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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ari Graynor

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Good story, Mark!

Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is just another young kid looking to become an actor. His dreams seem as if they’re finally going to be fulfilled too, when he meets the strange, mysterious, and downright weird Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). While the two are no doubt opposites, they hit it off because of their willingness to chase the American Dream of Hollywood, fame and fortune. It also helps that Wiseau has a place he calls home in L.A., so they move there and start trying to do what they can to break in the biz. For Greg, because he’s so young, fresh and good-looking, he gets small bits and roles in stuff, whereas Tommy doesn’t. He’s too weird and crazy to really work for most casting-agents and it’s why he decides to just say screw it all and make a movie himself. This then creates the Room, one of the most beloved and strange cult flicks that’s so bad, so ridiculous, and so out-of-this-world, guess what? It’s actually good. However, behind-the-scenes, nobody knew what the hell was going on, where Tommy was getting all of this money, why he was acting like such a freak, where he came from, and oh yeah, how the hell old he was, too. Basically, it all just revolved around Tommy being Tommy.

“I did naaaht.”

The Disaster Artist is one of those breezy, light-as-a-feather biopics that doesn’t get as deep as it should, but still works. Why? All about the source-material, baby! If you’ve ever seen the Room, know who Greg Sestero or Tommy Wiseau are, then yes, this will most likely all work for you. The movie, as directed by James Franco and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is meant to please those undying and adoring fans of the cult-classic, while also attempting to bring possible interested-parties to just who the hell these people are, what the movie they’re making is, and/or better yet, why so many people love it.

In fact, the Disaster Artist itself doesn’t set out to answer all of the questions it raises and in a way, it’s better than most biopics because of that. It doesn’t feel the need to harp on something, or try to jam it all in – it gives us the characters, their backstories, their plot, their conflicts, and basically just runs with it all. Sure, the real lives of Sestero and Wiseau may be way more intriguing and odd than what we get here, but the movie doesn’t feel as if it has to be over two-hours to really get its job done.

Just a little over an-hour-and-a-half, honestly, is fine enough.

And it’s why, as a director and actor, James Franco does a pretty great job here. Despite him having made nearly six or seven movies in the past few years, none of them have really been all that good; they’re slow, meandering, pretentious and, despite the star-quality attached, a waste of some prime talent who are clearly just doing favors for a seemingly good guy. Here though, it seems like Franco’s at least somewhat poised to avenge himself as both an actor and director, because he doesn’t harp too much on the material – he gives us the funny stuff, the drama, and the characters that matter.

Bros love throwing that pig-skin.

And oh yeah, he also does a pretty great Wiseau which, all things considering, is pretty hard to pull-off, especially for someone as good-looking, tall, and recognizable as Franco. But Franco gets the cadences down perfectly, from the randomly slurred-speech, to the odd laughing and giggling in-between clever-phrases, that make this guy a delight to watch. He also doesn’t forget to show us the true dark and odd nature behind this guy, like where all of his money comes from, why he’s such a control-freak, and the idea that he may be a bit of a sexist asshole who, like most frat-boys, just wants to see boobs and be able to touch them. Once again, the movie doesn’t go nearly as deep as it probably should have into Wiseau, but Franco scratches enough of the surface to where it’s all fine and dandy.

After all, the movie’s so damn entertaining, you’ll soon forget about all of that stuff and it’s kind of the point.

The Disaster Artist makes it clear very early-on that no matter how awful the end-result turned out to be, the Room was absolutely what Wiseau and those involved wanted it to be: A stepping-stone to some sort of infamy. It’s what Sestero and Wiseau themselves have absolutely wanted and while what they really did, in certain situations portrayed throughout the movie, can be held-up to scrutiny, there’s no denying the fact that the movie they made, together, or apart, turned out to be something quite legendary. And the movie of its inception and ultimate creation, while not nearly as legendary, is still entertaining enough to remind us of the fun and the appeal.

If that’s even the right word.

Consensus: With a fun, light, and breezy direction, the Disaster Artist proves to be an entertaining and somewhat insightful look into the life of Tommy Wiseau, and a solid reminder that Franco’s got the goods to pull double-duty as actor and director, in an effective manner.

7 / 10

Gotta get the right shot for whatever the hell they’re doing.

Photos Courtesy of: A24

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Youth in Revolt (2010)

What revolution would choose Michael Cera as their leader? Oh, Scott Pilgrim you say? Never mind, I can totally see it now.

Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is one of those loner dweebs who always dreams about the women he may meet, fall in love, and run off with one day, but it never becomes reality. That is, until his mom’s boyfriend (Zack Galifianakis) decides that they have to stay in a trailer park in the woods for the summer, just so he can lose the heat surrounding him after he sold a shitty car to some Marines. Not that it even matters in the grand scheme of things, but anyway, when Nick is there being lonely once again, he feasts his eye’s on this local named Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). Automatically, Nick falls head over heels for this gal, but the problem is: He’s still a virgin and needs to find a way to impress her so that he can lose said virginity. Enter his bad side, also known as Francois Dillinger (also played by Cera), a lean, suave, and cool guy with a mustache that has a way with words, as well as the ladies.

It seems like hipsters are taking over the whole world, and it was only a matter of time until movies started to be next on their list as well. I don’t really care for hipsters and to be honest, most of them bother me. But here’s the weird thing about me: I actually like hipster movies. Some come to my mind like The Science of Sleep, Juno, and especially, my favorite of all, (500) Days of Summer. I don’t know what it is, but hipster movies always strike a chord with me almost no matter what, but they have to work and not try too hard. Movies such as this, make me reconsider why I even bother with hipster movies, but then I just watch (500) Days and fall in love with Zooey all over again.

GoshWhat a babe.

Now that's what I call RANGE.

Now that’s what I call RANGE.

Anyway, what works about this movie is that when it does want to be funny and is at least inspired with how it uses it’s comedy and where it comes from: It’s very funny. I can’t put my pinkie finger on certain moments that made me die laughing, but there were maybe one or two where I really had to hold my stomach from ripping-open. Other moments I found myself chuckling and thinking, “Oh that sure is witty”. But something kept feeling like it was “off” watching this movie.

I don’t know if it was the tone that likes to be playful at times, then dark, then romantic, then dramatic, and do it all over again, or if there was just no story here at all, really. The more that I think about it and have it juggle around my head some more, I feel like it’s more of the latter, but the former definitely had something to do with it as well. The movies tries to go for this cool, edgy-feel to it but never quite succeeds until that bad side of Cera’s character shows up. But other than those very few and far moments, the movie never really connected with me and made me feel like I was watching something like Rushmore, seeing this small kid go up-against everybody else in the world around him. Nope, instead I just found myself bored to the tip with this character and also by the fact that he felt like he needed to try and be hip and cool to be with the girl he loved. Just run away, or something dude. That simple.

Then, comes the whole story-aspect where there actually doesn’t seem to be one at all. There are some twists and some turns that show up to throw us all off-course, but doesn’t really hit us that hard. You feel as if this is the type of movie where random plot-points just showed up to keep us on our toes, but it didn’t work like that. We were just left with a movie that tried so hard to be funny, and tried even harder to give us a wacky and wild story. Both aspects of this movie seemed to fail, despite some charm and humor with parts of the screenplay, but especially with this whole cast. Jeez, thank the high heavens for them.

Michael Cera has been playing the same character ever since his days of Arrested Development. Is it bad? Not really. However, it does show you that the guy needs some fine-tuning every once in awhile, just to remind us that this cat is an actor, and one that can actually make us laugh, despite him always being a bumbling nerd that can never seem to get a sentence completed. That’s why his performance here as Nick/Francois is a bunch of fun to watch because he plays that nerdy-aspect really well, like we all know he can do, but also decides to get a little bad-ass here and there, and does very well with that as well. Even though we already know when Francois is talking and acting, because of his get-up and whatnot, we still feel like we’d be able to tell the two characters apart, even if they didn’t share the same-screen almost every time. Nonetheless, Cera is good in both roles and it shows that the guy maybe had more to him after all.

In character, playing the character of Fred Willard, the real person.

In character, playing the character of Fred Willard, the real person.

Another member of this cast I was very surprised by was a little-unknown named Portia Doubleday, as Shenni, the apple of Nick’s eyes. Doubleday is good because she’s awesome at combining this sweetness to her character, but also the naughtiness of her as well. Her character can really make you feel as if she’s the most-fragile creature on the face of the planet, and then can change it up to where she might even have your pants rise up just a tad bit. She’s great at making us feel like there’s more to this character than she fully lets on, and that’s what I liked most about her and maybe the most about this flick. It’s weird that I haven’t seen her around as much as I would have thought after a movie like this, but she may have a bright future ahead of her. I’m just waiting around for it.

Others in the cast are fine, but they are mainly here just for window-dressing. Fred Willard is the only one out of the whole cast who really made me laugh, considering almost every scene involves him being slightly creepy, sort of naked, and always up to no good. Sort of like the real-life Fred Willard, so who knows if this guy really is acting or not? You never know with crazy Fred. Oh, and Rooney Mara’s here when she was still hot, still spicy, and without any dragon tattoos whatsoever. At least none that we know of.

Consensus: To most peeps who like these types of hipster movies that go out to one crowd, and one crowd only, Youth in Revolt will be a funny, empowering hour and 30 minutes, but for a person that wants more story, more cohesiveness, and just more laughs, you’ll be left disappointed.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Why didn't I go to prep school? Why oh why?

Why didn’t I go to prep school? Why oh why?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Sitter (2011)

I think I’d hire “skinny Jonah Hill”, over “fat Jonah Hill” as my baby-sitter. Just more trust-worthy for some reason.

Noah (Jonah Hill) is practically the last person you want watching your kids. He’s mean, rude, brass and doesn’t really care about those around him. He’s just selfish and makes everybody around him feel like crap. But this time, he may have met his match when he is called on to babysit three of his next-door neighbors for a whole bunch of money. Sounds easy and simple, right? Well, not exactly, especially not when you have a bunch of sneaky, manipulative kids such as these ones here.

I hate to ask it, but what the fuck, David Gordon Green?!?!

I mean, yeah, I know he isn’t reading this now so who the hell cares, but seriously, this is a travesty for someone to go from creating this, to then creating such an abomination as this!

Were they both done by the same person? Or, did one just put his name on one, and decide to have somebody else take over the job and use Green’s name anyway, because of some “pull” he may have with the studios? I honestly have no clue. And to be truly honest, I shouldn’t be caring as much as I do right now. It just ain’t worth it! It just ain’t!

I know my little tirade up there may make it seem like I’m in love with everything Gordon Green has ever done and even agree to the fact that he’s been touted as “the next Terence Malick,” but believe it or not, I’m actually far from being that type of person. Out of all of his flicks, I probably liked Pineapple Express the best and that’s coming from me in a sober state-of-mind as well. Everything else except for All the Real Girls, is pretty so-so for me, but all that aside, this is pretty terrible, even by his standards.

Devil in sheep's clothing.

Devil in sheep’s clothing.

Where Gordon Green misses the mark on this flick is that it just isn’t funny. Some bits and pieces here are raunchy fun, but other times, it just feels like they’re being lazy and trying too hard to shock us into thinking, “Oh dear, it has kids peeing, pooping and blowing up stuff, so it has to be shocking!” I didn’t give a shit whether kids were apart of the raunchy comedy or not, they weren’t making me laugh and the same goes for the “jokes” that Green felt the need to throw every damn time he felt bored, or whatever.

And to add on top of that crappy humor, the sympathy-route this movie takes just slows everything down and comes off as terribly shoehorned in. These kids apparently all needed their own dimensions so whenever the film starts running out of ideas, they just throw the kids in there and try and make us feel bad for them, in a way that almost comes out of nowhere. There’s no real message here, no real nothing, but instead it just feels like a lazy attempt at Green trying to make us feel something for anybody in this movie when the fact of the matter is: We just don’t.

Those poor kids.

Now, I can’t go on and on about this flick and say that I didn’t laugh here and there, because I did. It’s not a god-awful terrible movie that’s unwatchable, but it’s definitely something that never seems to get off the ground. The whole idea behind Hill taking all of these kids out one night in a haze of debauchery and craziness, sounds like it should be an absolute blast from start-to-finish, but it never really goes there. Instead, it just gives us a raunchy laugh or two, show us something going wrong, and maybe even allowing there to be time for these characters to break-down and shed some of their tears, as if that wasn’t contrived enough for them already. It continues at this pace throughout the whole movie, but it’s never fun, it’s never exciting, and it’s not extremely long. Which is weird considering that the movie itself only clocked-in at 81 minutes. However, they also happened to be the longest 81-minutes of my entire life.

Well, except for that one time where me and an ex of mine had to wait for her parents to leave the house for the night so we could do a little lovin’ upstairs, but that’s besides the point!

The only real saving grace to this whole flick has to be Jonah Hill, in one of his last, “truly-fat” roles. Hill, no matter what type of junk he’s given, always does a great job with the humor and that is no exception here. He plays that “lovable loser with a heart” act like no other and makes this film better with his dead-pan delivery. Other times, it seems like he over-does it a bit with the constant words of wisdom he tries to give to these kids, but that’s more or less the script’s fault than Hill’s really.

Still, how could you have a problem with that face. The guy's so cool and he just knows it!

Still, how could you have a problem with that face. The guy’s so cool and he just knows it!

Poor Jonah Hill. Oh well, at least he’s made up for his misfortunes since this.

Other than Jonah Hill, the other one who shows up in this flick a little too much is Sam Rockwell who really disappointed me here considering just how much I love him in, well, just about anything else he does. Rockwell plays the angry, strange drug-dealer that wants his $10,000 from Hill and practically goes all-over-the-place looking for it while trying to keep a hold on them as “best-friends”. This whole idea for Rockwell sounds rich and like a nice way for him to do some goofier-stuff that we haven’t quite seen from him as of late, but yet, that doesn’t happen. Instead, he’s just obnoxious, loud, and annoying to the point of where you don’t want to see him at all anymore. It’s a shame, too, because this guy has perfect comedic-timing and can make any line sound witty, but he just doesn’t here. I think that’s more of the fact that the script just blows and doesn’t do anything to help him, or anybody else in this flick.

Poor Sam Rockwell. Oh well, at least he’s continued to do everything he’s done since the beginning-of-time: Being the coolest mofo ever known to man!

Consensus: The only thing keeping the Sitter alive at all, is Jonah Hill, and even his character gets pretty annoying and unfunny, right from the very start. Much like the rest of the movie, really.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

R.I.P. to the sort of, kind of, maybe, good old days of looking morbidly-obese but still relying on your comedic-timing to get you by. Damn comedy!

R.I.P. to the sort of, kind of, maybe, good old days of looking morbidly-obese but still relying on your comedic-timing to get you by. Damn Hollywood and their judgmental ways!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

What’s Your Number? (2011)

Oh women and all of the sex they have! I mean honestly, who’d be keeping track after #20?

Ally (Anna Faris) is a little over-thirty and has come to that crossroads in her life: Should she start trying to get married? Well, since her little sis (Ari Graynor) is, Ally thinks it’s about time to get on top of that. The only problem is that she just broke-up from her latest boyfriend (Zachary Quinto), which leads her to her next objective: The last twenty men she’s either had a relationship with or “been with” in any sort of, kind of, maybe serious-manner whatsoever. While she’s off looking for “the one”, she’s getting help from a studly neighbor (Chris Evans) who can’t help but feel like it is his duty as a neighbor, but also as a dude to help this one, very-attractive gal, find her special someone, while he stands-off to the sides, bangs all sorts of ladies, plays guitar, takes his shirt off and tries to eat ice cream with her.

When you watch any rom-com that has ever been made, you expect to have all of the same conventions you’ve seen before. It’s sort of what you get when you approach the genre. However, it’s up to the movie itself to be able to deviate from that formula and those conventions enough times to where you don’t really care how conventional the romance at the center may be; as long as it’s believable and entertaining to watch, then who really cares about predictability, you know? Which is sort of why I didn’t expect to hate this whole thing, but man, this is every bit of conventional.

Oh, just bang already!

Oh, just bang already!

I really do mean that, too.

For example, in the first scene of this movie, Faris’ character gets up out of bed from her lover, puts her make-up on to look pretty, gobbles-up some toothpaste and gets right back in bed right before he wakes up, just so he can see her and her beautiful-self when he wakes up in the a.m. This scene would have been a pretty smart and funny one, had it not already been used in a rom-com that came out literally four months before it, in Bridesmaids! So yeah, as you can tell, this was not an easy start to a rom-com I wanted to like but I thought, “Hey, it’s just one scene. How bad could it really be?”. “Well”, I answered myself, “pretty bad, you dumb shit”.

What really flounders here is the fact that this premise is actually somewhat promising. This is a pretty neat idea of a gal going back to see what all of her ex-lovers made her out to be and how they are now. It’s almost like a female version of High Fidelity without all of the rock & roll references, or anything interesting or fun resembling that movie at all. Instead, every opportunity this film has at all to even be funny, just comes off as very annoying, predictable and downright stupid. And you can tell when this movie is trying to be “funny”, or even better, “risque”, by having a certain character like Faris’ or Blythe Danner’s say something like “shit”, or “ass”, or “fuck”, or what have you. Either way, wasn’t funny, crude, or shocking to hear at all. Just added more annoyance to me and my brain.

Another one of the main problems is that we never really give a crap about Ally Darling, or her quest to find that special-lover who can give her the ideal-life all women think they need. In all honesty, I think we should, as a society, all be way past the idea of making a woman conform to some standard set-of-rules where she has to be whisked away to a man before she’s a certain age, just so that she can have kids, start a family, give mommy and daddy those grand-kids, along with that $500,000 wedding recital, and not really worry about what happens to the marriage after all is said and done. Divorce, or stay together, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as the middle-of-the-road, career-woman gets married and has some unprotected sex to some Randy, then sure, it’s all fine.

Personally, I think this is all wrong, but it seems like time and time again, we see these kinds of movies where women are constantly getting the idea of marriage shoved down their throats. If they don’t feel like it’s the right time, then it really isn’t! Leave her be! That’s why I couldn’t help but not at all care for Ally Darling, where she went, or even who she met. However, I do realize that that may be more of a problem I have with the “message” of the material, rather than the actual character itself. But either way, it sucks all around! No way of getting around that!

The "false-hair" gag. Never gets old.

The “false-hair” gag. Never gets old.

However, if there is any saving-grace to be found at all in this piece of wreckage someone had the audacity to call a “film”, it’s both our lead-performers. Anna Faris still has that great comedic-timing that’s as every bit as wacky and zany as you would expect from her days as Cindy in the Scary Movie franchise, but it’s wasted in every single scene here. Maybe had the script been tuned up a bit more to make her character more appealing than just a sad sack of a chick that can’t get laid by someone she loves, then I wouldn’t have minded so much but she’s just annoying sometimes by how much she complains. She’s still funny at times, but all the other times, she made me want to punch her, or, for safer choices, a wall. Something needed to be punched. I know that much. Then there’s Chris Evans, who is as every bit of charming and cool as a dude would expect from him, and every bit of hot and dreamy as a girl would expect. The guy has some real charisma that still has not been used properly, outside of Steve Rodgers.

Together, these two have great chemistry and is easily the one thing holding this film together. All of the scenes they have feel natural, fun, and realistic to where it doesn’t matter if they’re doing the usual corny and predictable shit that these rom-coms stuff down our throats, they seem like they really like each other and have a great time together. It’s obvious that these two are perfect for each other, and it’s even more obvious that they should have been in a whole other film that could have really made a killing with them in the two romantic leads as a goofy couple. That would have been fun to see, but mainly because of how terrible this film is and how much money it didn’t make, I highly doubt we will ever get that now.

Great! Any sign of light at the end of the tunnel can be practically gotten rid of for the rest of eternity now!

Consensus: Faris and Evans are entertaining to watch whenever they are together, but their chemistry deserves a way, WAY better movie than whatever the hell What’s Your Number? sets out to do and actually ends-up being.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Bet you donuts-to-dollars he's playing "Jessie's Girl" or some corny bull-squat like that. As for me, my girl better like the Clash and be pleased with it.

Bet you donuts-to-dollars he’s playing “Jessie’s Girl” or some corny bull-squat like that. As for me, my girl better like the Clash and be pleased with it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mystic River (2003)

At the end of the day, boys will be boys.

Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) were three childhood friends who lost touch over the years, all because of an incident that happened to one of them. All these years later, Jimmy’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), is found dead in the park, and it’s up to Sean to find out who killed her, why, who, what, where, and when, but somehow, Dave seems like the most prime-suspect out of them all. Whether or not he did it, is left up to these three to figure out.

Movies that try to deal both with a human-story and a mystery, never fully come together and seem to work all that well. However, Clint Eastwood seems like the type of dude who’s been in enough movies to realize that anytime you can add on real, honest human emotions; then anything can work. He also seems to know that if you can get an amazing cast, that is more than capable of delivering on every, single spectrum; then anything can, and most likely will, work. Clint knows the game he’s getting himself involved with and although he’s been racking it up in the age-department, the guy shows us he still knows what’s up with a good story.

What works so well with this flick is that in almost every aspect, something is always working. For starters, the mystery behind this flick is one that actually works, and one that keeps you glued to wondering just what the hell is going to be revealed, and possibly said, next. Most of these movies that try to add mystery to a human-story, never really seem to work and instead come off like a lame excuse to distract the audience who wants a fast-paced, exciting story, but this isn’t one of those flicks. We are never really told what happened to Katie in the beginning, other than the fact that she was murdered, by the park, and somebody called it in. After that, everything we hear, see, or try to grip and understand, are all news to us and it feels like we are learning everything, just as soon as each and every other character in this movie as well. Love a fine mystery-tale, especially when it’s done well and not for cheap-kicks.

Then, you get to the human-element of this whole story, which is really the anchor to it all and has everything come together like a fine string, between two Dixie cups. Every character in this movie, for no matter how long or how little you may see them pop-up on-screen, you still feel like as if you know them for all that they are, all that they were, and all that they ever will be. Sure, some are more pleasant to think about than others, but you still can’t help but be intrigued by the way that these characters interact with one another, and just how they find ways to connect around the a murder-case like this.

"Fucking Southies, man. Fucking Southies."

“Fucking Southies, man. Fucking Southies.”

The most interesting character-relationships in this movie, were definitely the three boys we see at the beginning: Sean, Jimmy, and Dave (remember those names). At the beginning, we see how they were childhood pals, until something very disturbing and dramatic happened to one of them, and separates them all, while changing the course of their lives forever and ever. After we see this change in their childhoods, we then fast-forward to them being adults, moving on with their lives, and making ends meet, but still never, ever forgetting about that fateful day that impacted all of them, not just that one person. Throughout the rest of the flick, they always go back-and-forth about that moment in their lives, and they realize that it changed who they were, forever, but never really come to terms with how or why. They know that one person was actually hurt and had to pay the piper, but in the end, they were all hurt that day and never seemed to forget about it, nor heal from that pain. It’s interesting that they all see each other in one-on-one’s, but never show up altogether. It’s as if the movie wants you to see how separated they are, not just from each other, but the rest of the world around them. Maybe that’s just a bunch of babble from yours truly, but it’s something that I felt, and something that I saw and continue to think about even while writing all of this jibber-jab.

But trust me, not everything in this movie is as clear as I may make it out to be (or not). The movie has characters that you don’t know whether or not to trust, like, dislike, or even care for, but you still remained enticed by everything that you see them as. Eastwood also has an interest in each of these character’s lives and personality-traits, and shows how each of them react to certain situations differently. Some are cool, and some are nervous bumb-fucks. Some are suave, and some jittery-jatters. Some know all the right things to say, and others do as well, they just don’t know how to say it. You see all of these characters act and respond to the same situations, the same questions, and the same happenings, but yet; they are all different in their own ways, and watching that was just about perfect. It was even better to watch, if not just for the actual characters themselves, but the performances that were there to back them up.

When you have a story that’s so rich, so deep, and so compelling as this, with characters that are on equal-measure, it’s necessary to have a cast that can handle this, and that’s exactly what all of these heavy-hitters are ready to do, and do it in style. Sort of. Back when this flick first came out, everybody ranted and raved about Sean Penn and his performance as Jimmy Markum, but it’s rants and raves that were meant to be. Not only does Penn give one of the greatest freak-outs of all-time (second to this, of course), but he also gives us a deeply-layered, and beautiful glimpse inside the world of a man that’s trying to be right, trying to be good, and trying to be well-mannered, but just can’t because of his natural-tendencies. Markum is not a nice guy and is definitely not the type of guy you’d be easy and able to trust when it came down to getting business done the right way, but he’s trying and you can see that in every single scene that Penn shows up in. Most of the time, he’s a grieving father that’s just taken down, notch-by-notch, because of the fact that his baby girl is dead, but he continues to get back up, fight, and search for the truth. The ways he goes about it, the answers that he finds, and how he responds to those said answers, are not always the most “just” ways of going about your bizz, but Penn always remains stoic, compelling, believeable, and understandable in the way he never loses hope, even if death is staring him right in the face. It’s not as corny as I may make it sound. Trust me on that.

Tim Robbins comes very close to stealing Penn’s spotlight as Dave, an old-time friend of Jimmy’s, who also just so happens to be married to his wife’s cousin. Don’t know what that would make them in terms of family, but I guess they’re related, right? Okay, whatever. Anyway, Robbins is amazing as Dave, not just because Robbins knows how to play crazy like anybody’s business, but he really plays it up without going overboard in the sense that he’s way too insane to be considered the type of guy you’d want to marry, have, and raise a family with. He seems like an honestly-nice dude, that just so happens to have a pretty fucked-up past that gets in the way of his present-day happenings. That never makes him a bad person, but just the type of person you never know whether or not to trust, and what it is about him that’s so shady. Whatever it is, that mystery and that dark-shade of him, always stays there between us and that character, and it not only works in the movie’s favor, but Robbins’ as well. Both him and Penn received Oscars for these roles, and in my opinion: were both well-deserved. Then again, I think I share that same opinion with many, many others out there in the movie-reviewing world.

Marcia Gay Harden plays Dave’s wife, Celeste, who knows about Dave and what he did the night Katie was murdered, but doesn’t know how to accept the fact that maybe her hubby was the killer out of all of this. Harden is great with this role and this character because it gives us a sense that this woman loves her husband to death, but still doesn’t know if she can trust him in all of this, and finds herself in a dilemma between choosing between love, family, or being fair. She’s always nervous, she’s always twitchy, and she’s always scared, and some may call her performance one-sided for that, but Harden handles it perfectly, and never lost my interest.

Jeez Louise. Somebody really needed an Oscar.

Jeez Louise. Somebody really wanted an Oscar.

Kevin Bacon seems like he got the shortest-stack of the bunch with a character that isn’t as interesting and sure as hell isn’t as memorable as these two, but still proves that he’s the man when it comes to owning roles like these, no matter how procedural they may be. It also doesn’t help that his character’s wife just so happened to have left him, with their baby, calls him almost all of the time, and never speaks. She just sits there, with the phone to her ear, in silence as the guy rambles on about nearly nothing. Still, Bacon is great through all of this, it’s just obvious that Eastwood wasn’t as concerned with this character as much as he was with the first two. Laurence Fishburne plays Sean’s fellow-detective who’s also investigating the case and is great with what he does, but is only there to give some slappy, side-comments and show how he isn’t as biased as Sean may be. Then again, Fishburne is always worth watching, especially in roles where he’s playing himself better than anybody else.

Even though the cast, the direction, the writing, the themes, and the mystery behind this whole movie, worked for me and had me loving just about every second of this, there is always a glaring-problem that never ceases to leave my mind when I think of this: the ending, or should I say: the final 10 minutes. Without spoiling all of the shite that goes down in the final-act, we leave with a dark, but reasonable conclusion that effs with our minds, our hearts, and our eyes, especially with everything we just saw for the past two hours. However, the movie doesn’t end there, just when it should have. Nope, instead, the movie felt the need to add on an epilogue where we not only get one, whole scene dedicated to Laura Linney’s characters, Jimmy’s wife, acting as Lady Macbeth-type character, but also feed us an ending that sort of contradicts the whole movie.

For instance, the movie plays around with the themes of people staying true their ways, their morals, and their nature, but somewhere, those themes get lost in a strange conundrum of characters not acting like themselves. It’s so hard to go into all of this without giving each and every thing away, but for the people who feel like they know what I’m talking about, you may be able to understand that some people realize some things about others, that they didn’t know before or has just become news to them, but yet, they choose to do nothing about it and go about their lives as if nothing happened. That would have been fine for one or two characters in this movie, but for the one that it does high-light, it seemed wrong, too theatrical, and a tad stupid, as if Eastwood really wanted us to feel like nobody was meant to be trusted, nor were they meant to be liked in any way, form, or shape. It’s not a happy-ending, per se, but it’s the type of ending that may piss you off because everything up until that point, was going swell, but had to end right there. Damn you, Clint. Why’d you have to go and ruin a good thing?

Consensus: The ending doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme of things, but everything else in Mystic River leading up to that, is still near-perfect with it’s powerful acting, realistic themes about life, and interesting character-traits and relationships that never always seem to add more heart and depth to this mystery, rather than just finding out who the baddie is.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Dear, I could imagine the type of conversation these two would be happening.

Dear, I could imagine the type of conversation these two would be happening.

For a Good Time, Call… (2012)

Isn’t internet porn for free and better to access?

Two polar opposites, Lauren (Lauren Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor), both need a place to live and are set-up by their mutual gay best friend (Justin Long). They hate it together since they know they will never get along, that is until one finds out the other has a phone sex chat-line and then, the friendship and sexy times begin.

Going into this one, I wasn’t really expecting much. It’s a high-concept comedy that seems like it came straight from the 90’s, and also just seemed like another excuse for a bunch of gals to have their own comedy where they say and do dirty things that people would least expect them to be doing and talking about. Actually, that sounds a lot like Bridesmaids and I think that’s about as good as this one is, if not a bit better.

Considering this is an R-rated raunch fest, I was very surprised and happy to see that this film had a lot of it’s raunch actually be funny without ever showing anything. Obviously, since this is a phone-sex comedy, a lot of the sexual stuff is done by talking and wording it out, which is makes it all the more dirty but also makes it a lot funnier than say a film like The Hangover: Part II, where everything has to be shown and thrown in your face to get a laugh at. It’s raunchy, it’s dirty, and it’s baldy, but it’s never showy and I think that’s what I liked so much about this film and it’s humor. Makes me wish more R-rated comedies took this same path but I guess the general public likes seeing dicks, penises, and boobs flying all-over-the-place just for a quick and memorable laugh. Whatever works for them, I guess.

But at the heart of this film is the relationship between these two leads that, predictably, gets stronger and stronger over time until they become the definition of “BFF’s”. This may sound a little soft and fruity coming from me but I enjoyed this whole aspect as it gave me more to hold onto with these characters and made me realize that maybe two polar opposites could come together like this in a way that may be calculated, but also feels real by how much time we spend watching them together. Trust me, it doesn’t go in the directions some of your perverted minds may be thinking but where it does go, may leave you feeling surprised by the type of heart that’s invested in these characters and their script. Nice little reminder that anybody can be your best friend, just gotta give them a chance and be open.

The element about this film that almost kills it is the final-twist in the end that almost seems to come out of nowhere and is a bit unbelievable. I can’t give too much away but there’s this whole realization where one character admits she’s been a lie about something her whole life, and decides to come out about it now which may seem a bit believable when you spend all this time with a certain character, but the thing that person comes out about doesn’t really make much sense either. Maybe to some people, it does, but to me, it didn’t and just seems like a cheap way to get these characters even closer and give them more conflict in a way as well.

The real charm behind this film, lies within it’s lovely cast that seem like they are all on the same exact page with this one, raunch-fest. I’ve never seen Lauren Anne Miller before, but she’s pretty okay as the straight-lady, wisely named Lauren. My problem with her wasn’t that she was bad or anything, it was just that her character seemed so damn stale and tense the whole movie and whereas other characters were bringing out their hearts and souls for these roles, she seemed like the one who wasn’t. She probably didn’t feel the need to, since she did co-write the script and all but when it comes right down to it, she’s better as side-character, rather than the main one. The same cannot be said for her co-star.

Ari Graynor is a chick, I bet, that you have seen 100 times but you just haven’t known it yet. She’s been on the side in lame-o rom-com’s like Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Whip It, and What’s Your Number?, but finally takes full advantage that she’s in a leading role and makes us realize that this chick should have had a butt-load more in her young career. Graynor is brass, loud, and dirty but she’s always funny and her character is the real reason why this film keeps itself alive the whole time. I don’t want to say everything she says is downright hilarious, but it’s the combination of her lines and delivery that made every piece of dialogue that came out of her mouth work and make me laugh my ass off. It’s a shame that this gal hasn’t been in more stuff, but hopefully this will really get her name out there on the map and get more people to realize that maybe this is the next leading lady in rom-coms, and not Katherine Heigl, or Anna Farris, or anybody else, really.

Since the whole film is strictly about two gals being all dirty and funny, it was a surprise to see a bunch of guys get some nice screen-time as well and add more to the whole funny atmosphere this flick already built up. Appearing as the gay best friend, Justin Long also gives a hilariously over-the-top performance and steals just about every scene he’s in, but, he’s not the only guy who shows up and makes us laugh. There are plenty more in this flick that I do not want to give away as I can promise you that once you see them, you will be laughing your simple ass off at big-time as I did myself.

Consensus: Ending very predictably and obvious, For a Good Time, Call… may not be the game-changer for the comedy genre it needs, but it still offers a bunch of raunchy laughs, good heart to characters that needed them, and a nice look at some real talent that stands behind this cast, especially Graynor who I hope to see more of in the future.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012)

Chicks got to make up their minds.

Best friends and lovers since high school, Jesse (Andy Samberg) and Celeste (Rashida Jones) got married in their twenties and, after a few years of wedded bliss, woke up to discover that they love each other as pals but not as husband and wife. So Jesse moves on, while Celeste is left to wonder just what the hell did she do.

It’s a surprise that this flick hasn’t gotten a bigger distribution than what it already has, because the material here could probably end up making this a sleeper hit of the late Summer, much like (500) Days of Summer did way back in ’09. No, it’s nothing as brilliant and original as that, but it says the same stuff and makes you feel the same emotions, except there’s no Hall & Oates in this one. That already puts it a step-below.

What I think touched me about this story right off the bat was how honest it was about itself. I don’t know how much Jones and co-writer/co-star Will McCormack have experienced in their lives from the past, but it seems like they know a whole lot about relationships, how you make them work, and sometimes, how you can make them fall-apart just by trying to change that other person. There’s a lot here that speaks out to people who think they are too good for their soul-mate and think that it’s time to call it quits just because they aren’t up-to date with them, as much as they are with everything else in the world. There are plenty of people out there just exactly like that, and 9 times out of 10, those people start to realize that they made a huge mistake because they never once thought that the person they’d tried to get rid of, would eventually come back and be the person they always wanted them to be.  It’s a very true testament to not just how relationships work, but people as well, and Celeste and Jesse are no different from that.

What I liked most about this script was how every single part of this flick was set-up as a rom-com cliché. Gay best-friend? Check. Chick that needs to get her love-life back on-track but ultimately fails? Check. Witty best friend that tells it like it is? Check. Big speech at the end where the character tells everybody all that they have been through? Double check. The difference here is that this film sees those conventions, and sort of spins them on its head and give us a true tale of love being lost, love being unrequited, and love almost being found once again. The story I have been describing to you for the past 3 paragraphs now, may seem like a total drag but I can assure you that it’s not. There is a lot of material that is funny here and even though every once and awhile this film will show us something we have seen done before in thousands of other rom-coms, it still feels true to itself and to the situation these characters are in.

By the end, when this story started to show it’s true colors and what it was really trying to say, that’s when I actually started to feel a little emotion here and there. The whole idea of this chick getting fed-up with her old husband because he won’t grow-up and then wants him back, doesn’t seem that sympathetic, but the way it’s played out here makes it seem so and you feel for this Celeste character. Not only is she a very realistic female character that you could easily meet at a bar or somewhere in a downtown night club, she’s also a gal that feels some sort of emotions whenever her feelings are hurt and when she wants to just be loved. You don’t really see female characters in rom-coms go through the type of shit Celeste goes through here, and I think that’s what makes her development as a character, all that much better and smarter.

My problem with this script was that I did feel like they took a little bit too much away from Celeste, just in order to give-up some time to random side characters that could have honestly been cut-out. I liked Elijah Wood as the stereotypical gay boss/best-friend, but he doesn’t add a single thing to this whole product and if they were to get rid of him, I don’t think much would have been missed. Not saying that he’s bad or anything, it’s just that there isn’t much to hold onto when it comes to his character. The same could be said for Emma Roberts who plays a Ke$ha-like teen-star that just wants to rock-out with her whatevers out. Roberts is fine in this role too, but she doesn’t add anything either other than a bunch of dumb dick and butt gags that seem tired by the third time they even mention it. Other characters like Chris Messina as a hopeful boyfriend that will take Celeste out of her funk, and Will McCormick as the stoner buddy named Skillz, are all fun to watch but also seem like another example of this film having too many ideas and too many side characters that eventually take away from Celeste’s real problem at-hand: the chick can’t move on.

Andy Samberg finally gets his real taste at drama and plays it up very well, when he gets the chance to. Samberg, at-first, plays Jesse as his usual jocky, young-minded, goofy persona that always seems to take over his characters but by the end changes it up a bit and starts to grow-up into his own person that is just as confused with what he wants as Celeste is. Jesse’s whole story development seems a little forced (the guy already wants to have a family with this one girl after one date?), but Samberg makes it seem believable with a nice amount of honesty and sensitivity that is unlike anything we have ever seen from him before. It’s not one of those roles that really stands-out and shows that this guy can almost do it all, but it’s a nice way of showing that maybe there is a life for this guy after leaving SNL and doing a shit-fest like That’s My Boy.

The real star of this whole movie, as you probably predicted since she co-wrote it, is Rashida Jones as Celeste. Jones is an actress that we all know can be funny (just watch Parks & Recreation), but she has never really been given that great amount of drama to work with that makes her stand-out from the rest. This performance here is that game-changer for her as Celeste is not only a great character to play, but is also a great performance for Jones where she shows that she can make any character likable and easy to root for just by using her mysterious charm that she has about her. The scenes her and Samberg have are dead-on, as their chemistry is as perfect as you could get it, but when it’s just Jones allowing herself to be shown in such an uncomfortably sad light, it feels real as if Jones is just reliving a past break-up that she still feels terrible about. But even when she has to do the comedy act with her performance as well, she nails it there too and it just shows you that this lady has a very bright future in Hollywood. Hopefully, this is the film that shows it off, too.

Consensus: Celeste and Jesse Forever may suffer from too many ideas and characters but never feels too jumbled up due to a great script that shows the emotional turmoil you go through during heartbreak, as well as what can happen to one person when they realize that the person they got rid of in the first place, was probably the best person for them in the end.

8/10=Matinee!!

Conviction (2010)

I definitely know that my little bro would not do this for me that little bastard.

Convinced that her brother, Kenneth (Sam Rockwell), has been unjustly convicted of murder and incompetently defended by court-ordered attorneys, high school dropout Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) puts herself through law school in order to represent him in his appeal.

Last year I was supposed to see this at a press screening but for some odd reason, never actually got to it, so I just ended up waiting for it to one day pop-up. When it finally did, I kind of felt bummed by what I missed.

This story here is a true under-dog story that usually gets schmaltzy and feels like a “made for TV” film but somehow director Tony Goldwyn makes it better than just that. The story telling here was not easy to pull off because it all takes place in 16 years of visitations, back-story, courtroom dramas, and marriage problems but Goldwyn does well when it comes to setting up a pace and sticking to it well.

However, where this film fails is within it’s right to actually keep me glued into the story even when I knew all that was going to happen. Right from the get-go, I knew what was going to happen, but then again so did everybody else who watched this and I mean even though its pretty formulaic and predictable it was still fun to watch, but with barely any surprises.

The problem with this film though is that I feel like they had a lot to say about the judicial system and how they are not always right but for some reason, this film only went down that road about twice and that was it. I think with the type of material they had here and the constant showing of mishaps with the actual courtroom system and how evidence is handled and whatnot, that they could have said a lot while still being able to tug at our heart-strings, but only mildly does both.

The real strength of this film though is the cast at hand, and let’s just say it’s a pretty-looking bunch we got here. Hillary Swank is good here as Betty Anne Waters but my problem with her was that her character just has the same look on her face the whole time, and didn’t really give us any real reason to care about her. This wasn’t Swank’s fault but the script could have helped her more. Minnie Driver is also good as the smart-assed best friend of Betty; Peter Gallagher is awesome as Barry Scheck and just had me staring at his eye-brows the whole time; and Mellisa Leo, Juliette Lewis, and Ari Graynor chew up some good scenery as well.

The whole cast is good but compared to Sam Rockwell as Kenny, they are totally forgettable. Rockwell plays up all the charm and humor that he always puts into his performances but he also puts in a great deal of sadness and depression that this character goes through while he’s in prison. Since we only see him through the visitations at the prison, it would be incredibly hard to develop a character solely on that but Rockwell is great at keeping our attention on him the whole entire time.

Consensus: Conviction features plenty of good performances from the cast, especially Sam Rockwell as Kenny, but too much of it feels like the usual, under-dog story we get on cable and in the end, feels like a film that could have went more for the gut than the heart but instead chooses the latter.

6/10=Rental!!