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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Emma Dumont

True Adolescents (2009)

Grow up, or don’t. Just don’t stop listening to indie.

Sam Bryant (Mark Duplass), for lack of a better term, a bit of a loser. He’s jobless, homeless, and oh yeah, his hopes and dreams of one day breaking it in the music-business seem to be dwindling more and more each day, but for some reason, he just doesn’t seem to know, or understand that just yet. And now that he’s getting up there in his 30’s, it’s time for him to do a bit of growing up, even if he’s too stubborn to ever figure out how. Which is why when he ends up staying at his aunt Sharon (Melissa Leo)’s place, he thinks he’s got it made. He tries to get a job, he tries to clean up after himself, and oh yeah, his younger cousin, Oliver (Brett Loehr), he gets along with quite well, even if there is a bit of an age-barrier and different understanding between what’s “cool”, and what isn’t. Then, they head out on a small hiking trip along with Oliver’s friend Jake (Carr Thompson), who seems to be really close with Oliver, and Sam doesn’t want to get in the way. Until, well, he feels that he has to.

Always stick with the hipster bands.

The “man-child” subgenre of movies, or better yet, indie movies, is a bit old and slowly, but somewhat surely, beginning to die. There is, of course, every few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, it seems like watching a tale about a mid-30 dude not holding down a job, having a place to sleep, and just never allowing himself to grow up is, well, a tad bit boring. That’s not to say that it isn’t true and isn’t definitely the case with most dudes out there, but as far as indie-movies go, yeah, they can tend to be a bit repetitive.

But True Adolescents is a small and somewhat rare exception to that rule, if only because it seems to have a tad bit more something to say about these man-children; instead of getting down on these people and showing why they’re losers, writer/director Craig Johnson does realize that there’s more to these kinds of people than we initially expect. For one, they’re not all terrible people – immature, sure, but definitely not immoral, evil human beings who have no clear mind about the law, or how to exist in a governing society. If anything, they’re just sort of babies, the kinds that need to be coddled and cared for, as opposed to kicked out and thrown onto the streets.

And in a way, this makes Sam Bryant a tad bit more sympathetic, than we’d normally expect.

It does help that Mark Duplass is great in this role and can practically play this character in his sleep, but it’s interesting to watch someone like Sam develop over time, as we begin to realize more and more that he’s just a total tool, and less of an actual baby. Okay, maybe he’s a huge mixture of both, but still, Duplass never makes him unlikable – he’s always someone we enjoy watching and want to see more over time, whether he’s learning a thing or two about the world, being nicer to those around him, or even getting a job. No matter what this character does, or says, Duplass is always there to pick up the pieces and remind us that, oh yeah, he’s one of the most likable presences on the screen today.

Coolest aunt ever? Probs.

In a pre-Oscar role, Melissa Leo is also quite charming as the smart, understanding, and stern Aunt Sharon who doesn’t really take much of Sam’s crap, but also knows to listen to him more and not judge him for who he is, or what it is that he represents. Even the two kids, played by Brett Loehr and Carr Thompson, are good, too, but their characters is where the movie starts to confuse itself and get a little odd. Without saying too much, there’s a small revelation made about halfway through that doesn’t necessarily come out of nowhere, but also doesn’t seem pertinent to the story and what we’re going for, either. Johnson seems to start True Adolescents out in a familiar way, then puts more of a focus and attention on the characters and their relationships, only to then, halfway through, make it about something else completely.

Which is hard for me to say, without spoiling a whole lot about this movie.

It just seems that Johnson was fond of throwing us for a loop, did just that, but also as a result, forgot to keep his story cohesive. It becomes a whole entirely different beast in general and honestly, lost me a bit, almost as much as it seems to lose itself. That said, a solid first and middle half are fine enough, so whatever.

Consensus: True Adolescents loses itself after the halfway-mark, but still keeps itself interesting with good performances and a smart approach to the whole nauseating “man-child” subgenre of indie flicks.

7 / 10

I’d hike for days with Mark Duplass. Maybe not Jay.

Photos Courtesy of: Now Very Bad…., Filmwax Radio

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Inherent Vice (2014)

Note to self: Don’t do insane-amounts of drugs while trying to solve crimes.

It’s 1970, and hippie private investigator Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) plans on living it up in every which way he can. That means an awful-lot of hangin’ out, smokin’ pot, and just enjoying his care-free life. That all changes though when an ex-love of his named Shasta (Katherine Waterson), comes around and informs him that her boyfriend, real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), was kidnapped and hasn’t been heard of since. Some say he’s dead, but Shasta doesn’t believe this and wants Doc to drop whatever it is he’s up to (which is seemingly nothing), and find out what has happened to him. Doc agrees, but as soon as he gets started on the case, many other cases start falling into his lap. For instance, an ex-junkie (Jena Malone) is worried that her rocker-boyfriend (Owen Wilson) isn’t in fact dead, as previously reported, and has been kidnapped. Then, a local gangster (Michael K. Williams) asks Doc to delve deep into a possible union between real estate agencies and the Aryan Brotherhood. And there’s many more where that came from, and no matter how far Doc may get into solving these mysteries, Det. Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) is always there to stop him, get involved, and see that the cases are done in an efficient, legal way.

"Is your refrigerator running...?"

“Is your refrigerator running…?”

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, there’s a lot going on in Inherent Vice, and not all of it makes sense. At first, it definitely seems so, but once starts off as a simple, ordinary mystery about a disappearance, soon spirals into being about so much more. Some of it’s good, some of it isn’t. But because this is a Paul Thomas Anderson (one of my favorites currently working today) movie, it’s mostly all worth watching.

Mostly.

But, like I said before, because this is a PT Anderson flick, there’s a certain mood surrounding Inherent Vice that makes it seem like the kind of movie he hasn’t ever tried his talented-hands at before. Though some may get a glimpse at this and automatically assume that PT is going straight back to his Boogie Nights days, those same people will probably be utterly disappointed when they find out that this is not at all the case. Sure, the movie may sometimes sound and look like that hip and happenin’ film, but for the most part, Anderson’s tone is a lot different here than usual, and it brings a large amount of sadness and, dare I say it, depression to what could have been considered some very groovy times.

And it’s not that Anderson hasn’t made a sad movie before, it’s just that he hasn’t quite made one in this vein; while it’s a colorful and bright movie, there’s a grainy undercurrent felt in it that makes some of the funniest, wildest moments, seem like they’re coming from somewhere of a nightmare. An enjoyable nightmare, but a nightmare nonetheless. To be honest, too, I think Anderson prefers it this way.

To say that Inherent Vice is “confusing”, would be as conventional as I could get as a writer – not only has it been said many of times from many other writers, but it wouldn’t really do much justice at all to a film that I feel like is confusing, but can still be enjoyed despite this. See, whereas the Master was a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about Scientology, it was also a character-study that functioned as such. Here, with Inherent Vice, we have a confusing, sometimes out-of-this-world film about a few mysterious cases, yet, it’s also a hilarious look at this strange, underground world in California. This is a world where not only does everybody do some sort of drugs, but that they also have plenty of secrets, which, if you wanted to dig deep enough, could actually find out are all connected in their own sick, twisted ways.

However, simply put, this is just me diving deep into what this movie may, or may not mean, and as a result, making myself sound like a pretentious-ass. Because, in reality, the real enjoyment behind Inherent Vice is that it goes from one bizarre-o situation, to another, and it’s hardly ever dull. Random? Sure, but boring? That word doesn’t exist in PT Anderson’s dictionary and it makes this movie one of the funnier pieces of comedy I saw all year. That’s not to say that it’s all meant to be hilarious, but sometimes, just watching a crazy situation, with zany characters involved, get even crazier, just adds so much joy and happiness that it’s hard to hate on.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Old school vs. new school. I got my money on the dude with the Navy-buzz.

Even if it doesn’t all add up to making total, complete and perfect sense, it’s still enjoyable and that’s where I think most of Inherent Vice works.

To go on about all this and not at least mention the cast would be an absolute crime, because everybody who shows up here, no matter for how long or little, all leave a lasting-impression that deserve to be mentioned, and remembered. Leading the wild race here as Doc Sportello is Joaquin Phoenix, and once again, he proves that he will never play the same role twice, nor ever lose that interest-factor surrounding him whenever he shows up in something. Phoenix fits right in as the “come on, man”-type of hippie that Sportello is and it makes it easy to root him on during this case, even if you never are too sure what’s going to happen to him next. He’s not necessarily a blank slate, as much as he’s just a simple, uncomplicated protagonist that makes it easy for us to identify with him, even while he makes some brash, weird decisions throughout the adventure we share with him.

While Phoenix may be our main point-of-reference here, he’s not the only one worth speaking of. Owen Wilson finally gets a lovely role for himself to dig deep into as Coy, the missing rocker-boyfriend, and mixes in well with the rest of the hippies surrounding him; Jena Malone is sympathetic his sad girlfriend who just wants him home, so she can live happily ever after with him and their kid; Katherine Weston plays Sportello’s ex-flame that has this fiery, yet understated mystery about her and the way she carries herself in certain scenes that she started to cast as much of a spell on me, as she had on Sportello here; Benicio del Toro is fun as Sprotello’s zany lawyer who always has the best ways to get him out of jail; Reese Witherspoon is smart and sassy as Penny (Reese Witherspoon), Sportello’s attorney girlfriend who may be just using him so that she can give the FBI what they want; Maya Rudolph has a nice-bit as one of Sportello’s nurse-secretaries and seems like she’s winking at the audience just about every second she gets; and Martin Short, with maybe nearly five minutes of screen-time, is way more hilarious than probably the whole entire season of Mulaney has been.

None, however, I repeat, NONE, measure up to the types of greatness that Josh Brolin brings to this movie as Bigfoot Bjornsen, Sportello’s mortal enemy/confidante.

See, what’s so lovely about Brolin here is the way in how Bigfoot is written: He’s rough, tough, gruff and a mean son-of-a-bitch who clearly doesn’t care for the likes of Sportello, or the fellow pot-smoking, lazy hippies that he associates himself with. Therefore, he and Sportello have a bit of a rivalry, where one may get a certain piece of info and get ahead of the other, in whatever case they’re covering. It’s fun to watch these constantly try and one-up one another, but most of this is because Brolin is so dynamite in this role, that he nearly steals the whole movie from everybody else. Every scene Brolin’s in, whether he’s deep-throating a chocolate-covered frozen banana, ordering more pancakes in a foreign language, or getting ordered by his wife to have sex with her, he’s an absolute blast to watch. You can never take your eyes off of him, and he’s happy with this; for once, in what in seems like a long time, Brolin looks as if he’s having a good time with the material he’s working with. But the difference here is that he commands your attention every time he shows up, making you think about whether or not this character is actually a good guy, or simply put, just a guy, with a hard job, who just wants to solve his cases.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

A nice little Johnny and June reunion.

It’s as simple as that, but Brolin makes it so much more.

But, I’ve just realized that most of what I’m writing about here, may only add to more of the confusion within Inherent Vice and for that, I apologize. It surely is not my intentions, as I clearly want each and every person to see this, even if they aren’t expecting to love it, or even understand it quite nearly as well as they may have been able to do with Anderson’s flicks in the past. And honestly, I don’t even know if Anderson totally wants people to make perfect sense of this movie and how all of the small, meandering threads of its plot-line tie-in together, but he doesn’t ever lose his confidence in trying his damn-near hardest. Even if it doesn’t always work, it’s admirable that he would try in the first place and I think that’s what matters most here.

Sure, making damn sure that your plot, the twists it has, and the characters who weave in and out of it, all make perfect sense as to why they even exist first and foremost definitely matters, but when you have a movie that constantly goes from one scene, to the next, without ever missing a beat of being interesting, then all is forgiven. Maybe you could say I’m giving Anderson too much credit here, and I would probably say “you’re right”, but for some reason, I can’t help but praise this guy anymore than he already has been. Especially here, because it seems like plenty has been said about this movie, without ever getting to the core: It’s entertaining.

While not “entertaining” in the sense that it is constantly exciting with numerous amounts of gunshots, explosions, and car-chases (although some do happen here); more so, it’s in the case that we’re given a simple plot, with some simple characters, and to see it spiral out into absolutely bonkers area’s is what makes it such a blast to watch. One can definitely take this as a serious piece of pulp crime-fiction that’s supposed to make perfect sense, every time that it offers a new plot-thread, but another one can definitely takes this as a serious piece of film-making that, if you want to, you just take for what it is, see what happens next, and just enjoy the ride. I know that it’s hard for me to recommend a movie based solely on that, and not lose some sort of credibility, but I don’t care right now. I feel about as safe and comfortable as I can with recommending this movie for anybody, so long so as they just let it start, go on, and end, exactly as it is. The deep and heavy-thinking can come later, but while it’s on the screen, just let it go and see how you feel.

If you still hate it, then so be it. At least I tried.

Consensus: Maybe not the most comprehensive piece of his career, Paul Thomas Anderson still works his rear-end off to make Inherent Vice one of the crazier experiences at the movies this holiday season, but also allows for it to constantly stay compelling, funny, and most of all, entertaining. Even if all the numbers don’t add up.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Sort of like the Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Sort of like the actual Last Supper. Except presumably with more hash.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Nobody Walks (2012)

Girl hipsters that look like 14-year-old boys, never a good sign for the married-man.

Olivia Thirlby stars as Martine, a New York City artist who stays with a local family (Rosemarie DeWitt and John Krasinski) in Los Angeles while working on her art film. But her arrival in this seemingly idyllic family soon begins to unravel suppressed impulses in everyone and forces them to confront their own fears and desires.

I honestly don’t mind a good infidelity movie here and there, especially when they have a top-notch cast and promise like this. However, in order for me to like that infidelity movie, I have to buy into the infidelity that is actually occurring and even though there is definitely a lot of screwing around, a lot of wondering whether or not the other person knows about the screwing around, and a lot awkward conversations between one another because of them wondering whether or not the other person knows about the screwing around, I still did not really buy into it all. I bought into the fact that John Krasinski could be a humbled and horny husband, though. If that accounts for anything.

Right from the beginning, you can tell this is an indie-movie, through and through. You got the shaggy-looking people, staring-off into space; you have the unusual jobs for certain human-beings; you have the long scenes that are filled with no dialogue, but instead some moody music from an indie band only 3 people know about; and you also have a shit-ton of symbolism, coming through other layers of the story. So basically, any idea that this movie is going to be like Fatal Attraction; you’re wrong. It’s more or less like indie-version Fatal Attraction; had Michael Douglas and Glenn Close just boned every once and awhile and never actually spoke to each other. That probably would have solved a lot of things in that movie and definitely steered-clear of any rabbits to be hurt, but I digress.

Don't make Jim angry. You don't like Jim when Jim's angry.

Don’t make Jim angry. You won’t like Jim when Jim’s angry.

That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of the stuff you’d expect from movies where people are cheating on each other, because there definitely is, it just feels so under-cooked that by the time the movie’s over, you’re left with, “That’s it?”. I’m not going to go into the logistics of this movie, what happens, and practically spoil the whole damn movie for you but when you see how much immoral-boning actually happens here, you’re going to be surprised that there’s even a story in the first-place. You just never feel those sparks of fire, burning up inside the plot and these characters’ minds, and instead, you just feel the need inside of you to just get some sort of “oh shit” moment to really lift things up from being a bit of a bore.

Mostly where the lack of sparks come from, is the fact that we never really feel like we understand what the attraction between some of these people are. Martine obviously has this way to her that gets guys all wood’d-up in the pants and the wives’ eyes glued to their men, but we never fully understand why she does the things she does and why the guys who get involved with her, actually do. Yeah, she’s got a cool look to her that reminds me of when I was 10 and definitely dresses all hip and cool, considering she’s the New Yorker in L.A., but there’s nothing to understand. She’s hot, I guess? I never understood that and maybe that’s how most affairs begin: the idea of having a new spice of life to happen to you, without any rhyme or reason as to why that certain someone or something was picked. If that was the case, the movie could have brought that out more. More for me to understand and more just to keep me interested.

Even though it’s hardly ever boring, the film just never feels like it has a clear destination in place and even worse, no route or alternate ways to take. It’s just sort of free balling as it goes along and that’s all fine and dandy when you have a movie that wants to be all-over-the-place and unpredictable, but that IS NOT this film. You sort of see where it’s going and when, you just don’t know why and I don’t think the film did, either. You just never really get a clear-look at these characters, what keeps them going on throughout the day, and what gets them to tick. Instead, you just see them do their jobs, get horned-up on-occasion, and have all types of awkward conversations with one another. The dialogue is good but when these characters aren’t speaking, then that’s when things go South for this flick and it definitely disappointed me because I was expecting big things from this movie.

Honestly, the reason i was expecting such big things from this movie is because it features not one, not two, but THREE stars that have been really working their ways up the ladder of sorts, in terms of dramatic-acting and earning some r.e.s.p.e.c.t. This seems to be John Krasinski’s first, real and raw dramatic-role for him and the guy handles it very, very well. The Krasinski look and charm is still there, but now we have a more ruffled and worn-out type of dude that just so happens to want a little excitement in his life. I will say one thing about this guy, even though he definitely gets away with banging around for a tad bit, he definitely isn’t very bright when it comes to keeping it a secret and there were plenty of times where I just wanted to slap him and be like, “Wake up bro! The bitch knows!”. Regardless of his character’s somewhat stupidity, Krasinski is still a solid actor and it’s nice to finally see him not play Jim Halpert.

From a far, this looks like a total dude. Still, I'd bone.

From a far, this looks like a total dude. Still, I’d bone.

Another reason for Krasinski’s character’s stupidity, isn’t just by the way how he not-so subtlety hides it away, but the fact that he’s cheating on his wife, played by the ever-gorgeous Rosemarie DeWitt. I’ve really been drooling over DeWitt as of late and everything that she does and even though she is very good here, it’s not a very showy role for her. She does get a couple of key-scenes where you see her really come into her own, but it only occurs once during the beginning and twice during the end. Other than those three instances, we don’t see much more of Rosemarie. Shame, too, because she’s such a joy to watch on-screen. I was also surprised to see Dylan McDermott play such a d-bag as her ex-hubby who only shows up for one scene, but was one scene where I was very interested and though McDermott did an awesome job with such a small, meaningless role.

Olivia Thirlby has really been working her way up the food-chain ever since her days of paling around with Juno, but Thirlby has come into her own now and is actually pretty good that way. As I’ve already stated about her character, I never really understood what was so breath-taking or amazing about her that stopped every man from what they were doing at that point in time, but Thirlby still handles it all well and has us believe in her. She’s not likable but she’s not a unlikable, neither. She’s just somewhere in the middle and I think that’s a true testament to Thirlby for giving this one-dimensional character some heart and emotions, even if half of them are just moaning and groaning, if you know what I mean?

Consensus: DeWitt, Krasinski, and Thirlby all raise Nobody Walks‘ relatively-mediocre material up a notch more than expected, but it is still a bit of a disappointment how very little emotional fireworks actually went-off.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Marry me! Now!

Just marry me! Now!