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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Holly Hunter

The Big Sick (2017)

Disease can kill. But also heal. Right? Not sure.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a Pakistani comic living in the windy city of Chicago and, along with his fellow comics, is just trying to get by and hopefully, hit the big-time. But his whole life begins to change when he meets an American graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his stand-up shows and immediately, the two hit it off. The only issue standing in the way of their relationship is that Kumail’s parents want him to get married within his religion. If he doesn’t comply, then guess? He’s practically kicked out of the family and never allowed to contact them ever again. It’s a shame, but it’s something that Kumail, despite his family’s best wishes, has sort of been trying to live against. Which is why Emily doesn’t know how to react to all of this. As a result, they break-up and Kumail is left back to dating women within his religion. But then, suddenly, Emily is in a coma and even worse, her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter), travel all the way up up from North Carolina to see what’s happening with their daughter. It puts Kumail in an awkward situation, but it also makes him want to not just give this family a shot, but possibly even the relationship a shot. When she wakes up, that is.

Is this love? Or just a stand-in?

And here’s the real kicker: It’s all true. Yup. Co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon are, get this, a real life married-couple who met exactly like this and because of that, we’re allowed to sit back, watch and enjoy their dark, twisted, sometimes funny, but always sweet romance blossom (?). Which is odd because the Big Sick takes on so many different plot-threads and tones, that it’s a true wonder how any of it comes together in a cohesive manner, or at all.

Director Michael Showlater knows what he’s doing with this kind of material, in that he knows how to play-up the laughs, but also the sadness and sometimes weightiness of it, too. It’s a slippery-slope that Showlater balances around and while he doesn’t always make it work perfectly, the balancing act is way more skillful, the more you think about it and realize that he’s taking somebody’s else’s own material/life, and doing it all justice. It’s nothing flashy, it’s nothing spectacular, and it sure as hell isn’t anything surprising – it’s just sweet and rather good-natured.

Basically like nothing else the guy has ever done before, which is all the more surprising.

But still, it deserves to be noted that another famous figure had a hand in this pie, and it was Judd Apatow. And yes, you feel every bit of it. See, the Big Sick is one of those comedies that deals with a blog plot, but also likes to get side-tracked every so often by random subplots, characters, and jokes that, sometimes work, and other times, don’t. In this movie’s case, it’s hard not to imagine this movie slicing out at least ten-to-15-minutes worth of footage, because after the two-hour mark, it can feel a bit straining.

That look when you can’t decide whether to head for the hills or not.

And it’s not as if the material isn’t funny, or interesting enough – it’s just that it’s all so predictable that, after awhile, you just want it to get over with. We know that Emily survives, we know that she wakes up to smell the cauliflower (or in this case, Kumail), and we know that the two eventually fall in love and get married. So, honestly, why is it taking so long to get there? And better yet, where’s the rest of the story in the film? We get all of this talk about arraigned-marriages and the sort of controversy surrounding Kumail’s companionship to a white woman, but when it comes time to tell that part of the story, the movie sort of lingers over it.

It’s as if, oh no, it wasn’t a problem in the first place.

Either way, I’m clearly taking away a lot from the Big Sick and I shouldn’t; it’s a funny, heartfelt, and well-acted movie that doesn’t live up to all of the insane praise it’s been getting from every person and their grand-mother, but it’s still a nice, small, and sweet diversion from all of the loudness of the summer blockbusters. It’s the kind of movie that people can go into, expecting a romantic-comedy, getting one, but also being a little happy that there was a little more going on than just two attractive and talented people finding one another, falling in love, and yeah, getting married. It’s also a movie about culture, about family, and no matter how insane they both may all drive us, they are, after all, what makes us, us.

So it’s best to just appreciate it all for what it is and shut the hell up!

Consensus: Despite being overly long and uneven, the Big Sick still works because it’s funny, heartfelt, and an interesting rom-com that goes beyond the usual conventions of the formula.

7 / 10

See? They’re all fine!

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

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Song to Song (2017)

Music rocks. Until it doesn’t.

Set in/around the Austin, Texas music scene follows the story of four different people who are all in some way, shape, or form connected to one another. There’s BV (Ryan Gosling) a struggling lyricist who has chances of becoming the next best thing since Bowie, but for some reason, doesn’t know if he wants to fully commit to this dream just yet. His buddy/co-writer/co-producer Cook (Michael Fassbender) is on a much different playing-field; he’s already established, rich, wild and happy as can be, but also a bit of a nut-case, which leads him to making some pretty rash, awful decisions. Then, there’s his former assistant, Faye (Rooney Mara), who now spends her time taking up odd-jobs, whenever she isn’t flirting with the idea of music. And then, there’s waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman) who meets Cook and ends up not just falling for him, but the world he represents. The same thing happens when BV and Faye meet one another, too, however, their relationship becomes more and more toxic as certain secrets begin to come up into the air.

Look out, Rooney. This is how Baby Goose gets all the ladies.

Song to Song is a lot like every other Terrence Malick film released since the Tree of Life: Rambling, ambitious, meandering, random, and oh yeah, absolutely beautiful. And normally, as was the case in both Knight of Cups and To the Wonder, I would be annoyed, baffled and oh yeah, utterly disappointed; after all, this is the one director who every person in Hollywood wants to work with, drops everything to be around, and do so, without ever even being promised that they’ll be in the final-cut. It’s surprising, actually, because Malick, while no doubt having made some classics in his film-maker career, has more “mehs”, than actually “wows”.

Consider Song to Song in the category of the later, although, with some obvious mild reservations.

Of course, it deserves to be said that, at times, Song to Song can’t help but be incoherent; the editing is so dazzling and jumpy that it doesn’t take long to realize that every scene will probably be on the screen for upwards of five seconds, only to then be switched back to another. The editing is impressive and considering how much footage was probably there to be waded through, time and time again, cut-and-cut, it’s all the more surprising how much of it actually seems to make sense, when put together, but man oh man, the shots can tend to be repetitive.

I mean, yes, I get it: It’s a Malick film. So of course we have to have a bunch of scenes of people frolicking in nature, looking towards the sky, running around exotic locations, and trying not to kiss, but yeah, it happens way too many times here. A part of me wants to learn and accept that as Malick’s thing, and move on, but a part of me can’t help but think it’s just pure laziness, where rather than having to actually write a script, where people speak to one another and profess certain things, they can just run around, glance at each other, and appreciate nature. Once or twice is fine, okay, whatever, but it happens way too often here to where I was beginning to wonder if certain shots were re-used, just so that Malick could hit his frolicking-cue.

And on that note, let me just switch gears by saying, despite these reservations, this movie is quite the watch.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

Sure, it’s Terrence Malick, so the narrative isn’t always the strongest, but in a way, there’s more cohesion here, than there’s been in anything of his since the Tree of Life. Seemingly, they’re two love stories, all taking place around the Texas music scene, and while the movie does ramble on to other places, it’s easy to understand that it is about these four characters and leaving it at that. It’s easy to get confused and well, bored, in Malick’s other flicks, but here, it seems like he knows the kind of story he wants to tell and doesn’t try to go for anything else.

That said, there’s an energy to this thing that just keeps on kicking throughout the whole two hours. It’s honestly what kept me watching, even when it seemed the movie was going to lose its way. But surprisingly, it never does seem to; even in those parts where the movie slows down and focuses on, hey, get this, the actual characters and their lives, there’s still a rambunctious feeling in the air that Malick, believe it or not, just wants to kick out the jams.

Every waitress’ dream: One day, an alcoholic, drug-fueled, crazy and rather insane music-mogul will come in and sweep you off your feet.

And well, he sort of does.

If there’s one complaint that I’ve been seeing around is how Song to Song isn’t really as much about the music, as much as it’s about these characters that make and live around the music, which is an okay complaint, I guess. Except that well, that’s what the movie’s about. Malick doesn’t seem to set out and create some sort of conventional, crowd-pleasing musical in the same vein of La La Land or Chicago, but much more of a narrative-based movie that surrounds itself with loud guitars, amps, drums, and singers, like Nashville, for lack of a better complaint. Sure, we get brief glimpses of Florence and the Machine, Patti Smith, and the Black Lips, but the movie isn’t trying to make this the ultimate Woodstock experience for those who wanted to experience, but more or less, use it as an interesting backdrop for all of these wildly contained lives.

In a way, it’s incredibly smart on Malick’s part, because he not only makes us feel like we’re watching a documentary the whole way through, but a very interesting one at that. Which is to say that yes, Song to Song is beautiful, but you probably already knew that; Emmanuel Lubezki touches something and it automatically turns to art. But there’s something more beyond the prettiness and glossiness of the whole thing that makes it feel much more about the heart, other than the style.

Which is also why Malick does a smart thing in actually allowing his cast to aid him in telling the story, for once.

And with Gosling, Portman, Mara, and especially, Fassbender, Malick’s found some real treats. Granted, a good portion of their performances ultimately come down to narration, but when they are captured on-screen, in the moment, all of them are captivating and enthralling. Fassbender’s probably the stand-out here, showing a loose and wild man in Cook who, despite having all of the money and power in the world, still shows a great deal of darkness, lying underneath. While most of the performance seems improvised, it’s still a true testament to the kind of talent that Fassbender is, where he can play this sometimes over-the-top character and still, somewhat, make him seem real and honest.

Then again, it is a Terrence Malick film, so how real or honest you can get, totally depends on him.

Consensus: Though it does have the ability to ramble at certain points, the exciting energy, utter beauty, and interesting performances of Song to Song are what keep it, at best, compelling and a lively experience. Sort of like, hey, get this, going to a concert. Except with, of course, less music.

8 / 10

Alright, Rooney. Stop being Sia. Be you, girl.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Nine Lives (2005)

Due to the cosmos in the sky, me and some dude from Iowa share the same feelings for bleach? Right?

You know how a cat apparently has nine lives, well, so do women! Well, not actually, but the movie gives us nine stories, all surrounding a woman going through something in her day-to-day life, whether it be at the grocery store, the federal prison, her childhood home, her friend’s newly-acquired apartment, an ex-husband’s wife’s funeral, or so on and so forth. But somehow, in someway, each and every story is connected, rather it be through a character or some event that occurs.

Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia takes what could be a really ordinary, if sad, movie and gives it a little artistic twist by having each and every story filmed in one, single shot. It’s nothing fancy, glitzy, or shiny – just one shot as we watch everything’s that happening in front of our eyes. And yeah, it works. It may seem like a gimmick, but surprisingly, it’s one that ends up working out for the best of the stories, because it makes us feel like flies-on-the-walls, seeing what happens next.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that's ready to argue and fight about who's to blame for their falling-out before they hit college.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that’s ready to argue and fight about who’s to blame for their falling-out before they started college. Possible clean-up needed.

But with like I said, this is an anthology film and with most anthology films, not all the stories work as well as others. Does that make the whole movie bad? Nope, just a tad uneven and it causes a whole bunch of problems when your movie seems to have some great bits, thrown into a not totally cohesive whole.

And if anything, Garcia wants us to know that, the lesson of the story here is that, well, everyone is connected in some way, shape, or form. We just may not know it.

The movie blatantly points this out about once or twice, in two, different ways, which I didn’t mind because it was where the movie was supposed to be getting at, but then, it starts gets obvious. There comes a point in this movie where two characters are literally walking outside, looking up at the sky, and say how they are all connected through the stars and planets in the sky and in our universe. Whatever the hell that means, I’ll never know (especially when I’m sober), but it seems like the movie wanted us to believe that. Many movies movies like Short Cuts and Magnolia have said this before and it’s nothing new, or original – it just makes you seem like you’ve had a tad too much to drink and smoke.

But the central theme can be pushed to the side when you look at the solid cast, all of whom are fine, but with some being a whole lot better than others, solely depending on the stories they have to work with. The opening sequence with Elpida Carrillo as a prisoner who wants to talk with her daughter had all of the right ingredients to make a satisfying, start-off for what was to come, but instead, it seemed almost too much and melodramatic for the sake of being so. Carrillo also isn’t a strong enough actress to really pull this role off and makes it seem like she’s over-acting, even if she might be playing it genuine and raw. I wouldn’t know, because her performance wasn’t all that good.

But thankfully, it gets better. A whole lot better, in fact.

The best segment out of the whole movie, which also featured the best performances were Robin Wright (drop the Penn) and Jason Isaacs as two old flames, who finally meet up in a super market after all of these years. Both are amazing stars and can work material like this till the day they die, but what’s so good about this segment is how each performer shows something more insightful with their character, even as the seconds go by. Even more impressive too, when you take into consideration that just about every segment lasts under ten minutes or less. It’s strange how awkward it starts off, but ends on a happy, heartwarming note that may surprise some people by honest and real it feels.

"Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness."

“Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness.”

Then, the next couple of stories are just okay, if a bit too dry for my sake. The story in which Lisa Gay Hamilton comes back to talk with a possible, sexually-abusive father is compelling, until she starts crying and over-doing it. After this, we see another story with a warmed-up lover in Holly Hunter, and the cold, cynical type of dude in Stephen Dillane as they go to meet old friends and what starts out pretty light and fluffy, becomes very dark and mean, but not in a good way. It’s odd how it transitions almost out of nowhere, which was too glaring to put aside, no matter how good the performances in the little segment were.

For all of you people who watched The Help, and thought that you needed more Sissy Spacek, well, no need to fear. She’s in both stories as a philandering wife of a paraplegic, played by the wonderfully amusing Ian McShane. Both stories are weak and just aren’t interesting, despite her being one of the greatest female actresses working today. But hell half no fear when the adorable, but sassy Kathy Baker comes to town as a woman who is in the stages of getting a mastectomy and takes all of her pain, frustration, and nervousness out on her husband. Baker is a pleasant to watch, because she’s always funny when she’s bitching and yelling at somebody, but the dynamic she shares with Joe Mantegna, who plays her hubby, makes it seem like a real life, married-couple, who really do loveone other and will be there with one another through thick and thin.

Really nice and sweet to see, especially in a movie that hasn’t been so light or hopeful in the first place.

The next sequence of the movie is probably the runner-up for the strongest sequence, with Amy Brenneman as a woman who goes to the funeral of her ex-husband’s wife, which may sound strange and all, but works because of that. Still, no matter how bizarre it may be for this gal to show up to her ex-hubby’s wife’s funeral, there’s still something sweet and endearing beneath it all that leaves you with a happy feeling in the pit of your stomach, rather than an empty one. Lastly, the movie ends with Glenn Close playing the mother of a little girl, played by Dakota Fanning, and is good, if a little weird because of the way it’s structured. However, the movie shows us why it was structured the way it is, despite it not fully working out to the best of its advantage.

Sort of like the rest of the movie, if you think about it.

Consensus: Certain stories work, whereas others don’t in Nine Lives, despite a well-acted ensemble and powerful moments of bleakness, but also sincerity as well. Still, how many movies can there be where it tries to tell us that every person on the face of this planet is connected, and doesn’t try to mention it at least more than two times?

6.5 / 10

Those eyes. THOSE EYES!!

Those eyes, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

My money’s on the guy who can fly. And no, not like a bat.

After nearly destroying all of downtown Metropolis after his brawl with General Zod (Michael Shannon), Superman (Henry Cavill) isn’t quite loved by the general public. The media portrays him as either a “hero”, or a “dangerous alien”, government officials are calling for him to testify to his actions, and even those close to him, like Lois Lane (Amy Adams), still aren’t sure if he’s making the best choices. One person who would definitely agree with Lois is billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), CEO of Wayne Enterprises, and one of the many people who were affected by Superman’s mayhem of destruction. Seeing as how his whole company got screwed-over by Superman, without so much as a “sorry”, or “I.O.U.”, Bruce decides to take matters into his own hands and go after Superman himself, but this time, as Batman. Meanwhile, evil-genius scientist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is conjuring up his own dastardly plan of sorts, but doesn’t seem to keen on letting those in governmental power know what it is. Obviously Superman and Batman got their issues to settle, but with Luthor somewhere in the background, they may have to push it all to the side and focus on the rest of humanity.

"Hero! Hero! Kill him!"

“Hero! Hero! Kill him!”

I’m going to be nice to Batman v Superman. Even after all of the anticipation, hype, and expectations built-up for this thing, it seems like a lot of people are, predictably, not liking it, which isn’t the only reason why I’m going to give it a break. One reason is that it’s a tad better than a lot of people seem to be giving it credit for in that it’s as dark, as serious and as brooding as you can get with a superhero movie. While Christopher Nolan may not be directing (he’s actually producing), his style is seen everywhere – the overbearing Hans Zimmer score, the countless shots of superheros looking into the distance and being sad, daddy issues, and, oh yeah, the seriousness.

Oh, so very serious.

But that’s one of the main reasons why I dug Batman v Superman in the first place – it’s not trying to crack jokes, wink at the crowd, break the fourth-wall, or make it seem like they’re out to provide knee-slappers. What it’s trying to do is give you this story, these characters, and do so in a very serious, almost unrelenting manner. The world painted here by Zack Snyder is a gritty, cold and bleak one, which definitely works, given how the first ten minutes start-off with us seeing just all of the destruction Superman caused at the end of Man of Steel. While Snyder himself may have caught a lot of flack for using that movie’s last-half as some sort of mindless 9/11 allegory, here, he shows that there’s actually a heartbeat to all of that pain and demolition; it’s not just about blowing things up for the sake of blowing them up, but showing that there’s a consequence for these kinds of actions.

That’s why, if anything, Batman v Superman seems to be, for the longest time, very anti-Superman. If it wasn’t for the first ten minutes portraying his act of retribution as something harmful to the rest of society, the following hour-and-a-half questions just what kind of being Superman is, whether or not he can be trusted, and why his better judgement may get the best of him if he’s not paying close enough attention. So rarely do superhero movies nowadays seem to hold a mirror up to their own characters in a way that Snyder, and co-writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer do with Superman and it brings up some really interesting ideas and questions about the idea of a superhero in and of itself.

Like, for instance, would we trust someone who could literally all kill us one day so easily, even if he was just saving us from every cataclysmic event? Or, would the fact that he’s always saving our butts give him enough privilege to do whatever he oh so pleased? And if not, then what would he have to do to ensure that he’s not just free-wheeling on his own? Set-up governmental rules for him to follow by? Or, just let the people decide?

Batman v Superman brings all of these questions ups and while there doesn’t seem to be much interest in actually answering them, the fact that they’re still brought-up at all means a lot.

And most of this is just to get past the fact that the rest of Batman v Superman is pretty messy and odd, even by Snyder’s standards. At two-and-a-half-hours, there’s so much, with so many, going on here, that it’s almost impossible to talk about it all to great length without spoiling something, or just getting lost in the shuffle of this movie, but just know this, there’s so much going on here that it’s basically too much. Snyder doesn’t know how to settle things down enough to where we get a few subplots and leave it at that; instead, the movie has at least five or six subplots going on, all surrounding the main, important one at the center with Batman and Superman coming to battle.

"I see youuuuuuuu!"

Way to hide, bro.

Speaking of them two, the battle they do eventually have is, pretty nice. In fact, all of the action here is pretty well-done and looks great, which is no surprise because Snyder knows his way around a good shot. It’s just that the movie literally takes two-and-a-half-hours to actually get to the ultimate showdown between Batman and Superman, when it definitely doesn’t need to. The movie already makes itself pretty damn clear what Bruce Wayne is going to be doing for the next hour, which is, chasing after Superman, so why take up all of our time, give us subplots of characters we don’t give a hoot about, and further prolonged the battle we’ve all been waiting so desperately for?

Don’t get me wrong, the fight is definitely awesome and it’s not like I would have preferred it if the fight had been in the first five seconds, but still, there’s too much time dedicated to senseless stories, when it could have been dedicated to developing both Superman and Batman more. And while you could definitely make the argument that we already got enough development with Superman, a part of me walked away feeling like Superman was a bit of a dick in this; when everyone is up-in-arms about all of the destruction he caused to the city, he literally says nothing and continues to fly around the sky, pouting, and, every so often, crying on Lois’ shoulders. No inspirational speech, no selective reasoning, no mic-drop speeches, no nothing.

He literally just takes it and leaves everyone to hate him and question him.

If anything, it’s Ben Affleck’s Batman who fares a lot better than most of the people here. As an older, much more grizzled Bruce Wayne, Affleck gets a chance to show a more seasoned-side to himself than we’ve seen in recent time and it works. While there was a public outcry over Batman being handed to Affleck, he shuts them all up by showing, not only is his Batman a freakin’ bad-ass that will literally stab a guy, or shoot him in the face, but will also take no mercy on whoever has done him wrong.

Screw these Justice League movies! Give me the solo Batfleck movie now!

Consensus: Messy and at times, incoherent, Batman v Superman has gotten its haters for a reason, but for those willing to look past its many weaknesses, will also see a very dark, very serious and very exciting superhero movie that gives us a solid new beginning to the DC franchise, that can hopefully pick up the pieces a bit after this.

6.5 / 10

It always takes three to tango. And what a hot and sexy tango that would be.

It always takes three to tango. And what a hot, sexy tango that would be.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Take it from rappers, being imprisoned makes you a better musician.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) all escape from jail to embark on a buried-treasure that Ulysses himself declares that he hid and is safe and sound somewhere. However, they have an awful long way to go before they get to the treasure, which means that they have to go through a lot of hoops, meet a lot of shady characters, and most of all, try to stay away from the police’s sights. Obviously, this sounds a lot easier said then done, but everything and anything seems to be happening around the same time that these three are heading out for their adventure. For one, they unintentionally become a popular folk band, then, they get mixed-up with the KKK, make an African American friend by the name of Tommy Johnson, have a run-in with Baby Face Dillinger, and, most importantly, meet the acquaintance of some very lovely ladies. But no matter how many holes may stand in the way of these guys’ trip, they never forget about the treasure that’s just awaiting for them to seize and make their own.

Try singin' your way out of this one!

Try singin’ your way out of this one!

There’s no denying that the Coens have a certain love and adoration for their characters, no matter how silly, ridiculous, or over-the-top they may, or can get. Some people say that they make fun of said characters, as well as their settings, but I tend to disagree with this notion, as it’s clear from the very start that the Coens find something very interesting about each one of their characters that they draw and create, as well as the world around said characters that seem to take on a whole personality on its own. In O Brother, it’s clear that the Coens have a soft place for the sweaty, mugginess of Depression-era Mississippi that’s less about making fun of people who talk funny, but more about embracing some of their more old-timey notions of life.

Obviously, the Coens are a bit subversive about this idea, too, with featuring a story all sorts of violence, racism, and blood, but they don’t ever lose their sense of fun here. They also never seem to sell themselves short; rather than making this just a one-note premise in which these stupid characters get away with everything that comes their way, they show that there’s some trouble and difficulty for these characters to get from point A, to point B. Of course, O Brother is, first and foremost, an adventure flick and it’s nice to see the Coens give as much attention to their characters, as much as they do to the jokes and random sequence of events.

For instance, Ulysses, Delmar, and Pete may all seem like your typical, bumpkin idiots, but really, the Coens show that there’s more to them.

Not only do they have hearts, but they all do seem to genuinely care for one another that makes it easy to see why they’ve got such a strong bond in the first place. As a result, we want to see these three together more and more, not just because they’re fun to watch (which they are), but because there’s something warm, soft and cozy about knowing these three pals are all together and because of that, nothing will go wrong. Of course, things don’t always turn out that way, but still, watching and listening to these three characters was more than enough to stick around.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain't gonna work.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain’t gonna work.

And let’s not forget to mention that George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson all do fantastic jobs in these roles, seeming like they’re very interested in who these characters are, past the backwater-stereotypes. Clooney, however, is the one who really seems like he’s having the time of his life, smirking, snarling and laughing in just about every scene he’s shown, where you get the idea that he could not wait a single second to work with the Coens, nor could he get enough of the fact that his character is, in some ways, the smartest out of the three. Clooney gets to use a lot of big words and articulate a whole lot, which may not sound like it works, but surprisingly, does, and it just goes to show you what Clooney can do when he’s a bit unhinged and less caring about appeasing a certain demographic.

There’s more people in this film, like John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, and others, who show up here, do their thing and show that they’re worthy of being around, which makes O Brother all the more exciting.

There’s not a huge world out there for the Coens to work with, but it’s all up to their own choosing. While O Brother is certainly not the Coens best movie, it’s still their most ambitious as it shows that the studio had no problem funding their vision and idea for this movie, even if every period detail seems perfectly picked to the bone. And with more money and freedom to do what they want, they run wild. Sometimes, the goofiness, other times, it doesn’t; when the movie is supposed to be deep and serious, it can’t help but stumble and make you wonder where all the smiles and charms went. But still, it’s a Coens brother movie, which mostly always means, it’s worth seeing.

If not for them, then at least do it for the soundtrack.

Consensus: Perhaps not the Coens best, yet, at the same time, still very much an exceptional piece of work from the power duo, O Brother shows they not only have a keen eye for attention to detail and character, but also their odd sense of humor that still hits.

7.5 / 10

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Thirteen (2003)

Just when sending your daughter to the convent seemed like cruel punishment.

Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) is about to begin her first year in junior high and in order to do it right, she’s got to get rid of her past life. That means no more studying, no more nerdy friends, no more playing with Barbies, and sure as hell no more being lame! And in order to be seen as “cool”, or “hip”, or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays, Tracy latches right onto the most popular girl in school, Evie (Nikki Reed). This also means, that to ensure that she stays cool, Tracy will have to do all sorts of scandalous stuff that the old Tracy would never even dream of doing. Meaning, there’s a lot of sex, drugs, booze, and stealing, all of which, Evie and Tracy seem to absolutely love doing together. However, the one person who isn’t quite the biggest fan of what Tracy’s up to, or Evie either, is Tracy’s mom, Melanie (Holly Hunter). Although Melanie and Tracy did, at one time, have a very strong relationship, she sees that dangerously slipping away now and will do anything to get that love back. That is, before it’s too late and she’s lost Tracy to the deep, dark world of rebellious 13-year-old girls!

Don't do that.

Don’t do that.

Thirteen is, and also isn’t, is an after school special. If you’re going to place it in a specific sort of subgenre to make it appeal more towards a target audience, then yeah, Thirteen can definitely be considered an after school special. Kids are acting up in all sorts of mischievous ways here and ultimately, get lessons learned, and it all feels like something you’d see tuning into either on Lifetime, or TLC.

The difference between Thirteen and those other movies is that, well, it doesn’t hold back.

Thirteen is the kind of coming-of-ager that Larry Clarke would soon one day love to make, but can’t help himself to actually create because he’s too concerned with pubic-hair and unsimulated sex scenes; there’s so many scenes where barely legal (or, not at all) kids are participating in sexual activities, drug-use, cutting, hitting, and drinking, that it’s more than enough to make you want to turn away. And sure, while we know that everything these kids are doing are, in fact, fake and put-on for the camera, co-writer and director Catherine Hardwicke shoots it in such a realistic manner, that it can sometimes feel like a documentary. Which definitely works in the movie’s favor because it helps make it seem like this is a tale that any person can, has, or will, experience.

Being thirteen and going through all the sorts of problems that 13-year-old goes through, isn’t just limited to one gender, race, or belief; everybody goes through teenage angst at least once during their life. Sure, some bouts with angst are a lot more serious and vicious than others, but still, the fact remains, most people, when growing up, usually tend to face a lot of problems and commit acts that they won’t be looking back on in ten or so years, with any sorts of smiles whatsoever. But, in a way, that’s fine, because that’s just how life goes sometimes. What matters most, though, is how you bounce back from all that that makes you, well, who you are.

That’s why Thirteen doesn’t ever, not for a single second, ever judge its characters for what they’re doing, even though it would have definitely been easy to do.

That Tracy falls hook, line and sinker for Evie as soon as she sees her make fun of her, and wants to start talking, dressing and acting like her, only makes sense because when we’re young, that’s all most of us want to do. While we may not want to be the most popular kids in school, we still want to have that feeling of being accepted, or part of some clique that we can hang around with when life can get us down. That’s why when Tracy starts doing all of the things that Evie’s doing and without ever hardly putting up a fight for what she believes to be right, either, it’s hard to be really mad at her. She may be a bit of an a-hole to the rest of her family, but when were any of us ever nice to those who loved and cared for us at that age, huh?

Hardwicke is smart though in giving us every single little gritty detail about Tracy’s transformation, without ever trying to turn its head. There’s plenty of moments that she could have definitely done so and we wouldn’t have at all blamed her (like the cutting scenes, for instance), but she doesn’t, and that, above everything else, she deserves credit for. Not to mention that Nikki Reed, who also wrote the screenplay with her, deserves even more credit for not just turning in a great performance as Evie, but for also making a great script that feels smart and nonjudgmental – something that may have not been easy to do as a 15 or 16-year-old girl, which she was at the time.

But really, it’s the two performances from Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter that I continue to come back to.

Or that.

Or that.

In the case of the former’s, Wood’s great here because she feels like a real teen, actually diving as deep as a girl like her would dive into being accepted. There’s never a moment where she seems like she’s over-acting, or demanding all eyes to be on her; and even if she does, it’s intentional, because that’s probably what her character wants people to do at that same very moment. It’s no surprise that Wood’s a great actress, but after seeing her work here, it makes me wish that she’d be making more wonders in adult-hood. She’s clearly got the talent, all she needs is another juicy role to make people remember what she’s been able to do since she was, hell, 13.

As for the later, there’s no denying that Holly Hunter is a class-act in whatever she does, but here, she’s especially so. With Hunter’s Melanie, we get the real heart and soul of the movie; while a solid majority of the movie is centered around useless acts of sex, drugs, and small-time crime, the heartbeat at the center that keeps it pulsing, is actually Hunter’s Melanie, who never turns her daughter away or down for whatever it is that she demands. While she may give her too much freedom at times, she’s only doing it because she genuinely wants her daughter to be happy, no matter what. She’s the kind of mom that every person probably wishes they had (minus the ex-drug use, of course), which makes it all the more painful to watch it when, time after time, Melanie reaches out to Tracy and, time and time again, she continues to get denied and have everything shoved back into her face.

But that’s just what growing up is all about. Be prepared.

Consensus: Despite it seeming like something you’d see after school, Thirteen is a more believable and honest coming-of-ager that doesn’t pull any punches, but is better off for that, too.

8 / 10

But yeah, do that. Hug mom till you can't hug her no more.

But yeah, do that. Hug mom till you can’t hug her no more.

Photos Courtesy of: Tumblr

Manglehorn (2015)

ManglehornposterWhen you’re sad and lonely, get a cat. Those little a-holes seem to help out.

A.J. Manglehorn (Al Pacino) lives a very quiet, care-free life. He lives with his cat that he loves so much, owns a key shop somewhere around town, goes out to eat when he feels like it, goes to the bank to flirt with one of the tellers (Holly Hunter), and will occasionally head on over to the local casino. Though he has a son (Chris Messina), the relationship the two have isn’t great to where they constantly keep in touch – except for only when the other needs money. But for some reason, Manglehorn is starting to think a tad differently about his life and realizes that maybe it’s time for some things to change. This pushes him to finally ask that bank teller out on a date, reconnect with his son, and above all, try and have something of a relationship with his grand-daughter. For some reason, however, there’s something in Manglehorn’s past that’s constantly keeping him away from doing that. Nobody really knows but him, so what is it exactly?

Last year, with Joe, David Gordon Green finally seemed to have gone back to his roots, and while he was at it, find the perfect suitor for his unique sense of style with the likes of Nicolas Cage. Sure, the movie may have depended a lot on the performance of Cage, but as a whole, it brought Green back to the good old days of when he made smaller, more indie-based flicks that seemed so strange oddly put-together, that they seemed like nothing more than crappy student films. However, for better or worse, they weren’t; they were David Gordon Green’s babies that he wanted to display for the whole world to see. What the world decided to do with them, was totally their choice.

First dates don't get anymore exciting than this!

First dates don’t get anymore exciting than this!

As it will be with Manglehorn – another flick that finds Green back to his old indie-world.

And just like with Joe, Green’s been able to find another talented star who is able to gel with his unique style with the likes of Al Pacino, surprisingly. Over the past year or so, Pacino has really stepped away from the big, mainstream lime-light and stick it straight with the indies, and while they may have not all worked out perfectly as a whole, there’s no denying that Pacino’s very good in them. Now, at this point in his career, Pacino is less concerned with making money and pleasing others, and more or less concerned with just challenging himself and showing the rest of the world that it doesn’t matter how old you get, you can still season and hone your craft.

With this character of Manglehorn, Pacino gets a chance to do so and it surprisingly works for the rest of the movie. Even though a lot of the lines that Pacino mutters are nothing more than a faint whisper, at times, there’s still a sense that there’s something more to this guy than he’s letting on. Pacino has the great ability to make it seem like he’s improving his ass off, even if the script is written exactly as how it’s coming out, and here, as Manglehorn, there are many instances in which it seems like Pacino’s just making it all up as he rolls on along. But somehow, once again, it works – it makes you see that this character may be a bit out-of-touch with the world around him and when push comes to shove, can be as charming as you or I.

That’s if, you know, you or I were Al Pacino, of course.

No, Harmony Korine. Just leave.

No, Harmony Korine. Just leave.

But anyway, what Pacino’s performance in the key role shows about the rest of the movie, is that when Green just allows for the camera to sit down and just observe whatever Pacino’s doing, or saying, or acting with, the movie’s something of a little delight. The scenes Pacino has with Holly Hunter and her character are at times sweet, and at other times, odd, but there’s no denying that there’s an engaging simplicity to them all that puts us all one step closer to these characters, rather than making it feel like Green’s style is getting in the way too much. Even the few scenes Pacino has with Chris Messina’s character run with the same kind of energy, although in a different manner, of course.

However, the problem that this movie runs into is that it feels like it’s a little excessive in certain details. Now, even though Green didn’t write this (Paul Logan did such), the movie still has his certain trademark for letting the weirdest little details sink in, but whereas his movies end with that and just allow for them to be a thing, Logan seems like he wants this tale to be about so much more. For instance, it’s never clear where exactly this movie is going, all of a sudden until the last half-hour and we realize that, oh wait, something’s troubling this character that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Honestly, I just presumed he was just an old crank and left it at that; anything else seemed to not exist, until it was coincidentally brought up later on.

Then, there’s the odd subplot of Manglehorn’s past life coming into the forefront of the plot, which never seemed to really go anywhere. Throughout the movie, we constantly get to hear little glimpses of a conversation some characters are having with one another about a past recollection of Manglehorn and something he did. Sometimes they’re heroic tales, sometimes they’re weird, but either way, they feel a tad unnecessary. It’s almost as if Green and Logan felt like having someone as talented as Pacino in the lead role wasn’t enough to make him interesting as is, so to add-on all of this supposed backstory would just help him out. Problem is, it didn’t happen and just goes to show you that sometimes, you shouldn’t get in the way of an artist and his art.

Especially when that artist is Al Pacino.

Consensus: Due to Pacino’s great performance, Manglehorn moves in certain areas that you don’t expect it to, to much surprise, that is sometimes both good, as well as bad.

6.5 / 10

I'd trust that grizzle with opening up my car.

I’d trust that scruff with opening up my car.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Who cares about family when you got a plate full of turkey right in-front of you?

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is a divorced, single-mom who just lost her job and now has to fly home for the traditional family Thanksgiving Dinner in Baltimore. Thing is, her parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft) are a bit out-of-whack, her gay-brother (Robert Downey Jr.) likes to start a whole bunch of trouble, and her sister (Cynthia Stevenson) doesn’t like anything that anybody else does.

Ohhh, Thanksgiving. The family, the mashed potatoes, the turkey, the corn, the butter, the bread, and most of all, the fights. Yes, not matter how perfect your family may be, there are always fights to be had around this joyous time because let’s face it, any time you get a group of people together, to sit-around and eat dinner, there’s going to be some words thrown around and about and that’s just the way it works. Me, on the other hand, I eat, talk, watch football, and that’s it. If my family fights, then so be it because I know I’m not getting myself involved and I’m sure as hell not missing out on some turkey, that’s for damn sure. To be honest though, I think eating turkey was something that was more interesting to think about than watching this movie.

Jodie Foster went behind the camera for the 2nd time with this flick and you can sort of tell that she’s connecting with this topic through her own experiences with her, and her family, especially around Thanksgiving. Now maybe since Foster was such a big-name at such an early-age, maybe she didn’t really have nice, little, suburban-cooked meals of turkey with her ordinary-family of regular-day people, but you can definitely tell that she enjoys that aspect behind Thanksgiving because it shows a lot in this film, and there’s just a certain easy-going feel to it that makes it so pleasant of a watch. All holiday movies are cheery and happy-go-lucky, and this one is no different but it’s something about the family-dynamic that this movie nails so well that got me all cheerful.

All of the interactions these characters shared with one another, all felt real for about the first hour or so. I liked how everybody in this family, knew each other, had their own ways of communicating with one another, and didn’t hold-back when it came to expressing their real-feelings about something, whether it be each other or the world around them. That’s how a real family is and I liked watching everybody just talk and be themselves around one another, even if themselves was just a selfish, condescending piece-of-crap that you wouldn’t want to be around, let alone spend all of Thanksgiving Dinner with. I don’t know how many actual, normal Thanksgiving Dinners Foster has had in her life, but I can definitely tell that she enjoys the look and feel of a believable family-dynamic and how everybody gets that all families are wacky, dysfunctional, and always, I do repeat, always fight about something stupid or meaningful.

However, this whole realistic family-dynamic doesn’t go on forever. After the first hour of this movie, it seemed like Foster sort of lost what she was going for originally, and just decided to make this one, long soapy melodrama and sort of abandon all of the realistic, family-stuff that was going on before. I liked when the family was arguing and how they couldn’t decide on what to eat or not, but I didn’t give a single-crap about how the father remembers the good old days and how he could wish to go back in-time and do them all over again. I’m sorry, but it didn’t interest me and it seemed like Foster lost herself because instead of focusing on the whole family and what they’re all about, she focuses more on Claudia as time goes on and as good as interesting as she may be at-times, she’s never fully-developed.

You have to give Holly Hunter a lot of credit for really nailing her roles as Claudia. Claudia is a bit of nut-job that obviously has problems with her professional and personal life, and even though that is touched-on within the first 20 minutes or so, it never feels like we really care all that much to begin with. Then, the film starts to really focus on her and what’s going on with her life, and it makes no sense as to where all of this crap is coming from. I get it, she’s a bit sad, and she misses her daughter, but what does that have to do with her and her personality. I didn’t get what Foster was touching on with her and even though Hunter is very-good here, I still wish that her character was more fully-developed and wasn’t used so randomly.

Everybody else in the cast is pretty good, too, and to be honest, a lot more interesting than Claudia in-ways. Robert Downey Jr. seems like he’s having a ball as Claudia’s trouble-making brother, Tommy, and just uses that “talking-really-fast” shtick oh so well here as he does everywhere else. Him and Hunter have a nice chemistry that really does feel like they are brother and sister, and that they have always loved each other through thick-and-thin and just watching them together was great to see, especially since Downey was probably all coked-up out-of-his-mind while he was doing this. Anne Bancroft plays the mother, Adele, and is very, very good as we all know her as being and just nails the whole cooky, paranoid mother-role very-well. Hell, in a way, it even reminds me of what my mom may be in the near-future but I’m not banking on it. A super young-looking Dylan McDermott shows up here as Leo Fish, a friend of Tommy’s, and he’s okay but he seems way too comfortable with this family, way too quick. Literally, as soon as the guy stops in, he starts making wise-cracks to Claudia about how much of a hell the house has got to be and it’s obvious that he wants to get into her parents, because why else would he randomly be talking to her like that, but it didn’t seem believable. Instead, it just came off as a bit creepy and if he was a guy that one of my relatives brought over for dinner, I’d probably want him the hell out. Then again, it’s Dylan McDermott and I’d be pretty honored if the guy showed-up in my house in the first-place so never mind that noise that I’m spraying.

Consensus: Home for the Holidays has the look and feel of a cheery, good-spirited holiday movie, but also feels like it’s trying to go for a bit more and instead, bites off a little bit more than it can chew.

6/10=Rental!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Gobble Gobble!

Raising Arizona (1987)

Coen Brothers can basically do no wrong.

Ex-cop Edwina “Ed” McDonnough (Holly Hunter) and her ex-con husband, H.I. (Nicolas Cage), are devastated when they learn they can’t have children. Not to worry: They reckon they’ll just “borrow” one of furniture magnate Nathan Arizona’s (Trey Wilson) new quintuplets.

Now this film was the Coen Brothers next hit after Blood Simple. That was very slow paced and spare, however with this, it’s upbeat, funny, and overall some of the better work that they have done.

The story is so off-the-wall. It is all just so goofy, to its characters, its story even to its look at points. The film pokes fun at heart of America citizens which didn’t seem in good taste, but then soon starts to redeem itself due to some big laughs that make you just listen to the jokes rather than the visuals or story.

However their were some slow patches, and parts that didn’t make sense. Such as Cage always dreams of  a crazy biker who was always killing things, and somehow he ended up turning real, and finding out how to solve one case that I can’t really tell you. For me this was really confusing but at the same time, I just ignored it due to the humor.

The Coen Brothers really do know how to just film a movie with their realistic as hell camera work. The film has many chases and action, but the camera never loses pace with its action and you always feel like your on the ride of a lifetime with some of these shots. Also, the film is really great to look at with all its vibrant colors, and such make this film a lot more colorful.

The performances here are some of the funniest and quirkiest made from the stars. Nic Cage plays a goofy crook, who always has these hilarious insights on life, that are just so dumb, but at the same time are just great and actually kind of smart if you think about it. Holly Hunter does even a better job as Ed the ex-cop, and the one thing that these two have in common despite being on two opposite sides of the law, they both have very good chemistry together and it rarely ever seems forced.

The film does a great job at leaving us with a thoughtful message with a powerful scene. It tells how some people fit into this crazy world, and how others sometimes cannot, and maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t be too quick to judge either group.

Consensus: Raising Arizona has some rough patches, but is revived with its hilarious and at the same time quirky humor, unusual characters with wonderful performances, and a powerful message to leave us off on this crazy ride straight from the Coen’s.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!!