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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Tony Roberts

12 and Holding (2005)

Small towns are way too weird.

Jacob and Rudy (Conor Donovan) are identical twins, in terms of the way they look and sound (sort of), but they are different in their own ways. Rudy is far more outgoing and considered “the golden child”, whereas Jacob, mostly due to a birthmark covering a large portion of his face, is forced to mostly stay indoors and keep to himself. However, they both get along well enough to where they spend as much time together and even build a tree-house, for them and all their friends to hang. But disaster strikes one night when, after messing with some bullies, the tree-house is lit on fire, with Rudy inside, trapping him and, as a result, killing him. Now, it’s up to Jacob to take most of the attention from his brother and he uses that attention to make a name for himself. Meanwhile, Leonard (Jesse Camacho), another friend, is overweight and trying to lose it all, while Malee (Zoe Weizenbaum) tries to befriend an adult named Gus (Jeremy Renner), who is in town and doesn’t quite know what to make of this new friendship, as inappropriate as it may be.

Uh, like step away?

12 and Holding is another odd movie from the likes of writer/director Michael Cuesta and I mean that in the best way possible. Granted, compared to his debut, L.I.E., 12 and Holding doesn’t quite hit the same emotional notes, but it’s still interesting in that it focuses on a small, core group of people, gives them some development, a sense of conflict, and allows their stories to just be told to us. Sure, the stories don’t always work, but at least Cuesta’s trying something, right?

Well, yes. And no. Sort of.

See, one of the issues with 12 and Holding is that it tries a lot harder to be an outright comedy this go around, unlike L.I.E., that was far more serious and disturbing. There’s still that sense of dirt and grit here, but not nearly as in-your-face as it was with Cuesta’s debut; this time around, the disturbing-features are played up more for cringe-inducing and awkward laughs. Occasionally, Cuesta will hit a high spot for comedy, but often times, it can feel as if he’s maybe trying a tad too hard, as if the material itself wasn’t, on the surface, funny enough.

Which is odd to say, I know, considering that in the first 15 minutes, a kid literally gets burned-to-death, but still, you can tell Cuesta is going for the darker-laughs this time around and he doesn’t always hit his mark. He does develop these characters and give them enough to work with, however, he also can’t help but give us the occasional quirk, too. It would have helped if these quirks were, at some point, funny, but they aren’t and because of that, it can feel straining.

“So, how’s the food?”

That said, the drama still works and had the movie just been with that, then yeah, it probably would have been a slam-dunk.

If there’s one thing that Cuesta gets right, is the small-town, suburban malaise that, in a way, American Beauty dealt with. Sure, that movie did it a whole lot better and effortlessly, but 12 and Holding does something interesting in that it shows how grief messes with each and everyone of us, regardless of if we are willing to accept it or not. Cuesta shows that we all deal with it on our own terms and because of that, we act out in somewhat rather outlandish and insane ways; we can’t really diagnose it, or even excuse it, as it’s just in our human nature.

If anything, 12 and Holding is much more sad and depressing than anything, and had the movie focused on this much more, it would have been better. However, it didn’t and it dealt with comedy a tad too much. Still, the ensemble is pretty great with nearly all of the child and adult-performers putting in solid work. Perhaps the most shining star in the whole thing is Zoe Weizenbaum as Malee, the incredibly curious and sexually vivacious teen that makes a good half of this movie pretty uncomfortable. However, she’s so charming and lovely to watch, with Renner’s Gus helping out, too, that it makes these scenes go down a lot easier.

Not like L.I.E., of course, Nothing can quite be as disturbing and as off-putting as that.

Consensus: Uneven to a fault, 12 and Holding tries to be way too funny, when it probably didn’t need to, but still works as a small, sad and thought-provoking indie about small-towns and grief.

6 / 10

Gonna grow up to be some awfully weird adults. Just like the rest of us.

Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films

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Annie Hall (1977)

Thanks, Annie. All we needed in this world were Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Thanks a lot.

Meet Alvy Singer (Woody Allen): He’s a neurotic, 40-year-old living in New York who’s had a pretty undefined life so far. He was born underneath a roller-coaster, has been married twice, and has yet to understand the meaning of what makes you happy in life. He’s never met a person that’s really took him by surprise and he’s never really been able to look on the bright side of things; always negative and always downing those around him. But that all somehow changes when his buddy (Tony Roberts) introduces him to a spunky gal named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The rest, as they say, “is history”.

Yes, this marks my first viewing of Annie Hall and before any of you jump down my throat right as soon as I open the gate, I have a reasoning for doing so: The time just never amounted itself. See, there’s a little something you folks out there may not know about me and my movie-viewing that I’m going to let you in on right about now, I have a weird thing about me where I need to watch a movie that I hear is “perfect” and “a masterpiece”, in the most perfect way possible. That means not on my computer, not on some lap-top, and sure as hell not in the middle of the day. It needs to be done in a way where I can watch it on my own, personal television (that’s rather huge), and needs to be done during the night, especially when I’m thinking of it the most. Hence why it took me over 2 years to actually crack-open the old VHS tape and actually watch this bad boy.

Don't drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Don’t drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Thankfully though, in the 2 years that it’s taken me to view this, has also lead me on to leave 2 years of my life that I feel were necessary enough to fully “get” just what exactly this flick was all about, for better or worse. I’ve been through a couple of “get-togethers” in the past 2 years and I’ve come to the realization that most relationships are exactly what you make of them and how much effort and love you want to put into it, but then my brain also gets raddled-around when I begin to think about all of the other aspects of a relationship like the people involved themselves. I begin to wonder, “well, maybe it was supposed to happen like that”, or, “it’s her, not me”, and you know what, that’s absolutely, positively true. So why the heck do we always go through with the same old stuff like relationships, even if they begin, go on, and end, mostly all the same?

That’s the type of question that Woody Allen brings up perfectly here not just once, but more than a couple of times but it never feels preachy or annoying; it feels like there’s really a man trying to get behind all of the stupidity and sappiness about what makes relationships loving and caring, and figuring out what the hell’s the point of it all. Allen himself seems to have had that problem many times in his life, but this time it was the most drastic-change for him where he needed to get his word out there, for all of the rest of the world to see, hear, and feel as well. It worked, and 4 Oscars later, Woody Allen will never, ever lose that cliché of his that “wasn’t better than Annie Hall“.

I can’t disagree with that statement, but that’s more of a positive than a negative because Allen has had his fair share of blunders in the past, but also his fair share of wonders as well, and this one only showed the world that he was more than just a satirist who was ready to make an easy joke out of any situation. This time, he showed a compassion and feeling towards the things that he was making fun of, as well as a reasoning behind all of the mucking it up. He shows us that humor is the quickest and best way to making a person happy, and is able to get them away from all of the hard-ships they may, or may not be happening in their life at the present time, even if it’s only for a second. Sounds like a sappy thing to say, but it’s the truth and it’s present in just about every frame here when Allen’s script comes out hitting us like a ton of pins and needles.

The one-liners the guy has to present are hilarious, regardless of if you don’t get them or not (and trust me, you won’t, but neither did I so it’s okay). But with every situation and happening this story goes through, the movie always finds the lighter side of the equation, even if the man himself who’s telling it, is a pessimist himself. Everybody knows that about Woody, and especially about Alvy the “character” in this movie that he’s playing, which brings us more of a real-world glimpse at the world of love, happiness, and sadness, without ever seeming like it’s the Hollywood-ized version or anything of that nature. It’s the way that Allen sees the world and everything that inhabits it, and it’s such a pleasure to see, for many more reasons than one, but the most important one being that it’s as real as you’re ever going to get and ever going to need, especially with a subject like love and relationships.

There’s a reason why every rom-com that’s any percent above the usual cookie-cutter, conventional rom-com, always seems to find itself compared to this flick, which is reasonable because this is one of the first rom-coms to ever really scratch the surface with such an attending eye as the one that Allen himself has. It touches on relationships in the way that they don’t last forever, just like love as well, and it’s up to us to decide whether we want to go through with any of it anymore, or just give up it all entirely and save ourselves some pressure and some time. However, there’s also this idea that one may need love, no matter how desperate it may actually be.

See, couples can have fun and be happy. It just doesn't last forever. Wah.

“Yeah, take a picture of me doing this so I can remember the happy time we had every time you piss me the hell off, woman!”

Love is like a must one person has to have in their life, if only for just a short amount of time. It can either be the first person who said “hi” to you on your first day of Junior High; your ex who left you for the best man/bridesmaid at your wedding; or it can even be the significant other you’ve stood by after all of these years, even if you do get tired of hearing their dreaded snoring, night and night again. It doesn’t matter who you felt love for, it’s as long as you’ve felt it, if just for one time. Love is what people constantly throw themselves into, time and time again, regardless of if it comes out negatively or positively. It comes out in a way that reminds you what life is all about and even if you lose that person you love, well, life still goes on and you will continue to meet more and more people, experience new things, and may eventually come to realize that that person you held an affection for, maybe wasn’t the best person who deserved it in the end. Just maybe.

As you can tell, this movie made me think a whole lot and it still will, even after I finish this review. That’s the sign of a great movie, and dare I say it, “a masterpiece”.

However, no film at all would be complete without great performances from it’s cast, which is exactly what this movie has, but benefits more from the wonderful chemistry by it’s two leads, the same two that were rumored to have been out and about during the time of this movie’s release and filming. Many people considered this work to be “autobiographical” in the sense that everything that Annie and Alvy go through and experience together, is exactly what Woody and Diane did as well, but something tells me that that’s only taking credit away from the perfect jobs these two did together, especially by actually getting us to believe in this couple right from the get-go. Except I’m still mad at Diane Keaton for giving us this. Why, Diane! Why?!?!?!?!?

Woody Allen still plays-up his usual, neurotic-shtick that never gets old or annoying, it’s always hilarious to see him react to the others around him, even if it comes from a source of a mind that’s a bit too miserable to be around. Then again, all of the problems this guy has with the world around him seems reasonable and understandable, especially considering the way he was brought up in the world. Woody Allen has always been a bit of a charmer in his movies, but his comedic-timing and wit was on fire during this movie, and rarely ever kept me from laughing. It’s an act that some people thought would have been done to death by now, but has yet to have over-stayed it’s welcome. Don’t ever change, Woody. No matter what all the nay-sayers may, ahem, say.

Only thing that's dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she's the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it.

Only thing that’s dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she’s the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it but times have changed, my friends.

Diane Keaton though, all jokes aside, really gave it her all with this performance and is absolutely loving and cute as our titled-character because she feels real. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been mixed-up with a couple of cooks back in my day, but I felt closer and closer to this relationship because I could see why somebody would want to be together with someone, break-up with them, and get back together a couple of days, hours, or seconds later. As a human-being, some of us are prone to making mistakes and trying to undo them as soon as possible, which is exactly what Annie tries to do throughout the whole movie. She tries to cater to Alvy’s own needs and wants, yet is keeping herself away from something that she herself wants to do; she allows herself to be made fun of and criticized for the way she talks and acts, even if she’s still not sure why she does or says certain things, it’s just who she is; and she continues and continues to go through with a relationship that’s more than shaky at times, all because she needs somebody in her life, especially somebody like Alvy.

It’s a beautiful relationship these two form and one that I felt more of a connection to, being that I’ve been through a couple of crazy relationships of my own. Together though, Keaton and Allen make a wonderful screen-couple because they feel real, honest, and as heart-breaking as ever, even if you may want to punch the other in the face sometimes for being such a ding-bat to the other’s emotions and feelings. However, that’s just how relationships go. You can’t always satisfy the other, from beginning to the end of your relationship; your always going to mess up and have to kick yourself in the ass for doing so. But then, you get back up, continue forward, and work at it. If the relationship doesn’t work out as you or the other may have planned, then so be it. Life goes on, relationships will come and go, and love will continue to find itself back into your soul, whether you want it to or not. Case closed.

Consensus: Annie Hall is considered “one of the greatest rom-coms of all-time” and well, with good reason: It’s beautifully-told tale that’s honest, hilarious, perfectly-acted by Woody and Diane, and leaves room for plenty of thought and discussion, even if it all comes through one’s life experiences and own ideas. Still though, you’ll feel the bug of love eating at you long after the credits roll.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Hi. I'm Woody Allen and I hate everything that's good and right with life. Now, watch my movie."

“Hi. I’m Woody Allen and I hate everything that’s good and right with life. Now, watch my movie.”