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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 Pingue

The Glass Castle (2017)

Every family’s a little crazy. Obviously some, more than others.

Though Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson) grew up to be a smart, tough and powerful gal writing for a column, she had quite a rough upbringing. Her parents, for lack of a better word, were hippies in the sense that they didn’t care too much about certain materialistic things. You know, things like a house, or bills, or even school. This led Jeannette and her relatives to having to grow up by themselves and save up money, day in and day out, in hopes that they’ll one day make it out. And the father, Rex (Woody Harrelson), was probably the biggest problem of them all. Not only did he love himself a drink, but he was so controlling, he wouldn’t let anybody out. The mother, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), was just always there, painting, and trying her hardest to ensure that her family stayed together. Honestly, it was a lost cause which is why, when Jeannette grows up, she doesn’t really want much to do with her parents. But the older she gets, the more she realizes that no matter how hard she tries, her parents and her family’s legacy is something that she can never, ever avoid.

Daddy’s little girl. So long as daddy ain’t drinkin’.

The Glass Castle is an odd movie that felt like it should be a whole hell of a lot darker, meaner and more disturbing, than it actually plays out. It’s literally a story about a drunken-deadbeat of a father who forced his family to stay in poverty, not really depend on anything but him, and as a result, sort of scar them for life. And that story, as is told, kind of works; the Glass Castle has an honest way about telling its story where we get the sense that no matter how many years go by, the scars will still always be there.

But that’s only one aspect of the story. The other aspect is this notion that the movie also wants to praise the drunken-deadbeat father for being charming, thinking for himself, and always being able to provide an argument in a justified manner. It’s almost as if we’re supposed to hate him for all of the awful, almost unforgivable actions that he commits throughout the two hours, but also love him for these faults, too. Once again, it’s odd and it never quite works together, and it’s all the more disappointing considering that this is coming from director Destin Daniel Cretton who, a few years ago, shook the airwaves a few years ago with Short Term 12.

Which also starred Brie Larson who, for some reason, feels wasted here, as does everyone else.

She turned out all right. Right?

The only person in the cast who gets to do the most is Woody Harrelson and oddly enough, even he feels like a problem for the movie. Though it’s not entirely his fault – the writing’s too confusing – it still shows us that no matter how hard he tries, even Woody Harrelson’s charm can’t save a character who is, at the end of the day, an asshole. We get constant flashbacks of him being something of a nice father, who tells his kids to inspire more, but we soon find out that he only says that because he can’t support them in any other way. We also get constant flashbacks of him connecting with Jeannette and we get the sense that they truly did have a loving relationship growing up, and constantly depending on one another, but then we also find out that the father didn’t want her to leave the nest and sabotaged her career, at one point.

It’s really weird, honestly. And it feels like the movie never quite makes up what it wants to be about, or hell, what it even wants to say, about us, about this family, and about family as a whole, in general. The story itself is compelling and, on occasion, we’ll get some small glimmers of material that could have been further explored, in a much darker, much more adult-oriented movie, but the Glass Castle also feels like it’s playing very much for the made-for-TV crowd. It looks and has better acting than one of them, but it’s just as messy and uneven, making it a missed opportunity on all fronts.

Go back to indies, Destin. Please.

Consensus: While the original source-material leaves plenty of room for promise, the adaptation of the Glass Castle is a confused, mish-mash of melodrama, sap, and mixed messages about family, alcoholism, and coming-of-age.

4.5 / 10

“Who needs gas? Or electric? Or water? Or school? Or hell, anything else! We got family!”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Room (2015)

Give me a free Netflix account and I’ll stay in a room for as long as you want.

Being held captive for five years, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), have come to terms with the situation that they’re living in. For the past five-to-seven years, they’ve been living in this warehouse that they call “Room”, and find interesting ways to make life for themselves in there as vibrant and as lovely as humanly possible. But now that Jack is getting older and, as Joy hopes, wiser, he’s going to have to start coming to terms with what’s “real” and what’s “make believe”. For instance, Jack doesn’t know that there’s actual life beyond Room, and this is something that Joy tries to hammer into his brain so that he too, will get the urge to want to get out of this place and back into the real world. And since Joy thinks he’s ready, she gives Jack a few tasks and it’s up to him, to see whether or not they get out of Room alive and well, or if they fail, yet again, left to rot away in this little little prison cell that they’ve been sadly thrown into.

It's so hard....

It’s so hard….

Movies like Room, are the type that I love to talk about, but at the same time, ones that I hate to review. For one, it’s the kind of movie that deserves to be seen, hardly knowing anything about going in. While so many of the ads and trailers for this movie have done everything but keep it subtle and unknown to the general audience just what happens with the plot and where it goes once it gets past the half-way mark, I, to those of you who may be reading wherever you are in the world, will do everything in my strength not to say just what happens in Room. Cause, from what mostly everybody knows, is that Room has something to do with a mother and son being locked-up and kept in this square-box.

That’s basically it.

Anything else about this movie, it’s probably best to steer clear of knowing about, because it not only ruins any chances of knowing what to expect from this movie, but by the same token, being able to suck it all in. Because in all honesty, Room snuck up on me and most likely, it will on you, too. You think you’ll have a general idea of where the story is going, see the wheels turning, and then, all of a sudden, you’ll have no clue and feel like possibly the dumbest person in the room. However, rather than feeling terrible and depressed about this fact, you’ll soon change your tune once you realize that it doesn’t matter, because Room, the movie, is so amazing.

It’s the kind of movie that plays with so many raw, gritty emotions, but handles them in such an effective, smart way, that it not only makes you want to praise director Lenny Abrahmson for not allowing this material to get as sappy and as melodramatic as it could have been, but also want to cry your eyes out. And honestly, the latter is what I did – on many occasions. While it’s not necessarily difficult to make me tear-up at a movie, it’s also not an easy feat, either; there has to be a certain feel of emotional connection and believeability to start the water-works.

Which is why they started so many times throughout Room. There’s these small, individual moments of absolute human-to-human emotion and heart that, quite frankly, I found incredibly hard to handle. But the movie never plays any of this up, ever; instead, it plays everything so low and matter-of-factly, that you’ll hardly notice that it’s working its magic on you.

That’s just the kind of movie Room is: You won’t expect it to work as well as it does, but honestly, that’s the real beauty of it, as well as many other smaller movies like it.

Which is why it’s so great to see Brie Larson get so much love and acclaim for it, as I feel like she’s literally on the verge of breaking-out and taking the whole world by storm. As Joy, Larson gets plenty of hard and heavy acting to do, but it never feels overwrought, or even obvious, as if she’s got the Oscar voters watching on-deck; instead, she feels exactly like a woman in her position would feel. While she wants to love and protect her son from every cruel thing that the world has to offer, she also doesn’t want him to forget that the world can actually be cruel and is, in ways, not as fair as it’s made out to be on TV.

And speaking of her son, Jacob Tremblay, despite being hardly eight when this flick was being made, gives a superb performance as Jack. What’s so smart about the character of Jack is that, well, he actually isn’t smart. Nor, for that matter, is he the kind of smart-ass, precocious child character we’re used to seeing in movies; rather, he’s just a kid who has no idea what sort of situation he’s into, except only to know what he wants to know or has been made to believe through TV, or certain things his mommy has told him. What makes this performance so spectacular, isn’t that he plays up this naivete with the wonderful sense of child-like wonder we so rarely see from actual child actors, but how he acts when he’s told that this world he lives and believes in, is nothing more than just pure fantasy. He’s upset, heart-broken and above all, confused. Which is exactly what any kid is like when they find out something they’ve been made to believe as true, actually isn’t.

...to find pictures that don't spoil Room.

…to find pictures that don’t spoil Room.

*cough cough* Santa Claus *cough cough* Easter Bunny *cough cough* any other mystical figure who comes to give you treats or gifts *cough cough*

And while I know that I’m being ridiculously vague with this whole review, but really, it’s for your own good. Just know that Room, is a near-masterpiece. There are certain bits of the story that felt maybe a tad too unexplained, but really, they’re basically just moments and ways for me to complain about stuff that doesn’t matter.

Just, please, pretty please, do yourself a favor and see Room.

Please.

Consensus: Smart, effective, well-acted, and most of all, emotional, Room plays with a lot of big, heavy feelings, yet, never over-does any of them and instead, feels like a human story everyone can connect to and take something out of, regardless of if they’ve ever been in the same situation as the characters, or not.

9 / 10

So I'm just gonna keep it like this.

So I’m just gonna keep it like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Maps to the Stars (2014)

Burn, Hollywood, burn! 

Hollywood is full of all sorts of people. You either got rich and famous celebrities, normal people trying to live their lives, or normal people trying to make it big so that they can become rich and famous like the people they look up to so much. Of these many people, we focus on a few who are either trying to keep themselves relevant, or at least trying even harder to become relevant in any way at all possible. We have Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) a mysterious girl who shows up one day looking for a job and finds one as the secretary of aging actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), who seems to be all sorts of screwed up from the abuse she suffered from her mother as a child. There’s also the story of Havan’s limo driver (Robert Patinson) who is also an up-and-coming actor, just desperately waiting for his big break, although he might seem more interested in starting a relationship with Agatha. Then, there’s TV psychologist Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), who, along with his wife (Olivia Williams) are raising their child-star son, Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), who is pretty mean to everybody around him, yet also, doesn’t quite know whether or not he wants to keep going with this famous life he’s been living. It’s all so very messed-up and sad, but don’t forget to drink the champagne and party like it’s Studio 54!

"You're my son. But you're also pretty rich, so don't fuck it up."

“You’re my son. But you’re also pretty rich, so don’t fuck it up.”

David Cronenberg seems to be the kind of director that just doesn’t cut for me, although it seems that, for everybody else in the world, he does just that. It’s not that his movies are bad, it’s just that they seem to be slow and meandering after awhile, that once he begins to throw in these abruptly gruesome scenes of violence, it comes almost out of nowhere; almost in a way that seems like even he’s dozing off a bit and needs to blow-up somebody’s head to excite even his own-self.

But here, with Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg seems to really nail down what he wants to do – not just with the story, but with his pace. Rather than being a slow-as-molasses piece that doesn’t go anywhere interesting, Cronenberg seems to really move quickly between scenes. He doesn’t focus on one subplot more than the other, but much rather, continue to shed some small light on them and the characters that inhabit them, and move on. This not only worked for my eyes and brain, but also as a satire, because what Cronenberg seems to getting at here is really that Hollywood’s full of privileged fakes and phonies, who not only believe that everything they ever want should be handed to them on a silver platter, but that they shouldn’t have to actually do a hard day’s work for it either.

By reading any Bret Easton Ellis novel or simply, just by typing in “Hollywood satire” on Netflix and watching whatever results come your way, you’ll know that Hollywood is an easy target to pick on. Though there are quite a few people who seem to be just normal, everyday human beings like you or I who just so happen to have the talent of emoting well for the cameras, the vast majority of Hollywood is filled with overly rich, famous, and snobby bastards. So it only makes sense that these people, and Hollywood in whole, would be the first ones to make fun of and poke at, even if you do do it in a dark way.

With Cronenberg’s brand of humor here, it’s less about making fun of the people in Hollywood, but more of the ideals that Hollywood spreads around. For example, a person’s need to feel culturally relevant and important is brought up many times here, which is funny, but it gets increasingly darker once you realize the lows some of these people will stoop to, only so that they can stay famous, if only for about 15 minutes or so. It’s funny how Cronenberg expresses this ideal in his movie, and it’s only made better by the fact that there’s hardly a likable character to be found in this.

Which is, yes, sometimes a little troubling to watch, but for the most part, it’s entertaining and fun, something I feel like Cronenberg’s forgot about in his past few movies. Here, he seems to be reveling in digging into these celebrities’ lives and figuring out what makes them tick, think the way they do, and have the need to be famous. Sure, sometimes these characters are a bit cartoonish, but that doesn’t bother Cronenberg or take him away from giving more depth to them and their stories; in fact, it’s probably best that we don’t find anything to relate to with these characters, because that in and of itself would be pretty horrifying.

If there was a few problems I had with this movie, it was whenever Cronenberg decided that he absolutely needed to throw in the “ghost” angle of this story. Not only did it feel unneeded, but it got real old, real quick. Seeing somebody getting spooked out by a ghost-like figure, especially when you know it’s just that, a ghost, is not at all scary. It’s just boring, monotonous, and cheap, especially considering how much good stuff Cronenberg had going for his movie as was. To add anything else would just be too much, or too tiresome to us, the audience. It’s best if we just take a closer look at these characters in a way to make ourselves feel a bit happier about the lives we live.

Now, with that being said, the characters in this movie aren’t very deep or thought-provoking, but it works because that’s sort of the point. These people in Hollywood are vain, egotistical a-holes that don’t give two shits about regular folk like you or I – they just want to get the big bucks, to have the lights constantly flashing in their faces, and to have sex with the hottest people they can find. Anything else is either of no interest to them, or simply put, just nothing they want to pursue in life.

And most of the reason why these characters work as well as they do, even though they aren’t fully supposed to, is because the cast is so capable of just going that extra mile and doing some neat, interesting things with them that, even with the slightest bit of detail, helps flesh them out a bit more.

Julianne Moore is probably the highlight of this movie because she’s doing some interesting, neat stuff here that we haven’t seen her do many times before. It’s pretty much known common knowledge now that if you put Julianne Moore in your movie, she’s going to do a fine job and give it her all. I have nothing wrong with that, or even her performances, but there is a part of me that feels as if her performances range from being “very dramatic” to “light dramatic”. She’s not unengaging by any means, but to put it nice, she’s a bit boring with some her choices, even if she finds ways to make them the slightest bit interesting.

Here though, we finally get to see Moore play around with this Lindsay Lohan-like character, Havana Segrand, who may be a total stuck-up bitch, but is also an actress that’s trying her damn near hardest to stay alive and well in this terrible place called Hollywood. It doesn’t make her wholly sympathetic, but it at least does a little something for her, so that when we see the gratuitous, high-living life she’s living, it makes us wish she’d just get her act together and do the right thing, even if we already know that’s not quite possible. It’s also fun to see Moore tackle a character that’s pretty stupid and doesn’t always know what she’s going to say next, and it makes me wish we’d see more of that from her.

When in doubt, meditate.

When in doubt, meditate.

Once again, not saying Moore’s a bad actress, but just not a totally versatile one. But I hope that begins to change more and more, even as she gets older and older (though honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to even tell how old she is by the way she looks).

Another one here in this cast that’s doing a little something different from what we’ve seen him do in quite some time is John Cusack as this weird TV psychiatrist that gets by solely on giving people fake advice from his fake degree. Cusack’s an odd choice for this kind of role, but he does well enough with it, that I didn’t really care his character didn’t get much development. In fact, I’d say it’s his wife, played by Olivia Williams, who gets the most development and actually ends up being one of the more sympathetic characters of this piece by showing her as a woman who cares for her son’s own well-being, yet, still can’t seem to get away from the fact that she wants money. And a whole lot of it, too.

And speaking of that son, the real stand-out here is him, played by Evan Bird. Though I don’t know Bird’s actual age, I’m still impressed by how good he was in this movie. Though there’s a few awkward line-deliveries here and there, overall, Bird gets by on making this Benjie character a total and complete dick, yet, still shows us that he’s a little kid who wants to live a normal life. The kid’s still a little prick to just about everyone around him, and they are quite easily the best scenes in the whole movie, but there’s that feeling that he still has the chance to live his life the way he wants to that makes his character a tad bit more sympathetic. Even though it’s so obvious who he’s being written as.

Then again though, that’s Hollywood, people.

Consensus: Like with most of Cronenberg’s flicks, Maps to the Stars is a very dark tale about some unlikable individuals, but with a slight twist in that’s entertaining to watch and actually funny.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Kid with gun. How could this turn out bad?

Kid with gun. How could this turn out bad?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Pompeii (2014)

Always hate it when natural-disasters come in to break-up my romances.

Milo (Kit Harington) is a young, Celtic gladiator who was enslaved after his whole tribe/family was brutally slaughtered some years before. For his next tour of duty, in which he practically kicks everyone’s ass, he arrives at Pompeii, but wouldn’t you know it, the daughter of a wealthy merchant (Emily Browning) just so happens to be too! Somehow, they lock eyes and find something that slightly resembles a “connection” on the way to Pompeii, but not until they are taken away, back to their own, separate lives, where they may never possibly see each other again. But in fact, they do, but their lives are a lot more challenging now: He’s out there in the middle of the Colosseum, fighting for his life and gaining a friendship through a fellow gladiator (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)); whereas she’s stuck in a manipulative-romance with the Roman Senator Corvis (Kiefer Sutherland). And to make this even juicier, apparently Corvis is the same man who not only killed all of Milo’s people, but even slayed his mother himself. All hell is about to break loose inside Pompeii, but it’s not necessarily because Milo wants revenge, love and all sorts of escapism – something, for one reason or another, just doesn’t sound all that right with Mount Vesuvius. What is it? What could it possibly be? Hmmmmmm……

Okay, just sit down and think for a second: Take a standard, sword-and-sandals epic like Gladiator, mix it around with the star-crossed lovers story from Titanic, throw in the whole “tragic, real-life” aspect of this story from something like, well, Titanic again, and, to top it all off, have it be directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Now, if that sounds awesomely rad to you in every which way, then you’ll know this is the perfect film for you, your drunk buddies and quite possibly, your dumb-ass girlfriend who still puts up with your immature-ass.

Basically the "token black guy", but only in ancient times. Wait! Hasn't that been done before?!?!?

Basically the “token black guy”, but only in ancient times. Wait! Hasn’t that been done before?!?!?

But, if you’re like any respectable human-being that knows what deserves to be seen, and what doesn’t, then you’ll stay home, watch curling, or whatever is left of the Olympics, and just be happy that you’re doing something productive with your life, that also doesn’t end with you losing insane amounts of brain-cells. And usually, on any given day, I’d be including myself with this group of fine specimens, but for something like this, I just couldn’t help myself. You know why?

Well, because I actually enjoyed this movie, for everything that was so obviously dumb and innate about it. Because see, this is a movie directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, the type of guy I expect to see garbage like this from. So,, that’s why when he actually gave me a movie that was as stupid as it could possibly be in the world, I couldn’t help but laugh my ass-off more than on a few occasions. Granted, they were no way in hell meant to be intentional-laughs, they were more so done in the way that the writing is so cheesy and over-the-top, you can’t keep a smile tucked away for too long. Sometimes, and god forbid I actually be applauding an action such as this, you just have to go with the flow, no matter how mind-numbingly dumb it may be.

Of course though, this movie definitely isn’t perfect, nor anywhere near being so. For the first hour or so, I’d say that while the movie definitely has some bright and shining moments of people being cut-up, slain, murdered and all sorts of injured, for the most part, it’s pretty damn dull. This part of the movie is where we mostly focus in on these characters, the romance and all of the other political back-stabbings going on behind the closed-doors, mainly with a mustache-twirling-without-the-mustache-performance from none other than Mr. Kiefer Sutherland himself. In fact, I’d wager that he’s probably the only real reason to be so entertained by this movie, throughout the whole damn thing. Not only does he chew the scenery up like he was a homeless man in need of a fresh bowl of soup, but he actually seems like he’s enjoying everything that was handed to him on a silver-platter. Sure, it’s as hammy as Christmas dinner, but sometimes, you just need that to survive in a movie whose IQ level is clearly 48 or below.

The main reason why Sutherland is so notable to mention, is because nothing else, for this first hour, really connects with us, or even comes close to grabbing our attention. There’s the romance in the movie that’s supposed to take center-stage and really have us feel for these two, odds-stacked-against-them-lovers, but neither Kit Harrington nor Emily Browning do anything to make us believe in their sparks of romance. Most of that isn’t their fault because, like I mentioned before, the script is utter trash, but none of them really do much other than give us the reactionary-shots that we so obviously need from them to give them any sort of personality. For Harrington, he’s supposed to look tough, angry, constipated (I guess that and “angry” sort of go hand-in-hand, because whose happy when they’re constipated, right?), and have a nice, rockin’ bod so that the camera can rub itself on it, as if Anderson himself was cheating on his own wifey-poo; and as for Browning, well, she doesn’t really do much except have the same face, the whole time, and not make us see why any dude would want to put their lives on the line for her, other than to hopefully get a sniff of her panties or something.

"Should we die, or, uhm, die?"

“Should we die, or, uhm, die?”

I don’t know, I’m just gripping at straws here.

However, once the first hour of this movie is finally over, done and said with, then, things actually start to heat up; and I mean that both literally and figuratively. For starters, not only does the actual volcano erupt and start to cause all sorts of destruction, but this is the moment where we also get to see Anderon’s sheer-love for mayhem and nonsensical violence really come into play, and give us a movie that we not only should pay attention to, but have a great time with. Everything that happens to anyone in these final 40-45 minutes is so obviously insane and wild, but that’s what actually makes the film slightly interesting, if only it’s to see how many times Anderson can get away with a PG-13 rating, despite showing people getting their throats slit, put on fire, drowning, hit in the head with rocks, stabbed in the chest and all sorts of other numerous acts of violence, and yet: Still barely show any blood.

Either way, blood or no blood, if you’re going to go and see this movie at all, and be with your drunken-buddies or girlfriend who is clearly doing you, and only you a favor (you best pay her back, boys, if you know whatta I mean?), just see it for the fact that you know the ending. And yup, that does mean that A LOT of people die. You don’t really care for it when you watch it, but then again: Do we really care about the same, real-life peoples who died some odd 1,935 years? Pretty exact, I know, but chew on that for a short while, even if you still have to catch up on your women’s hockey results.

Consensus: Absolutely, positively and completely dumb and poorly-written, but for some reason, Pompeii got better as it went along, and especially, once the volcano itself actually erupted and started to take down everybody in its path. Sounds sadistic, I know, but it’s all CGI, man. Right? Or, at least I hope.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Haven't you heard? JACK'S BACK!!!"

“Haven’t you heard? JACK’S BACK!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net