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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 Fabrizio

Gods and Monsters (1998)

Next time you dress up as Frankenstein this Halloween, think about where the creation came from.

James Whale (Ian McKellen) is one of the most regarded directors of all-time. With such classics under his belt like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein, Whale had all of the fame and fortune that any man could ever afford to settle down and spend their last couple of years in utter and total harmony. However, Whale still pains from what his career could have and should have been, had he not been openly-gay and criticized for it his whole career, and it’s beginning to take more of a toll on him as the days continue to go by and his hair gets whiter. Then walks in his newly-appointed gardener (Brendan Fraser), and all of a sudden, Whale has found a new bit of inspiration in his life, whether or not it may just be sex or art. Either way, the man is happy and spirited again but his long-loving care-taker, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave), doesn’t see it as being so happy or spirited. She senses trouble brewing in the air and she may be right, but James doesn’t care nor take notice to it. He’s just happy being him.

He likes what he sees.

It’s interesting to watch Gods and Monsters because, at first, you have a general idea of just where the story is going. You’d automatically assume that Whale, in his last gasp for life, starts something of a relationship with this hunky groundskeeper, reliving all of the lovely and enjoyable times of his past, while also realizing that life is beautiful, wonderful, and grand, and deserves to be lived, rather than not, only to then pass away right as soon as the going gets good. In a way, that sort of happens, but it sort of doesn’t, and it’s why Gods and Monsters remains a solid look at the life of someone that time may have forgotten about, but the movies he’s made, will continue to stand the test of time.

Which is neat, because after watching Gods and Monsters, you’ll soon realize that a lot of the issues prevalent in Whale’s own life, basically shined through his most famous works. Whale had a love and an affinity for showing the weirdo’s, or better yet, the outcasts, of society to the rest of the world. The movie’s many hints at this can tend to get a bit annoying, but that doesn’t make them any less true; making movies for Whale was less about making millions and millions of dollars, gaining respect, and getting the chance to hob-knob with some of Hollywood’s finest, as much as it was about expressing his true, inner-feelings of loneliness that haunted him his whole life.

Does that mean he didn’t have some fun while doing it all? Of course not, but still, we’re shown and told that there was something more here than just a bunch of fun-to-watch monster flicks. There was a heart, a soul, and an absolutely sad being behind it all.

But the movie doesn’t just harp on this one fact and drive it into the ground, as it’s actually more about this made-up guy known as Clay, as played by Brendan Fraser, and the type of relationship he builds over time with Whale. Like I’ve said before, this aspect of the movie could have easily been the most obvious and conventional one seen coming – man and man fall in love, realize something new about one another, etc. – but it doesn’t quite go that way. In fact, Clay doesn’t even know Whale is gay at first, and even when he does find out, he doesn’t quite care; personally, he just likes to hear the stories this guy has to tell.

Can you blame him?

It’s an interesting dynamic these two create and to watch as their relationship builds to something sweet, is quite nice. It also helps that Fraser and McKellen have great chemistry, seeming as if they truly are getting to know one another and getting along while doing it. Fraser has always gotten a bad-rap for being a bad actor, something that hasn’t always been true; just one look at his performance in Gods and Monsters, you’ll notice that he’s holding his own against McKellen, while also showing some signs of immaturity and growth needed. Basically, it’s what his character was going for and Fraser shows it, proving that when given the right material, he’s actually quite good.

McKellen, on the other hand, well, what can be said that hasn’t already been said before about him?

McKellen is an old pro who knows what he’s doing, which is why watching his performance as Whale can sometimes be a joyous experience, even if it does revolve around a great deal of sadness. McKellen shows us that there’s some true light, happiness and inspiration in Whale that somehow reignites once he meets Clay, but also doesn’t forget to remind us that there’s something truly heartbreaking about this character. We get the flashbacks, the dream-sequences, and of course, the stories, but where we really get the idea of something truly unsettling, is through McKellen himself. He plays Whale as an old man, getting older and more broken down as the days go by, proving to himself, that life can end.

But it’s the movies and the creations you release to the whole world, that really make it all meaningful.

Consensus: With two very solid performances from Fraser and McKellen, Gods and Monsters works as a smart, moving and rather sweet take on life, memories, and an aspect of Hollywood classics that most of us tend to look away from.

8 / 10

Best friends forever.

Photos Courtesy of: Cinema Queer

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Superman Returns (2006)

ReturnsposterHe’s back and you know what? Those glasses are still working their charm!

Five years after exploring the deepest, darkest parts of the galaxy, Superman (Brandon Routh) finally returns back to Earth. Why? Well, it seems like his time had finally come for him to get back to his old ways and schedule. Miraculously enough, around the same time that Superman reappears, so does Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. And through Kent’s eyes, Superman gets to see just how much life has changed in the past five years. For one, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is now engaged and with a child, even if she still hasn’t quite gotten over Superman; Perry White (Frank Langella) still heckles Clark over giving him crappy stories; and Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), well, is awaiting for Superman’s arrival so that he can launch his evil, dastardly plan of taking over the world and being rid of the super-dude, once and for all. Obviously, Superman won’t let this happen, but he’s going to have a lot of issues battling Luthor if he can’t get his personal issues in order, or if he can’t keep those that he loves, out of harm’s way.

The meet-cute knows no boundaries!

The meet-cute knows no boundaries!

But when you’re Superman, sometimes, that’s a lot easier said then done.

I’ve got to give Bryan Singer credit for going all out with Superman Returns. Not only does his fanboy love shine through each and every single scene of this movie, but even for those who may not already be on-board with Superman in the first place, well, he doesn’t forget to reach out to. In a way, Superman is the quintessential, perfect human being, except for the fact that he isn’t a human being – he’s an alien. While this may sound all cool and rad, especially if you had all of the skills and capabilities that Superman had, Singer shows that there’s something actually very sad about this fact.

After all, don’t forget that Superman’s whole family, let alone, his race perished within the first five minutes of the original 1978 flick. Now, it’s just him, all by himself, left to make up his own legacy for his own good, where nobody’s there to really care, love, or support him, except for maybe a select few. But once again, because he’s Superman, he can’t get too close, nor trust anybody quite as well – some people will try to take advantage of him, whereas others may not want to be bothered with a possibly dangerous alien from outer-space.

This inherent sadness is what drives Superman himself, and it’s also what drives a good portion of Superman Returns.

In a way, it’s not your typical superhero summer blockbuster, but at the same time, it sort of is. It isn’t because there’s so much more attention to the tenderness and the humanity of this character, rather than just how much ass he can kick, and what sorts of heavy stuff he can lift. Then again, it sort of is because Singer can’t help himself from getting lost in all of the crazy, high-intensity set-pieces that can be deafeningly loud, but still equally as effective. This mixture of two sides of Singer may not always work, but when it does come together, it comes together so well that it makes me wonder why they don’t just give every superhero story to Singer.

After all, the guy has done some pretty wonders with the X-Men, so why not anymore heroes?

Regardless, there’s a lot to really be touched by with Superman Returns in that it really does ask for us to reach out and feel something for Superman himself. This may sound almost too simple, it’s stupid, but you’d be surprised how very few superhero movies actually seem to try and get us care for their title characters, more than just because they’re going to save the day from the bad guy. Here, Singer shows that there’s more to Superman than just what meets the eye; sure, he’s good-looking, super-strong, jacked, and not the person you want to pick a fight with, but he’s so lonely in this vast, wide world where people don’t know what to do with him, and after awhile, it begins to take a toll on him and make him wonder what any of it is worth. Should he continue to fight the good fight for Earth? Or should he just stick it out all on his own?

What a happy gang of pals.

What a happy gang of pals.

Either way, Brandon Routh does a solid enough job as Superman/Clark Kent to where he doesn’t get in the way of the character. Routh has obviously received flack over the years for not amounting to much after this role, which is wrong, because not only does the guy have some charm to him, but he’s also a sympathetic figure, and not just another pretty-boy asking for our compassion. You can almost look at Superman here like a sick little puppy that needs a home, a bone, and somewhere to shed his fur. Obviously, this works in the movie’s favor, and it’s definitely because of Routh.

As the iconic Lois Lane, Kate Bosworth may seem too young at first, but eventually, she works well into the role and gives us the sense that she’s the same old kick-ass heroine that she was in the older movies, and comics; James Marsden plays her fiancee who may, or may not be a dick, but may also just be a simple, everyday guy thrown into the shadow of Superman; Frank Langella gets some fun moments and lines as Perry White; Parker Posey plays Lex Luthor’s right-hand-women Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey), and does a nice job showing that there’s more humanity to her this time around; and as for Lex Luthor, well, Kevin Spacey does a good job in the role, however, there’s still a big issue with him.

A big, big one.

What’s bothersome about Luthor here is that, yes, he’s the stereotypical villain in a comic book movie, so obviously we can expect there to be some unbelievability. However, the plan that Luthor eventually hatches to take over the world, which would entail wiping out the rest of the human race for some reason, just seems so random and out-of-this-world. The movie seems to treat this as some grand master plan from Luthor, even though he is a crazed-loon and, for the most part, he doesn’t have the right head on his shoulders. While I could easily just pass this off as a small thing to nitpick at, it really doesn’t end-up that way and instead, turns out to take the bulk of the later-half of the story where the emotions are extra heavy and we’re really asked to pay attention.

It works, but still, it comes close to not doing so at all.

Consensus: With an extra bit of attention to the heart and soul of its title character, Superman Returns works both as a silly, yet exciting superhero flick, as well as a tender look at the loneliness these kinds of characters embody.

8 / 10

Still no glasses! Come on, girl!

Still no glasses! Come on, girl!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Rendition (2007)

How sad is it when the only thing you remember from a movie is the water-boarding?

Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a CIA analyst based in North Africa is forced to question his assignment after he witnesses the brutal and unorthodox interrogation of an Egyptian-American by secret North African police. Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) is an Egyptian-American chemical engineer whose family emigrated to the States when he was a boy, and who is now suspected of a terrorist act. And his very pregnant wife Isabella El-Ibrahimi (Reese Witherspoon), does everything in her power to find her missing husband. All three stories are connected in strange, if tragic ways.

"You can trust me. I've never played anyone sinister before."

“You can trust me. I’ve never played anyone sinister before.”

Whether or not you agree or disagree with the act the U.S. Government calls, “Extraordinary Rendition”, is not relevant, hell, it’s not even needed to understand or appreciate this movie anymore. It’s basically just a way for Hollywood to preach and say how they are so against the war in Iran and how George Bush is a big, old dummy. There’s no issue with these statements, but when it seems like that’s all your movie’s got to say or do, then you don’t really have a movie.

You just have a soap-box you can’t get off of.

It’s safe to say that Rendition‘s plot is, for the most part, intriguing and deals with all sorts of political questioning and intrigue that makes political-thrillers like this so appealing. Taking all of these different stories, from different continents and having them all make a lick of a difference of how they all connect, is what keeps the interest-factor of this alive and well for about the first 30 minutes or so. Director Gavin Hood is a skilled-enough guy to make it seem like he has a clear head and idea of what he wants to do and where he wants to go, but also what he wants to talk about.

Hood shows that, while our anti-terrorist tactics in America may be considered “necessary” they are, in no ways, the most pitch perfect way to infiltrate any terrorist or their activities. In ways, just picking up a person off the street because of what they look like, torturing them, prodding, teasing them, and having them think that they are terrorists, well, believe it or not, can sometimes create terrorists in the first place. While there’s plenty of torture-sequences that go a bit far and beyond what you’d expect from a glitzy, glamorous Hollywood production, it still serves enough of a purpose to matter in what Rendition, the movie, is trying to get across.

Which is why the next two hours seem like a total slog.

Pondering the day of when he'll win an Oscar.

Pondering the day of when he’ll win an Oscar.

But what’s worse about Rendition is how it seems like it had a lot more going for it, but for some reason, none of that’s to be found in the two-hours-and-two-minute run-time. For instance, certain plots go unresolved and there actually seems to be more questions, than actual answers in the long-run. Some of this may have to do with the fact that the studio wanted to trim down some of the run-time to not scare people away, but really, the damage can kind of already be done. Those who veer-off in the leftie territory, may still find themselves a bit troubled with how far this movie goes with it’s preaching, to where it seems like its main concern is letting people know how it feels, and less about actually telling a real, compelling story.

This is all the more of a shame, due to the fact that the cast here is actually pretty solid and definitely deserves better.

Jake Gyllenhaal really nails the part of the young, brash CIA agent that can’t get past the fact of all the crazy stuff he’s seeing right in front of him and it’s another great role for an actor that was really climbing the totem pole at the time. Now, on the other hand, everybody knows what to expect from the guy and that’s pretty cool considering this is Donnie Darko we are all talking about here. Reese Witherspoon has top-billing here as the wife of Anwar El-Ibrahimi, but doesn’t do much mainly because she is probably in the film for 20 minutes. That didn’t bother me much, mainly because every time she’s onscreen, she really seems like she’s struggling to be taken seriously and it even gets to the point of where she’s just screaming at the top of her lungs, “WHERE IS MY HUSBAND!?!?!?”.

Yeah, sorry gal. No Oscar for you this time around.

Peter Sarsgaard is probably the most memorable out of the whole cast, since he really does seem like a genuinely nice guy (change of pace for the dude), and one that feels really convicted of doing the right thing, regardless of how much trouble it will get him in with the higher-ups. Sarsgaard is always great with every role he’s given and he’s probably the most believable character out of the whole bunch, mainly because his problem can’t be as solved easily. Meryl Streep seems like she’s tailor-made for the queen bitch role as Corrine Whitman, a powerful women that makes men soil themselves with the sound of her voice, and as good as she may be with this role, it still feels like a bit of an undercooked character, that could have been used so much more and so much better than what she really was. Alan Arkin also shows up and does his thing, and that’s not so bad, but it’s kind of a waste of a dude that literally won an Oscar a year before this even came out.

Consensus: Rendition deals with plenty of interesting ideas about the then-current political world, but really, despite a solid cast, doesn’t fully come together.

6 / 10

Two vets who clearly just had some vacation time on their hands.

Two vets who clearly just had some vacation time on their hands.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz