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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Isiah Whitlock Jr.

CHIPS (2017)

Cause idiot cops can still be funny in 2017, right?

Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña) have just joined the California Highway Patrol in Los Angeles, but for very different reasons. Baker is a former motorbike rider who’s trying to put his life and marriage back together, whereas Poncherello is a cocky, undercover FBI agent who’s investigating a multi-million dollar heist that may or may not actually be an inside job. The two are somewhat of opposites, with Baker being the far more touchy-feely of the two and even though they don’t seem to necessarily understand one another just yet, they know one thing is certain: They absolutely have to nab the bad guys. But in order to do that, they’re going to have to do some straight-up detective-work, that may or may not also include a whole lot of faith and trust between the two being exchanged. Baker’s ready for that, but Ponch, when he isn’t having all sorts of hot sex with the ladies, isn’t.

Hey, at least there’s always Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television.

Hollywood’s got the bright idea that what the world needs right now are more and more of R-rated reboots of old-school TV shows. Whether the actual shows themselves were good, bad, or even memorable in the slightest, it doesn’t matter – if they’ve got some form of nostalgia attached to them, Hollywood’s going to take it over and bring it back to the mainstream, but with naughtier, louder, and much more current jokes. And Hollywood can’t be blamed for this either, because with the success of 21 Jump Street, both commercially and critically, it’s no shock that Baywatch and eventually, CHIPS were next on the list.

Did either of them need to be? Probably not. Especially CHIPS, though, and it’s fairly obvious in the first ten minutes that this is going to be a misguided affair. Writer/director/star Dax Shepard, for some odd reason, may seem to have a love and passion for the original show growing up, because taking on triple-duty just doesn’t work for him. What should have been a joyous moment in his life and career, honestly may have been a little too much to deal with, as the direction itself, while loud, bright and big, equals up to nothing. His script is even worse with jokes just not connecting at all, or bordering on mean and offensive, and his performance, while somewhat charming, also feels like it’s him just doing the usual act we’ve seen from him, time and time again. And it’s a shame, too, because Shepard’s an actually likable guy who seems genuinely talented.

Why he wanted to make this movie so bad, is beyond me and it shows.

Sheeeeeeeit, indeed.

Sure, there’s a few jokes every so often that connect, but not really as they’re just the bottom of the barrel. There’s too much gay-panic jokes that are trying to poke fun at the idea of gay-panic itself, but still seem to make fun of the idea of two men being close and intimate; women are clearly hated here with barely any female character being a nice person; the central-conflict and supposed villains never make any sense, nor do they ever seem existent; and oh yeah, everyone else feels wasted and somewhat bored. It’s nice to see a great and underappreciated talent like Michael Peña get a lead role in a major motion-picture for once, but even he’s saddled with a boring character who’s main purpose to serve to the plot is that he forges no connections with anyone around him, sleeps around, is a bit of a jerk, and oh yeah, doesn’t like touching dudes.

It’s hack comedy for someone who isn’t a hack and it makes it all the more disappointing to watch this go down. Cause even at 100 minutes, the movie feels at least three-hours longer than that, with a plot that never comes together, character’s that feel false, and most importantly, comedy that’s just not funny. The only person here to blame is Dax Shepard, since this seems to be his baby, and it’s sad.

Let’s hope that he wakes up and does learn a little bit from this.

Consensus: Frequently unfunny and mean-spirited, CHIPS features an A-list cast and crew and saddles them with hack-jokes, a weak-story, and no reason for existing, except to hopefully make some nostalgia-money. And hell, it couldn’t even do that correctly.

2 / 10

Oh, what an odd couple!

Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures

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She Hate Me (2004)

She hate me, she hate me not.

Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a young, brash hotshot at a large biotech company that’s on the verge of creating a vaccine for AIDS. However, a whole swirl of controversy surrounds him and the company for supposed wrongdoings, when he’s the one who blows the whistle. Obviously, Jack’s bosses aren’t too happy about him opening his mouth, so they make him the one to take the fall, which the leads the government to look further and further into Jack’s life and freezing all of his accounts. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, however, Jack leads the life of a young, New York bachelor. So now, Jack needs some way to make any bit of cash he can find – that’s why when his ex-girlfriend (Kerry Washington), comes by with her girlfriend (Dania Ramirez), in desperate need of a sperm donor, he’s more than willing to accept the offer. But because Jack is so good at what he does, word has spread about him and now, every lesbian who wants to have a baby are hitting Jack up for sex. Of course, they give him money and all that, but really, what Jack wants, is a love in his life and some meaning.

Is this love?

Is this love?

Deep down inside the dark, fiery hells of She Hate Me, lies, believe it or not, a funny movie from Spike Lee. What with all the impregnating of lesbians and such, Lee finds a certain bit of energy that he’s utilized in practically every film, but actually seems to be having fun. There are some small points he seems to make about gender-politics and homosexuality, but really, none are too preachy to where they take over what Lee’s trying to do – basically, he’s setting out to make us laugh. It’s not the kind of Spike Lee we’re used to seeing, which is why She Hate Me, for a meager amount of time, feels like Lee’s funniest flick where, he doesn’t care about preaching or yelling at the audience, but instead, having them chuckle.

Then, it’s all downhill from there.

See, while a good portion of She Hate Me is about this young guy having sex and impregnating lesbians, there’s also another good portion of the movie that concerns itself with being about AIDS, about Congress, about big, Enron-like corporations that swallow-up the middleman and don’t take the blame, about the mafia, about sexuality, about Italians, about African Americans, about Caucasians, about racism, and well, so much more. Really, She Hate Me is packed to the gills with numerous subplots, ideas, themes, statements, and viewpoints that, after awhile, it all becomes tiring.

But I sort of liked that.

Spike Lee hasn’t always been known as the easiest director to follow or like; most of his films are preachy and one-sided, but are still, for the most part, compelling to watch and be apart of. While some may not agree with his general viewpoints on certain issues like race, sex, or class, there’s no denying that his movies are entertaining and get you thinking harder than most other film-makers. So what if Spike Lee creates a mess? If the mess is, at the very least, interesting and seems to want to say something, no matter how muddled it may be, then so let it be!

That’s why, no matter where She Hate Me goes, tries to say, or ends up, I wasn’t pissed. I was confused and a little befuddled, but I was never bored and there’s something to be happy about with that. While Lee could have made a drag of a movie that goes from sexuality-to-politics at the snap of his finger and not really done much with it, he does, at the very least, push it to its extreme limits where we can see where he’s going – we may not know why he’s going there, but hey, at least he’s keeping us watching. Once again, it may just be me who feels this way about She Hate Me, but I don’t care: A mess is a mess, no matter what.

Or this?

Or this?

But sometimes, it’s all a matter of just how well you dress that mess up to appear like something extraordinary or, better yet, smart.

And in the midst of all this havoc that Lee creates, Anthony Mackie does a great job as Jack Armstrong. Now, Mackie’s a force to be reckoned with and constantly shines in everything he shows up in; however, back in 2004, he wasn’t known for much (except for getting chewed the ‘eff out by B-Rabbit), but here, for what appears the first time, he gets a chance to show his range and just how well he can handle and adapt to Lee’s idiosyncratic style. Because there’s so many different flicks going on at once during She Hate Me, Mackie has to handle each and everyone with a certain level of believeability, as if this is in fact, the same character, going through all these sorts of different transformations and situations – all of which, Mackie does quite well with and actually comes out on top. Of course, there’s a very interesting movie to be made about what Jack’s life and romance, but Lee is less concerned with that at times.

This allows for the rest of the ensemble to show up and, in some ways, light the screen up just as much as Mackie, even if it seems like they may be showing up from the sets of other flicks. Kerry Washington is sexy and dangerous, both at the same time, but also has a nice bit of chemistry with Mackie; Dania Ramirez is sympathetic as her girlfriend who, despite wanting a baby and being a lesbian, is willing to have sex with a man, even if she doesn’t really want to; Ellen Barkin and Woody Harrelson are, oddly enough, hammy and over-the-top as Jack’s former bosses who get rid of him and seem every bit as detestable as Lee wants them to appear to be; John Turturro shows up as an Italian mob boss that has an interesting scene, but once again, appears literally out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to add much to the final product; and yeah, there’s plenty more where they come from. Everybody’s fine and trying to do what they can do, but really, they’re stuck trying to work within Spike Lee’s mind.

And what a crazy, but watchable one it is.

Consensus: Jumbled, odd, sometimes confusing, and always interesting, She Hate Me is the kind of mess we expect to see from Spike Lee, even if it does occasionally lapse into being one too many films for one movie.

6.5 / 10

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

25th Hour (2002)

I just hope that, in the midst of all this, Sal’s window has finally been fixed.

Within the next 24 hours, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) will be going away to jail where he’ll most likely spend the next seven years of his life, after being caught with stashes of heroin in his couch. However, he doesn’t plan on spending the day in utter sadness, instead, he decides to spend it all with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), his dad (Brian Cox), his childhood buddies who couldn’t be anymore polar opposite from him (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his loyal pooch. While Monty still has plenty going through his mind (like who ratted him out, how he’s going to survive his time in prison, whose going to look after his family, etc.), the whole day and night is dedicated to giving Monty one last amazing night that just so happens to also take place after 9/11. Yep, can’t forget about that.

Should come as no surprise to anyone that 9/11 was a pretty hot-button to press on with the media back in 2002, and it should come as no bigger surprise to anyone that Spike Lee was, and in ways, still is a very controversial director that lets you know about his view-point on any subject right away. The combination of both seemed like it would not only offend everybody still reeling from the aftermath of this horrific event in our nation’s history, but ruin this man’s career for the rest of his life, had he not treated this subject properly and with as much respect as he possibly could. I mean, think about it: It was only a year and some odd months after the Twin Towers were blown down, and already, a movie showing sights of Ground Zero was already coming out. Too soon, ya think!?!?!

Just a man and his dog. Doesn't get anymore peaceful than that.

Just a man and his dog. Doesn’t get anymore peaceful than that.

Well, come to think of it, this was a story taking place in NYC, and though it was a city full of paranoia, fear and anger, it was still Lee’s hometown, and he was not ever going to treat it with disrespect. However, this is no love-letter to the city either, as Lee definitely paints more than a few pretty upsetting pictures of the city he oh so adores and cherishes. There are many times he’ll cut-away to the constant hypocrisies of our time where we see many racist stand-points coming from the minds of citizens, practically hating on other’s because of their skin-color, race, religion or political ideas. And yes, of course I am talking about the obscenity-laced tirade Monty has in the bathroom of the bar in the beginning that is the voice of how most people felt during this time, and still do to this day. These aspects of daily society were always and criticized, but in the post-9/11 world, it felt like a protective-reflex that some of us still use to this day. It’s what changed our lives on that fateful day; Lee knows this, and he never lets us forget it. As we never should.

That said, despite Lee painting a beautiful, if not, terribly honest portrait of NYC, post-9/11-era, there is still a story to be had here, and a pretty damn beautiful one that continues to bring out more and more emotions within me, even as the viewings rank up. Monty’s life isn’t necessarily a complex one, but rich in emotion. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a pretty simple life, that gets a pretty simple movie, yet, is only more than its means because of what Lee does behind-the-camera and the type of feelings he brings out. Not just with his direction, but with his characters and how they tell you everything you need to know about them, even right away when you first meet them.

The clearest example that I hate to give right off the bat, but so be it, is the character of Frank, played to perfection by the always amazing Barry Pepper. Right when we first get a glimpse of Frank, we already know who he is as a character, but most importantly, as a human-being. We see that he’s obviously a hustling, cocky a-hole that thrives on getting as much money from Stock Market investors as he can, regardless of whom it hurts and why. All he knows is that he wants more bang for the buck, so that he can go out at night, with some fine-ass-looking clothes, his brown-dyed hair and prey on whatever piece of filling he can find that not only suits his looks, but his egotistical mind as well. Right away, we judge him because he’s a prick, the same type we would love to be, but never actually admit to, and yet, we begin to see a human deep-down underneath those good looks, clothes and bundles of cash.

Once we realize that there’s more brewing beneath the surface of this greed-fueled a-hole, then everybody else starts to make sense as well. Rather than seeing Monty as a drug-dealing, hustler-and-bustler, we see him as a guy that took whatever he hand he was dealt the easiest, and went through with it anyway he could, all before it came crashing down and ruining his life. Sure, he got the sexy girl, he got the riches, he got the fancy car and heck, he even got the dog-companion, but he still didn’t get a chance to live as free as he planned to, which makes him something of a tragic character, despite you still not feeling all that bad that he got caught in the first place. It’s a sad reality, yes, but it is still a reality that he had to knew was coming down the pipe-line, and is one that he has to live with for the rest of his life. Whether he wants to accept it or not.

Exactly who I wish would show up to my "Going Away" party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

Exactly who I wish would show up to my “Going Away” party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

And while we get that Monty and Frank are real people, we begin to see the others flesh-out as well. Jacob, rather than being the quintessentially creepy, dorky teacher these types of movies love to throw judgment on, ends up seeming like the type of guy you actually root for, even if it is just so that he can bang his student in order to gain some confidence in his life; Naturelle may be called a “money grabber” and “gold-digging bimbo”, among many names, but after awhile, starts to seem like a girl who found the right man, fell in love and doesn’t want to lose a single ounce of him for five seconds, let alone seven, whole years; and then of course, we have Monty’s father who gets the same old, tired story about how he used to be a drunk and a bit of a shitty daddy once his wife passed-on, but doesn’t ever act like he’s trying to change for the good or that he’s trying to get rid of his past, because he knows that it’s there, he knows his mistakes, and he understands that he can’t keep spending the rest of his life trying to make-up for them, he just has to accept them, move on and hope for the best.

May not sound like the most beautiful, inspiring messages to be throwing around in a post-9/11 atmosphere like the one we have here, but it’s one that Lee artistically commandeers into making us realize our faults, mistakes and issues as humans, and has us wake up and realize that it’s in our blood to do these types of bone-headed decisions, and it’s not right to continue to blame ourselves, or anybody else around us. It’s time to move past it all, face the facts and see where life can take you. Once again, may sound like the most down-beat message ever presented in a flick of this sort of nature, but Lee finds just the right amount of gritty realism and humanity, to flesh both sides out, and have them come together in a perfect mish-mash that makes you happy and hopeful for the country we live in, and the people that inhabit it.

In that general aspect, Lee’s film takes on a bigger meaning than being just a story about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison, and instead, becomes the type of slap-in-the-face most of us Americans probably needed at that time, just like we may need now. Then again though, it is STILL about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison and, in case my character-descriptions didn’t already convince you yet, well, needless to say, the performances from everybody involved are some of the best that most of them have ever given.

Which, given the heavy-duty talent involved: Does actually mean a whole lot.

Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody by now, but, in case you needed to be reminded: Edward Norton’s a phenomenal actor and proves that, like usual, here as Monty Brogan, our troubled, yet sympathetic, former drug-dealer we spend the next two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes with (25 hours in his case, hence the title). Norton gives us a character that’s worth giving two shits about, even if we, as well as he, realizes that there were mistakes made in the past. Yet, he shows that there are signs of improvements and changes to be found, and therefore, makes him somebody that we want to see have his life turn around, but at the same time, can’t be fully convinced he deserves his “get-outta-jail-free-card” just yet. Maybe after the first two years for good behavior, maybe? Who knows where Monty would be at today. All I do hope is that he’s at least okay, wherever he may be, or whomever with.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

And just like Norton, everybody else in the cast is pretty damn wonderful as well. Rosario Dawson gives Naturelle that natural, Puerto Rican-beauty every character in this movie goes on and on about, and while she does show some signs of foul-play along the lines of Monty’s journey to self-reflection, she still seems like the type of girl that loves her man, no matter who he is, what he does or wherever he is. Philip Seymour Hoffman gets a couple of sweet, awfully uncomfortable bits as Jacob, the nerdy, English teacher who obviously doesn’t keep as in touch with Monty as much as he used to, but still shows enough signs of compatibility that it’s still believable enough as it is. Brian Cox is lovable and heart-warming as Monty’s daddy with issues, but whom still loves and cares for his son no matter what pitfalls he may have went through in the past, and the ones he may be having in the future.

However, as great as these performances (and trust me, there are a few more that should be seen, rather than just told about, trust me), none of them fully lead-up to what Barry Pepper does as that despicable piece-of-flesh I was referring to earlier, Frank. Pepper, who still ranks, in my mind, as one of the most underrated actors of our time, gets every chance to show how much of a huge douche this guy can be, while at the same time, still make us see the cracks within the facade. Sure, he’s totally against the fact that Monty sold drugs for half of his life and made money off of it, but isn’t that angry to where he won’t even be in the same room as him; he goes on and on about how this wild night needs to be all dedicated to Monty and nobody else, and yet, he still spends half of the night ogling at the bartender’s, as well as Monty’s own girlfriend’s, asses; and he even gets on people’s asses for not being as up-to-date with the good looks as he is, yet, he still can’t get past the fact that he’s getting older as the days go by, and eventually, time to settle down is going to be needed eventually. To say that Pepper deserved a nomination for this thing is a frickin’ understatement! He deserved a win, dammit! He was amazing here, and showed the world that not only could he make a terrible human-being somebody to care for, but still somebody that you could see as your own pal, even if times changed for both of you. Frank may not be the most moral human-being out there in the world, but he’s still a human-being nonetheless, and they all have emotions and feelings, right?

Consensus: More of a love-

hate letter to the city that Spike Lee obviously adores, 25th Hour still comes off as beautiful, emotional, complex and painful journey into realizing who you are, what you’ve become, who the people you surround yourself with are and where your life is headed, and whether or not you can actually choose that destiny to begin with. Sometimes however, as we all witnessed on September 11th, 2001, that choice is completely out of our hands.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Not preachy. I promise.

Not preachy. I promise.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Cedar Rapids (2011)

Makes insurance companies actually look fun.

Terrified of leaving his tiny town for the first time, sheltered insurance salesman Tim (Ed Helms) nervously sets out for the bright lights of bustling Cedar Rapids, where he attends a chaotic insurance convention and learns how to survive in the real world.

This was one of those comedies that came out back in February (aka shit movie month) and actually got good reviews, but for some reason I never got around to seeing. Thank the lord I saw it just as the Summer (aka crazy movie time) began.

This premise is petty much your average fish-out-of-water kind of deal here but the way the script expands on that is what really makes this a delight to watch. Cedar Rapids, IA isn’t exactly the party land you would come to expect but watching all these grown-ass guys run around in just about nothing and having a great time in only a matter of four acts, really made me enjoy myself and remind me of a smaller and more adult version of The Hangover. This is kind of like the comedy I could see my mom and dad watching, which isn’t such a bad thing.

The screenplay is what really works here so well coming from first-time writer Phil Johnston. The one amazing thing here that Johnston does with this script is how he has all this R-rated raunch that’s down-right hilarious, but then he equally touches it up with a touch of sweetness to it.

In a lot of comedies where they try to get sweet with their material, it doesn’t work and feels forced, but here I actually cared about all of these characters and what was going on and kind of left me with a good feeling when it was over. Still, even though it is sweet, I still laughed my ass of with plenty of the things that happen here.

My only problem with this film is that I didn’t really get many surprises here with this film because it’s all pretty generic and all the laughs you would expect from this type of material come out. I could also see a lot of chicks not really liking this film that much either since it really is all about guys and how we all grow up and everything, but still be boys. So I could kind of see a couple of chicks watching this and not really liking it that much honestly.

Ed Helms is a pretty good pick if you’re looking for someone to play that innocent, and naive insurance salesman, since almost all of his roles that he takes nowadays are about the same, but it’s not a bad thing because he’s so good at those roles. The role as Tim Lippe is a pretty tough role for Helms and while it’s not necessarily a star-making performance, I really enjoyed him. Mainly because it’s hard to be the dough-eyed nerd and not be too annoying or innocent but he brings the heart when you need it the most and he wasn’t too dorky the rest of the time.

Most of the laughs this film has comes from none other than the always amazing John C. Reilly as Dean Ziegler. Reilly’s seemingly insane and crass remarks were expertly written and most of all, expertly executed by Reilly himself. If you look close enough, you could almost see a little of Bill Murray in this role but I have to say I didn’t mind since almost every time he opened up his mouth, I laughed my ass off. When he first comes on the screen you know it’s going to be a party, and when he isn’t on and you can totally feel all of the energy from this film, not there. This was jackass John C. Reilly at its finest.

The real heart of this film here is Anne Heche as Joan Ostrowski-Fox, Tim’s squeeze, well kind of. The guys are all running around playing these goofy characters but she actually has to ground of this with some sort of humanity and she pulls it off real well. Stephen Root is also good as Tim’s boss; Sigourney Weaver is just so sexy but also great as Tim’s former teacher and now eff buddy; Isiah Whitlock Jr. is good as Ronald Wilkes and has one scene that is just worth the price of admission alone; and it’s always nice to see Kurtwood Smith in a role that isn’t a Red Forman rip-off. Overall great cast and great characters to care about.

Consensus: Though it is generic as well as less and less surprising as it goes on, Cedar Rapids brings out a lot of raunchy laughs, mainly from it’s cast but also from it’s well-written script that has that R-rated comedy appeal as well as an endearing sweetness to it as well.

8/10=Matinee!!