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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Blythe Danner

Tumbledown (2016)

TumbledownposterFolk singers have the saddest lives.

After her husband dies, Hannah Miles (Rebecca Hall) goes into her own bit of hiding. While she isn’t necessarily depressed and doesn’t know what to do with her life, at the same time, it doesn’t seem like she’s making much movement on it, either. Aside from the every so often hook-up she has with the local hunter (Joe Manganiello), she doesn’t seem to be getting any serious about another relationship and, for the most part, doesn’t really seem to care that her husband was, when he was alive, a cult-followed folk singer who so many people loved, yet, didn’t fully get to appreciate because he died so tragically at a young age. However, one person in particular that wants to find out more about this singer’s life is part-time writer Andrew McCabe (Jason Sudeikis). Though Hannah is initially against the idea of bringing a stranger into her home and into her late husband’s studies to chronicle his, as well as her, life, she starts to give in and realize that she’s happy with Andrew around. Not to mention that he brings out a certain sparkle within her that hasn’t been around since, well, when her late husband was actually alive, well and writing songs all about her.

Why have dinner when you can just maul one another?

Why have dinner when you can just maul one another?

Tumbledown has all of the promise of a soft, sweet and tender romantic-dramedy, but sadly, it falls prey to its own conventions one too many times. For one, the movie itself doesn’t seem to want to take itself too seriously at first, which is fine, but it’s not very good at being funny, either. There’s a lot of annoying rom-com cliches and conventions that show up here that not only feel very beneath the cast and crew working here, but the material itself.

The idea of one moving on with their life after the loss of a very near, dear and loved one, is a universal theme. Not only is this shown in movies like I’ll See You In My Dreams, where the older women are shown to be living out the rest of their years, wondering where to go or what to do, but it’s very rarely shown for the younger women out there who are, believe it or not, widows. Death knows no boundaries, so it’s an honest wonder to me why we don’t have more of these kinds of movies about young widows trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, where do they go from their certain situation, and most of all, whom do they choose.

Throw in the folk music angle and guess what? You’ve got a pretty interesting movie that goes above and beyond any melodramatic romantic story we’re so used to seeing and hating with Nicholas Sparks.

However, that’s the exact issue with Tumbledown: It turns exactly into that kind of movie.

Most of this is especially evident with the characters. Even though the cast here is understandably strong, it’s a bit of a shame to see some of them playing such types that, after awhile, it makes you wonder why they even bothered to begin with. Rebecca Hall gets the meatiest role as Hannah Miles, where shows both sadness, as well as loveliness to a character who seems like she’s at a bit of a stand-still with her life. Though she wants to live each and everyday in absolute tears, she doesn’t and it’s interesting to see how she still copes with the loss of her husband, even if she also knows that there’s more to life for her out there – it’s just a matter of whether or not she wants to actually go out there and see it for herself.

Mmmm! Ms. Hall just ain't got time for that Sudeikis charm!

Mmmm! Ms. Hall just ain’t got time for that Sudeikis charm!

So yeah, Hall’s character isn’t really the issue as much as it’s Jason Sudeikis’ Andrew McCabe who is, basically, Jason Sudeikis, but this time, playing a college professor and writer. Sudeikis is a good actor and, in the past few months, I’ve come to respect for at least trying to do something more interesting with his career than just sticking himself in every broad comedy he can find, but for some reason, he doesn’t feel right for this role. The character is a little too smarmy for what appears to be a really laid-back, almost reserved kind of guy. He and Hall have good chemistry, but the way that they’re relationship gets put together, or how they come to a certain common ground, doesn’t always feel believable and it’s a shame, because they’re both solid actors. Sudeikis just doesn’t seem like he’s the perfect fit for whatever kind of character Andrew McCabe is.

Other actors show up here like Joe Manganiello, Dianna Agron, the always welcome Blythe Danner, Richard Masur, and Griffin Dunne, but they’re kind of just here on the side to allow for Sudeikis and Hall to do their thing and develop their never-believable relationship. It’s good to see these actors here, but when they aren’t really around to do anything but play window-dressing to a poor plot and script, it almost feels like a disservice. Especially for Danner who, in the past few years at least, has shown that there’s more to her than just playing the sassy, sometimes way-too-smart mom that knows what’s going on with every relationship around her, but will sometimes keep her mouth shut.

I love Danner with all my heart, but I want to see different roles for her, especially since we all know she’s got the chops.

Same goes for the rest of the cast, because something like Tumbledown, while showing off a indie-sensibility, plays out like any mainstream rom-com. People fall in love, people fall, people get hurt, people get into fights, and believe it or not, people cry, but they always seem to brush it off with a laugh or two. This happens with life, but not nearly as much Tumbledown portrays it as and it can’t help but feel like a disappointment.

Consensus: Given the subject material and ensemble cast, Tumbledown can’t help but feel like a bummer when you see it all get wasted on a rote rom-com plot.

4 / 10

Will they? Or won't they? Oh, I just don't know!

Will they? Or won’t they? Oh, I just don’t know!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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I’ll See You In My Dreams (2015)

There is such a thing as “being too alone”.

Even though her husband’s been dead for nearly 20 years, Carol Petersen (Blythe Danner) hasn’t ever really tried to find a replacement of any sorts. Though she has her dog, Carol’s been quite happy to be by herself and not have to worry about another person in her life that may, or may not, stick around any longer. One day, however, Carol’s dog tragically passes-away, which leaves her all alone, once again. This time, however, Carol feels as though it’s time to make a change and actually start hanging around people. There’s the pool-boy (Martin Starr), who comes around not to just check-up on the pool, but to also hang with Carol because he can’t get past the fact that she was, at one point in her life, this awesome songstress. And then, there’s Bill (Sam Elliott), a fellow older-person who is instantly attracted to Carol and wants everything to do with her. Though he comes on a bit strong, Carol believes that he’s the one that she can spend the rest of her life with. But Carol’s personal issues come into play and it isn’t before long that she soon realizes that maybe she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, even though she’s already lived plenty of it so far.

Martin Starr?

Martin Starr?

I’ll See You In My Dreams is the kind of teeny, tiny indie that I love to see. It’s one that I assume is going to be a good watch because of how many people say it is, but when I actually get down to watching it, I’m totally surprised. What seems like a movie made for older-people to laugh, cry and relate to, actually works for anybody who decides to view it; loss is a universal feeling that anyone can feel, no matter who or what may be lost. That’s why it was all the more shocking when I realized that I’ll See You In My Dreams doesn’t seem to fall for any of the annoying conventions and cliches that we normally expect these kinds of movies to fall in.

For instance, Martin Starr’s character seems like he’s written just so that he can play the younger-apple-of-the-much-older-protagonist’s eye, which, in a way, he sort of is, but co-writer/director Brett Haley and writer Marc Basch are a lot smarter than that. Instead, they make this character seem a little more aimless and sad than you’d expect, therefore, it makes sense as to why he would want to hang around someone who is almost four decades older than him. Maybe he wants to have something of a romantic relationship with her, maybe he doesn’t, but either way, it’s interesting to see how each and every one of their scenes play out, especially since they don’t always go to, or end up places you’d expect them to originally.

And that’s the magic of life; things don’t always go down quite the way you want, or expect them to. Curve-balls can get thrown into your way and it’s up to how you, yourself can get past them and move on to make yourself better.

Which is why it’s really interesting to see how the character of Carol handles loneliness in a way that most movies don’t like to portray: Which is, “hey, I’m doing just fine.” Most movies in this same vein would show Carol as being a miserable, lifeless and angry old lady who wants a man in her life, but at the same time, can’t seem to get along with one well enough to where she could fulfill that need. Instead, here, Carol’s shown as being a very mild, well-manner and easy-going gal that’s been on her own for quite some time and seems perfectly fine with that. Does that mean she doesn’t want something of a companion in her life? No, she definitely wouldn’t mind one, but at the same time, she isn’t necessarily seeking one to make her life feel more fulfilling and happy.

Although her gal-pals (played perfectly by June Squibb, Rhea Pearlman, and Mary Kay Place) all get on her case for not trying to get a man, she shoos them off and does what she wants. However, when she does start to get a person in her life, romantically, in the form of Bill, the movie doesn’t seem like it’s back-tracking and trying to make itself into more of a conventional rom-com. That Bill himself was the one who actually approached Carol and asked her out in the first place, already shows that the movie isn’t trying to make Carol into some sort of love-sick fool, for some odd reason.

Or Sam Elliott?

Or Sam Elliott?

It should be noted that Sam Elliott does a wonderful job as Bill, because he seems like a genuinely charming, nice guy. However, there is a certain odd flavor to the way his character acts on certain dates with Carol that makes you wonder if he’s already too smitten with Carol, or is just using her as a life achievement of his own personal pleasure. Clearly, he’s a nice guy and doe seem to have feelings for Carol, but how genuine they may be, is constantly up in the air and it’s what keeps their scenes together exciting, as well as compelling to watch and listen to, even in the smallest detail.

And while I’m at it, it should be definitely noted that Blythe Danner, finally getting her own chance to shine in a movie of her own, is perfect here.

Danner is perfect for this role as Carol, because she says so much, without saying anything at all. Because Carol herself doesn’t always say what she wants, or in ways, just refuses to do so, already speaks volumes to Danner’s skill as an actress; we don’t always know what Carol is thinking or feeling at any given time, but we know that there’s definitely something going on in her mind that we want to hear about and see. That’s why Danner, who is always lovely to see in anything, works this character in so many wonderful ways, that we’re able to see all sorts of layers to her than just what’s presented. Sure, you can most definitely chalk a lot of that up to writing, but Danner is most definitely the main reason why Carol’s more interesting to watch, even when it seems like she’s doing nothing at all.

Heck! She’s a lot more interesting than some of the girls my same age that I know!

Consensus: With a rare, but wonderful lead performance from Blythe Danner, I’ll See You In My Dreams is a small, but sweet tale that sees the typical conventions a story like this could fall for, and avoids them at every step.

8.5 / 10 

Oh, Blythe. You play 'em, girl!

Oh, Blythe. You play ’em, girl!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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

The Lucky One (2012)

It’s a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. There’s nothing else that needs to be known.

The story centers on Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron), a US Marine who finds a photograph of an unknown woman Beth (Taylor Schilling) in Iraq and credits it for saving his life in combat. He vows to find her once he returns to America and eventually does nothing less than stalk her while taking a job at her family-run local kennel. Great way to get the babes.

Basically everybody knows what to expect here that can be seen in plenty of other Nicholas Spark’s adaptations that have come out in recent years such as ‘Message in a Bottle’, ‘The Notebook’, ‘Dear John’, ‘The Last Song’, and plenty others. All of those (with the exception of one, I’ll let you guess which one) are very bad and pretty much the same exact thing. This is another one that can be added to that stupid list that needs to go away and go now!

Women and young, teenage girls who have probably read this novel about 20 times will probably love this movie to death because that’s the audience it’s mainly for. However, I am not that audience and that was the biggest problem here. Every single character in a Sparks novel are about as one-dimensional as a piece of paper but are still treated like as if they can do no wrong, with barely any flaws whatsoever.

Logan starts off in the movie suffering from post-traumatic stress, but after the first 10 minutes, they act as if it was never there in the first place once he gets to the cozy countryside. Then when he actually gets to this countryside and has starts to woo over Beth, we see how he really is which is even worse. He’s humble, nice, strong, in touch with his emotional side, starts to tear up a bit when he’s playing piano as if it was his last time ever playing piano again, checks out classics like Moby Dick whenever he feels like it, and can play chess so well that he actually lets her young son win against him just to boost up his self-esteem. The film treats him as if he was the second coming of Christ that pretty much walks around with a halo around his head the whole time making everybody’s lives a whole lot better, which annoyed the hell out of me within the first 20 minutes because they just kept on constantly shoving it down our throats just how perfect and amazing this guy was. And to be honest, I didn’t care one bit. Oh yeah, need I forget to mention that this guy walks from Colorado all the way to North Carolina with his doggy. However I feel like if I got into that rant, we’d be here so much longer.

Aside from the characterization, this film is also laughably bad in many aspects where I don’t even think it intended to be. The melodrama gets kicked up to about 100 here and at times, almost feels like it’s making fun of itself but that’s the thing, it’s dead serious. There are so many corny scenes where these characters start to have realizations about one another and how beautiful that other person is and the sweeping score just comes in booming right in your ears and it just gets even worse as the film starts to dive deeper and deeper into this schmaltzy material.

This film also has one of the worst “sex” scenes I have seen in the longest time where Logan is blatantly shaking Beth’s left butt cheek and the film makes it seem like it’s some sort of cute showing of love and companionship but just came off as really lame and definitely a little too detailed for a PG-13 movie. I mean they show both of them moaning at one point and even though I’m no prude to this kind of stuff (hell, I saw ‘Shame’ for Christ’s sakes), I still don’t think that many parents will appreciate Ms. Schilling hitting a full-on orgasm with Mr. Efron.

Speaking of Mr. Zac Efron, I can’t really say anything bad about him here because he is obviously trying but he better be careful with the types of roles he’s getting. Yeah, ‘The Notebook’ put Ryan Gosling on the map but ever since then he has barely done anything close to that and even Channing Tatum is starting to find himself farther and farther away from this stuff with edgier flicks coming out in the upcoming future, but Efron is still building up his star and he better make sure that he doesn’t make any more shit films like this or else we may just get a ‘High School Musical 4’ just so he can get a quick paycheck. As for Taylor Schilling, her character is pretty paper-thin as well so she at least tries with what she’s given but the material really does end up bringing her down. Hopefully this movie gets her face out there and maybe we’ll see her in more upcoming flicks and check out what real talents she has as an actress other than showing how passionate getting boned by Zac Efron can be.

I think it would be safe to say that the best performance out of this whole film, and probably the best thing about this flick really is Blythe Danner here as Nana. Danner is that wise, funny, and always witty old lady that has something to say and made me laugh just about every time. And with a film like this, you need any type of humor just get you through. It’s a small compliment but it’s a compliment to this film none the less and this film needs all of that it can get.

Consensus: The Lucky One is what you would expect from a Nicholas Sparks adaptation: corny, schmaltzy, full of one-dimensional characters, and writing that will make you laugh even though they may not be laughing with you.

1/10=Crap!!

Shocker, right?

Detachment (2012)

Maybe I was wrong when I said in the ’21 Jump Street’ review that high school sucks. Maybe I meant to say “public” high schools suck.

The film stars Adrien Brody as a disillusioned substitute teacher named Henry Barthes, who seems to have just as many problems as his apathetic students. When he inadvertently becomes a role model for the student body, he finds that he is not the only lost soul struggling to find meaning in this world.

It’s been a long, long time since director Tony Kaye has graced us with his presence and every time I watch ‘American History X’, which is a lot I may add, I can’t stop thinking to myself, “where the hell has this guy gone?”. Now, I know the answer and it’s simple: making great movies that are set in high school.

Former teacher, Carl Lund, wrote this story and from what I see here, this guy had a lot of hard shit to go through. I mean I don’t know what Lund had to go through as a teacher but from what I see here is that being a teacher is hard. Lund brings up a lot of questions about the public high school system but he never points any fingers or condemns anyone, he just shows that being a teacher is hard mainly because you try, you try, and you try to help out a student and in the end, they either don’t care enough or don’t care at all. This wouldn’t be so bad but the fact that these kids don’t care, eventually gets sprung out onto the teachers and then you basically have 40-45 minutes worth of class-time where neither anybody cares about anything and all your time in this world is wasted.

Since I go to a Catholic high school, I’m not too sure of what it means to have such problems like this but I can easily say that a lot of the public schools around me have started to fall apart just because of school districts that just want high grades from these students with no return and teachers continue to demand more and more money. Hell, actually, that’s happened at my school earlier in the year so it’s not just the public schools either, it’s all schools. This script is a pretty big wake-up call because it not only shows the struggles that teachers go through on a daily basis, but also the struggles schools have in general and just how bad everything really can get behind closed doors. It’s a pretty good look at high school, and it’s also a look that I haven’t seen before considering these types of films usually end with all of the slacker kids getting A+’s on their final exams.

Lund definitely found the right director for this material with Tony Kaye because he brings so much energy to this otherwise simple story. Kaye is a veteran of music videos and commercials and a lot of that skills show through is way of bringing so much flair and style to this material that at times, it may get a little over-bearing, but at other times you also have to realize that he’s making this film more tense and provocative. The film has a narrative that jumps around to all of Henry’s sub-plots (and trust me, there are plenty) and the way Kaye is able to show this sometimes through a documentary feel or either through having Brody speak to the camera indirectly by letting all of his frustration out. It definitely creates a lot of tension with this flick and it shows how well Kaye is able at stirring the pot but is also great at taking us out of that as well with a couple of amusing animated shots of what’s going through a lot of these teachers’ heads. They are all pretty funny to watch but they are also brutally honest in the way they show just how it must really feel to put up with all of the shit that they do sometimes. Still though, I’m not always behind teacher’s backs. Trust me on that.

The problem with this flick is that it won’t be for everybody considering there is so much sadness going on and around this flick that it almost is contagious. I didn’t really go into this flick expecting a light and happy-filled flick about how a teacher brings the spirits back to his students, but it can get a little too dark for me and even when the comedy does come around every once and a blue moon, it’s a totally huge surprise.

Another problem I had with this flick was that I think they somewhat over-do the whole “problems between teachers and students” thing a little too much. There are some moments that are genuine as hell and feel like they were taken right out of the classroom, but then there are other moments where somebody starts crying or acting outlandish a way that would probably get out a lot of emotion from the audience, but they sometimes don’t feel that genuine. There’s one scene in particular where Lucy Liu is this school counselor that is so fed up with her job that she just starts balling her eyes out while hooting and hollering at this one student and it seemed totally dumb, unbelievable, melodramatic, and pretty much poorly-acted from Liu herself. There aren’t many moments like this in the flick but when they did happen, I couldn’t help but think that they were a little too over-dramatic.

In recent time, Adrien Brody has taken apart of some questionable material ever since he won his Oscar in 2002 but this is probably his best performance ever since that win. Brody gives a likable performance that makes it easy for us to stand behind him as his life starts to unfold and he’s able to express so many emotions from happiness, to anger, to sadness, and he does it all by the use of his eyes which makes it all believable and real. It’s a great performance from Brody and one that reminded me just why he did win that Oscar in the first place.

As for the rest of the ensemble, they are all pretty good with the limited amounts of time each one is given. James Caan is amusing as the pill-popping teacher who finds a dark way of enjoying his days in school; Marcia Gay Harden feels real as the watered-down principal that is expecting to be fired soon; but the two kids out of this cast are probably the best with Sami Gayle and Betty Kaye both giving compassionate and realistic performances and every time each one of them is on-screen with Brody, the film always seem to light up.

Consensus: Detachment may have some over-dramatic moments, but with Kaye’s inspired direction, great acting by its huge ensemble (especially Brody in the lead), and a real examination at the public high school system, makes it a powerful and dramatic flick that will and definitely should serve as a wake-up call to teachers and students alike.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Last Kiss (2006)

Cheating, breaking up, making up: that’s the way love is sometimes. Or at least when you’re going through a mid-life crisis that is.

Thirtysomething couple Michael (Zach Braff) and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) grapple with parenthood and other life-changing events. Instead of pushing him toward the altar, Jenna’s impending pregnancy has only made Michael feel more trapped. So when he meets flirtatious college student Kim (Rachel Bilson), he’s tempted to stray.

After the total success of the great film, ‘Garden State’, many people were trying to use Zach Braff in any way they could because thirty-somethings from all-over-the-world were in love with him. It’s not a real shame that this is what they ended up with, but they could have gotten something better.

The script written by Paul Haggis (‘Crash’) creates an honest look at modern relationships with all of the fun, love, and even heart-break that can sometimes occur during a relationship. I felt like a lot of what they were talking about here and how everything played out seemed very honest and realistic. Most of this is coming from a guy’s perspective as well but I still had to say that whenever a script comes around, that shows the way love really is, how it feels, and what it should be like, then it’s enough for me to appreciate it. This is why it’s such a real disappointment when things start to get a little hoaky by the end.

I can’t give too much away but somebody utters the words, “never give up” to Michael and this guy literally takes that piece of advice and uses it, which to some may seem sweet and totally romantic but to others like me (basically heartless assholes), this may seem a little cheesy and sort of against the whole film and what it was trying to at least go for. The ending is also stretched longer than it should have been and instead it took forever to get to the last shot, and even that was a disappointment by how it just ends. But then again, I don’t want to say what happened.

The film does have this very fun approach at the beginning, with all of these different characters doing their own thang, having fun, making jokes, and making sexy-time as well. This was good but it soon then begins to narrow down slowly but surely to just being about Michael and his little dilemma that he pops up into, while the other ones just totally disappear and have no real end, they are just gone from the picture completely. This was a bummer because there were plenty of other stories that had promise and they could have tried using to wrap-up real nicely at the end of the film but I never understood why they didn’t do that, instead of just ending with one story basically.

A lot of it seemed trimmed down to where director Tony Goldwyn can’t really do much other than just throw in a real cheesy montage and end the film, rather than actually have it actually impact anybody who’s watching. Although there are parts that certainly stand-out more than others, I was kind of bummed to see such a real talented and great cast sort of go to waste with a story-line that seems to bring the film down a bit by the end.

As messy as this film may sound, or at least how I make it sound, the cast is what really keeps this film moving and getting better and better by the second. Zach Braff uses his usual lazy charm that always seems to get a win for anybody who’s watching, even though he’s essentially playing the same dude in every film. Jacinda Barrett gets a real good role as his pregnant girly-friend, Jenna, and shows exactly why she is so amazing to have as someone who loves you and why Michael is such a dick for questioning in the first place. Rachel Bilson plays Kim, and I think the film was trying to make her the same kind of quirky character Natalie Portman was in ‘Garden State‘, which isn’t a bad thing because her performance is good but I could see where they were going with this character. Surprised that she can actually act though.

The ones here that I actually thought held their own the most was Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson as Jenna’s parents because their whole little love-life starts to fall-apart too, and this is what brings out the most in them. Danner is great as this very messed-up and very sad lady, who just can’t seem to get over the fact that she doesn’t get any lovings from her hubby. Tom Wilkinson is amazing with every scene he gets especially in the end, where he impacts not only the characters in the film but also the whole story as well.

Consensus: The Last Kiss has some great touches of honesty about love, life, and hitting a time in your life where you just don’t know what you want, but that all soon starts to fall down as the film gets a little hokey by the end and loses sight of all of its characters and rather just focuses on one.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Meet the Parents (2000)

Makes my first awkward meeting with my ladies parents seem like a walk in the park.

Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is ready to marry his girlfriend, Pam (Teri Polo), but before he pops the question, he must win over her formidable father, humorless former CIA agent Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), at the wedding of Pam’s sister. As Greg bends over backward to make a good impression, his visit to the Byrnes home turns into a hilarious series of disasters, and everything that can go wrong does, all under Jack’s critical, hawklike gaze.

The “Meet the…” film series has been going on for about the whole decade with three movies, and probably more coming up. So it’s just really cool to see where it all started off at.

This honestly is a very funny film that uses a lot of these awkward, outrageous, but always hilarious situations where you can’t believe this is actually happening. There are a lot of bad gags, toilet humor, and sometimes painful awkward comedy that will have almost all who watch laughing, and it really works out.

My only gripe with this film is that a lot of the jokes do seem a little too obvious. Something will pop up, and have a bit of significance to the plot, and will pop up later as a joke. I could see all the jokes coming up right before they did them but how they execute them is what had me really laughing in the end.

I think the real extra kick this film get’s is from the cast. Robert De Niro is perfect as Jack Byrnes who is so hard-nosed, and menacing about everything with this poor guy Greg, that you can’t help but laugh at everything he’s doing, or saying for that matter. By just sitting there, De Niro brings out huge laughs and I must say, I’m glad he’s not my girl’s daddy. Ben Stiller is the perfect guy to play Greg. He’s cute enough to be attractive and intelligent enough to be real but has a wonderful airhead quality where you can actually see the smoke rising from his ears when he tries to think. His timing is spot on and his physical stuff is full of energy, which brought me back to his days in There’s Something About Mary. Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, and the always reliable Owen Wilson provide laughs as well here, and add a lot of heart to the whole film.

Consensus: The jokes may be obvious and predictable, but De Niro and Stiller give Meet the Parents the extra kick of comedy that it deserves with hilarious gags, and believable situations that will have anybody laughing.

7/10=Rental!!

Paul (2011)

I hope that if aliens do exist, that there more like this dude.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg star as two science-fiction freaks who, while on a quest to discover what lies at the heart of Nevada’s infamous Area 51, cross paths with an alien (voice of Seth Rogen) on the run from earthly authorities.

Looking at a cast like this, a premise like this, and a director like this, you would be expecting the funniest thing in years. However, it’s just pretty funny.

The screenplay that was written by Frost and Pegg has some good moments of humor that aren’t what I was expecting from these two, but that isn’t such a bad thing. The comedy is more broad for an American comedy, rather than the smart wit and cleverness of some of the British comedies that these two have been a part of.

My problem with this film was that it wasn’t funny enough, and I think the main reason why that is, is because of the non-stop sci-fi references. Maybe for me, since I’m not a huge science fiction dude, I didn’t get a lot of the references that they were using here, but at the same time they put way too many jokes to a certain crowd and almost abandon everybody else who isn’t familiar with these references. They seem to also be satirizing geek culture with this film, and although it can be cute at some times, it just doesn’t seem all that fun if you don’t get what their saying. Also, the film isn’t as daring with it’s jokes like I was expecting, because there are times where this does get a little bit predictable, and I just wish I had more times where I laughed my ass off, instead of a chuckle here and there.

Director Greg Mottola is a good director for this work because he does a great job of blending comedy, action, and a tad bit of sweetness to the story that actually works and doesn’t come off as fake at all. This isn’t like Superbad where all three worked so well, but for the most part he does a good job of keeping us watching and being entertained.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as you could already tell, do well together. They have that great buddy chemistry going on well and has us believe them as these two sci-fi geeks. What really stands out in Paul is, well, Paul. Seth Rogen is fantastic here as Paul, because he’s not really doing anything different, he’s just playing Seth Rogen, and Seth Rogen always has me laughing. I didn’t look at Paul and see a piece of CGI like I often do, but as a real character. From a technology standpoint, the mo-cap is obviously not as groundbreaking or impressive as Avatar, but Rogen made the character convincing without any of that fancy expensive shit.

There are also others in this impressive cast that do amazing especially Kristen Wiig, who plays Ruth, the little Christian. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see a hardcore Christian have their faith destroyed and Wiig makes it all the more funny. Jason Bateman is alright as Agent Zoil, even though he’s not really doing anything funny. Sigourney Weaver is bad-ass as The Big Guy, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio work perfectly as the two cops that can never do anything right, and Blythe Danner does a good job as well.

Consensus: People may not understand many of the many science fiction references that inhabit this film, but they still will get a chuckle out of this sweet, and funny screenplay, with a great cast. However, you do feel that it could have been better given the talent involved.

7/10=Rental!!