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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Isabella Rossellini

Two Lovers (2008)

It all comes down to choices. Really, really hot choices.

After his broken engagement left him cold, crazy, and very disoriented, photographer Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) moves in with his parents in Brighton Beach, where he spends most of his days working for his parent’s dry-cleaning service and trying to drown himself in lakes. Both of his parents know that he’s still going through a rough time, so they don’t want to push him too hard, but they also want him to be happy and feel loved, which is why they set him up with Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), a sweet Jewish girl who also happens to Leonard’s father’s co-worker. They appear to be a fine match, even if Leonard himself is so closed-off, but then he meets his neighbor Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), who absolutely takes his world by storm. But by becoming involved with her, Leonard also realizes that she’s got a lot of baggage to her, too, and Leonard’s not sure whether he wants to stick with that and risk all of the luxury in the world, or play it safe and appease his parents with Sandra.

Baby Goop?

Choosing between Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw, man, what a terrible predicament, right?

Obviously, I kid, but seriously, just looking at this plot from afar, it’s hard to care at all; the three involved in this love-triangle of sorts are all hot, attractive people, who don’t know who they want to marry and spend the rest of their lives with. It sounds so terribly boring and nauseating, but writer/director James Gray knows how to frame this story in a way to where it’s not only interesting to watch play-out, but after awhile, we start to feel the same sort of love-torn and sad emotions that everyone else here practically feels. It’s no surprise, either, because mostly all of Gray’s movies work well as mood-pieces, but Two Lovers may be his most impressive, where he takes a relatively simple tale of two possible love-stories and finds a way to make them both sweet, heartfelt, and awfully depressing.

But still, somehow, Gray finds a way to make it all work. All the movies leading up to Two Lovers, for Gray, happened to be packed with action, violence, incest, and Shakespearean-twists out the wazoo, which is probably why something like this was such a breath of fresh air, as stern and as serious as it may be. Still, it’s interesting to see a lot of what Gray does well in all of his other movies, still works well in Two Lovers – it’s just that everything and everyone is so muted, you hardly even notice anything’s actually happening.

And yeah, it’s kind of beautiful.

Or, Vinnie Shaw? (I don’t think she has a sort of nickname so let’s just roll with that, shall we?)

In a way, Two Lovers is a lot like watching real-life happen before our very own eyes, where we see two love stories unfold, as well as the people themselves. Gray never gets in the way of the material and always allows for the actors to speak for themselves and help develop the characters over time, which is why a good portion of the movie feels like a really small, intimate and cuddly stage-play, where people are going to express their feelings for the whole world to see. But it’s not nearly as melodramatic as that, which helps the movie in the long-run; it always feels honest, raw, gritty, and believable, no matter where the story sometimes leads.

And of course, the performances are pretty great, too. It’s wonderful to see Joaquin Phoenix in such a solid role, where he not only gets to play someone resembling a normal dude – with obvious weird quirks here and there – but also a charming dude all the same, too. So often when we see Phoenix now, we know, love and expect him as the wild and insane guy who will literally go anywhere and do anything for a role, but believe it or not, when he wants to be, he can be quite a likable presence on the screen and have us feel some sort of love for him, too. It helps that this Leonard fella is already a strong character to begin with, but Phoenix finds smart, surprising ways to flesh him out to where he’s more than just a confused sad-sack, but a confused thirty-something trying to get on with his life, but just doesn’t know how.

Meaning, he’s like you or I, so it’s way more interesting.

The two ladies that Phoenix has to choose between, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw, are both pretty good, too, giving us reasons why he should choose one over the other. But honestly, the movie isn’t really about “will he, won’t he” – it’s more about him finding a way to make himself happy and get past this deep bit of sadness in his life. The movie never tries to make one lady seem better than the other, nor does it have to; Paltrow is lovely to watch, as well as is Shaw, and both have great chemistry with Phoenix that I could have watched for days-on-end. But the movie isn’t all about who he goes home with at the end of the day and even when we do get to that point, it’s surprising and a little sad, but totally and rightfully earned.

Man. Why can’t more romance-flicks be like this?

Consensus: With three stellar performances and an interesting eye to romance, Two Lovers is more than just a conventional tale of two girls battling for the love of one man, and more about a man trying to figure himself out, and the ladies who just so happen to be near-by when it’s all happening.

8.5 / 10

Cheers to the winner!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Joy (2015)

So, did Jennifer Lawrence invent feminism, too?

Ever since she was a young girl, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) knew that she was always destined to do something great for the world. While it may have all started in her room where she would experiment with creating little inventions here and there, after awhile, real life started to get in the way and it’s where she found it harder and harder to let her true inspiration come out and make a difference. For one, she got married, had two kids, and then got divorced from Tony (Édgar Ramírez). Then, she moved back into her mom (Virginia Madsen)’s place, where her grand-mother (Diane Ladd) also lives, meaning that the current house situation is incredibly cramped. And now, if matters weren’t already bad, her unpredictable, but always trouble-making father (Robert De Niro), has moved back in and wants to take over the whole family again. But knowing that she’s destined for something greater, one day, Joy stumbles upon a brilliant, but all-too-simple idea: the Miracle Mop. While Joy believes her billion-dollar idea to be brilliant, the only issue here is that she doesn’t quite know how to get in the business of selling her invention to the larger masses where each and every person can see what she’s made. This is when Joy decides to really push her boundaries and take chances that no simple woman in her situation would ever take, but because she’s got nothing to lose, she doesn’t care.

Even during serious times, this family can't help but get ready to start brawling.

Even during serious times, this family can’t help but get ready to start brawling.

About an hour into Joy, after we’ve gotten through all of the wacky family drama, the random dream-sequences in the form of a corny soap opera, the flashbacks, the narrations, the exposition, etc., something happens that wasn’t quite there all along: Excitement. This starts to happen when writer/director David O. Russell decides that the next best step to take this story is to QVC which, believe it or not, ends up working out quite well for the film in the end; it’s only about 30 minutes or so, but it’s absolutely the most fun to be had in the whole two-hours here. Of course, this has to do with the fact that Bradley Cooper shows up and he and Jennifer Lawrence are as spicy and as fun as ever, but it also gives us an inside glimpse of how exactly a product is sold, what goes into getting said customers to buy something, and just how manipulative home-shopping networks can be.

In all honesty, had David O. Russell just made a movie solely based around the inner-workings and early days of QVC, there’d probably be more of something to discuss with Joy. However, the sole issue here with Joy is that it’s not always about QVC, nor is it really about Joy, the character, and her product – it’s more about those around her who constantly bring her down, never allow for her to reach her dreams, and constantly screw up. Once or twice in the beginning of the film is nice to give us an understanding of the kind of situation Joy’s in, but after awhile, it becomes clear that O. Russell has a dead horse he wants to beat, leading to a lot of situations happening the same way, over and over again, with hardly anything new, or surprising learned in the process.

Which is to say that yes, Joy is a disappointment considering what O. Russell has been able to do in the past five years with his career.

However, when you take into consideration great flicks like the Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, not only is the bar raised pretty high, but there’s also a certain expectation that O. Russell himself has already carved-out. Considering that O. Russell himself seems to love and adore dysfunctional families, and cast practically the same people, each and every time he gets a chance to, it’s almost impossible not to approach Joy, another movie about a dysfunctional family, with at least three-fourths of the cast from Playbook and Hustle, and expect the same kind of wonder and entertainment.

The thing with Joy, however, is that it’s a much different, more dramatic, and far more serious movie that, quite frankly, isn’t as bad as I may make it out to be. Disappointing? For sure, but that’s also to say that someone like O. Russell can’t switch things up every so often because of a niche he’s already made for himself; no director ever would be able to stick with one and only style, which is why, on O. Russell’s part, it’s a brave choice to take a story such as this and take it a bit slower.

And this is why there are certain parts and moments of Joy that are actually pretty wonderful.

The babies these two would create. Oh my gosh.

The babies these two would create. Lord almighty.

Of course, the aforementioned QVC-subplot works wonders, but what happens afterwards is interesting, in the way that we get to see Joy, the character, gain more confidence in herself and start to try her hand at making something of her invention and seeing where she can go with it. Because Joy Mangano is already a pretty sympathetic figure who makes it clear from the start that she’s a smart, brassy girl, it’s easy to get behind her and watch as she takes whatever challenges life tosses at her. While most of these challenges concern her family just acting like selfish a-holes, it was still interesting and compelling to watch and see how she reacted to each situation and got through.

And with that said, yes, Jennifer Lawrence is quite good in this role, because how can she not be? Lawrence, despite playing another character she seems too young for, grabs this character, shakes her up and gives it all she’s got; sometimes, it seems like she’s working with a script that isn’t nearly as up to her speed, but at the same time, she keeps things moving and most of all, believable. Though Joy’s already shoddy performance with critics may keep Lawrence away from winning another Oscar of her own, it’s still hard not to believe her getting a nomination for what she does here, as she can be, at times, the best thing going for it.

Which isn’t to hate on the rest of the cast as the likes of Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Édgar Ramírez, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, and the already mentioned Cooper don’t put in fine work, either, but clearly, O. Russell has a problem handling all of their stories/personalities and allowing for them to mix with Joy’s story in a cohesive manner. Because a good portion of these characters are so self-centered, it’s never easy to feel bad for them, which makes them also feel like they’re getting in the way of what could have been a very powerful story about one, small-time woman standing up against all of the adversity in her way to, well, make a difference in the world.

Though I’m not sure just how much of what appears in Joy, is actually true of the real person’s life, O. Russell searches far and wide to make perfect sense of it. He doesn’t always come up with any easy answers or solutions, but for the most part, he gives it his absolute best. But if anything, he just makes you appreciate his last three movies even more and also give the inclination that maybe, just maybe, it’s time for him to change things up a bit.

Not just with his cast, but subject-material as well.

Consensus: Joy is not nearly as magnificent as what David O. Russell has put out in the past five years, but because of a solid lead performance from the always radiant and exciting Lawrence, as well as some strokes of genius, it still works.

7 / 10

No matter what, that J-Law can't seem to get herself out of trouble.

No matter what, that J-Law can’t seem to get herself out of trouble.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Enemy (2014)

So does that mean Maggie has a look-alike?

Anthony St. Claire (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives a simple, quiet life in Canada. He teaches history at the local college; has a girlfriend (Melanie Laurent) that he drinks with and bangs just about every night; and he doesn’t really seem to have much problems in his life, except for the fact that he’s sort of just moping around and not caring about much of anything at all. One day, however, a colleague of his recommends a movie to him in which, all of a sudden, he notices somebody in the movie who looks exactly like him. Automatically, this drives Anthony to figure out just who the hell this person is, and why it is that they look so similar to begin with. Anthony soon discovers that this man is in fact Adam Bell, a two-bit, actor with a pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon) who doesn’t like it when Anthony starts calling the house and wanting to arrange a meet between the two. Eventually though, Adam realizes that he can possibly use Anthony’s resemblance, as an advantage of sorts, in which the two could pass as one another, without anybody noticing a single difference, except for the fact that one’s a bit of a loser, and the other is an ambitious, lively-fella. Or, so we think.

There’s clearly a lot more to this story than what’s just presented up-top. For instance, you’d think that this is just a simple tale of a man who realizes he has a doppelganger, that he decides to scope-out and try to build a relationship of sorts with, that suddenly goes out-of-whack. But nope. That’s how it seems to play-out, at first, but eventually, things get to be a little haywire.

How haywire may you ask?

Leather jacket = cool.

Leather jacket = cool.

Well, Isabella Rossellini, one of film’s most recognizable faces working today, shows up for no less than three minutes on screen and just leaves, never to be seen from again.

However, that’s just the beginning of the strangeness within this movie, because once you realize that there’s more clues than you can shake a stick at here, it’s going to get very complicated to digest. Which is why, despite my enjoyment of it, I can’t say that it’s for everybody. Heck, I can’t even say fully, or wholeheartedly, that it’s for me either. What I can say is that if you like a nice mystery that doesn’t always clue you in on everything it’s trying to do or reveal, then go for this one.

But, if you’re like some ladies and gents out there that I know of, then don’t even bother with it. Not only will it make your mind hurt, and twist, and pull, and do all sorts of terrible, unhealthy things that you won’t like, it will make you want to re-watch it again, and again, and again, and again, only until you finally feel justified in saying you know exactly what happens, for what reasons, to whom, and exactly why. And even then, I can’t assure you that you’ll fully understand it.

So yeah, I may be setting this one up in a pretty big way, but I think it deserves to be. Going into this, I sort of expected a natural-thriller that would give me itty, bitty clues along the way as to what I’m supposed to think and why, but this isn’t that type of movie. You can tell that director Denis Villeneuve is clearly trying to set-up a story in which everything and everybody you see, may not be what it is you’re seeing. Is it all taking place inside of this one guy’s mind? Or, is this all actually happening the way it is presented to us, which could only mean that there are two Donnie Darko’s now gracing this fine world?

The answers never come in a clean way, and I’m not even sure if they come at all, but the movie kept me guessing and trying to connect the dots as much as I possibly could, which is you need with a good thriller. Doesn’t matter if the thriller has barely any shoot-outs or chases through dark and narrow streets; what does matter is that it at least keeps me wondering, waiting and intrigued in the characters, as well as the mysteries surrounding them. And that’s a thriller needs to do – not just for me, but for anyone who wants a little suspense and confusion thrown their way.

The only aspect of this film that I will talk-out against is that I couldn’t help but think that by the end, I didn’t get to know a single person at all. Granted, that may have been what Villeneuve set-out to do all of this time, in a way to only confuse me further, but I did wish that there was somebody I could really get behind or even feel the slightest amount of sorrow or pity for, seeing as how this world they’re in doesn’t always treat them with the best intentions. Sarah Gadon’s character comes sort of close to that kind of sympathetic-figure a movie like this needs, but even when I got to thinking about her character more and more, I felt like the only reason why I did even care for her was because she was pregnant and her husband was a bit of a dick towards her. That’s pretty much it. It didn’t seem to matter if the story on a good note, or bad one, because either way, the gal would have continued to live her life and be fine. Except now, she’d probably have the baby or something. Hell, I don’t even know if she was actually pregnant!

Damn this movie!

No leather jacket = not cool.

No leather jacket = not cool.

Anyway, besides Gadon, Jake Gyllenhaal’s one character in this movie, Anthony, comes to a close second as being the only guy I could even care about, which more or less has to do with the fact that Gyllenhaal is so damn good here at playing both characters here. Granted, it’s not all that hard to play two, different versions of a character in one movie, because when you think about it, all you really have to do is play both sides with totally opposite personalities, or rely on the make-up team to help out in making sure the audience know which character is which. Here, however, Gyllenhaal has a harder-task on his plate where he has to seemingly play two characters who are, essentially, relatively similar. Not just in the way they look like fraternal twins, but by how one character is only a tad more high-strung than the other, but not by all that much.

At first, it seemed like a really hard job for Gyllenhaal to pull-off, but somehow, he does so well with it, that I didn’t even get confused for a single bit as to whom it was that he was playing. And he does so in subtle ways; a twitch of his eye, a tone in his voice, the way he carries himself from one end of a room to another, it all felt so distinctive to whichever character he was supposed to be portraying. Yes, a little more depth into both of these characters would have made this performance so much better than just “Gyllenhaal pulling an Adaptation-like role”, but man, I have to say that this guy seems to keep on impressing me, more and more each time I see him.

Don’t ever give up, Jakie-poo. Keep on acting your rump off, and don’t let these nasty T-Swift rumors get you down. She’s a crazy chick anyway. Ammiright?

Consensus: Will most likely not make a lick of sense after the first couple or so viewings, but regardless, Enemy is still an interesting thriller that doesn’t always answer its questions in an easy manner, but does allow Jake Gyllenhaal to act very well in these dual roles of his.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Dude, who are you?" "I'm you!" "Who?" "YOU!!"

Not-so cool guy: “Dude, who are you?”
Cool guy: “I’m you!”
Not-so cool guy: “Who?”
Cool guy: “YOU!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Blue Velvet (1986)

One of the nuttiest movies, you may ever want to see in your life.

An innocent (Kyle MacLachlan) gets mixed up in a small-town murder mystery involving a kinky nightclub chanteuse (Isabella Rossellini) and a kidnapper (Dennis Hopper) with a penchant for snorting helium.

For all of my years while being interested in film, I never understood how come this movie was so influential. I heard it was just a nutty piece of work, however, now that I have finally seen the legend, I can understand where most are coming from.

David Lynch, can kind of piss me off as a director. Films like Wild at Heart, Mulholland Dr., and Eraserhead are so damn nuts and symbolic, that it’s kind of annoying just to watch the craziest shit happen, without you even understanding why this crap is happening. This is one of the films though, where he actually makes sense and focuses more on the story and outline of these characters rather than the bizarre symbolism.

I understand why this is sometimes viewed as a crazy masterpiece, because it really is one of the first films to show a deeper look into the natural lives of your typical suburban American. Many horror films, drama films, comedies, all take a lot of ideas from this film, especially the idea of a “modern noir”. This was one of the first films to actually plant the themes and characteristics of an old Hollywood noir, and plant it in a modern-day setting, but its also played very well. You can never understand whats happening, and you never know whats right, but as the main character delves deeper into the case, you delve a lot deeper into the society, and how beautiful and lovely it is on the outside, but is a cold, dark place on the outside.

But as usual with any Lynch film, there is always going to be some problems for me. I had a problem with the fact that the ending was trying so hard to make a point about something, but actually kind of failed. I understood the point that Lynch was trying to make about social order, when it comes to gender, but I feel like he could have done it in a better way. Also, I kind of got tired by the 4th time “Blue Velvet” was played. The song was good the first time, but after about 5 times, ehh I think I just want some Roy Orbison. Oh and that’s what I get, in a pretty cool scene.

Kyle MacLachlan most known for being on Lynch’s crazy show, Twin Peaks, actually does a good job with the material he’s given here. In the beginning, he plays this good guy well, and when he’s taken into this under-belly and totally changed against his will, it’s believable. But when it comes to great acting Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper are the ones to watch. Rossellini was known as a fashion model before this film came out, and she totally bares it all out there, and I do mean it all. She really is nuts, but that beauty she has is undeniable, so when she’s acting all innocent and tragic, you can’t feel a bit of sympathy for her, and it really matches the film’s tone. But the craziest motherfucker in the planet is my boy, the one and the only Dennis fuckin’ Hopper. Hopper is one of the most under-appreciated actors in the biz, and he is freaking creepy every time he’s on-screen. The film probably has the most f-bombs ever in a film, just because of Hopper’s mouth, he’s freaky, nuts, crazy, nuts, and inhales helium like a pro.

Consensus: Blue Velvet may has its misfires, but it is still one of the most influential films for its portrayal of the dark, underworld we don’t know we live in, and the people that inhabit, played greatly by the incredible cast.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!

Fearless (1993)

I would become a bit fearless too if I was Jeff Bridges, now that his ass finally won that Oscar.

San Francisco architect Max Klein (Jeff Bridges) miraculously survives a plane crash and emerges a changed man. When Max’s bizarre behavior alienates his wife (Isabella Rossellini) and son, airline psychiatrist Bill Perlman (John Turturro) puts Max in touch with guilt-ridden fellow crash survivor Carla Rodrigo (Rosie Perez), who lost her 2-year-old in the disaster. Working together, can Max and Carla find their way back to emotional equilibrium?

I couldn’t believe how much praise this film has gotten for its portrayal of life and death. I mean this person thinks that he can not at all be harmed or killed in any way, so he just does stupid stuff to see if he can die. I honestly felt like that is such a stupid way to try to show how life shouldn’t be taken for granted.

A bunch of self absorbed a-holes. Oh I had a life changing experience and no one can understand me now. I’m special, blah, blah, blah. What a bunch of crap. Just watching this made me furious at how stupid and self-important people can be.

I did like how this film portrayed the plane crash scenes. They seemed so real where people are in such terror and panic, that they also try to restore calmness and order. Some of the scenes are shot so well, that it was hard to hate the scenes, but still there wasn’t enough of it.

I’ll give it to Bridges who does give a good performance here, its just that I don’t believe its one of his best, mostly due to the fact, that his character is such a d-bag. I feel like if his character changed for the better after the crash we would have been able to cheer for him more and more and like him, but I just kept disliking him more as the film went on. Rosie Perez surprisingly is great here, and doesn’t play that female character that is just used for a romantic love story, instead used for actual insight on a hurt female soul.

Consensus: Fearless boasts good performances, but is way too self-centered with its unlikable main character, and writing is used for trying to be spiritual, but instead comes off as stupid.

2.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!!!