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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Edie Falco

Landline (2017)

Oh. The 90’s. When screening calls was a huge thing.

It’s the mid-90’s and the Jacobs family is going through a bit of a problem. The mother, Pat (Edie Falco), is having a rough go at work, but is also not really spending much time, paying attention to her husband, Alan (John Turturro). Speaking of which, he’s also a little bored with life and may be having something of an affair. Nothing’s confirmed yet, however, because his youngest daughter, Ali (Abby Quinn), only found out about after seeing a bunch of poems on his floppy-disk. Meanwhile, she’s also worried about what she’s going to do with her life and also with college. Then, there’s her sister, Dana (Jenny Slate), who is having issues with her fiancee (Jay Duplass), but mostly because she doesn’t know if she’s ready to settle down just yet. This leads her to having an affair with an ex (Finn Wittrock), who may or may not be her last chance at some form of freedom and/or happiness. Either way, this family’s going through a lot.

Same hair. Same blood. Same sisters. That’s how that works, right?

Obvious Child was the sweet, small, soulful, and somewhat beautiful little surprise of 2014. It was 82-minutes of pure heart, comedy, and truth that was rarely seen in movies that were either longer, with more stars, or had a bigger-budget. It ranked on my Top 10 that year, showed me that Jenny Slate was an amazing actress, and oh yeah, put writer/director Gillian Robespierre on my watch.

Then Landline happened.

Okay, actually, it’s not all that bad. In terms of sophomore slumps, it’s not that bad, because it shows us that Robespierre still has the knack for writing interesting characters and smart dialogue, but when it comes to the plotting and actual story itself, the movie just has way too much going on, for such a short time, and with no real cohesiveness. It’s as if Robespierre got something of a bigger-budget, had bigger stars, and more time to play around, so she did, but in this case, it actually went against her.

Lock the door!

And of course, it’s not right to compare this to Obvious Child, because they’re two different movies. But with Landline, you can tell that something’s a bit off this time around about Robespierre and what she’s doing. With the talented ensemble, she’s very lucky, as everyone here isn’t just great, but funny and brings a lot to the table. They all feel like a very lived-in family, who not only have gotten used to each other for so long that they don’t even care to put up resistance any longer, but that they also know each other so freakin’ well, it’s almost painful. That’s how real families are, regardless of how close-knit they are and it’s one of the aspects that Landline nails down well.

The only issue is that every so often, the movie will jump from one subplot, to another, and depending on how interesting one is, the movie works, or doesn’t. Landline suffers from a lot going on, with very little time, and not nearly as much concentration as they should have all deserved. You can tell that Robespierre is trying and relatively succeeding, but I don’t know, something’s just missing.

What it is, I may never know.

I’m not taking Robespierre off my watch, but I will hold her next film with at least a little bit of trepidation.

Consensus: Not nearly as focused as it should have been, Landline suffers from having too much going on, with very little time to actually wade through it all, but gets by on a solid cast that’s willing to make this material into something fun and enjoyable.

6 / 10

The guys in the family can’t do this kind of stuff.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

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Megan Leavey (2017)

Never step between a woman and her dog. Dawg.

Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) was like a lot of us when we get to a certain point in each of our lives – we’re bored, uninterested in a lot of stuff, and just not really sure of what we want to do, or where we want to go. That’s when she decides to join the military and finds out that it’s a lot harder than she expected. But eventually, she finds her path and it isn’t before long before she’s a young Marine corporal and finding interest in the oddest aspect of the army: The K-9 unit. See, after she gets in trouble for committing a lewd act on the base, Leavey is assigned to have to clean up in the K-9 unit, where she forges a bond with Rex, a particularly aggressive dog that, over much time, she begins to train into becoming a top-level bomb-sniffing dog. And together, the two entrust in one another to complete all sorts of missions on the battlefield, looking for bombs and ensuring that no one gets killed. However, when out on the field of battle, all lives are in jeopardy.

“The other Mara girl, reporting for duty, sir!”

Megan Leavey is, literally, a story about a girl and her dog. Sounds cheesy, melodramatic, sappy, and pretty damn awful, but surprisingly, it isn’t. Sure, it’s melancholy and a little corny, to be fair, but it’s also so simple, so straight-forward, and actually, so sweet, it’s hard to dismiss it for being what it is and not making any excuses for itself. It almost makes you wish more movies were just like it, but not really, because then that would just be boring.

In fact, having one Megan Leavey a year, is fine with me.

Well, scratch that: Actually, it would be nice to have more stories of tough, strong-willed and talented women, directed by and written by, women, all the time, throughout the year. We got that before with Wonder Woman and well, it’s nice to get it again with Megan Leavey, because when you get down to it, it is just that – a movie about a strong-willed, smart and talented woman who saved lives and is a better human being for it. She also acquired quite the bond with a lovable dog, which also helps put it into focus, but it’s so nice to get a story like this, without any sort of preaching whatsoever, that it makes you actually wish there were more of them around.

Sure, writer/director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s direction isn’t all that stylish and can, at times, certainly seem like something made-for-TV, but she doesn’t get in the way of the material, or the true-story this movie’s all about, so it actually works. We get to know Megan Leavey, why she matters, and why exactly we’re getting a near two-hour movie about her trying her best to connect with a bomb-sniffing dog in the military; there’s plenty of jokes that could be made at this movie’s expense, but the fact that it’s all true, actually helps. In fact, it would have probably just seemed like an indirect remake of that same movie from a years ago, Max, but thankfully, this story’s true and that one isn’t.

They must be getting her mixed-up with Rooney, the troublemaker.

Maybe. I still have yet to see it and don’t quite plan on it.

Cause after all, Megan Leavey is fine enough for me. It’s a movie about a girl bonding with a dog and it’s a little goofy, but it works the way it is. And it definitely helps to have Kate Mara in the lead-role, because anytime it seems like this material could get maudlin or cheesy, guess what? Mara’s there to save the day and bring some legitimacy with the role. Her Megan Leavey is a very smart and intelligent woman, but also not a perfect one; she makes mistakes and she says the wrong things when she shouldn’t, but you know what, that helps make her more human. The role’s also the more impressive once you take into consideration that a good portion of her roles are just her acting across from a dog, which can’t always be an easy-feat.

Then again, those who act in the Planet of the Apes movies are acting across from Andy Serkis in a tennis-ball-laden-onezie, so yeah, maybe it’s not all that hard.

Consensus: Ridiculously straightforward, Megan Leavey works better as a smart and relatively compelling true tale of a woman, her dog, and the lives that they saved.

6.5 / 10

Who’s cooler?

Photos Courtesy of: Bleecker Street Media

The Comedian (2017)

Isn’t stand-up comedy supposed to be funny?

Jackie Burke (Robert De Niro) has seen better days. He was once the star of a much-loved sitcom from the 70’s, hit the stand-up circuit as one of the biggest, loudest and meanest shock-comics out there on the scene, and yeah, he had a whole bunch of love and adoration from people in his world. However, time went on and eventually, the rest of the world sort of forgot about Jackie. Nowadays, he’s forced to work for the nostalgia circuits, playing to small crowds, filled with either hapless teens, or barely-there senior citizens. Jackie realizes this and because of that reason alone, tension builds up within him, more and more. One event goes bad when Jackie beats up an audience-member filming and heckling him, leaving Jackie to have to serve out a some jail time and community service. While on community service, he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), a troubled gal who gravitates towards Jackie and his ways. But she doesn’t really know what’s underneath all of the jokes, and he doesn’t really know what’s underneath all of her beauty, either.

Ladies love those has-beens! Especially the ones without money, right?

Ladies love those has-beens! Especially the ones without money, right?

The Comedian is a perfect example for what happens when you have a good cast, and that’s about it. The plot, the jokes, the heart, the humor, the meaning – just about everything about it is odd and doesn’t quite work. But man oh man, whenever they’re given the chance to do so, the ensemble here tries with every bone, every fiber, and every material of their body to make this material work.

And because of their effort, and because they’re all good, yes, they do help the Comedian out a whole bunch. Does that mean it’s a good movie? No, it does not. But it does help make a very bad movie, slightly less worse than it could have been, with less talented and committed people involved.

And this doesn’t just go to the cast, either – behind the cameras is director Taylor Hackford, who hasn’t always had the best track record, but does have more hits than misses, and four writers, Art Linson, Jeff Ross, Richard LaGravenese, Lewis Friedman, all of whom seem to know what they’re doing in their own, respective projects. But for some reason, they just didn’t quite know what to do here; it’s as if they signed on to do a movie about comedians and late-aged ones, but ended up just telling one too many dick, fart and sex jokes.

And oh yeah, the jokes themselves are pretty lame, too.

If there’s one big no-no in movies about comedians, it’s that the comedy you’re selling us on, in the first place, has to be funny. Like, does anyone remember that subplot in Mother’s Day where the British dude wanted to be a comedian and strutted his stuff out on the stage, told really awful jokes, and everyone in the movie was laughing at him, as if he was some sort of godsend? Well, if not, don’t worry, because you didn’t miss much. But if you did see that, then you get an idea of just how the Comedian is – not really funny, even though no one seems to have told it so.

There are the occasional moments of actual humor, but it’s mostly because of Jackie’s brand of comedy – he’s the kind comedian who Stern would have had on his show every day, just going as deep and as far into the dirty talk as either of them could. If that’s your brand of humor, then yeah, a lot of De Niro’s jokes will work perfectly for you and hit the mark, but if not, well then the jokes will just continue to be more and more grating as they go on. De Niro’s character gets grosser, meaner, and far more idiotic, making us wonder whether anyone involved knew what actual humor was in the first place?

"Get it? Fart!"

“Get it? Fart!”

Or, at the very least, just how stand-up comedy worked?

And then it goes on. The movie then tries to deal with romance, drama, and almost attack the showbiz industry itself, but it just never makes sense, mostly because a good portion of it can be unbelievable. Jackie goes viral at least three times, none of them ever making sense, or seeming as if they could happen in the real world that the Comedian seems to inhabit. It’s odd because it seems like everyone involved behind the cameras are so out-of-touch, you almost wonder just how long this script was sitting around on the shelf for, never got looked at, and collected up dust.

Probably a lot and yeah, it shows.

But like I said, the cast really does help this movie out, a great bunch. De Niro does what he can in the lead role; he’s deliciously mean and cruel when he wants to be and it works, but the jokes just ruin him. De Niro’s line-delivery feels awfully too stilted to make it sound like we’re hearing an actual comedian on the stage, and not just an actor reading lines and forgetting where the punchline is. Still, when he’s off the stage, De Niro is compelling, as we get to see a sad, old man for what he is: Sad, old and kind of miserable. This character and this performance deserve a way better movie, which is why it’s hard to just accept this one for what it is, as poorly-written as it can sometimes be.

Then, there’s everybody else. Leslie Mann is charming, despite her character having some awfully weird baggage going on that’s never fully explained; Harvey Keitel plays her controlling and generally creepy father who is way too over-the-top, but has some fun scenes with De Niro; Patti LuPone shows up as De Niro’s sister-in-law to yell at him and get in his face, which is fun; Danny DeVito plays his brother who basically does the same thing; Edie Falco plays his manager and has nice chemistry with him; Charles Grodin shows up as a rival who’s barely around; Cloris Leachman shows up as this sort of aging Lucille Ball character and is fine; and yeah, there’s many, many more cameos from all sorts of real life, well-known comedians. It makes you wish there was more of them and less of the scripted jokes, because lord knows the Comedian would have been, well, funnier.

Consensus: Try as it might, the Comedian just doesn’t have enough juice to make itself funny, relevant, sad, important and interesting enough, even with the talented ensemble helping out as much as they humanly can.

4.5 / 10

"So yeah, when's Marty going to get going on this Irishman movie, so we can stop doing stuff like this?"

“So yeah, when’s Marty going to get going on this Irishman movie, so we can stop doing stuff like this?”

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Freedomland (2005)

Wish I knew more about this film before going in, but regardless still had a good experience.

When a single mother (Julianne Moore) reports that her infant son was murdered by a black man from the projects, an intrepid African-American detective (Samuel L. Jackson) and a white journalist (Edie Falco) team up to dig for details. But what they unearth is hard to believe.

I didn’t know much about this film, until my friend Mike told me I should check it out. Thankfully I for him I was glad, if it was bad his ass would have been kicked.

So the film does some really good things with the material its given. Its a typical detetctive mystery suspense story, but with little themes of racism. There were a couple of really effective and powerful scenes that really did sell the message here.

The other good thing about this film is that the powerful performances really is what makes it work. Samuel L. Jackson gives one of his more calm and complex performances, and Julianne Moore is very good as the woman who has never done anything right until a son came into her life. Both performances were very strong but the one that really stuck in my mind was Edia Falco. She gives a very strong performance, and when left alone to emote at the end of the film, she completely outstrips the rest of the cast.

The problem with this film is that things happen without us even knowing why they are even happening. Joe Roth has directed some real turkeys in his day (Christmas With The Kranks, Revenge Of The Nerds II), and he starts to add on a lot more themes than what we originally had. He should have just stuck with the familiar source material, and not add anything new on to where he thinks it would make the film better.

One more thing is that the dialogue by the end of the film starts to get pretty lame. In the beginning, it did hold my interest but by the end it really starts to get over zealously cheesy. There are lines that I have heard many times from plenty of other films that were somewhat incorporated into the film.

Consensus: With a strong enough story, and some pretty good performances, Freedomland kept my interest enough to skate by with a positive. But lackluster directing, unexplained happenings, and some pretty cliche lines make this film almost terrible.

5/10=Rental!!!