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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Tara Fitzgerald

Una (2017)

We’ll always have Junior year.

Una (Rooney Mara) arrives at a warehouse one day, looking for an older man by the name of Ray (Ben Mendelsohn). But why? Turns out, the two had something of a relationship when she was 13 and it lead to him not only being incarcerated, but even let out, forced to become a sex-offender, and move on with a different life, name, and in another part of the country. However, he wasn’t able to get away from Una, and on this one fateful day, where it seems like corporate has come in and promised to make cuts on certain employees, Ray doesn’t really have much of any time for this. But it also gets him wondering if he still loves Una for the little girl that she was and the awfully ruined and disturbed one that she is today. After all, he’s moved on and married, whereas she’s a drug and sex-addict, who seems to be using it all to mask her pain. Will she ever get over him? Will he ever get over her?

“So, uh, we doing this?”

The original play in which Una is based-off of, Blackbird, is a very interesting, riveting and smart piece of writing. It’s all in one room, with literally only two characters, yelling and speaking to one another and never losing sight of the heart and humanity in the desperation of these two lives. It’s why bringing the stage to the screen, can be a bit problematic.

Cause sure, while it would have been nice to have Mara and Mendelsohn in one room, doing the same thing that the play did, it’s different here, as director Benedict Andrews has a lot more time and money to work with. Meaning, he now gets the opportunity to tell the story in different ways, go to different places, and do whatever he wants with it, so long as he keeps the heart and sadness of the original. And while he definitely gets a bit too ambitious, who cares?

The heart and the sadness is still there and that’s all that matters.

Also what matters, is that we have two of the best actors working today, together and playing ridiculously challenging characters that we don’t get to see too often on the big-screen. Though her British-accent is a little wary, Mara is great as the lonely, self-destructive and beautiful Una; there’s always a huge frown on her face and you can never get past the fact that she’s lived a hard life where she doesn’t know if she’s loved, or ever will be again. Though we get tons of flashbacks to help us see what happened with the supposed “relationship” she had with the much-older Ray, the movie didn’t need it, as we can clearly see through the  long, winding and tearful eyes of Mara. It’s one of her more disturbing and compelling performances, yet, because of the small-distribution of the film, many won’t see it.

Clearly doesn’t stick out in a warehouse full of hot, sweaty men.

But they should. Not just for her, either, as Mendelsohn, as expected, gives another one of his great performances as a truly despicable, yet somehow, also somewhat sympathetic guy who knows the mistakes he’s made and does what he can to get past it. The movie paints him in a challenging light, where we never know if he’s truly just a dirt-bag, or a guy who actually fell deeply in love with a 13-year-old; by the end of the movie, we’re still not sure. What we are sure of is that Mendelsohn, once again, gives us a person we love to have, but hate to love, and it’s why it’s always a treat seeing him on the big-screen.

Together, the two create something of a tragic relationship that the movie tries to move around and make more difficult with subplots about big corporations, scandals, courtrooms, and family-dramas, but at the center of it all, is these two and they are what’s worth watching above all else. Andrews direction, mind you, should also be noted for the fact that the movie’s quite sleek and beautiful, but in a rather gritty way that never lets you forget about the darkness surrounding each of these character’s lives, whether they want to see it or not. The movie never lets us forget that, while we are seeing something of a love story, we are also seeing a story about two sad lives, who were once happy, in love, and together, were taken apart and had their lives ruined forever, because of it.

Is it a true love story? Honestly, who knows. And that’s the small, unfortunate beauty of Una.

Consensus: Anchored by two amazing performances from Mendelsohn and Mara, Una‘s a sad, honest, and rather frank tale of love, tragedy, sex, pedophilia, and romance, that sometimes gets a bit too carried away with other subplots, but almost doesn’t matter when the core-material is this compelling.

8 / 10

Kiss! Or don’t! I don’t know what I want!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Legend (2015)

Evil twin brothers aren’t just horror cliches, but actual, real life things?

Reggie and Ronald Kray (Tom Hardy) are literally identical twins who couldn’t be anymore different. Well, actually, that’s a lie. While they both handle themselves in certain public, as well as business situations differently, they both share the same love and need for violence, money and power. However, despite this shared interest, Reggie and Ronald don’t always see eye-to-eye. Reggie is the more calm, understated one of the two, whereas Ronald is clearly mentally-challenged, awkward and a nervous-wreck. While Reggie knows that his brother is a dangerous nut case to have around, he’s still, after all, his brother. That means that, no matter what idiotic, downright evil mistakes Ronald makes, Reggie always sticks to his brother’s side. Even though by doing so, it not only costs him respect, his marriage to his sweetheart Frances (Emily Browning), and his sanity, Reggie continues to stay at his brother’s side. Eventually though, all of this gets to be a bit overbearing for Reggie and it soon starts to ruin just about every aspect of his life; which isn’t something that’s happening to Ronald because, quite frankly, he’s not all that there to begin with.

That's Ronnie.

That’s Ronnie.

There truly is an interesting movie to be made about the notorious Kray Twins, and some of it can be found in Legend. While the movie runs 131 minutes, there’s at least an hour and five minutes of a movie that realizes it’s dealing with two ultra-violent, twisted gangsters who, believe it or not, just so happened to be identical twins. The other half of the movie, well, thinks it’s something a whole lot more serious and melodramatic which, really, it doesn’t need to be.

But before I go any further it should be noted that no matter where Legend goes, or what it tries to do, Tom Hardy is nothing short of amazing.

This may come as no surprise to anyone who has been seeing the evolution of Tom Hardy’s career as he’s went from small, British character actor, to huge, charismatic, fun and lively leading-man who’s not only great-looking, but also can command the screen. And as both of the Kray twins, Hardy is given the rough task of having to play two different characters, while simultaneously making us believe that we’re not just watching Tom Hardy act as twins and get past some of the camera-trickery that director Brian Helgeland pulls off. This is all made harder by the fact that, personalities aside, the only discernible physical traits that separate the two from one another is that Ronald wears glasses, and Reggie doesn’t.

But still, Hardy’s more than up to the challenge and making these characters feel entirely separate from one another. Though, perhaps what helps Hardy out the most is that Ronald is a whole lot more sadistic and over-the-top than Reggie, which means that Hardy has an absolute blast with this role. Every time Ronald’s in the movie, he’s constantly saying weird stuff, making everybody around him generally uncomfortable, and always making it seem like if someone were to say something that ticked him off ever so slightly, it would just set him off into a rage where anyone and everyone were in danger of losing their lives, or a limb with a hammer. Hardy makes this character, although fun and entertaining to watch, genuinely scary as you never know when the light in his head is going to set off.

This is also to say that Ronald, the character, is also all the more interesting and probably the best part of the movie.

Not only was he a gangster who was, in a day and age when this was never even talked about, openly gay, clearly mentally challenged, but at the same time, still sophisticated enough that he could handle on a conversation with just about anyone. Sure, those conversations tended to get weird and awkward, but they still shed some insight into just how this man thought and what he brought to the gangster world. Honestly, I wouldn’t have much rather seen a film about him, rather than been bothered so much with Reggie’s life, but sadly, this isn’t really the movie we get.

That's Reggie.

That’s Reggie.

Instead, we see Reggie’s life play out, as he not only meets the love of his life, gets married, and continues to try and stay alive and prosperous in the gangster world. It’s a pretty conventional story-line that most gangster flicks in the same vein and while it can sometimes work because Browning and Hardy are good together, here, considering the interest and excitement level there is Ronald, it tends to just bring the rest of the film down. Not to mention that we didn’t really even need a voice-over from Browning’s character practically the whole time, especially since she just tends to spell everything out that we can clearly see on the screen, happening in front of us.

But still, there are bits and pieces of Legend that are fun and show that Helgeland did set-out to make an entertaining gangster flick.

However, they’re mostly concerning Ronald, which makes just about everything that doesn’t concern him, uninteresting and seem like a waste of time. Not to mention that, like I said before, the movie is over two hours and starts to feel like it when the movie loses focus and instead, just wants to give us more scenes to sit, gaze and wonder how and why there is someone as talented as Tom Hardy in the movie world.

Which definitely is a good question to ask because, yes, Tom Hardy is a great actor and so is everyone else who pops up here. Paul Bettany, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccelston, David Thewlis, and Chazz Palminteri all show up to do their actorly things and make Legend appear to be more than just a huge showcase for the talents of Hardy. Once again, that’s fine and all, but why isn’t the movie better?

Consensus: There’s no denying that Tom Hardy is great and a force to be reckoned with in Legend, but there’s also no denying that the movie he’s in is a bit messy, boring, and most of all, uninterested in probably what would have made the movie more of a compelling watch.

6 / 10

And that's somebody that we don't really care about.

And that’s somebody that we don’t really care about.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Child 44 (2015)

Hey guys? Don’t forget to feel bad for Communists, too.

In the early 1950’s, during Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union, MGB Agent and war hero Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) discovers that there’s a series of child-murders occurring in the area that nobody’s really paying attention to. But before he can ever get a chance to bring it to his superiors and going ahead with the investigation, his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), is accused of being disloyal to the government and giving certain secrets away. Though Leo is not currently happy with his wife, he still sticks by her because he loves her and that’s what a husband ought to do. Problem is, this puts him the same problems that she’s in, which then has them demoted to a militia position in the gritty, rusted and ragged town of  Volsk. Here, Leo is under the command of General Nesterov (Gary Oldman), who doesn’t know whether or not he can trust Leo, but knows that they’re both fighting the same battle as they discover, yet again, another dead boy by the side of the train-tracks. With Nesterov’s approval, Leo sets out on his own adventure to discover who this killer is and stop him before he takes anymore victims.

How on Earth does a movie with the likes of Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Jason Clarke, Charles Dance, Vincent Cassell, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, and hell, Gary Oldman only get $600,000 on its opening weekend? Though I understand that not all of these names are household ones that could most definitely open up to heavy-hitting box-office runs, there’s still a part of me that wonders just why the hell something that attracts so much attention like this could go so far under the radar? Because even if a movie is bad, it’s not $600,000-bad, right?

Just think of the Drop.

Just think of the Drop.

Well, kind of.

See, the main problem with Child 44 is, despite the onslaught of talent in front of the camera, director Daniel Espinosa and screenwriter Richard Price can’t seem to make up their minds about what they want to do with this movie. Though I’ve never read the novel, I know that it’s quite long novel, and to try and condense it into a two-hour movie, may not have been the best choice – especially since what’s supposed to be the central plot-line of the story (serial killer on the loose), is basically an afterthought. This is alright if Espinosa and Price wanted to focus more on the paranoia that surrounded Russia during this time, but the two don’t even seem that interested in talking about that, either.

Instead, Espinosa is more interested in how bloody and violent he can make some of these sequences, which makes huge sense when you remember that this is the same guy who directed Safe House. That movie, just like this, was helped incredibly by the fact that there was some thought and care put into how the action-sequences were orchestrated and what effect they gave off to the audience; here, they seem spliced in as Espinosa couldn’t control his blood-loving urge. Price, on the other hand, is trying to make something of a meaningful drama, but once he realizes that Espinosa could care less, he basically gives up, too.

So basically, everybody involved with Child 44 gave up about half-way through.

Which would probably be a smart idea for the audience too, however, there seems to be a lot more of an effort from the rest of the cast. The only downside of having a cast this good, in a movie like this, is that they’re all disappointingly saddled with some terrible Russian-accents, which can sometimes vary from being okay, to downright indecipherable. There is some joy to be had in listening to these actors try their hardest to nail down the right tone for their ill-put accents, but it takes away from the movie; there’s so much going on, with random twists, turns and revelations coming at us every second, it’s hard to take note of them when there’s no clue of what the hell anyone is saying to begin with.

Or Lawless.

Or Lawless.

And don’t get me wrong, everybody tries. But when the movie that’s supposed to be aiding them, seems to have no idea of where to go, what’s the point? Tom Hardy seems the most interested out of everyone, and it’s only because of him that this movie stays watchable. While there’s something inherently flawed about how this guy goes through his day-to-day life in such a vicious and inhumane manner, it’s nice to see how he interacts and holds a relationship with his wife, as played by Noomi Rapace. Rapace and Hardy were great together in the Drop, which makes me wonder if they were filming both movies side-by-side and already knew which one to give most of their time and effort to. Though the Drop and Child 44 are two different movies, Hardy and Rapace are easily the main reasons to see both of movies, even if the former is at least four times better than the later.

And everybody else that isn’t Rapace or Hardy are, well, fine. Once again, they’re trying, too, but it goes nowhere to help them. Jason Clarke is in the movie for maybe five minutes and has the worst Russian-accent of them all (so yeah, good riddance); Joel Kinnaman’s character is such a one-note villain that, I imagine, it would have been hard for any skilled-actor to make something interesting out of this character than just a black heart, let alone Detective Holder; Vincent Cassell is, as expected, just evil; Paddy Considine is as weird and twisted as he’s supposed to be; and Gary Oldman shows up as the more sympathetic communist in the movie, even if he gets short-shifted being able to do anything more.

So in other words, watch for Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. Or, screw this movie altogether and watch a better flick containing the same combo: the Drop.

Or don’t do either. Suit yourself.

Consensus: Child 44, despite boasting an impressive cast, never gets itself together as too many strands of the plot come in, only to fall apart moments later, then start back up after someone’s blood is shed because it’s a movie about Russian communists.

3 / 10

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz