Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Vincent D’Onofrio

CHIPS (2017)

Cause idiot cops can still be funny in 2017, right?

Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña) have just joined the California Highway Patrol in Los Angeles, but for very different reasons. Baker is a former motorbike rider who’s trying to put his life and marriage back together, whereas Poncherello is a cocky, undercover FBI agent who’s investigating a multi-million dollar heist that may or may not actually be an inside job. The two are somewhat of opposites, with Baker being the far more touchy-feely of the two and even though they don’t seem to necessarily understand one another just yet, they know one thing is certain: They absolutely have to nab the bad guys. But in order to do that, they’re going to have to do some straight-up detective-work, that may or may not also include a whole lot of faith and trust between the two being exchanged. Baker’s ready for that, but Ponch, when he isn’t having all sorts of hot sex with the ladies, isn’t.

Hey, at least there’s always Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television.

Hollywood’s got the bright idea that what the world needs right now are more and more of R-rated reboots of old-school TV shows. Whether the actual shows themselves were good, bad, or even memorable in the slightest, it doesn’t matter – if they’ve got some form of nostalgia attached to them, Hollywood’s going to take it over and bring it back to the mainstream, but with naughtier, louder, and much more current jokes. And Hollywood can’t be blamed for this either, because with the success of 21 Jump Street, both commercially and critically, it’s no shock that Baywatch and eventually, CHIPS were next on the list.

Did either of them need to be? Probably not. Especially CHIPS, though, and it’s fairly obvious in the first ten minutes that this is going to be a misguided affair. Writer/director/star Dax Shepard, for some odd reason, may seem to have a love and passion for the original show growing up, because taking on triple-duty just doesn’t work for him. What should have been a joyous moment in his life and career, honestly may have been a little too much to deal with, as the direction itself, while loud, bright and big, equals up to nothing. His script is even worse with jokes just not connecting at all, or bordering on mean and offensive, and his performance, while somewhat charming, also feels like it’s him just doing the usual act we’ve seen from him, time and time again. And it’s a shame, too, because Shepard’s an actually likable guy who seems genuinely talented.

Why he wanted to make this movie so bad, is beyond me and it shows.

Sheeeeeeeit, indeed.

Sure, there’s a few jokes every so often that connect, but not really as they’re just the bottom of the barrel. There’s too much gay-panic jokes that are trying to poke fun at the idea of gay-panic itself, but still seem to make fun of the idea of two men being close and intimate; women are clearly hated here with barely any female character being a nice person; the central-conflict and supposed villains never make any sense, nor do they ever seem existent; and oh yeah, everyone else feels wasted and somewhat bored. It’s nice to see a great and underappreciated talent like Michael Peña get a lead role in a major motion-picture for once, but even he’s saddled with a boring character who’s main purpose to serve to the plot is that he forges no connections with anyone around him, sleeps around, is a bit of a jerk, and oh yeah, doesn’t like touching dudes.

It’s hack comedy for someone who isn’t a hack and it makes it all the more disappointing to watch this go down. Cause even at 100 minutes, the movie feels at least three-hours longer than that, with a plot that never comes together, character’s that feel false, and most importantly, comedy that’s just not funny. The only person here to blame is Dax Shepard, since this seems to be his baby, and it’s sad.

Let’s hope that he wakes up and does learn a little bit from this.

Consensus: Frequently unfunny and mean-spirited, CHIPS features an A-list cast and crew and saddles them with hack-jokes, a weak-story, and no reason for existing, except to hopefully make some nostalgia-money. And hell, it couldn’t even do that correctly.

2 / 10

Oh, what an odd couple!

Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures

Advertisements

Thumbsucker (2005)

Sucking thumbs are bad, but what about binkies?

Justin (Lou Taylor Pucci) is going through the usual growing pains that many teens his age have gone through before him and will continue to do so after him. The only small difference is that whereas most teens get by on focusing on themselves and trying harder to get better, Justin does so by sucking his thumb. It’s an odd habit he has, that eventually, his parents get him on some medicine, in hopes that he’ll not just kick the thumb sucking, but also become more focused in school. Thankfully for them, what they wanted does happen; eventually, Justin stops sucking his thumb, starts up a relationship with a girl (Kelli Garner), gets better at school, and starts winning all sorts of championships with his debate team. But eventually, all of the medicine begins to pick-up with Justin and it isn’t before long that he starts to spiral out of control, hurt those that he loves, and realize that he needs to grow up a lot sooner, but on his own and without any medicine to help him out.

Cut it out, baby!

Cut it out, baby!

Does Thumbsucker sound like some sort of metaphor for coming-of-age, growing up and realizing that you’re not a little baby anymore? Pretty much, yeah. Writer/director Mike Mills crafts what is, essentially, the 500th quirky, indie coming-of-age flick from the mid-aughts and while this one’s a little different in terms of its style, unfortunately, the story is pretty much still the same.

But sometimes, some of the same is fine. With Thumbsucker, there’s a feeling of familiarity here, but not just with the material itself – Mills does something neat in that he does paint Justin’s issues with growing up and accepting the world around him, as almost a universal thing that all kids at that age go through. Some can handle it quite well and get by with flying colors, whereas others, like Justin, have a rough time with it, suck their thumbs, and need a daily dose of whatever medicine they’re prescribed to get by and through another day. In a way, I make Thumbsucker sound like a melodramatic piece of Lifetime-trash, but it’s a little smarter than that.

For one, it’s got a neat style, yo.

For any of those who have seen Beginners or the recent 20th Century Women, they’ll know that Mills has a knack for telling a story in his own way, visually. Sometimes, this can get in the way of the material, but here, it does help it out, especially since a lot of what the movie seems to be talking about and covering, is a little dry. It’s a conventional tale that without Mills’ constant bits and pieces of art thrown in there for good measure, would have just been another run-of-the-mill coming-of-ager, but of course, it’s got that going for it.

Where Mills seems to lose himself a tad bit is in the story department, and not really knowing how to compact everything and everyone so perfectly well. For instance, Justin’s story is the clear focal point of the whole movie, but then, Mills also veers his head towards Justin’s parents, played by Tilda Swinton and Vincent D’nofrio, and then to Keanu Reeves’ hippie-dentist character, and eventually a little to Garner’s Rebecca character. Vince Vaughn’s teacher does get a moment here and there, but not his own subplot.

For a movie that barely even hits 90 minutes, it’s surprising how jam-packed this can be with story and that ends up becoming its own worst enemy. While Justin’s story is more than enough to maintain the whole flick, all of these other stories, like with the parents and their battle with aging, fidelity and staying happy, while are admirable, still don’t matter much. It’s as if we got the story of Justin, only to get to the parents themselves, only for the movie to realize that we have to hear about Justin a lot, too. It’s a constant back-and-forth that just didn’t quite work for me and made it seem like Mills himself was figuring out exactly where to go with it all, too.

Pictured: Not True Detective season 2

Pictured: Not True Detective season 2

Then again, the ensemble he’s put together is something else, so that helps, too.

Though we don’t get to see too much of him nowadays, Lou Taylor Pucci was quite the young talent and proves it with Justin. Here, Pucci has to act really angsty and smart, which could have definitely been annoying, but because Pucci plays this Justin character as a bit of a wild and loose cannon, it actually works to his benefit. It’s actually fun to watch him interact with those around him, as opposed to sad or boring. Kelli Garner plays the eventual apple of his eye and they have a nice bit of chemistry together, which would make sense considering they were going out around the same time, too, but that’s neither here nor there.

On the supporting side, Vince Vaughn does a nice job dialing down his persona, yet, still staying funny and heartfelt. If anything, all of Vaughn’s various attempts at playing it straight don’t quite come off as good as it does here and should be the calling-card he uses for future reference. Keanu Reeves, while still totally playing in his element as a bro-ish kind of dude, is fun to watch. And as the parents, D’onofrio and Swinton are good, too, even if their story could have probably had its own movie. Benjamin Bratt is around for a scene or two, makes us laugh and most of all, makes us wish he was around more.

Don’t think I’ve ever said that before, but hey, it’s the truth.

Consensus: While a tad too quirky and overstuffed for its own good, Thumbsucker is still a familiar, but also heartwarming coming-of-ager, assisted by a very good ensemble.

6.5 / 10

Always listen to Keanu when it comes to bro-ing out. Always.

Always listen to Keanu when it comes to bro-ing out. Always.

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Roulette 

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

It takes one to ruin a village. And about six more so blow it the hell up.

Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) has been taking over small towns, wiping out any man, woman, or child who comes into his way. Why? Because he’s an absolute savage and does not give a single hell what anybody else thinks, says, or does – as long as he’s rich and powerful, then there’s no issues. Eventually, he seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek, wiping out quite a few of the townsfolk there, too, leading some residents, like Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) desperate and in need of some help. That’s when they discover bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who is more than up to the task, but may need a little bit of help from some talented, incredibly violent pals of his. That’s when he recruits the likes of a gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), an assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), all to take down this Bogue, even if they have to get over their differences and whatnot at first – something that’s actually quite easy when they all have a common enemy.

Possibly the beginning of a great friendship? Let's hope.

Possibly the beginning of a great friendship? Let’s hope.

The original Magnificent Seven isn’t a perfect movie, to be honest. Like a lot of other movies from its time, sure, it’s dated, but it’s also pretty slow and takes a little too long to get going, when all it seems to do is focus on such icons like Steve McQueen and Yul Brenner measuring dicks and beating their chests like true alpha males. Sure, that’s some bit of entertainment in and of itself, but after nearly an hour of that, there needs to be something to help speed it all along, which is why when the action does eventually come around in that movie, it’s glorious and a healthy reminder of what sort of magic can happen when you have a lot of bad-asses, picking up guns and shooting other bad-asses.

So yeah, in that sense, it’s a good movie, but not a perfect one.

And the same goes for the remake, which for some reason, takes even longer to get going. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t mind that as much here, as it’s very clear that director Antoine Fuqua, is just enjoying his time with this cast and these characters so much, that to jump right to the action where most of them may go down in a blaze full of bullets, would almost be a disservice to them all. Fuqua isn’t the best director out there, regardless of the fact that he drove Denzel Washington an Oscar with Training Day, but when he decides to settle all of his crazy tendencies down, believe it or not, he’s actually a pretty solid director. He may love the blood, gore, guns, and women a whole lot more than the actual characters themselves, but he does something smart here in that he keeps the character moments here for safe keeping.

Of course, too, it also helps that Fuqua himself has such a solid cast to help him out, with his pal Washington back in action as the sly, but cool and dangerous Sam Chisolm. Washington may seem like a weird fit, but he works it all out perfectly, showing that he’s the clear-headed individual of the whole group, while also proving that he’s not afraid to lose his cool and shoot some mofo’s down, too. Chris Pratt is also a bundle of joy to watch Faraday, showing off another sense of cool and charm that works in his character’s favor, as well as for him, too. It’s nice to see Pratt, even after something like Jurassic World, that didn’t allow for him to even crack a smile, well, get a chance for him to do that and prove that there’s also something a little more sinister to him, as well.

Yeah, where's Eli Wallach? Oh, never mind.

Yeah, where’s Eli Wallach? Oh, never mind.

The rest of the cast and characters don’t get nearly as much attention, but they’re all still fine, nonetheless.

Ethan Hawke has some interesting moments as Robicheaux, showing a serious side effect to all of the gun-slinging and killing that he talks so famously about; Vincent D’Onofrio is goofy and weird as Jack Horne, a big bear of a man, but it’s right up his alley; Byung-hun Lee is cold and dangerous Billy Rocks, even if he doesn’t have a whole lot to say; Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is probably the weakest of the crew as Vasquez, never quite getting the chance to really show off any charm or excitement; and Martin Sensmeier, while barely uttering a line as the Red Harvest, is still a pretty intimidating figure nonetheless and it works.

The only shame about the movie is the inclusion of both Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgaard. Nothing against either performer, who both do fine jobs here, but it also feels like they may have been a little tacked-on. Bennett literally has a leading role here and honestly, a part of me wanted to believe that she’d be one of the so-called Seven, all sexist issues aside, but sadly, that doesn’t happen and she’s lead to just be the smart gal who, yes, can take care of herself and yes, can shoot a gun, but also doesn’t feel like she’s that part of the crew. And Sarsgaard, enjoying his time as a campy villain, doesn’t have many scenes to show off all of his evil tendencies and instead, seems like an afterthought in the movie’s mind; so much time is spent on the Seven, their dynamic and their training for this battle, that the movie forgets the actual threat himself, which is Sarsgaard’s Bogue.

Still, the final battle itself is solid and saves any sort of bad feelings going into this ending. It’s bloody, brutal and surprisingly, unpredictable, with a few people biting the dust that you wouldn’t expect to. It’s nice to see a mainstream movie not afraid to take off some famous people’s heads, while, at the same time, still have the chance to offer up a sequel in the near-future.

Would I see it? Probably. Just give me a better next time.

And no, I’m not talking about Marvel.

Consensus: With a talented and more than capable cast, the Magnificent Seven works as an entertaining, sometimes incredibly violent Western that’s a lot like the original, but also feels more concerned with characters this time, even if the villain himself doesn’t appear all that much of a threat.

7 / 10

Yeah, I'd turn around, too.

Yeah, I’d turn around, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Malcolm X (1992)

MalcolmposterSometimes, one biopic will do.

At an early age, Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) faced racism almost everywhere he went. His family was terrorized by local KKK members, his family was broken up, and he was always told that he would never be allowed to practice law. So basically, Malcolm X, no matter how hard Malcolm tried, he was always brought down to the color of his skin. As Malcolm grew older, and the troubles he enduced became more frequent, he started to realize that the only person who was going to look after him was him and himself alone. That’s why, when he was put into the slammer for burglary, he found a new calling in life. Around this time in his life, Malcolm began to find faith and discover a new voice that was always inside of him, just waiting desperately to come out. Finally, it did. Problem was, many people didn’t like what he had to say; rather than being like MLK and promoting peaceful protests in order to gain the respect and gratitude of the white man, Malcolm was all about fighting back and giving white man the hell that they deserved. Many adored and praised Malcolm for this stance, however, many others didn’t. Eventually, the latter would ultimately change his life forever.

He was a leader.

He was a leader.

At three-hours-and-20-minutes, there’s a lot of ground that Spike Lee covers. Malcolm X is the kind of biopic that knows that it should be the only biopic ever made about Malcolm X, so in order to ensure that no others come out and try to tarnish said person’s legacy, it goes out of its way to focus on just about everything in Malcolm’s life, without leaving any gray areas whatsoever. In a way, you have to applaud for Lee going as far as he can possibly go.

At the same time, the movie’s pretty long.

There’s a good half-hour or more that I felt like could have been blocked-out of this movie and made it just nearly three hours. All of the early scenes concerning Delroy Lindo, as he good as he is, don’t really work in the latter-part of the flick; while it’s trying to show how Malcolm has changed and is willing to forgive those who he has wronged, it’s also, at the same time, feeling a bit unnecessary because, well, we get it. Malcolm X is a changed man and he wants to let the whole world know it.

That said, there’s a lot about Malcolm X that deserves to be seen, regardless of the small amount of filler that always seems to be around in Lee’s films. For one, it’s a powerful statement on the act of protesting. While Lee has been known to be awfully preachy with just about each and everyone of his flicks, here, he seems to genuinely sit back and just let the speeches, and film tell itself. Because Malcolm X was such a compelling presence no matter what he was doing, when you hear his famous speeches play-out here, and the sort of effect they have, it’s hard not to want to get up, scream, and shout along with him. It doesn’t matter what color, gender, or class your are – there’s something about Malcolm X that’s easy to relate to.

That general sense of telling the opposing side to, “f**k off”, is universal and it’s one of the main reasons why Malcolm X works so well. It not only gives X’s teachings more spotlight, but also likes to show us just exactly what he was fighting and yelling for; while maybe not all that much has changed, it still goes to show that somebody like him, who was way ahead of his time, wasn’t afraid of those he may piss-off or offend. While some people may say that X’s teachings were more than just pure “fighting words”, the fact remains: When Malcolm X did a speech, you sat down, listened and hung on to every word that he had to say.

There’s nothing more powerful than that.

And as Malcolm X, Denzel Washington is, in all honesty, a revelation. It’s actually no surprise to anyone, but throughout the near three-and-a-half-hours, Washington remains engaging, interesting and most of all, believable through it all. This is all the more special due to the fact that X himself, went through so many transformations over his 40 years of living that to have someone play all of these different sides and personas in an understandable manner, to where we can still believe it’s the same person, is definitely something to boast on and on about. That Al Pacino won the Oscar that year is totally beyond me, but hey, it’s the Oscars.

A lover.

A lover.

How am I not surprised?

Perhaps what surprised me most about Malcolm X was how Spike Lee doesn’t set out to fully lionize X, his words, or even the movement he was so desperately fighting for. While this could have been an easy praise-piece where, no matter what he did, Malcolm X was always in the right and never made a mistake, the movie shows that he did, like many other humans and civil rights activists, get stuck in some sticky situations that he couldn’t get out of. That not everyone around him is fully on-board with what he has to say or do, already shows that maybe, just maybe, X himself may have taken things a tad too far in some perspectives.

Some could make the argument that X himself needed to take that extra step, just to force the change to happen, but still, it makes you wonder. Malcolm X, above all else, is the biopic that gives us every shade to X’s character; he was a kind, warm-hearted man who loved his wife and family so much that he never wanted anything harmful to ever happen to them, but he was also a bit of a nasty, sometimes irresponsible man who let his emotions get the best of him. Was he human? Of course he was. Was her perfect? Hell no. Then again, that’s what made Malcolm X, the person, such an iconic figure to latch onto: He was a person trying so hard to see a change.

Sadly, it didn’t bode out so well and most of us are still stuck, trying to figure out what to do next.

Consensus: Though it is quite lengthy, Malcolm X is, at the same time, a necessary biopic that gives power to its figure’s voice, and also allows for Denzel Washington to give one of the best performances of his career and keep us intrigued practically the whole way through.

8.5 / 10

And yeah, a pretty solid speech-giver, too.

And yeah, a pretty solid speech-giver, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Jurassic World (2015)

Next summer, just go to Six Flags.

A little over 20 years since the disastrous incident that occurred at Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is now up, running and pretty damn successful. It’s considered one of the more popular theme parks on the planet, where it features all sorts of dinosaurs, games, rides, and scientists working on genetically-modified dinosaurs. Wait, what? Yep, just like they were doing those many years ago, scientists at Jurassic World are now trying to figure out how they can make bigger, better and more efficient dinosaurs so that they can keep attendance booming over a large period of time. While the operation’s manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), sees no problem in this, one of the Velociraptor’s trainers, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), does and sees that it’s only a matter of time until the dinosaurs decide to bite back. Eventually, on one fateful day when two brothers (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are visiting the park, the T-Rex that they have hidden away at the park gets loose and decides to run all sorts of havoc around the park. Now, it’s only a matter of time until too much damage is done and nobody can stop it; something that Grady, as well as some shady businessmen, want to make happen.

Let’s get one thing clear: Jurassic World is definitely the better of the Jurassic Park sequels. Sure, that may not be saying much, but considering that so many sequels/reboots/remakes/cash-ins seem to pop by every other week or so, without seeming like any life was put into them at all, it’s saying a whole lot. It’s saying that Steven Spielberg made a smart decision on taking a back-seat to his prized possession and allow young up-and-comer Colin Trevorrow take over the reigns; a job he does fine enough with to where there’s some brief instances of a sense of fun and wonder in the tips of his hands.

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

So yeah, it’s a good movie. Is it great? Nope, but sometimes, that doesn’t always matter.

Where Trevorrow seems to drop the ball a bit is in making sense of this story to its fullest extent. For one, it’s interesting that even though there’s so much talk about the theme park of Jurassic World itself, and in how it’s trying to be the biggest, best, and greatest thing to ever hit the Earth, makes me wonder what the message was trying to be conveyed here. In a day and age we live in where SeaWorld seems to constantly be getting hit with controversy after controversy, it’s almost idiotic to avoid discussing this in any way, especially when your own movie seems to be dealing with the same problems, in a theme park where animals are held, no less.

But what’s odd is that the movie doesn’t ever seem to know what sort of stance it wants to take. We don’t know if we’re supposed to feel pity for the genetically-modified dinosaurs and how they’re just acting out the way they would be, had they not been so held in captivity for so long, or if we’re supposed to feel bad for the human beings who are just trying to run away and save their own lives. In the original film, it was clear that we’re supposed to care for the humans, but also realize that the dinosaurs were acting out in menacing ways that made them deserve to be put down. Trevorrow and company, for some odd reason, constantly juggle between the two and it creates a weird jumble that never seems to be fully pinned-down.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of how the characters, despite the lovely cast playing them, are a bit on the bland side. One of the hottest, brightest, talented and most charming stars we have working in movies today, Chris Pratt, is given the hero role as Owen Grady and it doesn’t seem like it fully goes as deep as it should have. Sure, Pratt gets a chance to use some lines, look tough and constantly seem like he’s always in control, but he plays it in such a way that’s almost too straight; as if he was just playing Burt Macklin, through and through, and forgetting to drop out of character. Of course, this may have more to do with the writing that was made for him, which is a shame, but it puts into question as to why the writers didn’t decide to give Pratt, one of the funnier men in movies today, at least a joke or two to work with?

Just seems weird, is all.

Who is it that's supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham's daughter?

Who is it that’s supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham’s daughter?

Bryce Dallas Howard is sort of in the same boat as Pratt, where her character seems like she’s just window-dressing to a lot of action and a random romantic subplot that seems to come a tad bit out of nowhere. Then, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson play her nephews who seem to be there to yell, run and scream a whole lot; Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, who will occasionally sound like he has a Southern accent, and then, suddenly, drop out of it; and well, there’s plenty more along the likes of Omar Sy, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus, Irrfan Khan, and B.D. Wong, all of whom do what they can, but aren’t always given much to work with because of the visual-display on hand.

With that said, too, the movie itself is actually all fine. There’s just been so many complaints about the characters that it felt like it needed to be addressed, because while they’re definitely lame, they don’t destroy the movie. It’s still a fun time, which seems to be because Trevorrow still knows what it’s like to watch a movie as a kid – just as Spielberg seems to have always intended with his movies.

Though some moan and complain about the fact that the movie takes about an hour to get to any sort of dinosaur action, or any action of any sort, for that matter, it still seemed to work for me, the same way it did for me in Godzilla. Whereas that movie kept us in the dark about what it prized-attraction looked like and was capable of doing, Jurassic World seems to understand that we know what its star looks like and can do, however, when it’ll come into play is what really makes the anticipation all the more worth it. Once the T-Rex is unleashed and all hell breaks loose, the movie still keeps its fun tone alive and well, but at the same time, still terrifying to where it doesn’t seem watered-down like most PG-13 movies can be, especially when they’re made for a larger audience.

So basically, come to this one for all of the action and fun, don’t bother even taking a glance at the characters; you’ll only leave pissed-off.

Consensus: Though definitely lacking in the story and character department, Jurassic World benefits from a fun and exciting feel that makes it a summer blockbuster worth checking out, even if the “other” sequels still leave rancid tastes in your mouth.

7 / 10

Meh. Whatever.

Meh. Whatever.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Run All Night (2015)

No kidnappings. Just running. For a whole night, too. In case you couldn’t tell.

Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is an aging hitman that doesn’t really have much to live for. He’s a drunk, lazy and an overall embarrassment to himself, as well as to those around him. However, he’s a good childhood friend of the boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), so nobody messes with him; they just let him go about his day to where he mostly ends up in a pool of his own piss and vomit. But, the one aspect of his life that keeps Jimmy alive is his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman); someone who wants nothing to do with Jimmy. That’s why, when Mike is thrown into a situation where Maguire’s son (Boyd Hollbrook) shoots and kills somebody in front of him, he goes right to his dad. Jimmy knows that he needs to hash these things out with Shawn before they get way too out of hand and everybody involved ends up dead, but what starts off as a promising compromise, soon goes awry once Maguire’s son is shot and killed by Jimmy, because he was going after Mike. Now, both Mike and Jimmy aren’t only the run from Shawn and his people, but every cop within the New York City police department. It’s gonna be a long night for these two, which means that they might have to let bygones, be bygones.

Say what you will about Liam Neeson and the direction he’s career has been heading in since Taken: The dude’s making more than enough money for most 60+ actors out there, not to mention that the movie’s he participates in, aren’t all that bad. Sure, take away Unknown and especially the recent Taken movie, and you’ve got a pretty solid track-record, for somebody who’s screen-presence was practically dead in the ground no less than a decade ago.

"Just saying, mine's a lot bigger. And I'm not just talking about the lobster we just had."

“Just saying, mine’s a lot bigger. And I’m not just talking about the lobster we just had.”

That said, there’s something about Run All Night that I’m just not too sure about yet. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it mediocre? Is it so trashy that it’s supposed to be bad on purpose? Or, is it just so self-serious that eventually, after much male-posturing and dick-measuring between the characters and yourself, you learn to accept it for what it is and run along with what it does?

Sure, I guess you could. But to be honest, I’m still racking my head over this movie.

So, with that said, this review’s going to be a tad bit weird. Because though Run All Night can be fun and rather intense at times, there’s still a muskiness to it all that makes me feel like it’s the kind of movie made strictly for guys who love it when bad dudes, do bad things to one another, and talk bad to each other about how they’re going to eventually do all of these bad things to one another when they actually shut the hell up and get on with. But then it gets all serious with its heartfelt story about dads, sons, the old times vs. the new times, and how the golden-age of the mob is all gone by now.

So, whatever this movie was going for here, I’m not too sure. All that I know is that it wants to have its cake, eat it, too, but if nobody’s watching, possibly go the bakery and get another cake, in which they would consume that as well. At times, it’s a thrilling piece where the action sequences actually seem like they could go anywhere, literally at any second, but then at others, it tries to water it all down by being about family, and love, and sons, and brothers, and mothers, and fathers, and all that sappy crap that, quite frankly, is made for a whole other movie. Not the kind of one that features a stealthy, overly-athletic hitman (played by Common), who goes around literally killing anybody who walks in his way of his target, without ever worry about racking up too much of a kill-count that would have him easily identified as public enemy #1.

But hey, it’s a Liam Neeson! So ‘eff all logic!

Which, yes, I am perfectly fine with in a movie like, I don’t know, say Non-Stop (another movie that just so happened to star Neeson and be directed by Jaume Collet-Serra). That movie wasn’t perfect and it sure as hell had plot-holes that needed some more tending to in the writer’s room, but it didn’t take itself too seriously, nor did it try to be something that it wasn’t; it was just another goofy, over-the-top, Liam Neeson-starer that was going to take its story wherever it pleased. Here, Run All Night wants to be fun, unpredictable and wild, which it sometimes is, but when it focuses on its story and its deeper-meanings, it feels odd.

Not that a story like this can’t have anything deeper or more meaningful to say, but when most of that just revolves solely around the fact that one guy was a crummy dad his whole life and only just decided to change his ways once his son’s life was in the balance, it doesn’t seem worthy. It seems tacked-on, so the directors didn’t feel guilty about all of the bloodshed. They want to make these lives have some sort of meaning, but by doing so, they’re taking away the electricity of what makes these kinds of movies so fun in the first place.

Holder playing Holder. And no Linden. Boo.

Holder playing Holder. And no Linden. Boo.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just a heartless person with no soul.

Though, no matter how lame these movies can sometimes get, there’s no denying that Liam Neeson does a fine job in them and here, there’s no difference. Jimmy Conlon is a sad excuse for a human being, but as the movie goes on and his character develops, we see a smart, wise man who has come to a crossroads in his life and genuinely wants to make good. The character is written this way, so of course I had to believe it, but had the movie just left this idea up to us, the viewer, it still would have worked because of Neeson’s portrayal of a man who wants to do good, yet, doesn’t know how to make up for his sketchy past well enough to where all can be forgiven.

Also, giving Neeson some seasoned-pros like Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Nick Nolte (who is in it for maybe two minutes), brings a certain amount of dramatic-heft to the proceedings, although some of it can be a bit cheesy after awhile. Harris is a solid actor at playing these mean, sometimes despicable crime-bosses, but here, he seems like he’s doing a parody of those characters he’s so well-known for, which makes the scenes with him and Neeson entertaining, but also slightly teetering on over-the-top. Which, yet again, wouldn’t have been such a problem had the movie realized that it didn’t need to be so serious all of the time and should have just embraced its hardcore, overtly-violent goofiness. And yet, we have a movie where people are killed, blood is shed, and tears run down cheeks.

Wait, this is a Liam Neeson movie I’m talking about here, right?

Consensus: The grimy action is fun and intense, but for the most part, Run All Night also wants to be a heartfelt story about broken relationships and even more broken people, and tries to mistaken itself for something that isn’t another Liam Neeson action flick.

4.5 / 10 

"Time to run."

“Come on son, time to run………………all night.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Judge (2014)

Usually it’s the dad bailing the son out of jail, not the other way around. But hey, I’m not from the South, so whatever!

Henry “Hank” Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a hotshot lawyer who always defends the obviously-guilty, and somehow, always ends up winning. However, his shattered personal life is starting to catch up with his successful professional-career, when he hears news of his mother’s passing. This puts him on a journey to go back to where he started from; which, in this case, would be the small town of Carlinville, Indiana where, unsurprisingly, his estranged father (Robert Duvall) is still the town’s respected judge. But see, even his personal life begins to catch up with him when, on one fateful night, the Judge supposedly runs over and kills the town degenerate. And normally, nobody would care, because the guy was a total prick, but the family does and they’re taking the Judge to court! Not to mention, they’ve equipped themselves with one of the meanest, cruelest lawyers in the world, Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton). This seems like the perfect opportunity for Hank to stand up and defend his father, but since their relationship isn’t the most ideal, he hesitates. That is, until he realizes that maybe his father needs him, and now, more than ever before for reasons that will shock and shape his life, whether he wants to accept it or not.

So while this movie seems like total Oscar-bait from the plot, to the cast, and even to the subject-matter itself (courtroom genres are usually a big plus in the eyes of the 80-90-year-old Academy voters), there’s just one big element keeping it away from making that a reality: Director David Dobkin. Sure, to some, the name may not mean much. Well, let me put it in terms to make you understand: Dobkin is the director of such hits as Wedding Crashers, the Change-UpShanghai Knights, and Fred Claus.

Judge1

“Vera Farmiga with arm-tat” is totally “slumming it”.

Yes. Fred freakin’ Claus, everybody! The movie still finds a way to pop-up in everybody’s head, even if it’s as relevant as a box of Chia Pets.

And while at least more than half of those movies are fine, entertaining-pieces of cinema, they’re mostly all, immature, R-rated comedies that make people stand up, laugh, hit themselves silly, go home, and continue on with their everyday lives, but now continuously quote “that hilarious movie they saw with their buddies last weekend”. Those are the same kinds of people that, mind you, don’t really seem like they’d be all that enthused by the Judge, even if it does have a few of those “hee hee” moments.

But then again, I can’t hate on a director who wants to actually branch-out and try something new for once. Sometimes, the most unique movies come from those creators who were pigeon-holed as being a director of one certain genre and sticking to it, and decided to tell the world to “kiss off” and do something different, regardless of how much it would set people back. Though I’m drawing blanks on a few examples, I know they’re out there! But sadly, David Dobkin’s the Judge won’t be joining that list because this is a mess, and understandably so. Dobkin is a director that’s too inclined to just throw in a poop or fart gag, so that when he has to deliver on these strong, compelling moments of drama, they don’t quite mesh so well with the many scenes we get in which we think Downey’s character has possibly hooked up with his own biological daughter.

Not only does this create a jumble between tones, but it makes you wonder what could have happened, had the Judge been given a director that’s more comfortable with both sides of the table. Because, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, there are a few scenes of drama that are well-done and make some of this material, as well as the characters, slightly interesting. But then, moments later, after this touching scene has occurred, Dobkin will make a kind-of-a-joke about how Duvall’s character is incapable of controlling his bowels. And no, I am not kidding you, some of that is actually played up for a joke and it feels oddly-placed.

And that’s pretty much how the whole film is: Sometimes interesting, sometimes not. Most of this is because Dobkin isn’t all that capable of handling drama and comedy together, and also, because his movie just gets more and more conventional as it runs on along. Which was fine because I knew it was going to turn into that after a certain while, but nearly two-and-a-half-hours of waiting till a conclusion that we can already pin-point from a mile away, is a bit too much. Especially when one has to deal with all of the rough patches Dobkin goes through in order to build up to the predictable climax.

But if anything, the Judge makes you wish this kind of high-caliber cast had been given a better movie, because mostly everybody here is good, and sometimes, trying way harder than they need to. Though Robert Downey Jr. is, essentially, playing the same snarky character we’ve seen him do since the beginning of his career, there’s something slightly refreshing in seeing it done now, as an actual person, rather than as Tony Stark, or Sherlock Holmes. Not saying that either one of those characters are bad, but if it came down to RDJ having to play human beings for the rest of his life, as opposed to multi-million-dollar franchise “names”, I’d be happy with him just being Charlie Chaplin again.

RDJ just can't handle this right now. Like OMG.

RDJ just can’t handle this right now. Like OMG.

As long as he stays away from the drugs, that is.

Same goes for Robert Duvall, an actor who, because I haven’t seen him in quite some time, totally left my mind as being a capable actor. But here he is, pushing 83 and giving a good performance as the grumpy curmudgeon that is our titled-character. Though most of the movie is Duvall growling and looking pissed, the scenes he has with Downey Jr. feel like they come from a soft spot in both of their hearts, and to me, really struck a chord. Even if the rest of the movie was manipulative, over-stuffed, over-long, jumbled, and messy, these two being on screen together and just acting their behinds off was more than enough for me.

That said, David Dobkin should just stick to hand job-gags. Those seem to work out best for him in the end.

Consensus: Despite a strong cast trying with everything each and everyone of them have got, the Judge turns out being a jumbled-up mess of comedy, drama, family-dynamics, courtroom arguments, and ill-placed jokes, all coming to a predictable end.

 5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Grrrrrrrr!"

“Grrrrrrrr!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Charlie Countryman (2013)

Next time, check if the chick you fall in love with has any connections to the mob whatsoever.

After his mother (Melissa Leo) dies, aimless young-adult Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) gets a message from her ghost that she wants him to travel to Bucharest, Romania. Seeing as how he doesn’t have much to do with his everyday life in the states, Charlie complies and gets on a plane, where he meets a spirited old Romanian named Victor (Ion Caramitru). The two hit off, but not before long, Victor ends up dying on the plane. But just as soon as the plane lands, Victor’s ghost tells Charlie to give his daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) a gift he had planned on giving her in the first place. Charlie, once again, complies in doing so and realizes that not only is Gabi a sad, young and tortured soul, much like his own, but he’s damn well he’s certain he’s in love. However, as in love as Charlie may be with Gabi, he soon realizes that it almost can never come true as she’s also involved with a psychopathic mobster by the name of Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen). No matter what though, Charlie won’t let anything get in the way of his true love, even if that does mean a lot of getting his beaten to death and running.

Charlie Countryman is such an easy target to pick on. So much so, that I just knew I had to cut it some slack. Seeing as this is the type of flick that loves it style, rather than its actual story, that makes it incredibly easy to nit-pick at and throw out certain words like “pretentious”, “artsy”, or even “dumb” at it. However, I feel like if you know that this movie is going to be all about the look and feel, rather than what it’s telling us, then you just have to sort of roll with the ball. Is that so hard to do in the first place? Is it?

Michael Bay approves.

Michael Bay would like to credit.

I don’t know. But what I do know is that this is one hell of a stylish movie, albeit, a very random one. May not be hard to imagine this after seeing the movie itself, director Fredrik Bond comes from a long line of commercials and yes, it does very much show. First of all, the actual filming in Bucharest really makes it feel like its own character that just sits in the background, watches as these characters do live their lives, make mistakes, make good choices, have fun and just overall, have a good time whenever they can. Bond’s gritty and raw look inside this area of Romania really brings you deep inside a place you’d never thought you get a good look at, ever, but somehow, you do and you end up falling in love with it.

Maybe that was just me, and if that’s the case, then whatever, I’m fine with that. Because while I do realize that Bond definitely doesn’t seem to really infuse much heart into this story, it’s about what’s all happening around it that matters. Of course, Bond does juggle more than he can actually handle (the movie itself is a fusion between rom-com, drama, action, thriller, and sometimes even neo-noir), but the ambitions, to me, felt deserved as it showed that he was able to fall back-on some very smart stylistic choices that surprised me and thrilled the hell out of me as I was watching.

For instance, there’s a scene that occurs practically out of nowhere that revolves around Charlie running away from a gang of thugs, all throughout the dirty streets and terminals of Bucharest. The camera continues to race all along as we watch Charlie jump, dive and move all around these streets, all in effective slo-mo, while in the background, some rave vibes are playing, just adding more of a fun feel to the whole scene. Hard to explain the scene without giving it all away, but it was definitely the high-light for me, as it easily brought me back into the story once I felt like it lost me, and it also showed that Bond himself had some true motivations behind-the-screen, even if they didn’t show up in the screenplay.

And since I’m making so many mentions of the lame screenplay, I think it’s time to actually focus on it and let you know, it may not be as bad as I may make it seem, it just doesn’t really seem to be the main objective in anybody’s eyes here. Which, like I said before, is fine because of the stylish direction working with it, but does end up causing a problem for the movie’s main sell: The love story between Charlie and Gabi. See, we get that Charlie is head-over-heels in love with this Gabi chick, and feels the same way she does about life, but never fully feel like he’s in love with her, nor that they are the star-struck lovers that would fight to the death just to be with one another for the rest of each other’s lives. There’s plenty of scenes of them running around the streets, happy, sometimes holding hands and kissing, but they can only go so far until we realize that the romance itself is a bit shallow, and under-cooked. Which, ultimately, leads us to the problem that even when the idea that their romance is being threatened by these outside, way powerful sources, it doesn’t really hit us as hard as it should, and just makes us feel bad for Charlie himself, and less about the romance between him and Gabi.

Shia's got it. It's not like Mads ever messed with anybody's balls before....

Shia’s got it. I mean, it’s not like Mads ever messed with anybody’s balls before….

But the reason why we do care so much about Charlie is that because Shia LaBeouf really does seem like he’s passionate about making this character work, and the effort pays off well. LaBeouf has never been anybody’s favorite cup of tea, and while he’s always been mine, it makes me happier and happier each day to see him just play around with his self-image, take roles that challenge his ass two-ways-from-Saturday and continue to just show us his abilities as an actor. Of course everybody’s going to have to wait and see what he’s FULLY capable of in Nymphomaniac, but here, as Charlie Countryman, LaBeouf gives you the idea that he not only wants to be Charlie, but he actually is Charlie. You feel bad for this small, sheepish guy because you know he means well and just wants to be loved, but still can’t get past the fact that he’s fallen for the wrong girl, and is basically in the wrong situation right from the start. Once shit does begin to hit the fan, and we see Charlie’s life practically crumble all around him, he’s the one we care about the most and want to see live for the rest of his days. This is all thanks to LaBeouf’s determinism to make Charlie, not just as a movie character, but as person, to work and be believable, and it works. Good for him, and good for us.

Despite her character not being as interesting, or even likable as LaBeouf’s, Evan Rachel Wood still does a fine job as Gabi, even if it is clearly obvious that the odds are stacked against her and that poor accent of hers. Also, her character does seem like your traditional “troubled, young girl can’t get out of slum world she used to be apart of”-role that so many attractive actresses take, and still can’t seem to make believable. Mads Mikkelsen plays her crazy and violence-driven ex-hubby, Nigel, giving us the type of sadistic bastard we all know and usually see him as. Since he and Charlie make such good counter-parts, it’s easy to want to see their final-duel, even if it’s pretty obvious who’d win in that brawl. Though, who knows? Maybe Shia would pull off the upset. Just ask Tom Hardy.

 Consensus: More style here, than actual substance with Fredrik Bond behind-the-mantel of Charlie Countryman, but somehow, it still works in giving us a somewhat compelling story, with more than a few good performances from the cast, especially a very inspired Shia LaBeouf.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So in love, we can't even see 'em.

Never date a chick who has shorter hair than you. More problems ensue than just the ones you may, or may not have with the local mafia.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Escape Plan (2013)

Imagine joining a prison gang with these two. Yeah, you better not screw up. EVER.

In order to deem whether or not prisons are “inescapable”, Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) takes the hard job of getting thrown into these prisons, and actually test out whether or not he can use whatever trick in his books to escape. He’s been to plenty in his life, has escaped them all, and better yet, has even writing a book telling prison owners how not to get caught up in the same kind of funk most of these other owners find themselves in. However, Breslin may have meet his biggest, toughest, and possibly, even final match when he gets thrown into a full-scale prison that’s mysteriously so off-the-books and hidden, that nobody has a clue that it exists. That’s how the warden (Jim Caviezel) likes it and wants it to stay, by any means possible. But once Breslin gets acquainted with fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), then he knows he’s going to have stack up on everything from security, protection, and most of all, his power.

The pairing of Sly and Ahnuld may have seemed like a pipedream for most Hollywood executives back in the 80’s and 90’s, but now, over 2 decades later and with both gentleman verging on the age of 70, now is as good a time as ever! And yes, before any of you do get all up in my grill about how they both appeared together on the same-screen in the two Expendables movies, they don’t necessarily count. Yes, they show up on-screen together for a bit and throw winks and head-nods towards one another, but they aren’t really substantial roles or time-limits where you can feel like you’re 10-year-old’s boy dreams have come true right in front of your own very eyes.

When he isn't punching meat, Rocky working on his mime.

When he isn’t punching meat, Rocky working on his mime.

However, now you can have those dreams come true, regardless of if you’re way into your 30’s/40’s or not. Either way, it’s Arnie and Sly together, for a full movie! And while Sly does get the bigger role of the two, there’s still plenty of celebration needed to be had here because not only do the two seem like they really do enjoy working with one another, but also seem to have really invested themselves in this material, that it doesn’t feel like a 2-hour-long joke like the Expendables movies do. Instead, this somehow feels like a long lost action film the two could have made during the peaks of their fame in the late-80’s-mid-90’s, and it works.

While the movie does feel like it is a bit too serious for its own good, you still get the feeling that everybody involved set out to make a fun, dumb, and obviously implausible movie that could only be made with action legends at the helm such as these two. Together, they make good use of the time that they have together and while they don’t get to shoot as many guns as they may have wanted to, you still get the feeling that you’re not missing out on something either. You know that the plot will start to move, and once it does, the tension will pick up and so will the action, violence, blood, and all of that fun stuff. Like I said, it made me feel like I was watching a serious, but respectively made action film either of these two could have made back in their golden days, and it did a great deal for the material and made it more fun to watch, rather than just joking the whole time.

Now, that said, it IS an Arnie and Sly team-up, which means you’re definitely not going to get the smartest material out there, but then again, I don’t really know if that’s the point here. The whole idea of getting out of this prison seems pretty far-fetched, but the whole idea of an underground prison where all of these dangerous people are left not having any clue where they are at and forced to live out the rest of their days in total and complete solitary confinement, seems pretty far-fetched. However, the movie milks it for all that it’s worth and I was taken for a few of the twists and turns this movie comes up with out of nowhere. That may have been the case because they were so stupid and random that nobody, not even the writer himself, could even predict it; however, I was all game for those types of surprises because it just added more and more to my overall enjoyment of this movie.

Before I go any further though, it should be noted that Sly and Arnie, for their first, full-length team-up, don’t crap out on any of us wanting the best from these two, even if their acting skills sort of have rusted-up a lot in the past few years. Listening to these two have a conversation, whether it be about the next step in their escape plan, or just a simple session of shooting the breeze, you’ll scratch your head in wonderment of what the hell it is that they are saying, and also, why every line had to be a pun. I get that this is the best way these two can get a reaction out of the crowd that isn’t full of anger or cheers, but seriously, have a normal conversation every once and awhile, would ya?!!? Maybe that’s just me asking too much from a movie like this, and if that’s the case, I do apologize. Not just to you, the reader, but to both Arnie and Sly as well, seeing as they couldn’t hold back their internal joy and happiness of being able to work together for a single second here. But the energy is palpable and you can’t help but fall in line once the going gets going.

"Say what about me playing Jesus?"

“Say what about me playing Jesus?”

Luckily for those two hooligans though, is that when we aren’t too busy listening to them slurring their words like my Uncle Johnny on a Tuesday evening, the supporting cast is taking full-control in giving all that they got with this scrappy material. Some better than others, but hey, what do you expect from a script this dumb? 50 Cent, not Curtis Jackson, is actually funny playing Breslin’s most trusted and loyal co-worker, finding any hint or clue that may lead him to be reunited with his bud; Amy Ryan is hot, spicy and fun as the only important female in this whole flick filled with ungodly amounts of testosterone, but she holds her own, like she always does; Vincent D’Onofrio is slimy and a bit of a dick as Breslin’s boss, but with that bit of casting, I bet you already expected that, and last, but certainly not least, we have Jim Caviezel as the sick, twisted, and slightly sadistic warden of this new prison Breslin gets thrown into.

Ever since he was crucified all of those years ago, Caviezel hasn’t really shown his face around much, yet, still did enough work to where we knew he was in fact, alive, well, and still working. That’s why you can probably forgive me for when I say that not only does Caviezel steal every scene he’s in, but practically walks away with the whole movie in his bare palms when all is said and done. And yes, I do mean that he’s doing such a thing in an Arnie and Sly team-up, actioner! Caviezel is just so dead-pan, weird, and off-kilter that you wonder what’s going through his mind at any given moment and even if you don’t want to go that far, you can still be interested knowing that he is unpredictable and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure his reputation as a bad-ass son-of-a-bitch. Never thought I’d get that type of role from the same cat who played Jesus Christ, but I’ll be damned if this guy doesn’t have range!

Consensus: While you don’t need a whole lot of brain-power to enjoy Escape Plan, just know that this may be the first, last, and possibly only full-length team-up we’ll ever get between Arnie and Sly, which means you can’t take any of it for granted, in the same vein that they aren’t, enjoying every second that they got together with each other and this material. That’s right, it’s like a little something we call love. Or a bromance. Same thing.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"We're back!! For the fourth time!"

“We’re back!! For the fourth time!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

R.I.P.D. (2013)

Who ya gonna call? Van Wilder and The Dude?

Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up one day as if it was the most normal, average day he’s ever lived. His girlfriend (Stephanie Szostak) wakes him up with hugs, cuteness, and kisses, he goes to work, talks with his partner (Kevin Bacon) of what to do with a bunch of stolen-goods he’s buried underneath a tree, and goes off to raid a meth-house. Same old shit, different day you would think, right? Well this day is different from any other that Nick has lived because he gets shot and killed by his partner. Bummer, I know. But rather than living the after-life like a ghost, roaming all throughout the world or the heavens up above, or something, he’s assigned to be a member of the R.I.P.D. organization, an after-life police-force that’s built to take monsters out of the real world. Nick is up to the task, just as long as he’s able to live his life, but the task gets a lot more complicated when he’s given the go to be partnered-up with wild-cat Roy (Jeff Bridges), a cat who’s been dead and on the force for quite some time.

You know how I knew this flick was going to be lame? No, not because of the crappy, first trailer a mixture between Jonah Hex and Men in Black, but because I literally saw it 2 hours before it was finally released to the public. For ordinary peeps who have no idea what that means, it means that the movie sucked so bad, that the studio that released it didn’t even trust it enough with the critics, so who needs a screening a week or two before? Give it to the people right away so it can get some word-of-mouth, whether it be good or bad. However, shady-screenings make any film look bad, which this one isn’t. Then again, maybe I was just in a good mood to begin with.

Watch out, Hollywood! They got a bomb on their hands!

Watch out, Hollywood! They got a bomb on their hands!

Actually, no. That’s definitely what it is. I’m still a sucker for free movies.

The thing with this movie that I didn’t mind was that it was somewhat fun. Granted, it’s nothing new you haven’t seen done before time and time again, especially within the past year or so, but it still allowed me to have a small ounce of fun, despite being nothing out of the ordinary. It’s supposed to be a comic book movie, but doesn’t show much color or wildness to it that could really make me feel as if I was watching a comic book brought to the big screen. It’s sort of just on the screen for us to see and have some fun with, which is what happens, even if it feels like it could have been better. Actually, so much better to be exact.

The movie’s premise to promise something wacky, crazy, and energetic, but even though we get bits and pieces of that idea, the movie still toys around with our minds thinking that it’s going to explode at any second. However, it doesn’t and just continues to lie there, hoping we don’t know how lazy it’s being. I may call it “lazy”, even if I still didn’t mind it, but I’m still struggling with ways to describe this movie in a way that can get past 1,000 words and also seems smart. But it’s a lot easier said in my mind, than actually done and typed-down in this review.

That said, it’s not a bore. Some people will find themselves laughing at the goofy-quips between these two, or the creations of the CGI-monsters, who all feel like the most blatant rip-offs of Men in Black, with each and every one looking like Vincent D’Onofrio’s long, lost relative in a world where creatures roam the world, and the action that shows up in spots to smooth-out the non-stop exposition that’s fed to us, even if we don’t want to digest, and all of that’s fine. Nobody is wrong in their right mind for enjoying this movie because that’s what it’s here and released in the dead of the Summer for: to be enjoyed. Even I took a bit of the Kool-Aid in a way, so even I deserve a small bit of that finger pointed at me as well. But knowing what a Summer blockbuster can be, especially one that featured huge, freakin’ robots and monsters colliding, head-to-head, you know that you should and could do a lot better.

"Please, God. Let Green Lantern 2 never happen."

“Please, God. Let Green Lantern 2 never happen.”

However, it’s the Summer time so spend some money if you have some left-over. Just don’t make this movie your first choice. Or the second. Or the third. Or maybe just your last choice before you lose your mind and spend money on Lone Ranger. Yeah, whatever you do: Just don’t buy a ticket to the Lone Ranger. Bother your wallet with this and “thank me” later. I guess.

If there’s something in this movie that makes it a slight cut above some of the other pieces of junk that’s out there, playing in cinema’s all over the globe now, it’s the nice chemistry between it’s two leading stars, who both seem to be slumming it a little bit, but not too much to where it’s almost unwatchable. For instance, Reynolds has that comedic-timing that works and makes you laugh every once and awhile, and Bridges is basically playing another rendition of Rooster Cogburn, but with the slightest understanding of what the hell he’s actually trying to say. It’s a bit hard at times, I will admit, but when you can understand him, he’s pretty funny to listen to, even if most of them consider of him saying “Oh shit” to every insane thing that happens to him and Reynolds’ character. Like I said, their chemistry doesn’t break any new ground or give them a career resurgence that they desperately need, but for an hour-and-a-half, they are fine to watch. That’s all you have to ask for from a movie starring these two, especially one released during, as I said: “In the dead of Summer.” That’s all there is to it, folks.

Consensus: Even though it’s as ordinary and conventional as you’re going to get with an action-comedy such as R.I.P.D., you can still have a small ounce of fun with it, and also do a hell of a lot worse with your time and money. Once again, talking about you, Lone Ranger.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Beat it old, Chinese man!

Beat it old, Chinese man!

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Everybody’s a little crazy. Even the guys that protect our country with guns.

A young Marine named Davis, aka Joker (Matthew Modine), sees the Vietnam through his eyes and his eyes only. We follow him through the gruesome days of boot-camp under the tutelage of a vicious drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey), and then as he ends up becoming a correspondent for Stars & Stripes, where he actually gets to witness and partake in all of the brutal violence he was trained in. Obviously, not everything is as easy as it seems when it comes to taking another human’s life, and that’s the moral problem Davis hits early-on.

I’ve seen this movie about 3 times by now and have yet to let it all sink in and fully hit my brain, head-on with enough understanding and comprehension to make all of my thoughts seem more than just aimless ramblings. Maybe that last sentence didn’t prove to you that I know exactly what I’m talking about but trust me, it’s been awhile since the last time I saw this movie and I’ve come to one assumption, and one assumption only: the war sucks.

By now, everybody knows this as “Kubrick’s two-act film”. The reason it’s called that, is because the first part of the flick plays out so damn differently from the latter, that it’s almost a shock to see it come from the same director, let alone be in the same movie. But have no fear, because no matter where and when Kubrick puts his story, he never loses his grip with what message he’s trying to get across and what exactly can be accomplished with when you have a guy with a head on his shoulders (a crazy head, but a head nonetheless), some extreme skills as a director, and also, the most important factor of all: a camera in your hand.

Just so you know, he's yelling.

Just so you know: he’s yelling.

What makes this movie work so well, even after the 4th time I’ve seen this by now is that Kubrick never dumbs the audience down for the material that he’s showing. However, he also doesn’t allow it to go way too over-your-head neither. He lets his messages and themes play-out, but also gives you something more to think about. Like take for instance, the first act where we see these young, punky kids get beaten, battered, and torn to shreds by this drill sergeant that shows no remorse, never lets them live down a single damn thing, and continues to badger them about being the killing-machines that act first and shoot last. It’s a pretty fucked-up idea that the guy has, but it’s also what the war his in mind as well, and we see just how Kurbick lets us know how messed-up it is with the first-act playing out in the type of way you wouldn’t expect it to go.

This first-half is where I think, and most other people too, the film’s at it’s strongest. It shows you just how hard and brutal it can be to be apart of the army, and still have the right frame-of-mind to believe in everything that you’ve been taught to believe. That’s what our country teaches us, that’s what our politicians teach us, so why not the army? Kubrick really lays down the law with this first-act and we see him tell a simple story, in a simple way, but still give us a compelling-look at something we would have never been able to see before, had it been shown to us by anybody else. Then, it sort of goes down-hill from there.

Actually, that’s not totally correct to say, because the second-half still has it’s moments, but they still aren’t as strong as the ones in the first. After we leave the boot-camp and actually get down and dirty with the battlefield itself, we see how all of these soldiers handle all of the teachings and training they’ve been handed, and use it when necessary  This is where the film get’s really dark, really heavy, and really preachy. Just by watching the first-shot in this movie where all of these young dudes were getting their heads all shaved and groomed for the army, already had me knowing that Kubrick was against the war and felt like it was stupid for us to throw young men like these fellas into it, and be nothing more than meaningless deaths. It’s a sad truth to say, but it is the truth nonetheless and I got that this was the point Kubrick was trying to make, until he continued to bash me over the head, non-stop with it.

By the latter-half of the movie, you start to realize that not only is the war having physical problems with these soldiers, but physical as well. Everybody’s all gung-ho with the violence, loves their guns so much that they just cannot wait to shoot somebody with them, and are a bunch of freaks when they have to come to terms with what they’re fighting for, who they’re fighting for, and what losing a person/fellow solider is all about. I got that they’re going crazy and aren’t very inept with the rest of mankind, but after awhile, it’s just so obvious to sit-through and listen to, that you stop to care after awhile. Kubrick is always known for being the guy who loves to show you something that’s on his mind and usually does it in the most clever way possible, and hell that’s what we all love him for! But here, in this movie and this last-act, we start to lose that sensibility that Kubrick had, the sensibility that made him stand-out from the rest of the crowd and show that he’s working on a higher-level than these other chumps.

Still, as much as I may rag on and on about what he does wrong, Kubrick still did a lot of right in this movie and kept me glued to the screen, even though I knew exactly what happened, where, how, and why. I guess that’s just the problem you run into with most movies when you see them a couple of times, but I was so shocked that I was still able to feel on-edge with everything Kubrick showed, graphic and non-graphic. The war sequences are stunningly shot and make you feel as if you are right there, in the action with them and proves to us all that Kubrick could handle a shaky-cam better than anybody else could. So take that Blair With Project peoples! All seriousness though, whenever Kubrick has a vision in his head, he sticks to it, and never lets it go, no matter how much of his message he may hammer into our skulls.

Maybe the whole point was to make us feel like we were one of the soldiers. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the guy is one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time and really shocked me by how much he was allowed to get away with here. Controversial? You bet your sweet ass it is, but that’s what anti-war films are all about. So, whatever it is that you do, do not, I repeat, DO NOT request this as a movie-viewing on Veteran’s Day, or else you’re going to have some pretty angry vets coming at your neck. Just a fair warning, that’s all.

"I don't mind what type of business you're doing in here, but could you just keep it done at least?"

“I don’t mind whatever type of business you’re doing in here, but could you just keep it down? No? Okay, I’m leaving. Have fun.”

I know it isn’t Kubrick’s style to give into conventions and be like everybody else, but this movie would have greatly benefited from some sort of main character that drives this story the whole way through. Yeah, Matthew Modine is here and is fine as Joker, but still doesn’t seem to be much of an asset to the story, as much as he’s just a reason for us to actually pay attention to all of the crazy shit that’s going on around him. It’s sort of a sad thing to notice, because Modine is a quality actor, but it’s something that I noticed early-on and I wish Kubrick payed more attention to, rather than just going for the gull by trying to look fancy and cool with his style-points. He gets those points, but has to lose character-points as well. Can’t win ’em all, Stanley!

Even though Modine’s character doesn’t supply us with the fuel for the fire, two other actors in this movie do. Vincent D’Onofrio gained a lot of notoriety and in a way, still does to this day because of how much weight he put on for this role as Leonard Lawrence, aka Gomer Pyle. Apparently it was around 80 pounds or something, which to me, sounds like just another night of partying and drinkin’, but I digress. The guy deserves all of the credit he gets for his work here in this movie and not just because he gained all of that poundage, but because the guy makes us actually believe this sweet, kind man can go from being the nice kid who lives next-door, to being the psycho you would never even trust around your kids, let alone next to your own house. D’Onofrio really nails what it’s like to go from being normal, to being a total nut that’s all gung-ho for war, guns, and violence, and shows that the brain-washing techniques it seems like the army uses, isn’t always for the better of man. Maybe for society, but not for the man itself.

However, that’s where R. Lee Ermey comes in and proves, well: that we were right. Ermey is amazing as the drill sergeant that takes no prisoners when it comes to teaching these boys a lesson about what it means to become a solider not just of the war, but of the country as well. Ermey, whether he’s yelling out insults at people or lecturing the boys on how they should not fuck with him or he’ll fuck them right back, Ermey is always interesting, always compelling to watch, and always had me laughing. He’s the main reason why that first-half is so much better than the latter-half, and that’s why it’s a shame to see him and D’Onofrio go and leave us with the presence of Matthew Modine and a bunch of other schmoes that you’ve all seen before, you just don’t know where or when. Not to discredit them or anything, but nobody’s really as stellar as Ermey or D’Onofrio. That’s just the simple fact, Jack. I don’t know who Jack is, but I just wanted to sound cool so leave me alone.

Consensus: Even if Full Metal Jacket isn’t Kubrick’s best, it’s still a heck of a lot better than most cinema out there and proves to you that the war sucks and that everybody who gets involved with it are usually messed-up in the head, dead, or have no chance of understanding what it means to be a human-being, nor do they have a way to understand just what the hell it is that they are fighting for. It’s obvious stuff, but with Kubrick behind the camera: it’s always fascinating.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

No, he is not taking a dump. He IS shooting people.

“GOD BLESS AMURRRICAAAAHHH!!!”

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Sinister (2012)

If you hear a bump in the night, don’t worry, it’s just the ghosts of the murdered family who once lived in your house.

The premise puts Ethan Hawke in the shoes of a true-crime novelist struggling to find his next big story. He moves into the home of a recently murdered family and discovers a box of home video footage that might reveal exactly what happened to them.

Why any certain interest has sparked up in me about seeing this flick is for one reason and one reason only: the co-writer himself, C. Robert Cargill. Okay, most of you who see that name probably have no idea who the hell I’m talking about and wondering what all of the hype around him is, and that’s fine because this guy is making his writing debut with this movie. The reason why I care about him so much is because most people out there, probably know him by the name of Carlyle from Spill.Com, as I did, and because of that, he has remained an inspiration for me and my movie-review wring ever since I first stumbled upon those guys’ site. However, now that Cargill is outta there and in the big-leagues, it’s finally his time to shine and show everybody why he loves watching shitty movies as much as he does and thankfully, the guy somewhat capitalizes on that idea.

The one element of this film that sort of killed my hype for it was the fact that it’s directed by Scott Derrickson, aka, the guy who remade The Day the Earth Stood Still over 4 years ago and gave us Keanu Reeves’ most boring performance to-date. Seriously, when you have Neo practically falling asleep in a movie, you know that’s bad! Anywho, that’s why this movie was a very mixed-bag for me going in but surprisingly, Derrickson actually does a nice job with this material and gives it that old-school, horror vibe we all love so much, especially around this time of the year.

Everything starts off very slow, in an almost melodic sense of pacing, until it starts to show us tiny bits of terror and freakishness starting to happen, and that’s where the dread and the fun of this movie start to hit. Most people will probably be wondering if this is your typical horror movie, with jump-scares and moments of silence, that all of a sudden get one big “boo!” at the end, and it sort of is like that type of horror movie but with a more effective use of it’s scares. The scares here, although timed, do not feel cheap one-bit and may actually catch you off-guard a couple of times to when, where, and how they get you. I never like jump-scares, quite frankly, and it’s not because they actually scare me but because they just feel like an over-used way of making people jump when manipulate the sound too much and honestly, who likes to be manipulated? Especially when you’re watching a horror movie? But, even though they do use a couple of jump-scares here and there, it still feels deserved and still does a nice job at putting me into this atmosphere where nothing seems to ever go right.

However, as much fun and freaky this horror movie may be, it still never seems to really branch-out of the typical horror-conventions, and be it’s own, original-self. Even though Cargill does seem like he’s playing around with the conventions of the horror movie a bit, he never seems to be able to fully let himself go and instead, a lot of dumb and silly things happen over the course of the film that may make this come off as a bit unintentionally goofy in it’s own way. There’s a random scene with a dog that only seems to be in there for a scene of tension and suspense, but doesn’t offer anything new; the ghosts here are portrayed in a really goofy-way that’s more funny to point and laugh at, than to actually be running away from, had you have to deal with them in real-life; and then there’s the actual monster himself, Mr. Boogie, or whatever the hell they call him, that really disappointed me.

All of the hype around this movie, is mainly because of that one scary image of the main ghost-like monster of the whole movie. Seriously, it’s so eye-catching that it even has it’s own poster just dedicated to it (look to the top-right), and whenever you even see him in these little, short shots in the film, he’s pretty scary and makes you very curious as to what the hell it is. Is it a man? Is it a killer? Is it a monster? Is it a ghost? Is it a piece of Hawke’s imagination? We never know and I liked that about this film, but what really made me feel like they dropped the ball with this monster-like character, was when they eventually get on to showing him in the movie more and more, and for longer periods of time, where he just starts to get goofy after awhile. I was scared at first when they would show it for a couple of a seconds on-screen, but then they start to over-show him that makes him resemble the WWE wrestler Kane, with a slightly more, effed-up mask for a face. That bummed me out because he started off so scary, but after awhile, all those shrieks and scares just begin to go away and turn to laughter.

No matter how silly or stupid this film begins to get, Ethan Hawke never, ever seems to lose his belief in what he’s doing here as Ellison, the writer that seems to get himself caught-up a bit too much in his own work. Hawke has never done a horror movie role before and it’s a surprise because the guy actually makes all of his scared/terrified looks seem real enough to actually have us believe why this guy still does the stupid things he sometimes does. However, Ellison isn’t a perfectly lovable character: he lies, he drinks way too much, he continues to stay in a house that obviously means huge-harm to him and his family, and manipulates a cop into being his buddy, in order to get info out of him. These all sound like perfect ingredients for the perfect, dick-head character but for some reason, due to Hawke’s charm, we believe in him, we root for him, and we actually like him when it’s all said and done. He’s a flawed dude, no doubt about it, but then again, aren’t we all?

Consensus: With a great sense of dread, fun, and suspense to it, Sinister comes off as being a better horror flick than what we are used to seeing, but still doesn’t fall short of being a little silly here and there, or by falling for the typical conventions we are used to seeing with horror movies in today’s world.

7/10=Rental!!

Men in Black (1997)

These guys were facing off against aliens, before that was even cool.

Working for a highly-funded yet unofficial government agency, K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are the Men In Black, providers of immigration services and regulators of all things alien on Earth. While investigating a series of unregistered close encounters, the MIB agents uncover the deadly plot of an intergalactic terrorist who is on a mission to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies currently in residence in New York city.

So with Men in Black III coming out soon, I thought it would be a nice idea to go back and check out the first one that not only did I love as a kid, but so did every other kid around me. Sad to see how things change as you grow older, and then become a d-bag movie critic.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a pretty good job with this material, which is based on a comic book series that’s full of darkness and violence, by making it somewhat light and fluffy with humor and slime instead. There was plenty of jokes to go around in this flick and I liked that because it showed that the film didn’t really take itself too seriously, which was never more serious than it needed to be at all in the first place. I mean you have two guys dressed in ALL black, going around looking for aliens: how much goofier can you get? Liked the tone of this film because it could have easily fallen apart by taking a serious look at the world of alien hunting. It’s actually more cool than it is goofy, but I think it’s all in a day’s work and that’s all that really mattered to me.

What really took me away was the fact that Rick Baker‘s art direction was something only he could do. Baker is a dude that’s known for doing all of the make-up and costume features on plenty of films ranging from Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, The Nutty Professor, and the one he just recently won an Oscar for, The Wolfman. If you have watched any of those three, you will notice that this guy isn’t messing around when it comes to making some crazy make-up look real and this is probably one of his best examples. Whether it’s the giant bug Edgar, or the little worm aliens with the Mexican accents, or even Jack Jeebs, Baker’s detail to make-up and costumes look funny, scary, and surprisingly, very believable. This was one of the main selling points of the flick when it first came out and it’s understandable as to why because they still hold up in today’s day and age of constant IMAX 3D flicks filled with CGI out the wahzoo, coming out almost every weekend.

What I was a little bummed out by this film was that a lot of this just feels very generic, which is mainly due to the plot. The plot is so 1-2-3 that you can usually tell everything that’s going to happen within the first 5 minutes and even though it’s not as bad here as it is with plenty of other flicks of this nature, I still couldn’t get past that I wasn’t really going to see any surprises. Still, I think it’s Sonnenfield’s direction that kept my mind off of this problem for a short time anyway. Speaking of short time, the film is only 98 minutes long and it actually went by pretty quick, even though I do think they could have done a little bit more developing when it came to the characters and just what exactly their main objective was. I get that they were going after the one big, bad alien dude but I don’t know how he was going to tear down the galaxy. Hmmm, maybe it’s just a mystery I’ll never know about.

Where I think this film really worked well with was the two performances from Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K and Will Smith as Agent J. This is one of those polar-opposite, buddy-buddy combinations we see all of the time in these types of flicks but it’s so much fun to watch here because of the type of performers Jones and Smith both are. Jones’ sense of comedy (or lack thereof) is very dry and sometimes non-existent, while Smith is constantly up in everybody’s grill, making slang jokes at everybody he meets and is constantly just shoving his attitude in other peoples’ faces. They both make a good team together because they work well and you can tell that they both do have chemistry, even though the film doesn’t really focus on it all that much. But hey, at least they’re having fun.

Vincent D’Onofrio‘s performance as Edgar was pretty impressive when it came to his physical stature, like how he moved his body and neck in some crazy places, but he really just left me feeling uncomfortable every time he was on-screen. I don’t really think that was any problem with D’Onofrio at all, as it was more of the writing that made him look and feel like an uncomfortable, dirty slob that looks like he hasn’t bathed in years. It was also pretty bad to see Linda Fiorentino absolutely do nothing with the character she was given as Dr. Laurel Weaver. Yeah, I know that the female character in any action movie isn’t really supposed to be a big role by any means, but you could at least try and make it the least memorable instead of just making it seem like you obviously don’t want to be there with you dry deliver and “phoning it in” looks from start to finish. Never really been impressed by this chick and it’s really no surprise that she hasn’t done much in the past decade.

Consensus: Men in Black is what you would expect: funny, light, filled with cool-looking special effects and monsters from Rick Baker, and entertaining but is also very light on plot, which doesn’t really bring up many surprises as it goes along. However, it’s a flick that will always be in my childhood.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Cell (2000)

‘Inception‘, if only Christopher Nolan was inspired by Bollywood films.

When a serial killer (Vincent D’Onorfio) falls into a coma before his victim can be found, a child therapist (Jennifer Lopez) must use an experimental treatment to enter his mind and learn more about his secrets before it is too late. Now an FBI agent (Vince Vaughn) must rescue her from the killer’s nightmare mind before he too is lost to the twisted world forever

After checking out Tarsem Singh‘s other flick last year, ‘Immortals’, I had a feeling that this was a director that knew how to make anything stylized. That idea I was not wrong to think, but I was wrong to think that this would be any better.

The one great element to this film right away would have to be Singh’s visual direction that shows some pretty disturbing things but also catches your eye right away. Every time that we take a dive into these dreams/nightmares, the lavish and lush images that we get take our breath right away with everything. You feel like you are in a dream-like state with these characters and it is so well done that I think for Singh to actually get so many of these perfect images, was to actually give himself nightmares when he went to sleep. After seeing his latest though, I was not surprised that it looked beautiful and I still can’t decide which one looks better considering they are almost the same-looking film, except one has JLO running around and the other has the soon-to-be Superman doing the same. Hmmmmm…

However, when it comes to the actual plot and characters, there is nothing new here one bit. The plot is the same old mystery-thriller story we have seen done time and time again except this time being with elaborate and crazy dreams to show off. There was some moments of suspense here and there but in the end, I knew what was going to happen which just shows you how lazy Singh was when it came to making this flick, considering he didn’t try to go for anything different or new with his story, he just wanted to focus on being beautiful. I mean focus on the film being beautiful, not him.

Another problem I had with this film is that it also brought up a very good point about how serial killers end up being the way they are through a bad child-hood and by the ways they were raised. The film makes this point but also makes a very good point against it saying that it doesn’t matter if you were sexually assaulted, or had a bad up-bringing, human beings should know what’s right and whats wrong just by living and understanding how the world works. This was a great point that I thought the film brought up perfectly because it’s something we don’t usually get to see in flicks of this nature.

The problem with that is though is that the film screws it all up by just totally contradicting the point it brought up by the end, and made the serial killer out to be the good guy considering he does all of this evil shit. Listen, if the serial killer says that he knows what he did was wrong and he’s sorry, then I will truly forgive him and say that he is a changed person but don’t give me this shit about how he’s not to be blamed because of a bad child-hood. I could have had a bad child-hood but still know not to go off and hack every person I see. It’s all common-sense people and to be honest, I think that this point is one that should be made more in films that concern serial killers.

When it came to the acting, everybody here was pretty good. Jennifer Lopez is pretty good as Catherine Deane who makes you feel safe with her, and I can say that if she was in my head when I was sleeping, it definitely would not be a nightmare. Vince Vaughn is also good in this very straight-guy role that he got in his early days before people know what to do with him, and he actually seems like the voice of reason here as well. Vincent D’Onofrio isn’t on-screen all that much and tends to wander like as if he were a stunt double, but he’s still good with being creepy, something that seems like a perfect recipe that he uses quite frequently. The characters are OK but we aren’t really given anything much to care about them so it just feels like a bunch of one-dimensional people working against the clock, and I really didn’t care for any of them except for maybe the chick in the tank.

Consensus: When it comes to beautiful visuals, The Cell has plenty of them, but when it comes to an original story with characters we care about, it brings nothing new to the table other than the same old generic mystery thriller that is fun and pretty look at but nothing else aside from that.

5/10=Rental!!

The Salton Sea (2002)

Why couldn’t Val Kilmer hang as Batman? He kicks so much ass.

Punk-rocking speed freak Danny Parker (Val Kilmer) freelances as an informant for a pair of brutal narcotics cops (Anthony LaPaglia and Doug Hutchison). But when he’s not assisting the cops on drug busts, Danny gets high and leads a double life as a talented, mild-mannered trumpeter named Tom Van Allen. One personality is in search of his wife’s killer, but reality is evasive.

I’m not going to lie but this film is all over the place. It starts off very quick, fast, and funny which got me ready for a fun-filled, crime comedy, but instead turns out to be something a lot more than that.

The problem I had with this film was that it’s pace is sort of all over the world. It’s quick, and fun in the first 15 minutes, but then you start to notice that it dies down, and gets a lot more serious. I didn’t have much of a problem with this change of pace, as much as I had with it’s genre mixing. This is honestly a crime thriller, with features of neo-noir, and under lining humor. It seems crazy just describing it, and it really is when you see it play out.

However, when the film isn’t being slow, and dramatic, it actually does a good job at creating a entertaining story. The side dealers we meet in this film are funny, and entertaining, providing plenty of humor for this film. And the action, when it happens, works very well and will please any gun-loving maniac.

But that almost seems to be able to cover up for the fact that the story-line can be terribly confusing sometimes. I wasn’t as confused with the story as much as others were, but I will admit that you could get easily confused right away. There are certain twists, here and there that will keep you glued, and explain a lot about the story. But for others it will just mean more confusion, to a already confusing story.

Val Kilmer is the man. He can pretty much play any role you put in front of him, and although it may not be the greatest thing you ever see, it’s still entertaining to watch him play these crazy characters. We cheer on Val Kilmer here, it’s easy to get behind him, with his casual approach to all the craziness happening, and ways of figuring things out right away. But he is only the straight-main in this film, as everybody else is used as even better entertainment. Vincent D’Onofrio does a good job as the crazy drug-dealer Pooh, who brings so much to the film, that it actually takes the film to a different level. Peter Sarsgaard is good here playing a crazed-out “tweeker”, and his act never gets old. You also got other satisfying supporters such as Adam Goldberg, Doug Hutchison, Anthony LaPaglia, and Luis Guzman.

Consensus: It’s entertaining, and does a lot with a story that seems crazy at first, but many will find themselves confused, as well as wondering whether they should laugh or not, by what’s actually happening.

6/10=Rental!!

Mystic Pizza (1988)

Made me crave some pizza.

Reality rudely intrudes on the plans of three blue-collar, New England teens who share their dreams while slinging hash at the local pizzeria. Daisy (Julia Roberts) entertains visions of marrying into the upper crust, while levelheaded sister Kat (Annabeth Gish) wants to go to Yale. Meanwhile, wisecracking Jojo (Lili Taylor) has a man on the hook but finds that commitment cramps her style.

Mystic Pizza, is a really dumb title for a movie, that has me thinking that I’m going too see a movie about some 60’s rock band, but instead it turns out to be a little bit better.

The screenplay is very good. It promises to be funny, and at times, it is quite funny, but its more of a soap-opera to be exact. These three young ladies are growing up, understanding more about love, friendship, and overall, life. It’s nice and heart-warming, and just the overall feel to the movie is what keeps you into it.

I had a problem however with the story about Annabeth Gish. First of all, it was terribly dumb, because it was about her falling in love with her baby sitter, who is married. I knew exactly where that story was going, and when I saw what happened, I just went: “oh, cool”. And, well, since this is a film from the 80’s and all, it’s pretty cheesy, so some of the dialogue, is pretty hard not to laugh at. And, by the end, you’ll start to wonder, if this is a “chick flick”, and your answer will be, yes.

However, the acting is actually very good. Julia Roberts plays in her first role where people started to look at her, as a big-new up and comer. She’s smart, witty, sexy, and overall, just a joy to watch on screen, and you can by this performance, she was bound for glory. Lili Taylor is a joy to watch also, because she’s funny, but she actually has a lot of dramatic scenes, and their actually quite believable. Annabeth Gish, in my opinion, I thought blew. She wasn’t believable at all, mainly cause of her story, but when she’s on screen, the more emotional scenes, she just seems like she’s going through the motions, or just standing there. There’s also some nice performances from Vincent D’Onorfio, Adam Storke, and a funny little, young performance from Matt Damon, where he says one line.

Consensus: Though it’s a chick flick, and a bit dated, Mystic Pizza still delivers with good performances, a fun, and intelligent script, that just gives you a nice, smooth feeling throughout the whole movie.

7/10=Rental!!

Happy Accidents (2001)

I hope my spouse is from the future. Everything will be great.

Ruby Weaver (Marisa Tomei) is tired of being the “enabler” in relationships and has decided to give up the role of doormat. She’s also on the verge of giving up on love when she meets a sweet, small-town guy, Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio), who changes her mind. It seems Ruby’s finally found a sane boyfriend — until Sam divulges that he’s a time traveler from the year 2470. Now it’s up to Ruby to decide whether love can conquer all.

I first saw the trailer for this film awhile back last year, and I thought to myself “what a bunch of stupid junk”, and didn’t look back on it since. Now, I regret that situation more than ever.

This film is more of a sci-fi thriller, than it actually is a romantic comedy. The story is so rich and original, mostly because it keeps you guessing. Like 12 Monkeys, the narrator is unreliable, and we sometimes put our own conclusions together with the story. But the film isn’t just all about tricking you, and keeping you on the edge of your seat, it’s also about the love, and finding someone despite their problems. When Sam tells Ruby he’s from the future, she is taken back, but at the same time, she kind of puts that to the side, and accepts him as a person, instead of this nut, that if you heard right away was saying this goofy crap, you would run for the hills and never look back. Yeah, later on, she gets creeped out more, but she still stays with him, and even though there is that 1% chance he may be telling the truth, she still sticks with him, only to get more answers.

There is also plenty of comedy to go along with this film. The things Sam says are funny, but also the situations they are put in, and how Sam basically has a reason for everything that happens in the future, is actually pretty funny, although it may have a bit of dumbness to it.

I had a problem with the film that kind of ruined it for me by the last act. The score is just soooo freakin’ annoying. Its got like this weird old kind of score music you would hear from an old episode from the Three Stooges. I think the film could have really benefited from something a lot better, then just an odd type of score, especially for the last act, when it was at its most emotional.

The best thing about this film is its two great cute characters. Marisa Tomei as Ruby, is at her all-time high with this performance, showing a lot of compassion, and overall believability. She has a lot of great moments where she’s just freaking out, and she has that great romantic comedy timing, that really benefits here in any move. Vincent D’Onofrio may not be the greatest looking dude out there, but he’s still a great character mostly cause he is very cooky, but likable. And just because of this likability, you have the slight belief that maybe this guy is telling the truth. The two build a great chemistry, that although starts out really funny, gets more and more emotional, and it all feels real. Also, be ready for a very funny Anthony Michael Hall cameo, that guy really is the freakin’ man.

Consensus: Happy Accidents could have been more emotionally powerful, but takes you by surprise, as it is hilarious, original, and likable performances from the quirky cast.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Not one of the better films to watch on veterans day.

Marine recruits (including Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio) endure the grueling ordeal of basic training and later face the unrelenting Viet Cong during the 1968 Tet Offensive in this grim Stanley Kubrick drama, based on a novel by Gustav Hasford.

Personally, I love Stanley Kubrick films. I think his way of film-making is so rich and grand that when he died not many knew what a legacy he left behind. Kubrick right here doesn’t stop to impress me.

One thing to point out about this film is that it isn’t your average normal war film. There are many scenes of combat, but most of it is what goes on before being shipped out to the war, and what goes on when you are shipped out in the war. Some will find it boring, I found it refreshing to finally see what these soldiers we’re like before the war, and in between it.

The fantastic element of the movie is its portrayal of the moral ambiguity of that war, the soldiers’ awareness of this issue, and their commitment to fight on, not for country or cause, but for one another, as well as an undefined inertia.

The way Kubrick has this movie filmed is also very extraordinary. He films these takes while war is happening and the camera moves up and down as if you were watching the view of a soldier in combat with them. I felt like I was right there with them and felt very much more compelled to the story. Also, there are plenty of other just beautiful shots that really do make this film look even more spectacullar.

The screenplay is what really plays out well in this film. The dialogue here feels so realistic and so genuine that I thought I was watching a real film about real people. There is also some little blends of black comedy that really do make this film great and a lot more enjoyable than some would think.

Though I liked Kubrick’s direction I just don’t think it was meant for this type of movie. Kubrick is known for making these sc-fi thriller films about the unexplainable. With this film he gets a little too dynamic and doesn’t hit the right cord with this film as he has done with his plenty of others. I think that his directing is good just not made for this film, and what takes it away from being great.

The little supporting acts in this film really do shine. R. Lee Ermy does the best job in this whole film and fully does capture this essence of a hard as nails drill sergeant, who with his orders and yells, makes this film amazing. The only problem I had with the acting was that the film is centered around Matthew Modine, and he doesn’t really do a great job in this film and I didn’t find him very believable until the very end.

I also thought that the ending could’ve been so much better. Kubrick is known for his great endings to any film, and he plays the ending with a cheesy and corny not so anti-war message ending.

Consensus: Though it is good not great, Full Metal Jacket has great direction from Kubrick, realistic screenplay, and some great visuals, but suffers from Kubrick becoming his own worst enemy early on in the film.

8/10=Matinee!!!