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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Arrested Development

Damsels in Distress (2012)

College kids from Connecticut seem like so much fun when they aren’t speaking!

Sophomore Lily (Analeigh Tipton) falls in line with a new group of gals on her first day after transferring to a new school. The group she falls in line with is led by Violet (Greta Gerwig), a fellow student who tells it like it is, thinks way too much about certain things, and is trying to get her dance craze off the ground and for the whole world to see and become apart of. Together, the two, along with 3 other girls in the group, they run a non-profit Suicide Prevention Center where they allow people to let their feelings loose, and even find a creative escape by tap-dancing. It starts to work because it makes people happy, however, they still battle for the hearts of the fellow male students they see on a regular-basis, and some can’t handle the idea of denial, quite as well as others.

Whit Stillman’s films sometimes work for me, and other times, they don’t. While I’m ultimately interested by what they’re trying to say and do, by the end, I can’t help but feel like I was just talked to, rather than actually given a movie to work with. It’s almost as if I was just in a conversation with someone who is clearly high off their rocker, or just had a tad too much coffee, I sit down with them, try to bring them back down to leveled-ground, but instead, they’re so crazy and hyper, that they just end up controlling the whole conversation, making me frustrated, and then, when it’s all over, leaving me in a cloud of dust, having no clue just what the heck happened to me, or what was even said.

That’s how I feel watching Whit Stillman movies. While I may think about them long after having said conversation, no way am I fully impacted.

I get it, Greta! You can dance!

I get it, Greta! You can dance!

That said, Damsels in Distress is a fun little movie in that I don’t think it ever tries to be as serious as his other movies. In fact, it’s a lot goofier and perhaps more of an actual “comedy” than anything else; whereas his other movies can be seen as “comedies”, but are more based on actual wit, with some more darker themes at-play. And this is all to say that Damsels in Distress is, yes, clever, if not very funny.

Just sort of chuckle-worthy, if you will.

Stillman’s script is filled to the brim with double-meanings, that are splashed with an insane amount of irony, which can make this movie work its magic a little longer. The humor does take awhile to get used to, just by how strange it is, but if you’re willing to let your shields go down on the ground, you’ll find yourself a whole lot happier and more pleasant with how Stillman frames these characters, their personalities, and everything that comes out of their mouth, whether it be just a bunch of mumbo-gumbo, or actual thoughts from the mind of a youngster. I don’t think that Stillman is trying to make any ground statement about the youth in today’s society, but that’s alright, because he doesn’t have to. He’s just having fun with some of these silly, almost caricature-like characters.

"Wait...wut?"

“Wait, what?”

But like I said, being clever doesn’t always make your movie funny, or better yet, interesting. The only times that it really feels like Stillman himself seems all that invested in this material (that is, when he isn’t coming up with snappy-lines), is whenever he’s focusing on and playing around with Greta Gerwig and her character. As the perfectly-named Violot, Gerwig gets to be a lot of things that we know and love her for, as she’s quirky, odd, funny, realistic, always happy about life, sometimes thinks way beyond her head (and the stars for that matter), and has something to say, even if it’s only gibberish. Gerwig seems like she’s perfectly ready and capable of hanging around in Stillman’s world and it’s why she’s been able to transcend the “indie darling” title she’s been slapped with.

However, because the movie loves Gerwig so much, it’s hard to care for anything else when she isn’t around. But it’s almost like Stillman himself knew that; after all, he’s working with so many characters that, after awhile, it just becomes a tad overstuffed and draining to keep up. Not to mention that because the movie doesn’t entirely care about developing these characters beyond “what other funny things they can say”, it’s hard to actually get invested. A part of me likes to think that Stillman knew this, which is why he doesn’t put the greatest effort into helping out Analeigh Tipton’s character, or the countless others who aren’t Greta Gerwig.

Still, it’s fine to listen to these characters talk and go on and on, even if we don’t always know what it’s about, or what Stillman’s trying to say. He seems to want to make fun of the college-life, the sororities, the frats, and the people who just try so desperately to “fit in” and feel apart of something, but in the end, he just settles for clever one-liners. That’s fine and all, just maybe give me something more of a story or what have you.

Or at least, one that’s worth caring about.

 Consensus: When Stillman and Gerwig aren’t working their magic together, Damsels in Distress loses a little bit of luster, but still will keep you laughing in with its odd approach, even if it just takes a little while to get moving.

6.5 / 10

"Honestly, do they really think people talk like this?"

“Honestly, do they really think people talk like this?”

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

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Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Probably the tamest movie I’ve ever seen that says “coke” about 15 times. And I’m not referring to the soda, although if it were the late 1800’s, I would be referring to both I guess, right?

Detective David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is all about following the rules, getting the job, and having the law come out on-top, at any means necessary; Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is far different in the way that he’s so cool, calm, relaxed, and mellowed-out, that he doesn’t really care if he gets the job done or not, he just wants to look cool and smokin’. They’re polar-opposites, but they get strung together somehow and have to solve a drug-ring of coke on the streets, lead by millionaire Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). Together, they have their fair-share of problems, but together, through the insistence on getting along and the help of their ears and eyes of the street, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), they finally realize that the law always prevails. Or something of that nature.

It’s strange to think that a man who has been known for his fair share of R-rated, raunch-fests, Todd Phillips, would ever stoop so low as to go for a PG-13. But somehow, with this, he did and his struggle with actually trying to keep to that rating without over-stepping it at all. As I said up-top, there’s plenty uses of the word “coke” and nothing but; girls make-out with other girls; the F-bomb is dropped once (and randomly); partial-nudity is seen (sort of); and the word “shit” gets dropped about 5 or 6 times. It’s just strange because we know that when Phillips turns on the dirty-jets, he has a fun time and lets loose like no other, but what we mostly know is that when he does get down and dirty: he’s a lot funnier as well.

Whatta fun time!

Whatta fun time!

And trust me, it’s not that this flick isn’t funny, because it sure as hell does have it’s moments of comedic-inspiration that are more than likely going to win you over; it’s just that the tone itself is a bit uneven. What I mean by that is that the flick tries to go for a satire of an episode of the original Starsky & Hutch, and at other times, seems like it’s trying to be a straight-forward comedy that makes up it’s own jokes, is in it’s own little universe, and doesn’t even know about the other show. Hell, it even plays out like a failed-pilot of the original, except with more knowing-humor and a switch-up of the lead characters.

Since the movie never seems like it knows what it wants to be, or how for that matter, some comedy hits and some of it misses. More of it hits than actually misses, but knowing what Stiller, Wilson, Vaughn, Ferrell, and even Phillips are capable of, it comes as a bit of a disappointment. The jokes they use get a bit stale after awhile, especially the part where Starsky is high on cocaine and gets into a dance-battle, even though he doesn’t know he’s high, and become the same old, “70’s-fashion-was-so-corny”-type of humor. Nothing as witty or as smart as Zoolander or even Old School here, just a bunch of repetitive jokes made towards the decade it’s apparently supposed to take place in, even if it feels like we’re just watching a bunch of current-Hollywood stars play dress-up and act like their in the 70’s. I don’t know if being a tad bit anachronistic was the movie’s point or not, but if it was; it probably would have been a lot smarter and funnier in that case.

But in all honesty, I can’t discredit this movie too much cause the cast seems to be having fun and is mostly the reasons why we find ourselves laughing at times, despite it seeming a bit desperate at times. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are seemingly playing Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. They both seem to be enjoying themselves, not having to stretch their acting-muscles all that much, and getting a chance to dress in some fine, sexy 70’s digs. Together, they’re a bunch of fun and keep this movie cracking, but after awhile, you start to think how much of this movie was made because they really wanted to make a Starsky & Hutch movie, or how much of it was made as an excuse for the two to pal-around with one another? One has to wonder, and sometimes, it feels like the latter-aspect. It’s fun to watch them, but it feels like their having a bit more fun than we are and that poses a problem, especially when they’re trying to steal the laughs out of you.

Come on! Gimme more!

Come on! Gimme more!

On paper, having Vince Vaughn do his spastic, fast-speech act and Jason Bateman do his dead-pan act, team together, and play the smart, but slightly off-kilter baddies in a movie would seem like comedic-brilliance, but it never musters up any of the courage to really keep them funny or relevant all that much. Vaughn seems like he’s bored being serious and conning, whereas Bateman actually seems like he’s bored, and isn’t just using that to his and his character’s advantage. He actually seems like he’s bored and wants to get his check, so he could get the hell home and get ready to film another season of Arrested Development. Also, any movie that has thew chance to showcase Juliette Lewis and her comedic-talents as the dumb, trashy-chick in the movie, but squander that potential, has seemingly all but lost points from yours truly. The girl is not only a foxy mama, but she’s pretty damn funny, especially when she’s given the chance to be.

Others in this cast that show up do what they can like Snoop Dogg, who actually has some of the funnier-moments in the whole flick of funny people; Carmen Electra and Amy Smart show up to only make-out and provide some sex-appeal for a movie that didn’t need any, and when it finally got it’s chance to showcase it, made it seem more misogynistic than titillating; and actual cameos from the original guys, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, who made it funny just being there, but once I got to thinking about it, made it almost seem like the film was making fun of them and how hell-bent-out-of-shape they seem to have gotten. Poor guys. Oh well, they probably got a nice, healthy paycheck from this. Just like Bateman. Although, needless to say, he probably made that paycheck last.

Consensus: Bits and pieces of Starsky & Hutch seem inspired enough to transpire plenty of inspired moments of comedy, but not too many as the flick struggles to make up it’s mind of what type of comedy it wants to be, or even make us laugh at all.

6 / 10

"1, 2, 3 and to tha 4, Huggy Bear is at tha doe."

“One, two, three and to tha foe, Huggy Bear is at tha doe.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

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

Identity Thief (2013)

The only person who can get away with having a fake I.D. is J-Kwon. May be his only claim to fame in the past decade, but still, at least he can get me fake beer.

This is the story of a regular guy (Jason Bateman) who is forced to completely extreme measures to clear his name. With everything to lose after his identity is stolen, he’ll find out how crazed you can get trying to settle a bad credit score. When he does find-out, it just so happens to be one heck of a gal (Melissa McCarthy) that may be more, than his regular-self can handle.

Alright, alright, alright. I know this is a movie, I know this is a comedy, I know this is Hollywood, and most of all, I know this is the world where you can throw belief and understanding right out the door, but I can only go so far with a movie like this. The problem I had with this movie wasn’t that it wasn’t funny (more on that later), nor was it that it squandered the talents of everybody involved (more ESPECIALLY on that later), but it was that this flick did not make a lick of sense and seemed like it had no idea what it was talking about. And what it is that they are talking about here is exactly what the title is named after: identity thief, or the act of it.

Here, let me explain: in the movie, the main character gets his identity stolen by a lady that they end-up finding out, way later than they should have. What I mean by that is that in today’s day and age with credit card companies being up almost everybody’s ass when it comes to a payment about anything, the red lights should have been flashing way sooner when one of those lucky companies realized that there was some strange-ass products being bought, by this male, in a whole bunch of different states. That would have been the first wake-up call for everybody involved, but then it gets worse when the guy who is actually getting his identity stolen, goes up to the police and they say that he has to go out of his way, drive all of the way to get her, and bring back in the current state that they are in, so they can cuff her and ring her in on all of the charges. The cops tell this to the guy, even though they know what she looks like, has a phone number, and even have a home address. Maybe there is some type of law out there where the cops are apparently not allowed to arrest somebody over something like this unless local police get involved but still: I’m supposed to believe that the cops would just let this freakin’ guy drive half-across the country, just to pick-up a possibly dangerous criminal, and hopefully bring that person back, all in one piece? Ehh, ehh. I don’t think so, movie!

RUN! JUST RUN FROM THIS!

RUN! JUST RUN FROM THIS!

Right from there, I knew something was wrong with this movie but you know what? I was willing to drop all of my dis-beliefs in reality and the judicial system just for a bunch of thrills, spills, laughs, and fun, and I barely even got that. The movie seems like it would be an awesome opportunity for Bateman and McCarthy to just go to town on one another and improv their assess off, but the movie doesn’t really allow it all of that much and even worse, just isn’t funny. The jokes they throw at us are as bottom-of-the-toilet as you could come, and it’s also sort of one of those cases where every funny-moment, is in the trailer, whereas all of the dirty stuff got left out and left for us all to view and witness here. Not a good thing, especially when you have a bunch of gross stuff that happens, because you don’t have much else to offer.

That’s not to say all of the movie isn’t funny, because there are some humorous moments, there just aren’t enough to keep you fully satisfied. So, when the movie decides that it’s not trying to make your shart your pants by the laughter squirming in your bowels, it decides to force a bunch of drama down there as well, and to relatively equal effect. By that, I mean that it barely works because it just comes off way, way too uneven. It gets so bad at one-point, that there’s a character in this movie that actually breaks-down in one, long 5-minute sequence that not only seems totally out-of-place, but from a totally different movie as well. It doesn’t work, and that’s also mainly because the characters are so damn weak, that you just don’t really care all that much to begin with.

The most prime example of that has to be Melissa McCarthy’s character who starts off as a total slob-and-a-half that you don’t really like, is a bit of a sad character, but is also just bad in what she’s doing. Things start off bad for her once you realize that she’s taking somebody’s identity, making it her own, and basically costing that person thousands-upon-thousands of dollars, but it just gets worse as she’s caught and barely shows any signs of saying sorry. She just seems like she wants to get away from it all and hopefully continue to go down that path where nobody knows, and she doesn’t care. Yeah, this is the total babe that I would love to spend an-hour-and-a-half with, especially when she’s played by somebody as likable as McCarthy, and to be honest: that’s the only thing saving her and this movie from total damnation.

McCarthy, as we all know, is hilarious and can get a laugh out of anything because she puts her body on the line, non-stop in every scene she shows-up in. She’s like the female Chris Farley, without all of the heroin and fucked-up back-stage stories. Even when the script seems to fall-apart and call on her to be funny, she does so and it was always a joy to see since you rarely see that in many comediennes nowadays (and still be successful with it, as well). Heck, it’s also a huge surprise that McCarthy nails the dramatic-aspects of her character so damn well too, but the problem is, that her character just isn’t likable enough and the back-story she’s given, just isn’t all that interesting. Does it make sense? Yeah, but does it add an extra-layer that really has us sympathize with this gal and make us realize why she would go to the lengths to steal somebody’s I.D.? Nope, it actually seems very shallow of her and definitely a “ring-ring” moment that makes you just want to say, “Well, why don’t you go out and be sociable with people instead?”.

I may be thinking too hard about this movie or this character for that matter, but I don’t think I am. When you have a movie that relies so heavily on it’s drama and it’s character’s dilemmas that they go through on a daily-basis, then I think it should be complained about and shouldn’t just be taken in as, “Oh, it’s okay. It’s funny and stupid.” You could say that about a lot of movies (especially the ones that just came out last month), but this movie is not one of those I speak of. This one tries to have it’s cake and eat it too, and just like the women I date: Gator don’t play no shit.

Oh, and his name's Sandy. It's a girl's name. Har har har

Oh, and his name’s Sandy. It’s a girl’s name. Har har har

The same thing I’m saying about McCarthy’s character, can’t really be said about Bateman’s, either though what I said about McCarthy herself, can be said about Bateman as well. Bateman has wonderful comedic-timing and actually had me laughing a good couple of times throughout this whole movie, but even he seems to be slumming it down during this one, as if it’s to show that even he knows this material is beneath him. It obviously didn’t matter all that much since he obviously seemed happy to be working with McCarthy and together, they both show the fun and excitement it must have been to work together, but as a whole, they can’t add this flick up to much. Oh well, at least Arrested Development‘s coming back and I have Netflix. Woo-hoo!

Everybody else in this cast seem to be as bored as Bateman, and some I was just sad to see. Robert Patrick always likes to play the bad-guy types no matter what it is that he does, but him and Amanda Peet were probably the two souls I felt bad for in this movie. Especially Peet, because the girl’s funny, the girl’s sexy, the girl’s got the dramatic-chops, and the girl has screen-presence, she just hasn’t had a chance to show that in the longest-time. The only real surprise in this whole cast was T.I. who I never find entertaining or interesting in any of his movie appearances, but actually had me laugh with at least two or three of his lines. Maybe it was his delivery, maybe it was the lines themselves, or maybe it was a combination of them both, but either way, I can now say that I have laughed at a comedy where the two main laughs came from T.I. Gosh, I never thought I’d say that. Never.

Consensus: If you don’t think about the premise too much and are able to have some fun with Identity Thief, you just might, but not as much as you’d think because the script isn’t all that funny, the leads aren’t that engaging, and the story just isn’t there to provide you with the fun and wacky-spills that the trailer seems to promise on so damn much.

4.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Yeah, don't be so pleased with yourself.

Yeah, don’t be so pleased with yourself. We’ll see you in Takers 2.