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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: John Corbett

Street Kings (2008)

Don’t mess with Johnny Utah. Ever.

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a veteran member of the LAPD who has definitely seen better days. While he does still do his job and take down the bad guys that need to be taken down, he also does so by sucking down bottles of vodka. He does this because he is still mourning the loss of his wife and as is such, has alienated a lot of those around him. One person in particular is his former partner, Officer Washington (Terry Crews), who now looks back on his time with Ludlow in disgust. Ludlow knows this and doesn’t like it, which is why he decides that it may be time to get Washington to shut up, before certain people start listening in on to what he has to say. But wouldn’t you know it that when Ludlow does get a chance to shut Washington up, Washington is gunned-down in what happens to be a random corner-store robbery. Feeling some echo of guilt, Ludlow decides to set out and find out who did this to Washington, but unfortunately, the more he digs up, the more dirt begins to show.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

David Ayer can handle these types of dirty, gritty and violent thrillers about corrupt cops and politicians being, well, just that, corrupt. However, there does come a point where eventually, all of the same things that you made your name on, can get to be a bit too old, especially when you’ve got nothing left to say. Sure, a movie like Street Kings should resonate more so now, than it ever has before; police corruption is at an all-time high and people seem to really be demanding questions more than ever, but for some reason, it’s the kind of movie that brings these hard and questionable figures up, without ever seeming to bother to really say much more about it.

Instead, Ayer is more interested in shooting things and throwing blood anywhere he can set his sights to.

That’s fine because Ayer can handle action well. The best parts of Street Kings, actually, are when it’s just a few characters sitting in a room, expecting there to be some violence occurring soon, with their hands firmly on the trigger’s of their guns, not knowing when the other shoe is going to drop and people are going to have to be lit-up. It’s why some of the best moments of Training Day, were the ones where you had no clue exactly what was going to go down, even if you had a general idea.

Problem is, with Training Day and countless other flicks that Ayer has attached his name to, he’s become a tad too conventional. Street Kings feels like the kind of cop flick that would work somewhere back in the mid-90’s – ideas like these weren’t new, but they were still sustainable for entertainment. You could make the argument that Street Kings is sort of working with the same environment, to just be fun and nothing else, but when you have brothers in blue, who are literally doing terrible, immoral things, or getting killed, left and right, there’s a feeling that maybe, just maybe, someone needs to ask, “why?”

In a way, it’s almost like Ayer has a responsibility to ask those questions and get, at the very least, an idea of an answer. To just service your plot with cops and criminals getting shot and killed, without ever saying anything else about it, seems wrong. Trust me, I’m all for the down, dirty and immoral action when push comes to shove, but Ayer doesn’t really have his flick placed in any sort of fake world, or universe – it’s a real world/universe, where cops are meant to stop bad people, from doing bad things.

In fact, it’s the world in which we live in now.

"Uh. Hey. Freeze, man."

“Uh. Hey. Freeze, man.”

But honestly, besides that, Street Kings can be fun, when it actually cares to be fun. There’s a lot of the same stuff seen before, especially from Ayer’s pen, and you can tell that he’s trying to change everything up, yet, fall back on  the same conventions that have made cop-thrillers, such as his, hits in the first place. Ayer is a good director and writer when he wants to be, but here, it feels as if he’s just moving along, steadily, not trying to rock the boat and rely on what he knows best, without trying to change up any sort of format.

The only opportunity Ayer really gets a chance to liven-up things in Street Kings is with his wonderful ensemble, all of whom are having a great time. Keanu Reeves is actually quite good as Ludlow, mostly because the guy doesn’t always have to say something – some of the times, he just backs it up with his gun, or his fists. This suits Reeves just fine, just as it suits him playing the mentor-role to Chris Evans’ young, hotshot rookie character, both of whom work well together. Evans, too, in an early role before he truly broke-out into stardom, seems like the heart and soul of this cruel, dark and upsetting world, which works, until the movie decides that it cares less about him and more about just shooting people’s heads off.

Once again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but there comes a point where it’s overkill.

Others randomly show up like Common, the Game, Cedric the Entertainer, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, and Terry Crews, and all add a little something to the proceedings. You can tell that Ayer likes to cast these known-actors in roles that you least expect them to work with and it actually works in his favor. However, had he given more screen-time to Hugh Laurie and Forest Whitaker, equally the best parts of this otherwise mediocre movie, all would have been right with the world. The two play opposing chiefs who may or may not be as evil, or as good as they present themselves as being. Ayer always treads the fine line here between these characters and it makes me wish that he decided to do more with the other characters, or even the plot.

Consensus: As conventional as cop-thrillers can go, Street Kings boasts an impressive cast and some fun moments, but ultimately seems to concerned with blowing stuff/people up, and not ever asking why.

5 / 10

"Let me give you my card. And no, I'm not playing that cynical doctor this time."

“Let me give you my card. And no, I’m not playing that cynical doctor this time.”

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert.com, IMDB, Deep Focus Review

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My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)

Can Windex heal marriages?

Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) have been together for quite some time and now that their daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) is old enough to start thinking about what she wants to do with the rest of her life, they can’t help but feel a tad bit hopeless. Both have their own lives going on separately, and even if they do have a date every so often, it seems as if the spark is lost. But to add some insult to injury, now Toula has to worry about what her parents are doing, now that everyone’s found out that their marriage-license was never signed, making the marriage “invalid”. Toula’s parents feel differently about the situation; while her father (Michael Constantine) wants to just get it over with already so that everything can be official, Toula’s mom (Lainie Kazan) instead wants there to be some time and dedication laid out for it so it doesn’t just feel all rushed and the romance is left out of the proceedings. It’s going to take a lot for Toula to get her whole family in check, which is why she decides that it’s time for another big, fat Greek wedding, however this time, one that will be a tad different than the one before.

No stronger bond than a mother and her mamma's boy.

No stronger bond than a mother and her mamma’s boy.

There’s no denying that Nia Vardalos loves everything about her Big Fat Greek Wedding stories and characters. She loves the idea of being Greek, the traditions that family’s try to pass down from each generation to the next, and she also loves, in a way, how crazy everyone and everything can get within these families, which is why most of My Big Fat Greek Wedding one and two is, essentially, the same and chock full of that. Greek family members are always frowning on the new generation, women are told to get married before their eggs dry up (even if they’re only 18 or so), outsiders are looked down upon because of their non-Greek heritage, and yes, everyone else around them just doesn’t get it.

After all, they’re not Greek, so why should they?

And this is all to ask the simple question: Does My Big Fat Greek Wedding constitue a sequel? Well, no, not really. In fact, it’s pretty damn clear that the movie is made-up so that Vardalos herslef can get the whole gang back together, have some laughs, get a tad bit nostalgia and, yes, get some money in the meantime. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a heart or soul to be located here, but it’s hard not to feel a tad bit manipulated when you know that this is a sequel that the world could have waited for longer, or to have never gotten.

While the central plotline is the marriage between Toula’s parents, there’s a whole lot going on around them all that it’s obvious the movie’s just using the “wedding” as a crutch; essentially, if it’s in the title, you kind of have to deliver on the promise. And that’s fine, but nothing going on is ever all that interesting; Toula and Ian’s marriage gets some bits of intrigue when they fight and rant about the cost of marriage and how they’re growing up, but honestly, that’s about. There’s a random subplot involving Joey Fatone’s character, who had maybe ten minutes of screen-time in the first; there’s Paris’ own personal and professional life; and there’s also one involving Toula’s dad finding out if he’s actually related to Alexander the Great or not.

Many years later and guess what? They still want to topple all over one another!

Many years later and guess what? They still want to topple all over one another!

Sure, none of this should really take up a whole 90-minute flick, but for some reason, it actually does and they’re straining. You can tell that Vardalos wants these characters around and to matter, so in order to do that, she creates some more stories for them to grow and work with. It’s not as effective as it was in the first movie, because, well, everything was fine, fresh and brand-spankin’ new – now, these characters don’t have much of a shock or surprise value.

I can imagine that lovers of the first (of which there are many) will see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, knowing full well that they’re going to be happy with it and that’s fine. Vardalos isn’t trying to recruit anyone who may not already be interested – insted, she’s just doing a little something for herself and all of the damn fans who wouldn’t stop bothering her about another movie. It’s smart, too, because the movie goes down a lot smoother than you’d expect.

The acting is fine and can be, at a few times, quite sweet, but really, nobody here ever gets to shine through of being cariacature. And yes, that’s fine; the way Vardalos has written each and everyone of them makes it appear as if they’re sitcom players, but deep down inside, they have some feelings. Sometimes, it’s too hard to look past the corniness, but eventually, because everyone here is charming and all that, it’s hard to fully matter.

In fact, just shut up and enjoy the wedding.

Consensus: Unnecessary, yes, but also still pleasant enough, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 brings back together all of the beloved characters and gag from the first movie, to a lesser extent.

5.5 / 10

The fam's back! Let the binge-drinking begin!

The fam’s back! Let the binge-drinking begin!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Where can I find me a Greek gal?!?

Still unmarried at 30, Toula (Nia Vardalos) doesn’t have a whole lot going for her life. She’s been stuck working at her family’s restaurant for many years and whenever it seems like she’s getting tired of doing so and wants to leave, she somehow gets guilted into staying by either her parents, Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan), or anyone of the numerous first cousins and relatives she has, watching and judging her every move. But one day, Toula gets a job at a travel agency, where, one fateful day, she meets Ian (John Corbett), a teacher who takes a liking to Toula right away and asks her out. Of course, she says yes, and from there on, the two grow closer and eventually, wouldn’t you know it? They fall in love. Obviously, the idea of marriage is brought up and while both are clearly all for it, there’s only one issue that may stand in the way of Toula and Ian getting a chance to say their vows: He’s not Greek. And judging by how the rest of her family reacts when they hear he isn’t Greek, Toula starts to reconsider everything about her life.

The world's most attractive "normal" couple.

The world’s most attractive “normal” couple.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is obviously infamous for many reasons that don’t really have to do with the actual quality of the movie itself. Sure, it received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, but aside from that, what everyone seems to talk about with it is how it spent so much time at the box office, without it featuring any big names, franchises, or whatever else that makes a movie a huge hit. Not only was it an indie-hit, it was a hit that showed Hollywood why word-of-mouth can sometimes be better than just releasing your movie and tossing it out there for everyone to see, even if nobody does actually see it.

But regardless, the movie itself is just fine.

The best part of the movie is that Nia Vardalos’ screenplay clearly comes from a soft spot in her heart. This is clear, not just from the way she portrays the Greek lifestyle and norms, but her whole family as well. If you’ve ever met a Greek family, you’d know that a lot of the movie may be a bit of an exaggeration, but nonetheless, a lot of the running-gags are still pretty funny and do give us better understandings of who these characters are, as cartoonish as they may be. There’s the father who believes that Windex cures anything; there’s the cousins who don’t know how to tell actual, funny jokes; there’s the mother who always has to have the latest family drama; the aunt who seems to always get too drunk and tell-all with random strangers; and so on and so forth.

A lot of the movie is actually funny, which is why it’s sweet to see how Vardalos approaches these characters. While it would have been easy to make her family out to be old-timey and old-fashioned Greeks who clearly don’t live in the new millennium, Vardalos shows that a lot of the ideals and ways they live by are what make them stronger as a family. Sure, Vardalos shows that her family can be a bit annoying, but at the same time, still shows that a lot of what they do, is what makes them who they are – they aren’t apologizing for it and they aren’t asking to be accepted by anybody else who, well, isn’t Greek.

The lady's always take the wedding prep so seriously.

The lady’s always take the wedding prep so seriously.

And yeah, Vardalos herself is pretty solid in the lead role, too. Vardalos has this seemingly everyday woman way about her that makes her character easy to relate to, even when it seems like she may be the most normal character out of the bunch. Same goes for John Corbett’s Ian who, like with most John Corbett characters, is a likable, everyday guy who you would definitely meet on the street and strike up a conversation with. Together, the two have great chemistry and it’s easy to see why they’d fall in love and want to get married, even if the movie does seem to rush it a bit too fast.

But really, this story is less about them two and more about the other characters surrounding them.

Every member of Toula’s Greek family is funny and striking with personality. However, the one who really surprised me was Michael Constantine’s Gus. While the movie originally makes him out to be a bit of a controlling, sometimes overbearing father-figure, eventually, the movie begins to change its tune and show that maybe Gus, if anything, just loves his daughter and wants what’s best for her. He may be too concerned with her not being married and childless, but as the movie begins to show us, he’s only being like this because he truly does want Toula to be happy and, most of all, he wants to have a bigger, more loving family.

Just as any daddy wants.

Consensus: Though it’s a pretty average rom-com, Nia Vardalos’ smart and sometimes, very funny screenplay, allows for My Big Fat Greek Wedding to rise above plenty others in that tired genre.

6.5 / 10

Oh, you kids. So happy in love.

Oh, you kids. So happy in love.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Boomstick Comics, Zeenews.India

The Boy Next Door (2015)

Naughty, naughty cougars. Mee-ow.

English lit professor Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) is going through a bit of a rough patch in her personal life. Not only has she recently broke-up with her philandering husband (John Corbett), but she can’t seem to get a grip on her young son (Ian Nelson), or what it is that he wants to do with his life. Not to mention that she isn’t quite attuned to the dating-world, seeing as how she’s been out of the game for quite some time. But that may all change now that 19-year-old Noah (Ryan Guzman) has moved in next door, although, it’s maybe not for the reasons she might have wanted. After feeling vulnerable and drunk, Claire has a hot, steamy and sweaty one night stand with Noah that she instantly regrets the next day. However, Noah can’t handle this kind of rejection, so, for some reason or another, he constantly torments Claire, her family and her job. But what starts off as a few minuscule threats, soon start to become quite serious, and almost life-altering, which leads Claire to take a gander into Noah’s mysterious past and realize that maybe she had sex with the wrong neighbor, let alone, the wrong person altogether.

A simple smile, that's how it all starts. And don't act like you don't know what I'm speaking of, ladies!

A simple smile, that’s how it all starts. And don’t act like you don’t know what I’m speaking of, ladies!

Not long after Russell Crowe opened his dumb-ass mouth, many people wondered why exactly women don’t get the same kinds of roles as men. Is Hollywood misogynistic? Are there actually no good roles out there for women because they’re acting way younger than they actually are? Or, plain and simple, are there just no good roles for women?

Well, there’s no real answer to that, except that it is nice to see an actress like Jennifer Lopez not only playing up her age, but also doing so in a way that shows she’s willing to use it to her advantage. J’Lo has never been the world’s best actress that the world has to offer, but there’s something about the way she plays each and every role of hers where she has this sweet, calm and mild personality on the outside, but on the inside, something deep, dark and heavy is boiling from within her. Sure, you could say that a lot of this is pure convention from J’Lo and it’s what we’ve all come to expect from her, but it’s still fun to see, especially since she does it so well.

But that’s only getting away from the point that the Boy Next Door only barely allows for J’Lo to give in a great, meaningful performance, as much as it allows for the plot itself to get so wrapped-up in its own craziness that it’s hard to not want to join in on the fun that it’s clearly having with itself. Because yes, not only is it January, where the weather outside is, in most areas, chilly and filled with snow, but it’s also the time where most of the movies you’ll decide to see at the multiplexes with your friends and possibly even, family members, should not at all be taken seriously. This is something I’ve been preaching for the longest time, but that’s only because it’s true: January movies typically blow.

However, when you do get that rare occasion when the movie’s actually quite bad, but also at least enjoyable, then there’s something to talk about. Because with the Boy Next Door, sure, it’s corny, over-the-top, goofy, and rather balls-out bizarre-o in certain instances, but it seems like it knows it is. Well, for the most part. On some occasions, it feel as though director Rob Cohen knows what he’s been assigned to bring to the big screen, and rather than trying to show the everyday subtleties in human’s interactions with one another, mostly decides to bask in the pure imperfection of this material; he knows it’s junk that he’s working with, but it can be fun junk, if filmed in the right frame of mind.

Though, there’s a part of me that wants to believe that maybe Cohen himself called-out sick some days. Because while some of this, like I mentioned before, seems like it’s just going balls to the walls and enjoying it all, the rest of it does try desperately hard to be taken seriously, as if actual women from all over the world and going to stop banging their hot, younger neighbor, in the hopes that he won’t turn out to be a total whack job and terrorize them and their whole family. That the movie presents this in a negative light doesn’t matter, so much as it seems to take one stand on the situation so much that it doesn’t ever draw-out any sort of depth within the story, or the characters themselves.

Which, I’m not saying is what I wanted from this movie here, but it’s obvious that whoever was behind this thing, definitely wanted some bit of that, so if they’re going to expect me to expect it, then I might as well expect it, right? Kind of lost? Okay.

"I want my autograph, NOW!"

“I want my autograph, NOW!”

It goes like this – once Noah becomes a raging, hormonal-teenager over the fact that Claire doesn’t want to sleep with him any longer, this is the only reason made clear to us is why he’s freaking out so much in the first place. That, I was fine with. Kids are weird as is, but once you throw sex and rejection into there, then they get so out of whack, you’ll wonder just how the hell they managed to get through the first 18 or so years of their lives to begin with. However, the movie tops it all off with going into his checkered, clearly sketchy past that involves the death of his parents and some random hacking-jobs that are so out-of-this-world, that even in today’s society, where hacking seems to be an everyday occurrence, it’s a bit far-fetched. It’s not that I was pissed that they decided to dig deeper into this character, it’s that they didn’t do so in a way that seemed understandable, even by the movie’s standards.

Everything should have just been kept and made simple, crazy and wildly over-the-top. Which is to say, because of J’Lo and Ryan Guzman, this is what happens. Especially with Guzman, who not only seems like he walked right out of a Vanity Fair spread and onto the screen, but has this off-kilter presence about him that’s just plain weird. I don’t know if it works for the movie, or not, but all I can is that he seems to be relishing in this role handed to him and for me, a person who has never seen him before in my life, made me happy. I may never see him in another film again, but color me slightly impressed Ryan Guzman.

I guess.

Consensus: Sometimes over-the-top and clearly loving it, and sometimes not, the Boy Next Door juggles around with its multiple identities, but can be so wild and wacky at times, that it’s hard to hold much of a serious problem against this movie that can’t be washed away with some fine liquor before watching it.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Peek-a-boo."

“Peek-a-boo.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz