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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Celia Weston

Ride with the Devil (1999)

Ridin’s better than runnin’, right?

In 1861, two best buddies from the South, Jake and Jack (Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich), are forced to join up with the guerrillas in order to get revenge for the slayings of their families. At first, they seem to be really inspired to be rebellious and start killing whomever they think is on the other side and against them, however, they begin to think otherwise once they realize that they have a future ahead of themselves. For instance, Jack gets together with a widow (Jewel) who’s watching over them for short while, while Jake starts to think differently about the cause that these rebels are fighting for, and what it even matters in the end. Obviously not everybody thinks the same way these two folks do, so they land themselves in hot water, not knowing whether they’re going to die on the battlefield, or behind enemy lines.

"I swear, on my heart, not to pass on the Spider-Man role."

“I swear, on my heart, not to pass on the Spider-Man role.”

Ride with the Devil is an interesting flick in that it starts out as being something very ordinary and conventional, yet, changes around halfway through. Something very tragic happens and rather than getting ourselves a slam-bang Western full of action, guns, broads, whiskey, saloons, and pianos, we get something of a down-to-earth, mellowed-out character-drama that’s concerned more with its acting, than its pure spectacle or anything like that. And coming from Ang Lee, you can’t totally expect much different. The guy has made a living by taking a simple premise, and somehow being able to turn it on its side, giving us something that we didn’t expect to see, or didn’t really want to.

Which normally works for Ang Lee, but is still a bit messy here in Ride with the Devil.

For instance, it mostly all comes down to its plot. At one point, the movie’s about these two buddies who go into the war, not knowing what to expect, and somehow get thrown into the middle of it all. Then at the next point, somehow, the movie becomes a racial-drama, showing us all sorts of hatred and remorse African Americans had to face before they were made free. At one point, the movie becomes something of a war epic that’s made to get us up in the air, with our feet giving out right from beneath us. But then, at the next point, it suddenly becomes something of a romantic-drama, mixed with little bits and pieces of comedy. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, the movie does seem like it’s trying to make a point about the rebels and they’re hypocritical way of going about their business in order to make a point, which was probably the most interesting point the movie had to make yet, sacrificed it for a rivalry-angle between two characters that comes out of nowhere, and yet, they continue to milk it for all that they got.

Always follow Jewel.

Always follow Jewel. Except if your name is Kurt Loder.

So yeah, there’s a lot going on here and Lee, with all of his best intentions, does what he can to make it interesting. And for the most part, he does; this harsh and unforgiving view of the Wild West, that also paints it as an unpredictable hellhole, where any wrong decision can have you shot dead in the dirt, is a refreshing one and shows that Lee never backs down from a challenge, whether visually or structurally. However, the movie does have so much going on, with so much to say and do, that it seems as if Lee himself is having a hard time keeping up with, or better yet, even track of where he’s going next.

Unfortunately, that also keeps the movie away from having the sort of emotional and powerful effect it should most definitely have.

But thankfully, his cast is so good that they really do help it out. Tobey Maguire fits perfectly well as the sweet and quiet Jake; Jewel is actually a nice fit as the fiery, yet somewhat seductive widow who Jake falls for and starts something of a relationship with; Skeet Ulrich is actually a lot of fun to watch as the brash and charming Jack, showing that there was more to him than just his boyish good-looks; Jeffrey Wright, in one of the performances that put him on the map, does a great job as Daniel Holt, a former slave dealing with racism in these terrible and violent times, sometimes, hardly even having to say something to get his point across; and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, despite playing what is, essentially, the conventional villain of the movie, does a good job with it, making us feel like he’s more tortured than just evil, as if the pains and terror of war may never leave him, no matter how many years go by, or how long he stays away from guns and murder.

There’s a whole lot more to this cast that really help Ride with the Devil, but it’s always Lee’s show, first and foremost.

Consensus: With so much going on, Ride with the Devil still works as an interesting and well-acted, if somewhat messy, Western epic.

7 / 10

The West is about to get a whole lot more wild now.

The West is about to get a whole lot more wild now.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert, Memorable TV, Duke Wayne.com

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Celebrity (1998)

Never mind. I’m fine with being a peasant.

After divorcing his wife, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) now has a new mission in life and that’s to be dive deeper and further into the entertainment industry, where he’ll be able to wine and dine with all sorts of celebrities, be a part of their lives, and see the world through their eyes. However, Lee gets too close to some and often times, he finds himself struggling to keep himself calm, cool, and collected, while all sorts of decadence and debauchery is occurring around him. Meanwhile, Lee’s ex-wife, Robin (Judy Davis) is trying her hardest to live life without fully losing it. While she’s working at a talent agency, she doesn’t really know where to go next with her love life. That is, until she meets the charming and successful TV producer Tony (Joe Mantegna), who not only strikes up a romance with her, but also brings her into the celebrity-world – the same one that Lee himself seems to be way too comfortable in.

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

In the same sort of spirit he had with Deconstructing Harry a year earlier, Celebrity finds Woody Allen with a fiery passion to get something off of his chest. However, instead of throwing all of his anger around towards those around him who he holds most near and dear to his life, Woody positions everything towards the whole celebrity culture in and of itself. Which isn’t to say that he makes fun of celebrities and mainstream talent (which he does do), but more or less that he criticizes the whole idea of being an actual “celebrity”; in Woody’s eyes, it isn’t if you have any talent, per se, is what makes you the biggest and brightest celebrity, sometimes it just matters who you’ve slept with and whether or not you’re at the right place, at the right time.

Sounds pretty smart and interesting, right? And heck, you’d even assume that someone who has to deal with celebrities, pop-culture, and tabloid sensations as much as Woody Allen has had to, that there would be some shred of humanely brutal truth, eh?

Well, unfortunately, Celebrity is not that kind of movie.

Instead, it’s one where Woody Allen tries to recycle old themes and ideas that he’s worked with before, but this time, with a much larger ensemble, more unlikable characters, way more of a disjointed plot, and well, the biggest issue of all, no originality or fun. Even in some of Woody’s worst features (of which there are quite a few), you do sort of get the sense that he’s still having fun, even if he doesn’t totally feel any sort of passion or creativity within the project itself. Here, with Celebrity, a part of me wonders where the inspiration actually began – I already know where it ends (at the very beginning of the flick), but why did Woody want to make this movie, about these characters, and using this story?

The question remains in the air, as there’s so many characters to choose from, it’s hard to really pin-point which one’s are actually more annoying and underdeveloped than certain others. But to make that decision a little easier for yourself, just watch whatever Judy Davis and Kenneth Branagh are doing here because, oh my, they’re quite terrible. And honestly, I don’t take any pride in saying any of that; both are extremely likable and interesting talents who have honestly knocked it out of the park, more times than they’ve actually struck out, but for some reason here, they’re incredibly miscast.

Seeing as how he never worked with Woody before, it’s understandable why Branagh was miscast, but Judy Davis?

Really, Woody?!?

Anyway. the biggest issue with Davis is that her character is so over-the-top, neurotic and crazy, that you almost get the sense that she’s doing a parody of what a crazy person should look, act and feel like. It’s never believable for a second and just seems like an act, above everything else. Then again, when compared to Branagh’s impersonation of Allen, Davis almost looks Oscar-worthy, because man oh man, he’s even worse. Though it’s never been too clear who’s idea it was to have Branagh act-out in every Woody-mannerism known to man (I say it was Woody’s, but hey, that’s just me), either way, it doesn’t work and just hurts Branagh; his constant flailing around, stuttering, pausing, and general awkwardness is painful to watch because, like with Davis, we know he’s acting. We never get a sense that he’s actually “a person”, but more or less, “a character” that Woody has written and made into another version of him.

Bebe knows best.

Bebe knows best.

And while nobody else is bad as Davis and Branagh, they’re not really all that much better, either. In fact, despite the huge list of impressive names, no one here really stands-out, or is ever given as much time as they should; Joe Mantegna and Famke Janssen are probably the only two who get actual real time in the spotlight, whereas all of the names get pushed to the side for what can sometimes be constituted as “glorified cameos”. Even Leonardo DiCaprio, in his very young-form, shows up, curses a lot, assaults Gretchen Mol at least a dozen times, snorts coke, has sex, and never hits a single comedic-note.

Of course though, that’s not Leo’s, or anybody else’s fault, except for Woody Allen himself.

While it may appear like Celebrity is Woody’s worst, it really isn’t; it’s got a funny moment or two spliced between all of the silly love-triangles and pretentious speeches, but there’s not enough. And honestly, Woody really missed the opportunity on reeling in to Hollywood and the celebrity-culture itself. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about it, so why not let your feelings heard loud and clear for the whole wide world?

Couldn’t hurt, right?

Consensus: Despite an immensely stacked and talented list of actors, Celebrity fails by not being funny, interesting, or original enough of a Woody Allen comedy, that sometimes wants to be satire, but then, other times, doesn’t want to be.

3.5 / 10

They've stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven't stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

They’ve stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven’t stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

The Intern (2015)

White People: the Movie.

Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has come to a point in his long life where he has to make a decision: Either, sit around and enjoy his retirement, like most men his age do, or, continue to work whatever jobs he can to make something out of the rest of his life? Obviously, Ben goes with the later once he goes in for a meeting with a start-up, fashion-based e-commerce company, for the coveted role as the “senior intern”. Ben, as expected, gets the job and is then transferred over to being the main intern of the CEO, Jules (Anne Hathaway). where he basically does all the work she asks of him. This means that Ben does a lot of driving around, running errands, getting coffee, and just generally, being there for whenever Jules needs him. The two, through their time together, get along, get to know one another, and eventually, start to see how one another can learn from the other’s career. However, Jules’ professional life is starting to get in the way of her personal one and it’s up to Ben to help her get through it – that’s if, he even knows how to.

STOP.

STOP.

Like most of Nancy Meyers’ movies – there’s not much of a plot to go along with the Intern. Basically, we get an older-guy, thrown into a much younger, much quicker work-environment, where it’s up to him to see if he can still hang with today’s generation. That’s basically it. And if you’re like me, you’re already hitting your forehead with the palms of your hands thinking about all the cliches this movie most go through.

Oh wait, let me guess, because Ben is older, he doesn’t know how to technology? Or better yet, because he’s old, he doesn’t understand some of the slang that these young people around him are constantly coining every five-to-seven seconds? Or how about the character of Jules? Let me guess, she’s one of those workaholic types that’s an absolute pain in the ass to be around, but somehow, everybody still sticks with her because her company is just so goddamn successful? And because of this dedication to work, she’s also got a terrible and lonely personal life, with no one else to go home to except her cat Fiffy?

Well, thankfully, I was wrong.

See, Meyers decides to take this movie one step past all of the conventions we expect to get with these sorts of stories, and instead, give us something, although so incredibly happy, light, and pleasant that it’s practically sickening, more realistic and smart. Yes, the Intern is as sweet as a two-for-one deal at Krispy Kreme, but there’s a nice attention to these characters that Meyers presents and highlights as her strength; no longer do her characters feel as if they’re just acting all silly and wild for shit’s and gigs.

Now, her characters, especially with Ben and Jules, seem to be actual, living, breathing, loving, caring, and emotional human beings. Neither one, despite what they may seem like from a first gaze, are types; mostly, they’re just familiar characters that also happen to be very likable. And surrounding them, are even more likable characters that, although not getting the same amount of attention as the two leads, still add their own two cents to a story that, thankfully, includes them to begin with.

But really, this tale is about Ben and Jules and with good reason: They’re strong, well-defined, and have lovely, if somewhat complicated personalities.

Ben may be a bit more easy to enjoy being around than Jules, but even he sometimes seems like he could have some problems of his own. For one, he himself has to do deal with the fact that he is definitely getting up there in age and, in a decade or so, may not even be alive. So therefore, he sets out to actually make something of the time he has left on this Earth, as best as he can. I know this sounds so incredibly schmaltzy and corny, but trust me, there’s enough depth to go along with this character to make him, as well as the situations he gets thrown into, work.

Not to mention that De Niro is quite charming here, showing us a certain happiness we haven’t seen on the screen for quite some time. Of course, whenever he’s in a David O. Russell film, De Niro seems to be as dedicated to the craft as possible, but here, he seems like he’s settling in just nice with this role. However, he doesn’t seem like he’s being lazy or phoning it in at all; his character is just a genuinely laid-back dude who tries to approach everyday, as maybe his last. But he, nor the movie, is cloying about this aspect – you can just tell by the joyful expression placed on De Niro’s face throughout.

FREAKING.

FREAKING.

But really, this is Hathaway’s show to steal and she does wonders with her role as Jules Ostin, the boss of her own start-up company that may be growing to be something bigger, better, and more recognizable. From the beginning, it seems like Ostin’s going to be an incredibly difficult person to be around, let alone, work for, but as we soon see, she’s actually fine to be around. I don’t want to say she’s “lovely” or “great” to be around, because there are times when it seems like she’s strict and slightly mean, but then you remember: Oh wait, she’s the boss of this company. She’s the one who has to keep it running and in order to do so, she’s got to keep a tight ship. Sometimes, that means hurting a few people’s feelings and getting on with your day/life as if it never happened.

Basically, she’s every boss I never had. They were all terrible, evil human specimens.

But I digress.

Like I was saying before about Hathaway, she’s great with this character because shows certain shades and layers to this character that we might not have gotten in another film. That Jules genuinely seems to care about her company, her family, as well as her employees, makes it all the more reason to sympathize with her when she decides to choose one over the other, and then see what happens when she does make those decisions. Sometimes, the ball in his favor – other times, it is not. But always, Hathaway’s Jules stays relateable and above all else, human.

There’s a few scenes that highlight this, but there’s one important one that comes around the end, wherein Jules breaks down about what she wants out of life and how she’s absolutely terrified of it all falling apart. At times, the scene can be funny because of what she blurts out in a mostly serious way, but it’s all revealing and shows just what really goes on behind this character when she isn’t working all day and night. She, like you or I, wants a certain level of happiness and fulfillment in her life and she’ll do anything to make sure it happens – even if, at the same time, that means she loses other meaningful aspects of life. People who dislike Hathaway because of her off-screen personality, will hopefully wake up and realize that even though she may be a bit of a grating presence when she isn’t smiling for the cameras, still can act and work wonders when she wants to.

Consensus: With a smart direction and script from Nancy Meyers, the Intern is an incredibly sweet and charming tale that may be a bit too lovely, but still features character that feel like real people we could meet on the streets, or in the office.

7 / 10

SMILING.

SMILING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Junebug (2005)

Families from the North are so boring.

High-class gallery owner Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) meets a young, charming guy (Alessandro Nivola) and they instantly fall in love. They don’t really get the chance to know each other fully, but they do know that they want each other, and badly. So, why not tie the knot while the emotions are telling you to? Well, they do! But once their done with the honey-moon, all of the sex, and all of the other lovin’ that goes on, Madeleine has to get right back down to business and start recruiting for his next art-show, which somehow brings all the way to North Carolina. The artist she wants has an odd style, but that doesn’t matter because she’s unique so obviously Madeleine can’t pass up on that. Oh, and also, her hubby’s family just so happens to live there as well, which means that she gets the chance to meet the fam-squad, in all their Southern-glory.

Judging by what you read up there for that synopsis, you are probably already thinking that it’s going to be another goofy, wacky take on what would happen when a Northern, uptight, richy-rich had to be stuck with the backwood crazy in-laws. That is sort of the take on the movie, but it’s not as goofy as you may think. Because remember, it’s an indie flick, and if you know your indies, trust me, they aren’t going to play by the rules. But in a way, for once in my life, I sort of wish that they did.

A lot of the stereotypes you expect from a movie about meeting the in-laws is here: The disapproving mother; the mad, slightly jealous brother; the in-law that tries so hard to be nice, but instead becomes smothering; the reserved father, etc. And to be honest, all of the stereotypes ring true well-enough to where you understand why these characters act the way that they do when they’re around certain people. However, they also seem a bit tired here as the film tries too hard to make us feel for these characters/stereotypes, when it isn’t really doing anything in the first place. The script itself had some very high moments where I was expecting them to go a certain type of direction and really get us involved with these characters and their lives, but instead, the film would just cut-away or throw something quirky in there for harm’s sake. I get it, these Southerners are goofy, but that doesn’t mean that everything they do has to be stupid, silly, and/or out-of-this-world. They can be just like you or me and have a normal conversation, about normal things, and go through their days as everyday, normal people. Seriously, I’m no Southerner myself, but if I was, I’d be a bit offended with this.

"What's your name? Aww, fuck it. Let's get hitched!"

“What’s your name? Aww, fuck it. Let’s get hitched!”

I have to give the film some credit though, because it does try to bring some heart and emotion out of these characters, which it does succeed surprisingly well in. But most of that is thanks to the actors portraying them, the problem is something with the script that just isn’t giving them the brilliance most of them deserve. Something by the end of the movie happens, and I won’t say what, but it’s pretty sad and the film tries to capitalize on the emotion of it by showing all of the characters different perspectives on it, but strangely, it was a very detached moment I had with the flick. Yeah, it was kind of upsetting to see some of these characters all upset about something bad that has just happened, but did it make me care anymore? No, not really. Maybe with the exception of maybe one or two characters out of the whole slew, but overall, I just did not feel attached. Like something was missing, or that my copy of this made a skip by accident.

But it wasn’t the fact that these characters didn’t do much for me, it’s also the fact that the direction seemed a bit lazy. Director Phil Morrison seems like he’s trying so damn hard to make us feel like we are right there in the South by constantly having this movie move at a slow, death-like pace to get us in-touch with the way these Southerners live. You know, because no matter what happens during a Southerners’ day, they never feel the need to move around, run, or move at a fast-paced speed. It’s always got to be slow and steady, and with a film like this, trust me, it doesn’t win the race.

See what I did there? I’m a cheeky motherfucker sometimes, I gotta say.

As much as I’m ragging and tagging on this film, I can’t say that I absolutely hated it. The reason I say that, is mainly because of Amy Adams in what is one of the most energetic and spirited performances I have ever seen this gal give, which is saying a hell of a whole lot. I’m not going to lie, Adams has not always been a favorite of mine but she has never really been a hater of mine, either, if that makes any sense. I’ve always appreciated the amount of energy and class she’s been able to give in countless movies where everybody else seems like they’re just snoozing the whole time, and hey, she’s also got four Oscar nominations to show for it too, so you can’t go wrong with her on that boat. Her role here as Ashley, the extremely pregnant sister-in-law who, right from our first glimpse of her, absolutely lights up everyone and everything else around her in the movie, and doesn’t let-up neither. No wonder why the Academy felt like she deserved a nomination here!

Not pregnant, but, PREGNANT.

Not pregnant, but, PREGNANT.

Ashley is one of those goofy, naive characters that shows up in a movie or two and just annoys the hell out of some people, but Adams plays it different. You could almost say that all of the annoyance and constant wackiness to her character has something underlining it all and it’s an impending sadness within herself that really makes this character click the whole way through. We constantly see her struggle with being pregnant, not having a hubby that wants a baby with her, and jnot being able to get the love in return, that she seems to give so much away of. It’s a sad character if you really think about it, but Adams successfully disguises that with her sunny-side-up approach to everything in this movie, making her performance/character definitely the most memorable aspect of this whole thing. Honestly, she has to be because I just wrote two freakin’ paragraphs about her. And I never do that!

Then again, due to Adams being so lively all the time, she actually, slowly but surely, steals the show from everybody else and it’s pretty evident as to why: None of these characters have anything really going for themselves that’s worth shining a light on in the first place. Embeth Davidtz is the only one who comes remotely close to doing so as Madeleine, a character so nice and beautiful, that it’s hard to see why the family doesn’t love her right after the introductions have been made; Allesandro Nivola tries his hardest as George, but, despite being the main character that this story mainly surrounds itself around, he’s rarely in it and when he does show-up, seems a bit misplaced from the rest of the material; Benjamin McKenzie shows up as Johnny, George’s brother, and barely speaks at all throughout the whole film and is too much of an asshole to really have a care for at all; and Celia Weston plays Peg, George and Johnny’s mama, who’s good in some spots, but in others, seems like she’s trying too hard to be that disapproving mother who doesn’t think any girl is good enough for her boy. Trust me, that act, gets way, way old by about the 17th girlfriend. Give it up mommas!

Consensus: The more and more that I think about Junebug, the more I feel like it’s just a mixed-bag with plenty of smart ideas and moments of inspiration, but yet, never knows what to do with them, or how to have them all come out in a smart, effective way. The only way this movie is smart and effective, is all through Amy Adams’ break-out performance, which goes to show you why we’re still in love with her, all these years later.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

He can walk?!?!?

He can walk without crutches?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Village (2004)

Thanks for helping me locate my next drinking spot, M. Night!

In rural Pennsylvania (holla!) during 1897 a group of Protestants who live in a small area live happy and peaceful, in an area surrounded by the woods. However, things aren’t always so peachy and keen, due to the fact that in these woods, apparently lie creatures that kill and might possibly invade this little town. Because of this “problem”, the leader of the village (William Hurt) keeps everybody confined and safe with a set of rules that will help them hide-away from these vicious beasts. After awhile, some people begin to lighten-up and realize that there may be something else out there to find, and one of those curious citizens goes by the name of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), who also just so happens to be in love with the leader’s blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Yes, it’s been known to many, many people that M. Night Shyamalan is the 21st Century equivalent to a one-trick-pony. He starts off all movies the same, with just the right amount of mystery and wonder, continues to build it all up and up, until, woolah; we have ourselves a twist on our hands. Everybody knows what to expect with an M. Night movie and most of the problems with his movies is that when you see them once, who needs them again. However, “everybody” does not mean yours truly.

Yep, believe it or not, I am one of the very few people who actually will still go-to-bat for Philly boy M. Night. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m representing my home land, or maybe it’s because I actually like watching movies that continue to challenge me with an original story, an original twist, and an original look and feel that reminds me why I love watching movies so much in the first place. I know I’m hyping this one up quite a bit, but don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those “I don’t see why everybody hates this movie” review, it’s just going to be me sticking up for poor, old M. Night. And with his latest-flick coming out this Friday, the dude needs all the love and support he can get.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What I liked so much about this flick starting off, is that M. Night doesn’t simply spoon-feed us what we need to know about this smallish-community, and he sure as hell doesn’t try to make sure that there are conversations that make it easier for us to figure out. He is simply plopping us into this setting, and just allowing ourselves to get ready and up-to-speed with all of these people and what they are up to. Of course, there’s plenty of mystery surrounding what the community is really like, but you don’t think too much about that as much as you think about just who these people are, what’s their deals, and why are they so freakin’ petrified of going out to “the towns”.

You definitely know that something is up from the get-go, but you’re not exactly sure what. However, even though the characters here tell one another that they are monsters in the woods, monsters that you even see from time-to-time, you can’t be too sure what it is that you are seeing, is in fact real or just a figment of yours, or the character’s imaginations. Throughout the whole duration of the movie, up until the last 10 minutes or so, you know that M. Night is playing a trick on you and feel as if you aren’t easily consumed by being fooled, however, something still has you questioning just what is the truth and what isn’t. M. Night does this in all of his movies, and this time is one of those rare instances where it works and makes this movie better, especially when you see it for a second time.

But then of course, there is always that big question at the top of your mind whenever you finish an M. Night flick: “does the twist really hold up when you compare it to the rest of the flick?” Well, the answer to that is: sort of. See, the movie is all about it’s twist, what it tries to make you believe in, and what is actually the truth, but it never loses focus of it’s characters or it’s sense of place in the world. Sure, you don’t quite know exactly what area of the world M. Night has placed us in, but you know it’s a strange place that could easily be in any type of forest on the face of the planet. Does that rule out every realm of possibility? Nope, not really, but it does get a bit obvious as it goes on from there.

As a whole, I do believe that the twist works and the way that holds up in the story is well-done, but what I do feel like M. Night dropped the ball on was actually handling how the twist was revealed, and what he did to us when we realized what was really going on. Slowly, but surely, odd pieces of evidence begin to shine and you not only realize that this movie is getting at itself somewhere, but M. Night can’t wait to show us either. But because of that frantic-feeling the dude must have had in the pit of his stomach, the twist almost feels too sudden, as if we should have really been hit with that “WTF?!?!?” moment that the dude has lived his career on thus far. It does eventually sink in over time, but not enough time until the full-twist is revealed and then all of a sudden, there’s a jumble of thoughts, ideas, and wonders that the brain is attacked with and as we know; the brain can only handle so much.

So, to answer the question that most people have on their minds after seeing an M. Night flick; I’d say yes, the twist does hold up and work well, but the way that it plays itself out, almost defeats any type of smart or genius that the man had to present. Not sure if I still answered the question I placed up-above or if I’m making any sense, but it worked for me. May not work for you or any other peeps on this Earth, but that’s what movies are made for: discussion, disagreement, and different points-of-views.

But it doesn’t matter where M. Night goes with this funky story, the dude always has time for character-development, as well as giving his cast some time to shine in the spotlight, especially when he isn’t stealing it from them. Joaquin Phoenix is good as the member of the community that wants to rise up and find out what’s really happening outside there in the woods, because he’s able to give us a brave and courageous character, that also has some insecurity-issues as well and isn’t just a born-and-told superhero. The same accent he uses here, that he used in Gladiator was a tad annoying since they sort of came off as the same character, but at least the dude is capable of having us forget about that memorable-role after awhile, and focus on this one. Playing the town “special buddy” is Adrien Brody who is fine with giving this character more emotion and heart than you could suspect, but considering that this movie was filmed and released two years after he came out victorious in what some call the most-stacked ballot for Best Actor in a Leading Role, it does seem like a bit of a disappointment for a dude that’s so talented and obviously can show it.

He heard the train 'a comin'....

He heard the train ‘a comin’….

William Hurt is also very good and charming as the leader of the community, because of the way he’s able to make us believe in all that he says, but yet, also not allow us to fully trust in every word he says. There’s some sexy-chemistry going on between him and Sigourney Weaver’s character, the mother of Lucius, and it’s pretty compelling to see since it gives you further and further clues as to what the hell really is happening underneath the wooden-tiles in the ground.

And last, but damn sure as hell not least is Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy, the blind girl of the community with a heart of fire and passion. Howard has somewhat became a household name by now, but it’s so great to see where she got her start as a head-liner, and show that she was more than just “that girl, who also happened to be Richie Cunningham’s daughter.” It took me awhile to figure out that she was blind, but that didn’t matter after awhile because I could evidently see that this girl had something more to her than just being one of those disabled-peoples, that takes life more for granted now, than most people who seem to have it all. She actually is capable of loving, and to be loved, which gives us more of a reason to feel more for her as time goes on and her adventure begins to get more creepy and scary. Actually, “scary” may not be the right word, but “creepy” definitely is. Yeah, that fits.

Consensus: Even if not all of it adds up to make for a perfect-conclusion to a well-done story, The Village still works, even as a re-watch because of all the hints, clues, ideas, and themes that M. Night gives you to chew on and ponder for a bit, that is, until he shoots himself in the foot by the end once everything is brought out into the open.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chads Ford, PA!!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chadds Ford, PA!!!

Far From Heaven (2002)

Was Allstate Insurance around in the 50’s?

Cathy (Julianne Moore) is the perfect 50s housewife, living the perfect 50s life: healthy kids, successful husband and social prominence. Then one night she discovers her husband Frank’s (Dennis Quaid) infidelity and her tidy world starts spinning out of control. In her confusion and grief, she finds consolation in the friendship of their African-American gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) – a socially taboo relationship that leads to the further disintegration of life as she knew it.

Writer/director Todd Haynes does something very strange with this flick that I don’t think I have seen done before ever. He takes what is the style of a 1950’s film and puts themes and conversations that would only be talked about in film’s today. It’s sort of like a confusing combination between two different time-periods but I have to say he makes it work.

This is definitely Haynes’ film right from the get-go as almost everything here is meshed-out perfectly and completley with style. Everything here fits the look of the 50’s with all of the bright colors that take over every scene and seem to pop right out at us, the costumes look real instead of making it seem like these famous people are just dressing up for Halloween, and the cinematography captures some real pretty shots that add so much more to this flick and give it this feel of beauty. The score is also done very well, almost a little too well as it constantly comes into scenes with a soaring sound, but that’s pretty much done on purpose. Haynes has a style here and he keeps to it which makes this one of those films that even a deaf person can enjoy since every shot just oozes beauty.

The screenplay, that was also written by Haynes, is very well-structured in a different way. This is very much a film that shows people in the 50’s talking about social taboos during the 50’s but still being able to talk like as if they were living in this time-period. Everybody is so corny and says such things as “aww shucks” or “gee golly” but then when they start talking about such topics as racism and homosexuality then the film gets a little edgy but in a good way and not over-exploitative. There’s a good story here as well and as it goes on, you start to feel more and more for this woman even though it may be a little hard to relate to her considering not many out there have to deal with a gay husband.

Even though the script is well-structured, there were still moments where it had its big faults. The whole racism subject is touched upon gently when it’s just Cathy and Raymond talking but when it comes to the other people and how they respond to it, well that’s where the film seems a little too over-dramatic. The scenes where other people see them together have this score music that almost makes it seem like the shower scene from ‘Psycho’ or any other horror flick to give it this hyper-charged feel. Not only was this a problem but even the scenes where we see the differences between black and white people from Hartford seem way too different to even be considered in the same film. The black scenes seem a little too modern as if they were filmed in a completley different place than the rest of the film was located and it seemed like too much of a fault to let go.

Still, this film definitely depends upon its lead performance from Julianne Moore, and she does not let it down. Moore is an actress who I think always seems to play the same type of gal in every film but she’s very good here as this very simple, nice, and sweet lady who starts to see her world crumble down. She’s curious, sad, confused, but most of all, real and that’s the type of genuine feelings I got from Moore’s performance here as Cathy. Dennis Quaid is amazing as her husband, Frank, and he gives off one of the better dramatic performances of a confused guy that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a real wonder as to why Quaid doesn’t do more dramas because he’s really good here.

Dennis Haysbert plays Raymond with a great deal of subtlety and restraint to give you this feel that he is totally nice dude and would never ever hurt a fly. We always see this guy in those Allstate commercials (see the pun up top) but with this performance here and as the daddy in ‘Love & Basketball’, he shows why he can really pull out some great dramatic chops with a voice that almost has Morgan Freeman running for his money. It’s also pretty funny to see Viola Davis play a role here as the nanny, Sybil, a role she would still be playing all these years later but actually getting nominated for it in ‘The Help’.

Consensus: Far From Heaven is a film that perfectly matches the style of films from the 50’s, with a great story that touches on the life-styles of the times, and performances from just about everybody involved that make this an emotional and heart-felt story, even if it seems a bit over-dramatic.

8/10=Matinee!!