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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 Sutcliffe

Half Baked (1998)

Can one be addicted to weed? Or just be really lazy?

Thurgood Jenkins (Dave Chappelle), his friends Brian (Jim Breuer), Scarface (Guillermo Díaz), and Kenny (Harland Williams) all seem to live their lives by the way of pot. While they don’t consider themselves “drug-addicts” by any means, for the most part, their everyday lives are consumed and filled with smoking pot, munchies, and not really doing anything. Sure, they all have jobs and do their own things, but really, they just only care about pot and that’s about it. There’s nothing wrong with that, either, until Kenny gets arrested for accidentally killing a police horse. This lands him in the slammer with a life-sentence that he may be able to get out of, so long as he has enough money for bail. Considering that his buddies spend all of the money they make from their jobs on stuff like food and pot, he’s sort of lost all hope of ever getting out and is forced to live with the reality that the rest of his life, he’ll be somebody’s bitch. However, Thurgood concocts a plan to get some of the best, most amazing and pure pot out there by taking some from the lab that he works as a custodian at, and selling it out on the streets.

I agree.

I agree.

Problem is, they’re all stoners.

I think I speak on a lot of people’s half when I say yes, I’ve smoked a doobie once or twice and yes, it can be quite funny. Things that would seem mundane and almost boring in real life, take on a new life when you’re under the influence of pot and will not only make you laugh loud and hard, but nearly inches away from soiling your trousers. Maybe that’s a tad too extreme, but you get the point, because it’s the same thing with alcohol – the more of it you take, the more things around you change. Some things may make you laugh, sad, serious, or “deeper”.

Obviously, I’m not breaking down any barriers by writing any of this, but the only reason I bring any of this up in the first place is because it’s what helps me understand Half Baked and its appeal a whole lot more. Watching this, not only was I as sober as a priest, but I was also trying to see this through the lens of somebody who is, yes, high, or better yet, an absolute stoner.

Needless to say, the movie definitely benefits from the influence of drugs.

Which isn’t to say that the movie isn’t funny, because it definitely is. There’s moments of pure comedic-genius that are less chuckle-worthy and more smart than anything, but then there are other times where the movie clearly seems to be trying to make us laugh, and it will sometimes work, if only when it’s being as ridiculous as can be. In the pre-Apatow world of stoner-comedies, it’s interesting to see a movie that’s obviously structured and written in a way to ensure that not every joke is just a person going on and on, improving for hours on-end, all to get to the butt of a joke. Co-writer Dave Chappelle is obviously a lot smarter than that and you can tell that there’s a lot of his influence in Half Baked.

At the same time, it’s also a pretty poorly-done movie. However, I expect that if you’re under the influence of anything (like the creators behind it probably would prefer), you wouldn’t notice a single bit of this. The plot is nonsensical and over-the-top, as you would expect, but it hardly even matters in the grander scheme of things. The best parts about movies that feature hardly any plots, is when the movies themselves just make the rules up for themselves, going along at their own pace, not giving a care in the world about whether or not people can follow the complexity or cohesiveness of what’s going on.

Half Baked, for at least a good portion, is like that.

Of course Snoop shows up to smoke.

Of course Snoop shows up to smoke.

There’s certain sequences, like Thurgood having to save up money on a date, or his sex scene told through photographs that, separated from the rest of the movie, work and are funny. But when you throw in a plot that’s supposed to drive this thing along, it can’t help but drag things down. It’s a common-known fact that movies definitely need to have some itching of a plot to base its ground on, but for Half Baked, I almost wish that it was more of a series of sketches for Chappelle and his stoner buddies to mess around with. Obviously, that’s more like an episode of Chappelle’s Show and less of an actual movie, but still, one probably would have worked over the other.

And yeah, Chappelle himself is just fine in the movie. While nobody’s ever expected Chappelle to be a great thespian, as Thurgood, he does his thing, proves to be charming, and that’s it. Perhaps the weakest, most manipulative parts of the movie is when we’re supposed to be focusing on Thurgood’s relationship with a woman named Mary Jane (get it). Sure, because it’s a movie, we’re supposed to have some sort of romantic love-interest to make things matter more, but if anything, it just gets in the way and feels stupid. Not for a single second did I believe Mary Jane, and not just as a character, but as a person who would fall for Thurgood, stick with him after she finds out what she finds out about him, and has gone through in her life. It’s the kind of character that I feel like was probably invented and established in the post-production phase, when the studio hammered back that there needed to be a love-angle somewhere in the story.

If that was the case, know this: Just like with actual relationships, if the romance isn’t working, don’t bother with it. Kick it to the curb and light up a fatty.

Consensus: While there are short bursts of pure, comedic inspiration, Half Baked still doesn’t stay totally consistent, when it’s trying to be so many movies in one, without realizing that the one movie they have and are working with (the stoner-comedy) is just fine enough for all of us.

6 / 10

That look. We've all had it. Some just seconds ago.

That look. We’ve all had it. Some just seconds ago.

Photos Courtesy of: Mic, Alchetron, MovPins

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Happy Endings (2005)

Those only happen to women. They have all the luck and fun when it comes to massages.

It’s an interweaving of various stories, that all have to deal with issues such as money, adultery, sex, movies, relationships, being gay, being in a band, being a sperm-donor, being a parent, being a brother, being a step brother, being a step sister, and many, many more. Trust me, there’s a whole lot going on here with these people and self-indulgent their lives.

Awhile back, I was just lingering around on Netflix and I stumbled upon a little-flick called, The Opposite of Sex. Had no idea what it was, but I saw some good-buzz about it and decided to check it out. I liked it a lot and I dug what writer/director Don Roos brought to the game and how his story, as unpredictable and weird as it may be, was still pretty thought-provoking and had me interested in where it was going to go with itself. Sadly, I never got-around to actually reviewing it, but if I was to actually give it some sort of a rating, I would probably say it’s around an 8/8.5. Pretty high for a movie I just watched on a whim and that’s sort of why I was excited for this one, considering this was Roos’ return to the indie-game. Sadly, I think he left some of his “cool-parts” back in 1998, with a pregnant Christina Ricci. If only she was here, but Maggie Gyllenhaal is a good substitute, right?

What made this flick so interesting is that Roos takes all of these different stories, shows us how they relate to one-another, who these subjects are, and what exactly to expect from each and every one of them. However, it’s not just the way he sets-up these stories that make them all work, it’s how he keeps them interesting and alive through an lovely energy that is apparent through Roos’ writing and direction, right from the start. We never know where these stories are going to go and how, we just know that they’re interesting to watch, for the most-part and Roos always finds a way to add in a great-deal of ironic, and sometimes, dark humor for fair-share to keep us alive and awake.

But as the funny as the stories may be, it’s the heart of this flick that actually does work and we begin to feel that all of these characters, as goofy and weird as they may be, still have an underlining sense of humanity to them that has them come-off as believable and it’s Roos’ caring treatment of them that works so well. Yeah, not everybody here is nice person and there are definitely some people who can be declared, “absolutely despicable”, but they always felt real to me. No matter how far they may have went with their actions, and motivations for the acts that they chose, they still came-off as real people and I don’t know if that was because of the ensemble-acting, or because of Roos’ tender love and care for the actual characters themselves. It’s this frank depiction of humans, how they act, how they feel, and how they treat one another is what really resonated with me the most and even though I didn’t find myself crying as I sat and watched in my living-room, I still felt more of a connection than I ever expected.

Still, at the end of the day, I continued to think to myself, “Just what the hell was the point of all that?”. See, with Roos’ other flick, he goes to show-us that a sexual-gender shouldn’t make-up a person and their stances in life. That point is pretty obvious and not necessarily something we haven’t already seen or heard before, especially in a movie featuring homosexuals, but at least it went deeper and further than anything this movie was trying to shove-away. I don’t really even know what the whole-point of this movie was. I mean there is a lot of unpredictable moments here that sort of goes off to show how life can be so unpredictable at times, and how gay people are just like you or me, but at the end of the day, I never really “got it”.

Oh no she did not just bring up ex's?!?!

Oh no she did not just bring up ex’s?!?!

Maybe Roos was working on some sort-of higher-standard than I may have imagined, but nothing really hit me as hard as I would have liked. It’s even worse when you consider how much this guy seems to get in the way of his actors and their skills, when he constantly has a screen pop-up on the side, to tell us what happens to the characters, their motivations, and thoughts in almost half-of-the-scenes. Once, twice, or maybe even three times is fine, but it continues to pop-up every 10 minutes, just when Roos believes that his characters motivations aren’t as clear as he wants them to be. It gets in the way of actors, the audience, and most of all, the message as to what the hell is the point for focusing on all of these characters, who’s lives are as unpredictable as a sex orgy.

Even though he tries to get in the way, a bit too much I think, Roos still always allows his ensemble to give-off some great performances, especially ones from people I never expected to see ever. Tom Arnold was great as the subdued and subtle aging-father, that is sort of coming to terms with the fact that he’s getting older and starting to lose his grip when it comes to sex, love, or even being a hip and cool father like he once was. Seeing Arnold in a very-rare, dramatic-role really gives me more hope for this guy that he can do movies like these and actually make a thing or two out of not being all corny and trying to come-off as funny. Just be normal, dude, it works for ya.

Another performance here that I wasn’t expecting to like is the one given-by Jesse Bradford as the hipster-like, documentary filmmaker that is like every other young, hip person aspiring to make a living off of movies: dirty, broke, and very all-over-the-place. Bradford has never really been a stand-out in the acting-department, but the guy shows that there is more to him than just another pretty face and I actually liked his character a lot more than I ever expected to. I don’t think I’ve seen another performance from this guy that was ever really good, or hell, worth mentioning, but here, he was great with what he could do with such an obvious, and a tad thinly-written character. He still looks like he’s 15, though, I gotta give him that.

"Don't mind Uncle Stevies British-wit. They all have that."

“Don’t mind Uncle Stevies British-wit. They all have that.”

Perhaps the best out of this whole cast, and probably to nobody’s surprise is Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jude, the one and only gal that comes into this story to fuck shit-up. Gyllenhaal is great with roles like these because she uses her brass and raw-attitude to really make you despise a character who has such dirty intentions like hers, but also feel an ounce of sympathy for her as well. Jude is probably the meanest character out of this whole-bunch and ended-up staying on my mind the most, even though I have no idea just what the hell Roos was trying to say about her. At the end of the movie, we get to see these characters, where they are today, and whether or not they actually received *ahem*, “happy endings” of sorts, and there is an extra-emphasis on her character and what she’s been up to as of late. It’s weird because they make such a big-deal out of it, with very little rhyme nor reason, just the fact that she’s there to be the shit-stirrer of the whole story, for no reason. Gyllenhaal is great, but it’s really confusing as to what the hell Roos was trying to make sense out of a character like hers in the beginning of it all.

Consensus: Happy Endings starts off perfectly and keeps your attention the whole-way through, but never seems to go any further than to just make us laugh, make us feel a bit emotionally-invested in what we see, and actually realize that Tom Arnold can act. I don’t know if there was anything more than that, but if there was, I couldn’t find it.

7/10=Rental!!

"Sit back. Relax. And feast your eyes on my finest acting-performance to date."

“Sit back. Relax. And feast your eyes on my finest acting-performance to date.”