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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Wall Street

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Stay married and happy, men. You never know what’s out there.

Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is a successful business man who has a nice job, lovely wife (Anne Archer), cute kid, and quaint little house in the suburbs. However, that all starts to change once he gets involved with Alex (Glenn Close), another successful business woman who falls head over heels for the guy. And for awhile, he thinks the same. Until he doesn’t and that’s when it all gets a little crazy.

Fatal Attraction calls for the kind of crazy and wacky treatment that director Adrian Lyne so deservedly gives it. It’s clear he’s having a lot of fun, knows that this material can sometimes be so ridiculous, but also does approach it with a certain bit of seriousness, as well, not forgetting that at the heart of this story, real issues and problems are being addressed. For one, it’s not a horror movie – or at least, not in the expected sense.

Yup. Totally normal.

Yup. Totally normal.

While Lyne loves playing around with those certain conventions, as if we were watching a horror movie, instead, what we’re watching a real life horror flick, with real life people, making real, incredibly terrible choices. It’s the kind of movie that studios prefer to stay away from, but Lyne does a solid job of reminding us that, at some points, this material can be pretty crazy, but when you get right down to it, isn’t much of a laughing-matter, either. Sure, it helps that he films each and every of the sex scenes with a foggy bit of eyes, but it also helps that he doesn’t forget what’s really going on underneath all of the hot, sweaty, steamy and naked sex.

Or, at least I assumed they’d be naked, right?

But by the same token, it’s sort of hard to really care for Michael Douglas at all here. Just to clarify some things so that we’re all on the same page: The guy is human, the guy is married, and he wants to have a little bit of playtime when his wife is away. Makes sense. But then, when his wife comes back and he’s back in the swing of things, we’re supposed to act like that never happened and even worse, we’re supposed to actually care about him and all of the stuff that he goes through when he just decides to throw this girl away like garbage? It’s hard to care what really happens to this guy, because as much as he may want to forgive and forget, it’s hard for us to do the same.

Nothing wrong with a little slam-bang action in dirty hallways.

Nothing wrong with a little slam-bang action in dirty hallways.

But maybe that’s the point? I don’t know.

Douglas is good here because he doesn’t ham the role up in the slightest, but it also makes him feel a tad bit more dull than he probably should. Anne Archer plays his wife and she’s got a few nice moments, to show not why she would love someone like him, but why he’d be making such a bad decision in the first place. It’s not a very showy role, but it’s a nice one that reminds us what she can do.

But really, it’s Glenn Close who, as you may have heard by now, absolutely steals the show as Alex Forrest, or basically, every married-man’s worst nightmare. Close is so amazing here as Forrest not only because she can play normal and switch it off into full-on crazy mode so well, but because there’s just something about her that you sympathize with from the very start, regardless of how sadistic or creepy she gets. A good portion of this credit goes to Lyne for not painting her as a total villain, but as a sad, lonely and rather kooky lady woman who had a brief spat with love and affection, couldn’t get enough of it, and then, all of a sudden, had to put up with the fact that it was going to be gone from her life, just like that.

Now, who’s the one we sympathize with more, I ask? Regardless, Close is great in this role, never letting us forget that she lingers in every scene – even those that she’s not in – and also has us questioning what her next move or motive’s going to be. After all, the movie never makes it totally clear just what she’s up to, or why she is the way she is, making her dangerous, scary and yes, so very, very compelling. In a way, she makes Fatal Attraction a better movie by just owning the screen every chance she gets, but yeah.

She does.

Consensus: Fatal Attraction runs into the usual problems that come with a wild plot like this, but due to an amazing performance from Close and a smart, relatively sensitive direction from Lyne, it works better than it should.

8 / 10

Yeah, we've all been in this situation once or twice. Or never.

Yeah, we’ve all been in this situation once or twice. Or never.

Photos Courtesy of: Old Films and Me

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Boiler Room (2000)

Sometimes, Charlie Sheen’s swagger is just needed.

Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), is university drop-out who doesn’t have much going for his life. However, determined to prove his worth to a demanding father (Ron Rifkin), he decides to take a job at a small brokerage firm and, through his time there, begins to become something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for lack of a better term.

Writer/director Ben Younger literally wears his Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street influences on his sleeve, that the man doesn’t even try to hide it. In fact, a few times, the man actually shows clips of the movie, in Boiler Room, where the characters here are seen actually saying the same lines of those movies. In a way, you want to call him a “rip-off artist”, but at the same time, you don’t want to, because he’s not hiding it; he’s letting us know, right off-the-bat, that these characters, as well as himself probably, look up to these movies, these characters, and these ideas of capitalism, that they don’t care if they look like copy-cats.

"Wait, what?"

“Wait, what?”

They’re making money, baby and that’s all that matters!

Regardless, Younger as a director and writer, is a pretty solid one. There’s a certain energy to the movie that’s hard not to get wrapped-up in, because as our characters are making more and more money, the more the movie picks up its pace. In a way, it’s the junior-version of Wall Street, but it works so well because Younger is constantly reminding us that none of those influences matter; sure, they’ve helped him to where he’s at with this movie, but hey, so what? Just party, bro.

But honestly, where Younger really starts to fail is in the actual story department itself.

Younger seems as if he knows a thing or two about keeping up the brisk pace and how to have fun with these sometimes detestable characters, but when it comes to actually slowing things down, focusing on these characters, their lives and their motivations, he loses a bit of his step. For example, try the terribly-forced “romance” between Ribisi and Nia Long, who don’t seem to have any chemistry at all, any reason to be together, or anything really holding them together once things go South for both of them. It annoys me that films like these feel the need to add in a romantic subplot, just to appeal to women and hoping that they don’t get alienated from this movie but the bad news is that they already will. No girl will be attracted to a movie about a bunch of young, hot, cool, hip, and rich dudes in suits that make millions and millions of dollars, so it’s hard to imagine ladies wanting to come out and see something in the first place, because oh my gosh, Giovanni Ribisi and Nia Long make-out!

And then, the story begins to get a tad bit more predictable as it rolls on along. Boiler Room is obviously a rags-to-riches story, or so to speak, and because of that, it follows a very plain and conventional plot-line. Ribisi’s character starts at job, starts getting really rich, starts getting cocky, and eventually, one bad thing happens after another, until he’s broke, near-dead and without a pot to piss in. It’s all very formulaic and try as he might, Younger can’t help but get caught up in doing the same stuff we’ve seen done before, many, many times.

"Yeah, I'm done with action flicks. Maybe."

“Yeah, I’m done with action flicks. Maybe.”

Despite this, the cast is quite good and help keep the ship afloat.

In a rare lead role, Giovanni Ribisi kicks some fine stick-selling ass as Seth Davis. Ribisi gets a bad-rap sometimes for taking roles to the next level of over-the-top and making them terribly campy to the point of where it’s cringe-inducing, but some will be surprised that this kid can hit it out of the park when it comes to being subdued and very charming. You like Seth Davis right when you see him and even though his character motivations may get mixed around in a bender a bit too much, you still like both him and Ribisi. Wish that this movie made Ribisi the top mainstream act that everybody thought he was going to be, but I don’t think it bothers him if he’s second-in-command.

Everybody else is fine as hell, too. Vin Diesel is a scene-stealer as Chris Varick, the guy who teaches Seth the ways of the stock broker, and it’s a great dramatic role for Diesel that shows the guy has a terrible amount of charm and humor in him, that makes all of his characters work. The guy may be stuck doing Fast and Furious for the rest of his life, but at least we know that we can depend on him to pull out something like this or Find Me Guilty to remind us of why the guy has such a presence about him in the first place.

Nicky Katt plays the “stereotypical dickhead role” as the one guy who doesn’t really like where Seth is going in his success and it’s an obvious character, but a fine performance from a guy that I see in everything and still haven’t been able to match the name with the face. Let’s also not forget the fine, little cameo from Ben Affleck that practically seems like a total rip-off of Alec Baldwin’s cameo from Glengarry Glen Ross, but still works here because it seems like Affleck is having a total ball here and that’s always a joy. There’s a bunch of others in the cast like Scott Caan, Tom Everett Scott and Jamie Kennedy, all playing the young hotshots within the firm and are all perfectly cast.

Consensus: Boiler Room is, initially, a fun, exciting and thrilling ride, but soon turns preachy and predictable, which makes it feel a little uneven.

6 / 10

"Stop. Over. Acting!"

“Stop. Over. Acting!”

Photos Courtesy of: Derek Winnert

Arbitrage (2012)

Billionaires are never fully satisfied.

Robert Miller (Richard Gere), is a troubled hedge fund magnate who is forced to turn to an unlikely person (Nate Parker) for help after a crucial mistake involving a sale in his trading empire.

I’ve been hearing a whole lot of buzz about this movie for one thing: Richard Gere. Now for all of you DTMMR lovers out there (and there better plenty of them dammit!), you have to already know that even though Gere is a fellow Philadelphian, he is still one of my least favorite actors. That’s sort of why I wasn’t really looking forward to this one but you know what, it’s not so bad sometimes giving an actor that you hate a chance. Still not yet sold on you yet though, Harrison Ford.

This is the directorial debut of writer/director Nicholas Jarecki and the guy does a pretty solid job with his material. This isn’t your typical thriller where it’s constant car-chases and quick-cuts to allow there to be tension and excitement, it’s more about the pacing and how Jarecki takes his time with everything and doesn’t let it get too crazy for his own good. There’s just something about this whole story of lust, greed, and money that just seems so current in today’s world and how it plays out in this flick and it makes for a fun, but very grim watch. It doesn’t get as dark as you may think, but it at least flirts with that idea quite a few times and that’s the strength of Jarecki’s direction.

The problem that I think Jarecki runs into with this flick is that it is essentially two movies in one, with only one of them actually being good. The first movie is about how this billionaire gets himself all caught-up in a financial crisis that he seem to get out of, and the other movie is about the death of his mistress and how that effects everything and everyone around him. The latter story is the one I was most interested by as I found it really made the suspense and mystery flow within the film. Seeing all of these other reviews, I know I’m sort of alone in that boat but there was just something there that intrigued me and kept me watching.

Problem with that is, is that when Jarecki would go right into the whole financial crisis this guy was going through, I didn’t really seem to care. Not just because this guy is a dick but it’s something about people spouting out numbers and stocks that just doesn’t do it for me quite as much as an interrogation does. This makes the film a bit uneven in the way it transitions from one plot, to another and it just gets a bit annoying after awhile and sort of kills all of the tension and excitement that the one story had going for itself in the first-place. Maybe Jarecki got some directorial jitters where he felt the need to pack all of this stuff in just to make it exciting and entertaining, but ended up making something that was a bit too ambitious for his own good. Not saying it was a terrible decision on his part, but it definitely wasn’t the right one, either.

Now believe it or not, and I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but I think it’s Richard Gere himself who makes this film a bit more watchable than I expected. I don’t want to go out there and say that Gere gives the performance of his career here as Miller, because I don’t really think he does anything different other than be pretty mean to everyone around him, but he does give a very good performance that makes this reprehensible guy seem a bit more human than I expected at first. He’s not a total Gordan Gekko as he just gets money, gets the babes, and gets more greedy, he’s just another rich dude that has a lot of respect to his name, and doesn’t want to lose that because of a couple of dumb-ass decisions he’s made and tried to get away with. Gere is good in this role because he sort of humanizes Miller and gives him an older-edge that makes him feel more realistic. As for all of the Oscar talk, I don’t think so. Honestly, I’am willing to throw down my hatred for somebody if they give an all-out, perfect performance, but Gere didn’t really blow me away here and I think if he ends up getting nominated for anything, it will most likely be because he’s never been nominated before and the Academy feels a bit guilty. No offense to the poor guy, but it’s sort of the truth.

Gere is also backed-up by a great supporting cast that all give their two cents into the whole, final product. Susan Sarandon comes out of nowhere as his wife that seems like she has no clue what’s going on behind closed doors, but a couple of scenes by the end proves otherwise and shows you that this chick doesn’t take any shit because she know’s what’s up. It’s a shame that Sarandon doesn’t get more screen-time here, but she takes advantage of what she’s given and that’s all that mattered to me. Brit Marling was okay as his daughter, but could have been a bit stronger in the way she carried herself, especially when things started to go South for her and her daddy. I was also very surprised to see Tim Roth here as Det. Michael Bryer, because it’s been quite some time but he still shows that he’s got it. There’s a little sense that the guy is a bit of a dirty cop, but after awhile, you do realize that he’s just another detective trying to do his job and trying to get the bad-guys, for doing the bad things. The one performance that really stood-out above the rest for me was Nate Parker as I think he made his random character, somebody we can actually sympathize with and stand behind as he seems like the only one who actually has a conscience. The guy definitely holds his own against heavy-weights like Roth and Gere, but when it’s just him doing his own thing, he’s very, very good and shows that he can try and make us all forget about Red Tails. “Try” being the key-word.

Consensus: Arbitrage is essentially two movies all slapped into one which may prove to be a bit uneven for the whole flick, but still features some great performances from the cast and a nice sense of tension that lies underneath the whole time.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

23 years later and money is still messed up.

Trader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) tries to mend the broken relationship between his fiancée, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), and her father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), while avenging the fate of his mentor, Lou (Frank Langella), by getting close to Wall Street’s new megalomaniac, Bretton James (Josh Brolin).

After seeing the first Wall Street, I realized just how much things with money in today’s world hasn’t changed at all really. However, it seems the cheese factor for this type of material hasn’t either.

Director Oliver Stone has always been a favorite director of mine because he always knows how to make any story seem interesting with his great use of style but here he shows that those skills are starting to fall apart. Stone relies too much on montages, almost the same ones we saw from the first one, and quick cuts that try to bring off some sign of rapidness in the Wall Street world but overall none of it actually works.

Having this film set in the time of the 2008 financial crisis seemed like a perfect move for this story but it doesn’t really actually explore that nor does it actually try to explore the relationship between Gekko and his daughter, or any other story for that matter. Basically all the little sub-plots here and there seem totally forced and actually muddled in the end since it doesn’t really seem like Stone knows what story to focus on the most or which one will have the most effect. So what he does is just have all the stories play out at once, but to no effect whatsoever.

With the first one too, the film showed a lot of the dark and mean sides to having business on Wall Street but none of that was really even here to glue me in by how gritty and bad everything is. The one-liners also don’t have the zing they once used to because it all seems so dated as if Stone were just trying to do what he did with the first one but none of it was actually funny or even catchy, just lame and at times just totally forced.

However, my only real favorite thing about this film is the actual performances from the cast. Michael Douglas seems like a natural in his role as Gordon Gekko and plays the anti-hero here rather than the villain but still makes it all work. Douglas knows how to make bad seem cool in so many ways and it’s good to see him do what he does best here. The sad thing though is that it really just feels like him playing the same character, just a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and a lot more grumpier.

Shia LaBeouf is the real star here actually playing his soon to be son-in-law Jake, who works on Wall Street and just so happens to be in a relationship with a Wall Street legend’s daughter. I actually liked Shia in this role because I think he handles a lot of the financial talk really well and gives us that idea that he really can hold a film on his own it only matters if he’s given a good enough role. Carey Mulligan is good at displaying any emotion just by using her face as Winnie; Josh Brolin is good as this dickish rival hedge-fund manager, Bretton James; and Frank Langella is also very good in a small, but powerful role as Lewis Zabel, a man way past his time. There’s also a small performance from Susan Sarandon here as well as Jake’s mom that doesn’t even seem meaningful to the story at all but more just to have an Oscar winner on the set.

Consensus: The cast may help this get through most parts, but Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has a crappy title (obviously), really piss-poor writing that doesn’t have any actual emotional depth or any connection to the characters, and has no real swift style that Oliver Stone has shown in many of his other films, especially the first Wall Street. A huge disappointment.

3/10=Rental!!

Wall Street (1987)

Not much has changed in the past two decades, except for maybe Charlie Sheen. He’s changed a whole damn lot.

Enterprising stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) falls under the enticing spell of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), an unabashedly greedy Wall Street arbitrageur who tutors him in the unscrupulous tactics that put the corporate raider on top. But when Gekko embroils his protégé in an insider-trading scheme that may risk the jobs of kith and kin, Fox develops a conscience and decides to turn the tables.

This one was written and directed by a favorite of mine, Oliver Stone. This was around the time he was hot off  the huge Oscar winner, Platoon, and although this one isn’t as great as that one, it’s still alright.

As director, Stone knows what he’s doing but it’s all pretty simple with this film despite good camera-work that moved all-over-the-place, to give us the feeling of being busy that these stockbrokers always had. But when it comes to writing, Stone has been better.

The dialogue is alright but there are way too many lines that I felt were just too “movie-made”. All of the dialogue feels like it could have easily been quotable, but I just didn’t think people talked like these guys were with all their macho hammy bullshit sayings. I think it was more the 80’s to blame, rather than Stone himself because I guess what they thought was cool to say back in the 80’s, just seems lame and cheesy now.

The only line from this film that anybody really quotes, hell, even remembers is “Greed is good”, which is no surprise because the whole film practically is about that line and it’s the truth which is why this film still works in today’s world. There is still corporate greed running all over the world and it’s a shame that after almost 23 years later, that this shit is still happening and still around but I guess that’s what really matters about this film. We can still watch it today and have as much of an connection to it today, as anybody would have had then.

Michael Douglas is very good in this role as the evil, Gordon Gekko. Right as soon as you see this dude with the slick hair, the huge white collar, the suspenders, and the cell phone that’s the size of my head, you know he’s a total scumbag, but Douglas does a great job at making a scumbag look good. Douglas knows how to make Gekko seem like a total prick, but just a prick who wants more money, more respect, and more power to basically take over any company just to the point of where he can about be one of the richest men in the world. Gekko is the type of guy, you just hate, but there’s something about him that directs your attention towards him right away. That’s all thanks to Douglas and although I don’t usually like him as an actor, I think he does a very great job as Gekko and makes him the personification for everything that’s wrong with the economy.

The rest of the cast is pretty good too. Charlie Sheen is good with his yuppie schtick as Bud Fox (what a dumb name), but as the film goes on he gets more cocky and angry, and it’s actually kind of hard to take him as seriously as the film wanted us to. Martin Sheen doesn’t have the same problem his son does and actually has a couple of very emotional scenes. Daryl Hannah doesn’t bring anything to this film as Bud’s main squeeze, and could have been left out of the picture completely and it wouldn’t have mattered either way. Terence Stamp, John C. McGinley, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, and Sean Young are all good.

Consensus: Wall Street has a powerful performance from Douglas, and features a timeless look on the Wall Street circuit, but falls for too many 80’s cliches like the lame and cheesy sayings in the script, the annoying synthesizer, and just the feeling that nothing else here is really authentic.

7/10=Rental!!

Wall Street (1987)

Is greed always good??

Enterprising stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) falls under the enticing spell of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), an unabashedly greedy Wall Street arbitrageur. Gekko takes Fox under his wing, tutoring his charge in the unscrupulous tactics that put the corporate raider on top. But when Gekko embroils his protégé in an insider-trading scheme that may risk the jobs of kith and kin, Fox develops a conscience and decides to turn the tables.

Director Oliver Stone, as many of you may know is one of my favorite directors of all-time. I like if not love a lot of his stuff so when I heard about this film, and how Douglas won a Best Oscar, I was ready for a wonderful film. Instead I got a bore-fest.

If you are annoyed by shallow anti capitalism good-versus-evil plots, avoid this one. On its face, this film bashes illegal insider trading. But it goes further. The bashing subtly reaches legitimate brokers who make a living trading stock (a service which, like movie making, vastly enriches the very few at the expense of the many who want the service). Two lines most revealingly demonstrate this: The evil caricature Douglas smugly asks (paraphrasing) “You think this is a democracy!? No! This is capitalism!” (Ignoring that the political system (democracy) and the economic system (capitalism) are interrelated and are presumably good.)

This film is basically incredibly predictable in a story that goes from one place to another in cliche after cliche. The characters in this film are just basically total yuppie assholes. Even the main protagonist, Sheen, doesn’t even seem that liable to root for. He just seems so dumb and even a bigger deuche.

The acting is very very sub-par. I mean in all honesty I think Douglas at times really did over-play his role as this totally unlikable guy. Some scenes hes very good, and some hes just not all that there. In all honesty he did not deserve that Oscar at all. Sheen gives an OK performance here but I found it very hard throughout the film to take him seriously since I’m a huge fan of Two and a Half Men.

Consensus: The acting is OK, but the story is very very contrived, with predictable story elements, and even worse characters that your more likely to hate then cheer for.

2/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!