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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rich Chavez

Good Kill (2015)

Trust me, those aren’t ants you’re shooting at.

Former Air Force pilot Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) now operates flying drones that literally spy on enemies and, when needed, can drop missiles on whoever the pilot deems as necessary, all from the comfortable confines of some place far from the actual battlefield. While Egan gets a chance to go back home to his wife (January Jones), kids, and lovely little suburban home in Nevada, he still feels the pain from being ordered to kill so many faceless, almost random people for reasons he doesn’t understand. And in a way to numb his pain, his drinking only increases on and on. With a new soldier working in his unit (Zoe Kravitz), Egan now has to wonder whether or not he wants to keep at it with the job he has. While it’s safe and cozy for all those involved, he still doesn’t like to be safe and tucked-away when he’s supposed to be in an actual plane, or on the battlefield, actually fighting the good fight. Eventually though, all of this anger and confusion begins to not only take a toll on his marriage, but his allegiance to the United States Army.

Drone warfare has been highly controversial since the early days of its inception. While some people think it’s an easy and much safer way to keep our troops alive and well, some people also feel that it’s a cowardly way of fighting a war and just leads to more and more people, sometimes innocent, sometimes not, being killed for reasons that aren’t fully realized. Because honestly, how could you ever know if that little person you see walking around on a screen be a terrorist, or at least affiliated with some sort of terrorist organization? You wouldn’t unless you were told they were by some higher-ups, and even then, do they really know for sure?

Just don't cheat on her, Ethan. Just please don't.

Just don’t cheat on her, Ethan. Just please don’t.

Honestly, not really and that’s the idea that writer, director, and hell, even producer Andrew Niccol taps into.

It’s interesting to see someone like Niccol, a film maker who is most known for sci-fi explorations like Gattaca, In Time, and the Host, tap into something that is as low-key and subdued as this. While he is still dealing with technology, the movie is more about one person’s own struggle with getting along with the times and realizing that, no matter how hard he may try to have it be otherwise, this is his current job and if he wants to keep on protecting his country, then he’ll have to stick with it. So, in a way, it’s like most of Niccol’s other movies, but the fact that it takes place in the actual United States of America in 2010, to be exact, and is very passionate about its message, makes it feel like something a tad bit different.

And with that being said, Niccol actually does a fine job here with Good Kill. While his writing of actual conversations between people may need some help, the ideas and themes that he presents here are still effective and disturbing in a way that was done in another war flick that caused much more stir than this, American Sniper. While it’s definitely not fair to compare Chris Kyle’s real-life actions to a Thomas Egan’s fictional ones, but the messages that both movies seem to get across through their “heroes”, seem quite similar; while they are committing what some may seem as “heroic acts”, they themselves don’t see it as such.

Because of that, they are, simply put, screwed up in the head.

Whereas with Kyle, he could hardly function in day-to-day activities, so much so that even a fellow soldier thanking him for saving his own life, doesn’t even register with him, Egan has a more negative problem. Kyle may have been mentally messed-up, but he still passed it off as nothing and continued on throughout his day – with Egan, he drinks, smokes, listens to hard rock music, and doesn’t know how to even talk to anyone he surrounds himself with, whether it be his wife, kids, or neighbors that just want to have a simple chat. And through Egan, Niccol shows that even though the soldier’s who are designated to handling drones, still don’t get off too easy, because they have no clue who it is that they are dropping missiles on, other than from what they’re told.

And this is where the movie gets a bit messy, because Niccol keeps his objectivity at bay for as long as he can, he starts to lose it a little bit and point the finger a tad too much. For instance, the drone sequences themselves are tense and compelling, but at the same time, whenever the government figures step into them, also feel incredibly preachy. Egan is told to kill dozens and dozens of people that he doesn’t know, or never will know, and because the voice telling them to do so is Peter Coyote, already, it feels like Niccol’s making a movie where the government are the big and bad guys.

Once again, Bruce Greenwood's playing a character that's pissed off for some unknown reasons.

Once again, Bruce Greenwood’s playing a character that’s pissed off for some unknown reasons.

Surely this taps into some of what Niccol has made a point in his past movies, but here, it feels manipulative. It’s almost as if having Egan clearly screwed up from everything that he has to do while driving a drone wasn’t enough, Niccol had to make some villains out of the situation. Even Bruce Greenwood’s Colonel character starts out as someone who understands what it is that he has to do and that’s only to take orders, but eventually, turns into this Army “who-rah” stereotype that seems like it would be better placed in a Michael Bay movie, rather than something as thoughtful as this.

But even so, Greenwood’s fantastic in the role and shows some even darker, more messed-up shadings to that character, than Egan even shows. And for that matter, Ethan Hawke is pretty solid in that role, too, because he never goes over-the-top with the role, even though the script clearly seems to be begging for it. Rather than yelling, screaming and punching things to show his frustration with the job that he has to do, Hawke simply downplays Egan’s problems and struggles, and therefore, is all the more effective.

The only who doesn’t seem to be taking a page out of Hawke’s book is January Jones as Egan’s wife. While Jones tries with this character, far too often does she come off as naggy and annoying. It’s easy to understand that she’d be upset with the fact that Egan’s away from home a lot, sometimes because he’s partaking in all-nighter drink binges, it’s also another for her to be complaining and whining about who it is that makes it easy for you to live, where you live. That said, Jones tries and seems like she’s at least trying to fill this thinly-written character with some Betty flavor.

Way too soon. I know.

Consensus: With a thoughtful approach from Niccol, Good Kill brings up some interesting ideas about drone warfare, but also seems lazy in actually doing anything else with those ideas other than just presenting them and leaving it at that.

7 / 10

As I imagine everybody's faces looking while playing COD.

As I imagine everybody’s faces looking while playing COD.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Talking to a silent dude who wears a poncho is definitely one way for sure.

During the year of 1882 in Arizona, a loser sheep farmer by the name of Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) practically loses it all; his pride, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), his courage, and even his own self-respect. Basically, Albert has no reason to live and even though he doesn’t want to off himself, he still knows that life in the West is dumb, which is why he decides to move away to San Francisco in hopes of changing his life for good. However, things turn around for Albert when a new lady comes into town named Anna (Charlize Theron). Not only is she smokin’ hot, but she seems to take a bit of an interest in him and makes him a deal: She’ll help him gain enough of his courage back so that he can win his ex back and eventually live happily live ever after. Albert thinks this is a great idea, except for the problem that he isn’t able to shoot a gun – which is practically a big “no no” in a place like the West, where just about everything and anything could kill you, at any time. To make matters worse, Anna also has a bit of a secret past that includes known-killer Clinch (Liam Neeson) and he’s not happy about her not being with him, and off with some wimp like Albert.

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Family Guy, that sure as heck didn’t stop me from enjoying Ted. Sure, Seth MacFarlane loves his sophomoric jokes and and gags, but that’s sort of the point to his humor and for the most part, it’s done him quite well. And since Ted was such a success, it’s no surprise to see that he would eventually take all of that studio-money and make something that he clearly wants to do, from his heart and with himself thrown right into the middle.

Oh, I get it. He's a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

Oh, I get it. He’s a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

I’m coming very close to calling this something of a “passion project”, which it may very well have been, but from the results of it, too much passion may have went on way too long and for too much.

That’s not to say it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much effort on MacFarlane’s part, because there totally is, however, it does seem like that a little of his humor can only go on for so long, until it all becomes repetitive and over-used. Maybe, just maybe I could have gone a whole two-hours without hearing jokes made about someone’s fancy-looking mustache – better yet, maybe, just maybe I could have gone the whole movie without a handful of jokes revolving around sheep’s penises. But with Seth MacFarlane that’s what you have to expect, which makes me wonder why it just did not work here at all.

Okay, that’s a lie, there are times when this movie can be pretty funny, but it’s not because of MacFarlane himself. Mostly, the laughs come from the fact that the ensemble he’s put together is clearly working their assess off to make any sort of joke hit. Because, even if they do fall flat, at least there’s still something to be interested by; like, for instance, why wouldn’t you make a joke or two about Liam Neeson’s terrible Southern-accent? Better yet, why wouldn’t you ever crack a joke about the fact that all of the townspeople look like your usual, ragged-type to be seen in these types of Southerns, yet, everybody else in the movie looks like they just walked off the set of a Loreal commercial?

For some reason, we never get those kinds of jokes, and instead, we are “treated” to ones about smiling in old-timey photographs, 19th century racism, hookers, virgins, pooping, and bar-brawls. Maybe that sounds like a good time to you, because it totally does to me, but somehow, Seth MacFarlane found a way to suck all of the air out of it and give us a piece that’s pretty boring, even when it is trying to be funny. Which, believe it or not, is about 75% of the time; the rest of the 25% is dedicated to action, drama, romance and awkward situations without barely a lick of comedy. And do trust me, I don’t have much of a problem with a comedy trying to be a tad serious and throw some heart into the story for good measure, just to even things out, but it was never interesting here, nor did it really do much for the characters themselves. It just seemed thrown onto us and almost like Seth MacFarlane needed a new editor-in-charge. Much like the feeling I can sometimes get with Judd Apatow’s pieces.

Which brings me to the man himself: Seth MacFarlane. Of course we all know, recognize, and, for some, love MacFarlane from his various voice-roles and maybe even his culturally-divided Academy Awards hosting-job, but here’s the first time in which we really get to see all of Seth, in his full-on, human-made form. None of that animated, voice-over crap; it’s just him, his face, and his ability to actually act and emote for the camera.

And, as much as it pains me to say, it makes total sense why he’s stayed behind the camera for so long in the first place.

I get why he's here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

I get why he’s here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

That’s not to say that MacFarlane is really bad with the material really, it’s just that it’s obvious his face wasn’t really made for film. He’s sort of a bland screen-presence on screen that tells his own jokes, yells, hollers, acts goofy, puts on an “OMG” face numerous time, and occasionally have to act where he has to put on his “serious face” and whatnot. Sometimes, it works, and some other times, it doesn’t really do much of all. It just seems like him, hogging up the screen and taking away from some of the better, way more-talented members of the cast. Not to get on MacFarlane’s case or anything, but I don’t really see the guy taking over the acting world anytime soon. For now, I’d say to just stay behind the camera, keep on doing the voice-work and every once and awhile, show your face to let everyone know that you’re alive and you are in fact still working.

Anyway though, the rest of the cast fairs a lot better, if only because, like I mentioned before, they are a lot more skilled with material in general and they can usually make the most out of anything as silly as this. Charlize Theron gets the best acting out of MacFarlane because it seems like they share a natural-chemistry that makes it more than just being about her hot, rockin’ bod, even while she’s on the prime of reaching 40; Neil Patrick Harris gets the most laughs out of the whole cast as the mustached-man that Albert’s ex is now dating and shows us why if you give NPH something worthwhile to do, he’ll run with it and never look back; and Liam Neeson has a goofy accent but doesn’t get much funny stuff to do (even though we know he’s clearly capable of doing comedy). Also to mention, there are a few cameos here and there that are rather hit-or-miss. There’s one actually that’s quite spell-blindingly clever, yet, is totally ruined just by the sheer awkwardness of it all. Want to say what it is, but you may just have to wait and see.

Then again, maybe you don’t have to. Because honestly, you’re not missing much to begin with anyway.

Consensus: It isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t trying with A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s more that he’s just trying too much and doesn’t really know what’s considered “well-done crude humor”, against, “annoying, repetitive crude humor”. You know, if there is such a thing.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, that 'stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-late faux hawk MacFarlane's got going on.

Okay, that ‘stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-too-late faux hawk MacFarlane’s got going on.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz