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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Haley Lu Richardson

Columbus (2017)

Life is architecture. That works, right?

Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is a recent high school graduate, is at a bit of a stand-still in her life. She wants to go out to college, work on architecture, study, and make a name for herself, but ever since her dad left, her mother (Michelle Forbes) has been having some issues with staying sober. So it’s what keeps Casey at home, working at the local library, and occasionally, flirting with her coworker (Rory Culkin). But then her life changes a bit when Jin (John Cho), enters town. His father, a renowned architecture scholar, falls ill and is forced to stay in the hospital, making Jin to come back home and figure out what the next step is. He, like Casey, is in a bit of a rut and together, the two strike up something of a friendship that starts off as admiration for one another, but then, turns into something far more sweet. But not in the way you’d wholly expect.

Who cares about the people? Look at those trees!

Columbus is one of those rare movies that isn’t afraid to take its time, literally plant a camera down, just keep shooting, and use absolute silence. It’s the kind of movie that’s perfect for when you have an empty home all to yourself, because there’s hardly a score (and when it does play, it’s beautiful) and just a bunch of characters walking, talking, and gawking at the beautiful buildings all around them. If that sounds too boring for you, then yeah, Columbus is just not going to work.

It’s a smart, interesting, and relatively touching character-study that should be seen.

But hey, if it’s not your bag, then it’s not your bag. So be it.

Regardless, Columbus brings us a smart and fresh voice in writer/director Kogonada who, thankfully, makes the smart decision to not get all that pretentious with the material. Sure, it’s about architecture and certain people’s love for it, but the movie’s much more about taking advantage of the life you have, the opportunities you get, and figuring out just where you want to go next. Architecture is used as a gorgeous backdrop, but really, it’s less about the buildings, shapes, sizes, and colors, and much more about the actual humans who build them and live in them.

And with that said, it’s a pretty great ensemble. Haley Lu Richardson shows us that she’s one of the more interesting younger-actresses out there who, despite her beautiful looks, is also able to really give off the vibes that she’s just another ordinary, young, and confused girl in this world. The movie smartly doesn’t make her decision to leave all about a romantic love-interest, but her dedication to her mother and the fact that she has no clue just how to go about moving out and doing something with her life. She’s not whiny and sad – in fact, she’s quite settled and pleased – but she also wants to go somewhere, anywhere that’s possible.

“So, like, buildings.”

It’s a lovely role that reminds me of a young Winona Ryder. I hope that Richardson’s career turns out the same way, without the shoplifting incident.

But then, there’s John Cho who is also very interesting here, not because he plays a man at his crossroads, but because he’s actually in a drama, given a role that’s worthy of his talents. Cho’s got great delivery where he always seems like the smartest guy in the room and will call you out immediately, but also shows that there’s plenty of insecurity to him. The relationship he and Richardson’s character has, seems like it’s going to get weird and creepy, but actually turns into something beautiful that’s not just shocking to us, but to them, too. It’s sweet and mannered and never once does it seem like it’s going to go over the line.

That’s not just good acting, either – that’s just good writing.

Remember the name “Kogonada”, people.

Consensus: Mannered and a little slow, Columbus may seem like it’s taking too much time to get going, but it’s sort of the point and it helps the performances work so much more.

8 / 10

Seriously, who needs humans when we have buildings!?!?

Photos Courtesy of: Superlative Films

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Split (2017)

One crazy just isn’t enough.

After a birthday party at the mall, three teenagers, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and outsider Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), are randomly kidnapped by a man named Dennis (James McAvoy). They have no clue why, or what his intentions are, but now, they’re stuck in his underground lair, of sorts, where he will do whatever he wants with them. However, there’s something relatively off about Dennis that the girls know right from the start; he’s constantly switching in and out of different personalities. Sometimes, he’s acting like a woman, sometimes, he’s acting like a hard-ass, and other times, he’s acting like a nine-year-old child. Eventually, the girls catch wind of this and realize that they could possibly use this to their advantages and manipulate him. But the more personalities that Dennis switches to, the more violent and angry they get, making the situation all the more dangerous and scary, even if, on the outside, there may be some hope, what with Dennis’ therapist (Betty Buckley), thinking more and more about Dennis’ issues and wanting to see just what he’s really got going on in that twisted, wild and out-of-control head of his.

Grumpy

Grumpy

Very early on in his career, when hopes were high and the sky was basically the limit, a lot of people were championing M. Night Shyamalan as “the next Spielberg”, or more radically, “the next Hitchcock.” And for awhile, it’s not hard to see why people bought this; his early movies, while definitely odd, were still ambitious, thrilling and well-done, showing a writer/director who wasn’t afraid to get us on the edge of our seats a little bit, but also tell a solid story in the mean time. It’s why a movie like the Sixth Sense, despite the pop-culture obsession surrounding it, is actually better than people give it credit for – in fact, it’s why a lot of his movies are better than people give them credit for. But then, of course, it all went haywire for M. Night’s career, and slowly but surely, his random plot twists became so ridiculous, so expected and so damn predictable, he essentially became a parody of himself.

It’s odd, though, because ever since After Earth, there’s been some sure signs that M. Night may soon make it back to our hearts, minds and souls again; the Visit, well definitely a silly movie, was still fun enough that it worked enough as a solid reminder that when he wants and isn’t distracted, M. Night can deliver on the genre-thrills. And they keep on coming with Split, M. Night’s latest that shows us what can happen when he isn’t given a whole bunch of stuff to work with. Sure, it’s his script and all, but the movie’s budget is smaller, the names in the cast aren’t as big as he’s used to working with, and guess what? The plot is actually so simple and straightforward that it gives him just enough of an opportunity to play around a little bit and have some fun.

Which is exactly what Split is, but it’s also a little bit more than just that.

Split finds M. Night meaner and darker than ever before, and for me, that really worked; taking the kidnapping plot out of the equation, this is a story about mental disorders, repressed homosexuality, pedophilia, incest, and oh yeah, cannibalism. It’s a very freaky and off-putting movie, but in that way, it actually works perfectly. M. Night knows just the right buttons to push, when to push them, and how to make them count; there’s a couple of silly moments here that are quite reminiscent of some of his lowest-peaks, but there’s something surrounding them that make the silliness, still kind of work.

This time, M. Night isn’t worried about tooting his own horn here, nor is he all that worried about trying to prove something to everyone that he deserves love and admiration from movie fans all over the world – this time, he just wants to give us a tense, shocking, and surprisingly unpredictable pulp-thriller. There are even moments where the film seems as if it’s going to go into places you expect it to, but then, it turns the other cheek and surprises; M. Night hasn’t been this smart in the longest time and it’s nice to see him back, working his tail off to provide some rough and tough stuff.

Bashful

Bashful

Still, rough and tough is what we need from M. Night and less of whatever the hell else he’s been doing for the past decade or so.

But M. Night isn’t the only star here and thankfully, he gets out of the way a lot and lets James McAvoy shine as “Dennis”. McAvoy has always been an exceptional talent to watch, but here, he really challenges himself, going deeper and darker into the depravity and sure craziness of this character. Sure, it can sometimes be really funny and weird, but it actually works in the movie’s favor, because there’s always a deep underlining of sadness felt throughout it all. It comes through the direction, of course, but most definitely through McAvoy’s performance, where he has to inhabit all of these different characters, personalities and mannerisms, handling them all very well, without seeming like he’s hamming it up too much.

Okay, maybe he does a little, but hey, he’s allowed to this time around.

Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, and Anya Taylor-Joy also put in good work as the three teens who have to figure their way out of this situation, with Taylor-Joy’s being the most handy. Although M. Night made her something of a laughing-stock in the Happening, Betty Buckley gives a good performance as Dennis’ therapist, who wants what’s best for him and stop bad things from happening, but also wants to push her own career a little bit, too. The movie constantly switches in-and-out between her and his story, which can sometimes get in the way the pacing, but for the most part, they’re both so good at what they do, it almost doesn’t matter.

Oh and that ending. Well, without saying too much, there is a twist and well, I’m still not sure what I have to say about it. I’ll just leave it at that and see where my thoughts take me over the next few weeks or so.

Consensus: With a smarter head on his shoulders this time around, Split finds M. Night in a playful, yet scary mood, adding tension, excitement and craziness to a pretty dreadful and dark story, giving us something that not many Hollywood companies would sign off on.

8 / 10

Happy

Happy

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Growing up blows. But hey, drinking in bars is pretty cool, right?

Growing up, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) didn’t always have the best time. She was a casually awkward girl, who couldn’t quite make friends, hit puberty at a weird time in her life, and most importantly, lost her beloved father while she was in the car with him. Now, at 17, Nadine has hit peak awkwardness when her older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). It’s obviously a weird and downright terrible situation for Nadine, who has gotten so comfortable just hanging around with Krista. Now, she feels alone and in desperate need to find some way to take up her time; she tries to get in with Darian and Krista’s friends, but just can’t talk or relate to any of them. Most of her time, to be honest, is spent bothering and ranting to her English teacher (Woody Harrelson), who clearly has a lot better things to do then just sit around and listen to a teenager whine about how life gets her down. But now Nadine thinks she may have found an outlet for her sadness through thoughtful teen Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto), who not only gives her a glimmer of hope with her dating life, but also shows that she’s not the most awkward teen in the area.

Come on. Who hasn't tried to look like Pedro at least once in their life?

Come on. Who hasn’t tried to look like Pedro at least once in their life?

The Edge of Seventeen, on paper and through all of the countless ads, trailers and posters, seems like nothing more than your average, run-of-the-mill, downright nauseating teen-comedy that goes for the raunchy laughs and false modesty that could have only been written by a bunch of people who never knew what it was like to grow up in high school, or be socially awkward, and are trying so desperately hard to connect with “the kids”. And no, after having seen the movie, I can’t say that I’m far off from my expectations, either. Except yes, I totally am.

See, the Edge of Seventeen is a pretty run-of-the-mill, conventional teen-comedy, but there’s more to it than that. For one, it’s written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig who is, for one, a woman, and a very talented writer, at that. She seems to know just how it is that kids talk and get along with one another; they’re awkward, weird, sometimes funny, and always trying to impress one another. Watching a casual conversation between two characters in the Edge of Seventeen is not only sweetly nostalgic, but downright cringe-inducing because, well, this is what it’s like to grow up.

While Craig has created this character of Nadine to help channel out all of the angst and embarrassment from her younger years, the feelings of coming-of-age and growing up are universal; that point you get at in your life and in high school when you don’t quite know what you want to do yet, who your friends are, or even who the heck you really are. So instead of sitting down and taking a long, hard thinking-session about it, you just decide to play video-games, watch TV, or go on the internet. It’s typical kids stuff that, while watching the Edge of Seventeen, I myself couldn’t help but relate to.

But of course, there is something of a story to the Edge of Seventeen and while it’s not perfect, it still feels honest and raw, something that’s missing from a lot of other teen-comedies.

In a way, it’s refreshing to hear teenagers cuss and talk about sex without a single care in the world. But it’s also more refreshing to hear actors that know how to deliver it all. As Nadine, Hailee Steinfeld has a lot to do and comes out on top; her character doesn’t always make the best decisions, say the smartest things, or even act rationally, but there’s always this sense that, yes, she is a kid and yes, she may eventually figure it all out. Either way, we see a lot to her character that makes her sweet and bubbly, yet at the same time, raw and vulnerable. It’s the kind of performance we don’t see in teen-comedies and it’s also a greater example of why Steinfeld’s one of our best young actresses out there working today.

Tuesdays with Woody.

Tuesdays with Woody.

She’s not the only one who gets away with the whole movie, however. Blake Jenner is good as her older brother, who shows that there’s a little more heart and compassion to his jock-y ways; Haley Lu Richardson plays her sketchy bestie-turned-mortal-enemy and tries to remain sympathetic, even if it’s hard not to hate her character; Kyra Sedgwick may not get a whole lot to do with the mom role, but makes the best of what she can; Hayden Szeto, despite being nearly eleven years older than Steinfeld, still has great chemistry with her and feels believable as a fellow awkward kid who has a better head on his shoulders, but still doesn’t quite got it all figured out yet; and Woody Harrelson, in what could have been a very thankless role as the sometimes inspirational teacher, brings heart, warmth, and humor, sometimes coming close to stealing the show.

But where the Edge of Seventeen ends is that it does have a tad too much of a happy/sappy ending that, unfortunately, doesn’t quite ring true.

Without saying too much, there’s this feeling that we’re supposed to be left with of having this idea that life is going to get better. However, a part of me is curious just how this is? Life, for Nadine at least, will continue to get more and more awkward, with sex coming into the picture, more drinking, and possibly drugs. Oh and yeah, what about her brother and her best friend shacking up? The movie seems to bring all this up, only to then try and tie it all up in a neat, little bow by the end of the hour-and-a-half and sure, it’s an enjoyable ride, but for some reason, it feels like there’s a much bleaker, much more realistic ending waiting somewhere out in the distance.

Who knows, maybe I’ll just have to wait for the Edge of Twenty-One.

Now that’s going to be awkward.

Consensus: Funny, touching and well-acted, the Edge of Seventeen may cop-out by the end, but altogether, still feels like a raw, sometimes painful-to-watch teen-comedy that has bite and something to say.

7 / 10

I know, right? Awkward!

I know, right? Awkward!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Bronze (2016)

Third is the one with the treasure chest.

Back in the 2004 Olympics, Hope Greggory (Melissa Rauch) made the news when she came in third as a gymnast. She had an inspirational story to go along with her whole performance, and because of such, it made her a star. However, it didn’t last long, and now, many years later, she’s still trying to recapture that same sort of infamy she had almost a decade ago, by using it to her advantage at local restaurants and stores in her hometown. But the sad reality is that she still lives with her dad (Gary Cole), steals money from him and his job, and doesn’t really seem to do much with her life except just piss him off, or piss on the other people around her. But it all changes when, one day, her old coach tragically commits suicide and leaves an option up to her: Train a newly-developing talent (Haley Lu Richardson) for the Olympics and she’ll receive half-a-million dollars. Hope doesn’t really care about helping others, but she likes the idea of all that money, so she decides to take on the task, even if that means having to re-visit old demons and friends that she felt better leaving in the past.

That sort-of duck-face doe.

That sort-of duck-face doe.

For a lot of comedies, having detestable characters can sometimes work. Someone who is just so mean and nasty to the world around them, in ways, is pretty funny and honest – it’s easy to relate to a person when your deepest, darkest fears, are brought out by these people and their bursts of anger, however many or limited they may be. But then again, there is something to be said for having detestable characters in a comedy, just for the sake of it.

And that’s the biggest issue of the Bronze.

While it’s nice to see a movie so clear in defining a solid portion of its characters as “a-holes” and not really leaving much of a gray-area, the issue it runs into is that when there’s so many a-holes, what do you do when your movie wants to rely on heart, emotion and inspiration? To just be terrible the whole time, making evil jokes towards characters who probably don’t deserve it, doesn’t quite cut it – sometimes, it’s best to have at least two characters that you can, at the very least, sympathize with. They hold the ship together, even when it seems like the ship is drowning in its own anger and turmoil.

But it also doesn’t help if your characters are being mean to those around them, for no reason and not really having anything funny to say or do. In fact, most of the issues with the Bronze would have probably been forgiven and forgotten about, had the movie itself actually been funny – but nope, it isn’t. What it really is is an excuse to watch a bunch of people say mean things to one another, for the sake of doing so, add some sports in the mix, and yeah, that’s about it.

And honestly, I don’t even think it’s an excuse.

There is a small bit of heart to be found in the flick, and while the movie doesn’t try and get too awfully sentimental, sometimes, a little bit of that can help and go an awfully long way. Movies like Bad Santa, or Bad Teacher, where even the smallest glimmer of light shining through all of the crudeness, can sometimes make a movie better, just because it tries its hardest to paint this character in at least something of a different light and above all, show shadings. In the Bronze, we get some of those shadings with Hope, but they don’t feel believable, deserved, or all that earned; it’s as if the movie knew that it was just way too mean and had to make sure everybody got their hugs at the end of the day.

Eh. Who cares, really?

Eh. Who cares, really?

Which yeah, is perfectly fine (I like hugs), but it doesn’t work here. Melissa Rauch is fine as Hope, showing off a mean side that hardly ever goes away, but despite this being her own script, it’s surprising how very little she gives herself to do. You almost get the sense that she wrote a lot of this movie, with the idea that she would step into the role and have the chance to say all of these terrible and nasty things to people around her. She sure is having fun, but is anyone else? Not really and that’s the biggest problem.

Of course, others in the cast are a little bit better, but they too feel like wooden-shaped caricatures in a movie that wants to be cruel to them, but also give them some cake, too. Thomas Middleditch is great as someone Hope calls “Twitchy” and is fun to watch, but also has a heart to him that’s effective; Gary Cole is good as Hope’s supportive dad; Haley Lu Richardson is constantly sunny-eyed and bright; Cecily Strong plays the lower-class mother of the gymnast and is just over-the-top; and Sebastian Stan clearly seems to be having fun, playing and acting like a total d-bag. The best scene is probably between him and Rauch, where they have sex like you’d expect self-centered gymnasts to have sex like.

But unfortunately, despite it being the funniest scene, it’s also the most imaginative and original, something clearly missing from the rest of the Bronze.

Consensus: Mostly unfunny and unpleasant, the Bronze loves that it gets to be mean and say nasty things, but it never becomes fun or interesting to watch any of it happen.

3 / 10

Soak it in, honey. It don't last forever.

Soak it in, honey. It don’t last forever.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire