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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jake McDorman

Lady Bird (2017)

Don’t grow up. Like ever.

Marion (Saoirse Ronan) is just like any other kid growing up in California. She longs for a life out in the North, wants to get out of her small, dilapidated home, constantly fights with her mom (Laurie Metcalf), gets along swimmingly with her father (Tracy Letts), and wants a little something more. That’s why, with this being her senior year and all, she’s poised to do right by herself, and whether that’s by studying her ass off so that she can get into the college of her dreams (NYU, of course), or by being with the hottest, most interesting guys in school, it doesn’t matter. She just wants to get by this year and if she learns a little life-lesson every so often, well then, so be it.

Despite being awfully pretentious and a little too whimsical herself, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird is surprisingly not like that at all. In fact, it’s a very straightforward, understated, subtle, and moving coming-of-ager that takes a look at a time in all of our lives, when everything was a lot nicer, sweeter, and a whole lot simpler, even if, at the time, it didn’t feel like that at all.

Don’t fall for those charms, Lady Bird! All men are the same!

Movies like Lady Bird are so up my alley, that in all honesty, I don’t even try to hate them – I know that they’re going to work their nostalgic magic on me, so it’s best to just succumb and accept it for what it is. But what makes Lady Bird so particularly special is that it seems to understand and respect that coming-of-agers can fly around a bunch of bulls**t about love, adolescence, growing up, and figuring out just what it is that makes us all tick the way we do when we’re so much younger. Gerwig’s direction, while sometimes a little too quick and snippy, feels mannered in the sense that we get these literal small snapshots into the senior year of this girl, when everything’s right on the cusp of changing and she, nor anybody else around her, really knows.

In that sense, it’s pretty sad and almost tragic. But it’s oh so beautiful because, once again, Gerwig brings no b.s.

She understands what it is about these kinds of tales that make us all swoon and feel all warm inside, while also smack our heads in annoyingly awkward, but fond memories. Lady Bird never talks down to its subject, nor does it really judge anybody else, either; it’s fair, well-mannered, and understands that the best way to have us all relate to these young, sometimes pretentious kids, is to remind us that they’re all kids, going through the same stuff we probably did, or still are going through. That means that yes, Lady Bird touches on certain issues like drugs, sex, alcohol, growing up, careers, picking colleges, unemployment, depression, family-turmoil, faith-struggles, friendships lost, anxiety, addiction, and so on and so forth, but it never feels like too much, or too little.

Everything is given plenty of time to shine and remind us that, once again, these were once our lives. It may be Gerwig’s life that’s being portrayed on the screen, but it’s still easy to feel some semblance of understanding. And it’s not as if the movie’s just getting by on pure, high school nostalgia, either – it’s a downright funny, sad, and downright touching look at this one girl’s coming-of-age – but the heartfelt memories don’t hurt, either. They help have the movie hit closer to home and feel less like it’s just Gerwig bragging about her upbringing, and instead, inviting us to register her life, with ours and grow more compassion as time goes on.

“Stop being a bitch, okay?”

Which is to say that I’m definitely excited and interested in whatever the hell else Gerwig wants to do behind-the-camera. In front of it, I’m fine with not seeing too much of for a short while, but hey, that doesn’t matter here.

What matters is that Gerwig knows how to direct a smart movie that isn’t just all about the actors, but the look, tone and general feel. That seems to be the problem with most directorial debuts from actors – they know how to get great performances out of their casts, but when it comes to everything, like plot or the visuals, it just doesn’t quite work. It can sometimes feel under-cooked and a little dull, which is why it’s always nice to get the rare occasions that work splendidly, such as this.

Sure, the performances all around here are great, with Laurie Metcalf stealing the show as the supportive, yet also brutally honest mama, but they aren’t the crutch that Gerwig hopes and depends on. She’s got more tricks up her sleeve and it makes me hope and wish for the best, whatever she decides to do next.

Possibly Lady Bird, Ten Years Later? Who knows?

Consensus: Honest, sweet, funny, well-acted, and a little sad, Lady Bird is a bright directorial-debut from Gerwig that not only doubles as a moment of self-reflection, but a great bit of nostalgia for when days were simpler, if also a whole lot more dramatic and emotional, for some damn reason.

9 / 10

True pals. For life. For now. At least.

Photos Courtesy of: A24

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American Sniper (2014)

Seems like sniping somebody in real-life is a lot harder than it is on COD.

Texas-born and bred Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) knew that he had a calling in life, but until 9/11, he didn’t know what. Once he realized that his country was going to war, he enlisted himself and not only became a Navy SEAL, but also became one of the most decorated, most lethal snipers in war history – averaging roughly around 160 kills over four tours. Surely that deserves a lot of hoo-rah praise and love, right? Well, yes, of course it does. However, at what cost? Kyle doesn’t understand this question until he comes back home to his wife (Sienna Miller) and kids, only to find himself suffering from massive bouts of PTSD, but having no clue how to handle it, or whom to talk to. Basically, he’s left to fend for himself and figure out just what all of the killing meant for him. Was it nothing? Or simply put, was it just to give his life some purpose and stand up for the country that he so heartily loved and adored.

Many war movies are made today. That much is a fact. However, there’s always a problem with figuring out which war movies can be placed into which category. For instance, there’s the kind of war movie that loves to glamorize and pat each and everyone of its soldiers on their backs, without ever going deeper and deeper into those soldiers minds, or even hinting at something being messed-up in their minds (like, say, the Kingdom). But then there’s also the kind of war movie that shows all of the heroic actions its subjects take, yet, still explores the possibility of getting into the minds of them and discovering if any of the fighting, killing and blood was worth it all (like, say, the Hurt Locker).

Well, we're all going to die someday. That much is true.

Well, we’re all going to die someday. That much is true.

Somehow though, American Sniper finds itself placed firmly in the middle. And while that would seem like quite a problem, tonally-wise, Clint Eastwood shows that he’s willing to shed light on both aspects, without ever favoring one over the other. While a lesser-director would have appreciated all of Kyle’s killing of the baddies and shown him as the hero sometimes people would hail him as, Eastwood’s smarter and knows that while Kyle does deserve to be praised for his actions, he also still wants to show that there were definitely problems with the many heinous, sometimes disturbing acts of violence that not only spelled-out trouble for Kyle’s life, but many other veterans of any kind of war.

Although, if there is a problem to be had with Eastwood’s direction and the way he seems to handle the material given to him, it’s that he doesn’t fully come down to any sort of thesis, or point on war itself. Sure, he knows that warfare itself isn’t great and it sure as hell doesn’t have the best affect on those who are involved with it, but by the same token, he never comes right out and voices any of his disapproval with it, either. Which isn’t to say that every movie made about the war has to come up with stance, let it be known to the audience, and stick with it throughout the remainder of the flick, but in the 21st Century, there is a sense that if you’re going to discuss the war, you have to land on one side of the boat and not just be neutral.

You’re going to offend somebody either way, so you might as well go for it while you can.

However, this is getting more and more away from the fact that this is Chris Kyle’s story and it’s one that deserves to be told. Not because Kyle killed plenty of Iraqi soldiers during his four tours, but because he’s the kind of war-figure more should pay attention to; while he had plenty to be pleased with and proud of in his life, he was still clearly screwed-up in his own head-space, and found it incredibly hard to get on with ordinary life. The movie highlights this, and actually seems to be saying that whatever happened to Kyle’s mind when he came back from the war, wasn’t fully worth it. Sure, he killed more enemies than most soldiers could ever dream of, but the fact that when he comes home, he goes straight to a bar and can’t even go see his family, is very strange. It’s also quite sad and it wakes you up to realize that Kyle’s story is among many other soldier’s stories out there as well.

Normally, I would make some joke about Kyle not having to be so sad because he got to come home to a Sienna Miller-looking wife, but I don't know how appropriate that is for now.

Normally, I would make some joke about Kyle not having to be so sad because he got to come home to a Sienna Miller-looking wife, but I don’t know how appropriate that is for now.

And where Chris Kyle, the person, really comes into focus is whenever Bradley Cooper’s on the screen which, thankfully, is nearly ever frame of this film. Cooper has now come to the point in his career where he’s not just a well-known actor, but a very respected one and can get most of the projects he backs, off the ground and ready for the world to see. American Sniper was one of these pieces that he really wanted to adapt and show the world, and it makes sense as to why – not because Cooper gave himself a meaty-role that highlights all of the acting-strengths in his tool-box, but because it allows him to humanize a person we maybe would have characterized as being another “redneck who likes to shoot guns, chew dip, drink beer, and do it all in the name of ‘murica”.

Both Eastwood and Cooper are smarter than just allowing for this cliche to stick. But it’s mostly Cooper who shines the brightest with Kyle’s portrayal, but he doesn’t over-do it. Most of what Kyle seems to be going through is through himself and nowhere else. Sure, you can tell by the looks on his face that he is clearly struggling to grapple with the reality of his actions and the disastrous events that he witnessed, but there always feels like there’s more to what Kyle is really feeling and it makes this character a whole lot more interesting. He’s not happy that he killed so many people over in Iraqi, but at the same time, he isn’t sad, either. He’s just numb. And every chance Cooper gets, he shows this in such a powerful way. So powerful that it’ll be quite the task not to get choked-up a bit during the end-credits. I know I did.

And if I can, so can you.

Consensus: Whenever not focusing on its main subject, American Sniper can’t come to terms with what it wants to say, but as a powerful, albeit disturbing look at the mental-anguish most war veterans go through, both on and off the battlefield, it hits harder than most war movies have in the past few years.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

*bum-bum* *bum-bum* *bum-bum*

*bum-bum* *bum-bum* *bum-bum*

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

John McClane may not be able to utter his famous-line with the MPAA on his ass, but at least he can still kick some, right? Should have just hired me for the advertising.

Famed New York City cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) returns to action in trying to save the world from terrorists once again. However, what makes these terrorists so different and so much more difficult to deal with, is that they deal with state-of-the-art techonology and are lead by a man who knows exactly what the hell he’s doing when it comes to taking over the world and all of it’s pride and joy. That’s where McClane’s new buddy (Justin Long) comes in to try and help him with this computer-shit that John McClane doesn’t need to take down the baddies.

For all of you people out there who have been longing for the days of when action movies came to theaters and did nothing else but provide plenty of guns, bullets, fights, and killings, all in a natural, special-effects free way; then most of you were probably happy to see John McClane back in action after almost a decade of being gone for so long. However, the idea of a 52-year old man saving the day and taking down a group of terrorists does seem a little unbelievable, right? Oh wait, it’s Bruce Willis. Never mind, it’s totally believable now.

If you’re reading this right now and haven’t seen the original, 1988 action-classic Die Hard, then you, my friend, need to get out of that muthatruckin’ seat and check it out because you are really missing out on something for your life. It’s a classic that will forever, and ever stand the tests of time and that’s all thanks to the fact that it was an old-school action movie, back in the times when they were more simpler and kinder to the people who ventured-out to go and see them. See, what made the original Die Hard such a great movie was that it not only had a bunch of stuff blowing up, people getting killed, and cool-ass lines coming from the mouth of Mr. Willis, but it also had a bunch of interesting characters in it and kept us worried and scared for them all, as their lives were single-handedly hanging in the balance from these crazy, but smart Ruskies. But as usually what happens with most franchises that are a bit too big for their britches,  sequels come-around and forget about all of the substance. Instead it’s all about style and all that there is left at the handles is a bunch of non-stop action, shootings, guns, countless people getting killed, and once again, stuff blowing up. That’s all fun and all, but with our Die Hard movies, we need a little something to hold onto and I think that’s exactly the memo director Len Wiseman got here, because he brings this series way back to what it was before: fun, entertaining, joyful, and an always exciting action movie.

Leave it to John McClane to say a big old "Fuck You" to text messaging, and stick straight to walkie-talkies. Oh. He has to use them because the plot needs him to so he doesn't get tracked by the villains? Well, it's still old-school!

Leave it to John McClane to say a big old “Fuck You” to text messaging, and stick straight to walkie-talkies. Oh. He has to use them because the plot needs him to so he doesn’t get tracked by the villains? Well, it’s still old-school!

Wiseman doesn’t really break the action-mold with this movie and doesn’t necessarily do anything that could be considered ground-breaking in the least bit, but that’s all fine and dandy because the guy knows how to make one entertaining action-sequence, after another. Watching McClane get out of these sticky-situations that he always finds himself getting wrapped-up in, definitely kept my interest and even had me a bit tense by wondering if he was going to make it out alive or not. I know it’s pretty obvious that the guy was going to survive it all but at that moment in time, when McClane was stuck in a situation that it didn’t seem like he was going to be able to get out of alive, I didn’t feel it and instead, just felt a bit of suspense in the palm of my fingers. Solid job by Wiseman, on his part.

Even better is that the movie never stops hitting us with the action, and even reminded me a bit of the old-school action movies of the 80’s/90’s, that were all natural and had little to do with special-effects or computers or anything that would be considered “new-school” like that. It sticks to the basics and it brings back all of my old-school, VHS days. However, that’s a reason why this movie was pretty cool in other ways, because we got to see what they did with this age-old premise, set it in present-day America, and giving McClane some technological-difficulties to step in front of his way and make his mission a whole lot harder. That was a pretty neat-use of the setting an definitely made this flick a bit more twisty and twervy with where it went and how. Then again, we all know how the story ends, but when all of the crazy action is going on, you sort of forget about that and just enjoy the scenery.

With all of this action coming at you left-and-right, you have to wonder if there is any time to actually slow-down at all and the answer to that is: well, not really. Wiseman seemed like he spent so much goddamn time on the action, the explosive, and the shootings, that whenever it came right down to showing McClane as a human-being once again, he sort of shies away from that and goes right back to McClane beating the crap out of people once again. In a way, it’s not so bad considering it’s what we all know and love McClane for in the first-place, but one of the main reasons why we loved him so damn much in the first-place is because he was a human, just like you or me. I missed that aspect of the character again, and I wish Wiseman got his hand out of the CGI cookie jar and actually allowed there to be some down-time for McClane to just tell us more about him and what he’s been up to. I mean it has been almost 10 freakin’ years! The least we could find-out is what the hell’s taken him so long to be away from the limelight!

And even once they do go back to the action-scenes, a lot of them will really have you laugh your ass off. And not in the fun or exciting way either. The dumb way, is more like it. Whenever I go out to see one of these action movies, I always know to leave my brain at the door and not worry about what makes sense and what doesn’t, but there does come a point in this movie where I just couldn’t handle it anymore. There’s a whole sequence with McClane riding on top of a flying-jet, that is in the air and then, all of a sudden, he jumps from it, lands on a slant, slides down the highway, and comes back with a couple of scratches here and there and continues on with his adventure as if he didn’t just stay on-top of a flying, fuckin’ jet just about 5 seconds ago. Now, I get it: McClane is an action-hero and those types of characters are usually allowed to pull-off insane, inhumane stunts such as ones like these, no matter how stupid or incomprehensible. However, the guys a frickin’ cop from NYC, not Clark Kent! After awhile, all of the preposterous and ridiculous action-sequences in this movie bean to take a toll on me and I lost my believe-ability in all of this, but then again, it is an action-movie so I guess there shouldn’t be too much of that going-around anyway.

Meet the hottest girl you will never, ever get a chance to sleep with.

Meet the hottest girl you will never, ever get a chance to sleep with.

Even though he does still pull off all of these crazy stunts, Bruce Willis never, ever seems to disappoint and is still the man as John McClane. Willis has a knack for always showing showing why he’s the man for any job and John McClane, is the job he was meant for and you can see why that is, even if the guy is pushing 52, around this time. Still, age isn’t a matter for John McClane! McClane is a fun-loving, tough son-of-a-bitch that spits out hilarious one-liners like nobody’s business and the whole old-man look that Willis has, doesn’t really get in the way of what we think he can and cannot do. Willis seemed like he had a hell of a lot of fun playing McClane once again, and I think that the guy’s going to be playing this role for a couple more movies now, that is, until he hits age 100 and is still dodging bullets. Hey, if anybody can do it, it’s Bruce Willis, that’s for damn sure, so don’t worry, he’ll always get my ticket!

Justin Long is the geek-hacker that McClane accidentally picks up but realizes he can use him to his advantage and come to beat these villains the way he wants to. I’ve always dug Long in anything that he’s done and it’s great to see his charm and wit be put to good use, even if he is a bit of nerd and clashes with McClane’s old-school style a bit much. Then again, it provided many of yucks for me so I can’t complain too much about the butting-of-the-heads between the two. Timothy Olyphant is alright as the main villain that stands in McClane’s way, but in a way, seems very miscast as well. Olyphant definitely tries to come off as the weird, off-kilter dude that’s only out to get the U.S. and all of the money it has, but instead, seems a bit like he’s forcing it too hard and is maybe a tad too good-looking for a role that should be played by some creep who hasn’t seen the light of day. You know, a creepy and nerdy cat like Kevin Smith who actually shows up here in a cameo as the geek-of-all-geeks: the Warlock. That’s all you need to know about the dude’s role because the bigger surprise, the better, even though the opening-credits sort of spoil it for ya. Thanks!

Consensus: It is essentially your typical, ridiculous action movie that makes little to no sense about what happens and why, but Live Free or Die Hard is more than just that. It’s an old-school action movie that is able to provide us all with plenty of fun, exciting action set-pieces, and a return-to-form for Willis as John McClane, a role that he will never, ever live down and I think he’s fine with that. As are we.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Should have just gone bald, or been gay, or sold drugs, or even been all of them combined. Now that's a real villain of epic-proportions!

Should have just gone bald. Or been gay. Or sold drugs. Or even been all of them combined. Now that would have made a real Die Hard villain!