film reel image

film reel image

Monday, September 30, 2013

Prisoners 2013 * * * Stars

The above picture is the movie title for the film prisonersDirector: Denis Villeneuve
Year: 2013
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars     Cole's Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Jake Gyllenhaal

Produced by busy bee actor Mark Wahlberg and helmed by acclaimed Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners is the type of vehicle that is perfect for fall movie going season. It was filmed in Georgia (which I believe, was made to look like a drab part of Pennsylvania), takes place during Thanksgiving, and harbors a non-stop sense of doom and gloom from its opening frame (I think the sun shined maybe once during the entire 2 and a half hour running time). Listen, I'm not going to sugarcoat it for you, this picture is long, feels long, and it really takes its time. Villeneuve uses old school filming techniques and doesn't project anything flashy at all. The story, when it's all said and done however, is somewhat conventional. Therefore, I think it was necessary for the events to be drawn out and dragged through the muck a little. Based on an initial viewing, I realized that Prisoners would have felt like a TV movie and/or a Law and Order episode if the running time was trimmed to say, an hour and a half. Thankfully, it comes off as an extended director's cut (I'm not the only critic that felt this way) and that to a fault, is what makes the flick work. Watching it, I was reminded of a David Fincher film (without Fincher's signature style though) and not just because it starred staggeringly disciplined actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Prisoners is basically a mild spawn of Fincher's Se7en and Zodiac. It's not quite as effectively creepy as those films, but it's definitely good enough to recommend.  

Part kidnapping movie, part police detective character study, and part fatherly vigilante escapade, Prisoners tells the story of two families (neighbors from across the street) who get together on Thanksgiving day. The Birchs (Franklin Birch played by Terrence Howard and Nancy Birch played by Viola Davis who barely registers here) and the Dovers (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello as Keller and Grace Dover) have a relaxing, calming holiday until their respective daughters wander off and go missing. This then gets the attention of a socially inept area detective (Mr. Loki played with vigor by Jake Gyllenhaal) who garners almost complete control over handling the missing person’s case. As days go by and a potential suspect who might've taken the children gets bounced free, Jackman's angry, frustrated character eventually decides to take the law into his own hands. As the film slowly creeps toward its conclusion, you get small twists and turns (as well as slightly minimal character revelations). You also get to see how important drawing mazes are when it comes to character motivation (I've seen all kinds of thrillers and this plot point was a first for me). 

On the acting front, one thing to notice when viewing Prisoners, is how it pushes aside the other performers in the main cast (Oscar nominees like Viola Davis and Terrence Howard) and puts its main focus on Jackman. Now I'm not saying that Hugh Jackman is a mediocre actor. I just don't think he has the fiery chops to take on such a serious, dramatic role. His fault lies in the extreme overacting and preening to the audience. He seems to be saying, "hey look at me, I should be nominated for an Oscar!" With all the focus on him, the other player's roles become seriously underdeveloped. It gets to the point where you hardly see them anymore. Using little of no background music, there are a lot of carefully set up scenes in Prisoners. To a fault, Jackman appears in almost all of them. Jake Gyllenhaal (Detective Loki), the only other actor receiving top billing, takes up almost as much of the shared time. The difference with Gyllenhaal is that he quietly out acts his co-star. His minutes on screen are underplayed but they feel more genuine, more studied (Gyllenhaal's character's facial ticks like eye blinking were a nice touch), and generally more effective. He seems born to play his role. Jackman on the other hand, has one persuasive agent (he probably needs to stick to his strengths which are the X-Men movies).  

As a fall release that feels as if it's a journey or a metaphoric expedition, Prisoners has a teaser of an ending that may leave viewers holding their hands in the air. The over length may also be a factor when it comes to their varied attention spans. I however, found this exercise mildly absorbing and it was able to keep me interested. You may find the opening ten minutes a little muddled and weak in terms of set up, but after that, this exercise will place you in its grip (not too tightly) and not let go. Like I said earlier, Prisoners makes its case for being serviceable because it rides the wave of other crime dramas filling the screen with gloomy, overcast, and rain-drenched sequences. While watching it, you can almost sense that it does hold back just a little. This film doesn't take too many risks and it may not haunt you like it should (Villeneuve's direction is overly careful). But hey, it still gets by though mainly because of said look and Gyllenhaal's icy magnitude. All in all, if you like crime thrillers that take their time and don't try to jerk you around with the camera, Prisoners might just set you "free."

Written by Jesse Burleson

You're Next 2011 * * * Stars

Director: Adam Wingard
Year: 2011
Rated: R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen

With smidgens of background music straight out of a 1980's John Hughes film and villains with a penchant for killing defenseless human beings by way of crossbows, You're Next exhibits a new and fresh perspective on the horror/slasher genre. Now I'm saying this based on my observation of the movie's second half. The last 45 minutes surprised me and I consider them very effective. The first half, well it resembles one of the weaker Friday the 13th sequels coupled with residue from the meaningless pile of junk that is The Strangers (2008) ("Next" plays like a wiser, more intelligent version of said movie). At 96 fast paced minutes, You're Next isn't monumentally scary. In fact, it's a horror flick that plays more like a thriller. Does that make it less palatable? No way. Truth be told, this is an exercise that delivers a couple of nifty twists and turns that help it rise above the ordinary. And you know what, I couldn't recommend You're Next without them. I can't however, divulge who the character is that turns out to be the reluctant heroine. If you choose to take in a viewing, you'll find out for yourself that this person is a true survivalist that kinda came out of nowhere. And as the perceptive critic that I always try to be, I initially didn't pick up on it.

Harboring a cast that I didn't know from Adam and taking place in I figured the middle of nowhere (of course), You're Next has a premise that goes like this: A rich family consisting of a husband, wife, and four children (all with significant others) venture out to a remote vacation home (it's not revealed where but I found out that filming took place in Columbia, Missouri) for a sort of rekindling (the vibe I get is that they haven't seen each other in quite some time). This family (last name Davison) doesn't know it yet but they are being watched and are to be eventually hunted down by henchman wearing creepy masks that resemble, I guess, bunny rabbits. What begins from that moment on is a relentless rush of terror that doesn't let up. If you like the sight of blood, "Next" will not disappoint. After I left the theater, I wondered budget wise, how much money was shelled out for all those gallons of red dye corn syrup.

Despite that fact that this flick works, there is still something that kinda irked me about You're Next: The antagonists are revealed to not be psychopaths but strictly contract killers (hired to kill and collect a sizable amount of money). If this is the case, then why do they go out of their way to taut their victims (why do they care, it's a business transaction). An example would be writing in blood "You're Next" (the film's title) on a mirror after a routine offing of a neighbor. Another example would be the act of the killers tilting their head Michael Myers style (you know the dude from Halloween) after the umpteenth victim lies dying on the floor. Oh and don't get me started on the fact that they let a song play over and over on a CD player while a corpse sits lying in a chair. Seriously? If you're going to do that, at least play a song worthy of listening to (the tune on repeat sounded like a guy trying to imitate David Bowie, nice try).

When it's all said and done though, You're Next has some decent acting (much better than your standard horror fare with virtual unknowns in the cast), satisfying direction for most of the way (there are some scenes with a sizable amount of jittery camerawork that I could've done without), and an effective 180 degree turn in terms of what you thought you knew about some of the characters. Then there's the ending. It's been done a few times before with other films of this nature. It's equal parts disturbing and funny here. Overall, this is not a horror classic that's going to set the world on fire, but it succeeds in trying to add a spark to what I believe to be, a tiring, over-the-hill genre of filmmaking. Regardless, this gets a recommendation from me and it's the "next" movie you should take in during these dog days of August.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Broken City 2013 * * * Stars

Director: Allen Hughes
Year: 2013
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars     Cole's Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Mark Wahlberg is gonna be a real busy guy this year. He's got four movies coming out and so far I've seen two of them. Although, I wasn't a fan of his April misfire entitled Pain & Gain (I just couldn't allow myself to be), I did enjoy his earlier release which was probably the first feature length movie to come out in 2013. Yes I'm writing about Broken City and yes it entertained me. It's not a great movie but it is a pretty good one. I feel bad though, I mean I knew right away that it was gonna be in and out of the multiplexes faster than a speeding bullet. What you have here is a crime drama that came out in January (strike one), carries an extremely generic title (strike two), and recycles elements from so many other similar films in its respected genre (strike three). Broken City kinda reminded me of a movie that surfaced about 5 years ago (2008's Pride and Glory). Together these two pictures emulate a sort of greatest hits compilation of cinema's version of police corruption and crime. By now, I think we've pretty much seen it all before as moviegoers. But hey, there are a lot worse things you could be doing with two hours to kill than viewing a flick with one past Oscar nominee (Mark Wahlberg) and one past Oscar winner (Russell Crowe). 

The story goes like this: Wahlberg plays N.Y.P.D. detective Billy Taggert.  He crosses the line by playing the dirty cop role (he commits a crime which I can't reveal, that would be a spoiler) and loses his job. Fast forward 7 years later and he is now moonlighting as a photographer/private eye who takes photos of people in I guess, small positions of power. He then catches them in the act of committing for example, adultery and gives this information to the related subjects who are paying for his services. On the verge of going bankrupt (business is slow), Taggert gets a sudden call from the mayor of New York City (Russell Crowe, with perfectly combed hair). Crowe's character (Nicholas Hostetler) proposition's Taggert, the opportunity to make some nice coin.  Taggert has to find out if Hostetler's wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is cheating on him. Better yet, he has to find out who the actual dude is that's involved (this is a juicy plot point I tell you). 

So there it is, the gist of Broken City. Like every other three star movie it has a few flaws here and there. One flaw is that it feels overly familiar. Originality is not its strong suit. In its defense though, it's not easy to make this type of film with original ideas, better yet cut it from original cloth. Every darn police TV show or film beat Broken City to the punch. The second flaw is what this movie tries to be. While I found it entertaining and anything but boring, I felt like I was watching an episode of N.Y.P.D. Blue mixed with a dreary daytime soap.  It's an interesting combo that could easily make a lot of other critics pick their jaw up off the floor. I didn't mind it though. What drew me in eventually, was the crackling scenes of dialogue between Wahlberg and Crowe's characters. They have some great chemistry between them and I hope someday they'll team up again (I won't tell you whether they become adversaries or not in this movie. That's up to you, the viewer, to find out). Along with Wahlberg and Crowe, (not to mention strong supporting work from Barry Pepper as Crowe's future re-election opponent) everyone else in the cast also does a pretty substantial job (sans Alona Tal who tries hard but looks out of place amongst the other Hollywood heavyweights).

In retrospect, this isn't the type of trashy potboiler that's gonna set the world on fire. It does have solid performances, it moves at a brisk pace, and it offers a couple of nifty twists and turns. Granted, it won't have a chance come awards season but I'm sure the people who worked on it know that. On the bright side, they can feel confident that the film was edited nice and tight. This is one of the main aspects that kept me involved throughout its entire running time. Whether you view it or not (and I hope you do), Broken City gets more than enough things right. I'm certain that when the movie ends it will beg you to keep this one notion in mind: if it ain't "broken," don't fix it. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Stand Up Guys 2012 * * * Stars

Director: Fisher Stevens
Year: 2012
Rated: R
Rating: * * * Stars     Cole's Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin

Earlier this year and in limited release, Stand Up Guys made its way to theaters with a cast boasting a trio of the best actors ever to grace the silver screen. I have to say that when I saw a preview for this film, I salivated. I thought, who wouldn't want to see Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin in the same movie. Stand Up Guys opened on a gloomy February Friday and I was first in line, eager to see if these three cool cats could deliver a winner. However, my expectations weren't high seeing that the film was released in the early part of 2013, and it was saddled with mostly negative reviews from critics across the country. But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Stand Up Guys is entertaining, amusing and to some degree, touching.

It tells the story of three aging stick-up guys who reunite for one more night on the town (as a audience, you don't know what town or city these guys are in, but I'm thinking it's somewhere in L.A.) One of them (Al Pacino as "Val") just got out of prison after serving 28 years for murder. Then we have Christopher Walken's character ("Doc") who is Val's best friend and old partner. He picks up "Val" from prison and then has orders from his crime boss to kill him by 10am the next day. If Doc doesn't go through with these orders, he'll be dead too. In a small twist early in the film, Pacino's character figures out what's going on and accepts this fate. But not without having a heck of a lot of fun with his best friend and partner for life. They even go to a retirement home to pick up their other buddy, Richard Hirsch (the likable Alan Arkin). Actually, they break him out, but you get the drift. Mischief and mayhem are abundant as these guys party like it's their last day on earth (actually it might be for Val).

The fact that we know as an audience, that Val already knows he's going to die, gives us a reason to tag along with these guys to see how the film ends. Stand Up Guys has a somewhat dark undertone but in reality I think it's actually more of a comedy. The actors, with the exception of Walken, are pretty much playing themselves. Pacino's character even goes back to parlay his Scent of A Woman shtick one more time. Arkin doesn't rant as much as he does in other films but you can still tell it's him. That leaves Walken, giving a surprisingly restrained performance. It's still solid because you can see raw fear in his weary eyes. His character has a big decision to make. Just like the movie. You, as the viewer, can decide whether Stand Up Guys is a drama, a comedy, or a typical Hollywood mob shoot-em up (there are a couple of well done gunfight scenes as well as fist fight scenes).

The plot that accompanies Stand Up Guys is relatively thin skinned. But it doesn't matter when you got three great actors having such a good time. Let me put it this way, the whole concept this vehicle permeates, is a great idea for a film. It's something studio execs would green light in a heartbeat. If you want my honest opinion, this thing isn't going to win an Academy Award, and it's definitely not going to be a cult classic in 20 years. But if you want to turn your brain off for two hours and be royally entertained, Stand Up Guys "stands up" to anything in the local multiplex.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Colors 1988 * * 1/2 Stars

Colors movie 1988
Director: Dennis Hopper
Year: 1988
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Sean Penn, Robert Duvall

Before the films Training Day (a flick that I believe was inspired by the one I'm reviewing), Menace II Society, Boyz in the Hood, and even the real life L.A. riots, there was this gritty take on gang violence that was directed by the late, not to mention taskful Dennis Hopper. Colors from an initial viewing, seems like an accurate, almost deftly authentic message movie that is brutal in nature and almost tries to scare a moviegoer away un purpose. I believe that it was made (unintentionally) for accuracy and less for catering to your everyday cinematic experience. Hopper, who had only made 3 films prior to this one, used a few of his early camera techniques from his masterpiece Easy Rider to set the tone for this sort of dramatic (not action oriented) buddy cop movie. He does this with the opening shot of the two leads driving through crime ridden L.A., and towards the last half hour or so with some ariel stuff. He was a unique director who seemed to envision what a motion picture could be long before anybody else. With the casting of two legendary screen icons (Robert Duvall and Sean Penn) and what seemed like total freedom to shoot anything and everything around the City of Angels, Hopper shot Colors and it hit theaters (with a lot of buzz) in the spring of 1988. Truth be told, there are a lot of things to admire about this vehicle. What kept me from recommend it is simple. Colors doesn't quite know what it wants to be (this is especially inherit in the relationship between Penn and Duvall). It also doesn't have a clear direction of where it wants to take the viewer. Scenes of police interrogation go on too long and seem repetitive. They don't allow anything to really take shape. Like I said earlier, Colors seems accurate. But I'm afraid, it's almost too accurate. And what you get is something that could only be tolerated by say, a real police officer who has been in the trenches and can access the films subject matter. Where as the similar Training Day was thought provoking, suspenseful, and confidently climatic, Colors just feels like a bruised and battered slog. 

With actual, real life gang members as extras and a lingering feeling that all the main actors rode with (observed as well) actual cops (role researching must have been at an all time high) before filming began, Colors takes you through the armpit of Los Angeles (notably East L.A. and South Central L.A.) where police officers Bob Hodges (Duvall) and Danny McGavin (Penn) try to maintain and possibly rid their territory of gang violence among the Crips, the Bloods, and Hispanic street gangs. Hodges is a veteran officer who is mellow in his actions. McGavin is a hot shot, hot tempered, and high strung rookie who wants to take every measure of veritable force to get the job done (there are a couple of scenes where Penn's character hits a prisoner in custody. To my knowledge, this is probably against police procedure, but it's never noted in the film). As mentioned earlier, the luke warm dynamic between Duvall and Penn's characters is never fully realized. Throughout the two hour running time, you can't really figure out where their relationship stands. Yeah, this has the feel of a buddy cop movie where two the protagonists are constantly at odds with each other, but scenes between these guys escalate and then don't find a resolution. It's a shame that two acting heavyweights who are so good at their craft, feel like they don't belong in the same movie (if I'm not mistaken, they haven't been on screen together since). Their performances are adequate but one of them is miscast and I could never figure out which one.  

In conclusion, there is a lot to admire upon viewing Colors. It's got decent acting, solid direction, and at least it's about something that was relevant at the time. Yes, the events depicted are slightly outdated and there is a sort of preachiness to the proceedings (the soundtrack by the talented Herbie Hancock is wrong for what's on screen because it deflates the dramatic momentum), but it's as strong of a mixed review as I could ever give a motion picture. It has good intentions, promotes a strong message, and makes you think ever so slightly. As an unintentional sort of staged docudrama, it gets the job done. As entertainment value or something viewed as a hearty movie going experience, Colors sadly, is just "black and white."  

Written by Jesse Burleson

H2: Halloween II 2009 * * Stars

Halloween IIDirector: Rob Zombie
Year: 2009
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon Zombie, Scout Taylor-Compton

I no doubt applaud Rob Zombie's vision when it comes to making movies. I read somewhere that he was a huge fan of the horror genre when he was a kid. It's obvious that he pays homage to them ever since he made his first film, 2003's House of 1000 Corpses (it's also obvious that based on the film I'm now reviewing, he seems to really like the darkest images of the Halloween holiday). "Corpses" upset me but in a good way. It's a very effective, unsettling sort of evil stepchild to the masterpiece which is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So ever since I saw this underrated debut, I was eagerly awaiting his next slasher/horror experiment. He hasn't totally delivered since then (The Devil's Rejects was mildly amusing though) but like I said earlier, he is a visionary filmmaker who would rather reinvent or reimagine a classic as oppose to just remaking it.

As a director, Rob Zombie also has plenty of trademarks too. His films always seem to have a carnival-like atmosphere complete with dirty, grubby, grungy, and totally devilish characters. And although it seems like H2Halloween II (the film I'm reviewing) appears to take place in present day, that doesn't stop him from throwing in a 60's or 70's am radio tune as background music. Oh and he generally uses the same cast members in all of his endeavours (notably his wife, Sherri Moon Zombie) and he loves to film scantily clad women from the front and the back.

Not expecting anything different from a Zombie flick this time around, I watched his 2009 remaking (I meant reimagining) of 1981's Halloween II. Where as that 1981 sequel had famed killer Michael Myers terrorizing a Haddonfield, Illinois hospital the same night after the events of 1978's original Halloween occurred, this time around, he has the brutal events take place exactly one year later after all the murder and mayhem from 2007's inaugural rebooting of the franchise (although very little took place in a hospital in the 2009 version, I was however, annoyed by the unnecessarily long murderous dream sequence in the first 10-15 minutes). H2Halloween II is similar to its early 80's predecessor in only one really obvious way. It announces to the audience (spoiler alert) that Laurie Strode and Myers are you guessed it, brother and sister. Other than that, they seem like two completely different films altogether. I'm not saying that Rick Rosenthal's (director of Halloween II (1981)) early effort was a masterstroke (they're were some interesting and quite effective murder sequences though) but it is to this day, a much better, more focused vehicle than Zombie's loud, excess-ridden mess this time around.

He tries his darnedest to grab and enthrall the audience, but it doesn't ring true. The gore and gratuitous violence are mainly for shock value and don't really generate many scares (I do give him credit though for making a valiant effort to give the Myers character an admirable back story, especially in his auspicious 2007 reboot). Let's just say that when this 2009 Michael Myers goes on a killing spree, it's as merciless and robotic as ever. You know that he is headed for Haddonfield (it feels like it takes him forever to get there too) but on the way, he commits so many random kills (a few people at a strip club, a couple of farmers in a truck, a couple of party goers in a small van, etc.,etc...) that it feels like Zombie needed these scenes to use as filler so the movie could round out to an unnecessarily long running time of 2 hours. Then there is the acting (and the overacting) by the entire cast (with the slight exception of Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis) which is mediocre at best (enough f words in this exercise to fill a 100 page script I'm thinking). Granted, this horror film has got all the usual cliches, plenty of annoying hap hazard screams, and a huge 6 foot 9 yet unintimidating actor to play Myers (played by Tyler Mane who's greatest gift to the acting world is grunting every time he stabs a victim). Once more, its got director Rob Zombie filming flashbacks and present day hallucinations. They are between the Michael Myers character and his dead/alive mother along with a younger (child) version of himself. This seems like a nifty idea at first but dissipates with every interrupted, over-the-top bloodletting toward the most annoying (not to mention mean spirited) set of victims a slasher picture could ever be crammed with.

When it's all said and done, in reality, the Halloween franchise should have stopped years ago. But hey, Rob Zombie said it best in a documentary when he reiterated that horror fans are so thirsty for more meaningless blood and gore that they'll do anything to watch another installment (even if it's as lousy and as lumbering as this one). Well Rob, you maybe right. Halloween III is probably coming soon to a disillusioned theater near you.

Written by Jesse Burleson

The Minus Man 1999 * * * 1/2 Stars

The Minus ManDirector: Hampton Fancher
Year: 1999
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Owen Wilson, Sheryl Crow, Brian Cox, Janeane Garofalo

The tag line for this flick's dated trailer reads, "when he's around, nothing quite adds up." That maybe so. For me though, The Minus Man as a September of 1999 release, "adds" up to something mighty special. It's underrated. In fact it's so underrated that hardly anyone in the free world bothered to see it (it played on about 45 screens total). I hope my enthusiastic review might stir up a small cult following. After all, any movie this good, deserves a little resurrection.

Directed by the guy who scripted the futuristic Blade Runner and possessing daydreaming sequences that involve two philosophical detectives, The Minus Man follows the journey of low key serial killer Vann (with 2 n's) Siegert. Owen Wilson plays Siegert and at the time, he took this serious role in between comedic stints like The Cable Guy (1996) and his big hit Wedding Crashers (2005). I gotta admit, his performance is pretty impressive. He comes off as a relaxed, laid back psychopath. His character seems to be nonchalant, carefree, and having the equivalency of a resting heart rate in the mid 30's (just a little movie speculation).

He's a drifter who according to the proceedings, lost his father, doesn't owe anyone any money, and wants to I guess, end people's lives because of their suffering (I guess he's that kind of sicko). He goes around poisoning people by persuading them to take a drink out of his silver flask full of Amaretto. It is mentioned that he may be from Oregon and is heading down the California coast. He decides to stop at a small town and rent out a room. While there, he gets a job as a postal worker all the while continuing to commit murders as he masquerades as a normal, shy person. He even befriends a married couple (The Durwins played by Brian Cox as Doug Durwin and Mercedes Ruehl as Jane Durwin) and catches the eye of a co-worker in Ferrin (played by Janeane Garofalo). Everyone seems to like him and take him in. He's easy to be around, seems to be attractive to woman, and is even able to evade any policemen who don't seem to take the time to wanna solve his killings (there is a sketch of his face in the local newspaper and it looks nothing like him).

Throughout The Minus Man's 1 hour 50 minute running time, you never sense that he is in any danger of getting caught or spending his life in prison. That element, which was interpreted by myself, only added to the calm, creepy vibe that forced me to think about things long after the final credits rolled.

The Minus Man although categorized as your typical crime drama, is different in that it focuses more on the antagonist and hardly ever hones in on the authority figures trying to capture him. Its plot and the unmotivated actions by the main character aren't exactly clear. However, you'll still be pulled in as a viewer because of the stylishness, the somberness, and the cast of capable B-listers (Brian Cox, Janeane Garofalo, and rock star Sheryl Crow).

The script is wittingly and intelligently written by director Hampton Fancher. As mentioned earlier, he co-wrote the sci-fi bender Blade Runner. If you've seen that film, you can tell that he uses his touches as a writer in that same light featured here. He's totally complex in his wording. There's a little bit of irony and you'll notice by the dialogue spoken by the actors, that nothing is what it seems. I thought it was interesting that this is the only vehicle he has ever helmed (but you wouldn't know it). He knows where to put the camera, he's good with light (I like certain scenes that are shown in a ray of bright sunshine), he lets his shots pan out, and he edits well in cuts. "Minus" was made 15 years ago. I kinda wish Hampton wasn't out of the loop and maybe someday, he could put out something new (doesn't matter what genre, I'm game).

All in all, I dig this movie's title, I love its indie feel, and I think what translates on screen, is a capably numbed down thriller. Upon a second viewing, I now dub it as quietly, almost sheepishly disturbing stuff. And give credit to Wilson for being in almost every frame not to mention holding the screen in the palm of his hand (without doing a lot, just underplaying to perfection). Overall, as a rare art flick depicting a psycho killer, The Minus Man is nocturnal bliss from the reclusive 75 year old Fancher. It gets a "plus" for being a solid, late 90's cinematic tool of faux translation.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Dark Blue 2002 * * * * Stars

Director: Ron Shelton
Year: 2002
Rated: R
Rating: * * * * Stars
Cast: Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames, Scott Speedman

I have always been a big Kurt Russell fan. He plays anti-heroes, bumbling superheroes, and the everyman character to perfection. Yet, until Dark Blue, I never saw him as a serious dramatic actor who could contend for say, an Oscar. Now granted, Kurt didn't get nominated for his turn as a corrupt L.A.P.D. cop in the movie I'm writing this review on. But he should have. His performance has many more layers than what we're used to seeing from a once famed, child actor. What can I say, as Sergeant Eldon Perry, he is flat out volcanic. Watching him on screen, you feel as if he's acting for his life. I was blown away. Not only is this his best performance ever, but the film outside of Russell, is fantastic as well. Its director Ron Shelton (White Man Can't Jump, Tin Cup), is not known for shooting cop flicks. He's more your lessons-learned-through-sports movie guy. He does however, in this exercise, know the darkest parts of L.A., and he knows how to get his actors to say what they mean and mean what they say. Let's be honest, going into the theater back in 2003, I didn't think a guy who played Elvis and a director who made Bull Durham could deliver a gritty, absorbing, and overwhelmingly solid cop thriller. I have to admit I was mistaken and pleasantly surprised at the same time.

Now Dark Blue does come off as a little confusing in the first 10-15 minutes. It then however, settles down to tell its story in a brilliant sort of way that an audience member can not think too hard and be massively entertained at the same time. Based on a short story by crime novelist James Ellroy concerning the famous Rodney King trial and serving as a backdrop to the L.A. riots of 1992, "Blue" makes its case as a character study for Russell, his superior officer (commander Jack Van Meter played Brendan Gleeson who specializes in cold, heartless types), and his nervous young partner (detective Bobby Keough played by Underworld's Scott Speedman). Russell's character and Speedman's character take orders from Van Meter who on the side, has two street thugs regularly steal safes and murder for him (the murders aren't the main intention, it's about the money). In return, he lets them stay out of jail therefore putting the burden of having said detectives (Keough and Perry) find, shoot, and arrest similar suspects who had nothing to do with the crimes. As the film carries on, Perry (Russell) along with Keough (Speedman) have epiphanies and start to question their overall motives. Meanwhile, assistant chief Arthur Holland (played by a powerfully gentle Ving Rhames) is trying to crack the whole internal investigation wide open and expose any corrupt doings within the department.

This is a smooth, intricately woven plot machine. As I viewed it for a second time, I was heavily reminded of 2001's Training Day. Both films are similar in their examination of the misguided, fallen nature of L.A.'s finest. In terms of the lead, Russell plays a sort of less nastier version of Denzel Washington's Alonzo Harris. Even the endings of these films seem sort of familiar. Both actors in each movie spout off soliloquies and speeches when their vehicles reach their conclusions. The difference with Dark Blue is that it's a lot less bloody and it deals more with moral issues minus the over-the-top gratuitous violence (just call it Training Day lite). Yes, Training Day is also very good. But "Blue" goes deeper and exhausts you as the viewer, in different, more thought-provoking ways.

One of my favorite things I like to do as a critic, is find motion pictures that are vastly underrated and painfully overlooked by other critics and the movie going public. Dark Blue may be one of the most underrated films I have ever seen. It came out at the wrong time of the year (March of 2003 in the U.S.), wasn't marketed terribly well, and as a result, tanked at the box office. The fact that it hasn't grown a mild cult following also has me scratching my head. Bottom line: If you haven't seen this masterpiece, please do so. It makes you question how police work gets done, it forecasts a harrowing sense of dread from the opening scene re-shown and hour and a half later, it has sequences in which Ron Shelton puts you right in the middle of L.A.'s terrifying South Central mind field, and it has Russell plowing his way through "Blue" like a bull in a china shop. All in all, Dark Blue is a gem, a revelation and one "dark" film indeed.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Beverly Hills Cop 1984 * * * 1/2 Stars

The picture above is a movie title for Beverly Hills Cop
Director: Martin Brest
Year: 1984
Rated: R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Ronny Cox

As a Detroit police officer gone rouge trying to avenge the death of his best friend (he does this by venturing out to Beverly Hills, CA), Beverly Hills Cop is by far, the best film to utilize Eddie Murphy's skills as a gifted comedic actor. In a role once rumored to helm Sylvester Stallone in the lead, Murphy as wisecracking detective Axel Foley gives his best performance in what I consider his best movie to date.

Expertly plotted and directed with controlled craftsmanship by Martin Brest (director of Scent of a Woman), this was a monster box office hit and it spawned 2 more sequels ("Cop" II is pretty solid but "Cop III" is the one you should skip). Watch for the scene where Foley makes a sort of off-duty arrest in a strip club. This is one of the more memorable moments in 80's cinema.

Written by Jesse Burleson

The Natural 1984 * * * 1/2 Stars

Director: Barry Levinson
Year: 1984
Rated PG
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall

The Natural is one of my favorite sports movies of all time not to mention one of the most uplifting films you'll ever see in general. After a quiet sort of mute opening credits sequence, it becomes a poignant, heavenly joy with Randy Newman's hair-raising score pouncing in at all the right moments. As aging baseball legend Roy Hobbs, Robert Redford seems a bit miscast at first, but the movie manages to make you forget about it by surrounding him with a strong assembly of renowned actors (especially Robert Duvall as driven-by-the-truth sports writer Max Mercy and Oscar nominee Glenn Close as a woman from Roy's past). The story takes Redford's character and portrays him as a sort of glorified, baseball messiah (he was out of the game for 16 years because of a gun shot wound) who played outfielder for the New York Knights (for one MLB season mind you). There is a mythical sort of fantasy element present here in which Hobbs has the ability to both pitch and hit like an all-star (unprecedented in today's modern game). Also, the fact that he kinda came out of nowhere and carried a checkered past, draws the viewer in with every well lit scene.

Director Barry Levinson effectively displays a knack for sentimental heroics and although The Natural tries to manipulate the viewer into thinking it's Citizen Kane (considered by many as the greatest film ever made), it still manages to give you goosebumps (the home run sequences are a little outlandish but go with what I'm saying) and does what the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 tried, but might have failed to do.

As a great family film and essential viewing for any sports fan, The Natural will make you stand up and cheer, even if you're the only person in the room.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Barfly 1987 * * * Stars

BarflyDirector:  Barbet Schroeder
Year: 1987
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway, Frank Stallone

If Martin Scorsese directed a movie in slow motion and dirtied it up a little more, he'd get the ultimate foray into a human's bout with alcoholism. So here, I give you the little seen gem from 1987, Barfly.

Mickey Rourke in the title role, takes method acting to a whole new level. I'm not sure what happened between takes, but I feel that he might have stayed in character, didn't shower, probably wore the same clothes, and went by the name of his lead, Henry Chinaski. He drinks like a fish, inhabits the slumming L.A. bars, and gets into fights with a bartender named Eddie (played effectively by Sly Stallone's brother, Frank Stallone). When he's not fighting, failing to pay his rent, and aspiring to be a writer, he gets the attention of a beautiful older woman (another drunk played by Faye Dunaway as Wanda Wilcox). They form an interesting relationship that anchors a large majority of what's on screen. As they wallow in their drunkenness, Henry is pursued by a detective and a women news writer who wants to publish one of his stories.

Almost feeling like a film told in a dreamlike state, Barfly is a character study that revels in irony and self-loathing. It's dirty, free forming, and harbors grubby, all too realistic performances. The side characters are people who you'd find in an alley and kinda look like homeless vagabonds. This is truly Los Angeles at its most depressing and most hideous. The script is based on the writings and life of the famed novelist Charles Bukowski. And the short running time sort of ends and begins in the same exact way. There are some quotable lines, an honest, demented take on the concept of dying, and a cameo by the screenwriter and novelist himself.

Ultimately, it's Rourke's shining moment and Barfly succeeds because of him and almost nothing else. During the first half of the proceedings, his inebriated Henry utters the line, "don't worry, no one's loved me yet." Well this critic loved Mickey's realistic, balls out performance. Forget his Oscar nominated turn in The Wrestler. This is "bar" none, his best work.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Gerry 2002 * * * Stars

The picture above is the title image for the movie GerryDirector: Gus Van Sant
Year:  2002
Rated: R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast:  Matt Damon, Casey Affleck

About ten years ago, I went to a small independent movie theater on the North side of Chicago. I saw a film that was made on a tiny budget with two actors and some extras. Gerry is about two nameless guys played by Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. They park their cars along a road to see a historic monument thinking they'll only be gone an hour or so. Being in the moment and having an overanxious way about them, they don't bother to bring any food and water. They also follow a worn out trail which causes them to be lost in a vast desert wasteland with no shelter in sight. 

Reflecting on Gerry 10 years later, it reminded of a few films that came before and after its release. Part Blair Witch Project (1999) and part Open Water (2005), it's an exercise that effectively relies on minimal movie resources to create real tension and fear.

There are critics that have deemed it slow and polarizing. I found it effective because the stars are real life friends who's chemistry is evident throughout the film's entire length. As they try to find water and civilization, time is running out. You get so involved with their plight that you're right there with them every step of the way. The movie's only low point could possibly be the ending. It drags on and toys with the audience. It could have used a little editing. However, the ride to get there is worth it.

The film was directed by Gus Van Sant. With vehicles like Good Will Hunting (1997) and Drugstore Cowboy (1989), in 2002 this was a complete different turn from what he had done before. I'd call him "Guts" Van Sant for making something this risky. He's pulls it off. With a hauntingly beautiful music score and breathtaking cinematography, Gerry is a small gem of a film. Oh and about the title, you'll just have to see the movie yourself to find out.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Ghosts of Mars 2001 * * Stars

Ghosts of MarsDirector: John Carpenter
Year: 2001
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Pam Grier

Between early 2000 and late summer 2001, three movies about the planet Mars opened in theaters nationwide. Ghosts of Mars (the sci-fi/horror flick that I'm reviewing) happened to be the last one to come out (the other two were Mission to Mars and Red Planet, both box office duds). Normally, this would be a disadvantage but to put it mildly, this 17th feature film by one of my favorite directors (John Carpenter) of all time, happens to be a complete misfire entirely on its own. There isn't a whole lot that can save this movie. It copies a little off of his own, much better work (the fight scenes are solid but they seem straight out of Big Trouble in Little China and the plot elements echo a little from the critically acclaimed Assault on Precinct 13) and in general, it feels like a rushed production complete with a bland opening credits font. Now granted, what Carpenter did with his earlier films is justifiably good. They had a low budget look to them like this one but they also had an admirable story, solid direction, reputable acting, and above all, a good script. Ghosts of Mars doesn't really have any of these things and if it did, I was totally unaware after a mid-day viewing. I'm sad to say that this a clear hack job from someone who I will always think of as a master of terror and suspense. Since "Mars," he has only made one more feature film in the past twelve years (The Ward). I'm hoping that this misstep didn't shake his confidence, or did it?

Projecting itself as an exercise with many unhinged flashbacks (heck, the whole hour and a half running time is told in one large flashback) and exhibiting a rushed sort of unpolished opening credits sequence (not to mention showing a rather cheap looking set design right off the bat), Ghosts of Mars tells the story of how the red planet is a colony and almost all of it is a livable type of atmosphere for humans. A team of police officers led by Commander Helena Braddock (a wooden Pam Grier) venture to Mars and must take on a prisoner transfer (James Williams played by Ice Cube). While there, they discover that the planet is overrun by possessed humans (of an extreme violent nature) who sort of look like a cross between Linda Blair (The Exorcist) and zombies with lots of make-up. Like I said earlier, this flick is told in the form of flashbacks upon flashbacks with Carpenter using a lot of dissolves (fade ins and fade outs) that just add to the cheese factor. I know he's a better director than this and I've seen what he's capable of. I don't know. Maybe he didn't have total creative control. That I guess, remains to be seen.

With all the nonsense going on in "Mars," the one true bright spot might be the inflicted martial arts-inspired action sequences set to Carpenter's rather subdued heavy metal soundtrack. In terms of casting, I think Ice Cube (James 'Desolation' Williams) gave pretty much the best performance. Listen, the guy is no Laurence Olivier, but he fit his role like a glove and had a lot of fun with it. In the lead role, Natasha Henstridge (Lt. Ballard who is second in command) was okay despite coming off as a little arrogant and smug. As for the rest of the cast, well they pretty much phone their performances in. In a way it seems kind of fitting to harbor acting like this in a movie this lazy and well, this contrived.

In retrospect, I can't for the life of me, fathom why this motion picture took place on or had anything to do with Mars (I meant a really fake looking sound stage made to look like Mars). I mean, the whole premise was the defeating of and escape from crazily possessed, demonic entities. The red planet seemed like just a last minute background story to go along with the couple of other bad movies that it inspired. As for the plot letting us know that Mars is an okay location for human beings to survive on without proper space suits or helmets, all I gotta say is, gimme a break! Having the cast walk around the planet this way just makes their surroundings seem that much more fake.  In general, Ghosts of Mars takes itself way too seriously to begin with. It's the type of disposable fluff that has "straight to DVD" written all over it. As for Carpenter, I don't know him personally but I'm sure he recovered from this debacle. Basically, Ghosts of Mars didn't have a "ghost" of a chance at fulfilling his full potential as a renowned filmmaker.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Paranormal Activity 2007 * * * Stars

Paranormal ActivityDirector: Oren Peli
Year: 2007
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

Riding the coattails of such hand held/shaky camera films like Open Water, The Blair Witch Project, and to an effect, Gerry (the last picture mentioned had well known actors in it but the themes are self sufficient), Paranormal Activity is a welcoming success. It's a small scale exercise that generates overbearing tension and surmountable fear. With a small budget, a no-name cast, and no musical score (certain classics like Halloween needed the music so there you go), the tone of this film at times, will shake you. When I initially saw it in 2009, I thought it was moderately effective (in my mind, I have very high expectations for movies of this genre). It didn't scare or haunt me as much as I thought it would. However, I applaud Paranormal Activity for its ability to avoid the gore factor along with getting solid improvisational work from two struggling actors off the street (I think the film was helped by not having a script. It made things seem so much more real). Now granted, the sequels/prequels that came after "Activity" wore out the novelty (except for Paranormal Activity 2 which is just as scary if not scarier than the first one) with each rushed installment. But what seemed like a good idea at the time (why not make a movie for $11,000 and see what happens) ended up turning into a national phenomenon. I even applaud director Oren Peli after I found out that he shot the whole thing in his own home (If I lived there, I couldn't sleep in that bed post filming). Let me put it this way, this vehicle represents a Hollywood Cinderella story if there ever was one. Is it the most terrifying scare fest ever? Not quite. Does it possess a certain level of innovation and ominous glare? You betcha.

With an ending that from what I understand, was guided by the hand of financier Steven Spielberg (yes that Steven Spielberg) and containing various sequences that were manned camera-wise by one of its stars, "Activity" examines a normal San Diego couple (actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat who use their actual names as their character's names) who's house becomes moderately haunted by a demonic spirit. In order to find out the origin of said spirit, Micah decides to film and document the strange happenings thereby provoking/inviting the evil into their lives (not intentionally mind you). This goes on and on throughout the film's short running time to the point where possible possession may be inevitable (the demon is out to get Katie and has been following her since childhood). Micah even buys a Ouija board as a form of extreme measurement (to the dismay of his aggravated girlfriend). By then, you start to feel the walls closing in from an audience standpoint. The unnecessary actions by Micah's character become a plot device implanted so the flick can ultimately carry on. I will say this though, he does add a bit of comic relief here and there. What can I say, it works despite all the dreariness surrounding the situation.

Now as I mentioned earlier, the improvisational masking by the two main players is pretty good. But the most natural and possibly most catatonic performance comes from a psychic named Dr. Fredrichs (played by Mark Fredrichs, a virtual unknown). He warns the two house dwellers that they cannot run from this entity and it will haunt them no matter what. With an obvious sense of sored calamity, he nails his part perfectly where as Featherston and Sloat strain ever so slightly from time to time.

When I put together my plethora of all time greatest horror films, Paranormal Activity is not solely on the list. I'm not biased to scary movies that have a higher budget because they get the job done as well (in case you're wondering, The Exorcist is my all time favorite). But "Activity" is a clear benchmark of what a horror film can do with almost virtually no studio-planted resources. It's a solid entry into the world in which people want to be frightened. And it also made a ton of money (there can never be anything wrong with that). If you've seen one of the ghosts shows on "The Travel Channel" or "A & E," just think of a more heightened, more eerie, and more horrific experience all together. Paranormal Activity is innovative, surreal in its reality based factualism, and downright curdling in its "Hitchcockian" mindset. In terms of movie watching, it's an "activity" you might want to pursue.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Hard Rain 1998 * 1/2 Stars

Director: Mikael Salomon
Year: 1998
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Minnie Driver, Randy Quaid

I never thought Morgan Freeman would do a movie just for a paycheck but I guess even famous rich actors have to pay their bills just like us regular folk. Hard Rain is a robbery movie that takes place in a small town during a massive flood. The plot goes all over the place with unnecessary twists and turns. You really get the feeling that "Rain" just ran out of steam and the writers made up stuff up as it went along. You also really feel sorry for the actors especially Freeman. To make matters worse, Oscar nominee Minnie Driver shows up a little later with a thankless role. Hard Rain was a January release back in 1998. Critics refer to these types of films as "January Junk." This critic just feels that movies like Hard Rain are "wet" behind the ears. Thumbs down.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Nothing Like the Holidays 2008 * * * Stars

Nothing Like the HolidaysDirector: Alfredo De Villa
Year: 2008
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodriguez, Debra Messing, Alfred Molina

With Christmas day steadily approaching, I thought I'd review one of my favorite holiday gems in the last decade or so. Nothing Like the Holidays is said gem and it somewhat gets by on the notion that my affection for it comes from the fact that I live in Chicago. The events depicted in this film take place in the Windy City's Humboldt Park neighborhood. And yes, it's a sentimental choice for me to recommend this thing because I've always been fascinated by the aspect of viewing something that took place and/or was shot so close to where I make my home. But even if it wasn't a product of a gloriously weathered Chi-town setting, I still would enjoy the lighthearted not to mention heartwarming feeling "Holidays" permeates over its short, underutilized running time. Now I can't say that this flick is perfect cause it's not (it comes off more as one of my favorite films, not one of the all time best films). However, it succeeds as an accurate, insightful look into family traditions that don't normally inhabit the setting of your everyday holiday themed vehicle. I say bravo to director Alfredo De Villa for taking special care of the source material in "Holidays" all the while creating some colorful, deep characterizations among the enthusiastically large cast. I'm hoping that this review is seen by enough people so that a teeny tiny cult following might arise. I'm also hoping that this happens even if it's my circle of friends or 10-20 random film buffs. Honestly, that would be okay by me.

Anyway, produced by the people that brought you the Barbershop movies and making extremely strong use of Chicago based locales, Nothing Like the Holidays categorizes the happenings of a Peurto Rican clan over a short weekend during Christmas time via a west side Chicago village.  The Rodriguez family (a husband and wife along with three young adults as kids) is rooted in tradition and proudness in their heritage. They consist of John Leguizamo (Mauricio Rodriguez), Freddy Rodriguez (playing Jesse Rodriguez), Vanessa Ferlito (Roxanna Rodriguez), Alfred Molina (he plays the father who is Edy Rodriguez), and Elizabeth Pena (she plays the mother, Anna Rodriguez). Throughout the proceedings, these people invite other friends and relatives to their house for holiday fun and cheer. While there however, not everything is so peachy. Secrets are revealed, old relationships are rekindled, payback and thuggery almost rear their ugly head, and traditions are exposed (all the citizens in the Humboldt Park area go door to door and pick up everyone to do some Christmas caroling). You also have to be on the lookout for scenes involving a large tree that blocks the Rodriguez family view. This tree in my mind, seems to be a metaphor for the dynamics of the immediate family that has been talked about throughout this review. There are a couple of times in the movie where everyone helps to take the tree down. But to no avail, it stays up and can not be removed. Again, I feel that this front yard obstacle is a metaphoric expedition for everyone visiting the Rodriguez house. I'm not sure what that is exactly. And to tell you might not be the most valid answer. Anyway, the sequences involving it are pretty funny. If anything, they are flat out entertaining.

Despite its authentic, familiar setting, characters that mesh well, and direction by De Villa that feels genuine and personable, "Holidays" still seems to have been edited to the point where small plot holes arise. You watch certain scenes where there is feuding by friends of the Rodriguez family and the Rodriguez family themselves. Cut to the next sequence and everyone seems to be getting along just fine. With dialogue that constantly exudes a strong conflict between husbands/wives, brothers/sisters, and friends/cousins, it's kinda weird when a feeling of resolution is missing and everyone goes back to jovial, happy times. Then there is the look of the film that suggests that its say, a small scale version of something like 1983's The Big Chill. Basically, Nothing Like the Holidays lacks that independent film making vibe which would constitute award consideration. And based on its short running time and slight TV feel, it doesn't come off as epic in scope as it should. All shortcomings aside, this is a warm, tiny little movie with a big heart. Added to that, you'll watch this thing realizing that the actors/actresses might have had a blast making it. In fact, I've seen the DVD cast reunion segment and it seems like everyone became friendly and close after filming concluded. To be honest, I can't say I'm surprised.

Overall, Nothing Like the Holidays is a flick that everyone should see come November and December. Its strongest attribute is having many character back stories that don't seem to feel crammed into one movie. Everyone's plight is told in a smart, held back sort of way. My favorite subplot doesn't even involve the main players in the cast. It involves a supporting role in Jay Hernandez (Ozzie). He plays a family friend to the Rodriguez family and tries desperately to romance the daughter in that family (Vanessa Ferlito as Roxanna). He also wants to avenge the death of his brother and decides to do this by going after the guy in the neighborhood who committed the crime and is unfortunately out on parole. The scenes involving these two people and the addition of one of the characters revealing that he has cancer (spoiler alert), make this flick a full on "dramedy" (this is defined as a blend of equal parts drama and comedy). And with this mixture so prevalent in many a movie, it's a good thing that the filmmakers don't run the script into the ground by overdoing the descriptions of every plot point involved from beginning to end.

To put it mildly, this traditional and original exercise despite taking place in a frigid Chicago winter, is the warm equivalent of a steaming cup of hot cocoa. It's got a certain amount of wit and charm, characters that you cling to throughout, and an effortless style of improvisation by the actors/actresses who play those characters. If you haven't seen "Holidays," I'm hoping that after reading this review, you'll check it out. It ain't "nothing" but good.

Written by Jesse Burleson