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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jane Levy

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

largLock the door next time! Come on!

When Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) decides that she’s had enough of it and quits her nursing job, she expects to live out the rest of her life the way she wants to. She can drink, smoke, read, listen to music, and eat ice cream all day, and not have a thing in the world to worry about. That all changes when one day, she comes home to her house burglarized, with some of her most treasured possessions gone, without a clue in the world of where it may have gone to. Though she does call the police, they don’t seem to really care, leaving Ruth to set out and find who robbed her house, by herself. But she soon realizes that it could be a very dangerous job for one woman to do by herself, leading her to invite random neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) along for this adventure of sorts. Tony’s more than ready to crack down on these two-bit criminals, until the both of them learn that they are dealing with much bigger fish and they aren’t going to fry easily.

Or yeah, something like that.

He was a boy.

He was a boy.

Writer/director Macon Blair is making his directorial debut here and while you may not know the name, you definitely know the face. He’s been in both of Jeremy Saulnier’s movies (Blue Ruin, Green Room), and is slowly, but surely, making a name for himself out there in the indie-world, which is why it’s interesting to see him try his hand at writing and directing movies. Cause if anything, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore feels a lot like a Saulnier movie, but instead of being drop-deadly, bleakly serious, it’s got a bit of a comedic-edge to it.

Initially, the movie seems like any other indie-comedy, with long, silent breaks of weird bits and pieces of comedy followed in, but slowly, and surely, the movie starts to show its true colors. Blair’s writing is, at the very least, interesting here, because he never quite picks a genre that he wants to work with; it’s a dark comedy for sure, but how dark and how funny the movie is going to stay, is never quite sure. We get these brief signs that the story’s going to take a viciously upsetting turn, but when and where is never quite known, and the mystery of it all is quite compelling.

And then, it gets viciously upsetting and all of a sudden, it feels like a whole different movie entirely.

See, as much as I don’t want to do this, Saulnier’s two movies so far, have absolutely benefited from the fact that they’re mean and serious, almost from the very start. They don’t try to crack any jokes, make light of a situation, and they sure as hell don’t loll-gag. They get right to the point and don’t leave us waiting. And that’s why they both work as well as they do – the violence we eventually get in those movies is stark and chilling, but sort of expected and germane, because the mood of the whole piece was already stern in the first place.

She was a girl.

She was a girl.

That’s why Blair’s movie doesn’t quite gel as well as it should. It doesn’t take itself seriously enough to fully work as a deadly serious thriller, nor does it goof around enough to work as a comedy. If anything, it’s a weird, odd, and twisted version of the two and in that sense, it’s definitely worth watching. Blair’s ambition to combine these two genres, so to speak, doesn’t fully come together as well as he may have wanted, but it’s worth noting that he at least tries and is at least semi-successful.

Shouldn’t that account for something?

Where Blair got really lucky was in the casting of both Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as this odd couple of sorts. Lynskey hasn’t always been considered “a scary presence”, but here, she shows that beyond her everyday woman appeal, there’s something meaner lingering. We don’t quite know what it is, or how it’s going to present itself, but we know it’s there and she’s interesting to watch because of that. Wood’s also very good in this role as Tony, a sort-of weirdo who knows karate and has numb-chucks. Normally, this kind of character would be used as a non-stop punch-line and never taken seriously, but Blair’s writing for him and Wood’s portrayal of him, shows that there’s actually a sweet soul stuck deep down inside of this goofy guy. He may think he’s a lot tougher than he is, but then again, who doesn’t? Together, the two have a nice chemistry that gets to play out in small, yet cute ways, showing that perhaps Blair could have just focused on them and left it at that.

Cause when Blair does show the “robbers”, of sorts, like I said, the movie acts very dark and serious. It also doesn’t help that these characters seem as if they’re from another movie entirely; one that’s way more over-the-top than this one here. So yeah, it doesn’t help them anymore and only takes away from Lynskey and Wood’s great moments together.

Consensus: With a darker edge than most comedies, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is an interesting watch, but also uneven, taking a more sinister and meaner approach to its material that doesn’t quite gel so well with the funnier, more human bits of itself.

6.5 / 10

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Photos Courtesy of: Collider

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

If the world of magic isn’t doing it for him any longer, David Blaine may have a future in robbing blind people’s houses.

Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three kids who seem to be making a living off of knocking off people’s homes. While it’s definitely trashy and not an ideal lifestyle to live, honestly, it’s the only way they can survive. One day, they hatch up this perfect plan to rob this rich blind guy (Stephen Lang), who also happens to live all by himself, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It seems like the perfect job to, hopefully, end all jobs and that’s what seems to be happening, until they screw up one too many times and it turns out that the rich blind guy isn’t so sad and defenseless as they expected.

Honestly, that’s about all I can say about Don’t Breathe without really spoiling all of the fun for those who want to check it out, because it truly is the kind of small, but simple movie that deserves to be less said about, in order to be fully enjoyed. It’s the kind of movie that takes so many sick and twisted turns throughout it’s near hour-and-a-half run-time, that really, speaking about any of them in particular, or even hinting at them to great lengths would be an injustice. Just know that Don’t Breathe is the kind of movie that starts out as something you’d expect, but ends as something totally different.

He clearly opened up the more adult Goosebumps book.

He clearly opened up the more adult Goosebumps book.

Make any sense?

If not, that’s okay; Don’t Breathe seems like the sort of movie that works best when you look at it as a thriller, and less of an actual horror flick, filled with shocks, gasps, and jump-scares (even if that’s how it’s being advertised). Co-writer/director Fede Alvarez does something genius here with his material in that he continuously finds smart and clever ways to sneak up on us some more, making what would seem like a very simple, almost straightforward story, get spun in so many different ways, that it’s actually hard to pinpoint where it’s going to end up or turn to next. That same kind of film making seemed to be lost in his version of Evil Dead, even if there is a part of me that feels like he was just playing by some sort of studio mandate and didn’t have the total free reign to strike out on his own, do whatever he wanted to, and let his freak-fag fly.

Here though, Alvarez gets more than enough opportunities to do so and it’s quite a blast to watch. You almost get the sense that Alvarez is just so happy to be here, making a movie in his own name, with his own stamp, and isn’t going to shy away from doing whatever the hell it is that he wants, regardless of whether people enjoy it or not. In a way, that sort of works best for the movie, as the flick itself can get to some pretty dark, grueling and messed-up places that aren’t easy to expect – if anything, they’re small, little nudges towards darkness that Alvarez himself is more than happy to embrace, even when it seems like his movie is being advertised heavily towards teens.

If anything, Don’t Breathe is for the true, die-hard horror-junkies, even if it’s not totally a horror flick.

Someone's trapped in the closet! Who's in the closet?

Someone’s trapped in the closet! Who’s in the closet? Get it? R. Kelly?

But like I said, that’s kind of why Don’t Breathe is so special – it’s as small, as contained and as simple as you can get with a movie, even better, a horror-thriller, but it works so well. Rather than seeming like a manipulative way to cut-down on budget costs and whatnot, Don’t Breathe‘s premise actually seems more freaky, in hindsight, in how it’s this one, singular incident, as opposed to the whole wide world. It’s not the scariest flick out there, but the gore, the action and the blood is in full-force and you know what? That’s alright with me.

That said, if there is any department that Don’t Breathe seems to need help in is that it’s characters aren’t all that well-written or dimensional, but that can be forgiven in a movie as short as this. It seems more like Alvarez gives them as much attention as he can, showing them in their lives, and then spurning them off into more crazy and insane havoc, where the lines are constantly being blurred between who’s a “good guy”, and who’s a “bad one”. Honestly, it’s hard to ever make sense of who is in the right, who is in the wrong, and who is just doing whatever the hell it is that they can to survive, but no matter what, it’s a compelling thrill-ride.

With, or without the scares.

Consensus: Small and contained, yet fun, compelling and most of all, surprising, Don’t Breathe is the kind of low-key horror-thriller that Hollywood seems to have given up on, but we’ll hopefully see more of.

8 / 10

He's foolin'. Dude's just trying to collect disability.

He’s foolin’. Dude’s just trying to collect disability.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, The Verge 

Evil Dead (2013)

Ash would have saved the day in no time. Oh, Bruce. How I miss you so.

Five twenty-something friends hole up in a remote cabin for a weekend filled of booze, drugs, sex, and a bunch of fun. Problems get in the way of their plans once when they discover a strange novel downstairs in the basement  called the Book of the Dead. As they continue to read the book, they unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters to get killed-off, one by one, until only one is left intact to fight for survival.

Of course, there’s a little bit more than I let on with that synopsis. There’s more human-emotions going on this time around where family members quarrel, friends have arguments  and a sister is trying to kick a drug habit. But however, the story is still the same and it’s not because that plot-line has been done already once by the original Evil Dead, but because it’s been used in almost every other camp-fire story ever told before the sands of time. We all know that whenever kids go out to a cabin in the woods, all they want to do is chill out, party, drink a little brew, have a little sex, and just get out of the real world, when in reality (or non-reality): the exact opposite happens to them. It was fine when it was done in the 80’s, and heck, it was even fine when it was done last year (Cabin in the Woods), but enough is enough with the simple, conventional horror stories, and most importantly: enough is enough with the goddamn, useless remakes. Yes, I am talking about this movie.

Been raping young, teenage girls est. 1981.

Been raping young, teenage girls est. 1981.

If there is any amount of credit I have to give to this film, it’s director Fede Alvarez who actually does some new and cool things with this already-known story. Not does he change certain things up a bit with the story and how people die, but he totally abandons the humor-aspect. In ways, this works, and in ways; it doesn’t. But what should be known is that for all that the guy does, at least he does it with energy and some amount of heart. “Some”, being the key word.

Alvarez starts this flick pretty interestingly, having us have to deal with characters pissing and moaning, but also watching as how they don’t really know what to expect. But that’s where the interesting-aspect begins to go away, and the conventionality of this movie begins. It isn’t that I don’t mind when a horror movie likes to have fun with itself, gross us out, and even give us a couple of shockers along the way (you know what I mean, pervs), but I at least want to see something new and original, almost as if I haven’t seen it done before, ever. Now, I know that’s hard when you take a genre like the horror genre, and try to spin it 100 ways it’s already been spun, but you at least got to add a new flavor, a new coding, or just a simple piece of the recipe that may spice things up a bit. The “simple piece of the recipe that may spice things up a bit”, is definitely Alvarez’s unapologetic use of gore, blood, and/or ketchup packets and blood-flavored corn syrup, but that can only go so far, when you have characters doing THE SAME DAMN THING OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

Movies like this bother me because they always want to please the audience into thinking that everything they are about to watch is going is to surprise the hell out of them and shock them in one way they weren’t expecting (once again, cut it out you pervs), but it just doesn’t. The least-important characters to the story usually get knocked-off from least-meaningful to the main character, almost as if it was your wedding invitations; characters still fall for the bone-headed tricks like a monster changing it’s face to sound like the human they have possessed; and characters not having the balls to pull the trigger on that possessed-human, even if they know already that they are fucked-up, and never coming back. Also, while I’m at it; why does every, single character in a horror movie have to act like they don’t know what’s going to happen next when they enter a room, because the person they were talking to didn’t answer them? Really! If the person didn’t answer when you called them the first 500 times, either they don’t want to talk to you or they’re dead. It’s either one or the other. That’s what I usually used to think with all of my ex’s, but when it came right down to it: it was more of the former, than the latter. My life: one big misery.

Not campy enough!

Not campy enough!

But some of you out there may be saying, “Well, the original was just like that” or “That’s just how most horror movies are.” If you were to say any of those two statements to me, online or in real-life, I would have to agree with you but then also have a nice, calmed, and relaxed discussion about how the original had all of those conventions, but at least had fun with them in a campy, small-budgeted way. Sam Raimi and friends didn’t give a crap if they were re-inventing the wheel or changing the way the world works, they just wanted to have some fun, splash some paint everywhere they could, and get a good laugh while they were at it. This movie is too concerned with being serious, trying to be scary, and doing all that it can in it’s might, to have us feel like, as the poster says, “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience.” Raimi didn’t give a crap about that, but apparently Alvarez was in a total, and completely and different world when he realized that maybe the original could be better, if it was serious and more about it’s scares. Once again, it may or may not have been his thought-process when he saw that classic, but something tells me it what exactly that.

As usual, every character is a cliché we have all seen before, but at least the performances are okay, right? Ehh! Shiloh Fernandez has just about sucked nuts in about everything I’ve seen him in, but he’s fine here as the older, more wiser brother. He isn’t corny and he isn’t trying too hard. Good for him. Apparently there was a lot of talk about how the character of Ash wouldn’t be in this movie. But not just the name, mind you, the actual fact that an Ash-like character would pop-up in this movie, but as a (get ready for it)….WOMAN!! That’s right. Jane Levy plays the troubled-sister going all cold turkey on everybody’s asses and is fine for what she has to do, but is actually left to be possessed for the longest time. Eventually, she does get the chance to have her fun time, but it isn’t until a little, too late in the game, to where she doesn’t even seem to pose a threat to these monsters, witches, and bad-souls. These are the only two that are worth mentioning in this flick, and considering that the movie holds a main cast of only 5 or 6 people; it’s a bit of a bummer.

Consensus: For fans of the horror genre, no matter how obvious or predictable it may get at times, the remake of Evil Dead will please most gore-lovers out there, but there isn’t much else that will shock you, surprise you, or even scare you for that matter. In my opinion, just stay at home and check out the original Evil Dead, or the whole Army of Darkness trilogy and just be reminded of how awesome Raimi and Bruce Campbell were, when they worked together.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Only the face a legion of cult-fans could love.

Only the face a legion of cult-fans could love.

Nobody Walks (2012)

Girl hipsters that look like 14-year-old boys, never a good sign for the married-man.

Olivia Thirlby stars as Martine, a New York City artist who stays with a local family (Rosemarie DeWitt and John Krasinski) in Los Angeles while working on her art film. But her arrival in this seemingly idyllic family soon begins to unravel suppressed impulses in everyone and forces them to confront their own fears and desires.

I honestly don’t mind a good infidelity movie here and there, especially when they have a top-notch cast and promise like this. However, in order for me to like that infidelity movie, I have to buy into the infidelity that is actually occurring and even though there is definitely a lot of screwing around, a lot of wondering whether or not the other person knows about the screwing around, and a lot awkward conversations between one another because of them wondering whether or not the other person knows about the screwing around, I still did not really buy into it all. I bought into the fact that John Krasinski could be a humbled and horny husband, though. If that accounts for anything.

Right from the beginning, you can tell this is an indie-movie, through and through. You got the shaggy-looking people, staring-off into space; you have the unusual jobs for certain human-beings; you have the long scenes that are filled with no dialogue, but instead some moody music from an indie band only 3 people know about; and you also have a shit-ton of symbolism, coming through other layers of the story. So basically, any idea that this movie is going to be like Fatal Attraction; you’re wrong. It’s more or less like indie-version Fatal Attraction; had Michael Douglas and Glenn Close just boned every once and awhile and never actually spoke to each other. That probably would have solved a lot of things in that movie and definitely steered-clear of any rabbits to be hurt, but I digress.

Don't make Jim angry. You don't like Jim when Jim's angry.

Don’t make Jim angry. You won’t like Jim when Jim’s angry.

That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of the stuff you’d expect from movies where people are cheating on each other, because there definitely is, it just feels so under-cooked that by the time the movie’s over, you’re left with, “That’s it?”. I’m not going to go into the logistics of this movie, what happens, and practically spoil the whole damn movie for you but when you see how much immoral-boning actually happens here, you’re going to be surprised that there’s even a story in the first-place. You just never feel those sparks of fire, burning up inside the plot and these characters’ minds, and instead, you just feel the need inside of you to just get some sort of “oh shit” moment to really lift things up from being a bit of a bore.

Mostly where the lack of sparks come from, is the fact that we never really feel like we understand what the attraction between some of these people are. Martine obviously has this way to her that gets guys all wood’d-up in the pants and the wives’ eyes glued to their men, but we never fully understand why she does the things she does and why the guys who get involved with her, actually do. Yeah, she’s got a cool look to her that reminds me of when I was 10 and definitely dresses all hip and cool, considering she’s the New Yorker in L.A., but there’s nothing to understand. She’s hot, I guess? I never understood that and maybe that’s how most affairs begin: the idea of having a new spice of life to happen to you, without any rhyme or reason as to why that certain someone or something was picked. If that was the case, the movie could have brought that out more. More for me to understand and more just to keep me interested.

Even though it’s hardly ever boring, the film just never feels like it has a clear destination in place and even worse, no route or alternate ways to take. It’s just sort of free balling as it goes along and that’s all fine and dandy when you have a movie that wants to be all-over-the-place and unpredictable, but that IS NOT this film. You sort of see where it’s going and when, you just don’t know why and I don’t think the film did, either. You just never really get a clear-look at these characters, what keeps them going on throughout the day, and what gets them to tick. Instead, you just see them do their jobs, get horned-up on-occasion, and have all types of awkward conversations with one another. The dialogue is good but when these characters aren’t speaking, then that’s when things go South for this flick and it definitely disappointed me because I was expecting big things from this movie.

Honestly, the reason i was expecting such big things from this movie is because it features not one, not two, but THREE stars that have been really working their ways up the ladder of sorts, in terms of dramatic-acting and earning some r.e.s.p.e.c.t. This seems to be John Krasinski’s first, real and raw dramatic-role for him and the guy handles it very, very well. The Krasinski look and charm is still there, but now we have a more ruffled and worn-out type of dude that just so happens to want a little excitement in his life. I will say one thing about this guy, even though he definitely gets away with banging around for a tad bit, he definitely isn’t very bright when it comes to keeping it a secret and there were plenty of times where I just wanted to slap him and be like, “Wake up bro! The bitch knows!”. Regardless of his character’s somewhat stupidity, Krasinski is still a solid actor and it’s nice to finally see him not play Jim Halpert.

From a far, this looks like a total dude. Still, I'd bone.

From a far, this looks like a total dude. Still, I’d bone.

Another reason for Krasinski’s character’s stupidity, isn’t just by the way how he not-so subtlety hides it away, but the fact that he’s cheating on his wife, played by the ever-gorgeous Rosemarie DeWitt. I’ve really been drooling over DeWitt as of late and everything that she does and even though she is very good here, it’s not a very showy role for her. She does get a couple of key-scenes where you see her really come into her own, but it only occurs once during the beginning and twice during the end. Other than those three instances, we don’t see much more of Rosemarie. Shame, too, because she’s such a joy to watch on-screen. I was also surprised to see Dylan McDermott play such a d-bag as her ex-hubby who only shows up for one scene, but was one scene where I was very interested and though McDermott did an awesome job with such a small, meaningless role.

Olivia Thirlby has really been working her way up the food-chain ever since her days of paling around with Juno, but Thirlby has come into her own now and is actually pretty good that way. As I’ve already stated about her character, I never really understood what was so breath-taking or amazing about her that stopped every man from what they were doing at that point in time, but Thirlby still handles it all well and has us believe in her. She’s not likable but she’s not a unlikable, neither. She’s just somewhere in the middle and I think that’s a true testament to Thirlby for giving this one-dimensional character some heart and emotions, even if half of them are just moaning and groaning, if you know what I mean?

Consensus: DeWitt, Krasinski, and Thirlby all raise Nobody Walks‘ relatively-mediocre material up a notch more than expected, but it is still a bit of a disappointment how very little emotional fireworks actually went-off.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Marry me! Now!

Just marry me! Now!