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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Nadia Alexander

Blame (2018)

High school will never change.

Abigail (Quinn Shephard) returns to high school after a nervous breakdown and hopes to get everything back to normal. Of course, with this being high school, no one ever forgets about her and her crazy tactics, which is why, on the very first day, rumors are already swirling about her. One of the leaders in bringing up the rumors is Melissa (Nadia Alexander), a type of mean-girl who has some issues of her own, but uses her anger and rage to hide it all. But both of their lives change when a substitute teacher (Chris Messina) fills in for the semester and wakes both of them up. Abigail is awoken because she sees something of a tortured soul within him, whereas Melissa doesn’t like the attention that Abigail is getting and decides that it’s up to her to take matters into her own hands.

Damn cheerleaders and their cliques!

Blame, for all of its missteps and flaws, is still an impressive work because of its 22-year-old director/co-writer/editor/producer/star Quinn Shephard, who takes something that could have easily been a dumb, conventional after-school special, and turn into something raw, gritty, mean, and a little sad. It still feels like the work of someone incredibly young, who is just starting out and getting used to the game of making movies, but for the most part, it’s a solid debut and is a sure sign of things to come.

That said, the movie’s got some problems, and it mostly comes through in its plot. Mostly, Shephard likes to have a little bit too much going on; there’s Abigail’s story, there’s Melissa’s story, there’s the subsitiute teacher’s story, there’s a few other girls stories, there’s the Crucible, and oh yeah, there’s the various romantic subplots that come up every once and awhile. While all are interesting in their own rights, mashed-up in a 100 minute movie, it just doesn’t totally work, with some parts feeling much better than others.

Move on, girls. It gets better.

That said, there’s a realism to this that I appreciated, mostly because Shephard seems to know and understand how rough and grueling high school can be, especially when you’re a little different. Some of it may have to do with the fact that she’s young enough to remember high school like it was literally yesterday, but there’s no nostalgia or sunshine here – it’s just mean teenagers, treating each and everyone of each other awfully. Shephard doesn’t shy away from this, nor does she ever seem to be trying to get across some tacky message about bullying and why it’s all wrong.

Basically, she’s just showing us that high school is a pretty rough time and for some, she’s not wrong.

What helps this all out, too, is that the ensemble is all pretty good. Shephard herself is an interesting and compelling presence on the screen, who can get away with a lot, without saying much of anything at all; Alexander is rough, raw, and a little unlikable, until you realize that there’s possibly more behind her evil and possibly cruel intentions; and Messina, while playing a bit of a loser-like character, gains sympathy by showing us that he’s just as sad, confused, and depressed as the students he’s teaching and doing his best to put up with. The whole love-angle feels like it could have been more fully fleshed-out, but believe it or not, Shephard and Messina have a nice chemistry to where you see the attraction and possibly, love, but you also don’t want to buy into it, either.

So conflicting. Yet, so beautiful. High school, in a nut shell.

Consensus: As a debut, Blame serves as a promising, if also messy high-school drama that digs in deep and doesn’t shy away from the rougher aspects of adolescence.

6 / 10

Yes! But also, no! I don’t know! Ugh!

Photos Courtesy of: Samuel Goldwyn Films

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Ten Thousand Saints (2015)

Want to feel happy? Turn on Minor Threat. They’ll turn any frown, upside down.

Jude (Asa Butterfield) was adopted by Harriet (Julianne Nicholson), after the father, Les (Ethan Hawke), went off to do whatever it is that Les does. Occasionally, he’s with Di (Emily Mortimer), but most of the time, Les spends his time hanging around, listening to sweet jams, and of course, smoking reefer. The times are good for Les, but as for everybody else around him? Well, not so much. For one, Jude is reeling over the recent death of his very best friend. Di’s daughter, Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld), also finds out that she’s pregnant, which may seem like no big thing, except for the fact that the father of the unborn baby is also Jude’s best friend who just died. So basically, this causes a lot of commotion and drama for all parties involved, where certain people learn to grow up, and others, well, sink themselves into hard-rocking, loud-as-hell punk rock music. Because, after all, it’s the 80’s, and what better time to start thrashing to some hardcore?

The look I've always wanted from Ethan Hawke. Screw my own dad!

The look I’ve always wanted from Ethan Hawke. Screw my own dad!

Ten Thousand Saints is a movie I’d like to classify under a category that I call, “Indieocrity”. Whenever an indie film is made, regardless of who it’s with, or what it’s about, there’s always a certain level of heightened expectation to it because, for better, it’s not a studio-flick. Most of the times, these studio-flicks tend to be over-saturated and edited for the largest possible audience, so therefore, those movies tend to be a lot duller than your average indie-fare. However, every so often, you do happen to get the indie movie that, as much as you don’t want to admit it, is pretty dull.

Actually, a lot duller than mainstream-fare.

In the case of Ten Thousand Saints, this is especially true. While it’s easy for me to commend the movie on having such a nice heart and care in telling each of these character’s stories, it’s a shame that hardly any of them work out. Sometimes, this is due to the fact that no character is really ever allowed to break-out from their one-note, “type”-shell, but other times, this has to do with the fact that there’s just so much going on with each and everyone of these characters, it’s a little hard to keep track of what’s happening to whom, for what reasons, and how everybody else surrounding them is affected.

And this isn’t because I’m an idiotic dumbo that can’t pay attention to movies if they don’t feature some sort of car-chase or gun-shot; normally, these are my kinds of movies that I cherish for each and every second. But with Ten Thousand Saints, there’s just so many subplots that eventually, after about the fourth time or so of forgetting what was going on with them, I sort of gave up and just hoped that the movie’s good vibes would come and save the day.

That only happens with Ethan Hawke – which, to some, may not be all that surprising.

Hawke is the perfect choice as Les, because you get a huge sense that this guy means well, but he’s such a slacker, that he’ll never get his life in order to take care of those who need him the most. Having worked with Richard Linklater so much in the past definitely helps create this image of Hawke already as someone like Les, except in this case, it’s about thirty years down the line and needless to say, he hasn’t done much growing-up. But that doesn’t matter too much because it’s obvious this character has a good heart and is most definitely there to make sure those around him are happy, even if he does seem to bail at the most inopportune times.

But I’ll take that over the rest of these characters.

The match made in absolute indie-movie hell.

The match made in absolute indie-movie hell.

Basically, if you take that synopsis up above, add on two other subplots concerning Nicholson’s character’s own mid-life crisis and Emile Hirsch’s character punk band, then you’ve got a pretty hefty movie. It totally feels like during the driest moments, where the comedy doesn’t really stick, and the drama is so scattered among all of these stories, that the heart gets lost in the fray. That isn’t to say that I felt like co-writers and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini didn’t care one bit for these characters, it’s more that it seems like they care so much, that they don’t forget that, sometimes, the best medicine for any screen-writer is to no what to cut and what to leave in.

There’s about two or three subplots that I could have done without here, but by saying that, I also realize that I’m down-grading a lot of the other performers here and that’s not right. For one, they all do seem to be trying here and also, they’re all really great in everything else they show up in, which makes this movie all the more surprising by its mediocrity. Butterfield has an odd American accent as a character who is a little too whiny for his own good; Steinfeld is fine at playing this raw, dirty and wild-type, but overall, here story turns into unabashed melodrama; Mortimer is sweet, but her character’s sort of forgotten about half-way through; same goes for Nicholson; and then, Emile Hirsch is here not really seeming like he’s trying.

Honestly, this is a big shock to me considering that just about each and everything these stars show up in, I love them in. The movies/shows themselves? Maybe not so much, but their own respective work has always felt nice and deserved, as if they should have gotten pats on the backs as soon as filming commenced. But sadly, that doesn’t seem to happen with Ten Thousand Saints, as they’re all just sort of left with conventional characters, nowhere to really stretch out their wings, and basically, service a script that doesn’t seem worth their time or effort.

And yet, they give it anyway. What entertainers these folks truly are!

Consensus: Despite the talent on-board, Ten Thousand Saints never rises above the sheer mediocrity it turns out to be with its over-stuffed, yet still uninteresting plot(s).

4 / 10

So straight edge.

So straight edge.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire