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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Dan Gilroy

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)

Don’t let the system get you down. Even though it eventually will.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Denzel Washington) is a defense attorney living in Los Angeles who, despite his pure and inner-genius, doesn’t really know how to deal with other people. It’s why his mentor, for the most part, handles the clients and all that jazz, whereas Roman handles all of the paperwork, the stats, and so on and so forth. It’s what’s made them both successful over the years, while also allowing them to stay true to themselves as strong-willed, independent, and powerful black men trying to prove injustice within the system. However, that all changes when Roman’s mentor dies, the firm is sold, and Roman is left without a job. That is, until corporate lawyer, George Pierce (Colin Farrell) shows up, likes what he sees in Roman, and decides that he wants him there for his firm, but obviously doing what he did before: Handling paper-work, stats, and all that jazz. It’s what Roman does best and because he’s at a much better firm, he’s making a lot more money, which also means that there’s a lot more temptation to do the wrong thing and get swept up in all of the fame, fortune, success, and most of all, corruption.

“So uh, nice weather we’re having. I think? I guess? I don’t know.”

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a few different movies rolled into one and jammed in altogether, they don’t really work. One is a character-study about a guy, who is essentially “on the spectrum”, trying to get by in a world that doesn’t know what to make of him. Another is a formulaic, crime-thriller about a lawyer and his shady-dealings. And lastly, the other is about an older black man, trying to stay true to himself and the cause, even while it seems like the world around him could care less about him or what he’s fighting for.

Through all of the mess, however, Washington remains a shining glimmer of hope. Not only does Washington take this role on, head first, but he makes Israel’s constant quirks and trademarks, interesting. We get the feeling that this man’s had an issue with people all of his life, but when it started, why he’s still like that, and what he does on any normal day, is very interesting to watch. We get a sense that Israel’s a very sad man who wants to do what is right, but at the same time, can’t really make sense of how dark and evil the world can truly get. He’s almost like a child; loud, a little bratty, rude, and despite dealing with some awful crimes, from even more awful people, a little naive about how awful the world is.

White man employing a sad, somewhat mentally-disturbed black man, all for the sake of profit. Anyone see a problem with this? Gilroy?

It’s a terrific performance that is, unfortunately, trapped in a movie that, like Israel himself, doesn’t always know what to make of itself.

That said, writer/director Dan Gilroy knows how to make this material, for the most part, work. You can tell that Gilroy wants to go deep into the mean and dirty corruption of the justice-system, but also wants to discuss race-relations, how a certain SJW can also lose themselves to a system that sucks them all up and spits them back out, while also not forgetting about Israel himself. The movie, for lack of a better word, isn’t dull; Gilroy keeps things moving and compelling, even when he himself seems to be spiraling a tad out of control. Had the movie featured one or two dull subplots, then yeah, it would have been a problem, but they all do remain worth watching and paying attention to it.

It’s just that, once again, in the context of the rest of the movie, it just doesn’t fully come together. Washington, Farrell, and Carmen Ejogo, all remain great and help the material jump off of the screen, but Gilroy also gets a bit carried away, going down different avenues for his story, then back-peddling to his original story, when it’s almost too late. It reminds me of that episode of Community when Abed was looking for a B-story to fulfill the whole episode, but rather than finding one, the A-story just continued and was interesting enough, therefore, making the B-story, inessential. That’s how Israel feels: It’s in search of more stories, more plots, and more conflicts, when really, one is enough.

One is all it needed.

Consensus: With all the different strands of plot going on, Roman J. Israel, Esq. can’t help but feel jumbled and stuffed, but also gets by on being a compelling look at the justice-system, as well as an interesting character-study on its titled-character, played to perfection by a charming Washington.

6.5 / 10

Denzel, preparing for all those damn awards-speeches.

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures

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The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)

SupermanposterNic Cage as Superman. Take my money. Please.

Way back when in the mid-to-late-90’s, there was a little movie called Superman Lives that was going to be made, but for many, many reasons, didn’t. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t come close to hitting the big-screens and forever being apart of the Superman film franchise. Director Jon Schnepp decides to take it upon himself to figure out all that there is to know about this infamous project. From the director (Tim Burton), to the writers (Kevin Smith wrote the first script), to the artists, to the producers (Hollywood hotshot Jon Peters), and to the cast (yes, Nicolas Cage), Schnepp takes a look at every aspect of this project, what went wrong, who was to be blamed, and exactly how far along everybody was in the process before it all went away and the movie itself would be nothing more than just a wild and wacky wet-dream for all comic book nerds everywhere.

In today’s day and age, superhero movies are constantly everywhere you turn. Just when you think you’ve gone a day or two without hearing of some new info about what a certain DC or Marvel movie is up to, something happens where people hammer-away at one another, arguing about what they want to see, with whom, and why. Basically, the world in which we live in now is a fanboy’s paradise and because of that, it’s easy to understand why so many people are hopping on-board of the superhero movie train.

Are you sold now?

Are you sold now?

Believe it or not, though, there was a time when the world wasn’t quite like that. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago, either.

It’s crazy to imagine a Superman movie not being made, but in 1998, it was most definitely plausible. And Superman Lives, the movie that was supposed to be made, is something of film-nerd fare; all of the odds were stacked against it, but somehow, it seemed just weird and ambitious enough to actually work, even if it never got made in the first place. Many years after plans for this movie fell through, we’re still here left wondering, “What would it have been like?” Would it have reached the same campy, but lively and colorful heights of Burton’s Batman? Or, sadly, would it have become something of a spiritual cousin to Joel Schumacher’s dreaded, but all-time camp-classic Batman & Robin?

Honestly, the world may never know. But it’s great to see that some regular Joe like Jon Schnepp seem so invested in the past happenings of this project, because he really digs in deep with this movie here. Of course, seeing as how this is about a movie that was never made, it’s understandable that Schnepp wouldn’t have the biggest budget to work with and on occasion, that can work against him. Every so often, when describing scenes within the film, or other scenes in general, Schnepp feels the need to use cheap-looking reenactments where people are dressed up like Superman and other comic-book figures, and it’s not at all used for irony. Schnepp doesn’t seem to trust his audience well enough to take his word for whatever scene is being described and allowing for the audience themselves to use their own imagination; or, as he utilizes in most cases, just continue to show art-work from the pre-production stages, of which there is insane amounts.

But all that aside, I have to give a lot of credit to Schnepp for at least setting out to make a movie that covers everything that was working for, as well as against this lost project. While Schnepp gets a bit too carried-away with focusing on the actual comic book side of this character, as well as the stories the movie was going to be adapting, I realize that it’s a complaint that won’t matter to those who like that sort of stuff. Maybe I’m just more inclined to wanting to hear about who stabbed whose back, why, and how that affected the film from ever being made?

But that’s just me. I’m an addict for drama.

Well, what about now?

Well, what about now?

Despite some of these small tangents, Schnepp still keeps his movie on-track with focusing on both the bright and creative,as well as the dark, ugly, and dream-crusher side of Hollywood. By having interviews with the likes of Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, and oddly enough, Jon Peters, Schnepp is able to highlight many different approaches to this infamous project, as well as the whole legend that is Hollywood. With Burton, we see the weird, but artistic side; with Smith, we see the nerdy, but funny side; and with Peters, we see, well, Hollywood itself.

While it should be noted that Schnepp doesn’t seem to really be putting the blame of why this movie-idea never came to actual fruition, he clearly seems to have an idea of who started problems with it all in the first place: Jon Peters. Much has already been said about Peters in the past, so it’s no surprise here when certain cast and crew members speak of their bad altercations with Peters and how he would, on random occasions, put workers into head-locks to prove how tough and in-control he was. Even if this seems like Schnepp picking on Peters, there’s a few times during Peters interview where he makes it clear that everything said about him, may in fact be true; he doesn’t come right out and say that he’s a dick, because he doesn’t have to. He acts like it as is and it’s telling that Schnepp doesn’t harp on this fact too much, but instead, just allows for it to play out.

But like I said before, Schnepp does an effective enough job to where we see how hard it is actually to make a movie, regardless of who you have working on it, or even what it’s about. Schnepp’s intentions may not be to show how hard it is to make a movie in the first place, but it certainly comes off as a cautionary tale for most of those who may want to think twice about getting their ideas on a piece of paper, so that some big-wig, studio executive can take it for themselves, tear it all to pieces, and basically, make sure you’re name is never seen near it again.

Because honestly, if a Superman movie starring this guy can’t be made, then what can be?

Consensus: For any fans of the folklore surrounding Superman LivesTDOSLWH will definitely help answer some questions about what exactly happened, as well leave some others up in the air.

7.5 / 10

Okay, well if you're not sold by this, then I'm afraid that there's no more helping.

Okay, well if you’re not sold by this, then I’m afraid that there’s no helping. Just enjoy Zak Snyder and Batfleck!

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Pilot

Nightcrawler (2014)

Who says journalism’s dead?!?!

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a strange, rather mysterious man who is just trying to get by in modern-day L.A. Not only does he steal random resources from construction sites, but even has the gall to try and sell them back. However, late one night, when perusing the streets, he stumbles a upon a car-accident, when, moments later, a guy holding a camera (Bill Paxton) shows up and takes Lou’s mind by storm. He tells Lou that there’s actually some money to be made in filming certain accidents/crime scenes and selling them to news agencies, all for a pretty penny. This gets Lou thinking that not only does he need himself some video-equipment, but he also needs a partner to assist him all this, which is when a somewhat homeless guy, Rick (Riz Ahmed), takes the opportunity, although he doesn’t know what to expect next from this job. And thus, begins the process in which Lou captures some important footage, in very sketchy, dangerous ways and selling it to a local TV station, where he actually begins to strike up something of a relationship with the morning news director, Nina (Rene Russo). However, with Lou, not everything seen in the camera, is exactly how it appears to be and in ways, begins to land him in some hot water; not just with the local police, but everybody around him.

In the post-recession world in which we all live in, it seems like anybody’s ready to make a quick buck, by any costs. Meaning that, if you have to lose your morals for a short amount of time, only so that you can get a healthy paycheck, go home, and get something to eat for once, then all is well. No questions will be asked, and surely, none will be given.

Yep. Totally concerned if anybody's alive or not.

Yep. Totally concerned if anybody’s alive or not.

However, in the case of the media, the line is hardly ever blurred. “If it bleeds, it leads”, is a commonly-heard phrase in the world of journalism (also used once in this film, as well), and it certainly is true; if there’s something downright controversial or sick happening, people want to know about it, so long so as it’s not happening to them. Also though, if one can create a story that would, in some form, shape, or nature, illicit fear in the audience’s mind, then all the better. Basically, the world of journalism is a sick and twisted place, and it’s only going to continue to be so.

Take it from one, small-time journalist to tell ya.

But points about the state of journalism isn’t totally what writer/director Dan Gilroy is all about exploring – sure, he shows us that news agencies mostly what the richest, juiciest story, by any means necessary, but there’s no stance Gilroy takes and seems to run wild with practically with the whole time. Instead, we get a glimpse into the mind of a person who, quite frankly, is just trying to make a name for himself in a world that, quite frankly, is willing to make anybody “famous”.

And this here, is where the strengths of Nightcrawler really shows, folks. Gilroy gives us as much as we need to know about this character of Lou Bloom, but not just by telling us through background info, or constant flash-backs; much rather, we just view how this guy acts in day-to-day life. There’s something odd and definitely off about this Lou Bloom fella, but the way in how he approaches every business conversation is, at the very least, perfectly professional. Sometimes though, it’s so obvious he’s just saying what he read in some cheesy, self-help pamphlet that you wonder if he’s actually kidding around with whomever he’s reading these lines, too.

But that’s what’s so eerie about Lou Bloom – he isn’t. In fact, the guy’s dead serious about everything he says, does, or wants to happen, so that he can not only get more money, but have as much power as he can possibly imagine. Which, trust me, from the first glimpse we get of this guy in a construction-field, is totally surprising. You never, not in a million years, would expect someone who looks or acts like Lou Bloom to have such a dedicated, passionate mind when it comes to getting a certain job done, and reaping of all the possible benefits, but he totally is.

Not only is it believable because of the world Lou Bloom associates himself with (i.e. video-journalism), but because Jake Gyllenhaal is so magnificent in this role, it’s damn near impossible to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on-screen.

Which is, yes, basically, the entire movie.

It’s a pretty common-known fact by now that, despite a few hiccups in his long-fledged movie-career, Gyllenhaal is a solid, dependable actor who, when you need him to, can deliver on just about anything you ask of him. Now, I’m not so sure Gilroy totally needed Gyllenhaal to lose 20 pounds for this role, but it works for the character in every way imaginable. It not only makes him look like a small, weaselly character that you can’t trust to be around, but allows for Gyllenhaal’s bugged-out eyes to constantly pop-out and make it seem as if they’re carrying most of his body-weight.

But lbs.-loss aside, Gyllenhaal is great here because he always demands our attention, without ever going full out and exclaiming it. Despite one corny scene in which we see him yell and break a mirror, Lou Bloom is a subdued character that definitely has emotions, but doesn’t express them as you or I. He keeps to himself and whenever he’s upset, happy, or simply trying to get his way, he tells you, but without hardly ever changing the look on his face. Gyllenhaal’s creepy in the kind of way that he feels like you wouldn’t just meet him on the street, but even possibly at a family-engagement – calm, cool, collective, and full of all sorts of chatter when you look at him, but dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find a truly cruel, dark individual who, simply put, just doesn’t care what you think about him, or the decisions he makes. As long as he gets what he wants by the end of the day, then all is fine in his world.

The future faces of L.A. Except, let's hope not, because it would be an even scarier place to live in.

The future faces of L.A. Except, let’s hope not, because it would be an even scarier place to live in.

To me, that’s more terrifying than any Patrick Bateman or Travis Bickle. Although, to their defenses, they’re still both incredibly creepy individuals.

And though Gyllenhaal is amazing here in a role I hope earns him a nomination come early next year, he’s not the only one in this film worth chatting about. Rene Russo (Gilroy’s real-life wife) is great in a role that I wasn’t expecting her to be so great in. She plays this aging news producer by the name of Nina and seems like she’s been in the biz long enough, that she’s not only had to deal with it all, but seen it all, too. Therefore, you think she’d be safe enough to cozy up in her job and just wait till retirement – until you realize that that’s very far from the truth. In fact, Nina’s the kind of woman who, even with her experience, still feels like her job is constantly on the line, making her feel as if she needs the best break for her to get out of that slump and be looked at as “needed” once again.

It’s a very meaty role for Russo, the kind of role I haven’t seen her do in quite some time and it’s one that I hope she makes a habit of constantly trying to play with. Because even though you want to despise her for constantly pushing Bloom on and on to get deeper and deeper into these crime-based stories, you still know that, if you were in her position, you’d do the same. So, it’s kind of hard to judge, especially considering that it doesn’t matter how experienced you may think you are in the current position you hold – you’re always expendable.

And that, my friends, is some advice to live by for the rest of your days.

Goodnight. And most of all, good fuckin’ luck.

Consensus: Anchored by two phenomenal performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, Nightcrawler isn’t just exciting in its portrayal of the underground, seedy world of journalism, but also a reminder that any person, when given the chance to make a name for themselves, will do so, by any means necessary.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The face of a champion, folks. You best believe it.

The face of a champion, folks. You best believe it.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images