Rock of Ages (2012)

Directed by: Adam Shankman (I saw Bringing Down the House once)

Written by: Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb and inexplicably Justin Theroux, based off of D’Arienzo’s musical of the same name

Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Malin Åkerman and Tom Cruise, with a number of cameo appearances as well.

What it’s about: a small town girl moves to Los Angeles to become a famous singer or some shit

B-Movie Alternate Title: ugh I can’t even sum up the creative juices to come up with one for this horrid piece of garbage.

Movie Mash Up: Empire RecordsFootlooseChicagoDetroit Rock City churned in a “Glee” blender

What I liked: Absolutely nothing.  Literally five minutes into it I Tweeted that it was already horrible.

What I disliked: EVERYTHING.  It is a terrible movie, not just because it’s a musical (I am not prejudiced against musicals) but because it is one of the worst-written, cheesily-acted movies that has come out in a long time.  I was embarrassed for actors like Giamatti and Bryan Cranston being in this film.  I have no idea what the target demographic for this film was, because everyone that enjoyed Cruise’s extended cameo performance in Tropic Thunder were not going to be interested in seeing him as an aging rock god.  It might have been extremely faithful to the source material but I don’t give a damn because sometimes musicals are impossible to adapt to the screen without seeming terrible.  Like Phantom of the Opera in 2004, it was a painful exercise in futility.  Movies like this make me wish I could get black-out drunk and forget I ever saw it.  Horrible.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Did you read what I just wrote?  No one deserves the pain of sitting through this.  Terrible, atrocious movie with crap performances and lines that would embarrass a 5-year-old to have to deliver.

Rating: 0 / 5


Cosmopolis (2012)

Directed by: David Cronenberg (I vaguely recall watching The Dead Zone (something I should re-watch again), and more recently Eastern Promises and the excellent A History of Violence are the Cronenberg films I am mostly familiar with)

Written by: Cronenberg, based on Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name

Starring: Robert Pattinson (much like Woody Harrelson in RampartI am fairly certain he’s in every scene of the movie), Kevin Durand, Sarah Gadon, Abdul Ayoola, Emily Hampshire, Jay Baruchel, Juliette Binoche, K’Naan, Patricia McKenzie, Samantha Morton, and Paul Giamatti.

What it’s about: beats the fuck out of me.  I think I’m a pretty smart dude, and sometimes I watch movies that are too smart for me, or maybe they’re just altogether too smart for any audience, excepting pretentious assholes.  Maybe, or maybe I’m projecting.  I guess it’s about a day in the life of a billionaire as his fortune crumbles around him.  Maybe?

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Billionaire’s Haircut.. hmm.. that’s actually a bit too arty.  Maybe, “Billions Lost!” or “Limo Ride: THE MOVIE”

Movie Mash Up: can’t think of any off the top of my head.  It’s very Cronenberg, but not Cronenberg that I’m familiar with.

What I liked: the acting is fairly decent, particularly Paul Giamatti.  Pattinson seems to be disconnected at points, but that’s pretty much his character so… yeah.  It’s a gorgeous-looking movie, and there was some nice sexiness from Juliette Binoche.  And I like seeing Kevin Durand in movies.

What I disliked: not knowing what the fuck was going on.  I’m sure there was some sort of point to it, but when I read the Trivia on IMDb and it says that Cronenberg wrote the script in six days, I’m not entirely surprised.  It feels like a flash of inspiration that he spent six days chasing after and then – exhausted – called it done.  Many, many words are said and you can search them for meaning for ever and ever, but to me, they are just words.  Almost three quarters of the movie was me just waiting for something meaningful to happen.

Would I recommend this to anyone?: No.  I didn’t outright hate it, I understand that there may be some value to it, but I cannot sit here and say “YES, you must see Cosmopolis!”  If I can’t understand the point of a film, I can’t justify recommending it to anyone else.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

The Negotiator (1998)

In the interest of full disclosure, the first time I reviewed this movie, I gave it a full 5 stars.  I’m posting that review here now, and I still love the movie, but I don’t think it’s a 5 star movie anymore.  There are some beats in the film that just detract from the overall package, but I still think it’s a fine thriller, one where the director, F. Gary Gray, plays with the audiences sympathies and makes you question exactly who is good and bad.

F. Gary Gray took time out from making music videos and movies specifically targetting the black audience to direct this action / suspense / thriller. Sadly after directing this movie, he went on to underwhelm me with the Marky Mark Italian Job and the disappointing Be Cool, as well as some crappy Vin Diesel movie that I never had any desire to see. Now I’m not saying Gray is a middling director or anything like that, just that The Negotiator will probably end up being the best movie he ever made (Note: the only new feature he’s released since Be Cool was the alright Law Abiding Citizen).

Gray is certainly responsible for crafting a masterfully suspenseful police movie, but I probably never would have come across this movie if it weren’t for the two stars of it. Samuel L. Jackson stars as Danny Roman, a hostage negotiator for the Chicago police force, ironicly forced to take hostages in an attempt to prove his innocence after being accused of corruption and murder. Kevin Spacey is Chris Sabian, a negotiator from a different district that Roman requests be brought in to help prove his innocence. Problem is, Sabian’s so damned good at his job that he doesn’t care about the accusations leveled at Roman, he just wants to get the hostages out, alive and well.

The supporting cast is absolutely fantastic, featuring late greats J.T. Walsh and John Spencer, as well as familiar character actor faces like Ron Rifkin, the underrated David Morse, and good ol’ Paul Giamatti, back when he seemingly couldn’t get roles that didn’t require him to be fucking annoying. Some of them are good cops, some are hostages, all do an excellent job with their performances, hitting all the right notes. These are veteran actors and they know exactly what they’re doing, and Gray looks even better as a director thanks to them.

It says a lot for the writing team of James DeMonaco and Kevin Fox, when you’re actually wondering how everything’s going to turn out in the end. The entire premise of the movie has to be given away in the trailers, there’s no big surprises there, and that’s the nature of the beast. Throughout the rest of the movie there are plot twists and revelations that consistently keep you on the edge of your seat, leaving you wondering if there’s going to be a happy ending for Danny Roman after all.

There’s a lot to love about The Negotiator, but the chemistry between Spacey and Jackson is easily number one on my list. Their line deliveries, how they seem to be savouring every syllable, and still making their characters seem real and believable, is truly awe-inspiring and surprising in a movie that many might dismiss beforehand as a cookie cutter police procedural. Truly an excellent movie, and it makes me miss watching Kevin Spacey movies, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to buy him as Lex Luthor in the new Superman flick (Note: he was believable enough, but the movie absolutely sucked).

4.5 / 5

Man on the Moon (1999)

Damn, what a time capsule this movie is.  Remember way back in 1999 when Jim Carrey was considered a genius instead of an annoyance?  Oh, precious memories.  Now it just seems like he’s either doing the greatest Andy Kaufman real life impersonation ever, or he’s just “sold out”.  If you want to be truly amazed at what a time capsule this movie is, look at all the actors that I’ve tagged for this movie.  Patton Oswalt with a mustache and mullet!  David Koechner not acting like an ass!  Mary Lynn Rajskub barely recognizable!  Courtney Love looking like a real live human being!

Now if you’ve been reading my reviews for the past couple days, you’ll know that I’ve been on kind of a professional wrestling string of movies.  Sometimes I try to extend these things, and this isn’t one of those tenuous strings, it’s a legitimate connection.  Back in the early 80s when wrestling was still a territorial business, Kaufman went down to Memphis to continue to play his misogynistic blowhard Intergender Wrestling Champion character.  Memphis is Jerry “The King” Lawler country, back then and to a certain level, still today.

The only way to describe what Kaufman and Lawler pulled off back then is brilliant.  Kaufman put himself over as one of the all-time greatest heels in wrestling history.  Granted, it was somewhat cheap heat, but the venom the crowds spewed at him, man, you don’t see that kinda passionate hatred every wrestling show.  I realise I’m using a lot of wrestling jargon here, so I’ll cut this part short, but it still amazes me to this day how well it was pulled off.

It’s hard to say which Carrey performance I enjoy more, his spot-on portrayal of Kaufman, or his touching performance in The Truman Show.  Normally I disdain biopics, as they’re the second easiest kind of awards show fodder (right after “half retard” (never go “full retard”)), but the acting that director Miloš Forman got out of Carrey was nothing short of otherworldly.  The entire cast is wonderful, from Carrey to the awesome Paul Giamatti to the understated Danny DeDevito.  Usually these biopics kinda feel a bit hollow and fake, but you can tell there was a lot of love from these actors for the real Andy Kaufman, and the whole movie is genuinely heartwarming in my books.

5 / 5

Barney’s Version (2010)

I’ve been a Paul Giamatti fan for quite some time now, probably since I saw him way back in The Negotiator.  He’s kind of like his co-star in that movie, Samuel L. Jackson, in that he acts in a tonne of movies, and rarely delivers anything less than a workman performance.  Dude’s a professional, a character actor that through his own sheer talent has overachieved far higher than anyone would have expected in his career.  So I try to watch as much of his stuff as possible, though I still need to get around to Cold Souls.  Seemed like a movie you had to be in the mood for.

Anyways, this movie is based off of Canadian author Mordecai Richler’s book of the same name, and based on how much I liked it, I may have to search out that novel.  Giamatti stars as the titular Barney, a Jewish TV producer who has led a somewhat crazy life.  The way the movie was shot, the flashbacks and such, well until I read the Wiki entry for it, I was sure that it was based on a real person.  I thought it was a biopic of some Canadian that I had never heard of.  That’s not a rare thing either, as I am Canadian and celebrate our culture, but if it’s CBC-related I tend to get bored real fucking fast.

As a Canadian, I felt that it had a very distinctive Canadian feel to it, and that’s not something you see everyday in movies.  The acting is tremendous throughout, as is the story, which – because of Barney’s nature – you’re never really sure about.  It also features one of the most real and touching love stories I’ve seen depicted in a long time, between Barney and the lovely Miriam (Rosamund Pike).  Definitely something I’d watch again, and I’d recommend it to others as well.

4 / 5

The Ides of March (2011)

Ever since I was first turned on to “The West Wing”, I’ve had an interest in well-written American political movies.  Much like my adoration of baseball movies, this interest does not translate over into day-to-day life as I’m more apolitical than anything.  Or apocalyptic.  Something.  Anyways, I enjoy both George Clooney and Ryan Gosling and had intended on seeing this movie no matter what it was about, so I purposely did no research at all and went in blind.

Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) is pretty much the Barack Obama of this political thriller, a charismatic and popular and different choice for the American people.  He has two of the brightest campaign managers working to get the Democratic nomination for him, the veteran Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the idealistic Stephen Meyers (Gosling).  Through an interaction with the opposing Democratic candidate’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), Stephen ends up playing a high stakes political game to salvage his young career.

Clooney also directed the movie, as well as helping with the screenplay which itself is an adaptation of the play “Farragut North” by fellow screenplay writer Beau Willimon.  Clooney appears to direct a movie every three years, and while this isn’t his best so far (that would be Good Night, and Good Luck.) it’s also not his worst (Leatherheads which I still enjoyed).  For the most part it’s an intriguing look into the backrooms of politicians, probably making them far more interesting than they actually are.  Pretty much what Aaron Sorkin did with “The West Wing”.  It’s well acted, well shot, well written, a solid movie all around, just lacking something that I can’t place my finger on right now.

Might as well call this blog Clooneymovieaday at this point.

4 / 5

The Hangover: Part II (2011)

The first Hangover movie was an entertaining, laugh-filled ride through Crazytown with enjoyable characters and a bit of heart to it.  The sequel is a dark, depressing, tumultuous trip through Bangkok with mean-spirited characters and a ridiculous result.  Sometimes director and co-writer Todd Phillips has some method to his madness (Old School is essentially Fight Club and it MAKES SENSE THAT WAY), but unless he gives us the cipher, I’m not going to know if I’ll ever know or care what his thought process going into filming this movie was.  Unless Warner Brothers just said they’d drive a dump truck full of money up to his house.  That would make sense.

So almost the entire plot from the first film is simply exchanged from Las Vegas to Bangkok, since Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married and his wife-to-be, Lauren (Jamie Chung), wants to please her father (Nirut Sirijanya) with letting him host the wedding.  Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) want to celebrate with him in Thailand as part of the wedding and also, the plot device from the first film, fuck-up Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wants to come along too.  Also, Ken Jeong is in it again.  And there’s an adorable monkey too.  Shit goes down and then they try to piece together the second night of their lives that they can’t remember.

I wanted to enjoy it, I really did, but I didn’t.  For me, it was kind of summing up everything that’s wrong with Hollywood these days.  It took the premise of the first film and essentially turned it into The Hangover: Bangkok.  I like continuity and call-backs as much as any guy, but it just seemed so joyless this time.  It was an easy paycheque and a no-brainer for the studio to put money into.  It’s cookie-cutter cinema, and it depressed me a bit, not gonna lie.

Also, I wish they’d have gone for a stylistic reduction of the title, like T2 or the inexplicable ID4.  They could have called it H2: WHOA.  Stupid marketing departments.  I mean look at that poster up there!  There’s like three sight gag reveals just GIVEN AWAY for free!

2.5 / 5