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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Alexandra Daddario

The Choice (2016)

Kids fall in love so easily these days. Throw one hot neighbor at them and all of a sudden, they’re smitten!

Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker) is a ladies’ man who doesn’t have any sort of rush to get into a serious, romantic relationship because, well, life is good enough, so why bother with all of that other crap, right? Well, that’s why when Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) moves in next door, he’s thrown for a loop; not only is this a woman he’s attracted to physically, but mentally as well. But little does he know that Gabby herself has some love going on in her own life with a long-term boyfriend (Tom Welling), whom she’s looking to settle down with. But as fate would have it, the two end-up finding themselves together in ways they never expected to. At first, what starts out as a little fun and fiery fling, soon turns into something loving, caring, and above all else, serious. Clearly, this scares the absolute hell out of Travis, but he’s willing to let all of that go to be with Gabby? Heck, is Gabby willing to let all of her freedom go away on someone as much of a wild card as Travis? Who knows!

Choice2

She’s pretty.

But really, who cares?

Everybody knows what they’re getting into when they decide to see a Nicholas Sparks movie, so why does anybody bother? Well, there’s always that small, but surprising off-chance that there will be the one movie to break the curse and show that, even despite all of Sparks’ fluffy mannerisms and conventions, his material can still somewhat, kind of, sort of, maybe work. It’s been quite some time since the Notebook (aka, the last actually “good” Sparks movie), but really, we’ve been through some barn-burners since then.

And needless to say, yes, the Choice is another “bad” Sparks movie that shows just why the haters will continue to hate, and the lovers, will continue to love and support his work until he eventually succumbs to his own plot-devices, like say a random disease, car accident, or incident in which death is the outcome.

But if anything about the Choice actually comes close to working, then it’s the chemistry between Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker, both of whom are clearly a lot better than they material they’re saddled with, but are giving it their all anyway. Walker’s Travis is, of course, the usual Sparks man: He’s cool, suave with the ladies, speaks in a Southern twang, but at the same time, a bit heartfelt and has a tender hand when it comes to curing animals. Basically, he’s the perfect man that doesn’t exist in real life, but Walker shows some heart and humanity to this character that’s not only believable, but actually sympathetic, even though we know he’s a type, and a very lazy one at that.

As for Palmer, her Gabby is another Sparks type, but this time, in woman form: She’s fun, flighty, sweet, but at the same time, confused about what she wants in life and scared of falling in love. Here’s another human that doesn’t exist in the real world, but Palmer tries her hardest to keep her character her interesting, lovely, and most importantly, believable, even when it seems like she’s making random decisions, bad solely on moving the plot along. Together, they create something that can seem genuine and sweet, even if the movie loves to dive into their personal histories, like which family-member died, what artifact did they leave behind, and why exactly they all touched their lives.

It’s all a bunch of a melodrama that we’ve seen before with Sparks’ movies, and here, it’s just all the more annoying, because it’s obvious Palmer and Walker really do seem to be trying.

However, what’s weird about the Choice, is that it’s never fully known just who these characters are, what they do, and why it is we’re watching these two fall in love. Because almost every member of the cast is at least 30 years old, or above, it’s hard to place just what age these characters are, where they stand in terms of their education, and just what the hell kind of jobs they have to maintain their overall peaceful, luxurious lifestyles on the lakes of North Carolina. Clearly, this is all fiction, that can sometimes border on fantasy, but it really sets in when it becomes clear that the movie less concerned about these character’s own, personal lives, and more concerned with just who it is that they’re going to bed with, and/or smitten with.

Then again, any person in my position would know better than to expect actual detailed heart or humanity with a Nicholas Sparks movie. But then, the movie continues to go on and on, showing this romance developing over years and years with one another, and we’re supposed to believe that they’re going through all sorts of the same problems that couples seem to go through, yet, we never actually hear them or see how they start. We just see how they materialize and then, suddenly, end. It’s as if there’s hardly any build-up, but just a drop and we’re supposed to connect the dots of what’s going on, for what reasons, and how exactly we’re supposed to feel.

However, considering that the Choice is another Sparks movie, it’s pretty clear what we’re supposed to feel: Sap and a whole lot of it.

Choice1

He’s prettier.

And of course, the people who love these kinds of movies will fall for this, hook, line and sinker, nor should they feel otherwise. After all, this is their movie, and nobody else’s. But that’s the problem with these Sparks movies – they never seem to be for anyone else, but the target-demographic. The Notebook, while all sorts of cheesy and over-the-top at times, also happens to be a coming-of-age tale, where we not only believe the romance, but see how it develops over time, with enough attention and care to detail. The cast is also allowed to work wonders, too, with just the right enough of good material, to balance out the terrible ones.

However, the Choice still feels very much for the audience who has been with Sparks since the Notebook and haven’t left his side, even though mostly all of his movies since then, have been absolute crap. They’re the kinds of movies that don’t care about getting anybody new interested in their stories, but rather, continue to aim for the same audience members, having them swoon, cry and love life all over again. Sure, it’s not like the movies are necessarily making people turn to heartless, evil human beings, but at the same time, they aren’t doing much else either.

And that’s just pure laziness that needs to stop, or be done away with.

Neither of which, I’m afraid, will actually happen to Nicholas Sparks movies.

Consensus: As usual, the Choice is a sappy, predictable, and believe it or not, boring piece of Nicholas Sparks fiction that shows why, once again, his movies don’t care about anyone else except for the audience who is already buying tickets for this now, as we speak.

2.5 / 10

Choice3

Together, they’re both pretty pretty.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Rotten Tomatoes

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San Andreas (2015)

Can’t help but wonder how another Johnson may have survived.

Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) makes a living off of saving people’s lives. Not only is it his calling in life, but it’s what he loves to do. However, because of this love in his life, he’s sort of forgotten about other loves in his life that may mean a lot more, such as his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), and wife (Carla Gugino), who has now just handed Ray divorce papers, even while she’s spending time with new boyfriend, Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd). While this is all happening though, an a monstrous earthquake is forming right underneath everyone and throws all of California into an insane frenzy. While Ray has a job to do, his first and most important priority is finding his daughter and his wife, which he will try and complete using all of the smarts and skills that he has at his disposal. However, as local seismologist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) soon figures out: There may not be enough time to save yourself.

Believe it or not, San Andreas was not directed by Roland Emmerich. And honestly, I’m so happy for that. It’s not because director Brad Peyton does such a stellar job that he should be praised for days-on-end, but it’s because Emmerich’s kind of disaster movies seem to get so tired, old, and repetitive, that by the time all of the destruction and mayhem is over, it hardly even matters. While the same situation could have easily happened with San Andreas, Peyton finds a smart way to keep that from happening, solely by just keeping all of the destruction and mayhem as fun, exciting and insane as possible, therefore, hardly ever allowing for it to lose its muster.

"Come with me if you want to Rock."

“Come with me if you want to Rock.”

Something that, once again, Roland Emmerich wouldn’t be able to contain himself away from.

But that isn’t to say that Peyton gets away from this movie clean and free, without any problems to be found whatsoever, because that just isn’t the truth. In fact, there’s a lot about San Andreas that doesn’t feel right; like, for instance, the fact that one moment, we could be cheering because of a heroic action that a character just made, and then, moments later, see digital human beings be utterly destroyed by whatever carnage just so happened to find them. In a way, it’s almost like, rather than focusing on this one, small story, we should be focusing on the whole grand spectrum, and how basically each and every person in California is being wiped out beyond belief.

Also, there’s an odd feeling that even though we’re told and shown that Ray’s main job is to help save people from any sorts of disasters, we sort of see him abandon this job once all of the earthquakes begin. This is understandable, because obviously, family comes first, but what about the few ten or fifteen people you see along the way of finding your family that may or may not need some saving? Are they not good enough? Or significant? Or did the budget not allow for anymore actors to be hired?

Whatever the reason may have been, it’s a bit odd.

Then again, though, San Andreas is just another silly blockbuster, that also happens to be a disaster movie and doesn’t let up on that later element. And thankfully so, because this is actually what begins to save the fact that a lot of what happens is nutty, but it hardly ever becomes numbing. Though earthquakes occur quite often in the near-two hour time-limit, they never bummed me out. Part of that has to do with the fact that it took us away from more moments where the movie tried to make itself into a touching, heartfelt message movie about fathers, daughters, and marriage, but also, because Peyton find some new, impressive ways to make sure that all of the odds were stacked-up against our protagonists.

Does that mean they weren’t able to defeat them? No, but hey! It’s hard to care for all of that when you’re just having a good time.

Once they both realize she's the girl from True Detective, things will get a whole lot more interesting.

Once they both realize she’s the girl from True Detective, things will get a whole lot more interesting.

And with Dwayne Johnson, how could you not? Honestly, if you weren’t already convinced that Johnson is one of the most unabashedly charming fellas on the face of the planet by now, check out San Andreas and come back to me. This doesn’t mean that Johnson himself is doing anything ground-breaking with his work here, but it’s hard to not break a smile on your face whenever he’s around. Sometimes, he says something witty and makes you laugh, other times, he’s actually showing that there’s something of a heart and soul underneath all of that muscle and testosterone.

But Johnson helps make a lot of this movie work because he at least adds some legitimacy and fun to what happens here. Whereas the movie could have easily been a boring, uneventful slug of one disaster sequence, after another, Johnson finds ways to pop up, remind you that he’s around, and that, no matter how much destruction occurs, he’s always around to save the day. Also, surprisingly, he and Carla Gugino share a solid chemistry together that works even when they’re fighting, or when they’re coming back together as a couple; something that made the movie a little bit more interesting.

Then, of course, there’s Paul Giamatti who, like Johnson, is just here to remind everybody that he’s able to make whatever he does, better just by showing up. Giamatti doesn’t have much to do here other than yell, warn people about upcoming Earthquakes, and hide underneath desks, but he does so well with it, that it never gets old. And despite playing a character nearly nine years younger than her own self, Alexandra Daddario does a solid job as Blake, showing that she isn’t the damsel in distress who always needs somebody to save her life; she can figure situations out and more often than not, outsmart those around her.

The perfect woman, basically.

Consensus: As silly as it may be, San Andreas is a lot like other disaster movies in that it doesn’t hold back on all of the insane destruction or mayhem, but also benefits from the always engaging presence of Dwayne Johnson.

6.5 / 10

Prepare for plenty of Rock Bottoms, Earth's core.

Prepare for plenty of Rock Bottoms, Earth’s core.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Two people who have English degrees don’t seem to make the best couples.

Set in Brooklyn in 1986, this film captures with extraordinary immediacy the inner workings of the Berkmans. Bernard (Jeff Daniels), a once successful novelist and Joan (Laura Linney), have given up on their marriage, leaving their two sons Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), 16, and Frank (Owen Kline), 12, to grapple with what has become of the family.

When I think of films that have to do with divorce, I think of the classics like ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ or ‘War of the Roses’, to name a few. However, never in my right mind would I thought that a film by the same dude who brought me ‘Greenberg’ would be added to that list as well.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach is a guy who’s films I can never really get into but with his script here, he shows some real talent that deserves to be heard. His script is filled with a bunch of humor, sarcasm, and witty puns that actually take your mind off the fact that this flick is essentially about a family falling apart right in front of our eyes. It’s strange to be laughing at something like this but the way Baumbach is able to make every single situation in this flick, come out almost funnier than the last is what truly is what makes him such an inspired writer in the first place.

The script also has a bit of a sweet side to it, which at first, is a little too hard to see since everybody is mean and nasty, but by the end of the flick you can really start to see it come out. The film has characters that aren’t very likable but by the end, they start to understand their short-comings for what they are and that’s where the film made a difference for me. I actually started to care what was happening between the members of this family just through how they show their pain and anguish over this divorce and it works because you somehow get attached to these characters. None of these moments are ever shown in an obvious or melodramatic way either, which is always one step above the normal Hollywood comedies we get almost every weekend.

The one fall-back that I did have with this flick was that Baumbach seemed like he just felt the need to be a little strange and weird with this flick and it doesn’t work. The whole idea that the one kid, Walt, is playing ‘Hey You’ by Pink Floyd an calling it his own without his parents or many other people not knowing that it’s actually by them seemed a little far-fetched for me since it is a pretty big song, and I don’t know, Pink Floyd is a pretty big band. Then again, I guess these sophisticated types just stayed at home and listened to opera all day.

Another example about the weirdness of this script is the whole sub-plot about Frank and his angst. First of all, he’s drinking beer just about every night and he constantly jizzes in his hand and wipes it all over random stuff in school. OK, I get it, the kid is having a hard time but does he really need to wipe his semen everywhere in order to show how upset and confused he is. This seemed like something for a whole different movie and this was just a little too weird and strange to actually ring true at all.

Where the film excels perfectly act though, is the performances given by all four of these performers. Jeff Daniels is great as the snobby, know-it-all, Bernard. The guy thinks he’s right even when he’s terribly wrong and it’s just funny to watch him go about his day and say things that obviously make him seem like a total pompous asshole. Daniels is great in this role and easily can make us laugh but he’s also still likable in a way and he’s a pretty cool guy, even though he can be kind of a dick. Laura Linney is also pretty good as Joan. It’s a really hard character for her to play, considering she has to make an extremely unlikable character, likable in some way but she pulls it off and makes her character seem like a real person rather than just another one of those confused woman that want sympathy all the time.

Jesse Eisenberg is great in this role as Walt, playing the usual fast-talking nerd he plays in every flick but he still seems like a young kid, as he actually was when this film was filming. Much of the film actually revolves around him and just to watch him take his father’s advice all the time and practically hate his mom as well, seemed very realistic and made Walt an easily relate-able character since I would have probably acted the same way as well. Owen Kline, son of Kevin Kline, is also very good as Frank and it’s a real wonder as to why this kid hasn’t done much more with his acting since he gives a very realistic performance as a young kid, even if his story does get a little too wild. The one scene-stealer in this whole film though is William Baldwin as the total goon, Ivan, a guy who made me laugh just about every time just by calling everybody around him “my brother”. Alec probably could have pulled it off better though.

Consensus: Even though some moments don’t really ring true, The Squid and the Whale still features great writing that mixes drama and comedy perfectly, with realistic performances from everybody involved that add so much more to these almost unlikable characters.

8.5/10=Matinee!!