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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Arthur Dignam

Gods and Monsters (1998)

Next time you dress up as Frankenstein this Halloween, think about where the creation came from.

James Whale (Ian McKellen) is one of the most regarded directors of all-time. With such classics under his belt like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein, Whale had all of the fame and fortune that any man could ever afford to settle down and spend their last couple of years in utter and total harmony. However, Whale still pains from what his career could have and should have been, had he not been openly-gay and criticized for it his whole career, and it’s beginning to take more of a toll on him as the days continue to go by and his hair gets whiter. Then walks in his newly-appointed gardener (Brendan Fraser), and all of a sudden, Whale has found a new bit of inspiration in his life, whether or not it may just be sex or art. Either way, the man is happy and spirited again but his long-loving care-taker, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave), doesn’t see it as being so happy or spirited. She senses trouble brewing in the air and she may be right, but James doesn’t care nor take notice to it. He’s just happy being him.

He likes what he sees.

It’s interesting to watch Gods and Monsters because, at first, you have a general idea of just where the story is going. You’d automatically assume that Whale, in his last gasp for life, starts something of a relationship with this hunky groundskeeper, reliving all of the lovely and enjoyable times of his past, while also realizing that life is beautiful, wonderful, and grand, and deserves to be lived, rather than not, only to then pass away right as soon as the going gets good. In a way, that sort of happens, but it sort of doesn’t, and it’s why Gods and Monsters remains a solid look at the life of someone that time may have forgotten about, but the movies he’s made, will continue to stand the test of time.

Which is neat, because after watching Gods and Monsters, you’ll soon realize that a lot of the issues prevalent in Whale’s own life, basically shined through his most famous works. Whale had a love and an affinity for showing the weirdo’s, or better yet, the outcasts, of society to the rest of the world. The movie’s many hints at this can tend to get a bit annoying, but that doesn’t make them any less true; making movies for Whale was less about making millions and millions of dollars, gaining respect, and getting the chance to hob-knob with some of Hollywood’s finest, as much as it was about expressing his true, inner-feelings of loneliness that haunted him his whole life.

Does that mean he didn’t have some fun while doing it all? Of course not, but still, we’re shown and told that there was something more here than just a bunch of fun-to-watch monster flicks. There was a heart, a soul, and an absolutely sad being behind it all.

But the movie doesn’t just harp on this one fact and drive it into the ground, as it’s actually more about this made-up guy known as Clay, as played by Brendan Fraser, and the type of relationship he builds over time with Whale. Like I’ve said before, this aspect of the movie could have easily been the most obvious and conventional one seen coming – man and man fall in love, realize something new about one another, etc. – but it doesn’t quite go that way. In fact, Clay doesn’t even know Whale is gay at first, and even when he does find out, he doesn’t quite care; personally, he just likes to hear the stories this guy has to tell.

Can you blame him?

It’s an interesting dynamic these two create and to watch as their relationship builds to something sweet, is quite nice. It also helps that Fraser and McKellen have great chemistry, seeming as if they truly are getting to know one another and getting along while doing it. Fraser has always gotten a bad-rap for being a bad actor, something that hasn’t always been true; just one look at his performance in Gods and Monsters, you’ll notice that he’s holding his own against McKellen, while also showing some signs of immaturity and growth needed. Basically, it’s what his character was going for and Fraser shows it, proving that when given the right material, he’s actually quite good.

McKellen, on the other hand, well, what can be said that hasn’t already been said before about him?

McKellen is an old pro who knows what he’s doing, which is why watching his performance as Whale can sometimes be a joyous experience, even if it does revolve around a great deal of sadness. McKellen shows us that there’s some true light, happiness and inspiration in Whale that somehow reignites once he meets Clay, but also doesn’t forget to remind us that there’s something truly heartbreaking about this character. We get the flashbacks, the dream-sequences, and of course, the stories, but where we really get the idea of something truly unsettling, is through McKellen himself. He plays Whale as an old man, getting older and more broken down as the days go by, proving to himself, that life can end.

But it’s the movies and the creations you release to the whole world, that really make it all meaningful.

Consensus: With two very solid performances from Fraser and McKellen, Gods and Monsters works as a smart, moving and rather sweet take on life, memories, and an aspect of Hollywood classics that most of us tend to look away from.

8 / 10

Best friends forever.

Photos Courtesy of: Cinema Queer

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Australia (2008)

Apparently, Steve Irwin’s death wasn’t the worst moment in Australia’s history. Too soon?

Northern Australia during the breakout of WWII was a bit of a mess, but at the center of all the craziness, pain, anger, and agony, there were two people (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman), who came from two opposite sides, to somehow meet together in the middle and find a love that was greater than any other force in the entire world. She, Lady Sarah Ashley, was a richy-rich, stuck-up lady from England who came overseas to help her husband out with his cattle-business, whereas he, Drover, was just a man who just took the cattle, and helped them across the acres so he got his money and went on his way. In the middle of them both, there is a small, Aboriginal child by the name of Nullah (Brandon Walters).

Baz Luhrmann is sort of like a poor man’s version of Terrence Malick. All skills aside, the guy makes a film every once and awhile, hypes it up forever, and they usually meet all of the hype. Over a career that spans 30 years, the man has only made four movies (five, if you include The Great Gatsby coming out this Friday), and each of them have been pretty good. However, whatever your tastes-buds are, you can’t lie about the fact that the guy loves the material he puts on screen, and always give it his 110% full devotion and time. Hence why his films take awhile to come out. However, maybe the guy went a little too far this time. Just a bit, I’d say.

It’s obvious that before the idea of this movie even came about, Luhrmann watched and studied the old-school MGM movies of the 30’s, 40’s, and early 50’s. Why is it obvious? Well, if you take away the beautiful visuals, the color, the action, the blood, the murder, and some other disturbing images that would have been pretty taboo back in the day, then you have your typical, feel-good epic that would have been made back in the day with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, and probably took the whole world by storm. However, those were simpler and more modest times, nowadays, our more-current viewers don’t really have the steam and time for all of the melodramatic moments that Luhrmann seems to embrace, but not really think through.

The Australian-version of Run Lola Run: Run Tall-ass White Girl Run.

The Australian-version of Run Lola Run: Run Tall-Ass White Girl Run.

For instance, there are plenty of scenes in this movie where everything is so happy-wappy, so joyful with glee, and so damn smiley, that it’s near-laughable. That’s not to say that the actors involved with these moments don’t try their hardest to get past the obvious-corniness of the material, but they can’t help but fall prey either. It’s almost inescapable with corn-ballish material such as this. But then some weird things would start to happen with this movie, and I found myself getting more and more lost out of nowhere.

The idea that this flick tackles two subjects, both gripping in their own ways, at the same time really makes it seem a tad uneven, as well as up-and-down with it’s transition. On one end of the arena, we have the love story between Jackman and Kidman, which is probably the best element of this whole flick. Both are great workers in their own right, but the way they’re characters were playing-off of one another at first, had me worried that it was going to be too light and rompy to be taken seriously. But somehow, they made it work because they legitimately do seem like they have sexual-chemistry that can’t wait to get you all hot, sweaty, and ready for the lovin’ to take ahold. If I was Keith Urban, I’d be a little ready to put the fist-a-cuffs up next time I saw Wolverine. Then again, I’m not Keith Urban. Which altogether means that I’m not a million dollar-selling, country artist that is married to Nicole Kidman. Nope, I’m Dan O’Neill, who blogs and watches movie. Wow. Life sucks.

Anyway, those two whether they are together or not, make this movie work and keep it moving at a pace that draws your attention in, but it didn’t seem to draw Luhrmann’s attention all that much, considering he’s more concerned with the other aspect of the movie it wants to cover: the Aborigines. The Aborigines were a very important part of Australia’s history, which makes total sense as to why Luhrmann would make them a key-focus in this story of times that are changing, and the love story in-between it all, but it doesn’t fit well as it seems to not be Luhrmann’s strong-suit.

The strong-suit that I’m talking about is how the man can’t seem to really get his point across, without being as obvious as an albino, dressed in all white, playing hide-n-go seek. Yeah, that obvious. Scenes where they are merely showing the types of racism the Aborigines would face are somewhat disturbing, but also don’t fit well in the context of this movie when you have a bunch of people palling-around with one another and believing in the spirits from up-above. Obviously Luhrmann does not like the treatment that the Aborigines faced during this period, but he doesn’t show his feelings in a strong-enough way to really impact you and instead; sort of makes you wish that he didn’t try to explore it anymore than he already did. Shame too, because it’s a piece of Australian-history that is one of the most important, and should never be forgotten. However, you can’t help but want to forget about it, especially when it’s getting in the way of the sexy-time between Jackman and Kidman.

Hypothermia rules!!!

Hypothermia rules!!!

Seriously, they were about to make me faint!

But this review would not at all be complete if I didn’t talk about Luhrmann’s inspired-attention to detail, that never ceases to amaze me, no matter how melodramatic the material may be. Every scene in this movie feels as if Luhrmann not only paid close attention to it, but wouldn’t go asleep for days until he nailed exactly what he wanted to see. Sure, some of the scenes seem choppy due to lame-o special-effects and green-screens galore, however, it’s still something to see and marvel at, considering you know the type of film maker Luhrmann is. I disliked the hell out of his rendition of Romeo & Juliet, but the man always gave me something to go googely-eyes at, which made the movie slightly-better. That’s the same exact formula here, except there’s more to this story than just an age-old love story that we’ve heard, countless-upon-countless of times. This is a story that does have a heart, does have a vision, and does have inspiration, it just gets lost somewhere in the muddle of it all. Thankfully, Baz keeps his head above it, and keeps us watching. How the man does it: I will never know.

Consensus: Modest and old-fashioned to a fault, Australia may not be the type of movie you watch time and time again due to the unevenness of the material, and cloying-parts of the story that seem to pokes it’s ugly head out every so often, but is one of those movies you watch to enjoy, marvel at with the flair for visual and colors, and get ready to sweat, especially once you see Jackman and Kidman lock bodies, and prepare to make love. Oh yeah, baby.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Strike a pose. Make it look sexy. Now why can't it be that easy for me?!?!?

“Yup. We know you’re going to whack it to this picture when you get home.”