Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Jennifer Beals

Before I Fall (2017)

High school is life. Then you die.

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) seems to have everything that a girl in high school could ever possibly want. She’s popular, she’s got a loving boyfriend (Kian Lawley), who may, or may not be ready to take her virginity, a solid group of gal pals, and oh yeah a seemingly perfect future, filled with fame, fortune, and plenty of good times to be had. But that all changes when, after a late night party, Samantha and all of her friends are killed in a car-accident. But rather than living the rest of her existence in what some may refer to as “the afterlife”, Samantha instead relives her final day, over and over again, falling asleep, and waking up to the same day. At first, Samantha has no clue what’s happening, so she lashes out and gets reckless. But after awhile, she starts to realize that maybe this is a calling, hell, maybe even a sign for her to start treating those around her with respect, love and admiration. Cause after all, a lot can happen in a day and hell, sometimes, just a day, can make a whole difference.

Uh oh. Mean girls!

So yeah, Before I Fall is, essentially, the YA Groundhog Day and by now, I think we’ve seen enough spins on that same narrative trick, in all honesty. And hell, it’s not like it’s not worth trying to see just how Hollywood can change around the gimmick, but after awhile, it’s hard to find anything else new out of it. We get it, life is beautiful and it’s a thing we shouldn’t take for granted.

Hell, even Ferris Bueller told us that, and he didn’t need a single gimmick.

However, Before I Fall is still a nice, rather enjoyable piece of YA-fiction that doesn’t quite strain itself to be more important than it actually is, but instead, stick to its roots and show us that high school, while a confusing and sometimes silly point in all of our lives, has a greater effect on our own well-being than we actually think. Before I Fall doesn’t try to say that high school is life, or that high school is greatest time of it, but it does say that it’s a time where you’re still growing, understanding, and realizing just who the hell you, your friends, and family are. It’s also the same time in which you think long and hard about where you want to set the course for the rest of your life, which can be both a problem, as well as a beautiful thing.

But at the same time, Before I Fall is still a sappy, melodramatic and rather cheesy YA movie that deals with honest feelings about coming-of-age, but also feels like it’s a little too ordinary and orchestrated to be as painfully real as it wants. Before she got involved with this, director Ry Russo-Young has actually been hopping around the indie-world, making small, intimate, and rather quiet movies about day-to-day humans and the connections that they have. They aren’t great movies, but they’re at least pretty interesting to watch.

“Why does everyone call me Leah?”

That is to say that Before I Fall feels like another one of her small, quiet and intimate indies, but at the same time, still made for a huge audience that probably would hate those movies. Meaning this one, isn’t all that subtle, loves to spell things out and yes, even go so far as to have a way-too-hip-and-cool soundtrack that feels like it just wants to be bought at a Best Buy (they still exist, right?).

That said, it is hard to hate on a movie, and a mainstream one at that, that’s all about being nice, kind and loving to those around you, and realizing who’s ugly, mean and distasteful. It’s not something new, or better yet, ground-breaking to see in a YA movie dealing with high school kids, but hey, it’s worth pointing out in the first place.

And oh yeah, it’s worth pointing out that Zoey Deutch is charming as hell.

While it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s the daughter of Lea Thompson (mostly because they look so ridiculously alike), Deutch still has a certain thing about her where she’s pretty, but also a lot smarter than you’d think. Over time, we start to see that there’s more to be seen and understood about Samantha, which makes her character more interesting and compelling over time, and Deutch handles it well. While she was definitely better in Everybody Wants Some!! (mostly because Richard Linklater is God and knows how to write women incredibly well), she’s still good here and shows us that she’s ready to be the new teen idol.

Hm. Sort of like, I don’t know, her mom?

Consensus: A tad cheesy, melodramatic and soapy, Before I Fall is another YA flick that feels like it has more to say, but mostly falls back on its occasionally clever premise and gimmick.

6 / 10

Damn millennials and their selfies.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


Four Rooms (1995)

People will do anything for a tip.

It’s the first day on the job for Ted the bellhop (Tim Roth), and from what it seems like, it won’t be a very pleasant one. Early on, he gets told the ins, the outs, the what to do’s, and the what not to do’s on the job by an aging, supposed retiring bellman that gives him an idea of what he should expect taking people’s luggage up to their room, answering their phone calls and the most important of all, waiting on them for a tip. So with this all out of the way, Ted gets ready for one of the biggest and most hectic nights of the year, New Year’s Eve. And what do you know it? Ted’s night ends up being an eventful one, albeit one that he finds his life threatened on more than a few occasions. But it’s all in the good name of a sizable tip, right?

Like with most anthology films, the idea here seems smart and somewhat nifty: Get at least four low-key, up-and-coming indie film-makers, give them a budget and give them free reign to basically just strut their stuff for no less than 20 minutes each, slap the Miramax logo on it, and release it to the mass-audience. Seemed like a really promising idea that could have worked wonders for all of the film-makers involved, but somehow, it more or less just ended up killing two promising careers, while just injuring two others.

Take a wild guess as to whose career’s were killed, and which ones were just injured for a short while. Not that hard I guess, but let me just tell you through my usual-way of reviewing anthology films; taking it one-by-one, segment-by-segment. Shall we?

Random twitching example #2.

Random twitching example #2.

1. The Missing Ingredient – This is the one that starts it all off, and that’s not a good thing at all. In short, this segment is easily the worst. It made me feel like I made a huge mistake actually even bothering with this movie. Director Allison Anders gives us a cool idea in which a coven of witches who need male sperm to complete their ritual and just so happened to choose Ted as he comes stumbling on in. While the ground-work was there for this to be not just hilarious, but all sorts of weird and cooky, in a fun-way, Anders doesn’t even bother going anywhere with this. Sure, for horny dudes, there is plenty of hot boobage to be seen, but for anybody who wants a little bit of craziness mixed with their covens, will be most likely disappointed as Anders seemed to really drop the ball with this, and not know what’s considered “funny”, and what’s considered “boring.” Easily the worst out of the four, but it’s not like the next one is a peach neither.

2. The Wrong Man – Things seem to get a bit better with this segment, however, not by much. Director Alexandre Rockwell keeps things small and subdued, but not anywhere near being considered “sweet”, as this whole segment just meanders endlessly, without ever really moving outside of the actual hotel room it’s placed in. The whole story is in which a married-couple (Jennifer Beals and David Proval) basically plays this little sex-game where he pretends that she’s been screwing around him and picks out whatever poor fellow just so happens to stroll through that door, interrogate him, wave a gun in front of his face, take his pills, and basically, just scare the shorts off of him. There are moments in this segment where the wheels seemed to be turning and there seemed to be some moments of promise, but once the segment is all said and done with, I couldn’t help but feel like it went on a bit long. Especially once Beals’ character just started yelling out any term for the word “penis” she could think of right away. Sure, it made me laugh (probably my first one), but it was only because it was a random moment of creative spontaneity that the first segment didn’t seem to have.

Thankfully though, it does get better from here and begins to feel like something worth watching, rather than the first two awful-pieces.

3. The Misbehavers – Antonio Banderas plays a tough and sinister father-of-two that wants to take his wife on a night out on the town, in hopes of getting laid and therefore, igniting the spark in their marriage that probably sizzled-out once kids came along and screwed everything up. But, knowing that these same kids can’t come out with them, he decides to intimidate Ted intoi watching over them, and making sure that they “don’t misbehave”. It seems easy, and with the price for this little mission being $500, it seems even easier. However, with these two kids, nothing is quite as easy as it seems and eventually, the room itself starts to smell and once that happens, all hell breaks loose. So yeah, the plot-line for this segment is dumb, but with Robert Rodriguez behind-the-wheel, it’s anything but. Actually, that’s not true. It is still dumb, but in a “fun” way in which one can only associate with Rodriguez and his style of film-making. It starts off simple and small, but as time goes on, and Rodriguez really gets the brain working, you can see just how much havoc he can throw on top of the other and once all is said and done and we get the final-line of this segment, you know that, if anything, the whole movie was it at least worth it for just this whole time-span of 15-20 minutes. It doesn’t even matter if the last segment blows, all we know is that this is the segment people should be wanting to see and talk about.

When you do have a movie in which "the chick from Say Anything" gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something "to watch".

When you do have a movie in which “the chick from Say Anything” gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something “to watch”.

But of course, the last segment is done by none other than Quentin Tarantino himself and, as we all know, the guy has a bit of a thing for stealing the spotlight of movies, and his segment here is no different.

4. The Man from Hollywood – The plot-line is simple: Ted stumbles upon a bunch of fast-cat, Hollywood big-shots (Bruce Willis being among them), who con him into doing something for a hefty price, as idiotic as the act may be. Oh, and there’s a bet involved somehow, someway. Basically, being that this is a Tarantino-segment, you can expect a lot of witty lines that involved pop-culture, violence, sex and a bunch of other talk that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from actual human-beings who grace us with their presence on the same planet we call Earth. That said, considering the rest of the film that came before this, it’s a blast to watch, keeps you interested, laughing, a bit tense and overall, entertained as if Tarantino was the one they really were leaning on for this to work and that’s exactly what they got. In hindsight, it’s not the best thing that Tarantino has ever done or touched (especially when also speaking of his acting), but when you place his segment against the three others, his definitely comes out on-top and a reason to see this whole film. Although you do have to get through two shitty segments, and one pretty good one.

And through all of these segments, there’s none other than Tim Roth himself acting his ass off through them, which is not a good thing. For some odd reason or another, Roth is given the order to carry-out this overly-used, spastic-twitch of his that carries on throughout most of his segments in which he stammers and bumbles more than Hugh Grant on a bad day. It gets old real quick and just becomes random, as if there was no other reason to make this character interesting than to just have him do and say all of these odd things. Roth tries, but he can’t help but suffer due to doing whatever it was that he was told. However, when he’s told to dial it down a notch and just let the segments for speak themselves, is usually when he’s at his most watchable, as well as the same could be said for the movie itself. And mostly, this occurs during the last two segments. Strange how things work themselves out, right?

Consensus: If you counter in the fact that only two of the four segments in Four Rooms work, then I guess you could consider this “watchable” in the least bit. But, then again, if you want to save yourself some precious time, effort and/or money, then just watch the last two segments somewhere on YouTube. I’m sure you’ll be able to find them somewhere.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Talk about a party I'd like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don't do anything I wouldn't do! Woo hoo!

Talk about a party I’d like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! Woo hoo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Roger Dodger (2002)

Damn…sex is everywhere.

Roger (Campbell Scott) is a hopelessly cynical advertising copywriter with a razor-sharp wit who believes he’s mastered the art of manipulating women. But Roger’s seemingly foolproof methods unravel when he tries to school his teenage nephew (Jesse Eisenberg) in his techniques. Smooth talk and casual sex used to work fine, but now it seems he’s got a lot to learn about women.

I’m always a fan of films that have a lot of insight on the world we live in, people, and how they all function. So with this film actually stinging around on my drawer for quite some time now, I thought what better way to see more insight.

The writing here is absolutely amazing which is a lot of thanks to first-time writer and director, Dylan Kidd. Kidd keeps this film moving with a lot of snappy dialogue that is sure to make you laugh and just thing some more about the relationship that men and women have between us, especially when it comes to sex.

Kidd brings a lot of actual frank conversations that have a certain bit of wit to it and keep us glued as every line pours out of these characters as if it were almost actual real-life conversations I was just hearing. You can almost start to feel like Kidd himself is channeling conversations that normal, every-day people have and with his constant smart witty banter that these two get involved with, you can only wish that you have conversations like these one of these days. It’s not as funny as it is smart and that is something that I can appreciate any day.

Kidd also gave me the real-life feeling with the way he films this all because he keeps the pace rapid and moving, while also keeping the camera following these two dudes wherever it is they go for the night. I actually felt like I was here with these guys of their night on the prowl.

However, my problem with this film is that I feel like Kidd gets a little bit lost with this material right around the last 20 minutes where he starts to aim for fluffy cheesiness rather than the actual grimness that this subject material may actually bring about. I don’t want to give away too much here but there was this one still shot that I think the film should have originally ended up with instead of just doing something else that I was not wanting at all, but instead, I got.

Campbell Scott has always been someone I have enjoyed no matter what he’s in but he finally lets all of those acting skills out in a total, tour-de-force performance here as the totally vain but sophisticated, Roger. This guy sees the world through his own two eye’s right through the lens of sex. Scott is nothing more than just electrifying, giving all of his might into every line of dialogue that comes out of his mouth, which is sometimes nasty, mean, strange, and sometimes just plain embarrassing. However, either way you look at it, this is a guy who knows what he’s talking about even if his ego does get a bit in the way of things. It’s still a surprise why this guy doesn’t have more roles.

Jesse Eisenberg came into the spot-light with this role at just age 19 playing Roger’s nephew, Nick. Eisenberg is the total opposite compared to Roger; he’s sweet, nice, eager to learn, and cares a lot, which provides some great scenes where these two just talk it out like men about what they know about women, and what they don’t. Eisenberg is still great in this role even though it’s the same one he has always been playing and it’s just great to see him play such a meaty role at such an early age. The gals in this cast are played Jennifer Beals, Elizabeth Berkley, and Isabella Rosselini, who are all good with their times on-screen.

Consensus: Although the direction from writer-director Dylan Kidd may get lost by about the last 15 to 20 minutes, Roger Dodger still has a totally hilarious, insightful, and altogether smart screenplay with great performances from the cast, especially Scott who is just mesmerizing, that makes this film a great commentary on the world we live in, which is basically all about sex.


Vampire’s Kiss (1989)

Picking up women from a bar isn’t the best thing to do after all.

Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) is a sleazy literary agent who prowls the bars looking for action. One night he hooks up with Rachel (Jennifer Beals), who, in the course of their evening together, bites him on the neck. The next morning, when Peter is feeling out of sorts, he decides that a vampire bit him. The next step: Buy a real set of fangs, of course …even though most people don’t believe he’s a vampire.

The movie was written by Joseph Minion, who also wrote one of my underrated favorites After Hours. I could tell this was written by him due to its obvious similarities: yuppie acting unnatural, lower side of New York, and a very eerie feeling in the air.

The film starts out pretty slow but soon after Cage gets bit starts to pick up speed as you his transition into full craziness. This film is credited as a comedy/horror film but the only horror that comes out of this film is actually pretty unintentional. Most of the laughs come every once in awhile but soon then some of it is very dark.

The film is backed by an incredible performance from Nicolas Cage who is unhinged, hilarious, and all the way energetic. I could just feel the anger and frustration coming from this character the whole way through the movie. Forget Nicolas Cage from all those other movies this one is surely one that you have never seen from him, as he gives one of the craziest performances in his career and what I think fully started out his career.

The problem I had with this film was that this movie is actually pretty vicious. When rape and two murders happen it’s not really funny let alone something to be funny. The movie is pretty disgusting featuring many sex scenes, nudity, and a lot of really detailed blood which really made me feel weary. Also Cage does do a great job, but the character he is playing is not very likable and it’s kind of hard for us to feel pity for a character that was basically a dick throughout.

I did enjoy some parts of the film though. I did like how the color red was presented and shown through each scene in one way or another. Also I enjoy the low-life look of New York and showing how messed up it is.

Consensus: Vampire’s Kiss is pretty gruesome and not hilarious, but backed by an unhinged performance from Nic Cage will sure provide laughs.