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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 Brown

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Who doesn’t want to go out and kill some Nazis?

Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) is assigned an unusual and top-secret pre-invasion mission: Take a small unit of soldiers convicted of felonies and turn them into a commando squad to be sent on a special mission. The mission is an airborne infiltration and assault on a chateau near Rennes in Brittany. And the incentives for those felons who survive the mission is that they will have their sentences commuted. It quickly becomes clear that both Reisman and his superiors regard the operation as a near suicide mission and expect that few, if any of the felons will return.

The first hour-and-a-half of the Dirty Dozen is as good as you can get. There’s plenty of action, jokes, and cool, macho-stuff going on between a bunch of guys that will just get any dude watching it, feeling inspired that they now have to act like this in order to get whatever it is that they want. Not saying that going around and shootin’ up Nazis left and right will get you anywhere, but acting big and tough like these guys seems like it could get you going somewhere in life even if it just by pure intimidation.

Now he knows not to back-talk.

Now he knows not to back-talk.

It’s the typical man movie, for better and for probably worse, depending on who you’re talking to.

Where this film works is the fact that it takes what we usually expect with a WWII movie, flip it on its side, and give us a flick that not only has a whole lot of humor, but also a bunch of violence that seems like these film-makers take pride in showing on the screen. Back in those days before this little ditty hit, WWII flicks were pretty grim, dark, and depressing, as they should be because that’s what war was. Instead, we get an action-filled ride with humor, murder, and a couple of really cool pieces of violence against the enemy at the time, and when it’s all said and over, we all jump up in the air and say, “Yay!”. It was a very risky move taking what was essentially a very touchy subject all those 22 years later, and make light of, but it works well because the movie’s not trying too hard to be funny in a way that’s offensive. It just has a light sense of humor that works, given the setting and all that.

However, as great as this film may be for totally taking these war movies conventions and giving them a nice “edge”, we still seem to get something very similar to them by the end of this flick just when they decide to get all serious on us. Right about the half-way mark, when it seems like all of these crooks have had their fun, had their training, and had their time to shine, they get shipped off to do the big mission they were assigned to do in the first place and that’s where things started to get a little fishy for me, just by how the tone switched up very dramatically.

Don’t get me wrong here, this film is barely ever boring, but it’s just that the last hour of this movie seemed to face problems with the fact that they couldn’t really escape the idea of some of these people dying combat, having their last words, and never being able to walk the face of Earth again. I don’t care what war flick you’re making, nine times out of ten, you’re going to have to come to this fact and show it in your movie, which is what this film does here, it’s just a shame that it takes more away from the film than actually give it any dramatic depth. We care for these characters and whenever one of them goes down, we feel for them, but it also feels very uneven. It’s as if director Robert Aldrich didn’t know how far he wanted to go with the comedy, nor did he know how far he wanted to go with the violence and death, either.

It’s sort of a mixture between the two and it doesn’t quite bode well for the final-half.

Either way though, the cast is pretty great, featuring a who’s who of absolute bad-asses.

Eh, don't look behind you but I think Charlie Bronson's there.

Eh, don’t look behind you but I think Charlie Bronson’s there.

Lee Marvin leads the movie Major John Reisman, someone who doesn’t take a single bit of back-talk at all, but he’s also not necessarily the hard-nosed drill instructor we’re so used to seeing and hearing in these kinds of movie. He’s not screaming or yelling curses, he’s not taking them down and making them all little playthings in front of everybody else, and he sure as hell isn’t making his soldiers be respectable to him and call him “sir” and whatnot. Basically, this guy doesn’t get on these cases about much and just makes a deal with them – you do your job, I’ll do mine, and maybe, just maybe, we can both get out of here alive and you may get free for good. It’s a pretty strong deal that this dozen makes with Reisman and what better person to make that deal than Lee Marvin. I got to tell you, this guy is cool and pretty bad-ass when he needs to be.

But honestly, Marvin’s just the tip of the iceberg, like I’ve mentioned before. There’s a whole slew of famous peeps from this dozen like Charles Bronson (before he started taking a hobby in vigilantism), Donald Sutherland (before Kiefer started trying to take his legacy), Telly Savalas (before he got his stint on Kojak), Jim Brown (after he just retired from kicking booty in football and before he started going off and kicking more booty in films) and John Cassavetes (before his indie film-making career took over the world). There’s plenty more that are apart of that dozen and they’re all amazing, and add side performances for Ernest Borgnine and George Kennedy to the supporting cast and you got yourself a bunch of dudes, who know what they’re doing, how to do it, and how to make it fun while still maintaining that level of respect that usually comes with the actors of these statures.

Wow. I’ve literally grown more hair on my chest.

Consensus: The Dirty Dozen suffers a bit from unevenness, but still features plenty of kick-ass moments of action, violence, blood, and Nazis being killed and also some great performances from a cast that is just filled with a who’s who of bad-ass, male actors from the 60’s.

8 / 10

If only I was as cool.

If only I was as cool.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins, FilmDROID

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She Hate Me (2004)

She hate me, she hate me not.

Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a young, brash hotshot at a large biotech company that’s on the verge of creating a vaccine for AIDS. However, a whole swirl of controversy surrounds him and the company for supposed wrongdoings, when he’s the one who blows the whistle. Obviously, Jack’s bosses aren’t too happy about him opening his mouth, so they make him the one to take the fall, which the leads the government to look further and further into Jack’s life and freezing all of his accounts. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, however, Jack leads the life of a young, New York bachelor. So now, Jack needs some way to make any bit of cash he can find – that’s why when his ex-girlfriend (Kerry Washington), comes by with her girlfriend (Dania Ramirez), in desperate need of a sperm donor, he’s more than willing to accept the offer. But because Jack is so good at what he does, word has spread about him and now, every lesbian who wants to have a baby are hitting Jack up for sex. Of course, they give him money and all that, but really, what Jack wants, is a love in his life and some meaning.

Is this love?

Is this love?

Deep down inside the dark, fiery hells of She Hate Me, lies, believe it or not, a funny movie from Spike Lee. What with all the impregnating of lesbians and such, Lee finds a certain bit of energy that he’s utilized in practically every film, but actually seems to be having fun. There are some small points he seems to make about gender-politics and homosexuality, but really, none are too preachy to where they take over what Lee’s trying to do – basically, he’s setting out to make us laugh. It’s not the kind of Spike Lee we’re used to seeing, which is why She Hate Me, for a meager amount of time, feels like Lee’s funniest flick where, he doesn’t care about preaching or yelling at the audience, but instead, having them chuckle.

Then, it’s all downhill from there.

See, while a good portion of She Hate Me is about this young guy having sex and impregnating lesbians, there’s also another good portion of the movie that concerns itself with being about AIDS, about Congress, about big, Enron-like corporations that swallow-up the middleman and don’t take the blame, about the mafia, about sexuality, about Italians, about African Americans, about Caucasians, about racism, and well, so much more. Really, She Hate Me is packed to the gills with numerous subplots, ideas, themes, statements, and viewpoints that, after awhile, it all becomes tiring.

But I sort of liked that.

Spike Lee hasn’t always been known as the easiest director to follow or like; most of his films are preachy and one-sided, but are still, for the most part, compelling to watch and be apart of. While some may not agree with his general viewpoints on certain issues like race, sex, or class, there’s no denying that his movies are entertaining and get you thinking harder than most other film-makers. So what if Spike Lee creates a mess? If the mess is, at the very least, interesting and seems to want to say something, no matter how muddled it may be, then so let it be!

That’s why, no matter where She Hate Me goes, tries to say, or ends up, I wasn’t pissed. I was confused and a little befuddled, but I was never bored and there’s something to be happy about with that. While Lee could have made a drag of a movie that goes from sexuality-to-politics at the snap of his finger and not really done much with it, he does, at the very least, push it to its extreme limits where we can see where he’s going – we may not know why he’s going there, but hey, at least he’s keeping us watching. Once again, it may just be me who feels this way about She Hate Me, but I don’t care: A mess is a mess, no matter what.

Or this?

Or this?

But sometimes, it’s all a matter of just how well you dress that mess up to appear like something extraordinary or, better yet, smart.

And in the midst of all this havoc that Lee creates, Anthony Mackie does a great job as Jack Armstrong. Now, Mackie’s a force to be reckoned with and constantly shines in everything he shows up in; however, back in 2004, he wasn’t known for much (except for getting chewed the ‘eff out by B-Rabbit), but here, for what appears the first time, he gets a chance to show his range and just how well he can handle and adapt to Lee’s idiosyncratic style. Because there’s so many different flicks going on at once during She Hate Me, Mackie has to handle each and everyone with a certain level of believeability, as if this is in fact, the same character, going through all these sorts of different transformations and situations – all of which, Mackie does quite well with and actually comes out on top. Of course, there’s a very interesting movie to be made about what Jack’s life and romance, but Lee is less concerned with that at times.

This allows for the rest of the ensemble to show up and, in some ways, light the screen up just as much as Mackie, even if it seems like they may be showing up from the sets of other flicks. Kerry Washington is sexy and dangerous, both at the same time, but also has a nice bit of chemistry with Mackie; Dania Ramirez is sympathetic as her girlfriend who, despite wanting a baby and being a lesbian, is willing to have sex with a man, even if she doesn’t really want to; Ellen Barkin and Woody Harrelson are, oddly enough, hammy and over-the-top as Jack’s former bosses who get rid of him and seem every bit as detestable as Lee wants them to appear to be; John Turturro shows up as an Italian mob boss that has an interesting scene, but once again, appears literally out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to add much to the final product; and yeah, there’s plenty more where they come from. Everybody’s fine and trying to do what they can do, but really, they’re stuck trying to work within Spike Lee’s mind.

And what a crazy, but watchable one it is.

Consensus: Jumbled, odd, sometimes confusing, and always interesting, She Hate Me is the kind of mess we expect to see from Spike Lee, even if it does occasionally lapse into being one too many films for one movie.

6.5 / 10

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

I Am Ali (2014)

No Will Smith, no worries.

He floats like a butterfly. He stings like a bee. And guess what? Nobody is quite as beautiful or powerful as he. This is all according to him, mind you, which makes you wonder what all those around the notorious boxing legend Muhammad Ali have to say about him. And this is exactly what we get to see from his early days as Cassius Clay, where his brother remembers the times they’d spend together and goof around like little bros do. to when his first boxing-trainer that realized there was something special to this kid that needed to be worked with. Then, we get to see the various women he’s had in his life, whether they be his wives, his numerous girlfriends, or even his loving daughters. But it doesn’t stop there, as we also get to hear from the numerous Ali faced in his life, whether they be people he fought with in the ring, as well as outside. Either way, we get to hear everybody’s side of the many stories they have about Muhammad Ali, whether they be good, bad, or plain and simply, memorable.

Somebody definitely influenced Sean Penn's early days.

Somebody definitely influenced Sean Penn’s early days.

With these types of documentaries, you have to realize that while the subject in question may be respected, or adored, or hailed by many people out there, they’re still human beings. Meaning, that while they may have done some wonderful, sometimes beautiful things for certain others around them out there in the world, there’s still always a few faults they may have which, ultimately, prove to be their downfall or just add more to the character of who they are. In a way, having a fault doesn’t make these heroes any less great, it just makes them more human and can sometimes make them seem more human than ever before.

Problem is, writer/director Clare Lewins doesn’t seem all that interested in getting deeper and deeper into that subject’s side and would much rather just focus on the kind of miracle-worker he’d want to appear as being. Which, honestly, isn’t bad because there’s plenty of heartfelt, down-to-earth stories about the lovely things Ali did for these people speaking, but it all feels like this is more of a tribute to a person, rather than an actual biography of the person he was. And only making it worse is the fact that the movie sometimes flirts with this idea of digging further into this aspect of Ali, but then, once it realizes that it may get too serious or risky for the producers, it backs away, so as to not offend anyone involved with helping to make this movie a possibility.

It makes sense – it really does. But, when you make your movie out to be a biography about a man, from anyone but the man, there’s a feeling that everybody’s just a little too happy and cheery to talk about him, rather than actually discussing the person he was, or better yet, still is to this day. I’m not talking about giving Muhammad Ali a total hatchet job that makes him into something of a descendant of Satan, but much rather, a man who had his fair share of flaws, but ultimately, when he had to, he was the man he wanted to be. He treated mostly everybody around him with the same type of love and respect as he would wish upon himself, and hardly ever favorited one person over another.

He was a fair guy, who just had his problems is all. Meaning, he liked to bed a lot of women, regardless of his marriage-license at the current stage in time; he talked a little too much smack on his opponents; and better yet, he didn’t know when to just tune-out of smiling for the cameras and just be real for a second. These problems of Muhammad Ali, the person, are hinted at here in this piece, but very rarely do they get developed more than just a few lines from somebody, until it’s time to forget about them and move on. Not to say that I had it out for Ali in the first place, but when you have a biography of a person’s life, disguised as a documentary, you definitely want to make sure all sides of your stories are treated fairly and with a nearly-equal amount of detail.

I know it’s easier said then done, but trust me, folks, it can happen and I just wish it did here.

But, aside from the problems I had with this movie, I Am Ali still does a lot of things right and that’s mostly due to the fact that the interviews Lewins was able to get from all those involved, aren’t just well-done, but give us an almost complete picture of who this man was. We get to hear from his brother, his trainer, his numerous girlfriends/wives, his kids, his friends/confidantes his fans, and even some of the men he faced over the years. Most of these interviews bring out a lot about Ali that we most of us probably didn’t already know before and it’s nice to see and hear.

Holding your breath underwater for a long time always proves your manliness. Just ask David Blaine.

Holding your breath underwater for a long time always proves your manliness. Just ask David Blaine.

The most emotional bits and pieces of insight we get here come from Ali’s most famous daughter, Laila, who, surprisingly, doesn’t hold much back when talking about her father, their relationship together and exactly why she decided to follow in his foot-steps. It shows us that even though Ali was one of the most known names in the world, he still had time for his family, but most importantly, for his kids. He always wanted to be there for them and focus on them while they were growing up, even if he couldn’t physically be there to do so. It’s quite sweet really and brought something of a small tear to my eye.

Then, Laila takes it almost one step further when she begins to talk about the condition Muhammad is currently in today, still alive and all, but struggling with Parkinson’s. Not only did I feel like, had the movie decided to develop this reality a bit more, probably would have been the most emotional part, but for some reason, it doesn’t. It literally just leaves Laila there, tearing-up and ready to go on more, only to then fade to black and go onto the next interviews. It made the film seem almost incomplete and made me wonder why they decided to jump over this part of the story, acting as if it’s not even a reality and just a secret problem not too many people know about.

To me, it felt like the movie wanted to go deeper, but just didn’t. And that was a real shame.

Consensus: By creating a nearly-round picture of its subject, I Am Ali shows us the kind of effect that Muhammad Ali had on practically all those around him, whether they be negative or positive. Unfortunately though, it was mostly focusing on the later.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah. We've all seen this before.

Yeah. We’ve all seen this before.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Running Man (1987)

Don’t trust the TV. Especially that crap on MTV.

Set in the future, one of the most popular TV shows is called The Running Man, and it features supposed crooks running away from these over-the-top manufactured villains, as well as escaping these torturous boobie-traps. These bad guys are there to kill the supposed crooks, and eventually, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself ends up in the “game”.

Believe it or not, it was none other than Paul Michael Glaser who directed this little 80’s gem from back in the day. Whoever thought that Starsky had it in him to make a movie like this and even though it may not be the most loved and adored out of Arnie’s 80’s to 90’s collection, it still hits a bit of a soft-spot with me for some odd reasons.

The main reason why this movie works so well, still in the year 2012, is because this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yeah, there’s a lot of corny one-liners, plenty of outlandish wardrobes that look like they were made for a drag-queen runway show, and a lot of over-the-top performances that may have you laughing your ass off by how dumb they sound in this movie, but the fact that this film is still able to have fun with itself makes it a more enjoyable ride than I expected. Even back when I saw this one in 8th grade, I just kept remembering how corny everything is and now, my opinion still hasn’t changed but I’m able to get by certain elements like that with a movie like this because it totally takes advantage of it’s kick-ass premise.

And yes, for all you little teenie-boppers reading this out there, this premise is very similar to The Hunger Games‘ one but this came out before that one, so if you got a problem, take it up with Arnie and see what he has to say. Aww man, good old, cheese-ball Arnie quotes. Those were the prank-call-using-soundboard days.

The problem I did have with this film, is that the film’s message is a little too in-your-face, almost to the point of where they are actually just telling you, “hey, don’t believe everything you see on the television”. Is this a very true statement that seems very relevant in today’s world? Yes, but do we really need to see this done so obviously and blatantly? No, and even if some of the material did have me laughing, it just felt like it was trying too hard to go for that satire idea and somehow failed at doing so. Maybe when you see films like these, the points that they’re trying to get across doesn’t really matter, but when it’s done in an hitting-over-the-head way like this, it can get pretty annoying, pretty quick. That’s why I just depended on Arnie to say dumb shit like this. Hahahahahah god! I just cannot get enough of that stuff!

But all joking aside, Arnie has never been the best actor, he knows it, we know it, Sylvester Stallone knows it, and even Maria Shriver knows it (hey yo!). However, that’s why we as a movie-loving audience, don’t really watch him to give grand-stand, Oscar-winning performances, we watch him so he can go around, kick the baddies’ asses, chew out some terrible one-liners, and at the end of it all, come out on-top with the girl on his arm. That’s all we need with Arnie in any role that he has ever done and that’s why I’m really glad to see him coming back on the big-screen because the guy still has that star-appeal to him, regardless of how much of that ravishing physique he’s lost over the years. Yikes!

Probably the reason why this film is so entertaining to watch, even when it seems like it’s starting to get boring and a little slow, is all because of Richard Dawson as The Running Man’s dick-headed host that seems all nice and lovely to everybody in front of the screen, but behind-the-scenes, is an evil and nasty guy that would do anything, and I mean, anything, just to get ahead in the ratings. I don’t know who’s bright idea it was to cast the kissy-face host from The Family Feud (aka one of the most family-oriented game shows of all-time) as the evil game-show host here, but it was one of the smartest pieces of casting and it’s even better because Dawson doesn’t even seem like he’s doing anything new for himself. He’s pretty much just playing what he’s always played for the past decade or so, except this time, he’s a little more evil than you might have seen him get. So if Arnie’s one-liners are pissing you off to the high-heavens (and I really don’t know why they would), then just depend on Dawson to keep your mind alive and awake during this one.

Consensus: Though it is definitely an over-the-top, corny, and silly piece of 80’s action, The Running Man still has a certain type of entertainment to it with some funny-ass one-liners, exciting action that can get pretty gory at times, and a solid supporting performance from Richard Dawson as the diabolical game-show host.

7/10=Rental!!

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Football is a lot more messed up than I thought.

Master director Oliver Stone crafted this look at the gritty world of professional football, capturing the trials and tribulations of the fictional Miami Sharks, a team beset by unnecessary roughness on and off the field. Stone’s brilliant ensemble cast includes Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Dennis Quaid in a full-blown assault on the senses, portraying every tackle, pass — and torn ligament — in vivid detail.

I like, and I play football. I think it’s tough, fun, and overall vicious sport that if your good at, well then be ready for the big bucks. However, sports in today’s world isn’t always the happiest place to be. Oliver Stone knows what I’m talking about.

As usual with an Oliver Stone film, this is packed and packed with a lot of information, and stories that all seem to occupy the 2 hour and 43 minute time limit. This film is very long, and I must say that if you do not want to sit by a movie for a very long time, where you may not like many of the characters, you may not want to check this film out.

There are a lot of interesting parts every once and awhile, and Stone does a great job of filming it all. The football scenes are perfect by the way they portray every hit, every cheer, every sack, and every single little piece of pain that is involved within a game of football. He also uses his crazy camera-work, that moves from story to story, and the use of loud, percussive music and rap feel like life itself and it keeps us involved with this film as well as the big game itself.

I just wish that there were more parts to this film that seemed like they were needed. I feel like Stone was putting some of these random parts in to create more compelling stories that would have us attached to all of these characters, and it just kind of got tire-some. There seemed to be more random parts then there were actually parts that were needed in this film, but I will give Stone credit for at least adding all these other elements to this film to get the full spectrum, and at least make it something easy to follow. The script isn’t so bad either, it’s just all over the place, but it is entertaining cause it shows the world we live in where the game has changed from being prideful to more commercial.

Al Pacino is perfect and exactly what his character requires: a hard-arsed, old school coach with more honor than commercial savvy. He loves the game he discovered 30 years ago and cannot face the prostitute that it has become. Dennis Quaid is great as the faded glory of the old game: tattered, bruised, bleeding and down but not quite out. Together they quantify everything that is good about sport. Cameron Diaz is surprisingly good as Al’s polar opposite: young, fiscal and dynamic. She has inherited a job she doesn’t want but cannot quit. She sees football as a game of commerce, not endeavor. She is supported by an amazing Jamie Foxx, the tough, brash youngster given a shot at the top position and grabbing it for all he’s worth. Together they quantify everything that is real about sport in the USA. I liked how the film showed how these two opposing sides faced off against each other, even though their all on the same side. It’s old school vs. new school, and you get to decide who wins in the end. There are others in this huge ensemble cast that are worth noting such as LL Cool J, James Woods, Matthew Modine, John C. McGinley, Aaron Eckhart, Lawrence Taylor, and the man himself, Jim Brown.

Consensus: Oliver Stone’s “football movie” is a bit messy and some parts don’t seem like they belong at all, but Stone’s direction that captures the perfect feel of the game, and the perfect performances of the cast make this a film that any football fan can and probably will enjoy. It will just take about 2½ hours out of your day to watch it.

7/10=Rental!!