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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Fiona Hale

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Rabbit out of a hat? Boooooooooring.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been life-long freinds that both share a love of magic, and have ruled the Vegas strip for the past two years. However, with the emergence of a more brutal type of magic, courtesy of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), they’ve fallen on hard times and break-up. Burt is left in Vegas without any type of job, any money, or any inspiration for magic anymore. That is, until he goes back to reclaim the roots that made him love magic in the first place.

Usually when I see a trailer for a comedy, I either laugh-out-loud, chuckle, or just sit there in total and utter boredom. Every, single time I saw the trailer for this movie, nothing ever came to me. It wasn’t that I hate Steve Carrell, it wasn’t that I hate magic, and it sure as hell wasn’t that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing more Jim Carrey, play Jim Carrey (more on him in a tad bit later), it was just that it wasn’t funny. I didn’t laugh and it almost seemed like all of the best parts were in the trailer. That’s really saying something.

Most comedies at least try to be funny, and succeed at times. This flick rarely has that happen to itself. Most of the time during this movie I was just sitting there, watching, and waiting for something to come by and totally take me by surprise by how funny it was, but it never came to me. Instead of actually being smart or even remotely funny, we just get a bunch of characters that are sort of dick-ish, and a bunch of jokes towards the likes of David Blaine and Criss Angel, which seems like they would have been better, had they been done when they actually relevant, almost a decade ago. Automatically, I knew I wasn’t going to like this flick just from the beginning, but much to my surprise, it does get better. Well, sort of.

"I trick you into laughing. Please."

“I trick you into laughing. Please.”

Here’s the thing with this movie: when it tries to be funny, it feels painfully obvious and totally misses the mark. But, when it’s trying to be nothing but goofy and not even play-up for the laughs, then that’s where the flick really charmed it’s way into my soul. I don’t know if most of that credit is given to the cast, or the screenplay, but when I found myself laughing, it was long and hard, but only for a short while. After that said short while, then it just went back to boredom and I once again found myself sighing and eye-rolling my way through the rest of the duration of this flick. Most comedies try, but this one doesn’t even seem to and I still don’t know whether or not that’s a good thing.

Even magic lovers that go to see this, are going to be pretty disappointed since most of the magic is all CGI, special-effects, or played up to ridiculous laughs that could only happen if you watched a movie. Personally, I like the art of magic, what type of effort goes into it, and how it’s all done, which is why films like the Illusionist and the Prestige always do something for me, but this flick doesn’t even seem bothered with any of that. It’s almost like the flick just used the whole idea of having magicians battle one another, just for the sake of their being comedy and goofiness galore to occur. Nothing ever happens, and the magic never really sizzles or delights anyone. I even had a couple of magicians at my screening, and I felt like I wanted to give them a hug at the end of it. Not because it wasn’t funny (I’m sure they laughed their assess off like everybody else in the theater, with the exception of us high-level critics), but because there wasn’t much magic that felt natural or kosher to the story. It was just thrown in there to make us go, “Wow.” And you could say that’s what most magicians are supposed to make you go, but at least they’re stuff is real. This movie’s stuff wasn’t and it was a bummer for me, on both levels.

However, when you have a movie as bad as this, you can usually depend on the cast to save things and that’s what they do, for the most part. Steve Carell seems to be having fun as Burt Wonderstone, but here’s my main dilemma with Carell. Carell is hilarious when he isn’t trying too hard and just playing his own, natural-self. Usually, it’s when he’s playing the awkward-guy put into a real-life situation that he finds himself in (40 Year Old Virgin). But when he goes off and starts playing these obvious, electric characters that just seem to want your attention and praise; then, that’s when it seems that this guy is trying way, way too hard. Carell makes Wonderstone interesting, but that’s not saying much since this guy is a bigot, a dick, and just one of those dudes who acts like his shit don’t stank, all because he can do neat-o tricks that make people wonder how he did it all. I get that Wonderstone is supposed to start off as a deuche, and then progressively change into a better person as time goes on, but that didn’t matter to me because I didn’t really like this guy nor Carell playing it. Carell does what he can, but he is trying too hard here and almost made me feel like it would have been a hell of a lot better, had they casted somebody like Will Ferrell who is the man at making roles like these work. Wouldn’t have been the most original thing in the world to see, but at least it would have been more interesting and fun to watch.

Strike a pose, try to look funny.

Strike a pose, try to look funny.

It was great to see Steve Buscemi get a lead role in a movie for once, let alone one that’s a comedy, but even he feels wasted. And also, don’t let me forget to remind you that this guy shows up in almost every, single Adam Sandler comedy. If Buscemi is wasted in a flick like this, then that’s really saying something. Alan Arkin is fun as the old-school magician that every kid looked up to, Rance Holloway, and loves to just scream, shout, and be the old man that we all know and love him for. It helps that the guy was just nominated for an Oscar, but regardless, the guy’s a box of fun to watch. Also, Olivia Wilde is here as Jane, and really shows that she can play with the big-boys, even if she wasn’t as funny as we’ve seen her be in the past. Still, Wilde’s always charming and always easy-on-the-eyes. Rawr.

The real stand-out of this while movie definitely has to be Jim Carrey, as he’s the only one who really seems to be trying to make this movie and it’s comedy work, yet, does it so flawlessly that it doesn’t seem hard at all. Carrey likes playing strange characters like Steve Gray, and what only makes it better is that he isn’t at the fore-front of it all. Carrey actually allows others to take over the center-stage and wiggle their elbows a bit, only until he pops-up and starts having a ball. Carrey definitely provided the best moments of the movie for me and after awhile, was the only aspect of the whole thang that actually kept me watching. Sorry, Olivia. You’re hot and all, but come on. Jim’s still got it.

Consensus: If you like magic; you will be disappointed. If you like to laugh; you will be disappointed. If you like Jim Carrey; then you will probably be happy with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone for that reason, and that one reason only considering it’s rarely ever funny and tries hard while doing so.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, I'm shocked you're in this too.

Yep, I’m shocked you’re in this too.

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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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