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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Vinessa Shaw

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Most cold-blooded killers are, after all, misunderstood.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) has been on the run, gun slingin’, robbin’, killin’, and committing all sorts of crimes that have him number one on every person’s bounty list. However, Wade is a pretty ruthless man, to where he can get away from anyone looking to reel him in for justice; it also helps that he’s got the helping hand of his band of fellow thugs, especially his go-to-guy, Charlie (Ben Foster). But eventually, Ben gets caught by the local law and ready for the 3:10 train to take him to Yuma. But in order to get him there, he’ll have to be transported among many lines, where everyone is looking to take Ben down and get a little piece of the reward-money pie. However, Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is just looking to do this so that he can get some money, save his farm, and go home to his family, where he can feel like a responsible man again. As expected though, the trip goes through all sorts of bumps, bruises, and plenty of violence, where one thing leads to another, and it’s never very clear if Ben will ever get on that train and behind bars, like he should.

"Hold it! I'm not Batman here, but other places. Kind of."

“Hold it! I’m not Batman here, but other places. Kind of.”

3:10 to Yuma is the rare kind of Western that not only revitalizes the genre, but also proves why it’s so great in the first place. It doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the genre, make up new rules, and play by its own game, but instead, take everything that you know and love from all those other classics, bring them together, and let you have a great time. It’s as if it’s own beast, entirely, even if, yeah, it’s actually a remake, too.

Still, even if 3:10 to Yuma isn’t the most original story out there, it more than makes up for it in all the thrilling, exciting and rather unpredictable action-sequences that take place over its two-hours. James Mangold is a perfect fit for this material, because he knows exactly how to make it all crackle and pop, without ever seeming like he’s out of his depth. Even though Mangold sure does love to jump around from genre to genre, with sheer reckless abandon, it seems like the action-genre may be the one he sticks with, not just because he seems to enjoy it the most, but because he actually seems to know what he’s doing with it, as opposed to those like Michael Bay, or McG.

Why on Earth did I just mention McG’s name?

Anyway, moving on. 3:10 to Yuma more than gets by with its action, but at the heart of it all, and perhaps what makes it more than just another fun and exciting romp through the Old West, is that it’s also the tale of two interesting, challenging, and complex men. Both Christian Bale and Russell Crowe put in great work here, going beyond the silly accents, and showing that there’s more to these two guys. Crowe’s Wade may be a ruthless, toothless (not really, he has quite the set of chompers), and almost sadistic killer, but he’s also got a set of morals and he’s quite the charmer. Whereas, on the other side of the coin, Bale’s Dan is a man with plenty of morals, a simpleton, and family man, but at the same time, won’t hesitate to kill, if he ever has to.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Both men are different, yes, but they’re also quite alike in many ways, too, and it’s what makes 3:10 to Yuma quite compelling to watch.

Even when the action is gone for a short while and everyone’s sitting around a fire, eating beans, chewing the fat, it’s still entertaining to watch; the cast is so good, the characters so well-defined, and the script is actually polished. And with Bale and Crowe’s performances, we get to see two men who, despite being on opposites of the social spectrum, still respect the other enough to know where they come from, what their ideals are, and why they are, the way they are in the world. It almost comes close to a bromance, except for the fact that they do try and kill each other every so often, but even then, who knows.

Bromances work in mysterious ways, sometimes.

But anyway, aside from both Crowe and Bale, the ensemble’s a pretty good one. A very young Logan Lerman shows that he can hold his own as Dan’s son; Dallas Roberts plays the sheriff who has to take Wade in with Dan and shows that even the scrawniest of men, with a gun, can still kind of be bad-ass; Peter Fonda shows up and brings some class; Kevin Durand is, as expected, pretty crazy; Luke Wilson has a fun cameo; and Ben Foster, as Wade’s right-hand man, is so crazy, so deranged and so evil, that he almost ends up stealing the show. But still, it’s Bale’s and Crowe’s show to the end and when they’re together, their scenes never stop igniting the spark and make you wish that they’d work together more and more. It doesn’t even have to be in Westerns.

Couldn’t hurt, though.

Consensus: Even if it’s still a Western through and through, 3:10 to Yuma is a tense, exciting and incredibly well-acted piece of entertainment.

8 / 10

Look at 'em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Look at ’em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, Rotten Tomatoes 

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Cold in July (2014)

Next time, just watch who you shoot. Better yet, ask for their names and possible family members that may come around and extract revenge.

After shooting and killing a masked intruder, Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) believes that justice has been and there’s no need to harp on his act of violence. However, the intruder’s father, Ben Russell (Sam Shepard) thinks differently and wants to see his side’s justice be done. Therefore, he concocts his own idea of revenge, which means terrorizing the rest of Dane’s family. Thankfully for Dane, he gets caught in the act and is jailed. One night though, out of pure curiosity, Dane decides to check up on what’s happening with the case and realizes that the man he shot and killed was not the man the police said it was; even worse, he finds out that the police want to get rid of Russell so that he won’t dime out the cops on their plan. Dane still has a bit of a conscience left and decides to save Russell from impending doom, where they end up figuring out just what’s really going on with all of this. What they find out is shocking and sends both Russell and Dane, along with Russell’s old friend who works in the CIA (Don Johnson), on a mission of sorts, where Dane wonders if he should stick to his comfy life as a middle-aged, suburban father, or pick up a gun and start shooting.

It’s hard to discuss a movie like this, because every plot-point counts. There’s many different twists, turns, roads, alleyways, and roads that this movie takes throughout its near two-hour run-time and honestly, to give any of them away would be an absolute wrongdoing on my part. In fact, half of the fun to be found in this movie is the twists that show up and add more fuel to the story.

See! He doesn't want to do it!

“Peek-a-boo!”

Now, that’s not to say they all work, but most of them at least add enough to the story that makes it seem like it’s diving deeper and deeper into its own, gritty, seedy underworld of sex, drugs, violence and all sorts of other bad happenings. In most movies, I would have a huge problem with this aspect of its story-telling; however, here, with Cold in July, I felt like it worked well enough for the story that it seemed the slightest bit reasonable. It all fell into that idea of, “in the dark South, anything bad can, and will most likely happen”, so I just decided to run with it and have fun while I could.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t anything wrong with just allowing a violent movie to be just that and soak in its extremities, but there has to be more substance to all of the savage, bloody killings and murders occurring. There not only has to be some heart found, but any bit of development with the characters involved, in order to give the proceedings to follow some sort of heightened emotional-connection. But here, there isn’t much of that, which mostly just comes down to the fact that the characters aren’t very interesting, nor are they given much time to just breathe.

For instance, take the character of Ben Russell; who is, essentially, a character perfectly-suited for Sam Shepard’s talents. He’s tall, lean, mean, keeps to himself, and has a penchant for killing and shooting things whenever he deems necessary. To call onto a legend like Shepard to do that, is perfectly fine – in fact, it’s downright genius. However, that’s all Ben Russell is. Nothing more. He’s just a guy who doesn’t talk at all and believes that when justice needs to be done, it must be done by any means necessary. We’ve seen that character done-to-death a million times and the way he extracts justice from that certain person is displayed here in a relatively fresh way, but doesn’t add much to the character of who Ben Russell actually is.

I get that’s sort of the point (he’s quiet and reserved), but considering that he’s the main reason why this story is happening the way it is, I would have definitely liked to get more of a glimpse into the way he saw the world and who he was. Same goes for the CIA-buddy that Russell is friends with, played wonderfully by Don Johnson. Thanks to Johnson’s lovely, old-timey charisma that rarely ever doesn’t show in anything he does, this character is given some sort of personality and complexity, but not enough to where we’re the ones getting behind his case and what it is that he wants to do.

"Hey sonny. Gotta light? Maybe even a dead body of a serial killer in your trunk?

“Hey sonny. Gotta light? Maybe even a dead body of a serial killer in your trunk?”

Instead, the movie is all about the revenge, the blood, the guns, and most important of all, the violence which mostly takes over the last-half of this movie. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with that because we get a chance to see some fine, well-set action-sequences that a younger Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez would probably wet their pants over (or even present versions of themselves now), but there’s not much humanity to it. They’re tense sequences as is, but if there had been more emotion thrown in there, one could only imagine how much harder they’d be grasping the arms to their seats.

The one who sort of walks away from this movie relatively well is Michael C. Hall who plays this Richard Dane-fella as a somewhat scared, family man that flinches before he pulls any trigger. More often than not, that aspect will shock most fans of his who only know him from his Dexter days; for anybody who has ever witnessed an episode of Six Feet Under, will probably see this as a sort of return-to-form for him. In fact, this performance could even be seen as a meshing of the two, very different acting-styles Hall has shown to the world: He’s like Dexter in the way that he kills and hunts people down with a source of inspiration burning deep down inside of him, whereas he’s sort of like David Fisher in the way that he’s not ready for all of this violence in his life, and wants to stay in his safe, middle-class world. If anything, this is a great performance from Hall, and goes to show you that the guy should continue to keep on doing movies, even if his character may not be as rich as the characters he’s played on television in the past decade or so.

Okay, maybe those last few seasons of the former weren’t as amazing, but you get what I mean: More movies for Michael C. Hall and I think we’ll all be better-off as a society.

Consensus: Cold in July is a revenge-tale dripping with all sorts of blood, violence and Southern-fried sweat, and while that’s good fun and all, the material never goes as deep as it should with its message, or its characters.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

These three hanging out and sippin' on some brews? Sure, why not! As long as they are working with the same accents!

These three hanging out and sippin’ on some brews? Sure, why not! As long as they are working with the same accents!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Puncture (2011)

Next time I go for my measles, I’m examining the hell out of that needle.

Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a young, hotshot Houston lawyer that also has a bit of drug problem. Actually, correction, he has way more than just “a bit” of a drug problem; it’s actually pretty hefty. However, he gets by on his smarts that earns him enough money to buy as many drugs and booze as he wants, while also still having enough left over to get himself a place at a local motel or something of that nature. His best-buddy Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen) is more of a straight-laced lawyer that usually helps him get all of the cases he can find, no matter how unusual or simple they be. However, one day, they sort of walk into one they weren’t expecting, and yet, aren’t too sure if they even want to attack in the first. What their case basically is, is this woman named Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), a local ER nurse, gets pricked by a contaminated needle without ever knowing it, until she finds out it carries a major sickness. As both Weiss and Danziger dig deeper into the case, a health care and pharmaceutical conspiracy teeters on exposure and heavyweight attorneys move in on the defense, making them both unsure as to whether or not they actually want to go ahead on this case, or just leave it alone before any of them get hurt.

My mind was totally blown once the credits showed up and told us that this was all one true story that actually occurred way back back in the late-90’s. I mean obviously, dirty needles are not something people want around as it causes some of the worst diseases of all, but I never knew such a case was taken so far to get them away. It actually makes for a very interesting documentary that I’d watch on the History Channel, rather than one, long re-enactment, with some pretty faces.

Sorry Cap, you don’t always shine so well.

Looks like somebody accidentally found Cap at the tail-end of the 80's, man. Wait til Nevermind hits.

Looks like somebody accidentally found Cap at the tail-end of the 80’s, man. Wait til Nevermind hits.

Co-directors Adam and Mark Kassen (yup, they’re related) have clearly studied this story, from head-to-toe as they get just about every detail right. You can tell that it interests them by how much effort they are putting into making this unknown story, not just known to us regular, everyday-folk, but to also make it matter. In here, you have your typical Cold Case drama where certain pieces of evidence are gathered, deals are made and some corrupt politicians shed their true-skin, but it never feels like it’s always going to go somewhere you’ve seen a hundred, million times before. You get a sense that the Kassen’s care so much about this, and better yet, want you to care as well.

Problem is, the effort doesn’t fully-work.

What bothered me most about this flick is that it doesn’t really seem to know where it wants to go with itself. At first, it seems like they’re really going to dive right into the whole politics of this one case and reveal some a-holes to the public, that need to especially be seen. But then, it sort of goes the conventional-route and starts to talk about Weiss’ drug addiction; which is pretty evident that it exists throughout the whole movie, yet, never really brought up until half-way through and then becomes all about just that. Watching a person be addicted to drugs and fuck something up as big as this case that Weiss has here should be very nerve-racking and emotional to have to sit-through, but there’s barely any tension whatsoever. Most of that has to do with the fact that we never quite get straight-focus of who this story is really supposed to be all about.

Also, I couldn’t help but feel like the Kassen’s were just constantly shoving everything they had to say about the corruption and conspiracy that came along with the case, straight down our throats until we eventually just gave in and got right onto Wikipedia right away. Honestly, I would have felt like that if they just stopped preaching for a little bit and gave me some room to breathe and congest everything in. But nope, they just kept on going, and going, and going, until I didn’t know if they could go on anymore.

But you know what? They did.

Look out behind you, Johnny Storm! Oh, don't worry, Tony Stark will save you or something, right? Wrong superheros? Aw, screw you! Same people!

Look out behind you, Johnny Storm! Oh, don’t worry, Tony Stark will save you or something, right? Wrong superheros? Aw, screw you! Same people!

And you know who feels the side-effects of that the most? Chris Evans, that’s who!

Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is an absolute shame considering Chris Evans is probably the only aspect in this movie worth seeing. Reason why Evans is so good here is that he’s able to make us sympathize with somebody as distasteful and unreliable as Mike Weiss, yet, by the same token, make us hate his guts and wish he would just get his whole act together when he clearly needs to start doing so. Evans has always been a good actor in the stuff he’s shown-up in, but now that I think he’s starting to wind his time down as Steve Rodgers, and quite possibly dive into some far-more different directions for his career, I think we’re going to be able to see him really take advantage of that lovable screen-presence he’s always had on-display in many movies. The only problem is that their either barely-seen flicks like this, or Sunshine, or even the Iceman to a certain extent; or pieces of junk that just about everybody and your 13-year-old son saw, like Not Another Teen Movie, or What’s Your Number? or both of the Fantastic Four flicks.

And then of course, there’s some that sort of fails in both categories, like the Perfect Score or London. But I guess those two being forgotten about and barely-even seen is probably a good thing.

Not just for Evans, but all of us as a society.

Consensus: Anytime Chris Evans shows-up to be cool, charming, make us laugh and make us expect the unexpected from his character, Puncture gets a whole lot better. But, as predicted, without him, the rest of the movie sort of falls flat.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I guess ladies can rejoice that he's in a wife-beater. Even if he is supposed to be a drug-addled, two-bit loser. But sure, that's hot.

I guess ladies can rejoice that he’s in a wife-beater. Even if he is supposed to be a drug-addled, two-bit loser. But sure, that’s totally “hot”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Side Effects (2013)

Okay, I get it: drugs are bad!

Emily Hawkins (Rooney Mara), is a beautiful young woman who has a serious addiction to prescription drugs which she uses to deal with anxiety and depression surrounding the pending release of her husband (Channing Tatum) from prison. However, problems start to begin when she soon becomes involved in an affair with the doctor (Jude Law) who subscribed her to the drugs. Moral of the story: never trust a doctor as good-looking as Jude Law. Lesson learned.

Even though I have already stated that there is apparently an affair taking place between the patient and the doctor, rest assured, there isn’t actually any hanky-panky going on. Regardless of what the plot-lines, trailers, and advertisements may be telling you, this is more about the problem that occurs within somebody’s mind and physical state of well-being, when pharmaceutical drugs start to take over. Maybe there is some sex, maybe there isn’t, but the fact that the movie is willing to take the non-Hollywood approach to a relatively conventional story, just goes to show you what type of will and firepower Steven Soderbergh still has to his name.

Instead of making this movie one of those thrillers where a bunch of bad stuff happens, with clear-explanations and more understandings of what is really happening; the movie decides to take the higher-road and make everything more complicated than you’d ever imagine it being. What I liked so much about this movie is how it all started-off obviously, telling the story, giving us characters, and ultimately having us run into the problem that’s going to bring out the bolts and crannies of this movie. And for the longest time, we almost feel like we know where this story is going to end-up, how it will, and what it’s going to say when all is said and done, but no, no, no. Soderbergh doesn’t play by the rules and this movie shows just that.

So happy, so young, so ready to be devoured by a life of drugs and crime.

So happy, so young, so ready to be devoured by a life of non-stop drugs and crime.

Without giving too much away and spoiling all of the fun for you peeps out there, Side Effects goes into places you wouldn’t in the least-bit suspect a medical drama to go towards. It begins as a character-study of depression; then it becomes a medical drama about the negative and positive effects pills can have on a person’s mind; then it becomes a crime thriller; and then, ultimately, turns out to be a mystery/detective-thriller where you feel as if you have all of the clues and hints to make-up a clear understanding of what’s happening, but in reality: you just don’t. In a Soderbergh, nothing is ever quite what it seems to be and that’s not just a cliche, that’s just how he roles.

The combination of these 4 genres, may make the movie seem a bit like it’s too much, for so little, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always this feeling that something new and unpredictable is going to come your way and just when you think you know what the big picture is all about, Soderbergh decides to pull the rug, right from underneath your feet and have you guessing more, more, and more, all up until the end where it feels like all of the questions have been answered, and everything is settled. Soderbergh always seems like he has a clear vision of what it is that he wants to do, say, and show-off in any of his stories, and even though the message may be a bit too obvious with where it goes (pills are only made for the doctors to get more moolah), there is still always that shred of memory that you watched this movie, and sat there in total and utter suspense, not having a damn clue where it was going to show-up next. I love that about movies and even better: I love that with my Soderbergh movies.

If there was a problem that I ran into with this movie, it was that the usual, downbeat ending that we are so used to seeing with Soderbergh movies didn’t show-up this time around. In fact, I would probably say that this is his most positive ending in the longest time, probably ever since Ocean’s Eleven. That’s a real shame too, because even though most of Soderbergh’s movies aren’t the happiest-of-go-luckies to watch and spend time with for 2 hours, you still feel like you’re watching a movie from a guy that doesn’t give two shits about having us leave with a happy and clearer view of the world. For the story right here; it does sort of work but when you take into consideration all of Soderbergh’s other movies: it’s a tad disappointing.

However, all problems with the ending aside, this is still a great movie mainly due to the fact that the cast is more than game for the material that writer Scott Z. Burns and Soderbergh are willing to throw at them. This is probably Jude Law’s best role in the longest-time as the psychiatrist that does all that he can do to not only help Emily with her condition, but also make sure to save his money from totally being thrown into the meat-grinder. From the beginning of the movie, I was expecting the movie to make Law’s character seem like a total, money-hungry doctor that didn’t give a single crap about the people he treated or what it was that they were going through; and have it more based on the fact that he’s just about doing his job, doing it the right way, making sure his patients are fine, and hopefully, at the end of the day, making the money go ching-a-ching. It’s a very, very well-written role for Law that shows that the guy still has what it takes to be the center of attention and never have us lose sight of what this character’s motivations are, whether they be good or bad. In this case, it’s all good in the hood of NYC.

Doc needs to take his own advice, by taking some pills and getting some damn sleep.

Doc needs to take his own advice, by swallowing some pills and getting some damn sleep.

Rooney Mara seems to be a very, very fine fit as the total and complete nutcase that is Emily. Mara really nails what it’s like to be so terribly-conflicted with depression, almost to the point of where she can’t handle it anymore. You always feel for this gal and as much as you want to give your heart out to Law’s character for always being there when his patients needed him, you still have to give some pieces out to Emily, for at least trying whatever it is that she can to get over this problem in her head and mind. Mara seems to really have a bright-future ahead of her and it’s a real delight to know that they ended-up dropping Blake Lively for her. Hell, if that chick was in it; it probably would have been a way different movie. And that’s not a good thing, either.

Much like Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones gets to show-off here more than she’s been able to in the past and gives us a glimpse at a lady that you can’t always trust, but yet, you just can’t put your finger on what it is exactly about her that rubs you the wrong way. Zeta-Jones is just able to mess-around not only with the characters in the movie, but our minds as well and it was great to see that played-out with such slickness and charm from Zeta-Jones. Definitely makes me forget about her sleep-walking role that was the Mayor’s wife in Broken City. Well, obviously not too much since I just remembered and mentioned it, but you get my drift. Channing Tatum is also very good as Emily’s, recently-released-from-prison hubby that does whatever he can do to make things between him and his wife, and is here to serve the plot and that’s about it. Not bad or good, just needed to move things along, I guess. Still, it’s good to see the guy working with Soderbergh once again and being able to keep his clothes on for more than 5 minutes.

Consensus: Even if it doesn’t rank-up with Soderbergh’s best, Side Effects is still one hell of a movie that will keep you guessing, on-the-edge-of-your-seat, and fascinated with how much Jude Law can do as an actor, even if his last couple of movies haven’t been able to prove that point.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

CZJ not happy!!

CZJ not happy!!

Two Lovers (2009)

In what is to be Joaquin Phoenixs’ last film.

After his engagement falls through, Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) juggles the affections of Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), his beautiful, self-destructive neighbor, and Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the attractive, sensible daughter of his father’s business associate.

This is one of those films that I didn’t know I felt for it after it was over. The emotions of this film are very dark and not like many other romantic films out there today.

The problem with this film is that it just becomes too clear of who Leonard will pick. In a movie a movie that you would expect to be a nuance story about life and depression becomes a little too straight-forward. You expect a movie that has such complexity you would be expecting an ending that would put all the pieces together, it left me groaning at the end.

I enjoyed how the film is a unromantic look at romance itself. It is very honest and very true about what it’s showing and it’s showing that love is something that hurts and also we can’t always control our emotions sometimes they just come out the way they are inside.

The characters in this film are the strong point of this film. I liked Pheonix’s character and felt he was honest and true to himself. Also I enjoyed how both of the women he was seeing were very different in their own way. Paltrow is sexy and wild, while Shaw is very kind and sensible with her life. I felt very attached to these characters and I felt more sympathy for them as it was ending.

The problem that took these characters down was that there was too much attention put on Paltrow’s character. In the middle of the movie they sort of forget about Shaw, and focus it more on Paltrow. I wanted to know how Shaw felt that her boyfriend wasn’t calling her, or talking to her, but I never got that, instead I just got the other story.

Acting in this film is very smart and true. Phoenix gives a very honest performance in this very slow paced acting job. Also Shaw and Paltrow do great jobs to as I felt that there love with Pheonix was very genuine and I did believe in it.

Consensus: Two Lovers, seems a bit too straight-forward but is very true and shows a slow-paced, but wonderfully honest look at love in real life. See this cause of what I hear this is Phoenix’s last film and should be viewed by all who enjoy his work, such as myself.

7.5/10=Rental!!!