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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Robert T. Barrett

Knight of Cups (2016)

The life of a Hollywood writer is so tragic.

Rick (Christian Bale) is an acclaimed writer currently spending his life in Hollywood, where he parties, has an awful lot of sex, and mostly, walks around, mumbling his own thoughts to himself. But even though his lifestyle may be a lavish one, he still feels the pain and agony from the many relationships he has. There’s Della (Imogen Poots), a rebellious firecracker who sports a leather jacket; there’s Nancy (Cate Blanchett), his sad ex-wife who doesn’t know what it is that she wants in life; there’s Helen (Freida Pinto), a fancy model he meets at a party who may be out of his league; there’s Karen (Teresa Palmer), a carefree, but fun-loving stripper; there’s Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a married woman who he carries on a sordid affair with; and then, there’s Isabel (Isabel Lucas), an excited young woman who brings some joy to his already sad life. Through this all, Rick also engages with his brother (Wes Bentley), who may or may not be a junkie, and his old, but dying father (Brian Dennehy), who may or may not have abused them both when they were kids.

Either way, there’s a lot of sulking going on here.

Why so sad? The beach is right behind you!

Why so sad? The beach is right behind you!

Terrence Malick has been all over the place as of late, sometimes, for better, as well as for worse. The Tree of Life was his first movie in nearly five years, but it proved to be something of a surprise, even by Malick’s standards. Sure, it was nearly two-and-a-half hours long and seemed to dive into the cosmos one too many times, but at the same time, it still registered as a heartfelt, intimate and insightful tale into what Malick saw as growing up and becoming a man, when you’re still definitely a child at heart. That movie opened-up a lot of new insights into the kind of director Malick was, how he viewed himself, and just why he still deserves to be a trusted force, even if he is as unpredictable as they can get.

And then To the Wonder came out and sadly, things went back to the old, weird and somewhat boring ways.

Not that there was anything wrong with that movie in terms of its production-design, as everything in it, looked and sounded beautiful. But as a story? The movie was pretty hallow and in desperate need of some sort of heart, or emotion, or insight to really keep it moving. Heck, Ben Affleck’s lead character had barely five lines of dialogue and we were supposed to follow him and be compelled by every choice he made in his love life? Didn’t quite work for me, even if there were aspects of the movie that I did admire.

That’s why something like Knight of Cups, while not totally Malick’s most accessible film, still offers up a little something more than what we’ve been seeing as of late with him. What’s perhaps most interesting about what Malick does here is that he focuses all of his time, attention and beauty on the soulless, cruel and dull world of Hollywood; one in which everybody parties, soaks up the sun, and has sex with one another, yet, nobody really seems to fully enjoy the excess. This isn’t new material being touched on, but considering that it’s Malick, it feels slightly refreshing and more poetic, rather than just seeming like a rich person, going on and on about how rich people, make too much money, have too much fun, and don’t really seem to have many responsibilities at all.

Okay, the cast may make it seem like that, but Malick’s focus is mostly on Christian Bale’s Rick – someone who, like Affleck’s character, doesn’t have much of anything to say. But considering that everything happens around him, it’s interesting to see just how much of Bale’s demeanor doesn’t change, as it seems like he was just directed and told to walk around, observe his surroundings, and just stare at people if they talk to you, or ask you questions. It’s a bit odd at times, but Bale is still a compelling presence here, that even when it’s clear he isn’t the star of the show, he still makes us want to know more about him.

Same goes for all the other characters who show up here, which is why Knight of Cups has a slight bit more character-detail than his latest offerings.

Rather than featuring everyone frolicking and smiling in/around nature, everyone seems to have at least some sort of personality that makes them intriguing to watch, even if Malick himself doesn’t really give them all the attention they need or deserve. Most of the women in Rick’s life show up, do their charming thing, and leave at the drop of a hat, but it’s still enough to leave a lasting impression. Cate Blanchett’s character is perhaps the saddest, most tragic character out of the bunch, with Natalie Portman’s coming up to a close second. Others like Teresa Palmer and Imogen Poots seem as if they showed up to have a blast and because of that, they’re hard not to smile about or love. Sure, we don’t get to know much about them, or why they matter (other than from the fact that they’re banging Rick), but we get just enough that it goes a long way.

Same goes for Wes Bentley’s brother character, as well as Brian Dennehy’s father character. Bentley seems as if he showed-up to the set, high off his rocker, which brings out a lot of intentional, but mostly unintentional, laughs, whereas Dennehy is a stern presence, making a lot of his scenes feel oddly tense. Malick could have definitely dug into this dynamic a whole lot more, rather than just trying to let all of the narration do the talking for him, but what he’s got here, as meager as it may be, is still well worth taking a bite at.

See?!?

See?!?

Still, there is that feeling that even at nearly two hours, there needs to be something more.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities about Knight of Cups is that Malick gives at least some more attention to the plot and to the characters than he has recently, but like with most of his other films, it’s hard not to wonder where’s the other reels. We know that certain actors like Joel Kinnaman, Thomas Lennon, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Jason Clarke, and Joe Lo Truglio, among others, have all filmed scenes for this and can be seen ever so briefly, so why not include them? If judging just solely by their celebrity status and skill, why not put them in for good measure and allow for them to make their mark? Sure, it would be a crazier, perhaps longer movie if they were in it, but at least there’d be something to enjoy, rather than be utterly confused by.

Same goes for the characters and cast-members Malick already has at his disposal. There’s so many characters and actors here that, at times, I wish there would have been more context. And knowing Malick for Malick, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be at least a three hour opus of sorts. Sure, some would be pissed and not want to bother with it, but his fans, and those who admire him most probably would definitely like to see what Malick had in his goody-bags all this time. After all, nobody ever said “more development” was a bad thing to have, especially not in a Malick movie.

But hey, this all just me.

Consensus: Beautiful, engaging, and as meditative as you can get with a Malick film, Knight of Cups may not be his most accessible film, but it still offers up enough emotion and intrigue that makes it feel less like a slog, and more like a brain-teaser of what else could possibly be out there.

7 / 10

The dude who played Batman for three movies definitely has enough money for a private lap dance and then some.

The dude who played Batman for three movies definitely has enough money for a private lap dance and then some.04

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

No midgets hung themselves during the filming of this movie.

James Franco stars as Oscar, a small-time circus magician who is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. There, he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Oscar must put his magical arts to use through illusion, through a bit of wizardry slowly transforming himself into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz he was destined to be after all.

Alright, let’s face it: we weren’t awaiting for a whole new-look at Oz, and hell, we weren’t even anticipating this movie; but dammit, it feels so good to be back. The first couple of previews for this movie made it seem as if it was just another, CGI-filled trip that was more like the recent Alice in Wonderland-debacle, than anywhere near a genuine piece of cinema, but thankfully, that’s where Sam Raimi comes in, and thank the movie heavens for him. However, anybody expecting a Drag Me to Hell or Evil Dead Raimi, are going to be surely disappointed. This is Raimi at his most kiddie-ish, and whether or not you are down for that; is most likely going to affect your whole feeling on this movie.

For me, I didn’t mind that Raimi was gunning for the kids/families, because it’s Oz, and I highly doubt people would want to go see Oz hanging out with Ash, and going around and sawwing-off zombies with a chainsaw instead of a limb. Like Bryan Singer pulled that last week, it may lose some respect from the people that love and praise you the most, but in this world and in this business: you can’t please everybody. Thankfully, the man pleased me and that was more than enough. Okay, I just realized that came out wrong but you get what I’m saying.

"Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place."

“Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place.”

What I liked so much about Raimi’s direction is that no matter what the problem may be with this story, with these characters, or with the ideas, the movie is always stunning to view. I got the humble chance to see this in 3-D (with some fancy schmancy glasses, thank you for that, Allied) and it was breath-taking because you can totally tell that whoever designed this movie, did it with love and with a great attention to detail. Throughout the whole 2 hours and some-odd minutes, you really do feel as if you are right there, stuck in this world of Oz there with all of these wondrous, and crazy characters, whether they be creatures, flying monkeys, witches, magicians, or people pretending to be magicians, and it was a place that I was happy to be in. Even when the start-off with the strange ratio in the old-school, black-and-white look, it was still beautiful and felt more than just a mindless gimmick.

I don’t know if that was because of the look, the feel, the characters, or what, but what I do know is that this movie is beautiful and you can totally tell that Raimi and company really put a lot of effort into the look of this film, and to make it work. It isn’t just pretty to take your eyes off of what’s supposed to be a plot, but it’s there to ease your eyes and have you go, “Woah. Ooh. Aaah.” Whether or not you’re the person who likes the shell-out a couple of extra bucks for 3-D, I’d say go for it, but don’t come complaining to me if you can handle that extra-dimension. It’s what it promises on the package, baby.

But it’s not like this movie is only good for the visuals, the story itself is pretty cool too. As a kid, I loved the hell out of the Wizard of Oz and always wondered what it was like before Dorothy and Toto came-around and shook things up a bit. I finally got that view, and Raimi provides a nice world that is easy to get used to, even if some of it does seem a bit like filler. But filler is fine with me as long as it’s fun, entertaining, and enjoyable while it lasts, and that’s something I have to give a lot of credit to Raimi for: he brought me back to this world and gave me a good time. Come to think about it, isn’t that what going to the movies are all about? Being transported into a different world where all of your wildest and craziest imaginations could, and just might come true? I think that’s what the social-act of “going to the movies” is all about, and what makes it better is that this time, the world you are transported to, just so happens to be Oz. Oh yeah.

What surprised me the most about this movie is how strong and fun it started-off. I felt as if there was a real sense of joy and display of entertainment to be entertained-by, but somehow, the film loses it’s way and found myself actually losing interest the story. Yeah, I can’t explain it and if I do, I’ll just end up running into spoiler-territory but something was just not working for me. It almost felt as if the movie had all of these intentions to get our minds, right off the bat, and then stopped caring much about the story as it continued to trug-along and that’s where I found myself forgetting what was going on, why characters were doing certain things, and just what were all of these crazy witches jabbering on about.

Maybe a film like this that takes place in Oz and is only meant for kids, isn’t really something that’s worth to be all that thought-about and studied as if it was my Junior Year research paper (still haven’t gotten my grade for that either), but to me, that shows a problem. A problem not just with the story or the screenplay, but with the direction and how Raimi begins to lose a bit of focus. Instead of making this movie just one, joyous adventure after another, the movie continues to pile on, more and more explanation and exposition to the story, when in reality, all we needed to know was: witches are evil, Oz is good, people need saving, and that’s why he is there. That’s all we needed, but the movie continues to ramble on with random shite that makes no sense and doesn’t need to when you have a movie that takes place in Oz. Just give me fun, delight, happiness, jokes, witches, magicians, flying monkeys, and dwarves. That’s it. Nothing more and sure as hell, nothing less.

"Hotness! Be summoned!

“Hotness! Be summoned!

Other than the fact that the movie adds a bit more than it should have, what has really surprised me the most about this movie is how it’s already being received. And by “being received”, I mean James Franco and his performance as Oz. Personally, I think the guy nailed what it was like to be a big, old cheap-o of a magician that doesn’t have a care in the world, is selfish, egotistical, a womanizer, and a bit of a d-bag. I thought, if anything, Franco nailed that aspect of that character down like-pat and really made me believe that such a schlub of a guy like Oz, could actually turn his life around and be the grand wizard all of these people expect him to be. Yes, the already-wanted Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp would have been a lot better for this role, but with Franco, he gives it his all and if anything, deserves some praise and kudos for going balls-deep in this role and not coming off like a member of the Dull Party, like he usually comes off as. Even though you may not hear this from many others, James, I just would like to say: good job and keep-up the good work. Don’t let them haters get yo ass down. Holla.

The supporting cast around him, also do fine jobs, even if some are better than others, which shows as well. Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams play the three witches of Oz, who all do fine, except for the gal who plays the Wicked Witch. Even though Disney themselves already shot-themselves in the foot with this one and spoiled who the actual witch was, I refuse to give it away and say who. But, the person that they do end-up with seems a bit miscast, almost as if she put way, way too much emphasis on the yelling and cackling. The story as to why that chick becomes the Wicked Witch, is pretty interesting (Oz is a pimp daddy, fo sho), but the development of that certain character and how she acts so pissed was a tad annoying and made me just want to shoe her away. Maybe that was the point after all, but I was more annoyed of the chick, than scared. Unlike when I was a kid and nearly pissed my Spider-Man pj’s every time THAT Wicked Witch came around. God, she was a scary woman.

It was also nice to see Zach Braff back in action as Finley, Oz’s trusty side-kick who also happens to be a talking-monkey, since the guy hasn’t been around much. Also, I’m a huge fan of Scrubs so whatever the guy had to say, in whatever which way, always had me howling at the moon. Oh, and yes, for all of you die-hard Raimi fans out there, Bruce Campbell does show his wonderful-self in this movie, but it’s in a role that may surprise you, but more because you did not even know it was him and was such a small-role for the guy. Granted, a Bruce Campbell cameo is better than no Bruce Campbell cameo, but at least it could have been more epic and cool, considering I was waiting for him the whole time. Disappointment, disappointment.

Consensus: Though Raimi bites-off a bit more than he could ever possibly chew with some of this classic-material, Oz the Great and Powerful is still a fun, beautiful, and enjoyable trip back to the world we all loved when were kids, and will feel even happier to pass it on down to the next-generation of go-getters who still have no idea what tapping your ruby slippers are all about. Silly Y-Generation children.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hey, I know they're sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck?

Hey, I know they’re sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck? I’ll cover the kid’s eyes…?