Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Ned Dennehy

The Keeping Room (2015)

Stick together, ladies. Can’t trust those men and their penises.

In the waning days of the Civil War, everybody seemed to be on their own and left to fend for their own darn selves. Two sisters, Augusta (Brit Marling) and Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) live out in their family’s home, strapped with plenty of guns, food, and shelter to keep themselves alive and well during this whole time. And of course, they have their trusted and loyal slave, Mad (Muna Otaru), by their side no matter what. But now, with the Civil War starting to draw closer and nearer to its end, that means that more and more stragglers will start showing up at these ladies’ front doors, leaving them with no other option other than to defend themselves, by any means necessary. And after one fateful trip into the city, it seems as if a certain bloody and violent hunter by the name of Moses (Sam Worthington) now wants something to do with these girls and even though it’s clear he isn’t going to stop by for a simple “hello” and leave it at that, the girls still don’t know what to do. Do they go to a small war with him and see if they can survive? Or do they run away and head for the hills, all over again?

Brit's got a gun.

Brit’s got a gun.

You can call the Keeping Room, “feminist propaganda” if you want, but you wouldn’t necessarily be right in saying so. Sure, it’s a story about women staying strong, sticking together, and facing all sorts of adversity, united as one, but really, it’s deeper than that. The movie is less about making some sort of point or message about gender, or sexuality in general, and more or less trying to speak about what can happen at the end of a war – when practically all hope and faith in humanity is lost, civil order has gone out the window, and practically everyone is on their own.

In that sense, the Keeping Room is a way better movie than you’d expect.

What director Daniel Barber doe so well, for so very long with the Keeping Room, is that he takes his good old time with the material and doesn’t really tell us too much at the very beginning. For the first ten minutes or so, with the exception of a gun-shot and a dark barking, there’s hardly any words spoken, or any other noise heard; instead, we hear the whistle of the wind, trees, grass and whatever actions certain characters are doing. Nobody in the movie really laces out into long, tired and winding tirades about war, death, or love, but more or less, think about it, without ever telling the audience.

This works in the movie’s favor because it really sets the mood for what sets out to be a very tense movie that doesn’t always realize how tense it can be, until it decides to let loose and just crank up the excitement. But the movie never overdoes it by any means – more or less, it just seems to still take its time, developing characters, setting a stage, and letting all of the cards and pieces fall together. Though Barber doesn’t have a lot to work with here, he still does his best to not forget that taking things in a more melodic nature can sometimes work out the best.

That’s why, in the last act or so, when people start shooting one another, pants are pulled down, and everybody starts, suddenly, opening up, crying and yelling, it becomes a bit of a shock.

Not a good one, though.

See, the issue with the Keeping Room is that for so very, very long, it doesn’t really seem to be about the big movie moments, but instead, the smaller, more intimate ones that feel much more to real life, than to the sort of crap we see on the big screen. That all changes during the last twenty or so minutes where all sorts of action occurs; most of it’s exciting, but still feels oddly-placed in a movie that, for so very long, felt like a kind of a drama that was smarter than convention. Because we get to know and understand these characters, as well as the terrain they’re currently setting up shop in, the killing is a lot more compelling than it would be, had there been no development either way, but still, something feels slightly off.

Hailee's got a gun.

Hailee’s got a gun.

That said, the cast is great and given that they have very little to do, except stare into space, they work wonders. Brit Marling’ Augusta is perhaps the strongest of the three female characters here, as she not only feels like the most determined, but perhaps the smartest one. She knows what to do in a situation such as this, where law and order has been practically shoved to the side, and also knows that she needs to keep her girls together, so long as they want to live on and not be killed, raped, or left for dead.

Same goes Muna Otaru’s Mad who, despite not saying much at first, eventually shows a side to her character that’s not just unexpected, but also welcoming. There’s a certain backstory to her character that isn’t just tragic (what with being a slave and whatnot), but also telling of the time and why she is, the way she is. I won’t give it away because it’s a very special moment in a movie full of almost hardly anything happening, but just know, it’s a very good scene and shows that Otaru, even without having to say anything, can work on levels. Same goes for Hailee Steinfeld’s Louise, who definitely seems like the more unlikable, bratty of the three, but soon learns to grow up very fast.

And then, there’s the two men of the story that take up another good portion of this movie, with Kyle Soller and Sam Worthington. Neither character really get as much development as they probably should, other than being seen as dirty, ruthless rapists, but both try. Worthington especially does a good job because, for once in a very long time, it seems like he’s playing a character that isn’t asking for you to love him, but rather, see him as something of a human being. Though he’s a very unlikable one, he’s still someone who has probably seen plenty of death and tragedy in life, so for him to act the way that he is now, sort of makes sense.

Doesn’t excuse who he turns out to be, but it’s thoughtful enough that reminds me that Sam Worthington may actually be something of a good actor.

Consensus: While it may take its own, meandering time to get going, the Keeping Room still works best in the smaller, quieter moments, with its talented cast and scary setting placing you right in the action.

6.5 / 10

Sam doesn't. But that's okay, because he's still making plenty of money from Avatar.

Sam doesn’t. But that’s okay, because he’s still making plenty of money from Avatar.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


Child 44 (2015)

Hey guys? Don’t forget to feel bad for Communists, too.

In the early 1950’s, during Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union, MGB Agent and war hero Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) discovers that there’s a series of child-murders occurring in the area that nobody’s really paying attention to. But before he can ever get a chance to bring it to his superiors and going ahead with the investigation, his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), is accused of being disloyal to the government and giving certain secrets away. Though Leo is not currently happy with his wife, he still sticks by her because he loves her and that’s what a husband ought to do. Problem is, this puts him the same problems that she’s in, which then has them demoted to a militia position in the gritty, rusted and ragged town of  Volsk. Here, Leo is under the command of General Nesterov (Gary Oldman), who doesn’t know whether or not he can trust Leo, but knows that they’re both fighting the same battle as they discover, yet again, another dead boy by the side of the train-tracks. With Nesterov’s approval, Leo sets out on his own adventure to discover who this killer is and stop him before he takes anymore victims.

How on Earth does a movie with the likes of Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Jason Clarke, Charles Dance, Vincent Cassell, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, and hell, Gary Oldman only get $600,000 on its opening weekend? Though I understand that not all of these names are household ones that could most definitely open up to heavy-hitting box-office runs, there’s still a part of me that wonders just why the hell something that attracts so much attention like this could go so far under the radar? Because even if a movie is bad, it’s not $600,000-bad, right?

Just think of the Drop.

Just think of the Drop.

Well, kind of.

See, the main problem with Child 44 is, despite the onslaught of talent in front of the camera, director Daniel Espinosa and screenwriter Richard Price can’t seem to make up their minds about what they want to do with this movie. Though I’ve never read the novel, I know that it’s quite long novel, and to try and condense it into a two-hour movie, may not have been the best choice – especially since what’s supposed to be the central plot-line of the story (serial killer on the loose), is basically an afterthought. This is alright if Espinosa and Price wanted to focus more on the paranoia that surrounded Russia during this time, but the two don’t even seem that interested in talking about that, either.

Instead, Espinosa is more interested in how bloody and violent he can make some of these sequences, which makes huge sense when you remember that this is the same guy who directed Safe House. That movie, just like this, was helped incredibly by the fact that there was some thought and care put into how the action-sequences were orchestrated and what effect they gave off to the audience; here, they seem spliced in as Espinosa couldn’t control his blood-loving urge. Price, on the other hand, is trying to make something of a meaningful drama, but once he realizes that Espinosa could care less, he basically gives up, too.

So basically, everybody involved with Child 44 gave up about half-way through.

Which would probably be a smart idea for the audience too, however, there seems to be a lot more of an effort from the rest of the cast. The only downside of having a cast this good, in a movie like this, is that they’re all disappointingly saddled with some terrible Russian-accents, which can sometimes vary from being okay, to downright indecipherable. There is some joy to be had in listening to these actors try their hardest to nail down the right tone for their ill-put accents, but it takes away from the movie; there’s so much going on, with random twists, turns and revelations coming at us every second, it’s hard to take note of them when there’s no clue of what the hell anyone is saying to begin with.

Or Lawless.

Or Lawless.

And don’t get me wrong, everybody tries. But when the movie that’s supposed to be aiding them, seems to have no idea of where to go, what’s the point? Tom Hardy seems the most interested out of everyone, and it’s only because of him that this movie stays watchable. While there’s something inherently flawed about how this guy goes through his day-to-day life in such a vicious and inhumane manner, it’s nice to see how he interacts and holds a relationship with his wife, as played by Noomi Rapace. Rapace and Hardy were great together in the Drop, which makes me wonder if they were filming both movies side-by-side and already knew which one to give most of their time and effort to. Though the Drop and Child 44 are two different movies, Hardy and Rapace are easily the main reasons to see both of movies, even if the former is at least four times better than the later.

And everybody else that isn’t Rapace or Hardy are, well, fine. Once again, they’re trying, too, but it goes nowhere to help them. Jason Clarke is in the movie for maybe five minutes and has the worst Russian-accent of them all (so yeah, good riddance); Joel Kinnaman’s character is such a one-note villain that, I imagine, it would have been hard for any skilled-actor to make something interesting out of this character than just a black heart, let alone Detective Holder; Vincent Cassell is, as expected, just evil; Paddy Considine is as weird and twisted as he’s supposed to be; and Gary Oldman shows up as the more sympathetic communist in the movie, even if he gets short-shifted being able to do anything more.

So in other words, watch for Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. Or, screw this movie altogether and watch a better flick containing the same combo: the Drop.

Or don’t do either. Suit yourself.

Consensus: Child 44, despite boasting an impressive cast, never gets itself together as too many strands of the plot come in, only to fall apart moments later, then start back up after someone’s blood is shed because it’s a movie about Russian communists.

3 / 10

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Serena (2015)

Pretty much a remake of Silver Linings Playbook. Except not everybody’s supposed to be nuts.

In Depression-era North Carolina, timber baron George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is dealing with most problems people have to deal with when they run any sort of business. Dealing with panthers and such in the wilderness that surrounds him and his workers, George realizes that he needs to figure something out in his life to give it more meaning. Which is why when he meets the young, beautiful and wistful Serena (Jennifer Lawrence), he instantly falls head-over-heels. Soon, they have sex, get married, and decide that it’s time to start a family. Problem is, Serena starts to take her husband’s business a little too seriously and get in the way of matters that don’t concern her. However, George loves Serena and doesn’t want to upset her, so when he impregnates her, he feels like they’re going to be getting back on-track into that happy, lovely couple they once were. Once again though, troubles arise when Serena suddenly finds out that she cannot bear children, which leads to horrifying, disastrous results that finds almost everyone involved with the Pemberton clan acting out in insane ways.


Uh oh. One bad movie and B-Coops is making someone pay!

Oh, gosh. What went wrong? Sure, I’ve heard about Serena for a long while now, from when it was completed and then put on the shelf for nearly two years, to when it premiered at some festivals last year to ultimately disastrous reviews, but man, I sure as hell didn’t expect it to be this bad.


And while it’s hard for me to not just start and end this review by simply stating it’s crappy, there’s something that needs to be said here about movies that seem like they’d be alright, all because of who is involved with them. When you see names like “Bradley Cooper” and “Jennifer Lawrence”, you’d automatically expect that whatever they were involved with, to be something worth checking out, regardless of what it’s about. Heck, if you put J-Law and B-Coops in a room and film them for an-hour-and-a-half, chances are, we’re all going to watch it. They’ve made smart enough choices in the past to give us the idea that they know what they’re doing with their careers, and they’re more than talented enough to remind us why they get as much material thrown their way as they do.

But somehow, Serena just is not the kind of movie where all of this seems clear. Cooper and Lawrence seem like they are trying here with what’s given to them, but what’s given to them is absolute garbage and so far from any help, that even their more than reliable skills as actors can’t save the day. Even Susanne Bier, a solid director when she’s given enough inspiration, seems like she has no idea what to make of this tale, or even seem like she gives a damn. Then again, this could be just that the material is so thin and poorly-done, that even she couldn’t help it from being something better.

Either way, Serena is a mess. There’s no two ways of getting around it. Some of that is Bier’s fault, other times, it’s Cooper, Lawrence and the rest of the cast, but overall, it’s a group effort that seemed doomed from the beginning; regardless of how much effort may have been put into it.

Or in this case, I guess none.

See, what’s odd about Cooper and Lawrence here, is that while they’re usually spectacular in all else that they do, here, they seem incredibly awkward. Even they’re chemistry together that’s blossomed so well in the past seems like an after-thought in a movie that wants to have you believe in these two as long, lost loves who, after five seconds of meeting one another and boning, instantly fall in love and get married. It feels rushed and put-on, and to be honest, neither one’s performances help matters.

Somehow, female J-Law on a white horse isn't as awesome as it sounds.

Somehow, female J-Law on a white horse isn’t as awesome as it sounds.

Cooper has some odd Southern-twang in his voice that makes everything that comes out of his mouth, indecipherable, whereas with Lawrence, I don’t even know what to say. Her character is supposed to be this enchanting, yet demanding piece of work that seems to always get her way, no matter what; and when she doesn’t, it’s literally the end of the world for her, as well as all those surrounding her. Whereas Lawrence’s high-strung charm has worked for her in the past, because this character is so poorly-written and crazy, it all comes off as over-the-top and the decisions her character makes by the tail-end of this movie, are downright laughable. It makes you feel bad enough for Lawrence, until you realize that the gal already has an Oscar to her name and probably plenty more to come.

So any bit of sadness goes away once reality strikes.

And honestly, it’s hard to really think that this movie could have been good in some universe; it’s just not that type of movie. A part of me wants to feel that, even before Silver Linings hit the big screen and made both of these acts downright superstars, that Lawrence and Cooper took it, without knowing one another, and saw what could happen next. Maybe they got some nice pay out of their ordeal, or maybe they didn’t, but either way, this will slide right by them. They’ll go on to make bigger, way better movies (probably with David O. Russell) and seem to forget that this movie ever existed and eventually, will make it a blip in their memories.

The only ones who will remember are us, the normal, everyday citizens who will still be pondering that deadly question:

Just what the hell happened here?

Consensus: Sometimes, it doesn’t matter who’s involved, if you’re project is bad, it’ll probably stay that way. And that is exactly what happens to the poorly-written, terribly-acted, and so-bad-its-hilarious piece that is Serena; a movie you’ve heard is terrible and guess what? It is!

2 / 10 

"Go back to sleep, baby. It was all just a dream. A horrendous, terrifying, and downright disturbing dream."

“Go back to sleep, baby. It was all just a dream. A horrendous, terrifying, and downright disturbing dream.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz