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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Eddie Alderson

Reservation Road (2007)

Still though, those little bastards gotta hurry their asses up off those buses!

Ethan and Grace Lerner (Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly) are more than happy with the way things have been going for their lives, but all of that happiness ends when their son gets killed in a hit-and-run accident. Even worse, the person in the car (Mark Ruffalo) who caused it, knows who they are, is still stuck with the guilt, and has yet to fess-up to what he’s done. That’s when Ethan decides to take matters into his own hands and figure out just who the hell is responsible for all of this pain and misery that has been inflicted on him and his family.

Even though the idea of watching a bunch of people go through grief and suffer through pain and agony doesn’t sound like the most exciting bit of an-hour-and-a-half I’d like to spend, you can never, ever go wrong with a cast like this. People know Phoenix to be the type of guy who takes rich and hearty-material that challenges himself, Ruffalo is always a guy that’s capable of taking anything the world throws at him and make it totally and completely work in his favor, and having Sorvino and Connelly round things out ain’t so shabby, either. So, the big question on your mind may be, “How the hell did all of this go wrong?”

My answer? “Script, man. Script.”

The main problem with this script is that even though it does pay attention to the problems its characters face on a day-to-day basis when it comes to dealing with their own levels of grief, the movie still feels the need to rush things up and make this almost like a type of thriller. That sounds all fine and dandy for people who want more than just a character-based story and want some action and excitement to go along with their tears and heavy-grieving, but for a movie like this where we essentially know what happened, who did what, and what the only way to end this could be, it’s a little silly and not all that thrilling. We know who killed the kid, who’s responsible, where this could go, and that this can only end in two ways, either death or imprisonment  so what the hell is all of the tension supposed to be there for?

Pictured: A guy who just got done thinking.

“Damn. Paparazzi.”

And it’s odd, because the tension in this movie is supposed to lie in the fact that everything this driver goes through in life, always has him ending up in one way or another, connecting with the kid’s family. For example, his ex-wife just so happens to be the kid’s sister’s music teacher that is totally superfluous to the plot, except to only include the always wonderful Mira Sorvino (more on her in a bit). Then, it gets even worse when Ethan decides to take the investigation into his own hands and get lawyers involved and in case you couldn’t tell where this is going, get ready, because guess what? The man who killed Ethan’s son, just so happens to be that lawyer he asks for help.

Shocked yet?

Anyway yeah, this movie is just chock full of coincidence-after-coincidence and they don’t seem to serve any other purpose to this story, other than to keep the audiences minds awake for when the flick decides to actually focus in on its characters. You could also argue that the flick only added in those thriller-elements to appeal to a larger-audience that wouldn’t really feel the need to venture out to some movie about a bunch of people crying and being sad all of the time, and if that is the case, well then that’s a damn shame because there is a lot of promise for this type of material to work, regardless of if it’s a mainstream, or indie production.

But regardless, it almost shouldn’t matter when you have a cast like this, because they’re supposed to be able to do no wrong. And that sort of happens, but not really. Joaquin Phoenix may seem a tad miscast at first as the grieving simpleton father of a suburban-family, but shows us differently when he unleashes those raw and honest emotions we always see in each and every one of his performances. You feel bad for the guy and you just want to give him a hug and tap on the back, whispering into his ear that “everything’s going to be alright.” It’s not Phoenix’s most daring role, but it was a true sign that he could play a normal, everyday dude.

Pictured: Sad actors

Pictured: Sad Actors

The same can definitely be said for Mark Ruffalo who never seems to phone-in a performance, no matter how crappy the movie may be, which is what happens here. Ruffalo is great as the driver that kills this boy and runs away without getting caught, because he makes you feel something for the guy, even though he is totally in the wrong, through-and-through. You can sort of see why a guy like him would run away from the punishment of being arrested, but after awhile, it does start to get a bit ridiculous that it hides this all for so long, and for all of the reasons that he apparently has to himself, as well. Still, Ruffalo prevails and shows why you can give him anything, and he can make it work.

Jennifer Connelly is simply used here to be another grieving character of the whole movie and does that very well. Connelly is always good in what she does and that’s why it’s so weird to barely see her around anymore, but it should always be noted that she’s a good actress, when the material is there. It’s sort of here for her, and sort of not, so it’s hard to fully judge her.

Oh and yeah, I previously mentioned Mira Sorvino and it isn’t because she does anything simply out-of-this-world with this movie (mainly because she isn’t given much to work with in the first place), but, without any type of spoilers or giving-away major plot-points (like it really matters), there’s this one scene with her and Ruffalo that is probably the most endearing and emotionally-truthful out of the whole movie, and it really took me by surprise. Rarely does this movie ever talk about how Sorvino’s and Ruffalo’s character used to be married and a loving-couple with one another, other than when they yell, fight, and argue with one other, but that one scene, that one moment between these two, not only made this movie just a tad better, but made me feel like there could have been so much more had they just dropped the whole death-of-the-kid angle and even went so far as to focus on Ruffalo’s character trying to actually get through the divorce and make ends meet. Sure, it’s not the movie we got, but man, I imagine wonders could have been made going down this road, especially with the always dependable Sorvino who, like Connelly, needs to be in more.

Much, much more. Come on, Hollywood!

Consensus: Even with a solid cast on-deck, Reservation Road can’t get its head together quick enough to where it fully works as a small drama about sadness and grief, or as a nail-biting thriller.

5 / 10

I guess he's going to start taking after his kid. Hayyoh! Okay, I'm done.

I guess he’s going to start taking after his kid now. Hayyoh! Okay, I’m done.

Photos Courtesy of: Focus Features

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Changeling (2008)

Maybe this should be a sign to you, Angie, that it’s time to stop adopting so many damn kids!

Christine Collins’ (Angelina Jolie) prayers are met when her kidnapped son is returned. But amidst the frenzy of the photo-op reunion, she realizes this child is not hers. Facing corrupt police and a skeptical public, she desperately hunts for answers, only to be confronted by a truth that will change her forever.

That plot-synopsis up there that this movie is based on, apparently is all true and surprisingly happened during the 20’s/30’s. But what I find so funny about that idea, is that the movie writes it as “A True Story”, rather than playing it safe and going with “based on a true story”, or “inspired by true events”. You can get away with so much more if you with the two former-options, but nooooo, Clint Eastwood is taking a stand and believes in what he sees. Sadly, it is Clint Eastwood were talking about here, and nothing is as realistic or as simple as it may look on paper.

The problem that Eastwood runs into with most of his films (this one especially), is that he never seems to really focus on one aspect of the whole story. Instead, the guy goes for everything that’s involved and feels the need to load his film up with exposition, random details, unheard of hints, and unnecessary subplots, just in hope that it will spice things up and keep the audiences attention up on-screen. This just becomes a total jumble of randomness that could have really worked, had it been taken-down a notch by about 3 or 4 story-lines. That’s why when he does dial it down, it works perfectly and helps the story guide a simpler-path than it had before. However, the times when he doesn’t and just feels the need to add and add some more layers to a story that’s already as simple as it can be, then it can be a bit bothersome and that’s the problem with this movie here. Too much, too little needed.

If this was France, he'd be the villain.

If this was France, he’d be the villain.

However, it isn’t always like this. For the first 30 minutes or so, the movie focuses on Collins as she looks for her son, finds him, realizes he’s a fake, and then decides to take matters into her own hands and bother the hell out of everybody involved with the investigation. Right here in the beginning is actually  compelling and kept me interested into where I could see it going, and especially when you realize that the way all of these cops are in this movie, are pretty much they were in real-life. It’s a shame that it’s a true-story but hey, I guess it had to happen. Now, after Collins runs into a big problem with the police department, then things go south for her real quick and ultimately, is where things go south for the movie as well. Instead of sticking to Collins’ story, we get a story about the corruption of the L.A. police department that ran rampant during the 20’s/30’s, then we get a story that’s about this serial killer that seems reasonable but also takes away from Collins’ own story, a story about the psychiatric ward and how all women who ‘effed with the cops got shipped off to there, and then another story about how Collins needs to move on. All of these stories seem like they serve a purpose to the big idea at-hand here, but still never mesh well together and only keep us further and further away from the actual story we started off with: Collins finding her son.

All of this piling-up of ideas and story-lines just creates a very long, drawn-out piece of work that never, ever needed to be 2 hours and 24-minutes long. I mean, I guess Eastwood didn’t want to leave out any details, but Christ man! At least give me the Spark Note version of everything that’s happening, rather than the College Textbook! I can’t rag on Clint’s case too much because the guy does have some nice-moments here and some important things to say, but he needed to buckle-down on that time-limit. Without this long-ass time-limit, I may not have been as bothered as I truly was.

However, where the story seems to fly-around wherever it sees fit, the one person keeping it all glued together is Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins. When Jolie isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster, she’s actually out there giving some understated, grounded performances that may shock some people considering she hasn’t really been known for doing that as of late. Jolie does an awesome job as Christine because she allows that sympathy and love we feel for her, shine through every-frame of the movie and you can really feel the utter sadness and depression coming from this problem in her life. Obviously losing a kid is no happy-thang, but instead of making it a non-stop problem that gets old, real quick, Jolie keeps us watching and having us wait to see more layers of her come pouring right out. It’s great to see Jolie like this and I can only hope that she continues to do more of it. You know, when she isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster

Changeling2

Even in the 20’s, the paparazzi still can’t get enough of Gina-feva.

Her main co-star, John Malkovich, is practically given a top-billing next to her name but yet, still isn’t in it as much as you would expect from a big-name like his. Malkovich plays Reverend Gustav Brigleb, one of the guys who first sticks up for Christine, and plays him very well but not as spirited or as energetic as we’ve seen this guy act before. It’s a nice performance, no doubt about that, but a bit of a disappointment considering we all know what he can bring to a movie. Maybe more time could have been given to him, his character, his emotions, and his motivations for helping-out Christine, rather than the 500 other stories Clint had on his plate.

The other people in this cast try their hardest, but all sort of fall by the waste-side once you see how they are all portrayed, especially the men of the police unit. The problem with how Eastwood portrays these police officers/detectives is as if they have no remorse, no souls, or no idea of being a good person at all. It seems as if they are all concerned with saving their own butts and don’t want to hear a single word about what it is that they’re doing, is wrong. Each and every one was portrayed as the stereotypical villain we usually see in one-sided movies like these. It’s not even that they’re just bad-guys either, they’re laughably bad. The dialogue for them is so obvious, so predictable, and so cliche, that you have to wonder just how the hell they let idiots like these actually have the authority to carry a gun and a badge. The one I remember the most was probably Jeffrey Donovan as the main police captain, who has a dated and forced accent that comes off as if he has a stick up his ass, or just can’t read his lines. Either way, the guy sucks and I don’t know how the hell he has a hit TV show on USA. Don’t even know what it’s called, but it’s been on there forever and with him as the lead, I don’t know.

Consensus: Though Changeling features a strong, central performance from Jolie and a sometimes-interesting “true story”, Clint Eastwood’s direction still gets in the way with his constant use of constantly adding on layers to a story, losing his central focus, and never really being able to make it all come together for an eventful and memorable ending. It just flops like a fish, and leaves your mind as soon as soon as the credits begin to roll.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Brad, Clint won't stop grunting. What do I do?"

“Brad, Clint won’t stop grunting. What do I do?”