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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 Gallagher Jr.

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Take a sick day next time.

An ordinary day at the office becomes a horrific quest for survival when 80 employees at the Belko Corp. in Bogotá, Colombia, learn that they are pawns in a deadly game. It all happens when, out of nowhere, a weird, sinister voice comes over the PA system, letting them all know that they are trapped inside their building and that two workers must be killed within 30 minutes. Two die and the employees think that’s all there is to it. Little do they know that plenty more will have to be killed in order for the voice to stop doing what it’s doing and let the workers go. And for some workers (John Gallagher Jr.), this is fine, because they have a conscience and don’t want people to die. But for others (Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley), they know that the only way to come out of this thing alive is to make the weakest suffer and die off first. Ask questions later. After awhile, it just becomes a free-for-all where no one knows who’s going to live, die, or hell, even what the end game is here.

That look you make when you’re absolutely tired of all the damn memo’s.

The Belko Experiment seems to be going for some sort of message about the current day workforce, or hell, even the government in and of itself. After all, the movie is set in Colombia, where an American corporation is held, dealing with certain issues that never become made clear to us. Is the movie trying to say that foreign relations with the States is so bad, that everyone associated with them is eventually going to become killers? Or, is it trying to say that the workforce, in and of itself, is already so vicious in the first place, that eventually, everyone in it is just going to start killing one another to be the best, literally and metaphorically speaking?

I honestly don’t know. But probably not.

See, the Belko Experiment isn’t a very smart movie that wants to get itself all bogged down in certain stuff like politics, or hell, even ideas. It just wants to kill, give us a lot of gore, and make certain office-items into weapons. A part of that can be fun to watch, but here’s the issue with the Belko Experiment: It’s just not all that fun to begin with.

In a way, it’s actually pretty depressing and dare I say it, disturbing. But honestly not in the way that it intends; writer James Gunn seems to be clearly going for some sort of darkly comedic-edge, where heads are splattered and limbs are exposed, but for some reason, there’s still a smirk on everybody’s faces by the end of the killing. However, that doesn’t quite translate here at all. The Belko Experiment is a drop dead serious movie, which could still allow for the premise to fully work, but it never seems as convinced of its own darkness, that it allows itself to go there.

It’s always just moving along, steadily and surely, but is it easy to care? Not really.

What a courageous guy. Too bad that he’ll probably have to kill her later.

And yeah, that’s what it ultimately comes down to with the Belko Experiment – it’s hard to ever really care. Sure, watching seemingly normal, everyday people go to work and be threatened with meaningless, senseless death is upsetting to begin with, but the movie’s character-development is, well, lacking. For the first ten minutes or so, we get to know a little bit about the main players of the story, but mostly, they all just come down to types, so that when things do start to go awry and characters begin to make rash, downright questionable decisions, none of it really connects, or translates.

Take a movie like It Comes at Night that, in a way, is a horror movie, but not really. That one deals with the day-to-day horror of real life human beings, being shoved the brink of madness and having to act out in heinous ways that they’ll soon regret, but did for the greater good of themselves and the ones that they love. While the Belko Experiment never tries to reach for the same heights that that movie did, it still seems to touch on the same issues of normal people, having to act out in disgusting ways, to save their asses. The difference is that It Comes at Night made us understand and believe these decisions, where the Belko Experiment seems to just, well, give us conventional types, expect us to buy them, and watch as they hack one another off.

When in reality, who cares?

Consensus: The Belko Experiment flirts with being darkly fun, but also gets a little too wrapped-up in being too sinister and mean-spirited to be as exciting as it wants to be.

5 / 10

Conservatives, or just deranged dicks? You be the judge.

Photos Courtesy of: VarietyIndieWire

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10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Wait, where’s T.J. Miller at?

While on the run away from a failing marriage, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) all of a sudden gets into a car accident where, moments later, she wakes up having no clue where she is. All that she does know is there her knee is messed-up, she’s locked onto a pipe, and stuck in this room, which also happens to be in the basement. Soon though, in walks Howard (John Goodman) to give her the lowdown on who he is, what happened and why he has her locked in his basement. What Michelle finds out from Howard is that there’s a supposed attack on the United States and almost no one above ground is safe – therefore, them, as well as Howard’s trusted worker, Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.), are to be stuck down there in this confining, but perfectly prepared and relatively cozy bomb shelter, until they get the “go ahead” to come out into the real world. This means that, until this time comes, they’re going to have to get to know each other a whole lot better, even if that’s a lot easier said then done, when you believe there to be the apocalypse occurring right outside your door.

Don't leave, John! No one ever leaves John!

Don’t leave, John! No one ever leaves John!

Just as Cloverfield did over eight years ago, 10 Cloverfield Lane is building up this tense of suspense and tension, solely through its advertising. While we may have a general idea of what this film’s about judging by the title, the fact that it’s filmed with famous actors, without the hand-held footage aspect, already makes it seem like an entirely different movie altogether. Though, from a business standpoint, having the word “Cloverfield” attached may have been smart, it’s actually the worst decision a movie as meticulously planned and put together as this, could have made.

There’s a certain feeling of disbelief and unknowing that really takes over 10 Cloverfield Lane that makes you wonder just what the hell is going on outside these surrounding walls these characters are confide to. While had this been any other movie, without nearly the savvy and smart advertising as this movie did, and a different name, would have had us thinking the best, but expecting the worst, and generally not knowing what is happening, we kind of already got the idea of what’s going on outside and it’s a huge bummer. With that said, it’s very hard to talk about a movie such as this considering that each and every little thing one can point at, or at least discuss, can be seen as “a spoiler”. And while it’s a lot easier said then done in cases such as this, I will try my absolute hardest not to go into what 10 Cloverfield Lane is about, what transpires and what you can expect going into it.

If there is anything you want to know, though, is that’s it really fun.

Like, really, really fun.

First-time director Dan Trachtenberg may not be J.J. Abrams, but he might as well have been here, considering that a lot of the same stylistic tropes and signatures we’re used to seeing from him, are clearly on-display. This is a great thing, especially if you’re an Abrams fan, because it not only sets us off in an upsetting mood from the beginning, but also allows for us to enjoy the finer, smaller things that this movie has to offer. To call it simply “a horror flick”, isn’t doing 10 Cloverfield Lane much justice; if there is actually anything “horrifying” going on here in the movie, it’s what we think is going to happen. Everything else about the movie is, for the most part, an exciting thriller that blends a great deal of heart, character-drama, tension, and, yes, even comedy.

10 Cloverfield Lane could have easily been a boring, meandering slog of watching famous, good-looking people, cry and complain about the end of the world being nigh, but the team behind the movie are much smarter than that and know the best ways to keep an audience interested, is by giving them something more to chew on. That’s why the characters, as limited as they may be in terms of what we get to see of them, do feel fully-realized enough to where we’re compelled to see what happens next – not just because it’s Earth that’s, supposedly, under attack, but because we actually give a hoot about these characters.

This is all the more important due to the fact that 10 Cloverfield Lane is, essentially, a three-hander featuring the likes of John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher, Jr. I won’t say if somebody else shows up, or is heard, but yeah, for the most part, it’s the Goodman/Winstead/Gallagher show for the longest time and it’s a great one. All three are pros and are able to bring out the smallest, but most meaningful details in their characters that make them all the more humane and compelling, even if we’re still foggy on the details of who the hell they actually are, as opposed to who they say they are.

Well, if the human race is officially wiped out, at least there's still some hope.

Well, if the human race is officially wiped out, at least there’s still some hope.

And this is when 10 Cloverfield Lane starts to run into a slight bit of a problem.

For one, it builds itself so nicely as this small, rather contained chiller-thriller of sorts, that when it decides to turn the other cheek and be something a bit bigger and more explosive, it seems a bit off. Not unwelcome, but odd in the way that it seems like one half of the film was directed by Trachtenberg, and the other half was filmed by someone else, entirely. I won’t say exactly why this is a problem, but just know, it’s a bit of a shame to see 10 Cloverfield Lane go from something so smart and exciting, to something a bit less subtle and more wacky.

Still though, for the longest time, it’s a fun movie that clearly shows why advertising in the movie-business, above all else, pays off in the long run. This may not be good for the future of films, but hey, it’s something that’s going to continue to catch the world by storm.

So freakin’ deal with it!

Consensus: It may get a little wild in its last act, but for the longest time, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a fun, exciting, and well-acted tale that’s been shredded in so much secrecy, it’s hard to picture what’s going to happen next.

8 / 10

"What is it? Godzilla? Or just some monster who kind of, sort of, well, maybe looks and acts like him? Who knows?"

“What is it? Godzilla? Or just some monster who kind of, sort of, well, maybe looks and acts like him? Who knows?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Short Term 12 (2013)

Next time, just hug it out. That always seems to work better.

Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, has a bit of a wild past behind her, but is looking bright and hopeful towards her future. For starters, she loves her job and loves dishing out advice to any kid who needs it; she also is happily in love with her boyfriend/co-worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), and looks to spend the rest of her life with him. On top of that, she’s just happy in general and is living the easy-going life like all young, twenty-year-olds should. However, when Grace finds out something that could alter the course of the rest of her life, she’s thrown a curve-ball as she has no idea what to do. And as if matters couldn’t have gotten any worse, well then, they do once things at the foster-care facility begin to get a bit shaken-up once a new, very troubled girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) shows up, and does not follow along with the rest of the other kids. But like Grace was and in ways, still is, there’s a lot more to the act that she uses as a front, and Grace will find the best possible way to get to the bottom of it, by any means possible.

Little flicks like this remind me why I love watching movies so much. Especially the movies you don’t know much about going into, except for the fact that it’s supposed to be good and that’s all. That’s exactly what happened to me going into this flick: I knew it was going to be good and I expected the best, and that’s exactly what I got. Except maybe a bit more. Like I said though, this is why I love watching movies; this is why I love not knowing too much before going in; and best of all, this is why I love having a movie blog where I tell everybody about little movies such as Short Term 12 because, let’s face it, most of you out there probably never have, and never will hear about this until it randomly pops-up on Netflix.

Well, that is until now. So consider this you’re wake-up call, fellow movie-lovers.

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

The balance this movie strikes between heart and humor is pitch perfect for many reasons, the main which being that it’s present in every scene. Watching these characters go about their day, say what’s on their mind and show what they feel or want to give to the others around them, is very interesting and touching, mostly because it all feels real and natural. A lot of this material has been touched-on before, but done in a way that’s almost like made-for-TV movie way. This time, it’s shown as painfully honest and as bleak as it can be, without any strings attached whatsoever. What you see is what you get with most of these characters, and some of them will take you by surprise with just how troubled and messed-up in the head they truly are.

However, such as is the fact with life, and it’s a fact that writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton doesn’t shy away from, nor does he throw in our face. He lets us understand these characters, the situations they’re thrown into, and gives them the circumstances for which they can choose to live by, if they have to. Cretton allows for this material to go into some very dark, disturbing places, but never lets go of it too far to where it feels like we’re watching a different movie. Don’t be fooled by words like “bleak” and “painfully honest” scare you away from something that’s actually more light-hearted and happy than it may sound; it just takes awhile to get to get you to realize how light-hearted and happy it truly is.

However, like I stated before: Such as is the fact with life. You never know when it’s going to make you happy, and you sure as hell never know when it’s going to make you sad. Sometimes it happens out of nowhere, and sometimes you can predict it, but just don’t have the right amount of power to stop it. And that’s not a judgement-call-of-character on you as a human-being or anything; it’s just the way we are wired. Cretton really shows us that being human, for all of its negatives and its positives, really is a beautiful thing that we should not take for granted. Some people don’t have the same type of life as you do, so stop bitchin’ about your WiFi not being located! Get out there, do something with your life, and make a difference!

Sorry if this review is sounding more like a preach, and less like a review, but that’s just what happens when I see a movie that allows me to think as much as this one did. But like I said, it’s a review, so on with the movie itself, folks!

I think where this movie really hits it’s sweet-spot is in the way it continues to hammer us down with emotion-after-emotion, and yet, never fully kills us to where we can’t watch anymore. Granted, by the end, it did get a bit too repetitive where I felt like I was watching the same conversation, happen with the same people, for the same reasons, but that’s just me being nit-picky. If I really wanted to judge this movie on it’s full merits, I’d tell you that it’s a very funny movie, that focuses on the witty interplay between it’s characters, but also doesn’t lose sight that most of them have, and still are, hurting to this day.

No other statement could have been truer for the character we have here of Grace, played so perfectly by Brie Larson, in a performance that I hope garners her more recognition and notice than just being known as “that Indie darling”. In fact, I have seen Larson’s face in quite a number of indies, most of them good, so it comes as to almost no surprise to me here that she’s great here, but the movie she chose is even better. Not only does the movie offer Grace all of the extra-baggage she needs to seem fully-dimensional and understandable in the way that she leads her life and why, but also allows Larson to show everything about her acting-ability that should make her a star by now. It won’t, but it’s worth a shine of hope I’d say.

"Are you even trying anymore with that facial-hair?"

Only thing in between them and their passionate kiss? His slacker/pseudo-hipster beard.

Everything about Larson is great here: She’s funny; she’s angry; she’s smart; she’s emotional; she’s dedicated; she’s a bit sexy; she’s sweet; and most of all, she’s hurting. Like all of us, Grace is hurting on the inside and rarely ever shows it. However, she does throw subtle hints to everybody around her and uses it as a way to connect with the kids she tends for, but not in a way to make her seem “cool” or “hip” with the kids; but more as a way to draw similarities between her and another person going through the same motions she went through. There’s a couple of beautiful scenes here where Grace really gets to the core of her character, as well as the others around her, but the best in my mind is when she gets a fairy-tale told to her from the newest, most troubled kid of them all. It’s a scene that starts off a bit funny, but gets very disturbing and sad by the end of it, where we see not only Grace’s true emotions come out, but the movies’ as well. We see Grace do all that she can to make everybody else’s life around her easier for the sake of mankind, and it mostly works. She forgets about herself sometimes and has to depend on herself for happiness, and like most of us, she can’t find it easily and usually tends to lash-out irrationally at the ones around her that mean the most.

In other words: Grace is like you or I. She’s a damaged soul, but she’s also very lovely to the ones around her and knows that with each and every smile you have and get a day, means a better life for you, and many more. Brie Larson makes Grace this thought-provoking, sweet and beautiful to watch, and if I don’t at least put her in my “Top Crush List” now, I don’t know what I’ll do.

And even though I may make it seem like this is just Larson’s show, and nobody else’s, don’t be mistaken, cause it isn’t. John Gallagher Jr. shares a loving, if sometimes playful chemistry with Larson and allows us to see him for a bit of a goof, but a charming one at that. Then again though, he’s not all fun and games. He does tend to get serious at times, and those scenes are probably the best of the movie because they’re more concerning him and Grace’s relationship, the type of movie-relationship that I really cared for, believed in, and was rooting for the whole time, even if it’s made evident to us that they’ve been together for quite some time and are happily in love. But still, you want them to stay together, forever. Kaitlyn Dever is also great as Jayden, the newest kid who’s brought in and causes a bit of a trouble, but is still smart, fresh, and funny enough to hold our interest. But, like with Gallagher Jr., her character isn’t all fun and games, and can get very touchy, and very sad at times, both of which feel earned and honest. Pretty much like this whole movie,

Consensus: Many will resonate towards Short Term 12, not because it touches those most affected by abuse and neglect, but because it teaches us all that having emotions, being inconsistent, laughing, crying, hugging, and feeling, are all apart of what makes us humans, and for that life-lesson, it’s a beautiful movie that deserves to be seen, especially for younger kids who need to see that they aren’t alone and can easily always look for help, if needed.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I'll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you'll toates be cool."

“I’ll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you’ll toates be cool.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Margaret (2011)

This is exactly what a teenager’s life is like: confusing as hell.

Anna Paquin stars as a 17-year old girl named Lisa Cohen who has to deal with her regular life as a conflicted teenager as well as the moral, legal and sexual pitfalls of the adult world. She struggles with what is right and wrong after taking witnessing the seemingly accidental death of a woman and fighting the ever-building guilt resulting from her role in it.

Holy hell is it a total surprise that I actually got the chance to view this movie! This film has been basically sitting on the shelf for about 6 years now, all because of the fact that writer/director Kenneth Lonergan had an over 3–page script, that made the movie run for as long as 3 hours. Apparently, the studios didn’t like this idea he had and they made him try to shorten up the run-time to make it under 2 hours. Surprisingly, nobody got their way because the film got cut-down to a 150-minute time-limit (all thanks to the master of swift editing, Martin Scorsese) and despite a pretty big-name cast, the film was released in limited theaters, barely even seeing the light of day. Thankfully, that’s what DVD-viewing is all about baby.

"Was somebody that pissed that I didn't show-up in the new Bourne movie, that they had to go-off and spit in my food? Typical NYC diners."

“Was somebody that pissed that I didn’t show-up in the new Bourne movie, that they had to go-off and spit in my food? Typical NYC diners.”

So after going over the whole history of this movie for you in that last paragraph, you would think that a production this troubled goes two ways: either it’s a unknown masterpiece that only people who go out there and reach for it, will love until the day they die, or, it’s just a bunch donkey crap, that should have just stay shelved. Somehow, the film is somewhere in the middle and I don’t really know where I stand on this flick just yet, however, being the dedicated critic that I am, I’m going to give it my all just for you kind souls out there who actually give a crap what I have to say about this little indie.

There’s a lot to this film, maybe almost too much, but from what I was getting most of the times with this flick worked for me because of Lonergan’s superb writing. This is a very dramatic but heartfelt story about a young girl who’s coming to terms with the world she lives in and she’s starting to realize just what this world is really like, for all of the good and for all of the bad. Obviously this isn’t something new, daring, or original but Lonergan makes every scene, no matter how random or awkward, seem real and to be honest, a lot of these scenes and what he’s having these character say, did ring true to me.

I am not a young lady, never have been, and maybe never will, but I can definitely say that a lot of Lisa’s problems that she goes through here aren’t just what young ladies go through, but young adults in general. Everybody around you just annoys you, you want to get your point out there to the best of your ability, everybody is out to get you, and at the end of the day, you just want to be understood and listened to. This is how a teenager thinks and Lonergan gets us inside the mind of a teenager, by showing us your typical, everyday one that just so happens to be dealing with one of the most traumatic moments in her life so far. She’s confused, she’s guilty, she’s angry, she’s horny, she’s misunderstood, she’s scared, and she’s so many other things, but this is exactly how a young person is, especially when you live in a world like the one Lisa lives in where everybody seems to be just at your neck, no matter what it is you do or say. This provides some real, heart-breaking emotional context for a character that seems so based in her own reality, that you just don’t want to see her have her heart broken when she realizes one thing about the world: it’s not all sunshine and daisies. It’s a cruel, cruel world out there that you may have to be ready to fight off every once and awhile. Maybe that’s a little bit too much of my left-over teenage angst coming out, but it still seems true and reasonable considering the film I’m discussing here.

"I told you, I have no idea where Logan went!"

“I told you, I have no idea where Logan went!”

No matter how great most of that teenage angst stuff may be, the film still feels very stuffed together and I was sort of left wondering why they didn’t just take a risk and end up going with the 3-hour version instead. There is about 4 or 5 subplots here that could have been taken out, but instead, Lonergan leaves them in and has them pop-up at some of the most random parts throughout the flick, without us ever getting a chance to fully feel for them and get behind them. I get it, Lisa’s life is hectic and has a lot going on it, but did we really need those 5 scenes with her and her daddy (Kenneth Lonergan himself in a very greedy role) just talking about random ish? Or what about that little teacher-student “relationship” she may be trying to get with a hot and young male teacher, played Matt Damon? Oh, and let’s not forget about some of the random class-room scenes where Matthew Broderick actually gets mad over a kid totally schooling him in Shakespearean comprehension? There’s a lot of material that could have been easily cut-out here. Or, if they really wanted to, which they obviously didn’t, but if they did, they could have went with the 3-hour version that Lonergan proposed in the first place and we could have had a more coherent and understandable story that lays everything out for you all nice and even.

But even with this edited-down version that were given here, some of it almost feels like Lonergan’s coming on a little too strong with his numerous ideas and messages he’s trying to get across. There’s a lot of discussion about a post-9/11 New York that is very realistic, but also feels very random and pushy, as if Lonergan was trying to find a way to voice his own opinions about what’s happening to the area after that disastrous day, so thought the easiest way would to have kids yell and holler at each other about. Doesn’t feel right for this film, given the story itself, and I think Lonergan kind of loses his head a little bit with what he’s trying to say but after awhile, I just didn’t care and tried my hardest to get involved with this story, as crazy as it could be.

I wish all NYC bus drivers looked this cool, and especially wore a cowboy hat.

I wish all NYC bus drivers looked this cool. Especially with that cowboy hat.

Seeing this movie now, in the year 2012, you have to wonder what a bummer it must have been for Anna Paquin to just see her high-rising, dramatic acting career, go almost to nowhere because honestly, this is a phenomenal performance, if not, the best I’ve seen from her, ever (still haven’t seen The Piano so bear with me for a little while). Lisa Cohen is not a very sympathetic character and she definitely is not a very emotionally-grounded character, and it’s one that Paquin plays up perfectly on almost all-sides. We see Lisa for all that she feels, all that she does, and all that she wants to do, and even though not all of her choices may be the most morally correct, they are still her choices and we have to accept them for what they are because she is a human nonetheless. Paquin was about 23 when this film was made, so it seems a little strange for her to be off playing 17-year olds, but she pulls it off perfectly and makes you believe that she really is this confused and bewildered young woman that just wants to do what she thinks is right, even if it may not have the best consequences for all involved. Yeah, I know that Paquin’s got it big now with her role on True Blood, but this film would have definitely made us think twice about her acting, whenever we saw her kill some dude by kissing him. Rogue reference, in case you didn’t catch on!

While you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell from my whole review, trailers, or poster, this film is much more about Lisa’s mom then it is about her, and I think with good reason. J. Smith-Cameron is somebody I haven’t ever really seen too much of in movies and with a performance she gives here as Lisa’s mom, I have to say I’m going to look for her more now because this gal knocks this performance right out of the park. Even though I do think that some of her scenes, just the ones where it’s her all by herself, could have been cut-out, she still gives us a sympathetic mother character that wants nothing more but to connect with her daughter like she feels like she should, but no matter how hard she tries, she still can’t seem to break the ice between them and get them together, connecting once again. It’s a sad thing to see in a film like this because you know this is how it is for almost all mothers having to deal with young adults in the house and Smith-Cameron plays it up just about as perfectly as Paquin does with her own character. They also fight like a real mother-daughter combo and that’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me.

Consensus: With a time-limit that sort of jams everything together in a very incoherent way, Margaret can sometimes feel like a film that can never make up its mind about what it wants to do or be about, but it’s also much like it’s lead character, Lisa, played to perfection from Anna Paquin. It’s a little-known flick that makes me want to see it again, just as long as I can get a hold of the 3-hour director’s cut. That’s if they actually have one for this movie.

7/10=Rental!!

"Walking through the streets of New York and nobody has yet to ask for me an autograph? Now I'm really scared."

“Walking through the streets of New York and nobody has yet to ask for me an autograph? Now I’m really scared.”