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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: The Artist

Rocket Science (2007)

Think of it as the younger-son of The King’s Speech. Minus all of the royalty.

Reece Thompson plays Hal Hefner, a 15-year-old high-school student with a minor yet socially alienating (and painful) disability: He stutters uncontrollably. He soon finds a light at the end of the tunnel with his disability when a brainy female classmate (Anna Kendrick) cons him into being apart of the debate-team. Hal accepts, but finds problems when these two actually hook-up and start to question that maybe there’s something more between them, or maybe not. It’s all confusion in a high-school setting.

Oh, teenagers.

Take with it what you will, I was actually apart of the Debate Club when I was in high-school for a good year or so. Then, I switched schools, and ultimately lost my love and passion of debating. I still do it from time-to-time when people want to have arguments like, “Avatar or Hurt Locker?“, “Social Network or King’s Speech?”, or my favorite, “Artist or not the Artist?” Yep, that’s about the only type of arguments/debates I seem to have nowadays, but I don’t think even mentioning this slice of my life has anything to do with this review or this movie, because this movie is as much about being part of the Debate Club as much as this blog is about food.

Although I do make some references here and there.

Most indies that play out in the same vein like this, all try too hard. They have a certain bit of quirks that they are way too pleased with, love to show off, and never stop reminding us of. It can get quite annoying after awhile and that’s what has usually come to plague such directors like Jared Hess, Wes Anderson, and even Quentin Tarantino so much in the years. The last subject I never have a problem with, but for those first two? Eh, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the context of the story and what it brings to the table. That’s the problem that writer/director Jeffrey Blitz has here.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Blitz apparently took a lot of the material for this flick, from his own adolescence and it shows, because the movie rings very true to what the high school life is really all about. Granted, this isn’t really a movie that takes place in high school and shows you all of the cliques, relationships, friendships, clubs, teachers, lunch ladies, so on and so forth, but just shows the type of kids that go to it and what they think about, whether they are in class or not. Blitz nails down what it’s like to start growing-up, starting to realize that there is a world out there, larger than you even imagined, and start to question everything that you’ve believed in, prior to your next chapter in life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s the type of idea that Blitz captures well.

However, where this movie loses itself in is trying way, way too hard to win you over with it’s crazy and wacky quirks. That’s bad because nobody likes when a person tries to show-off what they can do, how many times, and how well they can do it, but what’s even worse is that this movie was really winning me over. It’s not like I went into this movie, was totally taken aback by all of the quirky-humor and automatically made up my mind that this was going to be shit, but it was the exact opposite. I ultimately fell for it’s quirks and even realized that maybe I could get past it all with a sweet story, and an attention to character. But nope.

The film wanted to have it the other way.

Sometimes it’s clever, sometimes it’s not. But overall, it’s just bothersome to see in a movie like this, especially when you know the movie has so much more promise then what it’s actually giving us. Maybe a bit more drama would have narrowed things down for us, or maybe a teeny, tiny-bit more attention to the plot would have helped, but with a film like this that is so pleased with what it has to say or do, you kind of lose the point. And you can totally tell that this movie was trying to tell an important-fact of stuttering and how a person can get through it with time, patience, and determination, but they even sort of make that a joke by the end. It’s still sweet, but does make fun of the wrong things if you think about it. Okay, enough of this.

Back to the goods, baby.

Evil woman.

The determined eyes of a monster.

Newcomer Reece Thompson is really good as Hal Hefner, and does a magnificent job at keeping up his stutter the whole time. That may sound like a terrible thing to say about a character who has a real problem, that real people have to deal with, but it’s the truth: Keeping a consistent stutter must be a pretty hard job. That’s why it’s so great to see this kid pull it off with flying colors, but he’s not all about losing his train of thought, he’s actually more than that. Hal Hefner is a good character because he reminds all of us, a little bit ourselves. He’s young, rebellious, trying to make sense of the world, falling in-love for the first-time, and will stop at nothing to keep that feeling of love and tranquility in place.

Anna Kendrick is just about a household name by now, but people don’t remember when she was just a young, small girl, in a little indie where she got to not only show off her charm, but her comedic-timing as well. Kendrick is awesome at being able to show us how smart and perky a character like hers can be, but also how sinister underneath it all. You never know whether or not to trust this character and all of the hope that she gives to sweet, little old Hal, but you feel Kendrick’s a presence on-screen, and she keeps you watching the whole time.

Makes sense why she’s the star she is now.

Consensus: Rocket Science is maybe way too pleased with itself at times, but also benefits from smart, funny insights into growing up and high-school life.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Oh yeah, and he’s a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

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The Past (2013)

The more you sleep around, the more drama it creates. What else is new?!?!

To sign some papers for his divorce and, as a result, to complete the whole procedure of it, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives back in France after four years where he meets back-up with his soon-to-be-ex, Marie (Bérénice Bejo), as well as her own daughters from a previous marriage. Ahmad also just so happens to be walking into something far bigger than he had initially intended when he not only realizes Marie is with this new boyfriend of hers (Tahar Rahim), but that there’s a lot concerning his own marriage, that Marie’s oldest daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), is having a bit of a problem understanding and getting clear into her head.

Basically, in other words, there’s just a lot of crazy stuff going on around here that if I got into it, I’d be spoiling, so, let me just put it this way: Everybody yells at one another.

While that may sound boring, tepid and not something you want to venture out and see on-paper, trust me, it’s the furthest thing from being either of those things. In fact, it’s just as emotional and compelling as you’re going to get with anything that has to do with that I, Frankenstein movie. Definitely more tense, because while you think you may have a general-idea as to what this story is going to be about, how it’s all going to play-out and which characters end-up being the cold, heartless son-of-a-bitches that they present to be in the first 20 or so minutes, it doesn’t play-out like that one bit.

Oooh, looks as if somebody said the wrong thing and are about to pay for it....

Oooh, looks as if somebody said the wrong thing and are about to pay for it….

In fact, more things go on here than you may suspect, but it should be noted that everything that does happen here, is done through the act of speaking. Everybody in this flick has conversations with one another, and while some of them may come pretty damn close to converging into violence, they never quite hit that peak. Instead, every conversation a character has with another character, feels like actual people speaking to one another; it doesn’t matter what about, it just matters that they’re speaking to one another and in ways, you can kind of get a sense for who they are, judging by how they hold themselves in these conversations.

I know that I am focusing a lot on the dialogue here, but that’s mainly what this movie is all about. However, it’s not a problem in the slightest bit, all because writer/director Asghar Farhadi knows how to make a dialoge-heavy movie as interesting as humanly possible, just by giving us characters we’re not only intruiged by, but know that there’s more to, than just what they present on the surface. Such the case couldn’t have been even more true here as we see each and every one of these characters shown to us in a light that would have us automatically stereotyping them in some way, form or shape. Sometimes, we’re right to think this and other times, which is a common motif throughout this whole movie, we just don’t know the full story surrounding them.

For instance, the character of the boyfriend, played by Tahar Rahim, seems like a total dick that not only can’t control his own son, but seems to be lending his eyes a bit too heavily to his girlfriend’s teenage-daughter. Also, we hear inklings of how he might have influenced his own wife’s suicide by starting-up this affair with Marie, so that just adds insult to injury for his case. But as time goes on, and we start to see him rationalize the situation he’s in and get a chance to talk it out with everybody around him, we see that he’s just a damaged-guy that yes, has a bit of an anger-issue, but is a genuinely nice guy when he wants to be, and can definitely do the right thing. He’s going through a bit of a rough-patch right now with his wife being in a coma and all, but he’s trying his hardest to get through it all in one piece, and I have to say, I acknowledged that. Not only is Rahim good in the role, but his writing continues to improve over time and have you think that this is just a guy, thrown into a shitty-situation that he may have in fact caused, but is still trying whatever he can to make-up for it.

Same case goes for every other character we have here: Marie starts-off a bit like a psycho beotch that doesn’t have a clue how to raise any kid in the world, let alone, her own, but does seem like the type of woman that wants to make things right between her and everybody else she knows and cares for in her life, mainly Ahmad. It should be said that Bejo is very, very good as Marie because while she never does quite turn that leaf over from being a “crazed-nut-to-simple-person”, she is still very compelling to watch as you’ll never know when she’s going to flip her own switch and raise all sorts of hell. Definitely a lot different from her star-making performance in the Artist, then again though, she’s actually speaking here. So there ya go!

Past2

She must have said something mean to him, because he sure is sad now.

And everything that I said for Bejo and Rahim’s characters, goes exactly the same for Ali Mosaffa’s, however, I do have to say that he impressed me the most here by presenting us with a character that legitimately seems like a nice guy and, for one reason or another, gets thrown into a situation where he’s being fired-at from all cylinders and has to make sense of it all in a cohesive, respectable manner. We never get a full-idea as to why he and Marie’s marriage ended, but what we do hear makes you think that there is a bit of a dark side to him we rarely so often see here, which is a good thing since we’re on his side so much. We know that he’s could easily be considered “the voice of reason”, but more likely, he could also be the only guy willing to pull this whole family back together, even if he isn’t apart of it in the first place. But, nonetheless, he’s a sweet guy who I feel like would give me a ride somewhere if I truly did need it.

That’s generally how I judge people on their “niceness”: Whether or not they would be willing to give me rides somewhere.

So while most of this may just seem like a review on the characters, as well as the performances that inhibit these characters, it’s definitely for a reason. Because, for the bulk of this movie, that’s all you get. Most of it’s just exciting to watch because you never know where this story will lead you next, what secret is about to be revealed, by what character, for what reason, and so on and so forth. And while some of it may get a tad bit ridiculous with how many instances in which people decide not to tell the truth and just be all odd, mysterious and vague about a situation, it still had me guessing at every step. But that’s doing it without any action, blood, car-chases, guns, or explosions; it’s just by simple conversations that can sometimes turn into arguments with the drop of a hat. But nonetheless, they’re simple, realistic conversations that you or I could have. However, it’s definitely a lot more entertaining to watch other people hold those conversations, so see this instead.

Consensus: Not much really “happens” in the Past, but that’s why it needs to be seen. Not just for the wonderful performances from its small, intimate cast, but because everything you see, hear or feel is done so for a reason, and it just adds more complexity to this tale, as well as these characters we’re forced to deal with here.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Past3

And she just gives him that cold-hearted stare that’s sinking deep, beneath into his soul. Think it’s safe to say, she won this battle.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

The Artist (2011)

Now whenever Pop-Pop says that “they don’t make films like they used to”, you can prove his ass wrong.

The story revolves around a fictional silent movie star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who finds himself on the downside of his career fading with the advent of talking movie. He falls in love with Peppy Miller, a young extra (Bérénice Bejo) who soon begins to rise to movie stardom.

Having a silent-film in the year 2011 be your front-runner for Best Picture seems very strange since the silent films are the total opposite of what we watch in films now. I can’t believe people actually went along with this idea/gimmick considering barely anybody would actually go out and give money to a film like this other than film nerds and old farts, but still, it’s a great idea if over-hyped a bit too much.

The film may take a bit of getting used to considering everything’s silent, everything’s in black-and-white, it stars two French people I myself and many others probably haven’t heard of until now, it’s not shot in wide-screen, and when they aren’t giving you little title-screens, half of the time you’re reading the lips of these characters. This may seem like a total pain in the ass right from the start but somehow writer/director Michel Hazanavicius makes it all work. Hazanavicius captures the whole feel and look of the silent film era with the whimsy, charm, and overall giddiness that took over these films and the happy spirit this film gives off is almost contagious enough to bring a smile onto your face, as it did to mine.

We don’t get to hear what any of these people are saying, and we barely even find out what it is too but the way we watch the body language of these characters and the type of emotions they can draw from us makes us really feel what was so special about these films in the first place.  I think Hazanavicius’ other great addition to this film was that he is able to do with little subtelty but still able to make us feel emotions that we would feel even in a film that almost spells out everything for us.

But back to the way Hazanavicius captures this time period and makes this gimmick work perfectly. You get a real sense that you’re watching a flick that is not just an homage to the early days of cinema but also a film that could have easily been made as one of the last silent films in the 1930’s when “Talkies” started taking over completley. There are all of these different shots taken from other silent films of the era but they feel natural to the story and keep you in the mind-set of just how much the times were changing despite how depressing it may have been during the 30’s. I think the main reason why this film works so well is because of it’s sweeping score that is definitely one of the best I have heard in a long time because it actually feels like it belongs and isn’t just used for background music. It’s nice and easy on the ears but it also fits perfectly with the tone when the plot starts to shift into some very sad territory, even though that part of this flick may feel a bit like a parody.

However, the film does hit a big blockade in the middle of the flick where Valentin starts to lose his mind when he can’t change with the times. This would have been okay if the film just focused on it a tad bit but to be honest, the film really does lag when it starts to focus on this more and more without anything new or simply fresh for us to keep our minds busy. It was a bit of a bummer considering this film was really entertaining me but right at about this point I was caught checking out my watch a couple of times.

Another problem with this film is that I don’t necessarily think that it’s the one film that everybody is stating that it is. Going into this flick my expectations were incredibly high considering how much Oscar talk it’s been getting but other than the fact that it’s a cute little gimmick that is done well I must say, I still couldn’t help but think that there was just something that didn’t really do much for me considering I couldn’t feel anything for this story it’s characters but I was at least enjoying myself. I felt like I was watching one of those history lessons on The History Channel but instead of having little interviews from people of the time and then flipping back-and-forth between re-enactments, it was just one, long lesson with some really good-looking people. I think my expectations going into this film is what kind of brought it down for me but none the less, it was still a film that didn’t really change my way of living like everybody claimed it to be.

The real reason why this film is so incredibly charming though is because of its lead performance from Jean Dujardin as George Valentin. The guy hams it up just about every time he is up on screen but he feels like a perfect fit for a character who can’t seem to get out of a certain period of time but you still feel something for. The guy’s smile is infectious and it also helps that he looks exactly like a star from the silent film days. It’s crazy how the guy is the front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar this year, even though his performance is all based on his physicality and he doesn’t even say anything throughout the whole flick (except for one part). Dujardin is a lot of fun to watch here and is one of the main reasons why people should check this flick out.

Bérénice Bejo is also a lot of fun as Peppy Miller. Bejo is gorgeous, charming, and just seems like a total sweetheart and the chemistry her and Dujardin have together feels real and electric even though we never hear them actually speak to each other. It’s a different type of love story that we usually see nowadays, and actually feels like one of those nice, sweet, and simple romances we would see way back in the day. There are also plenty of other peeps in this cast as well such as John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Missi Pyle among others.

Consensus: The Artist is not the one film of 2011 that will change your life, but it does feature a lot of fun with its perfect direction, great lead performances, and overall delighting and charming feel that will take you back in time to the golden days of silent films.

8/10=Matinee!!