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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jenna Fischer

Brad’s Status (2017)

Life sucks. Then you get old. Then die. Yep. That’s about it.

Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) has a pretty nice life. A great wife (Jenna Fischer), who’s incredibly supportive of him, a cushy job, a quaint suburban house, a few friends, and a son, Troy (Austin Abrams), who’s something of a musical-prodigy and all ready to head off to college. But Brad still has an issue with his life and where he’s been heading in the past many years; for instance, his former-pals from college are all rich, successful, and living far more luxurious lifestyles than he is, which gets him thinking. Like a lot. And it sort of begins to ruin the trip that he has with his son, where they’re off visiting colleges like Harvard and Yale, all for the hopes that Troy will join the likes of the many greats who have come and gone there before him. Brad, on the other hand, can’t stop thinking about his life and what the hell he’s going to do next. Basically, he’s just going through a mid-life crisis – he just doesn’t really seem to know it yet.

See, Brad? Life’s not so bad! You’ve got Pam in your life!

Writer/director Mike White knows what he’s talking about here and because of that, Brad comes off a lot more sympathetic than he probably should have been. While no doubt everything that Brad is yelling, ranting, raving, complaining, and getting all upset about is nothing more than just white first-world problems, it still feels relevant and interesting. We may not agree with everything that he’s pissed-off about – not having enough money, wanting to see other people, wishing that he was working for a different place – but we can sort of see where he’s coming from and it helps make Brad more interesting and relatable, as opposed to just another rambling, bumbling, and angry white guy who truly has nothing to worry about.

Like at all.

And that’s why Brad’s Status both works and also doesn’t. It works because it features some smart and snappy writing about real life issues that everyone faces at least once or twice in their existences. But it’s also bad because that’s literally all Brad’s Status is about; just when we’re introduced to a new character, or possibly even, a new conflict, we know it’s only a matter of time until something irritates Brad and he has to let his mind loose. It’s a convention we see coming, again and again, and it makes Brad annoying, but the writing seem cheap and sitcom-y.

Uh oh. Time for an angry rant.

Which, coming from Mike White, is a bit of a disappointment. He ought to know better and not really fall back onto this sort of stuff that seems like a lame fall-back. And it isn’t like because Brad can sometimes be an asshole, means that he’s not watchable – some of the most compelling characters are the ones you love to hate – it’s just that he’s a bit of a bore. His issues are relevant and, at some point, understandable, but there comes a point when one has to shut up and move on, and Brad’s Status, much like Brad himself, doesn’t seem to.

The one real aspect keeping Brad’s Status moving is Ben Stiller who, once again, seems to really playing to his strengths, albeit, in a much more dramatic-manner.

But it’s a solid turn from Stiller who seems to get off on playing these overachieving, annoying perfectionists, but actually injects some real heart and humanity into him. We see a lot of that play out in the relationship he has with his son here, who is already an interesting character in the first place. Normally, with these kinds of movies where the dad’s a bit of a bummer, the kids generally seem to hate them and loathe their even existence, but Abrams’ Troy. In a way, Troy loves his dad more than even Brad knows or even notices, and it’s why Brad’s Status remains a much smarter movie than you’d expect – there’s an actual feeling of love and emotion somewhere to be found beneath all of the ranting.

Much like real life rants.

Consensus: With an exceptional lead performance from Stiller, Brad’s Status works as an interesting, if also troubling character-study of a relatable, but also annoying person that we may all grow to become one day.

6 / 10

“Dad? What are you hissing about?”

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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Are You Here (2014)

Isn’t there supposed to be, uhm, I don’t know, a question-mark or something?

Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson) is the weatherman at a local news station and doesn’t really seem to take much initiative with his life. Sure, he wants to have money, and as much sex as he can possibly stomach, but for the most part, he’s just sitting around, smoking pot, and hanging with his childhood buddy, Ben (Zach Galifianakis). That begins to all change, however, when Ben’s dad dies and leaves him the large farmland they grew up on; whereas his sister, Terry (Amy Poehler) isn’t left with much, except a little store they own in town. This leaves her a bit pissed-off and a bit vengeful, but for Ben, this leaves him wondering what he’s going to do with his life, or whether he’s actually up to the task of handling this much responsibility. But while this is all happening, Steve’s still just doing his thing, but this time, he finds his eyes looking at Terry and Ben’s much-younger stepmother, Angela (Laura Ramsey), who, if he shacks up with, might be able to change his life for the better. That’s if he can put down the joint.

Though I know many people are head-over-heels with the show, I’m not particularly as much of a fan of Mad Men. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched pretty much all of it (or as much as Netflix allows me to) to make up my mind concerning and honestly, I still like it very much, but it’s not one of those shows I’d consider a favorite of mine. It’s well-written, acted, and performed, but as a whole, the show just isn’t one I crave to watch, day in and day out.

Happy meals like this hardly ever occur in my household.

Happy meals like this hardly ever occur in my household.

However, comparing Mad Men as a whole, to everything in Are You Here, is downright wrong. Not because the themes of both works are different, but because the former is so much more well-done and thought-out than the former, that the two don’t even deserve to be talked about in the same conversation. But that’s what’s so strange here, because how somebody like Matthew Weiner can go from creating a smart, well-detailed show like Mad Men, to writing/directing a jumbled-up piece of junk such as this is totally beyond me.

Mostly though, it’s less about how Weiner went from the highest of highs, to then stoop all the way down to the lowest of lows, and more just about what’s going on with this movie.

For instance, Weiner never seems capable once of landing on a tone and sticking with it. One part of this movie is supposed to be something of a “bro comedy”, where we see two dudes slumming around, smoking pot, and talking about the environment, but then the next part of this movie is trying to be a wholesome family-drama about going back to your roots and being in a time and place that’s much simpler. It doesn’t gel quite well, and it gets incredibly worse once we’re introduced to the possible love-angle between Wilson’s character and Ramsay’s; not because it isn’t believable at all (it isn’t), but because the age-difference is so huge between the two, that it’s not even romantic. In fact, it’s totally creepy and makes you wonder if Wilson just likes taking these roles for the sole reason that he gets to hook up with a bunch of pretty, young things. I don’t blame him if that is the reason, but come on, man, make the movies better, at least.

Speaking of Wilson, his character, Steve Dallas, is totally all-over-the-place. We’re supposed to get the idea that this guys’a stoner-bro that is a bit of a cheap-skate and rips people off whenever he gets the first chance to do so, but we never find out why. His credit card hardly works, but why? What’s gotten him into so much debt that he’s so quick to take any hand-out thrown at him? This is never known to us and it gets even worse when we’re told to believe in the friendship between him and Galifianakis’ character.

The exact number of people who actually shelled out cash to see this.

The exact number of people who actually shelled out cash to see this.

Once again, we’re told that Dallas is a close friend of the family, but we never see that. Instead, we just see Dallas bicker and banter with the members of the family and act like a total dick. Same goes for Galifianakis’s Ben who, like all Galifianakis character’s, is weird, manic, and always on the verge of a nervous-breakdown. Why this is? Well, we never really find out and it’s made worse by the fact that the character of Ben (a environmental-activist who has to start living and accepting in the real world) isn’t a particularly interesting one, or even well-written. He’s just dull and stale, yet for some reason, we’re supposed to think of him as the heart and soul of this project – an idea that’s never actually felt to us, but just told.

And honestly, it’s a shame because you can tell that none of this is really the cast’s fault; everybody here is clearly trying, but Weiner’s script is so poorly-written and scatter-shot, it takes away from what could have been a very sweet, relateable dramedy. Instead, it’s just something that has no idea what it wants to be about, what it wants to say, or what it even wants to do with any of its characters. It almost makes you wonder: What did Weiner try to accomplish with this movie? Was he trying to get across the idea of “if you’re true to yourself, then those around you will follow suit”? Or, is he trying to send a tribute to those who go back to their childhood homes and reclaim what’s rightfully theirs? Personally, I don’t know and I don’t even think Weiner himself knows.

What I do know is that when Mad Men ends next year, we better hope that Weiner has a better jump to features than this. Because if not, we’re all going to be wanting a whole lot more of this.

Consensus: Off, not just in terms of tone, but what it’s even trying to accomplish, Are You Here is literally all over the place, which makes it hard for the talented cast and crew involved to do anything interesting, or worth merit. They’re probably just as confused as we are.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Drink up, boys. You'll need it.

Drink up, boys. You’ll need it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbizGoggle Images

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Slither (2006)

Do small monsters like the ones here ever attack a big city?

The sleepy town of Wheelsy could be any small town in America, somewhat quaint and gentle, peopled with friendly folks who mind their own business. But just beneath the surface charm, something unnamed and evil has arrived, is growing, and has came to take over the small town. Nobody knows what they are, but they look like small-leeches that go right for the brain.

Even though it’s not right to judge a person after only seeing one-piece of their work, to me, writer/director James Gunn seems like one fucked-up individual. Super was one of those very violent flicks that did work, but still, it was so violent that was at-times hard to watch even if it was all played for dark and sinister laughs. His directorial debut is sort of the same-thing, except this time, with even more stuff to make you look away from the screen. But it’s Halloween, so what are ya gonna do?

What I liked most about Gunn’s direction and what he’s able to do with this sickly material is that he doesn’t ever shy away from doing anything that would practically make a person sick. Everything you see in this film is disgusting, gross, slimy, juicy, and altogether, just plain and simply over-the-top, but what saves it is that constant winks and nods at the audience that Gunn gives and makes this material more fun to be around. Gunn knows the type of movie he’s making and even knows the movies that he’s making several homages to, so that obviously doesn’t stop him from just letting loose on some crazy, wild horror fun that take the B-movie audience, says “Hey! Look at me!”, and allows them all to do so with a great time ahead of them.

You got all of the typical horror movie elements you need to make a successful one: blood, guts, gore, action, violence, semi-naked women, corny-lines, over-the-top situations, and many, I do repeat, many moments that will probably have you saying, “What the hell did I just see?”. But the best part of it all, is that it’s done in such a fun way that you just decide to go along with the ride and believe it or not, may actually have you finding yourself laughing at a lot of what goes on in this flick, as did I. Gunn has a perfect knack for comedic-timing and knowing when and how to place them into certain scenes, and not once did I feel like he dropped the ball on that element one-bit. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have hurt if he gave a couple of more funny lines here and there, but with what he did, I was fine with and that’s all that mattered to me.

The problem I think I had with this movie was that there was little to no surprises with this material one-bit. It seemed like Gunn had all of the right material in-place for a movie that could have literally went anywhere with itself, with any character, and any plot-twist whatsoever, but instead, just played it straight by giving us a story that’s simple, easy, predictable, but still fun. Hell, the only time I actually felt a decent-level of suspense throughout the whole damn film was when one of the gals is in the bathtub and the little leeches are coming after her. That whole sequence kept me on-the-edge of my seat and was the only time during the whole movie where I felt like something bad was going to happen to this character, but then again, it was only 3 minutes out of the whole hour and 36 time-limit. That leaves us an hour and 3 minutes left of just unsuspenseful, but fun piece of horror-entertainment.

Also, anybody looking towards this film for some great spooks, chills, and scares whatsoever, are going to have to look elsewhere. I don’t know if this is necessarily considered a problem with the film since it’s sort of what separated it from the usual crap I see out there time and time again, but anybody going to see a horror film with monsters and zombies, are probably going to come out a bit disappointed in seeing a zany and loopy shoot ’em up that doesn’t really care about scaring you in the least bit. Once again, not a big problem for me, but for those horror freaks out there (and trust me, I know there are plenty), you may be a bit ticked off.

Most of the laughs that actually occur in this film, are mainly because of the fun-loving cast that Gunn has been able to assemble. Nathan Fillion is always a delight to watch with whatever it is that he does, and his performance here as Sheriff Bill Pardy is no different. Fillion has some of the best-lines in the whole film, but his comedic-timing is what really makes him so much fun to watch as every crazy situation the guy gets thrown into, he surprisingly somehow finds his way out of it with a quick quirk here and there. Playing opposite of him is the equally as-funny, Elizabeth Banks, as Starla Grant. Banks, no matter what junk she’s in, always has the best comedic-delivery out of everybody in the film and even though she is still playing a bit of a straight-woman here with this role, she still gets to show-off her comedic-chops every once and awhile to remind us why we all love this girl so much in the first-place.

Playing her d-bag, evil husband, Michael Rooker, shines at another one of his “villainous roles” that reminds you why so many people type-cast him as a bad man in the first-place, the guy’s so great at it you. I don’t know when the next time will be when I see Rooker play “the nice guy next-door” role in a movie, but if I never do get that, I won’t be too bummed considering the bad-guy roles are basically what he was meant to play. Don’t believe, watch Henry, then you’ll see. The other dude in this flick who had some of the better lines and stole just about scene he was in was Gregg Henry as the foul-mouthed talking mayor. Any guy who can make me laugh at the way he says “cock sucker” is always a winner in my book and that’s why it was so much fun to watch him work his magic with this zany script.

Consensus: People expecting a full-out, scare-fest will most likely be disappointed in what they see in Slither, but people looking for a fun, entertaining, wild, self-knowing, bloody horror ride from start-to-finish, should look no further and give this baby a shot.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Hall Pass (2011)

Wonder if my wife will let me have one of these.

Owen Wilson stars as a married man whose spouse (Jenna Fischer) grants him the right — for just one week — to pursue as many extramarital affairs as he can. His best buddy (Jason Sudeikis) receives an identical “hall pass” from his wife (Christina Applegate), and off the guys go. The hubbies soon discover, however, that picking up girls isn’t as easy as they recall, while their better halves embark on their own erotic adventures.

The Farrelly Brothers have a lot of films under their belts, but the problem is they haven’t really had a good one in awhile. With this, I think they kind of break that slump.

I wouldn’t say it’s a return-to-form for these guys, but they do have some laughs here that actually work. There are the usual raunchy jokes that I have come to expect from these two, and the zany psychical humor as well, but I was very surprised that there are about two poop jokes here, and I actually laughed at them. I laughed a lot more than I expected during this film, but those poop jokes, somehow got me, and I must say bravo to The Farrely’s on that one.

Though the film is funny I just wish it had what I was expecting, due to the genius idea of the plot. It’s a great idea for a film, but the plot just seems a bit too stale and episodic at points, and I was disappointed because I knew where this film could have definitely gone to be as funny. There’s also an underlying sweetness to it, but I couldn’t really buy that all too well. I wanted to see some sexy time, more guy talks, and just more humor. The plot starts to get a little cheesy by the last act, and we see where it starts to go, and I must say I was highly disappointed.

Owen Wilson is good for this role as Rick because he uses that toolish guy shtick he always has, to his advantage. I like Wilson in a lot of stuff that he does, and it was good to see him head-lining a comedy that was actually funny. Jason Sudeikis of SNL fame is pretty funny here as Fred, and although I don’t think he was the perfect fit for this role. But still, since this is his first starring role in a comedy, I have a feeling he’ll find a good role. Richard Jenkins also pops up in a hilarious side role as the pimp daddy, Coakley. Jenkins is good in almost everything he does, and this right here is no different.

However, the main problem I had with this film was probably the wives here played by Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate. Seeing that this is indeed a Farrelly Brothers film, the women in this film may be two-dimensional characters, but here it’s a huge distraction from the humor in this film. Whenever they would just shoot over to this story-line, all the humor that the main premise had going for it, just gets lost because these chicks really are such a drag and kind of stupid. If you don’t want your hubbies being horny all the time, give them some love, don’t let them get it from somebody else! Probably because I’m a dude is the reason why I’m saying this but the idea is cool, I just wish these chicks weren’t so stupid about it. Also, Joy Behar is in here?!? Surprisingly she’s not that annoying.

Consensus: The laughs aren’t non-stop like you would expect from an idea like this, and the sub-plot is terribly boring, but the cast does a good job with this script, and the jokes did somehow have me laughing, which makes Hall Pass a nice return for The Farrelly Brothers.

5.5/10=Rental!!