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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ryan Simpkins

Brigsby Bear (2017)

Some shows we just never want to end. Looking at you, Freaks & Geeks.

For as long as he can remember, James Pope (Kyle Mooney)’s life has been run on “Brigsby Bear Adventures”, a children’s program that teaches James about recycling and not masturbating more than twice a day. Weird stuff like that, but hey, James loves it so much that he doesn’t care or even see the weird message. Then, the series abruptly ends and James doesn’t know what to do with himself. And to make matters even worse, he’s moved into a new house, with a new family, and doesn’t quite know how to fit in with the rest of the world around him. Still though, everybody pretty much already accepts him for what he is and they decide that it’s time to help James finish up Brigsby’s final adventure. James hopes it will bring him some closure on the TV series, whereas everybody else hopes that it will allow him to move on and come to terms with the real world.

Blow it up, Brigs!

So yeah, I’m being a little coy about Brigsby Bear because there are some parts of the plot that are kept secret and with good reason: It’s dark. But in a way, it’s shocking and it works; it gives you the idea that this movie’s going to go far and beyond just being another silly, over-the-top indie-comedy about a childish man-baby trying to finish off the final episode to a cult-followed TV show.

It also helps allow for there to be real some tension in the air, even when in reality, there isn’t. There aren’t bad people, or insanely good people in Brigsby Bear and it’s kind of sweet. It’s the kind of movie that cares much more about characters, their relationships to one another, and how they treat the outside world, as opposed to just being all about the plot and riffing on everyday life. Had this movie been taken in the hands of someone like Will Ferrell or Steve Carrel, who knows how centered and focused it would have been.

But without them, and instead, with Kyle Mooney, it’s much far better off.

Never break character.

And that’s why Brigsby Bear, while it could have easily just been a spin-off of Mooney doing goofy and crazy things, like he does on SNL, it’s much different. He has this character that, despite having the general facade of being a weirdo, is actually kind, earnest, and so innocent, he could literally kill a cat and you wouldn’t be upset with him. He’s just getting used to a new world and it’s Mooney’s performance that really works wonders, enthusing a great air of mystery of this character, but also a great deal of sympathy too.

And of course, the same sentiments transcend to the rest of the characters, too. Matt Walsh is funny as the dorky dad who tries to relate to James; Michaela Watkins does the same; Claire Danes, playing probably anything resembling a villain here, is fun to watch; Greg Kinnear’s nice cop role gets better once we discover he’s got a bit of the acting bug; Ryan Simpkins plays James’ sister who seems like she’s going to be an embarrassed pain in the rear-end, but eventually lightens up; Jorge Lendeborg Jr. plays one of James’ friends who seems lik he’s going to be a deuche, only to then not be and probably be the best character in it all; and Mark Hamill and Jane Adams, well, the less said about them, perhaps the better.

Either way, just know that they’re all good, because they’re given characters to work with and not just the sitcom-y kind, either.

Real people, who also seem to be kind of funny to watch.

Consensus: A little odd, but overall, Brigsby Bear is a very funny, sweet, and well-acted comedy that actually takes its time to work.

7 / 10

Brigsby’s mid-life existence.

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics

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The House (2017)

Cautionary tale?

Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) have been planning their whole lives for their daughter’s moment she goes off to college. However, when the scholarship money falls though, they have to think of something and something quick, which eventually involves their close buddy Frank (Jason Mantzoukas). In other words, they put their brains together and think of something so crazy, so barbaric, and so insane, that hell, it just might work. That’s right, an underground casino where adults from all over the little town can come together, get wild, get crazy, throw money at the walls, and have a grand old time, as if they were young, free and without any damn responsibilities anymore. The only issue is that, for Scott, Kate, Frank, and well, everybody else, they are old and have something resembling responsibilities, making this casino a much more dangerous and scary place than any of them ever wanted it to become.

Homage to Scorsese? Or once again, just improv? Who knows.

It’s crazy to think a comedy starring two of the best, funniest, and brightest talents in the game, with plenty others surrounding them, would come and land with an absolute thud like the House did, but unfortunately, that’s what happened. It wasn’t screened for critics, it was barely advertised, and oh yeah, it didn’t really do well at the box-office, even despite both Ferrell and Poehler still being draws. What happened?

Well, the short is that it’s not a very good comedy.

But the long is that it’s just like every other studio comedy out there made in the world in that it features barely any story, cohesion, or interesting-writing, but instead, features a bunch of funny, incredibly talented people, just making everything up as they go along. Normally, I’d be disappointed with this, but considering that we literally just got the same thing a few weeks ago with Rough Night, it’s hard to really expect much else; without having to actually put any thought or effort into how these movies play-out, how the jokes build, and eventually, play out, the general idea is that you get a bunch of funny people around, put a camera in front of them, film, and let the magic happen.

Magic can occasionally happen in cases such as these and even in the House, there are some slight glimmers of true fun comedy. But the issue is that the laughs and fun happen so very few and far between one that, even at 80 minutes, it still feels like a stretch. Hell, you’d think that with such a short movie to begin with, that we wouldn’t have to sit through much and make this feel like more of a slog, but somehow, that’s exactly what happens. And yes, it’s exactly what happens when you don’t really put much of any effort into anything, other than getting a solid cast of funny people together.

Then again, maybe I’m putting too much thought into a movie like the House.

Children. They’re the future and why we do the crazy shit that we do.

Then again, maybe I’m not. Maybe I just appreciate it when a movie with as funny and as promising as a premise as the House, actually delivers on not just the funny, but also the promise, and gives us a, get this, a solid comedy. It doesn’t have to change the world, it doesn’t have to break down any barriers, and it sure as hell doesn’t have to be perfect – all it has to do is be funny and feel like it was at least written more than half-way through. The House doesn’t feel like that, though, and it not only suffers because of it, but so does everybody else, too.

And yes, this is to say that Poehler, Ferrell, Mantzoukas, and so many other well-known, talented and reliably funny people here who show up and give it their all, are indeed funny, but at times, it can’t help but feel like their talents are being wasted. Literally, not a single one of them play an actual character that makes sense, or at the very least, works in this movie’s small world; sometimes, even the bittiest kind of character-development can go a long way into helping us realize just why a person is why they are and why watching them is so funny to begin with. It’s simple movie-writing 101 and honestly, I shouldn’t even have to state this, but unfortunately, movies like the House exist and continue to come out, therefore, making it all the more understandable to bring up why a script matters.

Even for, yes, a comedy.

Consensus: Although everyone tries and can occasionally be funny, the House doesn’t live up to the promise of its premise, nor does it really have all that many laughs to help guide along its incredibly short 80-minute run-time.

4.5 / 10

What? Is there anything else you ought to do with money?

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Pride and Glory (2008)

Keep it in the family. Even corruptness.

After a bunch of his fellow cops are shot dead in what was supposed to be a drug-ring raid, Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) returns to the detective field to figure out just who killed these cops and just exactly how it all happened. And because his daddy (Jon Voight), his brother Francis (Noah Emmerich), and brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell), are all apart of the force as well, it should make absolute sense that he should have no problems getting the right kind of answers he so desperately seeks. However, what Ray begins to find out, though, is that the details surrounding the killer and what happened are a bit shady. For one, nobody can find the supposed-shooter, and to make matters worse, it turns out that perhaps some brothers in blue may also be a little bit dirty. Which is expected, but there’s a possibility that these dirty cops may have been involved with the killing of the other cops, leading Ray to start questioning all of the cops around him, including his family. Obviously, they’re all appalled and shocked by Ray’s findings and accusations, but at the same time, there’s still some truth to it, and this is when everybody involved starts getting desperate and finding a clean way out of this dirty situation.

"Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?"

“Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?”

If you’ve seen one cop movie, generally, you’ve seen ’em all. Hardly do they ever stray away from the norm of what we’ve all come to know and expect with a cop movie, which begs the question: Why does Hollywood keep making them? Is there really any huge sell or draw in them that makes people flock out to the theaters to check them out? Or is that Hollywood can’t get over its weird affection and interest in the brothers in blue, so they still continue to make movies about them, not offering anything new or interesting to say about them, either?

Well, whatever the answer may be, Pride and Glory doesn’t really do much to make sense of it.

Although, Pride and Glory is a different kind of cop movie; for one, it’s about dirty cops, being, well, dirty and corrupt as all hell. Given today’s political climate, you’d think that this would be a hot-button topic worthy of being touched upon and prodded at, but director Gavin O’Connor doesn’t really seem interested in diving deep into that discussion. Instead, he just sort of wants to show off his dirty cops as they were; doing stuff they shouldn’t be, pointing the fingers at others, and telling lookie-loos to “mind their own business and shut their mouth”. O’Connor may have some sort of interest in what drives a seemingly normal, everyday cop, to become a drug-dealing, money-stealing baddie, but he doesn’t quite show it.

Most of the time, O’Connor allows his movie to fly-off the rails with fine actors going a tad bit over-the-top. Gifted character actor Frank Grillo is sadly the clearest example of this as his cop character, albeit a dirty one, wants absolutely each and every person in the movie to know it. It’s almost as if any and all subtlety was lost here and O’Connor told Grillo to “just have fun”, and he really did. Problem is, all of the yelling, punching, kicking, and gun-slinging doesn’t do much to help create a character, but further highlight a type that needs to be done with.

But Grillo isn’t the only one who is dialing it way, way up.

Colin Farrell is intense, doing his best De Niro impression here, but once again, his character feels like he has no rhyme or reason for breaking bad. Sure, we get the idea that maybe greed took over and he couldn’t stop himself, but we can only assume that because we never see this character actually be a good cop – we just see him as this dirty one, who can’t be trusted with anything. There’s an unpredictable nature to Farrell that he brings onto the screen each and every chance he gets, but mostly, it just ends with him yelling or acting out in some way.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

I mean, hell, the guy almost hot irons a baby! What the hell!

Edward Norton, thankfully, dials it down a bit more and seems to actually be more interested in diving dig into his character’s psyche. Issue is, this tends to make his character feel a bit more boring and dry than he probably should, which is an even bigger shame because he’s the lead protagonist we’re supposed to stand behind, root for and spend all of our time with. Norton has solid scenes with just about everyone around him, but when it comes to pushing the story-line along, there’s a never ending sense of normality that overtakes Norton, as well as the movie and it’s hard to get away from.

By the end though, O’Connor decides to stop sitting around and let everything and everyone, within Pride and Glory, run wild.

This means that guns are shot, people are beaten-up, noses are bloodied, faces are battered, people start shouting, and out of nowhere, which was, at one point, a slow, almost meandering drama, is now this wild-and-out, action-thriller where people can’t stop beating the hell out of one another. Is it exciting to watch? Sure. Does it feel like a whole completely different movie? Oh, most definitely and it’s an issue that seems to make Pride and Glory, yet again, just another cop movie.

Although still plenty more watchable than season two of True Detective.

That’s for sure.

 

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, Pride and Glory is drenched into too many cop movie cliches and conventions to really do much, other than just mildly entertain those looking for some entertainment.

6 / 10

"We're brudders. We ain't eva gain to brake apaart."

“We’re brudders. We ain’t eva gain to brake apaart.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

A Single Man (2009)

If gay means happy, then why is everybody so damn muggy?

Torn apart by the shattering impact of the death of his long-time lover, college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) experiences the most transitional day of his life, blending past and present, desire and despair, and discovering that love persists even after the object of love is gone.

Way back when in 2009 when this film was making it’s whispers of Oscar-talk for Firth, I really wanted to go see it but didn’t have a car, didn’t know where to see it, and even worse, didn’t really have the time to make out of my day, to go see an art-film like this. However, almost four years later, and with a car, with an idea of where to see it, and with plenty of time in my day, I’ve finally seen it and I’m really pissed at myself for missing-out all these years. Boo, the 16-year-old version of myself!

This movie marks the filmmaking debut of designer Tom Ford and you can totally tell that this guy has had something, no matter how big or little, with the world of designing just by looking at a single-frame of this movie. Everything is so polished, so lavish, so classy, so jazzy, and so beautifully, that you really feel like you are in the 60’s, watching a real story play-out in front of your own eyes. At first, it may seem like the movie is a bit too artsy-fartsy and way too happy with itself, but after awhile, the constant stylized-montages and changes in color, really make sense to the story and actually change the mood of what you are about to see. Yeah, Ford may be obsessed with making things look purrty, almost a bit too purrty, but there is absolutely no problem whatsoever, with keeping a person’s eyes on the screen, especially if your material is weak.

However, you don’t have to worry about that instance here, because the material is very strong in the way it always keeps you riveted and always keeps you interested in what’s going to happen. What I liked so much about this movie, is how simple the story is and yet, it’s always so intriguing into seeing where it goes with itself. You get to see this one man, who’s so heart-broken, who’s so sad, and who’s in so much pain, and you get take a glimpse inside a day of his own life and see where his mind goes throughout the day’s events, and how this one day shapes the rest of his life. We get a crap-ton of memories, flash-backs, and surreal, dream-like sequences, but they all fit within the context of the story and what Ford is going for and it really surprised the hell out of me.

Why Firth was never asked to be Bond, is really beyond me.

Why Firth was never asked to be Bond, is really beyond me.

The feelings you get with this story aren’t life-changing, but they are at least relate-able  considering that this man has lose the love of his life and still has no idea what to do with it. Quite frankly speaking, I think we can all relate to that idea and message, so to see this one man, who we just meet, go throughout his day and struggle with that hurt in his heart and reserve in his step, it’s truly believable to see and very understood. Never has a flick really been so simple like this, yet, make it so much more than what it’s plot seems to out-line. I don’t know if we have Ford to thank for that, or the source material he adapted this from, but I know one person we can thank: Mr. Colin Firth, himself.

Before King George VI, and before he has become to be known as the most-lovable British man on the face of the planet, Colin Firth was one of those supporters you would see in British rom-coms like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually, and more or less, came-off as the thinking’s man Hugh Grant that just never really got the shot to take a film, that he so rightfully desired. Here, as George Falconer (pretty boss name to have on your birth certificate), Firth gets to show everybody why he deserves that shot and shows us all why he can do almost anything and everything, with one, simple look on his face. This performance isn’t all about theatrics, it isn’t all about him yelling and screaming the whole time, and it sure as hell isn’t about him just breaking down every five-seconds so we get the idea that he’s sad, this is more of a performance that’s all about being subtle and understated, while still making us feel something for this guy, that we literally just met right-off-the-bat.

Still, as much as you may feel bad for this guy and all that he’s going through, Firth still has plenty of charm and wit to him to where you really feel like he’s the type of sad-sack you would want to cheer-up, whether it be sexual or just a regular, shared-brewskie at the bar. Firth has that every-day man, sense of likability to him that works so damn well with this role and it’s a real wonder why it took him so freakin’ long to nab a leading-role in a flick like this. I would hate to sound cliche and obvious by stating that George Falconer was the role Firth was born to play, but after seeing this flick and seeing all that he can do with a simple-script like, it would be damn-near impossible to state anything different. If Jeff Bridges didn’t get the pity-win for Crazy Heart that year, you can bet your sweet ass that Firth would have been the next in-line for that win.

If that sweater doesn't spell out, "G-A-Y", then I have no clue what will.

If that sweater doesn’t spell out, “G-A-Y”, then I have no clue what will.

Since Firth is so damn good as Falconer and just about steals this movie from underneath his feet, the rest of the cast sort of pales in-comparison and that’s a problem when you have a film like this that relies so heavily on everybody else coming in to spice the story up away from Falconer. Julianne Moore is surprisingly raw as Falconer’s bestie/ex-lover, Charley, and is very interesting and fun to watch in a role where she just lets loose on all of her grubbiness and grit, but also feels like she should have had more to do here. She shows-up for a scene or two, does her vulnerable-act, and is essentially gone from the rest of the movie. That’s not so bad since Firth is a revelation to watch, but the film would have definitely been a lot better had they given more scenes to him and Moore together. Then again, it’s not a terrible thing when you have an actor like Firth and performance like his.

Matthew Goode only shows-up in flash-backs as Falconer’s deceased-lover, and brings enough heart and warmth to a character we really need to know more about to fully invest ourselves, and does a good job. But like Moore, I just wish there was more of him to fully get us going. And lastly, Nicholas Hoult plays a student of Falconer’s that seems to be almost obsessed with him and constantly stalks and asks him questions, that would make any person just cringe right-away. Hoult definitely gets a chance to show everybody that he’s grown-up (especially when he’s butt-naked a few times), but that’s about it as the kid definitely left his acting-skills with him back in his adolescence. It’s not that he’s a bad actor, it’s just that this character is so one-note and obvious that once you start to see his true colors pop-out, it’s so glaring that it’s distracting to the rest of the film that seemed to be all about having subtle, but heartfelt emotions about life and love. Hoult definitely looks the part of a confused, 60’s-era college-student, but doesn’t feel like it and when you put him up-against Firth, it’s too obvious to set-aside.

Consensus: Thanks to an amazing performance from Colin Firth and an artful direction from Tom Ford, A Single Man may be simple, but still has the power of a wrecking ball to hit your brain and your mind with it’s ideas and thoughts about life, love, and heart-ache, but yet, also feels like it could have been so much more if there had been more time and grace given to everything else.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Cloudy day, isn't it?"

“Awfully cloudy day, isn’t it?”