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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Elmore Leonard

Get Shorty (1995)

Be cool. Not the sequel. Just be cool in general.

Chili Palmer (John Travolta) is a Miami mobster who gets sent by his boss, “Bones” Barboni (Dennis Farina), to collect a bad debt from someone who Bones a whole lot of money. However, Chili’s not just going out and roughing up any normal dude, he’s going out to meet the one, the only Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), a Hollywood producer who specializes in all sorts of flicks, but most importantly, horror flicks. And Chili meets Harry’s leading lady (Rene Russo), he can’t help but fall a little head over heels for her. So of course Chili wants to join up in the film-business and eventually sells his life story to Harry, and a few others in Hollywood. Sooner than later, Chili finds out that being a mobster and being a Hollywood producer really aren’t all that different, even if one does concern more ass-kicking than the other. Oh and while this is all going down, Bones is still out there looking for his money – something he will not let go of until it is in his hands.

Don't get too close, Rene. You have yet to be "audited".

Don’t get too close, Rene. You have yet to be “audited”.

It’s easy to do a Hollywood satire. All one really has to do is find some sort of way to say that “Hollywood is a sick, evil and cruel place where people with barely any talent flourish, and those who actually do possess a certain level of said talent, don’t.” It’s that simple and honestly, it’s why so many showbiz satires can sometimes feel tired, even if they are funny; Birdman was the latest showbiz satire that actually had a bite and sting to it that worked and made me laugh, beyond just being mean.

And yeah, Get Shorty‘s got a lot of bite to it, too. However, by the same token, it’s not trying to pass itself off as a Hollywood satire, through and through. If anything, it’s a fun, sleek, and cool crime-comedy, that also just so happens to take place in Hollywood, with actors, actresses, producers, directors, screen-writers, dolly-grips, interns, and etc. But it’s not as silly as it sounds – somehow, writer Scott Frank and director Barry Sonnenfeld find the perfect combo of action, comedy, drama, romance, and satire that, yeah, may not always make perfect sense, but still works out smoothly.

Which is more than I can say for some other Hollywood satires who really try to take on too much, without ever realizing that they have a story to continue with beside their mean-spiritedness. But really, underneath all of this, Get Shorty is just a fun movie that’s hard not to be entertained by. Frank’s script, when he isn’t riffing on any of the mechanisms of Hollywood or the film-business in general, is funny and features a great list of colorful characters that more than make up for some of the dull moments in the movie’s languid pace.

John Travolta, when he actually seemed to give a total damn, did a great job as Chili Palmer. There’s a sense of coolness about Travolta that, despite current controversies, we tend to forget actually exists, but here as Chili Palmer, he showed that off perfectly. At some points, he’s supposed to be this mean and tense figure, but then, he changes into being someone nicer and more charming. Some people may not believe both of the sides to this character, but it works, because Travolta could somehow be both menacing, as well as likable at the same time.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Where all of that has gone, is totally beyond me.

Anyway, he also has wonderful chemistry with Rene Russo who, as usual, is great here. The movie does kind of deal with the fact that her character is an aging actress in Hollywood, but doesn’t seem to be getting on her case – if anything, it makes her more sympathetic and makes us want to see her and Chili run off into the sunset at the end. Why she wasn’t around for the second movie, is totally beyond me, but then again, it may be more of a blessing than a curse.

Everybody else is pretty great, too. Gene Hackman seems to be having a lot of fun as the perfectly-named Harry Zimm, someone who is actually quite infatuated with the lifestyle that Chili seems to live; Danny DeVito is pitch perfect as Martin Weir; Dennis Farina gets plenty of chances to curse and act psycho, which is always a treat; Delroy Lindo shows up and he’s always good; and there’s even a few, oddly surprising cameos that seem to come out of nowhere, yet, still work.

Get Shorty is the kind of movie that may seem dated, considering it’s over a decade old, but it still works. The breezy pace helps a lot of the movie’s heavy-lifting and moving, feel as if we’re spending a lot of time with characters that we can learn to love, forgive and forget that they can sometimes be evil human beings. They may not be as lovely to learn about as they were in Elmore Leonard’s original book, but hey, they’re still fine as is.

Heck, they’re way better than whatever happened in the sequel.

Seriously, stay away from that movie.

Consensus: With a smart script and charming performances from the solid cast, Get Shorty is more than just another satire with jokes aimed at Hollywood for giggles, and it’s what matters most.

8 / 10

"I've got this great idea. How about a sequel?"

“I’ve got this great idea. How about a sequel?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Qwipster

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Water for Elephants (2011)

Hans Landa vs. Edward Cullen: imagine if this was handled by Tarantino.

Taking place in the Depression Era veterinary medicine student Jacob (Robert Pattinson) joins a 2nd-rate travelling circus and falls for the star performer (Reese Witherspoon). Christoph Waltz plays her husband, August, a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer who is as mean to his wife as he is to the circus creatures.

With all of this talk and hype about how director Francis Lawrence may take over the sequel for The Hunger Games, I thought what better way to know what you’re going to get yourself into than to check out his latest work. No, not I Am Legend, even though I wish it was.

I never read the best-seller that this is based off of (probably because it wasn’t written by Elmore Leonard) but I can definitely tell just by watching this flick, that it was probably one hell of a read with the story they have here. The story itself takes place in 1931, and it sort of feels like a film that could have been made around that time as well. This reminded me a lot of the old-Hollywood movies where there are little or no explosions, heavy violence, heavy cussin’, or CGI for that matter.

The cinematography, costumes, and set-designs also brought me back to the time of where things were harder to get and the people were a lot more sad than usual, but in the end, an honest works pay was still an honest works pay. It’s just a straight-up, old-fashioned, love story that almost played in the same reign as countless other flicks like The Notebook and Seabiscuit and rather than just telling another generic, love story that offers nothing new or original, we get something that is at least interesting to keep your eyes glued onto.

However, there were some obvious things that seemed to bother me especially when it came to the casting here. I really do want to like Robert Pattinson, I really do. I think beyond all of that Twilight shit he gets thrown onto him, somewhere lies a very talented actor that is ready to just branch-out at any second, but keeps on getting roles that just seem to put him in the same exact boat as he was back in 2008. Pattinson’s role here as Jacob (irony!) comes off more bland even though it’s obvious he is trying his damn near hardest. It’s not like watching this guy is brutal by any means, because he’s definitely a tolerable actor, it’s just that this role seemed like they needed a man but got more of a boy instead. Maybe in a couple of years down the line once he has a whole bunch of experience with some roles, Pattinson might be a forced to be reckoned with, but for now, I think he has to safely rely on Cosmopolis. For now, anyway.

Another piece of casting that didn’t quite work like I would have wanted it to was surprisingly Christoph Waltz as the angry circus-owner, August. I loved him as Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, as did everybody else including the producers who pretty much give him the exact same role, but instead of killing jews, he was killing circus animals. This is a huge bummer considering that this guy doesn’t really disappear into this role at all and just gives a character that is a little bit too menacing for his own good. Yeah, he’s supposed to be a bad guy that looses his temper very quickly and easily, but this guy is so damn sinister and effed up in the head that I couldn’t buy him once as a guy that owned a circus with a bunch of fun-loving animals, or even buy him as a guy that wouldn’t kill every person that worked for him either. Waltz is good with this role, as you would expect, but this guy was just a little too mean for his own good and definitely took me out of his character’s believably more and more as the film went along.

Believe it or not, the cast member that actually finds a way of coming out clean throughout the whole flick is actually Reese Witherspoon as both of these dudes’ object of affection. She’s sexy, cute, and has a lot of charm to her that seems to work and make you realize why she is so damn irresistible and beautiful. Still, her chemistry with Pattinson is a bit lacking but I guess that’s another problem we have here with the casting.

Actually, the one performance that really t0ok me by hold was Hal Hollbrook here, who plays the older version of Jacob in the scenes where it’s just him talking to a fellow circus-worker. Obviously, you can’t compare 25-year old Pattinson to 86-year old Hollbrook when it comes to acting, but Hollbrook’s performance as a sweet, heart-broken old man comes off as one of the main reasons this guy is such a damn good actor and one that deserved a lot more screen-time here.

Consensus: Some of the casting and chemistry may be off, but Water for Elephants is still a flick that brings you back to the old-Hollywood days with a sweeping romance, some fine-looking scenery, and a romance that we can actually care for rather than just rolling our eyes at.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Out of Sight (1998)

The beginning of what some people may call “The Clooney”.

Meet Jack Foley (George Clooney), the most successful bank robber in the country. On the day he busts out of jail, he finds himself stealing something far more precious than money, Karen Sisco (‘s heart. She’s smart, she’s sexy, and unfortunately for Jack, she’s a Federal Marshal. Now, they’re willing to risk it all to find out if there’s more between them than just the law.

I guess back in 1998 the names Clooney and Soderbergh didn’t draw that much attention considering this was a pretty big box-office flop. If it was released in today’s world, the film would have been doing some major work but I guess everybody just has to get their start somewhere.

The film is adapted from a Elmore Leonard book that I have not read but from what I hear, is just exactly like the same tone and pace that this film gives it. What I liked about this writing is just how funny it was without being too obvious and that there was still a lot of suspense, mystery, and crime to be happening. I mean everybody in this flick is a little bit goofy, just like the situations they get themselves caught up into but for some reason the film didn’t seem uneven with its wacky humor and awesome heist and action sequences. Let me also remind you that this is a story that actually has some believability to it where I could actually see certain things like this happening if these certain people were to actually be put into these situations. Then again, I’m not saying that your average con-men/bank robbers look like George Clooney or do many Federal Marshal’s look like Jennifer Lopez, I’m just saying that a lot of what happened here doesn’t seem too insane for a flick.

The film is also perfectly directed by Steven Soderbergh, who took one big-step out of the indie world that he caught himself in and did a great job with just about everything here and finding a way to give it his own cool style. His style makes the film feel like a 70’s crime flick with the sort of funky music playing in the background and the grainy-looking camera he uses that looks as if it was used for filming some old school porno’s back in the day. It’s a really cool style but it’s also the fact that this film just breathes cool where everything you see works.

There are plenty of heist and action moments that this film works perfectly with but it’s the romance that I keep on remembering the most about. The romance is perfectly handled here, which was a total surprise to me in the first place, but the fact that Clooney and Lopez get into a discussion about how in ‘Three Days of Condor’, the romance felt forced and too quick and then they have the same exact romance. What I liked about this element is that the scenes are laced in here perfectly to the point of where it doesn’t feel like the film is just shoe-horning it all in there. It’s also pretty sexy if you think about it and it’s one of those romances between two different characters that seems to work even when the film constantly shifts in between them both fighting one another on opposite ends.

My only problem with this flick that actually didn’t take away too much but it still had me bothered was the fact at just how much this flick reminded me of ‘Jackie Brown’ and I think it’s just one of those cases that since both films were adapted from the same author, that they both kind of give off the same style. Tarantino’s flick was witty, suspenseful, filled with a cool style, and had his usual signatures that he features in just about all of his films but here, it’s kind of the same with a little bit of different touches. Hell, both films even have Michael Keaton playing the same role in both so it’s pretty obvious that I would get some déjà vu.

The main reason why this film works though is because of its awesome all-star cast that shines with every single star. George Clooney broke out with this role as Jack Foley, and would continue playing that same role for the next 13 years but to be honest he’s great here. He’s sly, funny, sexy (for the ladies, not for me..then again maybe for me), and everything he does here he seems to be having a blast playing this bad guy that we can’t help but to love considering he seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody else. Jennifer Lopez is also equally as good as Karen Sisco. She is basically the same person as Jack Foley, instead she is all for the law rather than against it. They both work great together and the romance between them I was talking about earlier I don’t know would have worked with anybody else in these roles. Every scene they have is more memorable than the one that came before it and it’s kind of a bummer that Lopez hasn’t really done much else that’s worth noting since this flick.

Don Cheadle is also good as a dick playing Foley’s main opponent in the heist-game, Snoopy; Ving Rhames is the man and surprisingly very funny as Buddy; Dennis Farina is J. Lo’s dad and it’s surprise to see him playing someone else other than a gangster; Albert Brooks is barely in it but still good; and there is even some nice little side-spots from Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener, and a very young Viola Davis as well. Everybody here is great and they all seem to be having a ball with their performances which added more to my enjoyment of this flick as well.

Consensus: Out of Sight may remind me of Jackie Brown, but Soderbergh’s stylish direction and everybody’s performances here make this one of the most exciting, fun, and enjoyable crime comedies I have seen in a long time and it still makes me wonder just why this didn’t get much money in the first place.

9/10=Full Price!!