Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Chris Zylka

Novitiate (2017)

Trust in God. Not the nuns. They’re a little mean.

Once she turns 17, Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) decides that it’s time to leave her old life behind and join the Catholic Church to become a nun. It’s a decision that her mother (Julianne Nicholson), who is agnostic, doesn’t quite understand or fully support, but she doesn’t have much of a say in the matter – Cathleen believes that she’s had a calling from Jesus and has fallen in love with him. Cathleen enters a Catholic convent as a postulant under the tutelage of the Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo), who is known for her passion and grace in the world of religion. While there, Cathleen meets fellow nuns who are doing their best to stick with it, even if the responsibilities and rules are quite demanding and not all that understandable. But specifically at this point in time, during the early-60’s, the Catholic Church itself was going through a bit of a change, what with the planned reforms of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Church would show a much more open and accepting image to all those who wanted to have faith in God. Most within the Church got behind these rules right away, whereas Reverend Mother doesn’t, fearing that it may change the community forever and for the worst.

Still looks like Andie Macdowell, in a nun outfit.

Novitiate doesn’t necessarily come off as a scathing indictment on the Catholic Church, or even faith in general, and it’s much better off for that. Writer/director Maggie Betts, making her directorial debut, seems to understand and respect those who actually fall in love with God, or whoever they praise, are willing to throw their whole lives completely away, and devote everything to prayer, abstinence, and spreading the good word of the Lord. While it may sound like a boring life to a normal layman, to those who are involved with the Church, it’s the greatest honor they can bestow and Betts doesn’t seem to be making fun of these people, as much as she easily could have.

Instead, she shows a certain sweetness to these people who devote their lives to God. But then again, she also realizes that there are a few bad apples who either, misinterpret the word of God and act out in heinous ways, or can’t keep up with their sacred notions and never seem to give up. Betts seems to be saying that while having God in your life can be a good thing, having it run your each and everyday life, isn’t, and it can drive people to pure insanity.

And as we all know, living in the world that we live in, this isn’t much of a stretch for Betts to make.

That said, Novitiate is an overall smart movie that doesn’t necessarily have an agenda, but shows us the Catholic Church during a transnational period, that they don’t even know or understand is quite as severe as it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily a stylish, or fully exciting movie – there’s a lot of walking, praying, sitting in silence, crying, and hushed-tones – but the movie creates a certain uneasiness just by doing this, that it’s easy to get compelled by. The movie is deathly serious and understated, therefore, never quite goes overboard or as insane as you’d expect it to be with some of these religious types, and it feels a lot more realistic for that. It’s less of a sympathetic-portrait of the Catholic Church, and much more of a humane one, where we see all the good, as well as the bad, within it.

Uh oh. Someone’s talking during prayers.

The only pure instances in which the movie goes slightly a bit overboard is with Melissa Leo’s performance as Reverend Mother, but it still works. Leo’s presence here is a little shocking because you can always tell that she’s about to crack loose, but because she’s a nun and has to set a good example for the fellow nuns out there, she has to stay cool, calm, and collected. There are instances in which we see Leo lose all control and it’s scary, but not in the horror movie kind-of-way – it just seems like a person slowly losing grips with her own form of reality, and coming to terms with the all-too real one.

It’s a scary and powerful performance, and from Leo, I wouldn’t expect much different.

Everybody else is quite good in this supporting-cast, but really, it’s Margaret Qualley who remains the heart and soul of the whole project. As Cathleen, Qualley gives us a sad, somewhat scared character who keeps to herself, but is so in love with God and the Jesus, she can’t hold it all in. Through Cathleen, we see just how one can misinterpret The Word and it’s Qualley that keeps us on-edge, not knowing whether she’s going to crack and lose all control, or if she’s going to stay her meek and mild self. Through it all, we still sympathize with her; we know that she means well and even if she is throwing her life away, it’s her life to throw away. We just want her to realize that there’s more to life than the Church and to stand outside, in the real world, if only for a bit.

Consensus: Slow and a little languid, Novitiate surely follows its own pace, but is also a well-acted and compelling look at the Catholic Church, that’s neither judging, nor entirely sympathetic. Just honest and realistic.

7.5 / 10

“God? You spoke to Madonna. Why can’t you speak to me?”

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classic


Piranha 3DD (2012)

Piranha’s just aren’t cool. Face it.

There’s something in the water again. And this time no one is safe from the flesh eating fish as they sink their razor sharp teeth into the visitors of the best summer attraction, The Big Wet Water Park.

Even though it has its haters, Piranha 3D was still a fun movie because it didn’t take itself too seriously, was gory as hell, and had a lot of unabashed fun to it that made it worth watching (especially if you’re buddies one night and looking for entertainment and you have no beer). However, they should have just left it that and stayed away from more Piranha’s cause honestly, who the hell cares?

This is the first flick to ever come out in theaters and Video-On-Demand at the same time, but if you want to save your money and not hate everything about yourself, just stay at home and not bother watching it. First of all, director John Gulager doesn’t do shit here with this promising premise, or anything else he has at his display either. The film looked as if it had no budget whatsoever, and half of the sets/effects are used from the first movie (pretty freakin’ obvious, too); all of the energy that the first one had, is lost in this sequel because it doesn’t even feel like these guys made this movie with the word “fun” in mind, they just tried to cash in on the “Piranha” name; and the scares just weren’t here at all. I know that these types of films aren’t really depending on being scary, but there wasn’t even a single “boo” moment to get me through here and there. Everything just sort of happened with no care whatsoever.

Also, the writing was just freakin’ terrible. The first flick had bits of humor here and there, but this film barely had any which really disappointed me because when you have a plot filled with piranha’s, water, boobs, and gore, you should be gettin’ a laugh-out-loud riot like the first. Instead, you just get some shit that tries hard as hell to be funny with it’s “look at me being quirky and weird” fashion, and ends up not even bringing a chuckle out of me once. Then again, humor is subjective so maybe you’ll find a lot more to laugh at than my sorry-ass did.

Anybody that’s going to see this film (or staying home to watch this, what I suggest more) knows that there’s going to be plenty of boobs and blood. Actually, that’s exactly what you get and I can say that the film does deliver on that promise but not with the same intensity as the first. The memorable sequence in the first one where all of the piranha’s come into invade the lake, killing and ripping to sheds, thousands and thousands of people was a freakin’ awesome scene and is sort of here too, but not with the same kinetic or creative energy as that one. It was just boring, with blood and gore that seemed too tame for a sequel like this, and the naked chicks weren’t even hot. They were just crass, and even though that’s not a bad thing for some people, for me, it just should have been placed better.

If there is anything that’s one bit of a redeeming quality for this flick, it’s David Hasselhoff playing the one character he plays to perfection: David Hasselhoff. Hasselhoff’s extended-cameo is actually pretty funny but definitely not used in the right way. It almost seemed like the film didn’t know what to do with him so they just stuck a bunch of Baywatch-like scenes in there and made it seem like they were doing something so funny and collective with him. It’s weird, he’s easily the best thing in this movie but he is also the most disappointing aspect of it as well. Don’t Hassle the Hoff, especially when you put him in a piece of shit like this.

As for the rest of the cast, they all try their hardest but nobody can really get past the paper-thin characters here. Katrina Bowden and Danielle Panabaker were nice ladies to look at, but ultimately, just seemed terribly bland; David Koechner usually can make me laugh in anything he does, but didn’t have me chuckle once at him; and Ving Rhames shows up to give this film a spark of energy and fun that it needed, but is also just another reminder as to how and why the first flick was so much better and so much fun in the first place. Also, be on the look-out for a Gary Busey cameo that sucks. Honestly, how the hell can you mess up a Gary Busey cameo!?!?

Consensus: Piranha 3DD tries it hardest to be like the first, but is unoriginal, unimaginative, has no sense of what’s funny or what humor is, features plenty of boobs and gore but not as much as it should, and is a sequel that doesn’t do anything other than try to cash-in on the “Piranha” name. Fuck this shit.

1/10=Total and Utter Crap!!!