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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Joe Lo Truglio

Win It All (2017)

A better Gambler, than the actual remake of Gambler.

Eddie (Jake Johnson) doesn’t quite have the best life. He makes a living directing traffic, parking cars, and doing the odd job every now and then. But rather than saving it all so that one day, he can eventually make something of his life, he spends it all on late-night poker games where he mostly ends up losing, without any cash in his hand, or pocket. However, when Eddie thinks he’s dead and totally broke, he looks inside of an old acquaintance’s duffel bag, and in it, just so happens to buckets of cash. Seeing this as a new lease on life, Eddie intends to change his ways and not gamble anymore. He strikes up a relationship with a sweet single-mother (Aislinn Derbez), starts to work for his brother (Joe Lo Truglio), as a landscaper, and begins to attend recovery meetings more frequently, and keep up with his sponsor (Keegan-Michael Key), on a much more regular basis. But still, Eddie can’t help but gamble a little bit of the money away, which wouldn’t be so bad, until he finds out his old acquaintance is getting out of jail soon and is expecting all of his money to be there waiting for him.

As long as there’s free coffee and donuts, I’ll always go and admit a problem.

People like Joe Swanberg make me so happy that indie-movies still exist, and it’s movies like Win it All that make me so happy streaming devices/studios like Netflix still exist. For one, they’re studios that allow for these smaller, more low-budget movies, not just see the light of day, but grab an audience who, otherwise, wouldn’t have heard a single thing about it. For awhile now, that’s how mostly all of Swanberg’s movies have been; while he’s been getting bigger names involved, his movies still go mostly unnoticed and automatically ready for a VOD release, where only cool, happenin’ kids who are curious will stumble upon it.

But for others, such as myself, who love and adore everything Swanberg does and stands for, it’s nice to just see a movie like Win it All, get a bigger release. But it’s also nice to see this happen because, well, the movie’s quite good; it’s typical Swanberg in that there’s a lot of improvisation and scenes of people talking, but there’s a little bit more to it this time around. If anything, Win it All shows Swanberg at least extending his arms out a bit at trying some sort of genre-fare, what with the gambling subgenre of flicks, but it’s much more like the criminally underrated Mississippi Grind, than Mark Wahlberg’s ill-conceived the Gambler.

It’s weird, though, because the movie isn’t all about gambling, or even the rush, the thrill, and the excitement about it all – it’s much more about this guy, Eddie, and how he doesn’t seem to quite get a grasp on life and accept that the way he’s living, just isn’t ideal. If anything, Win it All is actually a character-study about this guy, who he is, why he does what he does, what’s there to love about him, and what’s there to get mad at him for.

And oh yeah, Jake Johnson is pretty great in the role, too.

So sad, yet, still so cool. How does he do it?

Johnson’s honestly a pretty commanding force in these low-key indies, because we get to see all that he does on New Girl, in that he plays a bit of a silly goof-ball, but instead with that show, there’s a rawer feel to it all. Rather than laughing along with him, we’re actually laughing at him and looking at him in a sad way, not knowing how far his lovable grin is going to take him from scene to scene. And sure, while a good portion of Win it All is improvised, meaning that we don’t always get to know each and every single little thing about Eddie that we should know, what Johnson helps to do is create a portrait of a sad, but still likable guy, who we’d much rather give a hug, than a punch to the face.

As his brother, Joe Lo Truglio is quite surprising, too, especially by how good he is without ever trying too hard to make us laugh. It’s the one role where we get to see someone who is usually known for being a scene-stealing cook-ball, actually show his dramatic-side and it works out well, creating a lovely, heartwarming bit of chemistry between him and Johnson. Derbez is also sweet and charming as Eddie’s eventual girlfriend, and Keegan-Michael Key, showing a more dramatic-side here, too, gets a chance to be both funny and serious, while always providing a nice glimmer of light every time he shows up.

And because these performances and these characters are so strong, it’s easy to get past the fact that, yeah, the story’s a bit weak and conventional, but honestly, it’s really not all about that. Swanberg knows that and as an audience, we know that, too – it’s about these characters, their relationships, and exactly how they all relate to this Eddie fella. It’s a true character-study, just with some gambling on the side.

Like life.

Consensus: With a terrific lead performance from Johnson, Win it All works as a smart, interesting character-study that, unfortunately, doesn’t care a whole lot about the plot.

7 / 10

It’s love at first sight. Until she realizes he loves playing Go Fish a bit too much.

Photos Courtesy of: Time OutTeaser TrailerThe AV Club

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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

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

As of right now, it’s hot, it’s wet, and it’s summer, so why not?

In the summer of ’81, a liberal, Jewish camp finally comes onto their last day where everybody’s emotions are running high, low, or every which way but loose. However, not everybody’s aspirations they had for the summer got fulfilled, so for one last night, everybody decides to go crazy and as if they have nothing else in the world to worry about rather than having a good time with beer, sex, drugs, and friends. You know, the little things in life that matter. Screw all that other serious crap!

Summer camp, from what I have seen in other movies, or heard of from other people who have been to one, seems like it’s a pretty awesome place. I know, it’s probably weird for some of you out there to take in the fact that I have never been to a summer camp ever in my life, so therefore, I depend on movies like these to give me a good time as if I was right there. And from what I read, apparently writer/director David Wain has been to many summer camps but for some reason, seems like he never has been to an actual fun one with a film like this that is apparently based of his experiences.

I do have to give credit where credit’s due with this flick and say that for the most part, it can be pretty funny. There’s a lot of crazy gags going on here, zany characters flying in-and-out of the story, and random acts that are sometimes explained, and sometimes aren’t. But you know what? With comedy, you sometimes don’t need to explain what’s going on, just as long as it makes you laugh and enjoy yourself. There were many moments in this flick where I found myself laughing and enjoying myself because I could tell Wain definitely doesn’t take this material too seriously and gives us plenty of random moments that either work, or don’t. As simple as that.

PTSD has never been so hilurrrious!

PTSD has never been so hilurrrious!

Also, have always been a huge sucker for movies that take place during one full-day where almost anything and everything is possible. Always like to live life like that myself, which is even better when I see it transition-well onto the big-screen.

However, the film isn’t as funny as it should be and I think that’s because too much of this just feels like a really long, over-blown pilot to a new TV show, one that would probably be featured on the old days of MTV before Snooki and all of those other d-bags took over. 12-year old type of humor doesn’t bother me all that much, except for when it’s done right, but this film just seemed like it was trying too hard to go for that type of comedy and then would all of a sudden change itself into being a parody of a movie, that either nobody saw, nobody understood, and/or even cared about in the first place. It’s a weird mixture between potty humor and a parody, and the problem is that they never really come together to make this flick a full-feature and make it feel like it was chopped up into little, itty-bitty pieces that Wain and Co. thought would be funny. Little did they know that they were the only ones who actually got the joke.

Another big problem this film seems to have is that with a premise and idea like this film has, you would expect it to be a total wild ride of everything you would expect from a camp movie, but instead, you just get something that’s actually a little boring at times. The title sequence of this flick had me feeling like I was about to see something total insane, starting off with a bunch of camp counselors, hanging out around a camp-fire, smoking reefer, drinking some brews, making-out, and eventually, getting it on, all played to the tunes of Foreigner mind you. So basically, I was expecting something like that or the rest of the hour 30 minutes but I didn’t get that and even when there did seem to be a lot of energy in this flick, it happens and shows in certain spots. After seeing Wain’s recent flicks, (Role Models and Wanderlust), I can tell this guy has definitely upped his game on providing fun and wild moments in a film and keeping that going throughout, but it’s sort of obvious that this was his first flick as you can never tell if this guy knew what exactly he was doing behind-the-camera, other than just making a film he thought was really cool and funny. With his friends as well, which isn’t so bad, just as long as you and your buddies aren’t the only ones having fun.

Sadly, that’s what happens and it’s one of those cases where the high-faves stay on that side of the screen, and that side alone.

Never since the Avengers came out last year has there been a bigger team-up of total and complete deuche bags.

Not since the Avengers came out last year has there been a bigger team-up of total and complete deuche bags.

You would also expect a lot more from a star-studded cast like this, but somehow, they all get squandered with the exception of a few. Janeane Garofalo is alright as the head camp counselor, Beth, and she really seems to be in-tune with her comedic timing, even if this material doesn’t seem to suit her so perfectly; David Hyde Pierce essentially plays his usual role from Frasier, and is still entertaining to watch, but that stuck-up, nerdy-type doesn’t work so well here as it does with that quality show; Paul Rudd is funny as a lady-killing camp counselor known as Andy, and plays up that whole dick-head act about him very well but even he’s not as funny as he should be; Michael Showalter is here as the innocent, hopeless romantic, Coop, that seems like he should be a lot funnier and usually is, the problem is that his material just isn’t strong enough to have us care too much about him; and surprisingly, Christopher Meloni ends up being probably the funniest out of this whole gang, playing a traumatized, Vietnam-vet that talks and does more wild shit than anybody does in this whole flick. You know you’re movie is in some trouble when the dude from CSI is the funniest thing in it, then again, though Meloni’s the man and it’s about time that the dude got not just more quality-roles, but ones that showed how well he can make us laugh, because that’s a greatly-unappreciated talent of his.

Oh, and Bradley Cooper is in this movie doing something you will never, ever believe he does. It gets crazy, almost to the point of where you’re wondering whether or not your eyes are deceiving you or not. Because trust me, right here and right now: they aren’t. Bradley Cooper is in this movie, and he’s doing the most wild shit I’ve ever seen him do. Give him the Oscar now!

Consensus: Though it shines in some bright spots, Wet Hot American Summer should be a whole lot funnier, crazier, and smarter with what it jokes around about and even tries to parody. Not a terrible comedy by any means, just not as funny as it seems like it promises.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

We caught you, Bradley! Can't run from this one!

We caught you, Bradley! Can’t run from this one!

Wanderlust (2012)

I’ll go any place that has Jen Aniston getting naked. Any place…

The story centers on New York City couple George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) who are forced to relocate to Atlanta when George is downsized out of his job. Once there, the two stumble upon Elysium, a peculiar community populated by colorful characters who embrace a much simpler way of  life.

After checking out director David Wain‘s last flick, ‘Role Models’, and actually liking it quite a bit, I went into this one expecting the same type of laughs. Oh who am I kidding, I went into this ready to see some naked ladies. However, what I got was naked dudes and a so-so comedy. Not a very good combo.

As a comedy, this film works pretty well. All of the jokes here are very raunchy and dirty but also had me laughing quite a bit at times. Wain takes a whole bunch of risks and basically does anything in his will-power to make a joke connect, and it’s worth it because even though he doesn’t always hit the right spot, the moments where he does gets your mind off of the bad times. Besides, it’s always funny to see hippies being hippies in their own natural habitat but it’s also a lot funnier to see two, normal American people be brought into this new and cool life-style. It’s not really trying to be anything else and it’s also pretty surprising to see hippies get the kind of treatment in today’s world as they did way back when. Yes, hippies are still around people.

My problem with this flick is that the plot’s one-joke premise does get stretched on a little too long in my opinion. There is a lot of funny stuff here that works but then there were other times where Wain just seemed to throw any raunchy joke he had at us whether it was about poop, dicks, boobs, or anything else that came to his dirty little mind. This is definitely a lot more raunchier than Wain’s last flick and even though it may work when it comes to creating some good laughs, other times it just gives us that feeling that the jokes are starting to get stale and over-done.

The other problem with this plot is that it does get very uneven by the end, especially when it starts trying to show some of these hippies to be some evil mofos. Every comedy by about the last act starts to get mundane and use plot elements that we have seen done before and this one here, is really no different. We get all of the same predictable results we expect to get due to this premise being so damn simple and even though it may get pretty dry by the end, it still lifts itself back up somehow with a pretty funny epilogue. Basically, if you’re a comedy and you start to go soft, I’m always going to find my way to complain about it. I always do with the exception of probably ‘The Change-Up’ which was definitely a lot more raunchier than this flick by far.

What really worked here was the cast, that shows Wain bringing together all of his buddies as well as some other comedy favorites that you have probably seen before. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are great as George and Linda, because they not only feel like a real couple, but a pretty fun one at that even before they started their lives at this community. Aniston has really started to show herself winning back audiences with her raunchy comedy appearances and this one is no different. Aniston is funny, goofy, and shows that she has the comedic timing chops that aren’t just all about being that playful and witty girl we always see her do, she can also be pretty dirty. Still though, no boobage from her so once again, we have to all wait it out men. Rudd is also what really makes this film work because he is just so damn funny with every scene and ad-libs his ass off to great effect. Rudd has always been funny in every movie he performs in and he gives one great scene where he’s basically prepping himself for some sexy time and it’s much like that “Slapppa da basss” scene in ‘I Love You Man’, but it still had me laughing my ass of by the end and was by-far the most memorable scene of the whole flick. These two really do bring out the best in each other when it comes to acting together, and their chemistry just makes their relationship and everything else that they go through, feel real even though it may get a little cheesy by the end.

The rest of the supporting cast has a bunch of other great performances but only a couple that are worth noting. Justin Theroux is pretty wild, insane, and goofy as the community’s main-leader, Seth, and shows that he’s funny in a more visually and physical way as well; Alan Alda is playing another great role for him as the senile and old founder, Carvin; and Malin Akerman, Kathryn Hahn and Lauren Ambrose all have great little scenes considering they are all very hot as well as good when it comes to showing their comedic timing. Still, they don’t get naked. WTF!??! Plus, there are some many others in this cast that do great jobs but these were the ones that I found more worth of being noted.

Consensus: Wanderlust’s one-joke premise may stretch on for a little too long by the end, but the raunchy writing and hilarious cast give this film some very funny moments, which are definitely enough to make up for it’s more uneven ones.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Paul (2011)

I hope that if aliens do exist, that there more like this dude.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg star as two science-fiction freaks who, while on a quest to discover what lies at the heart of Nevada’s infamous Area 51, cross paths with an alien (voice of Seth Rogen) on the run from earthly authorities.

Looking at a cast like this, a premise like this, and a director like this, you would be expecting the funniest thing in years. However, it’s just pretty funny.

The screenplay that was written by Frost and Pegg has some good moments of humor that aren’t what I was expecting from these two, but that isn’t such a bad thing. The comedy is more broad for an American comedy, rather than the smart wit and cleverness of some of the British comedies that these two have been a part of.

My problem with this film was that it wasn’t funny enough, and I think the main reason why that is, is because of the non-stop sci-fi references. Maybe for me, since I’m not a huge science fiction dude, I didn’t get a lot of the references that they were using here, but at the same time they put way too many jokes to a certain crowd and almost abandon everybody else who isn’t familiar with these references. They seem to also be satirizing geek culture with this film, and although it can be cute at some times, it just doesn’t seem all that fun if you don’t get what their saying. Also, the film isn’t as daring with it’s jokes like I was expecting, because there are times where this does get a little bit predictable, and I just wish I had more times where I laughed my ass off, instead of a chuckle here and there.

Director Greg Mottola is a good director for this work because he does a great job of blending comedy, action, and a tad bit of sweetness to the story that actually works and doesn’t come off as fake at all. This isn’t like Superbad where all three worked so well, but for the most part he does a good job of keeping us watching and being entertained.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as you could already tell, do well together. They have that great buddy chemistry going on well and has us believe them as these two sci-fi geeks. What really stands out in Paul is, well, Paul. Seth Rogen is fantastic here as Paul, because he’s not really doing anything different, he’s just playing Seth Rogen, and Seth Rogen always has me laughing. I didn’t look at Paul and see a piece of CGI like I often do, but as a real character. From a technology standpoint, the mo-cap is obviously not as groundbreaking or impressive as Avatar, but Rogen made the character convincing without any of that fancy expensive shit.

There are also others in this impressive cast that do amazing especially Kristen Wiig, who plays Ruth, the little Christian. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see a hardcore Christian have their faith destroyed and Wiig makes it all the more funny. Jason Bateman is alright as Agent Zoil, even though he’s not really doing anything funny. Sigourney Weaver is bad-ass as The Big Guy, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio work perfectly as the two cops that can never do anything right, and Blythe Danner does a good job as well.

Consensus: People may not understand many of the many science fiction references that inhabit this film, but they still will get a chuckle out of this sweet, and funny screenplay, with a great cast. However, you do feel that it could have been better given the talent involved.

7/10=Rental!!