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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jack Gore

Wonder Wheel (2017)

Went to Coney Island and Man, We’re People Annoying.

It’s Coney Island in the 1950’s and there are a bunch of people who are just doing their best to get by, whatever the hell that even means. There’s Ginny (Kate Winslet), an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house and yeah, she doesn’t quite like it. There’s Humpty (Jim Belushi), Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband who just wants the best for his family, even though he knows that’s easier said then done. There’s Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright and instantly takes a liking to Ginny, despite her marital-status. And lastly, there’s Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment. Together, all four are just trying to get by, finding work, finding love, and oh yeah, finding a whole heck of a lot of issues along the way.

He could save me from drowning any day.

Wonder Wheel is, yet again, another one of Woody Allen’s less inspired efforts, although it does flirt with the idea of being something so much more and something so much better. And yet, it doesn’t. It sort of just sits there, stagnate, telling its story, its characters, conflicts, and just moving at its own even-pace. Which is odd, because Wonder Wheel is never all that funny to be a comedy, nor is it really all that sad or emotional to be considered a “drama”; it’s mostly just a bunch of dialogue, with bits that seem like comedy and drama, yet never reach that magnitude.

Which had me thinking, “Why doesn’t Woody Allen give television another try?”

I know that Crisis in Six Scenes was considered a bomb (though I didn’t mind it), but seriously, with so much TV out there that blurs the line between comedy and drama, there’s a part of me that wonders, with more time, effort, and care, Allen may be able to make a great TV show. Of course, though, you could say the same thing about the movies he makes, where each and everyone only takes a year to write, shoot, edit, and release, which is surprising for an 82-year-old man, but also obviously inconsistent. It’s almost as if every 7th flick or so from Allen is good, whereas all the others are just incredibly mediocre or fine.

And yes, Wonder Wheel is that movie where it seems like it Allen may have an inspired idea, but doesn’t really go there. He could have chosen to crack jokes about post-WWII America and the utter nostalgia that frames every inch of the beautifully-lit screen here, but instead, he settles for a story about four people, finding love and inspiration on Coney Island. If Allen actually cared, these characters would be compelling, but that’s the rub: It almost seems like he doesn’t. It’s as if everyone written here were already small sketches that he somehow got the green-light to make more of, but rather than working on said characters, he just continued to write more and more plot.

It’s like the Sopranos, with Jim Belushi, somehow.

And it’s a bit of a sad affair that, without the actors in it, would have been terribly boring.

But it isn’t and that’s because the cast all come ready to play and give it their all. Kate Winslet is going way wacky and over-the-top here as Ginny, but the woman sells it because she’s funny, a little sad, and a little different from what we’re used to seeing from Woody Allen’s heroines. For one, she’s older and going after a younger man, so already, she’s a ground-breaker, but yeah, she’s also an enjoyable presence in the movie that I would have loved to have seen in another movie that cared more about her. Justin Timblerake is fine as the lifeguard that Ginny falls for and while a lot of people have been ragging on Timberlake’s performance here, he’s okay enough to where he handles himself well, even among the crowd of talented people he’s stuck with.

But really, my favorite is probably Jim Belushi as the depressed and rather upset husband of Ginny. This character is interesting in that we’ve seen Allen play with these sorts of characters and make them completely awful human beings (see Danny Aiello in the Purple Rose of Cairo), whereas Belushi’s role as the husband is a lot more sad and sympathetic. Usually, these characters are mean and cruel, but this guy seems like he just wants a little bit more love out of life, isn’t getting it, but isn’t going to give up, either. He’s the kind of character who I wanted to give a hug, too, but once again, Allen steps a bit shy of actually giving this character more to deal with. It’s mostly just Belushi doing all that he can and he makes it work.

Wish I could say that about the rest of the movie.

Consensus: Never quite settling on a tone, Wonder Wheel is another middling-effort from Woody Allen, who seems to get by with beautiful visuals, a nostalgic setting, and solid cast, but can’t quite get his scripts to work.

5 / 10

Wrong attire for the beach, but hey, at least you’re here!

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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Every Secret Thing (2015)

If a baby isn’t yours, don’t take it.

After their eighteenth birthdays, Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) and Alice (Danielle Macdonald) finally get a taste of the real world as full-grown adults. When they were young, they kidnapped and accidentally killed an infant that, due to the fact that they were so young and didn’t seem to know any better, weren’t tried as adults and were forced to serve sentences in juvenile delinquent centers. Although both seem to have understood what they did was wrong, their troubled pasts may never escape them – especially when a similar case occurs in which another biracial infant is kidnapped. This is when Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) steps onto the scene to figure out just whether or not these girls are involved with this case, or if they’ve actually been keeping up-to-date with day-to-day society and still not acting up in any sort of shady way. However, Porter soon realizes that the problem may be less with the girls, in particular, and more with the mother of Alice, Helen (Diane Lane), a woman who is very persistent in pleading her daughter’s innocent, but also doesn’t shy away from having her learn some hard lessons about life, either.

Slab on as much make-up on her as you want, no matter what, you've got the wrong Fanning sister to work in your movie.

Slab on as much make-up on her as you want, no matter what, you’ve got the wrong Fanning sister to work in your movie.

The problem with movies like Every Secret Thing is that there’s too many of them out there. Better yet, there aren’t just movies with cops, crooks, cases and mystery, but actually loads and loads of TV procedurals that you don’t even have to get up out of your seat, or pay money for. Law & Order, CSI, Blue Bloods, you name it, guess what? It’s probably a police procedural that people would rather stay at home to watch, rather than actually physically go out and pay for. Makes sense in some cases, but that’s also why we have a movies to begin with.

Mostly, what movies are supposed to do, that some TV can’t do, is elevate it to a certain level. Sure, you can have a mystery-cop story for a flick, but it has to be something as suspenseful as humanly possible, or even innovative in a certain manner that would make sense for it to be on the big screen that you’d pay for, and not just a smaller one that you didn’t have to bring out the wallet for. And basically, that’s the problem with Every Secret Thing – it’s all been done before.

Except for the whole baby-killing element to its story. That’s pretty messed up that I’m pretty sure that some networks wouldn’t want to touch.

But either way, there’s just something about Every Secret Thing that feels so ordinary, that everything about it just starts to make it feel like a drab. While this isn’t a very pretty, uplifting story, there should still be some sort of excitement or intensity in the fact that not only is there plenty of misery to go around, but also, that there’s actually something of a mystery to constantly pick and prod at. There is a central mystery here that keeps the movie rolling, but honestly, after a little while, it’s the only thing that keeps the movie the least bit of interesting.

For instance, the characters are pretty boring; which is especially more disappointing considering that the cast is pretty stacked with talent that usually works at making things better. Elizabeth Banks is saddled with the boring copy-type of character that’s short on words and is a hard-ass, so that she can pay attention to every aspect of her case, without losing a slight hint of what could be a possible reveal. It’s cool to see Banks take on what is practically a humorless role, but it doesn’t quite work, if only because we don’t get to know anymore about this character other than that she’s a cop.

That’s it.

Mamma's always there. Somehow.

Mamma’s always there. Somehow.

The same can be said for Nate Parker and his character, although there is a small attempt at giving him more dimensions, but it doesn’t quite go anywhere. There’s a brief argument that Parker’s character has with Common’s, in that Parker’s is wondering whether or not Common’s kidnapped his own daughter, for one reason or another; it’s simple protocol, but the way Parker’s character just continues to berate him, makes it feel like there’s something deeper and darker going on there. Whatever it was, it all goes away in the next five minutes as it’s made abundantly clear that the movie is more concerned with the actual case and the possible culprit, rather than anybody else.

And because of the attention being so diverted towards Ronnie and Alice, the movie suffers. Fanning is fine as Ronnie, except that she doesn’t have much to do; on the flipside though, it’s Danielle Macdonald who has a lot more to do as Alice and there’s already a problem to begin with. Not to sound terribly mean, but Macdonald’s not a very strong actress. It’s clear on many occasions that she’s trying and trying, but she just doesn’t have the skill to make an odd character like this work. That she’s at one point, almost psychotic, and at others, a wise and knowing smart-ass, makes it hard to play this character in a believable manner as is, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that Macdonald doesn’t do a solid job here.

May not be all her fault, but man.

The only one who walks away from this, knowing that she at least somewhat helped, is Diane Lane. As Alice’s mother, Lane gets a chance to camp it up in a way that we haven’t seen from her in a long time. But then again, at the same time, this character still has a semblance of heart and humanity where we see that she really cares and loves for her daughter, however, is incredibly frustrated with whatever she’s gotten herself into and how she’s continuing on to live life. She may be a tad bit on the angry side, but it all seems to stem from a heartfelt place in her core and that’s what makes her worth watching and, at least, rooting for.

More than I can say for the rest of them.

Consensus: Without being exciting, thoughtful, or even mysterious in terms of where its story goes, Every Secret Thing serves no real purpose other than to highlight the fact that Diane Lane needs to be in more stuff.

2 / 10

My thoughts exactly.

My thoughts exactly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz