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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Thomas Middleditch

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

If it’s not on Google Maps, chances are, you should stay away from it.

It’s 1973, the Vietnam War is close to an end, and Bill Randa (John Goodman) a senior official in a super secret government organization known as Monarch, finally sees his opportunity to capitalize on achieving one of his biggest missions yet: Going to the mysterious Skull Island and figuring out what sort of threat is out there. After much arm-twisting, the government finally gives Randa the tools and resources he needs to get there, which means that he gets the army, the weapons, as well as the experts to help guide him along on this possibly dangerous island. One person Randa seeks out and pays to help him is world-renowned traveler James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), who doesn’t know what’s there on Skull Island, either, but doesn’t like the sounds of it, which is why he demands for his pay to be doubled. Meanwhile, on the mission, is anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who can’t wait to see what’s out there, and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a member of the Army who isn’t too happy about what happened with the war and isn’t ready to let that go. Not even a gigantic, monstrous and incredibly violent ape known as Kong.

Kong best look out.

Kong: Skull Island is so entertaining, so quick, so visually impressive, and so fun that, even with all of its flaws, I’m willing and absolutely able to just let bygones be bygones and praise the film as it is. Because even though the script is silly, underwritten, and not at all up to the task of aiding and abetting this talented ensemble, the direction from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is so thrilling, it’s hard to care so much. After all, do you really go to a King Kong movie for the well-written, three-dimensional, and emotionally complex characters? Or, do you go to a King Kong movie for the vividly gigantic monsters beating the absolute hell out of one another and terrorizing any human that tries to stand in their ways?

Honestly, it’s not bad to have a little bit of both, but fine, Kong: Skull Island wants to stick with the later, so whatever.

Either way, Kong: Skull Island is still a very fun movie and a lot of that is credited to Vogt-Roberts because he takes what could have been a very soulless, almost boring job of rebooting the tale of Kong and instead, adds some life, flair (literally), and energy into it. One of the most notable and interesting aspects Vogt-Roberts adds here is that Kong: Skull Island is, on one hand, a monster movie, in which people run away and try to kill a monster, but on the other hand, it’s also a Vietnam War movie, in which some cold cut rock classics from the early-70’s blasts out from the speakers, everyone’s a little scared and paranoid, and yeah, the temperature is hot, sweaty and downright miserable. In a way, Vogt-Roberts wants to make the Apocalypse Now of monster movies and while he doesn’t quite reach those heights, he still shows us all something new and original can be done with the monster movie.

And because of this, there’s an energy to Skull Island that’s hard to resist and shove-off. Even though it’s absolutely clear from the get-go that the script is going to be shoddy, silly and downright stupid, there’s just something about the look and feel of this all that’s easy to ride along with and enjoy. Even those who want to see Kong in all of his finest form, will be pleased to know that he’s seen a whole bunch throughout and doing all the sorts of things that you’d expect him to do in a movie involving him; there’s smashing, crunching, chewing, roaring, pounding, beating, breaking, punching, kicking, throwing, eating, and oh yeah, crying. Kind of.

But not from these fools.

Regardless, those who complained about 2014 Godzilla not having enough of said title character, then sit down, shut up and feast your eyes on the creature that you’ve all been so desperately wanting to see.

That said though, like I’ve said before, the script is just, uhm, how should I say this? Lame. But it’s not terrible in that it’s hard to listen to, ruins the movie, and sucks all of the fun out of it; it’s more that it feels like a leftover script from the 90’s, right around the time Jurassic Park came out and all of a sudden, everyone wanted to make a big-budget, effects-heavy monster movie. Meaning, there’s a lot of cheesy one-liners; a lot of characters who have basically one personality-trait to them and it basically defines them; a lot of contrivances; a lot of scenes that need more explaining; and oh yeah, a lot of random bits of silliness that seem to literally come from out of nowhere.

And it’s weird, too, because the cast here is so well-done and impressive, that it’s a bit of a shame. No one’s bad here, honestly, but because the net has been cast so far and wide, no one true performance really gets to shine above the rest. The only ones I can truly think of doing this are probably John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s just because they get maybe two or three more sentences than the rest of the cast to explain themselves and allow us to get to know them a tad bit better. Others like Hiddleston, Larson, Goodman, Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, and an oddly miscast Thomas Mann, all fall by the waist side and it’s a sign that the movie may have cast a smaller net, or have been longer.

Still though, for a movie that clocks in just under two hours, it makes for a good time. Just don’t try and think too hard, like me.

Basically, don’t be me.

Consensus: Even with an awfully wacky script, Kong: Skull Island gets by solely on the pure energy and fun from its direction, as well as an interesting take on the monster movie genre itself.

7 / 10

Oh wait. Never mind. He can’t be stopped.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Bronze (2016)

Third is the one with the treasure chest.

Back in the 2004 Olympics, Hope Greggory (Melissa Rauch) made the news when she came in third as a gymnast. She had an inspirational story to go along with her whole performance, and because of such, it made her a star. However, it didn’t last long, and now, many years later, she’s still trying to recapture that same sort of infamy she had almost a decade ago, by using it to her advantage at local restaurants and stores in her hometown. But the sad reality is that she still lives with her dad (Gary Cole), steals money from him and his job, and doesn’t really seem to do much with her life except just piss him off, or piss on the other people around her. But it all changes when, one day, her old coach tragically commits suicide and leaves an option up to her: Train a newly-developing talent (Haley Lu Richardson) for the Olympics and she’ll receive half-a-million dollars. Hope doesn’t really care about helping others, but she likes the idea of all that money, so she decides to take on the task, even if that means having to re-visit old demons and friends that she felt better leaving in the past.

That sort-of duck-face doe.

That sort-of duck-face doe.

For a lot of comedies, having detestable characters can sometimes work. Someone who is just so mean and nasty to the world around them, in ways, is pretty funny and honest – it’s easy to relate to a person when your deepest, darkest fears, are brought out by these people and their bursts of anger, however many or limited they may be. But then again, there is something to be said for having detestable characters in a comedy, just for the sake of it.

And that’s the biggest issue of the Bronze.

While it’s nice to see a movie so clear in defining a solid portion of its characters as “a-holes” and not really leaving much of a gray-area, the issue it runs into is that when there’s so many a-holes, what do you do when your movie wants to rely on heart, emotion and inspiration? To just be terrible the whole time, making evil jokes towards characters who probably don’t deserve it, doesn’t quite cut it – sometimes, it’s best to have at least two characters that you can, at the very least, sympathize with. They hold the ship together, even when it seems like the ship is drowning in its own anger and turmoil.

But it also doesn’t help if your characters are being mean to those around them, for no reason and not really having anything funny to say or do. In fact, most of the issues with the Bronze would have probably been forgiven and forgotten about, had the movie itself actually been funny – but nope, it isn’t. What it really is is an excuse to watch a bunch of people say mean things to one another, for the sake of doing so, add some sports in the mix, and yeah, that’s about it.

And honestly, I don’t even think it’s an excuse.

There is a small bit of heart to be found in the flick, and while the movie doesn’t try and get too awfully sentimental, sometimes, a little bit of that can help and go an awfully long way. Movies like Bad Santa, or Bad Teacher, where even the smallest glimmer of light shining through all of the crudeness, can sometimes make a movie better, just because it tries its hardest to paint this character in at least something of a different light and above all, show shadings. In the Bronze, we get some of those shadings with Hope, but they don’t feel believable, deserved, or all that earned; it’s as if the movie knew that it was just way too mean and had to make sure everybody got their hugs at the end of the day.

Eh. Who cares, really?

Eh. Who cares, really?

Which yeah, is perfectly fine (I like hugs), but it doesn’t work here. Melissa Rauch is fine as Hope, showing off a mean side that hardly ever goes away, but despite this being her own script, it’s surprising how very little she gives herself to do. You almost get the sense that she wrote a lot of this movie, with the idea that she would step into the role and have the chance to say all of these terrible and nasty things to people around her. She sure is having fun, but is anyone else? Not really and that’s the biggest problem.

Of course, others in the cast are a little bit better, but they too feel like wooden-shaped caricatures in a movie that wants to be cruel to them, but also give them some cake, too. Thomas Middleditch is great as someone Hope calls “Twitchy” and is fun to watch, but also has a heart to him that’s effective; Gary Cole is good as Hope’s supportive dad; Haley Lu Richardson is constantly sunny-eyed and bright; Cecily Strong plays the lower-class mother of the gymnast and is just over-the-top; and Sebastian Stan clearly seems to be having fun, playing and acting like a total d-bag. The best scene is probably between him and Rauch, where they have sex like you’d expect self-centered gymnasts to have sex like.

But unfortunately, despite it being the funniest scene, it’s also the most imaginative and original, something clearly missing from the rest of the Bronze.

Consensus: Mostly unfunny and unpleasant, the Bronze loves that it gets to be mean and say nasty things, but it never becomes fun or interesting to watch any of it happen.

3 / 10

Soak it in, honey. It don't last forever.

Soak it in, honey. It don’t last forever.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Joshy (2016)

When depressed, hang with the bros.

Josh (Thomas Middleditch) and his fiancee (Alison Brie) were all set and ready to get married. However, she decided to take her life, leaving her family, friends, and most importantly, Josh, heartbroken. Why did she do it? Well, no one really knows why, however, Josh’s friends intend on cheering him up the way that they feel is necessary for someone dealing with a tragedy of this kind. That’s why, nearly four months later, the bros all come up to the house somewhere in the mountains, dedicated to them all partying it up and living life, as if it was Josh’s bachelor party, which was what it was supposed to be in the first place. But the guys don’t get bogged down by the sad details and decide that it’s time to get all of the beer, drugs, guns and women that they can find to get Josh’s mind off of everything. But it’s not just Josh who has some problems to wade through, as most of the guys seem to be going through their own issues on this one weekend, figuring out where to go next with their lives and how, just how the hell on Earth, are they going to grow-up and be responsible adults.

Cheer up, Joshy. They don't call you that name all of the time, right?

Cheer up, Joshy. They don’t call you that name all of the time, right? Cause if they did, that actually would kind of suck.

The mumblecore movement may not be quite as vibrant as it once was back in the beginning of the decade, however, it’s still alive and well, bringing in more and more outsiders to the indie-world, showing off their talent for improv and on-the-fly film making that can, often times, create things of beauty. Drinking Buddies seems like the highlight of the mumblecore flicks, in terms of its scope, who it involved, and what it actually did, but there’s been a few every now and then, offering up lovely bits of insightful entertainment.

And now, with his second-feature, Jeff Baena seems as if he’s ready to throw himself into the mumblecore world and doing a pretty good job at it, too.

Of course, what makes a mumblecore movie as good as it may set out to be, is that it needs a reason, or better yet, a purpose to exist. Most of the time, these movies can sometimes seem like low-budget versions of Adam Sandler flicks where, just like him, they use the excuse of a movie being made to get away with having a bunch of their friends around, do and say silly things. While this may work for most film makers because it doesn’t ask for all that much dedication and money, the problems that it can sometimes bring up is the fact that the story itself isn’t always the snappiest and, if anything, made-up as the film-making runs on by.

Here though, Baena does something smart in that he allows for the actual tragedy of Josh’s ex-fiancee to really carry the movie along, feeling less of like an excuse, and more of something resembling a reason. Of course, the darker aspects of the story come out in full-form by the end, and doesn’t quite connect, but at least it’s a movie that’s trying to be something more than the typical “cool, funny, and talented people hang out for a weekend”. While those movies can tend to be quite fun and exciting, they can also become a tad mundane, when you don’t have much of a narrative-drive moving it along.

In Joshy, aside from the tragic suicide early on, the real plot is figuring out these characters, their lives, their problems, and just how they’re going to get out of them. It’s almost too simple, but it kind of works, because Baena has been able to assess a great group of actors to make the material work, even when it seems like they’re just going with the flow. Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Alex Ross Perry, Brett Gelman, and Adam Pally play the core group here and they’ve all got their own problems to work through, some clearly more important than others, but all at least registering on some level.

Longed-hair Adam Pally? I don't know!

Longed-hair Adam Pally? I don’t know!

Of course, this doesn’t always allow for the characters to come off as likable, either, which is probably fine, in Joshy’s case.

Baena doesn’t allow for his movie to be too pleased or happy with itself; eventually, the characters do have to learn a thing or two about the lives that they live and why it’s not always best to act 13, when you’re 35, or at the very least, nearing it. Joe Swanberg himself shows up and brings these characters down to real life and it’s a honest, relatively tense scene, which is what Joshy seemed to be missing the most of. With the exception a confrontation by the end, Joshy doesn’t really have any confrontation or tension in the air, which I felt was necessary for a movie like this to really work, where jerks are hanging around each other too much, getting on each other’s nerves constantly.

Of course, Baena may not have cared much for this, but while watching Joshy, it’s hard not to imagine what could happen, had the movie tried a tad bit harder. It’s nice to get all your talented and lovely friends all together, in one room, let them do their things, and start shooting, but after awhile, it can start to feel like just a bunch of fun-sequences, and that’s about it. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how charming the cast is – sometimes, more story is better.

Consensus: With a likable and talented cast, Joshy‘s improvised, low-budget feel works, but also doesn’t allow for there to be much of a story, either.

6.5 / 10

I'll jump in. No skivvies is fine with me.

I’ll jump in. No skivvies is fine with me.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Bollywood Reads

Being Flynn (2012)

Happy that my dad has a roof over his head and isn’t a complete dick.

Aspiring writer Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) begins working at a homeless shelter and develops a drug problem he struggles to control. His father, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), is a con man who was never there for him as a child and still considers himself to be one of the greatest, living writers of all-time, despite never being published. Jonathan actually stumbles upon Nick one day at the homeless shelter and is need of a place to stay. But, as predicted, Jonathan finds problems with just about everything around him.

The problem with Being Flynn, right away, is that its whole idea of a joke is to have its character, Jonathan Flynn, narrate some of the movie and talk like he’s the greatest novelist of all-time and is a walking genius, even though nobody knows it. Problem is, he doesn’t know it. That idea of a joke can be a little humorous at times (because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to crack a couple of chuckles at older, Alzheimer-bound men), but it gets annoying and repetitive, as if the movie didn’t realize the butt of its own end joke was meant for the character, and not for the freakin’ movie itself.

But this turns out to be the whole movie. Just one long joke that nobody ever seems to get the hang of telling better.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that's okay. Whatever suits you best.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that’s okay. Whatever suits you best.

And this is a shame because the material for Being Flynn seems as if it has more to it than just being “a joke”. But what ultimately happens is that it just lingers and gives this Jonathan character another reason to yell, scream, and scam his way some more into people’s lives. I never, not for once, felt any ounce of sympathy for these characters and even when it seemed like they were going through problems as people of society, and of people going through age, I still never bought them.

There were some elements I did buy, like the fact that Nick does go down a bit of a rocky road with drugs and needs to change his life around to be a better person. But that’s about it. Other than all of Nick’s problems that could have pretty much been centered-down to, “Yeah, my dad left me when I was a baby, my mom raised me, slept with a bunch of dudes, and killed herself”, Jonathan’s problems seem to be a bit more scary in the way that the guy is homeless, the guy is out in the cold, and the guy is a bit of an over-zealous dick. That fear of him dying never hit me hard enough, just because he’s a, well, a dick.

As plain and simple as that.

I think I’ve exhausted everything there is to say about the character of Jonathan Flynn, but honestly, it deserves to be said because there’s not much more to this movie than him. Which is annoying because Paul Weitz can’t help but be utterly pleased to have him being a miserable and unlikable hack that doesn’t do anything else in his life other than bullshit his way past things with that signature De Niro smile, chuckle, and charm. And heck, thanks to De Niro, it almost works!

And De Niro is fine here, but he’s saddled with a character who is just too unpleasant to give a hoot about. That’s why it was nice to see Dano at least try with the likes of Nick, another unlikable and whiny character. Dano is known for his “big” performances, but here, he dials things down for us so that we get to see Nick as more of a sad, self-destructive human being, rather than somebody who is cool because he lives life like its constant party. In a way, he’s sort of a tool, but the movie never fully digs deep into that aspect of his character; it’s just left up to Dano to pick up the pieces and work from there.

She's like a dude, but she's not. So rad, man.

Short hair, don’t care.

This is a shame, too, because Dano and De Niro, together, playing a son-father duo, seems like it would be ripe with all sorts of powerful and raw emotion. And though Dano may have been more than happy to share the screen with De Niro, Weitz’s direction and script gets in the way too much. Somebody has to learn something, somebody has to grow up, and somebody has to bond. If it’s these two, then so be it.

This is all to say that, even though they’re both solid actresses in their own rights, Julianne Moore and Olivia Thirlby aren’t used as much as they could have been to help even this movie and its melodramatic self out. Moore is mostly designated to flashback scenes, whereas Thirlby’s character has to do a little bit of heavy-lifting, both literally and figuratively, as Nick’s gal-pal. But still, her character is then soon treated as being a female love-interest for Nick to hook up with, screw around on, break up with, try to get back together with, and eventually, have all of his dreams come true because he’s, well, “a better person now than he was before”.

Bunch of BS if I ever heard it!

Consensus: Though it has a solid cast and, on occasion, director, Being Flynn falls apart because it’s not only a bit too melodramatic for its own good, but conventional, self-serving, and too smart for its own good.

3 / 10

Staring at your child in admiration: such a mother's thing to do.

Staring at your child in admiration – whatta mother!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Campaign (2012)

If only Ron Burgundy really did run for office. Do I hear the basis for a sequel…?

When long-term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) commits a major public gaffe before an upcoming election, a pair of ultra-wealthy CEOs plot to put up a rival candidate and gain influence over their North Carolina district. Their man: naïve Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), director of the local Tourism Center.

If you are going to release an election comedy, the time right before the election would be a perfect time, really. Everybody is basically sick and tired of seeing what these candidates all have to say about themselves, their goals as president, what they think about the other candidates, how much of a wonderful family and dog they have, how they are going to lower taxes, blah, blah, and blah. So you know it’s time for a political satire, especially one with two of the goofiest and funniest comedic actors working right now, right?

You would expect a comedy about politics, being released very slightly before election-time, to have at least some sort of sides to choose or just plain and simple satire on politics themselves, but somehow, you get nothing here from that. Looking at director Jay Roach‘s track record (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents, Dinner for Schmucks), I knew that I wasn’t going to get anything that was necessarily considered biting, when it comes to satire department, but I wasn’t expecting something as safe and sometimes, soft like this. What bothered me the most about this flick is that there is so much room for political satire to the point of where you could almost make it up on your own, but for some odd reason, these guys never seem to go for it. To me, this seems like a huge, wasted opportunity that definitely could have given us a smarter look at the politics we see on TV today, but I guess they’re all fine with just settling for being funny.

Actually, this missed-opportunity probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if it wasn’t for the fact that this film definitely isn’t as funny as I was expecting it to be. There’s a lot of those dim-witted, goof-ball jokes that we are used to getting with Ferrell and his movies, but it just seems repetitive here, almost to the point of where Ferrell and co. felt like they ran out of material to joke around about, so they just tried to say the same jokes, over-and-over again but it a new fashion. This starts to get very tiring and actually, very boring, almost to the point of where I was actually looking at my “watch” (code name for phone, but don’t tell anyone) more than anything else on the screen. Which is a total shame because I usually have a ball with these guys, as I did with Dinner for Schmucks, a very underrated comedy, in my opinion.

But for when it did make me laugh, it sure as hell did make me laugh and that’s all I can give it credit for. Some scenes stood-out to me in particular, but the best was probably in the first 15 minutes where Huggins goes around his family-table and allows them to all share secrets that they have hid underneath the table for very, very long, and some of the stuff that just comes out of these people’s mouths are hilarious and dirty. It was a sure sign that I was in for something funny and everything else from the punching-baby sequence, to the vengeful political-ad videos, to the drunk driving incident, all had me laughing enough to say that I had a pretty enjoyable time, even if I feel like there could have been so much more to this material.

The real reason this whole film works is mainly because of the two comedic all-stars in the leads that always seem to give every role they have, their all and these ones are no different. Will Ferrell is basically playing-up the same buffoon he plays in every movie, but this time with a mix of his George W. Bush impression and some of Bill Clinton in there as well. It’s a nice little mix that Ferrell makes work by just being, well, Will Ferrell, and that’s all I really ask for when it comes to him and his comedies. Then, you have Zach Galifianakis as the heterosexual Marty Huggins, that just seems so sweet and nice, but can never catch a break because of Brady is always one-step ahead of his ass. Literally sometimes, too. Zach is always a funny guy and even though he hasn’t had many times to prove so outside of his roles as Alan, he proves that here and gives this Marty Huggins a lot of jeer-full goofiness to him, but not enough to the point of where it’s annoying and campy. Whenever these guys were on-screen together, I laughed my ass off and I sort of wish that they did a better movie to head-line together because this one sure doesn’t live up to what people would most expect from these two comedic fellas.

It was also nice to see Jason Sudeikis play a supporting, goofy role as the straight-man behind Cam Brady, Mitch. Sudeikis is funny, as always, but this time he allows all of the jokes play-out from Ferrell’s side of the equation and it’s nice to see what this cat can do when it comes to comedy, considering I haven’t been all that impressed by this dude as of late. Though, the highlight of the cast is probably Dylan McDermott as the evil campaign advisory, Tim Wattley. McDermott is good with this role because he plays everything with such a stern, serious look on his face that adds so many more laughs to this film, whenever it seemed like Zach and Will weren’t necessarily helping out the situation. What was even better was how they even compared him to Dermot Mulroney during this film, which I thought was funny because I actually thought he would have been a good fit for this kind of role.

Consensus: Though it’s satire never fully takes a bite, The Campaign still features a fun cast and a funny bunch of moments that are worth to see, if only for the two leads themselves.

6/10=Rental!!