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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: David Dastmalchian

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Take a sick day next time.

An ordinary day at the office becomes a horrific quest for survival when 80 employees at the Belko Corp. in Bogotá, Colombia, learn that they are pawns in a deadly game. It all happens when, out of nowhere, a weird, sinister voice comes over the PA system, letting them all know that they are trapped inside their building and that two workers must be killed within 30 minutes. Two die and the employees think that’s all there is to it. Little do they know that plenty more will have to be killed in order for the voice to stop doing what it’s doing and let the workers go. And for some workers (John Gallagher Jr.), this is fine, because they have a conscience and don’t want people to die. But for others (Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley), they know that the only way to come out of this thing alive is to make the weakest suffer and die off first. Ask questions later. After awhile, it just becomes a free-for-all where no one knows who’s going to live, die, or hell, even what the end game is here.

That look you make when you’re absolutely tired of all the damn memo’s.

The Belko Experiment seems to be going for some sort of message about the current day workforce, or hell, even the government in and of itself. After all, the movie is set in Colombia, where an American corporation is held, dealing with certain issues that never become made clear to us. Is the movie trying to say that foreign relations with the States is so bad, that everyone associated with them is eventually going to become killers? Or, is it trying to say that the workforce, in and of itself, is already so vicious in the first place, that eventually, everyone in it is just going to start killing one another to be the best, literally and metaphorically speaking?

I honestly don’t know. But probably not.

See, the Belko Experiment isn’t a very smart movie that wants to get itself all bogged down in certain stuff like politics, or hell, even ideas. It just wants to kill, give us a lot of gore, and make certain office-items into weapons. A part of that can be fun to watch, but here’s the issue with the Belko Experiment: It’s just not all that fun to begin with.

In a way, it’s actually pretty depressing and dare I say it, disturbing. But honestly not in the way that it intends; writer James Gunn seems to be clearly going for some sort of darkly comedic-edge, where heads are splattered and limbs are exposed, but for some reason, there’s still a smirk on everybody’s faces by the end of the killing. However, that doesn’t quite translate here at all. The Belko Experiment is a drop dead serious movie, which could still allow for the premise to fully work, but it never seems as convinced of its own darkness, that it allows itself to go there.

It’s always just moving along, steadily and surely, but is it easy to care? Not really.

What a courageous guy. Too bad that he’ll probably have to kill her later.

And yeah, that’s what it ultimately comes down to with the Belko Experiment – it’s hard to ever really care. Sure, watching seemingly normal, everyday people go to work and be threatened with meaningless, senseless death is upsetting to begin with, but the movie’s character-development is, well, lacking. For the first ten minutes or so, we get to know a little bit about the main players of the story, but mostly, they all just come down to types, so that when things do start to go awry and characters begin to make rash, downright questionable decisions, none of it really connects, or translates.

Take a movie like It Comes at Night that, in a way, is a horror movie, but not really. That one deals with the day-to-day horror of real life human beings, being shoved the brink of madness and having to act out in heinous ways that they’ll soon regret, but did for the greater good of themselves and the ones that they love. While the Belko Experiment never tries to reach for the same heights that that movie did, it still seems to touch on the same issues of normal people, having to act out in disgusting ways, to save their asses. The difference is that It Comes at Night made us understand and believe these decisions, where the Belko Experiment seems to just, well, give us conventional types, expect us to buy them, and watch as they hack one another off.

When in reality, who cares?

Consensus: The Belko Experiment flirts with being darkly fun, but also gets a little too wrapped-up in being too sinister and mean-spirited to be as exciting as it wants to be.

5 / 10

Conservatives, or just deranged dicks? You be the judge.

Photos Courtesy of: VarietyIndieWire

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Ant-Man (2015)

Never be afraid to dream a little bigger. Unless Kevin Feige says otherwise.

After being released from prison for a robbery he committed on some company he worked for many years ago, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finally gets a shot to take back his life and make amends for the pain he’s put his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and daughter through. Problem is, Scott’s past is so shoddy, that he’s finding it harder and harder to get a job, start anew and move on from what he once was. That’s why when one of his buddies (Michael Peña) brings up the idea of pulling off a vault-heist on some old dude’s house, he’s initially hesitant, but also realizes that cat-burglarizing is what he’s best at – whether he likes to admit it or not. Little does he know that the old man’s house he’s robbing is Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who once worked for Stark Enterprises and left when he realized that one of his inventions were getting used for all the wrong reasons. But now, with Scott, Hank has found his perfect guinea pig for his pet-project: Ant-Man.

Puns intended.

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor....

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor….

Already going into Ant-Man, there was a feeling of disdain from yours truly. Most of that has to do with the fact that, not only does it seem like the Marvel machine is growing to be more and more of the same entertaining, but generic thing, time and time again, but that there’s hardly a chance for anyone to come in and try to shake that formula up. Case in point, Edgar Wright – someone who is able to make many movie-nerds foam at the mouth at the possibility of him both writing and directing something. And heck, put his own sense of zany style in a Marvel movie, where a bigger cast and budget would be at his free reign, you bet your bottom dollar that the hype-train just gets more and more packed.

But sadly, and predictably, I guess, things didn’t pan out so well.

For one, Wright left and the powers that be within Disney were left scrambling far and wide for the next possible replacement to pick up the slack and see if they could make water out of ice. With Peyton Reed, most people involved with Marvel and Disney felt as if they found the most suitable replacement available and honestly, I can’t hold many qualms with that decision. Even despite the fact that Reed’s previous directorial efforts include the horrendous Yes Man and Break-Up, clearly they were working against a deadline and came up with whomever they felt was more than willing and capable of handling the job.

Sure, Reed’s no Wright, but then again, who the hell is? Though Reed’s directing-style may borderline on “generic”, he still handles a few action set-pieces well enough to where we get the same sort of imagination and frivolous fun that we would come to expect with Wright. If anything, Reed’s style is so mediocre, that it helps not get in the way of what could have been a very pushy and needy movie. Sort of like a pet who wants you to pet it, so it just cozies up to you, never leaves you alone, and stares deep into your eyes until you give in and give it what it wants.

Pretty sure you can’t pet ants, but you get my drift.

So, with that all said, it’s worth mentioning that Ant-Man turns out to actually be a bit of a better movie than I expected from all the controversy surrounding it in the pre-production stage. One of the main reasons that Ant-Man works well, is because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to get out there in this huge, Marvel universe, and tell a bunch of other stories that it doesn’t need to bother with; instead, it’s focus is solely on Scott Lang and whomever else is around him. Some may be annoyed at the fact that other Marvel superheros don’t get the time of day like they do in other flicks, but somehow, it works in this movie’s favor; it helps keep things simple, contained and most of all, entertaining, without ever trying to be more complicated than it needs to be.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

Still though, that’s not to say that this movie doesn’t feel as if, considering what Marvel’s been up to in the past couple or so years, a bit of a disappointment. And this most definitely has to do with the fact that there were so many hiccups before filming even got started, because something does feel a bit “off” about Ant-Man while watching it. Maybe the fact that there were literally four writers on this thing has something to do with it, but also due to the fact that the movie itself doesn’t always set out to blow our minds.

Sometimes, there’s no problem with that; in most cases, all you need is a good time to get you through everything. But something feels odd in this movie where the humor can sometimes feel tacked-on and random, as if it were just thrown in there so Marvel could keep up with the formula that their movies hold so dear to their hearts – exposition, action scene, character development, witticism, rinse and repeat. The jokes themselves are a bit hit-or-miss, but whether or not they’re funny isn’t really the point – what is, is whether or not they feel like they deserved to be tossed in there when they are, and they sort of don’t. I’m glad at least one of the four writers made an attempt, but sometimes, it’s best to just take a back-seat and let things move for a little while.

But when things go wrong in movies such as these, it’s always best to depend on the cast to save the day, which is what they do.

Well, sort of.

Paul Rudd, as usual, is charming, funny and cool as Scott Lang, even if it feels like he’s never quite given that opportunity to shine, break out from his comfort-shell and prove exactly why he deserves to be taken seriously as this superhero. None of that has to do with Rudd himself, though, as it’s most definitely the script’s fault for not spending more time in fleshing him, or anybody else at. Because where it stands, mostly everybody here is fine at playing these characters on a superficial, surface-area level and that’s about it.

Such talented folks like Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Martin Donovan, Michael Peña, and Michael Douglas, all play their characters in such a way that makes it seem like they just came ready to play around for awhile and that’s it. Once again, not their fault, it’s just a bummer considering that with these names, you’d expect something so much better. Way better, actually.

If only Edgar Wright stayed on.

Consensus: Without trying too hard, Ant-Man is a perfectly serviceable piece of superhero blockbuster, but considering the company it keeps, it can’t help but feel like a small step down.

6.5 / 10

Until next year, bro.

Until next year, bro.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Prisoners (2013)

Most twisted game of hide-and-go-seek, EVER.

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) get invited over to a neighbor’s house, Nancy and Franklin Birch (Viola Davis and Terrence Howard), for the turkey dinner. Everything’s going fine, they’re getting a little tipsy, the dinner was tasty, and both sets of kids are getting along pretty well. However, when both pairs of parents aren’t looking, all of a sudden, the youngest daughters both go missing. Their respective families go running all over the place looking for them, but can’t find a single shred of evidence to where there may have gone; except for an beaten-down RV truck that was owned by a not-all-that-there guy named Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Determined, but slightly off-kilter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case and is trying to figure out what Jones did with these girls, however, he can’t find a shred of evidence on him either. So, Jones gets taken out of custody and back at home with his Aunt (Melissa Leo) where Keller, believing that justice has not been served to the best of its ability, decides to take matters into his own hands and discover the truth.

It’s hard to do a “kidnapped-children” thriller the right way, especially if you’re being produced by Warner Bros., but somehow the influence of a foreign director in the name of Denis Villeneuve allowed for this material to be as brutal and as dark as you’d expect a movie about two kidnapped, and possibly killed, children could be. That said, the movie doesn’t ever stretch into material that could be “depressing”; sure, it’s sad to see other people sad, but what would you expect to see from people whose reason for living has just been taken away from them, and possibly for good? You see? It’s not a happy movie, in the slightest bit but it’s not like it’s a slow-paced, character-driven drama; this is a freakin’ thriller, baby, and if you don’t know that by now, then you have to see it!

"You know what these hands have coming out of them when I get mad?!?!?! Huh?!??"

“You know what these hands have coming out of them when I get mad?!?!?! Huh?!??”

Seriously, this is a “thriller” in every sense of the word. Not only does it keep you guessing right from the beginning and barely lets you go by the end, it’s also the type of thriller that gives you just the right amount of clues and hints as to what the hell could possibly happen with this case, and to the people involved with it, but still not making you feel so certain. Even though I knew this was a mainstream movie, I still felt like anybody could have bitten the dust, at any given time, and it would totally fit with the movie’s tone. Would have been a bit of a bummer to say the least, but still would have kept me guessing and wondering what’s going to happen next, and to whom. This is what I love about thrillers, especially when they’re done right, and I have to hand it to Villeneuve, because he does a thriller, well, right.

And yes, you most likely are going to be hearing a lot of comparisons to David Fincher, and I feel like they’re suitable, but only in the sense of their moods are alike. In all honesty, I feel as if Fincher’s movies are better at doing both the procedural-police work, and the character-driven parts, at the same time, to great effect, but Villeneuve still gives him a bit of a run for his money. Every scene is calculated, timed, and set up with the utmost importance that every second, every day, every month into this case matters, and it gets you involved right away. Even with a run-time of over 2-and-a-half-hours, the movie never seems like it’s falling asleep on us, our us on it; it constantly keeps your brain thinking, your blood pumping, and, if you really can’t handle these types of movies, your bladder on the edge of fully-bursting.

Hey, like I said before: It’s over 2-and-a-half-hours, so watch what you drink before, how much, and at what time, because you’re not going to want a miss a single second of this movie.

But mostly where I feel like Villeneuve falls short of deserving the Fincher comparisons, is how he handles the final-act. Once it is revealed to us what has happened, for what reasons, and by whom, the movie loses all sort of credibility in terms of being an honest, and realistic-depiction of what it’s like to lose somebody in your life that matters so much such as your children. Before, I don’t know, before the final 15 minutes or so, everything in this movie felt real, brutally frank, emotional, and very tense, as if you really were watching REAL people go through this same situation, in REAL life. However, once those final 15 minutes (or so) pop-up, then all the realism built within the past 2-hours, practically goes to the crapper, so that things can get very conventional, and very, “Hollywood-ish”, for lack of a better word.

It’s hard for me to go into any detail about what goes down with this realization of who the kidnapper is and what happened to the girls, but what I will say is that it will take you by surprise a bit. If not, then so be it, you’re probably just a bit smarter than me and most of the crowd I saw this with. But you will be taken by surprise by what information comes to light, who ends up being the baddie, and what happens to that said baddie, while also a bit disappointed that the movie lost its previous identity, just to stick with conventionality. Maybe Warner Bros. didn’t want to lose too much control over this, eh?

Now that I get to thinking about it, I think what made the first 2-hours so realistic and work so damn well, was that the ensemble in it made every character feel like a living, breathing human-soul that has the ability to feel pain, while also be able to dish it out as well. Such is the case with Keller Dover, who is played by Hugh Jackman, in one of his best performances yet. When we first see Keller, we see that he’s a bit of a religious-fanatic that stocks up on all sorts of canned-goods and resources for the arrival of “The End”, but he isn’t a cook-ball with all of the song-singing and preaching. He’s more of a laid-back, calm, and understandable family-man, that we get to know for a good 10 minutes, until that whole facade goes away and we are then shown the evil, angry, and remorseful human-being that Keller may have been in the past, but hasn’t shown to anybody in a very, very long time. Jackman owns every scene he’s in, whether he’s sobbing in bed next to his wife; drunk off of his ass, stumbling home; yelling his lungs out at anybody around him that he sees as a person who isn’t “fully” concerned with finding his daughter, and/or the kidnapper; or trying to keep it all together, while he’s slowly, but surely, losing all sense and thoughtfulness deep down inside. Jackman is a force to be reckoned with here, and although I don’t feel like he has much of a chance at being nominated for an Oscar, something still tells me that we may be hearing whispers of his name come that time. However, it does seem slightly unlikely.

You know how we can believe that she would be married to him? The glasses.

You know how we can believe that she would be married to him? The glasses.

While Jackman is all sorts of powerful and compelling here, in a more showwy, chaotic way, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Loki is the same, just with more quietness added to great effect. What I liked so much about Detective Loki is that he’s a cop, that sets his priorities straight, gets right down to business, and does not stop until he’s achieved his goal, and solved the case. In other words: He’s a cop that does his job, no “ands”, “ifs”, or “buts” about it. We don’t get to know all that much about this character, other than that he’s a pretty lonely guy with no real family or friends for him to talk to, but that doesn’t matter because we know that he’s a good guy, and will do everything in his might and will to find these little girls, even if his life is on the line, more than a few times. Gyllenhaal doesn’t seem like he’d be a fine fit for the role of a “tough cop”, but he handles it with perfection, and shows us even more why he’s one of the best leading-men in the biz today.

Yup, I fucking went there, and I’m gonna stay there, too.

Though they’re the two with the most central roles in this movie, everybody else is fan freakin’ tastic as well. Maria Bello seems like she was on the verge of a mental breakdown every time she showed up on-screen, which made it harder to watch, and her performance all the more affecting; Viola Davis doesn’t get much to do here other than be sad and shocked, but she handles it as well as you’d expect a powerhouse such as her to; Terrence Howard proves that he can be a sweet, soft, and sensitive, middle-class family man that, surprisingly, wouldn’t take a hammer to some dude’s hand, even if he was highly suspected of kidnapping, and possibly killing, his daughter and her friend; Melissa Leo is pretty strange and odd as the Aunt of the suspect, and shows that she can chew scenery like nobody’s business, even if there isn’t any scenery to chew on; and Paul Dano plays the one that all of the fingers point to as the main culprit behind all of this, who seems more like a child himself in the way that he speaks, interacts with others, and just generally goes about his way. So much so, that you don’t know whether or not the guy’s actually done anything to begin with, or if he’s just another victim, caught wrongfully in this world win of mystery, aggression, and anger. You sort of feel bad for him, believe it or not. Actually, you sort of feel bad for everybody, as well as yourselves because you don’t know how you’d act in a situation like this. I know I’d act like a freakin’ nut, but that’s just me. Decide on your own time, my friends.

Consensus: For some, Prisoners will be a long strand of darkness to get through, and in one piece no less, but for those that are as determined as the characters in the movie itself, you’ll find it a rewarding, tense, exciting, and very thoughtful thriller, even if it does shoot itself in its own foot by the end.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

He saw the bunny-rabbit, but this time, he's prepared to get rid of it.

He saw the bunny-rabbit, but this time, he’s prepared to get rid of it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net