Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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The Italian Job (2003)

If you’re going to pull-off a cool heist, your whole gang’s gotta be cool, too. It’s a known fact.

After a super, duper tricky heist in Venice, Steve (Edward Norton) turns on his partners in crime, and ends up killing skilled and legendary safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Why? Well, Steve got greed and just wanted to keep all the gold for himself, and not try to cut in anyone else. The rest of the team that Steve ripped-off included leader Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives man Left Ear (Mos Def), and tech geek Lyle (Seth Green), or, as he likes to be called “Napster”, now all vow revenge. But in order to totally get back at Steve and ensure that their heist goes down without a hitch, they enlist the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), so that they can get an inside-view into Steve, his life, and just where exactly he’s hiding all of that damn gold. But it’s known that Steve’s a tricky dude to mess with, and it’s why the gang’s really going to have to get their act together, in order for them to not just pull this all off and get the gold, but ensure that everyone’s alive by the end of it.

“Ayo Marky Mark, check this out. I’ll say hello to my motha for me, too.”

The Italian Job is a typical remake that’s modern, which means that it’s “hip”, “cool”, and totally unnecessary. But still, it’s also a bit of fun and when it comes to remakes of old-school classics, having a bit of fun means a lot, because most of the time, they’re just soulless, annoying and nauseating cash-ins. The Italian Job is different in that it doesn’t seem a whole lot of it was made solely for the money, but that it’s still got the same kind of look, tone and feel of all the other “gang-heists” movies.

Basically, think of it a more adult, somewhat smarter version of the Fast and Furious movies.

Which isn’t to say that the Italian Job is all that dumb of a movie, it’s just silly. But in that silliness, there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had, mostly because F. Gary Gray knows that the best way to keep this material interesting, even when it’s silly, is to always be moving, never stopping and never focusing too hard on one aspect of element too much. We have a heist, we have a cast of characters, we have a baddie, we have a conflict, we have a plan, and that’s really all we need; Gray doesn’t get too bogged down in too many senseless subplots to where it feels like extra padding for a movie that does come a tad close to two hours.

But it’s a solid two hours that keeps up its energy throughout, so much so that you also realize that some of the key issues with the movie, like character-development, are left by the waist-side. Now, there’s a part of me that’s fine with the fact that each character sort of has their one characteristic/personality-trait and there’s not much else to them, but for some reason, it’s hard not to expect something a little more, especially from this well put-together cast. For instance, Statham’s Handsome Rob is pure Statham – silent, but scary, and that’s about all there is to him. Same goes for Seth Green’s “Napster”, who is just the goofy tech-y and yep, that’s it. Mos Def is also sort of like the comedic-support with Left Ear, but he’s got such stiff-competition from Green in that department, that often times, it feels like a lot of his stuff was cut.

And then, there’s the core trio of Wahlberg, Theron, and Norton who all, in any other movie, probably would have put on acting-class beyond our beliefs. But sadly, they’re stuck in a silly actioner that doesn’t quite care about how good of actors they are. As long as they are hot enough and can read lines, than it’s all that matters, right?

Honestly, public-transportation has been worse.

Well, yeah, I guess.

In 2003, it’s hard to believe that Wahlberg was still finding his inner-leading man, which is why his performance as Charlie Croker, while not bad, isn’t necessarily the strongest, either. Same goes for Theron’s Stella, who is basically there to be the hot romantic love-interest for Charlie to eventually learn feelings from. Theron was also in a weird spot in Hollywood where they knew she could act, but she was too busy getting these roles where she was just window-dressing because of her absolutely gorgeous-looks. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s obvious she was made for much, much more.

And of course, the same is clearly said for Norton who, even as the villain here, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Still, Norton tries in what is, essentially, a paycheck gig that allow for him to take more risks with the smaller indie-flicks that he had always became so known and adored for. Even in the moments where we’re supposed to feel like this guy is a total and complete asshole, Norton’s not fully there and it’s weird, because it’s like we almost don’t care and just remember how effective he was in another good heist film, the Score.

But still, all of this talk about performances and characters, guess what? It doesn’t matter. The Italian Job gets the job done it set out to do, right. It doesn’t slow itself down and it sure as hell doesn’t try to appear as anything more than it already is – it’s just a fun, sometimes way too silly flick, with hot, talented people, being hot and cool.

And in that sense, yeah, it’s fine.

I just like to complain.

Consensus: Though it’s disappointing to see such a waste of a good ensemble, the Italian Job still delivers the right amount of fun, thrills and humor to have anyone happy.

7 / 10

As usual, the bro’s don’t know what to do when a tall, beautiful and smart woman comes around. Except Marky. He knows everything.

Photos Courtesy of:


Dreamgirls (2006)

White music? What crap!!

Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) are three life-long friends that share something that we all have in common: dreaming. They all dream of one day, becoming the best singers in the whole, entire world and will stop at nothing to have that dream come true. After a show-stopping performance one night, they get picked-up by cool, collective, and charming manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), who promises them that all of their wildest dreams in the world will come ture if they just stick with him and his main act, aging-superstar James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). However, as usual, once things get hotter and bigger as the years go by, times start to get tougher, egos begin to clash, and people start to give up on all their hopes and dreams.

I’m not ashamed to say it, but I do love musicals. Well, let me correct that: I do love musicals when they are done right. This is one of those instances where it is done right for the sole purpose that the movie makes no gripes with trying to do anything new or original, it’s just having fun being itself. People singing, dancing, lip-syncing, and doing some heavy-emoting can always guarantee a fun watch, that’s if you can handle it and can handle what the director has done with it, which is why Bill Condon was such a great choice for this material, despite it not seeming so in the beginning.

Condon seemed like a strange choice for this type of material, but after watching it, you’re going to wonder just why the hell he hasn’t dabbled in music much more? He obviously seems to be loving every second he’s working with this movie, the cast he has time to play with, and even better, takes the music and singing seriously. It’s weird how some songs are filmed as if they were performed in a concert and then, out of nowhere, people start singing and dancing to each other on the street as if it was a cut-scene from Grease, but it didn’t matter because Condon barely even had me noticing after awhile. Once I got used to it all, I realized that this was a movie all about people singing their freakin’ hearts out, and you can’t ever go wrong with that.

Then again, there are those types of people that will get on your case for liking a movie like this, regardless of if you’re a dude or a chick. If you’re a chick, it’s sort of obvious and cliche for you to like this, but for guys? Just forget it! Dudes get picked on for liking movies like this all of the time, but what I always wonder is why? If the movie is having fun, wants you to have fun, and is singing it’s heart out til the time the final credits roll-up, then what’s the problem with liking it? You like Nirvana, you like Jay-Z, and you like Metallica, which is something we all accept for what it is, but once some man comes right out and says that he enjoys musicals, all of a sudden, he’s a huge softy? Awww baloney, I say! Baloney!

Anyway, besides that rant up above, I really enjoyed myself with this movie because Condon seemed to as well. The music is entertaining, catchy-as-hell, and surprisingly, even for a major, Hollywood production, very energetic. Most musicals like to do its song-and-dance, chill out for awhile, mellow things down, and then bring it all back up for a big old, grand finale, but not this one. This one keeps the blood pumping, the attention span up, and the lungs flailing, without ever seeming to miss a beat. Well, without missing a beat in the musical sense. In the actual story sense, well, there are plenty of beats being missed.

Being that this is a musical about the age old story of having dreams, gunning for them, and never giving up to achieve them, the story does go into places that are fairly conventional and predictable. Obvious themes like how fame overpowers friendship, love vanishes once control comes into play, etc. all show up, do their thang, and leave with a push of a button. It doesn’t take too much away from the flick, but it doesn’t seem to ever really give it an original stamp that the musical genre hasn’t played with before. Everything plays out like you’d expect it to, but with the exception that everything here is practically sung and danced to. Sometimes.

Oh well, at least the movie is still entertaining for what it is and that’s also mostly thanks to the huge cast Condon was able to assemble here. Jamie Foxx is fine as the ambitious manager, Curtis Taylor Jr., and is obviously the Barry Gordy-type in the way that he wants shit done his way, or the highway. Foxx is very good at this type of role because you see the charm of his character fade in, and then totally black-out once things get so big for the ladies. Beyoncé Knowles plays Deena, the apple of his eye and the leader of the singing-group (aka, Diana Ross), and is fine, even if all her character really does is look a little disappointed with the way Curtis is acting and treating her, and singing her fucking heart out. Which, in her case, can’t really be that hard to begin with.

"Bitch, quit asking me if I'm making waffles or not!"

“Bitch, quit asking me to impersonate that donkey again!”

Playing the one whom she eventually shit-cans to the side of her, for fame and glory, is Jennifer Hudson as the lovable, plus-sized diva that can sing better and can stick up for herself more than any other woman in this movie, let alone just little, poor Deena. As we all know, Hudson won the Oscar for her role as Effie and with good reason: The chick is not a great actor, but a way, way better singer than anything else. Obviously, she will always be remembered for her jaw-dropping rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,”, but even when she isn’t telling Jam-Foxx and all of the other girls to go ‘eff themselves by using her vocal-chords, she’s still pretty good as the sassy gal that won’t put up for nothing. Hudson is a very underrated actress and I think it’s about time that she started getting more quality roles in Hollywood, rather than just some nun in the Three Stooges movie. Yup, that was her.

Another star in this movie who found their name getting some Oscar attention was Eddie Murphy as the aging, but still sturdy soul man known as James Early. Murphy is dynamite in this role because whenever Jimmy is fun, quick-witted, and having a great time on-screen, so is Murphy and you can tell that he’s working with material he really appreciates. However, when Jimmy is being a bit down in the dumps, upset, and a bit unstable, Murphy shows shades of his acting-prowess that we’ve never seen before from the dude (even in Pluto Nash, if you can believe that!). It’s no surprise that Murphy was nominated for his work here, as it not only was a change-of-pace for a guy that seemed to be putting on the same silly face for the past 30 years, but because it gave the guy a chance to show us what he’s got, even with the short-amount of time the dude may have had on-screen. Hey, if the Academy wasn’t being so generous to old-school vet Alan Arkin that year, Donkey might just have been looking at some Oscar gold that year. However, we all know who the Academy loves to favor in a position like that. Wah.

Consensus:  You might not find yourself realizing that Dreamgirls changes the way, the look, or the structure of the movie-musical, but you will still find yourself humming along to the tunes, toe-tapping away, and enjoying the hell out of yourself with material that seems to be doing the same as well.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

The days when music used to be performed by a live band, in the studio, with real people singing, dancing, and playing. How times have changed.

The days when music used to be performed by a live band, in the studio, with real people singing, dancing, and playing. My oh my, how times have changed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo