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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Annabella Sciorra

12 and Holding (2005)

Small towns are way too weird.

Jacob and Rudy (Conor Donovan) are identical twins, in terms of the way they look and sound (sort of), but they are different in their own ways. Rudy is far more outgoing and considered “the golden child”, whereas Jacob, mostly due to a birthmark covering a large portion of his face, is forced to mostly stay indoors and keep to himself. However, they both get along well enough to where they spend as much time together and even build a tree-house, for them and all their friends to hang. But disaster strikes one night when, after messing with some bullies, the tree-house is lit on fire, with Rudy inside, trapping him and, as a result, killing him. Now, it’s up to Jacob to take most of the attention from his brother and he uses that attention to make a name for himself. Meanwhile, Leonard (Jesse Camacho), another friend, is overweight and trying to lose it all, while Malee (Zoe Weizenbaum) tries to befriend an adult named Gus (Jeremy Renner), who is in town and doesn’t quite know what to make of this new friendship, as inappropriate as it may be.

Uh, like step away?

12 and Holding is another odd movie from the likes of writer/director Michael Cuesta and I mean that in the best way possible. Granted, compared to his debut, L.I.E., 12 and Holding doesn’t quite hit the same emotional notes, but it’s still interesting in that it focuses on a small, core group of people, gives them some development, a sense of conflict, and allows their stories to just be told to us. Sure, the stories don’t always work, but at least Cuesta’s trying something, right?

Well, yes. And no. Sort of.

See, one of the issues with 12 and Holding is that it tries a lot harder to be an outright comedy this go around, unlike L.I.E., that was far more serious and disturbing. There’s still that sense of dirt and grit here, but not nearly as in-your-face as it was with Cuesta’s debut; this time around, the disturbing-features are played up more for cringe-inducing and awkward laughs. Occasionally, Cuesta will hit a high spot for comedy, but often times, it can feel as if he’s maybe trying a tad too hard, as if the material itself wasn’t, on the surface, funny enough.

Which is odd to say, I know, considering that in the first 15 minutes, a kid literally gets burned-to-death, but still, you can tell Cuesta is going for the darker-laughs this time around and he doesn’t always hit his mark. He does develop these characters and give them enough to work with, however, he also can’t help but give us the occasional quirk, too. It would have helped if these quirks were, at some point, funny, but they aren’t and because of that, it can feel straining.

“So, how’s the food?”

That said, the drama still works and had the movie just been with that, then yeah, it probably would have been a slam-dunk.

If there’s one thing that Cuesta gets right, is the small-town, suburban malaise that, in a way, American Beauty dealt with. Sure, that movie did it a whole lot better and effortlessly, but 12 and Holding does something interesting in that it shows how grief messes with each and everyone of us, regardless of if we are willing to accept it or not. Cuesta shows that we all deal with it on our own terms and because of that, we act out in somewhat rather outlandish and insane ways; we can’t really diagnose it, or even excuse it, as it’s just in our human nature.

If anything, 12 and Holding is much more sad and depressing than anything, and had the movie focused on this much more, it would have been better. However, it didn’t and it dealt with comedy a tad too much. Still, the ensemble is pretty great with nearly all of the child and adult-performers putting in solid work. Perhaps the most shining star in the whole thing is Zoe Weizenbaum as Malee, the incredibly curious and sexually vivacious teen that makes a good half of this movie pretty uncomfortable. However, she’s so charming and lovely to watch, with Renner’s Gus helping out, too, that it makes these scenes go down a lot easier.

Not like L.I.E., of course, Nothing can quite be as disturbing and as off-putting as that.

Consensus: Uneven to a fault, 12 and Holding tries to be way too funny, when it probably didn’t need to, but still works as a small, sad and thought-provoking indie about small-towns and grief.

6 / 10

Gonna grow up to be some awfully weird adults. Just like the rest of us.

Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films

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Internal Affairs (1990)

Why can’t cops just be nice guys that do nice things for the sake of humanity? Just why!

A newly minted Internal Affairs officer, Sgt. Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia), has come upon the fact that his old buddy from the Academy, Van Stretch (William Baldwin), might be in a bit of heat when him and his partner get caught killing a dude in cold blood. His partner, Dennis Peck (Richard Gere), is the one who bailed him out and has been bailing him out for quite some time, whether it be on the force or at home, with his wife and family. Together, they have a buddy-buddy relationship but knowing Peck, and the way that he is, it’s more than just that and Avilla finds this out the hard way.

Cop movies are usually the same thing, time and time again. So rarely do they ever shy-away from being like any other, that it’s almost like when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The same can be said about this flick, however, there’s something more going on here than just a bad cop vs. an evil cop. It’s more of a game, than it is a movie and coming from director Mike Figgis, I wouldn’t expect anything less compelling or enthralling. And yes, I wouldn’t also expect anything less than sexy, that’s for sure.

What Figgis does well with this material is that he builds it up plenty, without really giving us a clue of what to expect of the plot or the characters. We get a first-hand account that both of these characters are pretty cut and dry; Avilla is a straight-shooter, who does his job, loves his wife, kisses babies on the forehead, whereas Peck is a bit of shady character that not only bends the rules to help out those who are close to him, but gets more and more of a steady income through odd-jobs on the side that actually consist of killing and hookering. Basically, you think you have these characters all figured-out for who they are, what you want them to be and what they’re going to mean to one another, but that all changes once more and more layers are peeled off, and you see who these cats really are.

Wow! Are they gonna kiss?

Are they going to go for it?

Now, that being said and all, the movie is not a sure thing for surprises; a couple of twist happen here and there that will take you by surprise, but overall, it’s a pretty conventional flick in the way things happen, and the way people reveal themselves. What is so surprising about this movie is what each and every character reveals about themselves, and how dark they can actually be. You think you have them all figured-out from being the “baddie”, to the “goodie”, and watching these two duke it out to see who’s the bigger and better man is a whole bunch of fun and what kept this movie going, even when it did get close to the usual conventions of what makes a cop movie, a cop movie.

They don’t get many scenes together, but everytime you see Avilla and Peck together on-screen, you know some bad and crazy shite is going to go down, and you have a feeling that it’s only a matter of time until all hell breaks loose and one of these guys can’t bounce back from it. It’s fun to watch because both Gere and Garcia have a dynamic that’s unbelievably entertaining to watch, but they also bring out more within these characters than you’d ever get from a movie that’s about the good guy trying to overcome evil and defeat the bad guy. It does come down to that eventually, but the movie and the performers keep it more than just that, every chance they get, whether it be a simple conversation, a battle of wits, a threat, or just the usual mind-games that they both stoop-down to playing, once the shit gets hot.

Actually, at some times, it was almost too hot for these two to be on-screen together as I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if they started beating the shit one second, and hooking up with one another the next one. Seriously, it gets pretty damn hot at times and it’s attributed to the fine performances from Gere and Garcia, both of whom have never really done much for me in the past, Gere especially who, as you all know, is not my favorite actor.

Yeah I know; he’s from Philly, he’s been in good movies, and he’s even been in a couple of Best Picture winners, but to me, the guy has only been doing the same act, time and time again, and it’s a real surprise that he didn’t play that same dude here as Dennis Peck. Then again, I think the way that the character is written, Gere didn’t have much of a choice other than to stretch out his acting skills and see what he could come up with because this dude is one, messed-up mofo of a guy. Like I said before, Peck starts off as a reasonable guy that does some odd stuff that may make you think twice about his morality, but once he shows who he really is and what he has the power to do, then Gere really takes over and shows us layers of Peck that you’d never expect to see from a guy who practically saves his buddy’s ass in the first shot of the movie. Peck continues to mess with Avilla’s mind, almost in a way that’s entertaining, as bad as you feel for the dude, and it shows that Gere can have fun with a role, do well with it, and also be able to make us actually care for a character that’s so despicable and immoral. Once we do figure out that this dude is bad news, then the character gets a bit too strange for my taste, but Gere continued to enthrall me and I have to give the dude credit, especially since I’m always hating on him.

No, are they!??!

No, but are they!??!

Not like he cares anyway, because who the hell am I?!?!?

I’ve never really given Andy Garcia much of a bad-rap in the past, mostly because he hasn’t really been in much stuff where he’s liable for scrutiny. He rarely ever is the leading-man in a movie, and even when he does, the movie’s so small that it’s almost too unnoticeable for me to even watch and review. That said, the guy’s very good here as Avilla because he not only plays up the straight-laced, calm and collective act that this character keeps for a good-portion of the movie, but also makes you believe that he may have to cut some corners just to prove justice. It’s that idea that the nicest and most moral character in the movie, the one your supposed to be rooting for, might just be a bit of a bad guy as well, is what makes this character more than just another detective who wants to be promoted, and more of a guy who wants to do his job and get his man, in anyway possible. Garcia keeps us guessing, just like Gere, but the thing is with this character, we don’t know whether or not he’s going to stay the same good guy we saw from the first shot, or if he’s going to get a bit nutso towards the end. You never know with him, and Garcia keeps us guessing.

The supporting cast is pretty solid as well, even if it is apparent that it’s more or less Gere and Garcia’s show than theirs. Nancy Travis is a fine fit as Avilla’s wife who may, or may not be sleeping-around on him and the mystery behind that idea and her character is what keeps her more interesting than just the ordinary character of “the wife that gets pissed because her detective is too busy solving crimes and not at home banging her”. Yeah, you know; that type of chick. Laurie Metclaf is also very good at trying to remind us that she isn’t always playing Roseanne’s sister, and can drop an F-bomb and be bad-ass like any other motha on the face of the Earth. She tries, it works, but it also does get obvious at some points. And of course, there’s Adam Baldwin here playing a fuck-up, who’s addicted to coke, beats his wife, kills people when they are unarmed, and doesn’t know how to keep his cool. Hm? Is it acting? Or is it just being a Baldwin? You be the judge on that one, my friends.

Consensus: Despite falling for some of the same trappings and conventions we have come to know and expect from the cop-genre, Internal Affairs still offers us something slightly new, exciting, and compelling to watch with two amazing performances from the leads, and a plot that spirals out of control, in all of the juiciest ways possible.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Nope, these two definitely are. Yes!

Nope, but these two definitely are. Yes!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Jungle Fever (1991)

At least Spike Lee doesn’t totally hate white people.

Flipper (Wesley Snipes) is a successful, married architect. Angie (Annabella Sciorra) is a temporary office worker. When they meet, it’s Jungle Fever. Also, Flipper’s crack-addicted brother (Samuel L. Jackson) causes many problems as well.

Writer and director Spike Lee is a man who is most known for being very controversial with the things he has to say, and here he really talked about something that was actually kind of taboo way back when.

The one thing that Lee does so well here is create a script that shows two different races view points on the same subject of interracial dating and how everything all these people say only pops up when the actual idea of having this kind of dating is heard of. Lee brings up points that most just use it out of curiosity, and while both races don’t hate one another, blacks and whites still have problems when it comes to sex and how we don’t know how to be sexually intimate with each other.

It’s great to see and hear Lee hit this film with such honesty because we see both sides basically talk and there’s no real right or wrong side here, this is just basically two sides voicing their opinions on what they feel is the truth about interracial dating and the races. Lee is masterful here at bringing up these points as well as never fully telling us what we should and should not know about each race. I guess that’s something we have to do when it comes to being sexually attracted to another race.

Lee has a great script here but his problem’s lie within his direction because even though he shies away from the constant cliche romantic scenes once this couple gets together, Lee shows how both races feel which worked in it’s advantage for the most part. However, the problem is that we never actually see these two together too much and when we do the chemistry is just sort of piss-poor. It would have been a lot better if we saw how two actually felt for each other while all this craziness from everyone around them was going on.

Another problem here is that the film has way too many random sub-plots that by the end of the film kind of give it that cluttered feeling to the point of where the ending is actually a lot weaker than it could have been. The film also goes from character to character with no real idea as to who it wants to focus on the most and rather more about just being able to voice all of these other people’s opinions on the subject of interracial dating which made it seem more about the countless other characters that supported this story, and totally getting rid of the relationship that practically is the reason for this film.

Wesley Snipes is good as Fluffy Purify, but the problem with this character is that he is either incomplete as a character or just a total jerk that deserved all this bad crap to happen to him after this relationship starts. I don’t know what Lee was trying to show here but despite how much Snipes tries, this character just wasn’t that likable and a bit naive actually. Annabella Sciorra is also good as the smart-talking, and charming Angie Tucci who brings a great sense of likability to her character even though she is almost an unknown by the end of the film by how much they barely don’t focus on her. There’s also some very good performances from the likes of Spike Lee himself, Anthony Quinn, John Turturro, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Lonette McKee.

However, everybody in this film is actually over-shadowed from the amazing presence of Samuel L. Jackson as Flipper’s crack-addicted brother, Gator. Every time this guy is in the film he just totally lights up the screen (pun intended) and it’s just Jackson’s approach to the role is what makes it incredibly likable, a little funny, and kind of sad by just how messed up this guy really is. If you think about it, there’s actually no real purpose for Gator to be in this film but Jackson makes him incredibly watchable and is just a great performance all-around.

Consensus: Much more could have been focused on the actual couple as opposed to the numerous side characters and subplots the film also showed, but Jungle Fever shows Lee swinging for the fences and giving some frank and brutally honest talk about sex, race, and just how do we separate love and sex. A flawed film but still very well-made.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Find Me Guilty (2006)

Whoever thought that Dominic Toretto could actually act.

Training his lens on infamous mobster “Fat” Jack DiNorscio (Vin Diesel) — a man who decided to defend himself in court rather than rat out his cohorts –director Sidney Lumet recounts the longest Mafia trial in U.S. history.

The one thing about this courtroom film that separates it from plenty others, is the fact that draws its dialogue from actual courtroom transcripts that happened. This was really cool because we never felt that biased, misunderstanding of the law when this case is all said and done. I also liked how well the script was written because there are many comedic moments, but then there are actual deeply strong, emotional moments that happen as well but it never feels too cheesy. Sidney Lumet knows how to tell a story, and make it entertaining, despite the story not all being that thrilling.

However, the problem with this film is that it does run on too long. This film is about 2 hours long, and they cram the whole court case into that time limit, which was kind of a long stretch considering that sometimes this film can show a lot of problems within the American judicial system.

The film also does have us rooting for these actual criminals in the end, and this to me all seemed weird. These guys all committed crimes, killed people, dealt drugs, and have basically gotten caught doing it all, but now, we are supposed to root for them in a case that shows these criminals for what they are. There is a lot of evidence in this film that will have you kind of shake your head at the American judicial system, but this is all real stuff here, so I can’t really hold that much against this film.

Vin Diesel proves that he actually can act here as Jack DiNorscio, and knocks his performance out-of-the-park. Diesel has the incredible likability, to match his huge muscles, that makes us love Jackie and root for him as this film goes on. Although this is a bad guy, who has done many bad things, we kind of see him as a human being, that wants nothing more than for his friends to be free and safe, and not rat them out at all. Peter Dinklage is also awesome in his role as Ben Klandis, Linus Roache is pretty good as the evil lawyer Sean Kierney, Ron Silver does what he does as Judge Finestein, and Annabella Sciorra shows up randomly but owns her scene. Let’s not also forget Alex Rocco here as Nick Calabrese, who everybody probably remembers as Moe Greene.

Consensus: Sidney Lumet’s Find Me Guilty won’t have you thrilled, or inspired at all by the American judicial system, but with impressive performances from the cast, mainly Diesel, and a nice pace, you won’t be bored.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Jungle Fever (1991)

A love between a black man and and white woman is something that can be hated but it’s all about the love.

Flipper (Wesley Snipes) is a successful, married architect. Angie (Annabella Sciorra) is a temporary office worker. When they meet, it’s Jungle Fever. A subplot considers the problems of drug abuse, with Flipper’s brother Gator (Samuel L. Jackson) a crack addict.

Director Spike Lee (as if you couldn’t tell), his main message is that both blacks and whites in America have been so bombarded stereotypes about each other to the degree that some relationships are transpired by Jungle Fever.The movie has many scenes of uncommon power, some with sure greatness, and others that just don’t work.

Lee as usual shows a great way of handling these characters of each race and in a way that doesn’t support these stereotypes. The one thing I liked mostly about this film that I didn’t see from his others is that hes not all against the whites and he shows how blacks can be wrong in decision making too. The one strong point of this film is the strong focus that Lee puts on the family’s reactions to this relationship.

The big problem with this film is the couple itself. Lee does not focus too much on the couple and we do not feel that these two people actually like each other. Lee misses the point that he’s trying to get at with in this film and the couple don’t seem believable. The chemistry between Snipes and Sciorra is not very strong and you do not feel the connection beating off of the screen like I would imagine in a film about relationships. The attraction seems to stem entirely from curiosity, which makes the background material – the relationships of each with their families and communities – the real point of interest.

Much of the writing and editing seems very tired as well. In all of Lee’s films his way of showing these characters actions and personalities through a clever and at times true script does not work so well. The whole movie’s script is mostly just conversations about racism and how one doesn’t prefer the other race. The editing also feels kinda lackluster as many scenes were put in just to be put in and kind of had no real meaning.

This is surely a great film for many reasons however despite the downs. I liked the little inter-stories that featured Samuel L. Jackson as a struggling crack addict who brings dismay to his whole family and John Tuturro’s story as he himself looks to start a relationship with a black woman. Those stories were very interesting and very well executed by the cast and Lee. Another great factor of this film is the set pieces that are shown in this film are surely great that feature a very breathtaking look at a crack house that is very graphic but very strong.

The chemistry as I said before between Snipes and Sciorra is not very strong. Though the acting from the rest is very good. Mostly Samuel L. Jackson does an amazing job at portraying a struggling crack addict and fully shows off his amazing acting chops and his performance stand out most importantly. The rest of the cast with John Tuturro. Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, and Anthony Quinn also do very good jobs at portraying their own respectable characters.

The resolution of this film is very gloomy and doesn’t seem as effective as it has in other films from Lee and I don’t fully connect to the message he was trying to get at with.

The film shows a good look at how interracial couples are viewed as and features some very good breathtaking scenes and performances but doesn’t have a very effective message and screenplay like many others from Lee.

7.5/10=Rental!!!!