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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 W. Tenner

Every Secret Thing (2015)

If a baby isn’t yours, don’t take it.

After their eighteenth birthdays, Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) and Alice (Danielle Macdonald) finally get a taste of the real world as full-grown adults. When they were young, they kidnapped and accidentally killed an infant that, due to the fact that they were so young and didn’t seem to know any better, weren’t tried as adults and were forced to serve sentences in juvenile delinquent centers. Although both seem to have understood what they did was wrong, their troubled pasts may never escape them – especially when a similar case occurs in which another biracial infant is kidnapped. This is when Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) steps onto the scene to figure out just whether or not these girls are involved with this case, or if they’ve actually been keeping up-to-date with day-to-day society and still not acting up in any sort of shady way. However, Porter soon realizes that the problem may be less with the girls, in particular, and more with the mother of Alice, Helen (Diane Lane), a woman who is very persistent in pleading her daughter’s innocent, but also doesn’t shy away from having her learn some hard lessons about life, either.

Slab on as much make-up on her as you want, no matter what, you've got the wrong Fanning sister to work in your movie.

Slab on as much make-up on her as you want, no matter what, you’ve got the wrong Fanning sister to work in your movie.

The problem with movies like Every Secret Thing is that there’s too many of them out there. Better yet, there aren’t just movies with cops, crooks, cases and mystery, but actually loads and loads of TV procedurals that you don’t even have to get up out of your seat, or pay money for. Law & Order, CSI, Blue Bloods, you name it, guess what? It’s probably a police procedural that people would rather stay at home to watch, rather than actually physically go out and pay for. Makes sense in some cases, but that’s also why we have a movies to begin with.

Mostly, what movies are supposed to do, that some TV can’t do, is elevate it to a certain level. Sure, you can have a mystery-cop story for a flick, but it has to be something as suspenseful as humanly possible, or even innovative in a certain manner that would make sense for it to be on the big screen that you’d pay for, and not just a smaller one that you didn’t have to bring out the wallet for. And basically, that’s the problem with Every Secret Thing – it’s all been done before.

Except for the whole baby-killing element to its story. That’s pretty messed up that I’m pretty sure that some networks wouldn’t want to touch.

But either way, there’s just something about Every Secret Thing that feels so ordinary, that everything about it just starts to make it feel like a drab. While this isn’t a very pretty, uplifting story, there should still be some sort of excitement or intensity in the fact that not only is there plenty of misery to go around, but also, that there’s actually something of a mystery to constantly pick and prod at. There is a central mystery here that keeps the movie rolling, but honestly, after a little while, it’s the only thing that keeps the movie the least bit of interesting.

For instance, the characters are pretty boring; which is especially more disappointing considering that the cast is pretty stacked with talent that usually works at making things better. Elizabeth Banks is saddled with the boring copy-type of character that’s short on words and is a hard-ass, so that she can pay attention to every aspect of her case, without losing a slight hint of what could be a possible reveal. It’s cool to see Banks take on what is practically a humorless role, but it doesn’t quite work, if only because we don’t get to know anymore about this character other than that she’s a cop.

That’s it.

Mamma's always there. Somehow.

Mamma’s always there. Somehow.

The same can be said for Nate Parker and his character, although there is a small attempt at giving him more dimensions, but it doesn’t quite go anywhere. There’s a brief argument that Parker’s character has with Common’s, in that Parker’s is wondering whether or not Common’s kidnapped his own daughter, for one reason or another; it’s simple protocol, but the way Parker’s character just continues to berate him, makes it feel like there’s something deeper and darker going on there. Whatever it was, it all goes away in the next five minutes as it’s made abundantly clear that the movie is more concerned with the actual case and the possible culprit, rather than anybody else.

And because of the attention being so diverted towards Ronnie and Alice, the movie suffers. Fanning is fine as Ronnie, except that she doesn’t have much to do; on the flipside though, it’s Danielle Macdonald who has a lot more to do as Alice and there’s already a problem to begin with. Not to sound terribly mean, but Macdonald’s not a very strong actress. It’s clear on many occasions that she’s trying and trying, but she just doesn’t have the skill to make an odd character like this work. That she’s at one point, almost psychotic, and at others, a wise and knowing smart-ass, makes it hard to play this character in a believable manner as is, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that Macdonald doesn’t do a solid job here.

May not be all her fault, but man.

The only one who walks away from this, knowing that she at least somewhat helped, is Diane Lane. As Alice’s mother, Lane gets a chance to camp it up in a way that we haven’t seen from her in a long time. But then again, at the same time, this character still has a semblance of heart and humanity where we see that she really cares and loves for her daughter, however, is incredibly frustrated with whatever she’s gotten herself into and how she’s continuing on to live life. She may be a tad bit on the angry side, but it all seems to stem from a heartfelt place in her core and that’s what makes her worth watching and, at least, rooting for.

More than I can say for the rest of them.

Consensus: Without being exciting, thoughtful, or even mysterious in terms of where its story goes, Every Secret Thing serves no real purpose other than to highlight the fact that Diane Lane needs to be in more stuff.

2 / 10

My thoughts exactly.

My thoughts exactly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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The Cobbler (2015)

Soles and souls. Get it?

Small-time cobbler Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) lives a simple life to where he goes about everyday the same. He goes to work; fixes shoes; has coffee; talks to a neighbor of his (Steve Buscemi); and continues the same pattern, the next day and so on and so forth. It’s not great, but Max is a very relaxed dude, so he doesn’t fret about it too much. That’s why, when suddenly, he puts on his father’s old pea-coat and jumps in somebody else’s shoes and realizes that he can look, sound and be somebody that’s not him, but the shoe’s owner, then he can’t help but give this newfound trick a whirl and have some fun with it. However, what starts out as a little bit of fun to get him out of his somewhat boring, uneventful life, Max then finds himself way in over his head when he gets involved with some shady gangsters, and even shadier real estate agents who might be looking to destroy his old neighborhood. This then leads Max to spring into action and use his talents for the greater good of not just those around him, but society as a whole.

It’s understandable why a lot of people despise Adam Sandler and what he’s become. At one point, he was the brightest, best thing to hit the comedy world, but slowly but surely, he began to take on vanity projects that literally just became humorless paid-vacations for him and his buddies, that people, for some reason or another, would still throw shackles of money at, just so that they could see what variation Sandler and co. would make on the fart joke next. However, with last year’s Blended box-office receipts not being exactly what he maybe originally had hoped for, Sandler seems to be, ever so slightly, heading back to his old ways, taking up smaller-projects that not only challenge his audience to see him in a new light, but also challenge him as an actor.

You've been caught, Crawley!

You’ve been caught, Crawley!

And I, for one, am all down for this. Punch Drunk Love is not just one of the better rom-coms of the past decade or so, but also shows that Sandler isn’t just a good actor, but one that can really take over a film, while also showing us darker, more frightening sides to his persona that may have not been there before. Of course, in the years since, Sandler’s hands at drama haven’t always paid-off, but more often than not, he finds his own ways back to the genre, reminding us all that Sandler, first and foremost, is an actor. Even if Men, Women, and Children wasn’t everybody’s favorite, but you can’t discredit Sandler for that, as he was fine in it.

So, with all that being said, I think it’s obvious to know that I was definitely looking forward to the Cobbler. Not because it featured a premise that didn’t seem something out of Sandler’s wheelhouse, but because it was directed and co-written by none other than Thomas McCarthy himself; the kind of film maker that doesn’t just take a paid-gig for the hell of it. He takes time with his movies, which is why a huge part of me had high hopes for this movie and seeing where it took Adam Sandler, the actor, next.

Sadly, it all blew back in my face.

See, the Cobbler may seem like it has promise on the surface – it’s a whimsical take on the old saying that your mom, dad, grand-parent, teacher, inspirational-figure has said to you in the past, “Walk in another person’s shoes and then judge them.” Well, the premise here is that saying, but told literally. Adam Sandler gets in people’s shoes, turns into them, and goes around all of New York City causing all sorts of shenanigans. Sometimes, this leads to him just walking around with a shit-eating grin on his face and dining and dashing out of fancy restaurants, but for awhile, it’s entertaining.

Then, things get real weird, real quick. There’s a possible murder that may or may not happen in the middle of this movie and as soon as it occurs, the tone totally changes from being light and lovely, to dark, disturbing, and even mean. Without saying too much, the murder that occurs is bloody and in-your-face, which then hints at there being a more dangerous story to be told underneath all of this goofiness, but soon, the movie abandons that. Instead, it keeps itself going with the humor and wacky hijinx, that have all but lost their favor; in fact, they feel like a cop-out to get past the fact that we literally just witnessed some character’s murder on the screen. Now, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to laugh it off as just a simple whatever?!?

Uhm, sorry. Last time I checked, when a character suddenly gets killed in a movie, it should be treated as drama, and not just as a passing-joke amongst pals.

So, after this, the movie then decides it needs to have baddies for Max to defeat and by this point, the comedy is so far gone that it’s not at all funny, even if it tried to be. The one-joke premise of this character walking in other people’s shoes and turning into them, turns stale and gets old by about the third time he tries to steal somebody’s bundles of money. But then, the movie gets darker when we’re introduced to violent street gangs and Ellen Barkin’s character; who are both connected in a convoluted manner that I didn’t even bother to think about the second it was introduced to me. All I knew is that both sides owed each other money somehow and we’re both looking to do bad things, to seemingly innocent people.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

But, like I said before, by this time, the movie had already lost me. Which makes me wonder: Just what the hell was Thomas McCarthy doing being stuck with this junk? Better yet, why did he write this to begin with? It would make sense if he was just enlisted to be the director solely for money purposes (although I generally think this was considered “an indie”), but the fact that he actually co-wrote with this with somebody else, already shows that he had some hope in these uneven, uninteresting material to begin with. Whatever the reasons behind McCarthy’s decision to take this movie and make it his own, is totally left up in the air, but all I have to say is that I’m really looking forward to Spotlight later this year.

Which brings me to the next aspect of this movie worth discussing, and that’s Adam Sandler himself. It’d be hard to hate on Sandler here, because he’s literally doing what it seems like the director’s calling on for him to do: Act bored. That’s the way his character is written and I guess that’s exactly how Sandler plays it. Not to mention, it’s a tad hard to really judge Sandler’s performance here, considering that the majority of this movie features his character playing other character, which means that Sandler’s presence gets thrown to the sidelines in favor of some recognizable character actors.

Oh, and Method Man.

Yes, Method Man is in fact a key supporting player in the Cobbler, which actually works against and for the movie. It works for the movie because Method Man’s actually a solid actor, but least when you expect him to be here. Sure, he’s good at playing an a-hole gangster that constantly seems like he’s about to beat the crap out of someone if he doesn’t get his way, but when his character’s soul gets taken over by Max, it’s actually where most of the humor of this movie comes from. Method Man has to play a sweet, more nerdier-version of his character, which is both interesting and odd, but still worth watching because he does well with it.

Then, on the other hand, the movie doesn’t know whether they want to make this character a good guy, or a bad one. He’s a dick that beats his wife, robs people, and threatens lonely, little cobbler’s like Max, but at the same time, there’s still not enough backing-information to make it okay for us to see him get treated the way he does in the later-half of this movie. And even though there’s many more supporting players in this movie (among them are the likes of Dan Stevens, Melonie Diaz, and even Dustin Hoffman), when Method Man ends up becoming your most memorable one, you’ve got something of a problem.

But you’ve got a bigger one when Method Man actually becomes the best part of your said movie.

Consensus: Promising in its premise, the Cobbler wants to be light, funny, and whimsical, yet, goes through so many tonal-transformations, that it makes it very hard to get involved with what happens, let alone actually laugh.

2.5 / 10 

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich prick, you.

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich mofo, you.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Run All Night (2015)

No kidnappings. Just running. For a whole night, too. In case you couldn’t tell.

Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is an aging hitman that doesn’t really have much to live for. He’s a drunk, lazy and an overall embarrassment to himself, as well as to those around him. However, he’s a good childhood friend of the boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), so nobody messes with him; they just let him go about his day to where he mostly ends up in a pool of his own piss and vomit. But, the one aspect of his life that keeps Jimmy alive is his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman); someone who wants nothing to do with Jimmy. That’s why, when Mike is thrown into a situation where Maguire’s son (Boyd Hollbrook) shoots and kills somebody in front of him, he goes right to his dad. Jimmy knows that he needs to hash these things out with Shawn before they get way too out of hand and everybody involved ends up dead, but what starts off as a promising compromise, soon goes awry once Maguire’s son is shot and killed by Jimmy, because he was going after Mike. Now, both Mike and Jimmy aren’t only the run from Shawn and his people, but every cop within the New York City police department. It’s gonna be a long night for these two, which means that they might have to let bygones, be bygones.

Say what you will about Liam Neeson and the direction he’s career has been heading in since Taken: The dude’s making more than enough money for most 60+ actors out there, not to mention that the movie’s he participates in, aren’t all that bad. Sure, take away Unknown and especially the recent Taken movie, and you’ve got a pretty solid track-record, for somebody who’s screen-presence was practically dead in the ground no less than a decade ago.

"Just saying, mine's a lot bigger. And I'm not just talking about the lobster we just had."

“Just saying, mine’s a lot bigger. And I’m not just talking about the lobster we just had.”

That said, there’s something about Run All Night that I’m just not too sure about yet. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it mediocre? Is it so trashy that it’s supposed to be bad on purpose? Or, is it just so self-serious that eventually, after much male-posturing and dick-measuring between the characters and yourself, you learn to accept it for what it is and run along with what it does?

Sure, I guess you could. But to be honest, I’m still racking my head over this movie.

So, with that said, this review’s going to be a tad bit weird. Because though Run All Night can be fun and rather intense at times, there’s still a muskiness to it all that makes me feel like it’s the kind of movie made strictly for guys who love it when bad dudes, do bad things to one another, and talk bad to each other about how they’re going to eventually do all of these bad things to one another when they actually shut the hell up and get on with. But then it gets all serious with its heartfelt story about dads, sons, the old times vs. the new times, and how the golden-age of the mob is all gone by now.

So, whatever this movie was going for here, I’m not too sure. All that I know is that it wants to have its cake, eat it, too, but if nobody’s watching, possibly go the bakery and get another cake, in which they would consume that as well. At times, it’s a thrilling piece where the action sequences actually seem like they could go anywhere, literally at any second, but then at others, it tries to water it all down by being about family, and love, and sons, and brothers, and mothers, and fathers, and all that sappy crap that, quite frankly, is made for a whole other movie. Not the kind of one that features a stealthy, overly-athletic hitman (played by Common), who goes around literally killing anybody who walks in his way of his target, without ever worry about racking up too much of a kill-count that would have him easily identified as public enemy #1.

But hey, it’s a Liam Neeson! So ‘eff all logic!

Which, yes, I am perfectly fine with in a movie like, I don’t know, say Non-Stop (another movie that just so happened to star Neeson and be directed by Jaume Collet-Serra). That movie wasn’t perfect and it sure as hell had plot-holes that needed some more tending to in the writer’s room, but it didn’t take itself too seriously, nor did it try to be something that it wasn’t; it was just another goofy, over-the-top, Liam Neeson-starer that was going to take its story wherever it pleased. Here, Run All Night wants to be fun, unpredictable and wild, which it sometimes is, but when it focuses on its story and its deeper-meanings, it feels odd.

Not that a story like this can’t have anything deeper or more meaningful to say, but when most of that just revolves solely around the fact that one guy was a crummy dad his whole life and only just decided to change his ways once his son’s life was in the balance, it doesn’t seem worthy. It seems tacked-on, so the directors didn’t feel guilty about all of the bloodshed. They want to make these lives have some sort of meaning, but by doing so, they’re taking away the electricity of what makes these kinds of movies so fun in the first place.

Holder playing Holder. And no Linden. Boo.

Holder playing Holder. And no Linden. Boo.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just a heartless person with no soul.

Though, no matter how lame these movies can sometimes get, there’s no denying that Liam Neeson does a fine job in them and here, there’s no difference. Jimmy Conlon is a sad excuse for a human being, but as the movie goes on and his character develops, we see a smart, wise man who has come to a crossroads in his life and genuinely wants to make good. The character is written this way, so of course I had to believe it, but had the movie just left this idea up to us, the viewer, it still would have worked because of Neeson’s portrayal of a man who wants to do good, yet, doesn’t know how to make up for his sketchy past well enough to where all can be forgiven.

Also, giving Neeson some seasoned-pros like Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Nick Nolte (who is in it for maybe two minutes), brings a certain amount of dramatic-heft to the proceedings, although some of it can be a bit cheesy after awhile. Harris is a solid actor at playing these mean, sometimes despicable crime-bosses, but here, he seems like he’s doing a parody of those characters he’s so well-known for, which makes the scenes with him and Neeson entertaining, but also slightly teetering on over-the-top. Which, yet again, wouldn’t have been such a problem had the movie realized that it didn’t need to be so serious all of the time and should have just embraced its hardcore, overtly-violent goofiness. And yet, we have a movie where people are killed, blood is shed, and tears run down cheeks.

Wait, this is a Liam Neeson movie I’m talking about here, right?

Consensus: The grimy action is fun and intense, but for the most part, Run All Night also wants to be a heartfelt story about broken relationships and even more broken people, and tries to mistaken itself for something that isn’t another Liam Neeson action flick.

4.5 / 10 

"Time to run."

“Come on son, time to run………………all night.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz