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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jim Belushi

Wonder Wheel (2017)

Went to Coney Island and Man, We’re People Annoying.

It’s Coney Island in the 1950’s and there are a bunch of people who are just doing their best to get by, whatever the hell that even means. There’s Ginny (Kate Winslet), an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house and yeah, she doesn’t quite like it. There’s Humpty (Jim Belushi), Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband who just wants the best for his family, even though he knows that’s easier said then done. There’s Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright and instantly takes a liking to Ginny, despite her marital-status. And lastly, there’s Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment. Together, all four are just trying to get by, finding work, finding love, and oh yeah, finding a whole heck of a lot of issues along the way.

He could save me from drowning any day.

Wonder Wheel is, yet again, another one of Woody Allen’s less inspired efforts, although it does flirt with the idea of being something so much more and something so much better. And yet, it doesn’t. It sort of just sits there, stagnate, telling its story, its characters, conflicts, and just moving at its own even-pace. Which is odd, because Wonder Wheel is never all that funny to be a comedy, nor is it really all that sad or emotional to be considered a “drama”; it’s mostly just a bunch of dialogue, with bits that seem like comedy and drama, yet never reach that magnitude.

Which had me thinking, “Why doesn’t Woody Allen give television another try?”

I know that Crisis in Six Scenes was considered a bomb (though I didn’t mind it), but seriously, with so much TV out there that blurs the line between comedy and drama, there’s a part of me that wonders, with more time, effort, and care, Allen may be able to make a great TV show. Of course, though, you could say the same thing about the movies he makes, where each and everyone only takes a year to write, shoot, edit, and release, which is surprising for an 82-year-old man, but also obviously inconsistent. It’s almost as if every 7th flick or so from Allen is good, whereas all the others are just incredibly mediocre or fine.

And yes, Wonder Wheel is that movie where it seems like it Allen may have an inspired idea, but doesn’t really go there. He could have chosen to crack jokes about post-WWII America and the utter nostalgia that frames every inch of the beautifully-lit screen here, but instead, he settles for a story about four people, finding love and inspiration on Coney Island. If Allen actually cared, these characters would be compelling, but that’s the rub: It almost seems like he doesn’t. It’s as if everyone written here were already small sketches that he somehow got the green-light to make more of, but rather than working on said characters, he just continued to write more and more plot.

It’s like the Sopranos, with Jim Belushi, somehow.

And it’s a bit of a sad affair that, without the actors in it, would have been terribly boring.

But it isn’t and that’s because the cast all come ready to play and give it their all. Kate Winslet is going way wacky and over-the-top here as Ginny, but the woman sells it because she’s funny, a little sad, and a little different from what we’re used to seeing from Woody Allen’s heroines. For one, she’s older and going after a younger man, so already, she’s a ground-breaker, but yeah, she’s also an enjoyable presence in the movie that I would have loved to have seen in another movie that cared more about her. Justin Timblerake is fine as the lifeguard that Ginny falls for and while a lot of people have been ragging on Timberlake’s performance here, he’s okay enough to where he handles himself well, even among the crowd of talented people he’s stuck with.

But really, my favorite is probably Jim Belushi as the depressed and rather upset husband of Ginny. This character is interesting in that we’ve seen Allen play with these sorts of characters and make them completely awful human beings (see Danny Aiello in the Purple Rose of Cairo), whereas Belushi’s role as the husband is a lot more sad and sympathetic. Usually, these characters are mean and cruel, but this guy seems like he just wants a little bit more love out of life, isn’t getting it, but isn’t going to give up, either. He’s the kind of character who I wanted to give a hug, too, but once again, Allen steps a bit shy of actually giving this character more to deal with. It’s mostly just Belushi doing all that he can and he makes it work.

Wish I could say that about the rest of the movie.

Consensus: Never quite settling on a tone, Wonder Wheel is another middling-effort from Woody Allen, who seems to get by with beautiful visuals, a nostalgic setting, and solid cast, but can’t quite get his scripts to work.

5 / 10

Wrong attire for the beach, but hey, at least you’re here!

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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Thief (1981)

That “one last job”, never quite is.

Frank (James Caan) is your typical crook in the early 80’s, who’s just trying to make right with his life. He owns a used-car shop, has a girl (Tuesday Weld) that he’s trying to settle down with, and on the side, does a little bit of jewel-thievery. However, he’s an honest guy and doesn’t hurt anybody, so there can’t be much of a problem with taking another job from a head honcho in the Chicago mob (Robert Prosky), right? Well, Frank doesn’t believe so but he’s about to find out that you don’t just take the mob’s money and expect to go on about your day and act as if it never happened. You have commitments and you’re practically “part of the gang”, something that Frank does not run too well with.

Michael Mann hasn’t made a flick quite in some time and it makes you wonder one thing, why? I mean, granted, Public Enemies was no work of art to end-off with and Miami Vice was even worse, but everything else before is what most of us call close to being “a masterpiece” or at least something along those lines. I’ve seen most of Mann’s flicks and each and every one has done something for me in a positive way, even if they don’t always work when you take into consideration the decades that they were made in, but still, the guy had a style, the guy had a feel, the guy had a look, and the guy sure as hell knew how to tell a story, especially if that story consisted of dudes pulling off crimes, shooting one another, and cursing a shit-ton.

That Michael Mann, man.

"Oh no! I ain't getting shot in a hail of gun-fire this time!"

“Oh no! I ain’t getting shot in a hail of gun-fire this time!”

To be honest though, as much as I’ve heard overly positive things about this flick, I’ve never really brought myself to even bother with it. It wasn’t because I wasn’t interested, it’s just because 80’s movies don’t usually work for me like they do with some peeps. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Miami Vice (the TV show), I’m not a huge fan of New Wave, and I’m sorry, but the synths have to go! Probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to liking the 80’s, was GTA: Miami Vice which will always go down as one of the crowning moments in my life where not only did I realize I was a geek, but a geek that knew who A Flock of Seagulls were. Aw yeah. Times were good for 11-year-old Dan the Pre-Man, and then I grew up and realized that the 80’s blew. Then again, the 21st Century that I’m growing up in ain’t much better, so what the hell do I know, right?

Anyway, personal problems aside, I decided to see what Mann was up to with one of his first theatrical-releases and needless to say, it lived up to all of the expectations I’ve gathered from all of the other reviews of this movie I’ve been seeing, and then some. I won’t go so far as to call this “a masterpiece” like some peeps have, but I will go so far as to say that if you love crime movies, this is the movie you need to see right away, especially if you like your crime movies with an extra-dosage of style, color, and Tangerine Dream. Don’t worry, they’re on my shit-list, too.

And yes, you could say that some parts of Mann’s flick is dated, considering that the 80’s were lame, despite them thinking they were cool-as-hell. The score does become a bit over-bearing at times; people say certain pieces of lingo that feels put-on, rather than actually genuine; and the violence could have been a little less used with the slo-mo, but overall, this flick still kicks ass after all of these years. That’s mostly because Mann knows the type of story he wants to make, which isn’t exactly what you’d expect from most crime films located in the same vein. Rather than going for convention and making this a story about one dude pulling-off his last job and the problems with the mobsters he has to deal with, it’s actually more about the problem he has with facing himself and what he has to do for a living. Frank is the type of character that knows he can do so much better with his life, whether it be by settling down, raising a family, and being a loyal husband, but knows that the only way for him to be successful and prosperous in America is to make money at what you do best, even if that does mean robbing and stealing jewelry from high-class vaults. Hey, do what you’re good at, and leave it at that!

It’s more of an inner-battle that Frank with his own set of skills and the human being he can be, rather than the outer-battle with these bastards from the mob. That later-conflict does come into the flick, but comes in later once all of Frank’s stones have been set and we’ve gotten a clearer picture of who this guy is and how he functions as a human specimen. Mann goes for the humane-aspect of this character, but the approach wouldn’t have worked as perfectly had it not been for Caan in the lead role, pulling off one of his best of all-time.

Yep, that’s saying something for the same dude who played Sonny and even Walter Hobbs, if you really want to get all “commercial” with it.

Caan’s always been that actor who’s been putting out great pieces of work across-the-board for decades now, but never really gets the time to shine like he used to. You could say that has something to do with age or the fact that he’s apparently been considered “difficult” to work with, but I just say it’s a damn shame because the man shows us that he can work with any role, whether it be an generally nice guy, or a sympathetic crook who knows what he is and is trying to make something good come out of it. Caan plays Frank perfectly because you always know that there’s more to this guy and that you can always count on him to do the right thing, even if it is just for himself and not for the others around him. Hey, I didn’t say the guy was perfect, just human; that’s all.

But I think people out there reading this will think it’s nothing more than a character-study, with some guns and bullets thrown into the mix. And if you do think that, then you’re not entirely wrong; just know that the flick is pretty damn tense and gets very bloody, very quick, especially once everything starts to hit the fan, big time. Mann is the type of director that can make any plot begin to sizzle and boil just by giving us enough time to let all of the details and feelings settle in, and once that happens here, it’s balls to the walls with him, these characters, this story, and Mann’s sense of style. It’s an 80’s-style, but Mann was the king at it, so watching the king do his work ain’t half-bad if you don’t mind me saying so.

He's straining so hard to actually act. Should have just done speedball'd it up.

He’s straining so hard to actually act. Should have just done speedball’d it up.

The rest of the cast all let Cann do his show and pull it off with flying colors, but they all get to show their skills as well and not get thrown in the background for too long. Tuesday Weld is great as Jessie, Frank’s gal, because she gives us an understandable reason as to why she would want to be with and stay with someone like Frank, and even makes us believe that she could stand up for herself if push came to shove as well. The final scene between her and Frank is a very emotional one, one that took me by surprise because it’s so unexpected, yet, so heartfelt in the sense that it connects two people that we know love each other and are together throughout the whole film, and still shows their dedication and love to one another. Hell, I’m tearing up now just typing it.

The late, great Robert Prosky is very good as Leo, the main mobster that gets Frank’s the jobs and everything and seems like he’s a bit too nice and modest to be such a powerful-figure in the crime world, but once you see his true colors, you begin to realize that the guy is a mean, sick son-of-a-bitch who’s toes you should not step on. Also, he’s a Philly boy and I always have to give out love for that! You’ll also have to be on the look-out from smaller, younger roles from the likes of Denis Farina, Jim Belushi, and William Petersen, who all do fine, but also let Caan do his show, as promised and deserved.

Consensus: Some of it may be dated, but overall, Thief still works as not just an exciting crime-thriller, but an interesting character-study of a person we don’t know if we should root for, all because of how greatly Caan portrays him.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"You got the weed, or what?"

“You got the weed, or what?”

About Last Night… (1986)

There comes a time when you have to turn-off the R. Kelly, and start talking about “feelings”. Yuck!

22-year-old Chicagoan Danny (Rob Lowe) loves the single life it hurts so much. His co-worker also happens to be his best pal (Jim Belushi); he’s good-looking; gets all sorts of ladies; likes to be the life of the party; makes a good and honest living as a grocery-food seller; and he’s practically just all by himself, but he doesn’t care too much since things seem to be going so well for him as of right now. But one day, during one of his many drunken-binges at the local-bar called “Mother’s”, Danny spots a mighty-fine looking-chick by the name of Debbie (Demi Moore) and he can’t help but fall head-over-heels for her. He gets her name, number and even a date with her, even though her bestie (Elizabeth Perkins) is more than adamant about her decision, especially with a guy like Danny. Fast-forward a couple of months later, and already, Danny and Debbie are moving in, falling in love and getting very, VERY serious. However, once you throw emotions into the mix of any relationship, not only is everything heightened, but when they end, they don’t just float-away in the air; they fall, face-down on the ground, leaving absolutely nobody alive or left-in-place during its wake.

He's so unattractive that he's the perfect wing-man who'd probably be happier than you at the end of his life. Yeah, whatever you do, don't try to be like that guy.

He’s so unattractive, he makes the perfect wing-man who’d probably be happier than you at the end of his life. Yeah, whatever you do, don’t try to be like that guy.

Sounds a bit harsh, I know, but isn’t that what love’s all about? You meet someone, you start swapping fluids, you fall in love and sooner than later, things begin to go South where every bad decision you make kills you, just as much as it kills your significant-other. It sucks, it’s painful and it’s absolutely one of the most memorable experiences a human being could ever put themselves through, but, it’s something we all need to feel and experience as human beings.

However though, I don’t mean to start this review off as any other review I’ve ever done about a romantic flick, where I start getting all personal, emotional while spreading some of my hard-hurting insight of the painful game of love, because truly, this isn’t the type of movie that deserves all of that yammering. Instead, this movie deserves the type of yammering in which I wonder, just how the hell does this flick get a remake!?!? It’s not even like this one is all that good to begin with, let alone, get a re-boot, with new stars, a new angle and, from what I see, a new tone.

But, this is not a review on that movie, and instead, this is a review on this movie, the original About Last Night…, and how it just doesn’t really do much at all with its premise. Sure, the idea of two people meeting-up, going-out and eventually falling in love doesn’t exactly sound like the most inventive, creative premise to ever be drawn-out and shown to the rest of humanity, but when that type of story can be done right, it’s a pleasure for all to listen, learn and see if they can relate to these character’s in any way. If not through their first moments of falling in love, but through their moments where you sympathize with them over the harsh reality of love, and how it’s so damn killer once it seems to start going away.

That isn’t this movie, and although it definitely likes to think so, it barely even comes close. Most of that has to do with the fact that Debbie and Danny are just such poorly-written characters to begin with, that when they begin to fall for the other, we don’t really care or believe it. First of all, it all happens over the span of what seems like four or five months; the same five months that are shown to us in a montage where we get to see them frolic around parks, laugh, smile, kiss, have passionate sex in the bath-tub, eat food, smile, laugh, kiss, frolic around the streets of Chicago, walk around in the nude, and have even more passionate sex, but this time, they keep it in the bedroom. In some people’s eyes, I guess that’s what can constitute “a relationship”, let alone, “love” in and of itself, but I hardly believed these two together for a single second and found myself really trying to see if I could find any reason to care for these two at all once things started to go haywire for their sweet, little budding-romance – but I just couldn’t.

Too much of this just looks, feels and sounds so artificial, especially once we find out that Danny’s dream is to be a lifelong restaurateur, which is not only totally tacked-on by the final-act, but thrown in there to create some spice and anger between he and Debbie; as if their relationship being as bland as a piece of cardboard wasn’t enough to give them reason to fight, argue and practically hate each other as the days go by. It’s a shame to see that too, because I don’t usually try to go into romantic flicks like this, just looking to hate it and pick it apart, piece-by-piece, limb-from-limb, but barely anything was going good for me.

The only real saving-grace to be found in this movie that made it slightly better, just solely by their presences and showing up enough times to make me crack a smile or a chuckle, were Elizabeth Perkins and Jim Belushi, as the stereotypical, loner-friends who don’t care for relationships and just want to live their lives, their way, without anybody tying them down. Maybe more so of Perkins’ character, as she truly is a total bitch that, at times, can be a bit ridiculous with how upset and jealous she gets over Debbie’s newfound romance with Danny – almost to the point of where you wonder if some freaky, lesbo-secrets are going to be unearthed. Still though, as unpleasant as her character definitely is more times than she ought to be, Perkins made her the least bit sympathetic and somebody worth liking, because she seemed to always speak her mind and stick by whatever it is that she said; even if she was just being an asshole.

She's so disapproving, and most of all, right!

She’s so disapproving and right!

Jim Belushi, on the other hand, absolutely steals this movie every time he shows up, and just made me more than happy to see his lovable grin, receding hair-line and alcoholic beverage placed oh so firmly in his hand. Belushi has never really blew me away as the type of guy I’d expect to make me laugh my ass off, just by the sheer fact of him showing up and being “funny”, but with the rest of the bunch he was thrown into here, he pretty much had no choice but to make me laugh and love the hell out of him. He loves to keep the party going, talk about any “broads” he may, or may not have banged in exotic ways, and also just wants to hang-out with his good old buddy Danny, who couldn’t be less concerned with what really matters, and that’s keeping it cool with your bros.

Just another case of a whipped man. Am I right, fellas?

Speaking of this said whipped man, Rob Lowe, god bless his heart, definitely gives it his all as Danny, but nonetheless, comes up very, very short here. Laughably so, too. You can tell that Lowe’s trying to stretch himself out here as an actor and not just get by on his good looks, but when he has to be cool or charming, you wonder if he just watched Grease about ten times before filming began; and when he’s trying to emote and be all serious, it makes you wonder if he’s ever been in a relationship before, let alone in one with a chick. I know, I know, I know! Rob Lowe is definitely all fine and dandy nowadays, and sure as hell likes the ladies, but here, he’s pretty damn bad and it’s hard to watch after awhile. Even Demi Moore gets off somewhat Scott-free because he’s so lame here. Even though she’s not nearly as bad as he is, she tries a bit too hard to yell, scream, shout and cry, and seems like she just heard that her dog died, while also menstruating at the same time. I know that that’s of an image for ya, but if you can draw the picture inside your warped, twisted minds, you can probably guess just how unpleasant it is to actually be a witness of.

Consensus: Die-hard romantics may get a little something more out of About Last Night…, then say, I don’t know, your die-hard cynic, “love sucks” a-hole, but so be it! It’s not a very well-written, nor insightful movie that just gives us characters we don’t really care for to begin with, and never seem to care for, even when it seems like their own world together comes crashing down and gone forever.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, I apologize. They bang in the bath-tub, while the shower is on. My mistake!

Okay, I apologize. They bang in the bath-tub, while the shower is on. My mistake!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider,