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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Keir O’Donnell

Gifted (2017)

Math is hard. But man, it sure can bring families together.

Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy named Mary (Mckenna Grace), who also happens to be his niece. His sister/Mary’s mother, unfortunately, killed herself due to issues with the family and it’s because of this that Frank has taken it upon himself to ensure that Mary doesn’t turn out to have too much pressure put on her. However, she’s incredibly brilliant, is very good at math, and doesn’t just know it, but also allows for everyone around her to know it, too. It’s both a blessing, as well as a curse – a blessing because she’s smart and will always be successful, but a curse because going to the public school that she’s at, doesn’t really challenge her. Like, at all. Eventually, people around Mary begin to take notice and worry that she’s not being challenged as much as she should. Enter Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), who sees it as her task to help get Mary the right treatment she deserves for her genius brain and ensure that her career is an accomplished and masterful one, much like hers was.

You can find out what the square-root of 3,005 is, but you still can’t read? What child prodigy you are!

Everything about the way Gifted looks, feels, hell, even sounds, just brings gags to my throat. It’s not that I don’t mind these schmaltzy tales of hot, attractive people battling happiness and love, but it’s that so often, they aren’t done correctly. Of course, Nicholas Sparks is definitely to be blamed for that, but it goes one step further than that – it almost feels like these kinds of movies are bound to fail, right from the instance that they are announced, filmed, and released to the wide public. The only kind of schmaltz that seems to work nowadays is the pure Oscar-bait that cares about as tears, as much as they care about votes, which means that they want people to cry, by any means necessary.

And then, like I’ve said before, there’s Gifted, a movie that should have absolutely despised and hated, yet, somehow, came away thinking, “Man, why can’t all these kinds of movies be like this?”

Which is to say that, yes, Gifted works. Is it a perfect movie? Nope. Is it an original one? Not really. Is it still kind of schmaltzy and manipulative? Sort of, yes. But everything about it still kind of works in the way that you wouldn’t expect it to. For one, it actually has a heart and soul that you can feel, not just because it’s telling you to feel it, but because the characters are so lovely, the relationships are so well-drawn, and yes, the actual story is worth getting wrapped-up in.

It’s not a very complex tale, but it didn’t need to be; Sparks’ movies are always so bogged down in silly twists, like alcoholic, abusive ex-husbands, or plot-contrived cancer-scares, that after awhile, it’s nice to get a movie that gives us characters, a conflict, and allows it all to play out, without trying too hard to add too much into the rest of the mix. Director Marc Webb and screenwriter Nick Flynn know what they’re working with here and because of that, it doesn’t feel like they’re taking any cheap shots.

Essentially, what we see is what we get.

Don’t worry, everyone: Octavia is just the sassy black neighbor. Not the sassy black nanny. For once.

Of course, that sounds so easy when put like that, but honestly, it’s just nice to get one of these movies. Flynn’s screenplay is solid in that every character has at least one funny-quip to use at their disposal, but everyone still feels like well-rounded, three-dimensional characters, not made out to be god-like creatures, of fire-breathing devil-worshipers – everyone here is a human being, and in that sense, they’re all complicated. Flynn doesn’t forget to overdue the cute nature of his story, but hey, it’s not cloying, which is all that matters.

And Webb, while no doubt trying to get back in his good graces after the two Spider-Man movies, finds himself giving us a smart, humane tale about humans again. Sure, it’s nowhere near (500) Days of Summer, but then again, not many movies are; it’s just nice to have him back, directing original flicks for a change. Hopefully, he’s here to stay and not ready to get sucked up by the machine that is known as Hollywood.

Because what better way to stick it to the man than have your movie star Captain America himself, Chris Evans?

No, I kid. Regardless, Evans is good here in that he’s his usual charming, snappy-self, but there’s also more to him than meets the surface; the relaxed, chill nature he gives off, eventually starts to show signs of sadness that’s deeper than you’d think. Evans has been looking for a hit outside of the Marvel universe for quite some time and it’s nice to see him finally get it here. Of course, though, the movie is definitely Mckenna Grace’s for the taking and as Mary, she’s quite great. Sure, the character is a type, in that she’s precocious as hell and seems like a 30-year-old trapped inside of a 7-year-old’s body, but it works because you believe in her as this character. If she ever is annoying, or a bit of a pain, it’s because she’s meant to be and not because the movie thinks that she’s just way too cute for our own good.

She is, surprisingly enough, like a real kid. And we get so very few of them in movies nowadays.

Consensus: As schmaltzy and sappy as it can sometimes get, Gifted also works because it has a heart, well-written script, and most of all, solid ensemble of characters who all feel realized and interesting, despite the eventual conventions of the plot.

7 / 10

Like uncle, like niece. Right?

Photos Courtesy of: SlashfilmThrifty Jinxy, Indiewire

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American Sniper (2014)

Seems like sniping somebody in real-life is a lot harder than it is on COD.

Texas-born and bred Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) knew that he had a calling in life, but until 9/11, he didn’t know what. Once he realized that his country was going to war, he enlisted himself and not only became a Navy SEAL, but also became one of the most decorated, most lethal snipers in war history – averaging roughly around 160 kills over four tours. Surely that deserves a lot of hoo-rah praise and love, right? Well, yes, of course it does. However, at what cost? Kyle doesn’t understand this question until he comes back home to his wife (Sienna Miller) and kids, only to find himself suffering from massive bouts of PTSD, but having no clue how to handle it, or whom to talk to. Basically, he’s left to fend for himself and figure out just what all of the killing meant for him. Was it nothing? Or simply put, was it just to give his life some purpose and stand up for the country that he so heartily loved and adored.

Many war movies are made today. That much is a fact. However, there’s always a problem with figuring out which war movies can be placed into which category. For instance, there’s the kind of war movie that loves to glamorize and pat each and everyone of its soldiers on their backs, without ever going deeper and deeper into those soldiers minds, or even hinting at something being messed-up in their minds (like, say, the Kingdom). But then there’s also the kind of war movie that shows all of the heroic actions its subjects take, yet, still explores the possibility of getting into the minds of them and discovering if any of the fighting, killing and blood was worth it all (like, say, the Hurt Locker).

Well, we're all going to die someday. That much is true.

Well, we’re all going to die someday. That much is true.

Somehow though, American Sniper finds itself placed firmly in the middle. And while that would seem like quite a problem, tonally-wise, Clint Eastwood shows that he’s willing to shed light on both aspects, without ever favoring one over the other. While a lesser-director would have appreciated all of Kyle’s killing of the baddies and shown him as the hero sometimes people would hail him as, Eastwood’s smarter and knows that while Kyle does deserve to be praised for his actions, he also still wants to show that there were definitely problems with the many heinous, sometimes disturbing acts of violence that not only spelled-out trouble for Kyle’s life, but many other veterans of any kind of war.

Although, if there is a problem to be had with Eastwood’s direction and the way he seems to handle the material given to him, it’s that he doesn’t fully come down to any sort of thesis, or point on war itself. Sure, he knows that warfare itself isn’t great and it sure as hell doesn’t have the best affect on those who are involved with it, but by the same token, he never comes right out and voices any of his disapproval with it, either. Which isn’t to say that every movie made about the war has to come up with stance, let it be known to the audience, and stick with it throughout the remainder of the flick, but in the 21st Century, there is a sense that if you’re going to discuss the war, you have to land on one side of the boat and not just be neutral.

You’re going to offend somebody either way, so you might as well go for it while you can.

However, this is getting more and more away from the fact that this is Chris Kyle’s story and it’s one that deserves to be told. Not because Kyle killed plenty of Iraqi soldiers during his four tours, but because he’s the kind of war-figure more should pay attention to; while he had plenty to be pleased with and proud of in his life, he was still clearly screwed-up in his own head-space, and found it incredibly hard to get on with ordinary life. The movie highlights this, and actually seems to be saying that whatever happened to Kyle’s mind when he came back from the war, wasn’t fully worth it. Sure, he killed more enemies than most soldiers could ever dream of, but the fact that when he comes home, he goes straight to a bar and can’t even go see his family, is very strange. It’s also quite sad and it wakes you up to realize that Kyle’s story is among many other soldier’s stories out there as well.

Normally, I would make some joke about Kyle not having to be so sad because he got to come home to a Sienna Miller-looking wife, but I don't know how appropriate that is for now.

Normally, I would make some joke about Kyle not having to be so sad because he got to come home to a Sienna Miller-looking wife, but I don’t know how appropriate that is for now.

And where Chris Kyle, the person, really comes into focus is whenever Bradley Cooper’s on the screen which, thankfully, is nearly ever frame of this film. Cooper has now come to the point in his career where he’s not just a well-known actor, but a very respected one and can get most of the projects he backs, off the ground and ready for the world to see. American Sniper was one of these pieces that he really wanted to adapt and show the world, and it makes sense as to why – not because Cooper gave himself a meaty-role that highlights all of the acting-strengths in his tool-box, but because it allows him to humanize a person we maybe would have characterized as being another “redneck who likes to shoot guns, chew dip, drink beer, and do it all in the name of ‘murica”.

Both Eastwood and Cooper are smarter than just allowing for this cliche to stick. But it’s mostly Cooper who shines the brightest with Kyle’s portrayal, but he doesn’t over-do it. Most of what Kyle seems to be going through is through himself and nowhere else. Sure, you can tell by the looks on his face that he is clearly struggling to grapple with the reality of his actions and the disastrous events that he witnessed, but there always feels like there’s more to what Kyle is really feeling and it makes this character a whole lot more interesting. He’s not happy that he killed so many people over in Iraqi, but at the same time, he isn’t sad, either. He’s just numb. And every chance Cooper gets, he shows this in such a powerful way. So powerful that it’ll be quite the task not to get choked-up a bit during the end-credits. I know I did.

And if I can, so can you.

Consensus: Whenever not focusing on its main subject, American Sniper can’t come to terms with what it wants to say, but as a powerful, albeit disturbing look at the mental-anguish most war veterans go through, both on and off the battlefield, it hits harder than most war movies have in the past few years.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

*bum-bum* *bum-bum* *bum-bum*

*bum-bum* *bum-bum* *bum-bum*

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)

Mall Cops all around the wolrd are forever shamed.

Funnyman Kevin James (“King of Queens”) stars as Paul Blart, an overzealous security guard who finds himself in way over his head when he attempts to thwart a criminal mastermind’s (Keir O’Donnell) plot to rob an entire shopping mall.

Basically what you will notice right away that the plot sort of rings a bell as soon as you read it. That’s right people, its Die Hard but instead of a huge ass building its a mall, instead of Bruce Willis we have Kevin James, and instead of an R-Rating we have PG kiddy movie.

Don’t get me wrong here there are actually some genuine laughs but their not the kind of laughs I prefer. Usually the jokes aren’t smart, or meaningful, they are more about the slapstick and making a fat joke towards the main character, which in itself is just demeaning.

But see the thing is here once you get the first 20 minutes you already get an idea of what your in store for. The fat jokes just keep on coming down the isle, and never get funny. Kids will laugh cause you know its fat people but for me I was I just thinking, you know what is wrong with all this, why is this in such bad taste.

It might be the PG rating, but the film comes off as too castrated. The few bit and pieces that are humorous or witty were already shown in the preview for the most part.

Kevin James basically gives it everything he’s got, totally committing to the character of Paul Blart. He also delivers a lot of the family-friendly clean comedy which is just totally better than just your typical state of the art raunch fest, which I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be at all.

Consensus: Paul Blart has some laughs mostly from James in the lead, but too many jokes fall flat, and is only good to take out the whole family.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!!