Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Leo Fitzpatrick

Storytelling (2001)

Read me a story, daddy. Especially ones filled with rape, racism, and teenage angst.

Two different stories that never connect, are told to us through the parts known as “Fiction” and “Non-fiction”. “Fiction” is the story of a young college student (Selma Blair) who gets her emotions all wrapped up in a bunch when her boyfriend (Leo Fitzpatrick) breaks up with her, leading her to fall into the arms of her cocky, but charming professor (Robert Wisdom). “Non-fiction” is the story of a middle-aged, failing documentarian (Paul Giamatti) who gets inspired to make a movie, following a young, confused teenager (Mark Webber) and the rest of his dysfunctional family, that just so happens to have a lot more going on between them than meets the eyes.

Is it too wrong to say that she had it coming to her?

That blonde hair will drive any man wild

Todd Solondz movies are of required-taste and if you can get through them without batting an eye or feeling awkward, then good for you. For me, I still can’t help but feel like this guy is just messing with me, to mess with me. And I hate to say it, but it works well, even though I feel as if I’ve seen and heard it all by now. But still, he continues to push the envelope, even if that aspect of his directing makes him of a provocateur, and not a film maker.

Hell, even in this movie, he makes fun of what people have had to say about him in the past. They call him “shocking for the sake of being shocking”, “racist”, “a bigot”, and even go so far as to be called the dreaded “P-word”: “pretentious”. For a film maker like Solondz to take all of that criticism in stride, really does deserve some credit because he not only throws it right back in those hater’s faces, but even shows them why they may be right as well.

That said, this is where the movie hits its slippery-slope in the way.

The idea of having two, separate stories told in one movie definitely makes it feel like we’re going to get double the trouble with what Solondz has to offer, which is true, but not in the smart, sly way he’s done it before. Instead, all of the dirty stuff that happens here, feels deliberate, as if Solondz himself is trying really, really hard to get a reaction out of us, simply because the material he’s working with doesn’t have that much steam to pile on through. Both stories seem interesting on their own, and even the points he brings up go along with them as well, but it just feels like a missed-opportunity for Solondz to really give us something worth thinking about, rather than landing on the same, two feet that he landed with before.

And yes, you can expect there to be plenty of sex, awkwardness, explicit content, and random conversations about the slimy stuff in our bodies. And yes, sometimes, it works. Other times, it doesn’t. Storytelling feels like the kind of flick Solondz perhaps needed to get off his chest after something as ambitious as Happiness, but still, it also makes it feel more like a greatest hits album, rather than actual greatness itself.

Either way, the stories do sort of work.

With “Fiction”, the idea of young teens falling for an older demographic because of the seniority they show, is actually pretty scary. Seemingly out of nowhere, however, Solondz gets a little bit too ahead of himself, gives us an over-long sex scene (unedited, no red boxes in my viewing), and a couple uses of the “N word” that was supposed to get a rise out of us I assuming, but instead, felt like it was Solondz getting a bit too wacky and explicit for his own good. The aftermath of this scene is smart and funny, however, I still continued to scratch my head wondering, “What was the point of all that?” Is everything we write on paper already considered “fiction”, or is everything after that “real”.

No matter how many licks, we may never know the answer.

Then, we have “Non-fiction” which is oddly longer than the first entry into this flick and shows it’s length as well. It isn’t that I didn’t feel like there was an interesting bit of storytelling to be had here with the loser documenting the stuck-up, egotistical family, it’s just that the targets it’s meant to be satirizing doesn’t quite work as well because it’s all too obvious and easy. The idea of having a film maker, make a movie that’s already pretentious as it is, in your already-pretentious movie is so obvious, that it’s almost too dumb to really take seriously, so that when it does begin to go down the path of making fun of those people who have talked crap on Solondz work in the past, it feels more like a kid saying, “hate to say I told ya so!”, rather than somebody making a legitimate statement about the films he makes. Like I said before, it’s an opportunity that seems missed, even if this story has the most disturbing ending I’ve seen in a long, long time.

"Hi, it's me Paul. Again. Yes, I am depressed. Again."

“Hi, it’s me Paul. Again. Yes, I am depressed. Again.”

Yep, even Happiness‘ ending loses to this one.

Consensus: Even at a measly and meager 87 minutes, Storytelling feels like a collection of interesting things that Solondz can, and is perfectly able to do, however, with no real payoff.

6 / 10

Let's face it: we've all wanted to do the same thing.

Let’s face it: we’ve all wanted to do the same thing.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au


The Mend (2015)

Brothers will always compete against one another. It’s just nature.

Because he’s known for pissing-off quite a lot of those around him, Mat (Josh Lucas) gets kicked out onto the streets by his girlfriend Andrea (Lucy Owen). This leads Mat to many places, the last one of which is his brother’s apartment. It just so happens that on this one fateful night that Mat happens to be lurking around New York City, his brother, Alan (Stephen Plunkett) and his girlfriend Farrah (Mickey Sumner) are throwing a small get-together of sorts filled with booze, cigs, good jams, and most of all, weed. Mat walks in and becomes apart of the party. The next morning, however, Alan and Farrah head out to Canada for a trip they’ve been planning for quite some time, leaving Mat home, all alone, without TV, or working electricity for that matter, either. It’s just Mat and his brother’s apartment for a short awhile and then Andrea and her kid show up, using the apartment as their own source of comfort because their place is currently crawling with bed bugs. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Alan comes back, clearly heart-broken and upset, which adds a bit more tension and unease for everybody in the who are setting up shop in his residence.

It’s very rare to get a movie about unlikable, self-loathing assholes who, believe it or not, stay unlikable, self-loathing assholes. So often do we get flicks that present a these characters as the kinds that we start off hating the absolute hell out of, and all of a sudden, the revelations begin to come out, the tears begin to stream, and the “sorry’s” are exchanged, and before we know it, these rather detestable human beings become completely different people. Even if it only took an-hour-and-a-half, the characters that we have learned to despise, soon become the ones that we love and want to give a hug to, rather than hold an argument or brawl with.

How I imagine the ladies always smother Josh Lucas at parties. Lucky bastard.

Not hard to imagine this is what happens to Josh Lucas at every party. Lucky bastard.

The Mend is not that movie and it’s great for that exact reason.

Sure, there is plenty else to praise and adore about writer/director John Magary’s directorial debut, but the fact that it takes these not-so-lovely characters, gives them the light of day, allows them to be who they are, and doesn’t hold back on their sometimes unforgivable actions, made me so happy to actually see play-out. Such as is the case with real life, the Mend has no real “villains” or “heroes” – everyone’s just sort of a person who makes mistakes, tries to make up for them, and will occasionally learn a lesson or two about life. However, they don’t always learn lesson, because, quite frankly, they don’t need to; they’re fine just being who they are.

And that’s one of the smarter aspects behind Magary’s craft. Though there’s an awful lot of direction in terms of how quick his camera can jump and move from one scene to another (with an over-aching score to boot), Magary’s more concerned with allowing these characters to show themselves off to the audience, rather than having him do so. This is especially evident in the first-half, where we literally thirty or so minutes stuck in this one, two-room apartment, with a party going on of hardly anybody we know. While it’s obvious that budgetary-issues may have been the cause of this, Magary makes it work because everything and everyone feels realistic.

Conversations, people, beer, and weed, come and go as they please. Sometimes, the conversations are fun, light and chock full of sensible witticisms that only artists from NYC could come up with; at other times, however, the conversations can take dark, serious turns where people begin to argue, yell at one another, and be on the brink of tears. And of course, there are people who oogle at one another one second, only to then be sucking face the next. Basically, this is a lot like many parties I’ve been to in my life and it’s great that Magary was able to work wonders with something as simple and easy-to-film as “the party-sequence”.

But, like I’ve stated before, that’s not all the Mend works well with.

At the center of all the yelling, the anger, the crying, the bleeding, the banging, and of course, the drinking, is a tale of two brothers who, despite not seeing each other a whole lot, still know one another well enough that it makes it easy for them to clash heads, as well as get along and have great times together. Though Magary likes to focus on the fact that these two brothers are different in many aspects, he also likes to point out that they’re actually a lot alike in others. While Mat may not have as much ambition with his career as Alan does, they still have problems satisfying ladies to the fullest extent, in their own respective ways; Alan may be able to socialize with more people than Mat, but at the same time, they’re still able to piss a lot people off because they always seem to voice their unwanted opinions on anything; and, well, if there is one similarity they have, through and through, they both don’t like to hear from their mom and would much rather like to not talk about her, or their dad for that matter, either.

Don't have a clue of what's going on here, but considering that they're brothers, I know that it's nothing pleasant.

Don’t have a clue of what’s going on here, but considering that they’re brothers, I know that it’s nothing pleasant.

Basically, anybody who has ever had a brother/sister, will know that this is exactly what a relationship such as that is like. And that’s why both Stephen Plunkett’s and especially, Josh Lucas’, are so good; in even the smallest details, they’re able to make us think of and see these characters in different lights than we probably did a scene or two before. While they’ve both got their problems, they’ve also got their traits that make them the least bit sympathetic, as small and as unnoticeable as they may be.

It’s probably more in the case of Lucas’ Mat, who is quite the abhorrent human specimen, but also has that “something” about him that makes you want to watch more of him. He’s lazy, rude, mean, and uninspired with just about every apple life offers him, and yet, why? Why do we want to sit and watch him interact with those around him? Why, even though he’s made it clear that he has no idea what he wants to do with his life (except for maybe a web designer), do we want him to get his shit together, pick up a job, make some money, move off of people’s couches, and live on his own? Why, despite the fact that he sorts of treats her and her son like total shit, do we want Mat to end up starting something meaningful with the lovely Andrea (played wonderfully by Lucy Owens).

Why oh why?

Well, it’s simple: He’s a character we can believe in.

Mat’s someone we could definitely meet in real life; whether it’d be at a party, roaming the streets of the city, or just by pure chance. Would we want to meet him? Probably not, but the fact is that we definitely could strike something of a conversation up with him, realize he’s a miserable person, and move on, happy that we’re done to be talking to him, but wouldn’t mind watching how he interacts with those around him. Lucas is amazing in this role because he plays up the whole aspect that Mat is indeed a dick, but also, one that knows he is and makes no apologies for it. He’s the perfect anti-hero and it’s Lucas’ role to run wild with, which isn’t something I’ve seen him do in recent time. Whether that be because his name may not carry as much weight now that he’s older, or just because he doesn’t choose to be in those huge, mainstream projects, this role makes me hope and pray that there’s more interesting roles from this guy to come.

And the same goes for Magary. Even though the final-act does get to be a bit over-the-top and showy, there’s still so much here that promises that character studies such as the Mend are still alive and well. It’s just a matter of who wants to make them, what they have to say, and whether or not the character’s stay who they are throughout, without trying to smile nice for the camera.

Because that’s how most of people in real life are anyway.

Consensus: Despite the sloppy wrap-up, the Mend still shows a new, bright talent in John Magary, as well as a bright new awakening for the career of the supremely talented Josh Lucas.

8 / 10

E-cigs aren't cool, but Josh Lucas finds a way to make it so.

E-cigs aren’t cool, but Josh Lucas finds a way to make it so.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Blue Caprice (2013)

Does this mean that they’re totally off the market now? Or at least somewhat cheaper? Cause my car’s been in the shop for quite some time now that I think about it…

16-year-old Lee (Tequan Richmond) is left abandoned all alone in Antigua by his mother where he’s left to fend for himself. He fails at doing so and plans on killing himself by drowning, however, he is saved by John Allen Muhammad (Isaiah Washington), a father of three kids who live nearby. Knowing that Lee has nowhere to stay and keep after himself, Muhammad decides to take the kid under his wing and teach him all of the tricks of the trade when it comes to life, living it, and just how you can get by, or something like that. After Muhammad’s kids are sent back to the U.S. to live with their mommy, he and Lee decide it’s time to travel to the U.S. where they can continue to spread their “mission” all around the world. In essence, this would become what we know as the 2002 Beltway Sniper attacks.

I must be honest here, seeing movies that are “based on a true story”, especially when the story is as tragic and as disturbing as this, doesn’t really cut it for me. Not because I don’t want to be reminded of the sadness that was bestowed onto countless of human-beings, but because they never seem to do much with the material the movie has to work with. They usually come off as meandering, never really exploring the peeps involved more than they should, and just seem to talk more about the actual “incident” than anything else.

Just the average, "all humans must be massacred" conversation in the frozen foods section.

Just the average, “all humans must be massacred” conversation in the frozen foods section.

However, this one was slightly different in the way that it didn’t necessarily talk about the Beltway Sniper attacks, but more or less just show us that it happened, gave us the people behind it, and let us make up our own minds about what’s going on inside the heads of these individuals, as messed-up as they may be. Even when we do get certain references to the actual killings, they’re shown in an effective way where we don’t see the shootings happen, but actually hear the actual 911 calls that are almost as frightening here, as they must have been for that unlucky 911 operator on the other end. The whole opening-credit sequence is dedicated to these, along with actual news footage that really gives into the post-9/11 paranoia of what we were going through at that time, and what this event only made worse. Like I said though, this isn’t just about the killings and the logistics about what happened, this is about the two who caused it all, and believe it or not, they give us an interesting story that’s worth seeing, if you can even fathom taking a look on the other side of things. Only if.

Yes, this is definitely more of a character-study than a play-by-the-numbers, retelling of the killings and it shows us that these were some two, very messed-up peeps we were messing with here. But it also shows you the dynamic in their relationship, in how it’s not necessarily a “father-son” one (even though they persist on calling each other that), and more of something that’s somewhat “cultish”. For instance, Muhammad takes this young boy underneath his arm and gives him everything he needs, but in return, wants him to do things that he wants. What Muhammad wants is murder, murder, and more murder, which this young boy, Lee, is totally down to perform fully because he doesn’t really know much else about the world. Anything he ever knew before left him all alone, and now that he was finally getting some love and attention shown to him, he wanted to keep it all for himself, by any means possible.

The kid’s been totally brain-washed beyond his belief, which, dare I say it, may make him somewhat sympathetic in some eyes. Of course this kid should never, ever be released because, mind-fucked or not, he still killed 10 people and that should never be forgotten. However, the movie does make an argument that everything he did was simply out of his control for one way or another, and while that may infuriate some viewers, it didn’t to me because it made a strong-case for somebody who has recently actually spoken-out against what he did, and realized that he was the “monster” he was designed to be by this man, John Muhammad.

Regardless of if he realizes his faults or not, he’ll never see the barbed-wire gates from the other side, and that’s just how it’s going to be.

"And you gays thought I was playin'!!!"

“And you gays thought I was playin’!!!”

That said, the movie doesn’t just make the case for Lee Malvo, and surprisingly, even goes so far as to make an intriguing case for John Muhammad who seems like the charming, likable dude any lonely 16-year-old would fall for, but soon shows himself out to be something more barbaric and demented. This is where the genius of Isaiah Washington comes in who, though hasn’t shown up in much ever since he dropped a little “F-bomb” a couple of years ago, still proves why he’s always a welcome-presence in any movie he does, even when he isn’t playing a guy you like. Yet, he still makes you want to watch and not look away one bit, which makes him all the more of a compelling figure to pay attention to and learn more about. Because honestly, you still have to think: Is there more to this guy than just a bunch of crazy, “Fuck the Machine” rants? Or is he actually a troubled guy who just wants to see his kids? Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a big leap forward, but you see what I’m saying? There’s more to this cat than meets the eyes, and Washington allows us to see that feature in him. Let’s hope this means he’ll stick around longer.

One many will probably be really surprised in terms of acting and range, is Tequan Richmond who, if you don’t know already by his familiar-face, played Chris Rock’s little brother on, hey, you guessed it, Everybody Hates Chris. Richmond is someone you must watch in this movie because although he isn’t showy or flashy in the types of ways Washington’s performance is, he still has you thinking about him the whole time wondering what he’s allowing to settle in his mind as “right”, or “wrong”. You know he’s a good kid, and a very smart one at that, but does he have the emptiness in his soul to go through with this? You’ll never know with Richmond’s performance and for that, I feel like the kid just did himself a big favor and showed the world that he’s got a little something to prove. Let’s hope it lasts, much like Washington’s career-reboot.

Consensus: Definitely only for the people who can still stomach looking inside the minds and the lives of the ones who committed these heinous real-life acts of violence, but for those who can actually do so, Blue Caprice is rewarding in its quiet, disturbing, and compelling way.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yeah, try not turning down the next street after you see this coming at you head-on.

Yeah, try not turning down the next street after you see this coming at you head-on.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Kids (1995)

Being controversial does not make a good flick.

The film follows teens over the course of two days during the mid-1990’s where the HIV/AIDS epidemic started to run rampant. Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) is on a mission to deflower as many virgins as possible with an addle-brained theory that boffing first-timers will protect him from contracting HIV. Trouble is, he already has it.

As everybody knows director Larry Clark is a dude that loves to shock people with his constant showings of teens shirtless, doing drugs, banging a lot, and just doing evil things that parents don’t think they would normally do. In ways, this works for me, but in others, it just doesn’t even seem like it matters.

Yes, this film is an eye-opener for parents if not one of the first flicks to do that, so I will give Clark that. There’s a lot of dirty stuff that goes on here that is very shocking, but it’s also somewhat true considering I see a lot of this now that I am in my last year of high-school. Now I don’t know any kids that go around deflowering chicks like Telly here but I can say that the weed smoking, the drinking, and the constant partying with sex everywhere is definitely what goes down in high-schools in real-life. It’s not as effed up as this flick makes it out to be but in reality, this stuff does happen and I think that’s where the film at least had me at.

However, despite this realistic view, the film still had its major flaws that took me out of this film completley. Within the first 10 minutes we realize that the two main character, Telly and Casper, are not only the biggest assholes in the world but two kids that have no redeeming quality about them whatsoever. It’s not like they didn’t seem realistic, because I may actually know some kids that are just like this, but it’s the fact that they are so unlikable makes you just wanna beat the crap out of them the whole film and actually pray that they do. These are the types of kids you see messing with old people on the boardwalk and get themselves bootie-raped in jail because they weren’t wise enough to watch the eff they say in the clink. It sucks because we spend the whole film watching them to do stupid shit considering they are terribly unlikable but then again, not every main character in films have to be likable.

Another problem with this flick is that even though there is so much damn shock-value, everything still feels rather dull. There are moments here that are totally devoid of plot and just have these characters talking frankly about their sexual experiences, smoke weed, and drink beer for long-ass periods of time. I’m not saying that this sort of stuff isn’t done amongst teenagers, but after about the 3rd time in the first 30 minutes you see these kids getting high and talking about boning, then it just gets old real quick. I also couldn’t help but think that I highly doubt kids talk about how they are going to find every virgin and have sex them and then talk about how they did it and whatnot. I don’t really think actual kids talk about this kind of stuff but writer Harmony Korine apparently does.

Clark was pretty smart in choosing actual young, teenage actors for these roles because it actually makes us feel like were watching real kids up on-screen rather than some 30-year old who’s trying to play a sophomore in high-school. Chloe Sevigny is good here as Jenny, and her story is not only the only actual sight of any heart in this flick but it’s also one of the more realistic; Rosario Dawson also shows up in one of her first ever appearances and that’s pretty cool too; and Justin Pierce is actually pretty good as Casper, but it’s a shame that the kid died 5 years later because he seems like he could have actually done something with his career.

Most of you probably noticed that I didn’t even mention the main character, Telly. One of the main reasons for that is because the actor who’s playing Telly, Leo Fitzpatrick, can’t act for shit. Telly is a character that is supposed to be a total stud because of his sly moves, sexy look, and just overall cool act but Fitzpatrick is neither of them. Instead he says every word as if he was reading notes he wrote on his hands before filming, he’s skinny as Kate Moss, and the things he says is laughably bad and I don’t know if that was actually intentional or not but I caught myself laughing a whole lot at what this dick-head was saying to these girls just to get them in bed. Hell, they should have called me up for this role even though I was probably 2 at the time but still, I got more game than this joke for a kid.

Consensus: Kids has shock value and rings true in certain elements, but feels rather dull mainly because the script features moments that have no actual development of plot, or even its awfully flawed characters for that matter and the lead actor, Leo Fitzpatrick, can’t act one bit and we have to watch him struggle the whole 90 minutes.