too, Hector himself does the same and spends the rest of the movie acting as if it had never happened; as if, oh, well, you know, it was all a pure coincidence that was meant to happen so that he could understand and appreciate life a whole lot more. Being dumped by my girlfriend and being kicked out of my apartment has me understand the meaning of life, as well as appreciate it a whole heck of a lot more, and that’s about it for me. I don’t believe I need to be blind-folded, kidnapped, threatened, and have a gun pointed in my face to make me think that.

But hey, that’s just me. I’m not Hector and thank heavens for that.

Basically, in case you haven’t been able to tell already, there’s not a lot going for Hector and the Search for Happiness. There’s hardly any comedy to be found whatsoever (even though the movie insists that there actually is), the melodrama is suffocating, and the message, isn’t just obvious, but ludicrous, especially when you consider all that Hector, the character, had to go through to get to that point in his life. The only moments of actual entertainment that can be found within this movie is whenever some odd-ball from the supporting cast shows up, and even then, they clearly seem to not have much to work with. The only one I can think of off the top of my head that really left any sort of impression whatsoever was Christopher Plummer and even then, I still wondered whether somebody shot him with tranquilizers beforehand to make him numb to the utter garbage he was forced to deliver.

Nobody should have to deliver this junk. Not Christopher Plummer. Not Simon Pegg. Not anybody.

Consensus: Everywhere it goes, everyone it meets, everything it experiences, Hector and the Search for Happiness wants you to enjoy the ride with them, but instead, it’s the kind of trip you wish you took alone, with no annoying Brits found anywhere in sight.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Drink up, Simon. And save me some. By the end of this, we'll both need it.

Drink up, Simon. And save me some. By the end of this, we’ll both need a few.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Boxtrolls (2014)

Had this movie just been about actual “trolls“, it probably would have been a lot scarier. Missed opportunities.

Underneath the town of Cheesebridge, a small population of trolls live and oddly enough, they have adopted a young boy (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) as their own. The name he’s given is “Eggs”, which mostly has to do with the fact that the box he is dressed up, was previously one used for containing eggs. Another box contained fish, so the troll now filling that is called “Fish”. So on and so forth, you get it. Anyway, Eggs and the rest of the trolls all run into a problem when a nasty, mean and cruel pest exterminator by the name of Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) who plans on getting rid of every Boxtroll there is to be found. He also hopes that this will make him look like a hero to the rest of the townspeople and therefore, give him a shot at becoming mayor, or at least, a man of higher-power. So obviously this puts the Boxtrolls into some real, major danger of being extinct, but once Eggs joins the real world and meets the quirky, spunky daughter of the main mayor (Elle Fanning) things change and he might just find a way to save his lovable friends and so-called family once and for all.

Pictured from left to right: Generic Boxtroll #1, Generic Boxtroll #2, Generic Boxtroll #3, Generic Boxtroll #4, Generic Boxtroll #5.

Pictured from left to right: Generic Boxtroll #1, Generic Boxtroll #2, Generic Boxtroll #3, Generic Boxtroll #4, Generic Boxtroll #5.

Laika, as they had done with both Coraline and Paranorman, have proven that they’re able to deliver on both the visual-department of their movies, while also with the story as well. Sometimes, their stories get a little too dark for even the target-audience these movie seem so keen on attracting in the first place, but for what it’s worth, they’re one of the very few animation-companies that strive on giving every demographic a little something to chew on and appreciate. I don’t want to say they’re one of the few ones left, but considering the slide Pixar has recently plummeted down, I can’t help but put most of my hope and faith into another group of animators out there.

And with that said, it should be noted that the Boxtrolls is as pretty-looking as any of the other Laika movies. The combination of hand-made creations and thinly-done CGI works, especially so here. Everything and everyone inside this small town of Cheesebridge seem as if they either need a shower, or live in a place as screwed up as everybody around them thinks. Sure, you don’t get too many points for looking strange, but you do get credit for making the strange actually look nice and well-done. Here, that’s what Laika does and it’s totally a compliment to the types of talents that they have working in their studios.

But, when all is said and done here, there’s just not much of a story and ultimately, that ends up tearing the whole piece apart.

It’s one thing to introduce your never-done-before, relatively interesting characters and not really have them be interesting other than just socially awkward, or plain and simply weird; however, it is another whole thing entirely to have these characters and hardly ever focus on them at all. Much rather, what adds insult to injury is to spend most of your movie focusing on the human characters involved with the story. Which honestly, wouldn’t have been so bad to begin with, had the human characters here actually been the least bit interesting or believable in terms of their intentions and why they deserve to be paid attention to in the first place. However, what happens here with the characters in the Boxtrolls, is that they fall for being thinly-written at first, and hardly ever given a second, or third, or maybe even fourth glance at to see if everything adds up well enough,

Take, for instance, the villainous character of Archibald Snatcher, the one who wants to be rid of all these Boxtrolls so that he can get going with his term in office and live happily ever after, eating cheese for the rest of his days. It’s obvious that we’re not supposed to like, or even care for this character – he’s the evil son-of-a-bitch who wants to basically kill those little, cuddly characters we get introduced to early on as not just nice creatures, but ones that aren’t at all what the rumors he’s been spreading around about them say at all. You feel bad for them as a result, of course, but there’s also an idea that’s supposed to be here where we feel some sort of sympathy for our lead villain here, even if he is just being a total dick. Surely, there must be at least some sort of reasoning that would put all of his evil, immoral actions to light?

A match made in Laika-heaven.

A match made in Laika-heaven.

Nope. Not at all, actually. This dude’s just a dick, for the sake of being a dick. Which, once again, wouldn’t have been so bad to begin with, had we not been given so much time to spend with just him and only him, but we get that and it hardly ever seems to end. The scenes with him, as well as the rest of the human characters, feel like they are never-ending and only add insult to injury. Not because we, the audience, actually decided to see this for fine animation (which we get), but because we wanted to actually see the Boxtolls (you know, the titled-chaarcters), and hardly get any of them.

Sure, maybe the characters of Eggs isn’t so bad, especially considering that he’s a weird, little boy who continues to be as such, but honestly, there’s nobody here that’s really keeping it altogether. Even when the movie does focus on the infamous, but hardly-seen Boxtrolls, it’s hard to ever be able to tell any of them apart. Maybe Fish and that’s it – every other Boxtroll just feels like a carbon-copy of the one that was created before it and only add less to their appeal. They’re meant to look and seem ugly, but they’re also supposed to be charming, funny, and the types of creatures we’d actually want our kids going to sleep with plush dolls of. But not these Boxtrolls. They aren’t really fun to begin with, but they’ll probably give your kid nightmares.

And honestly, what parent wants to pay for all that therapy? Especially all for something like this, no less?

Consensus: As usual with Laika films, the Boxtrolls benefits from looking crisp and inventive, but the story is anything but and instead, lingers on certain plot-threads nobody cares about. Not even the kiddies.

5 / 10 = Rental!! 

Of course the leader of these Boxtrolls had to be white!

Of course the leader of these Boxtrolls had to be white! What? No dark-skinned men and/or women in Cheesebrigde?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Long Way Down (2014)

If I ever have to be stuck in the same room as these people, remind me to just kill myself right then and there.

Martin Sharp (Pierce Brosnan) was once a very popular day-time talk show host who found both his professional and personal life ruined when a recent sex-scandal involving him and a minor became known to the public; Maureen Thompson (Toni Collette) is a meek single mom who is struggling with taking care of her handicapped son, while also barely having any personal life to speak of; J.J. Maguire (Aaron Paul) is a struggling musician, working as a pizza delivery-man and is living with the news that he has brain cancer; and Jess Crichton (Imogen Poots) is the daughter of a very wealthy politician who she doesn’t care for and has just been recently dumped. All four of these people are so different in their own ways, yet, they share one common interest: They all wanted to jump off of the roof of the Toppers Building, on New Year’s Eve, which is where they all met in the first place. Eventually, the four decide that it would be best to continue to meet up, talk and see if they can maybe raise awareness for this sort of problem, however, not everybody is so willing to do so, or even capable because of how truly messed-up they are.

Though the reception for this hasn’t been too lovely to say the least, there were two factors really driving me more and more towards this. For starters, the cast is pretty impressive – more importantly because they cast Aaron Paul as an American in a very-British movie, something I was not expecting in the least bit from him. And secondly, this movie is an adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel of the same, who also just so happens to be one of my favorite writers. No, I have not read the book and after seeing something like this, I feel like I should.

Oh, come on, Pierce! Live a little, take that shirt off, and show the ladies that you still like your martini's shaken, not stirred!

Oh, come on, Pierce! Live a little, take that shirt off, and show the ladies that you still like your martini’s shaken, not stirred!

Not to get a better impression of what this film was leading towards, but to somehow wipe the horrid taste of this flick out of my mouth.

Which, for someone such as myself, is really a shame because whenever I see a Hornby-adaptation, I feel like I can always hear or feel his style through the movie; but not here. All of that fun, that wit, and all of that humor seems to be lost here on a bunch of characters that seem as thin as the pieces of paper they originally appeared on, but aren’t likable, or even interesting to get to know better. They’re all pretty miserable, annoying people that try to make each of their lives better, but instead, just annoy the hell out of each other by being as unpleasant as they are humanly capable of. Which, if you wanted to know, is for the whole duration of this movie.

Now sure, there are some nice touches here and there – mostly due to the way the cast handles some of the more schmaltzier moments – but I really couldn’t get past most of this movie’s problems. It has an interesting premise for sure, but the movie can’t do much with it. It just has these characters talk to one another and, presumably, get on each and every one of each other’s nerves, only making the idea of suicide seem all the more reasonable. I know that was a low joke, but you get my drift: These characters are unlikable and to make matters worse, the cast can’t really do much for them either; which is to say that mostly everybody acts the same here, as they’ve acted in about five of their past pieces of work.

Pierce Brosnan is a crotchety old dick that seems like he could be a nice guy, but doesn’t seem like he wants to be and only wants his last shot at fame instead; Toni Collette is charming at times, but even she’s so quiet, you wonder if she would have been better written as a mute; Imogen Poots runs around, yells at people, makes fun of them, gets all up in their business, and gets upset when others don’t take so kindly to her constant line of questioning; and Aaron Paul, bless his heart, is basically just Jesse Pinkman here, except this time, without their being any meth around whatsoever.

Which, honestly, is kind of a shame, because this movie barely has anything that resemble the slightest amount of something “fun”. Now, I know that this is a flick about suicide and people coming to the end of their roads, but still, something like this doesn’t have to be such a dramatic-bore. Especially in the middle-act when we get a chance to see all of these workers make some magic together and let loose a bit. But nope, we never get that. Instead, we just get more and more talk about suicide, why they hate their lives, and why they are annoyed of the other person they’re with.

Betch.

Betch.

In all honesty, if I wanted to sit around a room where a bunch of people said how much they disliked the person sitting across the table from them, I’d just go to my Grand-mom’s place for Sunday dinner. But, I don’t want to. So, when I want to watch a movie that features some very talented people, I want to at least see more than just a bunch of arguments and nagging. I want to see some emotion, heart, insight, and most of all, fun. There’s hardly any of that here and although the film definitely likes to act as if it has a funny-bone located in its body, the mark just never hits. It’s just unfunny and uninteresting.

On second thought, Sunday dinner at my Grand-mom’s doesn’t sound so bad now that I think about it.

Love you, ‘Gams. See you then.

Consensus: Though it is clearly packed with a promising premise, and an even more promising cast, A Long Way Down just never knows what it wants to do with either of it, so instead, just becomes a ill-advised bore that no one wants to talk them off the ledge.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Wah. Go home and shut up!

Wah. Go home and shut up!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Tammy (2014)

Still feeling like crap, Rex Reed? Good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shit.

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

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Get it! It's not a real gun!

Get it! It’s not a real gun!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

About a Boy (2002)

Boys will be boys, even if they are stammering fools.

Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) is a bit of a shallow dude. For one, he closes himself off from the rest of the world, he doesn’t work, he gains all sorts of money off of the royalties for some Christmas song his dad made back in the day and shags plenty of women, although he never plans on, and never actually does, give them a call back or anything. Although, it may make you wonder: Why would somebody who is as charming as Will, actually conjure up a plan to act as if he is a single-daddy, only to connect with more single-mothers, in hopes that he’d be able to nab them as well? Either way though, it doesn’t matter because Will goes for it anyway and wouldn’t you know it? The results don’t go as planned. Not only does he not get nookie, but now he’s got some awkward, mopey teen named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) who just won’t leave him alone. But little does he know that Marcus has a bit of a problem at home with his suicidal-mommy (Toni Collette) at home, as well as being picked on at school, and is only in need of a friend; something that Will himself may need as well. His only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.

If anybody out there reading this right now as ever read a Nick Hornby novel, they know one thing about the dude: He knows how to write characters. Not just good characters or those easy-to-define types, nope, he’s more-attuned at writing about and characterizing those certain people in our lives we choose not to be around or associated with, and therefore, would not ever want to spend time with in a movie for a near-two hours.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can totally relate.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can relate.

You know, the unlikable people.

But somehow, Hornby makes these said “unlikable people” actually ones we can actually stand to be around, but even like and, dare I say it, connect with. Because see, Hornby may love it when his characters don’t do the best, most moral things to other people, but he never stops to show us why that said person, does that said immoral act. It actually gets us to grow closer to these characters, just as we’re watching the character themselves grow-up and begin to learn more about being a good, kind person in the world.

You know, like you’re supposed to be.

And with Will Freeman, Hornby truly did give us a d-bag that is not only hardly sympathetic, but pretty damn knowing about his mean ways as well. He knows that he’s lazy, a bum, a dick and a cad-like fella that loves a good shag every now and then, but never anything too severe to where he actually has to start up a relationship with anybody, where commitments, and feelings and all sorts of that icky, gooey stuff gets thrown into the mix. Will just isn’t programmed, but he’s not acting like he is, which sort of makes him interesting to watch. Sure, we know he loves lying to women, in the most manipulative-ways possible so that he can just bed them, but he never really tries to go for anything more than just a god’s-to-honest, simple fling and that’s all. All the ladies out there must hate him, but from one guy to another, I have to say, the guy is pretty damn cool.

That’s also the main reason why the casting of Hugh Grant in the lead role as Will Freeman was not only perfect, but nearly game-changing, in terms of Grant’s career as a head-liner. Grant’s always been the type of bumbling idiot that the dudes love to hate, and their girlfriends secretly want to be with, that’s never really stretched himself too much as an actor and instead, has just relied on two faces: Example A and B. Yes, those same faces have somehow been able to charm just about each and every women across the globe, but it hasn’t really earned him much respect or credit, in terms of just what it is that he’s capable of doing as an actor, and how he’s able to make it seem like he’s more than just another pretty face, who just so happens to have a relatively fine amount of skills as an actor.

But that all changed with Will Freeman, as Grant was not only able to show us that he’s able to be downright funny at times, but that he’s also able to do it while being a bit of a smug prick. You can tell that he’s like a man-child with a million-dollar smile and fine collection of all sorts music, but you can’t always hold it against him, because once Marcus walks into his life, times eventually do change for the guy and even though he does put up a fight against it for practically the whole time, he never does anything too reprehensible to where we totally abandon his character. Eventually too, he begins to realize that he needs Marcus, just as much as Marcus needs him and therefore, they build a lovely chemistry that not only improves over time, but begins to get more and more real, once actual relationships and friendships seem to get all caught up in the mix.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid's slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid’s slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Needless to say though, Grant is the sole reason why Freeman is the type of character who is worth watching, but also another main reason why this movie deserves to be seen. Makes me wish he did more nowadays, but I guess that whenever we get to see him show up in something, whether it’d be as 2,000 different characters in Cloud Atlas, then that’s fine too. Although, the same can’t be said for Nicholas Hoult who is not only making quite a splash as a leading-man of sorts himself, but is also making a splash into some noteworthy people’s beds, if you know what I mean? Anyway though, that doesn’t matter because Hoult still does a fine enough job here as Marcus to where he’s not non-stop annoying the whole time through. He’s definitely a needy-boy who practically pushes himself onto Will and into his life, but you can’t help but think you’d do the same thing, especially if you saw some middle-aged bum just wasting his life away on game show re-runs.

Together, they’re great and give this movie all the fine heart and soul it clearly needed to survive. Although, if I had to pick a problem I had with this movie, it was that the romance-angle Will had with Rachel Weisz’s character wasn’t all that well-written, or even developed really. Both of them clearly try, and having Rachel Weisz in a movie, is definitely better than NOT having Rachel Weisz in a movie, but it did make me wish her character was given more to work with. At least nearly as much as Toni Collette had to work with, but then again, that woman could make even M. Night Shyamalan’s dialogue work, and sound like Shakespeare, so I won’t even dare mess with her. Yikes!

Consensus: Without ever getting too sentimental or sappy, About a Boy clearly rides the fine line between dark comedy, heart and romance, while also giving Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Grant plenty of time and material to work on their chemistry together, and build a friendship that’s one of the better ones I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job! Just stay away from those hookers and you’ll be fine.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Enough Said (2013)

Aka, White People Problems.

Single divorced parent Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a nice life, but it is rather lonely at times. She doesn’t have much of a personal life, but instead chooses to hang-out with her married-couple pals (Ben Falcone and Toni Collette) as they go from party-to-party on weekends. At one of these parties that Eva attends, she meets a Oliver (James Gandolfini), a rotund, but very charming and nice dude that doesn’t seem like her type, but she decides to take a gamble with just because she has the time and is able to do so. However, at the same party, she also meets and strikes up a friendship with famous poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) who, wouldn’t ya know it, just so happens to be Oliver’s ex-wife that he obviously is still very bitter towards, just about as much as she is. Though Eva finds this out pretty early-on, she doesn’t quite know what to do with this new-found knowledge, so instead, she decides to just listen to all of the bad things about Oliver coming from Marianne’s mouth, while she also tests it out on her own in the meantime. Hilarity, and sometimes heartbreak, ensues.

Obviously, as I’m sure we all know by now, most of this movie will be plagued by the recent-passing of its main star, James Gandolfini, and even as bright and sunny as this movie can be, it puts a huge shadow over it. Every time you’re watching a scene that he’s in, no matter how much he may make you laugh, smile, or do a little of both at the same, you still can’t help but get that nasty, but sad feeling out of the back of your mind that yes, he’s gone, and yes, this is one of his last performances ever put on screen. Very upsetting, however, the movie itself does not fall victim to such events that ocurred after filming. Instead, it is its own product, one that lives and breaths off of the good vibes from everybody involved, not just one person in particular, and it still works in that sense.

$20 down already!

Oh, I see: “The old, hole-at-the-bottom” trick. That Gandolfini sure was a dirty devil.

Still though, it is very, very sad. Okay, I’m done with that. On with the rest of the review/movie!

While most of you may already know this, I’ll say it again just for the sake of possible, “newer” readers: I am not a huge fan of Nicole Holofcener. Now, take with that what you will since I’ve only seen 2 of her movies (this one not included), but I just feel like all of her movies are all of the same thing, minus a couple of characters here and there. However, something struck me as odd with this movie and its premise as it seemed like Holofcener was going for more of a sitcom with the idea of a woman finding out all of her new boy’s secrets, problems, and negatives from his ex-wife, while he has no idea, but that’s only used as a stepping-stool for what Holofcener REALLY wants to touch on.

Basically, when you get past it all, this movie is about love and how it will never leave one’s life, even if they feel like it’s all but lost from their own. You can give up, try again, give up, try again, and so on and so forth, and I think that’s the beauty of life. Watching as these two, over-50-year-olds rediscover love and the simple pleasures of life really brought a grin to my face. It’s really sweet to see them figure themselves out once again, just as much as it is to watch as their relationship blossoms, but the movie is more than just a romantic-dramedy, and I think that’s where Holofcener sort of loses herself, and sort of doesn’t.

The reason why I don’t feel like she loses herself over this material is because she definitely has something to talk about, and for once, it’s not another agonizing portrayal of the white, liberal guilt I’ve been so used to seeing with her movies. Sure, the topics and themes like your kids going off to college, losing connection with you, and fully growing-up isn’t anything new to be touched on, let alone, heavy material to really get the crowd reaching for their Kleenex’s, however, Holofcener seems like she really cares about what she’s writing, and you feel that tender love and care the whole time. When the point she wants to get across is seen, it works and makes this movie more than just a simple story of two people meeting up, kissing, and falling in love.

However, Holofecener sort of does lose herself with this material when she seems to cram a bit too much into this movie for one’s own well-being. For instance, rather than just having the subplot about Eva’s one and only daughter losing connection with her as she gets ready to move off to college be the main one, Holofcener decides to throw another one in there for good measure, concerning her daughter’s best friend who spends more time at her place, than her own actual home. The subplot got old, made no sense, and just felt awkward, especially when it was resolved and brought almost nothing to this story, or its overall meaning. It just was included because it seemed like Holofcener had some time on her hand. That, and she was also going through a mid-life crisis, so why not include some teen-adult bonding, eh? I don’t know, didn’t work for me, but it probably will for many others.

Clingy moms, right? Like, gosh!!!

Clingy moms, right? Like, gosh!!!

Like I was saying before though, the presence always lurking in the back of this movie’s frame is James Gandolfini and for a good reason too, because he’s great here as Oliver. Not only is Gandolfini so lovely, charming, and funny to watch, but he’s also a bit of a softy too, so much so, that you actually believe it when his feelings get hurt over the smallest thing said or done to him. It’s hard to imagine that Tony Soprano would ever begin to ball-out and cry because some girl he just met made fun of him for not knowing how to whisper in a movie theater, but damn, he sure as hell had me believing! This may not be his last role ever on film, but either way, it’s still a sad goodbye considering what a talent he truly was, one that deserved all of the credit he got.

But I’ll be damned if this is just Gandolfini’s show, because it honestly isn’t in terms of performance and story. This story is mainly surrounding Eva and all of her problems, and while this character could have been painful to watch considering she has random bits of awkwardness that come out of nowhere at times, Julia Louis-Dreyfus still makes her believable enough to be interested by, and charming enough that she’s fun to watch, regardless of if she’s being a meanie or not. This is probably Louis-Dreyfus’ best movie-role to date, and even though that isn’t saying much, the girl still proves to us that she’s got the comedic-chops to make us hold our guts, while also still have the ability to come off as somebody that just wants love in her life, no matter if the person meets all of her heavy-set standards or not. The chemistry these two have is a beautiful thing to watch, and I dare you not to get a bit choked up when they share their first smooch! In fact, I double-dog dare ya! Just try!

Consensus: While most of your attention will be fixated on James Gandolfini and his wonderful performance, Enough Said is more than just a kind-of swan-song for its male-lead, it’s a pleasant, sweet, and gentle look at love, and how it will never leave one’s life, no matter how young, or old they are.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hug him! You know you want to!

Hug him! You know you want to!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Way, Way Back (2013)

Just swim the angst away.

Duncan (Liam James) is at the peak of his teenage angst. He’s 14, living with his divorced mom (Toni Collette) and stuck being with her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) for the next summer of his life. Duncan hates it at first because his mom and her boy act like teenagers again with the neighbors (Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, and Rob Corddry), but soon finds refuge in a too-cool-for-school water-park owner, Owen (Sam Rockwell). Together, they forge a relationship that makes Duncan realize that there’s more to his life than he thinks, and that there’s also the possibility of getting mingled-up with a gal-pal (AnnaSophia Robb).

Summer time is the perfect time for anybody, adult or child, to break out, do what they want, and in a way, find themselves and figure out who they truly are. Take yours truly for instance: back in the wee-bit, summer days of ’09, I was bored, I was tired, I was watching a shit-load of movies, and one thing came to my mind, “Why don’t I just write about them?” People would always tell me how funny I was when I would talk about them, and considering I didn’t have a video camera for my computer or anything, I thought, “Why the fuck not?!?” I got started on it and the rest is, as they say, history. That was all in the summer because I was bored, didn’t have much to do, and realized that I could practically do anything with my free time, even if it meant spending an extraneous amount of time in front of screens. That’s why films like these really do touch a soft-spot in the middle of my heart, because not only do I know how it feels to want to know what you can do with your life, during a time when everybody is down the beach or by the pool, getting their tans on, but I also know how it feels to discover what you want to do, at such a young age.

That’s right. Dan the Man wasn’t quite “the Man” when this all first started out, but now I’ve become one. What a youngster I once was.

Never had two, adult-men fight over me. Maybe I just haven't lived yet.

Never had two, adult-men fight over me. Maybe I just haven’t lived yet.

Anyway, what works with this flick is that everything about it feels to fit so well. The comedy is hilarious, right from the get-go; the drama is around for us to see and pay attention to, even when the movie’s being goofy; the message comes and goes as it pleases; and best of all, the feeling of summer and all of it’s positives and negatives are in the air. You can just feel it, that’s if you pay attention enough to really notice it. That’s what I liked so much about this movie, is that even though it’s a movie that touches on some real, hard-earned realities about life and how you just don’t have control over it sometimes, it still gets you happy and grinning from cheek-to-cheek because it’s summer, people are happy, people are having a good time, and people are acting like nothing else matters other than those two elements. That’s all there is to it.

But still, it’s all fun and games, and then people have to get serious, which is where this flick still continues to work and surprised me with. Honestly, going into this I thought it was going to try a bit too hard to be all goofy and nutty to get a rise out of me, which it did at times, but when it finally did get serious and start sprouting out life lessons for us all to hear, see, and connect with; the flick worked even more wonders. It’s one of those rare flicks where you can be laughing one second, tearing up the other, or hell, even both at the same time. It’s a rich screenplay that knows it’s not going to change your life or make you re-think any of your decisions for the rest of the summer, but it will make you feel a bit happier and hopeful with life, as it should. Heck, as all movies should.

That’s a true testament to the creative-skills of both Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, two guys that I didn’t think had it in them to be the least bit serious and be able to pull it off. But thankfully, I was proven wrong. Dead-wrong in fact. So rarely does that happen, and so rarely do I like to admit that it happened. Damn them.

If there’s any other reason as to why this flick works as well it does, it’s because of the amazing cast these two were able to assemble, which still makes me wonder how and when, because everybody in this flick is practically a star in their own right, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if there wasn’t at least two or three jousting battles for more camera-time. New-comer Liam James, does a fine job at giving Duncan the right amount of sympathy, teen-angst, and awkwardness that is credible for this type of character to work, and doesn’t get out-shined by the other members of the cast around him, no matter how good they are. Don’t get me wrong, he never lights up the screen or takes the camera away from any of them, but he doesn’t get shown-up either, and I think that’s the sign that we can expect to see bigger and better things from this kid. Fingers crossed, people. Toni Collette plays his mom and is good in the role because as dumb as she may be sometimes with the way she chooses Trent’s side, over her own boy’s, you still feel like she’s a nice woman that knows where her morals are and at the end of the day, won’t stop until her and her son are together, happy again.

Most people probably want to know how Steve Carell does as a bit of an a-hole, here as Trent, and does a pretty good job, because Trent isn’t the type of guy you hate and love to hate, you actually feel sort of sad for the hate you bestow onto him, as well as the character himself. Trent doesn’t seem like the type of dude that I would meet, and automatically assume that he was the biggest dick head in the world, but I would not give him another call to chill if I was around his area. Basically, he’s not a guy that you can’t fathom to be around, he’s just a guy that’s a bit too stand-offish with the way that he acts towards the ones that mean the most to him and thinks what he’s doing is right, but actually isn’t. Carell’s great in this role, as expected, but it also shows that he can do more with his despicable-traits, rather than just be a “loving asshole”. Sometimes, hell, he can just be an asshole. Plain and simple.

Bored at a dinner table filled with Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, and Rob Coddry? What's wrong with that damn kid!?!?

Bored at a dinner table filled with Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, and Rob Corddry? What’s wrong with that damn kid!?!?

Perhaps though, the one who really steals the spot-light from everybody in this movie is none other than Sam Rockwell himself, playing Owen, the water park owner. Rockwell is THAT actor who shows up in something, gets your attention on him right away, and makes you wonder why he isn’t a bigger-star in Hollywood. It isn’t that the guy’s got a bad-rap or chooses shitty-roles, it’s just that he never seems to be in something that’s big enough to really get his name out their for the masses. All of that talk aside, Rockwell is perfect here as Owen because he always has something witty, sarcastic, or hilarious to say, and rarely ever does or says anything serious, to anyone. However, when he does drop down the goof-ball act and gets the serious-shield up-and-running, Rockwell is even better with it and makes you feel like Owen’s not only the type of guy you want to be around, from dusk til dawn, but you want to secretly be as well. Rockwell is just oozes charm, and it gives every one of his characters a hint of “coolness” to them. Seriously, somebody in Hollywood make this guy a bona-fide star already! Jesus!

Maya Rudolph plays the object of Owen’s affection and is good using her wit and charm to win us over, just as much as she wins over Owen, but is okay in the role. It doesn’t ask for much, even though Rudolph could definitely give it. AnnaSophia Robb plays the object of Duncan’s affection and is also pretty good because you first see her is this chick apart of the popular, ditsy girls-clique, and then eventually shows more layers of herself and how she isn’t like them, and just wants to be herself and understood as well. Her and Duncan go quite well together and I wouldn’t have been surprised if that made it last past the summer. Better than any of the chicks I’ve dated, that’s for sure. And lastly, major props have to go out to Allison Janey as the constantly drunk and inappropriate neighbor that always has something funny, mean, or hurtful to say, yet, you can’t help but laugh at how clueless she is to what she’s actually saying. It’s Janey at her finest, and the gal never disappoints.

Consensus: The Way, Way Back isn’t the flick that’s going to change your life forever, but it will make you happy, sad, hopeful, and entertained by all of the excellence it has on-display from the acting, to the writing, and so on and so forth.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

These two surprisingly GET what it means to be a teen.

These two surprisingly GET what it means to be a teen.

Hitchcock (2012)

Whoever thought that Hitchcock was such a lady-killer? No, literally.

Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the legendary director we all know as Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), the film catalogs the various pitfalls and challenges Hitchcock encountered while trying to get his 1960 classic off the ground and into the movie-theaters.

If you watching movies, writing movie reviews, going to the movies, or just simply, love movies in general, chances are that you’ve heard of the legend that is, Alfred Hitchcock. He’s considered one of the greatest directors of all-time and rightfully so, because the guys has some legendary films that he’s made in his career that are over 50 years old and still hold-up, as well as inspire in today’s day and age, just as much as it did then. He’s an iconic-figure everybody knows, recognizes, and in some cases, even love, but there has yet to be a movie even made about him. There’s been thousands upon thousands of remakes that are all loosely-based off of his pieces of work, but still, there has yet to even be the slightest-glimpse of anybody trying to duplicate the look, sound, feel, and overall character of Hitchcock. Maybe the guy’s too noticeable or maybe the guy’s just way, way too loved by cinephiles out there, that it would almost be a cardinal sin to have a flick about him that has even one negative-thought about him.

Fast-forward to 2012, and we have not one, but two biopics based-on Hitchcock with this one and the HBO-movie, The Girl, that apparently talks a whole bunch of smack on him and makes no apologies for it, either. For me, I don’t really care to see that and instead, I’d much rather go with the one that’s most-likely going to pop-up more around Oscar season, and actually says some nice stuff about the guy who has made filmmaking the inventive and stylistic art that it is today.

Director of Anvil! The Story of AnvilSacha Gervasi makes his directorial-debut with an actual-movie this time around and for the most-part, does a relatively fine-job with creating everything that went-on around Hitchcock in terms of his personal life, as well as his professional life. Instead of having the whole-movie focus on Hitchcock’s time he spent on Psycho and actually getting it out there for the world to see, this is more focused on the relationship between him and his wife, Alma, who actually seemed to be the brains behind the operation. We’ve all seen the unsung hero aspect of a movie before, where one person gets all the love, fame, and gratitude for doing something incredible, whereas the other one gets diddly-squat and a pat on the back, but here, it feels reasonable and honest. You see how Alma just wants to be accepted and thanked for all of the hard-work she puts into Hitchcock’s work, even when he’s off acting like a little baby, eating, and drinking himself to death. There’s a part of you that relates to her and understands her pain, and even when it seems like she’s about to drop her knickers and get dirty with somebody else, you actually get worried for bother her and Hitchcock, considering they obviously love one another and have a special thing going together, that it would just be inhumane to let it go to waste.

As much as I may go on and on about how much of the relationship between these two matters, the fact is, it isn’t the best-parts of the movie. Probably the best part for me, as well as everybody sitting with me in the Press section during my screening, were the scenes that showed the filming of Psycho and just how Hitchcock made everything turn into magic, just by a little tweak of magic he would pull here and there. These scenes were probably the best because they showed how Hitchcock made everybody feel on-set, and most of all, showed us how hard it was to actually get a piece of work like this made, without breaking any laws or regulations that were so strict back in the 1980. It goes to show you that a lot has definitely changed in the movie-world, but also goes to show you that even Hitchcock had some problems to deal with his own.

However, being that the scenes where we follow Hitchcock filming on the set were the best, anything else that interrupted this, seemed to get in the way and really put a damper on things. Hitchcock has a subplot where it focuses on him talking to Ed Gein in his mind and trying to be like, and think like him in-order to get the right feel and mood of Psycho down-pat. The reason I had a problem with this sub-plot was not because it was annoying (which it was), but it was because it tried so hard to be like a movie Hitchcock would have made himself and just feels like it was trying too hard on that boat and should have just stuck with what was really going on. Screw Ed Gein, that dude’s a freak anyway.

Alma even gets a sub-plot and even if her’s is a bit more-interesting than Hitchcock’s, it still slows everything down and keeps it a tad boring, at times. The focus on making Psycho and keeping the relationship between these two still strong, and in-tact were interesting aspects of this movie, but focusing on anything but that just to create a certain amount of drama and tension, didn’t add or do anything at all. It just made the movie linger-on a bit more and have me await the moment til I got to hear the infamous “Shower Scene” score. And trust me, when that sound pops-up, the hairs on your neck are going to just stick straight-up.

Having somebody very famous and noticeable like Anthony Hopkins, play the titular role of Alfred Hitchcock seems a bit risky after awhile, but is still an idea you can get used to because Hopkins is always great with every role that he takes, and that is no different here. The way this movie paints the portrait of Alfred Hitchcock, is that he was a very fun-loving guy, that didn’t mind to get cheeky every once and awhile, and just wanted to have fun while he was on-set, no matter how unprofessional and boyish it looked. Hopkins definitely disappears into this role and gives one of the finer performances I’ve seen from him in awhile because he seems to be having such a ball, playing an iconic-figure we all know and can identify in no less than 10 seconds. There’s a certain-amount of joy and energy to be seen and had with Hopkins here as Hitchcock, and I honestly don’t think anybody else could have played him as well as Hopkins does. I think an Oscar nomination is definitely in-store for Mr. Hopkins, even though I highly doubt he’ll win for it.

Helen Mirren ain’t all that bad either, and is probably just as good as Hitchcock’s wife, Alma. Although Mirren may be a bit too in-shape and foxy (yes, I just said the word “foxy), for a to play Alma, who always looked frail and small in real-life, she still handles it very-well and comes off more strong of a person that Hitchcock is. Mirren definitely has her great-moments of pure fun and hilarity, but the moments where it’s her and Hopkins on-screen, together, it’s great to see because you really do feel the love and respect between the two and it’s something that I wish I saw more with married-couples in movies. Nowadays, all they ever do is fight, argue, yell, and end-up agreeing on a divorce by the end. Take a page out of Hitchcock’s book and realize that fighting, isn’t always the answer to your marriage-problems. Or if you don’t want to listen to him, then just go on the Steve Wilkos Show. You’ll probably find your answers there.

As good as Mirren and Hopkins are in the leads (and trust me, they are very good), it’s the supporting-cast of familiar faces that really makes this movie so much damn fun. A lot of people were worried to see Scarlett Johansson taking over the role as Janet Leigh, but she’s fine because of her instant-beauty, charm, and just overall likability that she has going for her; Jessica Biel is in a very small-role as Vera Miles, but still does a nice-job as a person that seems to know Hitchcock for me than he seems to be; and James D’Arcy is almost too spot-on as Anthony Perkins, capturing all of the weird tics and mannerisms that made the guy so memorable in the first-place.

Consensus: If you have an appreciation for the subject and all that he has done for filmmaking, then Hitchcock will be right-up your alley with spot-on performances, a fun-vibe, and entertaining bits of insight into making movies in the old days.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Oh, and before I head-out, go on over to see my post at GuysNation. It’s called ‘Movied’ and it will be a weekly-post so if you like what you see, comment, show me some love, and keep on going back for more. Thanks!

Fright Night (2011)

Thankfully this vampire isn’t named Edward, or Jacob, or any other name that those sparkling vampires have.

This film sees when teen Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) suspects that his new neighbor, the sinister Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell), is a vampire, and turns to a self-styled vampire expert, Peter Vincent (David Tennant), for help. Las Vegas magician Vincent proves useless, and it’s up to Charley to save his mom, Jane (Toni Collette), and girlfriend, Amy, from the seductive bloodsucker.

I have to confession to make…I have still not seen the original cult classic that this film is based off of but after seeing this I may just have to give it a shot.

This film focuses a lot on the horror rather than the actual comedy aspect of the film, which in ways they both worked out. The scares were here but were more suspenseful as they were freaky, and humor had me chuckling here and there which isn’t that bad considering the type of horror/comedy films we have come out in today’s day and age.

The problem with this film is that it doesn’t know whether to choose to be a comedy, a horror, or even an action film for that matter, and just instead turns out to be a bit of a mess. I kept wondering what director Craig Gillespie wanted me to laugh at, as well as be scared about because even as tense as this film may be, it’s never really scary unless it’s trying to live up “the scary factor” with a bunch of cheap jump-scares.

Another problem I had with this film was that after I checked out the trailer, I felt like this was going to be sort of making fun of our usual vampire flicks we have in today’s world, but instead ends up being the same old generic piece of junk that nobody really cares about in the end. I mean I liked how they kept up with a lot of the traditional rules a vampire must have, but they never really made that idea click anymore than it really should have. Some of this could have been amazing, but the writing was just sort of lame.

Although the writing may be poor, the action is awesome and is what kept me going for this film the whole time. The film takes awhile to get where it needs to get but when it does get there, the non-stop action kept me excited as well as the constant flying of blood, guts, and gore at the screen. I did not see this one in 3-D but if I did it was probably a total magic show by how beautiful all of these visuals actually looked and added so much more to the action of this film.

Anton Yelchin is pretty good here as Charlie, with his cool kid look and one-step-ahead-of-you approach to everything, Yelchin keeps this character interesting and somebody we want to win in the end; David Tennant is a bit over-the-top as the local illusionist, Peter Vincent, and seems like a role that was made for Russell Brand but Tennant sells some of the funny moments here, even though the dialogue may be a little crappy; and Toni Collette is OK as Charlie’s mom but she isn’t really given much as well. Oh and McLovin‘s here. He’s the man!

The best out of the whole cast was actually Colin Farrell as Jerry, the next-door neighbor vampire. Farrell absolutely just seems like he’s having a total ball with this role and totally shows the sexual undertones that is within Jerry’s soul when he is sinking his teeth into these people’s necks. Farrell commands almost every scene he’s in and makes you feel uncomfortable and not knowing just what he may do or say next. Great casting job for this part!

Consensus: The action is fun and great to look at, especially in 3-D, and the cast is good but the writing is a little too sloppy because it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be nor does it actually live up to any potential of being a new and cool type of vampire flick that we need to see done well.

5.5/10=Rental!!