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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Martin Ferrero

Gods and Monsters (1998)

Next time you dress up as Frankenstein this Halloween, think about where the creation came from.

James Whale (Ian McKellen) is one of the most regarded directors of all-time. With such classics under his belt like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein, Whale had all of the fame and fortune that any man could ever afford to settle down and spend their last couple of years in utter and total harmony. However, Whale still pains from what his career could have and should have been, had he not been openly-gay and criticized for it his whole career, and it’s beginning to take more of a toll on him as the days continue to go by and his hair gets whiter. Then walks in his newly-appointed gardener (Brendan Fraser), and all of a sudden, Whale has found a new bit of inspiration in his life, whether or not it may just be sex or art. Either way, the man is happy and spirited again but his long-loving care-taker, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave), doesn’t see it as being so happy or spirited. She senses trouble brewing in the air and she may be right, but James doesn’t care nor take notice to it. He’s just happy being him.

He likes what he sees.

It’s interesting to watch Gods and Monsters because, at first, you have a general idea of just where the story is going. You’d automatically assume that Whale, in his last gasp for life, starts something of a relationship with this hunky groundskeeper, reliving all of the lovely and enjoyable times of his past, while also realizing that life is beautiful, wonderful, and grand, and deserves to be lived, rather than not, only to then pass away right as soon as the going gets good. In a way, that sort of happens, but it sort of doesn’t, and it’s why Gods and Monsters remains a solid look at the life of someone that time may have forgotten about, but the movies he’s made, will continue to stand the test of time.

Which is neat, because after watching Gods and Monsters, you’ll soon realize that a lot of the issues prevalent in Whale’s own life, basically shined through his most famous works. Whale had a love and an affinity for showing the weirdo’s, or better yet, the outcasts, of society to the rest of the world. The movie’s many hints at this can tend to get a bit annoying, but that doesn’t make them any less true; making movies for Whale was less about making millions and millions of dollars, gaining respect, and getting the chance to hob-knob with some of Hollywood’s finest, as much as it was about expressing his true, inner-feelings of loneliness that haunted him his whole life.

Does that mean he didn’t have some fun while doing it all? Of course not, but still, we’re shown and told that there was something more here than just a bunch of fun-to-watch monster flicks. There was a heart, a soul, and an absolutely sad being behind it all.

But the movie doesn’t just harp on this one fact and drive it into the ground, as it’s actually more about this made-up guy known as Clay, as played by Brendan Fraser, and the type of relationship he builds over time with Whale. Like I’ve said before, this aspect of the movie could have easily been the most obvious and conventional one seen coming – man and man fall in love, realize something new about one another, etc. – but it doesn’t quite go that way. In fact, Clay doesn’t even know Whale is gay at first, and even when he does find out, he doesn’t quite care; personally, he just likes to hear the stories this guy has to tell.

Can you blame him?

It’s an interesting dynamic these two create and to watch as their relationship builds to something sweet, is quite nice. It also helps that Fraser and McKellen have great chemistry, seeming as if they truly are getting to know one another and getting along while doing it. Fraser has always gotten a bad-rap for being a bad actor, something that hasn’t always been true; just one look at his performance in Gods and Monsters, you’ll notice that he’s holding his own against McKellen, while also showing some signs of immaturity and growth needed. Basically, it’s what his character was going for and Fraser shows it, proving that when given the right material, he’s actually quite good.

McKellen, on the other hand, well, what can be said that hasn’t already been said before about him?

McKellen is an old pro who knows what he’s doing, which is why watching his performance as Whale can sometimes be a joyous experience, even if it does revolve around a great deal of sadness. McKellen shows us that there’s some true light, happiness and inspiration in Whale that somehow reignites once he meets Clay, but also doesn’t forget to remind us that there’s something truly heartbreaking about this character. We get the flashbacks, the dream-sequences, and of course, the stories, but where we really get the idea of something truly unsettling, is through McKellen himself. He plays Whale as an old man, getting older and more broken down as the days go by, proving to himself, that life can end.

But it’s the movies and the creations you release to the whole world, that really make it all meaningful.

Consensus: With two very solid performances from Fraser and McKellen, Gods and Monsters works as a smart, moving and rather sweet take on life, memories, and an aspect of Hollywood classics that most of us tend to look away from.

8 / 10

Best friends forever.

Photos Courtesy of: Cinema Queer

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Get Shorty (1995)

Be cool. Not the sequel. Just be cool in general.

Chili Palmer (John Travolta) is a Miami mobster who gets sent by his boss, “Bones” Barboni (Dennis Farina), to collect a bad debt from someone who Bones a whole lot of money. However, Chili’s not just going out and roughing up any normal dude, he’s going out to meet the one, the only Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), a Hollywood producer who specializes in all sorts of flicks, but most importantly, horror flicks. And Chili meets Harry’s leading lady (Rene Russo), he can’t help but fall a little head over heels for her. So of course Chili wants to join up in the film-business and eventually sells his life story to Harry, and a few others in Hollywood. Sooner than later, Chili finds out that being a mobster and being a Hollywood producer really aren’t all that different, even if one does concern more ass-kicking than the other. Oh and while this is all going down, Bones is still out there looking for his money – something he will not let go of until it is in his hands.

Don't get too close, Rene. You have yet to be "audited".

Don’t get too close, Rene. You have yet to be “audited”.

It’s easy to do a Hollywood satire. All one really has to do is find some sort of way to say that “Hollywood is a sick, evil and cruel place where people with barely any talent flourish, and those who actually do possess a certain level of said talent, don’t.” It’s that simple and honestly, it’s why so many showbiz satires can sometimes feel tired, even if they are funny; Birdman was the latest showbiz satire that actually had a bite and sting to it that worked and made me laugh, beyond just being mean.

And yeah, Get Shorty‘s got a lot of bite to it, too. However, by the same token, it’s not trying to pass itself off as a Hollywood satire, through and through. If anything, it’s a fun, sleek, and cool crime-comedy, that also just so happens to take place in Hollywood, with actors, actresses, producers, directors, screen-writers, dolly-grips, interns, and etc. But it’s not as silly as it sounds – somehow, writer Scott Frank and director Barry Sonnenfeld find the perfect combo of action, comedy, drama, romance, and satire that, yeah, may not always make perfect sense, but still works out smoothly.

Which is more than I can say for some other Hollywood satires who really try to take on too much, without ever realizing that they have a story to continue with beside their mean-spiritedness. But really, underneath all of this, Get Shorty is just a fun movie that’s hard not to be entertained by. Frank’s script, when he isn’t riffing on any of the mechanisms of Hollywood or the film-business in general, is funny and features a great list of colorful characters that more than make up for some of the dull moments in the movie’s languid pace.

John Travolta, when he actually seemed to give a total damn, did a great job as Chili Palmer. There’s a sense of coolness about Travolta that, despite current controversies, we tend to forget actually exists, but here as Chili Palmer, he showed that off perfectly. At some points, he’s supposed to be this mean and tense figure, but then, he changes into being someone nicer and more charming. Some people may not believe both of the sides to this character, but it works, because Travolta could somehow be both menacing, as well as likable at the same time.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Where all of that has gone, is totally beyond me.

Anyway, he also has wonderful chemistry with Rene Russo who, as usual, is great here. The movie does kind of deal with the fact that her character is an aging actress in Hollywood, but doesn’t seem to be getting on her case – if anything, it makes her more sympathetic and makes us want to see her and Chili run off into the sunset at the end. Why she wasn’t around for the second movie, is totally beyond me, but then again, it may be more of a blessing than a curse.

Everybody else is pretty great, too. Gene Hackman seems to be having a lot of fun as the perfectly-named Harry Zimm, someone who is actually quite infatuated with the lifestyle that Chili seems to live; Danny DeVito is pitch perfect as Martin Weir; Dennis Farina gets plenty of chances to curse and act psycho, which is always a treat; Delroy Lindo shows up and he’s always good; and there’s even a few, oddly surprising cameos that seem to come out of nowhere, yet, still work.

Get Shorty is the kind of movie that may seem dated, considering it’s over a decade old, but it still works. The breezy pace helps a lot of the movie’s heavy-lifting and moving, feel as if we’re spending a lot of time with characters that we can learn to love, forgive and forget that they can sometimes be evil human beings. They may not be as lovely to learn about as they were in Elmore Leonard’s original book, but hey, they’re still fine as is.

Heck, they’re way better than whatever happened in the sequel.

Seriously, stay away from that movie.

Consensus: With a smart script and charming performances from the solid cast, Get Shorty is more than just another satire with jokes aimed at Hollywood for giggles, and it’s what matters most.

8 / 10

"I've got this great idea. How about a sequel?"

“I’ve got this great idea. How about a sequel?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Qwipster

The Tailor of Panama (2001)

Always need a nasty spy to get rid of the neat ones.

Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), early in his life, used to be a con from Cockney. That was before he met his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis), started a family, and most importantly, basically reinvented himself as a popular tailor to the rich and powerful of Panama. While his customers love his lavish and beautiful suits that he hand-crafts himself, they also love the stories he’s brings, with some of them feeling as if he’s more than just their tailor – he’s their friend. Or better yet, he’s a part of their family. The British realize this, especially spy Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), a man who notices that Pendel is a very important pawn, in a very big chess game and does not let up one bit from getting each and every piece of info he can, at any costs. But Harry isn’t used to having so much pressure be on him and it’s only a matter of time before it all blows up in his face, as well as everybody else’s.

Still Bond no matter what.

Still Bond no matter what.

The Tailor of Panama is a perfectly serviceable spy-thriller that makes you understand why so many people love and hate John le Carré. One of the main reasons why people love his material so much is that he creates such fun and exciting yarns, that they’re hard not to get wrapped-up in. He tends to love writing about spies, and because of that, we get to sit by and watch as deep, dark and seductive stories of secrets, lies, and spy-hijinx occur. Sure, some of it may be too twisty for its own good, but there’s no denying that spies themselves are pretty confusing; they never know what they want to be and le Carré is there to try and make sense of them, without letting up on any sort of fun.

At the same time, a lot of people hate his work and this movie is another example of why.

For instance, people often complain that le Carré’s work can tend to get a bit too complicated and convoluted than it needs to be, and well, that’s kind of the case here. However, it doesn’t start out like that; director John Boorman takes his time with this setting, these characters, and also, give us a better understanding of what exactly is at-stake/going on. Even if this part doesn’t feel fully realized, the least we find out is that some bad, rich people are up to bad, rich people-like things, and it’s up to Rush’s character to stop it all. Of course, you can fill in the blanks from there, but yeah, it’s pretty simple for a short time.

But like I said, it all goes to hell once the actual plot itself gets going and we have to find out more about these shady and corrupt millionaires. As is usually the case with le Carré’s stories, what the reasoning and explanation of these evil-doings actually are, tend to be overdone, overcooked, and just so damn evil, that after awhile, you wonder why their first idea wasn’t to just nuke the whole world while they were at it. This is the part of the Tailor of Panama that bothered me, as everything leading up to it seemed to be light, breezy and semi-twisty fun. After the half-way mark, of course, it goes away and all of a sudden, we have to pay attention to each and every twist that comes around, even if they aren’t fully believable to begin with.

But thankfully, there is Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush here, who make it all worth our while.

Always need a good tailor who eavesdrops way too much.

Always need a good tailor who eavesdrops way too much.

As Harry Pendel, Rush is having a good time, but he’s also got more of a character to play. He has to both be somewhat sinister, as well as naive and nerdy at the same time; something he pulls off quite well, especially in the later, more confusing portions. Though Jamie Lee Curtis may initially seem miscast here, she actually fits well as Pendel’s wife who not only makes the most money in the house, but also appears to be the one who wears the biggest and widest pants in the family. She doesn’t back down when the going gets heavy and she starts to catch on real quick, not only making her smart, but more than willing and up to the task of playing with the big boys.

Of course though, none of these two are any match for Brosnan and all that he does here as Andrew Osnard. On paper, Osnard is a snively, somewhat goofy spy who likes booze, women, and partying; in the movie version, Osnard is a snively, totally goofy spy who likes booze, women, and partying, but also enjoys stealing every scene known to man. Sure, a lot of what makes this character cool in the first place is the writing, but really, it’s Brosnan who makes this somewhat conventional spy character, literally jump off the screen, seeming like someone you wouldn’t expect at all in a story like this, nor would you expect him to be as funny or likable as he is. That’s probably why Brosnan, playing somewhat against-type, was the perfect choice here; he’s not likable a whole lot, but with enough of that winning smile and charm, he’s willing to shine the pants off of anyone watching.

Now, does that sound like true Bond to you? I think so.

Consensus: A tad too twisty and wild, the Tailor of Panama is a fun and exciting spy-romp, made all the better by the key performances from the talented cast, most especially the always vibrant Pierce Brosnan.

7 / 10

That's Pierce, alright! Always sneaking up on ya in the water!

That’s Pierce, alright! Always sneaking up on ya in the water!

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes, MTV, Roger Ebert

Jurassic Park (1993)

Dinosaurs never have been, and never will be the same.

Two dinosaur experts, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler Laura Dern), are invited to test out a soon-to-be theme park from a millionaire named John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). Hammond has it all: he’s got the glitz, the glamour, the look, the style, and most surprisingly; he has dinosaurs. That’s right those things that you thought were exterminated almost 70 million years ago are in Hammond’s park, and are causing a ruckus like you’d expect. However, when that ruckus turns from playful to deadly in a matter of 24 hours, all hell breaks loose and it’s time for everybody to get their asses the hell of that damn island.

It’s been a long, long time since I made a return to this wonderful, but scary island but it was still a trip worth taking, even if it was in 3D this time around. Here’s the thing about the 3D since most peeps will want to know right off the bat: it’s nothing worth even talking about (even though that is exactly what I’m doing). The 3D is cool at times and definitely makes you feel as if you are a lot closer to the action than ever before, especially when it’s just jumping right out at you, but other than that; it’s nothing special that would really make me want to go out and see it, again and again. Even though I did see it in theaters, it was all because it was free, early in the a.m., and best of all, with my daddy waddy. Father-son bonding. Ain’t nothing else like it.

Aside from the 3D elements that are relatively lackluster at best, let me just get back with the movie and say that it’s still as fun and entertaining as much as it was all those years ago I watched it as a kid. I remember being scared of the big-ass dinos, I remember gripping my seat when those kids were running all-over-the-place in that kitchen, and I especially remember those freaky fuckers that used to spray poison/venom out of themselves, just as soon as they gave you the warning sign to “run the fuck away, now!”. Fond memories going into this movie and I was so happy to see none of them really tarnished, even if some glaring problems come in the way now that I’m a more sophisticated, and uppity-uppity film critic.

Lights off, idiot!

Lights off, idiot!

Some of the problems I seemed to have had with the script was not that it was lame or anything, it’s fine for what it is and what it tries to do, it’s just that when the initial plot where there is running, chasing, and panic all throughout the area, I felt like it could have been handled better, and written better without all of the plot inconveniences  For instance, the character of John Hammond just seemed like an idiot for even bothering opening up this park, for one reason and one reason only: there’s not enough security. The fact that the dippy was even thinking of opening up this park, where dinosaurs can easily get out of their safe-spots, just by knocking down a couple of wires, seemed really idiotic to me and not something that a rich millionaire would even forget about. Then, it goes on about how he’s cloning these dinosaurs from other gene-pools and turning them all into female, even if that proves a problem for evolution within this park, along with the rising tensions. I get that the guy had a passion and inspiration to create this park and allow everybody to see it, but you got to think things through man before you go all nutso on us.

There’s other problems with the script in certain areas, but the fact of the matter is that this movie is still fun, still entertaining, and still freaky, despite being released almost 20 years ago. Shit, I was actually three months away from entering the world when this movie came out. I’m getting old, man. The movie holds up in many ways because it shows what Steven Spielberg can do when he has a vision and that includes having a ball with his material. Some of it is a tad serious, but rightfully so. It allows us to feel worried for these characters as they constantly try to run and hide from these dinos, without losing a leg, arm, shoulder, knee, or life. It’s pretty scary even after all of these years, but I like how Spielberg was able to transition it back-and-forth, between serious and fun. It’s not light entertainment by any stretch, but if you bring your kid to it, I highly doubt they’ll be scared for life. Granted, they may wet the bed every night and never, ever want to see a dinosaur again, but that’s just life my friend. Quite frankly, it’s your call if you want to take them to see it, not mine. So please, don’t sue me if the kid ends up in a nut-ward or a serial killer. Just saying.

Another factor of this movie that works and also shows how much fun Spielberg seemed to be having while filming was the ensemble-cast he was able to assemble and make ready for this “dinosaur on a rampage” flick. Might have been a hard-sell at the time, but somehow, the man was able to get a lot of heavy-hitters that are still doing great work, even to this day. Laura Dern and Sam Neill are good as the couple that loves dinosaur bones as much as they love each other, and are good at what they do, whether they be together or separate  Dern is good at playing-up that tough, female-role where she can do almost as much dirty work, if not more than the boys in town; whereas Neill is good at playing-up his role as the type of dude who doesn’t like kids and doesn’t even want him, but yet, finds himself almost acting like a daddy when the shit hits the fan. Bedtime stories and all.

"What a pretty puppet."

“What a pretty puppet.”

Samuel L. Jackson shows up and is good in his couple of scenes where he infamously utters the line, “Hold on to your butts.” A bit corny, but it’s classic because of Mr. Jackson. Or Samuel L. Whichever one that mofo desires. Despite the problems I had with his dumb-ass character, screen-vet Richard Attenborough was actually very good at giving us a glimpse into a man that has too much money, too much ambition, but not enough smarts to fully think things through. I felt bad for him, until I realized that he allowed his grand kids to show up for this wonderful weekend. I guess he won’t be invited to Christmas din-din any time soon. And lastly, need I not forget about the one, the only, Mr. Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, aka, the rock-star scientist who always lays low, always lays cool, and always has something hilarious or witty to say. It’s classic-Goldblum, whadda ya expect?!?

Consensus: Though the extra-dimension isn’t needed, Jurassic Park still holds up as one of the best, and most entertaining Spielberg flicks because he never seems to lose that fun-aspect that makes it such a ride (they actually have a pretty sucky one in Universal), and also the serious side to it all where you feel like anybody could die at any second, you just don’t know how to expect it coming. Trust me, not as gruesome as it sounds so show your kiddies and see what they have to say. Unless they get traumatized for the rest of their lives. Once again, don’t blame me for not listening to your inner-soul.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

If all parks ended their tours like this, family-trips wouldn't be so painful.

If all parks ended their tours like this, family-trips wouldn’t be so painful.