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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Dianna Agron

Novitiate (2017)

Trust in God. Not the nuns. They’re a little mean.

Once she turns 17, Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) decides that it’s time to leave her old life behind and join the Catholic Church to become a nun. It’s a decision that her mother (Julianne Nicholson), who is agnostic, doesn’t quite understand or fully support, but she doesn’t have much of a say in the matter – Cathleen believes that she’s had a calling from Jesus and has fallen in love with him. Cathleen enters a Catholic convent as a postulant under the tutelage of the Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo), who is known for her passion and grace in the world of religion. While there, Cathleen meets fellow nuns who are doing their best to stick with it, even if the responsibilities and rules are quite demanding and not all that understandable. But specifically at this point in time, during the early-60’s, the Catholic Church itself was going through a bit of a change, what with the planned reforms of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Church would show a much more open and accepting image to all those who wanted to have faith in God. Most within the Church got behind these rules right away, whereas Reverend Mother doesn’t, fearing that it may change the community forever and for the worst.

Still looks like Andie Macdowell, in a nun outfit.

Novitiate doesn’t necessarily come off as a scathing indictment on the Catholic Church, or even faith in general, and it’s much better off for that. Writer/director Maggie Betts, making her directorial debut, seems to understand and respect those who actually fall in love with God, or whoever they praise, are willing to throw their whole lives completely away, and devote everything to prayer, abstinence, and spreading the good word of the Lord. While it may sound like a boring life to a normal layman, to those who are involved with the Church, it’s the greatest honor they can bestow and Betts doesn’t seem to be making fun of these people, as much as she easily could have.

Instead, she shows a certain sweetness to these people who devote their lives to God. But then again, she also realizes that there are a few bad apples who either, misinterpret the word of God and act out in heinous ways, or can’t keep up with their sacred notions and never seem to give up. Betts seems to be saying that while having God in your life can be a good thing, having it run your each and everyday life, isn’t, and it can drive people to pure insanity.

And as we all know, living in the world that we live in, this isn’t much of a stretch for Betts to make.

That said, Novitiate is an overall smart movie that doesn’t necessarily have an agenda, but shows us the Catholic Church during a transnational period, that they don’t even know or understand is quite as severe as it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily a stylish, or fully exciting movie – there’s a lot of walking, praying, sitting in silence, crying, and hushed-tones – but the movie creates a certain uneasiness just by doing this, that it’s easy to get compelled by. The movie is deathly serious and understated, therefore, never quite goes overboard or as insane as you’d expect it to be with some of these religious types, and it feels a lot more realistic for that. It’s less of a sympathetic-portrait of the Catholic Church, and much more of a humane one, where we see all the good, as well as the bad, within it.

Uh oh. Someone’s talking during prayers.

The only pure instances in which the movie goes slightly a bit overboard is with Melissa Leo’s performance as Reverend Mother, but it still works. Leo’s presence here is a little shocking because you can always tell that she’s about to crack loose, but because she’s a nun and has to set a good example for the fellow nuns out there, she has to stay cool, calm, and collected. There are instances in which we see Leo lose all control and it’s scary, but not in the horror movie kind-of-way – it just seems like a person slowly losing grips with her own form of reality, and coming to terms with the all-too real one.

It’s a scary and powerful performance, and from Leo, I wouldn’t expect much different.

Everybody else is quite good in this supporting-cast, but really, it’s Margaret Qualley who remains the heart and soul of the whole project. As Cathleen, Qualley gives us a sad, somewhat scared character who keeps to herself, but is so in love with God and the Jesus, she can’t hold it all in. Through Cathleen, we see just how one can misinterpret The Word and it’s Qualley that keeps us on-edge, not knowing whether she’s going to crack and lose all control, or if she’s going to stay her meek and mild self. Through it all, we still sympathize with her; we know that she means well and even if she is throwing her life away, it’s her life to throw away. We just want her to realize that there’s more to life than the Church and to stand outside, in the real world, if only for a bit.

Consensus: Slow and a little languid, Novitiate surely follows its own pace, but is also a well-acted and compelling look at the Catholic Church, that’s neither judging, nor entirely sympathetic. Just honest and realistic.

7.5 / 10

“God? You spoke to Madonna. Why can’t you speak to me?”

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classic

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I Am Number Four (2011)

I feel like Number 666 is pretty damn cool. Where’s that person’s movie?

John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) seems like an ordinary teenager, who wants to live long, prosper, have a great time, find some hot chicks, drink, party, and just do what every other teenager in the whole entire world wishes for. However, he’s very far from ordinary – in fact, he’s an alien on the run from merciless enemies hunting him and the eight others like him. So in order to make sure that he doesn’t get found out by this group of baddies, he and his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), have to constantly go from town-to-town, changing their identities and staying as hidden and as unseen as they possibly can. That’s easy for Henri to do, but for John, he just wants to be out there in the world, living life like a typical teenager, which leads him to start going to the local high school, where he meets an falls for the cutest girl at the school (Dianna Agron), but at the same time, also captures the attention of the school-bully (Jake Abel), who isn’t afraid to start some stuff with John whenever he oh so feels the need or desire.

Basically, it’s high school, but you know, with aliens.

"Trust me, I'm hot."

“Trust in me, I’m hot.”

Just like Disturbia was D.J. Caruso’s junior-Hitchcock, I Am Number Four is definitely his junior-Spielberg. Everything in it just breathes, hell, screams Spielberg; the high school-setting, the angsty, misunderstood teenagers, the aliens, the government conspiracies, the monsters, etc. It’s as if Caruso felt the need to start trying out whatever famous director’s style he could go for next, regardless of whether or not he actually had the talent to do so, so in a way, it’s an admirable effort on his part.

Issue is, I Am Number Four also feels a whole heck of a lot like every other YA adaptation that tried so desperately hard to recapture the same magic and success as Twilight did and because of that, it definitely feels like a step-down for someone who is a pretty competent director. After all, Caruso gets a lot right here that other Spielberg-wannabes have tried to aim for; the high school and its characters are compelling, if also somewhat realistic, and for awhile, the mystery of these aliens, their powers, and all that stuff, is interesting enough to stick around for. But then, the movie also dives really, really deep into the mythology which, honestly, doesn’t matter, or work.

I Am Number Four is the kind of movie that probably works best, when nobody takes it serious – the director, writers, cast, everyone. It’s so goofy and weird that often times, it would have probably been best if the movie made itself out to be something of a parody of these YA adaptations, and then decided to turn the other cheek and become its own genre-flick, like say Shaun of the Dead, or even Airplane. But of course, that isn’t the case here – instead, we get a relatively self-serious movie that doesn’t always know how to tone down the sci-fi mythology that nobody can understand or care for, nor does it know when the best time for some fun character-stuff needs to happen.

Then again, maybe that’s just a problem with me – expecting human stuff out of a YA adaptation.

Metaphor for technology? Eh, probably not.

Metaphor for technology? Eh, probably not.

But still, Caruso does offer up enough to make the movie, at the very least, an entertaining piece of mainstream trash that doesn’t need to be thought about long, especially considering that all it really wants to do is set-up more and more sequels to come. And considering that this is the film-business, is that such a problem? It isn’t if you have something to really work with; Twilight got five movies, whereas I Am Number Four only got one and honestly, there’s something wrong with that. A part of me feels like if I Am Number Four got the opportunity to expand on its universe, hire some better writers and whatnot, that it would have grown on to be something better than just another YA-knockoff that people forget about after a week or two.

It probably wouldn’t have been the next Hunger Games in any way, shape or form, but it would have at least been somewhat of an enjoyable diversion, right? Cause with the cast, the movie could have definitely done more to add some sizzle and spice to the whole YA-genre. Alex Pettyfer, despite always having to work with an odd American-accent, is perfectly fine and hunky as Four, or the apt-named, John Smith; Dianna Agron’s pretty-girl-who-takes-pictures-so-yeah-she’s-interesting character is boring, but she does enough of something with it; and yeah, Timothy Olyphant is a blast to watch, making the best of what he can, even going so far as to infuse any bit of humor that he can find in the creases. Everyone here is fine, but sadly, they never got the next opportunity to see what they could do next with this story, this franchise, or even this world.

Oh well. At least we got another Divergent movie coming out sometime soon.

So that’s good, right?

Consensus: Too serious to be campy, and too weird to be hilarious, I Am Number Four is an okay diversion from the rest of the YA-fare, but unfortunately, also doesn’t have much of its own identity to help itself out and break away from the rest of the pack.

5 / 10

Wow. Alex must not really want Isabel in his life. Deuche.

Wow. Alex must not really want Isabel in his life. Deuche.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Tumbledown (2016)

TumbledownposterFolk singers have the saddest lives.

After her husband dies, Hannah Miles (Rebecca Hall) goes into her own bit of hiding. While she isn’t necessarily depressed and doesn’t know what to do with her life, at the same time, it doesn’t seem like she’s making much movement on it, either. Aside from the every so often hook-up she has with the local hunter (Joe Manganiello), she doesn’t seem to be getting any serious about another relationship and, for the most part, doesn’t really seem to care that her husband was, when he was alive, a cult-followed folk singer who so many people loved, yet, didn’t fully get to appreciate because he died so tragically at a young age. However, one person in particular that wants to find out more about this singer’s life is part-time writer Andrew McCabe (Jason Sudeikis). Though Hannah is initially against the idea of bringing a stranger into her home and into her late husband’s studies to chronicle his, as well as her, life, she starts to give in and realize that she’s happy with Andrew around. Not to mention that he brings out a certain sparkle within her that hasn’t been around since, well, when her late husband was actually alive, well and writing songs all about her.

Why have dinner when you can just maul one another?

Why have dinner when you can just maul one another?

Tumbledown has all of the promise of a soft, sweet and tender romantic-dramedy, but sadly, it falls prey to its own conventions one too many times. For one, the movie itself doesn’t seem to want to take itself too seriously at first, which is fine, but it’s not very good at being funny, either. There’s a lot of annoying rom-com cliches and conventions that show up here that not only feel very beneath the cast and crew working here, but the material itself.

The idea of one moving on with their life after the loss of a very near, dear and loved one, is a universal theme. Not only is this shown in movies like I’ll See You In My Dreams, where the older women are shown to be living out the rest of their years, wondering where to go or what to do, but it’s very rarely shown for the younger women out there who are, believe it or not, widows. Death knows no boundaries, so it’s an honest wonder to me why we don’t have more of these kinds of movies about young widows trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, where do they go from their certain situation, and most of all, whom do they choose.

Throw in the folk music angle and guess what? You’ve got a pretty interesting movie that goes above and beyond any melodramatic romantic story we’re so used to seeing and hating with Nicholas Sparks.

However, that’s the exact issue with Tumbledown: It turns exactly into that kind of movie.

Most of this is especially evident with the characters. Even though the cast here is understandably strong, it’s a bit of a shame to see some of them playing such types that, after awhile, it makes you wonder why they even bothered to begin with. Rebecca Hall gets the meatiest role as Hannah Miles, where shows both sadness, as well as loveliness to a character who seems like she’s at a bit of a stand-still with her life. Though she wants to live each and everyday in absolute tears, she doesn’t and it’s interesting to see how she still copes with the loss of her husband, even if she also knows that there’s more to life for her out there – it’s just a matter of whether or not she wants to actually go out there and see it for herself.

Mmmm! Ms. Hall just ain't got time for that Sudeikis charm!

Mmmm! Ms. Hall just ain’t got time for that Sudeikis charm!

So yeah, Hall’s character isn’t really the issue as much as it’s Jason Sudeikis’ Andrew McCabe who is, basically, Jason Sudeikis, but this time, playing a college professor and writer. Sudeikis is a good actor and, in the past few months, I’ve come to respect for at least trying to do something more interesting with his career than just sticking himself in every broad comedy he can find, but for some reason, he doesn’t feel right for this role. The character is a little too smarmy for what appears to be a really laid-back, almost reserved kind of guy. He and Hall have good chemistry, but the way that they’re relationship gets put together, or how they come to a certain common ground, doesn’t always feel believable and it’s a shame, because they’re both solid actors. Sudeikis just doesn’t seem like he’s the perfect fit for whatever kind of character Andrew McCabe is.

Other actors show up here like Joe Manganiello, Dianna Agron, the always welcome Blythe Danner, Richard Masur, and Griffin Dunne, but they’re kind of just here on the side to allow for Sudeikis and Hall to do their thing and develop their never-believable relationship. It’s good to see these actors here, but when they aren’t really around to do anything but play window-dressing to a poor plot and script, it almost feels like a disservice. Especially for Danner who, in the past few years at least, has shown that there’s more to her than just playing the sassy, sometimes way-too-smart mom that knows what’s going on with every relationship around her, but will sometimes keep her mouth shut.

I love Danner with all my heart, but I want to see different roles for her, especially since we all know she’s got the chops.

Same goes for the rest of the cast, because something like Tumbledown, while showing off a indie-sensibility, plays out like any mainstream rom-com. People fall in love, people fall, people get hurt, people get into fights, and believe it or not, people cry, but they always seem to brush it off with a laugh or two. This happens with life, but not nearly as much Tumbledown portrays it as and it can’t help but feel like a disappointment.

Consensus: Given the subject material and ensemble cast, Tumbledown can’t help but feel like a bummer when you see it all get wasted on a rote rom-com plot.

4 / 10

Will they? Or won't they? Oh, I just don't know!

Will they? Or won’t they? Oh, I just don’t know!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Family (2013)

Cause honestly, who hasn’t wanted to take a bat to the head of some Frenchies?

The Manzoni family were a powerful mob family from the streets of Brooklyn, that is, until the head of the family, Giovanni (Robert De Niro), ratted on some of his fellow mob-buddies. Now, every mob-syndicate within the a hundred-mile radius wants him, as well everybody else in the clan dead. However, they can’t find them because the family’s been shipped off to France, where they hide out under new names, new occupations, and are protected under the Witness Protection program, lead by Tom Quintiliani (Tommy Lee Jones). At first, they are total fish-out-of-water because the French don’t like their American ways and want nothing to do with their non-stop diets of hamburgers and cholesterol, but eventually, through some brute force, everybody eventually lightens-up and welcomes the family in with open arms. Problem is, the family can’t seem to get their stories straight and get caught up in a bit too many lies, making them even closer to being found-out and killed.

In case you peeps haven’t been reading this site over the past two days, I’ve been doing me a little research into the good old days of Luc Besson, and I’ve come to the realization that the guy had a certain flavor that he has yet to taste since the 90’s ended. He’s had some real stinkers in the past, and in the past decade no less, but it seems like all he needed was a way to get back to his roots in order for some sort of comeback, right? Mobsters, violence, and French people are the perfect recipe for that comeback, right?

"Did you just say that my American accent is thick? So help me!!"

“Did you just say that my American accent is thick? So help me!!”

Well, hate to say it, but not at all.

The problem Besson’s material hits early on, and stays that way for quite some time, is that it’s just not funny. Yes, maybe a couple of chuckles here and there at a funny-quip or piece of dialogue that hit only my funny-bone, only, but nothing really spectacular like the trailers seemed to have promised me. And it isn’t that I’m a miserable old-sack of potatoes that needs intellectual humor to really get me laughing and holding my gut, it’s more that I just need something to make me laugh, and this movie did not have that. Besson tries, and he tries, and he tries again to make this material pop and sizzle with all of the comedic-beats still intact, but to no avail.

Which makes it even harder to sit-through when you take into consideration just how much physical, disturbing acts of violence are played-up for laughs here, but just come off as strange. For instance, there’s this whole “running-gag” (I guess) that De Niro’s character has where he can’t stand to be around a person who may condescend to him in the least bit, without at least beating the ever loving shite out of them. He’s a mobster, who has been in the mobster-game for quite some time, so I guess it makes sense. Not funny, but it makes sense. Anyway, most of the scenes that feature him talking to somebody who ticks him off a bit, is later followed by a scene showing the after-math of the violent acts he bestowed onto them, including one memorable act where he drags a dude from the back of his car.  That’s right, he drags a dude, for what seems to be a very long distance, by the tail of his car. The dude’s all bloodied up, and looks as if he’s been through a cheese shredder, but you know, it’s funny, right?

Wrong!

And sadly, that’s how the whole film plays out. Jokes don’t land, and even when they do, they seem to become set-ups for terrible jokes that you didn’t want to see coming, and somehow hit you slap-dab in the face, and it just becomes a sort of disjointed affair. And don’t have me fooled here, I’m not saying you can have a dark comedy where the humor is hilarious, and the violence is gruesome, but there comes a certain line you just don’t cross, and Besson crossed it.

Which, I have to say, is very strange considering that the only REALLY good aspect about this flick that made me WANT to keep my eyes on the screen, was when Besson seemed to throw all of the joking and playfulness aside, and start to go back to his old ways with a gritty, threatening tone that would promise the killings of many, many characters. We’ve seen it in his brightest and best flicks, and it finally showed up here by the end and had me totally amped-up and ready-to-go for something that was considered “vintage-Besson”. However, once the violence actually got going and started to get very gruesome, Besson softened the blow up again, and went back to his goofy ways, making this less of a somewhat brutal thriller, and more of a crowd-pleaser. Boo on that idea, especially because I know Besson is capable of doing so much better when he just takes the gloves off and shows his bloody finger-prints.

She actually has to shop in a super-market now. What a change!

She actually has to shop in a super-market now. What a drastic change!

The same thing could be said for very talented actors like Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, however, it seems like they may have finally given up on doing anything commendable in any way, shape or form. De Niro, as we all know, has moments of pure inspiration, and has his moments of pure insanity, and this falls in somewhere in between. The guy’s charming enough to enjoy while he’s on-screen, but you know he’s better and when the most memorable moment comes from a Goodfellas reference, then you can’t help but reminded of a simpler, better time when he used to choose good material, and not anything that came his way and paid the bills. Looking at you, Fockers.

The same can sort of be said for Pfeiffer, but sort of can’t. The reason I say that is because even though she hasn’t really been doing much as of late, she still seems like she’s a welcome-enough presence that I wouldn’t mind seeing again and again. Sure, her character can be a little stereotypical and annoying, but there’s just something so sincere and natural about the way Pfeiffer has her seem, that makes it easier for us to get used to her. The only reason I didn’t include Tommy Lee Jones in that list up-above is because the dude, within the past decade, has proven that he still is able to choose great material and not worry about the roof over his head. He’s a bore to watch here, but I didn’t care all that much, mainly because I know he’s probably got something better cooking in the oven. As for De Niro and Pfeiffer, I don’t really know and personally, if they’re going to keep on going at the rate that they’re going at, I don’t care. I’m a dick, but that’s just the way it is.

Consensus: What separates The Family from all of the other bad mobster, dark comedies out there is that you know everybody could be so much better if they just put a little more effort into the proceedings, regardless of if the material wasn’t there or was.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Zzzzzzzzzz......"

“Zzzzzzzzzz……”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Has anybody in this series ever taken into account that maybe this demon just doesn’t want it’s picture taken?

It has been five years since the strange disappearance of Katie and Hunter, and now we focus our attention to a nice, suburban family that just so happens to live right across the street from these two weirdos. Yay! It’s time to break-in the newbies.

If you have been following my site ever since the heydays of 2009, you should know that I’am a big Paranormal Activity fan. When I went to see the first installment, it went down as one of my favorite movie-theater viewings of all-time and still ranks there to this day because that movie freaked me the fuck out with what it did. Then, the second one came around and that was pretty freaky as well, if a bit uneventful. And then, that third one came around last year and totally surprised me by how everything was cranked up to 11 on the scare-o-meter and never went down. Now, finally, we have the fourth installment and needless to say, it doesn’t feel like Halloween without one of these movies. Sadly, that’s the same thing people were all saying about the Saw franchise as well. Yup, it’s going there.

The fact that PA brought Catfish directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost for last year’s fright-fest, really made me curious as to what these guys had to offer and bring to the table and thankfully, they shocked us all by giving us some neat-tricks and inventive scares that we thought we’d never see in a horror movie, especially one that’s on it’s third-installment already. Here, the guys return and still do a nice job at scaring us but I don’t know, something really feels like it’s missing. One of the main reasons why this series worked in the first-place, and why the 3rd one did as well was because of how these guys allowed there to be some neat, visual-tricks that had us guessing just how the hell they pulled that off.

When somebody would go flying at the screen at a 100 mph, you would wonder how their necks didn’t really get broken; when everything in the kitchen would be floating in mid-air, you wondered just how the hell that even came-about and everything was able to just stay there; and whenever somebody was able to flat in the air, without there looking like there was a bunch of cable-wires actually holding them up, you’d get it in your mind that it looks incredibly hard to pull-off and required a crap-ton of skill. In this movie, all of those wonders and questions seem to go right down the drain as the film constantly falls back-on such tricks like a chair moving, or a cover being taken off of somebody, or a door creaking open. This shit is still a little freaky just because of the tension involved, but when you get right down to it, there’s nothing new or original we haven’t seen before.

That’s probably one of my biggest problems with this flick here is that I never felt like any of the scares really got me and made me feel like I was in a dangerous place throughout the whole movie. Maybe you can blame that on the whole movie series itself as we all know when a person is going to pop in front of the camera for a sneaky appearance, or whenever a loud noise is going to go “bam!” right in front of the screen, so all of those elements of surprise sort of get lost in the shuffle. Did I just jump at the scares? Of course I did, but you probably would too, if you’re just staring at a screen for a total of 30 seconds waiting for something crazy to happen and eventually does, much to your surprise.

Another element of this movie that didn’t really come as a surprise to me was the dumb-assed characters, that are sadly, well-performed by everybody involved. I don’t know where and I don’t know how, but I have seen the girl here who plays the teen protagonist (Kathryn Newton), and she actually took me off-guard by how good she is. Granted, she’s a little too familiar and good-looking to be taken seriously as a real, angsty teen going through this whole paranormal problem, but she has a lot of charm to her and feels like the type of girl you want to live, when it’s all said and done. However, all of her scenes get stolen by her boy-toy, played by Matt Shively, and just adds so much fun and humor to every scene that he’s in, that I never wanted to see the guy go. These two characters aren’t as stupid as you would expect them to be, but I can’t say that about the parents who are pretty much your typical, disapproving parents that don’t believe in any of this crazy shit, no matter how crazy it actually gets. Also, that mom deserved all of the shit got because she was the dumb-ass who lets the kid stay in the house with them and gives the comme-ci, comme-ca reason as to, “Well, he doesn’t have anywhere else to go so why not?” What the fuck, mom!??! Next time I’m stranded, I’m going right to her house and making myself a sandwich.

When it comes right down to it, even though this installment isn’t the best out of the whole series, it’s still as much fun as you’d expect it to be. Yeah, the scares are obvious and border-line predictable by now, but they’re still fun to be apart of, especially when you have a crazy crowd like the one I’ve been in for the past 4 years when I go to see these movies. Everybody’s hootin’, hollerin’, and jumpin’ all over the place that it’s almost torture to yourself to hide a smile or chuckle because you’ll be having that much fun with this movie. Also, if you doubt me, just you wait until those last 5 minutes where everything comes full-circle and all hell breaks loose, like we always love from this series. Yeah yeah yeah!

Consensus: Though it’s definitely the most unoriginal and blandest entry of the whole series, PA 4 still has fun with itself in terms of scares, chills, and overall fun atmosphere that never ceases to stop me from having a good olde time. PA 5? I think so. Let’s just hope they try some new, cool stuff this time around.

8/10=Matinee!!