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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jason Mitchell

Detroit (2017)

Honestly, has much changed? NOPE.

It’s the summer of 1967 and in Detroit, there’s all sorts of tension boiling up, to go along with the non-stop heat, rioting and civil unrest. It’s starting to tear apart the seat which has every person, white or black, on the edge of their toes, not knowing what to do next, or just how to get out of this awful situation alive. The cops are constantly having to fight huge crowds and yes, the huge crowds themselves, who are predominately black, are tired of being discriminated against and they’re not going to take it anymore. But while this is all happening, somewhere outside of where all the action’s taking lace, there’s a report of gunshots that the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Army National Guard decide to investigate. Eventually, they are drawn to the Algiers Motel, where they search the whole joint, looking for guns, or any sorts of weapons of any kind. Seemingly coming up empty and pissed-off, several policemen start to torture and interrogate the many suspects they have in their possession. In other words, it’s not a nice situation to be in and guess what? It’s not going to get any better.

Uniforms don’t count.

Detroit‘s marketing has smartly been revolving around the fact that it’s about the Detroit Race Riots, all of the shots, explosions, fights, brawls, and havoc that we expect with these kinds of movies. After all, it’s a movie from Kathryn Bigelow who, especially as of late, is known for her super big, bright, loud, and ambitious projects, and hell, it’s even titled “Detroit”, as if it was going to be all about the riot and not much else. And yes, even for awhile, it seems like that; we get to see the beginning of the riots, acquainted with a few characters, and even get a sense of when and where everything is happening. It’s all scattershot and a little meandering, but of course, that’s the point.

Because really, Detroit is about this one horrific moment in the middle of all other horrific moments that, needless to say, would tell us everything about what got people so pissed-off in the first place.

And hell, why they’re still so pissed-off now.

But like I said, once Bigelow gets to this infamous moment, all 55 minutes of it, the movie grabs ahold and does not let go for a single second. It’s brutal, it’s disturbing, it’s uncomfortable, it’s mean, and yeah, it’s all too real to look away from; it’s the kind of unrelenting and gritty sequence we’d get in something like a Michael Haneke film, where it’s so hard-to-watch, we can’t look away. And in Detroit‘s case, that’s a positive – it helps put us right there, with everyone, feeling the same paranoia and anguish that was felt for all parties involved, most importantly, the victims.

It’s also where Bigelow’s directing really works best, as it tells us everything we need to know, but without really hitting us over-the-head. Mark Boal’s screenplay helps us in that regard, too, because he understands that while most people know about race-relations and police-corruption within the United States, he also gets the sense that stories such as this need to be re-told. In a day and age where anyone, literally anyone, can get pulled over by a cop and wind-up dead, for no real reason at all, then yes, movies like Detroit matter and deserve to be made, seen, and spread across all countries, not just America.

Way too many similar images out there.

But by the same token, the movie does run into its fair share of problems.

For instance, when the sequence is over, the movie really doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Of course, it turns into a courtroom drama, where all the surviving parties duke it out in a supposedly fair trial, but honestly, by that point, we’re already so winded, it’s hard to really keep up with everything. We, the viewers, just went through a near-hour of hell and now, we’re expected to sit around and chill out, watching as more injustices get committed and more corruption gets swept under the rug? It’s a lot to ask for and really, it depends on how you’re feeling.

Me, I was fine with it, but for different reasons. By this point, it’s less about the injustices, and more about the physical and mental scares left on these many individuals who were victimized in this one situation. No matter what happens, no matter where they go, no matter what they do, they will always remember this situation, how it turned out so damn awful, and how it never even needed to get to that point, but did, because of racism.

Plain and simple.

And that, to me, is the hardest pill to swallow here and why, despite its faults, Detroit is a compelling watch. It doesn’t get everything right – even some of the performances from a relatively solid ensemble can be a little weak and hammy – but at the end of the day, it’s about a grave injustice that should have never happened in the first place and should have immediately been stopped. Come to think of it, they still could and yet, for some odd reason, they aren’t.

Why, people? Why!

Consensus: Even with the structure-problems, Detroit still works as a hard-hitting and absolutely disturbing take on race-relations, power, corruption, and violence in America that, despite being set 50 years ago, is still awfully relevant today. Go figure.

8 / 10

Seriously. Is this from the movie, or like, two weeks ago? What’s going on!?!?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

If it’s not on Google Maps, chances are, you should stay away from it.

It’s 1973, the Vietnam War is close to an end, and Bill Randa (John Goodman) a senior official in a super secret government organization known as Monarch, finally sees his opportunity to capitalize on achieving one of his biggest missions yet: Going to the mysterious Skull Island and figuring out what sort of threat is out there. After much arm-twisting, the government finally gives Randa the tools and resources he needs to get there, which means that he gets the army, the weapons, as well as the experts to help guide him along on this possibly dangerous island. One person Randa seeks out and pays to help him is world-renowned traveler James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), who doesn’t know what’s there on Skull Island, either, but doesn’t like the sounds of it, which is why he demands for his pay to be doubled. Meanwhile, on the mission, is anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who can’t wait to see what’s out there, and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a member of the Army who isn’t too happy about what happened with the war and isn’t ready to let that go. Not even a gigantic, monstrous and incredibly violent ape known as Kong.

Kong best look out.

Kong: Skull Island is so entertaining, so quick, so visually impressive, and so fun that, even with all of its flaws, I’m willing and absolutely able to just let bygones be bygones and praise the film as it is. Because even though the script is silly, underwritten, and not at all up to the task of aiding and abetting this talented ensemble, the direction from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is so thrilling, it’s hard to care so much. After all, do you really go to a King Kong movie for the well-written, three-dimensional, and emotionally complex characters? Or, do you go to a King Kong movie for the vividly gigantic monsters beating the absolute hell out of one another and terrorizing any human that tries to stand in their ways?

Honestly, it’s not bad to have a little bit of both, but fine, Kong: Skull Island wants to stick with the later, so whatever.

Either way, Kong: Skull Island is still a very fun movie and a lot of that is credited to Vogt-Roberts because he takes what could have been a very soulless, almost boring job of rebooting the tale of Kong and instead, adds some life, flair (literally), and energy into it. One of the most notable and interesting aspects Vogt-Roberts adds here is that Kong: Skull Island is, on one hand, a monster movie, in which people run away and try to kill a monster, but on the other hand, it’s also a Vietnam War movie, in which some cold cut rock classics from the early-70’s blasts out from the speakers, everyone’s a little scared and paranoid, and yeah, the temperature is hot, sweaty and downright miserable. In a way, Vogt-Roberts wants to make the Apocalypse Now of monster movies and while he doesn’t quite reach those heights, he still shows us all something new and original can be done with the monster movie.

And because of this, there’s an energy to Skull Island that’s hard to resist and shove-off. Even though it’s absolutely clear from the get-go that the script is going to be shoddy, silly and downright stupid, there’s just something about the look and feel of this all that’s easy to ride along with and enjoy. Even those who want to see Kong in all of his finest form, will be pleased to know that he’s seen a whole bunch throughout and doing all the sorts of things that you’d expect him to do in a movie involving him; there’s smashing, crunching, chewing, roaring, pounding, beating, breaking, punching, kicking, throwing, eating, and oh yeah, crying. Kind of.

But not from these fools.

Regardless, those who complained about 2014 Godzilla not having enough of said title character, then sit down, shut up and feast your eyes on the creature that you’ve all been so desperately wanting to see.

That said though, like I’ve said before, the script is just, uhm, how should I say this? Lame. But it’s not terrible in that it’s hard to listen to, ruins the movie, and sucks all of the fun out of it; it’s more that it feels like a leftover script from the 90’s, right around the time Jurassic Park came out and all of a sudden, everyone wanted to make a big-budget, effects-heavy monster movie. Meaning, there’s a lot of cheesy one-liners; a lot of characters who have basically one personality-trait to them and it basically defines them; a lot of contrivances; a lot of scenes that need more explaining; and oh yeah, a lot of random bits of silliness that seem to literally come from out of nowhere.

And it’s weird, too, because the cast here is so well-done and impressive, that it’s a bit of a shame. No one’s bad here, honestly, but because the net has been cast so far and wide, no one true performance really gets to shine above the rest. The only ones I can truly think of doing this are probably John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s just because they get maybe two or three more sentences than the rest of the cast to explain themselves and allow us to get to know them a tad bit better. Others like Hiddleston, Larson, Goodman, Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, and an oddly miscast Thomas Mann, all fall by the waist side and it’s a sign that the movie may have cast a smaller net, or have been longer.

Still though, for a movie that clocks in just under two hours, it makes for a good time. Just don’t try and think too hard, like me.

Basically, don’t be me.

Consensus: Even with an awfully wacky script, Kong: Skull Island gets by solely on the pure energy and fun from its direction, as well as an interesting take on the monster movie genre itself.

7 / 10

Oh wait. Never mind. He can’t be stopped.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Keanu (2016)

Cat people can relate.

Recently dumped by his girlfriend and without much of a reason to live, Rell (Jordan Peele) seems to spend most of his days crying, smoking a ton of pot and not even attempting to get over his ex. His cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), on the other hand, seems to be just fine with his life, where he’s got a wife (Nia Long) that loves him and a daughter that is fine enough with him, too. Eventually though, Rell finds some happiness when a cute kitten winds up on his doorstep and he starts to grow closer and closer to it, forging a loving and adoring friendship in which Rell learns about love all over again. But somehow, his cat, who he names “Keanu”, gets stolen by a band of thieves, which leaves Rell and Clarence with nothing else to do other than go out there and search for it. After all, Clarence’s wife and daughter are gone for the weekend, so what else are they going to do for the next few days? When the two do eventually find Keanu, they realize that he’s under the ownership of a notorious and dangerous drug-dealer by the name of Cheddar (Method Man) who mistakes them for two bad-ass, evil gun-slingers. Eventually, the two go along with it long enough to where they’re taking up new identities and getting involved with all sorts of crime, all for the sake of getting Keanu when all is said and done.

Get a gun, get gangster.

Get a gun, get gangster.

A lot of people will get on the case of Keanu because it’s not nearly as funny, or as smart as everything that Key & Peele have done. Sure, that’s already a lot to live up to in the first place, but you’d think that with literally the same team behind this one, that the same line of hilarity and genius would be drawn and would just add to the overall spectacle of this movie and make us realize why them letting their show end was such a smart move in the first place. But no, that’s not what happens.

And you know what? That’s actually fine.

Because, for what it’s worth, Keanu doesn’t set the comedy world on fire, nor does it need to. Sure, Key and Peele have been way funnier and smarter before, but with Keanu, it seems like their sole purpose is to attack a full-feature length, big-budget flick, see what works, see what doesn’t, move on, and continue doing what they do best. If you look at Keanu as a practice-round for both Key and Peele, then yes, it’s a very impressive one, because it’s not just a pretty funny movie, but one that has a thing or two to actually say about race.

But then again, maybe not. Maybe Key and Peele just wanted to make a funny comedy, not try to be too serious, or try to get preachy, and instead, just make the audience laugh at what they’re setting out to do. If that was their goal, then yes, mission accomplished because Keanu, for a good portion of itself, does a lot of funny things. Scenes where it just seems like Key, Peele and the rest of the cast are just making stuff up as they go along, with little rhyme or reason, surprisingly works and adds a bit of a fun flair to Keanu that may not have been too present in the first few minutes. What could have been a very annoying hour-and-a-half movie of a bunch of people riffing off one another because they don’t have much of a script to work with, surprisingly works when you least expect it to.

Sure, the idea that these two characters are playing-up the whole “gangster” look and feel may get a tad old for some, but it didn’t for me.

I don’t know what this says about me – either I really like comedy aimed at making fun at the whole “gangster” lifestyle, or I was just in a good mood – but regardless, Keanu is a funny movie. It’s hard to really go on and on about a comedy movie that sets out to do something, delivers on that promise and doesn’t ask for you to remember tomorrow, next week, or ever. All that it wants from you is to enjoy it and laugh at it while you can. Take away all of the things we know and love Key and Peele for from their show, and you won’t be hitting yourself over the head by how Keanu is just a fine, if pretty funny movie.

Get it? Instead of "Cheese", it's "Cheddar". Hm. I wonder if Key and Peele have ever watched the Wire?

Get it? Instead of “Cheese”, it’s “Cheddar”. Hm. I wonder if Key and Peele have ever watched the Wire?

The movie may try to parody John Wick to some extent, but doesn’t really get that far, or seem all that interested in addressing that idea, just like it doesn’t know what it wants to say about the gangster lifestyle and the people that live or die by it. In fact, you may be surprised by the attention to heart and detail the movie puts into its smaller characters, in which every member of this “gang”, all have their own little backstories and personalities that eventually come into play later on, and it helps make this movie seem like so much more than just your average comedy.

Even if, yes, it totally is.

But that’s okay. Key and Peele are fine and smart enough to know that if they don’t strike gold here, they still have plenty of opportunities to do so in the near-future. As actors here, they both do fine; Peele plays up his slacker-bro, whereas Key has some of the funnier moments as the stiff who turns out to be the most hardcore and sinister of the two when he has to. It’s ordinary roles for these two guys and just like the movie, they’re all fine with it. They’re just here to make us laugh and that’s fine.

Maybe next time, however, try a tad harder, fellas.

Consensus: Despite not reaching the comedic heights their show was able to hit episode-after-episode, Keanu still features an assured, if funny piece of comedy from the minds of Key and Peele, that may play more as an experiment, rather than a fully completed piece. But still, that cat is cute as hell.

7.5 / 10

Kitties always save the day. Until they pull a knife on you and slit your throat at night. What? I've heard of it happening before.

Kitties always save the day. Until they pull a knife on you and slit your throat at night. What? I’ve heard of it happening before.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Hip Hop DX, Movie News Plus