Tag Archives: Dane Cook

Mr. Brooks (2007, Bruce A. Evans)

The scariest thing about Mr. Brooks, ostensibly a serial killer thriller, is what if it’s not an absurdist comedy. What if we’re really supposed to believe Demi Moore is a millionaire cop who’s out to get the bad guys….

Thankfully, between William Hurt’s performance (he gleefully chews scenery like his omnipresent gum) as Kevin Costner’s imaginary friend and then Costner’s silly nasal voice, it’s impossible to take seriously. And I’m not even mentioning when the movie obviously lifts scenes from Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs… or makes fun of Demi Moore being married to Ashton Kutcher.

The first half of the film maintains this absurdist approach—some of the dialogue between Moore and Lindsay Crouse is so funny, it’s hard to believe Crouse could keep a straight face. Unfortunately, writers Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon can’t keep up the farcical nature and eventually feel the need to insert narrative. There’s actual potential, but it’s problematic given the film as it exists so far.

For example, Hurt sort of disappears and Moore becomes prevalent.

Dane Cook’s around too, as Costner’s erstwhile sidekick and Moore’s suspect, and he’s awful. Marg Helgenberger, as Costner’s unknowing wife, isn’t much help either. She sells some of the absurdity in the first ten minutes, but then her presence becomes troublesome. A lot of the plot threads go nowhere.

When it finally gets to the inevitable twist ending, Mr. Brooks has lost the momentum. But, in a certain frame of mind, it’s not exactly worthless.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bruce A. Evans; written by Evans and Raynold Gideon; director of photography, John Lindley; edited by Miklos Wright; music by Ramin Djawadi; production designer, Jeffrey Beecroft; produced by Kevin Costner, Gideon and Jim Wilson; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Kevin Costner (Mr. Earl Brooks), Demi Moore (Det. Tracy Atwood), Dane Cook (Mr. Smith), William Hurt (Marshall), Marg Helgenberger (Emma Brooks), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Hawkins), Danielle Panabaker (Jane Brooks), Aisha Hinds (Nancy Hart) and Lindsay Crouse (Captain Lister).


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Dan in Real Life (2007, Peter Hedges)

Is there a dearth of WASP family dramas right now? I guess there must be. Dan in Real Life certainly fills the void–and is probably the only time I’ve ever thought about a movie in terms of it being a WASP affair (that accusation against Wes Anderson is, for example, one I find unfounded).

It’s a bunch of shiny happy people–shiny happy family–who get together once a year to play charades, do crossword compositions, do a talent show, on and on. No television in sight. John Mahoney’s the wise and all knowing father, Dianne Wiest is the wise and all knowing mother. There’s the good son, the good daughter, the wild but good other son and then there’s the titular Dan. I think that character’s position in the film is the most interesting thing about Dan in Real Life–he’s suffering and no one’s helping him. There’s the silly suffering of the present action, but it’s a long-term thing and it’s never implied he gets any support. Dan in Real Life only makes sense in its present action, anything before and anything after… it’s too complex.

Watching the movie, it occurred to me the French could do the story well (people off in a relative isolation–Rules of the Game for a multiplex) but Hedges just can’t handle it. Everything’s too perfect, but Hedges doesn’t seem aware he’s not giving the film any texture. It’s like one of the Meyers/Shyer Disney movies without the tacit agreement of a Utopian setting.

As a director, however, Hedges is fantastic. Technically, down to the music by the Norwegian pop star, it’s perfect. Sarah Flack’s editing is incredible. It’s just fantastic.

Lots of the acting is good. Dane Cook (who everyone hates for some reason) is decent as the wild but good brother, Juliette Binoche is fine. Wiest and Mahoney, though neither of them are doing much different from what they’ve both done countless times before. Amy Ryan is criminally underused. Matthew Morrison is memorable in a small role.

I was going to save a whole paragraph for Steve Carell, but it’s probably impossible to describe how good a performance he gives here. Even when he’s spouting the ludicrous dialogue (he’s going to consign himself to misery for his kids–it’s like Superman II!), he’s great.

Unfortunately, Hedges hired the three actors playing his daughters on their cuteness and precociousness instead of their acting. Brittany Robertson gives the worst performance, though Alison Pill is the most annoying.

The movie never has a high potential–the mediocre plotting kicks in before the opening titles I think–and it’s impossible to think of it working on a higher level, so it’s not really a disappointment. It’s a watchable WASP comedy-drama with some outstanding particulars.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Hedges; written by Pierce Gardner and Hedges; director of photography, Lawrence Sher; edited by Sarah Flack; music by Sondre Lerche; production designer, Sarah Knowles; produced by Jon Shestack and Brad Epstein; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Steve Carell (Dan Burns), Juliette Binoche (Marie), Dane Cook (Mitch Burns), Alison Pill (Jane Burns), Brittany Robertson (Cara Burns), Marlene Lawston (Lilly Burns), Dianne Wiest (Nana), John Mahoney (Poppy), Norbert Leo Butz (Clay), Amy Ryan (Eileen), Jessica Hecht (Amy) and Frank Wood (Howard).


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London (2005, Hunter Richards)

Movies with lots of conversation–made up primarily of conversation–used to be rare. Then came Reservoir Dogs and Clerks. While Tarantino and Smith can still make it work, the world now has to suffer through films like London, which appears to be ninety-two minutes of bad dialogue. It’s obvious the dialogue’s going to be terrible from the opening scene, when Chris Evans has a phone conversation. Only his half of the conversation is audible, but it’s clear auteur Hunter Richards didn’t write up the other side, much less have someone talking to Evans.

The direction is obnoxious. Fast forward editing, lots of jump cuts. The direction of the actors isn’t much better. I mean, Jessica Biel’s performance is shockingly bad, which isn’t indicative of Richards’s abilities. But he manages to get a charisma-free performance out of Jason Statham, which–previously–I would have said was impossible (I’m ignoring Crank to make the point). Evans is blah. His character is supposed to be unemotional and distant and the baseball cap doesn’t help.

Long-time casting director Bonnie Timmermann is one of London‘s many producers (most of the others either have no previous credits or direct-to-video nonsense) and I’m assuming she had a lot to do with it getting made. In the late 1990s, when people made these kinds of knockoffs, they were low budget and somewhat–from the production sense–interesting. London is likely low budget, but it’s glossy and visually incompetent, not interesting.

I should be mad at myself for even trying to watch it… but I really thought it was about a bunch of Americans living in London and that sounded, if not good, at least passable. But this intolerable drivel… I mean, Richards is so bad, I’m surprised he isn’t popular.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Hunter Richards; director of photography, Jo Willems; edited by Tracey Wadmore-Smith; music by The Crystal Method; production designer, Erin Smith; produced by Ash Shah, Paul Davis Miller and Bonnie Timmerman; released by Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Starring Chris Evans (Syd), Jessica Biel (London), Jason Statham (Bateman), Isla Fisher (Rebecca), Joy Bryant (Mallory), Kelli Garner (Maya) and Dane Cook (George).


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