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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Claire Danes

Stardust (2007)

Better than Goldust’s brother.

Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man from the town of Wall, a small, quaint and lovely little town on the border of Stormhold, a magical kingdom where all sorts of crazy things happen. To hopefully win the heart and the hand of his girlfriend Victoria (Selma Miller), Tristan enters the magical world to collect a fallen star, in hopes that he’ll obviously win her over, but prove that he is quite the man that he always thought he could be. After little issues here and there, Tristan eventually collects the star who, to his surprise, is a woman named Yvaine (Claire Daines). However, Tristan isn’t the only one who’s looking for Yvaine; numerous witches, Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses also want this star and will do anything to get it, by any means. So now, Tristan’s job just got a whole lot harder. Not to mention that he and Yvaine, while initially not being able to get along with one another at all, start to see each other as equals and even, well, connect. In possibly more ways than Tristan has been able to ever do with his possible future-wife.

A pretty hot star.

Matthew Vaughn is probably the perfect director for a Neil Gaiman book, because no matter how strange, or action-packed, or even tense things get, Vaughn remembers not to take everything all that seriously. Meaning that we do get a lot of jokes aimed at the material, but it’s also very funny in the same way that the Princess Bride was – it respects the fantasy-genre up until the point of where it realizes how ridiculous it truly is. That’s a lot of Gaiman’s material and while there’s been plenty of attempts at recreating the same kind of odd-style that he has, Vaughn’s perhaps the closest one to achieving that.

And yes, it also helps that the movie is buckets of fun, reminding us that, when he isn’t trading quips and smart-ass remarks, Vaughn knows how to keep the action moving and exciting. Cause Stardust is a little over two-hours and about a bunch of silly witches and knights battling it out for a star, it can be a bit too much to ask for a non-lover of the fantasy genre. And yes, I am one of them.

However, Stardust is a much different tune.

It’s in on its own joke, it never really relies too much on exposition, or world-building, or certain other tricks and trades of these kinds of stories that can tend to make them a bit annoying. The story itself is already pretty straightforward and thankfully, Vaughn doesn’t try to over-complicate things; he keeps it simple, effective and most importantly, fun. He could have done anything he wanted with this movie and I wouldn’t have cared, because he knows how to keep it fun, even when you least expect it to remain as such.

That’s Michelle Pfeiffer? Uh. Yeah. Time has not done well for her.

And a whole bunch of that fun extends to the cast, too, who are, as expected, game for this kind of silly material. Charlie Cox, in a pre-Daredevil role, shows a great deal of charm as Tristan, a dork-of-a-man who we like right from the get-go and sort of stand-by, no matter where he goes, or what he does. Claire Danes is also quite great as Yvaine, the star with a whole butt-load of personality. Danes knows how to make this wacky material work and come-off not so wacky, and yes, her and Cox have a neat little bit of chemistry that transcends most other movies that are just like this.

In that we actually care and want them to get together in the end.

The rest of the cast is, thankfully, having a ball here. Michelle Pfeiffer shows up as the main evil witch, vamping it up and having an absolute ball; Robert De Niro may seem out-of-place, initially, as a pirate, but really blends in with this goofy-world; Mark Strong is, as usual, charming and a lot of fun as Prince Septimus, Tristan’s ultimate foe; and well, there’s plenty more where that came from. The real joy is just getting a chance to see everyone here show up, have a good time, and not make us feel like we aren’t involved with it, either.

We are and that’s the greatest joy of all.

Consensus: Despite its silliness, Stardust wears its heart and soul on its sleeve, with a fun and exciting pace, matched by an even more charming ensemble.

8 / 10

There were a lot of Italian pirates back in those days, people! Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Paramount Pictures

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U-Turn (1997)

uturnposterNext time, wait for the rest stop.

While on the road to who knows where, Bobby (Sean Penn) has a bit of car trouble and has to pull over into the nearest gas-station/mechanic he can find. Of course, this leads him right into the lovely, yet wacky little town of Superior, Arizona, where he’s told that his car will have to stay around for a few more days so that it can get inspected and get all of the right parts it needs to continue to run. Bobby’s not happy about this, but he can’t do much about it, so he decides to set up shop in town for a short while, and in doing so, attracts a whole lot of unwanted and crazy attention from the local folks who clearly seem to be pretty interested in what a city boy like Bobby’s doing around their parts. One person in particular is the sexual and dangerous Grace (Jennifer Lopez), who decides that she wants to run away with Bobby and start out a new life for her. The only issue is that her husband (Nick Nolte), controls almost everything that she does and will not let her out of his sights, regardless of who stands in his way.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

U-Turn is the perfect movie for someone like Oliver Stone to direct right after making something as loud, bombastic and overstuffed like Nixon. Because with U-Turn, you can tell that Stone’s getting back down to his roots, catching his breath, and enjoying this sick, dark and twisted world that he seemed to love and be so fascinated with in Natural Born Killers. And sure, while U-Turn is no way in the same league as that near-masterpiece, it’s still a fun little piece of noir-trash that reminds us what can be done when you have some good material, with a director who knows how to handle it all so well.

Of course, Stone has been better and worse before, but still U-Turn shows us that, once again, Stone knows a thing or two about these dark, gritty and messed-up tales about small people, in small towns, doing some pretty cruel and evil things to one another. Stone of course makes this little town of Superior all the more zany and crazy than we’d ever expect right away, but it works in the movie’s favor; every character we run into and get a glimpse of, despite seeming like over-the-top cartoons, still have this smallest sense of danger in their bones that makes it feel like they could step into the story at any second and cause all sorts of damage. It’s what most thrillers in the same vein strive for, but because Stone has a certain eye for these kinds of movies, it works a whole lot more.

Then again, it is a very disgusting movie that, at times, sure, can test our patience for what we’re capable of seeing and accepting for an upwards of two hours or so.

That said, Stone is having fun here and honestly, that can be sort of rare. There’s this small glimmer of a message about Native American tribes and the fact that they were kicked off of their land, but the movie doesn’t make it a top-priority to get on any sort of soapbox and preach to the audience – it’s rare for an Oliver Stone movie to do that, but it’s a welcome change-of-pace because it helps not take away from the cast and twisty, turny plot, and also allow for us to enjoy the movie a whole lot more, all its shortcomings with plot aside.

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Sean Penn is a nice addition to the world of Oliver Stone and even though it’s not a more spirited and crazy performance like we’re so used to seeing from him, as Bobby, it almost feel like he didn’t have to be. In a way, he’s sort of the cool, calm and collected one in the middle of a group full of nuts, wacko’s and fools, which suits Penn a whole lot, even if it is also a whole bunch of fun to see him freak-out every so often. Same goes for Lopez, who is playing the typical femme fatale we see in these sorts of flicks and does a solid job playing up that sexy, vivaciousness of her, making us wonder if we can, or can’t, trust her.

But then, there’s the rest of the ensemble who seem to be a little more ramped-up than Lopez and Penn, which is perfectly fine because it suits them all so well.

Powers Boothe and his eyes steal every scene he’s in, because of how scary he is; Jon Voight has a few heartfelt moments in the middle of a wacky and wild movie; Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes seem as if they walked off of the set of a sitcom as two young lovers who constantly keep on running into Bobby; Billy Bob Thornton seems spirited and awake as the town mechanic who seems to be enjoying his chances of ripping Bobby off every chance he gets; and yes, Nick Nolte is as dastardly as can be, playing Grace’s husband, snarling and howling every line that comes out of his mouth. But you know what? It works. We’re supposed to be repulsed by this guy and Nolte is perfect at delivering it all.

If only he and Stone worked together more.

Consensus: As wild and as crazy as Stone has been, U-Turn also shows off his most vile and inhumane piece that is definitely not his smartest movie, but still a bunch of fun, if in the right mood for it.

7.5 / 10

Yeah, Sean can't be bothered because he's just too cool, yo.

Yeah, Sean can’t be bothered because he’s just too cool, yo.

Photos Courtesy of: DVD Dizzy, Horror Cult Films

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Who cares about family when you got a plate full of turkey right in-front of you?

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is a divorced, single-mom who just lost her job and now has to fly home for the traditional family Thanksgiving Dinner in Baltimore. Thing is, her parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft) are a bit out-of-whack, her gay-brother (Robert Downey Jr.) likes to start a whole bunch of trouble, and her sister (Cynthia Stevenson) doesn’t like anything that anybody else does.

Ohhh, Thanksgiving. The family, the mashed potatoes, the turkey, the corn, the butter, the bread, and most of all, the fights. Yes, not matter how perfect your family may be, there are always fights to be had around this joyous time because let’s face it, any time you get a group of people together, to sit-around and eat dinner, there’s going to be some words thrown around and about and that’s just the way it works. Me, on the other hand, I eat, talk, watch football, and that’s it. If my family fights, then so be it because I know I’m not getting myself involved and I’m sure as hell not missing out on some turkey, that’s for damn sure. To be honest though, I think eating turkey was something that was more interesting to think about than watching this movie.

Jodie Foster went behind the camera for the 2nd time with this flick and you can sort of tell that she’s connecting with this topic through her own experiences with her, and her family, especially around Thanksgiving. Now maybe since Foster was such a big-name at such an early-age, maybe she didn’t really have nice, little, suburban-cooked meals of turkey with her ordinary-family of regular-day people, but you can definitely tell that she enjoys that aspect behind Thanksgiving because it shows a lot in this film, and there’s just a certain easy-going feel to it that makes it so pleasant of a watch. All holiday movies are cheery and happy-go-lucky, and this one is no different but it’s something about the family-dynamic that this movie nails so well that got me all cheerful.

All of the interactions these characters shared with one another, all felt real for about the first hour or so. I liked how everybody in this family, knew each other, had their own ways of communicating with one another, and didn’t hold-back when it came to expressing their real-feelings about something, whether it be each other or the world around them. That’s how a real family is and I liked watching everybody just talk and be themselves around one another, even if themselves was just a selfish, condescending piece-of-crap that you wouldn’t want to be around, let alone spend all of Thanksgiving Dinner with. I don’t know how many actual, normal Thanksgiving Dinners Foster has had in her life, but I can definitely tell that she enjoys the look and feel of a believable family-dynamic and how everybody gets that all families are wacky, dysfunctional, and always, I do repeat, always fight about something stupid or meaningful.

However, this whole realistic family-dynamic doesn’t go on forever. After the first hour of this movie, it seemed like Foster sort of lost what she was going for originally, and just decided to make this one, long soapy melodrama and sort of abandon all of the realistic, family-stuff that was going on before. I liked when the family was arguing and how they couldn’t decide on what to eat or not, but I didn’t give a single-crap about how the father remembers the good old days and how he could wish to go back in-time and do them all over again. I’m sorry, but it didn’t interest me and it seemed like Foster lost herself because instead of focusing on the whole family and what they’re all about, she focuses more on Claudia as time goes on and as good as interesting as she may be at-times, she’s never fully-developed.

You have to give Holly Hunter a lot of credit for really nailing her roles as Claudia. Claudia is a bit of nut-job that obviously has problems with her professional and personal life, and even though that is touched-on within the first 20 minutes or so, it never feels like we really care all that much to begin with. Then, the film starts to really focus on her and what’s going on with her life, and it makes no sense as to where all of this crap is coming from. I get it, she’s a bit sad, and she misses her daughter, but what does that have to do with her and her personality. I didn’t get what Foster was touching on with her and even though Hunter is very-good here, I still wish that her character was more fully-developed and wasn’t used so randomly.

Everybody else in the cast is pretty good, too, and to be honest, a lot more interesting than Claudia in-ways. Robert Downey Jr. seems like he’s having a ball as Claudia’s trouble-making brother, Tommy, and just uses that “talking-really-fast” shtick oh so well here as he does everywhere else. Him and Hunter have a nice chemistry that really does feel like they are brother and sister, and that they have always loved each other through thick-and-thin and just watching them together was great to see, especially since Downey was probably all coked-up out-of-his-mind while he was doing this. Anne Bancroft plays the mother, Adele, and is very, very good as we all know her as being and just nails the whole cooky, paranoid mother-role very-well. Hell, in a way, it even reminds me of what my mom may be in the near-future but I’m not banking on it. A super young-looking Dylan McDermott shows up here as Leo Fish, a friend of Tommy’s, and he’s okay but he seems way too comfortable with this family, way too quick. Literally, as soon as the guy stops in, he starts making wise-cracks to Claudia about how much of a hell the house has got to be and it’s obvious that he wants to get into her parents, because why else would he randomly be talking to her like that, but it didn’t seem believable. Instead, it just came off as a bit creepy and if he was a guy that one of my relatives brought over for dinner, I’d probably want him the hell out. Then again, it’s Dylan McDermott and I’d be pretty honored if the guy showed-up in my house in the first-place so never mind that noise that I’m spraying.

Consensus: Home for the Holidays has the look and feel of a cheery, good-spirited holiday movie, but also feels like it’s trying to go for a bit more and instead, bites off a little bit more than it can chew.

6/10=Rental!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Gobble Gobble!

Me and Orson Welles (2009)

You don’t have to be a dick to be an actor, but it seems like a good excuse.

Seventeen-year-old Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) spends his days dreaming of the bright lights of Broadway. Richard happens upon Orson Welles (Christian McKay) and his fledgling Mercury Theatre company. Richard impresses Welles and lands an unpaid bit part in the Mercury’s forthcoming run of Julius Caesar. He is taught the ropes by a beautiful, ambitious production assistant, Sonja (Claire Danes). Richard falls into Sonja’s womanly charm almost instantly.

Now I haven’t checked out every single  piece of work this legend (Orson Welles) has to offer, but from what I hear there seems to be three things about him: he 1. was talented, 2. was very big on his ego, and 3. was a huge dick. But hey, you can probably get away with number 3 when you’re considered one of the greatest actors and directors of all-time.

I was a tad disappointed to see that Richard Linklater  directed this without adding anything of his own writing, but it didn’t matter too much once I realized just how fun and charming a flick like this can be. I have only been a part of  2 or 3 plays and I can easily say that Linklater definitely nailed down what it’s like behind-the-scenes of one. Everybody’s constantly rushing, getting tense, and trying so hard not to mess up their lines that almost anything the slightest thing makes you crazy or pushes you to forget everything. All of that continuous hustle-and-bustle from the first rehearsal to the final show is captured here perfectly; the passion of the people who surround the play is so present that it brings you into this place that makes you forget it’s the miserable thirties.

But who am I kidding?! The real reason this film works so damn well is because of Christian McKay‘s larger-than-life performance as Orson Welles. I have never heard nor seen McKay before but I think he definitely nails everything about Welles from the gruff in his voice, to the ways his eyes move when he’s mad. Welles (as portrayed here) is a genius but is also very egotistical in the way that he only wants the show done his way, and anybody else who dares to argue against his vision will either be kicked to the streets or used for their opening night, then kicked to the curb. Welles may have been a guy that only cared about himself, and himself only, but he also shows a lot of talent when it came to getting just about every detail right and the performance from McKay only proves that to be even more true. McKay doesn’t just sound or act like Welles, he is Welles and for the whole time I was watching him, I couldn’t get past the fact that who I was watching right now wasn’t actually Orson Welles himself. Definitely a performance that should have made him a lot of a bigger name but I guess it was the film’s limited release that sort of screwed him over in that case.

However, as amazing as McKay as Welles is here, he’s also the biggest problem with the flick because when it isn’t on him and is focusing on all of this other junk, it sort of gets a little fluffy and uninteresting. All of the stage stuff was fun to watch but when they started focusing on the story outside of it all, I really started to lose my interest as I found this coming-of-age story to be rather, —bland. It seems like the writers here just borrowed from a whole bunch of other coming-of-age flicks, and found their ways to throw them in there without any real interest in actually moving the plot along. Basically, it’s just here to give us another story that isn’t all about the stage but that’s what I started to miss out on and I think if Linklater at least wrote this, it would have been a lot better.

Claire Danes is pretty good here as Sonja and definitely is a lot happier in this role than she was in Shopgirl. Zac Efron is also good in his role too as Richard (how cute, Linklater), but he definitely sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes right down to it. It’s not that Efron is bad, it’s more that he is just way too Hollywood for this role and movie, and the costuming just looks a little too goofy on him. He definitely has charm: charm that we will see more of in upcoming years, but like wise he doesn’t seem anywhere near the perfect fit for this role.

Consensus: Me and Orson Welles is at its best whenever it focuses on the behind-the-scenes stage antics of 1937 Manhattan and McKay’s perfect performance as Welles, but whenever the focus goes towards its fluffy and bland coming-of-age story, things get a tad uninteresting.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Igby Goes Down (2002)

Damn it sucks to be a Culkin.

Igby Slocumb (Kieran Culkin), a rebellious and sarcastic 17-year-old boy, is at war with the stifling world of old money privilege into which he was born. With a schizophrenic father (Bill Pullman), a self-absorbed, distant mother (Susan Sarandon), and a shark-like young Republican big brother (Ryan Phillippe), Igby figures there must be a better life out there – and sets about finding it.

It’s pretty obvious that a lot of people compare this to the Catcher in the Rye because just from reading the plot on the back of the book, they seem to have plenty in common. However, I have not read that book just yet so don’t worry it’s not going to be another one of those “book vs. movie” reviews.

Writer/director Burr Steers does a pretty good job here with all of the expectations that would come from “adapting” a classic like Catcher. Steers puts a modern spin on this story and gives it this dark edge to it that can sometimes be funny but can also be very sad. I can’t say that this flick is a dark comedy because there are moments that are legitimately meant to be funny but so many other jokes all have to do with either drugs, death, or mental illness that it’s kind of hard not to categorize it as that in the first place. Regardless of what you may call this film though, it’s funny and may surprise you with a lot of the jokes it pulls out of its behind.

Where I think Steers’ writing really worked was in the way he showed Igby’s life, as well as Igby himself. Igby is a great character because he is a total smart-ass that always has something sarcastic to say, seems like one of those kids that would do perfectly on his own, and just reminds me of the type of high school rebel that I always tried to be but somehow failed. The kid is an ass and hates his mother so much that when she dies (not a spoiler because they tell you in the first 2 minutes) he calls up everybody she knows and just tells it like it is, “Yeah…she’s dead”, then moves onto more and more people to tell. There’s also a couple of other scenes that made me laugh at everything he was doing and it was just great to see a teenage character in a flick that wasn’t there to show a dilemma he has with picking up chicks or getting good grades, no, this kid’s trying to make a living and figure out what he wants in life.

It’s not just all of the funny ish that happens here that makes Igby so damn cool, it’s also the fact that he feels like an actual kid with a lot of problems that he tries his hardest to hide from. There’s a lot going on in Igby’s life that has effed him up from a father that basically went nutso right in front of his eyes, a mother that he absolutely despises, a godfather that won’t just let him be his own man, a brother that has always been better than him in anything, and an inability to deal with all of the crazy roommates he gets. Maybe it doesn’t sound all that bad to begin with but for an 18-year old kid (hollah!), it can be a lot to take in at a quick pace and we feel for Igby even though he’s surrounded by assholes constantly.

Some parts of this flick worked for me on a dramatic basis, but others, did not. There’s some little love thing going on between Igby’s lady friend and Igby’s brother that felt forced and just another way to bring conflict to the story of how much more his brother reigns supreme over him now. I also didn’t like how the film just sort of left everything up in the air without any resolution to any of these characters whatsoever. I’m not saying that I loved all of these characters, because a lot of them were just plain and simple assholes, but I still spent enough time with them to actually get to know and care about them, so why not show me what actually happens to them after it all? Hell, we don’t really know what happens to Igby at the end either but what bummed me out was just how sudden and abrupt the ending was without showing me the characters that I spent so much time with.

The reason Igby is so damn good as a character though is because of Kieran Culkin is spot-on with this act and I hope that more and more people take notes and see that this kid has a real true comedic talent. Don’t believe me? Check out ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’, and you’ll see what I’m saying. As for everybody else they’re all good too. Claire Daines is a fun character named Sookie to watch and learn more about, which was a surprise because Daines is usually very bland in her flicks; Jeff Glodblum is the absolute man as Igby’s godfather, D.H.; Amanda Peet is just fine as Rachel, even though I think she kind of over does the whole “I’m on heroin” act she had going for a good part of the movie; Ryan Phillipe plays, once again, the soulless ghoul here as Igby’s bro-brah and does a nice job even though he’s playing another rich kid who thinks he’s better than anybody else; Bill Pullman is great in flash-backs as Igby’s daddy and he has some of the more emotionally wrenching scenes; and Susan Sarandon is back doing what she does best: being a bitch. And that’s all we really want from her.

Consensus: Igby Goes Down has an involving lead character, as well as some very funny moments that take us inside the mind of a teenager, no matter how quick life may come at you for it.

7/10=Rental!!

Shopgirl (2005)

Leo was such a better fit for her.

‘Shopgirl’ follows Mirabelle (Claire Danes), a disenchanted salesgirl and aspiring artist who sells gloves and accessories at a department store. She has two men in her life: wealthy divorcee Ray Porter (Steve Martin) and struggling musician Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman).

I guess since Steve Martin hasn’t produced a hit in the last ten years or so, that he just ended up writing novellas to keep his mind off things. But, once again, he brings himself back to the big-screen to made us realize just why he should go back to being Inspector Clouseau — as painful as it may be to actually say.

That first paragraph right there makes it seem like I didn’t like this movie, which is wrong; because I did like this movie. However, it was only  certain aspects that seemed to make it work. The mood was pretty good right from the start where we get this somewhat ‘Lost in Translation’ feel where these characters are desperately lost and searching for love anywhere they can find it in L.A.; and it works well for that time being. I also think that some scenes worked mainly thanks to a lot of Martin’s ideas. Like one scene in particular where Mirabelle is telling all of her gal pals that Porter is so into the relationship, but he’s telling his therapist the total opposite. It’s a great way to show how two people’s words can get misinterpreted by the other and it works by showing us that not all relationships we have are going to be exactly the way we want them.

I won’t lie, I did feel a little strange when I thought about the whole idea of Steve Martin (59 at the time) and Claire Danes (26 at the time), actually shakin’ up but I also have to realize that yes, this sort of stuff does happen in real-life. It’s obvious that there are girls out there who do agree to dating and sleeping with older men with money but that doesn’t really mean I want to see it on-screen — let alone done in a way as shallow as this. The whole idea behind this relationship between these two is that she needs and wants love, whereas he wants to give her stuff without ever really having to give her anything. When I say anything, I mean anything. This guy has just maybe one big conversation with her on their first date, where he just asks her three dumb questions. After that, we barely see those two ever talk again. All they do is just mope around, mutter on about when they are going to see each other again, and wonder to themselves if they are really being loved by the other. Then, it gets worse because the film tries to get us to really feel something for this relationship and make us feel the pain that Mirabelle is feeling with this guy, but the whole time I just kept on thinking that she should just freakin’ get rid of the sugar daddy and find some young, hot dude because it’s pretty obvious that she can get whoever she wants. I mean it’s freakin’ Juliet Capulet we’re talking about here people!

The film gets categorized as a romantic comedy but it has some moments of actual comedy and that’s only thanks to Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy. This guy is pretty much the saving grace to this flick because he has perfect comedic timing, is terribly awkward in almost every single one of his scenes, and also seems like the perfect fit for Mirabelle which is why it makes me scratch my head even more that she would go for an older dickhead like Porter. Either way though, Schwartzman definitely makes this film better every time he pops up on-screen and even though it’s a bit weird that the film itself goes on this weird tangent about him touring with this band, it didn’t matter after awhile because it was so fun to watch him just act like a goof ball no matter where he was.

Claire Danes is also very good as Mirabelle and gives off this very old school vibe to her, almost even channeling a young Mary Tyler Moore. She seems like she can be a bit naïve and stupid at points, but the other times she seems like a genuinely sad character that just needs some excitement and love in her life. I’m not much of a fan of Danes since I think all of that shit she did with Billy Crudup back in the day was messed up but I can still say that she gives off a pretty good performance here.

Last but not least, the main problem with this film is actually Steve Martin himself as Ray Porter; because as much of a dick as this character can be, Martin is not very good at playing this type of character. To call Porter unsympathetic is an understatement, he’s a straight-up dick about everything with Mirabelle and definitely doesn’t deserve her one bit. That’s why Martin isn’t the right choice for Porter considering he has the channel off all of that goofiness that makes us love him in the first place. Having a somebody like Michael Douglas, Gene Hackman, or even Al Pacino would have been fine too because these guys are good at playing rich, wealthy scumbags that obviously don’t care but I guess they thought it would be easier to go with the guy that made the source material himself since he’s so close to it, right? Nope! Go back to solving crimes about Beyonce’s lost ring, Steve!

Consensus: Shopgirl definitely features some moments that are smart and work, but they are too spread apart from one another and the character’s love stories didn’t generate as much heat as the film tried to shove down our throats. However, Jason Schwartzman makes it all better in the end.

5/10=Rental!!

The Rainmaker (1997)

This is what Coppola has done ever since his days of The Godfather. But that’s not so bad.

When Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), a young attorney with no clients, goes to work for a seedy ambulance chaser, he wants to help the parents of a terminally ill boy in their suit against an insurance company (represented by Jon Voight). But to take on corporate America, Rudy and a scrappy paralegal (Danny DeVito) must open their own law firm.

Director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, etc.) is a guy known for making classics, but has recently fallen off the map. However, even an OK effort by him isn’t so bad.

Coppola does a very good job with this script because he just directs this the way it should be directed. He isn’t really trying to go for any big emotional punches with this story, he just shows what this court case is all about and how to win it basically. I actually found this more entertaining than anything else because I just want to watch a courtroom drama, and I don’t really need some big life-lesson out of it.

The screenplay is also very well done here and not only has a lot of good moments where their all in the courtroom “duking it out”, but there are also a lot of moments of actual comedy that had me laughing a lot much to my surprise.

However, there are still problems that lie here. The problems that Damon’s character has to go through to win this case, aren’t so deadly as the film makes it seem to be. His character is made to be looking like he’s struggling against all odds, when really he’s just a rookie lawyer going up a lawyer who’s been in the game for about 30 years. I mean yeah, that is pretty nerve-raking but the film made it seem like he would never be able to pull it off, when in reality, it was pretty obvious he could.

Another problem with the movie is the sometimes ridiculous names these characters were given. A major insurance company named “Great Benefit” seems just a little corny to me, as does a sneaky lawyer named “Deck Shifflet,” and a woman who is looked on by her insurance company as a piece of trassh, named “Dot Black.” I mean, come on, you actually expect me to believe these almost comic-book-like names.

The real benefit of this whole film is the cast that really brought these characters to life. Matt Damon is charming here as our hero, Rudy Baylor; Danny DeVito is perfect as this sneaky and shady para-lawyer named Deck Shifflet; Mary Kay Place is good and emotionally there as a mother; and Claire Danes is sort of chilling in her performance as Kelly Riker, who has to constantly put up with the assault from her hubby. There are also some nice little spots in here from the likes of Virginia Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Roy Scheider, and a randomly uncredited, Danny Glover as our judge. He was probably getting too old for that shit too! OK that was lame I know.

The best out of the whole cast though is Jon Voight as this smarmy and ruthless lawyer named Leo F. Drummond, who on paper seems like a totally cliche and predictable character, but the way Voight plays him makes this character a great guy you just love to hate because you can always see that he’s one step ahead of everyone else. The film brings no actual surprises but at the end of the film, there’s this little touch that the film provides and basically tells us that even when you win, sometimes you lose, and this is what Voight shows perfectly.

Consensus: The Rainmaker may not offer any real surprises, but the strong direction from Coppola and the good performances from this ensemble cast, keeps this film watchable and interesting as it goes along.

7/10=Rental!!

The Family Stone (2005)

Reason why I don’t ever bring my ladies around to the crib during Christmas.

Although their relationship works in the city, things begin to fall apart for buttoned-up Manhattanites Everett (Dermot Mulroney) and Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) when they visit the suburbs for the holidays to stay with Everett’s family. Sarah’s first meeting with Everett’s parents (Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson) proves so traumatic that she calls in her sister (Claire Danes) for backup — a move that only makes Christmas more complicated.

I was completley surprised by this film. Now I remember seeing this way back when, and at least enjoying it for that matter, but I didn’t take it all in. Now that it’s Christmas time, I really do like this one.

The one thing that really shocked me was how good the writing actually is. There are plenty of moments of well-deserved humor, that will either have you chuckling, or laughing out loud, all depending on your type of comedy. However, there are also plenty of touching moments that may tug at some heart strings.

I think the best thing about this film is that it’s all about family. How everybody in it, no matter how crazy, or nuts they may be, you care for them all. It’s set in Christmas and shows a lot of the shenanigans that can occur during this time, but the real treat is watching how each and every family member interacts with each other. You feel like your apart of the family, and that’s not a bad thing, cause you like them all.

However, my one main problem with this film is that it’s tone awkwardly shifts all over the place. There are moments of humor, but then there are just very, very serious moments, that really get to you, and you wonder just what kind of film is this. It plays back and forth between comedy, drama, and also tragedy, but the constant shifting was kind of annoying, but it didn’t ruin my experience. I just knew it could have been way better.

The ensemble cast is what really had me watching the whole time. Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson are perfect as this aging couple that really just wants there family together, as they hold a secret that’s very near, and dear to them. Sarah Jessica Parker is actually very good in a role that requires here to be charming, but also awkward, with a hint of confusion, and she surprisingly pulls it off pretty well, which I was not expecting. Dermot Mulroney as usual is just amazing here, providing plenty of key dramatic scenes. Luke Wilson also brings humor with his perfect comedic timing, and this film is no different. Rachel McAdams plays a pretty mean person in this film, but then she starts to grow on us, and we start to actually enjoy her presence. Claire Danes pops up, and her character is likable, mainly also thanks to Danes’ appeal.

Consensus: The ensemble is strong, and the writing has many funny moments, as well as touching, but the awkward shift in tone for this film provided too much confusion as to what it wanted to be.

8/10=Matinee!!!

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

I never thought there would be such a thing as Shakespearean gun battles.

In director Baz Luhrmann’s contemporary take on William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, the Montagues and Capulets have moved their ongoing feud to the sweltering suburb of Verona Beach, where Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes) fall in love and secretly wed.

I always have liked Shakespeare, and I think everybody, myself included, can at least say they love the classic story of Romeo and Juliet. But I never imagined the story to be played out like this mess.

The one thing I liked about this film was the direction from Baz Luhrmann. He directed one of my favorites of all-time, Moulin Rouge!, and that film had a very crazy, trippy, and all-over-the-place feel to it, as so does this. I liked the visual style Baz was going for here, and the vibrant, and beautiful colors he uses in this film create such a great taste of feeling, and wonder to the whole story and look.

However, his direction isn’t enough to save this ship from sinking big time. I couldn’t believe any of this, especially when these people would speak. The film is shot in modern time, but still keeping with the original olde English dialogue, and this was just a totally bad idea. Everything that these people said, just came out so unintentionally funny, or really cheesy. Leonardo DiCaprio is always great, and Claire Danes is a presence on screen, the only problem is, is that their not Shakespearean actors. Their emotions don’t capture the original text, and when they talk it doesn’t seem real. And besides, DiCaprio cried too much in this film, I mean honestly, the guy was making me laugh. The only person in the cast that I can think of that did the best job with the language, was Pete Postlethwaite. This guy knew how to capture the raw emotion, taste, and feeling that had to go into this character, for audiences to understand, and did the best job out of the whole cast.

I think the constant energy the film was given kind of took away from the original material. This was released back in the day of 1996, and its obviously for teenagers, of the MTV ages, and it just tries so hard to be hip, and cool with the young crowd, that it fails, at even conveying enough emotions to show the real beauty of the story. There are too many gun battle sequences, and random doses of high energy, that just takes this film to places we would have never imagined.

Consensus: It’s visual style may be great to look at, but the film gets lost with it’s ability of trying to be too hip, and doesn’t do it’s cast any favors, by making them sound like complete idiots.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!