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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ron Eldard

Mystery, Alaska (1999)

The New York Rangers clearly have better things to do. Like watch paint dry.

In the small town of Mystery, Alaska, hockey is king. It’s everywhere you look and, quite frankly, it’s all anyone cares about. That’s why, when it turns out that the New York Rangers actually want to fly out there for a total publicity stunt, not only does the town take it as serious as a heart-attack, but the hockey team themselves are as prepped-up and as excited as anybody else in the town. Problem is, they now have to sort through their own personal problems to get their heads in-check for the big game. There’s John Biebe (Russell Crowe), the town sheriff who, at one point, was the captain of the hockey team, but due to his slowness, was given the boot; there’s Charlie (Hank Azaria), a hot-shot producer from New York who once went out John’s wife (Mary McCormack) and now seems to miss his lovely, little hometown; there’s Stevie Weeks (Ryan Northcott), who wants to have sex with his girlfriend, but can’t actually seem to get the act done; there’s Skank Marden (Ron Eldard), who has sex with practically every woman in town, including the mayor (Colm Feore)’s wife (Lolita Davidovich); and then, there’s Judge Walter Burns (Burt Reynolds), who doesn’t really care for hockey, but just might once this game gets going.

No. I am not entertained.

No. I am not entertained.

There’s a lot going on in Mystery, Alaska, however, none of it ever seems to involve the actual playing of hockey. Which, for some people, will be a huge deal-breaker. For those expecting a sports flick with plenty of swearing, fighting, heart, humor and hockey in the same vein as Slap Shot, well, go the other way. Instead of actually getting a movie that’s as dedicated to the sport as it states it is, we get more of a inside look into the lives of these various characters, as they not only try to wade through their problems, but also try to find ways to make themselves the best hockey players that they can be for the big game.

The big game, which, mind you, is highly unlikely to ever occur in the real world, regardless of how many reasons you try to toss in.

But honestly, the fact that this plot is unbelievable to a fault, is the least of its problem. That it wants to be a melodramatic character-study, but is in no way, dramatic, or ever interesting, already proves to the point that maybe more scenes of hockey being played would have helped out. But director Jay Roach and writers David E. Kelley and Sean O’Byrne, never seem to be all that interested in ever portraying the sport; more or less, it wants to see just what the dudes who play the sport are up to. And truly, I’m all for this – however, the writing is neither strong, nor compelling enough to make me see why we needed a movie so dedicated to finding more out about these characters.

Not to mention that the characters, for the most part, spend the majority of the movie going on and on about the loads of amounts of sex they had, and that’s about it. Ron Eldard’s character is made out to be the biggest horn-dog in the whole town and while his subplot is supposed to pack some sort of dramatic-weight, it never actually does because we don’t care about him, the people he’s banging, or the kind of effect it has when those said people he’s banging, get caught by their significant other. Same goes for whatever Russell Crowe’s character is going through; we’re made to think it’s some sort of mid-life crisis, but all of a sudden, turns into a possible extramarital love affair, or whatever.

After awhile, it gets to a point where you’ll wonder: Where’s all the damn hockey!

And then, eventually, the hockey does come up. Problem is, it’s towards the end, which means that you have to wade through the meandering and plodding initial 90 minutes, just to get there. Even then, though, it’s already too late to where we don’t care which team wins or loses, we just want it to be over so we can go home and play NHL 16 or whatever the cool hockey game the kids play nowadays.

Eh. Hope they lose.

Eh. Hope they lose.

Which is to say that Mystery, Alaska, despite the solid cast on-hand, doesn’t do any of them justice. 1999 was a pretty weird time for Russell Crowe’s career, as the Insider had yet to come out and Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with him. Therefore, we get a pretty dull performance from him as this small-town sheriff who can’t seem to turn that frown of his upside down. Not to mention that once Hank Azaria’s character comes into town, now we have to listen to numerous spousal disputes between he and Mary McCormack’s character; neither of whom, are actually ever interesting to hear, because we don’t know who these characters are, nor do we really give a hoot if they’re together or not by the end.

And everybody else pretty much suffers the same fate as Crowe, McCormack and Azaria. Burt Reynolds, even after coming hot off from an Oscar nomination for Boogie Nights, seems like he’s just going through the motions as the older, yet wiser man of the town who likes to dispose of his knowledge whenever the moment seems necessary. It’s a boring role for Reynolds and quite frankly, he doesn’t do a nice job of hiding his own snoozes. Same goes for Colm Meaney and Lolita Davidovich who, like McCormack’s and Crowe’s characters, are left to just have marital problems and honestly, it’s hard to care at all.

All we want to see is more hockey, the actual New York Rangers (who never actually show up, because they were obviously smart enough), and somebody getting the absolute crap beaten out of them. Just like an actual hockey game.

Except with those, we don’t really care about what their personal lives are like.

Consensus: Even though there’s a great cast on the bench for Mystery, Alaska, none of them are given anything credible to work with, nor do they ever actually get to play as much hockey as everything about this movie may suggest.

2 / 10

And yeah, this is totally not forced.

And yeah, this happens, too.

Photos Courtesy of: A Movie A Day, Every Day, Sorry, Never Heard of It!

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Sleepers (1996)

Never mess with a hot-dog stand, kiddies.

Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra (Jason Patric), Thomas “Tommy” Marcano (Billy Crudup), Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt), and John Reilly (Ron Eldard), are all childhood friends from Hell’s Kitchen who, after many years, haven’t really kept in close contact. Most of this has to do with the fact that, when they were younger, they were all sent to a juvenile delinquent center, where they were both physically, as well as sexually abused by the wardens there. Many years later, one of those wardens (Kevin Bacon), gets shot and killed in a bar late one night and guess who the shooters allegedly are? Yup, John and Tommy. Seeing as how they’re buddies are in the right to have shot and killed the warden, Shakes and Michael concoct a plan: Get Michael to defend the dead warden and have their old local mafia gangster, pay-off a lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) who will do the job that needs to be done, where both John and Tommy shine in a positive light and aren’t convicted. However, moral dilemmas eventually sink in and make everybody rethink their decisions – not just in this one particular moment, however, but through their whole life in general.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he's doing.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he’s doing.

There was a constant feeling I had while watching Sleepers that made me think it was just so “movie-ish”. Like clearly, a case like this couldn’t ever be true – and if it was, it sure as heck didn’t deserve the oddly-sentimental tone that Barry Levinson gives it. Despite there being a chock full of talent both behind, as well as in front of the camera, Sleepers just never resonates, mostly due to the fact that it all feels too sensational and over-wrought – something I would expect material of this nature to be.

However, that isn’t to say that Sleepers is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For at least an hour or so, Sleepers is actually a smart, disturbing, and interesting coming-of-ager that doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel of the kinds of movies that have come before it, but at least put you in the same position of these characters, so that when they do all eventually get back together some odd years later, we’re already invested in them enough as is. When the kids are transported to the juvenile delinquent center, it’s made obvious that the movie’s going to get a whole lot more heavy and mean, and it still worked.

Though maybe the big reveal of having these kids sexually abused was a bit campy, it still worked because it added a certain sizzle to a story that, quite frankly, needed one. Whenever you put young kids and pedophiles in the same story, most often, the stories tend to get quite interesting and thankfully, that’s happening with Sleepers. While I sound terrible for typing what I just did there, it’s the absolute truth; in hindsight, Sleepers is two meh movies crammed into one, with one being a lot more gripping to watch, then the other. That’s not to say that the courtroom stuff of the later-half doesn’t bring about some form of excitement, but because it all feels so phony, it never quite works.

Now pedophiles being in-charge at juvenile delinquent centers? That’s something I can definitely believe in!

Still though, the later-half of the movie brings Sleepers down a whole bunch. For one, it’s hard to ever believe, not in a million years, or even in places like Syria, that there would be a case as blatantly perjured and/or one-sided as this. Sure, the movie tries to make it understandable that a public-defender could get away with doing something like this, so long as he kept-up appearances, but I don’t believe I heard Brad Pitt’s character stand-up and yell “Objection!” once. For the most part, he’s just sitting there, looking determined, tense and most of all, pretty. That’s what we expect from Brad Pitt, of course, but it doesn’t help make the case seem at all legit, even though the movie seems to be depending on that.

"I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore."

“I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore.”

Then, there’s Levinson’s direction that, honestly, is pretty odd. Though Levinson makes it clear that the boys killed a person that raped them when they were kids, the fact remains that they still killed plenty of other, probably innocent people. So, to just stand by them and say, “Well, that guy had it comin’ to him”, seems a bit weird; the guy whose death is being contested over was a bad person, but what about all of the others? What if these two guys are just, regardless of what happened to them when they were younger, bad apples that need to cause some sort of ruckus by killing others? Does that make them worthy of being stood-up for?

The movie never seems to make that decision and it’s a bit of a problem.

But, like I said, the cast on-deck is fine. It’s just unfortunate that most of them don’t have a great deal of heavy material to work with. Jason Patric and Brad Pitt both seem like they’re trying hard to make everybody take them seriously, but sadly, it just ends up with them being a bit dull. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, on the other hand, also don’t have much to do except just look mean, mad and ready to pull out a pistol at any second.

The more seasoned-pros of the cast do what they can, too, but as I said, they get lost a bit. Kevin Bacon is in full-on sicko mode that’s fun to see him playing around with, even though his character is quite the despicable human specimen; Dustin Hoffman gets some chances to shine as the inept lawyer of the case, which works because of how laid-back his persona is; and Robert De Niro, with the few scenes he gets, seems to inject some heart into this story that’s definitely needed. He doesn’t help push the movie over that cliff it so desperately seemed to be searching for, but he does the ticket just enough.

And that’s all any of us want from Bobby D, right?

Consensus: Sleepers is, essentially, two movies into a two-and-a-half-hour long one that is occasionally interesting, but ultimately, ends up seeming to silly to be believed in or compelled by.

6 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Did the U.S. Army actually screw up for once? And come close to admitting it?!?! What is this?!?

It’s the fall of 1992 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and just about every citizen of that city is starving to death. Why? Well, powerful warlords are using starvation as a fear-tactic to knock down the weak, get the strong ones, and find out who is most loyal to fighting the good fight. This doesn’t seem like such a nice thing in the eyes of Americans, so it’s seems obvious that the next the U.S. army would take would be to go over there themselves and show them the right way to live and be socially acceptable. In order to do this, they need to capture a powerful warlord named Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the same warlord who declared war on the remaining U.N. personnel still left in his territory. Together as one, the U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers, and 160th SOAR aviators all gang up to capture him in what is snow-balled as a “30 minute mission”, no more, no less. However, when one soldier (Orlando Bloom) makes the rookie mistake and gets badly injured in the heat of the battle, that’s when all of the forces begin to fall apart, lose formation, balance, and sight of what they’re in this land for anyway. Suddenly, a 30 minute mission becomes a whole day-affair with more than a few casualties, and families with members taken away from them, as a result.

"Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition."

“Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition.”

So marks the fifth and most likely not going to be my final, viewing of this movie and needless to say, time has not done this one well. That’s less of a hit on this movie, and more of a hit on the type of pretentious movie reviewer I have become, but so be it! The fact of the matter is that even though the film has lost its steam in certain spots over the years, the spots that worked so well for me in the first place, still do work. And that all goes back to Ridley Scott’s direction which is, once again, nothing short of spectacular.

It’s common-knowledge now that Scott doesn’t just take a piece of material because he wants to get a new cover for his Jacuzzi; he takes it because he wants to, and feels so passionate about it that he’ll put his whole heart, mind, body, and soul into it. Sometimes, that can usually backfire on him, which is why he is one of the very few filmmakers working today to have director’s cut editions on almost all of his movies, but for the most part, the guy knows what he is doing behind the camera, and it allows for the viewer to take a peak inside of his mind, see what he sees, and wonder just how the hell he was able to cobble all of these pieces of film together to make one, long, cohesive story.

Maybe that’s why the movie won Best Editing all of those years ago. Just maybe.

But anyway, the landing-point for this tangent is that Scott, no matter how hollow the stories he works on may be, he himself, as a director and visual artist, is not. As soon as the movie begins, you feel as if you’re right there with each and every one of these soldiers just shooting the shit, cracking jokes, trying to prove whose ding-a-ling is bigger than the other’s, and so on and so forth. This starts things off on the right, if not more relaxed, foot, so that when things do start to get all crazy and jumpy, not only do we get hit with a sure rush of energy, but make us feel like all of the nice, happy, and playful vibes have gone elsewhere. This is where the material gets serious, and pretty damn violent as well.

However, the violence in this movie never oversteps its boundaries into “gratuitous” territory. Whenever a soldier dies, Scott clearly cares for this character and puts the spotlight right on them for however long that may be, and it gives you the general idea that yes, soldiers did die in this ill-planned raid, but also, fellow human-beings died as well. It’s sad, no questions about it, and that’s why Scott never takes his attention off the gruesome, gory details of this war/raid and has you feel as if you are right there, ducking every bullet within an inch of your life, just hoping that you have the upper-hand on your enemy, and it’s not the other way around. Sort of like warfare, isn’t it? Except that you aren’t actually participating in a war, you’re just watching it all play out, which is both comforting and tense at the same time.

So for right now, I think we’ve pretty much hammered in the fact that Scott is not to be blamed for any of this movie’s short-comings, because trust me, trust me, trust me: There are plenty to be had here. First of all, while I do respect that Scott shows the same type of respect and gratitude to those soldiers who lost their lives during that fateful raid, you never care for any of them. Or, let me try it like this: You’re never really given much of a reason to care in the first place. Sure, it’s easy to feel sympathetic as it is because they’re humans just like us, and were fighting a war, for us, however, nobody really seemed to be the most separate from the pack. Instead, every soldier, with the exception of a whole bunch of familiar faces, feels like the same person and they’re thinly-written persons at that.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Take for instance, our lead guy in the midst of this whole battle, Josh Hartnett as SSG Matt Eversmann. Now, obviously Hartnett has never really been the type of actor to carry a film on his shoulders, which makes it strange and relatively reasonable why Scott would make him the main leader in an ensemble feature, but the kid’s never given a chance here with the lame character he has to work with. Not only does Eversmann start off with the most dull and plain motivations any character, in any war movie has ever had, but his whole arch never changes over time. He just sees the war for all of its gory, bloody despair and detail. Once again, another thoughtful pretty-boy who looks at the world as one big bargaining chip where discussion and finding a middle-ground is daily accepted among society, finds out that the world actually isn’t like that? Really?!?! Is that the type of writing we want to accompany a movie about a raid that the U.S. wrongfully envisioned and got caught with their wankers in their hands more than a few times? I don’t think so, but hey, I guess if you have Ridley Scott on-board as director, not much can really go wrong. That’s if you don’t listen to the characters when they speak, which is exactly the problem here with everybody.

Hell, even the most talented actors among this ensemble can’t even save some of these lines from coming off as terribly corny. Tom Sizemore comes close as the bad ass, tough-as-nails commander that, get this, casually walks to wherever he goes on the battlefield. This whole character gets by on Sizemore’s nasty charm, but it’s so ridiculous, that it almost makes you forget about the rest of the stars in this cast that get stuck with even worse characterizations. Jason Isaacs has a really, REALLY thick Southern drawl that never catches on; Eric Bana’s accent is even worse and makes him seem more like a surfer brah, than an actual self-righteous soldier; Jeremy Piven and Ron Eldard love to crack jokes to one another while they’re getting ready to drop off fellow soldiers into a play land full of guns, bullets, explosions, death, and all sorts of viciousness; Sam Shepard yells out orders from a comfy, cozy bunker somewhere very far, far away from where this is happening, and seems like the type of dick nobody wants to be around, on-or-off the battlefield; and Ewan McGregor’s desk-jockey character, as charming as he may be, has that one skill of being able to make a great cup of coffee. Dude would have been hella popular with Buddy the Elf, but in the middle of Mogadishu, where all sorts of guns are being discharged and explosions are, ahem, doing exactly that, does that really matter? Does that even need to be included in here? Actually, those are all rhetorical. The answer is no!!!

Consensus: Scott’s inspired, jumpy, frenetic, and chaotic direction makes Black Hawk Down a thrilling, exciting, and sometimes, scary war flick, but the script never goes any deeper with its message, motivations behind the actual proceedings, or even the real-life soldiers who were involved with it, most of whom deserve better attention and writing. Except for the coffee guy. Seriously, why was he around again?!?!?!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Must have been gnarly waves........dude.

Must have been gnarly waves……..dude.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Jobs (2013)

You’re trying to tell me Steve Jobs was NOT God?!?!?

This is the story of Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher). Some of you may know him as that guy who died two years ago, others may know him as the man who founded Apple and the world has never been the same since. That latter-choice is mainly what he’s remembered for, although you wouldn’t be wrong to go with the first one either because he did die two years ago, due to stomach cancer. Anyway, that’s the end of his story, the beginning of it all begins with his early days of getting kicked out of college, being a hippie, doing a lot of acid, and starting his own computer company in his garage with fellow iconic nerd Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad). Then, once powerful businessman Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) came strolling through, poking his nose into Jobs’ business, then he, along with the rest of Apple, got big. Almost TOO big some would say, especially for Steve himself who was considered very difficult to work with and always wanted perfection, at the expense of the others around and supported him. That would all come back to catch up with him though, in a way that not only blind-sided him, but the rest of the technology world as well.

The story of Steve Jobs seemed almost destine for the big-screen. Think about it: How many people do you see out-and-about with iPods, iMacs, or iPhones? The answer is somewhere in the millions and it shows you the type of effect/influence this man had on our world. He changed the way we see, hear, and feel everything, not just computers, music, or video-games, EVERYTHING. The man was a visionary, and it still saddens me to this day to see him go. What saddens me even more, is that his legacy will most likely live on in made-for-TV movies like this; the problem being, this isn’t a made-for-TV movie. It’s released to the general, wide public, in order to inform the world on the person Steve Jobs was and why his story matters, but at the same time, not doing either of them. It just tells a story, and that’s it.

"Can we get a munchies break, man?"

“Can we get a munchies break, man?”

All we really get here from Joshua Michael Stern’s direction with this material is that Steve Jobs was a very smart dude, but at the same time, a dick. Which I will admit, I liked. It takes a lot for a biopic like this to not sugarcoat its main subject, and I liked that it showed Jobs as a dude that didn’t work well with others, for reasons that weren’t anybody else’s fault but his own. He was a perfectionist, arrogant, always felt like he knew what to do and how to do it better, and didn’t want to be anything or anybody that disagreed with him. From the stories that I’ve read and heard of Jobs, a lot this rings true, which is why I’m glad that Stern went for that aspect of the man’s story, but that’s about it.

Everything else we see here, like his failures and his victories, all play out without little to no emotion, insight, or compelling arguments as to why it matters at all in the least bit. Seriously, as soon as Jobs and the rest of his ragtag group are given their first task to create a keyboard and sell it to the wide audience out there, we are told it does something cool in a way that only full-on computer geeks will get and understand. As for the rest of the human-population that can’t tell the difference between a Dell or a PC, are going to be at a loss for words, which is wrong to do for a biopic of this. A lot of people have been bringing comparisons between this and another technology-centered biopic, The Social Network, and although I wanted to side-step away from that obvious route, I just can’t help it because at least that movie did everything right, that this movie could not do.

It gave us a reason to care, with fully fleshed-out characters; it made us understand why all of these inventions mattered, and still do in today’s world; and made us feel the hurt and the pain once the back-stabbing and betrayal began to happen between co-workers, and old friends. That movie, was a near-masterpiece and watching a misguided biopic like this only made me realize just how well-done that movie honestly was. This, on the other hand, while not being terrible like I had originally imagined it being, still can’t seem to get to the core of the events it’s depicting, or the person it’s about himself.

For instance, rather than this being a movie about Steve Jobs the person, it’s more about Steve Jobs, what he did, and how he did it. Not how he felt or who he was, but what he got done in time for everybody to check it out. In a way, it just traces all of the accomplishments he had over the years, while also shedding a dim-light on some of the biggest happenings of his life. Probably the most important event of his life was when Bill Gates “supposedly” ripped-off one of Jobs’ models, putting him into a total fit of rage and anger. You’d think that the tension and building-up to this one scene would be somewhere along the lines of Peter Parker on the verge of beating the shit out of JT, but it was the farthest thing from. Instead, we just got a simple phone-call from Jobs to Gates, where the man left an angry voice-message, saying he’s pissed and all of that other enraged crap, and that was it. Never alluded to once again, and just left to pan-out in mid-air. That’s not the only instance where we get something important in Jobs’ life alluded to, and never brought up again: There’s the fact that he was adopted, and didn’t want anything to do with his first-born; what he did in his meantime when he was first fired from Apple (and subsequently founded Pixar); and the fact that he abandoned and ripped-off of most of his co-founding friends within Apple.

Plenty more where that came from, and even though they do touch on those subjects in this movie, they never go anywhere deeper than just a nod, a wink, or nothing at all. Maybe just a mention, and that’s it.

Oh my gosh! It's Kelso! But he's old! And bald!!

Oh my gosh! It’s Kelso! But he’s old! And bald!!

However, I’d say that the only memorable part about this whole movie is Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal of Steve Jobs, which in and of itself isn’t even the best part of the movie; it’s just interesting per se. Because let’s all face it: I highly doubt I was alone in the world being skeptical and nervous hearing that Michael Kelso would be playing none other than Steve Jobs, a widely-regarded genius of the modern-day, right? And that’s not a hit against Kutcher at all; in fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I “like” the dude. He’s funny, he’s got charm, and seems like he can pull off some nice bits of acting when he needs to, but I think it may be just a little too drastic for him to go for the gut with a performance that’s centered all around him, what he can do as an actor, and how spot-on he can portray this famous figure. Some of it, surprisingly, Kutcher does well with, especially the gaunt-walk Jobs supposedly had and the way he was able to sound-out certain vowels. That “impersonation”, if you will, is good for him and he does a nice job with, but when it comes to getting to the meat of the performance and of this guy, then he loses all credibility.

Most of that blame is partially on the script, as well as the direction, but it’s also on Kutcher because I always saw him “acting”. Not once did I really see him BECOME Steve Jobs. I just saw him playing Steve Jobs, and try really, really hard at it as well. The make-up and facial-hair looked good on him and was able to make us see him as Jobs, but that’s all because it’s a neat little trick of the director, and not because Kutcher is that talented of an actor. However, I can’t hate on the guy too much because he surprisingly bearable to watch here, and it’s the type of performance that makes me wish I see him in more daring, challenging roles in the future, but as for right now: Just stick with saying choice words like “dude” and “sweet”, and you’ll be all good.

As for the rest of the stacked-cast, they all do fine as well and in certain spots, bring out the best within Kutcher’s acting skill. Josh Gad especially, playing Steve Wozniak in a way that makes him a rather rotund, but lovable nerd that knows what’s right for the technology world, but also has morals to where it’s no surprise to see him and Jobs have a bit of a battle on what constitutes “business, without being personal”. Also, it was very nice to see Dermot Mulroney get his best performance in what has seemed like ages. Seriously, why is this guy not getting bigger and better roles nowadays?!?! The man obviously deserves it, and shows so here. Whatever, it’s probably just me.

Consensus: While Jobs doesn’t stray far away from the ugly side of it’s main figure-head, it surely doesn’t do him many favors either in terms of getting to who the person was, why he was that way, why he mattered, why what he did mattered, and why we should fully believe Ashton Kutcher as a dramatic force to be reckoned with.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Steve Jobs: Also former GQ's "Sexiest Man of the Year" recipient.

Steve Jobs: Also former GQ’s “Sexiest Man of the Year” recipient.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

House of Sand and Fog (2003)

What would have happened to Gandhi, had he decided to live in America.

When her husband dumps her, the emotionally unstable Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) finds her house in the California hills seized in foreclosure and put up for public auction by local authorities, including a sympathetic sheriff’s deputy (Ron Eldard). An exiled Iranian air force colonel (Ben Kingsley) buys Kathy’s “dream” house at a bargain price for his family. But Kathy is obsessed with getting it back.

Having a home and being able to call it your own has to be a great thing so it’s not wonder why so many people would actually go the ends of the Earth to get it back, when its taken from them. I have never had a house that I can call my own (only mansions, holla!) but I can easily say that if I do have one in the future, I’m paying those damn taxes!

This was the debut for Vadim Perelman who actually does a pretty good job here with a story that seems very hard to actually sit, watch, and enjoy. Both of these characters have certain traits to their personality that are very ugly and unlikable which makes it a lot harder to really get behind when character, considering they could be doing something nice one second and then the next they just do something so despicable to make you feel like you want to beat them the hell up. Perelman makes every single twist within this story just as shocking as the last, and our opinions on these characters change within every second which makes it hard for anybody to actually be deemed “likable”. It’s a very hard story with some very hard characters to stand by but somehow Perelman makes it all work.

The film is also done very well in a technical way by Perelman as well. The cinematography looks beautiful and just about every shot features little hints of fog, darkness, and this glum look that really does add a lot to the films feel. You never feel like something here is going to go right with this story and these characters and that’s mainly because of just how tense and suspenseful this film got after awhile which is a real surprise as to why Perelman has only done one other film after this, which was apparently a bomb. I mean I’m not saying that this is a perfect direction by any means but it’s very tense and he keeps the story going at a nice pace for us to feel a lot of what’s going on and it’s something that the horror genre may need right about now. Just saying though.

The one problem with this film though is that something about the screenplay just feels a bit off when it’s more about the plot rather than the cops. The story constantly jumps back-and-forth between Behrani along with his family and Kathy along with her dumb-ass cop boyfriend. I liked Behrani on screen and I also liked some of Kathy’s scenes as well but the angle with her cop boyfriend who seemed like a total dickhead in the first place, didn’t interest me one bit and the fact that they kept on going back to this story really annoyed the hell out of me since the tension sort of got lost. I also can’t forget to mention that the performance Ron Eldard gives as the cop, feels very wooden and a lot of his scenes feel like they should have some sort of dramatic feeling, but instead got lost by the fact that he’s not a very good actor, which is surprising because he was awesome in ‘Super 8’.

Earlier I mentioned before how the film is difficult to really enjoy considering that both of these characters are a bit unlikable in their own ways but for some reason, Kathy’s story just did not do anything for me at all. Kathy is obviously messed up, sad, and heartbroken but she is a total dumb-ass the whole time who should have just payed her damn bills and stop whining like a little bitch in the first place. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she just let them take her house and didn’t put up a fight about it but she just constantly keeps on coming back for more and more annoyance talking about how she was cheated and that her house is her house. She’s not really a character we can sympathize with, but then again, who else in this film actually is!?!

The main reason why this film works is because of the two performances here given by its two lead performances. Ben Kingsley is great here as Behrani channeling just about every emotion there is to be had in this character. This guy is one who obviously was a hot-shot in his native country, but then soon moves to America where he is basically a nobody and has to struggle with so much such as pride, anger, and just the frustration that actually comes to him when he buys this house. Kingsley is so precise and good at what he does here that it’s no wonder that he got nominated for an Oscar and makes a lot more of the hokier scenes this film has at times, seem very real and heart-wrenching.

Jennifer Connelly is also just about as perfect as Kathy who plays that sad character we usually see her play but since she’s the lead now, she’s allowed to do a lot more now with her character and does a great job just about every time on-screen. Even though I couldn’t like her character and sympathize with her, I could still like Connelly here considering she puts a lot on the line in this flick showing just about the best of her depression with an under-lining sense of happiness that comes to her in the middle. She’s riveting in almost every scene and there was almost just one part where I really felt like I was going to sympathize with her, but then I just didn’t. Shame that she didn’t at least get a nomination for this flick.

Consensus: House of Sand and Fog may suffer from a script that starts to lose its focus at points, but it’s still incredibly well-acted by Kinglsey and Connelly, who both give performances that divide us between who we like more and who is in the right, and who is in the wrong.

7/10=Rental!!