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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Michelle Forbes

Columbus (2017)

Life is architecture. That works, right?

Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is a recent high school graduate, is at a bit of a stand-still in her life. She wants to go out to college, work on architecture, study, and make a name for herself, but ever since her dad left, her mother (Michelle Forbes) has been having some issues with staying sober. So it’s what keeps Casey at home, working at the local library, and occasionally, flirting with her coworker (Rory Culkin). But then her life changes a bit when Jin (John Cho), enters town. His father, a renowned architecture scholar, falls ill and is forced to stay in the hospital, making Jin to come back home and figure out what the next step is. He, like Casey, is in a bit of a rut and together, the two strike up something of a friendship that starts off as admiration for one another, but then, turns into something far more sweet. But not in the way you’d wholly expect.

Who cares about the people? Look at those trees!

Columbus is one of those rare movies that isn’t afraid to take its time, literally plant a camera down, just keep shooting, and use absolute silence. It’s the kind of movie that’s perfect for when you have an empty home all to yourself, because there’s hardly a score (and when it does play, it’s beautiful) and just a bunch of characters walking, talking, and gawking at the beautiful buildings all around them. If that sounds too boring for you, then yeah, Columbus is just not going to work.

It’s a smart, interesting, and relatively touching character-study that should be seen.

But hey, if it’s not your bag, then it’s not your bag. So be it.

Regardless, Columbus brings us a smart and fresh voice in writer/director Kogonada who, thankfully, makes the smart decision to not get all that pretentious with the material. Sure, it’s about architecture and certain people’s love for it, but the movie’s much more about taking advantage of the life you have, the opportunities you get, and figuring out just where you want to go next. Architecture is used as a gorgeous backdrop, but really, it’s less about the buildings, shapes, sizes, and colors, and much more about the actual humans who build them and live in them.

And with that said, it’s a pretty great ensemble. Haley Lu Richardson shows us that she’s one of the more interesting younger-actresses out there who, despite her beautiful looks, is also able to really give off the vibes that she’s just another ordinary, young, and confused girl in this world. The movie smartly doesn’t make her decision to leave all about a romantic love-interest, but her dedication to her mother and the fact that she has no clue just how to go about moving out and doing something with her life. She’s not whiny and sad – in fact, she’s quite settled and pleased – but she also wants to go somewhere, anywhere that’s possible.

“So, like, buildings.”

It’s a lovely role that reminds me of a young Winona Ryder. I hope that Richardson’s career turns out the same way, without the shoplifting incident.

But then, there’s John Cho who is also very interesting here, not because he plays a man at his crossroads, but because he’s actually in a drama, given a role that’s worthy of his talents. Cho’s got great delivery where he always seems like the smartest guy in the room and will call you out immediately, but also shows that there’s plenty of insecurity to him. The relationship he and Richardson’s character has, seems like it’s going to get weird and creepy, but actually turns into something beautiful that’s not just shocking to us, but to them, too. It’s sweet and mannered and never once does it seem like it’s going to go over the line.

That’s not just good acting, either – that’s just good writing.

Remember the name “Kogonada”, people.

Consensus: Mannered and a little slow, Columbus may seem like it’s taking too much time to get going, but it’s sort of the point and it helps the performances work so much more.

8 / 10

Seriously, who needs humans when we have buildings!?!?

Photos Courtesy of: Superlative Films

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Another YA adaptation down, plenty more to go.

After she was attacked by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is fed up and ready to take action against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Meaning, that it’s time for war to get going and it’s going to be Katnis the one spearheading it. And once again, it becomes clear that a lot of what Katnis does or says, is all planned out from the beginning with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) constantly working behind the scenes, testing and working with every maneuver Katnis takes. Regardless though, there is a war to be fought, which leads Katnis, as well as the rest of her trusted soldiers for the cause, to head straight to District 2 and then the Capitol itself for one last fight to take down Snow and his tyrannical reign. However, as expected, Snow is more than up to the task of taking on this band of soldiers, while also proving that he may be the more powerful force after all. But there’s also something else that’s a bit fishy about this situation and it has less to do with Snow, as much as it may have to do with those that Katnis aligns herself with in the first place.

Will miss him.

Will miss him.

Finally, after three years, four movies, and plenty of money, the Hunger Games film franchise is coming to an end. In ways, it’s kind of bittersweet; while none of the films have ever astounded me, they’ve been plenty better than all those other young adult novel adaptations that come out every few months or so. Granted, considering the company that’s kept in that genre, that may not be saying much, but still, it’s worth noting that each and everyone of these movies have all done some neat, interesting things with a plot and source material that could have easily been the most melodramatic, boring piece of crud since Bella and Edward started hookin’ up in the forest.

Still, what makes the Hunger Games, the franchise, so special, is that it’s the kind of YA adaptation that plenty of people can actually enjoy. Of course, the target audience for this will continue to devour and adore it until the day they die, but so many other people, who may not think that this is “their thing”, may find something to be interested by here. There’s the romance for all the screaming fan-girls in the crowd; there’s the violence for the boyfriends who get dragged to them; there’s the high-production values for the film-fanatics; and most importantly, there’s political messages and ideas for those who still believe that we’re being spied on by the government, at this very second.

They’re not wrong, but still.

And with Mockingjay – Part 2, it really does feel like, not just the end, but the greatest hits of what this story had to offer, but seemed to lose sight of over the past two movies. All of the elements that have made the past films work, are still here, but now, there’s so much more emotion, so much more power, and most of all, so much more feeling that has you realize, “Holy hell. This truly is the last time we may ever see these characters on the screen again.” It’s definitely the same feeling everyone had watching Deathly Hallows – Part 2, as well as most other finales, but here, it feels done just right.

There’s a greater deal of suspense and tension in the air, which definitely helps this movie out. Though I haven’t read any of the books (I actually tried and then I picked up a copy of the Corrections and the rest is, as they say, history), it’s pretty simple and easy to predict just who’s going to survive by the end of the movies, and who is going to bite the dust. Here, however, because this is the last movie, there’s a sense in the air that we don’t know who’s going to live, who’s going to die, and just who’s life is going to be completely ruined forever.

Even way after the credits end.

This is all some incredibly grim and bleak stuff that the movie’s dealing with, but it all surprisingly works with the rest of the tone. Everything before Katnis and her fellow soldiers get out onto the war-field, everything’s slow, meandering and plodding, to say the least; in fact, it had me worried that we were just getting left-over scenes from Part 1, which, in and of itself, was already a pretty lame movie, so why would I want to be reminded of it? But after all of the emotions are exchanged, the guns start coming out, explosions start happening, and characters, well-developed or not, believe it or not, start dropping like flies. There’s characters you may expect to perish, whereas there may be some you don’t – either way, it’s hard not to watch when these characters are all getting themselves into more and more dangerous situations as they parade along to find and kill Snow.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

It’s all action-packed, of course, but it’s also incredibly compelling that makes you feel something for these characters probably more so than before. Katnis is, as usual, a bad-ass, but here, we really do get a chance to see her true personality, heart and soul shine; so much has been made in the past two movies where Katnis is, basically, just an image and nothing else. However, with her fourth-outing as Katnis, Jennifer Lawrence shows that she’s still able to find some new ways to breath fresh life into this character. Does she seem a bit bored? Yeah.

But I guess that’s what happens when you’re the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

And everybody else is fine, too. The ensemble here is so stacked by now that, honestly, it feels like a shame they aren’t all given monologues to deliver and run rampant with, but so be it. In any other film, this cast would have absolutely made any movie a near-masterpiece, but because this is a Hunger Games movie, it’s less about them, and more about the spectacle.

Which, like I’ve said before, isn’t a bad thing. These movies, especially this one, have all done great jobs at balancing-out all the different aspects it takes to make this story interesting to watch and think about. The last-half of this movie definitely deals with that in a smart, but nearly shocking way that’s sure to surprise a whole lot of people who don’t know what to expect. But still, it works because the world that this movie has created, right from the very get-go, is one that may look all bright and shiny from the outside, but once you dig a bit deeper, is downright sadistic and disturbing. Such is the case with the real world, too, I guess.

But hey, we’ll miss you Katnis.

*Whistle-salute sound*

Consensus: Surprisingly grim, exciting and most of all, emotional, Mockingjay – Part 2 isn’t just the final installment of the franchise, but also the best one, proving just what sorts of wonders it was able to work, despite the target audience and what’s generally expected of stories such as these.

8 / 10

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Bows and arrows are the ultimate weapons for rebellion. Guns are better, but hey, you work with what you’ve got.

After the tragic events of the second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is, once again, left in total and complete shock. However, she’s not alone, as she was soon taken in by the rebellious District 13 and given the task to fight back against the malicious Capital, and its evil leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). And although Katniss is more than happy to fight back and get whatever revenge she can get on Snow and his legions of soldiers, there’s a couple problems holding her back. For one, District 13’s president, Coin (Julianne Moore), and her trusted lackey, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), not only want her to stand high and tall with District 13, but even be seen as the face of the new rebellion that will hopefully inspire many others to stand up against Snow and his regime. Also, after the last Hunger Games, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was kidnapped and taken in by the Capitol, who seems to be using him as a way to coax Katniss into just putting down her bows and giving up. Katniss wants to, so as to not hurt Peeta even more, but the problem is that she’s not the one fully in control – others are and it begins to show.

It’s safe to say that, by now, the Hunger Games film franchise has been pretty successful. Not just in terms of its box-office success, but also with those pretentious, unhappy human specimens we know as critics. Meaning, that it was only just a matter of time until one of these films, as it only takes one, had to screw it up for the rest.

And it’s quite fitting that it just so happens to be the first part of a movie that didn’t need to even have a first part to begin with.

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch?

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch? Say it ain’t so, J-Moore!

Trust me, too, this is coming from a guy who has never read a single page of one of these books; Hollywood thinks that since they have a cash-cow on their hands, that they should try their hardest and pan the movies out for as long as they can, as only a way to reel in more and more dough. They did it with the Harry Potter franchise, they did with those terrible Twilight movies, and heck, they were even thinking about doing it for the Hobbit movies, that is until somebody actually wised up and realized that it’s probably not the best decision to push that franchise any longer than it needed to be, especially considering that it’s all made from one single book. Just one, people! So why the hell did there need to be three, freakin’ movies at all?!?!

Anyway, like I was saying, here with Mockingjay – Part 1, it’s obvious that the powers that be behind it, wanted it to just go on for as long as it could, so long so as it all built-up to what would hopefully be the ultimate finale for this franchise next year, and it shows. That’s not to say all of the movie is bad, but when you have a film that goes on for so long which is, quite frankly, is pretty solid up to a point, and it just ends, it not only feels abrupt, but pretty disappointing. You can tell that, if they really wanted to with these movies, they could have made just one, three-hour epic that would, hopefully, put the bow-tie on the franchise once and for all. But nope, when big-wig, hot-shot Hollywood executives see dollar-signs, they can’t help themselves one bit.

Sort of like how I am in Dunkin’ Donuts. Only one, I promise myself, and then, a dozen doughnuts later, I’m wondering just what the hell happened to me and my thought-process. It’s a bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got to work with, people, so bare with me please.

But to get a bit away from the whole problem with this movie being unnecessary in the first place, I think it’s best to just dive right into what made it so good to begin with and, therefore, made the abrupt ending all the more enraging. See, what’s interesting about this flick, is that while it’s clear that it has the biggest budget in the world and can practically do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, and with whomever it wants to, for some reason, Mockingjay – Part 1 has a very limited-scope which, dare I say it, makes it feel almost claustrophobic. Hardly do we ever get to see what’s going on/around the world of Panem and in these other districts, outside of maybe a TV monitor or through of what somebody says.

A perfect example of this is a very terrifying sequence in which District 13 gets attacked by the Capitol, leaving everybody inside scrambling, running, and trying to find any shelter that they can. While this is all going on, we hear the explosions hitting District 13 and we see the effect it has on the base from the inside, but we never see what’s exactly going on outside; what we see and hear, are just enough to scare us into an oblivion and have us expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. It’s a well-done sequence that I kept on thinking about the most after I saw the movie, because it pretty much puts the rest of the movie into perspective: We are thrown into this tiny, nearly suffocating world and we can’t get out of it. We’re along for the ride with Katniss, even if that does, or doesn’t take her anywhere special.

Speaking of Katniss, once again, Jennifer Lawrence is great in this role and allows Katniss to be strong, smart, and also, humane. She hardly does something for her own self-interest and it makes us sympathize with her a lot more, even if she is playing with both Gale and Peeta’s hearts like a person putting a carrot in front of a rabbit on a treadmill. Still, she’s good to watch and brings a lot of development to a character that could have easily been just another little, whiny teenager who can’t decide if he loves me, or loves me not.

I'll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

I’ll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that it plays around with the ideas of propaganda and how the use of it, if effective, can really drive people to do something, whether it be fighting for a cause, or just changing a certain lifestyle of theirs. Here, we get to see Katniss be constantly taken to all of these different Districts, where everybody is either dead, dying, or just bones underneath pieces of rubble. The way we’re supposed to feel about these tragic occurrences is supposed to be sadness, but because we know Katniss is being taken to these certain spots, only so that they can film her and show the rest of the world why her cause is worth standing behind, puts a slight comedic-twist on it. A dark one, but a comedic-twist nonetheless in a movie which totally needed a lot more.

This is where the likes of new recruits Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, pleasant returners Jeffrey Wright, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman all bring their own level of depth to a story that deserves it. It’ll be interesting to see where the next film takes these certain characters, because while it’s easy to fall for Peeta, Katniss, and Gale, the older, much more established presences in these films are mostly what keeps the heart of these movies running. Not to hate on what Lawrence, Hutcherson, or Hemsworth do with their own respective characters, but if I had to, I’d watch a scene containing just Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and Jeffrey Wright, all sitting around in a room, talking about whatever was on their mind next.

Obviously that’s virtually impossible now, but what a treasure it would be.

But, like I said, while the ideas and themes this movie toggles around with may be interesting, and a hell of a lot more thought-provoking than we all get with half of the YA adaptations out there, there’s still that feeling that this movie is build-up, and hardly anything more. Director Francis Lawrence gives this movie a tone that’s dark, creepy, and slightly sinister, but the way in how the movie ends, just puts everything into perspective: This is all leading up to something a lot bigger and more epic.

See you next year, folks. Let’s hope that this is actually the end.

Consensus: Thought-provoking without being ham-fisted, exciting without being manipulative, and well-acted without ever focusing on one character more than the other, the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 works for so long, all up until it abruptly ends, leaving us maybe ready for the next, but also disappointed that there had to be two parts in the first place.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Swimming with Sharks (1994)

Yeah, bosses suck.

When Guy (Frank Whaley), a recent film-school graduate with big ideas, takes a job as assistant to major studio executive Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey), he believes his ship has finally come in; little does he know it’s a slave ship, for his boss is indeed worse than a slave driver. But yet, he still puts up with it all thinking he has the dream job in the palm of his hands.

Anybody who has ever worked in a day in their life, probably know that bosses suck. There’s always a time and place where a boss will get on your nerves, piss you off, and just make you want to beat the shit out of them with no end in sight. However, that’s what bosses are there for and if you decide to break they teeth, just be ready for a pink slip and possible lawsuit some time soon. That’s why we hate bosses: they yell and scream at us, and we can’t do shit about it. That’s what I love about being un-employed. Yay for me.

Writer/director George Huang does a pretty impressive with this film, showing us the highs and lows of working in Hollywood, the people that can make it some of the worst days of your life, and just what it may do to all of your dreams of one day running rampant, happy, and free through Hollywood, making as much mooolah as you can. We all know that Hollywood is a vicious place to make money and work, but this film really hits that idea home hard and shows just what psychological effects it can have you. You probably won’t go full, Travis Bickle-psycho working in Hollywood, but it will definitely ‘eff with your mind and probably make you feel like you’re worse than you really are. It makes you wonder how much pain and agony like this Huang had to endure before making this movie. Poor guy, but at least he was able to get this one out there and show his former bosses over the years that he could kick-ass.

"Excuse me sir, could you hold on a second? My boss is calling me a dick-nosed prick and needs my attention."

“Excuse me sir, could you hold on a second? My boss is calling me a dick-nosed prick and needs my attention.”

The film starts off very dark, showing us a hostage situation where Guy traps Buddy into his house, but then keeps on flashing-back to Guy’s early days of working with Buddy and finding out just how they go to this point. This is particularly interesting because the film seems to juggling two types of genres (dark comedy and psychological thriller) and making it work since everything here (including the comedy), is so damn bleak. Honestly, all of the shit that Guy has to go through is some really, painfully sad stuff that I barely even laughed at because I just felt so sorry for the guy. But even though I didn’t really laugh at this flick, it was still well-written by Huang and I thought the balance of dark comedy and psychological thriller worked well just because he never fully changed the pace and kept it one, long, sad adventure through the inner-day workings of Hollywood.

What didn’t work for me was that Guy isn’t really a character you can’t get behind, no matter how hard the film tries to make us feel for him. Yeah, it’s pretty easy to feel bad for a guy that gets shit on at work as much as he does but the guy (pun intended) never shows any backbone and is pretty much just an ordinary, stepping-stool for Buddy. I get that this is what Huang was trying to do, but it seemed like almost every scene with Buddy and Guy was just going to show Guy effin’ up and having Buddy insult him in a very witty, but terribly mean way (then again, when are insults ever nice?). This sort of formula of gets a tad old and repetitive after awhile and you just want Guy to stand up for himself, which he never does, that is until when we know and it’s a shame cause this could have been a whole lot more interesting if that idea was pursued more thoroughly.

Guy is also a pretty bland character no matter how hard Frank Whaley may have tried here as well. Whaley is a good actor, and even if he isn’t a mainstream name (his villain role in Vacancy is probably his biggest role, which really isn’t saying much), can still prove that he has the chops to pull-off any character but he seems a bit miscast here as well. Whaley is good when it comes to showing the bumbling, bright-eyed boy who comes into a new work office expecting to hit the big times, but when all of that starts to change and he gets a little crazy, Whaley doesn’t seem that powerful or freaky to make psycho work. I could believe that a guy like this would go so insane to capture and torture his boss, but Whaley just doesn’t have that strong of a delivery to make you believe so. Maybe it was also the character of Guy himself that didn’t feel all that fleshed-out for but either way, something was just missing here.

Whaley definitely needed help somehow.

Whaley definitely needed help somehow.

But where Whaley seems to fail, Spacey succeeds and flies with flying, fucking colors. Basically, anybody who has seen Horrible Bosses knows that Kevin Spacey can play one, bad motherfucker of a boss but even if you haven’t seen this movie; you still don’t even know. Spacey is so detestable as Buddy, that it’s almost likable. Spacey is perfect at playing this prick that almost everything that comes out his mouth, seems to fit his character so well and it just gets better and better as the insults start to get meaner and meaner. But it’s not all about being a terribly-mean asshole that makes Spacey’s performance work so well as it does, he actually shows a lot of compassion behind it all that works, mainly because of Spacey’s talents as an actor. Spacey gives us a reason as to why he is, the way he is and it makes sense but it also seems unfair, making his character a very hard one to feel compassion for even when he seems to be deep down inside, a very sad, angry, and lonely person that just preys on making the weaker ones feel inferior to him. He’s an asshole, but he’s an asshole that has depth and only Spacey can show that in as perfect of a way as this. Way, way better character that blows Guy right out of the water in terms of complexity.

Consensus: Swimming with Sharks is perfectly acted by Kevin Spacey, who is at the top of his game here as the detestable Buddy Ackerman, and features a lot of insight into how vicious of a place like Hollywood is to be working at, but it’s main character seems very ordinary. Hell, maybe almost too ordinary and takes away a lot of the promises that this material could have easily went with, had Huang decided to go down that path.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't worry, I'd shit my pants too.

Don’t worry, I’d shit my pants too.

Kalifornia (1993)

Kaliforniaaaaaaaaa Lovveeeeee!!!

While researching a book on serial killings, writer Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) and his girlfriend, Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes), travel cross-country to the murder sites and unwittingly stumble upon strangers who know the subject firsthand. A pair of hitchhikers (Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis) offer to share expenses for the trip, but Kessler doesn’t realize just how close he is to his subject — even as bodies pile up behind them.

Watching early Brad Pitt is pretty cool because I got to see just how he was still the man, even when he was doing B-thrillers, like this one here.

This film starts off very well with you already knowing that these two “hicks” are basically murderers and as the awkward moments go on and on, you start to feel a great deal of tension throughout this film. I liked how the film worked up its suspense and kept me going the whole time just waiting and waiting for something really bad to happen.

The film also has something smart to say about violence and when you write about it as well. It’s one thing when you write about murder and what happens, but it’s a totally different other thing to actually be stuck in that situation where you are stuck with a killer and may actually have to resort to killing, yourself.

However, my main problem with this film is when that really bad thing actually happens and once again just like every other thriller, turns into another Straw Dogs situation where the straight-laced, sort of nerdy guy is pushed against his boundaries and becomes an animal himself. This was just a cheap way to end a very smart story and even after that is all over, the ending still kind of blew. We never really actually learn anything in this film, nor does any of the characters themselves. I thought this was a very cheap way to end the film since it just seemed like almost a waste of exercise in suspense.

The real saving grace this film has is it’s amazing cast, most importantly, Brad Pitt. Pitt plays a very crucial role here as Early Grayce because we know this guy is a killer and a little loose in the head, but we never fully know what he’s going to do next because we feel that he may actually turn good after all. Still, Pitt is very creepy and evil in this role and knocked down his comparisons to a new Robert Redford that he was getting so much at this time.

Juliette Lewis is also very good as Adele Corners and has a lot very strange and at times, sad scenes that she pulls off very well. David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes are also very good as these yuppies that are totally out of their comfort zone with these two, and each one plays it off so well, especially Forbes who gets more and more freaked out as the film goes on and it’s just great to see how many emotions she can show within her character.

Consensus: There’s plenty of suspense here, and a very good cast, but soon turns into your typical, and predictable revenge thriller that may have a lot to say but by the end, can’t tell you what you’ve learned or even what the characters themselves have learned either.

5.5/10=Rental!!