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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Eric Roth

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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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

Hey, if this Jeopardy contestant can do a film why can’t any other one? Anybody have Ken Jennings’ number?

This film centers on Oskar (Thomas Horn), a precocious 11-year old boy whose father (Tom Hanks) died in the 9/11 attacks. He finds a mysterious key that belonged to him and decides to look for the lock that fits the key, convinced that his father left a message for him somewhere in the city.

Way back when, I remember seeing the trailer for this flick and actually thinking it could have been a big Oscar contender. Now I think that was probably because of that awesome U2 song they put in it. No you know what, it definitely was.

Director Stephen Daldry makes his fourth film in only eleven years and tries his hardest here. He has this little style of his throughout the whole film that constantly speeds up the camera and has us moving around the plot as if we were inside the mind of our young protagonist. It was pretty cool for Daldry to actually take this approach and give this idea a shot but it just couldn’t do much to get our minds pass the suckiness of the story itself.

The problem with this story is that too much of it doesn’t feel genuine at all. The story starts off a bit promising with some believability but then once Oskar starts his own little quest, everything just really feels thin. Eric Roth made the screenplay and he uses a lot of the same tricks he used with other scripts like ‘Forrest Gump’ or ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ but it can only go so far when you have a plot that tries hard to be involving and emotional. There are also plenty of other times where the film seems to throw these huge vocabulary words at us without any real meaning or need and even though it may look good on paper, when it’s being put to a film and only focused on for about a couple of seconds, it doesn’t quite work as well.

The main reason why this film’s story didn’t feel real or involve me in anyway was because of that kid that you see gracing his whole face on the poster up-top. Oskar is a neurotic 11 year-old who doesn’t fit in, has a phobia of just about everything outside of his room, and actually gets tested for Asperger’s which he actually says that results were inconclusive, but then again, I do have my doubts about that. The film is actually being marketed as Bullock and Hanks flick but this is all Thomas Horn as Oskar, and it’s definitely an annoying trip just about the whole way through. This kid is terribly annoying because it’s very obvious that he can’t act right from the start so basically everything that comes out of his mouth seems bratty, obnoxious, and always way too smart for his own age kind of kid. He is just right in front of our face the whole entire time and it’s very bothersome especially since this kid never feels like a real kid at heart so everything that he goes through for the whole 2 hours and 10 minutes, just feels implausible as if it was almost a sure fantasy.

I think more of the blame for this should be actually put on Daldry himself considering he was the one who cast this damn kid. There are a lot of scenes where this kid has to yell, scream, and basically rant on about what’s going through his mind and why which I know is supposed to make us feel his angst, sadness, confused state of mind but after awhile it’s a little too hard to watch. I know that it may be terribly mean for me to base this off of a kid, let alone a first-time performer, but he is just really going all out with these little sch-peels he has which it almost reminds me of the one that Edward Norton did in a far-superior post-9/11 flick, ’25th Hour’. The reason why I blame Daldry for this kid was because he never really seemed to help this kid through any of his scenes. He just sort of left him out there to dry and try his hardest to get any type of emotion out of the audience but instead it just takes away so much from the film overall. Daldry focused a little bit too much on his visuals and a lot less on the actual main character himself. Shame on you Mr. Daldry.

The rest of this star-studded cast are all pretty good but they are barely around. Sandra Bullock is quite good as Oskar’s mother who actually has this big scene towards the end where she lets it all out and it works very well mainly because Bullock is a very good actress. Tom Hanks plays Oskar’s father who is mainly shown through flash-backs and he plays up the likableness that always wins with any audience but he is barely ever shown and even when he is, he’s just goofing around with his son and not doing anything really spectacular. Max von Sydow is probably the best part of this flick with his mute character, and right when he actually shows up is when the flick itself starts to actually warm up. He doesn’t use that voice that everybody knows and loves him for but he uses his skill as an actor in a more subtle way that really made me feel more for him than it did for Oskar. Viola Davis also has her two scenes where she’s good but then again, it’s just about two scenes and that’s it really.

Where the main problem with this film stems from is the fact that the plot makes 9/11 its main catalyst for the story. I know that I can’t really blame the film for this, since its in the novel that its adapted from, but the way the film uses it to get some sort of emotion out of us seems terrible. Oskar’s father could have died in any other way and it wouldn’t have matter in the least bit but the film keeps constantly reminding us of this and after about the tenth time Oskar referred to 9/11 as “that bad day” I wanted to just kick his ass. It also gets worse once the film takes something like a last phone-conversation between two loved ones and makes it just seem like another plot element where in real life, that is something that really meant something. It’s hard to watch for these reasons because it feels a exploitative and I still think that it’s a little too soon for people to be making 9/11 films that try this hard.

Consensus: This is definitely a story worth being told and its cast has its moments where they shine, as well as the story itself, but Daldry’s direction feels too-stylized for this type of material, the main kid is terribly annoying, and the whole plot point about 9/11 feels exploitative and something that could have easily been replaced since it didn’t matter either way what this film used in place of it.

5/10=Rental!!

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