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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Tate Donovan

Blame (2018)

High school will never change.

Abigail (Quinn Shephard) returns to high school after a nervous breakdown and hopes to get everything back to normal. Of course, with this being high school, no one ever forgets about her and her crazy tactics, which is why, on the very first day, rumors are already swirling about her. One of the leaders in bringing up the rumors is Melissa (Nadia Alexander), a type of mean-girl who has some issues of her own, but uses her anger and rage to hide it all. But both of their lives change when a substitute teacher (Chris Messina) fills in for the semester and wakes both of them up. Abigail is awoken because she sees something of a tortured soul within him, whereas Melissa doesn’t like the attention that Abigail is getting and decides that it’s up to her to take matters into her own hands.

Damn cheerleaders and their cliques!

Blame, for all of its missteps and flaws, is still an impressive work because of its 22-year-old director/co-writer/editor/producer/star Quinn Shephard, who takes something that could have easily been a dumb, conventional after-school special, and turn into something raw, gritty, mean, and a little sad. It still feels like the work of someone incredibly young, who is just starting out and getting used to the game of making movies, but for the most part, it’s a solid debut and is a sure sign of things to come.

That said, the movie’s got some problems, and it mostly comes through in its plot. Mostly, Shephard likes to have a little bit too much going on; there’s Abigail’s story, there’s Melissa’s story, there’s the subsitiute teacher’s story, there’s a few other girls stories, there’s the Crucible, and oh yeah, there’s the various romantic subplots that come up every once and awhile. While all are interesting in their own rights, mashed-up in a 100 minute movie, it just doesn’t totally work, with some parts feeling much better than others.

Move on, girls. It gets better.

That said, there’s a realism to this that I appreciated, mostly because Shephard seems to know and understand how rough and grueling high school can be, especially when you’re a little different. Some of it may have to do with the fact that she’s young enough to remember high school like it was literally yesterday, but there’s no nostalgia or sunshine here – it’s just mean teenagers, treating each and everyone of each other awfully. Shephard doesn’t shy away from this, nor does she ever seem to be trying to get across some tacky message about bullying and why it’s all wrong.

Basically, she’s just showing us that high school is a pretty rough time and for some, she’s not wrong.

What helps this all out, too, is that the ensemble is all pretty good. Shephard herself is an interesting and compelling presence on the screen, who can get away with a lot, without saying much of anything at all; Alexander is rough, raw, and a little unlikable, until you realize that there’s possibly more behind her evil and possibly cruel intentions; and Messina, while playing a bit of a loser-like character, gains sympathy by showing us that he’s just as sad, confused, and depressed as the students he’s teaching and doing his best to put up with. The whole love-angle feels like it could have been more fully fleshed-out, but believe it or not, Shephard and Messina have a nice chemistry to where you see the attraction and possibly, love, but you also don’t want to buy into it, either.

So conflicting. Yet, so beautiful. High school, in a nut shell.

Consensus: As a debut, Blame serves as a promising, if also messy high-school drama that digs in deep and doesn’t shy away from the rougher aspects of adolescence.

6 / 10

Yes! But also, no! I don’t know! Ugh!

Photos Courtesy of: Samuel Goldwyn Films

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The Only Living Boy in New York (2017)

We all long for the New York City of the 50’s!

After graduating from college and moving into an apartment, young Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) doesn’t quite know what he wants to do just yet with his life. He’s at that age where he’s stuck, but also inspired and full of ambition, yet, at the same time, still left sitting down and wondering, “What’s the point?” With the help of his alcoholic neighbor (Jeff Bridges), he hopes to find out what his purpose in life is next, even if that means sleeping with his father’s mistress (Kate Beckinsale). Wait, what? Yep. For some reason, Thomas finds out that his father (Pierce Brosnan) isn’t just sleeping around, but sleeping around on his mother (Cynthia Nixon), who is sick and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Thomas is sad and confused, but mostly, he just wants to grow-up, even if that means taking up after his dad.

Yeah. Neither of these two are attractive. Like at all.

The good thing about the Only Living Boy in New York is that it’s just a tad bit over 85 minutes, making it a swift, quick, and meaningless little race of punishment. That said, the bad thing about the Only Living Boy is that it’s still painful to get through, regardless of how long or short it is, because as we all know with bad movies, it doesn’t matter how short they actually are, they always seem to go on forever. And ever.

And ever.

And that’s the problem with the Only Living Boy, it just never works. Director Marc Webb and writer Allan Loeb seem to be working on two different platforms in terms of how they want this story to play-out, or even what the hell it is. Webb’s a lot more grounded and subtle, whereas Loeb’s writing, when not overly-talky and silly, feels like a crazy piece of melodrama that loves long-winded monologues about the good old days of New York, love, marriage, and fine pieces of literature. The movie just never comes together in a seamless way and it’s a shame, because although Loeb has proven himself to be an awful writer, Webb’s better than this, as we saw not too long ago with Gifted.

That said, there’s no saving this sort of script. People go on and on, without making any sense, there’s barely any drama, and the characters, as thinly-written as they may be, don’t really register as actual characters, but as types. Callum Turner’s Thomas is a typical frustrated and confused young adult who, underneath the glasses and shaggy hair, is just another male model waiting to crawl out. Jeff Bridges’ alcoholic neighbor is just another one of those typically mysterious strangers, who has all of the answers and almost seems to be imaginary, until it turns out that he isn’t in the most silly fashion imaginable. And yeah, that’s about the same for almost everybody else.

All the ladies love the old Bond charm.

Save Kate Beckinsale’s Johanna who, honestly, both seem to deserve better than this.

For one, Beckinsale is a good actress who deserves better material to work with than whatever Loeb has here, but Johanna does give off some interest and promise every so often. She’s the typical hussy character who sleeps with married-men, doesn’t care, and is happy to just have money, fancy clothes, and a nice loft, but really, there’s a bit more to her. She’s sad, damaged, and in desperate need of some love – it’s not just about sex for her, it’s much more about actual human connection. It makes her surprisingly stronger of a character than you’d expect from something as dumb as this, but as I’ve said, it goes nowhere.

When your movie is so concerned with third-act twists about surrogate fathers and possible life-changers, who cares what’s interesting or not? You just want the movie to end. Which, eventually, the Only Living Boy does.

Not as quick as its run-time would suggest, however.

Consensus: Despite a cast that tries, the Only Living Boy in New York is poorly-written and chock full of melodrama that neither connects, nor ever seems to be an actual story.

3.5 / 10

“Let me tell you a story, about a house of blues.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Life’s a little sad. So just take the boat out.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) lives a pretty sad life. Most of the time, when he’s not cleaning out toilets, fixing sinks, or working on pipes in four apartment complexes, he’s spending most of the time drinking at the bar, getting drunk and starting brawls with people. However, his life is shaken-up a tad bit when his older brother (Kyle Chandler) dies of a sudden heart-attack, leaving Lee to pick up after his brother and become the legal guardian to the son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). This means that Lee has to return to his hometown, watch over Patrick for the time being, take care of his brother’s affairs and figure out where to go next. But there’s something going on deeper and darker underneath Lee that makes his travel back down memory lane a whole lot more disturbing and it involves his ex-wife (Michelle Williams), who is still reeling from the affects of a tragedy she and Lee both had gone through when they were together, some many years ago.

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has such a distinctive ear for dialogue, it’s a wonder why more of his movies haven’t worked. You Can Count on Me, while perhaps his most famous, is a good movie, that’s still outdone by its quirks and Margaret, even despite all of the setbacks and controversies during production, is still an uneven, overblown, and occasionally interesting movie that gets outdone by Lonergan not having enough focus. But here, all of those issues and problems there, seem to have gone away. Now, with Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan has found focus, he’s found humor, he’s found heart, he’s found self-control, and most importantly, he’s found a great cast who almost never let him down, or let-up in giving him the best that they can.

manchester2

Uh oh. Get the Kleenex ready, boys.

So, what the hell took so long?

Regardless of the “whys”, or “whos”, of that inane question, Manchester by the Sea is one of the better dramas I’ve seen in quite some time, but it isn’t quite what you’d think. Sure, it’s a little sad, it’s a little depressing and it’s definitely a little hard-to-watch, but all feels real, raw and gritty, to the point of where it never rings true or feels overdone. Rather than just making this a sad movie, about sad people, Lonergan finds smart, small and interesting ways to not just inject some humor into the proceedings, but also have us more interested in these characters in the first place.

Rather than just being a tale about sad people being sad, Lonergan takes it one, small step forward and shows us why they’re sad in the first place, how they cope with it all, how they get by, and most importantly, how they all connect with one another. Manchester by the Sea is one of the rare drama’s where you may actually get excited by the sight of watching a bunch of characters gather into one room and just speak to one another; Lonergan, despite a heavy theater background, knows how real people talk and express themselves, without ever seeming like he’s reaching too far and wide to show that. We could have all easily been turned off and away from this sad, repressed world that Manchester by the Sea shows us, but Lonergan does the smart thing in that he embraces it all and shows that, underneath all of the quiet, dark moments, there’s some light and love found in there, too.

Which is why Manchester by the Sea is far better than most indie dramas out there.

Sure, it embraces the darkness and sadness its characters represent, but also doesn’t just wallow in its own misery, either; the movie takes pride in building its characters, showing them for all that they are, and never passing any judgement. A movie like this, with these kinds of characters, could have easily came off as pandering, or even rude, but Lonergan seems to adore each and everyone of these characters, warts and all, that after awhile, it’s hard not to follow suit. They’re not all perfect, they’ve all got issues, they’ve all got benefits, and they’ve all something about them that’s just not, for lack of a better term, “troubling”, but then again, so does everyone on Earth. This idea that we’re actually sitting around, watching real life people, talk and engage with one another, makes it not just easier to relate to them all, but come closer and closer to loving them all, as well.

Ain't nothing like a brother's keeper.

Ain’t nothing like a brother’s keeper.

Oh and yeah, it helps that the ensemble is pretty amazing, too. Casey Affleck is a pretty great actor, but over the past few years, hasn’t quite shown it. He’s been a little out of the spotlight, occasionally popping up in supporting roles, or being giving leading roles without much mainstream appeal, but here, as Lee Chandler, he gets the best role of his career and he makes every second work. Right from the start, there’s something interesting about this guy that makes us want to see how he lives his life, how he talks to people and generally, how he gets by. Affleck shows us that there’s more to him than just this downtrodden and slightly alcoholic shadow of a man – he shows that there’s a living, breathing and feeling human being that wants so desperately to get by in life, but for reasons that come very clear to us in the middle of the movie, just can’t. It’s a raw, gritty performance that doesn’t always go for the big emotions, but when it does, Affleck shines through it all and shows that he’s dangerously on the cusp of breaking out for the whole world to know his name and face.

Why it hasn’t happened yet, is totally beyond me.

As his brother, Kyle Chandler makes the best of what he can, what with the flashback structure popping in and out whenever it wants. However, as much as flashbacks can sometimes ruin a flick and seem obvious, above all else, it works here and helps make us understand more about these characters, as well as Chandler’s dead brother-character, who we see as a loving, adoring brother who was always there for his little bro, even when it was nearly impossible to do so. Despite playing the conventional role of the angst-y teen, Lucas Hedges does a nice job as the orphaned nephew in that he shows us a kid trying to come to terms with his life, where it’s heading and exactly who his family is. He has a nice bit of chemistry with Affleck that shows that there is some sort of a relationship there, but still clearly needs to be worked on.

However, the real standout in maybe just four or five scenes is Michelle Williams, showing up occasionally as Affleck’s ex-wife. While it may surprise some that she’s not in here a whole lot, every scene that Williams gets, she makes count for all that it’s worth; she’s funny, smart and dramatic, sometimes, all at the same time. There’s one key scene late in the movie where her and Affleck’s run into one another on the streets and it’s hard-to-watch by how emotional it gets. It shows that as long as the material is there, you can give an actress a small role and watch her work wonders for the whole product.

Not that Manchester by the Sea needed much help in the first place, because it’s quite great, but it’s definitely nice to have.

Consensus: At times, it’s funny and light, others, it’s dark, dramatic and sad, but no matter what, Manchester by the Sea is an expertly crafted and acted character-piece about life, love, regret, family and heartbreak, without ever coming off as melodramatic as it may sound.

9 / 10

It's okay. Go crabbing. Feel better about yourself.

It’s okay. Go crabbing. Feel better about yourself.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Elvis & Nixon (2016)

Had this taken place today, imagine the selfies.

In December 1970, Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) was still considered “the King”, however, he didn’t want to be just that anymore. If anything, his one true dream was to become a CIA agent, where he would look over America and make sure all of the old past-times stayed put and that none of these hippy, flower-power children took over society. But in order to make all of his wildest dreams come true, he would have to be accepted into the CIA in the first place and, most importantly, have a chat with the one, the only, President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey). But even though he was the King and quite possibly, the most well-known and famous celebrity of all time, even Elvis himself couldn’t get into the White House with an appointment. So, in order to make sure that it all happened, he would need the help of a former friend/confidante of his, Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer), to make sure that all that everything went down all according to plan. Of course, though, because it’s the President, it’s a known fact that everything has to work out perfectly, with no surprises whatsoever. However, when you’re working with the King, anything can possibly happen.

He's lonely.

He’s lonely.

And yeah, the rest is obviously history.

It’s hard to imagine that a movie could be made about the infamous meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, two of the most iconic figures of the 60’s and 70’s, let alone, of all time. Of course, it was said to be a zany happening that nobody quite made sense of, yet, thanks to a photo and some speculation, we have a whole lot of odd history and yes, now even a movie made of the meeting and everything that went into it to make sure it all happened.

Did we really need one? Better yet, did we need an-hour-and-a-half one?

Probably not, but the best part about Elvis & Nixon is that it doesn’t strive to be anything more than what it is: The planning and eventual meeting of Elvis and Nixon. Director Liza Johnson does something smart in that she frames the story as this small, intricate little moment in history that didn’t really shake the world, change it, or make us all think of differently, but just make us think, “Well, how the hell did this actually happen?”, as well as, “Heck, what the hell even happened?”

Of course, a lot of what Elvis & Nixon does and says about the leading up to and the actual meeting itself, may be all bull-crap, but it makes for entertaining bull-crap that’s fun to watch. We don’t really need to know anything more about these two than what’s presented to us as is, and therefore, we sit, wait and wonder just when the two are going to meet, just what’s going to happen, and exactly what the heck Elvis himself was doing bringing guns into the White House after all.

Sure, you may not have these questions on your mind in the first place, or even care in the slightest, but Elvis & Nixon is the kind of movie that brings you into its story, whether you like it or not.

Then again, there is something to be said for the fact that the movie doesn’t seem to trust its two figure-heads quite enough to make this whole movie, their own, as there’s whole lot of attention paid to Alex Pettyfer and his character, Jerry Schilling. Yes, it’s to be said that Schilling played quite a big part in actually getting the two icons together on that one fateful day, but really, do we needed a whole subplot dedicated solely to him, his issues, and whether or not he’s going to make it home to Sky Ferreira? Not really, and while Pettyfer is fine in the role, it’s sort of thankless and doesn’t really seem like it matters in the long run.

He needs a badge.

He needs a badge.

Same goes for the likes of Johnny Knoxville, who gets one or two funny lines, but essentially, is just there to say somewhat perverted things and be the “comedic-relief”. And it’s a bit of a waste because, thanks to the likes of Colin Hanks, Evan Peters, Tate Donovan, Kevin Spacey, and Michael Shannon, the movie’s plenty funny. Why this character needed to be around, doesn’t really make much of sense to me and just seems like it takes up more unnecessary time in already very short movie.

But as is, thanks to Spacey and most importantly, Shannon, Elvis & Nixon works quite well.

Had the movie just been the two just them, sitting in the Oval Office, chatting it up, it probably would have been just as exciting. However, that doesn’t happen, but it doesn’t really matter; they’re both great, whether apart or together. Spacey may not seem like the right fit for Nixon, but fits into the role quite well, nailing all of the mannerisms that made Nixon himself such a character to watch. And then, yes, there’s Michael Shannon as Elvis, who is pretty great, showing us a humane King, that not only knows the limit of his ability as a superstar, but also realizes that the time has come for him to live a normal, everyday life as any other citizen. Elvis rarely gets the movie treatment, but here, it’s obvious that if they ever do give us another shot at watching Elvis’ story be filmed, Michael Shannon would be a perfect, if oddly unique choice to do it all over again.

Consensus: Surprisingly overstuffed for such a short movie, Elvis & Nixon isn’t perfect, but is funny, entertaining, and well-acted enough to work and make us think a little more about this odd slice of American pop-culture.

7 / 10

Together, they could be the bestest of pals.

Together, they could be the bestest of pals.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Good Night, And Good Luck (2005)

Television, where have you gone?

During the mid-1950s, there was a man by the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy who saw many people around him as “communists”. Those people he found to be affiliated with this political party, regardless as to whether or not he had substantial evidence, would be put on trial, questioned, manipulated and practically have their lives ruined, all without much grounds to stand on. Not many people liked to see this happen, however, not many people voiced their disapproval in hopes of not being considered a “communist” as well. There was one man, though, that saw wrong-doings being committed and he was a pretty well-known figure at the time, that definitely had enough power and respect within his own industry to where he could get in front of the television, speak out his mind and say what he has to say loud, proud, and in front of thousands, upon thousands all over the nation. That man, was Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), and he was more than willing to take on McCarthy and all of his fellow “red-baiters”; but, as most of us know when you’re taking on the bull, you’re going to eventually get the horns.

You have to hand it to George Clooney – when he isn’t being charming, swift, lovable and the coolest mofo on the face of this planet, he’s always finding a way to express himself in a way that makes us see him as more than just a pretty face, with a pair of fresh, shiny teeth. Sure, he’s got the looks to make it as an actor, and he’s definitely got the skills to make it as both an director and a writer, but believe it or not, the guy’s also got a pretty big head on his shoulders, with some very bright, very insightful ideas that he’s not afraid to let public to the rest of the world. In today’s day and age, where celebrities are getting all sorts of clatter for speaking out with whatever controversial opinion they may, or may not have, you have to give someone as famous, as well-known and as respected as George Clooney is to, most of the time, let everyone know what he thinks about where society is headed, and why he thinks it’s either in a good, or bad direction.

So much lung cancer.

So much lung cancer in that right room.

However, in this case, George comes down to the conclusion that we’re all going in the later-direction; don’t worry though, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as faint as it may be.

I guess what I am trying to get across here is that, as both co-writer and director, George Clooney definitely has a lot to handle in terms of giving us a real-life story, that mostly everybody knows about and, if we’re being brutally honest, may not be all that interesting to put to screen in a big, showwy way, with a whole bunch of familiar, attractive faces attached to the roles. But that problem soon goes away once we realize that not only does Clooney get past the problems of making a story as well-known like this, still interesting, but he also finds way to keep us entertained, while also informed on the side as well. For every point being made about how you should speak up for yourself, regardless of what others out there may be saying; there’s always a cool glance or two about how television during the 50’s was done, how a story was put-together, who it went through first and just why the ratings were so freakin’ crucial during that time. So for anybody who doesn’t give a lick about what Murrow may be saying about McCarthy and his “unjust allegations”, then have no fear, because there’s still plenty of people smoking, beautiful black-and-white cinematography to gaze, and plenty of lovely faces that all adapt quite well to the 50’s setting.

And the people that Clooney was able to get for this movie, including himself, all do amazing jobs with what they’re given, even though it’s fairly clear that their characters come second to whatever message Clooney wants to get across. There’s nothing all that wrong with that since that message is exactly why Clooney is making this film, but in the case of Murrow, you get the idea that we never get to know who this person really was, behind the camera and dead-pan tone; we just know that he’s a patriot and sticks to everything he says, no matter how many times people spit in his face about it (figuratively, not literally). Maybe that wasn’t Clooney’s point, but it does create a bit of a distance between us and Murrow, especially once we realize that it’s his story that really matters most, even despite all of the Left-Wing propaganda Clooney is shoveling down our throats (in a good way, I promise).

But it’s easy to get past this problem with Murrow, as well as every other character here, solely due to the fact that the people in these respective roles are great and can do efficient work, when given the shot to. David Strathairn really excels here at giving us more than just a simple impersonation of the man we all know, and delivers each and every single speech with passion in his heart, and a fire in his eyes, without ever showing too much emotion or feeling in the process; except only to smoke and inhale, that is. It’s surprising to see someone as notable as George Clooney take on the type of role that would have been perfect for a “character actor”, but he works pretty damn fine as Fred Friendly, giving us a restrained, off-to-the-side performance we don’t usually see from him. Then again though, this is his movie, so maybe he didn’t want to be hogging-up the spotlight a bit too much now, eh?

Everybody else is great too, and shows you that Clooney himself probably picked each of these people so damn delicately, right down to the very bone of the role. Frank Langella has a few, wonderful scenes as the chief executive of CBS, William Paley, the man who practically runs the whole show, but never censors Murrow one bit, giving him a clear-conscience in the name of journalism; Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. show up and add some much-needed heart and humor to the proceedings as a married-couple trying not to get caught actually being married, due to it being against CBS policy; Jeff Daniels is clearly having a ball in his few scenes as Frank Stanton, another one of Murrow’s bosses who doesn’t like everything that goes down, but is still there to stand by and watch the fire-works occur; and lastly, Ray Wise does a pretty efficient job as Don Hollenbeck, CBS’s evening-news reporter who you just feel so bad for once you see him, and never lose a single ounce of sympathy for, all because you can tell this is clearly too much for him.

Basically, from the look, to the acting, to the setting; there’s clearly a little something for everyone here, and I think that’s where Clooney really excels at the most.

He gives us a story that is as thought-provoking now, as it might have been nearly 50 years ago, but not without giving those some moments where they can at least be interested in seeing why all of this matters, and how we, as a society, are being affected by all of this today. Because, once you think about it, Murrow isn’t just standing-up for his own right to free speech, but for all of ours as well. He does this in hopes that it will not only translate to news being spread more rapidly, but that we, as viewers, consumers and citizens, will grow smarter and more aware as to what is really out there, and what the truth is lying behind most controversies we see out there.

Aka, a total dick.

Aka, a total dick.

What all of this really comes down to is whether or not we’ve learned from our past mistakes, and if we’ve moved on to informing those in the best, clearest ways possible. Have we? I don’t know. The state of television surely isn’t a pretty one today, with the likes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or 16 & Pregnant, or even an easy target like Jerry Springer, not only taking up most of our television-screens, but our day as well as our head-space, and sadly to say, it seems like it will never end. Are these shows entertaining? Sure, why not! However, can they, or better yet, are they only made to as Murrow himself would say, “distract, delude, amuse and insulate” us? I definitely think so! Now, would Murrow, had he been alive today, be at all pleased with that?

Honestly, I do not think so, but Clooney isn’t trying to beat that horse over the head with a hammer that’s nearly about to break; instead, he’s just trying to show us that television, like all news formats, can still be important, interesting and worth watching. Though the art of journalism itself has definitely lost some credibility over the years, and in ways, changed its own meaning, it’s still out there for us to read, see or hear about, and rather than just sitting on our pie-holes and listening to what other’s are telling us what to think, we should be out there, right now, allowing ourselves to speak freely and make up our own mind about whatever feels right for us. Who cares what those over-paid, sponsored-up hacks from ABC have to say, go with what you think and never let your own opinion, no matter how unpopular or popular it may in fact be, get shut-down. Stick to your guns, speak your mind and never let go of your stance. If you can do this and keep to it, then you’re only influencing others to do the same, and therefore, continuing on the cycle of people thinking, speaking for, and overall, just being themselves.

Now that is something I feel as if Murrow would be quite pleased with.

Consensus: Smart, well-crafted and powerful in the message it’s trying to get across about the future state of television and information, Good Night, And Good Luck is basically a history-lesson with many attractive, talented people giving it to us, but it’s never a boring one, or one that rings false. Just sticks straight to the facts, much like Edward R. Murrow himself.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If this guy doesn't make you want to start smoking and speaking about politics, I don't know who will. Surely not Glenn Beck!

If this guy doesn’t make you want to start smoking and speaking about politics, I don’t know who will. Surely not that joke Glenn Beck!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Shooter (2007)

I thought all snipers had to do was just sit there, hold their breath, and shoot. That’s it.

Marksman Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) leaves the Army after a mission of his goes bad. After he is reluctantly pressed back into service, Swagger is double-crossed once again, but this time: it’s a tad bit more serious. With two bullets in him and the subject of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger begins his revenge, which will take down the most powerful people in the country, even leading him back to that fateful incident where he was initially screwed-over in the first place.

No matter what action movie you venture out or stay inside to see, chances are; you’re going to get nothing but sure, mindless entertainment with a few, but also very little surprises. That’s just the way the movie-world works and as fine with that as I may be, sometimes, there are just some cases where I can’t turn my brain off anymore. Sometimes, I just gotta let loose. Sometimes, I just gotta let a movie have it. Sometimes, is one of those times right now!

Antoine Fuqua may not have the best track-record out there, but still a guy that I have enough faith in when it comes to action, using it right, and using it to his advantage, and for the most part; is actually what kept this film alive and well when it seemed to hit some dead ends. The action starts off fine and kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat a couple of moments, especially one car-chase scene that went all throughout the “fine” streets of Philadelphia. First of all, being a homeboy of Philly, I was happy to see my town be in a big-budget action pic where the streets were used perfectly and also, it was just a fun little piece of action that this film seemed like it needed to enhance and mostly, keep our minds off of the “plot”. I use that term “plot”, very loosely.

I guess she was making breakfast...

I guess she was making breakfast…

Most action pics are stupid. Duh, we all know that. But this one was a little TOO stupid for me to even have fun and enjoy at points. The whole idea that these dudes would just come up to a guy, have him come out of a life of solitude, and proposition an assassination attempt, without him ever gettin’ the willies from the guys, just really surprises me since I knew if I was in that situation, I would know something was fishy right away. Also, isn’t Marky Mark supposed to be a trained marksman that excels in this type of shit? Just a thought. So there we go, the beginning of this story already had me annoyed but it just continues to get worse and worse as more of these plot twists begin to unravel. I’m all down for plot twists when they make a story more interesting, but there were plot twists within the plot twists happening here and after awhile it became more laughable than actually entertaining. Then again, maybe “laughable” and “entertaining” go hand-in-hand in ways, too. Either way, something just was not clicking with me here and slowly, but surely, the movie started to lose me.

Then, the story continues to get worse as, for some freakin’ odd reason, they decide to get all political with our simple, action movie watching asses. Throughout the whole film, there is this under-lining theme of corrupt politicians that runs throughout and doesn’t come on strong until the very end where it all comes together (I think?). The whole movie plays out like a slight-thriller, with action elements, but then changes into where we’re supposed to feel of this as some sort of morality piece. I mean when I watch my dumb-ass action movies, don’t try to bog me down with a bunch of political themes that could be very present in today’s day and age. Why? Well because, I don’t give much of a shit about all that! That’s why I came here: to see Marky Mark get a sniper and start blowin’ people’s heads off left-and-right, not to understand what our dirty politicians are doing to poorer, foreign countries out there. Maybe for a different flick that may be the topic of the day, but not for this one.

Speaking of Marky Mark Wahlberg, say what you will about him, but the guy does do his best with every piece of material he’s given. The guy is a bona-fide star because he can take these shitty, action scripts and actually give them something more to hold onto because there is just something there with him and his charisma that works. However, I think his role as Bob Lee Swagger was the true point where I see him being a bit too dull for my liking. This guy, Swagger (what a cooooool name!), has a lot going for him that he’s one of the toughest mofos out there and can shoot just about anything that walks from a pretty sexy distance. However, this guy doesn’t really seem like he’s all that tough to begin with. Yeah, he shoots people and yeah, he kills them but what else can he really do? The guy barely has a personality and as much as he tries, Wahlberg can’t seem to really give him one. Wahlberg tries so, so, so hard with this role but in the end, it just comes off as another one of his dull, action-hero performances. Maybe that’s the script’s fault, and maybe it isn’t. Regardless, the two weren’t coming together and making sense.

"Just kill this dude. Okay? Good. That's all, now go home."

“Just kill this dude. Okay? Good. That’s all, now go home.”

The one who actually showed some real personality with his character was Michael Peña as the field agent that has nothing else really going for him, except for Swagger and finding out what’s getting jiggy with him. No matter what, you got to love Peña for what he is able to do with all of his roles and it’s great to see him have a bunch of fun with a character that is essentially one, big, effin’ cliche. The guy deserves all of the praise he’s been getting for awhile, and I think it’s time he just about broke out of that shell, and into our laps. If that makes any possible sense whatsoever.

Then, on the flip-side of the coin, you got Ned Beatty and Danny Glover as the two, terribly-corrupt government workers that just ooze evil in every scene. Both are good and show that they can work with a shitty script but after awhile, they’re evilness began to get ridiculous and over-played, almost to where it seemed very unbelievable that they would be at all nice or humane to the ones around them, let alone to each other. Oh, and then you got Kate Mara as Swagger’s old-partner’s wife. She definitely had a cute look to her but the way her character just lets Swagger into her life without ever knowing or seeing him ever before, did seem a bit unbelievable. Once again, another part of this story that seemed stupid, but was somehow needed to move the story right on along.

Consensus: Though Shooter is a loud, dumb, and stupid action thriller that makes no apologies for what it does, it somehow still comes off as a terribly-written piece of work that does nothing other than pull out a bunch of incomprehensible plot twists, only to add more confusion on to the final-product, that was already struggling as it was.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"You better say hello to ya motha for me."

“You better say hello to ya motha for me.”

Argo (2012)

See, Star Wars really did save people’s lives.

The movie is on the true story of a secret 1979 CIA mission during the Iran Hostage crisis in which six diplomats are rescued through a bizarre extraction plan involving a fake Hollywood film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film named “Argo.” Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the real-life CIA exfiltration expert who came up with the idea in the first-place and has to find the strength and courage to go through with it.

Believe it or not, that silly-ass plot synopsis up there is a real-life account on a secret CIA mission that took place during 1979 to 1980 and may have you think, “just how the hell did the government trust Hollywood with saving the lives of six people?” Well, the truth is that Hollywood is good for many things, and not only is saving the lives of six people one of them, but reviving Mr. Ben Affleck’s career as well.

As director, Ben Affleck is basically three-for-three (Gone Baby Gone and The Town are his two other flicks), but this one is slightly different from those other ones as he is actually stepping out of his friendly-streets of Bawhstan, and upping his game by focusing on something bigger, and a lot larger-scale than from what we usually expect from this guy. The look and feel of this movie just put me right into a late 70’s/early 80’s vibe that not only set me in the right-mood, but never rang a single false-note to me whatsoever, even with all of the goofy mustaches, cars, and hair-do’s running around all-over-the-place.

But what really came as a total shock to me is how Affleck was not only make me feel like I was exactly right there with him in America during this time-period, but also made me feel like in the chaotic shit-hole of Iran during this time as well, and damn, was it freakin’ scary. Right from the start, we are put in this area of Iran that is just full of chaos and on the verge of collapsing, and Affleck shows this perfectly by splicing together his footage, with actual-footage taken at this time to create a realistic, if even scarier view-point of the setting where our main-story takes place in. It’s not only great in it’s realistic/very detailed look, but also how we are able to draw the similarities between the Middle East and the West’s relationship with one another, to then, and how almost nothing has changed whatsoever in the thirty-plus years since this whole “Argo” mission went down.

However, it’s not all about making a point and showing off the politics with Affleck, it’s more about the whole mission itself and that’s where most of the fun of this movie came from. The first hour or so where we are left following Affleck as he tries his damn near hardest to make this fake-movie every bit of legit as he can, is the most entertaining aspect of this whole movie, not just because it takes a lighter, and slightly, more humorous approach than the rest of the film, but because it shows you just how hard it is to actually get something made in Hollywood, regardless of whether it’s the next masterpiece or not. But, all of the hootin’ and holler soon starts to go away once the real plot of this movie kicks in, and that’s where I really started to feel the tension go up my spine and get the goosebumps working. This is where Affleck shines the most, by showing how capable he is of making you sweat your ass off, with every single, tense second that goes by. It’s worked in his other two films, and it sure as hell works here but not as perfectly.

The reason why the whole suspension of this film doesn’t work as well as Affleck’s last, two movies, is because we already know the story going on and if you haven’t already known, chances are, you’re going to be able to tell how it ends. Then again, that’s sort of the basis for all movies out there but when you have a movie that puts the whole aspect of itself, on the fact that you have to feel all tense and worked-up to really enjoy the whole movie, then you kind of have to wonder just when this movie’s time is up. I don’t know want to say that it got to that point for me, but there was a very heart-breaking point where I realized that, “okay, I already know what’s going to happen, so why the hell is Affleck wasting my time with all of these slow scenes and epic score bits?” But, I don’t want to give anything else away and trust me, if you don’t know the story going in, be ready, cause you may already know it from start-to-finish about half-way through. I did, and I think that’s where this film sort of failed in captivating me as much as I would have liked it to.

Then, it seems to get worse for Affleck as the guy doesn’t really stand-out as much with his performance as Tony Mendez. The problem with Mendez isn’t Affleck’s acting, in-fact, the guy’s pretty good when it comes to him showing his near-perfect comedic timing, as well as showing us a character that’s easy to root for, even when the odds are stacked up in his defense, more of the problem is that this character just doesn’t have much going for him that’s interesting or worth really standing behind in the first-place. Yeah, the guy singlehandedly comes up with this plan and is brave enough to go out there and finish it off himself, but he doesn’t really have much of anything else going for the guy. This is fairly evident when the film tries to shoe-horn the whole angle with him and how he misses his son and wife, even though they touch on it for about 6 minutes throughout the whole film, and then at the end, is supposed to have some big, emotional impact on us as we walk out the door. No, no, mister Ben. Not falling for it this time.

Then again, you have to give Affleck more credit because this even and plain performance, almost allows him to take a side-step to the left for the rest of his ensemble to show off and do their own thang unlike anybody else. Bryan Cranston shows up in his 100,000th movie role this whole year as Tony’s boss, and nails all of the snappy dialogue they give him, and his angry soul. I was hearing a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding Cranston and his role here and as good as the guy may be, I don’t really see it all that much since he’s not really stretching his skills as an actor by just yelling and looking mad all of the time. Still, it’s an act that I have yet to be tired of. Alan Arkin is also another guy that’s been getting a lot of buzz for his role here as big-shot, Hollywood producer, Lester Siegel. This buzz is deserved but I don’t really see Arkin getting a nomination, mainly because the guy doesn’t do anything else other than yell, scream, holler, and rant like the old man we all know and hopefully, love him for. Then, there’s John Goodman as real-life make-up artist John Chambers, who also seems to be having a lot of fun with his role and steals a lot of the scenes he’s in. However, the rest of the supporting cast is just filled, and filled, and filled to the brim with actors/actresses that you have most likely seen in about 1,000 other movies and when you see their faces pop-up here, you’re going to be going right up next to your buddies ear and say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy from that so-and-so movie?” Trust me, I did that plenty of times with my sister and I probably missed a hundred more because my mind would still be in heavy thought and not focused on who’s familiar face was going to show up next.

Consensus: Though it’s not as tense or electrifying as Affleck’s last two directorial efforts, Argo still works as a smart, funny, and entertaining thriller that covers a mission that not many people ever knew about, but was also a very important one by how it showed certain sides of the U.S. government working hand-in-hand with Hollywood in a slightly surreal, yet smart way.

8/10=Matinee!!