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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ed Begley Jr.

Lucky (2017)

Realism truly is “a thing”.

Lucky (Harry Dean Stanton) is 90 years old and believe it or not, feels fine. He can’t move his body like he used to and sure, it’s a little creaky every so often, but for the most part, he’s getting by just fine. He spends most of his days doing the same things, like waking up and getting a coffee. Then, he watches game shows on TV and tests his knowledge. And then, lastly, he ends up at the local bar, where he wants to smoke, but doesn’t. Instead, he sits around and waits for someone to have a stimulating conversation with him, whatever it may be, or about whatever.

Lucky doesn’t have much of a plot and that’s actually fine. All it really needs is a solid bit of characters, good performances, and a sweet sense of time and place and it gets by just fine. Making his directorial debut, legendary character actor John Carroll Lynch seems to know how to let a story like this play itself out; he takes his time enough to where some could say it’s “boring” and “slow”, but really, it’s just languid and it fits with everyone and everything else here.

“Coop?”

Especially the one, the only and the late Harry Dean Stanton himself.

And yes, it’s pretty crazy to watch this movie and realize that this would end up becoming Stanton’s swan song, but it feels so incredibly fitting. Stanton himself has never really gotten the chance to have a movie all to himself and it seems like, even at age 90, he was due; the role doesn’t really challenge him, or stretch the talents we know him for, but it doesn’t necessarily have to, either. All it has to do is offer us another great glimpse of the never-ending and charming talents of Stanton, why he was great, why it was always nice to have him around, and why, above all else, he will be missed.

And yes, like I said, Stanton’s pretty great here. He’s charming, wise, and seems like he’s years above everyone else that he meets. But the movie is smart in that it isn’t just about Lucky and his life, as it’s also about the people he runs into on a daily-basis, most of whom put up with him and have been doing so for quite some time. Some will be happy to see David Lynch show up in a cooky-role as a guy looking for his tortoise, others will be happy to see Ron Livingston show up as a life-insurer with a huge mustache, and others, like myself, will be happy to see a nice little Alien reunion between Stanton and Tom Skerritt, in one of the movie’s sweeter scenes.

Seriously, why’s that ‘stache so huge?

But the movie isn’t just about one character over the rest – it’s about all of them and it’s why it’s so sweet.

Carroll Lynch and co-writers Drago Sumonja and Logan Sparks seem to understand how to get the heart of this tale, but never playing their hand too much. Some may not see this as having much of a point, or better yet, not really being about much other than just a bunch of old people talking and yammering on about things that can kind of seem random, but it really isn’t. It’s about watching life pass you by, understanding that reality, moving on, and doing whatever the hell you can to make the best of it while you have it. It sounds cheesy, in retrospect, but Lucky, the movie, as well as the character, aren’t and it’s why it’s a small joy of a movie.

And it’s why we’ll forever miss the talents of Harry Dean Stanton.

Consensus: Sweet and sultry, Lucky is the kind of small and oddly charming movie that works best because of its time, attention, care, and solid performances, especially from the late, great Harry Dean Stanton.

7.5 / 10

Goodbye legend. You will surely be missed.

Photos Courtesy of: Magnolia Pictures

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Mascots (2016)

mascotsposterThose annoying guys in suits and costumes? Yeah, still annoying out of them.

Every year, mascots from all around the world come together to battle out all of their showmanship skills in the one and only World Mascot Association championship’s Gold Fluffy Awards. And this year, the competition is quite fierce, with a couple who can’t seem to be on the same page (Zach Woods and Sarah Baker), a pro who may have this be her last year (Parker Posey), and plenty of others. Of course though, the competition is really about the judges and who determines who the real winners, and losers are. And with the likes of A.J. Blumquist (Ed Begley Jr.) and the famous Gabby Monkhouse (Jane Lynch), it’s hard not to trust the professionalism.

While Family Tree hit HBO a few years ago, in a way, it’s been a decade sine Christopher Guest has made an actual movie. And if you really want to get as descriptive as can be, it’s been even longer since he last made a movie using his usual mockumentary-style, as For Your Consideration strayed away from the form, to mediocre results. But now, have no fear, as Guest is back with his usual brand of humor and cast of characters and, well, the results are still mostly the same.

I imagine a lot of mascots are hitting the ER.

I imagine a lot of mascots are hitting the ER.

Which is to say that Mascots is, yes, funny, but that’s about it. And come to think of it, shouldn’t it have been so much more?

With Guest, it’s hard not to compare something like Mascots to all of his other pieces like, A Mighty Wind and especially Best in Show. For instance, they’re movies about a group of people, coming together for one single event, and while in the former, they may not be competing, they’re still finding some ways to create some sort of actual tension with one another. And that’s why Mascots, seems to not just roll with the same formula and conventions of those similar movie’s plots, but doesn’t seem to do much with them, either; in a way, Guest is actually recycling material.

Take, oddly for instance, the inclusion of Corky St. Clair, one of Guest’s best characters from Waiting for Guffman. It’s weird to see Corky pop-up here, because even though I loved him in that movie, here, he seems completely random and out-of-place – even Guest himself seems weird uncomfortable bringing the character back with a terrible “boner” joke that goes and ends nowhere. But Corky himself also brings up the fact that Mascots, while bright, shiny and funny in spots, never quite hits the mark as much as it would like to.

Sure, some of that comes down to the improv, but a good portion of that also comes down to the fact that the material just isn’t all that funny. Everyone here is clearly giving it their all and showing why they deserve to be able to pal-around in a Christopher Guest movie, but with the exception of all the regulars who are used to Guest’s style, no one really works wonders. Zach Woods and Sarah Baker never quite fit well and just seem like lame replacements for the incredibly-missed Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, while Susan Yeagley fares a whole lot better as a character who, believe it or not, has a little bit more heart to her than you’d expect.

Not quite a stinker, but close enough.

Not quite a stinker, but close enough.

But if anyone’s really the star of the show here, it’s the mascots themselves.

This isn’t a surprise because Guest always loves the little worlds that he portrays for film, but here, he really puts us into it and makes us see these professionals work their magic and, needless to say, it’s quite entertaining. The movie does actually take time out of itself to show us just what sort of talents these mascots are and what sort of shows they have prepared to put on and they’re just about as fun as the last. It’s nice to see this in a movie, because while Guest does a lot of poking fun, he also shows that they’re quite talented individuals who know how to make people laugh and enjoy themselves for however short of time they’re around for.

Now, if only the rest of the movie felt like that.

Consensus: Though the cast is dependable, Mascots never quite gets going and isn’t nearly as funny as it should be, despite some good moments spread throughout.

6 / 10

Judges never get old. Or lovable.

Judges never get old. Or lovable.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Collider, Consequence of Sound

Best in Show (2000)

Are people this crazy at cat shows?

Eccentric show dog owners travel to compete at the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. Some are crazy, some are determined, and some, well, nobody really knows. Regardless of what they are, they are all under one roof, going for the number one spot of having the best dog in the show.

Improv comedy is sort of a gamble in that, if you have the right people, it works. For Guest and his usual suspects, it tends to normally go by all fine, but there are the times in which you can tell that he’s just rolling with whatever weird and crazy stuff he can find, even when some of it can be cut. Such is the case when you have a whole cast just ad-libbing whatever comes to their mind naturally, but somehow, Guest can get by fine with it because he’s had enough material to work with and of course, the solid cast and crew to play with, too.

America's favorite ad-lib couple.

America’s favorite ad-lib couple.

And really, that’s the main thing to talk about when discussing Best in Show, as they’re all the reason why the movie does, and honestly, doesn’t work.

Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara probably deserve some of the highest praise out of the whole cast, because not only is their chemistry perfect, but the little running-gag about O’Hara’s character is probably the best in the whole film. The whole gag is about how she was pretty funky and wild when she was younger, and before she met Levy’s character, so therefore, every guy that she sees in person comes up to her, talking about their wild nights together and it just gets even crazier and crazier as you hear more about it. Especially the one scene with Larry Miller who plays an old flame, and just knows how to make everything so terribly uncomfortable for all. Also, Levy is probably the most endearing character out of this whole film since this guy just never seems to cut a break and get away from a guy his wife hasn’t slept with.

There’s also the terribly neurotic, snooty couple, Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock, who both do terrific jobs with their roles as they are the type of people you get with any one of these high-flying competitions where people literally lose their cool over the smallest things out there. All of the fights they have are hilarious and seem so over-the-top, but in all honesty, who the hell cares? Each one is funny and they all have great chemistry together, you know, when they’re just going at it on one another.

We also have the stereotypical gay couple, played by John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean, and have a great chemistry together, very surprisingly, and also have some of the best lines in the whole film. Higgins is always a comedic actor that I have always appreciated when I see him show up in random junk like Fired Up or The Ugly Truth, because he always ends up stealing the show, as he does here. Sure, it’s a stereotype of what we normally see made of gay characters in movies and TV, but it still works and not necessarily made to offend.

After all, like everyone else here, he’s just a character.

The true couple.

The true couple.

Then, there is also the one “couple” that has the dog that’s one two years in a row, played by Jane Lynch and Jennifer Coolidge, and they both play their typical characters that we have seen them both play before. Lynch is probably the better of the two because there’s a deep and dark intensity to her character that I feel like this film could have went into more about, in order to create funnier and more memorable moments, but I guess it was all about going with the flow on this one.

The weakest character out of the whole bunch would probably have to be Guest’s own character he played. It’s not that this character isn’t interesting or funny, he just seems very unoriginal in the fact that he is the usual dumb hillbilly that comes from the roots of the woods, and says things very strangely in his country-bumpkin accent. It’s understood what the one single joke about this character is going to be from the beginning, and rather than trying find variances on it, Guest sort of goes with the same one, over and over again.

Still, the real show is left up to Fred Willard to steal and that, thankfully, he does.

As the head color-commentator, Willard gets to do a whole lot of crazy and random things, by mostly just saying whatever comes to his mind first, even if it has nothing to do with the actual dog show and you know what? It works so perfectly well. Willard has perfect comedic timing and whenever he says something dumb, you don’t care because the guy just continues to roll and roll with it, almost to the point of where you feel bad for the straight-man British actor that calls the show right next to him. It’s one of those moments where it makes me realize that Willard always makes me laugh no matter what it is that he does.

Consensus: Though it’s not always a winner with it’s improvisational jokes, Best in Show is still a very funny comedy mainly because of the talent that’s on-display here, especially Willard who will have you in stitches by the end of it.

8 / 10

Who needs Joe Buck when you have Fred Willard?

Who needs Joe Buck when you have Fred Willard?

Photos Courtesy of: Film Experience Blog

What’s Your Number? (2011)

Oh women and all of the sex they have! I mean honestly, who’d be keeping track after #20?

Ally (Anna Faris) is a little over-thirty and has come to that crossroads in her life: Should she start trying to get married? Well, since her little sis (Ari Graynor) is, Ally thinks it’s about time to get on top of that. The only problem is that she just broke-up from her latest boyfriend (Zachary Quinto), which leads her to her next objective: The last twenty men she’s either had a relationship with or “been with” in any sort of, kind of, maybe serious-manner whatsoever. While she’s off looking for “the one”, she’s getting help from a studly neighbor (Chris Evans) who can’t help but feel like it is his duty as a neighbor, but also as a dude to help this one, very-attractive gal, find her special someone, while he stands-off to the sides, bangs all sorts of ladies, plays guitar, takes his shirt off and tries to eat ice cream with her.

When you watch any rom-com that has ever been made, you expect to have all of the same conventions you’ve seen before. It’s sort of what you get when you approach the genre. However, it’s up to the movie itself to be able to deviate from that formula and those conventions enough times to where you don’t really care how conventional the romance at the center may be; as long as it’s believable and entertaining to watch, then who really cares about predictability, you know? Which is sort of why I didn’t expect to hate this whole thing, but man, this is every bit of conventional.

Oh, just bang already!

Oh, just bang already!

I really do mean that, too.

For example, in the first scene of this movie, Faris’ character gets up out of bed from her lover, puts her make-up on to look pretty, gobbles-up some toothpaste and gets right back in bed right before he wakes up, just so he can see her and her beautiful-self when he wakes up in the a.m. This scene would have been a pretty smart and funny one, had it not already been used in a rom-com that came out literally four months before it, in Bridesmaids! So yeah, as you can tell, this was not an easy start to a rom-com I wanted to like but I thought, “Hey, it’s just one scene. How bad could it really be?”. “Well”, I answered myself, “pretty bad, you dumb shit”.

What really flounders here is the fact that this premise is actually somewhat promising. This is a pretty neat idea of a gal going back to see what all of her ex-lovers made her out to be and how they are now. It’s almost like a female version of High Fidelity without all of the rock & roll references, or anything interesting or fun resembling that movie at all. Instead, every opportunity this film has at all to even be funny, just comes off as very annoying, predictable and downright stupid. And you can tell when this movie is trying to be “funny”, or even better, “risque”, by having a certain character like Faris’ or Blythe Danner’s say something like “shit”, or “ass”, or “fuck”, or what have you. Either way, wasn’t funny, crude, or shocking to hear at all. Just added more annoyance to me and my brain.

Another one of the main problems is that we never really give a crap about Ally Darling, or her quest to find that special-lover who can give her the ideal-life all women think they need. In all honesty, I think we should, as a society, all be way past the idea of making a woman conform to some standard set-of-rules where she has to be whisked away to a man before she’s a certain age, just so that she can have kids, start a family, give mommy and daddy those grand-kids, along with that $500,000 wedding recital, and not really worry about what happens to the marriage after all is said and done. Divorce, or stay together, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as the middle-of-the-road, career-woman gets married and has some unprotected sex to some Randy, then sure, it’s all fine.

Personally, I think this is all wrong, but it seems like time and time again, we see these kinds of movies where women are constantly getting the idea of marriage shoved down their throats. If they don’t feel like it’s the right time, then it really isn’t! Leave her be! That’s why I couldn’t help but not at all care for Ally Darling, where she went, or even who she met. However, I do realize that that may be more of a problem I have with the “message” of the material, rather than the actual character itself. But either way, it sucks all around! No way of getting around that!

The "false-hair" gag. Never gets old.

The “false-hair” gag. Never gets old.

However, if there is any saving-grace to be found at all in this piece of wreckage someone had the audacity to call a “film”, it’s both our lead-performers. Anna Faris still has that great comedic-timing that’s as every bit as wacky and zany as you would expect from her days as Cindy in the Scary Movie franchise, but it’s wasted in every single scene here. Maybe had the script been tuned up a bit more to make her character more appealing than just a sad sack of a chick that can’t get laid by someone she loves, then I wouldn’t have minded so much but she’s just annoying sometimes by how much she complains. She’s still funny at times, but all the other times, she made me want to punch her, or, for safer choices, a wall. Something needed to be punched. I know that much. Then there’s Chris Evans, who is as every bit of charming and cool as a dude would expect from him, and every bit of hot and dreamy as a girl would expect. The guy has some real charisma that still has not been used properly, outside of Steve Rodgers.

Together, these two have great chemistry and is easily the one thing holding this film together. All of the scenes they have feel natural, fun, and realistic to where it doesn’t matter if they’re doing the usual corny and predictable shit that these rom-coms stuff down our throats, they seem like they really like each other and have a great time together. It’s obvious that these two are perfect for each other, and it’s even more obvious that they should have been in a whole other film that could have really made a killing with them in the two romantic leads as a goofy couple. That would have been fun to see, but mainly because of how terrible this film is and how much money it didn’t make, I highly doubt we will ever get that now.

Great! Any sign of light at the end of the tunnel can be practically gotten rid of for the rest of eternity now!

Consensus: Faris and Evans are entertaining to watch whenever they are together, but their chemistry deserves a way, WAY better movie than whatever the hell What’s Your Number? sets out to do and actually ends-up being.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Bet you donuts-to-dollars he's playing "Jessie's Girl" or some corny bull-squat like that. As for me, my girl better like the Clash and be pleased with it.

Bet you donuts-to-dollars he’s playing “Jessie’s Girl” or some corny bull-squat like that. As for me, my girl better like the Clash and be pleased with it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net