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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jacob Tremblay

Wonder (2017)

It’s 2017, kids. Grow up.

Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) is a normal, 10-year-old kid. He has ambitions of one day becoming an astronaut, he loves his mom (Julia Roberts), his dad (Owen Wilson), his sister (Izabela Vidovic), and his dog). But he’s also been born with facial differences that, to the world around him, is scary. Those who know and love him, don’t care, but the outside world isn’t quite accepting of Auggie and the way he looks. It’s why he’s stayed away from a mainstream school and chooses to where an astronaut’s helmet, just about everywhere he goes in public. But now, that’s all about to change. Finally, after many, many years, he’s going to an actual school, with actual other classmates, and without the helmet. It’s going to be a brand new life for Auggie and it’s not just going to change him, but those around him. For better, as well as for worse.

It’s hard to really get mad at a movie like Wonder. It does everything that it sets out to do – which is, to make us cry our eyes out – and it’s just so damn sweet, so innocent, and so nice about itself, that even the thought of kicking it, let alone thinking of doing it harm, is also too much to even handle.

Don’t trust him, Auggie! All kids are evil!

But here I am, talking a little bit of smack about Wonder, against my better wishes.

Which isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do, because it absolutely does. Co-writer/director Stephen Chbosky seems to have a knack for setting up these very raw and emotional scenes, giving the right cue, and then, watching as the tears begin to run. He does it at least 10-15 times here, and while not every time works, the moments in which it does, it’s hard to not think about. In a movie that’s as mild-mannered and as child-like as Wonder, it’s also a movie that isn’t afraid to get to the heart of some matters and pick at our inner-most weaknesses.

In a way, it’s kind of a sick movie, but it’s the kind of sick movie that made me happy to tear-up a little bit. It not only reminded me that I am a human, with a heart, and feelings, for once, but also that small, well-natured movies can still exist and not necessarily knock it out of the park, but be enjoyable and pleasant enough to get the job done. Even despite it being released in the heart of awards-season, Wonder is no doubt a family-movie, made for the family, and not really made for the 80-90-year-old Oscar-voters.

It’s a movie made for people who want to cry a little bit, feel all warm and gooey inside, and possibly beg for someone to hug them.

And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.

The only issue that I, the angry, cynical d-bag that I am, have is that often times, it feels like Wonder is juggling way too much and doesn’t know how to really settle itself down, so instead, takes some easy short-cuts. For instance, rather than Wonder just being about Auggie and his adventure into being accepted in the school-system, it’s also about everybody else around him and who may have been impacted by his life. There’s his sister, his sister’s best-friend, and two friends at his school, who all seem to get their own little subplots to go along with his, which is nice to see for once.

There’s a sitcom in there somewhere.

It would have been easy for Wonder to just be all about Auggie, without ever really focusing on those around him, when in reality, that isn’t the case in real life. And the subplots we get, while a little jammed-in, help bring some more heart, emotion, and thought, to a movie that was already brimming with it. Chbosky isn’t afraid to take small risks like these and it’s nice to still see, even if it also feels like the movie would have probably worked best as, I don’t know, a miniseries.

Because while you have Auggie’s adventure getting the most of the attention, all of the other characters, while getting their times in the spotlight, still don’t feel fully realized. We get at least ten or so minutes with them, to help give us some context, and then we’re back to Auggie. In some cases, like with Noah Jupe’s Jack, we get a better understanding of his home life, but then it’s all we apparently need and we’re back to the main crux of the story, which happens to be Auggie. It doesn’t quite work as well as it should; rather than feeling like it’s giving us a much more fuller, clearer picture, it instead leaves strands of plot, sometimes dangling in the air.

Some movies can do that and get away with it. Wonder is not that movie.

Instead, it’s a movie that makes a slight step above an after-school special, with a great cast, a great director, and a solid team of writers, but still, the execution is just a tad bit off. It’s the kind of movie that all kids and families should see, because it literally speaks about how kindness can make the world a much better, much safer, and much nicer place, but it’s also the kind that’s not quite perfect.

Did it need to be? Nope, not really. But it flirts with the idea of being that and it’s a shame when it doesn’t get to that level.

Consensus: Even with noble intentions and a heartfelt direction, Wonder feels like it has too much within it, to feel complete, even at a near-two hours.

6 / 10

If Julia Roberts is your flesh and blood, facial deformity or not, you’ll turn out fine.

Photos Courtesy of: Lionsgate

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The Book of Henry (2017)

And what an odd book that is.

Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a lot like every other 11-year-old-kid out there in the world. He’s awkward, a little weird, sometimes quiet, nice, sweet, and oh yeah, brilliant-as-hell. In fact, he’s maybe a bit too smart for his own good and at times, that finds him not just getting into trouble with people who could possibly be his friend, but even his own family. Although, both his mother, Susan (Naomi Watts), and little brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay), love him immensely, they also know that he can be a bit much. They also know that his brain is so huge, with such an insane amount of knowledge, that they actually use it to their advantage; her, for help on the stocks and how to save money, and him, for emotional support through these rough times of growing up. But something changes in all of their lives that not only affects Henry especially, but all the other people around them, leaving the family to make some drastic, almost disastrous decisions.

If you thought one annoying precocious kid was bad enough……

A part of me wants to absolutely and totally annihilate the Book of Henry for being a ridiculously messy, uneven, weird, sometimes way-too-stupid-for-its-own-good take movie about growing up, learning who you are, death, and oh yeah, child-abuse, or more importantly, rape. However, there is another part of me that wants to praise it and, at the very, absolute least, respect it for going all-out on a plot that could have been absolutely cookie-cutter and derivative of everything we’ve ever seen done before and taking risks, chances, and certain unpredictable roads, even if yeah, they don’t quite work out. But then, there’s that middle part of me that doesn’t know what to think, say, or hell, even believe in.

After all, if a movie as muddled and as nutty as the Book of Henry can, for at least an-hour-and-a-half, entertain me and sort of surprise me, yet, at the same time, still feel way too weird, than what’s that say about me? I do like bad movies? Do I give them a pass just because they try something different? Or, am I just too broken down and beaten-up by the everyday, conventional blockbusters that are pushed in front of my face that, when something comes to me, from someone, somewhere, regardless of how messy it is, still makes me think and expect something different, that I just have to accept it for what it is and yeah, possibly even like it?

Once again, I don’t know what to think.

A movie like the Book of Henry is challenging. Not because it’s an altogether deeply confusing, or hell, even psychological movie, but more that it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t know what to make of itself so, as a result, the viewer is left with the same feeling. Director Colin Trevorrow, after breaking all sorts of records with Jurassic World two years ago, seems to have gotten carpe diem for the Book of Henry and in a way, is allowed to make this movie as crazy and as weird as he wants. Screenwriter Gregg Hurwitz does deserve some credit for trying something new and, dare I say it, intriguing with the YA genre of films, but even he, at certain points, seems like he’s losing all control.

Which is to say that the Book of Henry, in all honesty, isn’t a good movie; it’s tone is so over-the-place, with a plot that continues to get wackier and wackier, and a silly twist that happens midway through, it’s just not that easy to say it totally works out. If anything, it misses the ball, more than it actually connects with it and because of that, it’s hard to fully recommend this movie to anyone, or hell, even for myself.

…try two!

But like I said, it’s definitely an original. Whether or not that originality works out for itself, or bites its own ass in the end, is a whole other matter to decide on. But Hurwitz and Trevorrow clearly try to make this work as much as they can; Trevorrow constantly keeps the plot moving and Hurwitz, while mostly getting stuck with idiotic lines for precocious 11-year-olds only seen and/or conceived in movies, does try and juggle some things that you’d never expect one to do, yet, sort of respect.

But yeah, like I said, the movie’s just sort of all-over-the-place.

For some reason, however, it still kept me watching. Every opportunity it had to bother me and piss me off to the highest of the heavens, it still brought me back in with trying to figure itself out and go somewhere I did not at all expect it to. It’s the kind of movie that takes some many odd chances on telling its story, seeing just where the hell it can go, stepping back, and eventually, just throwing everything at the wall, that it’s much more interesting to watch than, well, actually entertaining. But hey, if having your mind stimulated while watching big-budgeted movies is entertaining to you, then hell yeah, you’re going to probably the enjoy the hell out of the Book of Henry.

But then again, probably not. I myself am still not sure. And I just reviewed it.

I think.

Consensus: By taking so many risks that so few little movies of its magnitude and well, budget, actually do nowadays, the Book of Henry deserves some kudos for going out on a limb and trying something new, even if it just never coheres together well. Like, at all. So yeah, it’s a mess.

5.5 / 10

And a middle-class, waitress mom who spends her leisurely time playing, guess this, video-games! Naomi Watts, ladies and gentlemen!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Room (2015)

Give me a free Netflix account and I’ll stay in a room for as long as you want.

Being held captive for five years, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), have come to terms with the situation that they’re living in. For the past five-to-seven years, they’ve been living in this warehouse that they call “Room”, and find interesting ways to make life for themselves in there as vibrant and as lovely as humanly possible. But now that Jack is getting older and, as Joy hopes, wiser, he’s going to have to start coming to terms with what’s “real” and what’s “make believe”. For instance, Jack doesn’t know that there’s actual life beyond Room, and this is something that Joy tries to hammer into his brain so that he too, will get the urge to want to get out of this place and back into the real world. And since Joy thinks he’s ready, she gives Jack a few tasks and it’s up to him, to see whether or not they get out of Room alive and well, or if they fail, yet again, left to rot away in this little little prison cell that they’ve been sadly thrown into.

It's so hard....

It’s so hard….

Movies like Room, are the type that I love to talk about, but at the same time, ones that I hate to review. For one, it’s the kind of movie that deserves to be seen, hardly knowing anything about going in. While so many of the ads and trailers for this movie have done everything but keep it subtle and unknown to the general audience just what happens with the plot and where it goes once it gets past the half-way mark, I, to those of you who may be reading wherever you are in the world, will do everything in my strength not to say just what happens in Room. Cause, from what mostly everybody knows, is that Room has something to do with a mother and son being locked-up and kept in this square-box.

That’s basically it.

Anything else about this movie, it’s probably best to steer clear of knowing about, because it not only ruins any chances of knowing what to expect from this movie, but by the same token, being able to suck it all in. Because in all honesty, Room snuck up on me and most likely, it will on you, too. You think you’ll have a general idea of where the story is going, see the wheels turning, and then, all of a sudden, you’ll have no clue and feel like possibly the dumbest person in the room. However, rather than feeling terrible and depressed about this fact, you’ll soon change your tune once you realize that it doesn’t matter, because Room, the movie, is so amazing.

It’s the kind of movie that plays with so many raw, gritty emotions, but handles them in such an effective, smart way, that it not only makes you want to praise director Lenny Abrahmson for not allowing this material to get as sappy and as melodramatic as it could have been, but also want to cry your eyes out. And honestly, the latter is what I did – on many occasions. While it’s not necessarily difficult to make me tear-up at a movie, it’s also not an easy feat, either; there has to be a certain feel of emotional connection and believeability to start the water-works.

Which is why they started so many times throughout Room. There’s these small, individual moments of absolute human-to-human emotion and heart that, quite frankly, I found incredibly hard to handle. But the movie never plays any of this up, ever; instead, it plays everything so low and matter-of-factly, that you’ll hardly notice that it’s working its magic on you.

That’s just the kind of movie Room is: You won’t expect it to work as well as it does, but honestly, that’s the real beauty of it, as well as many other smaller movies like it.

Which is why it’s so great to see Brie Larson get so much love and acclaim for it, as I feel like she’s literally on the verge of breaking-out and taking the whole world by storm. As Joy, Larson gets plenty of hard and heavy acting to do, but it never feels overwrought, or even obvious, as if she’s got the Oscar voters watching on-deck; instead, she feels exactly like a woman in her position would feel. While she wants to love and protect her son from every cruel thing that the world has to offer, she also doesn’t want him to forget that the world can actually be cruel and is, in ways, not as fair as it’s made out to be on TV.

And speaking of her son, Jacob Tremblay, despite being hardly eight when this flick was being made, gives a superb performance as Jack. What’s so smart about the character of Jack is that, well, he actually isn’t smart. Nor, for that matter, is he the kind of smart-ass, precocious child character we’re used to seeing in movies; rather, he’s just a kid who has no idea what sort of situation he’s into, except only to know what he wants to know or has been made to believe through TV, or certain things his mommy has told him. What makes this performance so spectacular, isn’t that he plays up this naivete with the wonderful sense of child-like wonder we so rarely see from actual child actors, but how he acts when he’s told that this world he lives and believes in, is nothing more than just pure fantasy. He’s upset, heart-broken and above all, confused. Which is exactly what any kid is like when they find out something they’ve been made to believe as true, actually isn’t.

...to find pictures that don't spoil Room.

…to find pictures that don’t spoil Room.

*cough cough* Santa Claus *cough cough* Easter Bunny *cough cough* any other mystical figure who comes to give you treats or gifts *cough cough*

And while I know that I’m being ridiculously vague with this whole review, but really, it’s for your own good. Just know that Room, is a near-masterpiece. There are certain bits of the story that felt maybe a tad too unexplained, but really, they’re basically just moments and ways for me to complain about stuff that doesn’t matter.

Just, please, pretty please, do yourself a favor and see Room.

Please.

Consensus: Smart, effective, well-acted, and most of all, emotional, Room plays with a lot of big, heavy feelings, yet, never over-does any of them and instead, feels like a human story everyone can connect to and take something out of, regardless of if they’ve ever been in the same situation as the characters, or not.

9 / 10

So I'm just gonna keep it like this.

So I’m just gonna keep it like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire