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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Kate Clarke

Street Kings (2008)

Don’t mess with Johnny Utah. Ever.

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

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

That Forest Whitaker eye is not to be messed with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Uh. Hey. Freeze, man."

“Uh. Hey. Freeze, man.”

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

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

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

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

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

5 / 10

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

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

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

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Knight of Cups (2016)

The life of a Hollywood writer is so tragic.

Rick (Christian Bale) is an acclaimed writer currently spending his life in Hollywood, where he parties, has an awful lot of sex, and mostly, walks around, mumbling his own thoughts to himself. But even though his lifestyle may be a lavish one, he still feels the pain and agony from the many relationships he has. There’s Della (Imogen Poots), a rebellious firecracker who sports a leather jacket; there’s Nancy (Cate Blanchett), his sad ex-wife who doesn’t know what it is that she wants in life; there’s Helen (Freida Pinto), a fancy model he meets at a party who may be out of his league; there’s Karen (Teresa Palmer), a carefree, but fun-loving stripper; there’s Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a married woman who he carries on a sordid affair with; and then, there’s Isabel (Isabel Lucas), an excited young woman who brings some joy to his already sad life. Through this all, Rick also engages with his brother (Wes Bentley), who may or may not be a junkie, and his old, but dying father (Brian Dennehy), who may or may not have abused them both when they were kids.

Either way, there’s a lot of sulking going on here.

Why so sad? The beach is right behind you!

Why so sad? The beach is right behind you!

Terrence Malick has been all over the place as of late, sometimes, for better, as well as for worse. The Tree of Life was his first movie in nearly five years, but it proved to be something of a surprise, even by Malick’s standards. Sure, it was nearly two-and-a-half hours long and seemed to dive into the cosmos one too many times, but at the same time, it still registered as a heartfelt, intimate and insightful tale into what Malick saw as growing up and becoming a man, when you’re still definitely a child at heart. That movie opened-up a lot of new insights into the kind of director Malick was, how he viewed himself, and just why he still deserves to be a trusted force, even if he is as unpredictable as they can get.

And then To the Wonder came out and sadly, things went back to the old, weird and somewhat boring ways.

Not that there was anything wrong with that movie in terms of its production-design, as everything in it, looked and sounded beautiful. But as a story? The movie was pretty hallow and in desperate need of some sort of heart, or emotion, or insight to really keep it moving. Heck, Ben Affleck’s lead character had barely five lines of dialogue and we were supposed to follow him and be compelled by every choice he made in his love life? Didn’t quite work for me, even if there were aspects of the movie that I did admire.

That’s why something like Knight of Cups, while not totally Malick’s most accessible film, still offers up a little something more than what we’ve been seeing as of late with him. What’s perhaps most interesting about what Malick does here is that he focuses all of his time, attention and beauty on the soulless, cruel and dull world of Hollywood; one in which everybody parties, soaks up the sun, and has sex with one another, yet, nobody really seems to fully enjoy the excess. This isn’t new material being touched on, but considering that it’s Malick, it feels slightly refreshing and more poetic, rather than just seeming like a rich person, going on and on about how rich people, make too much money, have too much fun, and don’t really seem to have many responsibilities at all.

Okay, the cast may make it seem like that, but Malick’s focus is mostly on Christian Bale’s Rick – someone who, like Affleck’s character, doesn’t have much of anything to say. But considering that everything happens around him, it’s interesting to see just how much of Bale’s demeanor doesn’t change, as it seems like he was just directed and told to walk around, observe his surroundings, and just stare at people if they talk to you, or ask you questions. It’s a bit odd at times, but Bale is still a compelling presence here, that even when it’s clear he isn’t the star of the show, he still makes us want to know more about him.

Same goes for all the other characters who show up here, which is why Knight of Cups has a slight bit more character-detail than his latest offerings.

Rather than featuring everyone frolicking and smiling in/around nature, everyone seems to have at least some sort of personality that makes them intriguing to watch, even if Malick himself doesn’t really give them all the attention they need or deserve. Most of the women in Rick’s life show up, do their charming thing, and leave at the drop of a hat, but it’s still enough to leave a lasting impression. Cate Blanchett’s character is perhaps the saddest, most tragic character out of the bunch, with Natalie Portman’s coming up to a close second. Others like Teresa Palmer and Imogen Poots seem as if they showed up to have a blast and because of that, they’re hard not to smile about or love. Sure, we don’t get to know much about them, or why they matter (other than from the fact that they’re banging Rick), but we get just enough that it goes a long way.

Same goes for Wes Bentley’s brother character, as well as Brian Dennehy’s father character. Bentley seems as if he showed-up to the set, high off his rocker, which brings out a lot of intentional, but mostly unintentional, laughs, whereas Dennehy is a stern presence, making a lot of his scenes feel oddly tense. Malick could have definitely dug into this dynamic a whole lot more, rather than just trying to let all of the narration do the talking for him, but what he’s got here, as meager as it may be, is still well worth taking a bite at.

See?!?

See?!?

Still, there is that feeling that even at nearly two hours, there needs to be something more.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities about Knight of Cups is that Malick gives at least some more attention to the plot and to the characters than he has recently, but like with most of his other films, it’s hard not to wonder where’s the other reels. We know that certain actors like Joel Kinnaman, Thomas Lennon, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Jason Clarke, and Joe Lo Truglio, among others, have all filmed scenes for this and can be seen ever so briefly, so why not include them? If judging just solely by their celebrity status and skill, why not put them in for good measure and allow for them to make their mark? Sure, it would be a crazier, perhaps longer movie if they were in it, but at least there’d be something to enjoy, rather than be utterly confused by.

Same goes for the characters and cast-members Malick already has at his disposal. There’s so many characters and actors here that, at times, I wish there would have been more context. And knowing Malick for Malick, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be at least a three hour opus of sorts. Sure, some would be pissed and not want to bother with it, but his fans, and those who admire him most probably would definitely like to see what Malick had in his goody-bags all this time. After all, nobody ever said “more development” was a bad thing to have, especially not in a Malick movie.

But hey, this all just me.

Consensus: Beautiful, engaging, and as meditative as you can get with a Malick film, Knight of Cups may not be his most accessible film, but it still offers up enough emotion and intrigue that makes it feel less like a slog, and more like a brain-teaser of what else could possibly be out there.

7 / 10

The dude who played Batman for three movies definitely has enough money for a private lap dance and then some.

The dude who played Batman for three movies definitely has enough money for a private lap dance and then some.04

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire