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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

The Monuments Men (2014)

Tell ’em, Nic! Nothing’s more important than stealing the Declaration of Independence and they know it!

During the final, winding-days of WWII, art-historian (George Clooney) is gripped with a task on his hands: Assemble a group of seven, fellow art-groupies, go through basic training, and find a way to gather and collect all of the ancient pieces of art, sculpture and paintings that the Nazis have apparently been hiding during the war. At first, once the men get taken into behind enemy lines in Germany, they realize that this whole mission may be a ball – one soldier (Matt Damon), comes close to even getting laid by a stern, but somehow stunningly hot French-gal (Cate Blanchett). But sooner than later, things begin to take a turn for the worse once the Nazis begin to see themselves getting more and more desperate as the days go by, therefore, having Hitler himself order that all art be destroyed, in hopes that it won’t reach their rightful, original owners. Smart idea on old Adolf’s part, but he soon realizes that he is no match for the Ocean‘s crew! With the exception of Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and even Rob Reiner. Yep, none of them are here, but at least we got Bob Balaban to spice things up, right?

George Clooney, the actor, is known to be a class-act that you can always count on to deliver, no matter what piece of material he may be in. He’s always got that cool-look, that charm, that wit and that swiftness to him that makes every dude in the theater lobby want to be him and discover his make-up team’s contact info; whereas he makes every lady swoon for the day that she may just be able to get snatched up into good old George’s hands. And ladies, if you’re less than two times his age, you run a pretty good chance at being his next-in-line!

"Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?"

“Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?”

But I digress….

While George Clooney, the actor, may be somebody we can trust and rely on to give great work, George Clooney, the director, isn’t always someone we can count on. Most of the time, Clooney seems to not only do stuff that only seems to interest himself and his buddies, but he more often than not, drops the ball on what could have been something cool and interesting. The Ides of March, for the most part, just relied so heavily on the performances from its stacked-cast, that I almost forgot Clooney even directed it, or even had a story written-out for it; Leatherheads didn’t have much of a chance of being anything spectacular, but at least he tried with it; Good Night, And Good Luck will always seem to be his crowning-jewel where everything he sets out to do, he nails to near-perfection; and then of course, we have his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind that seemed to only get away with the fact that it had rich source-material to begin with, despite Clooney finding a way to make a story about a game-show-host-turned-CIA-agent somewhat depressing and rather boring.

So yeah, as you can tell, I know a thing or two about Clooney’s track-record as director and most of the time, it doesn’t always pan-out so well. That’s why I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt, even despite it being pushed-back from its original, Christmas Day release-slot (apparently due to “special-effects problems“). However though, once again, I digress…

Anyway, what I am trying to get at here is that while Clooney may not always be consistent as a director, he’s always the kind of guy that interests me with anything that he touches his palms with, solely because it’s him, and he knows quality. Here, on the other hand, we have a movie that definitely seems like the type of movie he feels strong and passionate about, yet, never really seems to let come-off of the ground. But you’d never know if he felt any passion or love for this true-life story of heroism, and men fighting for what they truly believed in, because we never get the right details we should to fully believe in these characters, this story or anything else that happens. Yeah, I know that all of this is true, but watching this movie, you’d still never get a full clue as to what is happening, why, how and who was involved. For all I know, the actual, real-life soldiers who were involved with this mission could have been a rusty crew of old geezers that loved to make jokes while they were standing on deadly land-mines, hung-out and smoked cigs with Nazi soldiers wanting to kill them, and even crack some funny-ones while half of Russia’s army comes storming after them, wanting their heads, as well as the various paintings they can’t seem to get enough of.

But what’s so surprising to me about this movie, is that it never seems like Clooney knows that he’s messing-up by not giving us any reason to care for these people, their mission or the heart and soul they shed for these pieces of art; it’s almost as if showing us that they were willing to risk their lives for these paintings was already enough assurance that they do wholly, and fully care about these paintings. However though, it doesn’t work and it should have. Even if Clooney decided to give us maybe one or two minutes dedicated to these guys being wrangled-up and ready for the mission, it would have made a huge difference – we would have not only cared for these dudes, but cared about the mission they were setting-upon as well. Also, probably would have given this movie more of a drastic-feel to it, especially once these guys started getting perishing.

Somehow though, as much as I may rag on this movie, as well as what Clooney does as a director, I was able and more than willing to just let myself have fun and enjoy the old-style, nostalgic kind of war-flick that George himself was so obviously going for. Personally, I don’t think he hits all of the right notes, but if there was ever a war flick that I could sit-down and watch with my whole family, even my much-younger cousins, it’s this one. That’s not saying it’s great or anything, and surely doesn’t get past the fact that movie itself has its fair-share of faults and problems, but it definitely kept me entertained throughout most of the movie.

She's French, she's willing and best of all, you probably won't ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn't you tap that?!?!?

She’s French, she’s willing and best of all, you probably won’t ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn’t you tap that?!?!?

Once again, I stress the fact that it wasn’t perfect, but, if you have nothing else better to do for your Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or what have you, evening, then I can’t say this would be a terrible. There’s definitely plenty of other options to go and check-out before this, but if grand-mom and grand-pop want to spend some “quality time”, I’d say point their head in this movie’s direction, and you’ll definitely be promised a spot in the will. Sounds harsh, but I’m just saying.

Love you G-Mom and G-Pops!

Most of where my enjoyment with this movie came from was just through the cast and how, despite how thinly-written most of their material may have been, they still prevailed and kept me smiling. Like I stressed before, Clooney the actor is fine and is charming enough to make you see past the obvious-faults that this role only serves him to break-out into soliloquies every once and awhile about how men should always stand-up for what they believe in, no matter how looked-down upon it may be from others; Matt Damon is entertaining enough to watch as his second-in-command, James Granger, who is gone for quite some time and separated from the rest of the action, but is still somehow able to make his story the least-bit interesting, just by showing up and smiling (because we all know, once Matt Damon smiles, we all gotta smile!); and Cate Blanchett somehow makes a thankless-role as a French-spy, somewhat memorable by making her out to be a bit of a weirdo that also longs for a connection. Then again, maybe I’m just reaching.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re fine, but it’s obvious they aren’t doing anything exceptional. Bill Murray is always Bill Murray in anything he does, but he’s slightly less charming and “Bill Murray-ish” than he usually is, and less of that has to do with him as a performer, and more with just how the script does not use him; in fact, I’d say that they use Bob Balaban a bit more in the sense that they give him a scene where he gets to be somewhat “bad-ass”, as you’ve never seen him before (and trust me, you sure as hell haven’t!); John Goodman is his usual lovable, big-hearted, always cheery-self that also happens to be a soldier named “Walter“; Hugh Bonneville is fine as one of a British soldier who puts his life-on-the-line, as does everybody else, but gets to show his bravery in a slightly-memorable way; and Jean Dujardin, despite having an interesting role in Wolf of Wall Street, still feels like a previous Oscar-winner gone to a bit of a waste by now, however, I hope the tide turns around for him sooner than later. Because surely, we wouldn’t want another Roberto Benigni on our hands, now would we?

Consensus: Another misstep in Clooney’s directorial-catalog, the Monuments Men takes what could have been a very thrilling, exciting and emotional war-tale, and makes it uneven, poorly-developed and only entertaining in its bits and pieces, which is mostly thanks to all of the effort the cast puts into it.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!"

“Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

One could only imagine the type of dirty dealings Alex Trebek does on the side when he isn’t correcting dorks.

Many out of you out there probably know who Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) actually is just by his pop-culture relevance. He hosted the Gong Show, created the Dating Game, was infamous for his crazy personality on-and-off the screen and, from plenty of sources, apparently had a long-standing battle with drug-addiction that not only took over his professional, but most of his personal life as well. Oh and he was also a spy for the CIA too, apparently. Yeah, didn’t think about that one now did ya?

Whenever Gong Show reruns would show up when I was around, I’d always be wondering what the hell was up with the host. The guy always seemed like he was one step behind on everything else that was going on around him, which would have only made more sense if it was just that he did blow two seconds before the cameras began rolling. Much to my surprise though, the guy was actually part of the CIA, wrote an autobiography about it and even had a movie directed about his wild and crazy life. This is where I started to have second thoughts about this guy; but nope. My opinion still remains: Chuck Barris is a frickin’ nut.

Like the old joke goes: "Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude's bought her a martini."

Like the old joke goes: “Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude bought her a martini.” Or something of that nature.

Much more of a surprise to me was to find out that not only was there a biopic made about his wild life and times, but that it was also directed by one George Clooney. Apparently, Clooney found something quite interesting about this guy’s life that he wanted to make a movie about it all, adapting from the Barris’ own autobiography; and therein lies the problem.

See, since most of this is coming from the point-of-view of Barris and not really anybody else around him, we never know what’s real, what’s real fiction, what’s a bunch of crap that he just made-up in his head and what was done by Clooney, all for the sake of entertainment-purposes. Thankfully, most of it all seems legit in Barris’ own, twisted way and because of that, the movie comes-off as more of a biopic, rather than just a sensationalized, Hollywood story about a top-dollar guy in the showbiz. It’s a little bit weird; it’s a little bit twisty; it’s a little bit sad; it’s a little bit compelling; and it’s a little bit interesting. Which, when put altogether, made it worth watching for awhile.

But still, I was actually very surprised by the fact that even though this seems to be one of those wacky, larger-than-life stories you’d only get in the movies, but is also happens to be true, it still happened to be like every other conventional story where a guy has hope in this world, shows signs of promise, does well for awhile, then, sooner than later, begins to self-destruct by one bad decisions, after another. Can’t say I hold it against this film or Clooney too much, considering all that he’s doing is actually giving us the story that he read and whole-heartedly believes in, but material like this should be popping off of the screen. Not seeming like something we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but this time, just so happens to focus on a pop-culture icon thrown into the ring of the CIA. Strange and oddly compelling as it sounds, sadly, it does not play-out that way.

On top of that, too, the story itself doesn’t really get started-off until the first hour. As a director, Clooney seems like he has a nice mixture of Scorsese and Sodebergh going on here, and it made this movie move quick and light, while also still focusing on a character and a story that would begin to get more and more interesting, just as it unraveled. Where Clooney excels the most with this material is in all of the showbiz/behind-the-scenes stuff because it gave me a great glimpse of how hard it was for Barris to actually get any of his shows off the ground, and how hard it may be for anyone out there who ever had a single, creative idea in their mind and wanted to see what they could do with it.

However, where Clooney mis-steps is in that kept on going back-and-forth between three elements of this story that didn’t seem to mesh so well. One was a romantic sub-plot he has with a couple of ladies that he finds cool and charming; the other is about his life as a TV game-show host; and the last one is about his CIA shenanigans. All do quite well in their own, respective fields, but spliced together, it feels uneven as if you couldn’t quite tell where George wanted to go with this material. Did he want it to be a biopic? A comedy about showbiz during the 70’s? A character-study about where this guy came from and his mind? Or, just a simple tale about the CIA, and all of the intrigue that goes along with it? Not saying you can’t focus on all of these elements and pack them into one, completely whole story, but there’s a better way to go about doing so, and yet, still making it compelling in every which way.

Then again though, it should be noted that this was George’s directorial-debut and while he may have not done the most perfect job in all of the world, it’s still impressive enough to see why he’d go on to make many other movies in the near-future. Not all of them were great, but they are still as interesting as this and it goes to show you what one guy can do if he doesn’t just have the looks and the talents, but the aspirations and ambitions as well. For that, I give George credit, even if it may seem like I’m ragging on him quite a bit.

I’m really not though, George. I’m not nearly half of the man you are. If only.

But what this movie gave us the most, was a solid look at Sam Rockwell and just exactly who the hell he was. As Chuck Barris, Rockwell nails everything perfectly – his goofy-demeanor, off-kilter sense of humor, and overall weirdness he carried on throughout his day-to-day activities. He’s a nut-ball for sure, but he’s not necessarily a likable one. Actually, better yet, he’s a bit of a dick, an unapologetic one at that, which makes it a bit hard to care about this guy at first. However, Rockwell is so believable and charming as Barris, that you almost forget about all of the morally questionable choices he’s made throughout the bulk of this movie. At one point, you actually feel bad for him considering he is so out-of-his-league and just not at all ready for what the world of the CIA has to throw at him. Though we never do quite know exactly what did, or what didn’t happen in Barris’ life, we still feel for the guy and see him as a human, and not just another Hollywood hot-shot, who got too big for his britches and ended-up getting in all sorts of trouble. Rockwell was great here though, and totally does carry this movie on his own two shoulders.

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right then and there!

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right here!

Makes me even happier to see that he’s still putting in great work today.

Though, I do have to say that Rockwell does have a bit of help from his co-stars, one of which is Clooney himself as the main, CIA-operative that gets Barris involved with all of these sheisty dealings in the first place. Clooney’s good and definitely up to his old-school charming ways, but after awhile, just felt like a plot-contrivance that would conveniently show up to deliver bad news for Barris, just when things seemed to be going jolly-good for the guy. It was also awesome to see Rutger Hauer as one of Barris’ fellow-agents out in the field that definitely provides some near and dear insight, but soon becomes to be a bit of a mysterious guy himself, and not in the good way mind you. Still though, it’s great to see Hauer getting some meaty-material, as the dude definitely deserves more of it.

This isn’t just a man’s show though, because there are some ladies here that get a chance to show up, strut their stuff and shake the boys’ party up a bit. Julia Roberts started-off pretty good as another CIA Agent that Barris meets out there in the field, but soon becomes every other role that we’ve seen her play, time and time again. Sad to see, but I guess I’ve expected it by now, right? Then there is Drew Barrymore as Penny, Barris’ long-lasting girlfriend of sorts and is fine, even though her character is a bit weak here. It isn’t Barrymore’s acting that’s the problem, but it seems like her character was written in a way in which she always tells Barris that he needs to knuckle down, even though he never does so; seems to always stand by his side, even if he just continues to bang other chicks right from underneath her nose; and basically, just never get himself clean and off-the-grind. Actually, one time, it happens right in front of her face, and yet, she doesn’t say anything until five minutes later! Made no sense! All she had to do was a grow a back-bone and leave that bastard! Especially when I’m out there on the market! Like, holla!

Consensus: There seemed to be plenty of promise in the source material of Chuck Barris’ life, but sadly, despite all of the best intentions of Clooney, Charlie Kaufman and the good ensemble, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind just never seems like anything more than just your standard, traditional biopic with lots of CIA-stuff and showbiz-satire thrown into the mix. Other than that, not much else.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

There's always got to be that one last guy who never gets the hint that "the party's over".

There’s always got to be that one, last guy who never gets the hint that “the party’s over”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Ides of March (2011)

I think everybody knows that they would vote for George Clooney to be the next president.

An up-and-coming campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s (George Clooney) shot at the presidency.

Director George Clooney is behind the camera again for the fourth time and compared to ones such as Leatherheads, Good Night and Good Luck, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he doesn’t have much of a problem doing whatever it is that he does.

Clooney shows that he really can keep an interesting story going even if it doesn’t seem like anything new or ground-breaking. From the beginning, I thought I was going to get another behind-the-scenes look at a political race like in Primary Colors, however, Clooney keeps it entertaining with sharp dialogue that actually made me laugh at times surprisingly, while still giving me a lot to see with all these bad-ass politicians.

However, the story goes through a very odd twist right through the middle where it sort of switches the tone from political thriller to melodrama of sorts. Without giving the twist away too much, I still felt like this was a pretty cool twist on the film and actually kind of tied in with what happens with the last 30 minutes of the film.

This is where I think Clooney started to fall though because he doesn’t really do a very good job of keeping both of these story-lines together and still almost meaning the same thing. What I mean is that the film’s twist is good and for the most part, features some very good scenes for the latter part of the film but there are still scenes about the other part of the film that had to do with the actual political race that didn’t seem like they belonged together with the twist in the same film. I noticed this and it kind of bothered me because even though I felt like both “story-lines” were interesting as hell and kept me interested, they still felt like two different kinds of films.

There isn’t also anything new that Clooney has to say about all of these politicians that hasn’t already been said or shown before. I think Clooney’s script is a little too moral for this material where it shows everybody basically being a bunch of evil and conniving sons-of-bitches towards one another. Clooney just wanted us to really see just how much all of these people manipulate each other when it comes to a presidential race such as this and although it was really cool to see all of that play out, I still didn’t need all the moralizing of these characters.

When it comes to the cast though, Clooney really does know how to do a great job with picking a near-perfect ensemble. Ryan Gosling is just all-over-the-place this year and is perfect as Stephen Myers. Gosling is a commanding presence on screen and demands your attention every time he’s up there. He seems believable and looks like a guy that knows all the right things to do and how to do them but after he is thrown a curve-ball, really doesn’t know how to handle it all too well.

Clooney is also good as Governor Mike Morris, and he surprisingly plays up that very dirty-politician act well which is something I wasn’t really expecting to see from him, especially in his own film. The scenes he has with Gosling are awesome and couldn’t have been any better with any other two actors. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman play two opposing campaign managers and are cast perfectly because both roles get to show just how damn good they are. Both of them are amazing in this film showing how cool and calm one minute they can be, but then the next minute totally mad and crazy as hell, so you don’t know which one to trust the most and who’s the good manager or the bad one.

Evan Rachel Wood is surprisingly very good in a juicy role as Molly, that allows to show her being sexy and a little bit mysterious but also emotional and vulnerable. She shows some great range and has an even more believable character arc. Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright aren’t in here as much as the film may make you think, but they’re also very good as well and round out the cast to perfect effect.

Consensus: Though there are a lot of messy things about The Ides of March, Clooney makes up for it with a very interesting story that gets better as the film goes along, and a cast full of great star that bring so much to each of their characters.

7/10=Rental!!