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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

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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Whatever Works (2009)

Living with Larry David can’t be all that bad.

Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) is pretty tired with the world around him. When he’s not picking a fight with the kids he teaches chess to, he’s crying on and on about everything he can find himself to complain about like politics, sex, books, entertainment, and yes, women. He even goes so far as to talk to “them” – mysterious people out there in the world that he thinks are always watching him, no matter what he does or says. That’s why, one night, he decides to end it all and throw himself out of a window. Problem is, he doesn’t succeed and is forced to live with his sad and miserable life. It all changes one day though, when a random drifter named Melody (Evan Rachel Wood), comes to his door-step all of the way from the Deep South. While Boris is initially against Melody, the two end up hanging together, more and more, teaching each other things about life that neither originally knew about. Which is fine and all, until they start to fall for one another – something that everyone around them seem to have problems with.

Even Ed is begging for that next season of Curb.

Even Ed is begging for that next season of Curb.

Why haven’t Larry David and Woody Allen worked together before? Honestly? I mean, with the exception of his small bit in Allen’s segment in New York Stories, it’s crazy to think that two people on this Earth as similar as David And Allen haven’t gotten together to cook-up something lovely and magical before. Sure, you could blame that on the fact that David liked to stay behind-the-scenes for a large portion of his career, but either way, it’s worth bringing up because, even though Whatever Works isn’t Woody’s worst, it also isn’t his best, either.

Which is a shame because, once again, David and Allen could make magic happen.

However, time has passed and over the years, Woody Allen has definitely lost his touch. That’s why another story featuring a much-older man and much-younger woman falling for one another, for no reason because they stand one another and talk about the more infuriating things in life, already sounds boring. After all, it’s the story that Allen’s been working with since the beginning of his career and honestly, just taking him out and putting David in can only help matters so much.

And yes, David is playing himself, but he’s also the stand-in for Allen himself, which is a tad bit confusing, because the two aren’t all that different. In fact, it’s honestly a wonder to me how much of this was scripted, or how much of it was David deciding to take an eraser to some stuff he didn’t like and just roll with what he had? I really don’t know, but regardless, David is fine in this role; he can sometimes lash out and say the same things, over and over again, but that’s sort of the point of this character. He’s supposed to be a grump and always have an issue with the world around him.

In other words, he’s Larry David. Signed. Sealed. And delivered.

Others around David are quite fine, too. Evan Rachel Wood’s character may start out as a caricature, but eventually starts to show more shadings that make her likable; Patricia Clarkson shows up about halfway through and makes the movie a whole lot better; Henry Cavill in a young role of his, is as charming as they come and as you’d expect for Superman to be; and Ed Begley, Jr. showing up for not too long, is actually the funniest of the whole cast.

Where's his glasses?

Where’s his glasses?

But still, a fine cast doesn’t always make a great movie, and that’s where Whatever Works sometimes falls. It isn’t that the movie itself is bad – Allen’s annoying writing is toned-down enough to where it doesn’t get in the way of the story, or the characters – but it also doesn’t change much up about what we’ve seen from Allen in the past. His characters talk about existentialism, they fight, they screw, they drink, they host dinner parties, they listen to jazz, they go on walks to the park, and yeah, that’s pretty much it. Occasionally, Allen himself will throw a small twist in there for good measure to make us think that he realizes a lot of his movies are the same, but really, does any of it matter?

Woody is getting up there in age and a lot of his movies are starting to seem a little like the same thing, over and over again? Does that make them “bad”? Not necessarily; they’re enjoyable and pleasant because he has a knack for catching the right tone with his movies and always getting the best and brightest talents for his flicks, but that doesn’t always make a “great” movie.

Even if your movie does have Larry David complaining to the camera.

Now, how could that be “bad”?

Consensus: While not his worst, nor his best, Whatever Works gets by because of its charming cast, but really, is a solid example of Woody possibly running out of ideas.

6 / 10

She's going to learn to hate life and everyone in it after that conversation.

She’s going to learn to hate life and everyone in it after that conversation.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

Jonah Hex (2010)

Some gun-slingers are better left dead.

Having cheated death, gunslinger and bounty hunter Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) has come back from the dead to get revenge on those who wronged him when he was alive and well as a normal, everyday human being. Now, Jonah has certain supernatural powers and skills that allow for him to contact the dead, as well as find out where anybody is in the world. Why? Or better yet, how? Well these are questions that may never, ever get explained. However, while Jonah wants to set out on an adventure of sorts, he’s still considered a traitor by his army, and now, has to make a deal: Stop and kill Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich) from releasing these super powerful and disastrous explosives on the White House. Obviously because Turnbull killed his wife and son while he was alive, Hex has no problem with this, but he also knows that he’s going to have to get in contact with the dead an awful lot to ensure that he completes his mission, and doesn’t end up hanging out with some of those that he himself has killed.

"Malkovich?!? Malkovich?!?"

“Malkovich?!? Malkovich?!?”

There are two parts of me sitting here thinking about Jonah Hex. The one part of me wants to be a very smart, thought-provoking and serious movie critic who looks at Jonah Hex as a pile of messy, over-edited and jumbled-up drivel that the studio had absolutely no faith in, so therefore, they just dumped it out to see what could happen. That’s very obvious from the very beginning, to the fact that the movie itself is barely even 81 minutes (end credits included). Someone had the bright idea to make Jonah Hex, but the studio themselves soon regretted that decision and were left with a huge mess on their hands, so, they did what they could, given the tornado they were working with.

Then, there’s the other part of me that enjoys a good movie, even when it’s awfully bad.

And yes, Jonah Hex is that kind of movie.

I think what surprised me the most about Jonah Hex, other than how it got green-lit and was a viable enough option for some of these talented, respectable actors to actually sign up for it, was just how weird and off-putting it is, even for something that was released to over 2,000 theaters in the dead heat of the summer season. It’s not a particularly pretty movie, nor is it a very depressing one, either. There’s jokes and odd sight-gags galore, but when you really look deep and down inside of the story, you’ll realize that it’s pretty damn dirty and disgusting.

Then again, maybe it needed to be. After all, the actual stories of Jonah Hex, from the graphic novels and whatnot, aren’t particularly lovely stories of inspiration and human wisdom, either; they mostly all just feature Hex himself, going out there in the wild West, taking down some evil-doer, drinking booze, saying some witty things, contacting the dead, and that’s basically it. They’re not ground-breaking, or even life-changing stories; they’re just perfect little pieces of pleasure to sit by and read for a little bit of time.

That’s why the movie of Jonah Hex, despite it not being the greatest thing ever made, matches what the comic books actually set out to do: Give us a sense of who this character is and the world in which he exists in. And the world in which he lives in, despite also being placed in some sort of odd reality, is a pretty screwy and weird one – the likes I’ve hardly ever seen of a big-budgeted, mainstream picture, but more of a low-budget, indie Acid western.

If I had to wake up to that every morning, uh, yeah, I'd be pretty fine.

If I had to wake up to that every morning, uh, yeah, I’d be pretty fine.

But then again, yes, the movie isn’t really “good”, by any stretch of the imagination.

Director Jimmy Hayward and writers Neveldine/Taylor may have been fine choices for this material in the first place, if they were working on it separately, without the other’s influence anywhere to be found, but together, it’s an absolute cluster f**k of something I’m still trying to make sense of. Hayward is a competent enough director to where he allows for action-sequences to play out in an understandable manner, but Neveldine/Taylor can’t stop allowing themselves to take all of the havoc one step further, and Neveldine/Taylor are good at creating crazy situations and letting them all play out, but Hayward himself still wants to keep some of the material grounded in at least some sense of reality. Apart from one another, they’re probably great for this kind of material, but together, they overstep one another too much to where you wonder just whether or not these two actually did beat the heck out of one another backstage.

That said, it’s very hard to be bored from Jonah Hex, if you’re looking at it from a strictly film-goer’s point-of-view. The movie does try to take itself seriously, but then a scene later, will decided not to and try to pick up its pieces; the performances are so over-the-map to where you’ll get a brooding, almost subdued Josh Brolin, to having a wildly violent, overly insane villain like Michael Fassbender’s, who even loves the taste of his own blood; the action-sequences themselves are so wild, that it’s hard to figure out who is who, and where; and if that wasn’t odd enough, the whole movie is scored to some sort of mix metal rock opera that makes you think Led Zeppelin got together with the National Youth Orchestra.

Overall, it’s a very odd duckling of a movie, but it was hard for me not to have fun by how ridiculous it can be. It’s not good by any means, but sometimes, you have to rip-off your critic hat and just let some crazy things work their magic.

Even if they’re magic is hard-to-define.

Consensus: Jonah Hex is over-the-top, uneven, messy and just plain weird, but there’s some charm to be found in that, especially when it’s just accepting itself for what it is, which is a crazy acid western that was somehow made for a lot of money and caught big names to it. Heh. No wonder it bombed.

5 / 10

Uh oh. You've gone and done it now.

Uh oh. You’ve gone and done it now.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz