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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Eric Pumphrey

All the Way (2016)

Oh, that LBJ. What a silly goose he was!

After JFK is assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson (Bryan Cranston) assumes the position as President of the United States. While it’s a controversial and heartbreaking decision, immediately, Johnson takes the position and makes it his own; promising more Civil Rights laws than even JFK ever promised. This leads him to talking with Martin Luther King, Jr. (Anthony Mackie) a whole lot, with some of their discussions ending with agreements, and other times, not so much. But while Johnson is out battling it with the Civil Rights activists and MLK, he’s also got to work his magic into winning the next election, which is nearly two years away. While for any President running for office again, there would be no issues, the problem for Johnson is that his Civil Rights bills are turning some people away from him, making him less and less loved among the blue-blooded Republicans. It’s all so very tense and crazy for Lyndon, but when push comes to shove, he knows that he can always fall back on his wife (Melissa Leo), who was there for him since day one and will continue to be do so, so long as he keeps his head on and doesn’t lose his temper too much.

He's white.

He’s white.

Oddly enough, All the Way isn’t going to be the last Lyndon B. Johnson biopic we get this year. The already-titled LBJ, starring Woody Harrelson as the titular President is currently being filmed and planned for a late winter release, which leads me to beg the question: Why? Why on Earth do we have not one, but two star-studded biopics about Lyndon B. Johnson? This isn’t to say that his presidency, or better yet, his character doesn’t deserve the attention, but at the same time, it’s hard to wonder why there are already two movies being made about the guy, when possibly one will do?

Then again, there is the case in 2012, where we had two Abraham Lincoln movies and those are definitely two stories that needed to be told.

Regardless, All the Way is an okay movie, but honestly, a lot of its impact is weakened by the fact that it almost tells the same exact story of Selma, but instead, puts it focus directly on the man white man of the story, the President of the United States. There’s no issue with that in terms of narrative storytelling, but after it having been hardly two years since the release of that much powerful, much smarter movie, I think it’s almost impossible not to compare the two, especially considering how ballsy and risky that movie seemed to be. In a way, All the Way is the kind of movie that would have been made and released before the 21st Century, where instead of focusing on the African Americans, their hardships, their strife, and all of the brutality they suffered, we focus on the one man who had all of the power in the world during this infamous and controversial time.

Also, it should be noted that in Selma, there was plenty of scenes dedicated to sitting there and watching as Lyndon B. Johnson himself handled conversations with Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders, although at the same time, that didn’t take up the bulk of the movie. It still, however, provided a voice to Johnson who, from the viewpoint of that movie, as well as this one, was really just a guy trying to do the right thing, while also keep his ass in the White House seat. That’s smart and honest storytelling that doesn’t have an agenda, but more or less, try to tell a story, the best way it can.

That’s why All the Way is no Selma, by any means. However, I don’t think it wanted to be.

He's black.

He’s black.

Jay Roach seems like the one guy HBO calls on to deliver these made-for-HBO movies with politics somewhere, somehow involved, and he’s made a nice career out of it. For one, his movies aren’t glitzy, or glamorous, but more or less, just natural, well-told stories that need to be seen, but not necessarily on the silver screen. It’s actually quite odd to describe, but there’s that feeling while watching All the Way, where you know that it’s perfect for cable, but not so much for the big screen.

Why? I couldn’t tell ya. It’s just feeling.

But much like the play it’s adapting, All the Way is really a platform for Bryan Cranston to act his rump off and well, he’s great at it. Much like he did in Trumbo, Cranston is using a signature and odd voice to really get us into the mindset of who this person is and their kind of personality, and it works, again. While you can tell there’s some deal of over-acting that got transitioned over from the stage, Cranston still handles it well enough that we get the perfect idea for who this person is, especially during the smaller, more humane moments.

Most of these moments come from the scenes he has with his wife, played by Melissa Leo, who is both the voice of reason, as well as the dog whisperer to the sometimes wild and cranky Johnson. Leo’s great at these understated, yet emotional characters and it’s why she’s a perfect choice. Anthony Mackie also shows up as MLK, and in a much better, more focused movie, I feel like he’d be the performance to steal the show, but unfortunately, he isn’t given a whole lot to do. Now if it was Anthony Mackie in Selma, we may have had a whole different movie on our hands.

Consensus: With a good cast, All the Way is better than its route, conventional format makes it out to be, however, with Selma still clear in our minds, it’s hard not to compare the two.

6 / 10

But hey, they're pals in the end.

But hey, they’re pals in the end.

Photos Courtesy of: HBO

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Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)

Oh, how far we’ve come since the days of the Flying Nun.

With the recent passing of her mother, Doris (Sally Field) is left to, basically, fend for herself. No worries, as it’s something that she’s been doing for quite some time, but now that she’s nearly 70, the time has come and gone for hoarding, taking the ferry to-and-from work, and not having any particular motivation in life. Though, after a attending a seminar by a motivational speaker (Peter Gallagher), Doris realizes that she has plenty of life to live and it’s her opportunity to grab it while she still can – even if that means, well, pining after her much younger co-worker John (Max Greenfield). And because Doris is so infatuated with John, she can’t keep herself away from stalking him on Facebook, at the office, or trying her hardest to hang out with him, every opportunity she gets. Eventually, she starts to win over John and believes that her dream may just come true. However, it’s also at the expense of her best friends, as well as her own mental-health.

At least it isn't Nicholas Sparks!

At least it isn’t Nicholas Sparks!

It’s great to see such a seasoned vet of the silver screen like Sally Field get roles like Doris. While it’s nowhere near the kind of role that would make us think, “Oh, well they could have given it to anyone,” it’s still also the kind of role that reminds us why she’s just so lovable and cute in the first place. Even at nearly 70, Sally Field can still make wonders with what she can do with a character.

Even in something as fine and okay as Hello, My Name is Doris.

And the only reason why I say that the movie is “fine and okay”, is solely due to the fact that it deals with two different tones and ideas, yet, doesn’t always have the right idea of how to balance them. For one, it’s a movie about an elderly lady getting with the times and finding her new spirit with the younger, much hipper generation, but on the other hand, it’s a movie an elderly lady who is slowly, but surely, coming to terms with her mortality and how, in some ways, she’s only got a few good years left and she might as well make the best of them, even if that does mean putting herself in a very troubling situation. Because of these two different movies colliding, Hello, My Name is Doris doesn’t always feel like the tragic-comedy it wants to clearly be, but co-writer/director Michael Showalter clearly treads the fine line between both.

In ways, too, the movie is very funny, as well as very sad, with one clear attention to the former, and not so less on the later. What’s perhaps actually hilarious about the movie is that there’s a lot of jokes made at the expense of this hipster culture, their weird, electronic music they listen, the odd, seemingly old-timey hobbies they take up (like knitting), and how their lives seem to be so run with technology, that it’s almost too difficult for them to embrace the real world around them. While the movie never tries to make this its prerogative, there’s still plenty of moments where you get the idea that someone like Doris, an older, but seemingly fun and vibrant lady, could actually throw herself into this world and into this life, and nobody would really push back.

The movie could have easily been about how out-of-place and fish-out-of-water Doris is in this younger, much faster world, but really, the movie doesn’t make itself about that. If anything, a lot of the characters want to hang out with Doris more than she actually knows and they treat her just like they would any co-worker; they may not be the best of friends, but their still easygoing enough that they don’t seem like snobs. This extra attention to detail makes the movie feel like so much more than just your average comedy, and make it seem more sweet.

Then again, there is that tragedy-aspect of the movie that comes in, but doesn’t always work.

That Doris has some sort of a mental illness (what with all the hoarding and all), makes it seem like the movie will make some sort of point about it, or better yet, try to have us understand it better. But it sort of doesn’t. This is a problem because the movie does show many of scenes where Doris is clearly having some sort of mental breakdown and doesn’t always understand what’s going on around her, but then not know what to do with them. It’s as if Showlater wants to develop this idea more, but doesn’t want to get too down in the dumps and take us away from the more charming, funny bits that the movie has to offer.

Oh, Sally!

Oh, silly Sally!

At the same time though, this is why Sally Field is such an important factor to a movie like this, where she’s able to blend both sadness and happiness, without ever making too clear of a distinction of what she’s exactly feeling. Because Doris is such a cutesy, lovely little old lady, she can sometimes be seen as the comedic-relief among those around her, but as the movie goes on and on, we see certain shades to her that, yes, may be darker, but may also give us a great understanding of who this woman was and why she is, the way she is now. We never get a clear answer, but because Field is so great at making us think more and more, it doesn’t matter – she’s great as is, creating a funny character, who also has a heart and soul, and isn’t just made to be a joke.

The same can’t really be said for the other characters, however, Showlater still gives them enough to work with.

Though Max Greenfield’s John may be a bit bland, there’s still some sort of idea of him that may actually fall for a woman like Doris. Whether it’s because he has mommy issues, girlfriend issues, or is just lonely and in need of a hug, we don’t know. What we do know is that he and Field have a solid chemistry that transcends being just an infatuated possibility, and more of a nice and tender friendship, where both people give a little something more than the other.

Consensus: Hello, My Name is Doris may have issues with its tone, it still features a solid performance from the always great Sally Field, while also offering a sweet, sometimes, very funny story about aging and embracing the reality that life may have passed you by, but it hasn’t gone away just yet.

7 / 10

Take your lamp and move on, girl!

Take your lamp and move on, girl!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, We Got This Covered, Tumblr

Her (2013)

If Scar-Jo was my computer, then yes, I’d consider it. Her, or Bea Arthur.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant future, L.A. writer Theodore Bwombly (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself in a bit of a rut. After his wife (Rooney Mara) asked for him to sign the divorce papers, he’s been a bit slacking in terms of getting a move-on with that, his love life, or just getting out there and meeting new people in general. I guess you could consider him “antisocial”, although he does still hang-out and pal-around with an old friend of his (Amy Adams); but other than that, he’s practically all alone up in his big apartment, where he sits around, plays interactive video-games and even ends some nights with eventful bouts of late-night chats with complete and total strangers. This all changes once he discovers a new operating-system by the name “OS1”, which promises him “the closest thing he’ll ever get to a real, honest human-connection”. Theodore believes this, downloads the system and eventually, is graced with the presence of Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who, at first, Theodore feels a bit odd with. Which, yes, is expected considering that she’s just a speaking-system that he just so happens to be stuck with, but over time, the two begin to grow closer as they help each other out in ways they never expected to, like in discovering life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and heck, even sex. So yep, it gets pretty crazy and passionate, but eventually, like most romances do, problems do arise, uncertainties are brought into the equation, and feelings are hurt; and a relationship with an operating-system doesn’t make that any further from happening. In fact, maybe even more likely to happen.

Must've been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

Must’ve been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

I know some of you may have already been lost at “human falls in love with operating-system”, and trust me, with anybody else behind this, I would have been too. However, this is not just directed, but written by Spike Jonze and from what I can tell you, the guy’s pretty damn amazing at what it is that he does, especially when it comes to making magic with something as odd and as unique as this. But considering that Charlie Kaufman isn’t around to lay-down the ground-work for him this time around, it makes you wonder: Can Jonze handle all of the pressure when it’s placed upon himself, or, does he simply fold and make this something that’s “too strange” for anybody to even like?

Well, for the most part, Jonze succeeds. And then some.

First things first, this movie would not work at all if it weren’t for the fact that Jonze himself was actually able to get us to believe the relationship that our main character Theodore has with his operating-system. It makes a slight bit of sense that someone as sad, lonely and clinically-depressed as Theo would actually have a relationship with somebody he wouldn’t have to see, touch or even impregnate in order to fall in love with, but it makes total sense why it is that he falls for her, and why it is that you actually want to see them together in the end, despite all of the obvious problems surrounding that outcome.

For instance, like what most relationships are based-on, is the way in which both companions actually do something for the betterment of the other. Theo allows Samantha to experience life in its finest, most complete-form; whereas Samantha allows Theodore someone he can vent-out to, be encouraged by, gain some insight from and most of all, actually connect with. Sure, she definitely is a computer when you get right down to it, but she’s more than just a bunch of data filled with numbers, codes and chips. She’s actually a “thing” that has feelings, emotions, wants, needs, pleasures, desires, dreams, ideas, insecurities, doubts, and anything else you could name that a normal, everyday human-being would have. The only difference here is that she’s an operating-system that you can talk to and engage with through a little speaker in your ear, or anywhere else.

In fact, I’m only going to say this now considering I’m already on a roll and I kind of want to get this out of the way, is that the problem I sometimes had with this movie was that it wasn’t always clear how Theo and others around him could constantly chat-it-up with Samantha, despite it obviously being clear that he needed an ear-piece in, in order to do so. I don’t know, maybe it was something that I missed, but once others could hear Samantha as perfectly and as understandably as Theo did, it kind of had me scratching my head. Didn’t bring this movie down an awful-lot, but did bother me a tad bit whenever it showed up.

Anyway, back to the good stuff, of which there is plenty more of!

Like I was saying though with the relationship between Samantha and Theodore, although it may clearly be an odd relationship between two, highly unlikely candidates, Jonze makes it work solely through the way in which he channels ordinary feelings, emotions and happenings that go on during any relationship, whether it be good ones, or bad ones. While doing this though, he also channels through the step-by-step process in which a relationship builds into being over time, which is something that surprised me the most in how honest, and sometimes heart-breaking it was to take note of.

At first, the relationship is blossoming with countless acts of sex during the day; plenty of late-night talks that go on and on about seemingly nothing; getting comfortable with another person to the point of where you think you know them from the inside, to the outside; aspirations for the future in which one party would be able to meet the other parties’ friends, families, confidants, etc.; the action of getting a place together, moving and even looking for a house pet by any chance; and even the slightest, yet clear discussion about the possibility of moving even more forward and “getting serious” about what it is that these two people into question have together, that possibly, could last forever.

That all seems like the quintessential, go-to sets of standards of what it’s like to be involved with a romance when its first stages, and when it begins to move further and further on into being something deadly, freakin’ serious. It’s what we all know and live by, and that’s just the way basic humans are. It’s neither good nor bad; in fact, I’d say that it’s freakin’ beautiful.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

But, as we all know, there are those problems that casually show up when two people get together and start swapping as many emotions with one another, as they do fluids and it seems like it’s nearly unavoidable, no matter how perfect you think you got it. Eventually, tensions do arise when people start to experience new things; change in ways that they themselves realize, but are too scared of telling the other person; passions begin to go away; eyes start to linger elsewhere; minds don’t seem to cling together as well anymore as they used to, and instead, more or less clang together; and the worst of all, finding something, and/or someone else that seems better for you in many more ways than one.

These happenings are usually what one can expect when a relationship that was once beautiful, passionate, romantic and heartfelt in every sense of the word, suddenly goes South. And what sucks the most is that you don’t know how, you don’t know why, and you sure as heck don’t know what to do in order to you to stop it from ending and being tarnished in the ground forever. All you know is that what it is you have with this person, is real, honest, lovely and altogether, very painful when you get to look at it. When a relationship ends, it doesn’t just end with a whimper, but it ends with a bang in which a connection that two people shared together, seems like it could be gone. And in some cases, possibly gone forever.

Yes, it’s all so very sad and yes, it can be avoided in some situations (trying to re-ignite the flame by getting freaky with it, bringing in the shrink, asking for advice, etc.), but in reality, it’s inevitable. I truly do hate to sound like the miserable, cynical, “love sucks” a-hole that would much rather watch a movie about two people falling in love, than actually going out there into the field, making myself known and experience some lovin’ for myself, but that truly isn’t the case here. I’ve been in plenty of relationships (or in some cases, “something” that was close enough to being one), with plenty of different gals over the year to realize that this transition from absolute adoration for the other person, may not always last. And sometimes, it may even get so ugly and negative to the point of where it’s not even worth sticking around for. But people do try, and more than likely, they succeed and end-up sticking with that special someone of theirs forever and ever, or at least for a very long time.

But that’s what life is all about: Finding someone, getting to know them, falling for them, handing yourself to them on a silver-platter, realizing that they’re everything you could want in the world and basically, just finishing it by sticking together, or calling it quits. Either way, it’s a fact of life that I’ve been through many of times, and although I’d like to think that each and every time I step up to the plate, I’ve learned something new, tricky or life-changing about “The Game of Love“, reality hits me with a curve-ball and reminds me that I really don’t. But hey, that’s not a bad thing. That’s just life; I’m human, you’re human, we’re all human and that’s what humans do: We make good decisions and we make mistakes, but we always get back-up and ride the horse again.

That’s why watching the relationship between Samantha and Theodore develop over time to the point of where I wouldn’t see “an operating-system and a human falling in love with one another”, but rather, “two emotional, sensitive and compassionate-beings falling in love with one another, that also happen to be an operating-system and a human.” And to see these two as they realize who it is that they are when they’re around the other, and certainly away, really did touch me and had me remember all of the relationships I’ve had in the past. But most importantly, I thought about the memories: The good times, the bad times, the sexually-active times, the romantic times, the frustrating times, the upsetting times and how each and every one has shaped me into the person who I am today. Not just in the relationship-world, but in the world in general.

Jonze taps into this reality about our lives oh so beautifully, that isn’t all about the heart, the romance, or the drama, because, believe it or not, there is actually plenty of comedy to be had here. Most of the comedy to be found here stems from the fact that everybody in the future relies more on technology than ever before, but they aren’t cheap jokes. Like it’s not the type of, “Oh, look how funny it is that that person can’t stop texting at the table,” joke, but more sophisticated in the manner that Jonze shows us that we rely on technology so much, that it would totally break-down our lives if it were to go away in some shape, or form. It’s funny, but it’s also true. Brutally so, too.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we've all been there.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we’ve all been there.

Also, one aspect of this movie that a lot of the laughs seem to come from are with the performances of both Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson who both have some pretty hard tasks on their hands, but handle it effortlessly and make this a romance one won’t soon forget. Though Phoenix has never been known as the main source for comedy, but here, he’s pretty damn funny, but in a subtle manner. The way he uses his eyes or facial-expressions to make clear to us whatever emotion it is that he’s feeling, really worked for me and not only made me crack-up more than a few times, but made me feel more for this character of Theodore, who, in essence, is a hurt, beaten-up, heart-broken man that’s left with just about little to nil direction left in his life of where it is that he wants to go or what it is that he wants to do next with it. However, he’s not a boring loser and after awhile, once we get to spend more time with him and see who he is as a person, we realize that he’s just a really nice, fun-loving type of dude that used to be cool, happenin’ and the life of the party; it’s just been awhile since he’s been able to do so and he’s finally getting that chance. Phoenix is wonderful here and for a guy who has been of his for a long, LONG time, let’s just say that I’m happy to see my man Joaquin not only lighten-up the mood a little bit, but smile as well.

Sheesh! When was the last time we saw that dude crack a cheek-to-cheek grin on his face?!!?

As good as Phoenix is though, he somehow gets over-shadowed by the fact that Scarlett Johansson, using only her voice, is able to make us think-up, dream-about and visualize a character of who it is that she would be, as Samantha. I don’t know if I’m alone or not in this voice, but I’ve always thought that Johansson had a wonderful voice and it was about time it was put to the test that was more than just her singing out some classic, gold oldies. Now, we have her voice that practically takes up half of what we hear in the movie, but it never gets old and the character itself, is written so richly, that you understand why somebody like Theodore would fall head-over-heals for it. Heck, you may even ponder the question yourself! Regardless, the chemistry the two have together is pitch-perfect and not only makes you believe in their relationship when it’s beginning to pick-up speed, but when it surprisingly starts to fall-apart. They both seem perfect together and like they know what the other person wants in a relationship, but you know that with them, like with any other relationship out there in the world, conflict is inevitable, and so is the parting-ways between two people. It’s just all a matter of moving on, remember everything that you’ve been through and knowing that life does, and will continue on, that is really important.

Consensus: Her may have a weird premise on-paper, but it works out as perfectly as any other romance put-to-screen in a long while and will more than likely bring a few tears down the cheeks of many on-lookers, as well as having plenty of high-school sweetheart’s getting drunk-dialed in the middle of the night from a sobbing, incoherently rambling ex of theirs. But that’s perfect though, because love truly does make one person do the darnedest things.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who "that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself", was. And then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who “that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself”, was. Then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net