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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Stephen Tobolowsky

Sneakers (1992)

It’s like Hackers, but for the older dudes.

Martin Bishop (Robert Redford) is the head of a kick-ass security testings team that seems to do just about everything and anything right. They crack systems for companies that pay them to test their weaknesses, in hopes that they’ll never run into that problem when the real deal comes around to town. Everything seems to be going all perfect for Bishop and his crew, until some government officials get jealous of him and have a bone to pick, so they decide to blackmail him into stealing a highly valuable sort of black-box. What happens next is a crazy game of lies, deception, double-crosses, and most importantly, smiles. Smiles for everyone!

Everybody loves themselves a good spy movie. Better yet, they love themselves a spy movie with a whole lot of gadgets. The cool thing about these gadgets is seeing what it is that they can do: spy on you on when you think you’re alone; manipulate your voice even without you yourself speaking; and they can even change your whole identity and you would not know at all, until Customs had to take you aside for a “check-up”. Basically, these little gadgets are not things you want play around with, especially when you have somebody’s life in the palm of your hands, but there’s also something fun and exciting to all of that.

"I told you man. She really does eat out of that cup afterwards."

“I told you, man. She really does eat out of that cup after the other’s done.”

If you’re not on the receiving end of these gadgets, that is.

However, this movie knows the dangers of these little gadgets, but doesn’t let all of that get in the way of a fun time. The tone is a lot lighter than most “spy films” of the genre and in a way, it works. A lot of the humor here is surrounded by all of these guys being one, big motley crew of sorts that were just sprung together with barely any rhyme or reason – other than just the fact that they all know how to do some pretty smart stuff when it comes to being super, dee-duper smart spies. This was pretty cool to see as I never thought I’d ever get the chance to see Mister Tibbs and Dr. Detroit share the same screen, ever, but that’s the whole fun behind this film and what makes humorous.

The problem I ran into with this flick is that the plot is so damn thin that it barely interested me at all. I get that not all spy flicks like this are going to have original and breathtaking story-lines that change the game, but at least give me something more to work with here. All of the plot twists that occur within the last hour or so, are all terribly predictable and don’t add much to anything other than having some gullible people in the audience be totally shocked. I mean honestly people, do you really think the guy is going to give his prized possession up in a fair way by just simply handing it over to him? Give me a break!

Also, the plot seemed to really start-and-stop with itself like it had all of the time in the world to tell it’s predictable story. There were literally times when I started to doze off because nothing interesting at all was happening on-screen and that was a real bummer since I thought there was going to be a lot more heist-y stuff going on that would at least catch my attention. And even when they did come up and liven everything up for me, they were gone very soon and never really heard from again, only until the last hour. Could have been more wild, could have been more exciting, and could have been more energetic.

But I guess that’s why they had two old dudes in the lead for this flick.

Guess the one who does the soonest? (Hint: It's not the guy who was 65 at the time)

Guess the one who does the soonest? (Hint: It’s not the guy who was 65 at the time)

Speaking of those two old dudes, it’s great to see Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier, as well as the rest of the ensemble. Robert Redford seems like he still has that cool wit and charm to his whole act, even if he is a bit older; Sidney Poitier still has his act as the tough son-of-a-bitch when it comes to being in the police force, but he still has some great lines that had me howling just because it’s him saying them and you can hardly ever be bored with him; Dan Aykroyd was fine as a person called “Mother”, and he has some nice lines in here as well, which isn’t much of a surprise, because he’s Dan Aykroyd for lord’s sakes; Mary McDonnell was a little feisty fire cracker that doesn’t let this become a total sausage fest and brings out some great lines to go against everybody else’s; David Strathairn plays the main blind guy who has his time to shine, and it’s a very well-deserved scene because Strathairn is so good with what he does, but is so pushed to the back, it made me a bit upset; and then you got River Phoenix in one of his last roles ever. It’s not a big role for him, but it’s still a nice reminder as to why this kid had so much potential to be great in the first place.

The one who comes completely out of nowhere and steals this film for all of the wrong reasons is probably Ben Kingsley as Redford’s old friend, now-turned-enemy, Cosmo. Without me even knowing beforehand, I had no idea that Kingsley was even in this until I saw the opening credits flash his name and it kind of got me pumped up wondering when, or where he was going to show up and do his thing. When he finally does show up and do his said thing, it’s laughable because of how ridiculous he looks with his pony-tail, and how terrible the American accent he’s trying to pull off is. Really, he steals every scene he’s in because it’s so funny to just watch him struggle with this accent and make a character mean and detestable, when all he seemed like was one, big push-over that you could easily just beat the crap out of. It’s weird though, because ten years later, he would totally prove me, as well as I’m sure many others, wrong.

Maybe it was the British accent that made him do better in that one.

Consensus: Sneakers fancies itself a good time and with the twisty plot, fun spy gadgets, and charming ensemble, which makes it hard to not join in on the fun, even if the story itself may weave in and out of cohesiveness.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sorry. Not impressed.

Sorry. Not impressed, Gandhi.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)

Most of the knowledge you’ll ever gain in your life comes from your dog. Screw cats!

Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is, well, yeah, he’s a dog. But he’s a dog that’s capable of all sorts of things most dogs aren’t capable of doing: He can talk, learn, read, travel in time, dance, sing, play any instrument known to man, drive, and hell, even raise a kid. This is where Sherman comes into his life and, despite him not being a very conventional father-figure for such a young boy, decides to adopt a small boy named Sherman (Max Charles), who was left all alone in a basket one night. Peabody gets clearance from the law to adopt Sherman and be his legal-guardian, enabling him to teach him everything he knows. For the most part, Sherman an Peabody get along splendidly, however, things are going to get a bit more complicated for them now that Sherman’s going to start going to school and being around other kids, where he’ll most likely be subject to a lot of teasing and pestering. Why? Well, because all kids are evil and if your dad’s a dog, well, you’re kind of asking for it. Anyway, one thing leads to another and Sherman gets lost in time with a little ship called “The Wayback Machine”, prompting all sorts of wacky and goofy hijinx to ensue where all sorts of historical-figures get in on the action.

I’ve never watched the original Peabody animated-shorts, but from what my old man tells me, their funny. That’s all, really. That’s actually all I had to work with when it came to this movie, which is why I decided to take him and see if this movie shit all over his childhood like those horrendous Smurfs movies have done.

They aren't walking the right way. Geddit?!?!?

They aren’t walking the right way. Geddit?!?!?

Needless to say, he was pleased. But most importantly, I was as well. Which, if you think about it, is all that matters, right?

Okay! I know. I’m just kidding. Love you, daddy.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t have much high hopes going into this, and for once in awhile in a long, long time, I went in and came out unexpectedly happy. With most animated movies, they run a very fine-line to where they can be either Pixar-heavy, crying-for-days lite, or just light, ordinary, bring-your-fam-squad-out-for-a-good-time lite; very rarely does one go in between, or, even if they do try, they fail miserably. But somehow, through those creative mofo’s at DreamWorks Animation, things actually work out quite well, even if they are juggling around a bit.

See, what works so well with Peabody, is that it never tries to hammer us over the head of what message it is trying to get across. It’s quite clear that by setting this in the present day, with current themes, ideas and norms, that the movie is trying to tell us that it doesn’t matter if your guardian is a dog or a human, all that does matter is whether or not they treat you right, make you feel special, inspire you and give you all of the common-knowledge in the world that you need to know in order to grow up and be all that you can be. The movie throws that idea out every so often, but it never feels preachy, mostly because Peabody and Sherman themselves, as characters and as a father-son duo/combo/relationship/something, are so well-done that you almost forget about the whole “talking-dog-fathering-real-life-human-being”-aspect of the story. And yes, done anywhere else, that would have been creepy as hell.

I’m not going to keep myself any further from not making a mention of this, but when I saw this sequence in this movie, I knew it was the real deal. About half-way through, the movie shows us, through a sweet, heartwarming tune and various, eventful flash-backs, the life that Peabody and Sherman have built with one another. What’s so nice about it isn’t that we get to actually see how Peabody found and was able to adopt Sherman in the first place, but how much they both matter in each other’s lives, all done in a way that’s played backwards, if to show us how all of their constant time-traveling and history-learning has affected them both as people, as well as knowledgeable people. I know I’m maybe harping on this part a bit too much, but I think it deserves to be. Not only did it get me fully in-tune with the rest of this movie, but it made me tear-up like I haven’t done so in an animated movie in quite some time.

Not until, well, you know. Oh, gosh! Shouldn’t have even posted that link! Crap!

The next "white Hendrix", if there ever was one.

The next “white Hendrix”, if there ever was one.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

And like I said before, right after that sequence, the movie really picks up and all of a sudden, not only do we care about both Peabody and Sherman, but also the adventure they are thrown in. But the adventure only adds more to the whole story, as it not only teaches us a bit more about family-values, but also a teenie, tiny bit about history, in its own funny, pun-y way. Speaking of which, the humor may not always work, but when you have a kids flick that features at least two or three poop/fart/bathroom-jokes, and you are still able to get a laugh from yours truly, then you’re golden pony boy. The kids of course will love the jokes and just how many times people slip, fall and almost nearly die, but the parents will also be able to appreciate that there’s some humor in there for them as well, without totally abandoning the kiddies. Aka, the same type of kiddies that parents will most likely use as an excuse to see this with, just so that they can see if their childhood has just received a huge turd on its chest from a bunch of billionaires.

The parents will also be pretty darn happy to see that both Peabody and Sherman are voiced well by both Ty Burrell and Max Charles, respectively. Burrell is obviously attuned to this type of deadpan, sarcastic humor with his stint on Modern Family, and it’s clear that it doesn’t matter in what form he’s delivering it in, he’s still pretty damn funny and able to make everybody laugh. Same goes for Max Charles, sounding how a spirited, happy and energetic seven-year-old should sound like. Good job, kiddo! There’s also some other neat, little voice jobs by the likes of Leslie Mann, the almighty Stephen Colbert, Lake Bell, Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci, and even Mel Brooks, if you can believe that! Nice to see the man back, even if we never do see him and just hear his voice. Still, it’s better than no Mel Brooks, that’s for sure!

Consensus:  Part family-tale, part adventure, and even part history-lesson, but ultimately, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is animated-fare that’s meant for everybody, especially the parents who may be curious to see if their childhoods are ruined or not. Spoiler alert: They aren’t.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

A boy and his dog, clogging up traffic during rush-hour. But oh, the bonding.

A boy and his dog, clogging up traffic during rush-hour. But oh, the bonding.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Grifters (1990)

Do con-men and women really look this dashing? If so, I’m not cut-out for the job.

Lilly Dillon (Huston) is a veteran con artist who begins to rethink her life when her son Roy (Cusack), a small-time grifter, suffers an almost-fatal injury when hit with a thrust from the blunt end of a baseball bat, right after a failed scam. However, she doesn’t realize that her boy has fixed himself up with a dame (Annette Bening) that may not seem to be all that she appears to be.

Calling this movie a “thriller” would not be doing it any justice, and I’m still contemplating on whether or not it’s the good type of justice, or the bad. Good, mainly because it has you siked and ready for a story about a trio of cons that never tell the truth, always seem like they’re up to something, and always know to make a little extra-dough by playing to cool, but at the same time, bad, because it has you siked and ready for a story about a trio of cons that never tell the truth, always seem like they’re up to something, and always know to make a little extra-dough by playing to cool. See, it’s not the type of film about cons that you’d expect. It’s not filled with a big-heist, it’s not filled with thrilling suspense and action to hold you over, and it’s not even really filled with that many twists or turns. Instead, it’s sort of like the day-time soap opera version of a movie about cons and that’s both good, and bad. It’s very love-hate with me here, and I think you’re about to find that out.

The problem I ran into with this flick was that I feel like it would be going-on in such a slow, tedious-pace that it almost felt deliberate. Most movies that have this slow pace, usually do it for the same reasons that this flick did it, but it works a lot better for them since it’s exactly how the story should be told and judges how effective it will be to the viewer. However, with a story/movie like this, the slower-pace doesn’t quite work as well as it might think and continued to piss me off, because every time the film felt like it was really getting somewhere and picking-up itself and all of the pieces it was leaving on the ground, it would just stop, take a moment to pause, and jog it’s way through.

"Hayyyyy, aren't you that gal from the Addams Family? Where'd your black hair go?"

“Hayyyyy, aren’t you that gal from the Addams Family? Where’d your black hair go?”

It was like me in a 5k mile run. I start off so perfectly, then I realize I put too much energy into the first 5 minutes, then I decide to slow things down, almost to the point of where I begin to walk, then, I get some inspiration and energy in my step and begin to run again, and then so-on, and so-forth, all up-until I get to the finish-line and everybody treats me like I just cured cancer, even despite me coming in 2nd to last place. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it goes with me (I obviously always win those runs, obviously…), but that’s how I felt with this flick and I feel like director Stephen Frears was just toying with me on-purpose. In some ways that works and makes the flick seem less predictable as it strings along, but in other ways, it just feels cheap and sort of like the director wants to be like the characters and play a sick, cat-and-mouse game that some people may not be too happy with in the end when they find out what’s to come of it all.

However, I can’t hate on Frears too much because no matter how slow and languid the pace got, I was always interested in seeing what was going to happen next. The story definitely takes it’s fair-share of detours into the past and they are definitely what feature the most energy and fun of the whole flick, but whenever it focuses on these characters, what they’re doing now, how they’re getting their money, and who’s playing who, the film still stays fun, if not all that energetic as the flashback sequences. Seeing cons do their thing like no other is always a blast to see on-screen and rather than just having it be a flick that exposes trick-after-trick, we get more of a balanced look at how broken and dull some of these cons lives are, and how money cannot buy them happiness and instead, only buys them more trouble. You actually care for these characters and that’s only what raises the stakes even more when the unpredictable-factor of this story comes into play, and you feel like you have no idea where it’s going to go or how, you just know that somebody is playing somebody. Then again, when you think about life and all that is: aren’t we all?

"Nope, Warren's still bigger."

“Nope, Warren’s still bigger.”

Okay, away from the philosophical ramblings of a 19-year-old film critic, back to the movie at-hand here. Yeah, the Grifters. I think without this trio of leads that the flick features, it probably would have folded underneath it’s own weight but thankfully, this trio of leads are here and are here to give some magnificent performances that stick with you, long after the flick is over. Before ’90, John Cusack was mainly known for racing randomly in the streets and always knowing the right Peter Gabriel track to have the ladies swooning, but once the year 1990 actually hit and this flick came-around, people began to look at him differently and realize something about him: this guy’s all grown-up. Cusack never really got a chance to stretch his acting-skills back in those days, mainly because everybody thought he was made for just hooking-up with high-school girls and in a way, they may have been right, but Cusack proved them all wrong and showed that the guy could play a sly, evil son-of-a-bitch that was as slick as they come and didn’t know when to stop pulling-in jobs and ranking-up the dough. Cusack always seems like a believable character and that’s all because the guy never over-does his whole cool essence and look to his act and always seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody else in the flick, as well as the audience themselves, yet, we always like him and cheer for him as things begin to go South for his hormones and his job. I guess being a con is considered a job and if so, he definitely must have had to won “Employee of the Month”, at least once.

Anjelica Huston plays his mommy, who just so happens to be 14-years-older than him and shows you that the gal can, as usual, play a strong-willed and big-brained, female-lead like no other and as much as this may seem like a convention of hers by now, I still can’t hold that against her. Huston’s great with this role and you always wonder whether or not she is Roy’s mom, his lover, a past-fling, or simply, just some chick who’s trying to play a con on him and get his stash of cash. Like the rest of the characters in this trio, you never know what’s up with her and what her next move is going to be, but like typical, Huston-fashion, she always keeps you guessing and interested. Still, I was just waiting for that wig to come off. I could not believe how legitimate it truly was in terms of the story and setting.

80's, teen heart-throb he is no more.

80’s teen heart-throb he is no more.

The best out of this trio, and the one who really stands-out among the rest is probably Annette Bening as Myra, the fellow-squeeze of Roy. Bening, no offense to her or her looks, has never really been the type of actress that I could really declare “sexy”, “hot”, or even one that I would just have to take to bed, if I saw her in real-life (because they all would go to be with me, let’s face it), but here, she totally had me re-think that. Bening uses her flair for sexuality and nudity to her advantage and has her character come-off as a bit of a tramp, but a smart tramp at best, and a tramp that knows exactly what she’s doing, even if the others may not be able to catch onto it right just yet. Out of of the three, you’ll be wondering the most what side Bening’s is on and when you finally get your answer, you may be shocked, you may not be, but what you will be, is surprised by how much Bening uses the look and feel of sex-appeal to make a character that’s full of it, really, really work.

Consensus: Stephen Frears’ direction definitely makes you feel as if he is just playing with you, just in-order to be more like his subjects, but that’s why The Grifters does, and does not work in it’s own right. However, you can’t deny the charm and power that is within these three performances and it’s just wonderful to see them act each-and-every-single-one of their asses off, even if the pace seems to not be serving them the full-plate that they so rightfully deserves.

7/10=Rental!!

Possibly the gayest look John Cusack has ever given another man caught-on-film. Ever.

Possibly the gayest look John Cusack has ever given another man caught-on-film. Ever.

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