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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Wendell Pierce

Bad Moms (2016)

Moms always do it better than dads. Just a fact.

Amy (Mila Kunis) is the kind of mom that every mother wishes she could be. She’s always there for her kids, getting them to school on time, picking them up and driving them wherever they need, cooking breakfast and dinner for them, and hell, even doing their projects for them. Her husband (David Walton) may not be as caring for her as she wishes, however, she’s been with him ever since she was 20, and she’s stayed as dedicated to him as possible, while also maintaining a steady job at a coffee co-op. But after awhile, all of this running around, rushing and having no time for herself, Amy decides to screw it all and just stop trying so hard. Sure, she’s still going to care for her kids, her husband and her job, but she’s not going to put up with anymore crap, just to make sure that everybody around her is happy. Amy’s going to make herself happy, dammit! This means that she lets loose and party’s hard with two fellow moms, Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), and gains the attention of the other mothers of the class, one of which (Christina Applegate) doesn’t approve of what she sees.

Clean-up on aisle WHATEVER! PARTY!

Clean-up on aisle WHATEVER! PARTY!

Bad Moms is the kind of movie that looks awful and is just asking for resentment. For one, it’s another movie that can be placed into subcategory of movies with the name “Bad” in the title, to hopefully remind the audience that everything that they are about to witness is going to be, at the very least, immoral, wrong, and downright vile. And yes, that also leads to the movies themselves not being all that good and just relying on shock-factor to carry it over; like a kid in middle school going through puberty, they may want to be rebellious and all sorts of angry, but the worst thing that they can possibly do is pee on the neighbor’s cat to prove something of a point.

Of course though, what Bad Moms has going for it that these other movies don’t have, is that it’s actually quite good.

It’s surprising, to say the least, because the first thirty minutes or so of Bad Moms is awful and cringe-inducing. It moves at such a slow speed, with Mila Kunis’ narration tapping on every saccharine and inane detail that, yeah, I’m sure soccer moms will find hilarious, but for others, it’s painful to listen to, because it doesn’t seem like anything is actually happening. Sure, we’re getting introduced to our main protagonist, but what we’re being told about her, doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the story that’s supposed to unfold, so the fact that the movie takes a damn near 30 minutes before it actually starts mentioning something resembling a plot, is troublesome.

But then, thankfully, the movie picks itself up and then, thankfully, Bad Moms becomes a very funny movie. Which isn’t to say that the movie itself is actually “funny” – writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore know how to deliver a raunchy joke, but for every one that lands, at least five or six miss the mark completely. However, because Bad Moms has such a lovely and charming cast on its hand, some of the jokes that honestly, not in a million years, would work, actually do.

And yes, it’s all because of the one, the only and the unstoppable Kathryn Hahn.

Has Kelly Bundy become a prude now?

Has Kelly Bundy become a prude now?

A part of me is very happy a movie like Bad Moms exists, if solely to bring someone as relatively unknown as Hahn, to the mainstream, for people to see, laugh at, and adore. Because it’s not just that she’s the funniest thing that Bad Moms has going for it, it’s that she’s the best thing about it, at certain points. Her character may seem like your typical sordid and sexual divorcee who screws whoever and whatever she wants, because she’s single as hell and not at all tied down, but because of Hahn, she also shows that there’s something resembling a human being underneath all of the drinking, partying, and making-out. After awhile, it becomes so clear that everything Hahn says is going to be hilarious, that you’ll just laugh at every single thing that comes out of her mouth, even if it isn’t as funny as something she said before.

Other than Hahn, the rest of the cast is quite lovely, too. Mila Kunis suits well as the protagonist who has a lot on her plate, but also has to still be enjoyable enough that she’s compelling; Kristen Bell works well as the sheltered and wispy-voiced mom; and Christina Applegate, Annie Mumolo, and Jada Pinkett Smith all do fine jobs at playing the evil moms of the school, while giving a funny moment here and there. The only troubling thing about this movie and its cast is that the male characters are so poorly-written, that some good and funny actors, like Jay Hernandez, David Walton, and Clark Gregg, all come off terribly one-note and cartoonish – something that this movie doesn’t seem like it was going for.

But if anything, what Bad Moms works well with is that it makes a very fair and smart points to mothers and about the role of motherhood and how, sometimes, you just need to relax a little bit. The movie isn’t trying to say that you, as a mother, should let all of the responsibilities go out the window with reckless abandon, but it’s also not saying that you have to be worried about every little thing known to man. Sometimes, it’s best to just relax and let things happen, while also keeping a keen eye on what matters most and making sure that everything is running smoothly in your household.

For a 22-year-old bro, this didn’t register quite as much, but for the target audience of Bad Moms, I’m pretty sure it will, which is perfectly fine.

Consensus: While it’s not perfect and definitely messy in some aspects, Bad Moms is also the kind of female-oriented piece of film that’s funny, honest, well-acted, and not at all patronizing to all the mothers and women out there in the world. And a few guys, for sure.

7 / 10

Take a shot gals. You deserve it!

Take a shot gals. You deserve it!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Entertainment Tonight

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Confirmation (2016)

Note to self: Keep Coca-Cola cans away from possible sex-deviants.

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce) for the Supreme Court of the United States to replace Thurgood Marshall, who was getting ready for retirement. This decision was ultimately met with loads and loads of controversy, with some seeing it as a racial issue, with others just seeing Thomas as not the right guy for the job. One person who ultimately didn’t give it another thought, until she was brought back into it all, was Anita Hill (Kerry Washington). Hill worked as a secretary for Thomas some few years back and while she had certain issues with him, she never bothered telling the press or anything. What she wanted to do was keep it to herself, keep her job, and just live a simple, quiet life, teaching the law to college kids. However, once the word gets out that Hill will be making a statement against Thomas for sexual harassment, the press lights up, accusing her, as well as him for all sorts of things. There’s a whole bunch of players at work with the case, but the one most importantly is Joe Biden (Greg Kinnear) who, at the time, was working as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, and also struggles with calling every decision right down the middle, and also remembering not to tarnish the good name of the United States of America.

It's all about the hair-pieces.

It’s all about the hair-pieces.

There’s no denying the importance of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. While Hill herself lost the hearings and was basically held out to dry by all of her fellow colleagues and confidantes, there’s no denying that, after the fact, it spearheaded a movement in which more women, and especially those of color, testifying to sexual harassment issues and were granted positions of power that they deserved. And in today’s day and age, nearly 25 years later, the case is still relevant to a lot of the issues what women most go through, not just in the workforce, but in general.

But for some reason, Confirmation is hardly important. If anything, it’s just an overdone, overcooked, well-acted, and dramatic re-telling of the events that transpired within and around the Anita Hill hearings – the kind that HBO are most known for creating. While I’m all for Anita Hill getting the attention she deserves, what’s interesting is that Confirmation doesn’t just focus the story on her, but instead, decide to look elsewhere.

Perhaps most surprisingly is that it actually asks us to somewhat sympathize with someone like Clarence Thomas.

And in Confirmation, it’s clear that Thomas may have been possibly attacked out of nowhere and wrongly. After all, it’s not Anita Hill herself who comes forth with the story of her and Thomas, but instead, it’s government agencies wanting dig up some dirt on Thomas himself and figure out if they can bury him as soon as possible, or keep him around and gain respect. In a way, you could make the argument that Thomas was randomly attacked, but at the same time, there’s no denying that Thomas did something wrong, in that he sexually harassed an employee of his.

I don’t care which way you paint it, but there’s no way I’m going to sympathize with someone like that.

But Thomas isn’t the only one who gets an unfavorable light shined on him. Another famous political figure here is Joe Biden, as played by Greg Kinnear, and while it initially seems like the movie is going to take a surprisingly hard-headed approach to him, the movie decides to back out of that original plan. Instead of showing Biden to bit of a coward during the hearings (which, if you watch the footage, he was), the movie tries to show him as just a puppet, who’s strings were pulled and prodded by some very powerful puppeteers. Honestly, this may be at least some bit of the truth, but there’s no denying the fact that Biden, at this point in time, acted in an unprofessional and despicable manner, and to not put a greater focus on that fact, almost seems like the creators making an apology for him, if only because they support him now.

The look of a guilty, if very horny man.

The look of a guilty, if very horny man.

All political issues aside, it doesn’t matter – Biden, as well as everyone else surrounding him, acted in a wrongful manner. And yes, this is exactly what Confirmation shows, in an over-sensationalized way and manner – aka, the kind that HBO has always been known for doing and can, on occasion, really work well with. The issue here is that a lot of what would be interesting and thought-provoking about this case, these people and what transpired, instead just seems like a point-by-point coverage. With something like the People vs. O.J. Simpson, we’re not just getting a retelling of the case and all of the people involved with it, but were also getting a closer, more detailed look inside the lives and instances that actually occurred.

Here, with Confirmation, it just seems like something you’d be able to hear through a power point presentation.

Sure, having a stacked and well-acted cast like this is definitely appealing and allows for some of these people to appear more than just famous figures, but does it really matter when all you’re doing is just using them as points? Everybody here does their thing, but nobody’s ever really allowed to rise beyond the material, especially considering that a lot of it is just covering certain bases that many people already know about.

If anything, just watch the documentary Anita. It paints a better portrait of the woman, the case and everybody else involved with this travesty.

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, Confirmation can’t help but feel like a dramatic retelling of a story most of us know by now, but with barely any new, or interesting avenues taken.

5.5 / 10

Why nobody else has tried to bring that dress back into the fashion world is beyond me.

Why nobody else has tried to bring that quaint, little dress back into the fashion world is beyond me.

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

The Gift (2015)

High school is life.

Married couple, Simon and Robyn Callum (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), have been encountering some problems as of late with their marriage, so they decide to move back to where Simon grew up. One day, during shopping, a person by the name of Gordon Mosley (Joel Edgerton) comes up to Simon, to see if he remembers him from high school. Long story short, Simon kind of does, but kind of doesn’t, either. Plenty of time has passed, but to be a nice guy, Simon decides to invite “Gordo” over a fine dinner one night. It isn’t until long that both Robyn and Simon start to see that there’s something odd and off-putting about Gordo; he constantly leaves them gifts and comes over unexpectedly, asking for Simon, but stays longer than he probably should. Eventually, Simon gets tired of this and lets Gordo have it, which is when they think everything’s over with. However, Robyn’s fish are killed, her dog goes missing, and randomly, she starts having panic-attacks, which leads Simon to think that it’s all Gordo causing this and nobody else. But the main question remains: Why would Gordo go all this way to push himself into some dude from high school’s life, some twenty-odd years later?

A-hole.

A-hole.

Despite there being plenty more out there to see, I tend to believe sometimes that I’ve seen plenty of movies. Some were better than others, of course, but that’s not the point of my rambling – the point is that I think, after all the movies I’ve seen, I’ve come to know a lot about what to expect with certain movies. Therefore, when a story starts to lean down a certain direction, my brain automatically turns to the most conventional solution because, well, I’ve seen it all before. In all honesty, I wish I didn’t always think like this with movies, because it actually sucks a lot of the fun out, but so be it. I’m a miserable sack and I blame it all on movies.

But I digress.

The same directions that I’ve just alluded to, are the same ones I saw appear on countless occasions during the Gift. However, what’s different from this movie, as opposed to so many other ones out there that I’ve had the displeasure of seeing, is that it goes down a different way that I didn’t least expect it to. For instance, when Gordo starts showing up unexpectedly, inserting himself into this little couple’s life together, and making it known that he wants to be their friends, my brain was already saying, “Oh great. Here we go. He’s going to creep this family out so much that, eventually, they’re going to have to let him know straight-up, that their relationship is over. Then, Gordo’s going to get all crazy, start harassing the family, creeping them out plenty more, until, there’s a final battle between both sides that’s bloody and senseless.”And heck, once the dog ended up missing and the fish were killed, my mind had already turned off and let me knew that, yup, the Gift was going to be nothing different from any of the other “creepy neighbor thrillers” out there.

Once again, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that, time and time again, writer/director Joel Edgerton turned down a different street and instead, opted for more fresh ways to tell this pretty familiar story. Take, for example, the characters Edgerton has created here – nobody here, even though the movie may sometimes lean a certain way, is considered to be a “good guy” or a
“bad” one. Mostly, everyone is just a person who may have better morals/social skills/earnings/personal issues/etc. than others and that’s all there is to them. This not only helps the movie feel like it’s more than just a thriller, but a character-study, as well heighten the tension in the air because, quite frankly, we start to care for these characters.

We care for them, not just because the movie wants us to, because after a bit of time, we get to know each and everyone of them. But it’s never over-done; we get certain, little inklings about a person’s life to where we’re able to conjure up exact ideas of how these people may be. And even though, it’s never fully clear who these people are. Maybe that was the cynical point Edgerton was trying to get across, but either way, it’s still an interesting thought to have in a movie that, honestly, could have been all about this couple getting terrorized and the creepy guy, continuing to be creepy.

Edgerton is a smarter talent than that and it goes without saying that, this being his debut and all, I’m quite impressed.

Not because Edgerton finds himself more off-screen, than in front of it, despite this being his movie and all, but because he seems to understand what it takes for a movie to be both smart, but also fun-in-a-silly-kind of way. This is especially evident in the final act when it becomes clear that this is less of a story about a creepy people being creepy, and more about how bullies continue to be bullies, no matter how old or experienced they get. Though the movie itself is smart and complex, the message it sends across, isn’t; however, it’s handled in a way that makes it seem like Edgerton was actually trying to say something here, as simple as it may have been.

Sweetheart.

Sweetheart.

But still, the characters here are strong enough that it doesn’t matter if Edgerton trips up on making sense of this movie. As Simon and Robyn, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are, respectively, very good here and help create their own characters well enough to where we see them as separate human beings, and not just a couple. To me, this was probably the most important aspect to making these characters work; while it’s easy to say that they’re in love, hence the fact they’re married, it’s what they do when the other’s not around that makes them into their own person and allows us to see them for all that they are.

For instance, whenever Simon’s not around, Robyn casually goes on a job around her neighborhood, re-organize the house, work on her computer, and do whatever else she feels like doing when she’s home all alone. Though these may seem unimportant when watching them, after awhile, the film uses this as a way to develop her character and make it known that, you know, she’s just a simple, sweet and easy-going gal; she may have had past problems with drugs, as we get more than enough hints at throughout, but overall, she’s a lovely gal. In fact, she’s probably so lovely, that it becomes almost baffling as to why she decides to stick with someone like Simon who, being played by Jason Bateman should already tell you, is a bit of a dick.

In fact, he’s a huge dick.

While this may seem like the same kind of role we’ve seen Bateman do a million times before, there’s something darker and meaner about this character that makes it feel slightly “different”. Instead of all is snarky comments being played for laughs, they’re now played for serious breaks of silence, where he makes a room a whole lot more tense for just saying what he feels and thinks. Bateman’s great here and it shows that, when given a solid script, the dude really can deliver. Same goes for Hall who, by now, we understand to be a pretty great actress. She not only handles the American-accent well, but also allows us to see that there may be a bit of a darker side to this character too, even if it doesn’t always show.

But perhaps, the best character of the bunch is, no surprise, the one being portrayed by the same dude who created this movie to begin with.

Though it’s made clear to us early on that Edgerton’s Gordo may be a bit of a weirdo who is best left in his own, little world of weirdness, rather than jumping in other people’s, there’s still something about him that makes him a character worth watching. While he may be socially awkward and odd at his worst, he is, in no way, a person who seems capable of murder, or any of the heinous acts he’s accused of throughout the flick. And once it becomes clear that he’s not really a bad person, we start to feel bad for him a whole lot more and wish that, not only would someone give him a hug, but also take him out, buy him a beer, and develop a long-standing relationship with him.

Still though, the dude’s still a mystery to us by the end and it’s what makes the Gift perhaps more thought-provoking than most thrillers of this nature that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Consensus: Working as both a character-study, as well as a psychological thriller, the Gift is a smart, complex and tense tale echoing in a new writing/directing talent in the form of Joel Edgerton.

8 / 10

Strange guy.

Strange guy.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Sleepers (1996)

Never mess with a hot-dog stand, kiddies.

Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra (Jason Patric), Thomas “Tommy” Marcano (Billy Crudup), Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt), and John Reilly (Ron Eldard), are all childhood friends from Hell’s Kitchen who, after many years, haven’t really kept in close contact. Most of this has to do with the fact that, when they were younger, they were all sent to a juvenile delinquent center, where they were both physically, as well as sexually abused by the wardens there. Many years later, one of those wardens (Kevin Bacon), gets shot and killed in a bar late one night and guess who the shooters allegedly are? Yup, John and Tommy. Seeing as how they’re buddies are in the right to have shot and killed the warden, Shakes and Michael concoct a plan: Get Michael to defend the dead warden and have their old local mafia gangster, pay-off a lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) who will do the job that needs to be done, where both John and Tommy shine in a positive light and aren’t convicted. However, moral dilemmas eventually sink in and make everybody rethink their decisions – not just in this one particular moment, however, but through their whole life in general.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he's doing.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he’s doing.

There was a constant feeling I had while watching Sleepers that made me think it was just so “movie-ish”. Like clearly, a case like this couldn’t ever be true – and if it was, it sure as heck didn’t deserve the oddly-sentimental tone that Barry Levinson gives it. Despite there being a chock full of talent both behind, as well as in front of the camera, Sleepers just never resonates, mostly due to the fact that it all feels too sensational and over-wrought – something I would expect material of this nature to be.

However, that isn’t to say that Sleepers is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For at least an hour or so, Sleepers is actually a smart, disturbing, and interesting coming-of-ager that doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel of the kinds of movies that have come before it, but at least put you in the same position of these characters, so that when they do all eventually get back together some odd years later, we’re already invested in them enough as is. When the kids are transported to the juvenile delinquent center, it’s made obvious that the movie’s going to get a whole lot more heavy and mean, and it still worked.

Though maybe the big reveal of having these kids sexually abused was a bit campy, it still worked because it added a certain sizzle to a story that, quite frankly, needed one. Whenever you put young kids and pedophiles in the same story, most often, the stories tend to get quite interesting and thankfully, that’s happening with Sleepers. While I sound terrible for typing what I just did there, it’s the absolute truth; in hindsight, Sleepers is two meh movies crammed into one, with one being a lot more gripping to watch, then the other. That’s not to say that the courtroom stuff of the later-half doesn’t bring about some form of excitement, but because it all feels so phony, it never quite works.

Now pedophiles being in-charge at juvenile delinquent centers? That’s something I can definitely believe in!

Still though, the later-half of the movie brings Sleepers down a whole bunch. For one, it’s hard to ever believe, not in a million years, or even in places like Syria, that there would be a case as blatantly perjured and/or one-sided as this. Sure, the movie tries to make it understandable that a public-defender could get away with doing something like this, so long as he kept-up appearances, but I don’t believe I heard Brad Pitt’s character stand-up and yell “Objection!” once. For the most part, he’s just sitting there, looking determined, tense and most of all, pretty. That’s what we expect from Brad Pitt, of course, but it doesn’t help make the case seem at all legit, even though the movie seems to be depending on that.

"I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore."

“I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore.”

Then, there’s Levinson’s direction that, honestly, is pretty odd. Though Levinson makes it clear that the boys killed a person that raped them when they were kids, the fact remains that they still killed plenty of other, probably innocent people. So, to just stand by them and say, “Well, that guy had it comin’ to him”, seems a bit weird; the guy whose death is being contested over was a bad person, but what about all of the others? What if these two guys are just, regardless of what happened to them when they were younger, bad apples that need to cause some sort of ruckus by killing others? Does that make them worthy of being stood-up for?

The movie never seems to make that decision and it’s a bit of a problem.

But, like I said, the cast on-deck is fine. It’s just unfortunate that most of them don’t have a great deal of heavy material to work with. Jason Patric and Brad Pitt both seem like they’re trying hard to make everybody take them seriously, but sadly, it just ends up with them being a bit dull. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, on the other hand, also don’t have much to do except just look mean, mad and ready to pull out a pistol at any second.

The more seasoned-pros of the cast do what they can, too, but as I said, they get lost a bit. Kevin Bacon is in full-on sicko mode that’s fun to see him playing around with, even though his character is quite the despicable human specimen; Dustin Hoffman gets some chances to shine as the inept lawyer of the case, which works because of how laid-back his persona is; and Robert De Niro, with the few scenes he gets, seems to inject some heart into this story that’s definitely needed. He doesn’t help push the movie over that cliff it so desperately seemed to be searching for, but he does the ticket just enough.

And that’s all any of us want from Bobby D, right?

Consensus: Sleepers is, essentially, two movies into a two-and-a-half-hour long one that is occasionally interesting, but ultimately, ends up seeming to silly to be believed in or compelled by.

6 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Runner (2015)

When you’re Nic Cage, sometimes, it’s too hard to keep it in the pants.

In the wake of the BP oil spill, Louisiana Congressman Colin Price (Nicolas Cage) wants to find a way so that people can keep their jobs, as well as make sure that those who are responsible for the spill in the first place, get their comeuppance. Price is very expressive with his ideas, which already puts him on some people’s radars as, possibly, a Senator. However, there’s a couple of skeletons in Price’s closet that have been tucked away for quite some time, that are only now coming out. For one, he’s a bit of a womanizer; there’s a video that begins to float around all of the news circuits featuring Price getting frisky with a wife of a unemployed fisherman. This ruins everything in Price’s life; his wife (Connie Nielsen) leaves him, his right-hand man (Wendell Pierce) doesn’t stand behind him anymore, and his consultant (Sarah Paulson) is running out of options of what to do with Price and his political career. It’s either give up, or continue to try and make a change – either way, it’s going to take a lot of running to get through.

Does Nic Cage believe that he's Nic Cage?

Does Nic Cage believe that he’s Nic Cage?

So yeah, the Runner is aptly-titled because Cage, throughout a good majority of the film, is seen jogging up and down sidewalks. Sure, some of the title relates to the fact that Price himself is actually “running” for office, but honestly, a part of me just wishes this movie had been all about Nic Cage performing some sort of Forrest Gump cross-country run, where he met plenty of colorful citizens along the way, lost a bunch of weight, saw pretty sights, and eventually, just turned around. That, to me, would have been way better than whatever the Runner actually turns out to be.

But honestly, it’s not all that bad. Just most of it.

Writer/director Austin Stark makes his directorial debut here and while it’s easy to see that Mr. Moneybags was clearly not on his side with the budget, there’s no excusing the fact that this movie’s pretty much a mess. You can say that some of the problems Stark runs into, have to do with the fact that he is only able to do so much given the small-scale and budget he was handed, but sometimes, you just have to roll with however much money you’ve got ahold of, make the best of it, and see what churns out. None of that should ever fall onto the script, especially if your script is solid to begin with; something that Stark’s is not.

One of the main problems Stark seems to run into here with the plotting of this movie is that it wants to be so many things at once. Though it’s made somewhat apparent that this Price fella is setting out to create jobs for these unemployed fisherman during this time of crisis, it’s hardly ever touched upon. Instead, we get scenes where Price, as is often the case, runs, drinks, womanizes, and on rare occasion, talks about his feelings. One half of the movie is about how angry Stark seems to be about all those who got away with ruining the waters during the BP oil spill, but then, the other half, also wants to be a character-study of how troubled this Price man truly was. Neither movies are good in their own right, and put together, they’re even worse.

However, if there is one silver-lining to be found, it’s that Nic Cage actually seems to care about what he’s doing. But by the same token, that’s still the double-edged sword of this movie; whereas as in most movies where Cage is called upon to act like a goof-ball, he isn’t asked to do so here. Instead, he’s much more brooding than we’ve seen from him in quite some time and while it’s definitely nice to know that he’s still got those skills left in his acting repertoire, something doesn’t feel right when he’s doing it in a bore of a movie such as this.

"Well, Sarah. I...uh....yeah.."

“Well, Sarah. I…uh….yeah..”

The whole time, you’ll be wanting Cage to crack a weird smile or look in his eyes, but rather, you just get a guy who seems winded and is in desperate need of a nap. Maybe that’s just how he was directed to act, but whatever the case was, it hurts the movie, if only because there’s nothing else to really hold onto. Stark’s script is too busy running from being JFK to becoming, out of nowhere, Jerry Maguire, which leaves it all up to Cage to keep things at least somewhat interesting and cohesive.

But he’s just sort of there.

And as for the rest of the cast, everybody seems to be trying, just like Cage, but they too get side-lined with hardly anything of substance to do. Nielsen’s wife character feels like the usual kind of strict wife who still isn’t able to keep her man in line; Paulson’s character gets to have a semi-relationship with Cage’s and it’s as weird and as random as you’d expect it to be, although it does culminate in a surprisingly effective scene between the two that will come at you by surprise; Pierce is hardly here; and Peter Fonda, despite only having around ten minutes of screen, does a great job as Price’s dad. Though the movie could have played-up the smarmy and sinister charm of Fonda’s character, Stark goes a tad bit further and shows that this man, if anything, just wants his son to succeed and not become a screw-up in both his professional and personal life, like he was.

It’s a nice sentiment lost in a movie that, honestly, I forgot about ten minutes once it was over.

Consensus: Austin Stark has ideas to work with in the Runner, but they’re so jambled-up together and messy, that they end up getting in the way of what could have been solid performances from a well put-together cast.

3 / 10

What is going on inside that crazy head?

What is going on inside that crazy head?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, High Snobiety

Selma (2014)

Believe it or not, there’s actually more words after, “I have a dream“.

In 1965, racial tensions in the United States were very high, most importantly though, in the South. A region of the country in which, even though blacks were legally allowed to vote, they still had to jump through all sorts of law abiding rules and regulations that was obviously set out to make sure that their race, and only theirs, wouldn’t be allowed to vote and therefore, not have their voices be heard like any other citizen. This is when Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) decided that it was time to step in and allow for his voice to not only be heard, but acted on as well. Most importantly though, MLK travels Selma, Alabama of all places to arrange a march that would not only get the attention of everybody’s eyes and ears, but also President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson)’s, and would hopefully drive him to make some severe changes to the voting-process. Although, as one could expect, LBJ wasn’t always down to change certain voting restrictions, especially with the looming pressure of possible voters and fellow confidantes like George Wallace (Tim Roth), J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), and Lee C. White (Giovanni Ribisi), among many others.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Contrary to what some may believe, Selma isn’t necessarily a biopic about MLK, his life, his achievements, and everything else that transpired when he was alive, and what soon followed afterwards. Instead, it’s much more of a film in which a good portion of MLK’s life is documented, yet, never fully chronicled to make it just his, and his own; there’s plenty more people apart of this story, helping out to create a larger, more thought-out picture than just being standard. The same could actually be said for the civil rights movement(s) that Selma seems to portray – it wasn’t just one person who is single-handedly credited with all of the accomplishments, it’s everybody who was there to help that one person out and make sure that his dreams were fulfilled, as risky as they sometimes may have been.

And in the world that we live in now, honestly, Selma couldn’t be anymore relevant. And to be honest, director Ava DuVernay fully knows this, which is why this movie hits as hard as it does, but without ever seeming like it’s pandering in any sort of way. Surely DuVernay sees and understands the civil rights movement as a significant time in our history (as well as she should), but rather than making it a simple and easy history lesson that any fifth-grader could teach to a class of hundred or more, she strives for something more difficult and ambitious. While DuVernay portrays the civil rights movement, and those behind it all, as smart and inspiring, she also shows that the tactics that would eventually land most of these participants in hot water, not just with the government, but with fellow members of their own race.

For white people who got involved with the civil rights movement, they suffered threats, day-in and day-out from fellow Caucasians who believed that it wasn’t their right to get involved. The black people suffered this, too, and definitely a lot more worse, but as the movie portrays it, it wasn’t just the white people that blacks had to deal with on a regular basis, it was actually some people of their own race. DuVernay shows this with the inclusion of Malcolm X, and as small as it may have been, it’s a smart move on her part to show that some people preferred to side with X’s way of violence solving any and all problems, whereas some others preferred to stick with MLK’s way of not fighting back and instead, using peace as the best medicine to ridicule those who use violence to their benefit. In a lesser film, each and every person of the same race would have gathered, hand-in-hand, and marched happily together, but in DuVernay’s much smarter film, sometimes, they’re at-war with themselves.

But this is just me getting further and further away from what Selma really does here, and that’s portray a brutal, yet significant time in our society’s history, without ever shying away from some of the more dark and dirty aspects that would push certain people away from seeing this. We’ve seen white cops beating on black people in movies (and sadly, in real-life, too) done before, but the way in how DuVernay shows the sheer terror and madness is not only disturbing, but downright terrifying. It not only opens our eyes a little more to what this film is setting out to do, but also puts into perspective what is really being fought for here, rather than just telling us and trusting that bit of info as is.

Like I mentioned before, though, there’s a good portion of this movie that likes to argue against what most of us may know, or think we know, about the civil rights movement and how all those apart of it acted. For instance, not every person in this film is a clear-cut good guy, or a bad guy; they’re, simply put, just people that had a foot in history and all had their own goals, whether they may, or may not be desirable to us watching at home. This is especially clear in the case of LBJ who yes, definitely seems like a racist, but is also a politician, meaning, that he knows he has a lot at stake here in terms of his voting numbers come re-election time. While it’s made clear to us that maybe LBJ’s morals aren’t in the right places, he is still trying to give MLK what he wants, just in his own way. They may not be perfect and they may not always get the job done, but they’re still efforts on his part and that’s more than he can say for many other white politicians during that time.

The same said for LBJ, could definitely be said for MLK, which is definitely surprising considering that you’d expect a piece praising the figure for everything that he did while he was alive, and the influence that still holds precedence in our society today. DuVernay instead dives a bit deeper into the man of MLK, what made him who he was, and how exactly he got through this tough time in his life. And with this, we see that he wasn’t always the perfect man; he was a shitty husband who fooled-around a bit too much, didn’t always step to the front-line like he had initially promised, and got a little big-headed for his own good. But nonetheless, MLK was MLK, a man who accomplished more than what anybody expected of him when he was alive, and it’s a true testament to the person he was, rather than the person people want us to see and believe in.

Round 2. Fight!!

Round 2. Fight!!

Doesn’t make him any less of a good person, it just makes him a person, first and foremost.

And as MLK, David Oyelowo is pretty outstanding. This isn’t too surprising considering Oyelowo has been churning out amazing performances for the past couple years or so, but it truly is great to see him tackle a role that so many people think we already all think we know of, and do something different with it. Because MLK isn’t made out to be the most perfect human specimen ever created in this movie, we see certain shades to his persona that we don’t get to see in his speeches; sure, the speeches are here and they are downright compelling to watch and listen to, but they aren’t what make this person. What makes this person is that he stood up for what he believed in and, at any cost, tried to make his dream a reality. He had many of bumps in the road, but ultimately, he prevailed in getting what he wanted, even if he definitely did gain some enemies in the meantime. Then again, who doesn’t?

Though there’s more to the cast where that came from and rightfully so, too. The previously mentioned LBJ is done well by Tom Wilkinson who fits perfectly into the role and constantly makes it seem like this man is going to explode at any second; Carmen Ejogo has a few strong scenes as MLK’s wife, Corette, and shows the painful side to being the one who is constantly left-at-home, when your significant other is off, fighting the good fight, and constantly allowing you and the rest of your family to be threatened; Tim Roth is pretty damn campy as the overtly-racist man that was George Wallace, although he does with it just enough scenery-chewing that there’s no need for the mustache-twirl; and honestly, plenty more where that came from.

In fact, so many more to talk about that to put one over the other would just be an absolute disservice to each and every performer who shows up here, ready to perform and give it their all with their roles, no matter how small or large they may be. But above all though, it’s DuVernay who deserves the most credit for handling this large ensemble and giving just about every member something substantial to do and add another layer onto a story that, quite frankly, is already very engaging to begin with. Although there are plenty of hiccups to be found on the road leading to the final-act here, DuVernay still brings us a solid depiction of the Selma marches, how they affected us as a society then, and how they do it to us now. Because seriously, the years may change, but the stories remain the same.

Who knows when the change will come. Let’s just hope it’s soon.

Consensus: Smart, powerful, and well-acted by just about everybody involved, Selma is a complex, detailed-look into the civil rights movement that knows it’s important, but never shoves it down its viewer’s throats.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

When they mean "strength in numbers"? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

When they mean “strength in numbers”? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Parker (2013)

Would have been more interesting if he had a ticker on his heart. Way more interesting, actually.

Parker (Jason Statham) is a professional thief, who doesn’t steal from the poor or hurt innocent people. However, all of his skills and professionalism runs into problems when he’s not only betrayed by his fellow criminals, but also has to take under a woman (Jennifer Lopez) for leverage. Since they’re both hot, you can already assume what’s going to go down between them next. Ohhh yeah.

I don’t think I’m alone in the boat when it comes to my opinions of Jason Stathom, action-vehicles. Yeah, they are all the same in the way that they are just loud, stupid, and just meant to show-off Statham’s rockin’ bod, but none the less, they are also quite fun and can be a lot better, if done the right way. Adding director Taylor Hackford (the guy’s made some great flicks in the past, but being married to Helen Mirren I think takes the cake on that career), a little bit of J’Lo love, and a bit of source material from the wonderful-mind Donald Westlake may make it seem more than just another action-vehicle for the dude. Sadly, it is exactly what I expected but a tad better than we are used to seeing and hey, in the month of January, that is not bad at all.

Most people have been bashing this movie for everything that it is, but I think most people are getting by the fact that it’s meant to be stupid, loud, and fun, without really having to worry about being different from anything else that Statham has ever done in the past, characters and movies-wise. Take for instance the character of Parker: he’s supposed to be the perfect anti-hero that does bad things, but also has a certain likeness to him that shows you he doesn’t kill innocent people, and only takes the money away from the baddies. Seems like an alright dude, even if he is stealing and committing crimes, but an alright dude none the less. However, that whole idea of having Parker play-out as an anti-hero, totally goes out the window after the first 15-minutes where he’s apparently back-stabbed, shot, and left for dead (not a spoiler, it’s all in the trailers, people!). Instead, he’s just Jason Statham, doing Jason Statham and that’s not such a terrible thing when the guy is as committed as he is in all of his action movies.

"Forgive me father, for I have...HOLY SHIT!!"

“Forgive me father, for I have…HOLY SHIT!!”

Statham is one of the last, or very few guys left in Hollywood that’s dedicated to doing lean, mean action-movies where he does all of his stunts, all of his work, and basically, anything that he’s asked to do. Here, he’s just playing himself and is charming, as always, and can handle himself when it comes to getting dirty and physical. He’s okay, and so is J’Lo who shows up as the real-estate agent who’s sad, lonely, bored, annoyed by her stereotypical, Latina mom, and even worse, pushing 40. J’Lo has never been a favorite of mine but she’s fine here and brings out some real fun and energy in a role that could have just been played so plainly and boring, just so all of the focus could be on Statham and all of the insane-o shit he does as an action-hero. I was a bit bummed to see that these two didn’t have much chemistry going on between one another, not just in the story but the performances as well, but I also think that Hackford sort of got that right from the start, decided to scrape it, and have some fun with this movie. Fun, is exactly what occurs.

The movie is definitely an action-flick that’s for the people with little to no brains, who just come for the popcorn, the soda, and the fun, but it’s a tad bit more than that. It’s actually sort of a heist film as well, where instead of seeing a bunch of brawls just happen out of nowhere, we actually get to see some crimes go down, the professional-way where everything is planned, everything is executed, and everything is pretty damn suspenseful  I’m not going to lie, I sort of did know how this was all going to end at one-point, but the thought in my mind that this movie could go anywhere with it’s characters and plot, kind of did keep me on-edge through a good-portion of this movie, even I did expect the cliches to start coming-through, as-soon-as-possible. But, then again, this is what we have come to expect from a Statham-actioner and there is a certain essence of joy and delight in that idea.

However, this flick is exactly what you would expect from a movie starring Jason Statham, and anybody going into this, expecting anything more, will most likely be pissed-off and terribly disappointed. I don’t know why you would because when you see the name “Statham”, you automatically just think loud, dumb, action-movie that only d-bags would go out and pay money to see. I didn’t pay moolah to see this movie, but does that still make me one of those d-bags? But I digress. If you go into this movie expecting anything new, improved, or original coming from the mind of Statham, you’re going to be ticked-off. As simple as that, people.Actually, I would probably say the worst-aspect of this whole movie isn’t just Statham, but it’s more or less the supporting-cast that surrounds him as they don’t really even seem like they are trying. And if they are, then shit; they just blow!

"I need a man more my age,. Especially one with the worst, fake-Southern accent I have ever heard."

“I need a man more my age. Especially one with the worst, fake-Southern accent I have ever heard.”

The main baddies are played by the usual people we see play these types of roles like Micah A. Hauptman, Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, and of course, Clifton Collins Jr., who is probably playing his 500th villainous-role in his whole career. All of these guys try their best with whatever they can muster up, but it just isn’t enough since the script is so lame, and their action is so off-key. And by “off-key”, I don’t mean that they don’t hit the right notes they are supposed to hit like if they were a singer who just became deaf, but more or less that they are just actors that don’t know what type of roles they are playing, and instead of playing in a small type-of-way, they are so over-the-top and outlandish, it’s almost laughable to watch. Seriously, the first 10-minutes of this movie made me and my buddy just sit-back in our seats and laugh our pants-off by not only how ridiculous everything was, but just by how terrible these actors are. And maybe it’s not that they’re bad actors, it’s actually more that they were just not good for these roles and could have probably been played by guys who don’t give a shit about their careers. I guess Collins Jr. counts then, right? Also, Nick Nolte appears here as Parker’s sort-of mentor, who growls his way through another performance. Oh, and he also drinks in this one, too! Good to know you’re helping your image out, Nick!

Consensus: If you know what you’re getting yourself into when you walk through the doors of a movie starring Jason Statham, then you know exactly what to expect from Parker and that is loud, unpolished, and unapologetic joy and desire to have a good time, even if it is nothing new or refreshing that you haven’t already witnessed before.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

“Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!”

“Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!”