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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Mark Heap

Stardust (2007)

Better than Goldust’s brother.

Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man from the town of Wall, a small, quaint and lovely little town on the border of Stormhold, a magical kingdom where all sorts of crazy things happen. To hopefully win the heart and the hand of his girlfriend Victoria (Selma Miller), Tristan enters the magical world to collect a fallen star, in hopes that he’ll obviously win her over, but prove that he is quite the man that he always thought he could be. After little issues here and there, Tristan eventually collects the star who, to his surprise, is a woman named Yvaine (Claire Daines). However, Tristan isn’t the only one who’s looking for Yvaine; numerous witches, Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses also want this star and will do anything to get it, by any means. So now, Tristan’s job just got a whole lot harder. Not to mention that he and Yvaine, while initially not being able to get along with one another at all, start to see each other as equals and even, well, connect. In possibly more ways than Tristan has been able to ever do with his possible future-wife.

A pretty hot star.

Matthew Vaughn is probably the perfect director for a Neil Gaiman book, because no matter how strange, or action-packed, or even tense things get, Vaughn remembers not to take everything all that seriously. Meaning that we do get a lot of jokes aimed at the material, but it’s also very funny in the same way that the Princess Bride was – it respects the fantasy-genre up until the point of where it realizes how ridiculous it truly is. That’s a lot of Gaiman’s material and while there’s been plenty of attempts at recreating the same kind of odd-style that he has, Vaughn’s perhaps the closest one to achieving that.

And yes, it also helps that the movie is buckets of fun, reminding us that, when he isn’t trading quips and smart-ass remarks, Vaughn knows how to keep the action moving and exciting. Cause Stardust is a little over two-hours and about a bunch of silly witches and knights battling it out for a star, it can be a bit too much to ask for a non-lover of the fantasy genre. And yes, I am one of them.

However, Stardust is a much different tune.

It’s in on its own joke, it never really relies too much on exposition, or world-building, or certain other tricks and trades of these kinds of stories that can tend to make them a bit annoying. The story itself is already pretty straightforward and thankfully, Vaughn doesn’t try to over-complicate things; he keeps it simple, effective and most importantly, fun. He could have done anything he wanted with this movie and I wouldn’t have cared, because he knows how to keep it fun, even when you least expect it to remain as such.

That’s Michelle Pfeiffer? Uh. Yeah. Time has not done well for her.

And a whole bunch of that fun extends to the cast, too, who are, as expected, game for this kind of silly material. Charlie Cox, in a pre-Daredevil role, shows a great deal of charm as Tristan, a dork-of-a-man who we like right from the get-go and sort of stand-by, no matter where he goes, or what he does. Claire Danes is also quite great as Yvaine, the star with a whole butt-load of personality. Danes knows how to make this wacky material work and come-off not so wacky, and yes, her and Cox have a neat little bit of chemistry that transcends most other movies that are just like this.

In that we actually care and want them to get together in the end.

The rest of the cast is, thankfully, having a ball here. Michelle Pfeiffer shows up as the main evil witch, vamping it up and having an absolute ball; Robert De Niro may seem out-of-place, initially, as a pirate, but really blends in with this goofy-world; Mark Strong is, as usual, charming and a lot of fun as Prince Septimus, Tristan’s ultimate foe; and well, there’s plenty more where that came from. The real joy is just getting a chance to see everyone here show up, have a good time, and not make us feel like we aren’t involved with it, either.

We are and that’s the greatest joy of all.

Consensus: Despite its silliness, Stardust wears its heart and soul on its sleeve, with a fun and exciting pace, matched by an even more charming ensemble.

8 / 10

There were a lot of Italian pirates back in those days, people! Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Paramount Pictures

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Scoop (2006)

People love their magic, like they love their murder. That’s something people say, right?

Up-and-coming American journalist Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) gets the story of a lifetime when deceased journalist Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) somehow contacts her from the afterlife. The story goes like this: He knows that this wealthy, very powerful man Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) is the man behind all of these brutal murders that have been occurring around England and granting him the nick-name, “the Tarot Card Killer”. Though Sondra is slightly hesitant at first to believe in this, she takes the bait anyway and gets a local magician (Woody Allen) to join her. Together, they’ll pretend to be a father-daughter combo and try to win over the heart of Peter Lyman, while simultaneously looking for any clues, hints, or pieces of evidence they can find to make this story big and at least somewhat “legitimate”. But as time goes on, and the rouse gets to be a bit tiring, Sondra begins to fall for Peter, and even entertain the idea that he may in fact be the killer. This is not an idea the magician wants to put to rest, but it may be too late.

It’s kind of a known fact that despite Woody Allen being able to release a movie, just about every year, they’re not always amazing. And now that the guy’s getting way up there in age, the moments where he strikes gold are becoming more and more rare. Therefore, it’s up to us as an audience to appreciate all of the work that he does, because even though Woody Allen may not make great movies all of the time, a not-so good Woody Allen movie, is still way better than your usual, average bad movie.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

But somehow, this is the one that’s right on the verge of being considered “crap”, to being just “meh”.

And that’s not to say that this is Woody’s worst flick I’ve seen of his (Cassandra’s Dream was pretty god-awful), but it’s his most recent that I’ve seen of his that’s left me wondering just where all of his creativity and energy went. Surely he could have come up with something more than just a normal story about a journalist falling in love with her subject, while a murder-mystery occurs on the side? Maybe he was trying to hint at the idea of irony and how sometimes, things we don’t expect to happen, or better yet, people we don’t expect to act a certain way, do happen/act that way? Or maybe, he was trying to harmonize on the importance of life and how we all should savor it while we still can?

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m giving the guy a bit too much credit here. Because yes, even though this movie is not terrible, it still seems like Woody’s retreading on familiar waters. We’ve already seen Woody Allen make fun of the rather snobbish upper-class in Small Time Crooks, so whenever Woody takes it upon himself to make a few wisecracks towards them as a whole, it not only feels like he’s just yucking it up for no good reason, but also that he’s running out of ideas to write about or even explore. Even the lead Sondra Pransky, is basically just the female version of him and how he acts.

That’s not to say that ScarJo isn’t fine with this impersonation of sorts, it’s just that she’s just sort of there to take up a role that could have easily been done by Woody himself; although, to be honest, it would have been strange to see him constantly flirting and making out with the buff and macho Hugh Jackman. Then again though, it’s never too late to try something new out every so often!

And although I do kid around here and get on Woody’s case a bit, he’s sort of the best part about it. He’s quintessential Woody Allen and that’s always a pleasure to watch on the big screen, especially since all he does is act like a cynical, miserable bastard, yet, still be able to show some compassion towards those around him that treat him well. He had me laughing on more than a few occasions and it’s just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter how old Woody may get, the guy’s a charming little fella that seems to always play to his strengths and have himself coming out on top.

Now, that’s not to say that he’s selfish or anything, because Woody is more than welcome to giving the rest of his cast their own opportunities to shine, but none of them really leave as much of an impact as he does. Like I mentioned before, ScarJo is fine at playing a lovely-looking nerd that not only gets up swept up in the idea of love and romance, but even gets to forget who she is at one point. This was, of course, before Johansson became a dependable, respectable name in the business, so there are a few rough patches here and there, but most of that, I think, has more to do with some of the awkward-phrasing of the script and the lines she’s given, where she’s made to sound like Woody Allen, but just can’t pull that off perfectly.

I'm sorry. You were saying?

I’m sorry. You were saying?

Then again, nobody really can. That’s why we have Woody Allen in the first place.

Also, it was nice to see Hugh Jackman be the dashing man that he is and show us that even though there’s a lot mystery surrounding who he really is, you yourself can’t help but be charmed by his lovely ways. Makes it a lot easier to sympathize with our lead once she gets swept up in his life, but also makes you forget that he could be the prime suspect in this murder case after all. Ian McShane is also given a relatively major role as the deceased journalist who gives Pransky the story hints in the first place and is fine with what he has to do, but it’s pretty disappointing just to see him show up every once and awhile, say something vague and literally then disappear into thin air, because, well, he’s dead and the Grim Reaper doesn’t like it when dead people come back and talk to those who are living.

Honestly, now that I think about it, I would have much rather liked to seen a movie where the Grim Reaper himself and Ian McShane squared-off, mono-e-mono. Written and directed by Woody Allen, of course. The one and only.

Consensus: Not Woody Allen’s best, nor his worst, Scoop is rather pleasing because of its cast, but feels like a tired and tried piece of material that we’ve seen Allen himself do much too often in far better films of his own.

5 / 10 =  Rental!!

"I hate the media. All they do is get on people's cases. Like, I don't know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter."

“I hate the media. All they do is get on people’s cases. Like, I don’t know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

About a Boy (2002)

Boys will be boys, even if they are stammering fools.

Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) is a bit of a shallow dude. For one, he closes himself off from the rest of the world, he doesn’t work, he gains all sorts of money off of the royalties for some Christmas song his dad made back in the day and shags plenty of women, although he never plans on, and never actually does, give them a call back or anything. Although, it may make you wonder: Why would somebody who is as charming as Will, actually conjure up a plan to act as if he is a single-daddy, only to connect with more single-mothers, in hopes that he’d be able to nab them as well? Either way though, it doesn’t matter because Will goes for it anyway and wouldn’t you know it? The results don’t go as planned. Not only does he not get nookie, but now he’s got some awkward, mopey teen named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) who just won’t leave him alone. But little does he know that Marcus has a bit of a problem at home with his suicidal-mommy (Toni Collette) at home, as well as being picked on at school, and is only in need of a friend; something that Will himself may need as well. His only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.

If anybody out there reading this right now as ever read a Nick Hornby novel, they know one thing about the dude: He knows how to write characters. Not just good characters or those easy-to-define types, nope, he’s more-attuned at writing about and characterizing those certain people in our lives we choose not to be around or associated with, and therefore, would not ever want to spend time with in a movie for a near-two hours.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can totally relate.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can relate.

You know, the unlikable people.

But somehow, Hornby makes these said “unlikable people” actually ones we can actually stand to be around, but even like and, dare I say it, connect with. Because see, Hornby may love it when his characters don’t do the best, most moral things to other people, but he never stops to show us why that said person, does that said immoral act. It actually gets us to grow closer to these characters, just as we’re watching the character themselves grow-up and begin to learn more about being a good, kind person in the world.

You know, like you’re supposed to be.

And with Will Freeman, Hornby truly did give us a d-bag that is not only hardly sympathetic, but pretty damn knowing about his mean ways as well. He knows that he’s lazy, a bum, a dick and a cad-like fella that loves a good shag every now and then, but never anything too severe to where he actually has to start up a relationship with anybody, where commitments, and feelings and all sorts of that icky, gooey stuff gets thrown into the mix. Will just isn’t programmed, but he’s not acting like he is, which sort of makes him interesting to watch. Sure, we know he loves lying to women, in the most manipulative-ways possible so that he can just bed them, but he never really tries to go for anything more than just a god’s-to-honest, simple fling and that’s all. All the ladies out there must hate him, but from one guy to another, I have to say, the guy is pretty damn cool.

That’s also the main reason why the casting of Hugh Grant in the lead role as Will Freeman was not only perfect, but nearly game-changing, in terms of Grant’s career as a head-liner. Grant’s always been the type of bumbling idiot that the dudes love to hate, and their girlfriends secretly want to be with, that’s never really stretched himself too much as an actor and instead, has just relied on two faces: Example A and B. Yes, those same faces have somehow been able to charm just about each and every women across the globe, but it hasn’t really earned him much respect or credit, in terms of just what it is that he’s capable of doing as an actor, and how he’s able to make it seem like he’s more than just another pretty face, who just so happens to have a relatively fine amount of skills as an actor.

But that all changed with Will Freeman, as Grant was not only able to show us that he’s able to be downright funny at times, but that he’s also able to do it while being a bit of a smug prick. You can tell that he’s like a man-child with a million-dollar smile and fine collection of all sorts music, but you can’t always hold it against him, because once Marcus walks into his life, times eventually do change for the guy and even though he does put up a fight against it for practically the whole time, he never does anything too reprehensible to where we totally abandon his character. Eventually too, he begins to realize that he needs Marcus, just as much as Marcus needs him and therefore, they build a lovely chemistry that not only improves over time, but begins to get more and more real, once actual relationships and friendships seem to get all caught up in the mix.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid's slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid’s slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Needless to say though, Grant is the sole reason why Freeman is the type of character who is worth watching, but also another main reason why this movie deserves to be seen. Makes me wish he did more nowadays, but I guess that whenever we get to see him show up in something, whether it’d be as 2,000 different characters in Cloud Atlas, then that’s fine too. Although, the same can’t be said for Nicholas Hoult who is not only making quite a splash as a leading-man of sorts himself, but is also making a splash into some noteworthy people’s beds, if you know what I mean? Anyway though, that doesn’t matter because Hoult still does a fine enough job here as Marcus to where he’s not non-stop annoying the whole time through. He’s definitely a needy-boy who practically pushes himself onto Will and into his life, but you can’t help but think you’d do the same thing, especially if you saw some middle-aged bum just wasting his life away on game show re-runs.

Together, they’re great and give this movie all the fine heart and soul it clearly needed to survive. Although, if I had to pick a problem I had with this movie, it was that the romance-angle Will had with Rachel Weisz’s character wasn’t all that well-written, or even developed really. Both of them clearly try, and having Rachel Weisz in a movie, is definitely better than NOT having Rachel Weisz in a movie, but it did make me wish her character was given more to work with. At least nearly as much as Toni Collette had to work with, but then again, that woman could make even M. Night Shyamalan’s dialogue work, and sound like Shakespeare, so I won’t even dare mess with her. Yikes!

Consensus: Without ever getting too sentimental or sappy, About a Boy clearly rides the fine line between dark comedy, heart and romance, while also giving Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Grant plenty of time and material to work on their chemistry together, and build a friendship that’s one of the better ones I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job! Just stay away from those hookers and you’ll be fine.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net