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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Sandra Oh

Catfight (2017)

Sometimes, you just need to duke it out with former besties.

Ashley (Anne Heche) is an artist who doesn’t quite have the recognition, nor fortune that she wants. She makes weird, outsider-like paintings that some people enjoy, but others don’t, and nine times out of ten, those happen to be the people who actually buy paintings in the first place. She’s trying to have a baby with her girlfriend (Alicia Silverstone), but of course, the process is a lot more difficult than she’d expect. So, to make ends meet, she works as a caterer and one night, meets an old friend of hers, Veronica (Sandra Oh). Veronica’s got a bit of a messy life, too; her husband resents her, her son doesn’t think she’s cool, and yeah, she drinks way too much. Both of them immediately strike up a conversation at this party, but also realize that they probably don’t like each other much, either. So, as one does, they brawl it out, leading to disastrous consequences for both of them, that will alter the course of their lives.

Somewhere, deep down inside the black hole of Catfight, there’s a joke, but for the life of me, I just can’t seem to figure it out. Is it that all friends hate each other? Is it that comas are funny? Is it that violence is funny? Is it that homophobia is funny? Is it that death is funny? Or art critics? Or artists themselves? Or, I don’t know, just life kind of funny?

Anne’s ready.

Honestly, I still don’t know and that’s sort of the problem with Catfight – it’s the kind of movie that thinks it’s way funnier and clever than it actually is, but never really makes sense of its own hilarity, or cleverness. It sort of presents a few jokes and expects us to take different meanings away from said jokes, when in reality, there’s not much to them. Writer/director Onur Turkel seems to have an interesting mind in how he’s able to craft and balance certain different genres, tones, and moods here, but he doesn’t know how to make sense of them; to go from a dark comedy, to a serious, sad and depressing drama takes a lot of guts and skill to pull-off effectively.

And unfortunately, Turkel seems to only have the guts. The skill may have to come later.

Sandra’s ready.

Regardless, Catfight does have some interesting bits and pieces scattered throughout, but that’s just the problem – they’re too scattered. Originally, it seems like Turkel wants to explore how these two women, while definitely different, are also alike in many other ways, too, showing that they’re both sad, miserable and stuck in ruts that they don’t know if they can get out of. That aspect of the story is a compelling one and it helps that both of the leading-ladies are quite good in the roles, too (more on them in a bit). But then, out of nowhere, the movie decides to shoot for being something sillier, more violent, and above all else, just stranger.

In fact, yes, Catfight can definitely be classified as “strange” – it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be, but tries its hand at so many different things that eventually, it’s just gone way too off-track. The only thing guiding the ship along are Heche and Oh, both of whom have always been, and are here, great. It’s actually kind of great to see them two here, because while time and Hollywood may have forgotten about them, us film-lovers haven’t and it’s nice to see them get two starring-roles once again, because they’ve always been incredibly talented. It does help that they get meaty roles to work with and show off their range, but it also helps that they remind us why they deserve to be in more stuff, regardless of “Who’s Hot”, and “Who’s Not”.

So to speak.

But like I said before, their performances, as good as they are, seem to be stuck in a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be, what it’s about, or what it’s even trying to say. Attempting to figure this all out on your own, honestly, may be the real entertainment of the movie, but it also makes you wonder what could have happened, had the movie been sharper, more defined, and just clearer with us, and itself. It’s not all that hard to ask of a movie and it should always happen, regardless of how wacky or wild you want your material to be.

Consensus: Even with two solid performances from the always reliable Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, Catfight doesn’t know what kind of a movie it wants to be and ends up taking both of them on a ride that they, or us, probably didn’t ask for.

6 / 10

But oh wait, now Alicia’s ready! Ding-ding!

Photos Courtesy of: The Dullwood ExperimentLongroom

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Tammy (2014)

Still feeling like crap, Rex Reed? Good.

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) isn’t having a very good day. First of all, she hit a deer with her car while she was searching for chap-stick. Then, she gets fired from her job because she constantly shows up late and can’t ever seem to get along with her boss (Ben Falcone). And to make matters even worse, she ends up coming home to her husband (Nat Faxon) being with another woman (Toni Collette), making Tammy leave and eventually live with her mother (Allison Janney) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon). However, that’s not how Tammy wants to roll, so when she brings up the idea of moving away from her hometown and starting anew, her grandmother jumps on the opportunity to go with her; better yet, her car and money will be the reason why Tammy wants to go in the first place. So begins this road trip of sorts with Tammy and her grams, where they go to bars, drink, have fun, meet cuties, get lost in National State Parks and even get to know more about eachother than they ever did, or ever wanted to, before.

If you saw either last year’s the Heat, or Identity Thief, then trust me, you’ve seen this movie. Yes, both are Melissa McCarthy-starring films and while the former may be better than the later, there’s still a certain trend/formula going on with both of them: They consist of Melissa McCarthy doing the same damn thing, each and every time the camera is put onto her.

Susie be like, "Get me da hell out of dis car, with dat gurl".

Susie be like, “Get me da hell out of dis car, with dat gurl”.

Both highlight McCarthy as a female master of improv, where she yells, runs, falls down, and says whatever raunchy thought comes to her mind first. Sure, both movies allowed her to continue this act in different ways, but it’s still the same thing we’ve seen done before and quite frankly, no matter how charming or talented McCarthy may actually be, it’s an act that can get very stale, very quick. And that’s the exact problem with Tammy: It’s just stale. It’s hardly ever funny and it always seems to exist, solely so McCarthy can find something to riff on for more than five minutes, all to show us how much of a clever gal she is, but somehow, only wasting our time and not adding anything to the “story” this flick is actually supposed to be working.

But what makes this movie a bit more strange is that it’s not only co-written by McCarthy and her real-life husband, Ben Falcone, but it’s also actually directed by him. May not seem like much at first, but for some reason, I couldn’t get that fact out of my head.

Because see, everytime there is something funny to be had here, it almost always seems to come from McCarthy. It doesn’t matter if it’s actually humorous or not – if there’s a moment that Falcone thinks is worth a few chuckles or so, he’ll give it right to his wifey-poo where she’ll take the material and do whatever the hell she wants with it. Hasn’t stopped her before with other peeps behind the camera, so why the hell should it stop with her hubby in that position? It shouldn’t, but it totally should have because there’s hardly anything funny about this movie to begin with.

Actually, nope, scratch that: There is something funny about this movie. But it isn’t McCarthy; it isn’t Falcone; and it sure as hell isn’t our titled-character Tammy; nope, it’s actually the secret weapon to this whole thing that just almost makes it work: Susan Sarandon.

That’s right, ladies and germs, the one who absolutely steals this movie is none other than Susan Sarandon, playing Tammy’s boozing, man-eating, wild-timing Grand-mom and even though it may be weird seeing the seemingly ageless Sarandon wearing a short and grey-wig, it’s a distraction that goes away real soon. The reason being is because Sarandon is such a lovely screen-presence to watch (then again, when is she not?), you can’t help but just accept her character and love every decision she makes. Even if they are sometimes stupid and shallow, they’re just decisions of a character we like, want to like even more and know that we can trust to do the right thing at the end, whatever that may actually be.

Most of that has to do with the fact that we love Sarandon as is, but most of it also has to do with the fact that she’s the only character really worth paying attention/liking in this whole thing. Which isn’t to discredit anybody else who shows up in this movie – the supporting cast is a wide-variety of familiar-faces that all do fine with what they’re given, whether it be to be funny, or not. They all service this material to the best of their ability and it actually made me think it was such a shame to see them all packed in together for something like this.

How sweet of him to cast his own wife, in his own movie. Man after my own heart right there.

How sweet of him to cast his own wife, in his own movie. Man after my own heart right there.

But the sheer fact that Sarandon owns this movie the whole through, is definitely to discredit McCarthy and Falcone; even more importantly, McCarthy herself. I find myself really going at it with my inner-most thoughts, because while I usually like McCarthy in anything she shows up in (yes, even re-runs of Mike & Molly), I just found her so damn annoying here. Most of that has to do with the way in which she is constantly made up to just improv her ass off, every chance she gets, but most of it also has to do with the way in which Tammy is written.

First off, Tammy herself is pretty unlikable, although that’s definitely the point; she doesn’t think things through, she swears a lot, she takes advantage of those around her, and she always acts as if she’s the victim in any situation, when it is, most of the time, the completely other way around. We know that Tammy is supposed to be a likable character and that, eventually, we’re supposed to see some shading to her that’s going to make us like her more, but it hardly ever comes. Okay, it does, but only through cheesy scenes in which we see her flirt with some dude and take some trips down memory-lane with her grand-mom. That’s basically it. Everything else is up to McCarthy where she acts like a fool, knocks stuff over, curses a whole heck of a lot, and randomly acts violently for no other reason other than to draw up a laugh or two.

Maybe we’re supposed to feel lucky for having somebody as dedicated to drawing laughs out of us through self-deprivation, like McCarthy, but by now, you have to wonder how much longer is it going to go on for? I hope not for much longer, only to avoid garbage like this, but then again, judging by her upcoming projects, it seems like we’re going to have a whole lot more scenes like this. Or even worse, like this.

Shit.

Consensus: Tammy is meant to be a starring-vehicle for McCarthy and the talents we’ve seen her show off more than a few times by now, but ends up being more of a showcase for the type of lovely presence Susan Sarandon brings to anything she gets involved with, and how much she can make anything better.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Get it! It's not a real gun!

Get it! It’s not a real gun!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Hard Candy (2005)

Chris Hansen has just shit his pants.

Hayley Stark’s (Ellen Page) a smart, charming teenage girl – but even smart girls make mistakes. She’s hooking up in a coffee shop with Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), a guy she’s met on the internet. And even though he’s a cute, smooth high-end fashion photographer in his early 30s, Hayley shouldn’t be suggesting that the two of them go back to his house alone. When they get there, Hayley quickly finds some vodka and starts mixing screwdrivers. She even suggests a photo shoot and strips off some clothing. Everything is going well for Jeff… until his vision blurs and fades, and he passes out. What happens after this is all hell breaking loose as Hayley rains a terror on Jeff.

Basically, this film starts off like something you think you’ve seen done a million times before but then turns into a cutting thriller that almost seems like it could go anyplace at anytime. The subject matter of pedophilia is pretty effed up as it is, but I think everything they deal with here, is a lot more effed up than I could have ever imagined.

Despite being an effed up movie in the fore-front, deep beneath all of that is a character-driven drama that messes with your head about who you should feel sympathy for: the victim or the predator. That line is blurred many times throughout the whole flick as you constantly feel like one person is in the wrong for what they’re doing, but then again, you can’t help but think that this person has a reason for doing what they are doing mainly because of what they know and have against the other person. The film gets terribly uncomfortable when it comes to the decisions of who you think should get the sympathy and what that other person should do. Sometimes, I even felt guilty for sympathizing with the person I felt sympathy for but that’s the way that this flick messes with your mind and makes you think to how you would feel if you met one of these people in your life.

The film’s screenplay does bring up a lot of questions but mostly it is made just to have us on-the-edge-of-our-seats the whole entire time. Right when you think something is going to happen, director David Slade just pulls the carpet from right underneath us and gives us a scene we weren’t expecting to see next but it’s so tense and suspenseful to the point of where we can’t even sit still and watch this. It keeps on getting more twisty and more twisty as the film goes on and I think Slade did a good job at making it seem like this flick could honestly just go about anywhere and anyplace to where I just gave up predicting what was exactly going to happen next.

Let me also not forget to mention that this flick also has some very hard scenes to watch due to the extreme levels of torture that actually come around, especially one scene in particular that I refuse to say anything more about. These scenes were very effective but at the same time provided the biggest problems for me when it came to this flick. First of all, the conversations that these two have are effective enough so to just throw some torture in there seemed a bit like a cheat. Secondly, it was pretty obvious that Jeff would never really be able to do anything terrible to Hayley considering that Page was pretty young when this film was going on and I think that Slade would have had a lot more problems to deal with rather than just his subject material, if he showed anything that had her fully harmed in anyway.

However, my last point is brought up in the situation we have with the character Jeff. Yes, this character is pretty much a slime-ball who basically came to this little “meeting” to do nothing else other than bring a young girl home and try to mess around for a little bit. The guy is a shit, no doubt about that, but there are things that happen to him that I feel are very questionable. The levels of torture that this guy has to go through seemed like it was a little too torturous even for a person like Jeff himself. Maybe I’m not the right person to make that call considering I have never been through any sort of sexual experience with an older person, but then again I’m just thinking like a human. Things get terribly bad for Jeff to the point of where he is given a decision at the end and I don’t know what I would do in his situation, but by the same token, I don’t think a person should ever put to these types of limits and in the end that’s what the film is trying to show us. I probably missed the point of this flick, but I still think that this film went a little too far with its torture as well as when it came to Jeff’s circumstances. Poor pedophiles, they just want to be loved. Then again, they should watch who they message next time.

This film is essentially two people going at it with one another for a whole hour and 40 minutes but it works because of the two stars that portray them. Patrick Wilson is great in this role as Jeff. One of the main reasons why this guy is so good here is because even though we know right from the start that this guy is a dirt, he still makes us question whether or not he’s the monster we perceived him to be in the first place. Wilson constantly toys with our feelings and emotions towards how we feel for him, but it’s also a lot of the more emotional scenes that rang true for me as well considering that this is an actor that we rarely get to see so so up-front in our faces with sadness and confusion.

The real stand-out for this flick though is Ellen Page here as Hayley, aka every pedophiles worst enemy. Page is amazing here because she totally makes us think twice about her in every way. There are moments where a lot of the things she does is very questionable (honestly, how could a person plan out something like this so perfectly?) but she seems so hip, smart, and intelligent for her age that it’s also quite believable. She’s a chick that always seems one step ahead of Jeff, and even the audience, and it’s also one of those performances where Page really seems like she’s too smart for anybody’s good. She practically commands every scene and never loses sight of what this script and film was trying to say and convey.

Consensus: Hard Candy is exactly that: it’s perfectly-acted, hard to watch, tense, and makes you think about the world of internet chat and how we view sexual predators in our lives. Yes, it can get very gruesome at times but it still is a flick that will have you question certain things about how you think and feel, and if any film can do that to me then that’s a good one in my book.

8/10=Matinee!!

 

Sideways (2004)

Even though I’m not a wine drinker (under-age, holla!) I must say that I really did wanna have some by the end of this.

Pinot noir lover Miles (Paul Giamatti) convinces his soon-to-be-married friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to enjoy his last days of bachelorhood in style. But the pair end up choosing women (Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen) over wine.

What we have here is something that writer/director Alexander Payne is great at: creating human characters, and putting in them in funny but realistic situations. Not the man’s best, but still great stuff.

Payne writes this film really well because he puts a lot of humor into his plot and characters. There’s a lot to be said here about a guy that can use wine-tasting as a romantic dramedy premise, and not make it seem goofy at all. It’s about how these two best-friends, that are totally opposite and were college freshman roommates, are going through a mid-life crises, and honestly don’t have any idea what to do with themselves. There’s a lot of great one-liners, and great scenes as well, but the real heart of the film is the fact that it all has a purpose. You can’t give up on life, or love for that matter, no matter how much it gets you down. If that means having a whole bunch of pinot noir to drink your all your pains away, then so be it, but just understand that life isn’t such a sad place after all.

My only problem with this film is not so much the film itself, it’s just that I don’t quite think I know that much about what this film was targeting for. I’m only 18 and haven’t really had my mid-life crisis just yet, or not that I know of, and I can’t really say that this film spoke louder than words to me, like it did to many others. Once again, I thought that the writing was great, but once again, not really for me since I’m still quite a youngling.

The best element to this whole film is  that it is a character study and I loved characters, and the actors that portray them. Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast as Miles, the neurotic social misfit that he always plays so well. He’s dark, depressing, and always gloomy about something, but he isn’t an annoyance, and Giamatti plays him so well he because he makes him likable and all the same believable. When this guy is talking to you about wine, you believe it, and you feel like you know that this guy knows what he’s talking about and it’s just all so natural. At times, he may seem like kind of a deuche, but if you look at it like this, he’s the only one that has any bit of sense here, the only problem is that he just doesn’t know how to put a smile on. I must say that I thought that Jack the character was kind of a dick, but Thomas Haden Church plays him so well, that I almost forget about all the terrible stuff he does. He’s a liar, cheater, and asshole, but at the same time he’s the perfect example of The Man. He is just that dude that is so hunky, and such a tool, that by the end of the night he always ends up going home with a chick, no matter what promises he made, or what he even said for that matter. Haden Church brings out some of the best lines here, and really does do a great job with showing how such a dickhead of a character, can be likable if you have enough charm and wit. Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh are great as the two supporting ladies, and their scenes with these two dudes feel realistic, and believable even though they are kind of hotter than both. Not that I’m judging or anything……..

Consensus: This is aimed at a certain audience, but you can’t resist Sideways’ the terrific performances from the cast, especially the funny, insightful, and often touching screenplay that will either having you crave some merlot, taking a trip to California, or just going through life with a smile.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Rabbit Hole (2010)

I honestly don’t think I can make any silly pun with this movie.

Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) grapple with the realities of life eight months after the death of their 4-year-old son, Danny. Even with Becca’s well-meaning mother (Dianne Wiest) offering comfort and weekly group therapy always available, the couple go about their own secret ways of coping.

The film is directed by John Cameron Mitchell, who has had two efforts in the past (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus). Those two are completely different from this, and that’s why I like it so much more.

The screenplay is what really works here so well. There is a lot of true and honest insight into the world of grief, and suffering which all rings true. I’m not a parent, but I still know what it’s like to have grief over something, and this film portrays that so well. You don’t blame yourself, but you more or less, blame the people that are trying to help you, and you just can’t help it. By watching this film, you see how hard it is to be normal again after something so devastating has just happened to you.

Cameron Mitchell is a fine choice for this film because although he doesn’t do much with this story that we aren’t expecting, he does let it speak for itself, and give us some emotionally raw scenes. This is some of the most upsetting, and sad material I have seen in a film in quite some time, but somehow he lifts it up into something a little more brighter, and has us know who these people are inside and out.

The only problem with this film is that there are moments in this movie, where you sort of can’t really stand sitting through all this pain. It’s almost like the film Revolutionary Road, where the material you have to work with is just so sad, that it’s hard to actually enjoy yourself. The whole film is not like that, but there are moments in the film where I was sort of sad myself.

Nicole Kidman is absolutely terrific in this film. She captures the raw emotion that goes through a grieving mother, as she tries so hard to stay strong, and look positive, but deep down inside she’s hurting more than ever. Her performance is amazing and I’m so glad that she got an Oscar nomination for this, because she does deserve it. Aaron Eckhart is also very good here, and I think should have gotten some sort of nomination, because he is also another great element as well. He tries to keep his cool about it too, but I can’t help but shed a tear when he starts to talk about his son, and when he gets pissed I have to tell you, it was scary. These two work well together as a married couple who I don’t think once shared a kiss throughout the whole movie. We are constantly playing in our heads who’s acting bad about this all, but it goes back and forth so you can never really tell and I liked that. Dianne Wiest is terrific as always, giving off more heart in this film, but I can’t say I didn’t expect it. Sandra Oh is also a delight to have her also.

Consensus: The subject material may not always be the most happy material, but Rabbit Hole benefits from a terrific cast that delivers so well on this raw and honest story about the loss of a child.

9/10=Full Price!!