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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Annabeth Gish

Before I Wake (2018)

So, I don’t know, maybe don’t adopt? Or something?

Mark (Thomas Jane) and Jessie (Kate Bosworth) have been wanting to desperately have a kid, but they just can’t, so they decide to adopt a cute and nice little eight-year-old named Cody (Jacob Tremblay) who, inexplicably, has been without a family for quite some time. And while it takes awhile for them to get used to each other, eventually, they begin to grow into their own little family, where they mess around, get along, and generally have a great time together. But that all begins to change when weird, downright spooky things begin happening and no one really knows why, except for Cody himself. And then, it all becomes evidently clear why Cody has been by his own for so very long and Mark and Jessie have no idea what to do. Should they give him back and move on to the next kid and hope that there’s not some evil spirits following them around? Or stick it out with Cody and treat him as one of their own, fight these spirits, and live together in perfect harmony?

There’s mom.

Before I Wake has, infamously, been trapped in release-hell for the past few years and I’m not really sure why. The movie isn’t all that awful to the point of where the studio involved would feel ashamed to ever release it, nor is it really all that great to begin with. It’s the kind of movie that gets made, doesn’t have much hype behind it, and of course, due to some other random business-reasons, gets lost in the shuffle, is known and/or talked about, and eventually, gets released to the wide masses. But why did Before I Wake take so long?

No clue. And really, I don’t care. Had the movie stayed on the shelf longer, I would have been perfectly fine with that, because while I do appreciate how Mike Flanagan is trying to single-handedly change the game of horror, after this and Gerald’s Game, I hate to say but I’m growing a little worrisome. Granted, Gerald’s Game was a tad more inspired than this here Before I Wake, but both suffer from the same problem in that there just isn’t much of a story to really work with; Before I Wake does, thankfully, benefit from a solid family-dynamic, but never focuses on it enough to where it’s completely effective, the way it should have been to heighten the emotional drama.

Instead, it’s much more focused on the ghouls, ghosts, and butterflies that mysteriously begin to pop-up and yeah, it just takes away from everything else.

There’s son.

Of course, I’m not one to say that Before I Wake didn’t need all this horror in the first place, because it’s most certainly Flanagan’s wheelhouse, it just doesn’t feel necessary. It’s like the Babadook in that we actually deal with some real issues about love, about family, and about surviving together, as one, except that Before I Wake only occasionally passes on these ideas and themes, only to then get distracted by the spooky stuff. And it doesn’t work, really, because the spooky stuff either doesn’t make sense, or isn’t even all that scary; it’s a little cheesy, a little schlocky, and because we don’t totally care about what happens to the characters, a little dull.

That said, the cast gives it their all, with Thomas Jane putting in a pretty great performance as the dad of the family. Jane seems like he’s in a totally different movie where he’s cool, funny, and always one step ahead of the plot. Which is why it’s a shame that he gets saddled with a role that, honestly, would have been better in a much more character-based drama. Kate Bosworth is good, too, in that she has to handle a difficult role in being the matriarch of the family and it works. Tremblay is fine, too, although, because he was so young and because his role wasn’t all that demanding, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Or, at least, not as much as he would continue to do in the next few years or so. Something everybody else involved with this movie would be doing.

Thankfully.

Consensus: Though it does aim for some heartfelt notions about love and family, mostly, Before I Wake‘s a dull, unemotional, and unscary horror flick that could have stayed on the shelf for a lot longer, or even, forever.

4 / 10

Oh, and there’s a ghost-creature. Or something.

Photos Courtesy of: Relativity Media

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Nixon (1995)

nixonposterHe was a crook, but then again, aren’t we all?

U.S. President Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins) definitely had all sorts of controversies in his life and career. And those constants issues with the general public and those around him actually lead-out into the rest of his life, even going so far as to drive him a little nutty. But no matter what, his wife, Pat (Joan Allen), whenever he needed some love and comfort the most, even if he wasn’t quite so sure that he could always trust her. Of course though, despite some of Nixon’s best moments as President, his career and legacy would, ultimately, be destroyed because of the infamous incident that everyone, for future generations, will come to know as “the Watergate Scandal”.

So basically, yeah, Nixon is Oliver Stone’s attempt at trying to make some sort of biopic on the life, times and ultimate career of Richard Nixon. And honestly, it makes sense – if there is any director out there who could understand the mind and brain-space of someone who has been hated and despised over the years, it’s definitely Stone. But don’t be fooled by the term “biopic”, as Nixon is anything but conventional, even if that term is exactly what it promises to be.

"Hey, Anthony? Yeah, tone it down just a bit."

“Hey, Anthony? Yeah, tone it down just a bit.”

And that is, honestly, it’s biggest problem.

Stone has a lot to work with here and even at a staggering three-hours, it feels like we got more than enough. For what it’s worth, Stone doesn’t back down from showing us the image of Nixon, both professional and personal, that we’ve all come to know and expect by now. He has to make a lot of dirty, incredibly questionable choices and decisions on behalf of the entire country and because of that, he starts to get a little crazy and act out in ways people don’t expect him to. Stone doesn’t seem to be fully judging him for who he is, or better yet, what he represents, and that’s what works best in the movie’s favor; it’s setting out to tell us a little more about the one President that most of the country has learned to grow and dislike more with each and every passing year, and not shy away from some of the more grittier, meaner aspects of his life.

And because Nixon doesn’t back away from the not-so pretty things about Nixon’s life, it also can sort of seem like it has nothing to really say about its central-figure. Even though Stone tries his absolute hardest to fool us into thinking that this isn’t another one of those typical biopics we tend to get around Oscar-season, what with the quick-editing, non-chronological format, etc., it’s still not hard to look at this as, yet again, another biopic of someone that we think we know, but don’t know every little detail about, to the day that he took his first breath, to his last one. But the movie also begs the question: Do we really need all of this? Is there a point to this never ending focus on this one man in particular?

Well, the answer is yes and that’s because Anthony Hopkins is the one playing the lead role.

"Okay, maybe I'm a little bit of a crook. Just a little bit, though."

“Okay, maybe I’m a little bit of a crook. Just a little bit, though.”

Which is, yes, definitely fine, because no surprise here, but Hopkins does a terrific job as Tricky Dick. Of course, Hopkins himself has a lot to do and work with, playing up the usual mannerisms of Nixon, without seeming like a cartoon and still sinking into the role, despite not looking a single thing like him, but still, there’s something missing here. It’s a performance that does a lot of shaking, yelling, standing, and heavy-lifting, but it’s also one that seems to just be about the actual actor, and not about the actual character/person being portrayed or brought to us. Watching Hopkins do what he does best is a treat, but still, when he’s clearly not working with solid material that gives him more than just another chance to chew the fat, it’s a bit of a slog to watch. It’s almost as if we walked into an empty-theater, just to watch Hopkins himself rehearse and go over his lines, but rather than letting us go out the doors and into the real world, the doors are locked and we’re somehow trapped, forced to watch and be inspired by the thespian that is Anthony Hopkins.

Sure, that may not sound as bad to some, but watching it all play out in Nixon can get to a bit tiring.

Especially when the movie is, like I said before, is a little over three hours long. And while it’s not the Hopkins show the whole way through, what with the likes of Joan Allen, Powers Boothe, Paul Sorvino, James Woods, and Ed Harris all showing up and doing their things, it still feels very much like a vanity-project that was created solely for Hopkins and no one else. Stone may have had something interesting to say about Nixon’s actions, his public-appeal and how he’s become a “crook”, but it gets lost in between every scene that features Hopkins screaming and hooting at the top of his lungs. Sure, that’s enjoyable to a whole bunch of people, but when there’s no real rhyme or reason for all of the hooting, hollering and screaming at the top of the lungs, then it just gets tedious.

Which is something that I’d never thought I’d have to say about a Hopkins performance.

Consensus: Despite a warts-and-all depiction of Nixon’s story, Nixon still feels very much like a movie created solely so that Anthony Hopkins could work shop the whole entire three hours and make himself happy.

6.5 / 10

See? He's a happy Dick!

See? He’s a happy Dick!

Photos Courtesy of: Cydney Cornell, The Ace Black Blog

SLC Punk! (1998)

SLCposterThey’re right: The Sex Pistols are too mainstream.

Stevo (Matthew Lillard) and Bob (Michael A. Goorjian) are two friends who seem as if they’re a bit out of place, know it, and don’t have any clue of what to do about it. They don’t just sport blue Mohawks, but they listen to hardcore music, go to punk shows, thrash, smoke pot, drink beer, party, trip, and do all sorts of bad stuff that can sometimes be misconstrued as “rebellious”. Steveo, Bob and the rest of their pals are fine with this, however, the only thing that’s holding them back is the fact that they live in such a boring place as Salt Lake City, Utah, where they aren’t really allowed to branch out as much as they want. Sure, they have a good time being their typical rebellious selves, but what they really want in life, is to be accepted and seen as equals, even if everyone around them makes it all the more difficult, with their poser ways and lifestyles. Stevo, however, is starting to see that all of the anarchy he loves, praises and lives by, may just be a bit of a waste of time, especially considering that everyone around him isn’t gaining much from it to begin with.

Rebels in a restaurant!

Rebels in a restaurant!

Writer/director James Merendino has a lot to say with SLC Punk! and that’s absolutely obvious from the very start of the film. With the loud, head-banging punk music, blue Mohawks, and constant yelling from Matthew Lillard, it’s clear that Merendino has something he wants to get off his chest and it’s interesting to see just how he goes about it. Rather than feeling overly preachy and annoying (like he most definitely could have been), Merendino instead, finds a way to make sure that all of the points he has to make through his characters, is done in a fun, exciting way, so you don’t lose yourself in all of the ranting and raving.

Of which, yes, there are many.

However, for the longest time, I was fine with this. Not only does a lot of what Merendino has to say is true, but it’s also those insightful to those souls out there who have no clue just what he’s talking about, or trying to make a joke about. Even if you didn’t grow up in Utah, the idea and feeling of being repressed is still prevalent in any city, town, or state; the feeling of not being allowed to do everything that you want to do, or be yourself because of some silly, preconceived notion that it isn’t “what’s in”, can be found just about everywhere you go. Merendino is dealing with a bunch of anarchists who clearly don’t hide their feelings or emotions, but there’s no issue with that because a lot of what these characters have to say sort of hits home and feels almost healthy for Merendino.

That’s why, even when Lillard’s character jumps into and practically gets lost into these rants about punk culture, the art of “selling out”, college, certain cliques and social groups, etc., it’s all neat to hear. Merendino seems like a smart fella who, yeah, may have definitely gone through some growing pains, but at the same time, still has something to say that deserves to be heard. Not to mention that there’s a feeling of excitement and energy throughout, mostly due to all of his camera-trickery that makes it seem like we’re right along for the party as it’s happening.

But then, the movie changes and realizes that, well, it has a story to deal with.

And that’s where SLC Punk! really falls apart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry at a movie for following through on telling its story and giving us at least some sort of narrative to follow through on, but for some reason, it almost feels like a distraction from everything else that Merendino’s doing. For one, the actual plot itself, isn’t very interesting; angry, pissed-off youngin’s spend their times moping around, looking irate, and searching for the nearest bit of conflict they can find. Sure, this may be how life is, but for a movie, there’s not much to it.

Yes. Jason Segel was, at one time, a punk.

Yes. Jason Segel was, at one time, a punk.

Another issue with this focus on the actual story is that, well, the characters themselves aren’t very intriguing to watch do stuff or have stuff happen to them. Sure, the stuff that they have to say may be thought-provoking, but they themselves really seem as if they’re just types, fueled by drugs, booze, and punk music, and that’s about it. Merendino tries to have them become more than they appear, but by the point, it almost feels like a little too late, as if he got so distracted by all of the fun he was having showing this lifestyle, that he realized that he had to at least finish it all up in some way, shape or form.

Then again, Matthew Lillard, above all else, is really the one actor who gets off of this perfectly and it’s nice to see. Nowadays, it seems as if Lillard is getting more and more supporting roles in stuff that some people see, and some people don’t, but regardless, it’s interesting to see where this guy has come from and where’s he gone over the past two decades of his career. While he may definitely get a lot of flak thrown at him for playing Shaggy and just generally seeming like an a-hole in the stuff he does, he’s actually a talented actor who, especially, shows that he’s got plenty of range set beyond just looking and acting like a prick.

Yeah, he’s great at playing that, too, but it’s not all he does.

As Steveo, Lillard has a blast with a role that shows him frequently talking to the camera, and just letting his mind wander about whatever it is that he wants it to wander about. While this is a device some people may find annoying, the pure hellbent rage and anger inside of Lillard is felt, which makes more of these scenes feel raw and emotional, rather than preachy and over-the-top. They totally are, but Lillard shows that there’s a reason for all this anger, and it’s what keeps SLC Punk! from being just another typical angry letter from the future generation.

Consensus: Without much of a solid plot to work with, SLC Punk! falls apart in the final-act when it tries to be important, but for the most part, its fun, exciting, and sometimes insightful, tone makes it worth a watch.

6 / 10

"Yeah. Who cares?"

“Yeah. Who cares?”

Photos Courtesy of: The Inquisitive Loon, Reel Reactions

Mystic Pizza (1988)

Made me crave some pizza.

Reality rudely intrudes on the plans of three blue-collar, New England teens who share their dreams while slinging hash at the local pizzeria. Daisy (Julia Roberts) entertains visions of marrying into the upper crust, while levelheaded sister Kat (Annabeth Gish) wants to go to Yale. Meanwhile, wisecracking Jojo (Lili Taylor) has a man on the hook but finds that commitment cramps her style.

Mystic Pizza, is a really dumb title for a movie, that has me thinking that I’m going too see a movie about some 60’s rock band, but instead it turns out to be a little bit better.

The screenplay is very good. It promises to be funny, and at times, it is quite funny, but its more of a soap-opera to be exact. These three young ladies are growing up, understanding more about love, friendship, and overall, life. It’s nice and heart-warming, and just the overall feel to the movie is what keeps you into it.

I had a problem however with the story about Annabeth Gish. First of all, it was terribly dumb, because it was about her falling in love with her baby sitter, who is married. I knew exactly where that story was going, and when I saw what happened, I just went: “oh, cool”. And, well, since this is a film from the 80’s and all, it’s pretty cheesy, so some of the dialogue, is pretty hard not to laugh at. And, by the end, you’ll start to wonder, if this is a “chick flick”, and your answer will be, yes.

However, the acting is actually very good. Julia Roberts plays in her first role where people started to look at her, as a big-new up and comer. She’s smart, witty, sexy, and overall, just a joy to watch on screen, and you can by this performance, she was bound for glory. Lili Taylor is a joy to watch also, because she’s funny, but she actually has a lot of dramatic scenes, and their actually quite believable. Annabeth Gish, in my opinion, I thought blew. She wasn’t believable at all, mainly cause of her story, but when she’s on screen, the more emotional scenes, she just seems like she’s going through the motions, or just standing there. There’s also some nice performances from Vincent D’Onorfio, Adam Storke, and a funny little, young performance from Matt Damon, where he says one line.

Consensus: Though it’s a chick flick, and a bit dated, Mystic Pizza still delivers with good performances, a fun, and intelligent script, that just gives you a nice, smooth feeling throughout the whole movie.

7/10=Rental!!