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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jaime Tirelli

Girlfight (2000)

Girls can do anything as good as boys. Including kicking butt.

Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) is a no-nonsense, take-no-crap teenager who has a bit of issues. For one, her mother’s dead, so she’s forced to live with her disapproving father (Paul Calderon), and her rather meek brother (Ray Santiago). Needless to say, Diana is very angry with the life she has, and her only way of actually getting any bit of intensity out, is through boxing at her local gym. While her father would not allow for Diana to box, he still pays for her brother to box and train at the gym – funds that she uses in her favor, while he goes off and does his own thing. Eventually, Diana starts to get better and channel her anger in a way that’s a lot less hectic, but more controlled. This leads Diana to start boxing in actual, small-time matches, but because she’s a girl in a very male-populated sport, she’s never taken nearly as seriously as she should be. Looking through this all is fellow boxer Adrian (Santiago Douglas), who takes a liking to Diana right away. However, their love for the sport of boxing eventually comes between them and their left with thinking of whether or not they should go on further together, or separate and allow for their own boxing-careers to play out.

Watch what you say about the third season of Lost!

Watch what you say about the third season of Lost!

Everything about Girlfight just screams “cliché”. Angry, young adolescent finds a way to channel her anger through boxing; father disapproves; nobody else takes her seriously; eventually, she starts to train more and get better; and, oh yeah, she then finds herself a love-interest. If anything, people will probably see Girlfight as the female-version of Rocky, however, they would be totally wrong; though the movies aren’t wholly different, they still differ in terms of their perspective, as well as their heartfelt take on a subject we’ve seen one too many times before.

And they’re also both pretty great movies in their own right, without ever being too showy or flashy about it.

Where Girlfight gains most of my respect is through the way in how writer/director Karyn Kusama uses a lot of her very limited resources to her advantage. From what I’ve read, the budget was around $1 million and because of that, it leaves Kusama dealing with a lot of low-budget issues. Certain shots seem too grainy, or poorly-choreographed, and yeah, certain scenes go on a lot longer than they probably should because it’s too expensive to take a scene elsewhere, but for some reason, it all works. You can feel the bleeding heart and love Kusama has for this story, these characters, and, surprisingly, this sport, that all of the raw emotions you get, feel and see, all come together so perfectly.

It’s also worth mentioning that even if the story does seem to be a bit conventional, Kusama defies all of the predictable aspects that we’ve come to expect with stories of this same nature. Not every fight is an absolute, balls-out, gory slobber-knocker like we’re used to seeing movies portray them, just like Diana herself isn’t an unstoppable, can’t-be-tame beast; sometimes, she loses, and other times, she loses her cool. But she will, on some occasions, win a fight, if not in the most spectacular way imaginable. While, for some, this may not be the most exciting bit of action, it still provides a nice layer of realism that makes us feel closer and closer to this world than ever before; Kusama could have easily lost her head and just made the movie all about the ass-kicking, the bloody faces, and the crushed-souls, but instead, she uses boxing as a way for Diana to channel her emotions and make herself something of a better person.

It also helps that Diana is a great character from the very start and Michelle Rodriguez, in her debut role, is spectacular.

What works so well about Diana is that she isn’t asking for our love, our sympathy, or our hearts. If anything, she just wants us to shut the hell up, let her do her thing, and lead us to make up our own conclusions about her. While the movie may make it seem like she’s going to be a typical, moody and angsty teenager (with a dead mother and daddy issues, no less), the movie instead shows that she’s got a lot more to her. Sure, she uses boxing as a way for her to vent out all of her frustration with the world she lives in and the life she’s been given, but at the same time, she also wants something a tad bit more out of life than just kicking ass, taking names, and getting fit. If anything, she wants a better life, to feel loved, to feel needed, and above all else, to be respected.

Boys?!?! Ew!

Boys?!?! Ew!

After all, the boxing-world in which she moves around in isn’t so accepting of her in the first place. While they don’t necessarily push her to the side and show her the way to the kitchen, nobody also takes her all that seriously. Kusama isn’t trying to make some sort of feminist-heavy statement, but at the same time, she’s also showing just how much this adversity can lead to someone wanting to prove themselves a whole lot more. Yes, this all sounds so very corny, especially for a sports movie, but I trust you, it’s very far from.

And yeah, it goes without saying that Michelle Rodriguez is amazing here. While in recent years, Rodriguez has become something of a “type” (the bad-ass, take-no-names female supporting character), it’s nice to see where she got her start and why she’s become known for that kind of role. As Diana, Rodriguez shows a very rough and tough side to a character who you’re clearly scared of, but also want to know more about. Through Rodriguez, we get to see more of a vulnerable and sweet side to this character than we ever expected; some of the best scenes are between just her and the love-interest, where instead of trying to be all cutesy, they’re just two kids, feeling one another out and figuring out whether or not they want to make a go of this thing that they’ve got going together. Rodriguez allows us to see all sides to this character and it’s a shame that she doesn’t really get nearly as many juicy roles in today’s day and age.

But I’ll forever and ever continue to hold out hope that she one day reaches the same great acting-heights that she did with Diana Guzman.

Aka, my kind of lady.

Consensus: On paper, Girlfight may seem like every other sports movie ever made, but with attentive and smart attention to details, characters, a sheer avoidance of clichés and conventions, and a star-making performance from Michelle Rodriguez, it’s anything but, and then some.

9 / 10

Corn-rows are enough to make any opposing male-figure squeal.

Cornrows are enough to make any opposing male-figure squeal.

Photos Courtesy of: IMDB, Indiewire, Cineplex

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St. Vincent (2014)

Are we calling Bill Murray a saint? I think so.

Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) isn’t the type of guy you want to be around when he’s in a bad mood; or generally, any mood. He’s a hard-drinking, gambling, and womanizing scuzz-bucket that’s hardly nice to anyone he’s around and likes it that way. It keeps him further away from being annoyed by people and just makes his life a whole lot simpler. However, that all changes once a mother (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), move next door. Because they’re all by themselves, the mommy has to constantly work long and hard, which leaves the son alone and without anyone to watch over him. This is where Vincent gets roped into being the baby-sitter of sorts, but only because he’s getting paid $11 an hour, mind you! But even though Vincent’s crass and teaches Oliver the ways of the world that his mother wouldn’t be too happy with, Oliver still sees some goodness in Vinny and wants to keep on hanging around him, even if there seem to be problems in Vincent’s personal-life just constantly tallying-up.

By now, the legend of Bill Murray is a great one. He’s the kind of out-spoken guy in Hollywood that has a few friends, as well as many enemies, but still finds himself charming the hell out of everyone. Not to mention the fact that whenever he shows up at a random house-party, the internet practically breaks wide open, showing us just how cool and down-to-Earth somebody of Murray’s star-status actually is.

Out of the way, kid!

Out of the way, kid!

Another alleged claim that adds more appeal to Murray’s legend is the fact that he supposedly doesn’t have an agent. Meaning, if there’s anybody out there who wants to work with Murray in any way whatsoever, they have to get a hold of a special phone-number of his, where they can leave their number for him to get back to them on. Now, of course some of this may not be all true, but it sort of shows; Murray is known to be quite the selective actor and is practically the only movie star who can get away with doing whatever he wants to, with whomever he wants to. Not because he’s Bill Murray, but because the dude’s a solid worker and has shown on more than a few occasions that he’s not just hilarious, but emotionally-involving, whenever the material needs him to be so.

I say all of this, because it’s a real surprise how bad St. Vincent can sometimes be.

Sure, not all of it is bad and mostly, Murray’s not to blame for it, but here’s my question: How can somebody who is as selective and, well, usually consistent in what he chooses like Murray is, get drawn to something as conventional as this? Is it the fact that it’s a coming-of-ager that has Bill Murray being his usual dick-head-ish self one second, and then lovable the next? Or, is it simply that these are the only right offers that Bill Murray gets nowadays?

Whatever the answer may be, it doesn’t totally matter because the fact is that this movie is definitely a mess. Although, it’s not a terrible mess. Most of this is because the cast, especially Murray, seem like they’re really giving it their all here. Even if they don’t fully end up working for the film as a whole, at least they added something. Like, for instance, take Naomi Watts as the pregnant stripper/hooker Vincent constantly hangs around/bangs – the role is terribly-written, not funny, and makes Watts herself, a highly respectable actress in her own right, have to use this wretched Russian-accent that isn’t the least bit believable. However though, while it may not work, you still have to give it to Watts for trying, even if it doesn’t fully work out all that well in the end.

Which is kind of weird, considering that we have Chris O’Dowd here playing Oliver’s priest/school teacher who isn’t really hiding his Irish-accent and is, instead, sort of just rolling with it and finds a way to make us laugh and totally believe in the fact that he would be in this school, and in this story. And heck, even the same could be said about Melissa McCarthy, because while this is a role for her in a comedy, she isn’t necessarily always doing something funny. But even when she does, it doesn’t consist of her knocking things over or randomly flipping people off; she’s subtle and restrained in the way she allows for her comedy to fly and hit us, and it works. More importantly though, it shows us that Hollywood needs to get their shit together and realize that McCarthy has a real talent that isn’t just in her slap-stick, but in just finding ways to make any situation she falls into funny.

And no, I do not mean the practical “fall”, either.

But, at the end of the day, this movie is really all about Bill Murray as our title-character and what’s there to say that hasn’t already been said? Yes, Murray’s fine, funny, dead-pan, and smart, even when you least expect his character to have such features. Yet, there’s a feeling here that had this movie been better, or, had this character been written less about, that Murray would have a real winner on his hands here. Not just with the movie itself, but this character.

"Sorry, youngster. Adults at talk here discussing the possibility of a female-led Ghostbusters reboot that Hollywood may not ever produce because we can't have good things."

“Sorry, youngster. Adults at talk here discussing the possibility of a female-led Ghostbusters reboot that Hollywood may not ever produce because we can’t have good things.”

Because yes, while Vincent is Murray’s typical a-hole character that he loves to play and can practically do in his sleep, the script gets in the way too many times in trying to get us to like Vincent more. Vincent, the character, being nice to this kid was enough for me to gain my sympathy, but then they felt the need to throw in the whole angle with his wife being in a nursing-home that really just felt manipulative and way too sentimental. But then, I was proven wrong, when the story itself goes on longer than it totally needed to and continuously forces Vincent’s personal problems down our throats, especially once Terrence Howard’s bookie character shows up and makes nefarious promises.

It all gets so very conventional, corny, and overly sentimental that, by the end, I just thought to myself, “Why couldn’t they just let the story tell itself?” Better yet, why couldn’t they just shed off about an half-hour of this, let Bill Murray and all the actors do their things, tell a simple story, and leave it at that? “But it doesn’t make for an emotionally-powerful story, man”, one might say to me, or, “Dude, like it’s all dramatic and stuff, bro”, another may preach. Well, I understand that but sometimes, all a story needs to do in order to pack that wallop every writer hopes to deliver on is to just be simple and see how it impacts those watching.

That’s all this movie needed to be and do, but instead, it took away from the legend that is Bill Murray.

Damn them.

Consensus: The cast, especially Bill Murray in his full-on form as the title character, all do fine with what they’re given, but St. Vincent feels the constant need to over-complicate its story and add on more layers than it needs to, while also ending up being overly sappy and sentimental.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

It's hard to be king.

It’s hard to be king.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Please Give (2010)

Leave the homeless be! They’re already fine living their simple, care-free lives.

Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) seem like a happy couple because not only do they own a mid-century antique furniture shop where they sell stuf for a much larger price than they originally get it at, but because they see nothing really wrong with their lives. Sure, they take stuff from families who just had somebody die, but they aren’t exploiting them and even give them some cash for their problems as well, so they can rest easy on their conscience, right? Well, for some reason, Kate still feels guilty about all of this and begins to start helping anybody that she can, especially her neighbors (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall) who aren’t really fond of her because of the fact that their 91-year-old grandmother (Ann Guilbert) lives in the house that she owns. Meaning basically, when she croaks, then they get the house back and are able to sell it for whatever they want and do whatever they want with it, which obviously rubs the granddaughters the wrong way, as you could expect.

I must admit, even though I’ve only seen two of her flicks so far (this one included), I don’t really see the whole appeal behind Nicole Holofcener. She’s a good writer and is more than capable of stacking together a very talented ensemble, but she seems like she has a little too many ideas crammed into one, less-than-2-hour movie, and doesn’t seem to go anywhere with them. Like I said, this is coming from a guy who has only seen 2 movies of hers so far so take with that what you will, but I feel as if I’ve seen two, realized that they both sort of share the same ideas and plot-points in ways, than I’ve practically seen all of them. While Enough Said looks like a bit of a change-of-pace for her, once again, I’ll expect to see somebody complaining about how much or how little money they have, and/or start talking about how they’re getting older and how they have no control over it.

"Hey, hey, hey! We're just a happy, old-time family from Manhattan. Love us, please.

“Hey, hey, hey! We’re just a happy, simple-minded family from Manhattan. Love us, please.”

But those aren’t bad things to talk about in movies, regardless of if it’s over-and-over again, because they’re problems actual, real-life people have. Which, in a strange way, made this movie a bit more interesting to watch because even though it gives us characters that aren’t all that pleasant to be around as they bitch and moan about their financial issues, it still gives us a reason to care or at least be interested by them, just by the way they’re written. There’s more than meets the eye with these characters, and even though most of them aren’t happy people, you can tell that they are capable of being happy, and making those around them happy as well. At times, it may seem like it’s hard for them to do, but you know they’ll be able to in the near-future, and I think that’s what really kept me going with this movie.

Holofcener could have really thrown it in my face and given me characters that I didn’t give a shit about, and made me watch them as they throw their misery and unpleasantness on others around them, but she doesn’t allow for that to happen. She allows them time to grow, experience life, and realize that there are bigger problems out there in the world which, believe it or not, are more important than a $200 pair of jeans. But Holofcener also does something else with these characters where she does have a sort of playfulness with them; one in which she isn’t making fun of the way they overreact to little happenings, but at the same time, she’s not really supporting it either. It’s strange, but somehow, some way, it works well in the movie’s favor. It allows plenty of room for character-development, some emotional moments, as well as others that are rich with dark-comedy. Take, for instance, the awkward birthday party that goes oddly astray once the liquor is brought out. It’s a funny scene, but also a very dark one for reasons I won’t give away, but will open your eyes to what the rest of this movie can and will do.

However, this is a very slight movie that I don’t think you need to see right away, but definitely should if you’re just hanging out and slumming around the house. Everything that happens to these characters by the end, can sort of be seen a mile away, but it never rings false. It just sort of happens, with enough humanity to seem believable, despite it being as obvious as humanly possible. But, that’s life, and sometimes, things just happen the way you expect them to happen. Maybe not in the way you had originally imagined, but still with the same result.

Like with most of Holofcener’s films, Catherine Keener obviously plays a big role in it, which isn’t such a terrible thing to have because Keener has been a solid actress for as long as she’s been working, and she’s able to turn any character into a likable, sympathetic person. Even though the main conflict that Keener’s character has is that she can’t stop “giving” to people who seem as if they are in need of something. For example, one of her main quirks is that she gives money away to homeless people that she sees on the street, except that sometimes, they aren’t even homeless. Wouldn’t be so bad either if all she did was give her money away to the homeless people that need it, but she won’t even give her daughter money that she oh so desires and has been desiring for quite some time. The fact that this character can’t stop helping and reaching-out to others is a problem that nobody should care about, nor ever want to see a whole movie surround itself around, but Keener makes it ring true and Holofcener never judges her character for the over-dramatic gal that she is. Sometimes the movie will throw a joke making fun of her ways, but never anything that could be deemed as “disrespectful” or even “mean”. They both keep Kate likable and sympathetic enough to where you sort of want her to wake up and change her ways, even if that means giving the homeless $5, instead of $20 . Hey, any change is a good change, especially for her!

Caught in the act of actually appearing in a good movie.

Caught in the act of actually appearing in a good movie.

Everybody else gets the same fair-treatment as Kate and Keener, even though it’s obvious that Holofcener’s heart truly lies with her. Oliver Platt is, as usual, fun and fluffy playing Kate’s husband who’s a bit more realistic with the way he lives and spends his money, however, also has a bit of problems too that are shown throughout the movie and make you wonder if he’s a nice guy, or not. Amanda Peet gets a meaty-enough role that’s worthy of her talents as Mary, the more stubborn granddaughter of the two and seems to really be enjoying herself with this material, while also being able to get past all of the high times, and give us some substance that a character like hers so desperately needed in order to be considered “tolerable”, and she pulls it off very well. It’s been awhile since I’ve really seen Peet do something that’s as dramatic as her work here, and it makes me wish she would take these types of roles more often.

Rebecca Hall plays her younger sister, Rebecca (original), who’s a lot more meek, quiet and sweeter, even though there’s an underlying sadness to her that you can’t help but make you feel as if you want to hug her, hold her, and just tell her that life will go on and she’ll be happy. Hall’s good in this role, even though it feels like she could have easily been the main character in this movie, and it probably would have been better had she been. However, that’s not what happened, so what the hell do I need to complain about?!?! Nada, that’s what!!

Consensus: Though the problems the characters in Please Give face may be a little over-dramatized, the emotion and heart is still there enough to make you feel for them, rather than belittle them for being so self-loathsome all of the time.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Believe it or not, G-Mom's the happiest one out of them all.

Believe it or not, G-Mom’s the happiest one out of them all.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net