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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Allie Woods Jr.

Girlfight (2000)

Girls can do anything as good as boys. Including kicking butt.

Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) is a no-nonsense, take-no-crap teenager who has a bit of issues. For one, her mother’s dead, so she’s forced to live with her disapproving father (Paul Calderon), and her rather meek brother (Ray Santiago). Needless to say, Diana is very angry with the life she has, and her only way of actually getting any bit of intensity out, is through boxing at her local gym. While her father would not allow for Diana to box, he still pays for her brother to box and train at the gym – funds that she uses in her favor, while he goes off and does his own thing. Eventually, Diana starts to get better and channel her anger in a way that’s a lot less hectic, but more controlled. This leads Diana to start boxing in actual, small-time matches, but because she’s a girl in a very male-populated sport, she’s never taken nearly as seriously as she should be. Looking through this all is fellow boxer Adrian (Santiago Douglas), who takes a liking to Diana right away. However, their love for the sport of boxing eventually comes between them and their left with thinking of whether or not they should go on further together, or separate and allow for their own boxing-careers to play out.

Watch what you say about the third season of Lost!

Watch what you say about the third season of Lost!

Everything about Girlfight just screams “cliché”. Angry, young adolescent finds a way to channel her anger through boxing; father disapproves; nobody else takes her seriously; eventually, she starts to train more and get better; and, oh yeah, she then finds herself a love-interest. If anything, people will probably see Girlfight as the female-version of Rocky, however, they would be totally wrong; though the movies aren’t wholly different, they still differ in terms of their perspective, as well as their heartfelt take on a subject we’ve seen one too many times before.

And they’re also both pretty great movies in their own right, without ever being too showy or flashy about it.

Where Girlfight gains most of my respect is through the way in how writer/director Karyn Kusama uses a lot of her very limited resources to her advantage. From what I’ve read, the budget was around $1 million and because of that, it leaves Kusama dealing with a lot of low-budget issues. Certain shots seem too grainy, or poorly-choreographed, and yeah, certain scenes go on a lot longer than they probably should because it’s too expensive to take a scene elsewhere, but for some reason, it all works. You can feel the bleeding heart and love Kusama has for this story, these characters, and, surprisingly, this sport, that all of the raw emotions you get, feel and see, all come together so perfectly.

It’s also worth mentioning that even if the story does seem to be a bit conventional, Kusama defies all of the predictable aspects that we’ve come to expect with stories of this same nature. Not every fight is an absolute, balls-out, gory slobber-knocker like we’re used to seeing movies portray them, just like Diana herself isn’t an unstoppable, can’t-be-tame beast; sometimes, she loses, and other times, she loses her cool. But she will, on some occasions, win a fight, if not in the most spectacular way imaginable. While, for some, this may not be the most exciting bit of action, it still provides a nice layer of realism that makes us feel closer and closer to this world than ever before; Kusama could have easily lost her head and just made the movie all about the ass-kicking, the bloody faces, and the crushed-souls, but instead, she uses boxing as a way for Diana to channel her emotions and make herself something of a better person.

It also helps that Diana is a great character from the very start and Michelle Rodriguez, in her debut role, is spectacular.

What works so well about Diana is that she isn’t asking for our love, our sympathy, or our hearts. If anything, she just wants us to shut the hell up, let her do her thing, and lead us to make up our own conclusions about her. While the movie may make it seem like she’s going to be a typical, moody and angsty teenager (with a dead mother and daddy issues, no less), the movie instead shows that she’s got a lot more to her. Sure, she uses boxing as a way for her to vent out all of her frustration with the world she lives in and the life she’s been given, but at the same time, she also wants something a tad bit more out of life than just kicking ass, taking names, and getting fit. If anything, she wants a better life, to feel loved, to feel needed, and above all else, to be respected.

Boys?!?! Ew!

Boys?!?! Ew!

After all, the boxing-world in which she moves around in isn’t so accepting of her in the first place. While they don’t necessarily push her to the side and show her the way to the kitchen, nobody also takes her all that seriously. Kusama isn’t trying to make some sort of feminist-heavy statement, but at the same time, she’s also showing just how much this adversity can lead to someone wanting to prove themselves a whole lot more. Yes, this all sounds so very corny, especially for a sports movie, but I trust you, it’s very far from.

And yeah, it goes without saying that Michelle Rodriguez is amazing here. While in recent years, Rodriguez has become something of a “type” (the bad-ass, take-no-names female supporting character), it’s nice to see where she got her start and why she’s become known for that kind of role. As Diana, Rodriguez shows a very rough and tough side to a character who you’re clearly scared of, but also want to know more about. Through Rodriguez, we get to see more of a vulnerable and sweet side to this character than we ever expected; some of the best scenes are between just her and the love-interest, where instead of trying to be all cutesy, they’re just two kids, feeling one another out and figuring out whether or not they want to make a go of this thing that they’ve got going together. Rodriguez allows us to see all sides to this character and it’s a shame that she doesn’t really get nearly as many juicy roles in today’s day and age.

But I’ll forever and ever continue to hold out hope that she one day reaches the same great acting-heights that she did with Diana Guzman.

Aka, my kind of lady.

Consensus: On paper, Girlfight may seem like every other sports movie ever made, but with attentive and smart attention to details, characters, a sheer avoidance of clichés and conventions, and a star-making performance from Michelle Rodriguez, it’s anything but, and then some.

9 / 10

Corn-rows are enough to make any opposing male-figure squeal.

Cornrows are enough to make any opposing male-figure squeal.

Photos Courtesy of: IMDB, Indiewire, Cineplex

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Before We Go (2015)

Two strangers this attractive never just coincidentally bump into one another in real life.

One night, while trying to avoid a wedding reception that his ex-girlfriend just so happens to be at with a new man, Nick Vaughan (Chris Evans) plays his trumpet at a New York City train station, hoping to pass the time and get whatever change he can receive. While busking, he stumbles upon a woman who’s fortune isn’t all that great right about now; Brooke Dalton (Alice Eve) has just missed her 1:30 train to Boston and has no way of getting there in time so that her husband doesn’t find out what it is that she’s actually been up to, or better yet, where she’s been. Seeing an opportunity to do something nice for someone and to pass even more time, Nick decides to help Brooke find her way back home, even if there are a whole lot of twists and turns they run into throughout the whole night. But in the meantime, the two talk and get to know more about one another in ways that they never thought two strangers ever could. The only question constantly hammering around in their head is, where else can they take this?

Here they are in love.

Here they are in love.

You have to give some credit to Chris Evans, the guy seems to be trying. Love him, hate him, adore him, want him to banish forever so that your wife can stop foaming at the mouth for him, he’s one of the very rare guys in Hollywood who seems like he actually wants to be taken seriously. Even after the Fantastic Four movies, Evans aligned himself in some smaller, low-key indies that not only stretched his abilities as an actor, but also allows for his fans to see him in lights that they may not have expected to see him in – sometimes, unlikable ones. But even though Before We Go features Evans both behind of, as well as in front of the camera, there’s still a feeling that he seems to be trying harder and harder to have people take him in as more than just another superhero guy.

Even if the movie itself isn’t all that great.

That isn’t to say that Before We Go is bad, it’s just that it seems like Evans was trying too hard for something and it just didn’t pan-out too well for him. This makes sense considering that this is his first time directing a movie and it shows that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t quite ready for to take whatever ideas he had to work with, film them, and make them out into a feature-length picture. Most of this has to do with the fact that the plot feels incredibly close to those of Linklater’s Before franchise; which may seem unfair to say considering that any movie featuring two strangers just aimlessly walking around and chatting with one another automatically brings any sort of comparisons to those movies, but it deserves to be said.

To just mimic a story that’s been done before, but placing different situations and characters, doesn’t mean you have an unoriginal movie, but to not do anything interesting with those different ideas, makes it feel like a lazy attempt at trying to recreate magic that’s already been used before. When Nick and Brooke decide to spend their night together with one another, trying their hardest to make one another’s lives a whole lot easier, it doesn’t feel like two characters actually wanting to do such tasks, it feels like a plot conceit. It’s almost as if Evans had the idea of the plot in his head, and didn’t actually think of any real problems that would come up and get in these two people’s ways while they were aiding one another; things just so happen to go right enough for each other that they spend more and more time together.

Here he is filming.

Here he is filming.

Which honestly, isn’t as bad as I may make it sound, but there’s nothing really interesting to these characters that makes the time we spend with them all the more compelling to sit by and watch. Nick is just a bearded-loser, but who has some amount of charm and is graced with the looks of Chris Evans, whereas Brooke feels uptight and prissy, but also happens to be very good-looking as Alice Eve. Both are good in these roles and obviously share a great deal of chemistry, but the movie gets in the way of itself too many times, that we hardly get a chance to see their relationship pan-out to much more than a series of coincidences that possibly draw them closer and closer together.

Not like real life at all.

And once again, I know this may not sound fair at all considering that movies are, well, made to allow for people to get out of their own real worlds, and into these fantastical, imaginary ones, but Before We Go doesn’t seem to be one of those movies. Evans seems as if he’s really really trying to strive for some sort of raw, gritty and dramatic realism in which two strangers could, inexplicably enough, meet one another, get along, help each other out, and somehow fall in love over a 10-15 hour period. I’m not saying that this can’t happen in real life, but the way it’s presented here, not only makes it seem tacky, but phony as well.

Still though, my heart is always falling back on the fact that Evans seems to be trying here. While it’s mostly common for actors to make their directorial debut projects as simple and as easy as just two people talking for nearly an-hour-and-a-half, there’s a part of me that feels like Evans was trying to do something smart and ambitious here. In fact, it’s so low-key and tiny of a movie, that it makes me wonder whether Evans started off with something small, and all of a sudden, change his mind about half-way through and wanted to strive for something a little bit larger.

Or, then again, maybe not. He probably just made a crummy movie.

Consensus: Despite the lovely chemistry between Alice Eve and Chris Evans, Before We Go is sadly, a misfire for Evans as a director, but shows that there may be some promise for him in the near-future.

4 / 10

Here they are in love. There ya go. End of movie.

Here they are in love. There ya go. End of movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Be Kind Rewind (2008)

What’s a VHS?

In a downbeat area of New Jersey, there lies what seems to be one of the last ever mom-and-pop-run video-shops that actually still sells VHS tapes. The place is called “Be Kind Rewind” and it’s run by the old and a bit out-of-touch Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). However, in order to see what’s wrong with his video-store and how he can fix all of its problems, he decides to take a bit of a vay-cay and do some thinking on his own. This leaves his most trusted, dedicated employee, Mike (Mos Def), the responsibility of watching over the whole shop and making sure nothing bad at all happens. Somehow though, it totally does, because once the buffoon of the neighborhood, Jerry (Jack Black), gets electrocuted and comes into the shop, he wipes all of the tapes clean with nothing but static on them. Scared to have his boss find this out and be ultimately disappointed in him, Mike decides to pick up a camera, get Jerry and start filming their own versions of these movies. It’s called “Sweded”, and somehow, the town catches on and, in a way, like these versions a lot more than the actual movies themselves. This gets the store all sorts of attention – both wanted and unwanted.

So yeah, while that premise may sound strange and all, just let me tell you that this is a film written and directed by Michel Gondry; somebody who is definitely one for not always being the most “normal” film-maker out there. However, that’s the reason why this movie actually works – Gondry has a vision that may alienate some, but to others, there’s a certain joy in seeing what he sees through those artistic eyes of his. And while I couldn’t necessarily call something like this “artistic”, there’s still something joyous about it that makes it all worth watching.

"So you want me to get rid of all the Woody Allen pictures?"

“So you want me to get rid of all the Woody Allen pictures we have in store?”

Gondry’s weird-isms aside and all.

Although, I do have to say that for the first half-hour of this movie, nothing seemed to be happening at all. I get that there was supposed to be some sort of reason behind why these tapes were all erased and therefore, drive these guys to actually have to make these Swedes, but it seemed way too slow and messy. Almost as if Gondry himself was searching everywhere he could for anything that resembled a plot and didn’t know where to start, or end; he was just searching and searching, while annoying us at the same time.

But eventually, once the plot gets going and the Swede-ing starts happening, then the movie gets to be a bunch of fun. Which is mostly due to the fact that I think Gondry shows exactly what it’s like to have the creative adrenaline run through your body; the same kind of adrenaline that makes you want to get up from what you are doing and just have the world see what it is that you see, or are able to create. A part of me likes to think that Gondry uses this angle, only to express his own knack for creating low-budget remakes of popular films, but another part of me likes to think that whatever the case may be, it doesn’t matter. He’s clearly happy making these small, really cheesy remakes, and as a result, I was too.

And basically, that’s the whole gist of this movie. For a good portion of it, at least, the movie is all about what it’s like to have the need to make a movie right from where you are, with whatever you’ve got. It doesn’t matter if you have a budget, a whole lot of talent, or even all of the right equipment to get going from the ground-up. All you need is some inspiration and that drive to make you keep on shooting whatever it is that you want to shoot. If it’s a video of you just ranting about whatever it is that’s on your mind in that point in time – then go for it! If it’s a video of some Charlie kid biting somebody – then sure, totally go for it!

Whatever the idea in your head may be, it doesn’t matter. All that does matter is that you’re able to get up off your rump and film something! That’s what movies are all about in the first place, and while this movie may not be the most perfect piece of cinema to exemplify that fact, it’s still a noble effort from someone who clearly knows a thing or two about what it is that he’s talking about/filming.

How I imagine he acts every time he steps out of the shower.

How I imagine he looks every time he steps out of the shower.

As for the rest of the movie, it’s all pretty fine, especially in the casting-department. Though Jack Black’s shtick is the same here, as it’s been in, I don’t know, say, every single one of his damn movies, it’s still pretty entertaining and makes sense once this Jerry character gets a little bit too big for his britches and acts like he’s some big-time star of some sort. Sure, he has plenty of haters, but Black’s shtick, when used well, is entertaining and fun to watch. Same goes for Mos Def who, despite being on a short list of rappers-turned-actors, is one of the better ones because he’s able to go from role-to-role, without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard for one thing or another. He’s just being an actor, although there still has yet to be that one role that distinguishes him from the rest of the group.

Still though, I hold out hope. Not just for Def, but for the future of movies as a whole. Because even though certain people don’t believe the movie-business will be the same twenty-thirty years from now, there’s still hope out there that people will feel the need to want to express themselves in a fun, creative manner. Especially with a camera in their hand; something in front of them; and a chock full of ideas inside their noggins.

I still hold out hope, people. And you should too.

Consensus: While inherently messy, Be Kind Rewind still gets itself together in time for it to be a fun, creative, and rather passionate-look at what it takes for a person to create something, whether it be a film, a book, a song, or any piece of work that expresses themselves for being who they are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Now they're all working at FYE. Damn, DVD's.

Now they’re all working at FYE. Damn, DVD’s.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au