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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Stranger Than Fiction

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Hey, I don’t blame Bond. I’d be pretty pissed if Eva Green was taken away from me.

Returning once again, James Bond (Daniel Craig) battles wealthy businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a member of the Quantum organisation, posing as an environmentalist who intends to stage a coup d’état in Bolivia to seize control of the nation’s water supply. Bond seeks revenge for the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and is assisted by Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), who is seeking revenge for the murder of her family.

After falling in love with Casino Royale right from the first-shot on, I realized that the only way to keep this “new” Bond series going-strong, would be to up the ante a bit and give us some more action, more intensity, and most of all, more of Bond just being cool. That last one isn’t really hard to do, but the first two can sometimes be pulled-off well and other times, cannot. Sadly, I think director Marc Forster took this idea of “more, more, more”, and decided to just go to town with it and that’s where I think the film/”new” series takes it’s sudden-dip.

See, what makes Bond so cool is that the guy is able to do all of this crazy, violent crap that definitely makes you go “Ouch!”, but is also able to pull off some sly and witty stuff like faking people out, getting in between buildings without being seen, and just being the ultra-sneaky spy we all know and love him to be. However, all of that violent crap starts to take over the film and as fun as it may be to watch, you can’t have a Bond flick with over 15 minutes of non-stop action, already happening in the first 30 minutes of the actual-movie. That makes it seem more like an action-thriller that is more about being thrilling, rather than being a Bond flick and as weird as that may sound, yes, they are both two different types of films in their own right and I think it comes off more as Bourne movie.

A lot of people complained that the last one felt a bit too much like a Bourne movie with all of the non-stop shaky-cam work, crazy stunt-work used, and high-flying, action set-pieces, and sort of getting rid of the old-school, classy-way that Bond usually does his line of business. However, as much as I agree with that statement, I can definitely say that some of that is true because it is a very gritty, actiony thrill-ride that delivers more action than it deserves class, but at least it had the classic, Bond class. This film, somehow, doesn’t even seem to really have that. It goes on and on and on with Bond killing almost every single person that walks into his way, without him ever getting a chance to ask question them or interrogate them in any way possible, and to top that off, the story makes no sense despite picking right up 5 minutes after the first-one ended.

In a case like this, I think it’s easy to blame the writers, the producers, and the companies who were behind this movie, but I think the one to really blame is Foster of all people. For people who don’t know who the hell Marc Forster is, well, let’s just say that he’s a guy that’s most known for directing character-based dramas like Stranger than Fiction, Monster’s Ball, and the Kite Runner, among others. To be honest, the only type of action that happens in any of those movies is when Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton decide to get down and dirty, late one night, so why the hell would they decide to give this guy a Bond movie that’s all about guns, cars, violence, girls, and Bond? Seriously, it’s not like the guy does a terrible job or anything, it’s just that it’s pretty obvious that the guy brings nothing new to the table in terms of action or story-development, and instead, has this movie come off like a failed-attempt at trying to create a Bond spin-off for a far, far away future. It’s no surprise that this guy’s screwing up World War Z now, because he sure as hell came close to screwing this one up, big-time.

But as much as I may get on Forster’s case, and this movie’s case, I can’t lie anymore because I really did have a fun time with this flick and all of it’s action. Some of the set-pieces are a bit unbelievable and ridiculous, but you know what? So were some of the ones in Casino Royale and that’s what sort of made me love that movie even more, so I can’t really get on this film for all of that crap either. At the end of the day, it’s still a James Bond movie that definitely features plenty of thrills worthy of seeing and worthy of being in a Bond movie, and even though they sure as hell aren’t as memorable as Bond playing poker, they sure as hell keep your attention on the screen for as long as it can.

And come to think of it, as much as this film may not be worthy of his skills, Daniel Craig still kicks plenty of ass as Bond and shows us exactly why he was chosen for this role in the first-place. Craig, no matter what all the haters may say, just has this dirty and tough look to him that makes you scared for the baddies that go up against him in brawls, but also has this charming and swift look that makes you feel like he is the coolest guy in the room, and definitely the type of guy you would go up to and try to conversate with, but no words would come out because he is simply that cool and intimidating. Maybe I put too much thought into this guy’s look and role, but I don’t care, because Craig is awesome.

Olga Kurylenko plays his “Bond girl” and is alright for the most part, even though she really has nothing to work with here other than a forced, sympathetic-route her character takes. I just want to know why the hell Craig doesn’t bone her, instead, goes off to bone Gemma Arterton as some red-headed, secret-spy that shows up for 5 minutes, gets laid, and is practically gone from the rest of the movie after that. I mean you put them side-by-side, Olga definitely takes the cake and it’s a shock to me that Bond would make a silly-mistake like this. Once again, gotta blame it on Forster. That guy should know Bond, and Bond’s taste in women. Damn you!

Matthieu Amalric plays Greene, the typical Bond-villain that we need in these movies to make it work and although he does what he can, the character is too thinly-written. It’s a good thing that Greene isn’t your typical Bond-villain, where all he does is twirl his mustache and hat and make huge, unbelievable promises of destroying the world around him, however, I felt like we sort of needed that in order to hate this guy even more and actually feel scared for Bond. Yeah, Greene does do some bad things, but never to the point of where I felt like Bond needed him to kill him right-away, or else all hope was lost. Also, the guy was a bit of a softy and I even think M could have kicked his ass, just as much as Bond could have.

Consensus: Quantum of Solace is definitely fun, entertaining, and a relatively mediocre addition to the Bond series, but still feels like it should have been so much more, instead of just settling for typical, action-thriller conventions, two-dimensional characters, and choices that seem to come from a place that isn’t all about Bond, and more about making a lot of money and making it quick. Hey Hollywood, news flash for ‘ya: It’s a James Bond movie, therefore, it’s already going to make a shit-load of moolah at the box-office. Now shut up, and let James get back to work!

7/10=Rental!!

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Everything Must Go (2011)

Ron Burgundy really does love Scotch.

The story revolves around Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell), a career salesman who gets fired, for falling off the wagon one last time. He returns home to discover his wife has left him, kicked him out of his own house and dumped all his possessions out on the front yard. Faced with his life imploding, Nick puts it all on the line – or more properly, on the lawn – reluctantly holding a yard sale that becomes a unique strategy for survival.

Anybody coming into this film expecting, yet another, yuckfest from Ferrell will probably be let-down right off the bat. However, if you’re going into this expecting another Stranger Than Fiction, you will probably get what you want, without the Emma Thompson narration.

This is a very impressive debut from Dan Rush because he initially takes a simple story of a guy, who is down-on-his luck and suffering from alcoholism, and gives it a fresh and lighter approach to make this story more interesting. I don’t want to go out there and say this is a comedy per se, but there are quite a bunch of humorous moments that work and bring a light feel to this film even when it steps into darker territory. This darker territory worked though because you actually feel for Nick and all of the problems that he’s going through, so when you see him getting the temptation of getting a drink, you can’t help but feel scared for the guy and hope that he doesn’t do what you think he’s about to do. Rush does a very good job at actually making us care for this character and his life, even though, deep down inside, he is a very sad and lonely man that can’t really be cured of his problems unless he cures himself.

Where the film really got me at was how Rush makes this story a lot more touching than I actually expected. The whole theme with this story is about how we are all lonely people in this world, and we somehow need to connect with others in order to feel less lonely. It’s a very real theme and one that works well for this movie’s subject matter, but what really had me going were some of the scenes that Rush puts in here that work and make you feel something. One scene in particular is when Nick goes to visit an old girlfriend, played by the stunning Laura Dern, and the whole scene is on for about 2 minutes but it’s the most touching and realistic scene of the whole flick that makes you realize; “maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all”. Really nice touch by Rush and also, especially by Dern.

The film does have its problems though, especially when it came to its metaphors. I knew exactly what the film was going for and what it was trying to say, but sometimes this flick does hit us over the head a little too much with what it’s trying to throw at us. Scenes like when Nick is walking past a Quick Mart and keeps on staring at it, wanting a beer, or when his old boss leaves him a drink in the bathroom of a place and he’s there, contemplating on whether or not to drink it. Some of those scenes were pretty obvious and bothered me but thankfully, they aren’t all there. Also, the pacing can be a little slow and actually reminded me a bit of The Descendants, where I felt like the film started up, then slowed down, then started up, then slowed down, and continued to do the same thing for the whole time-limit. A little bothersome but when you think about the whole product, it’s pretty minor.

Most people will probably realize that this isn’t Will Ferrell playing his usual “Frank the Tank” roles and may even consider this stunt casting, but it’s so much better than that. Ferrell has the charisma in his acting to give such a dark character, more likability than he has any right to be. The character he’s playing, Nick, can be very mean, very drunk, and very sad but Ferrell is able to bring a lot of humanity and heart out of this guy without ever over-doing it. In fact, the moments where his character is barely saying anything, are still powerful just because Ferrell is able to convey so many emotions just by sitting there and looking lonely. Very subtle and very strong performance from Mr. Burgundy.

The rest of the cast that surrounds him is also pretty damn good such as Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie’s son) playing a young kid that decides to help Nick with his Yard Sale/life; Rebecca Hall as a pregnant, but lonely, housewife who misses her hubby; and the always reliable, Michael Peña as Nick’s sponsor. It’s a small cast but a very effective one at that.

Consensus: People expecting another Will Ferrell laugh-out-loud comedy will probably be disappointed, but anyone who wants a sad, but inspirational story, featuring plenty of touching moments and good performances from the cast, will probably feel happy with the final product they have here with Everything Must Go.

8/10=Matinee!!

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

I wish my life was narrated by some British chick. Actually come to think 0f it, scratch that.

As best-selling novelist Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) struggles with how to kill off her main character, IRS auditor Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) begins hearing her voice in his head and slowly realizes that he must stop his own death. Crick’s world turns upside down as he tries to persuade Kay to change the ending of her novel, all while getting closer to a quirky baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal) he’s auditing. Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah co-star.

Since the new best thing for Will Ferrell is coming out this Friday, The Other Guys. I’d thought it was time to look at a film that people basically forgot about because Ferrell isn’t his crazy self.

The best thing about this film is it’s screenplay is very rich and original. It’s a mixture between comedy, drama, and a little hit of romance, and all of it works. The comedy is smart, it’s not flat-out in your face, and sometimes its a lot more dark than you would expect. The drama works so well here, because it makes you think about life. Are we destined to be killed, and we just don’t know it, or are we bound to change it? Those questions are raised as well as others, about making life something that it should be, filled with happiness, and beauty.

Although I liked the screenplay and thought it was witty, I felt like it showed and told us too much. The final 20 minutes are effective, but it gives too much away, shows us whats to happen, and we don’t guess what’s going to happen next, and we’re just waiting for it to happen. Also, like Harold’s life, the film can’t decide whether it’s a comedy or tragedy. The film leans more towards a comedy in a way, but it doesn’t feel that way at all, especially towards the end.

Will Ferrell will disappoint a lot of fans with this performance, but here he is still funny. Although he’s calm, relaxed, and subtle, he is still funny just not the center of attention, and more of the center of all the jokes. His character goes through a huge transition, and it’s a very easy character to like, and watch as his life changes. The rest of the cast is where the humor lies, and it’s all in good hands. Dustin Hoffman seems like he’s having a fun time as this cooky, but intelligent literary writer. Queen Latifah isn’t given that much to work with, but she takes advantage of her time on screen. Maggie Gyllenhaal is funny, but true, and her romance that develops with Ferrell is funny, but never forced, and likable. Emma Thompson knocks her performance out of the park, as the writer with writer’s block. She’s funny, but it’s also great to see how tragic her life is, compared to Harold’s, and how both of them play it off.

Consensus: For some, it will seem to sappy and undecided of what it wants to be, but Stranger Than Fiction breathes air into a new taste of story-telling, with its original story, and great performances, especially a toned-down Will Ferrell.

8/10=Matinee!!