Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Craig T. Nelson

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)

MissippiposterIf it don’t fit, equit. Or something of that nature, right?

On a late night in 1963, black activist Medgar Evers (James Pickens Jr.) was gunned-down and killed in front of the hotel where his family was staying. While each and every sign of evidence pointed to the self-proclaimed racist Byron De La Beckwith (James Woods), somehow, he got off with barely even a slap on the wrist. Obviously, African Americans were up in arms over the decision, but also knew that they had no chance of winning it again, due to a completely racist court and jury system at the time. Many years later, Medgar’s late wife (Whoopi Goldberg) is shipping her case around to any firm that will listen to her and take her issue seriously. Some obviously don’t, but one person who does is Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin), an assistant District Attorney, who happens to be married into a very racist family. However, despite the unpopularity of the case, DeLaughter takes it on and experiences all sorts of issues in the process. But no matter how bad or heinous it may get, he’s inspired and passionate enough to know that he’s got one job and that’s to gain some sort of vengeance fro Medgar Evers. Even if that does mean risking his own career to do so.

Just another simple night, sitting around and watching TV.

Just another simple night, sitting around and watching TV with the fam.

What really hits the hardest at-home about Ghosts of Mississippi, is about how so much of it seems and feels relevant to today and what’s going on out there with racial relations in society. Without going on for too long and ranting, let’s just put it like this: Racial travesties like what happened to Medgar Evers, still happens to this very day and it’s the government itself who seems more than willing to try and cover everything up.

However, regardless of if you choose to look at the movie with a modern eye or not, there’s no denying that Ghosts of Mississippi deals with some racial issues that aren’t just still around today, but more than likely help to make the case for “not much has changed”. Black and white people still can’t get along; there’s still a clear divide of injustices; and there’s still cops out there killing black people, and not getting locked away for it. Ghosts of Mississippi was clearly released way before all of these issues became front-and-center news for every news outlet, but it still holds a certain bit of relevance to everything that’s going on out there in the world and the kind of equality we’re all still fighting for.

Anyway, there. That’s all the preaching you’re going to get.

But despite its great relevance, Ghosts of Mississippi isn’t always a great movie; Rob Reiner is a smart director, but here, he decides to play it less than subtle and doesn’t always make the best decisions, from a narrative-perspective. For one, the movie is nearly two-and-a-half-hours long and the only reason it feels like it, is because a solid portion of it is spent on Baldwin’s lawyer character. This is fine, because yes, he was the main lawyer in the case and, in a way, the main heart and soul of this story, but I feel like Reiner went a bit overboard with this character. When it becomes clear that DeLaughter will be single due to the case he’s taking on, the movie decides to introduce a new female character that he can flirt, fall in love with, and marry eventually.

While yes, this probably happened in real life, the fact that it literally takes up at least 20 or so minutes of the film, without showing or telling us anything new about this DeLaughter character that we didn’t already know from the first half-hour, gets to be a bit bothersome. More time could have clearly been dedicated to DeLaughter looking further and further into the case, as well as Goldberg’s Myrlie Evers. Both Baldwin and Goldberg are good in these roles and give them a lot to work with, even if it can sometimes feel like they’re limited to doing anything more.

That Alec Baldwin - always the liberal in the room.

That Alec Baldwin – always the liberal in the room.

But really, the character I wanted to see more and know about, was James Woods’ Byron De La Beckwith – one of the more despicable human beings in film history.

While it’s hard to make the case for a character who is so clearly evil, despicable and guilty of every bad thing he has ever been accused of in the history of his life, there’s something about the way Woods plays him that makes him interesting to watch. Sure, he can go a tad over-the-top and crazy with this character, but maybe, just maybe that’s how he was in real life? Maybe he did go on TV and pronounce his hatred for black people, regardless of the fact that he was in the midst of being accused of killing one some many odd years ago? Or, maybe he didn’t?

I don’t know, honestly. There’s a lot about this story that seems fishy and not all that believable, but whenever Woods was on the screen, I stopped caring. He’s s mean and nasty, that you almost wonder if Woods can take it any further, until you realize that, well, yes – yes, he can.

Which isn’t to say that he sort of steals this movie, but at the same time, yeah, he kind of does. The message at the center is still clear and heard, if a tad obvious, but Reiner gets by solely on a case that keeps us interested, even when it’s clear where it’s going to go, who is going to win, who is going to lose, and just what lessons about life and race relations are going to be learned.

As it turns out, none whatsoever. Which is makes Ghosts of Mississippi, unfortunately, something of a tragedy.

Consensus: Ghosts of Mississippi doesn’t always keep itself interesting, but with a solid cast and relevant themes about race and society, it hits pretty hard.

6 / 10

Evil, everyone! Evil!

Evil, everyone! Evil!

Photos Courtesy of: And So It Begins, Jonathan Rosenbaum

The Company Men (2010)

Rich people can be sad too.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) are living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves them jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers.

As everybody in the world knows, October 2008 was the time where we all found ourselves in an economic-crisis and yes, even though it is a bit hypocritical from a 19-year-old, who at the time, was 15 and lived with his parents, had no job, had no responsibilities  and no bills to pay other than my money for lunch, I can still say that it was a sucky time for everybody and in a way, still is. Everybody was affected by it, not just the common-man, but everybody!

I start off with this middle-minded rant mainly because this is one of the biggest problems with this movie that we have here: who it focuses on. Having a story about a regular, average-Joe who loses his job out of nowhere and finds himself really struggling isn’t a story that hasn’t been done before, but would have probably been more engrossing than watching a bunch of millionaires go from everything, to nothing in a matter of a couple of weeks. Of course, the fact of the matter is that this did happen in real-life and it wasn’t just a certain group of people that were affected by the corporate downsizing, and that’s why this movie feels like it should hit harder, mainly because it’s so timeless and easy to connect with, but it just isn’t.

"They always say, "you're never as good as you're first movie". I guess in your case, that's false."

“They always say, “you’re never as good as you’re first movie”. I guess in your case, that’s false.”

Watching all of these guys be pissed-off by the fact that they don’t have the money to pay for their golf clubs or their Porsches really just seemed stupid and something I didn’t really care about. It gets even worse when some of these guys still feel like they can’t tell their wives, or the people around them that they lost their job. Yeah, I get that losing your job is sort of like losing an ounce of your pride, but there comes a point where you got to nut-up, shut-up, and get moving on with your life in order to make that moolah fall from the skies. Sitting around, pissing and moaning about it, and not even telling your wife why you don’t have the money for the mortgage, isn’t going to solve shite.

But to back away from a topic and theme I guess I don’t know much about since I’m not necessarily the hardest working-man out there in the world, let me go back to something I do know a lick about: movies. The whole idea of watching these rich people be sad by the fact that they can’t spend 500 dollars on dinners any longer, definitely didn’t work for me but I was able to get past it and at least try my hardest to look at the brighter-things in this movie, which didn’t seem to come to me right away. The problem I think I had with this movie stems from what and how writer/director John Wells tries to tell his story. He tries to show us that maybe, just maybe by going back to an old-school America is the only way we’re going to live and survive in this world, but he he shows us in the most obvious and predictable way that’s enough to make the people on the employment-line just scoff at.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious that this economic crisis was a very, very depressing time for all men and women of America, but Wells shows how sad and depressing it is in the most conventional ways possible. For instance, Chris Cooper’s character is probably the best example of what I mean because when his character gets fired, he doesn’t just go home, act as if nothing happened whatsoever and go out there and try to make another living with his life, no, he sits at the bar all-day, gets hammered, throws rocks at the old, corporate-building he used to work-at, and tries to act like he still works there by slugging-around the same briefcase. Same example can sort of go for Tommy Lee Jones who finds himself banging-around with the same chick that fired him, and choosing her over his dearly, old-wife, mainly because he’s just depressed. I get it, they’re sad and when you’re sad, you do dumb stuff. Get on with it!

"I'm guessing meeting at a bar was out of the question?"

I guess meeting at a bar was out of the question?

The only light and shiny material actually in this flick, is actually the performances from the characters that try their hardest to make everything work and in a way, succeed in doing-so. “In a way”, however. Ben Affleck has the main-spotlight here as Bobby and definitely seems fit for the job of a guy who loses it all, tries to avoid it by acting like nothing has happened, only to get slapped in the face with reality and realize that he has to do a whole bunch of crap he didn’t want to do when he was rich. His character isn’t all sympathetic to begin-with, considering that he continues to blow-off the idea of saving money and not robbing the bank, but Affleck works through it and does what he can with this role. His wife, played by the always magnificent Rosemarie DeWitt, is always supportive, but at the same time, also never seems to notice how much of a dick he’s being and as hard as she can be on him for not accepting reality, she seems very lenient in terms of actually telling him what’s up in the world. I get it, they’re husband and wife and they forgive each other over everything, but she doesn’t seem all that strong and loving at all, so why the hell should be that way when the guy’s acting like a dick? Ehh, I don’t get it.

Tommy Lee Jones is doing his usual, crotchety  old-man shtick that never seems to run dry, even if his character even seems to get tired of it about half-way through and begins to get all soft and weak in the knees. Tommy Lee is a great actor so this weakly-written role doesn’t do as much harm to him as it does to others, but it’s still obvious that there should be more meat for us to chew-on with this character and his emotions. Chris Cooper has the most sympathetic character out of the bunch, but like I mentioned before, seems a bit too obvious in terms of where his story goes and why. Like Jones, Cooper is a great actor so it’s not that glaring, but still, he should be given more material that’s suited for his great, acting-self.

"So, you still polish your Oscar?"

“So, you still polish your statue? Yeah I’ve been doing that for 19 years.”

Maria Bello is always good with what she does and is fine here as the chick that goes around firing people, and instead, more or less comes-off like a person doing her job, rather than a monster out to get people’s hearts, souls, and above all, their bank accounts. Kevin Cotsner also shows up as the blue-collared, American worker that makes a living off of hanging up dry wall every day of the week and it’s definitely a fun performance that Costner has a blast playing, even though that New England-accent seems to be way too heavy, especially in the seems with Affleck. How the hell do you have a movie that takes place in the state of Massachusetts  that stars Ben Affleck, and not have him doing a Bawhstan accent? Seriously, the guy’s made for it and if you don’t believe me, watch The Town and Good Will Hunting, aka, two movies that will probably inspire you more than this.

Consensus: The premise and themes are as timeless as they may come, but when it comes to delivering on those important ideas and thoughts, the Company Men doesn’t seem to succeed with a bunch of great actors, working in thinly-scripted roles that seem to be placed-in the right category of “Conventional”.

5/10=Rental!!

"They ain't like us."

“They ain’t like us.”

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!!!

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