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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Debra Messing

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Just watch the X-Files.

John Klein (Richard Gere), a respected journalist, loses his wife (Debra Messing) one night, after she takes the wheel of their car and sees a strange figure attack her. Cut to two years later and John has found himself in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where there has apparently been many sightings/clues of a secret ghost out there, and John thinks he has the answers to all of the clues.

Saying that your movie’s story, no matter how creepy or strange it may be, is a “true story” or “based on a true story”, makes it seem like such a manipulative-way for the filmmakers to have us take the material more seriously. I mean, it did somehow work with movies like the Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocaust, but that was all because it looked and felt real, and also, nobody really had any idea whether to prove it false or not. However, stories like these where everything dark in the world seems to come up, doesn’t make it more freaky because it’s “based on a true story,” but instead, how about this, just makes it more dull.

However, don’t go up to director Mark Pellington and tell him that this material is, in fact, “dull”, because he’ll try his hardest to prove you wrong with any trick he can pull out of his director’s hat. Every chance that Pellington gets to make us forget what type of lame story we’re seeing, he capitalizes on it and gives us something to treat our eyes and for the most part, yeah, it actually works. The constant barrage of tricks and effects that Pellington pulls off aren’t all stuff we haven’t seen done before, but at least he makes a conscientious effort to really pull us into this state of paranoia and fear. You can tell that Pellington comes from a long line of directing music-videos, and it works for the overall atmosphere and tone of the movie.

The color blue is always a sign that something bad is 'a brewin'.

The color blue is always a sign that something bad is ‘a brewin’.

But just like most directors who have a music-video background, they just can’t quite get the narrative.

See, with Pellington’s direction,  no matter how hard he tries to keep our minds off of it, he still can’t get past the fact that this story is relatively boring. The pace is always off, with the plot constantly starting-and-stopping, and then never knowing how to pick itself back up again. Pellington knows how to freak us out, but to keep our interest is a whole other issue right then and there, and it’s hard to keep total invested interest.

As for the story, it isn’t terrible; there’s an idea of an mystery and having no idea what’s going to happen next, but it happens in such short spurts that it hardly almost matters. We get way too many scenes where it’s just Gere talking to some weird thing on the phone and says something disastrous is going to happen, it does end-up happening, and Gere runs around looking for an explanation by talking to random people as well as that weird thing. You can only watch Richard Gere run around, looking like a bewildered-fool so many times, and by the 45-minute mark of already seeing this 20 times, it’s hard not to be done here.

And oh yeah, Gere is terribly bland as John Klein and even though it seems like the dude should have more emotions and ideas in his because he for one, went through a terrible life-crisis like losing his lovely wife, somehow doesn’t. Instead, you don’t care about him, the paranoia he’s going through, the sadness he went through with his lost wife, and worst of all, you just don’t feel like the guy’s actually scared. Yeah, Gere puts on that scared-expression plenty of times, but it came to a point of where it seemed like the only skill the guy could pull out of his one-note bag of expressions and it made me realize why I have never cared for Gere in the first place.

Something I sure he’s really broken up about.

Generic Richard Gere look #2

Generic Richard Gere look #2

Laura Linney is pretty dull here, too, as the country bumpkin police officer that made me want to give Frances McDormand a call. Linney’s does what she can, but all she really does is put the same expression on as Gere has, try to look scared the whole time, and in the end, somehow act like she’s the one after his heart and can save him from all of this pain and fear he’s had to deal with throughout the past two years of his life. I’d be able to believe that these two would have some sort of a romance between one another, if the film ever alluded to it throughout the whole two hours, but it rarely ever does and when it seems like Linney goes all goo-goo eyes over Gere at the end, it was just dumb and a contrived way for the movie to bring these two together at the end. An end that was, yes, pretty cool to look at, but also, an end that signified that this long movie was finally over and I could get on with my life, forget about Gere, forget about Linney, and hopefully, watch a better movie before the day was up.

Consensus: Mark Pellington is a fine director that does all that he can to keep us awake throughout the Mothman Prophecies, but the script and story think otherwise, and sort of carry everything down with a dead-weight of total and complete dullness.

3 / 10

What I should have done from this movie.

What I should have done from this movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

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Celebrity (1998)

Never mind. I’m fine with being a peasant.

After divorcing his wife, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) now has a new mission in life and that’s to be dive deeper and further into the entertainment industry, where he’ll be able to wine and dine with all sorts of celebrities, be a part of their lives, and see the world through their eyes. However, Lee gets too close to some and often times, he finds himself struggling to keep himself calm, cool, and collected, while all sorts of decadence and debauchery is occurring around him. Meanwhile, Lee’s ex-wife, Robin (Judy Davis) is trying her hardest to live life without fully losing it. While she’s working at a talent agency, she doesn’t really know where to go next with her love life. That is, until she meets the charming and successful TV producer Tony (Joe Mantegna), who not only strikes up a romance with her, but also brings her into the celebrity-world – the same one that Lee himself seems to be way too comfortable in.

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

In the same sort of spirit he had with Deconstructing Harry a year earlier, Celebrity finds Woody Allen with a fiery passion to get something off of his chest. However, instead of throwing all of his anger around towards those around him who he holds most near and dear to his life, Woody positions everything towards the whole celebrity culture in and of itself. Which isn’t to say that he makes fun of celebrities and mainstream talent (which he does do), but more or less that he criticizes the whole idea of being an actual “celebrity”; in Woody’s eyes, it isn’t if you have any talent, per se, is what makes you the biggest and brightest celebrity, sometimes it just matters who you’ve slept with and whether or not you’re at the right place, at the right time.

Sounds pretty smart and interesting, right? And heck, you’d even assume that someone who has to deal with celebrities, pop-culture, and tabloid sensations as much as Woody Allen has had to, that there would be some shred of humanely brutal truth, eh?

Well, unfortunately, Celebrity is not that kind of movie.

Instead, it’s one where Woody Allen tries to recycle old themes and ideas that he’s worked with before, but this time, with a much larger ensemble, more unlikable characters, way more of a disjointed plot, and well, the biggest issue of all, no originality or fun. Even in some of Woody’s worst features (of which there are quite a few), you do sort of get the sense that he’s still having fun, even if he doesn’t totally feel any sort of passion or creativity within the project itself. Here, with Celebrity, a part of me wonders where the inspiration actually began – I already know where it ends (at the very beginning of the flick), but why did Woody want to make this movie, about these characters, and using this story?

The question remains in the air, as there’s so many characters to choose from, it’s hard to really pin-point which one’s are actually more annoying and underdeveloped than certain others. But to make that decision a little easier for yourself, just watch whatever Judy Davis and Kenneth Branagh are doing here because, oh my, they’re quite terrible. And honestly, I don’t take any pride in saying any of that; both are extremely likable and interesting talents who have honestly knocked it out of the park, more times than they’ve actually struck out, but for some reason here, they’re incredibly miscast.

Seeing as how he never worked with Woody before, it’s understandable why Branagh was miscast, but Judy Davis?

Really, Woody?!?

Anyway. the biggest issue with Davis is that her character is so over-the-top, neurotic and crazy, that you almost get the sense that she’s doing a parody of what a crazy person should look, act and feel like. It’s never believable for a second and just seems like an act, above everything else. Then again, when compared to Branagh’s impersonation of Allen, Davis almost looks Oscar-worthy, because man oh man, he’s even worse. Though it’s never been too clear who’s idea it was to have Branagh act-out in every Woody-mannerism known to man (I say it was Woody’s, but hey, that’s just me), either way, it doesn’t work and just hurts Branagh; his constant flailing around, stuttering, pausing, and general awkwardness is painful to watch because, like with Davis, we know he’s acting. We never get a sense that he’s actually “a person”, but more or less, “a character” that Woody has written and made into another version of him.

Bebe knows best.

Bebe knows best.

And while nobody else is bad as Davis and Branagh, they’re not really all that much better, either. In fact, despite the huge list of impressive names, no one here really stands-out, or is ever given as much time as they should; Joe Mantegna and Famke Janssen are probably the only two who get actual real time in the spotlight, whereas all of the names get pushed to the side for what can sometimes be constituted as “glorified cameos”. Even Leonardo DiCaprio, in his very young-form, shows up, curses a lot, assaults Gretchen Mol at least a dozen times, snorts coke, has sex, and never hits a single comedic-note.

Of course though, that’s not Leo’s, or anybody else’s fault, except for Woody Allen himself.

While it may appear like Celebrity is Woody’s worst, it really isn’t; it’s got a funny moment or two spliced between all of the silly love-triangles and pretentious speeches, but there’s not enough. And honestly, Woody really missed the opportunity on reeling in to Hollywood and the celebrity-culture itself. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about it, so why not let your feelings heard loud and clear for the whole wide world?

Couldn’t hurt, right?

Consensus: Despite an immensely stacked and talented list of actors, Celebrity fails by not being funny, interesting, or original enough of a Woody Allen comedy, that sometimes wants to be satire, but then, other times, doesn’t want to be.

3.5 / 10

They've stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven't stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

They’ve stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven’t stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

Hollywood Ending (2002)

I hope I don’t randomly become blind. I won’t be able to see porn…….movies anymore.

Woody Allen plays Val Waxman, a once-famous film director who’s down on his luck and just needs one good picture to bring his career back. But when Val gets an offer to make a big film, his paranoia causes him to go psychosomatically blind. He and a few friends scramble to cover up his disability and keep the studio executives from discovering that Val’s directing the film in the dark, which gets tougher as Val’s ineptitude starts to shine.

Woody Allen has always been a director I could stand behind. Yeah, he’s a pervert, and yeah he’s a creep, but at the end of the day, he’s entertaining.

My favorite element of this film was the actual plot, and screenplay. I liked how the plot set up a lot of good jokes for this film, and as always Allen always knows how to deliver a one-liner from his characters. We get various satire jokes on the Hollywood industry that were funny, and the film did entertain me with most of the things it did with its plot.

The only problem with this film is that there could have been so much more to this film as well. I mean I can only sit there and watch Woody stand in place for so long, as a blind man, until I just become a little annoyed and want something more with this plot. I thought some of the things they did with this plot were good, but at the same time I thought it was a little disappointing because they never went many places with this original idea.

Also another thing that bothered me more about Woody Allen films, and less about this film itself, is the fact that his films are so fantasy-like. You have all these young actresses in about their 30’s, or even 20’s, practically falling head over heals for Woody, and to be brutally honest, I don’t believe it. Yeah, I get the fact that Woody wants to be able to get it in with ladies in his films, but there comes a point where it just gets creepy. Take it for granted I’am talking about Woody Allen, so that may be a bit excusable, but I just think he should start hitting up some other ladies his own age like Judi Dench. Now that would be a real film.

Woody Allen does a good job at playing his usual neurotic act but with more physical comedy this time that actually works. He’s playing a blind guy, and although he can see in real life while the filming is going on, he makes it seem realistic and it works. Téa Leoni is good here as Allen’s ex-flame, and the scenes with her and Woody are just so good, and funny. Others in this cast that are good are Debra Messing, George Hamilton, and Treat Williams.

Consensus: It may not use the plot to its extent, but it works as a funny piece, of charming entertainment, that always has Woody Allen doing a good job with his screenplays.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Nothing Like the Holidays (2008)

Even Puerto Ricans know how to celebrate Christmas, who would of thought?

John Leguizmo and Alfred Molina head up an all-star cast in this multicultural ensemble comedy that follows a trio of Puerto Rican siblings — a Marine, an actress and a businessman — on their way home to Chicago for a Christmastime family reunion. Directed by Alfredo De Villa, the holiday tale also features performances by Debra Messing, Luis Guzman, Jay Hernandez, Freddy Rodriguez, Vanessa Ferlito and Melonie Diaz.

So thinking since it’s the holiday season, it’s time for me to spread a little bit of Christmas cheer, for all to , well, see. This film came out in 2008, and has been widely forgotten about, which blows considering, it is a great feel-good movie for the whole family, come Christmas time.

This film does a great job at keeping you watching. It has a great appeal, of a big family that reunites all together for the big Christmas day & dinner. I enjoyed watching all the moments that lead up to the eventful dinner, mainly because a lot of the things were funny, but at the same time, some of them were just plain dramatic, and in a way felt real. Hell, this family may even remind you of your own at times.

Although there is some well scripted comedy it is not enough to make up for the constant parading of unresolved problems which pile up like dead bodies by the side of the road. And although there is some resolve you still can’t get those dead carcasses out of your mind. This may be more realistic of the way many families live, at Christmas but I would rather focus on the positive than dwell in the negative at least one month out of the year.

Despite the film being also quite predictable, as most dysfunctional family movies are, the characters keep you glued on. Alfred Molina as Eddy, the dad, and Elizabeth Pena as Anna, the mom do a great job with their roles as parents with marital problems that they have kept hidden for the most part. Luis Guzman always finds a way to bring great comedy to any film. Freddy Rodriguez is good here, providing a very likable character. John Leguizamo, and Debra Messing, actually have a good chemistry together, and although their a couple that doesn’t seem like they would work on screen, they actually do a good job at being a couple with baby problems.

Consensus: Not the best Christmas movies out there, mainly because it focuses too negatively on some subjects, but the likable characters, and strong performances, make you feel good while watching this little holiday treat.

6/10=Rental!!