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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Shohreh Aghdashloo

The Promise (2017)

Can’t deny what they make movies about, right?

A medical student by the name of Michael (Oscar Isaac) meets a beautiful dance instructor Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) in late 1914 and the two instantly fall in love. Well, sort of. He falls for her, head over heels, but she already has a boyfriend, an American photojournalist named Chris (Christian Bale), who is dedicated to exposing the truth. However, the one thing keeping them together and united is their Armenian heritage and in the time they live in, it matters most. Cause as the Ottoman Empire crumbles into war-torn chaos, all three must have to put their differences and passions aside to ensure that they save one another and help out those who need it the most.

A lot of the positive reviews about the Promise seem to highlight the fact that it isn’t perfect, it’s a little messy, and oh yeah, it’s a bit of a faulty-look at the Armenian Genocide, but is being made and should be praised for nonetheless. In some regards, I see this, understand this, and agree with this; whereas most Hollywood studios would like to turn a blind-eye to such a catastrophe like the Armenian Genocide, especially since the Turkish government still refuses, to this day, to actually admit it happened, the Promise is the rare exception. It’s made, it’s got something to say, and it’s there for the whole world to see.

How could a girl deny that beard?!?

Does that mean that they should see it? Probably not, good intentions and all.

The one issue of the Promise, no matter what it tries to do or say, is that it all revolves around this love story and that’s just hard to get past fact. There have been countless movies that have used real-life tragedies to star-glossed, passionate and heated love-affairs (Titanic, the Impossible), but the reason why those kinds of movies have, for the most part, worked, is because their attention to the tragedy is well-known and the romance is actually something to get behind. While the Promise does pay an awful-lot of attention to the tragedies of the Armenian Genocide, it also spends nearly as much to a love-triangle that, in all honesty, just never works.

It never registers because the whole time, we know that the Armenian Genocide is going to happen, it’s going to take over the story, and we’re not really going to be all that concerned with whether they live or die; we’re way too busy worrying about all of the countless others that are going to hit their graves already. It’s why the Promise, try as it might, just doesn’t work – it’s romance is lame and the fact that co-writer/director Terry George spends so much time on it, shows that he was trying to play center-field, and not only appease the studios and audiences who wanted a love story, but also dial down on the Armenian Genocide stuff, too.

What the set of Exodus: Gods and Kings should have liked look, but nope!

Aka, the stuff that really counts and needs to be talked about.

And it’s a shame, too, because the trio of leads here all do their best, but the screenplay is sometimes so cheesy and melodramatic, they almost never have a chance of surviving it. Oscar Isaac turns in perhaps his possibly first bad performance as Michael, as he’s saddled with an Armenian accent that seems to go in and out; Christian Bale is interesting as Chris, the journalist who wants to expose the truth, but also feels so made-up, that it’s hard to see him as anything more than “a type”; and Charlotte Le Bon, as the object to both of their affections, is charming and pleasant, but once again, is given a dull-role as the woman who everybody loves and falls over for. It’s probably what happens to her everywhere she walks in real life, but it doesn’t feel like the right time, here, in this movie.

There’s clearly bigger issues to discuss and drop over.

Consensus: Despite the legions of ridiculous deniers, a movie based in-and-around the Armenian Genocide like the Promise, is a step in the right direction, but with such a weak script and love-story surrounding it, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

4.5 / 10

“Women, men and children are being wrongfully slaughtered, but hey, let’s have that passionate embrace!”

Photos Courtesy of: Open Road Films

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Rosewater (2014)

Can’t trust that Jon Stewart. Now, that Stephen Colbert is a whole lot more reliable.

In 2009, London-based Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal) took to the streets of Iraq to cover the 2009–10 Iranian election and, as a result, the riots that soon occurred afterwards as well. It was a simple task that was going to gain him and his pregnant wife some more money, and also opened his eyes to what the hell was really out there happening on the streets that he didn’t usually get a chance to see in most Western media-outlets. But after Bahari does a tongue-in-cheek interview with the Daily Show, the Iraq government gets a little suspicious and detains Bahari to question him about his stay on their home turf. Basically, they believe Bahari to be an American spy, and although Bahari obviously isn’t, his captors still have a job to do and need to get any confession out of him that they possibly can. This means that Bahari goes through plenty of psychological trauma, both mental and physical torture, solitary confinement, time spent with blind-folds on, and also, time spent alone, literally talking to no one except for his own-self, or even the imaginary-friends he makes up in his own head. But still, Bahari feels the need and desire to stay alive and sure as hell won’t let somebody stop him from doing so, even if he does run a little too close to risking his own life in the process.

That footage better not turn out shaky!

That footage better not turn out shaky!

It’s pretty interesting that such a well-known comedian/celebrity such as Jon Stewart would not only abandon his post on the Daily Show for nearly a whole summer, just to make a movie, but to make a movie that isn’t what we tend to expect from most actors who decide to get behind the screen for the first times in their careers. See, with most directorial debuts from actors who are already well-established, they don’t always get the big budget they want, or think they deserve, so therefore, their scope is a bit limited. Meaning, they usually like to keep things as small, simple, and as pain-free as possible, with the hopes of, if everything goes by smoothly on the first try, then their sophomore go-ahead will be what it is that they want to do, with nearly as much money as they need to make their wildest, most ambitious dreams possible.

But the strange thing with Rosewater, isn’t that Stewart seems very ambitious with the material he chooses direct, but that he’s sort of the main reason for why this story was even made possible to begin with. Many people always ask when they certain movies, “Why was this story even told to us? And better yet, why was it adapted to the big screen?” And to be honest, there usually isn’t any other answer except for, “Well, just because. duh,” but for Stewart, it’s obvious what his motivations were behind bringing this story to the big screen and why he felt it was necessary to tell it to begin with: He feels a slightly bit guilty about it all.

Sure, you could also say that he wants to focus on what’s really going on everyday on the wild streets of Iran, but that aspect of the film’s story isn’t nearly as established as Bahari’s time inside solitary confinement is, which actually brings a huge problem to this movie: It’s quite boring.

And yes, I know that this may sound like a stupid complaint for a movie that clearly doesn’t hid behind the fact that it’s about a dude who nearly spent 118 days in solitary confinement and getting constantly hammered with useless questions about whether or not he’s a special informant for the U.S., but Stewart makes the bad choice of showing us that he can spice this story up in any way possible. We get flashbacks, imaginary-friends, a small view of what’s happening outside of Bahari’s captivity, and even tiny bits of development for Bahari’s main interrogator; but hardly any of it’s actually interesting, or better yet, brings any excitement to this tale to begin with. I can definitely give Stewart credit for trying, but when your main objective is to tell a story, and to do so in the most exciting, most entertaining way possible, and you can’t appear to do that, unless it being incredibly manipulative, then I’m a bit sorry, you’ve disappointed me.

But still, Stewart makes some interesting choices here and there and allows for the movie to, at certain points at least, be funny. There’s a moment in this flick in which we get to see Bahari actually stand up for himself and turn the tables on his captors in, not only a funny manner, but an effective way, too. Bahari begins to dress up his lies as truth, and therefore, the captors can’t help but feel uncomfortable, while also slightly interested in everything Bahari tells them. This sequence, as small as it may be, is one of the key instances in which it’s clear that Stewart utilizes some of his comedic-talent to allow this material to pop-off the screen and really grab a hold of our minds, but it’s also another instance in which this movie held so much promise, yet, fell by the waist side of not really having a clear focus at all.

If anything, I also have to give a lot of credit to Gael García Bernal who, despite being Mexican, actually does a nice job as the Iranian, Maziar Bahari. Though, when you put him against fellow Iranian characters who are in fact played by Iranian actors, he does look a little bit out of place, Bernal is still a capable enough actor to have us see past this obvious problem and just remember that this is a guy we’re supposed to keep on rooting for, even if we don’t know exactly why. He’s just another guy who gets thrown into a shitty situation that so many others get thrown into as well, but the difference here is that he’s got a wife, and a baby on the way. It’s corny, but it works, if only because Bernal digs deep into who this guy is, and why at all he matters to us.

"I said, 'no blinking'!"

“I said, ‘no blinking’!”

We know why he matters to Stewart, but to us, the audience, it’s key that we at least feel some sympathy for the guy.

And although Bernal’s Bahari is the one we’re supposed to obviously be interested by the most, it’s still hard to not want to know more about his captor, either. Kim Bodnia, another non-Iranian actor playing an Iranian, does a fine a job as Bahari’s main captor (his nickname was the movie’s title, all because Bahari couldn’t identify him by anything else, other than the smell of his fresh-to-death cologne), and gives us a glimpse into the soul of a guy who may be more than what he appears to be. Sure, he has a pretty brutal job that he goes through with, day in and day out, without hardly any objections, but there’s a slight idea we get to see in which we realize that maybe he doesn’t like his savage job as much as he appears to be, and is only being a brutal d-bag, because that’s what his boss from up top tells him to be. It’s all very interesting and, had there been a better movie to work with here, I feel like Bodnia would have absolutely ran wild with this character and gave us plenty to talk about, but thus, we don’t.

Just another instance of disappointment. Interesting disappointment, but disappointment nonetheless.

Consensus: Though Jon Stewart shows plenty of promise behind the camera with Rosewater, it’s still a messy movie that doesn’t always hit the marks that it should, but gets by on a few interesting notes, if only mildly so.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

I hate being late for class, too.

I hate being late for class, too.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

House of Sand and Fog (2003)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/10=Rental!!