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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Yul Vazquez

The Infiltrator (2016)

Pretty sure that Bryan Cranston doesn’t need drugs anymore to make himself seem cool.

By 1986, federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) had gone under cover so much, that it was all starting to catch up with him. Now, facing retirement with a pretty attractive benefit deal from the FBI, Mazur decides to do one last job that will not only put him in more good graces with those around him, but may also help solve the victor in the war on drugs. Working alongside fellow agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), Mazur poses as a slick, money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella, who works with some shady characters who’d much rather not have their finances be sitting around in some bank. But in order to seem more legit and get his target (who is basically Pablo Escobar), Mazur has to gain the trust and confidence of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), Escobar’s top lieutenant. However, Mazur’s personal life starts to slip and slide into his professional one, and eventually, there comes a point where he doesn’t know whether he can complete the job to the best of his ability.

Diane just can't get enough of the 'stache.

Diane just can’t get enough of the ‘stache.

Everything about the Infiltrator is riled with cliches and conventions that we have seen so many times before in more interesting, much better flicks of the same nature. Heck, even TV shows like Narcos and Animal Kingdom seem to get this kind of corrupt and crime-fueled world so right, to the point of where you’d much rather watch them, rather than spend nearly two hours watching a story that you may or may not already know about, happen in the most conventional way imaginable. If you’re on a plane, or channel surfing at 2 a.m. and having nothing else better to do, then yeah, sure, it’s probably an exciting watch.

But if you have better stuff to watch, like say, the two aforementioned shows, then yeah, hit them up instead.

And honestly, the Infiltrator is not all that bad – if anything, it’s incredibly mediocre. As Brad Furman showed with the Lincoln Lawyer some years ago, he has a knack for getting a quality cast together, and giving them some relatively gritty, but fun material to work with. The likes of John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, Benjamin Bratt, and other all show up, and while some of them definitely have more to do than others, Furman gives them each enough time and attention to where it seems like he may possibly be interesting in exploring who they are and why they matter to a story like this.

But then again, at the same time, none of them are ever as developed as they should be, or at least, as much as Cranston’s Mazur is; Leguizamo comes the closest, but eventually, his character is just pushed to the back in favor of more crime, violence, blood and drugs. Cranston though, gets the bulk of the attention and he’s very deserving of it; once again, he’s playing a character that’s starting to develop more and more of a darker-side to himself than he ever expected and, as usual, the transformation is compelling. No matter how deep or dark Mazur the character may get, you always get the sense that, because of Cranston’s presence, that he’ll do the right thing and not break bad too much, to the point of almost no return.

But Bryan can.

But Bryan can.

But then, like I said, there’s the rest of the movie.

It’s all just fine, but a movie like the Infiltrator, where drugs, violence, crime, corruption, Latinos, and 80’s appear in almost every scene, shouldn’t be so middling. In fact, there’s a small stretch here where it’s just, plain and simply put, boring; there doesn’t seem to be anything really at-stake, nor does there ever seem to be anything worth holding onto. The war on drugs is currently going on in this flick, but rather than trying to make a comment or an idea about that, it just presents it as a thing that’s happening and yes, this story wouldn’t be told without it. And yeah, there’s nothing more to it than that.

Sure, maybe I’m expecting too much, or that I’ve seen one too many crime-dramas in the same vein as the Infiltrator, but still, that doesn’t excuse that the movie is rather boring, when it should be as fun and as exciting as can be. Even despite the conventional plot, the movie should still have the right amount of energy, excitement, and unpredictability to it. Unfortunately, there’s not much of that here; there are small bits and pieces where it seems like Furman is really trying to crank up the tension, but mostly, he backs away before anything gets too good.

Is that my fault, or his? I don’t know, but really, I don’t care. See the movie if you want, if not, no big deal.

In two weeks, you’ll probably forget that I even talked about it, regardless.

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, and wonderful central performance from the always reliable Cranston, the Infiltrator also feels very conventional and rather tepid.

5.5 / 10

And yes, he's pissed about it.

And yes, he’s pissed about it.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Rotten Tomatoes

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Runaway Bride (1999)

Keep a hold on your women, Richie.

Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) can’t ever seem to make up her mind about any man in her life. That’s why, after three instances in which she got engaged, planned-out a wedding, walked up to the altar, only to turn around and start heading for the hills, she’s now been branded as “the runaway bride”. A lot of her friends and family call her that, so it’s okay, but once journalist Graham (Richard Gere) calls her that after hearing of her story one random day in a bar, she decides to get involved. Obviously, she threatens legal action, which gets all of Graham’s employers upset and worried about what might happen, so yeah, they fire Graham. Pissed-off as one journalist can be on the verge of Y2K, Graham decides to go out and see this Maggie all for herself and give her a piece of his mind. But for some reason, Graham quite enjoys Maggie’s little hometown, where he’s not only welcomed with open arms, but he actually finds himself getting along with Maggie herself. But with her latest wedding coming soon, Maggie will have to think of if she wants to go through with it, or not.

Joan Cusack > Julia Roberts.

Joan Cusack > Julia Roberts.

I know I’m probably not supposed to enjoy, or better yet, enjoy a movie like Runaway Bride, but somehow, I couldn’t help myself. Maybe a good portion of it had to do with the fact that I watched it back-to-back with the soulless and dry Pretty Woman, or maybe it was just that I was in a good mood and trying to have some fun, but either way, Runaway Bride surprisingly worked for me. Then again, I felt like enjoying it was almost the same thing as going out to dinner with your grandmom; sure, you got to spend some quality time with your grams and a free dinner, but seriously, what is she talking about?

And come to think of it: Why doesn’t she know how to send a gosh darn e-mail!

Anyway, I digress. What I’m trying to get across here is that yes, Runaway Bride is a fun movie, but it’s also a very corny and silly one that should not at all be taken seriously. That’s why those who hate it, sort of seem to miss the point; it’s not setting out to be this true, down-to-Earth statement about the sanctity of marriage, love, life, families, and all that, it’s really just trying to make us laugh. Garry Marshall definitely loves to dip his feet into the syrupy material of his sap, but he also appreciates a good joke when he’s got it in front of him, too, and it’s why Runaway Bride can work at times when it shouldn’t.

Sure, everybody acts out in crazy, insane ways that they would never in the real world, nor does a small town as simple, loving, or carefree as the one in which Roberts’ character lives in, either, but for some reason, that’s all fine here. The movie is a lot less about the mechanics of the plot and more or less about trying to get us all settled in and laughing. It doesn’t always hit the highest comedic-marks, but then again, what other movie really does? It’s hard to always be consistently funny, so when a movie like Runaway Bride does its hardest to get me to laugh, without seeming like its trying to rip my lungs out, yeah, I’m fine.

And yes, I was even fine with Richard Gere here.

White has never looked so white and privileged.

White has never looked so white and privileged.

I know, I’m shocked, too, but yeah, he actually seems more interested in what’s going on here. As Graham, Gere has to be a bit of a dick who decides to turn the other cheek about halfway through because of, well, love, but it’s somewhat believable this time around. Most of that has to do with the fact that we get to know a bit more about Graham before the whole plot actually kicks in, and it’s also because Gere seems more willing to let himself be the butt of the jokes. A lot of silly, almost slap-sticky things happen to Gere here that make him look like a goober, but it works in the end, because not only do we like this character more, but Gere himself!

And yes, Julia Roberts is good, too. She’s doing her usual thing where she makes every person in the movie bow down to her beauty, as well as her likability and that’s fine to see here. The two have a solid bit of chemistry here that wasn’t able to shown in Pretty Woman and it helps put the movie into perspective, when things start to get all heavy and serious. Which is to say that, yes, the movie definitely suffers when it gets to this point, but are you really surprised? The whole movie is one, two-hour-long joke about Gere and Roberts’ personalities clashing. There’s no plot in that, but hey, I’m fine without one.

Just give me laughs and I’ll be as cool as a cucumber.

Consensus: With a wackier tone in place, Runaway Bride works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it allow for its stars to go away without trying to do something fun.

6 / 10

So incognito Richie and Jules.

So incognito Richie and Jules.

Photos Courtesy of: Youtube, Cineplex, Chris and Elizabeth Watch Movies

Anesthesia (2016)

AnesthesiaposterLife sucks on so many fronts.

Professor Walter Zarrow (Sam Waterston) is coming up on his last day of teaching after nearly 40 years and now, he’s starting to put a lot of his life into perspective. His son, Adam (Tim Blake Nelson), is going through an issue of his own when he finds out that his wife has cancer and needs to have surgery immediately. Meanwhile, a student of Walter’s (Kristen Stewart), is dealing with and trying to come to terms with her depression, that can sometimes lead her to deadly and dangerous thoughts. While this is happening, Sarah (Gretchen Mol), a suburban housewife is getting tired of her husband running around on her and leaving her with the kids, which is when she starts to think long and hard about what it is that she wants to do with her life, or if she even wants to stay married in the first place. Then, there’s Joe (K. Todd Freeman), an acclaimed writer who is now suffering from an addiction to heroin; one that his brother (Michael K. Williams) wants to resolve and fix as soon as possible. And then there’s Sam (Corey Stoll) and Nicole (Mickey Sumner) a couple who, for some odd reason, are out on a trip where they talk about life, love and what their current situation is.

Cheer up, K-Stew. Life for you, is getting better and less controversial.

Cheer up, K-Stew. Life for you, is getting better and less controversial.

So yeah, as you can tell, there’s a lot going on in Anesthesia, and while it may seem like none of the stories have anything to do with the other, once time begins to roll on, it’s easy to piece together the pieces of familial-tree in which we can see why this story is being told and what their overall significance is to the story. Does it really work? Not really, but writer/director Tim Blake Nelson, gives it all that he’s got, offering us a handful of stories that can occasionally spark interest and life into a pretty depressed tone, but still sometimes feel like there’s a whole lot missing.

For instance, the main story here is Waterston’s Walter character who, having seen plenty of the world and done a lot for the young, impressionable youth out there, has finally come to terms with the fact that his career is coming to an end. Waterston, as well as the rest of the ensemble, is great here and clearly gives this character his all, but he’s really the only fully-developed character here as we get to see everything about this guy, without any questions left up in the air as to why he is, the way he is. Everybody else, on the other hand, isn’t so lucky and it’s a bit of a shame because, once again, Nelson’s got a lot going on here that’s, on the surface, intriguing, but is all put together and cobbled-up in an-hour-and-a-half movie, that no plot seems to get as much attention as they should.

Even the ones that are, perhaps, the most compelling of all, still have to side the bench for some stories that are far more dull and boring.

One of the later stories in question is Kristen Stewart’s in which she doesn’t do much except look sad, act a bit crazy and question life’s meaning. That’s about it. Considering that Stewart has been showing more and more promise as an actress in the past year or so, it’s a bit of a shame that she’s given such a limited-role to work with here, but once again, it’s less of her fault, as much as it’s Nelson’s for giving it to her and not getting rid of it all completely. And this would have definitely been a smart idea, so long as it meant that there was more room for such stories like Stoll’s and Sumner’s – both of whom are fantastic here and, quite frankly, I’d love to see in their own movie, removed from all of the other sadness going on around here.

And really, the only reason I’m focusing so much on these subplots, is because that’s all the movie is made-up of, without much rhyme or reason. Nelson, from what it seems, is only trying to tell us, with Anesthesia, that life is connected in some sad, utterly depressing ways.

And yeah, that’s about it.

You too, Glen!

You too, Glen!

We get this and understand this clearly from the very beginning and while it’s still interesting to see how some of these small stories play-out in their own, mini ways, there’s still a feeling that a lot is being left out. Of course, having to deal with such a huge cast, Nelson himself probably ran into scheduling issues and couldn’t get each and every actor in the movie together for one scene, but that wasn’t as much of my problem, as much as it was that some weak stories, got in the way of the more engaging, stronger ones, leaving a good portion of Anesthesia to feel as if it’s constantly starting and stopping back up. While it’s admirable that Nelson doesn’t shine a judgmental light on any of these characters, at the same time, there’s only so much we can handle when watching certain characters not do anything of interest, just sit there, argue and talk about things we don’t really have any prior knowledge about.

In ways, the movie can sometimes feel like we’re walking into a party late, only to then realize that either everybody’s been acquainted, too drunk, or already friends with one another, to the point where you almost don’t want to bother introducing yourself or joining in on the fun. You’ve already shown up later than everyone else, they’re now looking at you and they don’t really care because, honestly, they’re getting on fine just without you. Of course, the actual viewing-experience of Anesthesia isn’t as harsh as I may write it out to be, but it is still, in no way, a party you want to be apart of or fully invested in.

Maybe eavesdropping or scoping out from across the room is fine, but that’s about it.

Consensus: Given the cast and crew involved, Anesthesia should hit harder than it does, but instead, focuses on a slew of subplots that can occasionally engage, but never fully-developed.

5 / 10

Just be with Charlie Skinner and everything will be fine.

Just be with Charlie Skinner and everything will be fine.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

War of the Worlds (2005)

“Stop using your technology now!”, he types on his laptop.

Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), an ordinary, blue-collar man doesn’t have the greatest life a man like he should have. His ex-wife (Miranda Otto) doesn’t really trust him and is currently pregnant with her new husband; his kids (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin), he doesn’t really see, so therefore, they don’t really connect with him all that much and usually end conversations with angry shouting; and his house itself, is dirty, unorganized, and a mish-mash of stuff he has no use for anymore. His life can be so miserable at times, that if an alien attack were to randomly occur, he’d probably be better off. Well, wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly what happens! The aliens do invade Earth and although their motivations aren’t known just yet, they’ve taken extra precautions and have deactivated every piece of technology on the planet, leaving each and every human to be scrambling all over, without any idea of what to do. This leaves Ray, along with his kids, to run around like chickens with their heads cut-off, too, but he’s inspired enough to try and find shelter, as soon as possible. Problem is, he’s still facing problems with his family and it might just linger in to the mission of getting to safety.

Tom Cruise running.

Tom Cruise is scared.

So rarely do we get to see Steven Spielberg lash-out any form of anger that may be within him. However, for the first hour of War of the Worlds, we get to see Spielberg at his angriest and, above all else, most playful. People are zipped to ashes; cars are flipped; buildings are destroyed; and everybody’s running around like chickens with their heads cut-off. On the other side of the camera, though, is Spielberg who, it’s not hard to imagine, may have had a huge, cheek-to-cheek grin while filming all of this.

Not only does he have the dough to play with whatever he wants to play with, but he’s doing so in a style that feels as if it’s also giving a big old “F**k you” to every other director out there who specializes in these kinds of summer, blow-everything-up blockbusters (basically, Roland Emmerich). While the carnage and destruction is fun and exciting to watch, Spielberg also doesn’t forget to show the impact of this, where he understands that people are, yes, dying right in front of our eyes. At the same time, though, he still can’t get past the sense of wonder of just how great everything looks, sounds and feels; while the alien spaceship special-effects feel a little weak, all of the terror that they do cause, doesn’t and helps make it capable of getting past those problems.

And honestly, the main reason why I’m focusing solely so much on the first hour or so of this, is because after it’s over, everything slows down, and we now have to focus on these characters a bit more, the movie gets pretty lame.

It’s almost as if Spielberg signed onto this in the first place, because all he wanted to do was chuck things around and see stuff blow up, but then, remembered that there had to be some form of a human story here, with actual, human-like characters, and instantly got disinterested in what he was doing. This makes the rest of the film, not only feel like a bore, but feel like Spielberg himself is just going through the motions, already too tired and strained from all of the effort he put into the first hour of this movie. Because with Spielberg, you can’t forget that when worse comes to worse, he’s always got to focus on that family-drama.

Which, in some cases, isn’t all that bad. Though it’s a plot-trope he tosses in more than he should, he does get these occasional bursts of smart energy where it seems pertinent to helping flesh the story out a bit more, and therefore, have the movie impact its audience a whole lot harder.

In the case of War of the Worlds and Tom Cruise’s on-screen family, it feels as lazy as Spielberg’s done before.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

For one, there’s nothing really interesting to this family that makes it easy for us to want to get behind them the whole way through and see if they end up surviving the whole disaster by the end. Cruise’s Ray character is so average, that it doesn’t really matter, because all he’s really doing, once you think about it, is just running around and ducking under and behind certain surfaces; Dakota Fanning’s daughter character yells and screams the whole time and it used as an obvious crutch for Ray to have to make tough decisions; and Justin Chatwin’s son character is such a pain-in-the-ass and annoying, that when it came around for the time to, possibly, leave the movie for good, I could care less. In fact, I wanted him to get the boot earlier!

Because these characters are so poorly-written as is, watching them as they try to survive this disastrous situation, really does not prove to be a fun time. There’s nothing to be compelled by, nor is there any real interesting bits of character-drama to be found; everybody’s just sort of feuding with one another because, well, they’re family and that’s what family’s seem to do. However, due to the fact that Tom Cruise is in the role of the patriarch and it’s his family we’re talking about, then of course you know how it’s all going to go.

I won’t say much more, but I think you get my meaning if you’ve ever seen a movie with Tom Cruise in the past decade.

Hell, even longer!

Then, as the plot progresses, Tim Robbins shows up in the movie as a weird, violent and overly dramatic dude who camps out in the middle of the woods, strapped-to-his-boots with guns and whatnot. Because Robbins’ character is all about having guns protect himself from whatever dangers may be out there, the movie paints him in such a crude-light, that it’s downright distracting. Robbins doesn’t help matters either, as he genuinely seems to be just over-acting as much as he can. And shame on Spielberg for not telling him when to tone it down, take it easy, or call for lunch.

Basically, he stopped giving a hoot and it’s not the kind of Steven Spielberg that I don’t think anybody wants to see.

Consensus: Despite a very strong first-half, War of the Worlds soon runs out of ideas, looses track of itself, and rely too heavily on familiar family-drama that’s shoe-horned in to just have us root and cheer on Tom Cruise, once again.

6 / 10

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Time Out of Mind (2015)

You may be jobless, dirty and smelly, but hey, at least you look like Richard Gere!

George (Richard Gere) is a homeless man and, from what we can tell, has been for quite some time. He literally wakes up in somebody’s bath-tub, only to be kicked out by the landlord (Steve Buscemi) and thrown back out on the streets. On the streets is where George occasionally lives and breathes; other times, he gets into a local homeless shelter that may be a permanent place for him, if he can get past the psyche evaluation and plays nice in general. In this homeless shelter is where he meets Dixon (Ben Vereen), a fellow homeless man who talks his ear off about anything and everything. George, however, doesn’t really care because he’s sometimes too tired, too drunk, or to “out of it” to really care. Mostly though, George cares about his daughter (Jena Malone), who basically wants nothing to do with him, even though he constantly persists in trying to get into contact with her. Because even though George doesn’t have much hope in his life, the only one around is his own flesh and blood – someone who doesn’t even want to see him.

Is this really the same guy who was named "World's Sexiest Man" in 1999?

Is this really the same guy who was named “World’s Sexiest Man Alive” in 1999?

Basically, Time Out of Mind is plot-less. It’s literally two hours of watching as Richard Gere wanders around the streets of what is, presumably, New York City, doing what most homeless people do. Beg for change; sleep; drink; eat scraps from the garbage; and sleep some more. So, if you can handle all that for, like I said, two hours, then you might find something to take away.

If not, well, you may have a more rewarding time doing something else. Like, I don’t know, actually giving money to actual homeless people on the street.

But that said, there’s a lot of props given to writer/director Oren Moverman for not at all trying to shy away from the hard reality that is homelessness in the United States of America. With his last two films (the Messenger and Rampart), Moverman has taken a sad story, and found ways to make it even bleaker; probably more so with Rampart than Messenger, but as is, Moverman likes to revel in the dark and depressing details of life. And that’s a lot of what Time Out of Mind is.

However, that in and of itself works because it doesn’t try to sensationalize or turn its back towards the true issue at hand. Then again though, the movie isn’t at all a “message movie” – it’s just one tale in the midst of a whole bunch of similar tales, most of which are just as tragic as the next. In this aspect, Moverman reminds us that homelessness, as a whole problem, takes over its cities and while there are people that are willing to help out those who may need a bite to eat or some dollar bills for whatever they decide to spend them for, it’s all too slight and gets further and further away from the real issue at hand: These people need our help.

Like I said before, though, the movie isn’t one that’s important, or simply, about something more.

It’s literally about this one homeless man, trying to live and get by in a world that, like he says, “doesn’t say he exists”. And as this homeless man, Richard Gere does a fine job portraying George as humanly simplistic as he can. Normally, when you have these attractive, mostly recognizable actors playing in these roles that are supposed to be raw, gritty and down-to-Earth, it can sometimes feel phony. But surprisingly, due to the make-up and Gere’s down-playing of the role, he fits into it well.

The only reason why I’m not more on-board and in awe of this performance as others may be, because it seems like Gere himself is stuck in a movie that’s awfully repetitive. Then again, that may be the point. That homeless people themselves seem to go through the same patterns on a regular basis, helps make all the more sense as to why Gere’s George is literally going through all the same sorts of motions, day in and day out. We see him wake up, deal with hecklers, try to get whatever money he can scrounge up, use that money to buy either booze or food (sadly, it’s mostly booze), and every so often, have contact with a fellow homeless person, or aide that just wants to give him a helping hand.

And that’s basically the whole gist of this movie.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

There are scenes where George goes to the food stamps office to apply, but even those scenes feel like they’re being replayed where he’ll come in, argue with the clerk, and then unexpectedly leave. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with a movie that gets into a sort of rhythm that puts us in the same mind-frame as its lead character, but when it’s literally two hours if the same motions, happening again and again, it gets to become a bit tiring. Especially since Overman himself, doesn’t seem to really be going anywhere with this tale, or with George, the character.

As we see of George is a broken down, beaten-up guy who, for whatever reasons, is homeless and left without anybody to care for him. It’s sad and even though we see him try to mend relationships with those he hurt, the scenes themselves never seem to go anywhere. We just see George walk into a room, piss-off his daughter, and that’s pretty much it. He leaves, goes onto beg some more, and see where life takes him next.

Once again, I get that this was probably the point Overman himself was going for, but in hindsight, it doesn’t help the movie much, or Gere’s performance.

Because even though Gere seems to be trying his hardest to inch out any sort of humanity within a character who is just as simply-written as you can get, he, and everybody else, aren’t left with much to rock and roll with. Jena Malone’s character seems one-note in that she’s always angry when her dad’s around; Buscemi’s not in it all that much to really register; Kyra Sedgwick plays a homeless woman who strikes up a little something with George and has the only bit of humor to be found at all in this movie; Ben Vereen has the best performance as Dixon, another homeless man with a heart of gold and a personality that could charm the socks off of a real estate agent.

But, like I said, to which extent does it matter?

Consensus: Gere does a fine job in the lead role, but overall, Time Out of Mind feels too much like a repetitious slog that may, or may not have a point to go along with the story it’s telling.

6 / 10

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Glass Chin (2015)

Don’t be afraid to bag groceries for the rest of your life. There’s some pride in that.

Down-on-his-luck ex-boxer Bud Gordon, was commonly referred to as “the Saint”, but he’s been anything but. He’s got a girlfriend (Marin Ireland) that he’s trying to settle down, but can’t stop cheating on her; has a job as a boxing-trainer, but still can’t keep himself away from working as a guy who looks for loansharking victims; and wants to open back up a restaurant of his that was recently closed down, but in order to do so, he has to rely on whatever the odd, eccentric gangster J.J. (Billy Crudup) tells him what to do and when. Bud may not have a perfect life, but he’s just getting by and wants to continue to do so, even while his night job with his “co-worker”, Roberto (Yul Vasquez), gets more and more dangerous by the minutes. Eventually though, it all comes to a head and Bud’s left to wonder what his next move should be – either, risk everything in his life, or take another easy pay-out for himself and his possible new restaurant? Bud doesn’t know what to do, but he’s going to rely on his ability to do the right thing, even if he doesn’t know what that is just yet.

"Hey, we get Freud, too."

“Hey, we get Freud, too.”

Everything about Glass Chin sounds so very familiar and generic, but somehow, writer/director Noah Buschel finds interesting little ways of how to spin it just so that it doesn’t come off like that one bit. Instead of making this movie about how an ex-boxer found redemption both in-and-out of the ring, it’s more about how this ex-boxer copes with making enough money to support him and his girl, with whatever work comes his way. Though, once again, that may all sound conventional, it doesn’t come off that way; more or less, it seems like the kind of movie made about people we don’t too often see get the spotlight quite as much.

These types of characters here in Glass Chin are mostly all down-on-their-luck, not just Bud, but they have so much more to them that makes them worth watching. Sometimes. they enjoy a little movie, other times, a nice night on the town, getting plastered and reminiscing on the old times. These characters here may all have their quirks that set them apart differently from one another, but they’re all placed into a certain group that’s similar and it makes me appreciate these kinds of movie all the more.

Though Buschel had every opportunity to make this movie so much more than it appears to be, he fights the urge to do so and mostly, just keeps his attention set firmly on Bud and all that happens with him and his life. And by “firmly”, I do mean as-firm-as-a-glove; Buschel has a neat style here where he performs a lot of long takes, sometimes likes to go with a close-up on a character’s face who seems like they’re talking directly to you, and other times, make the colors so jumpy and distinctive, that the characters themselves fall into them.

However, no matter what tricks Buschel uses, there’s always somebody talking here. And it’s always intriguing to hear and watch as it moves the plot along.

Because even though a lot of these characters could be generally considered “the numbskulls of society”, they occasionally drop a smart line about life every now and then, just to remind you that they do an awful lot of thinking, too. They aren’t just placed into one area of society, forgotten about, and allow for their brains to fry – they’ve think, too, and you know what? They want to let others know.

Sometimes, what these characters say or talk about, can border on unique, or plain and simply odd, but it’s always interesting to listen to. Buschel has a knack here for writing dialogue just how these sorts of people would talk, even if they do sometimes go on rather long tangents that either, seem to go nowhere, or have a point, but take forever to get there. The one character that this is proven so perfectly with is Billy Crudup’s slimy and weird J.J.; though you know he’s definitely up to no good and is more than likely to screw Bud up in any way he sees fit, there’s something oddly charming about him to where you just want to believe that he may be as nice of a guy as he presents. You know he isn’t, but still, you hold-out some form of hope.

A little too intrigued by that light.

A little too intrigued by that light.

Same goes for each and every other character here.

Corey Stoll’s Bud seems like a dope that doesn’t always use his head when it comes to making any sort of decision, but you just hope that his mind is in the right place for this moment in his life and that he’s not going to screw it all up due to greed; Yul Vasquez’s Roberto may or may not be on Bud’s side, but you have a feeling he is looking out for the guy, even if it’s to save his own ass; Marin Ireland’s Ellen wants to stay by her man, but he continues to test her patience with all of the screwing around and disappointing that, even if it’s sad to think of her doing so, she might have to get going, pack up her stuff, an leave Bud once and for all; and Kelly Lynch’s Mae is, just, well, sexy. Can’t expect much else from her.

Each member of the cast is good here and give their characters certain level of dimensions that you definitely won’t see coming. Sure, some are more interesting than the other, but they all matter to the story and prove that if you have a good enough cast and characters to work with, then the plot will sort of fall as it pleases to do so. All of the other stuff is just unnecessary used for those who can’t handle themselves if something isn’t blowing up, or if a person’s getting shot.

Those are the kinds of people not made for Glass Chin and that’s why there’s something so special about it.

Consensus: With a talented cast at work, Glass Chin goes farther and beyond its basic-cable premise, and becomes an insightful, dramatic glimpse into the live’s of character’s we don’t always get glimpses of.

8 / 10

Imagine Creed, but without pushing-70 Sly.

Imagine Creed, but without pushing-70 Sly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Cobbler (2015)

Soles and souls. Get it?

Small-time cobbler Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) lives a simple life to where he goes about everyday the same. He goes to work; fixes shoes; has coffee; talks to a neighbor of his (Steve Buscemi); and continues the same pattern, the next day and so on and so forth. It’s not great, but Max is a very relaxed dude, so he doesn’t fret about it too much. That’s why, when suddenly, he puts on his father’s old pea-coat and jumps in somebody else’s shoes and realizes that he can look, sound and be somebody that’s not him, but the shoe’s owner, then he can’t help but give this newfound trick a whirl and have some fun with it. However, what starts out as a little bit of fun to get him out of his somewhat boring, uneventful life, Max then finds himself way in over his head when he gets involved with some shady gangsters, and even shadier real estate agents who might be looking to destroy his old neighborhood. This then leads Max to spring into action and use his talents for the greater good of not just those around him, but society as a whole.

It’s understandable why a lot of people despise Adam Sandler and what he’s become. At one point, he was the brightest, best thing to hit the comedy world, but slowly but surely, he began to take on vanity projects that literally just became humorless paid-vacations for him and his buddies, that people, for some reason or another, would still throw shackles of money at, just so that they could see what variation Sandler and co. would make on the fart joke next. However, with last year’s Blended box-office receipts not being exactly what he maybe originally had hoped for, Sandler seems to be, ever so slightly, heading back to his old ways, taking up smaller-projects that not only challenge his audience to see him in a new light, but also challenge him as an actor.

You've been caught, Crawley!

You’ve been caught, Crawley!

And I, for one, am all down for this. Punch Drunk Love is not just one of the better rom-coms of the past decade or so, but also shows that Sandler isn’t just a good actor, but one that can really take over a film, while also showing us darker, more frightening sides to his persona that may have not been there before. Of course, in the years since, Sandler’s hands at drama haven’t always paid-off, but more often than not, he finds his own ways back to the genre, reminding us all that Sandler, first and foremost, is an actor. Even if Men, Women, and Children wasn’t everybody’s favorite, but you can’t discredit Sandler for that, as he was fine in it.

So, with all that being said, I think it’s obvious to know that I was definitely looking forward to the Cobbler. Not because it featured a premise that didn’t seem something out of Sandler’s wheelhouse, but because it was directed and co-written by none other than Thomas McCarthy himself; the kind of film maker that doesn’t just take a paid-gig for the hell of it. He takes time with his movies, which is why a huge part of me had high hopes for this movie and seeing where it took Adam Sandler, the actor, next.

Sadly, it all blew back in my face.

See, the Cobbler may seem like it has promise on the surface – it’s a whimsical take on the old saying that your mom, dad, grand-parent, teacher, inspirational-figure has said to you in the past, “Walk in another person’s shoes and then judge them.” Well, the premise here is that saying, but told literally. Adam Sandler gets in people’s shoes, turns into them, and goes around all of New York City causing all sorts of shenanigans. Sometimes, this leads to him just walking around with a shit-eating grin on his face and dining and dashing out of fancy restaurants, but for awhile, it’s entertaining.

Then, things get real weird, real quick. There’s a possible murder that may or may not happen in the middle of this movie and as soon as it occurs, the tone totally changes from being light and lovely, to dark, disturbing, and even mean. Without saying too much, the murder that occurs is bloody and in-your-face, which then hints at there being a more dangerous story to be told underneath all of this goofiness, but soon, the movie abandons that. Instead, it keeps itself going with the humor and wacky hijinx, that have all but lost their favor; in fact, they feel like a cop-out to get past the fact that we literally just witnessed some character’s murder on the screen. Now, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to laugh it off as just a simple whatever?!?

Uhm, sorry. Last time I checked, when a character suddenly gets killed in a movie, it should be treated as drama, and not just as a passing-joke amongst pals.

So, after this, the movie then decides it needs to have baddies for Max to defeat and by this point, the comedy is so far gone that it’s not at all funny, even if it tried to be. The one-joke premise of this character walking in other people’s shoes and turning into them, turns stale and gets old by about the third time he tries to steal somebody’s bundles of money. But then, the movie gets darker when we’re introduced to violent street gangs and Ellen Barkin’s character; who are both connected in a convoluted manner that I didn’t even bother to think about the second it was introduced to me. All I knew is that both sides owed each other money somehow and we’re both looking to do bad things, to seemingly innocent people.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

But, like I said before, by this time, the movie had already lost me. Which makes me wonder: Just what the hell was Thomas McCarthy doing being stuck with this junk? Better yet, why did he write this to begin with? It would make sense if he was just enlisted to be the director solely for money purposes (although I generally think this was considered “an indie”), but the fact that he actually co-wrote with this with somebody else, already shows that he had some hope in these uneven, uninteresting material to begin with. Whatever the reasons behind McCarthy’s decision to take this movie and make it his own, is totally left up in the air, but all I have to say is that I’m really looking forward to Spotlight later this year.

Which brings me to the next aspect of this movie worth discussing, and that’s Adam Sandler himself. It’d be hard to hate on Sandler here, because he’s literally doing what it seems like the director’s calling on for him to do: Act bored. That’s the way his character is written and I guess that’s exactly how Sandler plays it. Not to mention, it’s a tad hard to really judge Sandler’s performance here, considering that the majority of this movie features his character playing other character, which means that Sandler’s presence gets thrown to the sidelines in favor of some recognizable character actors.

Oh, and Method Man.

Yes, Method Man is in fact a key supporting player in the Cobbler, which actually works against and for the movie. It works for the movie because Method Man’s actually a solid actor, but least when you expect him to be here. Sure, he’s good at playing an a-hole gangster that constantly seems like he’s about to beat the crap out of someone if he doesn’t get his way, but when his character’s soul gets taken over by Max, it’s actually where most of the humor of this movie comes from. Method Man has to play a sweet, more nerdier-version of his character, which is both interesting and odd, but still worth watching because he does well with it.

Then, on the other hand, the movie doesn’t know whether they want to make this character a good guy, or a bad one. He’s a dick that beats his wife, robs people, and threatens lonely, little cobbler’s like Max, but at the same time, there’s still not enough backing-information to make it okay for us to see him get treated the way he does in the later-half of this movie. And even though there’s many more supporting players in this movie (among them are the likes of Dan Stevens, Melonie Diaz, and even Dustin Hoffman), when Method Man ends up becoming your most memorable one, you’ve got something of a problem.

But you’ve got a bigger one when Method Man actually becomes the best part of your said movie.

Consensus: Promising in its premise, the Cobbler wants to be light, funny, and whimsical, yet, goes through so many tonal-transformations, that it makes it very hard to get involved with what happens, let alone actually laugh.

2.5 / 10 

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich prick, you.

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich mofo, you.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Kill the Messenger (2014)

What’s a newspaper?

Middle-aged journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) isn’t necessarily the type of writer who searches for a big story, but if it ever comes his way, he’ll more than likely take the opportunity to jump on it right away. That’s why when Webb stumbles upon a lead that may take him all the way to uncovering that the CIA channeled drugs through the U.S., he gets on top of it right away, interviewing possible sources, even if that includes him taking trips out to to the villages of Nicaragua and putting his life on the line. However, Webb is a true journalist and will do anything to make his story the best possible one out there and for all of the world to see, which is exactly what happens. It gets his name known, story re-published in larger, much more respected news outlets, face on TV, and even an award for “Year’s Best Journalist”. Everything looks wonderful for Webb’s life and career, that is, until the government actually gets involved and starts putting pressure on him, as well as his news publication to stop pursuing the story any further, or else. This leaves Webb at a stand-still: Continue following the story his career was made for and lose everything he has, or, listen to what the government demands so that he can live a normal, comfortable life, like everything was before all this press? Decisions, decisions.

There’s certain movies that, to me, may speak volumes, while to others, may not at all. I understand this because while most critics out there like to say that they “have no bias” when it comes to reviewing a certain movie, from a certain creator, on a certain subject, the fact is, we are all biased. Which isn’t a problem, it’s just a fact of life that every human being has deep down inside themselves, regardless of if they want to admit or not.

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm...

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm…

The reason why I say this, is because a movie like Kill the Messenger is made exactly for me: A movie about an respectable journalist, taking place in a time when journalists truly did matter to the mainstream media, and doing what most journalists do, day in and day out. I too, am an aspiring journalist and while I do realize that the world is starting to need fewer and fewer of them, it’s still a profession I love and will continue to pursue until the day I die, regardless of if I have a job in the field or not. So yeah, as you could probably tell by my statement, that this is the movie for me.

That said, I do realize that not every movie out there that works for me, won’t work for others and while I do want to jump into this movie head-on and talk about Webb, his practice, and how he, the real-life figure, makes me happy to be an aspiring journalist, I have to judge the movie on its merits. Merits which, mind you, may be a bit fuzzy to me and my inner-bias.

Sorry, people. I’m only human, after all.

But as I was saying, Kill the Messenger is a pretty typical biopic; while it definitely tries to shy away from being by-the-notes, it hardly ever flies away from this convention and just tells its story like how it was presented to us. Which isn’t a bad thing, because if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it, and such is the case here. Webb’s story, as is, is an interesting one that doesn’t need to go through any interesting, yet shocking, twists to liven things up – all it needs to do is be told to us as it was, with every bit of information known about who he was and the controversy that surrounded a good portion of his life. Sort of like an article as is, but I won’t go on any further about that!

Anyway, director Michael Cuesta, while not necessarily the most flashy director in the world, doesn’t need to be so because the strength of the movie is in the real-life story itself. Of course with most of these biopics, there’s always the wonder of how much we are seeing presented on screen is actually how it happened, or how much is just made for the sake of making the movie entertaining, but for the most part, I couldn’t find any punches pulled by Cuesta. Even if there were any, they were so thinly-done, that it was hard for me to notice and hardly ever took me away from the real strength of this movie, which was the character of Gary Webb himself. But most of all, the actor portraying him: Jeremy Renner.

By now, within in the past five years of seeing the Hurt Locker, I think the world has come to realize that Jeremy Renner is a wonderful actor that’s more than capable of handling a movie on his own (for some of us, it may have been earlier, but you know, I’m talking about the mainstream audience here, you hipsters). So for him to be involved with a biopic such as this, it made me interested in seeing just how far he could go into making us see him as somebody, and not just him playing somebody. And honestly, it’s impressive how well-suited for this role Renner is; though we don’t know all that much about Webb, the real-life person, what we see from how Renner plays him, we get the idea that he was a sweet and lovable, yet also troubled, family man. Because Renner has such a charming screen-presence, there’s an idea that he gets along with practically anybody he’s around and doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to telling it like he sees it. Which is, once again, all thanks to Renner’s wonderful performance that may not get a lot of press, but definitely should, because it’s probably his strongest since the previously-mentioned Locker.

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Really?

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Didn’t see that coming!

But what Renner, as well as the movie, tells us about Webb is that he was a hard-worker, who stuck to his journalistic guns, even when it seemed like, for the well-being of everyone around him, he shouldn’t have. However, that’s what brings us to the main dilemma that the movie discusses: How far should a journalist go to pursue a story? Should they go in so deep that they practically abandon those who love and count on him/her for support? Or, should they create their story and jump off of it right before the story itself gets all sort of unwanted press?  This, to some, may seem like an obvious point made by many other movies concerning the world of journalism, but to me, a fellow journalist, is a problem I struggle with everyday. Not because I myself am throwing myself right into these highly controversial stories that could put my life on the line, but more because that could definitely happen some day. A person could easily read a story of mine that they don’t like and could decide to take matters into their own hands, which, I know, sounds barbaric, but crazier things have happened, people.

But enough about me, because while I found a way to connect to this movie with my own journalist-mind intact, I think the real wonder of this movie that makes it easy for almost anybody to appreciate is that it gives a glimpse into the life of a man not many people discuss or even know about much anymore. Webb, while seeming like a slightly troubled-fella, really did love his job, but most of all, loved discovering and unraveling the truth about those in power and all of the wrong-doings they were committed. Which is why it’s sad to see not just his family begin to bail on him once this story gets too hot, but also his publication that doesn’t want to be involved with a journalist who may, or may not be, good for their image.

It says something about journalism as a whole, but also says something about how this man, Gary Webb, truly did want people to know that he was telling the truth just about every step of the way. But that it only takes a few of those in power, to be angry, and make sure that whatever skeletons they have in their closet, stays put. It sucks, but it’s a reality and it was inspiring to see someone like Webb stand up for himself, even when it was the riskiest choice he could make.

Even if I was the only one who felt it.

Consensus: Kill the Messenger isn’t just a testament to the legend of Gary Webb and his journalistic pursuit to discovering the truth, but also to journalism as a whole, and presents plenty of strong questions, with hardly any answers. The way it’s supposed to be told.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Bad Boys II (2003)

Are FBI agents really THIS gangsta with their speech?

8 years after they last joked around and solved crime together, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are still cops in Miami. While Marcus has become something of a dedicated family man, Mike still sticks to his bachelor ways and doesn’t get too caught up in much, other than work, and keeping Marcus’ mind in check. But once Marcus’ sister (Gabrielle Union) shows up, Mike can’t contain himself and just has to go for it. However, he’s got to contain himself because he and Marcus have a job to do and isn’t going to be an easy one: Take down a powerful drug kingpin (Jordi Mollà), and find a way to do it without crossing too many boundaries to where it could practically be considered “illegal”. A little easier said then done, but these two dudes know what to do when it comes to getting rid of drug dealers off the streets, so nothing can stop them.

I know I’m going to get plenty of heat for the rest of this review, so I’m just going to come out right now and say it: I enjoyed Bad Boys II. No, I did not love it, and no, I do not disagree with anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, that the critics say about this movie. It’s a bad movie, but worst of all, it’s a Michael Bay movie so obviously you can’t expect anything smart, profound, or remotely intriguing to be happening on screen. All you have to do is expect that everything he filmed, was done so while he was under the influence of some insane-o drugs, and then you’ll be good. Anything else, well, then I’m ashamed to say it, but you have the wrong movie.

Who says "Black Men Can't Jump"? Answer is: Nobody, because they know they can.

Who says “Black Men Can’t Jump”? Answer is: Nobody, because they know they can.

That said, this movie is pretty damn bad and deserves most of the hate that its been getting for the past decade or so. Basically, there is no plot here, and there is no reason for this movie to exist. You get the feeling that Michael Bay not only made this movie so he would expand his wallet a bit more, but just so that he could go back to his roots and throw up a big middle-finger to the critics after he made the out-of-his-element Pearl Harbor. And you know what, that isn’t so bad because the guy’s good at action, if you like that type of style, however, he does indulge himself just a bit too much with the usual “Bay-isms“.

For instance, there’s plenty of misogyny to take a lick at. Take for example, Gabrielle Union’s character who happens to be a DEA Agent, which is good for her character and has her come off as a bad ass, but can’t do anything right. Anytime a situation or a deal goes wrong, she utterly panics and loses all sense of just what to do. It’s normal for a person to be like that, male or female, but this happens to her on 4 different occasions, and it makes you wonder just how the hell did she get the job in the first place. Also, on top of her sad-excuse-for-a-bad-ass-female character, there’s a plenty of T & A shots, as well as one in particular where the T just so happens to be seen coming from a dead corpse. And not only does Bay’s camera linger on it for awhile, it gets us right up in there, as if the female actress probably wasn’t comfortable enough taking a role from somebody who’s been compared to Hitler before, but now she’s got to worry about a crazy-ass mofo like Martin Lawrence all up in her business.

Poor gal, wonder what the hell happened to her career after this. Probably in an insane asylum somewhere, scarred from her “one, big break”.

And trust me, there’s plenty more wrong with this flick that we all expect to see, and usually still be angry with, when it comes to a Michael Bay flick. Not to mention the utterly-dreadful time-limit of 146 minutes, that doesn’t do the material any good, and makes it just feel as bloated and as repetitive as it already was before. You can tell that a lot of this needed to be cut-down and easily should have, but Bay pretty much knew that he couldn’t; not because he considers himself an “artist” per se, but because he probably saw all of the money that he and Jerry Bruckheimer spent on this freakin’ thing, and didn’t want a single penny of it to go to waste. In that general aspect: He’s a smart man, the type of smart man my dad would be proud of. However though, my dad is not a “movie critic”, so obviously he doesn’t care about a cohesive plot, compelling story-telling, smart characters, well-written dialogue, or the understanding of the laws of physics in an action film; he just wants loud, angry, booming, and fun violence, and I think that’s where my dad and I agree on the most with this movie.

Right before Will Smith was ordered to "treat her like the bad girl she is". Being in a Michael Bay flick, Will expected this.

Right before Will Smith was ordered to “treat her like the bad girl she is”. Being in a Michael Bay flick, Will expected this.

Wait a minute! Why the hell am I talking about my old man? This is me who’s typing. not that dude! Anyway, what I came to expect from this movie was none other than a big old bag of fun from Bay, and that’s pretty much what I got. The comedy is obvious and strained, but surprisingly had me laughing when it needed to; the action is over-the-top and nuts, but is also non-stop, and never lost the attention of my eyes or my mind; and the most surprising of all, I actually really enjoyed watching Will Smith and Martin Lawrence together.

Since the first Bad Boys, both stars branched-out on their owns, with Smith becoming a bigger star than Lawrence, mainly in action flicks, whereas Lawrence became something of a crazed-nut behind-the-scenes, yet still funny and popular due to his stand-up and the occasional Big Momma’s House flick. Yet, despite both of their careers heading in different directions, they both came together pretty well here and made the best out of the crap material they were working with. The rambling is over-played and makes you wonder what’s scripted, and what’s just them talking out of their asses, but you can’t help but be amused when two stars such as these, literally seem so pleasant and happy working with one another, that they’re whole heart and soul is put into just being together and goofing-around. Maybe I’m giving them, as well as this movie, a bit more credit then it deserves, but I know when fun is fun, and this, my friends: Is fun. There I said it. Now I’m ready to lose any loyal readers I had.

Consensus: No matter what anybody tries to shove down your throat (me included), Bad Boys II is a dumb movie that shouldn’t be watched if you want the finer things in the world of cinema, but if you know what to expect from Michael Bay, Martin Lawrence, and Will Smith, then you can’t help but feel like its done its job, despite you being in some serious need of brain-cells.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I feel like after this movie's done, one of our careers is going to down the crapper."

“I feel like after this movie’s done, one of our careers is going down the crapper.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Blood Ties (2014)

Never go against the family. It don’t matter if you’re Italian, Irish, Jewish, Scandinavian, or Purple! You just don’t do it!

After being released from jail for murder, Chris (Clive Owen) is looking towards his newfound freedom with a bit more hope and ambition in his eyes. He doesn’t want to go back to the world of crime, so instead, takes a job at a small-time mechanic where he cleans the floor, scrubs toilets, and takes out the trash; however, when he’s not doing such fine and exciting activities, he’s chatting it up with the young assistant they have there (Mila Kunis). However, one thing leads to another and Chris, through luck-of-the-draw, finds himself back in the world of crime where he’s hustlin’, dealin’ and killin’, like a true New York gangsta, circa 1974. Which, for Chris, would be fine, however, his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), just so happens to be a cop who is constantly getting heckled for being there for his brother and still associating with him, even when it becomes clear that he may be the main-suspect in a couple of crimes happening throughout the city. But, it’s family. Whattayagonnado?!??!

We’ve all seen it before – the 70’s crime-drama, with all sorts of drugs, gangsters, guns, cops, hot gals, New York – but there’s some refreshing about a good, old-fashioned crime flick. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve been watching a bit too much of the Wire and can’t stay away from movies about a bunch of cops and robbers, and the evil, little maniacal ways both sides try to screw with one another; but I absolutely fall silly for it. That is, most of the time, when it’s done right.

It was the 70's, so by that time, this was 'ight.

It was the 70’s, so by that time, this was ‘ight.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that co-writers James Gray and Guillame Canet clearly have an idea for what it is that they want to do with their movie, which will probably please some by its simplicity, or, absolutely bore others. There are some bits and pieces here where you’ll feel the more-than-two-hour time-limit that it has, but other times, you might just not give a hoot, because each and every one of these performances are so compelling to watch in the first place.

But, then again, most of that has to do with the wring which, necessarily, isn’t all that flashy to begin with. However, where Gray and Cane’t writing-styles really come together is in the building of tension through human-relationships, rather than just through a bunch of shoot-outs or heists. Everytime you see Chris and Frank in the same room, or anywhere near being in the same vicinity of one another, you automatically feel like all hell is going to break loose, regardless of if they see each other or not. There’s just a sense, or a feeling in the air that these are two brothers that love each other until the day they die, but definitely can’t stand to be around the other, especially when one seems to have a lot more shit on the other for “selling out”.

Yup, if you’ve ever had a problem with a sibling of yours (brother, sister, father, mother, house-pet, etc.) this is the movie for you. Then again, most of whatever James Gray touches turns out to be that way. Another aspect about his movies that will probably kill some viewer’s minds is how he takes his near and dear time; not just with this story, but with these characters and who it is that they are. This was fine for me – not because I’m familiar with Gray’s work and expected it, but because most of the characters are written in a way that makes you actually care about them, and see whether or not this story gets so out-of-hand that bodies start dropping and emotions start flying, along with bullets, most likely. Though it may take awhile to get where it needs get going to, Gray and Canet keep this movie flowing at just the right pace: Not necessarily a snail-like speed, maybe the tortoise-who-beat-the-hare pace.

Dumb analogy, I know, but it’s all I got, people! All I got!

Where most of this movie loses points in, is that it’s not really anything spectacular or terribly original to where you can differentiate it from the rest of the crime-dramas that come out every now and then, especially ones that take place during the 70’s. Don’t get me wrong, the look and feel of this movie definitely transported me to the deep, dark and dirty days of 1970’s-era NYC, but the story itself, minus the inclusions of cell-phones, could have literally taken place at anytime in the Big Apple, after say, I don’t know, the 1930’s or 40’s. It’s just that conventional, but that doesn’t make it bad really; just makes you wish Canet and Gray decided to play-around a bit more, rather than just spending all of their time on the characters.

He's not getting up anytime soon. Just let him stay and hopefully he won't come over and beat us to within an inch of our lives.

He’s not getting up anytime soon. Just let him stay and hopefully he won’t come over and beat us within an inch of our lives.

Then again though, can’t hate on them too much, because the characters they were able to draw-up here, are what keeps this movie in balance. Which is to thank both Gray and Canet, as well as the awesome ensemble. Don’t know if anybody else out there saw Clive Owen playing a “rough and tough, NYC gangster, bad-boy” coming, but hey, the guy does a great job with it. He’s not only able to hide his British-accent very well, but he’s also able to make us crap our pants even more when he shows up and not totally know what to expect from him next. He’s a bit of a live-wire that does have his chill moments, but it’s clear that they are very few, and far between.

As for Billy Crudup, who plays his cop-brother Frank, he does a fine job giving an unsympathetic character enough substance to where we can get on his side, even if we don’t particularly agree with him. See, the main problem that his character has is that he’s got this whole subplot going on with Zoe Saldana’s character, in which they used to date, and he’s all of a sudden, thrown her latest boy-toy in the slammer for “reasons unknown”. Therefore, we kind of see Frank as a bit of a manipulative dick that uses his power and authority for the betterment of himself and his wee-wee (you know, a cop), but Crudup is at least able to let us slide by that problem with his character and realize that, at heart, he’s a kind guy that goes through thick and thin for the ones he loves. The only thing that’s getting himself into some foggy-water is that the people that he loves and sticks up for, aren’t the best cast of characters.

Since I was just speaking of Saldana, I think it should be noted that where this flick really screws up in, is that it doesn’t take much care of its female characters. It’s weird, too, because when you have such heavy-hitters as Mila Kunis, previously mentioned Saldana, Marion Cotillard, and even Lili Taylor in your movie, and you don’t do much with them, except them give them a couple of scenes where they stray near the boys, does seem like a huge waste once you really get down to it. And it’s not even like the writers made these females out to be as nothing other than “whores”, “sluts”, or, “total and complete beotches” (well, except for maybe Cotillard’s character who is literally a “whore” and screws guys for money; therefore, making her a “slut”); it’s more that the writers just didn’t take the time to give any of them much more than what you see on the surface. They are strong-willed, smart and independent, but you don’t see that fully play-out to where everybody gets a say in this story.

It’s just simply a boy’s show. Which is why we also have James Caan here as well. Can’t ever go wrong with that guy just showing up and doing his thing.

Consensus: Though conventional and, in certain ways, unoriginal, Blood Ties is still able to get by solely on the well-written characters, and the ensemble that give most of these characters lives worth checking out. If only for two-hours out of your day. That’s all.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Billy, I love you like a son. But don't ever go against the family. Hahaha! See what I did there?!??!?"

“Billy, I love you like a son. But don’t ever go against the family. Hahaha! See what I did there?!??!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Captain Phillips (2013)

Move on over, Captain Jack. There’s a new king of the seas!

Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks) is your everyday boat captain. He’s a family man, he knows what’s right with the world, what isn’t, he’s strict, he’s determined, he doesn’t quite play-well with others, but he’s cautious to a certain point. However, the cautious-nature that makes him who he is may help him out this time when four Somalian armed-pirates jump aboard his ship and take hostages, demanding money. Phillips is more than able to oblige, but he realizes that these four are some insanely dangerous people you do not want to mess with, especially when they have AK-47s pointed directly at his face. But Phillips doesn’t allow for that to get in his way too much and finds the solution to their problems by giving them all of the money he has in his vault; all $3,000 of it. Obviously, as you could expect, the pirates know that they can’t go back with that chump-change and needed a bigger bang for their buck. So, like any normal-thinking human-being anchoring a hostage-situation, they decide to kidnap Phillips and put his life on the line so that they can get more money through ransom. They don’t realize though, it ain’t that easy when you’re working the U.S. army, baby! And Richard Phillips too, but this isn’t even his story, right?

"Jenny?"

“Jenny?”

While many out there (myself included) have been a bit skeptical of Greengrass’ career and how long his “frantic, shaky-cam” gimmick would run dry, the man always finds a way to keep us coming back for more. More for him, more for the material he chooses to adapt, and best of all, more for the disastrous, real-life situations he chooses to display and re-create, if you will. The man did it with United 93, one of the most dreadful, yet, powerful pieces of cinema about 9/11 you’ll ever see, and hell, despite the story not being as known to me as that deadly tragedy was, he does the same thing again with Captain Phillips, the true tale of a man who threw himself into a deadly situation and somehow, someway, came out by the skin of his teeth.

That’s not a spoiler, by the way. So please, please do not get all up in my grill, because in all honesty, it doesn’t matter. Knowing the outcome beforehand or not knowing won’t make a single lick of a difference because Greengrass, using any skill he has in his tool-belt without over-doing it, makes this movie so freakin’ tense, so sweaty, so gripping, and so suspenseful, that you may even, at one point, wonder just what the hell is going to happen. So many movies that are based on real-life events try so hard to make you feel that tense in the most manipulative ways possible, but not this one. Greengrass knows better and believe it or not, seems like he’s learned from his mistakes and dials-down a lot of his gimmicks.

No loud, swelling music trying to make you feel a certain way; none of the infamous “crack-cam”; no fake emotions trying to make you see Phillips story from all sorts of perspectives; and thankfully, not a single piece of forced-patriotism thrown onto us, as if Greengrass wants us to be chanting, “U.S.A.!!! U.S.A.!!!”, by the end of it. And even if that was the case, it probably still would have worked because he finds a way to make you gain hope in anybody who’s just trying to survive this situation and save Phillips life if they can. Even Phillips himself who, despite being played by everybody’s favorite actor, doesn’t really come off as the nicest guy in the world, yet you still care for him.

And you can totally credit that to Hanks’ utter-charm that has him win over anybody he meets, in real-life or in the movies, but you can also credit that to Greengrass for giving us a guy who feels real, doesn’t feel like the happiest/most pleasant person on the face planet, and may even be a bit of a dick. Yet, you still care for him and realize that every step he makes, good or bad, may be a step he takes to his grave or to his warm, cozy bed at home. Either way, he’s going to get out of this situation one way or another, and he will stop at nothing to make sure he comes out of this alive. And if not, well then, he’ll make sure he’s the only one because it’s his ship, his decisions, and his life that he’s throwing out on the line. Nobody else’s and if that doesn’t make him a natural-born hero, then I don’t know what the hell does!

But, like I was saying about Tom Hanks, you know you love the guy in almost anything he shows up in (Larry Crowne included) because lord knows I do. Problem is, the man hasn’t really been showing much of his talent lately. Sure, he’s taken some interesting projects here and there, but nothing to the point of where I was reminded why this man is usually regarded as one of the best working today, best of all time, and why the hell he won two Oscars, back-to-back! Needless to say, I was a bit worried seeing him here as Richard Phillips as it seemed like the type of role that would have had him talking all of the time, being loud, trying to be charming, and not allowing me, not for a single second, to get past the fact that it was Tom Hanks playing a role.

Which one's blackbeard?

Which one’s blackbeard?

Instead, Hanks totally showed me up, and I’m glad he did so. Not only did he have me believe that he was this frightened, desperate man in this very tense hostage-situation, but he also had me believe that he could get out of it alive if he just used his smarts and brains a bit. Granted, he’s not the nicest guy in the world, like I said before, and we don’t get to know too much about his background other than that he loves his wife, his kids, and is scared that the times are changin’. But that small crap doesn’t matter because Hanks gives one of his best performances in the past decade or so and it gives me more and more faith in him as his career continues to chive on.

As for those “Oscar whispers” he’s getting, he totally deserves all of them and should get a nomination, no matter what. Hanks was great throughout the whole movie by the way he was able to still have us care for him without using his insane-amounts of charm, but nothing measures up to the last 5 minutes of the film, and what he does in front of the camera. You’ll be hearing a lot of people talk about these final moments for quite some time, and with good reason: They’re so emotional, so effective, and so inspiring, that you’ll be absolutely astonished how Greengrass and Hanks were able to come together and make it work so damn well, and in such a realistic, honest matter as well. Just watch these final minutes and you’ll see what I mean. One of the best, most memorable scenes of the year that I’ll most likely be remembering for years to come.

As for the rest of the cast, with the exception of a 5-minute role from Catherine Keener as Phillips loving, but barely seen wife, it’s character-actor central, with the occasional unknown thrown in for good measure. Everybody in this cast is good, but the one that really caught me off-guard was newcomer Barkhad Abdi as Muse, the leader of these Somalian pirates, and the one that takes charge early on. The one aspect behind this movie that could have really tore it down was how completely one-sided its view-point could have come off as being, and while Greengrass sure as hell doesn’t support these pirates actions, he still shows them as human-beings doing something so inhumane and so evil like threatening somebody’s life, but also giving them reasons for why it is that they are doing so. Greengrass never tries to make us feel bad for them to the point of where it’s near-Liberalism, but he does hold his hand out to them a bit more than usual, more for Abdi who you feel the worst for, because you know he’s not a bad guy, he just does bad things due to outside influence. Still, they were Somalian pirates that tried to kill a man for money. That immoral behavior should never be forgiven, no matter who commits it.

Consensus: The story is one we may all know, yet, Captain Phillips is still one of the most compelling, most tense thrillers of the whole year with plenty of food-for-thought and a Tom Hanks performance that anchors the material the whole through; keeping it humane, grounded, and placed in a sense of reality, as if we are really seeing this happen in front of our faces, the way it’s meant to be seen and understood.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

"No no no! I forbid you from eating mah box of chocolates!"

“No no no! I forbid you from eating mah box of chocolates!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Collider, Joblo, ComingSoon.net