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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Leonard Termo

Fight Club (1999)

Next time you want to buy those hip, new jeans from JC Penney, punch yourself.

In a country as wide as America, it’s hard not to get swept up in all of it. An normal guy who sometimes go by the names of either “Cornelius”, or “Jack” (Edward Norton) knows this, but he can’t help but still fall for the tricks that mainstream society has set up for him to get caught in. Because of this, he becomes an insomniac that binges all day and night on crappy sitcoms, expensive furniture and belongings, and occasionally goes to a job where he has to file reports on faulty cars’ systems. However, he eventually finds a cure for his insomnia in random support groups that occur all around him. Though he can’t really connect with any of the other members in these support-groups, he still finds some solace in the fact that he can go to these private places and just let all of his emotions out. That all changes, though, when a fellow “phony” named Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) starts showing up to the same meetings and ruining our protagonists’ peaceful vibes. This is when the insomnia continues, but this time, he finds another form of escape – however, this time, it’s not with a group, but instead, with a person.

The person’s name, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt); the person’s occupation, making and selling soap; and lastly, the person’s beliefs, well, that we should all just start letting our oppressed anger out and start taking it out on our follow man.

This is a hard movie to talk about, but not for the reasons that some of you may think. See, with a film as culturally significant and iconic as Fight Club, it’s hard to write a review/post, fifteen years later after the movie has been released and consumed, and bring up certain points that haven’t already been stated.

Well, technically, I could. Like for instance, I could talk about how incredibly sleek, grimy, and gritty David Fincher makes this movie look; or how the twist is a total shocker to any first-time viewer, yet, totally works when you see it countless other times; or even how mostly all of what Chuck Palahniuk was trying to get across about the state of our nation’s culture, our society, and the way in how our citizens were constantly being shaped into becoming what the rest of the world wanted them to be. Of course I could talk about all of this and while I’ll definitely dive into some of that here, simply restating these points would be lazy.

The perfect romance.......

The perfect romance…….

However, I’m going to probably do them anyway. Sorry, people. I’ll try and stay away as far and as long as I can, but such is the dilemma with Fight Club: There’s clearly a lot to discuss and argue about, but so much has already been said. Then again, on the flip side, the beauty behind Fight Club is that so many people can think about it differently. Because even though Fincher himself has sort of thrown little hints here and there about what the real meaning surrounding Fight Club is, he’s sort of left it all up to us, the viewer, and it’s not only a smart move on his part, but for us to actually follow through with it, as well.

I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a simple, relatively peaceful conversation about this movie and its meaning, that’s all of a sudden turned to something resembling a brawl. I’m totally exaggerating (maybe), but this is probably what Fincher and Palahniuk intended in the first place: They wanted their material to be dissected, interpreted, and talked about for days on end. Does it deserve to be? Absolutely, but there is something to be said for a movie that continues to still keep on popping up in pop-culture, and just real life in general.

Does that mean this movie is overrated? Not at all. But is it perfect? No, it is not. Fincher has definitely made some better movies in his storied-career and while this movie definitely comes close to being one of them, it just isn’t. However, that’s not really a complaint, as much as it’s just a statement from yours truly; Fight Club, for what it is, is a movie that deserves to be seen. If not a few times, just once then, because while it’s a movie that asks you to think outside of imaginary box you don’t know you have around your life, it’s also the rare studio-movie that poses some morally and ethnically questionable ideas about how a society is ran, and how those members in society feel when they aren’t allowed to express themselves for so very long.

For instance, take our unnamed protagonist, he’s your typical everyman – boring, easily influenced by conformity, and never true to himself or the beliefs he has lying underneath that clean shirt and tie. However, once he realizes that there’s more to the way the world can be ran, his especially, he can’t help but join in this free frenzy of anger, violence, and hate that stems from the inner-most core of man: The right to express themselves freely. And even though you could argue that he only does this because he’s so taken away with Tyler Durden and the way he carries himself through everyday, bizarre-o life, you could also look at the fact that this rage has been brewing inside of him for quite some time. It’s just until now that he finally gets a chance to let it all out, with a numerous amount of fellow men who feel the same as he does.

And since I already mentioned his name, I guess it’s right to mention the character of Tyler Durden himself: A wacky, wild and sometimes, border-line insane caricature of what every guy, no matter how hard they try to deny it, want to be. And honestly, what better actor to play this ideal-perception of a man, according to fellow men, than Brad Pitt himself. Not only is this pure casting-magic at its finest, but it’s also one of the sheer signs of genius that Pitt was beginning to show us; not just as an actor, but as a star who had the right to choose whatever project he wanted, without having to worry about how the rest of the world viewed him. Because yes, even though Pitt still gets to look hunky and jacked-out as humanly possible here, he’s still something of a grotesque character that you’re never too sure of. You know that he’s someone you can’t pin-point down if you saw him in a crowded room and met him for the first time, but then again, he’s the first guy you’d notice in that same crowded room.

....or is this?

….or is this?

This is to say that Pitt is wonderful in this role and absolutely crackles and pops with every second he gets to play as Tyler Durden. But that isn’t to say that Edward Norton doesn’t get to do anything effective here either as our main protagonist, because he totally does. It’s just less of a showier-role, which is totally saying something because Norton gets a chance to do everything we love seeing him do in just about any movie he decides to do: Get your attention right away, sometimes be funny, and make you wonder just what his character is going to do next.

The same could be said about the movie as well, because while Fight Club can’t necessarily be classified as something of a “thriller”, it’s still the kind of movie that will have you on edge. Not just with where it’s story goes, or the plot-mechanics of how, but why. Fincher does, much like what the novel also was capable of doing, bring up viewpoints on various forms of everyday society: Music, movies, television, fashion, commercials, etc. And while you could definitely say this a movie with an agenda, good luck trying to figure out what that agenda is.

Personally, I think it’s all about how we as a society are inherently already built to conform and give into mass-media. Or better yet, that fitting in and following along with the rest of the current is the right, relatively safe thing to do. Though I know this movie is speaking this mostly through/from the male viewpoint, I think this is a point that could be made for all members of society; stop doing what everybody else is doing, or what others say you should do. Stand up, scream, shout and do whatever you can to make yourself happy and express yourself. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go around, starting clubs where people beat the shit out Jared Leto, that doesn’t mean you should sit back, watch from the back-row, and sheep around with the rest of the flock.

Or, you know, at least that’s what I think it’s about.

Consensus: Audacious, bold, original, thought-provoking, and somewhat of a crowd-pleaser, Fight Club is the perfect blend of art and commerce, while also serving as a metaphor for the world in which we live in, and the chaos that’s always linger from within it.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Aww, who am I kidding!?!? Just show me shirtless dudes, beating the shit out of one another! Fuck yeah! Rebellion rules!

Aww, who am I kidding!?!? Just show me shirtless dudes, beating the shit out of one another! Fuck yeah! Masculinity rules!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images, Collider

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Ali (2001)

Float like a butterfly and sting like a, uhm, something. I forget.

Meet Cassius Clay, Jr. (Will Smith), a twenty-something boxer who is fresh, young and chock full of fight. He’s also got a bit of a mouth on him that doesn’t make him the most popular boxer among his fellow confidantes, but definitely makes him popular in the eyes of the media that wants to hear/see everything he says/does. But like it is with most celebrities in the public limelight, there usually comes controversy and Clay’s was filled with plenty of it. First came his name change; then, his alliance with Malcolm X (Mario Van Peebles); his numerous marriages and affairs; his defiance against joining the U.S. Army due to “religious reasons”; his relationship with known sports-commentator Howard Cosell (Jon Voight); and plenty more where that came from. All of this eventually leads up to the infamous fight he had with a boxer by the name of George Foreman, in which most people dubbed, “the Rumble in the Jungle”.

Some of you die hards out there may already take notice to the fact that I’ve reviewed this one before, but honestly, that was so far back when, I can hardly remember what I gave it. All I do remember is that I watched it, wrote a terrible review on it and hardly remembered anything after seeing it. That’s what happened to me with most movies back in those early, immature days of my life, but nowadays, when I see something, I give it my full, undivided attention.

So yeah, I decided to give this a re-watch because I knew there was something about I needed to see once again and decide what about it drew me back to it. And after having seen it, for a second time mind you, I can’t really come up with an answer. That’s not because I didn’t pay attention again this time; in fact, it was quite the opposite. I fueled up on so much coffee, I was about to jump right out of the window before seeing this. Meaning, that I was so ready to see this and be able to give it the response it’s worth and not something I put out those many years ago.

"West Philadelphia, born and raised, beyatch!"

“West Philadelphia, born and raised, beyatch!”

But nope. Somehow, nothing seemed to change. Sure, I remembered the movie a lot better now than I did before, but there’s just something odd about this movie and I think that all comes down to Michael Mann himself being the director. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Michael Mann as a director; in fact, I think he’s one of the better ones out there nowadays and I can’t wait to see what he’s got cooking next with this new film starring Chris Hemsworth. However, the problem with him is that when he’s feeling extra “artsy”, it gets in the way of his story – or, in this movie’s case, the lack thereof.

Which, for a biopic about one of sport’s most influential icons ever, means something. Not only do you get in the way of actually connecting to a character that some can deem “misunderstood”, but you don’t really allow there to be anything remotely interesting driving this character, or their story along for us to say. Throw on a two-and-a-half-hour run-time and you’re asking way too much of an audience, especially when you’re not giving them anything to really hold onto.

And that’s not to say everything Mann does here is bad – the look, sound and overall feel of this movie is, predictably, wonderful. You can tell that Mann didn’t take this as some sort of “paycheck gig” and throw in the towel (excuse the pun); he actually puts a spin on the look of this movie when re-creating the environment the United States in the 60’s. Even the boxing sequences themselves are pretty neat, but not in the way you’d expect them to be; rather than having the boxing bouts be full of hooks, jabs, punches, punches and hugs every single second, Mann focuses on what most boxing matches can be: Boring. Now, I’m not saying that boxing in and of itself is boring, but there can be the occasional lull in the action and Mann focuses on that quite well, almost to the point of where it’s too realistic.

Still though, I’ll take realism over any goofy, over-the-top boxing match (which is pretty much what the Rocky films ended up being).

But, like I said before, those bold moves don’t really work unless you can find a way to make the story work as well and that’s just what the problem is here. Mann literally places us right slap dab in the middle of Ali’s life without much rhyme, reason, or even a background on who this person is, why he is the way he is, and exactly who/what made him this way. A part of me feels like Mann was just assuming that all of us know this, or simply don’t care, which isn’t true; getting to know somebody famous and iconic from where they came from is probably the most compelling aspect behind getting a full picture of a person really is and why they’re so worth studying in the first place.

Here though, we just get Ali, who talks a lot, bangs a lot, fights a lot, and changes his mind about whatever it is that he believes in with the drop of a hat. Which, yet again, is another interesting spin Mann takes on this story, but it hardly ever goes anywhere. Instead, we just see Ali act this way and hardly ever get anymore development on it. And that’s pretty much how the rest of this movie plays out: Stuff happens, you never really get a reasoning behind it and it’s off to the next sequence of stuff happening. But while for most movies, from some directors out there (namely Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, etc.), this would work because of how exciting and compelling this stuff is, Mann goes at such a slow-pace, it’s downright dreadful to sit through at times.

For instance, did we really need a seven-minute concert performance by Sam Cooke to start the movie off? Better yet, did we need to see a whole, nearly ten-minute sequence in which Ali jogs through the streets of Africa? Sure, all of it looks and sounds pretty, but when it doesn’t really add much to the final product, what’s the point? By then, you’re just taking up space and precious time, so don’t bother with it!

The make-up department was just having a field day with this one I'm sure.

The make-up department was just having a field day with this one I’m sure.

Another problem that most seem to have with this movie that I can somewhat attest to is how Will Smith is doing more of a full-fledged impersonation of Ali, rather than an actual performance in and of itself. And while I don’t necessarily think Will Smith does a bad job in the role (he tries so very hard, it’s almost uncomfortable to watch at times because you never know if he’s going to sprain an acting-muscle), I can’t say that I think this performance is “Oscar-worthy” or even the best he’s given, ever. Regardless of what some may say, Will Smith is a very good actor when he wants to be and when he’s given the right material, and here, he just doesn’t have it. He’s supposed to sound, look, and act like Ali and he does a fine job at that, but really getting to the core of somebody the media usually portrays as a “misunderstood, yet incredibly influential icon”, is just not something he’s able to do.

Once again, most of that blame is put onto those who gave him this thin-material to work with, as well as Mann for not really pushing Smith harder than he’d ever been pushed before.

The same can sort of be said for the supporting cast as well, which has plenty of recognizable names and faces, yet, aren’t given much to do except just act like other famous people. Jon Voight, for no other reason than that he’s Jon Voight, was nominated for an Oscar here as Howard Cosell which, like in the case of Smith’s Ali, is nothing more than an impersonation aided by very well-done hair and make-up; Giancarlo Esposito shows up as Ali’s daddy and gets a few scenes to work, but seems like a lot of his stuff was cut-out; Mario Van Peebles has some impressive scenes as Malcolm X, but, yet again, is just doing an impersonation; and Mykelti Williamson, despite being quite hilarious as Don King, feels more like a caricature than an actual boxing promoter (much like the real Don King, I guess, but that’s not the point). The only one who really steps away unscathed is Jamie Foxx who, before this movie, was mostly known for his comedy, but at least shows that he had some dramatic-chops in his system as one of Ali’s trainers.

Makes total sense now why Mann would later cast Foxx in the much-better Collateral, but that’s another review, for another day, folks.

Consensus: While it’s clear that mostly everybody involved tries, Ali comes off more like an uninvolved highlight-reel of the famous boxer’s most famous and controversial moments, that would probably be more compelling to actually read in a biography, than everything here.

4.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"You best watch what you say about Jaden! That kid's an intellectual!:

“You best watch what you say about Jaden! That kid’s an intellectual!:

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images