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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Sissy Spacek

The Straight Story (1999)

Get it? Because it’s not a total mind-f**k!

Alvin (Richard Farnsworth), an elderly World War II veteran, lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek), who has an intellectual disability. When Alvin hears that his estranged brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) has suffered a stroke, he makes up his mind to go visit him and do it all, hopefully, before he dies and they’re both left to feel like they missed out. However, there’s an issue: Alvin doesn’t have a driver’s license and Lyle does live very far away. So what can Alvin do to travel all of this way to see his bro? Well, he hitches a trailer to his recently purchased thirty-year-old John Deere 110 Lawn Tractor, that has about the maximum speed of about 5 miles per hour, and sets off on the 240 mile journey from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin. Of course, he runs into all sorts of colorful and rather normal characters throughout his journey, most of whom offer to drive him the whole way there, with others just telling him to give up. However, through it all, Alvin remains determined, knowing that this may not just be his last shot at regaining some happiness with his brother, but his last shot at regaining some happiness with life in general.

“Yeah, honey. You’re driving me mad. Literally.”

So the inside joke about the Straight Story is that, pun intended, there’s not much else to it, other than just what is exactly presented to us. It’s just a normal, everyday story, told in the most straightforward, easy-to-follow manner imaginable, without any curves or side-turns into the extreme or ambiguous. It is what it is, no questions, meditations, think-pieces, or re-watches necessary.

But the reason why this deserves to be said is because it’s directed by David Lynch who, for what seems like the first and perhaps, last time, ever, made a normal movie. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a problem with his many mind-benders that went on to make him famous and well-known, but at the same time, there’s something to be said for a dramatic change-of-pace like the Straight Story, where it literally seems like Lynch is a whole entirely new person, trying on a new piece of skin, seeing how it fits him, and working with it.

And yeah, it works.

The Straight Story is probably one of my favorites of Lynch’s because there are bits and pieces of it that feel like a Lynch film, what with the sometimes odd, awfully random character interactions, but it is still, after all, a movie in its own right. It’s slow, meditative and yes, old-timey, but there’s something truly charming and lovely in that that not only makes us feel like we’re watching the perfect movie for the whole family, but the perfect movie for anyone wanting a bit more drama and depth to their road-tales about elderly people. After all, there’s plenty out there like the Straight Story that feel it is necessary to dumb-down their material, for the sake of making silly jokes and ham-handed sentimentality.

But Lynch proves to be a smarter director than allowing himself to get caught up in all of that. He knows what the material deserves and doesn’t lose his sight on telling it, without trying to add some sort weird spark onto it. Sure, can it be a bit disappointing to see Lynch so ordinary and plain? Probably, yes. But like I said, a change-of-pace, especially one as solid as this, is a welcome one.

Gosh. Cheer up a bit, eh Richie?

It makes you wish that more idiosyncratic directors jumped out of their wheelhouse a bit and tried some new flavor for once.

That said, the Straight Story proves to be as much of a showcase for the skills that Lynch has, as much as it proves to be for the talent of the late, great and highly underrated Richard Farnsworth. As Alvin, Farnsworth gets a whole lot to do; while he is definitely playing an old-school, do-gooder who likes to wax on about the good old days, he’s also funny, charming and above all else, kind of sad. In fact, there’s a lot of sadness to this character – just by looking in Farnsworth’s pale blue eyes, you can tell that there’s just years and years of anguish and grief piling up, and it works absolutely well for building this character and helping us to understand just what there is about him. After all, he’s just another old guy who wants one last shot at life, so what else is there about him that can be offered?

A lot, it seems and it’s why Farnsworth’s a talent we still miss to this day. We just don’t know it.

Sissy Spacek is also quite good in the supporting role as his daughter, although at the same time, doesn’t get a whole lot to do, except have the occasional conversation with her daddy while he’s on his adventure. That’s probably how the whole rest of the cast plays-off as – they’re there to assist Farnsworth in all of his daily duties. Some are good (like a randomly pregnant teen), some aren’t (the woman who hits the dear is so over-the-top, I’m actually shocked it made it into the final-cut), but for the most part, they’re there to help us fully realize the world that David Lynch doesn’t often portray in his films: The simpler, kinder and more soft-spoken one where people aren’t all monsters and demons, but instead, actual nice, sweet people, who wouldn’t mind helping out an old-timer get to see his long, lost brother.

Consensus: Definitely a change-of-pace for Lynch, but a welcome one at that with a smart, attentive direction, witty, humanistic writing, and above all else, a great lead performance from Richard Farnsworth.

8.5 / 10

Pull him over!

Photos Courtesy of: Konangal Film Society

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Hot Rod (2007)

Evil Knievel seemed like a pretty smart guy.

Self-proclaimed stuntman Rod Taylor (Andy Samberg) is preparing for the ultimate jump of his life. Rod plans to clear fifteen buses in an attempt to raise money for his abusive stepfather Frank’s (Ian McShane) life-saving heart operation. He’ll land the jump, get Frank better, and then fight him, hard.

Back in the good old days before YouTube became this huge cash-grab for any 10-year-old with a camera, the Lonely Island were a group of funny peeps that found their success by making dumb, but funny music videos like “D*ck in a Box”, “Jizz in My Pants”, and “Lazy Sunday”, to name a few. They were funny, snappy, honest, and most importantly, catchy-as-hell, showing that parody music can still work.

Look out, comedy world!

Look out, comedy world!

So yeah, it was only a matter of time before the guys got their movie.

Director Akiva Schaffer makes a flick that seems like what would happen if Will Ferrell and Mel Brooks got together, and had a surrogate baby with Napoleon Dynamite. It’s not a nice mental picture to take but in terms of this flick, it actually works very well. Sometimes the film layers in self-parody, other times, it’s just plain and simple low-brow humor where farting is the main gag, and randomly, it’s just cheap and easy slapstick. The comedy goes all-over-the-place at times, but it works for the most part because the guys never really take it too seriously.

Actually, this film is probably more enjoyable whenever I think of the few memorable scenes in this film where everybody seems like they were on the same page in saying what was, and what wasn’t funny. There’s a funny 80’s ode to the Flashdance scene that shows Samberg running around like a crazy man; there’s a random, but clever rap that’s made out of the word “cool beans”; an argument over who parties in the group that still never got solved; and a hilarious riot scene that comes absolutely out of nowhere, but was the hardest I laughed in the whole movie. I know, spoilers, but hey, I’m being as vague as one man can be.

As for the rest of the film, it doesn’t necessarily struggle as much as it just lingers from scene-to-scene without any real hard-hitting humor. The dialogue is somewhat clever, but also feels like it’s trying too hard to go for that weird, nerdish-like type of humor that hit so well with cult audiences from Nacho Libre and Napoleon Dynamite. Sometimes it can work and keep a film moving at a lightning-quick speed, but it drags things down a bit here and I think that’s what kept me away from remembering everything else that happened. I’m telling you, it was those key scenes that made this film work but everything else in between?

Meh.

As a leading man, Andy Samberg does a solid job, doing a nice blend between goofy and, surprisingly, assured. It’s obvious that he’s channeling that “man-child” act that Ferrell does so well, but it’s not to the point of where it’s annoying or distracting by any means – it’s funny because Samberg himself is funny. He handles all of the dumb scenes very well and makes a very likable character, even if the guy doesn’t really seem like much of a character as much of a reason to have a person smash into things and mess-up stunts. It’s a shame that his movie career now hasn’t really done much for him, but I still hold-up hope that he’ll make that huge transition one day.

Andy over Sacha? Wow, Isla. You go girl!

Andy over Sacha? Wow, Isla. You go girl!

All of his secondary characters are fun to watch too, as they all bring a bunch of light and dumb fun to characters that are there for exactly that. Bill Hader plays the Southerner dummy, Dave, and does his usual act where he’s just an ass the whole time; Danny McBride does a fine job being a destructive asshole that always has to be hitting someone or something in every scene he’s in; Jorma Taccone is funny as Rod’s step-brother, Kevin, and definitely gave me that Napoleon-like character feel; Ian McShane was fun to watch take up a lighter role than we usually see him play, and does fine with his scenes where it’s just him and Rod beating the crap out of each other; and Isla Fisher and Sissy Spacek don’t really do much at all except stand there, look pretty, and just let the boys do all of the fartin’ around.

Literally.

But now to the real question of Hot Rod: is it a “cult flick”? Well, for one, I don’t think it is, even if there is clearly an audience for it. One of the issues with Hot Rod is that it seems like it’s clearly trying to be another one of Will Ferrell’s vehicles, where he runs around, yells and acts like a child. At one time, that whole act struck gold everywhere it went and every time it showed up, hence why this movie attracted so many people looking for the same thing, but nowadays, it seems like a thing of the past. Ferrell’s movies nowadays show him trying to do something different with his comedic-approach, which is sometimes hit or miss, but audiences, honestly, don’t seem so drawn to that. Hot Rod will probably remain a “cult classic”, by those who saw and loved it back in the day, if only because it was in a time and age when Will Ferrell’s brand was bee’s knees.

Nowadays? Eh. Not so much. Maybe we’re better off for that, maybe we’re not. But either way, it’s definitely something to point out.

Consensus: Hot Rod is not as consistently funny as it would probably hope so, probably because of the ever-changing approach to it’s comedy, but still has plenty of memorable scenes and funny performances that make this an average-comedy, with average-people in it.

7 / 10

I've never been so proud to be an American.

I’ve never been so proud to be an American.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Nine Lives (2005)

Due to the cosmos in the sky, me and some dude from Iowa share the same feelings for bleach? Right?

You know how a cat apparently has nine lives, well, so do women! Well, not actually, but the movie gives us nine stories, all surrounding a woman going through something in her day-to-day life, whether it be at the grocery store, the federal prison, her childhood home, her friend’s newly-acquired apartment, an ex-husband’s wife’s funeral, or so on and so forth. But somehow, in someway, each and every story is connected, rather it be through a character or some event that occurs.

Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia takes what could be a really ordinary, if sad, movie and gives it a little artistic twist by having each and every story filmed in one, single shot. It’s nothing fancy, glitzy, or shiny – just one shot as we watch everything’s that happening in front of our eyes. And yeah, it works. It may seem like a gimmick, but surprisingly, it’s one that ends up working out for the best of the stories, because it makes us feel like flies-on-the-walls, seeing what happens next.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that's ready to argue and fight about who's to blame for their falling-out before they hit college.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that’s ready to argue and fight about who’s to blame for their falling-out before they started college. Possible clean-up needed.

But with like I said, this is an anthology film and with most anthology films, not all the stories work as well as others. Does that make the whole movie bad? Nope, just a tad uneven and it causes a whole bunch of problems when your movie seems to have some great bits, thrown into a not totally cohesive whole.

And if anything, Garcia wants us to know that, the lesson of the story here is that, well, everyone is connected in some way, shape, or form. We just may not know it.

The movie blatantly points this out about once or twice, in two, different ways, which I didn’t mind because it was where the movie was supposed to be getting at, but then, it starts gets obvious. There comes a point in this movie where two characters are literally walking outside, looking up at the sky, and say how they are all connected through the stars and planets in the sky and in our universe. Whatever the hell that means, I’ll never know (especially when I’m sober), but it seems like the movie wanted us to believe that. Many movies movies like Short Cuts and Magnolia have said this before and it’s nothing new, or original – it just makes you seem like you’ve had a tad too much to drink and smoke.

But the central theme can be pushed to the side when you look at the solid cast, all of whom are fine, but with some being a whole lot better than others, solely depending on the stories they have to work with. The opening sequence with Elpida Carrillo as a prisoner who wants to talk with her daughter had all of the right ingredients to make a satisfying, start-off for what was to come, but instead, it seemed almost too much and melodramatic for the sake of being so. Carrillo also isn’t a strong enough actress to really pull this role off and makes it seem like she’s over-acting, even if she might be playing it genuine and raw. I wouldn’t know, because her performance wasn’t all that good.

But thankfully, it gets better. A whole lot better, in fact.

The best segment out of the whole movie, which also featured the best performances were Robin Wright (drop the Penn) and Jason Isaacs as two old flames, who finally meet up in a super market after all of these years. Both are amazing stars and can work material like this till the day they die, but what’s so good about this segment is how each performer shows something more insightful with their character, even as the seconds go by. Even more impressive too, when you take into consideration that just about every segment lasts under ten minutes or less. It’s strange how awkward it starts off, but ends on a happy, heartwarming note that may surprise some people by honest and real it feels.

"Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness."

“Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness.”

Then, the next couple of stories are just okay, if a bit too dry for my sake. The story in which Lisa Gay Hamilton comes back to talk with a possible, sexually-abusive father is compelling, until she starts crying and over-doing it. After this, we see another story with a warmed-up lover in Holly Hunter, and the cold, cynical type of dude in Stephen Dillane as they go to meet old friends and what starts out pretty light and fluffy, becomes very dark and mean, but not in a good way. It’s odd how it transitions almost out of nowhere, which was too glaring to put aside, no matter how good the performances in the little segment were.

For all of you people who watched The Help, and thought that you needed more Sissy Spacek, well, no need to fear. She’s in both stories as a philandering wife of a paraplegic, played by the wonderfully amusing Ian McShane. Both stories are weak and just aren’t interesting, despite her being one of the greatest female actresses working today. But hell half no fear when the adorable, but sassy Kathy Baker comes to town as a woman who is in the stages of getting a mastectomy and takes all of her pain, frustration, and nervousness out on her husband. Baker is a pleasant to watch, because she’s always funny when she’s bitching and yelling at somebody, but the dynamic she shares with Joe Mantegna, who plays her hubby, makes it seem like a real life, married-couple, who really do loveone other and will be there with one another through thick and thin.

Really nice and sweet to see, especially in a movie that hasn’t been so light or hopeful in the first place.

The next sequence of the movie is probably the runner-up for the strongest sequence, with Amy Brenneman as a woman who goes to the funeral of her ex-husband’s wife, which may sound strange and all, but works because of that. Still, no matter how bizarre it may be for this gal to show up to her ex-hubby’s wife’s funeral, there’s still something sweet and endearing beneath it all that leaves you with a happy feeling in the pit of your stomach, rather than an empty one. Lastly, the movie ends with Glenn Close playing the mother of a little girl, played by Dakota Fanning, and is good, if a little weird because of the way it’s structured. However, the movie shows us why it was structured the way it is, despite it not fully working out to the best of its advantage.

Sort of like the rest of the movie, if you think about it.

Consensus: Certain stories work, whereas others don’t in Nine Lives, despite a well-acted ensemble and powerful moments of bleakness, but also sincerity as well. Still, how many movies can there be where it tries to tell us that every person on the face of this planet is connected, and doesn’t try to mention it at least more than two times?

6.5 / 10

Those eyes. THOSE EYES!!

Those eyes, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

Badlands (1973)

Love will get ya sometimes.

15-year-old girl Holly (Sissy Spacek) doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. However, when she meets the cool, calm, and rebellious boy in Kit (Martin Sheen), for some reason, she is absolutely swept off of her feet. Even though he’s a garbage man and doesn’t seem to really be able to hold a job down, there’s just something about Kit that takes over Holly’s mind, body and soul. However, her father (Warren Oates) isn’t too happy about this latest infatuation and makes it known that she will not be with him, nor will he be with her. That obviously doesn’t fly with Kit and it leads to a disastrous confrontation in which, now, Kit and Holly have to go on the run from the law. On their trip, not only do they fall more in love, but they teach each other about life and the more beautiful things about it. And, oh yeah, they also kill a lot of people, too.

Is this true love?

Is this true love?

It’s really interesting to see just where Terrence Malick’s career has gone as of late. Nowadays, it seems as if every picture he takes on and releases (regardless of how long they may actually take to come out), is as ambitious, crazy and unpredictable as the next, that it’s hard to ever get a full, crystal clear picture of where he’s going to go next, or just what’s going on in that noggin of his. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – some of the greatness to the Tree of Life is not having a clue just what the hell he’s going to do, or why, because he just does it.

But what’s weird, especially when watching Badlands, is how Malick, when he was first getting started, didn’t really seem to tackle these tales just yet. Sure, he definitely showed signs of it, more or less, but in all honesty, what he cared more about was telling a simple story that, yes, featured beautiful visuals, but also great acting. Badlands is, in the most simplest form, Malick’s most easygoing and accessible movie, however, it’s still got a lot of what Malick does best.

For one, it’s a heck of a beaut. While you can tell that Malick hadn’t quite mastered the art of the swooping camera just yet, Badlands still takes plenty advantage of that time when it’s so early in the morning, that the sun is hardly coming up and there’s nothing else in the horizon but clouds and the tops of mountains. I’m sure that having his movie set in and around South Dakota, as well as the mountains of Montana, helped in terms of making this movie look great, but it’s also just a true testament to the kind of eye he has as a director.

It’s nice to see that Malick hasn’t lost that ability since.

As for the story, well, yeah, it’s actually a very simple one, but what Malick does best is that he doesn’t really try to hit us over the head with saying anything big or important about it, but instead, just lets it all tell itself. While that may not seem like much and just a case of Malick sitting a round out, believe it or not, it actually works in the movie’s favor. Not only does it have us see these characters and their actions in an nonjudgmental, almost normal light, but it makes the brief, but shocking moments of violence and murder all the more disturbing.

Which is to say that Holly and Kit, given how easy it must have been to write them as, are still two compelling figures who you don’t really hate, but instead, think long and hard about. The fact that Malick portrays their actions as things that happen, rather than as huge moments that need to be shown and talked about, is why Badlands sticks around in the brain longer. Holly and Kit both seem to react to these acts of violence differently – he’s the one always doing it and not really happy about it, but knows that he can’t survive without it, whereas she has no clue of what’s going on, but is going along for the ride anyway.

Be prepared, suburbia!

Be prepared, suburbia!

The movie is clearly not in their favor, but Malick himself also doesn’t lose the appeal of these kinds of characters and why they’re worth watching. While he doesn’t glamorize either of their actions, he also makes it clear that they’re doing this, just because; sometimes, there’s no reason or rhyme for the things that us humans do. Sometimes, when we feel the need to kill, to survive, or to experience something, we go right for it. That’s exactly what Kit and Holly seem to be doing here, however, Malick isn’t telling us to think this and it’s probably one of the main reasons why this movie works a lot more than some of his others, later-period flicks.

Oh and yeah, Sheen and Spacek are pretty awesome in the roles, too.

Not only do they look young as all hell, but they also feel pretty legit as a real life couple of lovebirds who would latch up together and go on this wild goose chase from Johnny law. Sheen’s especially more riveting as Kit, someone who seems like he was just a bad seed from the very beginning, but always seemed to get by on his pure good looks and charm – something that the movie constantly makes a reference to, but never actually highlights as a positive. Instead, it works out for him because he uses his solid looks in a deceitful manner where he’s able to trick those around him, whether they expect it or not.

But maybe that’s why Kit’s such an intriguing character. He has no motive or reasoning for his shooting spree – he sort of just got started on doing it and thought, “Well, I’ve come this far”. For some reason, it’s hard to look at a character like this and not think of the countless, upon countless of those who shoot up public places every year, with the idea in their head of, “Well, why the hell not?” Once again, Malick isn’t trying to tell us to think this way, or have this in our minds, but it’s hard not to go there and it’s why Badlands is a movie that will surely stand the test of time.

No matter how many more movies Malick makes featuring dinosaurs.

Consensus: Simple on the surface, thought-provoking and compelling underneath, Badlands is a brutally violent, but beautiful-looking and acted movie that has Malick asking hard questions, without ever trying to answering them, and we’re all the better for it.

9 / 10

Sociopaths tend to enjoy lovely sunsets.

Sociopaths tend to enjoy lovely sunsets.

Photos Courtesy of: CTCMR

Carrie (1976)

Come to think of it, all of my proms would have benefited from some pig blood.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is your typical teenage outcast that has no friends, is a bit weird, a bit shy, and seems behind the curve in terms of her sexuality. However, what separates Carrie from all the other hot-shot bimbos in school, is that she has telekinetic powers, which gives her the ability to move anything or control anything with her mind. That means that anybody that fucks with her, might want to look out next time they go too far. And that warning doesn’t just apply to the kids that pick on her at school, it also goes without saying to her bible-thumping mama (Piper Laurie) who believes everything her daughter does in order to grow up and be apart of the rest of the world, is a sin. She may be right, she may be wrong. Who knows? But once Carrie gets asked to the prom by the studly, popular Tommy Ross (William Katt), well then, her mom settles down a bit. However, once Carrie and Tommy do get to the prom, something happens that not only changes Carrie’s life, but everybody else around hers as well. Remember those powers?

"Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?"

“Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?”

With the remake coming out this weekend and looking like nothing more than another cash-grab that Hollywood churns out at least 2 or 3 times a year, I thought now is as good a time as ever to give this one another watch, my 7th altogether. And even after seeing it 7 times, I have to say that I’m more impressed than I’ve ever been before. Not because I realized that Brian De Palma was a great director at one time that was so full of beauty, style and sensibility to spare, but because the movie still freaked me the hell out in ways that I didn’t expect to. Because, in case you forgot, this is the 7th time I’ve seen Carrie by now, and I thought that may have been 7 times too many.

How wrong I was.

But like I was saying about De Palma, knowing all about what he does with his flicks and the sense of style, look and feel he brings to each of them, I appreciated this one a hell of a lot more. Of course every time something scary or shocking happens, we get the same old Psycho, screeching piece of score music he seems to love the heck out of so much that he uses it in just about all of his movies, but the Hitchcock-similarities can only go on for so long until you start to forget about them and just realize that De Palma is really putting all of his might into making this material work more than just your standard, horror movie, and it pays off in the long run.

Take for instance, that infamous opening sequence which yes, seems a little perverted to be mentioning but seriously, all nudity aside, the opening sequence is really something of a beauty. De Palma films it as if it were a dream, or hell, a man’s dream where all of these young high school girls are running around naked, whipping one another with towels and doing every other intimate act that isn’t full-on banging. And then, we get the full show where we see a girl all by herself in the shower, really feeling herself up and getting her rocks off like this is her first time, as it most likely is. For any dude who saw this back when it first came out in ’76, I can only imagine what the hell was running through their minds and their pants at this moments; just like I can only imagine what the hell was running through those same minds and pants when, seconds later, this horny girl’s period-blood starts to come dripping down. This not only ruins the dream-like feel that De Palma gave this movie, but it also ruins any preconceived notion you may have had that this movie is going to play by-the-rules and give you what you want.

After this opening sequence, it’s a full-on terror fest from De Palma who gives every frame an ounce of beauty that sticks with you and makes you feel as if you’re really watching a high school right in front of your eyes. The bullying; the gossip; the hooking up; the underage drinking; the mischievous acts in the middle of the night; the stealing of daddy’s car; etc. It all makes you feel like you’re watching a normal teen, high school movie, except that this one is filled with more horror than any high school I’ve ever attended. And yes, I am talking about the other memorable sequence in this movie: The prom scene.

Once Carrie gets all of the pig’s blood poured onto her, is made a mockery in front of every one, and loses her shit, then this is where De Palma really takes advantage and feeds on our attention. His constant use of the split-screen format during this sequence really gives you a full feel on what sort of damage Carrie is doing to these people and this area, and it really sticks with you. You hear the people shouting, screaming in pain, terror and agony, and yet, you know that there’s nothing you or anybody else can do about it. Their time has come, Carrie has decided so. And in a way, so has De Palma since he gives us all the pleasure of seeing the most despicable characters go out in some of the nastiest, most disturbing ways possible, and yet, we still can’t help but feel a bit bad when it actually does happen. Is this De Palma’s own sick, twisted way of trying to shove all of the hatred we’ve had for these people right back in our faces? Or, is he simply giving us what we want? If he was, then wouldn’t the reward feel much greater, and less depressing?

It’s strange that one could think about this type of stuff with a movie like Carrie, but all of these years later, it still brings up plenty of questions and ideas that may not always get answered or be fully fleshed-out, yet, by the same token, still toy with your mind and have you thinking a lot more than you feel like you should of a movie about a possessed-teenager. However, something also tells me that we the same thought-process won’t be needed for this remake neither, no matter how interesting it sounds to me that Kimberly Pierce is directing it.

But anyway, back to the original. I think what also allows Carrie to stand the test of time is not just De Palma’s approach to the material in terms of his style, but how he approaches the character of Carrie herself. You see her as a bit of a weirdo who can’t socialize with people, and says some weird stuff out of the blue, that only gets followed-up with laughter and more heckling towards her. Yet, you can’t really blame her for being this way since her mom is such a nut-job by the way she raised her, and also, the fellow kids she goes to school with are as evil as she actually is. So, that’s why when she pleads with her mama about wanting to “fit in” and “be normal”, you can’t help but sympathize with the girl and hope her dream actually does come true, even if you already know plenty beforehand that they don’t in fact come true. This makes the movie feel like the classic tale of Cinderella, mixed with Satan, and it makes you feel even worse for Carrie, because all she wants to do is be accepted among her fellow class-mates. Don’t we all feel like that, huh?

Wait for it...wait for it...wait...for....it...

Wait for it…wait for it…wait…for….it…

And you got to give a bunch of credit to Sissy Spacek for going to the extreme lengths she went to in order to make this character, which couldn’t have been all that hard to begin with since you know that she’s the one you should care for the most, despite her “ability” to do bad things. However, she does those said bad things to bad people, so that ain’t so bad, right? Right! Anyway, Spacek is really good in this role by the way she just carries herself from scene-to-scene without saying too much at all, yet, totally demands your attention, especially in that iconic prom scene. Once those eyes open-wide and you see the real demon within her come out, then you know its payback time and it adds even more insult to injury to the that whole sequence. As if that was even humanly possible in the first place.

Then of course we have everybody’s favorite (or not-so favorite) bible-preaching mama, played so terrifyingly by Piper Laurie that it will surprise the heck out of you when you realize that this was her first performance in a movie in 15 years. However, what’s so shocking about that fact is that she doesn’t show a single bit of rust and commands the screen every time she shows up on it. Of course it definitely helps that all she has to do is be all over-the-top, shout and be irate about any decision that her daughter makes, but she still makes it compelling, as if this lady really is THIS nuts, and does love her daughter THIS much. The last scene she gets is very, very odd and may scare people, but for all of the wrong reasons. You be the judge of that.

It’s also nice to watch this movie to see all of the young and familiar faces that would soon become big stars that would stand the test of time, whereas others, well, they have a solid couple years or so, and then fade away once time simply forgets about them. As poorly-acted as he was in his role, it was still fun to see John Travolta play the hick behind the whole “pig blood” fiasco, who also doesn’t like to be called “dumb shit”; Nancy Allen is less annoying than usual and makes a high school you love to hate, especially since you know that there were so many like her at your own school; William Katt is a bit corny as Tommy Ross, but I think that was kind of the point, I could be wrong; Amy Irving is good as the most sympathetic one out of the catty-girls club who actually cares for Carrie and wants her just to have an “experience worth remembering” (needless to say, she gets what she wanted); and Betty Buckley was also good as the gym teacher, Ms. Collins who cares for Carrie and looks out for every step of the way, even though we’re never quite sure if she’s totally on her side by the end. Overall, great cast and it’s nice to see where most of them got their foots in the door. Except for Nancy Allen. I could have done without her.

Consensus: May be dated in some spots, but overall, Carrie is a horror flick worth seeing not just for the numerous slayings of every kid you ever wanted to teach a lesson back in high school, but because De Palma gives this movie all of his creative-power and it pays off well in the end, and in a way, for Carrie herself as well.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Get Low (2010)

Lil’ Jon should have at least scored the soundtrack, if anything.

For years, townsfolk have been terrified of the backwoods recluse known as Felix Bush (Robert Duvall). Then, one day, Felix rides to town with a shotgun and a wad of cash, saying he wants to buy a funeral. It’s not your usual funeral for the dead Felix wants. On the contrary, he wants a “living funeral,” in which anyone who ever had heard a story about him will come to tell it, while he takes it all in.

Simple movies are never that bad, and when you have an idea about a dude planning a living-funeral, it makes a simple movie seem pretty cool, yet still simple. Director Aaron Schneider definitely knows the type of material he’s working with as he sets the mood, sets the pace, sets the characters, and sets the ideas of what we come to expect with movies like these, but in the end, they are all simple and for some, that may not be so bad, but for me, it is. Well, sort of.

See, as much as I liked this flick and felt like it delivered on what it was going for, I also feel like a lot of what could have really hit me hard here, just didn’t. For instance, the script is pretty weak whereas not only does it seem like these people do the usual, “talk-like-a-bunch-of-goofy-Southerners”-speak, but they also try too hard to make people laugh and none of it ever feels like actual humor. I mean, yeah, watching a hermit who lives out in the middle of the woods, invite a dude from the town in for a nice pot of rabbit can be a tad humorous  but it’s nothing new or refreshing we haven’t seen before and I think that’s what the deal is with this whole film.

We never get to see anything new or awesome that we haven’t already seen done before, and even worse, the flick doesn’t really bring much to the table to distract you, anyway. The scenery definitely looks good and has you feel as if you are in the South during this time-period, but that’s pretty much it. You can have a movie that looks all nice and dandy, but if you don’t have anything else to make up for it, then I just lose interest. However, thanks to a cast like this, I was paying attention enough times to relatively-enjoy myself. Not fully or totally, but relatively and I think that’s better than not enjoying myself.

Bill Murray is always a blast to watch in anything he does and his performance as the greedy, funeral parlor-owner is no different. His contemporary way-of-speaking definitely seemed a bit distracting for the first five-minutes of him on-screen, but as time went on, I just let it slide and love every-singe-bit of Murray’s performance and some may be surprised to know that he’s not the most hilarious dude in the movie. Murray does have the occasional zinger here and there for good sport, but he actually has an interesting dramatic arch that forms a dynamic between him and Duvall and it continues to go on through the whole movie. I don’t want to say that I loved the hell out of Murray, but I can say that the guy was a good character and showed that he can always balance out sleazy, humorous  and likable, all at the same time.

"Wanna see my dead squirrel collection?"

“Wanna see my dead squirrel collection?”

Playing his lackey-of-sorts is Lucas Black, who is obviously still trying to have everybody forget his days in Sling Blade, but no need to worry, because the guy’s actually a solid actor as a grown-up. Granted, when he is side-by-side with heavyweights like Duvall and Murray, he definitely seems like the weak-link, but when he’s doing his own thing and that’s just about it: he’s good with it. I definitely would like to see this guy step-away from the dirty South and try his best with any other accent but for the most part, he’s fine with his own native tongue and I don’t think playing a Bawstan gangster would be the next best thing for him. Although, it’d be fun to see him try at it.

Sissy Spacek plays Duvall’s former-fling and as she gets older, seems to not only get more beautiful, but also even better as an actress. Seriously, I thought she was just going to be one of those females that showed-up and bitched about her life and why it never amounted to everything she wanted, but the gal actually has a nice arch to her as well, and it’s great to see the scenes with her and Duvall cause you can tell that there’s something powerfully and genuinely felt between the two, but you just don’t know what. Spacek never seems to age and as time goes on, she still knows how to deliver and that’s so great to see from a living legend like herself.

Then, of course, there is the one, the only, the Grizzly Adams-look alike himself: Robert Duvall. Duvall is such a classic actor, that roles like these where all he has to do is grunt, say weird things, and be his typical-self, he makes it so good that it almost seems like he’s not acting. After awhile, you start to forget that it’s Duvall and take him in as this strange, weird old man, and yet, you are never scared of him. You feel like he’s a good guy at his core and that whatever he did, no matter how disturbing or brutal it may have been, that he’s still a nice guy that deserves to have people around him. No matter what type of character Duvall goes for, he’s always good at it, and always knows how to make us give two shits about the guy, even if he may be a bit mysterious in his own ways.

Bill Murray, probably doing his best John Waters-look he could get himself to actually go through with.

Bill Murray, probably doing his best John Waters-look he could get himself to actually go through with.

However, once you get to thinking about the whole mystery of this flick and what it actually ends up being, then you start to feel a bit disappointed. Without spoiling the last twenty-minutes of the movie, Duvall finally gets a chance to break the ice and tell everybody what he’s been hiding-0ut for, for so long and the kind of effect that it has had on his life. Throughout the whole movie, I was ready to see what it was as each and every single little clue, came-up to the forefront and had me guessing a bit more. It gave what could be considered this simple, character-study a nice deal of mystery and suspense to it that had me playing-along for awhile, that is, until the actual “reveal” came out and ended on a total whimper.

It’s not the fact that what Duvall ends-up telling us is what’s a bummer, it’s that you just don’t really care and see how a guy could leave the rest of civilization for a thing like that. I guess when you take guilt and memory into consideration, then yeah, it could definitely eat you up inside, but leaving the people you know and may possibly love, to go out into the far woods, break logs, eat animal stew, walk around with a shotgun, hunt, and chase little kids off your property, doesn’t seem all that reasonable. It sort of made me feel like the flick had the central idea and premise, it had the characters, and it had the setting, but the most important factor of them all, the ultimate reveal, was something that they just didn’t have and felt like they just made it up as they went along. And if they did have it on, way before filming began, then when it actually came to filming this movie, they didn’t have a firm enough grasp to really make us care enough or feel like we are glad we spent so much time of our lives with these characters and with this story.

Consensus: Benefiting from a strong-as-hell cast, Get Low definitely has moments that keep you watching, despite the slow pace, but doesn’t have the best script in the world and that shows, especially when you take into consideration the final twist that gives you the feeling that this flick sort of lost itself, as it tugged along.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Give me a one-blade. All around."

“Give me a one-blade. All around.”

North Country (2005)

Why does all-of-a-sudden every dude just get horny when they automatically see a chick here?

Based on an inspiring real-life event that took place in the 1970s, North Country stars Charlize Theron in another low-glamour but high-impact role as Josey Aimes, one of only a handful of women working in the Minnesota iron mines. Forced to labor under sexist conditions, she and her female colleagues decide to stand up against the unrelenting harassment from their male counterparts.

You’re probably sitting there now, wondering to yourself after you just read the premise and thought, “Haven’t I seen this before?’. And the truth is yes have, almost every two hours on Lifetime channel.

The film actually does have some moments where it was actually a bit up-lifting, which is probably because the way they depict the way these chicks are treated, was just absolutely terrible and I really wouldn’t wish it on anyone else at all. It’s also kind of sad that these events are actually true and it kind of makes me ashamed of the ways dude treat their women. But other than that, that’s all I felt from this film.

The main problem with this film is that director Niki Caro lets all of this just seem totally over-dramatized and so unbearably obvious that it makes the film almost seem like a really crappy soap-opera rather than an actual inspiration tale that changed the way women work with men forever. I didn’t really get a reason as to why these dudes acted like complete and such little boys with these girls, and the reason we’re actually given, is totally unbelievable and just forced.

I also never understood why any of these guys actually stood up for these chicks, instead of just sitting back and letting it happen. I mean, can every single guy in Minnesota not think for themselves and actually stand up for other human-beings when their being treated like pieces of shit? It’s also kind of weird in a film that basically preaches respecting humanity, it sure does have a lot of pain inflicted on its characters.

Charlize Theron is good as Josey Aimes and shows how her bitterness increases into something that makes her stronger as a woman, and gives her the power to fight back against these d-bags. The only thing is that we don’t see any other side of Josey other than this, and even though Theron plays her very well it’s kind of a disappointment to see what could have been a really complex and great lead, sort of one-note.

Frances McDormand is fine as Glory in her little feisty role that always works so well for her but isn’t in the film as much really; Sean Bean and Woody Harrelson are good as the only two men in all of Minnesota that seem like they actually have a soul; and Richard Jenkins and Sissy Spacek are both good as Theron’s parents. However, the best performance out of the whole cast is Jeremy Renner as this uber d-bag named Bobby Sharp, who Theron’s character went out with when she was younger and almost every scene he had, sort of started to give me the chills. Renner scores emotional depth in a character that would just seem like a total cliche and when the film was over, I remembered his character more than Theron’s actually.

Consensus: What could have been up-lifting and inspirational, gets totally bogged down by hokey, predictable, and sappy cliches that takes a lot away from what’s being talked about in North Country, which could actually seem very important had it been given better direction.

3.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

The Help (2011)

This is why we should should program robots to help us instead.

In 1960s Jackson, Miss., aspiring writer Eugenia Phelan (Emma Stone) crosses taboo racial lines by conversing with Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) about her life as a housekeeper, and their ensuing friendship upsets the fragile dynamic between the haves and the have-nots. When other long-silent black servants begin opening up to Eugenia, the disapproving conservative Southern town soon gets swept up in the turbulence of changing times.

To be honest, I wasn’t too stoked about this when I first saw the trailer and poster for this, but after awhile it was a chick-flick that started to interest me more and more. Thankfully, it did because this a film that the guys don’t wanna miss.

I haven’t read the book that this film is adapted from, and it seems like I don’t really need to since there is a whole lot here that is brought up, shown, and never lost throughout the whole film. This is a lot of thanks to writer and director Tate Taylor who does a great job of fleshing out all of these characters wonderfully and giving us that little emotional roller coaster that most of us were already expecting after seeing the trailer.

Race relations is always a bit of a touchy subject, no matter what the time is, and here they don’t try to sugarcoat anything really. They just tell the story for what it is and bring out some beautiful moments as to why we can all get along with one another. There’s an old-school feel to this film but it still works because I was very touched by what these black maids did and how far they got just by telling the truth. It may sound a bit gay from my description right there, but it’s not all that bad, trust me.

However, the biggest problems with this film lie within it’s direction. Tate Taylor is good when it comes to the writing but there are long periods of time where we don’t see certain characters for almost 10 to 20 minutes at a time as the film is constantly jumping around to each story left-and-right. This became an annoyance after awhile because I felt like they could have cut out more scenes where it was just all these characters together, or just one central character for about 5 minutes, not a scene that lasted for about 15.

I also had a problem with the time-limit as well. I didn’t keep on checking my watch because I was bored and wanted to get out of there, I kept on checking it because I realized that this damn film was going on for about two-and-a-half hours. I was getting so annoyed by just how long every scene was and by the time the film was over I felt like I was in there watching that for about three hours. This may sound a bit like me bitching, but honestly, it was long.

The cast is amazing here and got me through a lot of the rough patches in this film, especially Viola Davis who needs that Oscar. Davis plays Aibileen Clark and turns in a raw performance that just shows how well she can carry a film, and make almost rather predictable story-telling seem totally moving no matter what you’re about to expect. Another show-stealing performance here is from Bryce Dallas Howard as the complete racist, Hilly Holbrook. Her evilness may be as subtle as Cruella De Vil but the way Howard completely lets us believe that a woman could be this evil and mean towards other humans, totally had me wanting her character told to go and shove it. Which, when you’re playing a villain/bad guy, is a good thing.

Emma Stone is good as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, even though she kind of is forgotten about when you think about the rest of the cast; Octavia Spencer is perfect as the wise-ass but vulnerable, Minny Jackson; Jessica Chastain was a total delight as Minny’s silly employer, Celia Foote, and every scene these two have together just made me like the film more and more by how perfectly acted they both were; and Allison Janney is also very good as Skeeter’s mom. Sissy Spacek also shows up in this film as Hilly’s mother and is by far the most memorable out of the whole cast, and had me happy knowing that legends like her can still do great roles like this.

Consensus: The Help goes on way too long and seems a little choppy from an editing stand-point but the cast makes up for all the flaws, and the story itself keeps you glued and ends with a fairly predictable but pleasing send-off.

7/10=Rental!!

In the Bedroom (2001)

Hopefully my parents don’t grow old like this!

Set in a tranquil town on the Maine coast, this character-driven drama tells the story of a couple (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson) whose teenage son (Nick Stahl) is involved in a love affair with a single mother (Marisa Tomei). When the relationship comes to a sudden and tragic end, the boy’s parents must face their worst nightmare and embark on a dark and dangerous psychological journey.

In the Bedroom is a film that challenges viewers to understand these characters. I liked how the film didn’t focus too much on the event, and more on how these characters are effected emotionally and physically. Director Todd Field understands how to make an emotionally and powerful film without just showing the audince what they want to see.

The reason why this film mostly works is because its incredibly written screenplay, that is so tragic and true to the point, that its hard not to be taken away. It shows how grief and denial of one’s life can eventually lead everyone to turn on each other and gain that huge sense of paranoia that happens in such an event like this one.

The problem I had with this film was that I felt like it was way too slow at points, as well as the editing. The film does keep your attention mostly due to the great screenplay but stalls at plenty of times, that don’t seem meaningful at all. There were scenes that should have been cut out, mostly due to the fact that they didn’t really have anything to do with the story and more for the dramatic effect.

Utterly, the best thing about this film is its performances from the cast. Nick Stahl is fascinating, and although I wish she was on more but did fine anyway, Marisa Tomei. But this film is more anchored by the performances from Wilkinson and Spacek. They both show a great and realistic look at two older people who are stuck living with a tragedy and can’t seem to get away from the fact that they may have messed up. The way they use this screenplay is something of a miracle by how real all these scenes are and the way these two just make these scenes is even better.

Lastly, the biggest problem with this film is that I felt like the revenge ending didn’t seem like it was in the right movie. It acted more as a suspense-thriller ending that crawled out of some Perry Mason episode. I mean it wasn’t the worst but the way it ended wasn’t very meaningful and less insightful than I actually thought it was going to be with such a powerful film like this one.

Consensus: Though it needs better editing and a different ending, In the Bedroom features a well-written script, anchored by wonderful performances from its great cast.

8.5/10=Matinee!!