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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Anthony R. McClara

Lila & Eve (2015)

Mother knows best.

Lila (Viola Davis) is a single mother living in Atlanta with her two boys. One of whom, is tragically killed in what seems to be a random hit-and-run. Lila doesn’t know how to handle this sort of grief, so she just sits in her bedroom all day and night, sobbing, and trying to figure out just where her son’s case is going to end up next. Though the police promise Lila that there are being some moves made in finding out who killed her son, she’s still skeptical. However, where Lila gets the most comfort in is going to weekly meetings she has with mothers who have also had to deal with their own children being taken away from them too soon. There, Lila meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez), a fellow woman whose daughter died recently and doesn’t seem too intent on speaking to anyone – except for Lila that is. Eventually, the two strike up something of a relationship that finds themselves having fun together and making the best of their incredibly crappy situations. On one fateful night though, when Lila and Eve are around the house, they stumble upon a gun, which leads them to think of what they should do with it. Store it for later? Or take it out and get some full-fledged revenge, baby?

Yeah, total scum. Why on Earth would I want to be with that for the night....

Yeah, total scum. Why on Earth would I want to be with that for the night….

Sadly, Lila & Eve decides to go with the latter, which isn’t even getting to the root of the movie’s problems. However, while we’re talking about it, we might as well discuss the stance this movie takes on vigilante violence/revenge; while it doesn’t seem to necessarily telling you to step out on the streets now and look to blow some peeps up because they pissed you off in some way, the movie isn’t really taking all of the negative after-effects that can happen, too. For instance, Lila hardly ever takes into account that the people she may be killing, aren’t just somebody else’s sons, just like her late one, but also somebody else’s brother, or nephew, or whatever. Either way, the people that they kill are all somebody’s loved ones, which wouldn’t have been so put-upon, had Lila and Eve not gone to one of their funerals.

It’s actually quite morbid really, and it made me wonder just where the hell this movie’s heart actually was. With the heart and the humanity? Or with the thrill of seeing some criminals get shot in total and complete cold blood? It’s more of the latter in this movie’s case, however, it does so often make an attempt at being a lot deeper and heartfelt than it actually is – a stumbling mistake that they should have given up with right away.

But don’t worry, it gets worse because the movie then throws a bunch of twists and turns at the fences by the end, just to make sure that they’ve shaken things up anyway that it can. Problem is, the twists are so very obvious and feel as if they’re hitting Nicholas Sparks material. The twists don’t add much to the story, nor the point it’s trying to make about moving on in life and depressing, but the way the ones behind this see it, that’s all fine.

It isn’t and it’s a shame.

In fact, a damn shame because, yes, Viola Davis is actually in the leading role as Lila. And you know what? Believe it or not, Viola Davis is actually pretty good here! Surprising right? No. But what is surprising is that she even decided to bother with crap of this magnitude.

Oh no, Shea Whigham! Leave while you still can.

Oh no, Shea Whigham! Leave while you still can.

As Lila, Davis tries to dig as deep and as far as she can to reach the inner-core of this character, make us feel her pain and understand exactly what it is that she’s going through. At some points, it does work, which is probably only because she seems to be trying, but the script lets her and her talents down a little too much. Though you’d believe Davis as something of a bad-ass killer, the later-half of this movie that portrays her as being as such, doesn’t quite register. None of that has to do with Davis, though – her character is just written in such a way that she’s supposed to be as generic as humanly possible. Davis may try to shake things up every so often, but sadly, it doesn’t always work.

Same goes for Jennifer Lopez, who, I’m afraid to say, isn’t really that good here. Sure, you can definitely blame that on the crappy writing and even more crappy character she has to play with, but there’s also a weird feeling surrounding the way she portrays this character. She’s supposed to be trashy with her slang and general love of cigarettes? But it’s really hard to buy, or take seriously because it’s, well, hello, Jennifer freakin’ Lopez.

Girl hasn’t missed a booty work-out a day in her life, how the hell is she supposed to look like some low-level, dirty and beaten-up call girl?

If anything during the viewing of Lila & Eve to worth remembering at all, is that this is the second time Lopez and Davis are together in a movie since Out of Sight. Not only is that movie great in and of itself, but it also offers up Lopez’s best performance to-date. Davis is in it for only a short while, but trust me, her presence is felt throughout. So basically, what I’m saying is that, above everything else, just watch Out of Sight and keep it like that.

Consensus: Though Davis clearly seems to be trying her hardest, Lila & Eve turns into a joke of a movie that can only be associated with Lifetime.

3 / 10

"Hey, wanna go kill people."

“Hey, wanna go kill people.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Furious 7 (2015)

People can be violent, but cars are nearly worse.

The gang’s all back, but this time, it’s personal! Soon after their buddy is killed by a notorious thug by the name of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) – a brother of one of their former foes – Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) realize that it’s time to get vengeance in the only way they know best. But before doing so, they get a proposition from a special agent (Kurt Russell): Help him retrieve a piece of spy software from a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) and he will more than make sure that Dom, Brian and the rest of the crew get that sweet taste of revenge that they’ve been clamoring for after all of this time has passed. However, there are other problems going on from within the group where Dom can’t seem to get Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to remember their past together for what it was, nor can Brian seem to tear himself away from the wacky, wild life of crime that’s always attracted him for so long, even if he’s know settled-down with a wife (Jordana Brewster) and kid. Will the crew stay fast? Furious? Or neither?

So yeah, already going into this installment, there’s plenty to be discussed. With the tragic passing of Paul Walker nearly a-year-and-a-half ago, everything that was initially planned for Furious 7, from the release date, to the plot, were all scrapped and made anew. Which makes total sense. Walker wasn’t some sort of bit player in this franchise that showed up every so often to utter some witty line that would get the whole crowd laughing at how likable he is; he was, literally, the heart and soul of this franchise. Without him, it probably wouldn’t have gone on for as long as it has, which is both a blessing and a curse.

And they're not beating the hell out of each other, because.......?

And they’re not beating the hell out of each other, because…….?

A curse because the movie’s are dumb, over-the-top, ridiculous, and represent everything that is wrong with American’s society of masculinity. On the flip-side, though, it’s also a blessing because these movies, at least in the case for the last three installments, are so much fun, seem to never lose sight of just how illogical they are, and hardly ever apologize for it. Fast & Furious movies aren’t supposed to be taken seriously, and that’s where the real charm lies.

Hence why Paul Walker, all of his acting talents aside, was perfectly-suited for this franchise, no matter what it threw at him, or where it threw him.

With that being said, Furious 7 is a pretty raucous time. While I may not be saying anything new that hasn’t already been uttered by millions and millions of people from around the world, there’s still something interesting to note about a franchise in which the movies seem to constantly get better and one-up the one that came before it. Fast Five started this trend of the franchise going towards more action-fare, rather than just making it all about hot cars, hot men, hot women, and hot bodies, and the sixth film absolutely went for it all and, for the most part, came out on top.

While Furious 7 may not be better than the sixth movie, it’s still pretty damn close because it never forgets what it is: A mindless piece of action-fare that audiences will pay dozens of dollars for. Though this sounds easy (because, quite frankly, Michael Bay’s been doing it for the past two decades now), looking at some films, it’s actually not. Last year’s utterly forgettable and boring Need for Speed tried so desperately to pull-off the same sort of magic that the Fast franchise has been pulling off for quite some time and it failed miserably. That movie wanted to be silly, insane and ludicrous beyond belief, whereas the Fast movies are exactly that, but they don’t ever seem to be trying.

Not to mention that they actually do feature a dude a named Ludacris.

But because Furious 7 knows what it’s all about, it doesn’t try to pretend it’s something it isn’t. Though there are a chock-full of scenes dedicated to these thinly-written, one-dimensional characters breaking down all sorts of barriers and getting dramatic with one another, these scenes are quickly dismissed as soon as they show up. Also, too, it makes sense that we need at least some sort of character-development to help make things seem fully rounded-out and not just *crash*, *bang*, *boom* all of the darn time. While this would have been fun, let’s be realistic here: No movie franchise with its seventh-installment is going to totally shelve its characters for their beyond-nuts action sequences.

Just get used to it and move on. That’s what I did and it worked well.

It worked well because, once I realized that every problem these characters had didn’t really matter much in the grander scheme of things, the action just got a whole lot better and more exciting. Though you’d think these movies would have already run-out of ideas on how to set-up action sequences and still, somehow, be able to utilize automobiles in some sort of fashion, director James Wan proves you damn wrong. With scenes depicting cars flying through the sky with parachutes and even scenes where cars go flying through three buildings, this franchise continues to give us something new and fun to feast our eyes and ears onto.

Not a Rock Bottom, but it'll do.

No Rock Bottom, but it’ll do.

And honestly, the sky is the limit from here on out. No matter how many times this movie tries to break actual science, it won’t lose any bit of respect because the rules have already been set-in place: There are no rules. Cars can literally fly through the sky; people can literally shoot their guns till the cows come home and never run out of ammunition; jets can literally glide around downtown LA without there being hardly any interference from the Army of any sort. Literally, anything can happen in these movies and because of that, they never lose an ounce of momentum; they just continue to build up and up on it some more until it feels like, you know, we may have had enough adrenaline for one day.

And really, the same rules apply to the characters, as well. Like I said before, none of these characters here are inherently interesting or well-written, but they exist in a universe that loves them all so very much, that it’s hard to look down upon them for being “types”. Like the movies they exist in, you just accept them for what they are, let them do their thing and move on.

It’s quite easy, really.

Meaning, when you accept them, you have to accept Vin Diesel’s garbled growling; Michelle Rodriguez’s resting bitch face; Dwayne Johnson to be wearing Under Amour every time he is on-screen and trying so hard not to break kayfabe; Jordana Brewster just being “there”; Ludacris and Tyrese to be the goofy sidekicks that everyone can rely on for comedy and not really anything serious to contribute to the plot; and, most of all, Paul Walker’s ability to just be the “everyman” in every scene he’s in. Because even though newcomers to this franchise like Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell, and especially, a deliciously evil Jason Statham all acquit themselves perfectly into this movie, strut their stuff and show us what they’re more than able to bring to the creative table, it’s Walker who still leaves the most lasting impression. He isn’t trying to, either – he just is.

And somehow, there’s a small bit of beauty in that.

Consensus: Like every other installment of the franchise, Furious 7 is as ridiculous and nonsensical as you can get, but still a whole bunch of fun, treating fans to everything that they could ever want with one of these movies, and then some, especially with the emotional tribute to Paul Walker – the one true face of this franchise.

8 / 10

Ride on, brotha.

Ride on, brotha.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

It’s supposed to be “two”, you know?

It’s been nearly twenty years since the last time we got to watch bestfriends, Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey), and all their wacky hi-jinx, but it’s also been nearly twenty years since the last time either of them two have had a meaningful, cohesive conversation between the other. That’s because after feeling rejected and all out of sorts from the love of his life, Lloyd had apparently lapsed into a mental state of depression, leaving him to be practically a vegetable. That is, until he reveals to Harry that he was goofing the whole time; as in a way to return the favor, though, Harry reveals that he has to get a kidney transplant, or else he’ll die. But, have no fear, because it just so happens that Harry has a daughter somewhere out there in the world and you know what? Him and Lloyd are going to travel the country to find her! Even if that means putting themselves, and others around them, in constant fear of their lives.

So yeah, did we really need a Dumb and Dumber sequel, especially one that takes place twenty years after the original? Hell no! And guess what? It shows.

Classic.

Classic.

Because see, while it’s nice to see Carrey and Daniels back in the iconic roles, there’s still something missing here that made the original film so lovely and hilarious, even after all of these years, and that’s just being funny. I can’t really describe it any simpler, folks. This movie just is not funny and if it were, then it would be forgiven for taking too long to get made, or seeming totally unnecessary now. But nope, it’s just not funny and therefore, it’s looked upon harsher and in a more critical way.

That’s what brings me to the actual film itself and how it’s not really funny, compared to the original that still has me dying in my seat, even when I see its constant re-runs on TV every now and then. Mostly, what I think it is, is that the Farrelly brother’s brand of humor in which slapstick and idiotic wit stand side-by-side one another, just isn’t hitting its mark nowadays like it used to. Sure, it can still get a chuckle here and there, but for the most part, it seems oddly dated and just weird when you put into perspective the fact that this film is supposed to be taking place in modern day U.S.A.

Meaning, yes, much has changed since ’94, some good, some bad. But for the most part, the art of humor, what makes people laugh effectively, and what doesn’t, has changed as well, if ever so slightly. It’s not that the jokes in the original weren’t funny or well-written (because they were), it’s just that they were mostly a sign of the times – a day and age when comedies were a lot simpler and branded for a smarter audience.

That’s not to hate on those film makers out there who try to make comedies for all audiences out there, but simply, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Move on.

And that’s exactly the case here with Dumb and Dumber To – while it tries to be funny, time and time again, it simply just doesn’t hit its mark. Even when it does, that’s mostly only thanks to the efforts put in by both Daniels and Carrey; to vets who can’t help but do whatever they can for a simple, hearty laugh. While it’s admirable that these guys would be so dedicated to this material that they’d practically be willing to risk life and limb to get a crack from the crowd, after awhile, once you realize that it’s not really working, it gets to be more sad. Sad to watch these older men try to reclaim their glory days and work with twenty-year-old gags, and also sad to just realize that these characters probably don’t need to be touched ever again.

Which, like I said, isn’t to discredit either Daniels or Carrey, it’s just sad to see them put in so much, and hardly get anything in return. Maybe the two should just go back to challenging themselves with daring, dramatic-roles that not only challenges the mainstream movie-audience to look at them in a different light, but also accept them as actors in the first place, not just two dudes who have to do whatever people want to see them in, because it’s safe, it’s fun, and, well, it works. More so in the case of Carrey, then with Daniels, because while the later has proved himself time and time again that he’s capable of handling drama, Carrey just doesn’t seem all that interested in giving it as many tries as he should. While he’s amazing in these types of dramatic-roles we see him in, Carrey doesn’t try them as often as he should and instead, more or less, jumps right at the next silly, goofball comedy that can come his way.

Even more classic.

Even more classic.

A part of me likes this about him, but another part of me just wants him to realize that he has enough money to where he can do whatever he wants, when he wants, and with whomever he wants. So why sit back, collect the checks, and lose credibility, Jim? Spice things up and show the world that you’re as good of an actor as the others out there!

Anyway, I’ve realized that this has gotten further and further away from what was supposed to be my review of Dumb and Dumber To, but I think the fact is this: There’s not much to talk about, other than it’s not funny. It’s not terribly unfunny to where you can’t sit through the whole thing, it’s just that most of the jokes don’t land. And even the ones that do, they do so in such a surprising way, that they’re embraced, laughed about, and gone in a split of a second, to where they’ll never be remember ever again, except for, “Yeah, that one funny joke in Dumb and Dumber To.”

It’s a shame, man. A big one indeed.

Consensus: Though Carrey and Daniels work their guts out here, Dumb and Dumber To still feels like the long-awaited comedy that should have waited longer, or should have just never happened, had everyone known it was going to be this bad.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Wait...wha?

Wait…wha?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Kill the Messenger (2014)

What’s a newspaper?

Middle-aged journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) isn’t necessarily the type of writer who searches for a big story, but if it ever comes his way, he’ll more than likely take the opportunity to jump on it right away. That’s why when Webb stumbles upon a lead that may take him all the way to uncovering that the CIA channeled drugs through the U.S., he gets on top of it right away, interviewing possible sources, even if that includes him taking trips out to to the villages of Nicaragua and putting his life on the line. However, Webb is a true journalist and will do anything to make his story the best possible one out there and for all of the world to see, which is exactly what happens. It gets his name known, story re-published in larger, much more respected news outlets, face on TV, and even an award for “Year’s Best Journalist”. Everything looks wonderful for Webb’s life and career, that is, until the government actually gets involved and starts putting pressure on him, as well as his news publication to stop pursuing the story any further, or else. This leaves Webb at a stand-still: Continue following the story his career was made for and lose everything he has, or, listen to what the government demands so that he can live a normal, comfortable life, like everything was before all this press? Decisions, decisions.

There’s certain movies that, to me, may speak volumes, while to others, may not at all. I understand this because while most critics out there like to say that they “have no bias” when it comes to reviewing a certain movie, from a certain creator, on a certain subject, the fact is, we are all biased. Which isn’t a problem, it’s just a fact of life that every human being has deep down inside themselves, regardless of if they want to admit or not.

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm...

A notorious drug kingpin who plays golf? Hmm…

The reason why I say this, is because a movie like Kill the Messenger is made exactly for me: A movie about an respectable journalist, taking place in a time when journalists truly did matter to the mainstream media, and doing what most journalists do, day in and day out. I too, am an aspiring journalist and while I do realize that the world is starting to need fewer and fewer of them, it’s still a profession I love and will continue to pursue until the day I die, regardless of if I have a job in the field or not. So yeah, as you could probably tell by my statement, that this is the movie for me.

That said, I do realize that not every movie out there that works for me, won’t work for others and while I do want to jump into this movie head-on and talk about Webb, his practice, and how he, the real-life figure, makes me happy to be an aspiring journalist, I have to judge the movie on its merits. Merits which, mind you, may be a bit fuzzy to me and my inner-bias.

Sorry, people. I’m only human, after all.

But as I was saying, Kill the Messenger is a pretty typical biopic; while it definitely tries to shy away from being by-the-notes, it hardly ever flies away from this convention and just tells its story like how it was presented to us. Which isn’t a bad thing, because if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it, and such is the case here. Webb’s story, as is, is an interesting one that doesn’t need to go through any interesting, yet shocking, twists to liven things up – all it needs to do is be told to us as it was, with every bit of information known about who he was and the controversy that surrounded a good portion of his life. Sort of like an article as is, but I won’t go on any further about that!

Anyway, director Michael Cuesta, while not necessarily the most flashy director in the world, doesn’t need to be so because the strength of the movie is in the real-life story itself. Of course with most of these biopics, there’s always the wonder of how much we are seeing presented on screen is actually how it happened, or how much is just made for the sake of making the movie entertaining, but for the most part, I couldn’t find any punches pulled by Cuesta. Even if there were any, they were so thinly-done, that it was hard for me to notice and hardly ever took me away from the real strength of this movie, which was the character of Gary Webb himself. But most of all, the actor portraying him: Jeremy Renner.

By now, within in the past five years of seeing the Hurt Locker, I think the world has come to realize that Jeremy Renner is a wonderful actor that’s more than capable of handling a movie on his own (for some of us, it may have been earlier, but you know, I’m talking about the mainstream audience here, you hipsters). So for him to be involved with a biopic such as this, it made me interested in seeing just how far he could go into making us see him as somebody, and not just him playing somebody. And honestly, it’s impressive how well-suited for this role Renner is; though we don’t know all that much about Webb, the real-life person, what we see from how Renner plays him, we get the idea that he was a sweet and lovable, yet also troubled, family man. Because Renner has such a charming screen-presence, there’s an idea that he gets along with practically anybody he’s around and doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to telling it like he sees it. Which is, once again, all thanks to Renner’s wonderful performance that may not get a lot of press, but definitely should, because it’s probably his strongest since the previously-mentioned Locker.

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Really?

The guy who played Omar Little, as a drug-dealer? Didn’t see that coming!

But what Renner, as well as the movie, tells us about Webb is that he was a hard-worker, who stuck to his journalistic guns, even when it seemed like, for the well-being of everyone around him, he shouldn’t have. However, that’s what brings us to the main dilemma that the movie discusses: How far should a journalist go to pursue a story? Should they go in so deep that they practically abandon those who love and count on him/her for support? Or, should they create their story and jump off of it right before the story itself gets all sort of unwanted press?  This, to some, may seem like an obvious point made by many other movies concerning the world of journalism, but to me, a fellow journalist, is a problem I struggle with everyday. Not because I myself am throwing myself right into these highly controversial stories that could put my life on the line, but more because that could definitely happen some day. A person could easily read a story of mine that they don’t like and could decide to take matters into their own hands, which, I know, sounds barbaric, but crazier things have happened, people.

But enough about me, because while I found a way to connect to this movie with my own journalist-mind intact, I think the real wonder of this movie that makes it easy for almost anybody to appreciate is that it gives a glimpse into the life of a man not many people discuss or even know about much anymore. Webb, while seeming like a slightly troubled-fella, really did love his job, but most of all, loved discovering and unraveling the truth about those in power and all of the wrong-doings they were committed. Which is why it’s sad to see not just his family begin to bail on him once this story gets too hot, but also his publication that doesn’t want to be involved with a journalist who may, or may not be, good for their image.

It says something about journalism as a whole, but also says something about how this man, Gary Webb, truly did want people to know that he was telling the truth just about every step of the way. But that it only takes a few of those in power, to be angry, and make sure that whatever skeletons they have in their closet, stays put. It sucks, but it’s a reality and it was inspiring to see someone like Webb stand up for himself, even when it was the riskiest choice he could make.

Even if I was the only one who felt it.

Consensus: Kill the Messenger isn’t just a testament to the legend of Gary Webb and his journalistic pursuit to discovering the truth, but also to journalism as a whole, and presents plenty of strong questions, with hardly any answers. The way it’s supposed to be told.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Once he starts throwing pieces of the puzzle on the wall, we all know its downhill from there.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images