Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Guilt Trip

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Or you can stop hating me and prove that we are friends and take a road trip with me to Vegas...also, if you want to show we are BEST friends, you'll pay for the gas, lodging and all the snacks--and do all the driving.

The Guilt Trip – 2 out of 5

Ah, the road trip…a time where you’re stuck in a car with a loved one or friend (or a bitter rival, if you are incredibly unfortunate) with hopes of laughs and a grand adventure but, by the time you hit your final mile and reach your destination, you’re ready to murder each other in the most violent way imaginable thanks to the endless amounts of time you spend crammed into a tiny box on wheels having to smell each others farts, deal with the others shitty taste in music and need to sing along with it (I get it, you like Dave Matthews Band but can we listen to something else for awhile?). And it is because of this dynamic that the act of the road trip is an occasional theme in the world of movies.

"If we listen to 'Gungam Style' on repeat, it'll make the trip feel shorter."

The Guilt Trip is about a organic chemist; Andrew Brewster (Seth Rogen), who invents an all-natural, extremely safe cleaning product that he has invested all his money in and is about to go on a cross-country trip to try and sell it to the big box stores. Before leaving, he spends some time with his mother, Joyce, (Barbra Streisand) and, after learning about a lost love she still holds a candle for, decides he’s going to surprise her by ending the trip with a reunion of the two. So, mother and son embark on a journey across the U.S. and start to learn more about each other as they push each other’s buttons and shove each other to the breaking point (just like real life road trips—like I’ll never forget the time my best friend and I took a road trip to the Grand Canyon and he started to eat my Teddy Grahams and one thing lead to another so the fists started flying and, before you know it, I shoved him off the edge of the canyon and—wait, I should probably just end the story there.)

The film tries to be funny, it tries to be touching and it tries to be endearing but ultimately fails at each and every attempt. Overall, the entire movie just feels like it wasn’t trying hard enough and only putting in the most minimum of effort. Kinda surprising when you learn that Paramount was so completely assured that Barbra Streisand was going to win a Golden Globe for her performance that they actually purchased an ad congratulating her on the win…but then had to immediately pull it when it was realized she wasn’t even nominated. Oops.

"How's the scenery taste?"

I would say The Guilt Trip is designed for older viewers (and, at first glance, it seems to be the case) but when you factor in that “knowing your audience” was just another element that was only given a portion of consideration to during the production you become hard pressed to figure out who exactly this film was intended for. Obviously the story material is meant for an older audience and Babs (God dammit, did I just call her “Babs?”) was brought in to reflect that and, as if to expand the market, Seth Rogen was brought in to try and appeal to the younger crowd but the mixing of these two variables only works to repel the prospective audience. Granted, Streisand isn’t terrible in her role and is, at times, sweet and charming to watch as the overbearing mother but Rogen just looks lost in a movie that has no vulgar comedy backing up his usual typecast performance.

Without dick, gay or pot jokes, Seth Rogen finds no joy in his job.

While on paper it may have been possible for Rogen and Streisand to play the part of mother and son, the final product shows it wasn’t. Streisand is carrying the entire dynamic between the two. She really does come off like a mother who is just all too proud and all too in love with her son and desperately wants to be an active part of his life, however, Rogen just comes off as an asshole the entire film. While it is a part of his character to be embarrassed and annoyed by his mother, his condescending attitude towards her and constant string of sarcasm flung at her person makes his character the epitome of dickatude and ends up hurting the entire dynamic of the story.

"Stop being such a bitch with the whole loving me thing, Mom!"

The premise is simple: Son is embarrassed of his overbearing parent and, after some turbulent times in a confined space with her (like a car or a mishap that ends with them being locked in a restaurant walk-in cooler for an entire night) they start to understand each other better and come to a huge revelation and their relationship is all the better for it. Sadly, this film doesn’t do that because Rogen’s character is too busy being an unlikeable, pretentious ass the entire time. Even after the revelation occurs, he still comes off like a dickhead who just hides his contempt for his mother behind more sarcasm and a mask of friendliness. While it’s understandable why his character is suppose to be frustrated with his mom (children embarrassed by their parents is a common theme in both fiction and reality), Rogen’s bitter and outright angry performance ends up killing any potential for comedy this movie may have had (and there’s not a lot to begin with). It’s quite possible to play the part of the exasperated son dealing with an eccentric parent—in fact, it was done in another Streisand movie with Ben Stiller; Meet the Fockers.

Due to the fact that Rogen’s less-than-desirable attitude his character takes the entire film, pretty much all semblance of comedy is 100% eradicated as the scenes play out more like you are about to witness a man who is on the verge of giving his mother a horrible verbal abuse tirade just because she sneezed during the good part of a country song and you suddenly feel extremely uncomfortable because you think you are about to see a man beat the shit out of his own mother because she ate the last twizzler (Note: Just because a country song was used in that example doesn’t mean all people who listen to country music are wife beaters—just potential wife beaters). Even when the film is trying to be sweet and touching it comes off like a complete failure. While the movie does pull at the heartstrings it only does so moments before the credits come pushing their way in (possibly to try and stop a man from hitting his own mother).

Adam Scott was wasted in this film.  But I guess the check cleared.

From beginning to end, the film just feels like it is not trying at all. While Streisand is decent in the film (and her performance is definitely the film’s only saving grace) her performance is nowhere near strong enough to give the film even a rental status. The jokes are weak and unfunny, the endearing tones of the story arrive too late and an extremely jerky performance from Rogen that never really ceases being douchey makes the film tiresome all around. At one point, the filmmakers behind The Guilt Trip should have just given up on the happy ending (like they gave up on much of the script) and just ended it with the mom and son hating each other; if they done that, at least the film would have seemed realistic and been a perfect representation of an actual road trip. Kinda like the road trip I took with an ex-girlfriend to the Florida everglades. On the way, we picked up a hitchhiker and he started to get a little lippy with what radio station we were playing so we knocked him out with a shovel and ditched the body among the gators—wait, I probably shouldn’t tell this story either.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Broken City

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Or we can--hey, look at that squirrel!

Broken City – 2 out of 5

Ah, the story of political corruption. Such a staple in the world of cinema (and the real world) that I think it would actually be quite shocking if we got a movie that featured a decent politician doing decent things with a clean record…but where’s the fun in that?

All good politicians maintain a minimum of 5 minutes of unflinching eye-
contact when meeting potential voters.
Broken City is about an ex-cop; Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg), who gets off on a murder charge but is forced into the private, non-“bad boys” themed sector of life. After several years pass, the man who was instrumental in his murder trial; Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe), calls on him to find out if his wife (Catherine Zeta Jones) is doing the nasty with another man. Soon, Taggart finds himself being framed for the murder of the campaign manager of Hostetler’s political rival; Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper), and is out to clear his name.

"Hostetler called me a stinkyface."

"And further more, my opponent is of questionable
sexual preference and his mother tends to be

To make this review simple and short, Broken City just couldn’t keep my attention. While the story does have the makings for something that could be interesting (despite that the concept of a man in power framing and manipulating a man in desperation has been done in many ways over and over again) the film’s execution of this archetype was flat. The story tended to drag with no real indication it was going anywhere and when it seemed like there was some sort of tension or thrilling aspects around the corner, the end was immediately behind it.

"Maybe if I stare intensely enough, he'll say 'hi' to his mother for me..."

Even the cast seems uninspired by the film as all the performances are either given with a “whatever, let’s just get it over with” mentality or just done with mediocrity in sight. Despite having a great cast that, beyond the inclusion of Crowe and Zeta Jones, also had Jeffrey Wright and Barry Pepper. However, I have to say the best performance in the film was Pepper and what his character of the rival political figure goes through was performed incredibly well. Even Wahlberg, an actor I usually only enjoy in comedies and nothing else the rest of the time, was fairly decent as Taggart. Overall, though, all the performances were “by-the-numbers” and didn’t really showcase the talents of all the players within it.

"I wish he would apologize for calling me a stinkyface.  That was really mean."

Broken City could have been an interesting political/crime thriller that, even at its weakest, would have been worth at least a rental but the film feels like it’s coasting at its every level for the entire running length of the film. The movie never does anything outright terrible but it really doesn’t feel like it’s trying at all either. This movie is the equivalent of my first job making sandwiches at a popular sandwich restaurant when I was in high school (for the sake of anonymity, I won’t reveal its name but tell you that, while employed there, I was somewhat of a sandwich artist). I basically went through the motions, did the bare minimum that was required of me and never went beyond. That’s pretty much what Broken City is doing; except when it’s over, you don’t have a footlong Cold Cut Combo with extra pickles in your possession...and maybe some Sun Chips.

"Are you not entertained!!!*"
*Entertainment brought to you by Reebok.

Silver Linings Playbook

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Or we can maybe hang out and get a pizza or something...I don't know.

Silver Linings Playbook – 4 out of 5

It’s safe to say that this was one of the big films of 2012. It was nominated for a bunch of awards (somewhere around 300 thousand [citation needed]) and Jennifer Lawrence even won best actress for it. Some publications even placed it on their “must see” lists and, more importantly, some IMDb users who like to make those list things have probably placed it on their own “must see” lists. And I think it’s a fair bet that some of those inclusions on the IMDb lists stems from the fact there’s an excessive amount of time in this picture where you get to see Lawrence’s breasts bounce and jiggle—come on, I can’t be the only one who noticed!

And Chris Tucker is in it!  At this point in his life, he's okay with touching
a black man's stereo.

Silver Linings Playbook is about Pat (Bradley Cooper), a bi-polar man who just gets out of the psychiatric hospital after he snapped and ruined his marriage (who hasn't been there?  Amirite?). Desperate to try and get his life together (and kinda ordered by the legal system) he moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and starts the attempt to get his life under control so he can patch things up with his wife. Things start to get messy as he meets another individual struggling with her own mental issues; Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).

"Does a Nurse Ratched work here?  I'm not going to be suffocated in my sleep
by a big Native American mute, am I?

Above all things, Bradley Cooper’s performance as the broken (but desperate to heal) Pat really stole the movie. Watching him in action kept me glued to the film and seeing him evolve from a frantic man just out of the hospital to a more controlled and tempered individual near the end credits was pretty grabbing and attention sucking. Seeing Pat mend fences with Tiffany and his family really showed what this movie was all about; heart. It was difficult to not cry when Pat’s father explains that the time Pat was going to have in his house was not only about getting better but also about becoming a better father and making up for years of neglect.

"How come no one answers me when I ask, 'Are you talking to me?'"

The film also did a tremendous job with its camera work. The movie used a lot of panning in and out and, in doing so, really helped to show the disconnect that the character had with reality. While this aspect never gets too out of hand and makes it look like a tamer David Lynch film, it is capable of making everything seemed detached enough from reality so the viewer got a feel for the confusion that Pat was going through. Not to mention the inclusion of some great quick edits to this dynamic camera work really help sell what Pat, as well as Tiffany, were going through mentally without really having to do much explaining.

"Did you see that ludicrous display last night?"

Jennifer Lawrence is an actress that I’m not normally a fan of or think that much about. That isn’t to say I think she’s a bad actress, I just don’t find her that memorable. Every time a film comes out with her in it the internet literally explodes in a fiery ball of hype and flying pieces of butt-kissing shrapnel. So, after hearing all this praise about how great she is in whatever project she’s in, I'd watch her and find her incredibly…average. Never have I watched a movie where I’ve agreed with all her supporters that she the next National Treasure like Julia Roberts used to mysteriously be. Winter’s Bone—didn’t understand what was so great about her when there were other members of the cast outperforming her. The Hunger Games—I really didn’t see it there, as all I saw was her staring vacantly at her surroundings for nearly two hours and showing only a little more emotion than Kristen Stewart (to be honest, the only thing I really cared about in that film anyway was Woody Harrelson’s character). 

This is a slight variation of the look she has in The Hunger Games.

Don't warm up your hate comments just yet, Lawrence Lovers.

Even this film I didn’t see that much spectacular in Lawrence (I really didn’t see a Best Actress performance). I’m not saying she was bad in it but, like everything else I’ve seen her in, she was just painfully average and her performance just wasn’t memorable to me. I will say that I did find her better in this role than any other role I’ve seen her in but I still don’t understand her appeal…wait, I just remembered how often her breasts bounced up and down in this film thanks to a lot of running scenes and some dance sequences and I think I kinda get her appeal—or why she would appeal to half her audience.  I'm kidding, it was actually kinda gross how the direct felt a need to zoom in on her chest and even her buttocks. 

Sadly, you have to suffer through a lot of white-folk dancing in order see
the bouncy-ness.

See, Lawrence Lovers, I didn't say anything that bad about her...but I still await your comments about how awful I am for not adoring her.

Silver Linings Playbook is a sweet, sometimes humorous, but most of all endearing movie about a man and a woman who are busy dealing with their own mental issues and yet are able to find each other. While still a romcom despite the drama of it all, the movie’s strongest aspect is less about the romance of Pat and Tiffany and more about Pat trying to patch his life together in general. Yes, Tiffany becomes a part of that and steals his heart but it was Pat’s struggle to try and return to some sort of normalcy and the reconciliation he undertakes with his parents that really made the movie for me…and will probably make my “Best Reviewed of 2013” list I’m going to make on New Year’s Eve—yes, I make lists too.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Haunted House

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! And maybe it's time we admit that parodies should no longer be made.

A Haunted House – 2 out of 5

The parody is a lost art form. While it still exists, it is no longer the witty rib on the subject material it was when films like The Naked Gun, Airplane and even the first Scary Movie came out. Instead, the parody has become a vicious rape of the subject material with its jokes being nothing much beyond a fart, dick or gay joke. With movies like the later Scary Movie films or things like Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans and all the other “Fill in the Blank” Movies, parodies have become a rambling collection of squeezed in satires and pop culture references that barely qualifies as jokes. There’s no wit or bite to them, they are just “let’s make this look like the subject we are lampooning, throw in a Kardashian reference and then a fart sound.”

Facebook Profile Pics...the Movie!

A Haunted House is basically an unofficial Scary Movie sequel/spin-off that parodies the “found footage” genre—a genre that is already a joke and readily parodies itself by making each and every one of the films the same over and over again. The film sees Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) move in together in a house that is basically an amalgam of the first two houses in the Paranormal Activity franchise. After Kisha suspects some paranormal presences in the home, Malcolm invites a security man (David Koechner) to install cameras and a psychic (Nick Swardson) to “read” the house. Pretty soon the hauntings start to get more frequent and violent until the demon ultimately possesses Kisha. And somewhere during this, I guess there are some jokes and gags.

This film feels less like a parody of the Paranormal Activity films during much of its running length and more like a potential blaxploitation spin-off of the series (drink every time this movie reminds you that checking out what's in the dark room or finding where the scary noise came from is something "white folks" do...and yet, even knowing this, they still do it). For nearly the first half-hour of the film, the movie is set-up just like every other PA movie; with Malcolm getting a camera and becoming increasingly (and very unhealthily) obsessed with filming every aspect of their daily lives until the first moments of the haunting start--and then he gets MORE cameras! There might have been some jokes in the form of Wayans hamming it up for the camera but, for the most part, these sequences were just as inane and as boring as the opening to any typical “found footage” film.

Actually, I can't tell if this is an improvement to the "found footage"
genre or not.

Once the jokes and the “humor” actually starts, I found I was just as silent and as stoic as I was during the first part of the film. All the jokes come from either bottom of the barrel fart and dick jokes, parodies of sequences from the “found footage” films they are mocking that are just shoe-horned into the story and, when they don’t feel completely out of place, are just painfully unfunny, and argument-style banter between characters that are overflowing with pop culture metaphors and stereotypes that are more annoying than humorous. In fact, most of the film is taking references, stereotypes and parody sequences and beating them over and over again till they are no longer recognizable as a potentially comedic scene and just become grating and hard to sit through.

Okay, at this point they are just remaking the damn thing.

Really, everything about this is predictable and cliché with no real breaths of fresh air placed in it. Occasionally, I found myself laughing but, in all honesty, I laughed only twice at something Marlon Wayans did and the rest of the time I was just quiet (kinda like how I am during an average "found footage" film; although this one at least didn't put me to sleep)…but at least it wasn’t so bad that I was groaning. Actually, I lied; when Nick Swardson appears and plays the closeted psychic Chip who awkwardly puts the moves on Malcolm I did find myself groaning in pain. We all know Swardson’s track record with comedy (for those of you who watched Bucky Larson and lived, you know the horrors all too well) and his inclusion in this movie felt like the producers were intentionally trying to lower the bar.

Nick Swardson is always available to make your film exponentially worse.

For as bad and horrifically unfunny as this film was, there were actually some good things going on here that warranted my score of 2 out of 5. I already mentioned the film did make me laugh twice—and I don’t mean chuckle, I mean it actually made me let out of really hearty laugh, so that was surprising to me. Also, there are times in the film where Marlon Wayans plays a fantastic straight man to some zany action going on around him (the use of zany being very, VERY gratuitous there). There are small moments where he shows he can do some serious acting and probably could have been a breeding ground for some richly hilarious scenes—the only problem was he was playing a straight man in scenes that had no comedy pushing back at him or trying to work with him.

This movie does, however, provide a great argument on why "found footage"
films need to be killed once and for all.

There are plenty of scenes that involve Wayans having to be the only man in the room with common sense as he must deal with the rants of raving lunatics around him in the form of Koechner's and Swardson’s characters, as well as a few scenes with a preacher character played by Cedric the Entertainer, and there’s the potential for humor in these scenes but Marlon's straight-laced (about as straight-laced as it can get in this one) performance is just lost in a string of nonsense from those around him and performances that reek of the scenery that Koechner, Swardson and Cedric just chewed on.

"Smell my breath...does it smell like scenery?"

Wayans shows that he really is the only one trying with his acting. Even with the times he hams it up, he has at least one scene going on parallel to that where he shows that he is giving some effort and is not just in the film to make bad slapstick. The rest of the cast, however, doesn’t really come off like they even remotely care. Instead, they look like they were just goofing around on set, trying to amuse each other, and the director just said, “Cut, we’ll work with that.” Most of the scenes played out like dress rehearsals and not actual takes.  This came to be a little bit of a downer since there are some talented folks in the film.

David Koechner is a actor I have enjoyed in many projects and this movie also has Andrew Daly (a very funny man) and each man just looks like he’s wasted—not drunk, mind you (although, alcohol may explain why a lot of the movie was left unaltered or why so much of it has jokes missing in its scenes) but wasted in the fact they weren't utilized the way they should have been. However, everyone pales in comparison with the really, truly, immensely awful performance of Essence Atkins.

"Well, I am a funny guy but sure, Mr. Director, I can give the whole 'not trying'
thing a go!"

Atkins is just hard to watch. She pretty much overacts every scene she’s in to the point it’s like watching a person parody the parody that they are performing in. If she wasn’t so unnatural in her delivery, one could probably make the argument that she’s quite brilliant in her Inception-y style performance but, in reality, she’s just not a good actress. Her weak performances ends up hurting the already poorly conceived humor of the film as Wayans is forced to carry Atkins in these scenes in order to try and pull out even the most minute speck of comedy from her “I’m trying too hard” delivery.

Shown:  A false belief of comedic acting.

Shockingly, however, I was really impressed with the film's effects. With the exception of a scene that involved Malcolm and Kisha smoking weed with the demon (which, I’m pretty sure, has literally been in every Scary Movie film ever in one form or another), the haunting sequences look really good and are about on par with anything seen in the Activity films. However, this doesn’t make the film funnier…it only makes it look more like a spin-off of the franchise.

It could have been worse...it could have been a Tyler Perry movie...
or Scary Movie 5...or Tyler Perry presents Scary Movie 5 starring Tyler Perry
as everybody in the freaking movie.

A Haunted House is, plain and simply, not funny. The two amusing moments it did present to me did nothing to allow the classification of this movie as a comedy or even a well-thought out parody/satire. The film feels less like a comedy and more like a collection of YouTube videos of people using their camera phones to make poorly feathered out Paranormal Activity send ups. This movie is proof that the art of the parody is not an easy one and just doing some poop jokes in a scene that looks like the scene from the movie you are mocking doesn’t constitute a parody. Like I stated earlier, this movie feels less like a satire and more like an attempt to make another film to add to the Paranormal Activity franchise…but, in their defense, they were able to successfully make as many scares as the PA franchise did; exactly none.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Promised Land

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Or we can get our frack on!

Promised Land – 3 out of 5

It’s a movie about fracking…and not frakking as in the swear word from Battlestar Galactica (I really wish that was the case—so say we all!).

This store couldn't be more American even if Toby Keith and Kid Rock
were making love to the flag in front of it.

Promised Land is about a natural gas company coming into a dying farming town with promises of riches if the townsfolk lease their land for the purposes of fracking (fracking being the process of drilling and harvesting the gas and not to mention a complete challenge to me to not make it sound like a dirty sex act within this review). The company sends in the bright eyed, hungry young go-getter Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and his partner Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) to a small Pennsylvania farm town that, with some minor resistance, is all but welcoming with open arms as the dollar signs are starting to fill the eyes of the struggling members of the community. That is until the environmentalist Dustin Noble (get it? Noble) arrives and throws a wrench into the works as he claims he’s from a town that was financially obliterated by the greedy gas company folks. Noble (John Krasinski) and Butler quickly become heated rivals as Noble turns the entire community against him and the race to get that sweet, sweet gas (or stop that gas from getting got) gets underway.

"Let's try fracking Fargo next."

For the most part, Promised Land is a pretty decent film, however its weakness comes in the fact the film is a character-driven one when it should have been a story-driven affair. While there’s nothing wrong with a film that is all about the characters and their evolution and development but when you have a story about the environmental impact that comes from fracking (HA! I said “impact” and “fracking” in the same sentence) the movie probably shouldn’t suddenly take away all that emphasis and focus on how lonely the gas company employee is and how sad he feels after the environmentalist takes away the girl he was lusting after.

Matt Damon doesn't need alcohol in order to take bar girls home...
because he's rich and famous.

"Are you trying to tell me that my trust fun hippie ways
can't compete against a billion dollar company?
Surely you jest."
 The beginning of the film starts very strong with the movie focusing nearly entirely on the debate about allowing fracking to commence in the small town and once John Krasinski arrives in the story, the movie starts to take a dramatic turn and it seems that the tension is going to be ratcheting skyward. While the drama and tension do start to arrive and heat up, these factors only seem to apply to the characters of Butler and Noble and not their own individual desires for drilling or absence of drilling. Mind you this isn’t a bad thing but throughout the entire middle of the film it feels like it became an entirely different movie as it was less about getting their frack on in the city and more about seeing who can get the most friends; the guy who wants to frack the shit out of your land or the hippie who just wants to cuddle with some trees.

"I'm here to frack it up all night long, America!"

The last thing you'll see if Matt Damon is drowning you.
Promised Land isn’t a terrible movie at all. While it’s a little distracting that the film’s emphasis changes in the mid-section, it wasn’t so awful that it harmed the film in a major way. In fact, the opening and the ending of the film are so strong that the sudden character-centric change the film takes, and the push the story suffers with it, gets completely redeemed. Even the fact that McDormand, Damon and Krasinski aren’t giving the best performances of their career can be overlooked because even at their weakest, they are still enjoyable to watch. Granted Krasinski spends a good portion of the film making it look like Jim quit Dunder Mifflin and left Pam for a life as a man on a crusade against fracking.

"Anyone want to drill on Dwight's property"  It'll be hilarious!"

The film has the potential to offend those who, most likely, have bumper stickers on their truck nut-accentuated pick-ups that read “Drill, Baby, Drill” and those who don’t fully understand what fracking is and decided to become a hippie because they think it’s cool will probably love it even though they don’t know what the hell is going on but, overall, the movie is good enough to watch once and maybe check out again later in life.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Gangster Squad

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Or we can make a squad that takes out gangsters...we'll call it The Super Awesome Fun Gang!

Gangster Squad – 3 out of 5

Anyone else felt the need to play L.A. Noire after watching this?

"I think that guy is lying...hit the triangle button."

Gangster Squad—despite sounding like a bad rap super group—is a film loosely based on the real life Gangster Squad of the late 40s. Tired of dealing with mobster Mickey Cohen’s shit, Chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) tells Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to form a superhero team of great cops in order to take down Cohen’s enterprise—and not just arrest him but literally eff up his operation so that no one can come in and take over. We’re talking about setting fire to the bitch, pissing on the ashes and salting the earth so that nothing ever grows from it again.

Guns always make you look cool, kids.

O’Mara brings in his dream team in the form of a badass detective; Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), a bug-placer extraordinaire with a name that sounds like an old school country artist; Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), a gunslinger clearly born in the wrong era; Max Kennard (Robert Patrick—and I’ll do my best to not do a T-1000 reference in this review), the gunslinger’s partner; Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña) and, after a reluctant start, O’Mara’s friend and fellow Sergeant that ends up falling for Cohen’s lady (Emma Stone); Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling). Together (and with their powers combined) they forgo calling on Captain Planet and proceed to kick a new hole in the backside of Cohen (Sean Penn).

"Help, a bee stung my face."

Gangster Squad does a lot right and a few things wrong. Sadly though, the things they get wrong really hurt the film. The story (even with its inaccuracies—because it wouldn’t be a period piece without ‘em!) is cool and the action is great. There’s enough automatic weapons fire in this film to give a Tommy gun a boner and the film looks fantastic. The deep rich color and shadows give the film a stylistic feel and it makes it look like the idealistic images that come to mind when we think of the late 40s and early 50s. In fact, nearly every second of the film looks picturesque and beautiful in its own way and it was this (and the action, of course) is why I decided to see it.

"I told you not to put so much fire sauce on your burrito!"

The film also host a fantastic cast of terrific actors and they all do their job fantastically. Everyone from Sean Penn as Cohen to Josh Brolin as O’Mara, each actor really shows why they are who they are in the industry. However, even though the cast is filled with an overabundance of talent, the characters within the story are flat and deflated.

"I call my assortment of sex lubricants 'The Gangster Squad,' as well."

Most members of the squad are given little to no character development and act as backup to the only two who are given any real construction; Brolin and Goslin’s characters. The rest are, for the most part, sidekicks to these two and you learn very little beyond their names and a skill that sets them apart from the rest and gives them cause to actually be on the squad. This is actually a shame because most of these men are given hints to a larger dynamic that is hidden behind them and these dynamics never come to light. For example, Anthony Mackie’s character is introduced as a no-nonsense officer of the law who’s not afraid to play it fast and loose but remain cool at the same time—kind of a loose cannon character. After his introduction, we don’t really see this play out. The same is done for Robert Patrick’s character who is shown to be a skilled gunman that still uses a six-shooter like he’s a cowboy—he even does that cool “throwing a can into the air and keeping it there by shooting its canny ass” thing that you only see in Bugs Bunny cartoons. After his introduction, not much is seen of this character’s skills until the credits are on the verge of appearing…and they were only kept at bay thanks to the six-shooter.

And when that can hit the ground, he holstered his gun and then fired into the ground
in order to lift his body into the air and inspire a young Yosemite Sam.

This ends up being the film’s biggest flaw and one that keeps the film from being something better than the “renter” that it is. We learn nearly every detail about Sgt. O’Mara and Sgt. Wooters to the point we know what they have for breakfast and what is at stake for them and their personal lives with this course of action but the other characters—ones who all come off interesting in their own way and had me desiring to learn more about them—we don’t learn much about them other than what is needed to differentiate them from one another enough through the use of basic character descriptions in case we forget their names.

"Take out all the flowers, boys!"

While Gangster Squad wasn’t terrible—its action is bullet-flying, fire blazing fun and it just is plain nice to look at—the film does little to be anything beyond a “one-timer” film for viewing. The movie is just good enough to watch once and give it a shot but it offers no replay value or offers anything beyond just giving it a try. It’s like testing out your roommate’s cooking after he joined cooking school. Chances are good the act won’t be entirely unpleasant but there might be a chance that you’ll find something in it that will be less than okay and keep you from enjoying it fully. I bring this up only because my roommate is now in cooking school and I need to convince him that the food poisoning I recently suffered had nothing to do with the soup he made the other day…but it totally did.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Django Unchained

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Just remember...the "D" is silent.

Django Unchained – 5 out of 5

I’m a fan of Quentin Tarantino. Sure the guy is an insufferable ego maniac but when you have the talent to back up the enormous ego, I think you’re allowed to be a little full of yourself. Let’s face it, the guy is an artist. The man blends dialogue, music, editing, story, plot and amazing camera work together to create films that are, at the same time, an homage to the greats that came before him and inspired him as well as something that breaks new ground in the world of filmmaking and storytelling. Not to mention that without his help, Robert Rodriguez wouldn’t be able to make a somewhat decent film.

I think he's asking for his change purse that says "Bad Mother Fucker" on it.

Django Unchained is Tarantino’s latest face-smashingly awesome film to come out and it not only tells a great story but continues his track record of making incredible films that satisfy both a lust for bloody action but some of the best dialogue and scene structure that has ever be committed to film.

And did I mention that Tom Wopat is in it?!?

Django (Jaime Foxx) is a former slave freed by the German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who agrees to help Django find and free his wife (Kerry Washington) and teach him the ways of the West and the gun. However, the two men realize that getting Django’s wife back may not be as easy as kicking in the door and shooting every white motherfucker in the way when they find her in the clutches of a ruthless plantation owner; Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Django is so cool, he probably would say something pithy, put on his shades
and The Who would start to rock before any of the members of The Who ever
recorded a song or been born.

Everything about this movie is just plain impressive. The acting, the action, the words that are spewing out of every character…this movie is Tarantino firing on all cylinders and making a film that is dramatic, fun, interesting and action-packed.

Whenever I watch a Tarantino film, I’m always blown away by the performances he gets from his actors. Often he cast already established actors who have already proven to be incredible or he casts actors who haven’t been seen in some times and yet, somehow, he is able to get these actors to push past their boundaries and give performances unlike anything they have ever done.  I'm assuming that threats of violence or promises of candy is how he gets his actors to literally act the fuck out of their roles. This film doesn’t disappoint in that measure.

Or maybe Tarantino uses alcohol...it's probably alcohol.

Jaime Foxx and Christoph Waltz—both incredible actors (seriously, Waltz needs more roles because he’s awesome)—are great together and really play off each other extremely well. Foxx, an actor I use to be luke warm to but have started to really dig, is just captivating to watch as you see him evolve from a quiet, uncertain man just freed from his chains that have defined his existence to a confident man ready to slam some bullets into the skulls of anyone dumb enough to get in the way of his destiny.

Smoking and wearing his sunglasses at night?!?  There is no end to his

Waltz is right there with Foxx giving the performance of a lifetime as he really makes Dr. King a charismatic and endearing character that’s just plain a joy to watch. It’s really a testament to the man’s skills as he played a thoroughly evil character that you loved to despise but couldn’t stop watching in Inglourious Basterds and then, going into this film, he’s the exact opposite and comes off as an eccentric and caring bounty hunter that is excellent to watch. When you combine these two men together and form Voltron, they create a sort of on-screen crack that is dangerously addicting to watch to the point I wanted these men to get their own series or at least have several sequels that involved their adventures…of course, if you’ve seen the movie, you know that can’t happen.

And what a majestic beard he has in it.

A performance that, somehow, is better than the one he
gave in Critters 3.
 The great performances don’t stop at our two heroes as Quentin delivers to us a fantastic villain that’s smarmy and suave but, when the clouds come rolling in to block out the sun, he unleashes the devil. Leonardo DiCaprio is just plain hypnotic as the plantation owner Calvin Candie. It’s a role I’ve never seen DiCaprio ever play and he just takes the character and creates something that you absolutely loathe with your entire being as he is just despicably racist.  However, you can’t take your eyes off him as he is able to run the fine line of being a Southern gentleman who can amuse the audience and then become a frighteningly dangerous and diluted man. It was actually a big surprise to me when I learned that he wasn't nominated for best supporting actor with this film.

Here he is about to do a magic show or tarot card reading...I can't tell which.

"This hood smells like cat turds..."
 Tarantino fills the rest of the cast with great stars left and right. Even though most of them have minor appearances (like Jonah Hill’s cameo) or they are just bit players in the overall story (like Don Johnson as a extremely racist plantation owner and possible regional Colonel Sanders impersonator available for restaurant openings and/or birthdays) everyone who graces this story really feels like a part of the action and the set—all the while maintaining Tarantino’s slightly over-the-top feel.

"Let's make this quick, I'm due in the next county to cut the ribbon on a
new KFC."

I might as well mention it now because you can’t talk about a Tarantino film without mentioning dialogue but the N-bomb has a huge place in this film—to the point it bothered a lot of people. The word nig—ah, my white guilt prevents me from being able to say it—the N-bomb has quite the presence in the film. One could easily argue that it was liberally sprinkled into the lines in order to be shocking and edgy but Tarantino is not a morning show DJ who will just throw out naughty words to offend the censors in order to get listeners in and use their audience’s love of low-brow humor to help them ignore the lack of content they are listening to.  I believe that the use of this word (I still can't utter it) has a place in the story and the narrative as Django.

"I'm not racist, I own plenty of black people.  I can't wait till some shitty country
artist makes a bad song called 'Accidentally Racist' so this whole slavery thing can
finally be forgotten and forgiven."

Sadly, this word, as loathsome and hateful as it is, has its roots in our nation’s history. It was used to keep an entire race down and dehumanize them in the eyes of the slave owners and the use of the word…I still can’t say it…feels less gratuitous and more of a sign of the times that's taking place in the film. When you factor in the story and how it is a tale of a slave getting his shackles cast off and trying to be a free man, the use of the word seems more like it is just another barrier for him to kick down. Like the ignorant white men of the film feel that before they try to put the uppity slave down with bullets, they are going to put him down with labels. So the 110 times the word “nigger” is used feels almost necessary for Django’s journey of becoming a free man and seeking his revenge on those who have wronged him. It really felt like just another example of how Tarantino crafts dialogue that is more than just men discussing the hidden meanings of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and shows that even the use of a single word (a word with a lot of power and a lot of terrible history behind it) can be more than just two syllables.

I just hope this film doesn't make some white people think it's okay to just
use that word whenever they want.  White people like this first incarnation of Fox News viewers.

Finally, this movie really satisfies the action itch one craves from a Tarantino film. The man is a genius behind the camera and constructs some amazing sequences that involve long single takes and scene composition that tells more than what it is showing but he’s also really good at bringing you strangely satisfying, almost satiric violence. This film is no exception as from the minute Dr. King purchases Django’s freedom to the balls-out gun battle at the end, the blood and guts fly, fling and splatter all over the place. It’s easy to boil down all of Tarantino’s symbolism to just great action sequences but these shoot outs, with all their brain-blowing action, are just the icing on a really great cake. A cake filled with a rich story, a filling of terrific lines and visuals and even little bits of strawberries (in this case, the strawberries are a metaphor for strawberries).

Schultz is just upset because he was going to wear the same thing.

It seems Tarantino's ego is stored in his stomach.
 Django Unchained is just another notch in the belt of a man who, for all intensive purposes, doesn’t need more to brag about. But, like I said, I don’t mind Tarantino’s ego because his talent completely warrants it. Like all his previous films, Tarantino started with a great story, added non-stop tremendous performances and utilized dynamic camera work that kept the action intense, the drama flowing and the plot moving. This film is just another example of how Tarantino really understands how films are meant to be experienced as he crafted a movie with such an involving story, great dialogue and countless scenes of epic interactions between the characters that the nearly three hour running length seems to fly by like no time had passed and left me wanting to see more of Django’s adventures.