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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Julie Walters

Paddington 2 (2018)

Marmalade and bears may just save 2018.

Paddington (Ben Whishaw) has officially settled in with the Brown family and finds himself enjoying all aspects of life. However, he still wants to bring his Aunt Lucy to England, so she can see just what he’s been up to all of these years and why it’s such a blast. Problem is, it’s a lot of money for Aunt Lucy to make it all the way out to England from wherever the hell she is, so Paddington has to save up and do whatever he can to get her there. His plans change, however, when he’s framed for a stolen pop-up book, arrested, and thrown into jail. While the Brown family knows that sweet Paddington would never do such a thing, they do their best to investigate the cover-up and figure out just who would do such a terrible thing. Meanwhile, Paddington’s in the slammer giving it his all and trying to make the world a better place – not just for himself, but for the lonely, rather angry inmates who need a little bit of sunshine in their sometimes gloomy lives.

Isn’t this supposed to be the 21st century? What’s up with that damn landline!?!

Had Paddington 2 been released in any other year, it would have been a perfectly fine, funny, charming and entertaining little movie made for all ages, just like the first one. However, with all of the anger, hatred, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and general wrongness that continues to take over the world that we currently live in, Paddington 2 can’t help but feel like a breath of fresh air that everybody needs. It’s literally a movie about making the world a better place, loving those around you despite their differences, and most of all, having respect for each and everything that surrounds you, no matter what.

It’s literally a testament to love and happiness, which makes it all the more tragic that it was once a product of the Weinstein’s.

That said, it’s not their product anymore and with good reason: Paddington 2, as a movie, is way too good for either of those scum-bags. It’s a joyful, happy, entertaining, and rather hilarious movie that’s perfect for all ages, of course, but also a perfect watch for the older-people in the crowd who appreciate a lot more wit to their goofiness. Whereas a lot of kids movies released nowadays sort of dumb everything down so that it’s just the youngsters laughing in the crowd and absolutely nobody else, Paddington 2 remembers that the older ones in the audience deserve a chance to laugh, too, and that happens quite often here.

I chalk it up to great writing, but I also chalk it up to just typical British humor, where even the silliest of happenings, are somehow wittier and a step above smarter than most of what we see in mainstream American comedies. It’s what makes Paddington 2 a trip worth investing in, but another reason why it’s a movie made so that others can enjoy it, smile from cheek-to-cheek, and just feel a whole lot better about themselves and the people around them. It’s why movies exist in the first place, but it’s hardly brought to our attention.

Seriously. He’s insane. And I love it!

But Paddington 2 reminds us and honestly, we all needed it.

It also reminds us what you can do with an incredibly talented cast on kiddie-material, so long as the material is funny and just generally well-written. The ensemble from the original are all great here, with Bonneville being the general stand-out, but really, it’s Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson, the two newcomers, who show up, bring their A-games and steal the show. Gleeson is doing his usual rough and gruff act that works in spades, but it’s Grant who really tears away, playing the most manic and insane that we’ve ever seen him in a movie. Like ever.

Seriously. Grant’s had fun before in almost all of his movies, but it’s always come at a price. He’s always stammering, starting, stopping, and being a cad-like creature. But as Phoenix Buchanan, the would-be villain of Paddington 2, Grant unleashes a new beast that we’ve never seen from him before, where he goes all-out, has a total blast, and reminds us why it’s so much fun to still have Grant acting in movies, even if he’s not considered the handsome sex-symbol he still was. If anything, he’s just the handsome, older-gentleman who has seen the world, done that, and is just going to enjoy his latter-years, the way he wants to.

Hell, don’t we all?

Consensus: As a tribute to love and respect for one another, Paddington 2 is also a fun, hilarious, well-acted, and incredibly joyful adventure that’s literally worth it for the whole family. And I mean that.

9 / 10

“Put some clothes on, you bear!”, is something I’m told every time I go out to the clubs.

Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures

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Brooklyn (2015)

If Jay-Z raps about it, you know it’s a pretty cool place.

Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl from Ireland who’s getting a bit tired of the mundane life she’s currently living. She has a nice job, and gets along with her sister and mother just fine, but doesn’t know what’s really keeping her. That’s why, when she hears about a boat leaving for the U.S., Eilis gets hops aboard, and heads for Brooklyn, New York. While she’s initially homesick and scared, Eilis begins to get used to the way New York is and all of the promise it holds for her. Not only does she have a cashier job at a fancy store, she’s also caught the eye of a local Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen). Though Eilis isn’t quite experienced with boys, she decides to give Tony a chance anyway and eventually, the two start to hit it off; despite their two very different backgrounds, they still find ways to connect and make each other happy. However, a situation at home forces Eilis to come back to Ireland, which then makes her reconsider what she’s been doing with her life and leave her to wonder whether or not she wants to stay home, or go back to Brooklyn, where anything and everything is possible?

Is this love?

Is this love?

Nick Hornby is one of my favorite writers of all time. Most of his stories are humorous takes on life, but never do they ever feel as if they’re getting too ahead of themselves, or bordering on “parody”. If anything, they feel like honest-to-God, understandable tales told from the perspectives of people who, quite frankly, are a lot like you or I. They’re not these extremely lovable, likable, or attractive people in these larger-than-life predicaments – most of the time, they’re just average people living life as well as they can.

It sounds so damn ordinary, but that’s actually the kind of beauty behind Hornby’s writing.

That’s why Brooklyn, another piece written by Hornby, feels like it couldn’t have been written by anybody else; it’s funny, poignant, relateable, and most of all, sweet. Hornby has, and probably always will, continue to keep on telling coming-of-agers till the day he can’t write anymore, which is fine with me; none of them ever show signs of slowing down, nor do they show a writer who has clearly lost track of time. Which is why it’s quite shocking to realize just how good Brooklyn is, and just how much it feels like a Nick Hornby movie.

For better, as well as, maybe, for worse, no character here is presented as a terrible specimen, nor are they treated as later-day saints. Mostly everybody in this flick are normal, everyday folk that you’d probably meet on the street, have a talk or two with, and leave, not quite remembering anything special about them, but at least remembering that a conversation did in fact take place. Once again, I know that all of this sounds incredibly mundane, but for some reason, in the hands of Hornby, it feels like so much more. And most of that, of course, has to do with the fact that we’ve got, yet again, another very strong protagonist from Hornby who, like all the rest, feels like a real person and not just a made-up type Hollywood execs like to think are real.

What’s perhaps the most interesting element about Eilis, as well as Saoirse Ronan’s performance, is how that, no matter how many twists, turns and absolute surprises her life takes, she always stays believable. Because this is a female character in the lead role, it would be easy to have the film be all about her just trying to choose between what mate she wants in her life, which one she doesn’t, and leaving it all at that. However, Hornby and director John Crowley are smarter people than that and know that Eilis doesn’t just need men in her life to make herself happy or survive; they’re certainly a nice acquirement, but they are, in no way, shape, or fashion, the reasons for living.

All Eilis needs, is her own smarts, independence, and most of all, need to want to make those in her life happy.

But the movie never tries to lionize her, or anybody else surrounding her. There’s quite a few characters, like Emory Cohen’s Tony, who feel like they could have easily been one-dimensional caricatures, but instead, go a bit deeper than that. As Tony, Cohen gets to blend both sides of this character’s persona; there’s the strong, meat-head Brando-type, while on the other side, there’s the sweeter, more romantic type that’s all about getting married and starting a family with whoever catches his heart first. Cohen’s great in this role and the chemistry he and Ronan share, despite the romance itself may coming on a bit too quick, still feels genuine enough that it gives us something to wish and hope for by the end.

Or, is this?

Or, is this?

And not to mention that, yes, Ronan’s great in this role. Ever since she’s grown-up a bit more, Ronan hasn’t quite had the best movies to work with; though she’s had plenty of roles to stretch herself and make us forget that she was that little girl from Atonement, the movies themselves have always, well, underwhelmed. However, as Eilis, Ronan gets the perfect opportunity to not only make us adore the hell out of her, but also view her as a full-on, smart-thinking, and understanding grown-up who has an idea of what she wants in life and is going about figuring that all out for the time being. Ronan’s got this bright beauty to her that makes it hard for the camera to turn away, and even harder for us to not pay attention to her.

Basically, I can’t wait to see what else is coming up for Ronan in the near-future.

But like I said about Brooklyn – it’s everything you expect from a movie penned by Nick Hornby. It’s not just, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious, but also quite insightful about certain aspects of life like family, love, marriage, and perhaps, most importantly, finding yourself in one location. With recent events, it’s nice to see a flick that not only shows the type of inspirational promise that America, at one point, promised for the whole outside world, but in ways, still does to this very day. People who wanted to start anew, or find themselves, were able to, just by hopping on a boat, train, or plane, and come straight to America. In all honesty, that’s what this country was made from and it’s lovely to get a little reminder that, regardless of what one may read, there’s still plenty of promise within America.

Like love. Like work. And basically, just life itself.

Consensus: Funny, honest, and best of all, heartfelt, Brooklyn is a tremendous coming-of-ager that gives a glimpse into one young woman’s life, without ever trying too hard to get in the way of it and instead, just allow for her to tell her own story, the way it was meant to be told.

8.5 / 10

Brooklyn3

Aw, who cares! You just do your thing, Saoirse!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Billy Elliot (2000)

True men dance. So take that, daddy!

Young, British boy Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) wants to be a dancer. Although he goes to the local gym for prepaid boxing-lessons, he has no passion behind hitting people just for the heck of it. Instead, he prefers to learn a thing or two about swiveling his hips, jumping up and down, clapping his hands, and moving around rooms as if he was the second-coming of Fred Astaire. However, due to the fact that he lives in a very conservative British coal mining town and also because he lives with his relatively masculine father (Gary Lewis) and brother (Jamie Draven), Billy’s not allowed to really tell anybody about his life long dream. That’s why he and the chain-smoking, foul-mouthed dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters), decide that it’s best that they keep it their little secret; one that may or may not get out and when it does, will affect everyone. Most importantly, Billy himself who is trying his hardest to be the best dancer he can be and get accepted into a very high-class, prestigious dance academy.

Us men feel your pain, bud.

Us men feel your pain, bud.

Like most inspirational tales, Billy Elliot follows a familiar pattern. Protagonist has talent, protagonist faces adversity from someone or something surrounding them, protagonist trains harder and harder (of course, cue the montage), and eventually, it all leads up to the protagonist having to prove themselves in an epic climax that can only be a single event. You see this with just about every sports movie; basketball, football, soccer, baseball, tennis, cross country, track-and-field, fencing, bad-mitten, and etc.

And now, you can add dancing to the list, all because of Billy Elliot.

Because, like I said, Billy Elliot is a lot like these other movies in that it follows the same sort of line and hardly diverts away from it. While some of you may be utterly displeased with the fact that I may have given something away about the movie, I assure you that I have not. Because obviously, all I did was layout where the movie goes, not where it ends up, nor how it gets there. And believe it or not, those later aspects matter most and they’re what help Billy Elliot be something a bit more than just a traditional tale of a boy conquering his fears and living out his dreams.

For one, it’s a movie that has a heart, something I’m not sure many of Stephen Daldry’s other movies have been known to have. But unsurprisingly, there’s something about Billy and those around him that keep this movie surprisingly sweet, when it could have easily gone sour. A solid example of this is when one of Billy’s friends turns out to be gay and harmlessly kisses him on the cheek. Rather than Billy criticizing him for it, Billy instead embraces this fact about his buddy, even if he has to turn down the offer because, well, he’s not gay. He may enjoy dancing quite a lot, but that doesn’t make him gay, nor does it make him any less of a man than those that surround him.

While I’m not particularly sure that a kid as young as the one portrayed by Billy’s friend would actually be so sure and out with himself as he is here, the movie still drives home the point that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, or what social/ethnic background you come from – if there is something you love to do, then do it, dammit! Billy is constantly being bombarded by the masculine men that live in his home and because of the society they’re living in, it’s considered not “right” for him to be out on a stage, prancing around in tight-clothing and shaking his rump like no tomorrow. There’s something wrong with this, we understand, within the movie, but it also carries a universal theme that no matter how many years we think we advance, there’s still that idea that men, aren’t men, unless they’re eating, killing, or screwing something.

Sometimes, men can dance and be masculine. Think of all those ladies’ tushes they touch while they’re on the stage.

I guess she's Ginger Rodgers, too.

I guess she’s Ginger Rodgers, too.

But anyway, I realize that I’m not doing this movie any favors by making it sound as preachy and as annoying as possible, but I can assure you, it’s very far from. Daldry keeps the message only alive through the song and dance numbers, most of which, are as joyful and exciting as they should be. Though there’s maybe one or two more montages than there should be (we get it, he likes to dance to glam-rock!), the movie still moves at a fine pace to where it feels like we understand what it is about dancing that Billy loves, while also wanting to see him succeed at his dream of becoming a respectable dancer. However, that word “respectable” has many meanings and it’s engaging to watch as he constantly has to battle with each and everyone, trying to figure out just who the hell he actually is in the process.

And as Billy, Jamie Bell does a fine job in a very young role of his. Obviously, this is the one that put him on the map and has led to a pretty respectable career thus far, but it’s better if you don’t think about it as a time capsule performance, and more as one that shows how lucky Daldry was to get him when he did. Because honestly, getting a kid actor who can, well, act and do so in a way that’s not obvious or cloying, is especially impressive. Not to mention the fact that, from what the movie seems to show, Bell did a lot of his own dancing and it impresses me all the more.

Why Bell doesn’t dance more in movies nowadays is beyond me, but hey, maybe in the next Fantastic Four movie, eh?

But the one who steals the show is Julie Walters, playing Billy’s foul-mouthed, but fun teacher/inspirational-figure. Walters is hilarious in this role and shows that even while she may have a funny quip to end every sentence on, she still does have a heart, a soul, and genuinely care about what happens to Billy and his career with dancing. Though the movie drives home the point that Billy is looking for a mother-figure in his life to reach out to, it doesn’t over-do its hand and allows for the scenes these two have together to have a quiet bit of resonance in them. That Billy wants somebody to love, adore and teach him is sweet, but the fact that a woman who seems as uninspired as Mrs. Wilkinson is actually that person and wants to continue to be that person, makes it all the more sweeter.

Okay, yeah. This thing’s pretty corny.

Consensus: Despite a familiar layout, Billy Elliot still features another heart, humor and fine performances to make it worth a watch, especially since it’s Stephen Daldry’s most pleasant movie to-date.

8 / 10

Oh boy-o! Where has the time gone!

Oh boy-o! Where has the time gone!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Paddington (2015)

The bear’s still creepy.

After an earthquake hits his home in darkest Peru, a young, talking bear (Ben Whishaw) is forced to move elsewhere in life. His aunt suggests a fine place called London, where she was once told, many years ago by an explorer, that if they were to come and visit, they’d be accepted with open arms. However, it’s only the young bear who can come and visit, so that’s what he does in hopes of meeting that explorer and adapting to regular, human customs. As soon as the young bear shows up in London, though, he’s left alone and with nowhere else to go, that is, until he gets seen by the Brown family. While the mother, Mary (Sally Hawkins), is accepting of this homeless little bear who is desperately in need of a home, her husband, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), couldn’t be bothered. Eventually, he caves in and decides to keep the bear in their place until it can find its original owner. But also occurring at the same time is a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) who finds out that this rare bear is alive and walking on London’s surface, which puts her deadly sights on him.

Oh, and he has a name, and it’s Paddington.

Somebody fetch this bloke some tea!

Somebody fetch this bloke some tea!

While I’m not all that familiar with Paddington, its history, and all of that, I have to say, everything leading up to this movie didn’t make me have anymore interest. Not only did Colin Firth leave about half-way through production, but the movie itself had to be pushed back from its holiday time-slot, all the way to the death ring that is January. Also, Paddington himself seemed a bit creepy and it didn’t help that the movie continued to advertise wacky, slapstick-ish hijinx surrounding him accidentally breaking stuff. Basically, nothing was looking good for this movie and it seemed like it would just be another failed attempt bringing the whole family together for movie night – a staple that should always be held.

Well, somehow, it all worked out.

There’s something inherently sweet about Paddington that goes past just being for the whole family. Sure, there’s plenty of jokes aimed towards both the kids, as well as the adults, but they aren’t the same types of jokes that the later would be ashamed in seeing come from something aimed towards kids. More or less, the jokes here that appeal to the adults in the room, are tricky, clever plays on words that seem to realize that, in order to have your audience laughing, you can’t just spoon-feed them everything. A slap, a hit, or a trip is fine and all for the kids, but don’t forget about the grown-ups who have to usually sit through these things; which is what writer/director Paul King doesn’t forget about.

But that said, the movie is still fine for kids to watch, if not more exciting. While Paddington, the bear, still rubs me the wrong way a bit, there’s no denying the fact that the kids who see this will become enthralled with him and why shouldn’t they? He’s live, walking, and talking CGI-bear that spouts words of kindness to those around him and, sometimes without ever trying to do so, ends up saving the day in ways he doesn’t expect. He truly is the kind of character that mostly all kids should see a movie about and it’s nice to see justice be done to him; and this is all coming from a person who didn’t know all that much about Paddington to begin with.

And voicing Paddington, Ben Whishaw does a fine job, portraying a certain style of fun and innocence that I don’t quite think Firth would have been able to portray quite as well. That’s not to say Whishaw’s better than Firth in ways, but here, for this specific role, it seems obvious that the former would take over the job of the later, if only because it seems like Firth would have been a tad too “royal” for a character as goofy as Paddington. Still, it’s a surprise that the people behind this were able to get Firth to do this in the first place, let alone have him already shoot half of his scenes before he eventually realized what he was doing and decided to just do a bunch of promo for Kingsman, as it should be.

The effect Nicole Kidman still has on men.

The effect Nicole Kidman still has on men.

There’s also plenty of human characters here too, and they also do fine jobs to where they don’t get over-shadowed by the bear, which would have been very hard not to have happen. Hugh Boneville’s character may seem like a stern tight-ass, but eventually, there are certain shades to him where we see that it all comes from a reason and believe it or not, there’s still some fun left in him; Sally Hawkins is equally delightful as his wife and gives some sort of personality to Mary that goes past just being kind and peaceful to all those around her; and Nicole Kidman, surprisingly, does a good job here as the villain of the story, playing up a comedic-side to her that we don’t usually see.

Or, if we do, it’s usually in something like Bewitched, where her skills are absolutely wasted, but if anything Paddington proves, it’s that Nicole Kidman should play more baddies, as well as be funny.

If there’s anything that keeps me away from giving Paddington the full-on, full-out praise that mostly everybody else on the face of the planet has been able to do, it’s that I felt as if the political themes and ideas were a tad bit odd, especially given the fact in how they were placed into the story. While the movie makes it a point to not make it a total point that there is in fact a bear walking all around the streets and nobody literally batting an eye, there’s something strange in how it seems like it’s discussing immigration, but not really discussing it at all. Paddington, the character, is all alone and left without much of a home, but it’s up to the government and possible suitors who may be able to take him in and make him their own.

A little odd, right? My feelings exactly, but then again, it’s a kids movie so little things like that probably should be disregarded.

In other words, just don’t listen to me.

Consensus: Fun, light and appropriate enough for just about every member of any given family, Paddington is a joyous and sweet little ride that offers up a likable character to a new generation of possible fans and with good reason.

8 / 10

Cuddly and all, but still wouldn't trust him home alone with my kids. But that's just me.

Cuddly and all, but still wouldn’t trust him home alone with my kids. But that’s just me.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Brave (2012)

Don’t worry Katniss, you can still hit a bulls eye better.

The story is set in the Scottish highlands and centers on Princess Merida (Kelly McDonald), the red-haired princess of the kingdom who defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to her land. In order to right her wrong, she goes to a Wise Woman who grants her an ill-fated wish that may be more than she bargained for.

After the disappointing Cars 2 from last year, Pixar seems like they have finally gotten themselves back up to where they were in the first place. Sadly, I think their bar has been raised a little too high for their own good.

What I liked most about Brave, was the set-up of this flick. I would say probably the first 45 minutes are exciting, adventurous, and very funny and this is where I really thought I had a keeper on my hands. I mean you got Princess Merida acting like a cool, young chick that she is, wanting to do her own thing and you feel like that’s what this film is going to be all about. However, there’s a big twist right in the middle of the flick that I won’t give away and then that’s when things start to get…well..kiddish.

I know it sounds stupid for me to get mad at a Pixar flick for being too “kiddish”, considering that’s the type of movies they make, but the twist here just felt like they were really taking away from a story that could have done so much to me. It could have made me get excited, it could have made me laugh a whole lot more, and it probably could have made me laugh, but instead, it just goes for this playful idea that doesn’t talk about Merida and her struggle of doing what she wants to do, it actually is about her and her mother. This really surprised me because all of the trailers have been pretty much advertising this as a crazy epic, with a strong female lead, that finds out what she wants to do with her life and how. The problem is, that’s only the first hour and the rest is left for us to see and cringe at.

Actually, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s “cringe-worthy” but it’s just disappointing to see, coming from Pixar. Pixar is the company that has had me, in the past, drowning in a puddle of my own tears, destroying my gut by how much I was laughing, and walk out of the theater with a big smile on my face, wanting to hug every person that walked by my for the next 10 minutes. But now, it seemed like Pixar was playing it a little too safe with this one and rather than just going that extra mile in trying to connect with both kids and adults alike, they just go for the low-road and make this movie towards kids. Once again, nothing really wrong with that, it’s just a bummer that this is what Pixar ended up going on with in the end but it’s not their worst film. Just not their best either.

Aside from all of the bad things, though, Brave also has a lot of good that I can’t leave unnoticed. The visuals, of course, for this movie are absolutely gorgeous and I definitely recommend seeing this one in 3D. This is the first time that Pixar has visited the land of Scotland, and they make it look like such a fantasy world with all of these vibrant colors popping out of nowhere and long, sweeping shots of land and forests. Probably the most beautiful thing to look at, out of this whole movie, is actually Merida’s flowing red locks that come right out at you in the 3D as if you can almost reach out and nip a piece of her hair out. So whenever the story is getting you down, just pay attention to the eye candy this movie has on-display here and then it will all get better, as it did for me.

Another first here for Pixar, is that this is the first time they are focusing a film around a female lead and I think they found the perfect one with Merida. First of all, Merida is a kick-ass character that is like all teenage girls out there: she wants to be her own woman, wants to do things herself, and rebels against everything her mother says or tells her to do. This is obviously, an easy character to relate to and cheer on but she also has a lot of spunk to her that gives her this edge, where you don’t know what’s going on throughout her mind next. It’s a pretty cool character and I think that Kelly McDonald was a great choice to voice her but my thing with her is that every time I mention Merida and the word “heroine” in the same sentence, I can’t stop thinking about Trainspotting. I know, I can’t help it, that’s just where my mind goes sometimes.

The rest of the voice cast is pretty good as well, with some familiar voices here and there. Emma Thompson brings some heart to Merida’s conflicted mother, Elinor, and also shows that she can handle a Scottish accent very well. So well, that some of the people around me in my screening were actually jabbering on about whether or not that was Thomspon’s voice. Probably the most times I laughed during this film, were the times the film focused on the subplot with Merida’s dad and his way of controlling a wild and out-of-control drunken party at the castle, with the other kings. I think the main reason I laughed at these parts so much were because when you have such vocal talents like Billy ConnollyKevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, and Craig Ferguson on-top of their A-game, you can’t help but laugh your ass off, even when things start to get very cute for this film in the last act, and all of these guys are merely forgotten.

Consensus: Brave definitely has some nice heart, humor, and beautiful visuals to show off, but it’s not Pixar’s best because of a surprising plot twist that takes it right into kiddie material, which wouldn’t be all that bad if it wasn’t any other flick. However, it is Pixar and the bar has been raised a little too high for them to do something like this, and almost get away with.

7/10=Rental!!