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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Virginia Madsen

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)

MissippiposterIf it don’t fit, equit. Or something of that nature, right?

On a late night in 1963, black activist Medgar Evers (James Pickens Jr.) was gunned-down and killed in front of the hotel where his family was staying. While each and every sign of evidence pointed to the self-proclaimed racist Byron De La Beckwith (James Woods), somehow, he got off with barely even a slap on the wrist. Obviously, African Americans were up in arms over the decision, but also knew that they had no chance of winning it again, due to a completely racist court and jury system at the time. Many years later, Medgar’s late wife (Whoopi Goldberg) is shipping her case around to any firm that will listen to her and take her issue seriously. Some obviously don’t, but one person who does is Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin), an assistant District Attorney, who happens to be married into a very racist family. However, despite the unpopularity of the case, DeLaughter takes it on and experiences all sorts of issues in the process. But no matter how bad or heinous it may get, he’s inspired and passionate enough to know that he’s got one job and that’s to gain some sort of vengeance fro Medgar Evers. Even if that does mean risking his own career to do so.

Just another simple night, sitting around and watching TV.

Just another simple night, sitting around and watching TV with the fam.

What really hits the hardest at-home about Ghosts of Mississippi, is about how so much of it seems and feels relevant to today and what’s going on out there with racial relations in society. Without going on for too long and ranting, let’s just put it like this: Racial travesties like what happened to Medgar Evers, still happens to this very day and it’s the government itself who seems more than willing to try and cover everything up.

However, regardless of if you choose to look at the movie with a modern eye or not, there’s no denying that Ghosts of Mississippi deals with some racial issues that aren’t just still around today, but more than likely help to make the case for “not much has changed”. Black and white people still can’t get along; there’s still a clear divide of injustices; and there’s still cops out there killing black people, and not getting locked away for it. Ghosts of Mississippi was clearly released way before all of these issues became front-and-center news for every news outlet, but it still holds a certain bit of relevance to everything that’s going on out there in the world and the kind of equality we’re all still fighting for.

Anyway, there. That’s all the preaching you’re going to get.

But despite its great relevance, Ghosts of Mississippi isn’t always a great movie; Rob Reiner is a smart director, but here, he decides to play it less than subtle and doesn’t always make the best decisions, from a narrative-perspective. For one, the movie is nearly two-and-a-half-hours long and the only reason it feels like it, is because a solid portion of it is spent on Baldwin’s lawyer character. This is fine, because yes, he was the main lawyer in the case and, in a way, the main heart and soul of this story, but I feel like Reiner went a bit overboard with this character. When it becomes clear that DeLaughter will be single due to the case he’s taking on, the movie decides to introduce a new female character that he can flirt, fall in love with, and marry eventually.

While yes, this probably happened in real life, the fact that it literally takes up at least 20 or so minutes of the film, without showing or telling us anything new about this DeLaughter character that we didn’t already know from the first half-hour, gets to be a bit bothersome. More time could have clearly been dedicated to DeLaughter looking further and further into the case, as well as Goldberg’s Myrlie Evers. Both Baldwin and Goldberg are good in these roles and give them a lot to work with, even if it can sometimes feel like they’re limited to doing anything more.

That Alec Baldwin - always the liberal in the room.

That Alec Baldwin – always the liberal in the room.

But really, the character I wanted to see more and know about, was James Woods’ Byron De La Beckwith – one of the more despicable human beings in film history.

While it’s hard to make the case for a character who is so clearly evil, despicable and guilty of every bad thing he has ever been accused of in the history of his life, there’s something about the way Woods plays him that makes him interesting to watch. Sure, he can go a tad over-the-top and crazy with this character, but maybe, just maybe that’s how he was in real life? Maybe he did go on TV and pronounce his hatred for black people, regardless of the fact that he was in the midst of being accused of killing one some many odd years ago? Or, maybe he didn’t?

I don’t know, honestly. There’s a lot about this story that seems fishy and not all that believable, but whenever Woods was on the screen, I stopped caring. He’s s mean and nasty, that you almost wonder if Woods can take it any further, until you realize that, well, yes – yes, he can.

Which isn’t to say that he sort of steals this movie, but at the same time, yeah, he kind of does. The message at the center is still clear and heard, if a tad obvious, but Reiner gets by solely on a case that keeps us interested, even when it’s clear where it’s going to go, who is going to win, who is going to lose, and just what lessons about life and race relations are going to be learned.

As it turns out, none whatsoever. Which is makes Ghosts of Mississippi, unfortunately, something of a tragedy.

Consensus: Ghosts of Mississippi doesn’t always keep itself interesting, but with a solid cast and relevant themes about race and society, it hits pretty hard.

6 / 10

Evil, everyone! Evil!

Evil, everyone! Evil!

Photos Courtesy of: And So It Begins, Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Joy (2015)

So, did Jennifer Lawrence invent feminism, too?

Ever since she was a young girl, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) knew that she was always destined to do something great for the world. While it may have all started in her room where she would experiment with creating little inventions here and there, after awhile, real life started to get in the way and it’s where she found it harder and harder to let her true inspiration come out and make a difference. For one, she got married, had two kids, and then got divorced from Tony (Édgar Ramírez). Then, she moved back into her mom (Virginia Madsen)’s place, where her grand-mother (Diane Ladd) also lives, meaning that the current house situation is incredibly cramped. And now, if matters weren’t already bad, her unpredictable, but always trouble-making father (Robert De Niro), has moved back in and wants to take over the whole family again. But knowing that she’s destined for something greater, one day, Joy stumbles upon a brilliant, but all-too-simple idea: the Miracle Mop. While Joy believes her billion-dollar idea to be brilliant, the only issue here is that she doesn’t quite know how to get in the business of selling her invention to the larger masses where each and every person can see what she’s made. This is when Joy decides to really push her boundaries and take chances that no simple woman in her situation would ever take, but because she’s got nothing to lose, she doesn’t care.

Even during serious times, this family can't help but get ready to start brawling.

Even during serious times, this family can’t help but get ready to start brawling.

About an hour into Joy, after we’ve gotten through all of the wacky family drama, the random dream-sequences in the form of a corny soap opera, the flashbacks, the narrations, the exposition, etc., something happens that wasn’t quite there all along: Excitement. This starts to happen when writer/director David O. Russell decides that the next best step to take this story is to QVC which, believe it or not, ends up working out quite well for the film in the end; it’s only about 30 minutes or so, but it’s absolutely the most fun to be had in the whole two-hours here. Of course, this has to do with the fact that Bradley Cooper shows up and he and Jennifer Lawrence are as spicy and as fun as ever, but it also gives us an inside glimpse of how exactly a product is sold, what goes into getting said customers to buy something, and just how manipulative home-shopping networks can be.

In all honesty, had David O. Russell just made a movie solely based around the inner-workings and early days of QVC, there’d probably be more of something to discuss with Joy. However, the sole issue here with Joy is that it’s not always about QVC, nor is it really about Joy, the character, and her product – it’s more about those around her who constantly bring her down, never allow for her to reach her dreams, and constantly screw up. Once or twice in the beginning of the film is nice to give us an understanding of the kind of situation Joy’s in, but after awhile, it becomes clear that O. Russell has a dead horse he wants to beat, leading to a lot of situations happening the same way, over and over again, with hardly anything new, or surprising learned in the process.

Which is to say that yes, Joy is a disappointment considering what O. Russell has been able to do in the past five years with his career.

However, when you take into consideration great flicks like the Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, not only is the bar raised pretty high, but there’s also a certain expectation that O. Russell himself has already carved-out. Considering that O. Russell himself seems to love and adore dysfunctional families, and cast practically the same people, each and every time he gets a chance to, it’s almost impossible not to approach Joy, another movie about a dysfunctional family, with at least three-fourths of the cast from Playbook and Hustle, and expect the same kind of wonder and entertainment.

The thing with Joy, however, is that it’s a much different, more dramatic, and far more serious movie that, quite frankly, isn’t as bad as I may make it out to be. Disappointing? For sure, but that’s also to say that someone like O. Russell can’t switch things up every so often because of a niche he’s already made for himself; no director ever would be able to stick with one and only style, which is why, on O. Russell’s part, it’s a brave choice to take a story such as this and take it a bit slower.

And this is why there are certain parts and moments of Joy that are actually pretty wonderful.

The babies these two would create. Oh my gosh.

The babies these two would create. Lord almighty.

Of course, the aforementioned QVC-subplot works wonders, but what happens afterwards is interesting, in the way that we get to see Joy, the character, gain more confidence in herself and start to try her hand at making something of her invention and seeing where she can go with it. Because Joy Mangano is already a pretty sympathetic figure who makes it clear from the start that she’s a smart, brassy girl, it’s easy to get behind her and watch as she takes whatever challenges life tosses at her. While most of these challenges concern her family just acting like selfish a-holes, it was still interesting and compelling to watch and see how she reacted to each situation and got through.

And with that said, yes, Jennifer Lawrence is quite good in this role, because how can she not be? Lawrence, despite playing another character she seems too young for, grabs this character, shakes her up and gives it all she’s got; sometimes, it seems like she’s working with a script that isn’t nearly as up to her speed, but at the same time, she keeps things moving and most of all, believable. Though Joy’s already shoddy performance with critics may keep Lawrence away from winning another Oscar of her own, it’s still hard not to believe her getting a nomination for what she does here, as she can be, at times, the best thing going for it.

Which isn’t to hate on the rest of the cast as the likes of Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Édgar Ramírez, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, and the already mentioned Cooper don’t put in fine work, either, but clearly, O. Russell has a problem handling all of their stories/personalities and allowing for them to mix with Joy’s story in a cohesive manner. Because a good portion of these characters are so self-centered, it’s never easy to feel bad for them, which makes them also feel like they’re getting in the way of what could have been a very powerful story about one, small-time woman standing up against all of the adversity in her way to, well, make a difference in the world.

Though I’m not sure just how much of what appears in Joy, is actually true of the real person’s life, O. Russell searches far and wide to make perfect sense of it. He doesn’t always come up with any easy answers or solutions, but for the most part, he gives it his absolute best. But if anything, he just makes you appreciate his last three movies even more and also give the inclination that maybe, just maybe, it’s time for him to change things up a bit.

Not just with his cast, but subject-material as well.

Consensus: Joy is not nearly as magnificent as what David O. Russell has put out in the past five years, but because of a solid lead performance from the always radiant and exciting Lawrence, as well as some strokes of genius, it still works.

7 / 10

No matter what, that J-Law can't seem to get herself out of trouble.

No matter what, that J-Law can’t seem to get herself out of trouble.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Red Riding Hood (2011)

He won’t puff, nor will he huff. But he’ll probably just moan.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young girl living in a small, peaceful little village with her parents (Billy Burke & Virginia Madsen) who plan to keep her safe from any harm that may come her way. The only reason why I even mention this to begin with is because this village of hers was, many, many years ago, attacked by a big, bad, and blood-thirsty wolf. Why? Well, nobody knows, but they don’t want to take any chances so they settle something of a peace treaty with him. They stay in their neck of the woods, he stays in his own, and that’s about it. Problem is, the wolf is hungry again and decides to come back to the village and wreak all sorts of havoc. This leaves the small village no other choice than to call upon the likes of a werewolf-hunting priest (Gary Oldman), who is a bit of a pro at these sorts of things. However, he begins to take a stranglehold on the village and leave everybody wondering just who is the beast. Is it the sexy, but mysterious Henry (Max Irons)? Or, is the sexy, mysterious, but also angry Peter (Shiloh Fernandez)? Or, quite simply put, is it Valeria?

Oh, what drama!

Sexy-ish.

Sexy-ish.

One of the biggest problems with Red Riding Hood, among many others, I assure you, is that it has no reason to exist. Sure, you can say that about a lot of movies made by Michael Bay, but it’s also kind of incorrect; his movies are created solely for entertainment and because he has a gigantic hard-on that he needs to be rid of. While his movies may borderline near-stupidity, they still have reasons for existing, even if the reasons themselves may be incredibly silly.

But in the case of Red Riding Hood, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. What it seems like producers in Hollywood wanted was nothing more than just a Twilight-ized version of the old folklore tale, Little Red Riding Hood. One reason it was made to begin with was most definitely for money, but then again, I bring up the question: How? How could something that seems so odd, nerdy and better yet, limited, in terms of whom it may actually reach and intrigue, be given all this money, with all this sort of talent, just for the hope that it will bring in all the same sort of big bucks that director Catherine Hardwicke was able to reel in with Twilight?

Well, whatever the reasons may be, who knows. And honestly, who cares!

Because really, Red Riding Hood‘s a pretty crummy and whether or not it exists, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s a pretty terrible movie that seems to have been dead from the very first second it arrives on the screen. While I can assure you that I was not in the least bit expecting a masterpiece of any sorts that discussed the interesting ways that humans and nature can interact and learn how to get along, I still wasn’t expecting something to be as boring as this.

Which is a big shame, because we know that Hardwicke is a fine director. However, here, it doesn’t seem like she’s actually directing anything; scenes just sort of happen and everything rolls on in a continuous fashion. There’s no real tension, no real fun (with a few exceptions), and most of all, there’s no real drama. Meaning, most importantly, there’s no romance to be felt, which is exactly what it seems like producers were going for in the first place. That the handsome male duo of Max and Peter are as dull as they come, already spells out problem for Valerie, as it seems like the movie wants to be smart about how it treats her viewpoint and the way she tells this story, but in the end, is only concerned with which dude she wants to bang first.

And that’s not normally something I have a problem with, but here, it was so boring that I didn’t even care whose bone got jumped, by whom, or even when it happened. I just wanted the movie to stop happening and end.

Sexier.

Sexier.

This is all to say that throughout Red Riding Hood, I felt extremely bad for the cast and crew involved, as it seems like most of them were definitely strapped for cash and needed something to pay their heating bills. Amanda Seyfried is always an interesting screen presence, but most of the movie here takes her personality away and leaves her to just be on the side as everything else sort of happens around her. Which, like I said before, is a big shame, because it’s a fantasy tale, told by the viewpoint of a woman, but sadly, they go nowhere with this character, or Seyfried’s talents as an actress.

Same goes for just about everybody else who dares to show their face in this. Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke are just hanging around as the parents, only called on for emotional cues; Fernandez and Irons are just hot, and that’s about it; Julie Christie tries as the grand-mom, but really seems to be in a whole other movie, completely; and Lukas Haas, well, is just here. The only one who dares to make this movie any bit better is, unsurprisingly, Gary Oldman.

Oldman’s always a great performer, but here, it seemed like he came ready to play and didn’t care what everybody else in the movie was doing. Oldman probably saw that the movie was about the classic Riding Hood tale, realized that it was probably a bit of a goof, did it, and decided that, because he’s Gary Oldman and all, can do whatever the hell he wants. So what if everybody else around him is sulking and drop-dead serious? Gary Oldman has a voice to use and holler with, so screw all that other nonsense! I wish I could say that I was sad to see Oldman in this movie here, but honestly, it seemed like the guy was having a blast and helped me to sort of do so, as well.

Although, when he’s gone, everything else about Red Riding Hood falls apart and that’s about it.

So be it.

Consensus: Despite the onslaught of talent, Red Riding Hood is too dull, aimless and boring to actually do much of anything fun or interesting with its old tale and instead, try its hardest to appeal to a broader audience who, quite frankly, probably won’t be interested in this anyway.

2.5 / 10

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Astronaut Farmer (2007)

AstronautposterThe moon landing never happened anyway. So keep on dreaming, bro.

For as long as he’s been alive, Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) has always wanted to travel to the moon. Although he was a NASA pilot for a little while, he had to step out due to personal issues at the time. Now, Charles is trying to create his own spaceship that he can launch into space. It seems like a pipe-dream, but Charles is inspired so much, that he won’t take “no” for an answer; even though friends, confidantes, and hell, even his wife (Virginia Madsen), tell him it’s impossible, he doesn’t listen. When Charles’ plans get leaked to the world wide web, eventually, as they tend to do, the FBI finds themselves getting involved. Though Charles is not, from what people know, a terrorist planning on nuking the entire Earth, the government still doesn’t want to take any chances and keeps track of Charles’ everyday comings and goings. And hell, even though Charles has got the rest of the world behind him and his journey, the government still does not want to budge. This is a challenge that Charles accepts and stands against, even if it risks his own life, as well as those that he loves and cares for so much.

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

The whole time while watching the Astronaut Farmer, I kept on waiting for the subscript to start/end the movie saying something along the lines of, “based on a true story”. Does a story about some small-town farmer creating his own rocket and trying to launch it into space sound plausible? Not entirely, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen nor that I’ve never heard about it before. Crazier things have happened in this land we call Earth, right?

But the subscript never shows up.

The Astronaut Farmer is literally an idea written by Michael and Mark Polish, which is interesting to say the least. Silly? Sure, but it’s obvious that they’re both trying to aim for that you-can-do-anything-that-you-put-your-mind-to sensibility that so many Disney films seem to rely on. Through Farmers’ own journey of trying to get into space and do what he’s always wanted us to do, the Polish bros. are trying to get us to think of our dreams and have the idea that we too can make them come true, so long as we have enough heart and inspiration deep down inside of our souls.

And this is all fine and good, but the movie never seems like it earns that feeling of absolute and divine inspiration. Instead, it’s just a really old-timey, almost-retro story that may have a heart to work with, but never seems to go any deeper than the surface. Which is kind of a shame considering that the Polish bros. debut (Twin Falls Idaho) also dealt with the same sort of strange premise in a mindful way, but also gave us more to the story than just what was presented.

Here, it just sort of feels like everything and everyone is one-note, without there being any gray area left for the audience to decipher themselves.

The only interesting aspect of this story where it seems like the Polish bros. themselves are conflicted of a certain character-trait is with Farmer himself. While the Polish bros. clearly love and adore the character of Charles Farmer, his ambition, his heart, and his never-say-never attitude, the idea that, if he isn’t successful with his trip to space and does end up dying in the process, what will he leave his family back on Earth with? Because he’s put so much gosh darn money into this spaceship, he’s already bled them dry, so what could they possibly do without him around to keep the money flowing in? Will they be left high, dry, and without a fork to use? Or will they get by just fine because, well, Charles Farmer always has a tricky plan up his sleeves?

Take a guess of which conclusion the Polish bros. come to.

"It's okay, honey. If you die, don't worry, cause we're all screwed."

“It’s okay, honey. If you die, don’t worry, cause we’re all screwed.”

Like I’ve said though, I don’t mind the simplicity of most tales, but this one in particular doesn’t seem to really concern itself with much else other than, “dude wants to travel to space and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve that”. While it would have been interesting to see a complex, almost flawed-figure presented, Charles himself is painted in such a lovely portrait, that it’s almost like they’ve could had him run for president at the end, win, create his own world where everybody and their grand-mothers are allowed to travel into space, and it would seem uplifting, smart and, above all else, believable. It’s painfully clear that the Polish bros. don’t have much of a narrative-drive to go any further and it hurts the characters so much, that even the ones who may have some sort of interesting plight to show, it just makes it seem like a waste.

For instance, Billy Bob Thornton, surprisingly playing a good-guy, does what he can as Charles, but because the dude is so blue-eyed and optimistic, it just becomes irritating. Virginia Madsen, despite her character seeming as if she initially has something interesting to say, doesn’t really go anywhere you don’t expect her to, except by her husband as he possibly kills himself in the process of living his life-long dream. And then, as her daddy, Bruce Dern shows up as the voice of reason who, you might expect to be against the idea of Charles going out into space and risking his own life, but is instead happy that he’s doing it because, as he says, “he shares the dreams with his family”.

Yawn.

The only people in this movie that I could identify with were the FBI themselves – which, for a movie such as this, is not what’s supposed to happen. The FBI, as written by the Polish bros., are painted to be these sort of big brother, negative Nancies that are always trying to get on Charles’ case and tarnish his dreams forever, but in all honesty, they have a point for thinking the way that they do. Though Charles may not be a huge threat to the government per se, there’s still something incredibly dangerous and crazy about his idea of going out into space with his own, homemade spaceship that makes it understandable why they wouldn’t want him up in the sky to begin with. This may seem like I’m thinking too hard, but honestly, the Polish bros. want us think of this as some sort of “could-happen” tale that, if someone puts their heart, mind, body and soul into an idea long enough, that it and the rest of their wildest dreams can all come true.

Yawn again.

Consensus: Though its heart may be in the right place, the Astronaut Farmer is too implausible and one-dimensional to really inspire the people that it wants to, but instead, make them feel happy that there aren’t more Charles Farmer’s trying to release DIY spaceships into the sky.

4 / 10

"Kids, don't be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can't possibly happen to anyone."

“Kids, don’t be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can’t possibly happen to anyone.”

Photos Courtesy of: Superior Pics

The Rainmaker (1997)

This is what Coppola has done ever since his days of The Godfather. But that’s not so bad.

When Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), a young attorney with no clients, goes to work for a seedy ambulance chaser, he wants to help the parents of a terminally ill boy in their suit against an insurance company (represented by Jon Voight). But to take on corporate America, Rudy and a scrappy paralegal (Danny DeVito) must open their own law firm.

Director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, etc.) is a guy known for making classics, but has recently fallen off the map. However, even an OK effort by him isn’t so bad.

Coppola does a very good job with this script because he just directs this the way it should be directed. He isn’t really trying to go for any big emotional punches with this story, he just shows what this court case is all about and how to win it basically. I actually found this more entertaining than anything else because I just want to watch a courtroom drama, and I don’t really need some big life-lesson out of it.

The screenplay is also very well done here and not only has a lot of good moments where their all in the courtroom “duking it out”, but there are also a lot of moments of actual comedy that had me laughing a lot much to my surprise.

However, there are still problems that lie here. The problems that Damon’s character has to go through to win this case, aren’t so deadly as the film makes it seem to be. His character is made to be looking like he’s struggling against all odds, when really he’s just a rookie lawyer going up a lawyer who’s been in the game for about 30 years. I mean yeah, that is pretty nerve-raking but the film made it seem like he would never be able to pull it off, when in reality, it was pretty obvious he could.

Another problem with the movie is the sometimes ridiculous names these characters were given. A major insurance company named “Great Benefit” seems just a little corny to me, as does a sneaky lawyer named “Deck Shifflet,” and a woman who is looked on by her insurance company as a piece of trassh, named “Dot Black.” I mean, come on, you actually expect me to believe these almost comic-book-like names.

The real benefit of this whole film is the cast that really brought these characters to life. Matt Damon is charming here as our hero, Rudy Baylor; Danny DeVito is perfect as this sneaky and shady para-lawyer named Deck Shifflet; Mary Kay Place is good and emotionally there as a mother; and Claire Danes is sort of chilling in her performance as Kelly Riker, who has to constantly put up with the assault from her hubby. There are also some nice little spots in here from the likes of Virginia Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Roy Scheider, and a randomly uncredited, Danny Glover as our judge. He was probably getting too old for that shit too! OK that was lame I know.

The best out of the whole cast though is Jon Voight as this smarmy and ruthless lawyer named Leo F. Drummond, who on paper seems like a totally cliche and predictable character, but the way Voight plays him makes this character a great guy you just love to hate because you can always see that he’s one step ahead of everyone else. The film brings no actual surprises but at the end of the film, there’s this little touch that the film provides and basically tells us that even when you win, sometimes you lose, and this is what Voight shows perfectly.

Consensus: The Rainmaker may not offer any real surprises, but the strong direction from Coppola and the good performances from this ensemble cast, keeps this film watchable and interesting as it goes along.

7/10=Rental!!

Sideways (2004)

Even though I’m not a wine drinker (under-age, holla!) I must say that I really did wanna have some by the end of this.

Pinot noir lover Miles (Paul Giamatti) convinces his soon-to-be-married friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to enjoy his last days of bachelorhood in style. But the pair end up choosing women (Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen) over wine.

What we have here is something that writer/director Alexander Payne is great at: creating human characters, and putting in them in funny but realistic situations. Not the man’s best, but still great stuff.

Payne writes this film really well because he puts a lot of humor into his plot and characters. There’s a lot to be said here about a guy that can use wine-tasting as a romantic dramedy premise, and not make it seem goofy at all. It’s about how these two best-friends, that are totally opposite and were college freshman roommates, are going through a mid-life crises, and honestly don’t have any idea what to do with themselves. There’s a lot of great one-liners, and great scenes as well, but the real heart of the film is the fact that it all has a purpose. You can’t give up on life, or love for that matter, no matter how much it gets you down. If that means having a whole bunch of pinot noir to drink your all your pains away, then so be it, but just understand that life isn’t such a sad place after all.

My only problem with this film is not so much the film itself, it’s just that I don’t quite think I know that much about what this film was targeting for. I’m only 18 and haven’t really had my mid-life crisis just yet, or not that I know of, and I can’t really say that this film spoke louder than words to me, like it did to many others. Once again, I thought that the writing was great, but once again, not really for me since I’m still quite a youngling.

The best element to this whole film is  that it is a character study and I loved characters, and the actors that portray them. Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast as Miles, the neurotic social misfit that he always plays so well. He’s dark, depressing, and always gloomy about something, but he isn’t an annoyance, and Giamatti plays him so well he because he makes him likable and all the same believable. When this guy is talking to you about wine, you believe it, and you feel like you know that this guy knows what he’s talking about and it’s just all so natural. At times, he may seem like kind of a deuche, but if you look at it like this, he’s the only one that has any bit of sense here, the only problem is that he just doesn’t know how to put a smile on. I must say that I thought that Jack the character was kind of a dick, but Thomas Haden Church plays him so well, that I almost forget about all the terrible stuff he does. He’s a liar, cheater, and asshole, but at the same time he’s the perfect example of The Man. He is just that dude that is so hunky, and such a tool, that by the end of the night he always ends up going home with a chick, no matter what promises he made, or what he even said for that matter. Haden Church brings out some of the best lines here, and really does do a great job with showing how such a dickhead of a character, can be likable if you have enough charm and wit. Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh are great as the two supporting ladies, and their scenes with these two dudes feel realistic, and believable even though they are kind of hotter than both. Not that I’m judging or anything……..

Consensus: This is aimed at a certain audience, but you can’t resist Sideways’ the terrific performances from the cast, especially the funny, insightful, and often touching screenplay that will either having you crave some merlot, taking a trip to California, or just going through life with a smile.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Candyman (1992)

Next Horror film in line is Candyman.

While researching urban myths, grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed creature who’s said to haunt a Chicago housing project. In this creepy film based on a Clive Barker story, the Candyman is made flesh by other people’s belief in him. Not surprisingly, Lyle manages to summon him. Soon, the Candyman has committed a series of murders, and the cops are holding Lyle responsible.

Candy man at points can be seen as your typical thriller with horror elements, but is also part slasher.

I was really surprised by how this film really does turn out to be effective, because it actually does ground itself so realistically, in a city where they do not believe in urban legends, until the very end of the movie.

However, I felt that this film really does suffer from a script and story that starts to drag on a little. I thought that some of the lines were pretty cheesy compared to others, and weren’t as witty as you would expect coming from a movie of this nature.

I also did not find this movie as terrifying as I thought it would have. Tony Todd really does look like an old 1970 pimp with the bad jacket and the killer claw. Didn’t really find his character that all too scary, but I liked how they set him up to be like a normal person, although we never really get where this guy comes from and why he seems to spark so much havoc, one time after another.

I also think that the story really would have worked well if it didn’t succumb to the over-use of the blood and gore scenes. The film features many little flashbacks of previous murders from The Candyman, and are so disgusting and down right grotesque, that I was a little confused if I was watching a remake of Friday the 13th.

Virginia Madsen actually does take this film by storm and give it her all. She isn’t your typical female horror leading woman who fights the odds. She seems real, with real problems, and most of all with a real purpose, and that purpose is to finally track down The Candyman. Tony Todd, also gives a good performance here as The Canydman, but isn’t seen very much to come off as really scary or frightful. It’s just the look, that looks like an outtake from Shaft.

Consensus: Candyman is smarter than your typical slasher-horror film, but with some added elements that weren’t needed and a not so frightening antagonist, Candyman falls short of horror film greatness.

7/10=Rentall!!

The Number 23 (2007)

Who ever thought the number 23 was so evil. See I knew there was something always fishy about Michael Jordan.

When Walter Sparrow (Carrey) begins reading the novel The Number 23, he notices strange parallels between it and his life. Now, he’s worried that a murder that occurs in the book might just cross over into the world of nonfiction.

This movie was hilarious in a very unintentional self-parody way. From the looks of this film in the trailers and even the poster you would’ve though that this was a horror film but oh god I wish it was so I could’ve given it more props for being a bad horror film. Not too many of them around nowadays (sarcasm).

This film is bad. I mean really bad. Not one of the worst films I’ve ever seen but certainly up there. The films first big problem was that it was trying hard to mix horror, psychological thriller, and suspense film all into one huge movie. However, they fail miserably with that and it just becomes one huge jumble of “huh?”.

The one thing I actually thought was going to happen was I thought I was going to get a huge story on the Number 23 and its significance. However, instead I got a huge bunch of mumbo jumbo crap about some guy who does bad things and the Number 23 just so happens to be apart of it. This film fails to ever make the viewer question what is reality, and it was fiction, and most importantly what the number 23 is all about.

This film did have me at a point but then it lost me after all this obsessive crap started coming in and totally got me off track. Given the right direction this film could’ve been seemingly ok, but instead it fails in all levels.

One thing I will say about this film is that Carrey can act. We have seen Carrey act in very melo-dramatic roles such as in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show, but this is different from all and it is very dark and nothing like Carrey has ever dared to try before. He does give an effort and you can tell but after awhile you just cannot take him seriously, and soon him along with the film, becomes an utter laugh fest.

The Number 23 starts out normal but then becomes a clumsy, uneven, and overall confusing mess that by the end you’ll still be scratching your head and wondering what the point of this film was in the end.

3/10=Some Ole Bullshitt!!