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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Daniel von Bargen

Basic Instinct (1992)

Eyes advert, fellas!

Homicide detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) is known for always solving his cases to the best of his ability and because of that, he not only has a good career, but a good life in general. However, it all changes one day when he begins to investigate the mysterious of a rock star and links up with the sexy, vivacious, and possibly dangerous Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone). Believe it or not, she’s actually a crime novelist who loves to write about all sorts of deadly, violent crimes, or better yet, like the ones that continue to pop-up around the same time the death of this rock star occurs. For Nick, however, he believes that no matter how beautiful Catherine is, he won’t let her get in the way of his investigation. But that becomes a whole lot harder when Catherine starts alluding to Nick’s lover (Jeanne Triplehorn) as having more of a criminal background than she may have let on, making Nick think long and hard about whether this case is worth it, or if he just wants to retire from the force now and possibly settle down.

Love at first fight. And other stuff.

Love at first fight. And other stuff.

Oh, and Sharon Stone flashes a bunch of dudes.

There’s certain moments in film history that will forever remain infamous and the aforementioned Sharon Stone scene is one of them. Does it matter that the rest of the movie is neither as shocking, crazy, unpredictable, or infamous as that one scene in particular? Not really, but it doesn’t keep Basic Instinct, a rather mediocre, if at times bland erotic-thriller, to continue to pop-up in discussions about sex, movies, the MPAA, and mainstream, big-budget movies as a whole.

Because, like I said, Basic Instinct is a fine movie – director Paul Verhoeven doesn’t have it in him to make a boring movie, by any stretch of the imagination – but it also seems like the kind of movie that wants so hard to be cool, sexy, seductive, and rad, that it also forgets about what makes most movies like that in the first place: Some semblance of entertainment. Verhoeven loves his movies to be trashy, dirty and sweaty, which is what we get a whole lot with Basic Instinct, but that doesn’t make it nearly as fun, or as exciting as it sounds; in a way, it can actually be kind of boring. In a way, it’s clear that Verhoeven wants to make a sort of homage to the film noir’s of the 1950’s or so, but obviously, with a far more modern-update.

If that was his intention, then yeah, he got it down well; he captures the look, the feel, and most of all, the performances, except with a whole lot more boobs, butt, blood, and ice-picks. But style-points in a movie like this can only go so far – after awhile, there needs to be a story, emotion, and most of all, action. And I don’t mean “action” in the literal sense, as much as I mean in the proverbial sense – people just standing around, staring into space and thinking long and hard about what they want to do next, unfortunately, just doesn’t cut it.

You can look, but you can't touch, boys.

You can look, but you can’t touch, boys.

A lot of that happens in Basic Instinct, too.

A part of me thinks it’s just Verhoeven’s obvious European influences coming out, but a part of me also thinks that it’s just him slowly realizing that there’s not much more to the movie than a bunch of hot, steamy sex. And like I said, the hot, steamy sex is done well, it’s just that everything else surrounding isn’t and more or less, feels as if it’s all just filler so that Verhoeven himself can get another sex scene going. It’s understandable why the movie was so shocking back in 1992, but nowadays, sex in movies is overplayed, no matter how explicit and it made me wish that a good chunk of this flick was actually dedicated to an actual, compelling plot, and less to how Sharon Stone’s boobs or butt looked while mounting Michael Douglas.

Then again, the two do mount each other nicely and it’s one of the stronger aspects of the movie. That Nick has a bit of a dark side to him and is drawn to Catherine’s even darker, possibly more sadistic ways, makes the movie all the more enjoyable to watch; we know that he’s going to eventually crack under the pressure and make sweet, sexy love to her like the Dickens, but when, where, how, and at what cost, makes it all the more intriguing to sit through. Together, the two are quite good; they play-off of one another well, with Stone’s over-the-top playfulness, going hand-in-hand with Douglas’ over-the-top seriousness. In a smaller movie, with less of media-attention and a different director, the two probably would have made a very interesting drama, where instead of focusing on how many times they bang, it’s more about how many times they actually do love one another, but of course, that’s all a fantasy.

Of course, what we have is a movie that allows them to put in some good work, even if the work itself isn’t all that there. Verhoeven does eventually have some fun in the final-act, once people start getting killed-off left and right, but by then, it’s a little too late. The movie’s a little over two hours, but honestly, feels a whole lot longer than that, and because of such, it’s a bit of an uneasy watch. Just when you think and expect for the movie to fully pick up the slack and get going somewhere, Verhoeven decides to slow things down and focus in on these characters and whatever garbage lines they have to deliver. Sometimes, that’s fun, as long as it stays trashy and fun.

But being just trashy and leaving it at that, I’m sorry, is not fun.

Consensus: Well-acted and directed with plenty of style, Basic Instinct also proves that all of the sex, violence and nudity in the world, can’t make-up for a weak story and script.

6 / 10

Yeah, it's that scene.

Yeah, it’s that scene.

Photos Courtesy of: The Iron Cupcake, Indiewire

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O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Take it from rappers, being imprisoned makes you a better musician.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) all escape from jail to embark on a buried-treasure that Ulysses himself declares that he hid and is safe and sound somewhere. However, they have an awful long way to go before they get to the treasure, which means that they have to go through a lot of hoops, meet a lot of shady characters, and most of all, try to stay away from the police’s sights. Obviously, this sounds a lot easier said then done, but everything and anything seems to be happening around the same time that these three are heading out for their adventure. For one, they unintentionally become a popular folk band, then, they get mixed-up with the KKK, make an African American friend by the name of Tommy Johnson, have a run-in with Baby Face Dillinger, and, most importantly, meet the acquaintance of some very lovely ladies. But no matter how many holes may stand in the way of these guys’ trip, they never forget about the treasure that’s just awaiting for them to seize and make their own.

Try singin' your way out of this one!

Try singin’ your way out of this one!

There’s no denying that the Coens have a certain love and adoration for their characters, no matter how silly, ridiculous, or over-the-top they may, or can get. Some people say that they make fun of said characters, as well as their settings, but I tend to disagree with this notion, as it’s clear from the very start that the Coens find something very interesting about each one of their characters that they draw and create, as well as the world around said characters that seem to take on a whole personality on its own. In O Brother, it’s clear that the Coens have a soft place for the sweaty, mugginess of Depression-era Mississippi that’s less about making fun of people who talk funny, but more about embracing some of their more old-timey notions of life.

Obviously, the Coens are a bit subversive about this idea, too, with featuring a story all sorts of violence, racism, and blood, but they don’t ever lose their sense of fun here. They also never seem to sell themselves short; rather than making this just a one-note premise in which these stupid characters get away with everything that comes their way, they show that there’s some trouble and difficulty for these characters to get from point A, to point B. Of course, O Brother is, first and foremost, an adventure flick and it’s nice to see the Coens give as much attention to their characters, as much as they do to the jokes and random sequence of events.

For instance, Ulysses, Delmar, and Pete may all seem like your typical, bumpkin idiots, but really, the Coens show that there’s more to them.

Not only do they have hearts, but they all do seem to genuinely care for one another that makes it easy to see why they’ve got such a strong bond in the first place. As a result, we want to see these three together more and more, not just because they’re fun to watch (which they are), but because there’s something warm, soft and cozy about knowing these three pals are all together and because of that, nothing will go wrong. Of course, things don’t always turn out that way, but still, watching and listening to these three characters was more than enough to stick around.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain't gonna work.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain’t gonna work.

And let’s not forget to mention that George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson all do fantastic jobs in these roles, seeming like they’re very interested in who these characters are, past the backwater-stereotypes. Clooney, however, is the one who really seems like he’s having the time of his life, smirking, snarling and laughing in just about every scene he’s shown, where you get the idea that he could not wait a single second to work with the Coens, nor could he get enough of the fact that his character is, in some ways, the smartest out of the three. Clooney gets to use a lot of big words and articulate a whole lot, which may not sound like it works, but surprisingly, does, and it just goes to show you what Clooney can do when he’s a bit unhinged and less caring about appeasing a certain demographic.

There’s more people in this film, like John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, and others, who show up here, do their thing and show that they’re worthy of being around, which makes O Brother all the more exciting.

There’s not a huge world out there for the Coens to work with, but it’s all up to their own choosing. While O Brother is certainly not the Coens best movie, it’s still their most ambitious as it shows that the studio had no problem funding their vision and idea for this movie, even if every period detail seems perfectly picked to the bone. And with more money and freedom to do what they want, they run wild. Sometimes, the goofiness, other times, it doesn’t; when the movie is supposed to be deep and serious, it can’t help but stumble and make you wonder where all the smiles and charms went. But still, it’s a Coens brother movie, which mostly always means, it’s worth seeing.

If not for them, then at least do it for the soundtrack.

Consensus: Perhaps not the Coens best, yet, at the same time, still very much an exceptional piece of work from the power duo, O Brother shows they not only have a keen eye for attention to detail and character, but also their odd sense of humor that still hits.

7.5 / 10

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Faculty (1998)

Don’t we all think our teachers are body-snatching aliens?

A geek (Elijah Wood) finds a small mollusk on a football field. He thinks it’s a new discovery until the school’s teachers start behaving very Children Of The Corn ish and become obsessed with the element of water. This is where many of the teenagers band together, all cliques aside and find out just what the hell is up with their teachers, why they’re acting so funny, and just hope that they don’t become like one of them. Because let’s face it: No high school kid wants to be a teacher, and if they do, they don’t want to be like THEIR high school teacher.

If you look up the term “slasher movie” in the 90’s dictionary, you’ll probably find a picture and a short bio of writer Kevin Williamson, who basically re-invented the horror movie franchise back in then with both Scream and Scream 2, among others. Then, if you look up “movie genius” in the same dictionary, you’ll probably see a picture and a short bio of Quentin Tarantino, but a synonym would probably be Robert Rodriguez. Putting them together for one, big horror movie seems like a pretty awesome idea full of wacky, zany fun and originality, right?

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Well, it saddens to me say this, but disappointment ensues. But how?

In case you haven’t been able to tell, this is a lot like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with the kid from The Breakfast Club. It may not sound like the coolest idea ever, but Williamson and Rodriguez at least do a good job of making it entertaining with a couple of actual thrilling moments. This follows the same formula of your usual horror movie with the constant jumps and scares that we have come to know (and sometimes love) with the genre, and they work pretty effectively here. You can’t go into this expecting anything you haven’t ever really seen before, nor can you really expect something that breaks down the whole horror movie conventions, because not only has Williamson done that many times before, but he’s practically perfected it by now that it’s become somewhat predictable. You just got to go into this expecting an exciting and sometimes, funny ride that comes from two geniuses like Williamson and Rodriguez.

However, that’s the exact problem with this flick: Most have come to expect more from these two talents just because of what they have been able to do in the past, and to see them collaborate on a feature that’s anything but awesome, is really sad. With Williamson, we get some moments where these kids talk in a very self-referential about how they know that aliens exist, why they exist, and what they can do just to stop them; as well as a lot of references to other sci-fi flicks out there like Men in Black, E.T., and even The Invasion of the Body Snatchers itself, but it sort of comes off as a cheap rip-off because it’s so damn obvious that Williamson is basing this plot off of those flicks, so he thinks by referencing them in his own movie will give it some sort of gratitude and make it seem like less of a rip-off. So instead, it comes off just exactly like that and it’s sort of one of the golden rules where it doesn’t matter if you reference the film or not, if you are ripping it off, plain and simply, you are ripping it off! Bam!

As for Rodriguez, seeing what he can do with an ordinary story and take it in all of these different twists and turns, it’s pretty disappointing when he gives us a flick that’s not only pretty predictable from start to finish, but one that seems like it could have been directed by anybody. There’s no turtles, no Antonio Banderas, no Mexicano music playing somewhere in the background, and no vampires getting their heads blown off by George Clooney. Nope, instead it just seems like one of those typical horror movies that seems like it could have gone somewhere magical with this premise, but goes exactly to where you would expect it to go, which, given the talent that’s involved behind-the-camera, is a bit of a bummer.

Gosh, teachers!! You're so annoyingly weird!!

Gosh, teachers!! You’re so annoyingly weird!!

What makes this movie a little more appealing is the young cast, and deciphering who has had the biggest star out of all of them is now. And to be honest, I can’t really say since everybody seems like they’re on the somewhat same page. Elijah Wood is here as the typical geek that obviously knows something is up with all of the teachers and faculty at his school, and plays up that whole nerdy act with him very well. However, how many times have we seen this guy do that act before? Yeah, so it does kind of get old after awhile, no matter how early in his career it was. Josh Hartnett, being the stud that he is, plays the slacker who gets held-back, sells drugs and quite possibly gets it on with his very hot teacher. Hartnett’s good for this role and it’s a real wonder why he doesn’t do more with his career, although I feel like the novelty of a young, hot, charming dude has sort of worn-off and been thrown over to Channing Tatum.

Shawn Hatosy plays the jock that just wants to be known for being smart, and he’s pretty good at it. It’s a shame that he hasn’t really been showing up in much, except for Alpha Dog, where he played a total dick, but in a good way. Jordana Brewster plays the bitchy, high school newspaper-editor that seems to always be on everybody’s case about lord knows what, but she’s fine with it and I think she still deserves more hits at drama because I think this gal can really make it work, if given the chance. There’s a whole bunch of other peeps in this cast that’s worth talking about, but really, I don’t want to be here forever so just check the film out yourself and see all of these familiar faces who may, or may not be, showing their faces around anymore.

Consensus: Though it can be a lot of fun with some goofy references to other horror flicks that inspires it, The Faculty never fully comes through on its own as an original or different kind of horror thriller, and more as a carbon-copy of the movies it can’t help but crack jokes at and about.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well I don't think he counts as anything.

Okay, well I don’t think he counts as anything.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo