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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Stephanie Andujar

Marjorie Prime (2017)

By now, this kind of stuff is a documentary.

Marjorie (Lois Smith) is an aging woman who has seen the last few years of his life slip by. Now, as she’s getting older, she’s also starting to forget things. In order to help her out a bit, her daughter (Geena Davis) and son-in-law (Tim Robbins) buy Marjorie a holographic projection known as a Prime, that looks, sounds, and is in the form of her late husband (Jon Hamm), when he was younger and they first met. At first, it’s just Marjorie speaking with it, getting to remember old times, and even reminding herself of who she once was. But because her daughter is still so angry at her for the years and years of animosity, she decides to use the Prime for herself. Then, time goes on and all of a sudden, Marjorie becomes a Prime for her daughter. And so on and so forth.

You get the picture.

“You remind me so much of this ad-executive I knew from the 60’s.”

Anyway, Marjorie Prime‘s a hard movie to really get into because it is so languid, slow, quiet, and even mysterious. It’s as if writer/director Michael Almereyda set out to make something so incredibly weird and brief, that you get the sense that he doesn’t want to tell you what he’s up to next, but you also don’t want to know, either. Just sitting around and waiting for whatever odd transgression he takes next is more than enough for the wait.

That said, Marjorie Prime still feels like a movie that’s much better in thought, than it is on-paper. For instance, the idea of robots walking and talking just like you or I, isn’t all that original in the world of sci-fi, or even in the real world in which we live in, and here it plays out in an interesting manner, until it seems to repeat itself and not really have anything interesting to say. Or, better yet, it does, it’s just that it’s the same point, over and over again, hitting us over the head and not allowing us to forget about it. Almost as if Almereyda didn’t trust his audience enough to really think things all through and get down to the actual meaning of everything.

And it’s not all that hard, either: Marjorie Prime is an honest movie about life, death, and how even though we accept death and the passage of time, we also try our best to find whatever substitute is out there. We do that to make ourselves feel better and we also do it to preserve the legacy of those lost. But we also do it to feel safe and act as if death isn’t just an illusion, but a crazy idea that will never become reality to us. The movie’s a lot darker and sadder than it lets on, which is why despite my general lack of actual enjoyment watching it, I can’t help but feel a great deal of respect for it actually going to some deep and disturbing places that I didn’t expect to come around.

“Stop being so funny.”

It’s also thanks to the pretty wonderful cast on-hand, too.

Lois Smith, for what seems like in forever, is finally given a role that allows her to be more than just the cooky granny, but someone who is more thoughtful and compelling to watch. It’s the kind of older-woman role they’d give to Jane Fonda, or Lily Tomlin, but Smith works perfectly in it because she’s sweet and endearing enough to make her sympathetic enough, but because she’s older and losing her memory, it’s hard to fully trust her. We don’t know if she was a great mom or not; we get the idea that she was a bit forgetful for reasons that become clear to us later, but mostly, we think that she did the best that she could. Like all moms, right?

Geena Davis is also pretty good as the spoiled daughter who, no matter how long life passes her by, can’t seem to get over the past she shares with her mom. It’s a surprisingly annoying and unlikable role from Davis, but she’s more than willing to give it her all. Same goes for Tim Robbins, who plays someone darker than you’d expect. And then, there’s Jon Hamm, who is so perfect as this Prime, you never quite know what he’s thinking at any moment. It’s probably nothing, really, but the idea that he could turn and go bad, is a scary thought and Hamm, in a very stern, serious role, makes you expect the unexpected, just about the whole time.

Consensus: As dark and as weird as it gets, Marjorie Prime is also an interesting, thoughtful, and well-acted meditation on the passage of time, life, death, and the blankets we cover ourselves with to block the inevitable.

6.5 / 10

If all robots look like Jon Hamm in the future, yup, all us human men are screwed.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Stay away from graveyards, people. They’re creepy enough as is.

Former NYC cop Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) used to be a total alcoholic. He’d wake up, go to his local bar, have a coffee, and then down two shots of liquor. However, one fateful day, that all changes and eight years later, he’s regularly attending AA meetings, living alone, eating at diners, and also turning in some work as a non-official private eye. One night he gets an offer and decides to seek it out: Find a group of serial killers that are kidnapping rich drug-dealer’s wives/loved-ones, ransoming money off of them, and yet, still taking the liberty of hacking these women up to little pieces. To them, it’s all fun and games, so when an actual drug-dealer (Dan Stevens) calls on Scudder to do this job for him, he doesn’t back away from it. After all, getting rid of a few serial killers in this world is a job well done, no matter how you do it. But Scudder eventually realizes that this job is going to be a bit more difficult and nerve-wracking than he would have liked, which is why he, whether he likes it or not, gets some assistance from a local homeless kid by the name of TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley).

And yet again, here we are, people, another “Liam Neeson kicks ass” kind of movie where he, yes, is a certain man, with a certain level of skills, takes it upon himself to go about utilizing those skills, shows that he’s a nice guy underneath the sometimes questionable-decisions he makes and, well, of course, tells the villains to, for lack of a better term, “fuck off”. Yes, these are the kinds of movies we can all expect from Liam Neeson right about now and while some can say that they’re bored by this and want him to go back to making Oscar-caliber films with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, or Martin Scorsese, the fact is, nope, Liam ain’t too bothered with any of them.

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin' nuts?!?!

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin’ nuts?!?!

He is, as they say in the biz, striking while the iron is hot and rather than trying something daring to make sure his “arthouse”-ish crowd is pleased with him, Liam is just going to stay and continue to make these typical, run-of-the-mill action-thrillers where he, yes, kicks plenty of ass.

However, that’s not to say any of them are bad and because most of them aren’t, I’m quite happy for Neeson. He’s the type of actor who, with his tall-frame and soft, yet still intimidating Scottish-accent, deserves many movies to be made where he’s, typically, the center of attention. Which is why he seems to be a perfect choice for Matthew Scudder; the type of troubled, somewhat crooked-cop that isn’t the nicest, nor the most moral of guys, but wants to see that he gets the job done, in the most efficient way possible. Meaning, that he wants to ensure no innocent people are killed while he is completing his various shady tasks.

But Scudder isn’t just a well-written character in the way that he’s well-rounded, he’s funny and shows a charming side to his sometimes grim personality that we know Neeson is capable of high-lighting every so often. To say that Neeson is great here, would almost be too obvious for me to even state, but here I am, stating that Neeson is great here and practically carries the movie on his own two, long, lanky shoulders.

That said, the rest of the movie isn’t all that bad, because while Neeson helps it get through some rough patches (whenever the serial-killers pop-up, they’re pretty conventional and spend most of their scenes just being strange, in almost too-serious way to be not kidding), it’s writer/director Scott Frank who really makes this movie work. Something about this flick’s tone, the way it’s so hush-hush most of the time and how it doesn’t seem to glorify it’s over-the-top, grisly violence, yet still shows it in a derogatory light that he makes it seem like more than just “movie violence”, is what really made me think that Frank should make more movies. The dude’s already written my favorite Steven Soderbergh movie (Out of Sight) and actually had a pretty stellar directorial-debut of his own not too long ago (the Lookout), so why wait any longer, Scott? Let’s keep this a train a-goin’, man!

Anyway, like I was saying, Frank’s direction here is really genius and it brings a smile to my face knowing that there are certain film makers out there who still care about giving us genuinely tense, sometimes unpredictable thrillers. Thrillers that, mind you, don’t necessarily rely on how many times a gun is shot, or even how many bones are broken in a particular brawl – much rather, thrillers that take time to not only build the story it is trying to tell, but also give us some context in how we’re supposed to think of these characters as. Not all of these characters are great people here (most of them, drug dealers), but the movie doesn’t simply judge them on who they are, much more than on what it is that they do.

"I'm used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you'll do."

“I’m used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you’ll do.”

For instance, take the character of TJ who, in a lesser-movie, would have been the stereotypical smart-aleck-y, rather adorable kid that Liam Neeson’s character not only stumbles upon by pure chance, but even takes under his wing and make his new sidekick. Add on the fact that TJ is in fact black, and you’ve got yourself a walking, talking, breathing cliché just waiting to ruin your goddamn movie, not to mention your time! But somehow, TJ, nor anything surrounding him, seems to be written that way; he’s a simple orphan kid that is a bit punk-ish, but is still curious enough about how this world Scudder surrounds himself with, not just works, but how he can be apart of it without getting him, or anybody else killed. Not to mention the fact that this young guy, Brian “Astro Bradley, is very good in the role, making you feel sorry that he’s sort of left all by his lonesome, but also happy that he may, or may not, have a future hangin’ around this tall, New Yorker, with an Irish-accent.

I know I’m getting into this a bit more than I maybe should, but there was just a feeling I got with this movie that I haven’t gotten with a thriller in quite some time. Okay, that’s actually a lie, because a little bit of time ago, when I saw the Drop, I felt sort of the same way: A crime-thriller that takes its time to build momentum, as well as character-development. While those movies seem sort of neck-and-neck in my eyes, they’re both clear-as-day examples of what can happen when you take a simple story revolving around thugs, doing thuggish-like things, and make it as detailed as humanly possible, without ever overly-boring the audience, nor giving them enough to where they can expect everything to happen as clearly as they may have predicted it as being straight from seeing the advertisements for it.

So, once again I say this: Scott Frank, continue to make movies. You’ll make me a very happy man and most of all, a very happy movie-goer.

Consensus: With extra-attention paid to the look, feel, and characters that inhabit its slightly unnerving story, A Walk Among the Tombstones is, yet again, another winner for Liam Neeson and his seemingly unfazed streak right now, except a lot smarter and wiser this time around.

8 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see."

“Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images