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Movie Ratings and Reviews

Avengers: Age of Ultron

It's like going inside the mind of a five-year-old with ADHD.


Reese Witherspoon turns in a good performance, but Wild's poor dialogue and overabundance of sentimentality prevent it from being truly great.


An absolute triumph of restrained, deeply personal filmmaking.

American Sniper

Often compelling but dramatically lacking. American Sniper stumbles through the pitfalls of most modern war movies, including poor dialogue, cliched storytelling, and gung-ho patriotism, but is still able to mildly succeed, mostly due to Bradley Cooper's performance.

Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run(1999)

I wish I'd seen this before making my 100 favorite films list... full review soon (and I mean it this time).


Thoughtful, powerful, and extraordinarily acted. Birdman is one of the best films of the year, a marvelous achievement from every possible standpoint. Full review soon.

The Theory of Everything

A frustratingly bland drama that ignores its subjects greatest accomplishments and turns his fascinating life story into sappy treacle.

The Imitation Game

It starts out strong, but The Imitation Game quickly devolves into cliched melodrama and a forced message that it goes out of its way to beat the audience over their heads with.

The Babadook
The Babadook(2014)

Scary, inventive, and not without a considerable amount of depth. The Babdook is one of the best horror films of recent memory.

Cold in July
Cold in July(2014)

Cold in July is well-acted and reasonably tense, but it constantly shifts its focus, and it's not particularly original.

Mr. Turner
Mr. Turner(2014)

Two and a half hours of watching a very ugly, unpleasant person do boring things. Shockingly, brutally slow, insufferably full of itself, and overall one of the worst films of the year.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

A putrid helping of bad CGI and piss-poor plotting. One of the ugliest films ever made.

St. Vincent
St. Vincent(2014)

Consistently funny, but towards the end its sentimentality gets the better of it.

Inherent Vice

Haphazard, scattershot, and poorly plotted. Inherent Vice is another disappointment from Paul Thomas Anderson, and despite a rare compelling performance from Joaquin Phoenix, the film fails miserably. Full review soon.


2014's Annie opens with a little camera walk through New York City, during which at one point, a group of street performers sing the words "I'm sure you're gonna like it." I feel as if this was put in post-production, because after the film was put together, it must have become apparent that it would need to beg its audience to like it right from the get-go. It's difficult to say that a film is totally, fully, objectively bad. But the worst kind of film is the kind that rides on nostalgia and cloying sentimentality in order to win its audience over. Films like this have no artistic merit of their own-- they simply manipulate viewers by associating themselves with certain parts of their childhood memories or personal biases. These kinds of movies are some of the worst ever made, not because they're insufferable to those who don't associate them with positive memories-- but because they take no effort or craft to create.

Annie is one such film. In this 2014 take on the classic musical, nothing is sacred and essentially every scene is forcefully contrived to reap as much phoney nostalgia from the proceedings as possible. The film is unsuccessful on this front, however, because the result absolutely butchers the story, making me think that people would buy elephant shit if it had the word 'Annie' slapped across it. "Oh, it makes me think of when I was in a grade school production of Annie! Doesn't it smell wonderful?" It doesn't matter how poor the adaptation is at this point-- simply by the virtue of the source material, this film has for some reason received a pass. Well... the buck stops here.

This film is, in a word, embarrassing. It's embarrassing to watch, and it's even more embarrassing for the actors who had their good names besmirched by it. Quvenzhane Wallis, who was the youngest actress ever to be nominated for an Academy Award back in 2013, is reduced to a gapingly obvious caricature with a blank smile, skipping her way from scene to scene and drowning the film in a sea of cliches and witless one-liners. Jaime Foxx is forced to sing a solo in a helicopter, and it's truly painful. He stares blankly at the camera, grinning soullessly, but in his eyes you can see that he's sharing your embarrassment and horror (remember, because of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this is only the second-worst film he's been in this year). But even these two dreadful performances can't lay claim to being the worst in the movie, as Cameron Diaz takes that prize hands-down. She is loud, obnoxious, and flailingly exaggerated in this movie, flopping around and basically doing everything to hold the audience's attention short of chewing the furniture. In one scene, she tells Annie "Take it down a thousand, nobody's gonna believe that."If only someone had given her that advice on-set.

Drizzled over this putrid, gag-inducing display of overacting is an Annie message updated for the 21st century-- specifically, one of materialism and stereotypes. Quetzalcoatl Wallis was undoubtedly cast because a black Annie would be just different enough to set the film apart from the myriad of previous adaptations, and would also send a politically correct message that guilty white Hollywood liberals would slurp up eagerly. Of course, making the poor orphan girl black was too on-the-nose, so Foxx was cast as the rich and powerful Daddy Warbucks to even things out. But his character is a nasty, rude, and completely unsympathetic douchenozzle for the entire film, using Annie as a campaign tool for his run for mayor and bribing her with the promise of toys and gadgets. The film essentially gives us a black Mitt Romney, makes him take advantage of an orphan girl's misfortune, and asks us to be sympathetic towards him. If the goal here was to give him a character transformation, it doesn't happen. At the film's end, he's still a rich, impersonal bastard, and even if he did pull Annie away from a car, he'd still make a terrible mayor.

The songs are laughably bad-- half of them sound more like Toys 'R Us jingles than musical pieces in an actual film. "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" is especially reprehensible, but there's no point in singling out specific songs when all of them are so cringeworthy. Eyjafjallajökull Wallis might have a good singing voice, but it's difficult to tell when she's singing such terrible songs, and Jaime Foxx's painted-on smile doesn't help matters. Really, musicals overall aren't that good, simply because people don't actually burst out into choreographed song and dance randomly in real life. But some find a way to make it work, and Annie doesn't. The musical numbers are shoehorned into this film very awkwardly, screwing up both the tone and the pacing of the story. Not a single moment rings true, emotionally or otherwise, and what we're left with is a dead, bloated film full of vapid dialogue, soulless acting, and a message smothered in politically correct bullshit that comes at the expense of the story it's trying to tell. What a debacle.

Final Score for Annie: Let's be generous and give this a big fat 1/10 stars. Not often is is that a film comes along completely devoid of any redeeming value, but I have to hand it to Annie, because it comes as close as any film I've ever seen. I can't imagine what it would take for someone to actually enjoy this film, but I think it would require several frontal lobotomies, a few sessions of electroshock therapy, and a severe case of down syndrome (looking at you, Jed). For everyone who does not fit this description, stay away. Those who are true fans of the original Annie will probably be driven to the brink of tears by this film, but for all the wrong reasons-- it takes a massive dump upon one of the most famous musicals in American history. Truly one of the worst films of the year, if not one of the worst ever made.

Big Eyes
Big Eyes(2014)

When one thinks Tim Burton, one usually thinks of quirky, gothic films starring Johnny Depp as a white-faced loner in some supernatural world, living with his zombie dog and pining over Helena Bonham Carter. In the past, Burton's films have garnered a reputation for being shallow and repetitious. I say "in the past" because with 2014's Big Eyes, Burton has revealed himself to be a director capable of far more than anyone would have previously guessed. Perhaps it's the fact that this film is based on a true story that led him to direct with such nuance and restraint, but whatever the cause, we should all welcome this change of pace with open arms. It's not likely that we'll see anything like it again.

Big Eyes stars Amy Adams as Margaret Keane, who left her first husband in the 1950's and moved to San Francisco, bringing with her only her daughter Jane and her portfolio of art. In a twisty turn of events, she meets a fellow painter named Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) and falls in love, marrying him shortly after. The two rent some space in a local bar to display their work, and while Walter's efforts are dismissed, Margaret's paintings of small children with massive, soulful eyes garner some attention. Yet only one of them is actually capable of selling art, so while Margaret stays home and paints, Walter goes out pushing the art and taking credit for her work.

Adams is phenomenal as Margaret, and while she may seem like a timid, meek character at times, she has a willpower to her, as well as an animalistic attachment to her daughter and to her paintings that isn't hard to relate to. She's a perfectly capable actress when given the right role (let's just forget about Lois Lane, shall we?), and is clearly very invested in her performance here. Waltz, however, has received criticism for his portrayal of Walter, and has been called "over-the-top" and "silly." However, a quick look into the actual story reveals that the real-life Walter Keane actually did act like this, and even cross-examined himself in court, just as Waltz does in the film. In fact, Burton and Waltz said that they had to actually tone down Keane's mannerisms and eccentricities, and in reality he was even more affected than Waltz portrayed him as. Another example of how tame this film is compared to Burton's other films.

The film's best moments come while the Big Eyes movement is taking off, and Walter slowly begins to make his transformation from a mild-mannered painter to a manipulative, nasty creep. Different audience members will begin to hate him at different times (I personally started hating him as soon as he took credit for Margaret's work, no matter how innocuous it was at first), but when he really starts to show his true colors, Waltz takes off on a wild metamorphosis that is both utterly captivating and gleefully despicable. Even when they scream at each other, Adams and he have excellent screen chemistry, and none of it ever feels gratuitous (the mark of both good acting and good writing).

But what makes Big Eyes so powerful is the morality of it. At the end of the day, it doesn't even matter whether Margaret's paintings were good or not-- the fact that Walter took credit for her work is wrong, and even if he hadn't completed his evolution into the turd he soon became, his actions were still reprehensible. Any artist, no matter what they do, deserves to receive the credit and criticism that comes with their work, and denying them that is a tremendous injustice. When Margaret explains why she paints the eyes so large, her words come straight from her heart-- yet soon enough, she is forced to watch Walter go on talk shows promoting her works as his own, interpreting them as he pleases and butchering his explanations. The pain she must have felt is nothing short of heartbreaking.

Final Score for Big Eyes: 8/10 stars. This is far and away Tim Burton's best film, and something I would never have expected from him. The performances are pitch-perfect, the writing is excellent, and (most importantly) the story is worth telling. I'm not afraid to say that I unabashedly love this film for its message, its endlessly witty dialogue, and, yes, its colorful and inventive direction. Overall a total gem of a film, and one of the best of 2014.

The Interview

When I was in middle school, I had a friend named Jay. Jay was Korean, and his family had been split apart by the war in 1950, not having been reunited since. Jay's parents brought him to America a few years back (albeit only for two years), yet all the time I knew him, he never once volunteered any information of his homeland. When we did bring it up, he either shook off the issue or simply tried to change the subject. He moved away before we graduated, and I never did get to know him very well. Still, it's not likely that I'll forget his face whenever North Korea was mentioned-- his expression was one of both anger and sympathy.

The Interview, the latest film from the Seth Rogen/James Franco dynamic duo, has garnered a lot of attention for its subject matter, that subject matter being North Korean dictator-for-life (aka dictator-until-his-untimely-death-by-diabetes) Kim Jong Un, as well as his ramshackle nation of starving people. Over the last few weeks, North Korean hackers (strange, I didn't even know they had computers) have hacked into Sony's systems in order to prevent the film from being released. However, after much deliberation, Sony has finally decided to release the movie-- because this is America, dammit, and we're not going to let some egomaniacal tub of lard tell us we can't watch our raunchy comedies.

Watching this film, it quickly becomes apparent just how thin-skinned the North Korean regime is. This film is completely silly. Trying to silence this movie is like cutting out a clown's tongue-- it just shows that you're afraid of what the clown might say. But if Dear Leader won't have a sense of humor about this, the rest of us can, because The Interview is (thankfully) hilarious. Although there's a good amount of bodily function humor, a lot of the jokes are uncommonly smart, and especially towards the end the film cuts to the quick of what makes the Kim regime so infuriating (and unreasonably amusing). It may not quite be up to the same standard, but in many ways this film imitates The Great Dictator, and due to its unintended international repercussions, it may be remembered well in the annals of film history.

The plot is, simply put, perfection: James Franco plays a flamboyant TV personality, and Seth Rogen plays his producer. The two are content with reporting on Miley Cyrus nip-slips and (I quote) "Matthew McConaughey fucking a goat" for some time, but when they find out that Kim Jong Un is a fan of their show, they decide they absolutely must interview him. However, the CIA decides that this would be an excellent opportunity to kill the dictator, and task Franco and Rogen with the job. Rogen is, as always, great in this movie, but Franco has received some criticism for his performance, as he often comes off as too affected. However, it's my belief that this was intentional, and his character is just a send-up of arrogant TV personalities (cough cough, Jimmy Kimmel, cough, Conan O'Brien, cough). Assuming this is the case, he plays the part exceptionally well.

But for all of its silliness, The Interview gets one thing very right. At its core, this film is a cathartic demonstration of how to vent one's anger in a constructive and, yes, artistic manner. Much like watching the slave owners of Django Unchained get their brains blown out, viewing this movie will have most audience members pumping their fists, either internally or externally. When Franco finally sits down to interview Kim, he asks him about his people, and Kim responds by saying how wonderful they are. Franco then says "So why don't you feed them?" In moments like this, I can forget a film's shortcomings and simply focus in on the fact that this movie definitely made me feel something. I was absolutely ecstatic to see that pinko commie worm squirm in his chair (and then defecate himself... but hey, these are the jokes).

Final Score for The Interview: Well, from an objective standpoint, this film is a 7/10, but it is my patriotic duty to award it the official DIEGO TUTWEILLER 10/10: FILM MOST LIKELY TO START WORLD WAR THREE SEAL OF APPROVAL!!! Fuck you, Kim Jong Un! If your worthless group of sub-moronic "hackers" can find The Interview on Sony's computers, I'm sure you can find this review of said film on Rotten Tomatoes. So, from Diego Tutweiller and all the Trollfighters, I heartily encourage you to take those miserable excuses for nuclear missiles you have decaying all over your shithole of a country, and shove them straight up your pasty, hairless asshole. Fuck you! 'Murika, bitch! Peace.


Great acting can come from the unlikeliest places-- for instance, who would have thought that two of the best performances of 2014 would be attributed to the guy who played the idiot from Dinner for Schmucks and the guy from 21 Jump Street? It's been said before that comedic actors can pull off dramatic roles very well (even better than dramatic actors sometimes), as it's a lot harder to make someone truly laugh than to make someone care about a character. Well, Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum may just have proven that hypothesis with Foxcatcher, a bare-bones movie that serves mainly as a vessel for their two powerhouse performances.

Foxcatcher is based on the true story of John du Pont (Carrell), the philatelist, philanthropist, and sociopath who used his family's bottomless well of money to start a professional wrestling team on his farm, Foxcatcher Farms. His first recruit is Mark Schultz (Tatum), who quickly becomes his golden boy and goes on to win the small organization considerable glory. However, things get bad quickly on Team Foxcatcher, as du Pont becomes fed up with Mark and brings in his brother Dave. The tension between these three characters comes to a head in one of the most shocking ways possible-- assuming you haven't already heard the story.

That's part of the problem with this film. With over a two-hour runtime, this is a slow-boiling movie that boils considerably slower than others of its ilk. However, Foxcatcher doesn't have an excuse, as the majority of audience members already know the outcome of the events. Although there is still an overarching feeling of dread that permeates nearly every scene, the entire affair comes off feeling rather inevitable. When the finale does finally come around, it's more of a relief than a shock. To put it bluntly, the film is monotonously slow-- scenes are stretched out like silly putty as director Bennett Miller milks every moment for its full worth. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the film could have benefitted greatly from a large chunk of time being shaved off. There aren't even individual scenes that seem unnecessary, as practically every scene has some sort of development for the story or the characters, but there are always gaping pauses between lines of dialogue even at the most innocuous moments. This is to emphasize two things-- du Pont's creepiness and the slowness of Schultz's wit, but it's often hard to believe that people would talk like this in day-to-day life. "Would.... you... like...... some... chicken?" *Ten seconds elapse* "No... thank... you..."

Carrell and Tatum, however, are phenomenal, and they make almost every lingering silence worth it. Part of the power of these performances is rooted in what we expect of the actors-- seeing Michael Scott donning prosthetics and transforming into a paranoid schizophrenic is certainly one of the highlights of 2014. The effectiveness of this is greatly due to the actor's general watchability. Carrell has comedic timing down perfectly, so it would stand to reason that his dramatic timing would be pitch-perfect as well. And it's true. He doesn't miss a beat throughout this whole film, and can thoroughly disturb simply by staring at the camera. His relationship with Tatum is easily the creepiest part of the movie, and there's an underlying subtext to every conversation they have. As he gets more and more roped in by du Pont's wealth and power, Schultz slowly turns into his friend (the only friend he has). And there's nothing more dangerous than being a sociopath's only friend.

Foxcatcher is well-acted, well-directed, and well-written. Yet somehow, it lacks a drive to the story to keep one's attention invested. It's still a good film, of course-- but it'll always be remembered as a shadow of the greatness that could have been. Somewhere along the way, the goal of effectively telling this story became diluted in favor of runtime padding, and the final product isn't nearly as strong as it should have been. Although Tatum and Carrell are great (and Mark Ruffalo delivers a reserved yet excellent supporting performance as Dave Schultz, Mark's older brother), overall the movie never quite coheres. The characters just drift through the ethereal environment created in the film, bouncing from scene to scene and generally not bringing any sense of urgency to the proceedings. The acting is spectacular. What a shame that the movie around it isn't.

Final Score for Foxcatcher: 6/10 stars. With any other leads, I might have straight-up hated this film, but Tatum and Carrell make it work, and the atmosphere of the movie is just haunting enough to keep things interesting. Although the film could definitely have been done a lot better, this is what we'll have to settle for now (as I doubt we'll see a retelling of this story again soon), and it thankfully does the story at least some justice. Overall, some of Foxcatcher is great, and none of it is truly terrible. But its mediocrity and dragging inevitability make it difficult to form an emotional connection with this ploddingly paced film.

The Purge: Anarchy

Despite the fact that I never saw the original Purge, I saw The Purge: Anarchy, under the assumption that I needed no prior knowledge of the franchise to see the second installment, as it would undoubtedly be a cash-grab sequel that featured none of the original cast and re-explained the premise for new audience members who were dragged to see it (like myself). Well, unsurprisingly, I pretty much nailed that. The Purge: Anarchy is a dangerous kind of film, in that it's not just stupid, but it also has the gall to think it's smart. It's part of a new breed of horror/thrillers that attempt to offer up some kind of social commentary, but any thought-provoking aspects they may have had end up playing second fiddle to cheap thrills and lazy plotting.

The Purge is set in the not-too-distant-future, when the American government has set aside twelve hours of the year for people to commit practically any crimes they want. This practice was started to get rid of crime during the rest of the year... because as we all know, the best way to combat crime is anarchy. While the first film centered around a group of hoodlums assaulting Ethan Hawke in his affluent upper-middle-class home, this sequel takes place in the streets while the Purge is in effect, and follows a tight group of characters composed of Walking Dead rejects as they try to make it through the night. Together, they are an inseparable team: Tough guy, tough girl, whiny guy, quiet girl, and boring girl.

Truthfully though, it's wrong to blame the actors for this film. Frank Grillo actually does an excellent job (even if his character is a patchwork of every action movie cliche in the book), and the rest of the cast does what they can with what they're given. However, what they're given isn't much. The script of this film reads like the ramblings of a conspiracy theorist. One minute, the characters are interacting semi-normally, but with just a few lines of dialogue, they can instantly spiral into forced, politically charged diatribes that make no sense in the context of the film. The Purge is clearly very angry about something in American politics, and it's very loud about its anger, but it seems to have absolutely no idea what it's talking about. The writers of this film clearly thought that any random, hyper-nationalistic dystopian future would pass for social commentary, but they thought wrong. This movie is as empty-headed as it gets.

Yet even when The Purge isn't pushing its weird, confused agenda, it makes no sense. In scene after scene, characters make decisions that go completely against both their established personalities and the way that a normal human would act in such a situation. There is, for instance, a scene where the characters hide out at the apartment of one of their friends, where the residents are drinking wine and having a laugh, all while people are being massacred in the streets. Suddenly, one of these characters whips out a gun and starts shooting people. What is the reason for this sudden outbreak of violence? "I read your emails! I know what you've been doing!" This character fascinates me-- she must have been mulling over this decision all night while wining and dining, and at some point during the socializing thought to herself "Yep, you know what, I think I'll kill some people."

Overall, the best I can say for The Purge: Anarchy is that it's not entirely unwatchable. Granted, that's setting the bar very low, but there are certainly a few moments in this film that legitimately put the audience on edge, or bring in some kind of original ideas. But as soon as the film starts getting interesting, either the bad dialogue or the inane plotting shows up to neuter any promise it might have shown. It's not 'controversial' to make a film that commentates on the wealth gap in America. Making a film in which rich people are evil and are portrayed as violent, soulless plutocrats who would murder the poor at a moment's notice is not daring in any way. It panders to a lower common denominator of thinking, and relies purely on stereotypes in order to get its message across.

Final Score for The Purge: Anarchy: 2/10 stars. The film isn't jaw-droppingly bad, but it comes close, and if you don't have any interest in the political or social commentary (which there isn't much of anyway), there's no point in seeing it. After all, if you take away those aspects of it, what you're left with is a film that basically gives itself an excuse to show graphic, bloody decapitations of ordinary civilians in an urban setting. And that's really the core reason for The Purge's social commentary-- it's not there to make us think. It's simply there to give some kind of justification for being entertained by boring characters getting their heads blown off. Because if it was just mindless entertainment, then taking any pleasure in watching it would be considered sick. But since it's social commentary, hey! Anything goes!

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Tommy Wiseau and Michael Bay team up to direct this adaptation of Robin Hood, while Kevin Costner gives a performance with all the subtlety and nuance of a bag of bricks.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Let's overlook the obvious: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is a blatant cash grab sucking dry the wallets and purses of easily manipulated teenage moviegoers. It is another in a long line of films that think being "dark" or "bleak" can act as substitutes for actual depth. It is lazily made, boring, and (as most young adult novel adaptations that bring to life the first half of the last book are) almost entirely uneventful. Even ignoring these major tresspasses against intelligent filmmaking, this movie is terrible. Which is really saying something, as the bar for young adult novel adaptations was already set astronomically low by Divergent, the Twilight movies, and most recently, The Maze Runner. It's time to give up on expecting actual artistic craftsmanship, good acting, or even passable scriptwriting from these kinds of films. They simply are what they are. And what they are is about as close to literal fecal matter as you can get before you start throwing heaps of manure at the audience.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay" is a 390-page book that, for marketing purposes, was split into two films for its silver screen treatment. However, what the geniuses at Lionsgate failed to realize is that stories follow a certain arc-- even the third installment in a franchise has a buildup, a climax, and a short aftermath. There is no climax halfway through the novel "Mockingjay," so therefore one would assume that there is no climax in this movie either. Well, it just so happens that one would assume correctly. This film is essentially a patchwork of unimportant scenes that do nothing to further the plot of the franchise, with an unsatisfying sequel-bait ending that will undoubtedly compel millions to waste their money on Part Two next year. It's simply impossible to craft an entire movie around one half of one third of a story, but studio heads will milk this franchise for everything it's worth or die trying.

Aside from the fact that this film is a soulless and bitterly cynical display of greed and disrespect for its audience, it has absolutely no redeeming qualities to elevate it above its already bad reputation. Jennifer Lawrence has proven herself a passable actress in several other films, but she's not a miracle worker, and needs to be given at least a mediocre script in order to shine. The script for Mockingjay does not fit this bill, and over the course of the movie, she spouts off every imaginable action movie cliche in the book. It also doesn't help that her big obstacle to overcome for the first half of the movie is her inability to act for a propaganda video, leading to a scene in which Woody Harrelson attempts to give her acting lessons. Good thing, too-- she needs them.

The rest of the cast works well together, but every character, including Lawrence's, is woefully underdeveloped. The film's villain, President Snow, is played by Donald Sutherland, who clearly relishes in his role as a despotic tyrant attempting to maintain control of his empire by crushing Lawrence's rebellion. However, even his gleeful maniacism gets old fast, as it becomes readily apparent that the character will never be fleshed out enough to warrant actual hatred. He's nothing more than a face on a screen for most of his appearances in the movie. Woody Harrelson and Philip Seymour Hoffman are typically strong, but are very underused, appearing in few scenes and speaking even less. The real turkey in Mockingjay is Julianne Moore as the boring and uncharismatic leader of the rebellion, who spouts such memorable lines as "Today, we free the tributes... tomorrow, Panem!" before halfheartedly thrusting her fist skyward in a feeble attempt to show some enthusiasm. Perhaps the character was supposed to be a bland, uncaptivating wimp, and her ineptitude will play a crucial role in the next (and mercifully, final) installment. But we'll have to wait another year before we find out.

Things happen in this film, yes-- it's easy to be entertained by it, in fact. A dam blows up, people drop out of trees and beat one another senseless, and altogether there are a good number of explosions, monologues, and witless diatribes to maintain some level of suspense. Yet once it ends, you can't help but feeling somewhat robbed. This film's events could be summed up in just a few sentences, which begs the obvious question: What were those two hours even for, anyway? The answer is simple. They were padding. That's what this entire movie is, really-- two hours of filler to kill time before the real event rolls around next year. Characters move around from point A to point B to point C, but by the end of the movie, they're back where they started, nothing has changed, and you've wasted eight dollars and two hours of your life on it.

Final Score for CockingGay: 2/10 stars. Hopefully the finale will wrap this franchise up into a neat little bundle, but with a penultimate installment as shoddy as this one, that seems very unlikely. The Hunger Games franchise fixed most of its problems with Catching Fire, but now it's found entirely new ways to disappoint. Shaky cam has been replaced by boring visuals, contrived exposition has been replaced by groan-inducing cliches, and teens killing each other has been replaced by adults killing each other. It's long, it's exhausting, and nothing actually happens in it-- in other words, it's just what you'd expect from a film adaptation of the first half of a young adult novel.

If I Stay
If I Stay(2014)

There's a strange trend going around right now that needs addressing: Why are teen movies romanticizing the worst and most uncomfortable aspects of life? Twilight was basically an abusive relationship between an easily manipulated girl and her creepy stalker boyfriend, but it was passed off to audiences as "beautiful teen love." It was the same in The Lovely Bones, The Host, and now If I Stay, a movie about a girl who becomes comatose after her family dies, and is then forced to choose between willfully dying and not going towards the light. Excellent romantic material right here, to be sure. Some of the blame lands on the writers, to be sure, but they wouldn't pump out such drivel if they didn't have an audience.

I'm going to be honest. I had absolutely no hope that this film was going to be any good, and it met every single one of my negative expectations. Still, I'm going to do my best to write this review without going completely off the rails. So here we go: If I Stay is a 2014 film directed by R.J. Cutler (lol) and starring Chloe Grace-Moretz as Mia, a teenage girl trying to get into Julliard while also doing her best to hold onto her boyfriend. This film follows two parallel stories-- Mia's life before her car accident, and her out-of-body experience in the hospital during the aftermath. With these basic facts, this movie is already painfully close to the abomination known as The Lovely Bones, in which a young girl is murdered by a psychopath and then goes off to an overly-rendered CGI heaven. If I Stay isn't quite as grating. But it's still damn awful.

Grace-Moretz is not an actress. This has become painfully apparent after her performances in numerous high-profile roles, from Martin Scorsese films to comic book movies. However, it's not for lack of trying, and she truly gives it her all in If I Stay. Sadly, that's not good enough, and she comes across as another generically enthusiastic romantic lead in a teen movie. Mia leads a ridiculously charmed life, so when the car accident happens, it causes a drastic tonal shift that makes the film's two halves clash awkwardly with one another. Besides, the crash itself is just a plot device to make us feel bad for Mia. There was no way to sympathize with her beforehand ("How sad, this privileged white girl has to choose between her handsome and witty boyfriend and her prodigious career as a cellist! Oh, the humanity!"), so the movie was constructed around a completely bogus plot contrivance in order to give her some actual hardships to overcome. Sorry, I'm not going to buy into it.

The film also relies heavily on the question of whether or not Mia will fight hard enough to live, which makes her character even less relatable. If this film were about a child in Syria who was in critical condition in a hospital being shelled by rebel forces, I'd at least be able to see a plausible reason for the character to not want to go on living. But Moretz's character has everything going for her, and the fact that she doesn't appreciate that makes her very cold to audiences. There is no human touch to this character, and since the entire movie is built around her, there's no way to make a connection with the film in general. The supporting performances are even blander and more unmoving than hers, and it often feels as if the film was cast with the understudies from other melodramatic young adult movies. Overall there's very little effort put into this film.

There are far more flaws outside the acting, however. This is not a very cohesively made movie, and sometimes gives the impression that two different scripts were thrown together to create it, resulting in this hamfisted and cheesy mess. It's also a two-hour movie that could easily have been shaved down to the length of a short film, if anyone involved in its creation cared about pacing. The final product is long and drawn out, with several scenes that could have been cut and others still that could have been edited heavily. There are repetitive scenes of Mia and her one-dimensional boyfriend going on dates, and then her inevitably complaining about how she "doesn't belong" or "hasn't found her people." Things like these tell us nothing about the character other than the fact that she's a normal teenager. Which is really the main problem with movies like this: They seem to think that the only character development needed is "typical teenage girl," nothing more and nothing less. After all, it's worked in the past, and undemanding teen audiences have demonstrated overwhelmingly that they're willing to settle for flat, lazy characterization, as long as the character in question has the same vague complaints about life that they do.

Final Score for If I Stay: 2/10 stars. This is the kind of movie that's so exhaustingly bland that you can't help but hate it. Nothing about this trite and unconvincing exercise in supernatural romance is even remotely interesting or engaging. The acting is terrible, the direction is almost equally bad, and the entire affair reeks of manipulative trite. Even the story is formulaic-- Another teenager who's mildly dissatisfied with her life? What else is new? At least the movie understands how indescribably boring this is and attempts to take it in another direction, but it does so in the worst way possible; with an out-of-body experience. At this point, If I Stay works more as an unintentional comedy than anything else, and I wholeheartedly endorse a drinking game constructed around the number of times Mia yells "No!" But all dramatic elements of this film were lost on me, and will be similarly lost on any viewer who takes a moment to think before blindly swallowing this incomprehensible claptrap.


It's a difficult thing to craft a protagonist for a movie, and nearly every genre seems to have a trope it falls back to whenever the creators are lazy. In romances, it's the indecisive white girl. In action films, it's the boring protagonist who's often upstaged by his more eccentric partner. Whatever the case may be, it's almost universally agreed upon that the main character is the glue that holds the film together. So when a movie creates one so twisted that it almost dares you to continue watching, you sit up and take notice. Few films are capable of pulling this off, as some antiheroes rub the audience the wrong way (and no, Ocean's Eleven doesn't count-- a bunch of dapper casino robbers are not hard to root for). But some, like this year's Nightcrawler, can make you watch in sick fascination as you watch-- and root for-- a sociopath.

Nightcrawler opens with Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) stealing metal from various Los Angeles construction sites to sell to scrap yards. When he is confronted by a security guard, he immediately sizes him up, figures him out, and beats him over the head, knocking him out. Lou steals the man's watch and wears it for the rest of the film. The watch becomes an eerie reminder of the truth behind this character. He is nothing like what he seems. He puts on a persona of a well-adjusted, mild-mannered businessman, but there is something far darker to him that moves its way to the surface every once in a while. He is soulless and truly quite evil. People like him are a force of nature-- they can't be stopped, and that's made clear from the beginning of the film. There is no conceivable outcome in which Lou doesn't come out on top.

Almost all of the credit is owed to Gyllenhaal, who delivers the performance of a career and quite possibly the best of 2014. He lends an animalistic edge to Lou, and with his high cheekbones and bugged-out eyes, he gives him the looks to match as well. I'm convinced that Gyllenhaal didn't blink once throughout the entire filming of this movie. The supporting cast is good, and would be perfectly serviceable in any film, but with him driving the whole package, the movie is elevated far and above a typical thriller. The flip side, of course, is that Gyllenhaal completely overshadows his fellow cast members, but it's not as if they need to be great. He's in every scene of this movie, and the other characters exist only to be toyed with and manipulated by him.

There's a serious level of subversive social commentary here as well, on two major levels. After Gyllenhaal sees an amateur news crew filming a car crash on a freeway, he buys a camcorder and gets the plot rolling, using a police bandwidth radio to prey on other people's misfortunes (at the end of the film, he says "If you're seeing me, you're having the worst day of your life"). But as he becomes increasingly ambitious, he begins to alter crime scenes, even moving a body at a car crash to get a better shot, and later starts staging his own incidents. Director Dan Gilroy has a pretty sick sense of humor, I would assume, as this aspect of the film is almost a commentary on filmmaking itself. Lou learns the tricks and nuances of cinematography quickly (he's a fast learner), and clearly has an eye for the craft. There's a reason the movie was filmed in Los Angeles, after all.

And throughout Nightcrawler, Lou spouts mindless little platitudes about succeeding in business (which he picked up from an online course), a recurring theme that he uses not only to manipulate his lone employee, but to justify the deranged things he does. And Lou really is running his own little business-- granted, it's the business world equivalent of the Manson family, but it's still a tight little operation. The film pulls no punches in its brutal assessment of the competitiveness of business. A few years down the line, it?s not hard to imagine Lou giving a corporate seminar on how to succeed in the world of shock TV, or write a piece of pulp detailing how to run your own start-up company. It may be true that people are promoted to their level of incompetence, but they're also promoted to the level of their cunning. By this measurement, Lou would make a very good president.

Final Score for Nightcrawler: 9/10 stars. Far and away one of the best films of the year, this movie has a shockingly good central performance as well as provocative underlying themes. Its tagline reads "The closer you look, the darker it gets," which could not be more accurate. Watching this film is like drowning in an ocean of immorality, but somehow, it's impossible to not take some pleasure in watching this character navigate these waters like a shark. Nightcrawler is both innovative and beautifully twisted. Quite the viewing experience.


WARNING: Spoilers for Fury abound in this review. If you have not yet seen the film, I advise that you wait to read this until after having watched it.

There's been an obnoxious trend in movies recently in which filmmakers put all their effort into building up to a powerful climax and then forget to construct a third act for their films. Examples of this include The Dark Knight, The Maze Runner, Prisoners, and Fury. Up until the end, this World War II film chronicling the exploits of a tank crew is gritty, well-acted, and features heaping helpings of dark comedy. Sadly, the film's finale (which I will do my best not to spoil) ends up neutering the rest of the movie's message, and inundates any power it might have had with generic war movie cliches.

Fury is the story of a tank crew's push deep into the heart of Nazi Germany in the final months of the war in Europe. During battle, one of their members is killed, and they are forced to take on an inexperienced recruit who's fresh into the war and knows nothing of battle. The most frustrating part of this movie is its unoriginality-- we've got the tough guy leader, the newbie, the token minority, the religious guy, and the nutjob. It's the five staples of action movie characters. Hell, I've more characterization in a Call of Duty game. But the performances behind these stock characters are strong enough to keep the film afloat. Brad Pitt gives it his all as the group's unflappable commander, and Logan Lerman makes a convincing spineless wimp (no offense to Mr. Lerman, but hey, I call it how I see it). Even That Guy Who Used To Be Famous is able to contribute an uncharacteristically reserved and nuanced performance, despite his limited screen time. All in all, the cast is great, but the story they're serving is terrible.

Fury has been called "bold" and "original," but there's not much that happens in this movie that can't easily be predicted. Lerman comes across a young woman in a German town, and after a few minutes of passionate lovemaking, is forced to watch her die during an air raid. Scenes like this are precisely why war movies get so much flak. If you weren't sitting in the theater predicting the next plot development in your head, you must never have seen a war film before. At the end, the characters are killed off one by one, and in the most insufferably simplistic ways possible. A character will get shot, and then during the next thirty seconds, all sounds of gunfire and bullets are drowned out as we are given close-up shots of the remaining characters reacting to it. If this were a true story, and had to adhere to real events, this would be passable. But when the story can be taken in any direction the writers want, there's not much to excuse this laziness.

But Fury is definitely to be commended on one front. It showcases the brutality of World War II in a way that not many other movies have. When one thinks of wartime atrocities and horrors, one usually thinks of the Viet Cong's guerrilla warfare or the burning oil fields in Iraq and Kuwait. This is because World War II has been romanticized over the years, and we've forgotten that simply because it was for a good cause, it wasn't at all a good war. There are no good wars. In one scene, Lerman spies a young Hitler youth in the bushes off the road, and in that split second, he freezes up, giving the boy time to blow up the lead tank in their convoy. Pitt's character reprimands him, but it's clear from the get-go that there was no good choice he could have made. Fury isn't exceptionally bloody or graphic, but the psychological elements of it get into your head and stick with you. If nothing else, you'll walk out with images of it still in your mind-- not ones of mindless gore or violence, but perhaps ones of young women splayed out dead beneath a pile of rubble and a sobbing German soldier pleading for his life on his knees while a bullet is driven through his head.

Final Score for Fury: 6/10 stars. This film isn't particularly new or inventive, but it's the kind of movie that gets into your head and stays there whether you like it or not. I initially balked at its shoddy characterization and mediocre script as examples of its overall poor quality, but I'm not one to put down a film with a passable story when the main event is its story and the way that story makes the audience feel. There's a science and an art to brutality on the silver screen, and director David Ayer seems to have perfected it here. The film is not great, and doesn't quite reach the heights it aims for, but it's certainly worth a viewing for those who can stomach it.


WARNING: Major spoilers for Interstellar abound in this review. Cinema purists, look away.

In terms of most-anticipated films of the year, few movies have it over Interstellar, Christopher Nolan's first post-Batman directorial effort and a new showcase for last year's Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey. Bearing early comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey and other visual masterpieces in pre-screenings, this film looked as if it would be Nolan's magnum opus-- a cultural phenomenon that even his detractors could get behind. So when it began to receive mixed reviews, many were surprised. The truth, however, is that Interstellar is a very divisive film, and compelling arguments can be made for or against it. Yet despite some interesting themes, walking out of the theater I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I'd been duped. The film might be smarter than your average blockbuster, as most Nolan efforts can purport themselves to be, but that doesn't make it as intelligent as it thinks it is.

Interstellar takes place in the distant future, when food resources on Earth are running out and dust storms sweep the planet. To save our race, an engineer-turned-farmer (McConaughey) leaves his son and daughter behind to embark on an interstellar voyage to find humanity a new home. This premise is one of the most topical and resonant of the year, and addresses very real problems with the world. It doesn't even push a political agenda (like last year's Elysium did), and instead of featuring global warming as its natural disaster (which I must say I fully expected), it uses blight and famine. In fact, the only agenda it pushes is one that we can all get behind: A sense of wonderment with science and space.

The creators of this film must have had this feeling of awe when they dreamed up the visual splendor of the alien worlds that the characters visit, or the black hole they travel through to get there. Yet for a film that so clearly pays respect to the science of its story, it glosses over key elements on a regular basis. There are scenes where characters receive life-altering information (such as, "We think aliens put a black hole near Saturn for us to travel through") and brush it off as if it's nothing. This is mostly because it's hard to imagine what real people would do in these situations. But it's more than a little obnoxious that the movie doesn't even try to shoot for realistic human reactions. I for one have no idea what I'd do if I found a gravity distortion in my room and discovered that it was using morse code to send me a message. But I doubt I'd pack up and drive out to wherever it was telling me to go without batting an eye.

Matthew McConaughey, however, almost makes the whole affair worth it. In one scene, he loses decades of his life to time when a black hole causes him to age differently than his children back home. Upon returning to the ship, he watches his kids grow up before his eyes in one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching scenes of any film this year. And it doesn't hurt that McConaughey is a truly great actor-- He conveys entire characters simply with his tone of voice and his body posture. The rest of the cast doesn't quite drag him down, but they don't do much to bolster him up (aside from a minor Matt Damon role, there's not much else to see here acting-wise). Anne Hathaway does an excellent job playing Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and Michael Caine plays... well... Michael Caine.

Overall, the film is agreeably entertaining for the first two hours (if brutally slow), and manages to hold the audience's attention, at least for the most part. But with a nearly three-hour runtime, one expects the climax of the film to be particularly spectacular, and after the end of the second act, it becomes abundantly clear that the movie just doesn't know where to go next. It has the kinds of ideas that one would expect of a daydreaming third-grader, such as a planet with waves as big as mountains, or a robot that looks like the box a plasma screen TV would come in. Yet there is no coherent narrative or linear plot to it. Every ten minutes, there seems to be a new crisis or plot device of some kind, which makes it feel more like a serialized space adventure than a serious sci-fi movie. And what really drags it down is that, at its core, there is very little heart to this movie. Characters die and miss each other and cry about it, but the direction is strangely detached from them, and it doesn't help that their dialogue is exceptionally poor ("Love is the only thing that transcends time and space!"). Good lord, try saying that with a straight face.

The movie's aimless meandering comes to a head at its climax, which is somehow both confusing and predictable. Interstellar attempts to pull off a 2001: A Space Odyssey-style ending, in which McConaughey is sucked into a vortex and spat back out to another dimension. But Nolan missed a key part of 2001's greatness in this, and that was the ambiguousness of it. The ending of 2001, and its overarching themes in general, can be interpreted any number of ways, but Interstellar makes the mistake of continuing its exposition long after the wheels have come off. When a movie has its character quite literally strumming the strings of time, yet still tries to pretend as if it has some semblance of realism to it, it has crossed from the imaginative into the idiotic. And even then, why choose 2001 as the film to so obviously mimic? It's like making a film about an amusement park featuring cloned dinosaurs-- it needs something miraculous to be better than Jurassic Park, the film it will obviously be compared to. And sadly, Interstellar just didn't have that extra something to set it apart.

Final Score for Interstellar: 5/10 stars. This is a very divisive film, and in a way, I'm divided on it myself. It's got incredibly good elements to it, and is certainly one of the more imaginative science fiction ventures I've seen in recent years. But it's distinctly lacking in a human touch (not to mention a third act), and the emptiness of it comes to a head at its conclusion. Its visuals, its plot twists, and its characters are all curiously barren and lifeless in equal measure, much like the planets they explore. There is, simply put, very little joy to this movie. Its main goal is not to connect with its audience emotionally, or even to engage them intellectually-- it's simply to confuse them with a series of plot twists and acid trip visuals. Nolan fans will be amazed. I advise all others to stay away.

The Dark Knight

Let's be honest here: I dislike a good number of movies. I don't set out to hate them, though, which is a common misconception. Often times, I'll even rewatch the movie more times than I would ever have cared to, simply because I desperately want to know what it is that others found so captivating. Examples of these movies include The Matrix, Batman Begins, the Lord of the Rings films, Return of the Jedi, and this film: The Dark Knight. I have seen this movie about five times now, and despite the pleas of others to reanalyze my stance on the film, it only gets worse and worse with each viewing. I have no particular stigma against Christopher Nolan or the superhero genre-I can't just chalk this up to not being my kind of movie-the thing is, I simply haven't seen anything impressive from them. Perhaps the hype killed it for me. But my assessment is that the movie just isn't that good.

The Dark Knight is the second installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, and the one responsible for most of the franchise's critical and commercial success. Nearly every aspect of this movie receives praise, but there is one front on which it is truly deserving of its hype: Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. This villain of classic Batman lore is brought to sick, twisted life with Ledger's starmaking turn in this movie, and his performance is so captivating I was at times convinced that I was actually watching a truly great film. So what really annoys me about this movie is how much the rest of the cast lets him down. If there's anything worse than a film with no redeeming qualities, it's a film with one great quality that is forced to exist among a sea of utter shit. And sadly, Ledger's Joker fits this description perfectly.

Firstly, let's talk about Christian Bale. Bale is a very hit-or-miss actor most of the time-He's given great performances in American Psycho and The Fighter, but was utterly terrible in Batman Begins and The Prestige. In short, he's not any good as an actor, but when given the proper director and material to work with, he can be truly great. Unfortunately, this film gave him neither. Christopher Nolan may be a strong visual director, but he is utterly incapable of directing actors (you know all that stuff you love about The Joker? Most of that was Ledger's ideas). In Inception, he was given three strong actors (Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy) and failed to get strong performances or even interesting characters out of any of them. He focuses far more on symbolism and far-fetched ideas than actually crafting characters that the audience cares about, and his films suffer greatly because of it. As such, Bale is just plain boring as Bruce Wayne, making the character hard to connect with and very unapproachable. This movie could have been titled "The Joker" for all I care, because Ledger's scenes are the only ones anyone paid attention to (nobody cares about Batman beating up an Asian mob boss).

Meanwhile, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal are put in the awkward position of having to pretend to be in love, which they both fail at miserably. A lot of the blame here falls on the dialogue, giving Gyllenhaal flat dialogue taken straight from the Nicholas Sparks playbook, while Eckhart is given nothing to work with as a character whose defining feature is his wooden, straight-faced delivery of mindless platitudes. "The night is darkest just before the dawn." Man, I can't believe someone got paid to write this shit. It also doesn't help that his character, Harvey Dent, goes from goody-two-shoes pretty-boy to disfigured psychopath in just a few minutes of screen time. I'd have accepted this total character reversal at first, but he is then presented with a chance to kill the person who murdered his one true love, and doesn't kill him. I don't care if he's gone insane. I don't care if he's a "fallen white knight." This is a totally bullshit plot device that only serves to keep the Joker around for the movie's final act. The film was already in dangerous territory when it allowed its main villain to be more interesting than its hero, but with a pair of actors as uncharismatic as Eckhart and Gyllenhaal in a romantic pairing, it really begins to fall flat on its face.

This movie has a lot of missteps, sure. That's been established by now. And believe me, I'd love to pick apart every little failure that peppers this grotesquely misguided cinematic heap of garbage, including the part where Freeman accidentally reveals Batman's identity, the school bus-ex-machina, the device that allows you to see video from every cell phone in the world, and the general shittiness of the movie's overly complicated mob boss subplot. However, I want to emphasize something above all else: Christopher Nolan is a total hack. He has a strong sense of visual style, and his movies are usually filled with rich cinematography and dark themes, but he has not proven once that he has the slightest idea of how to direct actors, craft airtight stories, or approve scripts that are not riddled with clichés. To make matters worse, he has come to us in the era of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich, and by comparison, it's easy to say that he's "the next Stanley Kubrick" (an expression usually used by people who don't know who Stanley Kubrick is). However, until he proves himself capable of making a movie with relatable characters and inspired plotting and scripting, he's no better than the pyrotechnic-obsessed directors he so badly wants to distance himself from.

Final Score for The Dark Knight: 4/10 stars. I'd love to give this movie a higher score. Heath Ledger is godlike throughout its entire runtime. But he is let down by bloodless direction, a bored-looking Christian Bale, and a script that I can only assume was written by ingesting Scrabble tiles, shitting them out onto paper, and then arranging them into an ineptly plotted snorefest that serves only to please the most undemanding moviegoers. I can't deny this film its good parts, but dear lord, if it wasn't for Ledger we'd be looking at a 2/10 film here. Some call this movie "intelligent." What they really mean is that they feel smart because they saw a Christopher Nolan movie and understood it perfectly. Well, that's no big feat. There's nothing to understand here-Everything can be taken at face value, from the obvious foreshadowing to the heavy-handed messages about human nature, all narrated by pontificating main characters who exist only to further the plot through expository dialogue. "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Wow. So deep. After seeing this movie for what I can only hope will be the last time, my decision is clear: Save for one shining performance, this film is truly awful. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Gone Girl
Gone Girl(2014)

Those who know me will know that I am not one to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to a film or a director. Therefore, I hope this will carry some considerable weight: I predict that, much in the way that critics today refer to works as "Orwellian" or "Hitchcockian," the critics of the future will refer to movies and books as "Fincheresque." That's right-- our lord David Fincher has yet to disappoint (come on, it's not like Alien 3 was his fault) after Gone Girl, one of the best films of both Fincher's career and of 2014. This is not a movie that is shaken off easily. Even if you forget parts of the plot after leaving the theater, the aura it casts will stay with you for some time. Individual shots will stick in your mind for weeks to come. It's quite an experience; one that truly gets in your head.

Gone Girl is based off of the novel by Gillian Flynn (who also penned the screenplay), and is directed by God David Fincher. Fincher is known for past ventures into serial killer stories with films such as Zodiac, Se7en, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and certainly has a presence in his films. He is a director who truly knows how to get the most out of his actors, all while cramming his stories with suspense. Therefore, he's more than well-matched to this material. Gone Girl is the story of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) who comes home one morning to find that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has gone missing. However, as circumstantial evidence mounts against him, both the characters in the film and the audience watching it are forced to wonder whether or not Dunne murdered his wife.

The difficult thing about writing a review for a film like this is that it's impossible to break down what makes the film good without spoiling it. And this is a movie that, if spoiled, loses a lot of its edge. So really, all I can say about the plot is that it does exactly what a suspense thriller should do, and does it very well. The movie is not scary, not even particularly intense-- but it has an undeniable sinister quality to it that keeps the audience's adrenaline pumping consistently, even in the most innocuous scenes. However, at the end of the day, the film's big twist takes place about an hour into it, and if you didn't see it coming, well, you're not a particularly observant person. Don't get me wrong, though. The film has far more to offer than just random plot twists.

This movie is a tour de force from all perspectives. Fincher is at his best, as always. The way he frames his shots, coupled with his usage of music to add to the tenseness of a scene, is utterly intoxicating. He has very little flourish in his direction (if you're looking for style over substance, I recommend Zack Snyder), but what he does have is an abundance of talent that he uses in very precise ways. Namely, getting a good performance out of Ben Affleck. No, not a good one-- a great one. Affleck has a serious shot at Best Actor this year, and even more shocking is the fact that he might actually deserve it. His disingenuous and smarmy style of acting works here, because the character he's playing isn't supposed to be particularly likable or believable. He completely owns this role. In past performances, Affleck has just been a mediocre actor who happened to be cast in a great movie (which is why he's so often lauded), but here... man oh man, he deserves every bit of acclaim he gets. Meanwhile, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris deliver powerhouse performances, another surprising development, as their latest efforts include Alex Cross and the How I Met Your Mother series finale, respectively. They're just two more fine examples of how well an actor can do when correctly matched with a character.

The film is a mystery/thriller first and foremost, but its best moments stem from its social commentary. Much like 2012's The Hunt, this movie isn't remotely afraid of getting into the ickiness of media politics. As soon as Dunne's story is picked up by the media, everyone in the country, from platinum-blonde FOX News anchors to his own sister, thinks that he's guilty. And after all, why shouldn't they? As the film progresses, it becomes less of a mystery and more of a cautionary tale about the dangers of coming to a group consensus without having all the information. The social commentary in this movie is shrewd and unwavering, but Fincher knows not to cram his film too full of rhetoric (you don't want to bludgeon your audience over their heads with your message... *cough cough* Requiem for a Dream).

Final Score for Gone Girl: 9/10 stars. Dethroning The Grand Budapest Hotel for my second-favorite film of the year is no easy task, but this movie managed to do it with its engrossing story and darkly comic themes. Audiences will undoubtedly love taking sick pleasure in watching this well-crafted film unfold before them. Everything here works like a Swiss watch-- there's not a boring moment in the whole movie. I've been waiting for Fincher to top himself after his latest efforts, but he's succeeded again and again. After this movie, I don't know what he'll do for an encore, but if the past is any indication, it'll be spectacular.

Before Sunset

Trilogies are difficult things to make. Normally, story arcs can't easily be stretched out over three installments-- just look at the Hobbit films-- but every once in a while, it works well. For every Two Towers suffering from middle chapter sluggishness, there's an Empire Strikes Back that breathes new life into the franchise. A good trilogy needs to have chapters that have their own sets of subplots, so that instead of just being a vessel to bridge the gap between the introduction and the ending, they are their own stories, with a beginning, middle, climax, and finale. Sometimes though, a movie is able to squeeze through these qualifications by the skin of its teeth and still be a good movie, despite the fact that it doesn't truly live up to the standard set by its predecessor and successor.

Before Sunset is one such movie. This film doesn't stand alone nearly as well as the other two installments in the Before Trilogy, but as a way to connect the two films, it works moderately well. However, there's nothing new or different here. Linklater knew this when he made Before Midnight, as he somewhat altered the film's premise and tone in order to keep audiences on their toes. This movie, however, is basically the same thing as Before Sunrise. Despite the fact that this isn't really a complaint (as Before Sunrise was a great film), I went into this movie expecting a little bit more out of it. The dialogue's pop and freshness has gone out of the film, leaving it a far duller affair than one would have hoped. However, it's difficult to truly dislike a movie with these characters in it.

Taking place eight years after the events of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset continues the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in their long, complicated story of how they ended up together. In this film, Jesse has written a novel about their night together, and after hearing about his book signing in Paris, Celine decides to track him down. After meeting up, they once again wander the streets of another ancient city, talking about philosophy, life, and the energy crisis. But it's all less emotionally resonant than in the first film. The fire went out of these movies right when the fire was just starting in these character's relationship, and what ended up happening was the the film that could have been the best ended up being the worst of the three. Linklater pulled it out of the dive with Before Midnight, but this movie still is one big blob of meh.

However, you can't deny the movie's charm. Even if it is the same thing over again, it's a great thing over again-- Hawke and Delpy are just as spectacular as ever (seriously, I refuse to believe that these two aren't actually in a relationship in real life), and the writing is still strong. There are a few points where the dialogue falls flat, but the acting talent on display here is such that it doesn't really matter. Ethan Hawke couldn't keep my attention reading a phone book, I suppose, but when presented with less-than-inspired dialogue, he almost always finds a way to make it work (exception: Getaway, but only because there was no real dialogue in that movie).

But the most interesting part about this film is the confused morals. In Before Sunrise, Hawke and Delpy just happen across one another and spend the night together, but here, they each have a significant other that they're trying not to betray, while still remaining true to themselves. By the end, the emotional stakes are raised enough that the minor trip-ups through the rest of the film can be excused. These two characters experienced love at first sight, but didn't know it at the time, and now they have to go about remedying that without hurting anyone in the process. When something as important as this is at stake, is it worth throwing everything away to start fresh, but this time the right way?

Final Score for Before Sunset: 7/10 stars. This movie is a bit of a disappointment, mainly because of the aforementioned "middle chapter" problems that trilogies often come across. However, it manages to fully make up for a weaker beginning with a truly great ending that marks the only finale that I would call a romantic cliffhanger. The film isn't satisfying, but now that the trilogy has been completed with Before Midnight, it's easier to fulfill the desire to know what happens without becoming bored with the story while waiting for its conclusion. This movie was never made to stand alone, that's true. But as a simple, well-crafted bridging chapter between two superior films, it succeeds.

The Equalizer

Roger Ebert once coined a term called "Star Magic Syndrome," describing those unfortunate actors who fall prey to the idea that a film will be successful simply because the lead actor is successful. Well, it seems as if the latest victim of SMS is Denzel Washington, a reasonably talented actor in his own right (as he proved in 2012's tour de force Flight), but not a good enough one to carry another generic action movie like this one. I swear, if I have to see another movie about an ex-CIA agent called back into action because of a young girl who then gets him in trouble with a bunch of Russian bad guys, I'm gonna drive down to Hollywood and start cracking skulls. These people are professional screenwriters. They can do better than this, right? Right?

So yes, The Equalizer is the tale of ex-CIA agent Denzel Washington who is called back into action because a young girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz) who also happens to be a prostitute is in need of his help. After killing her pimp and a few of his cronies, the upper tiers of the Russian mob in Boston come after him... because I suppose there's a Russian mob in Boston (?). Side stories include corrupt cops, a fat guy trying to become a security guard, and Grace-Moretz's storyline, because after the first twenty minutes, she becomes a subplot (even though she's the one who sets everything in motion). It's as if the writers forgot she was even in the film until the last five minutes, at which point they said "Eh, fuck it, let's just write her in at the end. Nobody'll notice she was even gone."

This film isn't perfect (that goes without saying), but when it does things right, it really nails it. Literally... there's a scene where Washington kills a guy with a nail gun. But gore and silliness aside, this is a very well-made movie. Up until seeing this film, I had very little appreciation for Antoine Fuqua's direction (the man made Olympus Has Fallen, for Christ's sake), but he really does have a strong presence in his movies. As long as they're devoid of rushed, shoddy CGI, he brings a certain style to his movies, with excellent scene framing and color schemes. The action sequences in this movie are also noticeably strong-- I had an idea a few years back for an action sequence inside a Home Depot using only improvised weaponry, and although I'm a little disappointed that I can never use it now, I'm still impressed with how well it was pulled off in this film. Altogether, the movie has a very unique look and feel to it, which makes it a little more than just another revenge movie.

But still, when you strip away all of its flash, that's all The Equalizer is: Another revenge movie. This film is extremely predictable, and its villain is taken straight from the action movie playbook of every film like this ever made. Russian? Check. Prone to senseless violence? Check. Shady backstory that reveals his motives in a faux-subtle way that allows us to understand him, yet still makes us root for the good guy to kill him? Big check. Denzel Washington is strong, of course, but at the end of the day he's just playing Denzel Washington. It's another "Don't mess with the old guy" movie (in the vein of Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood) that allows the star to play to his strengths-- it works, but only because Washington isn't challenged by this role whatsoever.

Final Score for The Equalizer: 5/10 stars. I enjoyed watching this movie, but I couldn't really recommend seeing it in theaters, based simply off of the fact that you could watch any number of movies of its ilk and get a similar experience. The only thing that really exceeds expectations in the film is the direction, which is a truly pleasant surprise. Other than that, there's not much that's original or particularly interesting in this generic, by-the-numbers revenge drama. Fans of the genre (or of Denzel Washington) should check it out, because they'll know what to expect, and this movie delivers exactly that. But unless you're extremely interested in seeing The Equalizer, it's a definite Netflix movie.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Despite the fact that I saw the latest installment in the X-Men franchise several months ago, it's taken me a while to actually sit down to write this review. The reasoning behind this being that I'm still a little blown away by what I witnessed in this film. I love superheroes-- you wouldn't know this from the ratings I give their movies, but I do. That's why, when I see films like The Dark Knight or Guardians of the Galaxy, I get very annoyed, because I am forced to decide what part of my critical personality to listen to. On the one hand, my geeky self tells me to love these movies unequivocally, which I try my best to do. Invariably though, my other side (the movie buff side) reminds me that pure coolness cannot compensate for bad dialogue, plotting, and acting. However, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a rare beast. It didn't make me choose.

X-Men: Days of Future Past unites the actors from the original X-Men films and the prequel film First Class in a time travel plot taken from the Uncanny X-Men comics of the 1980s. In the "not-too distant future," machines called Sentinels have taken over the world and are on a mutant killing spree, attempting to eradicate not only mutants, but humans who carry dormant mutant genes that could be passed down into future generations. To stop the Sentinels, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to alter the past and prevent the Sentinels from being created in the first place. But before he is able to do so, he has to win the trust of the two men's younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively).

The premise is not only intriguing, but it's original. Marvel's movies lately have been an indistinguishable parade of galaxy-saving heroism, in which some evil device (usually one that glows with an eerie blue light) is in the clutches of a villain who plans on using it to destroy literally everything. Why? Well, we don't know. But Days of Future Past is able to bring the futuristic and sci-fi aspects of the plot into a more grounded, realistic series of situations for the characters that gives the movie real depth and weight. Of course, the fate of the world still hangs in the balance, but at times the audience is allowed to forget that, and they're caught up only in the fate of these few well-crafted characters.

The acting and dialogue is also far better than in previous X-Men installments. Hugh Jackman is clearly still relishing in his role as Wolverine, inarguably the best character in the franchise and one of the series's better casting choices. He was sorely missed in First Class (part of the reason why that film was such a dud), and so his return to the silver screen here is more than welcome. Meanwhile, the plethora of uninteresting, underdeveloped characters from previous films have all vanished, allowing us to focus in on four very good characters: Wolverine, Magneto, Xavier, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), whose ill-fated assassination attempt is the centerpiece of the plot. With Peter Dinklage giving it his all as Bolivar Trask, the diminutive creator of the Sentinel program, we have a total powerhouse of acting behind characters several films in the making.

I've been asked just why I found Days of Future Past to be so much better than other Marvel outings, and I suppose I could go through their other films one by one, detailing where they failed in places that this movie succeeded. However, the short version is simply this: Days of Future Past is the first X-Men movie in which I've enjoyed the storyline as much as the characters. Even at its best points, this franchise has been very weak when it comes to substance and story. The first X-Men film was about a mutant-making ray and a fight to the death at the top of the Statue of Liberty. X-Men: First Class incorporated mutants into the Cuban Missile Crisis. And after all this crazy, haphazard stories and loosely thought-through subplots, this fun little yarn about time travel is comparatively tame.

Final Score for X-Men: Days of Future Past: 7/10 stars. Sure, there are a good number of quibbles about dialogue and character development in this movie, but it's undeniably well-made, even looking better visually than its predecessors. This is a superhero movie done right-- No cartoony aliens, no space battles for the fate of the universe, no witless, tongue-in-cheek banter-- Just stripped-down, quality entertainment. Hopefully, the X-Men franchise will continue in the direction it's going right now, and not stumble into the pitfalls that the other, less polished films of the series did (ahem, X-Men Origins). And with Bryan Singer returning to direct the next film, it looks as if Marvel is picking things up a bit. It's not perfect in any way, but I'll give it this: This is the best superhero movie made since Iron Man. And although that's not saying much, I think it counts for something.

The Expendables 3

I like to think that I give movies from all genres fair shots at being good films, but I have to say that going in to The Expendables 3, it was very difficult for me to remain objective. I knew exactly what I was getting into as soon as I first heard about it-- A franchise revamp that would go to great lengths in order to gain the title of the "worst of the franchise." This movie, unlike the previous two Expendables, is PG-13, in order to target a broader audience and make more moolah. The toned-down violence is evident even in the trailers, as is the usage of that awful "Come with me now" song, both obvious scams to con the MPAA into a lenient rating (as well as to con younger moviegoers out of their money). Thankfully, this move backfired, as the film was leaked on Megashare weeks before its release, leading to a massive dent in ticket sales. So the good news is that we probably won't have to put up with another one of these films. The bad news? Well... this movie exists.

In The Expendables 3, everyone's favorite team of aging, washed-up action stars is back, led by Sylvester Stallone and consisting of an ever-changing group of interchangeable toeheads. This film also stars Jason Statham (I think), but you wouldn't know it due to his mere 20 minutes of screen time. Anyway, the big draw of these films is that they keep topping the previous one, so this time, the franchise brings in Harrison Ford and Antonio Banderas, as well as Mel Gibson as the villain. Unfortunately, instead of seeing these staples of action films go up against each other, we're given a boring and predictable plot in which Gibson is Stallone's old war buddy who was presumed dead, then became a war profiteer. I really don't know what else can be said about a story this lazy, other than that it's ineptly crafted and extremely generic. Arms dealers are the number one go-to villains in bad action movies-- Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The film's stupid plot becomes so insufferable that after a while, you start to welcome the bludgeoning action it delivers. And oh boy, does it ever deliver it. I'll give this movie credit on one front: A lot of people shoot a lot of other people in it. Oh, and things blow up too. However, when it comes to caring about the characters getting shot at, knowing why they're shooting at anyone else, and generally understanding what in the holy hell is going on, the film is decidedly lacking. And it ends up undercutting its promise of old-school action with a techie aspect to it that just doesn't work. At long last, the Expendables franchise has been dragged into the 21st century, kicking and screaming. And what an unpleasant affair it was. Everything about this movie, from the modern-style building the characters rappel down to the new, hip technology expert, begs for relevancy. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

What really kills this film, however, is the futility of it all. This may be the last generation of real "action stars," and they're on their last leg, soon to be replaced by CGI (hell, it already happened to Arnold in Terminator 4). The jobs these guys did were shoddy at best, but I have to give them credit for at least giving it their best shot. Nobody's going to single out Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2 or Arnold Schwarznegger in The Terminator as a truly great performance. Yet there was always a certain charm and demure they brought to the table, despite the fact that a trained monkey could have acted better than them. What's so sad about this movie? It's the swan song of a bunch of old farts who now have nothing to do but sit around collecting paychecks for playing the same character they've been in since 1982. I found this movie to be a total bore, but I bet Stallone & Co had fun making it. After all, at least on that screen, they're still young men at the height of their careers, capping off bad guys and having a good time while doing it.

Final Score for The Expendables 3: 2/10 stars. I think it's safe to say that this is one of the worst films of the year. Almost nothing works here-- The action (which, let's face it, is the only reason why people watch these movies) is incoherent. The dialogue is recycled. The acting is laughable; the plot is artistically bankrupt. Basically, this movie represents what I think is the beginning of the end of an era. The dumb action films of old are slowly dying out. Now the question is, what will replace them? Will American audiences have a cultural revolution of sorts and realize that a movie does not require an explosion every five minutes in order to be entertaining? Or, on the flip side, will the void be filled by something even more vapid and shallow (cough cough MICHAEL BAY cough cough)? I know what I'd prefer. But it's entirely out of my hands.


There's a certain genre of film that there should be a word for (but there isn't) in which the protagonist is a disciple of the more interesting and complex character. And yes, there should be a word for it, because movies like this (Fight Club and The Grand Budapest Hotel come to mind) are consistently spectacular. Not only do they give great creative leeway for writers to invent characters, but they also give a sense of detachment from the character who is the central focus of the film. This is highly effective in giving these characters the appearance of being something more than human-- There is something elusive about them, in an indescribable way, and much like the genre of film they star in, there isn't a word for them either.

Frank is one such film. This movie is told from the point of view of an aspiring musician who comes across the enigmatic Frank, a "cutting-edge" songwriter who wears a fake head. This premise might seem weird or unrealistic, but if you think that this level of avant-garde artistic self-righteousness is too silly, I have two words for you: Daft Punk. Frank is certainly a confounding individual. He seems to be a perfectly normal, functioning member of society, save for the fact that he wears his fake head all the time. Showering, eating, singing, sleeping-- He never takes it off.

This begs the obvious question: What the hell is wrong with this man? But Michael Fassbender, who gives a spectacular performance from beneath Frank's mask, brings such depth and emotional realism to the character that you often forget he's supposed to be crazy. The film's dark humor is also spectacular; some of the best to hit theaters since In Bruges. It juggles themes about fame, death, and mental illness, all while maintaining its quirky tone. The film's protagonist, Jon, drives the plot forward as he influences Frank and fills his head (no pun intended) with thoughts of fame. Maggie Gyllenhaal also does a fine job despite her cabbage-patch face, and plays a band member who straddles the line between eccentric and downright batshit insane.

Still though, it's Fassbender who truly shines in this movie. His fragile personality makes him one of the most saddening and relatable characters to grace cinemas this year. At his core, he's just a guy who wants nothing more than to be liked. He is so easily swayed by the ebb and flow of popularity that you have to wonder just how on Earth he made it this far in life. And then the obvious answer is staring at you in the face (literally). His mask. Like a turtle's shell, Frank's mask acts as his personal home; his happy place. He has gone through his whole life cooped up inside the head, and has therefore never had to truly go through a stage of isolation, loneliness, or hardship-- Whenever he's scared or sad, he can retreat back into his shell. And as a result, he's never grown up. Frank is like a child trapped in a grown man's body.

The musical score for this movie is also great. Somehow, the writers were able to craft half a dozen songs for Frank that sound just weird enough to be pop songs but are still edgy and demented enough to work for the purposes of his character. While listening to the songs ("I Love You All" stands out to me specifically), it was hard for me to formulate an opinion on them. They were weird and quirky, yes, but were they actually good? I don't know. Others may not have had the same reaction, but personally I thought it contributed a lot to the ambiguity of the film. Is Frank a musical genius? It's really difficult to say.

Final Score for Frank: 8/10 stars. This movie is quite an experience to watch, and its glorious weirdness and quirkiness place it high in the running on my Best Films of 2014 list. Even when it hits the occasional lull, Frank is never boring (how could it be?). No, every minute clicks along with deliciously original dark humor and compelling characters. Truly a must-see film for all those seeking to track down the best movies of the year.

The Maze Runner

Ever since the Harry Potter movies first hit theaters, the "Young Adult" genre has been a consistent presence in cinemas worldwide. These films, based off of whatever YA novel was popular three years before the actual release of the movie, include Twilight, Warm Bodies, The Host, Divergent, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, and now The Maze Runner. The idea behind the release of these movies is, of course, to please younger audiences with slightly edgier fare than Disney can offer, all while visualizing their favorite books on the silver screen. The problem, however, is that as more of these films and novels are released, the less authors and directors have to put in effort to make their creations legitimately good. And as long as there's an audience for this stuff, there will always be a studio head looking to sign the book on for a movie deal. I'm waiting for the day when this vicious cycle will be broken... but today is not that day.

The Maze Runner is a dystopian-esque film based off of the novel by the same name, in which a group of teenage boys are dropped into the middle of a maze one by one, and given the seemingly insurmountable task of escaping. The problem? The maze seals itself off every night and rearranges itself, and to really mess things up, enormous robot spiders patrol the corridors, looking to murder anyone who stays in the maze after the sun sets. While The Hunger Games at least gives a serious (well, "serious" might be a bit of a stretch) explanation for its premise, The Maze Runner is content with setting up this premise and answering almost none of the questions it raises by the end of the movie. I assume that the inevitable sequels will be responsible for covering that. Ah, well.

Cue the introduction of our charismatic everyman teenage lead: Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), a new addition to the group who automatically survives a night inside the maze within his first few days, despite having had no experience with it whatsoever. O'Brien doesn't do a bad job with the character-- Hell, at some points, there's some actual acting going on here. But what drags him down is the inane dialogue and the supporting cast. At the end of the film, he doubles over weeping when a little fat kid gets shot (how did the blubber not deflect the bullet?), despite the fact that he's known him for a grand total of four days. Also, he solved the maze in four days? What?

Meanwhile, Kaya Scodelario takes the role of the love interest/only female character in the story, who is shoehorned in to try and get teenage girls interested in the franchise. In one scene, she throws a jug of liquor at one of the robo-spiders, lighting it on fire, in order to drive home the point that she's a strong independent woman who don't need no man. These obvious efforts to expand the film's audience would have been agreeable if Scodelario and Kristen Stewart hadn't been long-lost twins separated at birth. The rest of the cast is one-dimensional, filling in stereotypes and generic background YA character tropes to the best of their sub-par abilities. Despite all this, the first hour or so of this movie is strangely compelling-- despite the fact that I found it to be poorly made all around, there are many scenes that succeed in getting the ol' adrenaline pumping.

The writing in this movie is also terrible. Many scenes feel as though their scripts could have just been lifted straight from The Hunger Games, and when the dialogue isn't generic, it's expository. Characters who know more about the scenario make vague, enigmatic statements ("He was stung!") in order for Thomas to ask what they mean, and therefore inform the audience of what's happening. The final act of the film, meanwhile, devolves into a mix of shaky-cam and a string of bad plot devices, neither of which I wish to spoil for anyone, but which certainly had me laughing out loud in the middle of the theater.

Some critics seem to set this film apart from other YA fare, saying that its subtle messages about growing up, facing challenges, and seizing the day are original and unique. But although the metaphors make sense in principle, they rarely work in the context of the movie. Thomas is supposed to inspire the other people in the maze to leave the safety of their homes and travel out to try and find the exit. It represents growing up, and the hardships that come with that. Yet are we really supposed to believe that Thomas was the first person in this group to be innately curious about the maze? What aspects of his personality make him unique? Because the film thinks that its message is somehow original or inventive, it eventually collapses under the sheer weight of its own self-importance. And in that way, it's the most annoying kind of movie: The dumb film that thinks it's smart.

Final Score for The Maze Runner: 3/10 stars. This movie isn't terrible-- hell, I wouldn't even shy away from watching it again, just for the laughs-- but it certainly comes close with a hamfisted central message, an ineptly written script, and poor acting (even for YA movie standards). I see very few differences between this and the original Hunger Games, so who knows; maybe the second will be better. However, based on the sequel-baiting load of bull that was the finale of this one, that seems highly unlikely now. Nothing more to see here, people: Just another below-average Young Adult movie based on a book you don't care about.

Take Shelter
Take Shelter(2011)

Worth watching for Michael Shannon's performance alone, but in most other respects, this melodramatic and uninvolving bore fails to suck the viewer in.


Not particularly suspenseful, but it's certainly sympathetic, and at the end of the day, this Tom Hardy vehicle (no pun intended) will keep you riveted. Full review soon.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Sometimes, I wonder if I should start only watching movies I really want to see, and avoiding the ones that I know will be terrible. But, I immediately reason, the critics have to suffer through these things, so why shouldn't I? A good argument against that is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a total waste of my time and a movie that could have easily been summarized by taking Michael Bay's Transformers scripts and replacing the word "Autobots" with "turtles." Don't get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed watching this steaming pile of manure, as it's been a while since I last saw a movie for the sole purpose of shitting all over it. But man... the new lows that cinema manages to reach never fail to impress me. This is truly a mind-numbing experience.

Everyone knows the story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: They're turtles that got mutated by some radioactive ooze (or something), and grew up in the sewers learning karate from their master, a rat who looks like a knock-off character from The Fantastic Mr. Fox after going through a few terrible bouts of meth addiction. Aided by the intrepid journalist April O'Neil (played here by Megan Fox, whose vow to never work with Michael Bay again seems to have been retracted), they fight crime in the greater New York City area. For some reason, this modern-day crime wave takes the form of a bunch of ninjas, but hey, who am I to judge a kid's cartoon?

But that's the biggest of many problems here. A cartoon show about a bunch of mutated, six-foot turtles simply does not translate well to the big screen. Apparently the success of the Transformers movies was supposed to launch this movie into similar infamy, but it really doesn't work at all. Watching robots punch one another in the face can be fun-- granted, it's made painfully un-fun by the Transformers movies-- but seeing a group of poorly-rendered CGI turtles who look like underripe apricots with down syndrome isn't any fun no matter how you slice it. And it doesn't help that these characters, who people have loved a whole damn lot over the years, are reduced to clones of the trash-talking ghetto robots from Revenge of the Fallen. The witless dialogue that is shoehorned into this movie is drawn straight from every other action film ever made, and feels more like it was written by a focus group than an actual human being. You know what they say about art by committee... if you can even call this "art."

When this movie isn't borrowing heavily from other equally unsuccessful movies (the beginning is just a b-roll of Roland Emmerich's Godzilla), it's hitting you over the head with pointless action. There are entire sequences in this movie where the characters fight one another, and their objectives are never made clear. The bad guy was going to destroy the city or something, with the plot points stolen from The Amazing Spider-Man... or something... and then he would sell them medicine? But he wasn't the real bad guy, the real bad guy was someone else. Whatever. Look at the turtles swinging around nunchucks! It's just become so bloated and cynical-- I seriously considered pasting my review of Trans4mers in for this review, because the criticisms would still be accurate, and I doubt anyone would notice.

As for the acting... blecch. Megan Fox is only in this movie because of her breasts, and to be honest, Donatello had bigger breasts than she did. I'm convinced that her dialogue was actually plagiarized from somewhere, simply because the things she said and did in most scenes didn't fit at all with the emotions any reasonable, normal human being would be having in such moments. Her boyfriend, discount Bob Odenkirk, is equally bad... but at this point, doesn't it go without saying? Michael Bay is going to keep butchering our childhood favorites, everybody. Let's give up trying to stop him and just watch as he pumps out one spectacular failure after another. Because at this point, it's not his fault-- it's the fault of the people who give him work. If a baby gets behind the wheel of a car and drives it off the cliff, you don't blame the baby. You blame the parents, who should really know better.

Final Score for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 2/10 stars. I'd go into more detail here, but honestly, the sheer apathy I felt while watching this movie cannot be accurately put into words. I would rather listen to Barbie Girl fifty times in a row than watch this movie again, and believe me, that's saying a lot. The worst thing I can say about this film is that I really, truly, do not give a shit about it. Within a few weeks, it'll have slipped through my mind like a sieve, and I'll only have a vague memory of a green lump of CGI riding a skateboard on top of a Hummer.

My God, I can't believe this movie exists.


When I was a little kid, like everyone else my age, I wanted to have superpowers. So, so very badly. It grew to the point that I would fall asleep by imagining what I would do if I woke up the next morning with telekinesis. And even though nowadays, my answer to that question would probably be "fly to Vegas and make a million dollars by manipulating the slot machines," I still have enough of an imagination to be completely sucked in by the premise of a movie like Lucy. This movie is stupid, don't get me wrong-- So stupid, in fact, that it might rival The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for the most plot holes and scientific inaccuracies of the year. But it has something that most dumb blockbusters these days don't: A sense of escapism, and yes, fun.

Scarlett Johansson stars in this Luc Besson-directed action flick as the titular character; a young woman in Taipei who is, through a freak circumstance, abducted by the Taiwanese mob and used as a drug mule. The drug she's carrying is a Breaking Bad-reminiscent baggie of clear blue fluid, extracted from the placenta of pregnant mothers (or something). What she doesn't know is that, in large doses, the drug "unlocks 100% of human brain functionality." Of course, the bag promptly bursts inside of her. Morgan Freeman steps in as the wise black man who can give exposition, because that's all he's really given a chance to do nowadays, and there we have our plot.

Most of the grief this movie has gotten stems from the whole "100% brain function" myth, which states that humans only use 10% of our brainpower and, if we were to unlock 100% of our brains, we could do incredible things. This is stupid, and has been disproven so many times in so many ways, I feel no need to expound on it any further. I have no problem with stretching the truth when it comes to movies, however (as long as it doesn't reach the ridiculous heights of The Core or Gravity), so when a film crafts its own little world like this, I usually let it wash over me. What really is the problem here is that Besson either didn't bother doing any research into the subject, or simply didn't care that nearly everyone who saw his movie would inevitably be distracted by this gaping hole in logic. Either way, it's lazy filmmaking.

Still, the results are hard to argue with at most times. At its worst, Lucy is either generic or just too plain weird to be entertaining, but for a good part of the film, Besson is able to throw enough colorful distractions at us that we really don't care. Scarlett Johansson isn't necessarily a great actress, but she does a wonderful job as Lucy, and her character's transformation is just as interesting as it is strangely sad. And the things she does are endlessly fun to watch-- From speed-reading all the information on the human mind in less than a minute to telekinetically launching bad guys into the air. Of course, as soon as it becomes clear that nothing is going to stop Lucy, the movie becomes a lot less interesting. Why bother caring about a protagonist who literally cannot be beaten? Still though, it's fun while it lasts.

SPOILERS AHEAD! If you have not yet seen Lucy, skip to the Final Score.

What really kills this film, however, is the finale. This is the point where Besson crossed from the silly into the inane. The important thing when making a movie like Lucy is to keep topping yourself, making the movie more and more fun (and yes, silly) as it progresses. Besson shoots for some kind of a 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe in his ending to Lucy, and it just comes off as hamfisted and unnecessarily weird. It certainly had me hooked nonetheless, but I no longer felt any attachment to the characters; I was simply curious to see what the hell happened at the end of the movie so I could go home. This is speaking as someone who is willing to accept a whole lot of weird shit when it comes to sci-fi movies: Scarlett Johansson turning into a futuristic supercomputer crosses some sort of line.

Final Score for Lucy: 5/10 stars. I feel bad giving this movie such a low score, as I went in expecting stupidity and fun, and got both in equal doses. But the truth is that this movie is way too silly to merit a passing score. On your way out of the theater, your imagination will certainly be captured, though. You'll look around and imagine knocking down buildings with your mind, or taking down entire squadrons of elite soldiers with the flick of a wrist. But it'll wear off. This movie is not game-changing in the slightest, and if you're not in the right mindset, the entire concept will be nothing short of off-putting. I recommend it tentatively, only on the condition that you want to feel like a little kid again while watching it. Short of that, it has little purpose.


True story: To see Richard Linklater's film Boyhood, I had to drive out to the town of San Rafael, where they have a theater that shows indie films. After seeing the film, I stumbled outside, barely maintaining my composure. To my shock, I found that the entire street had been transformed into a county fair, with booths and stands and petting zoos. It was an insanely surreal experience. I looked down at my watch, and was stunned to discover that I had been watching the film for three whole hours. In that time, the annual summer fair had started. The point of this story is that, if I hadn't looked at my watch, I never would have had any conceptualization of how long the film was. An hour and a half? A whole lifetime? Who knew? It's not often that a movie can make me completely lose track of time, to the point that I forget that I'm even seeing a film. But this film-- this incredible film-- accomplished that and far more.

Boyhood, the latest film from Linklater, is a complete marvel of filmmaking achievement. The movie charts the story of a young man named Mason, and spans his life from his childhood to when he leaves home to go to college. In order to fully capture this huge scope, filming began in the summer of 2002, and wrapped up in October of 2013. Nothing like this has ever been done before in the history of moviemaking. Linklater said that he normally conceives stories in forms like this because he originally wanted to be a novelist, and writing a novel this way is far easier than making a movie out of it. But his time and dedication have paid off, and this wonderful movie is the result.

This movie is a blur-- An indescribably involving and emotionally moving blur. It's difficult to put into words just how enthralled one can become with a movie like this one, but I will do my very best to attempt to articulate its greatness. The movie starts off with Mason as a young boy. His father, Ethan Hawke, left to go to Alaska (his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, says he was "untamable"), and he lives in a small home with his older sister (played by Linklater's actual daughter). From the moment when the camera pans in on Mason laying in the grass, staring up at the sky, you know that this is not going to be an ordinary film. Over the course of the first hour, he is put through unfathomable hardships-- Drunken stepfathers, domestic violence, bad haircuts-- The key to crafting a likable main character in a movie is to make him relatable, and there's something for everyone in Mason. If you don't identify with him at all, well, you might be an alien.

The way this film slowly progresses through time is both its best aspect and simultaneously its most crushing. By the end of the movie, you're sitting in your chair out of breath, wondering where the time all went. You feel like you met up with a group of old friends for a few hours, but the inevitable progression of time ended it all far too quickly. And every second of it is instantly lovable, so much so that as it slips away, you experience the same feeling of loss that the characters in the film go through time and time again. It might be just because I grew up at roughly the same time as the movie's main character, but I found it to be one of the most authentic examples of an American childhood ever put to screen. As the time moves forward, so does everything else (a feat only made possible because this movie was shot at the actual time when it was taking place). There are things thrown in about the 2008 election, Harry Potter, the Iraq War, even the upcoming Star Wars sequels, all things I experienced and remember well. The soundtrack moves forward as well, and as bad as some of the songs played in this movie are, they exemplify moments in time-- snapshots from random years throughout Mason's life. They're like a sound or a smell that you hate, but as soon as you experience it, you're sucked back to a moment in your life. An uncomfortable amount of this movie struck home for me, and will probably strike home for most people of my generation as well.

This movie isn't just about Mason. His parent's transformations are also stunning. Ethan Hawke, who starts out in the movie as the cool yet perpetually absent dad with a Pontiac GTO, slowly settles down and puts an end to his wild days. He matures along with his children (for better or for worse), realizing that getting everything you want is not necessarily conducive to happiness. His transformation is an interesting parallel to Arquette's, who wants to have the kind of life that the father of her children does, but because of the monetary restrictions put upon her, plus the daunting task of parenting, she's had to make a series of compromises in her life-- Compromises that would utterly destroy a less strong or capable woman. Her constant triumph over adversity is what makes her final scene, a cathartic release of emotion brought on by empty nest syndrome and a wasted life, all the more painful. But for all their innately human faults, it becomes increasingly clear that these two have done an excellent job of raising their children. Mason was exposed to just enough love and just enough hardship in his boyhood, and at the end is sent out into the world completely prepared for whatever lies in store for him. Will he be successful? Well, it depends on what your definition of success is. At no point are we led to think that he will become a billionaire, or become a movie star, or be the President of the United States. But success, as we should all know it, is simply doing what you love. And it's perfectly clear that he'll do nothing but that.

There are some who criticized this movie's usage of a straight white male as the main character (most of whom are Tumblr social justice bloggers who wanted to see a fat, hairy-legged transvestite cutting itself for three hours), because they think it perpetuates the stereotype that the world revolves around straight white dudes. But the movie doesn't promote masculinity or "perpetuate the white cis male oppression of women." In a way, Mason and his father show that we never really grow up-- We just become larger versions of our boyhood selves, now with more money and freedom. You can choose to take from this what you will; the side shown to us by Ethan Hawke or the side exemplified by the "parade of drunken assholes" (as Mason put it). Life will always throw its worst at you. It's up to you to decide what kind of person you come out of it as.

Final Score for Boyhood: THE RARE AND COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER 10/10 STARS!!! There's absolutely nothing I would change about this movie from beginning to end. After watching Linklater's Before trilogy, I didn't think that any film could possibly be more immersive, human, or realistic, but now I think we've seen the utter pinnacle of his career. Not to say that he won't come out with something equally amazing in a few years (he probably will), but I can't imagine anything topping this. Even if you don't like the film, you have to admire the sheer passion and poetry that was injected into every fiber of the movie. This is an achingly human film, one that I won't soon forget, and one that certainly has my full endorsement for Best Picture in 2015.



Often times, films are poorly received upon their initial release date, but are soon understood more by the general public and the consensus moves in a direction of overwhelming positivity. Dozens of great classic films had mixed to negative reviews on opening day-- Alien, Fight Club, The Big Lebowski, Blade Runner, 2001-- even Citizen Kane took a lot of time before it was regarded as a classic. And so it may be with Enemy, the latest film to come from director Dennis Villeneuve and star Jake Gyllenhaal (after last year's Prisoners). On its surface, this film is nothing more than a surreal, dark thriller, kind of what you would expect from directors trying to channel David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick. But probe a little more (especially when you get to that jarring and unnerving ending), and you'll see that this film is deep enough to explore with a submarine. Yeah, it's good.

Enemy stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell, a college history professor whose life is extremely dull and depressing. He lives in a tiny apartment and always seems disheveled, but he has a girlfriend who he seems to care about. However, his mediocre life begins to spin out of control when he sees a film in which another man (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) looks exactly like him. This man is Anthony St. Claire, a married actor with a pregnant wife, whose life is infinitely better than Adam's. Here we're at a crossroads: This film is supposedly about doppelgangers and the questions they raise. But that's a pretty shallow interpretation of the events in the film. There's a lot more metaphorical and political allegories going on here than one might think at first glance.

Firstly, Anthony isn't quite a person as much as he is a metaphor for Adam's bad side-- more of a sin vs virtue battle than your typical evil twin fare. This is brought out when Anthony manipulates Adam into letting him take Adam's girlfriend on a romantic getaway, in which Anthony pretends to be Adam. It's unclear whether or not Anthony is a real person, a metaphor for the innate badness in humanity, or a strange Fight Club plot twist in which both Anthony and Adam are the same person. All of these explanations work well (some better than others)-- for instance, it was hinted that Anthony had been unfaithful to his wife, so perhaps Adam's girlfriend is just Anthony's mistress all along? If we're going to go the split personality route with this, I could expound on every theory's merits for days. But there's something far more interesting to this film than that.

SERIOUS SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!!! Cinema purists, look away.

Ah yes, those mysterious spiders. Throughout the film, vague references to spiders crop up randomly (the broken windshield looking like a spiderweb, the cable car wires forming a spiderweb shape, etc). This all comes to a head when, at the end, Adam is confronted by Anthony's wife, who has turned into a gigantic spider. Okay, so this is weird. But it's not totally nonsensical. There are many things one can take away from a film like this, but my final interpretation was this: The film is a metaphor for totalitarianism. Adam is a history professor, and he begins the film with a lecture on dictators and how they always oppress any individual expression (emphasis on INDIVIDUAL). The spiders can then be interpreted as metaphors for oppression, control, and everything dictatorships are famous for (especially that imposing spider on the city's skyline...yeek. Kill it with fire).

So is the film's thesis that we are all living in the dictatorship of our own mundane little lives, and that our cities are our spiderwebs? I don't know, but fortunately this is just one of the myriad of interpretations you can carry away from this film. It's certainly a movie that begs some rewatching. Final Score for Enemy: 8/10 stars. Although this film deserves to be regarded as a classic surreal foray away from genre tropes, or at least a cult film, I'm a little worried that it may be forgotten soon (especially with The Double starring Jesse Eisenberg coming out soon). Still, nothing I've seen so far this year comes close to matching the slow-boiling pace, fascinating theses, and great performances of Enemy. Film buffs, you have your weekend homework... see this film.

As Above, So Below

I normally wouldn't see a film like As Above/So Below, and if I ever got the inclination, I'd normally pirate it online to save spending money on this crap. However, my friend Will hates horror movies and refuses to watch them (hell, he was freaked out by Jaws), so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to trick him into seeing a found-footage flick. Say what you will about this gimmick, but found-footage usually elicits good results from people who aren't experienced with the horror genre, and this was no exception. Poor Will, who thought he was seeing a shaky-cam version of National Treasure at first, ended up sitting stupefied as he closed his eyes and plugged his ears through most of the movie's climax. So, speaking as someone with slightly more (yet still minimal) experience with the horror genre, was this a scary movie? In parts, yes. Other parts were so stupid I laughed out loud in the middle of the theater. But one thing was consistent about both of these aspects of the movie: They kept me entertained.

It's ironic that I informed my ill-fated friend that this would be like National Treasure, because it just so happens that the first 20 or so minutes of this movie are identical to National Treasure. The hero goes to remote location to find clue to hidden treasure (in this film, the hidden treasure is the Philosopher's Stone, which can turn lead into gold, along with a lot of other useful powers that go completely unexplained). She then finds a clue to where the treasure is buried, and barely escapes due to an explosion. She then teams up with her comedy relief/geeky buddy to find an invisible series of clues on the back of an ancient stone tablet. Wow. Nicolas Cage would be proud. Anyway, through a series of head-slappingly expository exchanges, generic main character girl figures out that the stone is somewhere in the catacombs of Paris.

This is really a fascinating premise. The catacombs of Paris are insanely cool-- literal walls of bones stacked up beneath one of the world's greatest cities. At this point, I forgave a few of the sins against good dialogue and character development that the movie was committing and simply went with the flow. But once they get down into the caves... trouble starts (as if there was ever any doubt). Within five minutes, they encounter a group of women with their boobs hanging out singing the music of hell in a cavern off to the side. Any sane man would know to get out right then and there. But the characters just laugh it off, saying "Oh yeah, there are always some weirdos down here." After increasingly strange occurrences keep popping up, the characters don't scream "WHAT THE HOLY HELL?!?! LET'S GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!" They simply whisper "Dafuck?" and move on. Even when they encounter their long-dead compatriot, who has apparently been living in the catacombs for two years, they simply say "Hey man. What's up?" Nobody with the slightest concept of self-preservation would ever make decisions like this. I know that's a given in horror movies nowadays, but it still bears repeating.

Pretty much everything about this movie is either stupid or unintentionally funny, so why didn't I hate it? Well, it has a few legitimately chilling scenes. At one point, characters come across a very small tunnel labelled "Abandon all hope ye who enter here." As they crawl through, the main character mutters "And they would be forced to crawl on their bellies into the kingdom of darkness... shit." I appreciated the little references to actual history as well-- the film's very title comes from a very real concept from ancient times, called As Above/So Below. I guess I'm a sucker for history, but that really rescued the film from being full-on ass. It's just nice to see a horror movie that isn't set in a suburban house every once in a while (fuck you, Paranormal Activity 2). And the ending is really mind-bending and chilling. I won't spoil it, but it really had me going both in terms of spookiness and humorousness. Let's just say that this movie goes full retard at the end, but if it hadn't I would have been disappointed. It was stupid, but uncompromisingly so. And for that, I admired it.

Final Score for As Above/So Below: 4/10 stars. This is the kind of movie I expect to hate, and then see with expectations just low enough that I end up actually enjoying the experience of seeing it. It's really hard to truly judge it-- how does one critique a film that succeeds in its main purpose and yet fails miserably at everything else? It's by no means a quality film, and a lot of the scenes and obvious foreshadowing are enough to make you bust a gut laughing. If you do choose to see this film, here's what I recommend: Bring along some friends (preferably one who doesn't know what he's getting into), some shot glasses, and some hard liquor. Then play a drinking game: Every time a character says either "We have to keep moving," "Let's get out of here," or "We need to press on," drink. In a short amount of time, you will all develop ulcers. But I guarantee that you'll have fun while doing so.

The Kid
The Kid(1921)

An absolutely timeless and endlessly charming film. The dream sequence at the end was unnecessary, but everything else about it is an immersive experience.

Stand by Me
Stand by Me(1986)

There's really not much to say about it other than that it's cliched, cloying, unoriginal, and poorly acted.

Blue Ruin
Blue Ruin(2014)

Dark, brooding, and well-acted, Blue Ruin is a revenge story that is grounded in reality and molded by impeccably crafted characters. Full review soon.

The Right Stuff

Overlong and sparsely plotted, but still able to make up for its setbacks with good acting and a passable script.


A mediocre entry in Nolan's filmography with a great noir vibe and a handful of strong performances. It never becomes involving enough to truly soar, though.

Leaving Las Vegas

A well-acted yet needlessly dark film with no compelling stories or characters to bolster its crushing nihilism. Full review soon.


Beats Requiem for a Butthole. Full review soon.

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Hey, remember when I said that there was only one really great Star Wars movie? Well, this is it. After the success of the first film in the franchise (which was a good film in its own right), George Lucas stepped down from his duties on the film and allowed different people to helm the directing and writing for The Empire Strikes Back. This is pretty obvious while watching the film, because unlike the other films in the franchise, this movie is great. Not just good, but truly an enriching viewing experience. Everything in this film is better than in the previous one, from the dialogue to the story to even the acting. And it ends in the most glorious double-whammy of emotion and twisty plotting ever to grace the franchise. The other Star Wars movies can be watched for either nostalgia, dumb fun, or bad comedy... but this one holds the unusual distinction of being objectively good.

Most people cite Empire as the best Star Wars movie, but they rarely go into much detail as to why they consider it to be so vastly superior to the rest of the franchise. Well, the first (and most noticeable) difference is that this is the Star Wars film with the least George Lucas in it. Lucas wrote or directed (or both) on every other movie in the franchise, but here he's given no more than a story credit. Irvin Kershner directs, with Lawrence Kasdan on script detail. These two did wonders with this movie that are unparalleled in the rest of the Star Wars films. I often imagine Lucas sitting down with them and telling them his outline for the script, and the two of them recoiling in disgust, then proceeding to make the film without much of his input. Even if that's not the case, the result was a far better-written movie with characters who are given real motivation and screen presence. Suddenly, the franchise has a heart.

However, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will always stink, and nothing could possibly change that. Their presence in this movie is consistently annoying, but because Hamill is paired with Yoda and Fisher with Harrison Ford, their scenes are elevated from mediocre to outright greatness. Ford's performance in these movies saved the franchise, specifically in this one. I can't imagine Empire without him. As for Yoda, in his first few seconds onscreen, he's spouting wisdom that's just as poetic as anything I've ever seen in a film. "Wars not make one great." I get fanboy chills every time. Somehow, Frank Oz was able to give this little green muppet more life and personality than most of the starring cast in these movies. Not really an extraordinary feat, as Mark Hamill can't deliver a line to save his life, but still impressive.

What most people talk about when they mention this movie, however, is the epic double-whammy of two of the most iconic lines in moviegoing history. At the climax of this film, Han and Leia are captured, and Han is frozen in carbonite to be transported to Jabba the Hutt. As he is about to be frozen, Leia tells him "I love you," and he responds "I know." Originally, Lucas wanted Han to say "I love you too," but for the good of audiences everywhere, Harrison Ford put his foot down and ad-libbed one of the best lines in film history, injecting his trademark cockiness into a legitimately tragic scene. And, of course, who could forget the spectacular sequence in which Darth Vader reveals his true identity to Luke? This movie has one of the best endings in all of film history, and I could go on about it for ages. But what's really important to remember here is that the rest of the film is just as strong. This movie hits some wrong notes, but not very often. It's a darker, more emotionally involving sequel that both raises the stakes and improves upon all the missteps of its predecessor. Two words: Perfect entertainment.

Final Score for The Empire Strikes Back: 9/10 stars. This movie is not only a staple of my childhood, but it's also legitimately good, two categories that films rarely fit into. When you think "Star Wars," you might think of the destruction of the Death Star in the original film, or how shitty Jar-Jar Binks was, but chances are the first thing that will come to your mind is something from this movie. It's one of the most endlessly iconic and truly engrossing movies ever made, and is quite possibly the pinnacle of blockbuster entertainment in the 20th century. Even if you don't like this movie, film students will undoubtedly be studying it for years to come. I personally think it's a genius work of entertainment art. Such a shame that it had to be followed by... *shudder*... the film that shall not be named.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

After this rewatch of the entire Star Wars saga, I don't think I'll see any of these films again for a really long time, just because these films are a lot more fun if viewings are far apart. However, I have no reservations about saying that this viewing will be the last time I will ever sit through Return of the Jedi. Many people cite this film as a high point in the Star Wars franchise, sending the characters out with a bang, wrapping up all the loose ends from the rest of the franchise, and altogether tying things up in a neat little bundle. Nothing could be further from the case. I felt obligated to like this movie, as it's a classic and the last thing I wanted to do was to say that Attack of the Clones was better than it, but after suffering through this painful movie yet again, I've reached an inescapable conclusion: Return of the Jedi fucking sucks, and the people who like it are deluding themselves.

In the final (at least for now) chapter in the Star Wars saga, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has fully become a Jedi, and is leading the rebel alliance to try and stop the Emperor from building a new Death Star, which is miraculously near completion despite the first one having taken almost two decades and this one being given only a year at best. The problem: The Second Death Star is protected by a shield being generated from the nearby forest moon of Endor. Endor is populated by a group of furry little creatures called Ewoks that have a knack for both killing stormtroopers and selling plush toys that pay for George Lucas's summer home. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) attempt to knock out the force field, while Luke confronts Darth Vader and the Emperor.

My biggest problem with this movie is that it's lazy. In individual scenes, you can tell just how little the writers cared about what happened to the film overall. There's an inordinate amount of bad slapstick (which heralds the things to come in The Phantom Menace), and it really drags the whole thing down, constantly reminding you that you're watching a PG movie. In one scene, the droids fall into the sand, and are then shown sticking out of it upside-down. In another, the Ewoks are decimating the stormtrooper army with a bunch of well-placed sticks. Even the overall production value of this movie feels less like a Star Wars film and more like the Star Wars Holiday Special. It's like watching a bunch of middle schoolers try to reenact Star Wars on a crappy budget, and forgetting all the best parts of it.

Meanwhile, the script, which showed such promise in Empire, returns to its original badness... and then some. There's a scene between Luke and Leia on a bridge in the Ewok village that almost made me slit my wrists. Not one line of dialogue in this film is even remotely believable or well-delivered. Even Harrison Ford, who was once the crown jewel for the movies, phones it in and collects another paycheck without giving any effort whatsoever. The movie also has a purveying tone of family-friendly cartoonishness that makes it absolutely intolerable to sit through. And yes, I'm talking about the Ewoks. Others have gone into far more detail than I have as to why these fuzzy little revenue generators suck the big one, so I'll just leave it at this: Lucas basically saw a teddy bear and said "Holy shit, kids love that kind of crap!" He then had ILM cut all their Wookiee costumes in half, and TA-DAAAA! 150 million dollars!

This film's laziness extends far beyond those insufferable little rodents, however. The two major plot points of this movie are just recycled from the two previous films. Death Star is built, leading to chaotic space battle? Check. Main character is revealed to be part of Lukes family? Check. I understand what the writers were trying to do, going with what worked in the other two films and just giving audiences more of it. However, the Star Wars movies are supposed to be original, and the lack of creativity displayed here makes this installment off-putting and dull. Very little is done with the premise, and even the film's best moments drag on for what feels like an eternity. I lost count of how many times the Emperor said "This is the end of the rebellion" or "Your friends have failed" or "Now you will die" or words to that effect. No effort was put into the acting, no effort was put into the script, and of course no effort was put into the story. Everything about this film is just a cheap, cynical cash grab, and watching this soulless load of shit goes down in history as one of the most painful experiences in my moviegoing career. To put it in perspective, I laughed out loud at The Phantom Menace, because it was so stupid it was funny. During this film... I just cringed.

Final Score for Return of the Jedi: 2/10 stars. Yep, lower than Attack of the Clones, but not because Clones is any good... it's just better than this steaming load of manure. For a while, I tried to convince myself to like this movie, but man, what a stinker. I give it these two stars only because it was fun to see the fucking Emperor finally get his ass handed to him, but literally nothing else about this film is watchable. Watching the end of this movie is like watching a rehash of everything good about the other two films, but with the heart and fun completely sucked out of it. Altogether a nightmarish movie that I couldn't wait to finally be done with, just so my suffering could end. And to all the Jedi fans out there whose worlds are coming crashing down around them right now... yub yub, motherfuckers. This movie blows.

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

When it comes to the Star Wars franchise, there are two facts that most sane people do not deny. The first is that it is clearly the biggest science fiction franchise of all time, and will continue to be so in the future. The second fact is that (with one exception) these films are not actually good on a critical level. Both of these facts are credited to George Lucas, who by now probably holds the title of the most controversial filmmaker of all time, even amongst his fans. Lucas is gifted with an incredible imagination and, almost as importantly, shrewd marketing skills. What he fails to do is direct actors, create three-dimensional characters, or write good scripts. I believe it was Harrison Ford who said "You can type this shit, George, but you sure can't say it." Even Lucas has said that he deserves to be known as "The King of Wooden Dialogue."

How fortunate it is then, that the original Star Wars movie was capable of surviving on its own without any such things. The key to enjoying this film in the modern era, after the incredible shock of its cultural impact has worn off, is to understand that the characters in these movies are not really characters. They are archetypes and stereotypes (and in the prequels, racist ones too). This stems from Lucas's affinity for old serial movies and foreign films (specifically Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress). Lucas cites this film as his primary influence, and it's more than evident. In fact, Star Wars might fall into the category of a "rip-off." But Lucas knew that in order for audiences to enjoy a film like The Hidden Fortress, it had to be made more accessible. So he picked up the story, reworked it, set it in a galaxy far, far, away, and forever changed the face of American cinema.

I can't even begin to imagine the sheer awe that audiences must have felt in 1977 when they first saw this film. From minute one, it's clear that incredible attention was paid to ensure that every scene in this film blew the audience away in some way. Lucas even went so far as to not include the standard credits at the beginning of the film, just to shock audiences with the suddenness and force of the film's opening. Almost 40 years later, and it's still the most iconic opening to any film of all time. Over the course of the rest of the movie, the film basically constructs everything about pop culture for all the years to come. It coins so many quotable lines, introduces so many amazing concepts, and most importantly, truly ushers in the era of the blockbuster to American filmmaking (for better or for worse).

This film could not have come at a better time. After the Vietnam War and the Nixon presidency, the public needed a clear-cut, black and white story about good vs evil. And if Star Wars is anything, it's that. In this film, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a simple farm boy on the desert planet Tatooine, is thrown into the midst of a galactic rebellion against the evil empire when he inadvertently buys a droid encrypted with the empire's plans for a space station called the Death Star. The Death Star is a planet-sized weapon capable of destroying whole worlds, which is demonstrated to monstrous results. Luke teams up with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to stop the Empire and rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). The villain, Darth Vader, is iconic. The heroes are flat yet lovable. The story has just the right amount of campy fun and pitch-perfect adventurism to qualify as great. It's truly an enthralling experience.

I fear that in the future, large parts of this film will become so ingrained in pop culture that they will eventually lose their shock value. People will eventually forget how incredible it was to see the first lightsaber duel onscreen, or how incredible the visual appeal of the first dogfight in space was. But thus far, this movie only seems to have gained cultural traction, and I hope it continues to do so. I often get asked why I can't just have fun with a movie like Pacific Rim or The Avengers, and why I insist on overanalyzing it. Well, it's because movies like that might be fun, but they're no Star Wars. For a movie with acting that bad and a script that wooden to truly be successful, it would have to be the most influential film of the century. And it just so happens that Star Wars fits that bill. And gloriously so.

Final Score for Star Wars (not A New Hope, I refuse to call it by its slave name): 8/10 stars. I can't give this a really high score, because to be honest, a lot of this movie is crap. "But I was going to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!" Dear God. However, to deny this movie my unrestrained love would be to ignore everything it has done for movies in the past four decades, good and bad. Every big blockbuster since this movie has owed something to it, and even though I might not like elements of the era it ushered in, Star Wars is still the first of its kind. Watching this movie was like a massive flashback to my childhood, and I loved every minute of it. It's not dark, it's not brooding, it doesn't have a deeper meaning or message. At the end of the day, it doesn't have to. Because it's Star Wars, and such things would only drag it down.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

After The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, George Lucas must have known that he had to really pull the prequels out of the nosedive they were in if he didn't want to get bludgeoned to death by a rabid fanboy at the next Comic-Con. Or perhaps he simply hadn't planned anything out for the other two films, and only knew what he was doing for this, the connecting chapter of the Star Wars franchise. Either way, his efforts paid off. Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith does not have the same "guilty pleasure" feel as Attack of the Clones, nor does it reek of bantha poodoo like The Phantom Menace. No, my friends... this movie is just straight-up good. The prequels get a lot of shit, but that's because it's easier to say "The prequels sucked" than "The prequels sucked, except for Revenge of the Sith, which was actually quite a good film and an expertly crafted bridge between the two trilogies."

From minute one, it's clear that this movie is infinitely better than its two predecessors. Revenge of the Sith chronicles the official turn to the dark side for Anakin Skywalker, and his transformation into Darth Vader. The best part of Star Wars has always been its story, and as for this one... wow, where to begin? This film ties up all loose ends from the original trilogy, giving us scene after scene of jaw-dropping mythical power. We are given the explanation for the rise of the Galactic Empire. We are given a heartbreaking sequence in which the Jedi are all but wiped out by their own troops Red Wedding-style. And at the end of it all, we finally bear witness to what put Anakin Skywalker in that big black suit that has become synonymous with Darth Vader. So much attention is paid to the little details of this movie, ranging from Obi-Wan picking up Anakin's fallen lightsaber to later give to Luke, to C-3PO's memory wipe, explaining his confusion over the events that transpire in the rest of the trilogy. For Star Wars fans, this is a religious experience.

Okay... I'm geeking out here. These are the parts I paid most attention to in this movie growing up, and to this day, they're why I love this damn film so much. But it's got a lot of other things going for it that make it accessible to non-fans as well. Ewan McGregor once again does an excellent job as Obi-Wan Kenobi, bringing a lot of much-needed life into the movie. I have no idea how bad things would have been in the prequels if it hadn't been for him, but this much is certain: Things would not have been pretty. Meanwhile, Ian McDiarmid hams it up once again as Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, to sometimes comedic yet always entertaining results. The scene between him and Anakin while watching a Cirq-du-Soleil performance is one of the best in the whole franchise, in fact, and not even Hayden Christensen's acting can bring it down. Christensen himself does a better job than in Clones (not like he could possibly have done worse), and his scenes after his turn to the dark side are actually quite powerful. Even the dialogue is improved, giving this film some of the best lines and quotes of the franchise.

The same old problems that plagued the other two prequels are present here, but in smaller doses. The scenes between Anakin and Padme are, once again, abysmal. "So love has blinded you?" "Anakin, you're breaking my heart!" Forget YOUR heart, bitch! George Lucas, you're breaking mine! Still though, this amounts to a small fraction of the film's runtime, with the rest crammed full of great scenes. The addition of General Grievous is more than welcome, even if he is just a cheap knockoff Darth Vader. This franchise has never been known for its subtlety, and it's evident here. "General Grievous?" What, was Hitler bin Killington already taken? But the difference between the cheesiness of this movie and its predecessors is that it just makes the experience more fun in this installment. The climactic lightsaber duels are insanely fun to watch, and the fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan might be the best in all six films. The alien worlds are at their most imaginative, with great battle scenes on each of them. And, most importantly, this movie is fun to watch. I think it says a lot that Rotten Tomatoes lists The Phantom Menace as a "Kids & Family" movie, and this as Action and Adventure. It's a welcome return to form for the franchise, and it truly feels like a Star Wars film.

Final Score for Revenge of the Sith: 7/10 stars. Not up to the standards of the franchise's best moments, but certainly the best of the prequels, and (dare I say it) the best Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back. There's a lot to love in this movie, but it's made me a little nervous as well. Despite constant failures, I will give the prequel trilogy this: The action is coherently filmed. There's no shaky cam. And even when things spiral into darkness in Sith, things never get Man of Steel-y. So what are we to expect from Star Wars VII? Will it hold to the original Star Wars feel and give audiences solid escapism instead of mindlessly bludgeoning them with Inception BWAAAs and quick-zooms? Will the new culture of lens flares and incomprehensible action infect the greatest sci-fi franchise of all time? We shall see. But if it does, I warn you... you may find yourself missing the prequels.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

I've always had a love-hate relationship with the Star Wars franchise, but I get the feeling that after completing my rewatching of all six movies, that bar will slide decisively to the "love" side of the spectrum. Okay, call me a fanboy. I admit it. I grew up with these films, and that makes it extremely difficult for me to judge them objectively without grinning from ear to ear as the opening credits roll (of course, with the exception of The Phantom Menace... I never liked that film). And so, although there are many out there who greatly despise Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (and justifiably so), I can't help but have fun with it. Sure, it's uneven-- Some parts are corny, hammy, and gratingly campy. The rest of it is corny, hammy, and campy, but gloriously so. After going for five years without seeing a Star Wars movie, and having seen The Phantom Menace last weekend, I can confidently say that this is the first time I've seen a real Star Wars film for a very, very long time.

Attack of the Clones takes place a few years after The Phantom Menace, when the Separatists are trying to separate from the Republic (hence the name). Why? Well, that's left open to interpretation, along with a lot of this film's political plot points. All you need to know is that this film is pretty evenly split between scenes that harken back to the Star Wars of old and scenes that reek of Satan's anus. The main plot of this movie features Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) sleuthing around the galaxy trying to find out who is orchestrating the current conflict between the different factions. This aspect of the film truly puts a smile on my face. McGregor clearly relishes in his role as Kenobi, and there are some absolutely awesome scenes between him and Boba Fett's dad, Diego-- er-- Jango Fett. Sure, the CGI has that awkward, cartoony, early 2000's look to it, but hey, that's actually part of the movie's charm (unlike in The Phantom Menace... God help me). Altogether, this entire plot is well-crafted and surprisingly layered for a Star Wars movie.

But then there's the other half of the film, which takes place back on the planet Naboo. You've probably heard a great deal (skinny) about this aspect of the film by now: Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) begin to develop feelings for one another, despite the fact that Anakin is a Jedi and is not supposed to fall in love. These scenes are, in a word, nightmarish. Everyone talks about the line "I don't like sand... it's coarse and rough and irritating... and it gets everywhere," but that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's a scene where Anakin levitates a pear and cuts it up for her, and then floats it back for her to eat. Then, they sit by the fireside, where Padme talks in great detail about how if they fall in love, they'd be "Living a lie." Oh no! Anything but that! Then, Anakin has nightmares about his mother, so he returns to Tatooine. There, he finds out that Sand People have taken her, so he massacres them all in a fit of rage. Padme then tells him not to feel bad about it. Sure, why not? It's just a little genocide!

What irks me about this aspect of the movie is not the fact that it exists. It's that it could have been made so much better. As with the political debates in Menace, the slightest effort from the scriptwriters on these scenes could have turned boring, cliched treacle into a truly involving story of Darth Vader's lost love and his turn to the dark side. If you want to enjoy this movie, I suggest that you turn the sound down during these scenes and instead play the audio from Richard Linklater's Before trilogy. I guarantee that things will become far more enjoyable. But bad romance aside, this movie is a serious improvement on The Phantom Anus in every way possible. I know that's not a high bar to jump over, but it's certainly a welcome return to form for the franchise. The battle scene at the end is overindulgent and decadent, but it's filmed coherently and I enjoyed the escapism of it (at least it wasn't bludgeoning Man of Steel-style action). The fight between Anakin and Dooku is terrible, but it's immediately saved by Yoda's appearance, which finally showcases why everyone calls him such a great Jedi. Altogether, I want to love this film at some times, and at others I want to hate it. It's not great, but it's no train wreck either.

Final Score for Attack of the Clones: 5/10 stars. I wish I could split this movie into two parts and rate them both separately, because large chunks of this movie are pretty much everything I want out of a Star Wars film. There's no deeper message, there's no real philosophical undertones, and the characters aren't very well-developed... but strangely, I'm okay with that. Star Wars is like an abusive relationship, where it continually hurts you but you can't help but come back to it. Because even at its worst parts, this movie kept me entertained, either because I was grinning like a little kid over the pew pew pews, or because I was laughing out loud at the horrible dialogue. Say what you will about its overall quality, but this movie has heart. In an age where blockbusters are "dark" and "brooding," this is a film that Hollywood could probably learn something from. It's bombastic, it's loud, it's stupid, and it's corny. But I'll give it this: At least it's fun.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

In the words of Luke Skywalker, "What a piece of junk."

Where to begin? In honor of Star Wars VII coming out soon (okay, a year and a half from now, but I'M SO FUCKING EXCITED), I have taken it upon myself to rewatch all six of the Star Wars movies... and no, before you ask, the Clone Wars movie doesn't count. The good news is that it would seem as though the worst is behind me. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, is pretty much as bad as you've heard, if not worse. After three installments that redefined cinema as we know it and ushered in an entirely new era of moviemaking, George Lucas returned to the director's chair in 1999 to tell the story of Darth Vader before the original Star Wars trilogy. Sadly, the new CGI tricks available to him blinded him from paying attention to the actual story, characters, and dialogue. And this... THING... is a result.

The Phantom Menace is, in short, the worst Star Wars movie and an absolute chore to sit through. While the original films revolved around the destruction of the Death Star, Luke Skywalker grappling with his evil father, and the Empire's epic battle with the Rebellion, the prequel trilogy starts off with a trade dispute. Little more is made readily known to the audience about the nature of this dispute, as it's merely a macguffin to allow Lucas to orchestrate a series of ridiculous battles. In fact, the storyline of this movie does very little in the context of the rest of the franchise, other than to establish the characters. So here's what happens: Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson) try to resolve a trade dispute between the Asians of the Trade Federation and the peace-loving, poorly-dressed Naboo, aided by the loveably autistic CGI character Jar-Jar Binks. Much slapstick ensues. They then find young Darth Vader (Jake Lloyd, who stole his salad bowl cut in this movie from Eight Is Enough), who is a mopey little kid. The end. Now you don't need to watch this movie.

The special effects are good, nobody's denying that. In fact, during the podrace scene, I almost got a glimpse of the old Star Wars spirit trying to poke its way through in this movie. There's even a gratuitously precarious lightsaber duel at the end. But this movie is only strong when it makes subtle (or not-so-subtle) references to the original trilogy. The rest of it is soul-crushing drivel that sent chills up my spine. I've said many times that the dialogue in the original Star Wars movies is terrible, but it's Shakespeare compared to this. Between young Anakin's utterances of "Yippee!", "Are you an angel?", "One day I'm gonna fly away from this place!", and Jar-Jar's absolute stupidity, I had to avert my eyes from the screen in pain more than once. My only thought is that Lucas must have been trying to make Star Wars into a more kid-friendly franchise, but in the process, he turned it into fucking Looney Tunes. Even the seasoned actors in this movie phone in their performances. Natalie Portman essentially just stares off into space and sports weird hairdos. Her voice sounds like a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but without the warm human aspect. Liam Neeson puts in a little effort, but it's pointless when the dialogue is bullshit about "Midi-Chlorians." And Ewan McGregor kind of disappears at random points throughout the movie, as if he got so fed up with the shit he had to say that he simply walked off the set and they filmed scenes without him.

Star Wars has never been known for its layered characters or its solid dialogue, sure. That does not excuse this. After sitting through The Phantom Menace for the first time in five years, I now understand what hell looks like. The scenes in the senate will almost make you wish Michael Bay had helmed the film, just for a little action to drown out the actors. Not to say that it couldn't have been done right-- Hell, a little bit of intergalactic politics might have been just what this franchise needed. But then George Lucas got involved, and it all went to shit. This movie falls apart faster than a Star Wars Lego set. The action scenes at the end, which I somewhat tuned out due to my brain becoming numb, are an insult to the audience's intelligence. Little Anakin just "happens" to find his way into space and destroy the droid control ship, saving the day. Meanwhile, on the planet's surface, the special effects team ran out of money and used old Windows desktop wallpapers for the scenery. But it's a Star Wars film, so the real question is, did I have fun with it? No. This movie might be good for a few incredulous laughs, but other than that, it's truly a mind-numbing affair.

Final Score for The Phantom Anus: 1/10 stars. I can't hate this movie, just because it's so cartoonishly, laughably horrible in a way that's almost endearing. It really goes out of its way to hit every possible wrong note, demystifying the concept of The Force, plopping all your favorite characters on their asses for "council meetings," introducing cool concepts and promptly boring us to death with them, and throwing away the highly notable distinction of having the first CGI character to interact with humans. Jar-Jar, I will never forgive you. But all bickerings about the butchery of the franchise's legacy aside, this movie is just plain bad as a standalone film. The dialogue, coupled with the utterly indifferent acting, is the cinematic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. There aren't many movies that I wish had never been made, but this is one of them. So JJ, don't sweat it. The bar is set impossibly low.

Guardians of the Galaxy

I was in New York and Boston this past week seeing sights and suchlike, but fortunately, I still found time to see a movie, as usual. This time though, I got to see a film in the Bow Tie Theater in New York City, a massive theater with over a thousand seats that has been around since the 1920s. I essentially got the air-conditioned, ornate, magnificent theater to myself as I sat down to watch the film I had been looking forward to so much this year: Guardians of the Galaxy. Was it expensive? Well, yes, but I'd pay good money just to sit in a cold room on a humid day in New York anyway. I went into this incredible building in awe, and understandably had my fair share of Cinema Paradiso flashbacks. How sad it is then, that I walked out disappointed and crestfallen.

Despite my utter disregard for most of Marvel's movies, I expected something out of this one. Perhaps, I thought, a deviation from the norm would set this movie apart from the twenty other Marvel movies that disappointed me (yes, before you ask, I actually counted). I wanted an outlandish and original escapade that skewered the genre that had let me down so many times. But man oh man... I never thought a movie where Bradley Cooper voiced a talking raccoon could possibly be this uninteresting. It pains me to say that Guardians of the Galaxy is nothing more than another sub-par Marvel movie with just the same amount of bad humor and uninvolving action that I've come to expect from the genre.

The problem with this movie, one would think, couldn't possibly be a lack of creativity. It's about a human freelancer named Star Lord, a green-skinned assassin, a talking raccoon, a walking tree, and a tattooed alien who looks like Rush Limbaugh. But what blew me away about this movie was just how little was done with this premise. Minus new characters, the dialogue and action in this movie could have been used in The Avengers 2. And no... that is not a compliment. I can only imagine that Marvel's writers have given up by now, and are just playing Mad Libs with the same exact script over and over again. If not, they should start, because it seems that people don't really care. This movie recycles every single cliche in the book, then expects that just because it's aware of itself, it should get a pass. Really? This is what we've come to? Guardians bills itself as a comedy, an essentially a spoof of the superhero genre. But it takes more than pointing out cliches to actually be a spoof. Most of it just came across as forced and cheesy.

Chris Pratt does a good job as the lead, and Zoe Saldana clearly has fun playing across from him (even though she's being consistently typecast at this point). His likable lead almost manages to elevate the movie above its typical genre trappings, but his dialogue is just too hamfisted to work with his character. Bradley Cooper gives it his all as Rocket Raccoon, but eventually the character just gets worn out. Not to any fault of Cooper, but I honestly couldn't take a genetically engineered raccoon crying over his alien tree buddy seriously... like, at all. The best character is Groot, the tree, whose only line of dialogue is "I am Groot." When that's the most interesting part of a movie, you know you're in trouble. The rest of the cast is funny and gratingly obnoxious in equal measures, especially the people of the planet Xandar (fuck it, who cares) who look like a cross between the Capitol people from The Hunger Games and a bad production of Hair. No amount of talking rodents can offset this.

As for the actual humor, some of it works. The character of Drax takes everything literally, and there's a very good moment where he's told that a joke went over his head (he responds by saying "Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast... I will catch it"). But for every mild chuckle, there's an obvious gag that's been used ten times before in dozens of movies like this (most of them under the Marvel banner). The tongue-in-cheek humor of these movies wore out its welcome a long time ago, but now it's just obnoxious. Someone uses a slang expression? Let's have our alien character not understand it! "Who put the sticks up their butts? That is cruel." Hahaha! Look how witty we are, you guys!

The roteness of this film extends far past the "witty" banter and contrived humor. The villain is generic, and his plan is absurd. The whole plot revolves around yet another ancient artifact that can destroy the whole universe, yadda yadda yadda. Can we have a film sometime where the stakes are not this ridiculously high? It takes a lot of the emotion out of the movie, and leaves the film completely empty, with characters you can't relate to, humor you're indifferent to, and action you couldn't care less about. I can't get over the lack of creativity that was put into this movie from start to finish. But I suppose some of the blame must be laid on me. I thought that Marvel could make a legitimately funny movie, but let's face facts: Their scriptwriters are just fucking terrible. This movie shifts between drama and comedy painfully fast, begging comparison to the genre-blending, jarringly inconsistent Cowboys & Aliens. I will say this, though. When Guardians of the Galaxy works, it works better than practically every other Marvel film combined. But those moments are few and far apart.

Final Score for Guardians of the Galaxy: 5/10 stars. I enjoyed watching this film, and for a good chunk of it, I thought I could convince myself to like it. But it's time to stop lying to myself about Marvel. They will never make a movie as good as Iron Man again. I wish that the comic book fans who also understand what constitutes a quality film had a bigger voice when it comes to things such as this, but it would seem that I'm in the minority yet again on this one. If only I had seen Boyhood instead.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

If you thought the first Harry Potter movie was bad, wait 'till you get a load of this one. I only ever really grew up on the first three movies of this franchise, so I do have a soft spot for these first two films. But good holy God, looking back, they are unforgivably awful. I don't know what I can say about this sequel other than the fact that I've said it all before: The characters are bland and boring, the acting is laughable, the dialogue sucks, and there's nothing to distinguish this thing from the other movies. Throw in some more bad CGI, a character who takes his cues from Jar-Jar Binks, and some of the most obvious gaping plot holes in the history of cinema, and you have one of the lamest movies ever made.

In this second installment, Harry is about to begin his second year at Hogwarts when a little house elf named Dobby shows up at his home and tells him that he must not return to the school. Dobby has been taking all the mail Harry receives and keeping it, but instead of burning it, he brings it with him to Harry's house. Fucking ingenious. Anyway, after a silly and badly green-screened sequence involving a flying car, we discover that the reason Dobby wanted Harry away from Hogwarts is because a secret chamber within the school called the Chamber of Secrets (who saw that coming?) has been opened, and a horrible monster from within has been released.

I'm going to come out and say it right now: The book this movie was based on wasn't very good at all. It would be my least-favorite in the whole franchise if it weren't for the last two. Its plot is fucking ridiculous: A secret chamber in the school that nobody knows about? Sure, the school is magic, but don't even magic schools need blueprints or an architect of some kind? The notion that there could be a whole section that could go undiscovered (especially when the school isn't that big, geographically speaking) is ludicrous. Also, when the monster is released, it can kill people just by looking them in the eye. But instead, everyone ends up petrified. This is because a series of freakishly convenient coincidences allowed people to see it through cameras, ghosts, mirrors, and water on the floor. That's intelligent plotting for you.

But story aside, this movie still sucks. None of the characters do things that make an ounce of sense. There is a whole sequence in which the three main characters have to assume the identities of a bad guy's goons using a potion and blah blah blah. This doesn't contribute to the plot at all. Also, there is an egotistical fuckhead who spends the whole movie answering his fan mail, yet somehow ends up as a teacher at this incredibly prestigious school. Yeah, that makes sense. It's obvious that he has no idea what the hell he's doing. How did he get this job? It doesn't help that the movie takes painstaking effort to remind us that he is a self-absorbed asshole every five minutes. This film is repetitive to the point of flat-out boredom, and by the time the silly and chaotic final sequence rolls around, nobody fucking cares.

As always, Daniel Radcliffe is a shitty fucking actor. The line "Because nobody DID look it in the eye" is bad to begin with, but the way he says it is overdramatic and physically painful to listen to. Rupert Grint is a whiny little bitch as always ("Follow the spiders? Why couldn't it be follow the butterflies? WAAAH!!!"), and although Emma Watson does her best to save the trio of leads, she's not a good enough actress, at least not at this point in her career. Hermione is a fucking pain in the ass. I didn't recall her being a condescending little bitch in the books, but hey, that's the power of a shitty film adaptation. There are so, so, SO many little logical gaps and bad line deliveries that I could pick apart for this movie, I feel like I should compile a list separate to this review. The only trouble is, it might fill up all the space on the internet.

During the climactic scene, we are treated to a phoenix that somehow can pass through an impassable pile of rubble, a hat that for some reason has a sword in it, the classic "Throw-something-over-there-so-the-bad-guy-chases-it" cliche, and a holographic projection by a diary that is capable of physically picking things up and moving them around. What's hilarious though, is that after this dark and over-the-top series of scenes, we're treated to what is in my opinion one of the worst and most cloyingly sentimental moments in cinematic history: Hagrid's return.

This is a scene I will always remember as one of the worst things of all fucking time. Even when I was seven years old, I had to turn off this movie before it ended just to avoid this horrible finale. Hagrid, for some reason, was accused of summoning the beast (even though he clearly had nothing to do with it, and nobody in their right mind would think that he did). He is sent to prison, but when he returns to Hogwarts, there are literally five whole minutes of main characters clapping, cheering, smiling, tearing up, throwing their hats in the air with joy, and all the fucking shit that is the absolute hallmark of sappy, treacly, family-friendly bullshit like this. This is an ending that is simply BEGGING the audience to facepalm. And if that weren't enough, one of the last lines is "All exams have been cancelled!" Yay! Cheer for the failure of our education system and the teachers who put us in mortal danger merely by allowing us to be in their shitty school! FUCK YOU, CHRIS COLUMBUS! YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!

Final Score for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: 2/10 stars. This is not full-on anus, but it has very few redeeming qualities and is probably the most childhood rape-y movie in this series (just because I grew up on this one and not the last few films). It is corny, horribly acted, ineptly scripted, ploddingly paced, pointless, idiotic, and-- worst of all-- it once again underuses the power of Alan Rickman. Altogether one of the worst movies in this endlessly shitty franchise, not to mention one of the worst movies of all time.



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

For quite a while now, I've been asked to defend my absolute hatred of the Harry Potter movies (except for one). My reasoning for not writing full reviews of these things is simple: Firstly, they are all basically the same movie, and therefore do not lend themselves to repeated analysis. Secondly, they utterly raped my childhood and I don't want to live through the experience again. That's right, fuckers-- I read the books, so don't get all butthurt and say that I just hate everything nerdy. That is a bullshit excuse and you know it. No, I hate these movies because they take the joy, life, and yes, MAGIC out of the books I grew up on. Also, it is directed by the asswipe who directed Mrs. Doubtfire, one of the shittiest movies of all time. So without further ado, let's begin.

Harry Potter is, as I'm sure you know, the story of a young boy who finds out he's a wizard and gets whisked away to a fucking awesome school filled with moving staircases and owls and shit. But he isn't just any ordinary kid who finds out that he has magical powers: He is an orphan whose parents were killed by an evil dark lord named Voldemort. When Voldemort attempted to kill Harry, his death curse bounced back on him and tore his anus asunder. This is how Harry got the lightning bolt scar on his forehead that everyone who pretends to know about Harry Potter talks about today.

This premise is original, but it is also very easy to screw up. The books worked fine because a lot of the visuals were left to the reader's imagination. Also, books do not require child actors, who are indisputably the number one cause of Early Onset Movie Shittiness. I just tore Avatarded: The Last Anusbender asunder yesterday, so isn't it a weird coincidence that I am once again reviewing a movie that is based on good source material and yet got absolutely fucked over by the shitty people cast in it? With only a few minor exceptions, the cast of this movie stinks. Daniel Radcliffe is single-handedly responsible for completely decimating my childhood with his laughable performance as the title character. The only reason he was cast in this is because he (vaguely) looks the part. But you need more than that. It also has Rupert Grint, who is the ginger version of Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace.

The biggest flaw in this highly flawed film is probably its tone: There is none. It is completely inconsistent on every level. It goes from being funny to dark and moody in the span of five minutes (and unfortunately, as the series drags on, there is even less humor and more dramatic staring). There are also huge gaps in logic that the book managed to handle easily, but this movie doesn't bother getting into at all. A lot of scenes from the book are in it that are completely unnecessary, but it leaves out a lot that are quite important to the plot.

There are a few good moments in this film, but that's mostly due to Alan "Professor Hans Gruber" Rickman hamming it up as Snape. But he's awesome in pretty much any movie he's in, so this isn't a surprise. He's got a distinguished aura about him that makes him both creepy and fun to watch at the same time. But he's only in it at brief points throughout the film, with more attention being paid to Hagrid and Dumbledore, who are played by far less accomplished actors and whose constant fairy-tale "father figure" behavior gets on my nerves. There are also some strong lines of dialogue, but that's mainly because they were lifted directly from the book. Really, this whole MOVIE is exactly the same as the book in most respects, but the acting is too shitty to justify sitting down to watch it for two and a half hours.

Also, the CGI is terrible. Normally I don't bother grading a film's special effects, because they really don't matter. But when they are distractingly bad (or distractingly good, for that matter), it makes is a far less pleasant experience. The (internet?) troll in the dungeon looks unfit for 10,000 BC. And sure, this movie was made a considerable amount of time ago by special effects standards, as great leaps and strides have been made in the medium since then. But Jesus Christ, it was still only 14 years ago. Jurassic Park managed, why couldn't this? Oh, and when Voldemort's face pops out the back of the professor's head, it's pretty easy to tell that the CG guys rushed this one. The visuals of Hogwarts itself are good, but it's impossible to enjoy them when these whiny, emotive, high-pitched child actors are staring at the green screens slack-jawed and overacting every ounce of their performances.

Final Score for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: 2/10 stars. Originally I loved this movie, but come on, I was six years old. It takes a lot for me to realize that something I liked as a kid sucks (I still have deep-seated nostalgia towards Transformers, Pokemon, and even Attack of the Clones). But this movie is reprehensible. It will probably please little kids, but definitely not their parents. And really, the whole POINT of the Harry Potter books was that they could bridge that gap and be fun for both kids and adults alike. But this movie is too bland, too concocted, too poorly-acted, and too PC to be anything more than a shadowy reflection of a great book. And you know what the worst part is? It only gets worse from here.

Also, Emma Watson is not old enough to be hot yet. -1.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I remember to this day the feeling I had sitting down in the theater to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Back then, I loved all three of the first films equally, and thought the series was right up there with Star Wars as one of the best film franchises of all time. Oh, how naive I was. But this was the movie with which I began to understand just why this series sucks, and why none of these films are worthy of the acclaim they receive. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this movie is up there with Man of Steal Your Money and Up as a life-changing experience for me. It solidifies everything bad about the series without bothering to maintain any of the remarkably good traits held by the third installment. In the chronological order of HP films, this is the first one that I can safely say I never liked.

Having not grown up with this movie, my hatred for it is free and unfettered, and not tethered down by nostalgia. So: Let us begin. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is, in short, one of the worst movies of all time and probably in the top ten most painful moviegoing experiences I've ever had. I had been waiting for years to see my favorite childhood characters realized on the big screen, and guess what? I'M STILL WAITING! In this pitiful installment, Harry returns to Hogwarts for another year of learning literally nothing, and finds that a massive tournament that was never mentioned before in any of the previous films is suddenly going on with two other schools. The other schools arrive, apparently taking the whole year off just for this, and the tournament begins.

In this contest, three wizards/witches are selected from the schools by placing their names into the Goblet of Fire (hence the film's title) and being chosen to represent their school. However, as it always does, shit hits the fan in Hogwarts. In addition to the other three contestants, Harry's name is selected randomly. Instead of just saying "Aaaah, fuck it," Dumbledore insists that Harry must now participate because the goblet forms an unbreakable bond... or something. Honestly, I couldn't care less about picking this plot apart, because it's based on a book that I love. But it's handled incredibly poorly here. The exposition delivered by Mad-Eye Moody sticks with me to this day ("Only an extremely powerful confucius charm or whatever could have done this!"). Ugh. Somebody actually wrote this thing?

Also, it has the added bonus of including good ol' Shovel Face from the Twilight saga as Cedric Diggory, the REAL contestant from Hogwarts. I feel bad for Robert Pattinson, because I think he's gotten a bad rap from Twilight (and he thoroughly regrets being in it), but I'm sorry, the guy cannot act to save his life. He and Radcliffe were made for each other-- the scenes where they interact are simply laughable. Throw in an annoying reporter from FOX news and Stupert Grint's dumb "confused face," and you have yourself a winning cast. The movie does hit some occasional high notes with Brendan Gleeson and Alan Rickman ("Don't... lie... to me"), but once you realize that these are some highly esteemed actors who have been reduced to spouting gibberish, you'll start to understand why I hate this movie so much.

In addition to the acting flaws, there is a scene at a school dance that lasts for a good half-hour, during which absolutely nothing of interest happens and the movie tries to convince us that even wizards have awkward teen years. God, fucking kill me already. This movie is nearly three hours long, and for some reason the director felt the need to pad the run time with additional scenes that aren't even in the book. I'm not saying you have to adhere to the books completely, but Jesus Christ, if you want to hold my interest for such a long period of time, you'd better have a plausible reason for me to stay in my seat. I recall wanting to walk out on this movie at around this point, but couldn't (as I was seven years old).

Final Score for Harry Potter and the Anus of Fire: 1/10 stars. The only reason this movie doesn't score any lower is because I want to set it apart from the other four films, all of which are infinitely worse. This movie marks a turning point for this franchise, where it went from being simply bad to horrifically bad. I can only imagine the look of terror and befuddlement that must have petrified itself on my face while watching this absolute abomination unto cinema. This movie doesn't just rape my childhood, it sets a STANDARD for raping my childhood, and ushers in the second half of the movies, which continue to FUCK MY CHILDHOOD'S DEAD FUCKING CORPSE!!! AAARRGH!!! THIS MOVIE MAKES ME SO MAD! And then Voldemort comes back, and he looks like post-nose job Michael Jackson?!?!?! This is not the movie that fans of this franchise were looking forward to! How can any God-fearing Harry Potter fan justify liking this massive piece of shit? WHY AM I RELIVING THIS SOUL-CRUSHING EXPERIENCE BY WRITING THIS REVIEW?

Fuck... only halfway through this review series, and I've already had a complete mental breakdown. This was not a good idea. Still, Emma Watson is finally hot. +1 (and I'm sixteen, so don't go yelling "PEDOBEAR" just yet).


The Fighter
The Fighter(2010)

Once again, David O. Russell has affirmed his uncanny ability to carry a movie, regardless of the story. The Fighter, another wonderful installment in this soon-to-be-legendary director's remarkable filmography, is one of the best-scripted, well-acted, and powerfully shot films of the 2000s decade, on par with other recent greats such as 50/50 or In Bruges in some respects. Every performance in this film is infectiously great, the plot is strong and features a powerful twist halfway through (which I am going to spoil, so don't read any further if you haven't seen the movie), and the cinematography is excellent. In short, it's a David O. Russell film.

The Fighter plays out like a re-imagining of Good Will Hunting, and it appropriately stars Matt Damon's evil twin, Mark Wahlberg, as the titular character. Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a down-and-out boxer trying to get ahead in life and simultaneously live up to the tremendously low bar set by his older brother (Christian Bale), who won a match with Sugar Ray Leonard once and has now become a raging crack addict. Wahlberg has never impressed me much, but he was certainly better than average in this film, and even if he didn't quite carry the movie, he didn't have to either. This is thanks mostly to Bale, who I used to think was bland and boring, but has now proven himself to me with a string of tour de forces in this, American Hustle, and American Psycho. His unsettling, twitchy character garnered him a Best Supporting Actor win, and although he probably had a lot of fun playing the part, it's not one of those performances where the actor is clearly enjoying it more than the audience.

The supporting cast is spectacular as well, and although they will undoubtedly disgust you a lot, they'll charm the hell out of you just as much. Amy Adams (who isn't a great actress) fills the role of Ward's girlfriend with poise and a great accent-- Joseph Gordon-Levitt should have taken lessons from her when he made Don Jon. Ward's family is white trash, which some audience members will have a tough time getting past, but they do have their moments. The group of sisters is hilarious and terrifying at the same time, with each one uglier than the next, and all of them nodding in unison whenever their control freak of a mother makes a statement. Sure, they're a group of nasty little troll-like creatures. But they're still family.

But Bale's story arc is what really makes this movie. After telling everyone in his family that he's in an HBO documentary on his comeback, he turns on the TV only to find that the special is on crack addiction in America, and that he is the star. This is one of the most heartbreaking scenes of all time, when Bale watches the TV in prison and his face morphs into a look of horror and understanding, realizing that his family back home is watching it as well. There are two jaw-drop moments like this in The Fighter, and the other is at the end. I won't spoil it, but I will say that the conclusion to this film will have you more worried about a boxing match than you've ever been in your life (yes, even if you had money on it). Because the film is based on a true story, and most people aren't familiar with the world of boxing, the movie instills a true doubt in your mind about whether or not Ward will actually win the fight. All movies should be this tense.

Final Score for The Fighter: 8/10 stars. Easily one of Russell's best films and one of the best movies ever in general, this movie is powerful, emotional, and superbly acted. It doesn't base any of its charm on sentimentality or manipulating the audience, which I respect immensely. Instead, it shot past that cheap and easy technique and went for pure, unbridled, and raw emotion. Don't let the boxing backdrop fool you if you're not a fan of the sport: This movie is about redemption and family. Not many films these days are capable of displaying the wide range of depth that The Fighter does. In fact, three of the others I can think of are all David O. Russell films. But now that this great director has come into his own with a string of mainstream successes, we may finally see some more great drama like this in theaters. And that makes every flaw in this film worth it.

Oh, and Jed Groff's friend plays Ward's daughter, so when you get to the "A NEW APARTMENT! YAAAY!" part, pause it.


When you're watching a film and the opening credits (which include the phrase "Original Music by Seppuku Paradigm") are laid over images of a bloodied and battered prepubescent girl running away from a disgusting building, where unspeakable horrors were undoubtedly visited upon her, you have to strap yourself in and know what to expect. Sadly, nothing could have prepared me for Martyrs, the French horror film that has been made famous (or infamous) for its graphic depictions of torture and brutality. This is a film so over-the-top that the worst images you just thought of after reading that previous sentence are nothing in comparison to the actual things you will witness watching this film. It's not The Human Centipede, but good God, why not just watch that as well at this point?

Martyrs is the story of Lucie, a young girl who was kidnapped and tormented and later grows up to hunt down her torturers and kill them with a shotgun. Her friend Anna helps her hide the bodies, but in the process of doing so, they discover dark secrets about why this happened to Lucie all those years ago. SPOILERS! BE WARNED! Anyway, a secret group that is obsessed with discovering what happens after death has been torturing young girls for 17 years, trying to get them to a state of euphoric enlightenment so that they may impart some wisdom about the afterlife to the living.

This premise is both intriguing and frighteningly plausible. But the way the movie goes about showing it is gratuitous and chaotic. It's one of those movies that has a great premise, but is sadly let down entirely by a very sloppy execution... er... executions. If you are capable of sitting through some truly disturbing images that would have sullied the innocence of those weaker-stomached than I, then this film is definitely worth watching for its confused moral code, existential story elements, and superbly crafted ending. The unfortunate part is that to get the the best part, you first have to sit through over an hour of some of the most perverse shit ever dreamt up by man.

Final Score for Martyrs: 4/10 stars. I cannot recommend this film in any way from an aesthetic standpoint, but the payoff will certainly make it more than worth it for die-hard horror fans. This movie is not just your typical torture porn (even if it has been called France's version of Saw), as it definitely has elements past those typical genre trappings that allow it to transcend its tropes and cliches a bit. But this doesn't change the fact that after watching this movie, you will want to spoon out your eyeballs and run them through the washing machine a few dozen times. It will please gore junkies and people who want some meaning to their horror films alike, but the general public will remain divided on whether or not this movie is worth watching. I know that I personally felt like a martyr just for sitting through it.

The Place Beyond The Pines

I always complain about explosive-laden action movies, but there's another end to the spectrum of film that is equally obnoxious. This category is inhabited by films like The Place Beyond the Pines, pretentious and dull movies that feature hamstrung plots and cliche-ridden dialogue. Oscar bait like this legitimately angers me, as not only does it waste my time, but it also wasted the time of the people acting in it-- they could have been doing something much more interesting with their careers instead of starring in this quasi-indie crap.

The Place Beyond the Pines stars Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, although contrary to what the posters and trailers lead you to believe, the pair share only a few split seconds of screen time. The movie starts out as a story about Gosling's foray into bank robbery, and it's quite strong here-- Gosling delivers with one of his stronger performances, and the robberies are entertaining and fun. But when one of them goes wrong, he is shot and killed by a cop (Cooper). The entire focus of the story then shifts over to Cooper's character, and later moves again to Gosling's son, who is out for blood to avenge his father's death. I understand that this movie is supposed to handle dark themes about fatherhood and how one event can change a person's life, but there came a point in the film where I just didn't care anymore.

The dialogue is mediocre at best, and moves at an astronomically slow pace-- I actually found myself watching it in 1.2 x speed, as that was the only way I could make it through the characters interacting without falling asleep. Director Derek Cianfrance makes the mistake of getting right into the drama, without an intro to establish the characters and make the audience care about them. As a result, we are left with several scenes between Gosling and his girlfriend, played by Eva Mendes, where we don't know or care about what is going on. The plot itself is straightforward, but it is buried under layer upon layer of boredom and treacle. The worst thing I can really say about this movie is that I'm indifferent to it. It bored me, and I didn't even care that I was bored.

The cinematography, however, is spectacular. Scenes of urban blight are interspersed with slickly-filmed heist sequences, and the style is one of the few things that actually coheres in the film. Even though I saw the movie several months ago, several of the shots have stuck with me, especially the moment of Gosling's death. But even with the visuals, the movie tries to be oddly poetic, which doesn't work when the audience doesn't give two shits about the characters being filmed. You could film a dead rat with a beautiful range of primary colors, or with a great camera lens, or in sepia tone, but at the end of the day it's still just a dead rat.

Fortunately, Gosling and Cooper bring enough charisma to the table to actually power the movie briefly, although Gosling clearly has the easier task. After he is shot and killed, Cooper has to then steer the movie in an entirely different direction, shifting the audience's focus to a completely different story. It's like starting a movie over halfway through-- it doesn't work. Cooper brings as much as he can to the table, and Gosling fits his role perfectly, but neither of them are quite able to keep this movie from venturing into pretentious territory. Also, I wanted these two actors (who are widely considered to be two of the best young actors working today) to actually have some moments together onscreen. But while Gosling was on, I kept waiting for Cooper, and when Cooper finally showed up, I didn't care about his story.

A balance between these two is never found. Perhaps the film would have been better if the two storylines were spliced between each other, alternating back and forth and finally culminating in Gosling's death Memento-style. However, this would make a boring movie even more confusing than it already is, and there's not much that can be done to save a film that the audience has stopped caring about. The story ends up going on far too long, and by the time it starts focusing on Gosling's son, it has become too scattershot to entertain.

Final Score for The Place Beyond the Pines: 5/10 stars. I respect certain aspects of this movie, and parts of it are certainly enjoyable, but I can't abide with most of the plotting, dialogue, and weak characterization. The film is incredibly flimsy, and eventually gets crushed under the immense weight of its pretentious message. The acting is fine, the cinematography is great, but if these two good aspects could have been used in the service of a better overall movie, we would have a serious Oscar contender here. Instead, all we have is a simultaneously weighty and fluffy piece of pablum that is one of the many, many overrated movies of 2013.

The Wolf of Wall Street

The last of the movies I've been anticipating highly for 2013 is The Wolf of Wall Street. Martin Scorsese is (sorry, WAS) one of the best directors of all time, until he tarred his impeccable legacy with the war crime known as Hugo. The Wolf of Wall Street is without a doubt a return to the classic Scorsese model that we know from such classic films as Goodfellas. But it doesn't quite put him in comeback mode; merely a sort of cinematic limbo. This movie is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining things I've ever seen, but it lacks purpose, motivation, and a reason for being. For long swaths of the film, there is no plot, and it is used merely as a vessel to showcase how adept Leonardo DiCaprio is at debauchery. And although he's quite adept, I found myself sitting back and numbing myself to the vapidness of what was going on in the movie instead of being actively engaged in it.

The Wolf of Wall Street is the true story of Jordan Belfort, a self-made man who just so happened to "make himself" into one of the most corrupt figures on Wall Street in the 1980s. Even though this is a true story, Scorsese doesn't bother telling us the ins and outs of his business dealings, instead having Belfort (Leo) narrate to the audience with lines such as "Ah, you're not following this anyway. The point is, we made a lot of money." This is both funny and a complete cop-out-- Scorsese basically uses DiCaprio's charm to skim over the specifics of what Belfort actually did. Instead, he opts for dozens of scenes crammed with unspeakable insanity that is sure to send the Iowa chapter of the Christian Parent's Pancake Breakfast into conniptions. But that's part of its charm. It's so over-the-top and refreshingly un-PC, it's difficult not to enjoy.

But first you have to get past its scattershot plot (and trust me, it's VERY scattershot). After a while, the novelty of the movie gets old, and you end up wondering why you're even watching the scenes. One in particular, where DiCaprio and his cronies discuss an upcoming corporate event that involves using midgets as darts, especially annoyed me. What was the point? It's already been established time and time again that this guy is a sleazeball with absolutely no moral compass. Did we really need to drive that point home any further? A lot of time could have been trimmed off of this three-hour movie, and nothing would have been lost. Sure, some mildly entertaining scenes would have been pared down a bit, but there's virtually no character development past "THIS GUY IS A RAVING LUNATIC WHO ALSO HAPPENS TO BE INSANELY RICH. LOVE HIM." As cool as it was to watch DiCaprio slither his way through the world he creates for himself, I prefer movies that have more than a skin-deep portrayal of the main character.

This movie is utterly hilarious, don't get me wrong. I haven't laughed this hard at a movie in a while (The Host doesn't count, because that wasn't supposed to be funny). But it certainly fluctuates wildly in terms of tone and quality. The scene between DiCaprio and an FBI agent (Kyle Chandler) is spectacular, as it's incredibly fun to watch these two characters, who are polar opposites, figure each other out. But this is completely undercut by several other scenes that throw everything and the kitchen sink at the audience, all for the sake of entertainment instead of storytelling. When DiCaprio's yacht sinks, it's an awesome series of shots. But it felt like Scorsese knew exactly how to please his audience, and so he stuck a few dozen over-the-top scenarios of absolute hedonism in a blender, set it on "liquefy," and got The Wolf of Wall Street. By the film's conclusion, DiCaprio's character has definitely gone from point A to point B-- but he has unnecessary stops at points C through Z along the way. It gets too cartoony too fast, and for someone who values storytelling a lot, it wasn't very enjoyable.

However, congratulations must be extended to DiCaprio, who gives one of the best performances of his career. From minute one, he has the audience riveted: "Last year, I made 49 million dollars, which really pissed me off, 'cause it was three short of a million a week." Although Belford is reprehensible in every way (we see him blowing cocaine up a stripper's asshole within the first five minutes of the movie), there's still an innate likability about a guy who is capable of doing the things he does, creating a realm of infinite pleasure and moving through society without a care in the world. His arrogance is, as it always is in movies like this, his downfall, but the sheer lunacy of his actions beforehand really magnify and drive home what happens to him. Yes, there are over 400 uses of the word "fuck" in this movie, but they were all for a purpose. Yes, we see prostitutes and hookers galore, but they all were key elements of the plot. Sure, not a scene goes by without a character popping pills or snorting coke, but that's all part of recreating the aura of the time they lived in.

In less capable hands, this movie would easily have sucked. After all, the plot is nothing special-- we've seen it before hundreds of times in other (and occasionally better) movies. But seeing DiCaprio in this role, with Scorsese's typical visual flair backing him, is quite the cinematic experience. Substance be damned; I sat with my mouth open many a time during this movie, and it earned every second of that time. The goal of this film is to shock, amaze, and entertain. I'm sure that a few elderly viewers won't be able to get past that first one, but for those of you who appreciate stories like this (and aren't afraid of seeing naked women every fifteen minutes or so), this is undoubtedly the movie for you.

Final Score for The Wolf of Wall Street: 7/10 stars. In a way, I was not this movie's target audience, as it caters to the kind of person who prefers funny dialogue over strong storytelling. It's all over the map, and clearly takes detours for some cheap thrills, but that doesn't drag it down enough to say that it's not enjoyable. And it really is. This is one of the most infectiously fun, hilarious, and outlandish films ever crafted, and deserves to go down in history as such-- a worthy counterpart to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Scorsese may not have redeemed himself for Hugo, but I can safely say that he's back on the right track.


Yeah, uh... no. Full review soon.


Dark, funny, and well-acted. Probably Jack Black's best role ever, and another impressive addition to Linklater's filmography. Full review soon.

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow

Despite mixed reviews, I enjoyed last year's sci-fi Tom Cruise film Oblivion, as it's nice to see people making new and inventive (if not particularly original) science fiction movies nowadays. It seems as if more and more sci-fi films are either remakes (Total Recall, Robocop), reboots (Prometheus, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), or sequels (Transformers 4, X-Men: Days of Future Past). This isn't necessarily an awful thing, as remakes, reboots, and sequels all have their place, and can be good in their own right. But if I had to go a year without some new and inventive science fiction, I'd probably lose my mind.

Thank God for movies like Edge of Tomorrow, a movie that may not be smart on a philosophical level, but is inarguably smartly made. This film gave me hope for both science fiction films and action movies alike, using both old cliches and new ideas to good results. Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise as William Cage, a poster boy for a war effort against an alien invasion set in the near future. When he is unexpectedly sent to the battlefield, he accidentally gains the alien's power of reversing time when he kills one and is smothered in its blood. Essentially, he now has the video game power of infinite respawn-- Whenever he dies, he comes back to life at his save point. Emily Blunt, who had the power once but lost it, helps guide him on his mission to kill the alien's central control-hive-mind-thingy, and there you have your plot.

What I appreciate most about this film is its willingness to not take itself seriously. Cruise doesn't play his typical character, he instead takes the part of a wimpy, diminutive, whiny little press icon who has never actually seen battle. This is a bit of a stretch for the guy who always seems to get typecast as MAVERICK: The Cocky, Charming Pilot Who Plays By His Own Rules! His performance is one of the strongest ones he's given in years, and he hits every right note when it comes to how a real person would react in his situation. There's also a welcome amount of humor, mostly constructed around Cruise's constant deaths, and the movie doesn't shy away from poking fun at its central premise. In a time when most films are dark, Christopher Nolan-y exposition-fests, I couldn't possibly appreciate this more.

The action is equally strong, and is coherently filmed-- No shaky cam or quick-zooms to be found here. The director and cinematographer clearly understood that action isn't just about physical movements, it's about motivation (a concept that was lost on the creators of Transformers: Age of Extinction). There's a montage halfway through the movie that may just be my favorite action centerpiece of the year. What makes most of this film's gimmicks work are the constant, subtle jabs at the genre itself, and of course the legitimately entertaining action. The semi-futuristic world that this movie crafts is extremely imaginative and involving, from the alien designs to the mech suits worn by the grunts of the military. Altogether, it's a very well put-together film.

Towards the end, the movie starts taking itself a little too seriously, however, and it adapts the darker, explosion-filled style that we all too often expect of modern science fiction films. However, I can't deduct too many points for this, because as the stakes get higher the film clearly needs to have a more emotional climax than the rest of the movie. But did we really need to have a bunch of marines running around in the dark AGAIN? Also, I'm a little miffed at the way the movie uses a plot point that ends up in the vein of Deus ex Machina at the end. It's a little reminiscent of the ending to Source Code, except here it doesn't make any sense (no spoilers!). But since the rest of the movie is so strong, and because I just love movies like this, it didn't detract from my enjoyment much, and I doubt anyone else would say otherwise.

Final Score for Edge of Tomorrow: 7/10 stars. This is nothing more than a simple, fun summer blockbuster, but it really does wonders with its premise. There's a lot to love in this movie, and even if it isn't particularly highbrow entertainment, a lot of work and effort went into crafting it, and boy did it pay off. It's truly refreshing to see an action film that actually took some creativity to make. Take note, Michael Bay. All the makings of a sci-fi classic are here. The characters are relatable, the story is interesting, and the action is actually quite intelligent, unlike Tin Cans In A Blender 4. Altogether an entertaining and awesome experience that people will hopefully talk about for years to come.

Under the Skin

Back in the 90s, there was a film known as Species, a laughable little B-movie that gave B-movies a bad name. In it, scientists cross alien DNA with the DNA of a supermodel, and create an incredibly sexy killing machine. This new creature then proceeds to rampage across Los Angeles, seducing men in order to try and find a viable mate and killing the ones that don't fit the bill. It is a cheesy, silly, campy load of shit, but at least it's a fun movie, which is more than I can say for 2014's more pretentious version of it, Under the Skin.

In this film, Scarlett Johansson plays an alien disguised as, well, Scarlett Johansson, and moves through Scotland killing people. It is not nearly as compelling as it sounds. Much like Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives, a lot of this movie is stylistic filler. It's definitely more of an experience than it is a movie, but you really have to take the good with the bad when it comes to a film such as this. Despite being far more compelling than a certain other alien/beautiful woman hybrid flick, this film is not very approachable, at least on a surface level. Let's try to break it down a bit.

The main focus of this film is the alien's slow transformation as she interacts with humans. She becomes increasingly fascinated with human culture, but is not in fact capable of becoming fully human (as evidenced by a scene in which she fails at eating cake, which I'm not sure was supposed to be funny, but I laughed at it anyway). This kind of story has been done before: The visitor from another culture slowly absorbs the new culture into themselves, and realizes that what they're doing is wrong. Avatar, anyone? But the way in which this is presented in Under the Skin is far more interesting-When Johansson kills someone, they burst like a balloon and their skin floats away.

I must say though, despite the fascinating premise and interesting messages the film has, these scenes get old fast. Artsy-fartsy shock and awe will only get you so far, but at some point, you need to have another reason to keep people watching your movie than just "SCARLETT JOHANSSON IS NAKED!!! WOOO-HOOO!" That's the biggest reason why mainstream audiences watched this movie, I'm sure, and in a way it really does it a disservice. People can't appreciate the message of a film if they're too focused on the actress's titties. If you were to ignore the fact that Johansson is naked in the killing scenes, you'd realize how repetitive and truly dull they are. But hey, tits. So that's a plus.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!! If you have not yet seen Under the Skin, skip to the Final Score.

The film really lost me, however, at the end, when the alien tears off her Scarlett Johansson disguise and reveals herself for what she truly is. Any number of interpretations could be drawn from this, but none of them really satisfy me. It could mean, for instance, that the creature has given up on trying to be human and has decided not to try to be something she's not anymore. Or, it could mean that the creature no longer wants to lure innocent people to their deaths, and so she rips off her disguise in order to avoid that temptation. Either way, the metaphor doesn't quite work. This film is a commentary about predators in society, so what is it trying to say, at its core? That predators are inherently good inside and want to fit in? Or that they are truly dark and soulless creatures hell-bent on terrorizing humanity? I'm not convinced of either end of the spectrum.

Final Score for Under the Skin: 5/10 stars. I thought about bringing this up, partly because it's a fascinating movie and partly because the cinematography was so damn good, but really I can't justify giving this movie a positive score and meanwhile mocking Only God Forgives. Neither are particularly good at conveying their messages, and both favor shock, titillation, and artsy camerawork over actually making a decision on what they're trying to say. The difference is that Johansson does quite a good job in this film, with a convincing accent and a very emotionally involving character. But as for the story? Ehh... not so much.

The Aviator
The Aviator(2004)

An overlong and cluttered film (classic Scorsese!) that still manages to lift off due to DiCaprio's marvelous performance and the power of the story it tells. Full review soon.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

This year has been very successful for independent films so far, but what people might forget is that barring Transformers 4 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 2014 has also been a very good year for blockbusters. The good run that began with Days of Future Past, Godzilla, and Edge of Tomorrow has continued with Dawn of the Sequel to the Prequel to the Reboot of the Planet of the Apes, one of the strongest sequels in recent memory and one of the best films of the year so far. As I disliked the original film, I was surprised at how much better this installment was, but with a better cast and a more interesting story, it was able to overcome the less than strong start to this reboot series.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place a few years after the first film, when humans have become all but extinct. A deadly virus has practically wiped our species out, and the last few remaining humans are living in small communities around the world. One such community is located in San Francisco (I was born there!), an overpopulated block of the city run by Gary Oldman. The power for the miniature city is running out, so Oldman will need to find a new way to keep his society intact. How to do this? Travel north across the Golden Gate Bridge and utilize a dam under the control of super-intelligent apes, of course! And thus we have the conflict: Will peace between the two races, one budding and one dying, be accomplished? Or will they resort to war?

The undertones about conflict and war are more than overt in this movie, but that doesn't make them any less potent. Caesar, the leader of the apes (Andy Serkis), is clearly a good man-- er, monkey-- and befriends a human played by Jason Clarke. However, two legitimately good people are never enough to turn the tide of war, and people on both sides end up escalating the conflict. This is a very important message, I think, and one that doesn't get demonstrated in movies nowadays nearly enough: There have been good men on both sides of every war ever fought. Not to mention that the twistiness of the plot that brings the two sides to clash in this film is quite good. It almost feels like it was crafted by Game of Thrones writers (although Caesar's son isn't a whiny little bitch). Altogether, it's virtually plot hole free.

The human acting ranges between strong and aggressively mediocre. I do wish the casting director had chosen someone better than Jason Clarke for the main human role, as he hasn't got nearly enough acting capability or charisma to really pull his character off. However, Gary Oldman impresses as always, and Andy Serkis is, of course, phenomenal. The man never ceases to amaze me-- He's been an acclaimed actor for years without ever showing his face onscreen. Normally I'd write this off as a technological aspect that makes acting irrelevant and criticize it for that, but I can't deny the truly remarkable performance that Serkis gives in this movie. I don't know how much of my enjoyment was based off of the CGI and how much was based off the acting, but at this point, I don't want to know.

The set design and actual action sequences are extremely strong as well. The battle between humans and apes (yes, it happens, was that REALLY a spoiler?) is expertly crafted, and the film becomes darkly comical at times. Most of my problems with the film stem from knowledge that only a Bay Area native would know, for instance, that they could easily have traveled to South San Francisco and found a dam down there, or gone east into Pleasanton and used some of the windmills that they have there. Also, is there even a hydroelectric dam in Muir Woods? I don't think so. Still though, these complaints can be accepted as a Hollywoodization of the story, so I don't really have a problem with that. Despite a few casting changes I would have made, everything in this movie is a well-oiled machine.

Final Score for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: 8/10 stars. I'll probably lower this to a seven at some point, after the initial shock and awe of seeing the film wears off, but hopefully I'll be able to bear in mind just how grandiose this movie was on the big screen. After a middling first installment, I'm suddenly very intrigued to see where this franchise goes next. This is the best Planet of the Apes movie I've ever seen, and definitely sets a new bar for the series as a whole. Now that the cat's out of the bag, what will they do for an encore?


When it comes to police movies, David Ayer has really made a name for himself. He wrote the 2001 film Training Day, an excellent film about police corruption, and wrote and directed 2012's End of Watch. Such a shame it is, then, that he has been reduced to this. Whereas the two movies I just mentioned hinge mostly on their realistic portrayal of day-to-day life as a law enforcement agent, Sabotage, his latest effort, relies for the most part on cheap scares and shocking images to get its desired effect. Couple that with a far less capable cast, and you have a bit of a dog on your hands. This movie isn't quite terrible- But with some considerable talent on display, it should have been a lot better.

Sabotage stars Arnold "The Governator" Schwarzenegger as Breacher, a DEA agent who takes his team to raid a drug lord's mansion. When they find a buttload of cash there, they skim a little off the top for themselves and hide it down a pipe. But when the team goes back to retrieve it, it's gone. This movie is one massive whodunit, but in the goriest way possible. As the plot advances, members of the team get killed off in various gruesome ways, including getting run over by a train, being killed in a gunfight, and getting nailed to the ceiling and disemboweled. This is all just as intense as it sounds, and those who expect to go into this movie with some typical, mostly bloodless Schwarzenegger-style gunfights will probably be surprised at the level of blood and guts in this movie. Not really a complaint, as they do serve the story... more of an observation. It was interesting to see Arnie in a film that at times felt more like a horror movie than an action flick.

As for Schwarzenegger himself, his performance is actually quite good. He still has the inexplicable Austrian-accent-on-the-Mexico-border thing going against him, of course, but he really does show a wide range of emotion in this movie. As a side note: Seriously, why is it that whenever a movie like this stars Arnie, none of the characters question his accent? Just explain it away with one line of dialogue. Ignoring it is clumsy and awkward. Nevertheless, he's not pretending to be the arrogant tough guy he once was, and instead is more of a broken man, susceptible to greed and revenge. His wife and son were killed by the cartel, and he really shows it in a couple scenes. He gives a lot of human life to this character for a guy who is most famous for playing an emotionless robot, and for that, he has my approval.

The rest of the cast, however, doesn't help him out very much. Sam Worthington is in this movie, for one. Yes, you heard that right. Sam "I-didn't-think-he'd-ever-work-again-after-Avatar" Worthington actually got hired by someone in Hollywood. Ridiculous. I don't think I need to detail what an immensely bad actor this man is, because by now, everyone with half a brain gets it. The other members of Arnie's team are less of characters than they are Call of Duty callsigns. They have names like "Sugar," "Grinder," "Tripod," and "Pyro." Hell, with a team this generic, they could have benefitted from a little Maverick, Iceman, and Goose.

Olivia Williams is somewhat strong as the lead opposite Schwarzenegger, an investigator tasked with finding out what's happening to Arnie's team. Still, none of these actors, even Schwarzenegger, are quite capable of getting the script by Skip Woods to sound good. Ayer's direction almost saves it, but the story and dialogue in this movie goes considerably downhill after the first few scenes. Most of the team consists of misogynistic, wife beater-clad sub-morons, making it very difficult to sympathize with them when they start getting killed off. Their dialogue with Williams made me almost want to kill them myself. And the ending (although I'll admit, it surprised me) was probably the product of Woods panicking and trying to figure out how to end it as quickly as possible. The plot twist is good, but it's handled very poorly. Unfortunately, I can't really say why it irked me so much without giving spoilers, and because this is a watchable film, I won't ruin it for anyone.

Final Score for Sabotage: 4/10 stars. I wanted to like this movie a whole lot more, believe me. But even with good direction and a strong lead performance, the movie eventually became way too burdened-down with bludgeoning violence, stock characters, and a stupid script that just wouldn't quit disappointing me at every turn. If you're a big fan of either Ayer or Arnie, you'll probably have the same reaction I had to this movie, praising them but balking at the rest of the production. I don't know if this makes it worthy of recommendation just to see their contributions to the movie, but for what it's worth, I'm glad I watched it. It's better than last year's Escape Plan, and far better than the dismissive RT reviews led me to believe.

Training Day
Training Day(2001)

Although the rookie cop/police corruption story has been done before, Training Day is elevated above typical genre trappings by strong performances from Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington. Full review soon.

The Happening

This is a joke, right? Please tell me this is a joke... oh dear, they're not joking. Ugh.


Sometimes I wish we could just send an open letter to Hollywood stating that yes, we get it, war is hell. Nobody needs to see yet another damn movie about it. Sadly, that would never work, because it would seem that people eat movies like this up. Brothers, based on the 2004 Danish film Brødre, is both well-acted and insufferably generic at the same time, two qualities that average it out to a somewhat "meh" movie. It's certainly not the worst war movie I've ever seen, but while watching it, I couldn't help but think about how much better it could have been.

Brothers is one of those films where one can glance at the poster and pretty much understand what the film is about. Sam (Tobey Maguire) is headed off to another tour in Afghanistan, leaving behind his wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal). When Sam is shot down and presumed to be dead, Tommy and Grace start to develop feelings for one another. Then Sam returns. Throughout, there is an accompaniment of mild, twangy acoustic guitars in the background, to set the mood with. It is, to be frank, spine-chillingly uninventive.

One might wonder why, then, I found the film to be passable. Well, it's because the acting is actually shockingly good (at least 67% of it... heh). It's still a bit painful to sit through simply due to the lack of creativity and obvious apathy that went into crafting it, but Gyllenhaal and Portman do wonders with the terrible lines they're given. I was waiting for one of them to truly disappoint me, but it never came. Even in the scene where the men arrive at Portman's door to inform her that her husband is dead, she performs admirably. This is a scene that lesser actresses would not be able to pull off, but I believed every last second of her miniature tour de force. Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, could probably read a phone book and be entertaining, so I honestly couldn't care less about his dialogue. He has great screen charisma, and truly makes his character likable and strong despite the serious deficit of effort behind the camera.

Maguire, meanwhile... *prolonged sigh*. Well, he's a different story altogether. I've never thought much of him as an actor, mainly because he always comes across as whiny and pathetic. When you cast him as an army captain, you're just asking for trouble. His wimpy, reedy little voice is impossible to ignore, especially when it's coming from a character that's supposed to be tough. I know he passed himself off (more or less) as the cool badass guy in Spider-Man, but even then he was a nerd and an emo. I don't know whose decision it was to put him in this role, but it was seriously misguided.

However, he does manage to pull the film out of its rut at the end by Nicolas Caging all over the kitchen. Honestly, these three actors probably didn't care much about this film, but when they were given the chance to express unbridled human emotions, the results were astounding. It doesn't excuse the cliched plot and laughable dialogue, of course ("I have to go. He's my brother." "He doesn't deserve you."), but it made the film a whole lot more bearable. And even though a good 85% of this movie is cliched drivel, the rest is comprised of some pretty powerful scenes, especially one in which Maguire's daughter asks him "Couldn't you just stay dead?" If only the rest of the film had been so engaging.

Final Score for Brothers: 4/10 stars. This movie is by no means terrible, but if you have low tolerance for generic romantic trite and faux-drama, stay away from it. However, it's good if you just want to see a lesser-known movie with three leads who (to varying degrees of success) really do try their hardest with the material they're given. Despite the fact that the movie fails as a whole, I respect Gyllenhaal and Portman for more or less preventing it from being a huge catastrophe. Now if only she could have done that with Star Wars...

The Hunt (Jagten)

Once upon a time in Arizona, a child was once arrested for drawing what "looked like a gun." In upstate New York, a kid was suspended for wearing an NRA t-shirt. Hell, when I was in sixth grade, my teacher got mad at me for drawing a grappling hook on a test, because it "Could be used as a weapon." There's a mentality in the world today where, whenever the slightest threat to children's safety is mentioned, people go absolutely out of their minds. And after stories of pedophile priests and Columbine, who can blame them? Well, I can. I've long been disgusted by people who go out of their way to create drama and terror based on their own paranoia and warped perceptions of reality, and if there was ever any doubt in anyone's mind that the PC movement has come too far, it should have been eradicated by The Hunt.

In this Danish drama, a kindergarten teacher (Mads Mikkelsen) is accused by one of the kids in his care of sexually abusing her. The accusations are baseless, and when the child is questioned about the subject, the therapists and teachers feed her the answers. What follows is something that can only be described as a witch hunt. Parents driven insane with their protective instincts immediately begin seeing "warning signs" in their children, prompting the other kids to declare that they were abused as well. What makes the situation all the more horrible is the knowledge that no matter the outcome of the eventual court hearing, Mikkelsen will be shunned from society forever, with this fallacy tarnishing his permanent record.

This film is equal parts engrossing and utterly infuriating. While watching it, I began to have that intangible yet animalistic desire to reach through the screen and punch the characters in the face. It's quite a testament to this film's subject matter (and the way it handles it) that it can elicit such a reaction from me. The script is also excellent, and all the reactions of the character seem real and humanistic. My few complaints (and they are very few) stem mostly from Mikkelsen's seeming inability to deny the allegations. Why is it that in movies like this, where the main character is accused of something horrible, they can't just say "No, I didn't do it?" Why have them beat around the bush by asking "Do YOU think I did it? Huh? Huh? Do ya?" It's not the way any sane person would react in such a situation.

Still though, the rest of the film is strong. For a minute, I doubted the motivation of the little girl's mother-- She had been a longtime friend of Mikkelsen's, and was far too quick to judge him. But things like that are easily explained away by overprotective mothers and the insane tendencies of parents. As for Mikkelsen himself, he's perfect for the role, and even looks a tad pedophile-y with his beady little eyes and greasy, long hair. If I saw him at a playground, you bet I'd be a little disturbed. But that's the way the film plays right off the audience's cheap suspicions and hang-ups: By presenting us with the story we've heard so many times in the news and then completely turning the tables.

If nothing else, this is a great movie to spark debate about. One could easily say that situations like this one rarely happen, and that usually when a kid says they were molested, they are telling the truth. But that misses the core message of this movie. It's not just about this one case, or whether or not there are others like it. It's a massive, cutting jab at the social justice, PC culture of our times. I'm waiting for the day when all kids in Florida get arrested because the state "Kind of looks like a gun," or when a man is put in jail for staring at a little kid for a few seconds too long. Being hypervigilant is a slippery slope, and I give this movie a lot of respect for so expertly skewering that.

Final Score for The Hunt: 8/10 stars. Despite a few plotting complaints, this is a great film that will (hopefully) make a lot of people think twice before they gather a posse together to go pick out scapegoats. Even if you don't agree with the film's premise, you'll surely be sucked in by Mikkelsen's performance. He's a heartbreaking character in every possible way, and over the course of the film he loses everything. I was hoping that this movie would have a happy ending, and for the most part, it did... and it almost had me fooled up until the very end. I should have known better than to trust a movie this gloriously twisted. No spoilers, though. Just watch the film.


I have taken it upon myself to slog through every film by the supposed "director" Darren Aronofsky, and by God, I'm gonna do it even if it kills me. After Requiem for a Dream (2/10), Pi (2/10), Black Swan (5/10), and The Fountain (2/10), I was unsure of just how stupid this guy's movies could get. And I'm happy to report that he is now batting 0 for 5. Noah, Aronofsky's latest film, is a quite befuddling movie, in that it manages to anger both atheists and Christians alike by telling a Bible story. But really, the people who should be mad are cinephiles, because religious overtones aside, this is not a good film. I don't care how poorly it tells the original story, I don't care that it's about the power of God (my favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark, for shit's sake), and I don't care that it's a Bible movie. I'm just pissed because it's a terrible movie.

Noah tells the age-old story of the guy who builds an ark that magically fits every species in the world on it in order to survive the coming great flood. The dinosaurs didn't fit on the ark, and so they dug holes and laid down in them to wait for the flood. That's why dinosaur bones are found underground (courtesy of the Kentucky Christian Science Museum). In this film, Noah is played by Russell Crowe, one of my least favorite actors ever mainly because of what he does in movies like this. Whenever Crowe takes on a role as grandiose as Noah, he seems to feel as though the weight of the world rests on his shoulders, and turns the character into a brooding and emotionally devastated figure. He did this in Gladiator, and again in Robin Hood, and now brings this persona to Noah, who really didn't need the moody Dark Knight treatment. Back in the day, Bible movies were supposed to be uplifting messages about faith and spirituality, not boring slogs through mud and dreariness. Why can't Hollywood make a movie that's just fun?

As for Aronofsky's direction... hoo boy. I used to think he was a pretentious hack, but after seeing this film, I've reached the conclusion that he might be legitimately retarded. In this film, angels descend from heaven to help the offspring of Seth (Cain and Abel's little brother with down syndrome) defend themselves against the offspring of Cain. But when they crash to Earth, they become covered in mud, which then hardens and turns them into rock monsters. The rock monsters then run around smashing desperate people in the face to keep them from getting on the ark, and we're supposed to root for them. The problem with this (overlooking the fact that I'm pretty sure these rock Transformers haven't been canonized by the Vatican) is that audiences nowadays, even if they're Christian, aren't filled with the love of God enough to not take pity on the people trying to save themselves. This movie is utterly brutal towards the men, women, and children trying to survive God's wrath on the ark. I'm sorry if we can't all be as callous as Noah... oh wait, he's the hero. Shit.

The CGI in this movie is mostly worthless, cartoonish shit, to the point that it almost charmed me. Some of it felt like a campy 50s adaptation of a Bible story, which oddly made it slightly more tolerable. The rock monsters moved in jerky, forced ways, like the Terminator endoskeleton from the original film, and the intro looked like a bad Bible cartoon for kids. The rest of the film is shot in deep blue-greys, in a desperate effort to add some style to the exhausting boredom and weightiness of this tired affair. But visuals aren't the main part of this movie (even though one would expect a self-described "epic" to have passable special effects). No, what really could have made this movie stand out is relatable, human characters in a story that is decidedly larger than life. And with the combined efforts of Crowe's apathy and Aronofsky's directorial incompetence, that seemingly achievable goal was not reached.

Final Score for Noah: 2/10 stars. I've seen bad Aronofsky, but this is the first movie of his I've laughed out loud at. I didn't even chuckle when Hugh Jackman turned into a plant in The Fountain, which I think shows remarkable restraint on my part. The word "pretentious" gets thrown around a lot, often times incorrectly, for films that are a tad thoughtful or heady. And I'm fine with a little pretentiousness now and then. But when a movie acts self-important and has no viable reason for doing so, I laugh it off. That's what Noah is: A Man of Steel-style retelling of a Bible story with rock monsters and bad dialogue, and a crushing prevailing feel of egotism and narcissism. It's just a bloated Aronofsky ego trip.

And now it comes down to The Wrestler. Can it gain the distinction of being the one good Darren Aronofsky film? Find out next time on Tut's Tutillating Reviews!

127 Hours
127 Hours(2010)

Movies these days are filled with blood, gore, and mayhem, but how often do random bad guy deaths in the latest Schwarzenegger/Stallone outing stick in your head? Not often. When there's no attachment to the characters, audiences become numb to the chaos and atrocities they're seeing. How ironic is it then, that one of the most talked-about scenes of gore and blood in recent movie history involves a simple amputation and camera cut? The reason behind this is that, unlike in action gorefests, 127 Hours leads you to actually care about its character, a rock climber who becomes trapped under a boulder while out hiking and is forced to cut his own hand off. Everybody knows the true story of Aron Ralston, the outdoorsman who this movie is based on. But somehow, the brutality of his last resort and the great performance by James Franco still make it all just as harrowing as if we didn't know the outcome. It's quite the experience.

127 Hours is a difficult movie to write a review for, as most of it takes place in a canyon, with one guy sweating and freaking out. It's somewhat reminiscent of All Is Lost with Robert Redford (although, yes, it was made before it), in that it showcases a great performance that is mostly devoid of dialogue in a perilous situation. It's always interesting when a movie ruminates on how one minor decision can completely alter one's life. How different would things have been if Ralston had picked a different route that day? The ramifications of little decisions in our lives always fascinate me, and this film does a great job of exploring that. It also gives its main character a good amount of time to think about the mistake he made, which turns out to be the most intense part of Franco's performance.

I've never been a big James Franco fan, but to his credit, he did try to kill Kristen Dunce numerous times in the Spider-Man movies. However, he's great in this film, and he immediately made me forget that I was watching a movie and not the actual event from minute one. However, this performance hinges mostly on the gimmick that Franco is trapped in the canyon, so a lot of his scenes are merely huffing and puffing or attempting to reach something that fell on the ground. It's not exactly great acting, because anyone can pretend that their adrenaline is pumping given the proper motivation. And I must say, although the story of this man is certainly worthy of telling, this movie could have been edited down a lot. It's difficult to make a movie about a guy stuck in a crevasse really entertaining, and this film gives it its all, but it's not helped along by the fact that several scenes are useless and unnecessary. Of course, it's not quite Hobbit-level runtime padding, but still, things could have been compacted a bit.

Altogether though, this is a very strong film. Its simplicity is somewhat admirable, especially in a time when most people don't think twice about savage brutality in films. Pain and bloodshed are ever more common in movies, but you rarely see a film that does as much as it can to make the events onscreen a realistic experience for the audience. I could watch this movie on my iPod and still feel like I was seeing it in 3D. It's an immersive experience, mostly due to Boyle's intense, often psychedelic direction and Franco's portrayal of Ralston. He's not so much of a hero as he is just a character who we are forced into caring about simply because he deserves our compassion in this particular scenario. What makes it all the more interesting is that the real-life Ralston was arrested on domestic abuse charges. So like I said, he's not the hero. Just the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Final Score for 127 Hours: 7/10 stars. I originally gave this film a six, as it didn't really capture my imagination much, and there wasn't much talent on display besides Boyle and Franco. Still, I have to give it credit for being so immersive and compulsively watchable. This movie doesn't even feel like a movie, let alone one that encompasses 127 hours. It feels like it takes place all at once, with one bludgeoning scene after another. At its core, it's a fascinating movie about the lengths people will go to in order to survive, and will surely spark conversations on the subject. Could I myself have done it? Probably not.

Before Midnight

If there's anything to be learned from Richard Linklater's Before trilogy, it's that romance movies don't have to be chick flicks. I've sat through three movies of people "just talking" now, and that's the kind of thing that would bore fans of The Notebook to tears. Fuck 'em. If you want a beautiful, poetic, and funny love story for the modern era, this trilogy is where you should turn to. And this final chapter, which some could probably argue is the best of the three, is an utterly dazzling showcase of why both critics and audiences have come to like these movies so much. Hawke and Delpy need to take a bow, because they've just finished portraying two of the most achingly realistic and human characters ever put to film.

Before Midnight starts off kind of rough, I must admit. The film takes place in Greece, where Hawke and Delpy have been visiting a writer's house for the summer. They aren't married, but Hawke separated from his wife to be with her and they have two kids, twin girls. The structure of this film is slightly different from the others, in that it actually has scene cuts. Before Sunrise had only one serious time jump, and Before Sunset didn't have any, but I suppose that Linklater figured that, this being the grand finale, things should be shaken up a bit.

That works to a point. This film's story is far different from the other two, in that Hawke and Delpy are no longer lovers doomed to be apart but are instead together and growing more and more tired of each other by the minute. By reformatting the film's classic style, Linklater tells us from the get-go that we shouldn't expect the same thing over again. However, I have a few complaints, the first being the inclusion of the other writer characters. There is a scene at the beginning of this movie where Hawke and Delpy sit down to dinner with six other people (this comes as a shock to me solely because they barely interact with other characters throughout the other films), and talk about life and love. This scene was insufferably pretentious, and the dialogue felt forced and expository, but as soon as the two of them got away from the other characters, this movie got amazing... FAST.

I would love to give exact quotes from the argument that Delpy and Hawke have in their tiny hotel room as evidence of how great the writing in this movie is, but I'm afraid that doing so would rob the movie of its humorous and emotional punch when it's actually viewed. All I can say is that these two had better be dating in real life, because nobody should be able to act this good. While watching them bicker, I stopped being aware of the fact that I was watching a movie. That's how immersive the dialogue in this film is. Linklater slightly compromises the film's edginess, however, by focusing more on Ethan Hawke's character than Delpy's. Perhaps it's just because I'm a dude, but I can't imagine anyone watching this argument and taking her side, mainly because she's out of her fucking gourd. This turned him into more of the main character than having the two of them share that role. Not really a complaint, just more of an observation.

But the place where this movie succeeds is the same place where the other films did-- in its portrayal of life as both funny and heartbreaking, often in equal measures. Even in life's most bitter moments, Hawke's character can find a silver lining. And that's another great thing about this film: It finally completes the character arcs begun in Before Sunrise. Remember way back in the day when I said Hawke was a romantic disguised as a cynic and Delpy was the exact reverse? Well, in their forties, they've stopped pretending. And as they try to adjust to that new reality, they piss each other off. The main message of these movies, I think, is that love is something worth working for (as weird as it sounds coming from the most cynical reviewer this side of the Mississippi). Things never work out like you want them to. So it's best to face that disappointment with someone else.

Final Score for Before Midnight: 8/10 stars. This movie is engaging, wonderfully filmed, impeccably acted, and remarkably written. Despite the fact that a lot of its opening scenes are somewhat less inspired than I had been led to expect from a Linklater film, but any faults are soon made up for by a series of scenes that will truly knock your socks off. Some have said that Linklater could possibly make a fourth installment, as he hasn't really said that he's calling it quits yet, but I personally hope he doesn't. He's left these characters off right where he should have. I hope it worked out well for them.


The thing about vanity projects is that if the director doesn't focus more on what the audience wants than what he does, they can turn out pretty damn bad. That would seem to be the case with Chef, a food-porn movie that plays like a two-hour episode of No Reservations in which Jon Favreau gets to live in a fantasy world where women like Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson are interested in him. Don't be fooled, this feel-good road trip movie is emotionally manipulative and lighthearted, but has very little else going for it. There is nothing under the surface, and shockingly little to sink your teeth into for a movie about food. Favreau was so busy cooking up meals he had no time to cook up a good story. I would have expected more from such a seasoned director... okay, I'm done with the puns.

Chef stars Favreau as a chef (woah, didn't see that coming) who is fired from his restaurant job after yelling at a critic. That sentence I just wrote sums up the whole first hour of the movie, so in other words we have to wait for the film to be half-over before the actual plot kicks in. Also, Favreau doesn't endear himself to the audience at all by being a bombastic asshole and a negligent father who gets mad at people for criticizing his work. Actually, shit, I'd better be careful with this review. If I'm too mean to this movie, Jon Favreau might show up at my door and punch me in the face. Eek.

Favreau then runs into a couple of his friends he met while making the Iron Man movies (Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr, both in exceptionally tiny roles). Downey is great as always, and gives a little life and exuberance to this otherwise boring film, making me think that he might have either written his scene himself or just ad-libbed it. Johnasson, meanwhile, is given the difficult task of saying the line "There's nothing here for you" about fifteen separate times in one scene. I really have to admire her ability to suck it up and take shitty roles like this, because it's clear she was just doing her buddy Jon a solid by attaching her name to this movie. It's not like her character is even remotely necessary to the plot.

After Favreau embarks on his cross-country road trip in his food truck, the movie picks up a little steam, but it can never escape the utter inertia of its story. After getting fired, Favreau's character has almost no obstacles to overcome. The rest of the movie is 50% a montage of sandwich-making and 50% bland, emotionless treacle, in which Favreau spouts mindless and generic platitudes about cooking to his 10-year-old son. This movie is the definition of "uninvolving," and even foodies looking for a feel-good movie will be put off by a lot of its brutally sentimental self-indulgence. The characters are all cardboard cutouts and the story is practically nonexistent.

SPOILERS AHEAD! If you have not yet seen Chef, and are stupid enough to want to after reading this review, skip ahead to the Final Score.

By the time the ending rolls around, Chef loses whatever traction it may have gained in some of its stronger scenes with one of the absolute worst endings I have ever seen in the history of film. The critic who panned Favreau shows up at his food truck, raving about his sandwiches. We then are given a title card reading "Six Months Later," from where we see Favreau getting remarried to his ex-wife at his new restaurant, sponsored by the critic, where everyone is laughing and having fun. No discernable dialogue is spoken. We then cut to the credits. I'd call this predictable, but I honestly could never have predicted that the movie would have chosen such a generic and tasteless (no pun intended) finale. It's shockingly bad. This is one of the few times I've ever let my jaw drop in horror in a movie theater.

Final Score for Chef: 4/10 stars. This movie has some good ideas, but it's nothing more than a sloppy, lukewarm mixture of feel-good vibes and indifferent performances. At no point did I feel any connection to one of the characters, nor did I even feel the desire to. Chef probably sounded good when Favreau pitched it to his friends, but Rotten Tomatoes was seriously lenient by calling this movie "familiar." I was literally calling out the next plot point a second before it appeared onscreen. In a way, this movie is unpredictably predictable, in that nobody could have seen such a lazy piece of shit coming from so much talent. This film is a poster boy for adherence to convention. If you're looking for something safe and unchallenging, by all means, give Favreau your money (better than giving it to Michael Bay). But if you actually value creative stories and good acting, I suggest you stay away.


As I've said many a time before, really good original sci-fi films are hard to come by these days. Another thing I've said before is that good visuals do not make a good movie. Watching Transcendence last night, I felt like I was witnessing the strange love-child of those two blatantly generalistic film platitudes. This film attempted to have some new ideas, it's true. But just because a film is original doesn't automatically make it good. Not only are the anti-technological themes of this film recycled from... well... practically every sci-fi movie since the 1930s, but the new ideas it brings to the table consist of bad science and even worse plotting. Also, the heroes of this movie are terrorists. So, there's that.

Transcendence stars Johnny Depp as Steve Jobs-- er, Will Caster, a technological genius who has plans to create a self-aware computer that will be more intelligent than every human being in the history of the world. During the conference, he doesn't really talk about how the technology works, and he just spouts worthless and generic bullshit about changing the world. But I suppose it was easier for the scriptwriters to do that than actually get into how the system would work. While there, he is shot with a radioactive bullet (wut) by a terrorist who is part of an anti-technology organization devoted to the preservation of mankind. Before he dies, Caster uploads his mind into a computer, and becomes one with the internet. Instead of promptly committing suicide, as anyone who explores all the dark corners of the web would, he uses his wife to begin construction on a massive base in the middle of the desert, from which he makes massive leaps forward in nanotechnology and medicine.

The question the film raises is whether or not the machine is actually Will Caster, or if it's just a ruthless killing machine in the spirit of SkyNet masquerading as him in order to use his wife as a physical vessel to further his goals. And in this sense, the movie succeeds, as it certainly kept me guessing through the whole thing. However, some of the questions it raises are ones that nobody really needed to ask in the first place. "Are we losing our humanity to technology?" is a valid question, and one that can incite debate. On the other hand, "Is turning people into robotic slaves morally wrong?" is not a real question, as the answer is too readily obvious. Besides, we don't need to worry about being turned into robotic slaves for at least another decade or so. Anyone could make a movie that asks interesting questions ("Will the Dyplestians of Virriemdas and the Shistelvaans of Impicalia ever make peace?"), but as long as the situations presented in the story don't pertain to anything in reality, there's really no point in bringing them up in the first place.

Johnny Depp basically gives his whole performance in this film via ChatRoulette, and even during his minimal screen time at the beginning, he phones in his performance. The rest of the cast does basically nothing, with Kate Mara pulling a Daenerys Targaryen and dying her hair blonde but not her eyebrows, and Morgan Freeman playing Morgan Freeman for the fiftieth time. The dialogue is strong at times, but eventually devolves into bullshitty technological mumbo-jumbo. At one point, a character stands in awe and says "Quantum processors." Things like this are a massive red flag that the writers didn't bother actually researching the topic at hand, and instead threw in random sci-fi sounding Intel products. "Hey, let's throw together some cool-sounding names for stuff in our movie, guys! How about a stellar object combined with a term used in electricity?" "Uranus-Hertz?" "I like it!"

However, the problems with this movie don't stop at bad science. The fact of the matter is that the movie is just plain boring. If legitimately good characters or dialogue had been included in this film, it could have been extremely successful, but up until the last twenty minutes, it's basically a montage of building solar panels, terrorists spouting revolutionist manifesto bullshit, and sweeping landscape shots that look like stock footage. I mean, my God, they actually REUSE some of the shots more than twice over the course of the movie. And when the climax rolls around, the whole conflict is resolved by uploading a virus to Caster's system (Jeff Goldblum would approve). The government agents just stand on top of a building the whole time, and then turn to each other and say "You okay?" The biggest offense of all, however, is the revelation that (SPOILERS!) Caster has been himself all along and was doing everything he did for the betterment of humanity. What is this movie trying to say with that? All this time it's been trying to warn the audience of the dangers of technology in the modern age, and now the villain of the movie turns out to be benevolent and kind? Ridiculous. This is a textbook example of a film that needs to figure out what the hell it wants to say. Asking questions will only get you so far. You have to answer at least some of them if you want a successful film.

Final Score for Transcendence: 3/10 stars. This movie isn't a total abomination, but it truly had a whole lot more potential than it lived up to. It's a somewhat competently-made film, with strong cinematography and a few interesting ideas. But it would have benefited a lot from a bit of intelligence-- artificial or otherwise.

The Fault In Our Stars

Disclaimer: I have not yet truly decided what to give The Fault in Our Stars currently, so over the course of writing this review, I will see what score I gravitate towards. I have never done this before, so... bear with me.

Last summer, I went to the library looking for a book to read, as I rarely have time to do so during the school year. Seeing as I am a huge fan of his YouTube videos, I figured I'd check out John Green's book The Fault in Our Stars. 313 pages later, I was nearly dead. That book was one of the most amazing things I have ever read, and one of the few stories that has actually made me feel something serious about the characters. Not in the way that you feel fear for Indiana Jones during a gunfight, or feel hatred for Patrick Swayze's character in Donnie Darko, but instead just plain, simple emotional attachment to the characters. That's a far more difficult feat to accomplish than it sounds, and yet, The Fault in Our Stars nearly broke me. It's a solid 9/10 book.

So when I heard that the film adaptation was coming out this summer, I had mixed feelings. Firstly, I love movies, and seeing a movie about one of my favorite books was not something I wanted to pass up. At the same time, watching the trailers, it became more and more painfully obvious to me that the film could never live up to the impossibly high standards set by the book. And, for what it's worth, I was right. During this film, I certainly felt emotionally attached to the characters. I even had to bite my lip a couple of times during the last 20 minutes. But I'm not sure if that's because I loved the book or because the movie was actually a legitimately good film. And sadly, the more I think about it, the less I think it's the latter.

The Fault in Our Stars is a story about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love. So right away, this story is destined to tug at our heartstrings. The main character, Hazel Grace Lancaster, is living with cancer and has to lug an oxygen tank around with her in order to survive. At a cancer meeting her mother forces her to go to, she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor (which, as the movie points out, just means he hasn't died yet) and an all-around nice guy. And so we have our inevitably doomed romance for the modern era. To her credit, Shailene Woodley does a tremendous job as Hazel, and is more or less just how I imagined her in the book... just with slightly longer hair. However, while watching this film, it became more and more apparent to me that this character simply did not translate well onto the silver screen. Her sarcasm and cynicism, which I found so appealing in the book, now became a deadened and lifeless Hollywood trope, milking her "quirky charm" for everything it was worth. I'm scared to say it, but I have to speak my mind... it became a tad Juno-y.

Meanwhile, some idiot named Ansel Elgort plays Augustus, and I must say that this was one of the most disappointing aspects of the movie. Again, the character that worked so well on page had been given the Hollywood treatment, transforming from a likable and relatable character into a cardboard cutout that speaks dialogue unfit for a porno. It doesn't help that Elgort is absolutely horrible as Augustus, spouting insufferably concocted insta-profundities every minute he's onscreen. Do screenwriters not understand that when you make every scene have some sort of heavy emotional weight, NONE of the scenes end up carrying any?

The poor transfer this story made to screen is even more glaringly obvious as the plot advances and the characters go to Amsterdam to visit the writer of a book Hazel loves. I'm somewhat unclear on whether this part of the story was equally unbelievable in the book, but in the movie it was just downright irritating. Are we seriously supposed to buy into the series of pretzeley plot contrivances that were twisted around in order to let this plot point see the light of day? Perhaps it's due to Green's excellent writing that I didn't find a problem with this in the book, or maybe it's just because I have lower standards for books than films. But altogether, that whole aspect of the story left me sitting in the theater cringing when I should have been genuinely cheered.

However, I must say this for the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars: It did make me feel something. Of course, it waited until the last twenty minutes before it actually tried to make me care about the characters, but when it did, it pulled out all the stops. I found myself biting my cheek to keep all the feely feels in. But even now, sitting here writing this review, I'm not sure if that massive triumph is due to the movie's or the book's successes. And seeing how indifferent I was towards the characters up until this point, I can only assume that I incorrectly transferred my love for the book to the movie. What I failed to realize is that the characters I loved so much in the book were long gone, and now with no John Green to hold the proceedings together, the story I once loved devolved into a mushy pile of Hollywood sappiness and unabashed treacle.

Final Score for The Fault in Our Stars: 4/10 stars. This is a big comedown from what I originally gave the movie (a 7/10), but I honestly cannot justify giving a film this generic and rote a fresh score just because I loved the book. Some moments in this movie truly moved me. But all I can think now is that the whole affair could have been so much better. Whenever the camera panned up to the stars, I got chills thinking of Green's writing: "There is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars." That's beautiful, poetic stuff. And unsurprisingly, it's absent from this film.


Nowadays, in the time of Transformers, Man of Steel, and Avatar, truly strong sci-fi movies with powerful messages and great stories are hard to come by. And so, whenever a film comes out that jumps over that incredibly low bar, it is hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. So it is with Snowpiercer, a popcorn sci-fi film with delusions of grandeur, masquerading as a dystopian science fiction film when in fact it's nothing more than the same tired old routine... but this time, on a TRAIN! Oooh!

Snowpiercer takes place in a futuristic world where humans have somehow ridiculously frozen the planet in their efforts to stop global warming. The last known bastion of civilization is a train powered by a perpetual motion device (physically impossible) that circles the world once a year and was built by an eccentric billionaire (logically improbable). The train is divided into sections, with the back of the train reserved for filthy plebs and the front of the train reserved for wealthy, well-to-do people. However, the poor people don't really contribute anything to the well-being of the train, so... why are they on there again? Anyway, overlooking logical flaws and plot points that defy the laws of physics, this whole premise is nothing new. It's just the usual dystopian tale of the 99% rising up, but this time told on a form of public transportation. It's like retelling Pocahontas, but putting it on an alien world and thinking that somehow makes it original. Of course, nobody's stupid enough to do that... wait...

The fight for the train begins when Curtis (Chris Evans) begins a rebellion to try and take control of the train for the poor people at the back. To do so, he must fight through all the train cars, ranging from sushi bars to water treatment plants to classrooms. Standing in his way are legions of faceless badass soldiers (who are on the train... why?) and Tilda Swinton in what might be her most annoying role yet. She tries to take on the qualities of Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter books in an effort to make us hate her, but all she ends up accomplishing is being boring and unoriginal. Her character is nothing more than a self-righteous bitch with a weird agenda and a speech impediment. Nothing about her was even remotely intriguing or worthy of my contempt, so I ended up just being indifferent to her. As for Evans, he's a likable lead, but most of his dialogue sounds like it was written for a video game character. Still, the charisma he brings to the role is undeniable, and he mostly surpasses the typical "White Male Protagonist With Facial Hair" trappings.

Visually, I can find no problems with this movie. The effects for the train itself are somewhat fake-looking, but that's clearly just because more effort was put into the set design of its interior. It almost looked like an episode of Firefly, where budget constraints may have made it look less dazzling, yet that's what gives it some of its charm. As for the sets, I had no idea such wonders could be done with a series of identical rectangles. Each train car is more interesting than the last, both visually and to the plot. And the further Evans and his crew get to the front, the more ritzy and lavish the sets get, leaving you wondering what lies through the next door that will top this one. As easy as it would be to deride the plot contrivances it took to turn this pipe dream of a premise into a reality, it's difficult to argue against certain aspects of it. Sadly though, that doesn't excuse its issues.

Final Score for Snowpiercer: 4/10 stars. This movie has its good moments, but altogether it's nothing more than a typical tale of rebelling against the evil totalitarian dystopian systems of the future, blah blah blah. What makes it worse are the constant throwaway lines of dialogue that are used to give exposition on the plot points that the filmmakers seemingly pulled out of their asses. Halfhearted explanations for several of the film's plot holes are given, but none of them truly suffice, especially when the movie laughs in the face of all logic and science. Besides, the real question about a film such as this one is whether or not it was entertaining, and my honest answer is that it wasn't. I've grown truly tired of the same old story being told a thousand different ways, each one more excruciatingly forced than the last. It's time for some new blood in sci-fi.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Well, I did it. Against crushing odds, I sat through all of Michael Bay's latest two hour and forty minute installment to the Transformers franchise. Fortunately, the good people at came through for me, so I didn't have to pay to see this abortion of a film. I stopped giving Michael Bay my money when, as a misguided 13-year-old, I bought Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen without having seen it in theaters. And despite the fact that I spent nothing on this film (besides a chunk of my life that I'll never see again), I still want my money back. Apparently I am alone in this opinion, as this film raked in over 100 million dollars in its opening weekend with no signs of slowing down. But Bay has to pay. In the words of Jesse Pinkman, "He can't keep getting away with it."

Transformers: Age of Extinction (which, for all intents and purposes, should have been called Trans4mers) takes place five years after the battle of Chicago in the franchise's last installment, Dark of the Moon. This time, there are no human actors still around from the first films, either because they referred to Bay as a "Nazi," or because they aren't famous anymore, or because they simply no longer want to ride this train wreck of a franchise. The only two familiar characters are CGI: Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, neither of whom we really ever cared about, as it's painfully obvious that they won't be killed off before at least three more of these movies are made. Meanwhile, the role of the main human character is filled in by Marky Mark Wahlburger, the man who said "If I was one of the 9/11 passengers, I'd just kill the terrorists and prevent 9/11" and attacked elderly Vietnamese people in his youth. So forgive me if I don't feel any sympathy towards his character. Throw in Nicola "I Thought Her Career Ended With The Last Airbender" Peltz and a few dozen more interchangeable robots, and you've basically got this film.

Wahlberg brings essentially nothing to the table in this film, as he does in all his other roles. He's just a knockoff tough-guy version of Matt Damon, and is just plain uninteresting in this movie. His character development begins and ends at "Overprotective Dad." Meanwhile, Stan Tucci takes on the part of the villain, and is good enough to actually raise this movie up a notch or two for me. But then again, Tucci is good in nearly everything he's in. Hell, he even gave it his all in The Lovely Bones. And what's unfortunate about that is that when he's in terrible movies such as this one, he completely overshadows everything else in the film. Peltz, meanwhile, has become very attractive over the past few years. Unfortunately, she went to the Megan Fox/Kristen Stewart school of acting, and it doesn't help that Bay portrays her in his typical misogynistic ways, giving her character the stupidest lines, the worst decisions, and essentially making her out to be a wimpy little bitch. Nowadays, when we have strong female leads in action movies ranging from The Bride to Ellen Ripley, how can you justify having such a backwards portrayal of women in a film? Some say the death of feminism will come from congress or the government. I say it'll come from Michael Bay movies.

The CGI would certainly be passable if this were Trans4mers: The Video Game, but seeing as this is a live-action film that actually got released in theaters, the effects are shockingly bad. The battle scenes in this movie are slightly more coherent than in the previous installments, in that you can now slightly make out where one robot begins and the other ends. However, less shaky cam and wider shots can't overcome the fact that all the damn robots look the same. And if you're watching this movie for the Dinobots, well, sorry, but they don't show up until the last twenty minutes of the film, and Optimus Prime makes one of them his bitch. In fact, Prime is way more of a dick in this movie than the previous three, blowing up humans indiscriminately and forcing other Transformers into brutal alliances through brute force and threats. I thought that we had seen the peak of urban destruction in jaw-droppingly poor taste when Man of Steel came out, but actually, a lot more shit is destroyed in 30 minutes here than in the last hour of Man of Steal Your Money. And what makes it worse is that it just drags on and on and ON! Just when you think the movie's over, and you're waiting for Michael Bay to do his patented 360 camera zoom with voice-over to indicate that the film has ended, Optimus bin Laden shows up to kill some more innocent civilians simply by doing a shoulder roll.

Fuck this movie.

What makes this load of manure all the more abhorrent is the fact that people actually paid good money to see it and enjoyed themselves doing it. Yeah, you heard that right: The popcorn-chomping masses who flocked to see this movie in droves had fun doing so. How do these movies keep making money? Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon both got decidedly negative scores on Rotten Tomatoes, even from the audience (and from the looks of things, Age of Extinction is headed there too), leading me to wonder just who in the holy hell actually goes to see these things. Perhaps it's a group of people who no longer require a story or emotional weight to their action sequences. Pretty soon, summer blockbusters will just drop you in on a gunfight, continue it with minimal dialogue ("Oh no!" "Look out!" "Aaargh!") for 120 minutes, and then let the credits roll. There's nothing at stake in this or any other Transformers movie because nobody cares who wins or loses. These films are just an excuse to watch two tin cans throw themselves at one another. The original Transformers cartoons had characters who had personalities, interacted with each other, and (most importantly) actually looked different from one another. Age of Extinction has extinguished the last tiny spark of those joyful and innocent cartoons that was left in this festering dung heap of a franchise. A moment of silence, please, for everyone's childhood.

Final Score for Transformers: Age of Extinction: 2/10 stars. As bad as this film was, I'd like to separate it from Dark of the Moon, which was about as entertaining as watching babies starve to death in a dumpster. Stan Tucci did a good job as the villain, and could make even the worst dialogue sound passable, or at least humorously misguided. I mean, my God, there is an element in this film called "Transformium" that gives a whole new meaning to the word "macguffin." Seriously, that's lazier than Unobtainium. It sounds like the placeholder name the scriptwriters gave it during brainstorming sessions, but they never thought of a better one. Altogether, this movie is good at least for some unintentional laughter if nothing else. I've gotta hand it to Michael Bay, he sure knows how to make you laugh when he wants you to cry and cry when he wants you to laugh. Perhaps that's what he's doing with these films-- He's realized how low audiences have now set their bar for what qualifies as entertainment, and has dedicated his life to making them realize that, yes, there is a bottom to this barrel. Maybe after Transformers 16: Revenge of the Age of the Extinction of the Dark of the Moon of the Fallen, people will get a clue and figure out how truly awful these movies are. Until then, we'll just have to sit 'em out.

The Fountain
The Fountain(2006)

After seeing Requiem for a Dream the first (and, I can only hope, the last) time, I must admit that I was completely nonplussed. The film I had just witnessed was about a very serious subject-- drug addiction-- and was hailed as a modern masterpiece. It's not the kind of film I expected to write off, but after trying valiantly to convince myself otherwise, I had to let the inevitable realization set in that the movie was absolutely awful. Despite being well-filmed and viscerally arresting, the movie never actually made the audience care about the characters. The leads were underdeveloped, the dialogue was repetitive, and the whole film reeked of pretentiousness and propaganda. The director of that film, Darren Aronofsky, now has a reputation for making extremely pretentious yet utterly empty films such as Pi, Black Swan, and now this truly abhorrent film, The Fountain.

Okay, I'll be honest, I really just wanted to bash Aronofsky again when I saw this movie, because I still haven't gotten over how bad Pi was. But this film is a shocking new level of bad from a director who hasn't yet produced a film that's half as intelligent as he thinks it is. And, unsurprisingly, The Fountain is described as "A movie about metaphysics, universal patterns, Biblical symbolism, and boundless love spread across one thousand years" by our good friends at Rotten Tomatoes. Who in the world would think that a movie like this would ever be plausible, let alone entertaining? Throughout this movie's run time, it encompasses the Fountain of Youth, Spanish explorers, a futuristic biosphere, and a modern-day couple. The main character, Huge Jacked-Man, interacts with both stories, while his wife (Rachel Weiszezzes) dies of Sad Movie Illness #5,640. There. That's The Fountain summed up for you. Now you don't need to watch it.

Instead of trying to analyze this film, I've realized that such efforts are pointless, as not even Mr. Aronofsky knew what the fuck he was trying to accomplish when he shat out this enormous turd of a film. Much like Nicolas Winding Refn before him, he puts far more stock in deliberately confusing his audience than actually making them think. There's a big difference between the two, and sadly, not enough people realize it. Anyone could throw together a film about metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, a cliched romance, and some ancient artifact and call it high art. It's like playing pretentiousness Mad Libs. "I need a relic from Egypt, an obstacle for two lovers to overcome, and a scientific concept to loosely tie it together and make it seem as if the film is somehow based in fact!" "How about the Rosetta Stone, cancer, and String Theory?" "Fucking brilliant!" There is no message to this movie, and no central theme that makes itself readily apparent. I suppose, that on a base level, it could be about how love conquers all, etc etc etc. But if it's really that much of a cliched romance, why all the posturing? Why throw in random plot points that have no relation to one another and call it a story? I cannot answer this question.

As for the acting, Jackman does a passable job, looking suitably flustered and confused in equal measure. Weisz, meanwhile, is given the difficult task of doing absolutely nothing throughout the entire course of the film. There's a lot of obvious symbolism, of course: For instance, when Jackman is in the bubble in space alone, we know that Weisz has to be along with him somehow, so she takes the form of the dying tree he's trying to save. And as a conquistador, Jackman uses sap from the Tree of Life to accidentally turn himself into a plant. Wow, Darren. So deep. You turned people into plants. Honestly, very little else can be said about this movie other than that it's deliberately and maddeningly unapproachable from every possible perspective. It's not like I need everything laid out for me in a film, but this isn't a movie that wants its audiences to think. It wants them to be confused, but not actually think about the film enough to realize that none of it makes sense. And that is an offense to the very institution of cinema.

Final Score for The Fountain: 2/10 stars. Ugh, this movie was exhausting. Absolutely, skull-crushingly exhausting. Not once during its bloated runtime did it begin to develop any sort of sensible plot, relatable characters, passable scripting, or intelligent commentary on any of the numerous subjects it half-assedly attempted to cover. Not only is this another epic failure from Darren "The Butthole" Aronofsky, it might just be his worst yet. Say what you will about the obvious symbolism and haphazardly scattered themes of Pi, at least it didn't have Hugh Jackman turning into a fucking tree. I may never grasp the depths of pretentiousness and self-absorption it must have taken to craft a film as grating as The Fountain, but I will say this: I'm almost done with giving Aronofsky chances. If The Wrestler isn't good, I'm writing him off as a total hack. So the pressure's on, Darren-- shock and amaze me.


It's been a while since the last installment in Tut's Tutillating Reviews, seeing as I've had to study for finals the past few weeks. Fortunately, summer vacation has just started, and I think I need to start off my summer review writing with Chicago, because this is an opinion that's gonna need some serious defending. This movie is, in short, not the kind of film I would ever have expected to enjoy. It's a musical (ugh) starring Richard Gere (double ugh) and recommended to me by Jed Groff (ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh make it stop). But to my own surprise, I found myself enjoying this movie a lot more than I thought I would. I don't deny getting a few of the songs stuck in my head, but that's not what gave this movie an official Diego Tutweiller Seal of Approval. This film isn't just a cheap way to throw together a patchwork of songs in order to impress the audience. There are far more interesting aspects at work here, including themes about media culture, infidelity, and the legal system. But yes, the songs are good too.

Chicago stars Renée Zellweger (Tom Cruise's weepy girlfriend from Jerry MaGuire) as Roxie, a woman who cheats on her husband, then kills the man she's sleeping with and gets sent to prison. She soon figures out that the only way to survive is to gain media attention and become a sort of a criminal pop star. Her ploy works, with newspapers churning out tabloid drivel about her, reporters lining up to talk to her, and men across the country obsessing over her. She's helped along in her exploits by her lawyer (Richard Gere), who manipulates the press and performs dance numbers in his underwear, a fellow inmate (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and her woman's prison's tough warden (Queen Latifah).

Okay, this movie isn't for everyone. In fact, it's not really even for me. But what I enjoyed about it was its undeniable approachability. This movie doesn't go out of its way to try and imitate actual Broadway productions of the play it's based off of. Rather, it attempts to take the stage format and inject some life into it by putting it on the silver screen. And it works well up to a certain point-- sure, you end up wondering why the fuck these people are running around singing and dancing when they're all practically on death row-- but not once are you led to believe that the movie is anything but surreal. It completely sucks you into a weird, concocted little world where pretty much anything is possible, but it still stays moderately grounded in reality. Lawyers still act like skeevy scumballs, the media is just as rabid as before, and people are equally stupid as they are in real life, if not more so. What makes the movie succeed is that it amps up every one of these aspects to unbelievable levels, and then allows you to realize that no, they're not that unbelievable after all.

The acting is solid, most surprisingly from Gere, whose nose often ends up simulating an echo chamber whenever he talks. Zellweger isn't a particularly strong lead, but she plays the part of the dumb airheaded blonde quite well. Her character is like the Kim Kardassian of her day, except it just so happens that she's on trial for murder. She shamelessly sells herself, but what really drew me into the character was the fact that she honestly didn't care about her reputation. She had reached the point of complete desperation, and when people have nothing to lose, they do some pretty unbelievable things. All the style and flair to this movie amps the events up to an unrealistic level, but the story at its core isn't all that improbable. And the musical numbers are admittedly great. I'm honestly shocked by how strong the songs were.

Final Score for Chicago: A non-sarcastic and completely surprising 7/10 stars. Yeah, it could have been better. You can say that for most movies, but Chicago really did have more potential than it lived up to. The shallowness of the story can get a little boring, and although we're rooting for Zellweger's character, we certainly don't like her very much. If I were expecting this movie to be on the level of Fight Club, I probably wouldn't have liked it much, but because I went in with low expectations (this is an Oscar-winning musical recommended by Jed, for fuck's sake), I found myself thoroughly entertained. Even if you don't like musicals, I recommend this film. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy yourself.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

When a drama is bad, it can be one of the funniest films ever made. The Happening, for instance, was about trees emitting a gas that made people kill themselves, and the autistic director expected people to take it seriously. What resulted was one of the biggest laugh riots ever put to film. However, when a comedy is bad, it is absolutely painful to sit through. And so it is with A Million Ways to Die in the West, the latest "film" from Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the atrocious TV show Family Guy. Honestly, I should have known that this movie would suck right off the bat, seeing as MacFarlane directed, produced, wrote, and starred in it. But nothing could have prepared me for this shitstorm of a film.

The problem with reviewing a comedy is that you can't tell people not to find something funny. With that in mind, I implore you: PLEASE DON'T ACT LIKE THIS MOVIE IS FUNNY. Sure, it's all in the eye of the beholder, but you cannot honestly think for a second that Neil Patrick Harris taking a massive diarrhea shit into someone's hat is actually quality humor. That's not funny, that's just gross. We literally see the shit pouring out of the hat. I have sat through movies like Antichrist, Martyrs, and Requiem for a Dream, but only A Million Ways to Die in the West actually made me look away from the screen for a split second. And that's because you know exactly what to expect with movies like Antichrist-- You don't go into a Dutch torture porn/horror movie hoping for frolicking elves and Disney princesses. And by that same token, you don't watch a fucking comedy and say "Oh boy, I'm really hoping I'll get to see a glob of shit that looks like bean soup today!" Nobody in their right mind would want to see something like that. So why is it in the movie? Clearly, I lack the correct frame of reference to accurately answer that question.

As for the non-diarrhea-related humor (granted, there isn't much of it), none of it is funny either. This movie revolves around a wimpy guy in the old west (MacFarlane) whose wife dumps him because he quit a duel halfway through. He then falls in love with a beautiful woman (Charlize Theron) who just so happens to be married to the biggest outlaw west of the Mississippi (Liam Neeson). Much hilarity ensues, most of it relating to prostitutes wiping semen off their faces, sheep fucking, and flowers being inserted in between Neeson's asscheeks. I enjoy comedies as much as the next guy, but this is an abomination. If you laughed at this film, I honestly recommend that you do not reproduce. EVER. We cannot have another generation of people who laugh at shit like this, because then movies such as these will keep getting made. For the good of humanity, we can't have that.

The only passable acting in this movie is, of course by Liam "The Only Good Part of The Phantom Menace" Neeson, who can spice up pretty much any movie with his deep Irish baritone. What was this Irish guy doing out in the American west again? Fuck it, who cares. The rest of the cast, however, is either given nothing to work with from the get-go, or they're simply terrible. Neil Patrick Harris, who has ridden his minor claim to fame from Doogie Howser and not done anything good since, is generic and silly. He's pretty much playing Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, but this time... with a MOUSTACHE! Isn't that funny, guys? A MOUSTACHE!!! Ha ha ha... fuck you, movie. The rest of the cast is given nothing but cliches and tropes to work with, and the film even reduces Theron to a bland badass-woman-in-the-west stereotype. Nothing about these characters can be considered funny, because they've been done a million times before, and far better. But for the dumb teenagers in the audience who never saw the films of Mel Brooks, I'm sure this movie was a laugh riot.

Final Score for A Million Ways to Die in the West: 2/10 stars. God, this movie was awful. I won't put it down in Movie 43 territory, but oh man does it ever come close. I watched a pirated version of this film off of, and not once did the guy holding the camcorder laugh, titter, or jiggle the camera around. I imagined twenty people in the audience, all sitting stony-faced, while Seth MacButtfuck paraded himself around on the screen making jokes about penises. We can do better as this. Not just as moviegoers, but as a species. At the risk of sounding like a MacFarlane joke, this movie is the anus of cinema. Now let's forget this ever happened and go watch Blazing Saddles again.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Our Lord David Fincher has yet to disappoint.

The Guard
The Guard(2011)

Weird, fun, and decidedly Irish, The Guard is the best crime drama/dark comedy since In Bruges. Full review soon.

Moonrise Kingdom

Anderson is love. Anderson is life.

Days of Heaven

Not Badlands, but still damn good. Full review soon.

Brokeback Mountain

Unfortunately, people will remember this film as "The Gay Cowboy Movie" without taking a second to consider how heartbreakingly sad it is. Full review soon.

The King of Comedy

An absolutely enthralling experience. Full review soon.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Joheun-nom, Nabbeun-nom, Isanghan-nom)

It kind of loses its focus towards the end, but this is one damn fun re-imagining of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Full review soon.

Ginger Snaps
Ginger Snaps(2001)

Grossness aside, this is an awesome horror movie about pubescent werewolves. Full review soon.

Rear Window
Rear Window(1954)

Ah, Hitchcock. You have redeemed yourself for The Birds. Full review soon.

Mulholland Drive

I'm still mulling over this film, so the score could go drastically up or down. some might say that's the mark of a great movie. Full review soon.

Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal(1981)

I'm not entirely sure what I just watched, but I know I enjoyed it. Full review soon.

Universal Soldier

Why do I even bother? Full review soon.


Uninteresting, generic, and shockingly boring for a movie about a demon hunter. Full review soon.

Risky Business

It's well-acted, but this movie is slow-moving, unoriginal, strangely unfunny, and stars an extremely likable actor as an extremely unlikable lead character. Full review soon.

The Wild One
The Wild One(1954)

I have seen the true face of Satan, and it is in this film. Full review soon.

300: Rise of an Empire

Yay, another stupid 300 movie... said no one ever. Full review soon.

The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)

Some films from the 1950s immediately spark comparisons to more modern films- not to beat a dead horse, but Godzilla, for instance, is easily comparable to the films of today, as are all other 50s monster b-movies. You can easily imagine what they would be like if made today, and for eight bucks, you can find out. But there is a whole separate class of old films that cannot be compared to modern movies because, simply put, they have no modern equivalent. The Seventh Seal falls quite comfortably into this category. What filmmaker today would be daring enough to manifest Death himself as a human being in a film and have him play chess with another character? No one, of course. There is a scene in The Seventh Seal where the main character, a knight who has come to the end of his life and (in a desperate final gamble) challenged Death to a chess game, visits a church. He confesses the emptiness he feels in himself to a priest, and asks why, if there is a benevolent God in heaven, he does not let us see him. The priest then turns to reveal that he is Death himself. Such images could never be reproduced for modern audiences, as they are both too surreal and too depressing.

The Seventh Seal is from a time when movies were art first and foremost, with entertainment coming second. This movie is a poetic, dark, and deeply disconcerting musing on mankind's fear of death and our gradual yet horrible realization that God is not real. The film follows a knight and his squire, returning from a crusade to their homeland. Along the way, they encounter a lowly juggler and his wife, a treacherous woman and her drunken husband, plague-ridden religious nuts, a woman sentenced to death for witchcraft, and, of course, Death. This weird and mind-bending odyssey may be a lot to handle for audiences that were already put off by the subtitles, but the film is more than worth it. At times, it feels as though it is a silent film from the days when filmmakers were first experimenting with the myriad of weirdness they could put on the screen. But it's far darker than nearly any other movie ever made, and is absolutely uncompromising in its central thesis: That God is not real, and we are alone.

Even if one does not hold to the message this movie is conveying, nobody can deny that it makes a very convincing argument. Despite some moments of levity and flat-out slapstick comedy, the film almost immediately plunges into extreme existential dread, becoming so flat-out depressing that one almost thinks that director Ingmar Bergman threw the comedy in just so his viewers wouldn't break down in tears. The weightiest of these scenes comes when the "witch" who has been accused of causing the plague is burned at the stake. Before her execution, the knight (Max Von Sydow... I can't believe this guy was also in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) asks her if she knows the Devil. She replies that she does, and he says he wants to meet him, as he must know about the existence of God. The girl asks Sydow to look into her eyes, as the soldiers and priests saw the Devil when they looked at her. Sydow sees nothing but fear and desperation within her. This theme, that we see only what we want to see in the world, is carried through the entire film, with the juggler having strange visions of angels and otherworldly things throughout. And the man whose wife cheated on him immediately accepts her side of the story and takes her back in order to avoid the more painful truth. Bergman makes these jabs at religion quite subtly without actually coming right out and declaring that all gods are bullshit and that the human race is alone on a wildly spinning blue marble in the swirling mass of the cosmos... but I prefer subtlety, especially when such a weighty subject is being tackled.

Nearly every scene in this spectacular film has some underlying message or unstated motivation, but at times it can be a little overbearing. Fortunately, the character of the knight's squire, Jons, fills the hollow soul of the movie by interjecting his own comic relief and unabashed cynicism. Unlike the other characters in the film, he sees the emptiness and pointlessness of existence... and doesn't care. In a way, he's the character we all wish we could be- The person who accepts things as they are and goes with it. Without this character, it would be quite easy to get lost in the pure heartlessness of the film. And believe me, it is truly heartless. This movie wastes no time with fun and games. It's a great film, it's tackling an important subject, and it knows it. It's unwaveringly morbid and consistently confrontational. But I personally have a lot of fun with any film that challenges the core beliefs of myself (or really anyone). Although I agree with the movie's central premise of the lack of a supreme being, I'm not sure if I'm willing to give in to its crushing nihilism. But at least it's something worthy of talking about. The films of today are far more obsessed with depicting the incessant babble of people than the absence of God.

Final Score for The Seventh Seal: 9/10 stars. I would give it a perfect score, as it is a perfect film for what it is trying to accomplish, but sometimes I think it doesn't give humanity or life as much credit as they deserve. It is a hopelessly bleak film, and although I'd sit down and watch it again any day of the week, I would probably do so with reservation and apprehension. Movies like this just don't get made anymore, which might be for the better, because stories such as this one probably wouldn't work in HD 3-D IMAX with surround sound and JJ Abrams lens flares. I recommend this film to any movie buffs who want to see one of the best pieces of cinema from a bygone era in filmmaking history. It truly is one of a kind.


Ah, Godzilla... the film I've looked forward to for so long now has finally arrived. I've always wanted a good American adaptation of the King of the Monsters, and it has (more or less) arrived in the form of Gareth Edwards's 2014 film. Now, don't get me wrong-- This film is not for everybody. It returns Godzilla more or less to his original state, which will anger many moviegoers nowadays. "We want more action!" "Too much character development!" "Godzilla isn't supposed to be benevolent!" Wah wah wah. Like it or not, but this movie pays far more respect to the original Godzilla films than anything else made under the franchise's banner for the past few decades. In short, it delivered precisely what I wanted from this reboot-- A tension-filled buildup followed by a truly cathartic final act. Some might say that it took too long to get around to the action, but what they don't understand is that waiting for it makes it all the more special. What I enjoyed most about this film wasn't its spectacular action sequences. It was the amount of restraint put into them.

Godzilla begins with a meltdown at a Japanese nuclear power plant (which is made all the more hard-hitting and relevant by the Fukushima disaster), which is run by Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston). Tremors within the Earth have been felt for a few days, and when full-on earthquakes start, Cranston shuts the plant down, but not before his wife dies by radiation poisoning before his eyes. Fast forward 15 years to Cranston's son (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson), an army grunt who, upon returning home, hears that his father has been put in prison in Japan. He heads back, only to discover that Cranston has uncovered a terrible secret about that day fifteen years ago. Together, they find out that creatures called Mutos caused the destruction of the plant, and that the only thing that can stop them is an ancient beast-- Godzilla.

Okay, this is some pretty generic stuff. But never is it full-on banality. This movie knows exactly what tropes to hit and what to pay homage to. Cranston and his son have the last name "Brody," the same last name as Roy Schneider's family in Jaws. And Cranston plays roughly the same part, being the one man crazy enough to figure out the truth. This entire beginning is one of the strongest series of scenes in any blockbuster I've seen for quite some time. Cranston is given room to totally go berzerk, displaying every possible human emotion in the span of about half an hour. He really is a great actor, but he unfortunately makes everyone around him look bad by comparison. Ken Watanabe, the token Asian guy, is given the job of looking at graphs and looking shocked. Or perhaps he's constipated... I couldn't tell. Meanwhile, Aaron Taylor-Johnson does virtually nothing with his character throughout the whole film. Sure, he's a military grunt, which may be the hardest role to play in movies. There's not much to do with a character like that. But these problems come sharply into focus when Cranston dies (whoops, spoilers) 1/4th of the way into the film, leaving this below-average actor to carry the whole production. In short, he's bad. Not quite Sam Worthington bad, but bad enough to drag things down considerably.

The film also makes some detours into generic blockbuster territory with the plot... specifically, its stupidity. Godzilla is no longer a product of the nuclear bomb. Instead, he is an ancient creature that resides in the depths of the ocean. Meanwhile, the Mutos are creatures that consume nuclear energy as food, which begs the inevitable question: Is this movie honoring the tradition of Godzilla, or openly mocking it? I couldn't tell sometimes, as this premise goes completely against pretty much everything Godzilla has ever stood for. Also, as much as I love seeing giant monsters fight each other, it needs some explanation. I could not for the life of me figure out what beef Godzilla had with the Mutos. Bigger Godzilla fans than I will say that Godzilla had to "restore balance to nature," but that's bullshit. If we're going with the "Godzilla is just a regular animal" story, then why is he killing these creatures? Not to eat them, clearly. And no animal in nature just kills other living things in order to "restore balance." A lion will not go over and kill a snake because it was eating mice. That's idiocy. No clear reason was given for Godzilla to kill these creatures.

Still, though... I can't argue with the results. I'm seriously torn on this film due to its sloppy characterization for everyone but Cranston and the silliness of the story, but what really made it a worthy adaptation for me was the action. And not that it was cool-- just that there wasn't very much of it. Most blockbusters nowadays have three major action pieces, one at the beginning, one at the middle, and one at the end. Godzilla doesn't bother with the first, and instead uses that time to develop the characters better. In the second action sequence, which takes place in Hawaii, the scenes build up to a split second of Godzilla fighting the monster, only to cut at the last second to a kid watching it on TV. The film paid more attention to other destructive elements (such as the tidal wave caused by Godzilla's dramatic entrance) than the actual battle itself. And because there was so much buildup to the finale, the epic battle at the end became far more powerful and spectacular. This isn't just great entertainment, it's some powerful filmmaking, and it takes huge cues from legitimately great monster movies before it. I'm pleased to report that this is the first time I've dropped my jaw during a blockbuster since Iron Man.

Final Score for Godzilla: 6/10 stars. My inner child squealed with happiness every time a monster got punched in the face... but my inner critic has some reservations. Despite being one of the best blockbuster films made for some time, this is still a lazily plotted and overall empty film. But I'm willing to overlook that because this film has done a very important thing: It has made people angry at the lack of action. When a movie as over-the-top as this one is criticized for being too talky, that should be a warning sign that we're living in dangerous times for filmmaking. Perhaps this film will be the wake-up call for people across America to realize that not every movie has to stuff an explosion in their faces every five seconds. It may take time, but with films as comparatively restrained as this one, I think we can wean the general public off of mindless blockbusters and hopefully achieve a strong balance between great special effects and great screenwriting. This movie doesn't quite deliver on the latter. But it's a step in the right direction.


Before I launch into my review of the new Godzilla film, I think it's a good idea to first take a look back at the worst Godzilla ever made-Namely, Roland Emmerich's 1998 adaptation of the King of Monsters, starring Matthew Broderick and, of course, a lot of fish. Emmerich has never been known for his layered characters or intelligent dialogue, but he has always been known to be a pioneer in terms of special effects. Which is what makes this movie so damn confounding. How did the director of such visual marvels as Independence Day or 2012 approve such horrible CGI in this movie? The prerequisite for a bad action film is that it at least have good visuals and boom-booms. So when the visual thrills are taken out of a Roland Emmerich film, what do we have left? Apparently nothing, because this haphazard, empty-headed, and truly boring mess of a movie fits that description perfectly.

This version of Godzilla takes the great original monster movie and basically neuters it. I was wondering recently why everyone has been nervous about the new American Godzilla movie, but after seeing this film, I fully understand why. The themes of the original film (which are so numerous that I wrote my midterm essay for my History class on them) are completely lost in this one. Instead of being a walking metaphor for Japan's fear of the atomic bomb, Godzilla is now instead a chicken-legged iguana with a craving for fish that rampages through New York City and eventually gets taken out by a couple of missiles (oh no, spoilers... not like anyone gives a shit). This is not what Godzilla is supposed to be. He's gone from being a vindictive force of nature to the protector of Tokyo, but never was he supposed to die like a bitch. What eluded the makers of this film is that Godzilla is not a generic movie monster-he's iconic. He's more of an omnipotent force than anything else, and the fact that this movie misses that point so hugely has been a subject of discussion for years.

Then there's the acting... hoo boy. Look, I didn't go into this film expecting great character development. Even the one Roland Emmerich film I like (Independence Day, and I will defend it to the death) has some pretty generic characterization. This film, however, doesn't even try. It's got every cliché in the book. Man getting off of helicopter and being met by military guy? Check. Scientist who "knows the truth" stuck in the middle of the chaos? Check. Helicopters flying through the streets of New York? Generic love interest/reporter who always seems to find her way into important scenes when the plot demands it? Dumbass cutesy little lines of dialogue that probably sounded funny in the storyboarding room but are downright cringeworthy when actually seen in the film? Check, check, check. This is lazy filmmaking at its worst, and represents everything wrong with Hollywood movies, especially ones that adapt (or, more accurately, rip off) foreign films to make them more "palatable" for American audiences. The dumbing down of great cultural landmarks like Godzilla is something that Hollywood should have to answer for.

But then there's the CGI. Oh, my God... it's gut-bustingly bad. I'm trying to be as serious and professional about this film as I can, but nothing could have prepared me for how truly bad the special effects in this movie are. There's a scene where Godzilla, a massive creature that I can only assume weighs about as much as the Empire State Building, leaps from the streets into the Hudson River, and slides in slowly, making only a ripple. My description of this does not do it justice, and it truly must be seen to be believed. In short though, the physics of this film are worse than in The Core, and that's seriously saying something. Godzilla himself (herself?) is extremely poorly rendered, with skin that looks straight out of a first-year CGI student's summer project. This movie might have been passable if it had been made in 1985, but it came out AFTER JURASSIC PARK. There's no excuse for this. Normally I wouldn't have such a big problem with something as throwaway as the special effects, but when the whole movie rides on the audience's enjoyment of the visuals, and the visuals suck, you know you've really fucked up as a filmmaker.

Final Score for 1998's Godzilla: 1/10 stars. This movie is laughably, painfully bad from beginning to end. I try to pay rapt attention to every movie I watch, but I seriously could not focus on this one. I found my eyes glazing over numerous times, and had to keep saying to myself "Oh shit, I'm still watching this turd." And what's so grueling about it is that it just goes ON AND ON AND ON. This movie is 142 minutes long, patched together with an incomprehensible mess of unrelated scenes and identical action sequences. I never shut my eyes while watching movies because I'm grossed out, or because they've offended my puritanical sensibilities (lol), but I did have to look away a couple of times from this film simply because it was so ugly and infuriating. Nothing good can be said about this atrocity, but no description can truly explain why it's such a chore to sit through. My only advice is: Don't find out.

The Notebook
The Notebook(2004)

I think I deserve an award for making it through this one. Full review soon.

The Last King of Scotland

Occasionally horrifying, often gruesome, and never boring. The lack of sympathetic characters can end up being more depressing than entertaining, though. Full review soon.

God's Not Dead

Well, I watched it. It nearly killed me, but I suffered through God's Not Dead. But what's really shocking about it is that I didn't hate this movie. No, not even a little bit. Being the adamant atheist I am, one would think that I'd take exception to virtually every bit of this movie, but apparently one would be wrong. Instead of raising my blood pressure, this movie just made me sad, and I think it actually helped me understand modern Christians a bit more. A lot of people assume that a movie like this is all about angrily debasing atheists, but this thing struck me as more desperate than hate-driven. It's clawing so hopelessly to prove something that's unprovable that it eventually eats itself, and watching this confused and incoherent movie fall flat on its face is probably one of the most depressing things I've ever seen. Both atheists and Christians alike are capable (in fact, prone to) being condescending and butthurt, and despite my non-religious views, I think that the Christian religion deserves better than this film. What a waste of celluloid.

This film stars some pasty white dude with Bieber hair as Josh, a college student whose philosophy teacher states on the first day of class that God is dead (having never existed in the first place) and that all the students have to write "God is dead" on pieces of paper in order to pass the class with above a C. Our main man Josh, of course, refuses, and is therefore challenged to a debate by his professor. I don't feel that I even have to say the myriad ways in which this premise is flawed, but let's do so anyway. Firstly, no philosophy teacher would ever do something like this. This is a deliberately antagonistic thing to do, and would never be allowed by the college (I can only assume that the motherfucker has tenure). I know it's fun for Christians to act like they're being persecuted by atheists, but honestly that's a hilariously misguided premise. It might be fun for Christians to imagine a world in which college is a breeding ground for godless atheists and pretend like they're the underdogs, but the fact of the matter is that this is not even remotely the case. Christians make up the vast majority of Americans-- in fact, there are six or so states that effectively ban atheists from holding public office. The truth is that Christianity is very much the establishment, and the premise of this film is concocted solely so that Christians can pretend that, for once, they're the ones being persecuted. Not gonna work.

Although the message of this film is stupid, it's not why I find this film so awful. The acting is absolutely abysmal. People of faith will, I'm sure, turn a blind eye to this aspect of the film because the rest of the story reaffirms their faith in Jesus or whatever. My only response to that would be if your faith needs reaffirming through films such as these, perhaps you're not a very good Christian. But truly, this is some Tommy Wiseau-level acting here, and on the basest levels. It's not even that the characters aren't believable or don't show emotion very well (although both of these are true): It's that they don't talk right. I found it downright befuddling watching some of the scenes in this film, where there are long pauses in conversations, the wrong diction and syntax is used in sentences, the reactions are oddly timed, and the exchanges between characters are poorly constructed. One would think that a movie trying to give people some faith in God could also try to give them some faith in filmmaking, but this doesn't even make an effort. Strange. Also, thousands of random plot points are tossed in at different junctures, including some woman with cancer, a girl with a Muslim dad (woah, you're treading on thin ice here, movie), and the relationship with Josh and his girlfriend, who is a control freak. Why are these subplots even in the film? Aren't we watching a story about this guy and his professor? I'm all for subplots, but they have to at least have context in the movie itself. Otherwise it's just white noise.

And then there's the strongest part of the film: The actual debate between Josh and his professor. I love me some good religious debate, people, and this didn't disappoint me... at least in some parts. At the end of the day, all the debate scenes were written so that the professor would come out losing, but it's not like I ever expected a movie with a title like "GOD'S NOT DEAD" to be fair and impartial. What annoyed me was how little care the filmmakers put into actually convincing the audience. Perhaps they just took the fact that no atheists would see their film as a given, and decided to just preach to the choir. But I somehow expected my own personal beliefs to be challenged a bit more. Trust me, there's nothing in this movie that you haven't heard already from Christians in real life. "Without God, why should we be moral?" Well... because we're good people and we don't want to go around being total assholes all the time? I reject the philosophy that religion is the only way to be a moral person. In fact, I'd say that a religious person is good just to please God, while an atheist is good just because they're a good person. And when Josh starts losing any debate, he whips out the old "I don't know, but there has to be something more poetic and beautiful to the world blah blah blah." No part of this movie offers up any new or interesting takes on the debate between Christians and atheists, partly because the movie is so exhaustingly uncreative, but also because there's not much more to add to a debate in which nearly every argument has already been said. When Josh finally wins the debate (lol), it's because the professor admits that the reason he hates God is because his mother died. Really? This is just making the assumption that every atheist is an atheist because of something dark and horrible in their past. It's a total cop-out, and is also more than a little stereotypical. Do I go around saying that all Christians are only religious because they've got nothing of meaning in their lives, so they have to choose to have faith in a divine being? No, I don't. I'd respect this film a lot more if it gave serious consideration and respect to both sides of this important debate. But sadly, the filmmakers knew that they didn't have to do that to get people to watch this misleading load of manure.

Final Score for God's Not Dead: 1/10 stars. No, this isn't because I'm an atheist. Even if I were a Christian, I would find this movie to be stupid and bland. I rate this film so low because it has nothing new to say, and in lieu of new perspectives, it merely rehashes old ones while simultaneously rigging the game in favor of one side. If this film was a pretentious, snobby atheist tirade against Christians, you bet I'd hate it-- perhaps even more. Because this film represents the Christian religion very poorly in all aspects, and also furthers the stereotype that Christians suck at making movies (references: Fireproof, Son of God, Heaven is for Real). If it were about how great atheism is, I'd hate it for poorly representing a group that I am a member of. It's got a generic and blatantly biased plot, jaw-droppingly bad acting, the worst dialogue ever written, and worst of all, it exists in a vacuum of bad ideas. I recommend this film to no one, including Christians, because I'm sure that a 2,000-year-old religion is capable of producing better material than this trite. This movie fails both ideologically and from a filmmaking standpoint. And for that, I pity it.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Yay, another Captain America film... said no one ever. Actually, that's not true, because a lot of people seem to love this movie, calling it a departure from typical superhero movie tropes and saying that it gets down into realistic and gritty plotting. Well, if we're living in an era where flying aircraft carriers are "realistic," I don't want to live on this planet anymore. Sure, this movie doesn't have Captain America rebuild the Great Wall of China with his eyes (Superman IV... never forget), but just because there's no aliens, gods, or alien gods doesn't mean that the film is even remotely grounded in reality. This movie is certainly a higher caliber of superhero film in comparison to the crap we've been putting up with recently. However, it's still far from being good.

In this sequel to The Avengers, Captain America is living the good taxpayer-funded life, taking down terrorists and pirates and shit. However, his new life is threatened when a conspiracy within SHIELD is revealed (honestly, I didn't even try to make that rhyme), and he discovers a terrible truth: Hydra is still alive within the US government! Oh, and the evil scientist from The First Avenger is still alive in a Transcendence-style cyberintelligence system that was somehow around during World War II! Oh, and his buddy who fell off a cliff in the first movie is back as a cyborg named The Winter Soldier! And then he visits his girlfriend from the first film, who is still alive! Okay, Marvel... we get it. Now you're just unnecessarily tying the plot points from previous movies into this one. I suppose it never occurred to any of the writers to think up new villains and plot points instead of clumsily bringing back shit from the first film. It's even more awkward when you realize that the first movie took place about 70 years ago, and it took a lot of convenient plot contrivances to make sure they could bring back half the cast from The First Avenger. I've seen sloppily written stories... but man, this one takes the cake.

Another thing this movie proves is that Marvel will never learn how to write good dialogue. Even in their best film, Iron Man, the exchanges between characters were still cheesy, but Robert Downey Jr. made them work by hamming it up as Tony Stark. Well, I'm sorry to report that Steve Rogers is no Tony Stark. This character is a bland, wooden, all-American dude whose only defining characteristic is his flamboyant uniform. Nearly every line he's given is bad, and every scene is either a cliché or blatant fan-pandering. "Hey guys, we need to write a scene for the movie where Cap and Black Widow kiss so the fanboys will go apeshit." "How about they do it as 'cover' in a crowded mall?" "Fucking brilliant, Jim!" Besides that, the film's script hits every note from every other superhero movie ever made. Marvel could probably fill out pre-made forms for their scripts now and nobody would notice. "Now we need a scene where the hero is doubting himself... okay, what's a synonym for 'responsibility?'"

There are a few good things to be said for this film, though, and they are numerous enough to set it apart from the pack... for the most part. Firstly, Samuel L. Jackson finally gets to do shit as Nick Fury, which I've personally been awaiting for some time now. Up until this point, he's just been the guy who shows up to explain the plot when it's necessary, kind of like Marvel's version of Morgan Freeman in The Dark Knight trilogy. This time, he's part of the action, and his increased screen time allows him to go full-out. Also, props to the genius somewhere in the underbelly of Marvel who thought to work the Bible passage from Pulp Fiction into the movie. Meanwhile, although the action is often bludgeoning, it was never totally overwhelming. There are actually some very hard-hitting scenes, specifically one that takes place on a highway overpass. At some points, it felt more like a war movie than a superhero movie. Of course, it had to undercut this immediately with a guy who flies around using robotic eagle-wings... but whatever. The problem here isn't the special effects or the action (both of which are admittedly impressive). It's that the plot and dialogue that get us to those sequences are inane and lazily written. This shouldn't come as a shock though, as this has been a trademark of Marvel's films for quite some time. But I never thought they'd actually stop trying.

Final Score for Captain America: The Winter Soldier: 4/10 stars. This is a dumb, fun popcorn movie, nothing more, nothing less. If you're already a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which appears to be literally everyone on the planet except myself and Jay Cutler), I can't imagine you'll walk away from this unimpressed. But it's silly to pretend that such a flawed movie is anything less than a silly diversion from the banality of real life. It tries to throw in some extra depth by making the villains government employees and using spying as the film's main issue (the NSA, anyone?), but that's just a feeble attempt to make the movie seem topical. After Thor 2, Man of Steal Your Money, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this is a welcome return to form for the genre of blockbuster superhero films. Too bad that it had to be so blasé and mediocre.

The Book Thief

Hallmark fairy tale Nazis.

The 'Burbs
The 'Burbs(1989)

Tom Hanks gives it his all, but this is one dumb comedy that I doubt could have been saved by anyone. Full review soon.

Layer Cake
Layer Cake(2005)

Competently made, but due to its overwrought plotting and underdeveloped characters, it pales in comparison to others of the genre. Full review soon.

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)

After having seen this spectacular film again, I feel compelled to write a full review of it as soon as possible.

Deep Blue Sea


I never thought I'd say this, but here's a film that could benefit from a line like that. Deep Blue Sea is one of the worse films to be directed-sorry, perpetrated-by director Renny Harlin (whose other screen credits include The Legend of Hercules and the second-worst Die Hard movie), but of course, that's not saying much. In all honesty, I doubt that Martin Scorsese could have saved a film about a shark lab that, predictably, gets overrun by intelligent, ravenous sharks. But the difference is that he would have put some effort in, and contrary to popular belief, effort in movies does count for something. Suffice it to say that little to no effort was put into the making of Deep Blue Sea.

Deep Blue Sea stars... well... a lot of people. They're basically in rotation, with a new one being declared the main character every time the previous guy gets eaten by a shark. But this movie has Samuel L. Jackson playing a rich, badass muthafucka who visits his shark research lab just when everything starts going to shit. Sounds cool, right? Well, don't get too excited, because Jackson dies about halfway through the film. We're then left with the completely uninteresting team of Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, and LL Cool J to make it through the labyrinth of this top-secret facility alive, using only makeshift weapons, a rudimentary understanding of the laws of physics (or wait, should I attribute that one to the scriptwriters?), and completely asinine humor. Seriously, we're talking Michael Bay movie humor here, folks... it's not good. Also, what the fuck kind of a name is LL Cool J?

This movie is as dumb as it comes. I know I say that a lot, but this is literally the bottom of the barrel. The only way to make a movie like this any stupider is to throw in Liam Neeson's daughter getting abducted and some snakes on a plane. So firstly, the science of this movie is, at best, a tad askew. The researchers are literally injecting the sharks with DNA to make them faster, stronger, and smarter. Do these people WATCH movies like this? What did they expect? That's really asking for mother nature to come and smack you right in the face. Also, aside from illegally tampering with shark DNA in what I can only assume is the most dangerous way possible, what is the point of this experiment? Perhaps they want to breed the sharks and then release them on unsuspecting aquatic terrorist groups? It's never explained. This movie wants to be Jaws and Jurassic Park combined, but the difference is that Jurassic Park actually gave some reason for the shit that happened, while Jaws actually had some legitimate suspense. Neither of these are qualities shared by Deep Blue Sea.

What really irks me about dumb action movies like these are the human characters. Is there truly nothing original to be done these days? LL Cool J's character (ugh, what a stupid name) is a cook and a preacher. He spends most of the film praying to lawdy Jesus and acting as the comic relief, when you really wish he'd just get snapped up in the jaws of a mako so as to put an end to your misery. As for the other characters... well, have fun trying to tell them apart, because I sure as hell couldn't. Only when they die will you be able to figure out who's who-"Oh right, the main guy is the guy NOT being thrashed around in the mouth of a 20-foot shark right now." By the time the final scene has rolled around, all the characters you halfheartedly cared about have long since perished, and the annoying ones are still left alive. So really, if you have nothing better to do and you have your heart set on seeing this film... just turn it off after Samuel L. Jackson dies his glorious death.

Final Score for Deep Blue Sea: 2/10 stars. Look, I'm fine with dumb fun. It's even better when it knows it's dumb. But that's not something that a movie should take pride in. Deep Blue Sea is uncreative, unfunny, and just plain bad, and it knows it too. And the fact that it has still been pushed on audiences is a massive insult to people's intelligences. Can we do no better than this? I say we can, because I could probably swallow some Scrabble tiles, shit them out onto a piece of paper, and end up with a better script than the one in this travesty. Dumb fun doesn't even begin to cover this; you'd have to be legitimately retarded to enjoy a film as remarkably bad as this one. Even in the world of stupid z-movie rip-offs, Deep Blue Sea is as bad as it gets. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet(1986)


Full review soon.

The Intouchables

Bland and generic, but it often rides the likability of the two leads into agreeable mediocrity.

Near Dark
Near Dark(1987)

Cutler: If liking Drive but not The Transporter is hypocritical, then liking Near Dark but not Twilight is as well.

If there's anything to be learned from Near Dark, it's that Katherine Bigelow may never make a passable film. This ugly, campy, horribly acted trite is not just bad-it's insanely bad. Comparing it to Twilight may be going too far... okay, not really, because this too features vampires, a forced and underdeveloped romance between two unlikable leads, lack of motivation for all the characters, and hilariously bad dialogue. The only thing that makes this film a bit more bearable is the occasional humor and excessively brutal yet wholly engrossing gore. Other than that, make no mistakes: This film is a chore to sit through for all but the most devoted B-movie horror buffs.

Near Dark stars Adrian Pasdar (a great actor who went on to do many other spectacular films) as Caleb, a naïve young idiot in the Southwest. One night, he picks up a girl in his truck, and takes her out for a romantic drive. But unfortunately for Caleb, she is a vampire, and she bites him in order to make him one as well... because apparently they formed an unbreakable love in the one night where he tried to get lucky. This would be a minor complaint if so much of the movie didn't hinge on their relationship. Once he falls in with her gang of outlaw vampires, and they take an immediate disliking to him, she's the one that stops them from killing him or letting him die... again and again and again. Not only did these two only have one night together, but the dialogue and acting going on in their scenes is utterly reprehensible. If you thought "Better hold on tight, spider monkey" was bad, get a load of this. It's just repetitive, bland trite clichés from every romance ever, but with a slight vampire twist. Also, at least the vampires in Twilight were smart enough to live in fucking Washington, where it wasn't sunny every day of the fucking year.

In some sense, Near Dark is perfect. But it's perfect at the worst possible things a movie can attempt. Every scene reeks of B-movie campiness, from the laughable special effects to the jarring mix of overacting and underacting. Actually, calling this a "B-movie" is an insult to B-movies. At least B-movies are enjoyable. Every actor in this film either channels the craziest elements of Nic Cage or just doesn't give half a shit. Peter the psychologist from The Room gave a more committed performance than the main characters in this piece of shit. It's seriously amazing to me how much dialogue goes on in this film that tells us nothing about the characters or their motivations. By the time the movie was over, I was so confused and angry that I couldn't care less about how much it obeyed "vampire lore" or whether or not it was accurate to the concept of vampires. Okay, so the vampires burned up in the sunlight instead of sparkling. Whoop-dee-doo. Contrary to popular belief, a film needs more than a cool concept to actually be good. And when that cool concept has been done to the death already, the rest of the movie had better be pretty fucking spectacular.

Some of the cinematography of this movie is okay, compositionally speaking. Bigelow mixes a lot of blues and purples into every shot, but it's hard to tell if this is on purpose or just because that's what shit looks like in, you know, the dark. She also fails epically at continuity (the film switches from what looks like 3:00 in the morning to a rapidly rising sun in the span of two minutes) and steals the scene changes from Star Wars. Most annoying is the fact that the story, although interesting enough, was repackaged and used in another stupid Bigelow film: Point Break. A guy infiltrating a group of outlaws and becoming one of them, only to have to turn on them in the end? Yeah, never seen that before. But really, this just carries on the point that almost nothing about this film is creative or original, and it features completely uninvolving acting, dialogue, plotting, and storytelling. I never thought a movie as gory as Near Dark could be classified as "boring," but that's exactly what it is. It's a boring, dull, and wholly uninteresting slog that fails even as an unintentional comedy. Absolutely horrific.

Final Score for Near Dark: 2/10 stars. As much as I'd like to give this a full-on 1/10, I want to set it apart from such awful films as Thor: The Dark World and Sucker Punch. I may never be a true fan of the horror genre, but judging objectively, this film really is ass. I'd continue waxing poetic on the many glaring shortcomings of this movie, but just thinking about it has exhausted me. I think I'll need to take a break from the horror genre now, because this really took it out of me... I don't know how many more horribly acted "classics" I can sit through before my brain implodes.

Cutler, fuck you for giving this a higher score than Donnie Darko. If you seriously think this is an 8/10 film, you have no business judging acting.

Dark City
Dark City(1998)

SPOILERS ABOUND IN THIS REVIEW. If you have not yet seen Dark City, stay away. You have been warned.

Sometimes, a movie can have a killer premise, one so clever, you wonder why nobody has done it before. Then you see the film, and you realize why no one has. Dark City is one of these films. Alex Proyas's sci-fi noir's originality is both its greatest asset and its eventual downfall, because on one hand, this film is about a city in space controlled by aliens... awesome, right?! But on the other hand... this film is about a city in space controlled by aliens. Sorry, but as cool as that is, it's dumb. For the most part, Dark City straddles that line between creativity and outright lunacy admirably well, but it eventually devolves into a drawn-out Dragonball Z battle in the spirit of The Matrix Revolutions. In short, weird is good, but if you don't have some substance to back up the crazy shit you're putting onscreen, don't even bother. I'd rather have an uncreative film that does great things with its simple premise than an endlessly inventive one that also happens to make no sense whatsoever.

Dark City stars Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch, a man who wakes up in a tub with no memory of his life and, more importantly, no clothes. I was expecting his kidney to have been stolen as well, but that's a different film altogether. Anyway, long story short, John has been framed for killing numerous prostitutes around Dark City, a crime he didn't commit (or so he thinks, as he has amnesia). However, what starts out as a straight-up noir film suddenly takes a radical shift for sci-fi with this plot twist: Aliens have set up the Dark City in the middle of space as a way to study humans. They use their telekinetic energy to guide machines that rearrange the city every night... or something... and change everyone's lives around. Wow... so this is where all my missing socks go. They also have enlisted the help of a doctor (Kiefer Sutherland of 24 fame) to inject the humans with serums that fuck with their heads and change their memories. Think this is weird? Keep reading.

Not only does this film expect the audience to take on faith the concepts of telekinetic city-rearranging machines, tangible memories that can be physically extracted from humans, and a fucking metropolis somehow surviving in the vacuum of space, but it also provides no explanation for a lot of key plot points. The film's biggest element is the fact that John has gained the alien's telekinetic abilities and therefore was able to wake up before new memories were injected into him. How did he gain these powers? We'll never know. By the end of the film, he's flinging clocks around and doing battle in the air with sinister-looking bald Aryan men. This is not the thinking man's science fiction film I was hoping for. Although the movie raises a lot of interesting questions about what it means to be human (specifically whether or not our memories fully shape who we are and if we have souls), but it's a lot more concerned with asking questions than having the balls to answer them.

The acting is meh, especially from the aliens. They ham it up like the cornball action heroes of old. Honestly, this film wants to be taken seriously, but I was waiting for Arnold Schwarzenegger to show up and start kicking ass. That's how silly it was. Meanwhile, Sewell is generic and dull as the lead, not giving the audience anything to connect with other than the typical "Everyman-in-a-crazy-situation-with-extraordinary-powers." Kiefer Sutherland though... he's a whole new level of bad. Not only is he not killing terrorists in this movie, but he's playing a wimpy, sniveling mad scientist. How fucking creative. He's incredibly cheesy in the role, but even if he had delivered an acting powerhouse here, I doubt he would have saved the character from being confined to typical sci-fi b-movie tropes. I played a character just like this in a school play in freshman year, people... trust me, there's not much to it. Sounding smart and German is not acting, and it's also not a character trait.

I could easily go on about this film's plot holes (how did Sutherland remember wiping his own memory if he, you know, wiped his own memory?) and absolutely ludicrous sequences (that final battle... I cannot bring it up enough), but I'll cut myself off here. Final Score for Dark Shitty: 4/10 stars. This movie could have been awesome if it had kept a brain to it, but ultimately it got far too caught up in the set design, special effects, and admittedly cool story to ever end up being as smart as it thinks it is. The second installment in the powerful sci-fi/noir films directed by Alex Proyas that question what it means to be human series (I, Robot) is far better, and actually has some committed performances and a plot that doesn't go completely off the rails in the final act. As popcorn entertainment, you could do worse. But for those of you who want to engage your brains, Dark City is not the film for you.


Well... after writing this review, I may have to start giving some merit to those who call me "pretentious." Seriously though, Atonement is a great film, and has the potential to join Casablanca and Gone With the Wind in the lexicon of incredible screen romances. This is the kind of movie that boasts great performances, marvelous direction, a fantastic script, and possibly the best cinematography of the 21st century... but is for some reason instantly forgettable. It's probably because a good amount of the film is padding, or perhaps because it moves slower than molasses in January. Still, although this movie is glacially paced, it's almost never boring, which really speaks a lot for the quality of the filmmaking. I was paying rapt attention to Atonement from beginning to end, something I cannot say for other "modern masterpieces" such as Requiem for a Dream, Gravity, or Adaptation. If nothing else, this is a film that lives more or less up to its hype.

Atonement stars Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy as two lovers in the summer of 1935, just before war turns Europe upside-down. Okay, we all know the story: She's a privileged young upper-class woman and he's a slightly less privileged housekeeper's son at her grandiose mansion. And when I say "grandiose," I mean every syllable... like, damn. I never thought I'd see a house that puts Downton Abbey to shame. This kicks off a whole slew of great cinematography in the film, but I'll get to that later: The pair are unable to spend much time together, as right in the evening when they finally, er, go at it, a man staying in their home (Eggs Benedict Cummerbund) sexually assaults a young girl. Not understanding the situation, and already scarred from seeing Knightley and McAvoy bang in her living room, Knightley's little sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan) tells the police that McAvoy did the raping.

This sets off a long, long chain of events that sends McAvoy off into the army and Knightley into a five-year-long funk. This is the good hour or so of the film that is less than action-packed, but it's still one of the better parts of the movie, mainly due to the cinematography. There is a whole lot to love about the visuals in this film from beginning to end, but this is where the cinematography really begins to run wild. From minute one of McAvoy's experience at war, we know that we're not in for our average two-hour love and war story. There are shots of beautiful colors and foliage interspersed with the dead bodies of children. There are brief, throwaway moments that you can tell the director lovingly put into the film, such as the reflection of the planes traveling overhead in the puddles. And, of course, there's the thing this film is most famous for: That long-ass tracking shot across the beaches of France. McAvoy walks through a literal army of people, passing things that will give you hope for humanity and things that will instantly snuff it out. And it's all in five or six awesome minutes of uncut, decadent glory. I don't want to go all cinema nerd here, but man... what an awesome scene.

And then, after this buildup of tense, powerful beauty, we have the ending. I don't want to spoil this, but it is heartbreaking. After being given so much hope, it's all extinguished in an emotionally wrenching finale that I admit I should have seen coming, but didn't (shoulda read the book). One minor quibble would be that it's a serious cop-out when a historical film fast-forwards half a dozen decades to present times, just to show one of the characters old and wizened, looking back on their lives (cough cough, Saving Private Ryan, Little Big Man, cough cough), as it devalues the entire experience the audience just went through. Ending a film by saying it was all a flashback is nearly as bad as having it turn out to all have been a dream. It also completely destroys the visual splendor that the cinematographers were shooting (no pun intended) for in this film by zapping us from a beautiful 1940s setting to a dull recording studio in present day. Still, a film this strong overall deserves to get some leeway, and I'd be lying if I said I was complaining about that at the time.

Final Score for Atonement: 8/10 stars. I know, I know. Oooh, look at the pretentious film buff, he liked the depressing romance movie with the good cinematography. Whatever. Let the naysayers naysay. This movie is powerful and emotional stuff, and will resonate deeply with anyone who has ever wondered what life would have been like if they hadn't made one silly mistake... which, if I'm not mistaken, is just about everyone. The film strikes deep into the core concepts of, well, atonement, and forces the audience to somehow bring themselves to forgive a character so appallingly naïve that we hated her even when she tried one last time to do the right thing. The good thing about the philosophy of this movie is that there's no right answer-if you decided not to forgive and forget, that's what you took away from the film. It's all open to interpretation, and people may find their own morals and values reflected back at them a lot more than they'd like when they judge the characters of this movie. In other words, it does something that more movies these days need to do: It makes you think.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Jed, please stop trying to recommend movies... you're not very good at it. Full review soon.

Almost Famous

Okay, let's begin by saying that there was honestly very little chance that I wasn't going to like this film. Almost Famous is set in the 1970s, a time that (although I never lived in it) I am extremely nostalgic for. Everything about this film, from its humor, its culture, its characters, and its soundtrack are expertly woven together in a film perfectly concocted to work its way into my heart. Seriously... there is a girl named Penny Lane in this movie. Was there the slightest chance that I wasn't going to enjoy myself? If that wasn't good enough, listen to this: Almost Famous stars Patrick Fugit as William, a teenager who adores rock and roll and dreams of one day becoming a music critic. Okay, really? Coming of age story? Rock and roll? WRITING AND CRITIQUING THINGS? Cameron Crowe, stop trying to weave everything I love into movies. It's freaking me out. Honestly though, this movie hits home constantly in a big way for me, so pay my opinion on it no mind. I was pretty easily manipulated by it, so if you want to call it "corny" or "sentimental," be my guest. Although it will always have a special place in my heart due to its subject matter and its great cast.

After meeting his hero (Philip Seymour Hoffman), William gets serious about writing pieces on bands and albums. One such piece is picked up by Hoffman and published, leading to a gig for William at Rolling Stone-they want him to follow the band Stillwater on tour and write a piece on them. On the trip, William encounters sexually liberated groupies who call themselves the "Band-Aids," an egotistical musician who refers to himself as a golden God, and a whole lotta weed. Sounds generic? Not really. This is one of those films that, in synopsis, sounds simplistic, yet once you actually watch it you start to wonder how and why nobody did anything like this before. This film is not just a love letter to the culture of the 70s. It is funny, intelligent, irreverent, and extremely witty.

At times, it seems as though Almost Famous owes more to This Is Spinal Tap than other genre classics such as Dazed and Confused-and it's a good thing too, because if this film had been too openly nostalgic even I would have balked at it. But it skewers the mentality and culture of every aspect of the era it takes place in almost as often as it reflects on them wistfully. There's a whole range of lifestyles caught up here, from the rebellious daughter to the overprotective mother to the disgruntled band member who gets left in the shadows. The exchanges between the members of Stillwater (which, I might remind you, is a very real band) is consistently funny, and reveals everything about rock bands that you always assumed was true. "I work just as hard or harder than anybody on that stage. You know what I do? I connect. I get people off. I look for the guy who isn't getting off, and I make him get off." What does that even mean? Who knows? Who cares? The whole film is such a glorious acid trip that I'm certain the audience won't by the time it's over.

The soundtrack, of course, is consistently good, featuring everything from A to Zeppelin. But although this movie is certainly about music, it's the people who make it great. Often, people will say that a film is only as good as its villain. Well, Almost Famous has no villain-at least in the traditional sense. What makes this film all the more powerful is the looming knowledge in the backs of these character's minds that someday, all of this will have to end through either death or the slow crushing of their dreams. Hell, Hoffman's character prophesies the end of rock and roll within the film's first ten minutes. So perhaps this movie is about the battle against a far more elusive enemy-the slow yet inevitable passage of time. Or, even better, the ever-raging war between the cool and the decidedly uncool. And what's cool about this film is that it KNOWS how cool it is.

Final Score for Almost Famous: 8/10 stars. Yeah, I know... sentimental pick, right? Well, don't chalk it all up to that, because this is a legitimately good movie. I never thought that the dork who directed Jerry Maguire would make a film that I enjoy this much, but it has amazingly happened. And in spectacular fashion, no less. This movie is funny as hell, but it's never forced-it's just hilarious in an easygoing, peaceful, serene way. There's something to be said for a film that you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy, and finish off feeling calm, cool, and collected. And this movie certainly fits that bill.


Ever since Liam Neeson rebranded himself as an action star with Star Wars, Batman Begins, Clash of the Titans, and Taken, I've been wondering how long it'll take before he, like all action stars, succumbs to starring in generic reboots of films he's been in before. Well, it would seem as if the wait is over. Non-Stop, one of the most action-packed and tensely gripping films of the year, ultimately ends up being one of the stupidest as well. Stupid films are fine (hell, I liked The Losers), but this is just craziness. I can appreciate it when a film goes over-the-top with its stunts or its cheesy dialogue, but when it comes down to it, people still need to act like normal people in real life, even if they are thrust into chaotic situations. Sadly, this is a concept that seems to have eluded the creators of this film.

Non-Stop opens with Neeson drinking liquor in his car. He then boards a plane for his job as a federal air marshal. These few minutes are actually quite good, as they establish Neeson's character quite well without much explanation going on. Although this is basically Flight with more action scenes, it's still a good story element. Unfortunately, the film immediately begins to take a turn for the worse when Neeson actually gets on the plane. He begins receiving anonymous text messages from a terrorist who is going to kill passengers on the plane one by one until Neeson gives him what he wants. Now, I won't get into too much detail (as I don't want to spoil the film) but this is one of those ridiculously convoluted villain plans that requires either insanely meticulous and impossible planning or just random plot contrivances. And given the convenience with which the plot barrels along here, it's pretty obvious which is in play.

What may have been a contributing factor in this film's poor reception is the fact that it bills itself as an action movie and yet only really has one major action scene. The rest of it is trying desperately to be a slow-boiling thriller of some sort, but it simply comes across as, at best, unlikely (and at worst flat-out preposterous). Neeson's character is blamed for the hijacking of the plane, but apparently he lacks the articulateness to explain what is happening to the people on the plane. I'm merely assuming this, as it's the only viable explanation as to why he didn't simply tell people what the fuck was going on. Sure, you don't want to create a panic. We get that. But you also don't want to get accused of being a terrorist and get your plane shot out of the sky. It doesn't help that this whole plot is just Source Code crossed with Die Hard 2, which gives it a very "been there, done that" feel. Original ideas are hard to come by, but my God... how many times have we seen things like this in Speed, Snakes on a Plane, Con Air, etc, etc, etc? It's discouraging.

SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH... but it's a stupid film anyway, so go ahead and keep reading.

Despite its shortcomings, Non-Stop actually works quite well for most of its runtime, trucking along like the little thriller that could. It's simple, engaging, and it doesn't hurt that it has Neeson in the starring role. But it all goes downhill in the final act. I've said many a time that an ending really makes or breaks a film. Prisoners, for instance, was a great film that sadly settled for being painfully mediocre with its disappointing ending. At the same time, a mediocre film can ascend to greatness by delivering a gut-wrenching finale. Non-Stop puts the brakes on any momentum it may have had when its plot twist rolls around: One of the passengers was the hijacker all along, and he was doing it because he was mad at the airports and airlines for allowing 9/11 to happen. Really? Your twist is 9/11? If the rest of this movie hadn't been so entertaining, I would have just called it an action movie version of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. This is not only a stupid, stupid way to end a film, but it also is seriously insulting to the people who lost friends and family members in the twin towers. How can a plot twist imply that 9/11 victims would think of hijacking a plane and blame it on an air marshal in order to "wake everyone up?" Do tragic events in people's lives automatically make them homicidal maniacs? And how was 9/11 not a wake-up call enough? And what was this guy trying to accomplish-- making people take their shirts off in the airport as well? This is so stupid!

Final Score for Non-Stop: 4/10 stars. Arguments could easily be made to drastically raise or lower this score, depending on the part of it you choose to focus on. Personally, I couldn't get past that inane and somewhat offensive plot twist. Overall, there's a decent amount of fun to be had in this film, but it's a serious comedown from movies such as Taken when Neeson's biggest action sequence before the finale is killing some guy in an airplane bathroom. A lack of explosions is perfectly fine-- in fact, I'd get down on my knees and thank the Gods if all action movies these days practiced the same kind of restraint as Non-Stop does. But when you take away the mindless action, you'd better have a good story for the audience to think about, or the film will be dead in the water.


"Generic" is a word that seems to get tossed around a lot these days... by me... but if there's a single film that it applies to, it's got to be Collateral. Don't get me wrong-- this is a perfectly serviceable film, with occasionally snappy dialogue, smart characters, and appropriately tense plotting. However, having great characters doesn't matter if their interactions aren't intriguing. Honestly, I'm writing this review right now because I can't imagine I will have any recollection of this film in a week or so. Is that a reflection of my poor memory? Maybe. But it's also probably a reflection of the fact that this film isn't very memorable (or that a lot of it just isn't worth remembering).

Collateral stars Jamie Foxx as Max, a friendly cab driver in New York City. Foxx isn't that great of an actor, but he gets the character to work quite well, as the everyman thrown into an unusual situation is always relatable. Of course, it's still an archetype and totally run-of-the-mill, but that's a given. One evening, he picks up a beautiful female lawyer who instantly pours her deepest secrets out to him. This is a very good scene, as it's clear that this is one of those moments where you exchange a few words with someone and immediately know you'd like to talk to them a lot more. It would be even better if it wasn't just setting the film up for the ending... no spoilers (yet). However, the next passenger is far less amicable: It's Tom Cruise with dyed grey hair and a bad attitude. Cruise takes Foxx hostage and forces him to drive him around to several locations in LA to kill people.

There's a lot of problems with this story (the least of which being, if this contract killer is as good and well-paid as he apparently is, why does he have to take a cab?), but most of them can be overlooked, as the film is naturally tense enough to negate minor quibbles. However, the dialogue between Cruise and Foxx never quite reaches the level it wants to be at. It pains me to say this, as I could definitely see a really awesome script trying to claw its way out of this movie, but save for a truly ingenious exchange right at the beginning of the film about a dead body on the subway, the rest of their conversations consist mostly of tropes and action movie idioms. "Just let me go." Yeah, yeah. It's a thriller, Jamie. Of course he's not going to let you go-we wouldn't have a movie then.

I'll admit to this: Before I saw Collateral, I also watched another Michael Mann-directed film, The Heat. And I'm sorry to say that I turned it off. Not because it was a particularly awful film, but just because it was three hours long and I saw nothing in it that merited that kind of a time investment. From what I've seen in two of his films now, his directorial technique is consistent: Competent, yet brutally short on style. Both of these films felt very procedural, as if Mann was just going through the ropes and doing what was expected of him without ever trying to inject some originality into the movies. I'm not asking for him to suddenly turn into Wes Anderson and make a movie that looks like a flower threw up on the celluloid, but my God, make your film distinct. Make it stand out. As it is, this movie already suffers from a generic plot. We don't need generic direction as well.

SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH! If you haven't seen Collateral, skip to the Final Score.

Despite its shortcomings, Collateral does have some moments of genius (most notably Tom Cruise's now-infamous line "Yo homie, is that my briefcase?"). But what makes this movie such a slog to sit through is its predictability. As soon as the opening scene started, I knew Cruise was going to be a contract killer (something I would already have known if I had read the spoiler-ridden synopsis on Rotten Tomatoes). And I knew the briefcase was full of money, because briefcases in movies like this are always full of money. It's even easy to predict that the lawyer introduced in the film's beginning would be making a reappearance, as she was clearly just in it briefly at the beginning to set up her eventual resurfacing as Vincent's final target at the end. It's frustrating that a movie with such potential ended up being such a cliché-ridden, unmemorable load of meh. But them's the breaks.

Final Score for Collateral: 5/10 stars. I wanted to like this film... please believe me. But what with the joyless direction, the uninvolving script, and the generic and predictable plot, there's not much to love in this movie. For thriller fans, I'm sure it will suffice as agreeable middle-of-the-road entertainment. But all it does is accomplish the bare minimum and move on. The fact that anyone would call this movie anything but "average" speaks far more about the quality of other films of the genre than it does about this movie itself. It's not a terrible film. But it could have been great.


Okay... bluuuuuuuurgh... there's not much that can be said after seeing a film like Antichrist. "Pretentious" is one thing, but director Lars von Trier takes it to a whole 'nother ridiculous level with what might be the worst film I've ever seen (judging objectively, of course... nothing is worse than Man of Steel). I think I'm done with Danish NC-17 art house films for a while. Okay, just kidding. I'm never watching anything like this again. What freaks ME out is that in Denmark, this swept the awards ceremonies, taking away Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, SPECIAL EFFECTS... what the hell? The only CGI in this film is a fox that says "Chaos reigns." Yeah, you heard that right. Denmark is fucking nuts.

Antichrist stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as He and She, a couple who are torn apart when their son jumps out a window (probably because they were having sex in the shower). Dafoe is basically cool with it, and exhibits basically no emotions. Wow, what a sympathetic character. If he were Eric Clapton, he'd at least write a song about it. Meanwhile, Gainsbourg whines, wails, and weeps her way through the rest of the movie, giving the audience two polar opposites, neither of whom are even remotely appealing. It gets even weirder when Dafoe starts playing psychiatrist with her and takes her out into a cabin in the woods to help her "overcome her fear," which apparently involves a fear of nature, the garden of Eden, and herself. No... nothing pretentious here.

Clearly, the Danes don't watch many good films, because this is one of the most obvious movies I've ever seen. A man and a woman in the middle of nature, talking about Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. That's not even symbolism. It might as well be a straight-up adapted retelling of the Bible story, except this time with more torture. How is this deep at all? The religious undertones (or should I say overtones) are painfully obvious from the get-go. The film is CALLED ANTICHRIST, for shit's sake. Although there is no reason for this in the context of the film, it's still a biblical reference. What's far more unsettling than the creepy Christian crap is the misogyny. Lars von Trier must have had a really bad experience with a woman to write a script like this. "A crying woman is a scheming woman." "All women are evil." What the hell? Lars, if you're trying to get over a girl, that's fine. We've all been there. But making torture porn movies about it is not helping. This all comes to a head when we are given a scene of "gynocide." Yeah, you read that right. Don't ask me to explain why any of this is in the film, because unlike legitimately good arthouse cinema, there is no depth to be found here. It's just gross for the sake of grossness. There's not much more analysis I can do here past the fact that even Lars probably doesn't know what any of this means. Wow, what a genius! Let's give him some awards.

The cinematography is total shit, too. The entire intro is filmed in black-and-white, slow-mo, and has ethereal choir music playing in the background. Why? What is the point, other than to pad the run time? 300 gets a bad rap for its overuse of slow-mo, but I think this is worse... way worse. The so-called "techniques" used by the cinematographer here are basically what you'd expect from a high schooler's home video. The camera goes all fuzzy every once in a while, making it look like we're seeing the characters through a dense fog. Then, suddenly, it's a warped wide-angle lens. There's no skill taken to do stuff like this. I could go out to the woods and film a fucking tree falling and call it "art." The fact is that if a tree falls in the forest, and Lars von Trier films it, nobody gives a shit.

So now let's look at the part of the film that everyone talks about the most: The torture. You know, people called Only God Forgives and Valhalla Rising "torture porn" (I should know, I was among them), but you really haven't seen anything until you've seen a Lars von Trier film. This movie is so horrifically graphic I actually had to close my eyes at one point. That is something I never do while watching films. Feel proud, Antichrist, because you're the first movie that has legitimately grossed me out. Honestly though, there's nothing in this film that is really emotionally scarring, because although we do see people bust apart their genitals (in shaky cam, so apparently even Lars chickened out), there is never any emotional depth given to the characters we're watching, so we couldn't care less. The grossness of this film didn't disturb me nearly as much as its ineptitude and stupidity did, but that's mainly because I have a strong stomach for things like this. So please... if there is the slightest doubt in your mind about whether or not you should see Antichrist... don't see Antichrist. Not because it's a terrible film (it is), but because you seriously may not be able to handle this acidic mix of bad filmmaking and mind-blowing gore. It's truly awful.

Final Score for Antichrist: THE RARE AND COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER NEGATIVE ZERO OUT OF TEN STARS!!! I've been trying to keep my -0 ratings down recently, but this really calls for it. The fact that people called this movie anything but "retarded" is absolutely beyond me. Nothing is good about this movie, from the boring performances to the shit cinematography to the horrible direction to the unrelatable characters to the idiotic script to the inane plot to the on-the-nose symbolism to the genital mutilation... I could go on. The point is that although this movie is gross on the surface, what's even grosser is that it received any recognition whatsoever as an actual film. Denmark, please, for the love of God... give me a two million dollar grant to make a movie. I will not disappoint. Seriously, if this is what you guys call "genius," I'm sure I can come up with a meaningful, poetic, once-in-a-generation work of art just by filming two people have sex and then kill each other. This movie is not merely offensive on a good taste level. It's also offensive in general that a thing like this could possibly be considered an actual film.


It was 12:00 midnight on April 4th, 2014, ladies and gentlemen, when I finally decided I was officially done with Hollywood. I watched the Robocop remake last night, and I don't think I've ever been this depressed about the future of cinema in general in my entire life. Not because the film is really one of the worst movies of all time (it's not), but because of the pure and unfettered irony and complete ignorance of the art of filmmaking it takes to make a movie like this one. Making a mainstream blockbuster adaptation of Robocop is like making a TV show out of The Truman Show, or a theme park out of Jurassic Park. It misses the point of the original creation in a way that only money-grubbing Hollywood buttholes could. God, what a depressing turn of events.

The original Robocop is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite movies. Don't laugh, it's true. Although elitist cinema snobs (Cutler) will undoubtedly turn their noses up at Robocop because of its excessive gore and pew pew pews, it's actually far deeper than most people give it credit for. Under the surface of that remarkable film is a startlingly well-thought-out political allegory about America's culture of vapidity and the state of our culture. It is truly the rarest breed of film: Intelligent trash. So how ironic is it that this film that debases the warped, violent culture of America has now been transformed into a film that represents everything WRONG with the warped, violent culture of America? It would probably be funny if it weren't so damn depressing. Not only did the filmmakers totally miss the point of Robocop, but they did all they could to absolutely destroy my enjoyment of the original film. That's the worst kind of sequel, prequel, or remake-the one that prevents you from ever watching the original movie again without your perception of it sullied.

My biggest problem with this film is, as you may have guessed, the blatant commercialization and dumbing down of the source material. Right from the get-go, it's painfully obvious that this film is nothing more than a cynical attempt to turn a sarcastic and sardonic movie into a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster. The original film is practically a parody of the action genre, but this movie ignores those roots and peppers the runtime with unnecessary action sequences, explosions, and militaristically clichéd speeches by Samuel L. Jackson. It's every bit as empty-headed, generic, and silly as the movies that the original Robocop so expertly skewered. Sure, the original had its fair share of gore and violence (in fact, it had to be censored just to retain an R rating), but at least it served the story. The subversive wit and social commentary of it more than makes up for any detours it may have made into generic blockbuster territory. It's not perfect, but it was certainly a lot better than this load of manure.

The performances, as one would expect, are nothing special in the slightest. Joel Kinniman is bland and uninteresting as Robocop himself, giving us very little to root for in the hero. Sure, he's a cyborg... that doesn't mean he can't be an interesting character. Samuel L. Jackson plays the angry black guy again, and Gary Oldman (as always) is the best part, although his character is a stereotypical scientist in the vein of Kiefer Sutherland in Dark City. It would be really interesting to one day have a scientist character in a film who isn't a wimpy, geeky butthole, but apparently scriptwriters these days are more devoted to tropes than ever. I think I can safely say that most of the actors do the best with what they're given, but what they're given isn't much-The story is overcomplicated, the script is generic and dull, and the whole film lacks any of the energy that was put into the action sequences and CGI.

Final Score for Robocop: 2/10 stars. Yeah, this thing is awful. To be fair, this movie is only bad enough to merit maybe a 3 or a 4, but because it so tragically and hilariously missed the point of the original movie, I can't help but hate it. If you want a textbook example of why Hollywood these days is terrible, look no further than Robocop. Otherwise, there is no reason to sit through this lifeless, emotionless, painfully ironic piece of Hollywood drivel. Everything about this movie is by-the-numbers, generic, and headache-inducing, from its lame dialogue to its incoherent action sequences. If you're a fan of the original, definitely stay away. If you're an idiot like Jed who likes remakes more than original films, check it out. All I can say is one thing: It's even dumber than the things that the original made fun of.

Short Term 12

*Wipes away tears*

Full review soon.

Winter's Tale

What level of hell is this? Winter's Tale, the latest trite romance foray for Colin Farrell, is easily one of the worst films ever made... but amazingly, it doesn't stop at just being trite romance. No, this is a film that piles on the pretentiousness at every chance it gets, and the result is one of the most convoluted and head-slappingly wrong films I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. I once thought that nothing is worse than a really dumb movie that doesn't strive for anything past being stupid. But now I see I was wrong. The worst thing is a dumb movie that thinks, for some inane reason, that it actually has some substance to it. And Winter's Tale makes the spectacular miscalculation of thinking that it's God's gift to cinema, when in actuality, it is (I won't mince words) a massive pile of shit.

Winter's Tale is adapted from a book which I can only assume is light-years better than this piss-poor film adaptation. I have to give the book the benefit of the doubt, because after all, they wouldn't have made a movie of this thing if it were as bad as the film would suggest. I mean, even The Lovely Bones apparently had good source material. But honestly, I don't see any way in which the silly themes of this movie could ever have been construed as "good." The film is about Colin Farrell, a simple thief, attempting to escape an evil demon played by Russell Crowe. Yep. After Farrell's girlfriend dies, he zaps 100 years into the future in order to save the life of a random cancer girl. And no, I'm not purposely making this sound retarded just to paint the film in a bad light-- this is seriously the plot.

I'll ignore the terrible acting, dialogue, and direction for a second and just focus on this film's themes. Put simply, there are none. There are people out there who love this movie, and think of themselves as "enlightened" because they believe in the central premises of this idiotic film. That is insanity. This story is just an amalgam of random elements of religions, including reincarnation, heaven, predestination, and miracle working. What the fuck ever. "When we die, we become stars." THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE! I really do feel like I was missing something here, because there's no way any sane person would put up with this film's existence if it really is as pretentious and shallow as I found it to be. But really, there is nothing to this thing. Anybody can pull random shit about philosophy out of their ass. I could pump out a screenplay like this in less than a week, and it would probably make more sense than this incomprehensible crap. One of the worst things a movie can do is disobey the laws it already set up. But what's even worse is when the movie doesn't set anything up at all. That's precisely what Winter's Tale feels like: A convoluted, episodic, random jumble of unrelated scenes that make it just about as approachable as a board game with directions written in Swahili. There's a friggin' Pegasus in this movie for no reason at all! And then it turns out that Russell Crowe isn't just any two-bit crook, he's a demon working for the devil himself! And the devil is played by Will Smith! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS MOVIE?

What really kills this thing (besides the fact that it makes no sense whatsoever) is the fact that it takes itself so exhaustingly seriously. Every line of dialogue spoken is delivered with such emotional and dramatic weight that you can practically feel it dragging the movie down. Bringing weight to a film is a good thing, but when you try to make every single thing people say some sort of moving speech or profound musing on the state of humanity, it all comes across as identical drivel and, more importantly, unrealistic. Nobody talks like they do in this movie-- and ESPECIALLY nobody talks like Russell Crowe's character. Crowe was apparently shooting for an Irish(?) accent in this film, but he ends up speaking in some unplaceable western European accent that made me laugh every time he appeared on screen. Meanwhile, Colin Farrell sported an emo hairdo that was eerily reminiscent of Gary Oldman's hair in The Fifth Element. And no, not even those majestic furry black caterpillars masquerading as Colin Farrell's eyebrows could save his performance. I'm sorry to say that everyone in this film delivered a series of acting train wrecks on an unprecedented scale. Of course, it's nearly impossible to say the dialogue in this film without bursting out laughing, so really I can't fault the actors. I will, however, fault the pretentious and self-absorbed writers behind this film, as their reach fell far short of their grasp with this truly awful film. The moral of the story is that it doesn't matter how seriously you take your filmmaking endeavours-- if the movie sucks, it sucks, and no amount of posturing can cover that up.

Final Score for Winter's Tale: 1/10 stars. Yep, it's as bad as you've heard. Actually, no-- it's worse. On the surface, this looks like your typical run-of-the-mill crappy romance, where everyone involved is just collecting a paycheck and will soon move on to bigger and better things. But what scares me about this film is the fact that it actually thinks it has some answers to offer up about life's most important questions. So let's just clear this up: I have no thoughts as to reincarnation, and I am open to the concept of life after death (even though that's really, really redundant). But if the afterlife is anything like Winter's Tale, I will gladly spend an eternity in hell. It's deeply unsettling to think that there are people who found some meaning in this pretentious, dull, nonsensical, shallow, and overall stupid film, because I've seen more interesting philosophical musings on bathroom stalls. Trust me... this is how Scientology got started.

(But at least this wasn't Battlefield Earth).


Well-acted and expertly shot, although it's a tad too generic in its plotting to truly soar. Full review soon.


The thing about movies like Adaptation is, put simply, they don't make sense. And not in the way that people complain about films like Donnie Darko or Blade Runner being nonsensical-- those films have messages that they convey, and it's up to the audience to pick up on them or not. The difference is that Adaptation throws everything and the kitchen sink into the film in one massive hail-Mary pass to the audience, hoping desperately that they'll find something of value in it. In the end, people often do, and films like these go on to receive critical acclaim. But that doesn't change the fact that Adaptation, although complicated, is nothing more than an overcalculated and micro-managed mess of a film that strives for some depth but ultimately is too caught up in its own cleverness to probe any deeper than its shallow themes.

Adaptation stars Nicolas Cage as twin brothers Charlie and Donald Kaufman, both of whom are screenwriters (with very different ideas about the concept of their occupation). As always, Cage is able to make even the most inconsequential throwaway lines of dialogue entertaining in only the way Cage can. Still, seeing Cage argue with himself does not change one simple fact: This film was written by Charlie Kaufman. I cannot fathom the breadth of delusional egotism that it must have taken for Kaufman to write this film. How is this even a thing? He paints himself as a pathetic and self-loathing character, but I don't buy for a second that a guy this depressed and dissatisfied with himself would write a screenplay for a movie starring him (not to mention his imaginary twin brother). It's supposed to be witty and original, but it just comes off as awkward. Really, really awkward. It's like watching a reality TV show in which people confess the most intimate secrets about their lives. Not only should they not be telling us these things, but most importantly, we don't really care. And that's a concept that seems to have eluded the creators of this film at every step of its inception.

In the film, Kaufman (the real one) is attempting to adapt the 1998 book The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. This is not nearly the strangest part of this premise, as Meryl Streep plays the author of the book, Susan Orlean, and turns out to be an orchid drug-addicted adulterer who tries to kill Kaufman. What was the point of this, you ask? Well, it's supposedly a satire on the concept of "adaptation," drawing parallels between the orchids adapting to their environments and the adaptation of a novel into a screenplay. How very clever. But that's the wrong question. What we SHOULD be asking is "Why did Orlean agree to this?" Seriously, this is a reputation-ruining kind of thing. Clearly it didn't destroy her public image completely, but I personally would not sign off on a film in which I was revealed to be a drug-addicted sex fiend who kills people. Well... maybe if Nic Cage signed on. I'm getting sidetracked. The point is, none of the people in this movie deserve to have a film made about them, and especially not one like this.

What angers me most about Adaptation is the wasted potential. The film is extremely strong at times, mostly due to the magnetic screen presence of the artist known as Cage. Seeing Nic Cage argue with himself is literally one of the greatest things ever put to screen, right up there with Nic Cage getting tortured by bees and Nic Cage stealing the Declaration of Independence. So how did a movie with Spike Jonze directing, Nic Cage starring in two roles, and a capable screenwriter fail so miserably? Well, at the end of the day, it can be summed up in the paraphrased words of Jeff Goldblum: They were so concerned with whether or not they COULD do it, they never thought about whether or not they SHOULD do it. And the answer is, they shouldn't have. This movie is a fun enough waste of two hours, but at the end of the day, its message about the world of screenwriting and adaptation is just too heavy-handed to put up with. It's far more concerned with being clever and original than actually answering the myriad of questions it raises. And for that, the audience is worse off, because they will exit the film confused and deeply dissatisfied. It's a good thing that this movie will make you think. But don't think for a second that it's any good.

Final Score for Adaptation: 5/10 stars. This film has some great qualities, but they are all too often bogged down in silly, self-referential crap and a frustratingly simplistic message. Okay, we get it. Adaptation has two meanings. Aren't you clever. But this could have been accomplished in a far shorter film, especially in one that's not so blatantly self-serving. I mean, my God, they show the set of Being John Malkovich in this movie. What the fuck? As always, I'm all for trying new and interesting things in filmmaking... but man, this missed the mark. Fortunately, its spectacular failures are far more entertaining than many film's successes, which I suppose counts for something. The way the film segues from a serious film about people into a generic Hollywood thriller (paralleling the two scripts the brothers are writing) is almost as clever as it wants to be. But altogether, this is not a movie you should seek out... especially if you haven't seen Being John Malkovich.

True Romance
True Romance(1993)

Cool, funny, and action packed. It's essentially just typical Tarantino, as the plot is nothing we haven't seen before... but typical Tarantino is light years ahead of everything else. Full review soon.

The Truman Show

Can we all please agree that this movie is fantastic? Good. Full review soon.


There are several films that I am infamous for hating: Man of Steal Your Money, The Lovely Bones, Hugo, The Mummy, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, August Rush, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close... however, there is only one film out of all of these that has garnered such overwhelming acclaim, adoration, reverence, and love that I sometimes wonder if I am the last sane human on the planet. I am speaking, of course, of Up. Up, the film with a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes (a whole five rotten reviews for it!). Up, the movie that came close to being the first animated film to win Best Picture. Up... one of the worst pieces of shit I have ever had the misfortune to lay my eyes on. I am often asked precisely what it is about this film that I utterly despise so much... so here it is.

I don't know where to begin, so let's start with what the movie leads off with. Up begins with a five-minute montage of a man's life, from childhood to old age. He gets married, his mentally challenged wife finds out she can't have children, and she dies. This sequence is famous for making adults cry like babies. However, this is just silly. We are not given any character development at all in this small span of time. The man literally does not talk for the first ten minutes of the movie. Sure, we're told that the two of them want to be adventurers or whatever. That's hardly a reason to care for the characters. Every kid has some awesome dream about what they'll be when they grow up. And, just like in Up, it usually doesn't work out. But that doesn't make this original or creative. It just makes it bland and simplistic. If we were supposed to forge some unbreakable emotional bond with these characters in the first ten minutes, they should have had some qualities to set them apart from other movie characters. Showing random sepia-toned flashback snapshots of some fucker's life does not constitute great drama.

I'm sure you know the plot from here. The guy gets old, and now that his wife is dead, he feels extremely attached to their gay pride-colored house. Unfortunately, a bunch of selfish businessmen want to tear down his shitty home in order to build a retirement center for elderly people who probably can no longer afford to own their own homes. Those bastards! Our hero retaliates by beating one of them over the head with his cane, which induces a minor concussion. Then, to escape the law, he flees by tying billions of balloons to his house and ripping it out of the foundation. Yeah, that makes a whole lotta sense. And look, I know that the point of this movie is to say that people can change and this guy just needs to learn to let go. But two things: Firstly, this guy is such a consistent asshole throughout the movie that I personally never felt any sympathy for him. Secondly, old people do not accept change this easily. Plain and simple.

Along for the ride is Russell, a potato-shaped Asian kid, who is easily the most annoying animated character since Jar-Jar Binks. The humor between him and the old guy is not funny at all. It just switches between slapstick and extremely unoriginal comparisons between the young and the old. Ooh, ha ha ha, the old guy doesn't know what GPS is. Wow Pixar, you're so clever and funny. This movie is legitimately one of the unfunniest comedies I've ever seen-- I laughed more at Movie 43 than this, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. And then... there's the logical inconsistencies. Fine, I shouldn't be looking for a logical plotline in a kid's movie about a floating house. But I feel as though my head would explode if I overlooked a few of these details in my review, so here are a few choice fails:

1) Why did the old guy have to use a machine just to get down the stairs in his house, but then he could leap over shit and swordfight by the end of the movie?
2) If he really was that incapacitated, how did he fill up all those balloons to begin with? And come to think of it, how did he conceal that giant trash bag in the morning?
3) Somehow, the house changes altitude just from six balloons being released into the air. Six fucking balloons. If that's how many it takes to lower it so much, then how the hell is it staying afloat? Also, this is not how balloons work. They either go up or they go down. They don't just hang in midair.
4) The old guy does not need to drag his house behind him on his walk to Paradise Falls. He could just park it, climb a few rocks next to it, and hop in.
5) The biggest and silliest of plot developments... the old guy from the 1930s who our old guy looked up to AS A KID is somehow still alive at the ripe old age of 120 (or something) and is still searching for a bird in the mountains of South America.

Phew. Just had to get those off my chest. In all honesty though, some of these are lame complaints, but others (especially #5) make absolutely no sense in the context of the film and are never explained. And that brings me to the awkward fact that seems to have been overlooked about this movie: There is essentially no bad guy. Sure, the 120-year-old tried to capture a bird. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. He wasn't trying to kill it or maim it. If anything, he was going to bring it back for the purpose of science. When he set the dogs on Asian potato kid and old guy, he did it because he accused them of trying to steal the bird for themselves (which they weren't doing), and they didn't defend themselves. Why, we'll never know. None of the decisions the characters make in this movie make any sense, and if you think about the story for a second, you'll start to realize how seriously fucked it is.

But what really angers me about Up above all other things is the thought process that its fans have. Somehow, if you hate this film, you have no heart. Well, EXCUSE ME if I'm not easily manipulated by sentimental bullshit. There are some movies that deserve an emotional reaction from people-- 50/50, Cinema Paradiso, The Wrath of Khan-- but this is not one of them. If you enjoyed this film, all I can say is that your heartstrings were successfully tugged in just the way that Pixar knows how. And that's through sentimental music, corny dialogue, sepia-toned flashbacks, and horrible plotting. I seriously hate this film, but what drives it into the territory of unbearability for me is the concept that somehow, if you hate it, you have no soul. And although I lost my soul in a poker game back in 2009... that stigma is unjustified.

Final Score for Up: THE COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER NEGATIVE ZERO OUT OF TEN STARS!!! God, I hate this movie! I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT!!! It embodies everything that is wrong with cinema today, playing off the inability of children to tell the difference between a good and a bad film and then having them drag their parents along to see it as well. It's a silly, inane, unwatchable load of ass that I have never seen the likes of before (except in Cars, but that movie is worse than this... seriously, you have no idea how much I hate Cars). Those involved in the creation of this cinematic abortion should be ashamed. It is the anus of cinema.

For more anus asunder-tearing on the subject of this terrible film, as well as a wonderful point-counterpoint-countercounterpoint back-and-forth with the one and only Jeff Goldblum, follow this link to my Running Commentary on Up:


There are way too many shitty young adult novel adaptations masquerading as actual films these days, the latest such movie being Divergent. Based on the best-selling book series (gee, how many times have we heard THAT in a trailer by now?), and directed by Neil Burger of Limitless fame, this movie has no right to be this bad... and yet, it is. I can't say that it doesn't have its moments, but when it comes down to it, the whole effort comes across as a cynical attempt to cash in on angsty teenage girls who want to see more movies like The Hunger Games or Twilight. And although the think tanks behind this film certainly succeeded (Divergent has made over 50 million dollars thus far), that doesn't make this anything more than a trite and generic romance repackaged in a post-apocalyptic setting. It's not good.

Divergent stars Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior, a girl in the dystopian futuristic city of... Chicago. The opening shot of the city is very well-crafted, allowing Burger to once again go all-out with his typical visual flair. Upon first glance, the city looks mostly normal, save for a massive fence encircling it. As the camera pans closer, we begin to see that the buildings crumbling and rubble is strewn everywhere. Essentially, Chicago has become Detroit. Of course, none of this makes sense in the greater context of the film (if these people have set up such a good society from the ashes, why couldn't they clean this shit up?), but I felt like I should say something positive about the film, as it certainly has some good ideas. But man oh man, did they ever fuck this up.

In this future, society has been divided into five factions: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin... sorry, wrong movie. Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity, for the peaceful; Candor, for the honest; Dauntless, for the brave; and Erudite, for the intelligent. There are so, so, so many ways in which this doesn't make sense. Firstly, this futuristic society is supposed to work extremely well. But don't these people get that, historically, dividing people up into groups just separates them and sows seeds of hatred? The climax of this movie is Erudite attempting to overthrow Abnegation. Did nobody see this coming? Also, selfless people, brave people, and intelligent people have jobs built into their personalities. What do the peaceful people do? Smoke weed and write poetry all day? And what the fuck is the point of Candor? They always tell the truth, so they can't be politicians or lawyers. This whole thing is idiotic.

And then there's the central premise of this, which is that any one person usually only has one of these traits (if you have more than one, you are Divergent, hence the film's title). But humans don't work that way. I know plenty of selfless and brutally honest people. I know some intelligent and brave people. The whole concept here is riddled with plot holes big enough to fly a jumbo jet through. The story is just custom-made to get teenage girls to take internet quizzes about "which faction you fit into," and is also one of many direct rip-offs of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. One would think that by now, writers would be trying to do something original with their stories instead of just revamping what other authors have done before, but one would apparently think wrong.

Woodley is fine as Tris, but she's certainly not a skilled enough actress to make this film bearable. Her character is far too one-dimensional to connect with anyone other than pissy teenage girls who are mad because those bitches on the pep squad keep picking on them. Theo James plays Four, the love interest, with all the charisma and enthusiasm of a block of wood, and Kate Winslet is just way too annoying to be a good villain. The film also tries to make some kind of social commentary about intelligent people and how they believe they should be in control, throwing in random unnecessary subplots about the city's leader and how he beat his son, or one where Tris's mom comes in to save the day and then dies for no reason, or the one where some guys try to kill her for no apparent reason. God, this movie is so stupid on every level.

What really angers me about this film overall is the fact that there was no passion or heart put into it at any step of its creation. From minute one, when Veronica Roth sat down to write the books that this inane piece of shit is based off of, she was only trying to capitalize on the current fad of YA novels and movies. And it shows. This is a completely lifeless and emotionless attempt to cynically steal money from impressionable teenagers. It hits every wrong note that movies of its kind hit today, from one-dimensional leads to bad scripting to a premise so idiotic you wonder why Stephanie Meyer didn't do it first. Some movies are bad, but because so much work and painstaking energy was put into them, you have to respect the vision that the creator had (The Room, anyone?). But Divergent commits the worst of all movie sins: It's not trying to tell a story. The creators of this movie did not have a goal other than making money. They didn't have an idea that they dreamed of one day seeing on a screen. They didn't labor over this arduously in order to perfect exactly what they saw in their imaginations. They simply slapped it together and called it a day, assuming that nobody would notice the difference. And apparently, no one did.

Final Score for Divergent: 2/10 stars. This film is an insult to cinema, but I can't deny the few good moments it had, most of which were due to Neil Burger's talent for creating good visuals. The claustrophobia of one scene in which Tris is trapped in a glass box slowly filling with water is palpable. But in nearly every other respect, this is a rote, uninteresting, unoriginal, and wholly uncreative film that borrows far too heavily from other movies of its ilk to have any merit of its own. I apologize in advance to all the boyfriends who will be undoubtedly dragged to see this truly awful movie. But I will say this: Even in the realm of YA movies gone wrong, this is not as bad as it gets... just thank God that Twilight has ended.

Black Dynamite

Clearly one of the greatest films of all time. Full review soon.

Lord of War
Lord of War(2005)

Very episodic and random, but also extremely entertaining. Cage is love. Cage is life.

American History X

American History X, the film that everyone apparently thinks is one of the most important films of all time, falls into yet another slot on the ever-growing list of movies that I disagree with seemingly everyone on. No, this is not an intrinsically good film. I don't believe that a movie should be awarded points simply because it tackles tough subjects, and I don't think that the subject itself should have any serious weight in the overall opinion of it. If you're a religious person and you watch The Passion of the Christ, you can't say it's a good movie purely based on the fact that it's about something you believe in. The key to good filmmaking is the way the directors, actors, and writers go about portraying the subjects at hand; regardless of who or what the subjects are. And although race relations in America are tense at best, and deserve close examination, that alone does not constitute a good movie.

American History X is the story of a neo-nazi (Edward Norton) who, after a brief 3-year stint in a prison, becomes reformed and tries to turn his little brother on another path than his own. Okay, already I see problems here. Norton's character went to jail because he killed two black guys in the street. Yes, they were bashing up his truck. However, do we really believe that a known white supremacist could wound a guy, curb-stomp him to death, and then get only three years in jail? I mean, maybe in Florida, but not LA. I'm getting sidetracked. The point is, there are key elements of the plot that make no sense, especially what causes Norton to change (spoilers ahead). After seeing the drastic before and after comparisons between pre-jail and post-jail Norton, the audience is waiting for the one defining and incredible event that turned this hateful person around and onto the path of redemption.

Yeah, long story short, that never happens. Norton's story in jail is extremely disappointing. Firstly, he starts to fall out of favor with his fellow white supremacists when they do drug deals with the Mexicans in the prison. Okay... so he got mad at the white guys for doing business with the brown guys, so now he'll side with the brown guys? No, that doesn't make sense. Then the white supremacists rape him in the showers. So that one experience forever altered his world view and made him a kinder, more accepting, gentler human being? Ridiculous! And the last contributing factor is the fact that he makes friends with a black guy on the inside, leading to the black guys not killing him. Wow, there's so much wrong with this premise. I didn't believe for a second that this hateful, ignorant, and self-righteous piece of shit could go through such an incredible transformation in the span of three years. Spare me that "people change" bullshit-- the fact of the matter is that this could never have happened, EVER.

The one consistent high point is Norton, who is extremely convincing during the flashbacks to his hateful, bigoted past. There's a dinner table scene that is especially well-scripted and acted, where Norton bares a swastika on his chest to a Jewish dinner guest. Eep. Just gonna go out on a limb and say that those are bad table manners. In all seriousness though, it's difficult to play a character that is this reprehensible (Michael Fassbender knows it), but Norton pulls it off. The problem here is that we are then expected to feel sympathy for this character. Well, forgive me if I'm not so quick to forget the fact that this guy was a white supremacist three years ago. Then there's the dialogue between him and his little brother, which is so bad it sounds like it was ad-libbed right on the spot. It's repetitive, corny, forced, and wholly uninteresting. These are great characters, but they seriously deserved a better movie.

Final Score for American History X: 4/10 stars. I really wanted to like this film, but unfortunately it ultimately collapses under the weight of the subjects it's covering without actually providing any real substance. The story is questionable at best, the dialogue is laughable for the most part, and the acting, although good, isn't strong enough to hold up the entire movie. Adding to that is the Requiem For A Dream-style way that this film tells us something we already know: Here, instead of "drugs are bad," it's "racism is bad." It tries to have a new take on the subject by trying to make its main character sympathetic... but if the best you can do is try to make me become emotionally attached to a nazi, then I'll gladly take genericness instead.

Need For Speed

A guy named Maverick who flies around in the air... in a movie called Need For Speed? And Tom Cruise isn't in it? HA! Adding to the slew of video game-based films that have been released in the past two decades, we have Need For Speed, probably one of the best of its batch, but seeing as its batch is a load of shit, that's not saying much. I sincerely hope that Aaron Paul was merely assuring a big-ass paycheck here after Breaking Bad ended, just to pay the bills, and that now that his future is more than assured he'll start tackling more challenging and daring material. What we have here is a bad case of Star Magic Syndrome-- the assumption that a movie will be legitimately good just because it stars a talented actor.

Paul stars as Tobey Marshall, a guy who races cars. That is just about all you need to know about this character. Little effort is made to actually give him some depth; a vague backstory about his father is brought up briefly in the first few minutes and is never heard from again, but basically this guy is just a more talkative version of The Driver from Drive. He runs a car repair/body shop in a small town, and has an okay life, but when an old enemy of his first cons him into souping up a Mustang and then frames him for manslaughter, it's time for him to clear his name.

So, here's the thing about video games: When you play them, you do not give a shit about the plot. I do not play Grand Theft Auto because I appreciate the deep and meaningful interpersonal relationships between Michael Townley and Amanda. I play it because you get to steal cars and then run over the guy whose car you just stole WITH THE CAR YOU JUST STOLE!!! So when a dumb fun movie like Need For Speed somehow expects the audience to take its forced and pitiful love story seriously, or when it expects the car chases to actually carry some emotional weight, it will fail miserably every time.

And another thing-- Video games can create their own little world and nobody questions them because the gameplay is what matters most. But when the silliness of the plot is suddenly transposed into a movie that is supposed to take place in reality, you can tell something's off. Why does everyone in this movie have such great knowledge of obscure underground car races? How can Michael Keaton's character arrange complex, illegal, and deadly races in the Marin headlands and not get caught? Well, that's because in the game, the fictional society created revolves around the racing. But that does not translate to real life. When you see a shot of a small town race in this movie, you will not say "Yes, that's plausible," you will instead say "A-BUTTON B-BUTTON LEFT TRIGGER RIGHT TRIGGER--- AAAARRRGH!!! WIPEOUT!"

Also, movies like this don't really go for originality, but I wasn't expecting it to. This thing is geared towards gearheads (no pun intended) who want to see obscure European racecars battle it out on long stretches of road. And yes, I am one of those car junkies who this movie is aimed at. Am I really the only one who had heard of Koenigsegg before going into this movie? Yes? Just checking. But so much time is spent drooling over the Bugattis and Lambos that the scriptwriters forgot to... you know... write a script. This thing is jam-packed with every car racing movie cliche in the book. "You might want to close your eyes" cliche? Check. Woman's high heel landing on ground just after car door opens? Check. Constant gear shifting? POV crash shots? Jump-cuts every 1/4th of a second? Check! Check! Check! I'd call this style over substance, but there isn't any style either.

Really, at the end of the day, Need For Speed feels like you're watching someone else play a racing game-- Which, although possibly somewhat entertaining, doesn't compare to the real thing. It's hard to get an adrenaline rush when you don't even care about the people behind the wheel. And you can't care about the people behind the wheel when they're mercilessly butchering random civilians and flipping cop cars, all just to glorify their macho inferiority complexes. Oh, and this thing rips off so many movies, it's hard to keep track. Bullitt rip-offs in San Francisco are a given... but did it have to steal American Graffiti's car axle removal as well? And that desert scene must have been filmed in the exact same place where Thelma & Louise was. Pathetic.

Final Score for Need For Speed: 2/10 stars. This movie really does suck, but what makes it so infuriatingly bad is the fact that it stars an immensely talented actor who is given absolutely nothing to work with. Fuck, Aaron Paul! What were you thinking? Collecting a paycheck is one thing, but this is just stupid. There's not even a Breaking Bad reference throughout this whole painful mess. There are a lot more complaints I have... ranging from the stereotyped black character to the twerking scene at the credits to the disrespectful way the Mustang is treated to the plot holes large enough to drive a McLaren through... but I'll leave it at this: You already know if you're going to see Need For Speed or not. If you're planning on doing so, this review probably hasn't changed your opinion, as I do admit that the film features a good number of boom booms. But if you're on the fence? Stay away.


Like Lincoln, Capote has an unquestionably strong and committed central performance going for it... and nothing else.

Donnie Brasco

Well-acted, but the story is bland as shit.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Every once in a while, you come across a film that would make you hate yourself if you didn't enjoy it. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one such film. This latest Wes Anderson venture brings out all the stops for movie lovers-- a talented cast, a twisty story, wonderful dialogue, fantastic characters, a wide range of themes, and beautiful cinematography. Saying that this is Anderson's best film is a bit of an understatement, as I'm somewhat inclined to bring all his other films down a point or so now that I've seen what he can do when he puts his mind to it. To be honest, there's very little not to love in this movie, and there was almost no chance from the get-go that I wasn't going to love it.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a movie about a writer telling a story about how he got a story for a book he wrote from some guy who told him a story about another guy. Okay, we'll skip that part. This film stars Ralph Fiennes (one of the most underrated actors of his generation) as Gustav H, a talented concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, one of the most respected hotels in all of Europe. His story is told in flashback form by his lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). When one of the hotel's repeat customers ends up murdered, and Gustav is featured prominently in her will, he and Zero engage in a cross-country race to clear his name and possibly get a sizable amount of the old bat's estate. Populating the supporting cast are Adrian Brody as the dead woman's malicious son, Willem Dafoe as his tough-as-nails henchman, Jeff Goldblum as an incorruptible lawyer, Saorise Ronan as a bakery girl with a birthmark shaped like Mexico on her face, and Bill Murray and Owen Wilson in their gratuitous Wes Anderson movie cameo roles.

Wes Anderson's deliberately quirky methods of directing actually work for once here. He tends to depict the worlds he creates as fables rather than realistically. All his movies have three main visual themes: Deliberately fake-looking sets (ranging from the boat cut-away in The Life Aquatic to the matte paintings in The Grand Budapest Hotel), symmetrical framing of his shots, and intense color schemes that make the audience sit up and pay attention. He's often been criticized for being too self-referential and smug in his humor and direction, but it definitely works here, and he brings the world of the Grand Budapest Hotel to life. He begins by showing its decrepit state in the 1970s, and it takes on that hollowed-out aura that all old buildings have when they're converted into more modernized, tacky pieces of shit. This makes his depiction of its heydey all the more refreshing and palatable. You may be ready for the movie to end (I know I wasn't, but suit yourself), but you'll definitely notice that the world looks a lot more drab and boring walking out of the theater.

The real tour-de-force in this film is Fiennes, who plays Gustav with every ounce of believability and genuineness he can muster. It doesn't hurt that the character is heartbreakingly kind and gentle, making this story of a look back on a great man all the more depressing in the end (no spoilers!). If nothing else, this is a story about the passage of time, and the inevitable pains it will wreak on people. The quirky story is a sideshow, at the end of the day, for something far more interesting: The tale of a friendship between the two unlikeliest of people. Sure, a lot of the scenes are made just for Anderson to have some fun with his typical visual flair. Who cares? By the time the movie's over, you'll have forgotten that you're actually watching a film. The movie sucks you in so much that the matte paintings and concocted camera shots feel real. That's an achievement in and of itself.

However, I would be remiss if I did not address the big flaw in this movie, and that would be the fact that it borrows heavily from Cinema Paradiso. I know, I know. "Tut, you ass, you think that every movie rips off one of your favorites! And even if it does, Cinema Paradiso is spectacular! How could it be a problem to steal from one of the best movies ever made?" Well, that's because I've seen this story before, and better. An old man's flashback to when he was a young boy, and the building that captured his imagination? The man who took him under his wing and cared for him as a father figure? Lost love? Heartbreak? All these themes show up in Cinema Paradiso as well. I wouldn't call it a direct rip-off, but it borrows a little too heavily for my taste, to the point where I had to rewatch Cinema Paradiso just to make sure I was getting it right. And yes, spoiler alert, I was. By the way, the second viewing did not dilute the film's impact at all. I wept like a baby.

Final Score for The Grand Budapest Hotel: 9/10 stars. I will undoubtedly regret this rating later in 2014, when I wish I had some ambiguity about which film would win the Tuttie for Best Picture. Honestly though, I don't care. This film is just about as good as it's going to get in modern times. I don't want to hype it up very much, but if you're going to see a Wes Anderson film, see this one immediately. Sorry Cutler, but The Royal Tenenbaums doesn't hold a candle to this. My one fear is that Anderson's overly quirky directorial style will prevent him from being taken seriously by the filmmaking community, leading to a massive snub at the Oscars. But if American Hustle proved anything, it's that great films don't necessarily win awards.


It's not often that you come across a comedy about teen suicide, but damn is it ever refreshing. One of my requirements for a comedy to be truly great is that it tackles tough subjects, usually at the risk of offending some people, and still is able to pull off some seriously biting satire. Heathers certainly does that. As I said recently in my review of Mean Girls, some movies are funny because they make fun of easy targets. The Hangover is hilarious, but jokes about Las Vegas have been done to the death. However, the things that Heathers goes after are not even close to being easy targets-- in fact, if they weren't handled so masterfully, this movie would probably be pretty offensive. But because I agree with the film's sentiment (especially about reactionary teachers and parents in an age where all teenagers are "suicide risks" as declared by the media), this film is able to fully pull it off.

Heathers stars Winona Ryder as Veronica, whose best friends (Heather, Heather, and Heather) are getting on her nerves. Enter the charismatic sociopath JD (Christian Slater), who encourages Veronica to try new things. Unfortunately, those things include having sex on her parent's lawn and killing fellow students to make them look like suicides. This is a sensitive topic at best, but the way the film goes about it is realistic, funny, and will probably hit way too close to home for some people. By now, pretty much every school district in America has probably had that community-rattling moment where students kill themselves, each other, or bring a knife to school or some shit. Hell, just last week some retard at my school got high and tried to jump off a bridge. Heathers really nails the types of reactions that are typical to situations like this. There's the hippie-dippie teacher who tries to get everyone to join hands and love each other for one day as if that'll instantly solve all their problems. There's the parents who immediately take it upon themselves to make sure that their daughter isn't a suicide case, but are completely inept in both preventing it and reassuring her. And, of course, there are the students, none of whom really give a shit.

The film is surreal and weird, with moments of black humor that bleed (no pun intended) seamlessly into regular teen comedy fare. There are cow tipping jokes immediately followed by murders. Some will say that "After Columbine, this dark comedy isn't as funny" (actually, some bitch from Common Sense Media said exactly that), but that misses the point entirely. This film is practically a warning about the post-Columbine era; a prescient piece of work that accurately predicts within a fraction of a percent what the world is like during the age of terror. If Columbine is what it took for these people to understand that high school is no picnic, may God have mercy on their souls.

Although it's certainly got a lot going for it in terms of its cynical message, Heathers is especially elevated by Winona Ryder's career-best performance. She's got an old Hollywood-style innate likability about her, not to mention the fact that she's playing a very likable character in a believable way. Veronica herself is not only a genuinely cool person, she's also a fucking badass (at the end, at least, which I shall not spoil). Aside from her soft spot for mildly homicidal boyfriends, she's the kind of person you'd want to go to high school with. Slater, meanwhile, doesn't have a very realistic character (sure, there are crazy kids, but this is pushing it), but at least he plays it well. The pair's on-again off-again relationship, with the added complication of a few murders, is enough to put every teen movie cliche to rest.

Final Score for Heathers: 8/10 stars. This is a truly unnerving film, and if you're easily offended by the concept of teenagers killing themselves, you should probably skip this one. However, if you can swallow some retrospectively not-so-PC material in order to experience seriously dark social satire and comedy, you'll probably find this to be the high school equivalent of Fight Club. Unlike The Lovely Bones, it never falls into the pitfall of making its serious subject matter a trivial thing, and instead focuses more on the reactions to what happens in the movie and the overall hopelessness and pessimism of it all. At the end of the day, people who complain about the movie's subject matter aren't getting its basic message: Although life is pointless, suicide is not the answer. Also, teachers are retarded.


Retarded. Full review soon.

Jack Reacher
Jack Reacher(2012)

The best kind of bad popcorn entertainment. Full review soon.

Gone With the Wind

Hey look! Another classic film to get a mediocre rating from the ol' Tut's Tutillating Reviews! Gone With The Wind is quite possibly the ultimate and definitive Hollywood classic, rivaling Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in terms of both cinematography and epic scale. This film scores perfect points from me on a purely technical standpoint. However, as it is with all things, other aspects must be taken under consideration. For example, Gravity: A well-filmed, beautifully edited, and all-around visually spectacular film with legendary CGI. But it's impossible to call a film "great" just based on one thing. If a terrible movie had a great performance in it, the overall film would not be great. In Gravity, the thing that brought it down was the vapidness and lack of depth. But in Gone With The Wind, the problem is not so much the lack of a message as it is what the message says.

Gone With The Wind is the story of Scarlett Johansson-- sorry, O'Hara (Vivian Leigh). Scarlett is a self-absorbed, vain, and all-around repulsive woman who lives on a plantation with her family while the Civil War brews around them. The first serious misstep the movie makes is when it tries to paint these people in a sympathetic light. Remember when everyone said that 12 Years a Slave made them see slavery differently? That was stupid, because nobody should ever have seen it as anything less than what 12 Years showed it as. However, if one's frame of reference was confined only to this film, they would probably think that slavery was an okay thing, and that black people were perfectly happy with it.

The moments with loyal black servants in this film are offensive enough, but even worse are the moments without them. Very little time is devoted to the actual explanation of what's going on. The film tries to show just one slice of the story-- Scarlett's-- without getting into the politics of what's going on in the crumbling world around her. She doesn't care, so why should we? Well, the answer is that the things going on around her, and her reaction to them, could make or break how we feel about the character. The movie sidesteps slavery, and that's pretty offensive. Granted, it's not Birth of a Nation, but it seems to pretend that black people were somehow happy as slaves and house servants. It's not cool. There's even a stupid black girl with a very thick accent who lies about knowing how to deliver a child. I think George Lucas based Jar-Jar off of her. In fact, she might be the most prominent African-American in the movie. It's all more than a little eyebrow-raising, and the underlying nostalgic themes about the old south are one-sided and decidedly ignorant.

However, one cannot overlook the truly fantastic things about this movie. Vivian Leigh may be playing the most obnoxious character in the history of cinema, but damn, she does it well. Clark Gable is even better than her as the ever-charismatic Rhett Butler, whose devil-may-care attitude and truly stupendous moustache end up hogging the screen whenever they make an appearance. The cinematography is also magnificent, especially the sequence in which Rhett and Scarlett flee Atlanta. The burning buildings in the background are still impressive today, and the orange-drenched scenery will still hold audience's rapt attention. If nothing else, this movie has stood the test of time, which is probably the most positive thing one can say about a film of its era. It drags on way too long at the end, like most three-hour movies do, but at its conclusion the audience will nevertheless feel satisfied... if a little peeved.

Final Score for Gone With The Wind: 6/10 stars. I'm torn on this movie, as it's both a startlingly well-done epic on every level, but also features a shocking oversight in terms of its subject matter and overall message. Seriously, are we expected to feel some sympathy for slave owners? Come on. Every northerner is painted in deprecating light, some being rapists, some being murderers, some being robbers, some simply being incompetent bunglers or evil occupiers. Sorry, Georgia, but you really do suck. Stick your Confederate flags up your ass. Slavery is neither something to be looked back on nostalgically nor something to be "proud of your heritage" for. The southerners were mad that they lost? What a bummer. Frankly, my dear, I couldn't give a damn.

Mean Girls
Mean Girls(2004)

There are a few so-called "chick flicks" that everyone seems to think men secretly love, and this is one of them. And to be fair, Mean Girls is far more watchable than Twilight. But I require more out of a movie than quotability and occasional hilarity. Seriously, this movie is funny as hell a lot of the time. You know all those memes that people post that you don't get? "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard?" "You can't just ask people why they're white?" They're all from this movie. For its role in pop culture, it is undoubtedly worth a watch. And yeah, it's pretty funny. Just don't ever expect Mean Girls to do anything original, or, say, engage your brain.

Mean Girls is the story of Lindsay Lohan (played perfectly by Lindsay Lohan-- seriously, she just plays herself in this thing), who has lived in Africa with her parents for the first 16 years of her life, being homeschooled and studying jungle animals and shit. But when they move back to the US (for reasons unexplained), CULTURE SHOCK! Lohan now has to adjust to life at a typical American high school, where things are even more brutal than in the jungle. Okay, this is a really, really, ridiculously lame premise. The comparisons between life in Africa and life in high school are way too heavy-handed and cliched to pass off as anything but a retread of what other movies have done before. Wow, angsty white teenage girls! Never seen that before. It almost makes up for it with the jokes, though, which range from being some pretty legitimate social commentary to just straight-up dumb fun humor. Both are measured out in equal doses, so there's something in the movie for everyone to enjoy.

However, Lindsay Lohan is not a good actress. Sorry. I know that a lot of people point to this movie as an example of her ability to act, but wow, she really does suck. More off-putting than her acting is her narration, which (although peppered with some funny-as-hell jokes) gets boring and old after about the first five minutes. Narration really is a cheap way for a movie to provide backstory and character development, while skirting past the fact that neither are actually present. Some movies can make it work by doing something original with it (The Big Lebowski, for instance, has its narrator take the form of a cowboy relating some kind of western fable). But since pretty much every teen movie these days comes with some kind of narration, the tried-and-true technique ends up being well-worn and lame.

But for all its posturing, all its girly girl shit, and all its cliches, there is one undeniable fact about Mean Girls: It is fucking funny as fuck. I laughed more at this movie than I have since This Is The End (The Host doesn't count, that wasn't funny on purpose). But humor is really easy when your target is so easy to skewer. I could rattle off dozens of jokes about spoiled rich girls and their yoga pants, Uggs, and pumpkin spice lattes in less than a minute. That doesn't make me a comedic genius. And as much as I want to give this movie a highly positive score (believe me, I want to), it ends up stumbling into way too many teen movie pitfalls than it ever should have. The sheer vapidness, shallowness, and inanity of the movie is definitely funny as hell. It's way more fascinating than it lets on-- it's mostly about the psychosis of teenage girls and the never-ending backstabbing wars they get into. But it takes it too far, wears out its welcome, and is seriously flawed overall. I found it funny. That doesn't make it good.

Final Score for Mean Girls: 5/10 stars. This isn't really a terrible rating to give this thing, as it's about on-par with Easy A in terms of hit-and-miss humor and the sheer lunacy of its plot. I laughed way more at this one, though, but at the same time it tackled far less difficult subjects about high school and went around them in far less challenging ways. This is proof positive that a comedy can be funny and still not be that great, just like Easy A or even Anchorman. These movies are seriously hilarious, but because they could have been so much better and meant so much more, they fail somewhat at grasping what they so desperately want to be. Watch it, if for nothing else, to see what goes on in the warped and twisted feminine world of high school. But if you want to see something original, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Punch-Drunk Love

Adam Sandler made a good film? Holy fuck!

Southland Tales

Absolutely unwatchable drivel. Full review soon.


Love ya, Nathan Fillion. <3. Full review soon.

The LEGO Movie

Please don't hate me for this, people, but The Lego Movie is not good. This film, which critics had low expectations for (and rightfully so) has made everyone's "Best of 2014" list so far for its humor, dazzling animation, and good themes. And it's on my Best of 2014 list as well... because I've only seen three movies so far this year. Although its message of nonconformism is good, I find it humorous that an anti-conformist message would be delivered in a movie that is basically a 90-minute commercial for a toy that literally every kid in America has played with at some time. "Don't go with the crowd! Also, buy our crap." You can't have it both ways.

The Lego Movie stars Chris Pratt as the voice of Emmett, a generic yellow-faced Lego construction worker who turns out to be the chosen one (damn, is that ever an original plot element) who can overthrow evil Lord Business, who wants the entire Lego world to conform to his vision. However, an elite group called the Master Builders are standing up to him by building whatever they want. These Master Builders include Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Batman (Will Arnett). Now, although this film has probably united Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman on the silver screen far better than DC ever could (OOOOOH!!! BURN ON DC!), the result is still a lot of frenetic humor that doesn't seem to really serve a purpose.

Animated movies can be funny, yes. I actually laughed out loud at last year's Frozen. But the prerequisite for a good animated movie is that the humor can be accessible both by little kids and by the parents who were dragged to see it. And sadly, The Lego Movie never quite bridges that gap. I laughed maybe twice over the course of this movie, and the rest is just a bunch of insane, in-your-face colors and shapes that would be better suited to a Teletubbies movie than a film with 96% (a higher score than Pulp Fiction) on Rotten Tomatoes. Ridiculous. The film is at its best when it pokes fun at Legos and Lego sets, with Batman taking the brunt of the spoofing. The love triangle between Emmett, Wildstyle (God, what a fucking stupid name), and Batman is pretty funny. Everyone knows that there is literally no Lego character cooler than Batman. But aside from those few minor self-referential moments, the film never really picks up any speed on the front of humor.

There's a legitimately touching sequence, however, when Will Ferrell actually shows up onscreen and we understand what's been going on behind the scenes of the movie (no spoilers!), which has a good theme about fatherhood and controlling parents. And the overall theme of anti-conformism is also strong. But when the film tries to actually lampoon pop culture, or have some original ideas, it fails miserably. We get that sit-coms these days are crap. So why would the movie make such an obvious joke out of it by having a show called "Where Are My Pants?" It's a cop-out; an easy joke and an even easier way out of actually trying to say something new or different about the things it spoofs. Also, that is a total rip-off of "Ow, My Balls!" from Idiocracy. Seriously, you could steal from any movie, and you chose IDIOCRACY? Lame.

I really don't get the love for this movie in general. People have been yammering on and on about two aspects of it in particular, so I'll address them individually. Firstly, there is one song in this movie called "Everything is Awesome," which has been called catchy, hilarious, and extremely memorable. Well, I barely remember it at all. And if you want to send people out of your movie humming something, why make its message the exact opposite of what the film itself is trying to show? There's no damn reason, that's why. Secondly, the story. It's nothing we haven't seen before. The chosen one must rise up to defeat the evil dark lord and blah blah blah, Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, yadda yadda yadda. The movie tries to throw a twist on it by having the "prophecy" be fake, but who cares? We all know that the outcome will be the same anyway. The movie feigns originality and creativity a lot more than it actually achieves it, and it shows glaringly.

Final Score for The Product Placement Movie: 3/10 stars. The animation is good (but nobody cares) and the message is strong (if poorly delivered), but the bad far outweighs the good in this simplistic and technicolor clusterfuck of LSD colors and concocted humor. Perhaps my expectations for this film were raised too high, but I've never expected much of critically acclaimed animated movies before, so I doubt that's the case. I think this movie just sucks. It's easy to make jokes about stuff when you can throw literally anything you want into your film and poke fun at it, but if there had been the slightest bit of restraint in the creation of this movie, it might have been far more nuanced and strong. But nobody thought to do that, and this silly and instantly forgettable movie is the result.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Sometimes, a movie doesn't have to be deep and meaningful to be terrific entertainment. Sometimes all you need is great cinematography, a strong script, and an off-the-wall premise so incredibly weird that the audience can't help but be sucked in. And this is proven by Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, George Clooney's directorial debut (although I think we all suspect that Steven Soderbergh helped him out quite a bit), which expertly blends drama, a true story, and downright hilarity. This movie has what is probably the most unbelievable premise of all time, which makes it all the more engaging-- To think that some of this might have actually happened! But Clooney doesn't take sides; it's up to the audience to decide if this story is even remotely true. And the truth is that we may never know.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is the true(?) story of Chuck Barris, the crap TV mojo of the 70s and 80s who pioneered such mindless entertainment as The Dating Game, The Newlyweds Game, The Gong Show, and several others. In addition to his life in Hollywood, his recent autobiography reveals that he was also a contract killer for the CIA. So yes... this is different. You have to suspend your disbelief for a lot of this movie, because it is either a true retelling of the events that happened (and therefore not subject to questioning) or the ramblings of a self-absorbed lunatic (and therefore not subject to analysis). Either way, the story is great, and I can safely say that this is the film event of the century for fans of TV moguls and homicidal maniacs.

Sam Rockwell is stunning yet again as Barris, bringing his typical comedic persona, but with a darker and more brooding side that gives the story some weight. He's a pretty despicable character, but the zaniness of the story completely evens the odds and makes him very sympathetic. It would be like finding out that Adam Sandler was a demolitions expert who was being forced to build bombs for terrorists. You wouldn't quite forgive him for Grown Ups 2, but at least you'd start to understand a bit more about why he makes the crap he does. And Barris most certainly makes crap-- In fact, it's arguable that he is single-handedly responsible for the degradation of American television. So is this story just his own weird way of comparing his work to the CIA, and that both have an equally negative effect on the world? If so, he's crafted a far more surreal masterpiece than he ever intended to, because this story is insanely good, not to mention darkly plausible. You'll never look at bad TV the same way again.

But that's the best part of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. No matter how the audience sees it, and no matter what they take away from it when it ends, they still have been blown away. The whole cast is impressive, every scene is stylized and well-shot, and some moments, like Rockwell's switching of the teacups, deserve to be remembered for quite some time as not only dark, but hilarious. Every moment of the film elicits such a WOW factor, you can't help but be impressed. It's so unbelievable it has to believed; it dares the audience to go along with the twisted world it retells (or fabricates), but the truth is that in the end, it doesn't matter. The movie is still a spectacular work of art, with immense talent displayed on every level. Barris could have been doing anything with this story-- He might have been using it to pick up girls at a bar. He might have used it as a cover for something far more sinister, like drug dealing or some equally illicit business venture. Maybe he was having an affair, and needed an excuse for disappearing for days at a time. Or, of course, maybe his drug-addled brain needed an excuse for having wasted his life on shitty television shows and cocaine, and this lamebrained concoction was the best he could do to justify his existence. No matter what the truth is behind this story, it's still incredible entertainment.

Final Score for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: 9/10 stars. This film will stay with me for some time, and although it doesn't quite deserve the Diego Tutweiller 10/10 (it certainly has its less intriguing parts), it is still incredible entertainment. Nearly everything works in this movie, from the surreal and stylized visuals to the equally surreal and stylized script. The acting, specifically Rockwell, is just over-the-top greatness, and the film's excessiveness is just as much part of its charm as it is a hinderance. For pure, unbridled, WTF entertainment, there are few better places to turn to. It's a weird, weird trip, and I highly recommend it.


When 3D made its appearance in theaters, the first movie I saw in the new format was Avatar. Long story short, that anus of a movie made me never want to see a 3D film again, as they not only induce headaches and are overly reliant on visuals, but they increased ticket prices by three dollars. After that, 3D movies got progressively worse, ranging from post-converted 3D that made everything look like cardboard (Clash of the Titans) to useless movies that directors used to showcase all the new crap they could throw up onscreen (Hugo). I had completely lost faith in 3-D filmmaking until Gravity came along, as its dazzling visuals are undoubtedly the best of the year. Alfonso Cuaron spent years perfecting the visual grandeur of this movie. If only he had taken just as much time with the script.

Cuaron, who in the past has given us the best Harry Potter movie and the sci-fi epic Children of Men, gives us one of the most viscerally arresting and claustrophobic moviegoing experiences of all time with Gravity. Unfortunately, visuals do not take precedent when I score a film. And although it is remarkable entertainment, Gravity is still not the movie I have been looking forward to for a year. Although this film is certainly a mind-blowing cinematic experience while you're in the theater, I can imagine that repeated viewings on DVD will dull the effect of the film. Its mind-blowing visuals are the only ones that I can safely say should be experienced in 3D, and they certainly blow every other visual this year out of the water-- but without the impressive IMAX theater format, this film will be decidedly lacking. That's not the mark of a good movie (I know I could enjoy Donnie Darko on every screen size, from IMAX to iPhone), and the fact that Gravity will be so completely forgotten in a few years is a prime example of the fact that visuals do not make or break a movie.

Gravity stars Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, a specialist aboard a routine shuttle mission to repair and update the Hubble space telescope. However, after a Russian satellite falls to pieces (those God damn Russians are always fucking things up) and the debris hits her shuttle, she is left floating adrift in space. This simple premise is easily one of the most powerful sci-fi ideas ever put to screen, and the claustrophobic environment of the space suit she's in makes it all the more amazing. One shot, which actually goes inside the helmet, is especially memorable. Even if you aren't impressed by Bullock's hyperventilation, I guarantee you-- this film will make you forget that you are in a movie theater. Of course, this is provided that you actually watch it in a theater... but fuck it.

After spinning in space for a bit, Bullock is found by Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who, for all intents and purposes, is playing himself. "I know you'd never realized how devastatingly good-looking I am." Right... I bet George Clooney NEVER says that in real life. Together, the two of them make a little jetpack journey to the International Space Station. Here's where the film passes from science into science fiction: There's no way the pair of them could travel thousands of miles to get to the ISS without running out of oxygen first. I mean, seriously, it's like crossing the continental US. Of course, it's possible that they were a lot closer to it than the movie made it seem... but it's too much of a happy coincidence that they were close enough to not one, but TWO space stations to just float to them. And as a side note: MP, did you seriously say that this is somehow comparable to the end of 50/50 in terms of believability? Sorry, I find it far more likely that someone would fall in love with a person they've become close to than that two people would survive the shit in Gravity. That's ridiculous.

This movie also commits two cardinal sins of filmmaking. Clooney is the strongest part of the movie, outperforming Bullock with a spectacular performance that, although quirky, never goes over the top. And sadly, the film kills him off far too quickly. But that's not the problem-- Clooney later shows up as Bullock's hallucination and gives her advice on how to pilot a shuttle. HOW DOES A CHARACTER GLEAN IMPORTANT INFORMATION FROM HER HALLUCINATION??? It makes absolutely no sense. Sure, you could say that she already knew it, and her subconscious was letting her know about it via Clooney. But it was still an incredibly lame sequence that did absolutely nothing for me.

But the second sin this film commits is how truly empty it is. At the end of the day, it's undeniably spectacular from a special effects standpoint, but lacks a lot in the way of a human touch. I'm sure that the experience of watching this film while high off your ass in a planetarium in mind-blowing 3-D is spectacular to say the least, but the film will never transfer over to people's living rooms the same way it did in the theater. I bought into this hype slightly with my original score of 8/10 stars, and that's mainly because of what I call the "Theater Experience Bias." People who see a movie as visually spectacular as this in theaters will be blown away and give it 10/10, but after the initial shock and awe wears off, a score like mine will seem more fitting. Besides, Alfonso Cuaron has given us far better movies, namely Children of Men, which deserves every bit of its praise and then some. I wish I could say the same for this overrated special-effects extravaganza.

Final Score for Gravity: 5/10 stars. Sorry, but a movie cannot ride on special effects alone and expect to merit a decent score from me. The cinematography in this movie is truly epic (the opening shot alone must have taken months to perfect), but Sandra Bullock howling is neither a believable thing that someone would do in such a situation, nor is it even remotely well-acted. Take away all the visual fluff, and you're left with a hilariously inept script that I can't believe Cuaron approved. It's not awful, but it's nowhere near as good as it could have been.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

Continuing my roast of Darren Aronofsky, we have Black Swan. This movie has become famous (or infamous) for its weird, surreal look inside the mind of a prima ballerina, and for a lesbian sex scene between Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman precisely 69 minutes into the movie. Yeah, I bet that was a coincidence. Anyway, although this movie has gotten widespread acclaim for its supposedly "haunting" visuals, it's really not that scary nor intelligent. All it does is show the audience a bunch of weirdly shot scenes, coupled with some spooky atmospherics, and expects the audience to read some meaning or emotion into it, despite the fact that the proceedings are incredibly vapid.

Black Swan's greatest asset (and the thing that sets it apart from other Aronofsky fails) is Natalie Portman, who proves herself to be a legitimately good actress here. She has great panicked facial expressions, delivers the lines with just the right amount of uncertainty and caution, and is all-around very likable. However, this is just because she's Natalie Portman, and she'll be likable in anything (except when her hair is a corkscrew and she's saying shit like "I will not condone a course of action that will lead to war"). The character herself is given very little to actually connect with the audience with, and Portman basically just rides her charm as best as she can. That is all that can really be done with a script as deliberately weird and shallow as this one. The movie focuses far more on developing a weird series of events than actually delving into the tortured main character, making this whole psychosexual freakout far less engaging than it should be.

A lot of this movie makes no sense-- and no, not because I didn't understand it. Because Aronofsky throws completely random scenes in that have absolutely no bearing on the story. Some guy on the subway made a lewd gesture at Natalie Portman. Okay... cool. Why do we care? And when it comes down to it, her whole obsession with Mila Kunis's character is chaotic and makes no sense. There is very little intelligence in this movie, but it does have a lot of emotion, which I can't completely write off. But there is a totally random lesbian scene between Kunis and Portman. Not complaining... but why? It's totally random within the context of the story. Sure, Portman is becoming obsessed with her. We get that. But why would it manifest itself this way? Sexual tension, I suppose? The reasoning behind Portman's hallucinations is left open-ended far too many times for them to hold water.

As always, Aronofsky is a master at creating vivid and unnerving imagery, but he puts far too much effort into concocting the nightmarish world of the movie than actually putting some effort into its substance. There are some truly chilling shots, namely one in which Portman's reflection moves out of sync with her, and another in which she sprouts swan wings. But her whole "transformation" verges too far on the silly side sometimes. The scene where her legs buckle into the shape of a swan's legs is weird, but could also elicit some chuckles from the audience, mainly because the ludicrousness of the premise has caught up with the film's self-importance. Weirdness will only get you so far, but just being creepy for the sake of creepiness does not signify depth or meaning. It just means that you've made a somewhat above-average, soft horror movie masquerading as a psychological thriller.

Final Score for Black Swan: 5/10 stars. This film is actually not that bad, and certainly the most inherently watchable of the Aronofsky films I've seen. It has some very good qualities to it, and several scenes that actually start to approach the level of genius that Aronofsky thinks he possesses. Sadly though, the film is inevitably weighed down by a generic script, bland characterization, a pointlessly weird plot, and (of course) a sense of self-importance that forces the audience to put up with some exceedingly pretentious sequences. I'd love to give this a higher score, as I actually enjoyed watching it (no Cutler, not just the lesbian scene, we are not all pervs like you), but I understand that it's still not a very good film. It's just a mediocre exercise in atmospherics over story, and although the visuals (coupled with Natalie Portman's powerful performance) are worth seeing it for, it doesn't hold a candle to the other psychological thrillers it so desperately wants to imitate.

The Counselor

There seems to have been a sudden rise in Pulp Fiction gangster wannabes that think they're smarter than they are. 2012 saw Killing Them Softly, and 2013 has Runner Runner and... this thing. The Counselor is an unbearably melodramatic, uneventful, and oddly self-important movie that has no right to think that it's anything more than a really dumb crime flick. For some reason, it throws in dozens of totally random subplots and scenes, completely diluting any point it was trying to make, and by the time Cameron Diaz starts having sex with Javier Bardem's car (yup, you heard that right), the audience literally couldn't care less.

The Counselor plays out like some kind of weird mumblecore movie that just so happens to have completely stilted dialogue and uninteresting characters. Michael Fassbender stars as the titular character, who becomes involved in an overly convoluted drug deal that skips over important points at the drop of a hat and instead spends far too much time on unnecessary expository dialogue. Fassbender and his friend (Bardem) enlist a drug smuggler (Brad Pitt) to engage in a massive drug deal, but the plan goes south when the cocaine is stolen and the cartel thinks that The Counselor himself is to blame. A long, obnoxious series of deaths ensue, and at the end Cameron Diaz of all people wins. There. Now that I've laid it all out for you, please don't waste your time.

I'm sick and tired of seeing films that have a weird agenda to push. Okay, crime doesn't pay. We get it. But the weirdly obsessive way that writer Cormac McCarthy goes about showing this is unnervingly over-the-top. It makes one think that McCarthy has some personal vendetta against the drug trade, or against lawyers, or trophy wives, or any of the dozens of categories of people he paints in an unflattering light with this movie. His exhaustingly boring screenplay makes even the most interesting parts of the story nearly impossible to sit through. I don't need a fucking explosion every five minutes, but I do require something to actually happen in the movie. And virtually nothing happens throughout this colossal waste of talent and energy.

I can't stress enough how boring and exhausting this movie is (I'm yawning just writing this review). You'd expect more from director Ridley Scott, who in the past has given us such triumphs as Alien and Blade Runner. Oh, right-- that was back when he was good. This movie just continues his downward spiral into mediocrity, which is truly a sad thing. The film would certainly be passable if Michael Bay directed it, because it would truly exceed expectations at that point. But as it is, the great cast and talented director raised the bar far higher than the movie could jump. Even the cinematography is off, with oversaturated colors and unpleasant visual schemes in all the scenes. Nearly every aspect of this movie is repulsive, and if you saw it in theaters, I feel sorry for you. Thank God for Megashare.

Final Score for The Counselor: 2/10 stars. I never thought a movie with this much talent on display would turn out this boring, shallow, uneventful, and pretentious, but apparently I was wrong. It is such an obnoxious and overcalculated borefest that one wonders just how McCarthy thought it could live up to the standards set by No Country for Old Men. It has its moments, brief as they may be, but altogether this movie is unimaginative and bland. Brad Pitt dies a pretty awesome death (even better than in Meet Joe Black and Burn After Reading), but none of the good scenes serve a story worth telling or one that is even remotely interesting. This movie isn't even worth watching to see how bad it is-- it's just boring as shit.



No, fuck you, Celine Dion. This movie is stupid. Sorry James Cameron, I know this thing was basically your life's work, because you seem to have a weird Titanic fetish. But this movie is living proof that no matter how much passion you put into a movie, it won't necessarily turn out great. Titanic is basically an awesome 40-minute documentary about the sinking of the now-legendary ship, with two hours and 20 minutes of romantic bullshit building up to it. The only reason this movie even HAS characters is because Cameron had to justify showing the Titanic onscreen, and although the visuals of the ship are undeniably impressive, that is not a legitimate reason for making a film.

Unless you've been living under a rock since 1997, you probably already know the whole story behind Titanic-- Rose Dawson (Kate Winslet) is a rich girl who is really sad with her life, because all her diamonds and shit aren't enough without actual human company. Also, her fiance is a retard with bad eye makeup. Fortunately for her, she is able to bond with (if you know what I mean) a fellow passenger aboard the Titanic named Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) before the ship goes down and he dies. Doesn't matter, had sex. Anyway, this premise could have easily been done well, but it's shocking to see how little effort was put into the script and story of this movie

The biggest challenge for these two star-crossed lovers is the class rift between them. Rose is a derpy-looking rich girl and Jack is an unrealistically intelligent peasant. Also, as a side note, this movie acts like love conquers all and that class doesn't matter. But if all poor guys were Leonardo DiCaprio, they'd be getting laid erryday. Moving on: It was an interesting choice for Cameron to focus so much on the class warfare of the early 20th century, but it often feels far too forced and over-the-top to really ring true. The poor people are so ridiculously charismatic and sympathetic, while the rich people are just total assholes with no characterization past that. Okay Cameron, we get it. Rich people are evil (even though you are one of them). You don't have to shove it in our faces every chance you get. Especially appalling is Rose's husband-to-be, who acts like a detestable piece of shit every chance he gets, even going so far as to start shooting at her and Jack when she hangs him out to dry. Really? Sure, make the villain really nasty, but that's actually going a little too far. We've crossed from "Believable villain" into "Cartoon Mitt Romney" at that point. It's unrealistic and completely forced.

The dialogue between Jack and Rose is fucking laughable, as are most of the decisions they make while together. "Hey, this girl just attempted suicide. It's a good idea to dangle her off the back of a fucking boat." It doesn't help that Kate Winslet isn't a very good actress, and that DiCaprio (although now very qualified) wasn't exactly at the peak of his acting capability at the time this film was made. Unlike actually compelling romances (Before Sunrise, anyone?), the banter between the two of them feels immensely concocted and unnatural. When they try to be loving, they sound unbearably corny. When they try to be awkward, all they resemble are two actors trying to be awkward. And when they finally bang... it looks like a scene from The Human Centipede: Full Sequence. Not giving anything away, though.

Fortunately, the spectacular series of scenes in which the ship actually goes down are near-perfect. The terror of the passengers is fully thrust upon the audience, and Cameron is able to deliver total suspense despite the fact that the outcome is already known. But speaking of the outcome... seriously? They couldn't both have fit on that fucking door? Why didn't Jack just grab another piece of debris floating around in the ocean? Why didn't they take turns in the water and on the door? Why didn't they do ANYTHING but just let DiCaprio go out like a fucking bitch? Screw it. Also, a lot of emphasis is put on the water being incredibly cold, but while the two of them are swimming around inside the ship, they never even hint at the water being freezing save for a few times. Anyway, none of those nitpicks matter, because we then have the final scene, in which 101-year-old Rose throws an incredibly expensive diamond into the ocean. Wow... great financial decision there. I bet you and your granddaughter couldn't have used that at all. Okay, it symbolizes that she's letting go. Still, what a bitch. She had the fucking thing the whole time, never told anyone, and then just chucks it away? There's a word for this: Dementia.

Final Score for Titanic: 4/10 stars. This is a charming and well-filmed movie, and I wish I could give it more, but at the end of the day its flaws fully outweigh its triumphs. The romance is pretty unengaging, the social commentary is nothing we haven't seen before, and neither are worth sitting through for two hours just to get to one spectacularly shot sequence. And to all the guys out there whose girlfriends dragged you to see this thing, once in 1997 and again in 3D two years ago: I sympathize. Kate Winslet's PG-13 boobs don't even come close to making this overlong, underplotted, and often boring movie worth it. Sentimentality will only get you so far, but at some point you have to stop relying on nostalgia and instead focus on actual characters and an actual story. Sadly, Titanic never knows when it hits that point.

The Monuments Men

If there's one lesson to be taken away from The Monuments Men, it's that a strong story does not guarantee an equally strong film. This movie about a group of art experts sent into Europe during WWII to save the great masterpieces from destruction has one of the best premises in recent memory, and has the added bonus of being based on a true story. However, it's easy to do a war movie wrong, and when things go bad in a movie such as this one, they REALLY go bad. Perhaps it's because this film has such an impeccable cast, helmed by George Clooney, but it truly is a monumental letdown.

The Monuments Men has a story worth telling; no one's denying that. However, it deserves far better than the treacly and sentimental treatment given to it here. This film could have worked really well as a serial story, with a series of adventures spread across Europe detailing the different individual exploits of the men themselves. However, virtually nothing happens until a full hour into this movie, and by the time they start actually finding art, the audience couldn't care less. The first half of the thing is a monotonous bore of bad dialogue and overly sentimental shots of the actors wistfully looking at paintings. Jesus Christ. The whole movie is absolutely drenched in insufferable Hollywood cheese. I'm fine if you want to be reverent about history (hell, National Treasure is a personal guilty pleasure of mine), but at least throw in some humor to counterbalance the cloying attempts at sentimentality. Ugh.

Speaking of National Treasure, this movie borrows heavily from Nic Cage's treasure-hunting classic... especially a scene in which the characters enter a room and light it up, showing that it extends off into the distance and is crammed with valuable items. Hmm... final scene of NT much? But it robs from dozens of other movies, especially classic war films from the 60s, with its tone and overall feel. This movie wants so desperately to be a classic war movie, from its whistled theme song (The Bridge on the River Kwai) to its ending, which depicts one of the characters all grown up and looking at something that he remembers from his time at war (Saving Private Ryan), that the movie feels startlingly unoriginal despite its unique central concept. I never thought that finding Nazi gold could be boring, but wow, this movie somehow accomplished that.

There are some very good moments of humor, but they are always undercut by groan-inducing nostalgia. One scene, in which Matt Damon steps on an unexploded landmine, starts out as a great exercise in humor and a welcome departure from the film's overly serious tone. But in just a few seconds, it moves from lighthearted humor to hilariously bad sentimental dialogue, with Damon giving a speech about how it was a "Pleasure to serve with you gentlemen." Then the other monuments men stick around to watch him step off the mine, even though they could all have been blown to shit. Seriously? That is lame. Even if it happened in real life (I doubt it did), there's no way it went down the way it did here. It's just one of a long, long, LONG string of attempts this movie makes to tug at the audience's heartstrings, but when it's presented in such a safe, feel-good environment, it's impossible to enjoy.

Final Score for The Monuments Men: 3/10 stars. This movie had no right to be this lame, and the only reason I give it a three is because I enjoy art, war movies, and virtually all the actors in this thing. Seriously, with John Goodman, Bill Murray, and George Clooney, how did this go wrong? But somewhere along the way, the decision was made to weigh this thing down with unjustifiable levels of tearjerking bullshit (especially the scene where they get packages from home... don't get me started), and the movie never recovers. It's not a bad flick if you're in the mood for some meat-eatin', red-blooded, tabacca-chewin' 'Murika, but on the whole, it's seriously disappointing for both history and film buffs alike.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Let's take a quick break in the awful movies this week to review something that's legitimately good. Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Steven Soderberg's indie debut feature, is a wonderfully assured, well-scripted, and involving drama that represents just how effectively one can make a film on a minimal budget. This movie has gotten widespread critical acclaim for its simplicity and study of human sexuality, and although I'd call it somewhat overrated (its aim far surpasses its grasp in some respects), it's still an entertaining and thought-provoking film that deserves its place at the height of Soderberg's career.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape stars Andie MacDowell as Ann, a suburban housewife who "Just really isn't that into sex." God, this movie must have been terrifying for husbands who suddenly realized that all their worst fears about their wives were true. Anyway, her husband (Peter Gallagher) is cheating on her with her sister Cynthia, so everything starts out already wrapped up in a ticking time bomb of love-triangle explosiveness. And not the kind of love triangles in The Hunger Lames or The Host... this one is actually good. The balance has held out for some time, but all that changes when a mysterious stranger named Graham (:D), played by James Spader, shows up in town with a fuckload of videotapes depicting women confessing their sexual secrets.

If nothing else, this film delivers on its title, bringing us sex, lies, and plenty of videotape. The characters bounce off each other effortlessly, raising the tension with every line they speak and consistently giving great insight into the topics they discuss, which range from adultery to erectile dysfunction (okay, not a very wide range of topics). It may not shed any new light on the subject covered, but it does shed some light on the subjects covering them (see what I did there?). The characters undergo massive transformations, with Ann becoming more free and open about herself after discovering someone who will actually listen to her, Cynthia understanding that meaningless sex does not drive the world, and the husband figuring out that he is a fucking arrogant fucking asshole fuckface. Spader's character, however, is the most intriguing. He clearly has a tortured past, but the way he moves through the world after his scarring experience is undeniably spellbinding. It's always cool when a character interacts so fluidly and passively with the people around him, and that's part of what makes this character great.

But past all the character development, Sex, Lies, and Videotape has a central thesis that ranks as one of the most heartening (no offense Leo) themes ever put to film. Spader's character does have a sense of enlightenment about him, but all he really does is make videos of women talking about sex. What does he know that we don't? Well, it's that a lot of the time, conversation can be more intimate than sex. When Ann asks him "Is that how you get off?" and he responds with a nonchalant "Yeah," the audience starts to realize this as well. Spader is unable to satisfy himself (a-hem) in the usual manner (a-hem again), and therefore has undergone a kind of metamorphosis into both a brilliant conversationalist and a creepy motherfucker. Altogether, the movie hearkens back to the days of Hollywood when dialogue could be considered "erotic," and although the movie has far more intelligence than heart (no offense Leo), it doesn't take itself as exhaustingly seriously as shitfests like Pi.

Final Score for Sex, Lies, and Videotape: 8/10 stars. Although parts of the story aren't too original, the addition of the videotapes turns what could have been a very bland story into something far more subversive. This is an expertly crafted movie all around, featuring masterfully restrained yet jaw-dropping performances from the two leading women and a suitably creepy turn by James Spader. The movie does seem to fake its achievements a lot more than it actually meets them, but calling a movie like this "overrated" feels wrong. No, it doesn't quite deserve a 98%. But I'm pleased that so many people recognize it for the twisted masterwork it is.


To Jed, Driver, and everyone else who liked this shitpile: Read this whole review, please. I wrote it specifically for you.

Wow, I really do hate Darren Aronofsky. I never thought that a director could anger me enough to hit Michael Bay levels of awfulness, but wow, this guy takes the cake. The only thing worse than making a dumb movie is making a dumb movie that thinks it's smart. And that's precisely what Pi is: An empty, emotionless, and completely uninteresting "thriller" that fails to deliver suspense, good characters, the slightest semblance of a plot, or anything to justify its overly serious tone and self-important black-and-white filming technique. This movie thinks it's God's fucking gift to the world, doesn't it? Well, fuck that. This film is borderline unwatchable, and I was able to actually slog through it only on the third viewing. Seriously, it is under 90 minutes long and still feels ridiculously lengthy. Do not waste your time.

Pi is the story of a genius mathematician named Max Cohen who is on a neverending quest to find some meaning in the world. This movie is shot in ultra-saturated, 16mm black-and-white, which already makes it ridiculously pretentious. If this movie put half as much effort into actually being intelligent as it did into feigning intelligence, we might actually have a quality film here. But no, instead of trying for a realistic goal, it shoots for the moon and inevitably fails. I'm not saying that a movie can't have big intentions, but it can't when those intentions are coupled with sloppy filmmaking, an asinine plot, and a repetitive musical score that NEVER SHUTS THE FUCK UP! Simplicity is good. A lot of great indie films have come from simple premises and low budgets (see Sex, Lies, and Videotape). But the difference between them and Pi is that they didn't assume themselves to be the next Mona fucking Lisa just because they tackled tough subjects.

Pi really does have a good premise: A man believes that everything can be quantified in numbers, and discovers some kind of master key number that shows up in Pi, in religious texts, in patterns in the stock market, and in the Fibonacci sequence. Two groups come after the number, a bunch of Jews and some people from a Wall Street firm. This is a weird sequence of events, and makes the audience feel like Aronofsky has some kind of personal grudge against these two groups. I mean, sure, serve the story as you will, but the obsessive way in which he goes about it is unsettling to say the least. It doesn't help that this easily-told story is mucked up by pointlessly surreal visuals, one of which includes Max poking a brain in a train station. Literally poking a brain. This is where we've come to. Jesus Christ. And yes, I understood the symbolism in all the scenes. Ooh, he plays "Go" with his mentor (TIO SALAMANCA!!!). That's a wonderfully obscure math reference that nobody's sure to get (except me... dammit). This film goes out of its way to throw the audience off-track, but all those efforts are pointless. I don't need or want everything laid out in front of me, but at the same time, you can't just gum up the works of the movie by tossing everything and the kitchen sink in and assume that you can get away with it because your movie thinks it's more intelligent than it actually is. Also, numbers are not scary unless you are in 10th grade advanced algebra.

The biggest flaw in this film ultimately comes back to the fact that anyone with a fucking calculator or history book could easily disprove the nonsense being spouted by the characters in the movie. I'm all for messing around with religious history (my favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark, for God's sake), but at least base it in some fact. "The number is 216 digits long? That's exactly how many letters long God's name is!" FUCK! Why even bother writing a script if you're just going to make this stuff up as you go along? It's all so fucking random! The main character just pops pills and does a monotonous voiceover for an hour and a half about staring at the sun and numbers and shit, and then he plunges a fucking power drill through his forehead! Okay, so he believed that nobody should know the number, because it should not belong to any one man. Good for him. But just like the Jews in the movie said, he's just a vessel for this explanation. The character is a simple, emotionless prop set up as a blank canvas for Aronofsky to throw his incoherent mumbo-jumbo on. We don't ever care about this character through the course of the film, and when he dies, there is no emotional response elicited from the audience. Fuck. This. Movie.

I could go on, but let's end it here before I really lose my shit. Final Score for Pi: 2/10 stars. It dealt (skinnied) with intriguing concepts and had a good story, and I'm sure that it could have been made quite well in the hands of someone who was not a pretentious asshole. However, with Darren "The Butthole" Aronofsky directing, the thing absolutely reeks of self-importance, daring the audience to dislike it just so it can look down upon them for "not understanding it." The dialogue is laughable, the characters are cardboard cutouts, and the story, although intriguing, is absolutely ludicrous. If you value form over content, this is the film event of the century for you. But if you actually give a shit about what gives a movie its heart and soul, steer clear of this completely uninvolving load of horse shit.

The Spirit
The Spirit(2008)

Okay, I admit-- I'm just deliberately watching bad movies now. The Spirit, one of the more infamously awful movies to be tainted by Frank "The Fuckhole" Miller, is easily the stupidest piece of shit I've watched on my quest to keep my rotten review count nice and high-- Yes, worse than Sucker Punch. I don't understand why a movie like this gets praise for its "unique" visuals, because literally every other grungy graphic novel nowadays is using the exact same black and white/comic book style. There is nothing even remotely original about this curiously inept and deliberately weird movie. At some point while watching this, you have to just accept its insanity and turn either it or your brain off. None of it is even remotely coherent, and that's part of its charm. It's like the Room of comic book movies.

The Spirit stars some actor who has now been completely (and rightfully) forgotten as The Spirit, an undead cop who has returned to fight crime in Central City-- specifically The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), his henchwoman Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), and his former girlfriend Sand Saref (Eva Mendes). "But Diego, how could a movie with Nick Fury and dozens of beautiful actresses be this bad?" Well, quite easily. It's difficult to know quite where to begin with a film like The Spirit, as every part of it is so godawful it nearly defies rating. But firstly: The tone. Oh my God, how many more wannabe neo-noir crapfests must we sit through? This thing wanted so badly to be some kind of a supernatural Dick Tracy, but it ended up just being a laughable concoction of really lame slapstick and jarring tonal shifts. The audience doesn't even know when to take the movie seriously or not, as toilet humor is literally interspersed between images of graphic beatdowns.

As for the script, well... holy shit. Not one line of dialogue in this movie is A) Delivered well, and B) Written well. If I may give a few choice samples: "I'm gonna kill you all kinds of dead." Really? You have SAMUEL L. FUCKING JACKSON in this movie. Surely you could come up with better shit for him to say than that! Also, "Such pain. Such suffering." Wow! Many movie. Much fail. Very awful. Woof. "She provides for me, my city does." What? Speaking like Yoda now, are we? I could go on. Not to mention that this thing throws every cliche in the book at the audience without a moment's hesitation. It's got it all: A tough female rookie cop with an odd accent who is a little too enthusiastic about the proceedings. A hero who has literally half a dozen women flocking after him (not to mention a whole city willing to bang him whenever he chooses). A bad guy who is after Hercules's blood, which he will use to become immortal. And seriously, Samuel L. Jackson's egg jokes got old after, like... the first time. There are a good ten egg puns in this movie, which is about ten egg puns too many.

This movie is a failure on every level, but the most puzzling aspect of its complete awfulness is (again) the tone. It seriously doesn't make any sense. I don't know what they were shooting for with this thing, but it's not campy enough to be dumb fun, and way too silly to have even a hint of dramatic weight. And a lot of the humor isn't even humor, it's just random crap. Why does The Octopus have a dojo and a Nazi uniform? Well, because nobody gave a shit when they wrote this script. Really, all this movie boils down to is a massive demonstration of a complete lack of effort on the parts of everyone involved. The visuals are recycled from Sin City, the plot is nonexistent, the acting is jaw-droppingly corny, and the dialogue will make you question the existence of God. Plus, it has a bunch of inbred fat bald guys who are just Three Stooges rip-offs. -1.

Final Score for The Spirit: 1/10 stars. Yes, this movie is awful. Yes, it is an insult to the institution of filmmaking. But is it the worst movie ever? No, not really. Seriously, for a dumb (AND I MEAN REALLY DUMB) time killer, I suppose you could do worse. But that's only if you have a complete willingness to ignore every cinematic convention ever conceived. It's practically a so-bad-it's-good movie, on the level of The Wicker Man or The Room, but it unfortunately has too much intentional humor to hit that summit of awfulness. Because when a drama fails, it's funny, but when retarded slapstick fails, you'll want to kill yourself. Also, as a final word, I have reached the conclusion that Scarlett Johansson is not a good actress. Sorry, Scarlett. Bewbs ≠ talent.

Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka)

Well that was fuckin' depressing. Full review soon.

The Sand Pebbles

Does anyone care? No? Just checking.

The Untouchables

Just turned off The Unwatchables... making it the fifteenth movie to elicit such a level of disgust from me. Full review soon.

Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor(2001)

December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy, has been immortalized in Pearl Harbor, a film that will live in infamy... for all the wrong reasons. One of Michael Bay's most famous movies, this incomprehensible jumble of bad CGI and laughable dialogue is not only insulting to the events of Pearl Harbor, but also to filmmaking in general. Bay shows some restraint by waiting nearly a whole hour before making things go kablooey, but the buildup is nothing more than a trite and horribly scripted romance that makes The Notebook look like Pulp Fiction. I don't know whose dumb idea it was to have Michael Bay try to direct a drama, but wow, it's just as bad as you'd expect. Imagine the awfulness of Revenge of the Fallen's script, but without any of the pew pew pew to keep the audience awake. It's exhausting.

This nearly three-hour movie stars Batfleck as Generic Military Pilot Guy, who falls in love with Generic Military Nurse Girl (Kate Beckinsale). The whole first hour of this movie is just these two talking, then splitting up when he goes to Europe, then her fucking his friend, then them getting reunited. Nobody gives a SHIT! Nothing about these two characters made me think that they were in love with each other. "It was the most romantic four weeks and two days of my life!" Fuck you, bitch! There isn't a single human being under the sun that talks like that! "You are so beautiful it hurts." "It's your nose that hurts!" "I think it's my heart." Jesus. No wonder this movie has so many quotes listed on the Cheesiest Movie Quotes of All Time. I'm fine with a movie trying to concoct its own little world, but the people have to actually act like people, not emotionless mannequins. If anything, this movie proves that romance is not Michael Bay's forte (gee, who could have guessed?), and he hasn't attempted anything like it since. So I guess we can thank it for that.

After this monotonous and sleep-inducing hour of boredom, the hour of pew pew pew begins. The actual attack on Pearl Harbor doesn't occur until over an hour into the movie, and when it does, it becomes immediately clear that it wasn't worth the wait. For a director so famous for his special effects, it shocks me that Bay would approve CGI as bad as this. The planes look like they're right out of Call of Duty: World at War. The images of the sailors falling off the aircraft carriers are distasteful to say the least. And all the while, Batfleck and his buddy are jackassing around, spouting meaningless war movie dialogue. This is not entertainment, people. It is crap. Fucking crap. Not to mention that the movie is historically suspect: No, the attack on Pearl Harbor was NOT a success for Japan. In reality, Japan was trying to sink America's aircraft carriers, leaving us with no fleet to carry out attacks with during the rest of the war. But the day of the attacks, the aircraft carriers were out on a training exercise ("lucky" doesn't even begin to cover this one). So why did the Japanese in this movie call the attack a success? Because fuck you, Michael Bay, that's why.

The big shocker is that after this drawn-out battle, there are 40 whole minutes left in the movie. Good God, it never fucking ends, does it? Jesus Christ. The rest of the film is spent on Batfleck bombing Tokyo, which everyone in the movie admits probably doesn't really make a difference. So why are we watching it? Then he crashes, blah blah blah, his buddy dies. Okay, the movie's over. So why the fuck does anyone like this reprehensible load of manure? The romance is absolutely gag-worthy, so people who are only watching this for the action won't like it. Also, the action sucks. Meanwhile, people in this for the romance will be turned off by the crappy dialogue and equally crappy special effects. So who is this movie for? Well, it seems that it targets the audience of people who wouldn't know good dialogue if it kicked them in the balls, and don't know the difference between good and shitty CGI. In other words... this is Jed Groff's dream movie.

Final Score for Pearl Garbage: 2/10 stars. Really, it would be cool if someone came along and edited the whole romance out of this movie... and the dialogue... and the actors... and the characters... and just left it as a historical documentation of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Also, they could add in better special effects. This is why Rotten Tomatoes has this thing erroneously listed as a documentary; because parts of it could legitimately be shown in history classes. But because Michael Bay is a self-absorbed dumbfuck who thinks he's a good director, a truly terrible romance is thrown into the mix for no other reason than to capitalize on the success of Titanic. It's a really dangerous thing when a hack director thinks he's some kind of great artist, and that's what makes Pearl Harbor all the more unbearable to slog through. It's the definition of bad.

Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch(2011)

Ah, it feels good to be writing rotten reviews again. Zack "The Hack" Snyder, the turd who gave us such memorable dung heaps as Man of Steal Your Money and 300, is at it again, this time with a movie that makes even less coherent sense than those two awful movies. Sucker Punch, a silly and completely empty exercise in mindless escapism, is one of the worst movies of the decade, if not one of the worst overall. Although it has some saving grace in its admittedly awesome cartoony visuals and video game-style action pieces, it's somewhat infuriating that such bold and original visions had to take place in a movie as bad as this one.

Sucker Punch stars Emily Browning as Babydoll (I dare you to find a more borderline misogynistic name), a semi-insane young girl whose father has her committed to an insane asylum, where she is lobotomized. From there, she travels across time and space on some trippy action rampage that think it's Inception, and to an underground forced prostitution ring that enslaves young girls and forces them to dance for the amusement of the city's elite. And remember: You can't spell "amusement" without "semen." If you know what I mean. Anyway, she hatches a plan to break out of the asylum/prostitution palace/dream sequence, and weird shit happens and people die and get stabbed and blah blah blah.

It's pretty clear that Snyder only green-lit this script because he wanted to have fun making stuff go kablooey and designing cool monsters and shit. And sure, the gas-mask Nazi guys and the ogre creatures are awesome. But you can't build a whole movie around special effects. Sucker Punch doesn't even do this in the way that Avatar did-- Using a generic story and focusing on the CGI-- it doesn't have a story at all. This movie is completely chaotic and all over the map, and if you can't follow it, don't worry, you are not to blame. You aren't comprehending it because it's incomprehensible. Snyder seems to think that he's created the new Inception with this movie, because it warps the viewer's perception of reality. But at least Inception gave hints as to when the events onscreen were not real. Sucker Punch seems completely surreal even during the scenes that take place in the real world. And was it the real world? Shit, I don't know! Snyder never gives us a hope in hell of deciphering this incoherent mess. Even when people are just talking, everything looks like a cross between Sin City and a Resident Evil game. Sometimes the visuals are great, other times they're downright repellent.

The dialogue is simply laughable throughout, ranging from stereotypical action movie banter to stereotypical romance movie cliches. The "wise man" who helps the girls out through the battle scenes is never explained, so he's left with being nothing more than Discount Leonard Nimoy, explaining the plot as it gets more and more head-slappingly ludicrous. Sure, the action is supposed to be silly. We get it. That's not an excuse. It's just Charlie's Angels dressed up with a steampunk flavor and a very heavyhanded directorial style. "SEPIA TONES! I WANT MORE SEPIA TONES!" Then the characters snap back to "reality" (remember, nothing feels real in this movie, and not in a good way), and instead of being bored to tears by mindless action, we are instead bored to tears by laughable dialogue and even worse line delivery. Not a lick of this movie is even remotely interesting or exciting, and one really has to wonder just how a script this stunningly misguided got backed by a major studio.

But Sucker Punch doesn't go full-on anus of cinema until the very end, when it shows Babydoll lobotomized and sitting in a chair, with her mind wandering. So remember, kids! If you're a teenage girl who has been brutalized, brainwashed, and sexually assaulted, and is now trapped inside her own body, you have a lot to look forward to! UGH! This movie is so stupid! It's like The Lovely Bones if The Lovely Bones took itself slightly less seriously and actually had good CGI and a few cool action sequences to keep people awake. But unless you seriously do not give a shit about how your action is prepared, as long as things go boom, you should stay away from this repulsive and cartoony action clusterfuck.

Final Score for Fucker Punch: 1/10 stars. It didn't anger me enough to hit negative zero level, but damn, it came close. I actually enjoyed it for the most part up until the end, when its tongue-in-cheek action and head-slappingly bad dialogue hit an unbearable limit for me. This movie is seriously intolerable on nearly every level, and what's worse is that it thinks it's actually delivering some noteworthy message about feminism or a fascinating study on the human psyche. But all it really is is a series of jumbled CGI-fests spliced in between a trite and horribly written drama that is both unsettling and creepily fetishistic. Okay Zack Snyder, we get it. You have a thing for fishnets. No need to make a whole movie about it.

Also: This movie featured dubstep-y remixes of three great songs, Sweet Dreams, Where is My Mind, and (most insultingly) Tomorrow Never Knows. Fuck you, movie! HAHAHA!

Battleship Potemkin

Well-filmed, but I don't feel comfortable giving a fresh score to propaganda. Full review soon.

Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso)

Oh, good holy God. I don't know if it's because I've been watching some great movies recently, or if the cynicism I gained from Man of Steal Your Money has worn off... but this is the second 10/10 I've handed out in the past two weeks. Jesus, that's not normal. But honestly, if I didn't give Cinema Paradiso a 10/10, I doubt that I'd be able to live with myself, because this movie made me cry like a baby. I don't expect anyone to take this review seriously, because I was completely manipulated by this shamelessly sentimental movie... still though, you can't argue with the results. It combines movies and nostalgia, two things that, when put together, will strike a chord with me no matter what. Exception: Hugo.

Cinema Paradiso is the story of a young boy named Salvatore living in a small town in Italy in the mid-20th century. He has a love of movies, and constantly sneaks in to see them at the local theater. The projectionist, Alfredo, acts as a father figure to Salvatore, giving him parts of the celluloid, advice, and a safe place to come to and enjoy movies. Okay, why not just shoot my fucking cat right in front of me? This is a shameless attempt to tug at the heartstrings of all the cinephiles in the audience. It completely captures the magic of movies in every aspect possible, from the old, classic theater building, the audience's reactions to the films, the priest censoring the movies as they come in, the movie being played outside on the wall of a house... this is why people watch movies.

So besides being a movie about movies (and therefore driving all movie junkies nuts), what else does Cinema Paradiso have going for it? Well, it's funny. It's just endlessly, endlessly funny. I don't know of many other movies that can bill themselves legitimately as "You'll laugh, you'll cry" (besides 50/50), but Cinema Paradiso easily can. You wouldn't expect a foreign-language movie to elicit belly laughs from international audiences, but it really does. This movie is effortlessly charming from beginning to end, and if you don't laugh at least once, you are a cynical butthole who shouldn't be watching movies. By the way, Cutler, you said in your review that I wouldn't like this movie. Change that shit. It is God.

The final sequence is hopelessly manipulative, but if you've been fully sucked into it by then, you won't have a problem with it. I fully understand the complaint that the end of this movie is schlocky and overly sentimental-- it is-- but it has earned its nostalgia. It actually gets you attached to the characters before reeling you in, unlike Up, which started off with nostalgic crap and didn't bother defining the characters whatsoever. Cinema Paradiso saves the weakest part for last, for better or for worse, and even though it is immensely flawed, it still is one of the most powerful cinematic experiences of all time. Martin Scorsese, fuck you for ripping this off with Hugo, the worst movie ever made. If it were possible, I now have even less respect for that complete load of ass. Cinema Paradiso is Hugo done right, with characters we actually care about, who are portrayed by legitimately good actors, speaking good dialogue which serves a memorable and powerful story. What more could you possibly ask for?

Final Score for Cinema Paradiso: THE COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER 10/10 STARS!!! Again, don't take my word for it, I was swayed by the movie lover within me. I've always said that if you're too emotionally manipulated by a movie, you shouldn't expect people to take you seriously, and I stand by that. I wholeheartedly understand people who disliked this film for its pretentiousness, its sentimentality, or its overly romantic story. But it's good to know that those people (cough cough Cutler cough cough) make up only about 3% of the movie-watching population. Anyway, experience this movie as soon as you can. It's spectacular.

PS-- If this film had different RT pages for it and the director's cut (the way it is for dozens of other films such as Donnie Darko or Apocalypse Now), it would have 100%. Fact.

Top Gun
Top Gun(1986)

"I feel the need... the need for speed."

Top Gun is a difficult movie to judge, because parts of it have become incredibly ingrained in pop culture and are, surprisingly, quite good. Of course, this being a Tom Cruise movie, other parts are just laughably bad. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy watching this utterly mindless exercise in commercialized patriotism, but that doesn't mean it's in any way a good movie. This film may be fun, but it's fun in the worst way, creating its own little world in which America is number one no matter what, Kenny Loggins plays whenever someone rides a motorcycle, and Tom Cruise is cool. It has its moments, but they are few, and the bad fully outweighs the good.

Cruise stars as Maverick, a navy fighter pilot who is referred to by his callsign, even in social circles. So now you should know just what kind of movie this is. Half of it is Tom Cruise cruising (no pun intended) around in his F-15, and the other half is a hilariously bland romance between him and Kelly McGillis, who plays the role of Tom Cruise's Generic Blonde Girlfriend expertly. But she also has a tough and independent side, exemplified by the fact that she wears a leather jacket in one scene! Wow! So cool. I don't approve of Man of Steel, but if you're going to talk "dick measuring," talk about this movie. It is such a quintessential 80s macho fantasy in every way, from the ear-crushingly bad music to the aviators that Cruise applies to his face dramatically at the end of every scene. I have felt more emotional attachment to fighter jet training reels.

Actually, the scenes in the air are quite good. The movie is almost an 80s version of Gravity, in the sense that it creates the aura of what it's like to do a death-defying job, specifically thousands of feet above the surface of the Earth. And, much like Gravity, that's the only thing it actually has going for it. The death-defying stunts are awesome, but they're also ludicrous, and we're never given the slightest explanation as to who they're fighting against. At the end, there's a showdown between Cruise and "the enemy." Who the hell is "the enemy?" Oh, right-- COMMUNISTS!!! YEAAAAH!!! AMERICA!!! FUCK YEAH!!! PEW PEW PEW!!! Still, the dizzying shots of the fighter jets in the sky were impressive back in 1986, and they actually hold up quite well today.

However, when the characters touch down is when the movie starts losing its edge. Firstly, there's a lot of weird homoeroticism in this movie. And no, that's not just me being squeamish-- This is a matter of record. There are dozens of shots of oiled-up shirtless dudes playing volleyball, sitting around in the locker room, and making weird double entendre comments about each other. This kind of thing would be expected if the movie was about the 1930s, when nine out of ten Americans were homosexual, but it's a little weird and unsettling given the environment it's set in. Cruise's bromance with his buddy is just awkward as hell, leading to some unintentionally hilarious moments that rival The Wicker Man in terms of bad dialogue and even worse acting. Still, not all the dialogue is generic crap... just most of it. A lot of the characters speak in nothing but cliches: "You'd better clean up your act!" "You're too reckless!" "It wasn't your fault!" The movie follows such a predictable arc that you can literally plot out the next scene before it even happens. "Okay, this is the scene where the hero chokes momentarily, but overcomes his past failures to save the day. Hey, look! I was right."

The romance between Cruise and McGillis is not even remotely believable, and the writers knew this, because they threw her lines like "I don't want them to know that I've fallen for you." Sorry, but randomly singing off-key to girls at bars does not get you laid. That's just not a fact. And when the two of them talk, they throw in a bunch of random and laughably concocted piloting references, just to remind the audience that yes, there will be an action sequence soon enough. I half expected Cruise to yell out things like "Oh yeah baby, missiles are locked and ready to fire!" while having sex with her. I can't stress enough how poorly written this movie is, even for a bad 80s action flick, so I'll stop trying. Suffice it to say that not one line spoken throughout the movie is even close to being realistic.

Final Score for Top Gun: 4/10 stars. So after this excessively negative review, why give it a whole four stars? Well, this movie is fun. It's just endlessly, endlessly fun. And I don't mean just as the ultimate jet-flying, motorcycle-riding, Danger Zone-themed, denim-wearing, all-American male fantasy. It's also hilariously bad. The end scene has Cruise throw his dog tags into the ocean. Holy shit! How many movies have we SEEN that in by now? A hundred? More? I couldn't stop laughing throughout this incredibly stupid, vapid, shallow, and emotionless action flick, and I love it for that. It's the ultimate guilty pleasure, and it's got it all. Turn off your brain and have fun with it, or analyze its retardation to death. Either way, I guarantee that good times will be had.

The Social Network

The late, great JW famously referred to The Social Network as one of the worst movies ever made. Well, it just goes to show you how much of a moron JW was. The Social Network, the most critically-acclaimed film from one of my favorite directors (David Fincher), isn't quite the rip-roaring ride of action, drama, grit, and intrigue that one would expect from the director of Fight Club and Seven, but it's still one of the best dramatizations of a mundane world event ever conceived. It takes real talent to make a website being created entertaining, but hell, I was enthralled through virtually the whole thing.

The Social Network is the story of how Mark "Fuckerberg" Zuckerberg ripped off the Winklevoss twins and created Facebook, the greatest disservice to American culture since the invention of communism. One would think that such a detestable main character, coupled with a putrid story, would result in a mess of a film. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth. Fincher is an expert at working with antiheroes, as he's proven before with the charismatic yet insane Tyler Durden. Here he isn't allowed to go to town as much as one would like, but he still manages to make Zuckerberg (played by a perfectly cast Jesse Eisenberg) both charismatic and cunning, two traits that the real-life Fuckerberg lacks. Using his geeky charm and warped world view, the character is able to reel the audience in in a Richard III, Frank Underwood, or Walter White kind of way, forcing us to participate in the enjoyment of his misdeeds and excess, and thusly making us accomplices to his crimes of intellectual property theft. Okay, it's not a perfect comparison, because... well... this guy made a website and Walter White cooked meth to provide for his family. Still, you get the point.

Although Facebook is absolutely evil, the concept is a sound business plan. And the audience already knows the outcome of these events, which makes the scenes in which Zuckerberg steals the idea all the more motivating and enjoyable. Still, the movie never quite breaks past the bonds of "people just talking," and doesn't quite strike a chord on a more emotional level than that. Sure, plagiarism is bad. We get it. You need to have a more interesting message than that if you expect people to keep their asses planted firmly in their seats for two hours. Still, the cast charms, and the story itself is such an amazingly ludicrous-- not to mention true-- tale that it's impossible not to be sucked in.

Final Score for The Social Network: 7/10 stars. It's not quite on-par with Fincher's more over-the-top work, but instead of relying on visceral thrills and pulse-pounding tension, this movie relies on its ingenious, David Mamet-style script and strong performances to keep the pressure building, all the while showcasing an antihero with a woefully misguided moral compass who, against all odds, manages to constantly stay one step ahead of his detractors. In fact, that might be the message of The Social Network right there: In the business world, you don't have to be liked. You don't even have to be tolerated. You just have to win. And as much as I hate his guts, Mark Fuckerberg has won fair and square, making buttloads of cash off of "his" idea and becoming one of the youngest billionaires of all time. No, he is not a good person. But yes, this is a good story.

The Hurt Locker

Originally, I thought that The Hurt Locker was a pretty generic and bland war movie. Upon a rewatch (this time at the behest of my friend, who has been butthurt over my dislike of it for six whole years), I still found it to be pretty bland,but nevertheless a much stronger film overall than I first thought. This movie definitely has the feel of a documentary, which is both its asset and its eventual downfall-- director Katherine Bigelow becomes so detached from the characters that she forgets to give them any emotional depth-- but the film is eventually salvaged by Jeremy Renner's career-making performance in the starring role and a story that is undeniably worth telling. It's not the Apocalypse Now of the Iraq War like some people are saying, but it's still not a bad movie.

The Hurt Locker stars Renner as a bomb defusal expert in Baghdad during the war in Iraq. During a couple of epic bomb defusal sequences, both of which showcase Renner's ability to be a friggin' badass without having to use a bow and arrow, he puts his squad in danger and takes unwarranted risks. However, Bigelow never goes too far, and always restricts his badassery to minor moments, like his cool and collected facial expressions while defusing a car bomb, or his ability to light up a cigarette after a near-death experience. The best part of his character is that, despite being a movie badass, he is still grounded in reality. No Live Free or Die Hard-style fighter jet sequences to be had here. However, the realism is undermined slightly by a scene in which one of the squad members (Anthony Mackie) suggests blowing Renner up in order to prevent the squad from being put in danger again. Okay, sure, we get that he's nervous about it. But forgive me if I don't see a military officer blowing up his commander. There's also a strangely surreal subplot in which Renner befriends a kid, finds his dead body, and then the kid comes back to life... or something... but fuck it. War is hell. We get it. Moving on.

The best part of The Hurt Locker is easily its story. Unlike other war films (cough cough Lone Survivor cough cough), it doesn't push a partisan agenda or force a message down the audience's throat. It just tells the story of what life is like day-to-day in occupied Baghdad. The first hour or so of the movie is actually quite great, showing individual days in extreme detail and sparing nothing. It starts out more like a serial adventure movie, actually, with a string of essentially unrelated bomb defusings, each more intense than the last. However, the problem with serials is that they have to end up having a unifying story throughout, and The Hurt Locker chooses an uninteresting subplot about Renner playing detective in downtown Baghdad as its way to hold the movie together. It's passable... but it could have been so, so much better.

The cinematography in this movie is (and I won't mince words here) shit. Sorry, but I've had enough of directors shaking their camera around at things and filming random stuff in slow-mo, pretending that it qualifies as an actual camera technique. Spoiler alert: It doesn't. The film does create some very good images (I know that the unwilling suicide bomber at the end of the movie will haunt me for some time), but at the end of the day, certain individual shots are more memorable than the movie as a whole. The slow-mo only really works once, when we see an IED go off at the very beginning of the film. After that, it just feels overused. And even when people are just talking, Bigelow shakes her camera around. Why? As the tension builds, she has nowhere to go. This not only holds back the nail-biting aspect of the movie, but the character development as well. Ugh, this movie could have been so much better.

Final Score for The Butthurt Locker: 6/10 stars. I definitely liked it a lot more this second time around, but it's still nowhere near the cinematic Christ that it's been purported to be. Like most other Best Picture winners, I feel that this film will be forgotten soon, and other great films of 2008 (In Bruges, anyone?) will take its place. Still, it was going up against Avatarded and the war crime known as Up for Best Picture, so I'm not sorry it won. But it tries way too hard to be a character study without actually giving the audience any development for the characters. Hey, guys in the military miss their wives! Never seen that one before. Still though, the film is worth a viewing, and is infinitely superior to Bigelow's follow-up, Zero Dark Shitty, which sucks dick. It's good... but it's not great.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

WARNING: Choking hazard. Small parts of this movie are not suitable for children over the age of five.

There's a point where dumb fun becomes so dumb that it's not fun anymore, and the G.I. Joe franchise is so hell and gone past that point, it's not even funny. Maybe if I were retarded, a little kid, or Jed, I would find a movie like this entertaining. Fortunately, I am none of those things. Although I rail against other blockbusters like The Avengers or Avatarded, I do appreciate the fact that people enjoy those movies and that they actually put some effort into the presentation of their mindless explosions and ludicrous action. G.I. Joe: Retaliation does none of these things. It is a hopelessly misguided sequel to an equally misguided movie, starring horrible actors, and based on a line of toys. How much worse could it get?

Retaliation is the follow-up to The Rise of Cobra, an equally forgettable exercise in mindless action. The problem with the G.I. Joe movies isn't lack of creativity-- the shit in these movies is awesome-- but the reason for them existing is, well, nonexistent. Half of the movie is just generic military crap, but there's also a really weird sci-fi part of it that completely confuses the audience and leaves us wondering just what the hell we're actually watching. Sure, it would be cool to imagine a bunch of bug-robots that blow people up. That's not the issue here. Ideas like that sound great on paper, but when they're actually executed, the result is nearly unwatchable. I cannot stress enough how hilarious it is to watch grown men spout dialogue lifted from children's cartoons as if they're supposed to be taken seriously. Sorry, but when the president utters the words "Cobra Commander," you know that the movie you're watching has stopped making an effort.

All this movie really does is cram in every imaginable cool thing that kids want to see in a movie into one two-hour film. It has ninjas doing zipline battles in the mountains, army guys doing parkour in slow motion, bad guys being stored in cryogenics, an airboat chase, the complete destruction of London, and (of course) plenty of pew pew pew. Seriously, this movie could not embody the adolescent male fantasy any more if it included a shape-shifting alien robot ninja pirate supermodel with laser-shooting eyeballs and Wolverine claws played by Megan Fox. Everything and the kitchen sink is thrown into this movie, but instead of being an agreeably enjoyable amalgam of stupidity, it comes across as a way too calculated attempt to squeeze money out of dumb adolescents. The movie never decides if it wants to be pure sci-fi crap or pure military crap, so it ends up becoming a combination of both kinds of crap.

For the first twenty minutes or so, this film stars Channing Tatum. But I guess he wanted out of the movie as fast as was humanly possible, so his character is killed off almost immediately, leaving Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to fill his shoes. The Rock isn't a bad actor, because in my opinion, he is not even an actor. The guy is an oiled-up bodybuilder posing as an action star. Tatum probably couldn't have carried the movie much better, but with a lead as generic and boring as Johnson, nobody could possibly care less. He and his team of B-list Hollywood action stars go around blowing shit up for an hour and a half, and not even Bruce Willis's minor role as the original Joe can save the movie. His performance here is even more indifferent than in Die Hard 5 and Red 2, which is really saying something. Just like everyone else, he's collecting a paycheck and nothing more.

Final Score for G.I. Joe: Retaliation: 1/10 stars. I'd award this movie the -0/10 rating, but frankly I don't want to give it enough credit to hit such an anustastic level of awful. Still, it's an insult to the institution of filmmaking, the audience's intelligence, and the careers of everyone involved. There are only so many times one can watch some faceless bad guy plot world domination in bad action movies before ramming an ice pick through their forehead. And it's safe to say that I'm nearing my limit. Unlike the Transformers movies, this utterly retarded action flick has no entertainment value even for the least demanding viewers, and is not worth a second of your time, let alone the $35 that John Tyler spent on a Blu-Ray copy of it at Best Buy. Sorry buddy, but I had to bring it up again.

Harold and Maude

The prerequisite for a dark comedy is that it actually be funny, so why the hell was Harold and Maude made? Perhaps I'm not the best judge, as humor like this has never really struck a chord with me (Monty Python must die), but I refuse to accept that I'm just missing the boat on dumb cult comedies like this. Movies like this aren't legitimately creative or funny, they're just quirky for the sake of being quirky, and attempt to show such outlandish and surreal things that the audience somehow enjoys them. Sadly, to paraphrase Russell Crowe, I was not entertained.

Harold and Maude is about a young man, Harold (of indeterminable age... which makes it even creepier), who is obsessed with death. He acts out several fake suicides in order to freak out his mother, attends funerals, and generally acts like a little emo bitch. The first problem with this movie is that, simply put, this character is not likable at all. He is a spoiled brat whose family is incredibly rich, and yet he constantly complains about life. Boo-fucking-hoo. What a pathetic main character. There's really nothing I find more despicable than a person who's on the gravy train and doesn't get that they have it so fucking good. Sure, you could say that Harold's needs extend past the physical and economical, and nobody in his life really loves him, which makes him depressed. But fuck, there are people starving in Africa who bitch and moan less than this kid. No whining on the yacht.

At a funeral (God, why doesn't this kid just start cutting himself already?), Harold meets Maude, an octogenarian who is instilled with all the youthful joy of a young woman. This is an interesting premise... I guess. But it really takes more than forced quirkiness for a movie to really be successful. "Ooh, that old lady drives really badly! How hilarious and original! A+." Sorry, but I look for way more in a movie than that. The humor of this movie is patently unfunny and bland, making everything feel overcalculated and overthought. When you think of a cult comedy, you think of a movie like The Big Lebowski, which is so free with its plotting and writing that its kooky surrealism draws you in. Harold and Maude is the complete antithesis of this-- Way too much thought was put into making the movie quirky instead of actually making it good. And then comes the scene that I was afraid of... *sigh*... Harold and Maude have sex. Good holy God, kill me already. And before people start bitching about how "Waah, waah, you wouldn't have a problem if the roles were reversed," trust me-- I WOULD. Old people banging young people is a thing that should not happen, regardless of the genders involved. Actually, old people banging ANYONE is a thing that should not happen. And I had to actually WATCH THIS SCENE?!?!?! UUUUGH!!! Fuck you, Jed, for making me sit through this!!! You had better watch Pulp Fiction now or I will LITERALLY RIP YOU A NEW ASSHOLE!!!

Everything about this movie smacks of misrepresentation and faux humor. The film tries so hard to be some kind of a stuffy, washed-out British comedy, going so far as to mirror the similarly bland cinematography and horrible dialogue in order to capture the essence of those awful shows (fuck you, Fawlty Towers). I suppose that it did create an interesting aura about it, and its themes of life and death were intriguing, but that's really nothing that hasn't been covered a billion times before in far, far better movies. We get it already: Death sucks, and it eventually comes to all of us. But this movie doesn't even give a new message about life or death past that. It's just the story of a clinically depressed little Asa Butterfield-looking flamer who falls in love with a woman old enough to be his grandmother. It's not funny or quirky, it's creepy, and it's deeply unsettling to me that so many people think it's God's gift to comedies.

Final Score for Harold and Maude: 3/10 stars. As much as I'd love to write this movie off as complete ass (and trust me, I would), it has some good elements to it and a few memorable one-liners. Still, that's not nearly enough to save it from its boring cinematography, bland story, bleak outlook on life, and lame performances. Oh, and it doesn't help that my worst nemesis IRL (not Jed for once) thinks that this movie is one of the best films of all time. Gross. If you want to watch old people fucking, this is the movie for you. Otherwise, be afraid... be very afraid.

Dead Poets Society

Here's the thing: I use a very precise grading scale, in which I award a movie points for good cinematography, story, characters, dialogue, and overall quality. However, sometimes a film comes along that angers me so much that I throw out this system and just go from the gut. Examples of this include some of the absolute worst films ever made-- for instance, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close actually had some strong camerawork, but I still awarded it the #4 slot in my list of worst movies ever because it irritated me to the point of rage. And now we have another movie that has come along to fit this bill: Dead Poets Society, the fucking worst fucking film ever to fuck a fuck.

Dead Poets Society is, at its core, a showcase for the absolute worst side of Robin Williams. He has proven himself to be a strong dramatic actor before in films such as Good Will Hunting, but when he takes self-important, pretentious, and sickeningly sentimental roles such as this one, he throws out all of his best qualities and proceeds to merely bore and annoy the audience. In this film, Williams plays an English teacher at a preparatory school for boys, whose unorthodox style of teaching his students draws fire from the higher-ups. The reason I feel the slightest bit of reluctance to hate this movie is because a lot of the sentiment in it is very true. I couldn't agree enough when Williams dismissed the analyzing of poetry through graphs as "Excrement." Hell, I even laughed. But the base problem here is that poetry, for lack of a better word, is excrement as well. Out of the hundreds of poems I've been forced to read through my life, roughly 0.01% of them have actually stuck with me, resonated with me, or struck a chord with my life. Poetry is a vapid and useless style of writing that absolutely reeks of self-satisfaction and is often written and performed by the most insufferable people alive. Now, of course, there are exceptions to this rule. But if my current English teacher is any indication, poetry is fucking awful. Need more proof? Watch this:

So besides having an absolutely unbearable central subject, what else is wrong with this movie? Well, let's see. Firstly, Williams does fucking nothing. The film is supposedly about breaking out of molds, ending conformism, and being your own man. Williams encourages one of his students to do this, but the student incurs the wrath of his father, and then (spoiler alert) kills himself. Suddenly, the administration is up in arms and decides to blame Williams and his Dead Poets Society for it. After forcing all of the society members to sign a paper disavowing Williams, he is fired. So what changed? Fucking nothing, that's what. The kid's father, who was the most evil human being in the movie, got away fine. The faculty goes on living their lives. Only Williams is punished. Now, you could make the argument that he somehow impacted the lives of his students, sure. But what evidence of that is there? They all end up being spineless fucks who throw him under the bus at the end of the movie! Ooh, they stood up on desks and saluted him! What a valiant and spontaneous display of individualism! But after Williams walks out of that class, what will have changed? Nothing at all! They will go on being treated like human doormats! The film completely rejects its own premise by allowing its villains to go unpunished and confining its heroes to a lifetime of suffering! THE FUCK?

And then there's the fact that Williams pretty much just sucks. Look, we've all had inspirational teachers in our lives (I hope). It's a great experience. My history teacher right now is one of the most awesome people I've ever met. But what makes a great teacher great is the ability to actually do things themselves. Williams's character preaches individualism, but all he does is quote mindless platitudes from random poets, whether or not they actually have any bearing on the subject at hand. All that bullshit about forging your own path is completely undermined when you can't even think of an original way of saying it. Also, pardon me if I don't buy for a SECOND that there is actually a person like Williams's character. Sure, there are pretentious poetry nuts. But I don't think there are many that can instill the power of poetry in a guy's mind just by covering his eyes and spinning him in circles.

Final Score for Dead Poets Society: THE COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER NEGATIVE ZERO OUT OF TEN STARS!!! This movie is an insult not only to the institution of filmmaking, but to the audience as well, nullifying any redeeming value it may have had and pulling it down into the full-on anus of cinema level. It is cold, mindless, manipulative trite with no brain or heart, yet it pretends to have both. Not only that, but it takes its very relatable message and completely fucks it over with an ending that leaves nothing changed from the moment the movie started out. When one makes a movie, the characters are supposed to go from point A to point B. In Dead Poets Society, they didn't go anywhere. This film is truly one of the most infuriatingly pretentious and sickeningly sentimental pieces of shit ever to disgrace the name of cinema. Also, why make the bad guy a ginger? We already hate gingers enough.

The Big Chill

A movie really can ride entirely on characters and dialogue if the characters and dialogue are good enough (Pulp Fiction, anyone?), but at some point you really have to actually include a story that we care about. That's the message in The Big Chill, a well-scripted and agreeably acted movie that, for all intents and purposes, goes absolutely nowhere. Although it's at times genius, it can also be eye-rollingly cliched, to the point where not even Jeff "Chaos Theory" Goldblum can salvage the final line of dialogue. "We've made up our minds. We're never leaving!" Cut to credits! Ugh. That really made me feel ill. This is just nostalgia porn for sentimental baby boomers, and given that, it's actually a lot better than one would expect.

The Big Chill stars Jeff Goldblum and a bunch of other, lesser people who find out that one of their old friends died. After going to his wedding, the group spends a weekend at one of their houses, talking and having sex and driving around like the well-to-do white people they are. This premise could really have been awful, but the script saves it for the most part, and the actors (who include Kevin Kline and Glenn Close, but nobody cares because Goldblum is in it) perform quite well. I believed that these people were friends, I believed the moments of dark comedy, and I even believed the lighthearted moments as well. What I can't believe, however, is that this movie was even made.

Long story short, there is no plot to this film. People just talk for two hours, and at the end they're no better or worse off than when they started. Sure, some of the conversation was scintillating, and a few people had sex along the way. But to actually have a movie, it all needs to go somewhere, and The Big Chill stumbles around doing nothing for two hours before eventually collapsing. This movie is a thing that should not have been, to be honest. It's so safe and simplistic, it's like cinematic comfort food. You can't base a movie entirely on sentimentality and expect it to succeed-- nostalgia will only get you so far. Other dialogue-based movies like Pulp Fiction or Before Sunrise work with this attribute by including stories that the audience cares about... or just a story, period. There is nothing of the sort in The Big Chill.

Final Score for The Big Chill: 5/10 stars. It's all-around a very well-done movie, but there's no payoff, no antagonist, no reason to stay in your seat and see the whole thing through. It's just empty, sappy trite that just so happens to have Lawrence Kasdan directing it. If you're sick one day and you want to stay home, queue up this movie, start a fire, and curl up for some safe and predictable viewing. Past that, I can't recommend this movie in any way, because its laughs are calculated and its story is nonexistent. It could have been awful. It also could have been great. Sadly, it settles for the plain vanilla zone in between.


Well, this was refreshing. Terrence Malick has always seemed like a pretentious douche to me, and clearly takes way too much stock in his work (like Paul Thomas Anderson... but at least Malick has a reason to). However, there's a thing called separating the man from the art. And thankfully, I have found it in my heart (no offense Leo) to do this here. Badlands is a beautifully filmed, enriching, perfectly acted, and all-around spectacular film that represents one of the biggest achievements in American cinema to date, and one that has been endlessly copied and half-heartedly (no offense Leo again) reproduced. But none of these blatant thefts of Malick's vision (yeah Refn, I'm looking at you) come even remotely close to gracing the heights of this near-masterpiece.

Badlands stars Sissy Spacek as Holly Sargis, a spacy (no pun intended) young girl from Texas who falls in love with a mysterious young man named Kit (Martin Sheen). After her father tells Kit not to see her again, he shoots him and kills him, leading the two off on a long and drawn-out killing spree across the midwest. This concept has been done before, but what makes the movie so spellbinding is its surreal approach to such a simple subject. Spacek doesn't ever really exhibit any emotions as Holly, but that makes everything even creepier-- one starts to wonder why exactly she went off with Kit. She clearly doesn't love him, at least not as much as one should in order to go across country killing people with them. What's terrifying is that she goes along with him just because she's in the mood for an adventure. And people who look for adventures in the wrong places usually end up having shit like this happen to them.

Sheen, of course, delivers a great performance as Kit (what a shock). His cold-blooded approach to life is both unnerving and extremely fun to watch. Unlike other supposedly "unpredictable" characters in movies (ooh, the Joker is so unpredictable, like that time when he bombed a bus or that time when he bombed a boat or that time when he bombed a hospital. You just have no idea what he might do next!), he really is an enigma, never letting on his true intentions and ending his massacre with a disconcertingly passive finale. He could have held out far longer, but all he ended up doing is deciding that he was bored with it all. At its core, the movie is about two people who have no meaning in their lives, so they decide to go around ending the lives of others. Some people will call this unrealistic, some will call it surreal. I think it's far more realistic than any of us care to admit.

The cinematography, of course, is stunning. The heartland has never been captured so perfectly as it is in this film. Incredible shots of the desert, mountains, and run-down shitty little towns are played over an ethereal and enchanting soundtrack. It's quite an experience, in that it's both a complete explosion of visual talent, but also a calm and collected film that goes about its business with care and precision. You'll be knocked out of your seat by the sheer force and audacity of the talent displayed both in front of and behind the camera. Often, a film will pay too much attention to the cinematography, the acting, or the script (although nowadays it's almost always the special effects) and completely neglect another element of the movie. But Badlands neglects nothing, giving us a dazzlingly surreal story, a memorable script, spectacular performances, and mind-blowing cinematography.

Final Score for Badlands: 9/10 stars. So after this fanboyish movie nerd rant, why is it not a full-fledged 10? Well, its surrealistic qualities get old after a while, especially when Spacek sees her father shot right in front of her and kind of just shrugs it off. "Eh, no big deal, this guy shot my dad. I guess I'll run off into the middle of nowhere with him... nothing better to do." Some of these things can be explained away by the shallowness of the characters, and some can't. For instance, why did a deaf woman answer the door when they rang the bell? How did she hear? And if her boss sent her to answer the door... why would you send a deaf woman to answer the door anyway? It doesn't matter; all is forgiven. This movie is such a warped and ingenious vision, I can overlook minor quibbles such as that. It's a must-see.

The Breakfast Club

Aaargh! Why did I post a 9/10 review for this movie before thinking about it more? I had to rely on JED of all people to talk some sense into me! Fuck. Well, that just goes to show you how easily movies like The Breakfast Club can sway an audience. Sentimentality is the one thing I almost never excuse in a movie, but for this film, I'll make a happy exception. Because although this movie is pretty manipulative at times, it's also gut-bustingly funny, true to life, and features a great quintet of performances. Maybe it's just because I'm in high school, and I know people like these characters, but this movie struck a chord with me. And no, not in the way that Hugo and Up "struck a chord" with reviewers-- I mean in a good, unsentimental, non-anus-of-cinema way.

The Breakfast Club is the story of one day of detention for five students, who (as the poster so eloquently puts it) have nothing in common except each other. They are, in descending order of popularity, The Princess, The Athlete, The Criminal, The Brain, and The Basket Case. I'm not going to refer to them by name, because that would just get confusing, and really, these one-word descriptions are all you need to know about them. Now of course, if a character can be summed up that easily, how can they have any depth? Well, if a movie had been made about any of these people individually, it would have been a stunning failure of epic proportions. But what makes The Breakfast Club so great is the way these personalities bounce off each other.

You could write whole essays detailing the ins and outs of a high school, but for those of you who think that this movie is too much of a cliche, take it from me: This is more or less how it works. I could go through and name dozens of people who fit each of these personalities perfectly. What really began to scare me was that I started recognizing a lot of the dialogue in this movie from conversations I had in real life... yeek. That's mildly unsettling. But that's not a bad thing. When a person watches a performance, and slowly begins to realize that it's about them, it's a pretty intense moment. (Fun fact: The Germans, of course, have a word for this-- "verfremdungseffekt." I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.)

But barring all pretentiousness, this movie really is funny as hell. Its serious moments are sliced through perfectly by well-written dialogue, jokes, and realistic banter. There are single shots that will stick with me for some time, especially the toilet seat cover sticking out of the principal's pants and the bologna flopping onto the statue. And fortunately, the film doesn't try to have any deeper meaning instilled in it past "Fuck it." At least, that's what I took away from it (I'm sure you can see it any number of ways, given your state of mind), but it presented a nihilistic view of the world, and even better, a realistic one. "When you grow up, your heart dies." Sadly, I tend to agree. And when the personification of this concept is sitting right in the other room, how could they not come to this conclusion? Also: Weed jokes are funny.

This movie has its fair share of flaws, the most glaringly obvious being that Brian (every geek in every movie ever is named Brian) doesn't end up with a girl. Oops... guess we kind of missed the point on that one. And really? He tried to kill himself over a lamp that didn't work? Nrd pls. Plus, the Athlete doesn't fall for the Basket Case until she gets a makeover, and she was way more attractive beforehand, if I may weigh in. Also, a makeover? Eew. This isn't Warm Bodies, for fuck's sake. But for the most part, the movie is strong, and delivers laughs and dramatic moments in equal measure. Some people (and by "some people," I mean Jed) have said that it's not very believable that the Criminal ends up with the Princess, as he was a dick to her all day... but hell, that's been known to happen.

Final Score for The Breakfast Club: 8/10 stars. Jesus, this is a really somber review. I feel like I just went into great dramatic detail about the subtle meanings and social undertones of The Breakfast Club, of all things. But truly, this is one of the funniest and most heartbreakingly (no offense Leo) honest movies about high school ever put to film, definitely deserving of a rewatch, if for no other reason than to figure out why the fuck it's called The Breakfast Club. So it's because they were all dropped off around breakfast? That doesn't make any sense.

A History of Violence

I've always thought that Viggo Mortensen was a good actor, despite his inability to pick good movies to be in (Hidalgo? I laugh). Well, he's finally done it. A History of Violence, directed by David Cronenberg, is one of the most dramatically powerful, wholly satisfying films I've ever seen, and allows me to cross another movie off of my List of Shame (movies I haven't seen yet but really should have). This movie works on nearly every level-- as a dramatic character study, as a thriller, as a mystery, and as a Breaking Bad-style study of a man who will do whatever it takes. It's quite enthralling.

A History of Violence stars Mortensen as Tom Stall, a small-town coffee shop owner whose shop is robbed one night. When he acts in the spur of the moment to defend his customers and his employees, the result is two dead robbers and his picture in the paper. Recognized as a local hero, he does more business than ever... until a group of mobsters from Philadelphia show up, calling him by a different name and insisting that he return to Philly with them, as he used to work for them and is now hiding out under a completely different identity. This is a great, original premise, even though the viewer can pretty much predict the outcome of the mystery in a few seconds. I mean, no spoilers, but... we wouldn't have a movie here if it weren't true. Okay, sure, spoilers. Sue me. But come on, you really couldn't figure this out from the title? Please.

Mortensen is a total chameleon as Stall, transforming the character from a milktoast, boring, and simple guy running a small business into a cold-blooded killer by the end of the movie (oh, the spoilers just keep coming!). Although the film ends in a way that you never could have seen coming just judging from the beginning, there is no massive tonal shift along the way, and the ingenious way in which Cronenberg seamlessly moves from a small-town mystery to a full-on gangster drama is masterful. You won't even notice it if you don't look. Meanwhile, Ed Harris is a welcome co-star as the mob boss hunting Tom down, and Maria Bello delivers an unexpectedly strong performance as his conflicted and confused wife. Ashton Holmes (AKA That Guy Who Has Never Made Another Good Movie) is pretty lame as Tom's son, but I can forgive that, as he's not in the movie very much.

This film strikes me as the kind of thing that directors like Paul Thomas Anderson or Nicolas Winding Refn are trying to do, as it makes similar stylistic choices in terms of surreal conversations and cinematography. It also features a main character who is (and Cutler will kill me for saying this) similar to Ryan Gosling's character in Drive, who also was a man of few words and led a double life. But what makes A History of Violence work is that it has characters we care about, a plot that is actually coherent, and some truly chill-inducing lines of dialogue that add up to a seriously suspenseful and hair-raising suspense drama that will have you on the edge of your seat. No, it's not exactly an action-packed thrill ride, but for those who are willing to suspend their disbelief about a man who can keep his history with the mob secret for 16+ years while getting married, having kids, and running a coffee shop... it'll be quite a powerful film.

Final Score for A History of Violence: 8/10 stars. After I watched Thor: The Dark Anus of the World, I watched this, and trust me-- it was the perfect antidote. I wish that all movies were like this, but I suppose that if they were, movies like A History of Violence wouldn't seem all too special. At the end of the day, it does its job and does it very well. And I find it unfortunate that such straightforward competence is now so unusual in movies that I was so blown away by this. That says a lot more about the state of filmmaking today than it does about this movie.

Escape Plan
Escape Plan(2013)

If a box was labeled "The Most Generic Action Movie Ever Made," and you opened it up, you would probably find something close to Escape Plan inside. Starring Sylvester Stallone and Aaaaaaaahnold "The Governator" Schwarzenegger, this throwback to classic action movies of the 70s and 80s should have been gold. But it really just settles for bronze. Much like Arnold himself, this movie is tired, old, worn-out, flabby, boring, and not nearly as entertaining as it should have been. Did I have a good time with it? Sure. But any movie where Arnold and Stallone are breaking out of prison is going to have at least the slightest bit of agreeably dumb fun to it. That doesn't make it good.

Escape Plan stars Stallone as a professional "prison tester"-- an escape artist who is integrated into prisons, then told to break out through any means possible. When he does, the prison must reinforce itself accordingly. Besides being quite possibly the coolest job in the world, this is also a really, really, REALLY stupid premise. So are we to assume that Stallone's colleagues set a car on fire outside of a prison, and it all turned out okay? Another inmate could easily have broken out as well during the commotion. Good thing that didn't happen. This seems like an overly complicated and unnecessarily risky way of testing the integrity of the prison system. I shouldn't be looking for logic in a movie like this, but good God, they could at least have tried.

Stallone then voluntarily is put in a prison called The Tomb, which is billed as THE MOST SECURE PRISON EVER BUILT IN THE HISTORY OF EVER. The walls are made of bulletproof glass, giving the guards a view of all the prisoners at all times... which seems like it could get a little gross after about ten minutes, but okay. However, things go wrong. Stallone's safe word doesn't work, meaning he's trapped in there forever. Unless he can break out! Cue Arnold Schwarzenegger as his Eastern European sidekick of indeterminable origin. Together, they have to break out of the prison. Ta-daa, there's the movie. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't deliver the action-packed thrills that one would expect from a movie of its ilk, especially with these two stars. At best, it's mindless escapism (no pun intended), but it's not always at its best.

There are a lot of good ideas in this movie. Firstly, the prison itself looks absolutely awesome, even if it is a bit of a Cabin in the Woods rip-off. I half expected a merman to be flopping around in one of those boxes. Anyway, after a badass escape sequence, there's a moment where Stallone gets to the roof, opens a hatch... and discovers that he's on a boat. This is actually one of the best plot twists in action movie history, and I don't know about you, but it totally caught me off-guard. Of course, it wasn't even hinted at throughout the movie (you'd think that the prisoners would be able to tell that they were on a fucking boat after a while), but it's still intense and head-slappingly awesome.

Unfortunately, Escape Plan takes a turn for the worse when it tries to convince the audience that it actually has a brain to it. The final sequence is indecipherable, with every character playing the others, silly backstories, throwaway lines of expository dialogue that are very important to the plot, and the unforgivable "explain what just happened after it happened while standing on a beach" cliche. It's not legitimately awful, but it's still lame, and has the same old been-there, done-that feeling that has plagued all of these star's outings recently. This whole film is just a shadowy reflection of the once-great careers that these actors had back in the glory years of action cinema, but now we're left with generic and ludicrous movies like this... which depresses me. Say what you will about movies like Commando, True Lies, Rambo, or even Judge Dredd-- they still delivered the action and, even when they were bad, were good. Escape Plan delivers none of the classic one-liners, hilariously overplayed action, or over-the-top deaths that really make a true dumb fun action classic. And that's kind of depressing.

Final Score for Escape Plan: 3/10 stars. It will probably tide audiences over to other, better action movies, but there's not much to like in this rote and often yawn-inducing action/thriller. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. If this movie had at least known what a hilariously bad piece of shit it was, it could have definitely been the Total Recall of 2013. But because it took itself too seriously, even while it tried to convince us that you can break out of prison using a milk carton, it ended up being yet another rote, self-referential action movie from two guys way past their prime. It's not unwatchable, but it's still one of the biggest wastes of potential of the year.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Imagine just how this movie was pitched. "Hey, I have an idea for a film. We'll take a beloved children's story and adapt it for modern times! It's never been done before... except in Snow White and the Huntsmen, Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, etc. We'll have Jeremy Renner with rapid-fire arrow steampunk weapons, and Gemma Arterton's ass in tight leather spandex as the co-star! Then, we will spend no time on the special effects! It's a guaranteed hit!" So yes, despite all it had going for it (lol), Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is one of the most hilariously awful, woefully misguided, and truly so-bad-it's-awesome movies of 2013. This is a movie that revels in its own stupidity even more than a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from the 80s. And I have to give it points for that, because there's something pure about a movie that is this idiotic, and yet completely understands it. At least it wasn't trying to be something it wasn't (cough cough, Inception is not a thought-provoking movie, cough cough). Still, that doesn't make it good.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is, as you probably guessed, about the two fairytale siblings who, in this version, have built careers hunting down practitioners of the dark arts. This premise would probably have worked as a fake trailer, a College Humor video, or something to that effect, but as a feature-length film? Please. It's pathetic. Even the charisma of Jeremy Renner can't help it overcome just how stupid this premise is. Then we find out that Hansel and Gretel's mother was a witch, and that they are now impervious to witchcraft. And then they use gatling guns with magical spells put on them. And then... okay, if I listed all the stupid shit in this movie, I would be doing this all day. Suffice it to say that this film is fucking retarded as fuck.

Even the fight scenes are really choppily edited. It's not quite on the level of Getaway, in which there was a cut every 1/4th of a second during some sequences (yes, I counted), but it still annoyed the crap out of me. When will directors learn that shaky cam, jump cuts, and sudden zooms are not valid substitutes for actual cinematography? Never, I suppose. Also, there are scenes where Gretel will be knocked out, then Hansel will grab onto a witch's broom and be dragged along with her for a good mile or so at breakneck speed. Then the witch falls off, Hansel stands up, and Gretel is suddenly right next to him. Where the fuck did she come from? This is not the only example, trust me-- there are many, many, MANY moments like this throughout the movie. It's not just bad editing at that point, it's bad scriptwriting.

The witches themselves look pretty cool, and the weapons that are used to kill them are awesome. That's pretty much the only good things I can say about this movie, and are the only reasons why anyone liked it. Also, it accidentally vindicates witch trials by revealing that the girl who is going to be burned at the stake is actually a witch indeed later on in the movie. Sure, it's not like there are any actual witches who will take offense at this (fuck you Wiccans, you are not actual witches. You are just a bunch of bitchy teenagers on your periods who are mad that the girls on the pep squad are picking on you. Try casting a spell and see where that gets you), but it's still an uncomfortable and unfortunate turn of events.

However, the reason I'm not giving this the Anus of the Year award is because of two things: Firstly, even when he is given literally nothing to work with other than expository dialogue, Jeremy Renner is still great. It's disappointing that he would make the mistake of being in a movie like this, but hell, who cares. He's one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, and his performance here is the one thing that kept me going throughout the lunacy of the story. And secondly, as inane as this movie was, it was still a good time. It fills a niche for audiences who want to see people use steampunk-inspired weapons to massacre hordes of devil-spawn witches. And as small as that niche may be, I give this movie credit for sticking to its guns and never giving up on its original vision... even though its original vision is retarded. It is the dumbest of dumb fun, but at least it's still fun, unlike other movies of its ilk.

Final Score for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: 2/10 stars. This is not a film out to win any awards, but it's still one of the most hilariously godawful and entertaining movies of the year. It's not quite a masterpiece of atrocious cinema like The Host or The Wicker Man (because it actually has moments of merit), but it's still a fun evening rental for when you have nothing better to do. And let me stress this: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO. Because otherwise, this will be a massive waste of your time. The only reason I checked it out is because I wanted to shit on a movie, especially one beloved by the late great JW (may coyotes devour his corpse, amen). It's not the worst movie ever made... but it's certainly up there.


It's a lot of fun to see an old movie and then discover just how blatantly modern films ripped it off. Such is the case with Metropolis, possibly the original dystopian sci-fi movie, which introduced audiences to robots, intelligent set design, and the fact that movies can make social commentary and still be entertaining. It also features several scenes that any casual filmgoer will notice as a direct parallel to several incredibly popular sci-fi films of today. In short, Metropolis isn't just a movie, it's a piece of history, and deserves to be in a museum alongside all the other great works of art. Sadly, large chunks of the film were destroyed or lost to time, so the remastered version has missing parts, making for a very difficult watch. If you don't like it, that's fine-- It's asking a little much of the audience to sit through such bad picture quality and expository title cards. But you should appreciate the impact this movie has had over time.

Metropolis is an Orwellian sci-fi film about a future (the year 2026, so this is all still possible... if not probable) in which the workers who power the titular city live underground, while the rich sit back and relax up above. The son of the city's ruler (he's not quite a mayor, as he seems far more powerful) realizes that he hasn't been paying attention for the past thirty years and goes underground to act as a mediator between the workers and the rich. This is the meaning behind the film's opening title card and closing title card, which reads "THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN THE HAND AND MIND MUST BE THE HEART!" So the rich are the mind, as they designed the city and the machines, and the hand is the workers, who make sure it all keeps running smoothly.

This movie certainly has flaws, the first being that this metaphor is pretty in-your-face. The acting, for one, is hilariously bad, but you have to remember that these are still basically stage actors who are forced to emote and be overly dramatic about everything in order to convey the meaning behind what they're doing. There are also a lot of plot holes: For instance, the lead breaks into the inventor's house and demands to know where Maria is. The inventor tells him that she's with his father... even though he shouldn't even know who the guy is talking about. Whoops, I guess he didn't notice that one. But a lot of these flaws can be forgiven just because of the movie's age and its importance to film. And besides, if you didn't enjoy Brigitte Helm hamming it up as a robot version of the movie's love interest, well, you're insane.

Which brings me to the rip-offs. And oh, there are so many of them. I could go on for days about the movies that "borrowed" from this film, but here are the major ones. Firstly, the cityscape in general is a mind-bending and incoherent jumble, basically the same as The Fifth Element or Blade Runner, but in black and white. No flying cars, though. There is also a theme throughout of rising up against the machines... The Matrix, anyone? And to top it all off, there is a synthetic robot made to look like a human (Side note: Hilariously, the inventor builds the robot, then says he needs "24 hours to make it look human." Damn, now that's a good inventor). The replicant-- errr-- robot then is set on fire, and the metal robot underneath is revealed. Wait, when have I seen this before? Of course! Just replace Helm with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you have the finale to the first Terminator movie! Dammit, James Cameron... even your best movies aren't original, and that was before you started repurposing Native American history as a movie about blue alien monkeys. Shame on you.

Final Score for Metropolis: 9/10 stars. This movie is a classic, and even when it makes no sense whatsoever (the dream sequences are especially chaotic), you'll still have a good time watching it. I wouldn't recommend the remastered two-and-a-half-hour version to anyone besides devoted film buffs though, because it does go on for a while and watching a silent film is already a test to the mainstream audience's patience, and they don't need expository paragraphs onscreen confusing them even more. Still, this movie is epic, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Its glaring flaws prevent me from giving it any higher, but the frickin' robot is so awesome I don't even care about them. You'll be enthralled.

Little Big Man

Little Big Man is one of those movies that everyone seems to call an instant classic. So it shouldn't be shocking that I was unimpressed. Although this film has some memorable dramatic moments, strong supporting cast members, and a story worth telling, it eventually morphs into way too much of a yarn to be taken seriously. There are some laugh-out-loud comedic moments... but there are also scenes that are meant to be fully dramatic, and are still equally hilarious. This is a revisionist western in every sense of the term, and I do appreciate its departure from typical genre trappings. But as a whole, the movie feels more like a series of skits and sketches than one continuous flowing narrative.

Little Big Man stars Dustin Hoffman as the titular character, a red-blooded, meat-eatin' 'Murikan who, as a child, was left out in the prairie and taken in by a tribe of Native Americans. Although 99% of this movie takes place in the wild west (part of it is a 120-year-old Little Big Man telling his story to a reporter), it still has a very 70s feel. All the women have 70s hairstyles and distracting purple eyeshadow. Not very many creative things are done with the cinematography other than "This is what we're going to film; let's do it." There's virtually no technique in the camerawork, and although good shots of the American west are captured quite beautifully, the cinematography is bland and unfeeling when people are just talking.

Hoffman is seriously miscast as Little Big Man. The point of this casting choice, I assume, is that he is small in stature and yet is playing a very heroic historical figure. But a lot of the time, he comes across as whiny and obnoxious. He's partly saved by the supporting cast, but none of the other characters are given much development past their simple stereotypes. There's Old Wise Indian Chief, Generic Bumbling Villain (General Custer), and Snake Oil Salesman Guy. These stereotypes prevent the movie from ever having some dramatic weight, but it tries nonetheless, leaving it in a kind of middle ground. It never goes for full-on comedy like Blazing Saddles, but it never lets up on the comedy long enough for the audience to try and care about the story. In the end, neither triumphs and we're left with a series of jarring tonal shifts that plague the movie from beginning to end. That's not to say that the comedy isn't funny, but are we really expected to laugh at a scene that is borderline slapstick, then turn around and be thoughtful about the film? I don't think so.

Final Score for Little Big Man: 5/10 stars. Never boring but ultimately confusing, this chaotic western has a lot to love about it, but as a whole it doesn't quite cohere. Although individual scenes are quite entertaining, they often feel like they belong in two very different movies, and it all adds up to considerably less than the sum of its parts. Some will call it a classic. Some will call it a dark comedy masterpiece. All I can say is that it's very, very mediocre.

Before Sunrise

The 750th movie for Tut's Tutillating Reviews just so happens to be the 22nd on the list of Tut's Tutillating 10/10s. That's right-this film has joined the ranks of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Donnie Darko, and The Big Lebowski as not only being one of the best movies ever made, but one of my favorite movies of all time. I wish I could give it a nine, just to keep the ol' 10/10 count down... but I would feel like a really shitty person if I didn't award this the full 100% endorsement it deserves. I enjoy dumb fun blockbusters as much as the next guy, but I'd like to think that at some point, we can all grow up, get over our love affair with pew pews, and sit down to enjoy a legitimately good movie like this.

Before Sunrise stars Ethan Hawke as an American visiting Europe on vacation, who bumps into a French girl (Julie Delpy) on the train. In a moment of wild abandon, he convinces her to get off the train with him at his stop, and the two of them share a whimsical and poetic night in Vienna. Such wonders are accomplished with this simplistic premise... you have no idea. And if you're worried that it will be too romantic, don't worry. This movie is more about two people sharing a chance encounter than any of the bullshit romantic comedy crap that Hollywood churns out these days. Sure, if you like Michael Bay movies, you'll probably be bored to tears by this film. But teary-eyed fans of The Notebook and The Lucky One will also despair, because it's occasionally quite cynical, doesn't have Channing Tatum, and relies on dialogue and observations about the world instead of manipulating its audience. In other words, this movie will be disliked by both action junkies and romance fans... so how could I not love it just for that alone?

The sheer level of acting going on between Hawke and Delpy is spellbinding. Never before have I seen a film in which two people look this natural and realistic together. Nearly everyone will hit a point in this movie where they forget that they're watching actors, and will become completely immersed in the story. It feels like these two people actually met this way, and Richard Linklater just stuck cameras inconspicuously around them. The movie is essentially a long marathon conversation, but it never gets boring in the slightest. Even the most offhanded statement the characters make can be funny and insightful. It's also fun to notice the occasional moment where they ad-lib a line perfectly, never breaking character. Even their hand gestures are choreographed perfectly. The awkwardness of Hawke's character is perfectly captured by his hover-hands and uncomfortable reach-arounds. Their body language is honed and tactical, and expertly conveys more than most actors can accomplish by chewing the furniture.

Through the course of the character's conversation, they span practically every topic imaginable, from love to family to... milkshakes. As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly easy to see why these two people might one day get sick and tired of each other. Hawke is a hopeless romantic disguised as a cynic, and Delpy is a cynic disguised as a romantic. But the beauty of the movie's premise is that the two of them will, for all intents and purposes, never meet again (except in the two sequels... heh heh). So every second they spend together is pure and completely detached from reality. They feel no need to hide their personalities from each other; nor should they. Their dialogue is so free of the complicated dance of social convention, it's nearly impossible not to be completely enchanted by it. Nothing is sugarcoated in this movie, which is not something that can be said about many films.

Final Score for Before Sunrise: THE RARE AND COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER 10/10 STARS!!! This movie is not for everyone, but the people who it's not for are not the kind of people I want to have conversations about movies with. Everything is excellent in this film. The acting is dead-on, the script is a perfect balance of comedy and drama, and the cinematography is gorgeous. I cannot stress enough how strong this movie is-there is virtually not a single wrong note throughout. It hearkens back to the golden days of Hollywood, when people could just talk and make movies, and special effects were virtually nonexistent (this film almost felt like it could have been black-and-white). And if you don't want to see it because it's a romance, fuck you. All genres have their moments of perfection (some more than others... ahem, animation), and Before Sunrise is the moment of perfection for romances. Experience this movie as soon as you possibly can. It's spectacular.


Against all odds, I have been looking forward to seeing Disturbia for quite some time now. Even though it stars Shia "The Plagiarizer" LaDouche, and is directed by the genius who gave us the Michael Bay-produced film I Am Number Four, it still features a Rear Window-style premise and an endlessly intriguing title. Well, what a letdown. There's a fine line between paying homage and ripping something off, and this movie is hell and gone over that line. This is literally just a 21st century version of Rear Window, but without any suspense at all until the drastic tonal change five minutes before the movie is over. It's not good.

Disturbia stars LaDouche as a well-adjusted teenager who, in a weird turn of events, gets in a car crash that kills his dad. Fast forward one year, and he has transformed into an emo little bitch. In his latest episode, he punches a teacher in the face (the guy deserved it), and is placed under house arrest. Not like house arrest in modern times is really a punishment... hell, I know a guy who could be put under house arrest and not notice for a good week or so. But unfortunately for LaDouche, his mom (Trinity from The Matrix) is a bitch and dramatically cuts the wires of his TV (great economic decision-making there, mom... I'm sure that this one moment of in-your-face passive-aggressiveness was worth $1,000), so he has to find other ways to occupy his time. He does this by grabbing his binoculars and going full stalker on his neighbors.

Firstly, let me address the "girl next door" part of this movie. When was the last time we saw a movie where a new girl moves into town next door to the main character, and they hit it off? Oh right-- every movie ever made ever. Disturbia tries to ride a bit of originality here because of its premise (which prevents LaDouche from leaving the premises of his house), but altogether it's just way too clichéd to be passable. Nearly every line the two of them say is straight from the Teen Movie Playbook. Also, in real life, a girl would not be charmed by someone telling her what they've seen of her life via binoculars through her bedroom window. I don't know why movies like this seem to perpetuate the concept that stalking will somehow win you the girl, but believe me... this is not the case (looking at you, Edward Cullen). 99 times out of 100, Shia would have gotten slapped so hard his kids would have red cheeks. And besides, a girl falling for Shia LaDouche? That's a pretty unrealistic scenario.

Meanwhile, Stalker LaDouche is also keeping tabs on his other next-door neighbor, who may or may not be a serial killer. Spoiler alert! He's a serial killer... because we really wouldn't have a movie otherwise. But LaDouche starts suspecting him for all the wrong reasons. Hey, he happened to have a car just like the one mentioned in a news report! There's no way that could be a coincidence! And he's got all those bodies in his garage... which turned out to be a dead deer. Altogether, this is a string of way too convenient coincidences. This kid just happens to be put under house arrest, giving him a chance to spy on his neighbors, leading him to suspect one of them of being a serial killer. And he's right! Yay! So he gets his ankle bracelet taken off for good behavior! Happy ending! Yippee!

Aside from the hilariously generic ending (in which all loose ends are tied up in a record two minutes flat), there are also massive tonal shifts throughout this movie. It starts off as a pretty straightforward teen comedy, but gets weirder and darker as it progresses, suddenly morphing into straight-up Saw/Martyrs territory for the last ten minutes. Sorry... but I never expected to see a movie in which there are towers made out of Twinkies as well as decapitated, mutilated bodies stuffed into air vents. Sure, this gave me some serious chills. A lot of the movie did. But I couldn't get past the pretty obvious fact that it was just redoing Rear Window's premise with new technology and a creepier ending. Also, the neighbor just so happened to barge into LaDouche's house right at the moment where he enhances the video, showing the dead body? Yeah right.

Final Score for Disturbia: 4/10 stars. This movie is entertaining enough, and will definitely elicit some well-deserved goosebumps and nail-biting moments, but ultimately it's far too derivative and bland to have any merit of its own. Nobody in this movie is really a good actor, least of all LaDouche. And seriously... there are ten whole minutes of this movie that are nothing but him holding a baseball bat and saying "Mom?" Again, great premise-- It was cool to see this guy charge into a little shop of horrors to save his mom-- but wow, what a sloppy execution. Was it just me, or did that tunnel of dead bodies never seem to end? And how did the killer easily snap a policeman's neck, but get overpowered by a teenager wielding sports equipment? Forget it. On the plus side, though, this movie gets my Inventive Title Bonus. "Disturbia?" Excellent title. Too bad they couldn't build a better movie around it.


"A-bippity-boopity-boo! Eat-a some-a lasagna! You-a look-a so-a skinny!"

Okay, clearly Italians don't actually talk like that. That is a stereotype. Stereotypes are rude and being rude is for Italians. So here's the question: Why would anyone perpetuate this stereotype with a movie like Moonstruck, which is not only hilariously over-the-top in its portrayal of Italian-Americans, but also features one of the most flat-out bad Nic Cage performances ever... and no, not in his "hilariously bad" mode. Just bad. No "NOT THE BEES" to be found in this one. Add in Cher hamming it up as an unlikable lead, extremely bad dialogue, and a bullshit happy ending that makes the conclusion to August Rush look dark and brooding, this is one of the most overrated romances ever, and a classic example of how not to make a dramatic movie. I found myself laughing at the dramatic scenes and rubbing my head at the comedy.

Moonstruck stars Cher as Intelligent and Good-Looking Italian-American Woman, who is set to marry Tony from The Godfather Part II. Not only does he propose at a restaurant, where they are eating pasta, but he also has to fly back to Italy to visit his dying mother. Then "That's Amore" plays. God, could this movie get any more Italian? Anyway, while he's gone, Cher goes off to find his long-lost brother, who Tony wants at the wedding. Why does he send her off to do his dirty work? Dunno. Of course, the brother is played by Nicolas "Ahoy There" Cage, with whom she falls madly in love. Even though he has a wooden hand... for some reason. Did he cut it on a slicer while making Italian meats and cheeses? Because that's the only way this movie could get any more Italian.

A major plot point in this movie: Nic and Tony's big rift is that Tony distracted Cage for a second, resulting in his hand being cut off in a bread slicer (SO CLOSE!). Really? That's not quite "I never want to see you again in my life" material. Also, apparently an extra-big moon comes out whenever Italians fall in love... which, statistically, should mean that an extra-big moon should probably come out every night of the year. Seriously who wrote this movie? "Moonstruck?" It makes no sense! There was nothing between Cher and Cage that made me think they actually loved each other. It's not like they don't have any screen charisma-- seeing Nicolas Cage try to say "arrivederci" is absolutely enthralling-- but there's nothing about their so-called "romance" that makes the audience think that they have actual feelings for each other.

After a good half-hour that could probably have been cut out, Cage asks Cher to marry him, and she refuses, as she's already marrying his brother. I'm not sure why, because Cage clearly has the upper hand on him in terms of charm, charisma, and looks... although he's pretty poor. Hmm. Cher is a golddigger. But in a shockingly convenient turn of events, her fiance returns from Italy to tell her that his mother miraculously got better, and now they can't get married... because his mom is better? Wait, what? Then Cage proposes to Cher, she says yes, and they live happily ever after. God, kill me already. Nobody gives a shit about this fairy-tale crap. The reason why movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Donnie Darko, Fight Club, and Pulp Fiction are all great is because they end either ambiguously or darkly. Happy endings are for teen comedies and animated movies. Now, I can't say that I was expecting everyone to die or something (because I knew what I was getting into here just from the poster), but I would have appreciated something other than Generic Romantic Comedy Ending #48b. Aaah, fuck it. I don't even care about this movie.

Final Score for Moonstruck: 3/10 stars. Without a lick of Crazy Cage or even Crazy Cher to save it, this movie ends up flopping around for two hours under a weak premise, bland dialogue, and acting that is so predictably lame it's not even funny (looking at you, Nic). There really is no reason to watch a movie like this, because it fails as both a comedy and a drama, and if you want to see Nicolas Cage goof around, there are a myriad of far better films to turn to. I wish I could say I liked it more (I don't actually, because I was probably destined to hate this from the start), but I never expected it to be this bad.

Killing Season

There's not much that can be said about a movie like Killing Season other than "Yeah, it's pretty fucking bad." Much like Only God Forgives, virtually nothing interesting happens in this movie, which means it doesn't quite lend itself to analysis or being picked apart. It's just a boring, rote, and derivative movie that has a great lead, a slightly less competent other lead, and absolutely laughable dialogue. Great job, Robert De Niro. You are now continuing your losing streak of legitimately terrible films. And to John Travolta... yeah, okay. I didn't really expect much of you. Keep up the bad work.

Killing Season is a blatantly historically inaccurate movie in which two survivors of the Bosnian war, each on different sides, fights each other in the woods of Buttfuck Nowhere, Appalachia. The movie's first scenes are graphic depictions of soldiers finding bodies piled up in trains in Bosnia... which is historically suspect. Then Robert De Niro shoots John Travolta in the head. But fortunately, Travolta is gifted with Miracle Get-Out-Of-Death-Free Movie Syndrome! He returns with a vengeance years later, after tracking De Niro down to his cabin in the woods. After beating around the bush for a while (during which time he could easily have just killed De Niro and had it over with), the two start a game of cat-and-mouse which fails to deliver any suspense at all. In summary, it's an intriguing premise, but wow... did they ever fuck it up.

De Niro plays a cranky old man, as he always seems to nowadays, and he is given very little characterization past that. Hey, here's an old guy who drinks bourbon and likes country music! So original. Meanwhile, John Travolta's Serbian accent sounds awesome... as long as you've never heard a Serbian accent before in your life. Seriously, did nobody notice this when they were filming the movie? It's like Travolta was doing research into the accent, found a Russian one he liked, and said "Eh, fuck it, they're both in eastern Europe." It doesn't help that both of them look legitimately bored throughout the whole movie, making me wonder why they even bothered being in it. Clearly not critical acclaim or getting a paycheck, because this movie bombed both critically and commercially.

The dialogue is pretty lame. All it amounts to is Travolta and De Niro opining on war and life and death and stuff for an hour and a half, but they didn't even bother writing more than a few lines of dialogue. The two only really have one conversation in the movie, which is then edited slightly to fit into other parts of the film. Trust me, the repetition is palpable, and makes the film feel long at only 90 minutes. There are a few good scenes, I must admit-- Travolta getting shot through the cheek with an arrow was pretty legit. But then we have a scene where De Niro waterboards him with lemonade? For fuck's sake. Every ten minutes, one of them takes control and gets the upper hand, turning the movie into a very predictable and extremely boring load of pretentious crap. War is hell, guys. We get it.

Final Score for Killing Season: 2/10 stars. It's exhaustingly self-important, poorly written, and laughably acted, but at least it has the decency to give us a few agreeable scenes and some nice cinematography. But overall, Killing Season fails on nearly every conceivable level. Perhaps I had far too low expectations for this movie (after all, it did get 11%, and Jed Groff recommended it, making me assume that it was the anus to end all anuses), because I didn't find it to be the absolutely abhorrent piece of shit that my colleagues apparently did. But still, there is very little about this boring and unsatisfying film to recommend. Oh, and that car crash did not look realistic at all. I laugh at your pitiful special effects, movie.

The Big Lebowski

"Nobody fucks with the Jesus."

Continuing my Philip Seymour Hoffman tribute reviews, we have one of my all-time favorite movies: The Big Lebowski. Okay, calling this just "one of" my favorite movies is an understatement. This is my third-favorite movie of all time, a spectacular and hilarious film that is recognized worldwide as quite possibly the ultimate cult comedy. The Coen brothers have done countless amazing things, but I believe that this is their magnum opus, a beautifully filmed, endlessly quotable, hilarious, impeccably acted, and twisted comedy wrapped up in a mystery novel flavor. In short, this is one of the best movies ever made, and was completely snubbed at the Oscars... just like every other great movie.

The Big Lebowski stars Jeff Bridges in the now-iconic role of Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski. The Dude is possibly the most likable character in the history of film, and it's all because of his attitude towards life, which can be summed up in two words: "Fuck it." This is a guy who goes with the flow, does what he wants, and always seems to come out on top in the end. Easily the #1 movie character to have a beer with, he is the definition of "cool under fire," going so far as to make snide remarks to the guy waterboarding him in a toilet and passively stealing a rug from the guy who just threw him out of his house. Everyone wishes they could be The Dude in real life, but that's impossible, because nobody is as quick-witted and mesmerizingly laid-back as he is. Is he a bit of a cartoon character? Yes he is. Does that make him any less awesome? Not even close.

The plot of this movie is deliberately complex, and it will probably require a rewatch or two before you fully grasp the ins and outs of its twisty plotline. But here's the basics: The Dude is assaulted in his home by two thugs who have mistaken him for a different Jeff Lebowski, whose wife owes their boss money. After one of them pees on The Dude's rug, he goes to find the other Jeff Lebowski (David Huddleston) to get him to compensate for the rug, at the urging of his friend Walter (John Goodman, in a career-best performance). Hilarity ensues... and any more information past this would probably be unwise, as spoilers for this movie are a sin. It also has Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and John Tuturro as a creepy pedophile bowling master named Jesus. Throw in the Coen's typical knack for visual flair, and you've got yourself a cult fucking classic.

Unless you've been living under a rock since 1998, you've probably heard some of the most memorable quotes from this movie, which include "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass," "Careful man, there's a beverage here," and "He fixes the cable?" Of course, quotability isn't really the biggest asset a movie can have, but it implies great dialogue throughout. And unlike most movies, the best one-liners of this film are not in the trailers. They're all throughout the movie. The dialogue is consistently sharp, and it's being spoken by great characters, who are in turn played by spectacular actors, all at their career best. It's such a glorious melting pot of noir detective stories, realistic dialogue, and pure, unfettered randomness, it's irresistible.

Final Score for The Big Lebowski: THE RARE AND COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER 10/10 STARS!!! This movie really is spectacular. There is not a wrong note throughout the film; its transitions from humor to drama and back again are seamless and expertly crafted. Jeff Bridges gives the performance of a lifetime, and all the dialogue he speaks is meticulously written (the Coens wrote in every last line for The Dude, including all the "ums" and "uhhs" in his speech pattern). If you don't like comedies usually, fine. If dramas aren't your thing, okay. But if you can't appreciate the level of genius it takes to create a movie as near-flawless as this one, you have no business trying to watch movies. And that is something I cannot abide.

Thor: The Dark World

Ever since the blockbuster came into its own in the 1970s, each year has seen a progressively dumber iteration of the blockbuster genre. And until an inevitably worse film comes along in 2014, I can safely say that we have officially hit rock bottom. Thor: The Dark World, the latest piece of completely unnecessary trite to be belched from the seemingly bottomless well of Marvel's superhero crap, is a pointless, mindless, brainless, heartless, hopeless, joyless load of uninventive shit. Which makes it the second-worst superhero movie to be made this year.

Normally, a movie as middling and silly as Thor 2 would only garner a 2 or 3/10 from me, but this movie has the bonus of being completely pointless. I mean, the first Thor sucked, yes. But at least it had a reason for being: Marvel had to establish the character of Thor for The Avengers. And even though The Avengers was bad as well, I can understand why they had to put us through that painful mess. There is no reason why Thor: The Dark World should exist. Firstly, it doesn't tie in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at all, past maybe providing some new villains for The Avengers 2 (because God knows that we can't have a movie about the Avengers vs Whiplash). Secondly, NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN THIS MOVIE!!! Not one single plot point is furthered by the existence of this film. Loki escapes, sure. Then he dies. But of course, nobody stays dead in the Marvel universe. Hell, Coulson didn't even have superpowers, and he came back just for a TV show! There, now you're all caught up. You don't have to watch this movie.

Thor 2 is about a race of creatures called Dark Elves. DARK FRIGGIN' ELVES. Apparently, these creatures were around in the dark times when the universe was dark and they lived on the dark world... God, why do all superhero movies have to be dark these days? Anyway, the elves had a device called the Aether, which they were going to use to turn the universe dark (whatever that means), but Thor's grandfather used the weird Star Trek transporter-y device to nab it away from them. Wait... if the Assgardians can just nab whatever they want with their light beams, what was the point of sending in a whole fucking army? Anyway, a few thousand years later, the evil elves are back with a vengeance, and are trying to steal the Aether from inside Natalie Portman. And before you laugh, no, I am not making this up. This is the actual plot. Also, it involves random floating cement mixers, points in space that transport objects to other planets for no apparent reason, and Stellan Skarsgård streaking naked through Stonehenge. Oh, Marvel... when will you learn?

Besides the fact that on a very basic level, this movie makes no sense at all, it also just isn't very entertaining. The opening sequence, where Thor and some random Assgardian chick kill a bunch of villager guys, has no context within the rest of the movie and is taken directly from every other boring and generic fantasy movie ever made. It doesn't even make an effort to cover up the silly cliches it uses. "I've got this completely under control!" "Is that why everything's on fire?" Ew, gross. Sure, this is random banter that is probably perfectly serviceable to fans of the franchise. But to someone who has already had enough of Marvel's forced and calculatedly witty dialogue (me), it's grating, irritating, and repetitive. I honestly do not understand why Marvel can't just write some realistic dialogue for once. Fine, it's not easy to make Shakespearian gods sound natural when they talk. But "Am I a piece of bread that needs to be buttered so heavily?" is not the answer to that problem.

This movie really is Marvel's answer to Man of Steel, and it shows. The plot is explained away in a few seconds with some gibberish about a "convergence" that will bring all the universes together. Then, we are expected to believe that some random scientific equipment can be repurposed to create gravitational anomalies. But I know I shouldn't be picking apart the science of a movie whose main plot point is an invincible god/superhero with an indestructible hammer. So why did this movie suck so badly? Well, in short, nobody involved in it really seemed to give a shit. They all were collecting paychecks and doing whatever the fuck they wanted, without any fear of retribution. Honestly, if this movie had gotten a 2% on Rotten Tomatoes, it would still have made a buttload of money. I hate movies like this, where critical acclaim is only a secondary goal, and you can clearly tell from every second of the movie that the actors, writers, directors, and visual artists are just phoning in their most mediocre efforts. Also, at the end, Loki impersonates Odin and offers Thor the throne, but Thor turns it down. What would Loki have done if Thor had accepted the throne? Also, where the fuck is Odin now? And HOW IS LOKI ALIVE?!?! He came back before the fucking credits even rolled! This has to be some new record! FUCK, THIS MOVIE SUCKS!!!

Final Score for Thor: The Dark Anus of the World: 1/10 stars. There are little to no redeeming qualities to this movie, and the best thing I can say about it is that it is forgettable. I'm immensely pleased that this movie will have slipped out of my head by the end of the week, unlike Man of Steel, which will stick with me to the day I die. Overall, avoid this clusterfuck of rote ideas, terrible scriptwriting, bored acting, laughably dull action, eyebrow-raising scientific "explanations," and insipidly bland characters who (now in their third movie) have gotten very, very old. Nothing about this movie works, not even on an entertainment level, and you can tell that it's bad because even die-hard Marvel fanboys have admitted that they can't really defend it. And that's because it's indefensible, inexcusable garbage. It's a festering parasite on the film industry. A cancer unto our society. It is the anus of cinema.

Boogie Nights

Well, Philip Seymour Hoffman just died, so much like I did with Peter O' Toole, I'm going to write a review of one of his movies (even though he's no more than a bit part in it). What's weird is that I just watched Boogie Nights for the first time last night, and then I woke up this morning to find out that Hoffman is dead. Huh. Maybe the next movie on my itinerary should be Justin Bieber's Never Say Never. Anyway, Hoffman was a great actor who starred in both some of my favorite (The Big Lebowski) and some of my least favorite (The Master) films of all time, but the consistent high point in even his worst films were his performances, which had depth and range. He will be missed.

So: Boogie Nights. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (who also did The Master, by the way), this film is an intense and graphic showcasing of Hollywood life in the 1970s-- specifically the porn industry. It stars Mark Wahlberg as an up-and-coming (no pun intended) porn star named Dirk Diggler and Burt Reynolds as the director who "discovered" him. Interestingly enough, Reynold's character is a terrible director who makes shit for a living, and is still a pretentious ass about it... which is exactly what PTA became in his later years. Oh, the irony. Anyway, although this movie does lack the air of self-importance and arrogance that has plagued PTA's recent movies, it does lack something that the others do: A frickin' story.

Boogie Nights showcases a slice of Americana that is a good chunk of why other countries hate us so much. And no, I'm not talking about porn (that's part of it though), I'm talking about the 1970s. Anderson takes great lengths to recreate the air of decadence, amoralism, and seediness that plagued that decade, but he doesn't actually build a story around it. Wahlberg's character is a whiny little bitch who doesn't really connect with the audience in any way (his defining feature is his apparently 13-inch penis, so yeah, don't watch this movie if you're not prepared for that), and he never really does anything throughout the course of the film. One would think that a movie about such a subject would finish off with its characters in a spiral into darkness, a tragedy like Requiem for a Dream or The Fly. But for some reason, Boogie Nights concludes its tale of filth with a fairytale ending: Wahlberg pulls his life out of the gutter, Reynolds returns to making movies, and the audience wonders if this couldn't have been accomplished in less than two and a half hours. Why would you end a movie like this on such a high note? It almost justifies what the people in it are doing. Not that I'm looking for some sort of hellish, morbid conclusion to it all, but there has to be some reason for why I just sat through the film.

Still, I can't entirely write off Boogie Nights, as Anderson's direction is admittedly quite vibrant, and the characters and dialogue are spectacular. It creates a Pulp Fiction-y vibe, and although it's not quite capable of reaching the pure and unbridled insanity that is a Quentin Tarantino movie, it still impresses. Wahlberg, who isn't a very good actor, is given a lot to work with here, and even though his character often comes off as annoying, you still want him to make it to the end of the film. With a supporting cast that includes Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C Reilly, Don Cheadle, and Heather Graham as the unnamed "Rollergirl," there's really not a high probability that this would have been bad. Even though the runtime could have easily been trimmed down a bit, I can't seem to pinpoint many scenes that I would edit out. This dark comedy only really works when all of its randomness is joined together in one glorious amalgam of sex, drugs, and chaos. For better or for worse, it's one of the most demented movies out there.

Final Score for Boogie Nights: 7/10 stars. I really wanted to like this movie more, as everyone calls it PTA's best film, but I honestly couldn't get as into it as I should have been. The ending really killed it, but there is no heart to this movie in general, and much like The Wolf of Wall Street, its emptiness cannot be combated by the cheap thrills it delivers. Maybe if it had had a more charismatic lead actor, playing a more sympathetic character, it would have been better. But it settles for being a slightly above-average movie about porn and drugs... in which nobody actually says the word "porn." Also, did we really need to see Wahlberg's penis at the end? I'm not a prude (although it was gross), but it kind of destroys the illusion of the movie. Much like Steven Spielberg revealing the aliens at the end of Close Encounters, it doesn't leave anything to the audience's imagination. And that's not something movies should do.

The Fly
The Fly(1986)

"I want to be the first insect politician."

Few movies have ever been able to keep me up at night, but The Fly almost did it. To wash this movie out of my head, I had to watch Thor: The Dark World before turning in... although that atrocity gave me nightmares for a whole 'nother reason. Anyway, The Fly is possibly director David Cronenberg's most famous film, and is one of the few Hollywood remakes to actually fall into the category of "good." Doing away with the campiness of the original, this film goes from romance to drama to full-on gross-out horror and back again. Its genre-blending is both its advantage and its downfall, but it's still a visceral, entertaining movie that has plenty of eyebrow-raising ickiness to make for a great evening rental.

I'm sure you've heard the story before: Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy becomes fly, girl kills boy (whoops, spoilers). Okay, it's not actually that simple. The Fly stars Jeff ah Goldblum as Seth Brundle, a scientist working on a transporter device that can beam objects from one spot to the other Star Trek-style. Geena Davis plays the reporter who interviews him, eventually falling for him. So, the science here is questionable at best. Sure, it's difficult to give a plausible-sounding explanation for a technology that doesn't exist yet, but it would have been nice to have more to this aspect of the movie other than "I have to teach the computer to know flesh." What does that even mean?

A lot of what the characters do and say makes no sense. For instance, Davis breaks up with her douchey boyfriend, but as soon as Goldblum starts becoming a fly, she turns to him for help. Why? Sure, she may need someone to talk to. But why turn to this fucker? The guy who, not 20 minutes previously, suggested that they see each other just for "casual sex?" I'm sure she had other people in her life to turn to. And then he ends up becoming the hero of the movie at the end? Ugh! Goldblum's character was so likable and tragic, and this guy was such a dick... and now we're suddenly supposed to root for him? Sorry, that's lame. Plus the editing for the dialogue is very, very bad. There are way too many awkward pauses in this movie when people are just talking to each other.

However, the fortunate thing is that the dialogue is almost unnecessary when you get to the full-on visual gall of this movie. It actually got me to feel sick to my stomach, a feat as yet unmatched by any other film (and before you ask, no, I have not seen A Serbian Film or The Human Centipede). The actual gore and makeup aren't even that much more frightening than in your typical horror flick, but the reason The Fly is able to disgust on such a visceral level is because we actually care about Goldblum's character. I've always said that there are five genres: Horror, drama, comedy, romance, and action. Well, really, there's a sixth: Tragedy. Nobody really pays much attention to this genre nowadays, as few films are made now that fit this bill, but The Fly certainly does. A lot of this is due to the story, and even more is due to Goldblum's accessible and realistic acting. Seriously, the guy knows how to craft a character, and even better, he can deliver the slightly stilted dialogue of this movie with poise and finesse. Even while feeling sorry for him, I couldn't help but laugh every time he said "Brundlefly."

Final Score for The Fly: 6/10 stars. I honestly wish I could give it more, as it's probably one of the wildest and most stylistically gory movies ever made (and the final scene is absolutely heartbreaking), but I can't really get past its poor dialogue and silly characters. Also, John Getz is not a good actor. Sorry, John Getz fans... all two of you. Still, I might end up raising this score higher after thinking about the movie for a while, because it's really not the kind of film that flushes right out of your head instantly... for better or for worse. I know that the moment when Goldblum fully becomes a fly is not something I will soon forget. Same with that maggot abortion dream sequence. Yeeeeesh. Anyway, if you've got a strong stomach for both gore and bad dialogue, I recommend this film. For everyone else... be afraid. Be very afraid.

Marvel's The Avengers

Back in 2012 when this film came out, I was still a full-fledged Marvel fanboy. The first two Iron Man films were two of my favorite movies (I was such a n00b), and I loved Captain America too. So I was totally psyched to see The Avengers, the epic cinematic Joss Whedon nerdgasm that combined literally every possible thing that geeks love: Superheroes, aliens, the guy who did Firefly, witty banter, cool guys in suits with sunglasses, and explosions. And for a while, I tried to kid myself into thinking that this movie was actually good. But I've given up. The Avengers represents everything wrong with the modern film industry. It is a big-budgeted CGI extravaganza with a boring and straightforward plot, action sequences stolen straight from Transformers 3, hammy dialogue, and one-dimensional characters. I used to wonder why Joss Whedon doesn't get more money for his projects, but this is why: If he gets too much, he goes way over the top.

The Avengers unites four great Marvel superheroes: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Thor. There are also these two others, Black Widow and Hawkeye, neither of whom anybody cares about (although they pretend to care about Black Widow because she's played by Scarlett Johansson in a leather catsuit). At the beginning of this film, Loki, the whiny prodigal son from Thor has returned to wreak havoc, and has barged into Nick Fury's secret underground facility of secret government secretness in order to steal the Tesseract (I'm not looking up how to spell this, it's not worth it). The Tesseract is a little glowy blue rubik's cube, and that's basically all we ever know about it. It has some immense power, and can open trans-dimensional portals... or something. Anyway, Loki barges in and steals it, and also converts Hawkeye to being a bad guy just by tapping him on the chest. Even the efforts of Robin from How I Met Your Mother cannot stop him. Wow, this movie is lame.

So now that Loki has the Tesseract, Nick Fury has to unite all his peeps together in order to keep him from annihilating humanity. He calls in all his best heroes... except Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, or the X-Men... and takes them to his aircraft carrier. Except it's not just any ordinary aircraft carrier! It can fly! And it can turn invisible! And it's powered by the dreams of children! There's also about 45 minutes of completely unnecessary padding at this point, where the characters have their little quips and one-liners, and their personalities bounce off of each other just enough to establish them for people who didn't get around to seeing their individual movies. The dialogue around this point takes a turn for the absolute worst. Marvel fans like to point to the line "Doth mother knoweth you weareth her drapes" as supposedly "creative" or "original." But it's just taking the personality of Tony Stark and ratcheting it up a couple notches. It comes off as silly, calculated, and contrived, and doesn't fit in with the character at all. I love dialogue, but listening to the empty-headed "witty banter" in this movie made my head hurt.

Other scintillating plot points around this time: The Avengers capture Loki in Germany, only for Thor to show up and reprimand his brother for about ten minutes. Why did he break him out, just to return him to custody again? Oh right-- the fans wanted to see who would win in a fight, Thor or Iron Man. Seriously, what were they even arguing about? Also, there's a random and poorly wedged-in Hitler reference that doesn't work at all... and is kind of offensive if you think about it. Then Hawkeye is brought back to the good side by getting hit in the head really hard (wow, did they try this on Darth Vader?), Iron Man repairs the aircraft carrier for what seems like five hours, and Captain America runs around trying to be an Avenger like the big boys. Seriously, what can he, Black Widow, and Hawkeye even do? And why do they keep talking to each other from long distances as if they're wearing bluetooths, when they're clearly not? And why was Nick Fury somehow able to motivate the Avengers by lying about the location of some trading cards? Would it have been any less tragic for Coulson to have them in his locker when he died? The guy's still dead! Oh, time for the biggest plot hole of all time: WHY COULDN'T THEY LAND THE FUCKING FLYING AIRCRAFT CARRIER? Seriously? The big problem in this part of the movie is that the carrier is damaged. But it's a fucking aircraft carrier that can fly! Why don't you just land it in the water? THIS MOVIE SUCKS!!!

Plot holes and such aside, The Avengers is hopelessly generic. It honestly is far more comparable to a Michael Bay flick than a Joss Whedon one. The dialogue is hilariously bad, and you can tell that the writers went through painstaking efforts to try and make every line quotable. But when every line is quotable... none of them are. At some points in the action, they were basically just throwing colors up on the screen and letting people go "Ooh!" and "Aah!" over it. Part of the reason why modern superhero movies have been so critically acclaimed is because they are grounded in reality. But this movie is just silly to the point of boredom. It's just mindless, mindless chaos, and I cannot even begin to describe how reprehensible it is that it got a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. That is unacceptable.

In the final battle, Loki uses the Tesseract to summon aliens. ALIENS! The climax to this movie is a horde of aliens that come to attack New York through a black hole on jet skis! Really? Aliens attacking New York in a sci-fi movie is more predictable than rain! This is also the part where That Guy Who's Clearly Not Ed Norton declares "I'm always angry" and transforms into The Hulk in a split second. Look, I'm fine when a movie defies logic and reason, as long as it has a good way of backing it up. But to defy the laws that the movie itself set up? What is this? The Hulk can't control his powers! Are you shitting me here? This was previously established in the other Hulk movies... or I guess we're just pretending those didn't happen now. Anyway, Iron Man takes out an entire Transformer-- err... alien by flying straight through it, Thor blows everything up with lightning, The Hulk punches things in the face, and the other three just help civilians and shoot arrows and crap like that. Aargh, why are they even there? And also, Thor really couldn't use that lightning, like... I don't know... every other time a wave of the aliens came through? Is there a limit to his lightning capability? Does he have to charge it up like in DragonBall Z?

I've spent this whole review picking apart the myriad of plot holes and inconsistencies in this movie, but I don't want to give the impression that that's all that's wrong with it. It is a serious fuck-up of massive proportions. No, it's not the worst movie ever made, but it's pretty stinkin' awful. The dialogue is atrocious, all the actors are just in there collecting paychecks, and the story is the blandest and most recycled piece of shit ever put to screen. How can there be any suspense when we already know that Robert Downey Jr has signed on for Iron Man 3 and 4? There can't be! This movie is just obsessed with its own cleverness, and thinks it's God's gift to fanboys everywhere. Okay, it is, but that doesn't mean the rest of us should be expected to like it. Nothing about this movie is fresh, nothing about it is exciting, and it's probably one of the most boring and uninvolving movie experiences I've ever had.

Final Score for The Avengers: 3/10 stars. I can't hate this movie, because at least it doesn't try to make the characters and story all dark and moody (ahem, Man of Steel). Even though it's retarded, it seems to know how retarded it is. It definitely had a good amount of fun and joy to it. But that doesn't make it any less idiotic. Either the people who liked it are deluding themselves into enjoying it purely because they don't want to admit disappointment, or they are just purely incapable of seeing past their obsessive fandoms and understanding that post-post credits scenes are not clever. Either way, in time they will come to see why this movie is such a load of garbage, because the cartoony and generic special effects will not age well at all, and that's basically all this movie has going for it. If I were five years old and still played with action figures, I would probably love this movie. Fortunately, I have a fucking brain. It's a waste of your time, it's a waste of your money, and worst of all... it's a waste of Joss Whedon. It is... the anus of cinema.

Natural Born Killers

It's painful to watch failed potential, but in the reverse, it's also painful to see a movie try so hard to be something it's not and fail miserably. Natural Born Killers, the divisive and controversial Oliver Stone film that some people love, some people hate, and nobody should really care about. This movie wants so badly to be clever in a Pulp Fiction kind of way, even going so far as to make subtle references to it (don't think I didn't notice the "honey bunny" line), but no amount of style can save a movie from a generic plot, incoherent cinematography, bad dialogue, and simplistic characters.

Natural Born Killers stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory, a pair of Bonnie and Clyde rip-offs who go around the west killing people and robbing stores and killing people and killing people and killing people. Seriously, a LOT of people die in this movie (50 or so just in the first hour), but unlike other, better films like Django Unchained or Die Hard, the deaths serve practically no purpose. I'm all for gore and violence-- sure, pile up as many bodies as you want. But the more bushels of people that die, the more you're going to have to try to engage the audience's brain. And unfortunately, this movie inevitably falls flat on its face by taking the complete wrong turn and depicting the two mass murderers as twisted geniuses somehow, Boondock Saints-style. And what's so funny about this is that the fans of this movie don't seem to understand that it's supposed to be ironic, and that the movie actually rejects the killer's philosophy... or so it seems. Nonetheless, the gratuitous violence in this film is not worth sitting through for the occasional high point.

The acting is very inconsistent. Harrelson is electric as Mickey, but Lewis lets him down slightly (he's clearly the better half of the pair). Robert Downey Jr. co-stars as a TV host who interviews and follows Mickey and Mallory endlessly, and for a while it seems like the film might end up getting some semblance of cultural satire under its belt. But its thesis about the media is delivered far too heavy-handedly, and in a very preachy fashion. Besides, it's not like this isn't anything we've seen before. Okay, shock media is bad.. what else is new? Also, Downey just can't do a fucking British accent to save his life. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones crosses the line between "hamming it up" and "driving the audience batshit crazy" with his performance as a mildly psychotic prison warden, a cross between Gary Oldman in The Professional and Willem Dafoe in the aforementioned Boondick Saints. One would think that such a comparison would warrant at least some agreeable cheese, but one would think wrong.

One of the most notable things about this film is the cinematography, which some have called "mind-bendingly surreal." Well, that's somewhat true. Natural Born Killers does have visuals worthy of an acid trip. But that doesn't make them good. The movie switches between color and black-and-white at the drop of a hat, and also goes the extra mile by splicing in random images of demons, fire, and any random shit that Stone wanted to throw onscreen during practically every sequence. This is all supposedly to mimic the effect of flipping channels on a TV (oh look, another biting satire of the media, isn't this movie clever), but it just comes across as chaotic and repulsive. In short, the stylish choices that this movie makes probably sounded good during brainstorming, but when they're actually realized, the only acceptable response is "What the fuck is happening?" Some moments are pure genius-- The scene in which the movie suddenly takes on a sit-com tone (complete with laugh track) is both subversive and hilarious-- but for the most part, the little jabs at the media and American culture don't really leave a mark.

Final Score for Natural Born Killers: 4/10 stars. This is a love it or hate it experience for most people, but I fully understand where both sides are coming from. I'm pretty indifferent to it myself, but I am disappointed that it wasn't able to do anything better with such a talented cast. It's made up of good parts, but sadly the movie never quite coheres, which really is a shame. Oh, you know how I like giving out extra points to movies with inventive titles? Well, this one gets a point for that. "Natural Born Killers", the title, is intriguing and awesome. But Natural Born Killers, the movie? Don't ask.

Easy A
Easy A(2010)

It kills me to say this, because Easy A had potential, but... nobody cares about Emma Stone slutting around for two hours. This re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter, set in a modern high school, could have been a great teen sex comedy (if you believe that such things exist), but it settles for cheap laughs and a very middling narrative. Although I appreciate the fact that we finally have a movie exploring the double standard between women and men sleeping around, I wish that the message had been delivered in better fashion, and far less bluntly. The themes are right, and it's got its heart in the right place (no offense Leo), but what's lacking here is purpose, drive, and a story we actually care about.

The first big problem that arises in Easy A (within the first five minutes of the movie, no less) is that the movie attempts to convince us that Emma Stone has somehow gone unnoticed in a high school full of horny teenagers. HA! Anyway, Stone stars as Olive Penderghast (not Pederast, that's a different movie altogether), a mildly unpopular girl who, through one lie, is suddenly seen as the biggest slut on campus. This theme is probably the movie's strongest point: When guys have sex with everything in sight, they're seen as players. When girls do it, they're skanks. It's good that we have a movie dealing with these themes, but why does it have to be so over-the-top? Every character other than Olive is a stereotype or a cliche, which completely kills any semblance of realism the movie could have had. I hate Jesus freaks as much as the next guy, but trust me, there is no place in my home state where there are teenagers sitting in circles during lunchtime singing about Christianity. Uh-uh. We do not tolerate that shit over here. And then the movie tries to convince us that a high school principal in California would be homophobic? BITCH, PLEASE! He wouldn't be able to become the fucking JANITOR out here without causing an uproar! This isn't just an adult's idea of what high school is like, it's an east-coast idea of what California is like. And guess what? The writers didn't bother doing any research on either.

Emma Stone, however, is quite strong as Olive, but she's really the only person holding this movie up. We're expected to see her as witty and funny, but anyone can crack jokes about people when literally everyone around them is a massive exaggeration of the way people are in real life. I shouldn't rail on the film too much for this, as it didn't go for full surrealistic claptrap like Juno did, but it still didn't feel right. Stone's character was definitely charming, but she was completely one-dimensional, and didn't really have anything to her besides what every other lead female in every other high school movie has. Her dialogue is written in the unrealistic Hollywood language of one-liners and burning quips, all spoken in her typical vocal-fry trying-so-hard-to-sound-like-a-teenager voice. It would really be nice if one day we could get a movie where the main character calls bullshit on the events of day-to-day life (and trust me, day-to-day life is FULL of things begging to be made fun of), but it's a disservice to humor when writers take the easy way out and ratchet everything up 10,000 notches, just so it will be easier to write jokes about.

Still, I can't say that I didn't have a good time watching this movie. Despite its strangely unfocused plot and stilted dialogue, it still manages to pull off some good scenes and quotes, largely due to the charisma of the actors. Stan Tucci, you are almost forgiven for The Lovely Bones... almost. Sex comedies are a dime a dozen these days, but you could definitely turn to worse movies than Easy A. But for some people, its unrealistic take on the world just won't cut it. For instance: Gwyneth Paltrow's character. First, she has sex with a student, giving him chlamydia. Then, she covers it up by blaming Emma Stone. And then she goes full rage, telling her that nobody will ever believe her if she reveals the truth. What the fuck? This is a guidance counselor! It's totally unrealistic to do something like this! And then Emma Stone feels bad for ruining her marriage? This is not how people act in real life. This is generic Hollywood stupidity, and I refuse to buy into it.

Final Score for Easy A: 5/10 stars. While not nearly as painful as it could have been, it's way worse than it should have been. Huhuhuh, that rhymed, I think I'll stuff that into my screenplay. It's so witty and sharp, audiences will definitely connect with it! But in all seriousness, this is a pretty bland film, and not a very memorable one at that. By the time the credits roll, the plot points will have already jumbled in your head, and within a week you'll have forgotten all about the goddamn Jesus freaks and their fucking singing circle of retardation... UUUUUGH! Well, at least it made me want those people dead, which I guess was part of the point. However, it really should have gone about it another way instead of portraying everyone in the world as a black-and-white caricature of the way they really are.

The Departed
The Departed(2006)

Martin Scorsese's name has long been synonymous with great films, but I daresay that this might be his magnum opus. The Departed, a twisty and complex crime thriller with elements of The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino to it, is one of the most slickly intelligent, brutally funny, and all-around entertaining movies I've ever seen. It showcases the immense talents of an all-star cast, delivers with classic and quotable dialogue, and (most importantly) will keep you guessing until the very end about everything, right down to what the title means. SPOILER ALERT! Practically everyone in the movie ends up as the title character: "The Departed."

Such is the way of life in the city of Boston, where crime lords, drug lords, and corrupt cops thrive. Scorsese expertly translates the distinct feel of the city to the screen, incorporating both parts of it: Its gritty underbelly and the facade of stability that it puts on (not to mention the all-around Irish flavor of the film, which really enhances the storytelling). The Departed stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan, a cop who has worked his way in with a crime boss (Jack Nicholson) and Matt Damon as the crime boss's apprentice, who has worked his way in with the Boston police. These two play cat-and-mouse for the greater part of the movie, and it's simply mesmerizing. Lesser directors would have taken a straightforward comedic or dramatic approach to this premise, but Scorsese includes elements of both, with truly gut-busting dark humor as well as intense, nail-biting sequences. Few others could have done this (at least, besides the two I mentioned in my intro paragraph).

My one and only problem with this movie is, sadly, a very easy fix: Damon and DiCaprio's characters are both pretending to be something they're not. In a way, they're pretending to be each other, as one is a criminal disguised as a cop and the other is a cop disguised as a criminal. But this is established from minute one. Others will not have this problem, but I was incredibly let down by the lack of suspense dealt out by Scorsese on this front. If there had been a massive plot twist halfway through, revealing both of the character's true intentions, it would have completely shaken the audience's perception of the movie on the same level as The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, or The Usual Suspects. But when we've been told from the beginning of the movie that these characters aren't who they say they are, there aren't any more secrets to be discovered, and the audience is just waiting for a plot twist that will never come.

However, when the supporting cast includes Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga, and Mark Wahlberg (who I suppose is contractually obligated to appear in every Boston-related movie ever made), you can't really argue too much with the results. Even Damon and Wahlberg, who I always think of as a tad uncharismatic, bring their A-game to the film. And the dialogue gives it a big boost as well. Nearly every line Nicholson says is quotable, and he gives it his trademark smug, self-satisfied delivery. Meanwhile, Baldwin and Wahlberg's little banters will make you want to pause the movie, rewind, and watch the scene again just to try and keep track of how fast their brains (and mouths) are moving. The rapid-fire dialogue will keep you on the edge of your seat no matter what, but really, it's the overall feeling of dread and despair that makes this movie work. Scorsese draws from his Taxi Driver playbook here, updating the powerful feel that made that great movie work, and the modern elements make it even more engrossing.

Final Score for The Departed: 9/10 stars. This intelligent, action-packed, and character-drive gangster classic will remain relevant for decades, and will probably go down in history as one of the many high points of Scorsese's career (before he fucked it all up with Hugo... "Machines never come with extra parts"... kill me). Anyway, believe the hype! The Departed is a spectacular movie, and although it has some exceedingly minor problems, I don't think there are many ways that I could have enjoyed it more. Unlike some of Scorsese's work, which has been called "pretentious" by those among us who are not elitist cinema snobs, this movie is extremely accessible to anyone who is willing to sit down and enjoy a well-written gangster drama with an awesome story. It's incredibly entertaining.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Okay, here we go. I took a few weeks off from writing about the Harry Potter movies, as my brain was hemorrhaging from having to relive the experience of watching these movies. Let's pick up where we left off, shall we? I absolutely despise the Harry Potter movies, because not only are they completely atrocious and (for some reason) critically acclaimed, they also destroyed my childhood, which entirely revolved around these books. Speaking of the books, time for some backstory: After JK Rowling wrote Order of the Phoenix, she must have realized that she couldn't keep writing whole chapters on Dumbledore's mother's father's brother's sister's step-aunt's former roommate, and decided to tone down the expository paragraphs a bit. The Half-Blood Prince was the result, a good book by all standards, but not quite up to the very high bar set by the first four installments in the franchise. However, it remains my favorite of the last three books, all of which suffer a significant dip in quality from the first four. The story of The Half-Blood Prince is actually quite good up until the end, where the red herring plot twist completely overshadows everything else in the book. But of course, David Yates got his grubby hands on this thing... and this film is the result.

The only good thing I can say about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the film) is that I've completely forgotten it. Unlike other films in this series like The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, and The Long-Ass Movie Part II of Part VII, no part of this film stuck in my mind enough to warrant me losing sleep at night. Still, I despise this movie for its random plot points, hilariously bad dialogue, poorly handled direction, and the WORST... DEATH... SCENE... EVER. I can't 100% loathe this movie with every fiber of my being like I do with those previously mentioned films, but that's because it commits an even greater sin: It's completely forgettable. It literally just kills time until the twin Deathly Hallows movies. Every moment in this movie is complete bullshit, because you can sum every important plot point from it up in three words: Snape kills Dumbledore. There, now you don't have to watch it.

After the events of The Anus of the Phoenix, Harry and Co. have started battling the dark lord Voldemort... even though all Voldemort really does in this film is stare at people creepily and put his hand on his follower's shoulders. Seriously, why do bad guys always have to be so overdramatic about stuff? "You.......... have........... a new.................................. assignment..." Just tell him what the fuck it is! Jesus. Anyway, Harry and Dumbledore go off to visit some fat guy named Horace Slughorn, who is to be the new potions teacher at Hogwarts. Snape (Alan Rickman) is taking over Defense Against the Dark Arts, so we pretty much know he's going to be gone by the end of the movie. Wow, such suspense. So after Harry and Dumbledore get Slughorn to come to the school (a scene that we didn't really need, but... okay...), Harry meets up with Ginger Jake Lloyd and Post-Puberty Emma Watson. Needless to say, only 33% of the scenes between these three are good. So after the three of them jackass around for a little bit, a new year at Hogwarts starts. Wait, a new year? So all that talk about a war brewing wasn't serious? "Ooh, I have a great idea! There's a guy out to kill all the good guys, right? Well, let's make sure all the good guys end up in a crowded and decidedly unsafe building for nine months, along with 1/4th of the school population, which is probably evil and will side with him in case of a fight! Also, we won't kick that butthurt albino Draco Malfoy out of the school, even though we all pretty much fucking know that his dad is an uber-bad-guy! BRILLIANT!"

Honestly, I don't want to pick the plots for these movies apart too much, because they're based on the books. But I really judge movies differently than books, probably because I don't write reviews for books and therefore don't analyze them to death. While writing these reviews, I'm starting to see some major plot holes in the original stories. But it doesn't matter, because David Yates makes it way worse than anything Rowling could have come up with. The dialogue in this film is just laughably bad. Some of the dialogue between Harry and Ron feels a little... well, I don't want to say "gay," so I'll say "Sam and Frodo-y." Also, do we actually care about Ron's little romantic subplot? I mean, sure, Rowling put it in the book. Why does that mean you have to include it in the movie? You don't! I cared so little about Harry's bullshit with that random Asian chick in the last movie, so why bother trying to make me care about RON of all people? Ugh. I will admit, though, this movie pulls off the occasional good one-liner, but when it does, they're usually lifted from the book. Still, Alan Rickman's pitch-perfect delivery of the line "Once again, you astonish me with your gifts Potter. Gifts mere mortals could only dream of possessing. How grand it must be, to be the chosen one" is great. But seriously, not even Alan Rickman can save a movie that has Daniel Radcliffe in it.

Of course, this is the movie that introduces the concept of the horcrux, Voldemort's little insurance policy to make sure he never dies. He puts a bit of his soul in inanimate objects, and then hides them away for safekeeping. But this begs the obvious question... why make it such important objects? Why not just, say, a random rock he found on the ground, which he could then chuck away for no one to find? Or, why not make it a spacecraft part, so that his horcrux would end up orbiting Pluto until the end of time? Or how about making it the entire island of Great Britain, or something else that is practically indestructible? And why would he leave clues to their locations? Okay, never mind. So Harry and Dumbledore go off to destroy one of Voldie's horcruxes, but then Dumbledore is forced to drink Mountain Dew in order to get to it. Of course, Mountain Dew is toxic, so he begins to die. Then, before he dies, Snape kills him.

I had a problem with this in the book, and I still do in the movie. In fact, it's emphasized here. Firstly, why can't Snape tell Harry that he and Dumbledore cooked this whole scheme up a long time ago? Why not make sure that someone knows what the fuck's up? Then, why did he have to kill Dumbledore? Clearly, Dumbledore was going to die anyway at some point soon, and therefore Snape wouldn't have to get his hands dirty and Malfoy would still have carried out his task... kind of. But the biggest lame lame here is Dumbledore's last words: "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGH!!!" Really? "The coin don't have no say!" "Rose... bud..." "Who do you think I am? I'm fucking Tony Montana!" Last words are critical for a character's death! And you made him just go "Fuuuuck..." and then fall and die? Jesus! I thought Rowling had more respect for her characters than that. But I guess not... also, she "outed" Dumbledore in an interview, and then went on to say that The Sorting Hat was bisexual and that Fawkes the phoenix wears women's underwear. God, this movie sucks.

Final Score for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: 1/10 stars. This is up from my original score of -0/10, but I realized that I should be just as exclusive with my -0s as I am with my 10/10s. Really, this movie is absolutely awful, but it doesn't quite reach the point of The Anus of the Phoenix in terms of pure childhood rape. Still, it's one of the worst movies ever made, which makes it still one of the best movies in this franchise. God, that's depressing. Anyway, now that you've read this review, you can literally skip this movie and get to the last two films... which are about four hours of people staring at each other, followed by a really big explosion and then a bad death scene. Ugh, reviewing these is gonna suck...

But Emma Watson is hot! +1.


The East
The East(2013)

Hey, did you know that big corporations are bad? And that the rich will constantly swindle the poor at every given chance? And that big companies are responsible for polluting ecosystems and poisoning their customers? Oh, you already did? Good, I just saved you two hours. Because unless you have a third-grade understanding of the world, there's no reason for you to watch The East, a bland and repetitive "thriller" that fails to tell its audience anything they didn't already know. It's truly annoying when a film has a message as obvious as this one and doesn't bother doing anything original with it (I'm looking at you, Elysium), because it doesn't merely bore the audience, it annoys them too-- because a movie like this should make you angry about big corporations and environmental destruction, not over how wasted this premise is on a movie as bad as this one.

The East stars Brit Marling as Generic Perky Get-Up-And-Go Empowered Woman, who works at a private intelligence firm that helps its customers (usually big CEOs or corporations) with their shady skinnyings. Marling is assigned to infiltrate the eco-terrorism group called The East, which is run by Alexander Skarsgård and Ellen "Hamburger Phone" Page. Honestly, this plot is pretty lame. We've seen it all before. The good guy infiltrates the bad guys, only to find out that the bad guys are good and the good guys are bad, and then falls in love with one of them and teams up with them. Wow, shocker right there... as long as you haven't seen Avatar, Wanted, or Point Break. Okay, Point Break is a stretch, but there was some serious bromance in that movie. I'm getting off-track. The point is, everything about this premise is generic as fuck. And by the way, how many scenes must we have where the female main character dyes her hair to prove to the audience that she's some kind of badass? It worked in Salt... not so much here.

The acting in this movie ranges between mediocre and straight-up bad, the latter belonging to that endlessly horrible actress Ellen Page. I don't know if it's just because I hate Juno so much or if she's legitimately bad, but her whiny attitude and voice make her really difficult for me to watch in a film. It's fine if she's playing a bratty teenager, but in The East, she's supposed to be a grown woman. And not just any grown woman: She's playing a capable, intelligent, and calculating terrorist. Um... who made this casting decision? Skarsgård is all right, but he's let down as soon as the movie tries to convince us of the inevitable romance between him and Marling. Oh, and about Marling: She may be an okay actress, but she can't possibly carry a role like this. If someone stronger had taken the lead in this movie, it might have turned out as a powerful and involving character study about a woman who leads a double life, half in the business world and half among her terrorist buddies. But for a character to have a dual personality like that, they need to be played by an actor or actress capable of having two distinct sides, like Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad. Marling struggles to even have different facial expressions, let alone a distinct personality. In every second of the movie, she's giving her "worried glance" at people. It's not as bad as Kristen Stewart, whose only facial expression is "open-mouthed stare," but it still prevents us from ever caring about her character.

I appreciate the sentiment behind this film, mainly because the politics of the eco-terrorists are sound. But what I don't appreciate is the way they portrayed. In this film, characters are either counter-culture hippie vegan nutballs who live in ramshackle houses, or mindless worker-bee drones for big corporations that crush people's souls for a living. There's virtually no grey area in the movie's morals, up until the end, when Marling suddenly (SPOILERS!) turns on The East because they were going to expose every undercover agent that her company had working across the globe... a concept stolen from Skyfall, which in turn stole it from Mission Impossible. Wow, this movie is full of originality! Anyway, really? That's what put her over the edge? She was fine when they poisoned a corporate event with a drug that destroys your brain, and she went along (however reluctantly) when they made a CEO wade into the toxic sludge his company pumped into a river, but THIS is too far? Three eco-terrorism demonstrations that endanger people's lives was fine, but FOUR? OH NO! THEY'VE GONE CRAZY!!!

Final Score for The East: 4/10 stars. I honestly could give this a far lower score, but I do appreciate the message it was trying to send (even if it did such a poor job of conveying it), and there are several scenes and camera shots that will stick in my head for a while. The scene when The East poisons the champagne is intense and well-scripted. Of course, it's all eventually undercut by the hamfisted dialogue AFTER that sequence, but for a while this film actually holds water, at least until it collapses under the weight of its self-importance. But once it loses its traction, it REALLY loses it, and we're stuck with a whole hour of dead air. This movie isn't really offensively bad, but I am a little disheartened (no offense Leo) by how much potential was wasted here.

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Before he achieved widespread critical and commercial success with Children of Men, Gravity, and the one good Harry Potter movie, Alfonso Cuaron made a little-known Spanish-language drama called Y Tu Mama Tambien. And instead of the flashy special effects and high-concept stories that those other three films have to offer, this movie provides something completely different: An achingly poetic, beautifully acted, and expertly filmed character-driven drama at a time when it was needed the most. This movie has a lot to say, which is both a flaw and an asset. But at a time in film when CGI has all but taken over the medium at the expense of everything else, I'll gladly take it.

Y Tu Mama Tambien is a dark comedy about two stoner Mexican kids who go on a road trip with an attractive, astute, and intelligent older woman named Luisa. The whole film is eerily narrated by a matter-of-fact, straightforward man, making every scene feel formal and important (even if it's not). This is one film where voiceover does not detract from the story, as the narrator's dialogue sounds like a Wikipedia entry-- not taking sides, not giving analysis-- just stating the facts of what is happening, has happened, and will happen in the world the film creates. It also provides a surreal aspect to the bluntly realistic story, which is more than welcome.

Let's just say this right now and get it over with: Yeah, there's a lot of sex in this movie. It's not quite a Spanish-language version of Blue is the Warmest Color, but it's still over-the-top and occasionally graphic. That will be the make-or-break point for some viewers, and I have to agree that a lot of the sex scenes were unnecessary. I'm fine with nudity, gore, sex, profanity, and spontaneous decapitations in films. All I ask is that they actually drive the plot. With this film, it was kind of half-and-half. Some of the sex scenes were important to the plot, but even the ones that were ended up going on way too long most of the time. But this isn't really a massive problem, because what really matters in this film is what the characters say while NOT on top of each other. Luisa is a truly tragic character, hit two ways by an unfaithful husband and by a final plot twist that I will have the decency not to spoil (it's cancer! Hahahaha!). With a life that far down the tubes, she throws everything away to embark on this odyssey with two people she hardly knows. It's like what Thelma and Louise should have been.

The two teenagers, however, are where I have a few problems. They're virtually identical, and their characters aren't quite as defined as they should have been. However, they're similar in the way that Cheech and Chong are-- sure, they're similar, but that's kind of the point. They're good friends, and that makes their banter hilarious and their fights heartbreaking. Still, a little more characterization would have been nice. Nevertheless, these three characters bounce off each other with Tarantino-level force, giving the film a powerful spring to it and filling every scene with well-written dialogue. And it's all set against a beautiful backdrop: Everyone thinks of Mexico as an impoverished shithole (it kind of is), but it really is a majestic impoverished shithole. And Cuaron films it in a way that makes even the most run-down shack of a building look beautiful. I honestly wish I could see the world as if this guy was filming it, because I can imagine that it would be a lot more fun.

Final Score for Y Tu Mama Tambien: 8/10 stars. There are some lines of dialogue that don't ring true (although that could be attributed to bad translation), a few missteps when it comes to the characters, and way too many uncomfortable shots of penises, but altogether this is an engaging and powerfully directed drama that both entertains and instills hope in its audience. I expected this film to be a true dark comedy, with Luisa manipulating the boys to her own ends and acting like an evil control freak. But really, the only villain in this film was the rotten world that its characters were thrown into. We need more movies like this, where a few people band together to find some meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. And what's possibly the most heartening (no offense Leo) aspect of this movie is that meaning can be found just in the fact that people look for it.


Ah, the days when M. Night Shyamalan was good. Well, in my opinion, Shyamalan was never good, because even his early films are ridiculously overrated. Even his debut feature, The Sixth Sense, is no more than a 6/10 from me. But when compared to his later movies, such as (in increasing order of suckiness) The Village, Lady in the Water, The Crappening, Afterbirth, and The Last Anusbender, his early movies are absolute genius. Signs is a bit of a mixed bag-- It features Shyamalan's trademark solid ideas and strong cinematography, but also has the wooden acting and eyebrow-raising dialogue that would go on to plague his career. Sure, it's not nearly as bad as the massive pieces of shit he would go on to make. But it's definitely not the high point of his career either.

Signs stars Mel "I <3 Jews" Gibson as a former pastor who lives out on a farm with his mildly autistic son (Joaquin Phoenix). Wait, he's not mildly autistic? Then how does his dialogue make any sense? Okay, never mind. After finding some crop circles in his backyard, Mel turns on the TV and finds that the mysterious things have been appearing all over the globe. So wait... why was there such a big mystery about what they were? All he had to do was turn on the TV to find this out? Whatever. Anyway, aliens start invading, but in an Independence Day-style rip-off, they basically just hover there for a while... except in this version, nothing actually ends up happening. Also, Shyamalan wrote himself into the script as the random guy who accidentally ran over Gibson's wife with his car one night. Not like that subplot was needed, or anything. Nor is it explained why he insisted on taking the role and didn't give it to some other guy, maybe someone who could act or someone who doesn't make you wonder what an Indian guy is doing in the middle of Iowa. Never mind. This movie does not lend itself to analysis.

Much of the dialogue in this film is, simply put, laughable. "Please stop calling me father." "What's the matter?" "I can't hear my children." That's not just unrealistic, it doesn't even make sense. But the movie does manage to squeeze in several legitimately well-written moments, including Phoenix's deadpan delivery of a line about Olympic gymnasts and some powerful dialogue between Gibson and his kids. But on the whole, this film is very poorly scripted. The child actors especially are dealt the worst hand, and are forced to say strangely adult lines with completely straight faces. I'm all for having kids sound intelligent beyond their years (that's what all child actors should strive for), but it also has to be believable. These kids were a little TOO articulate, making them a cross between the kid from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and the creepy twins from The Shining. I don't think either of those two extremes was the goal.

The story isn't really anything we haven't seen before. Aliens come to Earth, draw crop circles, snatch yo people up, and then leave. But very little effort is made to make this incredibly generic story interesting. Half of the movie is just shots of the family eating dinner and watching TV while wearing tinfoil hats. Who the hell cares? And when we finally get around to the "spectacular final sequence," the grand finale is Joaquin Phoenix killing an alien using a baseball bat and some water. Really, water was their weakness? Huh, a movie in which aliens come to Earth and are easily thwarted by a natural phenomenon that they really should have seen coming. I've never seen that before... *cough cough* War of the Worlds *cough cough*

Final Score for Signs: 5/10 stars. The worst thing I can say about this movie is that I don't honestly care much about it. It's pretty bland and extremely forgettable. I appreciate what Shyamalan was trying to do-- an alien invasion film that centered more on one family and their hardships than the world as a whole-- but the problem with this is that it leaves a lot of gaping holes in the narrative. Also, if the aliens could just knock people out by gassing them with their thumbs... or something... why couldn't that alien that Shyamalan trapped in his pantry just spray Mel Gibson when he stuck his hand under the door? I guess that back in 2002, it was a pretty big plot twist that Shyamalan made a movie as forgettable as this one. And guess what? It all went downhill from here.

Disaster Movie

Here's the thing: Normally, when I hand out a -0/10 rating, I give it to a movie that is overrated and therefore despicable. But when I call a film "overrated," I of course have to go to great lengths detailing why I hold that opinion. This is not one of those movies. Seriously, I feel no need to explain the commonly known fact that Disaster Movie is bad, as it has become such a widely accepted truth that any effort on my part to talk about its horribleness would be moot. I also feel no need to relive the experience of watching this film by writing an actual review of it. So instead of saying what other reviewers have said thousands of times before, I will devote this review to talking about why Disaster Movie is not-- repeat, NOT on my list of worst movies ever. And that's because it's not a movie.

No humor intended here: Disaster Movie is not an actual movie. It would feel wrong for me to call it one of the worst movies ever made, because simply put, it doesn't belong on a list with actual films. Say what you will about other awful films... Battlefield Earth, Grown Ups 2, Man of Steel, Hugo, Up... but they are actually movies. At least they're in the same ballpark as actual cinema. Disaster Movie isn't even playing the same SPORT. It actually has achieved a rating lower than anus, lower than negative zero-- It has reached the point of not actually being a movie. Here's why.

The literal definition of a movie, of course, is "a series of still images which, when shown on a screen, creates the illusion of moving images." Sure, Disaster Movie fits this bill. But that's not actually the way we define movies as a culture: By this definition, a YouTube video or a porno transcribed to celluloid could pass as a film. And I think we can all agree that this is not the case. So let's take the definition of a "film" one step further. As Wikipedia so eloquently puts it, film is "the art of simulating experiences that communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty or atmosphere by the means of recorded or programmed moving images along with other sensory stimulations."

Chew on that for a minute. For something to be a movie, it just has to fit ONE of those seemingly easy-to-achieve goals. But let's break it down: Firstly, does Disaster Movie communicate any ideas? NO! Of course it doesn't! This film is just a series of random pop culture references to other, superior films! In fact, it's a spoof movie that somehow manages to be WORSE than the things it's spoofing! How can that even be possible when you're spoofing Alvin and the Chipmunks, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 10,000 BC, Juno, Sex and the City, and High School Musical? It doesn't even compute! So scratch one off that list: Disaster Movie does not have any new ideas. It's literally just a Frankenstein's monster of other people's ideas, all patched together into one jaw-droppingly idiotic mess.

Secondly, does Disaster Movie convey a story? NO! There is no story to this film at all! You could watch any random five minutes of this movie and completely follow what was happening in that time span, because there is no narrative to tie all of these meaningless sketches together. It's like a string of really bad College Humor videos that were all strung together in no particular order. So no, there is no story to this film. It's basically a sketch comedy, for all intents and purposes. Thirdly, does Disaster Movie communicate perceptions? NO! Seriously, do Friedburg and Seltzer even know what the word "perception" means? Even when this movie tries to make some kind of social commentary, it fails, because everything it's trying to say has been said before. Ooh, Juno is overly quirky and too concocted! We fucking get it! Oh, and by the way, watching her lactate all over Sarah Jessica Parker was probably the worst thing I've ever seen. I started gagging when I saw that scene, and I haven't stopped since. Anyway, no, no perceptions are communicated by this thing.

Fourthly, are any feelings conveyed? NO! Let's be fair here: Most comedies don't have many feelings to convey, but the best ones do. At the most base definition of the word, it could be argued that Disaster Movie attempts to make us laugh, which could POSSIBLY be passed off as a conveyed feeling/emotion. But this piece of shit is terribly unfunny. I laughed once throughout the thing, and instantly regretted it. So no feelings. Fifthly, is there any beauty? NO! Okay, I don't feel the need to elaborate on this one. Sixthly, is there any atmosphere? HAHAHAHAHA! NO! ARE YOU SHITTING ME HERE? The only atmosphere I got from this film was depression and boredom. I was so completely fed up with humanity by the end of this movie, I wanted my money back even though I pirated it for free. If I made a list of arguments for why humans are inherently evil, this would take the third slot on it, right after the Holocaust and 9/11.

Final Score for Disaster Movie: THE AMAZING AND NEVER-BEFORE SEEN DIEGO TUTWEILLER N/A RATING! That's a fact, ladies and gentlemen! I can't actually rate this thing on a movie-reviewing website because, quite simply, it is not a movie! It tries so hard to pass off as one, having a theater release, a Rotten Tomatoes page-- even putting the word "MOVIE" right there in its title. But the only truth about that title is the first word: DISASTER. And this thing truly is a disaster. If you have included this on any list of the "worst movies ever," you need to rethink your list: Not only are you saying something that countless people have said before (for fuck's sake, pick something original), but this does not deserve to be lumped in with such comparatively spectacular movies like The Lovely Bones and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It's not good, it's not watchable, and most importantly... it's not even a movie.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

I've never thought much of Matt Damon as an actor, because his roles always leave me wondering just how good the movie could have been if another actor had been chosen for them. The Talented Mr. Ripley, however, is an agreeable exception to this rule, and showcases the range of Damon's acting with a story that covers love, murder, and everything in between. It's almost as if this film was specifically crafted just to give him a wide range of emotions to display. And he does it-- the character he portrays is a mind-bending chameleon, going from a lovable and hilarious goofball to a cold and calculating (spoiler alert) murderer later. He's a Walter White-like character who you KNOW should get caught, but you also secretly root for. When you can make an antihero that compelling, you have succeeded as a filmmaker.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is the story of Tom Ripley (Damon), a charming and charismatic young man who, through a freak turn of events, is enlisted by another man's dad to go to Italy and track him down, bringing him home. Ripley leaves for Italy, and tries to convince the man, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), to return, but the two end up joining forces against Greenleaf's father, spending his money and languishing in coastal villas. SPOILER ALERT! Everything begins to go sour when Ripley expresses his feelings for Greenleaf (gay gay gay gay gay), and eventually kills him Godfather II-style out of jealousy. After Greenleaf's death, Ripley assumes his identity and takes over his life. SPOILERS END HERE.

With a supporting cast the includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchett (wow, I've watched three Blanchett movies in one week), this movie is superbly acted all around. This is one of those rare movies that sucks you in so much that you completely forget that you're watching a screen. I became completely immersed in the world created by this film, partly because of the characters and great acting, but also because of the beautiful and exotic locales, not to mention the cinematography. This movie is beautifully shot and edited, with seamless scene transitions, and the set design and seaside towns are a feast for the eyes. Honestly, if you'd rather watch shit explode in a Michael Bay or Brett Ratner movie than the great locations in this film, you don't deserve to watch movies. This is cinematography at its finest, to the point where the clearly defined characters and powerful acting is just icing on the cake.

The story is impeccable; a Richard III tale set in the modern age. With every step Ripley takes further into his web of lies, he dares the audience to continue down the rabbit hole with him. And even though part of you really wants him to get caught, you can't help but recognize the inescapable fact that he is, for lack of a better word, a genius. His expertly-crafted con is ridiculously complex and involving, and what's even more impressive is that he's making it all up as he goes along. Whenever he encounters an obstacle, his masterful and, yes, TALENTED way of working around it is always jaw-dropping. Several scenes challenge the audience to decide whether or not he's actually going to continue his facade or just give up, but spoiler alert: This is a man who never gives up.

Final Score for The Talented Mr. Ripley: 8/10 stars. A quiet, powerful, beautifully filmed suspense thriller that's just as intriguing as it is effortlessly entertaining. Its slow-boiling plot and three-dimensional characters turn it into a truly awesome powerhouse of cinema. This is precisely what movies should be like. But at the end of the day, it's somewhat depressing that The Talented Mr. Ripley was such a breath of fresh air for me. It does its job, it does it very well, and it doesn't do much else. And the fact that it garnered such an overwhelmingly positive reaction from me speaks a lot about the present state of film.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood(2010)

Hey look, another Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe movie that's not worth your time! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, not only does Robin Hood bore, annoy, and confound me, but it also represents everything wrong with the modern filmmaking industry. For some reason, Hollywood feels the need to make Dark Knight-style "moody and brooding" adaptations of every fucking story ever, even if the result is the complete antithesis of what the original story was supposed to be. They did it with Man of Steal Your Money, they did it with Total Recall, and now they've done it again here. Because God forbid that we make a Robin Hood movie that's any damn fun at all! Sorry, Ridley Scott. It's not all good in the Hood.

Robin Hood stars Russell "Jor-El" Crowe as the titular character. You know Robin Hood, right? The merry man who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, all with a skip in his step and a twinkle in his eye? WRONG! In this adaptation, Robin Hood is a dour and depressed man who fought in the crusades for his king, who then died of Conveniently Placed Hollywood Arrow Syndrome. Returning to the town of Nottingham, he finds that the new king is a whiny little bitch, in the vein of Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator. Hmm, I'm seeing some parallels here. Anyway, through a convenient plot contrivance, Robin Hood ends up married to Cate Blanchett and running the town, robbing the king of shipments of... wheat... or something, and pulling goats out of mud holes for two and a half hours. How very entertaining.

Most of the problems with this movie stem from the actors, who (for lack of a better word) seriously don't even give a shit about what they're doing. Russell Crowe delivers his trademark generically indifferent performance as Robin Hood, and his down-to-earth approach doesn't work very well with the character at all. Max von Sydow is all right as Sir Walter Loxley, but he only has a few minutes of screen time. The rest of the supporting cast is fleshed out by typically strong actors such as Mark Strong (no pun intended) and Oscar Isaac, but neither of them bother giving the silly claptrap they're saying any life. Cate Blanchett is just there. All of these characters are thrown into one massive Game of Thrones-style story where their lives intertwine and people stab each other in the back. Yadda yadda yadda. Holy shit, how many times must I get deja vu while watching a movie like this? These half fantasy/half period piece movies are so irritating these days. They all try to be epic on a Lord of the Rings level, but just end up cramming in a load of incomprehensible political silliness in lieu of an actual plot. If you need any proof, just go to RT's page on this movie and look at the full cast. You could get arthritis from scrolling through all those unnecessary characters.

And then there's the dialogue... ugh, don't get me started. Whenever Crowe tries to give some sort of epic speech or declaration, the lines he's given to work with sound like they're taken straight from every other medieval movie ever made. "The laws of this land enslave people to its king. A king who demands loyalty but offers nothing in return." God, who cares? There are dozens of movies out there with identical plots to this. Ooh, an unjust king. What a fucking shock. Seriously, this encapsulates everything that could possibly go wrong in a movie, right down to the overly dark tone and bleak visuals. It's virtually impossible to recall a single scene from this movie, as every single one looks exactly the same: Trees and mud, more trees, more mud, people dying. Everything is so watered-down and unsatisfying, you have to wonder what kind of a sociopath could like, let alone love, a movie as uninvolving and boring as this. Oh right, Jed Groff exists.

Final Score for Robin Hood: 3/10 stars. I almost nodded off while watching this movie, making it only one of a handful of films to hold that distinction. And I'll watch nearly anything, so that's quite a feat. But really, nothing about this movie is worth your time, from the shoddy direction to the sloppy editing, the bad acting to the horrible dialogue, the obnoxiously self-important cinematography to the overpacked and muddled plot. I am so, so incredibly done with crap faux-epics that think they're God's gift to filmmaking but end up tanking both critically and commercially (and rightly so). These pretentious and laughably dull movies are the ass end of the drama genre, and represent exactly why Hollywood should take a break from "dark" and "brooding" movies for a while so they can take some time to find a new gimmick to overuse. My colleague Jeff Goldblum put it best: Say no to Crowe.

Army of Darkness

Oh dear, I seem to have committed some sacrilege against the Evil Dead franchise. This is the only movie out of the Evil Dead films that I find enjoyable, and even then it's not very good. It's one of those films that gets a 10/10 for pure, unbridled entertainment value and a 2 or so for everything else. It's silly, chaotic, and features an army of dead people led by evil Bruce Campbell. What more could you possibly ask for?

Unlike Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness actually does something creative with the franchise instead of settling with being a carbon copy of the first film. In this installment, Ash Williams (Campbell) has been sucked back through time... for some reason... and has landed in medieval times, where two warring nation-things have to band together in order to defeat the menace of a, well, Army of Darkness. Even if you don't like this movie, you have to appreciate the pure awesomeness of nearly every line of dialogue spoken in it. "My name is Ash... and this is my boomstick!" If you haven't heard that quote before, you've most likely been living under a rock.

Of course, I can't give high marks to a movie as silly as this one, but it gains massive points for pure and unfettered entertainment value. Nothing will ever top Bruce Campbell's mechanical hand in terms of silliness and unbridled enthusiasm. You have to appreciate just how amazing it is that a movie like this could have been made, especially since it was spawned from a low-budget horror franchise. The camp level of this film reaches maximum levels, with a typical damsel-in-distress romantic subplot and skeleton warriors who look like they're right out of Jason and the Argonauts. Every ounce of this movie is so outlandish, so ridiculously over-the-top, you can't help but be entertained by it.

Army of Darkness is also helped along by the fact that, simply put, it's original. The Evil Dead was a pretty bland horror movie, and its sequel was a carbon copy of the first. This one dispenses with the usual gimmicks by completely reversing the franchise's concept. Instead of straight-up horror, this installment is more of an action and adventure flick with a horror element thrown in, making it everything The Mummy should have been-- and more. This is probably why Evil Dead fans (Deadheads, we shall call them) dislike this installment in the franchise: It's different. And I'm not bashing them, I'm just assuming that we wanted different things out of this movie, and I ended up being far more entertained than they were. Horror has never been my favorite genre (I think I've only really liked two horror movies through my whole life), so a little action/comedy infusion was welcome here. If that's not what you're looking for, hey, I get it. Stick to the first two films and you'll have a great time.

Final Score for Army of Darkness: 6/10 stars. Yes, with this enormously positive review, you'd expect a 7 or even an 8, but I can't give this movie too many points, mainly because it's so silly and forgettable. The only moments that will really stick in your head are the one-liners; the rest of it is take-it-or-leave-it entertainment. Yes, it will never get old seeing Bruce Campbell outfit his car with zombie-killing devices using only his chemistry textbook and middle-ages technology. But there is (as you could probably guess from the title alone) virtually no substance to this movie. Yes, it's hilarious. Yes, it's entertaining. No, that does not make it great.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

For a while, I thought that the Jack Ryan series was pretty strong, but after watching Patriot Games and thinking more about the series in general, it's pretty clear that the Jack Ryan movies are pretty mediocre. With one shining exception, these films are bland, occasionally boring rehashes of other action flicks that pretend to be more intelligent than their more action-packed brethren, but are really just the same generic action sequences from every other genre movie ever made. They're not that bad, but they're not really deserving of much critical acclaim and aren't even passable as action movies. The more I think about this franchise, the more I realize it sucks.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the obligatory reboot of the old franchise, based on the books by Tom Clancy that in the past have starred Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben "Batman" Affleck. This installment in the franchise stars Chris Pine, the official Crown Prince of Reboots, as well as Keira Knightley and Kevin "Let the Children Die" Costner. None of these actors are really all that fantastic, and it doesn't help that the dialogue they say is mostly either technological mumbo-jumbo or uninteresting romantic claptrap. Seriously, nearly every line of dialogue between Knightley and Pine is a cliche. "You didn't pick this life, I did." "But I chose you!" Yuck. This scripting is better suited to a campy Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie from the 80s than a modern spy thriller. At least the action stars of that era were able to make their silly dialogue interesting ("Consider daht a divorce"), but Pine just doesn't have enough charisma onscreen to hold the audience's attention. Knightley, meanwhile, puts all of her effort into doing an admittedly convincing American accent, but forgets to actually act.

The Jack Ryan movies have never been regarded highly because of their plots, and this is for a good reason: The plots of these movies are incomprehensible and ludicrous. They carry the characters from one silly sequence to the next via expository dialogue and silly stories that make no sense in the context of the rest of the film. The story behind Shadow Recruit is slightly more grounded in reality though, and doesn't feature the random plot detours that plagued previous installments in this franchise like Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. That doesn't mean the plot is any good, though. Hey, Russians as bad guys! Never seen this before. Also, the concept of a calculated techno-strike on the US has been done before, in Live Free or Die Hard. But in this one, it just didn't work out. The whole plot feels like it's been pieced together from other movies, and it doesn't even take the best parts.

Despite its flaws, I must admit that this movie kept me in my seat. For a period of time, however brief, I was able to turn off my brain and enjoy this film for what it is: Really, really, REALLY dumb fun. Honestly, if you can't enjoy watching Chris Pine jump out of a car, sending it into a river with the bad guy in it and blowing up, you are most likely dead inside. But that doesn't make it in any way a good film. Entertainment and quality are two different things, and it's time people realized that: Even if you enjoyed this movie, you have to understand that it's an indifferently-acted, silly, chaotically plotted, over-the-top spy thriller with delusions of grandeur. I mean, "Shadow Recruit?" What does that even mean? Does anybody ever say that phrase throughout the course of the whole fucking movie? Also, Keira Knightley finds a gun in Chris Pine's hotel room, and she assumes he's having an affair? I don't know about many guys who have affairs that require them to pack heat, but... okay. Plus: If the bad guy was going to kidnap Keira Knightley anyway, why didn't he just do it when she was sitting down to dinner with him? Why go through all the trouble of kidnapping her from the highly-guarded CIA/FBI/generic intelligence agency building? And why, when Chris Pine finally tracked down the bad guy, did he just smack him in the face and not arrest him or anything? All of this could have been avoided! Fuck this shit!

Final Score for Hack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: 5/10 stars. This movie is pretty ridiculously lame, but at least it makes the effort to be entertaining nonetheless. Much like the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, if you can turn off your brain and have fun with a movie, you'll probably have a good time, but you also have to follow the plot a bit too much to just watch and vegetate. You'll have to tolerate jarring tonal shifts, some seriously halfhearted performances, and a hamstrung plot, but if you can put up with all that, this movie will undoubtedly deliver the thrills. Just don't expect it to engage your brain.

A Scanner Darkly

Every once in a while, I like to find a movie that almost nobody talks about, just so I can be the first person I know to see it. Does that make me a hipster? Maybe. But fortunately, that also means that I get to see movies like this. A Scanner Darkly, the film based on the Philip K. Dick novel by the same name, is an endlessly inventive and visually deranged film that is utterly beautiful in its insanity. This movie does such weird and awesome things with its simple premise and cartoon flair that you have to wonder why more movies aren't made in this format. They may not appeal to a very wide audience, I suppose, but when you can make crap special effects and pass them off seamlessly with the rest of the film for virtually no budget, you have succeeded as a filmmaker.

A Scanner Darkly is a nihilistic and (as you may have guessed) dark film that takes place "seven years in the future," when the United States is losing the war on drugs and a new drug called Substance D is rampant in society. This highly addictive drug, derived from tiny blue flowers, produces a split personality in its users in which the left hemisphere and right hemisphere of the brain become increasingly disjointed and disconnected from one another. Our hero, Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is one such user whose two personalities couldn't be more opposite. As Fred, he works for the government tracking down users of the drug-- specifically, his other personality, Bob.

I must say, as an aspiring scriptwriter, this is the kind of thing I wish I could come up with. This premise is simple, surreal, futuristic, mysterious, and has massive potential-- all in one. And the things that director David Linklater does with it are endlessly spectacular. Firstly, the film is completely converted into a cartoon, meaning that the actors were first filmed and were then CGd into cartoon characters. This gives the movie an otherworldly quality that contributes greatly to its success. Hallucinatory drug scenes are far better when done like this, and I can't imagine the opening sequence to A Scanner Darkly working as well as it does any other way. Other films such as John Dies at the End and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas would have profited greatly from using this technique. Weirdness has never been this assured.

Reeves, who is famous (or infamous) for his terrible acting, benefits greatly from being turned into a cartoon character. Call me crazy, but his face became far more expressive and his acting improved as a result. Other cast members include Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder (hey look, two of her films in a row, I'm on a roll), all of whom perform admirably, even if they're basically playing themselves. Downey Jr always seems to use the same hand gestures and halting way of speaking no matter what character he's playing, but that doesn't make it any less effective. Harrelson, of course, plays a drug addict with every fiber of his being. "Yeah, but what if they come in through the back door, or the bathroom window like that infamous Beatles song?" Absolutely classic.

A lot of this film's triumphs are owed to its story and visual flair, both of which are as close to perfection as one can get. Some parts of it are a little overly strange (the appearance-changing suits fall into this category), but the movie always pulls out of its occasional nose dives due to its seamless and mesmerizing watercolor-like images and the character's personalities bouncing off of each other. It doesn't work all the time, but it definitely works more than enough, and if you aren't hooked in the first five minutes, you'll be hooked in the first ten. Not to mention the double plot twists at the end (both of which I saw coming, I hate to brag... no, wait, I don't). It's an endlessly inventive movie that will keep your mind engaged, and, failing that, will keep you entertained.

Final Score for A Scanner Darkly: 8/10 stars. A few things hold it back from being a true modern classic, including some storytelling issues and a few counterintuitive directing decisions, but altogether this is a well-written and powerful movie that packs a punch on comedic, visceral, and dramatic levels alike. It's definitely not for everyone, but it's as close as we're going to get to the animated Quentin Tarantino movie we all so desperately want. Bottom line: If you can follow the plot, this movie will blow you away. But if your name is Jed Groff, you should probably stick to The Hobbit.

Alien Resurrection

After a near-flawless original film, a great sequel, and a mediocre third installment, the Alien franchise goes full-on anus of cinema with this laughable dung heap of a film that has the incredible power to retroactively tarnish my love of the other films. Alien Resurrection, the fourth (and, at long last, final) film in the Alien saga, is one of those Kingdom of the Crystal Skull/The Phantom Menace movies that you can get PTSD from watching. It sucks the joy and suspense out of the franchise, leaving the audience with a shadowy reflection of what was once the best Hollywood sci-fi/horror series of all time. As much as I hate to agree with Jed Groff on anything... yeah, this movie blows.

Let's set the stage: After the massive success of the first two installments in this long-running franchise, Fox knew that they had to keep the thrills up if they wanted to make sure that this series didn't morph into generic crap. So they piled on resources, money, and committees to make Alien 3. However, as the saying goes, "too many cooks spoil the soup," and Alien 3 was the result: A jumbled and unfocused mess, exactly what comes of too many people trying to cram their vision for the film into the final cut. Also, David Fincher had to direct it and has never lived it down (he's called it a "terrible experience"). Speaking of great directors whose reputations were tarnished by the Alien franchise's sequels: Joss Whedon. Sure, he didn't direct Alien Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet did), but he worked on the script, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive him for this. After Alien 3 became the franchise's first critical bomb, Fox tried to shake things up with this installment. And this... thing... is the result.

Alien Resurrection takes place 200 years after Alien 3, when scientists have cloned Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, in her last appearance in the franchise) in order to extract the alien queen from her chest. Wait, how does cloning a person also clone whatever parasites were clinging to them? If someone had ebola, and was cloned, the clone wouldn't have ebola. Fuck it. Anyway, along the line Ripley's DNA was somehow fused with the alien's, giving New Ripley superhuman strength, senses, and even the acidic blood that the aliens have. Which is funny, because at the beginning of the film we see the scientists cutting open her chest to retrieve the alien (which, through all good logic, should never have been there in the first place), and her blood doesn't melt their instruments or tools. Huh. It's almost like nobody was paying the slightest bit of attention to this film's continuity. Nah, that's crazy.

Of course, as it always does, shit goes wrong and the aliens escape, leaving Ripley and a crew of mercenaries to fend off the alien horde on the ship and prevent it from reaching Earth. You see, for some reason, if there is a problem on the ship it immediately heads straight for home base, which is Earth. How does that make sense? They never thought ahead to the fact that the ship might be carrying a dangerous pathogen? Or a 10,000-ton nuclear bomb? Or, I dunno, the aliens that were being studied on it? Again, fuck it. Among the new expendable Ripley sidekicks are Winona Ryder as the obligatory android plot twist and Ron Perlman as... well, Ron Perlman. Ryder is the only one who actually tries to act in the film, with even Weaver phoning it in and collecting another paycheck. She's the film's only grace note, even if her character's dramatic secret is the same dramatic secret from the first movie.

That's not the only rehash from the other movies present here, though. Everything feels like a dumbed-down, less interesting version of the same shit we've seen in the past three movies. It even goes to the point of being set 200 years later than the other films, and yet basically reuses the exact same sets. Really? I don't know many people nowadays who live in 200-year-old houses and keep them looking exactly the same. You would think that the technology and decor would probably have changed semi-drastically between the first film and this one. But nope. Also, the dialogue is absolutely idiotic, ranging from a terrible voiceover at the beginning which calls for Weaver to say the word "mommy" to the quote "Who do I have to fuck to get off this ship?" REALLY? The guy who wrote FIREFLY wrote this? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, WHEDON! Get your shit together!

The only good thing I can say about this film is that the special effects have improved a lot over the ones from Alien 3, but since the CGI in that film looked unfit for a Resident Evil movie, that's not really saying much. Half of this movie feels as if it was just thrown in for Fox's makeup and monster design guys to have something fun to do. The failed Ripley clones (whoops, spoilers... not like anyone cares) are just lumps of prosthetics and clay, and the humanoid Xenomorph at the end is probably the stupidest thing I've ever seen in a sci-fi film. Okay, Skyline's brain-sucking spaceships are worse, but this places in the top five. For those of you who haven't seen this atrocity, here's what happens: The alien queen that the scientists got from Ripley's clone (which, again, is not possible) gets some of Ripley's DNA in the same way that Ripley got the alien's DNA. Then the alien queen gives live birth to an alien that looks like a skull. Yeah, you heard me. They made a skull-faced baby human/alien with severe mental retardation that thinks Ripley is its mother. I would have to call that (in the immortal words of Jeff Goldblum) "The rape of the natural world."

Final Score for Alien Resurrection: 2/10 stars. This movie sucks so ridiculously much, it is hard to quantify in words. I begrudgingly award it two points because it has the occasional good one-liner, some strong ideas, and Winona Ryder. But I cannot recommend this film on any level, ESPECIALLY not to fans of the Alien franchise. Whereas Alien 3 could have been a strong standalone film, this most certainly could not, and would probably have been even less well-received had it not followed up the best sci-fi saga of all time (fuck off, Star Wars, at least there were no Ewoks in this). It is dull, monotonous, silly, campy, contrived, and (most reprehensible of all) stupid. It is... *takes deep breath* ...the anus of cinema.

The Last Airbender

MESSAGE TO ROKU: You had better read this whole fucking review from beginning to end, because I suffered through this movie for you.

A colleague of mine by the name of Roku has been telling me for months that this movie is the worst film of all time. And although I can't quite call it that (because it's most certainly still a better love story than Twilight), I must agree that this will probably go down in history as the most epic failure of cinema ever. This is the film with which M. Night Shyamalabutthole turned his own name into box office poison. It is not even laughably bad-- I attempted to do a running commentary on it but found myself absolutely overwhelmed with things to make fun of. The only thing I could do was give up and sit back, allowing myself to be bombarded head-on by what is without a doubt one of the worst pieces of shit I have ever had the displeasure to sit through. I know I say this a lot, but it bears repeating: Jed Groff, fuck you. You gave this a 4/10 and said you used to love it. Anything above a full-on anus of cinema rating for it is utterly retarded. Your stupidity knows no bounds, you weak and pathetic little man. Seriously, you thought this was better than Signs? Die.

The brief plot overview: In some kind of parallel universe/kid's show thingamajig, there are four nations, fire, earth, water, and air. Each nation has a group of people called "benders" (no, not gender benders, that's a completely different movie altogether) who can manipulate their nation's element with their minds. There is a being who is constantly reincarnated called the Avatar (don't ask me why he's called this) who can control all four elements. However, no one has seen him for 100 years, and the fire nation has used his absence to wage total war on the other nations, completely wiping out air and continuing to attack water and earth. Now, honestly, I don't really give a shit about any of this stuff. But just by reading this past paragraph, you probably know more about the mythology of the show than the movie would ever tell you. I don't know how Shyamalan fucked that explanation up, but he did so SPECTACULARLY. Anyway, the story follows two kids named Katara and Sokka who find the Avatar frozen in ice in their hometown. Ta-daa. Now you don't have to watch the movie.

The Last Anusbender takes its basic premise from the show, and that's where the similarities end. Honestly, while watching this movie, I realized that I should watch the show just to appreciate how badly Shyamalan fucked over the fans of it with this piss-poor adaptation. And I did-- I watched the first episode of the show, "The Boy in the Iceberg." And that's when I started to understand just a fraction of how bad this movie is. Firstly, the main characters are turned from pleasant-looking ethnically diverse kids into absolutely retarded-looking white people. Nicola Peltz, the girl who plays Katara, has the double whammy of being both unattractive and a bad actress. Her narration at the beginning of this film is on-par with Jake Lloyd's performance in The Phantom Menace, and it's filled with exposition and unnecessary shit. The first episode of the show covered everything I needed to know in less than two minutes. After half an hour into this movie, random plot devices were still being tossed in for absolutely no reason.

Besides the fact that the characters have been turned into ugly white people, the pacing in this movie is ridiculously bad. It attempts to cram what I assume is an entire season of a TV show into less than two hours. Fucking ridiculous. Because of this, characters are brought in solely for the purpose of explaining what's going on. In one scene, Aasif Mandvi (the only agreeable person to have his career besmirched by this atrocity) invites Slumdog Millionaire kid over to lunch. He then starts giving a speech about how the kid was disgraced and outcast from his kingdom by his father, the king. Why? Everyone in the audience already knows what happened. And then there are scenes where characters offhandedly refer to events and things that have no bearing on the plot. My assumption is that these little factoids were actually full episodes of the show that Shyamalan couldn't fit in, and therefore stuck in as throwaway lines of dialogue. "I offer my condolences on your nephew burning to death in that terrible accident." Oh, fuck off. Dialogue hasn't been this bad since "Succotash my ballsack."

As the movie drags on, it becomes completely incomprehensible. The characters travel all over the place in mere minutes, moving from one plot point to another (and probably giving the show's episodes about five minutes of screen time each). There are so many scenes that should have been added, and even more that should have been cut. So I guess what I'm saying is that this movie should have been dumped and started over from scratch. There is not a single scene that is remotely salvageable. The best example of this is when the characters travel to a prison camp that the firebenders have set up for the earthbenders. Instead of fighting back using, I dunno, THE MOUNDS OF FUCKING ROCK AROUND THEM, they sit on their asses until Aang shows up. He then delivers a rousing speech which includes the line "EARTHBENDERS! STOP BEING LAZY!" Fuck you, Shyamalan! There were rocks and shit lying all over the place, and these guys were just fine with sitting in a prison camp? HAHAHA! You arrogant piece of shit!

The camerawork is also laughably bad. The budget on this movie was ridiculous, but the CGI is some of the worst ever put to film. All of the action sequences are poorly choreographed and hopelessly plain vanilla. And whenever characters fight, there are often a handful of bad guys standing off to the side, not attacking yet because it isn't their turn. Or just because Shyamalan didn't realize that, yes, fight scenes need scripts as well. Nothing about the action here is original; it's just a bunch of shots of people pretending to do kung-fu. But instead of kung-fu, they were given random jazzercize yoga moves and told that the editors would stick in terrible CGI fire, water, and rocks later. Also, there are a lot of awkward close-ups of people's faces, and it's usually at the moments where they're saying the stupidest things imaginable. "So... are you the Avatar, Aang?"

This movie doesn't even cater to the lowest common denominator of intelligence: It caters to no one. Fans of the show will be utterly disgusted, and anyone who happens upon this movie without having seen the show (like myself) will be so put off by it that they will never want to watch the show in their lives. Final Score for The Last Anusbender: THE COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER NEGATIVE ZERO OUT OF TEN STARS!!! Avatar fans, I feel your pain. I complain about Firefly getting cancelled, but I should get down on my knees and thank God that it wasn't turned into a film adaptation directed by the self-centered asshole who gave us After Earth, Lady in the Water, and The Crappening. In short, this is a painful movie to sit through, and I do not recommend it to anyone, even to laugh at. There is no reason to suffer through this unless you're just looking for reasons to hate Shyamalan. But really, at this point, do you have to look that hard?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Okay, I'll be honest. I haven't seen this film since I was eleven years old. Which should make it all the more impactful when I say this: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is unfunny, juvenile, and way too silly to be considered a real movie, let alone a good one. Tut's Tutillating Filmmaking Tip #27: When one of your main characters has a brain that runs on lemon juice, it is time to rethink your moviemaking career. I'm going to try and keep this review short, as this is a film that I could easily end up ranting on, and also because I don't remember some parts of it and therefore don't want to be forced to speculate (or, even worse, look up the plot on Wikipedia and in the process relive the horrible experience of watching this movie).

So, The Hitchhiker's Guide stars Bilbo Baggins as a random guy who, along with Zooey "Summer" Deschanel, is the survivor of the total destruction of Earth by an outside alien force. They encounter Sam Rockwell, an intergalactic troublemaker, and make their way across the universe trying to find a way to restore their home planet. This premise would have worked pretty well as, say, a Futurama episode, but as live action it just cannot be pulled off. There's something innately more serious about real actors than cartoons, and the juxtaposition of that slight attempt at realism, coupled with this idiotic plot, is enough to drive the viewer insane. It makes up random plot points just out of convenience, doesn't follow an actual narrative of any kind, and resorts to toilet humor whenever possible. Oh, and singing dolphins aren't funny. Seriously, are you kidding me?

There are a few minor highlights to this film, including Alan Rickman voicing a big-headed robot, but nothing to overshadow the pure stupidity of the proceedings. I know, none of it is supposed to be taken seriously. But does that mean we have to resort to Scary Movie-style humor and a complete lack of intelligence? It sullies the category of sci-fi/comedies by dumbing down the best parts of Men in Black, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, Futurama, and Spaceballs, throwing it all in a blender, and getting a final product that adds up to considerably less than the sum of its parts. No matter how many people try to convince me, I will never find the number 42 funny. Sorry.

Final Score for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 2/10 stars. I laughed maybe five times throughout this movie. To put that in perspective, that's only four more times than I laughed at Movie 43 (I know, I'm ashamed, I laughed at that thing once and instantly regretted it). Virtually nothing about this movie works, from its bad visuals to its extremely contrived voice-over. It is a total mess, and I cannot recommend it in any way to any but the most devout fans of the book, which also sucked ass. Honestly, if you're going to see this movie, my review will not change that. But if you're having the slightest question about whether or not you should watch it, my advice is to stay the fuck away.

Patriot Games

Perhaps the most damning thing I can say about Patriot Games is the fact that it's really, really mediocre. Say what you will about shit movies, but it can be fun to watch them and hate on them. But there's really nothing to do with Patriot Games except sit back, be mildly bored, and then completely forget that it exists the next day. In order to get pumped for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit tomorrow, I watched this film, so that by tomorrow I will have seen all the film adaptations of Tom Clancy's classic spy novels. But although one of these movies is great (The Hunt for Red October), the rest are all painfully mediocre. I never thought a spy movie could be boring, but wow... it happened.

Patriot Games stars Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, the inscrutable CIA analyst who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this film, he is in London with his family because he is giving a speech... or something... and gets caught up in the middle of an assassination attempt on a member of the royal family. Even though he is basically a number-crunching desk jockey, he is able to disarm the terrorist (Sean Bean) and become a hero, even being knighted by the Queen. There are many things wrong with this, the least of which is the fact that somehow a C4 explosive wired to the royal's Rolls-Royce doesn't kill them instantly... but okay.

Much like Zero Dark Thirty, most of this film is just technical shit and CIA mumbo-jumbo. The most exciting scenes are short on thrills and aren't very entertaining whatsoever. The final action sequence calls for Ryan to invite the royals over to his house in America and have dinner with them, only to be ambushed by Sean Bean and partake in a speedboat chase with him. The film shifts tones drastically this way, going from a slow-boiling thriller to an all-out, completely idiotic action movie in the span of just a few minutes. The plot is incredibly nonsensical-- Sean Bean goes all the way to America to kill Ryan and his family? Sure, he's mad that Ryan killed his brother. But why the fuck would you risk your own ass, not to mention the security of your secret terrorist organization, just to hunt down someone on a grudge? Also, spoiler alert: Sean Bean dies. I know, the suspense almost killed me.

Ford is okay as Ryan, but doesn't really do much with the character. He has no vices or Achilles heels, he's just a perfect character, making him incredibly boring to watch. Ford's performance is fine, but it's identical to, I dunno, every other Harrison Ford performance ever. Hey look! Harrison Ford is getting angry and pointing at someone! That's new! Everything about this movie is by-the-numbers plotting and characterization, and with most scenes, the outcome is known before they're even over. As soon as the scene where Sean Bean is broken out of jail begins, the audience basically knows "Okay, this is the part where the bad guy's cohorts come for him." Also, why did Bean look so smug when the van he was in stopped at the bridge? Did he already set this up with his buddies? "Hey, if I get caught during this assassination attempt and convicted of attempted murder, I'll be in the prisoner transport van heading east at exactly 10:16 at night across the nearest drawbridge, and there will be a five-minute delay while the bridge is raised, during which time you can bust me out!" Fuck that!

Final Score for Patriot Lames: 5/10 stars. This movie is boring, bland, and does absolutely nothing new with its spy movie premise. Although it has the occasional great Harrison Ford moment ("I will make it my MISSION in life!"), you're far more likely to remember individual quotes and scenes instead of the movie itself. I'm not quite sure how the top critics gave it 0%, but it certainly doesn't deserve much. It also features the obnoxious quality of bringing my overall enjoyment of the other films down a notch or two, just from its pure mediocrity and gimmickry. It's extremely bland and incredibly boring.


The Alien franchise has always been one of my favorites, and I have never lost faith in it (even through the debacle that was Alien Vs Predator). However, this middling installment in the great saga has shaken my faith both in the series and the director, David Fincher. Fincher isn't wholly to blame for the film's mediocrity, as it's the product of overthinking, massive committee decisions, studio meddling, a bad CGI department, a lame story, and the classic mistake of beginning the filming before the script has been finished. This movie is not the horrible piece of shit I was expecting, but it's also not very good, showcasing the worst tendencies of both studios and sequels. In short, it's a disappointment.

Alien 3 takes place after the events of Aliens, when an electrical fire on the returning ship that Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is on causes it to eject the cryo tubes to a small prison planet. Ripley, of course, is the LONE SURVIVOR, and is brought back to health by the doctor at the prison. However, they are not alone: A Xenomorph stowed away on Ripley's ship, and now there is an alien on a killing spree in the prison, not to mention an alien queen gestating in Ripley's chest. This premise takes the original film's claustrophobic feeling down to a far less interesting level, as the creepy atmospherics of the first two films are recycled and nothing new is done with them. The prison looks no different from the facility from Aliens, and bears some similarity to the Nostromo from the first film, giving the movie a "been there, done that" quality that tarnishes the whole film under the umbrella of rehashes.

The CGI used to animate the Xenomorph is absolutely reprehensible. I've seen better special effects playing the Alien Vs Predator video game. It moves completely differently from the aliens in the other films, which is due to the fact that the first two movies used people in rubber suits instead of special effects. This is explained away when Ripley says that the alien "moves differently" from the ones she's seen before, but that begs the inevitable question: Why is this one any different (other than the fact that the CGI technicians got lazy)? Fincher tries to compensate for this by using POV shots from the alien's perspective, but after seeing a wide-angle lens zoom down identical hallways at breakneck speed a hundred times, it starts to get more than a little worn-out.

Fortunately, Weaver is as good as ever as Ripley, and becomes arguably even more badass in this installment, shaving her head and eventually sacrificing herself to kill the alien inside of her. But it's the prisoners who let the movie down-- None of them are particularly interesting characters, nor are they portrayed by interesting actors. The first film worked so well because it had half a dozen distinct characters with different personalities, all interacting with each other in a claustrophobic environment on a spaceship while being hunted to the death. This movie does away with most of the supporting cast characterization that made this franchise so dramatically powerful, giving us stock characters and an extremely contrived religious angle that is sure to get old after the first few times it's brought up. Ooh, redemption and destiny. I've never heard that from a movie before.

I can't say that I didn't enjoy watching this film, as it has some absolutely ingenious moments, namely one inmate's death by fan and Ripley's inevitable epic alien kill. Instead of reusing the good old airlock strategy that worked so well in the first film and was then poorly redone in the second, she fries it in molten lead and then freezes it, blowing it up. Scenes like this show early on that Fincher has a knack for doing creative things with even the basest of plotlines, even if the end result is crap (which is not entirely his fault). But I can't lay all the blame on studio meddling, as this is Fincher's directorial debut, and before this he had only ever done MTV videos. I never thought I'd say that James Cameron is better in any way than David Fincher, but I must begrudgingly admit that he pulled off his contribution to the Alien saga with far more finesse.

Final Score for Alien 3: 5/10 stars. The movie succeeds in some parts, mostly due to the sheer power of its mythology and the badassery brought to the table by Weaver, but it's altogether let down by recycled visuals, a far less intriguing plot, and a lack of suspense that prevents it from ever being on-par with the previous two films. It's a fine distraction and not bad entertainment, and could probably be perfectly serviceable as a standalone film. But it pales in comparison to the movies it's following up.

The Grifters
The Grifters(1990)

Let's try to keep this review short and sweet, because I've already wasted two hours of my life on this piece of shit, so why spend any more time on it? The Grifters, based on the novel by the same name, is a boring, monotonously paced, and poorly-scripted load of manure that never even begins to make an effort to cohere into a film. Nearly everything about this movie is poorly done, from the lighting to the script to the acting to the direction. It's not a film that lends itself to being picked apart, because frankly I feel bored just thinking about it. And no, not because there aren't any spectacular action sequences. Just because it doesn't make the slightest effort to keep the audience in their seats.

The Grifters stars John Cusack as a hustler, Anjelica Huston as his estranged mother, and Annette Bening as his slut of a girlfriend. For a movie about cons, it takes a remarkable amount of time for the plot to cohere, and even when it does, nobody cares. Cusack, a strong actor, brings absolutely none of his charisma to his character, making him a flat and dull lead who is hard to make a connection with. He's no less arrogant or self-righteous than that people he swindles. Oh, and by the way, he only actually swindles two people in this movie, and absolutely fucks up one time. Which makes you wonder how he ended up with so much cash stored around his house.

The dialogue in this film is atrocious. I can only think that the director wanted to shoot for some kind of an avant-garde, neo-noir pop art kind of vibe, but it all comes across as forced and awkward. Cusack and Huston's scenes feel especially staged, and they spout off poorly conceived lines with all the subtlety of a chainsaw. They sound as if they've been plucked straight from a 1930s gangster flick, but when put in a world like the 1980s, everything feels jarringly out of place. The whole thing plays out like a far less intelligent, completely unintriguing version of American Hustle, which actually brought some stuff to the table with this concept. The Grifters, however, is for some reason content to wallow in its own lack of creativity and drag on for two hours, while its simplistic and yawn-inducing story could have been told in less than twenty minutes. Nearly the whole film feels like padding.

The camerawork is atrocious as well, showcasing some extremely awkward close-ups and dozens of scenes that aren't even lit properly. It's not just the cinematography that's poor; the costume design and sets are ugly as hell. Sure, the movie is trying to capture an era when wallpaper and bad carpeting filled our homes, cars looked like cardboard boxes on wheels, and bouffants were "in." But why couldn't the filmmakers showcase the better parts of the time? I'm not asking for idealism, but holy fuck, every scene in this movie looks washed-out and deliberately ugly.

Final Score for The Grifters: 3/10 stars. It features a strangely committed performance from Annette Bening, and the story (when it's actually present) is somewhat intriguing, but there is almost nothing recommendable about this flat, lifeless, and painful mess. If anything, it has taught me never to watch movies that my parents picked out. The movie is a chore to sit through, with all the charm and charisma of your great-aunt's condo complex. Unless you're in the mood for seeing John Cusack stare with his mouth open, I think it's safe to say that you can skip this one.

Léon: The Professional

"Death is whimsical today."

Oh, the days when Luc Besson was good. Yes, before dumbing down his original vision of graphic violence and great characters with such awful films as The Transporter, Colombiana, and Starshit Troopers, this French director was actually incredibly good. Sure, even some of his more critically lauded and publically beloved movies such as Taken and The Fifth Element are slightly overrated, but who cares? The guy knows how to direct an action sequence. Unlike shit directors like Michael Bay or John Moore, he understands that even fight scenes require scripting and careful planning, and you can't just choreograph your sequences by sticking two tin cans in a blender. But if it weren't for the poetic and human touch that he brings to his films, it would all be for naught. In short, The Professional is a beautiful and gripping story about a relationship between a hitman and his young apprentice, interspersed between scenes of exceedingly graphic deaths. Is it for the weak-stomached? No. But it is for people who are serious about film.

The Professional stars Jean Reno as Leon, a French hitman living in New York who is (as the title would suggest) a fucking pro at what he does. This is established in the opening sequence, a spectacular meta-feat that combines biting wit and absolutely jaw-dropping action into one massive melting pot that not only entertains, but helps define the character before the audience even sees him. But after a chance encounter with a 12-year-old girl in the apartment next to him (and the cringeworthy deaths of her family members at the hands of a maniacal police officer), Leon is forced to start playing a father figure. There are weird undertones of pedophilia here, which are to be expected: It's a movie about a grown man taking care of a little girl, so there are sure to be some accusations of that. And it's true that the girl (played by Natalie Portman in her breakout role) expresses her feelings for Leon constantly. But it was never for show or cheap thrills for the audience... seriously, that's sick. It's just because she had lost her whole family, and needed someone to hold on to. She doesn't quite understand what the things she says mean, but she knows enough to get by. And props to Leon for never even thinking about taking the bait. Good man.

Portman pretty much sets the standard for all child actors with her remarkable and completely unforgettable performance in this film, turning her character into more than just a weird juxtaposition. Watching this movie, I could tell that the creators of Kick-Ass clearly saw something in her character and later ripped her off, turning her into Hit Girl. But unlike that bland and rote mess of a movie, The Professional gives its characters some life. Not only does Portman shine, but Leon's quiet, assured personality lets on more about him than he'd like to. They are also helped along by Gary Oldman, a real chameleon of film, who delivers a frightening and goosebump-inducing performance as the aforementioned amoral police officer who is involved in dozens of corrupt dealings, the least of which being his cold-blooded murder of Portman's family. His transformation into this absolutely terrifying character ranks as one of the best supporting performances of all time, and he nails every scene he's in, from his suitably creepy neck-cracking to his panicked scream of "EVERYONE!!!" The man is amazing.

This film's script is also fantastic, giving us such quotable lines as the one that led off this review, not to mention "I don't have time for this MICKEY MOUSE BULLSHIT!" and "Never in the face." Every line of dialogue is worthy of being iconic, but if I had to choose, I'd say that Leon's code of ethics has to be the best part of the film: "No women, no kids. That's the rules." His character is given more depth than almost any other badass contract-killer in film, and although that's not saying much, it's still a feat. You care about him for every second of the movie, because there's something about him that sets him apart from the other action stars that we've seen shoot up buildings countless times over. His training scenes with Portman should put a smile on your face, and when the final sequence rolls around, you'll be utterly enthralled. Truly one of the best-scripted, best-acted characters ever created.

Final Score for Leon: The Professional: 9/10 stars. An all-around impressive movie that hits hard from dramatic and visceral standpoints, giving us characters we care about, a straightforward story that delivers the thrills, and three spectacular performances. My problems with this movie are few, but I would say that it goes on a tad too long and that the action sequence at the end feels somewhat bludgeoning. Still, it's hard to argue with a movie this assured about what it is trying to do. If you can't handle the gore, don't watch the film. But for both strong-stomached fans of drama and action junkies alike, The Professional will keep you at the edge of your seat.

Warm Bodies
Warm Bodies(2013)

Somewhere in the bowels of the Young Adult Novel Authors Association, there is a private think tank called "How to Make Diego Tutweiller's Life Miserable." Stephanie Meyer, the author of Twilight and The Host, has already ruined vampires, werewolves, and aliens for me. The Mortal Instruments destroyed demons and badass demon killers. And now, unfortunately, another awesome sci-fi concept has been absolutely decimated by the YA entertainment machine: Zombies. I wish I could say that this truly awful film didn't do for zombies what Twilight did for vampires, but come on. I just watched a movie about a girl who is so hot, she re-animates the dead and falls in love with some emo corpse flamer. Ugh, what a waste of my time.

Warm Bodies is the movie that all zombie fans have dreaded, a painfully contrived and unoriginal Twilight rip-off that just so happens to have better actors, characters, writing, production design, direction, cinematography, source material... basically everything. Okay, I guess Twilight is an easy act to follow. Which makes it all the more infuriating that this movie fails in nearly every respect. And even though it never comes close to gracing the all-out godawfulness that is Twilight, it is still far from recommendable. And to the people who will undoubtedly get butthurt over my comparisons between this and the Book/Movie Series That Shall Not Be Named: Seriously? How could you NOT compare the two? They are almost identical, at least in terms of plot. One just so happens to be a lot more watchable. But at the end of the day, this movie just replaced vampires with zombies... and that's it.

Warm Bodies stars Teresa Palmer as Julie, a young woman living in the post-apocalyptic world and trying to get by with the help of her boyfriend (Dave Franco) and her bloodthirsty father (John Malkovich). However, after a freak encounter with a roaming band of zombies, Franco is eaten and she falls in love with the zombie that ate his brain. Ah, young love. There are so, so, so many things wrong with this premise. Firstly, I can't speak for everyone, but I kind of felt bad for Dave Franco. How would you feel if someone ate your brains and then stole your girlfriend? Damn, that's cold. Also, the movie implies that there is somehow some consciousness in a zombie behind its undead façade. Really? Fuck you. The whole point of zombies is that they are undead beings from hell that bear no resemblance to the person who once inhabited their body (besides physical, of course). This isn't quite as bad as making vampires sparkle (oh no, another Twilight comparison, fucking crucify me already), but it's still some pretty lazy filmmaking. The movie attempts to make up for this by including a subgroup of skeletal, completely insane creatures that have no souls and feed on the flesh of the living like normal zombies should, and it works to an extent. But after watching a group of zombies grunt bad English at each other for minutes on end, I couldn't care less about the minor parts of this movie that are actually watchable.

There are a few grace notes to this film, including good direction from Jonathan Levine, the director behind such classic films as 50/50, and... others. The cinematography is consistently good, and feels just comic-booky enough to be cheesy entertainment. It never tries to shoot for full-on seriousness, and always seems to understand just how idiotic its premise is (and trust me, it's idiotic). Also, as silly as it gets, it's always cool to see Rob Corddry as a zombie. His minor yet hilarious performance almost makes you forget that you're watching a movie in which two girls give a zombie a makeover. Call me crazy, but that's something I seriously cannot tolerate. By the time the ending rolls around, which has the zombies and humans live in harmony, you've pretty much stopped caring.

Final Score for Warm Bodies: 3/10 stars. This movie is not nearly as clever as it wants to be (or as it should have been). It relies mostly on gimmickry, makeup, and a bullshit love story instead of actual characters or some semblance of a plot. This movie feels like a thing that should never have made it past the brainstorming stage, yet for some reason somebody felt compelled to turn this flimsy premise into a feature film. Fangirls will undoubtedly delight over it, but for all other audiences, this will be a painful chore to sit through.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

There are only a handful of "rotten" movies (six now, if I count correctly) that I would call underrated, but it is my pleasure to report that this is one of them. The Life Aquatic, a wonderfully quirky and visually dazzling piece of work from Wes Anderson, and ranks as one of the director's best (of the films that I've seen). The film plays out as both a parody and a homage to famous explorer and researcher Jacques Cousteau, right down to the little red hat he wore. But it does something elusive and awesome with its subject as well, and accomplishes that seemingly impossible feat that has escaped all high school teachers for so long: It makes science cool.

The Life Aquatic stars Bill Murray as Steve Zissou, a formerly lauded and prominent member of the scientific community who has now sunk (no pun intended) to going on a revenge mission to kill the shark that ate his best friend when he was out on his last adventure. Along for the ride are a feisty, pregnant reporter (Cate Blanchett), a German oceanographer (Willem Dafoe), and Zissou's long-lost son (Owen Wilson). Also, Jeff Goldblum plays Zissou's semi-gay nemesis, so honestly there was very little chance that I wasn't going to enjoy this movie. As one would expect, all of the cast performs admirably, and their back-and-forth banter is exceptionally written. Sure, the whole thing is fake and affected, but that's part of its charm. The set design, cinematography, and deliberately crappy special effects all contribute to its sense of wonder and surrealism, making it seem more like a bedtime story than a movie. Except in this bedtime story, Bill Murray kills pirates with a harpoon gun.

The story of this film is all over the place, but it all focuses on fatherhood and revenge, two subjects that could not seem further out of alignment. However, Anderson makes them work with great direction and constant thrills and laughs that never let up. He knows exactly what his audience wants, and he gives them it in spades. Seriously, if you didn't find it funny when Murray delivers his deadpan "Son of a bitch, I'm sick of these dolphins" line, you are most likely incapable of exhibiting human emotions such as laughter. From beginning to end, this movie had me, even if the whole thing is just fluff. I'd have to think long and hard to remember a movie this entertaining and quotable.

Not much else can be said about a movie so pleasantly whimsical, but let's break down just why this movie is so underrated by critics. Firstly, this was Wes Anderson's fourth movie, and the previous films (I'm making an assumption about Bottle Rocket, as I haven't seen it yet) all have the similar unreal and quirky production design and directing that he brings to the table. Critics must have thought they had seen it all before and written this one off as overly self-aware and too concocted about its weirdness. And yes, a lot of it feels like Anderson is trying way too hard to create a cult classic. But I say that if this had been his first film, it would have gotten unanimous praise. In this way, Anderson is his own worst enemy, as he is forced to continue topping himself with every film he puts out. However, the surreal one he always sets in his movies works perfectly here, and is probably the best use of his directing skills I've ever seen. Although his other movies may be better, this is where he feels most at home.

Final Score for The Life Aquatic: 7/10 stars. It kills me to give out fresh scores to rotten movies, but I don't think I'd be able to live with myself if I went with the critics on this one. It's hilarious, endlessly entertaining, and one of my select few guilty pleasures-- Right up there with Independence Day and Taken. I can certainly imagine watching this numerous times, even if it's not that good, just for pure laugh value. Also, as a side note, I sometimes like to award movies bonus points when their title is so creative and perfect that it makes me love the film before I even watch it. "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" rolls off the tongue beautifully, and certainly falls into that category. Anyway, if you've gotten tired of Anderson's more serious fare, watch this underwater masterpiece. I defy you to not enjoy yourself.

Requiem for a Dream

Words do not accurately describe the feeling one gets while watching Requiem for a Dream, although the terms "repulsed," "confused," and "bored" do a pretty good job of covering it. This shock/drama load of crap from Darren Aronofsky (the failed abortion behind such atrocities as Pi) is a pointless, vapid, and absolutely empty piece of propaganda filmmaking that plays out like Reefer Madness crossed with Mr. Mackey from South Park. And believe me, after watching this movie, you'll be BEGGING to hear some "Drugs are bad, m'kay?" instead of sitting through this monotonous bore.

Requiem for a Dream is a movie about drug use, both over-the-counter and illegal. It showcases how the spiral downwards for both kinds of drug users mirror each other, and goes into great detail showing how drugs can destroy people's lives. Wow, who made this movie, my middle-school guidance counselor? Sure, heroin isn't good for you. I think we get that. And yes, it's true that some legal drugs are also pretty bad for you, as it's easy to form addictions to them. But we get that as well. This movie has nothing new to say on the subject of drug use, and comes off as preachy, pretentious, and self-important. Aronofsky probably thought he was God's gift to humanity for delivering unto us this beautiful film about why drugs are bad for us. But what he failed to do was give us characters we cared about, good dialogue, or another take on the subject instead of presenting us with an utterly one-sided view of a serious issue. Fuck, this movie sucks.

The film stars Jared Leto as a young drug user who engages in several illicit skinnyings with his friends and girlfriend. That's all you'll really need to know. His entire story plays out like an extended version of Denny's drug use scene in The Room, where you feel like the director wanted to say something about the subject of drug use, but every line of dialogue is so laughable and the message is so concocted and contrived, you can't possibly take it seriously. Subtlety is not this film's strong suit, as over the course of its ridiculously long run time, it absolutely bludgeons the audience over their heads with its straightforward and preachy "DON'T DO DRUGS, BECAUSE THEY ARE BAD" message. Every moment is calculated and artificial, and the characters are equally hollow and soulless.

Leto's mother is also suffering from a drug addiction of another kind. She starts out as a television junkie, then becomes a serious drug addict by getting over-the-counter drugs to help her diet. After this point, everything goes to shit for the characters (and the movie in general). At the beginning, it could have been a solid study of drug use in America, but it eventually morphs into a self-conscious, overly surreal, and sickeningly filmed load of manure that NEVER SEEMS TO END!!! Every five minutes while watching this, I paused it to check and see how much more I had to slog through. Individual scenes might be okay, but they are repeated almost word-for-word over and over and OVER AGAIN. With all the attention paid to the visuals, you'd think that some would at least be paid to the script. When the refrigerator started moving... that was it for me.

The problem with movies like this isn't just that they're bad-- it's that they think they're good (and that people buy into that). This movie never stopped for a second to consider what it was actually doing instead of barrelling forward to no avail. Not once does Aronofsky try to put an original idea up on the screen. He just assumes that audiences will eat this movie up because of its anti-drug use message, but it all seems too reactionary and hyperbolized. "IF YOU TAKE DIET PILLS, YOU WILL END UP IN THE HOSPITAL ALONE, DYING, AND INSANE!!!" Jesus, does this hack director understand that he's the laughingstock of cinema for this exact reason? A movie cannot ride on its cinematography and pathetically delivered message. Maybe this guy was just trying to work out some unresolved anger issues towards pharmaceutical companies. Because that's his only excuse.

Final Score for Requiem for a Dream: 3/10 stars. Not only is this movie a sloppily edited, poorly acted, badly written waste of a talented cast, it also has absolutely nothing new to contribute to the world of filmmaking. There is not an original idea to be found throughout this painful, preachy mess of a movie, and when it actually does try to be original, it fails on every other conceivable level. It also forces the audience to suffer through some seriously disgusting visuals with absolutely no dramatic payoff of any kind, throwing in random plot points ("Ass to ass!") right up until the very end that are unbelievable in the context of the movie and have no reason for being. In short, this is a movie for people who know very little about drug use-- so little, in fact, that they need it explained to them by a guy whose full analysis of the issue consists of "IT'S BAD." This movie isn't just overrated. To call it a "movie" at all is an insult to the institution of filmmaking. It's mindless, vapid, and completely devoid of all purpose. In other words, it's a Darren Aronofsky movie.


Although 2013 started out looking like a year chock-full of stupid blockbusters and mindless entertainment (lookin' at you, Pacific Rim), it has instead morphed into a fine year for dramas, finishing off with a grand total of twelve 8/10s, eleven of them being dramatic, dialogue-based movies. The most recent addition to their ranks is Her, Spike Jonze's re-imagining of a Big Bang Theory episode in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a man in the not-too-distant future who falls in love with his computer (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). This movie has gotten a lot of attention for Johansson's controversial sex scene. And before you all rush out to see it, bear in mind that the scene is controversial because she doesn't actually appear in it. GOTCHA! Okay, let's begin.

The premise of this film has been done many times before, and in a much broader sense. Hundreds of movies have studied whether or not technology can actually graduate to being "alive" (I, Robot and A.I. come to mind). But I have to say that I haven't seen a movie that does such a bang-up job of it as Her. Instead of going for cheap laughs or (on the other side of the coin) manipulative trite, Jonze shows us a seriously involving romance that just so happens to be between a man and a machine. For a large portion of the film, the audience is forced to wonder whether it is about the degradation of society through technology, or if it is simply about how love can take all forms. I won't say which one it actually turns out to be in the end, as that would spoil the whole illusion of the film (as well as the decision it forces the audience to make), but I will say that when it does, it's quite the revelation.

Jonze also does a fantastic job of crafting futuristic visuals for the movie without going too over-the-top. There are hundreds of little innovative designs (the elevator's walls come to mind) that pop in without much fanfare and leave the audience with a "Shit, why haven't we already done that?" feeling. There are no flying cars or underwater bubble cities, but the clothes people wear and the architecture certainly allude to the fact that we aren't watching a fully contemporary film, even without the added bonus of the movie's weird romance. The look and feel of it are superbly done, even to the point where I can forgive it for taking the innate likability of Rooney Mara and squandering it by having her play an evil ice-queen bitch of an ex-wife. Damn, now I'll never be able to look at her the same way again.

Which brings me to the acting. I've never thought much of Joaquin Phoenix, and although his character in this is likable and truly a nice guy, it doesn't change the fact that he often comes across as a creeper who is dating a computer and has a pedo-stache. Of course, this was somewhat the point, but dating your computer is creepy enough to begin with. Must we be reminded of his weirdness so constantly? Fortunately, Amy Adams delivers a great minor performance as Phoenix's only true real-life friend, and she almost makes up for her role in this year's biggest travesty, Man of Steal Your Money. Well, almost. I may never be able to see her onscreen again without thinking of that dick-measuring line. But her character in this is likable and sweet, and she's clearly going through similar (if not identical) problems to Phoenix's.

SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH!!! Also, I'm just going to come out and say that Scarlett Johansson should be the first person to get a Best Actress nomination despite never actually appearing on screen. Her character is strong and electric (yuk yuk yuk) from the get-go, making her eventual dissatisfaction with her lack of a physical body all the more painful and heartbreaking. Honestly, nearly everything about this movie is fantastic until the ending, which slightly cops out by having Johansson's character evaporate into the greater WiFi cloud (or something, it's vaguely explained at best) and showing Phoenix's and Adams's characters sharing an uncertain fate. A movie this strong should have a strong ending, but if you're looking for a buildup to a jaw-dropping climax, well, look elsewhere. In a way, I'm glad that it didn't go out with more of a bang, as that would have been a little too on-the-nose and smacked of Reefer Madness-style propaganda about the dangers of frowned-upon lifestyles. But still, I was hoping for a little more than this. SPOILERS END HERE.

Final Score for Her: Well, for those of you who didn't read my intro paragraph, 8/10 stars. I'm telling ya... this is how the fucking Matrix got started. Joaquin Phoenix couldn't keep it in his pants and doomed humanity. Anyway, in short this is a funny, touching, and beautifully shot film with its heart in the right place (no offense Leo) and strong performances all around. It's not really straightforward entertainment, and absolutely begs itself to be dissected endlessly over group discussions after a viewing. But even if all you're looking for is a simple distraction from modern life-- and a frighteningly plausible parable about it as well-- this is the film for you.

Dazed and Confused

There are a lot of movies that can be called "uneven," but the one that will forever come to mind for me is Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. That 2012 film had some great ideas, but was completely let down by bad plotting, hammy dialogue, and ludicrous plotting. When a movie has a great premise and fantastic elements to it, but is sloppily put together, it's one of the biggest tragedies in all of cinema. And so it is with Dazed and Confused, a 1993 film from Richard Linklater starring a bunch of people we don't know, plus Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck in minor roles. God, who cast this thing?

Dazed and Confused is, as you've probably heard, a movie about a bunch of high school students going out and getting high, and then getting drunk, and then smashing people's property, and then getting high again. The movie has been compared to American Graffiti as being another in the lineage of great period piece/high school movies, but frankly it doesn't hold a candle to George Lucas's classic (and only good) film. Whereas American Graffiti was an honest portrayal of what life was like in 1962, this movie fails entirely whenever it attempts to be authentic. Every line of dialogue sounds like it was written by someone's dad, trying to be hip and cool. "Hey, you wanna go smoke some dope?" Yuck. I think Greg Sestero's portrayal of a marijuana user was more accurate than this. Of course, I have no frame of reference here, as I was born in 1997 and have never touched a drug of any kind in my life. But it's still pretty hard to imagine people talking like this unless they're a bunch of modern-day kids putting on a production of Hair for their school, and doing a very poor job of imagining what life was like back in the day.

Some lines of dialogue are laugh-out-loud funny, but they're peppered among layers and layers of absolutely cringe-inducing lines that will make every audience member recoil in disgust. The characters also make random decisions that make no sense. For instance, Affleck and his gang decide to drive over to a middle school and pick on the soon-to-be-freshmen by spanking them with paddles they made in wood shop. Seems legit. Firstly, even in the days when kids beat each other up for lunch money, I find it hard to believe that this would actually happen. Secondly, the movie doesn't give Affleck a suitable enough comeuppance, thereby almost condoning his actions. Also, when he heads over to the school, he singles out a kid because the kid's older sister told Affleck not to pick on him. Which raises the obvious question: How does Affleck know what the kid looks like? Puh.

Overall, this movie has some good moments (seeing Mila Jovovich in her hippie days before she became a badass zombie killer is always interesting), but it always seems to try too hard to be a stoner classic. It feels like another big studio wanted to cash in on cult movies, tried to make this thing to appeal to the stoner crowd, but forgot to add in any quirky humor or good characters for us to care about. Even the title, Dazed and Confused, is generic and doesn't allude much to the actual content of the film, and the poster (featuring a stoned smiley-face) is a cliched cop-out and a way for the movie to avoid doing anything even remotely original. At the end of the day, it's just a patchwork of other, better films that never quite coheres into the cult classic it so desperately wants to be. Instead of being funny, it's lame. Instead of being fresh, it's been seen a thousand times before. And instead of being authentic, it accidentally captures the 1960s far better than the 1970s, and even then only displays the misogynistic, neanderthal-like members of society. Only one thought can possibly run through the viewer's mind: Who the hell cares about these people?

Final Score for Dazed and Confused: 4/10 stars. This movie has some truly great parts, and some quotable lines that I'm sure you've heard before in YouTube videos, but past that it's not really worth much. Everything in this movie is a stereotype, there is virtually no plot, and the little fun that could have been had watching the character's antics is undercut by the fact that none of the proceedings are actually very funny. Even if some moments ring true, you'll be sitting dazed and confused for most of its run time instead of happy and entertained.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

*Holds back tears of butthurt just long enough to write review*

After seeing The Goblet of Fire way back in 2005, my faith in Harry Potter was shaken but not completely destroyed. Cue David Yates, who eradicated the final shred of hope I had for this series actually living up to the books it's based on. Goblet was bad, and I hate it with a burning passion, but it could not possibly have prepared me for The Anus of the Phoenix. This film couldn't have felt less like a Harry Potter movie if Harry had been played by Melissa McCarthy. Coincidentally, this movie also convinced me to build a time machine and travel back to have a nice long conversation with Daniel Radcliffe's parents about birth control and contraception. Too bad that time turner from the one good Harry Potter movie got lost, and will now never play a vital role in the story again, even when it could have been very useful. Ah, what a shame.

JK Rowling's now-legendary books are all certainly readable, but the first one that I remember being disappointed by was The Order of the Phoenix. By this point in her writing career, Rowling was raking in the big bucks and didn't feel the need to keep her word count down by much. Meanwhile, her editors became less and less inclined to even touch her manuscripts, as it seemed like an unforgivable sin to tamper with the glorious works of art that are the Harry Potter books. Well, this story was the result. The Order of the Phoenix concerns secret societies, an insufferable woman obsessed with the color pink, court hearings, an underground army, prophecies, and Hagrid's half-brother. The most head-slappingly lame addition to the franchise (in both this and the previous film) is the Ministry of Magic, which I suppose came around when Rowling saw Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace and said "Hey look! George Lucas took a beloved franchise and reduced it to a bunch of politicians arguing! I bet I can do that too!"

In this film, the dark lord Voldemort has returned with a vengeance and is out for blood. However, for reasons that are never explained, the higher-ups in the magical world refuse to acknowledge his return. Firstly, the very fact that there would be a bureaucracy of magic is even sillier than the idea of magic itself, and completely destroys the quasi-fantasy concept of the series. Also, I found it increasingly hard to believe that the head of such an apparently prestigious organization (so important, in fact, that it took five movies for it to even be mentioned) wouldn't think to even consider theories about the dark lord's return, especially when he's being informed of it by a badass old wizard like Dumbledore. Fuck it, though. My hatred of this movie goes way past those minor quibbles, so let's go on to the acting.

SPOILERS! This movie kills off Gary Oldman's character, leaving the huge gap in the franchise that he filled for such a brief period of time, only in the end of the third film and just in CGI briefly in the fourth. So now we can expect three more movies of the two shittiest actors ever (Radcliffe and Grint) jackassing around Britain and having a gay old time while the rest of us weep over our utterly decimated childhoods. Oldman does get a good amount of screen time in this film, but he's always undercut by the newly added house elves that Rowling felt the need (for some reason) to throw in. Wow! One Jar-Jar Binks character wasn't enough, let's make more! Also, this is the movie that became synonymous with unimportant romantic subplots, with the completely random addition of Cho Chang, some Asian girl who we're supposed to assume Harry falls in love with. Or something? God, I don't know. Her character barely even shows up for the rest of the series.

The plot point of the prophecy is the most retarded shit of all time, by the way. "Neither can live while the other survives?" Ooh, good job laying it all out for us. Then, later in the franchise, there's some confusion about who the prophecy is actually about? What the fuck? THE SERIES IS CALLED "HARRY POTTER," ROWLING! Did you forget that at some point along the way? Shit... not to mention the myriad of scenes skipped over by this comparatively short film, leaving us with a rushed and sloppy ending that makes no coherent sense. To be honest, I've tried to block large parts of this film out of my head, and I seem to mainly have succeeded. I had completely forgotten about some of the more idiotic plot elements, such as Harry's visions of the Ministry of Magic, that fucking snake, the Room of Requirement, and the accursed fucking centaurs until I started forcing myself to remember this travesty of a film. David Yates fucked this up, but a large part of the blame has to be laid on Rowling, who at this point got way too self-confident and threw together a string of absolutely unimportant stories, without ever making an attempt to get them to cohere into a plot. Fuck, the book sucks. And somehow, this movie is even worse.

Final Score for Harry Potter and the Anus of the Phoenix: THE COVETED DIEGO TUTWEILLER NEGATIVE ZERO OUT OF TEN STARS!!! This movie is an absolutely lethal combination of a terrible story, terrible dialogue, a terrible director, terrible acting, and the MOST GAPING FUCKING PLOT HOLES OF ALL TIME!!! Subplots pop up and trickle off into nothingness without ever being resolved, making this movie feel like a wizard-world version of The Room! Also, as an aside, how can someone be half-giant? Seriously. That would mean that a giant and a human would have to do the nasty. How would that even work? Would they have to... ugh. You know what, I don't even care anymore. Everything about this movie, and large chunks of this franchise as a whole, is utterly fucking mind-numbing. Also, Daniel Radcliffe has the #1 most ridiculously awful haircut of all time in this film. Yes, worse than Jake Lloyd's salad bowl cut.

However, Emma Watson is still hot! +1.



It's best to see this on a plane, where the roar of the engines masks the plot inconsistencies.

The A-Team
The A-Team(2010)

Silly, dumb fun in the form of special effects and the thrill of seeing B.A. Baracus on the big screen.


Its message about the scientific process is very good, but it tries to be so realistic that it ends up becoming much dumber than it should be.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

God, this is the most overrated film of all time. Cheesy, corny, and (worst of all) starring a little kid, this is nostalgia gone bad.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Out of the eight Harry Potter movies, only one stands out as both A) Being well-directed, acted, and scripted and B) Not ruining my childhood and in turn my enjoyment of Harry Potter in general. This momentary respite from the drudgery of the films is The Prisoner of Azkaban, the outlier of the series and a strong film all around. However, let me stress that this movie is an anomaly in every sense of the word, and in no way sets a standard for the series as a whole. In fact, after this movie, things just started getting even shittier. But I still remember the brief period of time in my life where I actually had some hope for this franchise. And it's all thanks to this film.

The third film in the Harry Potter franchise is based off of the best of the books, The Prisoner of Azkaban. In this movie, the man who gave away Harry's parent's location (allowing for them to be killed) has escaped a highly guarded prison and is now on the run. A great skinny of this movie's charm comes from this character, Sirius Black, who is played by Gary Oldman. Oldman is possibly one of the most underrated actors working today, and has a habit of completely immersing himself in his roles. He fills the gap in the movies left by a massive lack of good acting. But fortunately, he's not alone, because this is the film with which Emma Watson actually solidified herself as a good actress. Among all the silliness of the movie, she delivers a very non-magical and much-deserved punch to Tom Felton's sneering face. God, that guy will never live this role down.

Of course, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert "The Soulless Ginger" Grint remain just as uncharismatic and wooden as ever, but they're helped along by the mysteriousness of the plot and the sheer mythology of many of the scenes. Sure, they're not good actors, but when the Dementors are sucking their souls out, the audience couldn't care less. And yes, there are massive plot holes here... for instance, why the fuck can't the Dementors tell the difference between Harry and someone who actually, you know, poses a threat? But the plot holes here are far less glaring and noteworthy than in the previous two films, and it also does away with a lot of the cliched, corny dialogue that is sure to sicken audiences to their cores.

A lot of this film's assets are owed to two things. The first is director Alfonso Cuaron, who also is responsible for the spectacular film Children of Men and the far less interesting yet still critically acclaimed Gravity. Cuaron has a knack for visual flair, but also knows how to actually give his actors some motivation in their scenes. He even manages to squeeze a few decent lines out of Grint and Radcliffe, a feat unmatched in the rest of this franchise. Also, a better Dumbledore and David Thewlis as a werewolf/teacher (whoops, spoilers) makes the acting a lot more interesting. It is Cuaron's cinematography and enchanting visuals that really makes a lot of this film, though, especially the scenes with Buckbeak, as well as the final sequence with the Patronus. God, I sound like such a friggin' nerd.

The second contributing factor to this film's half-success is the plot. I'm a sucker for time travel stories, and this one is a doozy. When people try to pick apart time travel stories, it never ceases to irk me-- Sure, there are paradoxes set up. That's kind of the point. You can't possibly complain about the Kyle Reese/John Connor paradox in The Terminator, because James Cameron could easily have omitted that whole endless loop if he wanted to. It's an intentional paradox and an artistic choice, neither of which you can fault a movie for. Also, the way Cuaron re-imagined the time turner was fantastic. Altogether, the final act of this movie is unexpectedly great and far surpasses anything that Chris "Piss" Columbus could manage. It does kind of set up plot holes for the rest of the movies (I can think of plenty of instances in which that time turner would have come in handy), but that's their problem.

Final Score for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: 6/10 stars. Out of all the Potter films, this is the only one that even comes close to matching the brilliance of the books, with stronger characters and a far better story. If Alfonso Cuaron had stuck around for the other films, this series could have made a serious recovery. But instead Cuaron moved on and the next film in the series went to the genius behind Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Oh, joy.

On the plus side, Emma Watson is almost old enough to be hot! But only if you're 14. -1.


Flight of the Phoenix

Flight of the Phoenix is a remarkable film, in the sense that it somehow bills itself as an action/drama and yet contains elements of neither. This pointless and bland story of a group of exceedingly obnoxious characters who crash-land in the Gobi Desert goes literally nowhere, padding its time with unnecessary and repetitive scenes where the actors do nothing but repair a plane for two hours. Adding to the monotony of the proceedings is corny dialogue and poor special effects, neither of which are even utilized very often due to the lack of dramatic weight or spectacular action that this film bills itself as containing. There comes a point in this film where you just stop caring about the proceedings. And a lot of people will reach that point very quickly.

This remake of the 1965 film by the same name stars Dennis Quaid and Tyrese Gibson, two actors who I never understood the appeal of and whose performances in this film never ceased to confound me. Quaid's inconsistent pilot goes from being loud and abusive to being the hero of the story in seconds flat, making the audience wonder who the hell they're supposed to be rooting for. Gibson basically stands around and recites his lines, happily collecting another paycheck. Movies like this assume that the audience will root for the characters just because they are in a dire situation, but that's not the way stories work. For us to root for someone, we need to be given a little more than "They're stranded and they need help." There are no real characters in this movie, and whenever someone tries to stand out from the dozen or so bland performances in it, they are usually acting like a total turd. In short, none of these people are worth watching a movie about, let alone rooting for constantly during a two-hour runtime.

The dialogue is incredibly poorly written, but that's to be expected from a John Moore film. Moore, the hack director who was recently made infamous for butchering the Die Hard franchise, has the double threat of being both a bad director and bad at picking scripts. Several lines of dialogue in this movie make no sense, but the most head-slappingly silly is when Quaid goes out looking for a fellow passenger and finds him standing over the dead body of another guy who fell off the plane during the crash. The passenger informs Quaid that someone must have come along to steal the dead guy's watch, because it is missing. Then, it is later shown and referred to that the dead body was peppered with bullet holes and was lying in a pile of shell casings, implying that someone used it for target practice. Good God, there are so many things wrong with this. Firstly, why was the attention paid to the missing watch, when the fact that the body was turned into swiss cheese was evidence enough that someone had seen it? Why were the bullet casings piled around the body when Quaid said it was used for "target practice?" I don't imagine a group of nomads in the Gobi Desert doing target practice at point-blank range. Aaah, fuck it. This is not a movie worthy of being picked apart.

The CGI is atrocious as well, especially in the scene where the plane crashes. The swirling dust storm is clearly computer-generated, and the shots of the plane maneuvering through it are ludicrous and poorly-done. Not to mention the final sequence, in which the nomads choose the exact moment when the Phoenix is about to take off to start their attack. Gee, what great fucking timing! It's such a wonderful coincidence that this happened! Now we can watch the nomads chase the Phoenix across the desert, even though there is literally no suspense because we already knew the outcome of this film from the moment it started! Throw in a "Plane-flies-off-the-cliff-and-disappears-dramatically-only-to-fly-back-up-again" cliche, and we've got a great ending!

Final Score for Flight of the Anus: 2/10 stars. Yes, this film sucks, but I never found myself hating it with a passion like other movies Jed Groff has recommended to me (After Earth, Paranormal Activity 2, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Hobbit, etc). It's just a lackluster and chaotic movie that is nearly devoid of all entertainment value. If you watch the beginning, then fast-forward to the last ten minutes, I'm sure you'll have a great time. And if you're looking for something dramatic and powerful, well... don't even bother renting it.

Saving Mr. Banks

If you want to go to the movies during Christmas vacation, and feel like watching a two-hour ad for Disney, this is definitely the film for you. Saving Mr. Banks, the story of how Walt Disney got P.L. Travers to give him the rights to Mary Poppins, is nearly unwatchable and without a doubt one of the worst movies of the year. This movie is not just bad, it is offensively bad, painting the famously racist and anti-semitic Disney as a loveable guy and having Tom Hanks (the most charismatic actor in America) to play him. Not to mention the fact that it is a story about the making of an overrated kid's movie that adults all love because of nostalgia, not because of any good aspects to it-- there are none. In short, this is one of the most disgustingly self-serving movies ever made and an insult to the institution of cinema in general.

Saving Mr. Banks stars Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, the writer of the Mary Poppins books. I must say, not since Jar-Jar Binks has a movie character annoyed me this much. From minute one, Thompson projects a smarmy, nasty, and stuck-up British vibe that makes her character extremely unlikable. Some might find it charming, but I have no idea what you'd have to be smoking to sit through a performance like this one. Every line she says is putting someone down, and whenever she's called in to look over the script for the movie, she fusses and whines and wrings her hands, saying "No no no, this won't do at all." It probably wasn't this bad in real life, but if it was, it begs the question: Why would you make a movie about this psychotic bitch trying to prevent a movie from getting made?

Hanks is great as Disney, or he would be if he were playing some other character. He's one of only a few actors working today that can connect with the audience no matter who they're playing. That said, Walt Disney does not deserve to be played by Hanks. He started a godawful entertainment empire that has bought the rights to my entire childhood, from Pixar to Star Wars. He built a massive cathedral to his own ego in the guise of a theme park, which bills itself as "The Happiest Place on Earth" and is instead just a tourist trap for fat Minnesotans who just want to sit on rides while in California. And his closeted racist and anti-semitic opinions translated greatly into his movies (Song of the South, anyone?). He was a reprehensible human being, and although he's responsible for a lot of the animated cartoons that people love nowadays, I hate them all.

This film also rewrites history in another way, by trying to convince the audience that P.L. Travers cried at the premiere of Mary Poppins out of joy, and not anger over seeing her beloved character get completely screwed over on the big screen. Also, half of this film is devoted to a series of sepia-toned flashbacks in which we see Travers as a young girl in Australia, putting up with her drunken father (Colin Farrell). Ever since In Bruges, I've thought that Farrell has enormous talent (all the way up to those caterpillar-like eyebrows of his), so it's a shame to see him in a horrible movie like this one, phoning in his performance and reciting his lines without putting any of his trademark spark or charm into them. These flashbacks, at the end of the day, only serve to give the audience some information about why Travers became the sadistic harpy she did, but that story could have been covered in just a few scenes. Half of the flashbacks could have been cut out and nothing would have changed, but the running time needed padding, so there you have it.

Every line of dialogue in this film is completely contrived and cliched. The limo driver who chaperones Travers and takes her around town (Paul Giamatti) is the stereotype to end all stereotypes. Ooh, a working-class dad with a sob-story about his wheelchair-bound daughter. How fucking original. And seriously, how many movies have we seen in which someone visiting from another place remarks on the weirdness of LA? I never thought I'd say that a Disney movie ripped off Die Hard, but... wow. A fucking Disney movie ripped off Die Hard! Then, when Travers actually sits down with Josh from The West Wing and starts giving input to the movie's script, it's literally unwatchable. And if you can suffer through that sequence, just wait until the two closeted homosexuals working at Disney start singing the songs they've written for the movie. Their rendition of "Let's Go Fly a Kite" nearly melted my brain (and it's not like the song was actually any good to begin with).

Final Score for Saving Mr. Anus: 1/10 stars. The sole saving grace of this film is the reverence with which the idea of Mary Poppins is treated. Sure, Mary Poppins is a mentally challenged potato, but I appreciated how the movie respected what happens when someone has an idea and that idea becomes a part of them. Nevertheless, every other part of this movie is a chore to sit through. It pits a bigoted asshole misrepresented by Tom Hanks against a manipulative control freak perfectly represented by Emma Thompson, and the end result is that nobody gives a shit. The conclusion to this story is already known, so the only reason it was made is for Disney to rake in another truckload of cash before reaping immense profits off of Star Wars VII.

It is also directed by the fuckhead who gave us The Blind Side. -1.

End of Watch
End of Watch(2012)

This review has... so many spoilers... holy shit.

It's a rare thing to get a buddy-cop movie as serious, intelligent, and yet genuinely hilarious as End of Watch. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star as two policemen working the streets of LA's ghettos. Their friendship (for Breaking Bad fans) is highly reminiscent of Hank and Gomie's relationship. It would have been even more interesting if this had been a direct prequel. But no.

My main problem with the film is its format. The found-footage film shit got old back when Paranormal Activity was released. This is now the second potentially fantastic film that has been ruined by it (the other being 2012's Chronicle). The camera works briefly when the policemen are just talking, but suddenly we cut to panorama and helicopter shots of the greater LA metropolitan area. If you're going to do found-footage (which is a horrible choice in the first place), STICK TO IT! You can't switch back and forth between filming types with this! Sometimes it will actually show Gyllenhaal holding the camera. I suppose that the film's creators weren't too worried about shooting for the realism of the found-footage throughout the movie, but it would have been nice to see a little consistency.

Still, it's a great movie. Gyllenhaal and Pena are completely believable as a pair of cops who, when not patrolling the streets and ridding neighborhoods of drug dealers, engage in witty banter about life and their respective wives. Anna Kendrick is great as Gyllenhaal's girlfriend, then fiance, and finally wife. The characters are incredibly well-developed, and the pair are able to convey great emotion just by telling strange stories and debating their personal issues while on-duty.

Some of the film is rough, but it never crosses the line into intentional gross-out entertainment. A policeman is stabbed in the eye, but even that is handled incredibly tastefully, as he remains conscious enough to direct Gyllenhaal and Pena to where the perpetrator is. It's the kind of film that could be shown in basic training to policemen. I know it sure as fuck made ME want to be a cop.

...At least, until the end. After rattling a few cages and pissing off the wrong drug lords, a hit is put out on the dynamic duo. During the ensuing shootout, there is true suspense-- let me explain. In Die Hard, there is suspense in the sense that you wonder how John McClane will get out of horrible situation after horrible situation. But you never wonder IF he'll get out of it. End of Watch had me wondering that, and (maybe saying something about my ability to predict films) Michael Pena dies from AK-47 fire while crouching over Gyllenhaal's unconscious body.

It relies on a few buddy-cop movie tropes-- for instance, at the finale, the audience is supposed to think that both Gyllenhaal and Pena died, until we see only one coffin at the funeral. Again, it was more than a little predictable, but that doesn't make it any less powerful. Final Score for End of Watch: 8.5/10 stars. Sure, it had its flaws, but I can overlook minor inconsistencies in favor of dialogue, scriptwriting, and great acting any day.

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)

Citizen Kane has the double-whammy of being overrated and very dated, but it's still undeniably one of the best movies ever made. Full review soon.

Ocean's Eleven

Well-acted and relentlessly convoluted, Ocean's Eleven is a mind-blowing heist film that will never cease to amaze.

Star Trek V - The Final Frontier

This is not a joke-- I actually threw up after I saw this thing.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Instead of actually wasting my time on a review for this fuckfest, I took the liberty of writing a running commentary on it on my blogs here at RT. I'll let my blow-by-blow criticism of this thing speak for itself:

Last Vegas
Last Vegas(2013)

When a movie like this one comes along, you have to stop and think that the only reason it was made was to give its stars a chance to have a shitload of fun--- And get paid to do it. Last Vegas stars Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline as Phil, Stu, Allen, and Doug all grown up and going to Vegas. Although one of them inexplicably turned black, these are literally the same four characters, just minus the hangover and in a PG-13 setting. This movie actually smacks of Grown Ups 2 at some points as well, in the sense that the stars are clearly only in it to have fun and make money, and don't bother acting. Sorry, guys, I know you had fun in Vegas, but this movie is not good.

In this movie, Michael Douglas plays himself and becomes engaged to a woman who is not even half his age. For one last get-together before he settles down, he gets his three old buddies together for a few days of debauchery in Vegas before he ties the knot. This premise has been done to the death by now, and is virtually an exact copy of The Hangover, but with 50 Cent as the celebrity cameo instead of Mike Tyson. But The Hangover was original, hilarious, and melded its simple premise with a seriously involving mystery. Last Vegas doesn't bother with any of that, and expects people to think of it as original merely because it stars four old guys. Also, this movie is directed by John Turteltaub, and at no point does Nicolas Cage show up to steal the Declaration of Independence. What a disappointment.

None of the stars (except Kline, on occasion) actually try to act in this movie. Douglas literally plays himself, and the woman starring as Catherine Zeta-Jones is barely in it at all. De Niro pretty much mopes around for the whole movie and doesn't really do anything with the character past "bitter old man." Freeman has been phoning in his performances for almost a decade now, and of COURSE he acts as the group's moral compass and most intelligent member. I expected him to start narrating it at some point, but sadly that never happened. Kline, however, delivers some pretty funny lines and gets into his character, but he can't really save the movie.

Last Vegas actually starts out as a very funny film, but as it is with most comedies these days, it soon devolves into a fucking love story that nobody cares about. Sorry, I came to watch Morgan Freeman do jello shots, not see De Niro and Douglas fall for some random lounge singer who nobody gives two shits and a fuck about. All comedies these days seem to follow this same predictable arc, where they start off as the tasteless and hilarious movie we all want them to be, and then for some reason feel the need to add subplots that aren't entertaining, and most importantly, aren't funny. It's a comedy about four old guys in Vegas. Why the posturing? Why would you try to make it into some kind of romantic drama, which everyone knows it isn't? It only ends up pissing off the audience and turns the movie into the sappy shit that has plagued many a TV sitcom. The reason why Seinfeld was good is because the characters never learned anything and the show never got into dramatic romance crap. Last Vegas should have followed that model.

It also doesn't help that a lot of the humor isn't funny at all. It's sure to get a laugh from less demanding viewers, but I'm sorry, there were more than one "I peed my pants" gags in this movie. When will writers realize that bodily functions aren't funny at all? The film does try to be clever at some points, like when Freeman does his daring window escape, but that's completely undercut by groan-inducing gags and overdone moments of unwelcome levity. It's all so predictable. Of course Kline dances a little jig when his wife gives him a condom and tells him to "have fun in Vegas." Of course Freeman makes thousands of dollars at the casino in only a few minutes. It's all so tame and bland. I can't imagine that anyone would enjoy this movie more than the stars enjoyed making it. And that's the mark of a bad film.

Final Score for Last Vegas: 3/10 stars. It's funny at times, but this movie lacks intelligent humor, an original premise, and everything that made the movies it rips off great. It's boring, rote, and pointless, but I suppose it's an okay film if you want to watch four great actors do random stuff in Vegas for two hours. Honestly though, I can't imagine why you would, especially when the end result is this bad. It got a couple chuckles out of me, but so did Scary Movie. And even with such a talented cast, you don't leave without secretly hoping that this will indeed be the last Vegas movie ever made.

All Is Lost
All Is Lost(2013)

Many directors and actors have done fascinating experiments with movies that have minimal casts. For instance, Tom Hanks starred alongside a volleyball in Cast Away (his second-most lifeless co-star ever, beaten only by Thomas Horn). But very few movies can legitimately say that they have only one actor in them. All Is Lost, one of 2013's most acclaimed films, should please Robert Redford fans everywhere, seeing as he's the only person in this movie. The only problem is... he's literally the only person in this movie. No matter the talent, watching someone repair a boat for two hours is asking a lot of the audience. This movie is less a drama and more a "how to survive at sea" guide, with all the emotional depth of a documentary. You might as well watch two hours of a mechanic fixing a car in the middle of the desert. I appreciate Redford's ability to hold the audience's attention as much as he does, but that doesn't change the fact that on some very fundamental levels, this movie is not good.

The film starts off with a few sentences of dialogue about getting lost at sea, and then launches full-on into the closest thing to a silent film since The Artist. Robert Redford, credited only as "Our Man," is sailing at sea for God knows what reason when a shipping crate breaches his boat's hull and water starts pouring in. From there, everything goes to shit. There are two storms, the ship capsizes and performs barrel rolls, and finally must be abandoned. Then Redford sets his life raft on fire. Fucking brilliant. Anyway, this premise is great, but I honestly found it hard to believe that a person could go through everything he does in silence. He yells "FUUUUCK!!!" at one point, but that's only after he's gone through shit that would make any normal person weep with anguish.

So now we're at a conundrum, because this is a very difficult thing to do. Characters monologuing and talking to themselves are very hard to write in movies, and exposition via talking with oneself can really kill a movie. For instance, in Die Hard, one of the few moments that always pulls me out of the world of the film is when Bruce Willis says to himself "Think, God damn it, think!" Nobody says that when they're all alone. The reason this is so hard to do is, in my opinion, because there is only one personality being showcased. When two people are talking in a film, their different personalities can bounce off of each other, and it's far easier to script. But what would a person say, talking to themselves while marooned in the ocean? I have no answer to this question. All I would say, however, is that they'd probably be dropping far more f-bombs.

Redford delivers a tour de force using only facial expressions, but his character is never given any backstory or context within the film. We can gather clues about him throughout the movie (he wears a wedding ring and is obviously rich, as the boat would suggest), but we never find out what this well-off elderly man is doing sailing across the Indian Ocean. That's part of the movie's charm, but it doesn't make any sense at all. Sure, we can decide for ourselves who he is and where he came from. But that's a massive cop-out on the writer's part. Either they were entirely committed to having Redford be the only person in the movie, or they were too lazy to decide for themselves who the character is, but either way it doesn't quite work. The reason why characters like this don't work (other examples that come to mind are James Bond and The Driver) is because there isn't anything to make them human. Bond, for instance, has virtually no character flaws and does whatever the hell he wants. When crafting a character, you need a little more depth than this. Redford's character is certainly given some by Redford himself, especially in the scene where the ship finally sinks (the heartbreak on his face is palpable), but if it weren't for him carrying the movie, nobody would know enough about the character to care.

"This is the Virginia Jane with an SOS call, over." Trust me, you start to go slightly insane once you realize that the repetition of this phrase a few times is the only dialogue in this movie. In a way, it's just not for me, because I appreciate movies like Pulp Fiction and Donnie Darko, where the dialogue factors heavily in the film and helps establish the characters via the natural progression of conversation instead of exposition. But save for the few details we can glean about him, Redford's character is completely one-dimensional. Sure, I was rooting for him to get out of the ocean safely, but I felt no more attachment to his character than if I had seen this story on the evening news. By the time the final scene comes around, leaving his fate completely ambiguous, you start to realize that the director and writers of this film really didn't want to make any decisions, and left it up to the audience to figure out what the hell happened. It's an artistic choice, but it's also incredibly lazy.

Final Score for All Is Lost: 5/10 stars. I only enjoyed this movie because of Redford, but at its core this is nothing more than another typical lost at sea story with less talking. In the place of plot, dialogue, characters, and story, we are given a twenty-minute scene where Redford applies resin to a hole in the hull. It's far more gripping than it sounds, but only in a very detached sense. Of course you want him to live-- If someone told you "Hey, there's a guy marooned in the Indian Ocean," your first instinct would of course be to hope for his survival. But All Is Lost never really takes the emotional aspect of the film past this point. It's certainly watchable, but it's no Life of Pi.

How I Live Now

"Not another teen movie" is the phrase that ran through my head when I saw the trailers for this film. Based on a book that I couldn't get through, and starring an actress who has been the lead in two of my all-time least-favorite movies (The Lovely Bones and The Host), I had absolutely no expectations for this. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as I expected, but that doesn't make it in any way good. How I Live Now is just another in a long, long, LOOOOOONG line of young adult movies that aren't particularly original or engaging. The whole "teen movie" genre is a crock. There are only so many times a person can sit through a movie about love, awkward teenage dark emo moodiness, and vaguely sci-fi plots that all seem the same before they go criminally insane. And with this movie, plus Divergent and Jupiter Ascending coming out next year, I think I'm nearing my breaking point.

How I Live Now is about a generic bitchy and moody teenage girl named Daisy who visits her cousins in England. During this visit, a series of plot contrivances lead to her and the cousins being stranded in the house alone while World War III breaks out. I read the book (or at least half of it before putting it down and walking away), and I can safely say that the movie doesn't quite capture the book's feel. The book is written in full-narration format, where there is no dialogue past what the narrator describes people as having said. However, the film doesn't have any narration until the very end (where they clearly have to in order to squeeze in the titular line, "And that's how I live now"). Also, the main character in the book is actually quite friendly and pleasant to be around, while Saoirse Ronan portrays her as an obnoxious, self-absorbed, moody brat who is constantly rude to everyone around her. It does a great disservice to the author's vision, but to be fair, the book sucked.

I don't think I've seen a WWIII movie this boring in my entire life. One would think that a movie about terrorists overrunning Britain would be entertaining as hell, but one would think wrong. There are perhaps two sequences where something interesting that is related to that plot happens. Otherwise, the war is just a convenient backdrop to allow for a sickeningly contrived love story that prominently features incest. I recall reading the book and getting to the part where the war breaks out. I said to myself, "Well, she's with her cousins, so at least I won't have to put up with any lovey-dovey bullshit." Oh, how wrong I was. Daisy falls for her cousin Edmund, which I found to be not only gross, but not very believable. Nothing about these two characters made me think that they were capable of falling in love, much less with each other. The movie tried to convince us of some sort of mental connection between them, but... yeah, no. I didn't buy it for a second.

However, Ronan actually acts in this, and it's not that bad. I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that the two films of hers that I mentioned had such bad dialogue that she couldn't save them. And if she is in fact a good actress, it's disappointing that I had to start watching her movie career with two of the worst pieces of shit ever constructed. She's quite good in this, and even though her character is not even remotely likable, her presentation of the character is still good. No, she can't save the movie, because the dialogue she says and the things she does make her a huge pain in the ass from minute one. But it was refreshing to see her actually trying.

The cinematography of this film is superb. Every color is brought out by the camera lens, and it creates a wonderful visual aura that all movies should have. The visuals of the blight brought upon rural England by the war are quite breathtaking, actually, not to mention realistic. Although this quasi-science-fiction plot could have been avoided (How I Live Now could easily have been set during WWII), that's the fault of the book. But even though the visuals are expertly crafted, none of what the camera is filming ever coheres into a story that we care about. Most of the movie is taken up by Daisy walking through the woods with her little cousin and occasionally shooting guys in the gut. Yeah, that sounds badass, but to be honest it was quite boring indeed. There's enough walking in this movie to fill a Lord of the Rings movie.

I really enjoy movies with badass female leads (Kill Bill, Alien, and even Catching Fire to an extent). But the character of Daisy is a useless flake. She whines about everything, always wears her expensive headphones, and doesn't seem to know what's going on in the world around her. In short, she's the kind of person I hate. I was expecting some sort of redemption for her character, but it never came. It ended on a supposed "cliffhanger," where she and her cousin with benefits share an uncertain future. The only possible response to a movie like this is "Why did I even watch this?" And that's a viable question. I have no idea why I sat through as much of this as I did. It has a lot of great parts, but those watchable aspects do not include the plot.

Final Score for How I Live Now: 5/10 stars. This is pretty generous, but Ronan did a pretty good job here, and I'd be lying if I said the film didn't have its moments. Still, it's way too bogged down in its own juvenile sense of self-importance to be even intermittently entertaining. This could have been a very good film, even a cult classic if it were put in the right hands, but except for a few minor saving graces, this is a very average and bland movie that settles for genericness when it should have soared. One day, a talented director could come along and turn this story into something a little more watchable, but until then, count me out of the fan club for this one.

Out of the Furnace

It's difficult to put into words just how much wasted potential is encapsulated in Out of the Furnace. With Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, not to mention several other big names in minor roles, this piece of pablum posing as nihilistic art has no right to be as bad as it is. Unfortunately, it features a completely uninvolving plot, monotonous pacing, and dialogue worthy of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. I don't recall ever seeing a movie where I cared as little about the characters as I did here. This arrogant, pointless, and utterly vapid film did nothing for me, to the point where I actually can't wrap my head around why it was made. Congratulations, Christian Bale-- You've made all the other great work you've done this year seem bad as well retroactively.

Out of the Furnace is a poorly-named story of a man (Bale) who hunts down the guy who killed his brother in a tale of vengeance and retribution. Or, at least, that's what it should have been. Actually, it's just a badly paced load of manure that clocks in at less than two hours, but feels like two years. The film starts off establishing the relationship between Bale and his brother (Affleck), but suddenly skims over five years when Bale is put in prison for his role in a car accident. Why was this even in the movie? There's absolutely no reason. After this completely pointless time filler subplot has been concluded, Bale's girlfriend (Saldana) has moved on and is now going out with a cop (Forest Whitaker). There are so many jumbled, incoherent subplots throughout this thing that you are forced to stop paying attention to any of them, just to preserve your sanity. And the worst part is that none of them go anywhere. The film ends with virtually no development for most of the minor characters. This is, at its core, a 20-minute movie stretched out into two hours.

The movie is also very counterintuitively named. Sure, "furnace" is supposed to be a metaphor. But why not just call it "Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire?" Or better yet, "Murderous Bloodhounds of the Appalachian Mountains?" Anyway, it takes about an hour for the actual plot to develop, and by the time it does, the movie has exhausted everyone who is trying to slog through it. The dialogue is slow-moving and essentially unimportant to the story (this could have been a silent film, because all Bale and Affleck do is stare at each other for a while). I'm not asking for mind-blowing action sequences here, but I would appreciate some characters I cared about, an even mildly intriguing story, and some dialogue... please, some well-written dialogue. It's even more disappointing when you realize that director Scott Cooper also gave us Crazy Heart, one of the best modern character studies of all time. And now he follows it up with this? Ugh.

A large portion of this movie consists of Affleck beating the crap out of people, and the people then beating the crap out of him. It's almost as if Cooper had some sort of personal vendetta against rural Appalachian people, because nearly everyone in this movie is a violent, foul-mouthed drug addict who kills people because he can. In fact, the film sparked some controversy, with the Ramapough Lenape Nation in Appalachia saying that it depicted their people as "lawless, drug-addicted, impoverished, and violent." Normally I'd say that this is overreacting, but it's somewhat weird how often the film feels the need to inform us that the bad guys are subhuman neanderthals. Harrelson plays the redneck who eventually kills Affleck, but the movie glosses over his whole character in favor of showing us random acts of depravity that he commits. Within the first five minutes of the movie, he has already beaten a man to death and tried to choke a woman with a hot dog. Why bother showing us this? We're going to figure out on our own that he's bad anyway. Anything else feels over-the-top and strangely obsessive.

The acting is the only good thing I can say about this movie. Although all the dialogue is atrocious, the fun that the stars are having with each other is palpable. Bale and Affleck make a strong pair (even if Affleck is a shit actor who always sounds like he's on the brink of tears), and Harrelson delivers with a great performance that sadly had to take place in an otherwise uneventful and bland movie. Much like 2012's Killing Them Softly, this movie creates bleak visuals and an overwrought plot that drag the movie down, eventually crushing everything in it under the weight of its own self-importance. We are expected to take this movie seriously solely because it takes itself seriously. And that's something I can't abide.

Final Score for Out of the Furnace: 4/10 stars. This is by no definition a good film-- In fact, in many ways it's a terrible one. But with a cast like this, I'm willing to go easy on it. But be warned: Unless you enjoy being bored to tears by poorly-paced and uninvolving dramas that have no redeeming values other than the cast that got tacked on to them, I suggest that you stay away from this thing. It's likely to be hailed as "underrated" and "a masterpiece" by pretentious indie awards ceremonies everywhere, but this belongs in the same category as The Place Beyond the Pines: Bleak, boring, and not even close to being entertaining.

Lone Survivor

Ever since The Hurt Locker received such widespread acclaim from both critics and mainstream audiences, countless directors have tried to cash in on America's newfound love affair with war movies. And even though The Hurt Locker was an overrated film, these shoddy reproductions are nothing more than shadowy reflections of a far superior movie. Case in point: Lone Survivor, a rote, boring, unimaginative, and completely uninteresting load of ass that sadly has ended up being the last movie I watch in the year of 2013. This movie takes the already stale premise that has been sucked dry by other, equally awful movies such as Act of Valor, and makes it even more yawn-inducing and predictable. Hey everybody, spoiler alert! THERE'S ONLY ONE SURVIVOR!!!

Lone Survivor stars Mark Wahlberg as Generic White All-American Army Guy With A Beard That Is Long Enough To Be Cool But Not Long Enough To Be Considered Terrorist-y. This man leads his compatriots on a mission to kill a Taliban leader (a story we've NEVER heard before), but something goes wrong! Yes, this is a true story, which makes me wonder why in the hell this movie was even made. There are countless stories like this on the news every day, and there is absolutely nothing original to this one that would make it stand out from the pack. Someone should just send an open letter to Hollywood saying "Yes, we get it, guys in the military form an unbreakable bond and blah blah blah brotherhood blah blah blah honor. You can stop making movies about it now." The characters in this film are utterly interchangeable, and we are never made to care about any of them for any reason. Some effort is made at the very beginning, but every bit of character development is groan-inducingly cliched. Wow! There's a guy in the army who wants to get home to see his wife! Who woulda thought?

After going out on the mission, Wahlberg and Co. come across an old man and two boys. They have a vote on the morals of killing them or not, and finally decide to let them go. Of course, they go straight to the Taliban and tell them that there are 'Murikans in their woods. This leads to (you guessed it) an all-out gunfight. And it's probably the most boring gunfight I've ever seen. A movie this loud and in-your-face patriotic shouldn't also be this boring. Sure, jingoistic fucks will drool and wet their pants over the boom-booms and the people getting shot. Who cares? We're never given a chance to relate to any of the characters, and the Taliban are such faceless, nameless villains that you feel no emotional attachment to the movie at all. It bases its entire premise on the assumption that audiences will root for the Americans just because they are American. But that's what real wars are for-- In a movie, there should be characters that we actually give a shit about, not just a bunch of tough-guy stereotypes running around in the woods and (as Lois Lane would put it) measuring dicks.

So after the pew-pew kablooey scene, the American's numbers have been whittled down a bit, after Nameless Army Guys #3, #5, and #9 got all shot up. One character then sacrifices himself in a ridiculously overdone slow-motion death scene in order to radio in for help. But the end result is that Wahlberg makes his way to the Afghan town with the help of a few kindred locals. Why are they helping him? BECAUSE 'MURIKA! And yes, this is all a true story, but the reasoning for this decision is never given in the movie. All the guy says is "Fuck Taliban" in a ridiculous accent. The dialogue here is passable, but by this point the audience has reached a zenlike level of not giving a fuck about the proceedings. By the time the final shootout rolls around, I could have fallen asleep. This is two ungodly hours of pure boredom, with only a few redeeming moments that I would deem even watchable, let alone entertaining. Also, the cinematography in this movie is utterly horrendous, featuring quick-zooms, shaky cam, and uncomfortable close-ups when they really weren't necessary. Sure, you're in a war zone. Afghanistan is no picnic. We get it. But Saving Private Ryan managed to film an epic battle scene without shaking the camera around in someone's face as if the DP has Parkinson's disease. Jesus Christ.

But this movie is bad on a whole 'nother level: It doesn't just present a stereotyped vision of the American military, it idolizes and glorifies it. This movie is practically an army recruitment movie. Sure, everyone dies, but they all die gallantly and for their country. I expected it to cut to a fucking bald eagle shedding a red, white, and blue tear every time someone died. Whereas Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket depict war as brutal and terrifying, this might as well be a straight-up propaganda film. And what angers me the most is that people will actually buy into it, sign up, and get killed, continuing the endless cycle of death and war that this country has been stuck in for over 200 years, and furthering the goals of oil tycoons and money-grubbing war profiteers. Listen up, America, because I'm only going to say this once: WAR IS NOT A GOOD THING. Until we get that through our collective heads, we'll never break the cycle. Also, Blue is the Warmest Color gets an NC-17, while this is stuck with an R? What the fuck kind of world do we live in? Aaaargh! THIS MOVIE MAKES ME SO MAD!

Final Score for Lone Survivor: 2/10 stars. This is one of the worst, most indifferently-acted, and boring movies of the year. Don't let the trailers fool you: They pretend that the movie is all about the moral choice that Wahlberg made to let the kids go, while this premise (although intriguing) is only a vessel to give us a way to see more shoot 'em up shit. From its cliched beginning to its treacly and self-important end, this movie is nothing more than a cheap cash grab trying to profit off of America's willingness to watch our soldiers get blown to bits in a movie theater. If this is entertainment, we might was well start the Hunger Games early, because that's the only way we'll ever quench our national bloodlust.


Red 2
Red 2(2013)

Okay, so this was absolutely idiotic. Red 2 is the creatively-titled sequel to a very mediocre and forgettable action movie, so you see where this is going. There have been a lot of sub-par sequels to movies that really didn't deserve second installments this year (Despicable Me 2, Kick-Ass 2, The Desolation of Smaug, Grown Ups 2), and this movie continues that unfortunate trend. It also happens to feature the most idiotic plot of any action movie ever made, and yes, that includes Die Hard With a Vengeance. Movies like this are a dime a dozen, and it seriously surprises me that people haven't gotten tired of seeing the same shit over and over again in dozens of identical action movies. The first Red was bad, but this one doesn't even have the good grace to try.

After the events of the first Red movie, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis, in another shitty role this year) has settled down with his wife Sarah. Everything is going great for him for the first three minutes of the film, but suddenly his old compatriot Marvin (John Malkovich) shows up and tells him that shit is about to go down. Five minutes into the movie, there has already been an explosion. This opening sets the tone for the frenetic pace of the rest of the film, which is all over the map. It moves between a serious plot involving the potential destruction of the world to humor (mostly slapstick shit) constantly. It's really jarring to watch, and it doesn't help that none of it makes any sense. By the time the group ends up in their third city, the audience has stopped trying to follow the chaos that is this movie's plot, and has a decision to make: Either sit back and enjoy the ride, or get out while the getting's good.

The supporting cast of Red 2 includes Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Anthony Hopkins, but the three of them have over-the-top stereotyped characters that nobody should really bother caring about. They clearly have a lot of fun with their zany personalities, but it would have been nice if they had transferred some of that fun to the audience instead of running wild. Zeta-Jones gets to do basically whatever she wants playing a Russian spy (wow, how original), and Hopkins hams it up as an eccentric British scientist. Sure, it's fun to watch, but there is not an ounce of substance to this movie. And not in the way that most action movies are these days-- Pacific Rim at least had some classic feel to it that had heart and a purpose. No, Red 2 has no soul whatsoever. This movie lacks intelligent dialogue, a good plot, performances that don't feel completely indifferent, and a reason for being.

Also, there are dozens of plot holes in this thing. If you've seen the movie, read these, but if you haven't, skip this paragraph: How did Malkovich fake his death at the beginning? The car clearly blew up while moving, so who was driving the car? If John Malkovich knew that Katja would manipulate Willis (and knew it enough to give him the wrong key), why would he let his friend go out anyway and put him in danger? Why does Willis, who is being hunted by an international assassin and fears for his life, not kill said assassin when he has the chance? And if he's able to beat him so easily merely by handcuffing him to a door, why is he so afraid of him? How is it possible to murder a man using origami? Why would the US government hire someone as incompetent and power-hungry as Horton to track down a weapon of mass destruction? What the hell kind of WMD gives off no radiation (the bullshit reasoning they give for this is pathetic)? Even if there was no radiation coming off of it, are we to believe that a foreigner was somehow able to plant a WMD in the bowels of the Kremlin, leaving it untouched for several decades? If Hopkins planned this whole thing out from the beginning, how could he possibly have overlooked the fact that Willis had the opportunity of sneaking the bomb onto the plane? And finally at the end, there is a Dark Knight Rises conundrum: How did Hopkins's plane get far enough away from London in a few seconds to prevent the bomb from destroying a substantial amount of the city with shock waves? Hadn't it already been established that the bomb had the destructive capability of several nuclear devices? Fuck this shit.

The only logical answer to these questions is "Who cares?" And really, nobody does. Either you enjoy this film or you analyze it to death, but either way you'll probably have a good time. Final Score for Red 2: 3/10 stars. Yes, this was bad, but I can't say that I was bored by it. I really can't get enough of movies like this, because even though they're dumb, they're dumb fun. And if most of that fun is enjoyed by the stars, who got to visit exotic locales while putting in virtually no acting effort, so be it. I object to this movie from an artistic standpoint, but from an entertainment perspective, it's pretty agreeable. If you don't ask for much out of your movies, this is the film for you. Watch it and be pleasantly surprised.

Blue Is The Warmest Color

Every once in a while, a film will come along that sparks controversy. A LOT of it. And although other films this year, such as The Wolf of Wall Street and 12 Years a Slave have caused some because of their graphic depictions of sex, drug use, slavery, and violence, they represent the smallest fraction of visual insanity that is featured in Blue is the Warmest Color. I have been watching movies semi-professionally for three years now, and over the course of this time I've watched over 700 films. But I can safely say that I've never seen anything quite like this one. Do not let the reviewers fool you-- They aren't prudes, there really is a FUCKLOAD of sex in this movie. But I'm going to try and judge it purely based on its dialogue, use of metaphors, acting, story, and camerawork... and try to ignore the fact that PEOPLE HAVE SEX EVERY FIVE MINUTES-- Okay. I'm calm. I will be as straightforward as I can with this, and attempt not to go totally off the rails over the insanity of what I just saw.

Blue is the Warmest Color is adapted from a graphic (AND I MEAN GRAPHIC) novel of the same name. This film is French, and given its subject matter, I am already inclined to give it a higher score. France, as you may know, has had some trouble recently regarding gay rights. There have been protests in the street by homophobes who get all butthurt (or as the French say, "la douleur de la crosse") over laws allowing gays and lesbians the same rights as straight couples. So this is definitely an important film to see, especially if you are a bigoted fuckhead with the mental capacity of an overripe turnip. Sadly, I doubt that the film will make a big impact on the bigoted fuckheads here in the United States (after all, it's got subtitles, and it's not like bigots can read very well), but it's still an important step forward for France.

The film stars Adèle Exarchopoulos as a young girl who, after a chance meeting, falls madly in love with an older lesbian named Emma (Léa Seydoux) with blue hair. It's never quite clear if Emma makes her realize that she's been a lesbian all along, or if she was so charismatic that she made her "switch teams," so to speak. But either way, she leaves quite an impression on both Adèle and the audience. The dialogue between the two feels real to the point where you forget that you are actually watching a movie, which is a very rare thing in ANY kind of movie these days, especially romances. I didn't stop believing what was happening for a second, although during the SEX SCENES, I started to wonder just what it was like to film this thing. According to the two leads, the director of this movie had horrible on-set manners, which probably made these difficult scenes ever harder to film. But even so, it's hard to tell this from the movie, as everything runs very smoothly throughout it.

BITWC is definitely going to go down in history (unfortunately) as That One NC-17 Lesbian Movie With All the Sex. But it honestly disgusts me that this movie got such a rating. Sure, there is a lot of graphic nudity in this film, but it's not like it was vapid and pointless like the sex in some movies. These two characters were actually in love, so what kind of world do we live in where the natural act of physical love is frowned upon like this, while utterly idiotic movies that are jam-packed with blood and gore squeeze by with a PG-13 rating? God, it sickens me to the core. Yes, this movie was an all-out assault on good taste, and yes, I couldn't lift my jaw back up to my mouth for a good half-hour after seeing it, but nothing in this is going to leave some kind of lasting impression on me that will scar me for life. The ratings system is a form of censorship, and although it's definitely more agreeable than the Motion Picture Production Code, it's still a higher power telling us what we can and can't see. There are no actual written laws about what you can put in a movie today, but movie theaters still turn teenagers away from R-rated film, and many theaters still refuse to play NC-17 films. I hate to give so much attention to the controversy of this film, because it certainly has other merits, but I respect it immensely for not cowtowing to "good taste" and right-wing Christian values crap like that. This is an important film to see.

Although there's a lot of people doin' the nasty in this movie (perhaps too much), it should not be categorized this way. No, male reviewers don't only like it for this reason-- It is powerfully acted and visually arresting. The undertones of true love and soul mates are present throughout, and there is a lot of symbolism throughout, ranging from the obvious (when the main characters eat oysters... yeesh) to the more obscure (when Adèle swims in the sea, which of course is blue). Looking for these metaphors can take time, but you don't really have to, because the dialogue is just as strong as the visual grandeur of the film. Even the small talk between the characters is absolutely spellbinding. You just don't get great drama like this very much nowadays, and even though it was ridiculously ambitious, it had my attention from beginning to end. Not many three-hour movies have had me totally riveted from the get-go-- In fact, I can think of only two others, Lawrence of Arabia and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly-- But this had perfect pacing and likable characters, leading to one of the most enjoyable movie experiences of the year.

Final Score for Blue is the Warmest Color: 8/10 stars. My problems with this movie are few, but when they are present, they are pretty significant. Although the sex definitely had a "wow" factor, it honestly did not need to happen so often. Not being a prude, just saying... repetitious grunting and moaning does not further the plot or provide character development. As it is with any film, I fully support scenes of nudity the same way I support scenes of spontaneous decapitation. But if you're going to put a lot of it in your movie, you should have some reasoning behind it to back it up. And even if there's a lot of it in this, the reasoning is sound. This film is about love and loss, and what people are willing to go through in the name of true love. The main character is likable, the dialogue is fantastic, and the cinematography is utterly spectacular. Minor flaws aside, this is one of the best films of 2013. But would it have killed them to use the song "Crystal Blue Persuasion" in it? Damn... missed opportunity.

Side Effects
Side Effects(2013)

Sometimes when I go to bed, I take a moment to say a silent prayer, thanking the movie gods for films like Side Effects. 2013 has been one of the worst years for blockbusters yet, but lesser-known dramas such as this have gained a massive foothold among audiences recently. And Side Effects lays a totally rightful claim to that category. Featuring dark and moody cinematography, remarkable performances, and an intelligent script, this deftly (there's Jed's favorite word) handled piece of cinema is one of the best murder mysteries I've seen in quite some time. I didn't expect too much from this movie, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised. It's almost in the territory of a masterpiece.

Side Effects is directed by Steven Soderbergh, a highly acclaimed director whose best films (including Sex, Lies, and Videotape) I have sadly not yet experienced. However, I mildly enjoyed his 2011 film Contagion (in which Jude Law also played a doctor), so I was looking forward to seeing this. And it did not disappoint. Side Effects follows the story of Emily, a 28-year-old woman whose husband (Channing Tatum) recently got out of jail for a white-collar crime. Emily is played by Rooney Mara, who I think is one of the most talented (not to mention attractive) actresses in Hollywood today. She blew me away already this year with her performance as Ruth Guthrie in Ain't Them Bodies Saints, and she is mesmerizing here. Her character will keep you guessing up until the very last minute of the movie, but to avoid any spoilers, I will refrain from detailing just how great this performance is. But I will say this: Some actors are chameleons, but she blows them out of the water here. I was totally sucked in by this character, and I never saw the plot twist coming. Mara is an easy nominee for Best Actress, and if it weren't for Cate Blanchett's performance in Blue Jasmine, I'd say she should win it as well.

Jude Law, meanwhile, plays Emily's psychiatrist, who prescribes her with increasingly experimental medicines until she finally snaps. After this jarring turn of events (which I shall not detail, as I still don't want to spoil it), Law is forced to play detective a little bit and figure out just why Emily did what she did. Earlier this week, I mentioned how fascinating it can be to watch a character such as Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street move through their world without any hinderance whatsoever. The same is true for the opposite-- It can be very fun to watch a character become a fish out of water when the plot calls for it. And to see Law's professional, cut-and-dried doctor be forced into becoming a detective of sorts is another one of my favorite performances of the year.

The script doesn't move as fast as it should at the beginning, but it picks up significant speed when the plot twists start rolling in. Pacing problems aside though, the patient moviegoer will have a hell of a time with this slow-burning, intense, and methodical film. The twists don't just come out of left field with absolutely no hinting to them beforehand-- You see them and slap your head, saying "Oh fuck! It all makes sense now!" Not to mention the fact that it never relies on the stupidity of a character to further the plot. All the characters in this film are smart and cunning, which makes their interactions all the more deliciously intense. Law ends up having to outsmart one of the best-laid plans in movie crime history, and the way he goes about it is logical, intelligent, and dramatically realistic.

All the actors in this movie are either fantastic or agreeable, with Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones (two actors I couldn't care less for) turning in minor yet still watchable performances. But what really keeps this movie going is its tone. The pacing and cinematography are to credit here. Every shot in this movie is expertly framed, and the camerawork demonstrates serious mastery of the art. The gray, foreboding visuals foreshadow bad things to come, and constantly remind the audience of Emily's fragile state of mind (or lack thereof... no spoilers). The look and feel of this movie are terrific, and it helps that it has such winning performances and a smart script. Everything works here, to be honest, but it doesn't have quite the emotional or psychological impact that it should. It's competent and extremely accessible, but falters a bit when it comes to theme and meaning. Nevertheless, it's one of the year's best dramas.

Final Score for Side Effects: 8/10 stars. Bumping This Is The End out of my top 10 for the year, Side Effects ranks as one of the best movies of the year, and the best mystery/thriller I've seen in quite some time. Very few movies are as conservatively paced and powerfully reserved as this one is, but it all pays off. Every scene counts, and I can bet that upon a few rewatches, it will morph into a widely-acclaimed classic. It's also one of those films, like Fight Club or The Sixth Sense, where watching it a second time after knowing the plot twist opens up the audience's eyes to the film even more than before. This is a great piece of filmmaking that, sadly, didn't get nearly as much recognition as it should have. But that's part of its charm.

The Host
The Host(2013)

Here's a review that will come as a surprise-- The funniest movie of the year isn't This Is The End or Anchorman 2-- it's The Host, the most recent film adaptation of a young adult novel by Stephanie Meyer, one of th