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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Colman Domingo

All Is Bright (2013)

Chalk it up to the Canadians to ruin Christmas for us Americans!

Ex-con Dennis (Paul Giamatti) gets out of jail and put on parole, and begins the rest of his life. However, once he shows up to the home where his wife (Amy Landecker) and kid live, little does he know that not only does she want nothing to do with him as she’s started a relationship with his ex-con partner, Rene (Paul Rudd), but that she’s told their kid that he’s died from cancer as well. Basically, nothing is going well for Dennis in his life and to make matters any worse than they could possibly already be, his parole-officer doesn’t really seem to care too much about his job and basically leaves Dennis without any job, source of income, or references where to get his life back on track. So, who can Dennis go to for help? Well, try that same dude who’s now banging his wife, and gets him hooked-up with a holiday job selling Christmas trees in the heart of NYC. Problem is, it’s cold as hell, they’re not selling any trees, and business isn’t quite as booming as they originally thought it would be, which leaves these two former friends angry at and tense-as-hell with one another.

While most of you probably already saw that I wasn’t totally fond of Junebug, I do have to say that given the talent involved with Phil Morrison’s first flick in 8 years since, I was a little excited. Not only do I love Giamatti, Rudd, and Sally Hawkins in almost all that they do with their lives and careers, but honestly, come on. It’s not even Fall yet, and we’re already getting Christmas movies. Now I don’t know about you, but that gets me extremely amped-up for the holidays and prepare for the cold, the tree, the presents, and most of all, the wholesome and happy feel everybody has in their minds.

That's what I am talking about! The Holidays, baby!

That’s what I am talking about! The Holidays, baby!

That’s what’s made me relatively excited for this movie even though, yes, it is still technically September. But who cares for technicalities, it’s the holiday cheer! Now cheer!

But the problem with this movie is that, save for maybe 2 or 3 scenes scattered throughout, the movie is not really cheery, happy, or even interesting. Some of it feels like Morrison was working on a very low-budget, didn’t want to hike-up his costs too much, so just had the movie and its story take place in the same 3 locations, throughout the whole hour-and-a-half and depend on character-development and the performances to swoop in and save the day, but they don’t even work in the film’s favor. The performances all feel like their own type of animal, whereas Morrison’s direction just tries too hard to be slow, sullen and a little too dark for its own pleasure. Reminded me a lot of Junebug in that aspect, but with better results, if only because of the cast. And hell, this movie doesn’t even have Amy Adams in it, so you already know which one’s more pleasant to watch.

However, most of you reading this will probably think my complaints of this movie not being pleasant, happy, and as joyous as the season it’s taken place in as “idiotic” or “incomprehensible”, and I wouldn’t really argue against you if that was the case. The movie definitely will appeal to some more, cynical viewers out there who may have a harsher-view of the world, so much so that they feel as if they can share their own opinions and feelings with this movie, and make some sort of connection. If that is the case, then good for you. But for me, myself, and my feelings: I just wanted this movie to turn its big ol’ frown, upside down. Now you tell me, is that too much to ask for in the end? No, I’m serious: Please, tell me! I want to know!

While I’m starting to jump away from the bad of this movie, let me just focus in on the goodness of it all, and that’s mainly the cast that came prepared to act and do what they do best: Be funny. Paul Giamatti is playing, once again, another version of Paul Giamatti, but the only difference here being is that he has a French Canadian accent to go with it. And even that goes in and out every once and awhile. However, that doesn’t matter because Giamatti is great at these sorts of roles and while some may find it unoriginal for him to be playing the same old, sad-sack character that we usually see him portray in any flick he shows up in, I can’t say I’m all that bored of it, especially since he throws his own little pieces of skill in there for good-measure.

For instance, Dennis isn’t considered a bad guy because he’s actually trying to make an effort to change his life. Sure, he was a crook and he got caught in the middle of his action, but at least he wants to make amends for all the mistakes he’s made in his life, despite life not really welcoming him in with wide open arms. In that aspect, Giamatti owns this role as Dennis because it shows him the world against him, and how he’ll never quite lay down, and let the world get the best of him, despite it being quite clear that he should. Still though, it’s Giamatti, and it sure as hell doesn’t matter who’s he playing, cause you love him and want to bear-hug him everytime.

They're dirty, so they obviously CAN'T be funny.

They’re dirty, so they obviously CAN’T be funny.

Same goes for Rudd, even though he’s playing a little more-against type than Giamatti may be. Nonetheless though, Rudd is still great at playing-up Rene’s charm, while also showing him as a bit of a snake-like character that has yet to divorce his own wife, yet, has no problem sleeping with Dennis’s. Yeah, if you think about it, Rudd’s character isn’t the most likable guy in the whole world, but he isn’t necessarily the most distasteful guy either, he’s just made some bad mistakes in his past that he’s sort of paying for now. Just like Dennis, his old buddy. The only difference is that Rene didn’t get caught, Dennis did, and look who paid the whole price.

See what I was talking about though with this movie’s dark view? It never ends, not even when Sally Hawkins shows up as a Jewish house-maid that comes by to pester Dennis every once and awhile, and believe it or not, actually have a nice dynamic going on between one another. She’s sort of miserable and bothered with life in her own, quirky way, whereas he’s the same, just with a more depressed, and worn-out look and feel. Their scenes are fun to watch, and bring out the best within both of each other’s acting-skills. Hell, I maybe would have even liked to see them get their own movie maybe, eh? Never mind, highly unlikely, but still. If only.

Consensus: The cast in All Is Bright excels at everything that they have to do with the thin-script, but it does come off as a bit of a bore at times, especially given the premise, where it takes place, and during what season. I mean, come on: It’s the Holidays for Christsakes!

6 / 10 = Rental!!

As usual, somebody's laughing, but Giamatti isn't. Story of his life, all in a nutshell.

As usual, somebody’s laughing, but Giamatti isn’t. Story of his life, all in a nutshell.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Red Hook Summer (2012)

Does this count as Sunday Mass?

Flik (Jules Brown) is 13-year-old, spoiled-brat who is forced to live with his grand-daddy (Clarke Peters) for a whole Summer. However, Flik isn’t doing exactly what he dreamed of this Summer when he’s with his Grandfather Enoch, who just so happens to be a pastor and trying to get Flik back in the eyes of God.

After giving us two, relatitvely-solid mainstream movies (Inside Man, Miracle at St. Anna), Spike Lee finally returns to his roots, in more ways than one. Firstly, he’s going back to indie-filmmaking which he seems to have abandoned for the longest time, and secondly, he’s back to filming in his native Brooklyn, where it just so happens that Mookie is still delivering pizza’s for Sal. However, cool your jets while you still can, people, because even though Mookie is in this flick and shows-up for about 3 minutes, this is nowhere near a Do the Right Thing sequel, or even a Do the Right Thing-caliber movie. Heck, it’s not even a Spike Lee-caliber movie, if we’re not including She Hate Me.

In the past, Lee has been attacked for being too self-indulgent with his material and not knowing how to separate style from substance, and in the past, I have stood-up for him and said, “nay”, to those attackers but here, he makes me look like a fool. The usual trademarks that we see with a Lee flick are here, however, there’s no driving-narrative to really help it out. Instead, there’s just a bunch of scenes where kids are being kids, and a crap-load of sermons about God. And for all of you people out there who were pissed about Michael Parks’ over-long sermon in Red State, don’t worry, it’s even worse here as I would say about 30 minutes of this flick is probably dedicated to these preaches about everything from God, technology, being black, being poor, being white, Obama, and so on and so forth.

No, just let them talk it out. Maybe, just maybe, the kid will become a better actor after.

No, just let them talk it out. Maybe, just maybe, the kid will become a better actor after.

As usual, the points that Lee bring are up are reasonable and very smart, considering that this is a guy who has a big brain and a very big mouth, but they aren’t done well-enough here to be considered in your mind. Instead, all of the smart views, points, general ideas Lee has in his head and tries to get out on-screen for all of us to see and get into our minds, just fall-flat on the ground as if somewhere after the 4-year hiatus from filmmaking Lee has taken, he lost his sense of telling an important issue, with an important story. In ways, this doesn’t really feel like a Lee flick because it’s almost as if the guy just lost his skill and if that is the case, then damn. It’s disappointing to see a filmmaker of these heights just get so high up there, in terms of knowing what he’s doing, how to do it, and master his craft, to just fall-apart right in front of our eyes. You can talk as much shite on Tarantino as much as you’d like to, Spike, but the fact is: he’s making better films than yo ass.

The film runs a very long 130 minutes (that actually feels twice as long) and for about the hour-and-45-minutes, I was bored stiff-less. However, the last 20 minutes or so of the flick came-around and automatically, I found myself alive and interested in what Lee was bringing to the table. Without giving too much away, there’s a curve-ball that Lee throws at us that shows us more about Enoch than we originally thought and really livens up the story and gives us a new-perspective on all that we see. Yeah, it could be viewed at as a cheap-way for Lee to make a conventional-story, seem less conventional and more thought-provoking, but at the same time, it didn’t matter to me because it kept my interest, almost all the way until the ending, and then everything fell apart once again. But hey, those 20 minutes still kept me watching and that’s a hell of a lot more than I can say about the rest of the flick.

Get back to work, Mook!

Get back to work, Mook!

Everything in this flick may suffer, big-time, but the only person who really gives it his all and actually comes out on-top is Clarke Peters as Da Good Bishop Enoch. There is a lot about this character that could be terribly annoying and terribly one-sided, as he spends almost half-of-the-film just constantly yelling and preaching to people about how they need to get “the big man” in their lives, but Peters shows more effort than that. Peters makes this guy seem very nice, very comforting, and like a relatively normal guy that just so happens to be so high-strung on the G-O-D, that is is a rather off-putting, to say the least. Still, once this twist by the end is actually shown to us and comes into our minds, Peters handles the material very-well and gives us a glimpse at a real man, with real problems, and real, deep, dark secrets that can come out at any time. Peters is definitely the flame that keeps this fire moving and without this dude, doing his own thing, the flick would have definitely been a lot worse and painful to watch.

The reason I say that, is because when the flick isn’t focusing on Peters and all of his sermons, it’s about the forming of love between the two kids in this movie, played by youngsters Toni Lysaith and Jlues Brown. Now, as much as I hate to get on kids’ case about how they can’t and handle the material that’s thrown at them, I still can’t get past the fact that in this movie, where half of the film/story revolves around them, Lee actually gave the “okay” on some of these final-cuts, because being a director that knows how to direct actors and give some of the best performances of their careers, this is almost an embarrassment  Seriously, these kids are drop-dead terrible and the stuff they say to each other not only doesn’t feel genuine, but seems like Lee has lost his touch and should have just stuck with Nate Parker and the gang of Bloods that he lead. To be honest, and I hate to say this, but his performance, his character, and his gang, would have probably been a lot more of an interesting story to focus on, and probably a better-road for Lee to go down considering the guy is one of the best at writing stories for them. However, when it comes to kids, I think he’s got to stay away, as dirty as that may sound.

Consensus: It’s great to see Spike Lee finally back in-front of and behind-the-camera, but Red Hook Summer is not the type of flick that I was imagining all that glee coming from. It’s long, poorly-scripted, boring, and to be honest, only good and worth a recommendation for the last 20 minutes where a phenomenal performance from Clarke Peters, gets better and better by each scene.

5/10=Rental!!

"Please God, don't let Oldboy be a bust."

“Please God, don’t let Oldboy be a bust.”

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