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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jill Scott

Fading Gigolo (2014)

Always count on a neurotic Jew to score you some major poon.

Fioravante (John Turturro) is an aging man living in New York City who has come to a bit of a stand-still in his life; his bookshop has just recently closed down and now his flower shop may be in trouble as well. However, his best buddy, Murray (Woody Allen), comes up with a plan that may be a bit ridiculous, but ultimately, may work out for both of them in the end: Become a male prostitute. Murray believes this is a good idea because he knows a couple of lonely women that are in need of some male lovin’ – especially a Jewish widower by the name of Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who, despite being all about her faith, and the strict guidelines that come along with it, is willing to give Fiorvante a shot and see what all of the fuss is about. However, problems ensue for all three of them once a local policeman (Liev Schreiber) discovers what’s going on, and wants to take them all down. Which won’t just ruin the business Fioravante and Murray have going on, but the relationship they’ve built with Avigal herself.

You’ve got to hand it to John Turturro – the dude isn’t just writing and directing here, but he’s doing so in a movie that has him being portrayed as a total ladies man, that each and every girl he meets is willing to pay nearly $1,000 to bang. Not saying that Turturro isn’t a charmer by any means, but what I am saying is that since he’s the one who is all behind this piece, it does seem like he’s giving himself so much credit, that it becomes nearly “a fantasy”. Then again, you could say the same thing about more-than-a-half of Woody Allen’s movies, so I guess it all evens out.

"Love truly isn't something another person can understand. You know?"

“Love truly isn’t something another person can understand. You know?”

And speaking of Allen, his inclusion here in the cast seems very reasonable, although quite distracting to the final product: The movie itself seems like something Allen would write and direct in his own spare time, yet, isn’t. Instead, as mentioned before, this is a John Turturro movie and, needless to say, not everything’s as lovely as we’ve come to expect from a Woody Allen movie, no matter how mediocre one may be. Most of that has to do with the fact that Turturro just doesn’t seem like all that much of a charismatic director. Sure, he has a neat story on his hands, but surprisingly, it’s a rather dull, unexciting one that doesn’t take full advantage of the “fun” premise concocted here.

Some of that could be attributed to Turturro’s rather bland writing and directing, but some of it could also be pointed right towards he himself, the actor. See, Turturro, despite being one of my favorites, was surprisingly boring here. Not only does it seem like he’s sleep-walking through the role, but has intentionally written himself out as being so, just so that he can use that as a tool to allow the supporting cast to shine on and on, like most of them do on more than a few occasions. But, there’s a problem with that, because although Turturro allows the others to do their thing, his character constantly stays in the spotlight and when you have somebody as uninteresting as Fioravante, it’s hard to really want to see what happens to his character next. This is all bizarre too, because Turturro, in almost everything I’ve seen him in, is as charming as he could possibly be. But here, he’s just dull and painfully so as well.

And like I said before, this allows the supporting cast to do whatever it is that they want to do and have a good time doing so. Out of everybody, Woody Allen is the one who really seems like he’s having a blast, by just playing his typical, neurotic self. It’s an act that never ceases to get old or tiring, regardless of whose script it is that he’s reading. And although Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara bring some much needed sex-appeal to this story, their characters seem more like the stereotypical rich, horny and bored housewives that need more sexy-time than what they get from their own spouses. While it’s fun to see this unlikely duo play friends and be a little sexy, they don’t seem real, just two characters cobbled up from Turturro’s own imagination.

"So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?"

“So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?”

The only character who really seems to be devolved from any bit of reality is Vanessa Paradis’ Avigal, who plays this sad, lonely and slightly scared Jewish widow. Though she is fine in this role and she and Turturro create some nice bit of chemistry, the whole idea that the Jewish community would be going absolutely insane over such a unity is downright extreme. Maybe I’m wrong and this is what happens in those small, intimate Jewish communities, but something tells me the portrait Turturro has created here isn’t just unrealistic, but somewhat insulting. That these highly respected Jewish men would capture a person and take them in for countless lines of questioning relating to their business-dealings seems so goofy, that it’s not even funny – it’s just stupid and seemed like a lame way for Turturro to bring out any bit of comedy that he could.

That’s not to say that the whole movie is bad, it’s just that you can tell that, in the right hands, it could have been so much better. Maybe had this been in the hands of a more capable creator like, well, I don’t know, say Woody Allen, then this movie probably would have been better off and been able to actually be more than just a ludicrous “sex comedy”. Instead, it’s a ludicrous sex comedy that doesn’t have much of anything interesting to say, nor does it really seem to know what it’s about. It just goes through the motions and depends on its charming cast to win everybody over.

Which, in a way, it does, but only because of that damn Woody Allen.

Consensus: While it gets by mostly on its charming cast, Fading Gigolo doesn’t really have any point or direction in which it wants to go in, so instead, just relies on cheap gags and unbelievable plot-points that border on being “fantasy”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don't ever get.

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don’t ever get.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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Get On Up (2014)

Use your own bathroom next time.

Anybody with half-a-brain knows who James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) is. He’s one of the most known figures in all of music and his legacy continues to live on today. However, there’s more to all of the dance moves, the funky jams, and high-speed car-chases that we all hear about when his name comes up in a conversation;  see, he too, like everyone else, was a young boy who had dreams of making a difference in this world, that all stemmed from the fact that his mom (Viola Davis) left him at an early age. Left with not much else to do from there, James decided to start living in a local whorehouse, where he would do whatever was necessary for a little boy of his age to be doing in order to have a place to sleep, and food to eat. Then, when he was a teenager, he got arrested and sent to jail for stealing a suit. While in prison, he meets a guy by the name of Bobby (Nelsan Ellis) who sees an actual talent in him and wants to be around it, and see what they can do with it. Eventually, he gets James out of prison and they start a musical-group that goes through many different incarnations, with James Brown being the only constant member.

Because in James Brown’s world, all you need is James Brown.

Musical biopics can usually go absolutely one way, or they can go another way. One way is that they can be total conventional pieces of junk that do more harm to the subject than any slanderous article may have ever done; or, they can show us that the subjects we’re watching here truly are talented, yet troubled individuals indeed. However, sometimes, that just ends up playing out like a VH1 Behind the Music special, but with a bigger-budget and stars. So yeah, musical biopics, for the most part, regardless of how interesting the person/persons may be, aren’t always well-done.

"Alright whitey. Off the stage and let me show you to shake and jive them hips like you "allegedly" know how to do."

“Alright whitey. Off the stage and let me show you to shake and jive them hips like you “allegedly” know how to do.”

But is there ever enough space in this world for there to be a biopic that’s just considered “okay”? Well, maybe. And if there is, I think that Get On Up would be located somewhere in there; which isn’t necessarily to say that it’s a bad biopic that does harm to James Brown and the type of man who he was, it more or less shows his both his faults, and his positives. Most of it lingers on the later, than the former, but hey, this is a biopic about James Brown! It can’t constantly hate on him, or else there’d be no inspiration for a movie to begin with.

And director Tate Taylor definitely seems to be inspired by the life of James Brown, if only maybe more so by his professional life, than his personal one, but there’s still interest all around and it shows throughout a good portion of this movie. Most who know James Brown as “that guy who could dance real good and say that he feels good”, will be surprised to know that there was a little more to his life than just some fine moves both on, as well as on the stage. Taylor uses a non-linear narrative to show us various moments in Brown’s life that either impacted him, or those around him, which, for most movies it would utterly confuse the hell out of anyone watching, but here, somehow doesn’t.

That’s mostly because James Brown himself went through many phases/incarnations throughout his whole storied-career and it’s easy for us to identify what was happening to him when, where, and just exactly who he was in good graces with at which time. Because, James Brown being James Brown, who he was actually friends with to begin with, made a whole hell of a lot of a difference. He wasn’t a very likable guy and didn’t always do the right things, at the right time, with/to the right people, but he at least always put on an exciting show and never gave the crowd something that they didn’t want to see him do.

Which is to say that playing such an high-wired, electric character, in a biopic about him and his life no less, would be a hard task for any actor to accomplish – let alone an actor who literally just had his first, leading-role of his career playing another famous figure in American-culture – but somehow, relative-newcomer Chadwick Boseman absolutely gets the job done perfectly. Right when we see Boseman on-screen, piled on with pounds of make-up to make it look like he’s the older-version of James Brown, it looks goofy, so of course, it’s a bit hard to believe. But, as soon as we hear Boseman talk, that all changes.

Not only does Boseman become James Brown, but has us forget that it’s a standard, conventional biopic about somebody’s life we already know plenty about. There’s a certain unpredictability to where he’ll go with this performance, which, in and of itself, becomes more than just an “impersonation”; he channels what it’s like to be such a lively performer almost non-stop. He hardly ever slows down, nor does he ever want to; James Brown, as I’d like to imagine him as being in the real world, was the sort of guy who always wanted to have a ball, while also be exactly who he was, without ever seeming like a joke in anybody’s eyes. He’s got the dance moves, the swagger he carried wherever he went, and even that raspy voice of his. Even if he doesn’t actually sing the songs themselves, there’s still something impressive and exciting to watch about him just moving all over the stage as if he is Brown, calculating his every move, but without calculating too much to where it doesn’t seem as if it was all coming off the top of his head.

A Radiohead concert, this is not.

A Radiohead concert, this is not.

Because James Brown, was never a fella you could pin-point from point A, to point B.

Once again though, like I mentioned before, that’s not to say that this movie wholly glamorizes the life of James Brown; it sort of just lays his story out there for us to take in, piece by piece. Sure, you could say that it likes more about his story, than it doesn’t, but at least there’s something about this figure that’s imperfect, and not constantly making him out to be some sort of savior. Because even though some people out there in the world probably view him as just that, it’s not true; James Brown, like all of us, was a human being. He had feelings, wants, needs, and pleasures that he sometimes let get a little too into his head, but he at least stuck to who he was and went out there, night after night, performance after performance, and gave the crowd exactly what they wanted: A fun show that they would remember till the end of their days.

Now, that said about the actual person himself, does that make this movie memorable?

Well, not really.

Cause like I was saying earlier about Taylor’s direction, although he does jump around rather sporadically through Brown’s life, for a whole two-and-a-half-hours, it’s not always interesting. Some bits and pieces of his story are left out (mostly his drug-use), and even the parts that are hinted at, still feel forced into so that Taylor didn’t have to worry about not portraying the man as a whole person; warts and all. And although this isn’t a kind of raw biopic, you still get a sense that some of this guy was bad, whereas most of him wasn’t. It’s weird how they do this, but I guess Taylor really did respect James Brown for all that he has given to the world.

Not just the music world, mind you, but the whole world in general.

Keep up the funk, people.

Consensus: Without Chadwick Boseman stealing the screen every second he gets, Get On Up would be another moderate, yet ultimately forgettable biopic about one of the world’s most famous musicians of all time, but has enough excitement and fun to go along with the more dramatic-moments to make it all gel out well enough to be forgiven.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Dan Aykyroyd wishes he had a poof as good as that.

Dan Aykroyd wishes he had a poof as good as that.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Baggage Claim (2013)

Good thing she wasn’t afraid of flying, because otherwise, this would have been a hell of a lot longer.

For some odd reason, Montana Moore (Paula Patton) has just never been lucky in her life when it came to men. She’s always had boyfriends and some serious relationships, but they’ve just never panned-out much to be as serious as something like, say, “matrimony”. However, Montana’s little sister has just got engaged, which makes her see this as the time for a change in her life where she needs to find Mr. Right, even if that means going back to all of her exes. With her besties (Adam Brody and Jill Scott), Montana goes all around the world, hops from plane-to-plane, in hopes of meeting up with these guys while they’re flying up in the air. Most remember her and want to continue talking and being with her, however, some of them aren’t always winners.

So yeah, this is pretty much the African-American version of that dumb-ass, Anna Faris rom-com that came out a couple of years ago called What’s Your Number? If you don’t remember it, that’s fine, because you most likely aren’t alone but basically, it’s close to the same exact premise as this, just minus all of the black people, soothing R&B tunes, and the whole “baggage claimer” angle that seems as new as the Walkman. Anyway, everything I’m saying is practically rubbish because it doesn’t matter, just like this movie doesn’t matter. But in a weird, offensive way, it sort of does.

See, they make a man strip-down half-naked! Damn woman!!

See, they make a man strip-down to being half-naked! Damn women!!

See, what’s so strange about this material is how the film treats its main subject, making us believe that not only can somebody who looks and acts like Paula Patton, NOT find a dude that she could love and settle down with before she hit her 40’s, but that it’s right for somebody like her to find someone that she could love and settle down with. I get why her mother feels like she should, but that’s excusable. Once the movie starts to point its big finger at Montana and tell her that she must get married, she must find that special person, and that she must do it before her little sissy does, honestly, just felt wrong to me. And yes, this is coming from a dude.

It’s pretty weird to see that we could have a chick-flick, rom-com that actually speaks against a woman being her own, independent-being, and more for finding somebody that she can be with, mainly because she has to. Not because she necessarily wants to, but because she needs to so that she can prove a point and not look like such a unlovable wretch in front of every person she meets. To me, this all just felt wrong, and supremely outdated since feminism sure as hell has come a long way since, say, I don’t know, the 1950’s!!!

But honestly, this is just me trying my damn near hardest to try and get past the fact of the matter with this movie; the fact which is that it’s just not funny. I understand that most of these rom-coms are going to follow the same formula, with the same rhythms, beats, conventions, clichés, etc., but there has to be something, hell, anything to get me happy, laughing, and the least bit interested in this material as it’s playing-out. But no, nothing. I couldn’t find anything really, so I just paid attention to its central message, and realized that it’s a bunch of crap that no woman should take to heart, let alone even take notice to. And I get that most women will want to see this movie and think that it’s an empowering-statement of how women should be able to choose who they want to spend their lives with, regardless of what others/society think, but I don’t think that the movie even goes that far, let alone scratches that surface. It just wants to be a goofy, silly, and dumb romantic-comedy that’s supposed to have a meaningful heart, but comes off as somewhat mean-spirtied.

Not fully, but somewhat. However, I’m just going to quit it while I’m ahead because I sound like a complete nut talking about the meaning and understanding behind a movie like Baggage Claim.

Seriously, where has my mind gone?

I wonder what has HER so shocked. No, I seriously wonder.

I wonder what has HER so shocked. No, I seriously wonder.

Okay, anyway, as I was saying about the movie: Yeah, it’s pretty dumb and oddly-delivered, but the cast is good and charming, and I think that’s worth talking about, let alone praising. It should come as no surprise that Paula Patton would get a chance to have her own rom-com vehicle, seeing as that she’s been getting to be a bigger and bigger star by the role she turns in (and who she’s “sadly” married to), and she is charming enough to make her character work for awhile. Montana isn’t as much of a bore to watch as most of the female lead-characters in these dry rom-coms are, but she isn’t necessarily “different” either. She’s always running, always looking to get laid by the hottest man possible, and always has to fall over or hit something when she’s trying to be cool or swift. It’s the exact type of character you’d expect from a rom-com of this nature, but Patton pulls it off well and makes you forget about her character’s many, MANY, shortcomings.

And as for everybody else, well, they’re all fine and sometimes very charming, but ultimately, feel wasted on some pretty cruddy material. The only two who really deserve credit among this supporting cast is Jill Scott and Adam Brody as Montana’s two best-friends who bicker and bat with one another, yet, still love and help their friend whenever she needs it the most. There’s something endearingly sweet to them, but also hilarious to watch because they hold great screen-chemistry together and had me laughing whenever they had something to say. Especially Brody, who hasn’t been this funny since, like, like, LIKE, ever. Also, note to future film makers out there: Next time you put Djimon Hounsou in your movie, make sure the dude’s got some sort of facial-hair to cover-up his scary mug. I sound like a dick, I know, but the dude’s got a scary look to him when he’s trying to be nice and charming. Oh well, he can still sure as hell kick my ass, so I better watch what I say.

Consensus: One could get past the unfunny jokes, constant clichés, and downright predictability of Baggage Claim, however, with the sideways-message at the center, you can’t help but be a little turned-off, even when Paula Patton’s beautiful-self is on screen the WHOLE, DAMN TIME.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

She's looking for the best available escape-route.

Just look at her, she’s so looking for the best available escape-route.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net