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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Karl Glusman

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Life is depressing, then you die. It’s that simple.

Despite the big house and even bigger bank account, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is still incredibly sad about something. Her second husband (Armie Hammer) constantly leaves for business trips, when in reality, he’s just having sex with other women; she doesn’t keep in-touch with her teenage daughter; and she’s still feeling some sort of guilt from having cheated on her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). But for one reason or another, he sends her a transcript of his latest novel and it absolutely haunts Susan’s life – in her dreams, at work, at her house, seemingly everywhere. And why is that? Well, it just so happens to be a random tale about a husband (also Jake Gyllenhaal), a wife (Isla Fisher), and a daughter (Ellie Bamber) who get ran-off the road by a bunch of mean, dirty and foul Southerners. What does this novel have to do with Susan’s life? Well, she doesn’t quite know, but the more she continues to read, the more she starts to think about her own life and all of the countless decisions she should have, or shouldn’t have, made.

It’s been nearly seven years later since famed fashion-designer Tom Ford’s A Single Man and well, he’s been sorely missed. While that movie not just proved to be a great acting showcase for the always underrated Colin Firth, it also proved to the world that Ford was more than just one of the biggest, most notorious names in the fashion-world. His aspirations and ambitions with his career went further beyond designing pretty clothes and making a heap-tons of money – he had a skill for directing movies and guess what? It all showed.

I don't know, so don't ask.

I don’t know, so don’t ask.

But what’s so interesting about A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, his latest, is that Ford shows he doesn’t just have a knack for crafting beautiful visuals, but also knows how to make, well, a movie, with a good story, good acting, and most importantly, emotion. This time around, however, Ford’s creative-skills are put to the test in that he takes on what is, essentially, two movies into one; there’s the dark, depressing character-drama about sad and lonely rich people, and then, there’s the even darker, but far more grueling and violent Southern-revenge thriller. What do the two have to do with one another?

Well, I’m still trying to figure that all out.

However, there’s no denying that Ford crafts a very interesting, if at times, hard-to-watch movie. While it’s easy to give him credit for making the one story about the sad and lonely rich people and making it somehow work, it’s not as easy to give him credit for the Southern-fried revenge-thriller. The two are very hard movies to make, side-by-side, but somehow, he pulls it all off; both stories and compelling and also seem like they could have been their own movies.

Which is also the very same issue with Nocturnal Animals, in and of itself. For one, it takes a lot on, and handles it well, but also runs into the problem of having one story-line be fare more intriguing than the other. It happens to almost every movie with countless subplots, but here, it feels more disappointing, because they’re both very interesting to watch; it’s just that one clearly has more juice than the other.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

And yes, I am talking about the Southern-fried revenge-thriller, although, it doesn’t make me happy to say that.

See, with that story, Ford is able to transport himself into far more deadly material, where anything can happen, at any given time. Just the introduction into this story, with the couple getting pulled-off to the side of the road and essentially terrorized over the course of ten minutes straight, still plays in my head, just by how truly disturbing it is. But it continues to get better and better, asking harder questions and not giving all that many answers, either.

But then, there’s the other-half of Nocturnal Animals and it’s still good, yet, also very different. It’s slower, more melodic and and far more interested in building its characters. And is it successful? Yes, but it just so happens to be placed-up, side-by-side with this other movie and it makes you wonder whether or not they should have been put that way in the first place? The book in which Tom Ford is adapting does, but I don’t know if it transitions well to the screen, where we literally have two entirely stories being told to us, with two very different styles.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’m still racking my brain around Nocturnal Animals.

If there’s anything I’m for sure certain about, it’s that Tom Ford is no fluke of a director and has, once again, put together a pretty great cast. Amy Adams gets a lot to do with very little, as the very cold and mean Susan Morrow who, through certain flashbacks, we do see develop over time and become more human to us; Jake Gyllenhaal plays her ex-husband as well as the daddy in the book very well, even if they are, two different performances, both seeming to be emotionally draining; Aaron Taylor-Johnson has always been fine in everything he’s done so far in his young career, but here, is absolutely bone-chilling and scary as the one psychopath from the story; Michael Shannon pops up as the Texas Ranger from that story and is clearly having a ball, yet also, showing off a great deal of heart and humanity in a story that, quite frankly, could have used more; and others seem to pop-up, like Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Isla Fisher, Michael Sheen, and Andrea Riseborough, and do whatever they can, but sometimes, have such limited screen-time that it’s a bit of a shame.

But hey, maybe that’s just me being extra needy.

Consensus: By working with two movies at once, Tom Ford expertly crafts Nocturnal Animals into being a dark, dramatic and sometimes disturbing emotional-thriller that may not fit perfectly together, but does offer up some really great performances.

7.5 / 10

It's love. Or is it?

It’s love. Or is it?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz, Indiewire

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The Neon Demon (2016)

Eat a burger and enjoy life, girls! Besides, it’s what’s on the inside that actually counts!

Just after her 16th birthday, Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles in hopes of launching some sort of a career as a model. Everyone around her tells her that she’s got the look and innocent appeal for it all, making her not only the most sought-for talent on the market, but the most hated among fellow models who are still trying to make it big, but somehow, can’t seem, to get noticed. Jesse starts to notice this and even though she makes a close friend with a make-up artist (Jena Malone), she still can’t trust anybody enough to where they’re best friends of any nature. And if that wasn’t bad enough for Jesse, she now has to worry about a seedy motel manager (Keanu Reeves), who always seems to be demanding money from her for some reason, and a creepy photographer (Karl Glusman), who wants to be more to her than just a friend, but also doesn’t want to creep her out too much and scare her away. The fashion-world begins to heat up a whole lot more once Jesse enters it, which leads her to decide who to trust, and who not to trust.

Is this aNicolas Winding Refn, or Lars von Trier movie?

Is this a Nicolas Winding Refn, or Lars von Trier movie?

Nicolas Winding Refn, for the past few years or so, has absolutely decided to stop worrying about what other people were thinking about his movies, his pretentious style, and his treatment of everyone and everything in his movies, and just do whatever the hell he wants to do. In a movie like Only God Forgives, it worked so well because every second he got, Refn took something odd, but equally interesting out of his bag of tricks and allowed for a somewhat conventional story, play-out a whole lot different than was hardly expected. Drive was less successful, in my opinion, if only because it seemed like there was a real story to assist everything and rather than sticking straight to that and making it fully work, it felt like Refn himself got bored and wanted to play around for some odd. Either way, both movies are better than the Neon Demon, but it’s still very much the same thing: Refn doing what he wants, when he wants, and however he wants it, and you know what?

I kind of love that.

Refn seems to really be aiming for David Lynch at this point where it seems like he wants to approach this story in a straight manner, but also doesn’t want to lose his points with the cool crowd. For every scene or two where it’s literally just two characters, sitting in a wide room and having an awkward, almost silent conversation, there’s another scene where the Cliff Martinez soundtrack gets turned all the way up to eleven and for one reason or another, inanimate objects start to appear out of nowhere. Refn clearly has two sides to him that always seem to battle each other; there’s the smart, plot-driven side that showed heavily in his excellent Pusher flicks, and the other, a more artsy, visually-attentive director who sometimes prefers telling his stories in a visual manner.

Neither side should work side-by-side, but Refn offers up just enough interesting bits and pieces for both, that it actually works. It helps that the Neon Demon takes place in this cruel, dark underworld of fashion where, yes, on a daily basis, people are constantly judging you and aiming for your spot, giving it something of a satirical look and feel. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s Refn’s funniest movie – not that that’s hard to be in the first place, but still, it’s worth pointing out. Sometimes, you never know if Refn’s intentionally being funny, or if his world is just so twisted and wacky that you can’t help and laugh, but either way, it mostly all works because, well, it keeps your eyes and ears glued to the screen.

Sounds stupid, I know, but it really does matter in the long-run.

Not creepy at all, bro. Keep it up.

Not creepy at all, bro. Keep it up.

The Neon Demon is the kind of movie that will spark discussion about what it means, what it’s trying to say (other than the world of modeling is terrible), or how it ends, which is actually great to have. It seems that a lot of directors and writers don’t have as big of guts as Refn does, when it comes to keeping your audience in the dark about, well, almost everything and being perfectly content with that. Sometimes, the directors/writers feel self-conscious and don’t want to be looked at as “pretentious” or better yet, “mean” – Refn doesn’t care about these labels. Actually, he probably embraces them.

It gives him more time to play around with this already-odd story, vivid characters, and slew of actors who, honestly fit each and every role to a T. Elle Fanning definitely seems to have passed her older sis as the more dominate actress and well, there’s a good reason why: She’s clearly got more versatility. As the very young and satiable Jesse, Fanning does a lot with very little; she seems naive enough to get caught and wrapped-up in the utter sleaze of this world, but we also know that there’s something darker deep down inside of her that makes us think she knows a little more than she lets on. Either way, Fanning has to do a lot here with her performance, that doesn’t necessarily consist of a lot of heavy-lifting, but allowing herself to be plain in most scenes where she isn’t the most colorful character, but then change it all around to proving that she does have a voice and remind us that, yes, she is the lead character in this tale of hers.

The others in the cast are pretty great, too, and do more than just help round out the odd characters. Abbey Lee Kershaw and Bella Heathcote, not only look alike, but are pitch perfect in their roles as two, slightly older models who are struggling to be noticed because of the beautiful Jesse’s presence; Jena Malone plays a make-up artist who seems to have something of a crush on her and it’s a fun role for someone who enjoys playing it straight; Karl Glusman, despite being terrible in Love, actually does well here as the kind of creepy boyfriend; Desmond Harrington shows up as a creepy photographer and is, well, effectively creepy; Christina Hendricks shows up in literally one scene as a scouting agent and is so perfect that I missed her the rest of the movie; and Keanu Reeves, in one of his far better roles as of late, gets a chance to camp it up as a sleazy and perverted hotel manager, always having something funny to say and working perfectly within Refn’s universe.

A possible team-up in the future? Let’s hope, as the world would be a much better place with Refn-Reeves movies.

Consensus: Not totally coherent, the Neon Demon will most likely push a lot of people away, but that’s sort of the point and it’s why Refn’s direction, as scattered as it may be, is consistently interesting, dark, and fun to think about long afterwards.

7.5 / 10

It's a good look on you, Dakota, ehrm, Elle.

It’s a good look on you, Dakota, ehrm, uh, Elle.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Love (2015)

Who doesn’t like a little sex?

Murphy (Karl Glusman) is a film fanatic/student living in Paris for the time being, which he hopes to find him some sort of artistic inspiration to actually go out there, make movies, and do what he has always dreamed of. But obviously, he gets a little side-tracked by said plans when he meets the luscious and lovely Electra (Aomi Muyock). Though it takes some time, and plenty of sex, the two eventually fall in love and realize what can happen when two people fall desperately, hopelessly and madly in love with one another. Obviously, they have their highs, and they have their lows, but after awhile, it becomes clear that they may be having too many more lows than highs. In the meantime, though, we also focus on Murphy and his relationship with a fellow French gal, Omi (Klara Kristin), who is his neighbor and also happens to catch his eye when she gets invited to a threesome. Predictably, what starts off as just a simple moment of sexual, fiery fun, soon turns out to be something much more serious, where words, emotions and bodily-fluids are exchanged more than just once and it puts all three of their lives in a tailspin where they don’t know where to go, what to do, and just how to function if they don’t have a love in their life.

That's how every relationship starts and, mostly, is doomed.

That’s how every relationship starts and, mostly, is doomed.

By now, it’s kind of hard to get shocked or surprised by Gaspar Noé. His movies, while bordering on excess, turn out to be the most outright in-your-face, dirty and naked things ever graced on the silver-screen that isn’t also called “porn”. Sure, could you say that a few of his movies could classify as such? Oh, definitely. But Noé himself feels as if he’s far different and in ways, better than that and instead, gives his various moments of sex and nudity, a story to work with and emotion. Regardless of whether actually work or are, for lack of a better term, effective, doesn’t matter because Noé clearly thinks there’s a distinction between his films, and pornography.

Although with Love, there really isn’t much of one.

What’s odd about Love is how personal it feels to Noé; with his past flicks, it seems as if Noé was just setting right out to shock audiences, without really caring about how hard of an impact his stories made. All he cared about doing was giving people plenty of nudity, sex and dirtiness to soak up in and wonder just how he put it all together. But here, it’s obvious that Noé has a story that’s close to his heart to tell and it’s a surprise, considering how little of the movie actually focuses on the emotion of that story, and much more on, once again, the sex, the nudity and the dirtiness of everything else.

This isn’t to say that Love finds Noé forgetting about his artistic side, as the movie is still quite pretty to look at and interesting, if only on a visual level, but there’s no real story here to work with. All it seems to be is a simple tale of one, dull American guy, getting wrapped up, literally and figuratively, in two French woman, acting like a general jack-ass, getting addicted to drugs, having sex, and that’s basically it. But because Noé frames it in such an unconventional way, with a non-linear structure that seems to jump one times too many, it’s supposed to shake things up and keep us on-edge as to where the story is going to go next, who’s heart is going to be broken, and just who is going to give us the next scene of full-frontal nudity. Of course, none of it’s ever actually interesting or compelling to sit by – it’s just boring.

And that is, perhaps, the biggest sin Noé commits here.

Bath-tubs are supposed to relaxing and chill. but apparently not in a Gaspar Noé movie!

Bathtubs are supposed to relaxing and chill. but apparently not in a Gaspar Noé movie!

Say what you will about Irreversible or Enter the Void, though they’re both gritty and often times, disgusting, there’s at least something of a story tiding them along that makes all of the camera-trickery and general ugliness bearable – Love isn’t that kind of movie. Instead, we watch as characters we don’t care about or identify with, have sex, speak to one another about subjects like film, sex, love, relationships, art, drugs, and spend a good portion of the movie acting as if they’re reading every single line of the script, off the script itself. This isn’t to say that each and every actor here is a bad one, but considering that Noé actually met the two leads in a club, it goes to show you just what kind of issues your movie can have, if you don’t have the script, nor the actors to deliver ’em.

In Irreversible, the script was fine, if a bit obvious. But the reason why it worked as well as it did, or at least, held something of an impact, was because the cast was so great and clearly ready to dig themselves deep into this story, and all that it had to offer them. The actors in Love, are obviously not at all trained, which is fine, but the movie relies too heavily on them to carry certain scenes that are supposed to be engaging, smart and powerful. Karl Glusman gets a bit better as the movie goes along, if only because his character becomes more and more of a dick, that it’s actually entertaining to hear him rant and rave about such things like why America rules, even though he’s living in Paris and making friends with all sorts of French people, but other than him, there’s nobody else.

Nope, in fact, it’s just Noé himself who is the star here. It’s clear that he is from the very start and while he sure does love his nudity, his sex, and the way his characters yell and fight with one another about the meaning of life, love and God, at the end of the day, it’s Noé himself who gets the final word in on everything.

For better, but most definitely, in Love‘s case, for worse.

Consensus: Despite a deeply personal story from Noé, Love is nothing more than just another one of his excessive trips into random people’s bedrooms that we don’t really care about, or actually want to see get it on in the first place.

3 / 10

Three's a company, so why not have sex with said company?

Three’s a company, so why not have sex with said company?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Stonewall (2015)

I don’t even think homosexuals want Roland Emmerich voicing his support.

The 1969 Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City are considered one of the main kicking-off points in LGBT history. But before this moment in history occurs, we get to see how everything was beforehand, and through the eyes of Danny (Jeremy Irvine). Danny is a small-town boy from Indiana who, for controversial reasons, has fled his hometown in hopes that he’ll find a new life and possibly go to college at Columbia. But for now, Danny wants to enjoy his time around people he never quite had the chance to back when he was living at home and it all starts with Ramona (Jonny Beauchamp) – someone who takes a liking to Danny right away. So much so that once Danny starts to shack up with local liberal rights activist Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), he’s as jealous as can be. For Danny though, he’s living the life that he never could and is absolutely loving every second of it. Eventually though, reality sets in and he not only realizes that he wants to make something out of his life than hustling on the street for whatever nickels and dimes he can scrounge up; he wants to make his voice heard and better yet, he wants to stand up for what he believes in.

"Freedom! Or, something!"

“Freedom! Or, something!”

When I hear “heartfelt, emotional, and character-driven historical account”, nowhere at all does my mind come near the name, “Roland Emmerich”. The same director who’s created such disasters (literally) like 2012, Independence Day, the Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, Stargate, and many more that I don’t want to even speak of, is also the same guy who I imagines just sits around, throwing bricks around his mansion, seeing what he can break in the most awesomely outrageous and unbelievable way imaginable. He’s not, honestly, the same guy whom I’d expect to take an account of seminal moment in LGBT history and give it the movie it deserves.

And don’t worry, he still doesn’t deliver that movie.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was at least somewhat tickled by what Emmerich is appearing to try here. Basically, Stonewall takes this moment in history, and plays it all out through the eyes of this random, seemingly fictional that, of course, has to be around so that we can see everything he sees, take everything that he takes in, experience the way he experienced it, and well, learn some neat anecdotes about being gay in NYC during the mid-to-late-60’s while he learns them. Obviously, this is a manipulative narrative-device so that the movie can appeal to a broader audience, but it was one that I didn’t mind.

For one, Danny himself has his own backstory that, albeit conventional, is at least interesting enough to deserve some attention. Also, the fact that Danny himself is a homosexual, trying to come to terms with his sexual orientation and the sorts of trials and trepidations he’s to face, makes the fact that he’s around and about, not all that annoying. Sure, Emmerich’s trying to make this something along the lines of Forrest Gump, but you know what? It worked. I was interested, I was paying attention, and most of all, I was learning a few new things that I didn’t know beforehand.

So sue me!

But then, of course, Emmerich’s usual tendencies come into play where it seems like we’re getting the work of a director who seems a whole lot more concerned with being over-the-top and making sure that his message hits everybody straight in the face. In a way, this is fun to watch in a campy, none-too-serious way, but by the same token, it also seems to do a great disservice to the actual story of Stonewall itself, the people who were involved with it, and what it helped to do for some time to come. None of that is ever quite evident or made known, mostly because Emmerich seems distracted elsewhere.

And most of that comes down to the fact that Danny himself, the blonde, chiseled, and hunky man from Indiana, really doesn’t need to be in this story and just gets in the way of everything. Through Danny, Emmerich seems like he’s trying to study the predicament of having a peaceful protest, against a violent one, but never seems to go anywhere deep, smart, or meaningful with them. It’s almost as if once Emmerich brought the idea up, he thought it’d be too boring and threw more scenes of Danny having sex where he’s either in pain, or crying, or clearly wanting to be elsewhere. There’s one exception, but honestly, it’s so slight, it hardly matters.

Where's the flying-saucers when you need 'em the most, Roland?

Where’s the flying-saucers when you need ’em the most, Roland?

This isn’t to say that Jeremy Irvine isn’t bad as Danny, either, it’s just that he’s such a brick wall, he doesn’t really factor in much to the story. The best moments Irvine has is when Danny’s forced to break out of his shell a bit by acting wild and flamboyant like his fellow friends – every other time, though, he’s mostly just there, helping the story to move on along. Everybody else around him is saddled with more eccentric, lively performances and while most of them try, they’re mostly given a poor script that makes it seem like they coached how to deliver each line, four or five different times, with almost each and every different time being put in the final-cut.

But to be honest, I want to give Emmerich the benefit of the doubt here.

It’s interesting to see him not just throw his own money on the table and create his own tribute to the Stonewall riots (or some hot dude named Danny), but to also seem like he’s giving it his honest-to-god shot here. For that, I give him at least some credit; however, it doesn’t make him, or the movie, itself, better. It just gives us a dude who clearly has good intentions, but doesn’t know how to display them in a smart way.

I guess this just leaves the path for another Stonewall movie to come around soon enough then, eh?

Consensus: Despite Emmerich seeming like he’s trying his hardest, and at least, succeeding slightly, Stonewall is too distracted and silly to really drive home the cause it’s fighting for.

4 / 10

Coming soon to a Broadway theater near you.

Coming soon to a Broadway theater near you.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz