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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Sam Reid

Serena (2015)

Pretty much a remake of Silver Linings Playbook. Except not everybody’s supposed to be nuts.

In Depression-era North Carolina, timber baron George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is dealing with most problems people have to deal with when they run any sort of business. Dealing with panthers and such in the wilderness that surrounds him and his workers, George realizes that he needs to figure something out in his life to give it more meaning. Which is why when he meets the young, beautiful and wistful Serena (Jennifer Lawrence), he instantly falls head-over-heels. Soon, they have sex, get married, and decide that it’s time to start a family. Problem is, Serena starts to take her husband’s business a little too seriously and get in the way of matters that don’t concern her. However, George loves Serena and doesn’t want to upset her, so when he impregnates her, he feels like they’re going to be getting back on-track into that happy, lovely couple they once were. Once again though, troubles arise when Serena suddenly finds out that she cannot bear children, which leads to horrifying, disastrous results that finds almost everyone involved with the Pemberton clan acting out in insane ways.

Serena1

Uh oh. One bad movie and B-Coops is making someone pay!

Oh, gosh. What went wrong? Sure, I’ve heard about Serena for a long while now, from when it was completed and then put on the shelf for nearly two years, to when it premiered at some festivals last year to ultimately disastrous reviews, but man, I sure as hell didn’t expect it to be this bad.

Seriously.

And while it’s hard for me to not just start and end this review by simply stating it’s crappy, there’s something that needs to be said here about movies that seem like they’d be alright, all because of who is involved with them. When you see names like “Bradley Cooper” and “Jennifer Lawrence”, you’d automatically expect that whatever they were involved with, to be something worth checking out, regardless of what it’s about. Heck, if you put J-Law and B-Coops in a room and film them for an-hour-and-a-half, chances are, we’re all going to watch it. They’ve made smart enough choices in the past to give us the idea that they know what they’re doing with their careers, and they’re more than talented enough to remind us why they get as much material thrown their way as they do.

But somehow, Serena just is not the kind of movie where all of this seems clear. Cooper and Lawrence seem like they are trying here with what’s given to them, but what’s given to them is absolute garbage and so far from any help, that even their more than reliable skills as actors can’t save the day. Even Susanne Bier, a solid director when she’s given enough inspiration, seems like she has no idea what to make of this tale, or even seem like she gives a damn. Then again, this could be just that the material is so thin and poorly-done, that even she couldn’t help it from being something better.

Either way, Serena is a mess. There’s no two ways of getting around it. Some of that is Bier’s fault, other times, it’s Cooper, Lawrence and the rest of the cast, but overall, it’s a group effort that seemed doomed from the beginning; regardless of how much effort may have been put into it.

Or in this case, I guess none.

See, what’s odd about Cooper and Lawrence here, is that while they’re usually spectacular in all else that they do, here, they seem incredibly awkward. Even they’re chemistry together that’s blossomed so well in the past seems like an after-thought in a movie that wants to have you believe in these two as long, lost loves who, after five seconds of meeting one another and boning, instantly fall in love and get married. It feels rushed and put-on, and to be honest, neither one’s performances help matters.

Somehow, female J-Law on a white horse isn't as awesome as it sounds.

Somehow, female J-Law on a white horse isn’t as awesome as it sounds.

Cooper has some odd Southern-twang in his voice that makes everything that comes out of his mouth, indecipherable, whereas with Lawrence, I don’t even know what to say. Her character is supposed to be this enchanting, yet demanding piece of work that seems to always get her way, no matter what; and when she doesn’t, it’s literally the end of the world for her, as well as all those surrounding her. Whereas Lawrence’s high-strung charm has worked for her in the past, because this character is so poorly-written and crazy, it all comes off as over-the-top and the decisions her character makes by the tail-end of this movie, are downright laughable. It makes you feel bad enough for Lawrence, until you realize that the gal already has an Oscar to her name and probably plenty more to come.

So any bit of sadness goes away once reality strikes.

And honestly, it’s hard to really think that this movie could have been good in some universe; it’s just not that type of movie. A part of me wants to feel that, even before Silver Linings hit the big screen and made both of these acts downright superstars, that Lawrence and Cooper took it, without knowing one another, and saw what could happen next. Maybe they got some nice pay out of their ordeal, or maybe they didn’t, but either way, this will slide right by them. They’ll go on to make bigger, way better movies (probably with David O. Russell) and seem to forget that this movie ever existed and eventually, will make it a blip in their memories.

The only ones who will remember are us, the normal, everyday citizens who will still be pondering that deadly question:

Just what the hell happened here?

Consensus: Sometimes, it doesn’t matter who’s involved, if you’re project is bad, it’ll probably stay that way. And that is exactly what happens to the poorly-written, terribly-acted, and so-bad-its-hilarious piece that is Serena; a movie you’ve heard is terrible and guess what? It is!

2 / 10 

"Go back to sleep, baby. It was all just a dream. A horrendous, terrifying, and downright disturbing dream."

“Go back to sleep, baby. It was all just a dream. A horrendous, terrifying, and downright disturbing dream.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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The Riot Club (2015)

Rich kids get a bad rap. They’re just like you or I – except with lots more money, is all.

Milo Richards (Max Irons) is a first-year student at Oxford University and doesn’t really know what his place in the world, let alone at college. But he knows that he wants to start something up with fellow freshman Lauren (Holliday Grainger) who shows him that being popular and cool doesn’t matter once you’ve got someone special in your life. However, that doesn’t register with Milo, as he still finds himself drawn to certain people in and around the University that are deemed “cool”, or typically “posh”. That’s why when a group of young, rich hot-shots from other universities recruit Milo for what they call “the Riot Club”, he doesn’t go against it; in fact, he allows it. Once Milo’s apart of this group, he acts out in all sorts of ways he never quite expected himself to act out in the first place: Running, cursing, breaking things, partying, and generally causing all sorts of havoc. Eventually though, all of the good times Milo has with the club start to come to a close when he realizes that all of these fellas are up to no good and are absolute menaces to society – something Milo doesn’t want to be, nor associate himself with.

What we have here is another case of an interesting premise, and a movie that doesn’t know what to do with it, or how to go about saying what it wants to say in a smart, understood way. Instead, the Riot Club is a movie that wants to be two, completely different things: A) It wants to be the pint-sized version of the Wolf of Wall Street where young, British whippersnappers go around drinking, sexxing, and causing all sorts of chicanery for the hell of it, and B) It wants to be a cautionary tale for kids out there to not conform so easily to what all of the cool kids are doing, no matter how fun it may seem. The later element is a thoughtful one, but when it’s thrown-up against a movie that wants to praise the same assholes it’s talking out against, then there becomes something of a problem that’s hard to get by.

"To asshole d-baggery!"

“To asshole d-baggery, lads!”

This is a shame, too, because the Riot Club just so happens to come from the hands of Lone Scherfig, a director who seems to have fallen on the forgotten-path of life since One Day. Scherfig does a solid job of setting these characters up to be total and complete jackasses that, despite all of the fortune and fame that they may have, are absolute dicks that nobody wants to be around, let alone spend up to two hours with. However, Scherfig seems like she actually wants to hang out with them for two hours and because of that, the movie becomes a mess.

We want to not like these characters because of what they stand for – Scherfig knows this, too. However, she doesn’t allow for these characters, for the first two-halves that is, actually show their dark sides. They’re just young, rambunctious, and rowdy kids that like to cause mayhem wherever they go because, well, they can. They’re rich, spoiled and don’t have an absolute care in the world and while Scherfig may want us to like them, it’s very hard to.

That’s why when, all spoilers ahead, these d-bags get their comeuppance, it doesn’t feel organic. It feels thrown in there because Scherfig, realizing what sort of movie she was setting out to make, didn’t want to make it seem like she liked all of these characters to begin with. So, she shows them acting like a crazed lunatics that, when they have a little too much to drink, break down walls, throw tables, and beat the shit out of anybody that steps into their way. The way this is all shown at the end is a bit too cartoonish to take seriously, and not to mention that it’s all highly unbelievable.

Literally, these characters go from yelling, hooting and hollering about being rich and cool, but then, literally moments later, they’re acting like crazed lunatics in the midst of a prison riot. This would make sense of Scherfig ever made a hint of this throughout the whole piece, but she doesn’t; instead, we just see how these guys are dicks and that’s it. There’s no sign at all that they may be dangerously violent and possibly even lash-out on random, innocent people like they begin to do in the later-parts of this movie, for no reason whatsoever.

Professing your love on a roof? How original, mate.

Professing your love on a roof? How original, mate.

Maybe this is how these groups are in real life, I don’t know. All I know is that it takes an awful lot for people to start acting the way these characters do later on.

But honestly, all of the problems with the Riot Club would have been if Scherfig gave us someone worth reaching out towards and rooting for, but sadly, we don’t really get that. Sure, she gives us a sympathetic protagonist in Milo, but once you get down to the brass-tacks of this character, you realize that the only reason he’s written at all to be sympathetic, is because he doesn’t do nearly as much drinking, smoking or bad-assery as these fellows. He still does it when push comes to shove, but all he’s really got to live for is a girl and I guess that’s why he doesn’t partake as much in these hellacious activities.

That doesn’t really give us a character worth sympathizing with, let alone actually caring about, which is a huge problem where not only everybody seems to be unlikable, but are hard to really differentiate from one another. One character, played by Sam Reid, is the gay one who constantly hits on Milo, no matter how much he turns him down, but that’s pretty much it. Everybody else, from the likes of Sam Claflin to Douglas Booth, all are the same characters and hardly have any character-traits that make them seem more complex than the others. Not that there’s much to them to begin with, but hey, a little dimensions would’ve helped.

Consensus: Nobody in the Riot Club is likable, which is sort of the point of the movie, and sort of not, which makes it a non-interesting, repetitive mess.

2.5 / 10 

The bright, young faces of the new world. And for that, we're all screwed.

The bright, young faces of the new world. And for that, we’re all screwed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

’71 (2015)

Behind Enemy Lines, but with more pints of Guinness.

Young British solider Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) gets called away from his basic training to set up shop in Belfast where he, as well as his fellow soldiers, will help “maintain peace”. During this time, however, the exact opposite was happening with there being fights and riots breaking out all over the place between Protestants and Catholics, and once Hook arrives on the scene, he realizes this. While trying to settle down an angry mob that’s pissed off with the Army coming in and trying to take away their weapons, Hook gets separated from his fellow soldiers and is practically a walking, breathing and scared shitless target for anyone who doesn’t agree with the Army, or their tactics – which, in Belfast during this time, was practically everyone. More importantly though, Hook has to be on the lookout for loyalists and the IRA, as they feel getting a British soldier in their captivity would be absolutely what they need to help their cause a bit more over the other side. Either way, it’s just not a good position for Hook to be in and he’ll have to depend on his instincts to survive the night, and possibly get out of this terrible situation alive.

You can tell right away that it’s a very simple story. Sure, the political context to be set for this film is that it’s during the Troubles period, in which practically everybody was out to get the other side. There’s a lot more to it than that, but if you want it to be put in as simple terms as one can possibly get – all hell was practically breaking loose during this time and if a person was stuck somewhere that they shouldn’t have been, then needless to say, they were in some deep trouble.

Lots of running.

Lots of running.

And that’s exactly what ’71 tries to talk about for at least an hour-and-a-half. For most movies, this is a daunting task – finding a way to make even the most simple, non-complex situation, just the opposite. However, it’s a task that ’71 is more than willing to try and take on, even if it doesn’t always come out on top as the victor and is instead, more or less, the one that seems like it’s trying to go deeper than it probably should have.

For instance, there’s this whole idea that no matter what danger may be lurking at every street corner for Gary Hook, there might be somebody who appears to be on his side, looking to do the same sort of damage that his enemies want to do to him. We see this in a few characters, within a few subplots that seem to spell out the problems of corruption within the IRA, the British government, and just about anybody who had any sort of power during this time and place, and I’m not sure they all needed to be placed here, given the context of this movie. It showed us that the odds were constantly stacking up against our protagonist, but we didn’t really need to be told this with all of these different characters and their objectives.

In fact, just having Hook getting chased on the street and shot at (which does happen fairly early in the film and is downright breathtaking) was enough to make me feel like this dude could literally die at any second and the movie would be all over. His story wouldn’t be eventful, except that he was just a poor cog in the machine who had to, sadly, face the consequence of being caught in the wrong place, at especially the wrong time. That, as is, is already compelling and complex to me, but the movie felt otherwise.

Instead, it wanted to constantly get deeper, and more complex for its own good, but instead, just seemed to get more convoluted and twisty. Because it’s never made clear to us who the ones on Hook’s side are, and who aren’t, the movie runs into the problem of even confusing the audience who might want to sit by and see just what happens to this character next, what he runs into, and how he tries to get alive out of it, if at all. Maybe that’s sort of the point of this movie, which makes sense, but didn’t make the movie that much easier to sit through and understand.

That said, a good portion of this movie is thrilling, and sometimes, it doesn’t even seem to be trying.

But, at least he gets a breather.

But, at least he gets a breather.

Whether or not director Yann Demange had some help on the side from certain others involved, remains to be known, but to me, it seems like he had certain elements to this film down perfectly. Whenever Demange plays it quiet and allows for certain scenes to play out, as they would in real life, they are riveting; they don’t demand our attention, but, more or less, just calmly ask us to watch them as they go on. These scenes make the bulk of ’71 thrilling, even when it doesn’t seem to be going for that sort of Bourne-like look or feel. It just does it, which makes me wonder what the hell happened to the rest of Demange’s direction that made him pack on the pounds to this story and have it go off-the-rails, so randomly, too.

But Demange is smart in allowing for us to get behind a character like Gary Hook, even if it’s never fully clear what sort of guy this is, or better yet, why we’re being told his story. The movie gives us a few scenes with him and his son, and gives us the impression that he’s a typically okay guy, but that’s about it. I’m not complaining. I’m just pointing out something that’s interesting as it works in the film’s favor and just proves my main problem with this movie even further – simplicity rules. By not diving in deep and digging around in Gary Hook’s life, we are given somebody who seems as plain and ordinary as they may come, but somehow, still works for us. Once we see that his life is in absolute peril and he is, more or less, innocent of any wrong-doings that may eventually come to him, than we’re already placed on his side for the majority of the flick that is spent watching him running, hiding, and trying to get out of this shitty situation alive and in one piece.

That said, Jack O’Connell, now a big name because of Unbroken, doesn’t really have much to do here, except pretty much the same that he did in that movie. He gets beat up a lot, stays quiet, keeps to himself, and occasionally, acts out in fright. That’s about it. It’s not that I’m not sold on the fact that O’Connell can actually act – it’s more that I feel like he hasn’t been given the right role for him yet to where he can show the whole world that he is a star, just waiting to break out at any point. Starred Up had a solid performance of his, but that’s about it, and I’ve seen maybe three other films that he’s involved in and I have yet to be fully impressed.

Oh well. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Consensus: As an unpredictable, survival-story, ’71 is exciting and dangerous. But as a political-thriller, it drops the ball and feels as if it’s trying too hard to not just eat its cake, but possibly even get some seconds afterwards.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Then, he's back to more running.

Then, he’s back to more running.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images