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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Julia Ormond

The East (2013)

Can’t trust those Occupiers! You never know if one of them just so happens to be a vampire.

A secret informant, Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) who works for a group of private companies trying to protect their image and sales, is assigned her latest task: which is to go undercover, and become one of the members of the extremist group known as “The East”. They are lead by a charming, yet inspired leader (Alexander Skarsgård), and thrive on showing all of these companies for what they are. However, Sarah knows what needs to be done and will not stop at anything, until she stops this group from completing their final “jams”. But that’s easier said then done, especially when love and morals come into play, which is exactly what hits Sarah clear in the face.

Here’s one of those movies that seems like it could literally be happening right now, right from underneath our noses, but we would never know about it. Why? Well, that’s because there’s some form of rebellion going on everywhere in our world and it would be almost no surprise to me after awhile if the government starting cracking down on some of these groups/organizations, for causing what they consider “acts of terrorism”. Whether or not I actually believe in that, will be totally left up for you to make up your mind’s own, but that also means that a movie like this has it’s homework done already for itself. All it has to do is tell it’s story, gives us it’s characters, and give us it’s reasons, and not fuck up.

Somehow, the movie couldn’t hold up it’s end of the bargain.

God forbid she actually see the creepy, fogged-up woods she's getting taken into. Because you know, she'd totally be able to identify them.

God forbid she actually see the creepy, fogged-up woods she’s getting taken into. Because you know, she’d totally be able to identify them.

But, that being said, the movie still does start off pretty damn well if I don’t say so myself. What director Zal Batmanglij (good thing I’m typing that, and not saying that) does well is that he gets us involved with the story right off the bat, by showing us what these extremists are all about. They’re a bit inhumane, but, they also show what they are doing for a reason so maybe, just maybe there is more to them then just simple, old-school rebellion. And there is, but Batmanglij still likes to keep us wondering where this story is going to go next, and what areas of it’s message is it going to focus on.

There’s plenty of humanity to be found within these activists, but what really makes them work as a whole is that the causes that they are fighting for, feel honest and not a bit for show. They really do feel like their environment is being cheated out of a system that’s mean-spirited, corrupt, and impure to the rest of the world that surrounds them. When any movie tries to tackle a subject like this, I get terribly annoyed as it just comes off as a piece of “preaching, in the form of a movie”, but this movie handles it well because it shows both sides of the coin very well, with enough attention and care to what the one side, says to the other, and vice versa.

The idea that these activists are torturing and doing harm to these corporate big-heads for the same type of shit that they accuse them of doing, does get brought up many times and you have to wonder: who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, the activists have a reason to be mad and you can see why they would want to put an end to the pain and suffering that is being caused, but is their way, the right way? Or, is it simply the only way to get shit done?

The movie continues to rattle that question around, almost as much as you’ll be doing the same in your head, and it’s only made better by the fact that the movie feels like it could go anywhere, at anytime, with just about any character. Everybody gets their chance to show what they really mean to the group, and who they really are underneath all of the anger and rebellion, which makes it enough for us to at least care about what it is that they decide to pull off next, and whether or not they will come out alive or unpunished for their ways. Brit Marling has this certain feel to her as an actress that makes her almost feel like she’s up in the sky with the birds and pretty clouds, but here, she feel like she’s brought back down to Earth where she can at least get done, whatever she is told to, and lets up for no one. Obviously, she gets wrapped up into all of the hum-drum of these activists and see why their way is sometimes the better way, but it feels more realistic and believable with Marling in the role, rather than some other cute, air-head that could have made the character barely passable to watch.

Playing the leader of the group she’s over-watching, is the incredibly-tall Alexander Skarsgård as Benji, the world’s least-intimating male name. Skarsgård was okay as the leader, because he’s able to convey a sense that he’s a nice dude, underneath all of the evil-looks and thoughts. However, it was conveyed in a way that made him that way, just so it could give him and Marling’s character a reason to bang and fall in love. It didn’t feel like it was needed for the story, if only for that, and didn’t really give him a clearer-enough arc. If anybody deserved to be banging Marling’s character, it was Toby Kebbell as one of the most-important members of the group, who used to be a doctor in Africa, until he was surprisingly harmed by one of the medicines he was given over there, making him shaky and twitchy all of the time. This physical set-back already makes the character seem sympathetic, but the way Kebbell brings out more and more humanity out from within this guy, really makes you feel as if he’s the one who deserves all of the good things in the world, even Marling’s tush.

Hey, can’t go wrong with that, right?

"Pass it to the right, man."

“Pass it to the right, man.”

But as three-dimensional and well-acted some of these characters may actually be, the plot is what really matters here, which makes the ending all the more disappointing. See, if you were paying attention, you may have noticed that the big idea behind this flick was whether the group’s ways of handling their acts of rebellions were right or not? Well, as much build-up and details the movie may have given that message throughout most of the run-time, is all slapped-down by the last 15 minutes in a way I did not expect to see coming. And not in the type of way where I liked the surprise, but in the way where I thought it was a cheap way of getting out of being anything remotely close to insightful, or thought-provoking into where it went.

Can’t say much else other than that, but everything leading up to that was pretty solid in it’s way of getting me involved with it’s characters, their motivations, and what each and every one of them had to say, but the movie shakes a blind-eye towards that all. It sort of makes you feel like the first hour hour and 45 minutes, was made for nothing else other than a bunch of things to make you think, only to have them thrown out of your mind, as soon as things get really complicated for these characters and the movie itself. I guess the movie didn’t want to really offend anybody that may care for this type of material, but there could have been more of a thought-process into what could have been the best and most effective way to go out. The way they chose: nowhere near it and ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth going out. Poor me.

Consensus: There are plenty of ideas, thoughts, and feelings that The East plays with, as well as a relatively-compelling plot-line, but it all gets shut-down after about the hour and a half mark, and then all of a sudden; the movie doesn’t seem to care for any of those elements anymore, and just wants to play it safe without really going any deeper.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

They bonded so much during filming, that they actually joined Occupy Wall Street. Nah, jaykay. They went back to their 6 bed-room houses, took a dip in their in-ground pools, and drove their fine Lamborghinis around town.

They bonded so much during filming, that they actually joined Occupy Wall Street. Nah, jaykay. They went back to their 6 bedroom houses, took a dip in their in-ground pools, and drove their fine Lamborghini’s around town.

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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.

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

I wonder just how much of hottie Marilyn Monroe would be in today’s world.

Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier’s ( Kenneth Branagh), documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during production of The Prince and the Showgirl, as well as his several meetings with her.

Marilyn Monroe has and forever will be an American icon but the weirdest thing is that there has still never even been a film based on her yet. Probably because nobody can play her, except for Monroe herself, and I hate to say it but that is still true even after seeing this flick.

First-time director Simon Curtis does a good job here of creating a very funny and light mood in the beginning of the flick with plenty of detail towards the whole film-making of the 1957 film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl‘. We get to see all of the work that it takes to be made for a film to work and how every single person working back-stage doesn’t really get along with each other, even when they are off-screen.

The problem that Curtis runs into with this film is the fact that it is just way too much of the soapy melodrama that I’ve probably seen used better in made-for-TV movies on Lifetime or Hallmark. The emotional depth that this film tries to carry is way off considering that we are given so many opportunities to actually care about these characters, but it all feels too fake with moments that seem like they came right out of some teenage boys journal from the 1950′s who had a dream the night before about his long, lost adventures with the chick who he would worship. I couldn’t really take anything in that this film was trying to sell me into consideration and even though it’s adapted from a real-life memoir, I still have to call some bull-shit on that.

Another huge problem that this film runs into is the fact that Monroe is depicted in this film in two ways: either she’s charming and posing for the cameras or sad and needy as hell. There isn’t really much that this film has to say that we haven’t already known about Monroe’s life before because we know she was on drugs, we know she used men, we know she was a little sex-pot, and we know that she was a very sad character beneath all of the smiles, but this film tries to act like that is all new information to us and by about the 5th time she showed up late to work because she was crying in bed over something random, I just wanted to punch her in the face. The tortured and sad celebrity isn’t anything new and any other glimpse at Monroe would have been perfectly fine with me.

Despite this huge problem though, Michelle Williams still does a great job and saves this film from being total shit. Williams nails just about ever part of Monroe to the light-voice, to the little twinkle in her, and even to the little flirtatiousness she always had. We also get to see a lot of these sad moments with Williams getting down just the right amount of realness to a performance that seemed like it could have easily been just another extended impersonation. She shines in basically every frame of the film but even the scenes where she gets to recreate certain songs or scenes, is where her talent really shows and I think they did a perfect job of putting Williams in this lead role even if it’s a really hard one at that.

Eddie Redmayne tries his hardest here in a role that’s very mature from him but the kid doesn’t really have any re-deeming qualities to him that makes me believe that she could just want to drop all of the things she has to do for him. He’s shy, bright-eyed, a little creepy, and very boring and I think that deep-down inside there is a good performance from Redmayne, I just couldn’t find it beneath this terribly shallow character.

On the bright side though, everybody else is fairly good. Kenneth Branagh is perfect as Sir Laurence Olivier because he shows how much temperamental and desperate a film-maker could be, but also reminds us as to why Olivier was such a brilliant actor in the first place; Judi Dench is great in her role as Dame Sybil Thorndike, even if it does seem familiar; and Julia Ormond shows some great moments as Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh. There’s a real big cast to this whole film but it’s just such a shame that the script sort of lets them all down.

Consensus: When it comes to playing Monroe and Olivier, Williams and Branagh got it, but My Week with Marilyn feels very contrived with a lot of repetition to the point of where it almost feels like a lot of what we see here is almost too made up to actually be true even though it’s based on a memoir.

5/10=Rental!!

Legends of the Fall (1994)

Talk about keepin’ it in the family. Woo-hoo!

The rugged Ludlow clan — father William (Anthony Hopkins) and brothers Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Samuel (Henry Thomas) — splinters when Sam goes off to fight in World War I despite his father’s opposition. To protect Sam, his siblings follow suit. But their efforts fall short, and tragedy ensues. Upon returning home, Alfred and Tristan face a new battle when both fall for Sam’s beautiful fiancée (Julia Ormond).

Looking at this film from a far, you can already tell that you’re going to get some schmaltzy stuff here. However, it isn’t as bad as people would have you expect it to be.

The main problem with this film and it’s story is that it is a little too hokey for some viewers. It feels like an epic film but then starts to turn into some deep levels of melodrama that just don’t work if you’re say, a dude. Some of the stuff they have here from the cheesy score, to the hot guys (not including Anthony Hopkins, although I think he is very sexy), and to the romantic love triangle will probably all appeal more to women looking to lay down and watch a nice little story while their having their Ben and Jerrys.

Although it does get a little too cheesy at times, this film still kept my interest because I actually did like this story and where it went. The story starts off pretty average, and then goes into places that I didn’t quite expect it to, but I’m glad it did because it kept the story alive, even if it doesn’t strike an emotional cord. The cinematography is also beautiful and some of the images here almost remind me ones reminiscent of a Terrence Malick picture. Nothing like the beautiful farmlands.

The cast is what really brought this film together and with good reason. Brad Pitt is amazing as the blue-eyed, crazy kid, Tristan. He’s sort of that one boy in the family who gets in all the trouble, causes most of the trouble he gets into, and at the end of the day, you still love more and more. Pitt carries this film from start to finish and there are scenes here that would seem hammy if it were another actor in the role, but I have to say that Pitt does a great job here and has you love Tristan right from the get-go. Anthony Hopkins is good as their father William, and brings that great father-like figure that still works 7 years later in films like Thor. Aiden Quinn probably has the toughest role because he has to make a bad guy, seem actually likable and pulls it off for the most part. Nothing really special, just a good performance from a good actor, it’s just a shame that Pitt totally blows him out of the water. Julia Ormond is great in this role as the romantically troubled, Susannah, who’s character is kind of a hoe, going to all of the brothers, but somehow Ormond allows us to stand behind her character and only hope for the best as the story goes on.

Consensus: Though it gets into some pretty hammy situations, and the story may not be as emotionally involving as it likes to think, Legends of the Fall is a beautifully-filmed, and well-acted love triangle, that will hold your interest even despite how cheesy it might get.

6.5/10=Rental!!

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