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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jocelin Donahue

Knight of Cups (2016)

The life of a Hollywood writer is so tragic.

Rick (Christian Bale) is an acclaimed writer currently spending his life in Hollywood, where he parties, has an awful lot of sex, and mostly, walks around, mumbling his own thoughts to himself. But even though his lifestyle may be a lavish one, he still feels the pain and agony from the many relationships he has. There’s Della (Imogen Poots), a rebellious firecracker who sports a leather jacket; there’s Nancy (Cate Blanchett), his sad ex-wife who doesn’t know what it is that she wants in life; there’s Helen (Freida Pinto), a fancy model he meets at a party who may be out of his league; there’s Karen (Teresa Palmer), a carefree, but fun-loving stripper; there’s Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a married woman who he carries on a sordid affair with; and then, there’s Isabel (Isabel Lucas), an excited young woman who brings some joy to his already sad life. Through this all, Rick also engages with his brother (Wes Bentley), who may or may not be a junkie, and his old, but dying father (Brian Dennehy), who may or may not have abused them both when they were kids.

Either way, there’s a lot of sulking going on here.

Why so sad? The beach is right behind you!

Why so sad? The beach is right behind you!

Terrence Malick has been all over the place as of late, sometimes, for better, as well as for worse. The Tree of Life was his first movie in nearly five years, but it proved to be something of a surprise, even by Malick’s standards. Sure, it was nearly two-and-a-half hours long and seemed to dive into the cosmos one too many times, but at the same time, it still registered as a heartfelt, intimate and insightful tale into what Malick saw as growing up and becoming a man, when you’re still definitely a child at heart. That movie opened-up a lot of new insights into the kind of director Malick was, how he viewed himself, and just why he still deserves to be a trusted force, even if he is as unpredictable as they can get.

And then To the Wonder came out and sadly, things went back to the old, weird and somewhat boring ways.

Not that there was anything wrong with that movie in terms of its production-design, as everything in it, looked and sounded beautiful. But as a story? The movie was pretty hallow and in desperate need of some sort of heart, or emotion, or insight to really keep it moving. Heck, Ben Affleck’s lead character had barely five lines of dialogue and we were supposed to follow him and be compelled by every choice he made in his love life? Didn’t quite work for me, even if there were aspects of the movie that I did admire.

That’s why something like Knight of Cups, while not totally Malick’s most accessible film, still offers up a little something more than what we’ve been seeing as of late with him. What’s perhaps most interesting about what Malick does here is that he focuses all of his time, attention and beauty on the soulless, cruel and dull world of Hollywood; one in which everybody parties, soaks up the sun, and has sex with one another, yet, nobody really seems to fully enjoy the excess. This isn’t new material being touched on, but considering that it’s Malick, it feels slightly refreshing and more poetic, rather than just seeming like a rich person, going on and on about how rich people, make too much money, have too much fun, and don’t really seem to have many responsibilities at all.

Okay, the cast may make it seem like that, but Malick’s focus is mostly on Christian Bale’s Rick – someone who, like Affleck’s character, doesn’t have much of anything to say. But considering that everything happens around him, it’s interesting to see just how much of Bale’s demeanor doesn’t change, as it seems like he was just directed and told to walk around, observe his surroundings, and just stare at people if they talk to you, or ask you questions. It’s a bit odd at times, but Bale is still a compelling presence here, that even when it’s clear he isn’t the star of the show, he still makes us want to know more about him.

Same goes for all the other characters who show up here, which is why Knight of Cups has a slight bit more character-detail than his latest offerings.

Rather than featuring everyone frolicking and smiling in/around nature, everyone seems to have at least some sort of personality that makes them intriguing to watch, even if Malick himself doesn’t really give them all the attention they need or deserve. Most of the women in Rick’s life show up, do their charming thing, and leave at the drop of a hat, but it’s still enough to leave a lasting impression. Cate Blanchett’s character is perhaps the saddest, most tragic character out of the bunch, with Natalie Portman’s coming up to a close second. Others like Teresa Palmer and Imogen Poots seem as if they showed up to have a blast and because of that, they’re hard not to smile about or love. Sure, we don’t get to know much about them, or why they matter (other than from the fact that they’re banging Rick), but we get just enough that it goes a long way.

Same goes for Wes Bentley’s brother character, as well as Brian Dennehy’s father character. Bentley seems as if he showed-up to the set, high off his rocker, which brings out a lot of intentional, but mostly unintentional, laughs, whereas Dennehy is a stern presence, making a lot of his scenes feel oddly tense. Malick could have definitely dug into this dynamic a whole lot more, rather than just trying to let all of the narration do the talking for him, but what he’s got here, as meager as it may be, is still well worth taking a bite at.

See?!?

See?!?

Still, there is that feeling that even at nearly two hours, there needs to be something more.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities about Knight of Cups is that Malick gives at least some more attention to the plot and to the characters than he has recently, but like with most of his other films, it’s hard not to wonder where’s the other reels. We know that certain actors like Joel Kinnaman, Thomas Lennon, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Jason Clarke, and Joe Lo Truglio, among others, have all filmed scenes for this and can be seen ever so briefly, so why not include them? If judging just solely by their celebrity status and skill, why not put them in for good measure and allow for them to make their mark? Sure, it would be a crazier, perhaps longer movie if they were in it, but at least there’d be something to enjoy, rather than be utterly confused by.

Same goes for the characters and cast-members Malick already has at his disposal. There’s so many characters and actors here that, at times, I wish there would have been more context. And knowing Malick for Malick, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be at least a three hour opus of sorts. Sure, some would be pissed and not want to bother with it, but his fans, and those who admire him most probably would definitely like to see what Malick had in his goody-bags all this time. After all, nobody ever said “more development” was a bad thing to have, especially not in a Malick movie.

But hey, this all just me.

Consensus: Beautiful, engaging, and as meditative as you can get with a Malick film, Knight of Cups may not be his most accessible film, but it still offers up enough emotion and intrigue that makes it feel less like a slog, and more like a brain-teaser of what else could possibly be out there.

7 / 10

The dude who played Batman for three movies definitely has enough money for a private lap dance and then some.

The dude who played Batman for three movies definitely has enough money for a private lap dance and then some.04

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Just get rid of the haunted house, or the human-being! Problem solved!

After the Lambert family got their son back from “The Further” everything goes back to normal. The kids are happy and playful, the parents feel safe, and the spooky grand-mom (Barbara Hershey) is done with all of her ghost-talk. It seems like everything’s a bit back to normal, except, Josh (Patrick Wilson) is acting a little weird. Not only does he not seem himself, but his wife (Rose Byrne) notices that he doesn’t remember certain things about their past, like the song she played for him on piano when they first fell in love. Something weird is happening and everybody begins to wonder whether or not it was actually Josh that came back, or something more deep, dark, and sinister? Also, on the side, the ghost busters from the first movie are back and are diving into the history of who this ghost is, where it came from, and how to get it the hell away from Josh’s soul.

While I think I was sort of in the minority for only marginally liking Insidious, I still do have to say that I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. It wasn’t that the story was one I couldn’t wait for them to just develop more and more of, but because James Wan proved himself as a new voice in the horror-genre not too long ago with the Conjuring. And yes, while I did have my many gripes with that movie as well, I still have to give it to the dude and pat him on the back because he gave me a horror movie that amped-up the terror and the tension, in a way to create more scariness, even if I wasn’t all that petrified by the end. So, with that said, I think it’s safe to say that we know what Wan is capable of when it comes to having a meager-budget and a plethora of scares at his disposal, and sadly, this does not rank-up with what we know.

"WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS?!?!? ACTING BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!"

“WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS?!?!? ACTING BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!”

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this one is a lot weaker than the original; aka, a movie that I wasn’t too fond of in the beginning. The department that I will give Wan and his pals credit in is that they avoid doing what most sequels do: Tell the same story again. Rather than giving us the same old story of somebody being creeped-out by strange noises in the house, this one actually expands on the first, ties up some loose-ends that may have been left dangling, and explains why certain things happened in that movie, making this one of the rare sequels (a horror one, no less) where it’s almost mandatory that you see the first, just to understand all that every character’s alluding to and what to make sense of all the happenings.

In that regard, yes, Wan deserves credit. He does use some of the same jump-scares that he’s been using for quite some time, but he at least gets his story going to somewhere new, and dare I even say it, improved, almost to the point of where it feels like it’s a sequel that could leave plenty more questions than it answers, and we’d be fine with that. However, this is a horror movie, and it is essential for it to have scares, which, sadly, Wan isn’t able to produce all that often, save for the first 20 minutes or so. And even then, the movie feels like it’s just recycling the same scares from the first, even if they are still somewhat effective. “Somewhat”, is what I said, and somewhat is what I mean.

And when Wan is missing the moments that are supposed to make us shriek for our lives, he’s making us laugh and point at just how ridiculous some of these moments are, which is both a sin and a blessing,. It all depends on what type of viewer you are. When Wan had us travel to “The Further” in the first movie, it was silly, but still a bit cool because of how all of these characters looked like “The Circus Act From Hell”. Yes, it was campy, but it was still cool to see because it showed that Wan used his budget for a reason. However, here, “The Circus Act From Hell” shows up many more times than it should, and everytime we see them, we can’t help but chuckle at how over-the-top they are. Certain lines are said in a way that’s supposed to have us pee our pants in fright, but do so more because of our non-stop laughter. Whether or not this was solely the intention of Wan, has yet to be determined, but if there’s something that’s different from the first movie, it’s that this sequel seems to explore more of the goofiness of its material and does it so in a way that makes it seem like it’s doing it on purpose, but in a very serious matter as well.

That James Wan sure has comedic-timing.

That James Wan sure has comedic-timing.

Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that the movie tries to be scary, but is more funny, both intentionally and unintentionally. There! I said it!

While the cast from the first movie mostly stays the same here, some of the performances are a bit different, for better or worse. The most glaring difference in certain character’s personalities is the one of Josh, played by Patrick Wilson, in what has to be his hammiest performance to date. Since we know that Josh is possessed by a very threatening, powerful spirit of a sort, this time being a serial-killer, we pretty much have to expect him to be all over-the-place in a way that’s nearly uncontrollable, just like the rest of the flick. You’d think that the two aspects of the movie would go together like peanut butter and jelly, but come out more like peanut butter and potato chips. Wilson is the peanut butter in this equation, and he takes over the movie in a way that’s distracting to the story, and upsetting to watch for anybody who has been as big of a fan of this guy, as I am. Wilson tries to go as crazy as can be with this performance, but he just is way too cool and charming for this type of nutty-stuff to fully make it seem like it’s all in a day’s work. They should have just given that role to somebody normal like Rose Byrne. Now that would have been over-the-top and campy, but in a freakin’ fun way! Not with Barbara Hershey, though. I’m afraid she’s already played “creepy and crazy” many times before.

Consensus: The first movie wasn’t a masterpiece of the horror genre, but at least it had its fair share of scares, character-development, and sense of fun, which Insidious: Chapter 2 seems to have lost most sight of, but instead, replaced all of that with unintentional yucks and chuckles.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Just your average, run-of-the-mill family, with a bunch of weird ghosts and ghouls slumming around the house. But that's besides the point.

Just your average, run-of-the-mill family, with a bunch of weird ghosts and ghouls slumming around the house. But that’s besides the point.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Halloween Horror Movie Month: The House of the Devil (2009)

Now when I’m looking to babysit, I know to cross Satan worshipers off the list.

A cash-strapped college student named Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) takes a babysitting job during a full lunar eclipse and ends up fighting for her life. She soon discovers that her employers, Tom (Tom Noonan) and Mary (Mary Woronov) Ulman, are hiding a wicked, sick and twisted secret.

Giving the fact that it’s October and I’ve been doing this little “Horror Movie Month” thingy, I finally get the chance to actually look at a lot of horror films that I wouldn’t normally look at if it were say December of November. So when peeps started telling me that I needed to check this flick out for this month, I did not hesitate once.

Writer/director Ti West does a great job here with this 80’s look-alike because he’s more about the suspense of the horror film rather than the numerous jump-scares we always get nowadays. It’s less about scaring you and more about keeping you scared that something scary is about to happen soon. The first hour or so is all about creating the tension for this film with basically Samantha just walking around the house, looking at the rooms, listening and dancing to The Fixx, and watching some really crappy TV. This, to many people may sound really boring, but I can promise you, it’s probably the most tense I’ve been in a horror film for a long time. Never would I have thought

However, as subtle as the first hour was, the last 30 minutes of the film kind of delves into more straight-up in-your-face horror. To me, I still was very freaked out by everything that happened in these last 30 minutes because you actually get to see all of the devil-work but since the first hour is all about what you don’t see and what you imagine, this came off as a bit of a disappointment. But it’s still really creepy and even though I knew where it was all going, it still worked which is something I can’t say for half of the horror crap that comes out nowadays.

Another minor problem I had with this film was how a gun came into play with this film. A gun is not really a weapon you see used in a horror film, let alone a killing device like it’s used here because it comes into place the first time and is extremely destructive, but the next time it’s used, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was actually a BB-gun after all. This wasn’t a problem that took me away from the film as a whole, but the way its used and how differently its effects are shown, raised a little bit of eye-brows for yours truly.

If you are a fan though of Freddy, Jason, or any other of those other crazy son-of-a-bitches from the 80’s, then this is definitely the horror film for you. Right from the opening credits, I knew I was in for an 80’s horror film tribute and instead of just being a total mirror-copy of that style without any originality I actually found myself wondering why more horror films can’t be like this nowadays. The certain camera angles, lighting effects, and synthesizer-powered score that this film uses is in great effect and made me feel like I was actually watching a Grindhouse flick from those days that I would go to see on a boring Saturday night.

Earlier in the week, I heard that a little-known Indie film-maker was looking to make a $500 remake of the horror classic, ‘Halloween‘. This came as a total surprise to me because I felt that ever since Rob Zombie touched that franchise, it was practically dead. It also had me thinking that maybe some directors out there could possibly breath some new-life into old horror films, rather than just being a carbon-copy placed in the 21st century. Ti West is one of those guys who bring some new game to these old-school films but instead he gets stuck with crap like ‘Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever’ but I still have faith that he could just possibly do something cool and new in the future.

Jocelin Donahue plays Samantha, who does a good job at being pretty but also scared. It also helps that Samantha is incredibly smart and actually makes a lot of good decisions as the whole film goes which isn’t a lot we could say for many of the other teens we see in any horror film in today’s world. It also helps that she looks like Ally Sheedy, another 80’s film legend. Greta Gerwig is also pretty good as her bestie; Tom Noonan is brilliant as this insanely creepy and strange as the mysterious as Mr. Ullman; and Mary Woronov is equally as weird as her husband. The cast is all pretty good but it’s really West who is the star and finds away to take over the spot-light every time.

Consensus: With the grainy throw-back look to the horror films of the 80’s, Ti West makes The House of the Devil a very tense and creepy flick that may take awhile to get where it has to go, but it’s worth it in the end.

7.5/10=Rental!!