Reign Over Me (2007)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Adam Sandler’s Best

I’ve been known to praise movies that take your typical comedian and transform him into something else entirely. These kind of movies do a really great job at presenting an actor’s talent range,and they do a surprising job with some actors. There’s Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction, Jim Carrey in The Majestic and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and then there’s Adam Sandler in one of his most incredible performances in a long time, and maybe ever – Reign Over Me. Sure, he’s had other more serious roles in the past, but you always thought…okay…that’s Adam Sandler acting serious. Reign Over Me transformed his entire personality to the point where when you watch, you might forget that he’s actually Sandler at all.

Our movie introduces us to a peculiar young and quiet man named Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler). Something in the past, a tragedy, changed his very life forever. When a former colleague of his shows up, the two of them re-strike up an old friendship. Soon, his old friend begins to realize just how much help he really needs, and how absolutely grief-stricken he is and how much the power of friendship can change a person’s life.

I normally like films that have a solid plot, and I don’t know if I would really say that’s apparent here. However, where the plot lacks, it definitely makes up for it with the characters. I truly believe this is Adam Sandler’s best role. The clothes he was made to wear, the hair he was made to dawn, the antics of a grief-stricken loner he was made to act…it was all so phenomenal and different from what you’re used to seeing that you’ll just end up loving it. Not only that, but when the movie begs Adam to put on an unforgettable emotional performance, he actually does it – and I can’t say that’s bad. As for Don Cheadle, I still hold that he’s an incredible actor, but it’s not so unique for this film alone. What I will say, is that the friendship chemistry between the two is legendary and charming – giving us all hope that when in doubt, there is at least one person out there who will be your friend when you need them to be. One person who will be unconditionally accepting and friendly – and the way Cheadle plays that off is stunning.

The whole plot is based around the event that caused the change in Charlie’s life. This is something I won’t write in my review, but most people know what that is…it’s in the plot description on IMDb, for crying out loud. All I will say is that when I first saw it in theater, it was a much stronger film when the audience didn’t know the exact source of his pain. When you learn, it’s more emotional and you feel so much more for his character when the truth is revealed. Maybe that’s just me, but knowing firsthand is kind of cheap and ruins the experience. I mean, if a movie isn’t going to have a solid plot, at least keep the mystery alive.

I’ve never cried during a movie, but sometimes I can understand why people do. I connect with the film on a different level and feel for the characters. Like I said…I don’t cry, but you won’t see me laughing at you if you do, and as Netflix states on the categories for this film – it’s a drama and tearjerker. It’s one of the few that I would understand getting to people. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Good:

This movie has one of the best performances put on my Adam Sandler in a long time, he does a great job performing as a grief-stricken man barely holding on – and his friendship with Don Cheadle’s character is so perfect…it just all fits together.

The Bad:

The film is a little long, and there are lulling moments where you really do want the movie to move along faster and get to the point.

The Random:

At first Adam Sandler declined his part because he was terrified of it, although he thought the character was incredible after he read the script.

Pulp Fiction (1994)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A filmmaking goldmine.

Not too long ago, I posted a list of 250 movies I haven’t reviewed that I would someday like to. Movies with titles everyone would recognize, and one of those was Pulp Fiction. This was one of the films in the list that I haven’t actually seen. There’s a few reasons why, as well. I’ve actually been avoiding it for the same reason I’ve been avoiding reviewing Star Wars. Pulp Fiction is a highly popular and iconic film, and I’m not sure if I have the ability to give it justice in a review because I’m partial to newer movies, as well as films that make more sense for the general public. I couldn’t just not watch this movie though, I had to see what the big deal was, and why everyone just ate this film up. So here goes nothing.

I wish I could just sit here and tell you what the movie is about, but I don’t think it really works like that. I don’t think it’s really about anything. The beginning even states and defines that pulp as a soft, moist, and shapeless mass off matter. That’s what this movie is. It’s shapeless, it’s out of sequence, and the story isn’t as important or strong as any other movie you’ll watch. I don’t think anyone watches this film for the story, but rather the people, the dialogue, and how it is all stitched together. If I could give you an idea on the plot – I’d say a godfather type gangster sends people on missions for him and kills people that go against his orders and a bunch of other crap goes down.

I went in watching it trying to understand and follow the story and I was having a pretty rough time. Because it was out of order, there’s just no way to follow what’s going on, it just seems random. If you follow my reviews, it’s never good when you run into random. Sometimes it is though, so I held on. People do love this movie, so that has to be for a reason. Okay, so the next thing you’ll realize is there is a lot of dialogue in this movie. It is dialogue-heavy like nothing else. It might even remind you of a theatre production there is so much talking. Normally, I’m also not a huge fan of that, but the way these conversations are written…it’s just brilliant. They transform these random characters following a random story into very unique and loveable characters.

There is no main character, which is again an element I usually hate within movies, but somehow Quentin Tarantino did it again and made me invested in everything that was actually happening throughout. In short – the movie is cut into three main structured acts that very much differ from each other, but are also connected in other ways. Each one has very subtle but strong themes that pretty much define the human species to a T.

The Good:

Alright, so this is a bit complicated, and I’ll try to be as clear as possible. Pulp Fiction is filled to the brim with filmmaking techniques that I absolutely hate. Things like an unclear plot, no main character, too much talking, jumbled up plot points, a very clear and pointless McGuffin, and a ton of others – but….they were done somehow brilliantly…in a way that I could actually love. This is a cult hit because there is literally nothing like it out there today. It is bold, but for the most part…everything people say about it is absolutely true.

The Bad:

Even though Tarantino did his job well by taking things I hate and turning them into things I love…it was still filled with things I hate to see in film. I can’t forgive that. I still think it’s a wonderful and unique film that is filmmaking gold, though. Filmmakers, watch this film, just look at how they did the camerawork, the sound editing, how they wrote it, how they stitched it together. It’s amazing. Now…the general public doesn’t have the eyes of a filmmaker and can’t appreciate the same things. When they watch a movie, they simply want to do just that. Watch a movie with a beginning, middle, and end with a solid plot. This is a complicated film which I don’t think everyone can appreciate because of those things I mentioned before about what I hate in film. I could get over them because of my history in filmmaking. Not everyone can.

Memorable Quote:

(practically everything said in the movie)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Supposedly it’s scary?

Recently, I heard about a short series that NBC is doing based on Rosemary’s Baby, and with all of my recent horror film marathons, I never actually saw the movie version. I’ve heard about it, sure, but never seen it. It’s a classic, they’ll say, but this is one of the few classic horror films that was never remade…why is that? It’s a horror film masterpiece they’ll also say, but is that really so, being in the late ‘60s? How scary can it really be? I tend to answer these questions and more in this review…but here’s a hint…it’s aged horror that doesn’t feel like horror and definitely doesn’t scare..

Alright, so here’s the story. Rosemary and her husband, Guy, move into a super luxurious apartment building in New York City. See, Guy is a struggling actor and he is trying to make it big. Meanwhile, Rosemary is…well…a woman…who does laundry and bears children, and I think that’s all she does. Anyways, they decide to have some kids, but not before they meet some of the most peculiar neighbors ever, who apparently chant at night. One night, when she is having a nightmare of an animal or beast raping her, she finds out that her husband couldn’t wait to have a kid, raped her while she slept….it doesn’t exactly put it in those words, but let’s be fair and honest. He flat out raped her. Now she’s pregnant, and things just keep getting weirder and weirder as Rosemary begins to learn the truth about her neighbors.

Let’s take a trip back to the late ‘60s. I’m sure back then people were all like – golly what a show, I sure am spooked. Now? I don’t even understand why it’s called horror other than a few mentions of witches and spells. You don’t see anything and you barely even hear anything…it feels like a ‘60s movie. With that weird, cheesy acting style… As far as horror goes, there’s nothing here to be afraid of nor nightmare-inducing. I can praise a few things about it though.

Like the fact that it is relatively original and unpredictable. I’ve heard enough about the story to know the baby is a demon spawn, but I didn’t actually know how it’d end. Part of me was expecting a similar moment to Alien with a beastly hand ripping through her stomach. Another part of me suspected it would be learned the whole thing was actually reasonably explained through insanity on Rosemary’s part. There were a number of ways it could actually end, and I was somewhat impressed with the fact that I actually had no idea what it would be. So in a way, it was like a mystery. But horror, it was not.

Look, I don’t want to trash the ‘60s too much, but the horror genre benefits off of modern technology. The plain fact of the matter is we were a lot more in tune with our imaginations back then, and it didn’t take much to spook us, so the actual tone of the movie wasn’t very important. We all know the dark tones of a horror film well, and Rosemary’s Baby, while having a dark title, was still very light toned. I’m sure it’ll scare your grandma’s pants off…so there’s that? I will say that I’m interested in seeing what NBC does with it. Short series based off of horror stories sometimes are a lot better because they can flesh out those details that made the original story that good. Plus the fact that we can make it actually feel like a horror flick is always good…maybe they’ll actually be able to do something with it.

The Good:

Guess what? This film came out in the late ‘60s, so if you are in your late 60s, it might actually scare you! Let’s be fair, the film had a decent amount of originality and a fair amount of unpredictable things that happen.

The Bad:

It is an extinct race of horror right here. I review for a modern audience, and this has very little to offer that audience. It is not scary, it’s very…’60s with some overacting and cheesy music that follows a somewhat interesting story.

Memorable Quote:

Rosemary Woodhouse: I dreamed someone was raping me. I think it was someone inhuman.

Guy Woodhouse: Thanks a lot.

Donnie Darko (2001)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Never gets old.

There are very few movies I would consider perfect. As much as I love movies, it’s hard to really call a film perfect and far easier to call it, maybe, almost perfect. There are a few films, however, that get the honor of receiving a 100% from me, most of which I can count on one hand. Donnie Darko is a movie I hadn’t seen in years, but I was pretty sure it would be rated highly, if not a perfect score. Low and behold, here it is, and every time I watch it, I’m blown away. It’s not for everyone though. For instance, if you can’t comprehend movies that really make you think, than it’s not for you, but if you enjoy intellectual and dark mysterious flicks, then boy do I have a film for you.

Something is happening to Donnie Darko. When an imaginary rabbit by the name of Frank visits him in his sleep, he continues to tell Donnie that he is from the future, and the world was ending in less than a month. From there on out, Donnie begins to see things that he can’t understand nor explain. He begins to think that time travel may or may not have something to do with it all, and as the film carries on, the entire mystery begins to unravel itself.

The movie definitely works on its own, but people will be left wondering what happened in the end. It’s a movie that you can’t just be satisfied watching once, because there is so much to take under consideration. Everything that happens in this movie, no matter how trivial or boring you might initially think it is, is incredibly important to the story. There is actually so much I wish I could tell you, but so much material is actually spoilery to those who haven’t seen the film. Just know that for years, people made theories, diagrams, and articles trying to explain the movie. All are fascinating, but none are confirmed. It all depends on what you prefer in a movie, and I’m pretty sure anyone can enjoy at least a part of what this film has to offer, if not all.

It’s so weird. The movie feels a lot older than it actually is, which is normally a negative for my reviews, but in this case, it helps add to that feeling of strange…incompleteness that the film has locked into place from the very beginning of the film. It feels old, and then you have people like Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and a surprising appearance by Seth Rogen that reminds you this film isn’t as old as it appears. It’s just a very dreamlike, hazy-feeling film. It’s incredible really.

Regardless of post-viewing theories and explanations, the movie itself for a first-time viewer is still enticing as you try to figure out if Donnie is a crazy psychopath slowly transforming into a mass murderer, if he’s just dreaming the whole thing, if this Frank really is a time traveler, if it’s just some hooligans, or something else entirely. It’s an enigma. I think a majority of the theorists out there understand what this film is going for, but that blasted fake sequel, S. Darko following around the life of Donnie’s sister, Samantha – ruined everything. Heed my warning, everyone, don’t watch S. Darko. It’s not that the movie itself is terrible, it’s just…what it does to this film is terrible.

Other than that, I’d say that the acting and characters in this film are exemplary. The writing is insanely smart and complex – but so, so well done. This movie is made to make you think, so if you don’t like thinking about movies after they are done, look somewhere else. This is every bit as philosophical as it is psychological.

The Good:


The Bad:


Memorable Quote:

Gretchen: “Donnie Darko.” What the hell kind of name is that? It’s like some sort of superhero or something.

Donnie: What makes you think I’m not?

Fargo (1996)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Yah, you betcha!

Man, why do we have to have weaknesses when it comes to film? I like elements in almost every movie, because the foundation is usually something I can really appreciate. However, my personal kryptonite when reviewing films falls under the category of Dark Comedy. There are a precious few in which I have liked, but for the most part, these films never click with me. I mostly don’t get it because it feels so unnatural. I almost never find them funny and then I feel awkward for not laughing because the scene seems to be trying to make me laugh. Fargo is a movie that has quite a bit of recognition, in the 90 percentile on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought I’d found the perfect dark comedy. Heck, it even takes place in Minnesota, a place I’ve lived in the past. It was perfect…or not.

The movie itself is about car dealership owner Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) as he attempts to steal money from his father-in-law by kidnapping his own wife. Basically, he gets these two idiot crooks to kidnap her while he persuades his wife’s father to pay the ransom. Easy-going plan until the idiot crooks kill a few witnesses that see the crime. Suddenly, their all caught up in a downward-spiraling snowball that never seems to end. Basically the moral of the story is not to kidnap your own wife.

As I’ve already made clear, dark comedies don’t impress me. Heck, I wouldn’t even call this thing a comedy as much as I would a tragedy…but I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? For the most part, what I got out of this film was the apparent need to throw in as much Minnesota stereotypes as humanly possible. “Yah, sure, you betcha!” is something you hear a lot in this film. The only stereotype I didn’t run into hearing was “tapioca”. That being said, I think that was their main tool in making light of a serious situation. I get it, funny accent is hard to take seriously, but I lived there, remember? I’m half used to it and can say not everyone speaks like that. But for the sake of the review, let’s just say they do. After living there for a while, the funniness of the accent wears down. You get used to it. Therefore – they weren’t able to get me on accent alone.

Next stereotype – all Minnesotans are nice. Basically, they take light of any given situation. “Oh boy, we got a triple homicide-type deal here, huh? People aren’t robots, we all react to the shock of death differently. None of the deaths in the film rattled anyone’s bones and I found that almost obscene. I know, I am missing the entire point of the film. No argument from me. I know what the point was, but the point doesn’t mean anything if you don’t connect with the film the way you’re supposed to. So in the end, it felt really, really pointless.

What I will say is that it is done well. The story is pretty original, its writing is constructed well-enough, and some of the acting pops out above the rest, but I wasn’t impressed with the movie. Not by a long shot.

The Good:

As I mentioned, Fargo is constructed well on a production-level. The acting is pretty good, the writing is pieced together pretty seamlessly, the story is original – and it’s just different enough for someone to want to watch it.

The Bad:

If you’re like me, and you have a lot of trouble connecting with dark comedies, the movie isn’t for you. You just won’t get the point of it.

Memorable Quote:

Everyone: Yah, you betcha!