Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Joanna Scanlan

Stardust (2007)

Better than Goldust’s brother.

Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man from the town of Wall, a small, quaint and lovely little town on the border of Stormhold, a magical kingdom where all sorts of crazy things happen. To hopefully win the heart and the hand of his girlfriend Victoria (Selma Miller), Tristan enters the magical world to collect a fallen star, in hopes that he’ll obviously win her over, but prove that he is quite the man that he always thought he could be. After little issues here and there, Tristan eventually collects the star who, to his surprise, is a woman named Yvaine (Claire Daines). However, Tristan isn’t the only one who’s looking for Yvaine; numerous witches, Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses also want this star and will do anything to get it, by any means. So now, Tristan’s job just got a whole lot harder. Not to mention that he and Yvaine, while initially not being able to get along with one another at all, start to see each other as equals and even, well, connect. In possibly more ways than Tristan has been able to ever do with his possible future-wife.

A pretty hot star.

Matthew Vaughn is probably the perfect director for a Neil Gaiman book, because no matter how strange, or action-packed, or even tense things get, Vaughn remembers not to take everything all that seriously. Meaning that we do get a lot of jokes aimed at the material, but it’s also very funny in the same way that the Princess Bride was – it respects the fantasy-genre up until the point of where it realizes how ridiculous it truly is. That’s a lot of Gaiman’s material and while there’s been plenty of attempts at recreating the same kind of odd-style that he has, Vaughn’s perhaps the closest one to achieving that.

And yes, it also helps that the movie is buckets of fun, reminding us that, when he isn’t trading quips and smart-ass remarks, Vaughn knows how to keep the action moving and exciting. Cause Stardust is a little over two-hours and about a bunch of silly witches and knights battling it out for a star, it can be a bit too much to ask for a non-lover of the fantasy genre. And yes, I am one of them.

However, Stardust is a much different tune.

It’s in on its own joke, it never really relies too much on exposition, or world-building, or certain other tricks and trades of these kinds of stories that can tend to make them a bit annoying. The story itself is already pretty straightforward and thankfully, Vaughn doesn’t try to over-complicate things; he keeps it simple, effective and most importantly, fun. He could have done anything he wanted with this movie and I wouldn’t have cared, because he knows how to keep it fun, even when you least expect it to remain as such.

That’s Michelle Pfeiffer? Uh. Yeah. Time has not done well for her.

And a whole bunch of that fun extends to the cast, too, who are, as expected, game for this kind of silly material. Charlie Cox, in a pre-Daredevil role, shows a great deal of charm as Tristan, a dork-of-a-man who we like right from the get-go and sort of stand-by, no matter where he goes, or what he does. Claire Danes is also quite great as Yvaine, the star with a whole butt-load of personality. Danes knows how to make this wacky material work and come-off not so wacky, and yes, her and Cox have a neat little bit of chemistry that transcends most other movies that are just like this.

In that we actually care and want them to get together in the end.

The rest of the cast is, thankfully, having a ball here. Michelle Pfeiffer shows up as the main evil witch, vamping it up and having an absolute ball; Robert De Niro may seem out-of-place, initially, as a pirate, but really blends in with this goofy-world; Mark Strong is, as usual, charming and a lot of fun as Prince Septimus, Tristan’s ultimate foe; and well, there’s plenty more where that came from. The real joy is just getting a chance to see everyone here show up, have a good time, and not make us feel like we aren’t involved with it, either.

We are and that’s the greatest joy of all.

Consensus: Despite its silliness, Stardust wears its heart and soul on its sleeve, with a fun and exciting pace, matched by an even more charming ensemble.

8 / 10

There were a lot of Italian pirates back in those days, people! Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Paramount Pictures


Kinky Boots (2005)

I don’t care what gay men say, but Crocs are amazing.

With the sudden death of his father, it’s all up to Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) to take over the reigns of his family’s traditional, Northampton shoe business called Price and Sons. But unbeknownst to the rest of the loyal staff, the factory is on the verge of bankruptcy. Charlie, in a chance encounter, discovers sassy cabaret star, Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who’s Soho world of outrageous fashion and stylish, erotic boots for men, opens his eyes to an alien new niche market that he may try to exploit to keep his family’s company alive and well.

Don't judge a book by its cover. 'Cause Chiwetel Ejiofor looks pretty good in that leather!

Don’t judge a book by its cover. ‘Cause Chiwetel Ejiofor looks pretty good in that leather!

Pretty much I could just review this movie in one word, and that one word would probably just be: Formulaic. Seriously, every scene, every character-detail, every frame, every-line, every anything that happens in this movie, is obvious, predictable, and nothing new that you haven’t seen before. However, being “formulaic” doesn’t always mean “terrible”, especially when your movie has a bunch of dudes in stilettos and make-up, dancing and prancing around to all sorts of funky disco hits.

Which is basically Kinky Boots: All formula, but with enough flashy eye-shadow to keep you somewhat distracted.

But before I go on any longer, I might as well and just get it off my chest now and say that if it wasn’t for Chiwetel Ejiofor being in this movie, then there would have been little to nothing at all to talk about here at all. However, because he is in this movie and takes over the role of Lola, the movie is a lot more watchable and entertaining to watch. Ejiofor is one, diverse dude in terms of acting; the guy can, and probably has, played it all and he shows here that he’s not just a guy people take too seriously and all, because he can actually do comedy, and do it so well. It also helps that the character he’s playing, is also written well, too.

Lola is such a fun, lighthearted character that looks at anything everything around him in a way that’s pretty obvious when you take into consideration all of the other LGBT characters out there in movies, but Ejiofor does a great job with it and definitely kept me interested in where he was going with this character. There’s more heart to him as well, and even though it does seem obvious to have in a movie like this, Ejiofor actually makes us believe it’s true and have it come off as a bit less manipulative than you would expect.

Basically, in a nutshell: Ejiofor makes this movie better, everytime that he shows up on the screen and really, I wish there were more of him to go around.

Joel Edgerton ain’t so shabby either as Charlie Price, but definitely gets the far more boring character here. Nowadays, watching Edgerton appear in anything, adds a certain level of excitement as he seems to constantly challenge himself as an actor and have us see him in new, interesting lights. Here, as Charlie, he doesn’t get much of a chance to stretch his wings, and because of that, the performance comes off like a bit of a disappointment. Thankfully, the times have changed and Edgerton is taking over the world of Hollywood, one great performance at a time.

But still, it’s hard to really like this movie anymore because it’s just so darn cliché! But it’s also so darn cliché in that it begins to feel safe.

Gosh. What I wouldn't do to see these two in a movie nowadays, and away from this.

Gosh. What I wouldn’t do to see these two in a movie nowadays, and away from this.

For example, the movie contains plenty of men, dressed in drag, with make-up, wearing stilettos, having fake breasts, and dancing to awful covers of famous disco songs from yesteryear. This all sounds like a relatively naughty, but frothy good time, but Kinky Boots still tries to keep it all well-meaning enough so that it can hold on to that PG-13 rating it’s been luckily slapped with. There’s a part of me that wants to feel proud of the MPAA for not jumping down this movie’s throat due to it featuring LGBT characters and slapping it with an unnecessary R-rating.

Then again, the fact that the movie is, at the center, very safe, also feels like it’s keeping itself away from achieving any sort of greatness it should have had in the first place. Sure, we get to see Lola for what the character is, but really, it can often feel like surface-material; just enough focus so that the general, predominately straight audience doesn’t get too uncomfortable when there’s a full-grown, masculine man trumping around on heels, singing Olivia Newton-John. I’m most definitely thinking about this a lot harder than I should, but for some reason, my mind just can’t get by this fact and it’s what’s keeping me from loving this movie more.

However, I did love the Broadway show. So much fun! So yeah, see that instead.

I guess.

Consensus: Chiwetel Ejiofor’s spirited performance is just enough to save Kinky Boots from staying stuck in its pile of conventionality, where almost everything you expect to happens, happens, except this time, it’s with more gay people.

6 / 10

It doesn't matter who's wearing the shoes - if they look nice and sexy, then that's all that matters.

It doesn’t matter who’s wearing the shoes – if they look nice and sexy, then that’s all that matters.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Testament of Youth (2015)

Take out the British accents, throw in a cancer subplot, and you have nothing more than a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

Right before WWI begins, a young woman by the name of Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) lives in on the quiet, comfortable countryside of Britain with her mother (Emily Watson), father (Dominic West), and dear brother Edward (Taron Egerton). Of all the things Vera wants in this world, other than to find a true love that she can spend the rest of her life with, is to go to university, get a job as a writer and make a living for her own-self, rather than sponging off of whatever man she marries and not having her own control over herself. While she remains determined by this pipe-dream, she then sets her sights on a classmate of her brother, Roland Leighton (Kit Harrington). Though he’s a bit of a smarty-pants, there’s something about him that catches Vera off-guard and rather than focusing on her studies, she lets Roland get in the way of everything in her mind. This isn’t such a bad thing considering that young love is always the best love to have, but with WWI looming on the horizon, it definitely puts everything into perspective.

How could you not want to cuddle up with Jon Snow?

How could you not want to cuddle up with Jon Snow?

What’s interesting about Testament of Youth (which may not be a surprise to anyone who’s ever read Brittain’s original, 1933 novel of the same name, is how it starts out as one thing, making you believe it’s going to go exactly where you expect it to, and then, all of a sudden, switch gears. By this, I’m talking about how the movie, initially, seems like it’s just going to be a coming-of-age romance flick about this one young girl growing up during WWI and how much she swoons for her boyfriend, while he’s off fighting in another country. That’s where the movie seemed as if it was heading and while it definitely isn’t the worst way to tell this story, it’s definitely not the most refreshing, either.

But somehow, everything changes about halfway through.

I won’t drop the ball on what the plot-twist in the middle of the flick is, but it changes everything up from being this sappy, almost saccharine romantic-drama, to being something much more dark, deep and, dare I say it, scary. Director James Kent makes several mentions of how the war is tearing Britain up from the inside out; soon though, he actually shows us exactly how it’s doing so, and it’s quite eye-opening. As most anti-war movies tend to be, Testament of Youth doesn’t necessarily hide its message underneath its coat and act as if you didn’t just see it flash you; it knows that you, the viewer, understand that this was is bad and is killing just about every young male left in their damn country.

Once again, though, Kent changes things up in more or less keeping his focus solely on Vera herself and not forgetting that this is, in fact, her story and it deserves to be seen visibly and heard loudly for all to contemplate. See, with Vera, it’s never clear exactly what’s driving her – sure, she wants to go to Oxford and prove to herself that she can handle the studies, but at the same time, it seems like her mind goes elsewhere at points. Though she never makes any previous mention of wanting a man in her life, as soon as she spots this handsome young devil, she all of a sudden can’t keep her act together; she’s stammering and stuttering all over the place, and it’s evidently clear that she wants something with this man.

But why? That’s the real question.

Sure, Vera wants love in her life, as we mostly all do, but what exactly is she going to get out of it? She knows that a war is coming up and that her soon-to-be-boyf will have to go out there on the battlefield and fight the “good” fight, so why does she even bother with it? Surely, she can’t know of the actual outcome of this war and the affect it will have on her boy, right?

Well, that’s what’s so interesting about Vera herself, as well as the movie, is that it keeps us at just a comfortable enough length of space to where we see this character for all that she is, yet, still never fully get her. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that, at the time, Vera herself was so messed-up and traumatized that writing all of this down for the whole world to see was just too much for her own well-being, or maybe not. Either way, there’s no denying that Alicia Vikander is great in this lead role – especially in a year that she seems to be dominating so far.

Better yet, how could you not stop giggling when thinking about him?

Better yet, how could you not stop giggling when thinking about him?

And we’re already through the first-half of the year, and she’s got about five movies left!

Gosh! When does this gal ever slow down?

Anyway, what Vikander does well here is that she finds a common-ground within Vera that makes her strong enough to take care of herself and not worry about what decisions she makes, other than those that she doesn’t make for herself, with the vulnerable side that just wants a man to fall in love and grow old with. She’s never such a hard-case to where it seems like she’s not an actual teenager to begin with, nor is she all that star-struck with the world around her; she’s just the right amount of cynical and innocent, which somehow, totally works for this character.

And of course the rest of the cast is fine, even if not everybody gets as much of a chance to fully stretch out their wings quite like Vikander does. Kit Harrington is charming enough as Roland to make it understandable why a woman would fall so in love with him ever so quickly; Dominic West and Emily Watson are serviceable as the parents that always seem to be there in the background, even if their presences aren’t always fully known; Taron Egerton is good as Vera’s brother that goes off to war and seems like he has no clue what’s going to come next; and Hayley Atwell, despite not having a whole slew of scenes in the final product, does well enough to where she can be remembered.

No matter what though, they’re all left in Vikander’s dust.

Consensus: With a surprising touch of insight, Testament of Youth works as a romance flick, an anti-war movie, and a bio on one woman who didn’t let anyone tell her what her path in life should be, even despite the very progressive time she lived in.

8 / 10

And especially, how could you not want him to go?

And especially, how could you not want him to go? That Jon Snow, I’ll tell ya.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire