Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Tom Bennett

David Brent: Life on the Road (2017)

Never give up on a dream. As crummy as it may be.

It’s been awhile since we’ve last seen or heard from David Brent (Ricky Gervais), and while his career as a D-List star didn’t quite pan-out to much, he’s now using whatever fortune he has left over to go out on the road with his band, Foregone Conclusion. Of course, he’s paying for it all, isn’t getting paid-leave from his work, and doesn’t really know, or get along with any of the other members in the band, but David is living out of his dream of hitting the road and giving audiences some sweet tunes. However, David does come to terms with the fact that his career may not be the best thing for him at this point in his life, and it may also be financially draining him, with money being spent on all sorts of crazy costs like hotel rooms, cars, set decorations, PR reps, food, beer, and yes, mini-bars. But still, David will not let all of these issues stand in the way of living the life of an absolute rock star, even if there’s no audience to really see that.

Always need the hype-man, no matter the genre.

Always need the hype-man, no matter the genre.

Ricky Gervais has, believe it or not, grown a lot since the Office. But at the same time, he’s still kind of living in the shadow of David Brent, so it’s not all that surprising to see him go back and see what Brent’s up to, even all of these years later. And sure, it’s more than enough to give someone pause, seeing an actor go back to their most iconic role, but Life on the Road shows us that there’s more than just nostalgia’s sake to catch back up with Brent.

Sure, it’s great to see him be awkward, say mean, nasty things to those around him, and make a general ass of himself, but the way Brent is made out to be, it’s hard to ever hate him. That’s how he was on the show, and that’s how he is here, which is why no matter how hard he tries, Gervais will never be able to get out of the shadow of that character, even if he definitely has come close. And it’s also why Life on the Road proves to be a very enjoyable trip down memory-lane, in some ways, to realize that the Brent character can continue to live on and on, still be the same person, and can still be loved by all of those who fell in love with him over a decade ago.

Does that mean we always need to see a David Brent movie? Probably not, but hey, it’s nice to have around.

Eat your hearts out, ladies.

Eat your hearts out, ladies.

And what’s interesting about Life on the Road, is that it’s not necessarily an Office movie, as much as it’s just a movie about a character from that show. No other iconic and lovable character from that show has an appearance here, nor are there many mentions about that show’s existence – mostly, we just get to see Brent’s life, picking back up after being away from him for over a decade. But it still works; Gervais is great at this character, making each and every conversation he has, turn into an absolute and embarrassing travesty, while at the same time, still making us want to see more from him.

Oh, and it’s also good that the songs are pretty nice to hear, too. For any movie like this, it would have been easy for the songs to be crap, because of how silly they are, but no, there’s actually been some real effort and drive put into how the songs sound and yeah, they sort of work. They’re dumb for sure, but they still work, given the movie’s context.

But it’s really hard to talk much more about Life on the Road and go on and on about it because, after all, it’s relatively forgettable. It’s nice to get this refresher of Brent, see how he’s doing, and what sort of an ass he’s still being, but when all is said and done, the movie is still an-hour-and-a-half long episode of the Office, just without everyone else. This time, it’s just Gervais being Brent and that’s about it. It’s still fun to watch, but when it’s over, it may leave the mind immediately.

Still, it’s a hell of a lot better than Special Correspondents – whatever the hell that was.

Consensus: As a nice and refreshing reminder on why we loved the title character in the first place, Life on the Road proves that Gervais can still perfect this character and give us plenty to laugh at.

6.5 / 10

Can't compete.

Can’t compete.

Photos Courtesy of: The Playlist

Advertisements

Love & Friendship (2016)

Jane Austen was pretty catty.

Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) has just become a widow and needless to say, she needs a little help in life. She doesn’t have much money, many friends, or even all that much security in life to where she can feel safe and comfortable for the next few years of her life. That’s why, through her seductive and manipulative ways, she concocts a way and plan to charm the shorts off of the eligible bachelor Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel). But trying to win the heart of Reginald will be a whole lot harder than she expected, mostly because some people know what she’s up to and let him know of it. While Reginald refuses to believe her sinister ways, there’s no denying that Lady Susan may be up to no good. And then, of course, her oldest daughter (Morfydd Clark) comes into the picture and seems to shake everything up involved with Lady Susan’s plan. What was once going to be an easy, but sneaky task of winning one man’s heart, has now turned into something a whole lot harder.

Friendship1

From the disco, to the ball, these gals are inseparable.

Period pieces aren’t necessarily my thing. Being a dude in his early-20’s, this may come as no surprise to anyone. Though I give them a try and, on the rare occasion, come away liking what I see, for the most part, period pieces just don’t always work because there’s a stuffiness to almost each and everyone of them that make me happy I’m seeing them by myself, and not my grandmother, so I don’t have to hear her jabber on and on about “how exquisite it all was.”

And while I’m at, Whit Stillman movies aren’t necessarily my thing, either. While his movies are mostly hit-or-miss for me, what bothers me the most about his flicks is that there seems to be so much of an investment in the catchy and clever wordplay between his characters, that he almost forgets about the characters themselves. Metropolitan is the rare exception where he combines both aspects quite well, but ever since then, it almost seems as if he’s forgotten about character-development and just tried his hardest to think of a neat way to get people laughing and leaving it at that.

That’s why I’m surprised that Love & Friendship was very much, my thing.

For one, it’s not a typical period piece like you’d expect. Sure, it’s source material is from a Jane Austen novella, but there’s something funny and brash about it all that it makes you think differently about all of the constructs/rules/guidelines that these societies seem to have held. In a way, Stillman sort of looks at the fake politeness and mannerly way everyone in the 18th century was, and decides to turn it all on its head. That means that, yes, people are made fun of, to their faces and are mostly shown that their silly ingrates.

And even though a lot of that same old clever wordplay is occurring here, it actually works in this world that Stillman puts us in. Since everyone is talking in such a plain and formal way, it’s almost refreshing to hear some of these characters talk in a slightly goofy manner, making the odd dialogue work and hit more effectively than you’d expect. While every so often there’s a line of dialogue that doesn’t quite work, or feels stilted, there’s another one that’s funny, and/or smart that you grow a greater appreciation for Stillman.

Don’t get me wrong, I still can’t stand some of his dialogue, but hey, at least he didn’t annoy me too much here.

Yeah, somebody needs to make fun of these stiffs.

Yeah, somebody needs to make fun of these stiffs.

But where the real pleasure and beauty of this film lies is within Kate Beckinsale’s wonderful performance as Lady Susan, someone who should actually be a whole lot more villainous than she is actually seen as in this movie. Beckinsale was great in the Last Days of Disco, which is why it’s no surprise that Stillman brought her back here, where it seems like she not only has the right ear for this dialogue, but knows how to make it funny and biting, even when you don’t expect it to be. Because Lady Susan is a sometimes cold woman, who doesn’t really care about anyone else’s feelings but her own, we’re left with the impression that she’s a bad person who we shouldn’t like, trust, or want to see happy by the end. However, Beckinsale is so charming in the role, that it’s kind of hard not to think the opposite.

For example, Lady Susan says and does a lot of things that everyone around her, given the time period, would not do or say. It’s like I said earlier about how polite and mannerly everyone in this society is; everyone’s thinking bad thoughts about the people around them, but they don’t want to create too much of a ruckus, so they keep quiet and let everything simmer inside of them. Lady Susan is not like that and it’s great to watch Beckinsale do dressing-downs of almost everyone around her, and not give a single care about it one bit.

In a way, it makes me wish Beckinsale would do more movies that challenge her like this, as opposed to the awfully boring Underworld flicks.

That said, everyone else does a terrific job here, too. Chloë Sevigny shows up as Lady Susan’s pal, Alicia Johnson, and the two engage in conversations that makes it appear like they’ve known each other for years; Stephen Fry briefly shows up as her husband and is fine, although, you can never really have enough Stephen Fry; Xavier Samuel is charming and handsome as Reginald, but also shows that there’s a little something more to him, like a heart and soul; and as Sir James Martin, the resident goober of the whole film, Tom Bennett steals every scene, earning laughs every time he says something. All of whom are good at Stillman’s dialogue, even if they do lapse into sometimes getting flustered and not knowing how to deliver it in an intelligible way that’s supposed to work.

But such is the case when you work with Whit Stillman, I guess.

Consensus: Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship makes good use of its 18th-century setting by making something of a smart commentary on it, while also offering laughs and interesting characters to keep it all worth watching for those out there who may not already be fans of period pieces.

7 / 10

"Girls. You could never look this stylish."

“Girls. You could never look this stylish.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Cinema Romantique

Criminal (2016)

Some people’s brains are better left untouched.

Super, duper and incredibly well-trained CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) tragically dies while traveling to a secret location to meet a hacker who can launch missiles at will. Although all hope is, for a little while, lost, eventually, officials come up with an idea that will transfer Pope’s brain-particles and memory to somebody else’s, so that they’re able to figure out just where this evil and sneaky terrorist may be hiding out at. While they’re a bit stumped for solutions, the guinea pig for the procedure ends up being Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner), a violent and dangerous death-row inmate, who doesn’t know how to act in actual, civilized society, nor does he have any interest in doing so. Essentially, he’s the perfect person for a mission like this, because nobody cares if he lives or dies, not even his own self. And now that Jerico has Pope’s memory and knowledge, he decides to track down the terrorist, but at the same time, can’t keep himself away from visiting and being apart of Pope’s own family, who sadly, don’t know what to do or think after his death, nor do they know who to trust.

Take him in, fellas! He's made too many mediocre movies by now!

Take him in, fellas! He’s made too many mediocre movies by now!

If you take the sci-fi elements of a very “meh” movie from Ryan Reynolds like Self/Less, take the action-thriller elements of a very “meh” movie from Kevin Costner like 3 Days to Kill, then you’ve basically got a Criminal – an overall, very “meh” movie. For some reason, you’d think that with a premise that’s at least somewhat interesting, a solid, if surprisingly well-done cast, and Costner leading the charge, that a movie like Criminal would actually be tons and tons of fun. However, that’s not really what happens.

Instead, a good portion of the movie is spent as we watch, wait and see what happens with this whole sci-fi gimmick the movie seems to jam down our throats. While we get this idea that, apparently, through the sheer magic of science and all that junk, Costner’s new brain will also have a lot of memories and knowledge that Reynolds’ brain has, and therefore, he’ll be going through some sort of crazy transformation. Not just as a killer, either, but as a human being, too. This already hints at the idea that the movie may want to be a whole lot more serious and dramatic than it ought to be, which is why the moments where we actually to see the humanity in this character, or better yet, this silly story, don’t really work or matter in the grand scheme.

Basically, everyone showing up to Criminal wants to see it for guns, explosions, sci-fi stuff and Kevin Costner cursing and beating people up.

There is that in Criminal, however, it’s not always enough to keep interesting. Too often does it feel like the movie is making its plot up as it goes along, where we don’t really get what’s going on with the whole brain-stuff, nor do we ever get an understanding of who Costner’s character is supposed to be after, what that baddie does, and what he’s promising to do that’s so bad. Eventually, it all comes down to a hard drive, which is the classic, post-Y2k action movie trope that never gets old, but also makes that subplot seem a lot less important in the long run. All anybody really cares for is the action and Costner himself, and that’s about it.

And yes, there is action and it’s sometimes good, if a bit frantic. But really, what it’s here for is to just push along a story that doesn’t know where it wants to go, or what it wants to do – it’s just happy that it got a bunch of incredibly talented, famous people to be apart of it, so why waste their time, right? After all, they did come here for a paycheck and to do a little acting, so why not just give them crap material and leave it at that?

"Grrrrrrr."

“Grrrrrrr.”

Well, there’s no problem with that. Except that yes, it is, because you have a really great cast in here with Criminal and they’re all mostly wasted.

Costner is the only one who gets off just fine here and actually makes the movie somewhat watchable. It’s great to see Costner play a character that’s so despicable, so disgusting and so vile, that after awhile of watching him, you almost don’t want him to grow a heart and learn the error of his ways. Sure, with this being a movie and all, you know that’s going to happen, but still, there’s a certain joy in watching Costner steal people’s food, beat dudes up for their trucks, and touch nurses rumps that makes it hard to actually care about a plot. Just give me Kevin Costner acting like a prick for two hours and you can have my money.

And hey, next time, movie, if you’re going to give me that, might as well give me some better roles for the solid supporting-cast, too, okay? Because giving people like Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Alice Eve, Michael Pitt, Gal Gadot, and Amaury Nolasco, roles that don’t really challenge them or give them anything to do, is not just a waste of their time (except, not really, because they’re getting paid to do this), but mine as well. When I see that Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, and Gary Oldman are all reuniting for a movie, over two decades after JFK, I’m automatically excited, so why not deliver on those expectations? I understand it can be a bit hard to give the audience what they always want and desire, but come on, there’s got to be a little more here than what we get. Especially when you give Alice Eve five minutes of screen-time, or have Michael Pitt do a terrible, Russian-accent, and just leave Tommy Lee Jones there to sit around and mope.

Shame on you, movie. Shame on you.

Try harder next time.

Consensus: Criminal gets by on the strengths of its cast, but also doesn’t do much with a semi-interesting plot, except allow for it to fall into action-thriller tropes and conventions.

5 / 10

Now you see Ryan Reynolds? Cause in about five seconds, trust me, you won't.

Now you see Ryan Reynolds? Cause in about five seconds, trust me, you won’t.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Youtube, Pretty Famous

Shadow Dancer (2013)

The Irish don’t just get drunk and start bare-knuckle boxing, they actually plant bombs under cars too.

Single mother Collette McVeigh (Andrea Risenborough), lives with her mother and IRA brothers in Belfast during the 90’s, when politics and the rest of the economy clashed. After a failed-attempt at blowing up a train station, Collette is taken in by a MI5 Officer named Mac (Clive Owen) who gives her two choices: either fight the defense, go to jail for 25 years, and lose sole-custody of her son, or, work with the officer in finding the main culprit in these bombings and attacks. Collette decides to go with the latter, but it does come with its perks.

Thrillers like these are usually my favorite cups of tea, because they never really dleve into what makes thrillers so popular. Rather than just giving us all of the action on a silver-platter filled with guns, girls, car-chases, blood, and violence, we get plenty of chatting, exposition, coffee dates, and secret meetings that are usually handled with an exchange of papers with a stamp that says “CONFIDENTIAL”. That’s how I like my thrillers, but rarely do you ever get to see them because let’s face it: the average, movie-going audience isn’t too concerned with a bunch of people staring and talking, they want to see explosions!! And those types of people aren’t wrong to want that, but for some of us, we prefer it when a movie takes it’s near and dear time with it’s story and doesn’t get right into all of the action the most-conventional way possible. However, in some cases, it sometimes helps.

This is one of those cases where it definitely would have.

Same look throughout the whole movie. Ruffled-up tie and everything.

Same look throughout the whole movie. Ruffled-up tie and everything.

Director James Marsh seems to take all of his documentary-chops, and bring them to an actual narrative-flick very well, where we follow this story from point-A, to point-B, with just about enough information and details laid-out for us on the ground, so that we can make up our minds on and see what we can get through. However, not everything you need to know about this story is told to you at first, or even, hell, the whole movie. Sometimes, there are elements to this story that are only alluded to and briefly hinted at, but overall, left to make up for our own minds which I actually liked.

I like it when a movie doesn’t talk down to me and at least respects the viewer for who they are, and what they are able to comprehend. If you think about it, the audience that is going to go out and see this movie, is seeing it for a reason, so treat them like they deserve to be treated. Let them make up their own minds, build up their own ideas, and then, get ready to shock them as you tell them what’s really going on. For the most part, that is the idea of film making that Marsh seems to be having the most fun with, and absolutely revels in the idea of building and toying with suspense, and the format it usually comes in with films like these. Plenty of times, I wondered to myself just what was going to go down next, how it was going to happen, and why, but it never really got to that breaking point, and that’s where I feel like this movie loses some of it’s ground.

There is such a thing as to when a film is almost “too subtle for it’s own good.” This is one of those glaring-examples. Like I mentioned before, everything that you are supposed to know about this story is told to you to right away, but not all of it. That allows for you wait for some mysteries, some tension, and a whole lot of guessing to go down, but it also makes you feel as if you are missing out on a big chunk of this story that should have really made this more than just some story about a chick who rats on her boys.

The idea of there being some sort of “attraction” between Mac and Collette is mentioned, oh so briefly in the movie that when I first heard it, I didn’t really think much of it nor did I care. However, later on in the movie once things got a bit heated, then it comes up again, but this time, it’s more obvious and front-and-center. It was strange to see because the movie never really made much of an effort to go that way with it’s story, nor did it really seem to do anything for the movie either. It just sort of happened, as if Marsh needed to add some more dramatic-heft to the proceedings, because the idea of having this chick constantly not know when she’s going to be caught for being an informant wasn’t enough.

In that essence, the movie struggled for me and once the final twist was brought to my attention, I somehow lost all feeling for these characters, this story, and what was really going. That’s not to say that this movie isn’t good in the least bit, but at the end of the day, you do still feel as if you’ve been a bit cheated out of something that was so damn promising and so damn tense in the first place. Why they had to screw with it all in the beginning, I’ll never, ever know.

"No, no, no! I will not fall for you devil-ish, British charms!"

“No, no, no! I will not fall for you devil-ish, British charms!”

But what I do know is that this cast does all that they can to not only keep this material alive and breathing, but very interesting as well. After showing up in the big-budget, sci-fi fest Oblivion, Andrea Risenborough seems to really want to make a name for herself, and I think she should because what we have here is a girl that has that distinctive look and feel to her, that seems very naturally-gripping, right as soon as you see her. In this movie’s case, we first see Risenborough walk through a subway as she contemplates where to put a bomb of hers and how to get away with it. The scene itself isn’t just tense because we don’t know what’s going to happen next, but because of the sure-look of desperation and worry on her face. The ladies got plenty of skills to make any character she plays work, but also give us the chance to do what we can to reach out to her and see if she’ll return the favor. She sort of does, however, that’s more of because of Risenborough and her ability as an actress, and less of how the character was written.

Clive Owen is also another one that’s willing to give us that look of a dude who’s always tense and determined, no matter what it is the hell that he’s going through. Granted, his own story of being lied to by his boss is a bit annoying as it constantly intercepts all of the mystery that’s surrounding Collette’s story, but I will say that Owen always makes it a tense and fulfilling watch because the dude knows exactly how to make a character work, even if he doesn’t give him much of a personality. What you do know about him is that he’s a dude that does his job, and will protect this girl at any costs. Sounds like a nice guy to me, doesn’t it?

Also, we need more of Gillian Anderson! Seriously, ever since the last X-Files movie, this chick has been M.I.A. Come on back to the real world, Scully!

Consensus: There is a great sense of palpable tension and intrigue in Shadow Dancer, but most of it is undermined by the fact that there isn’t much else really going on here, and if there is, the movie doesn’t seem too concerned with telling us at all. Just wants to keep us in the dark, for the sake of doing so.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"So, anybody catch the game?"

“So, anybody catch the game?”