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Half Nelson (2006)

Man… I’m sweating like George Bush on Judgment Day.

— Dan Dunne

I haven’t seen Half Nelson in a couple of years. Ryan Gosling received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance. I thought I might revisit the movie to see if the movie is still effective. The answer to that question is no.

A young upstart, Dan Dunne (Gosling) is teaching at an inner city junior high school in New York City. He tries to get his students to think about history and how they should learn from the past to become people in the future. He also coaches the school’s girl basketball team. His life is thrown for a loop with his ex, Rachel (Tina Holmes) comes back to town. She comes to the game, but it was a losing game.

After the game, one of Dan’s students, Drey (Shareeka Epps) comes into the locker rom to find him smoking a crack pipe in one of the stalls. He wants her to kept what she saw a secret. He gives her a ride home when her deadbeat father doesn’t even bother trying to pick her up.

Drey begins to cut Mr. Dunne’s class. Drey’s mother Karen, (Karen Chilton) is concerned for her daughter. So she won’t end up being the wrong crowd that got Drey’s brother in jail. She especially doesn’t want her hanging out with the local drug dealer, Frank (Anthony Mackie) and making her hustle for him.

During time at the teacher’s lounge, Jimbo (Denis O’Hare) express his disgust that a crack pipe was recently found in the locker room. Dan and Drey develop a close relationship that for some people would be perceived as inappropriate.

I think that the movie lost its luster for me. I guess, I couldn’t believe that nobody would have pegged this guy as a crackhead. If he was using regularly, he would look like death. I wouldn’t believe that he and Drey would be close friends. I’m surprised that other teachers or administrators wouldn’t have found out.

I know that the movie won a couple of Spirit Awards for both Ryan and Shareeka. I think the movie felt disingenuous to me. It’s a shame, because I loved this movie a couple of years ago. I don’t know what happened.

Judgment: Ryan Gosling comes into his own in this movie.

Rating: 7/10

Edge of Darkness (2010)

Well, you had better decide whether you’re hanging on the cross or banging in the nails.

— Thomas Craven

Edge of Darkness is the first movie Mel Gibson has starred in over eight years, since leaving acting directing foreign language movies, get drunk, going crazy, sugar tits, the whole bit. The movie is compared to Taken, a movie that I enjoyed for great action sequences in a mediocre movie. The comparisons end at the trailer. This is a subdued movie that I didn’t care that much about it.

A veteran homicide detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) waits for her daughter, Emma’s arrival (Bojana Novakovic). She is sick. On the drive to his house, he believes that she is pregnant, but she tells him otherwise. He feels that she is keeping something from him, but she doesn’t want to say. She coughs up blood and they are about to go to the hospital when an assassin blows a hole straight through Emma.

Coping with his daughter’s sudden death, he beings an investigation into who could kill her. There some terrible sequences of Emma’s voice speaking to him and he responds to her or the younger Emma pops up. Urgh! I hate it.

Collecting Emma belonging in her room, her cellphone rings, but the caller hangs up. Searching further in the room, Craven discovers a guns which he traces to her boyfriend, David Burnham (Shawn Roberts). When Craven confronts him, David tries to tell him that he is digging himself into a hole that he can’t get out of.

A mysterious man named Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) approaches Craven to tell him that his daughter was flagged as a national security risk for her role in the knowledge of her employer, Northmoor, manufacturing weapons for foreign countries. She might have been killed for the potentially being a whistle-blower. For the rest of the movie, Craven tries to figure out the players that were instrumental is getting Emma killed and deliver his own brand of justice.

The trailer for this movie made it seems like a non-stop action movie. It was an introspective movie that plotted along slowly. I didn’t understand the motivations of Jedbrugh. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? It was unclear. I thought the ending was laughable.

Judgment: Not the greatest comeback in history. I only recommend this movie for Gibson fans only.

Rating: **1/2

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Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… and then we fucked up the endgame.

— Charlie Wilson

When I was working out recently on the stationary bike, I heard on CNN that Charlie Wilson, the Congressman that almost single-handedly ended the conflict between Afghanistan and Russia died recently at the age of 77. I have never seen the big screen adaptation of this story, Charlie Wilson’s War until now. Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the FBI agent who was part of the trio that put an end to the Cold War. It is a fascinating bit of history trapped in an uninteresting narrative.

Based on the book by George Crile, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols transports us to the Cold War era circa 1980 where the Soviets invaded Afghanistan a year before. The unlikely hero of this story is a skirt-chasing, booze-swilling Texas Congressman Charles Wilson (Tom Hanks). He overhears the plight of the Afghani people during a wild house party seeing a news report by Dan Rather. The Afghanis feel that the Americans are not listening to their cries for the necessary weapons to defeat the Soviets.

Charlie wants to do something about the covert conflict without inciting World War III. He tries to raise funds for the conflict, but nobody could do anything. America has a wait-and-see approach to when the Soviets run out of supplies to finally do something.

By sheer happenstance, Charlie gets a call from a wealthy oil heiress who tries to do something thing with the conflict, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). She urges Charlie to go to Pakistan to see the Afghani refugee camps there after a roll in the hay for old time’s sake. Charlie books a trip to Pakistan with his trusty executive assistant, Bonnie Bach (Amy Adams) at his side.

Charlie meets the refugees that shared with him horror stories that the Soviets would do. Defectors would be run over by military tanks, children had limbs blown off from field bombs that looked like toys or the Soviets would slit the throats of children while the parents watched in horror.

Charlie wants to have the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to supply enough weapons to stop the Soviet helicopters. He enlists the help of a CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to help put together a task force to get the necessary weapons for the Afghanis to combat the Soviets.

This was supposed to be a comedy of errors about the mostly unlikely of people that would be instrumental for the greatest covert operation in US History, but I was mostly uninterested with the path to end the Cold War. Having two hours of weapons jargon thrown at you would make you bored off your tits. What the fuck is going on? What the hell are you talking about? Why should I care about every minute detail?

Hoffman was very good as the nonsense CIA agent that is not afraid to tell somebody to fuck themselves. They were glorious moments. The rest of the movie I could have done without. This movie is tedious to watch. I didn’t care about this boozehound trying to be a hero or the Dallas reject with the “angular face”. The Sorkin dialogue was nice, but I thought it tried to be a comedy about dramatic events.

Judgment: I was largely disappointed with this film. I wish this movie was documentary instead.

Rating: **1/2

The Proposal (2009)


Do you prefer Margaret or “Satan’s Mistress”?

— Grandma Annie

Back from my Juneteenth out of town engagement, and also being a huge Ryan Reynolds fan, The Proposal was next on my radar. Going into the movie, knowing that the premise would be ridiculous from the get-go. It’s a typical romantic comedy that worse than typical. It’s almost of parody of itself.

Sandra Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a “bitchy ice queen” NYC book publisher that is a cross between a spayed version of Miranda Priestley from The Devil Wears Prada, and Bullock’s character in the much maligned Crash. She rules the her publishing office with an iron fist? She is running her frazzled assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) ragged.

Margaret is called into Chairman Bergmen’s (Michael Nouri) office that say that her visa has expired and she has to be deported back to Canada. She decides that she and Andrew will get married in order to stay in the country and keep her powerful position in the company.

That’s the ridiculousness of the premise. Canada? Really? She doesn’t want to go back to Canada. What’s so bad about Canada? Shit. Being an natural born American citizen, I would go to Canada. Whatever.

Margaret is shocked that she has to go to Alaska to visit Andrew’s family in order to convince the immigration officer, Mr. Gilbertson (Denis O’Hare) that they are a “real deal” couple. Spare me, your feigned shock.

When the twosome arrive is Sitka, Alaska, all hell breaks loose. Margret finding out that Andrew family is welathy by small town standards.

The movie was so mind numbing. So dull. I didn’t care about the much talked about “running into each other nude” scene. The setup for that was preposterous. The scenes with Craig T. Nelson who plays the father and Ryan were excruciating to watch. Malin Ackerman’s character is named Gertrude. Let that marinate for a hot minute.

The typical ending did not make sense. Understanding Margret’s intentions to fall for Andrew were displayed, but there was not a moment that Andrew would fall for Margret. Not one instance. What a cop out.

The only laugh out loud moments were Betty White, who plays Grandma Annie and Oscar Nuñez who plays Ramone. That’s it.

Judgment: Another cookie cutter Hollywood rom-com that is not worth the price of admission.

Rating: **

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