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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 G. Robinson

The Program (2016)

Come on, guys. Let’s cut Lance some slack. Dude dated Sheryl Crow after all.

Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster), as they like to say, came from nothing, only to then become something. Though he was just a small-time cyclist from Texas, eventually, Lance began to train more and more, to the point of where he was competing in national competitions like, well, for starters, the Tour de France. However, while he was definitely successful very early in his career, he ran into problems when it turned out that he had testicular cancer. Eventually, he got treatment and got back on his bike, except this time, it was with a whole new mission: To help those with cancer. With all sorts of support on his side from everyone around him, Armstrong created the Live Strong foundation, won the Tour de France a few more times, had all sorts of sponsors, was generally seen as “a hero”, and heck, was even in a long-term relationship with Sheryl Crow. It seemed almost as if Armstrong was the king of the world and couldn’t be brought down from his title. However, journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) saw differently and was one of the key people in challenging Armstrong’s past issues with performance-enhancing drugs. These are the same sorts of issues that would ultimately prove his downfall in the public eye.

Cars vs. bikes. Who's going to win the transportation war?

Cars vs. bikes. Who’s going to win the transportation war?

By now, I’m pretty sure that nobody’s holding a “Lance Armstrong pity party”. The dude may have fought for a meaningful cause and won a slew of Tour de France’s, but was a jerk to mostly everyone in the media, anyone who associated themselves with him, and used his good deeds and charities to almost make an excuse for all of the performance-enhancing drugs he took. Oh, and not to mention, that he lied about almost all of this. So yeah, no time soon will everybody crowd around a picture of Lance, and memorialize the person who he was and cry on his behalf.

Some people may do that now as we speak, but it’s probably a very limited number.

However, that’s what’s perhaps most interesting about the Program: While it does treat Armstrong in a sometimes negative, almost mean light, it still has an effect and makes you wonder if all of this piling-up on him is, well, enough. After the Armstrong Lie, it felt like we already had Armstrong’s story and nothing else needed to be told, which is pretty true in this movie’s case, but director Stephen Frears does something interesting in that he turns the story around ever so slightly and make us think that maybe Armstrong, while not misunderstood, was attacked way too heavily. Sure, he was a cocky dude who brought a lot of these issues on himself for just not sticking to his guns, not staying clean, and gaining a God-complex, but at the same time, he still had some nice qualities to him.

I know that statement literally means nothing in most cases, but here, it means something; rather than painting Armstrong as this completely distasteful, immoral son-of-a-bitch, the movie shows that while he was most definitely a dick, he was one that also wanted to fight for a good cause. Also, the movie likes to focus on those around him, like Lee Pace’s Bill Stapleton, or Denis Menochet’s Johan Bruyneel, and show that they most definitely had a hand or two, or more, in constituting just how far Armstrong went with his success. While he may have wanted to use his wealth and notoriety for the greater good of society and to find a cure for cancer, those around him mostly just saw a piggy-bank that needed to be constantly tapped and used.

Once again, none of this is excusing the fact that Armstrong lied on many occasions, but it brings up some valid arguments about him.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

That’s why the Program, the movie, feels very mixed. In a way, we didn’t really need this story to be told to us, but because it’s a movie that exists, it’s hard to hate on it for existing. What I can hate on the movie for is not really offering anything fully meaningful to the debate of whether or not we should all, as a society, go back to letting Lance Armstrong into our tender arms. It makes you think if he was a total dick or not, but that’s about it; all the movie really sets out to do is tell Armstrong’s story once again, as if some of those at home didn’t already know a single thing about it, or him.

Also, what’s odd about the movie is how, even at an-hour-and-43-minutes, it goes by very quick. This isn’t something I note as a positive either, as a good portion of the film just feels like a Lance Armstrong highlight reel, where all of the good things he did, gets shown, as well as the bad things, and they’re just constantly put up next to one another, back-to-back. For instance, we’ll get a scene of Armstrong at a children’s hospital, being nice and sweet to the kids, but the next one, we’ll get a shot of him sticking a needle into his bum. While this may be effective editing, it still doesn’t help when there’s at least three or four of these transitions of seeing Armstrong do something nice, only to then have it all juxtaposed by him doing something bad.

We get it! What we didn’t see in the spotlight, was sometimes darker than what we wished!

As Lance Armstrong, Ben Foster is very good in that he’s doing a lot of acting and having seen Armstrong in plenty of interviews/public appearances, it almost doesn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, Foster is good and gives this all his every bit, but there’s a lot of yelling, and screaming, and posturing from Foster that I don’t feel was very necessary to this character, especially the real life Armstrong wasn’t totally like this. He was definitely a bit smarmy, in a way, but no way was he a total a-hole like the way he’s portrayed here. If anything, he was just a dull guy who had a lot of championships to his name, his own cancer foundation, and a severe drug habit.

That’s basically all there was to Lance Armstrong – the man, the myth, the cheater.

Consensus: Without making its own mind up on its subject, the Program feels a tad short-shifted, but with some good performances and entertaining, slightly easygoing pace from Stephen Frears, it gets the job done and may have you thinking a bit differently about Armstrong himself. Or, then again, maybe not.

6.5 / 10

He's a hero to us all. Now give me back my money for all those damn wristbands!

He’s a hero to us all. Now give everybody back all their money for those damn wristbands!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Secret spy agents have never been so cheeky!

Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is a post-WWII antiquities smuggler who gets recruited by the CIA to help catch the baddies and put himself in dangerous positions that no pencil-pusher would ever even dream of being caught in. His latest mission, however, may test him to his utter limits. An East German mechanic by the name of Gaby (Alicia Vikander), has a father who was a former rocket scientist for the Nazis and may be currently developing a nuclear bomb for a bunch of shady fascists. Because the mission itself is so complex, Solo’s boss (Jared Harris) assigns him to work with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer); somebody Solo already has a bit of a rivalry with as is. This leads to constant tension and bragging between the two where they sometimes find that they are at odds with one another, rather than with the enemy. But while Solo is busy fighting off whatever pretty honey that comes his way, Kuryakin is trying his hardest to not show off any sort of emotional feelings for anyone, especially not for Gaby, who has now been assigned to use cover as his fiancee. Will all of these personal problems get in the way of the mission? Or will Kuryakin, Solo and Gaby combine their forces and beat the villains, so that all us citizens can live a happy, healthy, and care-free life?

Still not Kristin Scott Thomas, even though my brain keeps making me think so.

Still not Kristin Scott Thomas, even though my brain keeps making me think so.

Love him, hate him, don’t care for him, or hell, don’t even know who he is other than the dude who married Madonna, Guy Ritchie’s got style. And no, I’m not talking about the way he dresses or acts in real life – I mean the movies that he makes. While some may get tired and bored of his energetic and frenetic style, to me, Ritchie feels like the kind of director we’re very lucky to have. None of his movies (even his really terrible ones), can be called “horrid”, “stupid”, and “annoying”, but they can’t be called “dull”. This is because Ritchie refuses to let a movie of his get made without some form of color or fun thrown into the proceedings.

And if anything, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the perfect example of this.

What makes me most happy about U.N.C.L.E. is that it’s the kind of action-thriller that likes to have fun. What was that word? “Fun”? In a current action-thriller, you say? Well, funny that you may ask because yes, U.N.C.L.E. is indeed a fun movie that doesn’t try to frown or grim too much; more or less, it’s concerned with kicking-ass, stunts, guns, babes, booze, spy-gadgets, fancy cars, and most of all, humor.

In today’s day and age where Bond seems to be losing his smirk as each and every movie goes by, or where every hero’s trying to be the next Bourne, U.N.C.L.E.‘s characters all have lovely personalities, seem to have some bit of fun in their systems and, most importantly, have a good joke to end a sentence on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all jokes and play for Ritchie’s characters here, however, even when they do get serious and melodramatic, it isn’t at the high cost of the movie where all of the exciting and fun times are over and now we have to get all stern and cold.

Ritchie doesn’t care for those kinds of thrillers and it’s way U.N.C.L.E. works as well as it does.

Some of this has to do with the fact that the setting (post-WWII, Cold War-era) just screams white-blooded nostalgia right at you, but a good portion has to do with the fact that Ritchie seems interested in this story all around. After all, it’s his fault that a TV show from the 60’s is being brought to the screen where half of the audience who watched that original show may not be alive, or even remember it, so if he screws this up, it’s off with his head. But Ritchie seems absolutely enthused to be giving these locations, these characters, and this decade the light of day and it’s hard to not get caught up in all the good vibes going around.

After all, it’s getting to the end of the summer, so it’s better to get out with a happy, healthy bang, rather than a down-beat, depressed and down-trodden whimper like some of these blockbusters have been this summer.

But perhaps the best thing about U.N.C.L.E., isn’t that it’s filled with plenty of cheeky humor, or impressive set-pieces, but is that it makes you want to see more of these characters in whatever the next adventure it is that they’re getting involved with. While Henry Cavill may be seen as Superman for quite some time, he’s very charming here as Napoleon Solo – who is basically Bond, except that he’s got a perfect chin, hair, body, and cheeks that makes you wonder if Ritchie too thinks this guy’s handsome as hell, too. This gives me hope that whatever side-projects Cavill decides to do away from being Kal-El, that he chooses to take ones that test him as an actor a bit, but also show what his strengths are as an actor.

Doesn't get anymore British than him.

Doesn’t get anymore British than him.

Same goes for Armie Hammer who, after the Social Network, hasn’t had the most lovely career. None of that really has to do with him, because even the crappy movies he participated in, he was at least fine in them, but there is something to be said for a person when they just become a one-hit wonder and you wonder whether or not they’ve actually got some sort of acting-skill in their soul, or are they just another good-looking. In Hammer’s case, he’s definitely the later, but here, he shows that he’s got skills as an actor and is at least able to make this stiff character funny and engaging to watch.

Of course, the whole joke surrounding him is that he’s all too serious and emotionless for his own good, but what Hammer does well, is that he shows that there’s more to this character than just what’s presented on the surface. This is what makes the later-portion of this movie actually interesting, because Hammer and Alicia Vikander have good chemistry between one another where it seems like their characters would be perfect as partners in life, as well as in work. It should be noted that Vikander is great here, too, and is another female character we get this summer that seems like she’s there as nothing else but just a damsel-in-distress, but soon shows her true colors and turns out to be smarter than her male counterparts.

But I’ll save my praise for Vikander for a later-time, considering she’s got plenty of more movies coming around the bend.

Consensus: Stylish, colorful, and whimsical, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn’t just an entertaining action-thriller, but one that signals why Guy Ritchie is one of the better directors we have working today; he just needs to be given better material to work with.

8 / 10

Please, movie audiences: Let us see these three again.

Please, movie audiences: Let us see these three again.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Furious 7 (2015)

People can be violent, but cars are nearly worse.

The gang’s all back, but this time, it’s personal! Soon after their buddy is killed by a notorious thug by the name of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) – a brother of one of their former foes – Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) realize that it’s time to get vengeance in the only way they know best. But before doing so, they get a proposition from a special agent (Kurt Russell): Help him retrieve a piece of spy software from a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) and he will more than make sure that Dom, Brian and the rest of the crew get that sweet taste of revenge that they’ve been clamoring for after all of this time has passed. However, there are other problems going on from within the group where Dom can’t seem to get Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to remember their past together for what it was, nor can Brian seem to tear himself away from the wacky, wild life of crime that’s always attracted him for so long, even if he’s know settled-down with a wife (Jordana Brewster) and kid. Will the crew stay fast? Furious? Or neither?

So yeah, already going into this installment, there’s plenty to be discussed. With the tragic passing of Paul Walker nearly a-year-and-a-half ago, everything that was initially planned for Furious 7, from the release date, to the plot, were all scrapped and made anew. Which makes total sense. Walker wasn’t some sort of bit player in this franchise that showed up every so often to utter some witty line that would get the whole crowd laughing at how likable he is; he was, literally, the heart and soul of this franchise. Without him, it probably wouldn’t have gone on for as long as it has, which is both a blessing and a curse.

And they're not beating the hell out of each other, because.......?

And they’re not beating the hell out of each other, because…….?

A curse because the movie’s are dumb, over-the-top, ridiculous, and represent everything that is wrong with American’s society of masculinity. On the flip-side, though, it’s also a blessing because these movies, at least in the case for the last three installments, are so much fun, seem to never lose sight of just how illogical they are, and hardly ever apologize for it. Fast & Furious movies aren’t supposed to be taken seriously, and that’s where the real charm lies.

Hence why Paul Walker, all of his acting talents aside, was perfectly-suited for this franchise, no matter what it threw at him, or where it threw him.

With that being said, Furious 7 is a pretty raucous time. While I may not be saying anything new that hasn’t already been uttered by millions and millions of people from around the world, there’s still something interesting to note about a franchise in which the movies seem to constantly get better and one-up the one that came before it. Fast Five started this trend of the franchise going towards more action-fare, rather than just making it all about hot cars, hot men, hot women, and hot bodies, and the sixth film absolutely went for it all and, for the most part, came out on top.

While Furious 7 may not be better than the sixth movie, it’s still pretty damn close because it never forgets what it is: A mindless piece of action-fare that audiences will pay dozens of dollars for. Though this sounds easy (because, quite frankly, Michael Bay’s been doing it for the past two decades now), looking at some films, it’s actually not. Last year’s utterly forgettable and boring Need for Speed tried so desperately to pull-off the same sort of magic that the Fast franchise has been pulling off for quite some time and it failed miserably. That movie wanted to be silly, insane and ludicrous beyond belief, whereas the Fast movies are exactly that, but they don’t ever seem to be trying.

Not to mention that they actually do feature a dude a named Ludacris.

But because Furious 7 knows what it’s all about, it doesn’t try to pretend it’s something it isn’t. Though there are a chock-full of scenes dedicated to these thinly-written, one-dimensional characters breaking down all sorts of barriers and getting dramatic with one another, these scenes are quickly dismissed as soon as they show up. Also, too, it makes sense that we need at least some sort of character-development to help make things seem fully rounded-out and not just *crash*, *bang*, *boom* all of the darn time. While this would have been fun, let’s be realistic here: No movie franchise with its seventh-installment is going to totally shelve its characters for their beyond-nuts action sequences.

Just get used to it and move on. That’s what I did and it worked well.

It worked well because, once I realized that every problem these characters had didn’t really matter much in the grander scheme of things, the action just got a whole lot better and more exciting. Though you’d think these movies would have already run-out of ideas on how to set-up action sequences and still, somehow, be able to utilize automobiles in some sort of fashion, director James Wan proves you damn wrong. With scenes depicting cars flying through the sky with parachutes and even scenes where cars go flying through three buildings, this franchise continues to give us something new and fun to feast our eyes and ears onto.

Not a Rock Bottom, but it'll do.

No Rock Bottom, but it’ll do.

And honestly, the sky is the limit from here on out. No matter how many times this movie tries to break actual science, it won’t lose any bit of respect because the rules have already been set-in place: There are no rules. Cars can literally fly through the sky; people can literally shoot their guns till the cows come home and never run out of ammunition; jets can literally glide around downtown LA without there being hardly any interference from the Army of any sort. Literally, anything can happen in these movies and because of that, they never lose an ounce of momentum; they just continue to build up and up on it some more until it feels like, you know, we may have had enough adrenaline for one day.

And really, the same rules apply to the characters, as well. Like I said before, none of these characters here are inherently interesting or well-written, but they exist in a universe that loves them all so very much, that it’s hard to look down upon them for being “types”. Like the movies they exist in, you just accept them for what they are, let them do their thing and move on.

It’s quite easy, really.

Meaning, when you accept them, you have to accept Vin Diesel’s garbled growling; Michelle Rodriguez’s resting bitch face; Dwayne Johnson to be wearing Under Amour every time he is on-screen and trying so hard not to break kayfabe; Jordana Brewster just being “there”; Ludacris and Tyrese to be the goofy sidekicks that everyone can rely on for comedy and not really anything serious to contribute to the plot; and, most of all, Paul Walker’s ability to just be the “everyman” in every scene he’s in. Because even though newcomers to this franchise like Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell, and especially, a deliciously evil Jason Statham all acquit themselves perfectly into this movie, strut their stuff and show us what they’re more than able to bring to the creative table, it’s Walker who still leaves the most lasting impression. He isn’t trying to, either – he just is.

And somehow, there’s a small bit of beauty in that.

Consensus: Like every other installment of the franchise, Furious 7 is as ridiculous and nonsensical as you can get, but still a whole bunch of fun, treating fans to everything that they could ever want with one of these movies, and then some, especially with the emotional tribute to Paul Walker – the one true face of this franchise.

8 / 10

Ride on, brotha.

Ride on, brotha.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Imitation Game (2014)

Being liked by others is so overrated.

During WWII, when Britain needed him the most, number-crunching genius Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) stepped up to the plate. However, it wasn’t easy for a fella like him. In Bletchley Park, Turing became involved of a top-secret program where he, as well as a few select others would try to decipher the German’s Enigma Code. Not only would it help them understand what the Nazi’s were going to do next, where and when, but it would also give the British an upper-hand in the war and possibly even allow them to win it. But problems arise with Turing’s personal life, as he’s definitely not well-liked by those he works with and, mostly due to his secretive homosexuality, hardly ever opened-up to those around him. The one exception to his rule was fellow number-cruncher Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who Turing develops something of a friendship with, even as hard as it may have been for him. But the fact of the mater remains: There is a war that needs to be fought and won, and Turing was not going to stop one bit in finishing it once and for all. Even if his own life and reputation depended on it.

"Quick! I need a three-letter word for 'being twee'!"

“Quick! I need a three-letter word for ‘being twee’!”

Everything about the Imitation Game screams “Oscar-bait”, and reasonably so. It’s not just produced by the incredibly sneaky and conniving Weinstein’s, but looks and feels just exactly like the King’s Speech. It’s handsomely-made with its production-values matching every single bit of detail it’s mean to portray; features a lead character that has many personal problems that may, or may not, hinder his effectiveness at the job he’s called on to do; and there’s even a female love-interest thrown in the mix as well. Overall, the movie has a very old-fashioned feel to it, that makes me feel like it’s the kind of movie I could see with my grand-mom and pop-pop, rather than seeing all by myself, or with my buddies, after we’ve had a few at the local bar.

But that doesn’t necessarily always mean a bad thing – it just means a thing. A movie can absolutely, positively hit every beat you expect to hit, yet, still not be bad. It’s just conventional and easy to predict a mile away. Once again, nothing wrong with that, especially when it’s done in the right way it should be.

And that’s where the Imitation Game works most of its magic – it has an old-time look and feel, but feels like it actually moves along at a fine pace, building both its plot, as well as its characters. Mostly though, it works with the former, in that it develops this lead character, Alan Turing, in a way that’s respectful enough to the history that he holds behind him (and reasonably so), but also shows us that well, yeah, the dude wasn’t perfect and more or less, had many problems that ended up getting in the way of his day-to-day human connections. Didn’t make him a terrible person, but just a person who possibly you, nor I would ever want to get stuck with talking to at a dinner-party.

If it was Benedict Cumberbatch playing any other character, then yeah, I’d totally want to hang out with him all day and night. But as Alan Turning? Sorry, Ben!

But, anyway, like I was saying about Turing here – the way he’s written and developed over time is well-done. We see him in all sorts of shades, and while they all may not be effective in their own ways, they still at least give us a bigger-impression of who this person was and why he matters to any of us, whether we be from Britain, the United States, Germany, or Niagara Falls. The movie definitely spells itself out as being important in nearly every frame, but it never became bothersome to the rest of it; it’s just a story about a person who deserves to be appreciated.

Though, there is something to be said for a movie that clearly wants us to sympathize and even identify with its lead character, yet, have him act in such ways that don’t seem believable, even by today’s society standards. For instance, back in the old days of England, being gay was considered “a crime”. It didn’t matter if you were a nice citizen who paid your taxes, lived a comfortable life and hadn’t done anything bad to anybody, ever; if you were gay, you were considered a bad person who needed to be locked away, or ticked, tooled, and played around with, as a way to hope that the government would be able to “get the gay out of you”. In case you couldn’t tell by my writing, it sounds all so very ridiculous and crazy, but that’s just the way the world was back then and it’s the way we, as a society, have to live with in knowing and understand as fact. Doesn’t mean we can’t move on from it and grow as a better, more well-adjusted society, but it also doesn’t mean that we have to forget about it neither and act as if it never existed in the first place.

What bothers me though about the way Turing’s written here, is that they make him out to be a guy who not only seemed like he had relatively serious case of Aspergers, but was openly letting people know that he was a homosexual, if push ever came to shove. My problem with this wasn’t that he told people and they were mostly fine with it, but it was more that he was telling people about it in the first place, even if it meant he would be locked away and possibly drugged-up for the rest of his entire life. This isn’t mean throwing out my own personal opinion, because it feels and reads-off as phony, especially given that the rest of the movie wants to be seen as something of a history-lesson.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soliders in this scene.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soldiers in this scene.

The bits and pieces about Turing actually cracking the code, what he and the rest of his crew had to do with that code, and for how long, were very interesting and seem like they’re trying more to actually inform the audience about history, much rather than actually give them an interesting, compelling story. It works as being such, to be honest, but for the most part, it feels and reads-off as being pretty legitimate and interesting. However, while the other bits and pieces about Turing’s personal life and how those around him approached it, while interesting at first, slowly dissolved into seeming unreasonable and almost like a liberal’s apology for all of the bad things the past had done to certain people of a certain group/demographic. It didn’t fit right with me and made the movie as a whole, feel like it was just taking a lot of liberties with its story.

That said, where the movie got very interesting was whenever it portrayed the relationship between Turing and his possible love-interest, Joan Clark. Though the movie has a bit of a hard time portraying someone as beautiful and charming as Keira Knightley as “plain”, it still gets by on showing how these two interact with one another, why there’s something of an attraction between the two, and why it’s a total shame that they can’t be together in an acceptable way. They both clearly have an attraction to one another, even if it isn’t simply by attraction. Knightley also does a solid job with a character who feels like she’s trying so very hard to be accepted from her male counter-parts, but ends up being a sweet, somewhat sad girl who just wants to be loved, even if it isn’t in the most ideal way imaginable.

Just anything would suffice for her and because she’s such a bundle of joy, it would suffice for us, too.

Problem with Knightley being so good here, with such a small-role, it makes Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing seem a bit one-note, although that’s maybe not fully his fault. The way Turing is written here is to be made out like some sort of weirdo, who doesn’t communicate with those he’s supposed to be communicating with, and even when he does, doesn’t know how to do so in an normal manner. Sometimes, it seems like he has Aspergers, other times, it seems like he as Autism. And while the movie never fully says what Turing’s problem was when it came to socializing, it still feels like the kind of character we’re supposed to be rooting wholeheartedly for, yet, we never get the chance to understand well enough to do so. That doesn’t mean Cumberbatch isn’t good in this role, it’s just a shame that he wasn’t given a whole lot more meat to chew on.

All in all though, what the Imitation Game is, is a tribute to the legend of Alan Turing. A man who deserves to be known by many more people and here’s to hoping that maybe this movie will give everybody a chance to. Even if, you know, a Wikipedia read will probably do some a lot more justice.

Consensus: While ordinary and by-the-numbers, the Imitation Game still presents an interesting enough view into the life of a man people should know more about, regardless of whether or not he’s portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more computer-devices.

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more shirts and ties.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz