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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 House

The Astronaut Farmer (2007)

AstronautposterThe moon landing never happened anyway. So keep on dreaming, bro.

For as long as he’s been alive, Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) has always wanted to travel to the moon. Although he was a NASA pilot for a little while, he had to step out due to personal issues at the time. Now, Charles is trying to create his own spaceship that he can launch into space. It seems like a pipe-dream, but Charles is inspired so much, that he won’t take “no” for an answer; even though friends, confidantes, and hell, even his wife (Virginia Madsen), tell him it’s impossible, he doesn’t listen. When Charles’ plans get leaked to the world wide web, eventually, as they tend to do, the FBI finds themselves getting involved. Though Charles is not, from what people know, a terrorist planning on nuking the entire Earth, the government still doesn’t want to take any chances and keeps track of Charles’ everyday comings and goings. And hell, even though Charles has got the rest of the world behind him and his journey, the government still does not want to budge. This is a challenge that Charles accepts and stands against, even if it risks his own life, as well as those that he loves and cares for so much.

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

The whole time while watching the Astronaut Farmer, I kept on waiting for the subscript to start/end the movie saying something along the lines of, “based on a true story”. Does a story about some small-town farmer creating his own rocket and trying to launch it into space sound plausible? Not entirely, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen nor that I’ve never heard about it before. Crazier things have happened in this land we call Earth, right?

But the subscript never shows up.

The Astronaut Farmer is literally an idea written by Michael and Mark Polish, which is interesting to say the least. Silly? Sure, but it’s obvious that they’re both trying to aim for that you-can-do-anything-that-you-put-your-mind-to sensibility that so many Disney films seem to rely on. Through Farmers’ own journey of trying to get into space and do what he’s always wanted us to do, the Polish bros. are trying to get us to think of our dreams and have the idea that we too can make them come true, so long as we have enough heart and inspiration deep down inside of our souls.

And this is all fine and good, but the movie never seems like it earns that feeling of absolute and divine inspiration. Instead, it’s just a really old-timey, almost-retro story that may have a heart to work with, but never seems to go any deeper than the surface. Which is kind of a shame considering that the Polish bros. debut (Twin Falls Idaho) also dealt with the same sort of strange premise in a mindful way, but also gave us more to the story than just what was presented.

Here, it just sort of feels like everything and everyone is one-note, without there being any gray area left for the audience to decipher themselves.

The only interesting aspect of this story where it seems like the Polish bros. themselves are conflicted of a certain character-trait is with Farmer himself. While the Polish bros. clearly love and adore the character of Charles Farmer, his ambition, his heart, and his never-say-never attitude, the idea that, if he isn’t successful with his trip to space and does end up dying in the process, what will he leave his family back on Earth with? Because he’s put so much gosh darn money into this spaceship, he’s already bled them dry, so what could they possibly do without him around to keep the money flowing in? Will they be left high, dry, and without a fork to use? Or will they get by just fine because, well, Charles Farmer always has a tricky plan up his sleeves?

Take a guess of which conclusion the Polish bros. come to.

"It's okay, honey. If you die, don't worry, cause we're all screwed."

“It’s okay, honey. If you die, don’t worry, cause we’re all screwed.”

Like I’ve said though, I don’t mind the simplicity of most tales, but this one in particular doesn’t seem to really concern itself with much else other than, “dude wants to travel to space and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve that”. While it would have been interesting to see a complex, almost flawed-figure presented, Charles himself is painted in such a lovely portrait, that it’s almost like they’ve could had him run for president at the end, win, create his own world where everybody and their grand-mothers are allowed to travel into space, and it would seem uplifting, smart and, above all else, believable. It’s painfully clear that the Polish bros. don’t have much of a narrative-drive to go any further and it hurts the characters so much, that even the ones who may have some sort of interesting plight to show, it just makes it seem like a waste.

For instance, Billy Bob Thornton, surprisingly playing a good-guy, does what he can as Charles, but because the dude is so blue-eyed and optimistic, it just becomes irritating. Virginia Madsen, despite her character seeming as if she initially has something interesting to say, doesn’t really go anywhere you don’t expect her to, except by her husband as he possibly kills himself in the process of living his life-long dream. And then, as her daddy, Bruce Dern shows up as the voice of reason who, you might expect to be against the idea of Charles going out into space and risking his own life, but is instead happy that he’s doing it because, as he says, “he shares the dreams with his family”.

Yawn.

The only people in this movie that I could identify with were the FBI themselves – which, for a movie such as this, is not what’s supposed to happen. The FBI, as written by the Polish bros., are painted to be these sort of big brother, negative Nancies that are always trying to get on Charles’ case and tarnish his dreams forever, but in all honesty, they have a point for thinking the way that they do. Though Charles may not be a huge threat to the government per se, there’s still something incredibly dangerous and crazy about his idea of going out into space with his own, homemade spaceship that makes it understandable why they wouldn’t want him up in the sky to begin with. This may seem like I’m thinking too hard, but honestly, the Polish bros. want us think of this as some sort of “could-happen” tale that, if someone puts their heart, mind, body and soul into an idea long enough, that it and the rest of their wildest dreams can all come true.

Yawn again.

Consensus: Though its heart may be in the right place, the Astronaut Farmer is too implausible and one-dimensional to really inspire the people that it wants to, but instead, make them feel happy that there aren’t more Charles Farmer’s trying to release DIY spaceships into the sky.

4 / 10

"Kids, don't be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can't possibly happen to anyone."

“Kids, don’t be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can’t possibly happen to anyone.”

Photos Courtesy of: Superior Pics

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In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Surprise! Surprise! The war fucks up young people and their minds.

Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), a former military MP, finds out that his son has gone AWOL and that there might even be a possibility of him dead. Hank then decides to take it upon himself to drive down to the Army base, and figure out just what the hell has happened to his kid and all of the fellow soldiers that were with him. The problem is, nobody’s giving him straight answers. That’s when Hank asks the help of Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), a New Mexico police detective, who finds it harder and harder to not only discover the truth, but be taken seriously among the rest of her fellow, more-masculine detectives.

Most movies that deal with the war, usually aren’t the pretty ones where everybody loves the war, hangs their flags, high-fives their fighting boys, and ends by chanting, “U.S.A!! U.S.A.!! U.S.A.!!”, altogether at once. Nope, Hollywood is a bit too liberal for that crap and instead, decides to usually stick it’s nosy head in, peek around a bit, and have a thing or two to say. And usually, it’s not a pat on the back, or a simple “thank you”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, nine times out of ten, you’ll usually find me talking shit against the war, some of the people that take part in it, and just what the hell is the reason behind all of it, but still, Hollywood never seems to have anything nice to say about it at all, and even when they do, it usually turns into over-patriotic shite like this.

Still, though, you have to give credit to movies like these that are able to tell us some obvious and well-known ideas about the war, but still make it feel honest and raw, rather than blatant and preachy. Some of it does feel like that, but not all of it, and that’s a sigh-of-relief, based on the fact that this movie is written and directed by the same dude who gave us this scene. Yeah, if you’re with me on this, Paul Haggis is the notorious writer/director behind Crash, everybody’s favorite-hated Best Picture winner of the past decade and tries to bring that same heavy-handedness to this story. Thankfully he doesn’t get too far because he always has a sense of human depth and emotion that keeps it surprisingly grounded in reality most of the time. Not all of the time, but most and that’s great to see in a flick where it could have easily been a train wreck of non-stop patriotism, from start-to-finish, but ends being something honest.

"Here, take it. It's called "The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker."

“Here, take it. It’s called “The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker.”

But what this flick is more concerned with, is its characters, and showing how they deal with their daily hardships they encounter day to day, and how they get through grief, sadness, and the war our country is currently fighting in. Seeing how most of these characters can relate and act with one anothe, is a beautiful thing to watch because it feels natural. Some scenes are coated in sugar, and some don’t go down quite as well as Haggis may have imagined in his head, but to see these characters realize more about their lives by just relating life-experiences and stories with one another, really touched me in a way that was hard to explain when it happened, and especially after too.

I was actually really surprised how the movie depicted not just the war in Iraq itself, but it’s soldiers and how much we can still trust them with our country and our lives, but may not think the same when they get back. The most prime example of this is the fact that Hank’s son isn’t really a nice guy, and in fact, turns out to be more of an asshole as we find more out about him, what he was up to, and how he caught himself going AWOL. This movie could have definitely gone down that wrong path of making him seem like everybody’s, true American hero that fights for The Red, The White, and The Blue, sings John Mellencamp all day, and does it all for our safety, so we may live, breath, sleep, eat, and die in peace, like we were meant to be. If this sound’s lengthy and over-exposed, then you get my point: This flick could have easily gone down that path, but decided to show him as a human, rather than a figure we all like to imagine each and every one of our soldiers as. They all have problems, they all get sad, and most of all, they are pretty fucked-up once they get off the battlefield, and back at the dinner table with ma and pa.

It’s sad, but it’s reality, baby.

However, the movie isn’t focusing on it’s characters, it’s themes, or it’s harsh-realities, it’s focusing on it’s police-procedural that feels more like a cheap-version of NCIS that I didn’t need to be bothered with seeing in the first place. Usually, I don’t mind when movies keep this element in because it entertains, excites, and keeps the mystery afloat, but after awhile, there was no mystery nor was there any case. It came pretty clear to me that the kid was not going to be okay, and that somebody did do something bad to him. No real gray area to be found whatsoever. And before people get on my ass, I’m not trying to give anything away, but you’ll start to see that the movie isn’t trying to reveal more details and clues about what happened, it’s just trying to show it’s characters. We already know, they don’t. And that’s what felt unnecessary and stupid to have, even if it was worth it for the first 45 minutes or so.

Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones was the one to keep this whole movie going and always rose above the material, even when it seemed to sink, lower and lower as it went along. Jones surprised the hell out of everybody when he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Hank, as it not only came out of nowhere, but little to no one even heard about this movie nor that Jones was even in it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still rarely ever hear this movie mentioned, which is a shame, because Jones’ performance is a great one that could have only came from this man who may always be known to be cranky and quick-whipped, but can play it subtle like nobody’s business. Jones shows real heart and emotion with this character and as time goes on and we see more about his kid, we start to see more him layer-out, especially in ways that I didn’t think were possible from Jones and Haggis. Jones’ character began to bother me a bit when he started to show unbelievable ways in how much smarter he was than the police, but after awhile, I stopped caring and just enjoyed the show that Jones was giving me to see. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word to describe this movie or this performance, but I think you get my drift.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She's like barely here.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She’s like barely here.

Charlize Theron doesn’t back down from Jones’ acting either though and actually makes her character more than just another run-of-the-mill, strong female that we need in a flick like this, to show that she can not only hang with the big boys but learn a little something in life as well. Yep, her character is pretty conventional with the whole single-mommy thing, but yet, still works because Theron is not only a strong actress, but one that is able to adapt to any environment she is placed in and that’s a skill that most actresses haven’t been able to master just yet.

Susan Sarandon also got top-billing in this movie, and is pretty solid (as usual) as Hank’s equally-grieving wife, but doesn’t get much screen-time to develop her character. Then again, it’s Susan Sarandon and the girl can act alongside a piece of wood, and make it work. She’s that damn good. Also, James Franco is randomly here trying to look tough, buff, and cool, but seems like he’s really trying to hold in the fact that he just wants to smoke and eat some munchies. It’s so painfully obvious.

Consensus: Paul Haggis isn’t known for being all that subtle when it comes to his themes and messages about life, liberty, and war, but In the Valley of Elah still benefits from a wonderful cast, especially Jones, and characters that give us a darker look at the boys in uniform who are over there, fighting for us, protecting us, and yet, are just as equally as messed-up as we are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sir, yes sir?

Sir, yes sir?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

The Host (2013)

In the future, everybody has weird-looking eyes.

In the distant future, humans are taken-over by alien forces that attack the minds, brainwash them, and put them all against figuring out who the final humans left alive are, and where they reside. Problems arise once a young lady named Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), is having a problem where her “human-self” is coming back to fight her, and making her do what she would do as a human. This means, she goes back to her old home-land, where humans live and survive in perfect harmony, but the problem is that she’s still an alien and people have no clue as to trust her or just kill her on the spot.

Last November, teenage girls and out-of-the-closet males all wept, teared-up, shouted, and said by to their beloved Twilight franchise as they witnessed the end of the Taylor, Jacob, and Bella saga that most people, myself included, didn’t give two shits about. But the biggest question on people’s minds was not whether they would make more sequels or re-boot the franchise, but whether there would be another, Twilight-like movie in the works. Well, the answer to that is yes, and sadly: this is it.

Apparently, the messiah of young adult readers right now, Stephenie Myer figured out that it’s time to due away with the werewolves and vampires, and in with the aliens. Because honestly, let’s face it, everybody loves aliens, even the weepie girls under the age of 18 who will most likely be venturing out to see this. It sounds like it’d be a relatively cool premise to have a face-off between aliens and humans, but that premise is nowhere near to being fulfilled, let alone even coming close. And that’s really a sad thing because this is coming from the same writer and director who gave us such sci-fi classics as Gattaca, The Truman Show (to an extent), and even last year’s In Time. Wouldn’t call that last one “a classic” per se, but compared to this shite; it’s the nearest thing to 2001 right about now.

Yeah, not noticing that much of a difference.

Yeah, not noticing that much of a difference.

Here’s the problem with this movie: it’s painfully boring. Nothing really entertaining happens here, and despite a couple of eye-candy to be viewed in the background, you may be very tempted to just pass-out and think about how great that Easter dinner was. I saw this on Easter, and could not stop myself from thinking about all of that glorious ham, corn, and mashed potatoes that I was going to chow-down on very, very soon. The problem with that was I had to kill 2 hours of my life to get there, watching this junk.

What makes the movie so damn boring is that there is nothing going on here, other than a bunch of people talking about why they don’t like aliens, who they are, where they are, and the world they live in. Can’t sound all that terrible if you have a smart, insightful script, but this movie does not have that. There are so many moments where people just start moping around as if the fact that they cannot be with their loved one is the most terrible thing in this godforsaken world. Uhm, hello! You people live in a world where aliens are constantly hunting you down, trying to erase your memory, and worse of all, most likely going to wipe-out your whole race of humans. Then again, that’s just me. Take your time with the hanky-panky I guess.

And that’s another problem, aside from the terrible script where people use sayings that would get them nowhere close to bed if they saw a chick in a bar (or vice versa), the premise never makes any sense nor does it’s happening that follow it. The premise is based around the fact that these humans and aliens just do not like each other and can’t live with one another in peaceful, perfect harmony, but yet; it’s never explained as to why. One character says because they are evil, always getting in fights, killing nature, and not taking care of the grateful word, but is that really it? Why do you feel the need to take over the whole world and get rid of the lasting-race while you’re at it. Never made sense to me, and it only gets worse once the romantic-aspect of this movie kicks in, big time, and we’re supposed to believe that these three people would get caught in a love-triangle, and even go to the extremes of kissing the same girl, seconds after the other person kissed her. It gets incredibly dumb by the end, but it was that way even before it.

Even though she's an alien, I'd still tap.

Even though she’s an alien, I’d still tap.

The only element coming even close to saving this movie has to be the cast, although, once I begin to say more, you’ll realize that it doesn’t mean much. At age 18, Saoirse Ronan has really grown into a very credible-actress, as well as a very attractive young woman (1 year younger than me, holla!), but she’s got to watch herself when it comes to taking crappy flicks like this. Ronan’s good at making Melanie a sympathetic character, and one you can always trust, but her character is the one that has the most problems. Since Melanie is an alien, with the human-mind on the inside, whenever we hear her alien-self speak, it’s through Ronan in-person, but when it’s the human-side of Melanie speaking, it’s an over-the-top narration that is always loud, always annoying, and never, ever funny, no matter how hard the movie makes her try to sound. Even when we feel like Melanie is finally winning us over and allowing us to make sense of this all, the narration has to come in out of nowhere and ruin everything.

Jake Abel and Max Irons play her possible love-interests and are okay for the most part, but look both similar in terms of appearance and personality, it’s hard to understand just what the hell Melanie sees in them, and even worse, how she doesn’t accidentally kiss one, when she really meant to kiss the other. If I was her, I’d just take full-advantage of this matter and get it on with both, at the same time, and let the future come a rollin’. That’s just my take, anyway. Probably wouldn’t garner the same type of audience, anyway. William Hurt is here as the cooky uncle of Melanie and is pretty good, but isn’t enough to carry this flick on his own, broad shoulders. And lastly, Diane Kruger is as sexy and gorgeous as they come, but she literally has nothing else to do in this flick other than look angry, determined, and pissed the whole time as the one alien that’s on Melanie’s trail and constantly trying to make a name for herself. Just show your boobs, and then you’ll win us all over. That’s all I gots to say about that.

Consensus: Even if it is a tad better than those wretched Twilight movies, that still isn’t saying much at all when The Host is that movie you speak of. It’s dumb, contrived, dull, and just plain boring, without ever bringing anything new or cool to the table, despite the promising premise may have implied from the start.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Good thing they still do DUI check-points in the future. Even if you aren't driving.

Good thing they still do DUI check-points in the future. Even if you aren’t driving.