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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jamie Harrold

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Can always count on men to be horny!

Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) is a single mother of three who, after losing a personal injury lawsuit, asks her lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney), if he can help her find a job, since she has a pretty rough time holding one down. Because, in all honesty, Erin’s a bit of a problem for most employers out there – she’s brash, loud, and likes to speak her mind. So yeah, she can be a bit of a handful, which is why Ed hesitates to hire her, time and time again. Eventually, he gives her work as a file clerk in his office, and she runs across some information on a little-known case filed against Pacific Gas and Electric. She then begins digging into the particulars of the case, convinced that the facts simply don’t add up, and persuades Ed to allow her to do further research. Somehow, through non-stop research and eyewitness accounts on her own time and dime, Erin discovers not just a cover-up, but a potential health-crisis that has yet to be addressed in the slightest, leaving it up to Erin and Ed to have to band together and stick it against the big-wigs of the corporate world.

All the biker dudes love big boobs!

Steven Soderbergh loves to flirt with the idea of formula and most of all, mainstream film-making. Even if his most mainstream films (the Ocean’s trilogy), honestly feel more like homages and exercises in style, rather than an attempt at selling-out and just collecting a quick, easy paycheck. Granted, Soderbergh likes to have the studio money floating around for whatever weird, small, and unique indie he wants to make after the big, mainstream flick, but still, it’s not like his soul is being sold. His mainstream movies, like Erin Brockovich, still have a heart, a soul, and a passion to them that make them a step above our average, mainstream fare.

Even if it is, at the end of the day, average, mainstream fare.

That said, Soderbergh gets away with a lot in Erin Brockovich; he gets to play around with the idea of a biopic and how to tell a story, without focusing too much on the facts. See, most biopics of this nature get way too bogged-down by what happened, where, why, and the context of it all, which is dumb, because half of the stuff in these movies is just creative licenses after all. While there are still a lot of moments where it feels like we’re checking off certain facts and pieces of Brockovich’s life throughout, Soderbergh does know how to remind us that, underneath the case, is a real human being.

“Hi, I’m Julia Roberts, playing a normal, everyday gal from the South, who also happens to look like Julia Roberts.”

And as a result, it feels much more like a character-study, rather than a by-the-numbers biopic. Sure, having the case in here helps us get a better context of why she matters and why we’re having this story told to us, but Soderbergh also doesn’t forget to develop this character over time, allowing us to see more sides to her compelling, if sometimes flawed, persona. It’s neat that Brockovich was actually so involved and so accepting of this film (she actually shows up as a waitress), because the movie doesn’t always let her down easy – it can sometimes judge her and not let her forgive and forget, but that’s okay. The movie is showing us the true side to a person who, beyond all of the flaws of her character, wanted to do what was right, even if it didn’t totally convenience her.

Oh and it definitely helps that Julia Roberts was portraying her, too.

Yes, even though Roberts can mostly appear to be sleep-walking through almost every role she takes nowadays, there was a time, when the world of pop-culture and tabloids were done fawning over her, when Roberts was considered to be one of the best actresses working in the biz. And yes, even though it’s obvious to point out her Oscar-winning role here as her best ever, there’s no denying the fact that it’s a great role, as is, because it allows her to utilize all of the skills that we came to know and love her for. She’s not just beautiful, but she’s also lovely, funny, charming, and oh yeah, a bit of a hard-ass when push comes to shove and as Brockovich, Roberts gets the chance to let a little loose in a role that gives her not just enough to work with, but even dig in deeper with, too. It’s honestly the kind of role that Roberts has been working for ever since and it’s a shame that we haven’t seen another one from her since.

Steven? Will you come ‘a knockin’?

Consensus: As far as conventional biopics go, Erin Brockovich is one of the better ones out there, with an attentive eye to detail that not only remembers to develop its subject, but also give us a story to care about.

7.5 / 10

Where are these lawyers now! Get to Flint!

Photos Courtesy of: Brockovich

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Hannibal (2001)

Should have just let him eat whoever he wanted to eat.

Ten years after getting away from practically everybody involved with law enforcement, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is enjoying his time, relaxing, looking at fine art, and walking through the breezy, lovely streets of Florence, Italy. Meanwhile, back in the states, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is stuck in a bit of a pickle in which a drug-bust went incredibly wrong and violent – leaving the FBI to have to clean up the mess. But because Lecter can’t keep his appetite for Clarice down, he decides to send her a letter, which then leads her to start her own investigation into finding exactly where Lecter is. However, Clarice isn’t the only one. Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is also on his own search for an art scholar who goes missing, which may lead him to stumbling upon Lecter and having to decide whether he wants to arrest the man, or bring him in for a healthy reward granted by deformed billionaire, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman). The reason for Verger’s reward, is because he is one of Lecter’s last survivors around, and has the face, body, and voice to prove it.

Ew.

Ew.

So yeah. The Silence of the Lambs is, was, and will forever be, a great movie. There’s no way of getting around that. And as is usually the case when you’re trying to recreate some of the same magic from a precursor that’s as legendary and iconic as that movie was, the odds are not in your favor.

Such is the case with Hannibal, the sequel to the Silence of the Lambs, that came out nearly ten years later, starred someone new as Clarice, and had a different director.

Granted, Anthony Hopkins is still around and if you’re replacing the likes of Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme, with Julianne Moore and Ridley Scott, then not everything’s so bad. But honestly, if there was ever a reason for a sequel to not exist, it’s shown here. That is, after the first ten minutes in which some of the creepiest, most disturbing opening-sequences ever created, transpire and bring you right down to the level of knowing what to expect from the rest of the movie.

And the rest of the movie for that matter, is also pretty creepy. Because Scott is such a talented director, he’s able to make almost each and every shot feel as if it came right out of an art exposition itself and add a sense of eeriness, even if we’re literally watching a scene dedicated to two people just sitting around in a darkly-lit room, whispering about something, and not doing much of anything else. There’s a lot of scenes like that in Hannibal, and while it’s hard to really be excited by any of them, Scott tries his hardest to add a little more pizzazz and energy in any way that he can.

But it still doesn’t escape the fact that the movie’s still uneventful.

Sure, people are shot, killed, ripped-open, eaten alive, sliced, diced, and chewed-on, but is any of it really exciting? Not really, and that’s perhaps the movie’s biggest sin. The first flick may have been a dark, serious and chilly thriller, but there was still a bunch of excitement to the madness of tracking down Wild Bill, nabbing him, and taking him; while it took its time, there was still a feeling of tension in the air. That same tension isn’t really anywhere to be found here, even if the same feeling of general creepiness is – though it only comes in short spurts.

Most of this has to do with the fact that, despite there being maybe three-to-four subplots going on, there isn’t anyone that really grabs ahold of you and makes you want to watch it as it unfolds. Once again, Clarice is on the search for Dr. Lecter, but because there’s another story that runs along the same lines going on, it doesn’t actually seem all that important. Sure, she’ll get her arch-nemesis, but at the end of the day, does any of it really matter? The dude’s off the streets and not eating people anymore, but does that mean the killing is done once and for all?

This is a point the movie seems to bring up, but never actually go anywhere deeper with. Instead, it’s more concerned with seeing how many times Dr. Lecter can fool people into thinking that he isn’t a mean, sadistic, and brutal cannibal. In fact, hearing that, I realize that these scenes should be somewhat fun, if not, totally hilarious. But they aren’t. Instead, they’re just drop dead serious, grim, and uninteresting.

Stop saying her name!

Stop saying her name!

And that’s about it.

The cast does try their hardest, however. Hopkins, as usual, fits into the role of Lecter as if he never left it to begin with. He’s weird and off-putting, but at times, can also be incredibly suave and charming, especially when he’s speaking of disemboweled bodies. But, at the same time, we are getting a lot more of him, which means that it can seem to be a bit of overkill; whereas the first movie featured nearly 15 minutes of screen-time devoted to Lecter, Hannibal features nearly an-hour-and-a-half of him, which means that his act can get a bit old and stale as the time rolls along. Especially since, you know, he isn’t really growing as a character – he’s still killing, conning, and eating people, the way he always did.

The only difference now is that he’s a lot more laid-back than usual.

And though she tries, too, Julianne Moore really does have all the odds stacked against her playing this role that was definitely made a lot better, and more famously by Jodie Foster. Though Moore seems to be still playing into that same kind of ruthless aggression and dedication that Foster worked well with, it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s playing the same character, but it not being Foster. Ray Liotta shows up and, of course, plays a crooked cop that seems like he has nobody’s best intentions at heart and is fine, but once again, what else is new?

The best of the rest, though, is an absolutely nonidentical Gary Oldman as the disgusting and vile-looking Mason Verger. From the beginning, it’s difficult to recognize that Oldman is even in the movie (mostly do the ugly, but impressive make-up and costume job done to him), but after awhile, it’s obvious that it is him, and the performance works wonders from then on. Despite being able to only use his eyes and voice for his character, Oldman still gives off an deceitful feel that helps make it clear that, if the film was just about him and Lecter sparring-off in a duel of wit and evilness, then it would probably be better.

But sadly, that is not what we get and instead, we’re left reaching for our copies of the Silence of the Lambs.

Consensus: Despite trying its hardest, Hannibal cannot quite reach the same creepily entertaining heights as its predecessor and feels more like a waste for each of the talent involved.

5 / 10

It's okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

It’s okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

Photos Courtesy of: Screen Musings

The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Don’t trust your government. Because apparently, they have no clue what the hell’s going on half of the time.

The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds), seems like he may be giving the good ole’ boys of America a hard time. Actually, probably a lot harder than either the president (James Cromwell) or CIA director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) feel comfortable with! Apparently, a nuclear bomb that was mysteriously lost during a 1972 Israeli-Egyptian conflict, somehow finds its way back into prominence with the Russians who, in their sneaky ways, are making a secret bomb of their own. Some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn’t, but one thing’s for certain: America won’t be taking any chances with this whatsoever. This is when they decide to call in CIA Agent Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) who, having already written a book on Nemerov, seems like an expert of sorts on this type of stuff, and goes so far as to call him a “good man”. The U.S. government doesn’t agree with this and sets up defense as soon as they can. However, “as soon as they can”, may just be a little too late.

"I said, "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!""

“I said, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!””

Let’s not forget that this movie was released only nine months after the 9/11 attacks occurred and, in case you were born just yesterday or have been living under a rock for the past 12 years, America still hasn’t quite gotten over it. And nor should we; not only was it one of the worst travesties to happen to our country in the past hundred or so years, but it showed every citizen that yes, our country is vulnerable enough to where a couple of terrorists could actually get into planes, strapped with bombs to their chests, run those said planes into the Twin Towers and during the process, even blowing themselves, as well as everybody within a 10-feet-distance from them, up into smithereens. The images, videos, sound-bites, etc. are still shocking to this day and it has us wonder if anything as tragic like that will ever happen again to our country.

That’s why, when a movie that not just discusses the same ideas of terrorism like nukes, mass-genocide and paranoia, but even goes so far as to give us a shocking sequence in which all of Baltimore is hit by a nuclear bomb, it comes off as a bit “in poor taste”, for lack of a better term. Though some of you out there may get upset with me “spoiling” what happens about half-way through, I think it deserves to be noted because not only is it the turning-point for this movie, but it also still does the trick, even twelve years after it’s initial-release, and a little near-thirteen years after the infamous attacks themselves. It’s still shocking, it’s still brutal and, even despite some choppy-visuals here and there, still feels somewhat realistic.

Strange to think that seeing certain stuff like that in movies still gets us to this day, but so be it. That’s what happened to us on that fateful day, and for most of us, we’ll continue to be scarred till the rest of our days.

But anyway, like I was saying about how it effected this movie, because before this sequence, the movie was rather by-the-numbers. Sure, some of it had energy and intrigue added to the proceedings, but for the most part, I didn’t get what was really happening, nor did I really care. Nobody feels all that fleshed-out, with the exception of Freeman’s Cabot who, as you probably guessed, steals the show every time he shows up. Hell, even when he isn’t around, his presence can still be felt and you’ll wonder just when it is that he’ll show his lovely face again, and give us a character that we both enjoy to watch and be around, but also respect enough to where if he was in the same room as us, we’d automatically shut our traps and let him do whatever it is that he wants. He just has that type of control and prowess over a movie, which is why he was the only real reason to stick with this flick for its first-half, because everything else, is rather boring.

Then, the already-mentioned nuclear attack happens and all of a sudden: Everything in this movie is cranked-up to eleven and everybody is going absolutely ballistic. Though you could argue that this later-half of the film is as conventional and plain as the first, you can’t argue that it wasn’t entertaining to watch a bunch of heavy-hitting, grade-A character actors like Bruce McGill, Ken Jenkins, James Cromwell, and Philip Baker Hall walk around a board-room, just yelling at one another. Even if certain lines like, “It’s the Russians who did it! Nuke ’em!”, are a tad corny, they’re still fun to hear, especially when you have talented dudes like these delivering them. There’s also a stand-off between the Russian and United States government in which both presidents talk to one another through some sort of a computer-messaging system and though it may be a bit silly, it’s still suspenseful to watch and listen to. Yeah, typing on a keyboard has never been the most thrilling, nor exciting thing a movie can do, but here, it worked for me.

"Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something."

“Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something.”

However though, whenever we don’t focus on these powerful men screaming, figuring stuff out and yelling demands at one another, we focus on Jack Ryan as he ventures all throughout what rubble is left of Baltimore, which may have been exciting to watch, had Ryan’s story been all that interesting to begin with, but it isn’t. That’s not to discredit Ben Affleck too much here in the lead role, because while the guy definitely does try, the movie isn’t all that focused on him to begin with and only shines a light on him whenever necessary. I’m not saying that if you took him out of this film, it would work better, but you could probably have featured somebody awesome like Liev Schreiber’s very mysterious, yet ruthless spy in the same role, and it would have been a lot more entertaining to watch.

Then again, everybody out there in the world knows exactly who Ben Affleck is, and not Liev Schreiber. Hence why one is in main leading-role, whereas the other is in the strange, rather under-written supporting role. Sucks to say, but it’s true.

As it remains though, this is Jack Ryan’s story so when it does focus on him to really deliver the thrills, chills and elements of suspense, it isn’t that Affleck blows the chance to do so, it’s just that we don’t care that much. We see that he’s clearly a nice guy that has a bright head on his shoulder, but can’t fight worth of dick. Which means, that when he has to drop-down in the mud and get his knuckles dirty, it doesn’t fully work, nor does it make you believe too much in him. So it stands, Ford may have been the best Jack Ryan to-date, with Baldwin running a close-second. Sadly, that leaves poor Ben in last place, which isn’t so much of his fault, as it was more of just a wrong film, and wrong time. If Big Ben had been in either the Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, something tells me he would have been a nice fit and worked well with Clancy’s exposition-heavy dialogue. That’s not the case though. Poor guy. At least he’s onto portraying bigger and better characters than some chump named “Jack Ryan”.

Consensus: May not quite pick-up its full head of steam until half-way being over, but nonetheless, the Sum of All Fears is a well-acted, tense, exciting and rather visceral thriller that takes on a new life when you think about what our country had been going through at the point in time it was released, but also how the shots of a post-apocalyptic Baltimore still have us cringe a bit.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit's about to get real.

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit’s about to get real.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo