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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Taraji P. Henson

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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The Good Doctor (2012)

Will Turner is one creepy mofo.

Martin Blake is an ambitious, good-looking, and smart doctor that just wants to be respected. Problem is, he’s got a bit of a dark side to him that starts to come out once he tries keeping an attractive patient Diane (Riley Keough) in longer than she should be.

Whenever you’re sick, hurt, or close to dying, you always count on the doctor to save your life and if he can’t, do the best to his ability to do so. This is what’s expected of a doctor no matter where they are and whatever circumstance they’re under. But what happens when that doctor happens to be one sick piece of shit that does the exact opposite of what’s expected? Well, that’s where Mr. Turner walks in and make sure you never go to a hospital ever again. And you thought healthcare was bad!

It seems like this film could easily be classified as a thriller, or even a type of horror flick, but deep down inside, underneath all of the weirdness to it, there’s a dark comedy that comes out very surprisingly. One of the main reasons why this film seems a bit like a dark comedy is because all of the bad and terrible shit Blake can, and sometimes does do, he gets congratulated by it from all of his clueless co-workers and a lot of the scenes come off more ironic than scary. To be honest, despite all of the dark source material, I actually found myself chuckling a bit at points but I’m not going to get too ahead of myself because even as darkly humorous as this can be, it’s heart is a dark nail-biter, and it does pretty well with that element, too.

Perhaps the most interesting and tense aspect of this whole flick is that there is always a sense that all of this terribly evil shit that Blake is doing, will soon get himself caught. You feel that a lot throughout this film and it could get pretty suspenseful at times, as soon as this character starts to act more and more shady about his on-goings. It’s a nice piece of suspense that works but suddenly something happens half-way through the film and then it’s just sort of lost.

Without giving too much away, the story gets side-tracked with Michael Pena’s character who starts to bribe Blake over something and even though that could have been considered a nice touch for this story to go on and be more tense, it sort of just feels like a bit of drag. It’s almost like the writer/director Lance Daly ran out of things to do with his story, so he just added another one in there and see what could happen with it and even though that story in and of itself creates some tension and suspense, it still does not hit that mark to where it felt necessary and reasonable, especially when you have a story that starts off so dark as this. At least we get a lovable and fun Pena to watch. That’s always a treat no matter what movie you’re watching.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect behind this whole flick is having Orlando Bloom play a very rare, dramatic role as Martin Blake. It’s been awhile since the last time I saw Bloom in a film at all and I think with good reason. The guy has never really been a stand-out actor and just always seemed to be in the background for Johnny Depp when he wanted to do his Keith Richards impersonation, so he could look pretty and kiss the prettier Keira Knightley at the end of the day. But, I think with this role as Blake, he may change some perceptions on him because he’s actually pretty good here. I think what makes Bloom stand-out so well in this film is that the guy is very, very subtle in his own creepy way. We never really get a huge scene where the guy has secretly had some dude locked up in his basement for the past 5 years, torturing him, and doing dirty things to him. No, instead, we get a somewhat weird guy that doesn’t really do the right thing throughout the whole film but yet, you still watch him the entire time. It’s a nice performance from Bloom considering this guy shows some range and depth into a character we couldn’t care less for, but it’s also a character I would have liked to see more about.

The problem with the treatment that they give Blake here is that we never really get an essence as to why this guy is, the way he is. Why does this dude want to illegally keep this girl under his watchful eye? Why is he sitting in his room every night just staring at the wall? Why does he just gaze at the beach for days on end for no reason? Why is that never explained? Why do I care so much considering the character is being played by freakin’ Orlando Bloom? Honestly, I feel like this film could have benefited from more of a compelling character to spice things up and really get us going, but I think Bloom makes this character a lot better just by doing his thing. Whatever that thing may be, I’m still waiting to see but I think it’s so far, so good.

Consensus: With an exceptional performance from Orlando Bloom and a great deal of suspense and dark humor, The Good Doctor does it’s job at getting us to feel uneasy, but doesn’t go the full-mile and seems a bit stretched out beyond it’s limits by the last act or so.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Think Like a Man (2012)

Whoever knew that the dude who hosts family feud is a lady killer.

The film is based on four friends who have their love lives shaken up after the women they are pursuing buy Harvey’s book and start taking his advice to heart. When the band of brothers find out that they have been betrayed by one of their own, they conspire to use the book’s teachings to turn the tables.

Steve Harvey is a dude that I think is pretty funny and cool but never did I know that he had this much shit on men, or even African American men for that matter. This man is not only betraying all men but also his own race as well. Harvey better keep on checking behind his back from now on.

Instead of telling off the whole self-help book for a whole 2 hours, the film revolves around a bunch of people who get into relationships and do the normal thing that people in relationships usually do: go out, fall in love, get into a big fight, break-up, then get back together. This is the formula for almost every rom-com and just because this one is based on an actual best-seller, doesn’t mean that there’s much new to see here either. However, it is still a pleasant comedy none the less. I won’t lie, I definitely did have a couple of pretty good laughs here and there and what liked most about this film’s humor was that it had a lot of scenes where guys would just constantly mess with each other about their woman and love lives. It’s always fun to see this kind of stuff be portrayed in movies because with guys, it happens all the time and is usually very funny for the guys that aren’t getting picked on.

The problem is that it can only go so far because once these “romantic” stories start up, things start to fall apart for this film real quickly. It’s biggest problem here is that since there are about 4 or 5 stories here, that means we have 4 o 5 stories that basically all play out the same, exact way with little, different variations here and there. The relationships starts out exactly like each person wanted, but then the males start to realize that “their game” is being taken from them, courtesy of Harvey’s book. Therefore, they go out and find a way to turn the tables on the ladies and give them what they want and tell them what they want to hear, even if they don’t do what they say in the first place. This gets repetitive after awhile as we see almost every story just turn out the same as the one before it. It doesn’t matter if you watch rom-coms or not, you can pretty much guess what’s going to happen to these characters and their relationships just by noticing the formula here.

This probably wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the really lame-ass characters that are all pretty much one-dimensional with the exception of a few. These characters get put into these categories early on in the film and then we see how they interact with the opposite sex, and that’s pretty much all of the charisma and development to them. Sometimes this film will try and correct this mistake by giving us a background check on some of these characters like when Romany Malco’s character starts to miss his R&B band that he used to play with, or like how Jerry Ferrara’s character can’t get rid of his geekdom, or that for some odd reason, Terrence J can’t get past the fact that he’s a momma’s boy and she isn’t going to appreciate anybody he brings home. Honestly, none of these characters have much going for them and as much as these stars may try their hardest to make it work, the thin script just sort of ends up taking over.

The characters that I did like and could at least appreciate were also the best performances in this cast, which isn’t saying much but still, it’s worth some sort of praise. I liked Michael Ealy a lot as the chef with dreams, Dominic. Ealy has always been a pretty solid actor for the longest time but keeps on getting put in crap that doesn’t show what he can do with his depth but I think his performance here is pretty good and gives us a character that is easy to like and identify with since we all want to do something with our lives and achieve our dreams one day. Just like me, maybe one day I can hope of being the next Roger Ebert. Then again, it’s very unlikely.

The other great performance was from fellow Philadelphian, Kevin Hart, who plays the “happily” divorced Cedric. Hart is so funny here with this material because he has this great comedic timing where he can make a script like this even more ridiculous than it already is. Hart has always been funny but he gets the biggest laughs here and also has the best character that obviously is bitter towards his divorce, but every time he shows up on-screen, he pretty much just steals it from everybody else who shares it with him. Hopefully, this film may get him some more attention and place him in better comedies because with his charm and over-the-top small guy shtick, he can go pretty far.

Consensus: Think Like a Man has a couple of good laughs, mainly because of Kevin Hart and many others in this large cast, but what really takes away from this flick is its predictable and cliched solutions, that wouldn’t be so bad in the first place if these characters weren’t so damn one-dimensional in the first place.

5/10=Rental!!

Larry Crowne (2011)

Forrest is all old now, and out of a job.

After being laid off from his longtime job at a soulless retail giant, average middle-aged guy Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) decides it’s time to change up his life, so he heads back to college. There, he finds a new perspective — and a new romance with a professor (Julia Roberts).

This is Tom Hank’s big return to the director’s chair after almost 14 years, and although it’s not a perfect welcome back, I still have to say that I’m glad he’s still happy.

The screenplay was co-written by Hanks and buddy Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), and for the most part it had me smiling more than I actually rolled my eyes. What I liked about this film is how it was sort of a comedy, with just the slightest hint of romance, but in the end it was about a dude re-discovering himself amidst this huge recession the country is going through.

For the most part, I liked watching Larry Crowne just interact with everybody around him and just go about his day with such a smile, and mainly because it had me going on through this film with a smile as well myself. There were a couple of chuckles here and there but to say the least, it’s nothing hilarious which isn’t really what this film was gunning for.

However, there still are plenty of problems to be had with this one. I thought this was a cute little movie, but there were too many parts where I felt like this film just had the forced “cuteness” to it. Like the snapping motorcycle gang, or the romance with Roberts and Hanks, and the little supporting characters that chime in every once and awhile. This sort of bothered me because I didn’t think the film had many fresh ideas that could actually be viewed as funny, so instead Hanks and Vardalos just aimed for sweet and thought they could get away with it. Not so much.

I also still don’t know why this film is being hugely advertised as a rom-com when the whole romantic angle only comes in the film when there’s only 30 minutes left. Once the romance gets started, you know exactly where it’s going from there, which is no surprise to anyone who goes to see a romantic comedy in today’s world. They could have left that angle totally out of the film, or done something with Roberts’ character that would make her less of a romantic lead and more of a bigger part of the story that had to do with Larry Crowne’s impact on the others around him.

Tom Hanks is still incredibly likable no matter what here as Larry Crowne. In some ways, it would have been very creepy watching this 50-year old guy walk around with kids 20 years younger than him, but Hanks just has that appeal that makes it seem less strange and more cool. Hanks is a pro no matter what, and he makes Larry Crowne so damn likable that I just wanted to hang with him more throughout this film. Julia Roberts is playing her usual hot and sexy, but still sassy and spicy diva as  the always drunken teacher Mercedes Tainot. Roberts has that appeal about her that even though she’s playing a bitch she still knows how to make her character so damn likable despite her looks. These two chemistry feels easy and relaxed to work with which really benefited a lot of their scenes together.

The rest of the supporting cast is filled with a whole bunch of crazy names like Wilmer Valderrama (could have swore he was dead), George Takei, Pam Grier, Bryan Cranston, Cedric the Entertainer, and Taraji P. Henson. They all do a good job but I have to say that I was incredibly surprised by a really good performance from this chick named Gugu Mbatha-Raw (a name I still can’t pronounce). She’s cute, funny, and keeps the film’s heart running the whole time. Hope to see more of her.

Consensus: With it’s problem’s of being way too cute for no reason, Larry Crowne may not be the funniest thing to see, but the cast, especially an always likable Hanks, a cool and relaxed pace, and good themes make this a good watch for people who just had their mid-life crisis’, as well as for people who just want a smile.

6/10=Rental!!

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