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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: America Ferrera

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

These dragons are cool and all, but they ain’t got nothing on Spyro.

Five years after the events of the first movie, in which both dragons and townspeople of Berk decided to live together in perfect peace and harmony, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now feeling a whole lot of pressure coming from his daddy-o (Gerard Butler) about stepping up and taking the throne. However, Hiccup isn’t functioned like that; he’d much rather continue to live the way he’s been living where he, his girlfriend (America Ferrara) and his lovely dragon/best friend in the whole wide world Toothless, can just roam around and have a great time. Problem is though, they realize that their freedom and happiness may be challenged when an evil man by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) starts sniffing around for dragons and finding whichever ones he can get, only to turn them evil and allow him to take over the world, once and for all. It’s a mission that both Hiccup and his father don’t want him to complete, however, they get distracted once Hiccup’s mother (Cate Blanchett) suddenly re-appears out of nowhere and brings promise of the family-unit coming together after all of this time. But will it be as perfect as they want it to be with an evil, raging maniac like Drago Bludvist hanging around and turning dragons against humans?

Though I wasn’t expecting much from it, the first How to Train Your Dragon really worked for me – it was everything that a Pixar movie (at the time, mind you) was, except a lot more beautiful in its sweeping ways. And thankfully too, the visuals haven’t changed a single bit; even if they have, they’ve only improved in the way every frame we get here, is all thought-out and feels tailor-made for something like 3D. Which yes, means a lot considering that so many movies that come out nowadays just post-convert their 3D for a higher price, which would result in more money back. Doesn’t always work (in terms of movies making their money back), but what it does do is make the movie look cheap, lazy and slapped-together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you’d put together before heading off to work in a hurry.

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christsakes!

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christ’s sakes!

However, the visuals here are amazing and if you have the budget to do so, I recommend taking a trip to the 3D theater lobby.

But as much as it may impress with its attention to visuals, HTTYD 2 (I guess that’s what I’ll call it from now on) has a story that really reaches beyond most movie’s sequels, where it’s presumed that everything that worked in the first movie, must happen again, but this time, louder, longer and more, more, more! That’s the name of the game with sequels, but here, you can really tell that the creators not only care about these characters and their personalities, but also the pre-historic world they’re placed into, where it’s almost like a fantasy-palace, yet, by the same token, isn’t.

Still though, that doesn’t matter because what the creators do here is create an adult story, somehow produced and marketed towards kids. That being said, this is the type of kids movie that may disturb some of them because of the very traumatic and unexpected stuff that happens here, but it’s also handled very well to where the kiddies won’t be traumatized for the rest of their days, pacing back and forth in some psych-ward. Somehow, it finds just the right balance somewhere in between where its easy enough for adults to feel comfortable with their kids watching and being of witness to, but may also have them covering their kiddies eyes.

Either way, it’s a judgement call, so do what you will, older person.

Anyway, like I was saying about the story, some of it is very dramatic and emotional, but it’s never done too much to where this seems like the most dark, depressing and bleak kids movie ever made. It has many ideas/themes about growing up, respecting your elders, being the best person that you can be, and a whole bunch of environmentally-sound messages thrown at us enough times to where we get the point, but never too much to where it seems like we’re being preached at. Like mostly everything else in this movie, it’s handled well and only keeps on leading you up to the moments in which you’ll be touched and maybe even tear-up a little.

Okay, who am I kidding?!? You’ll be tearing up a whole hell of a lot, but that’s just what happens when these kinds of animated movies are done right! They can affect any person who watches them – even if one of those people just so happen to be a twenty-year-old dude, who may, or may not be in touch with his inner-most soft side.

I’m not speaking about myself, either….

Once again, anyway, this movie’s pretty darn good. The only times where it starts to lose a step or two is by the end when I feel like it gets all wrapped up in its big, climactic war-battle that it doesn’t know how to tell the difference between “serious”, or “jokey”. This may sound like a weird complaint for a kids movie, but think about it: When you have any movie that features a battle scene in which many people/persons/things are being killed/destroyed, it’s hard to not think about those things while watching it. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, because it’s always hinted at us, and I feel like by the end of this movie, there’s a problem with separating that it’s a kids movie, that features many people being killed. We never see anybody getting killed in disgusting, graphic ways, but it’s sort of hinted at and it was hard to get past when it was happening on screen.

However, that could just be another case of my weirdness setting in and screwing everything up, so avoid that if you must.

Aw! It's going down!

Aw! It’s going down!

What’s also interesting about this movie is how the whole voice cast from the first movie returns for this one and how they’re all still pretty good. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup very well in his slightly-neurotic way that isn’t over-bearing, but also doesn’t take you away from believing that he can stand-up for himself and those that he loves when he needs to. Also, I love that he’s a protagonist in a story that’s all about talking things out and reasoning, rather than just jumping right to conclusions and start killing anyway he sees fit.

As a result, that makes the villain, Drago Bludvist, seem dumb and almost as if he didn’t think everything out as perfectly as he should have. He’s reasoning for wanting to take over the world, rid it of all humans known to man, and capture every dragon by turning them bad, seems like something any villain would want to do, but when he’s given the chance to explain himself, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason or inspiration at all. I’m all for a baddie, being a baddie, for the sake of just being a baddie, but when a movie like this comes around and shows us that there’s more to a simple tale of humans and dragons being friends, then I expect more in return.

Because it’s very rare that you get an animated movie that knocks the socks right off of anybody that isn’t a kid. So yeah, go us older people!

Consensus: The ground that How to Train Your Dragon 2 covers may be a lot darker and heavier for kids, but nonetheless, they’ll be treated to a story that sweeps along with beautiful visuals, a lively voice-cast, and a touching heart at the center that will get anybody tearing-up. Looking at you, adults.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my "pet" isn't a dragon, it's this little d-bag.

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my “pet” isn’t a dragon, it’s this little d-bag.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

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Cesar Chavez (2014)

Hail Cesar!

César Chávez (Michael Peña) was a man that believed in sticking up for himself and his people, even if it didn’t mean having to take matters into your own hands. César had a problem with the way Mexican farm-workers were being treated; they made very little, worked for very long and if they decided not to work any longer, then they would be forced to go back to their native country. So yeah, of course César saw this as “wrong”, which is why he decides not to stand for it any longer and get together as many of people he possibly can on his side, to face-off against the powers that be – aka, the head of these major companies making these workers work so hard, long and without much of a reward to show for it. Throughout César’s mission, he goes through his usual ups, his downs and even finds himself questioning whether or not there’s any reason to fight for a cause/group of people, that are clearly out-matched, out-numbered, and out-of-their-element when it comes to how the government does things and if they do so in a moral way, or let the sound of money and pride get in the way of doing what is right.

Well, there you have it, folks. It needed to happen sooner or later, but we have finally gotten the César Chávez biopic. Is it the one we deserve? Eh, not really, but I guess if there is one thing that this movie gets right, it’s that it informs those of us out there as to why this man mattered, why his cause was just and how much his impact has been felt on the world today. With that aspect of the film taken in and thought about, then yeah, director Diego Luna (yes, the actor) gets the job done. No questions asked.

"Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?"

“Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?”

However, when it comes down to giving us a heartfelt, emotional and complex story about one man’s struggle to fight for what he believes in, as well as staying true to himself, his values and those who are close to him? Eh, I wouldn’t say so.

See, where I think Luna runs into the problem with this movie is that he clearly loves and has so much respect for César Chávez in the first place, that you never get an sense that we’re watching a movie that’s trying to get us to know exactly who this man. Much rather, we get the story about what this man did, those he cared for and why he believed in sticking up for his people. That’s all we really get and even though I wasn’t expecting Diego Luna to throw out some random bits or pieces of info that would have César Chávez look as if he was a downright, despicable human being, I still would have liked to seen a little more detail into the mistakes he made along the way.

Sure, we get to see that he runs into conflicts with his wife, but only because she feels as if she’s being tied-down too much and not given the time to stretch her own wings and fly around for a bit. And sure, we get to see him have problems with other members of the group, but only because where as he wants to rebel in a calm, sophisticated, no-violence way, they all want to take out their dukes and start rumbling a bit. Oh, and sure, we see how much the law-enforcement acted so wrongly against him, as well as the rest of the group, but that’s only because their a bunch of racist, bigoted Southern assholes that have nothing else better to do with their time, money or house-maids, then just take out their shotguns and wailing it around some.

You get the point now? It isn’t that Luna paints César Chávez as the most perfect person on the face of the planet, but it doesn’t really do much to show him at his faults either. Apparently he wasn’t that great of a father to his son either, which comes and goes as it pleases and only seems desperately thrown in there to create some more conflict and family-drama, when in reality, we don’t really need anymore of it at all. All we really need is an honest story about a man we should know a whole lot more about coming out of, than going into, but somehow, it ended up just being the same. Even for someone like me, who only knows the man of César Chávez, his influence and his impact, through the beautiful workings of WikiPedia.

Ah, what a wonderful and nifty tool it is to have the internet exist in today’s day and age. How wonderful indeed.

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

If there’s anything really worth seeing this movie for, it’s mainly for the fact that Luna makes a smart choice in giving Michael Peña a rare chance at a lead role for once and a lifetime, and the guy does an okay job with it. I can’t really say that it’s anything spectacular or even better than what we’ve seen him do in some smaller, supporting roles, but with what material he’s given, which is rather thin, Peña delivers. Same goes for America Ferrera who fits-in perfectly as Chávez’s wife, even though she’s given the conventional-role of “the house-mother that sits at home all day, does nothing and just wants to be apart of something fun and exciting”. It’s a role we’ve all seen written a million times before, and somehow, Ferrera makes it a bit more watchable and even creates a realistic-piece of chemistry between her and Peña.

The supporting cast has a whole bunch of familiar-faces, which are great to see and all, but none of them really stand-out among the rest; which, once again, may have more to do with the script, rather than their own acting-abilities. Rosario Dawson shows up every once and a blue moon during this as one of Chávez’s most-trusted supporters; Wes Bentley plays a free-lovin’, hippie lawyer-brah that backs up Chávez when he needs all the help he can get; and out of everybody here, the one who made the biggest impression on me was John Malkovich as one of the owners of these major-companies that Chávez and his people are speaking-out against. Malkovich is clearly soaking up the sun as, who is presumed to be, the baddie, but he actually gives a nice moment of humanism where we see him talk about his days of growing up as a Scandinavian immigrant in America, and how he had to work his way up the ladder to become the man who he is today. It doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s being a total and complete, money-grubbing prick that doesn’t give two hoots about his workers, their families, or their livelihoods, but it definitely does throw us a curve-ball in terms of the way we view this character. Love it when that happens in any movie, and I wish there was more of that in here.

Consensus: Though it boasts a few fine performances worth seeing, Cesar Chavez feels more like a tribute to the man, rather than an actual narrative, where we get to see him for all that he was, good qualities, as well as bad ones, alike.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Still pissed somebody hasn't filled his glass back-up yet.

Still pissed somebody hasn’t filled his glass back up yet.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

End of Watch (2012)

Honestly, after seeing Training Day, I will never be able to trust a cop.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two Los Angeles police officers as they patrol the city’s meanest streets of south central Los Angeles. One day, however, they stumble upon a discover that makes them two-wanted men, that puts both of their careers and lives at stake.

Writer/director David Ayer has taken his stabs at the police-force with his past two efforts (Harsh Times, Street Kings) but now, seems like he’s making up for all of that with a flick that could almost come off as a police-recruitment video in a way. Sounds crazy, especially since cops aren’t as handsome as the two leading-men here, but if one dude who’s thinking about what to do for his life, stumbles upon this, the police-force will be able to say they have another in uniform.

But as preachy and heavy-handed as I make that sound, that is not something Ayer is all about with this flick. In fact, as hard as it may try to win points over with the police-crowd out there, the film is still more about the characters, rather than exactly about what they do. This is the study of two guys, who love each other, love their work, and most importantly, love doing what they’re sent out there to do, and that’s to save people’s lives whenever they get a call. This may sound hokey and uninteresting but Ayers actually brings a lot of depth to the story, that at times, may surprise you by how far it goes with itself. You feel for these characters and their surroundings and every time they get a call about something bad going down on the radio, you automatically get worried and you fear for these guys because you have become so attached to them over the whole course of the movie.

Building up an emotional-level for these characters is something that Ayer does very well, but when he’s building that up, he’s also building up a great deal of suspense that caught me by surprise. Granted, people going into this film will probably be a bit disappointed by how there isn’t as much action as the trailers may suggest, but with a story like this, it doesn’t really matter because everything else that’s going on is so strong. However, when they do focus on the action of the movie, it’s exciting, thrilling, and very unpredictable as you have no clue what’s going to happen to these guys or when they’re going bite the bullet. This is definitely what kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat and had me into this story when all of this other crap would seem to almost take me out of it.

The crap that I’m talking about, is when it seems like Ayer feels the need to constantly weave-in and out of the “found-footage” aspect of this movie. I will say one thing about this movie going in, I was not looking really forward to it because of this aspect and I’m glad that it wasn’t like this the whole time but seriously: either do it the whole time, or don’t do it at all! Even when they do abandon this format, the camera is constantly shaking and breaking all-over-the-place and it made me feel like I was still watching a found-footage movie, except with the camera actually being stuck in a blender. This bothered the hell out of me and I wish Ayer just stuck it straight to the original format of filming a movie, because he had strong enough material to make it work in the first-place.

Then, of course, there’s the typical cop-movie conventions that always seem to plague movies like this. Of course, we got the burnt-out cop, the rookie cop, and the usual crooks that seem like they come right out of another movie. That statement, right there is not a good thing because even though those two other conventions are here, at least they seem grounded in-reality, as opposed to these cartoonish bad-guys that had me laughing my ass off every time they showed-up. First of all, I thought it was dumb how they actually had them film their own murders and crimes, which seemed to come out of nowhere and in this film for no other reason than to just go along with the format they already established in the first-frames. Then, of course, they seem to come out of nowhere in certain scenes where they seem so pissed off about these two cops going from house-to-house and finding out about all of these murders and drugs. It seemed really random for these two cops to eventually get tracked-down by this gang considering there are large-portions where these gangs aren’t even shown, let alone discussed. Seriously, does every gang-member say “fuck” every 2 seconds in their sentences? Especially those Latino ones?

Despite these bitty problems, the real reason why this film works so damn well is because of the work given by it’s two leads: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. These guys, from start-to-finish, display a pitch-perfect chemistry that is probably one of the best I have seen in quite some time. Granted, not many buddy-cop movies actually have their whole story revolve around the two cops, and actually show them inter-acting with one another on a daily-basis, but this film shows that and accomplishes at showing us how close these guys are. It’s not just the film that does this, though, Jake and Michael both do perfect jobs just messing around with each other, teaching each other life lessons, and even working really hard together on some life-or-death situations. Also, it needs to be added that these guys don’t really have a bad-bone in their body either, but also have a lot of problems in their lives to where you believe them not just as movie cops, but as real cops in general. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here but you really do believe in these guys, and it makes every conversation they have together is as interesting and entertaining as the one that came before it. I would be terribly surprised if I found out that these guys weren’t best buddies in real-life because there’s just something between these two that really does seem like it went on, and off-screen for them. Please, no Brokeback Mountain jokes there, either.

Consensus: Even though End of Watch suffers when it feels the need to stay within the conventions of your usual cop-drama, it still benefits from the amazing chemistry between the two leads, that make these characters more interesting, more entertaining to watch, and two people that we want to see live on at the end of the story.

7.5/10=Rental!!

How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

Now instead of a dog and a cat that I have, I want a dragon.

As the son of a Viking leader on the cusp of manhood, shy Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III faces a rite of passage: He must kill a dragon to prove his warrior mettle. But after downing a feared dragon, he realizes that he no longer wants to destroy it. So, he befriends the beast — which he names Toothless much to the chagrin of his warrior father.

This film was probably one of the biggest surprises of last year. Jeez, now I can say last year, whenever I talk about 2010. Anywho, this film grossed about half a billion dollars at the box office, and was one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Never would have I expected that from an animated film starring Gerard Butler, and Jay Baruchel.

The screenplay is what took me by surprise with this film as it has a decent amount of good comedy, but the dramatic depth is what really takes you over. There is a montage in this film that is used with no dialogue, and it really does tug at your heart. Showing you that sometimes no words spoken at all, can sometimes be the most effective. The film has a message about being pro-animal and how we should treat all species with respect, but they don’t hammer us with that message, and it feels fresh.

However, it’s the visuals that take over this film. There are plenty of flying scenes that will strike you in awe, as you are taken on this beautiful, fun ride, and the visuals are just breath-taking. It looks pretty, but it also has the action to back it up, and keep you watching, and sit in amazement.

The only problem I had with this film was that it just wasn’t as memorable as I was expecting it to be. Yeah it’s got a good story, and awesome visuals, but will I be buying this for my kids 20 years from now, telling them about my experience with this movie as a kid? No, and it is very good, just compared to other DreamWorks animation films it’s not as good.

Jay Baruchel‘s nerdy, awkward-voiced way of delivery actually is works here, and his character is a your typical softy, but a lot of the timing from his delivery, brings out a likability within his character. Gerard Butler is actually in a film that doesn’t blow! He plays the viking father, with his native Scottish accent, and does a good job for once. Wish I got to see more of this, but something tells me I shouldn’t get my hopes up. America Ferrera doesn’t really have that many lines in this film, but her character is strong, and we think shes actually pretty cool. Others in this film are Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Kristin Wiig, and McLovin.

Consensus: Although not as memorable as other animated films that have came out in the past couple of years, How To Train Your Dragon still impresses with its great story, that has effective emotional depth, and enchanting visuals, that keep you watching.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Our Family Wedding (2010)

I hope my wedding isn’t like this, and Carlos Mencia isn’t at it.

Forest Whitaker and funnyman Carlos Mencia butt heads as two domineering dads forced to set aside their culture-clash differences and team up to plan their children’s wedding, with only two weeks until the big day arrives. America Ferrera plays the pregnant bride-to-be opposite Lance Gross as her medical resident fiancé.

Basically think of Father of the Bride mixed with a little bit of the racism from American History X. Yes, I know, that is a terrible way to describe it although those movies are actually good.

The film has an interesting premise surprisingly, the problem here is that the film doesn’t know how to be funny one bit with its script. There are too many racist jokes that just aren’t funny, or even tasteful to say the least. I mean, for the most part at least bring out good jokes, with enough heart to satisfy its viewers, but don’t shower me down with crappy jokes, and a goat taking Viagra and humping people at a wedding. That is right, you heard exactly what I said. Goat, Viagra, humping, I thought I’d never say those words in the same sentence.

The film also has plenty, and I do mean plenty of plot holes that come right out as soon as the film gets going. In the beginning, we see that Whitaker has a job as a DJ, but that is the only time we see him doing it, and apparently due to that job hes a millionaire. How can this dude be a millionaire, when he has been at work once in the past two weeks? There is also a lot of formulaic stuff here, but the fact of the matter is that its not just a film about two clashing races, its more about an Oscar winner, and a turd comedian.

The performances are what makes this film seem a bit enjoyable I guess. Ferrera and Gross are good as a couple and you can actually see how they could turn out to be a couple, but the film takes down their chemistry so much, that you are just wishing they would get a divorce. Whitaker is likable here, but likable does not mean funny, ad that is not what he is at all. If anything, i should call him awkward, cause that is exactly what he is but not as bad as the other dude, Mencia. Carlos Mencia actually had a good show running on Comedy Central, then it got canceled, and he hasn’t really been in much since. Then he gets this script, and if I was the director I would choose anyone: George Lopez, Erik Estrada, hell even Speedy Gonzales, would be a better choice than this failed funnyman. Mencia has that hammy, terrible comedic timing, that all comedians-turned-actors dread, and for some reason I actually felt pity for Mencia, something I don’t ever want to feel again.

Consensus: Our Family Wedding may be a good movie for the family, but other than that is just written awfully, with its contrived plot, and even worse jokes, with performances that just turn out to be awkward.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!!