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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Kathy Baker

Nine Lives (2005)

Due to the cosmos in the sky, me and some dude from Iowa share the same feelings for bleach? Right?

You know how a cat apparently has nine lives, well, so do women! Well, not actually, but the movie gives us nine stories, all surrounding a woman going through something in her day-to-day life, whether it be at the grocery store, the federal prison, her childhood home, her friend’s newly-acquired apartment, an ex-husband’s wife’s funeral, or so on and so forth. But somehow, in someway, each and every story is connected, rather it be through a character or some event that occurs.

Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia takes what could be a really ordinary, if sad, movie and gives it a little artistic twist by having each and every story filmed in one, single shot. It’s nothing fancy, glitzy, or shiny – just one shot as we watch everything’s that happening in front of our eyes. And yeah, it works. It may seem like a gimmick, but surprisingly, it’s one that ends up working out for the best of the stories, because it makes us feel like flies-on-the-walls, seeing what happens next.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that's ready to argue and fight about who's to blame for their falling-out before they hit college.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that’s ready to argue and fight about who’s to blame for their falling-out before they started college. Possible clean-up needed.

But with like I said, this is an anthology film and with most anthology films, not all the stories work as well as others. Does that make the whole movie bad? Nope, just a tad uneven and it causes a whole bunch of problems when your movie seems to have some great bits, thrown into a not totally cohesive whole.

And if anything, Garcia wants us to know that, the lesson of the story here is that, well, everyone is connected in some way, shape, or form. We just may not know it.

The movie blatantly points this out about once or twice, in two, different ways, which I didn’t mind because it was where the movie was supposed to be getting at, but then, it starts gets obvious. There comes a point in this movie where two characters are literally walking outside, looking up at the sky, and say how they are all connected through the stars and planets in the sky and in our universe. Whatever the hell that means, I’ll never know (especially when I’m sober), but it seems like the movie wanted us to believe that. Many movies movies like Short Cuts and Magnolia have said this before and it’s nothing new, or original – it just makes you seem like you’ve had a tad too much to drink and smoke.

But the central theme can be pushed to the side when you look at the solid cast, all of whom are fine, but with some being a whole lot better than others, solely depending on the stories they have to work with. The opening sequence with Elpida Carrillo as a prisoner who wants to talk with her daughter had all of the right ingredients to make a satisfying, start-off for what was to come, but instead, it seemed almost too much and melodramatic for the sake of being so. Carrillo also isn’t a strong enough actress to really pull this role off and makes it seem like she’s over-acting, even if she might be playing it genuine and raw. I wouldn’t know, because her performance wasn’t all that good.

But thankfully, it gets better. A whole lot better, in fact.

The best segment out of the whole movie, which also featured the best performances were Robin Wright (drop the Penn) and Jason Isaacs as two old flames, who finally meet up in a super market after all of these years. Both are amazing stars and can work material like this till the day they die, but what’s so good about this segment is how each performer shows something more insightful with their character, even as the seconds go by. Even more impressive too, when you take into consideration that just about every segment lasts under ten minutes or less. It’s strange how awkward it starts off, but ends on a happy, heartwarming note that may surprise some people by honest and real it feels.

"Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness."

“Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness.”

Then, the next couple of stories are just okay, if a bit too dry for my sake. The story in which Lisa Gay Hamilton comes back to talk with a possible, sexually-abusive father is compelling, until she starts crying and over-doing it. After this, we see another story with a warmed-up lover in Holly Hunter, and the cold, cynical type of dude in Stephen Dillane as they go to meet old friends and what starts out pretty light and fluffy, becomes very dark and mean, but not in a good way. It’s odd how it transitions almost out of nowhere, which was too glaring to put aside, no matter how good the performances in the little segment were.

For all of you people who watched The Help, and thought that you needed more Sissy Spacek, well, no need to fear. She’s in both stories as a philandering wife of a paraplegic, played by the wonderfully amusing Ian McShane. Both stories are weak and just aren’t interesting, despite her being one of the greatest female actresses working today. But hell half no fear when the adorable, but sassy Kathy Baker comes to town as a woman who is in the stages of getting a mastectomy and takes all of her pain, frustration, and nervousness out on her husband. Baker is a pleasant to watch, because she’s always funny when she’s bitching and yelling at somebody, but the dynamic she shares with Joe Mantegna, who plays her hubby, makes it seem like a real life, married-couple, who really do loveone other and will be there with one another through thick and thin.

Really nice and sweet to see, especially in a movie that hasn’t been so light or hopeful in the first place.

The next sequence of the movie is probably the runner-up for the strongest sequence, with Amy Brenneman as a woman who goes to the funeral of her ex-husband’s wife, which may sound strange and all, but works because of that. Still, no matter how bizarre it may be for this gal to show up to her ex-hubby’s wife’s funeral, there’s still something sweet and endearing beneath it all that leaves you with a happy feeling in the pit of your stomach, rather than an empty one. Lastly, the movie ends with Glenn Close playing the mother of a little girl, played by Dakota Fanning, and is good, if a little weird because of the way it’s structured. However, the movie shows us why it was structured the way it is, despite it not fully working out to the best of its advantage.

Sort of like the rest of the movie, if you think about it.

Consensus: Certain stories work, whereas others don’t in Nine Lives, despite a well-acted ensemble and powerful moments of bleakness, but also sincerity as well. Still, how many movies can there be where it tries to tell us that every person on the face of this planet is connected, and doesn’t try to mention it at least more than two times?

6.5 / 10

Those eyes. THOSE EYES!!

Those eyes, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

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The Age of Adaline (2015)

What a shame it would be to look like Blake Lively for the rest of eternity.

At age 29, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) was involved in a tragic car crash just off the side of the road. However, because of a strong lightning bolt strikes her, she, for one reason or another, lives. There’s only one catch: She will forever be 29. She won’t age a day, while everyone around her that she either knows or loves, will die away, while she stays the same age, with the same look, and same memories of everything has come and gone in her long, momentous life. This also makes Adaline’s life a bit of a lonely one – with the exception of the times she spends with her daughter (Ellen Burstyn). That’s why when a young, handsome dude named Ellis (Michael Huisman) clearly becomes smitten with her, she’s initially against it. She knows that nobody will be able to handle her condition, let alone even believe it. But against her free will, Adaline decides to give it a go and wouldn’t you know it? The two end up getting very serious together; so serious that Ellis introduces Adaline to his parents (Kathy Baker and Harrison Ford), one of whom, just so happens to have had a relationship with Adaline back in the 60’s.

Family drama is soon to follow.

Yet again, another movie released in the past few months where Ellen Burstyn plays a character who is literally older than the actor playing the role of their parent.

Yet again, another movie released in the past few months where Ellen Burstyn plays a character who is literally older than the actor playing the role of their parent.

Is this a dopey-as-hell premise? It sure it. But didn’t the Curious Case of Benjamin Button have one too that was relatively similar to this? And didn’t that movie actually turn out to be “alright”, in at least most people’s minds? Pretty much, yeah. So what could ever be wrong with the Age of Adaline?

Well, for starters, not much. In all honesty, it’s easy to have something against this movie already before even seeing it. It’s premise is wild; it deals with sappiness; involves a love story of two people who can’t be together; and it stars Blake Lively, who hasn’t been in much lately, because she’s so busy with writing thought-pieces about god knows what. However, somehow, through some way, it mostly all comes together, and heck, even Lively’s not all that bad.

Who woulda thunk it?

Indie director Lee Toland Krieger probably did because after making two very impressive, very low-key indie flicks in the past couple years (the Vicious Kind, Celeste and Jesse Forever; check them out now if you haven’t done so already), he decided to make this is his big, mainstream break-out and given the scope of the film, you’d think he’d mess-up an awful lot. Surprisingly though, he doesn’t and that’s because he doesn’t really have too much to handle. The movie steps away from making this a Forrest Gump-clone in which Adaline goes throughout her long, storied-life, touches certain people’s life along the way and continues to make herself feel better, while, at the same time, still coming to terms with her existence.

This is the same sort of path Benjamin Button went down and it’s familiar by now; so to play around with that formula is really something incredible. However, not to bother with that formula to begin with, is all the more interesting, especially because it makes sense when you get to think of this story and the themes it’s trying to convey. Because Adaline lives with such an extreme condition, she’s forced to practically separate herself from the rest of the world; she does this not just because she doesn’t want to freak those out around her and possibly hurt them, but because she will forever and always be chased after by the feds, where she’ll no doubt be some sort of human lab-rat that’s constantly prodded with and practiced on. It would have been nice to see more of the sorts of shenanigans that Adaline got into throughout her long life alive, rather than just learning that she’s really good at trivia and history, but that said, we don’t get overkill on the back-story. So yeah, it makes sense as to why the story doesn’t expand so much – Adaline needs solitude, and while it’s a sad existence for her to live, it’s the only one she can live with in order to feel safe, sound and happy.

Also, this does a solid job in making us feel more for Adaline, the character.

While Adaline may not be the most engagingly complex character, the life she’s been living makes her interesting enough that you want to see where her story goes. She can either fall in love, fall out of love, or just end up without any sort of love in her life – whatever it is, there’s something to be invested in. She’s simply just living; if she changes somebody’s life in the process of doing so, then so be it.

Sorry, horned-up seniors. Not a freshman.

Sorry, horned-up seniors. Not a freshman.

Another aspect as to why Adaline works as well as a character is because Lively is actually very good in this role. While watching this movie, there was a weird thought that went through my head: Why did I ever think Blake Lively was a bad actor to begin with? Truly, there’s been one performance where I’ve been impressed by her, right? Well, actually, there was one and that was in the Town, where she not only dressed herself down to absolute, grimy perfection, but made herself unlikable and sympathetic at the same time. It worked for her character and showed that Lively was a solid worker, if only for maybe a supporting role.

Now, here, as Adaline, Lively is put into the spotlight and gets a whole lot more to do. It’s a challenge for someone who hasn’t been in a movie for nearly three years (Savages was released in the summer of ’12 if my memory serves me correct), but it’s a challenge that Lively is more than willing to stand up to. There’s a sympathetic route to this character that works well because you feel bad for her, and also realize that she’s not necessarily asking for your sympathy either. She sticks up for what she wants and believes in and Lively does a solid enough job showing her strong-armed emotions in a way that isn’t obvious, nor is too subtle to ever get a sense of. It’s just the right amount of showy-but-not-so-showy either, if that makes any sense.

Basically, Blake Lively is good here and from now on, I’ll make sure to not doubt her, or her skills as an actress.

As for the rest of the cast, everybody’s fine, but the one who really surprised me the most with how far and willing he was able to dig into this character was Harrison Ford as one of Adaline’s past loves. Ford hasn’t been this good since 42, but whereas that was a showier role, this one’s more subtle and touching in a way that touches a raw nerve with anyone who has ever felt that sense of love come back into their life, full-on and with absolute brute force. The scene where he initially stumbles upon realizing that Adaline is his son’s new girlfriend is tender, sweet and emotional in a way that’s bound to make some tear up.

Not saying that I did, but whatever. I’m a softy.

Consensus: The Age of Adaline may appear as a sappy piece of romantic-drama, with a Benjamin Button-ish gimmick, but dig deeper, and there’s some genuine heart and emotion to be found, in both the material, as well as the performances.

7.5 / 10

A 100-year-old-plus cougar on the prowl. Rawr.

A 100-year-old-plus cougar on the prowl. Rawr.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Cider House Rules (1999)

Abortion, incest and ether – oh my!

Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) is a young man who, for as long as he can remember, grew up in an orphanage. He was given to it when he was just a baby and taken in twice, but rejected and sent back both times, leaving the head of the orphanage, Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), to take him in and teach him everything he needs to know about being a doctor. And by “everything”, I do mean, everything. See, the orphanage is more than just a place where a bunch of kids without any family run around, live in and wait to be adopted by curious families, because Dr. Larch himself actually allows there’s certain people to come in who want an abortion, which, way back when in the 40’s, was downright illegal. One couple in particular is Candy Kendall (Charlize Theron) and her soldier boyfriend (Paul Rudd), who interest Homer so much that he decides to leave with them and see what plan life has set for him next. Somehow though, that plan ends up being on an apple-picking farm, where he encounters all sorts of characters and even falls in love, although the happiness he feels, may not be the same for those that he left behind in the orphanage. Especially not Dr. Larch.

Director Lasse Hallström really did concoct a neat little trick here with the Cider House Rules – while the movie, on the surface, may appear to be an old-timey tale about exploring the world around you and all of the other possibilities, deep down inside, it’s a dark, somewhat rather disturbing tale about being lonely in a world, not knowing where to go with it next and how decisions we make, don’t just affect us for a short time being, but for the rest of our lives. Oh, and there’s a lot of abortions, too; which, to me, was shocking for the longest time in how Hallström presents this as something “illegal”, yet, thankfully doesn’t go any further into that fact and just lets it sit there. Almost as if it’s a fact of life that some people make, and others don’t.

Like everybody's favorite Robin said: Chicks really do dig the car.

Like everybody’s favorite Robin said: Chicks really do dig the car.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this movie surprised me once I really what it was actually all about, and also, what I was to expect from the rest of where it was going to go.

But there’s a slight problem with Hallström’s direction, and it’s not in the way that he pictures this story. In fact, quite the opposite – I loved the look of this movie. Not only does it have that old-timey look and feel that we’d get from a movie that was filmed in the 40’s, but the fact that it’s set in the rural lands of Maine makes it feel like something of its own nature (pun intended). In this part of Maine, people sort of go about, do and say as they please. There isn’t much of a hustle and bustle like there is in the city, nor is there a real sense of community like there can be in the suburbs. It’s just a bunch of people, separated from one another, who continue to live on in their own, sometimes secluded lives. Not only does that make it seem like Maine is an essential setting for this kind of story, but that it also gives us an even larger feeling of the loneliness sometimes felt from these characters; a point that this movie doesn’t drive home as much as it totally should have.

That said though, Hallström doesn’t get everything right, and that has more to do with the fact that the movie can’t decide whether it wants to be a real dark and heavy drama you’d see on AMC, or maybe even HBO, or a schmaltzy, sentimental piece of melodrama that you’d probably catch on the Lifetime, or Hallmark channel, had you been flipping through the tube. And because of that, the movie feels disjointed; there are plenty of moments in which a character will reveal something nasty or cruel that they did, but the next second later, we’ll get a montage of Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron frolicking and cuddling in the woods. It makes you wonder who Hallström was trying to please here?

Was he going for the sappy, feel-good vibe that most families want to see, especially around the holidays (when this was released)? Or, does he want to have us think about our own lives and shed some light on the fact that what we think is out there, doesn’t really need to be seen at all? In a way, Hallström tries to have it both ways and it doesn’t always work. Sure, it’s an interesting piece that makes you wonder what would have happened to the final product, had Hallström and writer John Irving (original writer of the book, too) been on the same page the whole entire time (pun intended).

Because not only does it affect the tone of the movie, but it also has the cast feel slightly awkward in certain places where they shouldn’t. Michael Caine won an Oscar for his work here as the realistic-thinking, ether-inhaling Dr. Wilbur Larch, and though he is good, there’s a good portion of this movie in which he doesn’t even show up, leaving you to wonder just what the hell is he up to and why couldn’t we have had just a tad bit more time with him before we had to set off into the rest of the world. Even Tobey Maguire, despite being quite subtle in the only way he knows how to be (sometimes too much so), feels like the sort of character that lingers from place to place, doesn’t really have much of an emotional center, and is there for us to just see what he sees and experience whatever the heck it is that he experiences. Maguire has done this sort of role before and he’s fine with it here, but it still seems like there could have been more done to this character that would have made him somebody else other than just a “protected young guy who wants to see the world”.

Uh oh. Tobey's sad. I think we all know what's coming next.

Uh oh. Tobey’s sad. I think we all know what’s coming next.

The supporting players are better-off, considering that they aren’t paid attention to nearly as much, but even then, some just feel like window-dressing. Charlize Theron does a fine job as the Candy, the girl that eventually becomes the object of Homer’s affection, and while it’s easy to see why she is in fact the one he goes after, we don’t really get to know much more about her, other than that she likes a good time and a nice hump or two; Paul Rudd does some rare dramatic-work here as the boyfriend and isn’t around much to really show his chops off, but is charming enough that we feel bad for him when Homer starts banging his girl; and honestly, it was a shame to see two wonderful actresses like Jane Alexander and Kathy Baker be reduced to playing the “old, yet, sweet orphanage nurses”, whereas we all know they could have definitely done some real damage with a script that serviced them better.

But the one who really walks away with this movie and actually left something of an impression on me is a favorite of mine, Delroy Lindo. Lindo plays the head honcho of the workers from the apple-picking farm known as Mr. Rose and while, on the surface, everything seems all kosher and pleasant with this guy, deep down inside, we begin to find out that there’s something very wrong with him indeed. Which is why, when that area of his character explored, the movie really shocked me and, unsurprisingly enough, is exactly when Lindo’s powerhouse acting came in play. Because through Lindo, we see a truly damaged human being that believes what it is that he does, is regardless of if it’s right or wrong in the real, is his way, in his world and he doesn’t want anybody poking around in his business. It’s interesting to see where this character goes from when we initially meet his bright and smiling mug, to a sad and frowning one, but one could only imagine how much better it would have been for the character, as well as Lindo, had the material here been better.

Consensus: Inherently messy, the Cider House Rules had plenty of interesting ideas, as well as a finely-assembled cast to go along with it, but the script and the direction never seem to come together well enough to create a whole, cohesive story.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"And don't you dare thinking about stealing my cocaine."

“And don’t you dare thinking about stealing my cocaine.” (Now say that statement really fast)

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Cold Mountain (2003)

I thought the South was supposed to be a warm place full of happy, positive thinkers?

Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and her father (Donald Sutherland) move from their riches, and into a slightly slummy, lower-grade town in North Carolina and fit in very well, especially Ada who has the fortune of being stunningly gorgeous and able to catch the weary-eye of any man. However, one man in particular is the one she only cares about, and his name is Inman (Jude Law). What separates Inman from all the rest of the other slack-jaw, testosterone-fueled scuzzy-buckets around him is that he’s a sweet, soft and gentle man. The two hit it off quite well, but not as much as they would have probably liked to since less than a couple of weeks later, Inman is drafted into the Civil War, however, he doesn’t leave without giving Ada a nice smooch, and letting her know that “he’ll be back for her”. She stays there waiting for him, expecting the war to be over in a couple of weeks, but they eventually turn into years and Ada loses all hope that Inman’s coming back, let alone, alive. But Ida won’t have to fear any longer since Inman escapes the war, and makes his way back to her. Only real problem in his way: Rusty, law-enforcement imprisoning and executing war-refugees.

First of all, I know it’s hard to get past the fact that many, upon many famous non-American actors and actresses are sporting a Southern drawl and all that, but trust me, it’s not all that hard to get by once you just pay attention to the story, the visuals, and pretty much everything else that’s going on around these people when they speak, no matter how fake it may sound. And hell, it isn’t even that bad to be honest, however, there is a price you have to pay when you have Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles of a Civil War movie, but the price isn’t that much that late, great director Anthony Minghella obviously couldn’t handle.

"Say whaaaaaaa?"

“Say whaaaaaaa?”

Minghella, as most know, had a fine eye for beauty and detail when it came to the way his movies looked, and this movie was no exception to the fact. You can tell that a lot of this was shot on-location, rather than placing a bunch of over-clothed, over-priced sets and actors in some rural town that nobody had ever heard of, and it works well in the movie’s favor, no matter where its story goes. It makes you feel as if you are right there with this story, just as it’s happening, wherever it may wound-up at. More of that could be said Inman’s story, as he’s the only one who really does any “moving around”, whereas Ada just sort of hangs out on her own, at her own ranch no-less; which also creates a bit of problems for the movie, in terms of pacing.

You see, since both stories that we have here are occurring practically simultaneously, it’s hard for us to not get more involved with one story over the other. As interesting as Ada’s story of her coming into her own and being her own gal may have been on-paper, it comes off as rather cliche and sometimes hokey on-screen, only livened up by deadly, violent acts of violence, that we see more than a few times happen in Inman’s story. Not saying that Ada’s story needed more blood, guts, and shootings to keep up the pace with Inman’s, because when it does come, it hits hard, it just feels like we were missing a part of the pie that would have made that story something we were cheerful to see getting more attention. Now, as for Inman’s story, well, that’s where the movie really works its wonders.

It’s obvious that, despite all of his good-intentions, Minghella cares more Inman’s story than he does with Ada’s, which is fine because his story is filled with so much excitement, drama, adventure, and intrigue, that it’s a wonder why Minghella didn’t just make this all about Inman, and only showed Kidman at the end. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but maybe some trimming would have? Anyway, what I liked so much about Inman’s story isn’t that he goes around the world, encounters a new person each and every day, changes their lives just as much as they change his, and all of a sudden, he has a prettier outlook on life than he originally had before; nope, it’s actually the opposite. Inman goes into the war as the soft, sensitive-type that feels like he would much rather be sitting underneath a tree, jotting down a few lines of poetry that flash right into his head, rather than being the type of guy to put a bullet between the eyes of a fellow human. He’s just not functioned that way, however, he’s drafted into the war, which means he obviously has to be complete his duty as a common-day citizen, turning him into something of a savage beast that knows his ways of violence and the limitations he has bestowed upon them, and he doesn’t like it a single bit. Because don’t forget: He’s not a killer, he’s a lover, dammit!

And that’s exactly what makes initial escape and adventure so much more sympathetic and worth watching.

In fact, we somewhat applaud him for having the cojones to actually get up and leave the war when he has the right chance to, because he knows that this war is for shit, he’s seen all the ugliness about it, and he wants nothing more than to go back to his squeeze and be back in beautiful play-place he calls “North Carolina”. It’s a long and hard trip that experiences many pitfalls along the way, but he’s able to go through it all, just by the sheer shred of hope in his mind. Because of this, we want him to succeed and we care about every person he meets, regardless of if he changes their outlook on life or not. He’s just a man, going about his way, trying his damn near hardest to get back to his woman in one piece, and hopefully live the rest of his life in eternal happiness and love. Now tell me: What’s not romantic about that?!?!?

"Thank y'er darlin' fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?"

“Thank y’er darlin’ fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?”

Well, one thing that isn’t so romantic about their relationship is that the two don’t really feature much of a chemistry together. But I don’t know if that’s a hit against them, as much as it is against Minghella, considering they spend about 15 minutes of screen-time together, and are suddenly separated. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman do great work when it’s their own, respective stories where they just have to tell their story for the way it is, but you can just tell that there isn’t much glue holding them together as a couple that makes it worth fighting and daring to die for. Law gives Inman a quiet, but powerful presence that’s easy to root for, whereas Ada’s more or less going through the conventional, riches-to-rags-to-riches story that we see most movies churn out like butter. That said, both are good, despite not being able to generate any fireworks when it comes to their “love”.

However, the smart decision Minghella made with this movie was not to just have pretty, beautiful, and talented faces in the leads, but to also have them in every other character ever seen in this movie. This is one of the largest ensembles I have ever seen for a movie, but that isn’t used just to distract you from some of the story’s more problematic segues. Everybody’s great with however much screen-time they’re given, no matter how minor or large, but there are a couple of stand-outs that really left an impression on me, long after the movie was over.

Obviously Renée Zellweger was great in this movie (obviously, she won an Oscar) and really gets Ada’s story fun and interesting; Natalie Portman shows up as a widow of a Civil War soldier and shows Inman enough compassion, but also asks that he give her some in return, and then some more; Philip Seymour Hoffman has so much fun as the dirty, raunchy preacher-man that Inman runs into and stays with for most of his trip, and shows you why it’s so great to see this guy anywhere he shows up; and even Ray Winstone is somehow able to get rid of his Cockney accent and give us a nice performance as the sheriff from Inman’s town that is not only a very determined dude when it comes to nabbing these traitors, but doing what he has to do for punishment purposes. He’s a bit of a sick bastard, but Winstone gives him a nice ounce of humanity that makes it easy enough to see the world from his side. But like I said, there’s plenty more famous peeps where that came from, and it’s fun to watch, while also intriguing because everybody’s great.

Consensus: One story may be more interesting than the other in Cold Mountain, but nonetheless, they both come together to make a heart-breaking, upsetting, but also, very compelling tale of what it means to adventure for what you want, by any means possible. Corny? Yes, but it’s handled much better than I may make it sound.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess Jane eventually got her gun.

Guess Jane eventually got her gun. #FilmReferenceKindofSortof

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Supercali….aw screw it!

Famed author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) lives her life the way she wants to, which usually means that she’s pushed-off from the rest of the world around her, doesn’t care much for others, or even being known as “nice”. She’s just simply doing her, and from the flashbacks we get to see of her and her days as a little girl (with her daddy being played Colin Farrell), it all makes sense. However, she may have to stop her ways for awhile, or at least settle them down so she can get some more money in a way that she isn’t as up accepting of at first, but eventually decides to go through with, despite her obvious reservations. The job: Go to Hollywood, meet with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), and see if they can both come to an agreement on making the tale of Mary Poppins that she wrote, come to life on the big screen. The two come to a stand-still in which they’ll make the movie, but she gets final say, cut and edit. Altogether meaning that she and Mr. Disney’s vision won’t necessarily meet the same standards, but that’s the movie business for ya, honey! Take it or leave it!

Here’s one of those flicks that I actually thought was going to do nothing for me. For the most part, I’ve never been a huge Mary Poppins fan, but having seen it more than times than I can actually count, I will say that seeing the back-story of how this movie came about did get my interest a bit. However, then I realized one key element to this movie that automatically turned me off: The fact that it was a Disney movie, talking about how the iconic-owner himself, got one of their classics made for the whole world to see. So basically, to me, that seemed like nothing more than a film company patting their own selves, on their own backs; for what their owner did, why it all happened, and how, even after all of these years, families and children from all-over-the-world still can’t get the grins off of their faces from this decision made.

He must love it when they ask if he's "still running".

He must love it when they ask if he’s “still running”.

So yeah, there was a lot of heat within me going into this flick but something happened. Actually, scratch that. Something REALLY did happen. Not just with this flick, but to me. Once all of the old-school Hollywood, self-pointing jokes were over and done with, I soon realized that there was something a bit more to this story that wasn’t as self-congratulatory as I expected it as being. In fact, very far from. See, this is one of those rare flicks, better yet, rare STUDIO flicks, in which the movie itself actually gives a hand or two for those who write the original stories that get made for big-budget productions and yet, also stick to their original vision. That surprised me, especially considering what the end-result of this story was, but even then the movie never seems to turn their backs on its main subject. Even the one who seemed to cause all of the trouble in the first place: Ms. P.L. Travers herself.

It would have been terribly easy for the movie to paint her as the cruelest, meanest and rudest witch in all of the land, and for awhile, that’s exactly what she is. Sure, she has her redeeming qualities about her in the fact that she can read, write and make the people around her rich, but she never seems like an actually nice person that me, or anybody else for that matter would want to be around. So when she does eventually decide to take the offer to fly out all the way to Hollywood and she gets all nestled-up in her suit, it’s easy to believe that she’s doing this more to find a part of herself out, be fun and happy again, while also reinvigorating a spirit within her that’s been tucked away for quite some time. Maybe I’m reaching here, but there are moments where wee see when, where and why Travers herself wants to change her ways, and though it does take an awful while til she does eventually do so, it’s done in a believable, honest, emotional and most of all, unmanipulative way.

Though there is definitely a large amount of bullshit to be had here in what actually happened during the filming of Mary Poppins, for the most part, it was easy to get by because this was really a flick about an artist, a writer, or a creator in any way imaginable, and how they stick to a certain vision they have, regardless of what others may try to say, do or change about it. As we all know, Travers does eventually give up the goods, suck it all up and let Disney get his way, as well as his hefty bags of cash, but it’s never like Travers herself gave up or quit. It’s just that she eventually moved on with the times and realized that there’s no use at all in fighting something, because we all got to get along somehow, and someday.

That’s why when people see that this movie has Walt Disney in it, those same people will be awfully surprised to see how much of it really concerns P.L. Travers, who she is, whom she was and the type of creative genius she could be if you gave her a pen, paper and some time on her own. And this is why Emma Thompson’s performance as Travers is so brilliant, because she gives us a shrewd, older gal who doesn’t put up with anybody’s crap whatsoever, and yet, we don’t really hate her. We get angry at annoyed at her, but we never want to raise our fists in the air and take a swing at her. Can’t say the same for the people that probably worked on making this movie come to alive with her, but hey, at least I knew that there was something more to her, which is what Thompson herself conveys so well. There’s a deep, sad and fragile figure at the center of this rock, and we get to see it chipped-away at each and every second we spend with her, but it doesn’t happen right and it never happens with strings attached. We simply see her go from mean, old, nasty bitch, to relatively pleasant, easy-going and okay-to-be-around bitch. She’s still a bitch either way, but a sympathetic one that’s easy to like when she puts a smile on, and just as easy to be angry with when she’s treating the others around her so inappropriately.

I think that Thompson’s definitely got a nomination in her midst and if that’s the case, I hold no objection whatsoever. The woman is, has and forever always will be a great actress and I feel like she is the only one who could have made P.L. Travers a lovely woman to be around, despite all of her bickering and nagging. In that general regards, she was like my grand-mom. Except that she actually makes me cookies! Love you, Gams!

Though the story is definitely more about Travers, Walt Disney gets some chances to develop over time, too, and rather than seeing a money-grubbing, shameless business-man, we legitimately see a guy who rose from nothing, to own this huge bedrock of an empire where people from all over the world come together to share one of the most beautiful emotions any human can share: Happiness. We get a couple of scenes where we see Hanks turn the charm-dial on and show us that he can easily sink his teeth into a role as Walt Disney, but there are some very few moments where we get to see a real human being underneath that whole facade we usually see in commercials or pictures. He’s definitely a charmer for sure, but he’s not always like that and when we do get to see the human-side to him, he’s believable and a sympathetic guy that I’d be willing to work with any day of the week. That, and the fact that he’s FREAKIN’ WALT DISNEY!

Wow, P.L.! When I meant by "let loose", I didn't mean THAT LOOSE!!

Wow, P.L.! When I meant by “let loose”, I didn’t mean THAT LOOSE!!

Everybody else surrounding this story that aren’t Disney or Travers are all great too, with Paul Giamatti, once again, coming off with the best supporting role here, despite being the only made-up character in the whole flick. Giamatti plays the limo-driver assigned to lugging Travers around left-and-right and while at first, they don’t really get along despite his best intentions, they build a nice friendship that would seem cloying and schmaltzy in any other movie, with any other two actors, but with Thomspson and Giamatti, it works wonders. Same goes for Colin Farrell who plays Travers’ alcoholic daddy-o that runs into plenty of problems through these flashbacks, and while they may not work the best to the film’s ability, he’s still lovely, charming and easy-to-like, despite being a very flawed person. I wanted to see more of Farrell here, just not done in a way that bothered me when it took away from the real story: Everything happening with the big-screen development of Mary Poppins.

That’s what brings me onto my only real problem in which the movie did focus a bit too much on Travers’ life, as well as her back-story. It’s fine that we got to see where she came from and what exactly made her who she is today, but we get so many damn flashbacks, that it slows everything down that we see in Hollywood. Those scenes where we witness Travers growing up as a little girl, and all the sorts of hard-ships she went through, are definitely the back-bone to the story that was Mary Poppins, as well as this movie itself; however, you can also tell exactly when they’re going to come up, what they’re going to show and how they correlate to the story of Poppins itself.

Then again though, I bitch and I complain about these flashbacks, but yet, later on in the movie is where it also really got tugging on my heartstrings and brought out the tears within me. I don’t want to say how, when or why this happens, but it just happens and it will completely take you off-guard. Mostly because it’s done so in a way to where you know it’s going to try its hardest to make you cry in the way that most biopics normally do, let alone movies directed by John Lee Hancock himself, but it never begs you to. It just simply allows you to and I have to say, I allowed it. I fell victim and I cried. Didn’t make it a perfect movie by any means, but I’d be lying if I didn’t need at least two tissues by the end of this. At least.

Consensus: Could have easily been the type of off-putting movie that cracked jokes about Hollywood, while simultaneously hugging itself at the same time, but somehow, Saving Mr. Banks is the furthest thing from that and instead, gives us a real story, of a real person that speaks for all of the writers out there when one has a vision, wants to stick to it and won’t settle for less. But, also realizes that there is a time to move on and most importantly, a time to adapt and go on with the times.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

There she is! Ehrm, well, at least the inspiration for her.

There she is! Ehrm, well, at least the inspiration for her…

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mad Dog and Glory (1993)

Hey, cops can have girlfriends too.

Robert De Niro plays Wayne, a timid Chicago cop sarcastically nicknamed “Mad Dog.” He saves a gangster name Frank (Bill Murray)’s life and as payback, Frank “gives” Wayne his beautiful bartender Glory (Uma Thurman). However, when the two fall in love, then Wayne realizes he may have to fight-off Frank from his girl.

Let’s just put it like this: this is a weird-ass movie. From the beginning, you feel like you know how this one is going to play-out but as time goes on, and as the story progresses more and more, it changes up a whole lot and you never know where it’s going to go. That’s a lot of fun whenever you’re sitting-down and watching a movie and it’s that element of film-making that movies had nowadays but somehow, just don’t. Maybe Hollywood gets in the way, maybe stars get in the way, or hell, maybe movies are just running out of any original ideas that are worth showing on-screen. But either way, watching a movie and having no idea where it’s going to go from frame-to-frame is a hell of a lot of fun and it’s even better when you have a cast like this.

"That was some of the most awkward sex I've ever have. You know, other than Gary Oldman of course."

“That was some of the most awkward sex I’ve ever have. You know, other than Gary Oldman of course.”

The movie’s casting may have it seem like a bit of a stunt where De Niro is playing the meek, sensitive-type that takes random pictures of life, whereas Bill Murray is playing the tough, unpredictable gangster that you don’t whether or not you should trust, or be totally scared-of. It seems like a total switcheroo and believe it or not, De Niro was actually offered the role of Frank, before he even knew about the role of Wayne, but he turned it down, just so he could show the world that he can in-fact, play a nice and sweet guy that doesn’t stomp on people’s heads. De Niro, in an obvious-effort to change the way his career was being viewed upon at during that time, took the role of this simple-minded, nice guy and does a great job with it, mainly because De Niro dials it back insanely.

Usually, when you see an actor/actress trying their hardest to play against-type, they usually go overboard with playing it cheap and subtle, you know, just so people don’t associate them with the other dozen similar roles that they have played in the past. In an effort to not be distracting, it actually ends-up becoming distracting and in full-effect, it’s a bit bothersome when you watch the performance and judge it as a whole. However, De Niro isn’t like that here as Wayne and really just seems to playing himself, but a more simpler, kinder-self of his and it shows that the guy can play these types of roles and make us care about him even more. Wayne is obviously a very small man, in a very, very big world and you kind of feel bad for him after awhile, mainly because you know that he’s going to get his heart ripped-out sooner or later and all you can do is just sit there and wait for it. I loved this small, tiny performance from De Niro and now that it seems like he’s getting his career back on-track with the Silver Linings Playbook, I can only hope to the Movie Gods, that he ends-up going back down this career-path and making some smart-choices. Or, he could just go back and do another Meet the Parents movie. His choice, not mine.

It should almost go without saying that Bill Murray is a freakin’ blast to watch in any movie he does, but that’s especially the case here as Frank, the sadistic and mean gangster that you just can’t help but love. This is a perfect piece of against-type casting not just because Murray has never played a role like this before, but mostly because he absolutely never lets you forget that he hasn’t and is at least having a bunch of fun with it, in the meantime. Murray never loses his sense of humor (Frank is a part-time gangster, part-time comedian) and always allows himself to be on the butt-end of a joke whenever it suits the script. Whenever he gets dangerous, it is actually pretty scary to watch because you never quite know what this guy is going to do next, but that’s the whole fun of watching Murray in this type of role, and just watching Murray in general. He’s always surprising us and always keeping us on-edge. That’s the beautiful thing about Bill Murray and I don’t think it will ever stop.

Uma Thurman does a nice-job as Glory, the gal that Frank hires to keep Wayne some company for a week, but when you put her next to these two actors, she sort of sticks out like a sore-thumb. I mean, that’s not saying that Thurman isn’t good, because she’s very good at playing this sympathetic, and vulnerable girl that just wants to do the right thing, but when you have two stars like Murray and De Niro absolutely knocking homers out of the park with all they can do, then it becomes pretty obvious who the script had in mind when it was first being-developed. It also probably doesn’t help that Glory’s story could have been developed a bit more to have us care more for her, along with Wayne, but in essence, we just end-up caring more for Wayne and a little bit for Glory.

However, that’s where the tone of this movie comes in and ultimately, it’s weirdness as well. What makes this movie so weird is that it continues to change it’s tone and pace every time a scene switches. One second you’ll have a police drama, next second you’ll have a black comedy, then the next second you’ll have a gangster flick, and then the next second, you’ll have a romance movie, and so on, and so forth. Basically, you can never pin-point exactly where the hell this movie is going to end-up, how, and when, but you don’t really care because it’s always fun, it’s always entertaining to watch, and it’s always making you laugh.

Ultimate show-down: Peter Venkman vs. Jake LaMotta. Somehow, I thought it would have turned-out differently.

Ultimate show-down: Peter Venkman vs. Jake LaMotta. Somehow, I thought it would have turned-out differently.

The only aspect of this movie that I don’t think was as strong as everything else, was in-fact, the romance between Wayne and Glory. See, we’re supposed to believe that these two random pieces of crap would, by sure chance, fall in-love over this one week together where they do nothing but hang-around, have awkward sit-downs while watching television, and even awkward trips to the bed (if you catch my drift). However, when they’re romance seems to face a bit of a problem with Frank wanting Glory back, you don’t really care all that much, mainly because the movie doesn’t really seem to have you believe that these two opposites, would indeed fall in-love and fight for it no matter what. There even comes a point where I felt like it was all a part of Wayne’s wild-imagination to be some sort of plot contrivance, but in reality, it wasn’t and the movie really was THIS serious about the actual love between the two. Other than a very realistic and honest sex scene the two have, Wayne and Glory’s romance never fully catches fire and the only reason why you want them to continue with one another, is just so Frank can come in and screw everything up for them and add even more enjoyment to our viewing. Hey, what can ya say? We all love Bill Murray!

Consensus: Mad Dog and Glory is as weird as they come, and if you can handle the non-stop changes in tone and pace, then this one will definitely be a treat for you, but even if you can’t handle that aspect, just sit-back and watch the amazing performances from Bill Murray and Robert De Niro who both play against-type, but quite perfectly, may I add.

8/10=Matinee!!

Okay, maybe he's not playing THAT MUCH against-type.

Okay, maybe he’s not playing THAT MUCH against-type.

Take Shelter (2011)

Why can’t people just accept that he has a dream!?! Well, a very effed up dream to say the least but still.

Curtis (Michael Shannon) believes strongly that a huge storm is approaching and will destroy everything on a massive level. Rain from the sky begins to look like motor oil, multiple tornadoes are forming, and huge flocks of birds begin to navigate in weird patterns. He also has a history of mental illness in his family and his visions may be from his paranoid schizophrenia.

The “crazy guy who sees things” premise has been done time and time before but there’s something different that writer/director Jeff Nichols brings to it. Maybe it’s just the fact that this guy is actually very good at everything he does. No, that’s exactly what it is.

The one thing that Nichols shows that he definitely is a force to be reckoned with in the next upcoming years. He does a great job with the direction here because the story has this sort of horror flick feel to it but even when all the freaky and scary stuff isn’t happening, he lets everything calm down in order to give us some very rich family drama. Nichols gives a lot of these dream sequences this dazzling look and feel that has you so taken aback by them that even though you do know that they are just hallucinations and not real, for some odd reason you start believing that they are despite what this story is telling you. The CG effects are pretty good, some better than others, but I’m just really impressed that they were able to make any type of huge storm look realistic, given the meager budget they have working with here.

The film’s script is also very well-done because it captures two things at once. You know that this guy is just having dreams and imagining stuff but after awhile, the sense of impending doom starts to take over and you can’t help but start to think that this guy is right after all and you’re just waiting along with him for it go down. You feel hooked right away and it doesn’t stop for the whole two hours that this film has you for, but it’s not just that which got me going. The whole family drama aspect of this film works greatly as well because its very subtle, quiet, and genuine. Everybody hear speaks like a normal person would and their reactions to this guy’s dreams and actions feels very real in the way that people wouldn’t just beat around the bush, they would get straight-up in the dude’s face and call him a loony. The characters all feel real here and even though I can’t say that I know anybody that would actually be as nutso to build a storm shelter himself for the apocalypse, I could say that if I did meet one, I would be pretty up-front about how crazy I think they are.

My only complaint with this film lies within the whole metaphor this film is trying to throw on by our faces. The whole idea that there is a storm approaching not just in real life but also in his head seemed a little obvious for me in the way that I just knew what this film was trying to say. It’s not that this ruins the film by any means necessary it’s just that once you get the hang of what this film is trying to say, it’s pretty much over-done.

The main reason as to why this flick does work though is because of the man they call Michael Shannon. Shannon is finally getting his first lead role as Curtis and he makes every single second work and count like no other. This guy looks nuts and has elements about him that would make him rather nuts but he’s just an ordinary working-class family man that is starting to dream some pretty scary things and it starts to take over his mind big-time. He never goes around yelling at people, preaching about how the apocalypse is coming, instead he just keeps it all to himself without ever letting anybody, even his wife, know what’s going really going on in his crazed mind. Shannon is perfect for this role because even as crazy as he may be going he never seems violent and never seems like the type of dude that would kill his family because a big old cloud in the sky told him to. He feels like a dude that loves his family but also has a lot going on in his mind that he shows very subtly only getting worse through time. Shannon doesn’t let loose until one part where he just can’t take it anymore and just lets you know how much power he has for a performance like this and even when it’s over, you can’t help thinking that this is truly a weird dude. Shannon deserved a nomination for this performance because he’s great and handles every scene perfectly but something also tells me that we will be seeing more of him in leading roles now.

Also, I think that Jessica Chastain will be proclaiming that 2011 was the greatest year of her life considering she has appeared in about 7 films last year, including this one, and she’s great in just about each and every single one of them. Chastain plays his wife, Samantha, and gives you this feeling that she really does love her husband and is trying her damn hardest to really connect with him and help him through this very rough time in both of their lives. It’s also great to see Shea Whigham working again considering the last time I saw him was when he got rocked by Paul Walker in ‘Fast & Furious’.

Consensus: Take Shelter is a powerhouse of a flick with arresting visuals, a perfect performance from Michael Shannon, and a direction and script from Mike Nichols that makes you feel the impending doom that could possibly happen, as well as feel the true emotions that run behind all of these characters motives.

9/10=Full Price!!