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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Lew Temple

Kidnap (2017)

Kidnap (2017)

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is just another single mother doing whatever she can to get by. Her job as a waitress can be a little demanding, with her also battling over custody for her son with her ex-husband, and yeah, she tries. But to add another wrench in her life is the moment when her son is kidnapped by a bunch of random rednecks. Karla has no clue why they kidnapped her son, but you know what? She’s not going to hesitate for a single second to find them and get her son back. Which is something she does, although it becomes readily apparent that Karla’s going to have to do a lot of driving, yelling, running, maneuvering, thinking, and oh yeah, possibly even killing. See, Karla’s life just got a whole lot more complicated, but it’s her son and she’ll fight for him any day.

So happy….UNTIL!

Just like with the Call a few years ago, Halle Berry is once again stuck with a B-movie where all she has to do is show up and give it her all. Which is exactly what the Oscar-winner does; there are brief moments where she really has to let loose on her emotions and well, it actually kind of works. Granted, she’s practically crying and yelling throughout the whole movie, but no one does that quite as well as Berry does and she actually elevates the material, just by showing up and putting in solid work.

It makes me wonder why she’s doing stuff like this, when in reality, she’s still a tremendous actress and downright beautiful to-boot.

But once again, why is she here?

Always check your blind-spots.

And this isn’t to say that Kidnap‘s a terrible movie; it’s exactly what you would expect in a late-summer diversion. It’s fast, fun, and incredibly stupid. The fact that the plot-line never goes beyond “Halle Berry chases kidnappers” for the whole 86 minutes, should really show you what you’re getting yourself into. And it’s not necessarily a problem that the movie doesn’t try to over-complicate itself with things like plot and motivations, but a part of me feels like there truly was no script here and a lot of it was just left up to director Luis Prieto and Berry to make up as they went along.

If that’s true, what they do make up can be exciting, but most of the time, a little repetitive. For instance, a good portion of the first-half is this car-chase that goes on and on and on for what seems like hours. Which is fine, because it does keep the adrenaline going, but there’s not much else to it; we just hear Berry talking to herself and wondering what the next best move for her is. After awhile, it can get a bit old and feel like, once again, there’s not much of a script.

Just action, action, and oh yeah, a little more action.

Once again, though, it’s not as if this is always a problem with movies – simplicity is, in ways, sometimes a movie’s best friend. But here, with Kidnap, it feels lazy and as if there really wasn’t anything else actually going on beneath the surface to be found. It can be fun, but even at 86 minutes, it still feels like it was stretched a bit too thin, even by its own standards.

So yeah, Halle, please get back into the mode of making good movies again. Please. We need you and miss you.

Consensus: Even as a late-summer diversion, Kidnap is fine, but also feels like it’s not really going anywhere and solely depending on the still-great skills of Halle Berry.

5 / 10

Oh. Here we go with this for an hour.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

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Halloween (2007)

What a tragic figure that Michael Myers was.

Michael Myers is considered the Boogeyman of Halloween. He’s what every drunk, horny teenager fears, and is the kind of “person”, you don’t want to be stuck with in an abandoned home – especially not his own. And now, we get to see where he got his start as a serial-killer. Although, to be fair, he was only killing small rodents, rather than small people, but he was soon pushed because of his stripper mom (Sheri Moon Zombie), drunken, dead-beat step-dad (William Forsythe), and sister Judith (Hanna R. Hall), who couldn’t give less of a crap if he lived or died. That’s probably why he decides to hack most of them up and land his little rear-end in the state penitentiary, where he gets psycho-analysis check-ups regularly from Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell); a guy who genuinely cares for him, but Michael seem to care about at all. Hence why when Michael gets the first chance to escape, he does so and sets his sights on going back home, where he’ll possibly get to see his old digs, as well as run into his estranged little sister, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), who also just so happens to be stuck baby-sitting two brats one night. But this just isn’t any night, people. This is Halloween for gosh sakes! And guess what?

Bad stuff happens on that date!

That's how it starts. Usually.

That’s how it starts. Usually.

If any of you out there are going to watch a horror movie on a night like tonight, it’s most definitely got to be John Carpenter’s classic. I don’t care how many times you’ve seen it; tried to remake it in your Halloween-themed student film; or even, if you’re hanging out with a bunch of people who don’t like to get scared – you’ve got to watch it. Because, if nothing else, it will probably remind you why some movies, no matter how ripe they may seem for the remake treatment, sometimes, just don’t need one.

Especially when that remake is done by the likes of Rob Zombie, a director who yes, I do think is talented enough to make a movie work, but just seems like he can’t help himself from throwing all sorts of blood, gore, sex, drugs, booze, and F-bombs to save his life. However, if there’s one element to this film I can give him credit for, it’s that he at least tries to draw out some depth within this character of Michael Myers and possibly even give us all an explanation as to why he grew-up to be a screwed-up, serial-killing individual who wears William Shatner masks. But it’s also probably the laziest-attempt at doing so; we’re told to believe that the reason why Myers grew up to be the way that he is, was all because his mom was a stripper, his step-dad was an a-hole that drank all of the time, and he was bullied at school. That’s pretty much it.

And while, yes, I do believe that there are some real-life cases out there that do resemble a person with the same mind-set as Myers, for the same reasons, to watch it here, not only seems like poor-writing, but a real lame excuse for somebody who goes legitimately bat-shit crazy about half-way through. It also ushers in the problem that Zombie’s trying to make us identify with this character, even though he’s sick, twisted, and unrelenting in his murderous-spree, which, unless you too are a sick, twisted and unrelenting serial-killer, may be a bit hard to relate to.

It’s the same problem I had with Zomie’s the Devil’s Rejects – I get that he wants us to like/sympathize with them, but why? It’s not like they’re misunderstood, tragic-figures; they’re cold-blooded, unforgiving killers that need to be stopped, and at all costs. Same goes for Michael Myers, even though it is sometimes rather pleasing to watch him hack away at a totally clueless/stoned teen trying to escape his clutches. But whereas with Carpenter’s movie, we got a horror flick that took its time with its violence, in order to make it hit us even harder than originally imagined, Zombie just lets loose as soon as possible and doesn’t seem to ever stop.

Which, yes, is something one can expect and be happy with when seeing a Rob Zombie flick. But, when you’re remaking a classic like Halloween, sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

You'd trust Alex DeLarge over Michael Myers? Suit yourself honey.

You’d trust Alex DeLarge over Michael Myers? Suit yourself honey.

That said, I know it’s probably not right to constantly compare and contrast between the original and the remake, because, quite frankly, it’s not fair. Not because one movie is a whole lot better than the other (which is totally true), but because it’s clearly obvious that Zombie isn’t at all trying to remake, or simply, re-do anything Carpenter did in the original. Zombie is simply putting his own stamp on the story and therefore, deserves it to be treated as such, which means that it doesn’t work. It’s so much carnage and slasher-violence that after awhile, you’ll just grow numb to it all and wonder, “What’s the point?”. Sure, there is some fun to be had with these kinds of horror movies, but Zombie loves to make it apparent that he isn’t all about having a blast when it comes to murdering random innocents; he wants us to harp on these actions and the fact that we want to see such actions displayed for joy.

And yes, it’s a bold move on his part, but it doesn’t work for the movie. It takes away from some of the fun and at nearly two-hours, makes this feel like a never-ending trip, with hardly scares, shocks, or any bits of actual terror. It’s just death, after death, after death, after death, and after some more deaths, made with hardly any style or sense of excitement. It’s just a dull, boring time at the movies. Which is good for most of us who actually still go out trick-or-treating on a night like tonight.

The rest of us, however, can just stay home and get spooked out by this legendary track every time it plays.

Yup, still gives me the creeps.

Consensus: Rob Zombie sets out to make his own version of the Halloween story, and while he does make some rash choices here and there, they hardly ever work and contribute nothing to a movie that’s already dull, aimless, and mostly repetitive of its grisly scenes of murder.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Eh. Lame.

Eh. Lame.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Night Moves (2014)

Hug a tree next time, kid.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Deena (Dakota Fanning) are two environmentalists who want to make something of a difference. So, they decide, as one does when an environmentalist has radical beliefs, to blow up a dam. However, they know very little about actually lighting explosives big enough to blow up an actual, life-sized dam, which is why they decide to hit up ex-Marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard); somebody who has been long-time friends with Josh and may have his eye on Deena. Anyway, after much planning, speculation, and talking, the three decide to go through with the plan of blowing up the dam and on the way, they run into problems here and there. But since this is what they believe in the most, they’re going to stick to their initial plans, no matter how many odds are stacked-up against them. That is, until they realize that they may be doing the wrong thing to begin with.

In all honesty, that plot-synopsis is a bit of a cheat. Though I definitely want to inform you all of what this movie’s actually about, it’s hard for me to really actually go into all of it because most of what happens in this movie (and basically, all you need to know) occurs in the first half-hour. And mind you, this is a near two-hour film, so for all of the action and whatnot to happen in the first act, isn’t just surprising, it’s downright unbelievable.

But that is exactly what we have here with Night Moves and honestly, I wouldn’t expect much different from writer/director Kelly Reichardt, somebody who, if you don’t already know of by now, doesn’t totally like to play by the rules/conventions of what the rest of the movie world sets out for others to follow suit.

"So...uhm...you in the mood for breakfast or anything?"

“So…uhm…you in the mood for breakfast or anything?”

However, it’s not just about how Reichardt places what is, essentially, the climax at the beginning of the film that makes it so unique to watch, it’s more of how she allows her characters to speak like natural human-beings. Which any person who has ever tried their hand or two at writing a script will tell you: Writing how typical people actually talk, is nearly impossible. Actually, that’s a lie, because there are a few writers out there who are able to do so (early Kevin Smith films come to my delinquent mind), but it’s a difficult task and more often than not, the characters can come off as if they’re trying so hard to be real and raw like actual humans, that it’s phony.

But for someone like Kelly Reichardt, it seems and feels so effortless. Not only does she write her characters in a slightly vague way that we have to search beneath each and everything that they say, to just get an understanding of who they are as people, but she also allows them to tell us something about themselves in the way they carry on their bits of silence. Sure, some people may call this a form of “laziness”, or just a director relying on a trick that’s been used for years and years to show us the inner-feelings of character, but when I look at it, especially in the way that Reichardt uses silence, I feel as if this is how real life would play out.

So very often do we get movies where characters just sit down, in silence, and hardly utter a peep. And hell, even if they do utter a peep or two, they don’t constantly sound like the wittiest human beings god has ever put on this Earth. Sometimes, they’re just like us and when they don’t have anything smart to say, they don’t say anything – and even if they do, they know when to shut up right away. This how I like to view each and everyone of Reichardt’s movies: Typical interactions between human beings that you yourself could actually stumble upon in the vast landscape out there that is Earth.

Sure, the people she may present in her films are a bit more attractive than say your or I, but somehow, through the way in which Reichardt’s script is written, they seem almost too real.

Take for instance the character of Josh, played so wonderfully sternly by Jesse Eisenberg. Though we don’t know too much about Josh early on (then again, we don’t much about anyone here), Eisenberg brings out certain layers to this character that’s more than brooding and seeming as if he’s about to lose his freakin’ mind. See, with this character of Josh, we get the idea that this is just another guy, who cares so much for a cause, that he’s willing to go as far, as wide, and as deep as he can, to make that cause a possibility, rather than just something he pisses and moans about at rugged get-togethers. There’s a feeling in this movie that we’re not supposed to really like Josh because of the way in how he goes about making sure his cause actually is heard, but then again, we’re never told to not like him either.

In a way, you can get that feeling that Reichardt herself doesn’t really have the faintest clue of what to think of Josh, other than that he’s just another young guy who, like every other young person out there in the world, believes in something that they hold so near and dear to their heart, that they lose sight of who they actually are. Not just as spokes-persons, but as human beings. That, to me at least, is downright terrifying. Not because of the way it’s presented in this film, but because of how true this really is about certain people out there in this world.

Don't do it, Jessie! You've still got Lex Luthor to portray!

Don’t do it, Jessie! You’ve still got Lex Luthor to portray!

Same can be said for the characters that both Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard play; both aren’t made clear to us early on as to who they are, or why they are, the way they are, but through time and attention, we understand that their goals, though may seem like the same on the surface, aren’t really exactly what either one would want when things really get down to it. Especially for Fanning’s character who, at first, seems like the typical young, wise and brash know-it-all that wants you to show everyone around her how smart she is about the environment and stuff, man, but at the end of the day, is just another little girl who has no clue about how ugly the world can get. I’d explore that same option with Sarsgaard’s character but, considering it’s a character played by Peter Sarsgaard, you could probably already bet that he’s a bit of a sick and twisted dude as is. Which isn’t to say that either performances are bad (Fanning is actually quite good in a role that shows she is in fact GROWING UP IN FRONT OF OUR OWN VERY EYES), but the characters they play make you think and wonder just about who they truly are, when nobody else is around them, staring.

But honestly, now I’m just getting further and further away from the point and avoiding the fact that this movie is fantastic, but not in a very pick-me-up kind of way. Once again, without saying too much, the movie definitely gets quite dark and terrifying at points, but it’s never used in a way to jolt us like so many manipulative thrillers out there do. Instead, Reichardt uses these quietly tense moments to play out what would happen in real life, without all of the glitz, the glamour and the spotlight. And even though I know so many writers and directors out there try to achieve this, Kelly Reichardt really seems to nail that mood.

Which is, yes, pretty weird, especially if you know Reichardt’s filmography. She’s mostly known for these small, naturalistic, and character-driven dramas that can’t necessarily be classified as “thrillers”, but somehow still are, because the tension and the suspense is within the characters interactions between one another. But more so the case here, especially in a scene where one character has to buy fertilizer and I kid you not, had my palms sweating so hard, I needed a towel just to dry them off. And that to me is what really makes this film one of Reichardt’s better pieces: Not only is she showing growth as a writer/director, but she’s also showing the audience that it doesn’t matter how many plot twists you throw around, if you have well-written characters and plot-archs, then you don’t need much else to really excite your audience.

A special note to all you up-and-coming writers out there looking to make a break in the biz, ya’ll.

Consensus: With a naturalistic tone and feel, Night Moves feels like real life, except this time, a whole lot darker and with more questions than answers. Actually, kind of like real life.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"What? We're just eating a PB&J. THAT'S ALL!!"

“What? We’re just eating a PB&J. THAT’S ALL!!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Those psycho-hillbillies with knives in their shoes, yeah don’t worry; they’re just serial killers on the run.

After their ranch gets raided by the police, Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon) and Baby’s father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) escape and decide what better way to feel as if they have fought the law and that they won; then going around, and killing more people than they did before! However, it’s only a real matter of time until the law catches up with them, and eventually tries to win. But these three aren’t going down without a fight or a murder, that’s for damn sure!

Rob Zombie definitely has a lot going for him in terms of what he uses with his sick, twisted-mind that so many people thought was just good for yelling, “Draaagullaaaaaaa!“, but the guy wanted to prove us wrong and ended-up making his directorial-debut with House of a 1000 Corpses. Even though it’s been awhile since the last time I saw that movie, I do remember fondly being a tad scared but also thinking that it was pretty stupid, overall. That’s why the idea of a sequel to a movie I didn’t really care for in the first place, let alone a horror movie I didn’t care for, was not something on the top of my list to see. Somehow though, Zombie not only proved me, but everybody else wrong as well. Maybe people do like to see other human-beings mutilated and murdered on-screen. My mistake.

"Happy birthday, Johnny! Now, let's go sign you up for that psychiatrist."

“Happy birthday, Johnny! Now, let’s go sign you up for that psychiatrist.”

If Zombie does anything right here, it’s that nails the look and feel of this movie with a really cool, ultra-retro 70’s-vibe that plays throughout the whole run-time. You can just taste the sweat; you can just smell the dirt; and most of all, you can imagine you yourself being in a wrong place, at the wrong time, and not having any clue what to do, especially when these bag of psychos walk through the front door. That’s something that Zombie does well here, and that’s getting us right in the mood right from the start with a bunch of dark, but ironic scenes of murder, mutilation, torture, and psychological and physical-games that aren’t right for everybody to play. Trust me on that. Zombie may be a crazy/scary lead-singer of a metal band (a pretty bad-ass metal band, I have to say), but the guy has a fine taste in classic-rock and mixes a lot of choice-tunes from the likes of Allman Brothers Band, Muddy Waters, and the best usage of all, Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don’t want to give away where, why, and how the song finds it’s way into the movie, but once it kicks in; you have to trust me that you’re going to be stunned. I was and it may be awhile until I hear that song the same ever again.

However, this is a horror movie no matter how much funny, zany things Zombie throws in to lighten-up the mood and it’s not a typical horror movie where your shorts will be scared off. It’s more like one of those horror films that has a bunch of freaky people, that do bad, violent things to innocent people, but plays more on the unpredictable-factor of the whole story rather than the actual torturing of those said, innocent people. This idea for a horror movie is a lot different than what we are used to seeing in horror movies nowadays like Saw or Hostel, where everything is all about the torture, the pain, and exploitation of people being torn to shreds, as we all sit and watch with our popcorn in our laps and our extra-large sodas by our sides. This one is more about putting you on the edge of your seat and have you wondering just what the hell is going to happen next and in that regard, it does it’s job very nicely. Or should I say, Mr. Zombie does his job very nicely.

Mind you, I didn’t watch this movie in it’s infamous Unrated version and that kind of makes me curious just how freakin’ dirty and disgusting it may have been because with this rated-R version, Zombie over-stepped a shit-load of MPAA rules that was sure to make those old-timers keel-over in their fine, leather chairs. To an extent, all of the blood, guts, action, violence, bushes, boobs, asses, and murders all work in making this flick one hell of a ride from Zombie’s mind. But it can only go on so far until it becomes a bit repetitive. Let me just state this: I get that a horror film has to feature a bunch of crazy killers on the road, torturing people and not leaving anybody for granted, but after the third scene of human-torture, it got to a point of where I sort of had enough already. I mean I wasn’t tired of it because I couldn’t handle the sight of somebody getting emotionally and physically ‘effed with, but more of the fact that I just didn’t care for it much. After the hour-mark hits it’s, things just begin to feel like Zombie was pulling something out of his bag of tricks that he kept on using, mostly because it pleased the same damn people in the theater. Move on with the story, give me some plot, and most of all, show me more than just a bunch of acts of unneeded torture.

"There's a creek up ahead? Wanna get a wash? Nope? Okay, let's go kill. some d-bags in a 2-star motel."

“There’s a creek up ahead? Wanna get a wash? Nope? Okay, let’s go kill some d-bags staying in a 2-star motel.”

Then, something strange happened. I guess Zombie heard my complaints (I wish) and decided, “Hey, maybe it is time for a little bit of a story to get thrown in here!” Well, the story that I had in my-mind, was definitely a lot more entertaining and thought-provoking than the one Zombie had on-display. See, the first flick had these three pieces of shit look exactly like that: pieces of shit. They were essentially, a bunch of villains that you could only get in a sick, sadistic horror-movie straight from the mind of Rob Zombie and there was nothing else to it than that. Somehow though, Zombie got the bright idea in his ass and decided that maybe it was time to make these three pieces of shit, seem like they have souls, make it seem like they have lives that are worth living, make them seem like, well, dare I say it: human-beings. Well, sort of. Zombie tries to make us care for these characters that don’t do a single, good thing throughout the whole hour and fifty minute time-limit and because of the fact that they are able to tell witty jokes when they are about to off somebody is why we’re supposed to care for them? I don’t think so, and to be honest, I wasn’t buying it. They are pieces of shite that I wanted to see dead regardless of what they tried to make us think otherwise. Instead of standing behind their backs, the whole time I was cheering for the police officers, for the poor, defenseless people they tortured and messed-with, and even Zombie himself to actually grow a pair and not let these characters get all sentimental and have us care for them.

Even though their characters aren’t worth loving, the performances from the trio of leads may have you think otherwise. Sid Haig is a riot as Captain Spaulding and is weird, sick, twisted, and a bit believable as the old man of the group that seems to know the most, seems to have the most sense, and even seems to be the only one who doesn’t kill people right away. Bill Moseley is also good as Otis and has some funny-lines here and there that have us shocked by his character, but I felt like something was missing to really have this guy play with your mind and play with the conventions of the usual, horror-film bad-guy. He sort of just acts like a dick and does bad things, but there isn’t anything else more to him than that. Wish I eventually got that and didn’t just sit around and see him torture the hell out of people. Then again, it’s a horror movie so I can’t go too crazy asking for much. We all know why Sheri Moon Zombie is in this flick as Lady, (other than the fact that she is freakin’ smoking hot) and it’s kind of a sad reason too, because the girl kind of blows. She tries way too hard to be this witty, weird girl that can stand-up on her own, but also doesn’t take shit from anybody else, either. I didn’t really care for her, feel fear from her, and instead, just thought she was trying a bit too hard, just like her hubby who was sitting behind her probably slapping her as the whole way through. And holy hell, I do not blame him!

Consensus: The Devil’s Rejects definitely shows an improvement over House of a 1000 Corpses with a cool and fun direction from Rob Zombie that makes the guy seem like he has his head on the right shoulder this time around, but yet, it is a horror movie that feels a bit repetitive and doesn’t have us give a single-lick about our three leads, no matter how hard it tries to manipulate us into feeling that way.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Come on, law!! You got this!

Come on, law!! You got this!