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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Elle Fanning

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

No matter how grand or wonderful your life is, you still end up shitting your pants. Message of the day, everyone.

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born on the Day the Great War (WWI) ended. That was supposed to be lucky day to be born on but this was an unlucky case because Button was born old, week and dyeing. Benjamin is now living his life in reverse and dealing with the hard ships that have to occur with such an unfortunate circumstance as this.

Watching this movie almost 5 years after I originally saw it really has me thinking, “Did I really just love this movie because I wasn’t that cinematically-inclined yet? Or, was it just that I loved this movie because it was a good movie?”. Those thoughts go through my head, each and every single time I even bother watching/reviewing a flick that I saw so long ago, way before I even thought about this website. Some of them turn-out to be the great story that I once remembered them as being, and others, well, thanks to my knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong with a movie, make me realize that I had plenty of years to grab a hold of my movie-knowing mind. Somehow, this movie, is somewhere right in the middle and I have yet to make-up my mind. Oh well, hopefully I will by the end of this loooooooooong review.

The reason why I put such a strain on the word, “long”, was because that is exactly what this flick is and to be honest: it doesn’t have to be. This is adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for a bunch of source-material that probably equaled up to about 10-to-15 minutes full of reading-time, you would think that a simple story wouldn’t need to be told in over 3-hours. The story of a man that ages backwards and has all of these experiences in life, meets all of these people, and has a love that lasts generation-after-generation, does seem like it needs to be told in it’s own, epic-way, but this is a bit too much of a push. However, as long as this flick may be, you still can’t forget that this is a beautiful tale of growing old, falling in love, and above all, living life to the fullest. Yeah, it’s corny, but what makes it so strange is that the message is brought-out by David Fincher. Yes, THAT David Fincher.

There's Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

There’s Brad, channeling his inner-Mr. Ripley.

It is quite surreal to see a story that’s so much about the human-spirit and always turning lemons into lemonade, directed by the guy who’s brought us some of the sickest stories in the past decade or so, but that’s what makes it so unique as well. Fincher has never, ever came close to touching material like this and at times, you’ll just think that it’s an attempt for him to make some cash and make a passion-project of sorts for himself, but you’ll begin to notice, there are still a whole bunch of Fincher’s trademarks. Everybody and anybody who has ever seen this movie always says the same damn thing, “It’s like Forrest Gump, but the guy’s older”. To be fair, that is a very true and realistic observation, one that I can’t contend with, mainly because the same writer of that flick (Eric Roth), is the same writer here but what makes the tales so different, is how one is all about sunshine and light at the end of the tunnels, this movie is more about how life starts and ends the same way: you start out as nothing, and in the end, you are still nothing. Anybody that has ever known you, will be the only ones and it’s a matter of whether or not you made an impact on their life is what really counts.

It’s a really depressing idea, especially when you put it side-by-side with something like, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, but it’s also more realistic and that’s why I applaud Fincher here, not just for stepping-out of his comfort-zone, but for being able to step-out and make the best type of movie he can. The story spans over generations and as long and dragging as it may be, it is always entertaining to see the type of stuff this man goes through, what he learns from certain experiences, and how it makes him a full and total human-being. Yes, there is always that known-factor that the guy is going to die at the end, but then again, isn’t that how life actually plays-out? Thanks, David Fincher! You’re always the type of guy I can depend on to remind me that life is great and all, but in the end, we just float away into the air. Happy hugs all-around!

Somehow, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

In a way, I still feel like this is how most of our elders still look in the mirror nowadays.

Where I still feel like this flick hits a problem in, is that it does begin to run-out of steam by about the third-to-last-act and I think that’s mainly because Fincher, as well as all of us, knows what has to be done, what has to be said, and what needs to come of this story. We all anticipate the time to when Benjamin eventually starts to get so young and so tiny, that he can’t remember anything that has happened in his life and is just continuing to shrink-up into this little guy, that is eventually going to die any day now. It’s so sad to watch and as much of as an emotional-impact it may have on you because you’ve gotten so used to this character and all his stories, it is slightly redundant and almost feels like Fincher really needs to shoot somebody or decapitate somebody, you know, just to spice things up. I can totally tell that Fincher was running a little wild on the inside, but at least he made it interesting and entertaining for us, in the meantime.

What probably distracts people the most from this story, is how much time and effort was put in to the make-up and special-effects for these characters and their surroundings. Since Benjamin is aging backwards, we get to see him when he’s old as hell and looks like a turd on the side of the road, to the point of where he looks like Pitt from Meet Joe Black. It’s mesmerizing to just stare-at, not just because they make Pitt look as handsome as ever and Blanchett as sexy and glorious as she’s ever been, but because it’s almost seamless and never seems like a gimmick. Movies like these that simply just depend on changing-up a person’s look or style through neat-o special-effects, usually kills a movie and features no substance, but thankfully, the movie features both the neat-0 special-effects that help make us believe more in this story, as well as having a story that is worth believing in and actually getting involved with. Still, it’s great to see Pitt and Blanchett back in their younger, golden days, even if it all by a computer. Damn you technology!

You'd still take him to bed. Don't even bother fibbing.

You’d still take him to bed. Don’t even bother fibbing.

Speaking of the Blanchett and Pitt, both make Daisy and Benjamin a lovely couple that is worth staying-for, no matter how uncommon the relationship they have may actually be. Blanchett is a joy to watch as Daisy, especially when she goes through her younger days as a free-willing, energetic dancer in her prime from NYC, and we get to see that charm and beauty come out of Blanchett’s acting-prowess that can sometimes go away when she takes crap scripts. I was a bit surprised to see that she didn’t get a nomination for her work here, but hey, I guess the Academy felt like they had to give the nomination to Taraji P. Henson, the caretaker of the old person’s home who finds Benjamin and takes of him, up until he’s an old, but yet, young-looking man. Henson is so charming and fun to watch in this movie that it’s a real shame she hasn’t been able to do anything that’s really worth buzzing-about. The girl’s got spark to her, and that shows through every scene she has.

Brad Pitt, though, is the real star of the show and milks this Benjamin Button’s simpleness almost to the point of where it doesn’t seem like he can go any longer, but however, he can. Pitt is great as Benjamin Button because he’s so kind, so simple, so polite, so regular, and so bright-sided about the world he lives in, that’s it almost way too easy to mark him as another caricature that ends-up taking some happiness out of his disability, but it’s not, and that’s all because Pitt won’t allow it. The guy doesn’t show many emotions throughout the whole flick (and that was the intention), but it feels real and honest, mostly because Pitt and Fincher, together, have painted a portrait of a guy that loves life and all those who inhabit it. Pit’s great to watch and the chemistry and love he has with Blanchett in this movie, never for a second, felt unrealistic or schmaltzy. It was as every bit as epic and heartfelt as I once remembered, and that will always stick in my mind when I think of this flick.

Consensus: Adapting a short story into a near-3-hour movie, is a bit of a stretch, especially when you have a flick that spans over decades-upon-decades, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a beautiful, endearing, and heartfelt story that looks at life through the eyes of a person who has a very strange one, despite him being played by the ultra-handsome, and ultra-powerful Brad Pitt.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

Keep control of your hormones, ladies.

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The Nines (2007)

Should have just stayed in the box, Ryan.

Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis appear in multiple roles which combine into three intertwining stories: A popular TV actor is under house arrest in “The Prisoner”; a TV producer struggles to launch a new series in “Reality Television”; and a video-game designer seeks help for his stranded family in “Knowing.”

I never really knew much about this flick other than that it’s been sitting on my Netflix queue for quite some time and that it wasn’t half bad since it had a 3 1/2 star rating. Thankfully, Netflix didn’t let me down. Or, well, not that I think just yet. Still questioning whether or not this thing really had me all ecstatic in the first-place.

Writer/director John August definitely started this flick off on the right foot with his first part, called “The Prisoner”. What I liked about this was that it was pretty funny, a little goofy, but also very strange how there was some weird ghost-like vision going on throughout this whole part and it made me wonder what I got myself into. There was a lot of questions that I kept on asking myself but then as soon as I thought the answer was coming up, Part 2 and 3 came around, then I got totally confused out of my ass.

It seemed like August definitely had a vision and clear-cut idea of what he wanted to do with all of these three intertwining stories, but for some odd reason, they seemed like they were all lost half-way through the second part. There are so many ideas being brought up, so many questions being asked, and so many different subplots coming from out of nowhere, that after awhile it became tiresome for me to handle it all in and try to understand just what August was throwing at me. The dude definitely had some bright ideas here but they all seemed to get jumbled up with whatever else came to his mind at the time of his filming.

And as confusing as the flick got, the ending left me with barely anything to feel. The last 10 minutes start to get very sappy and almost too serious because the whole film had this serio-comedy thing going on for the first two parts, then it suddenly just drops it for dramatic sake and it was a real let-down since August was doing pretty damn well with the comedy aspects here. It also bothered me that the everything was explained at the end, but I never really understood that either. The number 9′s significance to this story is explained but it seemed somewhat random and a lame excuse just to have some significance to the story. And the whole main twist at the end just seemed like a good idea on paper, but once it was played out on the big-screen, it comes off as way too pretentious and artsy for my liking. I didn’t really know what August was trying to do with these twists and the explanations to this story, but I definitely didn’t feel moved or inspired in any way shape or form.

However, with all of that said about the confusing twists and dumb-ass explanations, I still was very intrigued and entertained by this flick mainly because of August’s structure. The first two stories were very well-done and I mostly liked the second one because it put a cool spin on the whole “reality TV show” look and showed just how ugly and mean the entertainment business can be. Yeah, does it seem a little too random for something like this? Of course, but August’s writing kept me intrigued in wondering what was happening next. Also, sometimes if you pay close attention, you can sometimes catch little hints here and there about what’s really going on as other characters start to utter certain types of dialogue that has already been used in the film before and it was pretty cool to pick that up and see what August could do with this story. Shame that it ended up where it did, but it still had me entertained and that’s all that really matters.

One of the major hypes around this film was about whether or not Ryan Reynolds could carry a whole film all by his lonesome-self. Thankfully, he does just that. Reynolds is so damn good with all three of his roles he has in this flick and shows his range that goes almost all-over-the-place in terms of emotions. Still, I always bought what character Reynolds was playing and it made me realize that he does have some real talent, he just needs to get the right type of roles. Hope Davis was also very good in her roles and I don’t ever really remember her being as sexy before, as she is in this flick, and Melissa McCarthy (aka big chick from Bridesmaids) is also great here and brings a lot of humor and heart to each one of her characters, one of which, is actually herself. All three are great and play each of their roles very well, but in the end, it’s more about August’s style and what he can do with this wacky and wild story and it gets in the way of some rich performances from a pretty narrow, but interesting cast. Oh well, at least McCarthy’s been nominated for an Oscar already. I guess she’s beat these two to the punch.

Consensus: The Nines shows that Ryan Reynolds is definitely able to carry a film on his own, and definitely had me more interested in it’s crazy story than I originally thought I was going to be, but it gets way too confusing in a way that seems almost intentional from writer/director John August. However, I was never bored and maybe that’s a positive.

6/10=Rental!!

Frankenweenie (2012)

Owen and Jen could have really used this movie as a tool for the sequel of Marley & Me 2: He Lives!

The story centers on a young boy named Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan), who loses his beloved dog Sparky and decides to harness the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor, but strange adjustments.

It seems as though every time somebody (including myself) goes into a Tim Burton flick, they are expecting the old, wacky Tim Burton that we all fell in love with in the first-place. When I went to see Dark Shadows earlier this year, that’s exactly what I expected but somehow, I was left down in the dumps and totally forgot that he even had another flick coming up. Thankfully, the return-to-form is back for Burton and this time, with no appearance from Johnny Depp. Wooo-weee!

There’s almost something for anybody in this flick, but for all of those film nerds out there, most will probably find the most amusement in pointing out all of the various, old Hollywood horror movies of yesteryear. Obviously, Frankenweenie is a riff off of Frankenstein, but there’s plenty other references/homages to be had here with tips of the hat to The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Dracula, The Invisible Man, and plenty more that may take you by surprise. Hell, I even feel like I missed some and that’s the whole fun of this movie, keeping a special eye out there to spot something just lingering in the background that may make your film nerd blood boil, and that’s exactly what happened to me.

However, it’s not all about the references and nods that Burton gives that makes this flick so much fun, it’s just the whole wacky atmosphere in general. Every single character in this film, is as colorful and goofy as the last one and just watching every single one come around and play for a little bit, brought a huge smile to my face. Sometimes, I even wanted Victor to just get out of his secret lair and run around town and see what all of the other little bastards he goes to school with do, because they were a hell of a lot more interesting than him and are so over-the-top and ridiculous, it made me feel like they could almost be kids I could have known when I was little. Then again, not many in the school I went to brought dead dogs back to life so obviously we never had to deal with any bullying or straight-up weirdness like these towns-people do.

What’s most surprising about the year of 2012 is not how The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers both came out in the same year, but how there have been not one, not two, but three stop-motion animated pictures in the whole year. This, to me, comes as a total random slap in the back of the head because I thought that this was practically a dead forsaken animated genre that people barely went out to see, and in ways, they don’t but that doesn’t mean that the films don’t look as every bit as purrty as that junk Ice Age 4, that every kid and their miserable mother went out to go see. Every single little piece of detail is calculated so perfectly in this film, that you can’t help but keep your eyes on the screen, not just because you may miss a funny little riff you weren’t expecting to see in a PG-rated movie, but because of how much time was obviously put into these characters, their surroundings, and the way that every scene looks and feels. There’s a certain line that Victor’s nutty science teacher uses about science and says something along the lines of how, “Science only works, if you put your heart and feeling into it.” That’s exactly what I felt coming from Burton here, not just with his story-telling, but the look and beautiful animation that caught my eye the whole hour and 25 minutes the film was up on-screen. Good job, Tim. You better keep this up, you son a of a bitch.

Where I think this film gets a little skewered with itself, was in it’s story-line and how I was left feeling non surprised the whole time. Now, that’s not to really put the blame on Burton or his crew as they obviously had all of the right ingredients for a great, original story that plays around with the idea of what Burton did in his early days of film-making, because most of the problem came from the trailers that played everywhere and practically spoiled the whole damn story. Seriously, everything you see or hear in the trailer, is literally the whole first hour, and everything else is sort of obvious as to where it goes from there. That bothered the hell out of me since every scene just felt like something I was expecting and something I have already seen before, considering this was an original story from the guy who directed and co-wrote it. Damn you trailers! Damn you!

Then, there’s the message of this flick that kind of left me a little scratchy-headed by the end. If anybody, and I do repeat anybody, has ever had a pet or companion or friend in their life, will probably get the feeling of, “Hmm, I wonder if I could bring them back.” I’ve often said this, as well as you have, and mostly everybody else has too. This is sort of the whole fantasy “what if..”-story take on it and plays out perfectly for the most part, but by the end, never really capitalizes on what it’s trying to say about dying and letting a loved one go. For a kids movie, the idea of dying and saying good-bye is a bit too dark and grim, but when you have a movie that presents itself in that way with those sorts of ideas, you shouldn’t back-down from bringing out any important messages that may go straight to the kids heads. It seems as if Burton missed that whole point, and without giving too much away, ends the film on a really strange-note that kind of left me wondering what kids are going to do when they get home. Most likely, they’ll be digging up old Betsie out of the backyard, prying some metal hangers onto her, and just waiting for the next storm to come on by, just because good old Tim Burton said so. Never mind about the trailers, damn you Tim! Damn you!

Aside from this whole screwed-up message that Burton seemed to have missed the boat on, you can’t help but love Victor and all of his interactions with Sparky because it will most likely have you remembering all of the good times you spent with your beloved pet. Every time Sparky would bark, yelp, lick, and jump on Victor when he came home from school, it had me smiling cause it made me think of two dogs that I’ve ever had in my life (Patton & Pearl, don’t judge), and made me want to go home and just play with the latter one. If you’re a dog lover, this whole aspect of the story will have an effect on you, as it did to me and you should definitely be ready for some tears to stroll right down the face, because that’s exactly what happened to me and I barely ever find myself crying in movies. That’s right, I’m a tough-ass so don’t try and break me.

Victor himself, is voiced by newcomer Charlie Tahan, who does a serviceable job but couldn’t help me forget that Victor was just a tad too dull to really hold my interest. Victor is nice, polite, quiet, and very soft-spoken, but is looked at as “the weird kid” from everybody else around from his own father, to the kids in his science class. Maybe making Victor this type of kid was sort of the point, but it didn’t do much for me and just made me want to see more scenes of him hangin’ out with Sparky or other people. More of Sparky than anybody else because I couldn’t get enough of that little guy.

Seeing that this is so-called “return to form” for Burton, it should be pretty understandable as to see him reunite with some vets of  in a very impressive supporting cast. Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short voice Victor’s parents and do a fine job at that, but are finally given the chance to let loose when they are allowed to voice the far more wackier characters and it’s nice to see them back in action, even if it is behind the screen; Martin Landau voices the spooky science teacher Mr. Rzykruski, and has this nice bit where he metaphors about immigration using lightening and even gets a nice scene where he tells all of the parents what’s on his mind, in his perfect Bela Lugosi-voice as well; and then there’s Winona Ryder as Elsa Van Helsing, the weird girl next-door who is fine, but nothing special since she isn’t given that much to do here. Then again, it’s still good to see Ryder back in the saddle again and actually being given big roles in Hollywood productions.

Consensus: Frankenweenie is full of fun, light-hearted, goofy, wacky entertainment that may get a bit skewered with it’s message by the end, but is always a blast because it’s Tim Burton returning to what he used to do best: be weird and embrace it.

7.5/10=Rental!!

We Bought a Zoo (2011)

Wow they really run that house like a zoo. Thank you, I know I’m funny.

‘We Bought A Zoo’ is based on the Benjamin Mee memoir of the same name and an actual true story. It tells the story of how Mee (Matt Damon) and his family used their life savings to buy a dilapidated zoo and restore it to its former glory.

What is with the films that are coming out that have to do with a father taking over his family as the wife dies (this, ‘The Descendants’) or ones that have to do with animals (this, ‘War Horse’)? Oh wait, it’s the holidays and everybody needs some good old cheer even though I’m not buying it.

Cameron Crowe returns to the big-screen after 6 years and being a fan of films such as ‘Jerry Maguire’, ‘Vanilla Sky’, and ‘Almost Famous’, I was excited to see him come back but he could have chosen something a lot better but thanks to him, it’s a lot better than I could have imagined. The film itself is co-written by Aline Brosh McKenna who has done fairly light-comedy flicks but you can almost tell where Crowe inserted his own writing and lines in. The main character is a writer (though he doesn’t do much of it), he’s going through a mid-life crisis of sorts and is dealing with the loss of his wife while raising an adorable child. Oh and let’s not forget that there are also the little speeches that characters give each other about life and just living it out to the fullest.

Although this all may sound cheesy and predictable (which in a way it is), Crowe somehow makes this film believable and entertaining to the point of where you do start to get involved with this story. The story is cliched beyond belief but there is just something about all of these characters that makes you smile and make you feel like you are apart of this zoo as much as anybody else on-screen. Crowe also out-lines the film with a lot of humor that is sometimes very witty, sometimes very obvious, and other times very dark (such as the Chilean miner reference which came out-of-nowhere). I think because of Crowe, this film isn’t as bad as it should be.

The problems that this film runs into is its dramatic moments where Crowe stumbles quite a bit. Since this is a family flick, Crowe feels the need to bring in these ultra-sappy and corny moments where a character is saying something sweet or giving another montage about their own feelings. It gets even worse when the score starts to blast on in every sequence something cute or bubbly happens. Maybe if they didn’t have the stupid score, I would have smiled at more scenes but it’s so cloying and distracting that I honestly just wish Crowe used the soundtrack for ‘Almost Famous’ instead. Could you imagine a zebra running around to the tune of Tiny Dancer?

Another problem I had with this film was that I think Crowe didn’t know how to trust his audience here so he just hits people over the head with everything he’s trying to show and do. When Benjamin does something dumb, there is automatically something there to hit his head or fall down from or when Benjamin starts to think about his deceased wife, she pops up right away. Crowe tries to spell everything out for us and instead of letting us think about it for ourselves, we have to get constant visuals of whatever is happening just so Crowe doesn’t lose us.

However, the power with this flick really lies in Matt Damon’s performance as Benjamin Mee, and it’s great to see him once again in top-form. Damon has the perfect balance of charm, humor, and normal look to him that makes him seem like a real dude with real emotions and even though his daughter sort of takes away any moment he has of being funny, Damon still seems like he knows what he’s doing. Scarlett Johansson is great to watch as Kelly, and the romance between her and Damon is really under-played which I liked because judging by the previews, I automatically knew I wouldn’t have been able to believe it and I still didn’t.

The rest of the cast is great with everybody getting a chance to strut their stuff. Thomas Haden Church is funny and brings a lot of wit to his character as Benjamin’s big-bro, Duncan; Patrick Fugit is back on the big-screen with a chimpanzee over his shoulder the whole time as Robin Jones; Angus Macfadyen is funny as the Scottish crazy-man, MacCready; and John Michale Higgins plays his arch-nemesis, Walter Ferris, who shows his perfect comedic timing with just about everything he says or does. The one disappointing performance and plot I was bothered by was the sub-plot between Elle Fanning and Colin Ford which seems very forced the whole time, even though the film constantly brings it up. Fanning has been really good in the past two films I’ve seen her in so for her to kind of just be a one-note character was a real disappointment, but hey, she’s got more films way ahead of her.

Consensus: We Bought a Zoo mainly benefits from Cameron Crowe’s writing and the fun performances from the cast, especially a very likable real Matt Damon, but is also way too sentimental and tries too hard to get us to feel something with constant speeches about life and spelling everything out for us.

6/10=Rental!!

Somewhere (2010)

People staring into space doesn’t do anything. Unless it’s Bill Murray.

‘Somewhere’ follows Johnny Marco, a newly famous actor, as he recuperates from a minor injury at the Chateau Marmont, a well-known Hollywood retreat. Despite money, fame and professional success, Marco is trapped in an existential crisis and feels little emotion during his daily life. When his ex-wife suffers an unexplained breakdown and goes away, she leaves Cleo, their 11-year-old daughter, with him.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola knows an awful lot about having a very famous daddy and barely being able to see him, which is sort of the reason why this is an even bigger disappointment then I imagined.

Coppola does here what she’s done in practically all of her films but instead it feels like a cheap rip-off this time. She tries to, once again, shed a light on the whole art of “celebrity” and give us a glimpse into the life of a celebrity that I can’t really say that I felt connected to this let alone feeling like I was going to have much interest anyway. For this flick I wanted something new and instead I kind of felt a little bit cheated considering that Coppola does know what she’s doing behind the camera, it’s just the fact that she doesn’t know how to do a film where she isn’t focusing on a very rich and famous person being put through a whole bunch of depression.

Once again too, Coppola feels the need to give us these long, boring shots of barely anything happening such as Dorff just sitting in his room smoking and drinking beer, then another goes to him watching two twins pole-dancing to the Foo Fighters, and then to watching his daughter do some really cool ice skating routine. All of these shots come and go but stay for a very long time without any real emotion to what the story actually is.

There were times though where I felt like Coppola did a pretty good job with what she was trying to convey, especially when it came to this father-daughter relationship. These two obviously don’t have any real connection with each other but when they are both forced to be together, you realize that they both have fun together and treat each other nicely, which is what Dorff’s character needs considering all of the crazy shit that happens to him when his daughter isn’t around. There were a couple of scenes where I think Coppola hit the right note with trying to convey an emotion with this story but too many times did it sort of get lost in moments of random silence, and scenes where it just went on and on for no apparent reason.

Coppola also knows how to make a beautiful film here as well. Even though she is essentially poking a bit of fun at the whole “celebrity” high-life in LA, she still knows how to make this film look very vivid with colors that just pop-out and a surprising amount of cool cinematography. The hipster band Phoenix also provided the score for this film but they are barely ever even in it, which kind of disappointed me considering I think they would have made some cool background music for a lot of the scenes.

Stephen Dorff got his big “come-back” with this flick playing Johnny Marco because the guy has always had talent, he’s just never been in the right film to show it off. Dorff’s character is not a very likable guy. He takes advantage of everything he has practically been given, parties to the point of where he breaks his own arm, and has very little to offer his daughter when she comes around but somehow I liked this guy. I just had a feeling that he was a good guy and wanted to just make his daughter happy with him, even though he is not very skilled at doing so. Dorff is great with this performance because even though he barely says anything, you can see the sadness on his face the whole film and he just has this look to him that makes you want to empathize with him, even though you know he does all of this dumb shit.

Elle Fanning is even more impressive as the daughter Cleo because she plays up that “too wise for her age” role very well here to where everything she says seems very natural, rather than just being too cutesy or annoying. Her and Dorff have very good chemistry together and you can tell that through it, that these two love each other but don’t know how to inter-act and it’s really sad to watch but at the same time nice to watch, because they find ways to connect through some funky things such as Guitar Hero, playing ping-pong, or eating some delicious gelatos. It was also pretty awesome to seem some nice little cameos from the likes of Chris Pontius, Benicio Del Toro, and Michelle Monaghan.

Consensus: Somewhere has two great performances from Dorff and Fanning and features a nice little father-daughter story at the heart, but Sofia Coppola doesn’t do much here that she hasn’t done in all of her other flicks and packs way too many shots and scenes that don’t add anything to the real story.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Super 8 (2011)

Makes me wanna hang-out with my childhood friends again, or what’s left of them anyway.

Living in a small town in the summer of 1979, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) helps out his friends film their monster movie while trying to move on from the death of his mother. While filming a scene at a station, a truck smashes into an oncoming train forcing it to derail. After the immense explosion, something escapes from the wreckage. Joe and his friends then witness several strange events around town while Joe’s father (Kyle Chandler) tries to keep the peace and the shady military begins to occupy the once sleepy town.

From the beginning nobody had any idea just what this film was about and then everybody started to notice it was like an old Spielberg film. Now of course, this is a big homage to such sci-fi classics as “The Goonies”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and “E.T”. During this whole film, you’ll definitely be reminded of those films but I can promise you this isn’t a parody, this isn’t a rip-off, it’s just an homage to those old films and with Steven Spielberg as producer, its a great homage.

Writer and director J.J. Abrams obviously grew up loving these films and I could feel it watching this because with every little element to this film, he does it all right. Abrams keeps this story moving at a nice pace and doesn’t try to do anything that would seem phony or cheesy in any way, he tells the story like it is. Abrams also does a great job at not actually showing us “the monster” and when we actually do its great because the whole time during the film we are just left in total mystery of what this thing is, and what is behind all these strange happenings. The explanations Abrams give us are reasonable, but the mystery of the plot is what really sold me here because I really wanted to see what this damn thing was.

My only problem with this film was the fact they did a bad job of making the Army seem like the bad guys, which isn’t really a problem considering so many films do that nowadays. I just felt like this film was so much smarter than all those others, but made these Army officials look like complete dicks, but then again, this film did need some conflict in between everything else so I understand.

The cast here is full of a bunch of random people but their all good. Joel Courtney is great in his big-screen debut as Joe, who carries that emotional weight of the story on his shoulders and doesn’t let up once. Great performance, and I can tell that this kid has got himself a good career ahead of him. Elle Fanning is growing up pretty quickly and is actually my favorite from the cast as the sort of bad girl, Alice. The rest of the kids are pretty good too, but my main favorite was Riley Griffiths as Charles, and is just hilarious the whole time through and kind of reminded me of a younger Dan the Man I must say. Let’s not also forget the always reliable Kyle Chandler as Joe’s Dad, Jackson, who finally gets some big-screen time here as well.

What really had me here was that this is just a whole lot of fun, but still with something to show for it. The visuals, especially the train crash, are absolutely amazing and just look so realistic. The screenplay here is also near-perfect because even though all these crazy explosions, invasions, kidnappings, and strange happenings are occurring, this is still all about the kids and with good reason because their just so fun to be around. The film reminded me of “Stand By Me” because this actually showed kids talking like kids again. They aren’t all squeaky clean and know-it-alls, these ones insecure, curse like it’s nobody’s business, and altogether, innocent. This film is all about the kids and how they relate to each other and not once does it hit a false-note at how the kids and their parents unify, or don’t unify during these strange events. I was totally surprised by how much of an emotional weight impact this had on me and when I left the theater, I just felt happy.

Consensus: Some may be annoyed from the constant nostalgia feel of this film, but Super 8 is a J.J. Abrams’ beautiful homage to all of the old Spielberg films of the 80′s with a great screenplay that is funny and emotional, fun action, and just reminds us what Summer blockbusters should always be like.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

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