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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Chris Ellis

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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Armageddon (1998)

Before we all die, at least we can take some pleasure knowing that we’ll be treated to the lovely sounds of Steven Tyler.

After NASA catches wind of a meteor the size of Texas heading straight for Earth, executive director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) cobbles up a plan: Get a crew on the meteor, drill a hole through it, and leave a nuke in there so that it can break off into two pieces and still miss the Earth by a small bit. It’s a smart plan, but the only problem is finding out who’s right for it. In walks oil-driller Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) who Truman recruits for this mission because the ship plan is the same one Stamper uses on his own oil rig. Though Stamper is initially hesitant to take on such a huge, daring mission, he eventually decides to take it, but on one condition: He gets to choose the crew that goes with him. In walks the rest of his rag-tag group of dysfunctional nut-balls that either love prostitutes (Steve Buscemi), love to smash things (Michael Clarke Duncan), or love Stamper’s own daughter (Ben Affleck). Though not everybody feels alright with this change, they don’t have any other plan to go along with. Meaning, it’s all up to these guys to save the world and all of mankind.

Not much of a burden if you think about it really, you know?

Well, well, well. Here it is, everybody! The movie I swore I would never, ever watch again after seeing it numerous times as a little kid, all because back then, I knew it was total junk. But for some reason, curiosity killed the cat in my case and I just could not help myself; I had to see if this movie got any better with age, and also, whether or not my tolerance for mostly all things Michael Bay would have anything to do with any change in feelings toward this.

He would have done anything to say "Yippie-Kay-Ya".

He would have done anything to say “Yippie-Kay-Ya”.

Needless to say, they sort of do. But not by much. Here’s why:

See, though I like to give Bay the benefit of the doubt on most cases for blowing all sorts of shit up and taking absolute pleasure in doing it, I felt like this was total over-kill. And yes, even by his standards, that means a lot. Then again, I may be getting ahead of myself here, because most of the explosions occur during the last hour-and-a-half of this movie. As for the first hour of this movie, we’re “treated” to watching a bunch of clichés act like nuts, talk goofy, get some back-story on what makes them the slightest bit of “human”, and try to have us believe that they could actually be smart, trained, and neutered astronauts in a near 18 days, but actually be trusted in saving our whole race from extinction.

And while I’m all for a movie being silly for the sake of making people laugh, this was not that kind of silly – it was just downright dumb. What makes it even worse is that the cast here is pretty damn talented – actually, scratch that, it’s an unbelievably stacked ensemble that, with any other movie/director, would have me rushing the gates as soon as I caught wind of it happening, but not here. Especially not with Michael Bay, the kind of guy who takes pleasure in taking these incredibly talented, wonderful screen-presences, and making them his wild, wacky, and near-racist guinea pigs.

Then again though, in the world of Hollywood, money really does talk, so I guess I can’t be getting on Bay’s case too much for just getting along with the times and following the path set out for him.

Still though, that doesn’t excuse giving somebody as wonderfully charming as Steve Buscemi a role in which he just makes stupid comments about hookers, having sex, dying, not being crazy, menstrual cycles, and going absolutely nuts while shooting a machine gun. And yes, while that all may sound incredibly amusing to some of you out there, I can assure you, it’s totally not. It’s just downright corny and seems like Bay is trying way, way too hard to make us laugh at anything; so much so, that he’s willing to embarrass the hell out of some of the most respected talents in the biz.

Also, he uses this comedy to break up all of the nonsensical violence, loud noises and explosions that occur during the last half-hour which, coming from a Michael Bay-standpoint, is relatively impressive. Though, nearly 16 years after the fact, some of it looks a bit dated, you can tell Bay really pays attention to the constant vibrancy he has behind the camera and how he makes this movie look. Sure, it’s frantic and you can almost count how long Bay holds a shot for (don’t worry, it’s two seconds or so each), but it does show you that he’s the kind of director that works well with this stuff.

However, with this stuff here, there’s just way too much. Too much double-crossing; too much dumb humor; too much poor script-writing; too much explosions; too much of random things happening only to make the plot seem more dense and the movie run-time a little longer; just too much of everything really. And yes, while I do admit to being on Bay’s side for this very same reason in most movies, this is not one of them. For some reason, it just felt different this time and rather than laughing and having a great time, I was just laughing, only in a way to pass the time of my complete boredom with the same things happening again, and again, and again.

All that was missing was a bottle of Jack and some Funyuns to make life a whole lot less depressing.

Love and animal crackers: It's the combo you never thought you'd never thought you need.

Love and animal crackers: It’s the combo you never thought you’d need.

Like I mentioned before, too, Bay really does have a knack for getting together an interesting cast, it’s just such a shame that he gives them so very little to do. And even when he does give them anything to do, it’s utter garbage that only makes it seem like the actor in question was in desperate need of another shore house. For instance, despite being practically the perfect role for Bruce Willis in which he has to play a tough, rough, and masculine-as-hell man (with an in-and-out Southern accent), somehow, the writing is so cheesy and godawful for this guy, that everything that comes out of Willis’ mouth seems like he’s having a hard time reading anything at all. Not just because he can’t believe the trash that he’s reading, but because he forgot his glasses on the counter at home.

And heck, I wish I could say the same for Ben Affleck, but man, this kid is terrible here. I know that Big Ben has cleaned his act up now and is a pretty respected guy out there, but any reason why anybody thought he was just a young talent, with barely any of the later at all, were totally correct when they saw this. Which is a shame because watching Affleck, you can see a guy that’s trying really hard, but just doesn’t have the skills yet to really deliver on all of the sobbing and screaming he has to deliver on. It just seems like he’s in a parody of the type of movie that he’s in. You know, a parody of a Michael Bay movie, in which every character has an IQ of 38, has women-troubles, likes to cuss, say dumb stuff, act silly, and at the end of the day, still be able to save the world, all while chanting “USA! USA! USA!”.

Yep, that’s Michael Bay for ya: Praising America, one over-budgeted mess at a time.

Consensus: Though much of Armageddon is what you expect to get from a Michael Bay movie, there’s still no denying how incredibly hard it is to believe anything that happens in this movie, nor enjoy one’s self when all there is a explosion, after explosion, after explosion, with barely any end in sight.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

If these are our saviors, we're fucked.

If these are our saviors, we’re fucked.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

John McClane may not be able to utter his famous-line with the MPAA on his ass, but at least he can still kick some, right? Should have just hired me for the advertising.

Famed New York City cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) returns to action in trying to save the world from terrorists once again. However, what makes these terrorists so different and so much more difficult to deal with, is that they deal with state-of-the-art techonology and are lead by a man who knows exactly what the hell he’s doing when it comes to taking over the world and all of it’s pride and joy. That’s where McClane’s new buddy (Justin Long) comes in to try and help him with this computer-shit that John McClane doesn’t need to take down the baddies.

For all of you people out there who have been longing for the days of when action movies came to theaters and did nothing else but provide plenty of guns, bullets, fights, and killings, all in a natural, special-effects free way; then most of you were probably happy to see John McClane back in action after almost a decade of being gone for so long. However, the idea of a 52-year old man saving the day and taking down a group of terrorists does seem a little unbelievable, right? Oh wait, it’s Bruce Willis. Never mind, it’s totally believable now.

If you’re reading this right now and haven’t seen the original, 1988 action-classic Die Hard, then you, my friend, need to get out of that muthatruckin’ seat and check it out because you are really missing out on something for your life. It’s a classic that will forever, and ever stand the tests of time and that’s all thanks to the fact that it was an old-school action movie, back in the times when they were more simpler and kinder to the people who ventured-out to go and see them. See, what made the original Die Hard such a great movie was that it not only had a bunch of stuff blowing up, people getting killed, and cool-ass lines coming from the mouth of Mr. Willis, but it also had a bunch of interesting characters in it and kept us worried and scared for them all, as their lives were single-handedly hanging in the balance from these crazy, but smart Ruskies. But as usually what happens with most franchises that are a bit too big for their britches,  sequels come-around and forget about all of the substance. Instead it’s all about style and all that there is left at the handles is a bunch of non-stop action, shootings, guns, countless people getting killed, and once again, stuff blowing up. That’s all fun and all, but with our Die Hard movies, we need a little something to hold onto and I think that’s exactly the memo director Len Wiseman got here, because he brings this series way back to what it was before: fun, entertaining, joyful, and an always exciting action movie.

Leave it to John McClane to say a big old "Fuck You" to text messaging, and stick straight to walkie-talkies. Oh. He has to use them because the plot needs him to so he doesn't get tracked by the villains? Well, it's still old-school!

Leave it to John McClane to say a big old “Fuck You” to text messaging, and stick straight to walkie-talkies. Oh. He has to use them because the plot needs him to so he doesn’t get tracked by the villains? Well, it’s still old-school!

Wiseman doesn’t really break the action-mold with this movie and doesn’t necessarily do anything that could be considered ground-breaking in the least bit, but that’s all fine and dandy because the guy knows how to make one entertaining action-sequence, after another. Watching McClane get out of these sticky-situations that he always finds himself getting wrapped-up in, definitely kept my interest and even had me a bit tense by wondering if he was going to make it out alive or not. I know it’s pretty obvious that the guy was going to survive it all but at that moment in time, when McClane was stuck in a situation that it didn’t seem like he was going to be able to get out of alive, I didn’t feel it and instead, just felt a bit of suspense in the palm of my fingers. Solid job by Wiseman, on his part.

Even better is that the movie never stops hitting us with the action, and even reminded me a bit of the old-school action movies of the 80’s/90’s, that were all natural and had little to do with special-effects or computers or anything that would be considered “new-school” like that. It sticks to the basics and it brings back all of my old-school, VHS days. However, that’s a reason why this movie was pretty cool in other ways, because we got to see what they did with this age-old premise, set it in present-day America, and giving McClane some technological-difficulties to step in front of his way and make his mission a whole lot harder. That was a pretty neat-use of the setting an definitely made this flick a bit more twisty and twervy with where it went and how. Then again, we all know how the story ends, but when all of the crazy action is going on, you sort of forget about that and just enjoy the scenery.

With all of this action coming at you left-and-right, you have to wonder if there is any time to actually slow-down at all and the answer to that is: well, not really. Wiseman seemed like he spent so much goddamn time on the action, the explosive, and the shootings, that whenever it came right down to showing McClane as a human-being once again, he sort of shies away from that and goes right back to McClane beating the crap out of people once again. In a way, it’s not so bad considering it’s what we all know and love McClane for in the first-place, but one of the main reasons why we loved him so damn much in the first-place is because he was a human, just like you or me. I missed that aspect of the character again, and I wish Wiseman got his hand out of the CGI cookie jar and actually allowed there to be some down-time for McClane to just tell us more about him and what he’s been up to. I mean it has been almost 10 freakin’ years! The least we could find-out is what the hell’s taken him so long to be away from the limelight!

And even once they do go back to the action-scenes, a lot of them will really have you laugh your ass off. And not in the fun or exciting way either. The dumb way, is more like it. Whenever I go out to see one of these action movies, I always know to leave my brain at the door and not worry about what makes sense and what doesn’t, but there does come a point in this movie where I just couldn’t handle it anymore. There’s a whole sequence with McClane riding on top of a flying-jet, that is in the air and then, all of a sudden, he jumps from it, lands on a slant, slides down the highway, and comes back with a couple of scratches here and there and continues on with his adventure as if he didn’t just stay on-top of a flying, fuckin’ jet just about 5 seconds ago. Now, I get it: McClane is an action-hero and those types of characters are usually allowed to pull-off insane, inhumane stunts such as ones like these, no matter how stupid or incomprehensible. However, the guys a frickin’ cop from NYC, not Clark Kent! After awhile, all of the preposterous and ridiculous action-sequences in this movie bean to take a toll on me and I lost my believe-ability in all of this, but then again, it is an action-movie so I guess there shouldn’t be too much of that going-around anyway.

Meet the hottest girl you will never, ever get a chance to sleep with.

Meet the hottest girl you will never, ever get a chance to sleep with.

Even though he does still pull off all of these crazy stunts, Bruce Willis never, ever seems to disappoint and is still the man as John McClane. Willis has a knack for always showing showing why he’s the man for any job and John McClane, is the job he was meant for and you can see why that is, even if the guy is pushing 52, around this time. Still, age isn’t a matter for John McClane! McClane is a fun-loving, tough son-of-a-bitch that spits out hilarious one-liners like nobody’s business and the whole old-man look that Willis has, doesn’t really get in the way of what we think he can and cannot do. Willis seemed like he had a hell of a lot of fun playing McClane once again, and I think that the guy’s going to be playing this role for a couple more movies now, that is, until he hits age 100 and is still dodging bullets. Hey, if anybody can do it, it’s Bruce Willis, that’s for damn sure, so don’t worry, he’ll always get my ticket!

Justin Long is the geek-hacker that McClane accidentally picks up but realizes he can use him to his advantage and come to beat these villains the way he wants to. I’ve always dug Long in anything that he’s done and it’s great to see his charm and wit be put to good use, even if he is a bit of nerd and clashes with McClane’s old-school style a bit much. Then again, it provided many of yucks for me so I can’t complain too much about the butting-of-the-heads between the two. Timothy Olyphant is alright as the main villain that stands in McClane’s way, but in a way, seems very miscast as well. Olyphant definitely tries to come off as the weird, off-kilter dude that’s only out to get the U.S. and all of the money it has, but instead, seems a bit like he’s forcing it too hard and is maybe a tad too good-looking for a role that should be played by some creep who hasn’t seen the light of day. You know, a creepy and nerdy cat like Kevin Smith who actually shows up here in a cameo as the geek-of-all-geeks: the Warlock. That’s all you need to know about the dude’s role because the bigger surprise, the better, even though the opening-credits sort of spoil it for ya. Thanks!

Consensus: It is essentially your typical, ridiculous action movie that makes little to no sense about what happens and why, but Live Free or Die Hard is more than just that. It’s an old-school action movie that is able to provide us all with plenty of fun, exciting action set-pieces, and a return-to-form for Willis as John McClane, a role that he will never, ever live down and I think he’s fine with that. As are we.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Should have just gone bald, or been gay, or sold drugs, or even been all of them combined. Now that's a real villain of epic-proportions!

Should have just gone bald. Or been gay. Or sold drugs. Or even been all of them combined. Now that would have made a real Die Hard villain!

That Thing You Do! (1996)

If only songs were as catchy and simple as this one.

In 1964, teenage garage band The One-ders — singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn), drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott) and a nameless bass player (Ethan Embry) — become an overnight sensation when their debut song jumps to the top of the charts. But internal tensions threaten to make the group’s fall just as rapid as their rise.

Writer/director Tom Hanks is obviously a guy we all know, love, and care about when it comes to his acting but his writing and directing maybe was pushing it a little too far. However, have no fear, Hanks still is good no matter what he does.

What I liked about this flick was that the simple premise is showed in a very fun, entertaining, and nice way just like the bubblegum pop days of the early 60’s were before all of the drugs started popping on in and out. The story starts off as your usual “band gets bigger and bigger” story-line which was fun to watch because of how charming this script was, and the film keeps that charm going on throughout the whole flick. Hanks does throw in a little bit of satire against the whole music business, but it’s nothing too much to where he seems to be aiming too high.

But enough about the script, let’s just get to the real reason why anybody really remembers this movie and that is for the title song. It’s so catchy, so fun, and is played probably about 7 times throughout the whole flick but it’s not like “I’ve Got You Babe” in ‘Groundhog Day’, to where every time we hear it we want burn every single copy left of that song, it’s a song that’s just really good and actually seems like a song that would be on heavy-rotation during that time-period. There are a couple of other tracks in this flick that are pretty good, but this is the only one that I can remember having stuck in my head after it was over and while hell, even I’m writing this I kind of humming it now as we speak.

However, as good as good as this song may be, it’s also one of the bigger problems with this flick. The direction, writing, and attention is detail is fine the way it ought to be but there’s nothing else that really stands-out from this flick other than the song. It also didn’t help that by the end, there are a little bit too many parts where the film starts to dive into some lame melodrama and just gets really soapy and unbelievable. Then again, I wasn’t looking for anything that seemed like a realistic take on the lives of pop music stars during the 60’s, I just wanted a fun and entertaining flick, which is basically what I got.

I also liked how Hanks put the main focus on the dude that is essentially the back-bone of the band, the drummer. Being a drummer myself, I thought that this was pretty cool to see considering it’s always either the singer or guitarist in the band that hogs all the spot-light. Also, Tom Everett Scott is pretty good as Shades. I’ve seen this dude in plenty of other stuff but this is the only film that I can remember him best in because he’s pretty likable and seems like a dude I would love to jam with due to his love of jazz music. The guy also had a pretty good technique even though it wasn’t really him drumming obviously.

The other band-mates are all pretty good here with the likes of Steve Zahn playing his usual funny/sarcastic-ass character here as the lead guitarist; Ethan Embry being a lot of fun to watch as the semi-mentally challenged bass player aptly named T.B. Player; and Johnathon Schaech probably being the weakest of the bunch as the singer, because when shit starts to hit the fan for this band, he really just seems like he’s starting all of it, just to start it. Tom Hanks is also great as the band’s manager, Mr. White, which also probably helps considering he has the film’s best lines and seems like a dude I could trust with all of my money and fame; Liv Tyler is nice to watch, as always, here as Faye; and it was also really funny to see a very young Charlize Theron as Shades’ girlfriend. There are so many other people in this flick that I could mention but it’s honestly a lot more fun to just point at and think about who he/she is during the film.

Consensus: Though there’s nothing all that spectacular about the flick, That Thing You Do! is still a fun, charming, and well-acted tale of what all bands during the early days of the 60’s all dreamed, hoped for, and had to go through. Also, that song is just catchy as hell.

7/10=Rental!!