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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Guillaume Canet

The Program (2016)

Come on, guys. Let’s cut Lance some slack. Dude dated Sheryl Crow after all.

Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster), as they like to say, came from nothing, only to then become something. Though he was just a small-time cyclist from Texas, eventually, Lance began to train more and more, to the point of where he was competing in national competitions like, well, for starters, the Tour de France. However, while he was definitely successful very early in his career, he ran into problems when it turned out that he had testicular cancer. Eventually, he got treatment and got back on his bike, except this time, it was with a whole new mission: To help those with cancer. With all sorts of support on his side from everyone around him, Armstrong created the Live Strong foundation, won the Tour de France a few more times, had all sorts of sponsors, was generally seen as “a hero”, and heck, was even in a long-term relationship with Sheryl Crow. It seemed almost as if Armstrong was the king of the world and couldn’t be brought down from his title. However, journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) saw differently and was one of the key people in challenging Armstrong’s past issues with performance-enhancing drugs. These are the same sorts of issues that would ultimately prove his downfall in the public eye.

Cars vs. bikes. Who's going to win the transportation war?

Cars vs. bikes. Who’s going to win the transportation war?

By now, I’m pretty sure that nobody’s holding a “Lance Armstrong pity party”. The dude may have fought for a meaningful cause and won a slew of Tour de France’s, but was a jerk to mostly everyone in the media, anyone who associated themselves with him, and used his good deeds and charities to almost make an excuse for all of the performance-enhancing drugs he took. Oh, and not to mention, that he lied about almost all of this. So yeah, no time soon will everybody crowd around a picture of Lance, and memorialize the person who he was and cry on his behalf.

Some people may do that now as we speak, but it’s probably a very limited number.

However, that’s what’s perhaps most interesting about the Program: While it does treat Armstrong in a sometimes negative, almost mean light, it still has an effect and makes you wonder if all of this piling-up on him is, well, enough. After the Armstrong Lie, it felt like we already had Armstrong’s story and nothing else needed to be told, which is pretty true in this movie’s case, but director Stephen Frears does something interesting in that he turns the story around ever so slightly and make us think that maybe Armstrong, while not misunderstood, was attacked way too heavily. Sure, he was a cocky dude who brought a lot of these issues on himself for just not sticking to his guns, not staying clean, and gaining a God-complex, but at the same time, he still had some nice qualities to him.

I know that statement literally means nothing in most cases, but here, it means something; rather than painting Armstrong as this completely distasteful, immoral son-of-a-bitch, the movie shows that while he was most definitely a dick, he was one that also wanted to fight for a good cause. Also, the movie likes to focus on those around him, like Lee Pace’s Bill Stapleton, or Denis Menochet’s Johan Bruyneel, and show that they most definitely had a hand or two, or more, in constituting just how far Armstrong went with his success. While he may have wanted to use his wealth and notoriety for the greater good of society and to find a cure for cancer, those around him mostly just saw a piggy-bank that needed to be constantly tapped and used.

Once again, none of this is excusing the fact that Armstrong lied on many occasions, but it brings up some valid arguments about him.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

That’s why the Program, the movie, feels very mixed. In a way, we didn’t really need this story to be told to us, but because it’s a movie that exists, it’s hard to hate on it for existing. What I can hate on the movie for is not really offering anything fully meaningful to the debate of whether or not we should all, as a society, go back to letting Lance Armstrong into our tender arms. It makes you think if he was a total dick or not, but that’s about it; all the movie really sets out to do is tell Armstrong’s story once again, as if some of those at home didn’t already know a single thing about it, or him.

Also, what’s odd about the movie is how, even at an-hour-and-43-minutes, it goes by very quick. This isn’t something I note as a positive either, as a good portion of the film just feels like a Lance Armstrong highlight reel, where all of the good things he did, gets shown, as well as the bad things, and they’re just constantly put up next to one another, back-to-back. For instance, we’ll get a scene of Armstrong at a children’s hospital, being nice and sweet to the kids, but the next one, we’ll get a shot of him sticking a needle into his bum. While this may be effective editing, it still doesn’t help when there’s at least three or four of these transitions of seeing Armstrong do something nice, only to then have it all juxtaposed by him doing something bad.

We get it! What we didn’t see in the spotlight, was sometimes darker than what we wished!

As Lance Armstrong, Ben Foster is very good in that he’s doing a lot of acting and having seen Armstrong in plenty of interviews/public appearances, it almost doesn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, Foster is good and gives this all his every bit, but there’s a lot of yelling, and screaming, and posturing from Foster that I don’t feel was very necessary to this character, especially the real life Armstrong wasn’t totally like this. He was definitely a bit smarmy, in a way, but no way was he a total a-hole like the way he’s portrayed here. If anything, he was just a dull guy who had a lot of championships to his name, his own cancer foundation, and a severe drug habit.

That’s basically all there was to Lance Armstrong – the man, the myth, the cheater.

Consensus: Without making its own mind up on its subject, the Program feels a tad short-shifted, but with some good performances and entertaining, slightly easygoing pace from Stephen Frears, it gets the job done and may have you thinking a bit differently about Armstrong himself. Or, then again, maybe not.

6.5 / 10

He's a hero to us all. Now give me back my money for all those damn wristbands!

He’s a hero to us all. Now give everybody back all their money for those damn wristbands!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Beach (2000)

Give a hippie too much freedom, and peace does not conquer.

Having grown reckless and tired with his American life, Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) decides to run away on a road trip of sorts that, for one reason or another, land him in Bangkok. Though Richard plans on spending most of his time navigating around Thailand, he stumbles upon a mysterious map that, from what he can read, takes him out into the middle of the ocean, where a random island pops up. Richard has no clue what is on that island or even what it means – all he knows is that he wants to go out there and find out for himself. Even if he does along the way, then so be it! At least he died by trying! Well, Richard does reach the island and finds out that it’s everything he wanted it to be: Peaceful, fun, and chock full of hippies that love to live life to their fullest. As time rolls on though, Richard begins to realize that there’s something wrong with this island, as well as some of the people on it and it isn’t before long that Richard starts getting that ache to head back home in the U.S., where life’s a lot more simple and cleaner.

Just think of the horrid stench they must carry as one unit. Yuck!

Just think of the horrid stench they must carry as one unit. Yuck!

The saying around those associated with critiquing media is, “Review what’s there, not anything else.” Meaning, basically, just review what it is that’s in front of you and not a product that you wish happened, or better yet, wanted. You may have wanted for all the Transformers films to be heartfelt, eye-opening dramas about the state of technology versus today’s society, but the creator behind those movies, may have saw billion-dollar, explosion-fests with the depth of a pebble. And honestly, whose movie is going to be created? Yours, or somebody like Michael Bay?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that it’s hard to review a movie like the Beach, without thinking of what could have been. Cause, for one, I’ve read the book and needless to say: It’s a near-masterpiece. It’s fun, exciting, energetic, lively, interesting, hilarious, insightful, and most of all, smart about its themes that deal with nature and how humans, in ways, ruin it. Alexander Garland is a talented-as-all-hell writer who, quite frankly, deserves to create more in his life. I’d rather take a movie a year from Alexander Garland, rather than seeing another one of Woody Allen’s latest, where it seems like he’s got some time left in his year, so he just oughta make something.

But I digress.

Everything that the novel is, the movie-version of the Beach is not. And that’s not just a shame because the source-material is so ripe, raw, and perfectly-ready to be made for the big screen, but because there’s plenty of talented people here working this. Danny Boyle, in case none of you know this already, is an immensely talented director who makes anything more interesting just by doing what he always does: Add techno to the background, keep that camera moving, and always finding the most disturbing aspects of humans. This isn’t to say that Boyle’s style doesn’t help the Beach out, because it most certainly does; however, most of the time, it’s obvious that around the half-way mark, he gave up in the editing-room and just let the studio-hacks take over and make their own movie, creativity be damned!

Not that Boyle had a perfect film to begin with, but yeah, this is possibly his worst movie to date.

Once again, too, you’d be surprised to hear this, not just because it’s a Danny Boyle film, but because it’s one that stars the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Paterson Joseph and Guillaume Canet, but they’re left without a paddle to float around on. The movie itself is such a jumbled-up mess, that even when it seems like there’s an effort being put in to give these actors interesting material to revel in, sadly, it seems to go to the next subplot and just totally forget about whatever it was that it was trying to develop mere seconds ago.

Sure, she's cute and all, but just about the last time she bathed.

Sure, she’s cute and all, but just about the last time she bathed.

But most of all, it’s just disappointing to see DiCaprio, an amazing talent, give what is, essentially, a terrible performance. For one, it seems like Leo is trying way too hard at everything; he’s always yelling, wailing-about, and trying to make scenes a lot funnier than they may have to be, which make it seem like he’s straining himself more than he needed to. Also, despite Leo probably being around 25 to 26 around the time of this movie, he still seems so boy-ish to really work in this role and makes it appear like he’s a bit out of his league. Leo tries, time and time again here, but ultimately, it adds up to him just turning in, most likely, his worst performance to date.

It all worked out though once Catch Me If You Can came around and Hollywood finally realized what to do with him.

Thank heavens for that.

But to go back to my earlier point about not disowning a movie for what I would have liked for it to have been, and more of what it actually is, the Beach is possibly my most personal choice with that. There are certain plot-points and ideas that the novel touches on that help round this story, this character and the impact it has on the reader, more effective. Those same points and ideas are merely touched on here, only to then be tossed away once Boyle remembers that he’s got to get a whole 400-plus page book, into a near two-hour movie. Granted, it must have not been an easy task, even for somebody as incredibly talented as Boyle and his associates, but still, it’s hard not to deny the fact that this movie never has a clue what it wants to do, be, or even say about anyone, or anything depicted in it.

The book did all of this and so much more. Just saying.

Consensus: Messy, silly, uninteresting and poorly-acted, the Beach tries because of Danny Boyle behind the camera, but is a missed-opportunity on capitalizing with some very promising source material. So basically, just go and head to a Barns and Nobles, if they even still exist.

2 / 10

Jack survived the sinking after all and is now a wannabe hippie.

Jack survived the sinking after all and is now a wannabe hippie.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Blood Ties (2014)

Never go against the family. It don’t matter if you’re Italian, Irish, Jewish, Scandinavian, or Purple! You just don’t do it!

After being released from jail for murder, Chris (Clive Owen) is looking towards his newfound freedom with a bit more hope and ambition in his eyes. He doesn’t want to go back to the world of crime, so instead, takes a job at a small-time mechanic where he cleans the floor, scrubs toilets, and takes out the trash; however, when he’s not doing such fine and exciting activities, he’s chatting it up with the young assistant they have there (Mila Kunis). However, one thing leads to another and Chris, through luck-of-the-draw, finds himself back in the world of crime where he’s hustlin’, dealin’ and killin’, like a true New York gangsta, circa 1974. Which, for Chris, would be fine, however, his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), just so happens to be a cop who is constantly getting heckled for being there for his brother and still associating with him, even when it becomes clear that he may be the main-suspect in a couple of crimes happening throughout the city. But, it’s family. Whattayagonnado?!??!

We’ve all seen it before – the 70’s crime-drama, with all sorts of drugs, gangsters, guns, cops, hot gals, New York – but there’s some refreshing about a good, old-fashioned crime flick. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve been watching a bit too much of the Wire and can’t stay away from movies about a bunch of cops and robbers, and the evil, little maniacal ways both sides try to screw with one another; but I absolutely fall silly for it. That is, most of the time, when it’s done right.

It was the 70's, so by that time, this was 'ight.

It was the 70’s, so by that time, this was ‘ight.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that co-writers James Gray and Guillame Canet clearly have an idea for what it is that they want to do with their movie, which will probably please some by its simplicity, or, absolutely bore others. There are some bits and pieces here where you’ll feel the more-than-two-hour time-limit that it has, but other times, you might just not give a hoot, because each and every one of these performances are so compelling to watch in the first place.

But, then again, most of that has to do with the wring which, necessarily, isn’t all that flashy to begin with. However, where Gray and Cane’t writing-styles really come together is in the building of tension through human-relationships, rather than just through a bunch of shoot-outs or heists. Everytime you see Chris and Frank in the same room, or anywhere near being in the same vicinity of one another, you automatically feel like all hell is going to break loose, regardless of if they see each other or not. There’s just a sense, or a feeling in the air that these are two brothers that love each other until the day they die, but definitely can’t stand to be around the other, especially when one seems to have a lot more shit on the other for “selling out”.

Yup, if you’ve ever had a problem with a sibling of yours (brother, sister, father, mother, house-pet, etc.) this is the movie for you. Then again, most of whatever James Gray touches turns out to be that way. Another aspect about his movies that will probably kill some viewer’s minds is how he takes his near and dear time; not just with this story, but with these characters and who it is that they are. This was fine for me – not because I’m familiar with Gray’s work and expected it, but because most of the characters are written in a way that makes you actually care about them, and see whether or not this story gets so out-of-hand that bodies start dropping and emotions start flying, along with bullets, most likely. Though it may take awhile to get where it needs get going to, Gray and Canet keep this movie flowing at just the right pace: Not necessarily a snail-like speed, maybe the tortoise-who-beat-the-hare pace.

Dumb analogy, I know, but it’s all I got, people! All I got!

Where most of this movie loses points in, is that it’s not really anything spectacular or terribly original to where you can differentiate it from the rest of the crime-dramas that come out every now and then, especially ones that take place during the 70’s. Don’t get me wrong, the look and feel of this movie definitely transported me to the deep, dark and dirty days of 1970’s-era NYC, but the story itself, minus the inclusions of cell-phones, could have literally taken place at anytime in the Big Apple, after say, I don’t know, the 1930’s or 40’s. It’s just that conventional, but that doesn’t make it bad really; just makes you wish Canet and Gray decided to play-around a bit more, rather than just spending all of their time on the characters.

He's not getting up anytime soon. Just let him stay and hopefully he won't come over and beat us to within an inch of our lives.

He’s not getting up anytime soon. Just let him stay and hopefully he won’t come over and beat us within an inch of our lives.

Then again though, can’t hate on them too much, because the characters they were able to draw-up here, are what keeps this movie in balance. Which is to thank both Gray and Canet, as well as the awesome ensemble. Don’t know if anybody else out there saw Clive Owen playing a “rough and tough, NYC gangster, bad-boy” coming, but hey, the guy does a great job with it. He’s not only able to hide his British-accent very well, but he’s also able to make us crap our pants even more when he shows up and not totally know what to expect from him next. He’s a bit of a live-wire that does have his chill moments, but it’s clear that they are very few, and far between.

As for Billy Crudup, who plays his cop-brother Frank, he does a fine job giving an unsympathetic character enough substance to where we can get on his side, even if we don’t particularly agree with him. See, the main problem that his character has is that he’s got this whole subplot going on with Zoe Saldana’s character, in which they used to date, and he’s all of a sudden, thrown her latest boy-toy in the slammer for “reasons unknown”. Therefore, we kind of see Frank as a bit of a manipulative dick that uses his power and authority for the betterment of himself and his wee-wee (you know, a cop), but Crudup is at least able to let us slide by that problem with his character and realize that, at heart, he’s a kind guy that goes through thick and thin for the ones he loves. The only thing that’s getting himself into some foggy-water is that the people that he loves and sticks up for, aren’t the best cast of characters.

Since I was just speaking of Saldana, I think it should be noted that where this flick really screws up in, is that it doesn’t take much care of its female characters. It’s weird, too, because when you have such heavy-hitters as Mila Kunis, previously mentioned Saldana, Marion Cotillard, and even Lili Taylor in your movie, and you don’t do much with them, except them give them a couple of scenes where they stray near the boys, does seem like a huge waste once you really get down to it. And it’s not even like the writers made these females out to be as nothing other than “whores”, “sluts”, or, “total and complete beotches” (well, except for maybe Cotillard’s character who is literally a “whore” and screws guys for money; therefore, making her a “slut”); it’s more that the writers just didn’t take the time to give any of them much more than what you see on the surface. They are strong-willed, smart and independent, but you don’t see that fully play-out to where everybody gets a say in this story.

It’s just simply a boy’s show. Which is why we also have James Caan here as well. Can’t ever go wrong with that guy just showing up and doing his thing.

Consensus: Though conventional and, in certain ways, unoriginal, Blood Ties is still able to get by solely on the well-written characters, and the ensemble that give most of these characters lives worth checking out. If only for two-hours out of your day. That’s all.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Billy, I love you like a son. But don't ever go against the family. Hahaha! See what I did there?!??!?"

“Billy, I love you like a son. But don’t ever go against the family. Hahaha! See what I did there?!??!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Tell No One (2006)

It’s like Hitchcock with subtitles.

Paediatrician Dr Alex Beck (François Suzette) has been devastated since his childhood sweetheart and wife, Margot, was savagely murdered in the early days of their marriage eight years before. But when he receives an anonymous email, he sees a woman’s face standing in a crowd and being filmed in real time. Margot’s face… is she still alive?

Wow doesn’t that plot sound so different and original….? Of course you know that this is pretty much the same old generic thriller plot we get where the Everday Man finally gets to square off against The Man and find out more about himself and just what the hell is really going on with this case. However, the difference here is that it’s from French film-maker Guillaume Canet, which makes a huge difference.

Canet starts this film out as your ordinary mystery thriller where you have no idea what’s going on and why everything is so suspicious all of a sudden. The atmosphere is pretty chilling but it only gets better once the whole thrilling aspect of the flick starts to pick up and that’s where this film got me. Canet keeps on throwing us plot twist after plot twist after plot twist and it keeps the story more and more intriguing and interesting as it goes on. Certain things happen at first, and you have no idea why or for what reason but as the film goes on the answers start to come out and Canet will throw you a little brief hint here and there just to fool around with you. The problem most people will have with this flick is that there is a lot of reading here involved, but I think that also helps it since my French is terrible and it helps spell everything out just a bit more than what I usually get with these types of thrillers.

You get everything here, that you would get with any normal type of thriller: running , chasing, romance, heartbreak, bad things happening to good people, people dying, people getting shot, people about to get shot, gangsters, sex, and some lesbians (not in that sexy way though). It’s all here but it all feels fresh and original once the story starts to develop more, almost as if Canet watched ‘The Fugitive’ but realized that half-way through that you can still have all of the other stuff that happen in these types of flicks and decided to just throw them all in there for shits and gigs. Somehow, it works.

My only problem with this flick was that at the end, when all of the questions finally get answered in one big shock of a scene, the film still doesn’t seem to make as much sense as it would like to think. I can’t really give away any major plot points and I can’t say that everything in this flick didn’t make any sense but there will still some head scratchers for me even though I payed attention to the whole damn thing. This whole paragraph probably sounds very vague and stupid but I just don’t want to give any of the plot twists away so go watch it yourself and see what you think effers!

Since I don’t really watch a whole bunch of French films (let alone, foreign films in general), I don’t know who is really the who’s who of French cinema but I can definitely say that they have some notable faces here that all do excellent jobs. François Suzette is pretty damn good as Doctor Alexandre Beck, a guy who just wants to know what the hell happened to his wife. This guy seems very normal but then we start to see him change in the midst of all these crazy happenings and it’s great how Suzette was able to channel all of that simply through the emotions and looks on his face. I honestly thought that this was going to kick the whole police department’s ass and with the inspiration that he had for doing so, I wouldn’t doubt it either. There are a whole bunch of familiar faces here such as Kristin Scott Thomas as one of his lesbian friends (meowww), Gilles Lellouche as a tough-ass hoodlum that you want on your side named Bruno, Jean Rochefort as a bad-ass gangster that doesn’t speak much or even show up that much but when he does, you know it’s some real business, and there are plenty others here that you have all seen before but just can’t say their names.

Consensus: Tell No One doesn’t make perfect sense when it’s all said and done, but the film is entertaining, exciting, and features plenty of plot twists to keep you watching as the mystery unfolds. Damn, the French really can do it all!

8/10=Matinee!!