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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Eyes Wide Shut

The Lords of Salem (2013)

If you live in Salem, most likely weird shit will begin to happen.

Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a vulnerable radio DJ that spends her time working, keeping busy, and staying off the sauce. Everything is fine for her until she receives some weird recording from this band called “The Lords”, and begins to feel nauseous and strange every time she hears it. So does a local historian (Bruce Davidson), who not only tries to find Heidi and tell her of the danger that may await her, but also try to figure out just who these “Lords” really are. He lives in Salem, where this is all happening, so it might just have something to do with the past? Oh no!

Rob Zombie is a weird dude, but he does seem to love the horror genre. In a day and age where almost everybody seems to be giving up on it, there’s Zombie right there, to breath some everlasting love and light into it, even if it doesn’t always work for the dude. However, after he finally ditched the whole Halloween re-boot series (thank the high heavens), it seems like the guy has a chance to make a movie that comes from his mind, his soul, and his fingertips. That’s sort of the big problem there.

It isn’t that Zombie’s ambitions aren’t worth recommending, it’s just that they don’t work. Rather than chasing down a story where a bunch of people kill, sweat, and do dirty shit, all to the tuneage of Southern-rock, Zombie keeps his pace slow and melodic in a way, giving us a chance to focus more on characters, rather than the nutty stuff that’s about to happen to them. That’s why the first 30 minutes of this flick really worked for me; it was all character-development. Granted, it wasn’t anything memorable or special that I haven’t seen done a hundred times before in movies (especially horror ones), but it showed that Zombie could chill out when he felt the need be and could actually tell a story without diving into overly-dramatic theatrics.

Oh no, it totally makes sense....

Oh no, it totally makes sense….

Even when Zombie does dive into these said “overly-dramatic theatrics”, they surprisingly do work and feel freaky. Not scary, but freaky in the way that the inner-Catholic in me was a bit shocked by how purely-evil a movie could be and act. Not sure if Zombie actually does worship the devil in his spare-time, but if so: I wouldn’t be all that surprised with all of the devil-loving in this movie. Like I said about the first 30 minutes up top, not only does the character-development work, but so does the freaky stuff. After this though, things get a bit shaky. Actually, who am I kidding!?! They get really, freakin’ shaky.

One of Zombie’s biggest problems is that he does well when he wants to be funny, he just doesn’t transition well into full-out horror. Instead, most of the creepy shit like a baby being licked by witches, evil dead babies doing stuff (I honestly have no idea what the hell they were doing), and witches chanting and praising in the name of Satan, don’t really seem scary, as much as they just seem goofy. It seemed like Zombie was trying to harken back to the good old days of horror, by throwing in elements of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, but instead, got something that reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut. Not exactly the type of movie I like to be thinking about when I putting up my “Top 10 for Horror Movies”, but that’s where this movie seems to go towards and it’s a wonder just what the image of where this story could go, actually was in Zombie’s head.

Was he trying to say anything about drug-addiction? Because as far-fetched as that may seem, there is plenty of references to that. For instance, Heidi is a former drug-addict trying to get over her old sensibilities and develop new, improved ones, yet, still finds her way of coming back to them. And that’s all thanks to that vinyl-record she listens to from that weird band, which may be another metaphor for the drugs in her life; past, present, and future. As the recording continues to play more and more, her old life of drugs and partying comes back, and it’s only a matter of time until it spirals out of control and her old friends need to come back into her life and help her. Maybe, just maybe am I diving into this a bit too much? Damn straight I probably am! But still, at least I’m trying to give some amount of credit to Zombie, because it doesn’t seem like any of this material (his, as a matter of fact) goes any further than Satan, dead babies, and witches. Oh, and some rock ‘n roll as well. Some.

If there was anything in this movie that was worth remembering or really blowing me away, it was Sheri Moon’s performance as Heidi. In the past, I’ve never really been too fond of Moon’s acting, as I felt like Zombie has always had the chance to just shoe-horn her in, anyway that he could, but here, she feels as if she belongs. She isn’t her to just get nakey (although she does and it’s awesome); she isn’t her to just act all weird and crazy (quite the contrary, actually); and she isn’t here just to allow her hubby, Zombie, to throw whatever it is he can at her. She’s actually here to act and acting is what she does well by giving Heidi the right amount of charm and sympathy, that makes us care for her more and more as the flick continues to enroll into some odd shite. Moon is obviously down for whatever comes her way, but the human-aspect of her character is probably what worked best for me, and it was interesting to see where her character went, how she got there, and when she was ever going to get out of it. By the way, I’m talking about her drug-addiction. In case you couldn’t tell.

At least Rob Zombie has been able to catch a pic of Bigfoot. I think.

At least Rob Zombie has been able to catch a pic of Bigfoot. I think.

Moon keeps the movie somewhat grounded in a real-sense of reality, whereas everybody else seems to just be losing their essence of cool. Bruce Davison was a big, old welcome-back as the scholar that’s interested in Heidi’s past and record she just received  and shows why the guy has this likable sense of dignity to him, that never really waters down over time. It’s been awhile sine I’ve seen this dude do anything, let alone, anything good, so it was a nice, blast-from-the-past to have. Horror-queens Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, all play the three witches as they ham it up furiously where they bitch, gnaw, and cackle their way through any scene they show up. Does it always work? Not really. More or less of it seems to be them trying really hard to be like the old days, but it’s entertaining enough to watch them try and remember what it used to be like, when they were young, fun, and blissful. And there’s probably a hundred-more cameos, side performances, and such by a bunch of other peoples that I forgot to mention but once you see them, you’ll recognize them.

Consensus: Zombie may have a clear-eye for ambition with The Lords of Salem, and while some of it does work and freak you out a bit, some of it may also have you laughing as if any of this is supposed to be taken seriously, or with a grain of salt. It’s neither: it’s REALLY serious.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Take the treats. Or die!"

“Take the treats. Or die!”

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The Paperboy (2012)

Would have been better, had it been based on the Nintendo games.

Ward, a reporter (Matthew McConaughey) and his younger brother, a college drop-out named Jack (Zac Efron) investigate the events surrounding a murder to exonerate a man on death row, named Hillary (John Cusack). However, the only reason they are doing so is because the gal that wants Hillary out, a sexxed-up, piece of work named Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), just so happens to be the apple of Jack’s eyes.

I’ve been hearing a lot of crazy shit about this film and to be honest: it’s all deserved. Everybody knows Lee Daniels because he pulled-off Precious about 4 years ago and it showed him as the type of director that can get a story, no matter how gritty or despicable, and be able to make it in the least-bit inspirational for people. However, it wasn’t his first rodeo, as that honor (and I guess, dishonor) goes to a little, fucked-up movie called Shadowboxer. If you’ve never heard of it, please, don’t go watch it because it’s just an insane piece of work to watch and it will have you question whether or not you’ve just watched two films, from the same director. And if you have heard or have actually seen it, then buckle up, because that exactly the same type of crazy shit you’re going to get here.

As much as Daniels’ debut may have blew huge gonads, this flick is actually more controlled than that one and that’s probably because it’s just wild, without making any excuses for being so. There’s definitely that type of grungy, exploitative look and feel to the movie that has you feel as if you are in the dirty South, around the 60’s when racial-issues were up to the forefront and everybody was just sweating their asses off. If anything Daniels does do right in this flick, it’s at least nail the look and feel of the period that he has it placed-in, but everything else, well, it is sort of all-over-the-place.

Being “all-over-the-place” isn’t really all that much of bad thing if you can do it, and get away with it. The problem isn’t that Daniels can’t do it, because he sure as hell makes sure that everybody knows he can in every, damn second of this movie, but it’s more that he can’t get away with it. He can show two people making each other cum without ever touching one another and just simulating dirty things to one another, but it sticks out like a sore-thumb to everything else, and he can’t get away with it; he can show a girl peeing on a guy because he got stung by a bunch of jelly-fish, but it’s just odd and seems like it was only done for shock-factor, and he also can’t get away with it; and lastly, he can try and bring some issues up about the whole Civil Rights-movement, but when you compare it to the last sequences I just mentioned, it seems uneven, and once again, he can’t get away with it. Directors like Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodóvar (who apparently wanted to take this material at one time), or even Robert Rodriguez  for that matter, could take this material, do whatever the hell they wanted to with it, and at least make all of the crazy shit and melodramatic stuff gel well enough together, that you almost don’t notice it, but Daniels isn’t one of those directors. He’s just a regular-director that seems like he’s trying his damn near hardest to have us all forget about the over-weight girl story he pulled-off 4 years ago, and try to distract us with insane amounts of sex, whether it actually happen on-screen or just be insinuated. Either way, there’s a bunch of sex that seems to come out nowhere at times.

Look what you've been missing out on, Tom!

Look what you’ve been missing out on, Tom!

Is all of this wackiness and cookiness fun? In a way, yes it is and honestly, as much as I may be ragging on the film right here, I am more or less just hating on Daniels. Not to say that the guy doesn’t know how to make a story move, because he definitely does, but it focuses way too much on the personal lives of these characters and not in an exciting or electric way either, it’s just a boring, way-too-dramatic way that comes off as trying too hard. We never really care for these characters, the case they continue to push to the side, or what their relationships are with each other and how that affects one another, and I guess that was the point. Daniels is just giving us a bunch of dirty people that we can either care to like or not. Whether or not we actually do, doesn’t matter, because as long as Daniels is just allowing us to see how insane he can be, then he’s the one with the real joy in the end. That kind of ticks me off now that I think about it, because there was definitely a crap-ton of promise with this flick and premise, it’s just a shame that it had to fall so far from ever achieving that said promise.

The only promise that this flick ever does hit head-on, is the ensemble cast and what they are able to do with each of their roles, no matter how wacky or unbelievable they may be. Zac Efron is the sort-of voice of reason throughout this whole flick and is definitely growing-up right in front of our own eyes, but if you think about it, it is sort of a dull role for the guy but nowhere near as dull as the role Robert Pattinson had in Cosmopolis. Still, Efron makes this character work and his performance shows-off a kid that definitely wants to be treated like an adult, yet, still has the tendencies of a kid that just doesn’t yet know what to do with his life or who to spend the rest of it with. Sort of how Efron is now, just without being peed-on. Then again, I still have no idea what him and Vanessa Hudgens did in their spare-time.

Playing his big bro, Matthew McConaughey is good as the slick and sly reporter that can not only charm his way into getting whatever the hell he wants, but also has a bit of problems brewing underneath that he’s pretty good at hiding. This is a nice role for McConaughey and it’s one that he can practically play while sleeping, but after a year where tore the roof down as force to be reckoned with in flicks like Killer Joe and Magic Mike, this one definitely ranks the lowest-of-the-low for him. Not to say it’s bad, but it’s not to say that it’s anything special, either. John Cusack is playing really, really against-type here as the psychotic and nutty Hillary, and shows that Cusack can probably do more than any of us ever expected from him. He’s strange, he’s weird, but he’s also very sinister and I like how Cusack totally just swan-dived right into the role, totally leaving all shades and memories behind of Peter Gabriel tapes in his pathway. Not to say that this is a special performance that makes us think of Cusack in a different way now, but it’s definitely a role that shows the guy can do more than just be that old dude from the 80’s we all remember relating to when our dates walked-out on us at prom. Yeah, that he is no more.

Better get used to that look, because that's all you're going to see him look half of the damn movie!

Better get used to that look, because that’s all you’re going to see him look half of the damn movie!

The one who really steals the spotlight from the rest of these dudes is Nicole Kidman, as the starlet fire fox, Charlotte. Kidman hasn’t been this sexy or bad-ass since the days of Eyes Wide Shut and To Die For, but here, she totally steals all the glory and attention, and has all of the fun out of everybody here. She just relishes in the fact that she can be sexy, be a little dirty, but also be a little bit sympathetic as well and once things start to go South for her and this story, she’s the only one you really give a single hoot about, especially since she’s the only one that has the most believable convictions out of the whole story (she just wants love). Kidman is probably getting the most recognition and praise for her work here and rightfully so, because the gal just looks freakin’ hot and steams up every scene she’s in, whether she’s trying to seduce people and act sexy, or not. Either way, Kidman definitely had my attention in almost every scene and I’m glad so, too, because she deserved it.

Consensus: You may have a boat-load of fun with The Paperboy if you’re looking for some weird shit to happen, non-stop without any rhyme or reason as to why exactly, but if not, then you may just be bored and annoyed by how uneven everything is, despite Daniels trying his hardest to make us think or see otherwise. You strike-out this time, my friend!

6/10=Rental!!

"I triiiiiiieeeed to not get type-castedddd....."

“I triiiiiiieeeed to not get type-castedddd…..”

Vanilla Sky (2001)

I thought Tom Cruise was confused in Eyes Wide Shut, but damn was I wrong!

David Aames (Tom Cruise) has it all: wealth, good looks and a gorgeous woman (Cameron Diaz) on his arm. But just when he’s found true love with warmhearted Sofia (Penélope Cruz), his face is horribly disfigured in a car accident, and he loses everything … or does he?

Vanilla Sky is directed by Cameron Crowe, and this is a remake of a Spanish film called Open Your Eyes. Once again, an American director is remaking a foreign classic, however, this is not so bad compared to others of that demographic.

I think my favorite element of this film is Crowe’s direction. It seemed kind of odd having his guy direct this type of material, but he has a bigger budget this time, and he spends it all so dearly. The film starts off all normal, with a sensational shot of a deserted Times Square, but then the car accident happens, and that’s when shit gets out of whack. However, it’s also so well done.

The film gets a lot of ish talked on it because it doesn’t make all that much sense the first time around, but that’s because you won’t be able to get it really the first time around. It’s one of those films that right from the beginning you have to pay close attention to every little detail, because they eventually will come back up later in the film. I also found myself finding a lot of beauty within this film, and some shots are just so perfect the way they look, and gets you this idea that you are in dream-like state of some sort.  There are little clues to the real idea behind this whole story that you kind of have to look at, and at first you’ll be totally confused but if you can look past all the confusion and look at the clues underneath it all, you’ll find a real, brilliant message from the story.

The message is that the world we live in, is it just a dream, and if so how far do our dreams go, until they become nightmares. David Aames is a douche who thinks he’s got it all, but then in a quick second he loses it all, and creates this world of fiction where everything is perfect, and means something. What does reality consist of? This film searches for those answers and although they may not be telling you them right in the open to your face, it’s the idea of looking at everything and thinking is where the real beauty of this film lies.

My only gripe with this film is that I do feel like their are times where the film loses itself. Especially the ending since it kind of gives everything in a way that we aren’t really expecting. I feel like Crowe gives too much of a conclusion to this story and the reason as to what is happening, but somehow you can’t be too sure really. This is a minor complaint, because even though I feel like I have the whole story already thought out, I can’t be too sure honestly.

Tom Cruise does a lot with David Aames here, and it’s not easy stuff to do in the first place. Cruise has to play this narcissistic asshole, that goes through a whole bunch of transformations as he starts to have no idea just exactly what the hell is going on. His character gains a lot of depth, and many of the more emotionally intriguing scenes are from Cruise, and his crazy, balls-to-the-walls performance. Penelope Cruz is very likable here as Sofia, and you can see why Cruise’s character fell in love with her after all. Cameron Diaz is sickly sexual as Julianna, and brings out the films best performance because her character is so disturbing, and crazy that you almost feel like she is a big nightmare. There’s also some nice little side performances from the likes of Jason Lee, Kurt Russell, Timothy Spall, and the always creepy in any film Tilda Swinton.

Consensus: It may be too ambitious at points, but Cameron Crowe’s fearless direction brings out intelligent points about dreams, the life we live, among others, and the performance add more dimensions to this film than you expect.

9/10=Full Price!!

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Hot damn Stanley, you really do love showing boobies.

Director Stanley Kubrick’s final film dishes up a chillingly distant examination of carnal desire and obsession ignited by an argument over fidelity between Dr. Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) and his wife (Nicole Kidman), which sends the physician reeling into the Manhattan night. He soon finds himself in a surreal succession of sexually charged encounters, capped off by a clandestine visit to an upper-crust orgy.

Writer/Producer/Director Stanley Kubrick is a genius. The films he has made in his life, are so insane, but yet so perfect in so many ways. This was sadly his last, and he went out with a bang.

The star of this film is Kubrick himself. His direction is practically flawless. From the lighting, to the camera angles, to the music, to the tone, almost everything feels perfect. This is a very dark, and disturbing movie, and Kubrick builds up the suspense with every second he gets. Some will complain saying how it’s so long, and un-interesting. But for me that wasn’t the case at all, I was more glued in as the film kept trudging along, as slow as it did. There are some really, really tense scenes, and as usual, Kubrick keeps that suspense going through almost every scene has here. The scenes with the cult, are probably the freakiest things I have seen on film in quite some time. The music, the costumes, the lighting, and the overall mood just pulls you in, and you can’t get out so eventually you just fall victim to what is the mind of Stanley Kubrick.

Throughout the film, you feel as if your almost in a dream. You have your reality, your bad dreams, your good dreams, and dreams that almost feel like real life. The whole film plays out like this, and you feel like your walking through a dream-like state with this film. But mainly, the film speaks louder on the study of the human psyche, and how our mind reacts to sex. We feel as if sex itself, is something we need, and we obsess over it. However, as we start to keep searching for more sex, we start to fall into more crimes, and lies, and then our life is practically made up and full of shameful things. This film touches on a lot of ideas about the mind, right when it comes to sex, but the film does pretty well in my opinion of sorting it all out in a reasonable, but psychological way.

My main strife with this film is that I do feel that towards the end there should have been more time devoted to one certain element to this film, and when it comes up, you can tell right away. It was also really disappointing to see some of Kubrick’s main sex scenes, undoubtedly censored. I mean I’m not a perve or anything, but this was the same guy about 30 years ago who showed me rape along to the tune of Singin’ In The Rain, or “heressssss Johnnny”. And to see his material, as sexual as it was, to be censored like it was, sort of took away from the film as a whole I think. When it comes to artistic ability, Stanley Kubrick was all about it showing that he will put whatever he wants on that screen, despite the MPAA, but for this last outing he gave in, and had his ish censored. Poor guy, wish it didn’t have to be like that.

Tom Cruise does a good job as he practically loses himself in this material, and is admirably subtle as he drowns in the film’s indulgences. Nicole Kidman is also very good even though not a lot of the film has her in it, the scenes with her are perfect, and shows that she really can act even with small amount of time given to her on screen. These two were married at the time when this film was completed, and released, and then not soon after they divorced. I guess this type of material really started to mess with their heads, and they couldn’t tell what was reality anymore. But they both have good chemistry in this, and not only is this a film that marks the end of an era, but also a film that marks the end of a marriage that started so bright, and ended so tragically. I guess all good things have to come to an end.

Consensus: Though it may be Kubrick’s last outing as director, Eyes Wide Shut still has some of his best direction, with key performances from Cruise and Kidman, and thought-provoking study on the sexual mind, but it’s just sad cause this was his last film, and with anybody, it’s always sad to see the last great work, of a great artist.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!!

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