Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Willem Dafoe

The Great Wall (2017)

Monsters are everywhere you look. Except the literal ones. Yeah, those things don’t exist.

While on a long, far-reaching search for black powder, mercenaries William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) hold-up one night and encounter something strange, mysterious and deadly. They are able to chop off a piece of its arm, carrying it around with them everywhere they go, even if they don’t fully know just what it actually is. Then, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called “the Nameless Order”. Led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau), the Nameless Order has been making it their mission to taking out any sort of threat that has come their way, but as of late, it’s been these odd, very vicious and disgusting monsters that, are also of the same kind that William and Tovar ran into that one night. That’s why, rather than killing the two, the Nameless Order decide to take the guys in, asking them for a helping hand in taking down these monsters, once and for all. It’s easy for William, but for Tovar, not so much.

White.

White.

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the Great Wall for a rather understandable reason: Matt Damon’s casting in the lead role seems like, yet again, another instance of Hollywood being too scared of casting any sort of minority in a lead role, that they just give it to the next big name, who also happens to be white. Hey, it’s happened before and it will definitely happen again. However, in the Great Wall, it’s not all that justified for a few reasons:

  1. Damon’s character in the movie is actually supposed to be white and isn’t supposed to be Chinese, therefore, making him a suitable actor for the character’s supposed race.
  2. Nobody really seems to have gotten all that mad that, included in this movie’s large international cast, Willem Dafoe (a white guy), is here, as well as Pedro Pascal (an Hispanic man) – two people who, last I checked, aren’t actually in the least bit Chinese.
  3. The movie itself is not meant to be taken seriously under any circumstances and because of that, it’s really hard to get mad at it for anything, let alone its casting decisions.
  4. And yeah, it’s just a silly movie.

Which is to say that, despite all of this, the Great Wall is still an enjoyable movie, although yes, incredibly stupid once you realize that it’s actually about a bunch of warriors, facing-off against a bunch of nameless, literally brainless green monsters who don’t really look like anything we’ve seen before, but they’re still not all that original, either – they’re like a weird cross between a dinosaur and a rat, but even then, I’m not so sure.

And coming from director  Zhang Yimou, you’d probably expect a little something more, but just like he proved with House of Flying Daggers, Yimou doesn’t always care the most about story and character-development, as much as he cares about what looks cool on the big screen, in 3D, and what’s fun. Sometimes, too, that’s all you need; the Great Wall is the perfect example of Yimou having so many toys at his disposal and getting an opportunity to play with each and everyone of them. Could he have gone deeper with the plot, these characters, and the overall message of the tale?

Nope. Still white and this time, a little Hispanic.

Nope. Still white and this time, a little Chilean.

Sure, but he doesn’t and it helps the movie not feel like all that much of a slug to get through.

Because when the movie does try and dive into the stuff like that, well, it doesn’t always work. We don’t really get to know anyone here, nor do we ever fully understand the plot itself, so when it takes time to explain itself, it just takes away from the movie and almost makes you wish for more monsters to show up. The characters themselves don’t have anything interesting to really say or do, either – sometimes, it seems like a lot of it was just filmed with the hopes that it would make it into the final-cut, but with no obligation whatsoever. Granted, we don’t always need clear, pitch perfect and three-dimensional characters in goofy monster movies such as the Great Wall, but it certainly does help us feel like there’s more at-steak, than just a bunch of lifeless, bland things getting killed on screen.

It also helps because you’ve got such a good cast here, with not much to do. Damon’s working with an odd accent the whole time, making him sound like he’s straight from Canada; Pascal’s character has all of the witty one-liners and laughs, as corny as they can sometimes get; Dafoe’s character is shady and mischievous, for reasons never made clear; Jing Tian gets to be a bit of a bad-ass when she isn’t trying to get some sort of spark flickering between her and Damon; and everyone else who shows up, well, they try, too. Mostly, the Great Wall doesn’t care about this stuff and for once, it’s sort of okay.

What it does prove is that it’s sometimes best to just take in and accept a monster movie, for exactly what it is.

Consensus: Even with the weak characters and story, the Great Wall still mostly gets by on the action, the look, the feel, and the surprisingly great deal of eye-popping 3D.

6 / 10

Ah, yes. That's more like it.

Ah, yes. That’s more like it.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Advertisements

Finding Dory (2016)

Stop getting lost, you damn fish!

Nearly one year after finding Nemo and returning him home safely, Dory (Ellen DeGeneras) and Marlon (Albert Brooks) have figured out a way to stay close to one another, where they can always be there for each other, just in case something goes awry again. And because of Dory’s short-term memory-loss, this means a whole lot, what with her always wandering off, never having a clue of where she’s at, or even what she’s doing. At first, it’s just small things that Dory gets mixed up with, but one day, she somehow gets lost in the ocean, leading her to some sort of aquarium where she encounters all sorts of lovely and colorful characters of the sea. But while Dory’s there, she begins to remember that she accidentally left home when she was young and is now just remembering that her parents may be looking for her. So Dory does whatever she can to find her parents, while seeming to forget everything that’s happening and relying on the help and kindness of former friends she knew when she was younger, as well as a new pal, the crabby octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill).

You da man.

You da man.

I hate to say it, but I wasn’t expecting much from Finding Dory. Say what you will about the original and how good it is, but compared to a lot of other Pixar flicks, it’s probably the weakest of “the very best” (which may sound silly and like a non-complaint, but does mean something when you compare almost all of the Pixar movies side-by-side), and not to mention that a movie that literally substitutes “Nemo”, for “Dory” and features, yet again, a lost fish in need of being found and saved, already sounds boring, unoriginal, and most of all, unneeded. If anything, I was expecting another Cars 2.

Which is why I can say that I’ve come out Finding Dory more than pleased to announce that it’s way better than I expected and yes, another home-run for Pixar.

In fact, it may be better than Finding Nemo.

I know, shocking, right? Well, the reason why Dory works a little better than Nemo is because the groundwork has already been laid-out and it would have been easy for everyone involved here to just rehash the same story again, without any bit of excitement or freshness added to the proceedings. But somehow, Finding Dory finds neat, creative and interesting avenues, peaks and valleys to tell its story, without ever seeming like its hitting the same beats the original did – even if, yes, it totally is. Where as any other sequel would have just done the typical thing that most sequels do to popular flicks (more of everything that made the original so charming), Dory changes certain things up; it not only introduces new characters that absolutely rival the lovely ones of the first, but also adds on a new setting that goes beyond and out of the sea, but it’s a welcome change-of-pace.

And this obviously all to say that Dory‘s story is pretty damn exciting; once we get the idea that Dory loses her train-of-thought/memory about every minute or so, the movie plays out like a G-rated Memento of sorts, with her asking people certain things that may help her quest out a bit more and also, thinking long and hard about where she came from and what’s next. It’s actually pretty fun to watch and it’s absolutely difficult not to get wrapped-up in all the excitement and anticipation, watching and waiting for Dory to reach her destination. And with that destination, we’re never too sure what’s at the end for her; while every other movie of this nature that makes it abundantly clear that their adventure will turn out good and give everyone a happy ending, the way Finding Dory is structured, makes you believe that possibly, quite possibly, Dory may not reach the goal that she wants.

She may complete her journey, but she may not get what she wants and honestly, that’s the one main reason why Finding Dory moves at such a great pace, that it almost never slows up.

Mhmmm. Tuna.

Mhmmm. Tuna.

If there are times that it does, it’s only to give us more backstory on certain characters, as well as Dory’s own life. And because this is her own solo movie, Dory gets a whole lot of attention here that really works and makes us feel for her a whole lot more; while a whole movie dedicated to her character, I must admit, had me feeling as if she was going to be grating the whole time, actually works in hindsight. The movie shows us that Dory’s story is a sad one and though she is indeed a fish, you could take her story and place it in a human’s life, and it would still hit hard. Pixar movies work best when they have you relating to their inanimate characters and here, Dory hits a real sweet spot that I didn’t expect to see coming.

That said, Dory’s not the only character worthy of attention here. In fact, it’s Ed O’Neill’s Hank character that just about steals the show, making his one-dimensional grump of an octopus, actually come-off as a sweet, endearing and sympathetic figure, even when it seems like he’s acting out in pure self-interest. Of course, Albert Brooks is here as Marlon, but he’s pushed to the back of sorts, so that DeGeneras and Dory can get all of the attention and it’s fine, but honestly, I kept coming back to Hank and had that feeling that we may, sooner or later, be seeing Finding Hank sooner or later.

Hopefully sooner, than later, and not another thirteen year wait like we had with this one.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, compelling and above all, exciting, Finding Dory finds a fresh new voice in this well-worn story, making it a Pixar classic and better than the first.

9 / 10

Okay, now stay with your friends, Missy.

Okay, now stay with your friends, Missy. One movie is fine, but two?!? That’s too much!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Finding Nemo (2003)

Animals lose their kids, too. It’s not just humans.

Marlin (Albert Brooks) is an obsessively overprotective Daddy clownfish, but with good reason. Some time ago, when he and his late wife had just welcomed all of their children to the sea, because they weren’t paying enough attention, somehow, they all got swept away, and the wife died. There was one left, however, and it turned out to be Marlin’s sole child: Nemo. And needless to say, yes, Marlin is very uptight and worried about Nemo, so much so that Nemo himself feels as if he needs to venture out there into the world a whole lot more than he’s allowed to. However, all of that adventuring gets Nemo caught by a bunch of humans and thrown in some dentist’s office fish-bowl. For Nemo, this is a new world, but it’s one that he doesn’t quite love just as much as he loves the sea. But Marlin will not stop until he finds Nemo and brings him home safe, once and for all – now, though, he’s got the help of a fellow fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneras), who may actually be more of a problem than a solution.

How I imagine Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneras talk to one another in real life.

How I imagine Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneras talk to one another in real life.

Finding Nemo came out at a time for Pixar that was definitely crucial. They were still hitting it out of the park with each and every flick they offered, but by 2003, you could start to tell that maybe, just maybe, Pixar’s appeal was starting to wane. Sure, a sequel to Toy Story works perfectly, because who doesn’t love talking toys, but talking sea-creatures? And one that involves one fish being lost and, hopefully, found?

Well, regarldess, none of this talk matters. Finding Nemo wasn’t just a hit commercially, but it also showed that everything Pixar was able to do with their first couple of movies, they were still able to carry-on with and remind everyone that they were the voice and brand-name to be reckoned with when it came to the world of animation. Nowadays, it seems as if they’ve fallen a tad off the ladder, but still, Finding Nemo, as it still lies, works.

The visuals, for one, are as beautiful as they ever have been. Given that the story literally takes place under the sea, it only makes perfect sense that every bit of Finding Nemo be as eye-engaging and beautiful as the bit before it. Heck, even after it being over 13 years of this thing being out and about, you’d think that at least some portion of it looks dated, or doesn’t quite hold-up; technology has, believe it or not, gotten a whole lot better and Pixar has definitely shown this. But nope, it’s still a beautiful movie.

And I’m not just talking about the visuals, either, although they are quite great to look at.

The greatest aspect of Finding Nemo is that it wears its heart on its sleeves practially the whole way through. It all starts off somber, tragic and absolutely upsetting for the first five minutes, but sooner than later, turns into this pleasant, relatively sweet story about overcoming one’s fears, adversities, and own handicaps to get something in life, as well as making one’s self better. While, yes, you could most definitely chalk that same message/theme to every other Pixar movie ever released, the fact remains that it still works and hits close to home here, even if you also get the idea that maybe Pixar wore it on a bit too strong?

Maybe? Eh?

Then again, maybe not. What Finding Nemo works best in is that it allows for its story to hit the emotional archs and all that, but also bring on the funny, too. There’s so many silly and lovely side characters that, honestly, it’s not hard to want to see a movie about them. There’s the sharks going through AA for blood; there’s the sea turtles who live the rock ‘n roll lifestyle like bro-ish surfers; and most especially, there’s the sea creatures stuck in a fish bowl who want nothing more than to escape this unforgiving prison. Of course, Finding Nemo gives all of these characters their chances to shine, but what matters most is that none of them feel like throway gags that Pixar thrown in there to create more toys, or because, well, they were bored; each and every character serves a greater purpose to the story and helps it move along.

Cowabunga dudes!

Cowabunga dudes!

And yeah, while I’m on about the characters, I might as well say that the voice-casting is probably the ballsiest, yet, smartest bit of casting Pixar has ever done. Albert Brooks’ gruff, yet slightly neurotic voice is perfect for the overly neurotic and scared Marlin, who is easy to warm up to, especially since we know that Brooks is such a lovely presence on the screen. But it’s strange that he was cast in the role, because honestly, he wasn’t all that big at the time of this release; it’s hard to say if Finding Nemo helped revitalize his career (he’s not on the screen at all and half the people who saw it probably have no clue who Albert Brooks is), but hey, if it’s a role that utilizes him well, then so be it.

But really, the star of the show is Ellen DeGeneras’ Dory.

Now, despite this too being a voice-role, Dory’s the character that definitely regenerized DeGeneras’ career for the greater good of society. The character allows for her to get as high-pitched and silly as she wants, without ever seeming as if she’s over-doing it to a huge exteme. In fact, it’s the right bit of goofiness and charm that works well for this character, as well as DeGeneras, because even if we do want to strangle Dory at times, it’s still hard not to want to see her and be around her more.

Probably why she’s getting her own flick, now that I think about it.

Consensus: Just as you’d expect from Pixar, Finding Nemo is a heartfelt, sweet, honest, fun, and downright hilarious tale of adventure, family and love, which is what makes it all the more great.

9 / 10

Yeah, now you're lost.

Yeah, now you’re lost.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Cry-Baby (1990)

Think of it as the true story of Elvis Presley’s high-school days. Gosh, what a prick.

Cry-Baby (Johnny Depp), is the leader of the Drapes and a bad boy juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold who’s only sin is loving the wrong girl (Amy Locane). This love, however, is what gets in the way of the Drapes and the Squares, which automatically leads into tensions arising.

Writer/director John Waters makes some pretty wild movies. With Cry-Baby, he brings his odd appeal to the art and style of a 50’s musical, where times are lighter, lovelier, and simpler, even though, essentially, the stories were about gangs, illegal drag-racing, and diners.

Lots and lots of diners, I may add.

Welp, there goes the neighborhood!

Welp, there goes the neighborhood!

What’s so funny about Waters’ direction here is that the whole film is one, big, giddy satire at those teen-idol movies of the 1950’s. You got the typical conventions you would expect from a movie of this genre: The bad-kids, leather jackets, greased-up hair, motorcycles, the stuck-up, rich kids, the good girl who wants to explore the wrong side of the tracks, a jailhouse, fancy cars, hip music (of the time), and parents that just never seem to understand and try too hard to be cool and “with it”. All of that cheesiness given a crazier edge here with Waters’ script and direction, and that’s where the whole fun of this movie comes from. There’s always a weird joke placed in this movie somewhere, and it takes a good half-hour to actually get used to what you’re watching and spot a lot of the goofs that Waters’ places in this flick.

In fact, that may have been a bit of my problem with this movie, as it’s a little too energetic and never really settles down. Maybe that’s a weak complaint to have for a musical, but it seems like a good portion of Cry-Baby may have been a bit too crazy to really enjoy and have as much of a ball with, if it had been tuned-down just a bit. Then again, it’s just another one of my weird nit-picks that I have with movies and it sort of went away as soon as those phenomenal and zany musical numbers would pop-up, and take all of my problems away.

The musical numbers here aren’t anything entirely special, other than the fact that they are a bunch of fun to watch and listen to, since they are all done with as much as hype and energy as the rest of the film is treated. Waters always finds a keen way in introducing these songs and although none of them are as terribly memorable as you may expect from a musical of this nature, you still will find yourself humming along to the tracks, long after the movies over. One of the most specific tracks I’m talking about is that“King Cry-Baby” song, that reminded me so much of Elvis Presley and the type of song he would sing to win a gal over, no matter who she was, or where she came from.

Did conjugals always exist?

Did conjugals always exist?

Yeah, Elvis was the man and to watch Waters make a character that’s just like him in every which way, was neat, if an easy target.

Other than the infectious musical numbers, the other element of this movie that’s incredibly fun as well is the strange ensemble that Waters puts together. In the lead role as everybody’s favorite bad boy, is Johnny Depp as Cry-Baby. It wasn’t just one of Depp’s first starring roles in a major motion-picture, but it’s also one of the first roles where he tried to break-away from that teen-idol sensation look he was given after his stint on 21 Jump Street. It’s great to see Depp perform as a young cat and still display that perfect type of energy and charm that we all know and love him for today, and if anything, you got to give this guy credit for going out there and taking on a weird role like this, especially when you’ve just got off of one of TV’s hottest-shows. Depp’s performance is nothing remarkable, nothing memorable, and nothing really special once you think about, but you can tell from the first shot until that last one, that this guy had something that was made for Hollywood and damn, do I wish I was alive and well in 1990 to put money down on that idea.

Then, there’s the rest of the cast that could literally just be a names-name of people you may have infamously heard of, or thought that you would never, ever see work again in a major, Hollywood-production.

Kim McGuire gives us a memorable performance as the terribly-disgusting, Hatchet-face, and you got to give the girl credit for taking a role that pretty much makes fun of the way she looks the whole time; Iggy Pop is randomly here as Belvedere Rickettes, and has a wild bathtub scene even though I was a bit disappointed to not hear him sing once throughout the whole movie; ex-porn star Traci Lords plays a young whippersnapper of a gal that hates how uncool her parents are; Patty Hearst is randomly here playing a very bright and sunny mother that always seems to be happy about something; and the strangest, most memorable performance of all from the whole cast definitely goes out to Willem Dafoe as the evil prison-guard. What’s odd about the role is that you see his name in the opening-credits, yet, have no clue or idea of when he’s going to show up. And when he does show up, well, let’s just say it’s near-perfection. It’s a wonder why this guy has never really anything that could be considered comedy. There are plenty of other names in this whole flick that you’ll probably see and recognize but seriously, I’d have to write a whole book for that.

Consensus: Cry-Baby may be a tad too manic for its own good, but will occasionally break out a lovely, zany piece of music that’s worth watching and enjoying, even if the targets are easy enough to scoff at on your own.

7.5 / 10

The perfect American couple, courtesy of John Waters.

The perfect American couple, courtesy of John Waters.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, I Love Hotdogs, Challenges

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

The Germans are the good guys now?

In the wake of 9/11, every country seemed to be hot on the heels of any person/organization that may, or may not, have been affiliated with terrorists and nobody else is feeling this worse than German Intel agent, Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman). While Günther knows that there are bigger fish in the sea, just waiting to be caught, he also knows that he’s getting a lot of pressure from those higher in the food-chain. That’s why, when he finds out about the case of a Chechen, who may possibly be planning a terrorist attack, he jumps on it right away and starts to negotiate deals with people who may be possibly linked to this suspected terrorist. One is Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) a small-time lawyer who makes a living out of giving benefits to possible refugees, and a shady banker, Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe), who may be funding most of these terrorists. Either way, Günther knows that he has to come up with a result, by any means possible. Because if not, somebody else will. And in this case, it’s U.S. embassy ambassador Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright).

I'd be scared to even go to sleep.

I’d be scared to even go to sleep.

With Philip Seymour Hoffman gone from ever appearing on our screens again (except for the second part of the Hunger Games: Mockingjay due later next year), it’s always bittersweet to check out some of his past projects. Also though, by doing this, it’s inevitable to compare his latest works to what some would consider “his best” and sometimes, “most inspiring”. And in the case of Seymour Hoffman, and the legacy he leaves behind, there’s plenty to compare and contrast with.

However, with A Most Wanted Man, it’s a bit difficult – while the movie itself may not be all that on-par with what we most know him to have done, he’s still pretty good in the movie. That said, the movie itself is still lackluster and feels like a mediocre piece that Seymour Hoffman himself, as well as the rest of the cast, elevates to being something worth watching, if only ever so slightly. But that’s why we can rely on actors such as Seymour Hoffman; they make whatever they show up in, interesting and exciting.

As Günther Bachmann, Seymour Hoffman gets plenty of opportunities to show us what’s really brewing inside this man. While it may not always be pretty, there’s still a feeling that we can trust this character to get past his problematic ways and complete this mission of his, as troubled as it may sometimes be. And like with most of his other performances, Seymour Hoffman does quite a few subtle things with his performance to give us an impression of who this guy is; a certain way he takes off of his tie, or orders a drink at a restaurant, there’s always something for Seymour Hoffman to do where he can continue to build and build this character into being someone worth identifying with. Even though, you know, it may be hard for some simpletons to identify with a German Intel Agent in the first place.

But, like I said before, that’s why we can always rely on talents such as Seymour Hoffman to make that idea, an actual reality.

Though, Seymour Hoffman isn’t alone in putting in a good performance, as the rest of the cast all get their own, respective chances to build their characters and, as a result, the plot as well. Rachel McAdams’ character may be flawed and thinly-written, but she still tries hard enough to make it seem like she’s just another well-intentioned woman, who sadly, doesn’t seem to know the reality of the world going on around her and just how serious certain circumstances can be. Also, Willem Dafoe puts in a sneaky performance as the shady banker who may, or may not be, a total bad-guy behind some dastardly plans, or just a guy, trying to get by in the modern-day economy, even if his own morals are a bit questionable.

While these performances may be good, there’s still a feeling in the pit of my stomach that feels like they deserved a better movie. See, what’s so disappointing about A Most Wanted Man is that it comes from director Anton Corbijn, a director who is most-known for his various, stylized photos, but doesn’t really do much for this movie, except pack it with so much information that it can sometimes be way too overbearing. Especially for even the smartest, most determined-viewer out there.

Be jealous, Sean Penn.

Be jealous, Sean Penn.

But while there may be all of this information tossed at us, in hopes that things get intriguing and tense, the problem is that hardly any of that actually happens. Much rather, the movie just ends up becoming a slog and a meandering one at that. That’s not to say all of Corbijn’s choices are bad, but when you’re movie is this based on a possible case, and hardly delivers any suspense or excitement in the air, it’s quite hard to get involved with the proceedings, let alone care for those involved with them.

The only interesting aspect I can think of that Corbijn brings to the forefront of this film is that he discusses the behind-the-scenes, sometimes back-handed politics between the German and American Intel Agencies, and how both were so desperate to get results, that they didn’t care about who they got or how, they just knew they wanted them right away. This is probably where Corbijn breathes some life into this material, because it not only shows us that Günther may not be as powerful as we’d wish he was, but also gives us a chance to see him develop a nice bit of chemistry with Robin Wright’s Martha Sullivan. The two seem like they enjoy working with one another and amidst all of the political exposition – this means a lot. It actually gives a hint that there may be something deeper, and far more involved between these two characters and it brought plenty of promise to the rest of the film.

But, as fate would have it, all of that promise goes out the window as soon as the case ends and we realize that there are bigger hands at play here. While this may seem like a huge wake-up call to the characters involved – to us, the audience, it feels like the sign of a movie ending, way later than it should have. At least it gives us more time to share and adore with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

A true talent meant to be missed forever.

Consensus: Unexciting and sometimes meandering, A Most Wanted Man deals with certain meaningful political ideas and well-done performances, but doesn’t really get the audience involved as much as it nearly should.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

That look. Oh, how I will miss it so.

That look. Oh, how I will miss it so.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

John Wick (2014)

This is what happens when you take the blue pill.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is, seemingly, a simple man who lives a simple life. He has a wife (Bridget Moynahan); lives in a rather large, exquisite house, and always seems to have something to smile about. That is, until his wife tragically passes away and he’s left with nothing but a new life, a big house, a fine-ass car, and basically, nobody to spend time with. But, have no fear, because even though she’s long and gone by now, Mrs. Wick still finds ways to contact her hubby from the dead – but this time, it’s in the form of a small puppy. And Wick can’t say “no” to it and decides to just let the thing roam all around the house and be happy, just as his late wife would have wanted. That all changes though when a group of thugs break into Wick’s house, beat him to a bloody-pulp, steal his ride, and worst of all, kill that lovable pooch. As one would expect, Wick is pissed and starts on his path for revenge.

However, this time around, there’s a bit of a twist: John Wick’s a total and complete bad-ass who, for the past couple of years or so, has just settled down and tried to find a way from that old life of his.

And thus, folks, you have the movie’s synopsis, in a nutshell, no questions asked, no answers guaranteed. Now, with that all said, does it sound like the most conventional, run-of-the-mill action-thriller you’ve ever seen since the first Taken? Oh, you betcha! But sometimes, there’s a certain level of joy to be had in just knowing to expect right from the first glimpse of a trailer, or poster, or photo still, and being totally blind-sided by the fact that, yes, sometimes, movies can surprise the hell out of you by being more than just what they present.

Nature vs. nurture? Aw, who cares! Just kill 'em already, Wick!

Nature vs. nurture? Aw, who cares! Just kill ’em already, Wick!

But that’s not necessarily the case with John Wick, nor is that much of a problem; though the story doesn’t really try to reach deep, or far down into its themes about grief, revenge, or the soulless killing of others, it doesn’t necessarily need to because everything else is working so well. By this, I mean mostly the action-sequences, most of which are exciting, brutal, stylized, and sometimes, so simply put together, that it’s almost refreshing to watch. Because even in the days of the crack-cam, even us the audience can get a bit annoyed by not knowing who is doing what to whom, where at, and what the hell else is going on around them. So many directors of action out there make this mistake (looking at you, Mr. Bay), but neither co-directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski are one of them.

Which is not just great for us, the audience watching in our seats, eating our X-Large-sized popcorns, but also great for the rest of the movie because it constantly stays simple, easy, and most of all, fun. Yet, it never forgets that in order for it to fully work, not just as an action film, but as a gritty crime-thriller, it also has to add some tension to the proceedings, which is what happens here. A sequence that takes place all over a nightclub comes to my mind the most apparent; not just for being exciting and stylized, but because it literally felt like it could have gone anywhere, at any second. Though we know John Wick won’t die so early in the film (which is when this sequence takes place), there’s still a feeling going around that he could slip, fall, or not do something properly, and lose his life, therefore, allowing the baddies to prevail.

And then, presumably, sadness would ensue.

But nope, that doesn’t happen and for the rest of the movie, it’s still the same thrill-ride.

Although, I do hesitate to call this movie “great” (as so many critics have been quick to call it), only because I definitely do think there’s some problems with the movie, especially with its plot. There’s maybe, I don’t know, two, possibly three, different endings to this movie that were all satisfying in their own rights, yet, splashed together, feels off. It was almost as if Leitch and Stahelski weren’t confident in the numerous decisions they wrote out, so they decided to pick the best three, film them all, and then decide which one’s the best to go at the end of the film, and what other two will be left for the special features. Except, they decided to keep them all and see what happens.

And, predictably so, it doesn’t work and makes a rather lean, mean hour-and-a-half-movie, seem/feel a lot longer than it should.

However, the fact remains mighty high and clear: The movie’s fun. It’s hard to really have a problem against that when all you ever set out to do with your movie, is exactly the kind of result you get. So, in that aspect, yes, I’m willing to give the movie’s various endings a pass, but I will still not go so far as to call it, the movie John Wick, “great”. It’s still a great time at theaters, but please, don’t get so wrapped up in all the insanely positive press out there.

But, if there is anything to get wrapped up in, concerning the press that this movie’s getting, it’s that Keanu Reeves is back, baby! And this time, he doesn’t care whether he’s old, considered to be “past his prime”, eating all by himself on benches, or that nobody really calls him up anymore – he’s Keanu Reeves dammit, and the dude’s allowed to do what he wants. All that said, Reeves is fine here as Wick. Though people get on Reeeves’ case for his acting-skills (or, lack thereof), the guy has that inherent likability to the way he carries himself that’s hard to have a problem against, let alone despise. He’s just Keanu Reeves, plain and simple. Throw a gun on him, give him some kick-ass moves to perform, and a few cheesy one-liners here and there, and your movie’s fine. Meaning, I’m totally fine with Reeves staging a comeback, so long so as he realizes that his main strengths are in goofy action films such as these.

I'd murder 50 thugs for that little face. I mean, come on, just look at him!

I’d murder 50 thugs for that little face. I mean, come on, just look at him!

Anything more, may be pushing it a tad too much (looking at you, 47 Ronin).

Though Reeves definitely anchors this movie in his own way, the supporting cast definitely deserves some love and praise, mostly because they allow this movie’s sometimes strange script, just totally do the trick and play with its own universe. For instance, there’s an interesting little angle this movie’s story takes in that it gives us a glimpse into this underground world/society of criminals, where they all go to the same places to hang out, drink, sleep, eat, and basically, stand by each other’s rules to not conduct any sort of “business”. Though it’s weird, the movie plays it up so nicely that it’s easy to just fall in line with and accept, rather than be freaked-out by.

Another reason why it’s so easy to accept this angle for what it is, is because the cast of characters this movie has inhabit this little, under-seen world, is chock full of “you name it’s” – Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Michael Nyqvist, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Kevin Nash (yes, Big Daddy Diesel), Clarke Peters, David Patrick Kelly, and an always welcome Ian McShane, all show up, do their thing for as long as they are allowed to, leave their impressions on us, and move on. Probably how it’s best to approach the movie itself; expect to have fun and nothing but.

Move on.

Consensus: By sticking to its gun (literally and figuratively), John Wick is nothing more than what it presents to be seen as – a fun, exciting, if conventional crime-thriller, with a cast full of wild supporting characters, and of course, the always likable, Keanu Reeves.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yeah. I did that. Whaddup?"

“Yeah. I did that. Whaddup?”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

eXistenZ (1999)

You know what’s so lame about GTA? It’s not real!!

Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a famous video-game maker who has made a video-game where people can transport themselves into other lives, as well as gives them the chance to constantly guess whether or not they are in real life, or just living a pure fantasy where they can do anything that they want. This inventive, yet, incomprehensible game is called eXistenZ, and it soon takes over her mind, as well as her bodyguard (Jude Law)’s.

Video-games have become so crazy now, that I honestly wouldn’t be surprised one bit if somebody came from out of nowhere, made this type of game, and watched it as it sky-rocketed to the charts of the highest-sellers come the Holidays. That person would also have to watch as the suicide-rates would be sky-rocketing off the charts as well, because with a dangerous mind-fuck of a game like this, you know people are just going to go crazy. I’m telling ya, it’s a surprise that this hasn’t happened yet and I’m just waiting for more video-game designers to think of the next “Million Dollar Idea”.

Uhm, yeah. Just roll with it. Yo.

Uhm, yeah. Just roll with it. Yo.

However, if they do come up with this idea, they do have to give some of that change they earn straight to writer/director David Cronenberg, because he’s the main guy who came up with the idea in the first place and milks it to the brim with this movie. I have to give Cronenberg a lot of credit here because the guy definitely starts this flick out on the right foot with any eerie feel, a lot of mystery in the air, and a whole bunch of suspense as to what the hell is going to happen next to these characters once they finally suit up (I guess that’s what you could call it), and whether or not they’ll make it out of the game alive. When Cronenberg gets crazy ideas like these, they usually don’t pan-out so well for me, but here, he actually kept me involved and kept my mind on the film at hand, considering the whole game these two are playing, is just one, big twist after twist without any real type of explanation as to what’s going on and what it isn’t.

Which normally isn’t fine for me with most of his movies, but here, was surprisingly so.

As much as Cronenberg may toy around with the idea of us not knowing whether or not this is a game, or real life, he still allows himself to get real nutty on all of us and uses some of the trademarks we all know him for. The gore here is downright disgusting as we go through a couple of different spots where blood comes shooting, guts fall out, and people’s faces just come flying straight-off, landing on the floor below them. And on top of that, there’s also a lot of gooey, slimy sounds that make you squirm even more and add just another level to Cronenberg’s already, ‘effed-up mind that he obviously wants us to play around with him in. But while this would usually tick me off with some of his movies, here, I decided to just go along for the ride and enjoy myself, even if I had no idea what exactly was happening, or even what it meant.

But that was the problem I eventually ran into with this movie: I knew everything about anything Cronenberg was trying to discuss. See, while this movie, on the surface, is about this insane, balls-out game that allows its players to do whatever they want, in a world that they have no idea about as is, when you dig a bit deeper, it ends up becoming something darker and more upsetting. In a way, Cronenberg is trying to get across what your mom has been saying for the past two decades to get you off you Laz-E Boy and in the classroom: Video games are bad and they make you do bad things.

Now, while I don’t necessarily agree wholly with that statement, I still understand that many people see an evil in the art of video games and how it may drive certain people to lose their minds. We’ve seen certain cases regarding this in the past and while I don’t feel its appropriate to voice my opinions out on those here and now, I’ll just say that whatever Cronenberg is trying to get across here, is practically the same message and it’s kind of annoying. We get that video games mess with certain people’s minds and allow them to not be able to differentiate the difference between “reality” and “fiction”, but do we really need to be reminded of this every five-to-ten-minutes? Maybe because of the time this was released (nobody in 1999 had ever heard of an XBOX), but the message, in today’s world, seems relatively preachy and dated. Granted, back in the day, these ideas may have been revolutionary and eye-opening, but to us humanoids from the 21st Century, we realize that everything being said here, is why we moved out of parent’s place in the first place.

The future of gaming, people. Except, not really at all.

The future of gaming, people. Except, not really at all.

So take that, older-generation!

Another problem that most Cronenberg movies, not just this one in particular, is that usually he’ll cast an interesting bunch in his movies, but since his material is sometimes so weighty and dense in the way that it’s delivered, you can tell which actors are more suited to it than others. For a total surprise, Jude Law actually ends up doing well in a rather restrained role as this body-guard. Sure, Law’s using some of his charm to get us to like him and his character here, but most of it is actually just him trying to be weird and mysterious, and it works well and to his advantage. Same goes for the likes of Sarah Polley, Willem Dafoe, and Ian Holm who don’t show up too long or often to leave an impression, but show that they are capable of fitting into Cronenberg’s world, where everyone speaks like he imagines them as speaking.

The only one who feels totally off in this movie is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is supposed to play this geeky, downright off-kilter video game nerd, but just ends up coming off as she’s bored. In fact, a part of me felt as if she was in her own movie altogether; one where she was allowed to deliver her lines like she’s been doing for the past three decades, but instead, actually worked. Here, it seems like Cronenberg cast her, without really knowing full well if she’d be able to handle his “speak”, quite as well as the others. Don’t get me wrong, Leigh’s still a top-notch actress in most of the stuff she does, but here, she feels awkward stilted.

Maybe that’s how Cronenberg wanted her to be? Then again, maybe not. Who the hell knows what goes on inside that dude’s head!

Consensus: David Cronenberg loves to play with his audience and in eXistenZ, he gets a chance to do so, but too many times does it feel like he stops the wild fun, just so that he can prop us down for a lesson or two about the world of video-games that, trust me, we already know full well about.

6 /10 = Rental!!

Even in so-called "virtual-reality video-games", the ladies still fall head-over-heels for J-Law. Damn that Brit bastard and his sexy charms!

Even in so-called “virtual-reality video-games”, the ladies still fall head-over-heels for J-Law. Damn that Brit bastard and his sexy charms!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Having cancer doesn’t really have to be all that bad, now does it?

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shaliene Woodley) is your typical sixteen-year-old girl; she’s sassy, wants to have fun, listens to cool bands, loves her parents, and is taking up classes when she can. She also wants a fake ID, so you know she’s exactly like every other teenager that’s ever lived a day in their lives. However, what separates Hazel from most other teenage girls, is that she’s suffering from cancer. She gets by with her oxygen tank that she hauls around wherever she goes, but for the most part, she knows that anytime, at any place, she could be gone from this world. However, Hazel isn’t all about soaking in her own misery and decides to look at it in a relatively positive light; yet, she doesn’t care too much about telling others about it. That’s why when she’s forced to go into a support-group for fellow cancer patients, she couldn’t be less miserable. That is, until she meets a charming, older guy by the name of Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), whom also is suffering from cancer. The two strike a bond that automatically has them deciding whether or not they should be together, considering that their fates are unpredictable, yet, they still stick together and see where it can go. But don’t forget, for most people, when one has cancer, it hardly ever fully leaves the body forever, until the end of time. Sometimes, it can come back and ruin lives more effectively than ever before.

Considering that I myself am a young adult, I’ve heard my fair share of talk surrounding the novel of this movie. Many girls loved it, some didn’t, and most dudes hated hearing about it. I didn’t necessarily care, however, what I did hear was that it was a lot better and smarter than many of those other young adult, sappy-romance novels that never cease to keep on being released to mass-mediums. That’s what got me slightly interested about this movie; thinking that maybe, just a big maybe, this novel-adaptation could be different and change the game for other young adult novel adaptations from here on out.

Don't worry, concerned parents, I can assure that it's only grape juice in their glasses.

Don’t worry, concerned parents, I can assure that it’s only grape juice in their glasses. It just so happens to look as if they are consuming champagne under legal-age.

Sadly, my mind was wrong.

However, according to the rest of the theater I was in, I’m a total idiot and have no idea what I’m talking about. Why is that? Well, for starters, all of the young tweenie-boppers in my theater loved this movie – they laughed at every joke (regardless of whether or not it was actually “funny”), went “aaawww” whenever somebody said a romantic-line (even if it was schmaltzy beyond belief), and cried whenever something bad was about to happen to one person, or had already happened (okay, I’ll give them that, some of the stuff was pretty sad). And there’s no reason they shouldn’t have loved it – they’re are this movie’s target-audience.

That’s why whenever a movie is released and a certain group of people, or persons, adore one movie (regular, everyday citizens), and a certain group of other people, or persons, don’t wholly agree (critics), there’s a huge backlash, where words are exchanged, death threats are thrown out, and subscribers are lost till the end of time. That’s one risk any human takes when forming their own opinions and decides to make it public for the rest of the world to see; that’s the risk I took, and honestly, I’m a better person for it. Not because I like to inadvertently tell certain people to “fuck off” whenever I damn well please, but because it allowed me to see just how differently my mind works from other’s.

And trust me, I don’t do that because I want to think differently like others and be considered “hip”, or “cool”, or “annoying” (I usually am considered this by others regardless of what I say), but I do that because it’s my voice. Hear it or not, it’s my voice. Deal with it.

The reason why I’ve gone into total “preach-mode” is because I know, as soon as this review is posted, so many human specimens are going to get on my ass because I: a) didn’t love this movie with all of my heart, b) haven’t read the book, or c) all of the above. And that’s fine, but there’s a reason why I don’t like certain movies – and it’s not to just break from the norm and show everybody how much of a rebel I am. Because see, something with this movie was just not clicking for me.

The acting from Shaliene Woodley was fine, in fact, she downright saves this movie, so it definitely wasn’t her. No, it was more that the tone to this movie just felt so one-note the whole entire time. I get that this is something of a cancer-dramedy in which these characters sort of understand that they have cancer, know it sucks, and do whatever they can to make their situation better by just noticing it and moving on, but for the first hour, that’s the whole movie. There’s hardly any drama, and just all comedy; comedy which, mind you, wasn’t all that funny and felt terribly tacked-on.

For instance, this character of Augustus who, on paper, sounds like a total dream boat that any girl, cancer patient or not, would go buck wild for (maybe even some curious guys, too, but that’s a different story). He’s smart, funny, chock full of wit, spirited, loves to have himself a good time, and is never against using a metaphor he doesn’t like. In essence, he’s what every girl wants their boyfriend to be, but the problem is: He’s only “real”, in a movie sense. Somebody like Augustus may exist out there, but if that is the case, I do not want to know him. To me, every time Augustus showed up and spouted some line that was supposed to make him sound “witty”, I got even more and more annoyed by his character.

That’s not to say Ansel Elgort isn’t good as him – more often than not, the dude really does try. However, he’s just given some really lame material that has him doing the same act, practically the whole damn time, and even when he does get serious, he’s so far gone into “goofy” territory, that it’s hard to take him at all serious. And yes, I know that because he has cancer, we’re supposed to feel sorry for him, and I’m not saying that she shouldn’t, it’s just hard for me to really get behind a character that feels so fake, annoying, and around as a “type”, rather than an actual human being that I would meet in real life, have a cup of Joe with, talk to, and enjoy my time with.

Oh, just do it already! Spare us!

Oh, just do it already! Spare us!

Sorry, everybody. Maybe I’m just a depressed, angry asshole that doesn’t like fun.

Like I said earlier though, Woodley is probably the saving-grace to this movie because she feels somewhat real when placed against everybody else. But what brings Woodley down is that the way we’re introduced to Hazel Grace, makes it seem like she’s something of a rebel herself; she doesn’t want to be treated like a cancer patient, she doesn’t want anybody’s pity, and she sure as hell doesn’t want to do all of that corny, “falling in love” crap that she sees done in the mainstream media. However, without saying too much that would jeopardize my respect with fellow bloggers, she starts to fall for those corny cliches and it makes it seem like the movie didn’t really think all of those ideas out well enough. It just threw it on there to show that she’s somewhat different, and that’s about it. Woodley’s still good, but man, it just sucks when a character gets written one way, and turns out another way, without any real, believable transition to be found anywhere.

And before I head off into a cabin in the woods where I’ll most likely be hiding for the next week or so after this is posted, I will say that I did tear-up a bit by the end. However, that’s only because I feel like I had finally given up on trying to stiff-arm this movie into making me tear. Because, for the whole two-hour run-time, you can feel this movie just reaching deep inside of you, trying to get anything close to resembling an emotion of sadness or sentimentality, and it downright annoyed me. But, like I said, before the movie was up, I succumbed to this movie’s over-powering strength and felt one, teenie, tiny, small tear run down my right cheek. I should have taken a picture or something, but I assure you, it was nothing compared to the kinds of tears I produce while watching Hardball.

Please, don’t anybody show this review to my father. Something tells me I’d be without a roof over my head for quite some time.

Consensus: While its heart is in the right place, the Fault in Our Stars is just too one-note and unbelievable, for so long, to where when it does get serious and melodramatic, it feels drastic and needy, rather than understandable and heartfelt. Also not to mention that Augustus can get real annoying, real quick after he’s introduced.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

We get it, you're adorable. Damn, meddling kids.

We get it, you’re adorable. Damn, meddling kids.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Like they say, “Once you go black, you never go back.”

When we last left Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), things seemed to be going relatively fine. Not only did he save the day, once again, but he got the girl of his dreams, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), patched things up with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), and finally told his best-friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) about the fact that he’s not only Spider-Man, but that his father tried to kill him. Sure, the relationship between those two may be strained and even have Harry himself go a bit coo-coo with vengeance, but for the most part, Pete’s life is happy, joyful and one that makes him happy to wake up in the day. However, that all changes one day when he finds out that his Uncle Ben’s killer, believe it or not, is still out there, and he’s going by the name of the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). To make matters even worse, Peter’s finding it hard to keep things going steady at work, and is finding some stiff competition in the newsroom with aspiring, fellow photo-journalist Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). Also, remember the girl of his dreams that he thought he won, hook, line and sinker last time? Well, she’s starting to get second-thoughts about dating a superhero. Oh, and as if that wasn’t all bad enough for Spidey, for some reason, there’s this black, venomous acid following him around and latching onto his suit, changing up his hair-do, and making him act in a totally different way, that may make him feel great and all, but pushes those whom are close to him, further and further away.

Okay, so yeah, that’s a long premise. But it needed to be because let’s face it: This movie is a total, complete, over-stuffed mess. I knew that the second I walked out of the theater back in the early days of summer ’07, and I knew that less than three or four days ago when I found enough guts to go through with it and actually give this movie another try. Shame on me, but you know what? I gotta do it for all of you.

"Kame me, kame me...huh?"

“Kame me, kame me…huh?”

All you mofo’s better be happy with this.

But, to be honest, even though I’m getting off of on the wrong foot and making it seem like I absolutely loathe the heck out of this movie, I can’t say that I really do. Because somehow, I was able to find little, itty, bitty, pleasures here and there throughout the movie. Now, whether or not these pleasures were indeed intended to be “pleasureful” is totally up to Sam Raimi and the creative-powers that be whom got behind this, but the fact remains: Spider-Man 3 isn’t all that terrible. It’s not good, that’s for certain, but it’s not shitty either.

Confused by what I’m trying to say? Don’t worry, I am too. Here, let me try to explain:

What I like to think of this movie as being is one, big, nearly-two-and-a-half-hour long “fuck you” from Sam Raimi. No, not a “fuck you” to us, the dedicated, lovely audience that spent all of our minimum-wages on seeing his past couple of Spider-Man movies, but more as a “fuck you” to those who tried to get in the way of his creative-vision way too many times before. Maybe I’m just making this all up in my head to make myself feel better, but there’s no way in hell that Sam Raimi, the creator of some of the greatest, most iconic cult films of all time, thought that this was a good idea. Or hell, even this! And oh god no, dare I even talk about this travesty!

No, no, no! I refuse to believe that the some mastermind behind Ash would ever stoop this low and give us something as painstaking as most of this movie can be! I don’t care what anybody says, I will stand by my grave if I have to! They always say that “money can’t buy happiness”, well, nor do I think that it can buy creative consciences either. It’s clear to me that Sam Raimi doesn’t know what to do with each and everyone of these subplots, so instead, he just crams them altogether in a way that’s incoherent, but wholly uneven. One second, you’ll be getting something out of a comedy-sketch in which Peter Parker is walking down the street, dancing, walking all fly, acting cool and hitting on the ladies, while some funky bass-action plays in the background; and then, all of a sudden, the next second, you’ll get a scene or two in which the Sandman talks about his dying-kid and how he does all of this crime and whatnot for her.

One second, it’s a laugh-out-lough, camp-fest; the next second, it’s a total downer that will make you want to say “party’s over”. I’m not saying that certain movies can’t be both frothy and dramatic at the same time, there’s just a specific-balance that these movies are capable of handling and maintaining, and it’s clear early on that Raimi is not able to do that. Whether or not this was him just having an off-day and deciding to hell with it all, is sort of beyond me, but there’s just so much going wrong here, that it’s almost too hard to think of it as anything else other than a ruse played on all of us, as well as the numerous Hollywood producers backing this thing.

Which is a total shame, because with all of the material and promise Raimi had at his disposal here, he could have done some wonders – given that he had a three-hour run-time and at least took away a villain or two. But what happens here is that we get just about three villains, four-to-five conflicts for Spidey (not including his own conflict with himself), three-to-four extraneous subplots that literally add nothing to the story, and a two-hour-and-twenty-minute run-time that goes by quick, but only because the movie is never comfortable enough focusing on one thing. Raimi always has to be moving from one end of the story, to another, which makes a lot of sense since he clearly has a lot on his plate to chew on, but made it seem like it didn’t really know what to do or say with its plot, or any of its characters. So instead, it just fell back on the same old, high-flying, CGI-galore action that was always there to make things better for these movies in the past.

Yup, they're totally boned from here-on-out.

Yup, they’re totally boned from here-on-out.

However, this time around, everything else is so poorly-developed, that it just feels like a cheat to get our minds out of everything else that’s going on so wrong with this movie – especially with the characters. And hell, if there’s anything about this movie that fuels me even more is how they wasted the whole potential that Eddie Brock/Venom had as a villain. Don’t get me wrong, I think Topher Grace is a fine actor that’s been trying his hardest since day one to get out of that Eric Forman-shell that’s been carved for him since, well, yeah, day one, but he’s not right for this role. I get what Raimi was trying to do with the casting of him – make him something of an over-the-top, immoral, sneaky and sly son-of-a-bitch – which yes, does work when he’s being Eddie Brock, the photojournalist for the Daily Bugle, but when he has to transform to Venom with about 15 minutes left of the movie, it feels like an after-thought. Almost as if the producers wanted Raimi to throw him in there for good measure, only to realize that the rest of the movie was stacked with so much to begin with.

And since I’m on the subject of new faces to this franchise, I have to say that I feel very bad for Thomas Haden Church here, because the dude is a great talent who just about makes everything better the minute he shows up in it. The problem with him here, as the Sandman, is that he’s given just about nothing to do. We get enough back-story to his character so that we can sort of see where he’s coming from, but it gets so convoluted once they start talking about how he apparently killed Uncle Ben in the past, that I just wanted them to stop with it all and move on. Give me the action, give me more scenes of Thomas Haden Church actually talking and showing some personality, and give me more of the core that really makes these movies tick in the first place: Pete and M.J.

It doesn’t matter what you’re own, personal opinions may be on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as working-professionals, but it should be noted that without them and their chemistry (or in some cases, lack thereof), this franchise would have fallen flat on its face as soon as it hit theaters. There would have been no “superhero movie boom”; no Spider-Man 2; no Amazing Spider-Man; no Amazing Spider-Man 2; nobody remembering who the hell James Franco was; and sure as hell no Spider-Man 3. Maybe we could have lived peacefully with that last aspect being gone and lost forever, but you get the picture – M.J. and P.P. gave these movies an extra oomph of heart and emotion that so many superhero movies try to recreate nowadays, but just can’t seem to get down perfectly.

However, here, the whole idea is that M.J. and Pete stop loving one another and grow apart, which kind of sucks to see since we’ve invested so much of our time in them, but by the same token, needs to happen in order for us to make them just a tad bit believable in terms of character-development and rounding the two out as individual beings, rather than just a couple. If this was done right, it would have been phenomenal to see, in a big-budget, superhero movie no less, but the movie really stumbles when it’s paying dear attention to this subplot. Pete eventually becomes a bit of a dick because of this venomous, gooey thing that keeps on attaching to his suit and making him act differently; and M.J. is coming at a bit of an existential crisis where she wants the focus to be constantly on her, her failing-career as a Broadway actress, and the fact that she’s been so loyal and dedicated to Pete, despite going around and starting to sleep with Harry, once again.

Ain’t nothing like old times, right peeps?

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don't just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don’t just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Tobey Maguire, god bless him, tries his heart out but once Peter Parker gets that new, emo hairdo, it’s all downhill for him from there; Dunst looks bad because Mary Jane is so unlikable and unsympathetic in her whiniest performance yet; and James Franco, believe it if you will, probably has the best performance out of everyone here, just by getting a chance to live a little and show some of that Daniel Desario charm that was so absent from the two other movies. Which is strange considering that right as soon as this movie came out, hit theaters, broke a bunch of box-office records and basically ended the franchise that came to be known as “Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man“, Franco started popping-up in some interesting movies like Milk, Pineapple Express and In the Valley of Elah that not only stretched him a bit as an actor, but also showed the world that he wasn’t going to be doomed by his infamous past as “Harry Osborne, snobby, prick-ish son of a crazy billionaire”.

So yes, if there is anything, heck, anything at all good that you can take away from Spider-Man 3, it’s that it allowed James Franco to break-out from his cage and start trying his hand at some weird, quite frankly, goofy shit. But hey, we’re better as a society for it. Because seriously, when was the last time you actually got amped-up for something either Kirsten Dunst or Tobey Maguire were doing?

I rest my case.

Consensus: Long, overstuffed, uneventful, confusing, incoherent, and definitely disappointing, Spider-Man 3 may go down in the history books as one of the weakest superhero movies made in the past decade or so, but it isn’t without its small pleasures found along the way, if only for its most dedicated, easy, and calm viewers.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I tan."

“Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I’m trying to get that summer glow.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Just when you thought saving the world from evil, maniacal villains was enough.

Last time we left Peter Parker, he was trying to save the world from the havoc of a super-duper evil villain; win the heart of his lovely neighbor, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst); ace his college courses; still have a roof over his head; and be able to sleep soundly at night, knowing that he’s saved the day. And well, not much of that has changed a bit. Well, maybe instead of having the Green Goblin as a villain, he now has the incredibly smart Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and the four metal arms that control his every action and thought, leading him to want to destroy the world that’s been so crummy to him as is. Or, you know, something like that. Also going on, Peter has a problem with telling his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) the truth about what happened to their dear old Uncle Ben, on that one, fateful night. And then of course, there’s Harry Osborne (James Franco) who is rich and powerful now, after inheriting the family business from his deceased-father and still having a bit of a problem with Pete and the fact that he takes the man who killed his father’s pictures all of the time.

I’ve seen this movie many quite a couple of times and it hardly ever ceases to amaze me. Of course when I was a lot younger, this was considered “the best movie ever made, by far”, but now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, it’s stooped-down to being “just as good, if not better than the first”. That’s just what happens with age, though, people. You get older, you learn a lot more and you know what you like, and dislike.

Here though, I like pretty much everything, even if I have seen this movie about ten or more times. That’s not an understatement either; I was brought-up on the Tobey Maguire – Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, which is why I have such a hard time loving these new ones, as well as being able to hate on the magic these two made in the first place. Sure, they’re definitely a lot goofier and lighter on their feet than what most of us are used to with superhero movies (thanks for that, Chris Nolan), but there’s something about their fun spirit and excitement that’s too hard to hate or ignore. Even when it comes close to running into “campy territory”, there’s still an essence that everybody involved is having a great time making this and for that, my soul just cannot hate any of them.

"Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured!"

“Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured without wearing a damn bra!”

Even the third one. But that’s a different review, for a different time (aka, tomorrow).

But anyway, like I was saying before, what Sam Raimi does so well here is that he does keep the same frothy, sometimes goofy and joy-free mood and tone of the first one, but ups the intensity of this by adding both bigger, bigger stipulations, but also giving us characters we can care and love a lot more than we did with the first one. It’s not like we didn’t get any character-development in the first Spider-Man movie, but it definitely didn’t go any further than “good guy”, or “bad guy”. Here though, we get characters, in a comic-book movie no less, that also happen to have dimensions and qualities that most human beings contain.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s because it totally is! However, Raimi has just about each and every moment here that’s dedicated to building and making these characters who they are, feel somewhat genuine. He also does something strange for a mainstream, superhero blockbuster in that he lets a lot of scenes where two characters may be having a heart-to-heart or talking about something rather emotional, play-out in total silence, as if he isn’t telling us when the sad moments are coming. We’re just supposed to know what to feel, and cry, shake, tremble, or smile on our demand.

We so rarely see that with superhero movies, but Raimi took a big time risk here, and it paid-off especially well.

Another risk he took was in actually showing us the shitty side of being a superhero. Most of the time, we always see the person in the suit, messing shit up, being a boss, saving the world and getting the girl, the glitz, and the glamour by the end of the day, but what most of us really don’t see is what goes on when that said person gets out of that said costume and becomes what most of us are: Actual humans. Here, with Peter Parker, we get an idea that not only does it suck being depended on just about every second of every day, at every location in the heart of New York City, but that it’s even more of a drag having to deal with all of your other problems when you’re not out saving the world, one criminal at a time.

For Peter Parker, life kind of blows – the girl of his dreams is with some total meat-head, his best-friend doesn’t trust him, he’s not paying his rent, he hasn’t told his Aunt the dreaded secret that may ruin their relationship forever, and he can’t seem to hold down a steady job, or wage. But when he puts that suit on, life is suddenly better, if only by a bit. Still though, it’s apparent that being a superhero, no matter how many people look up to you as a result, it’s still a hard life to live. That’s why when Pete decides that it’s time to take a sabbatical of sorts, we want him to get all of the rest and chillaxing he can get; but also, not to wait too long either. Because, let’s face it, he’s Spider-Man and he’s a pretty awesome superhero when he’s kicking all sorts of butt.

And kicking all sorts of butt is what Sam Raimi allows for Spidey to do, more times than he did in the original. Though there is plenty of dramatic moments here where it’s just a couple of characters or two just sitting around and talking, Raimi still never forgets about the action, which features some of the most memorable brawls of recent-memory. That bank-robbery that turns into a fight on top of a skyscraper? Damn! The train-battle? Gosh! The moment Octavius becomes “Doc Ock”? Well, yeah, it’s pretty disturbing, even for a PG-13 superhero movie, but man, it was awesome!

In other words, Raimi gives us all the goods an average, everyday moviegoer could want, especially if they were coming to see a Spider-Man movie.

And of course, the cast is great too, with a few even putting in their best work of the whole franchise. Tobey Maguire may get a lot of crap for being the good-looking nerd everyone aspires to be (myself included), but it’s totally undeserved because the kid can act and handles his own as Spider-Man, and most importantly as Peter Parker. In fact, if Maguire wasn’t putting in great work here, this movie probably would have failed considering mostly all of it is focused in on Peter Parker, the person, rather than Spider-Man, the superhero the person becomes. Maguire may get a bit too earnest for his own good at times, but it’s easily forgivable since he’s just so likable and easy-to-root-for, because you know that while he wants to be at his girl’s play more than anything else in the world, he’s got a world to save and maintain peace within. If that doesn’t sound like a total dream-boat, I have no clue what does.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let's just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let’s just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Speaking of “his girl”, Kirsten Dunst is another who seems to get a lot of crap from those who think she can’t act, and I think that’s terribly wrong. For starters, she totally can and as she’s gotten older, she’s only been able to prove that moreso, time and time again. However, back in those good old days of the early-21st Century, I could see why some people got on her case as M.J. definitely isn’t the best-developed or most believable character out of the whole bunch, but at least Dunst seems like she knows what she’s doing when she’s delivering some of the cheesy-lines to be heard here. Same goes for James Franco as Harry Osborne, another one not many knew what to make of back in the day, but clearly has made a huge name for himself by just being him.

God, how time has changed.

With the absence of Willem Dafoe as the main baddie, we get Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius and the guy’s very good, as many could probably predict seeing as how Molina’s been a stand-out actor, putting in great work, time and time again. With Octavius though, Molina not only gets to show a human-side to a person who could be seen as a total monster, but even makes us see those small spots of humanity, even while his mind is practically being taken over by the evil chip in his brain. Though he’s clearly not as hammy as Dafoe was (therefore, eliminating some of the fun), Molina still feels like a real person who has been utterly driven to do bad things, for bad reasons and under extreme circumstances. Sort of like how Sam Raimi must have felt doing the third movie.

But like I said: Different review, for a different day, folks. Just you all wait.

Consensus: With a perfect mixture of heart, humor, action, excitement, and fun, Spider-Man 2 will go down in the books as one of the best superhero sequels of all-time because it never forgets what makes its story kick as well as it does, while also not forgetting to give the audience the high-flying, ass-kicking action they come to expect with a product like this.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it's a freakin' subway he's holding back!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it’s a freakin’ subway he’s holding back!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Nymphomaniac: Volume II (2014)

Sex isn’t the root to all evil. It just matters who you’re having it with.

When we last left-off with Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her life’s story, she was younger, happily-in-love with Jerome (Shia Labeouf), but had a problem: She couldn’t be fully sexually-satisfied. Most of that problem had to do with the fact that she was pregnant, but that’s also because she longed for something more. After all, she is a self-described Nymphomaniac, and Nymphomaniac’s need all the pleasure and sex they can get. Even if that does mean getting late-night spanks from a random stranger (Jamie Bell); going to see a sex-therapist (Katie Ashfield) to “get help”; and start working as a debt-collector for a brutal man known as L (Willem Dafoe). Eventually though, all of this screwing around, comes back to bite her in the rear-end, which also leads us to the present-day in which she is telling Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) everything that he needs to know about her. He’s still using every chance he can to bring up random facts about fishing, religion, family and art, but he may even have a little something to share with Joe as well. Maybe something that will make her seem in a different light?

Volume I of Lars von Trier’s two-parter surprised the hell out of me. Not because it wasn’t as disgusting or vile as I originally thought of it as being upon first hearing the term, “Four-hour sex-epic from the guy who made Antichrist“, but because it did a lot of stuff that we don’t see von Trier often do in his movies. For one, it was pretty funny. Many of times, I caught myself laughing at the pure-randomness of this material, like Christian Slater using a British-accent, or Joe ejaculating while watching her father lie-naked and die right in front of her eyes; however, I feel like that’s what von Trier wanted me to do. He was intentionally messing around with me, the viewer, and for that, I appreciated him, as well as the movie, a whole lot more.

Nothing like a good old Oreo sandwich.

Nothing like a good old Oreo sandwich.

Also, von Trier never seemed to be judging Joe for any of the dirty, immoral things she was doing with her body. She was having all sorts of sex with anybody she could find, yet, she was using it to her advantage. Rather than painting her as a total and complete slut, who doesn’t deserve the time of day, let alone, our warm, cozy bed, we get to see a woman, being a woman, who also happens to have plenty of needs. We never hate her, nor do we like her – we just see her for what she is. Von Trier was smart in using that method of story-telling and character-development to his advantage, which is why that first part had me expecting all sorts of greatness for this.

Sadly, no such thing happens.

The reason why I mentioned the whole hilarious, and non-judgmental-aspect of the first film, is because all of those elements that made the first one such a fine-watch, are pretty much gone here. Acts of hilarious randomness are replaced with dark, twisted confusion; whereas the idea of not judging our character, is replaced with a view on this character that is the least bit flattering. Now, of course it’s von Trier’s movie and he can wish to do whatever the hell it is he wants, with whomever he wants, but I feel like the transition from something so fun, light and exciting like the first-part, to something so dark, angry, mean and nasty like this part, would have been a lot more cohesive, had this film been shown in its original, straight, four-hour run-time. Had that been the format chosen, there wouldn’t have been such a tonal-difference between either parts, and how von Trier decides to switch gears up.

That doesn’t make this movie bad at all, it’s just disappointing is all. Where in Volume I, I thought I saw a quick, humorous-side to von Trier that I had never, ever known was there before; here, we get something that’s going back to the Lars von Trier we all know, and sometimes loathe: Evil, cruel and mean. He still pays close-attention to his characters, the situations they are thrown into, and how they react to them, but it’s not nearly as entertaining or interesting as the first movie. It just seems like von Trier ran-out of some ideas here and there, so instead of keeping with the frothy-pace of the first movie, he just decided to throw more and more crazy acts at us, in a way to both shock us and have us trying to make sense of what we’re seeing.

Problem is, that barely ever happens. It’s just Lars von Trier, being Lars von Trier. And I guess I just wanted more growth. May be a problem only I had, but it’s still a problem that continued to bug me, again and again.

"Yes, the glove DOES matter."

“Yes, the glove DOES matter.”

All that said, I can’t take away from what’s really working here, which is the ensemble von Trier packs a bit more from the first. Stacy Martin may have stolen the show in the first-installment, but this time, we finally get to see a lot more of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s portrayal of Joe, and needless to say, it’s another compelling performance from an actress that always seems to put in great work. Especially when she’s working with von Trier. Gainsbourg has a lot of crazy stuff to do here, such as getting whipped, brutally beaten, ripping her clothes off and having to kiss other woman. And while that may not sound like much of a range at all when all it is you’re doing is going through motions, Gainsbourg is still believable during every part. The only thing really holding her character back is that we begin to care less and less for her character, her journey and where it is she’s going with her life, because of the way von Trier’s light portrays here as. Shame too, because Gainsbourg is a solid actress who is clearly not afraid of stepping out of her comfort-zone; even if that does entail showing her bum.

Like Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård returns as the heartfelt, sensitive man who is always eager to see and hear where Joe’s story goes next, sometimes a little TOO eager. We get more shading to his character than ever before here, but, like with the character of Joe in this movie, von Trier’s starts to paint a portrait of this man isn’t as sympathetic as it was in the first place. That’s about as much as I’ll say about that, but it surprised me. Then, I got to thinking about it, and then it didn’t. Because, hell, this is a Lars von Trier movie, what do you expect to happen!??! Roses, happiness, peace and love to be spotted in every frame?!?!

Consensus: The drastic change in tone and character-development for Nymphomaniac: Volume II, may be surprising when compared to the first-part, however, it’s a surprise that we’ve seen von Trier use way too many times before and by now, it seems like the man may have to find new, and improved ways to tell his stories. More like Volume I was.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

To move forward in one's life, they must burn every car. I know that's not really a saying, but in this case, it can be.

To move forward in one’s life, they must burn every car. I know that’s not really a saying, but in this case, it can be.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Nymphomaniac: Volume I (2014)

Let us talk about sex, shall we?

During one fateful night, an old man by the name of Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) stumbles upon a brutal, beaten and battered-up woman by the name of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Though he does not know much about her, other than the fact that she does not want to have the police or ambulance called in at all, he decides to take her back to his place where he treats her to tea, his warm, cozy bed and even a small pastry as well. During her stay, Joe decides to tell Seligman her life’s story from when she was a youngin’ getting in all sorts of racy, sexual escapades, to the present-day, where it’s clear that she’s seen plenty of a lot and isn’t afraid to talk about it all. In between these stories, the two get into conversations about nature, fishing, nymphs and, randomly enough, cake forks.

Oh yeah, and people do bone, but that’s not the point, you dirt balls!

By now, I’m pretty sure that most of you ladies and gents have heard a thing or two about Lars von Trier’s, self-proclaimed, “Sex Epic”, which, as dirty as I may sound, is something I was looking forward to. No, not because I want to see dongs go in and out of all such places for the sake that I don’t have to worry about SPAM attacking my computer’s hard-drive, but because in the way that I know von Trier’s movies, I know that when he puts his mind to something, it works perfectly.

Whatever you two on my right do, just DO NOT, look to your right. I repeat: DO NOT LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT.

Whatever you two on my right do, just DO NOT, look to your right. I repeat: DO NOT LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT.

Okay, so maybe Antichrist was a bit too wacky, maybe even for his own disciples, but that’s another discussion, for another day. The fact of the matter is that when Lars von Trier decides to make a movie, no matter what it’s about (mostly stuff that isn’t in good-taste), you’re going to want to see it, just to understand what all of the fuss about it is for. And when you just add sex to the equation, hell, even in some cases, “real sex“, then you know all hell is going to break loose!!

But here’s what’s so shocking about von Trier’s latest: Despite it featuring a whole bunch of hot, attractive people participating in sexual-acts, it’s never actually hot, or even sexy. Instead, von Trier pulls the rug right from underneath us and just shows us these acts of sexual-promiscuity as if they were happening in real life. Sure, depending on what type of person you are, this may seem like the hottest thing since Janet Jackson’s nip-slip, but for others, it’s not really all that titillating to begin with. Most of that has to do with the fact that von Trier simply doesn’t care too much about the acts, and more or less actually cares about the story itself, and building characters; mainly in our female-protagonist, Joe.

Now, the one problem with this movie is that you can totally tell it’s a first-parter in a two-part series. First of all, that idea upsets me as is – I feel as if the producers and everybody else behind this should have just bit the bullet and made this a three-hour epic of sorts, because when this part of the series ends, it just ends. It doesn’t really stand on its own, and even during the end-credits, we’re shown a “teaser” of what’s next to come in Nymphomaniac: Volume II. I don’t know whose idea it was to think that we needed to cut-down something like this, nor take away Lars von Trier’s edits, but whatever. I guess it’s the reality I have to stick with, regardless of if I like it or not.

So screw me, right?

Anyway, where I was trying to go with that is in our lead character of Joe, we get to see a lot of Charlotte Gainsbourg just looking depressed, angry and very downtrodden. Which is all good since the gal owns it perfectly, but she isn’t nearly as much the star of the show as Stacy Martin is, playing Joe in her younger, wilder days. Martin, despite being a model, actually has a great screen-presence that commands your attention. But not just with her always naked-body or constant O-faces, but with the way she’s able to hold the screen by just being silent. You never know what it is that she’s thinking and you’re always left to wonder what she has to say next, if anything at all. In fact, I got the same impression from Gainsbourg’s performance as the older-Joe, showing us that these two gals are actually the same person, and didn’t really change all that much; except for the fact that their skin got flabbier and more wrinkly. But such is the case with aging, right?!?!?!

But yeah, Martin is great and although I know we’re more often likely to see Gainsbourg a lot more in Volume II, I still hope that we don’t fully kick Martin to the curb, because she’s actually very good and the type of female-actress I could see popping-up in more of von Trier’s stuff, forcing her to do all sorts of crazy shit that I won’t even dare to mention.

Dude’s a crazy bastard, in case you didn’t know.

"We're still talking about fishing, right?"

“We’re still discussing the art of fishing, right?”

The rest of the cast that von Trier is able to assemble is, as usual, quite impressive, given the fact that it’s a known-fact by now the type of stunts he pulls in order to get emotionally-draining performances from his actors and actresses. But yet, time and time again, talented, well-known people still sign-up to be in his movies, so who am I to judge, you know? I guess whenever we see a Lars von Trier movie, we should come to expect that Stellan Skarsgård will show up in some form, which I’m fine with since the guy’s a great actor and shows that he’s more than capable of handling whatever weird material von Trier throws his way. Here, as the friendly guy that looks over Joe and takes care of her, in a not-at-all-creepy way, Skarsgård is given a task in which he has to constantly relate Joe’s nutty escapades to other aspects of life, like literature, food, and especially fishing. However, his character never seems like he could be replaced or gotten rid of entirely; he’s there to serve as a voice-of-reason to Joe’s story as she’s telling it and for that, he brings some much-needed perspective. I look forward to seeing where this talk leads them and best of all, to see if they end-up shacking the boots. Crossing my fingers and holding out hope over here.

The newcomers to von Trier’s world of depravity are inspired, if even stranger than I expected. Having Christian Slater, Shia Labeouf and Uma Thurman in your movie is usually very interesting, which here, it still is, it’s just odd since they all have to carry-out British accents that sort of go in and out. However, it’s almost as if von Trier wanted this to happen, just so that he could screw with our minds even more. That, or the fact that nobody who actually was from Britain wanted to work with him in the first place, so why not get three has-beens and an actor that almost everyone in this world hates a bit more than Justin Bieber? See, I know how von Trier thinks, baby! Probably not a good thing to say, though.

Nonetheless, they’re all fine with what they do: Slater poops and pees himself, while having nightmares, but still has enough time to chat with his daughter (Joe) about leaves and each one of their meanings, or something like that; Labeouf, despite seeming as if he is trying a bit hard, is actually pretty hilarious as Jerome, the guy that Joe loses her V-card to, only to then stumble upon him later in life where he’s a bit of a deuche that tries hard to get laid, but can’t help but get the stiff-arm (much like what probably happens to Shia Labeouf in real life); and Thurman, with her one scene, steals the whole movie as the shamed wife who comes to Joe’s place, just to mess with her, the guy she is screwing (Thurman’s character’s husband), and the other guy Joe is screwing, all while her kids look on in absolute fear and silence. It’s nice to see von Trier give some of these actor’s new-lives as actors willing to hang with him and his demanding directorial-process. Though I know that there’s plenty of more faces and talents to come in the next installment, so I guess for now, I’ll just have to wait.

Damn you, whomever it was behind that sham of breaking this up into two movies! Damn you!

Consensus: Though there’s plenty left to be desired for what’s next to come in Volume II, Nymphomaniac: Volume I sill gives us all the dark, awkward aspects of the human-condition, with plenty of sex sprinkled throughout, and never never having it seem distracting or gratuitous.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, I think it's gone.

Yeah, I think it’s gone.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This type of nonsense would never occur at a Motel 6! That’s for certain!

In 1968, a writer (Jude Law), staying at a beaten-up, run-down hotel called “the Grand Budapest Hotel” meets millionaire Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who apparently has a lot to do with the history of this hotel – the same type of history not many people actually know the exact story to. Together, the two decide to meet-up, have dinner and allow for Moustafa to tell his story and why he is the way he is nowadays. The story goes a little something like this: Back in 1932, young Zero (Tony Revolori) was hired as a Lobby Boy at the hotel, where he eventually became concierge Gustave H.’s (Ralph Fiennes) second-hand-in-command. Gustave, for lack of a better term, is Zero’s role-model and he’s a pretty darn good one at that: Not only does he treat his guests with love, affection and respect, but he even gives them a little “something” more in private. And apparently, he treats one guest of his, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), so well, that he’s apparently the owner of one of her prized-possessions, the same prized possession that her bratty son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) won’t let him have. But you can’t tell Gustave “no”, when he knows what is rightfully his, so therefore, he takes it, which leads onto all sorts of other crazy, wacky and sometimes deadly, hijinx.

So yeah, for the past week, I’ve been kicking ass and taking names with all of these Wes Anderson movies, and if there is one thing that I myself (as well as most of you) have learned about, is that I really do love his movies. I mean, yeah, I knew Wes Anderson has always been a favorite of mine, but what really surprised me with this past week is that not only have I been watching and taking note of how his style changes over time (or in some cases, doesn’t), but also, how he’s grown as a film maker and decided to get a whole lot more ambitious.

Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

Okay, but on a serious note: Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

And I don’t mean “ambitious” in the form that his movies are a whole lot bigger or more ensemble-driven, but more that they tackle on so many different-threads of meaning, rather than just being all about family-issues amongst a group of dysfunctional, troubled-characters. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love those said “family-issues”, but even I know when it’s time to move on, start trying something new and most of all, stretching yourself as a writer, director and overall creator.

Thankfully, not just for me, or you, or even Wes Anderson, but for all of us: Wes has finally shown us that he’s ready to take a swan-dive out of his comfort-zone and shock us with something that he’s almost never done before.

Key word being “almost”. More on that later, though.

First things first, I feel as if I am going to talk about any notable, positive aspect of this movie, it’s going to be the overall-style. Now, I think we’ve all known Anderson to be a bit of an eye-catcher with the way he has his flicks so colorful and bright, that you almost practically go blind because of them; but this, he truly has out-done himself. Since most of where this story takes place is made-up inside that creative little noggin of his, Anderson is practically given free-reign to just ran rampant with his imagination, where every set looks as if it was taken-out of an historic, field-trip brochure, dibbled and dabbled with some pretty colors, and thrown right behind everything that happens here. In some cases, that would usually take away from a film and be just another case of a director getting too “artsy fartsy”, but due to how crazy and rumpus most of this story is, it actually helps blend these characters in to their surroundings, as well as make this world we are watching seem like a believable one, even if they are so clearly made-up.

Which is why this is probably Anderson’s most exciting movie to-date. Of course though, Anderson’s other movies like Rushmore and even Bottle Rocket had an hectic-feel to them, but they were done so in a type of small, contained and dramatic-way – here, the movie is all about the vast, never ending canvas surrounding each and every one of these characters, and just how far it can be stretched-out for. So while those other movies of Anderson’s may have had a sense of adventure where a character would want to get out of the house, only to go running around in the streets, here, you have a bunch of characters who not only want to get out of their household, or wherever the hell they may be staying at, and get out there in the world where anything is possible. They could either go running, jogging, skiing, sight-seeing, train-riding, bicycle-hopping, parachuting, and etc. Anywhere they want to go, by any mode of transportation whatsoever, they are able to and it gives us this idea that we are not only inside the mind of Anderson and all of his play-things, but we are also stuck inside of his world, where joy and happiness is all around.

Though, there definitely are some dark elements to this story that do show up, in some awkward ways as well, the story never feels like it is too heavy on one aspect that could bring the whole movie crashing down. Instead, Anderson whisks, speeds through and jumps by everything, giving us the feeling that this is a ride that’s never going to end, nor do we want to end; we’re just too busy and pleased to be enjoying the scenery, as well as all of the fine, and nifty characters that happen to go along with it.

And with this ensemble, you couldn’t ask for anybody better! Ralph Fiennes isn’t just an interesting choice for the character of Gustave, but he’s also an interesting choice to play the lead in a Wes Anderson movie. We all know and love Fiennes for being able to class it up in anywhere he shows his charmingly handsome face, but the verdict is still out there on the guy as to whether or not he can actually be, well, “funny”. Sure, the dude was downright hilarious in In Bruges, but being that he had a dynamite-script to work with and was one out of three other main-characters, did the dude have much of a choice? Not really, but that’s besides the point!

What is the point, is that I was a little weary of Fiennes in a Wes Anderson movie, where most of the time, comedy and drama go side-by-side and would need all of the best talents to make that mixture look and feel cohesive. Thankfully, Fiennes not only proves that he’s able to make any kind of silly-dialogue the least bit “respectable”, but that he’s also able to switch his comedy-timing on and off, giving us a character we not only love and adore every time he’s up on the screen, but wish we saw more of. Because, without giving too much away, there are brief snippets of time where we don’t get to always be in the company of Gustave, and when those passages in time happen, they do take away from the movie.

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump'll do!

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump’ll do!

It isn’t that nobody else in this movie is capable enough of handling the screen all to themselves, but it’s so clear, early on, that Anderson clearly beholds this character as much as we do, and we can’t help but follow suit and wish to see him all of the time. Most of that’s because of Anderson’s witty and snappy dialogue that’s given to Fiennes to work with, but most of that is also because Fiennes is such a charismatic-presence that the fact of him actually making me, or anybody laugh, is enough to make you want to see a biopic made about him, and him alone.

But, like I was saying before, the rest of the ensemble is fine, it’s just that Fiennes was clearly meant to be the star of the show and plays it as such. Newcomer Tony Revolori feels like a perfect-fit for Anderson’s deadpan, sometimes outrageous brand of humor that’s practically winking at itself. What’s also worth praising a hell of a whole lot about Revolori is how he more than holds his own when he’s stacked-up against certain presences that aren’t just Fiennes (although the two make for a wonderful duo that they are another reason why it sucks whenever Gustave isn’t around). All of these other familiar faces that pop-up like Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson, and Saoirse Ronan, and even Jeff fuckin’ Goldblum are all great, but surprisingly, Revolori doesn’t get over-shadowed and keeps the heart and soul of the story clearly alongside with him, as it was intended to be. And yes, even though that heart may not be the most richest, most powerfully emotional we’ve ever seen Anderson bring to the screen before, it’s still the same kind of heart that has go along with Anderson on any ride he takes us, all because we know that, at the end, it’s all going to be totally worth it.

That, and also, that we’ll have something new to recommend to our white friends.

Consensus: The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely Wes Anderson’s most ambitious work to-date, meaning that we get plenty of laughs, jumps, thrills, some chills, heart and enough familiar, talented-faces working with some wacky, but fun material from one of our finest writers/directors working today.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

All in the 'stache, ladies. All in the 'stache.

All in the ‘stache, ladies. All in the ‘stache.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Ice-fishing is definitely a safer-bet.

Famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a man that likes to think of himself as something of a genius. He has many faults, yet, he never admits to them, and is starting to find out that it may just come and bite him. While he and his crew of rag-tag misfits get to embark on a series of wild adventures, soon, and totally out of the blue, walks in Steve’s estranged son, Ned (Owen Wilson), who he may, or may not have known actually existed in the first place. But, Steve sees this not only as a way to gain another loyal crew-member, but to spend some more quality-time and get to know the son he never knew was out there, which starts to become an after-thought once a journalist (Cate Blanchett) steps onto the ship and begins to catch both Steve, as well as Ned’s eyes. Also, on the side, they are looking for an exotic sea-creature known as the “Jaguar Shark”, who killed Zissou’s old-buddy. Problem is, nobody knows if it exists or not, not even he knows.

Even though I’m a fan of Wes Anderson, I have to say that even I can get a bit skeptical of his work. When you go into a Wes Anderson movie, you have to expect all of his trademarks, whether you like it or not. Sometimes, there is a slight spin on those said trademarks, but most of the time: What you see from a Wes Anderson movie, is most likely what you are going to get. And if you don’t like it, then suck it!

Or, if put in a nicer-way, just don’t pay to see it, or something like that.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

And most of the problem with this movie is that nothing really seems to be working at all for Anderson, in probably the first hour or so. It isn’t that it’s boring because people are just standing around and talking, it’s more that it never seems to be going anywhere. It’s almost as if Anderson thought it would be easy enough to give us a bunch of wild, crazy and colorful characters, have them do their thing, and that would be enough to hold our interest, as we waited for something to actually happen. It began to worry me a bit, mainly because I know what can happen when Anderson gets a little too up-in-his-own-ass sometimes.

Yeah, it can get bad, people. VERY BAD.

However, things did in fact pick-up, and I think it occurred right when Zissou and his crew start their journey, wherever the hell it may lead them. Most of the charm that we see Anderson utilize so well when he’s on-point, gets done quite efficiently here, but it also seems to show everything coming together. Of course there’s a lot of the same close-ups and strange-cuts that we have come to know (and sometimes love, sometimes hate) from Anderson, but there was more originality to the way he framed certain scenes and gave it an extra-spunk of color that made this film a lot more goofy than I was expecting.

Actually, “goofy” is probably the perfect word to describe this movie as, mostly because that’s exactly what I saw it as once the whole journey began. Don’t want to give away what happens on this journey that spices everything up and makes it go into a totally different direction than I was expecting, but just like me, you’ll be surprised regardless and its a whole lot of fun as well. It seemed like Anderson really took a liberty with a story of his, put his trademarks on it and gave it an unpredictable feel that completely comes out of nowhere. In fact, it actually gets a bit darker, as many situations take on a very serious, very violent-turn for the worst. But it’s never tonally-jarring, and that’s why Anderson’s movie works as well as it does in the final hour or so, rather than in the first hour, where it doesn’t seem like he knows what to do, or where he’s going. He’s just moving along on the current. You know, sort of like a boat on the sea.

Though, what doesn’t work so well here is when Anderson decides that he really wants to touch our hearts by getting to the core of these characters, and how well it doesn’t translate. See, there are a couple of moments by the end where you realize that Anderson really wants us to start crying like big, effin’ babies and grab whatever towels near us that we can find; however, it doesn’t work that way. For the most part, I was having a good time with this just being as goofy as possibly could be, with some darker-elements under-lining it all, but once it took that other page that makes it a lot weightier, it didn’t feel right. Nor did it gel with everything else that happened before. Doesn’t make it terrible, just makes us, the audience, confused as to whether we’re supposed to laugh, cry, feel warm inside, angry, or all of the above. At the same time, no less.

But, like most of Anderson’s movies, it’s the cast that really shines here as he’s seemingly able to get a wonderful performance out of everybody he has here. And of course, that also means we get to see Bill Murray show up and do his dry-wit thing in a Wes Anderson movie, but this time, it’s playing Steve Zissou, who, in case you didn’t know, is based on a real-person. Still though, that doesn’t seem to faze him much since it’s practically the same type of performance we usually see from Murray, in all of his glory. Without saying anything at all, Murray is able to speak volumes to us about his character by keeping that sad, expressionless face throughout the whole movie, and still be the most likable character somehow. He’s a bit more of a dick-head here, than he is in other of Anderson’s flicks, but there’s still a bit more to who he is, why he is the way he is and what makes him a guy worth seeing a movie made about, that keeps us going with liking him and his company.

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsical features!

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsy!

There’s also Owen Wilson who, much to everybody’s surprise here (including mine), is probably the one who steals this movie away from Murray as he seems like the perfect fit for a guy who is so innocent, so clean and so well-intentioned, that it’s so hard not to just love the guy right from the start. I’ll admit, Wilson has never been a favorite of mine but he totally had me won over here with a performance as Zissou’s long, lost son that he never met until now. There’s a lot of development to this character that makes him more than just another, “Southern bumpkin”-like character that he first starts off as coming-across, which makes it nicer and more pleasant to watch when he and his daddy do form a bond and continue to do son-father activities together. Even if the activities are shark-hunting and fossil-discovering.

Cate Blanchett plays the untrustworthy journalist, that’s doing a report on Zissou and his crew and handles a lot of the comedic-material very well, as well as having a believable romance with Wilson that I thought could have had its own flick, if at al given the chance to come to fruition. Willem Dafoe tests out his comedic-abilities as Zissou’s left-hand man, Klaus Daimler, and has a funny running-gag going on between him, Zissou, and Ned, where he just wants to be loved and treated like the best on the crew. It’s a side of Dafoe that I wish we saw more of, rather than just seeing the nutty, second-coming of Harry Osborne in everything that he does now.

Hold up, though! I’m not done, yet! Jeff Goldblum isn’t here as much as I would have liked as Zissou’s rival, Alistair Hennessey, but is still a lot of fun to watch as he just acts like, well, you know, Jeff Goldbum; Anjelica Huston is spicy (and surprisingly), very hot in her role as Zissou’s wife that doesn’t really want much to do with him since he’s such a fuck-up in his personal, and professional life; and it was a “nice welcome-back to the big-screen” for Bud Cort, who is a guy I haven’t seen awhile and does a nice job as Bill Ubell, the guy that’s forced to watch over production of this trip to make sure the funding of it is alright. Sadly, there was no Maude to accompany him. Wah.

Consensus: May not always work when it’s supposed to, but when the Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou finds a way to gel all of its different elements together, it’s a surprisingly fun, heartfelt time, with an extra-ounce of whimsy, due solely to Wes Anderson and his quirky ways.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So many ego's just going head-to-head right there.

So many ego’s just going head-to-head right there. And Bud Cort.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

All that I take away is that Jesus, plain and simply, knew how to charm the ladies. That is all.

I don’t think that I’m jumping too far by assuming that just about all of us know the story of Jesus Christ, the son of God, right? Well, if you need some reminding because you skipped CCD or were like me, and just cheated your way through Theology class in high school, then here’s a short synopsis for ya: Here is the story of Jesus Christ (Willem Dafoe). He’s the son of the almighty God that only he, and few other loyal and dedicated followers believe in, however, daddy’s been on his nerves a bit as of late. Not only does God keep pushing his son to do things he doesn’t really want to do, like going out in the world, saving people’s lives and preaching the gospel, but he’s ruining practically any bit of social, or personal life the guy could, or would want to have. But, being that Jesus’ daddy is in fact, the almighty Lord himself, he decides that it’s best he listen, get out there in the world, start speaking his mind, letting people know what’s up and ruffle a few feathers, if at all possible. Jesus does in fact, do that, and pays the ultimate price for doing so. However, there’s a small twist here that dodges away from what the Gospel would have you believe as “truth”.

Because see: When you’re working with Marty Scorsese, you’re working with a guy who doesn’t play by the rules, no matter how set-in-stone or followed those rules may be.

You can't tell me you wouldn't want to hang with that guy!?!?

You can’t tell me you wouldn’t want to hang with that guy!?!?

But you got to chalk it up to Marty’s willingness to take something like this head-on, as controversial as it may have been. Sure, Marty was, is, and never will be a stranger to controversy, but taking on the story of Jesus, our savior, and making a movie about him where he not only is painted as a human, but even has “temptations”, is just downright blasphemous. Of course, not in my eyes though. Many heavy-duty Christians would have you believe that anything that differs from their script of Christ’s life is not only false, but downright evil and should be broken in two, before it causes any more damage to the fragile, God-worshiping minds of our youth.

As you can probably tell, I’m clearly not a huge believer in my faith, despite going to Catholic school for all 12 years of my general-education, but that’s not what matters here. What does matter here is that Marty Scorsese, a guy we all know and love for painting some harsh, violent and brutal pics about the rusty, ragged streets of New York City, for one reason or another, decided it was his time to go in full-on “Christ mode” and start giving us the story of the Bible. Although, as he notes early-on, Marty does not adapt this story from the Gospel so many Christians hold so near and dear to their hearts; rather, Marty adapts the novel that this is based-off of and gives us what some might definitely say is a “humane-approach” to the story of Jesus Christ, and what we may have known him as.

Sure, this is downright despicable in the eyes of the Christians to paint Jesus, our lord and savior as anything else as a man who was more than willing to do and listen to whatever his powerful daddy told him to do, but when you take into context what Scorsese is really doing with this well-known story and “character”, then you wonder why they bitched and complained at all. Surely they couldn’t have not watched a film and got pissed-off about it because the words “temptation” and “Christ” were featured in the same sentence, right?

I mean, they definitely had to have seen this movie, therefore justifying their angry thoughts and complaints about its material, right?

They wouldn’t just jump to conclusions and automatically think that the said “temptations” that the title was referring to was those of the known-prostitute Mary Magdalene, now would they?

Anyway, I think you all know what I’m doing here, and I promise you, I’ll stop my snarky ways sooner than later, but think about it: Had most of those Christians who were originally upset with this movie being made and released to the general-public, actually decided to shell-out some gold and give this movie a watch, they would have probably been happy, since it doesn’t do much to either offend them, nor tell them that they are wrong in their thought-process of believing that Jesus Christ, God and all of that stuff is real and did in fact happen (snarkiness hasn’t ended yet, sorry). Because what Scorsese does here, is that he shows us that Jesus, despite being pushed and pulled this way and that by his daddy and everybody else in his life, really just wanted to break free, live a life, get a job, have a family, tap some fine ladies’ behinds and be like everybody else around him, while also still maintaining his title as “The Son of Christ”. In all honesty, I don’t find anything wrong or even “sacrilegious” about that, do you?

And that’s exactly why Scorsese’s movie works as well as it does; it goes through the tale as old as time that we know of Jesus Christ, and gives us a chance to see just exactly who he was a person, rather than what he was, as a symbol for religion. And though it may have been extremely odd that somebody who is so attuned to gangsters getting their heads popped-off as Scorsese is, to do a movie about Jesus Christ, when looking into the subject-matter, it actually isn’t. Like most of Scorsese’s characters, Christ goes through problems like guilt, repression, evil confusion, temptation and coming to terms with his own identity, and just figuring out who the hell he is. It’s exactly what all of us feel as humans, on a day-to-day basis, and it’s what makes Jesus Christ, in here, seem like such a real person that we could have cracked a few cold ones and shot the shit with, and even dare to ask that girl at the end of the bar’s number.

Okay, maybe he’s not that cool, but he’s pretty damn human, dammit!

"You remind me of a man I once knew. His name was Ziggy, and he played guitar."

“You remind me of a man I once knew. His name was Ziggy, and he played guitar.”

But while the whole “humane-element” surrounding Jesus Christ and practically everybody else around him works for them in believing them as people, the performances don’t do much to help out. Which, yes, is a total surprise considering the amount of talent on-display here, however, I feel like it’s not entirely all their faults. What separates this flick from most of the same skin, is the use of its anachronistic dialogue, where just about everybody here, speaks and acts like you or I would today in the present-day. Yeah, it makes it easier for those to understand just who is saying what, for what reason and to whom, but it makes everybody here seem like they just showed-up for dress-rehearsal, went over some of their lines and had no idea that Marty would be rolling the camera as they spoke in their natural, modern-dialect. At first, it’s a bit weird, but after awhile, it becomes totally distracting.

Instead, what ultimately happens is that we mostly just see Willem Dafoe playing and dressing-up as a Jesus-like figure, although doing a very good job at doing so; Harvey Keitel who isn’t even hiding his New York accent as the ultimate betrayer of the big JC, Judas, who has more homoerotic undertones added to him than I ever caught notice of in Vacation Bible School; Harry Dean Stanton gets to be, as usual, lovely to see show-up as Saul, even though his character is barely given much, or any time to develop at all; and randomly, David Bowie shows up as Pontius Pilate, making Jesus feel like a huge, steaming pile of shit, while walking-off and, more than likely, continuing his large, extravagant party of sex, grapes and togas.

The only one out of this whole bunch that really seems to be on their A-game and totally attuned to what Scorsese has given her is Barbara Hershey, playing the very grimy, very sexual Mary Magdalene that Jesus takes a liking to, if only because he wants her to make her feel better about herself (yeah, right!). She seems to be the only one who finds a way to mix the modern-day sound of her voice, to the old way in which people would have talked back then, without ever seeming like she’s stretching too hard. Not that anybody else does either (or in the case of Keitel, not at all), but she actually felt like the only one who could have lived, breathed, banged and been around during that period.

At the end of the day though, I think where Scorsese really hits his mark with this feature is that he ends it all on a positive, uplifting note. I won’t dare spoil it here, but when you see it, you’ll wonder just exactly why those devoted Christians were so pissed in the first place.

Oh wait, I know why: Because they’re Christians! End of snarkiness, I swear!

Consensus: Though the idea of a movie devoted solely to Jesus Christ and his humane-like ways, may be a sore-spot for some more faith-based viewers out there, for the rest of us, the Last Temptation of Christ ends up being an honest, wonderful and insightful look at the life Jesus himself may have wanted to live, had he been real, or, had he been real, would have liked to do when his daddy wasn’t looking or pushing him.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

The end. Or so we think......

The end. Or so we think……

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Clear and Present Danger (1994)

What has this Ryan dude got himself into now??!?!?

After saving his family and the Prime Minister of England from a slew of crazy Irishmen, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is now an assistant to the CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence when all of a sudden, his longtime friend Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) is diagnosed with cancer. This is tragic news for both Greer and Ryan, but both know that a job has to be done, so that’s when Ryan decides to take over the job as the Deputy Director of Intelligence, where he is assigned his first assignment: Recover $650 million from the Colombian drug cartels that was left over there by one of the President’s good buddies. Ryan is more than willing to complete the task, but he finds out that there is more brewing beneath the surface than just some money being needed. Apparently, some of the President’s closest advisers are involved with these same said drug cartels and want to keep on continuing to make more money, while also getting rid of Ryan and his boy scout-ways. However, as we found out before, Ryan doesn’t go down easy and won’t back down from a challenge, no mater whom it may be coming from.

Patriot Games was no beauty, but it was at least a relatively small, inspired and taut thriller that worked well when it was showing off the mechanics of the technology that surrounds Ryan and his skills, rather than the fists he uses in fights. And compared to this movie, it was a hell of a lot shorter, clocking in at less than two-hours which, still felt long, but nowhere near as long as a near-two-and-a-half-hour movie like the one we have here, which makes this one feel like any other sequel out there: Overlong, over-exposed, over-stuffed, and worst of all, over-directed.

I wouldn't advise somebody turning their back on Willem Dafoe, but that's just me.

I wouldn’t advise somebody turning their back on Willem Dafoe, but that’s just me.

But while I do feel like director Phillip Noyce got his vision better this time with the action, there’s still a weird feeling with the story that didn’t quite keep me as interested here as it did with the last movie. For instance, the novelty of the first movie where it was just this one situation, with these handful of characters, felt like it was a smaller, more-intimate thriller, for lack of a better term. It made you feel as if you were right there in the moment, with these characters, figuring out what was going on, how they were going to solve it and whether or not they were all going to make it out alive. Problem is, that was when Jack Ryan was just a small-timer in the CIA, but now, he’s taking orders directly from the Big Man himself, which already means that the issues are going to be expanded and a whole lot more jumbled.

That’s why I can’t get too pissed at this movie for giving me a story that covers a larger map of where it goes and how, but I can be pissed off at the fact that it was just so damn convoluted. It seems like with any movie that concerns politics, there’s always got to be a slew of lies, deceptions and back-stabbings, which is exactly what we get here, however, there’s just so many that you lose count of who is screwing who over, and why. In fact, half of the people whose names were said, I couldn’t really match the faces with, all because the movie would focus on this one character for a couple minutes, have them leave and then, all of a sudden, let us know that that character was an important player in the rest of the proceedings we were about to be a witness of.

Think Miller’s Crossing’s Mink, but instead of one character played by Steve Buscemi, you have ten different ones, all played by people less charming and lovable as creepy blue eyes.

So, in essence, when the movie does begin to get closer and closer to its climax, it became to be such a chore for me to keep up with who was who, what they were doing, for what reasons and what the major ramifications of them were. That’s why I just gave up and decided to enjoy the action. Which, no surprise whatsoever, was a smart decision on my part because Noyce definitely got that part of the movie down perfectly. Not only does the action come at you at a full 100 mph, but it also feels very tense, as if the whole movie leading up to it was meant for just this one moment. They aren’t action scenes just thrown in there because they were needed, they feel like they enhance the story and keep it moving at a nice pace. That’s what I wish I saw more in my action movies, but I highly doubt I’ll get. So be it.

Tuco?

Tuco?

And, like usual, it’s always a joy to see Harrison Ford acting in a actioner, regardless of who he’s playing, and his second outing as Jack Ryan, shows that he never gets old as the character, even if he is getting a bit old himself. Once again, Ryan’s less of a bad-ass, and more of a smarty pants who knows what to do at any situation and, if he has to, will get his hands dirty. Ford definitely shows no signs of slowing down with this character, which is why I feel like he could have gone on and did ten more of these movies, and we’d still have a great time with him. However, like what seems to be the case for many major motion-picture franchises nowadays, Ben Affleck came, he saw, and he conquered. That Boston bastard.

The most disappointing aspect behind this flick is even while it does put all of this focus on all of these numerous subplots, characters and emotions, we never really get to see much of Anne Archer or Thora Birch as Ryan’s wife and daughter respectively. Makes sense since this movie is more about the government and its non-stop clusterfucks, and less about the family-dynamic inside the Ryan household, but still, a little bit more development would have been perfect. Especially since Archer, even with her shortened screen-time, shows that she’s still a cool wife that’s willing to take the fact that her hubby could die at any second, and she’d be the one to take over the fam-squad. God, that woman sure is a breath of fresh air that I so desperately need in my life. Tired of all these young bimbos. They don’t know shit about the 70’s like my girl Anne does.

Consensus: Like most mainstream sequels usually are, Clear and Present Danger is quite overblown, loud and excessive to the point of where it’s numbing, but still does feature some fun and exciting moments amongst all of the numerous subplots that are hard to keep track of, characters that we don’t care about and less-focus on the ones we do care about, meaning the rest of Ryan’s family, including the new baby boy!

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Jack's still got it. Oh, and so does Harry.

“Knew I should have taken the keys out.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

The Aviator (2004)

Good thing those milk bottles didn’t go to waste.

This is the story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the type of man that Hollywood adored, yet, had no clue what to do with. Then again though, he didn’t know what to do with himself half of the time, so it evens-out. Anyway, we follow Hughes’ life from when he sets out to make his first movie, Hell’s Angels, to where he spends ungodly amounts of money, and pisses off all sorts of people like his lawyers, his distributors, his agents, his lawyers, and even the major corporations that are trying to do business with him, however, he chooses to say “nay” to. Hughes has a vision that only he thinks he can achieve, not just solely through money or power (although that certainly does help), but through his determined heart and soul, that sometimes falls victim to his many bouts and problems with OCD, of which he gained at an early age through his mommy. But even through all of these problems though, Hughes still had a little bit of time to get down and dirty with the ladies, especially and most famously with none other than Ms. Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) herself.

Present-day Hollywood’s fascination with Howard Hughes seems like it may never end, and it makes sense as to why. Not only was Howard Hughes the type of creative genius that didn’t settle for something else that went against his original, near-perfect vision, but was also able to charm anybody over that he met, get rich, solving any problem that may have come into his way by throwing money at it and at the end of the day, still having enough time in his hectic schedule to go home to some of Hollywood’s spiciest, sexiest starlets of the day. Yep, that Howard Hughes surely was a man among men, and it makes perfect sense why fellow creative geniuses’ like Christopher Nolan, Warren Beatty, and yes, even Martin Scorsese would want to make a movie about him, his life, his struggles, his genius and what he gave the rest of the world.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Of course though, only one of those three was able to actually achieve their dream and get their project on him made. That person was Martin Scorsese, and what a great choice it was (although the other two wouldn’t have been so bad neither).

What Scorsese does expertly here, that he’s practically done with each and every one of his flicks, is that he’s able to take a long-winding, over-blown story, with an even longer run-time, and finds a way to have it go by in a total jiffy. There’s no room for error, or even breathing with Scorsese’s directing, no matter what it is that he’s doing and this movie is no different. He covers every aspect of Hughes’ life with just enough attention, detail and honest reality that we get a full, clear picture of what he’s trying to tell us, without ever being confused, despite the movie usually finding itself moving a mile-a-minute at times. However though, when you do have a movie that nears three-hours, you need to be quick, jumpy and to-the-point, but never so much, to the point of where you lose a viewer as to what the hell is exactly going on, to whom, at what time and why this all matters.

And with a movie about Howard Hughes’ life, that makes a lick of a difference since there seems to be so much that went on with this guy’s day-to-day life, it’s a surprise that Scorsese himself didn’t make it a four-hour-epic, 15-minute intermission included (then again though, I wouldn’t throw that out as if it wasn’t already a “possibility” inside the head of Scorsese’s). For instance, we stumble upon Hughes’ life right away and we get an idea of what he is doing and why: He’s making his Hell’s Angels epic, he’s trying to figure out a way on how to get it looking and sounding perfectly, he’s trying to create some of the biggest, and best airplanes the world has ever seen, and through it all, mostly, he’s trying to find that one sweet, everlasting soul that can fill up the damage and pain that’s been brewing deep down inside of him for a long, long time. In a way then, you could almost say that this is three different movies, taking place with the same subject: A movie about showbiz, a character-study, a romance flick, and an underdog-tale.

But see, the problem is that Scorsese doesn’t really nail all of these aspects that make this whole movie one, cohesive piece of nonfiction. The stuff about showbiz is interesting because it was very cool to see how Hughes, the creative visionary that he was, didn’t let high-heads in major corporations get in the way of achieving what he wanted for his movies, as well as how he just continued to throw his money away on certain smaller things that had to do with production like editing, sound mixing, color and, heck, even making sure that there were clouds in the sky when he was filming the airplane sequences for his movie (which, need I remind you, he did all himself). And even for the romance part of this story, Scorsese still nails most of it, although I’d wager that’s more because of the gals he gets to star as Hughes’ various lovers are usually better than the material given to them, but more on that later.

As for the other two parts of this story (the character-study and underdog-tale), I don’t know if Scorsese really hits, or hits well for that matter. We do sympathize with Hughes when we see him battling with his OCD, his paranoia and how it makes him totally lose his shit in public, in front of the people that matter the most no less. It’s sad to see this happen to this guy, since we know that when he has a clear-head on his shoulders, he’s the smartest, most charming guy in the room, and it does make you sympathize with him a bit. However, late in the movie, once we get an idea of who the baddies are in this story that want to go against Hughes, his vision and tarnish his name in the papers, it d starts to feel like we get more away from the inner-demons that Hughes himself battled on a daily-basis, and more towards how he fought against the big-wigs in corporations and came out looking like a superhero. That’s all fine and all, especially since it’s all true, but it doesn’t really do much to make us feel like we know this guy, nor do we feel like much is actually at-stake. It is more or less that we’re just watching a guy battle against a bunch of people that could bad mouth him even worse than what’s already been said about him, or that he could add more and more millions of dollars into his bank-account.

Either way, it seems like Howard Hughes, despite his inability to twist doorknobs, will probably be better off in his life, regardless of how this settlement ends.

That said, Hughes is somebody, even through the thickest and the thin, we stand behind, which is all thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio’s amazing performance, giving everybody our first glimpse at the type of stardom he was about to fully achieve. Nowadays, it seems like Leo’s on fire with each and every role he takes, but around the time of this movie, he was basically just another case of a “promising, pretty-boy face that may actually have acting-skills”. Sure, Catch Me If You Can showed us that there was more to him than just being the king of the world, but this was the movie where he really got his time to shine and showed everybody that he could make somebody like Howard Hughes seem like a real poor fellow, despite having all of the money, fame and skill in the world, that one human could possibly desire. But like I said, even while he may not be the nicest man in the world, he still is one we care for and get behind, even when the odds seem more than stacked-up against him.

"Whose balls were bigger?" was usually where most conversations tended to lean towards.

“Whose balls were bigger” was usually where most of their conversations tended to lean towards.

Cate Blanchett shows up to play Katharine Hepburn, one of Hughes’ most notable flings back in the golden days and does a pretty spot-on impersonation, but also shows us that there’s more underneath the whole facade of her being like “one of the boys”. She can be preppy, she can be spirited and she can sure as hell kick some other dude’s behind in a game of golf, but there’s a reason why she is the way she is, why it is that she falls so hard for Howard when she does, and why it is that she falls out of love with him, only to take up her time with the gruff, teddy-bear we all know as Spencer Tracy. We all know Blanchett’s an amazing actress and can seemingly do no wrong, but to show us that she could get us past the fact that she’s playing one of the world’s most famous, iconic actresses of all-time, was really something else. And hell, she won an Oscar for it, too, so good for her!

However, Blanchett and DiCaprio are just the two here out of this whole cast that seem to get plenty of screen-time and attention from Scorsese, but they aren’t the only good ones here. John C. Reilly is good as Noah Dietrich, the Chief Executive Officer of Hughes’ estate and is just kind and mellowed-out enough to make us believe that he does actually give two hoots about Hughes, but also cares more about his wallet than anything else; Kate Beckinsale plays another famous dame that Hughes hooked-up with, in the form of Ava Gardner, and is fine, although it’s fairly obvious that she’s nothing more than pair of nice teeth, eyes and, well, you get it; and Alan Alda and Adam Baldwin both play two of the main heavies in this movie that try to their legalities around and at Hughes, and do fine showing us that they want money, they love money and they need it, especially if its Hughes’ money it is that they’re taking. Don’t know how Alda got nominated for an Oscar for this, considering that he mostly just yells at and argues with DiCaprio, but hey, I guess it was about time that he got “some” recognition, you know? Oh, and Willem Dafoe is in this for one scene, and then he’s mysteriously absent from the rest of the movie. However, as weird as it is, I guess one scene with Willem Dafoe, is better than no scene with Willem Dafoe, am I right?

Consensus: Scorsese clearly has an undying love and adoration for Howard Hughes, the man he was, the man he set-out to be, and all of the achievements of his grand-staking life, but while the Aviator shows that, it can’t help but feel a bit jumbled in the process, especially since Hughes’ life as it was, seemed to be so hectic at one point in time.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Locked in, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don't sweat it, Howie!

Locked-away, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don’t sweat it, Howie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Out of the Furnace (2013)

Does anything pleasant ever happen in rural Pennsylvania?

Russell and Rodney Blaze (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) have been through some tough times as it is, and in the year 2008, they only seem to be getting wore. Russell still continues his daily-job working at the local mill, where Rodeny is sort of a wild card of sorts when it comes to his own forms of payment. He’s a vet who may be looking at more service in the future, but in another way to get money, he gambles, he bets on horse races and he does a lot of underground fighting. One night, however, Rodney doesn’t come back after he and his manager of sorts (Willem Dafoe) don’t return from a fight happened all the way in New Jersey, and was ran by the menacing, utterly nasty Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). When Russell realizes that the police aren’t able to take this case any further, he decides to take the law into his own hands, even if that does mean risking his life and eventual freedom for doing so. However, it’s all in the name of his little bro, so it’s worth it, right?

In case you haven’t been able to tell yet by the two very obvious pieces of info I’ve given you about this story, let me just reiterate them for you: It’s rural Pennsylvania, and it takes place in 2008. Why? Well, because people have to brood, have something to be sad about and basically be working their rumps off just to get a nickel and say, “Oh, gee whiz barkeep! Tough world we have here, but an even tougher economy!” And I’m not firmly against movies that like to stress the problems with the lower-class and today’s current economy, but it has to be done in the right way, that’s not just thought-provoking, but feels realistic as well. Even if it is coming from a major studio, and filled to the brim with attractive, A-listers.

"We don't take too kindly to those with a full of set of teeth, boi!"

“We don’t take too kindly to those with a full of set of teeth, boi!”

Writer/director Scott Cooper, despite his best intentions, was not able to convey this movie’s message in the right way, however, he still has something to make-up for it, and that’s a pretty gritty, raw and brutal story of people who just do whatever they can to make it by in this world, even if that does mean cracking a bit of skulls along the way. I get that some may view this story as “tired”, “conventional” and “nothing new”, and to that, I’d have to agree. The film is, by no means at all, breaking down barriers that haven’t already been broken down and put back up before; instead, it’s just telling a small, tight crime story to the best of its ability, while not getting everything right along the way.

Rather than just making this flick a thinking-piece on the people who were there and effected when the Stock Market crashed those some odd years ago, like Killing Them Softly did and did somewhat well, the movie never feels like it’s meaning to go deep enough so that they don’t hide away from more of the grittier aspects like the underground fighting rings, or the drug-dens, or the grisly killings. Makes sense since this movie’s got to appeal and please to somebody out there in the large sheet of canvas we call Earth, but it takes away from what could have been a more powerful story, that took its punches, but never lost its point it set-out to make. Which is why when Cooper decides to back-pedal a bit in the end, it felt like a cheap move on his part, especially since he laid down so much groundwork for this story to continue to develop more and more as it went on along.

However though, I have to give Cooper some credit for at least entertaining me and giving me a solid crime-thriller, that is all about its tension, and less about the nonsensical blood, gore and murders. There are quite a few moments of bloody and brutal violence that occur, but they aren’t done so in a way that feels gratuitous or in a manipulative manner in order for Cooper to show you how unrelenting and bleak this world is, it just feels like how it should feel: Quick, mean, in-your-face and effective when it wants to be. It isn’t that Cooper wants to give us a violent tale of revenge so that we go out there in the world and start taking down random people left and right, it’s more that he just wants to give us a story that goes deeper than just plain-old revenge, and hits the core of our families.

Okay, it definitely comes off a lot hokier than I may make it sound but do believe me: There is some emotion to be had here. It just won’t leap out at you and grab you by the neck so that you feel its tears. It’s just a sad movie that you can choose to feel sad with, or sad for. Either way, you’re going to feel sad.

And one way you may feel sad for this movie is the way that it assembles this huge cast, and how some of them feel wasted, and others don’t. In my eyes, nobody felt wasted, but that’s just me. I’m a lover, and I never find anything bad to say about anyone…

Anyway, leading this cast of beautiful, Hollywood celebrities is Christian Bale who, once again, carries a movie on his shoulders without ever showing signs of stumbling and slightly losing it, or falling and dropping it all for good. His character of Russell isn’t the best character he’s played in the past decade or so, but Bale gives him more complexity to where you can understand why the guy feels like he needs to change his brother’s life around, even if that does mean causing some heated dinner-discussions. You can tell that there’s always this sense of rage and bitterness lingering behind Bale’s eyes, but he never fully lets it out in a sea of angry yelling; he sort of just continues on with this performance, with this character and with this story, trying his hardest not to let-go of us and lose us for the rest of the flick. Needless to say, he doesn’t and he keeps this character, as well as this movie, very interesting, even when it seems to not be talking about much at all.

Casey Affleck also does a pretty solid job as Bale’s brother, Rodney (weird, right?), giving us the type of dude you’d actually understand and believe as the loose nut in the batch. He’s not all that there in the head, doesn’t always make the smartest decisions, thinks more with his head than his heart and always finds himself looking down the pipeline of something terrible and awful to happen to him, or to the ones he loves. So basically, he’s a classic fuck-up, in every sense of the word, however, he’s a sympathetic one that you feel bad for because he knows he could do so much better with his life, he just doesn’t have much motivation to do so or doesn’t even want to, despite it being the best thing for him and the ones he loves. Affleck has a few scenes where he lets loose of his emotions in the ways that Bale has been known to do in the past (mainly behind-the-scenes) and he does pretty well with each and every one of them, while still laying down the groundwork for an arrogant character, that we’re definitely supposed to reach out to and care for, even at his dumbest moments. And he definitely has plenty of them.

Times are tough when you've just been replaced by Ben Affleck.

Times are tough when you’ve just been replaced by Ben Affleck.

Woody Harrelson is the one big baddie in this whole sea of ’em, playing Harlan DeGroat, and god, he’s good. With all of the lovable, kind and happily-spirited roles he’s portrayed in the past, it’s hard to remember how damn menacing a figure Woody can be when he’s given the chance to be that way, and he’s pretty damn good at it too. He seems like the type of guy that wouldn’t have an ounce of kindness to be found anywhere in his heart, and it works better for this character, rather than working against him as an obvious cliché. Sure, we get that he’s a bastard that doesn’t like anybody he crosses (he practically even tells us early on), but he never feels like one that you couldn’t walk into if you weren’t watching where you were in the backwaters of New Jersey. He’s the type of disgusting human being we all love to poke jokes at for being inbred mother-humpers, yet, would never want to be in a face-to-face fight with. Never, ever in a million years.

Everybody else who aren’t the main characters of this story, still do pretty well even if its fairly obvious they’re just here to collect a paycheck, do their work and be gone. Willem Dafoe is a sleazy guy whom manages poor ol’ Rodney, who owes just as much money as he does, despite being more “professional” about it; Zoe Saldana has a great couple of scenes as Russell’s ex that he so desperately wants back, but just can’t have because of one big problem that gives us one of the best scenes of the whole movie that doesn’t concern shooting, killing or any acts of violence, if you can actually believe that; Forest Whitaker’s character is thrown into the weird position where he’s banging Russell’s ex, and yet, at the same time, being that he’s the cop called onto the scene, has to do his jobs, strictly by-the-books without judgment clouding his mind and he pulls it off well; and Sam Shepard gives us another role where he plays the older, wiser and more silenced member of the family, but is so good at it, I don’t even have time to complain about it. I’ll just let it be, baby.

Consensus: While Scott Cooper would definitely love if Out of the Furnace was more than just gritty, raw and down-to-Earth crime-drama, he still delivers a tense, revenge-soaked story that never lets us go, even in its messiest moments.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"If your bro needs help with the voice, just tell him to give me a call."

“If your bro needs help with the voice, just tell him to give me a call.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Jack Sparrow vs. Zorro? Yeah, I wish.

El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) who continued to look for work in any Mexican town he ran into is back once again, but this time, he isn’t looking for work, work finds him! Once a crazed and demented CIA agent (Johnny Depp) tracks him down, El Mariachi is called upon the task of saving Mexico’s president, while also killing the man who slayed both his daughter and gal-pal (Salma Hayek). El Mariachi has no problem with this since he’s always down for a nice plot of revenge, especially when he has his guitar and case around, but once the plot thickens and more people get involved with this crime, then it becomes abundantly clear that El Mariachi may have to bite off more than he can chew. Which, once again, he’s fine with, but isn’t that such a bitch?

I’ve basically gotten through all of Robert Rodriguez’s “Mexican trilogy”, and although I’ve been looking forward to seeing these flicks for quite some time, I have to say: I’ve been left very, very disappointed. Now, this obviously isn’t going to be a whole review on the trilogy, but please just bear with me for a second here. Though some may definitely disagree with me, I feel like Robert Rodriguez has definitely fallen-off the deep end as of late and has only shown that with time, and more money, that you can only become your own worst enemy once it all goes to your head.

Take this movie for instance: You have the simple plot of El Mariachi called on to do complete a mission that consists of him killing people with that six-stringed killer of his, which is, as we all know, nothing new or special, but why fix what wasn’t broken in the first place, eh? Well, then you get all of these bigger stars that just so happen to want to be apart of your movie, and then, all of a sudden, you have a much bigger story, with more characters, and in essence, less time spent on the man this trilogy was all about in the first place: El fuckin’ Mariachi.

"You can't be my hero.............BABY!"

“You can’t be my hero………….BABY!”

I read somewhere that Rodriguez meant for this story to be all jumbled, convoluted, and over-stuffed with more subplots and characters, but after awhile, it becomes a nuisance to have to pay attention to what every character says, why they say it, and decide in your own mind who’s a baddie, who’s a goodie, and who doesn’t really mean much to the plot, but is just there because he/she is a familiar face that Rodriguez just so happened to get his grasps on. Some of this may sound like I’m whining about how Rodriguez didn’t dumb the material down for me and tell me everything that I needed to know right off the bat, however, I feel like that same simplicity I’m thinking of worked well for the other two, so why wouldn’t it had here?

Some reason, I just couldn’t get so involved with this story to the point of where I felt like all hell was going to break loose, and I was actually going to give a care in the world about it. Instead, I just sort of sat there and watched, with interest, but yet, also a slight sense of boredom in the pit of my mind as I realized that I was just watching this movie, just to watch it. I wasn’t grasping anything about it, what Rodriguez was doing, or what any of the characters were saying. I was just watching it to watch it, and hopefully be entertained by the action scenes; which I was, but even by then it felt like an after-thought in Rodriguez’s mind. If you can give me something to work with, no matter how ridiculous the material is, then I’m all game; but if you play around too much and spin yourself in your own circle of confusion, then I just can’t give a single lick about it, and that’s what happened here.

However, to keep away from making this movie sound like it’s utter crap, I do have to say that some of it did have me intrigued, if only because I liked to see how far Rodriguez came as a filmmaker. Not only did it seem like he had a big budge that he used to its fullest extent, but it also seemed like he could have gone on longer with it and really fleshed it out more, adding more excitement to the final product, and even in a way, making the whole story more cohesive. Why Rodriguez didn’t see this big-budget as an attempt to go on out there and make a movie longer than an-hour-and-a-half, is totally beyond me. I guess he just wanted to confuse the hell out of us because simply: He’s cool like that.

But with a bigger-budget, does come more time for bigger and better names to be apart of your product and this time around, things are a lot better in terms of performances since the heavy-hitters Rodriguez got to come along for the ride, milk the material for all that they got, and then some. Antonio Banderas seems to be having fun playing, once again, El Mariachi, even if it is a shame that he doesn’t quite get as much attention as he definitely should. Also, don’t be fooled with all of the posters and advertising giving Salma Hayek top-billing, because she’s barely in this and even when she is, it’s all through flashbacks. Guess somebody didn’t have the time, or the courage to even bother with another “Mexican movie”. Oh well, her gain, I guess.

Doesn't watch his own movies anyway, so doesn't really matter.

Doesn’t watch his own movies anyway, so doesn’t really matter.

Although I have been bitching and moaning about how El Mariachi doesn’t get as much focus and attention as he should in his own damn movie, I can’t say that I was all that pissed off because the person taking his spot was none other than Johnny Depp himself who, in a very rare role, plays a weird guy, who also seems like he could be a human-being. Yup, believe it or not, Depp can actually play real characters, who have real emotions and feelings, and even though that’s somewhat weird to be talking about in a Robert Rodriguez movie, it doesn’t matter because Depp steals the show here and lets everybody know that any movie with him starring in it, is lucky to have him in the first place. He’s fun, quick, punchy, random, a bit of an a-hole, and above all else, an energetic mofo that doesn’t lose his comedic-timing no matter how deep his story-line gets, or how much focus of this movie has been thrown around all over the place. Single handedly, Depp saves this movie and makes me long for the days when he could do a role like this, and everybody would still be surprised and not know what to expect next from his eclectic-self. Nowadays, we’re getting 5 Pirates movies. 5?!?!?!

Like Johnny Depp in this movie, other famous faces show up and have some fun, more some than others. Willem Dafoe as a Mexican drug lord is a random bit of casting, but one that works well in the long run because it’s so bizarre, that you can accept it for what it is; Mickey Rourke plays his disloyal henchman who walks around with a little dog the whole movie, and seems like a real softy underneath the big-guy, macho man outer-exterior; Danny Trejo shows up again in this trilogy, but plays some different character, while also, at the same time, not playing a different character since they were both lethal and deadly sons-of-bitches; and Enrique Iglesias, as random as his casting may be, still does well as one of El Mariachi’s fellow mariahchis, which, I guess is a joke because in case you didn’t know by now, this mofo can sing!

Consensus: It’s probably the dumbest out of the whole trilogy, and yet, that still isn’t enough to make Once Upon a Time in Mexico the best, mostly due to the fact that there’s just too much going on, with too many people, in such a short time-limit, that you just stop caring and beg that Rodriguez decides that he’s bored too and wants to see people’s heads blown-off.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

It's like deja vu, all over again. Except, a bigger budget! Actually, WAY bigger budget!

It’s like deja vu, all over again. Except, a bigger budget! Actually, WAY bigger budget!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Pacific Rim (2013)

Who cares about going to war with North Koreans when you have HUGE, FREAKIN’ MONSTERS!??!?!

The Earth is being threatened by a bunch of huge-ass, killer monsters known as Kaiju, who never seem to stop attacking. There’s more and more of them, each and every day so obviously something has to stop them. Enter the Jaegers, giant robots that are equipped and ready to defeat this big monsters, especially since they are ran by two people at the same time. However, once the threat of human extinction becomes all too real and closer and closer by the seconds of every day,  two unlikely heroes (Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi) realize that it’s their time to stand up, fight, and break some monster skulls, while also having the fate of humanity rest solely in the palm of their hands. Not too much pressure, is it?

As you could probably tell from the last 5 days: I’ve been watching A LOT of Guillermo del Toro movies. Yes, the main reason for doing so was to get all hyped-up and ready for this flick, but also to understand him more as a film maker and creator, then I ever did, and I think have a handle on what he’s all about now.

First of all, the guy is a director that makes the type of movies he wants to make, and allows people to join in on the fun and excitement if they so please to. He’s sort of like a kid who grew-up on late-night trips to theaters, more action-figures than actual, human-being friends, and probably made Atari more times than you or I have ever popped in GTA IV. Except he’s all grown-up, has the ability to make a movie, and get paid for doing so, which is great for him, but even better for us since we get to watch those movies, and see the world through his eyes, as amateurish and kiddish as they may be. However, the terms “amateurish” and “kiddish” are used more as positives than negatives here, because del Toro makes such great movies that it’s so easy to forgive him for being non-other than the type of director who likes to see things go “bang”, “boom”, and “caboodle”. But with his latest effort, “great” doesn’t come close, but “fun” does and that’s more than enough than I can say about other loud, big, summer blockbusters.

Yeah, you need to get those molars next time.

You need to get those molars next time around.

Looking at you, Lone Ranger.

Del Toro’s knack for having fun with his material shines throughout the whole flick, and it never lets up. The idea of having huge-ass robots and aliens fight each other, atop major cities and oceans is a silly idea, but it’s one that del Toro takes very seriously in the way that he amerces himself into this universe where, for some reason or another, alien-like creatures come out of the ocean and start attacking our world, only to be fought to the death by even-bigger robots created by us, the humans. As I said, silly, but a bunch of fun because del Toro knows the type of flick he’s making here and isn’t really trying to show us anything new or surprising, in terms of plot or tone. Some may be a bit saddened by that fact, knowing what del Toro has been able to do with even the most simple plots, but I was happy to see this, considering this flick could have easily gone South, had he decided to make it a super-cereal flick, with still a shit-load of aliens and robots fighting one another.

This aspect of the movie works because it’s as big, loud, explosive, CGI-filled, and entertaining as you may have thought it would be, coming from all of the countless trailers and whatnot. Not only do the aliens and robots look very-detailed in a way that’s obvious CGI, but still feels natural, but their fights are easy-to-understand and aren’t constantly cut and edited at a fast, Paul Greengrass-style. Del Toro continues to let the fights linger on and on and on, until we had enough or, in some cases, want more. I was more of the latter than the former, however, I can see the ship from both sides. Some may want the fights to not over-stay their welcome and end as soon as they get started so they can get back with the characters and their development; whereas some may just want the fights to keep on happening and continue to take up space, considering that they’re the best thing the movie has going for itself.

This is a real shame too, because, if you know del Toro movies the way I’ve been knowing del Toro movies, you know his attention to action-splendor and characters is amazing considering he rarely ever misses a beat with each aspect. However, with this movie, he seems to have lost his touch and used loud action scenes, and put them in place of characters and their developments. Which is fine since the action scenes are fun and exhilarating, but it’s a huge bummer knowing that there could have been so much more accomplished here, had del Toro decided to go that extra mile with each and every one of these characters and making them more than just cardboard cut-outs. But he didn’t, and as saddened as I am to say this: It totally brings the film down.

The human-race: FUCK YEAH!!!

The human-race: FUCK YEAH!!!

Though everybody in this flick seems perfectly-cast, they are all wasted on a script that couldn’t give two shits about them. Members like Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi and Ron Perlman all get their chances to shine and do what they do best (especially Elba who probably gives his best “film” performance, ever), but the script is so weak and poorly-written, that it feels like most of them were just called onto have one “look” the whole time, and never lose it. They all try to rise above the material, but they all fall face down in the dirt because del Toro is more infatuated with the big-ass robots he has grace the screen more than a couple of times, as he should, since they cost him probably more than half of that $200 million budget of his.

The only person in this cast who actually seems to try, but gets the hardest end of the stick the most is Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, the type of role that should have catapulted him to stardom, but most likely won’t because it’s too weak and conventional, even for him. I can’t get on Hunnam’s ass too much because the dude seems like he was putting some time and effort into a role that probably seemed fit for him on paper, but the script just lets him down and makes him nothing more than a poster boy for getting revenge, fighting for “your boys” and respecting the code and honor that is bestowed onto you. That’s all this role has to do and there are times when Hunnam shows some inspiration in his work, but nothing too noticeable to where I think he’s going to be a star one of these days, and really show the world what he’s got. Yes, I know he’s on Sons of Anarchy and, from what I hear, is lighting up television screens all over the world, but film just may not be his thing just yet. With time, maybe. But as for right now, not at all.

Consensus: Even though it may be del Toro’s weakest in a long while, Pacific Rim still offers you all the bang for your buck that you need, especially with the constant battles between aliens and robots, but if you want anything more like character-development or heart injected into the material, you may be a little lost.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

In Luther, we trust.

In Luther, we trust.