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50 Cent Vehicle ‘How To Make Money Selling Drugs’ Review (2013)

50 Cent Vehicle ‘How To Make Money Selling Drugs’ Review (2013)

Movie Review: How To Make Money Selling Drugs (2013)

Who doesn’t want to learn how to make money? Who doesn’t want to learn how to sell drugs? Why not combine the two? How To Make Money Selling Drugs is a documentary that purports to be able to do just that. What results is a film that is high on promise and middling on execution. Drugs features Hollywood stars like Susan Sarandon, 50 Cent and “The Wire” creator David Simon waxing on drugs and the politics behind them. The film centers around a structure of how you or I can sell drugs to make money from beginning as a small timer to becoming a mogul/czar who’s worth millions, if not billions. I’m in!

There is a multi-step methodology (something like 8 steps) which serve as chapters in the doc, essentially. The film begins with someone who started out as a kid in his teens looking up to guys who took and sold drugs, getting involved as a runner. Then the runner gets his own stash, then the man with the stash gets a corner and learns how to dodge/deal with the cops, eventually becoming a local star dealer then going overseas and importing and finally becoming above the law, or something along those lines. Various personalities, read: dealers and the like, talk about their experiences in the process at different levels. For instance, a Compton gang member is a focus on an earlier level, whereas a Mexican cartel-type dude is at the final level.

Detroit drugs

A Detroit dealer weighs some dope for quick sale. Easy ca$h.

Some of this is comical and ridiculous, while other parts are certainly eye-opening, if not entirely entertaining. Then there is Susan Sarandon, speaking on her experiences with drugs and how some should be legal. A cop turned activist features prominently on how to game the system and catch corrupt cops. Then David Simon waxes on how government and lawmakers are abusing the system for political gain costing the country billions of dollars. Some of this is maddening and scary, quite frankly, while other parts amusing or glossed over.

The film tries to do too much and goes too many places, eventually finishing with Eminem talking about his drug addiction, which while semi-interesting to me as a fan, has little to do with the promise of the premise so to speak. In the end, there is considerable food for thought, but if this was broken down into a 4-part mini-series (for example) by a more talented filmmaker, there would be more meat to chew on ultimately. It is an eye-catching title and you may want to buy in, but in practice a little too thin in the meat and potatoes areas that are described. It’s worth seeing but asks far more questions than it answers. I guess I won’t be slanging crack rock soon, however tempting it may be.

 

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Terence Malick Leads Ben Affleck in ‘To The Wonder’ Review

Terence Malick Leads Ben Affleck in ‘To The Wonder’ Review

‘To The Wonder’ Review: Where Viewers May Wonder Whether They Can Sit Through It All

Director Terence Malick’s visual poetry reaches new heights in the Ben Affleck-led To The Wonder. The result is a near silent piece of filmmaking that uses images to rattle our emotions, challenging viewers to draw conclusions to a very loosely plotted exercise.

Affleck stars as a man caught between his foreign lover and an American childhood friend. Malick uses imagery and some light voiceover to set most of the story up. Things happen over time so there is not a true plot line that is discernable up front, which forces the viewer to stay incredibly tuned in to the material in order to uncover the meaning.

To The Wonder pic

The stars wonder what they have to do to get fed some lines.

The film is a meandering one, with characters often walking around seemingly aimless and mute. They use their vision and touch to interact or not. This can be a challenging experience for any filmgoer not to mention the actors, including Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko. The whole thing is not without its merits, however.

Bardem’s priest struggles with his faith and desires for a female lover. Kurylenko loves Affleck but can’t seem to capture his heart and thus their commitment is tested. The whole thing is interesting but still leaves you wanting some form of traditional storytelling. Even though Malick’s lens gives you some usual visual treats, the sometimes mundane setting of what appears to be a Texas town can’t compare to his last effort Tree of Life.

If that film left you challenged, then this film is not for you. This is a mood film that you must be open minded for. If you simply can’t have enough of The Thin Red Line director, then have a look, but be prepared for a completely unique “movie.”

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Charlize Theron in Young Adult Movie Review

Charlize Theron in Young Adult Movie Review

Charlize Theron Downplays Her Sexy Looks in ‘Young Adult’ Movie Review

Young Adult never really latched on with domestic audiences, and it’s understandable why. The film earned just $16m in the U.S. despite a recognizable star (Charlize Theron) and an emerging named director and writer. The film is difficult to classify. It was sold as a comedy, but it’s definitely dark – if and when you are laughing. Meanwhile, it carries the pacing of a drama. Its lead is an adult who thinks she’s still young, in part due to her profession and in part because she really appears to be mentally challenged and depressed. This is a film with a strange tone, very independent in nature though seemingly aspiring to bigger audience appeal. What results is a middling film that struggles to find its footing with an audience. It tries to be too many things at once and ends up hitting singles and doubles instead of home runs most of the time. What laughs there are do hurt deliciously though.

Theron does “her thing” – which is to play against her considerable looks. Her Mavis Gary is a ghostwriter for a once popular teen series of books. So, while she has the money from a seemingly successful career, she doesn’t really have the recognition. A writer’s life is lonely. She is of a small town who moved on to write in big, bad Minneapolis. However, her loneliness leads her to return home to said small town to try to win back her high school flame, Buddy (Patrick Wilson). Unfortunately, as Mavis is well aware, Buddy has a newborn and a wife to contend with. Alas, she intends to breakup his marriage and be with Buddy.

‘Up In The Air’ Director Jason Reitman and ‘Juno’ writer Diablo Cody Team Up for ‘Young Adult

While Mavis arrives in said small hometown, she meets Matt (Patton Oswalt) at a bar. Matt was a former classmate who Mavis barely remembers. Oh yeah, Matt is a “cripple”, due to an unfortunate beating he took in high school. Matt is every bit as depressed as Mavis is, without the delusions of grandeur. You can already tell where their relationship is heading and that is one of the saccharine issues with Young Adult. It’s obvious Mavis, who thinks like a “Y.A.” as she calls it, does so because she is a writer attempting to get into the mind of teens for her book series. Her delusion takes on a real form though, due to a failed marriage of her own along with massive amounts of Maker’s Mark – a stiff whisky for those not in the know.

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

A writer in her element. Charlize's Mavis eavesdrops on a convo in 'Young Adult.'

Ultimately, Mavis chases Buddy, while Matt looms. The conclusion to the drama is coming from a mile away, but that’s not always the point. The beats the film hits are typical and expected. However, the movie still has so many moments of awkward discomfort that there is redemption to be had. The juxtaposition of small town and big town is at play. The idea of giving up who you were and moving on from your past. There are some real themes explored in Young Adult and the film is mostly successful at this exploration.

Still, its not an entirely fun ride getting there – director Jason Reitman lacks visual flair, simply portraying small town America as a place few would seemingly want to be, yet most are. The punch to Diablo Cody’s writing is biting but errs on sadness rather than humorous. You wanted to laugh more than you were allowed to. That ultimately settles the film into middle of the road fare, kind of like it’s small town and local denizens. They’re either happily dimwitted or occupied with repressed depression and neither is a particularly pleasurable place to be.

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In Time Movie Review

In Time Movie Review

Justin Timberlake Stars in Andrew Niccol’s Sci-Fi Movie ‘In Time

Director Andrew Niccol’s In Time stars Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried as 25+ year olds who are stuck in a world where people stop aging physically at that age ’til the end of time. The only question is – is how long people live past that point. How that is determined is by how much “time” they have left. Time is like money – aha a metaphor! – in In Time, so it can be passed on from one person to the next, it can be stolen, it can be gambled, you earn time through work, etc. The more time you have, the longer you will live. In Niccol’s world, some people have lived for well over a hundred years. And even if that sounds like fun, it can wear on a person mentally.

We are thrust into this futuristic world immediately when Timberlake’s Will greets his mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde), as they, naturally, look about the same age, although Rachel is celebrating her 50th birthday. When Will encounters a man who draws attention to himself and might end up getting killed as a result, Will attempts to save him. Unfortunately, while Will temporarily succeeds, this man was cursed with having too much time on his hands, more than a hundred years and he already was 150 years old (though he looked 25, again). The man commits suicide, gives Will all his time and Will is framed for the murder.

Timberlake and Seyfried In Time

"Breakin' the law, breakin' the law!" Timberlake and Seyfried avoid the Timekeepers.

‘In Time’ Used to be called ‘Im.Mortal’, an Equally Silly Title

Will uses his time to move to a better area, but is completely out of place among the rich, people that “come from time.” Seyfried’s Sylvia is one such person, the daughter of one of the most-wealthy men in this world we are in. Will kidnaps her when the authorities known as “Timekeepers” (mainly Cilian Murphy) come to put Will in jail. Thus the chase is on, as Will and Sylvia dodge the authorities throughout this world, nearly running out of time at several opportunities.

Describing the whole premise is a bit exhausting and the only thing you really need to know when you are watching is that it is a “chase” movie. That is unfortunately my biggest gripe with the film. It’s fun enough, but also reduced to standard fare, while the duo dodge the cops, fall in love and you have your usual twists and turns. Niccol makes the world look pretty enough, but the premise is a little weird to grasp and the love story a bit forced.

In Time has a clever premise and should be respected for trying to step out from something basic and put a new spin on it. For me, it was all a little too cutesy though and when the time on the movie ran out, a shrug was about all I could muster. If you like sci-fi or Niccol, you might feel differently, otherwise, I would say this is simply an average film. Rentable, but don’t waste too much time with it.

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Warrior Movie Review

Warrior Movie Review

Warrior (2011) Movie Review

Warrior, not to be confused with the cult classic Warriors, has been described as “Rocky for this generation” and the “most emotionally engaging” film of 2011. Quotes like these, not to mention a solid 83% / 92% split on the Tomatometer at RT.com, set expectations for the film pretty high. Unfortunately, these superlatives led to a failure to meet expectations. Warrior, though a decent film, did not indeed transcend the genre the way I might have anticipated it would.

A Sparta tournament for mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighters is set to bring the world’s baddest fighters together for a few days, which will result in a $5 million, winner-takes-all purse. The stereotypes and genre familiarities are all on display here. Tommy (Inception’s Tom Hardy) is an ex-Marine who went AWOL despite being a hero of sorts. He is the brawler, one hitter quitter – a true unknown. Brendan (Joel Edgerton of Animal Kingdom) is the long shot underdog. He’s a teacher who was a one-time UFC fighter, with kids, worried wife (Jennifer Morrison) and an underwater mortgage for a home he is desperately trying to save. They play estranged brothers to a father neither likes.

Warrior Movie PIc

When your opponent is imaginary, it's easy to win fights.

The Acting is a Strong Point in Warrior

Hardy, Edgerton and Nick Nolte lead the strong cast and the acting is indeed solid, particularly Nolte whose tortured, reformed wife-beater and alcoholic father resonates. Director and writer Gavin O’Connor (Pride & Glory), a fan of MMA, does a pretty able job, all things considered. Still, while Brendan and Tommy interact in a few scenes of purported intensity, they just failed to light the fire anticipated. All of it felt a bit too paint by numbers in the end to really make the intended impact. I became more interested in the boys’ relationship with their father than their predetermined ring meeting.

The fight scenes were fine, but perhaps being set in a UFC style with a lot of floor grappling and wrestling – a style I don’t find particularly exciting or appealing – hurt things. It managed to feel fresh and recycled at the same time. What failed to hit home consistently were the moments of catharsis, which didn’t resonate the way the movie (or at least, I) hoped for. For UFC fans, Warrior will probably be worth fighting to see (though there isn’t a load of fighting thankfully, even during the tournament). For others, you’ll feel like you’ve seen this story enough times to take a pass and tap out, no twisting arm bar needed.

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Cedar Rapids Movie Review Starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly

Cedar Rapids Movie Review Starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly

Director Miguel Arteta’s Cedar Rapids Movie Review – Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Anne Heche

The title for the film Cedar Rapids (movie trailer) makes it sound like a potentially wild, rafting movie, until you look at a map and realize it is instead based on the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Here, Cedar Rapids serves as a big, intimidating locale for Tim Lippe, a middle-aged, small town insurance salesman, who has never even been on a plane before. A yearly insurance convention, the AMSI, is the reason for the gathering and Tim’s boss desperately wants him to win the prestigious 2-diamond award for their tiny Brown Valley insurance company.

Tim is portrayed by Ed Helms, who prior to this I have seen in one film role ever, via 2009’s The Hangover. He plays the exact type of character one would expect, a semi-single, lonely, straight arrow with nothing but good intentions in his heart. Tim has been thrust into the role of representing the agency after the sudden death of a colleague. Once Tim arrives at the convention, conventional hi-jinks ensue.

While Tim is treating the AMSI as a serious business trip, convention veterans from other insurance companies come to whoop-it-up and let loose, to escape their lives for a few days. At the convention we meet Dean “Deanzie” Ziegler, Ronald Wilkes and Joan Fox. The plot essentially revolves around the veteran outlandish trio taking conservative Tim under their wing to show him the ropes of the convention.

Cedar Rapids Movie pic

Ann Heche's Joan sees something in Ed Helms's Tim in the comedy Cedar Rapids.

The Cedar Rapids Cast Has Palpable Chemistry in this Broad Comedy

Tim eventually loosens up with the help of John C. Reilly’s Deanzie, who serves as the primary source of comedy, with his loud, brash, endearing and interfering ways. Isiah Whitlock Jr., best known for his role in the hit cop-crime drama “The Wire,” plays the sexually ambiguous Ronald, with a wink-wink to the audience and serves as a good yin to Deanzie’s yang. Anne Heche’s Joan brings the foursome together while naturally engaging in some sexual fun with Tim. All the characters bring their own baggage to the convention, with the possibility of seeing it disappear. Mix in a hooker with a heart, some untold truths about the 2-diamond award and the story can find its legs.

If you couldn’t tell, Cedar Rapids is primarily a fish out of water, coming-of-age story with morality undertones, which works well enough. It’s a tale we’ve seen a thousand times before, but it still has its endearing moments. Director Miguel Arteta (Star Maps, Youth In Revolt) lets the actors serve the story without interfering with any technical camera tricks. What makes the film work is the general realism of the situations the characters find themselves in, even if their way out of those situations might not be common.

Rapids will surprise no one but it has a few laughs and the cast generates enough chemistry to propel the film forward towards its completely expected climax. Despite the lack of thrills, you can’t help but root for Tim, and it’s to Helm’s credit and a pretty smart script by first-time big screen scribe Phil Johnston, that it all holds together. Supporting players like Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Root and Rob Corddry are welcome additions. Tim’s journey wouldn’t be complete without them.

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Ryan Reynolds Stars in Buried – A Full Movie Review

Ryan Reynolds Stars in Buried – A Full Movie Review

If I have anything that resembles a known phobia, it is claustrophobia, so the prospect of watching someone trapped in a box for an hour and a half had me a bit uncomfortable.  But that’s exactly the predicament that Ryan Reynolds, star in the new film Buried, finds himself in. From frame number one, director Rodrigo Cortes, making his English language debut, throws us into the darkness and despair that would normally accompany someone who is trapped in a coffin and buried alive.

The premise itself is enough to make many shudder.  Reynolds’ Paul Conroy is a truck driver for CRT, a transport company delivering supplies in Iraq.  He awakens in a coffin, not knowing how he got there.  Conroy is not a soldier, but may be a political pawn in a sick and twisted game.  Immediately, of course, survival is of paramount concern.

The main question for Conroy is why was he kidnapped? Who buried the man in a pine box under dirt and sand and for what purpose?  Money appears to be a motivating factor, but the reality may be much different.  The balance of the film finds Conroy struggling to find answers as he uses his captors gifted foreign cell phone, a lighter, flask of alcohol, and a few other gadgets as his sole tools for survival, MacGuyver-style.

Conroy goes through various stages of despair, almost comfort, sadness, and uses his will to survive as motivation.  His emotions run the gamut but there are too many plot holes for you to really care too much.  So many questions that the film and its protagonist ask are left unanswered.  Its fine if you are one who likes to try to piece together a plot through what you have seen, but ultimately no reasonably accurate conclusions can be drawn based on the information we (and Conroy) have been given.  This is one of the drawbacks that make this excursion more befitting of a short film, than a long form 100-minute big screen spectacle.

Buried is an opportunity for Reynolds to shine as he holds the camera for the vast duration of the movie.  This movie is more of an exercise than a heavy plot driven film.  Despite its technical merits and strong acting, there isn’t enough to really grasp onto beyond what you get to experience on screen. Yes, it is more of an “experience” than some films, as you are trapped in darkness along with Conroy, but the end result means its something you likely won’t want to sit through more than once.

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Knight-and-day

Knight and Day Movie Review Starring Tom Cruise

Knight and Day is a difficult movie to define.  It is equal parts screwball comedy and action with elements of romance and espionage thriller sprinkled in.  Director James Mangold aims to let the audience in on the fun directly and the results are a mixed bag.

Knight and Day Sees A Return to Form for Star Tom Cruise

On one hand, you have two stars with genuine chemistry between them.  Tom Cruise movies used to be an event, but his star has dimmed a bit in recent years.  Here he plays rogue CIA agent Roy Miller, a man who has fallen out of favor with the agency over what has been deemed to be behavior contradictory to the best interests of the organization.  Cameron Diaz is everyday girl June Havens, an innocent bystander who gets caught up in the web of intrigue as an unknown pawn between Miller and the CIA agents who are tracking him.

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz fire away in Knight and Day.

A third group of sinister types are also in pursuit of Miller, for he is deemed to control a prototype energy battery that is as small as a normal AA Duracell, but can power an entire city with its efficiency.  Miller has the battery and everyone else wants it, so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.  Whose hands are truly wrong, becomes the twist beyond the action in figuring out this cat and mouse game.

Cameron Diaz Lends Notable Star Wattage to the Cast of Knight and Day

Cruise leaves a trail of bodies in his wake in broad daylight, so believability must be thrown out the door right away, but that doesn’t necessarily detract from the film’s effectiveness or lack thereof.  Mangold opens the film in an airport, and from plane to train to automobile destruction follows in this Bond-esqe actioner.

Cruise and Diaz run/ride with the bulls in Knight and Day.

Miller is a wild card with a good heart (it seems) but Havens can never know for sure.  While June gets swept up as a kidnapped pawn of sorts, it is unclear as to why she is along for the ride.  However, her feelings and desire for fun certainly play a part in that.  But what sane woman would want to entrench herself with a potentially unstable CIA operative who literally leaves dozens of bodies dead littered around her on multiple occasions?  Such is the type of film we are dealing with.

Director James Mangold Might Have Been the Wrong Call to Lead Knight and Day

It’s a messy and inconsistent script that follows its leads through several continents and locations that cause the whole enterprise to tumble.   Mangold, who made his name with dramatic films like Girl, Intterupted and Walk The Line, might not have been the right choice to helm here.  It is unclear whether the lo-tech digital enhancements are merely there to aid in the whole feeling of cheesiness or if they are simply a result of an insufficient post-production budget.  One may never know or care.

Knight and Day is not a bad film experience, but it’s not a strong one either.  It is actually a decent time at the movies if you check your sense of reality at the door.  Mangold’s film is geared toward the date-going crowd, which it marginally satisfies, without breaking any significant ground in the process.  It is a unique film for this day and age, in some ways it feels like a throwback to the Cannonball Run days, but it just isn’t as successful in its execution as one would hope for.  See it if interested, pass if on the fringe.

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