Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Jim Rash

Minority Report (2002)

“Don’t trust the police; trust Scientology.” – Tom Cruise, probably.

Set in a future where technology reigns supreme and decides just about each and every person’s decisions, the police force known as “the Pre-Crime Division” arrest people before they can commit murders based on the psychic intuition of three Precognatives. Or, for short, “Pre-cogs”. And lead cop, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), has been working alongside them for quite some time, wherein they trust them, he trusts them, and everything goes as smoothly as possible; murders are stopped, people are put in jail, lives are saved, and everybody goes home a lot happier! However, when looking through the pre-cogs’ memory-bases, Anderton sees a murder committed by none other than himself. Though Anderton doesn’t believe that he’d ever kill someone, no matter for what reason, it’s company policy to take any person in for questioning, no matter who the person is, or what the stipulations may be. But Anderton feels as if he’s being set up, and rather than letting himself get taken in, questioned, and possibly incarcerated for something he hasn’t done yet, let alone, doesn’t think he’ll ever commit, he decides to go on a run from the law. Along the way, he hopes to find out the truth behind the murder and whether or not he’s being set-up to begin with, but a personal disaster from his personal life comes back to bite him and it may not only cost him his innocence, but possibly his life.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

There’s always two Steven Spielberg’s working in this world that, on occasion, seem to battle against one another. There’s the serious, dramatic director who makes emotional, sometimes stories that breathe-off huge levels of importance and show that there’s a true artist within the work (see Saving Private Ryan and/or Schindler’s List). Then, on the other hand, there’s the fun, free-wheeling dude who appreciates his blockbusters and succumbs more to the mainstream, without really caring who is happy with that decision, or who isn’t (see Jurassic Park and/or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). And while I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that he plays both hands, it also calls into question just how hit-or-miss he can be; while the blockbusters he creates can be exciting and better than most others out there, they also sometimes make it seem like he’s sleeping on those fine talents of his we so rarely see put on full-display.

And then, there’s Minority Report, which seems more like a psychological battle inside of Spielberg’s head, rather than an actual, great movie.

If there’s credit that has to be given to Spielberg, it’s in the way that he allows for this dark, brooding future shine through in some neat, fancy ways. Because this is a Philip K. Dick adaptation, obviously there’s going to be a whole bunch of social-commentary about the government, the way in which they spy, as well as technology, and how it controls our each and every lives. But Spielberg doesn’t seem all that incredibly interested with focusing on that, and instead, seems incredibly taken away with all the sorts of strange, but original pieces of technology he can give us.

For a few examples, there’s weird-looking, electronic spiders that crawl around and search for people; there’s the high-velocity mag-lev cars, that are actually a lot easier to jump out of, despite the speed they appear to be going in; there’s the eye-scanners stationed nearly everywhere that not only keep track of where each and every person is at, but bother you with advertisements; and, as small as it may be, there’s cereal-boxes with electronic-screens that move and make noises. It’s such a small, little detail, but it’s the one that keeps on giving and assures me that Spielberg was just amped-up to make this movie, as some may be to watch it. That’s the Spielberg we all know, love, and wish we saw a whole lot more of.

And that’s the same kind of Spielberg we get for the longest time in Minority Report.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you're in some deep trouble.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you’re in some deep trouble.

Considering that half of this movie is literally just Tom Cruise running away from the police in a futuristic-world, it makes sense that the movie moves at a quick-as-nails pace and continue to do until there’s time needed for smaller, more character-based moments. And this part of Minority Report is enjoyable; everything moves in such a swift pace that even though there a few plot-holes to be found (like, how does someone get back into their job’s headquarters, when they’re literally on-the-run from those said people in the headquarters?), it’s easy to forget about and forgive them because everything’s so energetic as is. It’s almost like Spielberg cared so much about the look of the movie, that he didn’t get too bogged-down in certain plot-details; as long as everything’s moving nicely, all is well.

For awhile, too, everything is well. Until it isn’t.

The next-half of Minority Report is where it seems like Spielberg starts to fall back into his own trends of diving too hard into all of the family drama, twists and turns that don’t make much sense, and a sugar-coated, happy-ending that seem to come out of nowhere. And the reason why most of this stuff seems to come out of nowhere, is because a good majority of the movie is as bleak and as scary as you’d expect a Philip K. Dick adaptation to be – which isn’t something we expect from Spielberg himself. That’s what makes it all the more disappointing to see the final-act of the movie, not just grind to a screeching halt, but also seem to forget about what makes this world so damn interesting to begin with: It’s sadness and just how far Spielberg is willing and/or able to go through with developing that more and more.

Because through the likes of Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Neal McDonough, Peter Stormare, and, well, many more, we’re able to see how such human beings get by in a world that’s so upsetting and miserable, and still be somewhat happy. Once all of that begins to wear thin, it becomes clear that we’re out of a Philip K. Dick story, and more of in one that’s Spielberg’s own creation; where everybody hugs, cries, goes on about their daddy-issues, and all sorts of other sappiness ensues. Sometimes this is fine, but it feels misplaced here.

If only this had been directed by Ridley Scott, straight after he finished up with Blade Runner.

Consensus: For a good portion, Minority Report is as fun, ambitious, exciting, and artistically-driven as Spielberg can get, but later on, it goes back to his ham-handed old ways and feels like a bit of a retreat.

7.5 / 10

It's okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

It’s okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins


The Way, Way Back (2013)

Just swim the angst away.

Duncan (Liam James) is at the peak of his teenage angst. He’s 14, living with his divorced mom (Toni Collette) and stuck being with her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) for the next summer of his life. Duncan hates it at first because his mom and her boy act like teenagers again with the neighbors (Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, and Rob Corddry), but soon finds refuge in a too-cool-for-school water-park owner, Owen (Sam Rockwell). Together, they forge a relationship that makes Duncan realize that there’s more to his life than he thinks, and that there’s also the possibility of getting mingled-up with a gal-pal (AnnaSophia Robb).

Summer time is the perfect time for anybody, adult or child, to break out, do what they want, and in a way, find themselves and figure out who they truly are. Take yours truly for instance: back in the wee-bit, summer days of ’09, I was bored, I was tired, I was watching a shit-load of movies, and one thing came to my mind, “Why don’t I just write about them?” People would always tell me how funny I was when I would talk about them, and considering I didn’t have a video camera for my computer or anything, I thought, “Why the fuck not?!?” I got started on it and the rest is, as they say, history. That was all in the summer because I was bored, didn’t have much to do, and realized that I could practically do anything with my free time, even if it meant spending an extraneous amount of time in front of screens. That’s why films like these really do touch a soft-spot in the middle of my heart, because not only do I know how it feels to want to know what you can do with your life, during a time when everybody is down the beach or by the pool, getting their tans on, but I also know how it feels to discover what you want to do, at such a young age.

That’s right. Dan the Man wasn’t quite “the Man” when this all first started out, but now I’ve become one. What a youngster I once was.

Never had two, adult-men fight over me. Maybe I just haven't lived yet.

Never had two, adult-men fight over me. Maybe I just haven’t lived yet.

Anyway, what works with this flick is that everything about it feels to fit so well. The comedy is hilarious, right from the get-go; the drama is around for us to see and pay attention to, even when the movie’s being goofy; the message comes and goes as it pleases; and best of all, the feeling of summer and all of it’s positives and negatives are in the air. You can just feel it, that’s if you pay attention enough to really notice it. That’s what I liked so much about this movie, is that even though it’s a movie that touches on some real, hard-earned realities about life and how you just don’t have control over it sometimes, it still gets you happy and grinning from cheek-to-cheek because it’s summer, people are happy, people are having a good time, and people are acting like nothing else matters other than those two elements. That’s all there is to it.

But still, it’s all fun and games, and then people have to get serious, which is where this flick still continues to work and surprised me with. Honestly, going into this I thought it was going to try a bit too hard to be all goofy and nutty to get a rise out of me, which it did at times, but when it finally did get serious and start sprouting out life lessons for us all to hear, see, and connect with; the flick worked even more wonders. It’s one of those rare flicks where you can be laughing one second, tearing up the other, or hell, even both at the same time. It’s a rich screenplay that knows it’s not going to change your life or make you re-think any of your decisions for the rest of the summer, but it will make you feel a bit happier and hopeful with life, as it should. Heck, as all movies should.

That’s a true testament to the creative-skills of both Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, two guys that I didn’t think had it in them to be the least bit serious and be able to pull it off. But thankfully, I was proven wrong. Dead-wrong in fact. So rarely does that happen, and so rarely do I like to admit that it happened. Damn them.

If there’s any other reason as to why this flick works as well it does, it’s because of the amazing cast these two were able to assemble, which still makes me wonder how and when, because everybody in this flick is practically a star in their own right, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if there wasn’t at least two or three jousting battles for more camera-time. New-comer Liam James, does a fine job at giving Duncan the right amount of sympathy, teen-angst, and awkwardness that is credible for this type of character to work, and doesn’t get out-shined by the other members of the cast around him, no matter how good they are. Don’t get me wrong, he never lights up the screen or takes the camera away from any of them, but he doesn’t get shown-up either, and I think that’s the sign that we can expect to see bigger and better things from this kid. Fingers crossed, people. Toni Collette plays his mom and is good in the role because as dumb as she may be sometimes with the way she chooses Trent’s side, over her own boy’s, you still feel like she’s a nice woman that knows where her morals are and at the end of the day, won’t stop until her and her son are together, happy again.

Most people probably want to know how Steve Carell does as a bit of an a-hole, here as Trent, and does a pretty good job, because Trent isn’t the type of guy you hate and love to hate, you actually feel sort of sad for the hate you bestow onto him, as well as the character himself. Trent doesn’t seem like the type of dude that I would meet, and automatically assume that he was the biggest dick head in the world, but I would not give him another call to chill if I was around his area. Basically, he’s not a guy that you can’t fathom to be around, he’s just a guy that’s a bit too stand-offish with the way that he acts towards the ones that mean the most to him and thinks what he’s doing is right, but actually isn’t. Carell’s great in this role, as expected, but it also shows that he can do more with his despicable-traits, rather than just be a “loving asshole”. Sometimes, hell, he can just be an asshole. Plain and simple.

Bored at a dinner table filled with Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, and Rob Coddry? What's wrong with that damn kid!?!?

Bored at a dinner table filled with Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, and Rob Corddry? What’s wrong with that damn kid!?!?

Perhaps though, the one who really steals the spot-light from everybody in this movie is none other than Sam Rockwell himself, playing Owen, the water park owner. Rockwell is THAT actor who shows up in something, gets your attention on him right away, and makes you wonder why he isn’t a bigger-star in Hollywood. It isn’t that the guy’s got a bad-rap or chooses shitty-roles, it’s just that he never seems to be in something that’s big enough to really get his name out their for the masses. All of that talk aside, Rockwell is perfect here as Owen because he always has something witty, sarcastic, or hilarious to say, and rarely ever does or says anything serious, to anyone. However, when he does drop down the goof-ball act and gets the serious-shield up-and-running, Rockwell is even better with it and makes you feel like Owen’s not only the type of guy you want to be around, from dusk til dawn, but you want to secretly be as well. Rockwell is just oozes charm, and it gives every one of his characters a hint of “coolness” to them. Seriously, somebody in Hollywood make this guy a bona-fide star already! Jesus!

Maya Rudolph plays the object of Owen’s affection and is good using her wit and charm to win us over, just as much as she wins over Owen, but is okay in the role. It doesn’t ask for much, even though Rudolph could definitely give it. AnnaSophia Robb plays the object of Duncan’s affection and is also pretty good because you first see her is this chick apart of the popular, ditsy girls-clique, and then eventually shows more layers of herself and how she isn’t like them, and just wants to be herself and understood as well. Her and Duncan go quite well together and I wouldn’t have been surprised if that made it last past the summer. Better than any of the chicks I’ve dated, that’s for sure. And lastly, major props have to go out to Allison Janey as the constantly drunk and inappropriate neighbor that always has something funny, mean, or hurtful to say, yet, you can’t help but laugh at how clueless she is to what she’s actually saying. It’s Janey at her finest, and the gal never disappoints.

Consensus: The Way, Way Back isn’t the flick that’s going to change your life forever, but it will make you happy, sad, hopeful, and entertained by all of the excellence it has on-display from the acting, to the writing, and so on and so forth.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

These two surprisingly GET what it means to be a teen.

These two surprisingly GET what it means to be a teen.