Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Sam Elliott

The Hero (2017)

Don’t let Hollywood forget about you. Even if everyone else you knew already has.

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is an aging Western icon with a golden voice, but in all honesty, his time in the spotlight seems to mostly be behind him. Nowadays, when he isn’t making money in voice-over roles for silly animated flicks, or for lame-o commercials, He spends his days reliving old glories and smoking too much weed with his former-co-star-turned-dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman). But he soon finds out that he’s got cancer and it’s not looking too pretty, so it comes time for him to put his life into order, think long and hard about the people he’s hurt, and those that he wants to continue on and love. So of course, around this time, he gets a new lease on life when he meets stand-up comic Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who, despite the obvious age-gap, decides to take him on as something of a mate and try hard to navigate through each of each other’s difficult lives. Meanwhile, Lee tries to connect with his estranged daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter), all while searching for one final role to cement his legacy.

“What sort of device is this?” (Okay, he’s not that old, but still)

Co-writer/director Brett Haley’s last movie (I’ll See You in My Dreams) was a surprise-winner for me. It not only gave the ridiculously underrated Blythe Danner the starring-role she was quite deserving of, but also offered something of a smart, low-key, humorous, and heartfelt look at aging, finding love again, and oh yeah, death. It wasn’t too deep that it was depressing, nor was it too funny and light that it could be cheesy – it was just somewhere in the middle and yeah, it worked wonders.

But for some reason, the Hero doesn’t quite work as well. It tries to discuss the same themes and ideas about aging, finding love again, and yes, death, but it sort of fumbles them all in a mess of a movie that doesn’t know where to go, what it wants to be about, or hell, how long it wants to go on for. Because even at just a little over an-hour-and-a-half, it still feels way too long, as if the script wrote just enough material for an hour, but the budget asked for a much longer movie, so of course, everything had to get more and more padded-out.

And also, yeah, Haley seems to have lost a bit of inspiration in the writing-department this time around, too.

But it’s not like the Hero doesn’t play around with some complex thoughts; the idea of aging in a business that has long forgotten about you, is still an interesting to watch, because it’s something that so clearly happens, whether it’s in Hollywood, or elsewhere. But the Hero seems to barely touch on this and instead, just be more about this old dude’s relationship with a ridiculously unrealistic character who could most definitely be classified as nothing more than “a type”. Not that Laura Prepon isn’t good in the role, or at least, doesn’t try, it’s just that she’s so obviously a conceit that writers make up on-the-fly, that listening to her recite poetry, literally, makes me gag.

A May-December romance in Hollywood? You don’t say!?!?

And honestly, she’s not the only type here, either.

Even in the lead role, Sam Elliott is most definitely playing himself, once again. Obviously though, this time, he’s got more to work with and yeah, he makes it worth the movie’s time and effort. He’s honest and sad when the movie asks for it and while he gave a better performance in a much smaller-role in Haley’s last movie, it’s still nice to see him get a leading-role, when there’s very few of them in his long, storied career.

But like I said, he’s still a type. Nick Offerman’s stoner-buddy, while heartfelt, is still used as the obviously straining comedic-sidekick who smokes pot and makes jokes about the old days; Krysten Ritter is the estranged daughter who hates her dad no matter what and reminded me far too much of Evan Rachel Wood’s ridiculously similar character in the Wrestler; and Elliot’s real-life wife, Katharine Ross, shows up as his character’s ex-wife and they have a few nice scenes together, but that’s it. There’s nothing more to them, or their relationship. What you see, is what you get, so don’t expect anything more.

Sort of like, ahem, this movie.

Consensus: Even with a solid performance from Elliott in a rare leading role, the Hero still feels like it’s scratching the surface of a very interesting premise that doesn’t get the opportunity to go further and deeper than what seems to be promised.

5 / 10

Long live Sam Elliott. Just not in this movie.

Photos Courtesy of: NPRDeadlineJunk Host

Advertisements

Grandma (2015)

Sometimes, the oldest people are the coolest.

Sage (Julia Garner) just had sex with her boyfriend (Nat Wolff) and, well, wouldn’t you know it? Turns out that she’s pregnant. So, rather than keeping it around and having to deal with all of that in her young life, she decides that she wants to get rid of it and have an abortion. Issue is, she doesn’t have the money. And even though her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) has plenty of it, she doesn’t want to bother her with the situation. So, that’s when she turns to her hip, cool grandmother, famed poet Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), who is going through some issues of her own. One, she just broke up with her girlfriend (Judy Greer), and secondly, she doesn’t really have any money. So this means that the two will have to band together and search for money anywhere they can. For Sage, this mostly means going to the father of the unborn child and that’s it, but for Elle? Well, this means that she’s got to go way back in time to all of her friends and confidantes over the past many years, hit them up for money, and promise them favors she doesn’t really seem to keen on holding up.

I'd take the ride if she was offering it.

I’d take the ride if she was offering it.

A typical Grandma, you see?

Grandma is the type of vehicle that someone of Lily Tomlin’s talents deserves. Though people have loved seeing Tomlin show up every so often in random films, some good, some bad, it seems like she’s never been given that extra time to show and remind the world why she kicks so much ass. Heck, even Grace & Frankie, a show that’s purpoted as “Lily Tomlin’s”, really seems to be wasting her on tired, old hippie clichés.

Something that Lily Tomlin herself is much better than.

That’s why Grandma works as well as it does; not only does it give Tomlin the chance to shine and show the world the true talents that have been lying within her for so very long, but it also presents a solid character worthy of our attention, care and, possibly, love. Because as Elle Reid, Tomlin plays the typical stereotype of an aging lesbian who does what she wants, says what she wants, kicks whoever she wants to in the nuts, doesn’t give a flyin’ hoot about whatever anybody else says, and bangs whomever she oh so pleases. Are there people out there like this? Of course! But is this a bit of a bore to see?

Oh definitely!

However, that’s why Tomlin is so good here, as she not only transcends that stereotype, but shows that there’s a reason behind the way she acts. Not only is she still heartbroken and destroyed over the death of her long-time girlfriend, but she also’s coming to terms with her own mortality, as a whole. That’s why, on this little road trip Elle and Sage take, we start to learn more and find out about Elle herself – not just through what people tell us about her, but how they act towards her, even after all of these years. It’s this kind of story-telling and character-development that isn’t just smart, but engaging, as we don’t really know just what Elle’s life has been, but we get a good idea through the constant interactions she has with those around her.

And every step of the way, Tomlin is there to make it work. A lot of the “funny” dialogue that she has to work with can occasionally come off as cloying, and sometimes, annoying, but that’s only because the movie feels as if it has to present Elle as a wise-cracking granny. Having her just be a no-bullcrap woman is fine as is, all the added-on punch-lines and jokes at other’s expense, don’t really matter or work. There’s one painful scene with Nat Wolff, where he ends up getting kicked in the nuts and it’s played for laughs, in a shocking. almost outrageous way, but it never works and feels like a scene thrown in there because Wolff himself decided that he had a day or two to film his scene.

Who wouldn't want the kid from Paper Towns, who also bares a striking resemblance to Adam Goldberg, as their baby daddy?

Who wouldn’t want the kid from Paper Towns, who also bares a striking resemblance to Adam Goldberg, as their baby daddy?

There are a few other weird scenes that play-out just like that, but it’s always Tomlin who keeps these moments, as well as these characters, grounded in some sort of reality that makes sense and can be, at the very least, relateable.

Aside from Tomlin, the rest of Grandma is pretty stacked with some heavy-hitters, all of whom are game for Paul Weitz’s script, adding in their own two cents whenever necessary. Julia Garner doesn’t really need to do much as Sage, instead just sit there and let Tomlin do all of the work, but she’s fine as is; Judy Greer gets a few solid scenes as Elle’s former-lover; Marcia Gay Harden is funny and exciting as Sage’s mom, which makes me wish that this probably was a movie about Sage, Elle and her character, all hangin’ around one another and getting into the occasional squabble; and there’s a few nice appearances from Colleen Camp, Laverne Cox, John Cho, and the late, great Elizabeth Peña.

But the real star of the supporters is Sam Elliott, playing one of Elle’s former lovers, as well as ex-husband, and gives perhaps one of his most “human” performances since Thank You For Smoking. This isn’t to say that all of Elliott’s little pop-ups in random pieces haven’t been unwelcome or bad – it’s more that it seems like he’s playing that same kind of character he’s been known for all along and rather than upending that appearance, he’s been fine with just staying the same, adding the grizzle whenever he feels necessary. Nothing wrong with that, but watching his performance here, it makes you wish that he was more demanding with his own roles, as he’s not only a bright spark of liveliness this movie needed, but gives us everything and anything we need to know about Elle and the sort of affect she had on those people in her life. We get the basic idea of what happened between them both, but really, we don’t know everything and that’s fine.

Grandma isn’t about knowing everything. It’s about the little details that can sometimes make people’s lives the most interesting.

Consensus: With a solid, but rare leading role from Lily Tomlin, Grandma works because of its gentle, tender care and attention to its characters and heartfelt themes, without overdoing it, even if the comedy doesn’t always work.

7.5 / 10

Daughters become grandmothers, but turn to mothers. Why am I quoting John Mayer?

Daughters become grandmothers, but turn to mothers. Why am I quoting John Mayer?0

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Don’t tell me, but they die at the end. Right?

Imagine a world where the dinosaurs didn’t die and instead, continue to roam the planet as if nothing ever happened. Humans are other species exist, but for the most part, the dinosaurs are the dominant ones. And in this alternative timeline, lives an Apatosaurus named Arlo (voice of Raymond Ochoa), who isn’t nearly as a strong-willed or smart as his older brother and sister. His parents knew this at an early age, which is why they’ve always tried to push him into taking more care of himself and being there to help the family when help is needed. However, for the most part, Arlo’s father (Jeffrey Wright), has always been there to save the day and pick up Arlo’s slack. After a tragic event that leaves Arlo forced to have to pick up his own slack, as well as more responsibilities, he meets a small human who he doesn’t know if he can or can’t trust. But regardless of this, he gets lost and taken away from the rest of his family, which leaves him no other choice than to trust this little human to get him back home, where he can be safe, sound and help his family finish stocking food and shelter for the winter. Issue is, the trip home is going to be a brutal and scary one, which is why Arlo and this human may need to trust each other more, even if they don’t like it.

Oooooh.

Oooooh.

With Inside Out, you could say that Pixar has been on something of a roll, as since the release of Cars 2, they haven’t done so well. Which is to say that any Pixar movie from now, until the end of time, that’s considered to be “good”, will be fine enough; the bar isn’t raised as high anymore and for now, we’re just hoping that they continue to make good movies and not get caught up in their own system again. Sure, even though Inside Out was an amazing movie, it still came after a time where we don’t fully know just yet what to expect from Pixar.

But now we know that the Good Dinosaur is, well, good Pixar.

And that’s all it needs to be, really.

As usual with Pixar, everything about the Good Dinosaur is beautiful to look at. Because the movie is dealing with large landscapes, with hardly anything in them but trees, mountains and water, it’s surprising to see just how much the movie actually brings to the table in terms of what it wants to pop-out at us and have us gasping, wondering just how they made it all look so great. But then again, that’s the beauty of the animation team at Pixar – they make the kinds of movies they want and they don’t give a damn, all they want to do is make sure that they’re something worth looking at.

But honestly, this should come as no surprise to anyone knowing Pixar, but it deserves to be said because the story here isn’t nearly as surprising, or breath-taking as the visuals. If you take a gander at it, the Good Dinosaur is another re-working of the Lion King, where instead of having lions, we have dinosaurs, and instead of it just being Simba all by his lonesome for awhile, it’s now Arlo, accompanied by a cave boy human named Spot. It’s obvious from the very start just what’s going to happen with the story, where it’s going to go, and what sort of messages it’s going to push along, but surprisingly enough, it still kind of works. It’s not all that original and can, in some ways, appear to be “the Lion King for the new age”, but overall, it’s still a heartfelt story told with power and emotion that made that movie so damn great to begin with.

There’s no dancing, singing, or Nathan Lane, but hey, it’s got dinosaurs and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Still though, despite the story not winning points for originality, there were still plenty of moments where, like usual, Pixar found a way to have me reaching for the box of Kleenex and making sure nobody was looking at me. But what’s so surprising about this is how it seems like they’re not trying at all. One scene in particular has Arlo and Spot communicating with one another about their own family-units, but because neither speak in a language the other can understand, they just use the ground and a few sticks. It’s the one scene in this movie where it was obvious that the people in Pixar were reaching for my tears, but I didn’t care – it worked, it was effective, and it didn’t seem like they were trying to show off anything at all.

Aaaah.

Aaaah.

The only issue that seems to persist in the Good Dinosaur is that because they’re dealing with so many deeply heavy emotions and feelings, that whenever they try to throw comedy in to lighten things up, it doesn’t always feel pertinent to the story. Of course, it’s understandable why some of the comedy is here, what with this being Pixar and their a family-oriented company, but still, the comedy tries a bit too hard and if anything, comes in at unnecessary moments. When we see Spot and Arlo getting along with one another and building something of a friendship, it’s light, goofy and playful, just like we expect from Pixar, but other times, like with the characters Sam Elliott and Anna Paquin voice, it just seems obvious that Pixar wants people to laugh and forget that so much death has already occurred in such a story as this.

But no matter what, it’s the lovely friendship between Arlo and Spot that makes it worth watching. The heart is still plenty in-tact for a story like this, but it’s really them who make us wonder just where they’re going to go together. If anything, if there’s to be a Good Dinosaur 2, I’d be fine to see, if only because this one leaves plenty room open for new, inspiring things to happen.

Or, Pixar could just give us a Cars 3 and ruin everything they’ve been trying so desperately build back up. It’s their choice, I guess.

Consensus: Gorgeous-looking, but also heartfelt and sweet, the Good Dinosaur may not be a slam-dunk for Pixar like Inside Out, but still features plenty positive attributes that make us understand why they’re so trustworthy to begin with.

7 / 10

Oh, human? Nah.

Oh, human? Get out of here!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

I’ll See You In My Dreams (2015)

There is such a thing as “being too alone”.

Even though her husband’s been dead for nearly 20 years, Carol Petersen (Blythe Danner) hasn’t ever really tried to find a replacement of any sorts. Though she has her dog, Carol’s been quite happy to be by herself and not have to worry about another person in her life that may, or may not, stick around any longer. One day, however, Carol’s dog tragically passes-away, which leaves her all alone, once again. This time, however, Carol feels as though it’s time to make a change and actually start hanging around people. There’s the pool-boy (Martin Starr), who comes around not to just check-up on the pool, but to also hang with Carol because he can’t get past the fact that she was, at one point in her life, this awesome songstress. And then, there’s Bill (Sam Elliott), a fellow older-person who is instantly attracted to Carol and wants everything to do with her. Though he comes on a bit strong, Carol believes that he’s the one that she can spend the rest of her life with. But Carol’s personal issues come into play and it isn’t before long that she soon realizes that maybe she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, even though she’s already lived plenty of it so far.

Martin Starr?

Martin Starr?

I’ll See You In My Dreams is the kind of teeny, tiny indie that I love to see. It’s one that I assume is going to be a good watch because of how many people say it is, but when I actually get down to watching it, I’m totally surprised. What seems like a movie made for older-people to laugh, cry and relate to, actually works for anybody who decides to view it; loss is a universal feeling that anyone can feel, no matter who or what may be lost. That’s why it was all the more shocking when I realized that I’ll See You In My Dreams doesn’t seem to fall for any of the annoying conventions and cliches that we normally expect these kinds of movies to fall in.

For instance, Martin Starr’s character seems like he’s written just so that he can play the younger-apple-of-the-much-older-protagonist’s eye, which, in a way, he sort of is, but co-writer/director Brett Haley and writer Marc Basch are a lot smarter than that. Instead, they make this character seem a little more aimless and sad than you’d expect, therefore, it makes sense as to why he would want to hang around someone who is almost four decades older than him. Maybe he wants to have something of a romantic relationship with her, maybe he doesn’t, but either way, it’s interesting to see how each and every one of their scenes play out, especially since they don’t always go to, or end up places you’d expect them to originally.

And that’s the magic of life; things don’t always go down quite the way you want, or expect them to. Curve-balls can get thrown into your way and it’s up to how you, yourself can get past them and move on to make yourself better.

Which is why it’s really interesting to see how the character of Carol handles loneliness in a way that most movies don’t like to portray: Which is, “hey, I’m doing just fine.” Most movies in this same vein would show Carol as being a miserable, lifeless and angry old lady who wants a man in her life, but at the same time, can’t seem to get along with one well enough to where she could fulfill that need. Instead, here, Carol’s shown as being a very mild, well-manner and easy-going gal that’s been on her own for quite some time and seems perfectly fine with that. Does that mean she doesn’t want something of a companion in her life? No, she definitely wouldn’t mind one, but at the same time, she isn’t necessarily seeking one to make her life feel more fulfilling and happy.

Although her gal-pals (played perfectly by June Squibb, Rhea Pearlman, and Mary Kay Place) all get on her case for not trying to get a man, she shoos them off and does what she wants. However, when she does start to get a person in her life, romantically, in the form of Bill, the movie doesn’t seem like it’s back-tracking and trying to make itself into more of a conventional rom-com. That Bill himself was the one who actually approached Carol and asked her out in the first place, already shows that the movie isn’t trying to make Carol into some sort of love-sick fool, for some odd reason.

Or Sam Elliott?

Or Sam Elliott?

It should be noted that Sam Elliott does a wonderful job as Bill, because he seems like a genuinely charming, nice guy. However, there is a certain odd flavor to the way his character acts on certain dates with Carol that makes you wonder if he’s already too smitten with Carol, or is just using her as a life achievement of his own personal pleasure. Clearly, he’s a nice guy and doe seem to have feelings for Carol, but how genuine they may be, is constantly up in the air and it’s what keeps their scenes together exciting, as well as compelling to watch and listen to, even in the smallest detail.

And while I’m at it, it should be definitely noted that Blythe Danner, finally getting her own chance to shine in a movie of her own, is perfect here.

Danner is perfect for this role as Carol, because she says so much, without saying anything at all. Because Carol herself doesn’t always say what she wants, or in ways, just refuses to do so, already speaks volumes to Danner’s skill as an actress; we don’t always know what Carol is thinking or feeling at any given time, but we know that there’s definitely something going on in her mind that we want to hear about and see. That’s why Danner, who is always lovely to see in anything, works this character in so many wonderful ways, that we’re able to see all sorts of layers to her than just what’s presented. Sure, you can most definitely chalk a lot of that up to writing, but Danner is most definitely the main reason why Carol’s more interesting to watch, even when it seems like she’s doing nothing at all.

Heck! She’s a lot more interesting than some of the girls my same age that I know!

Consensus: With a rare, but wonderful lead performance from Blythe Danner, I’ll See You In My Dreams is a small, but sweet tale that sees the typical conventions a story like this could fall for, and avoids them at every step.

8.5 / 10 

Oh, Blythe. You play 'em, girl!

Oh, Blythe. You play ’em, girl!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?

Maybe.

Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

Is smoking good for you? Go ahead and give it a taste yourself!

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is the guy that most people consider the second-coming of Satan or a murderous flea-bag, among many other negative personifications. “Why”, may you ask? Well, he’s a lobbyist who speaks for world-wide smoking companies as they constantly get heckled by anti-cancer foundations, protesters, and above all, Senators trying to remove cigarette-usage from movie, television, books and all sorts of other media-outlets. Also, they’re trying add a warning-label on each and every pack as a way to scare every cigarette-purchaser that they will in fact die if they continue to buy and smoke tobacco. But Nick Naylor doesn’t let any of this get to him, because not only is he good at his job, but he’s one slick mofo when it comes to getting what it is that he wants, in the smoothest way possible. The only problem is that he’s finding it hard set a good and responsible for his son Joey (Cameron Bright), whom he rarely sees as is, but wants to show the bright, as well as the dark sides of corporate-America.

If any of you out there think that my opening-line was in anyway serious, then don’t be worried about my I.Q. level, because I was joking. I know; you know; parents know; dogs know; cats know; hell, practically all of us know that smoking is bad for you. If it’s not doing any damage to you now, give it 20 years or so, then you’ll start to feel the ramifications tobacco-usage. That’s not me being preachy, or even trying to sound like a dick, I’m just being honest and painfully clear. Because, let’s face it, everybody knows that cigarettes are not good for you, but does that matter? Hell no! But the that doesn’t stop half of the Earth’s population from going down to the local mini-mart and ordering a pack of Marlboro Reds, now does it?

Hell no!

It's a reunion of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes. Well, sort of.

It’s the reunion of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes finally together at last! Well, sort of.

But that’s the genius of this movie; it dives into the age-old statement that “smoking is not good for you”, and still finds a way to inject a whole bunch of humor and satire about how people can be easily conned into thinking one thing, that in ways, sometimes goes against the common-norm. Writer/director Jason Reitman gives us all of the mean, dirty, despicable and money-grubbing a-holes that we’d never want to meet in real life, but somehow, he makes them all interesting, fun-to-watch and downright believable. You could definitely see these types of people in the corporate-world; laundering money, making some dirty deals on the side, trying to spin whatever story they possibly can into a positive light and, through it all, doing everything to make a quick and easy buck. It’s America baby, and nobody plays clean when money’s involved.

What really pushes this movie over-the-edge and makes it more of an important life-lesson, than just a whole satire on the corporate-world we live in, is that it actually discusses a common-truth that all humans should hold near and dear to themselves. That common-truth being to stand-up for one’s view-point, and not always give into what everybody else is saying. Basically stick up for yourself and don’t just go along with the crowd.

Like for instance, this movie isn’t about whether or not smoking cigarettes is in fact “good” for you or not, nor is it trying to get you to consider if you should go out, buy a pack and start lighting away until the cows come home. Nope, it’s more about how people should be able to make decisions, solely based on what they want to do and whether or not they think it’s right to do. Sure, smoking isn’t good for you and you definitely shouldn’t start developing that as a habit if you know what’s best for you, but don’t be such a sheep and follow the herd. Get out there, do what you think is right for you, as well as others around, but don’t just follow the current. Go at your own flow, man.

Though “blaming the million-dollar corporations for our poor decisions” has been a societal-standard since the beginning of the first Mickey D’s, the movie tackles it head-on and gives us a wonderful protagonist, or antagonist (depending on which way you look at it), in the form of Nick Naylor as the type of guy that speaks for those who always seem to get a bad name. Do some of these big, money-grubbing corporations deserve all of the name-calling and slander in the press? Sure they do, but Nick Naylor is here to show us why we all make decisions in our lives, regardless of if we’re thinking right away. Some of the points that Naylor does make are valid (the whole “ice cream” bit will forever be a favorite of mine), and for anybody who sees him as “the villain”, is sadly mistaken. He’s the guy who knows the truth and skewers it in any way he possibly can without getting caught-up and looking like a dumb-ass. But he’s just so cool and charming, you don’t even care if he’s trying to get these smoking-companies more cash-flow, you just hope that he’s nice to those around him that matter most.

Somebody's in need of a sarsaparilla.

Looks like somebody’s in desperate need of a sarsaparilla.

Kind of strange actually, but Eckhart makes him this way, showing us that he’s not only still capable of being a bon-a-fide dick like we’re so used to seeing him be, but also able to spin it around in a way and see that he can be a nice guy, when the opportunity arises and calls on him to be so. He doesn’t always say or do the right things that may be for the betterment of everyone around him, but he does get caught in some sticky situations where he has to think what’s more important to maintain: His humanity, or his bank-account? More often than not, the latter is what he ends up falling back on the most, but when he does show sides of being a genuinely graceful dude, it goes a long way. Shame that Aaron Eckhart has really been blowing chunks at the screen as of late, but here’s to hoping that he may come back to doing commendable pieces of work for the big screen.

However though, I guess in the case of Aaron Eckhart: There’s nothing like “too many” paying gigs.

Then of course though, Eckhart isn’t the only one of this cast that shines – he just so happens to shine the most. Cameron Bright is the core of what gives this movie its “human-element”, and to watch as he and Naylor talk, get to know one another better and eventually build a bond over time, makes this more than just a “satire”; it’s actually something rather sweet and heartfelt. But still with a bunch of corporate-satire and smoking.

He’s the one who gets the most to work with though, as each and every one of these recognizable faces that show up here all do great jobs, no matter how meager or important their roles may in fact be. David Koechner and Maria Bello get some of the bigger-laughs as the two other, public spokespersons that Naylor frequently goes to dinner with; Robert Duvall constantly chews on his honking, wide-ass cigar as if it was a candy-cane and is absolutely loving every second of it; William H. Macy is playing the main State Senator who is speaking out the most against Naylor and the tobacco-companies he so proudly stands by and can’t help but be likable, underneath all of the contradictions he holds; and Sam Elliott, given what he has to do as a former spokesman for one of these tobacco-companies, injects a lot of heart, humor and surprising sadness into a story that desperately needed some to get to the heart of what this story means in the long run, and why people should at least try and stay away from cigarettes. At least try, that’s all we ask of you as a human-being.

Consensus: Thank You For Smoking is a movie in which most viewers will most likely be divided on, based solely on their political-standings are, but they can all at least come together on the fact that it’s a funny, smart, sly and sometimes heartfelt satire that takes a look at a bunch of people we don’t want to like or see in a humane-way, but actually do, in surprising ways.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If weed every becomes legal, you know this idea will be popping up everywhere.

If weed becomes legal everywhere in the world, you know this we’l be jammed down our throats.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

The Western that even made Clint chuckle. Just a little bit, though. He still found a way to be as bad-ass as ever

Here lies the story of the Wild West outlaws known as Robert LeRoy Parker, known to history as Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and his partner Harry Longabaugh, the “Sundance Kid” (Robert Redford). Together, they pulled-off many wacky and wild heists back in their day but here, we watch specifically as they migrate to Bolivia while on the run from the law in search of a more successful criminal career. It works for a little while, that is until the boys rely who they really are and know that they can’t settle down, be calm, and cool. They got to rob, even if their lives depend on it.

For the past two months, something has come over me. I keep on finding myself, sitting down once a week, and poppin’ in a DVD of a Western movie. I don’t know if it’s because of the weather, because I’m bored, or just because I enjoy a nice little shoot ’em up action that take place in deserts, but I’ve just been watching them a lot lately. However, seeing all of these Westerns so much, I think I’ve come to terms with what’s usually seen and accepted with them, which makes it all the better to see one that isn’t your typical Western, no matter how much it gets regarded as one.

Those horses are just happy to be in the same frame as these two legends, and not awaiting their fate at the next Meat Convention.

Those horses are just happy to be in the same frame as these two legends, and not awaiting their fate at the next Meat Convention.

What separates this Western, from so many others out there in the world is that director George Roy Hill takes an approach to this material that is more light-hearted, then it is grim, which is something very different for a Western, especially for one back in that day. When you get the usual Eastwood/Leone Spaghetti-Westerns, you get sinister, dark stares into the sky; guys killing each other in cold blood; innocents going down like flies, and a whole bunch of other gritty shit that is willing to make anybody feel depressed. That’s where this film is very different with that idea that everything has to be dark and grim, in order to make a good Western. All you really need is a bunch of laughs, shootings, and bank robberies, to have a good old-fashioned time, and that is exactly what Hill and co. allow for us to have.

In fact, that’s what really kept me going with this film even when it started to hit some slow spots, here and there. Everybody involved with this flick seems like they’re having so much fun and it’s almost contagious because whenever you see these guys rob a bank or beat the shit out of some gringos, you don’t feel mad at them or feel like these are the two most despicable pieces of human-beings that you have ever seen put on-screen. Instead, you love it and you can’t wait till they start to do some more of that, along with knocking out some pretty funny one-liners along the way to really get you laughing. It’s not all about being an evil son-of-a-bitch here, it’s about being on the bad-side of the law and still having a fun-ass time regardless of wondering who is following you and when they are going to eventually catch your asses. Very different approach to the usual Western people in those days were used to, and I’d say it’s a good thing that it changed the genre up because without this flick, that genre probably would have started to fall off the face of the Earth and become a bore to every person who even bothered with it.

Then again, it’s a genre that’s still growing strong all of these years later, so I think it’s safe to say that the times may have changed, yet the game remains the same.

But people, let’s be honest, this movie would not be as entertaining and fun if it wasn’t for the two leading men, playing in these iconic roles: Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Both of these actors, in their own right, are amazing actors that will forever be remembered in pop-culture just for giving out some great performances for basically every film they have done, but they’re pairing here is definitely some of the most fun either of them have had in any film prior to this. Whether they are together or not, both seem to be having a ball with themselves, as well as the material and it’s almost infectious, especially when you get to watching these two vets just work their hardest to make their fun time, not just their fun time, but ours as well. Thankfully, it works.

Newman just oozes cool no matter what it is that he does and plays the brains-side of this duo very well as Butch Cassidy, and Robert Redford plays his charm up perfectly, as one of the most intimidating dudes with a ‘stache ever, The Sundance Kid. Both of them have very different sets of skills, but they both complement each other in a way where the one would totally have the others back no matter what it was that they have gotten themselves into.

Boooo! Who needs a girl when you have each other, Rob and Paul?

Boooo! Who needs a girl when you have each other, Rob and Paul?

Watching these guys together on-screen is like a work of magic because every scene they have together, just makes them feel more and more like they were actual buds, who just got done having a few pints at the bar before they walked onto the set and started filming. They both play off of each other perfectly and use their hilarious comedic-timing to their advantage every which way of this flick and it definitely helped me stay on-board with this flick, even when it seemed like the film was starting to lose my attention at points. You never stop liking these guys, no matter what bad acts they commit, and I think that’s much ado to the pure likability that lie within these guys’ acting. The chemistry between them is THAT good, and it’s no wonder why they teamed up again for The Sting, and kicked ass there as well.

Perhaps if I was to choose a problem with this flick, it would be that it’s not all that exciting as I would have liked to have expected. The story starts off perfectly with just the right amount of energy and fun that’s needed, but as soon as the film starts to focus on the unneeded “love triangle” between Butch, Sundance, and Sundance’s girl, Etta, I felt like the film cooled down it’s brakes and was really wasting valuable time that could have been dedicated more to these guys just having a fun time, regardless of whether it was all true or not. Thankfully, that last shoot-out where they face-off against all of Bolivia is by far one of the most iconic endings in film-history, and with good reason: it’s full of just the right amount of suspense and emotion, all to solidifie the legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And what legends they truly were, to all bandits all over the world. Even the wet ones.

Consensus: Though it cools itself down in bits and pieces, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is still a very fun, light, and humorous-take on the Western genre that is so much more legit, due to the fact of Newman and Redford’s chemistry being some of the best anyone has ever seen between two buddies in a buddy film, on and off the screen.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Even when caught off-guard, they still look cool as fuck.

Even when caught off-guard, they still look fly as fuck.

The Company You Keep (2013)

People get old. Even hippies.

Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is living the life that most men of his age should. He has a job, he has a kid, he has responsibility, and he seems to have no problems. That all turns inside-out once a fellow acquaintance of his (Susan Sarandon) turns herself over to the police for a crime she and others committed almost 30 years ago. Grant may or may not have been apart of it, but before he can even turn himself clean, young and reckless journalist (Shia LaBeouf) decides that it’s his time to shine and accidentally “outs” Grant as a former member of an underground movement that had something to do with the death of a bank-teller, those fateful 30 years ago.

This reminds me of one of those thrillers that should have been made, and probably would have made more sense in the 70’s. Due to the fact that a lot of this movie has to do with some hippie-talk, paranoia, and discussions of “the man”, it only seems right that a certain generation that had everything to do with those themes, would be the perfect time for a story like this to take place. However, that’s not where Redford decides to take it and instead, shows that everybody gets old, age-wise, but their beliefs still stay the same. That’s right, we’re most likely going to be stuck with hipsters for the rest of our lives. Hip, hip…..

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at with this movie is that it seems like the aging (and it’s showing) Robert Redford likes to direct movies and better yet; likes to direct movies about something political. Obviously Lions for Lambs was a crack-pot of ideas, thoughts, and themes that he loved to shout at everybody, as if they didn’t already think war killed people, but hey, that’s all fine and dandy once you get underneath it all. This movie is probably less concerned with politics, and more about actually being a thriller, that has a lot of people speaking in code, talking about the past, and running-away from the policia. In that aspect of the film: ehh, it’s okay. But to be honest, going into a movie like this, with the cast he has assembled (seriously, just look at it!!), and knowing that it’s coming from the grips of Redford, you can’t expect greatness. Just expect a good time that is a perfect time-killer, and leave it at that.

"Hello? 911? Yes, I'm serious. I'M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK."

“Hello? 911? Yes, I’m serious. I’M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK.”

However, that’s not to say that all is forgiven in the end. Nope, there are still a bunch of problems with this flick and that’s the fact that most of this just is not all that interesting. There are about three story-lines going on here at once, with one being the most interesting, the other starting off strong and then running it’s course, and then the last one ending up on being “ridiculous”. The most interesting story-line of the whole movie is definitely LaBeouf’s journalist character as he leaves his conscience on the side, for the hopes that he will make it big and get his story on the front of the paper. This was not only the most interesting because of where it went (in and out of the newsroom), but because LaBeouf is so good in it.

I’ve always stood-up for LaBeouf in most movies that he’s done in the past and even though I will admit, the guy surely isn’t lovable and probably isn’t all that easy to work with, I still have to say that he’s very good when it comes to putting himself into a role, and making it work. This is that role where he totally surprised me and from what I read: others as well. LaBeouf is perfectly-cast because he uses that cocky, brash-attitude of his that we see used so many times whether it be actually in a movie or on the streets, and show how it can affect one person when they work and when they aren’t working. I’ll admit that the ending for this character felt a little bit half-hearted with it’s attempt to give him a heart and soul (journalists have none), but LaBeouf keeps his head above water and makes this his movie. But when the movie moves away from him, then it gets bad. Not too bad, but bad nonetheless.

Redford is still a good actor and has that wit and charm that makes him a likable guy to watch on-screen, but he’s pushing 76, which means the guy’s getting old. Also, that means that it’s getting a bit harder and harder to believe that a guy of his age and his build, could really last a whole flick where he’s out-running the cops, Bourne-style. Out-smart them? Sure, I could believe that. But running away from them every chance he gets? Eh, there’s only so much I can and will believe in. That whole aspect where he’s on the run starts off interesting, but loses steam as quickly as Redford does when he’s running those laps (heyyo!), but it’s not the worst story-line in the whole movie.

Out of the three, the worst story-line I’d have to say was the one where every single person that Redford’s character in this movie talked to, talked about the old days and never seemed to get a grip with reality and realize that they aren’t young, whippersnappers anymore. Every person that he reconnects with, either has grown-up, or totally stayed in the same motto of life where the man got them down and they did everything for a valuable reason. Whether or not Redford actually believes in this hippie bullshit is totally beyond me, but I can only hope not, considering it’s so preachy, so stupid, and just so annoying to hear, especially coming out of the mouths of such old folks. Not saying that old people don’t have these same opinions or beliefs or anything, just saying that it’s a bit hard to believe in.

Jew-fro and all, the kids got it made.

Jew-fro and all, the kid’s got it made.

Having a ensemble cast like this, however, may spice things up a bit to the point of where it’s not so bad to listen to these characters speak their “government speech” anymore. Peeps such as Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, and Sam Elliot show up to do their thang, but so do some ladies like Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick, and Julie Christie. Everybody in this movie is good with what they do, no doubt about it, and it’s not like they were needed for anything else other than a couple of scenes to do on the weekend, just to help out their old pal, Robbie (I hope that’s what his friends call him). For that matter, it’s fun and exciting to watch, especially since you know that there is always another welcome face, just right around the corner waiting to be spotted. Nice to know that Robbie also still has some pull with stars nowadays, as well.

Consensus: It may not always work, and is downright ridiculous at times, The Company You Keep is still an entertaining movie that has the well-acted ensemble to back it up, as well as a story that takes a couple of twists and turns you don’t really see coming, regardless of how how much you can or cannot take it in and believe it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.