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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Marcia Jean Kurtz

The Wrestler (2008)

I’m sure Hogan really does know what’s best.

Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler who continues to wrestle matches in an attempt to cling on to his 1980’s heyday despite his failing health, while also trying to mend his relationship with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and find romance with a stripper (Marisa Tomei).

Some of you may not know this (and if you do, mucho brownie points go out to you), but back in the day, I used to be a hardcore wrestling fan. Yeah, I knew it was fake. Yeah, I knew that the two guys dressed-up in speedos that were beating the shit out of each other didn’t really hate each other outside of the ring. And yeah, I knew it was a bit childish for a kid that was in 8th grade, but you know what? I watched it and loved it all for the same reasons I watch and love movies so much: entertainment-value. That’s what’s so fun about wrestling that you don’t need to have a brain, a PHD, or even a job to enjoy wrestling, you can just watch it and have a good time. Seriously, if you don’t watch a single match of professional wrestling, then you my friend, are totally lying to yourself.

However, as much as I may patronize the other people out there who don’t feel the same as I do when it comes to half-naked men rolling around and beating each other up, I still feel the same about this movie as any other professional wrestling fan in saying that I love this movie, not just because it shows some legitimacy and real-danger to a piece of entertainment that has been the butt of every joke since the 80’s, but because it shows us what wrestlers are when they aren’t in the ring: real people. Maybe that’s nothing new we haven’t already heard from countless other stories of the same-nature, but what I think makes this approach so different and timeless, is the fact that director Darren Aronofsky makes us feel as if we are there, along for this depressing, dark, and tormented ride.

Nothing says family-daughter bonding more than aimless walks on a deserted New Jersey Boardwalk.

Nothing says family-daughter bonding more than aimless walks on a deserted New Jersey Boardwalk.

This is probably the most normal piece of material that Aronofsky has ever touched and to be honest, you would not be able to tell from watching this that this was the same guy who made a movie where people get sped-up high for an hour and 40 minutes. There’s nothing flashy that Aronofsky pulls off here with the camera but what he does do with the camera, is actually make us feel as if we are there, in a sort of documentary-style way. The camera literally follows Randy wherever he goes and it’s sort of like a TV news crew just found the guy, decided to put the camera on him, and just let real life roll for the guy. It gives us a very candid, fly-on-the-wall look at this story and makes us feel as if everything we see, hear, feel is as natural as it can get. That’s not just from Aronofsky’s end of the spectrum, that’s from everybody else involved, especially you know who.

In case you couldn’t tell by the “you know who” I was just referencing in that last sentence, I was talking about Mickey Rourke in his perfect-performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. It’s obvious that Randy is based-off of the likes of such wrestling-stars like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Ultimate Warrior, and so many other famous-faces of the squared-circle from the 80’s, but don’t let that get to you, because Rourke makes Randy his own piece of originality and thank heavens for that. Seriously, I think Mickey is in every single shot of this movie and in some movies, to some people, that would probably be torture that you would have actually had to pay to see for 2 hours, but instead with this movie and this performance, it’s the total-opposite. You will never want to take your eyes off of Mickey and all of the subtle nuances he pulls-off with his facial-expressions. You can tell that there is a battered and beaten soul underneath all of the tanned skin, blonde hair, and chiseled-up, but aging muscles, and you never forget that you’re watching Randy, even if Mickey totally takes over the whole-movie.

As sad as this character may be, Mickey brings out so much fun, excitement, and joy within this guy that you just can’t help but feel like you too would want to share a beer and play Nintendo with him as well. You can tell that a lot of the scenes here are totally ad-libbed from Mickey and it just gives this movie more of a natural feel, as if Mickey decided to walk into the shoot everyday, do his part, but also have a lot of fun with the rest of the cast as well. As I said before, you are never going to want to take your eyes off of Rourke here because he always has something to show you, always has something to surprise you with, and best of all, always has something to make you fell more and more for this guy, no matter how much he screws-up.

If more strippers looked like Marisa Tomei, I'd probably be broke.

If more strippers looked like Marisa Tomei, I’d probably be broke.

There is so much about this character that just screams, “PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE, PREDICTABLE!”, but Mickey is above that and makes this guy feel like he has more of a heart than you could ever expect from a low-life like him. Every chance that Randy gets to make life happy for himself and the others around him, he finds his own way of just screwing it up and rather than being pissed at this guy and losing all hope in him, you’re still pissed at him but feel as if he can change, and feel like he just deserves a break. That’s the work of magic from Rourke, because he is able to give us a character that is so selfish, so idiotic sometimes, and so burnt-out without ever admitting it, but yet, still have us love the guy to death and feel as if we are cheering him on, just as much as his wrestling fans are. It’s one of the best performances I have ever seen and it’s one that Rourke was freakin’ robbed of and without Mickey, this film just would have not succeeded. Yeah, if they went with Nic Cage like they had originally-planned, things would have been a hell of a lot different come Oscar-time.

Another character that is basically Randy “The Ram” but with tits and more naked than he is throughout the whole movie, is Marisa Tomei as Cassidy. Tomei is playing the usual, “hooker with the heart of gold” role, but knowing Tomei and what she can do with any role you throw at her, she changes it up and makes her feel more raw than you’d ever expect from this gal. Cassidy is a lonely, sad, and aging piece of work, just like Randy, but still feels the need to push the ones away from her that still may make a difference in her life. Watching her and Randy interact with one-another, shoot the shit, and pretty much start to connect with each other more than they have with anybody else, is a thing of beauty and I think all of that is mainly because of the chemistry between the two. Evan Rachel Wood is good as Randy’s estranged daughter, Stephanie and even if she may be the weakest-link out of the three, that still doesn’t mean jack shit because she is still so good, providing us with great insight into a character that wanted to be loved and held, just as much as Randy does now.

Still fake, right?

Still think it’s fake, right?

These three performances are mainly who tie this film together with it’s neat and nice little bow at the end, but I’m telling you, this flick will take you down a dark, sad road you may feel very affected by. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally depressing and in-fact, will actually have you laughing a good, couple of times throughout. However, when the film wants to make you feel any type of emotion that has to do with sad, heartfelt, or touching, it hits the spot right away. You can say that’s because of Rourke, you could say that’s because of Tomei, and you could that’s because of Aronofsky, but I say it’s every single piece of this puzzle is what makes it so damn near-perfect, and yes, after 4 years and seeing it just about 5 times, I still cried my eyes-out like a big freakin’ baby and you know what? That’s alright with me, because once Monday Night hits, I’m watching RAW baby!

Consensus: Whether or not you’re a fan of professional wrestling, won’t matter because The Wrestler is about more than just a bunch of guys fake-fighting in a trampoline/ring. It’s a perfectly-acted, somber-look at the life of a broken and depressed old-man that is starting to come to terms with where his life is going, why it’s headed there, and what he can do to make right again. It’s an emotional-trip that still hits me where it hurts all of these years later.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Sad to say, but at this stage in Ric Flair's career, Mickey Rourke probably has more wrestling-skills than him.

Sad to say, but at this stage in Ric Flair’s career, Mickey Rourke probably has more wrestling-skills than him.

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Big Fan (2009)

We don’t have fans like this in Philly…..

Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a hardcore New York Giants football fan, struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.

What’s pretty surprising about this film right from the get-go, is that this isn’t your ordinary sports film. You know, the big sports epics that are based on true under-dog stories with inspirational themes pouring out of its screenplay. Nope, this is not one of those movies and that’s what probably works most in its advantage.

This is the directorial debut of writer Robert D. Siegel and proves that he can find a great balance between humor and some very dark drama. The one thing that Siegel does here is act as if this film is going to be one lovable loser pic about how this one dude loves his sports team so much that he just can’t hold his excitement, and that there will be laughs a plenty here. In reality though, this film gets very, very dark at points and you honestly have no idea what Siegel is going to pull out next. You never know what these characters will do next because you never know where their heads are at and it honestly seems like this guy could take these characters anywhere. Some of this stuff is funny because it perfectly captures what it’s like to be a die-hard sports fan but then it is also very depressing for that same fact too because we realize just how lonely some of these people can actually be underneath all of the know-it-all stats from last week’s game.

The problem with a lot of this is that I feel like the film takes a huge nose-dive into some pretty grim material that it’s almost too much of a switcheroo from early before. The film doesn’t have the lightest tone you would expect in the beginning, but by about the last act it gets pretty damn dark to where you think that there is going to be some straight-up murders going on around here. Then again, don’t want to give too much away but I just want to say that it may turn off plenty of viewers where this film does try to go with itself.

Patton Oswalt shocked the hell out of me with his perfect performance in Young Adult and his performance here as Paul is pretty much the same thing around, except a little less of the comedy aspect. This guy is one funny guy, which he gets to show at some parts here, but for the rest of the flick, it’s all up to him to basically show what it’s really like to be a total loner that can’t miss a single game of his favorite team. You feel sorry for this dude Paul because you know he’s a genuinely nice dude, but he just gets stuck up at the wrong place, at the wrong time and Oswalt pulls it off pretty well. Yeah, he sort of reminds you a bit of a Travis Bickle-type by the end of the movie, but that gives you a lot more reason to care for him and root him on as he’s going through this crisis of his.

Even though Siegel really writes Paul as a very three-dimensional character, everybody else just seems like caricatures and this is what also sort of bothered me about the flick. I get that Paul’s family is supposed to be full of asshole and morons just to make him look good, but they really shoot low for these characters as if they were in some really crummy sitcom. A Certain character like Paul’s best friend, played by Kevin Corrigan has a certain dimension to him because we see him hang out with Paul and express how he feels about certain things, where half of these morons just do something completely stupid after another just to show Paul how to live. This came off to me as sloppy writing and I can give credit to Siegel for making an interesting plot go on longer and longer, but I have to say that his way of actually having us care for Paul was rather cheap considering how everyone else is so poorly written.

Consensus: Big Fan isn’t your regular sports flick that many are used to seeing, but it features a very darkly comedic feel with a great performance from Patton Oswalt. It gets a little too dark by the end but it’s also one that works by just being different and at least interesting.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Hmmm….so is doing drugs fun?

A widow (Ellen Burstyn)’s growing dependence on amphetamines and a self-help television show parallels the struggles of her heroin-addicted son (Jared Leto), his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) and friend (Marlon Wayans).

Having seen this film already way back when in 2009, I knew that I was in for a Debbie-downer none the less, which is what I got. However, there’s something with age that makes this film better in a way.

This film is absolutely Darren Aronofsky‘s right from the start, all the way till the last credit rolls off the screen. Aronofsky makes this film the psychedelic head-trip that it is with everything he throws at  us with all of the powerful and haunting imagery by his one-of-a-kind style. Aronofsky uses editing in the way that it should be used, as in the way to get inside the mind-set of its characters/stories. Whenever these people are popping pills or shootin’ up, we don’t just see them doing it with a slow burn, we just seem them doing it in an ultra-fast mode that’s done in a matter of 2 seconds. It shows the effect it has on the certain person where time sometimes speeds up, slows down, and even may take you into this dream-world where all of the craziest illusions just pop-up out of nowhere. Either way, Aronofsky is a pro at making a dark story even darker just with the right amount of style to give me images that will probably stay in my head for the rest of my life.

It’s not just Aronofsky’s visuals that get this film going, it’s also the sounds and soundtrack done here that really works wonders as well. The soundtrack is done by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet and every single little piece of music they put in here is as haunting as the last one and it’s one of the very rare times where the songs themselves actually start to build-up and up and up and up along with the actual film itself. The attention to sound is also a big deal here as well because everything sounded so legitimate as if you could hear the pill box poppin’ or the lines being done themselves. This is one of the films that shows how much sound can go a long way, especially if you’re doing a drug film that shows the constant motion people go through, day-in and day-out, when they are on drugs.

Where this film really got me was its message. Yes, it is rather obvious the first time around but once you start thinking about it more and more, and take it into consideration with your own life, then it really hits you. The film talks about how habitual drug use such as pills, cocaine, heroin, etc. will start to disillusion the world you live in and you start to live this imaginary world where almost everything seems to be happening the way you want it, but in reality, it isn’t even close. People in this film start off all happy and high with drugs but then soon start to fall even more and more into the drug world and they start to lose sight of each other and the world they live in. This is very true with real life as I have almost had to go through with some of this myself. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve obviously went through the major shit that these characters go through but drugs came into my life at one point and it really effed me up as well as others around me. Drugs can make you happy, but in the end, drugs always end up doing more harm than good no matter what it may be. Moral of the story is, kids, drugs are bad. Doesn’t get any more simpler than that really.

My only one and main problem with the film was not the film but more of its story. The story is very grim and depressing the whole time but the fact that I couldn’t really feel much for any of these characters, except for the obvious one, was pretty much it. I mean I felt bad for the old lady considering she didn’t know what she was getting herself into with the drugs she was given, other than the fact that she was going to lose some weight, but the others, I couldn’t really feel any sympathy for. I mean they knew what they were getting themselves into right from the moment they did their first “job” and when that all starts to spiral out-of-control and they are basically left with nothing but a couple of hundreds for druggies, I couldn’t feel anything else except for pity. Then again, I don’t think the story is really asking for me to feel anything in the first place so maybe I just wanted somebody to feel for.

I couldn’t go on in this review without mentioning the performance here given by Ellen Burstyn playing that old lady, Sara. This is a very risky role for someone of her age and stature, but she went for it all here and gave one of the memorable performances of the past decade. She’s sad, lonely, troubled, confused, and right when these drugs come into her life, she gets even more crazier by the second and it’s not only sad to watch but also effective as well because there are so many people like her out there in the real world that go through problems as much as she does as well. She definitely deserved that Oscar considering she took a role that I’m guessing not many others went for, and made it her own troubled and depressing character.

Jared Leto has a Brooklyn accent that doesn’t really ring true for me but he actually does very much look the part of the big-time heroin addict that he’s playing here as Harry. Jennifer Connelly play’s his girly-friend and probably has to go through a lot of the more crazier ish that takes over this film within the last act and does a pretty good job with it as I can easily say that I was not that attracted to her as her addiction started going on and on. Let me also not forget to mention that this Marlon Wayans is surprisingly good as Tyrone, and it’s a huge bit of random casting that somehow worked to this guy’s advantage but sad thing was that he didn’t really get much dramatic work after this.

Consensus: Though it’s not for the faint of heart, Requiem for a Dream is an anti-drug film that has a hard-hitting style used by director Darren Aronofsky, a score that will make you terrified, and performances from everyone involved, especially Burstyn, that add so much more to these characters than just a bunch of junkies.

9/10=Full Price!!

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