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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Alan North

Glory (1989)

Yes. People did go to war over the Confederate flag.

During the Civil War, the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the more infamous troupes, due to the fact that they were, for the most part, filled with black men. Some were freemen from the North, others were slaves, but all of them were under the command of Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a commander who is still reeling from the affects of the warfare he’s experienced in his lifetime. Already, before they even set out for battle, there was already plenty of trepidation towards the 54th, because some believed that blacks could not be controlled, or commanded in such a way that would have them prepped and ready for war. Despite this, Shaw, along with his second-in-command (Cary Elwes), try their hardest to not only discipline the soldiers, but even relate and connect with them, as hard as it may seem to do. Some soldiers, like John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), are more than willing to go along with all of the problems they encounter fighting for a country that doesn’t accept them as human beings, whereas others, like Trip (Denzel Washington), aren’t and want the whole unit to know that they aren’t fighting for freedom at all – they’re just fighting to die. Obviously, this causes problems between each and everyone and all culminates in the disastrous attack on the Confederate fort in Charleston, S.C.

Goofy-looking 'stache.

Goofy-looking ‘stache.

Glory is, as most people say, a “classic war film”. Not to take any spit out of that statement, but that’s sort of true. It’s a very good movie, in fact, and one that shows both the humane, as well as harsh realities of the war. At the same time, however, it’s also a film about slavery, and how two races can simultaneously connect to one another, while also having to prepare for a war that they may not actually win and come away alive from. Edward Zwick clearly had a lot on his plate here and it’s one of the many things that makes Glory a solid war film that deserves to be seen by any person out there who either, loves film, history, or a combination of the two.

But, that doesn’t make it a perfect movie, as some may call it.

For one, its extremely dated in the way the story is told. What I mean by this is that rather than getting a story about black people trying to get by under extreme war-conditions, told by a black person, we are told the story through their white commander, as played by Matthew Broderick. It’s understandable that the reason for this is to show how the black soldiers are helping to make Shaw open his eyes a bit more to the realities that, well, believe it or not, African Americans are humans, too. Even though he lives in a world where slavery does exist (although, not for much longer), he knows that these black men are just as honest and humane as he is, which is why we see the tale told, in his own words, through his own eyes, and in his own way.

However, at the same time, it sort of feels like a disservice to the actual black folks in the story. Why are we being told that these fellas are all magical and lovely people, when we can clearly see that happening, right in front of our very own eyes? Did we really need to deal with Shaw’s voice-over to begin with? In all honesty, probably not, because it’s already understood that Shaw will start to warm up and grow closer to these black soldiers that are under his command. So, for anything else to be thrown on, makes it feel like stuffy and, well, a bit schmaltzy. Not saying that it didn’t happen in this way, but the way Shaw is used as our heart and soul of the story, makes Glory seem like it’s taking the easy road out – rather than letting the story be told by those who are most affected to begin with.

But, everything else about Glory, aside from that little nugget of anger, is great.

Like I stated before, Zwick clearly had a lot to work with here, and he does so seamlessly. He gives enough attention to the black soldiers that matter most and show how each and every personality can, at times, clash, while at other times, rub against one another to create a far more perfect and in-sync union. No character here is made out to be a perfect human being, and because as such, it’s easy to sympathize with these characters early-on – and makes it all the more tragic to realize that, in all honesty, they aren’t really fighting for much.

There’s one scene in which this is presented perfectly when Denzel Washington’s Trip goes on about the fact that even when the war is over and everybody goes home, he’ll go back to whatever slum he’s been forced to stay in, whereas Shaw and his white counterparts will be able to head back and relax in his big old mansion, and continue to live his life of total luxury. This scene, above all else, drives home the point that these soldiers may, yes, be fighting for their lives, but are doing so in a way because, quite frankly, they have nowhere else to go, or nothing else better to make up with their time. Most of the soldiers are slaves, so therefore, they have no freedom to begin with; however, even the ones that are free, don’t really have much to do except still be treated as minorities and non-equals, although not as harshly as slaves.

Mediocre 'stache.

Mediocre ‘stache.

So yes, it’s a very sad tale, if you really think about it. But Glory shows that there is some light to be found in the folds. There’s heart, there’s humor, and above all else, there’s humanity here that shows that each and everyone of these soldiers were, race notwithstanding, human beings. And because of this fact, the performances are all the more impressive by showing the depth to which these characters are portrayed.

Though Broderick’s Shaw didn’t really need to be the central figure of this huge story, he’s still solid enough in the role to make me forget about that fact. Ever since Ferris Bueller, it’s known that Broderick has always been trying to get past that image and, occasionally, he’ll strike gold. This is one of those times wherein we see Shaw as not only a clearly messed-up vet of the war, but also one that has enough pride and courage to still go back to the battle and ensure that each and everyone of his men are fit for the same battle he will partake in. Cary Elwes is also fine in showing that, even despite him being more sympathetic to the slavery cause, still has to push his men as far as he possibly can, without over-stepping his superior, obviously.

But, as expected, the best performances come from the three cast-members who get the most attention out of all the other black characters: Andre Baugher, Morgan Freeman, and of course, the star-marking turn from Denzel Washington. As an educated, smart and free black man, Baugher’s character faces a lot more tension from the rest of the black soldiers, and his transition from being a bit too soft for all the training, to becoming a far more rough, tough and gritty one, is incredibly believable. Freeman, too, stays as the heart and soul of the black soldiers and proves to be the one who steps up the most when push comes to shove and a leader is needed. Freeman, in just about everything he does, always seems to become a leader of sorts, so it’s no surprise that the role here fits him like a glove.

However, the one that shines above the rest is, obviously, Denzel Washington as the rebel of the group, Trip.

And the reason why I said “obviously”, is because it’s well-known by now that Denzel was given an Oscar for his work here and understandably so; not only does he steal every scene, but when you get down to the bottom of the story, you realize that he’s the heart and soul of the whole thing. Without him, this would have probably been a normal tale of blacks and whites coming together, to fight the obstacles set against them, and fight a war, but it’s Trip who’s the one that hits everybody’s head and wakes them up to the harsh realities that is the world they live in. Denzel is, at times, hilarious, but also brutally honest, and it’s his voice that keeps this movie’s humanity afloat.

Now, if only the movie had been about him to begin with and not the white dude.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, and well-acted on practically all fronts, Glory is a solid war picture, that also happens to have a message about racial equality that doesn’t try too hard to hit you over the head.

8.5 / 10

No 'stache at all and guess what? He's the coolest one.

No ‘stache at all and guess what? He’s the coolest one.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

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The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Now you probably wonder what your parents must have really been like before you came around.

Eight years ago, Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) was diagnosed with amnesia, not having any clue of where she was, how she got to where she was, who the father of her baby was, and/or just what her previous life had been life. Therefore, she chose to live on in the arms and comfort of a man, raise her child, become a suburban house-wife, and practically be all nice, kind, civilized and as pleasant as you maternally can get. However, the past that she originally knew nothing about, begins to resurface when she gets into an accident and, yet again, hits her head on the ground. This is when Samantha begins to gain flash-backs to old memories she had, as well as old tricks that she used to know begin to pop-up in everyday, normal activities that she’s been so accustomed to as of late. But now, her past has come back to get her and somehow, she finds herself stuck with a sad-sack detective named Mitch (Samuel L. Jackson) on a run for their lives. Where are they going? It’s not quite known yet, but throughout this trip, Samantha’s act begins to wear thin and sooner than later, her old persona begins to come back up in surprising, sometimes even ugly ways; that “old persona” of hers is named Charly, and she’s one bad beotch.

Once the hair-color changes, ya'll best get the hell away.

Once the hair-color changes, ya’ll best get the hell away.

The whole joke surrounding this premise is that Geena Davis’ is an amnesiac that is learning things for the first time, just as we are, and it’s a joke that writer Shane Black runs rampant with. Sometimes more so than he should, but it’s always funny to watch and see how he brings out more about this character with her present, her past and why she’s the type of character we should watch and pay attention to. Black definitely doesn’t try to take this material too seriously, and for that matter, neither should we; both Charly and Samantha are such complete, total opposites, that it’s practically a joke in and of itself that they just so happen to be two personalities that one woman juggles around with.

But it’s a joke that never gets old and for that matter, neither does the movie itself. It’s always fun to watch one of these old-school, action-comedies that try to be all hip, cool and funny, just like as if they were another Lethal Weapon or Tarantino movie. However, while most of them did fail, this movie isn’t one of them as it definitely does play-around with the idea of an ridiculous amnesiac in the middle of all this corporate espionage, car crashes, murders, crime, twists, turns and so on and so forth. In some ways, the movie may actually throw a couple of shocks your way in terms of where the plot goes, but if you’re like me, you’ll lost interest in that part of the film real quick.

Rather instead, you’ll just pay attention to the action and the winning-humor Black throws has on-display here, considering that he’s one of the very few writers out that can turn a totally violent situation, filled with all sorts of death, blood, violence, gore and fear, and somehow find a way to make us chuckle at it, and look at it in a different light, all just by throwing in a wise-crack on the side. He also has that ability to over-do that style of his sometimes, as well, but I never found that to be the case here. In fact, I’d say that when the final-act was going on, I noticed that the laughs began to go away, just as soon as the plot itself began to get uber serious and the threat of death became more and more evident. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially considering that there are some very close-calls with this movie in which a character could bite the dust at any given second, but there was the rare occasion in which I just hoped that Black would throw in a little joke or remark here or there, just to lighten things up a bit.

I mean, hell, it’s a movie for god sakes! We want fun; we want action; we want heart; and most of all, we want some humor! Anything wrong with that!?!?

But like I was saying up-top earlier, the fact that Samantha is your quintessential, boring, settled-for-nothing and peaceful suburban mother, and Charly is tough, rugged, lean and mean, ass-kicking machine, is a total joke that shouldn’t be taken seriously, or even work. However though, not only does it work through Black’s script, but it also works through the way in which Geena Davis channels-on both personalities in some very unexpected, but entertaining ways. Davis has always been a radiant screen-presence on screen, so the fact that she’s this mother and wife, living in the winter-y suburbs of PA (woo-hoo) and is absolutely lovable and pleasant, is no surprise whatsoever. We’ve seen her do that act a million times and quite frankly, she owns it. If she continued to spend the rest of her career doing that, I don’t think anybody would cause a ruckus or even object to that.

Not smart, dude.

Not smart, dude.

But when the change comes around for Davis to start shaking things up a little bit, getting nasty and violent, it’s kind of shocking really. Sure, we’ve seen Davis play a bit of a meanie-wad before in movies, but here, she really goes for full-throttle with this role. She yells, curses, smokes, drinks, screws anybody she wants, lies, cheats, steals and will kill anybody if she so damn well pleases. If it weren’t for all of the cursing and smoking, you would have maybe been able to call her “the female Bond”, but nope, this is Charly, and she’s one gal you do not want to be on the opposite-end of a battle with. Which is strange considering that this is Geena Davis I’m still talking about here, the wholesome, loving and kind woman we always love to see show up in movies; but here, she’s a pretty bad-ass chick that can do anything she wants, no questions asked and it’s fun to watch Davis do this kind of role. It’s sort of a shame we don’t get to see her do much nowadays at all, but seeing her branch-out a bit and show her nasty side, really made you think about the type of leading-lady she actually was, and one that I wish showed her face around more.

Come back, Geena! Please! If not for me, then for all us Thelma & Louise fans out there!

As much fun as Davis may be to watch her play-around with the image we usually see her get stuck with, Samuel L. Jackson ain’t no slouch either. In fact, he actually has some wonderful moments too, playing the type of character we don’t usually see him try-out; the scared, rather wimp-ish type-of-guy that would more than likely give away his wallet and keep his trap shut during a robbery. And yes, that was a Pulp Fiction reference! Anyway, it was fun to watch Jackson here as he gives us a character that’s a bit of a coward when it comes to getting his hands dirty and taking chances, but when he actually does step-up to the plate and risk life-for-limb, you kind of have to give it to him. That, and also the fact that Jackson’s pretty dumb funny with him, giving some of the movie’s best lines, most of which can be found whenever he and Davis are on-screen together, working off of the other. Strange how you wouldn’t think, not even in a million years that these two would work wonders together, but somehow, they do and it’s what makes this movie just a tad bit better and easier to consume.

Consensus: Won’t be the most memorable action-comedy you’ve ever seen, but for nearly two-hours, The Long Kiss Goodnight will be well-worth your time with a funny script, a playful-feel from both Shane Black and Renny Harlin and two likable performances from both Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson, who are trying out new things you may not have seen them do yet before, yet they totally succeed at.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Bitch! You best watch where you pointing that thing!!!"

“Bitch! You best watch where you pointing that thing!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo