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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Willie C. Carpenter

At First Sight (1999)

Eyes open or closed, we all know Mira Sorvino is downright beautiful.

Young architect Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino) needs a break from the busy high-life of Manhattan and decides to go out to the country-side, relax, and get her massage on. While she’s getting that on, she falls under the spell and hands of the masseur Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer). She instantly clicks with him and realizes that there’s something between the two that’s as rare as it can be. Rare, because Virgil’s also blind and has no idea what she looks like, or anything else for that matter.

Watching all of these sappy, romantic-dramedies can honestly do a number on a person. Nicholas Sparks has dulled the senses so much, that even when something relatively sweet, sort of nice comes around, it’s hard to fully embrace it. For someone like me, I’m just so used to saccharine, annoying romantic-junk that yeah, it makes you forget about actual solid romantic-flicks out there in the world.

Sort of like At First Sight. But also, sort of not like At First Sight.

Let me explain.

Well, close enough.

Well, close enough.

Granted, it’s nothing special, but it works at being a piece of romantic-drama that you can root-root-root for the couple, and just hope that they end up together because you can see that they’re good people, have the best intentions for one another, and most of all, love each other like silly. Isn’t that what we all want to be reminded of when we watch sap-fests such as these? Well yes, as well as the ability to love and be loved is still out there and if you have a heart big enough to allow that into your soul, that even you can come under it’s spell? I think so, and I think that’s why I actually didn’t mind this movie as much as I was planning to.

Val Kilmer is a nice fit as our blind man for the two hours (way, way, way too long for my liking!), Virgil Adamson. Despite how he may be behind the scenes, Kilmer has always had a certain cool, suave charm about him, which is what works well for this character here, who could have easily just been a later-day saint who also happened to be blind. It’s also a nice refresher to see him play a much softer, more romantic-side, even though the movie surrounding him is, yes, corny and undeniably syrupy beyond belief.

But like I said, the guy’s so charming, he makes it work.

Daredevil totally ripped this movie off!

Daredevil totally ripped this movie off! Damn Ben Affleck!

Playing his love bird for the two hours (once again, way, way, way too long for my liking!), is Mira Sorvino as Amy. Sorvino is always a charmer and is as cute-as-a-button that whenever she smiles, it’s so easy to just feel all warm and gooey inside. She’s got that beautiful look to her that works to her advantage and it’s just great to see that in an actress that can make bad material like this work, even if we do see it coming a hundred-upon-a-hundred miles away. You actually believe that she could fall in love with a guy like this, knock down all of the problems of being blind, and just look at the person instead. It’s obvious stuff, but Sorvino and Kilmer make it work together and if it weren’t for these two in the roles, it’d be really hard to get through this thing.

Then, there’s Kelly McGillis who eventually shows up as Vrigil’s sister that is always there for him and watching over him and is okay, but also where the movie really starts to go off-the-rails. The first hour, while cheesy, is sweet, soft and enjoyable enough to where it’s a nice piece of time passing-by, because it’s never taking itself all that seriously. But then, miraculously, as soon as McGillis rears her head in, everything gets a bit bonkers and far too serious. It certainly doesn’t help the fact that she’s always yelling, upset, and crying about something going on. Thankfully, Nathan Lane is here to save the day and as usual, use his comedic-charm to his ability and have us love the guy like never before.

So when in doubt, just trust Nathan Lane.

Consensus: Is it predictable? Yes. Is it obvious? Yes. Is it long? Hell yes! Is it at least entertaining? Ehh, sure. At First Sight may not throw you any curve balls you won’t see coming at you miles away, but Kilmer and Sorvino at least make the material seem more than just your average, run-of-the-mill romantic-drama, even if that’s exactly what it is.

5 / 10

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you not supposed to pet those dogs or something?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you not supposed to pet those kinds of dogs or something?

Photos Courtesy of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

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The Insider (1999)

Just another reason why cigarettes are not good for you.

The true story of how the commentator of 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer), and his producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) were black-balled into dumping a segment on tobacco industry defector Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), because CBS execs were in the midst of a multi-billion dollar merger with the corporation that owned Wigand.

Anybody who hears the name “Michael Mann”, automatically thinks of a high-tech, energized-up mofo that did epic-thrillers such as Collateral and Heat. In fact, I’m one of those people considering I think those are the only two films he truly kicks ass with. However, my mind has officially been blown by what he’s able to do with a straight-forward story where I don’t think a single shot is fired. Except for when it’s people actually getting fired themselves.

What Mann does so perfectly here with this story is that he take his time with it. Everything starts off rather mysterious if you aren’t already familiar with the true story this movie is based on, but it’s also very thrilling where we don’t know where this story’s going to go, how it’s going to go, and what’s going to set it off. Thankfully, after about the first 15 minutes, we realize what type of story we’ve stumbled upon and that’s when everything starts to become clearer and more understandable to take in, but by the same token, still mysterious. We know that the walls are going to drop eventually, but as a matter of when and where is what’s really interesting.

Life in the cameras. So depressing.

Life in the cameras. So depressing.

Then again, it doesn’t really matter because the characters were given to watch are already interesting enough as is.

Most of the Insider is concerning a bunch of evil people, talking about evil things, and actually doing most of those evil things that they discuss. Granted, this may not sound like the most exciting thing in the whole world, but Mann makes it so. The whole film is one tense ride from start-to-finish where twists come absolutely out of nowhere, but they make sense and keep the story moving on and on until it reaches it’s breaking-point. Every single shot/scene in this flick seems like it actually means something and furthers the story, rather than just being placed in there for a time-killer and to add more exposition to a story that was filled with it already in the first place. It’s over two-and-a-half hours, and while that would normally kill me, this time, it doesn’t. Hell, I don’t even know how this could have been shorter! Nearly two-hours and forty-minutes seems like the perfect amount of time for Mann to give us a story, where almost nobody does the right thing, and still be able to keep our attention glued onto the screen.

Bravo, Mr. Mann. Bravo.

As entertaining and tense as this story may be, the emotional-level of this film didn’t fully connect with me, and I think that has something to do with some of the characters here. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to really feel bad for anybody in this flick as they all do bad things that better themselves and nobody else, but there was a certain amount of disconnect that I was feeling with everybody that came off as a bit too dreary. The only person that could be considered remotely sympathetic and actually good, is Wigand, and even he comes off as a bit of a jerk that sort of screwed the pooch on himself this time and should have just done the right thing, rather than put himself, and everybody else around him in jeopardy. Then again, the guy had a story to tell and it just goes to show you that not everything in this movie, let alone life, is as cut-and-dry as some people make it out to be.

Going along with that last point, I feel as if the whole story behind the actual story, lacked any type of real feeling. This is, as I put it up above, a story about how 60 Minutes got sued and was almost bought out for millions and millions of dollars by a huge corporation, but even that said corporation has an interesting story to tell; one that never fully grows to get you as excited as when 60 Minutes begins to get hit hard in their pockets. This could have really twisted everything up and got us, the audience, rooting for the home team the whole time, but just had us sitting there, and watching it with barely any feelings or emotions left still intact. Maybe this is just a weird problem I had and nobody else, but so be it.

A lot of people that see this flick will probably not only be surprised by how freakin’ tense this movie is, but by also how Al Pacino doesn’t really get into his infamous “insane-o mode” that we all know, and sometimes, love him for. Instead, his character, Lowell Bergman, is more of a straight-man to everything else that’s going on around him; keeping his cool, and not really having much to talk about or keep at-stake, other than what he gives everybody else around him, his “word”. It’s a character who doesn’t seem all that interesting right from the start, as he’s mostly content with just sitting around and letting the wheels turn as they go, but eventually begins to build more of an arch as the film continues. This makes it even better to see Pacino actually playing it subtle for once, and still be able to garner the same emotions he would if he was all coked-up and shooting the shit out of people. But don’t let that fool you, he still has a freak-out here or two, and they’re both pretty awesome.

"You talkin' to me? Oh wait, sorry, wrong guy to be doing that bit to."

“You talkin’ to me? Oh wait, sorry, wrong guy to be doing that bit to.”

God, why did this guy have to do freakin’ Jack and Jill?

Playing opposite of him, Russell Crowe gives one of his finer performances as the strange, but compelling technician that starts this whole shit-storm in the first place, Jeffrey Wigand. Crowe is great here as Wigand because the guy has to go through a lot in terms of emotions and feelings, and Crowe pulls it all off with ease. The guy does seem very sympathetic as he’s the only person who seemingly does the right thing and the whole time we are left sitting there, watching as his whole life comes crashing down, without him ever being able to recuperate. It’s pretty sad to watch at times, and makes you wonder just how the hell this Wigand guy kept his cool and didn’t end up taking a leap off the Brooklyn Bridge for good measure. My only complaint about Crowe here isn’t really a bad thing about the movie, it’s just more that he plays this role, almost the same in every movie where he stars as a middle-class, American man. Not a huge complaint, but still something that’s obvious when you look at any other Crowe film where he practically plays a regular guy, with a more than less-than-regular problem brewing up inside of him.

The other performance that really took me by surprise was Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace. Plummer plays Wallace as your stereotypical, high-class dick that demands respect and wants everything done his own way, even though he doesn’t really contribute much except for asking a person a bunch of dumb, meaningless questions most of the time. Still, the character comes full-circle by the end of it all and shows that Plummer was, and still is able to, convey all types of heartfelt emotions out of any character he plays and it’s another reminder as to why this guy was long over-due an Oscar win. Everybody else in this film do superb jobs, as well, but these are three that continue to come to mind when I think of the exact stand-outs.

Consensus: Though it is, essentially, a two-hour-and-40-minute flick dedicated to a bunch of unsympathetic people, talking about doing unsympathetic things, the Insider is still one hell of a thrill-ride that asks the right questions, portrays them the right way, and still has us thinking about what was right, and what was wrong even after it’s all done.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

After these comments, I think Russell definitely has the right to be as paranoid as he is.

After certain comments, I think Russell definitely has the right to be as paranoid as he is.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Best Man (1999)

Just so that I can rest assured my wedding will be awesome, I’m already making plans.

After not being with his boys back at home for many years, settling down with his girlfriend Robin (Sanaa Lathan) and writing a novel that’s all about the people he surrounded himself with back in the old days, and all of the crazy experiences they may or may not have had, Harper (Taye Diggs) is reunited with the old gang after he finds out that he’s to be the best man at his friend Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) wedding. Not only will Harper get to hang out with the guys like he used to (Harold Perrineau Jr. and Terrence Howard), but he may even get to reconnect with an old flame of his (Nia Long). And hell, since his lady-friend won’t be around until the day of the wedding, well then Harper has plenty of time to commit any sort of adultery and dirtiness he oh so pleases to. But to make matters worse as if cheating on your heavily-devoted girlfriend wasn’t enough, it seems to be that Harper may have had a little thing with Lance’s fiance (Monica Calhoun) from way back when, which he’s kept away from him for so long, so why would he want to tell him now, especially on the weekend of his wedding? Well, he doesn’t want to, but since Harper has made a mention of it in his novel that Lance carries around with him, it seems almost like it’s bound to happen at any second, unless that is if Harper has anything to say about it.

It’s strange to think that a movie that did relatively well at the box-office almost 14 years ago, would actually get a sequel. However, it’s even weirder to think that the sequel would include almost every familiar face, name and/or creator that was attached to that same original either. Because, if you think about it, in the land and age of non-stop remakes, re-hashes, reboots, sequels, and so on and so forth, it seems like almost every star eventually gets tired of doing the same thing at some point. And if that is so, well then, all you have to do is wait 14 years and you’ll get the whole band back together, regardless of if that band was all that popular in the first place.

Look like my groomsmen. Except different colors, and way more talent.

Look like my groomsmen. Except different colors, and way better luck at nabbing the bridesmaids.

But all sequel talks aside about The Best Man Holiday, let’s chat it up about the original. See, I’ve never seen or heard anything about this original until a couple months ago, which is really odd to me because I definitely like to feel like I know almost any movie, that has ever been made, especially with such big names as the ones we have in here. However, all that trash aside, I pretty much went into this movie cold or totally unexpecting of what it was to expect, other than a bunch of black folk making me laugh, hanging out and having a good time. And hell, white folk or black folk, I’m down for a good time which is what I had here.

What writer/director Malcolm D. Lee does well here is that he doesn’t necessarily go down the same conventional-roads that most “wedding movies” of this same nature usually go down. Rather than giving us a look at the bride’s side, and all of the problems that she and her fellow gals are going through, we get a full-on glimpse at the groom and all of his buddies that support him through this decision, party with him the night before and give him their condolences on the day of, after all of the boozing, drugging and sexxing has been put to rest. Obviously for a sly guy like me, this approach was nice and made me connect with these characters a bit more, and while I do know some girlies out there will be pissed about how it pays attention more to the dudes of the story than the actual girls, well, that’s because it’s called “The Best Man.” Not, “The Best Woman“.

Like duh!

But no, seriously, all of those problems aside, the movie still paints a clear enough picture for both sides to where it doesn’t seem like Lee’s just playing favorites as he so pleases. Of course he likes to focus more of his attention on Harper and his problems, as well as his friends’ problems, but he also shows that the girls that inhabit this story go through the same dilemmas as well. Maybe the guys don’t fret too much about whether or not they look too fat in their suit or if their flowers match their dress, but they definitely do care about similar things like getting the ring, looking fresh to death and being able to actually go through with the decision, and getting past all of those cold feet problems most dudes go through on the day or days leading up to the wedding, much like the women do as well.

Not me though. I already knew I was making a mistake, and five marriages later, look at me now!

So, that’s why when people get on this movie’s case for presenting more of a dude’s point-of-view, it’s not really all that fair, and it’s kind of already know right before hand. Even then though, it doesn’t matter because the script gives each and every one of these character’s a personality, no matter how annoying or likable theirs may be. Of course in a movie like this, we just need to have the constantly nagging, snobbish girlfriend who never leaves her man alone and let him have a good time with the guys (Melissa De Sousa), but even then, her character still feels well-written to where you are annoyed of her no matter what she’s doing on screen, and yet, you sort of know that that’s the point behind her whole character, and therefore, you learn to embrace her. It also helped that De Sousa was mightily easy on the eyes, that’s for sure.

And everybody else to a certain extent is written the same way, except that they’re probably a lot better-performed by more-talented cast members. I’ve always had a soft-spot for Taye Diggs as I’ve always felt like, no matter what it is that he’s in, he’s the most charming thing about it. Hell, even when he is in a bleak piece of work like Equilibrium, the dude still couldn’t help but crack a joke or a smile to save his own life, so obviously he wouldn’t be able to hold himself back in a movie like this, where he’s practically called on to do that almost every second of the movie. That was fine for me because not only was it a blast to watch Diggs give us a cool, suave and charming guy like Harper, but to also show that he isn’t perfect, that he has made some mistakes, and will continue to make them because, well, he’s human, dammit. Humans make mistakes. Even humans named Harper.

Probably talking about perfume, or clothes, or some girl stuff.

Probably talking about perfume, or clothes, or some girl stuff.

The other big name in this cast (at the time) was Nia Long who practically made a living, and still is to this day, of appearing in these African-American movies, sometimes, even with the same cast members continuously showing up besides her and confusing the hell out of viewers. Seriously, like how many movies did this chick do with Ice Cube? Or even Morris Chestnut for that matter? Anyway, she’s great here in giving us a female character that seems like she’s thinly-written to be nothing more than a hard-at-work gal that needs to get her bone jumped in the next 48 hours or so, by any means necessary, but after awhile, you do realize that she’s a cool gal, one that any dude would be lucky to end up with. That dude just may not be Harper, regardless of what it is that she wants, or heck, even what he wants.

Speaking of Chestnut (sort of), while I’ve always felt like he’s been a bit of a buzzkill in almost anything he shows up in, he was pretty damn good here as Lance, giving us the type of muscle-bound jock that we’re so used to seeing him play, and yet, somehow be able to show us a soft side of his that isn’t afraid to come out in the ugliest ways possible. Don’t want to go any further than that, but I think you feel where I’m going with that. But regardless, Chestnut’s performance here as Lance is definitely the best I’ve ever seen him give, which may not be saying much to begin with, but is still saying something. Same goes for both Terence Howard and Harold Perrineau Jr. who seem like they’re enjoying themselves quite enough to steal the show when they are given the chance to, even if they aren’t the lead characters. However, I think the times may have changed too much and now, all of these years later, the focus may be switched to where they got more attention and more time to do some great acting. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: Doesn’t change the name-of-the-game when it comes to wedding movies, but The Best Man is still a fun, entertaining, somewhat insightful movie to see, especially if you’re wondering what it’s like when you want to get hitched, and what all of the people surrounding you will be thinking, saying or doing with one another. If you catch my drift?

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay everybody! Let's gather round and play the "whose life is going to be over next?" game!"

“Okay everybody! Let’s gather round and play the “whose life is going to be over next?” game!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB