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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Bentley Kalu

The Infiltrator (2016)

Pretty sure that Bryan Cranston doesn’t need drugs anymore to make himself seem cool.

By 1986, federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) had gone under cover so much, that it was all starting to catch up with him. Now, facing retirement with a pretty attractive benefit deal from the FBI, Mazur decides to do one last job that will not only put him in more good graces with those around him, but may also help solve the victor in the war on drugs. Working alongside fellow agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), Mazur poses as a slick, money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella, who works with some shady characters who’d much rather not have their finances be sitting around in some bank. But in order to seem more legit and get his target (who is basically Pablo Escobar), Mazur has to gain the trust and confidence of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), Escobar’s top lieutenant. However, Mazur’s personal life starts to slip and slide into his professional one, and eventually, there comes a point where he doesn’t know whether he can complete the job to the best of his ability.

Diane just can't get enough of the 'stache.

Diane just can’t get enough of the ‘stache.

Everything about the Infiltrator is riled with cliches and conventions that we have seen so many times before in more interesting, much better flicks of the same nature. Heck, even TV shows like Narcos and Animal Kingdom seem to get this kind of corrupt and crime-fueled world so right, to the point of where you’d much rather watch them, rather than spend nearly two hours watching a story that you may or may not already know about, happen in the most conventional way imaginable. If you’re on a plane, or channel surfing at 2 a.m. and having nothing else better to do, then yeah, sure, it’s probably an exciting watch.

But if you have better stuff to watch, like say, the two aforementioned shows, then yeah, hit them up instead.

And honestly, the Infiltrator is not all that bad – if anything, it’s incredibly mediocre. As Brad Furman showed with the Lincoln Lawyer some years ago, he has a knack for getting a quality cast together, and giving them some relatively gritty, but fun material to work with. The likes of John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, Benjamin Bratt, and other all show up, and while some of them definitely have more to do than others, Furman gives them each enough time and attention to where it seems like he may possibly be interesting in exploring who they are and why they matter to a story like this.

But then again, at the same time, none of them are ever as developed as they should be, or at least, as much as Cranston’s Mazur is; Leguizamo comes the closest, but eventually, his character is just pushed to the back in favor of more crime, violence, blood and drugs. Cranston though, gets the bulk of the attention and he’s very deserving of it; once again, he’s playing a character that’s starting to develop more and more of a darker-side to himself than he ever expected and, as usual, the transformation is compelling. No matter how deep or dark Mazur the character may get, you always get the sense that, because of Cranston’s presence, that he’ll do the right thing and not break bad too much, to the point of almost no return.

But Bryan can.

But Bryan can.

But then, like I said, there’s the rest of the movie.

It’s all just fine, but a movie like the Infiltrator, where drugs, violence, crime, corruption, Latinos, and 80’s appear in almost every scene, shouldn’t be so middling. In fact, there’s a small stretch here where it’s just, plain and simply put, boring; there doesn’t seem to be anything really at-stake, nor does there ever seem to be anything worth holding onto. The war on drugs is currently going on in this flick, but rather than trying to make a comment or an idea about that, it just presents it as a thing that’s happening and yes, this story wouldn’t be told without it. And yeah, there’s nothing more to it than that.

Sure, maybe I’m expecting too much, or that I’ve seen one too many crime-dramas in the same vein as the Infiltrator, but still, that doesn’t excuse that the movie is rather boring, when it should be as fun and as exciting as can be. Even despite the conventional plot, the movie should still have the right amount of energy, excitement, and unpredictability to it. Unfortunately, there’s not much of that here; there are small bits and pieces where it seems like Furman is really trying to crank up the tension, but mostly, he backs away before anything gets too good.

Is that my fault, or his? I don’t know, but really, I don’t care. See the movie if you want, if not, no big deal.

In two weeks, you’ll probably forget that I even talked about it, regardless.

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, and wonderful central performance from the always reliable Cranston, the Infiltrator also feels very conventional and rather tepid.

5.5 / 10

And yes, he's pissed about it.

And yes, he’s pissed about it.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Rotten Tomatoes

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The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

But wait? He doesn’t fall down, or break his crown? Then, what’s the point of the song!

It’s been nearly a decade since Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), or, as he likes to now be known as, John Clayton III, left Africa to live in Victorian England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). He grew up there when his parents were killed and was taken in by the animals living in the jungle, where he learned the values and ways of survival. Now, as an ordinary Englishman, with something of a heroic history, he tries to live a normal life and start a family, even if he and Jane seem to be having issues getting that done. Now, both Jane and Tarzan return to Africa to save their land from the evil and treacherous Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), an envoy to King Leopold who is using the Congo for his own self-gain. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Rom plans to capture Tarzan and deliver him to an old enemy in exchange for diamonds. Neither Jane nor Tarzan know this, which is why, with the help of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), and their old friends and allies of the jungle, they both plan on saving the Congo, taking down Rom, and most importantly, saving the precious land for all that it is.

Eat your hearts out, men.

Eat your hearts out, men.

In all honesty, I’d feel like the Legend of Tarzan would be a much better movie, had the Jungle Book not already came out this year. Sure, while you could make the argument that they are totally two different movies, they still have plenty of features tied into one another; they’re both live-action reboots of the story, both stories have to deal with man-in-the-jungle, and they also both seem to feature a crap-ton of CGI to make up for the fact that they weren’t able to film actual lions, tigers, and elephants (mostly due to the fact that humans are terrible and continue to kill each and every one of them). That said, one is way less serious and dramatic than the other, and it also happens to be way better for that same exact reason, too.

Now, which movie do you think I’m speaking of?

And it’s not like there’s a problem with the Legend of Tarzan being a drop-dead serious, almost gritty reboot of a story that is, yes, serious and gritty, but there’s also something to be said for when your self-seriousness kills any fun or momentum you may have, while also not gelling fully well with the rest of the flick and what’s it trying to do. After all, the Legend of Tarzan is being heavily advertised as a fun, wild, and chaotic summer blockbuster; while it’s definitely a summer blockbuster, the other words like “fun”, “wild”, or better yet, “chaotic”, don’t really fit. Some bits and pieces of it can be considered “fun”, but they’re also too light and on-the-nose to really work with the rest of the film that’s more concerned with really putting us down in the dumps.

Director David Yates wants to approach this material in the same, epic-like way he did with the Harry Potter franchise, but the transition doesn’t work well; instead of being all wrapped-up in the dark and sometimes disturbing violence, you may actually get turned-off from it all, especially after the first five minutes and we’re already treated to a bunch of bloodless, PG-13 violence in which a bunch of people shot, stabbed and killed (one of which being, oddly enough, Ben Chaplin), for no apparent reason. When the action comes around, Yates does well – there’s one action-sequence in particular that happens on a train that reminded me a whole heck a lot of Snowpiercer – because he knows how to build it all up and focus on the stuff that works in the action-sequences. But everything that just so happens to take place in between, doesn’t always work because a lot of the script is weak and underwritten.

It's set in Africa, so obviously Djiumon has to be in it, right?

It’s set in Africa, so obviously Djimon has to be in it, right?

Take, for instance, the characters themselves.

Or, better yet, most importantly, Tarzan himself. As our half-naked hero of the hour-and-a-half, Alexander Skarsgård looks the part, what with his chiseled-abs and perfectly long, blonde locks, but I feel as if he’s not the right choice to play a character who is so clean-cut and good, that you could almost baptize him by the end. Skarsgård has that anti-hero look, where you know he can’t be trusted, but because he’s so good-looking, you get entranced by his aura and you fall for his evil games, again and again. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way, but so be it. Either way, Skarsgård tries, but ultimately, he didn’t quite work for me.

Margot Robbie also doesn’t get much to do as Jane, although she does get to have more fun than Mr. Serious Tarzan does. Robbie gets a chance to show Jane a fiery, brass and smart gal who, yes, may need to be saved from her man, but also isn’t afraid to say a nasty thing or two to the baddies. And as the baddie, Christoph Waltz is basically doing what he always does, except this time, his character is a whole lot more evil and distasteful than ever before. However, because he’s so mean, despicable and downright cruel, the rest of the movie kind of falters; it wants to reach the pitch black depths of hell, but at the same time, also realizes that it has to appeal to family-audiences out there and whatnot. So, rather than getting a story that really does explore these important themes about colonialism, extinction, and black market trading, the Legend of Tarzan will get scared, back up five steps, and just decide to show Tarzan swinging around in his loin-clothe, grabbing random tree-branches and getting his ass kicked by gorillas, without ever sustaining any serious injuries of any sort.

Then again, in a movie like this, certain stuff like that almost doesn’t matter.

Until it does and it’s totally Yates’ fault for that. Rather than allowing for the Legend of Tarzan to be a silly, rumpus good time where Tarzan flies around in the jungle and Samuel L. Jackson steals every scene he’s in, sounding and acting like he’s in the year 2016 (which is basically what happens), Yates decides that the story needs to unforgivably stark and serious. There’s no problem with that, but you have to do it right to the point of where it feels earned. The Jungle Book did that, with the added-on bonus of song-and-dance numbers and guess what?

Yep, it still worked.

Take notes, Yates (I’ve always wanted to say that).

Consensus: Though it gets the action right, the Legend of Tarzan‘s tone is wildly off, trying to appeal to everyone and yet, not totally working as well as other jungle-themed reboots have done this year.

6 / 10

"Tarzan want to bone Jane."

“Tarzan want to bone Jane.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Just as long as I’m not apart of it, Tom Cruise can re-live any point in his existence that he wants.

After a mix-up that leaves him confused and totally out-of-his-element, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) gets sent to the front-lines in a current war between humans and aliens known as “Mimics”. Cage clearly has no idea what to do with these new battle-suits the government has issued, yet, has no problem in taking out one alien on the battle-field. However, in doing so, he dies as well. But, moments later, finds himself woken-up, back to a moment in which he was getting brought into the war camp. He knows that he’s experienced this moment before and tries to plead his case to everyone around him, yet, no one wants to hear it and continues sending him out into the battlefield. And yet, time and time again, Cage wakes up, same place, same people, same situations, and same memory. Yet, during one of these adventures, a fellow, very respected soldier by the name of Rita Vratasky (Emily Blunt), wonders about Cage and tells him to, “come and see me when you wake up”. Cage does and together, the two cobble-up a master-plan in which, together, they’ll have to find the source to where all of these Mimics are coming from, where, hopefully, they’ll be able to stay safe enough where they can die and do it all over again. However, if they can’t and somehow get a blood-transfusion of any sorts, then the day will stop repeating, therefore meaning, everyone will die and never come back to life. Case closed.

Oh, look at Tom Cruise still thinking he's over six-foot tall.

Oh, look at Tom Cruise still thinking he’s over six-foot tall.

Pretty sure that I could have summed all of that up by saying it’s “Groundhog Day meets Independence Day“, but there’s more to this movie than just that. See, it’s a gimmick-movie in which it’s a war movie that just so happens to repeat itself, time and time again; but then again, calling it a “gimmick movie”, would give one the impression that this a movie that relies solely on that gimmick, without barely anything else substantial made in the process.

However, that’s not the case with Edge of Tomorrow, because while it’s a premise I’m sure we’ve all seen done before, there’s something special about it being used here. For instance, that movie Source Code had the same Groundhog Day-gimmick going for itself, yet, where that movie seemed to try almost too hard to where it fell on its feet more times than it should have, Edge of Tomorrow really feels like a movie that has everything perfectly planned-out to where they’ll be no confusion from anybody, at anytime whatsoever. Sure, there’s a lot of sci-fi gibbery-goo that gets spouted out on more than a few occasions, but that just acts as simple exposition; it’s only real purpose is to give us a reason to believe what it is we’re seeing in this movie, as well as to move the plot along. That’s it.

If you care about not being able to believe anything that happens in this movie, then don’t watch it, because it is relatively goofy. Then again, the idea that a person could live one day, over and over again, without any real, life-long consequences, is goofy in and of itself. However, this movie knows that and really runs wild with the idea that somebody could experience the same battle, over and over again, while simultaneously, still finding a way to end it all. It sounds like it could be easily convoluted and messy, but director Doug Liman gets through most of it all by just having a great time with this material and realizing that audience-members want fun with premises like this.

Everything you’d expect this Cage guy to go through, emotionally and physically, while “graced” with this talent, he goes through and it’s always believable and interesting. Not to mention, it’s also pretty fun to see a deuche bag, played by Tom Cruise, get his ass handed to him on more than a few occasions. But Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise, he’s a good sport for whatever this material allows him to do and once again, I can hardly find a problem with this guy’s performance, which is mainly due to the fact that he’s playing a character who is well-written as is.

What’s so neat about William Cage is that, early on, we get the idea that he’s a total prick; he’s the kind of guy who will dedicate mostly all of his life to getting that desk-job, just so that he doesn’t have to worry about getting his hands dirty. We find this out early on and it makes us see him as nothing other than an a-hole who deserves to be taken off of his high-horse, by any means necessary. It’s great to see Cruise play somebody that’s a tad unlikable again, as well as somebody that’s allowed to grow over time. Because “grow”, is exactly what Cage does and it’s all pretty believable too. Cage does grow a conscience over time, and though the advertisements may have you think otherwise, it isn’t because he wants to get his bone jumped by Emily Blunt’s fine British rump; it’s more because he actually wants to save humanity and doesn’t want to let his powers go to waste.

She just had a child, mind you.

She just had a child, mind you.

Speaking of Emily Blunt, she does a very great job as this bad-ass soldier Rita Vratasky. Blunt got pretty ripped-up for this role and while we don’t necessarily get too many shots of her in all her lovely, sweaty-form, we do get to see her beat the hell out of these alien-like creatures, and it’s pleasing to watch. Also the more pleasing is that she isn’t a female character included to just be Cruise’s on-screen love-interest; she serves the plot and actually brings a lot of heart to material that can be pretty grim at times. She does that “sad-but-sort-of-angry-face” very well and that’s displayed on more than a few occasions here, yet, builds her character more and more into making her someone we can get behind, even while her decisions may not always be the best for herself or Cage.

I know that sounds all very corny and too “hurrah! hurrah”!, even by my standards, but this is what can happen to a moviegoer like me – a person who has seen more movies in his life than he can probably count. If you give me a premise that’s well thought-out and doesn’t noticeably trip over itself more than a handful of times, then yeah, count me in for the ride baby! That’s not to say there aren’t a few problems here and there with this movie, but honestly, I didn’t let too many of them get in the way of a movie that wanted to treat me to some fine, thrilling, and action-packed summer fun. And heck, if a movie can throw in a nice helping of “smart” in there, then hey, I’m all for that.

In fact, bring more of it. Please.

Consensus: While Edge of Tomorrow has a gimmick we’ve all seen done before, the circumstances are different, therefore, we’re treated to more excitement, fun, wit, and a movie that is at least smart enough to know when to joke around, and when to lay down its cards and be serious as well, without hardly ever losing its audience.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"So uh, after all of this war stuff, you want to grab a bite to eat or possibly convert to a different religion? You know, or whatever you want to do."

“So uh, after all of this war stuff is over, you want to grab a bite to eat or possibly convert to a new religion? You know, or whatever you want to do.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz