Tag Archives: Drama

Dan In Real Life (Erin: 4 Stars, Bret: 3.5 Stars)

There are great movies, there are bad movies and then, somewhere in the middle, there are movies like Dan In Real Life.

With Steve Carrell in the lead role, the story of a widower raising three girls (the middle of which might actually be Satan) and falling for a stranger in a book store only to find out (SPOILER) that it’s his brother’s girlfriend makes for a cute film.

Presumably, the movie is based on what director Peter Hedges perceives to be real life with the plot centralizing on Dan whisking his girls away on their annual trip to help his parents and the rest of his family close up their summer cabin for the season.

Along the way they do quirky things like put on a talent show, engage in a battle-of-the-sexes crossword puzzle and make pancakes for one another. The audience is made to believe these are annual rituals. It’s all very quaint, but, as we wondered in the review, do any families actually do this? It seems that after more than a handful of days together, most families would wind up killing each other off one-by-one in a Hunger Games sort of way.

For the love of Christ, one of them is Dane Cook (with the douchiness turned up to 11)! You are telling us that no one would have tried to murder him with a shovel after the first meal?

Beat him to death with it, Steve! He’s practically begging for it!

The role of Dan (I’m not really sure we ever get a last name, maybe it’s “In Real Life” ?) suits Carrell well, but despite a strong start with Binoche, the chemistry seems to fade as the movie progresses. Coincidentally, Amy Ryan is also in this film in a small role. Perhaps best known as  The Office’s Holly Flax, Ryan and Carrell would go on to share incredible chemistry in the show and it makes you wonder if the movie would have been better if it were her playing Binoche’s role. A similar question could be asked of the Cook role, actually, so maybe it was just the casting of the movie that drove Bret nuts.

In the end, it is Dan’s relationships with his daughters and, to a lesser degree, his parents, that form the heart of the movie and make it enjoyable.

There are worse movies than Dan In Real Life and, if you are a Carrell fan as Bret and Erin are, it is fun film, netting four stars from Erin and 3.5 from Bret.

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The Cutting Edge (Erin: 5 Stars, Bret: 3 Stars)

Your lesson for today:

Credibility

Let the RockMovieProject use it in a sentence for you: “Erin lost all credibility when she gave The Cutting Edge a five-star review.”

NOOO00

Bret’s reaction to a five-star Cutting Edge review.

Setting aside the very real possibility that she needs a CAT scan, the real question becomes which Erin Rock score is more egregious: five stars for The Cutting Edge or four stars for Center Stage?

Let’s go to the breakdown:

TheCuttingEdge

A clean sweep for The Cutting Edge makes sense, it’s a far superior film, but a five-star review (Erin’s other five-star reviews: Apollo 13, Christmas Vacation and Braveheart) is just too much.

VERDICT: Giving The Cutting Edge five stars is the more egregious score of the two. We award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.

Bret gives The Cutting Edge a more sensible three-star review and we introduce the newest member of the RockMovieProject, Miss Evelyn Marie Rock!

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Crimson Tide (Erin: 3 Stars, Bret: 4 Stars)

With Gene Hackman as a crusty, old-guard submarine captain and Denzel Washington as Denzel Washington with a fancy uniform, Crimson Tide tells the story of two men who are absolute in their belief that they are right in a game where the stakes couldn’t be higher — a potential nuclear war.

Through Bret’s eyes, Crimson Tide is a well-made, superbly acted thriller that demonstrates the consequences when two very different schools of thought collide, putting the world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. To Erin, it’s just two assholes acting like children on a boat.

Oh. Well, then.

Oh. Well, then.

Directed by the late Tony Scott, Crimson Tide deftly illustrates the perils of having two different leaders with drastically different philosophies who refuse to peacefully coexist. While most movies would have found the two eventually putting aside their differences for the greater good, Crimson Tide avoids falling into that cliche with an ultimately fitting line; “you were both right and you were both wrong.”

As Lieutenant Commander Hunter, Denzel Washington puts on one of his Denzeliest performances. You really won’t know where Denzel ends and where Denzel begins. As an aside, is it considered method acting if you always play every character the same way as if you are just being yourself? In all actuality, he is quite good in the role, displaying effective chemistry with a strong supporting cast (Viggo Mortensen with a sweet flat-top haircut, James Gandolfini as a complete war-mongering d-bag and George Dzundza as the conflicted Chief of the Boat) as well as with Hackman, who really is the star of the show.

Seen here eschewing his patented “four passes before any nuclear missile launch” strategy in favor of a more aggressive approach.

In the end, Crimson Tide is a solid film with good performances that isn’t overly reliant on action, but rather on a conflict without a perfect resolution. Or it’s two assholes on a boat acting like children.

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Crazy, Stupid, Love (Erin: 3.5 Stars, Bret: 3 Stars)

To the best of Bret’s knowledge, the whole plot of Crazy, Stupid, Love is predicated on Julianne Moore cheating on Steve Carell with Kevin Bacon, then divorcing Carell, who, with the help of Ryan Gosling, beds multiple women, all the while pining for Julianne Moore. And somewhere in all of that, Ryan Gosling takes his shirt off, assuring female movie-goers will ignore the lunacy in the previous sentence, thus making this film an ungodly amount of money.

Problem solved!

In all seriousness, it’s a relatively fun and inoffensive romantic comedy/drama that has a few legitimate laugh-out-loud moments. Carell and Gosling do most of the heavy lifting, but, in the end, it’s a reasonably enjoyable film.

Provided you can get by Julianne Moore’s performance, that is.

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Crash (Erin: 4 Stars, Bret: 4.5 Stars)

It’s been a while, we know.

For instance, we’d forgotten how awesome Bret looked with a beard.

You have to hand it to Crash, really. It was the movie that basically led to the creation of this ongoing/never-ending project; it led to a near shut-down of the RockMovieProject when it came time to watch it; and, now, even though we watched it probably a month ago, it has led to a near grinding halt of blog postings. Pretty serious business.

Not for lack of trying on Erin’s part, though. For the better part of the last six years Erin has been trying to force this movie on Bret. Seasons change, holidays come and go and yet he steadfastly refused to watch.

In the end, the movie wound up garnering high scores from both Erin and Bret.

It’s hard to believe a movie full of so much hate can actually be profoundly inspirational, but there you have it.

With that said, we are FINALLY past Crash and onto better and hopefully faster things. What say you to that, Sir Sean Connery?

We could not agree more. Four Stars from Erin, 4.5 from Bret.

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Cool Runnings (Erin: 3.5 Stars, Bret: 4 Stars)

We all have our differences. Be it race or religion, political views or economic stature, or whether or not we think Hilary Swank is attractive, we are different people.

GAHHH!… don’t look directly at her!

Despite those differences, we can all agree that the movie Cool Runnings is an incredibly inspirational film.

That it is based on a true story makes it all the more inspirational.

Wait, what? All the characters in the film were fictional?

Well, still, the premise of the story is what matters. The idea of three, world-class Jamaican sprinters  and their wise-cracking, egg-kissing friend falling just short of making the Olympics, only to turn to a sport to a winter sport in an effort to achieve their dreams is incredibly moving.

Huh? None of the bobsledders in real life were Jamaican sprinters, but were recruited from the military instead?

….. So what! It says based on a true story. It’s not a documentary! Besides, even if they weren’t sprinters, they still faced such a dramatic uphill climb to reach their goals. They had no money, they practiced in a push cart and they got to Calgary on what appears to be the day before the Olympics started! It’s amazing that they were able to overcome all of that!

Come again? They were funded by two Americans with a ton of money and arrived in Calgary to practice with a real bobsled on a real bobsled track months before eventually heading to Austria to compete in a few minor events to get their bearings and returning for the Olympics?

Yeah, and I bet there weren’t any real montages either, jerk.

Who cares! You are just like that creepy East German guy and everyone else, hating on the poor Jamaicans!

Oh, come on! No one hated them?! The bobsled community loved the fact that the Jamaicans were trying to qualify? They were graciously welcomed and were even given a sled by a competing team in order to help them qualify?

Ugh. Okay, so based on a true story just means that there used to not be a Jamaican bobsled team and now there is. It doesn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the movie and it certainly doesn’t lessen the moral of the story. It does, however, lessen the value of the phrase “based on a true story.”

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The Contender (Erin: 4.25 Stars, Bret: 5 Stars)

It’s easy to watch a movie and deliver a review without thinking about the 100s of thousands of little moving pieces that it takes to make a movie successful.

Story, direction, proper casting, dialogue, lighting, sound, editing, craft service table, whether or not the star has had an affair with the married director (Kristen Stewart films) and a host of other things that we are forgetting or don’t want to take the time to mention.

They actually make a pretty cute Amish couple.

One piece that can either make or break a film is the marketing of said film. And that is where our story begins with The Contender.

The Contender is a great film. It takes a topic (the nomination of a female senator to replace a dead Vice President and the confirmation process) that isn’t all that interesting and turns it into a fascinating tale of morality, principal and trust.

What it is not is a “first rate thriller.”

The marketing for The Contender, however, is a first rate example of how even a very good film that misrepresents itself to its audience can flame out.

Although the film has an incredible cast (including Oscar nominations for both Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges with Gary Oldman being absolutely robbed of one and that’s setting aside Sam Elliott who is fantastic as well), terrific plot, excellent writing (movies like this can easily feature stilted, inorganic dialogue, The Contender completely avoids that) and is wonderfully shot and edited, the marketing of the film makes it out to be something it is not and that dooms it from the outset.

Even the title doesn’t make a ton of sense. The Nominee or something to that effect probably would have been more fitting.

“We LOVE it! People will have no idea what it’s about!” — The Contender Marketing Team

In the end, if you are looking for a tense, political thriller, you are probably going to want to look elsewhere. If you want an excellent (if slightly idealistic and definitely left-leaning) film about the political process, The Contender comes very highly recommended by your neighborhood RockMovieProject.

Four and a quarter Stars from Erin, 5 Stars from Bret.

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Cloverfield (Erin: 4.75 Stars, Bret: 4 Stars)

You’ll have to forgive us for our lame, half-hearted attempt to replicate the shaky-cam effect from Cloverfield at the beginning of this review.

J.J. Abrams attempt to give the U.S. its own version of Godzilla, however, scored very highly with the usually stingy Erin Rock.

The 4.75 Stars given to Cloverfield marks her fourth-highest review yet through 54 films.

Higher even than the movie that features this impossibly cool screenshot, if you can believe that.

For a movie to beat Center Stage in Erin’s eyes, it must be a high quality film (or, depending on your point-of-view, it must be better than one of the worst movies ever made).

Cloverfield falls short of being a classic horror movie (think Jaws or, if you are Bret, Halloween), but is a solid film that used the found footage concept extremely well before it became incredibly annoying. Every other film nowadays is a found-footage film and Cloverfield has to accept some of the blame for that phenomenon.

An incredible 4.75 Stars from Erin and a respectable 4 Stars from Bret.

An artist’s depiction of Erin and her Stars.

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Cinderella Man (Erin: 4.5 Stars, Bret: 4.75 Stars, Jesse: 4.5 Stars)

How exactly was this film not awarded an Oscar nomination for Best Picture again?

We were operating under the impression that any and all boxing movies automatically get Oscar nominations; like how any movie about sparkly vampires and their sullen mistresses automatically makes $500 million at the box office or how any Jason Statham film has to have at least 300 kicks and/or punches thrown.

Is that not the case?

“Again! But with three kicks this time!”

Okay, maybe not, but what about movies set during the Great Depression? That is an Oscar gimme, no?

To recap, this is a movie about an underdog boxer, set during the Great Depression, starring Russell Crowe (3 previous Oscar nominations, 1 win) and directed by Ron Howard (2 Oscar nominations, 1 win) and it escaped with just a well-deserved Supporting Actor nomination for Paul Giammati and a couple of technical nominations that no one cares about.

“Best Make-Up? Meh… just put it in the back with the others.”

In all actuality, we probably answered our own question in our review above (featuring the return of a product schilling Jesse Terry!).

The reasons this movie didn’t get any love from the Academy:

  • Renee Zellweger, who appears at times in this film to be parodying her own performance from earlier in the movie, especially during the excruciating locker room scene at the end.
  • Ron Howard’s goofy decisions behind the camera… did he not think we would understand that Jimmy Braddock was getting in the ring unless he used the camera to give us that point of view? Just one of a myriad of bizarre choices.

Cinderella Man is a great movie; an Oscar-worthy movie, particularly when Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti are on the screen. It receives 4.5 Stars from Erin and Jesse, 4.75 from Bret and will always be the champion of our hearts.

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Children of Men (Erin: 3.5 Stars, Bret: 3.5 Stars)

As dystopian futures go, Children of Men certainly portrays one of the bleakest; a world in which all women are infertile and the dividing line between haves and have nots is actually visible.

On the other hand, at least terrorism is rampant throughout the streets of London and everything appears to be a darker shade of blue.

Oh, did that not make you more comfortable?

We were trying to come up with a complete list of occasions for which hosting a viewing of Children of Men might be inappropriate (children’s birthday party, Christmas Eve, etc.), but, frankly, unless you are trying to settle for a nice, long depression, there aren’t a ton of viable options.

That said, Children of Men is another extremely well made film. The lack of much dialogue and music and the sometimes uncomfortably long shots serve the purpose of making you feel acutely aware of how intense the situation remains throughout the course of the film.

Although we cannot say we’ll be watching it again any time soon, Children of Men features some beautiful scenes, a terrific performance from Clive Owen (among others), and and interesting plot, helping the film net 3.5 Stars from both Erin and Bret.

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