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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Walton Goggins

Mojave (2016)

Chances are, random dudes you meet in the desert, aren’t going to be the ones to trust in actual society.

Famous Hollywood writer Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), is conflicted about his life so, one day, he decides to get up and leave his mansion, French girlfriend, and money behind, to venture out into the desert for some peace and solidarity. However, while in the desert, Thomas realizes that he may not actually be alone in this huge desert – in fact, he may actually be being followed. This is when Thomas meets Jack (Oscar Isaac), a drifter who says that he’s a director, but at the same time, doesn’t really seem all that convincing when he says that. He and Thomas, despite the obvious awkwardness of the whole situation, have a solid conversation about life, death, Jesus Christ and the devil, but it becomes all too clear that there’s something off about Jack that Thomas doesn’t want to be around. So, that’s why Thomas decides to leave the desert, as well as Jack behind; which, as a result, makes Jack very angry and forced to follow Thomas all the way to his glitzy and glamorous home life, leading to some very bloody, very violent results.

He's brooding.

He’s brooding.

William Monahan, nearly a decade ago, wrote the script for the Departed and he could have stopped right there. Already, he had given each and every person on the face of the planet something that they wanted, loved and adored, and right then and there, Monahan could have packed his things up, got all of his money together, and head for the hills, never to be heard from or bothered again, but knowing that he did something right for society. But seeing as how Monahan is, first and foremost, a creator, he decided to make Mojave which is, most definitely, a whole heck of a lot different from the Departed in many ways.

Of course, though, what Mojave does have similarly to the Departed, is that both movies feature big, rough, and tough guys being, well, big, rough, and tough.

And honestly, for the longest time of Mojave, there’s a lot to enjoy in just watching that happen, especially when the two said guys in question are Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund, two young talents that are so well-deserving of every role they’re given. Seeing as how both are actual friends in real life (as well as co-starred in Inside Llewyn Davis), it makes sense that they feature wonderful chemistry together, just playing off of one another and testing each other to their limits; the same is definitely said for their characters who are, randomly, at odds with one another for reasons we never fully know or understand. However, there’s still a feeling you can get watching these two pals act alongside one another, and just knowing that they’re having a great time watching as the other works the field, so they say.

Which is why, had Mojave just been a two-hander of these two talking about whatever the hell they wanted to talk and swinging their dicks around, it probably would have been a whole lot better, tighter and enjoyable. However, because Monahan adds on so much more than just these two going to battle with one another and leaving it at that, it becomes messy and we forget what makes the movie so strong in the first place: Isaac and Hedlund. While neither loses any sense of charm or presence in the proceedings, they still get pushed too far to the back so that Monahan can run wild, say whatever he wants, and do weird things that nobody expected, but nobody really needed to see, either. Monahan gets mixed-up in his own ideas where, one side of him wants to make this mono-e-mono thriller between these two colorful characters, but on the other side, wants to talk about Hollywood and everybody in it is a terrible, mean-spirited and disgusting place that nobody should ever get caught up in.

Wow, where have I heard this before?

He's weird.

He’s weird.

Clearly, Monahan’s not working with any life-changing, ground-breaking themes or ideas and it sometimes calls into question just how odd this movie can be. Mark Wahlberg randomly shows up a coked-up, over-the-top and wild Hollywood agent who is, definitely fun, but still doesn’t add much to the whole movie; Walton Goggins shows up as a Hollywood executive who is about as dead-spirited as they come; and yeah, then there’s a whole murder investigation that never seems to escalate, but still bring these two guys closer. Monahan brings up a whole lot of stuff here, but because he’s both the writer, as well as the director, there’s no holding back in just where Mojave can, and will, go.

Still though, it’s Hedlund and Isaac who make this movie work the most and it makes sense why they’re given the most to work, for better as well as for worse. Hedlund is, once again, playing up that whole brooding-angle he always shows and does fine with it. While Thomas, the character, may be limited in how much we actually care or get to know about him, Hedlund shows that there’s something of a soul underneath it all and it makes us sympathize with him just a tad bit more, even if we don’t really care either way where the story goes, or who ends up getting the ax.

But Isaac is perhaps the one having the most fun here and it’s great to see him just live every bit of this material up. In a way, as Jack, Isaac livens this material up a whole lot more than it probably should have been, as he’s not just funny, but more thoughtful than the movie may have called for. He’s got a lot to say about faith and Hollywood, or whatever, but he’s also got something to say about Hedlund’s Thomas, and it’s these revelations that I found most telling. While Monahan has a bone to pick with Hollywood, he still has a point in saying what he says, which makes me wonder why he’s making movies as conflicted as Mojave, and isn’t giving it his all again like he did with the Departed all those years ago?

The world may never know, but we wait and wonder.

Consensus: Hedlund and Isaac are great, however, Mojave‘s odd plotting and themes don’t always come together in a cohesive manner, that gives them the movie they wholly deserve.

5.5 / 10

Together, they're the perfect couple.

Together, they’re the perfect couple.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Hateful Eight (2015)

Next time a blizzard comes, stay away from the cabin with the most assassins.

In post-Civil War Wyoming, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorts fugitive Daisy “The Prisoner” Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, where she’ll be hung for committing all sorts of evil murders and crimes over the years. However, along the way, they encounter a bounty hunter by the name of Major Marquis “The Bounty Hunter” Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who is also heading out to Red Rock to get money for a few criminals he killed himself. Ruth allows for Warren to hop aboard, but they soon realize that a deadly blizzard is coming their way. With this information known, they decide to hold out in a little comfortable and cozy cabin where everybody knows and loves called “Minnie’s Haberdashery”. There, the three meet a few shady, but altogether, colorful characters who may, or may not, be up to any good or actually be who they appear to be. There’s Bob “The Mexican” (Demián Bichir), who claims to be one of Minnie’s helpers, even though they’re nowhere to be found; Chris “The Sheriff” Mannix (Walton Goggins), claims to be the soon-to-be sheriff of Red Rock; Oswaldo “The Little Man” Mobray (Tim Roth), is another one who claims to be the soon-to-be hangman of Red Rock; Joe “The Cow Puncher” Gage (Michael Madsen), claims to be just a lonely ol’ cowboy looking to spend the holidays with his mommy; and ex-General Sanford “The Confederate” Smithers (Bruce Dern), well, doesn’t claim to be much of anyone. He’s just holding out and waiting for this storm to pass, which is what everyone else seems to be doing, until it becomes clear that someone is up to no good and needs to be taught a lesson.

Sort of bad-ass.

Sort of bad-ass.

Quentin Tarantino makes the sort of movie he wants. Nobody’s going to tell him “no”, nor will anyone tell him “how” – they’ll just hand him a bunch of money, plenty of freedom, and see what happens. Due to this, his movies can tend to sometimes feel overlong and excessive, which is why, when it turned out that the Hateful Eight was going to be over three hours, with a short, 10-to-12 minute intermission, automatically, most people will be turned off, as well as they should.

However, here’s the funny thing about the Hateful Eight – it’s actually pretty deserving of its three hour run-time.

Much of this is due to the fact that Tarantino doesn’t try to, in any sort of way, shape, or fashion, rush the plot here – instead, he takes his time to give us those delicate, but juicy character-moments we oh so appreciate and adore from someone as immensely talented as he is. Nobody really breaks into a conversation that feels useless, unnecessary, or unneeded – everybody here has a reason to talk about what they want to talk about and, honestly, it’s hard to not be intrigued by them right away. After all, this is Tarantino’s dialogue and as is the case with Tarantino’s dialogue, it’s punchy, fun, energetic and most importantly, exciting. The issues that have chased Tarantino since the beginning of his career in that his characters speak in that heightened sense that no other normal human would speak in, may still be here, but honestly, who gives a hoot?

It’s Quentin Tarantino! You know exactly what you’re going to get, as soon as you walk into one of his movies.

And even though most of the promotion and hype surrounding this movie has been about the fact that it’s filmed and presented in 70 mm, the real kicker here is that, aside from at least 20-25 minutes of wide landscape shots at the beginning, middle, end and sporadically throughout, the majority of the movie takes place solely in this one room. The movie looks great to begin with, as we’d expect from Tarantino, but the reason why the 70 mm matters so much in a story like this is because it gives you a greater sense of just how confined and stuck these characters are; while it may appear that there’s a great big world for these characters to go outside and venture out into just in case they have to, because there’s a deadly blizzard going on right outside, they are all stuck with one another.

Which, as you could probably guessed, leads to plenty of scenes where characters talk to one another, get on each other’s nerves, and come pretty damn close to killing the other. This is, of course, all terrific and great to listen to, adding more of a sense of intensity and suspense to the chilly air of that Tarantino, as well as his terrific ensemble create. Any lesser director/writer would have been bored with this one room setting and decided to take their movie elsewhere and jump around a bit, but Tarantino knows and understands the sheer power there is in watching a bunch of heavy-hitting actors stand around a room, watch one another, and get ready for the other shoe to eventually drop.

And when that shoe drops, well, it’s pretty crazy, violent, and gory, but still all so pleasing.

However, at the same time, there’s also that annoying feeling that perhaps Tarantino loses himself a slight bit here. For one, the intermission that takes place is perfect because it sets up a whole other movie, with a whole other tone and feeling altogether. It’s a smart decision on Tarantino’s behalf, but what he does with this second-half is, sadly, a bit disappointing; though the movie doesn’t necessarily feel long, there’s a 20-minute sequence that, in hindsight, didn’t really need to be included at all. Without saying too much, it’s a sequence that takes us a tad away from the current on-goings of the plot and instead, give us another view to look at the story; while it’s a tricky device that Tarantino uses well, it still doesn’t seem like it needed to be included at all.

As an audience-member, it was already easy enough to connect the dots as is, so why is there the need to explain certain plot-elements even further than what’s already needed?

And this matters because, right after this point is where the Hateful Eight started to feel like a bit of a retread of what Tarantino has done many times before and, mostly, better. There are still certain ways that Tarantino keeps this plot moving in an efficient manner, but by the same token, he also seems to be utilizing the same sort of twists and turns we’ve seen him roll with before and, honestly, it’s a bit of a shame. This isn’t to say that Tarantino misses the mark here, but considering that the bar has been raised so high in the past few years with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, really, anytime it feels like Tarantino isn’t fully giving his all, can definitely be a problem.

Kind of bad-ass.

Kind of bad-ass.

This is all to say that the Hateful Eight definitely isn’t Tarantino’s best, but also isn’t to say that it’s his worst, either.

It’s just that it’s very good, yet, also feels like it’s destined for something far, far better than what it ends up being.

Through it all though, the ensemble, as expected, works perfectly. Though it did disappoint me a tad bit to see a lot of familiar faces show up to work with Tarantino again here, it still doesn’t matter because they’re all so great as is. Samuel L. Jackson continues to get his meatiest roles from Tarantino and as Major Marquis Warren, he gets to show us a man who has been through it all in life and isn’t afraid to get violent when he needs to; Kurt Russell is having a blast as John Ruth, someone who seems to have a decent-enough heart, but is also just as savage as the rest; Tim Roth is joyously fun as Oswaldo, someone who seems way too cheery to be a hangman; Michael Madsen is, once again, cool and stoic as Joe Gage; and Bruce Dern, playing the ex-General of this story, is wise and grizzled, but also adds enough depth to this character that he feels like more than just “the old man of the story”.

As for the newcomers, they’re all amazing, too and show why they were perfectly picked by Tarantino to deliver his sometimes challenging, but altogether lovely dialogue. Demián Bichir, despite playing what appears to be just “the Mexican”, also seems like there’s more to him that he’s not letting on and it’s cool to see someone like Bichir, play both mysterious, as well as funny; Channing Tatum shows up in a small-ish role, too here, and does a fine enough job that it makes me definitely want to see him appear in more Tarantino flicks; and even though he already appeared in Tarantino’s Django, Walton Goggins is electric as Chris Mannix, the supposed-sheriff who we may not be able to trust, but because he’s sometime so stupid and naive, it’s almost like he’s telling the truth.

However, the true star of this cast, believe it or not, is actually the sole woman of the main cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh.

As Daisy Domergue, Leigh does a lot of standing around, staring and looking as if she’s up to no good and nine times out of ten, that’s pretty much the case. While we’re told that she’s as bad-ass and as dangerous as any of the other men surrounding her, Leigh still shows that through her odd, occasionally hilarious performance. Though she may appear to be nothing more than just a basket case, there’s something about Domergue that, underneath it all, still seems present and this is perhaps the main factor that keeps this character interesting, as well as compelling. Domergue, just like every other character here, is a total mystery to us and while we may never know what to expect next from them, we sure as hell know it’s not going to be an act of kindness. And that’s why Leigh, who we haven’t seen much of in the past few years, is absolutely brilliant in this role, giving it all that she’s got, but at the same time, still seeming like she’s not really trying at all, either.

Consensus: Though the Hateful Eight isn’t Tarantino’s best, it is still fun, well-acted and compelling enough to keep everything moving at a fine pace, even despite the three-hour long run-time.

8.5 / 10

Totally bad-ass. Back off, boys.

Totally bad-ass. Back off, boys.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

American Ultra (2015)

Weed kills. Not you, but others.

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) lives with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), where have a comfortable, lazy, and pot-filled life the rural burbs of West Virginia. However, what Mike doesn’t know is that he was once apart of a covert CIA initiative entitled “the Ultra Program” – something he has no memory of but is going to get a quick reminder of very soon. This all begins when a hot-shot CIA agent (Topher Grace) decides that he needs to get rid of Mike in a way of typing-up loose-ends, but the sympathetic CIA agent (Connie Britton) won’t let that happen as she sees the operation as her own child and it’s up to her to keep it safe and alive. Now, Mike and Phoebe are on the run from the CIA, as they run into all sorts of blood, guts, and violence; most of which Mike is surprisingly able to handle due to certain skills he had in the field, coming back to him. But no matter how many people Mike kills, he still worries for the love of his life, Phoebe, and now that she’s been captured, he’s worried that it may be time for him to call a day and let whatever’s going to happen to him, happen.

American Ultra tries to be so many things at once and is so willing to change between them on a dime, with reckless abandon. At one point, it’s a stoner-comedy about a middle-class dude just trying to get by; at another, it’s about this young, happily-in-love couple also trying to get by; and then, seemingly out of nowhere, it’s this gory action-thriller with CIA agents, conspiracies, and all sorts of illegal activities. While all of these elements sound as fun and as interesting can be, the movie still somehow turns out to be a bit of a slug – something that director Nima Nourizadeh tries so hard to avoid, but in all honesty, just can’t.

Never thought I'd say, but I'm so happy to see the dude who played Eric Foreman!

Never thought I’d say this, but I’m so happy to see the dude who played Eric Forman!

But, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t at least occasionally entertained by the effort put on by just about everyone involved.

Some of this can be chalked up to Nourizadeh for not standing down and allowing for his material to stick on the ground without hardly ever having anything to show for it, but a good portion of this can be given to the fact that Max Landis is the one who’s behind the pen and paper on this one. For anybody who knows Landis’ work, they’ll know that a few years ago, he wrote the smart and entertaining Chronicle; a movie that had every bit of animosity standing in its way, but somehow got by on being more than just a superhero movie with a neat gimmick. And watching American Ultra, I got a lot of the same feel from that movie, here; while they’re two different stories altogether, the idea of two young people being thrown into this insane, sometimes horrific situation is still relevant and works, all to a certain extent.

See, even though the movie wants to act as if it has this big, huge, beating heart at the center of all the mayhem and havoc, the movie is, in all honesty, more concerned with the carnage that ensues. There’s no problem with this because, for what it’s worth, all of the violence is as barbaric and as crazy as it needs to be and is, at least, fun to watch. It takes away from the rest of the movie being a bit of a bore and shows that Landis, while a bit sketchy on certain aspects of telling a compelling story, still has bright ideas to use when it comes to writing a tense, but fun action-sequence; something that means a lot more when you see it play out, than it actually sounds coming from a dork such as myself.

But to have a movie that is, altogether, both passionately romantic and horrifically violent, there needs to be a nice divider to between the two. There has to be some sort of break apart between the two story-elements, like in say something like True Romance that’s got a very heartfelt love story in between all of the craziness and gore that spews out from the sometimes convoluted story (although, to be fair, that story is at least a little easier to get the hang of than this). Here, the romance never feels earned and whenever it’s given attention, it more or less feels like it’s taking away from what could have been a lot more of a fun flick.

Wish more drug-dealers were as funny as John Leguizamo, but sadly, they're just boring.

Wish more drug-dealers were as funny as John Leguizamo, but sadly, they’re mostly just boring.

Still though, there’s something here to watch, which makes it at least a tiny bit better than most of what we’re used to get in the last weekends of August.

And even though the script turns out to be something of a mess, clearly something was working well enough that it attracted such a high-caliber cast as this. Having worked together before on Adventureland, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart clearly share a nice bit of chemistry between one another and it translates well into the earlier portions of the movie, where it’s mostly all about them and all of the other CIA nonsense is pushed to the side. Then, all that nonsense comes into the main-frame and makes their relationship seem a bit more irrelevant to the central story, and instead, we’re more or less focused on how many people Eisenberg’s character can kill with a frying-pan.

The rest of the cast has got some fine names, too, but even they feel like they’re wasted on some material that still can’t make up its mind. Britton’s character is, as expected, sympathetic and nurturing, as if she just walked off of the set of Friday Night Lights and forgot to change her character; Walton Goggins plays a mentally-challenged killer by the name of Laughter, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds; Bill Pullman shows up to do his thing; John Leguizamo plays, once again, a drug-dealer, even though in real life, it’s all he ever complains about playing; and even though a lot of people give him a bad rap in general, Topher Grace is pretty great here as the dick-headed CIA agent.

I’ve been reading a lot of the complaints about Grace here saying that he’s, “annoying” and “a dick”, but having seen the film, I can’t understand why this would be a problem to begin with. The whole character’s reason to exist is to be annoying, as well as a dick, because without him, there wouldn’t be much of a story to begin with. Without Grace gracing us with his character’s presence (like that?), we’d still be stuck where we were in the first-act; watching as these two love birds got stoned, talk about trees, start crying and generally, not make any sense.

So, yeah. Thanks, Topher Grace. I’m glad you were around.

Consensus: Dealing with so many plot-elements at once, American Ultra is a jumble, but it’s an interesting one that’s occasionally fun and entertaining to sit by, watch, and remind yourself that it is in fact, late-August and the movies don’t get much better than this.

5.5 / 10

Had this taken place in the early-90's, it would have been the perfect sequel to Adventureland, but sadly, it's just its own thing and nobody cares.

Had this taken place in the early-90’s, it would have been the perfect sequel to Adventureland, but sadly, it’s just its own thing and nobody cares.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Machete Kills (2013)

CIA, step up your game and legalize this man! Along with weed, of course.

Machete (Danny Trejo) is back, and this time, it’s the U.S. President (Carlos Estevez)’s orders! Machete gets the order to get out deep in the deserts of Mexico, and stop a schizophrenic madman (Demián Bichir) from launching a deadly missile aimed at Washington, D.C., which may also run a bit deeper than just him and connect all the way back to the U.S., where rich billionaire Voz (Mel Gibson) may be partaking in some shady dealings as well. Shady dealings like, say, taking a trip to outer space. However, once people catch wind of this news that Machete is alive, well, and running all around, then somebody puts a bounty on his head, which many, many colorful and dangerous characters get involved with. Problem is, they don’t realize that Machete don’t text, don’t Tweet, and he sure as hell don’t die. Remember that.

Though I never got to reviewing it for you fine specimens, the first Machete kicked all tons of ass and was every bit as insane, as dumb, and as idiotic as I would have expected a Robert Rodriguez movie to be, and then some. Essentially, it was a one-joke movie, with a one-joke premise, but it never lost its steam and always continued to make me laugh, get grossed out (in a good, exploitative way that worked well with the material) and overall, just have a total and complete ball. It helped that that movie had a star-studded cast that continued to show more and more familiar faces as it went along, and it also helped that Rodriguez himself realized that he was making a piece of B-movie heaven, so of course he just had to run with it; with a bigger budget of course.

"Machete don't do blondes. But, there's always exceptions to certain rules."

“Machete don’t do blondes. But, there’s always exceptions to certain rules.”

However, what worked so well for me with that movie, seems to have suddenly run a bit dry here, even despite the bigger cast, the somewhat bigger budget, and the even bigger action scenes that Rodriguez really seemed to throw all of his time, money and effort into. For some reason, it never feels like it’s going for that one-joke and trying to spin it around as much as possible anymore; instead, the movie feels like it has almost way too much plot, way too many twists and way too much time spent on meaningless characters that obviously are around to show you how wacky the movie is, but ultimately, just take up precious time and space that could have been used more for people getting their heads chopped off. And yes, that’s the type of stuff I want to see more of in a Machete movie, because it’s done for the sole purpose that it’s absolutely ridiculous.

Here, it just seemed like Rodriguez had so many more ideas and subplots he wanted to play around with, and yet, couldn’t keep his curious hand away from showing them as much as attention as Machete should get. Because, let’s face it, this is Machete’s movie, this is his story and this is his time to shine. So, when you take that away from him and focus more on the meandering plots/characters of the movie that wouldn’t make a lick of difference to the whole shebang in the long run, then you’re robbing us, the audience, as well. People who want to see this want to see Machete do crazy stuff like spin around on a helicopter-blade and chop people’s heads off, or get banged by some of the sweetest honeys around. We don’t want to see a whole subplot that concerns a hitman taking off his disguise face, and putting on a real one, all of the time. And even if that subplot was to be shown, at least do it in less than a minute or so, only to not take away from Machete himself; aka, the character that makes this movie work, everytime they focus on him and whatever sick, sadistic and violent thing he does next.

There’s just so much fun to be had with this character, and it makes you wonder why somebody, especially some nut-job like Rodriguez would want to take that away from him. Give him to Quentin! He’ll set him straight, give him his cake, and allow him to eat it, too. But not just a piece, the WHOLE, FREAKIN’ THING.

But, no matter what, it cannot be denied that Danny Trejo is the heart and soul behind this character, and despite the reality of the matter that he’s older than most of the chiseled-out freaks from the Expendables movies, you still believe him as a wholly unbelievable character. Machete is a straight-man to all of the nonsense happening around him, and with that on his plate, Trejo owns the role and seems to never lose his comedic-timing. It’s obviously not as eventful to see Trejo in this role like it was the first time around, mainly due to the fact that he’s dipped his pen into a few no-budget movies in the years since, but it’s still awesome to see him play Machete, and do what he does best: Kill the fuck out of people.

Damn you, puberty. Damn you to hell.

Damn you, puberty. Damn you to hell.

And while I do stand by what I said about Rodriguez centering too much of his attention on the supporters more so here than he did in the last film, it can’t be denied that each and every one of these big names are having the time of his/her life. Some peeps from the first are back like Tom Savini, Michelle Rodriguez, William Sadler, and Jessica Alba, in a role that probably gives her as much time on-screen as she does: No less than 5 minutes. Since she’s up on the screen for such a short time, she is ultimately replaced by Amber Heard playing an undercover agent, posing as Miss San Antonio and seems like she fits in quite well with Rodriguez crazed world of drug dealers, hookers, sadists, madmen billionaires, and total crazies.

And that’s just his dinner table at Thanksgiving! Woo-hoo! I got a million of ’em!

But no seriously, she fits in mighty fine, as well as plenty of other new, fresh faces like Sofia Vergara, Demián Bichir, in a very against-type that he rolls with and never loses the fun-factor, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Hudgens, and the best of them all, none other than Mr. Jew-hater himself, Mel Gibson. This is one of those cases where it seems like Mel is only taking what he can get at the moment, but if that is the case, then so be it, because every chance this guy gets to join in on the fun, he does, and with plenty of energy and pizzazz. He chews the scenery like nobody’s business, hasn’t seemed like he’s lost his comedic-timing in a million years, and mostly keeps the film afloat, even when it becomes too obvious that it’s gone absolutely everywhere it could have gone, and then some. And yes, I am talking about somewhere like space, but that is a different story and movie, for a different day.

Consensus: No doubt about it that Machete Kills will offer all of the same types of B-movie craziness and fun that the first one gave us, but a little bit more of scaling-back on its numerous strands of plot, character, and ideas, would have definitely helped this been a better time. Oh well, at least I got an autograph from Robert Rodriguez himself out of the deal. At least there is that.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Can't get rid of me no matter how hard you try. I'm sort of like Jesus. Ain't that right, JEWS?!?!?"

“Can’t get rid of me no matter how hard you try. I’m sort of like Jesus. Ain’t that right, JEWS?!?!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Yo Joe! Get a better release date next time!

After almost all of the G.I. Joe’s are wiped-out after a sneak-attack from Cobra hit them, the ones that are left must build a team, get the professionals, and be strong enough to defeat their mortal enemy. The only problem is that they need help, and with the assistance of the government and a General named Joe Colton (Bruce Willis), they may find a possible way of a victory after all. However, just like you always used to fantasize when playing with the toys: it’s not always an easy match. That is, unless you played with Barbies, then don’t even bother reading this synopsis, this review, or this movie!

No matter what I say about this movie from now until the end of this review, just know that I am so mad at this movie for what it did to me last year. I mean, I not only was really looking forward to it, I even went so far as to put it as one of my most-anticipated for the Summer, IN MY HIGH-SCHOOL NEWSPAPER! That’s right, for all of my high-school to see and then when they actually buzzed out on me and decided to take it back to the next year (meaning today), not only did I look like an ass, but actually was a little upset because I wanted to still see it. But noooooo! Hollywood has to get those bigger bucks, had to make sure everything had an extra dimension, and worst of all, had to make sure Channing Tatum got five more minutes of screen-time. That’s right people: he’s only in this for a total of ten minutes, then gets killed, and is never seen again. Nice job. Glad the re-shoots and delays were worth it.

His 15 minutes of fame, minus 5.

His 15 minutes of fame, minus 5.

I’m not going to lie to you all, I actually liked the first G.I. Joe movie. Yeah, it had it’s fair share of problems, it was corny, it was stupid, and it was sure as hell loud, but it was still fun and that’s all that mattered to me. However, it seems like the people behind this sequel, feel as if that movie was so damn terrible, that they not only need to kill-off almost all of the characters from that movie, but do away with everything else about it as well. The first one had this over-the-cop, campy-feel to it that was surprising, considering the G.I. Joe cartoons and comics have always been serious, but this one sort of loses that edge about half-way through.

For instance, when we are first introduced to Duke and Roadblock, we see them goofing around with one another, spouting-out one-liners, and overall, just having a good time without getting too jokey and forgetting about the action. Then, as soon as the original Joe members are all killed-off, then things get a tad too serious, and not in the fun way either. The jokes are still there, the action is still around, and the over-the-top look and feel is still present at moments, but it’s not what you’d expect.

Where this movie seems to lose itself is that it not only focuses way too much on plot, but also forgets that this is a mindless action movie, made off of what is essentially a bunch of action figures that all the cool kids played with, when the girlies were off making sure that Ken and Barbie got it on. A lot. To try and make a serious story out of something like that, is ridiculous in it’s own right. To lose that sense of fun or craziness, just seemed like a slap in the face to the audience that grew up loving and watching G.I. Joe’s but also a waste of a good budget, and a good cast that knows how to have fun, be witty, and be cool, all at the same time. Jon M. Chu isn’t a bad director to be chosen for this material, but at the end of the day: something felt like it was missing and I can’t quite put my finger on it just yet, but it may have something to do with the fact that everybody seems to melodramatic, without getting loose and shaking things up. The original wasn’t a ground-breaker by any stretch, but at least it had fun for the time being. This one just tried way, way too hard.

But don’t be fooled by all of this shit-talking I’m doing, it’s still a fun movie and will most likely bring out the kid inside of you: for better or worse. Yes men, this is the movie that you want to see with your buddies, whether or you be drunk or not. Just make sure that you don’t bring your ladies or else she may come around the next day, asking for when the best time for her is to pick up her stuff. Trust me, it’s that type of movie. It’s filled with a bunch of fun, action, and excitement, and even though I have to say that almost every single trailer and commercial has spoiled the big,  insane shit that was supposed to wow us into the new year, it’s still fun to watch and enjoy, especially when you’re around as much machismo, as was in this movie. Oh and that is a lot. That’s fo damn sho.

Dwayne Johnson (fine, I guess I’ll take his ass seriously for now) is pretty bad-ass as Roadblock because not only does he have that lovable charm that makes you feel like he could win over anybody with that million dollar smile of his, but the smarts to beat Cobra and take back the country that was rightfully his in the first place. When it comes to the action, Dwayne is awesome and proves us why he is the perfect man for a job when it comes to beating the tar out of people, spitting on their faces, and always having the tongue left to say something witty. I mean, hey, that’s how the guy got famous in the first place, right?

What a dick.

What a dick.

I was still bummed to see Channing Tatum go away so quick, let alone, at all in this movie, but I guess it’s fine for what we see of him. Still, I was pissed that they got rid of him, in place of D.J. Cotrona as Flint who is as dull as they come. He barely has a personality, anything cool or insightful to say, nor does even have a specialty that makes him stand-apart from the group of other Joe’s with him. He’s just regular, old Flint that nobody seems to care about, let alone remember once the shit hits the fan. The one person I did remember was Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye who does a nice job at conveying that sense of what it takes to be a female and still kick-ass, but yet, still have to stay and be able to hang with the big boys in town. She’s actually good in the role and not a joke like she could have easily been. Bruce Willis is also here as recently-retired sergeant Joe Colton and is fine, but this is no John McClane. He’s just there to be old, a bit witty, and the type of guy who can handle a gun. Willis is always likable, but he seems bored here. I don’t blame him.

On the opposite side of the fence, the baddies are okay, but nothing special. Cobra is Cobra and always a bad-ass, who somehow seems to get away just in the nick of time. Ray Stevenson plays Firefly, the type of dude that has a solution to every problem and is good doing what it is that he does. However, the one that really stole the show for me, especially on the flip side of things, was Jonathan Pryce as he played a dual-role as the U.S. President, when he was good and when he was bad. What makes Pryce so much fun to watch is that he seems to be having a freakin’ turkey of a time just being evil, mean, and sadistic, but never goes over-board with it all. Instead, he seems smart, calm, and collective, even when stuff seems to get very serious for him and the others around him. Very surprised with Pryce here and somehow, he made this old dude seem like the type of guy that could get away with this all in the end.

Still have no idea why the hell RZA showed up here in a old-man, kung-fu outfit, but damn does he love his kung-fu or what?!?!?

Consensus: Though it’s a tad bit better in some ways than the first one, G.I. Joe: Retaliation still takes itself a bit too seriously in terms of plot and characters, to be considered an all-out action fest of guns, explosions, bullets, hot ladies, and even hotter dudes, but does what it can and is entertaining for that fact.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"You really expect me to say it, in a PG-13 movie?!?!"

“You really expect me to say it, in a PG-13 movie?!?!”

Django Unchained (2012)

DjangoUnchainedPosterNo way the dirty South could have been this dirty. Could it have been?

Jamie Foxx stars as the titular character named Django, who is an escaped slave who teams up with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Let’s just get it all out in the open and out of the way for everybody to see and understand before I jump any further into this review: this was my most anticipated flick of the year. Obviously, I’m not much different from others out there in the movie-world, and it’s probably no shock to any of you out there who know that Quentin Tarantino is one, if not my favorite writers/directors working today. This has been a passion-project of his since day 1 and it only seems right that after knocking-out homers left-and-right over the past 20 years, that he finally get to do, what he does best: showing us a little piece of his sick, but original mind.

Everything you see in this flick is exactly what you would expect from a Tarantino flick: crazy characters, wacky dialogue, oodles of violence, ironic use of pop-music, homages to classic flicks that only he and about 5 others actually “get”, and a huge deal of suspense, that almost seems to come out of nowhere. These are the staples of Tarantino’s flicks and as much as they have came-out to be nothing short of expected by now, that still is in no way, shape or form an insult or negative about Tarantino and this movie, because it’s still freakin’ awesome and probably the most original flick I’ve seen all year.

The topic of racism is what really stands in the front of the line with this movie and even though the flick basically takes place during 1858, in the South where slavery runs high and mighty amongst rich, white men, the topic is never used to be thoughtful, or even used as a metaphor for the world we are in now. It’s basically used as another tool for Tarantino to show loads and loads of gruesome/graphic violence and actually give it meaning, rather than throw it at the screen and hoping that it will make sense in the grander scheme of things. Nope, Tarantino’s not all about that and anybody who complained about Inglorious Basterds not being the action-packed, gore-ride they were expecting from QT, then he will definitely shut you up with this one because every piece of violence here, is bloody, gory, and ever so stylized, as we can always expect from Tarantino. Sometimes it’s almost too vicious to watch but hey, that’s not a bad thing considering this is coming from a movie who’s director had 15-minutes of a movie dedicated to a chick hacking-up people, all-over-the-place, with a samurai sword, of all weapons to choose.

So, a white man and black man walk down the streets of a Southern town, around 1858....

So, a white man and black man walk down the streets of a Southern town, around 1858….

The violence in this movie definitely stands-out among the rest of what Tarantino uses here, but the script is even better and is classic-Tarantino, at it’s finest. As usual, we get a lot of the witty, catchy-banter between characters that seems almost too energetic to be true, but Tarantino really works himself hard as a writer, especially with this movie, because he actually goes somewhere we never really expected him to in the first-place: comedy. Yeah, it may seem like a bit of a head scratcher that I would talk about how much comedy Tarantino uses and how it surprised the hell out of me because with the flicks that he’s done over the years, it would seem like he’s been doing comedy forever. To be honest, Tarantino has always had a knack for incorporating a great-deal of humor into his scripts, but not as obvious and not as important as it is used here. There are so many scenes here that just had me laughing, not just because Tarantino is doing something that only I, as a movie-geek, actually get, but more or less because he is actually trying to make me laugh and it worked so, so very well.

However, as much as he may put the emphasis on comedy this time-around, Tarantino still never forgets to switch things up and make it more dark and serious, and the tonal-changes are swift, unnoticeable, and always deserved. You know once Tarantino gets into his “serious mode”, then all of the violence and, in a way, more comedy actually comes about since this is the type of material that Tarantino strives for and always seems to have a blast with. Certain scenes would really catch me off-guard because here I would be expecting it to be a scene where a couple of people are sittin’ around, shootin’ the shit, and basically being a bunch of goof balls, but then would all of a sudden change into this very dark and tense scene, where all hell is about to break-loose and anybody you actually care about in this movie, could be gone as quick as you can say the word, “dead”. Seriously, just that snap of a finger, and all of a sudden a scene does a total 180 where we don’t even know what to expect. That sure unpredictability is exactly what I come to expect from Tarantino and it’s put to good-use here, so many damn times that I was literally sweating with tension at-times. The idea of not knowing where a film is going to land next, is always my favorite-aspect of a movie and here, it’s only better because it’s Tarantino and this guy always seems to have a blast with just fucking around with the audience, their minds, and their moods. That damn Tarantino! He’s always so snarky.

This scene would have been so much more epic if more than 3 people got what the hell Tarantino was referencing. Not including me, btw.

This scene would have been so much more epic if more than 3 people got what the hell Tarantino was referencing. Not including me, by the way.

Even if Tarantino seems to be having a ball with this movie, he’s not having the most fun. Actually, that utter sense of joy and pleasure goes right to the ensemble cast, who are all amazing, well-picked, and having the time of their lives just doing what they do best: act their asses off. When I first heard about Jamie Foxx’s casting as Django, I thought it was a tad unoriginal, and just another-way for Foxx to go around, acting all cool and jive, while wearing a cowboy hat. You know, in an ironic-way. I wasn’t really-looking forward to seeing him play this role, but you know what? Foxx kicks-ass in it and it’s a huge wonder as to why I ever doubted the dude in the first-place. Foxx isn’t as front-and-center with this story as you may think, but whenever he does get the time to shine and do his own thing, he owns it, and doesn’t even have to say anything. Sometimes the emotions on his face tell it all and as easy it is to make us feel something for a slave that wants to be free and get his wife back, it’s even easier to make us feel something for a character that we know can fight his own battles and not ask for sympathy. Django, in terms of the actual-character, is the perfect, Spaghetti Western cowboy, because he’s soft-spoken, cool, but always has something witty to say on his mind. And Foxx owns that role to a T.

In the past 3 years, ever since Basterds hit the theaters and made Christoph Waltz a bona-fide star, it seems like Hollywood has never been able to capitalize on the guy’s real talents as a serious and dramatic actor. However, Tarantino knows how to use the guy best and shows that with every-line of dialogue that comes out of this man’s mouth. Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, the nicer-version of Hans Landa, but still is just as sadistic and smart. What makes Schultz such a great character is that the guy is always one-step ahead of everybody else around him. He always knows to act in every situation, he always knows the right things to say, he always knows how to keep his cool, when shit starts to get heavy, but the most-important factor of his character out of all, is that he always knows how to kill anybody that stands in his way. He’s a violent bastard that seems like the type of guy you want to be bounty hunters with, but as time goes on and he starts to have heavier obstacles thrown in his way, Schultz starts to fold under pressure and show how sometimes, Django is better-suited for certain situations. It’s a great dynamic the two characters have, and it’s heightened even more, mainly because of the pitch-perfect chemistry between the two that always seems to feature the best lines in the whole movie.

The nicest way to ask a black man if he cared to have a smoke back in those days.

The nicest way to ask a black man if he cared to have a smoke back in those days.

I was mainly looking forward to this movie for many, many reasons, but I think the most, out of all, surprisingly, was the fact that this was Leonardo DiCaprio’s first, main-role as a villain in lord only knows how long, here as Calvin Candie. I’ve always been a huge fan of Leo and all that he’s been able to do in the past decade or so, but even I will admit, his act seemed to get a little stiff by the 10th time he played a confused, and troubled victim of something bad being played against him. It was the same-old routine in almost every movie he seemed to sign-up for and even though the guy did awesome with that routine, it started to become glaringly old, and a role as a campy, over-the-top slave owner, in a QT film, sounded like the perfect-way to spice things up in the dude’s career. And damn, was I ever so happy that I was right about that sweet, soothing sound.

DiCaprio is, well, how should I put it? Perfect in a role like this. Calvin Candie is cunning, funny, campy, and very, very sly in his way of handling himself through every situation he’s put into but you can always tell that there’s something darker lying beneath the surface and the way DiCaprio handles all of that, is probably the best-acting he’s done in awhile. DiCaprio doesn’t just explode with anger, rage, and energy whenever the camera’s on him. No, he just lets it sit there, watching him, letting us know his character, all that he is, all that he does, and all that he can be, if he has to turn the other-cheek and be an evil asshole like we all expect him to be. Eventually, Candie does turn into that evil asshole we expected to see from him right-away, but DiCaprio is so good and so masterful at portraying it, that you really cannot take your eyes off of him. No matter how hard anybody else around him actually tries, DiCaprio is the one that steals the spotlight in every scene he has, and it’s just perfect to watch, especially coming from a guy who’s been wanting a role like this for Leo, for the longest-time. When he loses his shit, he loses it in the most-hardcore way of all and demands your attention, rather than simply asking for it, in the kind-way, Candie likes to fool people with. I really don’t think I can hit the head on the nail as much as I have already, but I’m just going to leave my whole two, orgasm paragraphs on Leo by saying this: that motherfucker deserves the Oscar this year. I’m done, I’ve said it, and yet, I still feel like I haven’t said enough! Aaaaahhhh! Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect. End. Of. Story.

"Listen, bitch!! I'm Samuel L. Jackson, and I'm just loud! Get used to it!"

“Listen, bitch!! I’m Samuel L. Jackson, and I’m just loud! Get used to it!”

Now that that is over with, let me move onto everybody else that deserves a bit of a shine from the spotlight as well. Samuel L. Jackson seems to be another-one in this cast that’s having a ball as the head house slave Stephen, a total Uncle Tom from head-to-toe in terms of appearance, and mental-state also. From the first-shot of the guy, Samuel L. is almost unrecognizable as Stephen, but as time goes on, you get it in your head that it is Samuel L., doing his funny-as-hell, loud yelling and screaming that we always expect from the guy and it’s just so great to watch, especially since it seems like Samuel L. in his comfort-zone. I don’t know if the guy ever left to begin-with, but watching him just have a blast with a role and take over the screen like he does, is always a joy to watch in my book.

Kerry Washington was a bit of a disappointment to watch as Django’s baby girl, Broomhilda Von Shaft (trust me, see the movie and you’ll understand), not just because she isn’t featured in the movie a lot, but mainly because she doesn’t have as much of a screen-presence as everybody else in this flick seems to have. And that’s especially weird to have coming out of my fingertips, considering this is a QT movie and the guy always has kick-ass, female characters to show off. Don’t get me wrong, Washington is still good with her role but doesn’t really get much to do other than cry, yell, and looked terrified the whole-time. There’s so many more faces and stars in this cast that are worth mentioning and bringing to your attention but seriously, just go see the movie for yourself and realize that Tarantino is not only perfect when it comes to writing and directing, but also casting. The guy’s just got it all and all of these rumors of a possible, early-retirement has me scared shitless. Oh well, let’s just hope he keeps on churning out movies until he can’t no mo.

Consensus: Some trimming of the fat needed to be done here and there with Django Unchained, but for a movie that is 2 hours and 40 minutes and is never, for a second, ever boring or uninteresting, I have to say that’s pretty damn a-okay with me, especially if it’s a Tarantino movie, where fun, violence, comedy, cheekiness, homages, and pop-culture references all come together, in one beautiful, original blender of ideas.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Apparently, people DO care if Don Johnson ever works another day in his life again.

Apparently, people DO care if Don Johnson ever works another day in his life again.

Merry Christmas to all! Enjoy it and enjoy the presents you may or may not get from Santa!

Lincoln (2012)

Sorry guys, no vampires this time around.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the sixteenth President of the United States of America, also known as Abraham Lincoln, and paints a portrait of him during the tumultuous final months of his life, during which he fights to abolish slavery by putting forth an amendment in the House of Representatives.

For over a decade now, we have all been waiting for Steven Spielberg to deliver on his promise of an actual, Abraham Lincoln biopic and for awhile there, it was going to happen. Actually, at one-point, Liam Neeson was supposed to star as Honest Abe but Neeson himself even declared he was “too old” for the role, even though Daniel Day is five years younger than him, but hey, if Oskar Schindler says no, Oskar Schindler means no. Thankfully though, after all of this time, Spielberg delivers on his promise and gives us a movie that isn’t quite the epic biopic we were all expecting out there. Hell, it’s the farthest thing from actually.

Instead of going for the full-scale, sweeping epic idea that he has gone with on such pictures like War Horse, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, Spielberg takes a step-back and decides to play it down a little bit and make it a more intimate, focused piece of work that doesn’t focus on Lincoln’s whole life, but the last couple months of his life where he had to put up with all of these problems, that it’s a real wonder how the guy didn’t just die of a heart-attack right then and there. In a way, a part of me wishes that Spielberg went all-out here and tackle Abe through his life, but seeing him in the latter years of his life does seem like a better fit for Spielberg to play it safe, and not get way too in over his head, like he has been known to get in recent-years. However, that’s not to say that Spielberg still doesn’t have what it takes to deliver some the top-notch directing moments we all know and love him for.

I think what really intrigued me the most about this flick was how it shows just how hard it was, and probably still is, to get a bill passed and all of the twists and turns that come along with that mission. Abe had to talk to a lot of people, had to plan out a lot of ideas in his head, had to win over a crap-load of people, and most of all, had to still keep it in his mind to do the right thing. It’s a very hard, especially in today’s day and age of politics, to not only do the right thing but also keep with that idea in your head and never mess-up on that. Abe never gets dirty with where he gets with his mission to abolish slavery, and it’s really fresh to see considering this is a guy that America still reveres to this day.

We get a great glimpse at a guy, we can only read about in bore-fest books and Spielberg, for the most part, delivers on that spectrum. The story is as simple as they come, yet, Spielberg never loses sight of what he really wants to show and what he really wants to convey and we get that perfectly. It’s a slow-burn of a movie, but Spielberg keeps it surprisingly entertaining with a couple of nice touches here and there where we feel like we are placed in the same exact setting that the movie’s portraying, and also feel like we’re on the edge-of-our-seat, wondering just how the hell this bill is going to get passed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know that the bill gets passed and whatnot, but the film still kept me wishing and hoping that it would, considering there is so much anger and aggression against it, that’s a huge wonder how it didn’t continued to get denied until this very day.

However, I still can’t lie to you and tell you that I loved this movie, because I really didn’t. The problem I had with this movie was that it would go on for so long (it clocks in at 150 minutes, if that tells you anything already) with just talking, arguing, and political-jargon being used, that I actually felt myself dozing off a couple of times and wondering when they were going to get a move on with this story. Playing it subdued and intimate was a nice approach that Spielberg decided to use, but when your whole film is about a bunch of people just talking about a bill that we all know gets passed at the end of it all, well, it can be a bit repetitive, as well as, dare I say it, boring.

Another problem I had with this movie was that I wasn’t as emotionally-invested as I feel so many other people were with this movie. Ever since this movie came out, I’ve been seeing reviews from people that are just talking about how much they couldn’t handle their emotions during this film and just had to let out all of the tears. My question is, how the hell are all of these people crying at a movie that’s about a story we all know, a history-figure we all think we know, and features a screenplay, where everybody talks and hollers at each other in this sophisticated, political language that is rarely ever muttered in today’s day and age (thank god for that, too)? Seriously, I would get it if we all watched Lincoln from the start of his life, to the end of it but something just did not connect with me and have the water-works moving at the end. Instead, I felt like I knew the man more than I ever did before and I think that’s all I needed, really, a history lesson, not a life-changing experience.

However, I don’t blame these people for getting emotional, either, because when you have Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead, it’s hard not to tear-up. As always, Daniel Day is perfect in a lead role that shows him off to be one of the finest actors we have working today but it’s not the type of role you’d expect from the guy. With roles like Bill Cutting and Daniel Plainview being some of his most famous in recent time, it’s a refresher to see him go back to his old-ways and play soft, gentle, and kind fellow that means no harm to anyone around him, but just wants to do what he thinks is right for the country and what feels right in his heart. He’s obviously a nice guy that you can tell has some real charm to him that wins everybody over that he meets, as well as a knack for story-telling that are some of the funniest, if not thought-provoking pieces of tales that I have ever heard. How many times did Honest Abe break out of regular-conversation just to tell a story about a man and his farm? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do know is that they were lovely stories to hear, mainly because it was Daniel Day who was delivering them in his sweet, gentle voice that doesn’t even seem recognizable in the least bit.

Daniel day lights up the screen every time he pops-up on it and delivers one of the finest performances of the year, and really does have you sympathize and feel something for a man we rarely know about how he was in life. We read about it in books, but it’s all up in the air as to what or who this guy really was in real-life, but I think Daniel Day’s portrayal is the most accurate depiction we can all go along with and agree on. If Daniel day doesn’t get a nomination this year, hell will freeze over, but then again, I think it’s a pretty sure thing that no matter what the movie the guy signs up to do, he’s going to get an Oscar-nomination regardless and you know what? I have no problem with that because this guy is an actor’s actor, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. That was a pretty obvious statement though, because everybody looks forward to what the guy does next, it’s all just a matter of how long will it take this time around.

Even though Daniel Day is perfect in this lead role, he almost gets the spotlight taken away from him from an actor that could also be considered “an actor’s actor”. Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens in a way that we all know and love Jones for playing his roles. He’s cranky, he’s old, he’s witty, and most of all, he’s a bastard that you do not want to go toe-to-toe with when it comes to an argument. As Stevens, Jones allows this fact to be even more truer than we already know it to be and really gives us a glimpse at a man that may even want this bill passed more than Lincoln himself, and there’s an amazing, final scene with him that shows us why. Jones is on-fire in this role and I really do think that he’s a sure-thing for an Oscar nomination this year and I do not disagree with that one-bit because the guy is always spectacular, he’s just been wasting too much of his time as Agent K to really allow us to see what is so spectacular about him in the first-place.

Playing Lincoln’s wife, Sally Fields probably gives one of her best performances I’ve seen from her in the longest time. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln the same exact way you’d expect her to play her, she’s weird, she’s paranoid, she’s always angry, but yet, she’s always supportive of what Abe does and to see that play out in this film is a thing of beauty, considering her and Daniel Day have great husband-wife chemistry between the two. As opposed to Jones and Lewis, I don’t think Fields is a sure-shot for an Oscar nomination this year, but hey, if she does end up getting one I will not be pissed in the least bit. The gal is great with all that she’s given and it’s finally time that somebody’s given her a role to chew down on.

This whole movie is filled with a supporting cast that will probably shock you by how many names it really does have and to be honest, there’s a bit of a problem with that. See, there are so many damn people in this movie that even though they are all so good with each and every one of their own, respective roles, it becomes a bit of a waste to see such good talent in roles that sometimes don’t show-up on-screen for any longer than 5 minutes. Having a huge, supporting cast is great if you want to make sure every character is well-done, and every performance is good but after awhile, it sort of starts to tick you off once you realize that half of these people can do some quality work in their own flicks, they just aren’t given the chance all that much. Still, it’s great to see such big names show up in a production together and show how much people still want to work with Spielberg.

Consensus: Lincoln may take some people by surprise to how it plays-out, but if you can handle a bunch of talking, then it will definitely keep you watching from beginning-to-end with a spectacular lead performance from Daniel Day, and a message about doing the right thing, no matter who gets in the way that is still relevant today, especially in the world of politics.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Bourne Identity (2002)

All he had to do was call up Ben Affleck and everything would have been A-OK. See what I did there?

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a guy who has no past, may have no future, and who’s memory is blank. But now he is marked for death, caught in a maddening puzzle, racing for survival through the deep layers of his buried past into a bizarre world of murderous conspirators, aka, the CIA!

Believe it or not, but I have never seen any of the Bourne films before and trust me, I do feel ashamed about that. However, I’m not a huge spy guy either so that may have something to do with it as well.

What I liked most about this film and what I thought was very intriguing about it was how the spy dude that the story is centered around, is an amnesiac. This means that this guy has no idea what’s going to happen next, what he’s going to do next, or just whatever the hell is going on in general. Sucks, right? It’s particularly cool to see when he kicks the arse out of these two police officers kung-fu style and not only are we realizing that he’s one mofo to not mess with, but he’s also realizing it as well. I know it’s a little detail in the story but it makes it all the more interesting as we see all of the crazy twists and turns that this film makes without us ever really knowing what may pop-up or come to Bourne’s mind next. Definitely a lot of suspense to be had here and I have to give a lot of that to director Doug Liman, who obviously knows how keep a good amount of tension going on throughout the whole film even when it started to slow down a bit.

However, that’s also my problem with the film because I expected there to be so much more action and ass-kicking, that I was sort of let-down by it all. Don’t get me wrong, there is action to be had here and whenever it does happen, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome but when it’s spread apart very far in this movie. It does give the plot more development, as well as the characters and such but too much of it actually takes away from the film and comes off as a bit, well, should I say, boring. I know the word “boring” definitely isn’t what some of you were probably thinking while watching this flick but there was just something about it here that made me feel like I wanted to see some more ass-kicking, because when it does go down, the film gets a hell of a lot more intense.

What I do think is very notable about this film was the casting of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Even though I’m not in love with him, I still do think that Damon is great at playing “the everyday man” and can definitely bring a lot more to his character no matter what the film may be, especially here considering this character is trying to find himself in this big world of intrigue and CIA agents roaming all about. Also helps that the guy did all of his own action stunts and is pretty damn good at it too. The casting of Franka Potente was also pretty neat-o to see too because she gives this film a very European feel and her scenes with Damon actually work with the chemistry they have. I couldn’t help to think that their whole love angle was a little forced though, but I guess when you have a male and a female who are just traveling together for reasons unknown, eventually some hormones are going to start flying all over the place.

I also have to give some love to two vets who are very good at playing villains in almost every film that they do but do exceptional jobs here: Brian Cox and Chris Cooper. Nothing else really needs to be said about them other than they do great jobs as bad guys. Case closed.

The two characters in this film that I didn’t think needed to be here at all were Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Wombosi and Julia Stiles as Nicolette. The reason Adewale’s character doesn’t matter to the story and basically served this plot for one purpose and one purpose only. It seemed strange that they even had him in here considering it didn’t do anything for the flick other than add another character to the equation, which didn’t even need to happen. Also didn’t help that the dude was over-acting out of his ass and I probably would have liked it just for him to go away in the first place.

The same thing can be said for Stiles in here as well because if you t0ok her part out of the film, it wouldn’t make a single difference to their plot or anything else here. And even when she does talk in this film, she sounds like a little whiny brat that seemed to get this job because of her daddy and it probably was also a little strange how the chick was 18 and looked it when she was playing the role of a CIA underground operation. Just how many other people my age are doing shit like that? If they actually are in the real world, then I need to quit doing this and start applying. See ya!

Consensus: The Bourne Identity does slow down at points, which can take away from the fun of the action that happens here, but is still none the less very entertaining, suspenseful, well-acted, and intriguing with the ending they leave you with which definitely gets me excited to see what happens in the next installments that I still have yet to see. I know, I’m a schmuck.

7/10=Rental!!

Straw Dogs (2011)

Those Mississippi rednecks are so much more vicious than those ones from England. Well that’s if  there are such things as rednecks from England.

David Sumner (James Marsden), a Hollywood screenwriter moves with his newly wedded wife, Amy Sumner (Kate Bosworth), to her hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi. During their stay they meet with Amy’s former high school sweet heart Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) and his red neck friends. Of course hunting is in season and jealousy arises pushing everyone to their breaking point.

Having been a fan of the original Sam Peckinpah film, I went into this with very high expectations even though I knew everything that was going to happen. However, when it comes to remaking classics, I will never trust writer/director Rod Lurie ever again.

The original is all about the idea of non-violence and how far that idea will go until somebody eventually snaps and decides to take violence into their own hands. This film does not really express that idea one bit, instead, it just wants to be over-the-top. There is no subtlety here at all with this flick as we find out what the meaning for the term “Straw Dogs” means, seeing that all of the rednecks are basically one-note villains the whole time who do barbaric things such as hunting when it’s not hunting season or cutting the antlers of deers, and having a random sub-plot with a mentally-challenged kid, played by Dominic Purcell, that eventually leads into the grand-finale.

The film is very obvious with many parts that have David just looking terribly out-of-place. I mean the guy has the fancy Jaguar, listens to the orchestrated music, has a problem with people coming into his house and talking to him, and puts on a robe and slippers just to go out onto the ladder to talk to the guys working on his roof. I mean I got it that he was a nerd, but to constantly hit me over the head telling me what he is, was just annoying.

Where Lurie messed up with this film is that he spells way too many things out and where he could have actually developed characters and made their relationships understandable, he just focuses on trying to build up tension. Building up tension is fine in many cases, but here, we need something for us to actually be able to root for these characters and understand why they are the way they are and why these people are doing the things that they do.

However, I can bag on Lurie too much considering there good elements to this film as well. There are moments where the film will just focus on the couple of David and Amy, where you think it will just be them expressing their love and trying to be all cute but instead you get some pretty interesting moments. One moment is when Amy is running around in barely anything and is mad that the guys are looking at her (but come on, could you blame them?!?) but David then replies by telling her that she should have wore bra. This pisses her off and for once we see David looked at into a negative-light from Amy’s point-of-view which I thought was very intelligently handled because you don’t get to see much of that with any film that has a married couple, let alone couple, actually talking or being like that with one another in a very well-handled way. Lurie has many moments where he shines but others he just drops the ball.

If you have already seen the original then it’s basically known that the infamous rape scene is in here and it is used in a different way then it was in the original which is not a very bad thing because it was still used for great effect. Lurie makes this rape scene seem very graphic and very hard-to-watch which it should have been even if it was handled in a “tasteful way”. After this happens, the film starts to pick up some steam. Lurie creates some very good tension with many of these scenes including the end where the shit practically hits the fan. This was used a lot better in the original, but I still found myself behind this couple and cheering every time something cruel happened to the bad-guys.

However, my problem with the last act is the fact that I think it happens way too quickly and suddenly for it to actually make any real sense. I mean everybody gets real pissed, real quick and it almost seems like this violence was just something they always resort to when they don’t get their way. The ending is also way too abrupt where I was kind of hoping for some sort of epilogue or resolution to where we see David and Amy all happy that they got past all of these rednecks. It was a great build-up for Lurie but in the end of the film, he actually just loses it which was a tad disappointing.

Having James Marsden fill the shoes of a role that was originally played by Dustin Hoffman is like going from Pepsi to Max Cola, but I think this is the best I’ve seen him yet. Marsden is playing this sensitive and very soft guy that is trying so hard to prove to his hot, new, and young wife that he’s got what it takes to be “one of the guys” even though he doesn’t want anything to do with hunting or getting sweaty. When Marsden goes crazy at the end of the film, you feel the tension and anger coming off of his character and that works a whole lot considering that this character needed that psycho look in him.

Kate Bosworth is also a pretty good choice as Amy because she is both sexy and flirtatious at the beginning of the film, but then soon becomes very damaged and scared by the end of the flick. This is probably the best I’ve seen Bosworth, which isn’t saying much but she still is good here with the transitioning of her character. Her real-life boy-toy Alexander Skarsgård plays the main bad-guy Charlie who is staring intently about 50% of the whole film but is still pretty good. I thought that James Woods was completely over-the-top in his scenery-chewing role as the ex-football coach who starts almost all of this shit every time he’s on screen and just kept making me wonder on whether or not I should have laughed or taken his role seriously.

Consensus: The cast does a fine job with their roles and the tension builds up very well in the last half, but Straw Dogs is a remake that suffers from being too obvious, glorifying its violence to the point of where it seems almost forced, and moments where Rod Lurie loses his ideas of what he’s trying to say and instead just leaves them hanging without any real explanation as to why they were in the film in the first place. Stick with the original.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Predators (2010)

Oh, if only Arnie was still around to do this and wasn’t off with chicks that weren’t his wife.

Rugged mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody) inherits command of an elite team of human fighters — including dorky-but-dangerous Edwin (Topher Grace) and tough-but-beautiful Isabelle (Alice Braga) — as they are hunted by a race of ruthless alien trackers known as Predators.

Being a fan of the original as I was, a sequel that was practically 20 years in the making almost seemed too cheesy to be true! Sadly, it just made me miss the governors and Apollo Creed so much more.

Director Nimród Antal does a very good job here playing with a formula that we already know, and making it very fun to watch due to his incredibly fun style. Antal knows how to make a film entertaining with some really cool visuals and some slick production designs that actually add a lot more to the environment, as well as the story and the action.

The first 30 to 40 minutes the tension is fully raised up as the characters are trying to gather up what’s going on, and what’s going to happen next, until the CGI dogs come out and it’s killing time! But then that energy is suddenly lost so we can have some down-time for these characters to talk and so we can actually care about them. This was fine since we need character development for this type-of film to actually give two-shits, but by the second or third time they have some down-time it’s nothing but annoying considering the fast pace that it goes through sometimes.

The premise itself also starts to fall into the usual and predictable way the first one originally panned out which was kind of expected, but for some reason I still thought it wouldn’t happen. Every character gets picked off one-by-one, the kill count goes up and lands on the characters you would expect it too, and the premise pretty much turns out the way you would expect it to. Also, the way these people begin to find out what’s going on here is kind of far-fetched considering a lot of it is trying to date back to the first one and seems nothing more than just to reference that superior film.

However, as bad as some of the writing and pacing may be, I still found myself having a fun time here especially with the action and just how it kept the pace going at a rapid speed. The predators this time around are also something that are a lot more menacing, and for once I actually just wanted those mother-humpers dead rather than not caring one way or another. I thought the way they were dudes in costumes, and not just CGI effects made it incredibly realistic (well, as realistic as this material can get), and kept me further excited when the action scenes were going down.

The characters may be more of character devices rather than actual humans, but the cast surprisingly makes it all better. Adrien Brody is fine as the tough-as-nails Royce, and although he’s the main bad mofo, I never really felt like he was in trouble; Alice Braga does a good job of keeping up with the dudes as Isabelle; Topher Grace is kind of funny and extremely dorky as Edwin; and Laurence Fishburne shows up about half-way through the film to show that he is still Morpheus after all these years and is pretty good but I just wondering one thing: why was he so fat when his character had been on that “planet” for so so long? I never understood but then again, the writing didn’t really seem to care either.

Consensus: The pacing may be off, and lacks any genuine surprises as well, Predators still has enough action-packed sequences, cool visuals and production design, and a quick pace that feels like a better sequel than those other pieces of crap that have come out in the past.

6/10=Rental!!