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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Audrey Wasilewski

Year of the Dog (2007)

Save the animals. Don’t save yourself.

Peggy (Molly Shannon) seems to have a pretty normal and relatively safe life going for her. She’s surrounded by friends and family, as well as her beloved beagle that she cares for each and every chance she gets. She’s not married and doesn’t have any kids of her own, so basically, it’s her one and only responsibility. But after the beagle dies, Peggy soon begins to look for all sorts of ways to fill the void in her life. This leads her to getting involved with people she doesn’t quite care for, watching over her friends’ kids, and also doing other monotonous tasks that only a person in the sort of funk she’s in, would ever be bothered with. But then, Peggy gets the grand idea: “Save” all of the dogs in the world. Meaning, it’s time that she doesn’t just adopt one dog, or hell, even two, but maybe like, I don’t know, 15 at a time. Why, though? Is it grief? Or is just because Peggy literally wants to save every dog in the world and believes that she can, slowly by surely, dog-by-dog?

That’s how it all starts: With just one dog.

One of the great things about Mike White and his writing is that no matter how zany, or silly, or downright wacky his characters and their stories can get, he always has a certain love and respect that never seems to go away. In the case of the Year of the Dog, with Peggy, we see a generally goofy, sad, lonely little woman who seems like she could easily just be the punchline to every joke. And, for awhile at least, that’s what she is; Year of the Dog is the kind of movie that likes to poke fun at its main protagonist, while also realizing that there are people out there in the real world just like her and rather than making fun, maybe we should just accept them.

While, of course, also making jokes at their expense.

But still, that’s why White’s writing is so good here – he knows how to develop this character in small, interesting and actual funny ways, without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard. The comedy can verge on being “cringe”, but in a way, White actually dials it back enough to where we get a sense for the languid pacing and it actually works. We begin to realize that the movie isn’t really as slow, as much as it’s just taking its time, allowing us to see certain aspects of Peggy’s life and those around her.

Hey, guys! Here’s Peter Sarsgaard playing a normal human being! Wow!

It also helps give us more time to pay close-attention to Molly Shannon’s great work as Peggy, once again showing us why she’s one of the more underrated SNL talents to ever come around. It’s odd because when she was on that show, Shannon was mostly known for being over-the-top and crazy, but in almost everything that she’s touched since, including this, the roles have mostly stayed down-played and silent. You can almost sense that she’s maybe trying to prove a point, but you can also tell that she’s just genuinely trying to give herself a challenge as an actress and show the whole world what she can do.

And as Peggy, she does a lot, without it ever seeming like it. It’s a very small, subtle performance, but there’s a lot to watch here, what with the character’s constant quirks and oddities, making her actually a very compelling presence on the screen. We don’t know what she’s going to do next, or to whom, and for that, she’s always watchable and constantly keeping this movie interesting, even when it seems like nothing is happening.

But that’s sort of the beauty about a Mike White film: Nothing seems as if it’s happening, but in a way, everything is.

Consensus: With a solid lead performance from Shannon, Year of the Dog gets by despite some odd quirks, but also remembers to keep its heart and humor.

7 / 10

I think everyone aspires to have this car, with all these same types of furry friends in it.

Photos Courtesy of: Plan B Entertainment

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Seven Pounds (2008)

If Will Smith is God, does that mean Jaden is Jesus? No!

Tim Thomas (Will Smith) isn’t very happy with his life. For reasons that aren’t known fully well right off the bat, he doesn’t really seem to care about where his life is at right now, so in a way, to make himself feel better or something, he decides to help out the lives of a few people – most of whom, already have enough problems in their own lives. There’s Ezra (Woody Harrelson) a blind meat salesmen who also plays piano and is getting a bit lonely; there’s Connie (Elpidia Carrillo) a mother of two children who isn’t in a very healthy relationship; there’s George (Bill Smitrovich), a man who needs a bone marrow transplant; and last, but certainly not least, there’s Kate (Rosario Dawson), a woman with a weak heart defect. Using some shady I.R.S. credentials of his, Tim finds a way to enter himself into Kate’s life, which, at first, creeps her out, but eventually, she gives into Tim’s persistence and strikes up something of a relationship with him. However, what Kate doesn’t know, is that Tim has a reasoning for all of this guiding and assisting he’s been doing, which will most definitely shock her, as well as the others that he’s been there for in the past few months or so.

Will's sad.

Will’s sad.

Seven Pounds, while definitely a flawed film, is also an interesting one. It’s one of the very few and rare, mainstream, big-budgeted flicks featuring an all-star cast that is as dark and depressing as you would probably get with any small-time indie. That isn’t to say that big-budget movies tend to be happy and pleasant pics, but at the same time, they don’t feature nearly as much dread or misery as Seven Pounds does. Because studios are playing for a much-bigger audience, which therefore, means a whole lot more money’s at-play, most of the time, execs will make a film-maker go back countless times to the editing-room so that it tests well and doesn’t scare too many people away from it.

But oddly enough, it doesn’t seem like a lot of that happened with Seven Pounds.

Instead, bravely enough, both director Gabriele Muccino and screenwriter Grant Nieporte, seem as if they were able to keep the sad tone as they had intended it to, with the incredibly shocking, and even more upsetting end. While you can get on this movie’s case as much as you want with its execution, there’s no denying the fact that it took a lot of guts to make this movie and have it stay the way that it did. And though I won’t get too deep into what happens at the end, I will say this: It’s a big shock.

At the same time, however, it’s a bit silly and abrupt. This is mostly due to the fact that throughout the whole movie, Muccino and Nieporte try their absolute hardest to mask just what this whole plot-line means, why we’re watching it, and what it is that’s driving Will Smith’s character to do all of this nice stuff for all of these random people. By using tiny flashbacks, Muccino doesn’t necessarily fill us all in perfectly on where this is all leading, but he makes it clear that everything is happening for a reason, even if it’s all too simple and easy to understand for its own good.

That said, Seven Pounds is an odd mix of a film that, at times, wants to endearing and heartfelt, but also, miserable and painstakingly mean, even if it tries to talk out against such feelings. Most of this comes through in Smith’s performance as Tim Thomas who, sadly, is a bit too bland for somebody as talented as Smith to work and excel with. Rather than allowing for Smith to try out new shades of his acting talents that we may have not seen already, Smith is instead let-down by the fact that Thomas is a bit of a pessimistic and bland person who, every once and a blue moon, will get up and yell at someone, but soon, change his tune and go back to being quiet and brooding.

Rosario's happy.

Rosario’s happy.

In a way, there seems to be two different characters at-play with Tim Thomas, and it’s a shame that Smith is stuck having to work with it all.

Though Smith doesn’t get nearly as much to do here, Rosario Dawson does eventually take over as Kate, a sweet, honest girl who, by the end of the movie, we definitely feel sorry for. However, that’s one of the biggest problems with Seven Pounds: We never actually get to care for Tim himself. Some could say that’s the point of this movie, but I’d definitely like to argue said point; there are many scenes that depict Tim as both, a selfish and heartless person, but also, others that show him as a sweet person, just trying his hardest to do whatever it is that he can to make sure that those around him are happy and pleasant. Though we’re told Tim’s doing this all for a reason, we still never get to fully figure out just who exactly Tim is, which is why the majority of this flick is just watching as some random dude, goes around to random people, helps them out in random ways, and does it all for some random reason.

Sure, we know that the reason’s going to be explained to us at the end, but that also means sifting through two hours just to get to that final reveal. Which means, that we also gave to sift through a lot of scenes where people scream, cry, smile, kiss, make love, and act nice, yet, none of it ever hit the notes that the film-makers clearly want it to. But hey, Will Smith wanted a movie made and guess what Will Smith got? A movie, starring him, produced by him, that also kind of features him as a nice person.

But then again, maybe not.

Gosh! I still don’t know!

Consensus: As daringly bleak as it may be, even for a mainstream flick, Seven Pounds is still not as emotional or compelling as Will Smith, or anyone else around him, may want it to be.

4 / 10

But together, they're as happy as two people can be! Good for them!

But together, they’re as happy as two people can be! Good for them!

Photos Courtesy of: Comingsoon.net

Hesher (2011)

You know that metal head loner who rocks out to Slayer and Metallica all by himself? Well, you should definitely take some life lessons from him some day.

TJ is 13 years old. Two months ago, his mom was killed in an accident, leaving TJ and his grieving dad to move in with grandma to pick up the pieces. Hesher is a loner. He hates the world and everyone in it. He has long, greasy hair and homemade tattoos. He likes fire and blowing things up. He lives in his van until he meets TJ. Hesher is the story of a family struggling to deal with loss and the anarchist who helps them do it in a very unexpected way.

During some of the more angry and I hate “mom, dad, and everybody else around me” periods of my life, I actually found some solace in music that made me want to break down the wall. So with this concept, I could see the cool use of “metal music for therapy” as something new but instead, it just ends up being weird.

Writer/director Spencer Susser does a good job with this film in keeping it weird, a little sad, a little humorous, but never sentimental which is something I can easily say that I appreciated. Right from the get-go, we notice that there has been a death in the family for this father-son combo and there is a lot of really sad and miserable shit that actually happens to this kid, but the film barely ever makes us feel like we have to cry over it all. Instead, he just shows us Hesher being a complete and utter asshole, popping in just whenever he feels like it and doing degenerate things such as lighting a diving board on fire, or even changing the TV channels so he can get porno. It sounds weird I know, but it’s not all that sentimental which I liked considering it was a lot more of a mean film that I thought I was going to get.

Despite the title, this film is actually less about Hesher himself and more about a father and son getting over a death in the family with Hesher popping in just to eff things up more for them. I think it’s cool that they made him the title, but it sort of makes all of the other characters seem like just a bunch of bores when it comes to him. Let me also not forget that this film is incredibly weird which isn’t so bad considering there were a lot of weird and goofy moments that started off pretty strong in the beginning but then it just started getting really weird. Really weird to the point of where I actually wondered if everything I was watching just a part of this kid’s imagination.

The problem with this film is not just the film itself, is more or less just the main character himself, Hesher. To be honest, I don’t know what to really make of this dude other than the fact that he comes into this kids life, with no explanation or reason and even when it seems like he’s asked, nothing is ever said and he just shoots it off to the side. However, if you honestly don’t know how to label Hesher for yourself, just check out the tattoo of the middle finger on his back. That is definitely sure to give you some insight onto who he actually is.

Hesher is also a dude that sort of just keeps to himself but you still never want to eff with him because you know that he will definitely kick the hell out of you right away. Hesher, in his own effed up way, actually ends up slapping a lot of sense into this father and son just by telling them really vulgar metaphors, that he actually compares him losing a nut the same as the dude losing his wife. Yeah, that’s a really bad choice of comparisons but then again this character is not someone who’s normal. Regardless though, the guy is pretty solid because he’s able to give some good insight, provide some dark laughs, and make us feel terribly scared of even messing with him.

However, every time Hesher was working for me the film started to really steer him in the wrong direction I believe. It’s harder and harder to like him considering he does dumb shit like making some joke about Kermit the Frog’s finger that I’ve heard 100 times to this old gal, light this bully’s car on fire but leave the kid there, ask the kid if he has had some sexy time while he fingers the mashed potatoes, and etc. Hesher really can do a lot of cool things and where he can be vulgar and repulsive, some people may find humor in that but for me, I just cringed a lot by how far this guy was pushing the boundaries.

When it comes to playing Hesher though, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great and I think what makes this character watchable in the first place considering JGL seems so flawless with this performance. It may be hard to actually like him but JGL actually helps that a lot here as well. The rest of the cast here is pretty good too with Rainn Wilson playing a very seriously saddy daddy role; Devin Brochu is angsty but also very realistic as the little kid, T.J.; and Natalie Portman does a good job as well but she seems a little out-of-place with a lot of her scenes. I mean the cast is good but when they are compared to Hesher, you don’t really care nor think about them much at all.

Consensus: Hesher has its moments where the dark humor makes you laugh and some of the touching moments also hit well too, but the problem is just like its lead character. We never understand anything about this character, he can be a total dick at times, and he just makes everybody feel uncomfortable without any real rhyme or reason.

5/10=Rental!!