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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Trevor Morgan

Off the Black (2006)

The dude’s who always get the wrong calls, guess what? Get it wrong in life, too.

After his baseball team loses a game due to a call by umpire Ray Cook (Nick Nolte), Dave Tibbel (Trevor Morgan) and some friends decide to vandalize Ray’s house. Unfortunately for Dave, he is caught and starts paying off his debt by cleaning up the mess. But something odd begins to happen to Dave once he cleans this guys house up – he actually starts to like this old Ray fella, who seems like he also likes Dave, too. So, rather than just continuing to mess with the guy, he hangs out with him, more and more, getting to know who he is, where he comes from, and just what his whole life has been like. For Dave, it’s a way of coping with his mother’s absence, as well as the fact that his dad (Timothy Hutton), isn’t quite all that there for him, but for Ray, it’s all about getting to remember what it was like to be a kid, and have a family. It’s something that he hasn’t felt in forever and it’s something that Dave feels happy to give him, until it gets all too sad for either to actually be able to handle once the real truths come out.

He still somehow gets the ladies.

Off the Black is probably the most perfect movie to make your small-budget, really low-key, very indie debut with. Not in that it’s a perfect movie and is absolutely the one to show everyone else in the world the true talents you possess, but because it’s so simple, so easygoing, and so non-challenging, that it feels like you’re watching someone get their act together, yet, at the same time, not want to go too far so that they lose themselves. It’s almost as if Off the Black was made with the intention that writer/director James Ponsoldt would follow all sorts of rules and guidelines and only after the movie was finished, edited, and released, then he would get to have some fun with movies for a change.

And judging by what he’s put out since, it’s not hard to imagine this.

See, Off the Black is a perfectly fine little indie that doesn’t set out to offend, change the world, or even shake up the world a little bit. It tells this small, humane tale about two people connecting, getting to know one another, and yeah, eventually bonding over stuff. It’s so safe and comfortable that it’s probably the most perfect movie you could take an aunt, uncle, grand-parent out to see and leave it knowing that you did a great service, because they’ll be pleased with what they saw. Sure, the cursing, drinking, and occasional bit of smoking may get in the way, but overall, it’s a movie that doesn’t go out of its way too much to really stir up any person’s raw feelings and/or emotions.

Which is also probably why, for a good portion at least, it’s so boring. It’s hard to really pin-point what it was about Off the Black that felt like it was just taking way too much of its time and meandered, even with the 90-minute run-time, but it just happened. There was this constant feeling I had while watching the movie knowing that I typically love certain tales of everyday, normal people like this, but for some reason, this one just didn’t grab me. Ponsoldt’s latest films have all done that, and then some, which is probably Off the Black has gone mostly unremembered, even after all of his success as of late.

Grow up, kid. Start hanging with old drunks.

That said, it isn’t a totally terrible movie. Just a monotonous and rather boring one, to say the least.

It helps that, as usual, Nick Nolte is pretty terrific in the lead role playing, guess this, a drunk who has a rough past and even rougher relationships with those from that past. It’s the kind of dirty, beaten-up role Nolte has downright perfected by now, which is why it’s no surprise he handles it oh so well here, bringing out some true heart and emotion in scenes with Trevor Morgan that, honestly, never feel believable. It isn’t that Nolte doesn’t try, it’s that Morgan’s character is so dull and plainly-written that it’s never all that understandable why he wants to be best pals with this old drunk dude in the first place.

The movie does try to make it appear that Morgan’s character’s mommy issues have to do with it, but even still, it doesn’t quite make sense. Timothy Hutton’s dad character brings out the most emotion in his four or five scenes, showing us a truly sad person who, honestly, could have been better friends with Nolte’s. It feels odd, never quite works, and yeah, it doesn’t help that Morgan’s probably not the best actor, either.

That said, Nolte saves the day. What else is new?

Consensus: As conventional as indie-dramas get, Off the Black never gets as dramatic as it wants to be, which keeps itself away from being all that emotional.

5 / 10

Yeah, not buying it. Sorry, fellas.

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes

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The Patriot (2000)

Ah. The good old days of when people could actually trust in Mel Gibson to save the day.

During the American Revolution in 1776, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a veteran of the French and Indian War, declares that he will not fight in a war that is not his own. However, his oldest son (Heath Ledger) thinks differently and decides to enlist himself. Though Benjamin is upset with this decision, he knows that it is up to his son to make his own decisions and to be able to live with them, just as he has done with his own. But one fateful night, his son comes back, bloody, beaten-up, battered, and in need of some shelter; Benjamin, obviously, gives it to him, thinking that this will be the last time his son sets out for battle ever again. But Benjamin is proven wrong when, early the next morning, the British come looking for him and want to take his son away. Obviously, Benjamin is against this, as well as the rest of his family, which is when one of his young sons is shot and killed. This is when Benjamin decides that it’s time to quit being a pacifist and to pick up his sword, his gun, and his tomahawk, in order to extract some revenge, the good, old-fashioned way, baby!

Evil.

Evil.

Obviously, seeing as how this is a film from Roland Emmerich, I wasn’t expecting there to be any sort of complexity involved with the occasion. However, what’s different about the Patriot, apart from most of Emmerich’s other movies, is that it seems like he’s actually trying to make this an emotionally-gripping, detailed-story about how one man fought for the love and honor of his family, even when all the odds were stacked-up against him. This, on paper, all sounds heartfelt and kind of sweet, but the way in which it plays out?

It’s the furthest thing from.

For one, as soon as Gibson’s Benjamin Martin picks up his tomahawk, it’s go time right from there. People are shot, decapitated, split-open, spit-on, bled-out, and all sorts of other lovely actions involved with war. To be honest, I’m not one to back away from a movie that contains an awful lot of violence (especially when the violence is as graphic as it is in a big-budgeted blockbuster such as this), but there’s something here that feels incredibly off about the whole movie, that put a sour taste in my mouth.

Because, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like Emmerich gives much of a hoot about whether or not Benjamin actually feels fulfilled when every Redcoat is dead and gone away with; he cares more about how many people get killed, and in how many ways that make people go, “Aww yeah!”, or “Ooh!”. You can’t hate Emmerich for wanting to please his audience, but you can hate him for trying to pass all of that death and destruction with something resembling a peaceful; it’s just stupid and feels ill-written.

But, if I did have to rate this movie as a summer blockbuster, it’s an okay one.

It sure as hell did not at all need to be nearly three-hours, but considering the huge budget it has to work with, it’s nice to see that, at one time at least, Hollywood was willing to put all of their money into a history epic that featured as much gritty and raw violence as a single season of the Sopranos. Though the violence is oddly thrown in there with an inspirational message about standing up for your rights and taking down those who take what means most to you, it’s still effective; through the many war-sequences, we get a certain feel for just how dangerous and hellish the battlefield was, without any bullshit thrown in there.

It’s literally just blood being shed, lives being lost, and more disturbing memories for the generations to come. If anything, that’s as deep and as far as the Patriot is willing to go with any life-affirming message. For the most part, it is, like I said, concerned with just showing how many people can get killed, in all sorts of graphic ways that may, or may not please people.

Naive.

Naive.

Depends on who you are, I guess.

Though the movie tries to dig deep into Benjamin Martin’s psyche, eventually, it just stops and allows for Mel Gibson to do the leg-work for them. Which was obviously a smart idea, because even though Gibson seems to be, once again, playing another man on the search for getting justice and revenge for the loss of a loved-one (see Braveheart and/or Mad Max), the role still fits him like a glove that it doesn’t matter how old it seems for him to be playing. He has that perfect balance of being just vulnerable enough to make you think that the odds could topple over him, as well as being just mean and vicious enough to make you think he could kill whoever he wanted, how he wanted to, and whenever he saw fit. It’s actually quite scary, but it’s the role Gibson’s worked well for as long as he’s been acting and it’s only gotten more dramatic as he’s gotten older.

A lot of other people show up here and seem to be trying on the same level as Gibson, but they’re sadly tossed-away once the movie decides it doesn’t have time for them to stretch their wings out. The late, great Heath Ledger, Rene Auberjonois, Joely Richardson, and Chris Cooper all seem to have shown up, ready for work, but they don’t have anything worthwhile to do. After all, they’re in a Roland Emmerich movie, and when was the last time when of them was actually about the solid performances on-display?

No seriously – when was that? Cause I sure as hell don’t remember!

And the main reason why I didn’t include the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Jason Isaacs in that last paragraph, is because they are sadly given the roles as “the British” here, which means they play, either, nonsensical idiots, or blood-loving savages. It would make sense why the British would have a problem with this movie to begin with, but it’s made all the worse by the fact that two immensely talented actors like Isaacs and Wilkinson were given roles, so limited in their development and scope, that even they couldn’t save them. Sure, they went through the motions and collected the nice, meaty paychecks, but is it really all that worth it?

Consensus: As a summer blockbuster, the Patriot is more violent and bloodier than you’d expect it to be, but also happens to be a Roland Emmerich movie, which means it’s basically all of that, and hardly any depth beyond.

5 / 10

Heroic.

Heroic.

Photos Courtesy of : Super Marcey, Rob’s Movie Vault, Popcorn for Breakfast

Mean Creek (2003)

Kids can be brutal.

A group of misfit kids celebrate their youngest member (Rory Culkin)’s birthday, but are doing more than just letting the good times roll. Instead, they use the birthday as an excuse to mess with a bully (Josh Peck) and teach him a lesson or two about picking on kids who are younger and smaller than him. However, the kids don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into, especially when shite gets a bit too serious for their own good.

Throughout my high school days, I never really saw any bullying, ever. Yeah, of course I would see the occasional “booking” of a nerd going to math class, or a “taco” of another person’s book bag, but nothing too serious to the point of where I felt like some kid was going to get killed because of it. I said the same things and stated my ideas on the idea of bullying in that documentary, Bully, and all this time later, nothing still has changed. That’s why I’m glad I stayed away from being bullied or doing the bullying, just so I didn’t have the problem of seeing a kid go bat-shit like this.

First-time writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes does a magnificent job with this material, and makes a surprisingly moral tale out of a group of just 6 kids. Some of these kids are nice, some are kind hearted, some are bad, some are evil, and some are just plain evil. The film starts off like you’re going to see this bully finally get what’s coming to him, but in little time, you start to realize that this kid isn’t such a terrible person after all. In fact, he’s just as troubled as the dicks that put him up to this whole screwing with. But it’s not him that’s the only one that has problems, everybody else does too and if they don’t have problems, they at least have something that ticks away at them until the point of where they are absolutely losing their shit. This fascinated me because I thought that this flick was just going to be a mixture of Stand By Me and Bully (Larry Clark’s movie), but what I got instead, really tug at my brain and made me think a little bit.

It’s hard, actually, really too hard to make the “right” decision on what you would do if you were ever stuck in the same situation these kids get themselves caught in. Estes shows that these kids obviously can’t decipher between what is morally-correct and what is the best thing for them to do. I know that may sound similar, but trust me, when you’re a kid and you’re stuck in a situation like this one, they become two entirely, separate things. Yet, what also had me thinking about this film more was how Estes doesn’t really sympathize with any person in particular. Actually, everybody gets their own chance to show sympathy for their character and it’s very hard to choose who is the “right” person out of this situation. I know I’m being very vague about this “situation” but it’s really something you want to have no idea about going into.

My main complaint is that the second act is probably the most tense, if not the best part about this flick. Other than that, the other two acts (first and last) all pretty much suffer from being a tad too boring and predictable. The first act is obviously building up to what is essentially going to be our “party between the kids and the bully” so of course, the film takes its good old time, but maybe it was a little too good for it’s own self and that’s what bothered me. Then, the second act comes around and that’s when everything gets better and you really feel like this film has taken off of the ground. However, all of that goes to crap and then we get another slow/tedious-paced act that feels like Estes just wants to lolly-gag around with his film because he didn’t really know where to go after all of this.

It’s also a huge bummer considering everybody, myself included, pretty much guesses what happens to these kids on their little “party”, and that the only thing that’s really unpredictable is what they choose to do afterwards. You sort of know where it’s going to go after this all because there is only one way to go from here. It works as a thinking piece since it shows people doing the right things, and also doing the wrong things, but altogether doing something that only humans would do, especially in your right mind. But as a thriller; not really. Still don’t want to give it away even though I feel like I already have but it’s still pretty freakin’ easy to know just what the hell is going to happen, how, why, and when.

Such good friends.

Such good friends.

What I was really surprised about with this film was how good the performances were by this very young cast, most of which we’re under 20 around the time of filming. Rory Culkin plays the sweet and meek Sam, a kid who wants to get revenge on this bully but just can’t find any anger out of his heart to ever hurt another kid, let alone, a bully. Honestly, no matter how messed up and crazy those Culkin kids can be, they sure know how to act they’re asses off, even if they are only 8. Scott Mechlowicz was pretty damn awesome as the macho, slightly insecure dude named Marty and has that River Phoenix-thing going for him, which makes me surprised that he isn’t in more stuff as of late. The kid owns that bad-boy look here and even though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he’s a hunk, he’s got good looks that could definitely win over the ladies and make him a household name in some cheesy, Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Not saying that’s the right path to go down, but it wouldn’t hurt. Okay, yeah nevermind. Maybe it would. Don’t do that.

Actually, the best out of this cast would probably have to be Josh Peck as the bully, George. Right from the start of this flick, you feel sorry for this kid because you know that he’s not a bad kid, he just has some serious mental issues that he can’t help no matter how bad he tries to fit in with this group of kids. He actually tries so hard to the point of when he does feel rejected, he starts to lose his temper and finds that the only way of covering himself is by spouting out insults at the other people. Obviously no normal kid with a head on his shoulder would act like this, but George isn’t a normal kid and that’s what sad. This film shows that bullies, no matter how mean or cruel they can be, are still humans too and should be treated as such. Peck is great in this role and I definitely wasn’t thinking about Drake Bell when I watched this, which was something that totally shocked me since I loved that show. As a kid, of course….

Consensus: Mean Creek suffers from being deliberately slow and predictable in its first and last act, but regains its momentum through heartfelt performances from this young cast, superbly-written moral themes about the right thing to do, and is also a solid reminder by just how cruel and ruthless young kids can be to one another, no matter who the victim is.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Wife beater = bad ass.

Wife beater = bad ass.