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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Liam McKenna

The Riot Club (2015)

Rich kids get a bad rap. They’re just like you or I – except with lots more money, is all.

Milo Richards (Max Irons) is a first-year student at Oxford University and doesn’t really know what his place in the world, let alone at college. But he knows that he wants to start something up with fellow freshman Lauren (Holliday Grainger) who shows him that being popular and cool doesn’t matter once you’ve got someone special in your life. However, that doesn’t register with Milo, as he still finds himself drawn to certain people in and around the University that are deemed “cool”, or typically “posh”. That’s why when a group of young, rich hot-shots from other universities recruit Milo for what they call “the Riot Club”, he doesn’t go against it; in fact, he allows it. Once Milo’s apart of this group, he acts out in all sorts of ways he never quite expected himself to act out in the first place: Running, cursing, breaking things, partying, and generally causing all sorts of havoc. Eventually though, all of the good times Milo has with the club start to come to a close when he realizes that all of these fellas are up to no good and are absolute menaces to society – something Milo doesn’t want to be, nor associate himself with.

What we have here is another case of an interesting premise, and a movie that doesn’t know what to do with it, or how to go about saying what it wants to say in a smart, understood way. Instead, the Riot Club is a movie that wants to be two, completely different things: A) It wants to be the pint-sized version of the Wolf of Wall Street where young, British whippersnappers go around drinking, sexxing, and causing all sorts of chicanery for the hell of it, and B) It wants to be a cautionary tale for kids out there to not conform so easily to what all of the cool kids are doing, no matter how fun it may seem. The later element is a thoughtful one, but when it’s thrown-up against a movie that wants to praise the same assholes it’s talking out against, then there becomes something of a problem that’s hard to get by.

"To asshole d-baggery!"

“To asshole d-baggery, lads!”

This is a shame, too, because the Riot Club just so happens to come from the hands of Lone Scherfig, a director who seems to have fallen on the forgotten-path of life since One Day. Scherfig does a solid job of setting these characters up to be total and complete jackasses that, despite all of the fortune and fame that they may have, are absolute dicks that nobody wants to be around, let alone spend up to two hours with. However, Scherfig seems like she actually wants to hang out with them for two hours and because of that, the movie becomes a mess.

We want to not like these characters because of what they stand for – Scherfig knows this, too. However, she doesn’t allow for these characters, for the first two-halves that is, actually show their dark sides. They’re just young, rambunctious, and rowdy kids that like to cause mayhem wherever they go because, well, they can. They’re rich, spoiled and don’t have an absolute care in the world and while Scherfig may want us to like them, it’s very hard to.

That’s why when, all spoilers ahead, these d-bags get their comeuppance, it doesn’t feel organic. It feels thrown in there because Scherfig, realizing what sort of movie she was setting out to make, didn’t want to make it seem like she liked all of these characters to begin with. So, she shows them acting like a crazed lunatics that, when they have a little too much to drink, break down walls, throw tables, and beat the shit out of anybody that steps into their way. The way this is all shown at the end is a bit too cartoonish to take seriously, and not to mention that it’s all highly unbelievable.

Literally, these characters go from yelling, hooting and hollering about being rich and cool, but then, literally moments later, they’re acting like crazed lunatics in the midst of a prison riot. This would make sense of Scherfig ever made a hint of this throughout the whole piece, but she doesn’t; instead, we just see how these guys are dicks and that’s it. There’s no sign at all that they may be dangerously violent and possibly even lash-out on random, innocent people like they begin to do in the later-parts of this movie, for no reason whatsoever.

Professing your love on a roof? How original, mate.

Professing your love on a roof? How original, mate.

Maybe this is how these groups are in real life, I don’t know. All I know is that it takes an awful lot for people to start acting the way these characters do later on.

But honestly, all of the problems with the Riot Club would have been if Scherfig gave us someone worth reaching out towards and rooting for, but sadly, we don’t really get that. Sure, she gives us a sympathetic protagonist in Milo, but once you get down to the brass-tacks of this character, you realize that the only reason he’s written at all to be sympathetic, is because he doesn’t do nearly as much drinking, smoking or bad-assery as these fellows. He still does it when push comes to shove, but all he’s really got to live for is a girl and I guess that’s why he doesn’t partake as much in these hellacious activities.

That doesn’t really give us a character worth sympathizing with, let alone actually caring about, which is a huge problem where not only everybody seems to be unlikable, but are hard to really differentiate from one another. One character, played by Sam Reid, is the gay one who constantly hits on Milo, no matter how much he turns him down, but that’s pretty much it. Everybody else, from the likes of Sam Claflin to Douglas Booth, all are the same characters and hardly have any character-traits that make them seem more complex than the others. Not that there’s much to them to begin with, but hey, a little dimensions would’ve helped.

Consensus: Nobody in the Riot Club is likable, which is sort of the point of the movie, and sort of not, which makes it a non-interesting, repetitive mess.

2.5 / 10 

The bright, young faces of the new world. And for that, we're all screwed.

The bright, young faces of the new world. And for that, we’re all screwed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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Maleficent (2014)

How could one not be petrified to death of those cheek-bones?

When Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was just a blissful young fairy, she was full of all sorts of life and cared for all of those around her. She loved and protected the forest she lived in; had fairy-friends that she would often fly around with; and even made herself a human-friend in the form of Stefan (Sharlto Copley). They had a great friendship that lasted until he became King – an honor he received by cutting-off Maleficent’s wings, and therefore, robbing her of her innocence. So obviously Maleficent wasn’t too happy about this and decided that she would do whatever she could to extract revenge on him in any way possible, even if that meant cursing his newborn daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). With the fear that his whole family is in danger, Stefan decides to send his daughter away with three fairies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple), where they will watch over her and take care of her. However, the problem is that these fairies do a pretty lackluster job at doing so, and instead, leaves Maleficent herself to care for Aurora and watch over her through her formative years; making the bond between the two of them stronger than either could ever imagine. Especially for Maleficent who, if she’s not careful, may actually start caring for this little kid she calls “a beast”.

Though most of you may think that these constant, live-action re-workings of classic fairy-tales may not work for someone such as myself – it’s surprisingly the other way around. In fact, more or less, I actually commend more of them to be made. Not only do I feel like it gives our future generations a better understanding of what these stories actually are and look like, but it also shows us what these types of stories could be with actual, real-life human beings in the role, regardless of how much CGI may be floating around them.

And in the case of Maleficent, there’s a whole lot of CGI floating around here, and then some.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

While what I just said may have given off a negative connotation, I’ll have you know, that is totally not the case with this movie. See, first-time director Robert Stromberg has truly created something beautiful here; colors, locations and fantasy-like worlds all blend together to give us an idea that were in some place totally original, despite looking like every other fantasy world ever created. It’s a hard task that Stromberg is able to pass, and pass well, which may not seem like much of a surprise to anyone who knows that he’s worked on movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland in the past.

However, is there such a thing as a movie looking “too beautiful”? Personally, I don’t believe so, but there does come a point where you have to wonder just when do the visuals end, and the story begin. And here, there isn’t ever a really story that begins, or even ends for that case; it sort of just accompanies the beautiful, awe-inspiring visuals that keep our eyes busy and preoccupied, so that we don’t realize what little story there actually is here.

But considering that this movie is a little over an-hour-and-a-half (a huge surprise to get in the first month of the summer movie season), the lack of a story/drive, is really noticeable and actually makes a lot of the problems with this movie shine even brighter and harsher than before, when all it was that we had to pay attention to was how purrty everything looked.

Like, for instance, with the exception of our titled-character, there is not a single interesting character to be found throughout this whole movie; instead, everybody is just a bunch of walking, talking, and behaving cliches. Sharlto Copley plays King Stefan who is basically just a selfish, deuchy man that continues to get more and more insane, just as his facial-hair begins to get more and more ridiculous and over-bearing; the three fairies are ditsy klutzes used to be something of “comedic-reliefs”, yet they are neither; Sam Riley seems like he wants to break out and show off some charm as Maleficent’s side-kick that she can turn into any creature she can think of, but anytime it seems like he’s just about to, our evil queen (aka, the movie) turns him into a crow, or a wolf, or a dragon, therefore killing any possibility that he may have some fun in this thinly-written role; and Elle Fanning, for once in her short, but storied-career, gave me a performance of hers that’s not the least bit intriguing, because, for the most part, all she has to do is look up to Maleficent and gaze into those mesmerizing eyes of hers.

That’s pretty much it. Could have called up Dakota for that job, if you ask me.

But that’s not even the bulk of the problems with this movie; like I alluded to before, there’s really no story here. In case you didn’t know, this is an origin-tale that throws us right into this story, this world, and this character that we’re clearly supposed to care for, but once Maleficent turns the other cheek and becomes an evil beotch, then the movie sort of just moves along at its own pace, while at the same time, not really doing anything. Sure, we get to see some shading to the character of Maleficent and how she’s not all that much of a despicable witch after all, but it’s not enough to warrant a whole movie made about her, her adventures, and the problems she must overcome as an evil witch scorned with hatred and revenge for another man.

Come to think of it, it’s always about a man, isn’t it? These Disney movies always love to brag and show off how much they’re about “girl power” and how much having a man in their life doesn’t matter, but when it really comes right down to it, it’s always a man that they’re fighting for, or because. It’s never that a woman lives her life because she wants to by her own free-will; it’s always because a man had some inspiration in the matter, somehow, someway. Always seems a bit weird to me, but maybe I just think too much.

And this is what sort of brings me to my next point about the most important aspect of this whole movie: Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. It’s cool to see Jolie in a role like this that nobody could ever see her actually accepting to do, but I guess motherhood has had a bit of an affect on her life as of late and it’s about time that she finally decided to take some roles for herself and bring some of that extra-dough. Whether or not that’s actually the case, it doesn’t matter because at least we still get to see how good she is when she’s given enough material for her to chew on and work with to the bone. She’s always been known to do that, as well as show everybody how damn beautiful and dazzling she looks; so with an iconic villain like Maleficent, you think that she’d be working wonders with this role. Right?

Ripped right out of Shrek.

When did everything become Shrek all of a sudden?

Well, that’s the problem, once again, with the movie: It doesn’t give her enough to really run wild or have a good time with. There’s a certain charisma that Jolie brings to this role that allows us to see her more human than ever before, but there’s just not enough camp to this performance where we really get the sense that she’s having fun. She’s never going through the motions, however, she’s never really showing all that much of an effort that would really put this movie over the edge into being something you need to see, if only for her.

Most of that’s the movie’s fault, and less of her own, but it’s still a fault that this movie should be held accountable for. And not just because it doesn’t give one of our best-working actresses today enough material to really go nuts with, but because it makes Maleficent, the character, seem like sort of a jumble of ideas. I’m all for getting behind a villainous character and showing them in a slightly sympathetic-light, but with somebody as memorably and recognizably scary as Maleficent, it doesn’t really do her any justice for us to see her as a character we not only stand behind, but actually come to like. Not saying that it can’t be done, but when it comes to this character, one who is quite frightening even in animated-form, then you really have to know just what you’re going to do with her and why. If you don’t, then don’t bother.

And you sure as hell don’t waste any of Angelina’s good old time. Especially when she’s got to go back to that hunk of man-meat every night.

Consensus: Easy on the eyes with its beautiful production-designs, Maleficent proves to be a movie that’s a lot about what it seems to be on its lush-surface, but when one really gets down to it and digs a bit deeper under that said surface, there’s not much to be found. Just a waste of a great cast, most importantly, a more-than-willing Angelina Jolie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Ugh. I can't believe she wore that to this party. Like what a betch."

“Ugh. I can’t believe she wore that to this. Like, what a betch.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Venus (2006)

All somebody needs in life is a little acceptance. Even from a dirty old man who just wants to get in your knickers.

Maurice (Peter O’Toole) is nearing the end of his life, but still keeps a smile on his face and himself busy with work. He’s an aging-actor that takes jobs as lifeless corpses in certain shows and movies, however, it’s work nonetheless, and that’s more than he can say for his dear old buddy Ian (Leslie Phillips), whom he gathers with every so often to hang out, shoot the shit, drink some tea, read the paper and talk about people who have just recently passed. Since Ian himself is getting so old, his family thinks it would be best for him to be looked after, so then enters his great grandniece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), who, at first, he thinks is going to practically save his life and make him feel young again, but once he actually gets to meet her, realizes anything but. However, what doesn’t happen to Ian, happens to Maurice and sooner than later, he finds himself hanging around Jessie more, getting to know her, helping her get some steady work as a “model”, gaining some confidence in herself and sometimes, even being the object of his desires and pleasures. Yeah, it gets pretty creepy, as you can tell.

That Petey O'Toole. Sure could get down with the best of them youngsters.

That Petey O’Toole. Sure could get down with the best of them youngsters.

With a story like this, it’s hard not to get at least a little bit uncomfortable, all because who likes watching it when old, creepy and decrepit men, start pawning after young, blissful women? Nobody, and even though it definitely does happen in the real world (half of Hollywood), it isn’t like we really want to see a movie about it, let alone one that practically sympathizes for the man’s case. Then again though, you also have to take into consideration that the old, creepy and decrepit man called into question is in fact Peter O’Toole, and then you realize, “Oh, well he can’t be that bad! Can he?” And thus, we have our movie’s dilemma, but yet, a very good one that makes this a lot more interesting in the way it plays-out, then the way it looks on paper.

I guess the only real way to start this review off, and to start it right would be to credit the most important, and best aspect that this movie has going for it: Legendary stage-actor himself, Peter O’Toole in one of his final roles ever on screen. Knowing what we know about him now, it’s hard to watch a movie like this seeing as how his character is practically a take on his own person. For instance, the character of Maurice is an aging stage-actor that although may not be so noticeable and famous that he needs a bodyguard to keep hordes of fans from attacking him on the streets, is still a big enough deal in certain social-circles to where he gets invited to fancy parties, complimented on his past performances and maybe, just maybe gets asked for a few autographs here and there. And while this would probably make any 74-year-old man more than happy, it somehow doesn’t put a whole smile on Maurice’s face, instead, he just wishes he could turn back time and relive all of his glory days, and possibly make-up for the mistakes that he’s made; of which he has plenty.

That’s why we do sort of sympathize with him, in a way, to when he starts hanging around this much-younger gal, begins complimenting her on her body and sometimes, even touching her in inappropriate matters. Yes, it can be quite painful to watch since you know they don’t stand a single chance in hell of shacking up and living happily ever after for a couple more years together, but you still understand why a guy like Maurice is falling weak at the knees for this girl, so therefore, you don’t quite hate him as much as you do feel bad for him. This is all because of O’Toole’s performance and in the way he’s able to make us see how a guy as accomplished as this, who has been through so many ups and downs in his life, doesn’t look at the life he has now with a frown and paranoid feeling of death being in the air, but more of a hopeful, inspired feel that makes him act as if he could die tomorrow, and he wouldn’t feel like he’s stepping out on anything. In that aspect, it’s sad, but to see the way O’Toole has his character look at life with the sunny-side-up, you can’t help but be on his side and hope that he keeps on being happy.

However, you do also make sure that he doesn’t try anything too dirty with this young girl. That much is certain.

Hey, lady! Can't you read the sign?!?!? Oh....

Hey, lady! Can’t you read the sign?!?!? Oh….

And speaking of this young girl, Jodie Whittaker, despite being stacked-up against one of the best ever, doesn’t really disappoint in terms of giving us a female character that feels like a troubled, upset and self-conscience girl that just needs some guidance in her life, and will take it in any which way she can. Her character isn’t written very-well, and you can definitely tell when personal problems of her own are more than likely going to come up and disrupt the rest of the plot, but Whittaker always feels raw and understated, which never got in the way of the always-amazing O’Toole. Good for her, and good for me. Also, be on the lookout for a small, supporting role from Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice’s ex-wife that still has some problems with him, yet, is ultimately forgiving in the end. Wish I could say the same about some of my ex’s, but so be it.

But the reason why I’m high-lighting these performances so much, particularly O’Toole’s, is because, when you get down to the nooks and crannies of this thing, they’re the only thing keeping it altogether. The plot is, for lack of a better term, lifeless and goes through the usual hoops that one dramedy needs to go through in order to have development, have a problem and have a resolution. It’s not a terrible story per se, it’s just not a very original, or compelling one. It’s just solely there to give these actors a chance to work their magic and that is exactly what they do, even if it does feel like there could have been more working here, had the screenplay itself not felt like such an afterthought. Oh well, at least we had Peter O’Toole doing what he does best, and what a legend we are truly going to miss.

Consensus: While Venus rests solely on the shoulders of its performances, mainly O’Toole’s, it’s still in good hands considering they are all what gives this movie life, hope and most of all, a heart that never stops beating, even when the end seems very near.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What an ass Peter O'Toole looks like right there...

What an ass Peter O’Toole looks like right there…

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net