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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Katie Aselton

Fun Mom Dinner (2017)

Moms rule. Dads drool. Right?

Emily (Katie Aselton) is in, essentially, a loveless marriage and needs to have some fun in her life. Her best friend, Kate (Toni Collette), feels the same way and the two decide that it’s finally time to get involved with one of these “fun mom dinners” that they hear so much about. Okay, actually, that’s not how it actually goes down. Emily gets an invite from the two moms holding the dinner, Melanie (Bridget Everett) and Jamie (Molly Shannon), who as a result, also invites Kate who doesn’t actually like either Melanie or Jamie. Why? Simple mom stuff, honestly. And it’s why the dinner starts off a little weird and awkward, until the booze starts flyin’ and the weed starts gettin’ smoked and then, all of a sudden, everyone’s having a good time. And then, Emily starts talking to a cute bartender (Adam Levine), and heads off with him, putting the whole night into one, crazy funk where everyone’s scrambling all over the place, looking for her, while also connecting with one another and realizing that their moms and nights such as this need to happen more often.

This is the part where they sing “99 Luftballoons”. In German. H-I-L-A-R-I-T-Y.

Or yeah, I think that’s what it is.

Actually, for a movie that’s about 80 minutes along, it really pads itself with jokes, random bits of humor, and a plot that’s already thin to begin with. But honestly, that’s the least of Fun Mom Dinner‘s problems, because simply put: It’s just not funny. It tries so hard to be a cross between Bridesmaids and Bad Moms, but isn’t nearly as interesting, deep, or even funny as the two.

In other words, it’s just a bit of a bore, which is a shame because it’s a movie, written and directed by women, starring women, and about women being, well, women. It’s supposed to be a fun time at the movies, regardless of your sex, but for some reason, it just feels like a missed-opportunity for a lot of people who got together, spent some time working on this thing, giving it their all, and eventually, coming up short. It’s didn’t have to be this way, but sadly, it is.

But really, Fun Mom Dinner just doesn’t ring all that true.

These women, while all good in their own little performances, don’t feel believable as pals. Sure, they’re all connected by the fact that their kids all go to the same school, so maybe that’s the point, but still, when they do start to become closer and more acquainted with one another, it just doesn’t connect. It feels like a group of fun-loving gals who wouldn’t actually be fun friends together in real life, and can’t even act like it once they’re paid to do so.

And the part where they reference “Sixteen Candles”. Which they do a thousand times.

Once again, though, that isn’t to take away from any of the respective performances, because they’re all fine on their own. It’s nice to see the always lovely and joyful Katie Aselton get a leading-role, even if her character is chock-full of cliches; Molly Shannon feels wasted, especially after last year’s Other People; Bridget Everett is basically given the loud, obnoxious role that Melissa McCarthy’s usually stuck with, and while she’s still amusing, she feels like a crutch the movie constantly falls back on when it wants to be wacky and silly, for no apparent reason; and Toni Collette, for some reason, just feels bland here, which is weird, because at one point, she was considered one of the most interesting actresses working.

Unfortunately, not anymore.

Now, she’s playing second-fiddle in a movie that doesn’t really know what to do with much of these ladies, other than have them yell and act-out in crazy ways, yet, not really giving anything else behind it. It would all help if the movie was funny, but it’s not and because of that, it’s hard to really recommend the hell out of Fun Mom Dinner. It tries to be the next Bad Moms, but with that movie’s sequel coming out later this year, do we really need a copycat, or should we just wait for a, hopefully, superior second installment?

Probably wait it out. Or see this, too. I did that and it doesn’t really matter.

Consensus: Constantly straining itself to be funny and somewhat insightful, Fun Mom Dinner also feels weak and poorly put-together, despite the insane talent both in front of and behind the camera.

4.5 / 10

And yeah, where they just talk about their lives and stuff. UGH.

Photos Courtesy of: Momentum Pictures

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The Sea of Trees (2016)

Life is better than the woods. Trust me.

After a great tragedy leaves him numb to the rest of the world around him, Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey) decides that he’s just about had it with life. So, in one last act of giving himself what he wants, he decides to travel all the way to Tokyo, or more importantly, the Aokigahara forest. Why? Well, the forest is actually nicknamed “the Suicide Forest” for, you guessed it, all of the suicides and deaths that occur here. But when Arthur gets there, he encounters a Japanese man, Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), who wants to kill himself as well, but for some reason, isn’t as definite about it. Then again, neither is Arthur. So the two decide to try and get out of the forest, but for some reason, they can’t seem to find a way out and continue to get injured on the adventure out. Meanwhile, Arthur constantly thinks about the life he had back in America with his wife (Naomi Watts), that may or may not have lead him to Japan and, subsequently, made him want to take his own life.

Two people who are clearly not on the same page. "Page", meaning script.

Two people who are clearly not on the same page. “Page”, meaning script.

The big question on most people’s minds about the Sea of Trees is one thing, “Is it as terrible as people have been making it out to be?” Well, the answer is, “kind of, but not really”. For one, it’s a bad movie that seems awfully misguided – rather than being a deep, interesting and heartfelt meditation on life, death and one’s existence, it’s just one dramatic moment, after another of people appearing sad and that’s about it. There’s supposed to be more heart and emotion in the proceedings, but for some reason, there just isn’t. Everything’s as dry as paint that’s been on a wall for a week and it’s an even bigger shame because the cast and crew, on a good day, can absolutely work wonders.

However, this wasn’t a good day for a single one of them and it’s very apparent while watching it.

And it’s weird because when Gus Van Sant misses, he usually misses his target in a crazy, almost insane way; sometimes, he can often get too experimental and wacky and just lose sight of what he was going for in the first place (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues). However, the Sea of Trees is a miss from Van Sant that’s a lot more like Last Days, or Paranoid Park, where it seems like he’s actually so bored with the material, that he doesn’t really care about doing anything interesting, experimental, or even the least bit exciting. He’s just sort of there with the material, filming whatever he thinks needs to be filmed and, essentially, living up to the legend that Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back made fun of all those years ago.

This is odd, too, because Van Sant is actually a very inspired director, but here, he just loses that sense of inspiration; the story is supposed to be filled with so many emotionally-strong moments where people break-down, cry, and air out their feelings for compelling moments, but none of it ever registers. It’s actually kind of weird, really – it’s the one and only bad movie that, for lack of a better term, is just boring. The people in it and acting seem like they’re trying, but to what effect? When there isn’t a script or a direction to really work with, what’s the point?

Well, there isn’t one really, but at least they all seem to try.

Matthew McConaughey seems like a very smart choice for this lead and works quite well, as usual, but his character is so blandly-structured, that he just doesn’t feel like anything, or anyone. He’s just a sad dude that we’ve seen before in other movies and that’s about. His scenes with Naomi Watts, who is playing McConaughey’s wife, are awful; most of the time, they’re fighting about stuff we have no clue about, and when they’re not doing that, they’re trying so hard to create any sort of romance and chemistry that’s just nowhere to be found. Once again, on a good day, McConaughey and Watts can create all sorts of sparks and work wonders for good material, but the good material just isn’t here for them and instead of their scenes being insightful, they’re just annoying.

"Not alright, alright, alright."

“Not alright, alright, alright.”

But it’s an even bigger shame to see Ken Watanabe here, because he too is trying, but also has such a dull character to work with, you wonder if he’s even trying after awhile. Of course, he most likely was, but the scenes he has with McConaughey lack any sort of energy that can be found in the actor’s back-catalog. And yes, even random appearances from Katie Aselton and Jordan Gavaris can’t do anything to save the Sea of Trees, or its actors.

Everyone’s just having a bad day and it’s hard to change that when it’s so obvious.

Which brings me back to my original conclusion: Is the Sea of Trees awful? Not really, but yeah, it’s still bad. It looks great, has the occasional moment of good-acting, and yes, does bring one or two surprises to its story. But the rest of the two hours is just plain and simply put, boring. It’s hard to really care for a movie that does some small things right, when everything else that it seems to be aiming for, they miss and just don’t know how to do right. There’s no one to blame, it’s just a thing that, unfortunately, can happen every once and awhile.

Consensus: Despite a promising cast and director, the Sea of Trees is a bland, uneventful and honestly, boring piece of drama that never gets off the ground and felt more like a chore to make, as opposed to a joy or a pet-project, which it should have felt like.

3 / 10

"Look, over there is a good movie. Hopefully. Let's go find it."

“Look! Over there! A good movie! Let’s go find it”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Gift (2015)

High school is life.

Married couple, Simon and Robyn Callum (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), have been encountering some problems as of late with their marriage, so they decide to move back to where Simon grew up. One day, during shopping, a person by the name of Gordon Mosley (Joel Edgerton) comes up to Simon, to see if he remembers him from high school. Long story short, Simon kind of does, but kind of doesn’t, either. Plenty of time has passed, but to be a nice guy, Simon decides to invite “Gordo” over a fine dinner one night. It isn’t until long that both Robyn and Simon start to see that there’s something odd and off-putting about Gordo; he constantly leaves them gifts and comes over unexpectedly, asking for Simon, but stays longer than he probably should. Eventually, Simon gets tired of this and lets Gordo have it, which is when they think everything’s over with. However, Robyn’s fish are killed, her dog goes missing, and randomly, she starts having panic-attacks, which leads Simon to think that it’s all Gordo causing this and nobody else. But the main question remains: Why would Gordo go all this way to push himself into some dude from high school’s life, some twenty-odd years later?

A-hole.

A-hole.

Despite there being plenty more out there to see, I tend to believe sometimes that I’ve seen plenty of movies. Some were better than others, of course, but that’s not the point of my rambling – the point is that I think, after all the movies I’ve seen, I’ve come to know a lot about what to expect with certain movies. Therefore, when a story starts to lean down a certain direction, my brain automatically turns to the most conventional solution because, well, I’ve seen it all before. In all honesty, I wish I didn’t always think like this with movies, because it actually sucks a lot of the fun out, but so be it. I’m a miserable sack and I blame it all on movies.

But I digress.

The same directions that I’ve just alluded to, are the same ones I saw appear on countless occasions during the Gift. However, what’s different from this movie, as opposed to so many other ones out there that I’ve had the displeasure of seeing, is that it goes down a different way that I didn’t least expect it to. For instance, when Gordo starts showing up unexpectedly, inserting himself into this little couple’s life together, and making it known that he wants to be their friends, my brain was already saying, “Oh great. Here we go. He’s going to creep this family out so much that, eventually, they’re going to have to let him know straight-up, that their relationship is over. Then, Gordo’s going to get all crazy, start harassing the family, creeping them out plenty more, until, there’s a final battle between both sides that’s bloody and senseless.”And heck, once the dog ended up missing and the fish were killed, my mind had already turned off and let me knew that, yup, the Gift was going to be nothing different from any of the other “creepy neighbor thrillers” out there.

Once again, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that, time and time again, writer/director Joel Edgerton turned down a different street and instead, opted for more fresh ways to tell this pretty familiar story. Take, for example, the characters Edgerton has created here – nobody here, even though the movie may sometimes lean a certain way, is considered to be a “good guy” or a
“bad” one. Mostly, everyone is just a person who may have better morals/social skills/earnings/personal issues/etc. than others and that’s all there is to them. This not only helps the movie feel like it’s more than just a thriller, but a character-study, as well heighten the tension in the air because, quite frankly, we start to care for these characters.

We care for them, not just because the movie wants us to, because after a bit of time, we get to know each and everyone of them. But it’s never over-done; we get certain, little inklings about a person’s life to where we’re able to conjure up exact ideas of how these people may be. And even though, it’s never fully clear who these people are. Maybe that was the cynical point Edgerton was trying to get across, but either way, it’s still an interesting thought to have in a movie that, honestly, could have been all about this couple getting terrorized and the creepy guy, continuing to be creepy.

Edgerton is a smarter talent than that and it goes without saying that, this being his debut and all, I’m quite impressed.

Not because Edgerton finds himself more off-screen, than in front of it, despite this being his movie and all, but because he seems to understand what it takes for a movie to be both smart, but also fun-in-a-silly-kind of way. This is especially evident in the final act when it becomes clear that this is less of a story about a creepy people being creepy, and more about how bullies continue to be bullies, no matter how old or experienced they get. Though the movie itself is smart and complex, the message it sends across, isn’t; however, it’s handled in a way that makes it seem like Edgerton was actually trying to say something here, as simple as it may have been.

Sweetheart.

Sweetheart.

But still, the characters here are strong enough that it doesn’t matter if Edgerton trips up on making sense of this movie. As Simon and Robyn, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are, respectively, very good here and help create their own characters well enough to where we see them as separate human beings, and not just a couple. To me, this was probably the most important aspect to making these characters work; while it’s easy to say that they’re in love, hence the fact they’re married, it’s what they do when the other’s not around that makes them into their own person and allows us to see them for all that they are.

For instance, whenever Simon’s not around, Robyn casually goes on a job around her neighborhood, re-organize the house, work on her computer, and do whatever else she feels like doing when she’s home all alone. Though these may seem unimportant when watching them, after awhile, the film uses this as a way to develop her character and make it known that, you know, she’s just a simple, sweet and easy-going gal; she may have had past problems with drugs, as we get more than enough hints at throughout, but overall, she’s a lovely gal. In fact, she’s probably so lovely, that it becomes almost baffling as to why she decides to stick with someone like Simon who, being played by Jason Bateman should already tell you, is a bit of a dick.

In fact, he’s a huge dick.

While this may seem like the same kind of role we’ve seen Bateman do a million times before, there’s something darker and meaner about this character that makes it feel slightly “different”. Instead of all is snarky comments being played for laughs, they’re now played for serious breaks of silence, where he makes a room a whole lot more tense for just saying what he feels and thinks. Bateman’s great here and it shows that, when given a solid script, the dude really can deliver. Same goes for Hall who, by now, we understand to be a pretty great actress. She not only handles the American-accent well, but also allows us to see that there may be a bit of a darker side to this character too, even if it doesn’t always show.

But perhaps, the best character of the bunch is, no surprise, the one being portrayed by the same dude who created this movie to begin with.

Though it’s made clear to us early on that Edgerton’s Gordo may be a bit of a weirdo who is best left in his own, little world of weirdness, rather than jumping in other people’s, there’s still something about him that makes him a character worth watching. While he may be socially awkward and odd at his worst, he is, in no way, a person who seems capable of murder, or any of the heinous acts he’s accused of throughout the flick. And once it becomes clear that he’s not really a bad person, we start to feel bad for him a whole lot more and wish that, not only would someone give him a hug, but also take him out, buy him a beer, and develop a long-standing relationship with him.

Still though, the dude’s still a mystery to us by the end and it’s what makes the Gift perhaps more thought-provoking than most thrillers of this nature that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Consensus: Working as both a character-study, as well as a psychological thriller, the Gift is a smart, complex and tense tale echoing in a new writing/directing talent in the form of Joel Edgerton.

8 / 10

Strange guy.

Strange guy.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz