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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Geraldine Chaplin

The Impossible (2012)

Apparently the English had it way worse than the rest of Thailand. Apparently.

Based on a real story, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as the parents of three sons as they are all caught in the aftermath of the humongous tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004. They get split-up, with the oldest-boy (Tom Holland) and his mother on one side, whereas the father and the younger-boys are on the other. However, among all of the pain, destruction, and disaster  both sides set out to find one another and do, simply, THE IMPOSSIBLE. Come on, you had to know that was coming up.

The 2004 Tsunami is a disaster that is still fresh and clear in many people’s minds and in ways, still has people feeling the effects, even after all of these years. That’s why making a flick about this monster-Tsuanmi would still seem a little too soon for some, but it’s a lot more tastefully done than the advertising would have you think. To be honest, it’s probably a better use of the Tsunami than that piece of crapola Hereafter was. Hey, if you’re going to cash-in on a real-life disaster, do it the right way, not the Clint Eastwood way. And that’s why director J.A Bayona is suited so well for this material because not only does he handle the subject and topic with a real sense of class and decency, but he also shows it in the way that makes me feel as if I was right then and there while it was happening.

After seeing a whole Summer chock-full of the world being blown-up and countless other areas being turned to shit, I was very, very surprised to see that the very best use of any type of destruction for a movie in 2012 (no, not that Roland Emmerich piece of shite) came from a movie that uses only 10 minutes or so of it, and then it’s practically gone. We only get 10 minutes or so until the actual Tsunami comes and concurs, and it’s just one of those moments that occurred this year where I was grounded to the floor from start-to-finish. The reason that is, is mainly because everything I saw seemed so real with the waves coming in at a very realistic look and pace, and the scariest use of water I have seen in quite some time. You seriously feel as if you are right there with these people as they get hit by the Tsunami and I have to give Bayona a crap-ton of credit for putting me on the edge of my seat and having me feel like I was in for a wild ride of drama, sadness, destruction, and family-matters. I got all of them, but sadly, not the way I wanted.

No matter what they threw at her, Naomi Watts was still the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet here.

No matter what they threw at her, Naomi Watts was still the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet here.

After the Tsunami hits and we get to see the shitty situations these characters have found themselves in, everything, slowly but surely, starts to fall-apart. Maybe that isn’t the right thing to say because I was very involved with these characters, this real-life disaster, and the aftermath of it all, but then it almost seems to lose it’s focus. The story that we become first accustomed to is with Watts and Holland as he has to practically be the parent in this situation, because she can barely even walk and practically falling apart. This story-line was interesting as hell because you rarely get to see the kid parenting the parent in movies, unless it’s some teenage daughter teaching her dad all of the cool lingo that the Y-Generation, cool kids use. We see how a parent can put themselves below a child, be tended to, and how a child can actually do that while being successful, and yet, still be a child. It was interesting to see and I could tell that if this was how the whole film was going to play-out, then I was probably going to need to borrow the extra bag of Kleenex’s from the person next to me.

However, I soon forgot about a very key, important-factor to this flick: there’s a whole other side to the family! When McGregor shows up with the two, younger boys, then the flick becomes a bit conventional and melodramatic, almost to the point of where it’s off-putting. With Watts and Holland, it was rich, raw, and gritty, almost to the point of where you were cringing because somebody needed to throw water and soap on them, but when you get McGregor and his story of looking for his family, it takes everything down to something that feels as if it would be from a Lifetime movie or something. The eternal conflict that McGregor has to go through, is that he has to choose on whether or not to abandon his own children, to look for his wife and other child, and that’s it. He has to find them and if he doesn’t, chances are, they’ll be dead. I get that it’s a very real and true depiction of events that probably occurred to a plethora of families around this time, but still, it doesn’t make it the least-bit intriguing or surprising to watch, especially when all that I’m watching is a guy, walking around with a piece of paper in his head and asking people certain names. Yeah, should have just stayed with Watts. She probably would have gotten naked more, too.

The fact that this is a real depiction of something that real people had to go through, just makes this final-product a bit more distasteful in it’s own way. For instance, I find it relatively strange that the flick’s real-life story, concerns a family that was Mexican. Here, they are English and even worse, the rest of the film acts like it was hardest on them the most. Over a million people died that fateful day and some families are still reeling from the effects of that, so to sit-there and make a movie about a little, mighty family of mates that went searching for one another, does seem a bit rude to the rest of the people out there who died and were sometimes under the same circumstance as this very same family. I do have to come and realize that yes, this is a Hollywood production and yes, this is a real-life story about a real-life family, not the real-life event that actually occurred, but still, if I were one of the families who suffered from this Tsunami and saw this movie, I’d be a little ticked-off, quite frankly.

"You think I'm bad, you should see Anakin."

“You think I’m bad, you should see Anakin.”

Even though the actual, real-life family this story is based-off of is in fact, Mexican, the English cast that actually does take over this story still make it worth the while to watch and are easily the best elements to this flick. Naomi Watts is getting all sorts of hollers and praise for her role here as Maria, the wife/mother who can’t fend for herself due to a terrible disability, and it’s well-deserved hollers and praise, in my mind. Watts is always knocking roles like this out of the park, each and every single year, but here, she sort of shows the vulnerable-side to her character that can’t be the leader and owner anymore, and instead, has to sit on the back burner and try to stay alive, while her son cares and tends for her. Maybe it’s not as traumatizing of a performance as the one she gave in 21 Grams, but it’s still the cleaner, more mainstream-version of that same performance.

Ewan McGregor is an actor that has been very so-so over the last decade or so, but I think he’s gotten his career back on-track and is a great actor to watch, especially when he’s in such an act of desperation as his character is here. McGregor definitely still has the lovable sensibility to him that not only makes you feel like he’s a great father that loves his family for what they are, but will ultimately, end-up doing the right thing for every one in the end. There’s a scene with McGregor on the phone and without giving too much away and spoiling it for all of you cats out there, it’s probably his most powerful piece of acting he’s given ever since the days of Moulin Rogue. Maybe to some, that’s not saying much, but to me, it means the whole world. Good job, Ewan! Now stay away from the new Star Wars movies!

As compelling as McGregor and Watts are (and trust me, they are something to watch and behold here), the one who really stands-out the most is probably Tom Holland as the oldest-son. The kid starts off as a bit of a brat that can’t help but being a piece of crap to his parents and to his brothers, but has to change all that up once everything goes from bad, to worse, to absolutely dreadful. Not many kid actors working today could pull-off that transition from spoiled-brat, to powerful, adult-like child, but Holland does it and does it so perfectly that you really believe in whatever this kid does next. He’s a wonderfully kind specimen the way he cares for his mother and looks out for her, especially when she needs him the most, but is even kinder when it comes to helping others out in looking for their families, friends, and loved ones. Holland may, or may not slide-by with an Oscar nomination this year but if he does get one, I will not be mad in the least-bit because he’s never annoying, and he’s always real. Or at least that’s what it felt like.

Consensus: Focusing on one, English-family throughout this terrible disaster that occurred in 2004, does seem a bit insensitive to the ones who were effected the most by it, but The Impossible still provides plenty of rich, character-moments that are made even better by the cast and crew that make this flick, one step above your typical, soapy-drama.

7/10=Rental!!

Don't let the looks deceive you, this kid could kick your ass if he had to.

Don’t let the looks deceive you, this kid could kick your ass if he had to.

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Home for the Holidays (1995)

Who cares about family when you got a plate full of turkey right in-front of you?

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is a divorced, single-mom who just lost her job and now has to fly home for the traditional family Thanksgiving Dinner in Baltimore. Thing is, her parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft) are a bit out-of-whack, her gay-brother (Robert Downey Jr.) likes to start a whole bunch of trouble, and her sister (Cynthia Stevenson) doesn’t like anything that anybody else does.

Ohhh, Thanksgiving. The family, the mashed potatoes, the turkey, the corn, the butter, the bread, and most of all, the fights. Yes, not matter how perfect your family may be, there are always fights to be had around this joyous time because let’s face it, any time you get a group of people together, to sit-around and eat dinner, there’s going to be some words thrown around and about and that’s just the way it works. Me, on the other hand, I eat, talk, watch football, and that’s it. If my family fights, then so be it because I know I’m not getting myself involved and I’m sure as hell not missing out on some turkey, that’s for damn sure. To be honest though, I think eating turkey was something that was more interesting to think about than watching this movie.

Jodie Foster went behind the camera for the 2nd time with this flick and you can sort of tell that she’s connecting with this topic through her own experiences with her, and her family, especially around Thanksgiving. Now maybe since Foster was such a big-name at such an early-age, maybe she didn’t really have nice, little, suburban-cooked meals of turkey with her ordinary-family of regular-day people, but you can definitely tell that she enjoys that aspect behind Thanksgiving because it shows a lot in this film, and there’s just a certain easy-going feel to it that makes it so pleasant of a watch. All holiday movies are cheery and happy-go-lucky, and this one is no different but it’s something about the family-dynamic that this movie nails so well that got me all cheerful.

All of the interactions these characters shared with one another, all felt real for about the first hour or so. I liked how everybody in this family, knew each other, had their own ways of communicating with one another, and didn’t hold-back when it came to expressing their real-feelings about something, whether it be each other or the world around them. That’s how a real family is and I liked watching everybody just talk and be themselves around one another, even if themselves was just a selfish, condescending piece-of-crap that you wouldn’t want to be around, let alone spend all of Thanksgiving Dinner with. I don’t know how many actual, normal Thanksgiving Dinners Foster has had in her life, but I can definitely tell that she enjoys the look and feel of a believable family-dynamic and how everybody gets that all families are wacky, dysfunctional, and always, I do repeat, always fight about something stupid or meaningful.

However, this whole realistic family-dynamic doesn’t go on forever. After the first hour of this movie, it seemed like Foster sort of lost what she was going for originally, and just decided to make this one, long soapy melodrama and sort of abandon all of the realistic, family-stuff that was going on before. I liked when the family was arguing and how they couldn’t decide on what to eat or not, but I didn’t give a single-crap about how the father remembers the good old days and how he could wish to go back in-time and do them all over again. I’m sorry, but it didn’t interest me and it seemed like Foster lost herself because instead of focusing on the whole family and what they’re all about, she focuses more on Claudia as time goes on and as good as interesting as she may be at-times, she’s never fully-developed.

You have to give Holly Hunter a lot of credit for really nailing her roles as Claudia. Claudia is a bit of nut-job that obviously has problems with her professional and personal life, and even though that is touched-on within the first 20 minutes or so, it never feels like we really care all that much to begin with. Then, the film starts to really focus on her and what’s going on with her life, and it makes no sense as to where all of this crap is coming from. I get it, she’s a bit sad, and she misses her daughter, but what does that have to do with her and her personality. I didn’t get what Foster was touching on with her and even though Hunter is very-good here, I still wish that her character was more fully-developed and wasn’t used so randomly.

Everybody else in the cast is pretty good, too, and to be honest, a lot more interesting than Claudia in-ways. Robert Downey Jr. seems like he’s having a ball as Claudia’s trouble-making brother, Tommy, and just uses that “talking-really-fast” shtick oh so well here as he does everywhere else. Him and Hunter have a nice chemistry that really does feel like they are brother and sister, and that they have always loved each other through thick-and-thin and just watching them together was great to see, especially since Downey was probably all coked-up out-of-his-mind while he was doing this. Anne Bancroft plays the mother, Adele, and is very, very good as we all know her as being and just nails the whole cooky, paranoid mother-role very-well. Hell, in a way, it even reminds me of what my mom may be in the near-future but I’m not banking on it. A super young-looking Dylan McDermott shows up here as Leo Fish, a friend of Tommy’s, and he’s okay but he seems way too comfortable with this family, way too quick. Literally, as soon as the guy stops in, he starts making wise-cracks to Claudia about how much of a hell the house has got to be and it’s obvious that he wants to get into her parents, because why else would he randomly be talking to her like that, but it didn’t seem believable. Instead, it just came off as a bit creepy and if he was a guy that one of my relatives brought over for dinner, I’d probably want him the hell out. Then again, it’s Dylan McDermott and I’d be pretty honored if the guy showed-up in my house in the first-place so never mind that noise that I’m spraying.

Consensus: Home for the Holidays has the look and feel of a cheery, good-spirited holiday movie, but also feels like it’s trying to go for a bit more and instead, bites off a little bit more than it can chew.

6/10=Rental!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Gobble Gobble!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: The Orphanage (2007)

Yup, kids are still creepy.

The plot centers on Laura (Belén Rueda), who returns to her childhood home, an orphanage. Laura plans to turn the house into a home for disabled children, but a problem arises when she and her husband realize that their son Simón (Roger Príncep) believes he has a masked friend named Tomás with whom he will run away. After an argument with Laura, Simón is found to be missing.

It’s a swell reminder to know that horror films can still be as freaky and scary as they were back in the day, without the loads and loads of amounts of blood, gore, and special-effects. Times have obviously changed and most horror films need these three ingredients to work, or even call themselves a “horror film”, which is why I’m glad to finally see one that doesn’t use that crap to it’s advantage. Sadly, it’s not from an American. It’s from that damn Spaniards! Grrr!

What I liked so much about Juan Antonio Bayona‘s direction is that the guy brings it back old-school, in terms of how he freaks the audience out. Instead of just showing us freaky stuff left-and-right and letting us know what we’re going to see next, he keeps us in the dark, and keeps us waiting as to what’s going to just pop-out at us next. You never know what floor this guy is on because he always moving around and I liked that. No matter how familiar or predictable you think this story is going to be, Bayona slips one from right underneath you, and leaves you behind wondering where this guy is going to go next with the story. That utter sense of unpredictability is what kept in-line for what I was watching, but there was still a great deal of tension that was actually killing me on the inside.

You never really get the full-out “boo” scares here, and even when they do come around, they feel deserved and not cheap in the least-bit. So, instead of getting these “boo” scares, we get a bunch of creaks, laughter, movement, and random other noises that have you wondering just what the hell is going on in this big house and it always kept me on the edge of my seat. I always thought something was going to pop-out at me and scare the bajeebers out of me, but somehow, it didn’t and I like how Bayona played that way. He isn’t subtle with his scares, but he;s very tense about it and that’s what I liked most about the whole horror-aspect to this flick. It scares you, without ever really trying to. It just does and that’s something to hold onto in terms of the horror genre.

Where I thought this film did fail was in the whole story itself. The main story of this mother looking all over the place for her lost son is a nice one, but it gets way too hammered over the head, almost to the point of where it’s repetitive. At first, when the kid is around, it’s the same old crap where the kid just constantly sees these “ghost-like creatures”, the momma doesn’t like it, and tries to get him to stop. This happens a couple of times, until the kid goes away and then it shifts off into her being a nut, and looking for him on her hands and knees wherever she goes. Some of this was fun to watch because of how Boyan kept the unpredictable nature of this flick going, but the other times, it just felt boring and over-used. It was almost like they had all of these scares lined-up and ready for the flick, but they just needed a story to bring them altogether in order for them to make sense, so they just had this one, simple story of a mom going crazy of the search of her son. Lame-o!

Even though her character can be a bit annoying, Belén Rueda is still a delight to watch as Laura, and had me rooting for her the whole way. What I liked about this Laura character was that she came off as very three-dimensional in many aspects. The woman loves her son, wants him to be happy, and wants him to feel like he belongs in the world, but just wants him to get out of his funk, where he constantly talks to ghosts and plays weird “hide and go seek” games with them. That, in a way, is pretty understandable since all mothers just want their kids to be “normal” (not mine, she knew I was fucked up from day one), but her character becomes richer once her son is taken from her and we see a real-life, human-being come out of her and we can’t help but feel for the gal when she goes through this rough-ass patch in her life. Rueda is not only beautiful, but also feels like a real mother that just wants her son back and the transformation she goes through is believable and understandable to the fact that you believe in everything she does, and has done in the past 2 hours. See horror movies, you can have three-dimensional characters and still be scary. Wowwwwww…..

Roger Príncep was pretty good as her son, mainly because he wasn’t annoying and as cute as a button. That sounded a bit weird coming out of my mouth (or finger-tips, whatever you wanna call them) but don’t try and tell me that you didn’t go “aww” at least once when you saw the picture of that kid. Okay, I’m done now with my pedophilia-like ways. The one in this cast that I didn’t like and sort of took me out of the whole film whenever she showed up was the lady who played the creepy, old gal named Benigna. What I didn’t like about her was how goofy and cartoonish looking she seemed to be in a film that seemed pretty realistic in terms of the type of horror it was going for and how. The story was pretty realistic even though it concerned ghosts and whatnot, but every time she showed-up, I just wanted her to go away and bring back the realism to a tale that seemed to have a lot of that going for it.

Consensus: The Orphanage is not the non-stop scare-fest you would expect from the idea/premise, but still delivers a creepy atmosphere, packed with endearing characters, an emotionally-charged story, and a solid performance from Rueda, who makes her character so much easier to stand-by, even when it seems like she’s losing her mind.

8/10=Matinee!!

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