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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Norman Campbell Rees

U-571 (2000)

Male-bonding has never been sweatier.

When a German U-571 submarine with a sophisticated encryption machine on=board is sunk during a World War II battle at sea, the Allies send an American Navy force led by Lieutenant Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) to retrieve it for study. But in order to board it, they have to concoct a plan that will not only get the soldiers aboard, but also ensure them safety when they are in the water. Issue is, that doesn’t quite happen as their cover as a rescue force is quickly blown, not just putting their mission at risk, but also their lives. So now with this wrench thrown into their plans, the soldiers must now take German hostages and prepare to destroy the German vessel before the Nazis can send naval backup. This is all so complicated considering that, you know, they’re basically in the middle of nowhere, without poor radio-signal and even worse of all, no way of getting out of this situation alive. In other words, it’s a suicide mission, but it’s for the country, so it’s not so bad, right?

“Shark?”

U-571 has, for good reasons, gotten a lot of flack for not exactly being the most faithful adaptation of what really happened, but then again, I don’t think the movie really tries to go for authenticity, either. It’s the kind of movie that takes a real life moment in WWII, purports itself as sheer and absolute propaganda, but at the same time, also uses this all for the sake of entertainment and fun to be had at the movies, even if, yeah, the story’s not all that true.

Then again, can we really trust Hollywood with this sort of stuff? Not really and that’s why U-571, issues with authenticity aside, is still an enjoyable movie. It’s the kind that you could take a war-vet to see and not only would they absolutely love, but go on and on about how they actually experienced something close to that, except, not really at all. Still, it’s the kind of movie that prides itself on being for the troops, while also trying to remind people that war is hell, explosive, a little crazy, and oh yeah, dangerous as hell, but that’s why it’s left for the heroes and not for us layman, right?

Well, sort of. Maybe. I’m not sure.

Either way, I’m getting away from the point of U-571 and the fact that, directed by Jonathan Mostow, there’s a old-school look and feel to this thing that’s not just slick and polished, but also reminiscent of some of the best submarine-thrillers, albeit this time, with a much-bigger budget. But what’s perhaps most interesting about U-571 is how it takes measures with that bigger-budget, and not only gives us a few great, sweeping shots of the sea, but even puts a little bit more effort into how the submarine itself looks, feels, and well, most especially sounds.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no.”

See, U-571 actually got nominated for a few Oscars back in the day, and even winning one. Sure, they were all technical awards and no way were at all for the silly acting, screenplay, or direction, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re impressive, even by today’s standards. It takes a certain kind of skill and talent to make all of the constant crashes, bangs, and booms, seem like something new and exciting, even when they seem to be happening every five seconds or so; it’s like a Michael Bay film, but there’s actually a reason for all of the loud-sounds and explosions here. If anything, U-571 shows what can happen when you pay enough attention to the technical-details, while also not forgetting to make your movie somewhat good, too.

Basically, I’m just coming at Michael Bay.

That said, of course, U-571 has its issues; like I said before, everything aside from the action and technical-stuff is a little, how should I say it, weak. However, I don’t think it really pulls the movie away from being anymore fun than it already is – it starts off by setting itself off as a silly, stupid, pulpy action-thriller and because of that, the movie never really loses its sense of style, if there is any to be found. It could have been a soulless and totally boring piece of phony propaganda, but it’s fun and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Good story, acting and screenplay be damned!

Consensus: Stupid and loud, but also kind of fun, U-571 runs the risk of being a whole lot, for a very long period of time, but ends up being an entertaining submarine-thriller, that doesn’t really want us to ask questions, but enjoy ourselves with the loud sounds.

6 / 10

Bad-ass soldier-bros. Don’t mess. Especially with Bon Jovi.

Photos Courtesy of: barneyspender, Mutant ReviewersFernby Films

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Everyone needs a little cut, no?

Evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) lusts for the beautiful wife of a London barber named Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and rather than having any competition with this man, Turpin decides to transport him to Australia for a crime he did not commit. Now, Sweeney Todd has returned after 15 years and is ready to extract some revenge, however, he knows that he has to be smart and sly about it. So he decides to open up his barber-shop with the dedicated Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) and together, they decide to not only give fellow citizens some nice trims and cuts and whatnot, but also give them a little thing called “death”. That’s right, Sweeney Todd takes all of his anger out on his customers who have no clue that instead of getting a buzz, they’re going to get a slice of their throats from Sweeney and then thrown in the boiler for meat-pies. While it’s sickening, it’s a hit among the people and eventually, it makes Sweeney more and more inspired on getting Turpin in is chair once and for all.

Who hasn't gotten a toy and admired it like this?

Who hasn’t gotten a toy and admired it like this?

Once again, there’s something so damn pleasant about watching Tim Burton have a good time with himself, and while Sleepy Hollow is definitely a solid showing of that fact come to life, Sweeney Todd is perhaps a better example. Here, not only does Burton get to roll around with musical-numbers, but he still gets the opportunity to play around with his dark, brooding and Gothic horror-style that he loves so much and can’t seem to get tired of. And of course, he gets to do it all with the people he loves and adores so much, like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and so on and so forth.

And because of this, Sweeney Todd feels like a celebration of sorts.

Not just for Burton, but musicals as a whole. Sweeney Todd is the kind of darkly humorous and sadistic tale that’s definitely not everybody’s plate of pie, nor is it going to win over any naysayers of the musical-genre as a whole, but for Burton, none of that matters – he’s having a great time allowing for these songs to play out in a traditional format, with the voices and music blaring over the speakers and never quieting down. The downside to all of the musical numbers is that Burton himself doesn’t quite know how to film these scenes and make them look interesting; sure, the songs are entertaining and interesting enough, but they’re filmed in such a one-on-one bland way that it makes the movie feel like you’re actually watching a stage-play filmed on the screen.

Sure, that’s fine and all, but sometimes, it’s always best to have a little more imagination with these numbers, especially when you’re making a full-length, feature-flick, with a big-budget and all. Cause honestly, sky’s the limit and if there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about going big and over-the-top, it’s Burton. And he does go for that quite often here, and you know what?

It actually works.

Oh man. RIP.

Oh man. RIP.

Because the tone and material is so subversive and mean, the humor and gags and whatnot, while silly, still work. Burton’s sense of humor in most of his movies have borderlined on cheesy, but because that’s his crazy style, it’s been accepted; here in Sweeney Todd, it feels right with the material. There’s nothing sillier than watching and listening to a barber singing about his one true love as he’s slicing and dicing the throats of his customers and Burton milks it all for it’s worth. He doesn’t let-up and because of that, it’s hard not to be entertained and excited by Sweeney Todd, even if the material and look of the film can be grim.

But of course, it mostly all comes together so well because Burton has his usual band of misfits to join in on the fun and without them, who knows how his film may have turned out to be. Depp’s Sweeney is a perfect fit because he’s not just charismatic, but a little dangerous, too. Depp has always had a good time in Burton’s movies, but here, it seems like he’s enjoying himself the most, playing the straight man to the, mostly, crazy proceedings. Characters around him like Timothy Spall’s, or Sacha Baron Cohen’s are all campy and wild, whereas Depp, always remains stoic and smart, which helps his character seem all the more sympathetic and, well, “cool”.

Maybe that’s not what he was going for, but hey, it’s what happened.

Honestly though, it’s Helena Bonham Carter who steals the show as Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney Todd’s lovely sidekick who will and has followed him through the thick and thin of life. Though her character sings about unrequited love and grinding up human-meat to make pies, there’s a sincerity to her character that keeps her watchable and downright sad. Carter’s comedic-timing is perfect, as well as her chemistry with Depp, but no matter what, when she’s given the spotlight to sing about her feelings of love and remorse, you feel them and it’s probably the only time that Sweeney Todd, the movie, actually seems like it’s taking itself more seriously.

Sure, fun and games are fine and all, but every once and awhile, it’s always nice to have a little cry just to remind yourself that you’re human.

Consensus: Burton’s dark sense of style and Sweeney Todd go so perfectly together, that it’s hard not to enjoy the movie, especially with the vocal and acting talents constantly on-display.

8.5 / 10

Love at first slash.

Love at first slash.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Art is just pretty colors. Nothing more. So let’s take it easy.

Famous and notorious symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is used to facing all sorts of controversies in issue throughout his life. However, he’s now facing the biggest surprise of his life when, as it turns out, he becomes the leading suspect in a murder of a Louvre curator that he met some odd years ago. Why is this, though? Well, Robert doesn’t really know. But what he does know is that the murder all means something and has to do with a bunch of symbols, shapes and colors, all of which, somehow connect. So, in order to figure out just what the hell it all means, to find the actual killer, and above all else, clear his name, Robert, along with police cryptographer (Audrey Tautou), will have to run from the police and go through every piece of art that they believe to solve the puzzle of this guy’s murder. While all of this is going on, an albino assassin (Paul Bettany), who apparently works for the Church, is going around and killing people for shady reasons. But will Robert be the next one on this assassin’s list? After all, the stuff he has to say about Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Catholicism, aren’t too popular and most definitely make him a key target for the Catholic Church to take out and shut up, for good.

Can't trust the French.

Can’t trust the French.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Da Vinci Code back before it even came out. Most of that had to do with the tricky subject-material the book seemed to deal with in discussing how Jesus may, or may not, have had relations with Mary Magdalene, as well as how Catholicism wasn’t originally set out to be monothestic, but rather, goddess-centered. Surely, the ideas are interesting and make one think quite a bit, but honestly, they’re hardly ever touched at in the movie; there’s a nice sequence involving Sir Ian McKellen’s character who goes on about the Last Supper painting in ways that’s intriguing and fun, but really, that’s about it.

And you know what? That scene is probably the best one here.

Everything else about the Da Vinci Code, despite what the subject-material may have promised initially, just feels, looks, and seems safe. That mostly has to do with the fact that Ron Howard’s the director here and more or less, appears to be making a movie for the kind of large crowd that would want to go see this and not have to worry about being offended or thinking too hard. I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool to see Robert Langdon go through some of these historical documents and use his brain to think things through and connect the dots, but really, the movie doesn’t always seem too concerned with that. Most of the time, it just wants to keep itself moving without ever focusing on one key plot-element in particular.

Which isn’t to say that Howard does a bad job here; the movie looks as slick and as professional as can possibly be. But an action director, Ron Howard is not, and it shows quite often here. For one, the majority of the movie features Langdon running away – whether it be in cars, or on his own feet, Langdon always seem to be sprinting to the next location. Rather than to allow for the tension to pick up and grab ahold of us, Howard seems to use the manipulative device of just shaking the camera like he was trying to wake it up (or us, for that matter), and it just gets distracting. The movie, as was, already doesn’t do too much to grab ahold of you, but to see Howard try so incredibly hard to make you forget about that fact, can get a bit sad.

But perhaps Howard’s biggest wrong-doing with the Da Vinci Code isn’t his action-sequences, but the fact that the movie’s awfully way too self-serious and melodramatic, and it surely didn’t need to be. Had this been a crazy, wacky, and over-the-top piece of campy fun (which is definitely how it appears to be when you read what the movie’s about), I wouldn’t have minded some of the sillier moments that seemed to come completely out of nowhere and make very little, to almost no sense whatsoever. But because the movie hardly ever cracks a smile, or a joke, it all just seems like it’s taking itself way too seriously and doesn’t really just what kind of nuttiness lies within this material.

Can't trust albinos.

Can’t trust albinos.

If only.

Thankfully though, Tom Hanks, as usual, seems to be trying. Even as a character like Robert Langdon who, honestly, feels pretty boring, Hanks finds ways to make him somewhat charming and cool, even if all he does is stare at stuff all day, think way too hard about whatever it is, and come to crazy, almost random conclusions that nobody will ever believe. Hanks’ sort-of mullet is definitely annoying, but eventually, it’s easy to get by and just appreciate the fact that, yes, Hanks is here, trying to make this movie better, and do just whatever the hell he can to make this material come off as at least slightly legitimate.

Joining Hanks is a pretty solid international cast that we don’t get to see too much of in movies nowadays. Tautou does what she can to be more than just “the girl”; Bettany is just, plain and simply, creepy, but works well as it; McKellen adds the only bit of sizzle and spice to a movie that, quite frankly, needed a whole lot more of it; Alfred Molina shows up to chew the scenery as a member of the Catholic church; Jean Reno is the cop on Langdon’s tail and just wants to know what the hell happened; and yeah, there’s some more to be found, too. But still, none of them are ever given the full chance to spread their wings and fly as much, and as high as they want to – instead, they have a key demographic to appeal to and it’s just boring.

Consensus: Largely inoffensive, the Da Vinci Code barely touches on any of the controversial issues that made it such a hot-button many years ago and instead, suits itself for a more generic, run-of-the-mill, and occasionally interesting thriller. Lame.

5 / 10

But hey, don't worry, you can trust the British.

But hey, don’t worry, you can trust the British.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins