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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Chase Williamson

The Guest (2014)

As long as they’re in the Army, let ’em in! Or don’t. Actually, yeah. Don’t do that.

One day, completely out of the blue, David Andersen Collins (Dan Stevens) knocks on the Peterson’s front-door and tells them that not only did he serve in the Army with their deceased family-member, but that he was also there for said family-member’s final breathing moment. All David wants to do is stop by, pay his regards, and keep on moving to wherever the hell he’s going, but Laura (Sheila Kelley), the mother of the family, would like for him to stay. She clearly misses her son and if there’s anything at all close to him that she can still get, she’ll keep it for as long as humanly possible. So for awhile, David stays in the house, doing chores, keeping an eye on what happens to the younger kids in the house when they go to school, and overall, just being there to lend a helping hand whenever he’s needed. While the youngest (Brendan Meyer) clearly doesn’t have a problem with this, the older sister, Anna (Maika Monroe), clearly does and isn’t too sure whether she can actually trust David. And then she realizes something very strange about his past, and it puts his whole existence into perspective.

With You’re Next, writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard gave us a movie that lived, slept, and breathed the same air as an 80’s home-invasion flick. However, at the same time, it was still eerily present and because of that, it felt like something new, exciting and relatively original. Of course a good amount of the credit for that film working as well as it did was because of the unpredictable plot that kept on surprising us every step of the way, without ever throwing us down too many random hallways, but where it mattered most, Wingard and Barrett seemed to be making a movie that they clearly wanted to use as both as a tribute to the home-invasion thrillers of yesteryear. By doing so, too, they also made a near-perfect home-invasion thriller in its own right that people, like I imagine Barrett and Wingard were once doing, will be talking about for many, many years to come.

The Guest doesn’t quite hit that peak, but it does come pretty close at times.

Relax over there, ladies.

Relax over there, ladies.

As they did with You’re Next, Wingard and Barrett seemed to highlighting their love for “mysterious stranger” movies; ones where a random person shows up from out of nowhere, has an air of oddness about themselves, and also contain more than a few deep, dark, and dirty secrets that may, or may not make them a danger to whoever’s life they’re being thrown into. These are the kinds of movies that can go one way so cheaply and by-the-numbers, but with the Guest, Wingard and Barrett find a way to keep this tale moving, without ever seeming to focus on the constant cliches that usually make these kinds of stories such eye-rollers to sit through.

For instance, David Collins, the central character here, is an odd duckling, although he’s not really a cartoon. Sure, the guy gives off a strange vibe that makes you think he’s up to no good, but because Wingard and Barrett give him so many awesome scenes that high-light him as something of an endearing bad-ass, it’s hard for us to think of him as any bit of a baddie. There may be some underlining meaning behind the things that he does for this family, but whatever they may be, don’t matter because all we want to do is see him single-handedly get rid of all this family’s problems.

Dad may not be getting his promotion because of some young, hot-shot d-bag? Don’t worry about. Son continues to get picked-on by a bunch of the jocks at school? Once again, don’t worry about it. Daughter may have a boyfriend who is a bit of a shady character? Especially, don’t worry about. David Collins takes care of all these problems in his own manner, and while we want to think of all these scenes as obvious, Barrett and Wingard give them all a certain level of fun and electricity in the air that makes these tropes seem like something new, or better yet, cool.

And as David Collins, Dan Stevens gives off the perfect essence of cool, while by the same token, also has something weird and mysterious about him that we don’t know if we can fully trust. Being as how I’ve never watched a single episode of the Downton Abbey, I can’t really say I’ve ever seen much of a Stevens before, but now, that might change. The guy’s clearly handsome, but there’s something about that handsomeness that makes him almost deadly, which is why when the movie decides to have him turn the other cheek, it’s not only believable, but it allows for Stevens’ comedic-timing to really shine.

So conceited.

So conceited.

Although, the major problem I had with this movie mostly came from the fact that I couldn’t ever tell what this movie wanted to say about Collins, or how it wanted us to feel for him. First off, he’s obviously supposed to be the earnest problem-solver for this family, so of course we’re supposed to stand behind him and root him on. But then, the movie changes its mind about him and starts to throw in a convoluted back-story about his “time” in the army, which eventually brings in the government, SWAT Teams, and DEA agents out of nowhere. It’s crazy, sure, but it’s also fun to see, because you know Wingard and Barrett know better with this story then to allow for all of its wackiness to lead up to nothing.

Then again, though, it doesn’t seem like they want us to hate David Collins, either, even despite all of the evil, devil-ish acts he commits in the later-half. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deeply into this, but a part of me just wanted to know how I was supposed to feel about this guy and whether or not he’s the one I should rooting for. Clearly I wasn’t supposed to, but the movie had me fooled on maybe more than a few occasions and that was a tad disconcerting to me. Whereas with You’re Next, it was somewhat clear who we were supposed to stand behind, and who we were supposed to despise, but with the Guest, neither Wingard and/or Barrett can figure out who we’re supposed to love, and who we’re supposed to hate.

Anything in between is just strange. But maybe that’s just my problem and nobody else’s.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t quite reach the intelligent heights of You’re Next, the Guest is still fun, exciting, and a nice tribute to the kinds of movies that Wingard and Barrett grew up loving, and want to spin-around on their heads for the modern-day audience.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

The pose I always strike in the club. Without the fire-arm, however.

The pose I always strike in the club. Without the fire-arm, however.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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John Dies at the End (2013)

If this was released on 4/20, the box-office would explode.

Told in flashback with a reporter named Arnie (Paul Giamatti), this is the story of Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) who are two slackers who do nothing with their lives except act as if they kill monsters, all for the greater-good of society. They soon find themselves all caught up in a whirlwind of inter-dimensional activity after their exposure to a drug dubbed “soy sauce” that allows them to have unusual powers and wild visions.

The plot synopsis up-above may not be the best in the whole, entire world, mainly because this movie doesn’t really seem to follow a regular structure that most movies out there follow. That being said, you can probably already tell whether or not this is your type of movie by the look of the trailer, the poster, or even the first 5 minutes in which we get a random sequence of some dude talking about chopping a person’s head-off. It’s quick, witty, and really humorous  and I knew if that’s how the rest of the film was going to play-out, then I was in for a total treat from beginning-to-end, no drugs required. However, by the 30-minute mark, it became quite apparent to me that drugs were going to need to be acquired. Damn my sobriety!

Writer/director Don Coscarelli is mostly known for his dip in cult-films that people either love, or absolutely  positively despise. I guess it all depends on the type of person who’s viewing it and that’s why I may have been a bit shaky about seeing what he did with this material here. The thing is: it seems like this guy knows what he’s doing, how he wants to do it, and why he’s doing it, but the final-product doesn’t make it seem so. In the beginning of the movie, everything seemed so wacky, wild, and insane, but made absolute sense as to why, but by the latter-acts, things start to change and it almost becomes like a desperate-act for Coscarelli to keep things up-and-about, by throwing in random-sequence-after-random-sequence.

Yeah, something tells me they wouldn't be friends, if this took place in real-life.

Yeah, something tells me they wouldn’t be friends if this took place in real-life.

It makes sense why this movie feels like it is one, huge drug-ride from hell, because the truth is: it is one huge, drug-ride from hell. The main characters are constantly on drugs throughout the whole movie and it gives us a reason and explanation as to why everyone and everything is so incredibly strange, but there comes a point where it feels like we need more than just random, crazy shite. It almost feels like we need plot, reasoning, structure, emotions, characters, and most importantly: more fun.

That’s the weirdest-problem I had with this movie: just not enough fun. I’m not going to lie, there were times I really felt like I was having a ball with this material because I never, ever had a clue as to where it was going to go, and didn’t want to know until it finally showed-up on-screen and blasted my mind away. But then there were other times where I felt criminally-bored by the proceedings up on-screen, and that’s because the movie begins to focus on too much of it’s plot, without any of the “fun-element” going for it. It may sound strange having me complain about this movie focusing on too much of a plot, considering I said it needed more of that, but the complain I am centering more towards is that the shit just does not make sense, and whether or not it was supposed to, really, really goes over my head.

Having the interview with the journalist at least gives the film some sort of easy passage-way in having us understand what the hell is going on and what’s next to come, but that’s only good for about a-half-hour. Then, after that minute-mark, it all goes downhill and really seems to get lost in it’s own exposition, without ever being able to bring itself back-up to life. The idea of having soy sauce be your main drug of choice that fucks with these people’s minds and have them see a bunch of insane things makes sense and is good, that is until it starts to get out of control and make it seem like the soy sauce itself is more than just a drug that makes you imagine things, it actually has the ability to give you powers only Clark Kent could dream-of. It all gets to a point of where I couldn’t buy into it anymore and I just wish that Coscarelli decided to relax with the plot, and allow more fun to be had here. Is there such a problem with wanting that when you see a movie? Especially one with Paul Giammatti?

Speaking of Giamatti (the dude also produced), anybody going in and expecting him to do his own thing, left this material up from hell’s gate, and give it a sort of levity, are going to be very disappointed coming out. All he does here is play the journalist with a gullible sense of well-being, and sometimes, act a bit snarky like most journalists do. It’s nice to see Giamatti show-up in “different” material like this and really expand his comfort-zone, but when he’s given about 15-minutes of screen-time, it just feels like a total waste of an amazing and reliable actor that, in my eyes, can do no wrong. Yes, that even includes Lady in the Water.

Wish they actually sold masks like these. Halloween costume for 2013, anyone?

Halloween costume for 2013, anyone?

Instead of giving the spot-light to an actor as talented as Giamatti, the movie instead focuses most of it’s attention on Chase Williamson, a new-comer that I think has a future of bigger, and brighter things. Apparently this was Williamson’s first, ever movie and for a virgin who’s just getting his cherry popped: the guy leaves a lasting-impression (sort of like the time I lost mine). The character he plays could have been one that is absolutely annoying and terribly one-note, but Williamson always seems to be one-step ahead of that and makes this guy into one of your typical, slacker/stoner characters you see in movies like this, but instead, give him more charm and wit. In somebody else’s hands, this role could have really been cringe-inducing to watch, but Williamson gives it his all and makes this flick his bitch. Not sure whether or not that’s a good thing, but for a first-time, major IMDB credit: it’s pretty damn impressive.

The same can’t quite be said for the other-half of the duo, Rob Mayes as the titular John. It’s not that Mayes is bad in this movie or anything, it’s just that his role is deuchy and stud-like, that he comes-off more like a frat-guy that likes to take hallucinogens, instead of a slacker-nerd that enjoys hunting monsters and solving strange problems. Together, they form a solid-duo that I could see kicking ass and taking names, the completely stoned-way, but when it’s just them hanging-out and doing their thing; Dave was a lot cooler and more interesting than that d-bag named John, who just so happened to have the movie named after him.

Consensus: In order to watch and actually enjoy John Dies at the End, I guess you need to have an acquired taste for the material as it is, but even if you are looking for a fun, wacky, and wild trip that is all about no-holds-barred entertainment, then you still may be wanting more. Who knows though! Go out, get stoned, and watch it. Just don’t say you heard that from me.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Just wait till he hears the box-office returns on this one. Mr. Paul won't be smiling any longer.

Just wait till he sees the box-office returns. Mr. Paul won’t be smiling any longer.