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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Twilight

Welcome to the Rileys (2010)

Need a better outlook on your life? Call up a hooker.

James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo play the titular Doug and Lois Riley, a married couple whose relationship has become lifeless and frozen due to both of their reactions to the death of their daughter Emily. An encounter with Mallory (Kristen Stewart), an underage stripper in a dingy local club, where Doug only wants to pay her to talk to him, eventually leads to a cautious friendship between the two and a realization of life for everybody.

There’s not much of a story to Welcome to the Rileys and it never really offers any surprises, but it’s not boring, or better yet, all that conventional. Because where the movie excels in, is the smaller, more low-key moments in this story that make it more than just your typical tale of a sad person, helping out another sad person, who also just so happens to be a hooker. It’s a simple, tried and true story we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but writer/director Jake Scott, the son of Ridley, does all that he can to make it so much more.

"Wanna come on down to the Bada Bing?"

“Wanna come on down to the Bada Bing?”

Still, it is a pretty simple tale and because of that, it’s hard to fall in love with it.

If there is anything to be found here to fall in love with, it’s each of the performances from the key three leads.

James Gandolfini is great here as Doug Riley, because while there’s something deep and a little dark about him, there’s also something very sweet, earnest, endearing and relatively compassionate about him that makes you believe that he could do something as oddball as this. Every time the guy smiles, you feel a certain drip of happiness pour out from the screen and because of that, you cannot help but just love him and enjoy his presence on-screen. There’s no doubt that Gandolfini was the king of playing mean, nasty and downright grotesque thugs, but he did also excel at giving us characters with hearts and it’s nice to get that reminder – one which, unfortunately, we never quite got the chance to see more of.

Gandolfini almost gets his own show taken away from him though, from Melissa Leo who gives off a very natural and realistic performance as the still-grief-ridden mother, Lois. Leo’s character starts off as a bit of a nutcase as she never comes out of the house because of what happened, but as time rolls on you start to see a more round human-being come out of her and the things that she does and as soon as her pretty face pops into the story big-time about half-way through, the story itself hits a big boost that made it more of a delight to watch. It’s also nice to get a movie where the couple at the center, despite all of the hardships that brought them to this point, still do love and trust one another with all their hearts. Leo and Gandolfini, as a married-couple, would have probably been a great movie on its own, but here, they get a chance to create something lovely and nice. It’s something you don’t usually see in movies and it’s great to realize that trust is still one of the biggest elements in a relationship in order to make it work.

Oh, K-Stew. Shut up and be happy!

Oh, K-Stew. Shut up and be happy!

And yes, Kristen Stewart is also good as Mallory. Granted, she does have the more clichéd role, as whom is, essentially, “hooker with a heart of gold”, but this also helps make her performance much better and impressive. There’s something sad about her character that makes you want to reach out to her, too, but there’s also some sort of mystery, too. The scenes between her and Gandolfini’s character could have easily been creepy and cringe-inducing, but the two have a solid chemistry that truly does seem like a loving, lasting relationship that isn’t played so one can get their kicks off, but so that they both can feel some meaning in their lives.

It’s all so sweet, simple and obvious, but that’s how life works and it’s why Welcome to the Rileys works.

Consensus: The story and message may be a bit of your usual, hokey pokey, after-school special stuff that we are used to seeing in these types of dramas, however, the strong performances from the trio of leads make Welcome to the Rileys one-step above the ordinary stuff we are used to seeing with human-dramas such as this one.

6.5 / 10

Who wants a K-Stew, when you could have a M-Leo?

Who wants a K-Stew, when you could have a M-Leo?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Peeta and Katniss: This generation’s Jack and Rose. It’s true, and you know it.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, due to a con in which they were both going to kill themselves in a full-on act of rebellion, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) finally get all settled back into real life, while also being paraded around along with the upper-class, for their upcoming Victors tour. However, as much as they may embrace the glitz and the glamour of this new life, Katniss still has problems fully accepting what it was that she had to do to get in this position. As she struggles with this, Peeta is there to comfort her whenever she needs some the most, much to Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth) dismay. While everything seems to be going along all fine and dandy without much of a hitch, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) senses a rebellion within the districts that support Katniss’s rebellious spirit and words, enabling him to throw on a new rule for these next Hunger Games in which anybody, past winners included, can now be eligible for the contest. Meaning that Katniss and Peeta are now being thrown to the wolves, with the hopes that they may actually die, however, the two have a little bit more tricks up their sleeves that won’t allow themselves to go down so easily. Or, let’s at least hope so.

By the way, that IS Thor's little bro.

By the way, that IS Thor’s little bro.

The first Hunger Games movie shocked me in ways I didn’t expect it to. Before most of you out there star to stand up and yell, “BLASPHEMY!!”, at the top of your lungs, let me remind you that this was in fact the world in which Twilight still reigned supreme, and gave us the idea that all young adult novel-adaptations were to be sappy, overly-dramatic and boring love stories about moping teenage vampires and werewolves. So yeah, that’s why the shock hit me so hard. Despite its very interesting premise, the movie had a lot of baggage going into it, but coming out of it was a totally different story. Wasn’t perfect by any means, I’ll say that much, but it was a sign that the younger-generation of tweens may actually love and behold something, that is the least bit credible.

And with this sequel, that point is only proven more truthful.

The hard task that this sequel has to carry is that it has to not just tell the story, but continue to move it along as more subplots, characters and ideas are coming in by-the-minute, while also still giving the audience the goods in terms of tension. There’s a lot more going on here than what I presented up-top in that synopsis, and while some of it does seem to be a bit of an over-haul at times, director Francis Lawrence surprisingly keeps things smart, determined and compelling, even when you can tell that the run-time could have been chopped-down a bit. Gary Ross was a surprisingly perfect choice for the first movie, and Lawrence, while not necessarily doing anything flashy or out-of-this-world with his direction, shows that he’s able to transport himself into this alternate universe, where apparently all sorts of bad stuff is happening, behind and in front of the scenes.

That’s why, despite this one definitely being more bloated than the first movie, the story still works in grabbing you by the throat and taking you along for the ride. It’s been quite some time since the last time I ventured out into Panem, and needless to say, I’m surprised by how much of it I missed. There’s definitely a slew of timely-messages about “we vs. us”, and countless uprisings occurring within the lower-class that will ruffle a few feathers, and more than likely go over the heads of the target-demographic, but it never felt like it was preachy or over-bearing. It tells its story, pulls no punches and keeps the tension moving, while all sorts of other strands within this story enter, and leave at the drop of a hat.

But that’s where most of my problems with this movie came from, hence why I don’t think it’s as good as the first. See, while that movie was getting us introduced into this world, the mechanics of the Hunger Games and why it all matters, this movie doesn’t necessarily have to do that, yet, feels the need to up the stakes in a way that works for a short while, until the actual stakes are shown to us and go down with a whimper. Maybe the novelty of watching these people go head-to-head with one another in as bloody of a battle-to-the-death as you can get in a PG-13 movie, is sort of lost with what we saw in the last movie, but here, the Hunger Games felt like they were maybe just a bit too crazy for their own good.

Once again, I get that the story shows why the Hunger Games are changed up now, and why there’s more risk to be had, but something still didn’t feel right with them being so amped-up to the point of near-craziness. Don’t know if all of these higher-stakes were in the original book, or just added into the script, but after awhile, it started to take its toll on the actual proceedings of the Games themselves, and made me wonder when I was actually going to start to feel like I was once again, apart of this world. Took me awhile to get back into it, but once those final five minutes or so came up and went by, thankfully, I was brought back into realizing why this story, these characters and all of these emotions mattered.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am pretty damn ready for these next two installments, and here’s to hoping that they do what this one did, while also reminding us why the first one was such a huge surprise to begin with. May be asking a bit too much, but hey, what can I say?

I’m a movie critic/lover, dammit! I got needs!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You're next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I'd be!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You’re next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I’d be!

At the center of all this nuttiness is in fact Jennifer Lawrence who, despite the whole annoying obsession the media has with her daily-life, still gives us a stellar performance as Katniss Everdeen, but in a different matter this time around that works for her, than against her. See, ever since the last movie, J-Law has done a couple of cool things (scratch House at the End of the Street off that list), but the most notable one has to be her winning an Oscar last year, beating-out some heavy and stiff competition. She deserved it, that’s for sure, however, she was playing a more adult-role in Silver Linings Playbook, which made me wonder if I’d be able to still accept her as the young, brass and tough teen-like heroine, but in her own way, I was able to, if not more so than before. Lawrence gives Katniss more rage this time around, while also showing us that this gal means well. However, if there’s anybody to stick her middle-finger up to the man, it’s definitely her, and Lawrence’s performance never lets us forget that. Good on her part.

And while Josh Hutcherson isn’t really breaking-down-barriers with his performance as Peeta, the guy’s still charming and sweet enough to win all of our hearts over, just as much as it’s supposed to be winning over Katniss’. I don’t yet buy into their whole “love thing” they got going on, but hopefully with time. Even Liam Hemsworth isn’t doing anything special here as Gale, but he has more to do here than he did in the last movie, and he makes enough use of it to not totally be thrown to the side. However, both actors seem like window-dressing compared to Sam Claflin as former winner Finnick Odair, because not only does the dude just reek of charm, but he’s also got some pretty sexy and fiery chemistry going on with Lawrence which, hopefully, plays out to be much bigger and much-more developed later on. Once again, I don’t know because I didn’t read the books, so it’s all just pure speculation.

As for the rest of the star-studded cast that’s returning, they all do fine, especially with some new and fresh faces thrown in there for good measure as well. Woody Harrelson shows sympathy, but also a hard-edge as Haymitch; Elizabeth Banks finds an ounce of heart and humanity that digs past the outlandish outfits and wigs she wears, as the 80’s-looking glam-queen, Effie Trinket; Stanley Tucci is having a whole bunch of fun just yucking it up as Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman; and Donald Sutherland is delightfully evil and nasty as President Snow, the type of dude that we don’t ever want to see as a leader of our own country, yet, can’t help but picture in full-detail as holding that position. As for the newcomers: Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer, despite being such a strange addition to this franchise, fit perfectly as the nerdy, electronically-advanced competitors of the Hunger Games that have the brains, instead of the muscles; Jena Malone is incredibly sexy, feisty and fun whenever she’s on-screen and steals the show, just about every time; and last, but certainly not least, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee, who, oddly enough, fits perfectly into this world despite having no signature outfit, wig, color, or even a look, he’s just an ordinary, simple guy that down-plays everything he says, giving you the impression that he’s a guy you don’t know if you can quite pin-point to be good, or bad. I’ll leave it at that. See ya next year!

Consensus: The novelty of not knowing what to expect from the first one may make sense as to why this sequel pales a bit in-comparison. However, that is not something that hurts Catching Fire‘s chances of winning over its demographic, while also ushering in some new watchers, as it continues to show us why this story and these characters matter now, and why we should keep our eyes peeled for what happens in the next two movies. Mockingjay parts uno and dos, here we come!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Barking up the wrong tree, bud. Or maybe the right one? Oooh! Spicy!

Sweatin’ all over just thinking about it! Rawr!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

How I Live Now (2013)

Angst-fueled teens vs. the Military. Wonder who will win that bout?

Spoiled, US teen Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) gets shipped away from her dad, all the way to her Aunt’s place in the English countryside where she is uncomfortable, pissed off and annoyed with her surroundings, practically every second of every day. She notices that her cousins are too free-living and spirited for her own good, so therefore, she ridicules them by shouting out insults at them, telling them to leave her alone and basically just having this whole sour-puss feeling towards them whenever they want her to do something fun, exciting or useful with their days that doesn’t just concern sitting at home, listening to hip, cool indie bands and/or going on the interweb and chatting with all the coolies. However, Daisy does begin to lighten up a bit when she catches the eye of Edmond (George MacKay), a house-keeper of the family, and suddenly finds herself happy and pleased with these new quarters she’s surrounded by. Even though Daisy and everything with her cousins seem to be going all mighty fine and swell, it isn’t until a full-blown nuclear war begins and the military intervenes, separating all of them and sending them to war camps where they are practically enslaved by their own government, without much hope of seeing the outside world ever again. Daisy won’t let this stand though, and instead, decides that it’s time to escape and find the ones she was sent to stay with in the first place.

Cut out both of their faces and past Bella's and Edward's on there, and you'll see no difference.

Cut out both of their faces and past Bella’s and Edward’s on there, and you’ll see no difference.

This is one strange beast of a flick for many reasons, but the main which being is its tone. For instance, the first-half of this movie starts off something like a Twilight movie where young teens are seen frolicking around, falling in love, smiling and listening to a bunch of cool songs which, needless to say, got very boring to watch. It wasn’t because it didn’t offer anything new, it was just that it was uninteresting because there was nothing really going on except for a young girl falling in love and somehow coming into her own as a woman. That meant it was only an amount of time before things switched gears and got very, very dark, which is probably where this movie really began to work its magic.

See, about half-way through, director Kevin Macdonald practically pulls the rug out from underneath us by placing us inside this very bleak, unrelenting and grim movie about two young girls trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world that’s been shattered by death, nuclear attacks and insane amounts of war. This part of the film is where I really began to be interested, and yet, I still couldn’t get my head around how differently it felt from the first-half. And like I mentioned, the first half was as weak as could be, but once Macdonald switches gears into a sort of war, survival-flick where the tension and will to live is amped-up, it felt a bit jarring, rather than a smart move on his part.

I liked the fact that Macdonald knew where he wanted to take this material, because it sure as hell showed that he had balls to take something that was a young adult romance, and give it a hard-edged spin on its ass, but it didn’t feel right and after awhile, I began to wonder what type of movie it was that I was watching. But then again, there is that thought in my head that knows I shouldn’t be all that mad at Macdonald because at least this switch kept things interesting and compelling; two elements that the first-half sure as hell wasn’t even close to achieving. So with that, I guess Macdonald deserves credit, but maybe a whole film dedicated to what was the second-half would have probably went down a lot smoother than the sudden change-of-plans that he decided to spring right onto us.

But since that second-half is so good, it’s worth mentioning how unrelenting Macdonald gets with his direction, almost to the point of where I was actually scared in believing something like this could actually happen to modern-day society. Without getting too ham-handed or preachy, there’s certain ideas about what this world might come to in case of a nuclear war in this movie that really rang true to me because while Macdonald doesn’t show an awfully negative view of the world, he still realizes that there is plenty of evil out there, regardless of if a war is going on or not. He doesn’t dig any deeper than that, but I think the ideas that were laid-out on the table were enough for me to be fully invested in what happened with this plot, and to these characters that inhabited it.

That said, Saoirse Ronan really does come into her own with this role as Daisy, showing us why she’s one of the best young actresses working today. And heck, she’s not even 20 yet! Though she did have a major set-back with the Host earlier this year, Ronan still shows promise in the way she’s able to carry herself as this self-righteous, spoiled brat that all of a sudden changes her mind once love and war gets in the way of things. The change her character has may have rang a little false, but that’s more of the scripts problem than it is of Ronan’s and I have to give her credit because she makes this character always worth rooting for, even in her most questionable acts and decisions, which come to light many of times throughout the violent last-half.

All they wanted was an autograph!

All they wanted was an autograph!

And everybody else involved with this young cast is great too, except that none of them are really as well-written as Daisy is, and now come to think of it, she wasn’t all that well-written either, it’s just that she had Ronan’s performance to fall back on. These other kiddies don’t fair quite as well as her, which is a bit of a shame, especially for George MacKay as Edmond, the one Daisy takes a liking to. Not only is this kid written like a total dream-boat that’s as unrealistic as you could get, but the romance between these two feels more like an infatuation that would take place over one summer, rather than a full-fledged love story that would have one person dangerously cross the ends of the earth just to be reunited with the other person. Didn’t feel right to me, and while it was easy for me to sort of get by all of that nonsense and pay attention to the harsh world that Macdonald created in front of my eyes, I still couldn’t fully believe in the romance that was supposed to be fueling all of this movie’s emotions and feelings. In fact, I’d wager that if it the story was told the other way around, then it would sure as hell be believable, because what strapping-young lad wouldn’t risk his life and limbs to be with Saoirse Ronan just one last time before the world goes to total shit? Lord knows I would, but then again, I’m a total sucker for young starlet babes, so sue me!

Consensus: The change-in-tone in How I Live Now is pretty jarring, and will most likely confuse the hell out of some viewers, but once this transition does happen, the movie becomes a whole lot more interesting, compelling, emotional and important, especially if you take into consideration the world we live in now, and what could happen if the same consequences presented here were to occur. Think about it, people! Think about it!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Now, THIS is what real teen romance is like.

Now, THIS is what real teen romance is like.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Plenty of chicks I knew in high school were witches. Then again, those were the same ones who still have yet to return my phone calls/love letters. Bitches.

After his mother’s tragic death, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) re-enters high school in hopes that he will pick back up with his studies, get back in line with the ladies, and eventually get the hell out of his little, Southern town and venture throughout the world. And hell, if there is any kid in that small town: it’s him. But all of his plans get put to the side once Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), a mysterious new girl, shows up to the town and everybody accuses of being a witch and a lover of all things weird. Whether or not this is true, Ethan does not care as he takes a liking to Lena and begins to start a relationship with her, even though it’s frowned-upon from his best buddy (Thomas Lennon), to the his house-keeper (Viola Davis), and even to the mother of his best buddy, who just so happens to be the head of the Church (Emma Thompson). What Ethan should care about though, is Lena’s odd uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), who seems to have a bit more secrets than you could imagine.

Ever since Twilight ended, the most predictable, yet obvious thing happened to the world. The Earth still continued to revolve around the sun, people woke up the next day and went on with what they do usually do everyday, and men and women still mated in hopes that there will be a next generation to come. So yeah, the world didn’t turn over on it’s side and begin an apocalypse like every female teenager probably suspected, but what did actually happen out of the whole ending was that studios desperately realized something: they needed the next, big Twilight movie. Not necessarily Twilight itself, but something that’s along the same lines in terms of it’s one-dimensional characters, sappy, teenage romance, and supernatural happenings. This is what they came up with but here’s the problem: this movie isn’t like those crap-fests.

Sneaking into places that you aren't originally supposed to be in: oh, how young love gets me swooning in the moment!

Sneaking into places that you aren’t originally supposed to be in: oh, how young love gets me swooning in the moment!

And by that, I mean that the movie actually has a bit of soul to itself. Not a huge soul that may have you re-thinking what you’ve been doing with your life for the past couple of years, but a soul that’s pretty clear for you to see on-screen, even if everything else surrounding it is nothing new or original you haven’t already seen done just a couple of months before. That’s what’s so surprising about this flick is that it isn’t actually boring and it isn’t actually just a movie made to appeal to the Twilight audiences (even though it’s clear that it definitely went for that type); it was actually made to entertain audiences. Wow. Who would have ever thought that you could make a movie about a teenage romance, with some superpowers, and not have it be as boring as a snail race?

Well, at times though, the movie does seem like it’s a lot more boring than a snail race, and probably just as bad as one of those shit-fests we know as Twilight. For instance, whenever the movie focuses away from the couple and goes more towards the witches and what their history means, the movie becomes exceedingly bad. It isn’t that it’s bad because it doesn’t make sense or everybody’s just speaking in code that you don’t even dare to understand, it’s that the movie doesn’t really want you to care about it. It’s honestly just there to fill up time, make us forget about the sappy love in the middle, and hope that we actually fall for the exposition it’s piling down our throats. Sometimes, however; it does work, especially when the witches get into a battle with one another. But other times; it’s just a bore of a chore to watch.

And that’s about half of the movie right there: a bunch of annoying, shitty exposition that’s only here to add more depth and information to this story than needed. Obviously the books they adapted this movie from probably had the same bit of exposition and rules to being a witch and how, but that still doesn’t make it any more or less interesting. What looks good and informative on the page, may not look the same on screen and I have to call-out director Richard LaGravenese for not realizing that. The dude definitely tries his hardest to try and make us care about these witches and what it is that they do, but we just don’t, as it seems like the movie doesn’t really care for them either. Or, well, care enough for them to actually give them a decipherable history, meant to be understood by the common-folk who don’t quite understand witches, except for the fact that they make stew that’s supposed to poison you or something of that kind nature.

However, like I said, the movie isn’t always as bad as I may make it sound, because at the center of it all is actually a love that’s worth caring about and believing in, which is most thanks to the chemistry between the two leads: Aiden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert. Both of them together, was great to see because you could tell that they actually did both care for one another and didn’t care about what the rest of their little town had to say. They don’t fall head-over-heels right off-the-bat, but over time and through getting to understand one another, something nice between the two develops and it was a nice reminder that the central love in your story doesn’t have to be awe-inspiring to work, it just has to have some amount of detail to. Of course, my thoughts may be with a totally different movie that may have actually put more emphasis on their relationship-dynamic, but at least the movie still gave them enough development together as a couple to make it work well enough, that to when shit started getting weird with this plot and these characters; that I was at least somewhat invested in what I saw.

"Well darn' tootin' boys and gals! Yee-haw!! Southern enough for ya?"

“Well darn’ tootin’ boys and gals! Yee-haw!! Southern enough for ya?”

Because trust me, these two are the only elements of this movie grounded in any sort of reality. Still wondering if that’s a good or bad thing.

Every supporting character seems to be camping it up beyond belief that it’s no wonder why people think they’re all crazy-ass witches. Jeremy Irons strains himself trying to hide his English-accent, and gives Macon a very goofy-demeanor where you don’t know if you should be terrified of him, or get him a drink while he parties it up with all the gals and sings karaoke. Irons seems to be having fun, but it’s at our expense and it’s a bit strange to watch. Not saying an veteran who has given his life to the big-screen can’t have a little bit of fun every once awhile, but what I’m saying is that watching it does become a tad strange after awhile. Once again, don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing considering I didn’t seem to quite know where this movie was going with it.

He’s just the starting-point though, as everybody else is just as campy and goofy as he is. Emma Thomspon is another who’s guilty as Mrs. Lincoln, who seems to be really enjoying the hell out of herself, but like Irons; still seems to be doing it just by simply goofing around. Whether or not we are supposed to be scared by her, is totally up to us and how much we still wet the bed at night. Emmy Rossum is good as the sexy and seductive Ridley Duchannes, who seems to be using her good looks to get whatever it is the hell that she oh so desires, but it doesn’t go further enough. She’s a big part of the story and then, all of a sudden, gets kicked out, only to come in again. The scenes with her were pretty good, but the movie didn’t use them or her quite enough to really get her character across the board and in our minds. Except for the maybe teenage dudes who were strangled into seeing this with their girlfriends. Then, lastly, there’s Viola Davis who actually feels bored with the material, almost as much as we are. Can’t blame her though since all she has to do is talk about what witches do, what’s bad about them, what’s good about them, and while she’s at it, put the groceries away into fridge. You would honestly think that after doing something like the Help, that the gal would gain a bit more respect for what roles she’d be given, but nope; she’s right back to getting food and packing it up for white folks.

Consensus: Most of what’s wrong with Beautiful Creatures, lies on the fact that the movie tries too hard to appeal to the Twilight crowd, but it’s slightly better than that because of it’s leads and the love story in the middle. Everything else is a bit too campy or over-the-top to take seriously or really care about enough.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

One second, she's making the Thanksgiving dinner for a white family of two. Next second; she's reading witch diaries.

One second, she’s making the Thanksgiving dinner for a white family of two. Next second; she’s reading witch diaries.

The Host (2013)

In the future, everybody has weird-looking eyes.

In the distant future, humans are taken-over by alien forces that attack the minds, brainwash them, and put them all against figuring out who the final humans left alive are, and where they reside. Problems arise once a young lady named Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), is having a problem where her “human-self” is coming back to fight her, and making her do what she would do as a human. This means, she goes back to her old home-land, where humans live and survive in perfect harmony, but the problem is that she’s still an alien and people have no clue as to trust her or just kill her on the spot.

Last November, teenage girls and out-of-the-closet males all wept, teared-up, shouted, and said by to their beloved Twilight franchise as they witnessed the end of the Taylor, Jacob, and Bella saga that most people, myself included, didn’t give two shits about. But the biggest question on people’s minds was not whether they would make more sequels or re-boot the franchise, but whether there would be another, Twilight-like movie in the works. Well, the answer to that is yes, and sadly: this is it.

Apparently, the messiah of young adult readers right now, Stephenie Myer figured out that it’s time to due away with the werewolves and vampires, and in with the aliens. Because honestly, let’s face it, everybody loves aliens, even the weepie girls under the age of 18 who will most likely be venturing out to see this. It sounds like it’d be a relatively cool premise to have a face-off between aliens and humans, but that premise is nowhere near to being fulfilled, let alone even coming close. And that’s really a sad thing because this is coming from the same writer and director who gave us such sci-fi classics as Gattaca, The Truman Show (to an extent), and even last year’s In Time. Wouldn’t call that last one “a classic” per se, but compared to this shite; it’s the nearest thing to 2001 right about now.

Yeah, not noticing that much of a difference.

Yeah, not noticing that much of a difference.

Here’s the problem with this movie: it’s painfully boring. Nothing really entertaining happens here, and despite a couple of eye-candy to be viewed in the background, you may be very tempted to just pass-out and think about how great that Easter dinner was. I saw this on Easter, and could not stop myself from thinking about all of that glorious ham, corn, and mashed potatoes that I was going to chow-down on very, very soon. The problem with that was I had to kill 2 hours of my life to get there, watching this junk.

What makes the movie so damn boring is that there is nothing going on here, other than a bunch of people talking about why they don’t like aliens, who they are, where they are, and the world they live in. Can’t sound all that terrible if you have a smart, insightful script, but this movie does not have that. There are so many moments where people just start moping around as if the fact that they cannot be with their loved one is the most terrible thing in this godforsaken world. Uhm, hello! You people live in a world where aliens are constantly hunting you down, trying to erase your memory, and worse of all, most likely going to wipe-out your whole race of humans. Then again, that’s just me. Take your time with the hanky-panky I guess.

And that’s another problem, aside from the terrible script where people use sayings that would get them nowhere close to bed if they saw a chick in a bar (or vice versa), the premise never makes any sense nor does it’s happening that follow it. The premise is based around the fact that these humans and aliens just do not like each other and can’t live with one another in peaceful, perfect harmony, but yet; it’s never explained as to why. One character says because they are evil, always getting in fights, killing nature, and not taking care of the grateful word, but is that really it? Why do you feel the need to take over the whole world and get rid of the lasting-race while you’re at it. Never made sense to me, and it only gets worse once the romantic-aspect of this movie kicks in, big time, and we’re supposed to believe that these three people would get caught in a love-triangle, and even go to the extremes of kissing the same girl, seconds after the other person kissed her. It gets incredibly dumb by the end, but it was that way even before it.

Even though she's an alien, I'd still tap.

Even though she’s an alien, I’d still tap.

The only element coming even close to saving this movie has to be the cast, although, once I begin to say more, you’ll realize that it doesn’t mean much. At age 18, Saoirse Ronan has really grown into a very credible-actress, as well as a very attractive young woman (1 year younger than me, holla!), but she’s got to watch herself when it comes to taking crappy flicks like this. Ronan’s good at making Melanie a sympathetic character, and one you can always trust, but her character is the one that has the most problems. Since Melanie is an alien, with the human-mind on the inside, whenever we hear her alien-self speak, it’s through Ronan in-person, but when it’s the human-side of Melanie speaking, it’s an over-the-top narration that is always loud, always annoying, and never, ever funny, no matter how hard the movie makes her try to sound. Even when we feel like Melanie is finally winning us over and allowing us to make sense of this all, the narration has to come in out of nowhere and ruin everything.

Jake Abel and Max Irons play her possible love-interests and are okay for the most part, but look both similar in terms of appearance and personality, it’s hard to understand just what the hell Melanie sees in them, and even worse, how she doesn’t accidentally kiss one, when she really meant to kiss the other. If I was her, I’d just take full-advantage of this matter and get it on with both, at the same time, and let the future come a rollin’. That’s just my take, anyway. Probably wouldn’t garner the same type of audience, anyway. William Hurt is here as the cooky uncle of Melanie and is pretty good, but isn’t enough to carry this flick on his own, broad shoulders. And lastly, Diane Kruger is as sexy and gorgeous as they come, but she literally has nothing else to do in this flick other than look angry, determined, and pissed the whole time as the one alien that’s on Melanie’s trail and constantly trying to make a name for herself. Just show your boobs, and then you’ll win us all over. That’s all I gots to say about that.

Consensus: Even if it is a tad better than those wretched Twilight movies, that still isn’t saying much at all when The Host is that movie you speak of. It’s dumb, contrived, dull, and just plain boring, without ever bringing anything new or cool to the table, despite the promising premise may have implied from the start.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Good thing they still do DUI check-points in the future. Even if you aren't driving.

Good thing they still do DUI check-points in the future. Even if you aren’t driving.

Warm Bodies (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

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

Ghost World (2001)

High school may have blown, but post-high school, sucks even worse.

Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) are a pair of outsiders who have just graduated from high school and are trying to figure-out to do with their lives. There’s the possibility of college, getting an apartment together, making money, having boyfriends, spending time together, getting jobs, and all of that other, annoying crap that you have to deal with after the days of high school. However, Enid is more concerned with her friendship with a strange man she met through an ad in the classifieds, a nerd named Seymour (Steve Buscemi).

People may make fun of it a lot and write it off as it’s some sort of plea for help or pity, but seriously: it’s hard being a teenager, let alone, a young adult. It really is, especially after you hit that ripe-part in your life where not only are you out of high school and have the rest of your life to think about, but also realize that for the past 4 years of your life, you’ve been sleep-walking in a state of normality, without any ideas or consequences of what you want to do next with your life. I know this all comes off as very angsty and straining, especially when you know that this is coming from a 19-year-old male, who lives with his parents, goes to a city college, and makes a living off of Craigslist, but it’s the truth and that’s what resonated with me so much throughout this whole flick: it’s just like me, in one way or another.

I’ve never read or even given a look at the original graphic novel that this flick is based-off of but from what it seems like, the author, Daniel Clowes, definitely knows a thing or two about being stuck in the middle of your life and having no idea how the hell to get out of it. I was never an outsider throughout school, hell, not even life, but I really connected with these two gals in the ways that they weren’t able to connect with the rest of the world around them. They sulk around their days as they go-by, make fun of every person they see, and never seem to be happy with anything that comes their way. They are just the typical, normal, neo-cool teenagers that are way too hot for their britches and act like everybody else around them are a bunch of idiots and as annoying as that may sound to watch a whole, hour-and-50-minute long movie about, trust me, it’s a lot darker and dramatic than it may have you think.

Nothing spells-out, "Confused and Lonely", quite like two people laying on one another.

Nothing spells-out, “Confused and Lonely”, quite like two people laying on one another.

The flick never really gets down on these girls for being such a bunch of bummers, it actually, more or less, shows them-off as being true, near, and dear human-beings that just go about their lives in different directions than say, you or I. Watching them interact with one another was great because I felt like they were two friends that knew everything about one another, and loved each other for all of it, but yet, it was also sad to see at how rapidly they were changing and how things between the two become a bit hostile, once one person’s laziness gets in the way of the other person’s happiness. It shows that these two are friends that love each other for all that that are, but maybe not for all that they are going to be, considering that their lives may soon be changing, as well as their personalities and whatnot.

That “friendship” aspect is what really touched me in a way, but the whole idea of not knowing where to go when your life of high school is all said and done with, well that, really got to me. Not only is it done in such a way that’s pitch-black humorous with all of it’s insights on how stupid and annoying people who give into conformity can be, but it also done in a way where life doesn’t always hand you out questions, as if they were lemons. It’s sort of like that old saying, “You get more out of life, by what you put into it”, and in a way, that’s sort of truthful. You can sit around all day, watch movies, critique them, talk shit on other people because they aren’t like you in every, which-way, and at the end of it all, just go back to your bed and be peaceful with your own anger and self-misery. In a way, that’s sort of my life story, but yet, it isn’t because I actually do a lot more than just all of that boring, dull shite that I just mentioned. I like to be happy with friends, hang-out, go to parties, listen to some neat-o music, and just do all of the typical things that make a person happy, no matter how old or young they may just be.

That’s why the old saying that I just mentioned up there, is, relatively true to the point of where you understand where you’ll life will go if you don’t do anything with it, and yet, still expect it to give you the happiness and pleasure that you so rightfully desire. If life can’t do it for you, then you just have to do it for yourself and it’s a lot easier said, then actually done, but it can, and it will be done if you give yourself the time and pace. This main theme resonated with me very well and I love how everything played-out here in a very brutal, honest way that made me laugh, made me a bit emotional, and also, made me realize that there is more I can do with my life than just sitting around and talking shite on people. I don’t want to say this movie is a “life changer” by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one that will definitely connect with you, if you have ever felt out-of-place in the world, or just don’t have any sense of general direction of where you want it to go.

However, I felt like that main theme was sort of ruined by the ending that plays it almost a little too safe. Without giving too much away, there is this red herring that continues to pop-up throughout the whole story and at first, it seems like a sweet, little quirky touch from the writers and director, but after awhile, it becomes so insistingly obvious, that you sort of just want them to get it over and done with. It got so annoying that by the time the actual ending came about (which there seem to be 2 of, mind you), I was left a bit more dry than I originally expected. Yes, the thoughts, ideas, and messages that this movie made me think about were still left in my head, but did not impact me as much as if the film just knew the right time and place to end, exactly when I thought it should have. Oh well, not everything can be perfect I guess.

Going back to my point about the friendship between these two gals, the main reason why it works so well is because Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson are so good in the roles, whether they are together, or not. Johansson is the type of actress that doesn’t seem to get cut-enough slack, but as of late, she’s been proving that, time and time again, she can knock it out of the park and shut all those naysayers up, but here, in one of her earlier roles, she’s great. She’s young, brass, full of attitude, but also a bit different from Enid because she has more of an inspiration for what she wants to do with her live and understands the concept of, “Having money, allows you to buy the things you want, and therefore, you are happy”.

Even though she was about 17 in this, she was still foxy, don't even lie you pervs.

Even though she was about 17 in this, she was still foxy. Don’t even lie you pervs.

Enid, on the other-hand, does not roll that way and god bless her for that. After American Beauty boosted her to stardom, Thora Birch seemed to go straight for the same, exact role she played as the misunderstood outsider, but this time, with more of a comic-edge to her here, than that role. Birch’s comedic-timing is just perfect with her deeply deadpan, sardonic delivery that makes you feel like this girl is way too smart to hold a conversation with, or let alone, even be around in the same area with. That doesn’t make her the loveliest of lovely characters to watch grace the screen, but it still makes her a very honest character, albeit, a female teenager in a teen-dramedy. She’s full of angst, but not in the way you’d expect, she’s pissed at the world, angry at how it doesn’t accept it, and and mad at how it’s not making her happy. It’s a very honest-portrayal of a girl that has no sense of direction and doesn’t really care to have one, and it really makes you wonder just why the hell Birch left the spotlight after this and hasn’t really done a movie, as big as this? Seriously, Thora! Come back to us and show these whiny, little teenaged, Twilight-girls what going through angst is all about!

The highlight of this whole cast, mostly has to be Steve Buscemi who plays the endearing nerd, Seymour. When we first see Seymour, we see him as this type of loser, that doesn’t really talk to many people, have great-enough social-skills to be bothered with the rest of the world, and even better, doesn’t give a shit about anything, really. It’s sort of sad, but Buscemi plays it up so perfectly to where you really feel for the dude, especially when things start to really come-out of his soul and character that at first, may seem a bit strange, but once you get to thinking about it, realize, that maybe, just maybe, it’s what was going to happen to this guy all-along. Buscemi has such a great look and feel to him that doesn’t make you cringe at how awkward or weird he can be sometimes, but more or less, at how he’s just sad dude, who’s nice, but still very sad that the rest of the world hasn’t fully been able to make sense of him, either. It’s a wonderful performance from Buscemi that basically shows the guy can do anything, especially a comedy where he’s all about being subtle, and way, way too serious. But hey, that’s the Buscemi charm!

Consensus: Ghost World may end on a bit of a dinker, but it’s themes and central-message hit harder than any, other teenage-dramedy of the past decade or so, and the performances from everybody feel fully-realized, and never used as caricatures even though that’s definitely the type of direction this film could have gone in.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

RED HERRING ALERT!!!!!!

RED HERRING ALERT!!!!!!

On the Road (2012)

Boys will be boys. Especially, the ones that have tons of sex and never shower. Yeah, those ones, too.

In 1947, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) is a young writer whose life is shaken and ultimately redefined by the arrival of Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a free-spirited, fearless, fast-talking Westerner and his girl, Marylou (Kristen Stewart). They travel the world and meet-and-greet with numerous people, while also, exchanging in bodily-fluids along the way.

Having already gone through 4 years of high school and even dating a girl for over a year who actually read and loved it, I’m still surprised that I haven’t read Jack Kerouac’s landmark novel that defined a generation. From what I hear and see of other people who have actually read the book, it’s a life-changer and will definitely have you looking at everything around, in a slightly-different, if not more, rambunctiousness way. I don’t know if that makes me unqualified to watch a movie such as this, but after seeing it, I’ve come to realize that maybe it would have just been better to leave the book where it was in the first-place: on the top-shelf of some low-rent, book-store, for some young bohemian to pick-up and obsess over next.

Director Walter Salles definitely knows the type of material he’s adapting here, and by doing-so, has made this one, gorgeous treat from start-to-finish. Since the flick takes place over a couple of years, in many, many different parts of world, you definitely get a full feel of what the outside world looks, especially through the eyes of such youngsters as these. Salles knows how to make any scene beautiful and seem as if he read the book, had an idea for how he wanted it to look, and just went for it all, and in that aspect, he succeeds. If anything, this movie is a treat for the eyes, and sometimes, the ears because of the classic, jazz-tracks scattered throughout.

"Hey, we're just two, good-looking guys, looking for a good time. What's so wrong with that? I mean, other than the fact that we're really, REALLY close?"

“Hey, we’re just two, good-looking guys, looking for a good time. What’s so wrong with that? I mean, other than the fact that we’re really, REALLY close?”

However, that’s where the problem of this flick lies. It definitely has the same sounds, the rhythms, and the look of a movie that would be adapting it’s source material from Kerouac, but in the end, just doesn’t have the feeling. Maybe I’m a bit biased to be talking about the feeling of the novel vs. the feeling of the movie, since I have not read the novel, but knowing what it does to people, their minds, and how much of a game-changer it was, I think I have the right idea in my head to fully understand that this is not the flick that will be changing anybody’s minds, lives, or central-thoughts for the longest time. Hell, even after 2 weeks or so, you might just forget about it.

Actually, that’s a bit too harsh for this flick because although it does definitely have it’s bad, it definitely does still have it’s good, even if the bad does out-weigh the good. For instance, Salles’ direction takes a great-aim at the beautiful landscapes that surrounded these characters and the journey they went on, but when it comes to making a point about the world we used to live-in, and the way these characters get through: well, it drops the ball. You see, the movie starts-off very quick and fast-paced, then dials-down, then goes back-up, then dials-down, and so on, and so forth, until you feel like Salles is just toying around with your interest-meter and whenever he feels like he’s losing you, he’ll just throw a sex scene in there or two. Yes, back in those days, young and free people had loads and loads of sex, but this flick almost makes it seem like a safe haven for when people were just bored, and by “people”, I mean the characters in the movie, and the audience that sits-back and actually watches this.

In a way, you almost feel like Salles is just sort of going through the motions as a director, because even though he knows how to make a film pretty damn purrty, he doesn’t know where to start and end his story, on as high of a note as Kerouac apparently did. It’s not really boring, per se, as if it’s almost just a dull piece of filmmaking that never really lifts off the ground, unless it’s characters actually are, and even at that point, it still seems like a bit of a cop-out. Regardless of if you’re a fan of the material or not, you’re going to be a tad disappointed with the small-amount of emotions this movie makes you feel, if any at all. Once again, did not read the novel, but that’s what I heard it did to those who read it.

Without R-Pats, Bella or Rupert in her life anymore, K-Stew can finally do what she's always want to do: dance!

Without R-Pats, Bella or Rupert in her life anymore, K-Stew can finally do what she’s always want to do: dance!

The only, real interesting-aspect of this flick was the actual cast-members themselves. Sam Riley impressed the hell out of me as Ian Curtis in Control, but seems oddly-dry, almost to the point of where he’s just a bummer of a dude to watch. He’s boring, talks in a very New York-like accent with a couple uses of lingo here and there, and just doesn’t really have much to bring to the story, other than the fact that he’s there to take notes and eventually make the book of the story we are all seeing right in-front-of-our-own-eyes. I was really disappointed by this dude, but I was very, very surprised by Garret Hedlund as Dean Moriarty.

Hedlund, in everything that I’ve seen him in, has not really been the actor you can rely on to save your movie from total damnation as he’s sort of come-off as very bland throughout the years, but here, he totally makes you re-think that with a performance that’s fearless, fun, wild, sexy, but also, very humane in it’s portrayal of a dude that just can’t slow down the brakes and sort of has that back-fire on him. Moriarty isn’t a type of character you can really feel sympathy for because all he does is cheat on his wife (that’s bearing his two children), have random bits of sex with people’s he’s just met, get high all of the time, and not really do much else nice for the others around him. He’s not necessarily a dick, as much as he’s just a dude that seems like he’s living a bit too much in the crazy world, rather than the real world. Yeah, I know, the real world sounds boring but after awhile, this guy begins to realize that maybe he should have just chilled-out every once and awhile and if not that, then at least made sure you don’t have any responsibilities waiting for you, around the corner. Hedlund really brings the energy and fun to this movie and I just continued to keep on waiting for this guy’s presence to show, back-up on-screen for me to see.

We only get a naked K-Stew this time around, rather than a naked K-Dunst. Boo!

We only get a naked K-Stew this time around, rather than a naked K-Dunst. Boo!

Kristen Stewart plays his gal-pal, Marylou, and what seems to be another piece of stunt-casting, actually turns-out well for the movie, her character, and Stewart as well. Stewart is good here as Marylou because she gets to do more than just mope around and touch her hair, she actually has a wild and free soul to her that makes you feel as if she’s just like Moriarty, except a bit more innocent. Amd yes, for all of you guys that have been wanting to first their eyes on her whole-self since the days of Panic Room, she does indulge in some sweet, and spice sex-scenes where she does get naked and do a bunch of other, wild things, but it’s all right with the context of her character and her performance, as well. Hopefully, K-Stew can keep this going but who the hell knows where her career might go, post-Twilight.

Consensus: The trio of leads save On the Road from just being another shallow and dull attempt at trying to adapt one of the greatest novels of all-time that made people think and see the world differently, whereas here, with this movie, you’re only going to see K-Stew differently when she has her clothes on in movies now. Hey, that’s all I could really garner up from this one.

6/10=Rental!!

Still trying to master the art of smoking cigarettes while writing.

Still trying to master the art of smoking cigarettes while writing.

Near Dark (1987)

The 80’s weren’t cool, but vampires were. That’s more than I can say about this decade.

A young man named Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) lives in a small midwestern town and becomes involved with a family of nomadic American vampires. Since he’s along for the ride, Caleb has to learn to love, kill, and also stay alive as a vampire.

Whenever you hear people bring-up director Kathryn Bigelow’s name, they usually associate it with The Hurt Locker and the next, Afghan-War-setting movie coming-out, Zero Dark Thirty. Yes, the gal has been keeping her self busy lately and definitely has been impressing everybody out there with what she can do but little do people actually know, is that she’s actually made a crap-load of films, way, way before she even got nominated for an Oscar. Some people probably don’t know this, but Bigelow actually took a chance at making a vampire flick, and it’s something I wish she did today to make us forget about all the Bella’s, Jacob’s, and Edward’s. Although, it doesn’t really matter anyway because they’re gone baby! Woo-hoo!

Taking elements of a western, vampire, road, and horror movie and putting them altogether in one movie, makes it seem a bit like a bad idea but somehow, Bigelow makes it work. Her keen-eye for the beautiful scenery of the American Southwest is definitely something that makes this feel a bit Western-y, but then you add in all of the creepy, horror-elements of these vampires, the things they do to survive, and how they don’t give a shit who or what it is that they kill. I don’t want to sell this film like a scary movie, because it really is not, but what it does work on is tension and being as gruesome to watch as it can possibly be.

"If you think we look bad, you should see what the other guy looks like. Especially his neck."

“If you think we look bad, you should see what the other guy looks like. Especially his neck.”

Bigelow has definitely nailed-down the true essence of how to build suspense in one film, but also in certain-scenes as well and there’s a scene here that seems like the first-instance of it. There’s this really cool scene where the whole family goes into this bar, with the intentions of drinking some people’s blood, and realizing that they have a somewhat packed-house, so all they do is basically have a great time with it, kill people left-and-right, terrorize the shit out of the place, and have a smile on their faces the whole time. It’s probably the best scene in the whole movie, and one that kept me tense the whole time because I never knew what was going to happen next, how, or who was going to be possibly killed-off next. To say that this flick is a horror movie would not be categorizing it in the right way, it’s more of a thriller, that just so happens to have vampires doing normal, vampire-like things like biting people, causing havoc, and sucking people’s blood. You know? The finer things in life when you’re a vampire.

However, this one scene may be the best of the whole film, but also just so happens to be the killer of it as well (pun intended, I guess). See, the problem that I had with this flick that so many other people probably didn’t really pay-attention to because they like fun more than me, is that the movie doesn’t really feel like it has any real-spark driving the film along at steady, understandable-pace. For instance, the movie starts off pretty boring as we watch these two love-birds try and see who can get lucky by the end of the night, only to have the whole vampire twisteroo pop-up, and send things into a weird-spin that should feel like the film’s going to pick-up, but it somehow doesn’t.

"It's a blood-patch. What? It hasn't yet caught-on to humans?"

“It’s called a blood-patch. What? It hasn’t caught-on to human culture, yet?”

With the exception of a couple of scenes, especially the one in the bar that I just mentioned, everything else in this flick is pretty dull to the romance that never shows any signs of actual chemistry, let alone any “love” being involved whatsoever; to the corny, synth score from Tangerine Dream that just so happens to be in here for one reason and one reason only: it’s the 80’s and synths are apparently cool; to the explanation of how you can overcome this vampire disease, that made me think the creators of Daybreakers actually worked with some scientists; and finally, to the family full of nuts that I didn’t quite care about, mainly because they don’t ever seem to share any pure-moments of bonding because all they ever do together is kill, suck, and move. I would have loved this movie like every other fanboy out there in the world, but the film just lacked any sort of emotional, or compelling-drive to honestly reel me in as much as it wanted to.

Since it is the 80’s, you know that we have to have a crazy-ass performance from Bill Paxton, and that’s exactly what he delivers here as Severen. Paxton can play crazy, like no otha motha, and he shows that so well here and even steals a couple of the scenes he’s been given permission to take. Yeah, Paxton may be over-the-top, campy, and hamming-it-up like nobody’s business, but at least the guy was fun to watch and kept my attention off of the relatively lame and dull story, that just never seemed to catch-up with this guys energy.

The only instance of this kid's career being "on fire."

The only instance of this kid’s career being “on fire.”

Playing the leader of the group of vampires, is Lance Henriksen that really does have a sinister act and persona to him that makes you shiver, quiver, and feel a bit scared whenever he’s around. The guy’s got a presence that makes me wonder why he isn’t in more stuff, just absolutely scaring the shit out of more and more people, and trust me, with a voice like that, a guy can do damage to some people’s pants. The lovebirds that get stuck in the middle of all of this craziness and horror are played by Jenny Wright and Adrian Pesdar, and as much as they try their hardest to make us feel their love and cook something-up, nothing ever gets hot and heavy between one another and it just seems like another forced romance that’s supposed to move the plot along, despite us not believing in a single-lick of it. I can’t also forget to mention the annoying piece of shit kid-actor known as Joshua John Miller, who I mainly remember annoying the crap out of me in River’s Edge, and you know what? Not much changes here, either, as I still wanted to beat the shit non-stop out of this kid and just hope and pray nobody cares about his movie-career. I highly doubt anybody would care anyway, but still, I just couldn’t help my evil-thoughts at times during this movie.

Consensus: In a day and age where vampires are star-crossed lovers that are torn-apart due to sappy stories that we don’t care about, Near Dark is a fresh change-of-pace for the vampire movie-genre where they were taken more seriously, showed more gore, and most of all, allowed themselves to do the dirty deeds they were invented to do in the first-place: suck blood out of random people’s necks. It’s not perfect, but it’s nice to watch if you want to get over the whole Twilight-craze being over and done with….for now.

7/10=Rental!!

Was that seriously the only light source they had in that area?

Was that seriously the only light source they had in the area?

Water for Elephants (2011)

Hans Landa vs. Edward Cullen: imagine if this was handled by Tarantino.

Taking place in the Depression Era veterinary medicine student Jacob (Robert Pattinson) joins a 2nd-rate travelling circus and falls for the star performer (Reese Witherspoon). Christoph Waltz plays her husband, August, a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer who is as mean to his wife as he is to the circus creatures.

With all of this talk and hype about how director Francis Lawrence may take over the sequel for The Hunger Games, I thought what better way to know what you’re going to get yourself into than to check out his latest work. No, not I Am Legend, even though I wish it was.

I never read the best-seller that this is based off of (probably because it wasn’t written by Elmore Leonard) but I can definitely tell just by watching this flick, that it was probably one hell of a read with the story they have here. The story itself takes place in 1931, and it sort of feels like a film that could have been made around that time as well. This reminded me a lot of the old-Hollywood movies where there are little or no explosions, heavy violence, heavy cussin’, or CGI for that matter.

The cinematography, costumes, and set-designs also brought me back to the time of where things were harder to get and the people were a lot more sad than usual, but in the end, an honest works pay was still an honest works pay. It’s just a straight-up, old-fashioned, love story that almost played in the same reign as countless other flicks like The Notebook and Seabiscuit and rather than just telling another generic, love story that offers nothing new or original, we get something that is at least interesting to keep your eyes glued onto.

However, there were some obvious things that seemed to bother me especially when it came to the casting here. I really do want to like Robert Pattinson, I really do. I think beyond all of that Twilight shit he gets thrown onto him, somewhere lies a very talented actor that is ready to just branch-out at any second, but keeps on getting roles that just seem to put him in the same exact boat as he was back in 2008. Pattinson’s role here as Jacob (irony!) comes off more bland even though it’s obvious he is trying his damn near hardest. It’s not like watching this guy is brutal by any means, because he’s definitely a tolerable actor, it’s just that this role seemed like they needed a man but got more of a boy instead. Maybe in a couple of years down the line once he has a whole bunch of experience with some roles, Pattinson might be a forced to be reckoned with, but for now, I think he has to safely rely on Cosmopolis. For now, anyway.

Another piece of casting that didn’t quite work like I would have wanted it to was surprisingly Christoph Waltz as the angry circus-owner, August. I loved him as Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, as did everybody else including the producers who pretty much give him the exact same role, but instead of killing jews, he was killing circus animals. This is a huge bummer considering that this guy doesn’t really disappear into this role at all and just gives a character that is a little bit too menacing for his own good. Yeah, he’s supposed to be a bad guy that looses his temper very quickly and easily, but this guy is so damn sinister and effed up in the head that I couldn’t buy him once as a guy that owned a circus with a bunch of fun-loving animals, or even buy him as a guy that wouldn’t kill every person that worked for him either. Waltz is good with this role, as you would expect, but this guy was just a little too mean for his own good and definitely took me out of his character’s believably more and more as the film went along.

Believe it or not, the cast member that actually finds a way of coming out clean throughout the whole flick is actually Reese Witherspoon as both of these dudes’ object of affection. She’s sexy, cute, and has a lot of charm to her that seems to work and make you realize why she is so damn irresistible and beautiful. Still, her chemistry with Pattinson is a bit lacking but I guess that’s another problem we have here with the casting.

Actually, the one performance that really t0ok me by hold was Hal Hollbrook here, who plays the older version of Jacob in the scenes where it’s just him talking to a fellow circus-worker. Obviously, you can’t compare 25-year old Pattinson to 86-year old Hollbrook when it comes to acting, but Hollbrook’s performance as a sweet, heart-broken old man comes off as one of the main reasons this guy is such a damn good actor and one that deserved a lot more screen-time here.

Consensus: Some of the casting and chemistry may be off, but Water for Elephants is still a flick that brings you back to the old-Hollywood days with a sweeping romance, some fine-looking scenery, and a romance that we can actually care for rather than just rolling our eyes at.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White’s about to kill a bitch.

In this adaptation of the classic fairy tale, Kristen Stewart stars as Snow White, the young woman destined to become the fairest maiden in the land. Threatened by that fact, the Evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) sets out to destroy her but she is unaware that Snow White is training in the art of war with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who was originally dispatched to kill her.

After seeing Mirror Mirror, the other Snow White adaptation that was pretty bad, I didn’t fully understand as to why we needed two movies of the same story. Actually, I still don’t but I can at least tell you which adaptation is a lot better than the other.

Any parent who’s thinking about bringing their kid to a Snow White movie can scratch that thought, because this movie definitely isn’t your normal fairy-tale you bring the whole family to. Most of that can be credited to director Rupert Sanders, who’s directing his first feature and gives this flick a very a dark and grim fantasy adventure, that makes it seem like the story of Snow White was mixed around with Lord of the Rings and a Game of Thrones episode. Sanders does a good job here with everything he’s given and takes his time setting up the story nicely, to keep a certain type of tense feeling going on throughout the whole movie. We all know how this story begins, gets going, and eventually ends, but Sanders kept me guessing somehow because he just seemed like a dude that would pull out something new or cool to add to this story and keep us entertained.

Sanders is also a great visual director and although I wouldn’t say he is as good as Mirror Mirror‘s Tarsem Singh, I would still have to say that he does a fine job with all of the beautiful visuals he throws at us here. The film’s tone is not only dark, but so is the rest of film so whenever color does come into play here, it looks gorgeous and is definitely something for us to marvel. There’s one scene in particular where Snow White goes into this very magical, dream-like forest called “Fairy Land”, where all of these purrty colors keep on flying around and almost makes you feel like you are there too. What’s even better is that it’s all in 2D and it still made me feel like I could just reach up and touch those little fairies. But hey, any macho dude reading this review thinking that those are the only things in this film that look good, can be sadly mistaken because there are some cool shots of a battle where the soldiers end up being broken into glass, another forest that has a lot of cool booby-traps that make you instantly high (or something like that), and even a nice shot of Ms. Theron getting nakey, and dipping herself in milk (or something like that). Trust me dudes, no T&A, but it will still hold you over if you can’t handle all of the fairy tale junk. Then again, why would any “real dude” be going out to see this one?

If there was a problem with this flick, it was that I felt it started to lose focus by the end and was losing my interest. Once the Huntsman is in the story, and the dwarves have been introduced, the film gets ready for the big, epic brawl between Snow White, The Huntsman, and their gang vs. Queen Ravenna, her crows that she ends up turning into, and her gang. You would think that since this movie is over 2 hours long, that there would be a butt-load of tension to make this battle go off the chain, but sadly, it didn’t really do much for me since I think they started to focus on too many other subplots. Actually, they didn’t even focus on Ravenna as much as I think they should have because every time she was actually on, you could feel like this movie was going to just lead-up to her final fight with White, which it did, but it just didn’t have me at hello like I was expecting. Maybe it’s just me though, and maybe I didn’t want a 2 hour long Snow White movie. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

What I can say about Ravenna, is that Charlize Theron was a perfect choice for her and seems like she’s having the absolute time of her life just chewing up the scenery here as our mean and evil queen. A lot of people said that they thought Theron was over-acting with this role, but what I think she is doing here is quite perfect considering this chick hasn’t ever really played a villain before (or at least one that we didn’t root for). She’s beautiful, we all know that, but I think Sanders saw that beauty in her the most and gives her some very beautiful scenes where it’s just her looking like an evil, but beautiful queen bitch that you definitely don’t want to piss off.

Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart does an OK job as Snow White because she doesn’t really step outside of her comfort zones that we have all seen her play time and time again. She does have a lot more to work with here than she does in those Twilight pieces of shit, but she doesn’t really say or do much that makes us cheer her on the most out of everybody. In fact, the one I was cheering on the most was probably Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, who in the past two years after such flicks like Thor, The Cabin in the Woods, and The Avengers, has proven to be a real talent. Hemsworth not only looks the part, with the scruffy beard and grungy-type hair and everything, but also sounds like a guy that would absolutely beat your ass if it came down to you or him to survive. Can’t wait to see what this guy pulls out next.

Let me also not forget to the mention the dwarves that are pretty fun to watch here, but aren’t given as much as they are in Mirror Mirror. It was pretty impressive to see actors like Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, and Toby Jones being shrunk down to dwarf-size, but they come into the story a little too late for my liking and bring a bunch of humor that doesn’t seem to fit in so well with the rest of the flick. Still, they all do great jobs and I kept on wondering just how Sanders pulled off making all of these regular-sized peeps, seem so small. Maybe I did that a little too much, but at least it kept me watching.

Consensus: Snow White and the Huntsman may run on a little too long, but still features plenty of fun with its darkly epic direction from newbie Rupert Sanders, and a slew of fun performances, especially one from Theron who just seems like she’s having a ball. As she should.

7/10=Rental!!

The Hunger Games (2012)

The best way to have kids learn their lessons fast, is to just put them in a fight to the death. Then they’ll wise up, trust me.

In the story, a dystopic Capitol requires its twelve subjugated districts to pay tribute in the form of a teenage boy and girl who are forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. When Katniss Everdeen’s little sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place.

I must admit that I have no idea where the hell I was when this book was first published and created all this hype for a flick. However, what I did have an idea about was that it was a hell of a lot cooler and more bad-ass than that ‘Twilight’ garbage and that’s really all that matters.

For the whole first hour, things really weren’t taking off which is a problem, but at the same time I was still interested. I liked the setting this film made where the rich basically got richer and the poor got poorer (which is sort of how it is in today’s society, but you didn’t hear that from me). The setting is here and I felt very intrigued by seeing how these kids all trained for the games, how they got siked up for it, and just how they spent what could be their last days alive. However, the problem with a lot of this is that even though the film has all of this interesting stuff going on right off the bat, the film moves very slow and it’s a tad boring. I won’t sit here and say that I was dozing off at any chance, because my eyes were always watching the screen, but all of the important things said (like what these kids had to say about their lives possibly being put to an end) and important things shown (how these kids were defined by these situations), all sort of went down without any real emotional connection.

After this first hour though, the film really starts to pick up and that’s where Gary Ross‘ sturdy direction really comes into play. Ross has a lot to deal with here such as a big-budget full of eye-catching visuals and CGI effects, plenty of social themes to be shown without seeming to hit us over the head (‘The Lorax’ *cough* *cough*), and a crap load of violence that had to be bearable enough to supply a PG-13 rating but also please the fans of the book that wanna see some gore. Ross is easily up for the challenge by making each of his three different locations (poverty stricken areas, lavish metropolis-like looking buildings, and a forest that isn’t a normal one you would find in your state park) all look beautiful and bring you into this world that seems similar but at the same time feels like something you have never seen before. Ross is also a great action director because he’s great at speeding up the camera just when he wants to and bring some intensity to the scenes but is also able to slow it down and give us one of the better “trip scenes” that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s nothing spectacular or different that Ross is doing here but he seems pretty comfortable having to deal with so much pressure and so much money on just one movie by getting it done in a way that would both make regular movie-goers happy but die hards of the book as well. Good job Gary!

I also have to say for a film that has a premise where a bunch of kids are going around hacking each other to death all for their government, the film keeps the violence pretty toned down. There isn’t that much blood, there’s hardly any gore, and the violence is usually sped up so fast that you can barely make out what’s going on but when it does happen, it’s pretty disturbing. It definitely deserved it’s PG-13 rating but I can tell you that there are some stuff here that you’ll see that are pretty hard to watch but feels right to the story. It also may show us where I world is running towards with richer people looking for more entertainment in the ways of watching the lesser people practically kill each other, so you better all start working on your fighting and hunting skills.

My key problems with this film are just from a person who didn’t read the book, and probably didn’t fully “get it” like so many of you probably reading this did. Example numero uno is the whole love story between Katniss and Peeta. First off it all came off as forced, which at first was the intention but then it started becoming serious and that’s where I didn’t buy it. It practically comes out of nowhere and even when it does come around, the film makes it seem like these two kids have so much more to win for other than their lives, they also have their love. Maybe there was something that made more sense that I didn’t read but it just didn’t lock me in and have me believe in these two characters any more than I already did. Also, the little “love triangle” between these two and Gale (a totally underused Liam Hemsworth) didn’t draw me in mainly because it was too underdeveloped and didn’t really do anything for me either.

What sold me on this film though was the key performance from Jennifer Lawrence who is nothing but spectacular as Katniss Everdeen. This chick is endearing enough to where you can feel for her character, believable enough to not only make you feel for her character but also make it seem like she’s just an ordinary girl put into a real shitty situation such as this, a little smart assy to have you feel like she always has something witty to say, but also very tough where you think that she can win these “Hunger Games” and fend for herself even when things really seem like their going South for her. Lawrence gives a very well-rounded performance and doesn’t make this just seem like another character drawn right from the book, but an actual human being put into a life and death situation such as this. If ‘Winter’s Bone’ didn’t make her a star, then this definitely will and I’m glad that is the case.

As for everybody else, they are all pretty amazing too. Josh Hutcherson looks and fits the role as Peeta, and has you believe that this kid is always one step ahead of everyone else; Elizabeth Banks was goofy and flamboyant as Effie; Wes Bentley finally comes back from the dead (or wherever the hell he’s been since ‘American Beauty’) here as Seneca and gives a pretty solid performance even though he is upstaged by his awesomely-drawn tattoo/beard he’s got going on here; Woody Harrelson gives his usual witty but seasoned role as Haymitch; Lenny Kravitz was surprisingly very good as Cinna even though I had a feeling he was going to break out into “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which would have been perfectly suitable for the action scenes; and Stanley Tucci steals the show as Caesar Flickerman, the totally goofy-looking and smiley talk show host that seems to always be winning the crowd over, even though he’s a total cheese ball.

The only cast member that I thought was pretty lame was Alexander Ludwig as Cato. I don’t think it was necessarily Ludwig who played this character wrong it was just that the film basically made him out to be the most dangerous person in the whole “Hunger Games” and when they actually start, he’s pretty much absent from everything and has Seneca do more work for him. Then again though, I don’t think he was “the real enemy”………

Consensus: The Hunger Games probably would have been a lot better for me have I previously read the book, but without that, it features an inspired direction from Gary Ross, a great cast that all work wonders with their parts (especially Lawrence), and will be able to provide enough adventure, pathos, action, and themes for anybody who are big fans but also for people who just want a teen novel adaption that’s a hell of a lot better than those ‘Twilight’ pieces of shite.

8/10=Matinee!!