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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 Way

Down Terrace (2009)

Keep it all in the family. No literally, everything.

Bill (Robert Hill) and his son, Karl (Robin Hill), have been working together for so long and even though it just so happens to be organized crime, they’ve gotten by for the longest time in it, so they don’t get caught up in all the details. But that all begins to change when, after spending a few days in jail, they return home and realize they may have a rat in their midst. This is clearly not something they want to put up with, which is why they try to get down to the nitty gritty of it all and figure out just who the rat in the whole gang may be, or if there isn’t one, who’s the first who could rat on them in the first place. As they try to pick out the informant from a group that includes a corrupt politician (Mark Kempner), an unpredictable hit man (Michael Smiley), and yes, even the annoyed and pissed-off matriarch, Maggie (Julia Deakin), Karl learns his girlfriend (Kerry Peacock) is pregnant and doesn’t quite know what to do with that, or how the hell his family is even going to react. Needless to say, it’s not pretty.

Oops. Out come the guns.

Down Terrace has essentially one-joke going for itself throughout the whole hour-and-a-half, but it’s such a good joke that co-writer/director Ben Wheatley finds himself constantly playing around and toying with the whole time: It’s that everyone is suspected of being a rat and because of that, they’ve got to meet their maker. Of course, the movie may play-off like a very serious and tense episode of the Sopranos, but what’s interesting about Down Terrace is that, besides it being incredibly dark and morbid at times, it’s also quite funny.

Cause of course, British gangsters can’t be too serious the whole time, right?

And that’s why Down Terrace, while not an altogether perfectly put together movie, is still entertaining and interesting enough to watch, because it’s trying something new and bold. Inside of it, is a combination of the kitchen-sink drama, the suburban crime flick, and of course, the black-as-hell comedy, and while it’s definitely obvious when the movie changes into one mood, it still kind of works. Wheatley knows how to film each and every aspect of this story into a manner where we don’t know what to expect, or know exactly where it’s going to lead into, and just watching him give it a try is where most of the fun is to be had.

This is the part of the movie where the subtitles definitely need to be put on.

He and fellow writer Robin Hill don’t forget to give audiences a little bit of everything, but they truly know how to make their comedy crack and their violence, well, disturb. In fact, it’s maybe a bit too disturbing at times; characters that we come to know, love, and grow very intimate with over a very short amount of time, are all of a sudden killed-off in very heinous, in-your-face ways the next second. It’s as if no one’s safe and those that definitely aren’t, are going to meet a very gruesome end. Which once again, is pretty brave, despite it not always working.

But hey, in the film-world, bravery has to count for something.

And that’s basically where Down Terrace works in the end; it’s probably Wheatley’s most cohesive and simple-to-read picture, but in that, also isn’t his dullest, either. You can tell that he’s working out some of the kinks into how to make this kind of material to work, but when you have a first-timer making so much noise, by combining all of these different subgenres, and making something still work, then yeah, it’s definitely worth the watch. If only to see just where Wheatley himself has come, gone, and where he’s going to be heading-off towards in the very near-future.

Let’s just hope he sticks with more movies such as this, and more away from High-Rise. Sheesh.

Consensus: With a crazy combination of different tones and styles, Ben Wheatley definitely takes a lot on his plate, but handles it well with a very funny, surprising, and altogether interesting hybrid with Down Terrace.

7.5 / 10

Cheers, mates. Get ready to die.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Stand By for Mind Control, New York Times

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High-Rise (2016)

Happens at Marriott Inns all the time.

Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Middleston) moves into a towering London skyscraper where most of the rich and powerful upper-class people live on the tippy-top, and the lower-class, mostly poorer people live on the bottom. Laing for himself is somewhere in the middle of everything and soon finds himself accepted by both sides of the spectrum; he enjoys the lavish and exquisite parties that the upper-class has, but he also enjoys having a pretty wacky and wild time with the lower-class ones as well. Mostly though, he’s just trying to play it safe, live a simple life, make some friends, and not get dragged-up in anything too complicated or whatever. However, that all changes when the two classes begin to clash over, well, everything. Power starts going out, supermarkets start running dry, and somehow, more and more people are fighting. Even though the police are around, they don’t seem too interested to get involved, which means that it’s mostly all up to the tenants to solve these issues. This, as expected, leads to some disastrous and downright deadly results.

If he's shocked, something's got to be really screwed up there.

If he’s shocked, something’s got to be really screwed up there.

There’s a good half-hour or so where I was totally on-board with High-Rise and everything that Ben Wheatley seemed to be doing. The tone is off in that we get a sense of this where we are, but we don’t know what to make of anything just yet; we know that something bad is going to happen, but how, why and when? These are questions brought up by Wheatley who seems to, at times, be feeding us a pitch-dark comedy that doesn’t want to clue us in yet of just what its intentions are, or where exactly it’s going to go.

And yes, in a way, I ate all that up. The movie not only looks great, but there was something about its world-building that kept me interested, even if it did seem like Wheatley was plodding his way along something of a plot. Wheatley seems less interested in plots such as these, and more interested in just figuring out more about these characters and the world that they’re surrounded by – while some of it seems real, for the most part, it isn’t. This is a scarily idealized world that we’re not necessarily to be happy about, but still want to see stuff happen in and that’s how I felt watching High-Rise.

And then, that all changed.

For one, Wheatley loses all sorts of focus with this and never seems to know what he wants to do, or say with this material, except just do the same thing, over and over again. Without saying too much, a lot of terrible stuff happens to a lot of people in here and while I’m all for it, there came a point where I was wondering if it was going to mean anything for any reason. Wheatley has shown in his past few movies that he doesn’t mind killing people in ugly, heinous ways because it either, A) looks cool, or B) is cool, which is a-okay with me, but there has to be some sort of reason, or at the very least, some sort of connection to it; to just give us bloody and horrific acts of violence for the sake of it, can not only get real old after awhile, but it just makes you seem lazy. Rather than seeming like the talented and cool kid who can find all sorts of meaning in a painting of a red box, you still seem more like the kid who doesn’t get it, so rips it off the wall and lights it on fire.

That poor child being brought up in a world like this.

That poor child being brought up in a world like this.

Maybe that’s a huge generalization to make, but it’s not a hard one to make after watching High-Rise. There’s a lot of good in the movie, most definitely, but there’s also a whole hour-and-half where the movie does the same thing, again and again, and there’s nothing to it. None of these characters ever feel like real people we care about, nor does any of the action hit close to home because, well, it’s all an over-the-top cartoon. The tone may be dark and eerie, but not for a second did I take anything seriously what anyone did or said. Wheatley may have, but it sure as hell didn’t transition to the screen.

And this is a huge shame, because the cast he’s got really does try their best with all that they can do, but it’s really Wheatley’s show and he doesn’t really allow for anyone to grow beyond him, or the material.

Hiddleston is basically doing exactly what he did on the Night Manager, except seeming more clueless about the world around him than ever and it’s no fun to watch; Sienna Miller is fiery and hot, but has some weird subplots going on that never materialize, nor make any emotional impact; Elisabeth Moss shows up as a pregnant housewife who has a bit of an interesting dark side to her, but it’s so mushed in together with the rest of what’s going on that it almost feels like an afterthought; Luke Evans has some fun, but ultimately, goes down so many wild and wacky paths with his character that he never feels like an actual, living and breathing human being; and Jeremy Irons is, yes, pretty freaky, but that’s all he is. He never becomes detestable, nor does he ever go beyond just being “a scary dude” – he’s supposed to be the main villain of the story, but really, I just didn’t care.

Maybe that’s the point, but honestly, who knows? I clearly sure as hell don’t, as shown by my rating. Maybe I’m stupid.

I do know that.

Consensus: High-Rise toggles with interesting and eerie ideas about social classes and economics, but never makes much sense of them with a story that works, or actually intrigues past just being a bunch of bad things happening, for whatever reasons.

3 / 10

Going up, Mr soon-to-be-Bond.

Going up, Mr. soon-to-be-Bond?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Riot Club (2015)

Rich kids get a bad rap. They’re just like you or I – except with lots more money, is all.

Milo Richards (Max Irons) is a first-year student at Oxford University and doesn’t really know what his place in the world, let alone at college. But he knows that he wants to start something up with fellow freshman Lauren (Holliday Grainger) who shows him that being popular and cool doesn’t matter once you’ve got someone special in your life. However, that doesn’t register with Milo, as he still finds himself drawn to certain people in and around the University that are deemed “cool”, or typically “posh”. That’s why when a group of young, rich hot-shots from other universities recruit Milo for what they call “the Riot Club”, he doesn’t go against it; in fact, he allows it. Once Milo’s apart of this group, he acts out in all sorts of ways he never quite expected himself to act out in the first place: Running, cursing, breaking things, partying, and generally causing all sorts of havoc. Eventually though, all of the good times Milo has with the club start to come to a close when he realizes that all of these fellas are up to no good and are absolute menaces to society – something Milo doesn’t want to be, nor associate himself with.

What we have here is another case of an interesting premise, and a movie that doesn’t know what to do with it, or how to go about saying what it wants to say in a smart, understood way. Instead, the Riot Club is a movie that wants to be two, completely different things: A) It wants to be the pint-sized version of the Wolf of Wall Street where young, British whippersnappers go around drinking, sexxing, and causing all sorts of chicanery for the hell of it, and B) It wants to be a cautionary tale for kids out there to not conform so easily to what all of the cool kids are doing, no matter how fun it may seem. The later element is a thoughtful one, but when it’s thrown-up against a movie that wants to praise the same assholes it’s talking out against, then there becomes something of a problem that’s hard to get by.

"To asshole d-baggery!"

“To asshole d-baggery, lads!”

This is a shame, too, because the Riot Club just so happens to come from the hands of Lone Scherfig, a director who seems to have fallen on the forgotten-path of life since One Day. Scherfig does a solid job of setting these characters up to be total and complete jackasses that, despite all of the fortune and fame that they may have, are absolute dicks that nobody wants to be around, let alone spend up to two hours with. However, Scherfig seems like she actually wants to hang out with them for two hours and because of that, the movie becomes a mess.

We want to not like these characters because of what they stand for – Scherfig knows this, too. However, she doesn’t allow for these characters, for the first two-halves that is, actually show their dark sides. They’re just young, rambunctious, and rowdy kids that like to cause mayhem wherever they go because, well, they can. They’re rich, spoiled and don’t have an absolute care in the world and while Scherfig may want us to like them, it’s very hard to.

That’s why when, all spoilers ahead, these d-bags get their comeuppance, it doesn’t feel organic. It feels thrown in there because Scherfig, realizing what sort of movie she was setting out to make, didn’t want to make it seem like she liked all of these characters to begin with. So, she shows them acting like a crazed lunatics that, when they have a little too much to drink, break down walls, throw tables, and beat the shit out of anybody that steps into their way. The way this is all shown at the end is a bit too cartoonish to take seriously, and not to mention that it’s all highly unbelievable.

Literally, these characters go from yelling, hooting and hollering about being rich and cool, but then, literally moments later, they’re acting like crazed lunatics in the midst of a prison riot. This would make sense of Scherfig ever made a hint of this throughout the whole piece, but she doesn’t; instead, we just see how these guys are dicks and that’s it. There’s no sign at all that they may be dangerously violent and possibly even lash-out on random, innocent people like they begin to do in the later-parts of this movie, for no reason whatsoever.

Professing your love on a roof? How original, mate.

Professing your love on a roof? How original, mate.

Maybe this is how these groups are in real life, I don’t know. All I know is that it takes an awful lot for people to start acting the way these characters do later on.

But honestly, all of the problems with the Riot Club would have been if Scherfig gave us someone worth reaching out towards and rooting for, but sadly, we don’t really get that. Sure, she gives us a sympathetic protagonist in Milo, but once you get down to the brass-tacks of this character, you realize that the only reason he’s written at all to be sympathetic, is because he doesn’t do nearly as much drinking, smoking or bad-assery as these fellows. He still does it when push comes to shove, but all he’s really got to live for is a girl and I guess that’s why he doesn’t partake as much in these hellacious activities.

That doesn’t really give us a character worth sympathizing with, let alone actually caring about, which is a huge problem where not only everybody seems to be unlikable, but are hard to really differentiate from one another. One character, played by Sam Reid, is the gay one who constantly hits on Milo, no matter how much he turns him down, but that’s pretty much it. Everybody else, from the likes of Sam Claflin to Douglas Booth, all are the same characters and hardly have any character-traits that make them seem more complex than the others. Not that there’s much to them to begin with, but hey, a little dimensions would’ve helped.

Consensus: Nobody in the Riot Club is likable, which is sort of the point of the movie, and sort of not, which makes it a non-interesting, repetitive mess.

2.5 / 10 

The bright, young faces of the new world. And for that, we're all screwed.

The bright, young faces of the new world. And for that, we’re all screwed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Just as long as I’m not apart of it, Tom Cruise can re-live any point in his existence that he wants.

After a mix-up that leaves him confused and totally out-of-his-element, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) gets sent to the front-lines in a current war between humans and aliens known as “Mimics”. Cage clearly has no idea what to do with these new battle-suits the government has issued, yet, has no problem in taking out one alien on the battle-field. However, in doing so, he dies as well. But, moments later, finds himself woken-up, back to a moment in which he was getting brought into the war camp. He knows that he’s experienced this moment before and tries to plead his case to everyone around him, yet, no one wants to hear it and continues sending him out into the battlefield. And yet, time and time again, Cage wakes up, same place, same people, same situations, and same memory. Yet, during one of these adventures, a fellow, very respected soldier by the name of Rita Vratasky (Emily Blunt), wonders about Cage and tells him to, “come and see me when you wake up”. Cage does and together, the two cobble-up a master-plan in which, together, they’ll have to find the source to where all of these Mimics are coming from, where, hopefully, they’ll be able to stay safe enough where they can die and do it all over again. However, if they can’t and somehow get a blood-transfusion of any sorts, then the day will stop repeating, therefore meaning, everyone will die and never come back to life. Case closed.

Oh, look at Tom Cruise still thinking he's over six-foot tall.

Oh, look at Tom Cruise still thinking he’s over six-foot tall.

Pretty sure that I could have summed all of that up by saying it’s “Groundhog Day meets Independence Day“, but there’s more to this movie than just that. See, it’s a gimmick-movie in which it’s a war movie that just so happens to repeat itself, time and time again; but then again, calling it a “gimmick movie”, would give one the impression that this a movie that relies solely on that gimmick, without barely anything else substantial made in the process.

However, that’s not the case with Edge of Tomorrow, because while it’s a premise I’m sure we’ve all seen done before, there’s something special about it being used here. For instance, that movie Source Code had the same Groundhog Day-gimmick going for itself, yet, where that movie seemed to try almost too hard to where it fell on its feet more times than it should have, Edge of Tomorrow really feels like a movie that has everything perfectly planned-out to where they’ll be no confusion from anybody, at anytime whatsoever. Sure, there’s a lot of sci-fi gibbery-goo that gets spouted out on more than a few occasions, but that just acts as simple exposition; it’s only real purpose is to give us a reason to believe what it is we’re seeing in this movie, as well as to move the plot along. That’s it.

If you care about not being able to believe anything that happens in this movie, then don’t watch it, because it is relatively goofy. Then again, the idea that a person could live one day, over and over again, without any real, life-long consequences, is goofy in and of itself. However, this movie knows that and really runs wild with the idea that somebody could experience the same battle, over and over again, while simultaneously, still finding a way to end it all. It sounds like it could be easily convoluted and messy, but director Doug Liman gets through most of it all by just having a great time with this material and realizing that audience-members want fun with premises like this.

Everything you’d expect this Cage guy to go through, emotionally and physically, while “graced” with this talent, he goes through and it’s always believable and interesting. Not to mention, it’s also pretty fun to see a deuche bag, played by Tom Cruise, get his ass handed to him on more than a few occasions. But Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise, he’s a good sport for whatever this material allows him to do and once again, I can hardly find a problem with this guy’s performance, which is mainly due to the fact that he’s playing a character who is well-written as is.

What’s so neat about William Cage is that, early on, we get the idea that he’s a total prick; he’s the kind of guy who will dedicate mostly all of his life to getting that desk-job, just so that he doesn’t have to worry about getting his hands dirty. We find this out early on and it makes us see him as nothing other than an a-hole who deserves to be taken off of his high-horse, by any means necessary. It’s great to see Cruise play somebody that’s a tad unlikable again, as well as somebody that’s allowed to grow over time. Because “grow”, is exactly what Cage does and it’s all pretty believable too. Cage does grow a conscience over time, and though the advertisements may have you think otherwise, it isn’t because he wants to get his bone jumped by Emily Blunt’s fine British rump; it’s more because he actually wants to save humanity and doesn’t want to let his powers go to waste.

She just had a child, mind you.

She just had a child, mind you.

Speaking of Emily Blunt, she does a very great job as this bad-ass soldier Rita Vratasky. Blunt got pretty ripped-up for this role and while we don’t necessarily get too many shots of her in all her lovely, sweaty-form, we do get to see her beat the hell out of these alien-like creatures, and it’s pleasing to watch. Also the more pleasing is that she isn’t a female character included to just be Cruise’s on-screen love-interest; she serves the plot and actually brings a lot of heart to material that can be pretty grim at times. She does that “sad-but-sort-of-angry-face” very well and that’s displayed on more than a few occasions here, yet, builds her character more and more into making her someone we can get behind, even while her decisions may not always be the best for herself or Cage.

I know that sounds all very corny and too “hurrah! hurrah”!, even by my standards, but this is what can happen to a moviegoer like me – a person who has seen more movies in his life than he can probably count. If you give me a premise that’s well thought-out and doesn’t noticeably trip over itself more than a handful of times, then yeah, count me in for the ride baby! That’s not to say there aren’t a few problems here and there with this movie, but honestly, I didn’t let too many of them get in the way of a movie that wanted to treat me to some fine, thrilling, and action-packed summer fun. And heck, if a movie can throw in a nice helping of “smart” in there, then hey, I’m all for that.

In fact, bring more of it. Please.

Consensus: While Edge of Tomorrow has a gimmick we’ve all seen done before, the circumstances are different, therefore, we’re treated to more excitement, fun, wit, and a movie that is at least smart enough to know when to joke around, and when to lay down its cards and be serious as well, without hardly ever losing its audience.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"So uh, after all of this war stuff, you want to grab a bite to eat or possibly convert to a different religion? You know, or whatever you want to do."

“So uh, after all of this war stuff is over, you want to grab a bite to eat or possibly convert to a new religion? You know, or whatever you want to do.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Sightseers (2013)

Sort of like if Mickey and Mallory went on a road-trip. Well, a different one anyway.

Two lovebirds, Chris and Tina (Steve Oram and Alicia Lowe), decide that it’s time to get away for a little and have some fun. Chris then plans out this whole trip for the two to take, hopefully have fun on, and explore the country-side. Oh, and they might also do some killing as well. Just in case the moment ever arises.

Director Ben Wheatley is starting to become a voice to be heard in the world of movies. Kill List was a shock of a movie that never ceased it’s turning wheels, and still has me wondering about it, even until this very same day. It’s just that type of movie that messes with your mind, long after you’ve seen it, which is why you should definitely go out, find it, and watch it if you haven’t done so already. That said, this movie had a lot of promise by the way this is Wheatley’s second film and shows that the guy loves blending human-relationships, comedy, and horror, altogether in one, neat package. But what you may not notice until checking out the credits, this isn’t written by Wheatley and is instead done by it’s two leading stars. First mistake right there.

Even though Wheatley took some risky and strange steps with Kill List, you still have to give the guy credit for at least going down the roads that he did, and not making any apologies for it. It was always interesting to see where he could go next with his story, and what genre he was going to mess around with when he felt like it. This movie just felt like the same genre, the same joke, the same happenings, the whole way through. There’s nothing really crazy going on here other than the fact that these two lovers are out on their own, little trip of sight-seeing and killing random people. Funny for maybe the first or second time, but after that: it becomes a bore.

Well now we see who wears the pants in that relationship...

Well now we see who wears the pants in that relationship…

However, Oram and Lowe don’t really seem to get the nods right off the bat. They decide to keep on hammering and hammering away with the same joke that these two, ordinary people would actually spend a whole trip going from place-to-place, killing people whenever they saw fit. It gets old, real quick, and feels like the movie is at a lost for ideas. If anything, the movie did make me laugh with it’s monstrous uses of irony, and finding new and original ways to use it here and there, but even that got to be repetitive as well. Nothing new seems to happen, other than what person they are going to kill next and even then you can pin-point how, who, what, where, and when.

Not good for any movie, let alone one of the horror/black comedy-genre.

Honestly, I wish I could go on and on about this movie and say how obvious it got to a certain-point where I just wanted somebody to slap me with a fish and get it over with already, but I’m sort of at a lost for words. Wheatley still shows his love and compassion for making things terribly-uneasy with the audience, whether it’s watching a person be killed, or the thought of someone being killed. But then that idea starts to get skewered as you begin to see these characters taking out all of their rage and frustration out on people who seem to sort of deserve it. Not saying any person deserves to die for saying or doing something that may not be the nicest-gesture in the whole, entire world, but if Wheatley really wanted to ruffle some feathers, he would have gone for the jugular and given us victims that were the least-bit sympathetic. Everybody here just seem like mean people that had it coming to them some time soon. Not my thoughts. Apparently it’s the movies. Just by the looks of it.

Then, of course, there’s the two leading-peoples themselves: Steve Oram and Alicia Lowe. Since this is THEIR script, aka, their bread and butter, it only feels right that they make it work to the best of each of their abilities, which it does. Oram is funny as Chris, the sort of dude that seems all cool, calm, and relatively-charming on the outside, but very deep, dark, and sinister on the in. The dude never seems like a bad-enough guy to really go full-throttle with all of these murderous-acts of violence, but at least he has fun with it. Low also has fun with her role as Tina, for the sole-sake that she’s just a nut, and is marveling it. She gets to do some pretty strange-o stuff, and pulls it off well, even when it seems like this girl is too nutty to be taken seriously. But then again, you never know what is real, and what isn’t real with this movie. Wheatley leaves it all up to the viewer and I appreciated that aspect, just not the whole film.

Now THAT'S love.

Now that’s love.

Together, Oram and Lowe are good as it seems as if they’ve been best-buddies/eff-buddies for a long time now, as the chemistry between them is natural. They’re weird, odd, and very scary in the ways that they could do anything they wanted, whenever they wanted, but I wanted more from these characters. For the most part, I never felt like I knew any of them, other than the fact that they just liked to act weird and kill people. That was basically it. It never seems like the movie itself was ever keen on taking them seriously enough, to ever give them any real personalities, with real feelings, real emotions, and real ideas in their heads. I know killing people is a real idea, but I didn’t feel like I was watching real people, thinking about a real idea. They seemed more like they were destined for the big-screen. No surprise that that’s exactly where they ended-up.

Consensus: Wheatley still shows his attention to detail, but working on a script that wasn’t made by him, makes Sightseers feel like a bit of a disappointment considering it’s the same, old joke; again and again with new spins on it every once and awhile, but not enough to fully have me in a daze of fun and disbelief.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Yup, they did that too.

Yup, they did that too.