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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jay Mohr

Street Kings (2008)

Don’t mess with Johnny Utah. Ever.

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a veteran member of the LAPD who has definitely seen better days. While he does still do his job and take down the bad guys that need to be taken down, he also does so by sucking down bottles of vodka. He does this because he is still mourning the loss of his wife and as is such, has alienated a lot of those around him. One person in particular is his former partner, Officer Washington (Terry Crews), who now looks back on his time with Ludlow in disgust. Ludlow knows this and doesn’t like it, which is why he decides that it may be time to get Washington to shut up, before certain people start listening in on to what he has to say. But wouldn’t you know it that when Ludlow does get a chance to shut Washington up, Washington is gunned-down in what happens to be a random corner-store robbery. Feeling some echo of guilt, Ludlow decides to set out and find out who did this to Washington, but unfortunately, the more he digs up, the more dirt begins to show.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

David Ayer can handle these types of dirty, gritty and violent thrillers about corrupt cops and politicians being, well, just that, corrupt. However, there does come a point where eventually, all of the same things that you made your name on, can get to be a bit too old, especially when you’ve got nothing left to say. Sure, a movie like Street Kings should resonate more so now, than it ever has before; police corruption is at an all-time high and people seem to really be demanding questions more than ever, but for some reason, it’s the kind of movie that brings these hard and questionable figures up, without ever seeming to bother to really say much more about it.

Instead, Ayer is more interested in shooting things and throwing blood anywhere he can set his sights to.

That’s fine because Ayer can handle action well. The best parts of Street Kings, actually, are when it’s just a few characters sitting in a room, expecting there to be some violence occurring soon, with their hands firmly on the trigger’s of their guns, not knowing when the other shoe is going to drop and people are going to have to be lit-up. It’s why some of the best moments of Training Day, were the ones where you had no clue exactly what was going to go down, even if you had a general idea.

Problem is, with Training Day and countless other flicks that Ayer has attached his name to, he’s become a tad too conventional. Street Kings feels like the kind of cop flick that would work somewhere back in the mid-90’s – ideas like these weren’t new, but they were still sustainable for entertainment. You could make the argument that Street Kings is sort of working with the same environment, to just be fun and nothing else, but when you have brothers in blue, who are literally doing terrible, immoral things, or getting killed, left and right, there’s a feeling that maybe, just maybe, someone needs to ask, “why?”

In a way, it’s almost like Ayer has a responsibility to ask those questions and get, at the very least, an idea of an answer. To just service your plot with cops and criminals getting shot and killed, without ever saying anything else about it, seems wrong. Trust me, I’m all for the down, dirty and immoral action when push comes to shove, but Ayer doesn’t really have his flick placed in any sort of fake world, or universe – it’s a real world/universe, where cops are meant to stop bad people, from doing bad things.

In fact, it’s the world in which we live in now.

"Uh. Hey. Freeze, man."

“Uh. Hey. Freeze, man.”

But honestly, besides that, Street Kings can be fun, when it actually cares to be fun. There’s a lot of the same stuff seen before, especially from Ayer’s pen, and you can tell that he’s trying to change everything up, yet, fall back on  the same conventions that have made cop-thrillers, such as his, hits in the first place. Ayer is a good director and writer when he wants to be, but here, it feels as if he’s just moving along, steadily, not trying to rock the boat and rely on what he knows best, without trying to change up any sort of format.

The only opportunity Ayer really gets a chance to liven-up things in Street Kings is with his wonderful ensemble, all of whom are having a great time. Keanu Reeves is actually quite good as Ludlow, mostly because the guy doesn’t always have to say something – some of the times, he just backs it up with his gun, or his fists. This suits Reeves just fine, just as it suits him playing the mentor-role to Chris Evans’ young, hotshot rookie character, both of whom work well together. Evans, too, in an early role before he truly broke-out into stardom, seems like the heart and soul of this cruel, dark and upsetting world, which works, until the movie decides that it cares less about him and more about just shooting people’s heads off.

Once again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but there comes a point where it’s overkill.

Others randomly show up like Common, the Game, Cedric the Entertainer, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, and Terry Crews, and all add a little something to the proceedings. You can tell that Ayer likes to cast these known-actors in roles that you least expect them to work with and it actually works in his favor. However, had he given more screen-time to Hugh Laurie and Forest Whitaker, equally the best parts of this otherwise mediocre movie, all would have been right with the world. The two play opposing chiefs who may or may not be as evil, or as good as they present themselves as being. Ayer always treads the fine line here between these characters and it makes me wish that he decided to do more with the other characters, or even the plot.

Consensus: As conventional as cop-thrillers can go, Street Kings boasts an impressive cast and some fun moments, but ultimately seems to concerned with blowing stuff/people up, and not ever asking why.

5 / 10

"Let me give you my card. And no, I'm not playing that cynical doctor this time."

“Let me give you my card. And no, I’m not playing that cynical doctor this time.”

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert.com, IMDB, Deep Focus Review

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I Am Chris Farley (2015)

Sorry, Kevin James. But you were just a replacement.

As a chubby little kid growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Chris Farley always knew that he wanted to entertain people for a living. Did he want to become an actor, or did he want to become a comedian? Chris himself never quite knew, that is, until he started taking stage-acting lessons at a young age and realized that his passion was most definitely making people laugh and feel happy. As Chris began to tune his craft a bit more, then came the notoriety that even landed him a job on the most coveted comedy show ever, SNL. On this platform, every Saturday night, for millions and millions of people, Chris was able to entertain the heck out of anyone who cared to watch him – sometimes, he pushed himself far beyond his own reach. As time went on though, all of this fame, fortune, fun and adoration from those around him, came at a price that Chris wasn’t able to handle and it ended up taking his life at the age of 33.

Oh god. Not the "van down by the river" thing again.

Oh god. Not the “van down by the river” thing again.

There’s a lot of people that I know and talk to that aren’t quite sure what to make of Chris Farley. Was he the comedic legend that everybody makes him out to be? Or, simply put, was he just another chunky guy that liked to yell loud, fall down, and point at his own gut with a winning-smile? Cause so often know, we see a lot more of the later be displayed and it almost seems like rather than moving beyond those sort of stale jokes, Farley himself acted on them once again and brought them back to the mainstream. Even if they never went away, Chris Farley, for better as well as for worse, made “the fat guy” jokes funny again and it’s something we’re going to be forced to live with until the end of time.

Now, like I asked before, was Chris Farley a comedic legend?

Whatever the answer may be, depending on the type of person you are, it doesn’t matter. All personal feelings aside, I Am Chris Farley seems perfectly content with approaching Farley’s own life and career as if it were one big party the whole way through, filled with all sorts of drugs, sex, booze, fun times, celebrities, and smiling faces (all looking at him, of course). And in this sense of the documentary, it’s where director Brent Hodge really excels; not only is it impressive that Hodge was able to nail such celebrities like Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, David Spade, and Lorne Michaels to talk about Farley, but he’s actually able to bring a lot more out of them than just, “Yeah, he was a funny guy,” and leaving it at that.

Instead, each one sheds light on how much they loved being around Chris and what it meant to them that he was making them happy, and busting his ass to do so each and every opportunity he got. While this may sound incredibly self-serving, it turns out it’s not; because Farley himself was such an entertainer and attention-whore, he loved it when he made those around him happy and laugh. This of course paints Farley in a positive light that makes it seem like who we got on the screen, was exactly who’d we get off the screen – another idea that the movie brings up.

That Chris Farley was, through and through, without any commercial interruptions, an entertainer, makes him all the more sympathetic. He truly cared about entertaining others and while his most-known buddies still work today and couldn’t care to do much of that anymore (aka, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and of course, Adam Sandler), it’s bittersweet to know that Farley never wanted to dumb himself down for anyone, or anywhere. The movie even makes a mention of how Black Sheep (the Spade-Farley movie that came out after Tommy Boy), may have been a forgettable piece of garbage, but was one that Farley tried his hardest in that even when it bombed, he still tried to bounce back.

Of course, he bounced back with Beverly Hills Ninja, but hey, they can’t all be winners, now can they!

I can only assume that this was taken while Joe Dirt 2 was being filmed, because there is no excuse for that look.

I can only assume that this was taken while Joe Dirt 2 was being filmed, because there is no excuse for that look.

But while all of the nostalgic stories of whimsy about Farley may be fun to listen to and all, there’s a part of this movie that feels like it’s missing. For anybody who’s familiar with Farley and his life, they’ll know that his later years were filled with all sorts of debauchery and sadness, most of which that this movie does shed a light on, however, not to the fullest extent that seems necessary. In order to paint a full portrait of a subject, a documentary should show you how screwed-up one’s life was before they passed away, rather than tell you through narration or text that pops up on the screen.

Hodge himself seems as if he was too enamored with Farley’s life when he was alive, well and making all sorts of people happy, that he forgets about the darkness that lurked within him. Now, I wasn’t expecting this to be some sort of hatchet job that makes Farley out to be like some sort of selfish d-bag, but there is something to be said for a movie that talks about the fact that Farley overdosed on drugs, yet, hardly alludes to the fact of how it makes those people feel today. To me, there feels like a necessary meat to this story that’s missing and almost makes it seem like Hodge, in a way to not push any sort of agenda too hard, didn’t decide to dig any further than what was presented to him through these tales of yesteryear with these many famous people.

Which isn’t all that bad, because even though Farley himself would have wanted the audience to be entertained, there’s still something to be said for a documentary that doesn’t paint a full-picture of its subject, especially when the subject died in such a shocking, tragic way.

But hey, there’s always the narrative biopic!

Consensus: The interviews that I Am Chris Farley is able to get, help make the documentary float on by in a pleasant, entertaining way, even if it does feel like there isn’t much room to go any further than just the happy times.

6.5 / 10

Never forget that lovely mug right there.

Never forget that lovely mug right there.

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes, Consequence of Sound, WGN-TV

Hereafter (2010)

Jason Bourne: Ghost Whisperer.

Three different stories across Earth come together because of one major factor one experiences in his, or her life: Death. There’s George (Matt Damon), who has a “gift” in which he can speak with people’s lost ones through the after-life, and considers it more of a curse than anything else. Then, there’s French journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) who has a near-death experience when she vacations to Thailand during the infamous 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and finds herself in a bit of a trance-like phase afterwards when she has to get back to functioning in everyday, normal life. And lastly, there’s twin-brothers Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), who both stick by one another as their drug-addicted mum gets worse and worse everyday, only to then be left alone when one of the twins die in a car-accident. All three people deal with death in their own ways and somehow, through the sheer power of fate, chance, or maybe even luck, connect while still looking for the same answers: Just what exactly happens to one when they die? Is it all just dark and blank? Or, is there more beauty and wonder to being dead?

At the time of this movie’s release, Clint Eastwood was 80-years-of-age and still going strong with life (as well as with the ladies) I presume. However, even a bad-ass mofo like himself has to at least accept the reality that yes, even he may die one of these days. And yes, for a man of his age, that could mean anytime soon.

"Come play with us, Danny."

“Come play with us, Danny.”

Though that sounds morbid and all, I only mean it as a way to understand his inspiration in deciding to direct a movie such as this. See, it’s all about the idea of death, what happens to us when we succumb to it, and what is there left to do after? Do we all just float around like ghosts, spooking people in horror movies and occasionally being spotted in strange photos? Or, do we live in this glow-y, supernatural after-life in which we all just hang out, party it up like no tomorrow and just wait for our loved-ones to eventually join us whenever their time on Earth is up? It’s never been proven which actually happens or not, and even though there are some people who like to say that they know exactly what happens, there’s still not enough fact to fall back on.

That said, Eastwood’s movie makes a pretty interesting claim that it doesn’t matter if we know or not, living this life on Earth is what matters most. We have to make the best of it and not get bogged down by the fact that people we know are dead and that we will be soon; we just got to keep calm and chive on, or so I’m told.

Which brings me back to what I was originally going on about: Eastwood’s age meaning something. Because see, even somebody of Eastwood’s respected stature among masculine-men, has to eventually realize that he soon will die and be gone from those he loves, or anybody else in the world for that fact. Once again, I know it sounds depressing, but it really isn’t – at least not in Eastwood’s case who is actually leaving a large body of work behind him as his legacy, where most people have just their regular, everyday lives. Still, not saying one person’s death is less important than another’s, I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprise if the reason as to why Eastwood decided to get behind this movie and direct it, had a little bit to do with the fact that he himself is getting up there in age and closer and closer to being gone.

And with Eastwood here, his direction is very surprising. The choices he makes (like barely any score heard in the background, dim-lighting, long-winded scenes of dialogue) keep this movie interesting, in a small, contained way. It’s not something we often see from Eastwood or his flicks, however, it’s something that made me think that even though he’s older, he still has new, creative ways to show that he can shake things up, if only ever so slightly. You get a sense that Eastwood not only wants to pay attention to the themes about dying and the after-life, but also to the story and these characters, without really trying to get in the way of what it is that they do with their time on Earth. It would have been easy for him to do so, too, but Eastwood, being the dignified man he is, leans back and just lets most of the characters speak for themselves with their actions, wants, and needs.

However, there was something terribly “off” to this whole feature. And before anybody gets on my case and makes a point that “not every movie has to be played at a pace of 110 mph”, I will say this: It was not the pace of this movie that bothered. Even if it was slow and calm, it did not bother me; in fact, it did quite the opposite, it kept me watching. But no, what the real problem was that most of the movie felt like a smaller-scaled, less eventful indie that didn’t rely on the sheer-spectacle of its story, or the budget it was granted, but more of its characters, their feelings, emotions, etc.

But for some reason, by the end, Eastwood starts take steps further and further away from this mode of filming, and gets quite sentimental after awhile. Worst of all, he has most of this story ring false notes that I wish I didn’t see coming, but sadly, did. Meaning that when they did happen, they brought down the emotions going into this story and why it mattered to us that these three characters eventually find peace, love and happiness with their lives.

For instance, the character of George is a great example of what I’m trying to say. Here’s a guy who starts the movie out by contacting somebody’s dead wife and shows that what he has, is a total gift and is not a lie whatsoever. However, he doesn’t want to be known as “the guy who can talk to the dead”, whom everybody swarms and attacks, hoping that they too can speak with their lost, loved ones. You feel sympathy for him because he just wants to live a calm and peaceful life, yet, at the same time, also feel bad for him because he’s lonely and can’t really tell any person that he wants to be with for the rest of his life, who he really is, or what special talents he has deep in the pits of palms.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don't know yet.

The French have always been known to be quick on their feet. Possibly an offensive joke. I don’t know yet.

It should be noted that, as usual, Damon is great in this role as George, because he’s pretty much the everyday man. Sure, he may have a unique talent that puts him in a different category from “everybody else”, but Damon plays him well to where it seems like this is just your ordinary, average dude who just wants to be happy, man. However, what ruins George by the end is that he makes some decisions that seem terribly contrived and only allowed so that he can eventually meet-up with the two other main characters in this movie. Didn’t quite work for me as much as I would have liked, and believe it or not, probably would have been a lot better off had it just been avoided in the first place.

With a movie like this, it’s almost expected that these three would eventually cross paths, but I feel like since their lives were each so miserable and painful as they were, that being separated from one another would make the movie more interesting, albeit, believable. But, as expected, Eastwood went with the conventional-route and made sure that these three eventually find ways of meeting one another and affect each other’s lives in big, meaningful ways; as hackneyed as they may have been.

As for the other two, or should I say, three, in this cast, Cécile de France and both Frankie and George McLaren are fine in their roles, although the latter two may not fair as well as de France. It’s not that I like picking on child actors, but when kids give bad performances, I recognize it and here, with both Frankie and George McLaren, they clearly can’t handle the material as well. Then again, they’re twins playing, essentially, the same character at most points, so I guess that’s a gimmick Eastwood himself couldn’t resist in trying out for size.

Sadly, it pains me to say that Clint may have been beaten-out. Yup, I went there and I find myself wanting to come back as soon as I just typed-it.

Please don’t hurt me, Clint.

Consensus: Hereafter is definitely made more interesting by the fact that somebody of Clint Eastwood’s stature and talents would get behind it, but sadly, even he succumbs to the more schmaltzy, sentimental happenings that overtake the last-half or so.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women, am I right men?

The first date and she already wants him to contact the dead. Typical of women. Am I right guys?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Rabbit out of a hat? Boooooooooring.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been life-long freinds that both share a love of magic, and have ruled the Vegas strip for the past two years. However, with the emergence of a more brutal type of magic, courtesy of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), they’ve fallen on hard times and break-up. Burt is left in Vegas without any type of job, any money, or any inspiration for magic anymore. That is, until he goes back to reclaim the roots that made him love magic in the first place.

Usually when I see a trailer for a comedy, I either laugh-out-loud, chuckle, or just sit there in total and utter boredom. Every, single time I saw the trailer for this movie, nothing ever came to me. It wasn’t that I hate Steve Carrell, it wasn’t that I hate magic, and it sure as hell wasn’t that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing more Jim Carrey, play Jim Carrey (more on him in a tad bit later), it was just that it wasn’t funny. I didn’t laugh and it almost seemed like all of the best parts were in the trailer. That’s really saying something.

Most comedies at least try to be funny, and succeed at times. This flick rarely has that happen to itself. Most of the time during this movie I was just sitting there, watching, and waiting for something to come by and totally take me by surprise by how funny it was, but it never came to me. Instead of actually being smart or even remotely funny, we just get a bunch of characters that are sort of dick-ish, and a bunch of jokes towards the likes of David Blaine and Criss Angel, which seems like they would have been better, had they been done when they actually relevant, almost a decade ago. Automatically, I knew I wasn’t going to like this flick just from the beginning, but much to my surprise, it does get better. Well, sort of.

"I trick you into laughing. Please."

“I trick you into laughing. Please.”

Here’s the thing with this movie: when it tries to be funny, it feels painfully obvious and totally misses the mark. But, when it’s trying to be nothing but goofy and not even play-up for the laughs, then that’s where the flick really charmed it’s way into my soul. I don’t know if most of that credit is given to the cast, or the screenplay, but when I found myself laughing, it was long and hard, but only for a short while. After that said short while, then it just went back to boredom and I once again found myself sighing and eye-rolling my way through the rest of the duration of this flick. Most comedies try, but this one doesn’t even seem to and I still don’t know whether or not that’s a good thing.

Even magic lovers that go to see this, are going to be pretty disappointed since most of the magic is all CGI, special-effects, or played up to ridiculous laughs that could only happen if you watched a movie. Personally, I like the art of magic, what type of effort goes into it, and how it’s all done, which is why films like the Illusionist and the Prestige always do something for me, but this flick doesn’t even seem bothered with any of that. It’s almost like the flick just used the whole idea of having magicians battle one another, just for the sake of their being comedy and goofiness galore to occur. Nothing ever happens, and the magic never really sizzles or delights anyone. I even had a couple of magicians at my screening, and I felt like I wanted to give them a hug at the end of it. Not because it wasn’t funny (I’m sure they laughed their assess off like everybody else in the theater, with the exception of us high-level critics), but because there wasn’t much magic that felt natural or kosher to the story. It was just thrown in there to make us go, “Wow.” And you could say that’s what most magicians are supposed to make you go, but at least they’re stuff is real. This movie’s stuff wasn’t and it was a bummer for me, on both levels.

However, when you have a movie as bad as this, you can usually depend on the cast to save things and that’s what they do, for the most part. Steve Carell seems to be having fun as Burt Wonderstone, but here’s my main dilemma with Carell. Carell is hilarious when he isn’t trying too hard and just playing his own, natural-self. Usually, it’s when he’s playing the awkward-guy put into a real-life situation that he finds himself in (40 Year Old Virgin). But when he goes off and starts playing these obvious, electric characters that just seem to want your attention and praise; then, that’s when it seems that this guy is trying way, way too hard. Carell makes Wonderstone interesting, but that’s not saying much since this guy is a bigot, a dick, and just one of those dudes who acts like his shit don’t stank, all because he can do neat-o tricks that make people wonder how he did it all. I get that Wonderstone is supposed to start off as a deuche, and then progressively change into a better person as time goes on, but that didn’t matter to me because I didn’t really like this guy nor Carell playing it. Carell does what he can, but he is trying too hard here and almost made me feel like it would have been a hell of a lot better, had they casted somebody like Will Ferrell who is the man at making roles like these work. Wouldn’t have been the most original thing in the world to see, but at least it would have been more interesting and fun to watch.

Strike a pose, try to look funny.

Strike a pose, try to look funny.

It was great to see Steve Buscemi get a lead role in a movie for once, let alone one that’s a comedy, but even he feels wasted. And also, don’t let me forget to remind you that this guy shows up in almost every, single Adam Sandler comedy. If Buscemi is wasted in a flick like this, then that’s really saying something. Alan Arkin is fun as the old-school magician that every kid looked up to, Rance Holloway, and loves to just scream, shout, and be the old man that we all know and love him for. It helps that the guy was just nominated for an Oscar, but regardless, the guy’s a box of fun to watch. Also, Olivia Wilde is here as Jane, and really shows that she can play with the big-boys, even if she wasn’t as funny as we’ve seen her be in the past. Still, Wilde’s always charming and always easy-on-the-eyes. Rawr.

The real stand-out of this while movie definitely has to be Jim Carrey, as he’s the only one who really seems to be trying to make this movie and it’s comedy work, yet, does it so flawlessly that it doesn’t seem hard at all. Carrey likes playing strange characters like Steve Gray, and what only makes it better is that he isn’t at the fore-front of it all. Carrey actually allows others to take over the center-stage and wiggle their elbows a bit, only until he pops-up and starts having a ball. Carrey definitely provided the best moments of the movie for me and after awhile, was the only aspect of the whole thang that actually kept me watching. Sorry, Olivia. You’re hot and all, but come on. Jim’s still got it.

Consensus: If you like magic; you will be disappointed. If you like to laugh; you will be disappointed. If you like Jim Carrey; then you will probably be happy with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone for that reason, and that one reason only considering it’s rarely ever funny and tries hard while doing so.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, I'm shocked you're in this too.

Yep, I’m shocked you’re in this too.