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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Amaury Nolasco

Street Kings (2008)

Don’t mess with Johnny Utah. Ever.

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a veteran member of the LAPD who has definitely seen better days. While he does still do his job and take down the bad guys that need to be taken down, he also does so by sucking down bottles of vodka. He does this because he is still mourning the loss of his wife and as is such, has alienated a lot of those around him. One person in particular is his former partner, Officer Washington (Terry Crews), who now looks back on his time with Ludlow in disgust. Ludlow knows this and doesn’t like it, which is why he decides that it may be time to get Washington to shut up, before certain people start listening in on to what he has to say. But wouldn’t you know it that when Ludlow does get a chance to shut Washington up, Washington is gunned-down in what happens to be a random corner-store robbery. Feeling some echo of guilt, Ludlow decides to set out and find out who did this to Washington, but unfortunately, the more he digs up, the more dirt begins to show.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

David Ayer can handle these types of dirty, gritty and violent thrillers about corrupt cops and politicians being, well, just that, corrupt. However, there does come a point where eventually, all of the same things that you made your name on, can get to be a bit too old, especially when you’ve got nothing left to say. Sure, a movie like Street Kings should resonate more so now, than it ever has before; police corruption is at an all-time high and people seem to really be demanding questions more than ever, but for some reason, it’s the kind of movie that brings these hard and questionable figures up, without ever seeming to bother to really say much more about it.

Instead, Ayer is more interested in shooting things and throwing blood anywhere he can set his sights to.

That’s fine because Ayer can handle action well. The best parts of Street Kings, actually, are when it’s just a few characters sitting in a room, expecting there to be some violence occurring soon, with their hands firmly on the trigger’s of their guns, not knowing when the other shoe is going to drop and people are going to have to be lit-up. It’s why some of the best moments of Training Day, were the ones where you had no clue exactly what was going to go down, even if you had a general idea.

Problem is, with Training Day and countless other flicks that Ayer has attached his name to, he’s become a tad too conventional. Street Kings feels like the kind of cop flick that would work somewhere back in the mid-90’s – ideas like these weren’t new, but they were still sustainable for entertainment. You could make the argument that Street Kings is sort of working with the same environment, to just be fun and nothing else, but when you have brothers in blue, who are literally doing terrible, immoral things, or getting killed, left and right, there’s a feeling that maybe, just maybe, someone needs to ask, “why?”

In a way, it’s almost like Ayer has a responsibility to ask those questions and get, at the very least, an idea of an answer. To just service your plot with cops and criminals getting shot and killed, without ever saying anything else about it, seems wrong. Trust me, I’m all for the down, dirty and immoral action when push comes to shove, but Ayer doesn’t really have his flick placed in any sort of fake world, or universe – it’s a real world/universe, where cops are meant to stop bad people, from doing bad things.

In fact, it’s the world in which we live in now.

"Uh. Hey. Freeze, man."

“Uh. Hey. Freeze, man.”

But honestly, besides that, Street Kings can be fun, when it actually cares to be fun. There’s a lot of the same stuff seen before, especially from Ayer’s pen, and you can tell that he’s trying to change everything up, yet, fall back on  the same conventions that have made cop-thrillers, such as his, hits in the first place. Ayer is a good director and writer when he wants to be, but here, it feels as if he’s just moving along, steadily, not trying to rock the boat and rely on what he knows best, without trying to change up any sort of format.

The only opportunity Ayer really gets a chance to liven-up things in Street Kings is with his wonderful ensemble, all of whom are having a great time. Keanu Reeves is actually quite good as Ludlow, mostly because the guy doesn’t always have to say something – some of the times, he just backs it up with his gun, or his fists. This suits Reeves just fine, just as it suits him playing the mentor-role to Chris Evans’ young, hotshot rookie character, both of whom work well together. Evans, too, in an early role before he truly broke-out into stardom, seems like the heart and soul of this cruel, dark and upsetting world, which works, until the movie decides that it cares less about him and more about just shooting people’s heads off.

Once again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but there comes a point where it’s overkill.

Others randomly show up like Common, the Game, Cedric the Entertainer, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, and Terry Crews, and all add a little something to the proceedings. You can tell that Ayer likes to cast these known-actors in roles that you least expect them to work with and it actually works in his favor. However, had he given more screen-time to Hugh Laurie and Forest Whitaker, equally the best parts of this otherwise mediocre movie, all would have been right with the world. The two play opposing chiefs who may or may not be as evil, or as good as they present themselves as being. Ayer always treads the fine line here between these characters and it makes me wish that he decided to do more with the other characters, or even the plot.

Consensus: As conventional as cop-thrillers can go, Street Kings boasts an impressive cast and some fun moments, but ultimately seems to concerned with blowing stuff/people up, and not ever asking why.

5 / 10

"Let me give you my card. And no, I'm not playing that cynical doctor this time."

“Let me give you my card. And no, I’m not playing that cynical doctor this time.”

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert.com, IMDB, Deep Focus Review

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Criminal (2016)

Some people’s brains are better left untouched.

Super, duper and incredibly well-trained CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) tragically dies while traveling to a secret location to meet a hacker who can launch missiles at will. Although all hope is, for a little while, lost, eventually, officials come up with an idea that will transfer Pope’s brain-particles and memory to somebody else’s, so that they’re able to figure out just where this evil and sneaky terrorist may be hiding out at. While they’re a bit stumped for solutions, the guinea pig for the procedure ends up being Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner), a violent and dangerous death-row inmate, who doesn’t know how to act in actual, civilized society, nor does he have any interest in doing so. Essentially, he’s the perfect person for a mission like this, because nobody cares if he lives or dies, not even his own self. And now that Jerico has Pope’s memory and knowledge, he decides to track down the terrorist, but at the same time, can’t keep himself away from visiting and being apart of Pope’s own family, who sadly, don’t know what to do or think after his death, nor do they know who to trust.

Take him in, fellas! He's made too many mediocre movies by now!

Take him in, fellas! He’s made too many mediocre movies by now!

If you take the sci-fi elements of a very “meh” movie from Ryan Reynolds like Self/Less, take the action-thriller elements of a very “meh” movie from Kevin Costner like 3 Days to Kill, then you’ve basically got a Criminal – an overall, very “meh” movie. For some reason, you’d think that with a premise that’s at least somewhat interesting, a solid, if surprisingly well-done cast, and Costner leading the charge, that a movie like Criminal would actually be tons and tons of fun. However, that’s not really what happens.

Instead, a good portion of the movie is spent as we watch, wait and see what happens with this whole sci-fi gimmick the movie seems to jam down our throats. While we get this idea that, apparently, through the sheer magic of science and all that junk, Costner’s new brain will also have a lot of memories and knowledge that Reynolds’ brain has, and therefore, he’ll be going through some sort of crazy transformation. Not just as a killer, either, but as a human being, too. This already hints at the idea that the movie may want to be a whole lot more serious and dramatic than it ought to be, which is why the moments where we actually to see the humanity in this character, or better yet, this silly story, don’t really work or matter in the grand scheme.

Basically, everyone showing up to Criminal wants to see it for guns, explosions, sci-fi stuff and Kevin Costner cursing and beating people up.

There is that in Criminal, however, it’s not always enough to keep interesting. Too often does it feel like the movie is making its plot up as it goes along, where we don’t really get what’s going on with the whole brain-stuff, nor do we ever get an understanding of who Costner’s character is supposed to be after, what that baddie does, and what he’s promising to do that’s so bad. Eventually, it all comes down to a hard drive, which is the classic, post-Y2k action movie trope that never gets old, but also makes that subplot seem a lot less important in the long run. All anybody really cares for is the action and Costner himself, and that’s about it.

And yes, there is action and it’s sometimes good, if a bit frantic. But really, what it’s here for is to just push along a story that doesn’t know where it wants to go, or what it wants to do – it’s just happy that it got a bunch of incredibly talented, famous people to be apart of it, so why waste their time, right? After all, they did come here for a paycheck and to do a little acting, so why not just give them crap material and leave it at that?

"Grrrrrrr."

“Grrrrrrr.”

Well, there’s no problem with that. Except that yes, it is, because you have a really great cast in here with Criminal and they’re all mostly wasted.

Costner is the only one who gets off just fine here and actually makes the movie somewhat watchable. It’s great to see Costner play a character that’s so despicable, so disgusting and so vile, that after awhile of watching him, you almost don’t want him to grow a heart and learn the error of his ways. Sure, with this being a movie and all, you know that’s going to happen, but still, there’s a certain joy in watching Costner steal people’s food, beat dudes up for their trucks, and touch nurses rumps that makes it hard to actually care about a plot. Just give me Kevin Costner acting like a prick for two hours and you can have my money.

And hey, next time, movie, if you’re going to give me that, might as well give me some better roles for the solid supporting-cast, too, okay? Because giving people like Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Alice Eve, Michael Pitt, Gal Gadot, and Amaury Nolasco, roles that don’t really challenge them or give them anything to do, is not just a waste of their time (except, not really, because they’re getting paid to do this), but mine as well. When I see that Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, and Gary Oldman are all reuniting for a movie, over two decades after JFK, I’m automatically excited, so why not deliver on those expectations? I understand it can be a bit hard to give the audience what they always want and desire, but come on, there’s got to be a little more here than what we get. Especially when you give Alice Eve five minutes of screen-time, or have Michael Pitt do a terrible, Russian-accent, and just leave Tommy Lee Jones there to sit around and mope.

Shame on you, movie. Shame on you.

Try harder next time.

Consensus: Criminal gets by on the strengths of its cast, but also doesn’t do much with a semi-interesting plot, except allow for it to fall into action-thriller tropes and conventions.

5 / 10

Now you see Ryan Reynolds? Cause in about five seconds, trust me, you won't.

Now you see Ryan Reynolds? Cause in about five seconds, trust me, you won’t.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Youtube, Pretty Famous

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Hey, at least it’s not PG-13.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is back and older than ever now. However, he still has a thing or two up his sleeve when it comes to blowing shit up, kicking ass, and saying everybody’s favorite line. You know what it is. Don’t even make me try to utter it. This time around, he’s facing-off against terrorists in Moscow and teaming-up with his estranged son (Jai Courtney) for double the action and double the kills, father-son style.

After I reviewed and posted my thoughts on Live Free or Die Hard, I got a lot of comments from people saying that, “it wasn’t like the original Die Hard“, “it didn’t feel like John McClane was a regular-person”, “Justin Long’s annoying”, and basically, “it wasn’t a Die Hard movie, and instead like another action-movie”.  All are valid-points and I can totally see where they were coming from but trust me, when you see this, you’re going to get on all-fours, and kiss the feet of Len Wiseman and co. from that last movie. Seriously: the Die Hard lovers are going to riot over this one.

If you go into this expecting it to be a Die Hard movie, be ready to be disappointed. I can already tell you that without a stutter in my speech, but, if you go into it expecting an action-movie, you won’t come-out hate yourself, Bruce Willis, or director John Moore for that fact. Okay, maybe you’ll still hate John Moore but at least give the guy some credit: he makes the action “fun”, right? Being that this an action movie, you can expect there to be a huge amount of guns, deaths, blood, gore, f-bombs, explosions, bullets, and most importantly, cars that are totally destroyed. That’s the whole fun of an action movie and if there is anything that this movie does better than I expected, it’s that it gives us something fun to pay-attention when all else seems to be failing. If anything, you’ll have plenty of eye-candy to view and gaze at, but once you get down the bottom of it all, you’ll soon start to realize that there’s just nothing else other than exactly that: eye-candy. Everything is pure dullsville.

This had no effect on me or my hormones. Sad, sad feeling.

This had no effect on me or my hormones. Sad, sad feeling.

Okay, here is where the movie screws itself up on: it does not feel like a Die Hard movie. The look, the tone, the screenplay, the characters, and even the action, feel as if they could have come from any other action-movie in the world, but not a Die Hard movie. You know why? Because Die Hard is a special franchise that it’s crowd loves, it’s lovers still praise to this day, and humble critics like yours truly still rate as one of, if not, the best action movie of all-time. It was an action movie that didn’t just give us fun and entertaining set-pieces full of action, but it also gave us a real character that was easy to stand-behind, root for, and love just about everything he did. Here, everything feels like it was trying to re-create that glory once again, but lost all of the lovely charm of the original.

Instead, we just have a bunch of action, mixed together with something that’s supposed to be considered a story, something that’s supposed to be funny when it wants, something that’s supposed to be epic, and something that’s supposed to resemble John McClane. Everything I just mentioned, was supposed to be “something” from the original, but all of that gets lost in the wind. For instance, let’s focus on the screenplay. The story itself makes some sort of sense when it first begins, but after awhile, starts to go through twists, turns, and unexpected paths that don’t make a single-lick of sense, nor should they even be in the movie. The villains in this movie suck (more on that later), but what really has them stand-out like a sore thumb the most is that there’s a whole story-line to whatever the hell they are doing, why they’re doing, and who’s good, and who’s bad on their side. In all honesty: nobody fucking cares! All we care about is John McClane, the action, the quips, and everybody’s favorite line.

Hell, even when they do say the line in this movie, it’s so unepic, so lame, and so random, that only two people in my screening actually clapped-at and heard. Other than those two, nobody knew what the hell he said and even if they did hear it, nobody cared. That’s a real, fuckin’ shame. When you have an iconic franchise such as this, and you try to re-create the magic that was once there and fail at it: everybody’s going to notice. Don’t believe me, just ask George Lucas and Steven Spielberg when they tried to buy another house with that cash-grab Indiana Jones movie. Yup, it’s along the same lines as that, my friends. Be ready to be angry.

However, as much as I rag on all of the dumb things that this movie does, what they get wrong, what they mess-up on, and what type of magic they miss achieving once again, perhaps the biggest-sin this movie commits is making it’s main action-star, John McClane, the most annoying character out of the bunch. That’s right: John McClane is annoying in this movie. Bruce Willis is the type of guy you can trust with your movie because he’s got charm, he’s still got that coolness to him, and he still proves that it doesn’t matter how old you get, you can still light some motherfuckers up like it’s nobody’s business. However, he falls prey to this terrible script and it shows when McClane first appears on the screen, and you automatically want to punch him the face. By the way, everything you are reading is not a lie and some early-April Fool’s joke. You really do want to punch John McClane in the face.

It’s actually not that Willis is annoying as McClane, it’s more that the script makes McClane do dumb stuff that his character in the earlier-movies would have never, ever thought about doing. Ever. For an example, take the first-time McClane meets up with his boy in Russia: he shows up by yelling at him, standing in front of the car when he knows bad shit is going on, stopping his son from possibly being free, and even worse, totally draws attention by just hollering at his son like a complete jackass. To top off that, he’s trying to ask his son what’s he doing and why he’s doing it, all while his son obviously looks like he’s in desperate danger and needs to leave, pronto.

Strike one.

If John yells his son's name one more time, that gun's gonna be pointed at him.

If John yells his son’s name one more time, that gun’s gonna be pointed at him. And I wouldn’t blame him, either.

Then, it gets worse as McClane gets involved with some of the action, by driving in a car-chase that goes all throughout Moscow. John McClane knows a thing or two about driving a car through busy streets, never losing sight of where he has to go, catching all of the short-cuts, and at the end of the high-speed chase, still being able to get his man that he’s tailing so yeah, it can’t be that bad, can it? Well, lets take into account that as he goes on-and-on with this whole car-chase, and either kills or injures over 1,000 innocents. I’m not kidding, either. The car-chase that I’m talking about does some damage to Moscow, and that’s not certain buildings that were closed to renovations, or a headquarters for all of the bad-guys located in Moscow. No. These were actually innocent, harmless people that just so happened to be at the wrong place, the wrong time, and in the way of John McClane’s road rage. Now, let me ask you this: would the original John McClane from the first 3 movies, would he really go so far as to lose his shit and start killing a bunch of innocents? Yeah, you could probably say that he was just doing his job to kill the baddies, but think about it: his job is an NYC cop. I would automatically think that the guy not only knows a thing or two about getting his man, but being able to do so without killing a bunch of people that didn’t deserve it. Didn’t seem like the original John McClane I knew and loved, and if this is the new, and older John McClane; then he’s a total fuckin’ prick.

Strike two.

Okay, well, so far, the movie has not only fucked-up McClane’s intro, but his action-prowess as well. What’s left? Well, don’t forget that this movie does include his son and his daughter, which means there’s going to be plenty of bonding between the family members, right? WRONG!! When John McClane sees his son, not only does he totally fuck-up his plan to get out alive and well, but he constantly continues to get up his ass about doing something bad. Yes, any kid of yours that does something bad should be reprimanded, but to do it while the kid’s driving away from a bunch of angry Ruskies that are out to kill him and wear his skin as shoes? Ehh, I may have to take a rain-check on that one, pops. But don’t worry, it gets worse. Once McClane and his son actually do have some down-time to talk about what they’ve been up to, why they love each other, and why they should be a father-and-son once again, McClane is still yelling and still up his son’s ass, even though he’s supposed to be reaching-out to him. Listen here, whatever your daddy issues are, it doesn’t matter. If my daddy came-up to me after not seeing me for about 10 years, showed up in all of my shit, and started just bothering the fuck out of me by calling me names and telling me everything that I do is wrong, then I’m either going to kick his ass or just send him straight back to the nuthouse. Either way, I’m not going to put up with it because I’ll be a lot older and I don’t need him fucking my shit up. That’s exactly what John does to his son here, and even though I could suspect that from some other dads, in other movies, I could never, not for a second expect that from a guy who apparently knows what he’s doing when it comes to kicking-ass, and also wants to have the love of his son back. It’s stupid, makes no sense, and gets annoying by about the fourth or fifth time that John tells his son that he’s doing something. Okay, I bet you know what this all means by now:

STRIKE THREE!! GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!

Okay, well, now that we know John McClane is annoying-as-fuck, what about the rest of the cast of characters? Well, they’re not better than him nor are they worse. They’re just there and do what they can with a shit-script such as this. It was a pretty neat idea to add Jai Courtney in as John’s son (even though I never really remembering hearing anything about him existing until now, but okay, whatevs) and the guy does a solid-enough job to where he isn’t annoying, he isn’t a weak-link, and he doesn’t seem unlikable. He’s got a bit of a personality, he’s got the looks, he’s got some of the quips, and he’s got some of the ass-kicking skills as well. He’s not a bad character to have in a movie like this, and Courtney isn’t such a bad actor to portray him neither. Also, anybody expecting to see some more of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy; don’t get your hopes up too much. She rarely shows up here and even when she does, she just provides more hassle and annoyance for John McClane.

I’m still shocked that I didn’t like John McClane. Oh well, at least the villains are good, right?

HELL TO THE FUCKIN’ NO!! You would think since this is a Die Hard movie, since this does have John McClane on the good-side, and since this does have him facing-off against Russians, that this wouldn’t be one hell of a toe-to-toe battle between the two sides, but that’s where the thoughts are wrong. These villains blow and are as lame as you could expect. All of that back-story shit I alluded to earlier aside, these guys got nothing for them in terms of intimidation, smarts, or toughness. They seem like a bunch of clowns that decided to do something bad, and just so happened to stumble-upon John McClane “on his vacation”. If you don’t believe me, there’s actually a scene where one of the main villains dance in front of John and his son, only to show how intimidating and cool he can be. That’s right: HE DANCES! If Hans Gruber could come back alive and have a thing or change about these rusty Ruskies, he’d fucking shoot ’em down, one-by-one, and help John back to safety. Or, being a true villain in his finest-form, he’d probably off those Ruskies, torture John’s son right in front of him, kill the son, and then kill John before he was half-way tortured to death. That’s just the sick bastard that Hans Gruber was and watching a bunch of bums like these in this movie; I missed the guy a shit-load.

I’m still in shock that I didn’t like John McClane.

Consensus: People going into A Good Day to Die Hard and expecting another fan-favorite of the franchise, are going to be more than disappointed: they’re going to be outright pissed-off. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. Everything that you would want from a Die Hard movie is barely here, except for a couple of quick-quips that are funny and action set-pieces that catch your eye, but that’s just about it. Be ready to be upset, people.

As a regular, action movie to see on a boring night or day: 5 / 10 = Rental!!

As a Die Hard movie: 0. 5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Kill me now."

“Kill me now.”