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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 Merchant

Logan (2017)

Not all superheroes have to be nice.

It’s sometime in the near-future and needless to say, the world is not the best place for mutants. Most of them have either been killed, or are so hidden away from society, you wouldn’t even know where to look for them. However, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is one of them and needless to say, time has not been too kind to him. All those years of violence and havoc, have now taken a toll on his mind and most importantly, his body. Now, it seems like Logan, who was considered to be immortal, may eventually reach his demise. But before that happens, he’s tasked with saving the life of another mutant, a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen). She doesn’t speak much of English, but has something about her that makes those involved with killing mutants, now want her. Logan sees this as something that he has to protect, so along with another aging mutant, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), they set out to take Laura out of harm’s way. But to where? None of them really know, but they’re going to search far and wide, anyway.

Oh. Time has not been kind.

Oh. Time has not been kind.

After seeing Deadpool last year, I came to the conclusion that in order for most of the superhero movies to stay fresh, they have to up the ante a notch or two. Meaning, it’s time to get rid of all the bloodless violence, the soft and sometimes petty smack-talk, and most importantly, enough with the predictability. Say what you will about some of Deadpool‘s flaws (which there aren’t many of), it’s one of the rare superhero movies that feels like it’s doing something new with the genre, while also staying pretty loyal to certain tropes and conventions, too.

The only difference with that movie was that it knew what it was doing and wasn’t afraid to tell you, either.

And with Logan, the same case can be made that, in order for most of these superhero movies to stay fresh and somewhat original, they need to change the way we see them. Rather than getting another run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter superhero flick in which there’s a good guy, a bad guy, a threat, a love-interest, and eventually, a final showdown, we get a superhero movie where there’s a few okay guys, a few evil guys, a terrible and disturbing threat, no love-interest, and eventually, a bloody, gruesome and sometimes mean, final showdown. So okay, yeah, not everything here is changed up and different, but Logan shows small, slight ways that the superhero genre can be helped out a bit.

Which is what also brings me to talk about the R-rating Logan was able to obtain and it’s actually what saves the movie. See, Mangold approaches the material in such a dark, heinous and sometimes gritty way, it seems like R was the only way to go to do the actual story justice. But it’s not the kind of R-rating that’s hammered in because everyone wanted to give it a shot; the action and violence is a lot more brutal and gory than ever before, the cursing comes at the best moments and isn’t shoe-horned in, and just the overall feeling of it feels more adult and mature than any of the other superhero movies floating around out there.

It’s as if the kids were left at home and the parents got a night out at the movies and for a superhero movie, that’s pretty damn surprising.

"You think you're more mutant than me?"

“You think you’re more mutant than me?”

And this is to say that it all works so incredibly well. Mangold ups the emotion, just as much as he does the blood, violence and gore, and for that reason alone, there’s more at-stake with this story – we feel closer to Logan than ever before, feel for him, want him to live on, beat the baddies and most importantly, continue to be the way he is. The movie never takes any shortcuts to giving us a fully-realized and complete story to this character, as well as Xavier, and at times, there’s something sweet about watching about watching these two characters, who we first got to see on the big-screens almost two decades ago, finally show their age and embrace the fact that their time on Earth is, of course, limited.

It’s sad for sure, but the movie never forgets that at its center, is really Logan, the rough heart and soul of this movie, as well as this whole franchise. And in his supposedly-final outing, Hugh Jackman probably gives his best performance as Logan, showing that there’s true heartbreak behind all of the killing and destruction he does. Rather than just being a guy who kills for the greater good of society, he’s really just killing cause he has to and has all of this rage hell-bent inside of him – it’s as if he finally stopped trying to please everyone and just let loose. Jackman’s always been perfect for this role and if this really is his last showing, needless to say, it’s the perfect swan song for him to go out on and shows us that we’ll truly, without a doubt, miss him in this role.

Now good luck finding a replacement!

And not just for Jackman, either, but for Stewart as well who, like the former, gives his best performance as this character, showing deep sadness and frustration within a character that seemed like he always had it all together. Stewart gets a chance to explore Xavier’s nastier, ruder side and it’s a joy to watch; not because we know he can do it (as was the case with Blunt Talk), but because he’s stealing every scene he’s in. The chemistry between he and Jackman also finally comes into play here, where we realize that they’re not just best friends who have literally been through it all together, but that they’re also one of their kind left and they both have a legacy to behold.

It’s sad, but kind of heartwarming and the note Logan ends on, well, needless to say, is perfect. It’s melancholy, depressing, and altogether, perfect. Where they’re going to go with the franchise, is totally beyond me, but I definitely look forward to it.

Consensus: With a harder, darker and rougher edge to it than the others, Logan works perfectly as a more adult-like superhero movie, with plenty of action, blood and cursing for the grown-ups, but a heartfelt, sad, and rather sweet story at the center, proving even more why Jackman is perfect for this title role and why it’s going to be weird without seeing him in it.

9 / 10

Save the girl. Save the world. Live on.

Save the girl. Save the world. Live on.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

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The Invention of Lying (2009)

If you think about it, can’t all religious text possibly be “lies”? #Controversial

Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is so down-on-his-luck that he’s practically given up now. While he has an okay job as a screenwriter and a nice apartment to live in, he lives in a world nobody is able to lie, so therefore, nobody ever does something for another person cause its the right thing to do. This means that Mark has to go out on a lot of dates where the girls he meets don’t really like him, nor do they ever expect to take anything further than just a simple date and leaving it at that. One date in particular, with Anna (Jennifer Garner), Mark seems to want more out of, but because he, according to her, is “fat and ugly”, the relationship will never work. But somehow, on one fateful day, Mark decides that he has the rare ability to, believe it or not, lie. This means that everyone around him will believe anything he says and can basically get away with whatever he oh so pleases to get away with. Clearly, this means that Mark’s going to do some easily questionable things that are for his own self-gain, but eventually, he starts to realize that it doesn’t matter if you can lie the rest of your life and get away, all that does matter is that you feel something lovely and true.

is the handsome, slack-jawed man her choice?

is the handsome, slack-jawed man her choice?

The Invention of Lying has so much promise that it’s an absolute shame watching went goes down with it. For one, this world that’s been created here, while yes, a tad odd and unconventional, is still an interesting one that you can spend a whole miniseries on, exploring every piece by piece, while also having some real great fun, with jokes and all that. And for awhile, the movie seems like it’s more than up to that opportunity; a commercial with Coca-Cola is perhaps the funniest moment of the whole movie, only to then be up-staged by a Pepsi ad moments later. There’s other bits and pieces in which Gervais explores this world a whole lot more than just having people blurt out mean, nasty and cruel things, but yeah, what eventually happens isn’t good.

And yes, this is a huge problem.

After awhile, it seems like co-directors Gervais and Matthew Robinson, truly did want to get deep down into this world, explore it more, find more jokes to make about it, and, if it got to a certain point, make some interesting contrasts to the real world we live in now, but for some reason, they get distracted. Instead of trying to make something that’s really biting, smart and almost satirical, they opt more for the conventional route, where we’re now more interested in whether or not Ricky Gervais’ character is going to get the girl at the end.

Obviously, he probably will, but to see this idea get explored more so than the other ones going on here, is pretty wasteful. Now, of course, I don’t know if this is on behalf of studio interruption, or if the guys themselves just really wanted to make a rom-com with this thing, but either way, it’s a shame to watch after awhile, because the jokes can sometimes be very funny, but sometimes, it doesn’t always hit its mark.

That said, yes, the Invention of Lying can be a pretty funny movie and yes, can deliver on some of its promises.

Or, the very ugly, but ambitious loner?

Or, the very ugly, but ambitious loner?

The whole add-on of religion was not only a nice touch, but a smart one that yes, was commenting on the idea of religion, but wasn’t doing it in an over-the-top way where some people may feel offended or pissed. However, at the same time, those who don’t follow any sort of religion by any means, won’t find themselves pissed that a well-known atheist like Ricky Gervais backed out on his original ideas. It’s just the right amount of poking fun, but also, reservation that makes a movie like this, while not perfect, seem a little more interesting and smarter.

And yeah, it also helps that the cast is pretty darn solid, too. As an ordinary, everyday man gifted with this one spectacular talent, Gervais is a lot of fun, but also, seems like he wants to do more than just be a stand-in for the story. He does give this character a heart and soul, and even though it may not totally work in the grander scheme of things, and just get in the way of the funnier moments of the movie, it still proves that Gervais himself isn’t just all about gags and making people laugh uncontrollably. Sometimes, he does like to get a little serious and dramatic and it works in most of his pieces.

Here, maybe not so much.

The reason for that is because it does feel very shoe-horned in, especially when you take into consideration that the movie is less about finding true love, as much as it’s just about the lies we are told and the lies we tell ourselves to make us feel better. Jennifer Garner is fine and, surprisingly, has some sweet chemistry with Gervais, but any moment that the movie seemed to focus on their possible budding-romance, it felt like it was being dragged down by a very heavy anchor that couldn’t be lifted. Once again, this could have been studio interference, but still, that doesn’t make it a worthy excuse. But it’s easy to forgive Gervais because even a movie like the Invention of Lying, while not perfect, still reminds us why he’s one of the smarter, brighter voices in comedy, as well as in animal rights.

You go, Rick.

Consensus: Despite not fully delivering on the promise of its premise, the Invention of Lying is still an entertaining comedy, mostly thanks to the talent working in it.

6 / 10

Or, the snarky Brit? Who knows who she'll choose!

Or, the snarky Brit? Who knows who she’ll choose!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

I Give It a Year (2013)

Speak for yourself Brits! Us Americans love staying faithful to our marriages! Sort of.

After randomly meeting one another at a party seven months earlier, Nat and Josh (Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall) decide that they are in love, and have no one else they ever want to be with in their lives, which means only one thing: Marriage. Some say it’s too quick, some say it’s lovely, and some predict it to go on a year. After awhile, it seems like these two may actually last longer than a year and so on and so forth, but the cracks begin to show around month 3 or 4 when the thought of infidelity rears it’s ugly head in (as it usually does). For Josh, it’s in the form of his ex-girlfriend (Anna Faris), who has just returned from Africa after 4 years; and as for Nat, she begins to get very, very attracted to a billionaire playboy that she takes her wedding ring off for and flirts with, in hopes that he’ll do business with her and her company, but also seems to not mind the obvious sexual-tension brewing between the two. Both forms of attractions end up coming together, and it’s whether or not Josh or Nat really do love one another to stick through all of the thick and thin is what really counts.

The British have dominated the rom-com genre for a long while, but have somehow also fallen off the map as of late. They’ve definitely had a few good ones here and there, but nothing too special that brings us back to the days of Four Weddings & A Funeral, to Bridget Jones’s Diary and so on and so forth. Without being so obvious about it, I Give It a Year tries to rekindle those flames that were once around and about all those years ago and does so very well, mainly because it reminds us that this is a rom-com, one that actually features comedy. Let me repeat that: COMEDY.

Desperate role-playing: The tell-tale sign that you're hopeless marriage is now officially failing.

Desperate role-playing: The tell-tale sign that you’re hopeless marriage is now officially failing.

You see, where this movie had me going was that it was actually funny, even if I noticed it was trying a tad too hard to do so. Most of the laughs come from the inescapable awkwardness of the situations these characters throw themselves into, and even though it does seem to get a bit over-played at times, it still somehow made me laugh at others. Take for instance a scene where everybody’s playing a little sweet game of charades and Josh goes up. He has a word that’s hard to describe in a natural, normal way, so of course this being an R-rated, British rom-com, he decides to give out hints and clues the dirty way. Obviously this is meant to be seen as a painful and horrible experience for Josh and everybody involved, almost so horrible and painful that it’s downright near unbelievable, but I couldn’t help but laugh because the movie milks it all for what they got.

And that scenes only one example from this movie. There are plenty more where that came from and it definitely didn’t disappoint me in that regard, even when it did stray away from being awkward and tried to be witty, and “British”, for lack of a better word. Most of the time, it doesn’t work and seems like it’s a bit lazy, but other times, it had me laughing more than I expected to and for that, I have to give the film a high-amount of praise. It’s very rare when a rom-com can actually have me laugh-out-loud more than a couple of times, and do have me do it so in a way that’s refreshing and makes me feel like I’m spending my precious time and money on something that deserves to be watched and laughed at. And not “laughed at” in the bad sense; the good sense that you’d expect from a comedy, especially a British one.

But where the movie succeeds very well in the comedy aspect, it somewhat fails with the romantic one. It isn’t that the movie doesn’t have a romance at the center of it’s flick worth caring about, it’s just that it’s structure is so centered on watching as these two fumble around with their emotions, try their hardest to steer clear and away from sleeping around, and question their marriage to begin with, that you almost lose all sort any type of sympathy this couple had going for themselves to begin with. They do seem in love and they do seem like they were right for one another, but we are sort of just plopped-down in center of it all as they can’t seem to grab one another, make love, and mean it when all is said and done. Even when the flick does decide to explore some darker, meaner territory about their relationship and the future of it all, it all feels a bit too under-cooked, as if director Dan Mazer didn’t really care much for these characters and just wanted to do something that was considered new, cool, original, or altogether, “different”. He succeeded at that, but not in the way that allowed the story to have any certain impact or meaning behind it all. It was just there to shock people, and maybe it will succeed at that.

Mainly though, I feel a bit bad for the cast because although they do get to stretch some of their comedic-muscles with this material, they feel a bit like “characters” and not actual, real people we’d see in a relationship or feeling the same feelings that these characters are supposedly having. Rafe Spall is a fine fit as Josh because he’s a bit of a goof and always seems to be getting into a bit of trouble, and has fun doing just that, but it doesn’t seem like the movie is all that concerned with going anywhere else with this character, other than just give us the fool we see just about every scene he’s in. Not to say that he’s bad, but it feels like he could have been a better-used character, had he been more rounded-out. The same could almost be said for Rose Byrne as Nat, even though she definitely enjoys playing the straight-gal in between all of these wild hijinx that ensue. Problem is, she too feels like a character you can’t believe in and only see as the type of woman who should have never gotten married in the first place or even bothered with settling down.

Stupid Americans! They never fit in!

Stupid Americans! They just never learn to fit in!

Everybody else suffers from the same problems, but they’re lucky that they’re at least a little funnier and used less, so it’s less of a distraction. Anna Faris gets a higher-billing than obvious main star Spall, which is definitely to appeal to a wider, American audience, and most will like what she does here because she seems to do it in every flick she’s apart of. Not to say that her act is getting stale or anything, but when she’s up against these fellow Brits, she does seem like the odd woman out who can’t quite hold her own when it comes to do something new with her act/image. It’s just being weird, slightly ditsy, and always awkward whenever the situation allows it to be. Simon Baker may have seemed like a strange choice as the other American here, but the dude has wit and charm that works, even if his character feels like a bit of a dick at the end of it all. Then again though, any guy who makes as much money as his character does will always be deemed “unlikable” and “unsympathetic”. In today’s economy, that’s just the way it is. Things will never be the same. Okay, they will be, but you know what I mean.

However, while these two try what they can and sadly fall victim to the lazy script, others in the cast really keep the laughs coming, going, and popping-up in situations when you least expect them to. Such talented stars like Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Colman, and especially Stephen Merchant, all get a chance to have their own, respective scene where they rip this scrip apart and just be funny. They all do so very well, that it’s a shame they aren’t in it more, or that they’re lovable wit, charm, and humor didn’t at least rub off more on the leads. If only.

Consensus: Rather than being a rom-com that is both hilarious, as well as heart-wrenching and honest about human relationships, marriage, and staying faithful, I Give It a Year only sticks with the former, forgets the latter, and loses it’s balance of dark and funny around the end.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Next best possible thing? A four-way perhaps? Maybe that's just me?

Next best possible thing? A four-way perhaps? Maybe that’s just me?

Movie 43 (2013)

Not all celebrities are prudes. Only the ones with Oscars are.

The central story is about how a deranged writer (Dennis Quaid) forces a studio executive (Greg Kinnear) to make his movie. But before any moves actually take place on it, we get to see what the actual-product is as the writer reads it out to us and the executive. Basically, it’s just one dude’s shitty idea, all for us to see and cringe at. Yay!

Sketch-comedies never seem to work, that is, unless you just so happen to be drunk, horny, wild, and ready for a good-time. However, I don’t think it will matter if you’re any of those things: you may never, ever enjoy this movie. Okay, maybe if you’re 12-years-old, and love to hear the word “balls” in almost every sentence  then yes, you might just have a freakin’ ball with this thing. But if you are above that age-limit in anyway, shape, or form, this is going to be one cringe-inducing trip for you. Whether you like it or not. I’m going to guess your most likely to side with the latter.

Any movie can tell a ball, poop, or fart joke like it’s nobody’s business, but it’s all how you do it and literally; this film just cannot do it in the right way where you laugh, chuckle, or even get that they just made the joke. Almost every single skit in this movie has at least one use of the word “ball” or “shit” and it gets annoying, probably around the time the first skit kicks-in and you realize that you’re going to be tormented to the core of your stomach, with non-stop raunch jokes that do nothing. Apparently, everybody who ever worked on this movie, all thought that the idea of somebody having a certain bodily-fluid sprayed all-over-their-face was downright, hilarious and it’s a huge-shocker that it never dawned on any of these people that maybe, just maybe, the type of material that they are working with, just isn’t funny enough to suit a 6-to-7-minute sketch, let alone a whole movie full of ’em.

"Today's lesson is, "How to NOT choose shitty movies like this".

“Today’s lesson is, “How to NOT choose shitty movies like this”.

And also, the idea of having a movie so chock-full of sketches where big-named stars just demean themselves to the lowest, common denominator, almost seems so old-school, it’s not even worth it paying the money to go out and seeing. I mean, you can probably go onto Funny or Die, College Humor, Cracked, or even YouTube for that matter, find big-celebrities, doing some crazy shite for laughs, and actually having there be; ACTUAL LAUGHS. Here, in this movie where it’s just one, long presentation of a bunch, you get probably one-or-two laughs and that is literally all because the jokes that they use in the film that are actually funny, were already used 100-times before in all of the trailers/commercials we have either seen or heard, 100 times before. Going out to see this movie is already a crime, but actually going out to pay for it, is like a freakin’ cardinal sin. Especially when you know that more-quality humor is laying right there for you, at your fingertips.

Even if the delivery is god-awful, at least some of the placement is okay. For instance, some skits actually seem to have some promise like the one where Robin (Justin Long) actually stands up for himself and gets involved with a Superhero speed-dating event, where other, actual superheroes show-up to mingle and hopefully, get laid. This idea seems like it’s planned to be a butt-load of fun, especially if that idea came from Joss Whedon, but sadly, it comes from the makers of this shit-pile and before you could say the word, “kryptonite”, the sketch has already lost itself in saying the word “bush” or “shit”, one way too many times. I mean, when you got Wonder Woman and Batman talking to each other about how they fucked and it never amounted to anything but Batman running-away and never calling again, you would expect non-stop hilarity, right? But nope, instead it’s all about having Robin still be played-out as the softer, gayer-one of the two and if you didn’t think that joke was over-played by now, trust me, just wait for the rest of the movie.

However, without the promise of an interesting-idea, most skits just fall from grace, right from the very start. The skit where Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott both find and capture a leprechaun (played by Gerard Butler, in CGI-form), in hopes to get some gold, starts off pretty bad. Apparently the director, Brett Ratner (in case you haven’t been surprised yet), thought that the idea of having a leprechaun spew-out a bunch of dirty words was funny enough to last a whole sketch, especially one where it seemed like it’s main actors would actually sparkle in. Sadly, they just don’t do anything for the sketch, or the movie itself and the way it all ends is so dark and savage-like, that it really left me with a bad-taste in my mouth, which is very shocking since the rest of the film just couldn’t. I want to spoil the ending of that sketch for you so you understand what I’m blabbering all about, but sadly, I am a critic and I have morals, people. But still, don’t see this movie because I won’t spoil it for you.

"No, I'M in this movie?!?!"

“No, I’M in this movie?!?!”

The idea of having all of these different stars being packed into one movie where all they do is completely raunchy and dirty shit (sometimes literally), may make them seem cool and on-the-edge, but in reality: it’s just a poor-decision. I guess it’s really strange to see heavyweights like Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman in a skit about a dude with balls on his neck, or a skit with Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts playing parents of a home-schooled kid that give him the full, high-school experience with sex, drugs, abuse and all, but it’s even stranger to see peeps like them actually stoop themselves so low as to actually make this material work. I don’t know if they knew this right from the initial script-read, but this is terrible-material they are working with here so instead of giving it their all and actually going to town with whatever energy or sense of purpose they can muster-up to make this work, they seem almost as if they forcing it out, almost like a kidney stone (and yes, it is THAT painful to watch). Nobody here really out-shines the other and probably the only person that really made me laugh and surprised the hell out of me from this whole cast was Will Sasso, who shows-up, does his thing, reminds us that he is still alive, and actually made me laugh. I was terribly and utterly surprised, but he was the real spectacle to see for me. Everybody else can suck my nut because I hated this shit, and I hated watching them try to act in it!

Consensus: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT let the star-studded cast fool you, Movie 43 is one hell of a bombshell that begins on a lame-note and ends on an even-worse one that makes you feel like you’ve just been hit over-the-head with somebody’s foreign parts, and not in the fun, or pleasureful way, either. It’s the type of way that disturbs you and scars you for life. That is, until you see an equally as bad movie and that’s, going to be very hard to come by for some time I think.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Poor Gerard Butler. This is probably his worst movie to-date.

Poor Gerard Butler. This is probably his worst movie to-date.