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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 Salkey

The Road To Guantanamo (2006)

War crimes, eh?

Right after 9/11, the whole world was pretty much all shaken up and paranoid. Meaning, anyone who was either Muslim, or looked to be Muslim, were watched, attacked, and in some cases, arrested, interrogated, and tortured, all for the sake of tolerance and peace. Or so they say. And around this time, there was a case in which several British Muslim friends go to Pakistan to attend a wedding. For some odd reason, despite the political climate, they decide to go off and visit Afghanistan, but they find Kandahar under attack and flee to Kabul. Seeing as how their trip has turned to absolute crap, given what’s going on, they try to return to Pakistan but mistakenly end up in a Taliban stronghold. Following their capture, they are sent to a U.S. military base in Cuba, where they endure all sorts of mental and physical pain, anguish, and hurt, all by the hands of soldiers who are red-hot and ready to find terrorist, no matter where they may be. Hell, in some cases, they don’t even care if they’re terrorists or not – they just need someone to interrogate and find more information about. And it all took place in a little place called Guantanamo.

Anyone who shops at the GAP clearly must be a terrorist.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

Docudramas are really hard to pull-off in a totally and completely satisfying way. Mostly, that has to do with recreations themselves, while maybe meaningful and pertinent to explaining some stories for the camera and the audience at-home, can also feel a little hokey. Sometimes, just hearing a person explain a situation is more than enough, rather than having the actions played-out to us in over-dramatic, possibly theatrical ways, with actors who don’t really seem to fully grasp what they’re doing.

Basically, it reminds people too much of TV documentaries and honestly, some of those can kind of be lame.

But the Road to Guantanamo uses these dramatizations in a manner that doesn’t just aid the story, but makes it feel a lot more like a movie. The movie itself is probably an-hour-and-a-half long, but it zips through everything so damn quickly that, honestly, it feels like an hour less than that. Director Michael Winterbottom has taken on many different faces and beings throughout his career and it’s surprising to see him handle everything here so well, what with the interviews, the dramatizations, and political-messages all coming together in one, seamless package.

Don’t know what scare-tactic is, but yeah, probably not working.

If anything, it’s impressive how well it all comes together, without it ever feeling like the message was lost, in between all of the action and disturbing, sometimes graphic details. Cause at the center of this all, is really a story, or a few, in that sense, about Guantanamo itself and just how far exactly the United States went to ensure that they found terrorists, regardless of if the prisoners were even terrorists in the first place. And being nearly 16 years since the start of the Iraq War, it’s common knowledge that, yes, Guantanamo was an awful place and even worse, did way more harm than good.

If anything, it helped create more terrorists, than actually stop, or find them. It helped usher in an even more negative persona for the United States and the Army, than either already had before. Did it help us get a few people? Quite possibly. The facts still remain to be seen, even until this very day, but what Road to Guantanamo helps us understand a whole lot more, is that in this huge dungeon of doom, there were still human lives at stake here. Most were being destroyed and it’s honestly a tragedy that no one, not even till this very day, has been held accountable for it.

Sure, the movie does leave a lot of questions up to the viewer about why these men were even in Afghanistan in the first place, but really, those sorts of questions aren’t all that pertinent. The fact remains that a little part of each and everyone of them died once they were taken in and tortured and who’s to blame for that? Us, or them?

Honestly, the answer is pretty damn easy.

Consensus: As compelling as it is thoughtful, the Road to Guantanamo is lightning-fast docudrama on a few individuals stories, that not only highlight their own personal journeys through hell, but just what it is that Guantanamo itself stood for then, and until this very day.

8 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: The New York Times, Bidoun, Ceasefire Magazine

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About a Boy (2002)

Boys will be boys, even if they are stammering fools.

Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) is a bit of a shallow dude. For one, he closes himself off from the rest of the world, he doesn’t work, he gains all sorts of money off of the royalties for some Christmas song his dad made back in the day and shags plenty of women, although he never plans on, and never actually does, give them a call back or anything. Although, it may make you wonder: Why would somebody who is as charming as Will, actually conjure up a plan to act as if he is a single-daddy, only to connect with more single-mothers, in hopes that he’d be able to nab them as well? Either way though, it doesn’t matter because Will goes for it anyway and wouldn’t you know it? The results don’t go as planned. Not only does he not get nookie, but now he’s got some awkward, mopey teen named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) who just won’t leave him alone. But little does he know that Marcus has a bit of a problem at home with his suicidal-mommy (Toni Collette) at home, as well as being picked on at school, and is only in need of a friend; something that Will himself may need as well. His only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.

If anybody out there reading this right now as ever read a Nick Hornby novel, they know one thing about the dude: He knows how to write characters. Not just good characters or those easy-to-define types, nope, he’s more-attuned at writing about and characterizing those certain people in our lives we choose not to be around or associated with, and therefore, would not ever want to spend time with in a movie for a near-two hours.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can totally relate.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can relate.

You know, the unlikable people.

But somehow, Hornby makes these said “unlikable people” actually ones we can actually stand to be around, but even like and, dare I say it, connect with. Because see, Hornby may love it when his characters don’t do the best, most moral things to other people, but he never stops to show us why that said person, does that said immoral act. It actually gets us to grow closer to these characters, just as we’re watching the character themselves grow-up and begin to learn more about being a good, kind person in the world.

You know, like you’re supposed to be.

And with Will Freeman, Hornby truly did give us a d-bag that is not only hardly sympathetic, but pretty damn knowing about his mean ways as well. He knows that he’s lazy, a bum, a dick and a cad-like fella that loves a good shag every now and then, but never anything too severe to where he actually has to start up a relationship with anybody, where commitments, and feelings and all sorts of that icky, gooey stuff gets thrown into the mix. Will just isn’t programmed, but he’s not acting like he is, which sort of makes him interesting to watch. Sure, we know he loves lying to women, in the most manipulative-ways possible so that he can just bed them, but he never really tries to go for anything more than just a god’s-to-honest, simple fling and that’s all. All the ladies out there must hate him, but from one guy to another, I have to say, the guy is pretty damn cool.

That’s also the main reason why the casting of Hugh Grant in the lead role as Will Freeman was not only perfect, but nearly game-changing, in terms of Grant’s career as a head-liner. Grant’s always been the type of bumbling idiot that the dudes love to hate, and their girlfriends secretly want to be with, that’s never really stretched himself too much as an actor and instead, has just relied on two faces: Example A and B. Yes, those same faces have somehow been able to charm just about each and every women across the globe, but it hasn’t really earned him much respect or credit, in terms of just what it is that he’s capable of doing as an actor, and how he’s able to make it seem like he’s more than just another pretty face, who just so happens to have a relatively fine amount of skills as an actor.

But that all changed with Will Freeman, as Grant was not only able to show us that he’s able to be downright funny at times, but that he’s also able to do it while being a bit of a smug prick. You can tell that he’s like a man-child with a million-dollar smile and fine collection of all sorts music, but you can’t always hold it against him, because once Marcus walks into his life, times eventually do change for the guy and even though he does put up a fight against it for practically the whole time, he never does anything too reprehensible to where we totally abandon his character. Eventually too, he begins to realize that he needs Marcus, just as much as Marcus needs him and therefore, they build a lovely chemistry that not only improves over time, but begins to get more and more real, once actual relationships and friendships seem to get all caught up in the mix.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid's slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid’s slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Needless to say though, Grant is the sole reason why Freeman is the type of character who is worth watching, but also another main reason why this movie deserves to be seen. Makes me wish he did more nowadays, but I guess that whenever we get to see him show up in something, whether it’d be as 2,000 different characters in Cloud Atlas, then that’s fine too. Although, the same can’t be said for Nicholas Hoult who is not only making quite a splash as a leading-man of sorts himself, but is also making a splash into some noteworthy people’s beds, if you know what I mean? Anyway though, that doesn’t matter because Hoult still does a fine enough job here as Marcus to where he’s not non-stop annoying the whole time through. He’s definitely a needy-boy who practically pushes himself onto Will and into his life, but you can’t help but think you’d do the same thing, especially if you saw some middle-aged bum just wasting his life away on game show re-runs.

Together, they’re great and give this movie all the fine heart and soul it clearly needed to survive. Although, if I had to pick a problem I had with this movie, it was that the romance-angle Will had with Rachel Weisz’s character wasn’t all that well-written, or even developed really. Both of them clearly try, and having Rachel Weisz in a movie, is definitely better than NOT having Rachel Weisz in a movie, but it did make me wish her character was given more to work with. At least nearly as much as Toni Collette had to work with, but then again, that woman could make even M. Night Shyamalan’s dialogue work, and sound like Shakespeare, so I won’t even dare mess with her. Yikes!

Consensus: Without ever getting too sentimental or sappy, About a Boy clearly rides the fine line between dark comedy, heart and romance, while also giving Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Grant plenty of time and material to work on their chemistry together, and build a friendship that’s one of the better ones I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job! Just stay away from those hookers and you’ll be fine.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net