Review: War Dogs (2016)


“They called guys like us war dogs. Bottom feeders who make money off of war without ever stepping foot on the battlefield. It was supposed to be derogatory, but… we kind of liked it.”
– David Packouz

SYNOPSIS: Based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. – via IMDB


GRADE 7You know, I didn’t really know what to expect of this movie going into it. I didn’t read an awful lot on it, or hear a lot about it. My yardstick was some friends of mine tellling me that it was worth a look see, and was pretty entertaining. I have to say that I agree, this was quite a good one.

Jonah Hill is excellent as Efraim Diveroli, what an absolute tosser. He really owned the role and got into it. Miles Teller is a good actor, and he’s a welcome addition to the cast for this. Hill and Teller work together excellently and effortlessly, and just make this a fun watch. That’s another thing; I appreciated how War Dogs gave you enough story for you to understand, but not so much that it becomes a heavy, full-fledged drama. This movie is ultimately quite fun, despite the subject matter it deals with. What a fantastically crazy story!

The pacing wasn’t bad in this movie – it was fast and told you the story at breakneck speed, to be sure, but you had a lot of fun along the way, and got to see enough of what was happening to appreciate and understand it all. I also liked the score for this. There were some issues – I know I say this is fun and all, and it is, but I would have liked a little bit more substance to the entire crazy deal these young men pulled together.

I am not totally sure about the accuracy of this story, and I am sure that tons of liberties were taken, too, but I had fun. It was not great, and there were legitimate issues that were littered across it with characters and events, but it is a light, entertaining watch, and that is all that I could ask for. This is not an area that most people have a lot of knowledge, so it was something new.

Anyway, silly, entertaining, a few truly funny moments, War Dogs is worth a look see, regardless of the actual story, or how this compares.

Rapid Review: American Sniper (2014)


“I just want to get the bad guys, but if I can’t see them I can’t shoot them.”
– Chris Kyle

SYNOPSIS: Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind. – via IMDB

american sniper prepping

GRADE 8I am so glad to finally have seen this. I love a good war film, I do, and I was unaware when I started watching this that it was a Clint Eastwood movie, though it certainly had that look and feel. Anyway, I was entertained and drawn in from the off, and American Sniper offers a great character study of Chris Kyle, though the supporting characters do get left behind and are not fleshed out nearly as nicely as the lead. At any rate, Bradley Cooper did an awesome job realising Chris Kyle, and he was very well cast. He was charming, entertaining, a little too dedicated to country, and loyal. Watching the tours he went through were rough, and it was interesting to see how everyone seemed to be getting affected except him – until you put him back in a normal situation. He just couldn’t cope properly. His character development was something else, seeing him being the cowboy, with a crazy girlfriend and a super simplified life, and how he decided he needed something more, and how that ultimately changed so much about him. There was some humour in the film, but not overkill, and it was used at the appropriate times. I was a particular fan of the distinction Kyle made between rednecks and Texans. I am still chortling over it. Sienna Miller was also very good, though she was not used as much as she could have been, and eventually it was almost as though she was only there to harp on the fact that he had not completely returned from the war. I liked how there was no music in the beginning before Kyle started talking, and though it was disconcerting, the way there was no music throughout the end credits either was actually very fitting for the movie. The plot progression was not as smooth as it could have been as some places certainly did feel rushed, but it isn’t done in a way that makes the movie feel like a waste. There was not one minute that progressed that didn’t have me completely engrossed, so I am very happy to say that it is well worth the wait to see, especially if you are a fan of war movies. American Sniper is shot carefully and does not try anything revolutionary, but that is not an issue. By the books and safe, it tells the story of Kyle. The focus is on Kyle, and the movie tells his story and it is done carefully, deliberately, and with respect. It isn’t my favourite war film of all time, and it definitely isn’t the best of the genre, but it is a solid entry and a very good watch.

Rapid Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians of the galaxy poster

“So here we are: a thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac. But we’re not going to stand by as evil wipes out the galaxy. I guess we’re stuck together, partners.”
– Peter Quill

SYNOPSIS: After discovering a mysterious orb in another part of the galaxy, Peter Quill from Earth, is now the main target of a manhunt led by the genocidal villain Ronan the Accuser. Being hunted across the galaxy, Quill gets lumped together with a group of misfits that need to learn how to get along before they can become the “Guardians of the Galaxy”. – via IMDB

guardians of the galaxy

I definitely liked this far more than I thought I would. The soundtrack was great (which is how this was bumped up .5), the characters were entertaining, there was cheese, there were some seriously odd moments, there was plenty humour, and it was just a fun flick overall. I don’t think it is deserving of the hype surrounding it but I liked it more than anticipated, which is something. I went in expecting something like The Avengers, which, as you all know, was not my favourite movie or anything. I didn’t know too much about this, which I am sure counted in the film’s favour, so it was all new to me. I thought the cast was fantastic, each bringing their bit to the table and  having fun while doing it, which shows on screen. Rocket Raccoon really had me laughing at the best of times, especially with his penchant for prosthetics, as well as how he could laugh about it (that giggling!). Seriously. Chris Pratt does a very good job in the leading role, and I liked him. I thought the villain, Ronan, was absolutely freaking ridiculous and not creepy at all (and I was told he was pretty cool). He was not. He looked like a giant blue, muddy nun, and sounded silly. You know I like a good villain… The movie itself was decently paced, didn’t feel as long as it was, and it was shot quite well. The effects were pretty good, though here and there it was a little dodgy. Guardians of the Galaxy has a very different feel from all the other Marvel movies we have been getting over the last few years, and it worked wonders here, like a breath of fresh air. I still don’t quite understand why the world has gone ballistic over this, but it was fun and worth the watch, if nothing more than just to see this band of misfits together. I enjoyed the way the movie was presented, and the plot progression. I don’t actually have an awful lot to say about this one, so I will stop waffling on about it.

Poster credit.

Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

silver linings playbook poster

“Nikki’s waiting for me to get in shape and get my life back together. Then we’re going to be together.”
– Pat Solitano Jr

Pat Solitano, Jr (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental hospital after serving eight months as was the minimum amount of time agreed upon by the courts. Pat was treated for bipolar disorder, something that was previously undiagnosed and something that irrevocably changed his life. He is released into the care of his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and his father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), and moves in with them. Pat has changed his life and is eager to reconcile with his wife, Nikki, who is a big reason he ended up in the hospital. She cheated on him with a colleague, causing Pat to give the guilty man a terrible beating. He will hear nothing of the fact that his marriage is over. Pat learns his parents seem to be struggling financially a bit and that his father has turned to illegal bookmarking to get money together to open a restaurant.

silver linings playbook family
“Let me tell you, I know you don’t want to listen to your father, I didn’t listen to mine, and I am telling you you gotta pay attention this time.” – Pat Solitano Sr

Pat is upset about the restraining order that Nikki had taken out against him and that it is still in effect, though he is sure that he is getting his life together and that she will take him back when she realises this. Pat is seeing his court-mandated therapist Dr Patel (Anupam Kher), who is doing his utmost to help Pat out so that he will not be hospitalised again. Pat is getting to a better place in his life, and Patel sees this, though there are still issues that need to be worked out. Pat shares a lot with his therapist, including his new positive outlook on life, enshrined by the term “excelsior”. Pat is invited to dinner one night at his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles). At dinner he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), Veronica’s widowed sister, whom he feels is completely socially stunted. The two seem to get along, especially when discussing medication, yet by the end of the night they are at extreme odds again, matters which are exacerbated by the fact that Pat turned down her offer of sex.

silver linings playbook letter
“I have a problem? You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.” – Tiffany Maxwell

Soon, though, Tiffany starts popping up everywhere and is relentless. Pat gets over thinking of her as a slut and thinking of her as a useful tool to get in touch with Nikki again. Naturally, it is a quid pro quo relationship, and Tiffany has Pat promise that he will participate in an upcoming dance competition with her. As reluctant as he is, he finally agrees to do it. Pat is sure that the competition will be the thing to show Nikki that he is a changed man and that they have a chance. Pat Sr. on the other hand is angry that his son is always out and about with Tiffany. Pat Sr. wants Pat at home, he is convinced that Pat is his lucky charm to get the Philadelphia Eagles to win their games. Pat is torn in two directions, and soon discovers that he likes Tiffany more than he should, and she is most certainly interested in him, crushed that he cannot see her through his obsession with a cheating woman who does not deserve him.

silver linings playbook dance lessons
“This is what I learned at the hospital. You have to do everything you can, you have to work your hardest, and if you do, you have a shot at a silver lining.” – Pat Solitano Jr

Pat Sr. has Pat attend a Philadelphia Eagles game, meaning Pat will miss his dance practise with Tiffany, and being there will win his dad the game he bet basically all their money on. Instead Pat and his brother Jake (Shea Whigham) get into a fight along with Dr Patel, and the Eagles lose the game. Tiffany is outraged that Pat made a commitment and didn’t stick to it, and Pat Sr. is in a state over losing all his money. To even things out Randy (Paul Herman) and Pat Sr. make a parlay with one another: the Eagles will win and Tiffany and Pat will score at least a 5 in their upcoming dance competition. Will Pat Sr. win the money back that he needs for the restaurant? Will Tiffany and Pat be able to work through their silly drama? Will they be able to score the 5 to make the parlay a winner for Pat Sr.? Will Nikki and Pat be able to reconcile now that Pat has turned his whole life around? Will Pat ever fully be in control of his problems?

A 7/10 for Silver Linings Playbook. I have never actually just gotten to this movie, despite how popular it got, despite how much it is recommended to me, none of it. Eventually, though, as always, I got to it. I had a good time with this movie, it really had me smiling and laughing with it. For one, Jennifer Lawrence completely stole the show for me, and was certainly worth her Oscar win. She was absolutely crazy yet adorable at the same time. She was intelligent and funny but not even remotely normal, and it worked. Bradley Cooper was fantastic, and the chemistry that he and Lawrence shared was just brilliant, and they complemented each other so well. I know this sounds crazy, but I knew almost nothing about this movie going in, and I liked the fact that I was not really aware of what was to come. There was plenty to laugh at, and plenty that brought it down to a more serious tone. De Niro was very good here, and it was nice to see him with a better role than usual nowadays. Jacki Weaver was so well cast as Dolores Solitano, she just worked the mother well. She was timid yet supportive, shy yet loving; she managed to balance out her husband just well. Pat Solitano, Sr. was terribly entertaining, the way that his allegiances just flicked around. Chris Tucker provided some smiles with his strange personality and funny friendship with Pat. I must say that this was a good movie, a bit soppy at times but heartwarming nonetheless and flawed , no doubt, but definitely worth checking out, even if only for Lawrence’s performance.

Review: The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)

the place beyond the pines movie poster

“If you ride like lightning, you’re going to crash like thunder.”
– Robin Van Der Zee

Passing through Altamount, New York, motorcycle stuntman for traveling act for state fairs Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) gets visited by his ex-lover, Romina (Eva Mendes). He returns a year later to discover from her mother Malena (Olga Merediz) that he is the father of a young boy. Intent on being in his son’s life, Luke quits the fair and meets Robin Van Der Zee (Ben Mendelsohn), who gives him a job at his auto repair shop. Luke is not making the money he needs to provide for Romina, her mother and her son, and she is not willing to leave her new man, Kofi (Mahershala Ali). This sparks unrest, and Luke gets desperate. In his desperation, he is roped in to Robin’s plans to rob banks to make money quickly, and the two team up to make a small fortune. However, an altercation with Kofi leads to Luke getting locked up and later bailed out, and Robin calls for an end to their bank robbing ways. This is simply not good enough for Luke, who will do it on his own then.

the place beyond the pines family
“I’m still his father, I can give him stuff. I got this for him, just give it to him. Tell him it’s from me.” – Luke

Naturally, there was no way that that was going to go down well, and in the escape, Luke is killed by Officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) just after telling Romina to never tell their son about him. A new chapter begins in which Avery is the hero in the story, but soon things go awry. Friends in the police force, corrupt cops Scotty (Gabe Fazio) and Peter Deluca (Ray Liotta) take Avery to the house of Romina, where they harass her and later steal the money that Luke left for his son. Avery is wracked with guilt, and attempts to report the abuse that was rained down upon Romina and her family to his commanding officer. This does not make matters better, naturally, and Avery goes from being the city hero to the most hated man in the precinct. Turning to his father, Al (Harris Yulin), Avery manages to get incriminating evidence which he uses to secure his position as the assistant district attorney.

the place beyond the pines cop shop
“I joined the police force because I wanted to work alongside the brave men and women who know that some problems can’t be solved by talking.” – Avery Cross

Fifteen years after the debacle that was Luke’s death and the launchpad for Avery’s career, Avery’s father passes. His ex-wife, Jannifer (Rose Byrne) tells him that his son, AJ (Emory Cohen), insists that he wishes to stay with his father. Avery is in the midst of campaigning for the position of Attorney General, but finally relents. Starting school AJ meets up with Jason (Dane DeHaan). Together the boys have their own family issues, but become friends for a short while after smoking some pot together. However, after buying some ecstasy, the two are arrested by police. Avery is furious with his son, but shocked to discover at the police station that his son was with Jason, the son of Luke Glanton. He gets the charges squashed a bit and demands that AJ no longer see Jason. Boys will be boys, though soon each boy’s lives begin to crack and crumble. AJ, the rebel with the successful father, wishes to walk over everyone and be hero worshipped. Jason demands to know more about his family, though no one is willing to give him answers.

“I know you don’t have time to deal with this stuff right now…” – AJ Cross

Slowly but surely each boy digs their way further into things that were better left unsaid and undone. Will AJ continue to bend Jason to his will? Will Avery ever be able to admit that what he did to Luke was wrong, and that he rode through that accident to success? Will Jason ever learn more about his father, discover his secrets, dig around more and understand things that were always denied him? How will all these characters come together, and how will they impact one another. One mishap years ago seems to resonate through the past and into the present and future.

This film scores a well-founded 8/10 for The Place Beyond The Pines. I really enjoyed how you could see the three distinct “chapters” of this movie, so to speak, and it has a pretty decent cast. It was interesting to see how Luke was always going to be an outlaw, regular just wasn’t ever going to work for him. It is sad to see how he goes from wanting any and everything to do with his child to not existing in his child’s eye. Bradley Cooper was great as a regular cop who went in and had his whole life changed around because his nerves were shot. How he maneuvered his way into higher office than he was was excellent, though it was rough to see a good cop become just another one of those crappy corrupt men. The divine intervention that brought the sons together was interesting, too. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the camera work for the movie, and everything was well shot and looked stunning. The movie feels a lot longer than it is, and not because it is not a good flick or boring, just due to the sheer amount of story that they manage to squeeze into their time frame. Dane DeHaan had another excellent performance, and I truly feel that he is a vastly underrated actor who deserves a lot more recognition. Not a bad watch at all, I was pleasantly surprised, seeing as I had no idea what to expect after Luke was killed. Not bad.

Review: The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

“I’ve got a train to catch.”
– Leon Kaufmann


So I was super amped for a grand piece of grotesque work. This film was based on a Clive Barker short story of the same title out of his collection Books of Blood. I was excited. He is old school horror. Got all geared up, popcorn, cold drink, candy, the works. I get comfortable, flip out the lights and I begin.

Leon (Bradley Cooper) is a photographer in New York trying to strike the big time. His girlfriend, Maya (Leslie Bibb), waitresses at a local diner. She makes a call to a mutual friend, Jurgis (Roger Bart) to introduce Leon to some of his “artsy” friends. Leon meets a lady who does not really appreciate his work, but recognizes that there is talent, and tells  him to capture the raw innards of the city.

midnight meat train fight

Unfortunately, this is where Leon’s life is ripped off of its normal little track and irrevocably changed. While hunting for those hard, perfect shots, he get sucked into what becomes a desperate chase for a serial killer, shrouded in crazy deep conspiracies. It drives him mad and consumes him, and the Subway Butcher (Vinnie Jones) becomes his obsession. Leon boards the train one night, and all his ghastly suspicions are confirmed in tenfold, not even he suspected the depth of it all.

Now, this movie was great to a certain degree. I liked the way everything had a waning, washout look to it, and it was all dark and demented, and they got the gore down properly. I was also intrigued of the notion of a butcher murdering at his leisure on a subway train (although I admit, I saw too many holes in this theory). Things were off to a good start, and then it just got insane. For instance, what the hell was the point of a rushed and jumbled ending? Why the heck was the conspiracy about the reptile-people not adequately explained?! I was horrified, and not in the way that I had wanted to be. So much potential just flushed away!

I reckon I can score The Midnight Meat Train 5/10 and still keep a clear conscience. It had a great concept that, unfortunately, was just completely overshadowed by the insanely lame ending. It does not even strike me as so much a horror anymore by the conslusion. I had to Google what the heck happened toward the end, and why he was given the specific mantle of chef, but yeah, it is still not kicking it for me like I had hoped. It had so much potential to be so much more. There was gore, there was blood, there was mystery, there was some creepy aspects and it was all getting along just fine. I thought it was great stuff. But then that ending happened, and brought my whole experience crashing down around me!