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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Joel Gretsch

Push (2009)

X-Men clearly did it better. They always do.

Due to a government experiment gone wrong, Nick Gant (Chris Evans) is what some call “a mover”. Meaning that, well, he’s able to move things with his mind. However, he’s been on the run at an early age and in a way to stay even further off the grid, he’s been holding up shop in Hong Kong. But due to a couple of bad decisions made on Nick’s part, he ends up getting found out by these sinister powers-that-be who want to kidnap Nick and take away his powers. Or something like that. Along with Nick is 13-year-old Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning) who is what people call “a watcher” – someone who can see the future and certain tragic events before they happen. So yeah, Nick and Cassie are on the run from bad and evil people, meanwhile, they’re trying to meet up and find Kira Hudson (Camilla Belle), who may have all the answers to the questions that they need answering so that they can defeat these villains and get back on with their lives. But as time rolls and Nick and Cassie start to talk with her more, they realize that Kira may not be who she is and better yet, actually may be playing on the same side of those people they’re on the run from to begin with.

Round 1, eh, who cares!

Round 1, eh, who cares!

I think.

The whole thing about Push is that it’s incredibly convoluted. Certain powers of these characters, when they’re able to use them, what keeps them from using them, is hardly ever explained; all we’re supposed to make up our minds about is that they do have powers and they want to use them for the greater good. This makes it all sound like an over-extended episode of Heroes which, quite frankly, I would have been totally fine with.

But nope.

Instead, what we get with Push, is an overlong, overly complicated, very silly sci-fi flick that doesn’t know where it wants to go, or even what it wants to be. While the movie does stage some flashy action-sequences, they come so few and far between, that they become an afterthought. Instead, the movie wants to focus on the inner-workings of these characters, what makes them tick and just how it is that they get by in a world that, honestly, doesn’t quite accept them for who they are or what skills they possess. Obviously, I’ve seen this all done way better in X-Men and it just goes to show you just how easy it is to make a tale like that.

But for some reason, no one on-board with Push seems like they want to give anything an honest effort. Director Paul McGuigan tries his hardest to give this movie a cool, slick feel, but overall, can’t overcome all of the issues that the script has going on. While he gets a lot of play out having his movie shot on location in Hong Kong, the shame about this all is that he hardly gets a chance to use it to its fullest extent. Sure, there’s a few chase scenes through fish markets and narrow, over-crowded streets, but really, these scenes aren’t ever around as much to make an impression.

In all honesty, we just have to sit around and watch as these characters piss and mope about whatever problems they have and, you know, it’s nothing to ever care much about.

Which is to say that yes, despite the script thrown at them, everyone in the cast seems to be trying. Chris Evans, pre-Cap, was still trying to find his feet in Hollywood and not be type-cast as “a poor man’s Ryan Reynolds” and though he tries to inject his character that winning personality and charm of his, it doesn’t help. That’s nothing against him, though – it’s more that Nick Gant, the character, is way too bland and boring to ever register as a strong protagonist that we get behind and cheer on until the very end. We just sort of watch him move things every so often, then cry, and that’s it.

Oh well. Chris Evans is doing better things now, thankfully.

Together, they're not scary. Like at all.

Together, they’re not scary. Like at all.

Dakota Fanning gets to play an against-type role as a cranky smart-ass who can see the future and despite her seeming like she’s having a good time with it, it’s a terribly annoying role that just goes on and on without ever ceasing. She’s not funny, over-bearing and if anything, ruins just about ever scene she’s in; which, in something already as dreary as this, is definitely saying a whole lot. None of this is against Fanning, because she’s clearly on-board with this character, but the movie itself thinks she’s so hilarious, that they keep her going with the wisecracks and none of them ever conjur up a chuckle or two. Instead, it’s just sighs. And then, the always bland Camilla Belle shows up, hardly do anything; Djimon Hounsou shows up and tries to be scary, but never does; and Ming-Na Wen is, yet again, another worker who can feel happy that she’s apart of the Marvel universe.

But regardless of these performances, the true problem of Push lies with its screenplay. Writer David Bourla never seems to make sense of anything that’s happening and doesn’t even seem interested; he’d much rather try to distract us with random scenes of action and mutant-like things that, because we’re never fully explained on where they came from or what they’re capable of, are random. Bourla also tries to dive in deep into what all of the mytholgy surrounding these characters mean, and really, it never goes anywhere. All we know is that the government was up to some shady dealings and now, they want their product back. 

Or something.

Seriously, I’m still trying to figure out just what the hell this movie meant and why it went, where it went. But instead of focusing on it even more than I need to and wasting more of my precious time, I’m just going to say that, yeah, Push blows.

That’s it.

Consensus: Despite some fun and flash to be found, Push is a mostly dull affair, without much understanding of what’s happening, nor anything happening of actual interest.

2.5 / 10

Run from her, Chris! Hell, run away from this movie! Do what's best for you!

Run from her, Chris! Hell, run away from this movie! Do what’s best for you!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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Minority Report (2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Are You Here (2014)

Isn’t there supposed to be, uhm, I don’t know, a question-mark or something?

Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson) is the weatherman at a local news station and doesn’t really seem to take much initiative with his life. Sure, he wants to have money, and as much sex as he can possibly stomach, but for the most part, he’s just sitting around, smoking pot, and hanging with his childhood buddy, Ben (Zach Galifianakis). That begins to all change, however, when Ben’s dad dies and leaves him the large farmland they grew up on; whereas his sister, Terry (Amy Poehler) isn’t left with much, except a little store they own in town. This leaves her a bit pissed-off and a bit vengeful, but for Ben, this leaves him wondering what he’s going to do with his life, or whether he’s actually up to the task of handling this much responsibility. But while this is all happening, Steve’s still just doing his thing, but this time, he finds his eyes looking at Terry and Ben’s much-younger stepmother, Angela (Laura Ramsey), who, if he shacks up with, might be able to change his life for the better. That’s if he can put down the joint.

Though I know many people are head-over-heels with the show, I’m not particularly as much of a fan of Mad Men. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched pretty much all of it (or as much as Netflix allows me to) to make up my mind concerning and honestly, I still like it very much, but it’s not one of those shows I’d consider a favorite of mine. It’s well-written, acted, and performed, but as a whole, the show just isn’t one I crave to watch, day in and day out.

Happy meals like this hardly ever occur in my household.

Happy meals like this hardly ever occur in my household.

However, comparing Mad Men as a whole, to everything in Are You Here, is downright wrong. Not because the themes of both works are different, but because the former is so much more well-done and thought-out than the former, that the two don’t even deserve to be talked about in the same conversation. But that’s what’s so strange here, because how somebody like Matthew Weiner can go from creating a smart, well-detailed show like Mad Men, to writing/directing a jumbled-up piece of junk such as this is totally beyond me.

Mostly though, it’s less about how Weiner went from the highest of highs, to then stoop all the way down to the lowest of lows, and more just about what’s going on with this movie.

For instance, Weiner never seems capable once of landing on a tone and sticking with it. One part of this movie is supposed to be something of a “bro comedy”, where we see two dudes slumming around, smoking pot, and talking about the environment, but then the next part of this movie is trying to be a wholesome family-drama about going back to your roots and being in a time and place that’s much simpler. It doesn’t gel quite well, and it gets incredibly worse once we’re introduced to the possible love-angle between Wilson’s character and Ramsay’s; not because it isn’t believable at all (it isn’t), but because the age-difference is so huge between the two, that it’s not even romantic. In fact, it’s totally creepy and makes you wonder if Wilson just likes taking these roles for the sole reason that he gets to hook up with a bunch of pretty, young things. I don’t blame him if that is the reason, but come on, man, make the movies better, at least.

Speaking of Wilson, his character, Steve Dallas, is totally all-over-the-place. We’re supposed to get the idea that this guys’a stoner-bro that is a bit of a cheap-skate and rips people off whenever he gets the first chance to do so, but we never find out why. His credit card hardly works, but why? What’s gotten him into so much debt that he’s so quick to take any hand-out thrown at him? This is never known to us and it gets even worse when we’re told to believe in the friendship between him and Galifianakis’ character.

The exact number of people who actually shelled out cash to see this.

The exact number of people who actually shelled out cash to see this.

Once again, we’re told that Dallas is a close friend of the family, but we never see that. Instead, we just see Dallas bicker and banter with the members of the family and act like a total dick. Same goes for Galifianakis’s Ben who, like all Galifianakis character’s, is weird, manic, and always on the verge of a nervous-breakdown. Why this is? Well, we never really find out and it’s made worse by the fact that the character of Ben (a environmental-activist who has to start living and accepting in the real world) isn’t a particularly interesting one, or even well-written. He’s just dull and stale, yet for some reason, we’re supposed to think of him as the heart and soul of this project – an idea that’s never actually felt to us, but just told.

And honestly, it’s a shame because you can tell that none of this is really the cast’s fault; everybody here is clearly trying, but Weiner’s script is so poorly-written and scatter-shot, it takes away from what could have been a very sweet, relateable dramedy. Instead, it’s just something that has no idea what it wants to be about, what it wants to say, or what it even wants to do with any of its characters. It almost makes you wonder: What did Weiner try to accomplish with this movie? Was he trying to get across the idea of “if you’re true to yourself, then those around you will follow suit”? Or, is he trying to send a tribute to those who go back to their childhood homes and reclaim what’s rightfully theirs? Personally, I don’t know and I don’t even think Weiner himself knows.

What I do know is that when Mad Men ends next year, we better hope that Weiner has a better jump to features than this. Because if not, we’re all going to be wanting a whole lot more of this.

Consensus: Off, not just in terms of tone, but what it’s even trying to accomplish, Are You Here is literally all over the place, which makes it hard for the talented cast and crew involved to do anything interesting, or worth merit. They’re probably just as confused as we are.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Drink up, boys. You'll need it.

Drink up, boys. You’ll need it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbizGoggle Images