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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: J. Nathan Simmons

Into the Wild (2007)

Run away. Far, far away. And piss off everyone you ever knew.

After graduating as a top student at Emory, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decides to, essentially, throw any idea of a career away. His very wealthy parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) cannot believe this, but they don’t have enough time to digest it all, what with Christopher literally being out on the road the next day, on his way to the Alaskan wilderness. Christopher doesn’t bring much with him, as he leaves mostly everything back in his house, with the exception of money, his backpack, and oh yeah, most importantly, his notebook. While on the road, Chris meets all sorts of wacky and wonderful characters, all of whom make some sort of a difference on Chris’s life, showing that he may truly have something to live for and above all else, may want to get back into society once he has completed his self-fulfilling mission. But, that may not happen for Chris, as he’s already risking life and death in the first place, while everyone back at home clamors wondering just when he’s going to come home, if ever again.

Be one with birds.

Into the Wild is probably the best film Sean Penn has, or ever will, make in his career. It’s the kind of movie that you don’t expect to work, especially not from an actor-turned-writer/director who has something of a shoddy, relatively fine filmography in the first place. There’s a certain bro-y attitude to Penn, the person, that makes him perfect for this material, but also not; to approach McCandless’ the right way, you sort of have to keep an objective view, never letting your own thoughts or opinions, as a storyteller, shine through.

And of course, it helps that the man himself wrote everything down while he was on this never ending trip of his, therefore, it appears as if we are literally watching him go from one adventure, to another. There’s no clear sign that Penn is trying to say how great it is that he got the chance to just let it all go and soak up the scenery, nor is there a clear sign in him saying that it was a terrible decision for the man to make in the first place, for all of those involved who weren’t him; in a way, Penn leaves it all up to us to decide, while he shows us both sides of the argument. Sure, it was great that he got to see the world and really couldn’t have given a crap about material things in life that waited for him back at home, but at the same time, he really did just get up and leave one day, without ever really telling anyone of where he was headed, when he’d be back, or what his reasons were.

In other words, he’s a bit of an a-hole.

But Into the Wild does work because it doesn’t always portray him as such, or if at all, during certain times. Mostly, McCandless remains something of a blank slate that has enough personality to matter to this story, but it’s really all about those that he meets on this wild and crazy adventure, mostly all of whom are exciting and charming to watch, bringing a little something extra to this journey. Vince Vaughn gets a chance to shed some dramatic-muscles as Wayne, a dude who gives Chris a job for a short time and may have something tricky up his sleeve; Catherine Keener is sweet as an older-gal who’s finding it hard to connect with her husband; Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt, despite playing types, also show some more heart and emotion to said types; Jena Malone plays the sister back at-home who knows and trusts her brother enough to take on this situation with a smile on her face; Kristen Stewart shows up late in the game as a possible love-interest for Chris and shows him that there truly is something beautiful to life; and Hal Hollbrook, in what has to be the most heartbreaking performance I’ve ever seen, plays an older fella who picks up Chris, instantly takes a liking to him, and surprisingly enough, sheds all for him, as well as us. It’s a rich, raw and surprisingly gritty performance from someone who, honestly, we didn’t think needed to prove anything more to us, but here he is, essentially, stealing the show.

Be one with the sky.

Which isn’t to say that all of these people steal the show from Hirsch, either. He’s quite good here, showing that there’s more to this character than just a wannabe-hippy who can’t deal, man. In a way, he’s a lot like most kids who are fresh out of school and desperately need something to do, somewhere to go, and some sort of option/goal in life to have them continue on to live and be happy. Could his decision have gone down better and more thought-out? Sure thing, but it still shows that there’s a reason for what he did, and not just because he wanted to.

Man.

Anyway, Penn deserves the most credit here, taking a very ambitious, long and sprawling tale of one dude discovering himself, as well as the world around him, and never making it seem like it’s wheels are spinning. It’s constantly moving, always touching on interesting characters and points, never harping on any of them too much, and overall, just making us feel closer to this guy and more invested in his journey. We know where he goes, we know how it ends up, and we know how his story ends, but for two-and-a-half hours, Penn allows for us to forget about this all and just revel in the scenery, the people, the vibes, and yeah, of course, the sweet, soulful tunes of Eddie Vedder, in what has to be one of the better soundtracks from a movie in the past decade.

Consensus: While it may not have been easy to take this tale and give it the deserving film treatment, Sean Penn is somehow able to do so with Into the Wild, showing a certain skill for storytelling and character detail that makes this journey all the more compelling and interesting, even if we know just how it all ends up.

9 / 10

And definitely be one with your impeding and foolish death.

Photos Courtesy of: The Mind Reels, Linkedin

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3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Most cold-blooded killers are, after all, misunderstood.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) has been on the run, gun slingin’, robbin’, killin’, and committing all sorts of crimes that have him number one on every person’s bounty list. However, Wade is a pretty ruthless man, to where he can get away from anyone looking to reel him in for justice; it also helps that he’s got the helping hand of his band of fellow thugs, especially his go-to-guy, Charlie (Ben Foster). But eventually, Ben gets caught by the local law and ready for the 3:10 train to take him to Yuma. But in order to get him there, he’ll have to be transported among many lines, where everyone is looking to take Ben down and get a little piece of the reward-money pie. However, Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is just looking to do this so that he can get some money, save his farm, and go home to his family, where he can feel like a responsible man again. As expected though, the trip goes through all sorts of bumps, bruises, and plenty of violence, where one thing leads to another, and it’s never very clear if Ben will ever get on that train and behind bars, like he should.

"Hold it! I'm not Batman here, but other places. Kind of."

“Hold it! I’m not Batman here, but other places. Kind of.”

3:10 to Yuma is the rare kind of Western that not only revitalizes the genre, but also proves why it’s so great in the first place. It doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the genre, make up new rules, and play by its own game, but instead, take everything that you know and love from all those other classics, bring them together, and let you have a great time. It’s as if it’s own beast, entirely, even if, yeah, it’s actually a remake, too.

Still, even if 3:10 to Yuma isn’t the most original story out there, it more than makes up for it in all the thrilling, exciting and rather unpredictable action-sequences that take place over its two-hours. James Mangold is a perfect fit for this material, because he knows exactly how to make it all crackle and pop, without ever seeming like he’s out of his depth. Even though Mangold sure does love to jump around from genre to genre, with sheer reckless abandon, it seems like the action-genre may be the one he sticks with, not just because he seems to enjoy it the most, but because he actually seems to know what he’s doing with it, as opposed to those like Michael Bay, or McG.

Why on Earth did I just mention McG’s name?

Anyway, moving on. 3:10 to Yuma more than gets by with its action, but at the heart of it all, and perhaps what makes it more than just another fun and exciting romp through the Old West, is that it’s also the tale of two interesting, challenging, and complex men. Both Christian Bale and Russell Crowe put in great work here, going beyond the silly accents, and showing that there’s more to these two guys. Crowe’s Wade may be a ruthless, toothless (not really, he has quite the set of chompers), and almost sadistic killer, but he’s also got a set of morals and he’s quite the charmer. Whereas, on the other side of the coin, Bale’s Dan is a man with plenty of morals, a simpleton, and family man, but at the same time, won’t hesitate to kill, if he ever has to.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Both men are different, yes, but they’re also quite alike in many ways, too, and it’s what makes 3:10 to Yuma quite compelling to watch.

Even when the action is gone for a short while and everyone’s sitting around a fire, eating beans, chewing the fat, it’s still entertaining to watch; the cast is so good, the characters so well-defined, and the script is actually polished. And with Bale and Crowe’s performances, we get to see two men who, despite being on opposites of the social spectrum, still respect the other enough to know where they come from, what their ideals are, and why they are, the way they are in the world. It almost comes close to a bromance, except for the fact that they do try and kill each other every so often, but even then, who knows.

Bromances work in mysterious ways, sometimes.

But anyway, aside from both Crowe and Bale, the ensemble’s a pretty good one. A very young Logan Lerman shows that he can hold his own as Dan’s son; Dallas Roberts plays the sheriff who has to take Wade in with Dan and shows that even the scrawniest of men, with a gun, can still kind of be bad-ass; Peter Fonda shows up and brings some class; Kevin Durand is, as expected, pretty crazy; Luke Wilson has a fun cameo; and Ben Foster, as Wade’s right-hand man, is so crazy, so deranged and so evil, that he almost ends up stealing the show. But still, it’s Bale’s and Crowe’s show to the end and when they’re together, their scenes never stop igniting the spark and make you wish that they’d work together more and more. It doesn’t even have to be in Westerns.

Couldn’t hurt, though.

Consensus: Even if it’s still a Western through and through, 3:10 to Yuma is a tense, exciting and incredibly well-acted piece of entertainment.

8 / 10

Look at 'em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Look at ’em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, Rotten Tomatoes 

The Ridiculous 6 (2015)

RidiculousposterAt least Tarantino has a Western coming out.

In the old West, a man by the name of Tommy Stockburn (Adam Sandler) is raised by Native Americans, where everyone calls him “White Knife”. While he doesn’t know who his real father is, he still hopes to meet him one eventual day. After getting kidnapped by a bunch of bad, evil bandits, Stockburn finally understands who his father is (Nick Nolte), which leads him on a trip. Along the way, he ends up meeting 5 other men who, believe it or not, also happen to be his brothers and looking for their father as well. There’s Chico (Terry Crews), a black man who doesn’t know that he’s black; there’s Herm (Jorge Garcia), who can’t speak a single discernible line of dialogue; there’s the slow and obviously mentally challenged Lil’ Pete (Taylor Lautner); there’s the slippery Hispanic named Ramon (Rob Schneider); and last, but not least, there’s the cool and suave Danny (Luke Wilson). Together, they will search far and wide for their father, while at the same time, also stopping any wrong-doings they encounter along the way.

PT, where are you?

PT, where are you?

Why is Netflix making an Adam Sandler movie? Better yet, why are they making not one, not two, and hell, not three, but actually four Adam Sandler movies? Well, folks, in the biz, that’s what we like to call “profit”. Apparently a lot of Sandler’s movies are exceptionally popular on Netflix and it brings into question just in what capacity people want to actually watch his movies.

Do they either want to get in their cars, drive a half-hour, spend nearly $20 on tickets and concessions, watch and spend a few good hours of their lives watching as Sandler and all of his pals get paid vacations? Or do they want to just sit at home, think of something to do, and when push comes to shove, just watch them? Because, if you think about it, it doesn’t really cost much to begin with, so what’s the big deal?

But no matter which way you put it, you should not see the Ridiculous 6. Even though it’s not getting the same treatment as Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation and not playing in any actual movie theaters, it still doesn’t matter. You should not see this movie so therefore, just don’t even bother getting into your Netflix account, either.

Just stay away and spend time with your friends, families, or whoever else, cause anything would be better.

And yes, I know I sound incredibly dramatic right now, but seriously, it’s the truth. Not only is the Ridiculous 6 nearly two-hours long, but it has hardly a laugh to be found. There was maybe one chuckle or two to be found, but other than that? Nope. For the most part, it’s the same as it is with just about every other Sandler movie: The jokes are lazy, tired, and most of the times, offensive to just about every demographic out there in society.

This is something obvious to expect from a Happy Madison production, but what surprises me so much is how this movie, at times, seems to be trying to parody other Westerns. The Magnificent Seven is the clear genre example they use to poke fun at, but honestly, you’d never notice unless you actually saw that movie to begin with; there’s no real actual jokes made at the expense at the genre, or any attempt to be satirical. Everything is, as it appears to be, just made for the sake of being jokes and having people laugh, which surprisingly enough, doesn’t actually seem to happen.

Which is all the more depressing because you take a look at the cast and realize that most of these people involved don’t need this movie to help them out, either financially or professionally speaking.

A lot of Sandler’s buddies like Nick Swardson, David Spade, Dan Patrick, Rob Schneider, and Jon Lovitz all show up and it’s no surprise that they’re here, so it’s not all that upsetting when they show their faces here. However, it’s the likes of people like Luke Wilson, Nick Nolte, Will Forte, Steve Zahn, Danny Trejo, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, and well, yes, even Taylor Lautner, who actually make me sad because you know they don’t really need the help at all. They’ve all got fine careers to begin with and are probably making as much money as Hollywood stars in their positions should be, so why are they even bothering with this? Is it just a favor to Sandler? Or is it just because they’re bored, the paycheck looked that nice, and well, they didn’t really give a hoot?

Keep on looking, boys, you're not going to find a good movie anywhere.

Keep on looking, boys, you’re not going to find a good movie anywhere.

Whatever the reasons were, it’s just a shame to see them all here trying to do what they can with an awful script, a misguided direction from, yet again, another one of Sandler’s buddies, Frank Coraci, and jokes that nobody in their right mind would try to deliver. That none of the jokes actually land, also call into question just what Sandler actually considers “humor” nowadays. Because Sandler co-wrote the script here, my mind automatically shoots to assuming that he did it because he had a contract obligation and decided to piece together a bunch of non-sequiturs and lame gags, regardless of if he actually found them funny.

Because yes people, Adam Sandler actually is funny.

However, here, as with the countless other flicks in his long career, he’s hardly shown it. As an actor, he seems awfully tired and bored here, which already makes me wish that somebody who is actually an innovative, intelligent director would pick him back up and give him something to do. This is something I state in just about every review of an Adam Sandler movie, but it’s the truth: Now, after all of these stinkers, it’s become more and more clear that he doesn’t care, is just collecting the money that flows in, and is going to continue to keep on making hack-jobs such as this. When it will end, nobody knows. All I do know is that Adam Sandler has clearly given up and you know what?

We’ve got three more of these movies.

Enjoy, folks.

Consensus: As expected, the Ridiculous 6 is another one of Adam Sandler’s hack-fests where jokes fly, yet, never land, everybody looks embarrassed, and everyone feels as if they’ve just lost hours of their lives they can’t get back. Except, in this case, it’s two hours.

1 / 10

Yes. I feel bad for this guy.

Yes. I feel bad for this guy.

Photos Courtesy of: Joblo, Hollywood Life

Sicario (2015)

Do drugs kill? Or do people? Think, think, people!

After a sting operation goes terribly wrong, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is left wanting any sorts of revenge on whoever may have been responsible. Thankfully, she gets called up to the big leagues when higher-ups in the FBI, like Matt (Josh Brolin), recruit her for a mission to take down a notorious drug lord in Mexico. Kate knows that this is what she wants to do, but she starts to see that the mission may not be all that it appears to be. For one, an informant that the FBI is working with, named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), comes from a very shady history that, in ways, seems a lot more reprehensible than the one that this drug lord is most known for. Secondly, Kate has to fear for her life in ways that she didn’t expect. While she think she may be doing the right thing, she’s making herself a target for all sorts of evil-doers that may be associated with the cartel that her operation is targeting, but some may also be associated with the FBI – the people that she’s supposed to be protected by and arm-in-arms with.

I don’t know what sort of travesty occurred in Denis Villeneuve’s personal life, but after having seen this, Enemy and Prisoners, I can easily say that Villeneuve wants to hurt someone. Whether it be people, animals, or trees, Denis Villeneuve seems like he’s got an ax to grind with someone and because of that, we’re just watching him make these dark, brutal, brooding, and downright angry movies about people that are, well, dark, brutal, brooding and downright angry as well.

I'd hate to be on the end of anything with Benincio Del Toro. Not to mention, his gun.

I’d hate to be on the end of anything with Benincio Del Toro. Not to mention, his scope.

And I’m loving it all!

I mean, of course, whatever happened Denis, I’m sorry for your loss. But please, whatever has you so upset with the world you live in, let it continue to mess with your for a little while longer. So long as you’re making movies like Sicario, where we can see you vent all of your frustration in mean, but exciting ways.

With that said, too, yeah, Sicario‘s pretty awesome. In every sense of the word, it’s a thriller. But because this Denis Villeneuve we’re talking about here and somebody like, I don’t know, say, the one and only Michael Bay, there’s a lot more brewing underneath the surface other than just more guns, more bullets, more blood, more death, more drugs, and more Mexican gangbangers. Of course, all of the guns, bullets, blood, death, drugs, and Mexican gangbangers help keep this movie exciting and tense as anything I saw displayed in Prisoners, but when you strip all of that away, you got a really interesting story about how the FBI is, well, shady.

Through Emily Blunt’s Kate Mercer, we see this world where FBI agents and cartel members constantly duke it out between who has more money, more power, and most importantly, more weapons at their disposal. In fact, in me just describing that, I realized that this movie would have been at least ten times better, had it literally just been a one-on-one, winner-take-all, last-man-standing battle between the FBI and Mexican drug cartel. They could have gotten Bruce Buffer to announce it, Jim Ross and Joe Rogan to commentate, and hell, even Mills Lane to referee everything.

But sadly, Sicario is not that movie.

But I don’t mean that in a bad way because, in its own, all-too-realistic manner, Sicario has a lot to say other than that, “people who do and get involved with drugs are bad, bad people that you probably should stay away from on the streets or at social gatherings.” In this post-9/11 world that we currently live in, nowadays, the FBI and so many other people involved with the government and in catching baddies, are so concerned with getting the highest top-tier guys that they can find, that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there. This, in some more ways than one, means that they find themselves in some shady alliances that, on paper, may look nice, but when you get to thinking about it, don’t really make much of sense. Why would the FBI, let one violent, sadistic, and smart criminal go free, just because he helped them get to another one who has the same characteristics? Is it because one bowed-out before the other? Or is it because it’s the only hand that the FBI can play with that makes them look good to their superiors and the people who hand-out promotions?

I’ll let you think about that one, but yeah, you get my drift. If you look under Sicario‘s hood, you’ll find that there’s a lot more going on and to be said, which is fine and all, but occasionally, it does take away the sheer awesomeness that is the action here. And by “action”, I don’t mean fist-fights, gun-battles, car-chases and/or sword-action galore – I mean the kind of action you see in Michael Mann movies where the sheer fact that it’s being lead-up to and spread out over time, intensifies it a whole lot more. There’s one sequence in particular where the FBI is stuck on the Mexican-border with a hostage of theirs and honestly, I won’t spoil it any further. Just know that it’s a pretty rad sequence so that, when it comes up, you can get ready and let your friends know how rad it’s going to be.

Courtesy of Dan the Man, of course.

And what makes the action all the more exciting is the fact that it’s all being shot by the legend himself, Roger Deakins. Roger Deakins could shoot a film-sequence of me sitting on my love seat, flicking through the premium channels to where I found good re-runs of my favorite Wire episodes (spoiler alert, I never do!) and it would have more layers of beauty than a whole Adam Sandler movie ever would. He’s one of the main reasons Sicario breathes as vibrantly as it does, regardless of what’s happening. People can be sitting around, talking, or they could be getting all ready and amped-up to blow some people’s heads off. Either way, it’s always lovely to watch, all because of Mr. Deakins himself.

Look out for the camo!

Look out for the camo!

Not to mention, too, the cast is pretty great. This isn’t a total surprise to me considering that Denis Villeneuve got just about every role down to a perfect T with Prisoners, but still, it’s worth noting that when your movie features Emily Blunt as a bad-ass, kick-ass, take-some-names FBI agent and doesn’t have me laugh my rear-end off, then yeah, you’re solid gold. Granted, Blunt is a great actress who has shown, many times before, that she can move around any genre she likes and make it work in her favor, but still, this role could have easily been a silly one, had the wrong actress been placed into it. Then again, the fact that it was an actress placed into this role to begin with, and not some chiseled, ripped-up, and beefy dude with other masculine features, is worth praising.

But the reason why Blunt doesn’t seem to get too much notice is because, quite frankly, she’s used as our eyes and ears for this story. She’s at least one step above that and has something resembling a personality, but overall, she’s basically our conduit to everything that goes down and as to why this story is being told. Which is good, because without her, we wouldn’t have been treated to the likes of Benincio Del Toro as Alejandro.

As soon as you see Benincio Del Toro in a movie about Mexican drug cartels, you automatically think, “Oh great. Re-run of Traffic! Next!” But because Del Toro’s an actor and a very good one at that, he likes to shake things up and show that he can give this character a type of menace that will have you terrified for days. However, at the same time, he gives this guy a conscience that makes you think he’s a human being that doesn’t like to chop down trees for the hell of it, but at the same time, still doesn’t make you think he’s a total nice guy, either. There’s a certain back-story to this character that puts everything he does or says into perspective and it gives Del Toro absolute free reign to do whatever he wants with this character, and it’s a blast to watch.

Sure, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, and surprisingly, Jeffrey Donovan, are all good in their own rights, but it’s Del Toro who runs away with this movie and will have you thinking about him for days.

And also the cool explosions, bro!

Consensus: Tense, well-acted, and most importantly, complex, Sicario is more than just your average thriller with lots of explosions and bullets flying, but still takes much pleasure in showing those things, too.

8.5 / 10

Damn. I still hate that Josh Krasinski, man!

Damn. I still hate that Josh Krasinski, man!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz