Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Evan Jones

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

American

After the events of the original brought them all together, the Guardians of the Galaxy are back to doing what they do best: Ehrm, guard the, uhm, galaxy. Right? Anyway, things aren’t so different this time around with everyone – Quill (Chris Pratt) still loves himself and thinks everyone else does too; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) still can’t stand him, even though, deep down inside, she wants to maul him like a bear; Drax (Dave Bautista) is still saying uncomfortable things; Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is, well, still being Groot, but just a baby; and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), when he isn’t getting on everyone’s nerves, seems to be trying his hardest to prove himself as the best of the group. Basically, they’re still a rag-tag group of n’er do’wells who understand what they were put together to do, and while they don’t always get along, they like causing all sorts of havoc. And they get to do that, again, when they come face-to-face with a mysterious man named Ego (Kurt Russell) who, better yet, also happens to be Quill’s daddy. But yeah, there’s something off about him that just doesn’t sit right with the group and threatens to ruin them, as well as the galaxy, forever.

They’re Groot.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was, honestly, one of the better Marvel movies to have come out in some time, for many reasons. One, it was just weird and so different, that yeah, it worked. It wasn’t trying to be like all of the other Marvel movies, it wasn’t trying to tie-in to anything, or anyone else, and it sure as hell wasn’t setting itself aside to make you feel pleased and as if you are a part of the joke. It was its own beast that, despite actually being a product of a huge, overly-budgeted conglomerate, felt like a bad-ass, smart, witty, and self-aware monster that wasn’t afraid to tell you where to shove it.

And some of that, unfortunately, seems to be gone with Vol. 2, however, it’s not nearly as soulless as you may think.

But such is the case with most big-budget, blockbuster sequels, everything that worked so well and felt fresh in the first, sadly, gets overdone here a bit too much. The humor, while still definitely funny, also feels like it hits some lame notes and is just forced for the sake of being humor; the character-stuff, while appreciated, often times feels meandering and as if it’s not deep enough as it likes to be; the plot, while simple and understandable in the first, sort of seems to be overly complicated and covered in exposition that, once again, doesn’t seem to go anywhere, or do much of anything; and oh yeah, the run-time. At a little under two-and-a-half-hours, Vol. 2 does feel long and it shouldn’t – it’s the kind of movie that should constantly zing and zag along, proving to be the most perfect diversion for anyone looking for some sort of action-adventure, pseudo-superhero fun.

And while it sort of is, the movie’s also very long and feels like there’s almost too much going on, without a clear end in sight. James Gunn is no doubt, a very talented writer and director, and is perfect for this material, but even he gets a tad bit carried away; the fact that there is literally five mid-credits sequences should already tell you enough about the length to which this movie goes on till and puts into itself. But then again, when you have a good product, is it a problem to go a little overboard?

In some cases, yes. And Vol. 2 is, as much as it pains me to say, one of those cases.

Then again, the movie’s still a good time, all things considered. It could have definitely done with some trimming in both the writing, the filming, and the editing department, but overall, it feels like a solid piece of its own pie that also, somehow, still exists in the Marvel universe. It still isn’t playing by any sort of pre-conceived rules and it still isn’t trying to please everyone, and for that, it deserves a whole heap of respect. That it’s also a very popular franchise in the first place and a clear money-maker for the already very wealthy Marvel, just goes to show you that there are people out there who will accept and reward creativity, even when that creativity is made for the billions and billions of people out there in the world to buy a ticket and see.

So yeah, Communism rules at the end of the day, right?

He’s Groot.

Anyway, Vol. 2 works well because, by now, we’ve gotten the origin-story out of the way and we can finally, thankfully, get to know who these characters are a bit more and dig in deep. While there’s some questionable character bits and pieces throughout, the bulk of them all work in helping us understand who these colorful cartoons actually are, identify with them a bit, sympathize with them, grow close to them, and oh yeah, also get a little worried and sad when their lives seem to be in danger.

Take, for instance, Michael Rooker’s Vondu who, in the first movie, was a stereotypical villain, with terrible-looking teeth, a mean, grizzled Southern accent, and oh yeah, Michael Rooker playing him. He seemed like a one-and-done kind of character, that would be easy window-dressing for the second, but somehow, he comes close to being the star of the show and with good reason; not only does he have something to offer, in terms of his meaning to the overall story, but he’s actually got a bigger heart and soul than you’d expect. I don’t just chalk this up to Gunn’s solid writing for him, but also Rooker playing to his strengths as an actor, where he’s able to be mean and dirty, but also kind of a softy once you get to know him.

Then again, what can’t Michael Rooker do nowadays? Seriously?

And he’s not just the only character who gets the spotlight a bit and watch it all pay-off. Everyone else from the first, as well as a few new inclusions, all get their time in the sun, and while it may originally seem like overkill, the final-act puts it all into perspective and makes us realize, oh wait, this is about everyone here. Not just Quill; not just Rocket; not just Baby Groot; not just Gamora; not just Drax; and definitely not just the Avengers – but everyone. Needless to say, there’s a final-act here that absolutely worked, as it not only brought tears to this cynical viewer’s eyes, but made me want to watch these characters more and not leave their sides.

They’re just too fun to be away from for so long.

Consensus: While the writing isn’t always there, Vol. 2 still works because of its fun, well-written and exciting characters, to go along with the beauty and excitement of the visuals and action.

7.5 / 10

Yup. We’re all Groot.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Advertisements

The Homesman (2014)

The old west was kind of creepy.

Single, middle-aged women living all by her lonesome, Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank), is looking to make something of a name for herself, so when she hears about the opportunity to take three town’s crazy women all the way to Iowa, for something of a rehabilitation, she jumps right on it, even though most people don’t think it’s a job most suited for a woman. But that doesn’t faze Mary Bee, so she decides to travel to Iowa anyway! While on the trip though, she encounters a man by the name of George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), who was tied-up, hung, and left for dead by a group of men. She doesn’t know whether or not to trust him, but rather than just leaving him there, she decides to take him in under her wing and the two kind of work together. However, as the trip continues on, there begins to become more and more problems for the both of them, some that are near-deadly and life-changing.

Westerns can sometimes be incredibly hit-or-miss. Sometimes, they can be fun, exciting, bloody, brutal, and altogether, a meaningful tale that could have literally been in any other genre of film, yet, isn’t, which makes it all the more important of a film to watch. Then again though, they can sometimes be incredibly slow, boring, and not at all interesting, except if you like horses a lot. There’s hardly any in between with the genre; either you’re very good, or you’re just a downright snoozer.

"It's alright, honey. Nobody's gonna mess with the girl from Million Dollar Baby."

“It’s alright, honey. Nobody’s gonna mess with the girl from Million Dollar Baby.”

But that changes a bit with the Homesman, Tommy Lee Jones’ second time behind the director’s chair, who does something neat with the genre that I haven’t seen in a long while.

For example, take the story itself, the fact that it’s main protagonist is a woman, is definitely shocking and new, but the fact that she isn’t one of these rough and rugged women who want to be just like the rest of the men, is all the more refreshing. But to make matters even better, she’s one of these strong, independent women who doesn’t want to be looked at in a judgmental, or demeaning way; she just wants to be treated like your or I. With that said, she also has the same feelings as you or I, and doesn’t want to be looked down upon for that reason, either.

In a way, Mary Bee Cuddy is the type of strong, free-thinking woman that the western genre has been waiting for all its life, and it’s only made better by the fact that Hilary Swank is quite good in the role, too. It’s been a long time since the last time we see Swank in something worth watching (or simply, something in general), and her performance here makes me wonder why that is. She’s always been a talented gal and one that’s made sure people know she’s willing to test her limitations as an actress. And even though this may not be the most demanding role of her career, it’s still a strong one that allows her to dig deeper and deeper into the psychosis of this Mary Bee Cuddy girl and show us that, underneath all of the brooding and tough love she presents on the outer-surface, she’s just a woman who wants to be loved, have a family, and be happy for the rest of her days.

On the other hand, Tommy Lee Jones plays something of a down-and-out bastard with George Briggs, and it’s not just a funny role, but a rich one that Jones works well with. Jones has played slime balls before, but this one’s different in that he feels like he’s a genuinely good guy when he’s given the right amount of inspiration to do so. Jones digs deep with this character, too, but it’s the chemistry between him and Swank that’s really the heart and soul of this movie and keeps it moving, even when everything around it seems to sort of slow down and just take its good old time.

Speaking of which, the movie may get a tad slow at times, but it was hardly ever boring for me. Super insane, for sure, but boring? Definitely not. Most of that is thanks to Jones’ insistence on never allowing this material to get as strange as you could imagine it getting. I’d sit back here and spoil every instance of weird occurrence, but to do so would be a total crime on my part and probably rob most of you of a movie that definitely deserves to be seen, wanting the best, but expecting the worst.

Round 1! FIGHT!

Round 1! FIGHT!

Because seriously, random characters will pop up, act strange, and then something even more wild will happen moments later. But the movie never over-does it in a way that feels gratuitous or over-the-top. Okay, maybe definitely the later, but the former, totally not. The weird stuff that happens here, actually feels like it would happen in this part of the West and allows us to get a glimpse of a certain place in time, we don’t see too many movies about. Makes sense why, but the more westerns we get like this, I can assure you, the better.

However, at the end of the day, the movie is still disappointing, especially when it comes to Jones and his way of figuring out what to make of this story. Though he seems to take some sort of pleasure in exploring the craziest, darkest depths of this strange world he’s created, he never knows what to make of it. Though some may say that there doesn’t need to be a message here, the fact remains that there should be and it was a bad decision on Jones’ part not to make that clear enough to us.

Then again, he did offer plenty good, so I guess I can’t rain on his parade all that much, either. I’ll just take it for what it is, and that’s a weird fuckin’ movie.

Consensus: Strange and eerie, yet constantly interesting, the Homesman is a refreshing change-of-pace for the western genre, without ever trying too hard to be seen as such.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

In today's market, this would not be allowed.

In today’s market, this would not be allowed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Talking to a silent dude who wears a poncho is definitely one way for sure.

During the year of 1882 in Arizona, a loser sheep farmer by the name of Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) practically loses it all; his pride, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), his courage, and even his own self-respect. Basically, Albert has no reason to live and even though he doesn’t want to off himself, he still knows that life in the West is dumb, which is why he decides to move away to San Francisco in hopes of changing his life for good. However, things turn around for Albert when a new lady comes into town named Anna (Charlize Theron). Not only is she smokin’ hot, but she seems to take a bit of an interest in him and makes him a deal: She’ll help him gain enough of his courage back so that he can win his ex back and eventually live happily live ever after. Albert thinks this is a great idea, except for the problem that he isn’t able to shoot a gun – which is practically a big “no no” in a place like the West, where just about everything and anything could kill you, at any time. To make matters worse, Anna also has a bit of a secret past that includes known-killer Clinch (Liam Neeson) and he’s not happy about her not being with him, and off with some wimp like Albert.

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Family Guy, that sure as heck didn’t stop me from enjoying Ted. Sure, Seth MacFarlane loves his sophomoric jokes and and gags, but that’s sort of the point to his humor and for the most part, it’s done him quite well. And since Ted was such a success, it’s no surprise to see that he would eventually take all of that studio-money and make something that he clearly wants to do, from his heart and with himself thrown right into the middle.

Oh, I get it. He's a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

Oh, I get it. He’s a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

I’m coming very close to calling this something of a “passion project”, which it may very well have been, but from the results of it, too much passion may have went on way too long and for too much.

That’s not to say it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much effort on MacFarlane’s part, because there totally is, however, it does seem like that a little of his humor can only go on for so long, until it all becomes repetitive and over-used. Maybe, just maybe I could have gone a whole two-hours without hearing jokes made about someone’s fancy-looking mustache – better yet, maybe, just maybe I could have gone the whole movie without a handful of jokes revolving around sheep’s penises. But with Seth MacFarlane that’s what you have to expect, which makes me wonder why it just did not work here at all.

Okay, that’s a lie, there are times when this movie can be pretty funny, but it’s not because of MacFarlane himself. Mostly, the laughs come from the fact that the ensemble he’s put together is clearly working their assess off to make any sort of joke hit. Because, even if they do fall flat, at least there’s still something to be interested by; like, for instance, why wouldn’t you make a joke or two about Liam Neeson’s terrible Southern-accent? Better yet, why wouldn’t you ever crack a joke about the fact that all of the townspeople look like your usual, ragged-type to be seen in these types of Southerns, yet, everybody else in the movie looks like they just walked off the set of a Loreal commercial?

For some reason, we never get those kinds of jokes, and instead, we are “treated” to ones about smiling in old-timey photographs, 19th century racism, hookers, virgins, pooping, and bar-brawls. Maybe that sounds like a good time to you, because it totally does to me, but somehow, Seth MacFarlane found a way to suck all of the air out of it and give us a piece that’s pretty boring, even when it is trying to be funny. Which, believe it or not, is about 75% of the time; the rest of the 25% is dedicated to action, drama, romance and awkward situations without barely a lick of comedy. And do trust me, I don’t have much of a problem with a comedy trying to be a tad serious and throw some heart into the story for good measure, just to even things out, but it was never interesting here, nor did it really do much for the characters themselves. It just seemed thrown onto us and almost like Seth MacFarlane needed a new editor-in-charge. Much like the feeling I can sometimes get with Judd Apatow’s pieces.

Which brings me to the man himself: Seth MacFarlane. Of course we all know, recognize, and, for some, love MacFarlane from his various voice-roles and maybe even his culturally-divided Academy Awards hosting-job, but here’s the first time in which we really get to see all of Seth, in his full-on, human-made form. None of that animated, voice-over crap; it’s just him, his face, and his ability to actually act and emote for the camera.

And, as much as it pains me to say, it makes total sense why he’s stayed behind the camera for so long in the first place.

I get why he's here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

I get why he’s here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

That’s not to say that MacFarlane is really bad with the material really, it’s just that it’s obvious his face wasn’t really made for film. He’s sort of a bland screen-presence on screen that tells his own jokes, yells, hollers, acts goofy, puts on an “OMG” face numerous time, and occasionally have to act where he has to put on his “serious face” and whatnot. Sometimes, it works, and some other times, it doesn’t really do much of all. It just seems like him, hogging up the screen and taking away from some of the better, way more-talented members of the cast. Not to get on MacFarlane’s case or anything, but I don’t really see the guy taking over the acting world anytime soon. For now, I’d say to just stay behind the camera, keep on doing the voice-work and every once and awhile, show your face to let everyone know that you’re alive and you are in fact still working.

Anyway though, the rest of the cast fairs a lot better, if only because, like I mentioned before, they are a lot more skilled with material in general and they can usually make the most out of anything as silly as this. Charlize Theron gets the best acting out of MacFarlane because it seems like they share a natural-chemistry that makes it more than just being about her hot, rockin’ bod, even while she’s on the prime of reaching 40; Neil Patrick Harris gets the most laughs out of the whole cast as the mustached-man that Albert’s ex is now dating and shows us why if you give NPH something worthwhile to do, he’ll run with it and never look back; and Liam Neeson has a goofy accent but doesn’t get much funny stuff to do (even though we know he’s clearly capable of doing comedy). Also to mention, there are a few cameos here and there that are rather hit-or-miss. There’s one actually that’s quite spell-blindingly clever, yet, is totally ruined just by the sheer awkwardness of it all. Want to say what it is, but you may just have to wait and see.

Then again, maybe you don’t have to. Because honestly, you’re not missing much to begin with anyway.

Consensus: It isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t trying with A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s more that he’s just trying too much and doesn’t really know what’s considered “well-done crude humor”, against, “annoying, repetitive crude humor”. You know, if there is such a thing.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, that 'stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-late faux hawk MacFarlane's got going on.

Okay, that ‘stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-too-late faux hawk MacFarlane’s got going on.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz