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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Stephen Lang

Hostiles (2017)

Wish I could say we treat Native Americans any better.

It’s 1892 and legendary Army Capt. Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is coming closer and closer to retiring once and for all. He’s seen and done a lot of crap that would take its toll on any man in his own right, and for Blocker, who is no doubt messed-up in the head, he’s done. But, asked by his superiors, there’s one last mission for him to take out and it’s one he reluctantly agrees to on the basis of self-respect: Escort a dying Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) and his family back to their tribal land. Why does he not want to do it? Well, it’s the near-end of 19th century and let’s just say that Native Americans weren’t all that loved by practically anyone in the deep and dirty West. But still, orders are orders, which means Blocker, along with a great deal of his most trusted-soldiers, embark on a journey from Fort Berringer, N.M., to the grasslands of Montana. On the way, they encounter a young widow (Rosamund Pike) whose family was killed on the plains. But that would only turn out to be one small surprise, on a journey that would soon bring many, many more to come.

Give him a gun and he’ll run wild. Trust me.

Hostiles is the rare kind of Western that isn’t really a Western, at least not in the general sense. There’s not much gun-play, there’s not all that many trips to small towns, or even really that much conflict. It’s a movie that plays by its own rules and moves to the beat of its own drum, which is cool in a sense, but when it’s actually playing out on-screen, shocker, it’s kind of a bummer.

Like a huge bummer.

And coming from director Scott Cooper, it’s a bit of a disappointment, because even though he doesn’t have the best track-record around, he’s still a solid enough director to keep things interesting, even when they’re not. In Hostiles, the story is moving at such a slow, languid pace, it almost feels like it’s going to end up everywhere, but nowhere, even if we’re already told a clear-objective up front. Sure, it’s admirable that Cooper’s trying to make the anti-Western, in that there’s not many conventions and the movie’s much more about grief, sadness, and depression, but when you’re movie’s a little over two hours and feels like it’s about three, it’s a bit of a problem.

Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of good stuff to find in Hostiles, cause like with Cooper’s other flicks, there’s always a few great sequences every so often. The only issue is that they’re strung along this rather long and melodic movie that never picks itself up. It can, often times, be gruesome, intense, and a little dramatic, but these scenes, how few there are, happen about ever ten minutes or so – the rest of the time is spent watching as these characters travel from one spot to another, all to a slow-tune. That may work for some people who are expecting a whole heck of a lot different from their Westerns, and usually I’m in that boat, but here, it just didn’t get me as involved as I would have liked.

Hitchhikers have never looked so beautiful.

The only real benefit to this direction is that there’s more attention on the performances, all of which are great, including Christian Bale in a shockingly un-showy role.

For one, it’s nice to see Bale dial things down, almost to the point of where he’s practically a mute. But his silence works well for a character who, we’re told early on, was a bit of a reckless savage in his war days and has done all sorts of hurtful, dangerous, and downright violent things. He gets celebrated and praised as a “hero”, but you can tell, just by looking into Bale’s eyes throughout the whole thing, that there’s something truly messed-up about him and the movie, as well as Bale himself, are both very subtle about that. It’s the kind of performance that saves a movie, because it makes you interested in seeing what happens next, if not especially to the rest of the movie, but to him.

And the rest of this ensemble is pretty good, too, although, it’s such a huge ensemble, there’s only so much love and praise that can go around. Rosamund Pike, like Bale, plays her role very grounded and quiet, to a devastating affect; Rory Cochrane has some truly powerful moments as a fellow-soldier of Bale’s who may be just as messed-up as he, if not more; and Ben Foster, about halfway through, shows up to be crazy and almost steals the show. The only disappointment of this cast is that the Native Americans here (Adam Beach, Wes Studi, Q’Orianka Kilcher), don’t really have all that much development to them, except that their stoic and in-touch with their spiritual side, or something. Maybe that was the point, but it seemed like a waste to just have them around, not give them much to do, and that act as if the movie truly cares about them at the end.

After all, it’s kind of their story, isn’t it? When will Hollywood ever learn?

Consensus: With such a slow-pace, Hostiles can take awhile to get used to, but with such a great cast, including a spectacularly subtle Bale, it’s hard to fully not be interested in.

6.5 / 10

Cry it out, Chris. Go for that Oscar.

Photos Courtesy of: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

If the world of magic isn’t doing it for him any longer, David Blaine may have a future in robbing blind people’s houses.

Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three kids who seem to be making a living off of knocking off people’s homes. While it’s definitely trashy and not an ideal lifestyle to live, honestly, it’s the only way they can survive. One day, they hatch up this perfect plan to rob this rich blind guy (Stephen Lang), who also happens to live all by himself, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It seems like the perfect job to, hopefully, end all jobs and that’s what seems to be happening, until they screw up one too many times and it turns out that the rich blind guy isn’t so sad and defenseless as they expected.

Honestly, that’s about all I can say about Don’t Breathe without really spoiling all of the fun for those who want to check it out, because it truly is the kind of small, but simple movie that deserves to be less said about, in order to be fully enjoyed. It’s the kind of movie that takes so many sick and twisted turns throughout it’s near hour-and-a-half run-time, that really, speaking about any of them in particular, or even hinting at them to great lengths would be an injustice. Just know that Don’t Breathe is the kind of movie that starts out as something you’d expect, but ends as something totally different.

He clearly opened up the more adult Goosebumps book.

He clearly opened up the more adult Goosebumps book.

Make any sense?

If not, that’s okay; Don’t Breathe seems like the sort of movie that works best when you look at it as a thriller, and less of an actual horror flick, filled with shocks, gasps, and jump-scares (even if that’s how it’s being advertised). Co-writer/director Fede Alvarez does something genius here with his material in that he continuously finds smart and clever ways to sneak up on us some more, making what would seem like a very simple, almost straightforward story, get spun in so many different ways, that it’s actually hard to pinpoint where it’s going to end up or turn to next. That same kind of film making seemed to be lost in his version of Evil Dead, even if there is a part of me that feels like he was just playing by some sort of studio mandate and didn’t have the total free reign to strike out on his own, do whatever he wanted to, and let his freak-fag fly.

Here though, Alvarez gets more than enough opportunities to do so and it’s quite a blast to watch. You almost get the sense that Alvarez is just so happy to be here, making a movie in his own name, with his own stamp, and isn’t going to shy away from doing whatever the hell it is that he wants, regardless of whether people enjoy it or not. In a way, that sort of works best for the movie, as the flick itself can get to some pretty dark, grueling and messed-up places that aren’t easy to expect – if anything, they’re small, little nudges towards darkness that Alvarez himself is more than happy to embrace, even when it seems like his movie is being advertised heavily towards teens.

If anything, Don’t Breathe is for the true, die-hard horror-junkies, even if it’s not totally a horror flick.

Someone's trapped in the closet! Who's in the closet?

Someone’s trapped in the closet! Who’s in the closet? Get it? R. Kelly?

But like I said, that’s kind of why Don’t Breathe is so special – it’s as small, as contained and as simple as you can get with a movie, even better, a horror-thriller, but it works so well. Rather than seeming like a manipulative way to cut-down on budget costs and whatnot, Don’t Breathe‘s premise actually seems more freaky, in hindsight, in how it’s this one, singular incident, as opposed to the whole wide world. It’s not the scariest flick out there, but the gore, the action and the blood is in full-force and you know what? That’s alright with me.

That said, if there is any department that Don’t Breathe seems to need help in is that it’s characters aren’t all that well-written or dimensional, but that can be forgiven in a movie as short as this. It seems more like Alvarez gives them as much attention as he can, showing them in their lives, and then spurning them off into more crazy and insane havoc, where the lines are constantly being blurred between who’s a “good guy”, and who’s a “bad one”. Honestly, it’s hard to ever make sense of who is in the right, who is in the wrong, and who is just doing whatever the hell it is that they can to survive, but no matter what, it’s a compelling thrill-ride.

With, or without the scares.

Consensus: Small and contained, yet fun, compelling and most of all, surprising, Don’t Breathe is the kind of low-key horror-thriller that Hollywood seems to have given up on, but we’ll hopefully see more of.

8 / 10

He's foolin'. Dude's just trying to collect disability.

He’s foolin’. Dude’s just trying to collect disability.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, The Verge 

Manhunter (1986)

No eating of fava beans or Chianti’s here.

A sicko family-killer nicknamed “The Toothfairy” (Tom Noonan) is running wild and loose, and it’s up to retired-cop, Graham (William Petersen), to find out who this guy is exactly is, where he’s at, cuff him, and lock the son of a bitch away for good. The problem is that this killer is a lot smarter and trickier to find than he’s usually used to, which is saying a lot for the guy who locked away Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox) for good.

Okay, here’s the thing: Everybody knows the story of Hannibal Lecter because of the 1991 flick, but, believe it or not, this one came before and actually let the world know of the flesh-eating intellectual that is Dr. Lecter. This movie is rarely ever mentioned in today’s day and age of thrillers, especially ones with the character of Lecter involved, but it was one of the first and best examples of how you can put a serial-killer and cop-procedural together, and make them mesh so well.

And it’s all thanks to Michael Mann, who practically ushered in a wave of thousands-upon-thousands of shows that remind us that, yes, DNA is everywhere.

If you know Michael Mann, or have at least ever seen a Michael Mann flick, then you definitely the guy ain’t one bit of shy when it comes to showing how stylish he can be and how much he doesn’t care what you think. For some (such as myself), the style can get a bit over-bearing at times, but for a flick like this that seemed like it needed it to spice things up, then I was all aboard and not a tad bit pissed-off. Okay, that’s a lie. Some parts had me instantly pissed because of the corny, 80’s-synth, over-dramatic line-delivery, and foreshadowing of colors in the background or somewhere in each shot, but that just comes with the package when you put Michael Mann and the 80’s together. You gotta get used to it after awhile, which is what I did, much against my initial taste test.

There's a metaphor in here somewhere.

There’s a metaphor in here somewhere. Just look for the color blue, if you can spot it.

Mann’s direction is one of the key aspects to making this movie so great because he continually builds up tension and suspense, yet, never makes it seem like the story/case is ever going to be fully solved. He puts the detectives in the running-spot for completion, but somehow, the killer always seems one step ahead no matter what. You also actually get to feel for these cops because they aren’t dirty a-holes that can’t help but screw things over for others because they’ve got nothing else better to do. Nope, instead, they are just regular, everyday people, who have a job to do, families back at home, and will stop at nothing to complete their tasks and make the world a whole lot nicer, safer place to be in. In today’s day and age where we get some sort of crooked cop in almost every crime movie we see, it’s quite refreshing to see what it was like when we loved our men with badges, and didn’t think of them as scum who love donuts and pulling you over after curfew. Doesn’t mean I still don’t have beef with some of them, but hey, at least my gratitude was with these guys for the longest time, in all hopes that they would get this killer.

However, it’s a pretty hard decision to make, especially when you have a villain that is this cool, this smart, this sinister, and this creepy.

That’s all thanks to Tom Noonan who is not only insanely freaky as the Red Dragon, but intimidating as well. The guy’s got that lanky-build to him where he’s a towering-figure, but skinny to the point of where he looks like a living, breathing, and walking straw. And his looks? Well, let’s just say that Tom Noonan is the sexiest person in the planet, but that’s not a bad thing at all, because it works in his favor by making us more scared by the dude. Not only does he seem like he knows what he’s doing, but also knows how to send a message that he’s not be screwed around with either. Need an example? Try that scene where finds the reporter and tells him a little bit about himself; a scene I’m not going to go on about anymore, because it’s tense, heavy, and shocking, all at once and perfect at declaring the kind of individual we’re working with here.

Also, a lot of the credit for such a bad-ass villain has to go back to Mann, because the guy never over-exposes our villain at all. It isn’t almost until the half-way mark that we get our first glimpse at the guy, and even that’s not saying much since it’s only five minutes of him being a creep-o and getting involved in weird shenanigans. It’s an effective five minutes though, and actually makes you feel like this guy is never going to be found, no matter how hard these cops may try. You actually start to give up hope at one point, depending on the type of person you are, and almost come to the reality that the Red Dragon is going to get away with it all, and evil laugh his way into more murderous-pleasures.

Does that count as wearing women's clothing?

Does that count as wearing women’s clothing?

However, when you stand in the way of William Petersen – not everything’s going to be so easy. Peterson is a nice fit as our main detective here, because the guy has a lot going for him to where we understand the problems that may occur in his personal life, as well as his work life when he has to do such a thing as get in the minds of the serial-killers he’s chasing after. But the guy never seems like he’s losing it to the point of where we question him, his skills, or his determination catch this killer and put all of the murders to rest. Petersen does over-act at times and it seems like just another case of bad writing, equals bad performance, but overall, the guy had me cheering for him in the end, even if it was a hard choice between him and Noonan. Both are great, even if they aren’t together on-screen for very long. Still, got to love when the film just builds up to the meeting between two, opposite forces, and absolutely delivers like this flick does.

The best of the rest is definitely Brian Cox as everybody’s favorite charmer, Hannibal Lecter. Cox isn’t playing the role we all know Anthony Hopkins for, but is giving us his own impression of him, with a few tinkers here and there. With just the short-amount of screen-time, we see how he operates, how he thinks, how smart he is, and how he’s not to be trusted no matter what he may say or do to you that could be considered nice or humane. Cox owns every scene he has and keeps this presence throughout the whole movie, even when he isn’t around. Having a double-threat like Noonan and Cox together was awesome, and just gave me more faith in the baddies, rather than the goodies.

Consensus: As with most films from the ultra-cool decade of the 80’s, Manhunter suffers from some cheese-tastic moments, but ultimately kicks some fine ass when it comes to building up an air of mystery, tension, suspense, and a feeling that you don’t know who’s going to come out of this alive, dead, or barely scratched.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I want to eat you."

“I’m building up an appetite already.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

If every single 80’s classic is being remade, there’s no reason for Howard the Duck not get a little one too.

A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan (Jason Momoa) realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.

So it seems like Hollywood is running out of any original ideas so they are practically remaking every 80’s film known to man. Sadly, they should have let this legendary Arnold flick alone.

The one thing that works for this re-work is that the action and gore is pretty freakin’ awesome. I loved just watching Conan slice up almost every single person that walked into his way and not give two shits about it after wards either. Another good thing about the action here is that I could actually tell just what the hell was going on because to be honest, so many action films come out nowadays and you can never know who is getting killed or who will be.

The movie is directed by Marcus Nispel, who is most well-known for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th reboots and the godawful Pathfinder. Conan the Barbarian has more in common with the latter, but it is thankfully a much better movie even if that doesn’t say much. Nispel’s direction here isn’t anything mesmerizing but he handles a lot of the action scenes very well whether it be a huge war going on, or Conan taking on a bunch of baddies, Nispel seems to have his head on the right track a lot.

However, when this movie is not killing people, it’s pretty weak in every aspect. The plot of this film has been done about 500 times before and probably a lot better and as the second half of this film comes around, the bloodshed tones down so we can actually understand these characters when we really don’t give a shit and just want Conan to pick up his sword and start chopping heads off. I hate when any film tries to do this because it usually takes so much away from the action, and here it’s just about 10 times worse.

The dialogue also tries to be so incredibly witty and smart but it just fails terribly, however, I don’t know what this film was trying to go for. The one-liners here are just terribly cheesy and just made me laugh-out-loud but I have to say that I don’t really think that this film was trying to take itself too seriously either, so I guess I can’t hate on it too much. But he writing for this film is just only writing in the sense that words were put down on a piece of paper, with no real sense of knowledge and just lines of dialogue that are just made to move the film along.

The film also looks insanely cheap and something that just screamed “straight-to-dvd release”. I mean sometimes I usually don’t mind this but the film honestly looks like half of the sets were made from plastic, and CGI backgrounds that look as realistic as a high-school play stage. The rocks on the ground also bounce up higher than usual rocks actually should bounce up and it doesn’t just happen once, it happens a couple of times and I noticed it right away. It’s a shame that these production designers didn’t put more effort into the look of this film because I actually feel like I really could have gotten into this setting, if it wasn’t for the cheesiness.

The cast of this film tries what they can but in the end, the script is only a huge let-down. Jason Mamoa makes the most of his performance as Conan and uses these crappy lines to show how barbaric he is. He is one of the things that makes the film barely tolerable; he’s ruthless, threatening and very badass. I wish I could compare him to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Mamoa does a good job on his own, and when it comes to Arnie, there is not comparison whatsoever.

Stephen Lang is good as the same villain he plays in every film, but instead with funky-looking hair that makes him look like a chick as Khalar Zym; Rose McGowan is very strange but pretty good in a kind of Marilyn Manson way as his daughter, Marique; Ron Perlman is good as Conan’s daddy; and Rachel Nichols is pretty alright as Tamara. But the one real mystery of this film was how they actually got damn Morgan Freeman to narrate a little portion of this film! I mean this guy has another Batman flick coming up and he’s getting bothered doing this crapola! Stay away Morgan!

Consensus: Conan the Barbarian is dumb, terribly written, cheap-looking, and no emotional connection whatsoever, but it still has a lot of fun and awesome blood, gore, action, half-naked barbarians, naked chicks, Morgan Freeman narrating, and a feel to it that doesn’t take itself too seriously but by all means, leave your brain in the car, as far away from the actual area you see this flick.

5/10=Rental!!

Public Enemies (2009)

Finally, Johnny Depp actually plays somebody normal.

Set during the Great Depression, it follows the final years of notorious bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) as he is pursued by Bureau of Investigation agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). It also depicts Dillinger’s relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), as well as Purvis’s pursuit of Sparrow associates and fellow criminals Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff) and Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham).

Michael Mann is known for directing action-packed thrillers such as Heat, and Collateral, but they were always shot in modern times, with less of a story, here he gets to change up the time, and focus on more story. Which was not a very good idea after all.

I think the one problem with this film is that it is kind of bland, mainly because it’s based on a real-story. Everybody knows what happens to these guys, and it just do anything really fun or inventive to change the pace of our minds with the film. Another problem was the use of an HD camera for this film. The shaky camera takes a lot away from the film, and the pixels, and annoying close-ups, do start to run its course by the first hour mark. I also knew it was a bad idea, cause I kept asking myself: they had hand-held cameras back in the 30’s? Nothing looked as realistic as it could have, with a real camera.

Still I got to give it to the Mann(pun intended), he is still the king of action sequences. Since these dudes are robbing banks, Depression style, of course we get a lot of shoot-outs, and to say the least their actually very fun to watch. There is this one sequence where it takes place in the forest, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Not as great as Heat’s bank robbery, but still great none the less. I also thought he did a good job of showing the known hysteria, and panic that was in the depression, as Dillinger and the boys, started to rumble up on the bank robbery’s.

Johnny Depp does a great job at playing an actual real person for once in a long time. He plays Dillinger as sort of an anti-hero, that’s funny, charming, but also very smart, and lethal with what he does, and does a great job at playing this character. I was pretty disappointed by Christian Bale‘s performance here, and I thought his attempt to make a Southern accent, was pretty dumb, and annoying. It sucks but I think he wants this to be his forgotten role. Marion Cotillard is great here as well, and her and Depp create this lovely chemistry that seems so real, that by the end, you can just feel the love between these two. Other actors that do a good job in this are Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Stephen Lang, and a random cameo from Channing Tatum.

Consensus: There are obvious faults here within Public Enemies, but they are somehow over-shadowed, by the great action sequences, and wonderful performances from the cast, minus Bale.

7/10=Rental!!!

Avatar (2009)

One of the best ways to spend my Christmas day!!

The story is that Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, is a paraplegic who goes to a world known as Pandora. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) tells Jake that if he can get everyone on Pandora to evacuate so that they can get a substance known as unobtanium, he will get Jake some new legs. So Jake uses an Avatar of himself to gain the native’s trust and hopefully get them to evacuate. But after living amongst them, Jake feels a bond with the people and decides to fight back against the colonel in an epic battle.

James Cameron has been going around talking a whole bunch of shit of how great this is, and you have never seen anything like this at all. Now that I look at it, damn he wasn’t kidding.

If you are going to see this movie, definitely give it a try in IMAX in 3D. There really isn’t any other way to see this, and if you choose to you won’t be in this world they call Avatar. This is a technical breakthrough for all the world of technology. At first I felt like I was going to be annoyed by the 3D, but I soon found myself so fascinated with the way the film looked, that it simply went over my head. Cameron really does have a knack for these beautiful visuals, the effects are even better once you see the way this whole world looks, with its creatures, plants, and overall look of it is just fascinating.

The story has a lot of similarities to Star Wars, but really doesn’t match up to it very much. The story is all way too similar, but the way it is done keeps you hooked on from the beginning. The action will keep you on your feet, as it mixes in with the beautiful visuals you are taken away by how you are excited but also taken away by its beautiful visuals.

The film has an original story, not one of those action block busters that are based on a comic book series or another film. And it creates this world where immersed in it visual, so you almost forget that its unreal and you start caring for the characters, and the whole story.The script is kind of corny and obvious, but I soon just totally forgot about that and cared for more of the story and characters.

Worthington gives a very effective performance here as Jake, and you cheer him on as the main protagonist, and just want him to win it all. The others in the film do great with this motion capture element such as Zoë Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang, all do great in each of their respective parts. I mean as creepy as the creatures look, you actually feel like these are real people, and care more for them, then some of the other humans in this film.

If there was one problem in this almost unproblematic film, was that its central message became a pain. The real central message behind this whole film was that it was about how we are causing global warming, and by doing so we are killing ourselves. Now the first time I got it, but after that about forty times they kept bringing it up and up again, to where I was just saying “OK, I get it!”.

Consensus: Avatar has beautifully enchanting visuals, very effective performances, and an exciting if done before story, that has us forgetting about the real world we live in, with such a beautiful way.

9/10=Full Priceee!!!!!!